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CNN NEWSROOM

Iraq Under Scrutiny; Trent Lott Chosen Senate Minority Whip by One Vote

Aired November 15, 2006 - 12:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: It is the top of the hour, and normally at this time we would be joining YOUR WORLD TODAY. But with so much going on right now on Capitol Hill...
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right.

HARRIS: ... the Senate Armed Services hearing with General John Abizaid and others going on right now, as well as the Republican Senate leadership meeting and deciding on new leaders, we thought we would stay right here in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: There was some drama there. We're going to get to it.

HARRIS: Exactly.

So let's go the Pentagon now and Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr, who is standing by with us.

And Barbara, General Abizaid just spoke, offering up his opening statement just a couple of moments ago. Did you hear anything new or different? And then let's sort of break it down a bit.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, Tony, right off the bat, something that General Abizaid said is going to catch a lot of attention. He said that he wants flexibility, in his words. That forced caps and timetables will limit his flexibility in what he can do in Iraq.

And although we're just in the opening minutes of this hearing, that is a clear message to the Democrats that are taking over Congress in January, that their proposal led by Senator Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat at this point on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Democratic proposal to see troop withdrawals begin in four to six months, is something that the military may not want to sign up to. General Abizaid saying he wants flexibility.

All the indications are that the military, of course, has been watching the situation on the Hill very closely since the midterm elections, as we continue to look at the pictures of this hearing. They are well aware of what the Democrats are pressing for.

They -- the military wants more time and more flexibility in Iraq. They are talking amongst themselves, in fact, about setting some timetables for turning the provinces that are less violent over to the Iraqi security forces. They also believe very strongly that it is going to be Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who will have to take the responsibility for cracking down on the militias, getting control of the violence. But the military so far, if you read what General Abizaid's tea leaves are, isn't willing to sign up to fix deadlines.

HARRIS: And Barbara -- Barbara, stay with us, if you would, please. And there's still so much to break down from General Abizaid's comments.

But right now let's take you to comments being made right now by Trent Lott.

Oh, we missed those comments. We will come back to those in just a moment. We'll turn that around in just a moment.

But this is the new Republican Senate minority leader. Let's just listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... look forward to working with our leader and our leadership team, and regaining the majority in two years.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), INCOMING MINORITY LEADER: And our new policy chair, the fourth-ranking position in our leadership, Kay Bailey Hutchison from Texas.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Thank you, Mr. Leader.

I think what we saw this morning was a very unified conference. A conference that is going to work very well together to move our country forward, working with both sides of the rotunda, both sides of the aisle, and with our president. I'm very honored to be the policy committee chairman. And I think you're going to see a great team effort.

Thank you.

MCCONNELL: And next in our leadership lineup, the senator from Texas, the vice chair of the conference, Senator John Cornyn.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, Mitch, I'm delighted to be part of this outstanding leadership team to help define the principles that we represent and articulate the message that we believe needs to be delivered to the American people so they can understand exactly where we're coming from. And we look forward to working...

COLLINS: See there you have it. We've been waiting to hear from the new leadership of the GOP here. This is several different people that we've been hearing from.

HARRIS: Yes.

COLLINS: That was Cornyn.

HARRIS: Nice choreography. Everyone just saying hello and -- yes.

COLLINS: We heard from them all.

Quickly, (INAUDIBLE), Trent Lott was sort of the drama for the day. One vote got him the minority whip leader. And Mitch McConnell, unanimous vote.

HARRIS: Ran unopposed.

COLLINS: Yes, ran unopposed.

HARRIS: Let's get you down to Chad Myers, who is following severe weather in the South.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash is joining us now live from Capitol Hill to talk a little bit more about this new GOP leadership that we just heard from a few seconds ago.

And they were very fast at those microphone, weren't they, Dana?

I want to know specifically from you, though -- I've been reading a little bit about Lamar Alexander here. Boy, he campaigned for that position of minority whip for about 18 months, said he had quite a bit of commitment from the GOP.

Any idea what his thoughts are at this moment?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm sure he's very disappointed. You know, the bottom line is, Lamar Alexander did work very, very hard. He told us yesterday that he really thought he had the votes locked up. But that was in a different world, Heidi.

That was in a world where the Senate Republicans really thought that they would squeak it out and they would still be in the majority here. And obviously, that did not happen.

