UT Documents


I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"Interview" with Anthony Cordesman

In connection with the article I wrote concerning the Pollack/O'Hanlon trip to Iraq, I emailed a request for an interview to Anthony Cordesman, who accompanied them on the trip and and then published a report calling for "strategic patience." In response, he e-mailed me his phone number. I called him and the following conversation took place:

AC: Cordesman.

GG: Hi, this is Glenn Greenwald calling. I just received your e-mail with your phone number. Is this a good time for you to speak?

(long pause)

AC: Go ahead.

GG: OK. I wanted to find out some information about how this recent trip was arranged.

AC: You know, I'm perfectly happy to deal with any issues of substance. But I am fed to the teeth with this, with how I compare with Ken and Mike's opinions. If you want to know my opinion on an issue of substance, I'm happy to give it to you. Beyond that, forget it.

GG: I wasn't asking you to compare your --

AC: Well, I told you what I was willing to cover.

GG: Can you tell me who picked the cities that you went to?

AC: (sigh). You know, this is precisely what I'm not interested in getting into. If you have a substantive question, fine. Otherwise, let's just stop.

GG: OK. I don't know what you mean by substantive, but I'll ask another question. Were the Iraqis you spoke with a representative sampling of Iraqi public opinion. Were they ones given to you by the U.S. military? How were they chosen?

AC: Oh, come on. I think we better stop. Do you realize how many people you'd have to talk to to get a representative sample of Iraqi public opinion?

GG: Well, how did they get chosen?

AC: All right, let's just quit now. I mean, if you had any mathematical training, you're talking something on the order of 2,700 people.

GG: Right, I think there's a difference between picking people --

AC: Let's just forget it, all right.

(Cordesman hangs up)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Interview with Michael O'Hanlon

Following is the transcript of my interview with Michael O'Hanlon. He requested the opportunity, before answering any questions, to respond to some of the criticisms that had been written concerning his Op-Ed. Additionally, due to a technical glitch, there was (where indicated) a roughly 2-minute gap in the tape. I was able to re-create the questions and answers (with O'Hanlon's confirmation of its accuracy) based upon my notes and recollection:


Greenwald: So why don't we start with you making whatever statement you want and then we'll go to my questions.

O'Hanlon: Great. Thanks for the opportunity. Let me say just a couple of broad things:

First, I think that to an extent, at least, it's certainly fair to go over a person's record when that person themself is being held up as playing a certain role in the debate. So while I'm not entirely happy with some of the coverage I've received here and elsewhere, I agree with the basic premise: that if I'm being held up as a "critic of the war", for example by Vice President Cheney, it’s certainly only fair to ask if that is a proper characterization of me. And in fact I would not even use that characterization of myself, as I will elaborate in a moment. And, you know, to the extent that - which is a pretty unusual thing for an Op-Ed writer - that you get such an amount of attention that you yourself almost become a small part of the story, it's understandable that people would look back and say, you know, "how credible has this person been?" "How accurate have they been?" "What's their track record?" So, I don't object in any way to the idea that, you know, there should be scrutiny in this sort of a case.

That's all sort of a warm-up or a wind-up to a couple of things I want to say now about my own track record. And what I would say is over a several year time horizon is that I think I've had a good track record, but certainly not a perfect one, and I think that to the extent that people would be asked to believe me just based on my own credibility, I don't think I've been so infallible that that should be expected of people. In fact, as an academic who always likes to go back to the evidence myself, I don't tend to think that anybody in any walk of life should get a free pass just based on their personal reputation. So, that's one more way of saying that I think it's only fair that there be scrutiny of people's record.

But I say all that because now I'm about to spend a couple of minutes largely defending my record, and again I want this to be seen in proper context. I'm not trying to say that I've been a consistent critic of the war. I think you know well and documented well that I'm not. I also don't want to hold myself up as someone whose record on Iraq has been so perfect that somehow I should be listened to just because of who I am. Again, I sort of object to that on principle regardless of who the so-called authority is.

But I'm going to now begin with- and again, I'll be fairly brief -- obviously, we can spend a lot of time on this if you wish and your questions may come back to it -- but I want to point out that while I was certainly not opposed to this war, I was one of the earliest people to say a couple of key things which I think have been borne out by history. One is that if you're going to do this, you gotta do it right, which means a big force. Starting in late 2001 in an Op-Ed I co-authored in The Washington Post, I was a major proponent of what you might call "The Shinseki Doctrine" – that if you're going to do this sort of a war, you gotta do it with large forces and you've got to be ready for a serious conflict.

In fact, I wrote in that piece and an article I later wrote in Orbis Magazine, that you could suffer up to several thousand American fatalities in this sort of a war, and I was roundly mocked and critiqued for these arguments by some on the Right-Wing -- most notably Ken Edelman in his famous "Cake Walk" Op-Ed -- which was a response to Brent Scowcroft as well as to Phil Gordon and myself in that Post piece. So, in that period of time, while it won't make a lot of people happy who are against the war categorically, nonetheless I feel fairly vindicated and prescient in having argued that if you're going to do this, you gotta do it right. And a lot of the talk of doing it quickly and easily with little Iraqi resistance and a warm reception thereafter is irresponsible.

I also was one of the people who was constantly criticizing the administration for invoking the Al Qaeda/Saddam Hussein link. I went through the intelligence as it was publicly known in some detail to point out that there was no such link, certainly not at an operational level. And my concerns about Saddam's future and therefore the reasonableness of confronting him were of a less acute, longer-term nature. They were real, and therefore -- as you rightly reported -- I was not a critic of this war. In the final analysis, I was a supporter. But there was not an urgency about my advocacy of the use of force that would sound like what most of the administration or its supporters were invoking. I was making a much more nuanced case and I think again that part stands up, even though I acknowledge I was clearly wrong about thinking Saddam had WMD.

Now there are a couple of things I'll say and then I'll wrap up because this part I realize it can go on forever. I just want to highlight the main points that I think I got right and I got wrong. A couple more quick things, and I'll just mention one or two.

I've consistently advocated in the period since the invasion spending a lot more time on economics in Iraq, creating a lot more jobs, putting a lot more Iraqis back to work, trying to reduce the temptation for so many young men to join the insurgency -- which is partly something they do out of economic interest and partly out of anger and embitterment and a feeling of being cut off from their own society. And I think all those problems are worsened when you don't give people jobs, and so that's one aspect where policy is finally begun to come around a little bit to where I've been and so I feel I've made a useful contribution in that regard.

As well as the overall decision to create the Iraq Index, which has tried to present data on this war. I've now had about a dozen New York Times Op-Eds co-authored with my research assistant, whoever that was at the time, summarizing the state in Iraq and I generally tried to a adopt a much -- a very nuanced tone, trying to point out pros and cons of what we saw at a given moment in time and referring people to the Iraq Index for lengthier discussion of the data.

And I think I've been fairly effective, although it's due mostly to the credit of my research assistants who have maintained the Index, fairly effective in trying to convey that information as it was publicly known at the time. Okay, so, those are the things I think I got right. I already have acknowledged that I wasn't right on WMD, that's no huge surprise, but I acknowledge it.

I also...I think in the period after Saddam's overthrow -- there was a period in 2003 when I will concede I was a little too optimistic about how I thought things were going to play out. And that didn't lead me to major policy recommendations like cutting forces quickly - I was not of the Wolfowitz School, then or any other time. But I did have a bit more optimism than has been historically warranted. And to the extent it might have affected some of my policy recommendations at least at the margin, that I was operating from an incorrect premise about where the state of things stood.

