Transcript: Gen. Peter Pace on 'FNS'

The following is a partial transcript from the March 5, 2006, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace."

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: And we're joined now by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace.

General, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday".


WALLACE: What can you tell us about the decision to launch a criminal investigation into the death of Pat Tillman?

PACE: Well, first of all, for the Tillman family — they've already been through a very, very long ordeal on this, and any additional pain to them is regretted.

But I think it's important to chase every single possibility, and the inspector generals have decided there's one more step to take, and they're going to do that to make sure that the entire picture is painted clearly and accurately so the family can have as much information as possible.

WALLACE: What's the difference between accidental friendly fire and negligent homicide?

PACE: That would be up to the lawyers, but as I understand what they want to make sure is that the individuals who fired their weapons were firing at a time when it was logical for them to be firing their weapons and not indiscriminately firing their weapons.

WALLACE: This will be — and you talk about the pain for the Tillman family. This will be the fifth formal investigation into Pat Tillman's death. His family says they believe that there has been a cover-up.

Do you agree, at the very least, that this case has been mishandled? And what assurances can you give the Tillman family about this investigation?

PACE: I think every step of the way that the folks who have been responsible for investigating it have been trying to do the right thing, but, as we should be doing, we review the investigations. They go up the chain of command. Folks look at them to make sure they have complete information. If there's not complete information, they send it back.

In this case, it's unfortunate that it has to be looked at again, but I'm satisfied that it is being looked at again, because if one of the reviewing officials decided that there was something that had to be looked at, we should do that.

WALLACE: And your assurances to the Tillman family?

PACE: My assurances are that we will continue to look into this matter in great detail until we assure ourselves and them that all the facts have been looked at.

WALLACE: President Bush is set to meet this week with top military commanders, including yourself, to review the situation in Iraq. First of all, what about this British newspaper report that all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq within a year?

PACE: They're not true. We're going to do exactly what we said we're going to do, which is to make the assessments of situations on the ground.

The commanders in theater will make their recommendations up the chain of command, and that will eventually get through the secretary of defense to the president for decisions about U.S. troop levels.

WALLACE: Is it fair to say that the spike in sectarian violence and the failure to form a new Iraqi government make it harder to pull our troops out?

PACE: No, I think that the response of the yet-forming Iraqi government to this most recent attack on the sacred mosque shows great promise for the future.

Here you have a government that's not even fully formed yet. They're facing a terrorist act of a magnitude that you can't even imagine, that they would take on a sacred facility like that, and the police and the security forces and the government itself responds pretty well.

So I think that the Iraqi people — Kurds, Shia, Sunni — walked up to the abyss, took the look in, didn't like what they saw, have pulled together, have pulled back from violence, and are working together to keep things calm and to find the right mix for their own government.

WALLACE: You talk about the government. The fact is it's coming up on three months since they held that election to create a permanent national assembly. They still don't have a government.

Has the failure of Iraqi politicians to come together and create a government destabilized the military situation, the security situation, in Iraq?

PACE: No, not at all. The Iraqi security forces are performing extremely well. Their army, their police are doing extremely well. The fact that it's taking a while for that government to form — you have many, many different groups that need to be represented in a fair and representative government. They're working hard at it.

Democracy is not clean, not easy, but they're working real hard, and that government, when it does form, will have the support of a much improved and improving military.

WALLACE: You talk about security forces performing well. There have been reports — one — that in some cases the Iraqi police allowed some of these militias in the street to go ahead and get engaged in revenge killings.

And there's also been concern, as you know, for some period of time about infiltration, particularly of the police, by some of these Iraqi militias. Is that not a concern?

PACE: It is a concern. On balance, the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police have done extremely well, certainly compared to their capacities a year ago, they are way better than they were.

But the fact is that there are still elements — there are still militias that are performing outside the bounds of government control, and we need — we, meaning they, the Iraqi government — need to get it under control.

WALLACE: What about this question of sectarian violence? Is it part of our mission there for U.S. soldiers to be put in the position of protecting some Iraqis from other Iraqis?

PACE: I don't think we need to do that. Certainly, if U.S. armed forces see violence, one group on another, they're going to step in and stop it.

But right now the Iraqi army has over 100 battalions that are in the field. The Iraqi police have over 30 battalions that are in the field. There's plenty of Iraqi security forces to do the work that needs to be done to maintain peace between Iraqis.

WALLACE: Let's turn, if we may, to the broader War on Terror. During his surprise visit to Afghanistan this week, President Bush flatly predicted that bin Laden and his gang will be either captured or killed. Here it is.


BUSH: It's not a matter of if they're captured and brought to justice, it's when they're brought to justice.


