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This Week at War
Week's War-Related Events Reviewed
Aired November 04, 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: In Iraq the numbers sure look good. Military casualties down, civilian casualties down, but in the streets and alleys. soldiers are still fighting and dying and this war is far from over. We will give you the real picture on THIS WEEK AT WAR right after a look at what's in the news right now.
TONY HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello everyone. I'm Tony Harris. Here's what's happening right now. The Pentagon says emergency rule in Pakistan does not affect United States military support for General Pervez Musharraf. Earlier Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged a swift return to civilian government. Musharraf's declaration comes in the midst of a mounting challenge by Islamist fundamentalists and constitutional questions about his authority to continue as president.
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto returned to the country from overseas and said Musharraf's order plays directly into the hands of extremists. Bhutto said she agrees that Pakistan was facing a crisis, but she said the state of emergency will encourage al Qaeda and the Taliban, both of which are a presence in Pakistan's western frontier. I'm Tony Harris, now back to Tom Foreman and THIS WEEK AT WAR.
FOREMAN: Here is where we stand in THIS WEEK AT WAR. It just cannot and should not be denied. Things in Iraq are getting better, but this is still far from a lasting peace. U.S. troops in the Balkans are in harm's way as Kosovo, of all places, nears the breaking point again. Another summit on the role of Iraq's neighbors. Will we see any real progress this time? Who knows.
The Taliban are striking harder as the war in Afghanistan takes a turn for the worse, a down arrow there. And call it piracy, call it terrorism, either way, it's getting dangerous on the high seas. That's how things stand. Here is where we're going to find out what's next.
Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre has been watching Kosovo, where centuries of hatred is coming to a boil. Can it be stopped this time? We'll find out. State Department correspondent Zain Verjee is in Istanbul as diplomats meet on Iraq. We'll ask how strained relations with Turkey and Iran could affect the conference. And in Baghdad, independent journalist Michael Yon has been out with the troops trying to patch together the shattered land. Is the Iraqi government now a bigger problem than the insurgency? All that THIS WEEK AT WAR.
You know the old joke about the guy who was hitting his head with a hammer and when asked why he said, because it feels so good when I stop. Well, that could be a metaphor for the recent news out of Iraq. Yes, fewer Iraqis and fewer coalition troops are dying, but it mainly looks good in comparison to the horrific death tolls of the past 18 months. We still seem to be a long way from any real solution to Iraq's many problems. So, let's get some perspective. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is in Baghdad reporting from an inbed with the third infantry division. Michael Yon, he's an independent journalist, he joins us from forward operating base Falcon (ph) also in Baghdad. And senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is with me in our Washington studio. Michael, let me start with you. Washington always seems to trail several weeks behind the truth. What is the truth on the ground right now? Is this good news for America and America's troops?
MICHAEL YON, INDEPENDENT REPORTER: Well, I'm more optimistic now than I ever have been since late 2004. It's very clear that this is not an anomaly; this is a trend. I was just told in a meeting a few days ago with Iraqi Islamic party by Sheik Omar Jaburi (ph) who said that al Qaeda is defeated in Iraq and clearly, the violence is not only, not only is the violence down. The mood of the people has changed dramatically. The Iraqis are more optimistic and that's not just here, that's everywhere I go. There's just been a tremendous amount of progress, not just with defeating al Qaeda, but with normal day-to-day life. I was at a school opening yesterday. I've seen electricity, more electricity in areas than I've seen before. There's a lot of stuff going on now that really, it does take a lot to get into the news, but it is starting to get picked up.
FOREMAN: Let's take a look at those very numbers that you're talking about here. U.S. troops killed in Iraq. Here's the trend all the way back from 2003. If we look at the numbers, you see it going up and then going down, but look at this very clear trend toward the end here, where it's dropping down so that in the month of October about 40 deaths. That's really small compared to what we saw before. And if you look at civilian deaths, it's not direct comparison here, but to get a sense of it here, look at the big spikes that were going on here and those are also down. They're probably going to be a little bit up this month, but way down compared to what was going on before. Jamie, when we look at this, when the Pentagon looks at this, they say this is progress. How do they move forward? What are the big stumbling block now?
JAMIE McINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's no question, the numbers don't lie. Things are better. The question is, as General Odierno said at the Pentagon this week, they have momentum but it's not irreversible. They're really looking for those sort of intangible things that Michael Yon was talking about. The mood of the people probably the most important and the biggest factor they think in the months ahead in whether these kind of trends continue is services to the people, if the quality of life of Iraqi people really improves and they're depending on the Iraqi government to deliver those services. That in some ways, is even more important than the performance of the Iraqi security forces.
