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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Killed in Airstrike; Rumsfeld Holds Press Briefing

Aired June 8, 2006 - 08:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We have been listening to Major General Bill Caldwell briefing us out of Baghdad. Let's run through it very quickly for you.
Two Air Force F-16s acting on some intelligence information that had been developed over the past couple of weeks identified a location where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and now, it appears, five associates were meeting at this location right there where you see the first of two 500-pound precision-guided bombs that were dropped on that location by a pair of Air Force F-16s. The military saying they were 100 percent certain that Zarqawi was inside this safe house at the time.

Shortly after the dust cleared there, Iraqi police forces arrived on the scene and then members of the 4th Infantry Division. An initial identification was made amid the rubble, visual indication. A subsequent check of tattoos, scars, and the like, and fingerprints led them to the inescapable conclusion that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was, in fact, killed in that attack.

And perhaps most significant out of this news conference, in the midst of gathering all the intelligence, what's led them to this attack, as you look at the picture that they captured of his dead body there in the rubble, in the midst of gathering the intelligence which led to this stunning raid, they simultaneously, just in a matter of almost complete synchronicity with the attack you just saw, conducted 17 separate raids in and around the Baghdad area, places that had been known to be frequented by Al Qaeda in Iraq, developing what the general described as a treasure trove of information about Al Qaeda in Iraq, which really in many respects could have more lasting implications than just the loss of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

It sounds like what happened here was not only was it a decapitation, but it was also a very crippling blow to the mid and lower-level aspects of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and a significant blow to that component of the insurgency that the U.S. military is contending with there.

There you see some of the pictures we've seen from the immediate scene. There was an indication -- no indication from the general that there was collateral damage to other buildings. However, we do know one woman and one child was inside the building, that so-called safe house where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was.

And we will -- as we get further information, we'll bring it to you -- Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right.

We are waiting to hear from the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. He is in Brussels for a meeting of the NATO defense ministers. We are expecting a news conference from him. And, of course, the topic will be the death of the al Qaeda leader in Iraq. And as soon as that actually happens, we're going to bring some of his remarks to you -- and here he is walking out.

This is the secretary of defense. Let's listen to what he has to say.

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Good afternoon.

We have completed most of our meetings. We have an additional session later this afternoon with the minister of defense of Ukraine, which I look forward to. Earlier today, we had the minister of defense of Afghanistan who was with us -- Minister Wardak -- and had an important discussion about the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and NATO's growing role.

I am confident that NATO will be able to perform in its responsibilities in Afghanistan successfully. We had discussions about the NATO response force and the importance of achieving full operational capability this year, and discussion on a number of other matters.

This morning I also informed our colleagues that last evening U.S. forces in Iraq, in a town called Baquba, killed Abu Musab Zarqawi, the leading terrorist in Iraq and one of the three senior al Qaeda leaders worldwide.

In addition, we've had a significant accomplishment in Iraq with the selection by the prime minister and the broad agreement of a new defense minister and a new interior minister and also a national security official. Those posts have taken a long time. December 15th was the election.

The reason they've taken a long time is because, to the great credit of the prime minister, Mr. Maliki, he made a decision that those posts would not be part of the spoils system of the electoral process. But instead that they would be individuals who are highly competent, who would govern from the center, who would manage those critically important departments in a way that left no doubt in the minds of the Iraqi people that they were being run in a fair and non- sectarian manner.

It took him a long time to work that out with all of the various factions in that country, but it's a momentous step to have achieved that. And we look forward to working with those ministers.

A word about Zarqawi.

I think arguably over the last several years no single person on this planet has had the blood of more innocent men, women and children on his hands than Zarqawi. He personified the dark, sadistic and medieval vision of the future of beheadings and suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings; a behavior pattern that has been rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people, whether Sunnis, Shias or Kurds, and certainly by the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide.

I think it's appropriate that the man who tried to stop the elections a year ago January, who tried to stop the drafting and failed, who tried to stop the drafting of the constitution and a referendum on the constitution last October and failed, who tried to stop the elections December 15th and failed, and tried to stop the formation of the new Iraqi government and failed on the very day that the elected officials of that country were able to finalize their ministries.

With the announced nominations of the new minister of interior and defense and the chief of the national security the government will be complete. And we certainly do look forward to working with them.

I should add that, given the nature of the terrorist networks -- really a network of networks -- the death of Zarqawi, while enormously important, will not mean the end of all violence in that country. And one ought not to take it as such.

