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THIS WEEK AT WAR

Week's War-Related Activities Reviewed

Aired August 12, 2007 - 13:00   ET

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


TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR, THIS WEEK AT WAR: The United States warns Iran to stop meddling in Iraq. Iran accuses the U.S. of saber rattling. Is this increasingly hostile exchange between the two countries a precursor to another war? And what impact will Iran's growing influence have on the volatile Middle East? THIS WEEK AT WAR right after a look at what's happening in the news right now.
TONY HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone. I'm Tony Harris from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta with a look at what's happening right now in the news. New concerns as search teams try to save six men trapped in a Utah coal mine since Monday. Now the air quality in the collapsed area of the Crandall canyon mine is being questioned. Still no sign or sound of the trapped miners. But a subterranean camera shows what a Federal mine official calls survivable space.

President Bush rolls out the red carpet. He welcomed newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy to the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine today for a visit and a private meeting. President Bush reportedly serving a casual all-American meal of burgers and hot dogs. Shuttle astronauts installed a new addition to the international space station today. Tomorrow they will inspect a three-inch gash on "Endeavor's" heat shield. That inspection could help NASA decide if a repair mission is needed. I'm Tony Harris at the CNN center in Atlanta. Now back to Tom Foreman and THIS WEEK AT WAR.

FOREMAN: I'm Tom Foreman and here is where we are going in THIS WEEK AT WAR. A down arrow for Baghdad where Michael Ware reports on how the U.S. military lost track of thousands of weapons that may now be in the hands of insurgents just as more Americans believe the troop surge is working. Mixed reviews from Chris Lawrence on an unlikely training strategy for Iraqi security forces. Are they really making progress towards defending their own country?

A big down arrow from the State Department where Zain Verjee looks at how comments on the presidential campaign trail may be great for grabbing headlines, but terrible for U.S. diplomacy. White House correspondent Ed Henry reports on the mixed feelings in the administration about Afghanistan and Pakistan. Are they reliable partners in this war on terror anymore? But first to Aneesh Raman in the Middle East where the country next to Iraq, Iran, seems to be raising the stakes in a dangerous game of chicken with U.S. forces. All that THIS WEEK AT WAR.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Should the American people be concerned about Iran? Yeah, they ought to be very concerned about Iran. They're a destabilizing influence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: President Bush may consider Iran a dangerous menace, but is his counterpart in Iraq on the same page? When Bush met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki late last year in Jordan, they were cordial but formal. Compare that to this week when Maliki traveled to Iran where he displayed a cozy relationship with that country's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It's just the latest sign of Iran's rising influence in the Middle East and the challenge that it's posing for the United States. CNN's Middle East correspondent Aneesh Raman is in Cairo right now, at the Pentagon, CNN's Barbara Starr and with me in the studios Joseph Cirincione at the Center for American Progress. Barbara, let me start with you. With everything we've been through in the past few years, doing anybody in the Pentagon actually want a military conflict with Iran?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No is the simple answer. Nobody here is talking about getting into a shooting war with Iran. In fact, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, both have said for months now there are no plans for a war with Iran. They want to go down the route of diplomacy. But with Iran's influence inside Iraq, that may be very tough. In the month of July alone, Tom, 99 attacks against U.S. troops using weapons that the U.S. believes were made in Iran. How do you keep ignoring that?

FOREMAN: Well, Joseph, let's look at that. We have the sense that while we've been trying to push a surge to calm things down, a sense at the highest levels of government here that Iran has had a surge of their own to make things worse. So it looks like it's not working. What are we supposed to do?

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, part of what you have to do is take a look at this from Iran's point of view. What they see is civil war in Iraq and they are aiding their ally. Their ally the Shia militia is under attack from U.S. forces. Just this week while President Maliki was in Tehran, there was an attack by U.S. forces against the (INAUDIBLE) army in Baghdad itself. So they are aiding that army. They don't see it as an attack on the U.S. They see it as support for their allies.

