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Iraq: The Way Forward—A View from the Pentagon [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service, Inc.]

Speakers: Eric Edelman, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and Raymond Odierno, Assistant to the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Presider: Sherry Goodman, General Counsel, The CNA Corporation
December 1, 2005
Council on Foreign Relations Washington, DC

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Council on Foreign Relations
Washington, DC

SHERRY GOODMAN: Okay, I'm pleased to welcome you. I'm Sherry Goodman, and I'm pleased to welcome you all the council this evening.

We do have two distinguished speakers, and we're going to start with the first one, and we anticipate that General Odierno will be here as soon as he gets through the gridlock that many of you faced getting in here tonight, myself included.

Okay, let me remind you, first, of the council's rules. Please turnoff your cell phones. And tonight's meeting is on the record. Okay. We will endeavor to end promptly at 7:30, and we might give it a few extra minutes for General Odierno. And we ask a courtesy of our speakers that you not leave the meeting early.

It's my pleasure to introduce to you now Ambassador Edelman, who is the undersecretary of Defense for policy, a position he assumed in August of 2005. He's had an extremely distinguished career. He's been our ambassador in Turkey and in Finland. He served as principal deputy assistant to the vice president for national security affairs, and he's had a very long and distinguished career in the Foreign Service.

And since I know you're all eagerly waiting to hear from him, without further ado, Ambassador Edelman. (Applause.)

ERIC EDELMAN: Sherry, thank you. Sherry, thank you for that introduction. I'm not sure about how distinguished my career has been. I've survived, anyway. It's great to be here at the council and see so many friends and former colleagues. I hope there are no former friends out there. (Scattered laughter.)

I'm honored to be here tonight and to share the spotlight, or hot seat, whichever you prefer, with General Odierno. I was hoping he'd be here by now. But Ray comes to this as well with a wealth of experience on the ground in Iraq as a participant and as an advisor. We were neighbors for a while when I first arrived in Turkey as ambassador and he was commanding the 4th Infantry Division. And he's become a very valued colleague and friend in my four or five months in the Pentagon.

Because this discussion tonight is part of a broader series on the way forward in Iraq, my opening remarks tonight will focus on our strategy for the way ahead. This strategy has already actually been in place for some months, but was released in an unclassified format yesterday. And in his speech in Annapolis yesterday, the president described the broad outlines of this strategy, but focused primarily on the security dimension.

Generals Casey and Abizaid have also briefed the security aspects of this strategy in a classified form and in an unclassified form on the Hill. And most aspects of the strategy have been reported directly to the Congress in two separate quarterly reports that we sent up there. I think those efforts make both Ray's job and my job a little bit easier tonight.

And in addition, this past week, James Q. Wilson and Senator Joe Lieberman have written op-ed pieces for The Wall Street Journal, and Congressman Jim Marshall of Georgia has written a very thoughtful essay in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Congressman Marshall, I might add, was injured in Iraq a couple of days ago. And I would say that those articles make a more articulate case for our past, present and future effort in Iraq than I'm likely to be able to do tonight. But I don't want to pass up the opportunity to amplify some of the points that they made and discuss a few that they may have overlooked.

I'll spend a couple of minutes trying to put our Iraq strategy in context, discussing its economic and political dimensions, and then hopefully Ray will be here to address the security aspect. But I'll be touching on that as well, so even if he doesn't show up, I'll have covered a lot of it.

Let me start by saying that for us in the Department of Defense, Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. President Bush clearly articulated the nature of the enemy in this war in his October 6th speech at the National Endowment for Democracy. And if you have not had a chance to read that speech, I really commend it to your attention. It's a speech which reflects considerable work rooted both in the 9/11 commission and in a lengthy parallel interagency effort that attempts to more precisely define the nature of the terrorists who pose a direct threat to the United States and its citizens. It described five elements of the U.S. strategy to combat radical Islamists, and the war in Iraq is a key part of that strategy.

I think it's unfortunate that media reporting of the president's speech overlooked much of its significance, focusing instead on questions of whether his standing would rise or fall because of the speech, rather than engaging in the intellectual argument that he put forward on how we should combat violent extremists.

I think the importance of this struggle and its context in a larger war effort is clear to Zarqawi, Zawahiri and bin Laden. Zarqawi has stated, and I quote, "We fight today in Iraq, and tomorrow in the land of the two holy places, and after there in the West." Zawahiri has declared that Iraq is, quote, "the place for the greatest battle," where he hopes to, quote, "expel the Americans from Iraq and then spread the jihad wave" to secular neighboring countries. And bin Laden has said that, quote, "the third world war is waging in Iraq, and it will end there in either victory and glory or misery and humiliation."

So I think we need to be very clear. Iraq's future will either embolden terrorists and expand their reach and ability to establish a — reestablish a caliphate, or it will deal them a crippling blow. For us, failure in Iraq is just not an option. So regardless of where one stood on going into this war, the current situation, I think, demands a successful outcome.

