Michael Ware


AAM: “al-Qaeda is pushing the buttons”

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Length: 3:46

MILES O'BRIEN: In Iraq, a lot of violence west of Baghdad in Anbar province. That's where the latest U.S. deaths are reported. Two Marines killed in combat.

CNN's Michael Ware is embedded with a Marine unit in Ramadi. He joins us live -- Michael.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what we see here very much is the war on terror being fought out day by day, street to street.

Here in Ramadi, this is the al-Qaeda front line. Al-Qaeda owns the insurgency here, and it's they who are guiding and funding the attacks against U.S. Marines and soldiers day in, day out.

Last night we went out with a combat patrol to search what's generally known as Ramadi's Central Park, akin to what you find in New York. There, however, in the last few weeks there's been the emergence of new graves. They've been digging into the ground and burying what's suspected to be al-Qaeda fighters.

Today we visited the governor's center, from where the governor of al-Anbar province tries to administer some kind of governance across this province, but he's unable to do so. We see the rate of attacks continuing from al-Qaeda. However, they've changed markedly in the past two months.

So what we see here is the war on terror continuing with an al-Qaeda force that U.S. commanders say has been disrupted but has not been disturbed or depleted. And it very much remains as strong as it always has been -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Michael, how are the troops there able to tell the difference between attacks that have the al-Qaeda imprint on them and the local homegrown insurgency?

WARE: Well, there's a number of indicators, but when you talk to the young Marine or the young soldier in the gun pit, he's very frank. He says, "I don't know who that guy is that's shooting at me and, quite frankly, I don't care. I'm just going to kill him. And I'll kill anyone else who steps out to take his place."

But there are ways to tell. I mean, there's certain tactics and methods which are purely al-Qaeda, such as the suicide car bombs and the chest vest suicide bombers. There's also other kind of indicators, but also there's what's known as atmospherence.

What we have learned here in Ramadi, particularly, is that whilst there's a swirling mix of local Iraqi insurgent groups -- they call themselves nationalists -- drawn from Saddam's former military and intelligence apparatus, these groups have been hijacked by al-Qaeda because of its money and because of its ideology. And it's al-Qaeda that guides the fight. So, whoever it is, al-Qaeda is pushing the buttons.

M. O'BRIEN: So the insurgency is, in essence, taking orders from al-Qaeda?

WARE: In Ramadi, absolutely. This is the central node of al-Qaeda. Baghdad for al-Qaeda is one theater of the fight, but this now is their base.

There's areas here just north of the Euphrates River which cuts across the top of the city where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, would stay, would move, would plan. His replacement now does the same thing.

This is a major funnel for al-Qaeda, and it's their headquarters. Yet, this is an area the size of New Hampshire. And U.S. forces are only able to put in a few hundred troops. They can't hope to stop al-Qaeda out here -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Michael Ware, embedded with the United States Marines in Ramadi. Thank you very much. Soledad.