And one last point, and this is probably the one I'm toughest on with myself and most wishing I could go back and replay history a bit: while I make no apologies for supporting the war effort -- and I'm happy to say more about that if you wish in a minute when you get into your questions -- I would say that I wish I had sensed that the administration was being so blithe and so Pollyanna-ish about what would happen after Saddam was overthrown. As I mentioned, I was always in favor of a much larger presence than they wanted; I was in favor of a major force, I was squarely in the Shinseki camp in terms of force-sizing.

And by implication that leads you to have a lot of capability that you can use to restore order and keep order and do a lot of things that we failed to do. But I wish in retrospect I had made my support for the war more conditional on being confident that the administration would itself have a strong Phase 4 plan. They did increase the troop numbers in the end, above what they had originally advocated, and I took some consolation in that. But I think I should have - even though it was hard to know from public sources - should have tried to burrow in a bit more and see just what the status of their Phase 4 or post-Saddam planning really was. And that would have been very hard to do -- again, because of classification reasons -- but I still wish in retrospect I had done it.

So, that's my once-over on my track own record, and now I'm happy to go in whatever direction you would like.

Greenwald: Excellent, and I appreciate that. I think that was helpful.

So, I want to ask you about the period prior to the war - there was obviously debate about what the optimal strategy was. But at some point it became clear that Wolfowitz would prevail, or something resembling Wolfowitz' strategy would prevail, and Shinseki's would not, and it became clear what the strategy would be in terms of troop numbers.

Once it became clear what the strategy was, everyone had two choices: Either support the war that Bush was going to wage, or oppose it. Did you support it or oppose it, notwithstanding whatever reservations you might have had about the strategy?

O'Hanlon: Well as I just acknowledged I continued to support it, and that's the part I wish I could re-visit.

But I want to correct one thing in what you said, which is that if you look at what Wolfowitz was on record as advocating, even going back to the late 1990s, he was talking about putting in 35,000 U.S. forces, backing them up with air power, creating a sanctuary in the South, and then gradually hoping that the Iraqi resistance internal to Saddam would grow around that nucleus. And that idea frankly just flat out washed in the internal deliberation.

And I like to hope, although it's no great solace in retrospect, that I had some role from the outside in pushing against that sort of, I think, ridiculous concept of what would be sufficient to overthrow Saddam. As you know, the ultimate force package that we deployed was less blatantly insufficient. It was into - I forget the exact numbers we had at the maximum - but if you look at the numbers in Iraq and Kuwait it was in the general vicinity of a couple hundred thousand Americans that we had at the time of the invasion. It was still fewer than the Shinseki concept would have required, and it was fewer than General Zinni's plan. Two divisions, of course, were offloaded from the deployment plan when Rumsfeld felt like we had enough. And so, in the end it wasn't enough, but it was a lot better than what Wolfowitz had been advocating.

I'm still self-critical because I wish I had kept pushing for, basically, a complete Shinseki victory. And to the extent that that wasn't going to happen, I wish that I had therefore made my support for the war more conditional. But make no mistake about it, if you look along the spectrum from Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld's initial position to Shinseki's initial position, we actually wound up closer to the latter. But it was still not big enough and not with a good enough plan for how to implement it, use those forces. And for that reason, I do regret not having been a bit more conditional in my support for the war.

Greenwald: OK, but once George Bush is primed to invade in March of 2003, the strategy is known, on balance did you believe that with the strategy that Bush was going to use, that the war on balance was a good idea rather than a bad idea? You favored it, right?

O'Hanlon: Yes, yes I did.

Greenwald: OK. And in terms of the reasons that you favored it, you say that you obviously got Weapons of Mass Destruction wrong - you wrote a Washington Times February 2003 column where you said: “the President was still convincing on his central point that the time for war is near.” And then you went on to say that "It is now time for multilateralists to support the President." Weapons of Mass Destruction was a very significant part of the case that you made for invading Iraq. Would you agree with that?

O'Hanlon: Yes, I would.

Greenwald: So, if someone had told you in February or March of 2003 that in fact there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, or could have shown you what the real state of affairs was in Iraq, would you have supported the invasion?

O'Hanlon: No, almost certainly not. I think the only question I would have still had would have been to what extent is he beginning to reconstitute a potential nuclear program even if he doesn't possess nuclear weapons at the time. That would have been the nuance I would have added to your question.

But basically if you're at the point where you say he had no actual nuclear weapons or technologies that are getting him towards a nuclear capability, or stocks of chemical and biological weapons, I think the case for war at least on strategic grounds largely goes away. There's still a case on humanitarian grounds, but as you and I know, the greatest atrocities Saddam committed were well in the past by this point, and so I don't think the humanitarian argument by itself was sufficient once we got into the 2003 period. So, no I cannot imagine supporting the war if there had been no concern at all about WMD.

Greenwald: As far as the Surge is concerned, the policy that President Bush announced in January 2007, you were a supporter of that strategy on balance, right?

O'Hanlon: Correct, yes.

Greenwald: You had mentioned that you were a critic of the strategy throughout, toward the early part of the war, but throughout 2003 at least, and into 2004, you were writing Op-Eds and giving interviews in which you were saying: although there was some criticisms, that in essence this strategy was a sufficient strategy to achieve our objectives. Isn't that a pretty fair characterization of your view of the strategy throughout 2003?

O'Hanlon: Yes, not too far off. As I say, I was - and this is the part in the post-invasion period that I do have some regrets about.

I mean, they had not taken my advice to have as robust of a force as possible. But I was hopeful, and so in that sense in terms of the policy environment in which we where operating, you know I feel like my advice had been partly ignored and that was regrettable. But I still felt that what I saw on the ground looked relatively promising, and so I had some recommendations to maybe increase forces by a few thousand, or maybe to increase emphasis on job creation programs. I was not at that time in the spirit of a major critic of their policy.

I never condoned the firing of the Iraqi army and all the Ba’athists as I recall. I was a bit shocked by that, but I was still hopeful as 2003 went by that we were sort of getting away with it because the overall situation seemed on the ground at that time to be passable. Clearly that was a mistake, and again my feeling of guilt about it is mitigated by the fact that my own policy recommendations were ignored. One of the reasons you go with a lot of extra force is so that if things happen that you don't expect you're still able to deal with them. And that was one of the reasons why I favored a big force in the first place. But I was still hopeful at that time that we were going to be able to essentially get by without having done things right because at the moment in that period things looked relatively good. Obviously, that was not correct.

Greenwald: Right. In April 2003, you wrote a piece in Brookings' Daily War Report and you concluded by saying that "it has indeed been a very good plan", referring to the plan of Rumsfeld and Meyers. That was pretty much the state of your view at the time, right?

O'Hanlon: Yeah, the invasion plan was a good invasion plan. Yes, and that's why I make this point that - obviously you know that was called Phase 3 -- the Phase 4 plan was not good. It was hard for me at the time - and I wish I had probed further - it was hard at the time to believe they had virtually no Phase 4 plan whatsoever. I mean, this gets beyond the issue of numbers: This is not just a question of how many people we have, but of what their game plan is for what to do after Saddam is overthrown.

