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Press Conference with Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE): Trip to Iraq

Interview

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Location: Washington, DC

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SEN. REED: Good morning. Last week, on July 7th and 8th, along with my colleague and friend, Senator Joe Biden, we visited Iraq. We first stopped in Basra to speak with the British forces under the command of Major General John Cooper.

Then we went to Baghdad and stayed overnight there. We talked to our senior American military commanders, along with the prime minister of Iraq, Mr. Maliki, and their defense minister. We also saw our senior American diplomats that were there. And then we concluded our visit by stopping in Fallujah to visit with the United States Marine Corps and their forces there.

The first point I'd make, and the one that is compelling every time I travel to Iraq, is the extraordinary sacrifice, the extraordinary competence and the extraordinary decency of our soldiers and Marines, sailors, airmen and women who are doing so much there. And we owe them a great deal of regard for their efforts, and their families back home.

Let me just say that the situation in Iraq remains critical and the outcome remains uncertain. There has been progress on the political front with the installation of a permanent and popularly elected government. The cabinet has been completed with the naming of a minister of defense and a minister of interior.

There has been progress in the training and deployment of the Iraqi army. And this progress has bought additional time. However, our efforts on the civilian aspects of the counterinsurgency remain inadequate. The training of Iraqi police still lags, and there is a serious challenge to disband militias and reform existing security forces, such as the Facilities Protection Services.

The capacity of ministries, all the ministries, to function is still primitive. As such, the provision of security and delivery of essential services to the Iraqi people are severely constrained.

In the face of political challenges among and between sectarian groups, continued high unemployment and economic malaise, inadequate public services and the combination of insurgent, sectarian and criminal violence, the noted progress is not irreversible nor a guarantee of ultimate stability.

The United States still lacks a coherent and effective strategy. The administration's sloganeering is wearing thin. "Stay the course" is difficult when a critical component, robust attention to the nonmilitary demands of Iraq, is lacking and the presence of American forces is both difficult to sustain at present levels and invites growing concerns within the United States and within Iraq.

It is important to note that both American military leaders and the Iraqi prime minister thought it prudent to begin a phased redeployment of American forces this year. Such redeployment will signal to the Iraqis that the fight is ultimately theirs, that they have indeed made progress with the formation of their army.

Moreover, it will begin to relieve the stress on our forces that continue to do a magnificent job but are seeing the accumulated course of more than four years of intense operations and Afghanistan.

At this juncture, the critical question is what outcome can be achieved in Iraq? Reality has disabused all but the most ideologically obsessed that our presence in Iraq will be noncontentious and that Iraq will be transformed spontaneously into an oasis of democracy and market economics, which will in turn transform the region.

A range of outcomes potentially exist in Iraq, from a further downward spiral of violence leading to civil war or to a renewed authoritarianism dressed up initially in the trappings of democracy, or, most hopefully, to a gradually emerging society respecting and expanding pluralistic and peaceful politics, the rule of law and market activity.

The most decisive factor that the United States has in influencing a favorable outcome is our attention to the nonmilitary needs of Iraq, from its economic development to its political maturation as a pluralistic government. And it is this effort that has been most lacking and is most likely to be given short shrift as budget pressures and other looming crises constrain our efforts in Iraq.

And now let me turn it over to Joe Biden.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.

Let me say that Senator Reed and I have combined to make 15 trips to Iraq -- him eight, me seven. And I have to say -- I don't mean to sound gratuitous -- I was genuinely impressed with Senator Reed's knowledge, but also his relationship with the military, his relationship with the commanders on the ground. And I think it helped elicit much starker and more straightforward answers. It was "Jack and Harry." It was "Jack and" -- and so it really was, for me, having been there many times, of a great benefit to me. It was a real value added.

Look, there are two parallel tracks in Iraq right now and parallel realities in Iraq. One is, if you spend time with our military, as Senator Reed has said, and in diplomatic terms, you can't help but be impressed with the job that they're doing and under the most difficult conditions.

