SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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[H.A.S.C. No. 10821]
NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT
FOR FISCAL YEAR 2005H.R. 4200
OVERSIGHT OF PREVIOUSLY AUTHORIZED PROGRAMS
COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED EIGHTH CONGRESS
FULL COMMITTEE HEARINGS
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AUTHORIZATION AND OVERSIGHT
MARCH 3, 2004
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
One Hundred Eighth Congress
DUNCAN HUNTER, California, Chairman
CURT WELDON, Pennsylvania
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
JIM SAXTON, New Jersey
JOHN M. McHUGH, New York
TERRY EVERETT, Alabama
ROSCOE G. BARTLETT, Maryland
HOWARD P. ''BUCK'' McKEON, California
MAC THORNBERRY, Texas
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
WALTER B. JONES, North Carolina
JIM RYUN, Kansas
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJIM GIBBONS, Nevada
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
HEATHER WILSON, New Mexico
KEN CALVERT, California
ROB SIMMONS, Connecticut
JO ANN DAVIS, Virginia
ED SCHROCK, Virginia
W. TODD AKIN, Missouri
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
JEFF MILLER, Florida
JOE WILSON, South Carolina
FRANK A. LoBIONDO, New Jersey
TOM COLE, Oklahoma
JEB BRADLEY, New Hampshire
ROB BISHOP, Utah
MICHAEL TURNER, Ohio
JOHN KLINE, Minnesota
CANDICE S. MILLER, Michigan
PHIL GINGREY, Georgia
MIKE ROGERS, Alabama
TRENT FRANKS, Arizona
IKE SKELTON, Missouri
JOHN SPRATT, South Carolina
SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCLANE EVANS, Illinois
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
MARTY MEEHAN, Massachusetts
SILVESTRE REYES, Texas
VIC SNYDER, Arkansas
JIM TURNER, Texas
ADAM SMITH, Washington
LORETTA SANCHEZ, California
MIKE McINTYRE, North Carolina
CIRO D. RODRIGUEZ, Texas
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
ROBERT A. BRADY, Pennsylvania
BARON P. HILL, Indiana
JOHN B. LARSON, Connecticut
SUSAN A. DAVIS, California
JAMES R. LANGEVIN, Rhode Island
STEVE ISRAEL, New York
RICK LARSEN, Washington
JIM COOPER, Tennessee
JIM MARSHALL, Georgia
KENDRICK B. MEEK, Florida
MADELEINE Z. BORDALLO, Guam
RODNEY ALEXANDER, Louisiana
TIM RYAN, Ohio
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Robert S. Rangel, Staff Director
James M. Lariviere, Professional Staff Member
Justin Bernier, Research Assistant
C O N T E N T S
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF HEARINGS
Wednesday, March 3, 2004, Fiscal Year 2005 National Defense Authorization ActRegional Combatant Commander, U.S. Central Command; Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
Wednesday, March 3, 2004
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 3, 2004
FISCAL YEAR 2005, NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACTREGIONAL COMBATANT COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND; ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENTS PRESENTED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Hunter, Hon. Duncan, a Representative from California, Chairman, Committee on Armed Services
Skelton, Hon. Ike, a Representative from Missouri, Ranking Member, Committee on Armed Services
Abizaid, Gen. John P., United States Army, Commander, U.S. Central Command
Rodman, Peter W., Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
[The Prepared Statements can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Abizaid, Gen. John P.
Hunter, Hon. Duncan
Rodman, Peter W.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSkelton, Hon. Ike
DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD:
[The Documents submitted can be viewed in the hard copy.]
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD:
[The Questions and Answers can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Mrs. Davis (Jo Ann)
FISCAL YEAR 2005, NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACTREGIONAL COMBATANT COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND; ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS
House of Representatives,
Committee on Armed Services,
Washington, DC, Wednesday, March 3, 2004.
The committee met, pursuant to call, at 10:03 a.m., in room 2118, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Duncan Hunter (chairman of the committee) presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. DUNCAN HUNTER, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM CALIFORNIA, CHAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
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The CHAIRMAN. The hearing will come to order.
This morning the committee will continue its review of the fiscal year 2005 defense budget request by turning our attention to the combatant commanders, those elements of the Department of Defense (DOD) who are actually charged with fighting and winning the Nation's wars around the globe.
Our witnesses this morning are General John Abizaid, United States Army, Commander, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), and the Honorable Peter W. Rodman, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security.
Gentlemen, thank you for being with us this morning.
For some time now I have taken a moment at virtually every hearing to remind the American public that the United States is a nation at war. I don't say that for members of this committee, many of whom have visited the theater or have been in constant contact with returning troops. I certainly don't need to remind our witnesses, who are at the heart of the war effort. I beat that drum because sometimes we see disturbing signs that our Nation may be forgetting this essential.
As we meet today in the comfortable confines of Washington, D.C., American soldiers are on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world defending our interests, our friends and our allies. But, most importantly, they are defending the lives of our fellow citizens by draining the swamps that allow terrorists to flourish and grow.
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I think that most folks in this country today aren't aware of the fact that we have today one of the biggest troop rotations going on since World War II, with some, as I understand nowand correct me, General, if I'm wrongbut I believe some 157,000 troops now in theater. Because you have the folks coming in and the folks who are side by side with them but who will soon be returning. That is why the political, diplomatic, military, economic and cultural work that goes on in General Abizaid's area is so important.
Even a quick review of the State Department's list of terrorist groups indicates that there are at least 14 organizations operating in the CENTCOM area. Of the State Department's list of seven state sponsors of terrorism, three were in Central Command's area of operations. We are down to two now as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Nevertheless, the region remains a key source of international insecurity. Extremists continue to assault efforts to bring security, stability and democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran's halfhearted attempts at political reform have largely failed, leaving us with a state controlled by extremist supporters of terrorism who the International Atomic Energy Agency caught violating their nuclear safeguards agreements.
In Pakistan, we face a country with nuclear weapons, a longstanding rivalry with its nuclear neighbor, popular support for Osama bin Ladin in key regions, and a governmental system that hasn't succeeded in building a stable democracy. And these are just the highlights.
September 11th forced the United States to jump into this mix with both feet. Osama bin Ladin proved it wasn't enough to contain or deter threats to our security. They had to be eliminated. Thatand the Administration is using all the tools at its disposal to improve the security situation in the region, from increased military cooperation with the Asian statecentral Asian states, the diplomatic initiatives in Pakistan and military training in the Horn of Africa. We are making progress. General Abizaid leads many of our efforts along these lines and will offer some greater detail during the hearing.
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That said, much of our success to date should be credited to the men and women serving their country and their willingness to go in harm's way. While they are out there defending us, we have a responsibility back home to make sure we are leaving no stone unturned in giving them all the support they need to do the job. Some people forget that and look to cut the defense budget in order to pay for other priorities. I believe that this would be a mistake in the middle of a war while our service personnel are engaged with the enemy.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about how the President's budget request will enable us to continue making progress in the Global War on Terror and why it is vital that Congress give them the resources they need to compete the mission.
So, before we listen to our witnesses this morning, let me turn to my partner on the committee, the ranking Democrat, the gentleman from Missouri, Mr. Skelton, for any remarks he might wish to make.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hunter can be viewed in the hard copy.]
STATEMENT OF HON. IKE SKELTON, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM MISSOURI, RANKING MEMBER, COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, I couldn't agree with you more about those that would attempt to cut the defense budget. We are at war, Mr. Chairman, and this is serious business in which we are about.
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Mr. Chairman, General Abizaid, Secretary Rodman, thank you for being here.
General, I think this is the first time you have formally testified before this committee. So thank you for being with us today.
I have traveled to Iraq twice in the last six months and recently returned from my first trip to Afghanistan. I don't think it is an overstatement to say that our men and women serving in those theaters are doing an extraordinary job under the most trying of circumstances. They are superbly trained, superbly led, and are just the finest force the world has seen and I think historians would probably say the finest force the world has seen since the day of the Roman legions. We owe them all a debt of gratitude; and as we go into the budget cycle, we owe it to them to provide everything they need to succeed in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
But I was troubled by some of the other conclusions I drew from my trips.
First, I am convinced that the timetable for transfer of sovereignty to Iraq is unrealistic. I think I had mentioned this to Secretary Rodman a few moments ago. I am pleased that we have recognized that there is no way to hold elections by June the 30th and am cognizant that approach may not have been supported by the Shiites, but I am happy to know that the new Iraqi constitution, at least the temporary constitution, has been agreed upon. It is still unclear to me to whom we will be transferring sovereignty on June the 30th. Moreover, I am still concerned that the Iraqis are not on track to make the benchmarks set before it by that date, June 30th.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For example, recent press reports indicate that we will not complete status of forces negotiations until there is a new government after July, despite the original deadline of March 31. Without such a document, there will be no formal agreement on the rules of engagement on our forces and legal protections for them. I must tell you that I feel very strongly that our troops must be empowered to do what they must do, A, to defeat the insurgency and, B, to have self-protection before Iraq dissolves into a civil war, as I fear it shall.
Simply put, we have to handle the transition right. The stakes are enormously high, and the recent spate of bombings in Karbala and Baghdad remind us that tensions among ethnic groups are getting higher by the day. I hope you gentlemen will address that when you testify.
We need to give the Iraqi people assurances that we are prepared to stay the course for the future. In this regard, I believe encouraging the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)NATO's involvement in Iraq would be very helpful. In our view, NATO allies have just as great a stake for Iraq as we do; and we just recently learned that there are 60,000 deployable NATO troops that could be called upon should the request be askedbe madeand the request be accepted.
Let me mention Afghanistan. The simple truth in my opinion is that we are shortchanging our effort to establish a viable Federal Government and rebuild that country. I understand that. On the face of it, Afghanistan is not as strategically important as Iraq, but our efforts there are very critical. Osama bin Ladin and other leaders of the al Qaeda leadership of the former Taliban remain at large. In the near term, the United States must bring renewed attention to our offensive operations to flush out those forces.
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Starting now and over the long-term, we need to ensure that a terrorist-harboring regime cannot gain hold once again. If we pour half as many people and resources into Afghanistan as we have Iraq, I think that country would be well on its way to recovering from the 20-plus years of warfare that have driven that country.
Last, it is simply a matter of properly finishing what we have started. We have a responsibility to see this effort through. With few natural resources and little infrastructure and a long history of tribalism, Afghanistan has a long way to go, and I don't think we are making progress as fast as we need to in order for the Karzai government to survive over the long-term. Simply put, we need to do more now.
General Abizaid, thank you. You have the responsibility and face perhaps the greatest set of challenges that we have seen in over a half century. It is on your shoulders. We thank you for your past and your present leadership. We also understand the challenges that you have ahead of you. We greatly appreciate your service.
And Secretary Rodman, thank you for being with us; and we appreciate your thoughts, too.
Mr. Chairman, thanks.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Skelton can be viewed in the hard copy.]
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
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Without objection, the statements of both witnesses will be taken into the record.
The CHAIRMAN. General Abizaid, the floor is yours.
STATEMENT OF GEN. JOHN P. ABIZAID, UNITED STATES ARMY, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
General ABIZAID. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Skelton.
I appreciate the opportunity to testify before the committee. It is an honor to be here.
I would like to, first and foremost, thank the committee for the tremendous support that you have given to young men and women that are in the field. As you said, Mr. Chairman, there are over 200,000 of them in the CENTCOM area of operations. They are performing their missions magnificently, and they can't do it without the help of the American people and the American Congress, and I thank you for that support and help.
Sir, I will make a very brief statement. The CENTCOM area is one of the most active areas in the world in terms of extremism. We are involved in three conflicts; the broader Global War on Terror, a counterinsurgency operation in Iraq, and a counterinsurgency operation in Afghanistan, both of which are designed to bring stability to those nations.
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We have three major commands performing this function: Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF)7, led by Lieutenant General Rick Sanchez in Iraq; Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, led by Lieutenant General Dave Barno in Kabul, Afghanistan; and CJTF Horn of Africa in Djibouti, led by Marine Corps Brigadier General Maston Robison.
All three of these commanders and the troops under their command are facing a difficult challenge against the extremists in various ways in their areas. Despite that, I am very optimistic that we have the troops, the equipment and the necessary will to fight our way through to a good conclusion as long as we maintain our patience, our tenacity and our courage.
This is a very dangerous battle space, as evidenced yesterday by the attacks by Zarqawi against unprotected Shia Muslims in places like Karbala, Baghdad, and a thwarted attack that fortunately didn't take any lives in Basra. Over 140 people were killed, over 500 were wounded. Undoubtedly, the number of killed will go up by the time some of the wounded pass away.
The CHAIRMAN. How many killed was that, General?
General ABIZAID. Over 140, sir. These attacks are despicable, and they show the clear lie of the idea that Zarqawi, Osama bin Ladin, Zawahiri, and their like are fighting for Islam. They are the enemies of Islam. They have killed more Muslims in the past month than anybody could ever imagine for no reason other than to cause destruction and to cause civil war to take place in Iraq. It is a bleak vision that could only result in the Talibanization of the Middle East should they succeed. The vast, vast majority of the people in the Middle East do not want that to happen, and they join us in this struggle against these extremists.
