'We Have to Do the Job - That Gives Us Credibility'

J$P Instant Transcript! Gen Wesley Clark's view of troop levels in Iraq.

From Fox News Live, August 15 2005:

GRETCHEN CARLSON [FOX NEWS]: Is it too soon to talk about our troops starting to come home? We're talking to the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and a Fox News Contributor, Gen Wesley Clark. Welcome to you, sir.

WESLEY CLARK: Thank you, Gretchen. Good to be here.

CARLSON: So we've heard the President say on several occasions, America will stand down when Iraq stands up. Apparently it looks now like Iraq will be drafting a constitution. Do you believe it's the case that the President is waiting to announce what he plans to do with troops--withdraw or increase--based on how successful this political process is in the next few months?

CLARK: I think the political process is very hopeful, Gretchen. But we know from looking at it in the past that the various political steps we've taken, like having the vote last year and so forth, they haven't finished off the insurgency. It's still there. The terrorists are still coming in. People are still coming in from over the borders. So we have a real problem to deal with in Iraq that, it's not likely to be solved even with the hopeful steps on the Iraqi constitution. It is going to take the training of the Iraqi military, but right now we've got both an insurgency in Iraq, and we've got terrorists in Iraq. So it's hopeful that the Iraqi military can handle, or learn to handle, most of the insurgency. It's not likely that they can handle terrorists effectively.

CARLSON: So is it true, then, that the Iraqi government, do you believe that that needs to be in place then, before we would discuss troop withdrawal, based on the increase in insurgency attacks, weapons coming over the border from Iran?

CLARK: Well I think there are several different elements of this, Gretchen. First of all, there's certainly nothing wrong with our military planning--how it would source future rotations of troops into Iraq, and that means how many troops you'd need, and so you might say that by next spring you might not need 20-30,000 troops that you currently have. So you might be able to plan for a smaller rotation. There's nothing wrong with planning that. When it comes out publicly, we have to be very careful about this, because I think the way that we have to say this is, our troops will stay there as long as they continue to do the job and promote progress in Iraq. So what that means is, you don't want a sort of fever, a stampede for withdrawal coming out. I know the mothers want the troops home; so does everybody else.


CLARK: But we're in there. We have to do the job. So the Iraqis have to know, and the insurgents have to know, that we're going to stay there until we finish the job to the best of our ability to do so. That gives us credibility.

CARLSON: And I was going to say to you, General, isn't it a case now that, whether or not you agreed with the war or not, that most people agree--and maybe I'm not correct in saying this--but that most people would say that the troops do have to stay a certain length of time to see some of it through?

CLARK: I think what's clear is that, whether or not you supported the original mission of going in, we're in there now. And we have to have a success out of this mission. We know from the experience, for example, of the Israelis when they pulled out of south Lebanon in 2000, that the insurgents there, the Hezbollah, claimed it as a victory. They said they forced the Israelis out, which wasn't true. We don't want anyone saying we were forced out of Iraq. We will come out of Iraq when we've done the job there.

CARLSON: You wouldn't be surprised, though, to see a troop increase during the election time, potentially, in December?

CLARK: Well I think you might have a rollover situation, where you have one group of troops coming in and another getting ready to come out. And so for a while you might have both sets of troops there. But that's not technically an increase; that's just an overlap of the rotation system.

CARLSON: All right. Well, so many different viewpoints on this issue; we appreciate your insights today, General. Thanks for being with us.

CLARK: Thanks Gretchen; good to be with you.

posted: Mon - August 15, 2005 at 02:41 PM       j$p  send