CB: "What have you got to put on the table?"
Michael (in NY) and Peter Bergen (in DC) talk to Campbell Brown about what President-elect Obama will be able to do with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both agree that just pulling troops out of the former and shifting them to the latter is not the answer.
CAMPBELL BROWN: As a candidate, Barack Obama was pretty blunt about Osama bin Laden. He wanted him, dead or alive. Tonight, we are getting a look at how Obama plans to bring him down.
And here now with a NO BIAS, NO BULL assessment of president-elect Obama's approach to the war on terror, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen and our Baghdad correspondent, Michael Ware, who is here with me in New York.
Welcome to both of you.
Peter, let me start with you here.
President-elect Obama made it pretty clear that his priority is going to be to refocus on Afghanistan. He plans to deploy more troops and devote military resources there. Is that going to be enough to turn things around?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, but he is constrained by the fact that the U.S. military is very stretched right now.
The Bush administration is moving forward two combat brigades in the spring. But even if President Obama comes into office on January 20, 2009, says, I'm going to pull a lot of people out of Iraq, it's easier said than done. Redeploying these units takes several months. And of course Afghanistan is not just a matter of sending a lot more soldiers there.
It's a security problem which isn't going to be solved by thousands of new American troops on the ground. It is something that will involve reaching out to tribal militias, things that the Bush administration has been thinking about, things that General Petraeus at CENTCOM has been thinking about, and things no doubt that Obama's advisers have been thinking about.
So, it's part of a larger strategy. It's not just more American boots on the ground. It's the right kinds of boots: special forces, advisers to the Afghan army and Afghan police -- Campbell.
BROWN: But what does that mean in Iraq, Michael? If you are shifting resources, troops in particular, from Iraq to Afghanistan, what does that do on the ground in Iraq?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going to erode what kind of leverage you have in Iraq. And you're really struggling with leverage as it is now -- 140,000 American combat troops have not deterred the warring parties so far.
I mean, one side was bought off. America's natural ally in Iraq, the Sunnis, who were fighting America, are now, 100,000 of them, on the U.S. government payroll.
WARE: Being handed over to a government that hates them. And they hate their government.
Meanwhile, you have got the Iranian militias and other factions there. And so the more you erode the number of troops, the less effective America is going to be at keeping all these sides apart or affecting American foreign policy.
BROWN: So, the flexibility may not actually be there.
Peter, let me ask you about this other point. Obama has made capturing Osama bin Laden a huge priority. Should it be? And do you have any reason to believe that president-elect Obama would have an easier time than at this than George W. Bush did?
BERGEN: I don't think there is any reason why President Obama would have an easier time than President Bush. It's after all seven years after 9/11. There hasn't been information about bin Laden's exact whereabouts since the Battle of Tora Bora in December of 2001.
Finding one person in the world is not a particularly easy thing to do. He's in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan almost certainly, which is a bit like saying I know that somebody is in Virginia. It is not a very useful piece of information, unless you have a much more precise set of coordinates.
So, yes, he will make it priority, but the law of averages suggests that bin Laden, who, after all, is only age 51 right now, isn't suffering any kind of life-threatening illnesses, may well survive for several more years. He isn't making mistakes. He's not communicating on satellite or cell or radio. So, there is no signals intelligence. People in his immediate circle don't seem to be inclined to pick up cash rewards.
He is a human being. He will make a mistake eventually, but so far that hasn't happened, and that won't change with a new Obama administration -- Campbell.
BROWN: One thing that may change, though, is his strategy in terms of how to deal with the region overall. He has talked about reaching out to Iran, reaching out to Syria, having conversations in order to find new ways to deal with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
How will those overtures be received? And give us a sense for how he is perceived right now in that part of the world.
WARE: Well, certainly, he is perceived as a better option, per se.
But that's why it's also going to be important for president-elect Obama as soon as possible to sort of metaphorically flex his muscle as commander in chief, so he's not seen as weak-kneed and therefore vulnerable.
Meanwhile, what we saw in Iraq that worked so well was America come to terms with the Sunni insurgency. Now we're hearing rumblings about coming to terms with elements of the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. So, doing that with Iran, which is far more powerful than any of those other two, is something that we simply have to look at.
And I have sat down with the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad. Now, the American ambassador, Ryan Crocker, and the Iranian ambassador are the only two American -- well, the only two who have spoken between these two governments since 1979.
WARE: And the Iranian ambassador is there to talk, but he's basically saying, what have you got to put on the table?
BROWN: All right. A lot more to talk about. I'm sure we will be seeing you again, Michael Ware, and Peter Bergen, both of you, thanks very much. Appreciate it.