This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," May 19, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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BRIT HUME, HOST: As correspondent Bret Baier noted, Washington woke up today to a New York Times report based on comments from unnamed American commanders that progress in Iraq has been disappointed. And that the whole effort might now fail.
So what’s going on here? For answers we turn to Fox News contributor, Dan Senor who is a former spokesman for the U.S. in Iraq. Dan, what is your sense of first of all, this story? When you read it, it was kind of jolting — suggesting that some generals have begun, as they hadn’t before to contemplate the possibility — possibility even of failure.
DAN SENOR, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I spoke to one general today, I spent part of February in Iraq with General Abizaid and some other generals. The sense I got from them was they think we will win in Iraq but they also have a realistic, a sober sense of the time it will take. They have a long-time view of the War on Terrorism.
They recognize — they think in 10 years from now historians will recognize the wisdom of the decisions and actions taken in Iraq. They will recognize the wisdom of trying to build a democracy there that could stimulate reform throughout the region. Trying to create a space as General Abizaid, actually, on the trip I was on often referred to, where the moderates could challenge Salafists, the extreme Islamic radicals.
All that was important. But he also thought it would take time. He struck a balance in his view between the wisdom and long-term optimism with short-term cautiousness.
HUME: Well, the reason for short-term caution apparently is that we get the sense from these comments in the last couple of days that the training of Iraqi personnel, police and perhaps military as well has taken more time and been less effective than we imagined?
SENOR: Yes. The Iraqis are performing well in operations alongside the coalition. In fact, in a number of recent operations, certainly going back to Fallujah and Samarra, the Iraqis played a role, an important role. The 36th Battalion, which is a special commando force, performs well.
But they’re not in a position yet to command — to perform on their own. Part of the problem as General Abizaid refers to is the chain of command. Which is something we saw in Iraq, too. We had initially trained the security forces in the chain of command where they were reporting to American generals. And that affects morale. Iraqis want to be reporting to Iraqis. So we had to rejigger the chain of command and the aftereffects of that rejiggering, they are a cause of delays so it has taken more time.
HUME: And is that all there is to it or when trained they don’t perform the way they are trained to?
SENOR: I think some of them perform well and some of them don’t. I think General Dempsey, one of the former senior commanders in Iraq said about half of them perform well. And about 40 percent don’t perform well. And about 10 percent don’t show up at all.
HUME: Is this the police or the military?
SENOR: Security forces across the board.
HUME: All right now. And what about this whole idea, and you heard this particularly right after the election, in particular that it wouldn’t be too long before the U.S. could begin drawing down forces there? Nobody is talking about that now.
SENOR: No. But in The New York Times article Thursday they said there were plans for a dramatic withdrawal. And that those got shelved. I’ve been close to the situation in Iraq for a long time. I don’t ever recall seeing a plan for a rapid withdrawal. I think everybody envisioned once the Iraqi security forces performance and professionalism ramped up we could do a gradual decrease; withdrawal but we are nowhere near that.
HUME: And we are seeing something that didn’t happen for a while. More car bomb attacks than all of last year. What does that tell us about this insurgency?
SENOR: I think it says a couple of things. First of all, the insurgencies have flash points. You have got to look for long-term consistency. So they will have quiet periods and flash up, a series of successes. We never hear about the failures when they don’t execute effectively. And I think that’s what’s going on now.
I also think that the insurgents want to strike right now, right in the aftermath of the formation of the government. The insurgents want the Iraqi mindset to associate Arab democracy with violence and chaos. If they can create as much havoc, wreak as much havoc and kill as many people in a concentrated period of time, immediately following the formation of a legitimate Iraqi government, it will challenge the legitimacy of the government. And they have been effective in that regard over the last few weeks. Something like 450 Iraqis have died.
HUME: What is your expectation of how the ordinary Iraqi will respond to that?
SENOR: I have always been struck by the resilience of the Iraqi people. They get frustrated, they get pessimistic, and they get angry at us and they get angry at their own leaders. But they are resilient.
After past attacks on security forces, recruiting centers, you go back the next day, two days later, the lines are as far as the eye can see. Iraqis wanting to step up and participate. And over eight million Iraqis risked their lives to go vote. I don’t think that will change going forward. I think Iraqis will still stay engaged in the political process. They will be frustrated but they’ll stay engaged.
HUME: Dan, good to have you.
SENOR: Good to be with you.
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