Broadcast Interviews With Gen. Petraeus




 
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Broadcast Interviews With Gen. Petraeus
 
March 20th, 2008  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Broadcast Interviews With Gen. Petraeus


Broadcast Interviews With Gen. Petraeus
CNN; NPR
March 19, 2008
Issue #1 (CNN), 12:00 PM
KYRA PHILLIPS: We are here at the Cross Swords. You'll probably know this area here in the international zone. It's one that Saddam Hussein built in honor, as he said, of the Iran-Iraq war. Obviously a lot of controversy about that, whether Iran takes credit for it, Saddam Hussein took credit for it, or if indeed it was a stalemate.
But we are here in the international zone at the site of that monument and have been joined now by General David Petraeus.
We are five years into this war now. It was a bit of a surprise that he was able to join me.
So thank you very much for the last minute, sir.
Obviously, as our viewers know -- and we welcome our domestic and international viewers -- you are the man in charge here, five years into this war. You are overseeing the military strategy.
Let's get right down to the president's speech today. I know you don't want to talk a lot about the anniversary. That is not something that you wish to discuss, but want to talk about the future obviously of this war.
The president in no way, shape or form talking about a timeline. That is a big political discussion, it's a big discussion among Iraqi people, even U.S. troops. Can you even, five years into this war, say it is good for U.S. troops to stay or go at this moment?
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, I think let's just focus on where we are right now and recognize that we're in a good, but better, place in terms of security, and even in terms of political progress by the Iraqis than they were, say, a year ago. Iraq was on the brink of a civil war. The additional coalition forces, and then also the Iraqi surge that was some three or four times our surge, and then joined by the concerned local citizens, now sons of Iraq, all of that has helped drive down the level of violence by well over 60 percent, reduce the level of civilian deaths, and all the rest of that, although we are always quick to note that the progress is tenuous and that it is reversible, and that there are innumerable challenges out there.
We're in the midst right now, as you know, of drawing down the surge forces. In fact, we will take out by the end of July -- we'll reduce by over one-quarter our ground combat power -- five of 20 brigade combat teams, two Marine battalions, and a Marine expeditionary unit.
We've recommended that, we believe that we can carry that out without unduly jeopardizing the gains that we and our Iraqi partners have fought so hard to achieve. And then we'll carry on from there. We're keenly aware of the strain that this has put on the force, the sacrifices of the families back home, on our troopers, and we want to continue obviously to draw down our forces in the months after that, but we do want to do it in a way that again does not place in jeopardy all that we've fought so hard for, particularly over the course of this past year.
PHILLIPS: All right. You've brought up a couple of things. One thing I want to bring up, the CLCs, the concerned local citizens.
You have talked about this for a number of years now. Al Anbar province, you rave about that area and the success that you've had there. The president even mentioned it in his speech today.
But we want to hear about more regions that are becoming an Al Anbar province, and we haven't heard that yet. These sons of Iraq, they used to work for the insurgency, they used to work for al Qaeda. They have now turned around and said, OK, General Petraeus, OK, U.S. troops, we're going to join you, we're going to help protect our area. And you've talked about that that's key, that local tribesmen have to work with you in order for security to work in this country.
Why are we not seeing it in more areas five years into this war?
PETRAEUS: Oh, we actually are. In fact, the entire southern belt, the so-called throat of Baghdad, all the communities that are just south of here, in fact, they -- tens of thousands of sons of Iraq there in Baghdad neighborhoods right around us, in fact, in some of the areas in which al Qaeda held sway until, in some cases, six, eight months ago, across the river, Adhamiya here, Amiriya, Gazalia (ph), to the southeast of here, Dora, and so forth. So there are numerous other areas. And then when you go up into Diyala, you actually have Shia, as well as Sunni sons of Iraq. You work your way up the Tigris River Valley to Nanua (ph) province, and again, you see also up there very important places.
The city of Hawija, is to the southwest of Kirkuk, was a true al Qaeda stronghold for quite a long time. And the people there had the same awakening, if you will, that the citizens of Anbar province had.
They realized that this extremist ideology is not something they could subscribe to, they realize they made a mistake by not volunteering in the past to serve in the Iraqi security forces. And they made a colossal error in not voting in the elections in 2005.
