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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
New U.S. Terror Alert After Strikes in Syria; Interview with Rear Admiral John Kirby; Airstrikes Disrupt Plot Against Planes; Interview with Lisa Monaco; Airstrikes Disrupt "Imminent" Plot Targeting Planes; Terror Group: Leader Killed In Airstrike
Aired September 23, 2014 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, from the United Nations where tomorrow President Obama will be here chairing the Security Council. Tonight, as commander-in-chief he's presiding over war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, where officials say could last for years and general blowback here at home as well as within the building behind me.
The breaking news tonight, the Pentagon saying airstrikes are continuing, that and the first terror alert of this new war. A bulletin to law enforcement to be on the lookout for lone wolf terror attacks. It comes after a busy 24 hours military and a complicated diplomat effort that for the first time has persuaded Sunni Arab countries to take on a Sunni extremist threat.
And there is a lot happening tonight. Pamela Brown is on the terror alert for us. Barbara Starr has the latest on airstrikes. But, first, we start with Pamela.
So what are you hearing about these lone wolf terror attacks?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we've learned that the FBI and DHS has actually sent out a bulletin to law enforcement agencies across the country saying that essentially the strikes overnight and their initial assessment were successful in disrupting planning by al Qaeda group known as Khorasan and ISIS. But as a result they were concerned that that could embolden homegrown violent extremists, essentially people living in the U.S. right now who might sympathize with ISIS or al Qaeda and they're worried that this could have set them and that they might be inspired to attack the homeland.
And they're asking law enforcement to scrutinize social media, look for changes in behavior, look in changes in appearances of people they might be tracking. Look for anyone who may be espousing extremism in the wake of these strikes. So essentially this was sent to law enforcement as a precaution to be on heightened alert for lone wolf attacks -- Anderson.
COOPER: And we should point out this is not people who have necessarily fought in Syria or fought in Iraq and come back.
BROWN: Right. COOPER: This is people who may have never traveled overseas at all.
They just watched videos on the Internet, or watched sermons on the Internet.
BROWN: Right, in fact, we know that U.S. officials are monitoring about hundreds of individuals that could be lone wolf terrorists that they say could have the tendency to sort of go over that line and become a lone wolf terrorist. And they are especially concerned because ISIS released videos in recent days urging lone wolf attacks.
BROWN: So that coupled with the airstrikes overnight has law enforcement really on heightened alert.
COOPER: And just like the Fort Hood shooter. That's the kind of lone wolf person that we're talking about.
COOPER: Somebody like (INAUDIBLE) motivated.
Pamela Brown, thank you.
More now on the airstrikes, so far, as Pamela mentioned, had not only targeted ISIS but also a pretty little known al Qaeda spin-off called the Khorasan Group. And apparently the al-Nusra Front as well. Now al-Nusra late today claiming its leader, AbuYousef al-Turki, was killed something that we have yet to independently confirm. In any case there are a lot of moving parts to talk about.
Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for us tonight.
So this first round of strikes, do we know exactly what they accomplished, according to the U.S.?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to the U.S. they believe they were effective and they believe they accomplished a good deal, 48 aircraft, including those from five Arab countries, 200 precision guided munitions dropped. They went against those Khorasan targets, eight Tomahawk missiles from U.S. warships firing against those targets, weapons facilities, leadership targets, anything that the U.S. could get at Khorasan with to try and disrupt their planning.
They're assessing that right now. They believe they were effective and if it all works out they say here at the Pentagon they believe they have disrupted and ended their ability to plot against the United States. We shall see if that proves to be true.
The second round of strikes against ISIS targets, further into northern Syria, that is what everybody expected them to go after. Again, leadership communications, anything they could get to, to stop ISIS from being able to communicate amongst the troops to pass orders, to try and essentially stop them in their tracks. But again, the battle damage assessment is ongoing. We will have to see what the Pentagon has to say down the road very
quickly, Anderson, about what they really believe they accomplished.
COOPER: Is it clear -- the kind of timeline, obviously they said that -- the Pentagon was saying today this is just the beginning. Just about everybody in Washington is saying that including the president. But in terms of actually having targets that they can reach, how active is this bombing campaign going to be in the next couple of days, do we know?
