CB: "You need more troops...just to put the hurt on the Taliban."
JOHN ROBERTS: Just a short time ago, President Obama wrapped up his meeting with top military and civilian advisers, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, as he moves closer to a crucial decision on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.
General Stanley McChrystal, who is in charge of the war effort there, says the additional forces are vital.
CNN's Michael Ware was just in Afghanistan, and what he heard from U.S. commanders on the ground was not encouraging.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's clear that the way this war is currently being fought, it's simply not working. The Taliban are as strong as ever. Right now, American strategy for fighting this conflict is undergoing a massive review. And it's obvious that there's simply not enough international nor Afghan troops to do the job. That's leading many to call for something that's all too familiar here in Afghanistan, the involvement of the tribes or simply a return of the warlords.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Michael Ware is with me here in New York tonight and in Washington our CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Gloria, let's start with you.
You had an interesting column that you wrote in which you said President Obama is at a similar point now that President Bush was in, in 2006 in regards to Iraq when he was deciding on whether or not to move forward with the so-called surge strategy.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, you both will remember this. He had a counterinsurgency that wasn't working in Iraq. He had a war that was really losing its popularity with the American people.
And he had a lot of conflicts within his own war cabinet, if you will, about what to do next, which is exactly what we're seeing with President Obama.
ROBERTS: So, Michael, the suggested strategies here that the president is looking at really are polar opposites. One is to pull U.S. troops out and rely on a counterterror -- targeted counterterrorism strategy. The other one is to inject as many as 40,000 more troops into Afghanistan and pursue a broad counterinsurgency strategy.
You have been there. You have spent an awful lot of time there.
ROBERTS: Which to you is the more prudent strategy?
WARE: Well, I would put it slightly differently, John.
I think the strategy is the choice between actually deciding to fight this war or letting it become an American defeat on his watch. I mean, this is a challenge now for the new president. He has to stand up and be commander in chief. And that may mean biting the bullet of public opinion, because right now, what's happening militarily, the American war effort is not even putting a dent in the Taliban war machine.
And the generals and everyone know you're not going to win this war. You're never going to defeat the Taliban on their home soil. But you don't have to lose. So, it's about finding strategies, given the American domestic environment that will enable them to do that.
Minimum, you need more troops, I'm sorry, just to put the hurt on the Taliban.
ROBERTS: Now, if -- General McChrystal has warned about this -- if you lose the war effort there, you risk a potential return to the bad old days when the Taliban invites in al Qaeda. It again becomes a base of terrorism.
If you were to draw down U.S. forces and rely on the strategy of targeting counterterrorism, using Predator attacks, maybe drop in some special forces once in a while, do you think that that would risk the Taliban taking control? Can you be effective enough?
WARE: Well, yes, good luck with that strategy. It didn't work before. It's not going to work now.
I mean, A, you've got to have the assets to know where to go. B, your agencies have to be talking together long enough to agree to actually go and do it and find the cojones to pull it off.
Now, that wasn't working then. So, you need to be fighting this war or you need to find a resolution that gets yourself out of there quick, smart. And I think there's a way for him to do both, more troops, but if he starts looking at Afghan solutions, unleash the Afghans. It's going to have risk, but it could work.
ROBERTS: Gloria, go ahead.
BORGER: Well, you know, I think the vice president is trying to find a way to come to some kind of middle ground on this.
But he's not talking about more nation-building in Afghanistan. He's talking about an Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, because his point is that al Qaeda has actually moved into Pakistan and that the goal of their mission was to destroy and dismantle al Qaeda.
And, so, he wants to rely more on human intelligence and special forces in Afghanistan, and also consider the problems in Pakistan. I don't have any idea whether that would work. I would like to know what -- what Michael would think...
BORGER: ... on the ground.
ROBERTS: Go ahead.
WARE: Well, actually, this may by a byproduct if, say, America goes down the path it did in Iraq, which they're looking at doing, which is basically getting U.S.-backed militias.
Now, in Iraq, it was from the insurgency. In Afghanistan, they're going through the tribal system. A pilot program is already under way being run by the Afghan president's brother. Not only would that give America suddenly more forces in the field to actually go out and kill the Taliban -- because they know who they are and where they are -- it will also send a message to Pakistan.
The Taliban is only able to operate because the Pakistani intelligence agency tolerates it by giving it sanctuary. It's essentially Pakistan's militia in Afghanistan. All of a sudden, America might have its own militia in Afghanistan, and that would send a message to Pakistan.
BORGER: But, Michael, you know, the concern here in American political circles is that President Karzai doesn't have any credibility with his own people...
WARE: He doesn't.
BORGER: He's not exactly the kind of partner you want to have. And when they look at what's changed --
WARE: He's not.
BORGER: When they look at what's changed, they say it's Karzai.
ROBERTS: But here's the thing. Do you go with the partner you want? Or do you go with the partner you got?
WARE: Yes, look, listen. All around the world, we're dealing with some pretty unsavory people.
WARE: We're dealing with politicians who aren't exactly --
ROBERTS: And that's nothing new.
WARE: Hello, that's called geopolitics. I mean, it was once said, there's no such thing as friends in international politics, only national interests. Right?
Well, America is not relying on Hamid Karzai. It would be foolish to do so. In fact, they're starting to look around for more partners in Afghanistan.
Now, does that undermine the original notion of democracy and a strong central government? Yes, but they're no longer the mission objectives. Hold that place together long enough for this election cycle to play out, have something to show the people at the next elections, and then you'll find a way to start pulling out of this war, because the war will keep going after you leave.
ROBERTS: We've got to leave there. Michael Ware, Gloria Borger, thanks for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
ROBERTS: And, of course, this is going to go on and on.