My former colleague in the Pentagon, Andy Krepinevich, who has just completed an interim assessment of the war in Iraq for the Office of Net Assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, posits that the war, as he puts it, which arguably began as a war of choice, has become a war of necessity, given the growth in participants and the belligerents' war objectives.

Senator Lieberman, I think, has quite rightly argued that the various enemies of Iraq, quote, "know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern." The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical warmaking.

Congressman Marshall argues that Iraq is now the central battlefield for this conflict within Islam. Success for the insurgency in Iraq is success for the violent jihad movement for bin Laden, for Abu Musaab Zarqawi. It would be viewed that way throughout the Muslim world. Islam would move toward the global jihadist view, towards the Taliban. I think recent votes in the Congress indicate that many members at this point see this war as one of necessity.

The overall objective of our Iraq strategy is to help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq with a constitutional representative government that respects civil rights, and has security forces sufficient to maintain domestic order and to keep Iraq from becoming a safe haven for terrorists. As I said before, this is an integrated strategy that includes efforts to foster political and economic development, as well as effective and self-sustaining security forces. These are interrelated and mutually reinforcing efforts.

The strategy was jointing developed across agency lines. It backs a government effort bringing to bear all elements of national power and reflects several new ways of doing business. It's supported by our coalition partners in NATO, and it encourages Iraq's diplomacy in the region.

There are eight strategic objectives or pillars in the strategy that guide our efforts, and they include: defeat the terrorists and neutralize the insurgency, transition Iraq to security self-reliance, help Iraqis form a national compact for democratic government, help Iraq build government capacity and provide essential services, help strengthen the Iraqi economy, strengthen the rule of law and promote civil rights, increase international support for Iraq, and strengthen public understanding of coalition efforts in public isolation of the insurgents.

The strategy has set out some metrics that help us measure our relative progress, and is underpinned by the notion that we should assist Iraq and transition security responsibilities to Iraq as soon as possible. And finally, as my secretary has often stated, this strategy and the transition of Iraq security to Iraqis must be conditions-based.

In accordance with the political dimension of the strategy, we continue to help the Iraqis build inclusive democratic institutions that will protect the interests of all Iraqis. The overall approach in this area is to help Iraq isolate hard-core rejectionists, engage all Iraqi communities in the political process, and to develop national institutions and international support. Much progress has already been made in this area. The free and democratic elections held this past January and the referendum last month were significant steps forward.

I'm quite sure that the new Iraqi constitution has many flaws. Some of them have been pointed out in the press. But is has one huge positive characteristic: It was written by Iraqis for Iraqis, and it was voted on by Iraqis. I don't think it's possible to overstate the potential it has to establish more broadly in the Middle East the principle of constitutional governance.

As a footnote, I'd mention that the UNDP Arab Human Development Reports for 2002, 2003 and 2004 all found that the Arab world suffers from a freedom deficit, and that this condition significantly hinders states in the region from taking their proper place in the global economy. I think such assessments put in context the important consequences of a free and democratic Iraq.

Looking forward, the elections to be held two weeks from today are very significant, and could well dwarf all of the accomplishments made in the political arena to date. Over 300 parties and coalitions are registered for these elections, including a number of those who opposed the constitution. The results of these elections will put in place a government that will have a more stable tenure in which to govern and manage the affairs of Iraq. They could result in the election of men and women from various ethnic groups and of various religious and tribal affiliations. They will, we hope, result in more Sunni participation in the political process. They will, in all likelihood, lead to modifications to the Iraqi constitution.

Over time and with some expected bumps along the way, these developments should help foster more inclusiveness, accelerate the capacity of Iraqi ministries, help further isolate rejectionists and terrorists who would prefer to rule by violence and terrorism. I don't think there's any doubt that there will be bumps along the way. Given Iraq's recent history, encouraging cooperation across ethnic, religious and tribal divides will not be easy, and helping the Iraqis govern effectively will require ongoing effort at both the national and the local levels.

To help Iraqis in this regard, the embassy and MNFI have been working for some time at the national level, and are now focusing on what we can do to help at the provincial level. The economic dimension of the strategy focuses on helping Iraq restore its neglected infrastructure while encouraging economic reform, greater transparency and accountability. Again, much progress has already been made in this area.

According to the IMF, Iraq's GDP is expected to grow at a rate of 3.7 percent in 2005 and nearly 17 percent in 2006. Inflation is in check and not hampering economic growth. Oil production is about 2.1 million barrels per day, lower than we would like, but a steady source of revenue and much better than it might have been given the many years during which the industry's infrastructure was allowed to deteriorate. Iraq is joining international financial community and has secured and agreement that could lead to as much as 80 percent reduction in its past Club debt from the Saddam era. Some consider this debt relief so important that they've labeled it the second liberation of Iraq. The IMF has commended the Iraqi government for maintaining a degree of macroeconomic stability under difficult circumstances and beginning structural reforms. The Iraqi government and the IMF are currently negotiating a standby arrangement, which is necessary to maintain the term of the Paris Club agreement.