STARR: Well, I think that is the most interesting question right now. They hit about 20 pre-planned targets. So these were stationary targets essentially. They had done reconnaissance on them, they knew where they were. Stationary targets, though, were relatively simplistic to go after because they knew the location. Now the hard word begins. Where do you go from here? What is the next list of targets?
What else can you hit that would really disrupt ISIS and the Khorasan? What can you get to do to keep them stopped and move back from continuing their advance? It is going to be very interesting to watch over the next couple of nights. Will there be more strikes? How long do they do battle damage assessments? When do they move on to developing additional targets that they can hit?
COOPER: Barbara Starr, appreciate the update. Thanks.
A short time ago I talked about the tempo and the duration of the airstrikes as well as the limitations of airstrikes with Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby.
COOPER: Admiral Kirby, you said this morning that, quote, "Last night's strikes were only the beginning." The Pentagon's Director of Operations said today that the time frame is years. Would you agree with that?
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I absolutely agree with that 100 percent. We know -- we're very clear-eyed, Anderson, about the threat that we're facing from ISIL. So are our regional partners, which speaks to the coalition we put together last night. Everybody knows this is going to be a long, difficult struggle. And I think we're all steeling ourselves for exactly that.
COOPER: Syrian human rights organization is reporting civilian casualties as collateral damage from the bombing. Can you confirm that and how big a concern is that for the Pentagon?
KIRBY: It is always a concern for us, Anderson, as you know from reporting. Our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, nothing we take more seriously than that. And we always investigate if we have any indication that we have caused collateral damage or civilian casualties.
I can tell you right now that we have no such indications that we caused any civilian casualties or collateral damage. And watching those reports, we take them seriously and if we have to we'll certainly investigate and look into it.
COOPER: An important component obviously of all this is ground operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. How long a time frame will it be to actually train and equip so-called moderate rebels inside Syria?
KIRBY: It's going to take us about three to five months now that we have the authorization to recruit and vet a significant number, a sufficient number of trainees. Then it's going to take another eight to 12 months on top of the -- on top of that vetting process to feel them, to actually get them trained and back into Syria where they can start defending their communities and their fellow citizens. It's going to take a while. We've been very honest about that.
COOPER: Is there anyone on the ground that the U.S. would like to see right now capable of taking advantage of these airstrikes that the U.S. is engaging in?
KIRBY: Well, it's not like the moderate opposition doesn't exist now. They do. What we're talking about is trying to improve their capabilities over time. But they're there right now.
COOPER: Right, but --
KIRBY: And they're --
COOPER: But their priority, their first priority, and we've heard this from them publicly is the overthrow of the Assad regime. How do you get them to make ISIS their first priority?
KIRBY: Well, we understand. Well, first of all they're not a monolithic group. And not all of them speak for everybody else. And we know that they are fighting the Assad regime, that's part of the reason we want to train and equip them as well. But they're also getting slaughtered, they're also being threatened by ISIL inside Syria, and we know that they have to address that threat. That they want to.
Step one in this process, quite frankly, is to get them a basic set of military skills, leadership skills, organizational skills so that they can defend their communities and their fellow citizens. Then to go after ISIL and the Assad regime. And the ground forces that matter most, Anderson, are indigenous ground forces -- Iraqis on the Iraq side of the border, a good, solid moderate Syrian opposition on the Syrian side.
COOPER: Talking about the Iraqis on the Iraqi side of the border, to rebuild the Iraqi military which was obviously trained by the United States, got equipped by the United States, but you know, under al- Maliki, you had generals paying to become a general.
KIRBY: Right. COOPER: The corruption is rife in the Iraqi military. How long do
you that process to get them to a place where you can vet them and re- train a general corps and actually get troops that are actually willing to stand up in battle?
KIRBY: I think there's a little -- misconception about the Iraqi Security Forces. They certainly need growth and development, no question about that. But it is already an existing army. And we now have a new unity government in Iraq that has pledged itself to plurality and to responsive government, to properly training and resourcing their army, and it's their army, not ours.
COOPER: But wait, but you said you have the new Iraqi government, I mean, you've got a president and a prime minister. They haven't appointed a defense minister, they can't figure out who's going to be the interior minister, the parliament is a mess. So actually getting them to reach out to Sunni groups, getting them, I mean, they can say one thing but actually getting them to rebuild the Iraqi military, I mean, you've got to admit that's going to take a long time.