And it was when it became clear that Republicans would be in the minority here that Trent Lott decided to really work hard behind the scenes to make a comeback and become the number two, which he has become today, in the Republican leadership. And basically, what that job is, minority whip, it is to count the votes. And according to his spokeswoman, who sent me an e-mail while they were coming out of the room, he said he proved that he knows how to count the votes because he won that position, won that slot by just one vote, 25-24.

In fact, let's listen to what Senator Lott had to say when he came out of that election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), INCOMING MINORITY WHIP: I'm going to shock you by starting off with the right frame of mind. I defer on this occasion to our leader, and we'll work together with him talking about substance more later. The spotlight belongs on him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And you heard Senator Lott saying there the spotlight belongs on Mitch McConnell. And that is the person who will read the Republicans now, Heidi.

Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, somebody who had the number two spot for quite a long time, now won the top spot for the Republicans, uncontested. There was never any question that he would get that job.

And in many ways, a lot of people around here think that Senator Lott and Senator McConnell, who are very good friends and go back a long time, are very much one in the same in that they both are very, very adept at reading and understanding the very difficult and complicated parliamentary rules of the Senate floor and being able to use those to their advantage. And that is even more important in many ways to be able to do when you are the minority party, because unlike in the House, where things are essentially greased by the majority party, in the Senate the minority has a lot of power. And really that is why the minority can use any kind of tricks, if you will, if they know how to use them, to try to get what they want and stop the Democrats, in this case, from pushing through their legislative agenda if they want to.

COLLINS: All right. Dana Bash, thanks for breaking it down for us. Interesting there.

BASH: Thank you.

COLLINS: Humble of Trent Lott, right...

BASH: Very much.

HARRIS: Yes.

COLLINS: ... to focus on Mitch McConnell?

All right. Thank you, Dana.

HARRIS: All right. We're going to take a quick break.

When we come back, we will continue to follow the hearing going on right now, the Senate Armed Services Committee. In the hot seat now, General John Abizaid, who said just moments ago that Iraq's sectarian violence is unacceptably high but better than it was in August.

We'll continue to follow those hearings, and we will dip in to hear more of the question-and-answer session that is under way now in just a moment.

You are in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Take a look at this. Live pictures now of mass (ph) cam from one of our affiliates. Boy, WSVA (sic) from atop one of their satellite trucks -- what did I say -- WSFA, Pintlala, Alabama, right now.

Look at what you're watching right now. Look at the devastation.

Reynolds Wolf, what are we -- is this -- is this the work -- well, clearly, it's the work of a severe line of storms, heavy winds, and that sort of things, but it is possible that we've had some kind of tornadic activity here?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, absolutely.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: For now, we want to get straight back to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Hearings being held today regarding the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I've been listening in and trying to gauge what the tone of those hearings are. At the microphone currently is General John Abizaid, commander of U.S. control there. And also, just prior to him, we heard from David Satterfield, who is the senior adviser to the secretary of state (INAUDIBLE).

Barbara Starr is standing by at the Pentagon to come in.

And I know, Barbara, that you have been monitoring this as well. I just heard something interesting, because in the news over the past day or so, there have been -- maybe a little longer than that -- some talk about engaging Iraq and Syria into negotiations, if you will, talks, if you will, regarding the Iraq situation. And David Satterfield just commented on that.

We'd love your thoughts and sort of a breakdown of what was said.

STARR: Well, that's going to probably wind up, of course, being a decision for President Bush to make about whether to engage both of those countries. Clearly, the U.S. military believes that both Iran and Syria have meddled in Iraq's internal affairs, supporting fighters, insurgents, sectarian violence, shipping weapons into the country. So there's going to be an awful lot of problems before engaging with either Iran or Syria on the Iraq question, to try and get them to stop all of that.

General Abizaid really setting the tone so far in this hearing today that he wants some flexibility. He doesn't want timelines or deadlines set, per se, that U.S. troops would begin to be withdrawn from Iraq by a time certain. The Democrats, of course, wanting to see that begin within four months or so.

And General Abizaid, just a few minutes ago, laid out, basically, his view of where the sectarian violence stands rights now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, U.S. CENTCOM COMMANDER: There's more confidence being shown in the Iraqi government, more independent action on behalf of Iraqi units. And in many of the neighborhoods where particularly U.S. forces are operating, a lot of the sectarian violence is down. It's still at unacceptably high levels. I wouldn't say that we have turned the corner in this regard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: In fact, Heidi, one of the things that General Abizaid is calling for is an increase in the size of the U.S. military training teams in Iraq. He believes that might be something fundamentally very important to helping the Iraqi security forces get up and running and able to do their job more quickly.

