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Petraeus, Crocker Discuss Iraq Assessment

September 12, 2007 at 6:10 PM EDT
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JIM LEHRER: And to Army General David Petraeus, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

Mr. Ambassador, General, welcome.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, Commander, U.S. Forces in Iraq: Good to be with you.

JIM LEHRER: General, some of the response you received the last two days from members of Congress was skeptical, if not hostile. Did you expect that kind of reception?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, there’s certainly an intensity to the impatience and the frustration that was very, very palpable. I tried to lay out the situation on the ground. And it is very clear the enormous desire for results. And, again, you can feel that from afar; you can feel it in Baghdad. But you obviously feel it a great deal more in Washington and on Capitol Hill.

JIM LEHRER: You felt the frustration, too, Mr. Ambassador?

RYAN CROCKER, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq: It was clearly there. And it’s a frustration, of course, that General Petraeus and I share every day we’re doing our jobs out there in Iraq.

JIM LEHRER: So it doesn’t surprise you that members of Congress and members of the American public are asking skeptical and hostile questions and having that kind of response?

RYAN CROCKER: Well, we follow the news, so, no, I was not surprised by what I heard.

JIM LEHRER: One of the — it was said by one of the members of Congress to the two of you that the reason that a lot of people are skeptical is because there have been so many optimistic statements over the last four-and-a-half years that didn’t prove to be correct. Do you agree with that?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, there have been optimistic statements. I’ve made a couple of optimistic statements myself. And I think that, unfortunately, the events, in particular the ethno-sectarian violence that escalated so tragically and horrifically in 2006 and on, did some of the reasons that we had a degree of optimism at various times.

I now say that I’m not an optimist or a pessimist. I’m a realist. And the reality is that Iraq is very, very hard, and there’s nothing easy or quick about solving its problems.

JIM LEHRER: Mr. Ambassador, how would you guide an average American — forget a member of the Congress now — but folks who’ve listened to you all the last two days and listening to you now, how should they approach your comments, your report? Should they approach it with skepticism? Should they approach it with, “Hey, we’re getting the straight skinny from these two guys”? What is it?

RYAN CROCKER: Well, I would hope very much that it would be the latter. I worked very hard to deliver as frank, as sober, and as honest an assessment as I possibly could. And I was very careful in there not to make too many predictions of success being right around the corner, because, as General Petraeus says, Iraq is hard. Iraq is enormously complicated. And events have a way of turning back on you without much notice.

JIM LEHRER: Did you hear anything from the other side, General, in other words, the people who were criticizing what you were saying and asking you questions, General, to say, “Hey, I hadn’t thought of that myself,” that might influence your thinking from this point forward?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Again, I took just this enormous reservoir of frustration, candidly. It’s the only way to describe it. Obviously, a degree of skepticism is challenging, that’s our system, though, and they were very quick to remind us of that, frankly.

JIM LEHRER: But, no, you didn’t hear any new ideas or new approaches amidst the criticism, amidst the questioning, that you said, “Hey, wait a minute.”

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, you know, we’ve had, I think, close to 30 percent of the Senate visit us in Iraq in the last seven or so months. And I forget, I think it’s about 20 percent of the House or substantial numbers of congressional delegations. And they’ve certainly been very direct and frank with us and with the senior Iraqi leaders when they have visited.

But it’s one thing to get it in small doses, shall we say, and it’s a bit different to have back-to-back hearings for a 10-hour period yesterday, in particular.

JIM LEHRER: But essentially, then, you gave your report, you listened to the comments and to the questioning, now you’re going to go back and continue the course that you outlined, correct?

RYAN CROCKER: Well, that’s absolutely right. We were committed to making these assessments. And our job now is back in Iraq to get on with making the effort to help Iraqis move toward a stable and secure future.

JIM LEHRER: Now, the president has endorsed your recommendations. Is that right, General? Is he going to say that tomorrow night?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, he’s going to make a speech tomorrow night, as I understand it. And we’ll have to see what he says during that. But I think that’s correct.

JIM LEHRER: Have the two of you not talked to the president since you came back to Washington?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Actually, we both talked to him today.

JIM LEHRER: You did today?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: We did not before the testimony. We hadn’t — neither of us had seen him or talked to him. At least I had not since he visited Al Asad Air Base, Anbar province, in Iraq about a week-and-a-half ago now.

JIM LEHRER: But you have the impression that the president is going to endorse what you said and will do, correct?

RYAN CROCKER: Well, in the phone conversation I had with him, we didn’t go into the next steps, so we’ll see what he says on Thursday.

JIM LEHRER: Did he seem pleased by what you said?

RYAN CROCKER: He was very encouraging and very supportive, knew that it had been a hard couple of days, and just thanked me for my service and for hanging in there.

Addressing possible failure

Ryan Crocker
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq
I think things are moving in a positive direction in a number of areas; I laid that out in my assessment. But, again, Iraq is a place, where, as we've seen in the past, positive trends can be reversed almost literally overnight.

JIM LEHRER: General, Michael Hirsh wrote in Newsweek this week, "David Petraeus may be the only thing standing between George W. Bush and total failure in Iraq," end quote. Is that a correct statement?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, I certainly don't think so. I think this is about, you know, 165,000 great young Americans and well over 10,000 other coalition soldiers and 445,000 Iraqi security force members. There's teams, teams of teams, and everyone who is helping to carry what is a pretty substantial rucksack of responsibility, and try to help the Iraqis achieve their objectives and, in so doing, achieve our national interests in Iraq, as well.