KIRBY: It could very well take a while. Again everybody is clear- eyed about this. But all the vectors that we see moving inside Iraq and in Baghdad are in the right direction. Clearly there's challenges. And -- they still have a ways to go.
COOPER: In regards to strikes targeting this group, Khorasan, CNN has been told that there was no intelligence indicating they had chosen a specific place or building, that they had acquired materials and were in the advanced stages of planning. Is that your understanding, as well?
KIRBY: I'd really rather not get into too much intelligence issues here on TV. But what I can tell you is that we know that they were very close to the end game in their planning. We don't know exactly where the attack that they were planning would take place. That's why we said we think it was either Europe or the homeland. So there are some information that we probably didn't have all the way down to the exact detail.
That said, we know they were close. We know that they had a very serious intent to conduct an attack on Western targets and that drove a lot of the urgency last night.
COOPER: Admiral John Kirby, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
KIRBY: My pleasure. Thanks.
COOPER: A reminder, 360 is live throughout the next two hours here from the U.N. and CNN of course is live all night long and bringing you all the latest developments as always. Be sure you set your DVRs so you can watch our program whenever you'd like.
Coming up next, digging deeper into one of the reasons given for striking now this Khorasan Group. Who exactly are they and why are they considered so dangerous and why are any of us just hearing about it for the first time? President Obama's Homeland Security adviser is up next on what's being done to keep Americans safe when we continue.
COOPER: Hey, welcome back. The breaking news tonight, continuing airstrikes on targets in Syria and a new warning to law enforcement about potential lone wolf reprisal attacks on American soil. However, it's not just reprisals, and as we've been discussing not just ISIS, military planners say they hit what they hit in part to head off an immediate threat from that al Qaeda splinter group called Khorasan, a group you might not have heard of until today.
Again, here is our Pamela Brown.
BROWN (voice-over): U.S. officials say one of the goals of American- led airstrikes in Syria was to eliminate the command and control structures of a terrorist group called Khorasan.
KIRBY: In terms of the Khorasan Group, which is a network of seasoned al Qaeda veterans, these strikes were undertaken to disrupt imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western targets.
BROWN: The leader of the Khorasan Group is believed to be Muhsin al- Fadli, a former al Qaeda operative who was part of Osama bin Laden's inner circle. The terror group is considered especially dangerous to the United States because its main focus is to carry out attacks on Western targets.
A U.S. intelligence source says the group had already acquired materials and was in advanced stage of planning to carry out an attack, though no specific targets are known. Senior officials tells CNN that in July security at international airports was increased after intelligence suggested Khorasan was creating easily concealed bombs for Western recruits to smuggle on to airplanes.
What makes the threat of Khorasan attack so worrying is their ties to al Qaeda's master bomb maker in Yemen, Ibrahim al-Asiri.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: The concern is that al-Asiri has trained a number of apprentices in these techniques, and these apprentices, some of them have migrated to Syria. The fear is that some of them had joined this group Khorasan there and have helped them develop these new techniques.
BROWN: Al-Asiri is thought to have built the failed underwear bomb brought aboard this plane from Amsterdam to Detroit and is behind a plot to blow up planes using explosives in printer cartridges. Now as the initial smoke clears in Syria, the question remains, did the airstrikes stop Khorasan's plots?
CRUICKSHANK: What's not clear yet is whether the leadership has been taken out, whether the bomb makers have been taken out and whether the operatives they were recruiting into these plots were taken out. If all those people are still around it's possible that they could still carry through with this plot. (END VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER: And Pamela Brown joins us now. Do we know what kind of a device they were working on?
BROWN: Well, Anderson, the latest intelligence suggests that the group is actually trying to put these easily concealed bombs into hand-held devices. We're talking cell phones, smartphones, iPads, any sort of electronic device.
You might remember actually back in July security was heightened at international airports and they asked passengers actually turn on their hand-held devices, and that is connected to this intelligence that this group was trying to hide the bombs in these hand-held devices. But not only that, we're talking toiletries, tooth paste tubes. My colleague Deborah Feyerick, one of her sources telling her that they also were going to use nonmetallic detonators so that screen at airports wouldn't pick up on it.
COOPER: Right. She'd also reported clothes --
COOPER: Yes. Which I've never heard of before.