FOREMAN: Frederik, is it reasonable for people to be counting on the Iraqi government at this point? There have been an awful lot of questions about its ability to perform.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly out here nobody is really counting on the Iraqi government to do anything favorably soon. Now, one thing that the American troops that I'm embedded with say is they're trying to take these matters into their own hands. They have a bunch of programs going here that are trying to start things like small businesses and one of the things that they're aiming at is they're aiming at Sunni and Shia working together. They're trying to foster that relationship because one thing that I've heard again and again is that a lot of the American troops here say they think that al Qaeda in this area is pretty much defeated. It's an organization that's in disarray. Now, the big thing here is reconciliation. Can you get the Sunni and the Shia to work together? Certainly, there is still a very big divide. In one way they say they think they can do that is by starting up businesses, by starting up small businesses because they say people who are doing well economically are less likely to resort to violence. Tom?
FOREMAN: Michael, a lot of the sheiks, both from the Sunni and Shia side have been meeting together trying to work out their differences. Where are they in that progress now?
YON: They sure have been meeting. In different places there are different states of progress. In some places, the violence has just ended, I mean simply stopped. And so in those areas, for instance, some neighborhoods that I have been in this week, it's just, it's a matter of what Frederik said. It's a matter of economic development which is working. The unit that I'm with, the dragon brigade is also doing the same things that he just mentioned and so, in other areas over in west Rasheed, which is also in south Baghdad, there's still some frictions there between Sunni and Shia but I've been over there as well, and the commanders are working through those quite rapidly. So, there's still some places that need to be worked out, not as many as there used to be by any stretch, but, this area where I'm at right now would be one of the most important battlegrounds in the war right now and there's just not much going on except for economic development and reconciliation.
FOREMAN: On Tuesday the deputy prime minister of Iraq Barham Salih said a few words about the militias there. I want you to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARHAM SALIH, DEPUTY IRAQI PRIME MINISTER: We do have a problem with militias. We do have a problem with armed groups, but to be fair, this government has taken action against militias in a number of accounts. This is not an easy issue, politically. We do recognize that militias need to be dealt with. They represent a serious threat to the viability of the Iraqi state and this political process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Where do we stand in this dangerous business of getting the militias to truly, permanently quiet down?
PLEITGEN: Well, certainly, that is one of the big problems here, Tom. One thing that the American troops are trying to do, they're trying to integrate these militias into the Iraqi security forces. I was able to see some of that these past couple of days. What they do is, first of all, they hand over some areas to Sunni militia control and then by and by, they'll try and get some of those militia people to actually join the Iraqi security forces.
Now, of course, there's a lot of problems involved in that. If you have Sunni joining the Iraqi security forces, being armed, a lot of times by Americans, of course, the Shia don't like that very much and they still are very suspicious of that going on. But certainly, that's a broader trend that especially U.S. forces are trying to achieve here. If they're trying to integrate the Sunni into the Iraqi security forces to try and get a better mix in the security forces so that both sides can actually trust these forces and not work against these forces, Tom.
FOREMAN: Jamie, what does all this mean at the Pentagon? The big concern for many Americans of course is, OK, if it's getting better, is the Pentagon rewriting the calendar on when folks come home?
McINTYRE: They're sticking to their time frame which they're hoping to have a significant draw down over the beginning of the next year and you really do sense an optimism that wasn't there a short time ago. We're all trying to figure out, is this a blip or is this real progress? One way that I've been doing this is trying to talk to commanders who are about to go to Iraq. I talked to a young commander the other day, where is he getting his information? From the guys who are about to come back. There's e-mailing back and forth and talking back and forth and he said, after months and months of real deep pessimism, they're really beginning to think a little optimistic. Everybody realizes that optimism in Iraq could be dashed in a day, but right now there really is a sense that maybe there has been a shift.
FOREMAN: Thanks Jamie, Michael and Frederik as well. We're going to continue this conversation in just a moment, so don't go anywhere. If Iraq is ever going to return to normalcy, it's going to need help from the neighboring countries that surround it, but right now, it's one very tough neighborhood. More on that coming up.