Make no mistake, that might involve some slight increase in U.S. forces in Iraq. But not substantial.

What he's talking about is increasing the size of some training teams from about a dozen to two dozen troops per team. But it's that kind of flexibility around the edges that it appears General Abizaid is telling Congress today he still wants to have -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Barbara, I know that you're at the Pentagon, and I don't want to get too political with this, but just a question for you. When he talks about flexibility, as you have mentioned, it's sort of something a little bit new to hear from General John Abizaid. Is this because, in your best estimation, because the Democrats are now in control?

Is he either sort of talking about frustration that he has had in the past with the Republican Party? Or is he setting a tone here for how he would like to move forward with Iraq's strategy?

STARR: Well, you know, the military always says it doesn't get involved in politics, but of course, make no mistake, U.S. military generals watch the political situation very carefully.

What we've been learning over the last couple of days is, you know, commanders at this point know that the message from the midterm elections here in the states was that some significant majority of Americans don't support the war in Iraq. And the military in this country doesn't fight wars independent of the people's will. So they have to find a way to move forward, still achieve the military objectives, but also basically acknowledge this new political reality on Capitol Hill.

What General Abizaid appears at this point not to want to do is really take political sides. His best military advice is going to be that they still maintain some military flexibility in how they approach all of this.

COLLINS: All right. Very good.

Barbara, thank you for that. We know that you are listening in as well. And we want to let our viewers do the same.

So let's go back to the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings.

Chairman Carl Levin is questioning General John Abizaid. Let's go ahead and just listen in to see what's happening at this moment.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ABIZAID: ... there is infiltration by -- by sectarian groups.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Did the events that were described there occur?

ABIZAID: Did the events described in the article occur?

LEVIN: The even that was described there in that article occur?

ABIZAID: There's -- I can't...

LEVIN: Did a...

ABIZAID: ... I can't really say that the article is exactly accurate. I can say there was a list in that division. There were sectarian problems that were brought to the attention of our chain of command and were brought to the attention of the Iraqi chain of command.

LEVIN: Was there a list that the Iraqi general wanted us -- people that the Iraqi general wanted us to arrest and detain?

ABIZAID: Wanted us, Americans, to arrest and detain?

LEVIN: Right.

ABIZAID: I don't know that's true.

LEVIN: Do you believe, General, that Prime Minister Maliki will move against the Sadr militia?

ABIZAID: I think he must move against the Sadr militia if Iraq is to become a free and sovereign and independent state.

LEVIN: Do you believe he will?

ABIZAID: I believe he will, and he will use the Iraqi army to do so. And he will use political activity to ensure the disarmament of the Jaish al-Mehdi. And I believe he must do that, otherwise the Jaish al-Mehdi starts to become the curse of Hezbollah, except an Iraqi scale, as opposed to a Lebanon scale.

LEVIN: Do we believe -- and I ask this of either of you -- do we believe that the grand ayatollah -- the grand ayatollah can influence Sadr's behavior?

DAVID SATTERFIELD, SPECIAL COORDINATOR ON IRAQ: Senator, I'm Ayatollah Sistani has significant influence in Iraq, an influence that extends well beyond Najaf and well beyond the Shia community alone. And he has been a sustained and consistent voice for moderation, for calm, and against sectarian violence.

But he is challenged, as all moderates in Iraq are challenged, by the militias, by their sectarian violence, by the campaign of terror that foments and sustains that violence. Certainly, the ayatollah has a vital role. It's a role we very much hope he will continue to play.

LEVIN: Could he just declare a truce to sectarian violence or deliver a religious fatwa against that violence?

SATTERFIELD: Senator, I believe there will need to be concerted action by the political leadership or Iraqi and by Iraq's security forces in order to bring about a meaningful drop in sustained and to sectarian violence.

LEVIN: My time is up.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Graham?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Do you disagree with -- agree or disagree with the following statement: that Iraq is the central battle front in the war on terror?

General?

ABIZAID: I agree with that.

GRAHAM: Ambassador?

SATTERFIELD: It is a central battlefront. It is not the only battlefront.

GRAHAM: Who would be the biggest winners and losers in a failed Iraqi state?

General?

ABIZAID: Al Qaeda and Iran.

GRAHAM: Ambassador?

SATTERFIELD: Absolutely.

GRAHAM: Was General Shinseki correct when you look backward that we needed more troops to secure the country, General Abizaid?

