AC: "They're creating entire generation of jihadists that did not exist."

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Length: 8:08

ANDERSON COOPER: While the debate over Iraq rages on the Senate floor, U.S. commanders in Iraq say they are bracing for an offensive by insurgents, possibly on the scale of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. We're going to get to that in a moment.

First, "Keeping Them Honest," a closer look at this NIE report on al Qaeda. You just heard how Democrats and Republicans are spinning it.

And joining me now is CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, CNN's Michael Ware, and retired U.S. General David Grange.

Michael, the Bush White House is now portraying the fight in Iraq as a fight between the U.S. and al Qaeda. Let's talk reality. We know al Qaeda in Iraq is responsible for some of the high-profile attacks. But are they really the biggest enemy we now face in Iraq?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, not by a long shot, Anderson.

And the administration trying to spin that is just -- you know, they're trying to play the American public. They're trying to equate Iraq with those who attacked America. That's precisely President Bush's words, but it's somewhat misleading.

If you look at the entire body of the insurgency -- the people who are blowing up U.S. convoys, firing mortars, firing rockets, they're the ones in the ambush attacks. They're the ones who are in the small-arms-fire gun battles with U.S. troops -- al Qaeda would be lucky to make up 3 percent of that, 3 percent of the total insurgency.

Yes, al Qaeda has a monopoly on the spectacular car bombs. But three U.S. troops are dying thereabouts every day, and al Qaeda is responsible for very few of those -- Anderson.

COOPER: Peter, Michael referenced it. We also heard it in a sound bite from President Bush earlier in the program. The White House repeatedly is now saying -- this is their new message -- that the people who attacked us on 9/11 are the same ones we're fighting now in Iraq.

The group, obviously, al Qaeda in Iraq, did not exist before this war. Are they the same thing? Are they the same people as al Qaeda, as Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, as Zawahri's al Qaeda? Or are there real differences between these two groups, al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq, that are important to know about when we're trying to understand who this enemy is?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, interestingly President Bush kind of slightly rephrased the way that he put this. He said now in the clip that we just played that the people -- al Qaeda in Iraq are people who have sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. And Osama bin Laden attacked us on 9/11.

Well, that is -- that is more true than his previous statement that we're being attacked on 9/11 by the same people who are attacking us in Iraq, because, of course, al Qaeda in Iraq didn't exist until 2004, when it formally changed its name from Tawhid to al Qaeda in Iraq. It's now the Islamic State of Iraq.

It is a group, as -- as Michael has pointed out, that is relatively small. On the other hand, it's done disproportionately -- the largest number of suicide attackers in Iraq are all foreigners. There have actually been quite an interesting number of studies which demonstrate how few Iraqis are involved in the suicide attacks.

And it's the suicide attacks, of course, that have had -- that sparked the civil war, that got the United Nations to withdraw, and that made Iraq a much more dangerous place. So, despite their small number, they have had a disproportionate strategic effect on the ground.

It's interesting in the NIE that -- the National Intelligence Estimate says that it's possible al Qaeda in Iraq might try and attack the United States. I think that there's a long way off before that happens.

But al Qaeda in Iraq has attacked three American-owned hotels in Jordan in 2005. I think, when we know more about the attacks in London and Glasgow, we will find that the Iraqi doctor involved in those attacks had some links with al Qaeda in Iraq. So, they have demonstrated some interest in attacking outside the country, outside Iraq, already -- Anderson.

COOPER: General Grange, we have talked before about how this is a learning enemy that we're facing. Their tactics evolve and are being exported.

To what extent has this war in Iraq been a training ground for extremists, perfecting tactics which are now being exported to Afghanistan, and Jordan, as Peter talked about, Britain, and possibly here in America?


I mean, not only in Iraq, but in Afghanistan and places like Chechnya, and elsewhere, anywhere there's conflict, the forces that are there are going to learn new tactics, procedures, techniques against their foe. They learn new asymmetric means to counter a more powerful force.