But, first as we always do, a THIS WEEK AT WAR remembrance. Staff Sergeant Robin L. Towns Senior died on October 24th from the explosion of an IED in Beiji (ph) Iraq. Towns joined the army at the age of 17 and he served for 16 years, then joined the army national guard after his active service was over. He was only nine days into an 18-month assignment to train the Iraqi police force when he was killed. Towns' sister-in-law says he very proudly served his country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOYCE WISE, SISTER-IN-LAW: Serving in the service was part of who he was as a person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Our thoughts of course are with the family. Towns was 52 years old.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) FOREMAN: Two weeks ago the U.S. Congress almost accused Turkey of genocide. A week ago the secretary of State proclaimed that parts of Iran's military were supporting terrorism and developing weapons of mass destruction, but since Murphy's law applies to diplomacy just like it does everything else, it figures that this week the U.S. is asking Turkey and Iran for help. CNN's State Department correspondent Zain Verjee is in Istanbul covering another conference of the nations that surround Iraq and joining us from San Diego, Vali Nasr, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Thanks to both of you. Zain, what does the United States hope to get out of this conference with Iraq's neighbors to begin with?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the key issues here is Turkey. That's something that the U.S. is really worried about. I mean Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is here campaigning for the Turks not to cross the border and go over into northern Iraq and destabilize the situation as they go off to the PKK, Kurdish separatist rebels that have killed Turkish soldiers. Secretary Rice has been speaking to the Turks and they say, look, we need to get concrete proposals first before we can promise anything. So, we spoke to some of Secretary Rice's aides who said that when she was talking to the Turks, she said, OK, what we can offer what's on the table is that the U.S. can support limited Turkish action in Iraq. They also said that the U.S. will continue to give intelligence to pinpoint some of these bases and also lean on the Iraqi Kurds to cut off the PKK terrorist movements, close down some of their bases, as well as make things difficult for them by cutting off their supplies.
FOREMAN: Let's take a look at the map and what you're talking about here. This is the area we're dealing with, this area up north where what you have is rebels who are based over here, Kurdish rebels were attacking into Turkey. That's what Turkey is upset about. Vali, where does Iran fit into this picture? We've said some very harsh things to them. They have said harsh things to us. Is there anything that they can offer to this conference on making things better for Iraq?
VALI NASR, NAVAL POSTGRAD SCHOOL: Well, yes, they can. This is coming against the background of the last round of talks between Iran and the United States having ended without it being scheduled to start again. General Petraeus suggested that the Iranian ambassador to Iraq is a member of the (INAUDIBLE) force of the revolutionary guards and implied that he is a terrorist and therefore, it would be difficult to talk to him. But since then, the positive developments are that the level of violence in southern Iraq has actually gone down. U.S. commanders have suggested that maybe there are less explosives, armored-piercing explosives coming from Iran.
Iran made new pledges to the Iraqi government to close its border to the transfer of these damaging weapons into Iraq and Iran has also adopted a conciliatory tone towards the Kurdish issue, although there are also Kurdish separatists, Iranian Kurdish separatists which are operating out of northern Iraq in the same manner as Kurdish separatists are operating against Turkey. But Iran, unlike Turkey, has suggested that it wants to follow a path of reconciliation and has also offered to mediate between the Turks and the Kurds and Iranian foreign minister was recently in Baghdad and he also offered that he would like to continue discussions with the United States about security in Iraq and this conference may well be the place where we can look for hints from two sides, whether or not these talks are going to happen.
FOREMAN: That certainly sounds like some kind of good news, but Zain, when we look at Turkey, you reported earlier this week a new research center poll about the favorability toward the U.S. in Turkey. Look at these numbers. Back in 2000, 52 percent of the folks in Turkey felt positively about the United States. Now it's down to 9 percent. What kind of pressure is that putting on the government there to say, be strong, be hard in your dealings with the U.S., even if Iraq is at stake?
VERJEE: It's putting a huge amount of pressure on the government here in Turkey, because they're looking at the mood right now and the public here is utterly outraged. They basically feel betrayed by the U.S. They say, hang on a minute, first of all, you have a double standard. The U.S. is fighting against terrorism, yet, we have our own problem with terrorism and you're telling us to be restrained because the PKK to Turkey is kind of like what al Qaeda is to the U.S.
Secondly, they say we really stepped up with the U.S. We've got troops over in Afghanistan helping your mission there and they also say we're allowing you to use Turkish air space in (INAUDIBLE) air base that supplies about 17 percent of U.S. cargo to U.S. troops in Iraq and they say the U.S. needs to step up and help. They're also really upset about the Armenian genocide resolution that was passed by a House committee. So, there's -- that really just added fuel to the fire. So, they're telling their government here, we don't need the U.S. We have our own problems. You need to go and do something about it. Don't wait.