BROWN: Right. I hadn't either. And what I'm learning from my sources is that they had a variety. They were looking into a variety of options putting them in hand-held devices, which is one of those options that they were looking at. And my sources tell me that it was sophisticated attacks and also the smaller scaled, less sophisticated attacks that they were looking at -- Anderson.
COOPER: It's fascinating. Scary stuff.
Pamela Brown, thanks very much.
President Obama today underscored his commitment to address threats to the country regardless of the source. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.
I have spoken to leaders in Congress and I'm pleased that there's bipartisan support for the actions that we're taking. America is always stronger when we stand united and that unity sends a powerful message to the world that we will do what's necessary to defend our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: With me now is President Obama's counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco. Thanks very much for being with us.
LISA MONACO, ASST. TO THE PRESIDENT FOR HOMELAND SECURITY AND COUNTERTERRORISM: Good to be with you, Anderson.
COOPER: Let's talk about this bulletin that was put out, warning of lone wolf kind of attacks, what can you tell us about it?
MONACO: Well, Anderson, I think what you were referring to is an intelligence bulletin that the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI put out. What they do is they try and inform and putting context for state and local law enforcement officials information and events that are happening around the world. And that's what they were doing tonight. Trying to make sure that they -- that law enforcement officials are vigilant for anything that may be ongoing and in relation to events that are happening in the world.
COOPER: Is it based on specific intelligence that's already known? Or is it based on just kind of an obvious -- well, this could be a very real threat?
MONACO: This is -- the bulletin you're referring to was not based on any specific intelligence about any plotting inside the United States.
MONACO: What this was, was putting into context the events of last night and what we've seen from ISIL and the very violent messages that they have been putting out.
COOPER: It's also really fascinating because, you know, there's been so much focus on ISIS and the concern of people, Americans or Western Europeans who have fought there, returning to the United States, returning to Western Europe, being able to come to the United States. But you're talking about not necessarily people who have fought overseas who are on the radar and for that reason.
These are people like the Fort Hood shooter who may not have traveled overseas at all, but may just be watching stuff on the Internet, watching sermons on the Internet or kind of ideology motivated.
MONACO: That's right, Anderson. The type of things that we're going to be worried about as counterterrorism professionals are really threefold. One, external plotting by dedicated and very focused, dangerous groups like the Khorasan Group, those who are focused on plotting on homeland attacks or attacks against Western interests in Europe or other places, and that is what you saw decisive action taken by President Obama last night with our military forces to try and disrupt that type of plotting.
The second thing we're going to be focused on is the problem of foreign fighters. Those who travel to Iraq, Syria and other places to get training to come back to their home countries. Those with Western passports. And then the third thing we're very focused on is exactly what you said. Those who could be radicalized to violence, who are sympathetic to and could be radicalized by violent messages from ISIL, from al Qaeda, or from other sources.
COOPER: And those kind of attacks don't have to be a large scale kind of attack to make an impact. I mean, again, Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, we saw the decapitation of a British soldier in the United Kingdom last year. Those things -- even the attacks in Mumbai, a handful of fighters with AK-47s can really paralyze a city.
MONACO: That's exactly right, Anderson, the types of things that could be done with small arms or not very sophisticated capabilities. That is why we're worried and are trying -- doing everything we can to address the violent messages and to counter those messages.
You'll hear President Obama talk about that as part of the foreign fighters meeting that he'll chair tomorrow at the U.N. Security Council.
COOPER: Just with the Khorasan Group, it's interesting because for a lot of people, I mean, I've read about it maybe in "The New York Times" a couple of days ago for the first time or maybe they're just hearing about it today. How long has U.S. -- have U.S. officials, have you been aware of it, talking about it, watching it?
MONACO: We've been focused on this group for a while now. We have been working with our foreign partners for about two years, focused on them. They are a group, as you said, of al Qaeda veterans.
COOPER: Do you have a sense of how big they are?
MONACO: They are seasoned operatives. These are individuals who have traveled from Afghanistan and Pakistan area, from other areas in the Middle East, bringing their skills and their expertise and experience to take advantage of the chaos that has happened in Syria and the safe haven that has been constructed there really out of the violence and the chaos going on in the conflict there.
COOPER: I mean, that's an important point to point out. They're not there to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, as a lot of these groups are, even al-Nusra or ISIS. They're there like a parasitic host to kind of -- basically have the protection of the chaos that's going on.
