SAT: Fundamental issues
BETTY NGUYEN: Ninety-eight U.S. troops killed in Iraq during October. That makes this the fourth deadliest month since the war started.
Let's get the latest now on the violence and efforts to stop it, more importantly.
CNN's Michael Ware joins us live from Baghdad -- Michael, the numbers are so apparent, 98 U.S. troops killed, the fourth deadliest month since the war began. The violence keeps escalating with all the sectarian violence that's going on.
What is all of this doing to U.S. troop morale there?
It's got to be having some kind of an effect.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the troops certainly know, Betty, that they are in a war. I mean most of these young men who are out in the field -- and women to be included in that, also -- are professional soldiers. Many of them signed on for this or many of them are at least in active duty units. I mean, this is what they do.
Now, there may be some growing skepticism amongst the troops about just how much they're achieving or whether they'll ever actually win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
Nonetheless, they stick to their jobs. So even if they have doubts, they pull together and at the end of the day, what this war is about for them, like all conflict for a soldier, it's about the people around them -- their friends, their mates -- getting through it in one piece.
So they may be toughing it out, but they're sticking to the line -- Betty.
NGUYEN: Well, they do have a job to do. But another thing, you know, you're talking about the people around them. We're getting yet more reports this morning of some 20 bullet-riddled bodies in and around Baghdad. Iraqis have to be fearful beyond belief.
What are they saying on the streets of Iraq about a solution to all of this sectarian violence?
WARE: Well, that's a great thing. They're looking for a strong government. And, quite simply, they don't have that. Indeed, this government is all but an apparition. Beyond the prime minister and the national security adviser's office, it really is in the hands of the militias from there on in.
But this is something else in the development of those efforts you discussed of trying to pull back some of this violence.
As we speak right now, according to an aide of the Iraqi prime minister, the prime minister was due to have a videoconference with President Bush. Now, from this aide, we see a further distancing of the Iraqi prime minister from the U.S. line. This entangled relationship that we've seen going through painful twists and turns this week.
Today, this aide said that the prime minister and the U.S. ambassador met yesterday. And he made it clear the prime minister said that any U.S. timelines are suggestions only. He's been forced by the Americans to make difficult decisions too quickly. And while he remains a friend of America, he is not their man.
So we see again this divide being defined -- Betty.
NGUYEN: You talk about difficult, you know, decisions very quickly, but let me ask you this. U.S. troops have been there for many years now, and there has been this push to get the Iraqi security forces up and ready to take over this country and protect themselves.
What is taking so long? Why haven't they been put in place and ready to secure this country so that U.S. forces can start to begin a pullout?
WARE: Well, it's a simple answer, really. I mean, you know, the Americans had set benchmarks early on to build the Iraqi security forces to a certain number, just over 300,000 trained and equipped troops and they will be able to take care of themselves.
Well, Betty, we're just about at that point now. Those numbers have just about been reached and look at the situation.
Why is that?
It's because the fundamental issues have not been addressed: actually breaking down the militias; external influences the U.S. ambassador pointed to, particularly from Iran; really tackling al Qaeda, which is not being done. They're not being confronted head-on, face-to-face.
The U.S. Marine general who owns Anbar Province, the al Qaeda front line, has said he does not have enough troops to win against the al Qaeda-led insurgency. He's only got enough troops to train Iraqis.
And like I said, until the building blocks of Iraqi politics are addressed, the Iraqi Army is almost meaningless -- Betty.
NGUYEN: That's a good point there, the problems, they are very complex and they are deep-seated.
Michael Ware, thank you for spending a little time with us this morning.
We appreciate it.
