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THE SITUATION ROOM

U.S. Embassy Attack; Classified Intelligence Report Gives Sober Assessment of Iraqi Security; Terror Threats in English

Aired September 12, 2006 - 16:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.

Happening now, it's 1:00 a.m. in Iraq. A classified U.S. intelligence report gives a sober assessment of security in the Anbar Province, heart of the Sunni insurgency. Is western Iraq already a lost cause?

Shootout in Syria. It's midnight in Damascus, where gunmen tried to storm the U.S. Embassy. Local forces foiled the attack, winning rare U.S. praise for Syria. Could this help thaw the icy relationship between the two countries?

And he shows up on the terror tape quite often, adding his voice to the chilling threats. This time, though, in English.

He's known as "Azzam the American." Take a closer look at his path from California to al Qaeda.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's a hotbed of the insurgency in western Iraq's Sunni heartland. Now a classified military intelligence report leaks out and officials concede it offers of very sober assessment of the security situation in the Anbar Province.

Are there enough U.S. troops there to get the job done? Or is it already too late?

CNN's Michael Ware has been on the ground in this very dangerous area for years. He knows it quite well. We are going to go to him in a moment.

But let's turn to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, first -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the language in this classified assessment sounds somewhat defeatist, and that has U.S. commanders on the defensive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice over): Iraq's sprawling Anbar Province, west of Baghdad, is insurgent territory and headquarters for Al Qaeda in Iraq. Anbar is also lost politically, according to a classified analysis by a Marine colonel summarized in "The Washington Post" by Tom Ricks, offer of "Fiasco," the current best-seller that's sharply critical of the conduct of the war.

THOMAS RICKS, "WASHINGTON POST": The military basically could win any tactical engagement it had, but there was very little security progress coming from that. And that the political and social systems were deteriorating, and that Al Qaeda in Iraq, the insurgent group, was filling the vacuum.

MCINTYRE: The publication of the dire assessment drew a quick response from the superior officer of the colonel who wrote it. In a video statement, a two-star general endorses the report's still-secret conclusions but disputes the defeatist characterization.

MAJ. GEN. RICHARD ZILMER, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE: Recent media reports fail to capture the entirety and complexity of the current situation in Al Anbar Province in Iraq.

MCINTYRE: In a later conference call with reporters, General Zilmer went farther, insisting the war in Anbar was not lost.

ZILMER: I've never heard any description about the war being lost before last weekend. We are winning this war. We are certainly accomplishing our mission.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: Zilmer conceded that his primary mission, training Iraqi security forces, was behind schedule, but he insisted U.S. reinforcements would make little difference, except perhaps in the very short term. That is, he said, because what's really needed is political and social reform before the insurgents will lose power in that part of Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: "The New York Times" in their report today on this classified intelligence assessment suggests that the Marine colonel who wrote it says that at least a division, more U.S. troops, would be needed, about 16,000 troops, if they were going to at least make an effort to recapture the ground in the Anbar Province.

Is that what you are hearing, Jamie?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, it's interesting, because you hear from lower-level officers that they do need more troops. The standard answer from U.S. commanders is that they need more Iraqi troops. And of course, the standard answer from the White House is, wherever U.S. commanders ask for troops, they'll get them.

Today, White House spokesman Tony Snow insisted that U.S. commanders were not being discouraged from making those kinds of requests if they need them. So clearly there's a disconnect somewhere.

BLITZER: Jamie, thanks very much.

Let's go to Baghdad. Michael Ware is our reporter on the scene. He's just been embedded with U.S. troops in the Anbar Province.

You spent a lot of time going back to the war, more than three years. How gloomy is your personal assessment now of what's happening in Anbar, Michael?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I mean, to be honest, I'm quite stunned that people are so surprised by this report. I mean, the situation has not deteriorated. It's been like this for over a year, perhaps even two.

I mean, it can still be reclaimed. I mean, it's not always lost. And I think people who suggest that fail to understand the true dynamic. But certainly what the Marine general in charge of Al Anbar said tonight on the conference call is he admitted for the first time that right now, today, through the combination of the U.S. and/or Iraqi forces, he does not have enough troops to win against the al Qaeda insurgency.

His mission is to train, he said. If his mission was to change and that to be to win, then his metrics, his troop numbers would have to change.