But let there be no doubt: The fact that he is dead is a significant victory in the battle against terrorism in that country and, I would say, worldwide, because he had interests well outside of Iraq. He was an integral part of the global war on terror.

And I think it's important to congratulate, certainly, the new prime minister but also General Casey and his troops for the wonderful job they're doing there.

I'd be happy to respond to some questions.

QUESTION: When did you first learn the news about Zarqawi?

And how many forces do you think would be needed to effectively control the Afghan complicated territory?

I don't recall the time. It was last evening I received a call from General Casey shortly after -- they had been tracking Zarqawi. And they came to a conclusion that they could not really go in on the ground without running the risk of having him escape, so they used air power and attacked the dwelling that he was in, having a meeting.

RUMSFELD: They got in there shortly thereafter and had a positive identification, as much as you can do with simply looking at a person and checking for known markings. They then took fingerprints and sent them back to -- and had them checked against Zarqawi's fingerprints and confirmed it later that night.

The number of forces in Afghanistan, I don't know. I think we've currently got about 20,000 in there. The Afghans are working their way up to many tens of thousands. And as they gain experience and get better equipment, obviously, they'll take over more of the responsibilities. And then the NATO forces are there, plus -- you know, there's 42 countries participating in the coalition in Afghanistan. It's impressive. The 26 NATO nations and then, today, we had meetings not just with the NATO nations on Afghanistan, but with I think 14 or 16 other countries that were here who are in one way or another assisting in that coalition effort in Afghanistan, all of whom have troops or people on the ground of one nature or another; some of them are participating in provincial reconstruction teams and they may have some civilians participating.

But the number will vary depending on the situation and the season. For example, this is now the season when the Taliban get more active as the weather improves; and then it'll die down again.

But I'll leave it to the commanders in the field to figure out what they think they need. We move troops in and out depending on the situation.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, did you discuss with the new Italian minister the withdrawal of the Italian troops from Iraq? And would that affect the overall effort of the coalition?

RUMSFELD: The effect what? The overall what?

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)

RUMSFELD: I'm sorry, I can't understand.

QUESTION: Effort.

RUMSFELD: Effort. Effort.

I did discuss it with the minister. And, no, it won't.

(LAUGHTER)

You know, we've got a job to do there, and we're going get it done. And countries will adjust their numbers of forces depending on their circumstance. Each country has to do what they think is appropriate, when they think it's appropriate.

And we're going to -- as I think I said, the Iraqi security forces are something like 263,000 or 267,000, and there will be adjustments in coalition numbers, just as there will be adjustments in U.S. numbers. And we'll proceed and get the job done.

QUESTION: Mr. Rumsfeld, can you just explain to us when you announced the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi during the meeting, how is it that the minister did receive this information?

RUMSFELD: Positively.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: When General Casey called you last evening apropos the raid on Zarqawi, was he notifying you that he was proceeding with air power, or was he asking your approval to use air power because of concern for potential collateral damage?

QUESTION: And on Afghanistan, is it a great...

RUMSFELD: Let me answer them one at a time.

QUESTION: OK.

RUMSFELD: The answer is no. He announced that they had made a decision, that that was appropriate. That's exactly correct. And he was simply informing me that they, at that stage, were putting people in on the ground and would have information, but that it would take some hours to validate it with fingerprints and the like.

QUESTION: And can I ask, on Afghanistan, is it agreed now when you might move into phase four of the ISAF plan?

RUMSFELD: No. No. I don't think we discussed that.

Well, it did come up. General Jones talked about it. But in terms of timing, phase four ought to -- in my view and, I think, everyone's view -- ought to depend on: Have you fully resourced stage three and are you in place and how's it going?

But we've worked out most of the details in connection with four -- in terms of command and control and rules of engagement and that type of thing -- but it's more a matter of finishing three and getting that right and then resourcing four and proceeding.

But there was no timetable set. And I think it's more fact-based rather than calendar-based.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the death of Zarqawi is a symbolic victory. To what extent do you expect it to affect what used to be called the Zarqawi network? And...

RUMSFELD: It doesn't help the network.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: But do you expect it to...

RUMSFELD: It hurts it.

QUESTION: Do you expect another leader to take his place...

RUMSFELD: It makes life more difficult. QUESTION: ... in other words, and to continue the same sorts of things Zarqawi was doing?