But after all their achievements -- and they are real; they are significant -- the larger reality is that Iraq and the success of our mission there remains a prisoner to terrible and growing violence and the lack of a plan to stop it. And I still don't see a strategy for victory in Iraq. The only strategy I see is a strategy on the part of the administration to prevent outright defeat.

I think there are three overwhelming challenges feeding this violence. And to the best of my knowledge, both home and abroad, in every inquiry I've made, there is no plan to deal with them.

One is the absence of a political settlement to get Sunnis to buy in and a commitment from the major Iraqi group to pursue their interests peacefully.

Second is the absence of any governing capacity, as Senator Reed spoke to, to deliver basic services to the Iraqi people. It's literally almost devoid of that capacity, and no plan on our part to build that capacity.

And the third is the presence of mass unemployment that's swelling the ranks of the militia and the insurgency. The militia has actually grown since the newly elected government was put in place. It's actually grown, not diminished.

So let me say a few quick things about each of these challenges. First, in the absence of a political solution, the Sunni insurgents are not going to stand down and the Shi'a militia violence won't stop. We have to cut this gordian knot. The Shi'a-led government has to take significant steps to bring the Sunnis in, and they have to move against the Shi'a militia and guarantee the Sunnis a share of the oil revenues. I know of no other way you get from here to there.

And based on our meeting with Prime Minister Maliki -- and we had slightly differing views of his sincerity, his knowledge, his commitment and his ability to move with the coalition of Shi'as that are somewhat fractured already -- but based on our meeting, I came away not sure about both his ability or his willingness to do either; that is, fundamentally crack down on the militia, which basically means the Shi'a-based militia, or two, to make significant steps to get buy-in from the Sunnis.

He has to contend with the politics of the Shi'a coalition. I acknowledge that. And it's very difficult. If he is seen as giving too much to the Sunnis, or if he moves too harshly against the Shi'a militia, his coalition could split.

So I don't know whether it's that political reality that is slowing the process and lack of a firm commitment, in my view, or whether or not there is doubt on his part whether or not to get Sunni buy-in is worth the effort.

The second thing is in relation to the civilian plan that Senator Reed talked about. Iraq has virtually no governing capacity. Let me say it again. It has virtually no governing capacity. If the government can't do basic things -- turn on the lights, provide clean water, make payrolls -- we're going to leave behind a failing state when our troops come out.

And it was made very clear to us that it's the intention to begin to draw down American forces this fall. It was made very clear to us. It has been made very clear to us by the Iraqi leadership that they want that to happen. It was made very clear to us that the Brits in Basra are already transitioning control over the area that they control to the Iraqis.

The U.S. embassy claims that there is a civilian plan; there's a massive civilian effort needed to build Iraq's government, like the plans our military have developed for training and building the Iraqis.

I used a -- (inaudible) -- metaphor when I was in Iraq. It seems like, you know, you go to the gymnasium to work out and you're working your biceps, but you put all the effort in your right arm. And your right arm -- you build up your bicep 15 inches. Your left arm atrophies.

Well, that's what's happening in Iraq. Just as the good news is that the military is actually getting the training down -- we're actually producing Iraqi forces that will be able to do the job -- there is this absolute void in civilian capability at the ministry.

One general who I greatly respect said -- I'm paraphrasing -- "I'm not going to criticize bureaucracies anymore." He said, "I wish they had a bureaucracy here. I wish they had a bureaucracy." And they gave examples how you can't get paychecks to the military.

They gave examples how the logistical capability of the department of defense, their ministry of defense, actually had a contractor who, in fact, was supposed to deliver food and services and paychecks to an Iraqi battalion and went home at 3:00 in the afternoon. And this general had to get on the phone and say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. You've got military troops out there. They don't have water and food. Get it to them."

