: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers Regional Media Interviews
Bill, San Francisco
Q: I want to thank you, General, for making yourself available to us. Press reports this morning say that the Administration wants to very quickly get more Iraqi security forces on the streets of Baghdad even if that means giving them less training than originally planned. What can you tell us about these plans?
Myers: Well, we've been working for some time, as a matter of fact for over a month, on ways we could accelerate getting Iraqis to fulfill some of the security requirements in the police, what we call the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, to do infrastructure and facilities protection, border guards and so forth. We've been looking at ways to accelerate that and have made some tentative plans. But the one thing I think is incorrect in all that is that they're going to be trained appropriately. We're not going to skimp on training to get more Iraqis forward. They put themselves in harm's way. Many of them have lost their lives trying to protect the Iraqi people and their country and to forge a new Iraq, and we've got to make sure that they're trained appropriately.
Q: Are they going to be doing any intelligence work? That seems to be our major problem.
Myers: Well, I one of the things we need to think about in terms of that is that we are going to rely on Iraqis for intelligence. In the end when you're fighting this kind of insurgency you have to depend on the people that you're trying to protect to help with that and to come forward with information.
Part of it is convincing them that they no longer have anything to fear from those former regime loyalists that were so brutal before and are probably intimidating and being brutal, for that matter, today.
So yes, that part is all working. There's a huge effort to encourage Iraqis to come forward and to be part of this new Iraq, this new free Iraq, and to help us thwart the foreign fighters and the former regime loyalists.
Q: With the situation apparently out of control, I mean things exploding even within the Green Line, supposed to be the safest place in Iraq, how can you convince Iraqis to come forward and help us when there appears to be danger sufficient to have the U.N., the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, when there appears to be this great danger how can you convince Iraqis to come forward and help us?
Myers: Well first of all I'd take exception to the term "out of control".
The situation in Iraq is different in every region, in the north and the south relatively stable. In fact the incidents are occurring in a fairly tight circle between Baghdad into areas just north and northwest of Baghdad. That's what we've got to fight.
Obviously the Red Cross, the U.N., other non-governmental organizations and private organizations will have to make their own security decisions, but the security in the country is not even and there are places that they can operate.
Meanwhile, we've never said that we're not going to see another car bombing. I've said that for a long time. When you have, those recent car bombings were, for the most part, over 90 percent suicide bombings and those are very difficult to stop. That's why we think better intelligence, that's why you'll hear General Abizaid, our commander over there talk about better intelligence and why we need the help of the Iraqi people.
Q: There were also reports in the paper this morning of a move to use some members of the Iraq Survey Team to help with counterinsurgency operations. Have any of the members of that team been reassigned or will they be reassigned in the near future?
Myers: No. Their mission remains the same. They still report to Mr. David Kay and General Keith Dayton who are the two leaders of that group. And that has not changed, their primary mission, which is to continue the research and develop the weapons of mass destruction picture for us.
They've always had the mission to help us with counterterrorism and this was just a clarification that as they work the mission that they're attending to our needs on the counterterrorism front as well, and that's simply what it was.
Q: Wouldn't this entire situation go better if the U.N. played a larger role both politically and militarily?
Myers: That's a political question. We have great international cooperation right now inside Iraq. The Coalition Provisional Authority headed by Ambassador Bremer, at last count that I knew we have 17 countries that are part of that Provisional Authority.
What is true is that there are several things that have to happen to make the situation better in Iraq. It's not only security but it's the governance piece, it's the economic piece, it's the infrastructure piece, and it's how we communicate to Iraqis and how we communicate to the region and the world, for that matter. All those things go together to build success. You can't focus on any one of those and expect success. You just can't focus on one and make that your formula for success.
Clearly there's a role here for the U.N. I think that came out in the last resolution that they're supposed to appoint a special representative for Iraq and they'll have to determine when they do that and when that person arrives in country and then what their help will be. I think it's planned for them to help in the election process and so forth.
Q: General, briefly because it's an important question to us out here and I'm supposed to get off, reservists. What are your plans for activating reservists in the next year?
Myers: Well simply put, we can't -- We're a nation at war. We have what in my view is a significant threat to our way of life and our freedoms. If we're a nation at war we rely very heavily on the reserve component -- Reservists, National Guard. It's designed that way, actually. Our system is designed that a lot of our capability, especially in combat support, combat service support, the medical, logistics, military police, civil affairs, is in the reserve component. So it's to be expected that if we're a nation at war that we're going to be calling up reservists.