RUMSFELD: Of course. There will always be someone who'll pop up. But this fellow was the mastermind behind that network and he was involved in the financing of it, he was involved in activities outside of Iraq. And he had a number of people with him who were also killed, which is a good thing. And I suspect that it will slow them down.

There are going to be people who are determined to kill innocent, men, women and children. And others will come along. But in terms of someone who has gotten up that high and been that effective in killing -- literally thousands of Iraqis were killed by this man. He was, I believe, filmed cutting off someone's head.

Baquba, where he was found, was the area where the -- whatever it was -- 10 or 17 beheaded heads were found in garbage bags. That area was right where that occurred.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)

RUMSFELD: It always worries me when someone is that determined.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Secretary, can you comment on the situation of international Sea Breeze exercises in the Crimea, Ukraine? What do you expect to do, go and postpone, cancel or what?

RUMSFELD: I can't comment on it. I haven't been involved in the details of it.

QUESTION: I would like to ask you about Kosovo, how you judge the situation in Kosovo in light of the fact that KFOR will renew one base in the north part of Kosovo and UNMIK (ph) and 500 policemen more in this part of Kosovo. Does it mean that you have expectation that the security situation could be worse or better?

RUMSFELD: No. It does not mean that.

Kosovo came up in the discussions. It's moving to an important point with respect to its status.

RUMSFELD: General Jones has fashioned an organizational arrangement, a command relationship which we believe is vastly superior to what had existed previously and will improve the capabilities of NATO forces and all the forces in that country.

I think the questions now -- and we all agree that the principle of first -- in together, out together would persist and that we would see this through.

I think the questions that came up in the meetings today were the kinds of things that -- what ought a Kosovo force look like and what ought NATO's role be in assisting Kosovo in fashioning some sort of a follow-on capability?

But my personal view is that because of the way General Jones has refashioned the command, that they'll be able to do more with fewer troops at some point and are much better arranged today for any difficulties.

Thank you, folks.

S. O'BRIEN: That's the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, as he makes a briefing. He's been meeting with the NATO defense ministers. And we heard him actually cover a lot of -- a lot of topics and a number of questions. But primarily talking about the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. And he was toned down, but clearly said it was a very big positive.

You know, even though he was joining not only the president, but also the prime minister of Great Britain, and also other experts we've heard today, measured in his tone about the actual impact. That was the secretary of defense joining us. You know, we were covering that live as he came in live to us from Brussels, in Belgium, where he's been meeting with the NATO defense ministries.

Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for us this morning.

Barbara, let's talk a little bit about some analysis. You hear Secretary Rumsfeld, and you say, he's painting a very sunny picture. His very last words talked about how they could actually do less -- do more with less.

Every time we've heard that, it's not necessarily -- it has not really come true. They're winning on the insurgency, the insurgency is getting stronger, things like that.

What do you make of the picture that we've heard painted or seen painted from the secretary of defense?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think throughout the last several hours, Soledad, it's very interesting. We're not hear anything words like "turning point," "tipping point," any of the words that you might hear.

The Pentagon, the Bush administration, the U.S. military, of course, sort of psychologically exhausted, I think, if you will, by the insurgency over the last three years. There have been so many predictions. A lot of caution now.

I mean, Secretary Rumsfeld offering one fascinating detail, actually, as he spoke, saying that last night the decision was made to go in with air power rather than even ground forces because, still, they were afraid one last time that Zarqawi would escape. The briefer that we -- as we now see this airstrike, this video, one F-16 going in, and then an immediate decision to strike again with a second F-16 500-pound precision bomb, making sure that everybody that was in that safe house was dead. There was no question they felt they were absolutely sure he was there and that they were going to get him.

This video coming from the briefing just before the secretary. Major General Bill Caldwell, the military spokesman in Baghdad, showing the video, also showing us a picture of a dead Zarqawi.

A lot of clues there, very interesting. General Caldwell, very matter of factly, saying they had cleaned up the body. There was a lot of blood and debris on his face, that it would not be suitable. There are much more graphic pictures out there not suitable for the public to see.

You can see that, in fact, his beard is trimmed. We don't believe the U.S. did that. So he was in -- not Saddam Hussein living in a spider hole. Obviously in some circumstances where he could look after himself. But they cleaned up the body before they showed this face to the world.

General Caldwell reconfirming what we have been reporting, what had been emerging over the last several hours. Very interesting, Soledad.