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Mr. Chairman, I will close by saying, this is an important fight. It is not just a fight about stabilization. It is a fight about extremism versus moderation. It is a fight about the ideas of free men versus those who would enslave people.
I think our young soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, DOD civilians that are out there all understand this. They know that if we don't face this menace in the middle of the Middle East, we will have to face it sooner or later at home. They are proud to take the fight to the enemy. They are doing a great job. I have never seen a better Armed Forces, better trained, better motivated, and better led by their subordinate commanders.
So I want to tell you, Mr. Chairman, that our troops are committed to this battle. They will be successful because of their courage and their tenacity, and I thank you for the opportunity to appear.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, General.
[The prepared statement of General Abizaid can be viewed in the hard copy.]
The CHAIRMAN. Secretary Rodman.
STATEMENT OF PETER W. RODMAN, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary RODMAN. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, members of the committee, I, too, am honored to be here. I hope to be of assistance to the committee in its deliberations. I am proud to be here in the company of my colleague and friend, General Abizaid.
In my prepared statement, what I attempted to do was put our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq in a certain perspective, a policy perspective, the perspective of our overall strategy in the war on terrorism.
As General Abizaid just said, really it is a struggle between moderates in the Muslim world, the overwhelming majority of people in that part of the world, against a minority of extremists. It is our friends who are on the frontline; and if you can sum up our overall strategy in a nutshell, it is to bolster our friends, help our friends, help promote the people who share our values or who come close to our values of moderation and peace and help them in their struggle against the extremists.
We all read in the newspapers and we hear about these tragic acts of violence such as happened yesterday. But my view is that the most important thing going on in both Afghanistan and Iraq is the political process, the remarkable project of political construction that is going on and I would say making remarkable progress in both places.
In Afghanistan, we saw at the beginning of January the agreement on a new constitution, a milestone in the construction of a strong central government in Afghanistan, a process which is bringing together, successfully bringing together all of the elements of Afghanistan society as they build new institutions to fill the vacuum left by the Taliban.
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In Iraq, as was mentioned, we have just seen this week a similar milestone, the agreement on the Transitional Administrative Law, which is a kind of interim constitution; and, in fact, again, capping off a remarkable process of political compromise, political co-existence being demonstrated by all of the moderate Iraqis that we have been working with since liberation.
I mean, the real story is not that there are people trying to derail this process. The real story is that this process is moving forward regardless.
There were a lot of concerns at the time of liberation about the centrifugal forces in Iraq, and yet we have seen since the formation of the governing council last July and up until the present point that these groups have learned to work together. They are mastering the art of political compromise. Their cohesion is the remarkable story; and they are coming together in a document which, from what we have seen, is a good document, a moderate blueprint for a decent, moderate, modern Iraq, which will be a partner to its neighbors and no longer a threat to its neighbors.
So that is why we remain confident that we have a strategy, that this political process is moving forward despite the obvious attempts of people to destroy it.
I would mention the Zarqawi document, as General Abizaid did, this document that we came across a few weeks ago, it is clear that the terrorists are worried about this political process. Their fear is that on July 1, when the American, quote, occupation, unquote, is over, and we are there as the partner of a sovereign Iraqi government, that a lot of the political steam comes out, or political legitimacy, if there ever were any, drains out of this terrorist enterprise, because then what are they attacking? They are no longer attacking the Americans. They are attacking Iraqis, which is the case anyway, but suddenly they are worried that their political position is drastically weakened by this transfer of sovereignty.
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My final point, which I have in my prepared statement, is just a plea for staying power. Our friends in the Middle East, especially our moderate friends in Iraq and Afghanistan, are counting on us for a transitional period. They need our help as they get on their feet. They need our help for a period as they build their new institutions; and they need our help, of course, most of all, in the security dimension. I believe we as a nation are committed to help them do that and to stay the course and to be there, to give them the confidence and the support that they need to build those new institutions and to complete this process.
I know this is an exciting year in our domestic debate, but I do say and I take comfort from the extraordinary bipartisanship that the Congress has shown in supporting the $87 billion supplemental last year and supporting the defense budget and the way this committee and others have conducted themselves. I am confident that we are united on the fundamental imperative of staying the course, of making sure that we have a successful outcome in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
[The prepared statement of Secretary Rodman can be viewed in the hard copy.]
The CHAIRMAN. General, you havewe have one of the biggest deploymentsredeployments of any time since World War II going on right now. You have got the 82nd Airborne poised to displace back to the U.S. You have the Fourth Infantry Division (ID) up in the north, to the north of Baghdad. You have got the 101st up in northern Iraq, and you have got the First Armored Division that is in the Baghdad area, displacing out.
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Bringing in, coming in is the First Marine Expeditionary Force, going to the 82nd. You have got the First Infantry Division. You have got at least one brigade from the First Infantry Division in that western area of operation (AO). You have got the First Infantry Division and a Stryker brigade, and you have right now a ton of people moving and, in some cases, working side by side with the outflowing force basically teaching the ropes to the inflowing force.
Just give us an idea of how that is going, how that is working. Is it proceeding as planned?
General ABIZAID. Mr. Chairman, I am very pleased with the way the rotation has moved thus far. You know that we have already moved the 101st out of the sector and put a Stryker brigade combat team up in the Mosul area. The Stryker brigade is performing very well. The troops there are doing tough work with less forces, yet their Stryker vehicle and brigade combat team systems have allowed them to take over battle space of the division and handle it very well.
We are about, as I said, halfway through the rotation, and I am extremely satisfied with the smooth transfer of responsibility between units, the state of preparedness of the units that are coming in. All of the units have been trained either by the U.S. Marine Corps or by the U.S. Army in some very extensive scenarios. They have had leadership reconnaissance conducted at a fairly high level before any of the units arrived, and now they spend at least two weeks doing what we call right-seat riding with their contemporaries to make sure that they understand all of the nuances of the battle space that they are inheriting.
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In the days ahead, the Fourth Infantry Division will turn over to the First Infantry Division. That is starting to take place now. Many of the units of the First Infantry Division are up there and in place. And down in the Baghdad area, the 1st Cav Division will start to replace very soon the First Armored Division that has done such a great job in that battle space.
So I am very satisfied that the turnover of forces is going smooth, that the troops that are coming in are experienced, that they are ready, that they understand the challenges. There is no doubt that new troops will face challenges of having to learn their areas. That is always true when new troops come into a combat zone. But these are the best prepared new troops ever to show up on the battlefield, and we are looking forward to them taking up the challenge in their areas, and we are grateful for the year's worth of service that our current forces have put in and welcome the opportunity to go home.
The CHAIRMAN. Would you say, General, that defending and protecting the top line of the President's defense budget is an important aspect of this massive deployment?
General ABIZAID. Sir, as a combatant commander, I need to have the resources that I understand are very extensive in order to support 217,000 troops operating in a vast area; and so I support the budget as I understand it to be made.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay.
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Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, you hit the bottom line in your question. I applaud you for it.
General, if Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur were asked during the Battle of Guadalcanal after the loss of the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, of course, the initial attack on Pearl Harborif they were asked, how goes the war, I am sure they would give a very guarded, or would have given a very guarded, and possibly troubled answer.
What you said a while ago, very disturbing. We cannot afford to have a Talibanization of Iraq. The last thing we want is for failure to settle as a cloud on our heads.
A lot of good things are happening but not making the front page. The young troops are doing superbly well. We have seen that. Construction, the ability to get along with people. And, yet, yesterday the last of a series of coordinated attacks this time on so many Iraqis, and I think you testified over 140 deaths as we speak. If we were to ask you that Guadalcanal question of today, we know that your answer would be guarded and difficult. But it needs to be asked. So, General, what is your assessment of the likelihood that Iraq will dissolve into a civil war in the months ahead as we try to transition power?
General ABIZAID. Congressman, I believe there are more people trying to hold Iraq together than tear it apart. I believe that there is always a chance that through the wrong steps of political leaders inside Iraq and through the deliberate steps of people like Zarqawi, groups like on Ansar al-Islam and al Qaeda that are trying to move the country toward civil war, that it is possible. And while I say it is possible, I do not believe that it is probable. I think that there is a much greater chance that Iraq will emerge through this political process as a stable and modern state that is well represented in the community of nations as a responsible state. So I am optimistic that we have a chance.
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But it is not a 100 percent chance. I believe that there is a lot of hard work to do. I believe that as we move toward the period of sovereignty envisioned in the turnover to the transitional government and then move toward elections, which will inevitably happen later, that violence could well increase. It will be the mark of our success as to our willingness to stay the course and our ability to build Iraqi security institutions that are willing to fight for their own freedom and their own survival.
I think there is a high degree of success ahead of us provided that we are patient, we stay the course, we help the Iraqis, we make sure that they understand that this is an operation not of occupation, but of partnership, and that over time we turn over more and more authority and control to them so that they can control their own destiny.
At the end of the day, it will be Iraqis that make Iraq free, not Americans.
Mr. SKELTON. Thank you very much, General, for your service and for your straightforward answers.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. I appreciate the gentlemen.
The gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Saxton.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SAXTON. General, not long ago, the Chairman and I were at a briefing at the Fourth ID Headquarters in Iraq. One of the interesting pieces of informationtwo pieces of information had to do with the trend lines of attacks on American soldiers and the trend line involving people who were coming into newly stood-up police stations with information on people who were trying to make troublewho were making trouble in Iraq. Can you give us an update on those two trend lines?
General ABIZAID. Sir, I have spent a lot of time up in all of the divisional areas looking at a lot of the various statistics. A lot of people talk about how there is a straight-line function about conflict in Iraq, but I think it is better described as being some sort of a sign wave where there are peaks and valleys of violence that move throughout the country.
In general terms, though, I would say that attacks against Americans are down, certainly from their high back in November. But attacks against Iraqi institutions, in particular the police and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC), are up.
It is clear that the strategy of the Zarqawi network, Ansar al-Islam, al Qaeda, and other extremist groups is to undermine the ability of Iraqi security forces to gain a foothold against them; and they know that ultimately it will be Iraqi security forces that defeat them. So they have embarked upon a strategy of attacking Iraqi security institutions, assassinating Iraqi leaders that are part of these institutions.
I am happy to report to you that despite these attacks, many of which have been devastating, recruitment remains high, motivation in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps in particular is high, and people continue to train and move together in an effort to build Iraqi security institutions that are going to be capable.
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So we should not underestimate the ability of the enemy to find our weak spots, and one of the weak spots is the still-building capacity of Iraqi security institutions. I believe that with very close cooperation from the United States and other coalition partners, we can build this capacity so that it is both effective and loyal to the emerging state.
One other point I would like to make, Congressman, is that it is very, very important for us now to build Iraqi chains of command that move all the way from the lowest police private or army private all the way up to the Minister of Defense and Minister of Interior; and I think that work needs to be well in progress by the transition of sovereignty on the 1st of July.
In regards to Ministry of the Interior, that work is moving pretty well, but in regards to the Ministry of Defense, we still have to stand up that ministry, get it manned, and have the chains of command start to function.
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you.
One other thing that I find very interestingIran is obviously right in the middle of things both geographically as well as in many other ways. We know that there was some foreign fighters coming into Iraq through Iran. We know that Bahrain has a relationship with Iran that is sometimes tested. We hear that some former Taliban or al Qaeda leaders may be in Iran and under some kind of supervision or whatever. Can you just give us a general notionyour general notion about the role that Iran is playing in the area and how much are you concerned about it?
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General ABIZAID. Iran is clearly the most powerful nation state in the region. They have a tremendous amount of influence throughout the region and for the past several years have certainly been anti-American in their outlook.
It is interesting to me, however, that as we look at our operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq, that the Iranians have not actively tried to disrupt those operations. There is no doubt that the Iranians, especially in the Shia south, will want to maintain a large degree of influence, but I believe that the Iranians understand that the sooner a stable Iraq and Afghanistan emerge, the sooner their prosperity regionally can return, and the sooner we will reduce our footprint in the region, which they will see as a good thing.
Certainly, the recent Iranian election was one that causes us to have some concerns about the return of hard-liners, about the increase of hard-liners in the government. But, on the other hand, there is an unmistakable movement within Iran of reformers that desire greater political reform that I think will continue to be apparent in the years ahead.
So, certainly the Iranians have probably turned a blind eye on terrorist groups moving through their territory that have infiltrated either into Iraq or Afghanistan. The degree to which the Iranian government has been complicit is not clear to me, but I would say that the Iranians, by allowing groups like Zarqawi, al Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam to operate through their territory or to not effectively go after them are putting their own governmental institutions and their own people at risk. After all, Zarqawi's attack on the Shia minority or the Shia Ashura holiday down in Karbala and Baghdad yesterday should indicate to the Iranians that these people do not share common cause with them.
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I imagine Mr. Rodman probably would have some remarks.
Secretary RODMAN. Certainly.
I agree with General Abizaid. Iran is giving itself options for the future in Iraq. As the General said, Iran has not disrupted the political process it is building in Iraq and I think in large part because its friends, Iran's friends in Iraq, some of the Shia groups have been included from the beginning in the political process. So Iran may feel that its legitimate interests are being taken account of in this political process.