It is astounding to me, even as we start to draw down our military force, we have to make this massive civilian effort. And if we don't, as Senator Reed said, you may find that you have complete chaos and the emergence of a military strongman as the training of the Iraqi army outpaces its civilian capability. That's down the road, but something's got to be done on the civilian side.

And lastly, we have to attack unemployment. There's a huge number of unemployed Iraqi males. Angry young men are joining criminal gangs, insurgent groups and militia at an alarming rate for one simple reason: They get paid. They get paid.

We need specific plans and programs that generate employment. You give young men an alternative. The military has proposed solutions like investing in the agriculture sector, which can soak up an awful lot of the unemployment. But the military isn't going to be able to do this alone.

We were given -- in the question-and-answer period we'll give you some specific examples of some of the things our military's trying to do in order to get civilian employment moving. The military is doing this.

And I'd summarize by saying our generals have told us we'll begin leaving Iraq this year. But as we leave Iraq, it's very important to look at what we're likely to leave behind. We need to do three things now, and we need to do them clearly. And they relate to the three points that I just made you, and that is there has to be a political solution, there has to be some way to deal with unemployment and there has to be a civilian plan to build up their civilian ministries or we've got a real problem.

SEN. REED: Questions? Yes.

Q Is there a civil war in Iraq? Senior administration officials -- (inaudible) -- say there is not. Do you think there's a reluctance, because -- (inaudible) -- for the administration to admit that there is?

SEN. REED: Well, I believe there's been a low-grade civil war going on for months between Shi'a and Sunni and within those communities, particularly within the Shi'a community. And it's manifested itself most recently by violence in the streets of Baghdad, by continued attacks in many parts of the country, but particularly in Baghdad. And it's a struggle for political control within Iraq. And I think by most definitions it's a civil war.

It has not yet degenerated to the point where you have large- scale armed bands of conventional forces, Iraqi forces, fighting each other. But with these militias, with the insurgents, it has all the feel for a violent conflict among people, which one definition clearly is that of a civil war.

Again, I don't think it's reached the stage yet of an all-out conventional confrontation of military forces. But without attention to the issues that Senator Biden and I spoke about -- the capacity of the Iraqi government, political accommodation and serious steps to deal with the economic malaise -- it could, in fact, turn into what looks like a more traditional, conventional conflict between Iraqis.

SEN. BIDEN: There's a low-grade civil war. If you talk to our military there and you ask them -- if you listen to them, by inference this is the thing they're most worried about, because what they talk most about is what are you going to do with the militia? What's the plan to disarm the militia? What's the plan to deal with 175,000 facilities protection forces? What's the plan to deal with the ability to protect Sunnis?

I mean, you saw what happened yesterday. Here you have 50,000- some people; the prime minister declares a state of emergency in Iraq. He decides to demonstrate that he is going to have control of the city, to begin to gain control for his administration. All these folks are in the street.

He declared this, what, three weeks ago, or whatever it was. And what happened? A couple of mosques are blown up, and in broad daylight -- broad daylight -- probably Sadr's people; I don't know that for certain -- but Shi'a armed militiamen, in broad daylight, walking out on street corners, dragging people out of their cars and summarily executing them in the street in a city that has 56,000 or so forces now to maintain peace.

And you don't call that a nascent civil war. I don't know what it is. I don't know what it is. And I believe it's the single greatest danger. I think it exceeds the danger of the insurgency. There's a way to buy off the insurgency, in effect, by giving the Sunnis a piece of the action and making them conclude that continued support of the insurgents is against their interest. But you've got to do something about these militias. And so far I see no real strategy.

Q (Inaudible) -- you didn't think that the ambassador had a willingness or an ability to crack down --

SEN. BIDEN: The prime minister, not the ambassador. And, look --

Q What makes you say that?

SEN. BIDEN: And the reason I say that is we had one exchange relative to -- I think he's more inclined to try to do it with the militia but more constrained by his need to keep the coalition together.