FOREMAN: Vali, give me the bigger picture here. What do all the other neighbors think of all this? Are they going to be willing to truly have open talks about what they can do to encourage these improvements in Iraq when there's such a potential powder keg on the northern border with Turkey?
NASR: I think as the point that Zain raised are the ones that are on the table. The neighbors are willing to help in Iraq provided that their interests in Iraq are looked after by the United States. Our closest ally in the region, Turkey, which is a member of NATO, is not willing to support our position in Iraq and is threatening to invade Iraq because it believes that the United States is not looking after its vital interest regarding Kurdish separatist and the PKK group. The rest of the countries around Iraq also have a similar attitude whether it's Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan or Iran. They all have interests in Iraq which may not be part of what the U.S. agenda is in Iraq. And when you have this kind of a conference that we have, they're going to bring their own issues to the table and they likely want to bargain with the United States, saying we'll support you if our interests in Iraq are protected.
FOREMAN: Zain, you wanted to jump in on that. What do you have to say? VERJEE: The point I wanted to make, too, from the U.S. point of view, they're in a really difficult and tricky situation here, because it's almost as though they need to choose between two allies, Turkey on the one hand that's offering a lot of support to the U.S. and Iraqi Kurds that the U.S. really depends on for the only area in Iraq that is relatively stable and that is northern Iraq. We spoke to one analyst who put it to me this way. It's kind of like the U.S. has two girlfriends, Turkey and Iraq. And Turkey is pushing us to choose.
FOREMAN: We'll have to see if they can thread that needle somehow and if this conference can produce the results that the previous conferences haven't been able to. Thanks Zain, thanks to you Vali as well.
Later on on THIS WEEK AT WAR, we'll tell you about the passing of a man so controversial there won't even be a headstone on his grave. That's later. You don't want to miss it.
Straight ahead, it's like a nightmare out of the '90s, a war in the Balkans and U.S. troops right in the middle. It's important. Stick around.
FOREMAN: June 28th, 1389, the battle of Kosovo where the Serbs lost to the Ottoman Turks. But the conflict in Kosovo isn't over and 800 years later, it is threatening to start up again. Jamie McIntyre rejoins us. We've got to start with a history lesson on Kosovo, even though we've been there. What happened?
McINTYRE: Well, Tom, as you know, the term Balkanization started in the early 20th century to mean a big country being broken up into smaller, often hostile regions. It's still true today in what used to be Yugoslavia.
FOREMAN: This is Yugoslavia after World War II.
McINTYRE: Right and then after it Balkanizes, to use the term, this is the Balkans. We've got Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia and we still have sort of what was called a rump Yugoslavia.
FOREMAN: These are all trying to split off from Yugoslavia.
McINTYRE: Right. In Bosnia, we had the Croats, the Serbs, the Muslims all fighting. The 1995 Dayton accord ended up sort of splitting the country with sort of a state within a state. This is the republic, Serbs get the Serb republic where most of the Bosnian Serbs ended up. Flash forward to 1999, you've got the war in Kosovo where ethnic Albanians are being slaughtered by the Serbs.
FOREMAN: And so they're saying, now we don't want to be part of Yugoslavia either.
McINTYRE: So the NATO war stabilized that. It's now under U.N. and NATO control, but they, the Albanians in Kosovo want to be independent. That's got Serbia upset. They're threatening to push for independence over here if, if Kosovo goes independent. So, you can see all of the flash points are igniting.
FOREMAN: Meanwhile Montenegro and Macedonia also splitting off, Macedonia shown much bigger here than it actually is.
McINTYRE: Kosovo is the only one, they're still yearning for their independence. Everybody else has managed to get it.
FOREMAN: So now we understand why Serbia is upset, at least in some way. You see their country shrinking before their eyes. That brings us to the present, but now let's look at this very dangerous future. William Finnegan is a writer for "The New Yorker." He's just published an article on Kosovo titled "The Countdown." He joins us from our New York bureau with us here in Washington, Janusz Bugajski. He's with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Let me start with you Bill. What really is the issue right now for the Serbians?
WILLIAM FINNEGAN, THE NEW YORKER: Well, as you say, it's just loss of territory. Kosovo is about 15 percent I think, of Serbia's remaining territory, but it's got, it's got a lot of historical meaning to the Serbs and it is sort of the last straw. I mean, it seems to be the strongest political issue in Serbia today is whether or not they're going to lose Kosovo.
FOREMAN: And Janusz, the basic question here is can Kosovo be an independent nation? Will the United States and everybody else say Kosovo is now independent, the Serbians don't want that.