FOREMAN: I want to zoom in on the map behind here and talk about these cultural boundaries we talk about a lot. This, if you divide the region based on Shia, Sunni and Kurds, look, here is Iran over here. Here is Iraq. You can see how Iran would say our area of influence should go all the way inside here. As we turn to our other wall over here, look at what Iran wants right now as they look at Iraq and as they look at the region. They want nuclear technology. They want reduced U.S. presence in Iraq. They want a stable Iraq under Shia rule and they want respect and influence. Aneesh, do the other neighbors of Iraq want Iran to have those things?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No is the simple answer. The other neighbors are aware that Iran has been rising as a political force within the region, Saudi Arabia specifically. As we talk about Iran and Peter mentioning their support in what they see as a civil war and Shias under attack by the Americans. The Saudis increasingly see the Sunni population in Iraq under threat of the Shia militias there and there's more open talk in this region about that broader civil war and sort of the apocalyptic scenario which isn't just an anarchy and chaotic Iraq but one where Saudi and Iran are openly fighting a proxy war through their allegiances and through their groups inside that country so Iran wants all those things. The big balancing act that the U.S. has at least is if there are neighbors in the region that don't want Iran to have all these things and if Iran has it, they want it. They want access to nuclear technology if Iran is going to have it. They want more arms if Iran is going to have it. So the U.S. is playing that as well.

FOREMAN: So, Barbara, the Pentagon trots out folks who say look at the weapons that Iran is shipping in. Look at how Iran is trying to destabilize Iraq. But they don't want to fight Iran. What do they think they're going to accomplish with these dog and pony shows, in a sense showing off the weapons from Iran?

STARR: The strategy is to go after the smuggling rat lines, if you will, the fighters coming in, the networks, the bomb factories, all of that, the financing. All of the things that the U.S. believes Iran is doing through its very secretive al kudz (ph) force inside Iraq. They're showing the weapons, They're talking to the Iranians. Part of it's diplomacy. Part of it is to, they believe, may be to embarrass Iran into complying, but so far it doesn't really seem to be working because even as the U.S. is talking to Iran, these weapons keep flowing into Iraq, Tom.

FOREMAN: Joseph, Iran doesn't look like it can be much embarrassed about anything. It wants power.

CIRINCIONE: It does want power. It wants respect, also. It sees itself as the major power in the region and historically it's always played a role in the region, so naturally they should have influence over the activities of their neighbors. In fact, one of the problems for the U.S. is that the presidents of both Iraq and Afghanistan see Iran as a friend, as an ally, both have visited Tehran. Tehran has contributed major reconstruction aid to both countries. So our presence in Afghanistan and Iraq are out of sync with the U.S. policy. One final point, the U.S. is also ambivalent itself about what to do with Iran and there are some elements in the U.S. government that do want to take stronger action, maybe even attack Iran. You heard the president refer to this ominously in his press conference this week that Iran might have to pay a price for its continued meddling. We know the vice president is keen to take military strikes against Iraq -- against Iran, rather. This is a dynamic we'll have to watch very closely in the months ahead.

FOREMAN: But unless we are willing to do that militarily, isn't it awfully dangerous to be making threats?

CIRINCIONE: It is. So what happens is you build up tensions on both sides. The rhetoric rises. Remember, the troops are very close to each other in these forces and you may have an incident involving U.S. and Iranian forces that could spark a larger conflict. That's actually the scenario I worry the most about.

FOREMAN: Aneesh, let's turn very briefly, I want you to listen as we look at what the United States wants out of this whole thing. They would like a regime change in Iran. They would like Iran to stop meddling in Iraq and they don't want any nukes in Iran. What do the neighbors think about that?

RAMAN: Well, when you talk about regime change at all in the Middle East and then you talk about Middle Eastern neighbors, they're aware that if they support that in Iran it's likely as a mirror (ph) to come back on them. So there's not much talk about regime change. There is talk that if Iran is going to have access to nuclear technology, the neighbors would like it, Gulf states have looked into having it for themselves as well. There's a notion of one upsmanship that whatever Iran is getting by virtue of the fact that the U.S. is bogged down in Iraq and that Iran is rising as a power in the Middle East, the other countries want it as well. Keep in mind for decades the paradigm, the political paradigm of the Middle East has been Sunni governments backed by the U.S. It's only been in the past year or so since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office that we have seen Iran rise. We have seen talk of the Shia (INAUDIBLE) with Iran, the southern part of Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon and that is what is changing things on the ground and keeping the neighbors very weary of what Iran gets and pushes for and what the world eventually allows it to have.

FOREMAN: Many thanks, Aneesh, Barbara, and Joseph as well.

