STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne. Good morning.
(Soundbite of "NewsHour" broadcast)
President GEORGE W. BUSH: If you were to take and - put me in an opinion poll and said, do I approve of Iraq? I'd be one of those who said, no, I don't approve of what's taking place in Iraq. On the other hand, I do believe we can succeed.
MONTAGNE: That's President Bush, and he's working to persuade those voters who are telling pollsters that they disapprove. He spoke last night to Jim Lehrer on public television.
President BUSH: No question, 2006 was a lousy year for Iraq. And so the question I'm now faced with is, do I react to that or do we just begin to leave - which is, you know, some people, decent people on Capitol Hill think we ought to do. I made the decision - let's succeed; let's work for success, not work for failure.
MONTAGNE: The president was referring to his new strategy for Iraq.
INSKEEP: When he announced that strategy last week, the president said some listeners would ask why it would work.
MONTAGNE: And in Baghdad a reporter told the U.S. ambassador, quote, "I just don't see what has changed." The U.S. is adding more troops and focusing on security in Baghdad, but it's been tried that before.
INSKEEP: To find out what has changed we called the ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, and we asked him to define the American goal now.
Ambassador ZALMAY KHALILZAD: The long-term goal is democratic. An Iraq in which all Iraqis resolve their differences on fundamental issues; an Iraq that is united; and an Iraq that is making progress towards rule of law and is doing well economically; and is not a source of insecurity in the region, but a source of security.
INSKEEP: Has the long-term goal changed at all as the president has revised his strategy and as events have changed on the ground?
Ambassador KHALILZAD: I think the long-term goal has not changed, but I think that a greater appreciation of the amount of time that it will take and the amount of effort that it will require.
INSKEEP: Which gets to another question: In order to reach that long-term goal, you've of course been using the U.S. military; you've been emphasizing the training of Iraqis; you've taken a certain diplomatic approach within the country, and also to Iraq's neighbors. Are you still using those same basic tools even though you've made some adjustments to how you're using them?
Ambassador KHALILZAD: Absolutely. Those are the fundamental tools. The use of increased security assets, that is the adaptation. But the basic instruments that are in play are the same.
INSKEEP: Well, ambassador, as you know, you've been asked by reporters and people in Congress have been asking - Democrats in Congress have been asking administration officials - what has changed? It sounds like you are saying that the administration is pursuing the same goal, using the same tools, but with some tactical changes and trying a little harder in some areas.
Ambassador KHALILZAD: That is true with one additional difference, which is that we have reached an agreement with the Iraqis to take steps that they need to take for success to be achieved, both in the short term and over the longer term. The mix, therefore, has more Iraqis participating in the process and taking on more responsibility and making commitments.
INSKEEP: Well you've said very perceptively in recent days that one of the reasons for the difficulties of the last year is that the insurgents or the terrorists have adapted.
Ambassador KHALILZAD: Right.
INSKEEP: Which leads to the question of whether the United States is adapting its strategy sufficiently to take into account the way the enemy is adapting and improving what it's doing.
Ambassador KHALILZAD: Well, that's a fair point, and we will have to see. We think we have. What is at play here, as we've talked before, is not only the future of Iraq, but the future of the entire region, so it requires adjustment by us. I believe given the current circumstances, this adaptation is appropriate to the circumstances.
INSKEEP: Are you confident that if the other side adapts to your flooding Baghdad with troops by increasing the violence somewhere else, that you'll be able to adapt to that?
Ambassador KHALILZAD: Well, I think that is likely to happen. That has been taken into account. To secure Baghdad, that will not solve Iraq's problems as a whole, but it will be an important achievement.
INSKEEP: Do you agree with Vice President Cheney's statements over the weekend, in which he said that Osama bin Laden's belief was that the Americans did not have the stomach for a long fight? The implication seemed to be that the Vice President wants to prove that the United States does have the stomach for a long fight. Do you believe it's important for the United States to stay and stay in Iraq even if it continues not to go well?
Ambassador KHALILZAD: Well, I think it is true that many of our adversaries in this region do believe that we don't have the patience for a long struggle, but I believe that they are wrong with one caveat, and that is we can be very patient and we demonstrated that during the Cold War; but for patience to be sustained domestically, the American people have to believe that we have a strategy for success. I believe the American people know that Iraq is important. They have serious doubts with regard to our strategy.
INSKEEP: Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is the U.S. representative in Baghdad. Ambassador, thanks very much for speaking with us.
Ambassador KHALILZAD: Well, it's great to speak with you again, Steve.