On the other hand, it is simultaneously either providing for itselfI think providing for itself some weapons it may choose to wield in the future either as leverage against us to get us out or leverage in support of its allies if politics within Iraq take a more chaotic turn. So I think we are right to keep an eye on Iran. But I would say at the moment Iran is not the main problem we are dealing with inside Iraq.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
The gentleman from Mississippi, Mr. Taylor.
Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Secretary Rodman, General Abizaid, for what you do for our country and for those folks whom you represent.
Secretary Rodman, we have had now about a year of almost unfettered access to the Iraqi records. A subject that is often brought up without great clarification that I would like your opinion on is have we been able to find any substantial links between the government of Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September the 11th?
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Secretary RODMAN. Let me say a couple of specific points. One is, there is still a mountain of documents that we have not yet translated and gone through. Second, the administration has never attempted to demonstrate a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.
What we did feel we had good documentation of was a long record of links between the Iraqi Intelligence Service and al Qaeda. We have put out informationas I said, it does not demonstrate a connection with 9/11, but there is already, I think, significant evidence that there is a record of exchanges and contacts and some degree of cooperation between the Iraqis and al Qaeda, and a lot of that information has been put forward, including in Secretary Powell's presentation to the United Nations (U.N.) A year ago. I think some of the new information that we are gathering may be relevant to that, but there is nothing dramatic that I am aware of.
Mr. TAYLOR. If something like that should come to your attention, would you please make me aware of that?
General Abizaid, I continue to be concernedand you please correct me if I am wrong. But from what I can see, the majority of our casualties in Iraq continue to be the result of improvised explosive devices (IED). I would certainly hope that you would make that a priority of yours. I know that our NationI want to make this very clear, because we were all in on a bad decision, that said that not every soldier going to the Iraq theater would have the best body armor. We have finally corrected that bad decision. I would sure hope we are not making a similar shortsighted decision when it comes to trying to protect vehicles from improvised explosives, and I would hope you would be a part of that.
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My second question would be, a friend of mine in the Special Forces community raised an interesting point, and I would like to hear your thoughts on it. His observation was, in the hearts and minds department, he felt like that we had made some short-term decisions to move into the Hussein palaces because they had running water, because they had heat, because they had air conditioning, because they had walls around them, all logical things to do in the short-term for the quality of lives of our troops. He felt like, long-term, we may be making the mistake of becoming associated with those palaces that I would think that to the average Iraqi were obviously symbols of evil. I mean, Saddam Hussein was an evil person. They did bad things in those palaces.
I was just curious if we have a long-term strategy to build the kind of barracks that we have done like the SEA-huts that we did in Bosnia so that quite possibly we are not associated with those palaces in the future, or if there is any policy along that line. We are obviously replacing 130,000 great troops with 110,000 great troops. We want them to have as many of the comforts of home as possible, realizing they are gone for a year. But I would like to hear your thoughts on the possible association, the possible links that when we move into that palace we pick up some of the baggage of the Hussein regime.
General ABIZAID. Thank you, Congressman.
First of all, on the IEDs, I agree with you that the IED continues to be the greatest casualty producer among our troops in the field; and, like you, I believe we must do everything possible to protect our troops in the field. We honor the sacrifice of any of our soldiers, any of our service people that have either been wounded or killed in action. What more can we say about that?
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I had an interesting conversation before the hearing today with the chairman of the committee about IEDs; and his question to me was, are we doing everything we can to protect the troops? The answer to the question is, we have to continue to work this issue every single day; and it is a priority of mine. There are technological fixes to the problem that can be partially successful; there are tactics, techniques, and procedure fixes to the problem that can be partially successful; and, of course, there are offensive actions that can be taken against the bomb makers when we know where they are and how they are operating that can be partially successful. But, Congressman, I cannot give you a 100 percent assurance that we have got the solution to the problem, because the enemy knows that we are vulnerable in this regard.
As you know, we went into the war with a requirement for about 200 up-armored Humvees. Now we are up to 4,000 Humvees, and yet the force is actually smaller now than the force that went into Iraq. So you can see that we are every day evaluating how we can protect our troops in a better way; and in a commander's conference that is upcoming here in the days ahead in the Middle East, I will be going over this in great detail with not only our technological experts, but also our commanders. Believe me, this is very, very serious business and we pay great attention to it.
As far as the palaces are concerned, my view about Iraq is that there is nothing in Iraq that belongs to the United States of America. The palaces don't belong to us, the airports don't belong to us, nothing there belongs to us; not the oil, not the natural resources, nothing. It is their country, and we are there to create an environment that allows them to move down the road of moderation and prosperity if they are only willing to seize the moment. So I think that it was the right thing to do to initially move into the palace areas for all the reasons that you described. I also think it is the right thing to do in the next year to move out of these areas in a very, very clear and connected operational movement that returns these public lands to the Iraqi people; and certainly we will be doing that. We have done it in some areas at a small rate, but, as you know, where most of the American troops are these are areas where the regime had a lot of palaces, and we are looking for places to move out of these public lands and move into areas that will be less obtrusive for our troop presence. That doesn't mean that we won't patrol or we won't conduct our operations.
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But there is some resistance to units that get comfortable, and I have told them that I expect them to move out of the Baghdad airport area, for example, and they are doing that now.
You have noticed that we are making Balad Airfield our primary hub in the region. The idea of doing that is because we need to have the Baghdad International Airport revert to civilian control, we need to have the Basra International Airport revert to civilian control at the earliest opportunity, because turning over these important symbols of sovereignty will demonstrate to the Iraqi people that this is a partnership and not domination.
Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, General. Thank you, Secretary.
Mr. HEFLEY [presiding]. Mr. McHugh.
Mr. MCHUGH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Gentlemen, welcomeMr. Secretary, General.
As the Chairman noted in his opening remarks, many of us have visited the CENTCOM region extensively. I have had the opportunity to travel twice to Iraq and just returned from Afghanistan last week, and I wanted to compliment you on your leadership and the great job your troops are doing.
It is frustrating to many of us who have been there that the adage in the news media often appears to be: Good news is no news. We don't as a people often get the opportunity on the nightly news broadcast to see the great work that is being done, the progress that is being made. I was particularly pleased in your testimony to see your reference in Afghanistan of the PRTs, provincial reconstruction teams. I visited one of those in Kandahar last week, and it is a true success story. The one I visited was in the heartland of the so-called spiritual base of the Taliban, and yet there are American forces along with others providing real help to people. You could see the appreciation in the people's eyes, and it was a truly enlightening experience.
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I would like to just ask a question about the events that occurred yesterday, the tragic events, the series of bombings on the Shia. One of the reactions or a number of the reactions focused on the so-called moderate Shia leader particularly, Grand Ayatollah Sistani, that pointed a finger of blame at the American troops as somehow they didn't step up to the job of providing security. It was my understanding that indeed there were limits placed on the kind of security we could provide to these particular venues and to Shia activities in general and that we are really not allowed to get in close and personal. Could you expand on any operational limitations that are placed on our security efforts vis-a-vis the events of yesterday, for example?
General ABIZAID. Sir, if I may talk a bit about what happened yesterday to put it in context. Within 4 minutes of each other, at about 1,000 hours local time in Baghdad, suicide attacks took place in Karbala and in Baghdad and in the Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad near the holy mosques that are located in both locations. There also obviously was an attempt to attack a holy site in the Basra area that was fortunately foiled.
We saw in this attack at least six suicide bombers, which is the most we have seen on any single day. It is possible that there may have been even more associated with the attack. So the level of organization and the desire to cause casualties among innocent worshippers is a clear hallmark of the Zarqawi network, and we have intelligence that ties Zarqawi to this attack. We also have intelligence that shows that there is some linkage between Zarqawi and the former regime elements, specifically the Iraqi Intelligence Service, and we are concerned to see a terrorist group come into close coordination with former Iraqi Intelligence Service people because that creates an opportunity for the enemy of cooperation that can have a lot of danger for the force.
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As you can recall, back during the early stages of the war when our forces first entered into Najaf and Karbala and you recall the pictures of our troops moving toward the mosque and people clearly not wanting them to get near these holy areas and you recall the picture of a lieutenant putting this one weapon upside down and backing away, ever since those early days of the war, we have had a relationship with the Iraqi police and with local guard forces led by many of the Shia notables to guard those sites themselves.
That doesn't mean that there is not close cooperation. There is an outer-ring in Karbala that is manned by the Polish multi-national division, an outer-ring in Baghdad manned by American troops. We had some intelligence that indicated that attacks would take place. We passed that intelligence to the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps units and to the local authorities. We also know that they were trying to go after several prominent Shia personalities. In the night before, American special operation units raided some of the Zarqawi network operatives and probably prevented even greater carnage by being successful in one of those raids.
So there is a level of cooperation that exists all the way from General Sanchez to the lowest Shia police private on the streets of Karbala to try to ensure security. But, as you know, sir, in a city like Karbala of over a million and a city of Baghdad of over five million, you can literally find your way through any type of security cordon, especially when there is about a million pilgrims that are celebrating Ashura holiday.
It was clear, also, that the people that planned this outrage also planned to blame it on the United States, and there is some indication that they planted leaflets very shortly after the explosions in Baghdad that claimed that the United States had mortared the worshippers.
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So this is clearly along the lines of the letter that we intercepted from Zarqawi that talks about the need to plunge Iraq into civil war and do it quickly; and it is probably not surprising that, because we have the perception of being an occupying power there, that there are many people willing to point their fingers at us when there is a security incident, especially one as horrific as occurred yesterday.
Now, that having been said, I believe the plan was for even greater carnage. I think that joint actions between Americans and Iraqis prevented that from happening, and I think that we have better cooperation among various groups throughout Iraq in terms of security than is widely reported, although politicians areinside Iraq are, of course, quick to point the blame at us. I think we will face many more of these challenges ahead, and I believe we will continue to stay after the Zarqawi network, we will continue to train the Iraqis to get after the Zarqawi network, and over time we will become more and more successful.
Mr. MCHUGH. Thank you, sir.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HEFLEY. Mr. Meehan.
Mr. MEEHAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General Abizaid, as you have noted both in your testimony here and prior to this hearing, the Pentagon's long-term strategy to reduce U.S. troops in Iraq depends upon the ability to hand over the responsibility for security to the Iraqi forces. According to the New York Times, though, many of the Iraqi police officers and militia now operating independently or in cooperation with the American forces still lack basic equipment like radios and patrol cars. Just two weeks ago, simultaneous attacks against Iraqi Civil Defense Corps headquarters and a police station in Fallujah left more than a dozen Iraqi police officers dead because they lacked adequate weapons and ammunition.
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I can't say that I am surprised that the new Iraqi security forces don't have the equipment they need because in many instances our own troops haven't had enough body armor and armored Humvees to protect themselves. But if the hand-over of powers is going to succeed, Iraqi troops and law enforcement officials have to be trained and equipped to deal with insurgence, or I think it is clear we risk chaos.
General, if we have had problems with our own troops getting necessary protection like armored Humvees, what makes you think that the Iraqi forces will be ready to assume control of security operations by June 30th?
General ABIZAID. Sir, I do not assume that they will be prepared to assume control of security operations by the 30th of June. I believe that the security situation in Iraq will require a partnership between a U.S.-led multinational force and the Iraqi security institutions, and I believe that as you look at the transitional administrative law that provisions are made in there for that to take place. And I agree with you, Congressman, that Iraqi forces, be they army, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps units, police, border police, et cetera, still are not fully equipped, trained or memory-ready for the assumption of full sovereignty and being able to battle the very difficult threats that they face.
They are certainly prepared to face the obstacles, and they are courageous people. And I have great admiration for what they are doing, but the most important thing we have to do now between now and the 30th of June is increase the quality of the forces by getting them the right equipment, getting them the right training and ensuring that we start to build a chain of command that goes through the Iraqi private all the way up to the minister of interior or defense, as the case may be.
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I think, actually, sir, that it has been a remarkable thing that we have taken security institutions that were effectively at zero in May and brought them up to a strength of about 200,000 today, but I also have no illusions that it will take time to build them, train them and work with them. And as we move into the next phase of a multinational force headquarters, we will have Iraqi officers embedded with us there. We will have Iraqi joint forces, a staff that will be built that will help command and control the effort. And it will take some time before they are able to handle the very difficult tasks that are ahead of them, but I am very confident that given time and patience, we will be able to do that.
Mr. MEEHAN. General, on a follow-up note, I understand that the Iraqi Governing Council has decided to delay negotiations over a status of force agreement until a new provisional government takes over. This delay leaves the relationship between the United States troops and Iraqi security forces, it seems to me, completely undefined when we handle the sovereignty to the Iraqis. Without this agreement, the regulations governing where the U.S. troops will be based and what the conditions under which they will operate will be, it seems to me, will be up in the air, to say the least about the protection of our soldiers being guaranteed.
If our troops are going to be in Iraq for the foreseeable future, we owe it to our troops, it seems to me and to the Iraqis, to define our role in Iraq now.