There are many challenges as we move forward in helping Iraq economically. Much of Iraq's infrastructure requires repair or replacement, and additional effort is required to reduce a tax on critical infrastructure. These are slightly exacerbated by a skyrocketing demand for electricity, a challenge that political reform and economic openness have helped spawn. I noticed this myself, by the way, when I flew into Iraq a month ago in the early morning hours — about four or 5:00 in the morning as we came down — and the country was lit up from north to south. So there's plenty of electricity, I can tell you.

Iraq will need to undertake difficult economic reforms, including reducing subsidies for electricity and petroleum products. But we have to balance the need for economic reform against the political realities.

Despite all of these challenges, Iraqis have an optimistic outlook for Iraq's economic future. A recent Zogby International poll found that 77 percent of the respondents anticipate growth in the economy over the next two years, and 69 percent were optimistic about Iraq's future.

Before I hopefully turn the floor over to Ray Odierno to address the security aspects of the strategy, I want to add a few personal reflections, and maybe I'll add a couple of more, too.

I recently spent a couple of days in Iraq and had the good fortune to speak to a number of both Iraqi military and police leaders, as well as the leaders of the partners, coalition units. And I came away with a number of impressions.

First, all of the leaders — both Iraqi and coalition — were extremely optimistic about the future, pleased with the progress they've made to date. This doesn't mean that they don't understand that they face enormous challenges, but it was still quite encouraging. The two Iraqi division commanders with whom I spoke — Major General Kurshi (ph), the commander of the 3rd Division in Al-Kisik, and Major General Bashar, who's the commander of the 9th Mechanized Division in Taji — were very positive about the progress of their units and optimistic about the future.

The base commander at Taji, Colonel Abbas, whose daughter had been killed by terrorists as she came to visit him at the base one day, felt so strongly about the partnership with the United States and with his U.S. counterparts that he asked me to personally carry a letter of thanks to Secretary Rumsfeld, who had visited the base some months earlier, and told me that he was donating half of his monthly salary for the rest of the year to Katrina relief.

Among the U.S. commanders, I was fortunate to spend some time with Colonel H.R. McMaster, the commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry regiment in Mosul. Colonel McMaster had fought with his partner unit in Tall Afar and was very upbeat about the progress. I personally found this encounter particularly gratifying because I figured that if any U.S. tactical-level leader would not only give me a straight assessment, but relish in doing it, it would have been Colonel McMaster, who is the author of a book called, "Dereliction of Duty." Some of you may have read it. It's a well-researched account of the decisions on troop commitments on Vietnam leading up to 1966 and the advice the Joint Chiefs rendered or failed to render in the process. And I'm pleased to report that Colonel McMaster's assessment was very optimistic. And he had been operating with his Iraqi partner unit in Nineveh Province, one of the four provinces that is relatively contested.

In looking at the broader training and equipping effort, General Marty Dempsey, the commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command, believes that the largest challenge in the way ahead lies no longer in training Iraqi battalions, but in building ministerial and institutional capacity. Having spent some time in the region, I don't find that at all surprising. Overall, I think when one considers the challenges that Iraq faces, not the least overcoming the political and social effects of three and a half decades of monstrous tyranny, what is most impressive to me is not how much remains for them to do, but rather how far they have come in less than three years.

I thank you very, very much for your attention. I pray sincerely that Ray Odierno will show up soon. And I'm happy to take any questions that people might have. (Applause.)

GOODMAN: Well, Ambassador Edelman, thank you very much. I think we will proceed as — is he here? Okay, we will proceed as — we will go directly to the Q&A, since we have a lively audience.

EDELMAN: I was hoping I could talk about how closely linked up the OSD policy staff and the joint staff are — (laughter) —

GOODMAN: Yes. Well, it's a true test of partnership, since he's left you as the main partner here — (laughs) — this evening.

So allow me to ask the first question, which is, how do you both hand over — how do we both hand over the main burden of training Iraqi troops, and at the same time be able to achieve complete victory?

EDELMAN: I think, Sherry, that the conditions for defeating what we're facing suggest that ultimately victory over the insurgency is going to be won by Iraqis, not by Americans. Americans may be able to contribute to the high-value counterterrorist missions for some period of time, but overall, it's ultimately going to be a war for Iraqis to win.