MONACO: They've gone there precisely because it's a safe haven because of the chaos, because they have freedom of movement to plan, to plot and to design attacks against the West.
COOPER: Do -- I mean, maybe you can't say, do you have a sense of how big they actually are though? Are we talking about handfuls of individuals? Are we talking a large group?
MONACO: We're talking about a specific subset of experienced al Qaeda veterans, seasoned operatives that were very focused on and that's why when we had intelligence indicating that they are in the advanced stages of planning attacks against the West President Obama took decisive action to address that threat.
COOPER: We just had a piece where we talked about, you know, the well-known bomb maker, who's in Yemen, part of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Do you know for a fact or is it -- or I don't know if you can say -- are members in Khorasan, have they been trained by that person? Because when I think of bomb makers, I think of that guy, I didn't think it is this group Khorasan. But clearly it seems like that they're looking to toothpaste bombs or the kind of devices that our sources have been describing.
That seems like a relatively sophisticated bomb knowledge.
MONACO: We're always going to be very concerned about exactly the threat you're referring to. The threat of aviation plots. And particularly from AQAP, the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is the group that you're referencing. They have proven to be the most determined and focused on aviation plotting. And because we're constantly addressing that threat, constantly evaluating our measures you saw us take a number of aviation security measures over the last several months.
COOPER: All right. Lisa Monaco, we appreciate your time, thank you very much.
MONACO: Thank you.
COOPER: Thanks, Lisa Monaco.
As always you can find more on this story and others at CNN.com tonight.
Just ahead, ahead, we're going to dig deeper on the coalition behind the airstrikes in Syria. Which Arab countries have joined the U.S.? And what it took to get them on board?
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Tonight's breaking news, continuing airstrikes on targets in Syria. And a new warning to law enforcement about potential lone wolf reprisal attacks on U.S. soil. Now as we've said five Arab countries have joined the United States in the operation against ISIS in Syria.
Earlier today President Obama pointed to their participation as proof that he'd made good on a promise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Also made clear that America would act as a part of a broad coalition and that's exactly what we've done. We are joined in this action by our friends and partners, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, and Qatar. America is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations on behalf of our common security. The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America's fight alone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, each of those five countries is a Sunni Muslim nation and now they have joined the war against ISIS, a Sunni extremist group. The importance of that for the United States cannot be overstated.
So what did it take to get them on board and why, by the way, are America's -- where, I should say, are America's Western allies?
Joining me now is chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, also senior political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen.
It's important to point out, Jim Sciutto, that these coalition efforts to have Sunni Arab nations attacking a Sunni extremist group, I mean, that is a major accomplishment in a coalition.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. Because they're Sunni certainly but also just because they're from the region. You have five Arab nations taking part very actively in these airstrikes as well. I'm told that all five of them, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, encountered flew strike aircraft last night. So they were all up there on the air with bombs to drop on targets. As it turned out Qatar did not drop bombs but they prepared to and will be prepared going forward.
When the president said that he wanted to get an international coalition particularly with regional partners, we can't say he's delivered. He has five of them. And that's pretty remarkable diplomatic achievement.
COOPER: Christiane, the U.K., you've been following obviously events there very closely. France did bombings in Iraq recently, not in Syria, the United Kingdom did not bomb Syria. It may have surprised a lot of people.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Obviously the United Kingdom is with the U.S. in whatever military campaign they do. But there are lots of political issues. Nonetheless the British have supported this and said they will look to contribute whichever way they can.
French foreign ministers telling me that even though they're bombing targets in Iraq, not in Syria yet, they are going to be front and center in the most important task of building up the opposition forces, the Free Syrian Army.
COOPER: And what is going to happen on the ground both in Syria and Iraq that is critical. You just had an interview with Iraq's new prime minister.
AMANPOUR: That is exactly right, the first major one he has done and what a day to do it. Because I asked him about the strikes in Syria and he says he is really pleased that people have, quote, "woken up" to the blood bath that was being created certainly over the last several years in Syria and Iraq. He was very pleased that the allies have come on.
COOPER: The question is has his government -- AMANPOUR: I pressed him very, very hard on that because as you know
this is President Obama's centerpiece to get up a functional government that is inclusive. He tells me he is trying his best and understands he has to do it.