What are you doing or can you do to revive negotiations for a status of force agreement with the Iraqi governing council? And I am wondering what legal rules will govern the conduct of our troops after the handover? In other words, how can we be sure that our troops will be able to defend themselves and establish sound security agreements if we don't have a status of force agreement that is in place?
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General ABIZAID. Sir, with your permission I am going to let Mr. Rodman answer some of the points contained in this.
Secretary RODMAN. I am happy to do that. I think that report is a mischaracterization of the situation. I would say that both the Iraqis and the Americans are coming to the conclusion that there is a different way to handle this problem than was spelled out in the November 15th agreement. As you were suggesting, the November 15th agreement said that by the end of March we would negotiate all this. I think we are coming to the conclusionwell, we have had some preliminary discussions with the Iraqi leaders who, first of all, assure us that they absolutely understand that they need us, they want us to stay, they need our help. The November 15th agreement also has a clause in it that says we know that the coalition will require wide latitude for its operations.
We are in the administration looking at a variety of legal ways of assuring our position through the transition that may welldepending on what we conclude, may well permit us to allow a detailed negotiation to take to wait until the transitional government is in place after July 1.
I mean, I can assure you that we are not going to have a period of time when our forces are without protection, but let me just say that there are a variety of ways of doing this and a variety of legal provisions that we can resort to, and we are at the beginning ofI think we are about to come to some conclusions ourselves. We are about to begin consultations with the Iraqis again and with coalition partners on exactly how to do this. But as I say, it may not be, you know, what was expected in November.
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Mr. MEEHAN. But would you agree, Mr. Secretary, that it should be laid out in written form and clearly understandable?
Secretary RODMAN. We will want to have clear, legal assurance of our position, both political and legal assurance.
Mr. MEEHAN. Any timetable when you might have such an agreement?
Secretary RODMAN. I think this is going to unfold during the course of this month. I think we are close to coming to some conclusions about ways to do it, and we will very quickly start discussing this.
Mr. MEEHAN. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. General, thanks very much.
General ABIZAID. Thank you, sir.
The CHAIRMAN [presiding]. I thank the gentleman. The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Forbes.
Mr. FORBES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and General, thank you both for being here today.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General, as you know, one of the greatest challenges of the war in Iraq was logistical planning and implementation, specifically that of the movement of fuel, water and supplies, and we hear a great deal of testimony about weapon systems and body armor and intelligence, but very little about the phenomenal task that was done logistically in this whole conflict, and I would just ask you if you could, today, please comment on any distinctive challenges of this mission, and particularly your evaluation of the performance of the quartermaster corps during the war in Iraq.
And one second question if you have time. You mentioned the possible Talibanization of Iraq. If that were to occur, what, in your opinion, would be the consequences to the security of the continental United States, if that were to take place?
General ABIZAID. Thank you, Congressman. First of all, in terms of logistics, it is really remarkable the great strength of the United States Armed Forces not only in the fighting caliber of its men and women, but in this unmatched logistical capability to move from the United States of America at any point on earth, get mountains of equipment to the right place at the right time and move against a fairly sophisticated enemy in a very quick amount of time and achieve great results and then have no one really talk about it.
It is to the point where operational commanders just absolutely expect that the system will work flawlessly, and most of the time it does. Clearly, in the early days of the movement into Iraq, there were challenges with parts for helicopters and some of our armored vehicles that required a great deal of innovative thinking by young logistics troops on the ground.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As I look at the theater now and I see how our supply systems are working, I am very satisfied that we are getting the right equipment and the right parts to the right place at the right time and that the troops are living a quality of life that is pretty unprecedented for a theater as tough as this theater is. And I attribute all of that to great logistics work.
However, we also need to understand that part of logistics is getting the force structure right in the first place, and one of the things we really have to understand as we evaluate the lessons of the war is whether or not the force structure in terms of logistics support, in terms of certain types of vehicle densities, for example, up-armored Humvees and et cetera, is correct. And if it is not correct, we need to correct it. And I know that General Schoomaker is thinking about that and working hard on that. But the work of the logistics troops is absolutely magnificent, and if you also look, Congressman, at the casualties among the logistics troops, you will notice that they are percentage-wise much higher than I think we have seen in any of our conflicts, because they are the young men and women that run those roads all the way from Kuwait up to Mosul, for example, that bear an awful lot of the risk in the combat operations that take place there, and they have done very well. We thank them for their great work.
With regard to the consequences of Talibanization, I really don't mean only of Iraq. I mean, if a country emerges in the Middle East that was like Afghanistan, that allows terrorists to operate from their soil as a base of operation, that allows this hateful ideology to be spread from its soil, that is a huge problem for not only the United States of America but for the entire region.
We cannot allow this ideology to take root, because it could be the source of much, much greater instability and difficulty for us in the region in the years ahead.
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I don't believe that it is likely for extremists to take charge of Iraq. I believe that the process is more likely to produce a moderate, although not necessarily recognizable western democracy, but a moderate government emerging that will protect the rights of its people.
The fact that a government like Iraq would emerge as a moderate state in the middle of territory not noted for its moderation will have a huge impact on the entire region, and if we fail there and the extremists were to succeed there, the opposite effect would affect the region in a way that would be very bad for all of us.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank the gentleman.
Dr. SNYDER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, gentlemen, for being here.
Secretary Rodman, in your opening comments you had the phrase, we are united on the fundamental imperative to be successful in Iraq. I think that is a very good way of putting the whole issue that regardless of how the American people felt or how the Congress felt. We had differing views on the decision to enter Iraq, but we are there now and we need to make this successful. And I think that was a good phrase. You ought to help somebody write a book sometime like Dr. Kissinger.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General Abizaid, I want to thank you for all your service, too. You mentioned the 1st Cav. And I was down in Fort Polk a week ago yesterday and visiting the 39th Brigade, the National Brigade from Arkansas, the several thousand young men and women that are going to be part of the 1st Cav.
I actually carry the little coin around with me. All my Texas friends think that the Boyd 9th is, you know, Jim Boyd in Texas, but we know it was developed in Arkansas. So it is on their coin. And my apologies to all the many other Arkansas units that I don't carry their coin, but we have had so many go over, I couldn't do it all. But they are doing very well and they are getting very, very good training.
Last night on NBC news, I happened to hear a report that I found very disturbing, and I am going to read it in its entirety and ask for your response to it, Secretary Rodman, if I might.
This was a report by Jim Miklaszewski, and this is the report. Quote, quoting from NBC news now, ''with Tuesday's attacks, Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to Al Qaeda, is now blamed for more than 700 terrorist killings in Iraq, but NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush Administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself but never pulled the trigger.
''In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of Al Qaeda had set up a weapons lab at Kirma in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide. The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and air strikes and sent it to the White House where, according to U.S. Government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.''
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Quote, ''Here we had targets. We had opportunities. We had a country willing to support casualties or risk casualties after 9/11, and we still didn't do it, said Michael O'Hanlan, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.
''Four months later intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe. The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the Administration had set its course for war in Iraq.
''People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the President's policy of preemption against terrorists, according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Robert Cressy.
''In January 2003 the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terrorist suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq. The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it. Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi's operation was airtight, but the Administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam. The United States did attack the camp at Kirma at the beginning of the war, but it was too late.
''Zarqawi and many of his followers were gone.'' Quote, ''Here is a case where they waited, they waited too long, and now we are suffering as a result inside Iraq, Cressy added. And despite the Bush Administration's tough talk about hitting at the terrorists before they strike, Zarqawi's killing streak continues today.''
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I was reading verbatim from the NBC News report, last night's news. I find that a very disturbing report. I mean, the allegation is that three times there were plans drawn up to take out a terrorist camp in northeastern Iraq in an area of Iraq that Saddam Hussein did not control that was a Kurdish controlled area who we had very close relationships with, and according to an NBC News report and their sources, we did not attack that camp because it would interfere with support for the war. Do you know if that story is true or not, Secretary Rodman?
Secretary RODMAN. I do know something about the planning. We had our eye on that location, Kirma, but I am not sure I agree with the characterization of, you knowof the decisions that were made. Any kind of operation is complicated, and I do know that we had our eye on that location. There were discussions in the Administration and obviously nothingno attack was made, but I don't recall anyone discussing-on either side of the discussion anyone saying, well, no, we don't want to do this because it will interfere with a plan to go after Saddam. I mean, you could have made the opposite argument that it wouldif we had found something interesting there, it would havecould have strengthened our case.
No. Any operation that one thinks about is complex, and there are always arguments, pro and con, and I am certainly not going to prejudge or pass judgment on ultimate decisions. But I think
Dr. SNYDER. If I might interfere, because my time is running down. You say we are not going to pass judgment. The purpose, in my view, of the Congress when we look at past events is not to pass judgment, but to figure out what went wrong and how not to have it happen again. We have a situation here where the Congress and the American people acknowledge in a bipartisan manner we have had some real problems with intelligence gathering and processing and have had it for years under both Democratic and Republican administrations.
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But I think the issue here is you said we have kept an eye on it. I have gotyou may recall in Secretary Powell'sSecretary of State Powell's discussions before the U.N. February 2003, he had a picture of this camp, but keeping an eye on it, we kept on eye on it. We had our man in Jordan, we believe, assassinated by this group after one of these plans was put forward, and according to NBC Newsand I don't know if the report is true or not. So I would hope that the Administration will provide information to the American people that points out this report is not true, because if it is, it is a very damning indictment of how we use the good intelligence that we have.
Secretary RODMAN. Let me just say one thing. Whatever theI am not aware of any evidence that the reasoning behind not hitting that target had anything to do with the reason that you have given. I think wethe decision to go to war with Iraq was being made at a high level and for reasons that we have all discussed and we all know about.
My understanding is that the decision on that particular target was made, you know, for other reasons. I don't thinkI never heard any discussion that that would be the reason not to go after it, because somehow it would interfere with some preyou know, predisposition.
Dr. SNYDER. Are you a member of the National Security Council, Mr. Secretary?
Secretary RODMAN. I am not a member of the National Security Council, certainly not.
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Dr. SNYDER. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. HEFLEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We keep talking about transferring sovereignty July 1st. I am not sure exactly what that means, and I wonder if you could help us understand that better.
First of all, do you think we will hit that target? Because that seems like a tough target to hit. And then when we say transferring sovereignty, does that mean we will have fewer troops in there? Does it mean that the Iraqis will be making their own decisions or we will still be making the decisions behind the scenes from our embassy? What does transferring sovereignty mean?
Secretary RODMAN. Let me start. It doesn't mean that our troops come home on July 2nd. It changes the legal status of our presence there. It obviously changes the legal situation in the country. As you suggested, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) will turn into an embassy, but our expectation is that theI mean, the most important thing from the Department of Defense's point of view is that the Iraqis understand they still need us, and nothing changes dramatically on July 2nd as opposed to June 30th in terms of their desire to have us there to continue the job of training, supporting them until they are able to take that responsibility on, but we would be there on a different basis as a partner of an Iraqi government on the model, perhaps, of Afghanistan, where a sovereign government was restored in Afghanistan at the end of 2001; and we have been there, you know, with the consent of the Afghan government, as a partner of the Afghan government.
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So operational things will not change, and I quoted from the November 15th agreement in which the Iraqis understand perfectly well that our coalition forces will need wide latitude to do their mission. And as General Abizaid was saying, the numbers of forces, other operational things will depend on circumstances, and, you know, the magic day of July 1 doesn't predetermine those decisions.
General ABIZAID. Sir, with regard to military forces, there will be a number of things we will do differently as a result of sovereignty being transitioned, many of which we are working on right now. For example, trying to assist the Coalition Provisional Authority in building administrative defense, that still has yet to emerge, and it very much needs to emerge quickly.
So we will build a new headquarters. We will have a new headquarters, Iraqi officers that we are looking at very hard now in terms of ensuring that they have not committed any crimes against the Iraqi people and that they are supportive of a new representative government forming in Iraq. We are building Iraqi chains of command, as I have mentioned before. Throughout the country, we are building what we call joint core Nation centers where Iraqi military, coalition military, coalition civil police advisers and Iraqi police units come together and discuss security activity that has to take place.
Iraqi intelligence capability will be built by other agencies of the U.S. Government to give them a capability to conduct the intelligence activities necessary to protect the state. And counterterrorist capability is being built, as well.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And as we transition from the period of what I would call perceived occupation to a period of partnership, it is very, very important that we give Iraqi military and civilian personalities that are responsible to the government an opportunity to take authority and take actions to be more involved in the security of the country. There are areas where we have already repositioned forces out of the urban areas, for example, because we think that the police forces and the ICDC units are capable enough to maintain control there, and we certainly look for the period ahead as one in which most operations that are conducted inside Iraq are joint operations with American forces, with Iraqi police, with Iraqi ICDC units.
And another thing we are doing, as we move to this main effort of building Iraqi security capacity as opposed to counterinsurgency, you will see a large number of American special forces and regular force people assigned to Iraqi units to mentor, train and provide linkages with the air system and other combat multipliers to make these forces more effective.
So from our point of view, after 1 July, we will do everything in our power to change the effort to building this Iraqi security capacity as our main effort, as I said.