While the Bush administration is issuing warnings to Iran, it's also turning up the heat on Iraq's leaders. Are they even close to reaching the political compromise that is so essential in that country? Stick with us. That's coming up THIS WEEK AT WAR.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: The Congress and the Iraqi parliament are taking a month off but that isn't stopping the speculation about what may happen in September. Will General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crawford issue their much-anticipated progress report on Iraq? Will there be any significant movement toward political reconciliation by then? In Baghdad, CNN's Michael Ware is standing by and with me here Rend-al Rahim, who served as Iraq's acting ambassador to the United States under the country's first interim government. He's also a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace. Let me start with you here in the studio. There's been much scorn here about the Iraqi parliament taking the time off. Does it really make a difference in terms of solving the political problems?

REND-AL RAHIM, FMR. IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Absolutely not, Tom. The fact is they were supposed to take July off. They did not. They stayed, but they weren't able to achieve anything because of the decisions they have to make and the legislation they have to pass, political issues that have to be determined by political leaderships and not just by votes in parliament. So the fact that they're not there doesn't make very much difference to political progress.

FOREMAN: It's sort of like our Congress here. The deals are actually made in offices and hallways. By the time it gets to the vote, everybody knows what's been doing.

RAHIM: Indeed that's true. And in fact I would say the deals are made outside of parliament by political leaders who may not be part of the parliamentary process. Having said that, we should also remember that parliament has said that they were on standby as it were if anything urgent comes up but that is meaningless. The fact is the issues are much deeper than parliament right now. They are on a national scale. They're on a political scale and they're not just an issue of this legislation or that legislation.

FOREMAN: All right. Michael, is there any sense in the street then that these issues, these deeper issues are being addressed while parliament is out?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, not really. I'm sure there is some discussion behind the scenes but let's face reality. These are American benchmarks. They're not Iraqi benchmarks. The Iraqis view this very, very differently and indeed, on many of the issues that the Americans are expecting success or demanding success on, the Iraqis don't share American interests here or Iraqi insights. The Baathification, I'm sorry, this government is just not even vaguely interested in it. Dividing up the oil evenly, that's going to be a hard sell at the best of times. There's a lot of stuff that has to be sorted out and it's not going to be to an American timetable.

FOREMAN: Rend-al Rahim, here is what I don't understand about that though. Not settling the issues brings continuing battle upon the country of Iraq. Do not the Iraqi people see that and say whether we want to or not we must settle this?

RAHIM: Yes, but what we're talking about is specific legislation as Michael Ware has said, about the oil, about the Baathification. There are deep divisions inside the country about the utility of these laws and how to approach those laws and the divisions are not just about the framing of the laws or the phrasing but about what kind of Iraq you need to see. What are the relationships within Iraq of the central government and the federated regions or the other regions? What is the power sharing relationship between the different communities of Iraq? Those are what is going to determine these laws and how we pass those laws rather than simple phrasing or articles in those laws.

FOREMAN: If they can't work that out, however, it would seem from this shore that they're opting for civil war, that that's what they want. Is that the truth?

RAHIM: No, absolutely not. In fact, everybody is not only against civil war, but everybody says there is no civil war and I would actually say that sectarian conflict has dropped somewhat in the last few months. I know this is a contentious issue but I have just been in Baghdad and my sense is sectarian fighting has certainly abated in the country. So on a sectarian level, the temperature is lower and nobody but nobody is interested either in civil war or in partitioning Iraq, but they just don't know how to move forward on these very important issues. FOREMAN: There's a sense in the latest polls here and I want to look at these quickly, "USA Today"/Gallup poll, that Americans think the surge overall is getting better. Back in July they thought the surge making it better. Only 22 percent thought that, now about 31 percent. The surge back in July people said not making much of a difference, 51 percent, now 41 percent. The surge making things worse, people said it was about 25, now about 24. That hasn't changed much. Michael, there is a sense of hope certainly among some Americans that maybe it can get better, but what do you think is going to move people off the dime here and make them work out these differences?

WARE: Well, nothing really is going to make them come to these decisions at a western behest and let's look at it. Yes, there are some of these successes but why are they happening? Well, a lot of the west of Iraq has dampened its levels of violence because the Americans have done a deal with the Sunni Baath insurgency and unleashed them on al Qaeda. This also is proving politically to be a handy balance against what the American sees the unchecked power of the government linked Shia militias, most of whom American intelligence says has links to Iran. And we're also seeing reconciliation among the people really isn't happening. Most of Baghdad is now divided by sectarian enclaves in the villages I've just come from in Diala (ph) province, they're now all, 99 percent to 100 percent Sunni or Shia, Sunni or Shia.

FOREMAN: Michael, can that work, however? One notion is, go ahead. Let the country divide upon some sort of stasis where they're just not fighting all the time and that's OK.

