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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Gen. Tommy Franks Speaks to Reporters After Briefing Congress

Aired May 8, 2003 - 17:18   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to Capitol Hill right now. General Tommy Franks, the commander of Operation Iraqi Freedom, has been briefing members of Congress.
Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, CENTCOM COMMANDER: ...to conduct search and rescue operations. And because of her efforts toward the end of March, we were able to recover two helicopter pilots through her excellence and her ability to do the work.

This Marine, the young corporal standing over here is a member of the -- or was a member of the Marine Expeditionary Force that first jumped off into Iraq immediately, did some of the work in the southern oil field seizure securing business, and also provided the vanguard, if you will, that crossed the Euphrates River, and is also recognized for the incredible performance and leadership that he gave the men around him, even as a young corporal.

The noncommissioned officer standing down there on the end is a member of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Calvary, one of the ground maneuver units of the 3rd Infantry Division. And through heroism on his part, we saw that unit arrive first in Baghdad on the time line which we all saw on national television. This young noncommissioned officer has also been recommended for award of the Silver Star.

It's a treat for all of us, for the secretary, it's a treat for me to be able to associate with these young people, because whatever goes right, that's why.

Thanks a lot. And we'll take a couple of questions.

QUESTION: General, is the secretary of defense talking to you about that chief of staff job?

FRANKS: The secretary of defense and I made a deal about two years ago that anything we ever talked about neither of us would ever tell anyone in the media about.

(LAUGHTER)

So I have no comment on that.

QUESTION: Are you talking about it, Mr. Secretary?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got to keep his end of the deal, too.

FRANKS: The secretary and I have talked about the future. And that's, I think, probably the best I can do right now.

QUESTION: Has there been a second soldier shot today in Baghdad?

FRANKS: I know of only one, and that's the soldier that I -- of course, I've been here -- but I believe was shot by a sniper. The report I got probably five or six hours ago, right now, and I don't have an update on it. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Sir, what was the briefing about today? What did you take the members through, what the subject area was?

FRANKS: Actually, greater depth, greater depth on the work of these young people. Also a bit of a discussion of where we are in Iraq right now, the road that lies ahead. So we thought a little bit about and talked a little bit about the plan, the way the plan in Iraq was executed. And we talked about the work that we're going to have to do in the future.

QUESTION: General, can you talk about the arrangement now with Mr. Bremer? General Garner was reporting to you -- I guess still will be. Mr. Bremer will report directly to the secretary. Does this set up any potential conflicts between you all, both reporting to the secretary, possibly having differing views on how to proceed?

FRANKS: It's very interesting. I met with Ambassador Bremer yesterday just by myself. And then, I met with the secretary and Ambassador Bremer, and we talked about the business of the line of authority, chain of command.

It's obvious that all of us in the military side of this are going to for sure remain engaged in security. I mean, we're going to have an obligation to do that.

In order for Ambassador Bremer and the civilian team that's been put together by the secretary and by the president to have success, then the military is going to have to get this security job done.

FRANKS: And I actually don't see any sort of potential conflict at all. I think, my personal view is that the civilian leadership that we have had inside Iraq with General (Ret.) Jay Garner has done a terrific job. The military forces over there have done a terrific job. And it seems to me to be not at all unnatural that we would take a man with the experience of a Jerry Bremer, put him over there and put him in a position where the military could support his efforts so that we get where we're wanting to go.

QUESTION: Were you asked in advance about ...

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKS: Absolutely. The secretary and I have talked about Mr. Bremer and the potential organization for, I guess, sir, weeks. I mean, certainly for a couple of weeks.

QUESTION: General, what plans do you have to start rotating the troops out of there? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for a couple of months. And how about bringing the total number needed down on the ground?

FRANKS: I actually can't talk to you about bringing the total number needed down because there is enough uncertainty right now, and there is a need for us to work the stability piece of this over time.

Obviously, we're talking to the international community. We are going to be increasing, I believe, the international contribution to this. And along with that it seems to me that there could be a reduction in U.S. forces, but it's not time to predict that because there is too much instability in the country right now.

We know this: We know that however much force, military force, is required in the country to do what the president and what my boss said we were going to do in Iraq will be the amount of force that we retain.

Long answer to your short question.

With regard to your first question, we are already beginning to do some force rotations in the country. And I think those force rotations will continue over time.

What I can't tell you right now is what the total strength is going to look like over time, because we simply don't know yet.

QUESTION: Does that mean bringing people home or just moving them to different places within the country?

FRANKS: Actually, both. We have brought some people home, and we have rotated some people, and I think that'll be the way the you'll see it in the days ahead, also.

Thanks very much.

BLITZER: General Tommy Franks. You saw him right here. He got emotional. He got choked when he was speaking about those young men and women in the military, the role that he played.

He's in Washington today. Tomorrow he and the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, will be holding a news conference over at the Pentagon. Of course, CNN will be covering that live as well.

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