This is not new. Al Qaeda has owned Al Anbar for quite some time. And the soldiers out there are being left out there undermanned just to hold the line. They've been screaming for more troops for at least a year and a half -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But it seems like the U.S. military has put a priority, as you know, Michael, on getting the job done in Baghdad and the surrounding areas of Baghdad. That's where they are bringing reinforcements. That's where they are moving troops. And they are sort of relegating the Anbar Province out in the west, which is a huge part of Iraq, to a lesser priority.

Is that accurate?

WARE: That's certainly what I'm being told by senior military intelligence officials. They are saying that Al Anbar and Ramadi (INAUDIBLE), like a saw, as long as we win Baghdad. But that's very shortsighted.

I mean, if this is the global war on terror, President Bush put Al Anbar in the center of the war on terror. And they are undermanning it.

I mean, this is making al Qaeda stronger, not weaker. This is giving them the oxygen they need to breathe -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And you've just come back from Ramadi, one of your many visits to this part of Iraq. Give us a little flavor.

We're showing our viewers some video that you came back with, you and your crew. Give us a little flavor, Michael, of how the U.S. men and women, the military personnel who are deployed to the Anbar Province, how they are dealing with this. What kind of mood they are in.

What's going on?

WARE: Well, I mean, we've just seen a new brigade go in and the other brigade come out. There's some crossover. There's some units that I've spent a lot of time with.

I mean, there's some units out there that literally I've seen them bleed on the streets. And one of them is about to go home. And they stand by their resolve to fight where the president needs them.

But the toll it has taken on them out there, I mean, Ramadi is referred to as the "Meat Grinder." And that's really what it's been.

I mean, it's just so hard to express, Wolf, what the -- what the battle is like out there. And it's a false measure. I mean, America, at the end of the day, in terms of fighting al Qaeda here in Iraq, is not committing to the fight.

And it's the same across the country. Al Anbar does not have enough troops. Iraq does not have enough troops. You either do this war, or you don't. And that's the feeling of the men on the ground -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael Ware, our reporter.

Thanks. Michael, very much.

Michael's been doing some exclusive and excellent reporting on the scene embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq.

Americans were the target today in Syria. Islamic militants tried to storm the U.S. Embassy in Damascus. They were driven back by Syrian security guards.

Syria is winning some rare praise from the United States right now, which more often than not scolds Syria for its ties to terrorists.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He has the story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this was a bold attack in broad daylight in a well-guarded Damascus neighborhood that's home to several embassies, as well as the office and residence of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. According to Syria's Information Ministry, the assault began when heavily-armed gunmen detonated a car bomb near the American embassy and then tried to storm the U.S. compound.

They were met there by Syrian security forces which formed the outer line of defense at the embassy. Three attackers and a Syrian guard were killed. A fourth attacker was wounded and taken into custody.

Thirteen other people were hurt. None of them Americans. Pictures from the scene show smashed cars and blood-stained streets.

There was quick praise from American officials. Although at the White House, it came with a dose of criticism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Syrian police forces did their job and they were professional about it. Now the next step is for Syria to play a constructive role in the war on terror. Stop harboring terrorist groups, stop being an agent in fomenting terror, and work with us to fight against terror, as Libya has done. That's the next step for Syria.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Syria's ambassador to the United States says an al Qaeda offshoot group known as Jund al-Sham may be behind the attacks. But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice notes there are several al Qaeda splinter groups in Syria. Syria, which hosts a number of militant groups, is on the U.S. list of States which sponsor terrorism. The United States withdrew its ambassador last year after accusations of Syrian involvement in the assassination of Lebanon's prime minister, Rafik Hariri.

Syria today offered its own criticism of Washington, saying American policies in the region have "fueled extremism, terrorism and anti-U.S. sentiment" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you.

Brian Todd reporting.

Let's go to New York. Jack Cafferty is joining us now with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: This is right out of "Ripley's Believe it or Not," Wolf. A big headache potentially for the United States here. Another one.

Iraq is getting promises of help now from Iran. The leaders of the two countries met in Tehran today. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, says he supports a united Iraq. And he says he'll help his neighbor "establish full security."

Maybe put in a call to Hezbollah. Have them go in there and help clean things up.