Mr. HEFLEY. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman for his question. It is an excellent question, and I justto follow up briefly, general, making this handoff is critical, and the question is always a balance of how much responsibility you vest in this new stood-up military and how early you vest that responsibility and how much you, on the other hand, withdraw the American area of responsibility (AOR) as this new force fills that area.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC What is your take on the present state of the leadership in this new Iraqi military and their ability to undertake this responsibility under what we now understand will be some pretty difficult circumstances? We know there is going to be explosions in Iraq for a long time to come, long after the Americans are gone and even after they have a stable country with an enduring government.
General ABIZAID. Sir, right now, I would say at the low unit level, especially in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, we would call that battalion level, and below the leadership is solid and it is capable; but above battalion level, both for the army and the Civil Defense Corps, there essentially is no strong Iraqi leadership, but we will endeavor between now and June to move it along as quickly as we can. It will not be ready to assume the responsibilities of defending the state against outside aggressors or against the terrorist forces that are operating within the country by the 1st of July. And when I say it is not ready, I mean that the leadership will need time to organize, time to get their equipment in place, and they will also need time to think about how they function in a representative state as opposed to a dictatorship.
As you know before, the mentality in the Iraqi army was one of summary executions, was one of moving into villages and essentially doing whatever you wanted there to include people and include killing people. And so this attitude of the army being served by the people is one that has to be changed, and it won't happen overnight. It is one that will have to continue to engage with them for a long time ahead.
So I am confident that there is a professional cadre of soldiers even from the former Republicanor even from the former Iraqi Armed Forces that can lead the Armed Forces in a cooperative way that is beneficial to the state.
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But the education process, the training process, the equipment process will take some time. There are areas of the country now where the Iraqis have very good control of security. Up in the north, down in the south, in some key cities inside what used to be former regime-controlled areas. And we do not intend, in any way, shape or form to abandon these immature security formations to their fate. We will have good levels of coordination, and when they want their help, they want help from us, we will come to their aid. And if they get in trouble and they don't ask for our help, we will still come to their aid. But ultimately, the idea is for them to become strong so we can leave.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank you, General.
Ms. TAUSCHER. Mr. Secretary, General Abizaid, first let me say, general, how thankful I am for your service and your dedication and for all of our fighting men and women in your AOR that have done such a masterful job, both Active and Guard and Reserve. I think we are all so proud of them.
I read in today's Washington Post a story by Walter Pincus and Tom Ricks, which is significantly disturbing in the fact that it pretty much lays out the dangers coming forward for us on this transfer of power.
Let me just quote very quickly. Signs have been growing that there will be more violence as different religious, ethnic, political forces seek power at a time for transferring sovereignty grows nearer, said one senior analyst. Several defense experts predicted intensified unrest as the transfer of sovereignty approaches. Quote, ''We should be expecting a pretty violent period ahead on featuring both spectacular suicide attacks and intensified resistance operations.''
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It is clear thatand by the way, I think that General Mark Kimmitt is doing a phenomenal job, and I think his physical presence and the way he is handling a lot of these interviews is very, very comforting to many people in my district, but at the same time it appears that it is very difficult for us to get really good intelligence about these suicide bombers. We know that they are able to be successful specifically in Israel and Palestine and that they are a tough nut to crack.
But there is also some talk out there that to hand over control of the country, unless we have some basic predictable level of security, and that is going to continue and the confidence that we can build in that, that it is going to be very hard going for us.
As you moveas you discussed in the last couple of questions, as you move to integrate and expand the Iraqi security forces, you are going to be layering on top of them much more of an American presence. My concern is, is that really puts our fighting men and women who are in a dangerous path all the time in a much more significantly dangerous place as they move toward a more transitional policing kind of effort.
Can you just discuss with us your sense of all of that, what the next five months are going to bode for us in those transitions, and if there are things that we can do to help you create a much more safe environment and force protection.
General ABIZAID. Thanks very much, Congresswoman. I certainly appreciate your support, and I agree with you about Kimmitt, as well. He is a great guy.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This is going to be a dangerous period that we move towards. There is no doubt about it, and I believe that the extremists on either end of the spectrum will move very hard to derail this effort. They will continue to target Iraqi security institutions. They will continue to target people that are cooperating to make Iraq a better place, and they will certainly come to target Americans.
But if we are to be successful in Iraq, I think it is absolutely essential that we move toward a spirit of partnership with the new Iraqi government that allows them the authority necessary to build their own nation, and in giving them that authority, it also means giving up some of the control that we have on security, and it means exposing some of our special operation soldiers to the dangerous tasks of living, eating and fighting with Iraqi units that will be on the front lines. But the truth of the matter is we are all going to be on the front lines out there. There is no rear area that is safe.
I believe that, unfortunately, there will be more casualties ahead for us and for the Iraqis, but I also believe that with strength and perseverance and partnership, we will defeat the extremists. And as long as the political process moves forward in a coherent fashion, that we move toward a transitional government that is regarded as being legitimate by Iraqis and as long as the process has, as its end game, an independent Iraq that will not have any foreign forces there other than those that are invited, then I think there is a very high chance of success.
And while it is absolutely true, as you said, that it remains a dangerous place, and it is probably going to become more dangerous in some respects, the amount of progress that has been made in Iraq is absolutely incredible. When I think of how things were the first time I went back there over a year ago or back in April of 2003 to what it is now, I am absolutely astounded by how far we have come. But the terrorists have gotten themselves established. They must be defeated. Our intelligence systems must continue to work very, very hard to identify them, precisely target them and kill them, and we will do that in conjunction with the Iraqis. And ultimately, ultimately it will be Iraqi intelligence and Iraqi counterterrorist groups that eliminate this threat completely from Iraq, and I am comfortable and confident that they have both the will and the desire to do this.
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Ms. TAUSCHER. Thank you, General. Good luck.
General ABIZAID. Thank you, Congresswoman.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentlelady.
The gentleman from Minnesota, Mr. Kline.
Mr. KLINE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, gentlemen, for being here today and sharing your time. And first, General, thank you for the terrific job that you are doing and all of those soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines under your command in a very large theater.
I have a very short period of time, and I have two or three issues I would like to cover, so I will try to move on quickly. We talked about rotation in Iraq, but you pointed out that you have troops in the heart of Africa. Can you share with us very briefly what the plans are there? Are you doing a troop rotation in the Horn of Africa? And if so, how is that going?
General ABIZAID. Sir, thanks very much for bringing up our effort in the Horn of Africa, because it is really my view of the way we ought to be doing things throughout my area of operations, and I look forward to the day when the size of our force in both Iraq and Afghanistan gets down to the point of what it happens to be in the Horn of Africa. And we are at 1,400 troops that are serving there, and it is primarily a headquarters and quick reaction and training establishment that does a very, very good job in helping the regional nations help themselves.
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And, ultimately, I think this is the way that we need to operate throughout the broader Middle East in the CENTCOM area of operations. And the commanding general there, Brigadier General Master Robinson, has done a fantastic job in developing relationships with local militaries, developing intelligence-sharing mechanisms, working with their counterterrorist forces to make them more effective. And of course, we are doing it in an area that is very volatile, very poor and includes one failed state, which is Somalia.
That having been said, I think the visibility that this headquarters provides for us in the region, the linkages it provides to allow us to cooperate against the terrorist enemy that hasn't yet gained a full foothold there is impressive; and while there is a lot of work to be done out there, we have got probably more bang for our buck from those 1,400 people out there than a lot of people imagine. It is a great job done by great people in a tough part of the world.
But the local forces in the region, just like throughout my entire area of operation, no more want Osama bin Laden to be the winner of this great struggle of ideas than you can imagine. They are committed to having the opportunity to live a better life, and that means, number one, that you can't allow the extremists to win. And the levels of cooperation are good; an awful lot of good work has been done there.
So I am very satisfied with what has been done there. I hope to continue the operation with the support of the Department over the next six, seven months or so and continually reevaluate its effectiveness, but my evaluation of how it is going there is that it has been very, very effective for very low cost.
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Mr. KLINE. Thank you. And you are not concerned when General Robinson and the 1,400 troops there are replaced that you will lose some effectiveness?
General ABIZAID. Well, I am concerned about General Robinson leaving, because he is just one of those unique kind of people that know how to do that better than anybody I have seen before. So his successor better be good, but I am sure he or she will be.
Mr. KLINE. Thank you, General. Sort of following the theme that I am working here is this transition in lessons learned, if you will. I guess that is the phrase I am looking for here, that whoever replaces him and those 1,400 troops are going to have to have learned some lessons from those soldiers and Marines that are in the Horn of Africa now. And the same thing is true in Iraq, and I have spent a fair amount of time talking to majors in the Army and in the Marine Corps here of late, those who served in Iraq and some of whom are going back in the case of the Marines, and we have seen stories of lieutenants and captains and sergeants using the Internet and scraps of paper and so forth to tell their successors, those following them, tidbits of lessons learned, tactics, how to drive, which side of the road, when to turn, that sort of thing.
So my question to you, and it is my last question, is are you comfortable with the way those lessons are being learned back here through this service effort and with your own efforts in theater? Do you feel like we are passing on what we need to pass on to those coming behind?
General ABIZAID. Sir, I believe that the system of lessons learned that I see implemented through the Joint Forces Command, for example, is better than I have ever seen it before. We have people from the Joint Forces Command that work lessons learned that are embedded in our headquarters nearly full-time, both in Qatar and up in Baghdad and out in Afghanistan. They have done a lot to pass the information from in-country experience to the troops that are training back in the States to theespecially in the case of the United States Army, to the training centers.
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So although I haven't visited the training centers since I have been in command, because I spend most of my time in the Middle East, I understand from General Schoomaker, who was talking to me about it the other day, that they have significantly refined the training in the National Training Center, Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) in Louisiana, and also the training center in Helmstedt, Germany so that it replicates some of the threats that the troop will face throughout the region.
So the lessons learned process is alive, and it is well, but the most important way to learn the lessons of the theater is to be in it. Sometimes those are very hard lessons that young leaders learn. There is clearly no doubt that this is a sergeant lieutenant and captain battle, and these young people have gone into harm's way in a way that we really haven't seen since Vietnam, Korea and World War II, immediately after being commissioned or arriving at the rank of sergeant, and their remarkable way of living in this most difficult of all military environment of counterinsurgency is absolutely remarkable.
I marvel at their ability to understand the enemy, to understand the people, to apply effects against the enemy and at the same time, be compassionate enough to keep the people on their side as much as possible, and I think that we are building an armed force that has tactical savvy and operational capability unequaled in the history of our Nation.
Mr. KLINE. Thank you. Thank you very much, general. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
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The gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Marshall.
Mr. MARSHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Actually, my first question is for you, and it follows up on what Mr. Kline just made mention of. I was going to ask the Chairman and not General Abizaid about these reports that we have been seeing, communications over the Internet, company commanders, lieutenants, et cetera, who have been there and have tips to pass on. I thought it would be very helpful to the committee if the Chairman could ask the committee staff to filter through all of that. And I am sure it is very voluminous, and put together a packet for all of us to review. The information that the committee staffs thinks would be helpful for us to have a better feel for what is going on on the ground as reported by these ground commanders. I think that would be very interesting.
The CHAIRMAN. I think the gentleman makes a good recommendation. I think some of the things we probably want to put together, make available to all members, but maybe in a classified session so we don't tell the world what is working and what doesn't work. But I think it is a great suggestion. We will work on that.
Mr. MARSHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank both of you for being here. I can't tell you how helpful this sort of thing is to all of us. I know it is not necessarily the most pleasant part of your duties, but thank you for that, and thank you also for your service.
Mention has been made of the Zarqawi letter to Osama, I understand from what I read in news reports, and I have also seen excerpts from that letter in news reports, and I was wondering if it would be possible for members of the committee to get a translated version of that letter as well as a copy of the original letter itself so we could see what it looks like and then see the translated version of the letter. So that is a request that I have, and I am sure that all members of the committee would be interested in seeing that.
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Secretary RODMAN. I will look into that.
Mr. MARSHALL. Thank you. And there may be sections that you have to excerpt, you know, but to the extent thatand if we have to receive it in a classified fashion, then that is fine. I am sure we would be willing to do that, but it would be very helpful for me to see that.
I have been in Iraq twice. The last trip was with General Schoomaker, and one of the places we visited was pararescue team (PRT) Gardez in Afghanistan. Their mission, it seems to me, involves an awful lot of things that civilians would typically be doing, the interagency folks. And yet, if I recall correctly, there was only one civilian present, roughly 100 soldiers, maybe 40 or 50 assigned to security and the balance assigned tosome to soldier missions and some to missions that civilians would typically be doing, it seems to me.
And in both trips I have heardand then I have heard from colleagues as wellthat it has been difficult for us, for Mr. Bremer, for the CPA, to get the kind of civilian expertise over to Iraq that we would like to have there in order to further the mission.