WARE: Well, they will be fighting all the time and what we'll see is the situation that came to Lebanon in the '80s and '90s. That's what's shaping up now, very powerful militia blocs of different variations and different kinds. We've seen America choose its side in terms of this militia competition. They're backing the Sunnis and the government's been screaming about that, claiming this is America overstepping their authority and backing anti-government forces against the very government America created. So this is how America is bringing down the violence. By cutting these deals and to some degree turning against the government that it forged.

FOREMAN: There is so much more we could talk about but we're out of time. Michael Ware, thank you, Rend-al Rahim, we'll return to the subject many times I'm sure and see where we wind up in all of this.

Up next, however, we're going to look at a disturbing report on how bad bookkeeping -- bad bookkeeping might have deadly consequences for American troops over in Iraq. We'll be looking at that. But, first, we have as we always do a THIS WEEK AT WAR remembrance. Army Specialist Zachariah Gonzalez was killed late last month when an explosively formed penetrator detonated near his vehicle outside of Baghdad. He was laid to rest this week. The 23-year-old Indiana native started off as an army cook after high school but soon after that, he volunteered to be an infantryman, telling his family that he wanted to be on the front lines and as his commanding officer put it, this young man was special to his unit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIG. GEN. THOMAS P. COLE, U.S. ARMY: He had the ability to recognize humor in tough situations and raise everyone's spirits. You see, you don't have to be giving orders to be a leader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Gonzalez served in Iraq for 14 months. He leaves behind his parents and three siblings.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Is America inadvertently giving weapons to our enemies, insurgents in Iraq? They might be, according to a report this week from the Government Accountability Office. How could this have happened? Here to sort it out, Rachel Stohl. She's a senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information. And let's take a look at a breakdown of some of these missing weapons before we do anything else, 110,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 pieces of body armor missing. This is a big war, Rachel. First of all, is this significant?

RACHEL STOHL, CENTER FOR DEFENSE INFORMATION: Well, it's certainly significant in that we don't know what's happened to these weapons and equipment. In terms of the overall scope of small arms available in Iraq, it's just a drop in the bucket, but it's significant that we don't know what's happened to weapons we were supposed to provide the Iraqi security forces.

FOREMAN: One of the big concerns is that it wound up in the hands of insurgents. We don't have any proof of that.

STOHL: We don't know from this report but the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction said last year that there was evidence that some pistols provided to Iraqi recruits had ended up in the hands of insurgents and criminals and the Government Accountability Office has said that they are doing a follow-up report that will be classified for Congress that will reveal whether or not some of these weapons have ended up in the hands of insurgents and criminals.

FOREMAN: Let's listen to what General David Petraeus said on Tuesday about how this may have happened. We weren't going to stay there in the dark and make guys do a serial number inventory and sign them up but that's what happened. We believe these weapons all certainly were giving to Iraqi units. What he's suggesting is that basically this is a paperwork problem, it sounds like that, look, we're in a battlefield. We got to hand out weapons. We got to get people ready. We can't keep track of every serial number. That's not the issue.

STOHL: And I think that's a fair criticism. In fact, in times of war things happen quickly. You have to respond. The problem is this wasn't a one-time thing on the battlefield. This has been a pattern since the beginning of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 where these weapons haven't really been fully accounted for both on the Iraqi side as well as the U.S. side and according to the GAO report, as recently as a month ago these weapons still weren't being properly accounted for so we have an overall system-wide failure here with regards to keeping track of these weapons.

FOREMAN: Do you think that this would be an issue if we weren't talking about a war that had already soured a lot of the American public, that people were very concerned about, if it were all going well, would we be talking about this so much?

STOHL: I'm not sure we'd be talking about it as much as we're talking about it, but hopefully we would be talking about it in some way. This is a major problem. U.S. taxpayers are paying for these weapons to go to the proper people within the Iraqi security forces and we deserve to know that those weapons are getting there and they're being used for the purpose they're intended. We do that around the world. Why can't we do it in a situation where lives are on the line every day?

FOREMAN: So how could they do that? How could they keep track of it in the fog of war, all the things going on year in and year out?

STOHL: Well, certainly there is evidence that some units were, in fact, keeping track, getting hand receipts saying we gave this many weapons to this group and there was some accountability, but it was so ad hoc that it was impossible to keep accurate records across the board. You can certainly do that. You can certainly say let's get hand receipts, let's get ID cards, let's at least know who they're going to.

FOREMAN: That's a workable thing in a war.