Don't forget, Sadr is part of his deal. Don't forget that Dawa and SCIRI are part of his deal. He's got to keep this entire Shi'a coalition, which, as the British general told us in Basra, they're competing for ascendancy.

He's got to keep this entire Shi'a coalition, which, as the British general told us in Basra, they're competing for ascendancy. The very Shi'a groups in a vacuum are competing for ascendancy as to who is going to be top dog in that part of Iraq.

So this is a multifaceted thing. So he has a hard problem, but I think he's committed to try to figure out how to deal with the militia, but I'm not sure how long his reach is.

I am less convinced that he has a desire or believes it's necessary to make a significant concession to the Sunnis, based upon parts of a guarantee of oil revenue. I asked him about that question and he cited the constitution. I pointed out to him I'd read the constitution and it does not guarantee the Sunnis anything.

And when I asked about amendments to the constitution, he said there should be amendments, but it did not focus directly on what we're going to need for a Sunni buy-in. That doesn't mean he's not committed to it, but I walked away questioning the degree to which he thinks the political solution requires a fundamental commitment guaranteed in law or the constitution that the Sunnis get a piece of the action, because I would respectfully suggest, if they do not, if they do not, I don't know how you get to the point where you end up avoiding this civil war.

SEN. REED: Let me add just one point, and that is, I think we both got the impression that the proposed constitutional changes that were discussed as an inducement to the Sunnis to participate in the last election are being put on a back burner; that, in fact, there is no sense that this is a very top priority with the prime minister.

And I agree wholeheartedly with Joe's sort of assessment of the fact that he's in a very difficult political situation. When he tries to go after some of these militias, there's an opposite and sometimes disproportionate counterreaction by them. And that might account for some of the violence we've seen over the weekend with Sadr and his supporters.

Eric?

Q Senator, have you discussed with American commanders -- (inaudible) -- allegations against U.S. forces killing unarmed Iraqi civilians?

SEN. REED: When we walked into the headquarters, to General Chiarelli, and we met him, and he made a point to take us into a room and he pointed out a stack about three feet high of documents and papers and he said, "That is the investigation with respect to allegations made against some American forces. I have just spent a significant amount of time reviewing that."

I think clearly he was making the point to us that he and all of his colleagues take very seriously these charges, that they understand that they have to be fully investigated, and that they have to be able to answer not only to their superiors and to the American people, but to the Iraqi people.

Q Did he say -- did he mention, did he discuss -- (off mike)?

SEN. REED: He did not. I mean, I think we're all aware of the initial steps that we're taking with respect to Haditha by the commandant of the Marine Corps and General Chiarelli and General Casey, all of them emphasizing what has to be emphasized, that this is a fundamental responsibility not only in terms of tactics but also in terms of ethical values of the military, that this behavior is completely unacceptable. And they continue to try to emphasize that at every point. But we did not get into an extended discussion of these incidents.

SEN. BIDEN: He went so far as to say, "I've read" -- he pointed out these documents. He said, "I've read every single page, and my report will reflect that," if I'm not mistaken. He was making the point that he took it very seriously and there were going to be specific recommendations made. But he did not discuss those recommendations.

Q (Off mike.) Did you sense any difference in their attitudes -- (off mike)?

SEN. REED: We had a chance to speak to, you know, young officers, noncommissioned officers. And I sensed no change in their dedication to the mission and their willingness, which is remarkable, to sacrifice and to continue to serve in very difficult circumstances.

The one impression I have -- and I don't know how scientific it is, because we didn't have a large group of people -- is that, particularly on the junior officer ranks, there's a growing sort of concern about the rate of deployments, the separation from families, and the ability to continue to serve again and again in Iraq, Afghanistan, on a regular basis.

And I think what my sense was is that this operational tempo was beginning to affect the desire of many, you know, young officers particularly, and their willingness to continue to serve. And that has an effect on the Army and the Marine Corps.

