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Dan Senor, Ari Fleischer on Iraq

Hannity & Colmes

COLMES: And there was also big news about the war in Iraq today. The interim progress report about the troop surge was released, showing eight security benchmarks that have been met, eight political benchmarks have not been met, two others too close to call. President Bush said today that, despite war fatigue here at home, the war in Iraq can still be won and that he will veto any legislation that will set a timetable for withdrawal before he sees the final report on the surge due in mid- September.

But breaking late this evening, the House of Representatives has ignored the president's veto threat and passed legislation calling for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Iraq by April of 2008. Joining us for more on both of these big developments today, former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman in Iraq, Dan Senor, and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Good to see you both.

Dan, let me go to you. How vulnerable, given this report that we just led with, are we right now?

DAN SENOR, FORMER COALITION SPOKESMAN: Well, I think we're always vulnerable, Alan. I think what's important, what the report highlights, is that these terrorist cells and organizations really can't function without some sort of safe haven, without some sort of land-based capacity from which to train, organize resources, organize funding, and plan attacks. So the situation on the Afghan-Pakistan border, while we don't have all the details from this report. These are just items that are leaked out, it certainly is disconcerting. And it's something that people have been talking about it for a long time.

It also reminds you that in other places in the region, particularly in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, there are other efforts by terrorist organizations to create safe havens to launch attacks against our interests around the world. And it's important that we stay -- this phrase is often overused -- stay on offense, but there is something to it, that a precipitous withdrawal in any of these situations can create conditions where terror cells can have safe havens and engage in attacks.

COLMES: I wonder if you were alluding to Iraq there. But, Ari Fleischer, this specific report is about the Pakistan border with Afghanistan, not about Iraq. And, in fact, it specifically says this is not an increase of threat in Iraq. It's an increase of a threat in a different part of the world. Isn't that a part of the world that we actually refocused away from as we moved our resources to Iraq a number of years ago?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY: Alan, I don't think that this report is saying that the cause of this is what's going on in Iraq. It doesn't address that, from what I've seen. But I don't think it should surprise anybody that Al Qaeda is still trying to hit us. And that's why it is important for us to have a very robust military presence in Afghanistan and everywhere else where Al Qaeda is. You know, they just hit in Algeria this week.

COLMES: But doesn't this show that, if we kept our focus in Afghanistan, kept our robust presence there, had not taken resources away from Afghanistan in the first place, had been more forceful at Tora Bora, for example, some of this might not be happening right now. Why is it worse now than it was before September 11th?

FLEISCHER: This report doesn't say anything about that, from what I've seen. And I would remind you that, right after September 11th, we were all told there will be a second-wave attack. That didn't materialize. We were all told that, if we go in and counter attack in Afghanistan, it will invite another attack in this country. The one thing we do know is we have been very successful in thwarting everybody who has been trying to hit us since September 11th. And you've got to give credit...


COLMES: Dan, the president said today that there was a perception that Al Qaeda may be as strong today as before September 11th. Then he says that's not the case. And yet from today's report, better positioned to strike the West. They say Al Qaeda is considerably more operationally stronger than a year ago, regrouped, greater strength and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States. I mean, that's at variance to what the president said in his news conference today.

SENOR: Look, Alan, the important metric we need to be focused on right now is our capacity to intervene, to intercept, to gather information in advance of attacks, and prevent them. And the reality is, everything from the terrorist surveillance plan, which is generating important intelligence, from the kind of stuff that our U.S. Treasury Department has been organizing in keeping a handle and keeping plugged into the finances that are moving around the world to fund terrorist organizations, there's a degree of sophistication that is going on at the Treasury Department, in terms of their program in tracking these finances, which is enormously impressive.

So what you are describing, as I said, is very disconcerting. But what we should be grateful for is this administration has been pretty forward-leaning in keeping on top of these attacks as they're being planned and hopefully intercepting them.

HANNITY: Good to see you, Dan. And let me go to Ari first here.

SENOR: Good to see you, Sean.

HANNITY: You know, the rap on the president is he's been stubborn, resistant to change. Yet when the insurgency level got higher than anybody liked, the president put a surge reinforcement policy in place. He reported interim report today to the nation with terrific news on the security front. Areas that they thought were unmanageable, Anbar province, Ramadi, some other places, are now under control. Enemies are now aligning with U.S. forces. And this is halfway before, you know, General Petraeus will report to the nation.

FLEISCHER: You know, similar raps were made against Ronald Reagan, that Ronald Reagan was too conservative, too stalwart in his views about the Soviet Union and his hatred for communism. Ronald Reagan turned out to be right, stood on principle, and the world is freer and a better place for it. I think the same thing is going to happen in Iraq 10 to 15 years from now, as a result of what George Bush has started. The question is: Will the Democrats and the critics allow everybody to walk away now when we really do have a chance to militarily securing Iraq for the future, so the Iraqis can get their country under their own control?

HANNITY: Through the prism of history, I have no doubt in my mind -- and maybe we're beginning to see the benefits, the results come in, having adapted a new strategy here -- that the president will be vindicated in all of this. But it's interesting, you pointed out the success came in the security areas first.

FLEISCHER: That's right.

HANNITY: And the natural ebb and flow of that, you would think that will affect the ability of the political side of this or the goals there to be achieved.

FLEISCHER: You know, Sean, I wouldn't be surprised at all if the report that General Petraeus comes out with in September says that we've been successful in many of these military areas. If we can continue without withdrawing, without any precipitous changes, I think he's going to say that, this spring, we will be able to make some changes in our force posture in Iraq and turn more things over to the Iraqis. Let's not mess it up now in the middle of summer when the surge is now showing signs of military success.

HANNITY: You know, I was glad, Dan, that the president addressed the issue. There is war fatigue in this country. As he pointed out a number of times, everybody wants the troops home. But on the other hand, politically speaking, you know, he has a lot of good news today, but you have one party that has already declared the war is lost, that the surge has failed. They're so invested in defeat, it seems, that, if the president's successful, that hurts them politically. What a position to be in!

SENOR: Well, I would say this, Sean: First of all, this is a Congress, a Senate that sent David Petraeus to do this job...

HANNITY: Trust the generals, Harry Reid says.

SENOR: ... to implement his strategy.

HANNITY: Trust the generals.

SENOR: Right, this counterinsurgency strategy, all right? He was quite clear on the strategy he was going to pursue. They sent him to Iraq to do this. The full effect of the surge will not be felt a few weeks after it's been fully implemented. This operation we're engaged in now, the full effect of the surge, the full operations were just implemented in the middle of June. You've got to give this sort of thing some time. I know it's tough to hear, but it's the reality of what we're dealing with on the ground.

COLMES: All right, Dan. And, Ari, by the way, it's not just Democrats. It's, you know, more and more, eight to ten Republican senators have come out against...


FLEISCHER: Well, that's why I said Democrats and critics.

COLMES: All right, critics being the Republicans.

FLEISCHER: That's right.

COLMES: All right, thank you both very much.

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