STOHL: We can follow up with -- people were doing it in their own ways, in their own ad hoc ways. We can still make those efforts and have those orders come from higher up. There were no orders given to do that in this case, so we'll never know if they could have actually done it because they were never given the opportunity.

FOREMAN: An astonishing story. Thanks so much Rachel Stohl for coming in to sort it all out.

Straight ahead, you may be surprised to learn where an elite group of Iraqi forces is now training for battle. But first we want to pause and have a tribute to some of the others who have fallen in THIS WEEK AT WAR.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And hello, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. More of THIS WEEK AT WAR in a moment. But first, a look at what's happening now. A race against time at a Utah mine where six workers are trapped. Officials say a video camera lowered into the mine does show survivable space where the miners could be but it is still unclear at this point if there is enough oxygen in that area. We will bring you new information on the rescue effort as it happens.

Huge numbers of voters are making history in the West African nation of Sierra Leone today. They cast ballots in their first presidential and parliamentary elections since U.N. peacekeepers left the war-torn country. Electoral officials say everything went smoothly. No reports of violence. Tabulating the votes could take several days.

Hurricane Flossie, a Category 4 storm now with 135-mile-an-hour winds. Flossie is churning over the Pacific about 1,000 miles south of Hawaii. Forecasters predict it will weaken into a tropical storm before passing by the Hawaiian Islands Tuesday or Wednesday.

I'm Tony Harris in Atlanta. Now back to THIS WEEK AT WAR.

FOREMAN: For many of us it's easy to see Iraq as a distant war. But, in fact, some Iraqi police forces are training right here on American soil. Let's take a look. We fly down the country to Mississippi where it runs into the Gulf and up against Louisiana on the Pearl River. And in this unusual location that's where we find Chris Lawrence looking at a most unusual mission.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an all-out assault on the river bank. Three troops pinned down by insurgent fire. Two teams of Iraqi police race to the rescue. Only these bullets aren't real, and this isn't the Tigris River, but the Pearl.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember when the first boat comes off the beach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want to stop shooting so that other boat can come on in there.

LAWRENCE: These Iraqi police officers have traveled more than 7,000 miles to Mississippi, to learn how to patrol the rivers that run through Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you're backing off the beach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't throttle it; just give it a little bit.

LAWRENCE: It's a crash course for this class of 11 officers.

CMDR. LANCE BACH, U.S. NAVY: Some of them have just been assigned to the river patrol for the first time and have never driven a boat before.

LAWRENCE: So the missions don't always work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He came in a little over-exuberant, so to speak, and he got his engine stuck on the bottom and killed the engines.

LAWRENCE: Only a few hundred Iraqi police currently patrol the Tigris and Euphrates, and insurgents have been using the rivers to launch attacks.

(on camera): Back in Iraq they don't have enough boats and/or equipment to spare, so this level of training would be difficult, if not impossible.

BACH: Fine line between, you know, real bullets flying over your head and trying to practice something.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Here, Naval special warfare instructors teach them how to board suspicious vessels and evade ambush on the river banks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is for my country.

LAWRENCE: This police officer says he has learned not only tactics, but how you to trust his team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm not scared at all, especially after this training. We're learning how to be more confident to deal with insurgency in Iraq.

LAWRENCE: Back home, he'll have to be, because the bullets there could be just as loud and lethal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Fascinating story. Chris Lawrence joins us now from Las Vegas.

Chris, is seven weeks enough even with that intensive training to get these men ready to fight Iraq's insurgency?

LAWRENCE: Well, Tom, the learning curve is going to be like that. I mean, it's pretty steep. And it again, you've got such different levels of expertise. Some of these men have been police officers for 10, 15 years, spent a lot of years during Saddam Hussein's rule as police officers. Some of them have patrolled the river before. Others have barely been on a boat.

So you've got a little bit of a disparity there. And even the American military admits it's going to be a tough road to hoe to get back in there. But what they're hoping is if they can get this small group trained enough, they can go back and train other Iraqi police officers there and eventually down the road the goal would be that these officers can open up their own school right on the Tigris.

FOREMAN: We're going to take a quick look at some numbers here. Trained and equipped Iraqi security forces so far, police, about 194,000, armed forces 158,000, total 353,000. And they keep trying to build on that.

Chris, is the concern mainly about training these people to have the physical skills or is part of this also about the mental attitude of being professional soldiers who serve a federal government, a wide nation of people? LAWRENCE: That's one thing that they were really trying to impart there in Mississippi, this whole idea of military discipline that is inherent in American forces trying to impart that into this police force. And I think some of the American officers were saying it's easier with a very small group, when they can build that teamwork and camaraderie.

