tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg April 24, 2015 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT
announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. charlie: we begin this program with a story from the white house, in which the president announced an american drone strike had killed two hostages. an american and an italian in january. the story from the news with scott kelly. scott: it wasn't until april that the cia realized it had killed two hostages. american aid worker warren weinstein and italian -- all the safeguards president obama taken to assure no
civilians would be killed had failed. president obama: based on the intelligence we had at the time we believed this was an al qaeda compound that no civilians were present, and capturing these terrorists were not possible. scott: those hundreds of hours never detected any sign of the hostages. intelligence did caci a operative. that seems to make it more unlikely that hostages were in the compound since there were no previous cases in which hostages had been held close to al qaeda leaders. it appears they were kept nearby for the senior leader, who turned out to be an american named -- five days later another drone strike killed another american without the cia knowing it.
this time it was someone who played a leading role in al qaeda recruiting videos peter she had -- videos. neither he nor the other were considered senior enough to be on the cia hit list. when asked if the president regretted killing them, josh earnest had a simple answer. josh: no, those individuals were leaders in al qaeda. charlie: michael vickers is here, he served as undersecretary of defense since 2011. he was there with the branches first and only assistant secretary of defense. and now on april 30 he will retire after nearly 40 years of service. i'm pleased to have them here at this table michael: -- at this table. i want to talk first about what the president said this morning
when he announced the tragic and deadly mistake that happened with drones killing two hostages. at the same time another mission -- three were killed in one mission and another killed by ross. two hostages emptied of americans associated with -- two hostages and two americans associated with al qaeda. michael: it is a tragic occurrence. in this particular case it was a legitimate al qaeda target. there was no evidence that hostages or even noncombatants were there.
that's still raises the number of questions whether we did every in we could or should we change our procedures in the future to prevent this? with these operations, mistakes, or collateral damage, are fairly rare. they are very precise operations, detailed intelligence, very careful policy review. there are fewer noncombatant casualties than any other air campaign. charlie: but you can't reduce it to zero and you have to examine what you did. the president said he followed every procedure. what are those procedures? michael: there is detailed review of the intelligence to establish near certainty, which means only those you are targeting. a compound an individual is what you have and nothing else.
charlie: how do you establish that? michael vick from a variety of system intelligence and sources. you have to look at things over time. -- michael: from a variety of system intelligence and sources. you have to look at things over time, from a variety of confirming sources. there are still things you don't know. charlie: is it necessary to have someone on the ground to i did buy specifics about the target? michael: it is not. again, it is a very important instrument in our war against al qaeda and now the islamic state. but the targeting procedures are subject to regular review. in this case i'm sure there will be a red team to go back and examine everything we did in this case and how we might adapt our procedures. charlie: give me some sense of how drones have been affected and how they are different and what debate there might be inside about the use of drones? michael: a have been probably our most important instrument
against al qaeda, especially outside of war zones where there are a lot of military instruments. for two reasons, they combine persistence. they can stay over an area for a long period of time. that allows you to develop a high degree of intelligence or multiple sources, both inheritance in the platform and from other sources. and then they are mated with very precise weapons that we use on other aircraft. but the combination of being able to stare at something for a long time and hit exactly what you want to hit and nothing else makes them a very unique instrument. they have played a very large role in the wars itself, not just al qaeda but supporting our troops. also i rock -- also iraq and afghanistan. they are the intelligence and
precision strike within -- strike weapon our commanders ask for. charlie: you have served two presidents. you came to the attention of president bush when he asked you, even though you are not in government, to come make decisions about the iraqi war. legend has it you told the president you are not in favor of the search. he listened to you and went ahead with the search, he thinks it is a success. at the same time he took notice and want you to come back to government. michael: at some time -- 2006 was a major review of our iraq strategy. things were not going well good
the president and his key advisers were looking for advice from a variety of corridors. what i thought was most important of the time was making sure that we had a policy that could be handed off across the administration. ultimately the iraqis will have to win the fight. the president did make a gutsy decision. operationally it was quite a success by the time the administration changed. they didn't achieve the objective of handing off iraq policy to the administration. charlie: was your advice wrong? michael: i think yes, in a sense. a number of things came together.