He says an independent Iraq would be a good thing for the security and progress of the whole region. Iran and Iraq fought a bloody war in the '80s. Some of you close to my age remember this thing went on for like 11 years back when Saddam Hussein was in power. It was a horrible conflict. But now there are signs of ties growing stronger between the two countries, including things like oil cooperation.

Meanwhile, the U.S. claims that Iran is interfering with Iraqi politics and that they are letting insurgents cross the border into Iraq. Not to mention this whole standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

I love this story. Here's the question. What does it mean if Iran says it will help Iraq's government establish security?

Isn't that what we've been trying to do over there for like three years?

E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.

And just one other quick note, Wolf. This Michael Ware is new to, I think, THE SITUATION ROOM. He's terrific. That's great stuff.

BLITZER: He used to be -- he used to be the Baghdad bureau chief for "TIME" magazine, going back to the beginning of the war in 2003. We just hired him a few months ago. He was in Beirut, did a good job for us, and he does a strong job in Iraq, obviously.

CAFFERTY: Terrific stuff. We've got to get him on often.

BLITZER: We do.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: And we'll get him on even more often. He'll be back.

Thanks.

Up ahead, a disturbing warning from Pakistan's president. He says the Taliban are now a greater threat than al Qaeda. Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, will have the latest from the Pakistani-Afghan border.

Also, controversy over that ABC 9/11 miniseries. Coming up, among other things, I'll ask a former member of the Clinton administration if he thought the portrayal was fair. That would be the former defense secretary, William Cohen. We'll speak about that and more.

Plus, hurricanes and global warming. What's the link, if any? Our Internet reporter is standing by with details of the new study.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A military intelligence report makes a sober assessment of the overall security situation in western Iraq. Has the U.S. already lost the battle there?

And militants make a comeback in Afghanistan almost five years after the Taliban were toppled.

Joining us now, the former defense secretary, William Cohen. He's a key member of CNN's Security Council and chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group here in Washington.

I'm going to also ask you about your reaction to that ABC miniseries on 9/11 as well.

Let's talk, first of all, though, about this meeting today, a summit between the prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, and the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A lot of Americans are probably looking at these pictures and they're confused.

Why is this new U.S. ally embracing a major U.S. foe?

WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, you could make a case in saying you want Iraq to get along with it neighbors and have a stable sovereign state that would be a benefit to the entire region in terms of promoting democracy. The problem with is that Ahmadinejad has been supplying money and help for the insurgents in Iraq itself.

And now you have a situation in which the Sunnis -- and you and I discussed this some time ago, a year ago, when I said the Sunnis will be begging us to stay. And that is because we are now looking at we are training the Iraqi forces, primarily now the Shia. And now you have the leadership of Iraq cozying up with Iran.

That presents a real threat to them and likely to stir even more insurgency rather than reduce it.

BLITZER: And as worrying to Americans as this meeting potentially could be between the leaders of Iran and Iraq, what is perhaps probably more worrying right now is what's happening in the Anbar Province, the western part of Iraq.

COHEN: It's clear that we don't have sufficient forces if the -- if the mission is to defeat the insurgency. And now you have a split between the commanding general and the colonel on the ground who's filing this report. And what the commanding general is saying is, we have sufficient forces to train the Iraqi troops. If you are going to change the mission to say defeat the insurgency, we don't have enough.

So both are actually telling the truth here. On the one hand, the commanding general said it's only to train and not to defeat. Boy, that's hard to explain in terms of what we have been doing there for the past three years.

BLITZER: But the president, or the vice president, or the secretary of defense say, you know what? If the military asks for more troops, we'll give them more troops.

Is that an honest assessment, really? Because a lot of people are saying, well, the military's afraid to ask for more troops, assuming that it's going to be turned down.

COHEN: Well, you know have the colonel who's writing this report saying we need more troops. You've got reporters like Michael Ware on the ground saying we need more troops. You have Tom Ricks, Michael Gordon, people who have been there and have been writing about this, and we need more personnel.

We had this discussion I think three years ago on your show with Les Gelb.

BLITZER: John McCain has been saying it for years.

COHEN: Les Gelb and I appeared on your Sunday show in which you asked the question, "Do we need more troops?" At that point, both of us said better to have more now and can always cut back. It's very difficult, especially during political years, to increase the troops.

But we need -- ultimately we have to have more troops. Whether Iraqis, if you can train them fast enough, or U.S. forces. We need coalition forces. We need Iraqi forces. But you be you can't defeat an insurgency with the numbers that we have now.

