Michael Ware


AC: "Right now, we're at stalemate."

Length: 5:56

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The Status of Forces Agreement remains a central sticking point in Iraq, and both Michael and Peter Bergen talk to Anderson about that and the odds of our forces in Afghanistan tracking down Osama bin Laden (pretty much zero, since he's in Pakistan.) So what will President-elect Obama do?


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ANDERSON COOPER: President Bush today, his final Veterans Day in office.

It is the seventh Veterans Day since American troops began fighting in Afghanistan, the fifth since the Iraq war began -- both wars about to become president-elect Obama's problem.

And, tonight, the Associated Press is reporting the Taliban posted a message on a Web site they often use, urging Obama to withdraw troops from both countries.

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

Michael, let's talk about Iraq.

President-elect Obama has talked about withdrawing troops within 16 months. It's actually now much more in line with the Iraqi government's position.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is, and indeed the Bush administration's position.

Right now, Washington and Baghdad are desperately trying -- well, certainly on Washington's part -- to thrash out an agreement that will allow the continuing presence of U.S. troops. The clock is ticking down until New Year's Eve. That's when the U.N. mandate for the U.S. troops runs out.

Right now, we're at stalemate. Indeed, the Iraqi government spokesman today just said that the U.S. is not doing enough, and they expect the U.S. to offer more.

So, what we're seeing is an enormously complex situation, where America desperately needs something to help break this deadlock. And, in the meantime, you see the insurgency making announcements today, calling on their forces to increase the attacks to overturn this agreement.

COOPER: Peter, there had been talk about leaving -- even president-elect Obama during the campaign had talked about leaving a residual force in place in Iraq. How long would that remain there? And do we have any sense of how big a force would be required?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, when he was candidate, Obama talked about this residual force, you know, counterterrorism mission, protecting the largest embassy in history, these kinds of things, but he was pretty careful not to say what that residual force would actually involve, because, clearly, the anti-war base of the Democratic Party isn't necessarily going to be happy when they find out that the residual force might be something between 30,000 and 60,000 soldiers.

That's the level that U.S. military commanders are likely to recommend to the incoming Obama administration in terms of the residual force that should be left. But, as Michael has pointed out, all this is, in a sense, moot, because the Status of Forces Agreement between the Iraqis and the United States has yet to be agreed upon, and, in fact, is very unlikely to be agreed upon until the new Obama administration comes in.

But there's one big sticking point, which is, the Iraqis really want a date certain for all American soldiers to pull out. And, of course, a residual force is not something that most Iraqi politicians will allow themselves to at least publicly sign on for.

So, there's a great deal of uncertainty going forward. And when that deadline expires on New Year's, you know, theoretically, at least, U.S. soldiers will have to be confined to their bases, if there isn't some sort of agreement, if the U.N. Security Council doesn't come in and say, we're going to extend that U.N. mandate by several months, which is plausible.

COOPER: And, in simplest terms, the idea was -- or at least in some quarters, was to take -- transfer the troops who are Iraq, move them to Afghanistan. But it's not that simple.

WARE: No, it's far from that simple.

And if you're looking at throwing troops at the problem in Afghanistan, that's simply not enough. The so-called surge that has delivered so much success in Iraq was much more than the 30,000 reinforcements sent to the Iraqi capital.

And, in Afghanistan, the terrain there, the mountains on the end of the Himalayas swallows entire infantry divisions whole. So, just picking people up from Iraq will not only leave a vacuum in that conflict, but throwing them at Afghanistan simply won't work. And that's why we're hearing people like General Petraeus talking about talking to elements of the Taliban.


And, Peter, in "The Washington Post" today, it reporting that Obama is planning a more regional approach to Afghanistan, perhaps even this dialogue between Afghan government and what are termed as reconcilable elements of the Taliban.

BERGEN: Yes. And, certainly, General Petraeus has talked about that. The Bush administration is doing its own review, obviously, in the dying days of the administration, is going to be looking at that.

And there's really no other option, because, as Michael pointed out, even if you send several thousand American soldiers to Afghanistan, that's not a game-changer. A game-changer is bringing in people who used to be shooting at you and trying to get them on your side, maybe put them on the payroll, as happened in Iraq.

Obviously, Afghanistan is different. There's different details that would have to be involved, different structures, but, nonetheless, taking the Iraqi model to some degree and seeing if it can work in Afghanistan.

COOPER: Obama also reportedly intends to renew the commitment to hunt down Osama bin Laden. I think a lot of Americans think that all our troops in Afghanistan are doing is looking for Osama bin Laden. But that's the least thing they're doing, it seems like.

WARE: Absolutely.

I mean, they're fighting a resurgent Taliban. They're trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan villagers, who have seen so little produced since the fall of the Taliban. And, ultimately, if you want to find Osama bin Laden, according to America's own intelligence community, the place to look is not Afghanistan.

COOPER: Pakistan.

WARE: He's in Pakistan. He's in the Northwest Frontier Province.

And, indeed, a GAO report that came out in May this year said that, not only is al Qaeda senior leadership sitting there in northwest Pakistan, but it's also reconstituted its ability to strike the U.S. homeland. So, that's quite a promise from the president-elect.

COOPER: All right, two major issues, two wars we're fighting.

Peter Bergen, thank you.

Michael Ware, thanks as well.