PZN: "You really want to fix Iraq: surge the whole country."
PAULA ZAHN: I'm going to turn to three journalists who have covered the war on the ground in Iraq: Pam Hess, United Press International's Pentagon correspondent; Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "The Washington Post" former Baghdad bureau chief; and our own Michael Ware.
Michael, I'm going to start with you tonight.
And I want you to listen in on more of what General Petraeus had to say in defending the troop surge and what it might ultimately accomplish.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETRAEUS: There has been progress, and that is in the reduction in sectarian murders in Baghdad, which is about one-third now of what it was in January.
That's an important development, because the sectarian murders can be a cancer in a neighborhood. It is something on which our commanders and the Iraqi commander have focused quite a bit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So, Michael, do you see any indications that the surge is working?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in Baghdad, in one particular form, yeah, General Petraeus is absolutely right. The number of sectarian killings are down.
But that does not come without cost, Paula. The number of U.S. deaths in Baghdad has almost doubled. And what you're seeing is that the sectarian killings aren't happening in Baghdad, where the surge is. They're happening outside.
So, what we're seeing since the surge began is that, basically, American troops are still dying just as much as they were before the surge, and Iraqis are dying just as much as they were as well. It's just that they're all dying in different places now and in different ways than before.
The surge will work in Baghdad in one form. You really want to fix Iraq: surge the whole country.
ZAHN: Do you agree with that, Pam?
PAM HESS, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL: I think that, from the start, everyone has been concerned that the surge is too small and it might be too late.
But I think it does make a difference if Baghdad is secure. The question is, will there be enough time on the political calendar to allow that to happen?
I think one of the problems that we have in covering this is that in Washington and the United States we like to look at numbers and try to project trends. But counterinsurgency campaigns don't work that way. They sort of go along, go along, go along, and then, all at once, if it's going to work, it will start to work.
But it's not something that you can stand right here and look out six months from now, using your current data, and say, by our indications now, we will be here in six months. So, it's a really hard thing for us to cover.
ZAHN: And, Rajiv, what numbers are we talking about, when Michael suggests, yes, it's working in Baghdad, but you have to sort of match those numbers across the country if you're going to make a real dent in the sectarian violence?
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Indeed.
And what we have seen of late is that the sectarian violence is growing in areas outside of Baghdad, particularly to the northeast, in Diyala Province, where nine U.S. paratroopers were killed the other day in a very bold, audacious suicide bombing on their outpost.
And this was a less guarded sort of smaller outpost, which is part of this whole surge strategy. And, so, it clearly exhibits the vulnerabilities that exist as the U.S. military is reshaping its force posture under this surge. But, you know, if you want to flood the zone in Diyala, if you want to get enough troops in Al Anbar Province to deal with the sectarian violence there, I mean, you're talking about tens of thousands of more soldiers. And the U.S. military just doesn't have that right now.
ZAHN: And, Michael Ware, you're just back from Diyala. What did you see there?
WARE: Yes, absolutely. I have...
ZAHN: Are you pretty pessimistic about what you saw?
WARE: The 5,000 American troops there are taking the fight to the enemy, but that is now the center. That is the new front line with al Qaeda. And it's the perfect barometer for what's going on.
You have seen, in Diyala Province, sectarian murders have dropped by 70 percent. But attacks on Americans and American casualties have increased by 70 percent. So, it's a very tough fight out there.
I was at these outposts, one of which was just most recently blown up. The brigade, the 5,000 troops who spent a year there last year lost 19 people in a year. The same brigade, the same size force there now, has lost 50 in six months.
ZAHN: Pam, quick final question for you. We heard some of the Democrats coming into this segment saying, time's up. As they repeat that call, is that undermining the U.S. troop effort right now in Iraq?
HESS: I heard from a battalion commander who is getting ready to head over. And he said it does, if they don't feel like their political leaders are behind them or that they understand the time that this takes.
The problem, I think, has been maybe the Pentagon, certainly the White House, hasn't done a very good job of explaining the process that has to happen. It's one thing to get all the U.S. troops' part of the surge into Baghdad and into Diyala to do the work, and it's quite another for the work to actually get done.
The work, it involves mostly confidence-building on the part of the Iraqi people. You have to win them over and make them think that the Americans and the Iraqi forces can secure them. And, until they think that, they're not going to give you the intelligence that you need in order to root out the bad guys.
So, they're on this sort of weird, vague, cognitive battlefield that they're fighting, and there's just no way you can, from the outside, say we will give you two weeks, and, if it's not done then, it's automatically -- it just -- it can't work in that way.
I don't know that we have the patience left for this, though.
ZAHN: Well, that's -- a lot of patience is being sorely tested by this.
Pam Hess, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Michael Ware, thank you, all. Welcome back home for a little bit.