BLITZER: Did you see the ABC miniseries? You were mentioned in that miniseries, "The Path to 9/11." Did you get a chance to watch the final cut?

COHEN: I did. And the final cut was disappointing from my perspective. I'm familiar with that song, Kris Kristofferson, "I'm a walking contradiction, partly truth, partly fiction." I think that's what you have with this particular docudrama.

You can't mix the two if you are going to use real people and put words in their mouths. It should be factually accurate. And there were several key areas putting words in the mouth of both Secretary Albright and Sandy Berger, which I thought were not only -- thought they were, in fact, incorrect. They were not taken out.

BLITZER: What about the references to you personally?

COHEN: Well, I would have had a more exciting personality in terms of what the situation was. It clearly was not -- did not reflect what actually took place during the meetings that I attended.

But, you know, I would have liked to have seen a more accurate portrayal of what actually happened. It was more fiction than fact.

Although, I must say overall it was well done from a technical point of view. I thought it had a lot of technical capability and credibility to it. But in terms of the factual -- key factual statements that were pointed out to in advance, they did not correct them. I think they should have in all fairness.

BLITZER: I watched it. And it kept my interest as a movie.

COHEN: Right, exactly.

BLITZER: But knowing a lot of it was fictionalized. But you know a lot about fiction because you have a hot new best-seller that's out right now.

I want to put the book jacket up there. There it is, William S. Cohen, "Dragon Fire." It's selling well. It's a great novel.

Thanks for coming in.

COHEN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Congratulations on the book.

COHEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, new developments in that plane crash that killed 49 people in Kentucky. We're going to have details of some newly- surfaced complaints by air traffic controllers.

Plus, tracking the Taliban. Pakistan's president now calling them a greater threat than al Qaeda. We'll get the latest from our terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen. He's in Afghanistan on the front lines now.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check back with Zain Verjee for a closer look at some other important storiers making news right now -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, how low will it go? Right now that's what many are cheerfully asking about falling oil prices.

Today oil prices dipped below $64 a barrel for the seventh day in a row. Analysts say the reasons for this include diminished demand around the world and fewer threats to oil supplies.

New developments in last month's commuter jet crash in Kentucky that killed 49 people. The Associated Press reports months ago air traffic controllers complained about a hostile working environment and short staffing on overnights. The AP cites letters that it obtained.

Now, in them, the AP says one worker wrote government officials about the alleged short staffing, and another said to have written to the FAA saying a hostile work environment amounted to an air safety concern.

And one is a hurricane. The other apparently wants to be.

Hurricane Florence now seems headed for the Canadian Maritime Provinces after its wind battered Bermuda with strong winds and high waves. Canadian officials are warning residents to be on guard.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Gordon is in the Atlantic Ocean. Forecasters say it's gaining strength and could become a hurricane tomorrow, but it's not expected to make landfall -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Good. Thanks very much, Zain, for that.

Are humans to blame for deadly hurricanes? A new study says there's a link between global warming and hurricanes. Skeptics say, however, that the idea is manufactured.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, what you're watching right now is animation of sea surface temperatures. And anything in yellow, orange or red is 82 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. That's a temperature that a hurricane needs to strengthen.

Well, scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and 10 other researchers say that the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans are getting warmer and they have found in a new study that at least 67 percent of that warming is due to human factors. They are basically saying things like greenhouse gases, ozone emissions, aerosol particles are causing this warming.

Now, sea surface temperature is not the only thing that makes hurricanes stronger, but it is an important factor, and this is certainly not the first study that links global warming to strengthening hurricanes. But not all experts agree about the human threat. Dr. William Gray, who is a renowned forecaster, came on CNN in June and said that "The human threat to global warming is largely manufactured."

That's a quote -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you.

Jacki Schechner reporting.

Coming up, they're on a violent comeback, so NATO and coalition troops are fighting back against the Taliban. We'll have a firsthand look at the fierce battle unfolding right now in Afghanistan.

And help thy neighbor. Iran says it wants to help Iraq succeed and help establish security. That has Jack Cafferty wondering what exactly does that mean?

Jack with your e-mail, that's coming up later this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

In Afghanistan, NATO-led forces are on the offensive against the Taliban, who are making a stunning comeback right now.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is on the Afghan-Pakistani border with a firsthand look -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today we got an opportunity to see just how the Taliban intimidate the communities around here. We went to see a school that had recently been built through the assistance of the U.S. military.

