AC: "The solution is not going to be in the trenches, you're going to have to cut deals."

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Michael is back in New York and joins Anderson Cooper on set to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. With the election about a week away, what may happen? And how will it affect the American war effort there?

ANDERSON COOPER: In Afghanistan today, fierce fighting erupted in a southern Taliban stronghold as hundreds of U.S. and Afghan soldiers moved in to protect voters.

Now, a week from tomorrow, Afghans go to the polls to choose their president, only the second election since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. But insurgents have vowed to disrupt the vote and attacks are on the rise.

Let's dig deeper now with Michael Ware and national security analyst Peter Bergen.

So, Michael, July the deadliest month for U.S. and for NATO troops.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, 70-odd troop deaths.

COOPER: How tough is this going to be just to pull off these elections?

WARE: Well, I think the elections will take place.

But, as President Obama's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, said, you know, there's going to be problems. I mean, you've got the security issue. You've got corruption. You've already had election observers or election workers killed. I think there's nine who have been killed already.

There's going to be areas where essentially people will not be able to vote. So, there may be a degree of disenchantment or disenfranchising in some of the Pashtun areas. Either way, it's not going to be a pretty picture. But I think it will lurch its way to some kind of, you know, successful outcome.

COOPER: Does the election really make much of a difference one way or the other in terms of success on the ground militarily?

WARE: In terms of the war, yes and no.

In a direct way, no, but, in a grander way, in terms of the longer strategy, yes. It's about trying to create a government that the Afghans can actually turn to now, because that's so important in counterinsurgency. It's instilling a government and forces in place that will provide the security, both in terms of delivering services and...

COOPER: And that's the knock on Karzai, is it's often said he's just the mayor of Kabul, basically.

WARE: And he is. And let's not forget, Kabul has always been essentially a foreign country within Afghanistan. I mean, when I lived in Kandahar, I felt like I should have shown my passport to get into Kabul, because it's an entirely different place.

And you're right. Karzai lacks the ability to project central power into the regions.

COOPER: By the way...

WARE: But, then again, it's so difficult to create a central government, a real central government, in that country.

COOPER: When you lived in Kandahar, could anyone understand what the heck you were saying?


WARE: No, so it's no different to today.


COOPER: All right.

The -- the U.S. has said -- by the way, we're trying to establish a connection with Peter Bergen. We're having an audio problem, which is why...

WARE: I wondered why I was getting so much attention.




COOPER: We would be sharing the love here.

WARE: Yes.

COOPER: But I want to play something that Richard Holbrooke, the -- as you mentioned, the State Department's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said. He made some interesting comments today.

Here's a little bit of what he said.


RICHARD HOLBROOKE, SPECIAL U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN: I would say this about defining success in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the simplest sense, the Supreme Court test for another issue: we will know it when we see it.


COOPER: I think that other test was porn, wasn't it, or art? I'm not sure. Art or porn, it's often said...


WARE: Yes. Yes, right. I think that's right, yes.



But, that aside, it does seem like the Obama administration is trying to change the definition of what success is, trying to kind of drastically scale it down. You don't hear these talks about democracy, about nation-building.


COOPER: It's -- it's...

WARE: And so they should.

COOPER: It's preventing al Qaeda...


WARE: Right.

And the Bush administration already set us down the track of reassessing the strategic goals. I mean, as we saw in Iraq -- look, let's face it, you're not going to have a glimmering model of democracy in South Asia, in Kabul. It's never going to be something perfect.

So -- and we've got to remember, too. Look, this really isn't a humanitarian mission. America did not go to Afghanistan for altruistic reasons. America is there to protect, preserve and advance American national security interests. So that's going to have to be the goal of the campaign.

COOPER: And so how is the fight going? I mean, early on we heard from U.S. commanders on the ground, saying point blank, "Look, there's not enough Afghan troops involved in this."

WARE: No, there's not. And they're now talking about doubling the size of the Afghan army. And the Afghan army, as I last saw it, was really just a hodge-podge of different foot soldiers from different warlords. And back then when I last saw them, you know, they might have been wearing an Afghan national army uniform, but their true allegiances lie to the bloke back home.

So this is going to be difficult.

In terms of the fight, I mean, it's true. The momentum right now is with the Taliban. And in a war like this, if you're not winning, then you're almost losing. America's not going to, like, lose the war in Afghanistan on the ground, but you may not win it.

The true victory won't come with bombs and bullets. It's going to have to come with a political solution and the creation of some kind of a functioning system, probably a decentralized system.

COOPER: Which even, by the way, U.S. military commanders say. There's not a purely military solution.

WARE: And they're dead right. Sorry about -- pardon the pun, but they are. They're dead right. The solution is not going to be in the trenches, you've going to have to cut deals.

COOPER: A lot of folks working very hard right now fighting in the trenches, though.

WARE: Yes.

COOPER: And they certainly should be applauded. Michael Ware, appreciate it. Sorry for Peter Bergen. Again, we tried to establish contact with him. That's the -- what happens.