JANUSZ BUGAJSKI, CTR FOR STRATEGIC & INTL STUDIES: There is a plan now for independence, which is the (INAUDIBLE) plan which was devised last year. The question is, will all the United Nations Security Council accept that plan? Russia is resisting, the United States wants to push it through and it looks as though the European allies, at least most of them, the major countries are abroad.
FOREMAN: How much do we want to push it through? Is this fighting time again?
BUGAJSKI: No, but I would say if we went to war over Kosovo to prevent genocide in '99 outside of the security council network, we could certainly go outside of the Security Council network to try and build a stable peace which is the purpose of the plan.
FOREMAN: Bill, the Serbians overall do not really see Kosovo as being a nation as such right now, do they?
FINNEGAN: No, not at all. They see it as part of their territory.
FOREMAN: They also see the people who live there as being connected to the mob in a sense, to being a sort of being a lawless land, I suppose.
FINNEGAN: It's a strange kind of connection because Kosovo is very frequently demonized not just by official Belgrade and the Belgrade press, but by Serbs in general, I think it's fair to say as a sort of lawless, Mafia-ridden place, Muslim and Albanians as people to be feared and so, while there's this great attachment to Kosovo, you know, we won't let it go, it doesn't really have anything to do with the people who are there who are more than 90 percent ethnic Albanian. It's more the land and the idea.
FOREMAN: So, Janusz, what does that set up? It seems to me that that sets up a situation that even if it is kept by Serbia, they don't particularly want to keep the Albanians there.
BUGAJSKI: I think you put its finger on it. The Serbs want the territory, but not the people. That was evident in '99. Through expulsion they have been excluded from voting on the Serbian constitution. The question is, how can this territory survive as a protectorate or as an independent state or as part of Serbia? I think the Serbia option, basically, is gone. I think Serbia lost Kosovo in '99, de facto. Now it's a question of de jure. And once independence, I think, is pushed through, then we'll see international recognition start to snowball.
FOREMAN: So Bill, I guess the question here is then, what is the next step and why, quite simply for all of our viewers at home, why should they care about this?
FINNEGAN: Well, I do think that while another full-blown war is very unlikely at this point, there is the possibility of quite a lot of unrest and fragmentation, not just in Kosovo and Serbia, but in neighboring countries, also Albanian minorities or restless Serbs. You mention the republic (INAUDIBLE) in Bosnia before and what is very likely to happen, it seems, is that there may be a unilateral declaration of independence by the Kosovars (ph) toward the end of this year recognized by the U.S., recognized probably by much of the EU, but not all and opposed by the Russians and vehemently opposed by Belgrade and it could be quite a tense situation. I think it actually has a high potential for violence in the region.
FOREMAN: Jamie, what does the Pentagon make of all this with all the other issues they have to look at these days?
McINTYRE: Well don't forget that Kosovo was a big test for NATO in 1999. If Slobodan Milosevic miscalculated, it was that NATO could not afford to lose the conflict and they can't afford to let it go downhill, now especially as NATO is tied up in a big problem in Afghanistan. So whatever happens there, NATO has a vested interest and the Europeans, as well, in making sure that that area remains stable.
FOREMAN: Does our military force have the man power with everything else we have going to even be involved?
MCINTYRE: Well, yes and no. They do, but, obviously, when NATO can't even come up with enough helicopters for Afghanistan, it's going to be a real strain if they have got to do something in any kind of big way in Kosovo.
FOREMAN: And with that we are going to have to leave it and move on. Thank you Yannish (ph). Thank you, Bill. Thank you, Jamie, as well, for all of your help.
Next, we'll turn to the war in Afghanistan. Another problem you might have thought was solved some time back but where things are going dangerously wrong. Stay with us.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. More of THIS WEEK AT WAR in a moment. But first, a look at what's happening right "Now in the News." The smile on former prime minister's Benazir Bhutto's face belies her concern over what's going on right now in Pakistan as President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency and suspended the Constitution, saying tensions and terrorism threaten the country after the chief justice of the Supreme Court declared Musharraf's moves illegal, armed military troops expelled the justice from office. Bhutto tells CNN she agrees with Musharraf's diagnosis but not his cure.
In Chad, 11 charity workers facing kidnapping-related charges, made their first appearance before the country's supreme court today. The accused belong to Zoe's Ark, a French charity trying to find homes for orphans from the Darfur region, but U.N. and Red Cross officials say most of the 103 kids in question are not orphans and are not even from Darfur.
I'm Tony Harris, breaking news when it happens right here in the "CNN NEWSROOM." Now back with Tom Foreman and THIS WEEK AT WAR.