The end game for all of this began about six weeks ago. They had intelligence that the spiritual adviser, Sheikh Rahman (ph), was somebody that would be meeting with Zarqawi. They started tracking the Sheikh's movements, they started trying to determine when he would hook up with Zarqawi. And they had what they believe was unshakeable information last night that they would both be in this safe house.

Let's listen for a minute to what General Caldwell had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CALDWELL: We had absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Zarqawi was in the house. There was 100 percent confirmation.

QUESTION: Were you going for Zarqawi? We've heard that you may have been going for some other people, and then there was some luck involved. Or did you know, we're going for Zarqawi, he's going to be there, and then if you could classify what you found.

Thank you.

CALDWELL: We knew exactly who was there. We knew it was Zarqawi. And that was the deliberate target that we went to get.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: Even as he is saying this, General Caldwell, coming back, Soledad, to your original point saying that they are already working to identify who Zarqawi's successor may be, that they believe Zarqawi had designated a successor prior to his death, that he was making steps to ensure his movement stayed on. General Caldwell mentioning an Egyptian Arab named Masari (ph), someone who is in Iraq who works on IEDs, who works on terrorism, someone they will now go after.

One last critical detail, Soledad. Within hours of this strike, U.S. forces and Iraqi forces moved against 17 simultaneous targets in Iraq, places that they believe they will get additional information about the terrorist network in that country -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. It sounds actually like some of the information. I mean, the general called it a treasure trove of information gathered. You see the damage to the actual -- I mean, you know, you can see it in the very wide shot where you see the bombs falling.

Probably a lot destroyed there. But in these 17 other raids, it sounds like they actually had good access to the kind of information that leads to networking, maybe even leading back to Osama bin Laden, one would certainly hope and certainly imagine.

You know, at the same -- while we've been talking about this not breaking the back in any way of the insurgency, the president has admitted that, the British prime minister has admitted that. What do you think it does to foreign fighters in Iraq?

STARR: I don't think anybody at this point thinks it's going break the back of the insurgency. I don't think anybody subscribes just yet to the notion it's the last throws of the insurgency.

What the U.S. military -- the top commanders who are very involved in this, say, look, an insurgency goes on a very long time. Almost five years after the U.S. operation in Afghanistan they are now calling the Taliban an insurgency.

These movements come back. They are based on ideology. And there's a pretty fundamental feeling in the top levels of the U.S. military, at least, that no insurgency either in Afghanistan or Iraq is going to be defeated by bombs and military power.

STARR: ... either in Afghanistan or Iraq is going to be defeated by bombs and military power. It will be defeated by long, gradual progress. And a lot of it is going to have to be economic progress.

Because what you see in Iraq, of course, are militia movements, ideological movements, which are inspired by something other than Zarqawi. In fact, most insiders will tell you much of the violence in recent months has not necessarily been related to Zarqawi. A lot of it, of course, is the sectarian violence that we have talked so much about.

Look, this is a real step forward in trying to get a handle on the violence, but no one is predicting it's going to be the end of it, especially Secretary Rumsfeld who just spoke at NATO headquarters.

O'BRIEN: Barbara, let me ask you one quick, final question. Originally there was a $10 million bounty on the head of al-Zarqawi. That was bumped up to $25 million. Who gets the money?

STARR: At this point, Soledad, everything we are hearing is that since there was no single tip, if you will, maybe nobody is getting the money. It might just stay in the U.S. treasury.

A list was all developed, we are told, over the last six weeks from a number of intelligence sources, from information, interrogations, a number of tips. It does not appear at this point that there is one single tip that led them to this. We will see how that unfolds. But at this point in the process, nobody is discussing the $25 million reward. Apparently all of this evolving over the last many weeks.

S. O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us.

Barbara, thanks.

STARR: Sure.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: We've been talking an awful a lot about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, his killing in Iraq.

Let's get a check on what else is going on in the world. Carol Costello looking at that for us.

Good morning, -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am, indeed.

Good morning, Miles. Good morning to all of you.

The USS Cole is heading back out to sea. The Cole leaving Virginia on a six-month mission to the Middle East. It's been nearly six years since the destroyer became the target of a terror bombing. Seventeen of its sailors were killed.

A new warning about pregnancy and some popular blood pressure drugs containing ACE inhibitors. If taken during the first trimester, the drugs triple the risk of a baby born with a serious heart or brain problem. The drugs also pose possible kidney problems later in the pregnancy. The FDA says it's considering a black box warning.

