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General David. H. Petraeus, Radio Interview, Dec. 28, 2007

Multi-National Force-Iraq

DATE: December 28, 2007



General David Petraeus
Mr. Dom Giordano

[pre-interview dialog]

GIORDANO: It’s Tom Giordano sitting in for Bill O’Reilly here on The Radio Factor. And boy, you talk about a special guest with what’s going on in the world or at any time; the guy that I’ve been honored to talk with twice—and tell my listeners in Philadelphia my admiration and confidence in him—joins us here on The Radio Factor. General David Petraeus, welcome to The Radio Factor.

GEN PETRAEUS: Well, great to be with you. Thanks.

GIORDANO: General, congratulations, I think, are due here. The surge seems to be working. What indices, what things, General, do you use to determine the success of your mission there? What are some of the barometers?

GEN PETRAEUS: Well, there are a number of metrics that we look at. Among those are the number of attacks, if you will, and those have come down by somewhere about 60% or so over the past six months. Number of civilian deaths is down by about the same. Certainly, Iraqi Security Force and coalition casualties are another area of focus and thankfully—touch wood—those are down substantially as well. And before I go on, everybody should know that the credit for this absolutely goes to those, literally, hundreds of thousands of coalition and Iraqi troopers who are the ones out there on patrol in body armor and Kevlar in 125 degree temperatures.

GIORDANO: Does it encourage you that here, back in the States, General, there are not a lot of stories about Iraq; it’s not being talked about in the campaigns as much? Do you take that as a sign of progress or do you have a sense that we’re not focused enough here in the media on the progress that you just mentioned?

GEN PETRAEUS: No, I think, actually, in some respects—there was a nightly news show the other night that somebody sent a clip to me from and it said that the news from Baghdad tonight is that there is no news. So in a sense, I guess it is probably correct to say that no news generally is good news. And that the fact that there has been a reduction in some of the more sensational attacks certainly— although there still are some and al-Qaeda remains lethal and dangerous—but the fact that the frequency of those has been reduced is certainly a good trend and, therefore, there’s less newsworthy in the sense of violence that tends to be the headline so often these days.

GIORDANO: General, what impact, if any, can you tell listeners here at The Radio Factor, do you see from the turmoil with yesterday’s assassination in Pakistan? Does any of that reach you? Does it have any impact?

GEN PETRAEUS: We have certainly not seen an impact so far. If anything, in fact, I was just talking with my boss and our hope is that perhaps this could spread a bit more of the rejection of extremism that has emerged in a number of countries in the region and certainly emerged in the Sunni Arab areas in Iraq. In fact, one of the biggest developments of the past year was the rejection by substantial numbers of Sunni Arab communities in Iraq of al-Qaeda–Iraq; of its extremism and ideology, its indiscriminate violence, and its oppressive practices. And so our hope would be, in fact, that this would be yet another example of why human beings just should not in any way support those who carry out such horrific acts.

GIORDANO: One of the chief strategists for Senator Obama yesterday connected the war in Iraq to the assassination, General, by saying that when Hillary Clinton voted for the war, that was voting for a distraction and because we’re distracted, we don’t have the capability of dealing with Pakistan and Afghanistan. And I wanted to get your thoughts as a strategist in this global war on terror, with Iraq being one of the fronts, is there a distraction factor when we’re in Iraq in any way, shape, or form?

GEN PETRAEUS: Well, the chief architect, if you will, Zawahiri, of the al-Qaeda senior leaders directly under Osama Bin Laden, has said on several occasions that the central front of al-Qaeda’s global effort is actually in Iraq. So the effort to combat al-Qaeda–Iraq is, obviously, of enormous importance. And, therefore, the progress that has been made against al-Qaeda–Iraq this year is very significant. It has been helped, I should note by the way, by actions in a number of source countries including Saudi Arabia, some of the Gulf states, and some north African countries who have conducted operations against so-called foreign fighter facilitators, financiers, and others who have supported and provided money and individuals to al-Qaeda–Iraq. And also by Syria, which has taken more aggressive action against al-Qaeda–Iraq in the networks in Syria that take individuals through Damascus Airport and then on into Iraq.