On that point, they were basically sent into battle with Zinni's pre-existing plan thrown away, discarded as a deliberate act of negligence, in my judgment -- all through classified channels that anybody in the public domain was going to have a hard time getting at. And frankly it's a little bit inconceivable to me, even though it's obviously now reality, that they did that. That they - Tommy Franks and Doug Feith and others -- at Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld's suggestion to a large extent -- deliberately assumed a benign environment after the invasion to the point of not even giving commanders instructions on how to maintain security once Saddam fell.

I didn't have the knowledge that was the case, and it would have been quite hard to have that knowledge on the outside. Having said that, I still regret not having probed more, because it was such a huge part of our subsequent problems, t hat if I could do one thing over in life, in terms of this war, it would be to push harder on that point. Even though, frankly if I had gotten it right, it would have taken a lot of creativity and a lot of good snooping to figure that out. Because this really was a case of professional malpractice by the administration.

Every kind of previous war plan for Iraq to the extent we had publicly debated them and heard about them did include a robust Phase 4, especially Zinni's Desert Crossing plan of 1998-99. And the idea that they would simply discard that and replace them with nothing whatsoever was fairly incomprehensible to me. But I still obviously in retrospect wish that I had believed that they might be so unconscionable and pushed harder on that point.

Greenwald: I have a couple more questions about the pre-war period and then I want to ask you about your trip.

You said that Weapons of Mass Destruction was a significant part of the conclusion that you reached that we ought to invade Iraq. There were people, of course, like Howard Dean and Jim Webb, who were saying that we don't actually know with enough certainty and ought to let the inspectors find out. Then there were other people like Scott Ritter who were saying: no, there's actually no convincing evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, and plenty of evidence that they don't.

Would you agree on that question that that group of individuals expressing those views exercised better judgment than you did?

O'Hanlon: Um . . . . well, it's hard to disagree when somebody got it right and you got it wrong. But I also think that you need to -- and I have a lot of respect for Jim Webb out of that group, and I think Scott Ritter has shown a lot of diligence over the years and has on-ground knowledge of various things. I think Howard Dean's interest in this was of a different nature and his expertise of a different level. But I would certainly make a nod to Webb and to Ritter because they got it right, and after all you have to give some credit to people who got it right.

The case for believing he had at least chem and bio was very, very strong, and I'm sure you followed the debate about not only...and this is not meant as a complete defense of my position. I'll say it again, I was wrong, I'll say it flat out. The U.S. system thought he had them, Hans Blix thought he had them, the French thought he had them. The Germans even thought he was probably six years from having a nuclear weapon.

So, many of the countries who opposed the war, their intelligence agencies were not totally different from our own in what they felt. And the circumstantial case that Saddam, who was one of the great users of chemical weapons in history as you know, would have voluntarily given these things up, when he refused to let inspectors verify the fact and therefore deprived himself and his country of tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue. It was just a very hard concept to believe. Now what that should warn us all, and it certainly warned me for future reference --unfortunately not for this case -- is that whenever you're coming to an intelligence-based conclusion based on inference and based on historical patterns of behavior, you have to be very careful and keep reminding yourself and everyone else that you don't actually know what's going on, that you are making an inference based on a strong body of knowledge, but not any ability to prove it.

And I think that it would have behooved more of us - including myself - to acknowledge that, that we were piecing together a case based on fairly strong circumstantial historical evidence, but there was still an assumption in it that in fact proved to be wrong. So I think on that issue, there is an important lesson for how to understand intelligence and it’s certainly one I've tried to digest myself.

Greenwald: You indicate that there were problems that you identified with the policy and the strategy throughout the war. Was there ever a point where you advocated withdrawing the troops from Iraq and ending the war?

O'Hanlon: Well, Jim Steinberg and I -- who is Sandy Berger's former deputy in the Clinton administration and now the Dean of the L.B.J. School in Austin, Texas -- in the course of 2004, he and I - this is before most people considered the Iraq war to be a civil war - as you recall this was the period when the strongest concern was about the Sunni/Ba’athist insurgency. At that time, Jim and I thought that it would be useful to advocate that we start to schedule a draw-down -- not going down to zero, but going down to the range of 30,000-50,000 U.S. troops to be carried out over roughly an 18-month period.

The reasoning behind that was at that time the main problem we seemed to be facing in Iraq was being perceived as an occupier. And I think when Jim and I wrote our first piece in fact we were legally still an occupier; and then, of course, in the course of 2004 we transferred sovereignty, but we were still seen as an occupier and the Iraqi government was one that we had essentially created. So, there was a sense that we really still were occupying. And at that period of time, it seemed to me that the wiser policy was to say to those who were making this argument about our occupation "No, we are looking to get out of here. And we can't get probably all the way and it's not going to be instantaneous." But that struck me as being the most urgent problem that Iraq faced and the most urgent problem that we faced within Iraq.

Now, what changed in the next couple of years was of course that recommendation was not accepted. And I'm not claiming it would have worked if it had been, by the way. I think in retrospect that diagnosis may have been correct for that period of time but it may not have lasted long enough to work long-term. If we had started to do what Steinberg and I recommended, we would have had to revise our plan somewhere down the drawdown schedule.

But the ultimate problem of course is that Sunni Arab and Ba'athist and Al Qaeda attacks against the Shia ultimately provoked a counter-reaction with most people using February '06 and the Samara bomb incident as the main starting point of the civil conflict. From which point onward the perception of America as occupier was no longer the single most important strategic challenge or problem within Iraq. And so, I think that was part of what led me to think that there was a logic to the Surge. It was not something I was enthusiastic about supporting at first, because instinctively and emotionally it ran against what I would have preferred. But I felt the nature of the problem had changed enough that it was worth trying to give it a shot at classic counter-insurgency doctrine once this thing turned into a more complex conflict by 2006.

Greenwald: But you don't favor any of the withdrawal plans now, like timed withdrawal or defunding, for instance, do you?

O'Hanlon: No. But one thing I want to say in the spirit of good healthy debate is that I have a lot of respect for these other plans. I do not trash my opponents in this debate. I think that there are a lot of people who look at Iraq and come to different conclusions because they see different aspects of our overall challenge there, as to more important or least important. And we're making different gambles about which signals the United States can most usefully send to the Iraqis that would hopefully get them to start making some better political compromise with each other, for example.

And so I don't favor these plans, but I respect them and they frankly may prove right in the end. I tend to think, though, when you have battlefield momentum – as you know, I believe we now do to an extent -- that it's worth seeing if you can carry over that momentum into the political sphere. But I am only giving the Surge sort of another six months reprieve at the moment in terms of hoping to see that political progress be possible. And if it's not, then I would be personally a lot more sympathetic to these schedule drawdown plans.

Greenwald: OK, I just want to ask you some questions about the trip that you just took. Whose idea was that trip? How did that trip arise and who planned it?

O'Hanlon: Well, I have wanted to go back to Iraq for a long time. I feel it’s- I've been there once in September 2003 - it behoves anybody who's working on this issue a lot of the time as I've been for a few years trying to get some on-the-ground experience and observations. And so I've been trying to get back for a couple of years and I started putting in these requests a little bit more assertively...

Greenwald: Who did you put them in with?

O'Hanlon: To the military, starting in about the spring.

Greenwald: And then, at some point they accepted and said that they would organize a trip for you?

O'Hanlon: Yeah. I think the trip was ultimately originally scheduled for other people as well. I think it’s public knowledge that Tony Cordesman also on our trip, and I think he had plans to go before Ken and I managed to get ourselves invited as well, but --

Greenwald: Why did you need the permission of the U.S. military in order to go? Why couldn't you just go yourself?