SEN. BIDEN: I share that view. I would add one impression. When we were down in Basra, we spoke to the group of Brits and went out to the armored division. And I think all noncomms, noncommissioned officers, were there. They were the ones showing us around and taking us into their vehicles, et cetera. And I did not ask, but one of the folks asked from our delegation, "What happens when we leave?" The kid just smiled and said, "We'll go to war."

And when we were meeting in Basra with some American troops that were there, as they were departing, there were a group of four or five I had a discussion with, and they were all officers, lieutenants; I think a captain was the highest grade.

And one young man was very gung-ho about, you know, "We're bringing freedom and this is going to work," and so on. And the other four made clear that they thought ultimately you need a political solution here; that they're willing to do what they have to do. They think they're doing what they're doing well.

But you could tell -- I mean, in each trip I've gone, there's more speculation raised, questions asked of me. When we sat down and ate with our troops -- we ate with folks from Delaware and Rhode Island and others -- was they were more inclined to ask us questions, not about going home, although they did raise the rotation question, but about, you know, basically, "What's the plan, Stan?" You know, I mean, "Do you think this government can really get it?" -- meaning the Iraqi government; I mean, they were asking very intelligent questions, the same questions you would ask us, indicating to me that they, most of them -- and again, nothing scientific about it, but the folks that I spoke with most, that they fully understood this does not lend itself to a pure military solution.

Q (Inaudible) -- support of the American people?

SEN. REED: No.

SEN. BIDEN: No, I didn't hear anything about that.

SEN. REED: I didn't hear that.

Yes, Pat.

Q You're giving us the broad picture today. (Inaudible) -- today's developments -- (inaudible) -- of the two American soldiers who were arrested recently and Osama bin Laden on this video and saying, "This is in revenge for the rape and murder of an Iraqi woman." What's your reaction to that? Does it in any way fit in with the larger picture?

SEN. REED: I think the insurgents will seize on any item to try to exploit it for their own propaganda value. You know, I'm not surprised that they would try to do something like that. We recognize that there are over 100,000 American soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors in that country. And with scant exception, they're doing a remarkable job and they deserve the support of the people.

But I'm not surprised that al Qaeda would try to exploit all of these incidents. That's one of the reasons why these incidents have ramifications beyond simply what happened, because they become grist for the propaganda mill of our adversaries, not just in Iraq but around the world.

SEN. BIDEN: One of the things our military officers are completely, fully (seized on ?) is that what happened in Abu Ghraib, what happened in the alleged rape, what's happening in, in my view, Guantanamo, all these things do not lend themselves to a safer environment for American soldiers. And they lend themselves to the propaganda that we've seen here.

And, speaking for myself, I think they lend themselves to recruiting jihadists, you know, not only in Iraq but around the world. And so they matter. And our military fully understands that. I mean, they fully understand that it matters. And it makes their job more difficult.

Q (Inaudible) -- the pressure, do you think, and the argument for getting the troops out quickly?

SEN. REED: When we spoke to our military commanders, I don't think that is a factor that weighs in decisively. It's reflected in one sense. This, I think, would have happened regardless of these incidents; that the longer we are there, the more we take on the appearances and trappings of some type of occupying force. And it goes against the basic instincts and national impulses of the Iraqi people. I think that would have happened regardless of these incidents.

But one point -- I want to emphasize what Joe said -- is that one of the dimensions of this struggle is the information war that goes on. It's a very real part of this struggle. And when these incidents, like Abu Ghraib or Haditha, take place, we find ourselves at a disadvantage in trying to communicate, not just with the Iraqi people but with the Islamic world. And our military commanders understand this. They understand that we have to have a competing and compelling narrative that explains not only our position there at the moment but why we are going to make that place a better place for the Iraqi people.

Yes, sir.

Q (Inaudible) -- combined 15 trips to Iraq, what your assessment is of the security situation. (Inaudible) -- precarious in terms of security.

