The Troops' View of the 'Surge'
SCOTT SIMON, Host:
Thanks much for being with us.
THOMAS RICKS: You're welcome.
SIMON: And was there something almost predictable about this because as soon as General Petraeus says there's progress in Anbar, Sheik Abu Risha in Anbar was assassinated?
RICKS: Yes. I think it was a strategic hit job timed, I think, between General Petraeus' testimony when he hung so much hope on events in Anbar province and on the eve of the president's speech, which likely - to the same with Anbar.
SIMON: I want to ask you about an exchange this week between Senator John Warner of Virginia and General Petraeus.
JOHN WARNER: If we continue what you have laid before the Congress here as a strategy, do you feel that that is making America safer?
DAVID PETRAEUS: Sir, I believe that this is indeed the best course of action to achieve our objectives in Iraq.
WARNER: Does that make America safer?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I don't know actually.
SIMON: What do you make of that answer?
RICKS: He knows that White House rhetoric is that we have to fight them there, so we don't fight them here. He was explicitly not endorsing it when he basically said, I don't know whether the war in Iraq has made this country safer.
SIMON: Are there differences among military commanders about the whole idea of a drawdown?
RICKS: I think there also is a little bit of unease about Petraeus selling the plans for Iraq as a troop drawdown because there are no replacement troops available for the surge and so commanders in Iraq have been saying for months, we're going to start bringing down the numbers in April through October of 2008.
SIMON: Isn't there also some concern at the same time that if you substantially reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, Iranians move in to fill the void?
RICKS: There is exactly that. At the same time, the strategic calculation is that A, Iran is already there in large numbers because the government we created in Baghdad is allied with Iran. In fact, I think in some ways, if you want to look at a model of the training and advisory program it's not ours in Iraq, it's the Iranians.
SIMON: It's interesting that General Petraeus also seemed pointedly to oppose a shift in mission in the - more of an advisory role with Iraqi military and it's taking on more of a role in combat. What does that say?
RICKS: That's when you're going to see whether Iraqi forces behave well without American troops around. How do they treat Sunnis and have we simply created the conditions for a deeper, more vicious, brutal and longer-lasting civil war?
SIMON: Thanks very much for being with us.
RICKS: You're welcome.
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