But he is also saying that he is going to -- when he meets President Obama tomorrow saying that the Americans are not doing enough. That's what he thinks. I said what else do you want?
You have an air force now and he says, well, we want air cover for our forces when they go out on the ground. So this is a long hard (inaudible).
COOPER: David Gergen, it is somewhat annoying to hear, you know, the Iraqi prime minister saying the U.S. isn't doing enough given that it's the Iraqi government under Nuri Al Maliki, his predecessor, who is the cause of the cause of really the Iraqi military completely collapsing.
The general core that has been put in is largely corrupt. A lot of these guys paid to become generals so that they could rake in a lot of money and they abandoned their own troops in the field.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely annoying, Anderson. You're right. It's also annoying to hear reports today that the Iraqi government has been talking to Assad and Syria, trying to cozy up to Assad.
This is a problem we want out of power in Syria itself. There are things not working well here, but the big story is the very, very welcome surprise that President Obama has pulled off.
Nobody thought he would do it this quickly. Getting these five Sunni nations there and hammering, not just delivering a pin prick, but hammering the other side, going through to their headquarters. All of that is very welcome.
I talked to a big political American leader hearing this, he said look if you're going to get into a fight it is really important to the American people to show them you're willing to kick some ass. That is what the president did. I hope it means a turnaround. He has had a very rocky start to this war.
COOPER: David Gergen, I'm shocked, shocked by your language.
GERGEN: Me too.
COOPER: Jim Sciutto, for all the talk of this coalition, there is no doubt the U.S. is the one really calling the shots here. The question is how long will these Arab partners, the Sunni governments be involved in this effort? Are they in for the long haul?
SCIUTTO: Well, it's interesting. As those Arab countries announced, made public announcements of their involvement in this air campaign, one phrase struck out to me in the announcement from the UAE saying that these were the first strikes against ISIS. Making very clear just as you heard from the Pentagon that this is the beginning of a long sustained campaign. And privately diplomats telling me the same thing. They're in for the long haul.
AMANPOUR: The foreign minister told me that today. He used the words as long as it takes so we'll see.
COOPER: And you and I both talked to Rear Admiral Kirby from the Pentagon.
AMANPOUR: A marvelous man.
COOPER: And he's very honest about the time frame on this and I think it bears repeating because the time frame for getting, you know, quote/unquote, "moderated Syrian forces," 18 months.
AMANPOUR: Yes, recruiting, five months or so. Then getting them into the field, another eight to 12 months so this is a long process.
SCIUTTO: And that is only 5,000.
COOPER: For the Iraqi military we're talking potentially years to try to get them up and running.
AMANPOUR: But the thing is what everybody has to understand, the famous word, strategic patience, political will, this is not going to work unless there is that. The president has made that very clear from the outset that this is not a two, three, four months campaign. This could be several years and that is what it is going to take.
COOPER: And David, the concern of that, you can only do so much from the air. You need some forces on the ground to move into those areas to try to push ISIS out of those areas where they have been bombed and weakened.
If there is not a force on the ground, be it Peshmerga or Iraqi military forces or Syrian rebels they're not going to be able to take advantage of whatever gains they get.
GERGEN: That is true, Anderson. And this is not only going to be a long one, but filled with uncertainties. One uncertainty now, Christiane Amanpour addressed this.
As we continue to bomb in Syria as I think we will for a while and don't have any rebels to go in really and cover, does that leave the way open for Assad to move in some of the forces that have been hit and grab some of the territory for himself.
COOPER: What do you think about, Christiane? Does it become an advantage for Bashar Al-Assad?
AMANPOUR: You know, I'm trying to figure that out. I don't think so, but I do think the United States -- this is what the Iraqi prime minister said to me that the U.S. has made it clear they're not going after Assad in this round. This is about ISIS. On the other hand, the FSA who they want to stand up as their ground forces, and they need a ground force. This is not going to work without one. They say we have been fighting Assad and ISIS for a long time.
We're not going to give up. But don't ask us to give up our ultimate aim which is fighting Assad. The Iraqi government said we're having no fight with you Mr. Assad, we're not violating your sovereign territory, but this is going to happen against ISIS there.
COOPER: Christiane, Jim, David Gergen, thanks very much. We'll play a portion of that exclusive interview that Christiane mentioned in the next hour.