I think we need to over time bring down the number of U.S. troops to lessen the feeling of occupation in Iraq, to turn over more battle space to the Iraqis. There are many, many Iraqi battalions in the fight. As I said, when you talk to either the embedded trainers who have been with them or the commanders of the partner units, they are incredibly impressed. If you read some of the military bloggers, you get, I think, a feeling of the growing capability that these battalions have as they enter the fight. We're getting more and more tips from the Iraqi public, from some number in the high 100's in the spring of '05 to now well over 3,000 a month for the months of September, October and November. And that to me is an indication of the turning of the Iraqi public away from the insurgents and towards a government of their own choice. So I think the training of the units, the establishment of security and the drawing down of our own forces over time, based on conditions, are reinforcing parts of a strategy for victory.

GOODMAN: Okay, let's go to Q&A. Let me remind to wait for the microphone, and to stand and state your name and affiliation, and to be as concise as possible. Jim.

QUESTIONER: Jim Moody, Merrill Lynch.

This, as you know, Mr. Secretary, is the fifth of a series. And the first four I attended, and they were pretty much a catalogue of mistakes made since Saddam Hussein himself fell, ranging from not securing the museums, 3,000 years of Hittite culture was plundered, although the State Department warned the Pentagon this should not be allowed to happen if you want to hold the hearts and minds of people; just not securing the Central Bank, which the U.S. Treasury Department desperately urged the Pentagon to do, saying it would be plundered and the records destroyed if we did not secure it — we did not.

We've heard a long catalogue of these. Without getting into that, but as a background, would you reflect for a moment on the issue of whether or not other organizations of the U.S. should — I apologize. Would you reflect — and the background also. The public has read story after story about how the Pentagon won one power struggle after another with Colin and the State Department losing on post-conflict management. Would you reflect on the generic question, if you would, from lessons we have learned here, whether or not the Pentagon is the right agency to do peacekeeping, nation building and all the aspects that we have had such a tough time with? And without assigning blame to anybody, but with that background, would you kind of reflect on that generic issue? Because the lessons we learn from that may be applicable to future operations.

EDELMAN: It's a fair question. And I think from my point of view — Ray may have some thoughts as well — I would say we have learned not just from the Iraqi experience but also from the Afghan experience, and more broadly, from the other four experiences we've had of sort of complex contingencies since the end of the Cold War. If you look at Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq, which represent a spectrum — I don't mean to say that they're all the same, they're obviously different, and I'd put Iraq at the very high-intensity end of it — it's clear that we don't have as a nation yet developed the capability across the range of government institutions to take on some of the challenges that we've had to face, including the ones that you mention in Iraq.

One of the things about the strategy that was — the unclassified version of the strategy released yesterday is that it precisely tried to address some of this by getting other agencies of the U.S. government into the fight, as it were, and getting them to do their part because this is a complex undertaking.

I think we have copies of the strategy, by the way, that will be available after the event, and I really would encourage people to take a look at it. I do think it covers a broad array of these issues.

And this is also a subject that we are now discussing in the Quadrennial Defense Review, which looks out for the next 20 years in defense planning to see how we need to array ourselves. And I think the conclusion that we have come to, and I think others in the government share it, I know Secretary Rice shares it and other senior leaders in the State Department, and — I am, after all, a career Foreign Service Officer — I discussed this with some of my Foreign Service colleagues, some of whom are in this audience. I think we have a more general understanding that we need these capabilities across all the elements of national power — diplomatic, intelligence, military economic — and we've got to try and bring them all to bear on these contingencies.

One thing we know is we've had six of these things in the last 12 years. That works out to roughly an average of one every two years. That's retrospective, it's not predictive, but it does suggest that we're likely to have one or two of these things in the next couple of years and we'd better get ourselves ready to do them.

GEN. RAYMOND ODIERNO: If I could, I would just add that there is no one solution, it's a spectrum. And it has to do with how we first get involved. If you get involved first with heavy combat operations, there's got to be a period of time where the military has to at least begin some sort of humanitarian relief, moving toward nation building, until we can get the NGOs, PVOs, other government agencies in an environment where they then can take it over and we have to hand it off. So we have to have some capability to do this.

Now, there's other examples — and let's use Haiti as an example — where maybe you can hand it off much quicker and the military doesn't have to get involved in nation building, we can immediately hand it over to NGOs, PVOs, and they should take that on.

So I guess what I'm saying, there is no specific answer, but what we have learned — what I have learned in the last three to four to five years is, first, it's a total governmental solution, like Ambassador Edelman said, but in addition to that, the military has to have some capability to do this, at least in the beginning, and be able to hand it off.

GOODMAN: I think we're going to stay with the Q&A. We'll let General Odierno make some expanded remarks in the Q&A. We're very pleased that he's able to join us. You know he's the assistant to the chairman and he also commanded the 4th Infantry Division, whose troops captured Saddam Hussein. So we're very pleased that you're here.

Yes, in the back? Charlie?

