Nomination of LTG Abizaid to be Appointed to the Rank of General and Commander of USCENTCOM
Hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee
June 25, 2003
SEN. WARNER: (Strikes gavel.) Good morning, everyone.
The committee meets today to receive testimony concerning the nomination by the president of the United States of Lieutenant General John P. Abizaid, United States Army, for appointment to the grade of general and to be commander, United States Central Command.
We're privileged to have before the committee this morning a nominee who played such a pivotal role, a vital mission, Operation Iraqi Freedom, by the coalition forces. As deputy commander, Coalition Forces Command, forward-located in Qatar, General Abizaid was General Franks' principal deputy in the planning and the execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I compliment you, General, your staff and most especially the soldiers, sailors, airmen and the Marines, together with the coalition partners, who achieved the remarkable 17- day advance to Baghdad that eventually led to the overthrow of the ruthless, tragic Saddam Hussein regime.
However, the continuing loss of life, loss of limb is very much on the minds of all here in America, and most especially the Congress. The danger to the United States and coalition forces, as we all know so well, continues. The most challenging phases of this military operation may well be now and in the days and months and perhaps years to come, as we attempt to bring peace, security and democracy to the people of Iraq. All of us -- the American people, the Congress, and especially the families of those of the military currently serving in Iraq and in Afghanistan -- are concerned about the security situations in both of these areas of your command.
We welcome your wife this morning. I wonder if you might be gracious enough to introduce her. We're so thankful that she's here.
GEN. ABIZAID: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to introduce my wife, Kathy Abizaid. We went to high school together, managed to get married after I graduated from West Point. We've been married for 30 years. She is the sole reason that I have three great kids that are serving their country, and she's been just a marvelous partner to be with in these 30 years of service to the nation. So she's the smart one of the family, sir.
SEN. WARNER: Well, your humility shows through, General. A touch of that is always a very valuable asset.
But I've had the privilege of being associated with military families for a very long time, and there's the old saying: The good military wife makes a good military soldier.
And now, today, in our modern forces, the converse is often true. We have many women serving with great distinction in military positions.
So, we send our thanks to you, Kathleen, and your family, for giving support. And I had the opportunity to visit this morning -- your grandfather served in World War I in the trenches, as did my father. Both of them were doctors.
General Abizaid has a superb record of military service, with one of the most impressive compilations of joint duty that this committee has had before it in some time. The joint service operations, I think, reached an all-time high-water mark in the course of the Iraqi operations. Your prior assignments as director of the Joint Staff, director for strategic plans and policy, J-5 on the Joint Staff, and a participant in joint operations in Kosovo and Bosnia and in northern Iraq following Operation Desert Storm qualify this nominee, in my judgment, for the challenges of the commanding of the United States Central Command.
More importantly, General Abizaid brings a unique perspective. He is truly an expert and a student on the region to which the Central Command has most of its responsibilities. He's currently serving his fifth tour of duty in the Middle East. He is fluent in Arabic and has a very proud family heritage closely tied to the cultures of this region.
General Abizaid also brings a special family perspective to this position of responsibility. He's the son of a man who served this nation as a Naval petty officer in World War II. And his children are involved in military responsibilities in various stations around the globe.
General Abizaid will bring the intellect of a Middle East expert, the wisdom of a combat leader and the compassion and the understanding of a parent to this challenging position. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines under your command, together with those in the coalition forces, are fortunate, indeed, the president has selected you for this position, and you're willing to serve, together with your family.
And this hearing today will review the qualifications of this superb soldier. And the committee will also seek your perspective on recent events in the regions and the challenges that lie ahead.
Together with Senator Levin and Senator Roberts, we met with General Abizaid in Qatar in February, and I think all of us were very impressed with his candor and breadth of knowledge.
As I visited with him yesterday, I was reminded of how remarkably experienced he is for this particular position.
I was also reminded, however, of the many issues that are before the Congress today, and indeed, the American public are desirous to have clear understanding; (examples being ?): What was the level of planning by our military with regard to securing and stabilizing Iraq following major combat operations? Was the level of resistance during the major conflict, and particularly post-conflict, adequately evaluated, and were preparations in place for those two levels of resistance? The intelligence that you had, military intelligence, in the course of the campaign you relied on it. How accurate, in your judgment, was it, and what do we look for the future in terms of intelligence, the ability to get from the Iraqi people vital information to try and complete the operations and turn over this nation to the people of Iraq? Troop levels are a constant question. Did we have enough to accomplish the mission? And what does the future hold? How long do you anticipate the United States will need to keep significant military forces in Iraq?
I also want to pause for a moment. We were fortunate to have coalition forces operating with us. Senator Roberts and I met yesterday with a group of British members of Parliament, at which time we expressed to them our profound sorrow over the tragic losses in the British forces of recent. I think if you can give us an update on that and also the operation by which we interdicted people moving from Iraq into Syria.
During our meeting in February where the four senators visited with you at your headquarters, I asked you the same question I've asked every single member of this administration as he's appeared before this committee or in other fora here in the Senate; namely, are we going to find weapons of mass destruction after the troops move forward and the major conflict has subsided and the spotlight of the world press can come in and take the pictures and evaluate the existence or non-existence of weapons of mass destruction? At that time you gave me a reply, and perhaps in the course of your testimony today, you can address that reply and what you did subsequent to our meeting to confirm the credibility of your reply.
General Abizaid, we thank you for your service to the nation, thank you for your willingness to lend your considerable talents to this most difficult challenge, and we look forward to your testimony. But I do hope that you have had an opportunity this morning to look into today's paper, which I thought there was a very direct reference to the concern through many circles about -- and I just rarely do this, but I think it's worthy of reading it -- about the ability of the military to grapple with these challenges that are being presented today and the risk that each of them are experiencing, and indeed, in some instances loss of life and limb.
This article recites: "The teams were established and trained to provide emergency humanitarian aid, deal with refugees and perform basic infrastructure repair, not to rebuild town governments, set up courts, disburse salaries, sort out agricultural problems and take on many of the other chores they have been forced to perform in postwar Iraq. We've been given a job that we haven't been prepared for, we haven't been trained for, we weren't really ready for,' said a senior" military -- excuse me -- "senior civil affairs officer in central Iraq. For a lot of the stuff we're doing, we're making it up as we go along.'"
Now, we all respect the perspectives and viewpoints of others, particularly public servants who are trying to do their best, but it is clear that in the course of our training, from boot camp to advanced training, the military missions are quite clear. The soldiers and other military men are trained to seize an objective utilizing fire power, under the protection of that fire power, often under the protection of heavy armor, and little doubt as to when and how they are to use their weapons to protect themselves and gain the objective.
But now they're stranded, with 360 degrees exposure, often in ones and twos on the streets of Iraq, and they're suffering the consequences. 1
And they're dealing with civilians. And it's quite a high level of concern here, in this committee and in the Congress, as to whether or not the planning was adequate. Did we foresee the measure of instability that we're now encountering? And are we prepared today? And if not, what are we going to do to fill the gap?
You're taking over this command following a very distinguished record of achievement by General Franks. He will be appearing before this committee in open and closed sessions shortly after the 4th of July recess period, and we'll have our opportunity to talk with him.
But I'm quite interested in how you are going to take on your responsibilities. Do you have a change of direction? With no disrespect to what General Franks did, but the situation -- you've got a mission that's somewhat different than when you were his principal deputy and planning for the combat phases.
Senator Levin, do you have a few remarks at this time? I invite you to address the Senate committee.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me join you in extending a warm welcome to General Abizaid and his family.
General, you've been nominated to be the commander of the most challenging of all the areas of responsibility of our combatant commands, at least at this time. I usually don't distinguish between those commands, but in this case, I think it's obvious yours is just extraordinarily challenging. You have got in your area of responsibility Afghanistan and Iraq, where the U.S. and coalition forces have recently fought major conflicts and in the case of Iraq still are involved in conflict. They are dangerous places for forces conducting stability operations.
Moreover, the Central Command area of responsibility includes Iran, which continues to pose a potential threat to regional peace and security, and a number of nations whose territory has proven hospitable to terrorist organizations. In sum, you've got one dangerous, difficult region under your command after you're confirmed.
I don't know of anyone who is better qualified to take over this responsibility than you are. As a matter of fact, it's hard even to imagine a better qualified nominee than you. You bring a challenging -- you bring to this challenging new assignment a wealth of background, experience and talent. It makes you particularly well- suited to a job that requires the mix of war fighter and strategist and diplomat.
The questions which Senator Warner has asked, and those of us will ask, are critically important questions, very difficult questions. We are glad that you 're going to be there to address the issues that are raised in these questions.
We congratulate you on this appointment. We thank you for your extended service to this nation. We thank your family for their commitment to your service and to this nation. You might have exaggerated just slightly when you said that your wife was the sole reason for your three children --
GEN. ABIZAID: (Chuckles.)
SEN. LEVIN: -- but other than that, I have no doubt that your comments are totally accurate. Marrying a high school mate is always a wonderful love story, and I'm sure that the two of you have enjoyed those years together. And hopefully, the responsibility which you're going to undertake, you already have undertaken this responsibility, so that your wife knows what you're in for and what she's in for. But nonetheless, it is an additional responsibility that will now rest on your shoulders. And I know this committee and the entire nation is grateful for that service and that willingness to continue to serve this wonderful country of ours.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator Levin. Senator Levin, I think we should state for the benefit of those members of the committee who were not with us yesterday morning, that 10 members of the committee had breakfast with Secretary Rumsfeld. We covered a wide range of issues, some of which we'll be discussing here today. But I noticed in today's press that he states that he gave an energetic endorsement of prewar intelligence in Iraq and said today that virtually everyone agreed that Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction. The article has further details.
I mention that because that is a subject that this committee will be considering in the context of the appearance of all the witnesses. And you and I have extended to Secretary Rumsfeld repeated invitations to come before the committee, and I'm hopeful that that can be achieved just after the recess here in 4th of July.
Now, we go through the standard questions, General. It's very important that we have our record reflect your replies. You gave the answers to a series of questions propounded by the committee. They will be made a part of the record. The standard in questions we ask in open sessions are as follows:
Have you adhered to applicable laws and regulations governing conflicts of interest?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir.
SEN. WARNER: Have you assumed any duties or undertaken any actions which would appear to presume the outcome of the confirmation process?
GEN. ABIZAID: No, sir.
SEN. WARNER: Will you ensure your staff complies with deadlines established for requested communications, including questions for the record in hearings?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir.
SEN. WARNER: Will you cooperate in providing witnesses and briefers in response to congressional inquiries?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, I will.
SEN. WARNER: Will those witnesses be protected from reprisal for their testimony or briefings?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, they will.
SEN. WARNER: Have you any opening remarks? We'll let you proceed with those momentarily, but I want to make one other comment.
I mentioned that four of us were visiting with you in February. And Senator Levin and I and some colleagues hope to be joining you in the not-distant future in your AOR. And the subject of codels is very important.
Congress is a co-equal body of our government. We have very important oversight responsibilities. Throughout history, the committees of the armed services of the House and the Senate, particularly, have initiated many, many programs on behalf of the men and women of the United States military. I say "initiated." They were actually thought-through and designed in the Congress, throughout history. And we have a very special trust and responsibility for the welfare of all those in uniform and their families, and part of that requires that we periodically visit them where they are serving in the far-flung outposts of the world. Yesterday, Secretary Rumsfeld -- I'm sure you were listening -- confirmed the importance of members of Congress being able to go into the field and perform their continuing oversight responsibilities.
Our trip has been well-planned, and we expressed cooperation to General Franks and yourself, and we anticipate it will be a very successful one. But I bring that up only in the context that I'm hopeful other members of Congress, particularly, this committee and other committees of the Senate with very special oversight responsibilities on matters of national security, can avail themselves of the opportunity to visit your AOR at this particular point in time in history and work with you such that they can bring back a better and broader understanding of the challenges facing the men and women of the armed forces.
