AC: "...that opportunity could be lost"

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Length: 6:56

ANDERSON COOPER: A bloody day, of course in Iraq today, 18 people killed there in bombings, in shootings. Baghdad police say that they have found some 60 bodies, believed to be victims of the growing sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni groups. Of course, al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni group, is increasingly active in the province of al-Anbar. And a recent classified report, a Pentagon report, reported by "The Washington Post" yesterday, says that the U.S. military has too few troops in al-Anbar to deal with the growing threat.

CNN's Michael Ware has traveled extensively through the region. He joins us now from Baghdad.

What do you make of that, Michael? Are there enough -- well, we'll talk to Michael in a moment. First let's take a look at his report.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American soldiers in al-Qaeda's heartland in Iraq, and a gaping black hole in Washington's global war on terror: Ramadi, where U.S. forces suffer as many as two combat deaths a week, battling daily with insurgents coordinated by Osama bin Laden's commanders.

COL. SEAN MACFARLAND, CDR. BDE., 1ST ARMORED DIVISION: And al-Qaeda, as you probably know, they want to establish a caliphate basically from Pakistan to Spain, with its heart here in al-Anbar Province. And of course the capital of al-Anbar is Ramadi.

WARE: President Bush himself points to al-Qaeda's claim on al-Anbar.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We see the strategy laid out in a captured al-Qaeda document found during a recent raid in Iraq which describes their plans to infiltrate and take over Iraq's western Anbar Province.

WARE: It's from here in this farmland called Jazeera, on the opposite bank of the Euphrates River from Ramadi, that U.S. military intelligence believes al-Qaeda in Iraq runs their headquarters.

MAJ. MATT. EICHBURG, EXEC. OFFICER, 1ST INFANTRY: And they come to do their command/control, their planning, their resupply, if you will, and then their transit. A lot of the guys that are responsible for some of the bigger attacks, they live out here.

WARE: Jazeera is the size of New Hampshire, but the Pentagon posts just a few hundred soldiers here. The military term "economy of force" applies. American officers say that means they only have one-third of the troops needed to quell al-Qaeda's stranglehold.

But a new rotation in the battle-scarred city brings new tactics. Until now, the southern suburbs barely saw a U.S. boot on the ground. But by thinning troops in outlying areas, the U.S. military is building outposts in suburbs once owned by insurgents.

LT. JASON RICHARDSON, BRAVO Correct., 1ST INFANTRY: Our intel told us that insurgents would gather out here in numbers from 10 to 50 and meet up and rally, get in their cars and move on and execute missions.

WARE: This mosque was an Iraqi al-Qaeda base, home to the group's local leader. And now, this U.S. outpost sits next door. From here, infantry patrols push out with lists of the wanted.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the one that hit my Bradley.



WARE: His patrol goes into what locals dub the Mujahadeen village. But now al-Qaeda adjusts its tactics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, they'll fire random mortars, develop and adjust sneaky ways to put in IEDs. It's a dangerous, it's a very difficult war to fight, but it's not -- I don't know how to put this.

WARE: And now a sniper war. This U.S. soldier looking for targets as al-Qaeda does the same.

RICHARDSON: We saw a car pull up, a guy get out the front seat, climb into the backseat, remove a panel from off his car and aim from the car to our rooftop position, which unfortunately resulted in the death of one Marine who was on the rooftop. So -- but, I mean, we can't shoot every car that comes by but.

WARE: Though the attacks and U.S. deaths continue, the new plan is having an effect. Al-Qaeda still dominates the insurgency, but it's had to adapt.

MACFARLAND: And we're seeing a steady decline in the types of complex and the size of the types of the attacks that we have experienced here in the past.

WARE: But the Marine general commanding al-Anbar says right now he does not have enough troops, U.S. or Iraqi, to win against the al-Qaeda-led insurgency. A reality Colonel MacFarland faces on the ground.

MACFARLAND: The folks that we are fighting are the same kind of folks that took down the World Trade Center and drove an airplane into the Pentagon. And these people here want to turn al-Anbar into what one smart guy called al-Qaedastan. And right here, this is our opportunity to stop that vision in its tracks.

WARE: But to the soldiers and Marines here, there's a fear that without reinforcement that opportunity could be lost.


COOPER: Michael, what we've seen in the past with the U.S. military moving troops from one restive region to another to try to sort of plug that hole, get more boots on the ground. At this point, is that going to work in al-Anbar?

WARE (on camera): Well, Anderson it depends on what your objectives are. I mean it's moving chess pieces across the board. The bottom line is, there's simply not enough American troops in al-Anbar right now to defeat the al-Qaeda-led insurgency. So, if you're prepared to wait, if you're prepared to suffer the fact that for ever day that passes, al-Qaeda continues and arguably becomes stronger, then, yeah, shifting troops around can work.

But the bottom line is, if you want something fixed now, if in President Bush's global war on terror this is seen as that gaping black hole and it needs to be plugged, then no; you need to punch in more troops immediately.

The other thing is, the U.S. needs to embolden the political allies it has in al-Anbar. They are looking to separate the homegrown Iraqi insurgents, essentially the Baath party, from the al-Qaeda insurgents. A lot more can be done to speed up that process -- Anderson.

COOPER: Michael Ware, appreciate that report. Stay safe, Michael, in Baghdad tonight.