QUESTIONER: Charlie Stevenson, SAIS. I'm concerned about whether the strategy is adequate to deal with the prospect of civil war. Some reports suggest we're doing too much to prevent a civil war, we're denying certain capabilities to the Iraqi military because we don't want them to get too strong. Other reports say we're not doing enough, because we tolerate large-sale infiltration of the police, especially, and the military with sectarian militias. What's your assessment? Are we hedging just right or are we failing to do enough to prevent a civil war?

ODIERNO: First, it's an extremely complex situation, as we all know. What I would say first is I have never yet heard we're trying to not get enough capability into the Iraqi army so they can't do certain things, or the police. I mean, I have not — we have not discussed that in our strategy. But what it does do is it takes time in order to develop their capability.

The one thing I would say is I believe we underestimated what I call the societal devastation when we first got in there, which I believe goes over a 30-year reign of terror led by Saddam Hussein, where the ability of governmental agencies to really act was limited. And then after we toppled the regime, there was no capability at all left in the government, whether it be to manage money, to manage a military, to a ministry of interior. So we had to start from scratch.

So what we've had to do now is, over a period of almost — a little less than three years now is completely rebuild a government, the most difficult part being the security piece of this, where you have to rebuild a military and you have to rebuild a police force in order to be capable to both deal with external and internal threats.

So what we are is we're somewhere along the line of doing that. Significantly increased capability today than we had a year ago, but we are not yet at a point where we can let them go, where we know they could deal with both internal and external threats, to include potential, as you reference, if there's a civil war or some difference between factions, that it could be dealt with by the government, that the government is strong enough both from a capability sense in terms of military and police capability, but also from a governmental sense, are the ministries strong enough to manage this; do they have planning capability in order to plan for a long-term contingencies; do they have plans in order to develop a strong economy; do they have a way to form a budget and do proper budgets so everybody's budgeted and paid properly and all those kind of things. We are working on that and we are making progress, but we are not there yet.

So I guess what I would say is this is part of the process, is rebuilding the Iraqi government. I tend to concentrate a lot more on the security piece of it because that's what we're responsible for, that's the pillars that we're working on. We're clearly assisting the State Department and other agencies in the other pillars. So part of this victory strategy is to allow the Iraqis to do this on their own. And it's going to take patience, and it's going to take time. But there is progress being made. There is absolute progress being made.

EDELMAN: Can I add one thing to what Ray just said? One of the things that's actually struck me — and my perch on this was partially sitting in Turkey for two years, before coming back to this job — one of the things that has been quite striking to me is that although there has been a concerted effort made, particularly by Zarqawi, to provoke a sectarian civil war, what's really striking to me is how much Iraqis seem to be resisting that.

It's not to say that there hasn't been violence, score settling, all the rest. That's not terribly surprising, given the situation.

But there has been a remarkable resistance, it seems to me, on the part of Iraqis and great forbearance on the part of some Iraqi leaders that has not led to the kind of sectarian and ethnic violence that has marked Iraq's history, not just in the Saddam period but even earlier.

GOODMAN: Ray?

QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. Raymond Tanter, Georgetown University. When I served on the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush days, we looked at Iraq and Iran as two sides of the same coin: stability in the Gulf. And Ambassador Edelman, I know you recognize that the problem of Iraq is somewhat tied to what's happening in Iran. Secretary Rice has made this clear in her Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has opened up a front channel, not just a back channel. But if Iran were part of a solution for Iraq, then perhaps Iran is part of the problem.

And my question is this: What can the United States offer to Iran to help stabilize Iraq? I fear that Iran will ask for the 3,000-plus Iranian dissidents who are located in Iraq. And if they were to do that, I don't know exactly what our government would say.

So I know that General Odierno had something to do with that territory, so I'd like his remarks as well with that, upon that.

EDELMAN: It seems to me that from Iran's point of view, the best thing for them might be a stable Iraq, a stable neighbor, not an unstable one. So I think they have an interest in seeing the situation become more stable, rather than less.

But that being said, heretofore I think you have to say that they have not been playing a helpful role. And hopefully Zal, you know, in the channel that you talk about, will be able to communicate to them the importance of being constructive and allowing a stable situation to emerge on their border. He's had some success working that in the past in Afghanistan. I hope he has success this time.

ODIERNO: Yeah. I really don't have anything to add. I will just say that this thing called democracy that's being developed in Iraq is something that is the unknown for most of those countries surrounding Iraq, Iran potentially being one of them currently, although they have a form of democracy. But the type of democracy that's being built in Iraq is a bit different.

And so I think everybody's trying to have influence on that right now, which is fine. We expect regional partners to play a role in this. What we have to do is just make sure we understand that and deal with them, with our foreign policy, which is a bit out of my lane.

GOODMAN: Okay. Woman in the back. Yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Spencer Ackerman with The New Republic. Where — I'm sorry —

GOODMAN: All right. You'll be next.

