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Analysis With David Grange

Aired December 25, 2003 - 08:05   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: In addition to the insurgent attacks and many other dangers facing U.S. troops in Iraq, the Pentagon is facing another problem. With a new year almost upon us, it's getting time for a major movement of troops, fresh units coming into the region replacing those that have been there for months.
Joining us this morning to talk about that is General David Grange.

He's with us from Chicago this morning.

Thanks for joining us.

Nice to see you, General.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Explain to me exactly what a troop -- a major troop rotation entails.

GRANGE: Well, it's, this is a monumental effort, not seen since probably WWII. And what's unique about this troop rotation is the short amount of time this large number of -- numbers of different armed forces services are moving into theater or out of theater.

O'BRIEN: We're talking about a quarter million troops going out or into Iraq and Kuwait and Afghanistan.

How big is that window, exactly?

GRANGE: Well, it probably starts around February and it goes through, I'd say, April. But what you do first is leaders usually go first and what they -- they conduct what's known as a right seat ride or shadow, the leader that's in country at the present time, to kind of learn a few things about the environment. But they get a lot of training before they go, but some things you just have to pick up in the theater of operations where you're going to operate.

And then they'll start rotating forces over so there's enough overlap in case the enemy tries to exploit that rotation, in other words, exploit the seams of new guys versus old guys as they're moving out. You'll have some overlap. So at some points during a rotation, you'll have thousands more troopers in a theater than you would at the end time.

O'BRIEN: The planned rotation has been called by some, and here I'm quoting here, "unprecedented, massive, risky." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said himself that it's appropriate to be worried about it.

What do you think, in all the concerns that are out there, is the biggest concern to watch? That the insurgents could use this as an opportunity to attack?

GRANGE: Yes, two concerns. One's in theater and one's anywhere else in the world. Because Iraq is not the only theater where troops are being rotated in and out -- Afghanistan, Kuwait, you have ongoing operations in the Balkans, in the Sinai and many other places around the world, in over 100 countries. And so it's massive coordination involved in this. And in country itself, let's say in Iraq, as an example, the bad guys know that the U.S. is rotating forces out, just like some of our allies are being rotated in and out during that same period.

And so they'll try to take advantage of that to disrupt that, to attack the new units that come in that are known as green troops, not as seasoned as the ones that have already obtained a street sense.

And the other key factor is the -- and the second concern -- is what if some other potential adversaries take advantage of this while the U.S. has committed so much into the Iraqi theater of operations, for instance, North Korea or other areas in the world. Do we have enough forces ready to handle that war if it breaks out?

O'BRIEN: Well, you're raising questions and a vulnerability. And I guess since you raised them, I guess I'll ask you to answer them for me.

How do you keep the troops that are in country from being vulnerable? How do you keep our country from being vulnerable when so many troops are actually involved in the theater, coming in or going out?

GRANGE: Well, in country itself, these overlaps -- in other words, you don't move the old guys out before the new troops come in. You maintain that overlap so you always have the different areas of operation covered, the different tasks, security, movement, raids, patrols. You always have those tasks covered.

The other is that in the rest of the world, realizing that you have a lot of organizations in movement or just returning with maybe military weapons and equipment on boats still or airplanes, that you use other elements of power. That readiness is ramped up in case someone tries to do something, take advantage of the United States. Because one thing that we can feel very good about in this country is that we have so many choices of means of power to defend the United States or allies if someone tries something.

O'BRIEN: Brigadier General David Grange joining us this morning with some insight.

Nice to see you, General.

Merry Christmas.

GRANGE: Merry Christmas to you.

O'BRIEN: Thanks for spending time with us.

We appreciate it.

GRANGE: Thanks.


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