GIORDANO: Yeah, General, I’m going to take a moment of personal privilege to embarrass you with the next question due to my listeners and the producers here at The O’Reilly Radio Factor. You probably saw the Time magazine, the “Man of the Year” situation and, of course, O’Reilly, Dom Giordano, and listeners across the country thought it should be you in recognition of what you and the troops have done there. Any thoughts on the man of the year situation with Time magazine, how does…?

GEN PETRAEUS: [laughs] Oh, no. No, I, again, I…when I see something like that…no. And that’s really why up front I stated that the credit for what has taken place in Iraq goes to, literally, the troopers on the street. It certainly goes to their leaders, to their commissioned and noncommissioned officer leaders, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the Multi-National Corps-Iraq; the operational commander deserves enormous credit, his staff and others. And so, when I see that kind of thing, what I think people should see is all of those individuals and I’m just privileged to serve with them here.

GIORDANO: Well, when we honor you, we honor them; that’s the way that I see it. So…

GEN PETRAEUS: Well, and that…and I would accept something like that on their behalf and only on those conditions.

GIORDANO: [laughs] Well, General, too, we expect another report in March. You’ll be coming back to Washington again—maybe another opportunity to run, I might be able to do four miles by then.

GEN PETRAEUS: [laughs]

GIORDANO: But, General, give us a sense of what you’re looking toward as far as the benchmark? Or you’re kind of looking to the future over the next two or three months, what we should be seeing in Iraq?

GEN PETRAEUS: Well, we obviously want to…we’re pursuing al-Qaeda and we want to do that relentlessly and tenaciously. Al-Qaeda has been killed, captured, run out of Anbar Province; of course, Fallujah, Ramadi, the Euphrates River Valley to the west of Baghdad, out of many of the neighborhoods in Baghdad in which they used to have sanctuaries: the southern and northern belts around the capitol city, for the most part, Baqubah to the northeast, and others. But there are locations where they still have cells. They have small bases, and so forth, in fairly…more and more remote locations that run up, generally up the Tigris River Valley and the areas around Mosul and to the north of Baqubah. And, again, this is well known. Again, they are very…these are large areas and so these will be challenging. But we have to keep our teeth into them in these various areas, and we have to continue to pursue them very, very aggressively; and that’s what we intend to do. They know that. They will fight back, as they did in these other areas that I mentioned. And so that is something that we’ll be watching closely and then seeing what happens as a result to the levels of violence—if they can be maintained where they are, or perhaps even driven down a bit farther. You want to watch very carefully the political developments as well. A lot of people…

GIORDANO: That’s one of the…


GIORDANO: That’s the only fly in the ointment that I see. And I know that you’ve gone to great pains—I know it through news accounts and others that I talk with—with the local leadership; they seem to be coming together. There’s been great progress with some former insurgents, I guess, coming to the coalition side. But the national government still, there’s tremendous impatience and distrust of our listeners here at O’Reilly and my own show, about the national government formation.

GEN PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, I don’t think the national government, that any of those leaders are satisfied with what they, themselves, have accomplished. I think they all feel that they need to make more progress and do it more rapidly. And I think that you have to give them credit in the last couple of months, in particular, for starting to achieve some “halting momentum,” if you can call it that. They did pass a very important pension law that extends pension rights to tens of thousands of Iraqis who were left out by policies followed after liberation. And that is a national act of reconciliation in many respects. Of course, the UN Security Council Resolution was renewed after their request. A negotiation was concluded with the United States over a long-term security arrangement. And very importantly, the de-Ba’athification Reform Law, so-called “Justice and Accountability Law,” could be up for a vote within a couple of weeks. The Council of Representatives is just returning from the Hajj and the Eid two days from now and it will be important to watch that. And also to watch the budget bill for 2008. That bill distributes oil revenues—even though there’s not an oil revenue-sharing law approved yet—the budget bill does, in fact, do that about the way the law will. And so passing those two laws would be very significant steps forward for the Government of Iraq and, really, for the people of Iraq.