SEN. BIDEN: I've made seven trips. Each trip I've made, there is a sense, a feeling, and sort of a projected concern that things are less stable. Now, remember, Baghdad is the big daddy of them all. I mean, Baghdad is incredibly difficult. There are some places in Iraq where I imagine if I traveled up in Erbil, in the north, I would feel much more secure and maybe the way I would be handled would be in a way that they thought were more secure.

But in Fallujah, there was no sense -- correct me if I'm wrong -- no sense that there was enhanced security. In Basra, there was an attempt on the part of the general to convince us that things were moving a little better, but based on events on the ground, it's still a very dangerous place, even though it supposedly would be the safest place.

And in Baghdad, it is -- remember, this is a large city; there are millions of people. And there's all these militias roaming around and there's all this turmoil. And there are no -- I shouldn't say no -- services have not been increased.

And I'll give you one example. General Chiarelli talked about us having put in a water purification facility, but then pointed out that there are nothing leading from the water purification facility to the homes. There's no way to get it there. And he referred to it -- I don't think I'm saying anything out of school; I think he said this publicly -- it's the Middle East's largest water fountain. People can go to it and get water in casks, like the old oasis, but there's nothing going to the homes.

Now, the thing I admire so much about our military -- these guys are the best, man. He says, "Look, instead of coming here with back hoes and a big corporation, American corporation," he said, "what I want to do" -- I think he came up with a number; correct if I'm wrong, Jack -- he said, "We want to, with picks and shovels, hire" -- I think it was 3,000 or 4,000 Iraqis to dig the system to actually move the water from, quote, "the big fountain" into their homes. And he was making that point, that would significantly increase -- have an impact on unemployment. You'd actually put people to work, and you could pay them.

So there is this -- in Baghdad, it is a city in tatters. And so I didn't sense any sense that it was more secure than any time that I've been there.

SEN. REED: The impression I have is that, after these trips, is that at this moment the violence is unpredictable, and also it is very lethal. You know, we were there at a time where, you know, as Joe pointed out, there are upwards of 50,000 to 70,000 security forces deliberately committed to make the streets safe and secure. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, on a Sunday morning, militia from the Mahdi Army show up and control a whole neighborhood, apparently, set up roadblocks and start assassinating people and then disappear. I mean, there wasn't, I think, any grand battle that drove them away; they just disappeared.

That violence, in an unpredictable fashion, is, I think, insidious. It weakens the sense of the people of Iraq that there is a future, there is a hope. And in the past, I've been there just sort of -- I've been able and we've been able to move around more. Everything you do is by helicopter, basically, except if you're in the secured green zone. And our visits to Basra -- we were at the airfield, basically. We weren't downtown, and no one was offering to take us downtown. I think --

SEN. BIDEN: They didn't even want us going to Basra in the first place.

SEN. REED: They didn't want us going to Basra in the first place. When we were at Fallujah, we were at a Marine Corps base outside of the town itself. So I think it -- and I've been at other times. Last January I insisted that I go to Tall Afar, and we did get into Tall Afar. But it's rarely the preference of the -- and I think for security concerns, that they would take us into communities where you get a chance (to move around ?).

Early in '03, in July of '03, my first trip, you could get in a car; you could drive under heavy security through Baghdad to outlying parts. They would be reluctant, I think would be a mild term at this point. So I think the impression is one of very serious violence, very unpredictable. It's not just that there are a few bad neighborhoods. It could break out almost anywhere.

SEN. BIDEN: Let me give you an example. I was last there -- Jack, I was there in December for the election on my last trip. And we were assigned a driver -- (inaudible). And these guys and women are very serious. They can shoot straight. They're tough. A lot of them are former Navy SEALs. It's the diplomatic corps service. They're really first-rate.