Coming up in this hour, though, from tomahawk missiles to new fighter aircraft first used in the bombing campaign. We'll give you a look at the military campaign now being used in the strikes against Syria.
COOPER: The Navy has released a number of videos of U.S. operation targets in Syria, take a look. That is the U.S. -- the USS Philippines Sea launching tomahawks against the ISIS targets. Tom Foreman has more now on the military equipment that's being used in this mission.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, no doubt about it. The tip of the sphere here were the cruise missiles because those missiles can be launched. They travel about 550 miles an hour. They fly very close to the ground. They are very hard to detect, almost impossible to stop.
And just as importantly they can be launched from very far away. And these were, there were launches from the Red Sea and way out here in the Arabian Sea, in either case you are talking about locations that are so far removed from the target site that there is no ability for anyone up here to wage a counterattack on the ships out there.
Now, there is another interesting point to bear in mind in terms of the targets here. The cruise missiles were most heavily relied upon over here in the western most area where the first attacks occurred. Why might that be?
Well, here is one real reason, because the Syrian military and government are strongest over in this part of the country. They have genuine anti-aircraft defenses. So flying jets in here is far more perilous than bringing them over in here.
And we did see much more aircraft activity in the second strike zone and the third strike zone over here. And the aircraft that were involved were really very impressive.
An array of some of the most advanced aircraft in the world including the F-22 Raptor saw its first battle here. This is a stealth aircraft that actually carries the missiles inside so it presents a smaller signature in radar. So it's very hard to detect them. The F-22 Raptor have been in development for a long time. They cost around $300 million per aircraft, less than 200 in the world. This saw some of its first battle here.
In any event these aircraft all worked in tandem to pound away at all the targets off in this part of the country. And overall the amount of force applied throughout here in a precision way was very, very robust -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Tom, thanks very much. Tom Foreman. Joining me now is CNN military analyst, Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona and former Navy SEAL, Brandon Webb, editor of Softrep.com.
Col. Francona, Tom talked about the U.S. possibly taking into the calculations the Syrian government's air defense system. Does that make sense to you? That is something that U.S. must be concerned about the idea of the Assad regime launching some sort of anti- aircraft battery against U.S. forces.
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it is something you always want to consider. And Tom is right, if you look at the way the Syrian air defenses are arrayed, they have always been arrayed, the primary defenses of Damascus to Aleppo and along the coast.
Once you get out to the east of that there is almost nothing. There are a few radars, a few mobile SAM systems, but you know, very little that would pose a real threat with the amount of force that we would bring in.
And of course, with that strike package we took suppression of the enemy air defense. We took that into consideration. I think it was wise to use the cruise missiles in that area to the west of Aleppo because there are still government forces up there.
Now the Syrian air defense has been degraded over the last few years, but you know why risk it?
COOPER: Brandon, as far as targets are concerned, I mean, are there going to be that many targets that the U.S. really can hit? I mean, it seems in some cases they're using cruise missiles to hit a vehicle or you know, antennas on top of a building.
At a certain point with a group like ISIS that is relatively decentralized it is not like striking the command and control structures of the old Saddam regime.
BRANDON WEBB, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL: Yes, I see this more as a symbolic strike. I personally don't think it was very effective at doing anything to ISIS who have proven themselves to be a very flexible adversary.
The big problem with a strike like this is what we call, BDA or battle damage assessment, without U.S. forces on the ground to be able to assess the damage on the ground it is really not known how effective these strikes were.
COOPER: Colonel Francona, do you agree with that? I mean, I keep looking at what the Pentagon released these videos and stuff. But if they are using, you know, a half million dollar cruise missile to take out a vehicle, and that is in the first wave, does it really make sense?
FRANCONA: Well, the targets last night were mostly buildings. And you know, storage facilities, logistics, anywhere they thought there were concentrations of troops. Most of these were fixed targets. You can do fair BDA from overhead assets and drones.
The problem will be is when we get into the tactical nature of this. We already see ISIS moving their things out of storage and moving people into civilian areas. So that is going to make it much more difficult to target.
And then when you get into that, you are going to have to have somebody on the ground not only to do the BDA, as Brandon says, but you need to have people on the ground to designate the targets.
Otherwise, you're going to have a lot of civilian casualties and I think we're trying to avoid that. I think it is a little more than just symbolic, Brandon, but you're not just going after a state actor.
COOPER: And Brandon -- go ahead.