what the search did under the leadership of general petraeus was bring security to back that. there were big special operations campaigns that was attacking al qaeda and iraq. our intelligence had gotten better. all those elements came together. charlie: the idea of sunnis in al qaeda. michael: all those things have to work together. additional forces brought some security to baghdad. some modifications were made to get troops out, to really protect the population and put up some barriers. there was a lot of sectarian
conflict and ethnic cleansing going on before that. that turned out to be the right strategy. charlie: making decisions about al qaeda, whether to send in special forces to do that. it is said that you convinced along with others robert gates to support that kind of action. michael: that was a very difficult decision. we did have certainty bin laden was there. secretary gates has a lot of experience in government. he was in the white house for our failed attempt to rescue hostages in iran. that was very much on his mind. our helicopter had a crash landing. i took a breath for a second. when i saw our troops get right out of it and get back to
business i thought part is over and of the question is is he there. i was confident in expressing my views that this is the right way to do the operation and this could cuss -- this could succeed. i was quite confident with the intelligence. who gave that advice as well? he listened very carefully and accept that our advice. charlie: we get on our helicopter and we go somewhere and we either capture or kill people. that's what we do. michael: they had done that many times in afghanistan. the key question was the intelligence right. this is always the case you can probably go wrong. you hope that everything goes
right. meticulous planning for this, a lot of contingencies prepared. charlie: you were a green beret. did you take a nuclear weapon strapped to your back? the strapping a nuclear back definitely weapon to your back not necessary? michael: it was a very different period. we had the clear weapons. besides the ones that everyone knows, bombers or continental missiles could do, artillery shells, a range of other things. some smaller ones could be used by special forces. in the event you need it to do something that requires a little bit more of regular explosives.
so you have to train with them to know how to operate them safely. still have two mammals. part of it is how to get it in. some of us had to learn to parachute with it. charlie: you and others drove by supporting -- help proud of that are you in the long run that you had a national security? michael: i was proud that it was the job of a lifetime. i was a young man in my early
30's. i would come out to the central intelligence agency. it was a remarkable time. there was -- a lot of insurgencies. because of charlie wilson there was a buildup of resources. that caused a review of strategy about was this the right amount and should we continue to see this at some that would impose costs on the soviets? when they occupied an area they did it successfully. that was the general believe that there was no chance of winning. policy turned in early 1985. president reagan announced a security decision. it was to drive the soviets out
of afghanistan by all means possible. we added a more resources and changed the weapons we provided. did a lot of things differently or new. within 12 months the soviets started looking for the exits. charlie: they could shoot telik tashard helicopters out of the sky. michael: there were a bunch of other things too. gorbachev had come to the leadership of the soviet union. he escalated at the same time we did.
and we prevailed. charlie: what is the greatest threat to our national security? michael: is the time frame you are looking at. since i began my career in this business in 1973, i have never seen as many challenges to our national security at the same time that are likely to be entering and difficult problems. a number of test a number of other leaders in national intelligence said the same thing. fundamentally there are three challenges to the world order. this is a period of unprecedented instability from one world to another. in europe you have a resurgent russia conducting aggression in ukraine. it's ultimate aim was to fashion european order.
and gain control more of the areas. charlie: is a judgment they have a plan to do business? and seeing the leader in ukraine as of protests was able to free -- michael: it is exactly that. some of that is opportunity in reacting to yanukovych's ouster. it was a very sudden ouster, which was unexpected from their point of view. it is also part of a broader -- he was clearly on the ropes but he would give up that day. that is always a hard problem in intelligence. that was honestly a surprise. charlie: russia's leader things
america had a hand in it. michael: that's what he thinks that it is not accurate. the second challenge is first and foremost in the middle east by sunni extremists who want to remake the whole place create a it is also sectarian conflict, proxy wars, regional rivalries across a number of state to state systems. it is under a lot of pressure. also being reordered in some way. more ungoverned areas. big parts of syria. in east asia and you have the rise of china. great for the chinese people. great for the global economy.
history teaches us when you have rising powers in an international system you have to manage it care. those three challenges are the strategic problems. other factors bring instability to the middle east and competition. sunni extremism in terms of reorganizing the world. if you look at near and present dangers, it is a terrorist attack on the united states or a cyber attack on the united states. those are clear and present dangers. it depends on your time frame. which one will be more significant? we have all three to deal with. their associated delivery systems and particularly states
that may use them is another factor as well complicated things in those regions, particularly in the middle east but also in the korean peninsula. it is not just limited to nuclear weapons. it is in the long run thanks to evolution and biotechnology. mostly good but also some dark sides to it and something you to pay attention to.