BETTY NGUYEN: A deadly month for U.S. troops in Iraq and difficult times between the Bush administration and the Iraqi prime minister. CNN's Michael Ware joins us now live from Baghdad. We will get to that in just a moment, Michael, but first of all October is now the fourth deadliest month for U.S. forces since the war started. Are U.S. troops taking note of these numbers and is it at all affecting morale?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh look, absolutely, Betty. I mean, the U.S. forces, particularly the units on the brunt of the worst of this violence in Baghdad, the capital, and in western Anbar Province. I mean, these are more than numbers to the soldiers in these units. These are their friends or these are their comrades in related units. So the death toll for this month certainly is being noted.
Now, while these troops -- some of them on their second, some on their third tours here in Iraq -- are becoming increasingly skeptical about the nature of the mission, if not some of them actually disenchanted, nonetheless they are professional soldiers by and large, and they are here to do a job. At the end of the day, as in any war, what this boils down to for these American GI's is getting themselves and their buddies home. This is about the men around them, their team, their squad. That's how it boils down at the end of the day for a soldier on the front line here, Betty.
NGUYEN: That's true. And at end of the day, the only way to get these U.S. troops home is to ensure that the violence stops. So lets talk about a plan here. Give us some insight into this joint statement that was issued between the Iraqi prime minister and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
WARE: Well, that joint statement was an incredibly rare thing. We don't often see that. And it was a result of friction during the week with contrary statements by both the U.S. and the Iraqi prime minister. But that statement itself was, to be honest, waffling and really lacked substance.
What we had today is another development: two hours ago the Iraqi prime minister was in a 30-minute videoconference with President Bush. They discussed security arrangements. According to the government spokesman, the Iraqi prime minister looked to take a greater role for the Iraqi forces in providing their own security, but said to President Bush, "that means you need to train us better and equip us better."
Now, this comes as one of the prime minister's aides this morning made it very, very clear that in discussions with the American ambassador yesterday, the prime minister said that he is not America's man here in Iraq. There is no agreements on timelines. He won't be rushed inappropriately by American pressure into making difficult decisions too quickly. He said he is not committed to following American will, but to follow agreements between the two countries, which are approved by the Iraqi parliament. So the twists and the turns in this torturous relationship continue -- Betty.
NGUYEN: The twists and turns are very interesting. Let's get back what you said that the Iraqi prime minister mentioned in this conversation with the president, talking about stepping up the Iraqi security forces, yet they need to be trained. How close is that training to get them ready to take control of the country and protect themselves?
WARE: Well, the numbers that were set some time ago for the size of the Iraqi security forces, just a little over 300,000, have almost been reached. We're within a whisker of that now, Betty. But these troops are simply not ready. I mean, it varies from unit to unit. There are some fairly adept units out there working side by side with American forces. But by and large, the Iraqi security forces, the police, the army cannot be relied upon. Why? Because the fundamental problems in Iraq -- the militias, the insurgency, the deep divisions -- have not been addressed. America has yet to tackle these and what Ambassador Khalilzad said is the enemies of America such as Iran here interfering -- Betty.
NGUYEN: A lot of problems on the table. Michael Ware, thank you for that insight. We appreciate it. And we will of course have more on the Iraqi government struggle with the militias a little bit later today.
T.J. HOLMES: The violence in Iraq continues to take a toll on U.S. forces and on relations between the Iraqi prime minister and the Bush administration. 98 U.S. service members have been killed during October, the fourth highest monthly death toll of the war.
CNN's Michael Ware has more on the political tensions caused by the violence.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a 30-minute video conference today between Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and American president George Bush, the Iraqi government sought a greater role in ensuring the country's security. However, it requested that the U.S. step up its assistance in training the Iraqi forces and equipping them.
However, earlier today, an aide to the prime minister made it very clear that the Iraqi prime minister told the U.S. ambassador on Friday that he is not committed to carrying out U.S. will. However, is he committed to carrying out any agreements between the two countries approved by his parliament. The aide said that the prime minister noted he is not America's man in Iraq.
It was also said that it was made clear that there is no agreement on timelines, and any U.S. talk about timelines, said the prime minister's aide, was being taken as merely suggestions by the Iraqi government.
Michael Ware, CNN, Baghdad.