I thank you very much. We'd be happy to receive your opening comments at this time.
GEN. ABIZAID: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. And let me start by saying we certainly do welcome you into the area of operations, and we agree with you 100 percent that it's important for you to see the great work our young men and women are doing out there.
Mr. Chairman, Senator Levin, distinguished members of the committee, I consider it an honor to be nominated to serve as commander of Central Command, and I appreciate the confidence of the secretary of Defense and the president in making this nomination. And I appreciate your consideration of that nomination, as well. Thank you for your support and for the wonderful support, I might add, that you've given to the men and women that have served so well and so faithfully in the Central Command area of operations in war and now in stability operations in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa. I would consider it the greatest privilege to serve as their commander, and I can think of no honor greater than to serve as a leader of American service people.
But before I open for questions, sir, I would just like to add my condolences to yours and the rest of the men and women in Central Command to the families of the six British service men that were killed yesterday in Iraq, and I might add, to all of the service men and women that have given their lives there. They're doing wonderful work. We appreciate their sacrifice.
I'm open to your questions, sir.
SEN. WARNER: Well, thank you. We'll go through a six-minute round, but I'm glad that you mentioned that. I'm sure that you would have covered that.
Let us go back to our conversation that took place in February with regard to weapons of mass destruction when I did ask you what you anticipated, and perhaps at this time, you can just review what you stated and the fact that you went back to corroborate your own opinions with the experts within your command.
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir. During your visit, you asked me very directly, in no uncertain terms, whether I believed we would find weapons of mass destruction either in the course of the campaign or afterwards. I believe that I told you that we would and I thought we would do it rather early in the campaign. And I believe I also said that I expected that the enemy would use weapons of mass destruction against our troops. Fortunately, they did not use weapons of mass destruction against our troops.
SEN. WARNER: We certainly all share in that good fortune, by the grace of God.
GEN. ABIZAID: And I believe that as we get on with the mission of continuing to look for weapons of mass destruction and piece together the evidence that is available within the country, not only by looking through documents, but also by talking to various people that have come forward to give us information or people that we have detained that we're asking for information, that we'll piece together the story that tells us what happened to the weapons of mass destruction somewhere between 1998 and 2003. I'm confident we will show that there was deception. And I am also confident that at some point it will lead us to actual weapons of mass destruction.
SEN. WARNER: I share in those views, General. I continue to believe that the intelligence was accurate, that the weapons are somewhere concealed, or remnants of the destruction, and that eventually this will be unfolded. Perhaps the one thing, I guess, we can agree on, that we anticipated an earlier discovery than has occurred thus far. But I know that the intelligence operations of other governments in the coalition forces and so forth shared with us the expectations that you have expressed with regard to these weapons of mass destruction.
Let us turn to your military intelligence. As a consequence, recently there's been in the views of some, not this senator, but the views of some, concern -- and I think, on behalf of the others, with whom I disagree, it's somewhat legitimate -- as to whether or not -- the validity of that type intelligence, example being the thought that we would soon find weapons of mass destruction. That's just one example. But what do you feel about the quality of the intelligence you had? Did the operations as they progressed rely on it? And was that reliance accurate? And the intelligence for the future of Iraq, how accurate do you feel it was?
GEN. ABIZAID: Senator, I believe that my overall assessment of how intelligence served us throughout the campaign would be that intelligence was the most accurate that I've ever seen on the tactical level, probably the best I 've ever seen on the operational level, and perplexingly incomplete on the strategic level with regard to weapons of mass destruction.
Let me talk about the tactical level of the quality of intelligence. Never before have we had such a complete picture of enemy tactical dispositions and intentions. I think largely the speed of the campaign was incredibly enabled by the complete picture we had of the enemy on the battlefield.
From an operational point of view, as we did the planning, as General Franks postulated what would happen, all of which was of course enabled by intelligence professionals throughout the community, we came up with a remarkably clear picture of what he would do operationally. We expected to fight the main battle between the line of Karbala, Kut and Baghdad. And we expected it to be fought against the four Republican Guard divisions, and we largely expected their exact positions on the battlefield, and we were prepared, in our overall strategic plan, to take advantage of that.
Certain things about our strategic intelligence were quite good -- for example, the top 55 leaders, where were they, what were they doing, what were they thinking, et cetera. Today we stand at 32 of those top 55 or 52 people in our custody. That's a real tribute to our strategic intelligence, as well as the skill of our special operators that have gone forward and detained many of them.
But it is perplexing to me, Senator, that we have not found weapons of mass destruction, when the evidence was so pervasive that it would exist. After your visit, I called in my intelligence staff because you were so adamant -- not only you, but also Senator Levin -- so adamant about understanding the questions to the weapons of mass destruction.
And I put my intelligence professionals round the table -- and this was before General Franks had arrived in the theater, or perhaps he was out traveling around -- and I said, "Is there anybody around this table who believes we will not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?" And to a man and to a woman, they all said we would find it. So the confidence of the intelligence professionals and my confidence in them was high, and actually it remains high.
It's interesting, as we conducted the campaign, that as we overran positions early in the campaign, that we found an incredible amount of defensively oriented chemical equipment. My -- I surmise from them that they were certainly intending, somewhere in the campaign, to use weapons of mass destruction. As a matter of fact, we had a lot of intelligence that said there was a red line that existed along the line, Kut, al-Amarah, al -- and Karbala -- that once we crossed that line and closed on Baghdad, that we could expect weapons of mass destruction.
In 1991 I'd served in northern Iraq. I had seen up in the Kurdish areas the fact that the Iraqis had used chemicals against their own people. We certainly knew, from studying the campaigns with the Iranians during the eight-year war with the Iranians, that they'd used chemical weapons. And a lot of the intelligence traffic indicated, on a tactical level, as well as a strategic level, that they'd use it against us.
SEN. WARNER: Now let me move on to the question I raised in reading the daily press here, about the training of our people to take on the very risky business that they're undertaking today, tomorrow and in the indefinite future. What can you tell us that? Were we prepared adequately to deal with this insurgency among particularly the Ba'athist Party, which have somehow come together, whether by communications or just old maxims and instructions, and are now, in all probability, at the root cause of the daily loss of life and limb and the insurgency we're seeing? How best can we prevent that, stop it?
And also, to what extent does the mystery of Saddam Hussein still filter down to give incentive to certain elements, particularly the Ba'athists, to promote this insurgency?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, to the broader question as to whether or not we're prepared for environments such as that we now face in Iraq, the answer is yes. We've been serving in places like Kosovo and Bosnia for a long time. The tradition of the United States Army in particular goes back many, many years to constabulary duty all around the world. We have a tradition and we have a sense of training that allow us to deal with these difficult types of conditions. The troops would prefer to be involved in direct combat, as all of us would, because it's cleaner and it's much more easy to deal with.
I think all of us understand that in this part of the world in particular, that it's going to be dangerous duty; that there are people that don't want us to be there, and that they will oppose us being there.
I would characterize the opposition that we face in Iraq as essentially of being of three types. The first is the residual Ba'athist activity that we see in the Ba'athist stronghold on a triangle described by Baghdad, Al Ramadi, Tikrit. That's a very tough area. We believe that there are a number of Ba 'athist cells that continue to operate there. Their level of organization doesn 't seem to be high to me. There is nothing that will defeat us militarily that will come out of that triangle. And the way best to deal with the Ba'athist activity there is to take the battle to them; be offensive, dismantle the cells, kill those who would try to kill us, and be very aggressive.
The second level of activity we see in Iraq is that of what I think is best to describe as radical, anti-American Islamists, although I use the term "Islamists" advisedly because they are very un-Islamic in the way that they go about doing their terrorist activities. We recently had a major strike against a camp of foreign fighters in the western desert that was quite successful. It indicated that there were foreign fighters from places throughout the Middle East. I do not believe that these jihadists are allied with the Ba'athists, but it is clear that they will move towards the ungoverned spaces. And Iraq to a certain extent, in certain areas, is certainly without government, and people are moving into those areas to take advantage of American forces being there to attack us. Again, the way that we need to deal with them is to be offensive; to find them and to attack them, and also to ensure that we pay attention to what's moving along the Syrian, Jordanian and Saudi borders, in particular.
The third level that we find, which is always difficult to deal with because we're not policemen and it has to do with the criminal element. With the complete collapse of security in Iraq, with the dissolution of the Saddam Hussein government, there is no doubt that there is an increase in criminal activity. Some of the criminals are very well armed, and when we come up against them, it appears as if you are dealing with organized military types, but that's not the case. So, again, dealing with the criminal element becomes a tougher problem for us, and that's one that won't be solved by all the soldiers in the United States Army.
That will be solved by building police capacity within Iraq, and time, and training and effort to reform Iraqi police institutions.
SEN. WARNER: I anticipate the Senate will confirm you very promptly. Once you take office, are you going to change the tactics or the rules of engagement to try and give a greater degree of protection to our soldiers?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, the best protection that we can give our soldiers is an offensive spirit in a tough place. That's what they need to have. They need to go out and seek the enemy, they need to bring the fight to the enemy and they need to defeat the enemy. We will be able to do that as long as we don't hunker down in base camps and try to avoid contact. We need to seek contact, we need to be aggressive. And that's what we're doing in Iraq. We have the rules of engagement to do that.
It is mischaracterized, unfortunately, in the press that we are sitting around being attacked. In at least half of the actions that take place there, we are the folks that initiate the contact. So, we will do everything we can to protect our soldiers and maintain an offensive spirit and take the fight to the enemy. And over time, we will bring the situation under control.
SEN. WARNER: Senator Levin?
SEN. LEVIN: General, referring to the same article that Chairman Warner made reference to as to whether or not our forces there are prepared, trained to carry out the tasks that they now have, which are really nation-building tasks, I think, to summarize them without much doubt, would you, first of all, agree that they are adequately prepared for these nation-building tasks? And secondly, would you address the issue as to who's really in charge? What is the relationship between you and Ambassador Bremer, on the civilian side?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir. First of all, there is no strictly- military solution to the problem of bringing stability to Iraq. It requires a national effort. It requires bringing together not only all of the resources of the national community, of the interagency, it also requires bringing together a lot of the resources of the international community.
The military tasks of bringing security and stability are tasks for which we are very adequately prepared. There are requirements for building police forces that are not exactly with what I would describe as a job description for the armed forces of the United States, yet we do that. Marines have done a wonderful job in southern Iraq in building police capacity. We sometimes forget that we have 8,000 police on duty in Baghdad, for example. I think overall, in the entire country, we probably have somewhere around 30 (thousand) or 40,000 police back on duty, and they've been brought back on duty through the good offices of soldiers and Marines.
That having been said, are we prepared to rebuild governmental institutions? No, we're not. And we need to turn to Ambassador Bremer to cause a constitution to be written, to cause political activity to take place that is acceptable to the Iraqi people, that allow institutions to move forward in a manner that will give hope for the future of Iraqis.
That's not a military task and that's not something we're trained for. And we look to Ambassador Bremer on the civilian side to do that. bassador Bremer reports directly to the president through the secretary of Defense as the Coalition Provisional Authority. He brings together all the civil side of the house in ensuring that all the resources that the United States government and the coalition can be -- that can be brought together are brought together to help Iraq move forward and rebuild institutions, et cetera.
He is served by the commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, commanded by Lieutenant General Rick Sanchez, as his military arm. I won't say his military commander, because he does not -- Ambassador Bremer is not in the military chain of command, but clearly, Ambassador Bremer sets broad priorities for General Sanchez. General Sanchez works for General Franks in the direct military chain of command and, of course, then through the secretary of Defense.