And it's the same thing for the Army of the United States or the Iraqi army. They learn on -- in this battleground as well. I mean, regrettably, battle really trains forces to be very competent. And, so, if they're fighting in Iraq, al Qaeda will improve their skills. There's no doubt about it.

COOPER: General Grange, there are those who say, well, look, we're fighting them over there so that we don't have to fight them here at home. If they are already exporting what they have learned in Iraq, is that statement true?

GRANGE: Well, sure. They're going to learn these techniques in camps somewhere. Whether it's in Iraq or somewhere else, this is an enemy that does not like us. They're going to come after us.

We just gave them an opportunity to assemble in Iraq. I kind of like the idea they assemble in Iraq, because there's more of them there to take down, instead of hunting them around the world of global operations, which are very difficult. Here, we have a license to kill or capture. Many other places, we do not. And, so, I don't think it's a bad thing that they're assembling in Iraq.

COOPER: But, Peter, as you and I have seen in Afghanistan -- we have been there now together twice this -- in the last nine months or so -- they are already going to Afghanistan, and spreading what they have learned in Iraq in Afghanistan.

BERGEN: Indeed.

I mean, there's been people going from Afghanistan to Iraq and coming back with on-the-job training. And it's interesting: the suicide attacks in Afghanistan didn't start when the U.S.-led invasion happened in 2001. They really took off in the 2004 time period, basically learning from the Iraqi insurgency and copycatting the Iraqi insurgency.

We have now seen suicide attacks quintuple last year. It's because Iraqi-style insurgency tactics work in Afghanistan in a way that they have also worked in Iraq. So, certainly, there's been -- I would differ slightly with the general, who I greatly admire, in the sense that I think the Iraqi war has sort of amplified the jihadi problem.

Of course it already existed, but it has been more of a major irritant. And, in a study that I did with an NYU colleague, Paul Cruickshank, we found a sevenfold increase in jihadist terrorist attacks around the world following the invasion of Iraq compared to the period after the 9/11 attacks.

Now, of course, a lot of that was in Iraq, a lot of that in Afghanistan, but also around the Arab world, and, of course, as we have seen in Europe, with the attacks in Madrid and London.

COOPER: Well, let me get Michael in.

Michael, do you -- I mean, you have spent a lot of time getting close as any -- as close as any reporter can to interviewing jihadists. You have been there really since the get-go when this war began.

Has Iraq created jihadists who wouldn't have become jihadists anyway?

WARE: Oh, absolutely.

I mean, the whole notion of better to fight them over there than over here, or let's bring them in like a honey pot and draw them to Iraq and kill them, is absolutely ludicrous. In fact, it's so ludicrous, it's downright dangerous, because what they're doing is, they're creating entire generation of jihadis that did not exist.

And it's providing the inspiration and motivation to create whole waves of more jihadi who don't even have to come here to be inflamed by Iraq. So, Iraq has been a total disaster, in terms of limiting the number of jihadis on the planet.

COOPER: General Grange, I want to give you a chance to respond to those comments.

GRANGE: No, I think that Iraq has multiplied jihadists. There's no doubt about it.

What I'm saying is that this movement is going to come after America, whether we're in Iraq or not. I mean, I just think it will. Now, maybe it's been multiplied quickly, the numbers that volunteer, because of Iraq, no doubt about it.

But, look, they have a great brand. They have a great tagline. They're wonderful in the virtual arena. And they know how to market what they want to do. And they're going to do that somewhere in this world -- there's no doubt in my mind -- in multiple places. And, so, we're going to have to take them on somewhere.

Whether we like Iraq or not, it's there. It was created. It's caused a lot more to come to the plate. But, I mean, we're going to have to do it.

COOPER: Marketing terror. It is a brave new world.

General Grange, appreciate your expertise.

Peter Bergen, as well, Michael Ware, as well, thank you very much.