They realize you can't win if you don't play, you can't get your share of the incredible bounty of this country, the oil revenues, the -- all the rest, if you do not participate. And they now are intent on participating.
PHILLIPS: Since Monday, 130 deaths. That's just in the past couple of days. A hundred and thirty people have died, almost 200 injured.
You talk about deaths being down, attacks on U.S. troops being down. Even the president mentioned that in his speech. But still, the streets are so dangerous.
Iraqis tell me every day, yes, I'm trying to go to work, I'm trying to go to the grocery score, I'm trying to get to school, but I'm afraid of the explosions, I'm afraid that I'm going to be killed when I'm leaving my house and going to my destination.
PETRAEUS: Well, interestingly, the week through last Friday actually saw a reduction in the overall level of attacks throughout Iraq. But clearly there have been also in recent weeks some of these headline-grabbing attacks, sensational attacks, if you will, and a tragic one in particular, the suicide vest attack in Karbala.
Again, al Qaeda is intent on re-igniting sectarian violence. They have tried to do this all along. We're not sure exactly why.
It may be that they're trying to relieve the pressure on Mosul, where there is quite an intense effort to deal with one of the remaining areas in which al Qaeda still does have quite -- quite a grip in certain neighborhoods of that city of 1.7 million people. Some people, even Prime Minister Maliki, even thinks that maybe the testimony in April that's coming up, that again they're trying to show that they can still carry out attacks.
They have paid a price for that in Baghdad in the last two weeks. There have been significant kills or captures of the remaining car bomb and suicide vest networks.
PHILLIPS: But the fact that al Qaeda's still active -- and I had a chance talk to the Iraqi foreign minister today. And you and I have talked a lot about this as well -- Iran. Iran is a tremendous problem in this country. Yet, leaders here say, look, Iran's our neighbor, we have to try to negotiate, we have to try and talk to them.
The Iranian president came here. I know you told me you weren't invited. This is not someone you would want to shake hands with and look in the eyes. The Bush administration has referred to Iran as the "axis of evil," but it stands firm that Iran is funneling weapons and supporting al Qaeda and supporting the insurgency.
Was it a slap in the face to Americans, the fact that the Iranian president came here to Iraqi soil when you and other U.S. troops are trying to rebuild this country and trying to end terrorism in this country?
PETRAEUS: No. Again, I think it's very natural that Iraq should try to deal with its neighbors. It also then hosted the following week in Iraqi Kurdistan, in fact, the Arab Parliamentary Conference. In fact, the Iraqi speaker of the council of representatives was elected to be the head of that organization.
They want their Arab neighbors involved. They have to deal with their Persian neighbors to the east. Iran is always going to be to the east of this country. They have a bloody past.
But also, many of the leaders have associations there. They spent years there during exile from Saddam and so forth.
But the foreign minister actually captured I think the sentiment brilliantly when he said during that visit, we welcome the religious pilgrims, we welcome Iranian money, we welcome Iranian goods and services, but we don't welcome Iranian bombs nor those trained in Iraq. They are a very serious concern.
The so-called special groups in particular, the supported elements that have -- without question, this is not supposition. It is not intelligence. It is a fact that they have been trained, equipped, funded, and are even directed by the Iranian Qods Force.
We have detained a number of them. And, in fact, in recent weeks we have picked up a number of weapons caches that included the explosively-formed projectiles, rockets and mortars that clearly have come from Iran. In fact, today we did communicate with some of our Iraqi partners and asked them to contact their counterparts and share that information with them, that in fact the promise by President Ahmadinejad and the other senior leaders of Iran have obviously not been kept by certain elements of the Iranian structure.
PHILLIPS: Iran obviously a big sticking point within the White House as well. We know the head of CENTCOM, Central Command, he was your boss, Admiral William Fallon, resigned. A lot had to do with this "Esquire" magazine talking about him butting heads with the president.
How is your relationship with Admiral Fallon, and is this going to impact relations with Iran?
PETRAEUS: Well, I don't know what the effect with Iran would be, actually. He certainly didn't have a relationship with Iran. Actually, over the last six months or so our relationship was really very, very good.
PHILLIPS: You and the admiral.
PETRAEUS: In fact, I had just made the latest recommendations to the Joint Chiefs, and as one of the participants in there told me later, he said he could not have been more supportive. And that has characterized the relationship.