The school was blown up just after it was completed. Local people say it was blown up by the Taliban, a message to them, they believe, not to support the coalition troops here at this time. It is a wide, well-supported view in this area that those Taliban are able to locate themselves inside Pakistan, cross over the border, and strike here inside Afghanistan.

Certainly that is something that is very sensitive for Pakistanis. And we heard from Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf today, saying that he was doing everything he could and Pakistan could to crack down on terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTANI PRESIDENT: We have to check Talibanization that (INAUDIBLE) and this concept from spreading. This is the battle. And the battle, if it is to be won, has to address the center of gravity of the force. And the center of gravity lies in Mullah Omar and his command (ph), which happens to be in southern Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: This base close to the Pakistan border, I'm not able to say exactly where it is. But the view of the commanders here is that they are up against not just the Taliban but al Qaeda elements, Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks as well as criminals in this area. They see all of them as a threat to the stability here and as a threat to the central government.

Pervez Musharraf In his public statements today in Brussels said that he believes THAT the Taliban are now a bigger threat than al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MUSHARRAF: The center of gravity of terrorism has shifted from al Qaeda to Taliban. This is a new element. Which has emerged. A more dangerous element because it has roots in the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: From the Afghan side of the border, it is very clear that the Taliban are the biggest group.

One of the contentious issues is that both U.S. and British intelligence believe that the Taliban leadership are currently located inside Pakistan. Not inside Afghanistan. And from there, they are safe to plan and pursue missions across the border inside Afghanistan.

But by far, the Taliban, the bigger of the groups in the south. They are from the south of Afghanistan. This is a community that they are trying to win over. They are able to do it with money from the profits from the drug trade that's going on. A massive drug trade in Afghanistan right now.

But the school we saw earlier in the day. Just one of 150 schools according to the Afghan government that the Taliban have either blown up or threatened in the past year. And that's a 70 percent increase over last year. Wolf?

BLITZER: Nic Robertson on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thanks very much. And coming up shortly we'll go back to that border. Our terrorism analyst Peter Bergen is there to talk about these latest stunning developments, a comeback of the Taliban.

Also still to come. What makes for a beautiful mind? People who are geniuses by virtue of their exceptional intellect. No one's sure but there are new tools helping researchers try to figure it all out.

And in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, lost in space. Might a bolt dropped by astronauts today be floating around in space? And might that space debris cause problems now and in the future? Jeanne Moos will take a look. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. So how big of a threat is posed by this Taliban comeback in Afghanistan.

Joining us now from Afghanistan, our CNN terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen. You heard what President Pervez Musharraf said today. The president of Pakistan. Peter, that the Taliban now represent a bigger threat than al Qaeda. What's going on?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Certainly in Afghanistan, I think that's true. I think the Taliban were a nuisance in the sort of 2002/2003 period. They've now become sort of a tactical threat, a major tactical threat to the Karzai government, to U.S. troops and too NATO troops in this country.

On this base I'm standing on in eastern Afghanistan right up on the Pakistan border. We were the subject of yesterday of six rocket attacks. The base that we were at is a subject of frequent rocket attacks. As many as 16 or 25 in one day.

These are done by the Taliban. With some help with al Qaeda, Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks, but it's really the Taliban that has the upper hand in terms of the military situation here. Al Qaeda is providing an advisory and a logistical role. According to U.S. military sources that Taliban has 7,000 to 10,000 men in the field. That's a lot of people, Wolf.

BLITZER: And President Musharraf also made the point that the Taliban is more of a threat because it has the support rooted in the people. How much popular support in Afghanistan is there for the Taliban?

BERGEN: It's hard to judge. Because there hasn't really been polling data on that. But the fact is something like 40 percent of the population are Pashtun. The Taliban are a Pashtun ethnic group. So they've kind of traditionally enjoyed support in the south and the east. That's where they are drawing support. But Wolf, in a recent development we were told by U.S. military officials that the Taliban now having a present and at least significant influence on at least have the provinces of Ghazni province. Which is only 100 miles south of Kabul. That's only crucial to Kabul to Kandahar road in the center of Afghanistan. It shows the Taliban are trying to move just not only in the south and the east but also up into the center and try and threaten Kabul itself.