QUESTIONER: Ah. Go ahead.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

Karen DeYoung with Carnegie Endowment. My question is whether or not there isn't a built-in contradiction between the president's description yesterday of Iraq as THE central front of the global on terror that poses a direct threat to the United States, and the push to develop a plan that essentially will remove the U.S. military, which we've said is the best fighting force in the world, from the frontlines of that fight, leaving it in the hands of what everyone agrees — despite the progress that they've made — is still a fledgling and quite questionable military force and will be for some years to come?

ODIERNO: Well, let me — I guess I'll take the first. First, it's — as we have looked at — General Abizaid talks about this quite a bit, so I do want to talk about it. He talks about the long war, which is kind of what you're, I think, referring to, but let me talk about that in a minute, then get to your more specific question. And it has to do with — in all the writings and all the Internet postings that we find from al Qaeda and really the extremist organizations, they talk about this caliphate, and they talk about how they have establish this center of this caliphate. And we believe that initially the center of this caliphate was in Afghanistan — the Taliban — the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

When we first went in and then were successful in Afghanistan, removing the government, establish democracy — we believe now they talked about: We want to establish the new center of the caliphate in the land of the two rivers, which is what they talk about, which is Iraq. And so I believe, in fact, they would like to establish that as the center, and then spread it out — if you look at the readings — they'd then establish it there, spread it out through the rest of the Middle East, to Europe, and then eventually the entire world sometime. That's what their writings and their teachings are about. So we somewhat kind of agree that that's where the al Qaeda piece of this would like to do. So, yes, we believe that, in fact, it is right now the central front on the war on terror. You can argue about how we got there, but that's kind of where we're at right now.

And so what we now have is a conditions-based policy on when we will take and reduce American presence in Iraq. And it's based on the capability of Iraq to handle its own security. And, in fact, I want to quote this because I think it's important. The end state of the — when you look at the Multinational Force Iraq campaign plan, their end state is: "Iraq at peace with its neighbors, an ally on the war on terror, with a representative government that respects the human rights of all Iraqis, and with security forces sufficient to maintain domestic order and to deny Iraq as a safe haven for terrorists."

So what we're trying to do now is — then we've established conditions, and we've established conditions then for Iraqi to take over security. And until that time, coalition forces will stay in Iraq in order to ensure that this cannot be established as a center for extremism.

And now we have some other — we have some — we also have some rejectionists that are there, and some Saddamists also that are not affiliated directly with the al Qaeda movement, but are there because they just disagree with the fact that they are no longer in power, and we also have to be able to deal with that.

So that's kind of how I answer that question. And I think it's going to take time in order for us to move towards that. But we are seeing progress, and we believe that if progress continues after the elections as we see it now, there'll probably be a chance potentially for reductions. But that decision will be made by General Casey in Iraq, based on his assessment.

GOODMAN: Okay. Gentleman from The New Republic in the back.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Sorry about that. General, you just quoted the policy — the strategy's end state, including a representative government that respects the rights of all Iraqis. How do the reports that we've been hearing about Shi'ite death squads operating both inside and outside of the Ministry of Interior fit into that? Has U.S. training and equipping of forces inside the Ministry of Interior gone to people who've gone into these operations? And what's the responsibility of policymakers and U.S. troops on the ground with respect to these forces?

ODIERNO: I can't specifically answer your question on whether equipment we've given has gone direct — I know, for example, it has not gone directly to these forces. And how many of these forces are formed — I really can't answer that question. I would leave that to the people that are on the ground.

But what I will say is we have developed the military transition teams that are with all Iraqi army forces, and we also have police transition teams that are embedded with police forces. And the intent of these — there's a number of things. First, it is to talk about and monitor how they're doing. It's also to establish and show them how we lead; to live with them, understand our way of building military forces. So it helps in them seeing what we believe are the right things to do.

In addition to this, we have partnering units with at least the military units, where we partner one battalion — a coalition battalion with an Iraqi battalion. And the reason we are doing this is so that we can walk them through how we believe — (audio break) — military operations should be conducted, along the lines of international law and moral convictions.

Now, again, I want to go back to what I said. This will take time to do this. The people of Iraq were raised under very different conditions than Western coalition forces were.

We have found them to be extremely successful. They thirst for relationships with American forces on the ground. And we have found very positive results when we interact on a regular basis with them. They have this thirst for learning. They have a respect for Western and U.S. forces and how we conduct operations.

But it's going to take some time. It's not going to happen overnight. It's education. It's leadership training. And we have these programs established, and they continue to grow. They still aren't at the level we want them to be, but they continue to grow. And I think the interaction with coalition forces is helping us.

We still have some problems, and we still have a lot — a ways to go on this. But we see progress being made.