FOREMAN: The number of civilian casualties in Iraq is dropping and that's good news, but the numbers in Afghanistan are way up. According to the Associated Press, this is the deadliest year since the U.S. invasion in 2001. And this week, battles broke out again. Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is at her post to talk this over. And the former director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, Robert Grenier joins me here in the studio.
Barbara, in a nutshell, what is going on?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Tom, all these years after 9/11 and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, this is another war that is not going to be won with military force. That's the stark reality. The Taliban have been driven from power, but they are not defeated. They continue to regroup in many areas, and especially in the very rural remote areas, especially in southern Afghanistan where there's very few security forces. They move fairly much at will. It's not a threat that's going to go away any time soon.
FOREMAN: Robert, let's look at the map over here and get a sense of the areas that Barbara is talking about. Here is Afghanistan, Pakistan, the border areas have continued to be a problem where people can fight in Afghanistan, retreat into the mountains and come back. What is their constituency? Who is supporting them?
ROBERT GRENIER, MANAGING DIR., KROLL INC.: Well, if we look at the situation in Afghanistan, the areas where we have a problem with insurgency are the Pashtun-dominated areas. These are people who feel dispossessed. They have not been served by reconstruction in Afghanistan. And they have never really accepted the new government in Kabul.
In the areas across the way in Pakistan, that is similarly a Pashtun population. Actually traditionally they have if anything been more religiously extreme than their brothers across the line in Afghanistan.
FOREMAN: So, something of a natural alliance with the Taliban, who believes in religious extremism and these folks are feeling dispossessed and that is -- this is their turf.
FOREMAN: Yes. So let's go back to the issue we have raised so many times before. The tribal question, we want to look at these as governments and say, this is a nation, this is a nation, but people living there may say, these may be the nations, but that's not our home.
GRENIER: Well, I think that's right. Tribal affiliation still plays a very strong role and there are tribes, obviously, that straddle the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And in fact, the most recent hostilities that we've seen between NATO and Taliban forces which took place in a place called Argendab (ph), close to Kandahar, had a very strong tribal component because of the recent death of a very strong local tribal leader.
FOREMAN: So, Barbara, if the military knows that this is once again a battle with very heavy political overtones, how are they changing their tactics in Afghanistan to deal with this?
STARR: Well, it's very much like Iraq. What they're focusing on while they continue to do military operations is reconstruction, economic assistance. In Afghanistan, their number one weapon actually is building roads through these very remote areas to connect villages and towns together.
But, you know, the Taliban are basically adopting the opposite strategy. They're saying, fine, let Hamid Karzai be the so-called mayor of Kabul. Let him have Kabul. We don't need to retake the capital. We don't need to retake the country. What we as the Taliban have demonstrated is that we can move at will into these areas. In Argendab, in southern Afghanistan this week we saw over 100 Taliban mass.
Some of them take refuge in homes -- local homes and fight Canadian forces from those homes. We have seen them move into police stations, into other areas. It doesn't have to be Kabul that they control anymore. They can move into these area and simply terrorize the people.
FOREMAN: Robert, will the lessons of Iraq that seem to be going fairly well now work with that population that Barbara described? GRENIER: Well, I think that the techniques that we have been using with some success in the areas where the surge has been active in Iraq, could have some limited success in Afghanistan. The problem is that there are not nearly enough NATO troops to go around. The long-term solution really needs to be an Afghan solution. There need to be local, credible, Afghan leaders that have military force on their side so they can confront the intimidation of the Taliban.
FOREMAN: Roger Cohen wrote in The New York Times -- on an opinion page he wrote: "With Afghanistan at a tipping point, the next U.S. president will face an enduring challenge here of immense proportions. He or she must level with the American people in a way President Bush never has about a real burden of an attempt to build two countries from scratch at once.
What do you think? Is that a fair assessment?
GRENIER: I think that is a very fair assessment. This is the work of many years. A conservative estimate right now is that it will take at least 10 years to have an effective Afghan army able to exert the control of Kabul over the rest of the country. That may be optimistic.
FOREMAN: Barbara, is the Pentagon planning in terms of 10 years of troops being there?
STARR: Well, certainly some long-term presence of some type is going to be needed, whether it's led by NATO or by the U.S. Even with a security presence, Tom, the issue in Afghanistan to some large extent remains the economy, an economy driven by the poppy crop and by criminal warlords. And until that changes, all the troops in the world might not really make a difference.
FOREMAN: Barbara, the opium trade obviously is going very well there. One of the big concerns is that it is a funding source for international terrorism and that we're back where we were when the Taliban was in charge, that this is a ground from which terrorists can launch into the world. Is that still the driving force behind our thoughts there?