That's unlikely in the short term but that's a strategy they hope to have.

BLITZER: What are you hearing about the whereabouts of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader who has been on the run ever since the U.S.-led invasion right after 9/11. Because there's been some suspicion he could be hiding out what, in Pakistan?

BERGEN: Yeah, we are hearing from intelligence sources here that he's in quite a major city of about 1 million people in south western Pakistan, either in the city itself or in the neighborhood.

And also, Wolf, the major leadership of the Taliban is in the city of Quetta in south western Pakistan. The main leadership council. That's according to a multiple U.S. military officials. That's according to Afghan officials. It seems to be a kind of universal consensus. Of course it's denied by the Pakistani government. But what are they going to say?

BLITZER: Well, they say flatly it's not true. That's what they say, Peter as you well know. We'll continue to watch this story. Peter Bergen on the scene for us doing an excellent job as usual. Be careful over there, Peter.

And what do you want to know about Afghanistan, Pakistan or the war on terror? Videotape yourself asking questions. CNN's Anderson Cooper, Nic Robertson and Peter Bergen will answer your question as they report from the Afghan/Pakistani border. If you don't have a video camera, just send us an e-mail to cnn.com. Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour.

Lou?

LOU DOBBS, CNN HOST: Wolf, thank you. We'll be reporting tonight on one of the bleakest assessments yet of U.S. strategy in Iraq. Has the United States lost the battle to defeat terrorists and insurgents in Iraq's largest province? We'll have a special report tonight from the Pentagon, a live report from Baghdad.

Also tonight, Republican congressional candidates are in open revolt against their leadership. Over out of control spending and wide open borders. We'll have complete coverage of today's important primary election races.

And, American schoolchildren failing dangerously in school, and falling dangerously behind students in other countries. Now an influential teacher's group is reversing course, raising troubling questions about mathematics education for an entire generation of Americans. We'll have that special report and a great deal more coming up at the top of the hour. Right here on CNN.

Please join us. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We will. Thank you very much, Lou. We'll be watching. Let's check back with Zain for another look at some other important stories making news right now.

Zain?

VERJEE: Wolf, there is no claim of responsibility for an explosion that killed seven people and injured 17 in south eastern Turkey. It happened in Daabakir (ph), Turkey's largest majority Kurdish city. The region is home to the Kurdistan Worker's Party. That's a separatist group that claimed responsibility for a series of bombing two weeks ago.

And there are new developments in Mexico's contested presidential elections. President elect Felipe Calderon is now asking officials not to destroy ballots from the disputed July 2nd bombing. Mexico's law calls for them to be burned after the winner is certified. But since he won by a little more over half a percent says keeping the ballots will boost public confidence in the vote.

Pope Benedict XVI is weighing in on the concept of jihad in Islam. In a lecture at a German university where he once taught theology, the pope called holy war incompatible with the nature of God. Afterwards a papal spokesman stressed that the pope was not equating Islam with violence.

And the infant heir to the Japanese throne now has a name. Hisahito. The boy is third in line of succession after his father prince Akishino and his uncle Crown Prince Narahito who has only a daughter who under the current laws are barred - women are barred from becoming empresses.

Isahito is the first male born into the imperial family in four decades. Wolf, that's good news for the Japanese royal family. Else they may have been stuck and may have had to amend the constitution and allowed a woman to become empress.

BLITZER: Maybe not a bad idea. But a subject for another debate, Zain. Thank you very much. Congratulations to Japan.

The "Scream" and "Madonna" are back. After being stolen at gunpoint two years ago, Edvard Munch's two masterpieces were recovered late last month and will now go on display once again. But what sort of condition are they in? Let's bring back our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wolf, you may not be able to goat Oslo to check them out for yourself. But you can take a look at them online. We've now posted a link for you at cnn.com/situationreports. You can get an up close look at the masterpieces. This is the screen right here and you'll be able to see the damage here in the bottom corner.

If you take a look at the Madonna there's two pretty well-seen rips right there and two other areas right here where you can see some apparent damage. You can go to the Munch Museum online and get more information about these two works. Like there are actually two creations of "the Scream" and four of "the Madonna." the FBI had lifted this theft as one of their top 10 art crimes. They had details about the heist and now of course it's been recovered. They announced it was recovered, or they said it was recovered, rather, on August 30th. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jacki, I said Edward Munch, it's Edvard monk. Very important distinction. Thanks very much, Jacki Schechner.

