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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Gen. Abizaid on CNN's The Situation Room

CNN - Gen. Abizaid.

WOLF: Hard-pressed U.S. Troops face a raging insurgency in Iraq . A Taliban comeback in Afghanistan . The hunt for Osama bin laden and the possibility of military action against Iran . Is the U.S. Military central command stretched too thin? And joining us now is the U.S. Military commander of the central command, [G]eneral John Abizaid. You got a tough job, [G]eneral [A]bizaid. Not only [I]raq , but [A]fghanistan, the war on terror, [I]ran. I don't know how you get through it, but let's start going through some of these issues beginning with your priority number one right now, presumably [I]raq. What do you have, about 140,000 [U].S. Troops there right now?

ABIZAID: That's correct, [W]olf. Slightly over 140,000. About 142,000. There's well over 300,000 [I]raqis under arms now as well working for the [I]raqi government. About 23,000 [A]llied [T]roops on the ground. Pretty substantial [M]ilitary force there.

WOLF: There are a lot of experts who say it's not enough. That if you really want to get the job done, you need twice as many [U].S. Troops.

ABIZAID: Well, [I] think those experts want the [U].S. Troops to do all the work, and [G]eneral [C]asey and [I] don't want [U].S. Troops to do all the work. It's very, very clear to both of us that in order to win in [I]raq, the [I]raqis have to assume more and more responsibility[;] and they're doing that[,] and we intend to keep doing that.

WOLF: It looks like they're a long way off from being able to get the job done. They have desertion rates and enormous problems with the [I]raqi [M]ilitary. I heard yesterday they have 300,000 [T]roops in the [I]raqi [A]rmy right now, but you wouldn't know it.

ABIZAID: Look, [W]olf, [I] know where we started. We started with zero in the [I]raqi [I]rmy and police. Now we're up to well over 300,000. They have their good days. They have their bad days. Iraqi troops are fighting and dying for their country at double the rate that our own troops are taking casualties. The [I]raqi [T]roops become more and more effective over time. No doubt there have been some instances where [I]raqi units have failed to perform their duties, but it's getting better over time. We're making progress in that regard, and that's the most important thing can [I] say.

WOLF: The president keeps saying he relies on you and [G]eneral [C]asey, the commander in [I]raq, for advice. That if you say to him, we need more troops, he will give you more troops. Are you ready to tell the president you need more troops?

ABIZAID: No, [I] just talked to [G]eneral [C]asey about it the other day. We've got a [R]eserve formation that's down in the [K]uwait area. We've got additional [R]eserves that belong to me in the [A]rabian [G]ulf area. We don't see a need to commit them to the fight yet, and until they're committed, [w]e don't see a need to ask for more you should [at] the present circumstances. On the other hand, this notion that troop levels are static is not true. Never has been true, and it won't be true. We'll ask for what we need when we need it, but it's key, [W]olf, that the [I]raqi [M]ilitary take on more and more responsibility. It's a hard thing to do. It's hard to have a [U].S. Formation in the same area that could do the job and an [I]raqi [U]nit that's not quite as ready doing the same job, and letting them get through it.

WOLF: If you asked for more [T]r[oo]ps -- if you asked the [D]efense [S]ecretary, [D]onald [R]umsfeld, or the president, for more troops, have they ever turned you down?

ABIZAID: No. There's certainly been staffing actions that have taken place where certain types of units weren't available, but by and large, any amount of troops that we've asked for have shown up on the battlefield.

WOLF: And the other criticism sometimes that's leveled is you are afraid to ask for more troops because of the political pressure on you. Don't ask, that's the word coming from the [P]entagon or the [W]hite [H]ouse.

ABIZAID: You know, [W]olf, if [I] were afraid, [I] wouldn't be in this job, and [I]'m not afraid of asking for what [I] need. I absolutely, positively want to win just like [G]eneral [C]asey and all the other [C]ommanders in the field want to. We'll ask for what we need. It's not a matter of getting promoted. It's not a matter of going to another job. It's a matter of doing the job th[e] at way we see it needs to be done.

WOLF: You saw the intelligence report from that [M]arine [C]olonel in the al [A]nwar [P]rovince who said militarily it possibly could be run if you committed another division, 6,000-16,000 troops, but the situation there, which is a huge western part of [I]raq, is already lost.

ABIZAID: Wolf, this war needs to be won politically and militarily. They need to move together. It's not a matter of the application of [M]ilitary [F]orces only. You've got to have governance moving forward. You have to take down the militias. Have you to apply [M]ilitary [F]orces when you need to. Over time you need to apply more and more [I]raqi [M]ilitary and governance power to the equation. We can do that.

WOLF: Have you given up on the al [A]nbar [P]rov[idences?]

ABIZAID: [I] have not. But the clear priority for [M]ilitary action right now is [B]aghdad, for obvious reasons.