available to a terrorist group through infiltration. they would steal it. then once it is out of the barn can you recover quickly enough? like any terrorist operation it would be the smuggling effort so can you get it where you stole it from. and that depends on their age. charlie: if that happens and someone steals a nuclear weapon from pakistan or north korea how would they get it to the united states? would they come through the ports? what is the -- what is the most
vulnerable place we are? michael: we try to shore of our ability. we can't go into great detail. a challenge would be how do i get it where i acquired it. from the united states to iran. charlie: in terms of putting a ceiling on their centrifuges -- michael: the iranians, for some time, have developed a series of
capabilities so that they could get close to a threshold. they could, in short order, have the requisite components enriched uranium would be further enriched from low enriched to weapons grade delivery systems, the technology to make the weapon and delivery system, etc., in fairly short order. and some of those timelines can be as short as a few months to go from the low enriched uranium to the highly enriched. they have made strides as they build their capacity. they could have done this in a couple of months, go from the low end component. what this agreement does is extend that timeline.
one of our great diplomats retired a year ago. this would not be the perfect deal but it does extend their timeline. i agree with bill's conclusions. as you said, there are also big benefits in having an intrusive inspection regime to ensure they are complying with it. that has always been a benefit of arms control. that will work in our favor to. suffering from the nuclear deal, we certainly hope that is the case. they rejoin the international community. right now they are sponsoring proxy wars and a number of areas, in syria and yemen. supporting the iraqi government, others as well. we will see. i certainly hope that is the case.
there is no evidence that they are backing off from other strategic goals right now. charlie: what is the connection of the nuclear agreement and the reduction of their support? do we hope they will change their behavior and this may be a first step with a constructive relationship in iran? michael: that would be a strategic goal in the long run. they had a 30 year relationship with hezbollah. they are likely to abandon that completely. it really is a two-sided issue. if the state has nuclear weapons, generally it feels more immune from attack and therefore can do other things, support these proxy wars. more of the freedom of action
than they otherwise might have. they have benefits from the system. if they are going to jeopardize or get sanctions back on them. or something else. the reduction of sanctions would also give them more resources that they can deploy. it really depends on their strategic outlook and their behavior and what they have at stake. charlie: if you look at the deal that has been done, you get interpretations by secretary kerry and a different -- and a different interpretation about the deal. is that to be expected because they are speaking to different audiences? michael: you have domestic policy considerations in iran's case. i would also say -- some of this is bargaining. once you get the framework of agreement and a new 90 day clock, what counts is what
happens when you get close to the end of the clock. as we saw at the end of the framework agreement. the negotiators are going to say all kinds of things to strengthen their position early on. i believe the supreme leader of iran is certainly interested in getting sanctions. charlie: is there a way they could negotiate their way in possession of a nuclear weapon? michael: it has been their objective to have the capability to develop one, but they haven't chosen to do that at this point. presumably because of the fear of the consequences. charlie: we had this conversation about this interview that would give enriched uranium up to 75%, but not up to 90. it is three months away to get it up to 90. would you say they have the
capability? michael: you have to have a delivery system, the material, you have to take the material and put it in a good design that will actually work. and you will have confidence that it will work. you have to have confidence it will survive when you put it on a missile. of course you have to develop the missile as well. all of those parks have to work together. what the iranians have been doing over time developed each of these components to varying degrees, to be closer if they ever made a decision to have a deliverable weapon that they can keep the time as short as possible but not actually do it. what you have is a number of incomplete parts, some further along than others, all of them inching forward.
what the nuclear agreement would do is push one of those back further and extend the timeline. charlie: do we believe they have missiles that could deliver nuclear weapons? michael: the challenge is having a weapon that fits in the missile. >> we mentioned ukraine. so what do they want to? michael: they don't want a ukraine that goes to the west, that joins nato. that is fully economically
integrated into the west. also i believe it might provide an example for what russia ought to do, which is have a democratic government, have better integration with the west. a fundamental concern of a lot of leaders like putin and kim jong on is their personal survival. the survival of power and the machine they half. to some extent ukraine presents a strength to that. they have historical interests as well. their goal is to keep it in their orbit. charlie: could we stop putin if he decides to go beyond ukraine? michael: anything beyond his periphery, he enjoys proximity advantages. anytime you have geographical advantages, exactly.