No ones know exactly sure what makes a person a genius but new tools are helping researchers literally see genius in action. Our senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just looking at a human brain, you can't tell if it belongs to a genius or a fool. You can't even tell if it's from a man or a woman. But now, imagine actually seeing the birth of an idea with high tech imaging. That's what they do at the Mental Illness and Neural Discovery or MIND Institute in New Mexico. It's a world renowned center for brain research. This image was taken to a process called magnetoencephalography. It sounds smart just saying it.

It shows electrical activity millisecond by millisecond.

REX JUNG, MIND INSTITUTE: You are seeing the brain activity over the course of one single second. So in that second, all these different things are happening in the brain.

GUPTA: First to light up, the brain region handling site. As the test subject looks at something. Next, the motor cortex. Muscle control as the subject points a finger in response.

JUNG: And then up in this part of the brain, this is the frontal part of the brain. The frontal cortex. Prefrontal cortex in which a lot of the action happens involved with decision making. Problem solving. Integration of ideas narrowing the focus down to the specific right answer.

GUPTA: They say the higher the intelligence, the faster this pathway lights up. Based on other kinds of imaging, Dr. Rex Jung and his colleague Richard Haier say the brains are different from average brains. Here's one surprise. The higher the IQ, the less brain activity. As signified by the cool green color. The smart brain is more efficient.

DR. RICHARD HAIER, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-IRVINE: It might be that more intelligent people have more tissue in certain areas to process information. And therefore the tissue overall doesn't have to work as hard.

GUPTA: Jung and Haier continue to fine tune their work. Some day they say brain scans might replace an IQ test or even the SAT for college. But for now, the secret of genius remains tantalizingly out of reach. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And this note, Sanjay is going to have a lot more as he unravels the mystery of genius and explores what's unique about the brains of highly intelligent people. This is something you are going to want to see. Genius, a primetime special. Airplanes this Sunday night. 10:00 p.m. Eastern and 7:00 Pacific. Only here on CNN.

Like Sanjay Gupta and all of us, you are going to want to see this special report.

Up ahead, Iran says it will help Iraq's government establish security. Jack Cafferty wants to know what that means. So do I. And what took him from California to al Qaeda? An American adds his voice to the latest terror threats. We'll tell you about this man. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: An American man who has appeared in several al Qaeda videos may soon face more charges here in this country. CNN's Zain Verjee is following the story of this American al Qaeda member. Zain?

VERJEE: Wolf, more charges are expected to be filed against an American citizen who as you say is a member of al Qaeda. He appears to be an asset to the terror group. He's from the West and he speaks English. So he's in front of the cameras a lot.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): Wanted by the FBI. Al Qaeda's American mujahadin. Adam Gadahn, AKA, Azzam the American, is nom de guerre. He appears along with Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda's number two in a videotape posted on a militant Islamic Web site. Speaking in English, he gives the thumbs up to the 9/11 hijackers. Praising them.

ADAM GADAHN, AL QAEDA LEADER: All the brothers who took part in the raids on America were dedicated, strong willed, highly motivated individuals. With a burning concern for Islam and Muslims.

VERJEE: He lashes out to U.S. troops for their alleged war crimes in Iraq and killing civilians in Afghanistan.

GADAHN: I know they've killed and maimed civilians in their strikes because I've seen wit my own eyes. My brothers have seen it. I've carried the victims in my arms. Women, children, toddlers, babies in their mother's wombs. You name it, they've probably bombed it.

VERJEE: The 28-year-old was home schooled in rural California. Converted from Christianity to Islam and then made his way to Pakistan. His family has had little contact with him. Two years ago his father told CNN this ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really couldn't imagine that he would do anything that would get him in this position. But I'm not really sure he's done anything.

VERJEE: There's a sealed indictment that charges Gadahn with material supports to terrorism. Two sources familiar with the investigation tells CNN more charges are expected to be filed against him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (on camera): And prosecutors are still deciding whether or not to charge him with treason. Wolf?

BLITZER: We are going to continue to watch this story. Zain, thank you very much. Zain Verjee reporting. So how can the United States win against terrorists if their main objective is to scare us? CNN's Miles O'Brien has our "Welcome to the Future" report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Brian Michael Jenkins with the Rand Corporation says al Qaeda remains America's biggest threat.

