MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And last January, the U.S. mission in Iraq changed again. The U.S. troop surge brought an additional 30,000 American service men and women to Iraq. President Bush described the goals of the surge in these terms.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: In fact, we have a new strategy with a new mission, helping secure the population, especially in Baghdad.
BRAND: Joining me now is retired four star Army General Jack Keane. General Keane is one of the architects of the troop surge.
And General Keane, welcome to DAY TO DAY.
General JACK KEANE (U.S. Army, Retired): Well, I'm glad to be here. Thank you.
BRAND: What is the mission now in fall 2007 in Iraq?
Gen. KEANE: Well, the mission in 2007 in Iraq is the same as it was when we started the new operation around February, and that is the mission on the ground is to protect the people in Baghdad and in the suburbs around Baghdad -the military command refers to it as the belt - and by protecting the people, enhance security so that we can buy time for the growth and development of the Iraqi security forces and also buy time for political progress in the country, at least at the national level.
BRAND: And so has that strategy been a different strategy than it was before the surge began?
Gen. KEANE: Our mission from '03 to '06 was to, one, transition to the Iraqi security forces as quickly as we could, and also initially develop a representative democracy and then achieve reconciliation. What's different about this mission today is, is this that it recognizes that security is the precondition for economic development as well as political progress.
BRAND: And it sounds like it's a more focused, less broad mission, if you will.
Gen. KEANE: Yes. Well, on the ground it's very different for the troops. The mission before was focused on training the Iraqis. And then when you had some targetable intelligence roll out of those bases and attack wherever the enemy was, if you have some decent intelligence.
Now on the ground the soldiers are protecting the population and they're living among that population. On the ground it's very different from the soldiers and it's a fundamental shift in military tactics and strategy.
BRAND: So it's no longer about training the Iraqis.
Gen. KEANE: But Iraqis - training Iraqis is still a mission, but it's a secondary mission, it's not the primary mission. The primary mission is to establish security, and training the Iraqis is still very important to us, but establishing security is the primary mission, and we do that obviously in conjunction with Iraqi security forces.
BRAND: Now, you're saying the mission has changed and I'm wondering how common that is in military operations.
Gen. KEANE: Just about every war that I have ever been associated with, there's something that I, you know, I know throughout history, at least in the wars America has fought and the ones that we have won, most of the time we get off on the wrong foot in trying to understand who the enemy is, what their strategy is. You know, war is a trial and error. Clemenceau said it's a series of catastrophes that lead to victory, and he's not too far from the truth.
So when you go back to the Revolutionary War for many years, and much the same in World War II in the Pacific, and also in north Africa when we changed strategies and got better at what we were doing, the same thing in Korea, where we know they got pushed off the peninsula, and as well as in Vietnam. So we've gone through a history of trial and error with - beginning with an initial strategy and finding out that that strategy doesn't work and changing it. That's what's happened here in Iraq.
Three years the strategy failed. Some of it did work, but overall it did not. And the president decided to change it, and he has, and now we've got some, you know, pretty definable signs that it appears to be working. And hopefully we'll be able to continue to keep it working throughout the rest of '07 and into '08.
BRAND: You know, I don't want to mince words or parse words too closely, but is there a difference between strategy and mission?
Gen. KEANE: Well, I think, you know, we can - most people use these words synonymously. But the strategy would be a - a more of an umbrella, so to speak; it's overarching. And then the mission would be something that's more defined if you're putting it in a military context in terms of a much more specified task to be achieved and a timeframe to achieve it as part of an overall strategy.
BRAND: You know, we went out onto the streets of Los Angeles and asked people what they thought the mission was in Iraq and there were a lot of different responses and a lot of I-don't-knows. So if you had the opportunity to talk to these people, what would you say to them?
Gen. KEANE: Well, I think I can understand why there'd be misunderstanding, because when you're conducting an invasion to defeat an army and change out a regime, as we did back in '03, it's very clear. And then the regime doesn't surrender and they choose to fight through by another means and an urban insurgency grows up, so it gets complicated as to what you're trying to achieve.
But clearly the mission is to provide a stable and secure Iraq that's capable of protecting its people. That is what we are attempting to do, and obviously we are assisting the Iraqis in doing that, as opposed to what we were doing initially, defeating an army and changing out a regime. So the mission by definition is more complicated and it takes more time to do it, and it certainly is understandable how people could be mislead by what the intent is.
BRAND: Well, General Keane, thank you very much for speaking with me.
Gen. KEANE: All right. You take care. Thank you.
BRAND: That's retired four-star general Jack Keane. He was one of the architects of the current surge strategy.
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