WALLACE: General, after more than four years of hunting for bin Laden, is that just rhetoric, or are you really getting closer?

PACE: It's not rhetoric. I could not tell you we're getting closer. I can tell you we continue every day with every resource we have to track down bin Laden, Zawahiri, Zarqawi, so the president of the United States is saying what is true, which is that we will continue to hunt these folks.

WALLACE: He says it's not a matter of if, it's when. I mean, it's been more than four years, so how can you really say when?

PACE: I can't say when, but I can say it will eventually happen.


PACE: Why? Because we're going to continue until we find them.

WALLACE: U.S. force levels in Afghanistan are set to drop from 19,000 to 16,000 fairly soon. But on the other hand, just this week, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency told Congress that attacks by the Taliban and other groups surged 20 percent this year and that the Taliban represents a greater threat to the security of the government of Afghanistan than any time since late 2001. What's the situation there?

PACE: First of all, the current number is about 23,000, because we're going through a swap-out of units. So although it's a 19,000 base, with the units coming and going right now we're up about 23,000.

We will get down to around 16,000 and 17,000 U.S. troops, at the same time that NATO forces are coming in, and the size of the other countries that are there will increase. Clearly, as those forces enter the theater, the Taliban — we're going to test them. And that's why we think there'll be violence in the future.

But remember, we're talking about small baselines. If there's four attacks in a day and you have a fifth attack, you've had an increase of 20 percent. And that's really the kinds of numbers we're talking about in Afghanistan.

WALLACE: Okay. New subject, the Dubai ports controversy. You say, and you've been saying this a lot in recent days as this has become a controversy, the United Arab Emirates is now a strong ally in the War on Terror.

But this week Congressman Duncan Hunter, who, I don't have to tell you, is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said that the deal should be killed and that the UAE has turned a blind eye to the transshipment of nuclear triggers to Pakistan and the shipment of nerve gas components to Iran.

Let's take a look.


HUNTER: That's the nature of Dubai. It's a bazaar for terrorist nations to receive prohibited components from sources from the free world and from the non-free world.


WALLACE: General, is Congressman Hunter wrong?

PACE: Well, I think the policy debate is going to continue in public, and that's outside of my lane. What I can tell you is that military to military, which is where my lane is, that we could not have better cooperation from United Arab Emirates.

They service our ships. They service more of our warships than any other port other than a U.S. port anywhere in the world. They have an air facility that they let us use for all of our needs in the region, specifically, especially, with regard to logistics. There's an air combat range where we're able to practice our combat maneuvers in the air.

Everything we do with the UAE military is very positive, very friendly, very supportive, and they've been very, very good partners.

WALLACE: But, sir, I want to press what Congressman Hunter is saying. He's talking about, in effect, a military and certainly an intelligence issue. He's saying that the UAE allows prohibited components of weapons of mass destruction to go through its ports, and, as he says, turn a blind eye to them. Is that true?

PACE: I do not know if that is true. I only know what I know about the military-to-military relationships, and they're very solid.

WALLACE: If that's true, would that change your judgment about the UAE?

PACE: I would not want to speculate on whether or not it's true, Chris. That would simply muddy the waters in a very, very important dialogue amongst the civilian leadership of this country.

WALLACE: Finally, sir, General Casey, your top commander in Iraq, says this week that he intends to continue the practice of paying for the placement of articles in the Iraqi media.

Two questions. First of all, has the Pentagon approved this, and do you see a contradiction between our efforts to build a free press in Iraq and the Pentagon putting out paid propaganda?

PACE: First of all, as I know the facts, General Casey has an ongoing investigation, and what he decided was that until he sees the final results of that investigation, he will continue to do what he was doing.

Secondly, it's really important, regardless of whether something is legal or not or authorized or not, to ensure that the perception is the correct perception. We do not want to do any damage at all to the correct perception of a free press and a press that is not influenced in a way that's incorrect or wrong. So we need to be very careful about how we do that.

WALLACE: Well, I'm confused, then. If you're concerned about that perception, why not stop the practice until you decide what to do?

PACE: Well, that's General Casey's investigation ongoing. What he knows about, what he's been doing so far, he's comfortable with. I have not seen the final results yet, but collectively, with General Casey, General Abizaid, my recommendation to the secretary of defense, the secretary — we will determine what the proper functioning of that entity should be.

WALLACE: So you and the entire command of the Pentagon has not decided this issue.

PACE: That's correct.

WALLACE: General Pace, we're going to have to leave it there. Once again, thank you so much for coming in. And please come back, sir.

PACE: Chris, thank you for your time, sir.