Our job is to make sure we do that with a great degree of predictability for these forces because for the most part they have civilian employers that they have to notify; the employers have to take into account that these people will be gone, and we're going to try to do an even better job than we've done in the past in making sure people know what's expected of them. But yes, we will be calling up more reservists and many of them have already been alerted to that fact as we get ready --
Q: How many, General? Can you give us an estimate of how many?
Myers: I can probably come pretty close, but without the exact figures at my fingertips I'd better be real careful about that in terms of, I don't want to put out the wrong number. We can get back to you on that.
Q: Thank you very much. I'm over time and I apologize for keeping you. Thank you for your help.
Myers: Thank you.
Lynn Cannon, Fox 5, New York
Q: Joining us from the Pentagon is General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Mr. Myers, the attacks in Baghdad come like clockwork and it appears things are getting worse, not better. What do you say?
Myers: I think if you just focus on those attacks you might draw that conclusion but there's a lot of activity in Iraq, a lot of good activity. Obviously Sunday and Monday we did have some suicide car bombings and that clearly is not what we want.
But the security situation really is different throughout the country. In the south and in the north the security situation is very stable. What we're talking about is a relatively small area in the center of the country around Baghdad and to the areas north and northwest of Baghdad where the extremists still get a lot of support. Obviously we're taking steps to try to mitigate all of that.
Q: Are you certain that it's just a matter of time before you can shut these attacks down to a minimum?
Myers: What I'm certain of is that from a military standpoint we can provide the kind of environment and set the conditions so that Iraq can prosper as a free and democratic country. I'm positive about that.
If you talk to any of our soldiers over there, which I do, they understand that it's a tough mission. In fact I've said it's a tough mission. I've said you can expect more car bombs after the U.N. bombing, after the Turkish Embassy and so forth. This is how life is going to be for some time. If people are willing to commit suicide, terrorists, then we know it's very very difficult to stop. But over time progress in Iraq has been tremendous. Whether it's on the political front with the Iraqi Governing Council and their acceptance in the world and world forums and regional forums, whether it's in economics. Whether it's in the infrastructure coming back up to speed, all those things, whether it's Iraqi forces being trained and coming on line to help protect and give their people protection and develop that country, all those are very positive things.
Our soldiers say it best. They say yeah this is really tough work but we're soldiers and that's what we do.
Q: Let me go back to the question. Everyone in the Bush Administration seems to agree that the more Iraqis you get to guard their own country the better. You get better intelligence. How fast can the coalition forces train the Iraqis to guard their own country?
Myers: Well that's an issue we've been working on here the last month or so and intensely here in the last couple of weeks, and we've made some initial conclusions that we can increase the rate at which we train Iraqis.
It's important that those stepping forward to be in the police force or to be in the new Iraqi army or to be in the Civil Defense Corps, or to protect infrastructure and other important sites, that they be properly trained and equipped for those missions. We've looked at that very hard and we think that we can dramatically increase the rate at which we're training these individuals. Up to now we've had no problem with recruitment. There are many Iraqis that want to step forward, and despite the danger to themselves give their people a chance for a new country and new freedoms.
Q: In terms of the danger, does that in any way slow down reconstruction plans?
Myers: No, in fact you have to make progress on several fronts at the same time. While we're working the security piece which involves the Iraqi forces we just talked about, the governance piece, the road to self rule, the drafting of a constitution, that needs to proceed apace as does progress on the economic front, on the infrastructure front, and of course on our communications front. How we communicate all this to the Iraqi people and how we communicate it to the people of the region and the world for that matter back here in the United States. So no, you can't slow down any of it. You need to make progress along all those paths and with the supplemental that's now on the Hill for approval, we're going to have the resources, and with the international help and the international donors we're going to have the resources to move on all those fronts simultaneously.
Q: General Myers, thank you.
Katarina Bandini, Boston
Q: I want to begin by asking you, are there stepped-up ways like the one we recently saw in Tikrit to root out these insurgents? And if so, what are we finding?
Myers: Well we've had constant pressure on what we call former regime loyalists, those people that were part of the former Saddam Hussein regime that continue to attack the Coalition, not only the Coalition, but also the U.N., the Red Cross, others, who are trying to make a new Iraq.
I don't know if people have seen that horrible tape that is airing today on television but it gives you -- We've talked about this decades of oppression that the Iraqi people have had to endure. That tape kind of really, as bad as it is, shows you what it was really about.