EDELMAN: I would just add maybe a couple of words to what Ray just said. We've seen some of these reports. It's a little hard to parse all of them. We have certainly found some things, like the bunker that was uncovered where prisoners were being abused by Iraqi Ministry of the Interior forces, it appears. There's an investigation ongoing.

I think it's clear we have an obligation to — when we learn of things like that or find out about them, to put an end to them, if we can, or report them, as appropriate.

And a lot of this, I think, goes to the issue I mentioned at the end of my remarks that General Dempsey talks about: the importance of developing ministerial capacity and capability, so that these forces that we are training can be overseen and managed in an appropriate way.

ODIERNO: There was an incident — and I won't go into specifics, because I don't know if it's finished yet — but there was an incident with the Iraqi division up in Mosul. And the Iraqi ground forces command for the first time, when they found there was some irregularities with the commander, they sent a five-man inspector general team up to conduct an investigation of what went on. We sent some U.S. — to just observe on how they did this. And we were very encouraged with what they did and how they went along in doing their own investigation into this thing, this event that happened up in Mosul with one of the commanders. And that's just the beginning.

And so what we have to do is to continue to encourage this, because we have mistakes in our military, as you're well aware of. But what we — what I find is our strength is, we investigate ourselves, we do it thoroughly, and we try to figure out what went wrong, and then we try to correct it. And that's what we're trying to pass along to them, and that's over time how you build leadership and an ability to overcome some of these issues.

GOODMAN: Yes?

QUESTIONER: I'm Priscilla Clapp, retired Foreign Service. I find it very difficult to figure out who and what the insurgency is in Iraq. You talk about it as being a sort of branch of al Qaeda, but it seems to me that it's a much more complex organization. And it's not the same as Osama bin Laden finding refuge in Afghanistan with, you know, the Taliban regime, because you have a combination here obviously of outsiders — Zarqawi himself — and some support from the inside. I'm not sure how much of that really is inside. And they must have different motives. It can't be simply an international terrorist motive. There must be something else going on there.

ODIERNO: Yeah. What I would say is, when I answered the question before, it was based on the war on terror. And so when we talk about the global war on terror, I head right to al Qaeda. Okay.

But when you talk about the insurgency inside of Iraq, that is a bit different.

And what we talk about is, you have the Saddamists, the former regime elements, who are internal. And their struggle is, they want to get back into power. They were elitists. They had control of money. They had control over everything that went on within the country. So you have that — they know that they cannot participate in a new democratic government because of — sometimes of the crimes that were committed earlier on, and the fact that they will never be able to raise to power. So that's one.

The second is you have a Sunni insurgency, which are people just, frankly, who don't like the fact that coalition forces are there. The fact is that they feel they are not properly represented in the government. They are different from the Saddamists because they were not part of the elite. And so we have to bring them along, we hope, in the political process, and we think once that happens we'll see a reduce in that.

And then you have what I consider the al Qaeda bit. So I would kind of break it down — and that's what the insurgency is right now, and that's what we're dealing with inside of Iraq. We think that the development of Iraqi security forces significantly helps us with those first two I talked about, specifically, getting them — turning it over to Iraqis. It takes away the Sunni-insurgency piece, and it'll help, we think, potentially with the Saddamists.

GOODMAN: The woman on the side.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Thank you. My name is Mercedes Fitchett at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. And for risk of losing my job, I'm going to ask the following question. Thank you very much for presenting this national strategy for Iraq. I've been working on Iraq for almost three years, on commercial-private sector issues. I've been working with Iraqi companies for almost three years, and I've had the privilege of being in Baghdad as a U.S. commercial attache last year for six months. I worked the U.S. military Civil Affairs Units, absolutely tremendous. I'm looking forward to working with them again when I head back to Baghdad in January for a year-long assignment to work on Iraqi private sector issues.

One of the challenges that I am facing in U.S. government circles is that while we talk the talk about the importance of the private sector in Iraq, we fail to recognize the importance of an open, competitive, private financial services sector. We have the lack of a clear strategy when it comes to the private banking sector in Iraq. We have a strategy when it comes to the two state-owned banks, when it comes to the trade bank of Iraq, which is a state-owned bank, which is trying to monopolize actually the financial services sector in Iraq.

And I'm hoping to draw your attention to this and also get your insights in terms of someone who's on the bottom of the totem poll and you're at the top of the totem poll. What are some things that I could be doing to try to continue to get greater U.S. government policy attention to the importance of developing a strategy on the Iraqi private banking sector, understanding the importance for the banking sector, its importance to the private sector, the establishment of a middle class, and hence democracy in Iraq?

Thank you.

EDELMAN: I think you raise an excellent point about the banking sector. We find it — and I think Ray would confirm this — in the security side where Ray and I spend most of our time working and worrying and the problem having an impact the Iraqi security forces. When you go and visit the units, what you hear from commanders is they have had a problem with pay for recruits because there is no banking system. So basically recruits have to take their pay and go home to deliver it. And they've worked out a very ingenuous system in most of the units that I went to, where they will have rotation so people will be on leave for one week of the month in order to be able to go home and pay. Now, that's an ingenuous work around, but it's not the most efficient way to run a military, and obviously, you know, they need to do better in the banking sector in order for the security forces to get around it.