ABIZAID: General Shinseki was right that a greater international force contribution, U.S. force contribution, and Iraqi force contribution should have been available immediately after major combat operations. GRAHAM: So both of you believe that more troops would have been helpful that were in the central battle, one of the biggest battles in the war on terror? Is that correct?

Both of you believe that, that this is a central battle in the war on terror, Iraq?

ABIZAID: The central battle is happening in Iraq. That is by the definition of our enemies.

GRAHAM: Well...

ABIZAID: And...

GRAHAM: And you agree with their definition?

ABIZAID: Do we need more troops? And my answer is, yes, we need more troops that are effective, that are Iraqi.

GRAHAM: Do we need more American troops at the moment to quell the violence?

ABIZAID: No, I do not believe that more American troops right now is the solution to the problem.

GRAHAM: Do we need less American troops?

ABIZAID: I believe that the troop levels need to stay where they are. We need to put more American capacity into Iraqi units to make them more capable in their ability to confront the sectarian problem.

GRAHAM: So it's your testimony that we don't need any change in troop levels to get this right?

ABIZAID: It is possible that we might have to go up in troop levels in order to increase the number of forces that go into the Iraqi security forces, but I believe that's only temporary.

GRAHAM: If we withdrew troops to Okinawa, would that be a good idea?

ABIZAID: No.

GRAHAM: If we withdrew troops to Kuwait, would that be a good idea?

ABIZAID: Not at this stage in the campaign.

GRAHAM: People in South Carolina come up to me in increasing numbers and suggest no matter what we do in Iraq, the Iraqis are incapable of solving their own problems throughout the political process, and will resort to violence, and we need to get the hell out of there. What do you say?

ABIZAID: I say the Iraqis are capable of fighting for their country, solving their political problems and bringing their country toward stability with our help and support.

GRAHAM: Having said that, do you see it possible to get political solutions to these difficult problems that the Iraqis are facing with the current level of violence?

AMB. DAVID SATTERFIELD: Senator, we see the need for action both on the political front and the security front. The current levels of violence work against a political resolution, and the failure to move forward a political process or reconciliation process feed and sustain those levels of violence.

GRAHAM: Would you agree with this statement, that if the current level of violence is not changed or reduced dramatically, the chance of a political outcome being successful in Iraq is almost zero?

SATTERFIELD: There is no question that if levels of sectarian violence, if the growth of militias are not addressed and brought down significantly, that the chances of a political resolution are significantly diminished.

GRAHAM: And having said that, troop posture will basically stay the same?

ABIZAID: Senator, our troop posture needs to stay where it is, as we move to enhance the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, and then we need to assess whether or not we can bring major combat units out of there, due to the increased effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces. My belief is that the Iraqi army, which has taken casualties at three times the rate of our own troops, is willing to fight. They need to be led properly by their own officers, and they need to be supported by their own government. The government needs not to support the sectarian militias. They need to disband the sectarian militias.

GRAHAM: Why are they supporting the militias over the army?

ABIZAID: I believe that the government understands that they must support the army over the militias.

GRAHAM: Why aren't they doing it?

ABIZAID: I believe they're starting to do it.

GRAHAM: No further questions.

WARNER: Thank you.

Senator Reed?

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Thank you very much.

General Abizaid, the Shia control of government of Iraq at the moment, and there seems to be, at least in my view, a conscious process of ethnic cleansing going on. Would you ascribe to that view? ABIZAID: There are certainly areas in Baghdad where Shia death squads have moved in and tried to move Sunni families out of there by threatening them or murdering or kidnapping them.

REED: Do you see that as something more than just coincidental, but organized, systematic?

ABIZAID: I think it is organized by some of the Shia militia groups, yes, I do.

REED: It seems also to me that the Shia government recently passed legislation creating a super region which would rival the Kurdish area in the north, effectively being fairly autonomous. And in effect, what seems to be happening or could be happening is that the Shia plan, or the government plan, is that they will end up with an oil-rich region in the south, much as the Kurds have in the north. That on the edges between Shia and Sunni communities there is some deliberate action of cleansing, ethnic cleansing going on, and that that rationale might explain why there's not a lot of activity directed at disbanding militias, cooperating with the United States forces, sharing intelligence, doing lots of things?

SATTERFIELD: Senator, in fact, that has not happened. The way in which the issue has moved forward...

