AC: "The Taliban, the tribes, the al Qaeda affiliates -- they own that region of Pakistan."
October 22, 2009
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Yesterday afternoon Anderson Cooper sat down for an exclusive interview with the former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, which was aired tonight on AC360. That was followed by a clip of former vice-president Dick Cheney criticizing President Obama for taking time to weigh the options as far as increasing the troop levels in Afghanistan. And after that, Anderson (apparently in LA) spoke with Michael (in NY) and Peter Bergen (presumably in DC) about all of it.
ANDERSON COOPER: During his speech last night, former vice president Dick Cheney blasted President Obama for taking too long to decide whether to send more troops to Afghanistan. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Having announced his Afghanistan strategy in March, President Obama now seems afraid to make a decision and unable to provide his commander on the ground with the troops he needs to complete the mission. The White House must stop dithering while America's Armed Forces are in danger.
COOPER: The White House shot back today saying that what Cheney calls dithering, President Obama calls his solemn responsibility to the men and women in uniform and the American public.
Joining me now to talk strategy: Michael Ware and CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen.
Michael Ware, first about what former Vice President Cheney said. For years, there were folks on the ground in Iraq saying there are not enough troops, there are not enough troops. And all we heard from the Bush administration was, "Oh, there are plenty enough troops," and then all of a sudden one day they said there weren't enough troops and they needed a surge.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, suddenly there was a surge. And indeed it's a fact, what he says is correct -- in strict military terms, there's nowhere near enough troops to fight the counterinsurgency that America is planning for.
But America's known that going in, even with U.S. troops and NATO troops combined, there's still not enough boots on the ground to fight the war that America needs to fight.
COOPER: Peter, at one point under the Bush administration there were some 6,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That was it.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, even two years after the fall of the Taliban there were only 6,000 American soldiers. And, you know, that's the size of a police department in a city like Houston. And you're talking about a country the size of Texas. So, you know, obviously it was never enough; it's still probably not enough. But it is getting better.
COOPER: Peter, when you hear Pervez Musharraf say there is no way Mullah Omar is in Pakistan; that the epicenter is Afghanistan, I mean every intelligence official I've ever talked to and I know the ones you've talked to all say all these folks are in Pakistan. Does he not know that or does he just not want to admit that? What do you make of it?
BERGEN: Well, I think the latter. I mean watching that interview was deja vu all over again because we've heard President Musharraf say very similar things in the past and we've also heard people who work for him say very similar things in the past. You know, arguing on the positive side, you know, the Pakistani government is very serious now about going after a lot of the militants on its territory, not necessarily some elements like the Haqqani network or Mullah Omar.
But this offensive that's going on in Waziristan is not a performance offensive as we've seen in the past. This is a massive undertaking; 30,000 soldiers that are setting up blocking forces, they've done months of artillery fire and air raids to soften up the positions and it's really real.
COOPER: Michael, are the Pakistan -- is the Pakistan military able to fight a counter insurgency, though? It's a particular kind of warfare. And it seems like they're pretty suited for a conventional war against India.
WARE: Well, you hit the nail right on the head there. The whole focus is their rivalry with India. Now that parlays also into the conflict in Afghanistan.
But in terms of fighting an internal insurgency in Pakistan, the Pakistani military says openly that they don't have the equipment for it. Whilst they may have the know how to do it, they can't divert troops from the Kashmiri border with India. They have troops in other places. They only have so many resources.
And listen, the Taliban, the tribes, the al Qaeda affiliates, they own that region of Pakistan and the terrain itself is formidable. I mean, entire valleys swallow divisions of infantry troops. And the militants have had a long time to dig in.
So the Pakistani military really and truly is up against if even if at last its heart is in this fight -- Anderson.
COOPER: Peter, you talk about the Haqqani network. There are a lot of people who don't know what's going on in Pakistan to the level of detail about knowing the names of different networks in Pakistan. Explain just briefly -- Taliban is a loose term for a lot of different networks run by different people inside Pakistan.
And it seems like the criticism at least of the Pakistan, even in this offensive, is that they're making side deals with some members of the Taliban to kind of stay out of the fight while they go after members of the Taliban that they believe are attacking mainly inside Pakistan.
BERGEN: Yes. And I mean, I think that's fairly accurate. The Haqqani network kidnapped, for instance, reporter -- "New York Times" reporter David Rodhe who's just writing -- just written this brilliant series about his kidnapping in "The New York Times."
They are long-time allies of al Qaeda, they are orientated towards a sort of global Jihad, they're attacking into Afghanistan, and they've left -- they're not really attacking into Pakistan so they're being kind of left alone in this offensive. What people that will be going after though is the Pakistani Taliban who've made a major strategic error by attacking the equivalent of the Pakistani Pentagon and killing hundreds of Pakistani civilians and soldiers and, you know, they are going to be under a lot of pressure.
And the big difference, I think, another factor here is the Pakistani population is very in favor of these offensives. They are no longer seen as just sort of acting in the United States -- sort of part of the American war on terror. They're seen as being done for really Pakistani interests. And that, again, is a positive development.
COOPER: We're going to leave it there. Peter Bergen and Michael Ware. Guys, appreciate it. Thanks very much tonight.