And "The Hammer" gives a final knock. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay giving a farewell address to the House of Representatives. He urged lawmakers to stand on principle and ignore the media. DeLay leaves after 21 years to face trial in Texas on campaign money laundering charges. His last day is tomorrow.

That's a look -- that's a quick look at the headlines this morning.

Back to you, -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much, Carol.

It's been a very measured tone from the White House in the wake of the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The president in the Rose Garden not too long ago reminding people that it is still a long, tough battle ahead and counseling Americans to have patience.

Just oppose this against some harsh numbers, which the White House is full aware of, 62 percent of Americans disapprove of the way the administration is handling the war. It will be interesting to see how events as we have seen them unfold this morning might affect those numbers in the long run.

Our White House correspondent Ed Henry has been watching this. He watched the president's remarks in the Rose Garden. He joins us now -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles.

That's right, you note those poll numbers.

When I was in the Rose Garden, just before the president came out of the Oval Office, I could see through a window that he was at his desk smiling. He had top aides all around him standing up. Some of them, like Dan Bartlett, were laughing and they seemed to be in a jovial mood.

Much different tone than we've seen from this White House in recent weeks. If you've noted, they've been pretty much in a free fall in the polls, specifically on the issue of Iraq. Still, they do not want to get ahead of themselves, get too jubilant.

And as you noted, the president, when he came out to the Rose Garden, certainly declared that the death of al-Zarqawi could offer a chance for Iraq to turn the tide, but he was also trying to balance that out with some caution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last night their persistence and determination were rewarded. On behalf of all Americans, I congratulate our troops on this remarkable achievement. Zarqawi is dead, but the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues. We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry on without him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now the president also said the tough days ahead will require more patience from the American people regarding the mission in Iraq. Of course, that patience could run thin now that it's an election year, but maybe this buys the president a little breathing room -- Miles.

S. O'BRIEN: So what you're saying here is, Ed, they kept the jubilance inside the Oval Office today and that was a very calculated decision?

HENRY: Certainly. Clearly the White House doesn't want to get out there. They don't want to have the president you know beaming at the podium and celebrating too much. I mean you remember Paul Bremer, when they captured Saddam Hussein, coming out and saying "we got him," and there were cheers in Baghdad there with the assembled people. You know certainly there is happiness here at the White House, but they do not want to get ahead of themselves -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: President -- a couple of things have struck me as well. First of all, went way out of his way to talk about the professionalism of the U.S. military in the wake of all the discussion over the past weeks about alleged atrocities in Haditha and other locations. Really going out of his way, almost underscoring the point verbally as he did it.

HENRY: You're absolutely right, Miles. When I was in the Rose Garden, I was thinking the very same thing that the fact that just last night when Jamie McIntyre broke yet another story about some of the gruesome images that he was able to see from Haditha. That investigation is not going away despite this good news. That's still out there as an issue. A cloud that the White House, at some point, is going to be dealing with as those two separate investigations about what happened at Haditha and whether or not there was a cover-up by the military, by the Pentagon brass, that's still out there. It doesn't go away.

But you're absolutely right, the president clearly trying to draw some bright lines from some of those allegations to the brave men and women who got al-Zarqawi -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Ed, one other thing, as the president spoke there and talking about the insurgency, he -- this recognition that there is a long, difficult road ahead is inescapable at this point with the numbers and the reality that this is one operation. Do you get the sense you know that the administration is politically prepared for the near term? In other words, are they going to continue this tone along the way?

HENRY: Well I think that depends on facts on the ground and events on the ground. The president has said over and over that facts on the ground will determine, based on what the commanders on the ground tell him, whether or not U.S. troops are deployed.

And I think also the tone, the approach from this White House is also going to be affected by whether or not they're able to capture and kill more terrorists or whether -- you know who knows what's around the bend in the road? We've seen so many milestones before, Miles, where millions of voters have gone to the polls in Iraq, where they've ratified a Constitution, the new government. And many times, just within days or weeks, there has been yet another bad development that has erased some of that progress. So I think this White House is very mindful of the fact that they certainly cannot get ahead of themselves -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, and it does occur to me that even if this hadn't happened, we still would have seen the president today, probably in the Rose Garden, talking about the fact that the Iraqi government now has an interior minister and a defense minister, a national security minister, a significant development.

HENRY: Absolutely. I mean you remember the president in recent weeks has really been touting the formation of this new government as a turning point. He used turning the tide. And again in the Rose Garden today, turning points been out there before.