There was friction in the beginning. He has a different job than I have. There can be understandable differences of your take, if you will, on a situation. As they say in politics and government 101, where you stand on an issue sometimes depends on where you sit in the organization. And we sit in different chairs.
So, some of that is, again, understandable. But I think if you ask him, he would agree that over the last six months in particular, the relationship has been very good, and that he was -- again, could not have been more supportive in the last set of recommendations that we've already made, that we will continue to make, in fact, tomorrow with the secretary of defense, and then the following week with the president.
PHILLIPS: He has said, Admiral Fallon, that it's perception of capability. Iran needs to know that if indeed the U.S. were to go to war with Iran, that the U.S. would win. But Admiral Fallon said it's about negotiating, we have to figure out what they want and we have to figure out how to find a peaceful solution here.
Would you support a war in Iran?
PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, that's not a question that I would deal with at all. And I'm worried about Iraq. That's what our focus is on. We certainly are...
PHILLIPS: But clearly the influence of Iran is huge here.
PETRAEUS: We are concerned very much about the lethal accelerants, as they are called, that do come from Iran. And we appropriately raised that to those who have a broader perspective, then who have a regional and a global look. And the same way we do about what comes through Syria.
As you know, the flow of foreign fighters and of suicide bombers that help al Qaeda typically is through Syria. We've worked very hard with interagency partners, other combatant commands out there -- CENTCOM and other combatant commands -- to work with source countries to try to make it much tougher for a military-age male to take a one- way plane ride to Damascus, Syria, and so forth.
So, again, you have to have a very comprehensive approach to all of these issues. And again, you certainly need the help of -- obviously of the regional combatant commander, of other combatant commanders, and of the entire government. In fact, they call it the whole of government has to be engaged in this if you're to whittle the problem down and to take away all of the different needs of an organization like al Qaeda, Ansar al-Sunna, or the other extremist elements in Iraq.
PHILLIPS: General, you and I have talked a lot about the corruption in this country. A number of people here from leaders in the educational community, to the political community, to even civilians, say, well, it's a part of our culture, this is something that we have to deal with. But in a democracy, corruption is something that is going to really hinder that process. This is what the Iraqis are saying to me, we're fighting this cultural struggle with corruption.
You and I have talked about Bakshish. You even taught me that word.
PETRAEUS: Well, and Bakshish was invented here, I think, that word. And certainly -- and it's not just a concern in a democracy, it's a concern in any system.
It's obviously an enormous drag on the economy. It fosters a culture really of illegality, if you will. And so corruption is a serious concern, and Iraq has very much had its -- had issues in that arena.
Prime Minister Maliki recently hosted a conference on corruption. A variety of different organizations here have taken -- pursued efforts to take that on, but it remains a very serious concern.
And the amount of wealth that is generated by this country makes it, in many respects, very prone to that. It is still a very much a maturing government, it is still a work in progress. It is largely led by individuals who have not led at the strategic level, if you will, in large organizations before. And so it is a very big concern for Iraqi leaders, and it should be.
PHILLIPS: Well, it's your troopers that are having to train Iraqis, in particular the Iraqi police force. And the Iraqi foreign minister was saying to me, "That is my biggest struggle, is dealing with corruption in the police force."
Let's just take that as an example. What are you doing? How are you working with your troopers with regard to the training...
PETRAEUS: Sure.
PHILLIPS: ... to get police officers in this country that are legitimate, that believe in the true cause of securing this country? Because until that happens, that puts you in a quagmire with regard to your presence.
PETRAEUS: It does. It's about building a culture, and it's the same in our organization as well.
If you want to build a culture of -- that embraces the right ethical values, if you will, you want -- it doesn't mean the national police. That actually is a very good example of what is required.
A year or so ago, a lot of people -- and I was close to it -- had written off the national police. They had become sectarian actors. They were not only corrupt, they were also carrying out sectarian activities, particularly Shia activities.
Over time, Iraqis, they put in a very good national commander, they put in -- they replaced both division commanders. They replaced all of the brigade commanders, and they replaced 70 percent of the battalion commanders. One of the brigades twice.
Put them all through specialized training. And now they're going through even more training with the Italian Caribinari having come out through the NATO training mission in Iraq to help further.
But it is that kind of effort -- and in some cases this will take generational change. It also though is a heck of a lot easier when they are not fearing for their lives quite the same way they did, say, 12, 15 months ago, when there were 55 dead bodies a night turning up on the streets of Baghdad just from sectarian violence, when your number one concern is literally to survive that day.