So yes, we're going after those folks and also the foreign fighters, the Jihadists, that are in there as well. That's just kind of a constant thing that we do. We do it with our Iraqi coalition partners. We're all after the same thing and we're having, as you know, some success.
Q: Has this been stepped up in recent days given the violence that we've seen?
Myers: No, I don't think it's been stepped up. We've had an all-out effort since -- Well, during major combat and since the first of May we've had very intense effort to go after the leadership. As you know, the so-called deck of cards. I think the last number I saw we were up to about 44 of those individuals that had either been captured or killed. We still need to get Saddam Hussein and some other key individuals that we need to get, and we will over time. If they're still in Iraq for sure we're going to get them.
Then others on the black list, we've got about half of the 200-and-some on the rest of the black list. These efforts go on day in and day out.
We have units, all the military units are specifically trying to gather the intel and go after these people that are trying to keep Iraq from creating a new path, new freedoms, a better life for the Iraqi people.
Q: Can you confirm that Saddam Hussein had planned any of this violence before the war, and if his top general, Al-Duri is behind these recent attacks?
Myers: I can't conform that. Frankly, I'd be surprised if this was the regime tactic to allow the country to be defeated as swiftly as it was and then to count on this. I don't think that would be a logical strategy. I'm not saying that the Hussein regime was logical, but I just don't think that would be logical.
I think this has evolved over time. Al-Duri we know was a party leader, a very senior party leader, and could very well be very involved in what we're seeing. That is yet to be proved and we'll just have to see, but it's the kind of thing that we're obviously looking at, and we're looking for him as well.
Q: Reports are that we're rushing to get the Iraqi security forces to fight these guerrillas. By pushing that along are we short-changing them for their training in the long haul?
Myers: No, don’t think so. In fact that's a big concern. I wouldn't say we're rushing them along. We have been talking now for a month or more about accelerating their training because, first of all the Iraqis as partners now, they want this. They want to take part in defending their country against the former regime loyalists, against the terrorists. They are eager to do this. In fact as you know many tens of them have been killed in defending their country. Some of these attacks we saw on Monday were thwarted because the Iraqis took the appropriate action.
But no, adequate training is an absolute part of this. We do intend to accelerate the number of police that are adequately trained, the number of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps that works with coalition military, the border patrol, the people that are out there protecting, doing site protection, doing facilities protection. But you can be assured that they're going to be properly trained, they're going to be properly equipped, and they'll be properly motivated by themselves.
The majority of Iraqis, clearly the majority of Iraqis want a much better life for themselves and their families and their children and their grandchildren. That's what they want and that's what we're trying to help them achieve.
Q: I kind of want to get you to put your finger on the pulse of how this country is feeling about this effort. How long do you think Americans will remain as resolve to stay in Iraq despite these increasing casualties?
Myers: I think our Commander-in-Chief has said it very well. We're going to be there until the job is done. We owe that to the Iraqi people. I think that's also the international will. We've got to be there to see this job done.
Clearly the Iraqis are on a path toward self-rule. They'll be working on a draft constitution. They'll be working on elections. And we're going to be there to see this through until the time that they can take over their own governance. The things we're doing right now that we're going to do when eventually the supplemental is finally passed by the Congress, and we're getting good support, by the way, from the Congress on that supplemental bill. When that's finally passed and we can put a lot of these resources into Iraq to help set the conditions for good governance, for the foundation for a good economy by building up the infrastructure, and by enhancing security. That's the plan and we're going to stick with it until it's done.
This is a battle in the war on terrorism. It's a very important battle. It's a battle of wills. The terrorists who think we're going to run every time it gets tough, and our will to stay and see the job done and give Iraqis a chance at some of the peace and prosperity that they so desperately deserve after their decades of repression. If we do that this could change the dynamics in the region and for that matter the world. This is a very very important task.
Q: Finally I want to ask you what weaknesses are you seeing in the way that we're fighting terrorism in Iraq? And how can we fix it?
Myers: I'm sorry. Could you repeat that, please?
Q: What weaknesses are you seeing in the way that we are fighting terrorism in Iraq, and how can we fix it, do better?
Myers: I think you talked to General Abizaid today and the one thing that we need to continue to focus on is improving our intelligence. We think the will of the Iraqi people, they're with us. Our soldiers and troops over there are very very competent and very motivated to do this job. We need to continue to try to encourage Iraqis to come forward with intelligence that helps us confront the former regime loyalists and those foreign Jihadists that have come into the country. That's what it's going to take.
So we continue to adapt what we call our tactics, our techniques and our procedures to stay ahead of these individuals.