But the formation of a new government was such a big deal as well in the estimation of the president, but that was hampered a bit, if you will, in recent days by the fact that these two key posts had not been filled. Now they've been filled.

We have to see, though, whether or not this government turns out to be shaky in Iraq or whether it actually gets off the ground. I think it was another cautionary note to this White House in the last couple of weeks that while the president was out there optimistically touting the formation of the new government over the course of the last month, they still did not fully form it until they got these two posts up and running. But they realize as well they don't know what's around the bend and they have to be very mindful of that -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Ed Henry at the White House -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the al Qaeda leader in Baghdad. So what impact could his death have in the insurgency there, or at least part of the insurgency there?

Let's get right to CNN security analyst Richard Falkenrath. He's in Washington this morning. Also a former advisor to President Bush.

Nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us. Everyone continues to say, and has said throughout the morning, it's not going to end the insurgency. This clearly is not going to end the insurgency. So what will it do?

RICHARD FALKENRATH, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: I think that's right, it won't end the insurgency. I think, though, it will help a lot with Iraq's problem with foreign fighters. And you have basically three different conflicts going on in Iraq at the same time.

You have an insurgency that's indigenous. It's Iraqis fighting against the coalition. You have a sectarian conflict that's very complex and multifaceted where Iraqis are killing Iraqis. And then on top of that you had a large number of foreign fighters that had gone into Iraq after the elimination of their sanctuary in Afghanistan and were adding flame to the fire, fuel to the fire, and attacking both Iraqi targets and coalition targets.

Zarqawi was their leader, the leader of these foreign fighters. And it is possible that the takedown of him and his -- parts of his network will deal a very serious blow to the foreign fighters in Iraq, though probably not the domestic insurgency or the sectarian war.

S. O'BRIEN: What about this new successor that we heard about in one of these briefings, an Egyptian, apparently al-Masari, who, it is believed in Iraq, has experience with IEDs, et cetera? I mean isn't this, as some have described it, you chop off the head and a new head grows back?

FALKENRATH: We'll see. And I think Secretary Rumsfeld got this basically right that you know new figures will come up, but will they be as charismatic as Zarqawi, as effective operationally, as bold and courageous in their own warped framework as Zarqawi has been? I don't know. We have to see if this person steps up.

And he is at great risk right now. I mean this is the time when the network is at most risk of being rolled up completely. They have a lot of intelligence from the site where he was killed and from the 17 other sites which they raided simultaneously. And so I imagine there is a very large and well-coordinated counterterrorism operation under way in Iraq that will try to get everyone associated with Zarqawi. S. O'BRIEN: And...

FALKENRATH: The name of the tactic they use here, Soledad, is they try to flip them. They try to turn each other, the people they capture, against one another, trick them that they've already been ratted out by their fellow travelers, the other terrorists, and get them to reveal more information that can lead to further captures and attacks.

S. O'BRIEN: It sounds so well coordinated. And this is when you consider that they've missed al-Zarqawi a number of times and had him in custody at one point and he you know sort of just walked right out the door. To see that they had a successful operation and then 17 -- of the 17 other simultaneous raids, which, as they describe it, a treasure-trove of information. What do you think has changed? I mean what -- just luck changed or is it something else that turned?

FALKENRATH: Well, the U.S. military has been working at this very hard for at least two-and-a-half years. This is their number one priority in Iraq. And the operation last night shows a huge amount of skill and attention. The fact that they could both identify him and 17 other targets and deal with them all simultaneously is really very, very impressive. It shows the kind of results that can come from a sustained commitment of resources and attention to very particular problems. So this is clearly a success.

It also shows a lot of confidence. I mean they were monitoring parts of this network for a long time. And during that time there undoubtedly were other attacks staged by that network. And so the commanders on the field were -- had the sort of steely reserve to hold back from a precipitous action against the network until they could get it all and the leaders.

S. O'BRIEN: What do you think is the significance that it looks as if one of his underlings, an Iraqi maybe, had -- was the person who provided the information or one of the -- I mean it seems as if it's actually a large swathe of intelligence over a big amount of time, but still that his own people turning on him?

FALKENRATH: Yes, and this is how the network usually fall apart. It's the basic tact that was used against the Mafia with the RECO statutes. They try to get them from within.

And the significance of the source possibly being an Iraqi is that it may be indicative of the Iraqis turning against the foreign fighters who came to their country to carry out this terrible war that they've got going on. And that's the most optimistic interpretation. And I suspect the coalition will work to get that idea out there so that the Iraqis stop whatever interaction they have with these foreign fighters and start dealing more constructively with their own problems.