General Abizaid, one of the process of transforming the militaryI very much support what General Schoomaker's vision is. When General Schoomaker was testifying before the Armed Services Committee, I asked him to think a little bit outside the box, outside his particular lane, and think about whatif you could do it, if you could add people, add capacity right now to this effort in Iraq, in Afghanistan, what would you be adding? I frankly think the transformation process that we should be as a country thinking about is much broader than just DOD and approaching these kinds of efforts, the initial conventional conflict, that is a straight military deal. Once the initial conventional conflict is over withand I expect these are going to be fairly brief conventional conflicts. Hopefully we won't have any, but if we do, they will be brief.
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Then we are going to be in this drawn-out period that we find ourselves in now where different capacities are called for, and it seems to me that the capacities that you would like to see is the theater commander go well beyond simply military capacities, the sort of things that we can put into the theater given the sorts of abilities that we have, personnel-wise, technically, et cetera.
So what would you like to have that you don't feel like you have, and broader than just the military?
General ABIZAID. Congressman, thanks. That is a great question, and also thanks for visiting over there. We appreciate you going. As a matter of fact, Mr. Chairman, we would like as many of your members that can get over there to come by and see what our troops are doing.
The CHAIRMAN. I might say on that point that Mr. Marshall's trips to the theatre are greatly appreciated, as are all of our members, and practically every member of the committee has been over at least once. So they have taken this very seriously.
General ABIZAID. We support you as much as we can. Sometimes timings don't work out for us because of various other commitments, but you certainly have my commitment to help you continue to see the battlefield.
Sir, the situation with regard to fighting this type of war, I mean, this type of a war isit would probably be a surprise to hear a military guy say, one, that is not going to be won by the military alone. It requires a synchronization and coordination of national power, of information, of economics, of politics, of diplomacy and of military power. And unless that all comes together in a way that is coherent and it not only includes national power, but also international power, then it becomes very, very difficult to stop this ideological movement that has some attraction for the extremists in the region.
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And as I look at the things that are very effective to us throughout the area, we have a lot of military capacity doing things that could be done by other civilians from other international or national organizations.
For example, you mentioned the provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan. It is a hugehugely efficient way for us to cause the writ of the central government to be seen out in the provinces, and we have been very, very satisfied with the results that we have had, but it can't only be a military face on that provincial reconstruction team, because one of the things that we are trying to teach people in this part of the world is that the military doesn't solve all the problems. Indeed, the military needs to be led by civilian authority.
And as I look out to the future of the Global War on Terror, had this requirement to ensure that we have got good intelligence capabilities and excellent civil construction capabilities at the right time and the right place, it is clear that we need to open our thinking about how to organize ourselves on the civil side to allow that to happen more efficiently, without the long lag time for recruitment, without specific timelines about 90 days in the theater or so, because 90 days is just enough time to get there, learn it and then leave, and often there is a gap between important people that isn't efficiently covered. And we lose capability and efficiency there.
But as I look at capabilities that I know we have got to have, whether they be military or civilian, the first and foremost happens to be intelligence professionals. We must have people that are willing to go into this area, develop intelligence, understand the intelligence and work with comfort in the region, and it requires an awful lot of human intelligence (HUMINT) capability. And that is something that we desperately need more of.
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We also need translators, interrogators, people that are culturally adept at operating in the area, dealing with people and causing actions to be taken on the civil side that allow for more efficient reconstruction.
Civil affairs, troops, civil affairs people, people that can organize nongovernmental organizations, they are all essential to this sort of thing. Police trainers, I mean, we know we need a lot of police trainers to help mentor the Iraqi police, and they shouldn't all be military policemen. They need to mostly be civil policemen. And as I have been associated with these efforts in Bosnia and Kosovo and elsewhere, getting police capacity rebuilt quickly is often the key to success, but it is the effort at which we are the least agile.
So those are some thoughts that I think we need to take very seriously, and we need to have a discussion, because this war is ahead of us for a long time, about how we organize ourselves to deal with the broader problems.
I am sure Mr. Rodman has got some better thoughts on it than I.
Secretary RODMAN. I will start with the broadera broader answer.
When CPA turns into an embassy, that will be an opportunityin fact, the necessity for us to look at how we want to staff our presence there, and we went through a similar exercise just recently in Afghanistan when a new ambassador went out there, we took that as an opportunity to look at how we staff him, are we doing it right, all of the differentand all the different agencies have missions there. And in both of these countries. So you are right to talk about that interagency effort, and we need to constantly reevaluate and look at what the needs are and fill the gaps there are there.
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PRTs were mentioned in Afghanistan, and as General Abizaid said, the PRTs were conceived from beginning as interagency. The military component would be whatever is required. But there is a State Department person. There are United States Agency for International Development (USAID) people. I mean, three of them have Department of Agriculture people. So it was meant to be a creative device and a way to provide this kind of broad support. And it is very definitely something that all of the U.S. Government needs to be involved, and we spend a lot ofSecretary Rumsfeld spends a lot of time exhorting his cabinet colleagues to help out, and we need to do that.
General ABIZAID. Sir, if I may, I just want to say that I think it is very important for people to understand that our civilians who go over there and volunteer their time to work in these very dangerous circumstances have my greatest admiration and respect, and when I look at the job Ambassador Bremer, in particular, personally does, I can't think of a more courageous person in the country.
So I don't want to denigrate what they are doing, because what they are doing is essential, but I do think that as a Nation, we could do better in organizing how we approach bringing to bear the full capability of this great country.
Mr. MARSHALL. Thank you both.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
The gentleman from Oklahoma, Mr. Cole.
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Mr. COLE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. First, thank you both for your service. I am in awe of the job you have done and the people that you lead, General. It is quite remarkable, and the country is very grateful.
You may have covered some of this in your earlier remarks, but just a couple things. I am going to jump on the map a little bit, but we have such a remarkable disparity in forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, obviously different theater, different missions. Are you comfortable in Afghanistan with what you have given the population, the terrain, number one?
And number two, I would be very interested in any observations that you have on either the similarities or the differences in training security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and particularly getting armies up and operational in those areas that can assist you.
General ABIZAID. I am comfortable with the force levels that we have in Afghanistan, and I am also very mindful of the fact that we are fortunate to have NATO in command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISA) operation in the Kabul area and also now beginning to consider NATO expanding into the northern tier of the country to build and take charge of provincial reconstruction teams.
A little bit of military force in Afghanistan goes a long way. We have been very effective in getting our forces up along the Afghanistan, Pakistan border area primarily and primarily in the southeastern part and south central part of the country, and we have had very good effect against organized Taliban and Al Qaeda opponents. We see a certain amount of change in tactics in Afghanistan. As they have gone through a loya jirga process which has given President Karzai a tremendous amount of legitimacy and a move toward elections, the extremists become more and more desperate to undermine the legitimacy of the government, and so you see them reverting to more suicide attacks in Kabul and more attacks against nongovernmental organizations.
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But I am comfortable that our military forces have the ability to find and destroy large groups of Taliban and al Qaeda operating inside of Afghanistan as they have demonstrated.
The real key for Afghanistan, just like Iraq, is the expansion of Afghan indigenous security capacity. Afghanistan will ultimately take charge of its own fate only through the efforts of Afghanis, and we are doing a lot to build an Afghan national army, Afghan police forces, and we are looking very hard at the direction of the secretary with the way to replicate an analog to the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps inside Afghanistan.
Clearly in Afghanistan, you also have a different set of dynamics, the way the campaign was fought, the way the warlords control various areas, the way that the Presidential power has evolved, but there are good signs.
For example, in the Pashtun areas, we have seen a desire for reconciliation that we haven't seen in a while. We have seen governors down in Kandahar and other key provincial areas expand the rule of law into areas that had been pretty much the purview of the Taliban or other antigovernment coalitions.
General ABIZAID. So I am not underestimating the challenges ahead in Afghanistan, but after the Loya Jirga, I am more confident about the way ahead and more optimistic about the way ahead than I would have been, say, six or seven months ago.
In terms of the difference between training Afghanis and training Iraqis, there is quite a degree of difference. A lot of it has to do in Afghanistan, especially with regard to training the National Army that people that live in Herat are not necessarily interested in going to Kabul to train to be part of the National Army and be stationed in Kabul as part of the central corps which we are building.
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And I think you know, Congressman, that the idea is to build the corps around Kabul first and then move our way out. We are reevaluating that, and we know that we are going to have to train more regionally in Afghanistan than in Iraq. And that is primarily a function of being able to move easily around the country. It is easy to move around Iraq; it is not easy to move around Afghanistan, as you know.
Levels of education are different. Professionalism of the officer corps is different. The type of organizations that have been fighting in Afghanistan for the past 30 years happen to be irregular and not regular. And so there is actually less of a challenge in Iraq in terms of regularizing, if that is a word, the armed forces than happens to be the case in Afghanistan.
But the bottom line for both countries is that we continue to have people volunteer to come forward to be part of the future, that are willing to fight for their own country, and they want to do it without us being around. And that is our plan, to build their capacity to the point where we don't have to be standing there with large forces looking over their shoulder. And I think that, given patience and perseverance, we can do that in both places, but it won't be without cost.
Mr. COLE. So, is it fair to say you are comfortable that we have not lostthat our effort in Iraq has not caused us to lose our focus in Afghanistan? I know there have been legitimate concerns expressed that we bite off more than we could chew or go further than we should have here.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General ABIZAID. As a theater commander, I have authority to move forces from Iraq to Afghanistan. So if I thought that there was a huge discrepancy where one was unduly favored over the other, I would talk to the Secretary and I think we would pretty easily make those adjustments. We have made those adjustments on special operating forces consistently. But it is not a matter of a large land campaign in Afghanistan at this point. The situation is much more tribal, much more agrarian, much less what I would call urban area to deal with in a way that is necessary in Iraq. So, it isI think it is about right.
Mr. COLE. Well, thank you very much, General.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, gentlemen, for your service and for your presentation today. I want to follow up actually in that line of questioning, and specific to bin Laden's location. There has been a fair amount of opinion that he is in northwest Pakistan, the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. And there were, interestingly, reportsI guess it was about a month ago now we started seeing in the news media that a major offensive was going to be launched in the spring. I found that interesting that we would give advance notice of that, and it later turned out to be not completely accurate.
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But I get a lot of questions from people that if we know where this guy is within aI don't know; I don't know what the mileage is therewithin a fixed point on the map, anyway, why not just drop 50,000 troops over there and go get him? I am sure there is an answer to that in terms of where, you know, the logistics of it or whatever. But there is that feeling, becauseyou know, my opinion and I think the opinion of many people; I mean, the threat of bin Laden and Zawahiri in particular continue to pose to us is extreme. And al Qaeda's capabilities would be significantly reduced if those two people were out of commission.
So, what is the thinking in terms of do we really have some certainty as to where he is? Even if we know he is in that area, still does it work militarily? What is the approach to that?
General ABIZAID. Congressman, we do not have any certainty of where bin Laden or Zawahiri happen to be. And I have seen the reports, I have seen all this talk about the spring offensive, I have seen reports by some of our younger enthusiastic officers in the theater about how we are closing in on them. And I have had people say, I understand we have got him surrounded and he is under observation.
If he was surrounded and under observation, we would have him exactly where we want him. But the truth of the matter is, that individual manhunts in this part of the world in particular, and in addition to the fact that it is complicated by the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, make it very difficult to say, with any degree of certainty, where one human being happens to be.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On any given day, I could probably roll out four or five different reports from four or five different agencies that widely report him as being in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, and other places.
Mr. SMITH. Is there confidence, though, within that region? I mean, there aren't any reports saying that he is in Central Africa all of a sudden. I mean, is there a fair amount of confidence that he and Zawahiri have stayed in that region at least?
General ABIZAID. My belief is that the two of them happen to be located somewhere in Pakistan or somewhere in Afghanistan. But that is a lot of territory.
And so, the other thing that I think we need to give the Pakistanis important credit for is the fact that they are stepping up their operations in an area where they haven't had a lot of military capacity, and they are putting pressure on their side of the border on the al Qaeda organization as we are on our side of the border.
The notion of a spring, winter, fall offensive and counterinsurgency is really kind of an outdated World War II sort of notion. We are conducting offensive operations now in areas that we think are high payoff.
Mr. SMITH. Any idea where that story came from? Because it seemed to be fairly persistent. It should have come from somewhere. I mean, the media doesn't usually just totally make things up. They frequently get it very wrong. But is there any idea where that came from?
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General ABIZAID. Well, I think there is always this idea that spring is the campaigning season in Afghanistan. And there is clearly a desire on our part to continue to step up operations; and when there is areas that have ten foot of snow in them right now, we don't operate in them, and we will be able to operate in them better in the springtime.
So to the degree that we will pick up operations in certain areas that are now inaccessible to us, as the weather improves, then I would say that is where it might have come from.
Mr. SMITH. Could I ask about one other area? And that is the Shia and Iraq and our relations with them. Certainly it has been a tense but not always negative relationship. And certainly there is developing an ''enemy of my enemy is my friend'' potential there. I mean, it is the Sunnis and the othernot all Sunnis, but certainly the Islamists are targeting Shia far more than they are targeting us. Has there been an improvement in the relations? Obviously we saw from the attacks yesterday, as you mentioned, they are trying to blame it on us and there was a hostile reaction even when the forces showed up to help. Is there any way to exploit this sort of new reality that is developing there that we and the Shia have a lot of common goals all of a sudden?