We are still going to have, it's tough. It's a tough business and our soldiers know that. They'll also tell you, as one young soldier told me, he said sure, it's tough but we're soldiers and that's what we do. It is going to be tough but we're going to ultimately be successful because we have the will of the Iraqi people behind us and because we have the best armed forces and the best coalition that's ever been put together for that matter.
Q: General Myers, thank you very much for your time.
Myers: Katarina, thank you very much.
Q: Have a good day.
Myers: Same to you.
Allen Krishevski, Chicago
Q: I was just listening a little bit to some of your earlier comments, to the earlier reporter. I just want to ask you how do you quickly increase the Iraqi civil defense forces, the security forces, without sacrificing their quality or perhaps even enlisting those who might have questionable allegiance?
Myers: As you know in the police force, the first part is how we can do it quicker. First of all you need the funding. We have that in the supplemental that's coming forward out of the Congress. We have that from the Donors Conference as well. You have to have the money resources to do it.
Then you need the training cadres. We have help there on the international front as well. In some cases we need more facilities, in some cases we need more trainers, but we have these people available so we're going to bring them to bear like on the police.
In terms of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, that training is done by our forces, U.S. forces, in country and we've got General Abizaid our Commander of Central Command that worries about this, coming back to us. Does he need additional trainers himself? We think we have the funding, we just need maybe more trainers. That's what our forces do.
In each case it's a little different. In the border security, it's a different set. But again, it's a matter of putting the right resources together and accelerating this. It's a matter of resources. It's not a matter, as we've talked about earlier, of Iraqis volunteering to come forward. They've been very courageous in coming forward, they've been very courageous in their service. Many have sacrificed their lives for the defense of their people, as you know.
In terms of the vetting, we will do a -- The good news is that the Ba'athists kept very good records on their party so we have that to use. We also have other ways of vetting these individuals. Ultimately it will be up to the Iraqis to vet these people.
There's no doubt that we will probably take aboard people that we shouldn't have, but over time they'll be weeded out. We don’t think that's much of an operational concern. It will sort itself out over time. It's just going to have to be done that way.
Q: Do you have a sense as to what level of Iraqi involvement you want to see, that you believe is necessary before you can then look at reducing the American troop level there?
Myers: There are several things in this mix, several variables. One is our troop strength, one is the help that we get from our coalition partners.
Right now we have about 130,000 U.S. forces in Iraq. We have about 25,000 coalition forces. Right now about 80,000 Iraqi forces, if you will, of those various types that I went through, and that's the number we want to accelerate. I'm not going to give you a number today. I think we're going to wait for other folks to announce that. But a dramatic increase in a fairly short period of time.
Then it's not just a matter of numbers it's also what is the security situation in the country? What progress have we made towards Iraqi self-rule? What progress is being made on the economic front, on the infrastructure front? All that goes together to determine troop strength, if you will. It's all integral and you have to march along all those fronts simultaneously for success in Iraq.
Q: I want to ask you just simply your reaction to the word yesterday, of course, that the number of United States soldiers who have been killed since the major combat ended has now exceeded those killed actually during the invasion itself. What's your reaction to that, General?
Myers: Well the reaction is, obviously every time we lose an armed forces member or every time one is wounded, because some of those wounds are very severe. They lose limbs, they are affected in some cases for life with those wounds. Obviously each one of those is a personal tragedy for all of us in uniform and for those families and friends that are involved.
On the other hand, this is a very serious undertaking that I think has very important ramifications for our national security. I think the threat of international terrorism is as great a threat as we've ever faced in this country and it's going to require lots of sacrifice. Your armed forces bears a large part of that sacrifice, but it's so important to do this right.
If I could bring you two soldiers right now, of any service, and stand them before you that are serving over there and say what do you think? I think they would probably tell you things like the following. Hey, this is not always a pleasant place to work because it's hot during the summer and so forth. But it's a mission we understand. We understand the importance of it. We can do it militarily. We're volunteers and we're here for the long haul.
I think the American people that have heard these kinds of people coming back and so forth, that's what they're being told.
Our armed forces is committed to this task. It's just so important that we do this right. It's important for our country. This battle on terrorism in Iraq is part of the larger war on terrorism. And it's important we win this. We have no option. Otherwise we have to say we're ready to forfeit our way of life and our values that we hold so dear.
Q: General, I appreciate your time. We're beyond our five minutes. Thank you so much for giving us your time. We appreciate it. Thank you.
Myers: Thank you very much.