So I think that the arrangements with Ambassador Bremer being there, with the Coalition Provisional Authority being given a lot of authority, especially fiscal authority, to build institutions in Iraq will over time make a huge difference.
And I'd like to remind you that we only crossed the line of departure 98 days ago. I think that the progress that we've made is actually amazing. If I were just to relate to you very quickly my impressions of Baghdad -- I've been to Baghdad every week since the end of the war --
SEN. LEVIN: If I could interrupt you because of shortage of time. Forgive me for doing that, but --
GEN. ABIZAID: Certainly.
SEN. LEVIN: -- we only have a few minutes.
Is Sanchez -- he reports to Franks?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: But he is the -- what's the relationship between Sanchez and Bremer?
GEN. ABIZAID: The relationship between Sanchez and Bremer is that General Sanchez coordinates directly with Ambassador Bremer for his broad priorities within Iraq.
SEN. LEVIN: And so Franks reports, then, to the secretary of Defense, and Bremer reports to the secretary of Defense.
GEN. ABIZAID: That's correct, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Which means that in terms of chain of commands, they come together, in terms of unified chain, at the secretary of Defense.
GEN. ABIZAID: That's correct, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Okay.
WE have about 145,000 troops now in Iraq; is that correct?
GEN. ABIZAID: That's correct, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: And do you expect that that number would remain about the same or that it could change up or down somewhat?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, the number can go up and the number can go down. First and foremost, it depends upon the enemy situation. I think right now we have sufficient number of troops to deal with the tasks at hand that we are faced with militarily.
SEN. LEVIN: Do you expect that that number, or approximately that number, would be needed for the foreseeable future?
GEN. ABIZAID: I think that the number can come down once we finish with our current offensive operations, which we'll reevaluate on or about the 30th of June. The other factors that influence it, Senator, are the number of police that are functioning and reliable within Iraq, the number of coalition forces that will come into Iraq that are international forces, and finally, the degree of progress that we have on the Iraqi national army.
SEN. LEVIN: And if it does come down somewhat, for whatever reasons, you think, you estimate that at least for the foreseeable future, that we still will require a significant number of troops in Iraq?
GEN. ABIZAID: For the foreseeable future, we will require a large number of troops for Iraq.
SEN. LEVIN: On the WMD question, I think you're right that just about everybody I know of expected that we would find WMD. And many still do.
I think it's still very possible that we will find WMD, for instance. That confidence level was based on the intelligence that we received. Would you agree with that?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: And when you indicated that you did not -- that you found defensive WMD as you overran positions, or that your forces did, was there -- did they find any offensive WMD, such as artillery shells, or did we find any Scud missiles?
GEN. ABIZAID: No.
SEN. LEVIN: And that's what you indicate is the perplexing incompleteness, is that correct?
GEN. ABIZAID: I thought as we crossed what we termed the red line, that we would overrun artillery units that had chemical warheads.
SEN. LEVIN: And finally, in terms of the relationship between the military forces and Bremer, has there been any change since Bremer arrived in that relationship from what it was when Garner was there?
GEN. ABIZAID: I think the number one change is that we co- located the headquarters of General Sanchez with that of Ambassador Bremer. I think it was a very good decision to make, to bring the two of them together so they could coordinate very, very closely on day- to-day operations. And that's the biggest change I would note.
SEN. LEVIN: But Sanchez still reports to you?
GEN. ABIZAID: He reports to General Franks, yes sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Excuse me.
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: He will be reporting to you, hopefully, in the next couple of days.
GEN. ABIZAID: I hope so, if you confirm me. (Laughs.)
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you. I'm confident he will be reporting to you within the next couple of days.
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator Levin.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R-KS): General, welcome. Thank you for visiting with me on Monday. And has already been indicated by the chairman, I think we truly appreciate your candor and the information you provided us concerning challenges that CENTCOM faces. And when we were in your AOR just prior to the kickoff of the military operations, as I have told you personally, we always get the Power Point presentations and the various slides -- we just had a very frank visit with you. And in terms of forthrightness and candor and frankness, you were -- I think you gave us the best briefing that we received.
It may have already been mentioned, Mr. Chairman, but it certainly bears repeating that this is very much a family affair for this nominee. His daughter, only 24, is now in Qatar, working important issues as a DOD civilian. His son-in-law just came back from Afghanistan. And his son, Pfc Abizaid, just came back from Korea. This is a remarkable family with remarkable dedication and service to our country.
Let me just follow up, if I might. We had a discussion that the chairman has already gone into, and as well as Senator Levin. You mentioned the foreign intervention and the criminal element, the ongoing challenges in regards to the Sunnis, the Shi'as and the de- Ba'athism -- the de-Ba'athization -- I think that was your word; I'm not sure there is a word, but we just -- you know, we just coined a new one -- and that that -- all the problems or all the challenges that that entails.
And I wanted you to touch a little bit on Saddam Hussein. There were some comments made immediately after the major war effort was declared over, that it didn't make much difference -- now, I know you didn't say this -- but it didn't make much difference whether he was alive or dead, that the regime was changed.
I think it makes a great deal of difference. You reflected on that with me, in regards to the fear factor, that -- and the tribal influence, that after 30 years of degradation and absolute barbaric rule, that perhaps we underestimated the fear factor and also the factor, in the Ba'athist loyalists and the Saddam Hussein Fedayeen, that if there is hope he is alive, that there would be some sliver of hope they may be restored to their position of power. Would you amplify on that a little bit?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir. I agree with you, Senator, that it's very important to confirm or deny whether Saddam Hussein is alive or dead. It's important because the fear factor is high. It's important because he was a brutal dictator that killed hundreds of thousands of his own people. And it's important for the Iraqi people to come to closure with this nightmare that he imposed upon them.
I believe that the Ba'athist Party 30-year reign of terror will not come to an end easily until we can show them that not only can we get 32 of the 52, but we can get 52 of the 52. And so we need to continue to answer the question whether he's alive or dead. And I would say, Senator, that it is an open question as to whether he is alive or dead.
Certainly the capture of the number-four man on the list, Abid Hamid, is a very important step. I don't know that we could necessarily believe what he is telling us, but I do know that when you start finding people like him, you're on the right trail.
It's also important to note that it's just not us looking for Saddam. There are literally hundreds and thousands of Iraqis that are looking for him as well, because they have a score to settle with him. There's not a family in Iraq that hasn't in some way suffered.
That having been said, he does have a very strong tribal loyalty up in the Tikrit area, and that tribal loyalty will not be easily broken.
SEN. ROBERTS: Could you amplify a little bit on Desert Scorpion, which is -- you mentioned the need to engage the foreign interventionists in regards to the young jihadists that are coming from all over the Mideast. Seems to me that following their line of thinking, that instead of attacking a consulate, an embassy, a hospital or something of this nature, that if in fact they wanted to take part against the "Great Satan," all they had to do was come to Iraq, and there are 145,000 Americans there that become targets.
But you also indicated to me that through Desert Scorpion, that not only did we engage, but we set them back considerably, and this was a lot different kind of situation that they had originally thought (sic). So are we making progress in regards to that kind of a situation?
GEN. ABIZAID: Senator, every --
SEN. ROBERTS: Have we set them back, in other words?
GEN. ABIZAID: Senator, I believe that in the broader global war on terrorism, especially in the CENTCOM area of operations, that we've made a lot of progress. We've set the terrorists back in Afghanistan, we set the terrorists back in Iraq, and we've set the terrorists back in other places. Every terrorist that we find and kill in the Middle East is one less that'll find his way to the United States to kill us here. So we need to bring the war to them, and Desert Scorpion was a perfect example of how we could do that.
SEN. ROBERTS: It's my understanding that we will be getting some international help and dividing up sectors of Iraq along the lines of Kosovo, if that is an allegorical example. I don't know if it is or not. Poland and the Brits -- any other of the allies, in regards to your information, that may be providing some assistance?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, we will be receiving about 30,000 coalition troops between now and September.
And I know the department is working on bringing more coalition forces in. We have a British division that will be in the south; that will include Italian, Dutch and other contingents. The Polish division will go into the south-central portion. That will include some Ukrainian and other contingents. I know that the department is talking with other nations as well about bringing in coalition forces.
I would prefer to take that one for the record, Senator --
SEN. ROBERTS: Certainly.
GEN. ABIZAID: -- and give you a complete list, rather than try to do it from memory.
SEN. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, my time has expired. Just let me say, I will use the hackneyed expression, but it's very true in this particular case, that this general is the right man for the right job at the right time.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Senator Roberts. I think you'll find strong concurrence in that observation among the members of the committee.
SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): Well thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
And welcome, General Abizaid.
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir.
SEN. REED: I've had the privilege of knowing John Abizaid for 30 years. We were lieutenants together in the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Back then it was certain he'd be a general, and certain I'd be a civilian. And we both accomplished -- (laughter) --
SEN. WARNER: How certain that you'd become a senator, though?
SEN. REED: Well, that was uncertain.
GEN. ABIZAID: We were certain of that!
SEN. REED: And I will second the comments of all my colleagues. There is no one better prepared for this important assignment, this critical assignment, than John Abizaid. And it's a function of his intellect, his experience and his character. And all those virtues will be tested mightily in the days ahead.
And I will also second his recognition of his wife, Kathy, and his family. They have been an integral part of everything he's done. And I don't think it was humility, Mr. Chairman, it was just sheer honesty that he gave credit to Kathy for all the good things that happened in his life. He's an honest person.
So, John, I'm delighted -- General, I'm delighted that you're here and that you're going to take on this responsibility.
One of the aspects I think that we're facing today in Iraq is an insurgency, which is already causing us casualties, which is directed against infrastructure, which is -- it's unclear yet whether it's well organized or it's simply spontaneous, but it is an insurgency. Can you give us your estimate of whether the situation will get worse before it gets better? Or are we -- frankly, are we, in the days ahead for some very difficult times before it's resolved?
GEN. ABIZAID: I think, Senator, that we are certainly in for some difficult days ahead periodically. It wouldn't be safe to say that the situation is going to continue to get worse. As a matter of fact, I believe the thing that a lot of people underestimate is the degree to which Iraqis want military activity to end as well. There is a lot of support for the coalition presence, and there will be more support for the coalition presence as we build governmental institutions that are good for the future of Iraq.
So I think over time, as you move forward on the economic, diplomatic and political fronts, that you will have less military activity directed against you. But we shouldn't kid ourselves about the fact that we can be the subject of terrorist attacks in Iraq, because we know people are coming our way. And we shouldn't kid ourselves about the ability of Ba'athist groups to come forward and strike Americans or British or other soldiers in a way that causes a lot of casualties.
That having been said, I just would like to say that the -- there are a lot of people in the Middle East that believe that our weakness is our inability to stay the course, and they believe that two casualties today, two casualties tomorrow, four the next day, will eventually drive us out. And it is a belief that they hold firmly, and we need to be just as firm that we can't be driven out.
SEN. REED: Well, I concur with your assessment that there is a probably a thought that if we suffer casualties, we will be driven out. But one important way to maintain this public support that's necessary is to be absolutely candid and forthright about the costs that we will bear, both in terms of personnel, in terms of time, and in terms of resources. And that's something, I think, if we don't, then the American people will react unfavorably if they feel that they have not been given all those facts. I am confident you will do that.
Let me raise the issue of troop levels. I know we had a chance to chat about this in the office. I concur that in this situation, intelligence is absolutely critical. Adding more troops without good intelligence is probably not effective. But it seems that there areas in the country that are essentially -- because we can't cover them -- refuges for organization or for recovery of these groups.
