March 18, 2008
Leah Yoon, NPR
DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDING GENERAL OF THE MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE IN IRAQ DISCUSSES THE PROGRESS BEING MADE THERE, TROOP LEVELS AND THE STRATEGY BEHIND
“SONS OF IRAQ”,
ON NPR NEWS DAY TO DAY
TODAY, TUESDAY, MARCH 18
“SONS OF IRAQ”,
ON NPR NEWS DAY TO DAY
TODAY, TUESDAY, MARCH 18
PART 1 OF TWO-PART INTERVIEW AIRING TODAY AND TOMORROW
AUDIO AVAILABLE AT WWW.NPR.ORG
March 18, 2007; Culver City, CA – In an interview airing today with host Alex Chadwick on NPR News’ Day to Day, David Petraeus, Commanding General of the Multi-National Force in Iraq discusses the progress being made there, current and future troop levels and the strategy behind deploying former insurgents who are now known as the “Sons of Iraq.”
On developing the home-grown “Sons of Iraq”:
“Intellectually, this is very difficult for us. I mean, this is to sit down with people who, again, were shooting at us. But that is how you end these kinds of conflicts. You don’t end them by killing everybody. You can’t. You cannot kill your way out of an insurgency of this size.”
On what the prospects look like for the next three to five years in Iraq:
“What I can say, Alex, is that they are certainly better than they were a year ago and during the height of the sectarian violence. There is a degree of hope in the Iraqi population that probably was not present back at that time. But, of course, this depends very much on making additional progress in the security arena. There is much more work to be done in terms of the provision of basic services to the Iraqi people, the Iraqi government getting its ministries functioning in a way that they are not right now, by and large, and getting the economy overall growing so that it can employ what is a fairly substantial unemployed and underemployed population.”
To find out where and when Day to Day airs in your market, visit http://www.npr.org/stations/
A rushed transcript of the interview with General Petraeus is below. All excerpts must be credited to NPR News Day to Day. Audio of the interview is available at www.NPR.org
Day to Day offers a fresh take on national and world news, culture, politics and technology. Hosted by Alex Chadwick and Madeleine Brand, it offers listeners a newsmagazine airing in the schedule between NPR flagship programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Since its premiere in 2003, it is public radio’s fastest-growing new program and has increased its audience in every ratings period since launch.
ALEX CHADWICK: General, you testified before Congress in September about the progress of things in Iraq. You’re scheduled to testify again in April. Can you give us a preview? How do things look now compared to September?
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, there has been significant further progress in the security arena although I will also say that that progress remains tenuous. It’s reversible and, frankly, there are tragic events that happen in Iraq on a weekly or sometimes more often than that basis. But, overall now since, say, June, the height of those attacks down by some 60 percent, civilian deaths down by some 60 percent, our casualties down, et cetera. So a good bit of progress in the security arena, but, again, a good bit of work to do. And that’s what we are endeavoring to do.
MR. CHADWICK: Let me ask about troop levels. The current level I think is close to 160,000. The plan is to bring it down to around 140,000 in July. Is that still on?
GEN. PETRAEUS: What we focus on is brigade combat team. And we will be taking out over one-quarter of our ground combat power, five of 20 brigade combat teams will have been withdrawn without replacement by the end of July plus two Marine battalions and a Marine expeditionary unit, almost the equivalent of another brigade combat team. And then, as you probably know, there’s another nearly 90,000 so-called “sons of Iraq” who are on contract to us and gradually transitioning to Iraqi employment who have helped secure local communities after we and our Iraqi counterparts have been able to clear them of al Qaeda and other extremists.
MR. CHADWICK: Well, it sounds as though by the end of July you will be under 140,000 total U.S. troops based in Iraq. You mentioned the Sons of Iraq. This is a part of this strategy I think that you lay out in your basic manual that you wrote on how the Army should be conducting the Iraq war. And the idea is, you hire these former enemies, these militias, you kind of co-opt them and take them onto your side. These are these 90,000 Sons of Iraq.
GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, it started, as you may recall, back in October, late fall of 2006 when a sheik in the Ramadi area of Anbar Province, which you’ll recall was truly in the grip of al Qaeda and that was at the height of their control there, he came to an Army brigade commander and asked him if it would be okay, would he in fact be supported if he decided to turn against al Qaeda because of the damage that al Qaeda had done to their community. That really was the beginning of the movement that eventually became known as the awakening. And they played a key role in the clearing and holding of Ramadi. We decided then to hire them to protect check points, road networks, and so forth. And it helped the local communities enormously.
MR. CHADWICK: No one could look at the results of what’s happened and not say, this has been well managed, just in terms of the numbers that you cite from last June: 60 percent reduction in attacks. But you yourself must wonder, how loyal are these people to the ideas that we’re trying to implant there? How long do you think you can count on these people once the Americans are gone?
GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, as long as it is in their interest. And what has happened in a place like Anbar Province, the individuals there, they really did have an awakening. You know, they don’t subscribe to that kind of extremist thinking and they absolutely rejected the indiscriminate violence which actually began to consume their own communities. Now, I don’t want to make this sound like sweetness and light because, first of all, intellectually, this is very difficult for us. I mean, this is to sit down with people who, again, were shooting at us. But that is how you end these kinds of conflicts. You don’t end them by killing everybody. You can’t. You cannot kill your way out of an insurgency of this size. But, clearly, over time, they have to see a hand being stretched out from the central government so that it is again in their interest, so that they feel that they have a seat at the table.
MR. CHADWICK: General Petraeus, what exactly would victory look like in Iraq? What would be for you a satisfactory outcome there?
GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, Ambassador Ryan Crocker and I typically talk about an Iraq that is at peace with itself, at peace with its neighbors, that has a government that is representative of and responsive to its citizenry and is a contributing member of the global community.
MR. CHADWICK: At this point, what are the prospects for that kind of an outcome? Can you say in the next three to five years?
GEN. PETRAEUS: I’m not sure I can. What I can say, Alex, is that they are certainly better than they were a year ago and during the height of the sectarian violence. There is a degree of hope in the Iraqi population that probably was not present back at that time. But, of course, this depends very much on making additional progress in the security arena. There is much more work to be done in terms of the provision of basic services to the Iraqi people, the Iraqi government getting its ministries functioning in a way that they are not right now, by and large, and getting the economy overall growing so that it can employ what is a fairly substantial unemployed and underemployed population.