What they're hoping is those men, even though they may not all work together as a team when they get back to Iraq, they can bring some much those values back so that each one becomes sort of a leader of a team in and of himself and he can try to impart some of those values to other Iraqi police officers that fall under his command.

FOREMAN: You did some terrific work on this story. Many thanks. Chris Lawrence.

Now let's take a look at some of the other hot spots from all around the globe. In Lebanon, clashes at that Palestinian refugee camp we've been following, on Wednesday left two Lebanese soldiers and four Islamic militants dead. The Lebanese military now controls a large part of the camp where 12 weeks of fighting has killed 267 people.

Russia is being accused of firing missiles on the Republic of Georgia. Georgian officials say Russian fighter jets violated Georgian airspace Monday evening and launched two air-to-surface missiles on a village north of the capital Tbilisi. There were no casualties. Russia says it wasn't involved.

And Taliban fighters attacked the U.S.-led coalition base in southern Afghanistan. Coalition officials say about 75 militants fired guns, grenades, and rockets and a full-on assault on the base. Twenty militants were killed there on Tuesday. Polish enforcers responded with air strikes. The coalition says the attack was a rare instance of insurgents on foot directly attacking a coalition base.

Well, still ahead on THIS WEEK AT WAR, the White House considers key allies in the war on terror, Afghanistan and Pakistan. But are they following a different script? Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: The Bush administration says Pakistan and Afghanistan are key allies in the war on terror, but recently both countries have been going their own way when it comes to Iran, al Qaeda and the Taliban. What kind of problem is this? With me in the studio, CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry and CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

Peter, let me start with you. Are these guys really in our camp now or not quite?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Pakistan has done quite a lot, obviously arresting key al Qaeda leaders. But then of course al Qaeda has re-emerged as having a safe haven on the Afghan/Pakistan border. But both of them have a very difficult job. It's a difficult neighborhood. I think we're seeing more action from Musharraf recently, partly for domestic political reasons he has got, he realizes the jihadist terrorist thing for Pakistan itself just as much as getting American pressure.

So I think there's more movement in Pakistan now than we've seen in the last several months.

FOREMAN: President Bush at the White House did put some pressure on President Musharraf in Pakistan. Listen to what he had to say on Thursday about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have made it clear to him that I expect there to be full cooperation in sharing intelligence. And I believe we have got good intelligence sharing. I have indicated to him that the American people would expect there to be swift action taken if there's actionable intelligence on high value targets inside his country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Ed, why is the president saying this at this point to Musharraf?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's an awful balancing act for the president right now. On the one hand, he continues to say that Pakistan is a key ally on the war on terror. On the other hand, the Bush administration own's National Intelligence Estimate a few weeks back said Pakistan has become a safe harbor for al Qaeda.

So he's also walking a fine line, the president is, by trying to prod Musharraf along, get him to do more to crack down on extremists. But as Peter said, Musharraf has helped somewhat. So you can't beat the guy up all the time. You have got to try to prod him, bring him along. And also, what's the alternative? If you push Musharraf too hard, who takes over and who gets control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons? It's a very delicate balancing act.

FOREMAN: Let's take a look at the map and see the area we're talking about. We've have Iran over here. Here is Afghanistan. And here is Pakistan. Really, Peter, this is a big part of the issue, isn't it? This little area here, Waziristan, the place that seems to not really be under control of any established government.

BERGEN: Yes. Well, the Pakistani government signed peace agreements with militants in those areas in 2005 and 2006. Those peace agreements backfired rather badly. General Eikenberry, who was then the head U.S. military official in Afghanistan said that attacks from that area went up 300 percent after the peace agreements.

In fact, I was just across the border when that peace agreement was signed with Anderson Cooper and others from CNN. And we were being shelled on a -- rocketed on a daily basis. So those peace agreements didn't work. Something else has got to be done.

Now Musharraf is moving tens of thousands of troops into the tribal regions, again, looking for some sort of military solution. That hasn't really worked well in the past either, unfortunately. It's one of those problems, there's no really good option.

FOREMAN: Why, Peter, can't they just, on both sides, Afghanistan and Pakistan, essentially surround this area and say, you guys want to be Taliban militants in there, you can, but we're going to keep you hemmed up there?