O'Hanlon: I suppose I could have, but I was hopeful that someone could help take care of my security, for one thing. I'm not going to try to sound more heroic than I am. And also I wanted to talk to a lot of military personnel and get their impressions.

And also I'm not a long-standing enough specialist on Iraqi politics. I'm more of a defense scholar. So I don't have the kinds of contacts in Iraq that some of my friends who are first and foremost Iraq specialists have. And therefore in order to have a useful trip, I need to sort of tag along with somebody. So this was a great benefit to me that not only the U.S. military would help arrange the trip, but also that Ken Pollack and Tony Cordesman -- who were two long-standing Iraq experts, two of our nation's best Iraq experts -- would be on the trip as well. So for all these reasons, that was why I took the chance to go on that trip.

Greenwald: You were there for eight days, right?

O'Hanlon: Correct.

Greenwald: Eight full days, or...?

O'Hanlon: Well, if you’re counting hours, I guess seven and a half days, you know . . . .

Greenwald: And you went to how many cities?

O'Hanlon: I went to about -- well cities -- if I count cities and also forward operating bases, and I’m happy to break these down one by one in a minute -- I went to probably two dozen separate sites inside of Iraq, and roughly half of them being towns or cities and the other half being various kinds of combat outposts.

Greenwald: So you went to roughly a dozen different towns or cities?

O'Hanlon: Yeah, or sectors of a given city. In Baghdad, for example, we went to three or four different parts of town, and then also to three or four parts of the belts around Baghdad. So depending on how you break it down. If your point is that seven and a half days is not a long time, I'll be the first to agree.

Greenwald: What was the longest you stayed in any one place?

O'Hanlon: Well, we spent each evening in Baghdad, and we spent a number of days in Baghdad talking to different people, so we always in Baghdad for a good chunk of any given day. For some days we were in Baghdad for longer chunks, anywhere from the overnight hours of the evening always but sometimes also a longer part of the day.

Most of the other places we were anywhere from 2-4 hours.

Greenwald: The first line of your Op-Ed said:"viewed from Iraq where we just spent the last eight days interviewing American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel..."

How did you arrange the meetings with the Iraqi military and civilian personnel?

O'Hanlon: Well, a number of those -- and most of those were arranged by the U.S. military. So I'll be transparent about that as well. These were to some extent contacts of Ken and Tony, but that was a lesser number of people. The predominant majority were people who we came into contact with through the itinerary the D.O.D. developed.

[Break in recording – reconstructed from notes and, regarding parts used in the article,with O’Hanlon’s confirmation]:

Greenwald: Were you concerned that you were getting an unrepresentative view of the situation in Iraq because the Iraqis with whom you spoke were ones hand-picked by the U.S. military?

O'Hanlon: If someone wanted to argue that we were not getting a representative view of Iraqis because the ones we spoke with were provided by the military, I would agree that this would be a genuine concern. Certainly that might have influenced the impressions that we were presented, though by no means did all of the Iraqis agree with the view of progress in Iraq.

Greenwald: Given that some of the claims in your Op-Ed are based upon your conversations with Iraqis, and that the Iraqis with whom you spoke were largely if not exclusively ones provided to you by the U.S. military, shouldn't that fact have been included in your Op-Ed?

O'Hanlon: If the suggestion is that in a 1,400 word Op-Ed, we ought to have mentioned that, I can understand that criticism, and if we should have included that, I apologize for not having done so.

But I want to stress that the focus here was on the perspective of the U.S. military, and I did a lot of probing of what I was told, and remain confident in the conclusions that we reached about the military successes which we highlighted. But if you're suggesting that some of our impressions might have been shaped by the military's selection of Iraqis, and that we might have disclosed that, that is, I think, fair enough.

Greenwald: So were all of the people with whom you spoke in Iraq ones you encountered as a result of planning by the U.S. military?

[tape resumes]

O'Hanlon: Well, other than the ones we encountered in passing in the Green Zone or whatever. And I’m not going to claim that there was a huge amount of back-and-forth. There was a little bit. But for the most part, the conversations were ones arranged by D.O.D., yes

But I've often not been in agreement with them on how they interpreted things, I’ve often done thing to try to get details on the tactics.

You know, there's always obviously a danger of being a little bit wowed by the group you're with, but I have been involved in this debate long enough and been involved critically long enough that I feel from the D.O.D. point of view, I have a very good interaction with our leadership and our personnel.

We also saw C.I.A personnel, we saw A.I.D personnel, we met with people from senior CENTCOM positions who were not on General Petreus' staff. We had a lot of interaction with civilian officials there – including the ambassador, a number of people in his office. We had ample opportunity to probe at and assess the U.S. take - I am not worried about that.

However I will take your point and I would agree with your point that we were certainly not getting a representative view of Iraqi opinion. And nor would I claim that we got a representative view, or at least got a widespread sampling of, American enlisted military personnel thinking. We had a couple dozen of enlisted personnel we come in contact with, but as you can probably surmise -- unless you are totally out of earshot - which I was sometimes - the ability to get a totally independent take was difficult. I would go out of my way to get that independent take when I could, but I would admit to you that in the space of seven and a half days I only had probably a few independent opinions in private settings from enlisted personnel. So, that's a limited sampling. And that's part of why we said we felt morale was high, but we didn't go and use more superlatives. Frankly, the people we talked to I thought morale was outstanding, but I didn't want to get carried away in a situation where there was a limitation on our ability to do a full sampling.

So in regard to the military we had a lot of access, conversations with a lot of people we had professional relationships with for years, and I feel that I have an accurate sense of how they view the mission. I do not claim to have near as detailed a sense of how Iraqis think about our role there at the moment.

Greenwald: But even in terms of what’s going on in the various cities, and how ready the Iraqi troops are, and whether their divisions really are as ready as the Op-Ed suggested – Isn’t it fair to say that the great bulk of your information about those matters came from statements made to you either by the U.S. military officials or the Iraqi officials selected for you by the U.S. military?

O'Hanlon: Yes. But I would actually challenge what you just said. We do not in the Op-Ed give an overall glowing assessment of the Iraqi security forces. We do say there has been progress with some of them. But we do not --

Greenwald: I understand. But with the ones where you said there was progress -- that was based largely on, if not exclusively on, the claims of the U.S. military and the Iraqi military officials they picked for you, right?

O'Hanlon: No, it's more than that because it's also looking at data on what they've been doing on the battlefield and who they're led by. And in fact Ken Pollack and I are now doing a longer trip report in which you'll see, I think, if you're interested in some of the detail in our thinking about the progress, but also the limitations on Iraqi security forces. And one thing I had decided to tell General Petreus and General Odierno and others in my visit and subsequently is that I don't think we have yet a very compelling transition strategy for how we can ultimately pass off security in some of the most tense, inter-ethnic neighborhoods to Iraqi forces, because I am not yet confident that we are seeing a large enough number of them become non-sectarian and dependable in their nature.

And this is a point I made repeatedly with Petreus and Odierno and a point that we are going to make in our trip report. The Op-Ed said -- listen, there is momentum at one level. There are some Iraqi security forces that are looking better, and on top of that there's a volunteer phenomenon -- where they want to work places like al Anbar Province and some other places to go against our common enemies -- that's also impressive. But it's by no means a resolution of the sectarian conflict. I remain quite concerned that we need an end-game for that.

