Michael Ware


AC: An insurgent primer: who are we fighting?

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Length: 4:17

JOHN KING: When it comes to Iraq, you'll hear the president say he's accountable, that there have been setbacks. What you won't hear him say is that he's been wrong. Which is what makes the following admission from a Republican all the more surprising.


MARK KENNEDY: None of us like war. And we've made some mistakes in Iraq. We're facing an enemy that must be defeated.


KING: Again, that and our focus tonight, Congressman Mark Kennedy. He's running for the Senate, says mistakes have been made, and he insists the enemy must be defeated. One problem: exactly who is the enemy?

More now from CNN's Michael Ware.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Facing an enemy that must be defeated. But first, you have to know who the enemy is.

Here, a U.S. Bradley armored fighting vehicle, hit by a roadside bomb.

Here, another bomb. This time triggered by remote.

So who is the enemy? Like their bombs, there are many. Nothing unites the insurgents, but they share a common mindset -- a readiness to kill Americans until they leave Iraq.

As U.S. commander in Iraq General George Casey says, the situation is difficult and complex.

GEN. CASEY: And I'm sure for the folks back in the United States, trying to look at this, it looks very confusing and very hard to understand.

WARE: America's enemies in Iraq can be divided into two main groups: Sunni and Shia. But there are groups within groups, factions within factions.

Shia militias attack British and American troops, according to coalition intelligence officers, not to defeat them but to keep them in a defensive mode, so they'll worry about survival instead of the militia's political control and their Iranian backing.

But the insurgents most Americans recognize as the enemy are Iraqi's Sunnis. They are mainly former military from Saddam's regime and account for most U.S. casualties. They are divided into two large categories: nationalists and Islamists, each comprised of smaller groups.

As for the nationalists, their agenda is secular, anti-Iranian and focused on liberating Iraq from foreign occupation.

The Islamists, meanwhile, are more moderate than al Qaeda. They don't call for a religious state. They tolerate other Muslim sects and also vow to fight until U.S. forces leave.

Both of these large insurgent blocs are willing to talk peace with the United States. But there are still those America cannot reach. The darkest heart of the Sunni insurgency: al Qaeda and the many groups aligned with it.

This is the group that sends out suicide bombers and who once cut off westerners' heads. For them, there will be no end until Osama bin Laden's plans for an international Islamic state are fulfilled.

And most troubling, the longer this war goes, the more Sunni groups drift toward al Qaeda, and the more Shia embrace Iran.


KING: Michael, a fascinating look there at the insurgency. Help us understand a bit more the point you make in the piece. How willing are some of these guys to talk to the United States?

WARE: Well, John, clearly some of them there's absolutely no chance at all. Certainly with al Qaeda and the groups most closely aligned with Iran.

But those in the middle have shown a willingness to talk to the United States. Indeed, they've been doing so, or certainly elements of these groups have been doing so, for at least a year and a half.

And some of these men who are involved in these talks are former top military officers from the Iraqi army under Saddam who were American allies in the '80s during the Iran-Iraq War -- John.

KING: A fascinating look at the challenge facing the United States and the president in this election year. Michael Ware, thank you very much.