anytime you get into any conflict, whether it is proxy or conventional war, the relative degree of interest also matters. the vietnam war, the vital interest to the north vietnamese. not something we would just sacrifice in definitely -- sacrifice indefinitely. you have to look at it through that lens area -- through that lens. as you mentioned, a democratic and economically prosperous ukraine or any other country in the world is core american values that's what people determine that they want. and they have the right to do that.
at the same time there are historic spheres of influence. michael: if you combined the traditional realist thinking with spheres of influence -- certainly 21st century will argue. liberal democratic values about self-determination of peoples, then you have to reconcile those ideas. that is why those questions about security policy versus its political structure and economic integration may differ. they are largely in the west but they had a foreign policy that essentially did not irritate their neighbor. states that live in neighborhoods like that sometimes have to make those
choices. without sacrificing their core principles. charlie: does the united states consider vladimir putin and entirely rational person in terms of how he feels about mother russia? and intelligence question. michael: i will offer my own views. yes i think he is a calculating strategist. in that sense, quite rational. he also has rather ambitious goals in terms of restoring russian strengths, restoring its influence. re-creating much of space. of the former soviet union as he can. that fact presents a challenge to the eurasian order in a sense
that those countries are independent and free to choose their own destinies. that makes him a revolutionary leader or state, even if it is rational. he does have popular support at home, although that could change. charlie: what would change that, sanctions? michael: the long-term prospects are pretty grim if they are not integrated. they are not dependent on one thing. charlie: what is the threat of isil? michael: isil grew out of al qaeda and iraq. it was an al qaeda franchise. it was knocked down about 90% through the iraq war. it decreased on the end.
multiple leaders have been taken off as well. between the pumping of 2006 -- between the period of 2006 -- there were others through 2010 before the current leader. him it is always hard to drive these groups down to zero. a lot of the leadership and some of the alliances they made were already in syria. and then the civil war opened up a space for them. and then the combination of disenchantment with the sunni population in iraq. charlie: they were disenchanted with the shiite government in iraq.
michael: from the period of the uprising through 2014, when they really did their tax. they were able to attract recruits in syria. syria came into it than ever went into iraq for the u.s. forces and the iraqi government. charlie: it includes isil. michael: the rate of flow was to do three times. of it is from 90 countries all over the world. fighters come from everywhere and they will join whatever group is there. they tend to be more of the
extremist group. charlie: why did isil become so strong? michael they were in an area : where the regime didn't have a lot of control historically and they were able to build up their forces with a lot of these recruits. and then peel off other opposition groups to them and the combination has gotten them quite big. to have increased in size between syria and iraq from where they were. charlie: partly because social media. michael: social media is a way to attract a lot. him and charlie: did they have great help from former saddam hussein
generals and colonels who never made their peace with what happened? michael: they did. the first thing they did when they went back to iraq was into western iraq. that took some time. that took some months to actually, they took some cities we fought very hard for. falluja and others. we had a blitzkrieg in the north. the security forces collapsed in the wake of them. part of that was sunni disenchantment. you ask yourself the question, how do 2000, 3000 fighters take over of -- a large swath of territory? it is because the population is pretty alienated. that is how you get the big force multiplier. they went essentially -- where their line of advance stopped was the sectarian boundaries.
it started shifting from sunni to shiite. then they became less capable. if you look at al qaeda and iraq since with brutal tactics and governments, which isil does in spades, the population is and tired already. it is a question of when they can do something about it. it took years for the uprising to occur. charlie: what will happen to make that as soon as possible? michael: the air campaign we are doing -- there is a fair amount. in the end it is not going to be decided on its own. and then the buildup of ground forces to retake these areas.
but then to make it stick you have to have good governance. otherwise your back where you were. we are working. charlie: the prime minister was just here and he was probably at the pentagon. i talked to him right before he left. michael: every u.s. leader is giving the same message about the importance of inclusiveness and sharing and needing support. charlie: where are ground troops going to come? michael: the iraq he army is the main. you also have the militias that have stood up for the defense of baghdad. mostly she am is -- she emotions -- shia militias.