In fact, if you'll permit me - one last thing I've done in the last two months is to write a paper on the “soft partition” option for Iraq, because I think that in the end it would be much easier to actually figure out a transition strategy out of Iraq for us if Iraqis would agree to essentially create three autonomous regions – with one of them being Kurdistan and the other two being predominantly Sunni and predominately Shia. I think it would be easier to build security forces around protecting those sorts of zones.

So that has been an enduring concern of mine. And it's true that in this Op-Ed we tried to emphasize where we saw momentum; we focused more on some of the good news, and I suppose we could be criticized for that. But, we did acknowledge the sectarian problem is far from addressed, and that's something that's very much on our minds still today.

Greenwald: Your partner in this Op-Ed, Ken Pollack, spoke with George Packer of The New Yorker, who afterwards wrote: Pollack "spoke with very few Iraqis and could independently confirm very little of what he heard from American officials." Is that your experience as well? Do you agree with that characterization?

O'Hanlon: Well, I just told you my fuller view on that, which is that I don't claim any great sense of what the Iraqi public or Iraqi leadership is thinking. We did actually have a number of meetings with some top Iraqi politicians, but a small enough number that I'm not going to make undue claims about it.

You know I've been dealing with military matters for twenty years and I have some experience in trying to critique and assess the kinds of plans and documents and data I see before me, and to probe at them and to get a feel based on the nature of a conversation and who's talking to me for how confident they are in their own conclusions, to try and get some sense -- the same way, essentially, that you, in a very professional way, are grilling me right now, I would try to grill them to get a feel for just how serious - how solid they are in their conclusion on any given issue at any given time.

Now you could say in one sense all this data ultimately, all this information ultimately is coming from the U.S. military. Yes, but there's an opportunity for a lot of probing, a lot of debate, a lot of conversations back and forth and so I think Packer is slightly too strong in his criticism on that point.

Greenwald: Well, I think he's quoting, or purporting to describe, what Pollack told him. But I take your point and it is fair enough to say that just because you're getting your information from military sources doesn't mean you are just gullibly swallowing what they say, because you're a professional and you're making assessments about what their credibility is. That's fair enough and I understand that point. And I guess you've said in the past you felt like you had less faith than what they where telling you this time, and that's all fine.

But what I'm trying to get at is if they told you, for instance, that there were certain army divisions in Mosul where the bad commanders were being weeded out and they were now capable of holding neighborhoods better, you wouldn't actually go to the neighborhoods and inspect whether or not what you were told was true. Your claims in that regard in the Op-Ed were based upon your belief that what the U.S. military commanders were telling you was accurate. Is that true?

O'Hanlon: Yes, that’s true. Based on that example, on that type of example, you're right.

But I’ll give you the kind of probing question I would do. I would then say "OK, first of all what kinds of situations have you seen this person operate in at the point that you really feel that they are not sectarian?" And secondly, maybe even more importantly, "How confident are you that they're going to continue to act in a non-sectarian way if and when we leave?" So to what extent are they trying to get in your good graces since they know the Americans are now the people who have the resources to help them and who are the local powers, but if and when we're gone, as we obviously will be some day, they may not be able to control this neighborhoods -- especially ones that are so ethnically intermixed.

At that point, when I probed in that way, people would acknowledge the limitations of their confidence with where we had come, to the point where I still felt that we had a big challenge on the transition strategy. It's one thing to suppress the civil conflict by being there in large numbers and partnering with these Iraqi forces that do appear to be working pretty well with us when we are right there with them elbow to elbow, but I am much less confident in their "good behavior” if you will once we've left. And so that's the sort of probing question that helped me to understand the limitations of how far we've come.

And also to the extent people would acknowledge those limitations, it made their information about the nature of the leadership a little more believable because they weren't trying to give me a snow job or trying to say things that would make one hope that we could get quickly out. In fact, the last point on this -- a lot of commanders continue to underscore the transition strategy that we tried last time back in '04-05 was too fast; and we learned from that and now we're going slower because we know these guys have some ability, but they do not have as much as they would need to hand this thing off. And there's also a wide recognition that the kind of metrics that we have to evaluate their progress are not totally convincing and we're going to have to work harder at those to be able to assess Iraqi security force improvement.

Greenwald: The last question I have for you is this: there's a memo written by Samantha Power -- the Professor at Harvard and advisor to Barack Obama -- regarding the foreign policy community and its involvement in Iraq. Have you read any of that memo?

O'Hanlon: No, I haven't.

Greenwald: Then I won't ask about it, but I would highly recommend it. It's short and, I think, extremely cogent and insightful. But let me just ask you about one of the points she makes in the memo – and you can address the point I make, rather than hers, since you haven’t read the memo – and it’s this:

There is a foreign policy community, an establishment, in the United States that shares a whole variety of foreign policy orthodoxies. And they really span both parties - they are bi-partisan orthodoxies when it comes to foreign policy issues. And this foreign policy establishment, she argues, almost unanimously supported the invasion of Iraq and that's the reason that she suggests that it's time to re-evaluate the credibility of this foreign policy community and the orthodoxies that it espouses.

Do you have any thoughts about that idea? Do you think that the premise is accurate – that the foreign policy community as it exists, the establishment, almost unanimously supported the war?

O'Hanlon: Well, I think that she’s – you know, at a moment like this, she’s right to throw out some challenging points like that. I don't even recall what her role was in the debate at the time. I've been impressed by her work. I think she reflects a kind of idealism that we – you know, combined with pragmatism - that we need more of in our foreign policy.

I was on a task force on Africa where I had been a Peace Corps volunteer twenty five years ago that she was helpful in informing. I’m in favor, for example, and I have written about the idea of creating a genocide prevention division in the U.S. military were we would have the ability to ask people who don't want to be in the normal military who nonetheless would be willing to handle some of the tasks for example in a place like a Darfur or a Rwanda -- if they're favorably inclined towards that kind of mission. Because I think you want to tap into that kind of idealism.

This is an indirect answer to your question, but in response to your broader point that we do need to be more ambitious and keep mixing it up, keep having new ideas come into the debate. And I certainly don't think that everything about the foreign policy debate in the United States has been correct. In the '90s I was a person who was pushing hard for foreign aid and development assistance to go way up and did a number of task forces and books on that subject at a time when that wasn't all that popular. So I haven't always been seen as part of the establishment myself necessarily.

And on the Rwanda genocide I was certainly in favor of more decisive action as well as in various other situations and I'd like to see a lot more peacekeepers in Congo right now -- my former Peace Corps country. So, some of this is more consistent with Samantha Power and I find her inspirational and a good scholar. I think it's only fair at a time when Americans are dying in Iraq and Iraqis are dying, it's only fair for us all to be a little tough skinned about asking if there weren’t things we could have gotten a little more correct.

You and I haven't talked in this interview, though, about the - we talked a little bit about the WMD issue - but you know Saddam Hussein was in many ways one of the worst mass murderers of the late 20th century. Now he apparently stopped a lot of that mass murder, or at least had reduced it by the time of the invasion. So again, the humanitarian case for war was not overwhelming at the time. And I'm not going to push the point too far. But there were reasons to think that this man was hard to deter, that he probably had weapons of mass destruction, that even if he didn't develop nuclear weapons, his sons might inherit his job and do so themselves. But they still viewed Kuwait as part of their country -- rightly so in their own mind. And that there were very serious reasons to consider overthrowing this person.

