Michael Ware


AC: "Here on the ground it's been nothing but pragmatism"

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Length: 3:45

ANDERSON COOPER: Well, as Christiane said, Tony Blair's next job is already lined up. State Department officials and diplomats said today he'll become a special envoy for the Mid-East Quartet, working on economic and political reform for Palestinians.

Iraq, of course, is going to continue to be a problem for the region. And that's where we turn now.

Tony Blair was the only major ally the U.S. had in Iraq. So what now?

CNN's Michael Ware joins me from Baghdad.

Michael, how important a role are British troops playing in Iraq?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, politically, they were the major ally, they were the face of what was supposed to be the international mandate supporting the U.S. mission here in Iraq. And in those political terms, I mean, the international community, the international public, their mandate for this U.S. war hangs by a thread anyway. So the loss of that major British presence will have a political impact.

Militarily, the British troops have had to take control of southern Iraq. Well, from the beginning, that was mission impossible, Anderson. They were never going to be any more than a holding action.

And indeed, we've seen in the southern capital of Basra, the oil rich port city, British forces have all but been driven from that city by militia forces in Iranian-backed political factions. Indeed, we saw the International Crisis Group describe their recent withdrawal as ignominious defeat in the eyes of the militias.

So militarily, it really doesn't help make America's impossible mission any that much more possible anyway.

COOPER: Let's talk about America's mission. The White House emphasized today U.S. forces taking part in the so-called surge have only recently arrived and that they say it's too early for any judgments.

And we've seen in the last couple weeks the White House and their emissaries backing -- or backtracking from that September evaluation date.

On the ground, the troops you talk with, the commanders you travel with, do they think the strategy is working so far?

WARE: Well, in their words, and in all honesty, it is too early to tell. I mean, however the White House has been trying to sell this to the American people, here on the ground it's been nothing but pragmatism.

From the commander of this war, U.S. General David Petraeus, down to field commanders, they've all said this is going to take time.

This surge is not a miracle solution. It was merely meant to be a wedge against the backslide into violence and into political factionalism that we've been seeing.

Now, will it be that wedge against that backslide? In most -- in all reality, probably not. It's just stemming what's already a rolling tide.

And let's be aware, while America is surging with its 30,000 troops, Iranian-backed forces are surging in their violence and al Qaeda is surging in its violence. Both of these parties, all of these players, are looking to skew the figures that will be used in September to judge the surge -- Anderson.

COOPER: And in terms of sectarian killings, do those continue to rise?

WARE: Oh, absolutely. We've had hundreds and hundreds die this month alone. And that's purely in terms of tortured and executed bodies found on the streets of Iraq. That does not include those dying in even more hundreds as a result of car bombings, as a result of al Qaeda attacks, as a result of other kinds of sectarian violence. So no, it's not getting any better -- Anderson.

COOPER: Michael Ware, bleak words to end on. But Michael, thank you.