STARR: Well, to some large extent, it is. I think, again, it goes back to the issue, there is the face of Kabul that so many people see on TV. And they are very heartwarmed by the progress, by women walking around, that sort of thing. But the majority of Afghanistan is rural. It's in desperate poverty. It's cut off from the world. And you have villages throughout the country that really are subject to the warlords, to criminal elements, to the Taliban.
Terrorism and their only method of money is the poppy crop and that fundamentally is still all these years later what so much of Afghanistan is really all about.
FOREMAN: Thank you, Barbara. Thank you, Robert, as well. We appreciate your thoughts on this.
Next up, pirates. We're not talking about the funny ones from the movies, we're talking about deadly criminals and terrorists, a full and astonishing report in just a moment, just stay with us.
But, first, as we always do, please join us as we take some time to look at some of those who fell in THIS WEEK AT WAR.
FOREMAN: Let's go right to the map and look at something astonishing. This is how many pirate attacks there have been around the world this year, all of the yellow dots indicate attempted attacks, all of the red ones are actual attacks. You can see there are a great, great many of them.
If that's not enough to scare you, this is how many attacks happened in just the past two weeks. The U.S. Navy destroyer helped rescue a North Korean freighter off the coast of Somalia up in here, but was unable to do the same for a Japanese ship carrying benzene, nor for four other ships currently held off the coast of Somalia.
To get a real grasp of this problem, I'm joined by Gal Luft at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security; and, once again, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is with us now.
Gal, this is something that I think was unknown to many people here, sounds like something from days gone by, but these are very modern pirates, very much like terrorists.
GAL LUFT, INST. FOR ANALYSIS OF GLOBAL SECURITY: You know, Tom, many people think about pirates as some petty thieves with a knife clutched their teeth. The pirates of today are a very different breed. They are very well-trained, very well-equipped. They have GPS. They have anti-tank missiles. They have radio equipment. They have fast boats.
Many of them undergone military training. In fact, many of them are break-away units of the local militaries. The Indonesian military and Somali military. So, it's a pretty formidable threat with when it comes to maritime security.
FOREMAN: And, Barbara, these attacks aren't happening just a few miles off from shore.
STARR: No, by no stretch of the imagination. In fact, the U.S. Navy has posted a warning notice for months now to tell shipping to stay at least 200 miles off the coast of Somalia, in particular, because of the pirate threat.
And, you know, as we're talking about, it's not something from the movies, it's a very serious economic threat, but for the U.S. military, which is patrolling the waters off the Horn of Africa, it is a security threat.
There is considerable concern that in these waters, as violence takes over, they will become a real breeding ground for terrorists to move in and for these shipping lanes to be areas that terrorists use so they can move about and that they can ship elicit weapons. This is something they're taking very seriously. FOREMAN: Very interesting comment came out of the Pentagon on Tuesday about this very issue, the notion that these pirates could hit, I guess, military ships with military weapons. Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We're seeing an outgrowth of terrorists in the Horn of Africa. And, as a result, that is in -- right now it is in the CENTCOMM AOR, and that's an area that they're concerned about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Gal, as we look at the map here, there are certain choke points that are bigger concerns than others, areas where shipping kind of has to go through. We have highlighted them here. And those are areas where these folks may hit. How do they do this? How do they typically attack a ship?
LUFT: Well, what they do -- a typical form is a fast boat with a crew of anywhere between six and eight pirates normally. They would approach a ship. Now, bear in mind that outside of -- apart from Israeli and Russian ships, most of the ships around the world are not armed. The crew doesn't have any way to protect itself other than just water hoses.
FOREMAN: And a lot of them I guess have really been automated to the extent that they don't have huge crews either.
LUFT: Yes. And so normally during nighttime, there may be 10 percent of the crew is awake. So it's very easy to -- for a fast boat to come next to a vessel, board it and threaten the people on the bridge and take...
FOREMAN: They often, I understand, come up in the stern of the vehicle. They come sweeping up where nobody is watching, it's behind them. And then they get on board the ship with these big weapons and just say, this is it, we're in charge.
LUFT: And the crew is completely helpless.
FOREMAN: What do they do with the ship once they take it?
LUFT: Well, there are a few scenarios here. One thing that they often do is they ask for ransom. That is a good way for the pirates or -- many of them are doing it for commercial purposes. They take the crew and ask for about $100,000 per head from the shipper -- from the shipping company.