And so while I do think we need to be tough skinned about asking if we accepted certain assumptions - and I'll admit that I need to ask if I accepted certain assumptions too quickly - this was not, in my opinion, a fundamentally illegitimate or crazy undertaking. I hope we all learn from the experience because it certainly hasn't worked out well so far. But as I say, I've got a lot of time for Samantha Power and it sounds like her memo is worth reading.

Greenwald: Good. We agree on that and that's a good note to close on. I appreciate your time and the attentiveness you gave to the questions. I intend to publish it over the next few days consistent with our agreement..

O'Hanlon: Thank you. I appreciate that. Thanks for the conversation.

Greenwald: Thank you.


Petraeus-Colmes interview

ALAN COLMES, FOX NEWS HOST: We welcome the commander of the Multi-National Force, General David Petraeus. General, thank you so much for being with us tonight.


COLMES: Appreciate it very much. You have an interesting pedigree. You have a PhD in international relations from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton. How does that inform what you do day to day?

PETRAEUS: Well, it's interesting because I've often thought that helped a great deal, particularly early on because it was one of those, what you call out of the intellectual comfort zone experiences and in many cases that's the kind of endeavor this is, it's out of our intellectual comfort zones, not strictly high-end, major combat operations. It involves a lot of other activities and endeavors and frankly, I guess a lot of other skills at various times. And I think that that has helped enormously over time. Even some ofthe basic concepts of economics and political philosophy were quite useful early on when we were in Mosul and some of the other places, so it has helped and I've drawn on that on a number of different occasions.

COLMES: Sir, we are heard this hour on Armed Forces Radio ...

PETRAEUS: I'm sorry. I can't hear you right now. Hang on asecond.

COLMES: All right.

PETRAEUS: My apology. I'm sitting outside and that helicopter ...

COLMES: What are we hearing in the background? What is - that is obviously a helicopter.

PETRAEUS: That is a helicopter.

COLMES: We are heard on Armed Forces Radio during this hour of our show. I wonder what you might like to say to the men and women listening on Armed Forces Radio to you right now.

PETRAEUS: Well, I would say that - will (ph) remind them that all of America appreciates enormously what they're doing and that they really should be very, very proud of what they're part of. Tom Brokaw, who, as you know, wrote the book, "The Greatest Generation" about the World War II generation was with us one day and after he saw all that our troopers were engaged in, he turned me to me before leaving and said to me, surely, this is the new greatestgeneration. I really agreed with that then and I still do very much. They're great Americans, special in so many ways and we're very fortunate to have them serving in uniform serving our country.

COLMES: General, is the surge working?

PETRAEUS: Well, it is. We are making progress. We have achieved tactical momentum in many areas, especially against al Qaeda in Iraq, and to a lesser degree against the militia (ph) extremists. We're also heartened by the number of Iraqi tribes and local citizens who have rejected al Qaeda. We cannot attribute that to the surge but the surge certainly enabled that to move much more rapidly, we believe, than it otherwise would have.

COLMES: Now you ...

PETRAEUS: Having said that, there are innumerable challenges. And obviously an enormous amount of hard work remains to be done.

COLMES: The surge strategy has been referred to by some as the Petraeus Doctrine and when you and Ambassador Ryan Crocker report to Congress on September 15, it would be unlikely for you to report that your own strategy isn't working, right?

PETRAEUS: Well, I have vowed that I will provide a forthright and comprehensive assessment and I'm not going to pull punches, and I have all along, frankly, reported setbacks as well as successes and we intendto do that when we go back and it will not be an unblemished report. The interim benchmark report was not an unblemished report. It's more of a mixed bag. There has been progress in certain areas. Certainly there has been tactical progress. There has been progress again in this sort of local reconciliation but there has not been comparable progress at the national political level here in Iraq.

COLMES: You've been - you've come under fire in the press in this country for a series of positive reports as far back as 2004 when you actually appeared with Charlie Rose and you talked with reconciliation and progress along those lines. In 2005, when you made a presentation, I believe it was at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, and you showed pictures of Sunnis and Shiites standing together. You talked about hugeprogress on November 7, 2005 being made in training Iraqi Combined (ph) troops. Do you still stand by all of those statements or has time shown in some of those cases the progress to which you were referring was not exactly as great as may have been implied?

PETRAEUS: No, I certainly do. And in fact if you go back and look at those you'll find that generally those reports of progress were also tempered by reports of caution and measured statements. Some of what we did was undone by a variety of different events thattragically transpired and I don't think anyone disputes that Mosul was moving along quite well when we were privileged to be up there with the 101st Airborne Division. Unfortunately, six months after we left the governor was assassinated, the political situation went into turmoil andfour months later the police collapsed under the weight of an al Qaeda offensive.

That was a huge setback and there were no bones made about it but itdidn't mean that there had not been progress in the year prior to that.I think, tragically, the progress that was made in the Iraqi security force arena, and again, I think if you look at what I provided at those times, that there was acknowledgements that it was literally always a term of qualified optimism or what have you and it depended on continuedprogress and continued efforts in certain areas but the sectarian violence of 2006 very sadly undid an awful lot of what had been achievedin previous years and as you know, it spiraled out of control to levels that were really horrific and tore the very fabric of Iraqi society in the latter part of 2006 and into early 2007.

We're still, frankly, dealing with that situation very much and it is a situation that has much more fear, as Ambassador Crocker has described rightly in a number of occasions than certainly we experiencedprior to the last departure from here in September 2005 for me, forexample.

COLMES: So when you made those statements in 2004 in 2005, and talked about great progress and some degree of reconciliation, there wasno way to foresee that there would be such sectarian violence in 2006 and early 2007 to kind of blow up some of those statements from earlier?

PETRAEUS: Well, I don't think anyone foresaw the Samarra Mosque, the third holiest Shia shrine being blown up the way that it was, nor the events that followed that over time and unfortunately that happened at a time when you'll recall - there were these moments of optimism, certainly, first of all following liberation, then with the elections, the new government, the transition from CPA to the Allawi government, the famous purple finger moments and I think it's very legitimate to feel some degree of optimism at times like that. I will tell you that I at this point in this endeavor will not say Iam an optimist or a pessimist, I will say that I am a realist. And I have a very realistic appraisal of the challenges that are here and the enormous difficulties that face this country in our endeavor.

COLMES: Jack Kelly (ph) in the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" reported in August of 2005. He said ever since Army Lieutenant General, at the time, you've been promoted since, David Petraeus took responsibility fortraining Iraqi security forces last year, the target date for beginning a major American withdrawal has been June 2006. What happened?

PETRAEUS: Well, what happened was in part the Samarra Mosque bombing, again. And the rise of sectarian violence that resulted in certain of the Iraqi units being actually hijacked by sectarian interests. Very sadly. Some of the units that were among the most courageous say in the fall, winter of 2004 and into early 2005 really became instruments of sectarian instruments later in Iraq's time and in fact, the minister of interior has replaced all nine of the brigade commanders of the nationalpolice and about 70 percent of the battalion commanders in the last fourto six months so things did take a turn, certainly for the worse and that sectarian violence did do enormous damage to this country.

COLMES: General Petraeus, "The Washington Post" reported on Monday of this week that the Pentagon lost track of about 190,000 AK-47s, assault rifles and pistols given to the Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005. The U.S. Accountability Office says U.S. military officials don't know what happened to 30 percent of the weapons and I quote from the piece that says, "The GAO says weapons distribution was haphazard and rushed and failed to follow established procedures, particularly from 2004 to 2005 when security training was led by General David H. Petraeus." What happened?

