United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with the Armed Forces Network

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
January 31, 2004
Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with the Armed Forces Network

     Q:  Joining us today is Deputy Secretary of Defense Mr.  Paul Wolfowitz.  May I take this opportunity to welcome you to Wurzburg, Germany, and the home of the Big Red One.


     Wolfowitz:  It's good to be here.


     Q:  I'm glad you are here, by the way.


     There's a major rotation taking place in and out of Iraq in support of the war on terrorism and the 1st Infantry Division going down to replace the 4th Infantry Division.  What do you see as 1st ID's main role and challenges during this deployment?


     Wolfowitz:  The main role, with all our wonderful troops in Iraq, is to help the Iraqi people stand on their own feet and build a free and democratic Iraq which is a big challenge, but I think they've already made enormous progress in the eight months since we liberated Baghdad.  The troops have done an absolutely incredible job.


     At a more division-focused level, (Inaudible.) has laid out very clearly the two major missions of this force.  One is to work with the Iraqi people to build their confidence and to defeat the people that are still trying to terrorize and intimidate them, and the other is to build Iraqi capacity for their own political and security affairs.


     I would put in that category one of the most important things our troops are doing, and they do it on a scale that is still not appreciated, is training Iraqis to stand and fight for their own country.  There are almost 200,000 Iraqis now in the police and the Facilities Protection Service and the army the border guard, and a fifth force which I think is maybe the most important one, called the Civil Defense Corps.  The Civil Defense Corps people are all trained by our divisions.  One of the big missions the 1st ID will take over from the 4th ID is training the Civil Defense Corps in that important area which is sometimes called the triangle area.


     Q:  Do you see any challenges for the 1st ID?


     Wolfowitz:  Oh, huge challenges.  I'm sure they're going to do a magnificent job.


     One of the big challenges, and we had some very good briefings on it today, is the handoff, because we're not just handing off a tactical battle from one division to another division, and that's a tricky enough operation in military terms, but you're handing off a whole political/military set of relationships where the 4th ID has built incredibly important relations with local people throughout their area of operation.  1st ID is going to need to pick those up in as seamless a way as possible.


     One of the very good things is they've developed this whole technique called the left seat/right seat handoff through many rotations in Bosnia and Kosovo that presented exactly the same kind of challenge.  The plan they presented us today is very systematic and well thought through, so I'm feeling good about it.


     Q:  Having the opportunity to go around and visit with the 1st ID troops and their family members, and their part in Operation Iraqi Freedom, how prepared do you think they are to handle the mission?


     Wolfowitz:  Very well prepared.  They're well trained, well led, psychologically equipped, I think, and really thinking about the mission.  The fact that they've done these deployments to the Balkans also means they have a sense of what this kind of stabilization mission entails.  It's harder in Iraq because we're still fighting an enemy there, but I think that experience in the Balkans should be valuable.


     Q:  Now that the year-long Operation Iraqi Freedom I is getting (Inaudible.) pretty soon Iraqi Freedom II.  What do you think families can expect from a year-long deployment now that one's already been done?


     Wolfowitz:  We had a very good meeting with the Family Readiness Group here.  Colonel Kalenda is obviously an outstanding officer and General Batiste is dedicated to this whole family support mission.  It's a challenge.  It's an enormous challenge.  Just the idea of being separated from your loved one for a whole year under any circumstances is difficult, and in circumstances dangerous, obviously much more difficult.  It almost is inspirational to see the spirit of the families pull together to support their troops.  That's the key to success, because the more the soldiers in the field can keep their eye on the mission the more successful they'll be, the safer they'll be, and in the long run everyone benefits from it.  But that requires a lot of [mutual] assistance from families to get through these times.


     One of the things we're trying very hard to do in the Defense Department, I'd say 98 percent successful, but 98 percent isn't good enough, is to give people real certainty that it is a one-year deployment.  At the end of one year they're coming back home to their families here.