In addition to that, it appears also that they're targeting pipelines and other facilities which might require active patrolling. In the context of the evolving situation, do we need more forces there?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, my estimate is that we do not at the present time. But I also want to assure the committee that should we think we need more, we will ask for more. The protection of the infrastructure is a problem that we have to look at very carefully. Right now, we have a lot of Iraqis helping us in the protection of that infrastructure. I think we'll find that over time, that there will be sufficient Iraqi interest in protecting their future and they will do that. If, on the other hand, attacks against the infrastructure continue to score a lot of damage, then we'll have to re-look the way that we use our forces.
To me, there are sufficient forces to do what we have to do. But we can't get locked into this notion of a certain number of soldiers per square kilometer. The way that you conduct military operations most effectively is to free up your forces for offensive action and move to where the problem is. And that's what we intend to do. But we won't hesitate to ask for more if we need them, sir.
SEN. REED: Let me raise an issue again about this intelligence situation. I was very surprised that it appears there were no weapons of mass destruction deployed with Iraqi forces. That is a fact now. That's not an argument of debate, is it? We can establish that as a fact, that you have found no deployed weapons. Is that correct?
GEN. ABIZAID: That's correct. We've found no deployed weapons. And I expected that we would have.
SEN. REED: And frankly, you weren't alone in that expectation. And I'm -- my time has expired, but if I can have one minute --
SEN. WARNER: Finish your question. This is important.
SEN. REED: Your experience in these matters is much greater than anyone on this panel, but I would have assumed that there would be tell-tale signs of a chemical weapon or chemical artillery rounds; that in a situation where you had penetrated their signals so completely, even random comments about special weapons, all those things, the configuration -- I recall seeing something yesterday that Secretary Powell at the U.N. was briefing about a facility which he declared was a -- contained chemical weapons. Did you have that kind of intel? I mean, were you targeting sites that you thought, before you crossed the LD, had chemical weapons?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir. We had about 1,000 sites that we thought, in one way or the other, were related to chemical weapons, or biological weapons or the nuclear program. But we issued orders as we crossed the line that I described before -- Kut, al-Amarah, Karbala -- to increase our targeting against artillery, because we had indications from intelligence that they were getting ready to distribute chemical weapons to forward Republican Guard artillery units. That's what we thought, and so we really targeted those artillery units, in particular, very, very hard.
So, the answer to the question is I am, again, perplexed as to what happened. And I can't offer a reasonable explanation with regard to what has happened. But I believe that when the Iraqi Survey Group conducts their work, that through the documents we look at, through the interviews that we conduct and through the people that are going to come forward, that we'll piece the picture together, but I think it will take some time.
SEN. REED: If I can make one additional comment, which doesn't require a response by the general. There are many -- and I was included in that category -- that felt that there might be weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But that was only one part of assessing the threat which would require a military option. The other was the intention of the regime to use them and deploy them. And I think certainly right now we have to reevaluate whether our intelligence was effectively gauging the intention, the capability or the will of that regime to use weapons of mass destruction, which is a critical question, I suspect, in the calculation to employ a military option.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. WARNER: I thank the senator. An important line of questions. And I think this very hearing in open is doing precisely what the senator desires, and that 's the responsibility of this committee to probe in these areas with the witnesses that come before us.
If my colleagues would indulge the prerogative of the chair, you say that you 're at a loss, and that's a very candid response, but I've often, in my consultations with the senior officers, heard that the fact that this campaign as orchestrated by the secretary of Defense, together with General Franks and yourself, was launched without the pattern followed in '91 -- namely, of some 30-day air laydown -- Saddam Hussein probably was anticipating some parallelism between the two campaigns. The fact that from launch time to 17 days, you overcame Baghdad, he, in his structure of command and control, probably was totally caught off-guard. And to the extent that he was contemplating the use of these weapons of mass destruction and, as our colleague said, for deploying with the units, that timetable was, I think, drastically thrown off by the initiatives -- the bold initiatives by the coalition forces. Could that possibly be an answer?
GEN. ABIZAID: It's possible, Senator. But I think -- when you said I said I was at a loss -- my wife thinks I'm at a loss an awful lot. But --
SEN. WARNER: That's all right, it's just human nature.
GEN. ABIZAID: I believe that if we had interrupted the movement of chemical weapons from the depots to the guns, that we would have found them in the depots. But we've looked in the depots, and they're not there. So the question is, at what point did the government of Iraq make some decision to move its weapons and hide its weapons somewhere, or --
SEN. WARNER: Or destroy.
GEN. ABIZAID: -- destroy them. Before the war, we picked up movement at the depots that we thought meant that they were certainly moving things forward for use in military operations. It may very well have been that they had received the order quite to the contrary, to get rid of them. But I don't know, and I think we won't know for a while.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you.
GEN. ABIZAID: But we will know.
SEN. WARNER: Senator Inhofe. Oh, excuse me, he has departed momentarily. So we have Senator Sessions.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to associate my remarks, General Abizaid, with the others congratulating you on your fine service. I think there are few people better qualified for Central Command than you. Just looking over your background, it's just extraordinary. You've got a master's from Harvard in Middle Eastern studies, you've been in combat and you've led troops on the field; a good combination of Athens and Sparta, maybe. It is a challenge, I know.
But some of your experience is extraordinary, and I would like to ask you about that and how it might apply to what we can expect to see as we seek to have this country of Iraq reestablish itself as a legitimate nation.
But one thing first I'd like to ask about.
To me, I always felt that one of the major justifications for confronting Saddam Hussein was the fact that we really never ended the 1991 Gulf War. We were flying aircraft from Turkey and Saudi -- no- fly zones, we were patrolling the Persian Gulf, enforcing an embargo, we had troops in Kuwait to guarantee he did not move again. I'm not sure that the American people are -- some of us in Congress have thought a minute just about how much we were expending each year in terms of personnel, manpower and aircraft to keep Saddam Hussein in his box. Could you give us any thoughts about what all was involved in just maintaining the status quo before this war commenced?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, that's -- that's a great point. I -- we did expend a considerable amount of national treasure and effort in keeping Saddam in the box. We had Operation Southern Watch going; that flew hundreds and thousands of hours over southern Iraq. We had Operation Northern Watch going that flew hundreds and thousands of hours over northern Iraq. We spent years bombing antiaircraft positions, we spent a considerable amount of time in operations such as Desert Fox, et cetera, to try to keep Saddam in the box. And so, those were good efforts, they were valiant efforts, but ultimately they weren't enough. And I think that bringing this brutal regime down with as many of the hundreds of thousands of people that he killed was a good thing in its own right.
SEN. SESSIONS: I would certainly agree, and would point out that that effort we were expending was in the name and on behalf of the United Nations, enforcing the resolutions that the United Nations had passed, and we were the primary enforcer of that.
You spent some time in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. You dealt with the people there. Somehow that group of people managed to carve out for themselves a semi-functioning territory and government. How did that happen, and is there anything we could learn from that success to how we could create a successful new government in the whole nation of Iraq?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, I think the success of the Kurdish enclave in terms of building their own prosperity and building their own institutions is one that we all should look at, because when freed of the terror of Saddam Hussein and his intelligence services and his armed forces, they moved forward in a very clear way to build a better society for themselves. And the Iraqi people are very talented. They have a great amount of resources. And over time they will build a society that is better than the one that Saddam Hussein gave them. I am very confident about that. But it is not something that'll happen overnight. It'll take some time. They will have to build their confidence.
If you look in the Shi'a south right now, for example, Senator, the Shi'a are experiencing a degree of freedom and ability to live their lives free from interference and terror in a way that they've never experienced before. And I think we shouldn't lose sight of that. The Iraqis have a great opportunity ahead of them to move forward with us. And what we need to do is be smart enough to figure out how to make sure that we move forward with them.
SEN. SESSIONS: I think you stated that very well.
In the Kurdish area, we've heard reports that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurds.
You've been there. Is that true? And what kind of weapons did he utilize? And what kind of casualties can you describe for us?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, we certainly know that he used chemical weapons, and it's very well-known that he used them in the village of Halabja on the northeastern side of the Kurdish areas, near Sulimaniyah.
And the number of casualties -- I would hesitate to really give you that number, but I -- at least 5,000 people were killed in that particular attack. And it's clear to me that he used them elsewhere.
It's also clear and we know beyond any shadow of a doubt that he used chemical weapons against the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq War. So there is no doubt that he had chemical weapons, that he used what we believe was nerve agents against the Kurds in Halabja, and there's certainly no doubt that he had any (sic) scruples about using these weapons of mass destruction.
SEN. SESSIONS: And to me, the fact that he never demonstrated that he deliberately and openly destroyed those weapons led anyone to the fair conclusion that they were still in his possession, Mr. Chairman. That's the way I saw it from the beginning. The United Nations in 1998, when they were forced out, the inspectors were, they left with a final conclusion that there were large stores of weapons of mass destruction. We never had any proof or he never produced any proof that he destroyed them or got rid of them. So to me, as a lawyer, you know, the case was made and was never rebutted up until the time the conflict started.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Senator.
I think, at this juncture in the record, the senator's brought out the use of WMD by Saddam Hussein. You've responded. You should also address here the killing fields which were discovered by your advancing forces. What were the weapons utilized there? Just conventional? Or is any evidence -- and for what reason did he destroy so many of his own population? And you discovered these mass graves in many instances in your advance. Could you elaborate on that?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir. As early as 1991, when we operated in Iraq, we found mass graves. Certainly since the conclusion of combat operations we've found an awful lot of mass graves, especially in the area of Al Hillah, which is south of Baghdad. We'll continue to find more mass graves.
The method that he used is about as brutal as you can imagine, Senator. Women and children in there -- sometimes you find them with bullet holes in the back of the skull. Sometimes you find them with no marks whatsoever, and you have to wonder whether or not they just weren't thrown into the pit to be buried alive. That's certainly what survivors tell us happened.
There is no more brutal regime that ever existed in the Middle East than this particular regime. We should shed no tear for the Ba'athist, and we should be resolute in prosecuting those that perform these horrible things.
SEN. WARNER: And many children were found in these graves.
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir.
SEN. WARNER: Some of them clutching their own prized toys, dolls and otherwise, as they went to their death. Is that correct?
GEN. ABIZAID: Well, that's correct, Senator. What you can imagine of the killing fields of Nazi Germany or Cambodia were every bit as much as active in Iraq as those other places.
SEN. WARNER: I thank you, Senator Nelson, for the indulgence of the chair's question.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D-FL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And welcome, General, and welcome to Mrs. Abizaid. Welcome to Florida. I hope Tampa is greeting you appropriately and taking care of you. And MacDill is a good place, and you're in one of the historical residences there. So we're glad to have you.
General, I would like for the record for you to state what you stated to me in our personal conversation about looking for Scott Speicher.
GEN. ABIZAID: Well, thanks, Senator. First, let me say my wife has been in Tampa for about six months. I've been assigned to Tampa for six months, and I've seen it for six days. And I like the six days that I've seen it, and I hope to spend more time there. Thank you for your hospitality. It's a great place.
Sir, Scott Speicher. It's really amazing, when you think about it, that we've had two wars with Iraq and there's only one person that we can't account for, and that's Scott Speicher. We had a very, very robust effort that attempted to confirm or deny his location, whether he was alive or whether he had died as a result of either being in Iraqi captivity or as a result of the crash of his aircraft. We have --
SEN. WARNER: Excuse me, General. I think for the record, those following these proceedings, you better give a little historical context of when he was lost, his branch of service, and the like. Many people are interested, and I think it's important that you put that --
SEN. BILL NELSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Scott Speicher, who is from Jacksonville, was shot down on the first night of the Gulf War in 1991. We walked away from a downed pilot through a series of mistakes. When we asked for the exchange of POWs, we did not ask for him. He had been declared dead, mistakenly. We asked for his remains; they didn't have his remains, they had him. Sightings from corroborated witnesses, there's reasonable degree to think that it's credible that he was sighted as recently as 1998.
