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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Interview With David Petraeus

Aired February 15, 2004 - 07:43   ET

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

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN ANCHOR: The commanding general of the 101st says it's been a tough year in Iraq, but Americans can be very proud of their soldiers. I spoke to Major General David Petraeus about the mission that lies ahead for troops still in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAJ. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CMDR. 101ST AIRBORNE DIV.: Well, what has to be done, and what is being done, really, by all of the divisions that are there and at the coalition joint task force level is focusing the intelligence on what really is counter terrorist operations.

The individuals doing these actions now, in many cases, are at least inspired or aided by those from the outside, who don't want to see the new Iraq succeed. And so, that the intelligence structure has to be focused very carefully to identify the cells, the facilitators, the financiers, and others who are aiding and abetting these individuals and helping them move into the country, move explosives, arms, ammunition, and money around, and then ultimately carrying out these horrific acts, these sensational attacks that was seen in recent weeks.

MCINTYRE: So...

PETRAEUS: Each of the divisions was putting together a structure like that. We believe that we had had a reasonable degree of success with that. But even so, there are going to be more of those attacks. We need to be prepared for it. And frankly, the way ahead will require a lot of determination and just plain old ingenuity and stick- to-itiveness.

MCINTYRE: Before I let you go, I have to ask you a little bit about the soldiers who aren't coming back, that is those who gave their lives in this cause. How many soldiers did you lose in your division? And how confident are you that their lives were not given in vain?

PETRAEUS: We lost over 60 soldiers, Jamie, in Iraq. And this is a question that all of us have been grappling with in recent weeks, as we do the transition. We went down to Kuwait, spent a couple of weeks down there as we were loading ships and putting equipment up to send it back to the United States. And I started going around and asking units was it worth it? And you know, when you've been in combat with soldiers, people will tell you the truth. We tell each other the truth. And to a man, they all said yes, it was worth it. And I asked why. And it was not all of the other issues that are wrapped into it. What they generally centered on was that we feel that we gave hope to a people who had no hope, to the people of Iraq. And so, the answer is yes, it was worth it.

MCINTYRE: Your troops are now back in Fort Campbell presumably for at least a year. Is there any chance that in a year, they might have to go back to Iraq?

PETRAEUS: Well, there is that chance. Certainly we don't know what rotation or what requirements will be necessary in the time that the next force completes its time in Iraq. We'll spend the next few months getting our equipment back, getting -- we still have several thousand soldiers that are in Kuwait, who have to come home, getting reunited with their families, getting the equipment back together, back up to standard in terms of maintenance.

We're going to do some transformation of the division as well, create an additional brigade combat team. And we're excited about that. So we've got a lot to do to get ready for whatever the next rendezvous with destiny, as the division talks about, will be for us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: The 101st Airborne Division was replaced in northern Iraq officially on February 5th by Task Force Olympia, based at Fort Lewis, Washington. We'll have more of my interview with General Petraeus coming up in the 9:00 hour here on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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