iran has been supporting those militias and they did not succeed against tikrit. and then the coalition was successful. charlie: they had a offensive that did not succeed. i thought they were part of the effort to drive isil out of tikrit, that militias had helped drive out isil into crete, that it was a success for them and later american airstrikes came in to buttress their effort. michael: more or less. they have supported these militia. they were originally doing it on their own. there is this perception we cooperate with the iranians. as i said we have a pretty capable intelligence community
that a lot of our commanders have at their disposal. so the offensive, the iranian led defensive did not succeed. it could not take tikrit. the prime minister of iraq went to the coalition and said can you help us do this? the coalition did supported and it was successful. of where their members of the militia forces with the iraq he army? yes, but under the control of the government of iraq. supported by -- charlie: they said there is a difference between american advisers and iranian advisors. what are iranian advisors doing in the front lines? there a troops supporting shiite militias. the iranian advisors are on the
front lines advising the shiite militias. michael: they weren't successful. we were. is what i would say. and the prime minister knows that. charlie: we provided the airstrikes it turned the tide of the battle. michael: it enabled the iraqi security forces under the control of the prime minister to achieve that. charlie: also in the last three months -- talking to him. he very much wants to say to america what needs to work together on this. i hope you changed in being with me so we can focus on isil. what do you say to that? michael: it was a policy manner. various regional actors.
he lost his legitimacy to govern by the brutal way he does that. he benefited as his father did from minority rule over a broader population. there needs to be a political transition. it is hard to see how you put syria back together in any form or get after a terrorism problem or bring it to a conclusion to a government that has legitimacy and support of its population. charlie: you can bring it to a conclusion without a government that has support of its population. michael: even if you focused on the multifaceted terrorist problem, isil and al qaeda, and other extremist groups
potentially forming coalitions. of at the end of the day as you had mentioned you need to have ground forces to control the territory. you have to have a ground force in syria. the syrian regime can't do that. charlie: who is winning the war right now? michael: it's a stalemate right now. it is a very destructive war in terms of a humanitarian crisis. even more displaced people internally and neighboring countries. conditions are hard. it is hard to get aid to people.
the regime periodically has gains, the opposition has gains. it is basically a stalemate. charlie: there are -- michael: historians will look on that. i think there had been benefits in getting the chemical weapons out. i also think it is part of a much broader context. had there been a limited strike over the conventional weapons, syria would not be fundamentally different. the strategic choices about whether we had -- whether our coalition partners cared greatly about, whether we had an opposition that was capable of bringing a transition.
syria is the more fundamental question. i still think it is possible. there are a lot of terrorists there that we have to deal with. to get to a stable successful outcome, you are going to have a strong moderate opposition that becomes a transitional government that you can work with. if you look at the afghan program in the 80's, it took us seven years -- six to seven years before we turned the tide. that is the fundamental question, can we build that opposition? charlie: how ironic is it that some of the people you know and supported in afghanistan, some
from the alcon a group, turned out to be bitter enemies of the united states? michael: it is an irony and one of the interesting things having participated in that period to come back in a different role. charlie: and then you drive the russians out together. and out of that, osama bin laden. michael: one of -- a series of things had to happen afghanistan after the russians had left.
to bring about al qaeda, using it as a big sanctuary. taliban had to invite him in. i think is former secretary gates has said, one of the big mistakes we made after the cold war was not staying engaged in that region. charlie: that was the last message of charlie wilson, wasn't it? michael: it is indeed. charlie: -- where are you on intelligence we have learned from guantanamo leading to bin laden in combination with other intelligence? michael: i think through some of the analysis made clear by the cia, we did get intelligence
from those programs that helped us understand al qaeda, that led to a number of disruptions including a role in the path to osama bin laden. him him it helped us identify -- him really focus in on certain aspects of the courier that would lead us to him. what are you could have gotten that through some other means, whether the strategic downsides of that program outweighed the intelligence benefits, it is for others to judge. him him i think there was very valuable intelligence that came out of it. charlie: thank you for coming. thank you for joining us. see you next time. ♪
emily: welcome to "bloomberg west". i am emily chang. here's a check of your top headlines. advisors for charter to medications have reached out to begin friendly talks on an acquisition. charter goal is to buy time warner cable quickly. the news comes hours after comcast dropped its bid to buy tom -- time warner cable due to growing government opposition. the takeover offers keep coming in the generic drug business. per a go