And so you can imagine the trauma that the family is going through, having him first declared dead, then about five years later, the Department of Defense changes his status from killed in action to missing in action. And last fall, the secretary of the Navy changed his status to missing, captured, which is POW. So that's the background, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for the opportunity to clarify.
SEN. WARNER: I thank the senator.
GEN. ABIZAID: Well, Senator, as you know, we had an awful lot of places that we wanted to look into that were associated, as a result of the intelligence we had as to places that he could have been moved to or been incarcerated in, et cetera.
There was one intriguing find at the Hakmiyah prison, where we saw the initials MSS scrawled on one of the walls. Certainly Michael Scott Speicher -- hard to wonder what else that could have meant.
But in all of our searching, we have yet to find evidence that he was alive or in the hands of the Iraqis. We have questioned a lot of people. In the same vein as WMD, we've got a lot of work yet to do, and we owe it to him, we owe it to all men and women that serve in the uniform that we will figure out what happened to him and conclude this case. And we will continue to look.
SEN. BILL NELSON: When the chairman had his committee to meet with the secretary yesterday, Secretary Rumsfeld gave me his latest classified briefing on Speicher. We discussed the public information that we made public yesterday, that Major General Keith Dayton has been appointed to oversee not only the WMD search, but also the search for Captain Speicher.
SEN. WARNER: He's in charge of the 1,400-person force --
SEN. BILL NELSON: Yes, sir.
SEN. WARNER: -- constituted by Secretary Rumsfeld to be specifically tasked with weapons of mass discussion (sic) issues, prisoner issues and other matters.
SEN. BILL NELSON: And Speicher.
SEN. WARNER: Scott Speicher, that's the important -- (inaudible).
SEN. BILL NELSON: And that's important. I handed the secretary a personal letter from the family yesterday, asking that a high-level person be appointed. They specifically had asked that -- be appointed to report to Bremer. The secretary feels like this should go up through Central Command, and so they will be reporting to you there, General. And I wanted just to get this on the table, because this is important.
I'm coming to Iraq. I can't go with the chairman because of previous obligations on his trip that's coming up next week. But I'm going to come as soon thereafter that I can get out there. And I want to talk to General Dayton. I want to go to that prison cell. I want to go to any of the graves that you're examining. I want to talk to the investigators, the team, the special team. I want to talk to any prisoners, anything. This is the least I can do for the family.
Let me ask you --
SEN. WARNER: Before we depart on that, Senator Roberts will be accompanying me.
SEN. BILL NELSON: Yes, sir.
SEN. WARNER: And as you know, he's been working with you in conjunction on this case, as chairman of the Intelligence Committee and his own personal interest, which he shared with you.
SEN. BILL NELSON: Well, Senator Roberts and I are joined at the hip on this. We do everything in coordination with each other.
Well, they've just given me a blue slip --
SEN. WARNER: (Inaudible) -- no, why don't you take an extra bit of time here?
SEN. BILL NELSON: May I?
There is a story in today's London Times: "Resurgent Taliban forces have reorganized their command structure to fight against coalition troops in Afghanistan and President Karzai's government." Can you give us your thoughts on that and what we ought to do about it, differently than what we're doing now?
GEN. ABIZAID: Senator, thanks for bringing up the issue of Afghanistan. As we focus a lot on Iraq, sometimes we lose sight of the fact that there's 10,000 U.S. troops up there, and they are fighting in tough circumstances. And nearly every day, there's some sort of an engagement with either Taliban remnants, al Qaeda or other Afghan groups that seek to overthrow the Karzai government. As a matter of fact, my old regiment of paratroopers is up there, and they're doing a wonderful job. I visited them the other day.
We've achieved a lot in Afghanistan. We've denied it as a safe haven for al Qaeda, we've taken out the Taliban government and we've given the Karzai government an opportunity to move forward. I think it's safe to say that there's a lot of work that still needs to be done in Afghanistan.
Is there some degree of Taliban resurgence? I don't know that I'd use the word "resurgence," but I would say there is a danger from the Taliban that we shouldn't underestimate. And does President Karzai deserve the respect and support of the international community? I think the answer is absolutely, yes. And as we are now able to focus more broadly throughout the theater, I certainly will reevaluate what we're doing militarily in Afghanistan and have discussions with the secretary about what the way ahead is there.
SEN. BILL NELSON: Mr. Chairman, I have one more question --
SEN. WARNER: Yes, go ahead.
SEN. BILL NELSON: -- but I'll wait until our colleagues --
SEN. WARNER: Well, I think our colleagues would be glad to indulge you, because we had to take some special time on behalf of Speicher.
SEN. BILL NELSON: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General, you had said that the movement at the depots, the intelligence from that, is what had led you to believe that when you crossed the red line, that you were going to find that they had deployed the chemical weapons. And my question is, as the chairman has launched this investigation into what went wrong with the intelligence, this morning The New York Times is reporting a expert said to tell legislators that he was pressed to distort some evidence. This is a senior intelligence expert named Christian Westermann. If we have the shading of intelligence to operational commanders like you, that is a fairly significant -- if true -- detriment for a military commander, I would assume. We don't know the answer, because the chairman's going to have his investigation; but any comments?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, I firmly believe that there was no distortion of the intelligence. I looked at it as a military professional. My subordinates looked at it as military professionals. I really believe that the intelligence communities did their best to give us their best judgment about what they thought, and that that's what happened. That we didn't get it completely right is what I consider to be a fact. Will we figure out what we didn't know? I think we will. But again I would like to emphasize, as I said previously, that there were huge successes of intelligence in other areas, especially about the Iraqi battlefield, order of battle, et cetera.
So I believe that there is no finer intelligence community in the world than ours. Do we have to do better? Should we -- should we look to see what went wrong and make sure we understand it so we can fix those problems? Absolutely. It's essential we do so.
SEN. BILL NELSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Senator Nelson.
And I'm glad you were emphasizing the point that tactical intelligence, time and time again the accuracy was confirmed by various steps in your military operations.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): Thank you.
Morning, General. I'm interested in the process of, obviously, first providing security in the country, but then what steps are being taken to make sure that the Iraqis have a reasonable opportunity to create a democracy, a representative form of government within their country and one that recognizes the basic human rights of the Iraqi people -- to speak, to worship as they see fit according to their conscience, to exercise their right of consent to the laws and the policies that govern them.
I'd be interested in your -- well, first of all, I guess, given the joint nature of the arrangements between Ambassador Bremer and General Sanchez, is that something that CENTCOM is intimately involved in, or is that something that Ambassador Bremer is doing in connection with the State Department?
Could you describe who has responsibility for that -- that process.
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir. Ambassador Bremer has the lead for re- making the governmental institutions. He has a group of some extremely talented folks from all over the U.S. government that are putting teams together that will eventually help the Iraqis with the constitutional process. And he reaches out to Iraqi leadership, political leadership almost daily. He has a(n) extremely active program to build a representative government within Iraq.
And as you know, Senator, this is really probably the toughest of all missions. There's no real tradition of democracy as we know it in Iraq. We wish them luck, and they'll need a lot of help. But I think that if anybody can make it happen, it's the people that are working for Ambassador Bremer and Ambassador Bremer himself. There is great interest in doing it right. And, of course, there are many conflicting opinions. The important aspect that Central Command brings to the table is our ability to provide a secure environment in which meetings can be held, in which people can express their opinions, et cetera.
So, yes, we are partnering in this. But as I mentioned before, their -- the Iraq problem won't be fixed by any single solution, not by a single military solution or a single governmental solution. We have to move together economically, militarily, diplomatically and on governmental reform together. And as we do that, things will improve.
SEN. CORNYN: I know immediately after the main hostilities ended there was various comments made -- I believe General Garner and others had expressed -- maybe it was their hope as opposed to their -- a realistic expectation, but how long that we would need to stay to provide that help and assistance to the Iraqi people as they attempt to establish the rule of law in a representative government. Do you have an opinion as to what sort of timetable that we may be looking at before the Iraqi people are able to take that responsibility in hand without perhaps risking the loss of everything that we've been able to gain through the great effort of our military forces in such a brief period of time?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, the Iraqi people are moving ahead and are very anxious to take charge of the political process of their own future. And that is exactly what we want them to do. And Ambassador Bremer is there to assist, not to dictate.
The process will take time. Governmental and institutional reform will take a long time. And I would certainly say that American engagement in that regard will be measured in years. The military side of the engagement will depend upon whether or not we are successful in building Iraqi police institutions, Iraqi military institutions, and the presence of other international forces. And while I will only say that our military involvement there will be certainly a long one, I wouldn't want to -- I wouldn't want to characterize how long I think it's going to be. But it can come down as we have success on the institutional front.
SEN. CORNYN: I actually am very glad to hear you say that, because I think it 's far more realistic than perhaps some of the statements that were made immediately following the main conflict about our desire to get in and out quickly. And, of course, maybe that was our desire, but the reality is, I believe, as you have expressed it. And we have some history of reconstruction post-war in places like Japan and Germany and -- which obviously is on the order of years, not days or weeks. I was concerned, and I'd be interested in your comment on this, after the Gulf War we encouraged some Iraqis to rise up against Saddam, and then we left, and he used that as an opportunity to repress, indeed, to murder, thousands of Iraqis. Until we actually find Saddam and account for him, whether dead or alive, is -- do you view that as a pivotal event that will assist us in moving forward and the Iraqi people moving forward? Do you feel like they are hesitating now because of their uncertainty as to his outcome?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, in the north they're not hesitating. The Kurdish population is moving forward. And in the south, the Shi'a are very, very active politically. And as far as they're concerned, they're not overly worried that Saddam will reappear. The real problem is in the Sunni heartland. And we need to ensure that we can account for Saddam Hussein so that the people that were on his -- on his team before and are supporting violence against our forces understand that there's no future for them. We also need those members of the Sunni community that would otherwise be afraid to come forward and establish some sort of political activity in the Sunni community that is outside the scope of the Ba'ath Party. I think some of them are hesitant to do that until we close out the case of Saddam.
SEN. CORNYN: Thank you, general.
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir.
SEN. WARNER: I presume that if there were any new facts regarding Saddam Hussein you'd have shared it with the community here -- I mean, the Senate here this morning. And there are no new facts on that.
GEN. ABIZAID: No -- no new facts, sir.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you very much.
SEN. WAYNE ALLARD (R-CO): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'd like to join my colleagues in wishing you well in your new position. I think you're going to be confirmed, and I think you bring to that position the experience that's needed. And so we -- I wish you well.
As a field commander, you obviously look at a number of scenarios, what-if situations that can happen when you're on that battlefield. I would assume that you appreciated the fact that you were warned of the possibility that there could have been weapons of mass destruction. Is that correct?
GEN. ABIZAID: That's correct, sir.
SEN. ALLARD: And as commander -- or in -- as in Central Command, I suppose that you will make every effort that you possibly can to warn your field commanders of any possibility of weapons of mass destruction, that they may occur on the battlefield.
GEN. ABIZAID: That's correct, sir.
SEN. ALLARD: And I think that -- you know, sometimes you expect things to be there. But when you show up and find out they're not there, there is a sigh of relief to a certain degree because you didn't have to contend with it, but also I think you appreciate the fact that you were warned of that possibility and could have that contingency in mind as you move forward.
Let me talk a little -- raise a question related to -- relation to the whole command area that you will be serving or in command of and talk a little bit about the base realignment that apparently is going on, at least is what's been reported in the media.
The press has reported the United States has pulled out most of -- or not -- maybe all of its air assets out of Incirlik, that Air Force base in Turkey, and is in the process of downsizing at Prince Sultan Air Force Base in Saudi Arabia. They are both major command centers, as I understand it.
