AC: "War doesn't wait for elections."

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Anderson Cooper asks Michael about today's developments in the still-undecided Afghan elections and whether another vote in two weeks is even feasible. Anderson then has a discussion with Paul Begala and Kevin Madden, but comes back to Michael for the final word -- a point that Michael has been making for weeks now.

ANDERSON COOPER: Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai caved under extreme pressure today and agreed to take part in a runoff vote next month.

U.S. Senator John Kerry has been in Kabul leaning heavily on Karzai to concede he did not win the August 20 election widely seen as fraudulent. Yesterday, an independent review invalidated nearly a third of the votes that Karzai got back in August.

So, now that he's finally admitted what seemed obvious to a lot of people, what is to prevent the fraud that derailed the August election from actually happening again? And what is at stake for the U.S.?

Michael Ware joins us now. He's certainly spent a lot of time in Afghanistan since 2001.

Can this vote even take place?


COOPER: I mean, they're saying two weeks from now.

WARE: Yes, I know. It's a huge ask.

And, in fact, as the secretary-general of the United Nations said, it's a huge challenge, just logistically.

COOPER: Right.

WARE: I mean, the last election, there were 7,000 Afghan and international observers. You know, they're now saying maybe we can get 5,000 together. And the actual election workers, you have to gather them back together. The U.N. and others have to pay for it. You have got to get rid of those who were involved in the fraud in the past. There's supposed to be investigations into that. You've got to bring in new people, retrain them.

COOPER: But they're saying, if it doesn't happen by two weeks from now, then the snows are going to come.

WARE: You've got the snow.

COOPER: And bad weather is going to come into large parts of the country.

WARE: That's right. So, there is an imperative. I mean, timing is very important here, as with the conflict, as with the war itself.

The snow in Afghanistan has to be seen to be believed. And, you know, even the war itself grinds to a virtual halt. So, holding an election in that kind of a period is impossible.

COOPER: Clearly, there is a debate going on within the Obama administration.

I want to play something that Rahm Emanuel said on John King's show, "STATE OF THE UNION."


RAHM EMANUEL, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It would be reckless to make a decision on U.S. troop level if, in fact, you haven't done a thorough analysis of whether, in fact, there's an Afghan partner ready to fill that space that the U.S. troops would create and become a true partner in governing the Afghan country.


COOPER: So, that makes it sound like Obama is -- the Obama administration is going to wait.

But then you have Defense Secretary Gates coming forward. He says -- and I quote -- "We're not just going to sit on our hands waiting for the outcome of this election and for the emergence of government in Kabul."

WARE: Yes. It's -- it's hard to tell which way they're going to go.

I mean, and what the chief of staff says, there is some truth, and, yet, there is also some deviation there. I mean, to a degree, it doesn't matter who the government is. Whether it's Hamid Karzai returning or Abdullah Abdullah, in many ways, in Afghan eyes, it is one bunch of crooks vs. another.

Either way, that government, whatever form it takes, is going to have to rely on America and its other partners, like India, Iran, even China.

COOPER: If Abdullah...

WARE: So, it's going to need them.

COOPER: If Abdullah Abdullah comes in, though, does he get rid of all the governors and stuff that Karzai has appointed and put in new people?

WARE: Well, that's going to be something for Abdullah Abdullah. And, yes, I'm sure there will be changes. He will want to put his own imprint upon it.

But, in terms of the U.S. war-fighting effort, I think this is just politically buying the administration time.

COOPER: Right.

WARE: In terms of the strategy, in terms of the fight, you don't need these two weeks, plus waiting for the recount.

COOPER: Right.

WARE: You don't want these two weeks. You just want to get on with the fight. War doesn't wait for elections.


Michael Ware, appreciate it.

The Obama administration needs a credible partner in Afghanistan. That's what they have been saying. So, will this runoff, which Karzai is likely to win, actually provide one?

Let's talk "Raw Politics" with CNN political contributor Democratic strategist Paul Begala, also Kevin Madden, former spokesman for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

So, Paul, what about this? I mean, Rahm Emanuel saying essentially the White House wants to hold off a troop decision until the election is resolved. Robert Gates is saying, that's not really practical or sensible.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Mr. Emanuel did not say, until the election. He said, until we assess whether there is a credible partner.