It's one of the reasons why we talked about the interconnected and interlocking nature of this development. You know, if you're going to be going out to Baghdad, you need to, you know, work obviously — you need to work to get Ambassador Khalilzad focused on this, but he's pretty energetic, so you might be sorry you did that.

ODIERNO: If could, just a little anecdote. I was there a long time ago now, but when we first got in there in 2003, one of the things we tried to do is we said we are going to — we put a banking program together in my area, and we said we're going to really get after these banks. Well, of course, what I didn't realize when we said this is — you know, if you picture the Wild West in 1880 and what a bank was, that's what these banks are. They're a place to hold money. And that's all they did. And in fact, I'm not — they had some accounts and they had some accounting for those accounts, but if you were part of the regime, you could come and withdraw money just about pretty much any amount you wanted, and you used it in a way to get food for you and to do some other things. And that was it. And that was what a bank was in Iraq.

And so it really is a significant task now to get their banking system to where, for example, we can wire money to the bank near them so they can go and pick up their pay. We tried to do that, and it just takes a lot of — and an issue is investment. Investment. And so, you know, that gets back to that societal devastation that I keep talking about. Clearly we underestimated it when we got in there. At least I know I did personally when I was there.

GOODMAN: Robert? This will be our last question.

QUESTIONER: Well, then I have to make it a good one. I'm Robert Dreyfuss. I write for Rolling Stone and The American Prospect. Intelligence is a big issue these days, and your predecessor, Douglas Feith, is now being investigated by the inspector general, not to mention the Senate, over possible falsification, manipulation, distortion of prewar intelligence. I recently wrote a piece for The American Prospect on Porter Goss's tenure at the CIA, and I interviewed Richard Kerr, who was responsible as head of a task force for investigating some of the prewar intelligence failures, and he told me —

MR. : (Off mike.)

QUESTIONER: — I have a question — he told me that there was great pressure brought to bear on the CIA and intelligence analysts to come up with preordained conclusions about Iraq. And I wonder, since you were working for the vice president at the time, were you part of that pressure? Did you twist any arms in intelligence? (Laughter.) And — no, this is a serious question. I want to know. And did you — do you think that —

EDELMAN: And when did I stop beating my wife. (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: Do you think that Douglas Feith should be investigated by the inspector general?

EDELMAN: (Off mike.)

QUESTIONER: Well, the inspector general hasn't started the investigation, so I'm asking if it's justified.

EDELMAN: Okay. You have a lot of questions in there, and I'll be happy to try and answer them the best I can.

GOODMAN: Be very brief.

EDELMAN: I'll try and be brief.

First of all, you're free to go talk to any of the colleagues I dealt with at CIA and ask them if I ever pressured them to come up with any answer other than the ones they wanted to come up with, and I think the answer you'll get is no.

Second, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has looked at the question of whether intelligence analysts felt they were pressured. So far they've said that none have come forward to confirm that and make that claim in their investigation. It is a fact that I have been formally notified by the inspector general that an investigation pursuant to a request by Senator Roberts, who sent a letter to the Defense IG saying that although the Senate select committee had looked at this and found nothing, that there continued to be charges to this extent, and asked the IG to launch an investigation. I've been formally notified that it's been launched. And in light of the fact that there is an investigation ongoing, I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment any further.

ODIERNO: If I could — could I say something? Clearly nothing about this, because I was not involved in that. But in 2003, I was a division commander getting ready to go to Iraq. And as I did mission analysis and I looked at everything I saw, the intelligence at least I was given led met to believe, for example, there was WMD.

Now, let me take that a further step.

After I got into Iraq, I was in the middle of the Sunni Triangle. I had a chance to talk to at least three division commanders, Iraqi division commanders, and one or two corps commanders. They thought they had WMD. Now, they thought the other guy had the WMD — (laughter) — and I'm serious, they thought they had it. Which complicates our ability to collect intelligence when they think they have WMD. And so I would just — that's just what I know. I mean, again, I don't know anything about anything else. But as I talked to them, that's what they thought, and that's why they had chemical suits, they had their soldiers putting chemical suits on. They thought WMD was going to be used. So from a tactical perspective, that — when we read their signs, that drives us to believe that they might have had it. So it's a very interesting dynamic that was going on inside of the Iraqi government, apparently.

GOODMAN: Okay, I want to thank — it's past 7:30, so we're going to have to end, according to council rules.

I want to thank Ambassador Edelman and General Odierno. I think we should thank them both — (applause) — and as you to let the speakers leave before you depart.

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