BERGEN: I mean, it's very tough, topographically, geographically this is a tough area. The Pakistani government sent in 70,000 troops into tribal areas. They took pretty massive casualties between 2002 and 2005. The military approach didn't really work either. So appeasement hasn't worked. Military solutions haven't worked.

Now there may come a moment, if there's an attack in London, traceable to the tribal areas, or traceable -- or an attack on an American target or even the United States itself where there will be a lot of political pressure to do something, and for the United States and NATO allies to go in and just do the job.

FOREMAN: So, Ed, we've got President Karzai over here in Afghanistan saying good things about Iran, saying they're helping out. We have got the problems over here in Pakistan. Does the White House right now feel that they can trust these countries in this war or do they have to watch them?

HENRY: Trust but verify. I talked to a very senior U.S. official who said, you're absolutely right. They're concerned about the fact that President Karzai has been saying very positive things about Iran, at the same time that President Bush is saying that Iran is a menace, that we've got to deal with the regime in Tehran.

Meanwhile, you also have another one of our allies in the war on terror, Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki this past week literally holding hands with Iran's dictator. And that is concerning U.S. officials. They insist that Maliki sent a message to Iran, that they've got to cut it out, stop meddling in Iraq.

But the same senior U.S. official admitted to me we don't really know what Maliki is saying behind closed doors. Maliki is telling us, as is Karzai, that they are getting tough on Iran and telling Iran, you've got to stop meddling all around the world. But the fact of the matter is, U.S. officials are not in the room for these meetings, and they don't really know what is being said.

FOREMAN: Do they worry that they're making essentially a back door deal to say, we'll go with whomever the winner is?

HENRY: The U.S. won't quite admit that. But of course they have that concern about the possibility that essentially these countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, are hedging their bets. They don't know what the future holds. And if eventually say U.S. troops pull out of Iraq, Nouri al- Maliki is going to have to cut some sort of a bargain with Iran because Iran is clearly going to try -- they're already trying, but they're going to try more to expand their influence in Iraq. So there is certainly a concern that some of these countries may be hedging their bets.

FOREMAN: The presence of Iran just seems to be on everything these days. Ed, thanks so much. You, too, Peter. Appreciate you being here.

The war on terror is a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail. But here is a question. Are the comments of presidential candidates significantly undermining U.S. diplomacy? That when THIS WEEK AT WAR returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You shouldn't always say everything you think if you're running for president because it has consequences across the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: The presidential election is 15 months away but you wouldn't know it from the feverish campaign schedule and the candidates' comments about foreign policy already have affected other countries and reached other countries, as well as the State Department raising many eyebrows. Here with me is CNN State Department correspondent Zain Verjee and Steven Kull (ph), editor of worldpublicopinion.org.

Zain, with this many people campaigning, are the folks at the State Department just every day holding their breath saying, what are they going to say now?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, some of the comments that have been made by Senator Obama and Senator Clinton have created problems, for example, with Pakistan, the Pakistani government is saying, you know, what they're saying is unethical and it's immoral and the State Department then has to go off and smooth things over.

It's really important as a strategic ally, as you know, in the war on terror. The other really interesting thing, though, that's going on here, that in spite the fact that these candidates are really shooting off their mouths, trying to grab some headlines as well, what they're also doing is bringing a pretty important issue to the forefront, U.S.-Pakistan relations, and the tensions involved in al Qaeda and what's going on. So it forces the State Department to answer some pretty tough, substantive questions.

FOREMAN: Yes. But think about some of the things that have been said here. Here is what Tom Tancredo, one of the Republican candidates, said. "If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina because that is the only thing that might deter somebody from doing what they would otherwise do.

Let me ask you about this. That kind of talk cannot land well over in the Middle East.

STEVEN KULL, EDITOR, WORLDWIDEPUBLICOPINION.ORG: It has a big impression on people there. It fits into an image that they have that America is against Islam per se. Some polling that we did for START Center at the University of Maryland found that about nine in 10 people in Islamic countries think that the U.S. is after Islam per se, that it wants to undermine Islam.

And whenever there are comments like this, it fits with that image.

FOREMAN: Well, I guess the question is how things are heard there. We may look at a candidate here, a second or third tier candidate, and say, this guy or this person doesn't matter. They're not going to make any difference. But folks don't necessarily know that in Israel, Jordan, Syria, Iraq.