     I found it also impressive that 99 percent of the families have chosen to stay here in Germany with the other families instead of going back to hometowns in the United States.  That's a real vote of confidence in the support network that's provided here.


     The other vote of confidence which is really inspirational is this division is one of the highest units (Inaudible.) in the Army.  Even though they've had one of the most stressful sequences of deployment in the Army.  So they are obviously incredible patriots and we are very, very grateful for that.


     Q:  Waging a war on terrorists is no easy task.  How do you think we're doing and what steps are still necessary for our success?


     Wolfowitz:  I think we've made a great deal of progress, enormous progress on many fronts.  But this is a big problem.  It's developed over some people would say 10 years, some would say 20, some would even say 30.  It's certainly been a very long time.  It's not going to disappear overnight.  But the fact that 2500 people in Afghanistan have been liberated from an evil bureaucratic regime, and they've just ratified a new constitution that guarantees equal rights for men and women and does some other very good things, that's a huge victory against terrorism.  The fact that Iraq, 25 million Iraqis have been liberated from a regime of sadists and torturers (Inaudible.).  It was one of the most brutal regimes around.  That's a liberating event that allows one of the first opportunities in the Arab world for Arabs to demonstrate that there's a much better path for their people to follow than the one the terrorists are offering.  We're hunting and capturing large numbers of terrorists.  I would say every time they score what looks to them like a tactical victory when they kill people in Indonesia, they kill people in Saudi Arabia, they kill people in Turkey, what we're finding is instead of it being a strategic victory for the terrorists it makes more people angrier.  The Saudis are now chasing them in a way they never did before; the Indonesians are chasing them in a way they never did before; the Turks are much more united against terrorists than they were before.


     So I think we're making progress.  But let's make no mistake.  It's a long war.  It's a different kind of war.  The victory in Iraq which the 1st Infantry Division is going to help us win is going to be a major contribution to that longer term [objective].


     Q:  Speaking of changes, since the end of the Cold War, the military has been in a constant state of change.  How do you see the role of the forces stationed in Europe in particular changing over the next decade?


     Wolfowitz:  You said it correctly, a constant state of change.  The Cold War, which was not a pleasant chapter in history, did have a certain kind of iron stability to it.  We knew we had to have multiple divisions in Germany year after year after year because there were 20 Soviet divisions in East Germany and another 100 or so divisions backed up behind them.  We planned rigorously around that kind of scenario.


     We discovered -- the Soviet threat went away, and that's a good thing, but the world didn't suddenly become a marvelous, totally peaceful place.  But we need to be able to deal with the unpredictable.  If anyone had said in the summer of 2001 that we were going to fight a war in Afghanistan I would have said you're crazy.  Well, maybe not quite that radical.  I would have stopped and thought about it.


     So the key in designing and deploying our forces now is flexibility, the ability to respond rapidly to changing situations, the ability to apply the right amount of force which sometimes may be much smaller than a big force to get there quicker.  In the Pentagon we are reshaping our global footprint which means more in some places, less in other places, but generally to be lighter on our feet I think is a way to think about it.


     Q:  Since you are at the Pentagon, hearing the lingo that you're talking about, us servicemen that are stationed overseas, we tend to forget or not hear (Inaudible.) what the American people are saying, their view.  What do you think their view is of the military stationed overseas right now?


     Wolfowitz:  It is overwhelmingly positive.  I want to say this very clearly.  You can read a lot of debates about a particular issue, about whether the war in Iraq was the right war at the right time.  None of that translates into (Inaudible.) about the military.


     A case in point, Time Magazine Man of the Year, Person of the Year, and it's the American Soldier.  That I think just about says it all except it doesn't say what I'd like to say which is we are so grateful for the dedication and commitment and patriotism (Inaudible.), and the extraordinary level of skill and competence that's been displayed in the last couple of years.  It makes you proud to be an American.


     Q:  Thank you so much for your time, sir.  I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit with the Big Red One.


     Wolfowitz:  Thank you very much.

Additional Links

Stay Connected