In other words, can Hamid Karzai, who is both corrupt and inept, emerge as somebody changed? Can he adapt? I would say I'm a strong doubter of that. But he didn't say we will wait until the election. I think John Kerry actually said that over in Afghanistan, who was doing great work for our country.

COOPER: But...

BEGALA: But what Mr. Emanuel said is, we have to have a credible partner.

This was putting pressure on the Afghan government. And I would note that within 24 hours of Mr. Emanuel's comments, Karzai folded. So, it looks like American pressure is having some effect.

COOPER: Kevin, though, I mean, Karzai has been in power now for years. And over the last eight months of the Obama administration, or however long it's been, I mean, you would think by now they would know whether or not he was a credible partner.


And, you know, I think it's a rather elusive goal, trying to find political stability there, because I think, for the last two years -- and you can even argue that for maybe the last 10 to 100 years -- there's been -- you know, Afghanistan has essentially been a political tinderbox. They have had rife corruption, both in the government, as well as in any sort of regional authorities that they have across the country.

So, you know, the president is in a difficult position, where he's looking to get as much leverage as possible, but he's increasingly setting himself up for elusive goals. And the most important thing right now that the troops on the ground need, that American security needs is somebody to make a very firm decision and give the mission a clear direction there.

COOPER: Paul, do you think the president risks, you know, incurring more criticism, obviously from Republicans but just from voters out there in general by not making a decision?

BEGALA: Yes, but I think that's a short-term risk. There's no doubt that this very public debate and the time that he is taking is causing -- is taking its toll. You're getting more and more people wondering, is Barack Obama tough enough? Is he decisive enough?

I suspect he weighs that against, though, the long-term implications of making the wrong decision here. So I think he's taking a short-term hit to get the long-term piece right.

But to me, the key question -- I have no idea what the key question is to the president, okay? But to me the key question is that will they ever have a credible partner? Kevin is right. This government has been corrupt since day one. It's been inept from day one. And I guess I would take one or the other. I guess I could take a corrupt government if they were capable, or maybe a capable government that -- but this is the problem.

If the McChrystal report is right -- and I think it is -- we have to have a government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan that is credible and effective. General McChrystal uses that acronym, GIROA, which is Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 99 times in a 66-page report. That's how critical it is. And I've got to tell you, I don't see it. I don't know if you do, Kevin.

COOPER: Well, Kevin, that's what key -- that's the key to a counterinsurgency. You talk to anybody, any expert on the subject will tell you, you know, it has to be in support of a government that people can get behind and believe.

We were just there on the ground. And what the Marines are trying to do is trying to convince local people in these outlying village that the government actually cares about them and is going to help them in their lives. And, yet, there's no evidence. And there hasn't been any evidence of that for eight years now.

MADDEN: That's right. And that is, again, the hard task. I think one of the problems is that how does -- I'm by far not a policy expert when it comes to the military decision that should be made on the ground, but how is it that you support the political decisions with a very clear message?

One of the big problems with the president's deliberative style here is that the deliberation is starting to look like both timidity and hesitation. And that timidity and that hesitation is emboldening many of our enemies on the ground.

If we look back at Iraq and the surge there, that sent -- that surge in Iraq sent a very clear message to the insurgents there that we were not leaving and that we had a very clear message. And that helped the military success of that operation.

BEGALA: But the surge followed the Sunni awakening. Iraqis in Iraq decided that they were going to take on al Qaeda, whereas they had not in the past. That turn, even more than the American troop presence, is what turned Iraq around. And I don't see any Sunni awakening in Afghanistan.

COOPER: Michael Ware is nodding -- Michael.

WARE: Yes. His point is absolutely valid. But the opportunity for an "Afghan awakening" has presented itself.

A lot of the tribes in the south, a lot of the former veterans of the Soviet war who have been sitting back or have been neglected by the Karzai government or others are now stepping up and saying, "We're ready to be those militia."

COOPER: So that's a possibility?

WARE: That's a distinct possibility. And Karzai's brother, who is in Kandahar in the south, is already running a pilot program, and the military's watching it closely.

COOPER: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. Michael Ware, Kevin Madden, appreciate it. Paul Begala, as well.