I don't want to make light at all of the innumerable security challenges that are still out there and face Iraqis in their everyday life, because they are substantial. Having said that, they are much, much reduced from the periods, say, in December, 2006, the height of the sectarian violence, when Iraq was literally on the verge of a civil war and during which the fabric of this society was torn.
PHILLIPS: Oil revenues, $5 billion a month. That's what the oil revenue is in this country.
You look at the conditions and you think, where is that money going? Smuggling, a huge issue. These mafias with these armored boats and guns -- even the Iraqi coast guard has said to me, commanders within the coast guard, saying, we can't take on these militias, they're too powerful for us. So they're stealing this oil, they're making money off this oil. And that is killing this country from an economic standpoint.
PETRAEUS: Actually, I take issue with that.
PHILLIPS: OK. Tell me.
PETRAEUS: Iraq is exporting some two million barrels a day. So there certainly is -- I'm sure there is leakage, there is corruption, there are a variety of other ills that beset Iraq's oil industry, but it's producing about 2.5 million barrels a day and it's exporting about 2 million a day. Of that, the rest goes to domestic -- domestic production.
PHILLIPS: But considering all the oil here, that could be even better.
PETRAEUS: Well, it should be even better if they improve their extraction methods, if they -- again, as the level of violence has been reduced, can bring the large corporations in that can take on the big oil field projects, can again figure out how to get so much more literally out of the ground than is being gotten out of the ground right now. But they are at or near record production and export levels right now. And coupled with the price of oil, obviously that has helped them enormously. They are some $3 billion ahead of their oil revenue goals through their oil revenue goals through the first two months of this year already.
PHILLIPS: The president of the United States said in a speech today the U.S. is going to win this war. Is it the U.S. that needs to win this war, or is it the Iraqis that need to win here?
PETRAEUS: Well, we often talk about people say, gee, how are you doing at winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqis? And we'll say, certainly, we'd love to win hearts and minds. But the truth is what we really want to do is help the Iraqis win hearts and minds of their own citizenry, help them achieve legitimacy in the eyes of the (INAUDIBLE) -- or the people of Iraq. That's what it is about obviously.
We can help, we can enable, we can assist, but at the end of the day, increasingly, obviously, it is Iraqis who must carry it forward. So it will be a team effort, very much, but increasingly the bigger part of that team will be Iraqi and the smaller part will be the coalition and the U.S.
PHILLIPS: Ambassador Crocker has made it clear that come January, he's no longer in that post. What about you as the general? You have taken a lot of heart and soul into this war.
Is your time up when the next president steps in to position in the U.S.?
PETRAEUS: Well, I think there's the common phrase that you're familiar with, that folks at this level serve at the pleasure of the president, of the chain of command above them. And that's certainly true in my case.
PHILLIPS: So that means your time will be up?
PETRAEUS: Well, I don't know what it means.
PHILLIPS: Do you want to -- do you want to see this out?
PETRAEUS: I have served here three and a half years already. By the time I go back to Congress in April we'll have served that long. At some point in time, probably a fresh set of eyes, new energy, and all the rest of that would be a good idea. So when that is, again, that's a conversation to have with...
PHILLIPS: Sir, you never lose energy. I know that for sure.
Final question, if you don't mind.
PETRAEUS: Yes.
PHILLIPS: A bit of a personal question.
PETRAEUS: Sure.
PHILLIPS: You -- this has been a very different type of mission for you when you look at your entire career. Culturally, personally, emotionally, how has this affected you? I guess from a personal and professional standpoint. I mean, this is a war like no other.
PETRAEUS: Well, it is. And I think, you know, that oftentimes people will observe that they are much older than the five years that perhaps -- you know, we all feel much older than we did in 2003. And not just five years older, but vastly older. It seems like light years ago, frankly.
It has been a very tough endeavor. There are certain aspects of this that you obviously never get over.
You do not get hardened to casualties. You take every one of them deeply personally. The tragedy -- again, you -- it never becomes easier, and everything here has been hard.
You've heard Ambassador Crocker, and you've heard me answer that we're not optimists, nor are we pessimists, we are realists at this point. And reality in Iraq is that everything is hard and it's hard all the time.