COLLINS: All right, we are going to get to a break quickly, bringing you the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings with General John Abizaid, and David Satterfield. He's the advisor to the secretary of state and coordinator for Iraq, in case you are not familiar with his position, answering a barrage of questions about the situation in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Most interestingly in this last bit of questioning we heard from Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina, flat out saying that he's hearing from his people that we should get, quote, "the hell out of Iraq," from his constituents in his state, then saying that Iraqis are incapable of handling their own security. General John Abizaid disagreeing with that. We are going to hear more as the hearings continue.

Stick with us right here, CNN NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: In the meantime, we have to tell you, as you've been watching the hearing, storms have been exploding across the map in the south right now. Pintlala (ph), Alabama is the scene you're looking at right now. A line of storms moving through that area. You see some damage on the ground now. We are going to check in with Reynolds Wolf in the severe weather center after the break and get an update on all of this.

You are in the NEWSROOM. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: We are continuing to monitor the hearing right now, with General John Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command before the Senate Armed Services Committee. We will check back in on that Q&A in just a few minutes. We're expecting to hear from Senators McCain and Clinton shortly. We will, of course, bring that to you.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: We want to get back to the NEWSROOM. We're going to Carol Lin who has some information for us about the former head of Hewlett-Packard, Patricia Dunn. She put in a plea here today?

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, she pleaded not guilty in court today, Heidi. She's facing four felony counts of identity theft, fraud charges. You might recall, she was fired from her job back in September, after there were these clandestine efforts to spy on other board members to try to figure out where the leaks were coming from to reporters.

But, in addition to this story, Heidi, you might recall that Patricia Dunn, a two-time cancer survivor was then shortly thereafter diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. So, she actually started cancer treatment just a few weeks ago, but made this not guilty plea today in court. We wanted to update you here. She's one of five people charged in those clandestine efforts to spy on employees.

COLLINS: All right. Carol Lin, thank you for that. We certainly appreciate it. Patricia Dunn there -- not guilty.

HARRIS: Got enough on your plate today?

COLLINS: Yes, except I'm starving.

HARRIS: Well, we'll dish you up something tasty.

COLLINS: An awful lot going on here. You're absolutely right.

HARRIS: Yes. And we're going to watch it all for you here in the NEWSROOM. Once again, keeping an eye on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The hearing under way right now. Senator Nelson questioning right now. We are continuing to follow this. General Abizaid, offering testimony as well. We're going to take a break. We're back in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: You are looking at live pictures now of the Senate Armed Services Committee. They're holding hearings there. You see General John Abizaid at the microphone and next to him David Satterfield, the senior adviser to the secretary of state and coordinator for Iraq. They are answering questions from senators in the room. They are each allowed to ask a question about the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan or other concerns. We've heard a little bit about Syria and Iran and the basic situation with our armed forces. We have the CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr standing by.

Barbara, tell us what you're getting from this so far today.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, what's very interesting is General Abizaid has been asked a number of times, of course, does there need to be more U.S. troops in Iraq or can a withdrawal begin? He's really laying down a marker that he does not want to see an artificial deadline or timeline set for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

The Democrats, of course, calling for a withdrawal to begin within four months. General Abizaid saying he wants to maintain some flexibility. And then he talked a little bit more in depth about why he thinks there may not be a need for more U.S. troops just yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABIZAID: No, I do not believe that more American troops right now is the solution to the problem.

GRAHAM: Do we need less American troops?

ABIZAID: I believe that the troop levels need to stay where they are. We need to put more American capacity into Iraqi units to make them more capable in their ability to confront the sectarian problem.

GRAHAM: So it's your testimony that we don't need any change in troop levels to get this right?

ABIZAID: It is possible that we might have to go up in troop levels in order to increase the number of forces that go into the Iraqi security forces. But I believe that's only temporary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: Heidi, let me explain a little bit more about what General Abizaid is saying there when he talks about this slight increase. What he's talking about is increasing the size of U.S. military training teams in Iraq, the 12 to 25 troops at a time that form a team and go out and live with Iraqi security forces and train them in the field.

That's not really going to lead to a significant increase in overall U.S. troop levels, but it might cause some adjustments of the types of troops you see. They do want to increase the size of those U.S. training teams to get the Iraqis trained up a bit more.

As for the overall situation some Iraq, General Abizaid says he still believes it can come under control. He says that Baghdad remains the main focus of the U.S. military operation. He also said that sectarian violence in Iraq, in his words, is still at "unacceptably high levels." He says they haven't turned the corner yet.

COLLINS: Perfect. Thank you for breaking that down for us, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

We want to go back to those hearings now. Senator John McCain has just asked a question of the general and David Satterfield. We are listening to a response now from General John Abizaid.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't understand that tactic, General. You just told Senator Graham General Shinseki was right, that we did not have enough troops there after the initial military operations, is that correct?