General ABIZAID. Sir, I think ever since the first day we entered into Iraq, the large majority of the Shia population understood that this was an opportunity for them to have a stake in the future of the new government, however it would emerge, that they have never had before. And to the degree that they consider us to be successful, there is a commonality of interest that emerged there that allow us to move forward together.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My relationship with the members of the various Shia governing council members has been quite good. It has been collaborative, it has been cooperative. We pass an awful lot of important collaborative security information between us and key Shia leaders in order to help them understand the dynamic that is going on in Karbala and An Najaf to the extent that we understand it. But it issometimes we undercomplicate our description of Iraq to our disservice. It is almost kind of a Bosnia sort of mentality where we want to say, look, there is three ethnic groups: The Kurds, the Sunni, and the Arabs, and those three are somehow or another never going to be able to make it together.
But the fact of the matter is, this is a hugely complicated intermingling of people where you have tribal elements that are both Sunni and Shia, where you have a lot of intermarriage, where you have got a very high percentage of people in the Shia community that are very secular-oriented, where Sunnis and Shia profession also operate together at a whole range of different levels. And I think because there is this sense of being Iraqi and there is this sense of the Nation being able to overcome all these obstacles, that it is unlikely that things move toward civil war. But are there going to be people on all sides that blame us for whatever goes wrong in Iraq? I think as long as we are there, the answer is, unfortunately, yes. But I think most people, given the opportunity to think about it and walk away from the emotion of the moment, understand that our role there is essential if they are to emerge as a moderate and responsible member of the international order. And the Shia will play a very, very important role in that, although not necessarily the dominant role. I know of no Shia block that people talk about that I would say will emerge dominant.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you very much.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman. Mr. Wilson.
Mr. WILSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And Mr. Secretary, General, thank you very much for being here today. And I want to thank you for the past year; it has just been extraordinary, March 2003 to March 2004, the historic successes that I believe that both of you have been very instrumental in helping protect the American people in the war or terror. And I have a special interest very much in this in that I have a son who is currently in Kuwait, shortly will be in Iraq. We are very proud of his service. In fact, he will be joining, at least in the same country, with the son of our chairman, Duncan Hunter. He has a son who recently, within the last week, has been deployed to Iraq. And so as we discuss the rotation, do understand that we look at this as parents in addition to being Members of Congress.
Additionally, I am grateful that I had 31 years service with the Army National Guard, until last July, and I know firsthand the dedication of our National Guard members and Reservists. They are so enthusiastic and well-trained. And with the proper equipment, they truly are ready to do all they can to protect our country.
Another interest I have as co-chairman of the India caucus is the country of Pakistan. And in particular, Mr. Secretary, we are in a post-Cold War, victory in the Cold War-era, and we are establishing a great relationship now with the world's largest democracy, being India, by the world's oldest democracy, being the United States. And so there has been a tremendous step forward with joint military exercises, with trade, with scientific activities; on every level there is a new relationship with India. But we have had a 50-year relationship with Pakistan. A concern I have. I don't want this to be a destructive relationship. I want it to be mutually beneficial between the United States, India, and Pakistan. What would your view be on that?
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Secretary RODMAN. It is a good and important question. I mean, I have been personally associated with a number of the historic steps that we have taken with India, the creation of a defense relationship for the first time, the high-tech trade initiatives that are more recent. But I think we have been very fortunate in the last couple of years to have been able to develop both of these relationships. And certainly each one is a little nervous about what we do with the other. But if we pull this off, what we will have achieved is, I think, a stronger relationship with each, each being treated in its own right.
The Indians, as you know, don't like being treated as a part of a hyphenated formula, they want to be treated in their own right. And that we have done.
But we have important interests with Pakistan that are, of course, obvious in the things we are talking about today. And we believe President Musharaff is doing extraordinary things. And our relationship with Pakistan has been productive. We are putting a lot of demands on him, in fact. We want more cooperation in the border area, we want him to work with India and dampen the Kashmir crisis.
We are pleased, I have to say, that the recent revelations about A.Q. Khanthis is in fact another historic developmentwas something we have wanted for a long period of time is to see A.Q. Khan put out of business. And this is happening and it is a positive thing. And so a lot of pressurewe have put a lot of pressure on Pakistan in the last few years, but I think our judgment is that we have a stake in the success of what we consider a moderate, friendly, cooperative, courageous government in Pakistan right now.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, if we pull it off and we do gain influence with both, we will use that influence to make sure that they are, as I mentioned, resolving their own differences, and so that in the end, it should not be a zero sum game.
So that is the strategy we have, and we are hoping to have a strong, long-term relationship with Pakistan for the purposes we have discussed, and as well as continuing to see this relationship with India flourish, which I believe it has been doing.
Mr. WILSON. And I appreciate your efforts very much.
And, General, I have to say, as we look at Pakistan and it has been generally discussed with Congressman Smith in regard to the efforts of working with the Pakistani military, there has been success or efforts made to reduce tension in Kashmir with President Musharraf, with Prime Minister Vajpayee. And as I look at the borders, I am concerned about the borders of Pakistan with India and Kashmir, and obviously, additionally, with the borders with Afghanistan. What is your view about the efforts of the Pakistani military to maintain its borders to the east and west and to the north?
General ABIZAID. Congressman, let me comment on a couple things you said before.
I just would like to say that, like you, I really value the efforts of the National Guard and the Reserve Component in making this mission possible. It couldn't be done without them. The new force in Iraq would be about 30 percent from the Reserve Component37 percent, excuse me. And that is obviously essential to success.
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And also, as a parent who also shares members of the defense team, I want to thank you and the Chairman for having your sons and daughters participate in this great endeavor.
Pakistan is really important to me as the theater commander, because Pakistan is the largest independent Muslim country in my area and it is also the key to the fight against extremism in many respects. And I believe that President Musharraf has been as courageous as any leader can be in facing this threat and this challenge. He has narrowly avoided assassination just recently twice. And that is happening because people are afraid that his move to try to bring Pakistan back on to a moderate course might be successful. And so the efforts that he expends to cause moderation to be successful there is vitally important to our Nation and to his own nation. And so we share a common interest.
I am most familiar with how things are going on the Afghan-Pakistan border. And I can report to you that today things are a lot better than they were a year ago. The level of cooperation between us and the Pakistanis and the Afghanis in the border area is very good. There are invariably times when problems erupt because of soldiers operating in close proximity to one another. We have increased the level of cooperation; we have increased the level of visibility of what is happening on either side of the border; we have increased the level of sharing of information; and we have a tripartite border commission that meets with Afghans, Americans, and Pakistanis at least once a month, but usually twice a month, to iron out difficulties. We have the move of Pakistani military into the areas of Waziristan and the other border provinces is actually unprecedented, and it is having good effect, and I believe that we will see some benefits in the months ahead from Pakistani military operations that will give us a chance to put al Qaeda, that is operating in Pakistan, under great pressure.
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I would also like to point out, and a lot of people don't understand, that the Pakistanis have been responsible for the apprehension probably of more members of al Qaeda than any other country that has been aligned with us in this effort, and we should be grateful to them for that.
With regard to the problems between India and Pakistan primarily based upon Kashmir, there is nothing more important that I could think of than coming to some sort of a sensible conclusion to the problem that allows for a peaceful and just settlement. That is easy to say, hard to do. I am very encouraged by the fact that they are talking. I am encouraged by the fact that when you think of where we were a couple years ago, on the verge of nuclear war, that we seem nowhere close to that.
But I think we should not underestimate the attraction of extremism that is fed by the Kashmir problem and by the difficulties of the Taliban and other extremist groups up along the Afghan-Pakistan border. There has been a true problem in the educational system of Pakistan that has allowed an extremist brand of education to really cause people to move in a direction that is not good for Pakistan or for anybody else in the region.
So, it is not just a matter of helping President Musharaff with India or help him in conjunction with his military operations in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area, but in facing the problems of extremism that have just gone on too long throughout the country that, if they are not faced now, will be a huge problem for President Musharaff's successors.
Mr. WILSON. Thank you very much. And I want to thank again what you have done. I am so proud of our troops. And I appreciate you recognizing that India has lost over 60,000 people due to terrorist activities across or on their border. So it is that serious a problem.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. Larsen. Excuse me, Mr. Larsen. I promised the ranking member that he could get a word in edgewise here sometime back, and I forgot about it.
Mr. LARSEN. I am more than willing to give up a little bit of time.
The CHAIRMAN. If you could indulge him for a second.
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, thank you.
And I apologize, Mr. Larsen.
Let me ask this, General, if I may. We have had 524 American deaths. But let me refer to the Iraqi deaths, if I may, a report of civilian deaths resulting from the U.S. military-led intervention in Iraq. According to various news reports, since May 1, 4,029 on one figure and 4,866 on another.
So, what is your assessment of the willingness of the Iraqi people to tolerate casualties as they move toward transition of sovereignty? In other words, is there a potential tipping point beyond which they will no longer support the effort?
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General ABIZAID. Sir, my assessmentand I arrive at this assessment by going around and talking to Iraqi policemen and Iraqi ICDC types and commanders and leaders. My assessment is that as their casualties mount, especially those caused by these terrorist acts by Zarqawi and others, that they are toughening up; that they desire to face the enemy, defeat the enemy. I have told you that there seems to be no shortage of people willing to volunteer to come forward to serve their country. And it is my assessment that their willingness to stay the course and to fight for better future remains very, very high. And if you consider how they were terrorized by the previous regime, which killed them by the hundreds of thousands, they probably actually believe that the situation has improved considerably with regard to their own personal safety.
It is a fight that, as always, if not accompanied by firm and courageous political leadership, though, will not be successful. They have to have Iraqi political leadership that is responsible and courageous. And if that doesn't emerge, then I doubt very seriously that the people down in the trenches will be willing to sacrifice to the degree that is going to be essential in the days and months ahead.
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. I appreciate the gentleman.
Mr. LARSEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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And thank you, Mr. Secretary and General for spending some time with us this morning and into the afternoon.
A lot of questions have been asked about Iraqi security capability and capacity today. And it is a set of questions that I have been exploring, as well.
I wanted, General, to ask a few questions about that and to continue on with that theme a little bit. You had mentioned that one of thesort of the yin and the yang hereone of the weak spots is the still building capacity of the Iraqi security forces. There is a ministry of defense that has still not been stood-up, and the chain of command still hasn't been established in the military side, although we are doing that on the police side and so on.
On the other hand, there is 200,000 plus security forces in service now spread among the ICDC and military and police. One of the ideas behind the troop rotation, at least we're told and was reported, was that the troop rotation was going to be conditional upon security on the ground in Iraq, that is, the decrease of the footprint from 130,000 and 105,000 U.S. military.
Given the fact that there is still a lot of these challenges left in creating the capacity and the capability in the Iraqi security force and we are yet shrinking the U.S. military footprint, what kind of metrics or standards are you using to make your final call about if we should have 105,000 or 5,000 U.S. military, or if we need to build it back up? What kind of metrics or standards are you using to look at the security situation on the ground to help make that decision?
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General ABIZAID. Certainly the metric, Congressman, for Iraqi security capacity is a combination of measurable things, such as do they have their equipment? Do they have their weapons? Do they have enough ammunition? Do they have squad cars, radios, et cetera, which is very measurable? It also has to do with, are they getting paid? It also has to do with, are they getting paid enough? But the most intangible type of judgment that we have to make is, are they ready? Are they ready to stand up and fight? Are they ready to operate as part of a coordinated team with units on their right and left or other organizations, et cetera.
And in making this judgment is one that will come primarily from our local commanders on the scene and also with our embedded trainers that will be with Iraqi units throughout Iraq. It also comes from places like the Jordanian armed forces that are doing a considerable amount of training of both police and officer candidates. And, as you know, the professionalism of the Jordanian Armed Forces is pretty significant. And so when their military officers talk to us about how their trainees are doing, it is an important part of the equation, as well.
But I do believe that we have made an awful lot of progress in terms of building the foundation. But in order to have an effective military or police organization, you have got to have the entire foundation linked to the structures of chains of command that take you all the way to the pinnacle of the roof in order to give the structure some coherency. And that is what we have to work on now. And I am confident that in the months ahead we will be able to do that.
Mr. LARSEN. Can I ask a question with regards to that?
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General ABIZAID. Sure.
Mr. LARSEN. What kind ofbecause we certainly want to have a civilian authority over any security or set of security forces, military police, ICDC, border patrol, so on. What kind of connection is taking place and do you anticipate being in place after June 30th? That is, will there be ais it being instilled in the training, that you report to civilian authoritytoday you report to this civilian authority, and on July 1, you are reporting to a different civilian authority, but in the end, you report to civilian authority? And how is that inculcation taking place?
General ABIZAID. Well, certainly in the formal training programs, it is taking place. In the mentoring style of our soldiers, I think it takes place to a certain extent by osmosis, because they know that they report to civilian authority and they know that it works, et cetera. But to a greater extent, we will have to get an effective ministry of defense that is established. When I say effective, I should say it should have its initial operating capability on no later than the 1st of July so that it can perform what I would call our Title X functions.