And I was with Senator Graham last time. Everybody has these stories. And we're staying in the green zone overnight, and I'm shaving at 6:30 in the morning. And all of a sudden the building I'm in, the whole building rocks. We later learned that the very vehicle that we were in got taken out by mortars and one of our drivers was injured 100 meters from where we were staying. That's what they told us. Is that right, 100 meters from where -- 100 meters from where we were lodged.

Now, this time that didn't happen. This time that didn't happen. But the flip side of it is you feel guilty seeing these brave young Marines and Army personnel, by the way, take me into this area. They don't want to take you in. And one of the reasons we don't insist more -- at least speaking for myself -- is you know you're putting them in harm's way.

So what do you do? Do you say to, you know, a group, do you say to the military, "I'm going in no matter what" -- "I'm going into Basra; I'm going to go into Fallujah" -- well, you know, you ask if we feel safer. Well, it's not a question of how I feel. It's a question of my desire to do that, but my willingness to say to the military guys who say basically, "Hey, don't do that to us. Don't lay that responsibility on us. And don't ask us -- (inaudible)."

And we were in Fallujah. Remember, Fallujah we cleaned out before, right? Well, one of the briefings we had was these Rhinos they have. They took us outside and showed us the vehicles they now have to deal with IEDs, and they're impressive vehicles. But they're talking about how they're still getting blown up.

Now, the Rhino didn't get blown up, but, I mean, this -- I had no sense, in a specific sense, that things are more secure. But in a macro sense, the military does seem much more confident about their Army counterparts that they've trained up in the Iraqi military. But does that translate to you're able to have more flexibility in moving around? I see none of that.

SEN. REED: I agree with Joe. One other point; I think, as Joe mentioned IEDs, what we've been told -- and I think it's not unique to our visit -- is that the insurgency is very adaptive and very sophisticated. As we change our tactics with respect to IEDs, they change their tactics. And we were -- as we were in Fallujah that morning, the Marine commander told us that he lost three soldiers who were blown up in a vehicle because of an IED attack. And again, they take it very seriously with respect to the capability of these insurgents.

So it's still a very dangerous place. And as I suggested before, the outcome is --

Q (Inaudible) -- patrols by American forces there?

SEN. REED: Well, you know, I hesitate to comment on the tactics, but there is -- I think the point Joe made is well taken with respect to as the Iraqi forces emerge -- and basically, of the 10 divisions in the Army, five of them, the national divisions -- one, three, five, seven and nine -- are seen as very capable and taking on more responsibility each day. The problem is the fact that they don't have adequate support from their ministries to be self-sustained or even, in some cases, effective. That's obviously what's being worked on now. But as these forces, these army forces, come on line, then the need for extensive American patrolling might be diminished.

The other point, though, I want to make with respect to our presence there is that there's an understanding that our logistical support and technical support were necessary, and in some cases that's what gets us on the road -- (inaudible) -- that the engineers that have this equipment, the technology, at this point they're Americans, and they're the ones who are riding the roads and making sure that the roads are open.

So we still have to -- we're still committing forces for some dangerous missions over there, obviously.

SEN. BIDEN: One other point; I think it's because I got asked it at home by my own family a similar question. And the way I made the point was the Iraqi military doesn't have a whole lot of helicopters. The Iraqi military, even though we've trained them, apparently, fairly well, through the odd divisions, they do not have these -- essentially, if you weren't a military man like Jack, you'd look at them and basically they'd look like big mine sweepers. They call them -- (inaudible) -- great big vehicles that go out and detect and decommission these IEDs. And, by the way, they decommission about 50 percent of them. I mean, they're doing a hell of a job.

But that's not something that an Iraqi patrol going into Fallujah, to try to convince the Sunni population there that they can trust an Iraqi security force, that's not something that they have the capacity to do. So we're in the mix for a while in terms of going into these cities.

SEN. REED: Final question? Thank you very much.

SEN. BIDEN: Thanks an awful lot.


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