GIORDANO: General, with the success that we’re seeing at many levels, there’s got to be a sense though, too, of a push to drawdown forces rather quickly. What’s the likelihood by the end of 2008, that we would only have 100,000 American troops in Iraq?

GEN PETRAEUS: Well, we’re not prepared to talk about numbers just yet, Dom. And I don’t know that we will even when it comes to March—to hard and fast numbers. We think that there should be…first of all, we’re going through an analysis right now that was…that we were directed to conduct—which makes eminent sense—to look at several different alternative futures beyond July. As you know, we have a plan that will reduce our combat forces over here by about one-quarter: five combat brigades and two Marine battalions, and the Marine Expeditionary Unit. All of those will be home by the end of July. And so what we’re looking at now is, again, with these alternative futures, what could the pace be for continued withdrawals beyond that time? That’s the state of play right now. We will work that hard over the next couple of months; see how things are going during that time as well. And then see, you know, what would the conditions have to be to enable us to withdraw at certain rates, and then make a recommendation as we get towards the return in late March or early April.

GIORDANO: General, could I ask you to standby just for about 30 seconds and we’ll finish up and we’ll have a couple more…

GEN PETRAEUS: Sure can. You bet.

GIORDANO: We’re talking with General David Petraeus here. Dom Giordano thrilled to bring him to you here in the middle of all that’s going on in Pakistan and the Middle East. More with General David Petraeus coming up on The Radio Factor.

[commercial break/personal dialog]

GIORDANO: Hey, it’s The Radio Factor. My name is Dom Giordano, sitting in for Bill O’Reilly. We’re talking with General David Petraeus in Iraq, here today on The Radio Factor. General, with this type of progress, with all the stuff that we’ve seen about you, of course, I have to ask you the question: Would you, down the road, under any circumstance—and I want to know because I’m quitting talk radio to come and work full time—would you consider running for president?

GEN PETRAEUS: [laughs] I would not, Dom. Thanks very much.

GIORDANO: [laughs]

GEN PETRAEUS: I have great respect for those that serve our country in politics, but I’ve chosen to do it in uniform. And I think Sherman had it right when he answered that question well over a century ago.

GIORDANO: You know, we have to ask because that’s my future. I’ve already told my wife, if this guy goes, that’s it; we’re going to New Hampshire, Iowa, wherever. I thank you so much. And again, congratulations, as you said, to American forces. What listeners would like to know here at The Radio Factor: What is it that we on the home-front can do to continue to support you and the troops?

GEN PETRAEUS: Well, I can tell you that Americans have been incredibly generous, thoughtful, and kind to our troopers. We get enormous numbers of care packages and boxes and all kinds of magazines and other goodies. And we actually take them out in our helicopter—my aide takes them out—we bundle them up and take them out to the remote patrol bases out there. And that’s not at all unique; innumerable commanders, innumerable troopers are recipients of the same kinds of support from our citizens back home. And it means an enormous amount to us and it’s something that we just cannot thank the folks at home enough for. And beyond that, really the support that they provide to our families left behind is very important as well. They also are sacrificing. They are enduring separation. And in some cases now, as you know, some of our commissioned and noncommissioned officers, in particular, are on their third one-year tour in Iraq or Afghanistan. And what their families have done deserves considerable support and note as well. And we’re very grateful to all Americans for what they have, indeed, done to support our troops.

GIORDANO: We are thankful for what you’re doing out there, General. Thank you so much and I’m just thrilled to be able to bring you before the O’Reilly audience today. Continued success in 2008. Keep running.

GEN PETRAEUS: Thanks very much, Dom. And we’ll run with you when we’re back there. Bye-bye now.

GIORDANO: All right. Thanks, General. Thanks very much.

GEN PETRAEUS: My pleasure. Good to talk to you.

GIORDANO: Thanks, General.

GEN PETRAEUS: Okay. Bye-bye.

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