PHILLIPS: You've also told me you're not in the end zone doing a victory dance yet either.
PETRAEUS: We're not. And we pushed the champagne bottles to the back of the refrigerator. And we're not proclaiming to see lights at the end of the tunnel or to have turned any corners. We'll let other people make those observations when it is completely obvious to everyone that that may have taken place.
PHILLIPS: General David Petraeus, head of all forces here, appreciate your time very much so.
PETRAEUS: Thanks. Good to be with you.
***
Day to Day (NPR), 4:00 PM
ALEX CHADWICK, HOST: Back to our conversation with Iraq forces commander Army General David Petraeus. Yesterday on this program he spoke about the surge. Violence is down. He expects to be able to reduce troop levels this summer. But victory seems far off. Today our conversation continues on a more personal level.
General, have you seen the cover story for Newsweek this week? It's about the fifth year anniversary of the beginning of the war, but it's also about you and about the transformation of the military. And it talks about what it calls the Petraeus generation of officers. Have you seen that?
Gen. PETRAEUS: I have. Someone did send that to me.
CHADWICK: That's got to be pretty flattering, a Petraeus generation.
PETRAEUS: Well, you know, I don't know how to take that. There are numerous individuals in addition to me who have helped, if you will, shape the counterinsurgency doctrine, the operations manuals, and all the rest of this. It has been a true team effort.
In fact, it is in that unit - the captain who is on the cover - his unit had one of the best quotes that I've seen. In fact, it's so good that I've actually adopted it in some new counterinsurgency guidance that we're refining. And it talks about in the absence of orders or direction, figure out what they should've been and execute them aggressively. And that is what these great young captains and company grade officers and non-commissioned officers are doing.
This is a very complex endeavor. A lot of people call it the graduate level of warfare. And what they are doing in understanding the human terrain, not just the military terrain, understanding the culture, the people, is truly remarkable.
CHADWICK: I'll just note that I believe the officer you're referring to is Captain Tim Wright of the U.S. Army at West Point.
PETRAEUS: It is.
CHADWICK: General, we talked about the troop reductions, Americans coming back home. What are your own plans? How long do you plan on staying as commander of the military forces in Iraq?
PETRAEUS: Well, I don't know, honestly, Alex, to tell you the truth. And if you can find out please let my wife know. I don't have an end date, I guess. Sometimes I feel like I'm still on parole here. So I honestly do not know, and we'll just have to see. You know, you serve at the pleasure of the president in a command.
CHADWICK: There's going to be a new president in January. If a Democrat is elected president, would you be happy staying on, because the Democrats are talking about getting out of Iraq?
PETRAEUS: Well, look, I think a huge principle of civil/military relations in our country is that there is civil control of the military and that the military's job is to accomplish the mission given to it and to provide the best military advice with respect to that mission.
Look, I haven't voted in elections in some time actually. And it's because I feel that senior officers in particular should try to be apolitical. Obviously you're carrying out - and the higher you go the more you seem to be carrying out the policy of a particular administration.
CHADWICK: So you...
PETRAEUS: But...
CHADWICK: ...so you don't vote yourself?
PETRAEUS: I have not since I was a major general.
CHADWICK: Huh. Have you had any contact either with Democrat candidates or with their senior military advisors just to give them a sense of what you think is going on? Are they seeking your input that way?
PETRAEUS: They are. And again, I truly believe that we should try to apolitical. As I said, it's inevitable that I'm just carrying out the policy of the administration that is in office at that time.
But you know, we get congressional delegations from - obviously from both sides of the aisle. We have had relationships with think-tanks that are advising candidates. And we've had them over. And so we have actually tried to be open to a bipartisan spectrum.
CHADWICK: Well, I just wonder, because clearly the Democrats are saying we are going to get out of Iraq and we'll do it as speedily as we can. And I'm not sure that their schedule and your schedule for withdrawal are - well, do you have any sense of that?
PETRAEUS: Look, you have to ask what the conditions are at a particular time. And it's tough enough to try to anticipate and to project what we think the situation will be at the end of July, what we'll have withdrawn, as I said, over one-quarter of our combat power, much less what the conditions might be in January 2009.
CHADWICK: David Petraeus, commanding American general in Iraq. General, thank you so much for being with us on DAY TO DAY.
PETRAEUS: Great to be with you. Thank you.
 


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