WOLF: And building a trench around the Iraqi [C]apitol with 28 checkpoints to prevent suicide bombers and others from getting in?

ABIZAID: I think it's a misnomer to say we're building a trench all the way around Baghdad. We are controlling access in and out in a very, very specific number of locations that we've worked out with the Iraqi police and the Iraqi [D]efense [F]orces.

WOLF: When you testified in [A]ugust, [A]ugust 3rd, before the U.S. Congress, [I] want to play for you and for our viewers what you said about a civil war.

ABIZAID: Sure.

ABIZAID: The sectarian violence is probably as bad as [I] have seen it in [B]aghdad in particular and that if not stopped, it is possible that [I]raq could move towards civil war.

WOLF: Now, you know a lot of people are already saying, for all practical purposes, this is a civil war between the [S]hia and the [S]unni?

ABIZAID: I know you can argue this until the cows come home, but it just -- it just won't work. I mean, if the [A]rmy is holding together, if the government is holding together, if people in the [I]raqi government are confident that they can move forward towards greater stability, if we are confident that the [I]raqi [A]rmed [F]orces will get better, [I] think we can prevent civil war.

WOLF: On a daily basis, dozens of bodies show up at the [B]aghdad morgue mutilated, tortured, drilled. It's as if this situation is getting worse rapidly on a daily basis.

ABIZAID: Well, [I] understand how it's easy to just look at the violence and come to the conclusion that things are only going to get worse, but [I] don't come to that conclusion. I come to the conclusion that [I]raqis are fighting and dying for their country, that the government has pledged their sacred honor and their future to making this work. Their lives are on the line. You see numerous [I]raqi officials come through [W]ashington lately, and every one of them shows confidence and the ability to get things done. Now, [I] know which [I] testified back in [A]ugust, since then [I] have been in [B]aghdad, [I] have been on the ground. We're certainly not out of the woods yet with regard to sectarian violence in [I]raq. It is difficult, but in the areas that we've employed [M]ilitary [F]orces, it shows a slight increase of improvement. It will take some months before we're able to say whether or not we're having an affect. Things in a counter insurgency violence, as you well know, take time to mat[ter] politically and militarily, and we're confident with the measures we're taking now, we can be successful.

WOLF: One of our reporters in [B]aghdad, [M]ichael [W]ear, just out and said there's real fear embedded with [U].S. Troops, went that the [I]raqi [M]ilitary right now is penetrated with moles from some of the militia, largely the [S]hia militia of [M]uqtada al [S]adr, and that [A]merican [T]roops are worried that sensitive information involving the lives of [U].S. Forces could be jeopardized by these moles, presumably, throughout the [I]raqi [M]ilitary and the [P]olice force.

ABIZAID: I wouldn't say they're throughout the [M]ilitary. I think that the [P]olice force is a well-recognized fact that the [P]olice forces have been infiltrated by militia interests that have the interests of their militia above that of the state. That's recognized by the [P]rime [M]inister. It's recognized by the [P]resident. It's recognized by our [C]ommanders. It's recognized by the [M]inister of the [I]nterior. We've got to work on this. It's very, very important that loyalty to the state take priority over any alliance to any sectarian group. Over time [I] believe that we will isolate that infiltration and eradicate it.

WOLF: The [U].S. Ambassador in [B]aghdad, you work very closely with him, and he said publicly that [I]ran is playing a very negative role right now in [I]raq, fomenting the sectarian violence. I want you to turn around and look at a picture that came in last week when the [P]rime [M]inister of [I]raq met with the president mahmoud all hmadinedjad and say is this why the [men] and women went to war, so there could be this relationship existing between [I]ran, a country that the [U].S. [s]ays supports terrorism, and [I]raq?

ABIZAID: Look, the question for us is, ["][W]ill [I]raq emerge as a member -- a responsible member of the community of nations in the region? Will [I]raq be a member of the [A]rab [L]eague? Will it play its role in the region in a country that respects the rights of its own people and is not conducive to terrorism?["] I believe that that's absolutely what [P]rime [M]inister [M]aliki intends to do. He will not allow his country to be dominated by [I]ran. He will not allow his country to be dominated by special interests. Is he going to build an [I]raq for all [I]raqis[?] [A]nd it's a hard thing to do. They can do it.

WOLF: Did that picture bother you?

ABIZAID: There's nothing that bothers me after as long as [I] have spent in the [M]iddle [E]ast.

WOLF: And can you see much more of this exclusive interview with [G]eneral [A]bizaid right here in "[T]he [S]ituation [R]oom" during our 7:00 [P].M. Eastern hour. Among other things, we'll broaden the interview to discuss the war in [A]fghanistan, the war on terror, the hunt for bin [L]aden, and the possibility of a [U].S. Military strike against [I]ran's nuclear facilities. More in my interview with [G]eneral [A]bizaid coming up 7:00 [P].M. Eastern.

Category: (Military) Press Release and Interviews.
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