S. O'BRIEN: Richard Falkenrath for us this morning, nice to see you. Thanks for all your insight.

FALKENRATH: Thank you, -- Soledad. S. O'BRIEN: Let's get back to Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: We'll be back with more of our continuing coverage of the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and its implications. We'll be back in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: It's 45 minutes past the hour. Let's check the forecast. Reynolds Wolf is in for Chad Myers this morning.

Hey, -- Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Soledad.

(WEATHER REPORT)

Miles, let's send it back over to you.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much, -- Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.

M. O'BRIEN: CNN "LIVE TODAY" coming up next. Fredricka Whitfield in this morning for Daryn Kagan.

Fredricka, what's going on?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Miles. We'll be looking further into the killing of al-Zarqawi. We'll have live coverage of a White House briefing in the next hour and we'll look at these angles. How did the operation go down? Who gave up Iraq's most wanted man? And most important, what does the killing mean to the insurgency? A lot to cover beginning at the top of the hour on "LIVE TODAY" -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Fred, see you then.

Back with more in a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: More analysis this morning with Thomas Friedman. He's a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for "The New York Times." He's written extensively about the war in Iraq and also extensively Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the insurgency. He's also the author of a terrific book called "The World Is Flat."

Tom Friedman, nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us again.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Good to be with you.

S. O'BRIEN: Assess for me in the big picture, how big is the blow? It's, we know, we've been told by everybody, it's not going take out the insurgency.

FRIEDMAN: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: So what does it do?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think it's hugely important for several reasons, Soledad. One is when you look at these terrorists that we've confronted, some of them are good, some of them are better, some of them are world class, world class, evil geniuses. Bin Laden, Zawahiri, Zarqawi, these guys are the all-stars of the world terrorist team. And so, yes, he will be replaced. No doubt someone will come up. But these guys, when you take out one of them, you don't replace them.

S. O'BRIEN: Because there's a PR element to them?

FRIEDMAN: Right, there's a PR and there's a quality of them. Remember this guy has eluded the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, NSA, CIA, British intelligence for three years.

S. O'BRIEN: An impressive resume...

FRIEDMAN: Exactly.

S. O'BRIEN: ... to speak of.

FRIEDMAN: And he's carried out terrible acts. And the fact that they finally got him. He won't be easily replaced. He was good and that's why -- and he was so bad, and that combination, that's a big deal.

S. O'BRIEN: So sort of this moral sense of victory, even if...

FRIEDMAN: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: ... you're not necessarily killing the insurgency.

FRIEDMAN: And he's not easy to replace. Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: In a few months, do you think we'll look back and say that was a turning point? Or do you think in a few months we'll continue to talk about car bombings...

FRIEDMAN: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: ... and IEDs and U.S. soldiers being killed and markets being blown up?

FRIEDMAN: Well here's the good news that the only way they could have done this was because some Sunni Muslims turned him in. It looks like even someone from within his network, the way they rolled up the whole network. That's a huge deal. Because the only way Iraq reaches that turning point you're talking about where this really builds momentum for something much wider and longer is if the Sunnis join the political process. And so that's really what we're going to have to watch here. But it's a good sign the fact that the Sunnis turned him in. S. O'BRIEN: We heard from the president. We heard a military briefing out of Baghdad. We heard from the secretary of defense. Much more measured words this time around.

FRIEDMAN: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: I mean I think that they have learned from past mistakes...

FRIEDMAN: We've had so many false dawns, yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Right. And when you roll the videotape months later...

FRIEDMAN: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: ... where you're saying it's over,...

FRIEDMAN: It's over.

S. O'BRIEN: ... we're done, we win, we got him, whatever,...

FRIEDMAN: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: ... it reads badly. They've learned from that. What do you make, though, of the content of what they're saying today?

FRIEDMAN: Well you know I think it -- again, this is an important event, because it was Sunnis who turned him in and because there's a momentum to all of these things. And what we've been fighting against in Iraq is a downward spiral in momentum. And as things get more insecure and worse, people rely more on their sectarian militia.

But if people wake up one morning and say, jeez, the Iraqi Army, maybe they can start to protect us, maybe the Americans can protect us, maybe this new government can, then it becomes a virtuous cycle the other way. It's still way too early to say that, but that's what I'll be watching for.

