Michael Ware


NR: "Six years later and people are suddenly waking up as though it's a shock."

Length: 4:01

LARGE (47.0 MB) ----- SMALL (4.8 MB)

Michael spends Saturday night at work... he speaks with Don Lemon about Iraq and Afghanistan and the political football that the wars have become.

DON LEMON: The issues that matter to you in this historic election. We have been breaking down ten of them over ten days. Tonight: foreign policy. The next commander-in-chief will command a country that is still very much at war. Iraq and Afghanistan, two battle fronts, two battles that have captured our attention, fueled our debates, and shed our blood for years now.

Barack Obama and John McCain. Two candidates, two very different war strategies. Let's bring in a man who has spent extensive time on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is our Michael Ware.

Michael, let's start with Iraq. We've been talking about Iraq and the so-called surge. You say both Barack Obama and John McCain are right and wrong about Iraq. Explain yourself on that one.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Don. I mean, in one sense, one of the candidates makes what is by and large a fairly accurate assessment of the situation on the ground but then makes a bizarre or erroneous conclusion more politically based than one based on facts. The other candidate makes a conclusion without looking at the true assessment. Now, let me explain that.

Senator McCain has been by and large fairly close to the events and information in Iraq. And his assessment of the battlefront for the past few years has been very close to accurate. Where he's wrong is dressing this up as a win in the traditional sense. And where he's also wrong is plugging this thing that we now call the surge. Intellectually, it's almost demeaning to the senator for him to be saying the surge is the miracle cure.

LEMON: Why do you say that?

WARE: Well, the surge is a political buzz word that people here in America do understand, but the successes -- and let's not deny it, there are successes in Iraq, that's uncategorical. But those successes have very little to do with the actual surge. The surge was sending 30,000 reinforcements to the capital of Baghdad. The events, the movements, the momentum that has led to the fall in violence that we're now seeing -- only 13 dead Americans last month -- started two years ago and has nothing to do with the troop reinforcements.

So, he's dumbing it down. Whereas Senator Obama is looking at domestic concerns. Let's get our kids home. Who doesn't want that? But what he's not telling anyone is what that's going to cost you. And how he's going to pay for it.

LEMON: You know -- and Michael, good points here. But I also want to talk about Afghanistan, because we have seen the fighting there build up. So if more allied troops are dying in Afghanistan than Iraq, why aren't we hearing more about Afghanistan, Michael?

WARE: Well, Afghanistan, in terms of the war, is the redheaded stepchild. I mean, it's the one that has been long forgotten. But I mean, I lived in Afghanistan for a year after September 11th. I spent most of my time in Kandahar, at one point being one of the only westerners living in the city. That's the home of the Taliban.

Now, in 2002, the Taliban would take me across the Pakistani border into Pakistan, to their training camps, their madrasas, their schools. It was clear and evident then that the Taliban were resurgent. We're now, what, six years later and people are suddenly waking up as though it's a shock.

Now, the next president -- both are promising, we'll deal with al-Qaeda, we'll deal with the Taliban. Well, sending more troops there ain't going to do it, because that border, that terrain, mountains, it's the end of the Himalayas, swallows infantry divisions whole.

The real key, and no one's talking about this, is the Pakistani intelligence agency, Islamabad's version of the CIA. They're the ones who have been helping al Qaeda, helping the Taliban, certainly elements of them, and that's the key to defeating them. And no candidate has even mentioned their name.

LEMON: CNN's Michael Ware has been on the front lines in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Michael, you're very passionate about it. And we appreciate you coming in here.

WARE: Yeah.

LEMON: On a Saturday night.

WARE: Yeah. I'd say I'd love being here on a Saturday night, but I don't lie.

LEMON: Okay. Michael Ware, thank you. Again, we appreciate it, sir.