And many of the shippers are very happy to just pay the money and get it over with. The more dangerous scenario is that pirates can take the ship, steal the cargo and sometimes use the cargo or use the ship as a weapon.
A ship like the one that you have described that is full of benzene, which is very flammable and volatile, we often have ships, chemical tankers that carry some very deadly chemicals. Imagine to yourself something like this or an LNG, liquefied natural gas tanker. A ship like this, if it's taken by the wrong hands, could be a weapon of mass destruction.
FOREMAN: want to get back to Barbara here. Is there a real concern of this at the Pentagon, Barbara, that a ship like that could ultimately sail into Baltimore Harbor or something?
STARR: Well, there is a good deal of concern about these dangerous cargoes, if pirates and criminals take them over. So this is right now a considerable policy debate here in the Pentagon. How far do you let these cases go? Is it appropriate for the U.S. military to exercise force against these people to try to take these ships back? Is this something that the U.S. wants to get into the business of doing?
FOREMAN: Amazing stories of terrors on the high seas. Barbara, thanks so much. Gal Luft as well. Appreciate your time.
In just a moment, our "Dispatches" segment. A look at your WEEK AT WAR.
But, first, let's take our weekly look through the lenses of combat photographers. The history of Afghanistan is written on the face of this old man. The photo taken by Madik Sadik (ph) in an open air market in Kabul.
Across the border in Pakistan, an air force soldier stands by the wreckage where eight of his comrades died at the hands of a suicide bomber. Kayem Chaudry (ph) took this picture of what is only the latest in a wave of attacks against Pakistan's armed forces.
Jacqueline Martin (ph) was there as Gunnery Sergeant Spanky Gibson (ph) finished the Marine Corps 10K race in Arlington, Virginia. Gibson lost his leg last year serving in Iraq.
And a Marine Corps photographer caught Sergeant Jessica Turner (ph) in a silent farewell to another gunnery sergeant, Herman Merkison Jr. (ph), killed while on patrol in al-Anbar province.
FOREMAN: Let's take a look at some other hot spots in THIS WEEK AT WAR. In Caracas, Venezuela, thousands of students were hit with tear gas and water cannons as they protested constitutional reforms that would allow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to run for office indefinitely.
And in Myanmar more than 100 Buddhist monks marched in the first protest since the bloody crackdown of the military government there earlier this month.
Now, we move on to our "Dispatches" segment where we bring you the personal stories of THIS WEEK AT WAR. And this week our dispatch is about Petty Officer Eli Medellin (ph), a member of the Navy's elite Combat Camera Group Pacific. These are just a few of his pictures. I-Reporter Jennifer Ushka (ph) says that Medellin had served two tours in Iraq and is still in awe of the culture and the people there. She says that for him it's like putting time in a bottle and that's what keeps him going. He'll be heading back to Iraq early next year.
Right now Petty Officer Medellin is in San Diego, called back to help evacuate his home in the face of the recent wildfires. The house is OK, but another family event got canceled, his wedding to Jennifer.
However, just in case he got called back to Iraq early, they went out Wednesday, Halloween, and they got married. Oddly, there are no pictures of the wedding because the photographer was otherwise engaged.
Don't forget, we want to hear all about your WEEK AT WAR, go to cnn.com/thisweekatwar and click on the I-Report link. It's really easy.
In just a moment, the story of a soldier who did his duty and he never looked back. Stay with us.
FOREMAN: A big milestone passed us THIS WEEK AT WAR. On Thursday, 92-year-old Paul Tibbets died from natural causes. In 1945 Colonel Tibbets was the pilot of the Enola Gay, a B-29 bomber named for his mother. And he dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Between 75,000 and 100,000 people perished in that blast, Tibbets once said he wasn't proud of killing so many people, but he was at peace with what he did.
The atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan certainly ended World War II, and some argue the horror of that destruction has kept another war between nuclear powers from occurring ever since. Was the atomic bomb so terrible that it actually prevented another world war? That's a debate that will never come to a conclusion and that's why Paul Tibbets didn't have a funeral service and won't have a headstone on his grave. He asked to be cremated so that there would be no grave site for protesters or defenders to rally around.
Turning now to some of the stories that we will be following in the next WEEK AT WAR: on Monday, President Bush will meet with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to discuss how to deal with the Kurdish rebels on the Iraqi border.
On Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy will be in Washington for talks with President Bush. Sarkozy is seen as much more supportive of U.S. foreign policy than his predecessor was.
Thanks for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR. I'm Tom Foreman. Straight ahead, "CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT," "The Noose: An American Nightmare."
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