What were the reasons for withdrawing from these bases? And have we found suitable sites in neighboring countries to replace these once critical bases?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, for Incirlik, Incirlik is in the European Command area of responsibility. And while there is some drawdown going on there, there is certainly a desire by the European Command to maintain a very strong relationship with our Turkish allies.
During the war, we got a tremendous amount of support. Despite the fact that our land forces didn't come across the border, we did receive a lot of support from the Turks.
But I would defer the -- any questions about Incirlik to the European Command.
As for Saudi Arabia, yes, we are drawing down on our forces at Prince Sultan Air Base, and we have other areas in the Persian Gulf that have readily accepted U.S. forces, that allowed us to operate from there during the war.
I would like to take the question for the record, because there are certain local sensitivities in the region about acknowledgement of the amount of force and the effectiveness of it, et cetera. But I would like to emphasize that we have a very good and strong relationship with the Saudi Arabians, and they were very supportive during the war. I think it's clear to the Saudis that they're facing the same enemies that we face in the world of terrorism and that together we're going to have to work very, very hard to face this threat.
So I anticipate our relationship with the Saudis to continue to be strong. We won't have the same footprint there, but we will have a very strong and important relationship in getting after the terrorists, together.
SEN. ALLARD: I thank you for that response.
I'd like to talk a little bit about the space-based assets that you utilized in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Would you give us an assessment of their -- of the performance of these assets? And if you have the insight, can you give us any idea of additional capabilities that you'd like to see in future combat?
GEN. ABIZAID: The space-based assets perform magnificently. To have a complete picture of the enemy, as complete a picture of the enemy as we had with regard to their military formations, has an awful lot to do with our domination of information technologies, of space- based things.
I don't want to go into the classified parts that you're well familiar with, Senator, other than to say that there were other programs that gave us great service as well, that are classified, and I'd be happy to talk to you about it in a classified session.
In terms of what more could we get out of our space-based assets, we need to exploit our ability to dominate the information spectrum from space more and more in the future. It's just critically important. Our ability to sense, our ability to see, our ability to hear, our ability to broadcast can all be enhanced by space-based assets.
And I think it's only our imagination that would keep us from being able to enhance our ability to fight wars more efficiently using space assets, even if they're not weaponized.
SEN. ALLARD: And that gets back to the basic question of what happened to the weapons of mass destruction in many regards.
Talk a little bit about the Patriot missile system. That -- they shot down a number of Iraqi ballistic missiles. There were a couple of friendly fire incidents. Would you talk a little bit about that system and how it operated?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, I have great confidence in the Patriot system. We have to very thoroughly investigate what happened on the friendly fire incidents. I don 't -- I haven't had an opportunity to look at the work that the Army's doing to try to understand what went wrong technically there. I think there are some similarities in the incidents. But I certainly know that the Patriot systems protected our forces very well from ballistic missiles that were fired at them. And so, I have a lot of confidence in it. But it's important that we understand what technical problems caused the friendly fire incidents and correct them right away.
SEN. ALLARD: Thank you for your answer.
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir.
SEN. ALLARD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. WARNER: Do you want another question or two here, Senator? We've all taken an additional question.
SEN. ALLARD: Well, let me -- just one question, if I might, Mr. Chairman.
You mentioned in your advanced questions to the committee that, and I quote, our ability to strike rapidly sometimes exceeds our ability to sense and assess the effects as quickly as we would have liked. Can you please expound on that? Did you have sufficient intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets? And in a perfect world, what additional ISR capabilities would you like to have?
GEN. ABIZAID: ISR is in chronically short supply for the department. And I think we need more ISR assets with our worldwide responsibilities in order to make sure we're sensing our environment better. I believe that the secretary would not be surprised by that answer.
With regard to the comment in my written questions, it really had to do with a period that we went through where the battle damage assessment process was not working as efficiently as General Franks would have liked it to work. This was during the stage of the battle when we were up on the Karbala-Kut line, facing the Republican Guards. We did not think that the turnaround time on the assessments of what damage we were doing to the enemy came to us quickly enough. I'm not sure whether that's a technical problem or a process problem. I tend to believe it's more of a process problem. But certainly, we need to always improve our ability to sense what we've done to the enemy so that we can take advantage of the weaknesses that we perceive. And that requires some work.
SEN. ALLARD: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you very much.
My distinguished ranking member is trying to cover two hearings at one time, so I'll defer my further questions until you've completed yours.
SEN. LEVIN: I appreciate that very much, Mr. Chairman.
Just a few additional questions, General. First, as it relates to the recent events in Syria, or next to Syria, relative to that convoy, what was the intelligence about that convoy? What did we expect it to be? What did it turn out to be? That's, kind of, question one.
GEN. ABIZAID: Senator, I believe that it would be very important for me to discuss this with you in a classified session.
SEN. LEVIN: All right. Including what it turned out to be?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir. I --
SEN. LEVIN: That's okay. I don't want -- that's fine if that's the way it should be.
Secondly, we've got a new organization there now that's looking for weapons of mass destruction, significantly larger than the previous one, which I think was the 75th Exploitation Task Force, if I have it correctly.
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Can you tell us the way in which the mission functions and capabilities of the new group, the Iraq Survey Group, differs from the 75th Exploitation Task Force?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir. The 75th Exploitation Task Force, I would describe them as the blue-collar WMD searchers. We, of course, thought that we could send them to specific targets, that they would need to do the muscle work, the technical work, to recover weapons of mass destruction quickly and then bring them back to us. So they were equipped more for moving, finding and quickly exploiting.
SEN. WARNER: Could I interrupt a minute? I've just been informed that this clock is not functioning. A vote was called and all time's expired. They're waiting for our votes.
So you get a break. (Laughter.)
GEN. ABIZAID: (Inaudible) -- sir.
SEN. WARNER: I'll be back.
GEN. ABIZAID: Thank you.
SEN. WARNER: (Sounds gavel.) General, we'll continue the hearing. I will have to vote again and then come back, and we'll conclude it. Senator Levin is just unable to return, but he asks that when I depart for the next vote, could you put into the record your full response to his question.
And Madame Recorder, if you would read back to him the question, the general can then have it fresh in mind and reply. But I'd like to continue with my questions now, and then Senator Levin's response from the general can be put in the record as if stated when he asked the question.
General, NATO to me is one of the greatest institutions that we've had the privilege as a nation to participate in. And I have spoken out a number of times in support, and hopefully always will. And I have heard comments to the effect that, responsible persons informing me, serious consideration is being given to incorporating NATO into your efforts in Iraq. Could you bring me up to date? And your own personal views.
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, I do not know the degree to which the secretary and the folks in the department have moved forward on the idea to include NATO formally in Iraq stability operations.
SEN. WARNER: I would hope during the course of your stay here in Washington that that can be briefed to you in full.
GEN. ABIZAID: But as you know, Senator, the -- NATO has agreed to provide the next ISEF -- ISAF command in Afghanistan --
SEN. WARNER: I was going to go to Afghanistan momentarily. So at the moment, you'd prefer to respond for the record on NATO and give that further study.
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
SEN. WARNER: I just wanted to conclude by saying that I strongly endorse at the earliest possible time the incorporation of NATO in the diversity of challenges that face you and Ambassador Bremer in the immediate future.
Now, shifting to Afghanistan, my understanding that they have now formally concluded those arrangements, I'd like to have you describe what they are, and also the chain of command that NATO reports through, and the relationship with the United Nations.
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, the chain of command --
v(Pauses will Senator Warner confers off mike with staff.)
SEN. WARNER: Excuse me.
GEN. ABIZAID: As you know, Senator, in Afghanistan right now we have the United States and coalition forces engaged in combat operations, which report directly to the commander of Central Command. And then you have the forces of ISAF, which are not in a direct chain of command with CENTCOM, but do respond to some degree of tactical control.
I will have to respond to the record for the -- for precision with regard to the chain of command with NATO. But I think you'll continue to see ISAF performing the stability role in and around the Kabul area; American combat operations, coalition combat operations being a separate chain of command. And there are discussions currently underway in the department as to the future of that chain of command. It's possible, for example, that there'll be some new command arrangements that move. But suffice it to say that NATO will participate; they'll have an important role to play in ISAF. And I agree with you 100 percent that that is a good thing for us.
SEN. WARNER: And I presume you share that same opinion with regard to Iraq?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, I am all for NATO participation, as long as we do not violate unity of command for combat operations.
SEN. WARNER: I think that's very important that that be made ever so clear. And that NATO, I think tactically would have a joint chain to General Jones and yourself, CENTCOM commander.
The president of the United States met with President Musharraf yesterday. I think it was a very beneficial meeting on a wide range of issues. I've studied the initial reports. I've had the privilege of meeting with President Musharraf on a number of occasions. I presume you have had that similar opportunity?
GEN. ABIZAID: No, sir, I've never meet with President Musharraf.
SEN. WARNER: But you'll have that opportunity shortly after you assume your new command, I hope.
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, if confirmed, one of the first places I'll go to is Pakistan.
SEN. WARNER: Fine. Because I think Pakistan has been enormously cooperative in the missions that we have, and are, and perhaps will for some indefinite time be conducting in Afghanistan.
The president made direct reference, in the presence of Musharraf, that we will continue unrelenting efforts to get Osama bin Laden. I presume those operations you've been following. Could you elaborate a little bit on that?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, as you know, the Pakistani military and some of their other security services have worked very closely with us in ensuring that there is no safe haven for al Qaeda within Pakistan. They certainly have done a wonderful job on their own in the areas of the urban centers of Karachi, al Quetta, et cetera, where they have done a magnificent job in disrupting, identifying and keeping al Qaeda from really establishing themselves firmly.
They have tougher challenges up along the border with Afghanistan and Waziristan for a lot of different cultural reasons and for security reasons where there is no tradition of strong Pakistani military force up there. And so Operation --
SEN. WARNER: And the geography lends a certain challenge.
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, the geography is like the Rocky Mountains times two. It is very difficult, very mountainous, one of the most daunting areas for military operations that you could find anywhere on earth. And the same goes for the Afghan side of the border. The help that the Pakistanis have given us in operations in and around Afghanistan has been absolutely essential to the success of operations there. I certainly will do everything that I can to build upon General Franks' very excellent relationship with the president and with the Pakistani military. We both know that this is a matter of utmost importance, for both our nations to get after the al Qaeda threat, and that Afghanistan's stability is as important to Pakistan as it is to the United States. So we look forward to close cooperation and building on closer cooperation with them.
SEN. WARNER: I think it's important at this hearing that we state that, in my opinion, there's ongoing risks to American forces and other forces operating in Afghanistan, and the American public should understand that while they may not be on page one with the frequency that they once were, our troops are very courageously, bravely and with a high degree of risk carrying out these missions. Am I not correct in that?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, you are absolutely correct. I visited Afghanistan a week ago. And my old regiment is operating out there, a bunch of young paratroopers up on the border, 10,000 feet, with helicopter support, often with Afghan militias, often with Afghan regular forces. They're doing wonderful work. The other place that wonderful to work is being done is with Major General Carl Eikenberry and the work that he's doing to build the Afghan national army. So from a security standpoint, there is a lot of fighting that continues to go on there, and there is more ahead, and our troops there should be praised and thanked every day.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you. Senator Levin and I have made two trips to the region, one just recently. You mentioned your old regiment, and their courageous performance. Any other nations participating as actively as the -- in this?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir. In Afghanistan I had the opportunity there to see the Romanians operating. They have the special operations unit that's doing an excellent job. I also saw French soldiers that were operating there, likewise doing the same. And in ISAF, we know that the Germans were victims of a terrorist attack very recently. Those troops that are serving in ISAF -- Germans, Dutch and others -- are doing wonderful work as well. So the international community -- ISAF plus our own conventional operations that are going on there -- are often out of the limelight, but they're very, very important. And successful.