PETRAEUS: Well, what happened was we were in a period where, as you'll recall, the Iraqi units of April 2004 had really crumbled when they were ordered into operations during the first Fallujah uprising andwhen we came in a started standing up the train and equip mission that came to be known as the Multinational Security Transition Command in Iraq in the summer of 2004, there was not much in the way of structure.We did start to receive equipment, both from - ordered by the CPA initially and also by the Iraqi government and it was a tough situation. August was the time when Muqtada al Sadr took over the mosque in Najaf and again forces had to go into action. By that time we then had some Iraqi forces that were ready to fight but they didn't have equipment and that was the beginning of a number of decisions to help provide equipment top Iraqi forces, sometimes literally under fire. In one case actually flying into Najaf, into a helipad at night, a hot LZ, literally, in Chinook helicopters and actually kicking two battalions worth of equipment off the ramp and getting out of there while we still could.

That type of decision was something that we made at the time becausethose forces needed those weapons and that equipment. We weren't going to stay there in the dark and make guys do a serial number inventory andsign them up and that is what happened. We believe those weapons all certainly were given to Iraqi units. Those units did have advisors, butthey did not have the property book officer, they did not have the property book records that we would associate with normal procedures andyet they were units that needed to go into the fight, the Iraqi government was under enormous pressure. They made their request known to us and frankly it seemed to us that we needed to get the weapons intotheir hands and so that is what we did. And that's what resulted was an inability to track by serial number some percentage of those weapons that were issued during that time.

As we got into the - as we built slowly that new headquarters, the Multinational Security Transition Command and its subordinate elements, we were able to establish normal property accountability procedures, to get property book officers in to create literally a property book, as it's called, and to support the same with these new Iraqi units as they came online. But they were, frankly, building them faster, in fact, under pressure because of the Allawi government trying to get a grip on the violence that was rising during the fall of 2004 and staring elections in January 2005 squarely in the face, to do all that they could and again we had to decide whether to hold things out until we could get every single piece in place or again, help them out when they wanted to fight and confront al Qaeda, the insurgents and the other associated movements at that time and we decided to help them out.

COLMES: You say you have a sense of where those 190,000 weapons areor is there a good chance that some of them fell into the hands of the insurgency and how do you prevent this from happening again?

PETRAEUS: Well, we did in fact take measures, Alan, again, startingin the spring of that year as we got these warrant officers in, these property book officers and so forth and created first our own logisticalstructures commensurate with a task of that magnitude and it was an enormous task. We occasionally likened it to building the world's largest air craftwhile in flight and while being shot at. But we gradually starting putting those procedures into place.

Got them really established, I'd say in the summer of 2005 and then built from there and continued gradually to build the Iraqi depot system, their own property accountability systems and all the rest of that, keeping in mind, again,that this is being done while these units literally were fighting. They went from the parade field the battlefield in very short order and that was the order of the day and again, over time, those procedureswere put in place and I think the GAO acknowledges that and notes thatfact.

COLMES: How many of those weapons do you think would be in the hands of our enemies?

PETRAEUS: I don't know. Again, reestablished accountability for the vast majority of them, certainly, they are on property books. Over time what we now have is a procedure that actually has biometric data associated with every serial number but again, when this started out, this is a very, very tiny organization, initially, as were the logistical structures. And there was no logistical structure of the Iraqi Army. When we stood up the organization in the summer of 2004, the Ministry of Defense did not exist. Their joint headquarters was literally a handful of officers with cell phones and so forth and so there was an enormous amount of building that had to be done to rebuild the institutions that we would associate with any normal kind of armed forces.

COLMES: Do you anticipate the same level of troops after the fall?

PETRAEUS: Well, I think, Alan, it's very well known and the secretary of defense and others have all been very clear that the surge has always been viewed as something that is temporary and the Army, the Marine Corps cannot maintain the surge levels of forces. That is well known and so the question is really how and when do we begin to drawdownfrom that surge and I expect we need a bit more time, certainly, to havea sense of where we'll be a few months hence but General Odierno, the Multinational Corps Commander and I have been working for some time already to do what we call the battlefield geometry, to figure out as all of the troop rotations take place starting in the fall, because there is a large number of brigade rotations that will be ongoing in thefall, the winter and into the spring. Where is it that we thin out? Where do we want to keep what we haveright now and so forth? We obviously want to do this in a way that doesnot surrender gains that our soldiers have fought very hard to achieve as you would imagine.

COLMES: You know, Admiral Mike Mullen who is testifying before Congress as he is up for chairman of the Joint Chiefs said no amount of troops, no amount of time will make much of a difference in Iraq. Do you concur with that?

PETRAEUS: I think he said something beyond that. Could repeat that.

COLMES: No amount of troops in no amount of time will make difference in Iraq, and I think he's talking about unless you have reconciliation.

PETRAEUS: I think he said no amount of troops in no amount of time will make a difference if there is not commensurate progress on the political level ...

COLMES: Right. It was reconciliation.

PETRAEUS: To eventually lead to national reconciliation. And I have said the same thing. I have said repeatedly that military action is necessary, very necessary but it is not sufficient and I think he is absolutely right. Long term national reconciliation, the achievement of what we term sustainable security, is only possibly if the Iraqi national leaders canresolve some of these really tough issues with which they've been grappling, issues like the reform of the de-Baathification law, the oil revenue sharing law, provincial powers and provincial elections and so forth.

COLMES: What is your relationship like at this moment with Prime Minister Maliki?

PETRAEUS: My relationship with Prime Minister Maliki is quite good. We talk typically several times a day and meet several times a week. Usually, I -- with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, my diplomatic wing man here and a real consummate diplomat and Arabist. This is his third tour in Iraq. We are absolute partners in this endeavor, and the campaign plan is a joint campaign plan between Multi-National Force Iraq and the U.S Embassy with the British and Australian embassies and others contributing to it as well.

COLMES: You probably are familiar with ...

PETRAEUS: Again, we have a good -- a very good relationship with Prime Minister Maliki, and that's contrary to some reports that were putout by some political figures in Baghdad ...

COLMES: Right.

PETRAEUS: ...who were trying to throw sand in the gears of that relationship I believe because he courageously and publicly came out against militias that are associated with some of the political parties of these individuals.

COLMES: Well, "Stars and Stripes," as you're familiar -- as you just alluded to, printed an AP story on July 30th, claiming that Maliki wanted you removed from Iraq because of the strategy of arming Sunni militias and quoted you as saying, I'm going to speak up, and I have on occasion, and you said, another couple of occasions, have demonstrated the full range of emotions in your conversations with Maliki.

PETRAEUS: Well, I think it's important in a hugely important endeavor to our country and when you're representing 160,000 great youngmen and women as different coalition countries to be very clear at timeswith your counter-parts. I can assure you that the full range of emotions is a very rare occasion, and in fact, it -- they haven't been in evidence with him (ph) in some number of months. And it certainly isnot over the issue of the form -- arming of former Sunni insurgents.

In fact, we -- the ambassador and I met with him the other day, and he has just approved what was really a very tough decision for him, and that is to accept some 1700 or so individuals from the Abu Ghraib area, some of which are clearly former members of the Jashaislami (ph), which was an insurgent group, but which is now decided to oppose al Qaeda Iraq, it rejects the Taliban-like ideology of al Qaeda Iraq, and wants to be part of a legitimate government security forces. And you know, we sat down with the prime minister and we all agreed that reconciliation is done between former enemies, not friends. That's what makes it so tough.