VERJEE: No, and that's the point the State Department was making, particularly with Tom Tancredo's comments. You know, first of all, they normally like to stay out of it. They stay quiet when it comes to campaign season and hear all this rhetoric. But they came out really forcefully and said, this is crazy. This is outrageous. This is reprehensible. So that was an interesting thing to note simply because of the reason you pointed out, that it feeds into this anti-Islamic sentiment in the region.

But as to how it plays out there, well, the State Department is saying, look, you don't know the details of the campaign here, what other parts of the world are seeing. It's just the headline grabbers and they just want to say this isn't U.S. government policy.

FOREMAN: Yes, but, Steven, there are things said all the time in the Middle East that make Americans' blood boil, death to all Americans, bring down the capitalists, destroy the tyrants, all of that. How come we can't say, look, our guys say things, your guys say things, it's a big wash?

KULL: Well, we can say what we're going to say. But the difference is that we have overwhelming military power and people in that part of the world perceive us as having extraordinary powers over all kinds of aspects of their lives. And they perceive the U.S. has the option to act on these kinds of threats. And that's not the case coming from the other direction.

FOREMAN: It's easier for us to look at some radical leader here and dismiss him as a radical leader, he can't really do anything. VERJEE: Right. We can dismiss it and also I think there's the consciousness of the State Department, too, that, for example, take Pakistan where there's rising anti-American sentiment, there's a lot of, for example, what comes out of there.

For example, there was one parliamentary -- a national assembly leader in Pakistan that said, we have got to have a jihad on Americans, you know. This isn't some Taliban guy. This was a national assembly leader.

So Musharraf is also playing and other leaders also tend to play to the sentiments of the country and there's an awareness of that. But there is also an awareness of the State Department that, you know, as campaign season heats up and people are going to say what they say to grab headlines or enforce their points that, you know, many people we've talked to just roll their eyes and say, it's just going to be a long campaign season and we just don't want to get drawn into what's being said here as well as abroad.

FOREMAN: Does the State Department make any effort to reach out to these campaigns privately and say, please, think of the big picture, please be careful about what you're saying?

VERJEE: Well, the State Department says that this is a free country. You can say what you want. They're fully aware that this is rhetoric. This is campaign rhetoric. And what they spend a lot of their time doing is defending or explaining the comments of elected officials. So now they have an added problem where, you know, all sorts of comments are flying around and now they have to defend those that are unelected.

FOREMAN: Does it help anything, Steven -- once one of these hand grenades has been thrown out there, does it help that the State Department then comes out afterward and says, no, no, no, that's not what we mean?

KULL: I think it does help. It does give a signal of some kind that the U.S. is in some way constrained, that the U.S. is concerned what other people think. There is a perception, there is a concern that the U.S. is out of control, that the U.S. can do whatever it wants, that it doesn't have to go to the U.N. Security Council. It doesn't have to follow the rules that it has promoted in the past.

And now there's -- it's a perception that the U.S. is kind of a loose cannon. So any signal that the State Department sends that says, no, no, no, we're constrained, we're limited, we're working together with other countries, we're in the game, we're following the rules is -- has a positive effect.

FOREMAN: We'll keep watching all the words. Steven Kull, thanks so much, Zain Verjee. Going to be a wild campaign season, I'm afraid.

Coming up, a special gift left by the father of our nation more than two centuries ago for our troops fighting now. No kidding. Stick with us, THIS WEEK AT WAR.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Big moments in history often revolve around war. So we wanted to mark a special milestone in THIS WEEK AT WAR. A day 225 years ago this week. That's when General George Washington wanted to create a new honor, an award for a few of his tired soldiers. And he came up with the simple design, a heart clipped from purple fabric. He called it the "badge of military merit." We call it the Purple Heart. The award given in simplest terms to all troops wounded in combat.

This week the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New York marked the anniversary of Washington's idea and honored the more than 1.5 million American service members who have been award this had great badge of honor over all the years.

Turning now to some of the stories that we will be following in the next WEEK AT WAR.

On Monday, closing arguments begin for accused enemy combatant Jose Padilla. In 2002, he was arrested in Chicago as he stepped off of a flight from Pakistan after allegedly attending an al Qaeda training camp.

On Tuesday, Army Chief of Staff General George Casey will speak at the National Press Club in Washington. Iraq will certainly be a key topic during the question and answer session.

And on Wednesday, in St. Louis, Missouri, Veterans for Peace holds its annual convention. The theme is "Building Community to Achieve Justice and Abolish War."

Thanks so much for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR. I'm Tom Foreman. Straight ahead, "CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: The Sago Mine Tragedy."

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