SEN. WARNER: (Off mike conversation with staff.)
General NcNeill was in command when Senator Levin and I were there. I was very impressed with him as a professional. My understanding, as a routine rotation he is now back here in the United States.
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir. He's back in the United States. He's yet to give up command of the 18th Airborne Corps. I believe the Army has that scheduled soon. I'm sure that there are great things in store for that soldier. He's one of the finest we have.
SEN. WARNER: I share in that view. It's the intention of myself in concurring with the ranking member to have him appear before the committee to give us the benefit of his experiences over there in the very near future.
I mention that because this committee is ever mindful of the situation in Afghanistan and the risks that our forces are daily encountering.
Now, I'm going to read an interesting concluding paragraph in a -- one of the press stories today, which story covered in some detail, the detail that's available, the tragic loss of the British forces:
"Security concerns will only grow if Tuesday's violence" -- and that's referring to that incident -- "indicates an uptick of attacks" -- whatever the word "uptick" means. Anyway, I would assume an increase of attacks is beginning -- "in Shi'ite-dominated areas of Iraq, where British troops have a large security role. Shi'ites, who make up some 60 percent of the Iraqi population, were abused by the Saddam Hussein regime and constantly had maintained a fairly neutral stance toward the American and British occupation. Resistance groups also have been blamed for a series of attacks in recent days on oil and natural gas pipelines and other infrastructure." This is the key paragraph:
"The new attacks" -- again referring to particularly the one on Tuesday -- "also show that the British troops' less aggressive stance in the more peaceful south may not fully succeed in preventing the kinds of angry attacks that Tuesday had focused on U.S. troops -- that until Tuesday had focused on U.S. troops. American forces have responded with coordinated raids and tough tactics, while British forces have taken a more kid-glove approach to occupation," end quote.
In my consultations of -- and study of this situation, I was advised that the British decided that they could perhaps perform their mission and -- as a(n) essential component of nation-building in that region by presenting themselves physically in a less formidable manner. I think they stopped for a period of time the use of the protective vest -- actually utilized equipment other than helmets, and perhaps in other areas they altered their practices.
Now, my first question, was this differentiation in approach and tactics a matter which was coordinated up through General Franks and yourself, and it was with your approval, or was that discretion reposed in the British commanders to exercise without the necessary approval of the senior command? I ask that because I suppose a lot of American forces felt maybe they'd like to take off the added weight of the protective vest and push back the helmet for a softer headgear or something of that nature. But as best to my knowledge, that was not done. And then this refers to the tough tactics that we've employed vice tactics, I presume as inferred by the article, less tough exercised by the British in carrying out their mission. It was described as "kid-glove", but I'm just repeating what's said here.
Question: Did it come up through you, you chopped on it and said, okay --
GEN. ABIZAID: No.
SEN. WARNER: -- your discretion?
GEN. ABIZAID: Commander's discretion in the field, sir.
SEN. WARNER: All right.
GEN. ABIZAID: And we grant a -- General Franks, in particular, is a commander that grants a broad degree of discretion to his field commanders. It would have gone probably a question unasked as to whether or not they needed permission to adjust their operating style.
But I would take great issue with the notion that British forces are using kid gloves anywhere.
SEN. WARNER: That's why I wanted you to have an opportunity to reply to that.
GEN. ABIZAID: They are undoubtedly among the toughest and finest professional soldiers on Earth.
SEN. WARNER: I share that view.
GEN. ABIZAID: And it's a great pleasure to have them in the coalition. I think when the smoke clears, we'll find out that what happened yesterday was some sort of a local problem, that people were surprised by it on both sides, that it escalated in a way that is unfortunate and caused the loss of life. But there is no lack of aggressiveness in the way that the British do business. In fact, they often take more risks than we do because philosophically they've learned different lessons from their own military history than we have. And I think allowing national contingents to operate within their best judgment is what makes a coalition strong. And you'll find the British as tough as they come.
SEN. WARNER: I agree with that. And matter of fact, I've said often, and will repeat, without the support of Great Britain, from the prime minister on down, this operation would have been considerably more difficult for the U.S. contingent of the coalition forces.
GEN. ABIZAID: Our greatest concern before the war was they wouldn't cross the berm with us. We just were --
SEN. WARNER: They did.
GEN. ABIZAID: -- thrilled to have them at our side, and still are.
SEN. WARNER: Now, that brings me to this cultural difference. Fragment reports on this incident describe that the locals were concerned with tactics which -- in the course of trying to remove weapons from the households and other private places; and also they have a very -- I don't quite know how to phrase it -- extraordinary respect for the women in their culture. And I don't mean to differentiate between what we have. I certainly share extraordinary respect in my culture. But I wonder if you could enlighten us on that cultural framework and how, hopefully, as you move in, drawing on your background, that you can be in a position to advise our troops and coalition forces about the importance of those cultural differences and how best to preform our missions, at the same time paying due respect.
GEN. ABIZAID: Senator, if you go to the location where this incident occurred, south of al-Amarah, in Maysan Province, in many respects it's one of the most isolated provinces in the nation of Iraq. Its ties to old tradition are probably stronger than almost anywhere else.
SEN. WARNER: And that goes back centuries, am I not correct?
GEN. ABIZAID: Absolutely Thousands of years. Matter of fact, near the site of this action is a place called Al Qurna, which is rumored to be the original Garden of Eden. So civilization has been there for a long time. The cultural norms that they have established are very private. They're very family oriented. They're very protective of the women. We have to be smart enough in our operations to be culturally sensitive, yet also understand that Saddam and the Fedayeen Saddam during the war used cultural sensitivities against us in every way possible. So, in order to protect our forces, sometimes we have to make compromises. I think our troops are smart enough, and certainly as are the British, to make those compromises at the right time. But we need to be talking to the local leadership before we conduct major search and cordon operations.
SEN. WARNER: Well, I think more and more, this phase of the operation will have to draw on your expertise and knowledge, and I'm hopeful that you will infuse that knowledge right down to the foot soldier.
I have to go and vote again. I'll be right back.
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir.
SEN. WARNER: (Sounds gavel.) General, we want to cover other areas of your AOR. And let us start with the border nation of Iran, the -- first the implications with regard to our missions in Iraq, and secondly with regard to the Middle East problem, and then with regard to security to other nations in the region as a consequence of this, what I view as a somewhat unstable and autocratic regime, largely operated by the tier of government referred to as the mullahs.
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, Senator. Clearly Iran, with a population of somewhere around 65 million people and a large armed force, is a power to be reckoned with in the gulf. As a matter of fact, were we not in the Persian Gulf -- or the Arabian Gulf, whichever you choose to use -- you would find Iran as the most powerful nation there.
The government in --
SEN. WARNER: Excuse me. That's important. But I think you should describe "most powerful" as a consequence, I presume, of its table of organization of military forces, their equipment, their readiness, and indeed, the doctrine under which they are trained.
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, they have the most capable military force in the region outside of our own. They have a doctrine that is designed to take advantage of what they perceive as our weaknesses. They look, in particular, to target what they view as naval vulnerabilities, especially in the choke points in places such as the Straits of Hormuz. They have a --
SEN. WARNER: Now, that poses a threat to our operating units which periodically, and, indeed, almost constantly have been in that gulf region. Correct?
GEN. ABIZAID: That's correct, sir. And they have a very, very robust intelligence service which has played active and not helpful roles in places like Lebanon, Iraq and others with regard to working against the United States.
So I -- it's clear that the Iranians are a challenge. Yet, on the other hand, I think all of us look with a certain degree of hope at various reform movements that we see taking place inside Iran. The government is split between the hard-liners and those that wish to move in the direction of reform, although I think we shouldn't underestimate the degree to which President Khatami's government could move, even if he had the desire to do so, in a direction that would be more accommodating to the United States. Iran is a very serious contender and player in the geopolitics of the region, and militarily we need to be very concerned about them.
SEN. WARNER: Does the situation in Iraq have a bearing on the instability between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and vice versa, does that have a far-reaching influence into what's occurring on Iraq?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, I think that the movement towards some sort of accommodation between the Israelis and the Palestinians is a positive and essential step, not only for Israel and the Palestinians, but for the whole region. There is a connection. There's not a day that goes by where, as I travel around the region, that the various leaders in countries that are very, very positively inclined towards the United States don't ask us to get more involved.
I don't think they're looking for us to impose a solution, but they are looking for us to play a role to find a solution. And I believe the initiatives, although it's way out of my lane -- I believe that the initiatives that we're undertaking now are very important, and they will play themselves out to a certain extent, not only in Iraq but throughout the entire region.
SEN. WARNER: In my trip recently through there, like you, when I visited with the heads of government and heads of state, it was brought up at every meeting.
And I think we should also include in the record today the strong support that we're receiving from Qatar and Kuwait. I hope to visit the government of Kuwait with my delegation when we go there. I've had a long association with them in working in the Senate here over many years with Kuwait. And their contribution in land, alone -- we occupied for purposes of training and staging a very considerable portion of their real estate -- temporarily occupied. And I think I'd like to have your comments on both.
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, I would describe the Kuwaiti government's support for the United States of America, and in particular, these recent military operations, as nothing short of courageous. They have been incredibly supportive. They have suffered under Saddam Hussein in a way that taught them that he had to be dealt with finally. And their support was unwavering in every respect. We couldn't ask for a better relationship than that which we have with the Kuwaitis.
And it's important that we help them come to grips with a large number of their citizens that they can't account for, that were last seen being moved by the Iraqi intelligence services from Iraq -- or, from Kuwait into Iraq in 1991. Unfortunately, we haven't found any of these people alive, and I think we'll find, sadly, that they were executed by the Iraqis. But at least we can close out the concerns of the family over time. Still a lot of work to do there.
So, to answer your questions about Kuwait, great support.
Qatar. The Qatari government has been incredibly supportive, as well, in many respects. Not only are they supportive, but they're one of the most liberalizing influences in the Persian Gulf region. And I think we owe the Qatari government not only a debt of gratitude for their military support, but also for the example that they set in their willingness to liberalize in a part of the world that's not necessarily noted for its liberal thought.
SEN. WARNER: And we're contemplating some long-range relationships there, particularly as it relates to CENTCOM, are we not?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, the mutual relationship with the Qataris is one of the United States providing obvious protection for their sovereignty, and them providing us with obvious access to a very strategically-located basing construct, to include the forward headquarters of CENTCOM. It's a very good place to operate from.
SEN. WARNER: Should we not also cover the UAE in the context of our discussion here?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir. The United Arab Emirates is also a staunch friend and gave us, and continues to give us, great support in the Gulf region.
Their military in particular has worked very closely with us in establishing a credible force there. They have been great supporters of the United States in many respects. But on the other hand, you know, we shouldn't consider any of these countries as being our lackeys, because they quickly tell us what they don 't like, and they work with us in very important ways.
But in -- probably the most important thing that I haven't mentioned is that for Kuwait, for Qatar, for the UAE, for Oman, for Saudi Arabia, this is a matter of life and death that they are engaged in with regard to the global war on terrorism. The terrorists will never defeat the United States, but they could be a mortal danger to any of those regimes. So this necessity --
SEN. WARNER: You did -- you did mention Oman, because they've given us --
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir.
SEN. WARNER: When I was there some time ago with Secretary Cohen, I saw the foundations of that. And I later was there with Senator Levin.
GEN. ABIZAID: So this concurrence of interest against the terrorists should not be underestimated. It's very, very important for our continued well-being here at home and also for their continued well-being in their homes to fight this fight. And we're getting great cooperation from them.
SEN. WARNER: Our record today should also reflect that Jordan and Egypt have -- through their leadership have had a very constructive role in the war on terrorism likewise.
