Iraqi Victory in Campaign Against Violence

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," March 23, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.


FRANCIS HARVEY, SECRETARY OF THE ARMY: One of our primary missions is to build Iraqi divisions and brigades that are capable of conducting independent counterinsurgency operations. The strategy of an Iraqi armed forces taking the lead and fighting the insurgency is well under way.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Well, it's not only well under way; it's getting results.

Iraqi commandos striking a terrorist training camp about a hundred miles northwest of Baghdad, killing some 85 rebels, according to the Iraqi government. A major victory in the campaign against violence as politicians move ahead in their efforts to form a coalition government.

I'm joined now by retired U.S. Army Major General Bob Scales, a FOX News military analyst.

So I suppose this is very good news. What happened?

MAJ. GEN. BOB SCALES, RET. U.S. ARMY: Well, what happened is the Iraqis are beginning to not only share the burden of these offensive operations, but are beginning to do some of them themselves. And what is missing in this report is a couple of days ago they killed about 14 in Baghdad. Even some private Iraqi citizens in Baghdad have had enough, and they have gone out and taken out three or four insurgents on their own.

So there is this increasing tendency, propensity for the Iraqis to go out on independent operations and take on the bad guys without the immediate assistance of the Americans. And, John, that's a pretty significant development.

GIBSON: OK, I agree, General. But if I may spoil the party a little bit, what was a training camp doing in Iraq in the first place?

SCALES: Well, it wasn't so much a camp as it was just an area that they used for conducting, you know, small squad size exercises. It was in a building and there was a field nearby.

So it wasn't a formal camp in the sense that we know it, you know, with fences and buildings and signs and everything. It was sort of a moving camp, an ad hoc camp, if you will. So it's not exactly the same thing as an Army post.

GIBSON: Right. But I mean, look, a couple of days ago, insurgents attacked an American convoy, which was a bad mistake. Twenty-five of them were killed and no Americans were killed. So in a way you can say they're getting kind of desperate. But on the other hand, this idea that they're out training, it sounds a little ominous, too.

SCALES: No, I don't think so. I mean, these guys have had training camps in place going back almost 15 years. Even when Saddam was in place the insurgents had training camps along the border with Iran. That's not the big issue.

The big issue here is the ability of Iraqi armed forces not only to train individual soldiers, but also to put together small units — squads and platoons. They're starting to build staff. They're coming up with some commanders who are promoted into their positions based on merit and their ability to lead soldiers in combat rather than patronage.

They're beginning to be equipped a little better. And most importantly, I think, John, they're starting to have some confidence within the Iraqi forces that they take on these main line units and kill them in large numbers. That, I think, is a significant development.

GIBSON: OK. Now, since they know the terrain better than we do, they speak the language, they know the locals, various Iraqis of Sunni or Shiite know these guys are on their side. You're going to tell me we're going to get Mr. Zarqawi or the Iraqi forces. When exactly?

SCALES: Great question. I think the measure of performance, John, is going to be the rate at which American brigades begin to pull out of Iraq. I would look at, say, the fall of next year to see the number of American brigades slip from, say, 20, to 17, to 15, somewhere in that area, as a number of Iraqi units come on line.

I think one key indicator is the total number of Iraqi army units that are there. Right now the total defense forces are at 200,000. Most people, most of my friends in the region will tell you that's not high enough. They may have to go to 250,000, 260,000.

This is not over yet, John. It's going to be a slow, laborious process, but I think a successful one.

GIBSON: Major General Bob Scales, a FOX News military analyst. General, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

SCALES: Thanks, John.

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