ABIZAID: I believe that more Iraqi security forces that were available would have made a big difference. I believe more international forces would have made a big difference.

MCCAIN: Would more American troops have made a difference?

ABIZAID: I think you can look back and say that more than American troops would have been advisable in the early stages of May, June, July.

MCCAIN: Did you note that General Zinni, who opposed the invasion now, thinks that we should have more troops? Did you notice that General Batiste, who was opposed to the conduct of this conflict, also says it may need tens of thousands of additional troops?

I don't understand, General, when you have a part of Iraq that's not under our control, and yet, we still -- as Al Anbar province is, which has been -- I don't know how many American lives have been sacrificed in now Al Anbar province, but we still have enough and we will rely on the ability to train the Iraqi military when the Iraqi army hasn't sent the number requested number of battalions into Baghdad.

ABIZAID: Senator McCain, I met with every divisional commander -- General Casey, the Corps commander, General Dempsey -- we all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no.

And the reason is, because we want the Iraqis to do more. It's easy for the Iraqis to rely upon us to do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.

They will win the insurgency. They will solve the sectarian violence problem and they'll do it with our help. If more troops need to come in, they need to come in to make the Iraqi army stronger. That's my professional opinion.

MCCAIN: General Batiste also says that if there was congressional approvals for troop -- proposals for troop withdrawals as, quote, "terribly naive," unquote. Do you agree with that comment?

ABIZAID: Under the current circumstances, I would not recommend troop withdrawals.

MCCAIN: So we have a sufficient number of forces to clear insurgent sanctuaries, hold the territory with a combination of coalition and Iraqi forces, provide sufficient security in Iraq so that economic reconstruction and political activity can take place to arrest the momentum of sectarian death squads, disarm militias that train the Iraqi army and keep an American presence in Iraqi units and place U.S. personnel in Iraqi police units? We have sufficient troops to carry out all of those tasks?

ABIZAID: We have sufficient troop strength, Iraqi and American, to make those tasks become effective.

MCCAIN: Was it encouraging when in the broad daylight that -- yesterday or the day before, that people dressed in police uniforms were able to come in and kidnap 150 people and leave with them and go through checkpoints?

General, it's not encouraging to us. It's not encouraging to those of us who heard time after time that things are, quote, "progressing well," that we're making progress, et cetera, because we're hearing from many other sources that that's not the case.

And I'm, of course, disappointed that basically you're advocating the status quo here today which I think the American people in the last election said that is not an acceptable condition for the American people.

So I regret your position that, apparently, against the recommendation of most military experts, that we do not have sufficient -- Al Anbar province is a classic example of that, that you still are continuing to hold this position when numerically most of the attacks, most the kidnappings, most of the others continue to be on a rise in Baghdad itself, where as you say, the majority of our effort takes place.

And so, I respect you enormously. I appreciate your service. I regret deeply that you seem to think that the status quo and the rate of progress we're making is acceptable. I think most Americans do not.

ABIZAID: Well, Senator, I agree with you, the status quo is not acceptable. And I don't believe what I'm saying here today is the status quo. I am saying we must significantly increase our ability to help the Iraqi army by putting more American troops with Iraqi units in military transition teams to speed the amount of training that is done, to speed the amount of weapons that gets there, and to speed the ability of Iraqi troops to deploy. It's a very, very difficult thing to do.

Senator, I believe in my heart of hearts that the Iraqis must win this battle with our help. We can put in 20,000 more Americans tomorrow and achieve a temporary effect, but when you look at the overall American force pool that's available out there, the ability to sustain that commitment is simply not something that we have right now with the size of the Army and the Marine Corps.

We can -- we can -- win with the Iraqis if we put our effort into the Iraqis as our first priority and that's what I think we should do. I don't think that's status quo. I think that's a major change.

WARNER: Thank you very much, General.

MCCAIN: Could I just say in response, Mr. Chairman -- you say we need to do all these things, train the Iraqi -- I don't know where those troops come from, number one. And many of us believe this may not be a long-term commitment, but at least a commitment to bring Baghdad under control and that is not happening today, and that is, in my view, where you and I have significant disagreement.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: Thank you. Senator Dayton.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. MARK DAYTON (D), MINNESOTA: General Abizaid, when you were confirmed by this committee, you signed a questionnaire on June 14, 2003, that said...

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