CB: "The way out of Afghanistan is a political solution. The way out of Iraq has been conceding ground to Iran."
August 19, 2009
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Michael talks to Campbell Brown about the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the possibility of the US being able to disentangle itself from both wars.
CAMPBELL BROWN: In just over two hours, the people of Afghanistan will begin risking their lives by doing what we take for granted, voting for president. They have already paid a high price this week, as Taliban attacks and bombings have taken the lives of seven Afghan election workers and six U.S. troops.
The carnage isn't confined to Afghanistan today. A series of six explosions in Baghdad left 95 people dead, at least 500 wounded. It is the deadliest day in Iraq since U.S. troops pulled out of cities and towns there.
And our Michael Ware has covered both countries extensively for us.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, unfortunately.
BROWN: And he's with me here tonight.
It is good to have you here in person.
BROWN: As we said, the voting begins in Afghanistan in just a matter of hours.
WARE: Very important.
BROWN: The Taliban doing everything possible imaginable to try to keep people from voting.
What do you think is going to happen? And, ultimately, what effect does it have, what bearing does it have on the U.S. mission there?
WARE: Well, look, it's my belief that there is going to be an election. It is not going to be pretty. It will be a little bit messy. There may be some violence here and there. Some people who should have voted won't be able to vote because of the Taliban intimidation or simply because they can't open polling booths. There will probably be some election irregularities. It's not an election as we know it. There's absolutely no hope of that.
But will it be enough to give it the legitimacy that the Afghan people want is the real question. So, it is not going to be simple. It's going to be a little bit messy, but I think it's going to take place.
Now, in terms of the American investment in the U.S. mission, there is a lot riding on this election. To some degree, it doesn't matter to America whether Hamid Karzai is re-elected or Abdullah Abdullah gets elected or whatever. It is just whether this can be pulled off.
It's also going to be a measure of the Taliban's new strength. The last election, they didn't have the ability to disrupt the election. This time, their ability is much more enhanced, but it is only going to be in certain areas.
So, honestly, America has a lot to lose in this election, and I think relatively little to gain.
BROWN: So, realistically, though, bigger picture, what is it going to take to bring stability to Afghanistan? Does a change in government even matter? Does it mean anything really in terms of the big picture?
WARE: In a sense, no, because it is still going to be a hodgepodge of either warlords or corrupt officials. You are still not going to have delivery of government services to the remote regions.
I mean, look at Hamid Karzai. He has had to pull together two of the most notorious warlords in Afghanistan's recent history, including Dostum from the north who is currently under investigation by the Obama administration for killing 2,000 prisoners.
So, whoever wins, again, it is probably not going to be a functioning administration. But that's not really going to be the point. If you want to end the war, this government is only going to be one piece of that. And the way you're going to end this war is both the Afghan government, but particularly America, cutting a deal with the Taliban.
BROWN: Yes, we'll see if that happens.
Let me turn to Iraq here. So much talk in the sort of post-surge era about things calming down, things improving. Today, massive bombings.
WARE: Yes. Yes.
BROWN: The deadliest day of the year.
What is your takeaway?
WARE: Well, this is -- this is Iraq. I mean, yes, it's the deadliest day -- 95-odd people, I believe, is the current toll.
Well, while I was there just a few weeks ago, 80 people were killed in one day. So, what you need to be aware of is that, yes, this is what the military would call spectacular, spectacular attacks. They garner high publicity, focus lots of attention. But this is part of a broader long-running bombing that was under way during the U.S. command of the war and has been under way since the Iraqis took over.
It is primarily being conducted by al Qaeda and its allies, who hope to bomb Iraq back into the bloodshed of the sectarian civil war. But the bottom line is that this has been going on. Now, media attention, like the Obama administration's attention, shifted to Afghanistan.
WARE: In all that time, the killings continued in the media vacuum. So, these killings have been going on. Today is a terrible day. It is an awful tragedy, but it is just one of many. Yes, things are better than they were two years ago, but a lot of people are still dying in Baghdad.
BROWN: But do you see any scenario where the U.S. could declare success in either Iraq or Afghanistan, frankly, under the Obama administration?
WARE: Well, the Obama administration in Iraq, on my hypothesis, has basically applied a certain calculation.
They are prepared to accept Iraq essentially becoming an Iranian client state or certainly under the influence and auspices of Iran, in return for stability, which will then allow American withdrawal. These bombings are by al Qaeda and Sunni Islamists. It has got nothing to do with Iran.
That calculation allows this administration to focus on Afghanistan. And, again, there, the way out is a political solution, just like Iraq. The Bush administration said, we don't deal with terrorists. We won't talk to people with American blood on their hands.
But within three or four years, they ended up putting 103,000 Sunni insurgents on the U.S. government payroll. But these were insurgents who never wanted to fight America in the first place.
And I we are going to see something very similar, not American creating militias in Afghanistan, like they did in Iraq. But what we are seeing already is America positioning itself to deal, the Pakistani intelligence agency -- who hold the keys to the Taliban -- preparing itself to deal, and certainly Hamid Karzai's government has been open and ready to deal as well.
So, the way out of Afghanistan is a political solution. The way out of Iraq has been conceding ground to Iran.
BROWN: Michael Ware, good to have you here.
WARE: Thanks, Campbell.