AC: Facts on the ground

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Length: 6:17

ANDERSON COOPER: That was Pakistan's president in "THE SITUATION ROOM" today.

He doesn't need an intelligence estimate by the U.S. to tell him about global terror. He's nearly been the victim of it twice. He's living it.

So is CNN's Michael Ware on the ground in Iraq and CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, perhaps the foremost authority on Osama bin Laden.

Guys, thanks for being with us.

Peter, this NIE report says that the global jihadist movement at this point lacks a coherent strategy and is decentralized, yet the numbers of jihadists are increasing, and it is spreading out.

How much cooperation is there within the jihadist world?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, you know, you have got al Qaeda. You have got affiliated groups. You have got like-minded. You have got sort of people who are wannabes.

I think they are united in a desire to attack, you know, the United States, Jews and Westerners. So, there is some kind of unity. And I think bin Laden supplies a lot of overall strategic direction, as -- along with Ayman al-Zawahri. And it is not an accident, for instance, that al Qaeda in Iraq has repeatedly kind of sworn allegiance to al Qaeda central.

So, I would take some kind of issue with a notion that there is no overall direction, at least in the sort of big picture.

COOPER: Michael Ware, you know, some Republicans are saying, well, look, if it wasn't Iraq, it would be Afghanistan; it would be somewhere else.

Is there something about Iraq, however, that has allowed all these groups, has allowed the numbers of jihadists to grow so quickly?


I mean, this is the melting pot. I mean, after Afghanistan, you know, the argument might be that it would have been somewhere else. Well, there was no somewhere else at that point. I mean, we see the jihad movement have its own fashions and trends, like a free market, that recruits and money go to the places and the causes that are -- they're the hottest or that attract the most attention.

People want to see literally more bang for their buck. Now, after Afghanistan, there was no such place. It was only with the invasion of Iraq that jihadists, particularly Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, saw the great opportunity they were looking for to create and ferment this whole new generation of jihad -- Anderson.

COOPER: You know, Peter, as you pointed out, it's kind of a misnomer to say, well, if it wasn't Iraq, it would be Afghanistan. It is still Afghanistan, as we just saw when we were there. They are still fighting there. Al Qaeda is still active there. The Taliban is still active there.

But is there an argument to be made that it is better to be fighting them in Baghdad now than, you know, in Boston or somewhere else; it's better to have them centralized in one place than it is to have them spread out?

BERGEN: I think that argument works, if you assume there is a finite group of people you can attract to one place and kill.

But we seem to have expanded that group of people. The national intelligence estimate says we have expanded that group of people. This is not a group of left-- you know, sort of flaming liberals who are saying this. This is the considered collective opinion of 16 separate U.S. intelligence agencies, saying that there are more jihadis as a result of the Iraq war.

And then of course, it would be far -- if the Iraq war went on for infinity, that would be fine, too. But it is not. You know, eventually, it will end. And not all these people will be killed there. And they are going to go on and be the shock troops of the new inter jihad -- we -- international jihad. We have run the videotape once before in Afghanistan during the '80s. We know what that outcome was.

And I think a separate -- another separate point is, yes, it is true we were attacked before the Iraq war, in the first Trade Center attack in '93 and other attacks. But that doesn't take away the fact that terrorism figures have basically gone exponential since 2003. When the 2006 figures come out, I think it is going to be a pretty sobering set of figures -- Anderson.

COOPER: Michael, when Peter and I and Nic Robertson were in Afghanistan just a couple weeks ago, U.S. soldiers on the ground who had served in Iraq were telling us they were seeing people, trainers, coming from Iraq, training Taliban, training fighters there in Afghanistan in IEDs and suicide attacks.

Do you see evidence on the ground in Iraq that there are extremists who have trained in Iraq, who are then moving out into the rest of the world?

WARE: Well, we are starting to see hints of that.

And we have been over some time. We have seen the detention of jihadis, veterans of Iraq, in a number of surrounding countries, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, to a lesser extent even in Lebanon.

One of the great things about al Qaeda -- I mean, the strength of al Qaeda is that it is an idea. It is more of an inspiration. I mean, al Qaeda itself has always been a very small nexus, a hub. And the spokes of the wheel that emanate around that are the various multitude of organizations that al Qaeda sponsors, supports, trains, finances, advises.

So, this is really about inspiration. And that's what we see is most potent here. Iraq gives them an even greater platform for that inspiration and this sharing of lessons learned, what works best and what doesn't. As we see happens over the Internet, it doesn't even require the physical transportation of an individual anymore -- Anderson.

COOPER: Michael, just briefly, do the intelligence sources and the military sources that you talk to on the ground in Iraq, do they feel like their reports are taken seriously once they're sent back home?

WARE: Yeah, look, this is really is an ongoing issue here, Anderson, be it within the country itself -- for example, in one of the hot spots, the al Qaeda front line of Ramadi, for a year intelligence officers there say that they write their reports and send them even back to Baghdad and they're not understood.

And I've spoken to someone who was in Baghdad, and said, "I would get these reports, and we would diminish them. They couldn't possibly have been true," he said. However, having spent time in Ramadi now, he understands this disconnect.

We also see reports emanating from the embassy here that wind up back in Washington. They then return in sanitized documents so the people who put them together simply cannot believe. Yes, there seems to be a great disconnect between those on the ground and sometimes what's being told even to the president, Anderson.

COOPER: That's probably the most troubling thing I've heard from both of you guys tonight. Michael Ware, appreciate it. Peter Bergen, as well. Thanks, guys.