But his office has an organization, the Reconciliation Committee, we have engagement cell (ph) in the Multi-National Force headquarters, it has both diplomats and senior officers in it, and they work together on these types of issues. But that is what transformed Anbar Province. It was sheiks and tribes who, at best, turned a blind eye to what al Qaeda Iraq was doing before, but then came to some of our commanders and said that they had decided that they were tired of the violence, tired of the demands of this, again, Taliban-like ideology which is really foreign to them in which they had only supported because of their feelings of having been, at least in their perception, dispossessed and really disrespected, if you will, in the wake of liberation.

They came to our commanders, they asked if we would support them if they turned their weapons on al Qaeda, and instead of, in some cases, probably having them turned on us. And I think understandably we applauded, said that we would support them. And in fact, that has transformed Anbar province from one that was described in an intelligence document last year as lost to one that is now just remarkably different. Peace has broke out in much of Anbar province. There is certainly still some clearance of al Qaeda needed in the area north of Fallujah in the far eastern part of Anbar province. But Ithink it has been literally months since Ramadi, for example, once the capital of the new caliphate under Zarqawi, was -- has even had a mortarattack.

COLMES: Can the Iraqi security forces and police be trained? I know that when you were promoted to lieutenant general, you were chargedwith the task of training the new Iraqi army and security forces as commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command. How well is that going? Can they be trained? Is it a matter of more numbers? Are you confident that the time will come when they will be able to take over security for their own country?

PETRAEUS: Well, they have actually taken over security in a number of different places, Alan. If you Samawa (ph), Nasiriyah, Najaf, Karbala, we hardly have any forces in those locations at all. Occasionally they will ask the Special Forces team in the area for some assistance. And we are happy to bring in close air support if needed, if the militias get -- act up or something like that. There are other areas that have serious al Qaeda threats like Mosul,by the way, which has come back impressively, and which has army police forces that have now proven quite resilient.

In fact, just a few days ago, it was an Iraqi army element that killed the emir of Mosul, the al Qaeda emir of Mosul. That same day they found and cleared I think it was four car bombs. Certainly al Qaeda has the ability to continue to conduct car bomb attacks, suicide attacks that are trying reignite sectarian violence. But our soldiers and Marines and other forces have done enormous damage to them in recent months in particular, and especially since in the pastseven weeks of this surge of offenses that has been possible by the surge of forces.

Certainly, as I mentioned earlier, look, Alan, there is no two ways about it, some of these Iraqi forces went off the rails during the height of the sectarian violence. And some of that started to appear inthe late 2005 period. And it went through 2006. And in the wake Samarra mosque bombing again, because a major concern, which is way, as I mentioned, the minister of interior has replaced all of the brigade commanders of the national police, the unit most suspected -- actually shown to be -- to have been an instrument of sectarian violence. And we still have concerns about them. And so you have elements at that level -- or at that end of the spectrum. And then you have others that are very much fighting either in the lead independently or alongside our forces.

And they are losing -- their losses are three times our losses in anaverage period. So they are definitely fighting and dying for their country. Again they are uneven in quality, but there are dozens and dozens of very good units out there. And their high-end units are truly very fine elements. Their commando battalions, their counterterrorist force, their national emergency response unit, their special tactics unit and so forth. Theseare truly legitimate high-end forces that rank with the best of the Special Forces in this region.

COLMES: We only have moment left. I want to ask you, when the president says the same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September 11th, and that is why what happens in Iraq matters for security here at home, is that a nuanced enough understanding of exactly who the enemy is in Iraq? Is it truly al Qaeda or is it much broader than that and much more complex than that?

PETRAEUS: Well, the enemy in Iraq is very, very complex. And as I have mentioned, it is not just al Qaeda Iraq. We tend to see al Qaeda as public enemy number one. But it is probably not the enemy in Baghdadright now even that is conducting the majority of attacks against our soldiers. That would be these different militia extremist elements that may beconducting as many as two-thirds or so of the attacks. However, having said that, the attacks that have the most strategic significance, the --again, the car-bombings, the suicide vest attacks and so forth that cause such significant damage to the psychological fabric of Iraqi society and as well as just sheer physical damage, those are conducted by al Qaeda Iraq.

And they are very clearly linked to the so-called AQSL, the al Qaedasenior leadership, located in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border tribal areas, without question. I mean, we -- you have seen released on a number of occasions communications between them. And I can assure you that that does go on. We have been able to damage very seriously the media operations of al Qaeda in Iraq and their communications ability. In fact, we even killed the three al-Turki brothers, who were former -- in Afghanistan area al Qaeda who were sent over to al Qaeda Iraq to help shore up the situation in northern Iraq, which has been under particular pressure in the last several months. As we have cleared Baquba, taken al Qaeda out in most of Anbar province, pushed them out of neighborhoods in Baghdad and so forth. Butagain, there are also still some insurgent groups that are disconnected from al Qaeda. There are other that we call al Qaeda affiliates, if youwill. And so again, this is a very, very challenging endeavor, and that isbefore we even talk about the violent criminals and others who are taking advantage of the absence of the full rule of law in many parts ofIraq.

COLMES: As you know, there is great political pressure in this country and a great debate that goes on here about whether we should stay or leave or get out or whether this was ever a good idea in the first place. How does that affect you? And do you see us any time soon doing what it seems like an increasing number of Americans want, which is to bring men and women and wrap this up?

PETRAEUS: Well, as I mentioned, first of all, some are going to come home because, again, the surge is a temporary measure. Again, the duration of our involvement is up to the policy-makers at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and to those who provide advice and consent and resources at the other end. It is not up to Ambassador Ryan Crocker or myself. Our job is to provide an honest, forthright and comprehensive assessment of the situation, to provide recommendations on the way ahead when those are called for and needed, and we will do some of that in the near future. And also to provide our assessment of the implications of various courses of action that might be entertained. And that is what we intendto do when we are back there in September.

COLMES: General, what do you miss most about not being home?

PETRAEUS: My family.


PETRAEUS: This is my fourth year or longer deployment since 2001. That includes now over three years in Iraq and on top of a year in Bosnia and a lot of other time away from home. And just like every other soldier over here, you know, I'm not applauding the fact that I'm here, but I know that this is a hugely important mission. I'm proud andfeel very privileged to be soldiering with the great young men and womenwho wear the American flag and the coalition flags on their right shoulders. And I'll tell you that on the Fourth of July we had a particularly special moment when there were 588 of those great young men and women who raised their right hand, and I was able to administer the oath of enlistment to them as they re-enlisted for another tour of duty in America's Armed Forces, despite knowing the sacrifices that would be required of them by signing on for another hitch.

COLMES: How long do you think you'll be there?

PETRAEUS: I don't even think about that. (LAUGHTER)

COLMES: Well, listen, sir, I certainly appreciate the opportunity to talk to you. It's a privilege and I wish you great safety and tremendous success in guarding over our interests and our men and women who serve you and serve our country.

PETRAEUS: Well, thanks. It's been a pleasure to be with you, and thanks for what you do as well.

COLMES: Appreciate it, and thanks for standing up to some direct questioning here. Appreciate it very much.

PETRAEUS: You bet. OK, Alan. Bye-bye now.

COLMES: Thanks, General Petraeus. Thanks very much.