Turning now to the India-Pakistan relationships for the moment, that seems to be de-escalated to the point where there may be a ray of optimism. Have you got a view on that?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, I believe that the India-Pakistani relationship every now and then shows a ray of optimism, but the Kashmiri problem is very difficult. It will need a lot of work, it'll need a lot of time, it needs a lot of good will between both sides. And we have to be optimistic with regard to the India-Pakistan relationship, because if we're not, we could quickly find ourselves in a position where we've got a very important part of the world moving towards nuclear war. So our engagement with both sides to find a sensible solution to a very difficult problem is important. And as you have already mentioned, our military relationship with the Pakistanis is especially important to CENTCOM.
SEN. WARNER: Returning to Iraq, we discussed yesterday, and we certainly have seen a good deal of press within the past several weeks particularly, I think very poignant and accurate stories about the perception of the foot soldier in Iraq and his view that he fought the war as best he could, and it's time for him to be rotated. Now, I know that's difficult. Could you comment a little bit on your rotation policy for the Army and Marine Corps units which -- particularly those units that bore the brunt of the early action?
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir. Sir, if I may, I know you would concur with me that we also need to make sure that we mention Bahrain in your previous question as well.
SEN. WARNER: Please. I'm delighted that you have --
GEN. ABIZAID: I mean, the support of the king --
SEN. WARNER: We have our naval there. I helped start the Navy there many years ago -- enlarge it, I should say, when I was in the Navy Secretariat. I'm glad you mentioned that.
GEN. ABIZAID: Wonderful support from the king. He's a brave and courageous man, and we --
SEN. WARNER: And our naval component commander is currently --
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir. Admiral Keating is doing a great job there.
Sir, the -- I understand that one of the most important things for any soldier to know is when they're coming home when they're employed in a combat zone.
And when you go into combat operations, we didn't know whether the Iraq operation would last 17 days or 170 days. We couldn't tell the soldiers when they were coming home, and General Franks specifically went out of his way to ensure that commanders understood that there was no guarantee that when this was over, that when the combat operations against major forces were over, that we would bring everyone home very quickly. He knew, clearly, that there would be a requirement for stability forces.
That having been said, we are working currently with the services to ensure that units that come in have rotational dates that are known to the troops. It's important.
I should point out that the 1st Armored Division was scheduled to be the rotational replacement for the 3rd Infantry Division. That did not happen because the security situation didn't move as quickly in a direction that we thought it would towards stability, and we needed the additional forces. I think you'll see in the weeks ahead that we will be able to make some decisions on rotating the units out that have been there the longest. And we owe those soldiers the answer as to when that might be.
I would also like to point out, as you mentioned to me in your office the other day, that we cannot underestimate the huge contribution played by the Reserve and the National Guard, and that is continuing to be played. I think somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of the force in the Persian Gulf region, and perhaps, within Iraq itself, is either National Guard or Reserve component. That is a -- that simply means we couldn't do the job without them, under any stretch of the imagination. Some of these folks have been deployed ever since September 11th or been activated ever since September 11th. They are making contributions that are unbelievable. And we owe it to them to review how best to use them in the future and to make changes into the way that we do business with them that keeps them on the team.
So, I know the secretary's very concerned about that; I know the chairman is; I know General Franks is. All of us are working hard to figure out what's the right thing to do with those great people that serve us in this capacity during wartime.
SEN. WARNER: Earlier, I mentioned that we've, as a military force, reached a high-water mark in jointness. And I think one of the most extraordinary, positive examples was the manner in which the United States Marine Corps and the United States Army, with parallel areas of operation, worked side by side in this advance. Would you like to comment on that?
GEN. ABIZAID: Well, sir, having personally witnessed the low- water mark of jointness during the Grenada operation, I can tell you we're better than we've ever been. During Grenada, I couldn't get Navy fighters on targets because they had different maps; I couldn't get the Marine Cobras to come where I want them to, because we couldn't talk properly to one another on the radio frequencies; and I couldn't bring in Naval gunfire onto a position that was having good effect against my soldiers, because we hadn't practiced those sort of things properly.
SEN. WARNER: And we took casualties in that situation.
GEN. ABIZAID: We sure did. My company had five killed and 10 wounded. So, I think that as a captain, I witnessed the low point of our inability to operate. We couldn't even deconflict.
Today, we're actually moving towards joint integration. And this joint force that operated in this battle space, thanks largely to the plan that General Franks put together, was the best integrated joint force that we've ever put together.
Now I think there's still more work to be done. We've got to get more joint. We've got to get more able to bring in precision-guided weapons in front of the lowest-level unit that's on the battlefield. We have to make sure that the seams that currently exist go away, and more joint training, more joint programs, more understanding of where the seams are and working lessons learned between the services, led by joint commanders, are directions that we need to go.
SEN. WARNER: And I think, in that context, we ought to talk about the naval and Air Force component commanders and the magnificence with which those missions were carried out. Sometimes well in excess of a thousand missions a day were flown during the height of the combat operations. And as you told me yesterday when we talked, there's a CAP at this very moment --
GEN. ABIZAID: That's correct.
SEN. WARNER: -- on standby in the air and on ships and on land to respond to any contingency experienced by our forces that would need the implementation of air power.
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, the use of air power in this campaign was as well coordinated not only between the various services that were flying things in the air, but between the components in a way that was unprecedented.
When you went to the Combined Air Operations Center, you saw Navy, Air Force, Marine and Army folks all working together to deconflict probably the most crowded airspace that's ever existed in military history. That we didn't have more difficulty in fratricide than we did, that we didn't have more difficulty in the control of airspace than we did is nothing short of a miracle. So the work that has been done to bring all of our air breathers into the battle space in a very, very precise manner is something that we need to build on. Doesn't mean it's perfect, but it's pretty damn good.
SEN. WARNER: We should acknowledge that a number of nations, while maybe not formally part of the coalition -- their ground facilities in support of that air operation were essential.
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, absolutely. Not only did we have great cooperation with our British allies, but we have failed today or I have failed today to mention the work that the Australians did there.
SEN. WARNER: Oh, yes.
GEN. ABIZAID: We had the Australian special operating forces on the ground with us, we had their air forces in the air with us, and we had the naval forces at sea with us. All performed in a manner that was quite phenomenal.
Now I would say, Mr. Chairman, that we need to find a way, before the next one of these that comes around, to more agilely share combat information of a classified nature with our coalition partners. That was a source of friction that we need to work our way through, and I think it's vitally important.
SEN. WARNER: This committee, under the joint leadership of myself and the ranking member, will conduct some in-depth after-action studies. We've always done that as a committee. Quite frankly, I'm of the opinion, speaking just for myself, "after-action" is not a useable title. Action is still going on.
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes, sir.
SEN. WARNER: I'm ever mindful of the risks being assumed today. So we'll eventually get to that.
In that context, we'll discuss, you know, the biggest tactical lesson you learned in the conflict -- in other words, to point to the future, lessons learned.
But we're not -- time doesn't permit today to get into that. But we'll undoubtedly see you back here again, hopefully in your capacity as commander of CENTCOM. And we'll recover it -- cover it.
The Horn of Africa, we've had some units down there for some time. Let's touch on that.
GEN. ABIZAID: Yes. sir. We have a joint task force for the Horn of Africa that is commanded by a Marine one star at the present time that is operating from a base location in Djibouti. These forces are capable of conducting operations against terrorist targets, should they present themselves. More importantly, they are working with the local governments in the region to help them help themselves against the terrorist organizations that operate in that area.
Over time it's become clear to us that areas such as Somalia are ungoverned spaces, and as such attract the type of people that want to do us harm. And we need to understand the battlefield as completely as we can. And as you know, our area goes down into Kenya, Somalia, et cetera. And you know the problems that we 've had in Kenya and the large number of operations that the terrorists have conducted there.
So it's -- it's really essential to have a presence there. We are currently examining the command and control relationships. One of the things I'll do, if you confirm me, upon assuming command is review the size, mission, activity of our forces down there. My impression is that there is more work to be done there.
SEN. WARNER: Clearly, the humanitarian suffering in that part of the world is just extraordinary.
We should touch a bit on the United Nations, their work with the NGOs, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq. And I presume those nongovernmental organizations, we've given them such support as we can, and that that has been a reasonably smooth operation in both the Afghan and the Iraqi AORs.
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, we have worked carefully and closely with the United Nations and numerous nongovernmental organizations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It's very important that we do what we can to provide a secure environment for those organizations to operate. There has been some concern expressed recently in certain parts of Afghanistan. We'll continue to work with them to the best of our ability to help them operate in a safe atmosphere.
But it is interesting, of all the many things that we could -- that we thought could go wrong, in Iraq in particular, one of the problems has not proven to be a humanitarian nightmare of displaced people, starving people, et cetera. We've got work to do. A lot of people need a lot of help. But the international community seems pretty well disposed to work the problem in an effective way.
SEN. WARNER: The NGOs have done magnificent work, not only in these two operations, but for a long time. And I saw it firsthand in the Balkans when I made a number of visits into that area.
On the question of international terrorism -- that is your top priority as directed by the president -- what are some of the initiatives that you will strike out on once you become CENTCOM commander?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, I would build on the work that General Franks has already started and largely conducted in places like Afghanistan and elsewhere. He has done a(n) absolutely magnificent job in establishing a military framework around which we can get at this problem, or through which we can get at this problem. This problem, as you know, is not going to go away tomorrow, it's not going to go away in the short run. And we have a lot of military work that we will have to do to keep the terrorists off balance and bring the war to them on their territory and not accept their offensive against our territory.
So I will review, in particular, the way that we have organized our special operating forces. I think it's very important that we not look at Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa through soda straws and regard them as separate and distinct theaters of operation that are not connected. The truth of the matter is that everything in the CENTCOM area of operations is connected, especially with regard to the war on terrorism. There are no borders in the war on terrorism, and we have to take a theater-wide approach to getting at them militarily.
The number one way you get at them militarily is not only through your offensive, aggressive actions against them, but through close working with nations that want the capacity to defeat them and enabling them to get at the problem themselves.
SEN. WARNER: Is it your professional judgment in the conduct of the operations both in Afghanistan and Iraq that in any way the drawdown of those forces from CENTCOM resulted in any loss of momentum in the war on terrorism by the CENTCOM?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, all of us understand very clearly from the president through the secretary to General Franks that the war on terrorism is our most important action. And there is no loss in momentum.
SEN. WARNER: I thank you. I thank you for this hearing. We've had a very full and in-depth hearing on a wide range of issues. Anything left undone that I or other colleagues did not bring up that you think is -- bears on this important hearing on your qualifications to assume CENTCOM command?
GEN. ABIZAID: No, sir. I think I failed to say probably the most important thing of the day, which is the biggest lesson learned from the Iraq war is that our most important asset is our people.
SEN. WARNER: No question about it. We're -- not that we need to be reminded, but the facts are there. And also the -- the lesson that this country must be supporting an overall military establishment which ranges from the heavy tank to the smallest -- and I've actually seen them -- unmanned vehicle, no bigger than a softball, which can take off and give the battlefield commander some real-time information, which is extraordinary, the high tech that's moving into the military, and how the military have quickly adapted to the advances in technology to improve their ability to achieve missions, and most importantly, to achieve a safer environment for the personnel to act. So the foot soldier, boots on the ground, is the phrase that is everlastingly etched in the history of this country, and this is another chapter of it.
So I thank you for that reminder of the troops and their families, who bear the brunt of the conflict throughout the history of this nation. And I think there's going to be a well-done to General Franks and a hurrah when you take over. And not -- one's not going to be louder than the other. They're both equal. Good luck.
GEN. ABIZAID: Thank you, sir. I appreciate your time and confidence.
SEN. WARNER: (Sounds gavel.)