Peter Bergen | BIO
CNN National Security Analyst
Editor's note: Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst, is a fellow at the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank that promotes innovative thought from across the ideological spectrum, and at New York University's Center on Law and Security. He's the author of "The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader."
Washington (CNN) - On May 1, 2003, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, President George W. Bush announced "major combat operations" in Iraq had ended. The defeat of Saddam Hussein, he told the American people, was "a crucial advance in the campaign against terror."
For the umpteenth time, Bush bracketed Saddam and the 9/11 attack. "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September 11th, 2001, and still goes on."
The president went to describe the 9/11 attacks - "the last phone calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble" - as if this had any bearing on the Iraq War.
The president also made the definitive statement that Saddam was "an ally of al Qaeda," something that his own intelligence agencies had determined was not the case before the war.
Now seven long years later, another president will again announce that the U.S. combat mission is over in Iraq, which is a good moment to ask: Was the Iraq War somehow post facto worth the blood and treasure consumed?
Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann
Special to CNN
Last week the U.N.'s senior official for extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, argued in a critical report and remarks delivered in Geneva, Switzerland, that the United States should explain the legal rationale for the CIA's campaign of drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, which he characterized as "a vaguely defined license to kill" that has created "a major accountability vacuum."
Alston is also urging the Obama administration to disclose the number of civilians killed in the drone strikes. That is a controversial matter among the Pakistani public, less than a tenth of whom support the strikes, because of their perceived high civilian death rate.
The drones' latest important victim is Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, an Egyptian founding member of al-Qaeda who served as the group's number three and was in charge of overseeing the group's plots, recruitment, fund-raising and internal security.
Anderson Cooper | BIO
Peter Bergen and Karen Greenberg
Special to CNN
Obama administration officials, apparently bowing to political pressure, said over the weekend they are considering moving the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused operational commander of the 9/11 attacks, out of New York City.
The objections to holding it in New York seem reasonable: The financial cost to the city and the fear that the trial might inspire a lone bomber or even an organized al Qaeda attack.
Certainly, holding Mohammed's trial over many months and even years in the congested streets of Lower Manhattan will damage the local economy. But the fix for this could be straightforward: Move the trial to one of the many other courthouses in the five boroughs, or to Governor's Island, which is within sight of the crater where the World Trade Center once stood.
As to fears of bringing on another attack, putting Mohammed on trial in New York doesn't make the city any bigger a target than it already is, because - guess what - New York already is the No. 1 target for jihadist militants. It has been so for almost two decades, since the first Trade Center attack in 1993, which was followed by the averted plots to blow up the Holland Tunnel and other Manhattan landmarks and the 9/11 attacks themselves. Since then, there has been a plot to blow up the Herald Square subway station and alleged attempts to bomb fuel tanks at JFK airport and synagogues in the Bronx.
The unconvincing objections about the costs of holding the trial and the heightened terror threat that comes with it are also trumped by the larger public good from putting Mohammed on trial in New York City.
On August 28, the Saudi Arabian deputy minister of interior, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, survived a bombing attack launched by an al Qaeda cell based in Yemen, Saudi Arabia's southern neighbor.
Abdullah Hassan al Asiri, the would-be assassin, a Saudi who had fled to Yemen, posed as a militant willing to surrender personally to Prince Nayef.
Because he leads Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda, the prince is a key target for the terrorist group.
Al Asiri concealed the bomb, made of PETN, in his underwear, according to the official Saudi investigation.
PETN is a plastic explosive that is not picked up by metal detectors - through which the would-be assassin had to pass before he was allowed to meet with the prince.
Saudi officials believe that the prince's assailant exploded the 100-gram device using a detonator with a chemical fuse, which would also not be detected by a metal detector.
Three senior administration officials outlined on Tuesday some of the concepts and processes that went into President Obama’s new plan for Afghanistan.
Between September 13 and November 23 the president chaired 10 meetings of his national security team to deliberate over the new strategy.
The president agreed with the ground commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal’s assessment from the summer that the key goal of the strategy was to reverse the momentum of the Taliban in the next 12 months. He selected from the menu of troop deployment options the one that got American boots on the ground in the most rapid manner.
There are six objectives those forces will try to accomplish.
CNN National Security Analyst
We are losing in Afghanistan, on two fronts. The most important center of gravity of the conflict - as the Taliban well recognizes - is the American public. And now, most Americans are opposed to the war.
For years, Afghanistan was "the forgotten war," and when Americans started paying attention again - roughly around the time of President Obama's inauguration - what they saw was not a pretty sight: a corrupt Afghan government, a world-class drug trade, a resurgent Taliban and steadily rising U.S. casualties.
Many surely thought: Didn't we win this war eight years ago?
Americans, of course, hate seeing the deaths of fellow citizens in combat, but even more they hate to see those deaths in the service of a war they believe they are either not winning or maybe even losing, which is one of the reasons why they largely turned against the Iraq war in 2006.
Program Note: Tune in tonight for more from Peter Bergen . AC360° at 11 p.m. ET.
The Al Qaeda videotape shows a small white dog tied up inside a glass cage. A milky gas slowly filters in. An Arab man with an Egyptian accent says: "Start counting the time." Nervous, the dog starts barking and then moaning. After flailing about for some minutes, it succumbs to the poisonous gas and stops moving.
This experiment almost certainly occurred at the Derunta training camp near the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, conducted by an Egyptian with the nom de jihad of "Abu Khabab." In the late 1990s, under the direction of Al Qaeda's number two, Ayman Al Zawahiri, Abu Khabab set up the terrorist group's WMD research program, which was given the innocuous codename "Yogurt." Abu Khabab taught hundreds of militants how to deploy poisonous chemicals, such as ricin and cyanide gas. The Egyptian WMD expert also explored the possible uses of radioactive materials, writing in a 2001 memo to his superiors, "As you instructed us you will find attached a summary of the discharges from a traditional nuclear reactor, among which are radioactive elements that could be used for military operations." In the memo, Abu Khabab asked if it were possible to get more information about the matter "from our Pakistani friends who have great experience in this sphere." This was likely a reference to the retired Pakistani senior nuclear scientists who were meeting then with Osama bin Laden.
In the pandemonium following the fall of the Taliban in the winter of 2001, Abu Khabab disappeared into the badlands on the Afghan-Pakistani border. The United States put a $5 million bounty on his head and, in January 2006, attempted to kill him and Zawahiri while they were believed to be in the Pakistani hamlet of Damadola, targeting them with a missile launched by a drone aircraft.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with AC361°