BRIAN MICHAEL JENKINS, RAND CORPORATION: Their ability to communicate, to radicalize, to recruit, has not diminished, we haven't dented their determination.

O'BRIEN: There is no doubt they are determined to try something even bigger. More shocking than 9/11. And while they wait and plan, they are fighting a relentless campaign against the U.S. in Iraq. Turning that country into a terror training camp.

JENKINS: What you see today in Baghdad is going to be the model of terrorist attacks that we see worldwide in the next five to 10 years.

O'BRIEN: So how do we win? Well with the objective of terrorists is to scare us, victory may be as simple as living our lives without fear.

JENKINS: Education and engagement will go a long way to reducing the alarm that terrorists hope to create. If we provoke cynicism in our society then we will weaken and destroy ourselves.

No foreign foe can bring this country down.

(END VIDOETAPE)

O'BRIEN: Jenkins says in some countries every citizen is assigned a specific role in times of crisis. From showing up at hospitals to directing traffic. He says these tasks not only help response, they make people feel less anxious about the threat. Wolf?

BLITZER: Miles, thank you. Miles O'Brien reporting.

Thanks to Brian Jenkins as well. Up next, Iran says it will help Iraq's government establish security. Yes, Iran says it will help Iraq on security. Jack Cafferty is wondering what that means. Jack's standing by with the Cafferty File. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the hot shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press. Pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow. Long Island, a car is embedded in the second story of an apartment building after hitting a bump and launching into the air, killing a driver.

Southern Germany, Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims from a hill top in his native country.

In Moscow, look at this. The pop star Madonna performs in front of a sold-out crowd in her first-ever performance in Russia.

In Southeast Asia. The tree that's become a Malaysian sensation. Villagers dub it the ghost tree because of the face-like outgrowth on the trunk. There it is. Some of today's hot shots. Pictures often worth a thousand words.

Let's check back with Jack. Jack?

CAFFERTY: Doesn't look like a face to me.

Iran's president says he supports a united Iraq and he says he will help his neighbor quote, "establish full security." Great news for the Sunnis in Iraq. He also says an independent Iraq will be a good thing for the security and progress of the entire region.

The question is -- What does it mean if Iran says lit help Iraq's government establish security? This is right out of the twilight zone.

Gene writes, "Let's see, we invade a country for no reason. Radicalize tens of thousands of Muslims and then we can't leave because we have to fight the terrorists that we created when we invaded the country for no reason. We did this in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon by helping Israel invade that country. Next we'll invade Iran for no reason and radicalize thousands more, and we'll have to stay and fight that war on terror there forever, too. This is not war, this is not rational. This is nothing but insanity and stupidity."

Ken in Michigan - "I say let them help. The biggest problem Muslim countries have with us is interference. If we bowed out with a promise to keep a watchful eye on the situation the world would applaud us. Furthermore, the fuel for terrorist sentiment would be extinguished. And best of all, our boys would be alive and home."

Tony in Myrtle Beach writes, "It means that thanks to Bush's rush to war and Rumsfeld's failed schemes. We threw a war against Iraq and Iran won.

G. Writes from Texas, "Jack, I think it means that we should step back and say fine, you kids want to hang out together, knock yourselves out. Have fun. Just don't come to our house unless you're invited. After all, Jack, as they say, blood's thicker than water and entirely too much American blood has been spilled over there for what amounts to nothing.

And Dale writes from Oklahoma. "We land in the middle of Islam and expect to change the country to a democracy and don't realize that religion binds all these countries together. What did Bush think would happen? It's like Islamic radicals decide to invade Kansas. You think Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska and Missouri wouldn't send their National Guard?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here. Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. You can read more of them online. One of the things that Saddam Hussein did, wolf was to provide a bulwark against the Shiites in Iran from taking over there. They were allied with the Shiites in Iraq as well. But it was the Sunni government under Saddam Hussein that controlled Iraq for all those years.

BLITZER: And I can tell you, there's a lot of people here in Washington who already fear that Iran is emerging as a winner in this conflict. We're going to have more on this coming up in a hour. Jack, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. I'll be back in THE SITUATION ROOM. Let's go to Lou Dobbs. He's standing by in New York. Lou?

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