MICHELE NORRIS, host:
A secret report by a senior U.S. military intelligence official has some sobering news about Iraq. It concludes that U.S.-led forces will likely not secure Anbar Province in western Iraq unless there are major changes to operations there. The outline of the classified assessment was first reported by The Washington Post and now has been confirmed by NPR.
Joining us from the Pentagon is NPR's John Hendren. And John, what does this report say?
JOHN HENDREN: Well, Michele, I have not seen the actual report, which is confidential, but people I've talked to have, and one defense official with experience in Iraq who has seen it says it reads like a cry for more troops. It says essentially that U.S forces are losing in Anbar Province in this effort to secure this region and they'll need to make major changes in order to save it. Some of the reasons are too few troops there and the fact that locals don't have confidence that the Americans are gonna have a lasting presence in that area.
NORRIS: What's the reaction within the Pentagon to this?
HENDREN: Well, what's interesting is what people are not saying. You're not hearing people either disavow that there is such a report or disavow what it says. In fact, senior military officials say that Sunnis who were giving the government a chance in the last election have now joined in marriages of convenience with the insurgency.
Many Americans believe that Anbar has never had enough troops. Among those are retired General Joseph Horr, who's a Marine and former head of the central command who's been critical of Rumsfeld.
NORRIS: Now as I understand this, what's interesting in part is that this assessment doesn't necessarily look at a military defeat, but looks at what's happened politically in that region. Is that correct, John?
HENDREN: It is. And one of the things it says is that the political structure is simply not developed. And I can attest to that. A couple years ago when I was there, there was one State Department official in all of Anbar Province. He rarely got outside of Fallujah.
And many of these officials are assassinated routinely. In one case, I watched one talk to some American military officers and he would not stay on the subject. Whatever they wanted to talk about, he wanted to talk about his own personal security.
NORRIS: John, you've been to Anbar Province several times in the past couple of years. Why is it so difficult for U.S.-led forces there?
HENDREN: Well, it's a place that's entirely dominated by Sunni Muslims. These are people who did well under Saddam Hussein. And it is therefore the epicenter of the insurgency. It's a vast desert area. It's hard to patrol. You can't really put somebody on every street corner because people are living far out in the desert. And they've just never been able to have the same kind of physical presence there as they have elsewhere.
And now they are pulling people out of that and other regions in order to secure the capital of Baghdad.
NORRIS: Thank you, John.
HENDREN: Thank you, Michele.
NORRIS: That was NPR's John Hendren from the Pentagon.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.