Operationally, military organizations will continue to report to us until the Iraqi chain of command develops an operational capability, and that won't be for some time. But as Iraqithis whole equation of international forces, U.S. forces, Iraqi forces, which are manythey range all the way from some contract guards down at the oil fields to the new Iraqi Armythis total equation will start to allow us to bring our force down, provided that we move toward a political solution that allows for a soft landing. And if that happens, I believe that we are heading for success for both Iraq and for the United States of America and the international community.
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Mr. LARSEN. Thank you, General, for answering those questions. I appreciate it. And the reason again I am asking these is to build on some of the things I have been thinking about, but also because of the relationship of all of this to the security of the Iraqis, which I think clearly has a relationship to the security of the U.S. We need to be sure that when we do leave, that things are in place to counter any insurgency that is left, so that we don't have a country thatwe don't have a failed state emerge.
General ABIZAID. Sir, the Iraqi members of the governing council have all spoken at some length and with some passion about ensuring that civilian control of the military is attained. And it is very important to them that they not be terrorized by their own security services the way that they had been for the most of their modern history. And so that will be a challenge, but I believe there is enough people of good will to allow it to happen.
Mr. LARSEN. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
Dr. GINGREY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Rodman, General Abizaid, we sincerely appreciate your testimony today.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General Abizaid, I want to echo the comments of my colleagues and thank you for your great work in a very, very tough situation. I think your performance is remarkable, and you are to be commended by all of us for what you have been able to accomplish. I don't think we can overstate that. And I sincerely appreciate it.
I want to make one comment before I lead into my question in regard to what my colleague, Congressman Taylor, Gene Taylor mentioned earlier in the hearing. He and I were part of the same small congressional delegation from the Armed Services Committee that went to Iraq in, I think, December 19th through the 23rd. And although we didn't discuss this, he and I, we didn't discuss this subject that he brought up, but I was thinking the same thing independently of him. And that is his comments regarding the fact that a commanding control of our four divisionsactually, we saw three of the four, who were all in these former Saddam palaces.
And I can't help but agree with him that it almost seemed a little bit like, I know unintentionally of course, spiking the ball in the end zone, if you will. And you made some comments about that. You may, you knowif there is time permitting, you may want to revisit that and comment on it. Because I do agree with him, and I am very much interested as we go through this rotation what we might do. Maybe it is too late in regard to that perception and that image, but I thought it was a good question.
General Schoomaker was with us last week, and he testified that one of the Army's top priorities in Iraq is force protection. And the General spoke specifically about the Army's efforts to retrofit Humvees and soldiers or use them with heavy armor among other things, body armor. But one component that we didn't spend a lot of time on was the Army's efforts to protect its aviation components in theater. There are planes that are currently deployed from my home district in Georgia, and really from all over the country that are not fitted with any type of defensive countermeasures.
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Should these planes or helicopters, for that matter, be shot at by, let us say, a shoulder-fired missileI mean, they are almost virtually defenseless in that situation. So my first question is this. I would like know what steps the Army is currently taking to protect the aviation components in theater, helicopters and fixed-wing. We are, you know, particularly at a time now that we are going through this rotation and there are so many in and out.
And I guess I am specifically, though, wanting to know in regard to this particular aviation unit, which is a reserve unit as I understand it. In many instances they are taking people like yourselves and others into that theater. And are those planes protected like they should be?
General ABIZAID. Well, thank you, Congressman. First of all, thank you for the pat on the back. I also appreciate that. But I just want to say that the people that deserve the pat on the back are the young kids that are out there on patrol every night. I know you know that, but I sometimes think that I don't say it enough. And I just want to say what our young kids are doing out there day in and day out in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the region is deserving of the highest praise and admiration of the Nation. And it is their efforts that make us successful. We generals, we can come and go, but they can't. And so we are sincerely grateful for what they are doing.
I agree with you on the palaces, by the way. And on those items of sovereignty, those places of sovereignty where we continue to have a true presence we need to move out of them when we can and when it makes sense; when it is practical. We will stay where we need to stay for as long as we need to. But there is nothing in Iraq, as I have said before, that belongs to us. It all belongs to the Iraqi people. And as we move toward this period of partnership, we need to figure out how we are going to transition from those places that are Iraqi public lands and move to places that are less obtrusive and allow the Iraqis to assert sovereignty over these areas.
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In terms of force protection, in particular aviation assets, obviously it is a great matter of personal interest to me because I fly on these aviation assets a lot over there, in both Iraq and in Afghanistan. And it is clear that we have got to get a common standard against the threat that actually existed as opposed to against the threat which we hoped would exist. So the fact that SA16s and 14s are found in the theater is very, very important for all of our people to understand. It is not just an SA7 and a small arms threat, it is more sophisticated, and it requires outfitting our aircraft with the best countermeasure devices that are available.
And we need to pay particular attention to big aircraft with huge engines and signatures such as the Chinooks, for example, to make sure that we are getting everything we can out of our countermeasure systems.
Now, Congressman, if you will forgive me, I don't have the facts and figures. And I will provide it for you probably from the Army to give you an accounting for what they are doing. But they are extremely concerned about this. They have a task force that has been working the problem actively. They are working very hard to give these helicopters the best level of force protection that the country has to give them. And the same goes for our fixed wing fleet. That is also vulnerable, especially going into places like Baghdad International Airport.
That having been said, there is a certain amount of tactics, techniques, and procedures that we have got to make sure that we follow that will help keep our people safe. And when you get complacent in Iraq or Afghanistan, it seems to be about the time when you start paying a price. So we have got to stay low, we have got to fly tactically, we have got to vary our routes, our times, et cetera. I mean, this is an insurgency; it is the hardest of all military operations to fight. And when we give the enemy a predictable target of a milk run at 500 feet along the same route every day, we are asking for trouble. And so, we leaders have to be continually active in telling our young pilots out there to not take stupid chances, but to do the right thing and fly tactically, use their best techniques; and then it is our job to give them the right equipment on their aircraft, and the Army is endeavoring to do that, as is the Air Force.
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Dr. GINGREY. General, I thank you for your response to those questions. And if you could provide my office with some of the specifics, I would appreciate it.
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. Marshall, you had a follow-up question you wanted to ask.
Mr. MARSHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We get five minutes, and that is nowhere near enough time, really, to get into a very serious subject.
Thank you both for your responses to my earlier question about what additional assistance do we need, would we like to have in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, and the difficulty with getting the kind of help that you would like to have from the interagency crowd.
Now, Secretary Rodman, you referred to Secretary Rumsfeld exhorting his colleagues to get their folks motivated and over there. And it reminded me of a storyI have got to be very careful how I say this since I think it was told to me in confidencea story that a leader in our government now, who had shared with me. And it was, he met with, at the request of these individuals, senior National Guardsmen, and both an officer and a sergeant. And the request he expected when he met with these folks, that there was going to be a complaint that he needed to deal with. He actually wasn't very anxious to meet with them because that is what he expected he was going to hear.
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And what he heard was: Sir, could you arrange to have our unit called up for service in Iraq? And he was a little startled by that. And he said: Why? I am a little surprised. Why this inquiry? Have you talked about this among yourselves? Have you talked with your soldiers?
And the answer was: Yes, we have. And we want to go. But there are two problems here. One, if we volunteer, then we may not be protected in our employment. And two, more significantly, how are we going to explain this to our families that we volunteered to go to a war zone?
That story, what came to my mind as you were describing the Secretary exhorting his colleagues: We can order soldiers to go and their families understand what those orders mean, but we can't do that right now, at least nationally. Apparently we can't do that right now with regard to personnel that we would like to have in this engagement.
So, I guess part of the thinking that we as a Nation need to be about is, how do we create a cadre of individuals with the kind of expertise that we are interested in having who are civilians, but at the same time can be directed to go, expect to be directed to go into conflicts like this?
Those are gone; no question about it. They are heroes. They are putting themselves in harm's risk without being ordered to do so. They are volunteering for our country. But we have got a large group of folks that we need help from who are reluctant to go, understandably so, and they are in this awkward position of not being able to explain to their families why they are volunteering to go do this. It is an additional hurdle that the soldier doesn't have, and it just seems to me to be a hurdle that we need to remove in the future for individuals we need help for in engagements like this. I think that is a national issue. Any comment would be fine.
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Secretary RODMAN. Just to comment. I mean, I, too, should be careful about how I express this, because, in fact, some of the cabinet departments, like the Department of State, have done an extraordinary job in providing numbers of people who are out there on the frontline; the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), USAID. So a lot of themI mean, that I didn't mean this as a criticism of them, but this is a learning experience. I mean, other departments that don't usually get drawn into foreign entanglements are now finding themselves called upon to do this. And they are responding.
A Department of Justice team is going out very soon to help the Iraqis with this special tribunal, you know, that will try criminals. So it is happening. But I think for a lot of departments that don't have the experience at this, this is a new thing. So I think we will all be better off after this. And it may be thatnot that I am eager for more interventions around the world, but we are learning from this.
Mr. MARSHALL. If I could, Mr. Chairman, just one more observation.
And any comment that you choose to make. You know, it also seems to me that as we look around the world, there are plenty of folks out there who have a comparative advantage over us. We have got the best Army in the world, no question about it, and person-to-person, the best soldiers in the world. But if we could motivate Iraqis to secure their own country, to police their own country, they are going to be much better able to do that than we are. And any soldier will concede that that is the case.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As you think about the kinds of talents that we need in an engagement like this, it goes beyond simply talents. You know, General, you made reference to human intelligence, and human intelligence on the ground in Iraq. If you put somebody who looks like me with my accent over there, I am not going to be able to gather much intelligence. If you put somebody over there who looks like an Iraqi, they will.
And it seems to me that also in shaping our national future we ought to be thinking about our alliesand, General, you made reference to the international communitywho have a comparative advantage at dealing with places like Iraq. Turkey, certainly, although there are issues there. India, it seems to me, has a substantial comparative advantage, the largest Muslim population in the world. They can drink the water, they are comfortable living the circumstances, et cetera, et cetera. And as we develop this national approach, it seems to me we might want to think about being even broader than ourselves within our country, a broader capacity development, it seems to me.
General ABIZAID. Well, sir, this is certainly beyond my level of competence, but I clearly believe that we need to have this discussion; we need to sit down and have this discussion that says, how can we internationally and nationally do better about applying our full-range of national talent and power to deal with these very real problems that we know if we don't deal with now will come back and haunt us later.
And I think back to all the various people that I talk to around the country, whichin my infrequent trips back here, but it never goes a day without people coming up and saying: What can we do for you? How can we help?
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So the desire of people to help is great. Our ability to harness this volunteer spirit and get it applied properly is not great. And that is part of the conversation that we should have.
Another part of the conversation is, how do we ensure that international agencies, such as the United Nations, Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), Doctors Without Frontiers, et cetera, are willing to stay the course in some of the tougher areas in which we operate. I mean, there ought to be a way that we can harness a better spirit of cooperation. There seems to be this mistaken notion among some of the nongovernmental organizations that operate in my part of the world that if they stay away from us, they will be free from attack. But that has proven to be just the opposite. The enemy has decided that they are a weak link that should be attacked.
So clearly, as we go against the problems evident in this part of the world, a closer spirit of cooperation would be beneficial. And it requires a new way of thinking. The U.N. flag, the Red Cross does not give you immunity from attack by people that are despicable terrorists, which is exactly what we are dealing with.
The last thing I would say is, it was remarkable to me to see a Florida National Guard unitit was a battalion that was operating in Ar Ramadithey have since gone homethat really was largely composed of people from the Miami Police Department. And this battalion was building a police force in a way that was absolutely remarkable. And the level of trust and confidence between the Iraqis and our National Guard soldiers who were doing that was absolutely amazing to me. But those kind of unitsand that was a coincidence that that happened.
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I mean, those kind of units are in short supply. And isn't there a way that we could harness that type of energy and capability and enthusiasm in a different way that doesn't take people or put people in uniform, but allows them to come over in their Miami Police Department uniforms and operate in a way that is long-term and good for all parties concerned.
So, again, it is outside of my lane, but it is a conversation worthy of having.
Mr. MARSHALL. And I guess, just to pick up on exactly thatand I am not going to keep you any longer, and I appreciate you staying as long as you have.
And your indulgence, Mr. Chairman.
But if you had a Turk or an Indian who spoke the language and physically resembled the population, they might be even more effective than an American police officer if they have the similar training in their countries. Their approximatewe outsource a lot of things these days. A lot of this couldwe could probably find plenty of folks around the world with comparative advantage that we might be able to enlist in efforts like this, and I hope we think about that, as well.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. Wilson, did you have any last comments?
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Mr. WILSON. No, thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Did you gentlemen want to respond? Any other comments you would like to make on Mr. Marshall's line of questions? Okay. I have asked the Ranking Member if he has any final comments or questions?
Mr. SKELTON. Just a special thank you, General, and Mr. Secretary. We appreciate your being with us. And we agree with you on your assessment of our wonderful soldiers. General, continue your good work. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. And General, Mr. Secretary, obviously this committee will continue to work with you and do everything in our power to make sure that you have the tools to get the job done. Thank you very much. And the hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 1:15 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]