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CNN LIVE SATURDAY

Interview with Colonel Patrick Lang

Aired November 8, 2003 - 12:30   ET

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

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD CNN ANCHOR: Turkey has dealt the United States a blow for its bid in more international involvement in Iraq. The government, Ankara says it will not be sending troops to Iraq, at least for now.
What does this mean for American forces in Iraq?

Will more reservists have to be called up and what about moral among U.S. troops already on the ground in Iraq?

Retired Pat Lang is with us hear now from Washington to talk about those issues and the long-term outlook for the U.S. mission in Iraq. He's a former special services officer and chief of Middle Eastern Intelligence at the Pentagon. Good to see you and thanks for joining us.

COL. PATRICK LANG, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Good to see you. I never was in special services. They are the guys who issues the basketballs.

WHITFIELD: OK, thanks for that correction, appreciate it. All right, let's talk about Turkey. A temporary blow to the U.S. Let's talk about how significant that is.

LANG: Well, I think the difficulties of getting enough troops in the field in order to suppress the rebellion in the Sunni triangle are sufficiently bad so that the fact that the Iraqis have utterly rejected the idea of having Turks on their soil is a big blow. We would be more than happy to have more of our own soldiers, I think, in spite of all the talk of there being enough people if we had more soldiers to send. The fact is with our structure, we can barely manage the rotation we are going to have in the next year or so. It comes down to an issue we have to get a whole lot more Iraqis into the field to help us between now and next year.

WHITFIELD: That also raises the issue of trust, because that has been an argument of how do you involve more Iraqis, and how would the coalition forces or U.S. forces be able to trust those Iraqis that would be recruited?

LANG: Well, I think this question has already been decided to some extent. We're pulling back into the police, civil service, civil guard structure, masses of people who served in the previous forces, we are trying to screen them as best we can to make sure they aren't people too closely tied to the Saddam regime. We just have to accept the fact most Iraqis had some connection with the previous government and try to screen out the ones that had the most criminal connections and build the big force we can. Because these are the people who can help us against these guerrillas. I can't imagine who it will be other than our own people.

WHITFIELD: You talk about the rotation, as the U.S. has apparently alerted 85,000 troops that they may be sent to Iraq as early as next year. Let's talk about the training or modifications of the training that may be taking place over the next year as many of these 85,000 get prepared to get sent to Iraq.

LANG: I know there's a great deal of effort being put into an attempt at the present time to make people understand Iraq, and it's context in the Middle East. And how Arab culture really work. Maybe that will put a stop to some of these egregious mistakes were making in dragging women out of houses in the middle of the night and tying them up and things like that. Which are absolutely outrageous to the average Iraqi. As well as the...

WHITFIELD: Lessons have been learned and need be to applied?

LANG: Yes. They're also methods interims of counter insurgency technique, counter guerrilla operations. We don't need whole lot of tanks but need some to back up our infantry. We have to learn a whole way of operating with light forces

WHITFIELD: Colonel Patrick Lang, thanks for joining us this Saturday.

LANG: Sure.

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