WEBB: You cannot defeat an unconventional enemy like ISIS, who is really -- we're talking about the Islamic State in the Middle East is more of a radical ideology. You heard President Obama say, it is one of the first times he acknowledged that.
This isn't ideology. We've gotten really good in the U.S. Special Operations community of killing bad guys, but missing part of the strategy is how do we prevent this massive ideology from -- I mean, ISIS is recruiting from all over the world. So that is a big problem we're facing.
COOPER: Well, also I think your point is incredibly important, Brandon and not talked about much. Because even our allies in this, Saudi Arabia, with the one hand they're helping this operation with the other hand they're funding Madrassas, spreading this kind of ideology to a whole new generation of people throughout the world.
COOPER: Lt. Col. Francona, good to have you. Brandon Webb, as well, thanks very much.
Just ahead, a voice you are going to recognize if you have been watching this program over the years. An activist, who is our voice inside Syria for a long-time, Zaidoun. He was arrested by the Syrian regime. He will tell me what he thinks about the airstrikes next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Well, for years on this program we've covered what has been going on inside Syria, we've had a voice from inside Syria who described what has been going on in his country and often heartbreakingly detail.
His voice has remained strong even as his country seems to be crumbling around him even after he himself was detained by Syrian secret police. His name is Zaidoun. He's been a passionate activist for Syria since the moment his voice was first heard on this program.
I want to play for you just a small portion of one of our conversations from the past. This was from February 2012. You're going to hear from him tonight, but this was Zaidoun saying that the entire world should be ashamed for not doing anything about the fact that Syrians were being slaughtered by the Assad regime in 2012.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAIDOUN AL ZOABI, SYRIAN ACTIVIST(via telephone): Thank you. We are getting killed every moment. We are not able even just to get some basic medicine to injured people. Children are really hungry. I swear, children are hungry. No power, no fuel, it's too cold. It's too much, for God sake, this is too much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was about two and a half years ago. I spoke with Zaidoun again today.
COOPER: Do you believe the airstrikes will be able to eliminate ISIS?
AL ZOABI: No, way, we've seen what happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and now this is a new chapter. Terrorism, extremism is not going to be defeated by airstrikes. Everybody knows that.
I was a couple of days back in Syria and I hear people saying I mean, they started to have some sort of sympathy with ISIS. It was really shocking. And what matters to me, in fact, Anderson, is the civilians. We are losing lives.
Today, after the airstrikes just -- three or four kilometers away from me we brought ten people who were injured. They were all civilians. I mean, only us, only we people, only the Syrians are suffering.
We first, suffer then we still suffer from the barrels of Assad regime, we suffer the knives of ISOL. And now we are suffering the tomahawks. Is this fair?
COOPER: It seems like in some ways the very presence of ISIS, al Nusra, these extremist groups, in some ways, though, they are fighting the Assad regime, in some ways it helps Bashar Al-Assad.
Because as you well know better than anybody from the very beginning he claimed that those who rose up against his regime, those who were simply protesting peacefully, not even to overthrow the regime just to have their voices heard, to have reforms, to stop having children being arrested and imprisoned.
They were labelled terrorists from the very beginning. They were labelled extremists from the very beginning. So now the actual presence of terrorists inside Syria in some ways validates the lies that Bashar Al-Assad has told along.
AL ZOABI: Everybody knows that, Anderson, I saw that from my own eyes when I was jailed, Assad was releasing from prison only extremists. Those extremists that came from all over the world to the Damascus airport, to fight, when Assad was guiding them to Iraq.
And then he brought them and put them in his hands to control them. He did only one thing, to spoil that revolution and he succeed in that. He just released that and he hijacked our revolution. And now, we all are suffering from his terrorism and from their terrorism.
He is endorsing, he's very much happy with the airstrikes. He has been telling us for three years that America is the enemy. That America is the devil. And now he is telling us that America is a friend.
And I shall work with America to fight terrorism. Can anybody believe him? How can anybody believe what is happening to us? It is not a nightmare. It is much worse than that.
COOPER: Zaidoun, I appreciate you very much being on the program again.
AL ZOABI: Thank you very much, Anderson, my pleasure.
COOPER: Just ahead, another live hour of 360, the latest on the ongoing U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and other targets in Syria as well as in Iraq. We'll be right back.