And you're right, Soledad, it's only going to be in the year from now. We will look back at this as either one day like the day they caught Saddam, or we'll look back on and say that was the turning point. But you know who's going to decide that, Iraqis, because at the end of day Iraq is only going to work if Iraqis can make a fist.

S. O'BRIEN: Joe Biden would say, and has said...

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: ... on our air not a few minutes ago, repeating what he's written about...

FRIEDMAN: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: ... and said before, break it up. It's three separate entities.

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: And this unity government, which clearly struggled to...

FRIEDMAN: Right...

S. O'BRIEN: ... finally name the two key...

FRIEDMAN: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: ... ministerial positions today, they really need to be three separate, you know, divisions.

FRIEDMAN: I think it's way too early to make that decision. And how do we do that? It's way too complicated. The country is all mixed up still you know ethnically and religiously. I think Iraq is going to be what Iraqis make of it. And the idea that we can kind of step back and carve it up right now, I just think that's way premature.

S. O'BRIEN: What do you think happens with this? I mean what I thought was significant was the 17 simultaneous raids that followed.

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: I mean it was like there was good news and there's more good news.

FRIEDMAN: Right. Exactly. And that will build momentum. But what that again shows you, this was a total inside job and that they penetrated this movement in a very deep way. And that can build real momentum down the road, because, again, when people -- if people think bin Laden and Zarqawi are winners, well they'll support them. But the minute they smell these guys are losers, they'll run away from them.

S. O'BRIEN: And maybe even more importantly, start turning them in.

FRIEDMAN: Exactly.

S. O'BRIEN: Or turn in their lower minions.

FRIEDMAN: And...

S. O'BRIEN: Do you think the path could lead to bin Laden? I mean not necessarily these 17...

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: ... sort of sites that they have raided, but do you think that -- I mean, obviously, bin Laden and...

FRIEDMAN: There was some communication.

S. O'BRIEN: ... al-Zarqawi are communicating.

FRIEDMAN: Too early to say that, but the most important thing is that Sunnis now smell that I don't want to be with these guys. But we still have several other problems in Iraq. We have sectarian militias.

S. O'BRIEN: Only several.

FRIEDMAN: Exactly. We have Shiites going against Sunnis and Sunnis going against Shiites, neighborhood to neighborhood, house to house. We have criminal, you know, elements now on the loose. And we have the old Baathists. I think if I read my AOL this morning right, that right after this there was a bombing in which 19 people in Baghdad were killed.

S. O'BRIEN: Right.

FRIEDMAN: I mean that still tells you...

S. O'BRIEN: Two, actually.

FRIEDMAN: Really.

S. O'BRIEN: Two bombings in the same neighborhood 30 minutes apart.

FRIEDMAN: Interesting.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, we've been showing videotape of that.

FRIEDMAN: That tells you how much is still there that needs to be addressed. That can only be addressed if Iraqis can come together as a society and make a fist.

S. O'BRIEN: At the end of day, was al-Zarqawi brought down because he had this ego, he put up pictures of himself on videotape?

FRIEDMAN: No (ph).

S. O'BRIEN: You know he more recognizable?

FRIEDMAN: Sure (ph).

S. O'BRIEN: Made more dangerous for him? Or was he brought down because he moved his focus from attacking U.S. forces in Iraq, which many people...

FRIEDMAN: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: ... would sort of support him for,...

FRIEDMAN: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: ... to attacking indiscriminately Iraqi civilians,...

FRIEDMAN: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: ... Sunnis and Shiites, kind of everybody, he was just a big thug?

FRIEDMAN: Sure. All of the above. You know the one good thing about extremists, the only good thing about extremists, they don't know when to stop. And sooner or later, they go over the edge, and that's what he did. And he went over the edge in terms of who he was attacking and he went over the edge in making himself a film star. Who knows, maybe that was the twig that led to the branch that led to the tree that led to the buzz saw coming down to tear it down. So that's -- he did himself in.

S. O'BRIEN: Extremists never know when to stop.

FRIEDMAN: Exactly.

S. O'BRIEN: Hence, the name extremist.

FRIEDMAN: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: Tom Friedman, always nice to see you. Thank you.

FRIEDMAN: Good to be with you, Soledad. Thanks so much.

S. O'BRIEN: And again, your terrific book is called...

FRIEDMAN: My...

S. O'BRIEN: ... "The World Is Flat."

FRIEDMAN: Appreciate it.

S. O'BRIEN: It's fantastic.

FRIEDMAN: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: We've got to take a short break. We're back in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: That's all the time we have for this special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

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