JIM LEHRER: Mr. Ambassador, from your point of view, the political side, the governmental side of this, particularly the Iraqi governmental side of this, do you think the situation is teetering toward possible failure, toward a worse catastrophe than has already happened, that this is that crucial a time for everybody concerned?

RYAN CROCKER: What I said in my assessment is that, as I take careful stock of the political, economic, and diplomatic trends in Iraq, that I see an upward trajectory, but an upward trajectory whose slope is not very steep.

I think things are moving in a positive direction in a number of areas; I laid that out in my assessment. But, again, Iraq is a place, where, as we've seen in the past, positive trends can be reversed almost literally overnight. So I'm certainly not predicting success.

JIM LEHRER: Neither of you are predicting success. Neither of you see a time -- at least from what I understood what you said, if I heard correctly what you said in those two days, you, General, also did not say, "Hey, there's going to be a successful end to this. There is a successful end game." Am I right about that?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, what I've said is, and both of us have said, is that we believe we can achieve our objectives and help Iraq achieve its objectives. But it is not going to be easy.

JIM LEHRER: You can achieve them, but the likelihood of that happening, you can't give that a percentage?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: I'm not going to put odds on this. Again, what we're determined to do is to enable the Iraqis as best we can, certainly, and to help them, and encourage them, and use every other step that we can to help them achieve what is in their constitution -- a safe and secure Iraq that can defend itself internally and externally as a government that's responsive to and representative of the people.

JIM LEHRER: Would you understand, though, Mr. Ambassador, why a member of Congress or just a member of the public would say, "Hey, wait a minute. That's not good enough. I mean, if we're going to continue this huge effort, with so many lives at stake, Iraqi as well as Americans, can't you give us a feel for whether or not this thing is going to work and, if so, when?"

RYAN CROCKER: Well, in answer to the first part, that is what I tried to do, to explain some of the positive developments that I am seeing, explain why I thought those were important. But I simply cannot put a timeline on this.

It is not going to be quick, and it is not going to be easy. I think it is achievable, but I certainly can't say that, in six months or nine months, that we're going to have complete success in Iraq.

Success in Anbar

Gen. David Petraeus
Commander, U.S. Forces in Iraq
If anything, we think we had more situational awareness because of just the sheer number of additional forces and the fact that they're living in the neighborhoods now where that sectarian violence, in some cases, is still ongoing.

JIM LEHRER: The Anbar situation, both of you cited Anbar. Your example had to do with political governance at the local level and possibly rising. In your case, General, you used Anbar as an example of success on the ground militarily, primarily because of the insurgents going to the other side and going after al-Qaida.

Now, Senator Biden has said on this program last night that there's no connection -- that is a success, but there's no connection between them and the surge. Do you disagree with the senator?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, we have capitalized on what took place there with the additional forces. There's no question but that the most recent sheik to stand up very importantly was back in October outside Ramadi, and then they started training some Iraqi forces, and this was with forces that already existed before the surge, did shaping operations in the Euphrates River Valley, and then about a month after the surge began, but largely with existing forces that were able to focus a bit more, because we're putting more forces into the area to the east of it, then cleared Ramadi from about mid-March to about mid-April.

What we then did was very much capitalize in the rest of Anbar province with the two Marine battalions and the Marine expeditionary unit. That did reinforce the Multinational Force West. And, in fact, that's still ongoing and, again, pushing north of Fallujah, in particular, where there was still some al-Qaida sanctuary in that area.

JIM LEHRER: Do you see any connection between the surge and what happened on the political end in Anbar?

RYAN CROCKER: Well, I think, without question, that the presence of U.S. forces out there gave tribal leaders and their followers the sense that they had backing, that they had support, that if they stood up, we were standing not just behind them, we were standing with them.

And I just really cannot believe that what they did would have succeeded or even that they would have tried had it not been for the presence of the Marines and our soldiers out there in Anbar.

JIM LEHRER: Now, General, back to Senator Biden again. He said again last night -- he accused you of spinning. He said -- and I quote -- "He was spinning" -- meaning you, General -- "He was spinning. He knows full well, in my humble opinion, he knows full well that what he was able to do in Anbar has virtually no relationship to what happened in Baghdad and the surge."

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, the surge has not been just Baghdad. In fact, the surge has been about areas around Baghdad about as importantly as it has been about Baghdad neighborhoods. In fact, a number of the subsequent brigades after the first two, and certainly the two Marine battalions and the Marine expeditionary unit, have gone to the so-called Baghdad belts, including some of them in eastern Anbar province, because that's where al-Qaida had sanctuaries.

And this is not just about al-Qaida by any means, but they are, as we term it, the wolf closest to the sled, the organization, the terrorist group that has carried out the most horrific and most barbaric and most casualty-producing attacks. They are the ones who sparked that round of escalation of sectarian violence by the bombing of the mosque in Samarra back in February 2006.

JIM LEHRER: So you were not spinning; you were just reporting?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Look, my entire assessment, I tried to prevent -- to present the facts as we understand it. Our data has been collected. There's a methodology for it. It has remained consistent. And, if anything, we think we had more situational awareness because of just the sheer number of additional forces and the fact that they're living in the neighborhoods now where that sectarian violence, in some cases, is still ongoing.

JIM LEHRER: On the larger picture, Mr. Ambassador, what we were talking about, stability in Iraq, retired General John Abizaid, as you know, former commander of U.S. forces that included the Middle East and Iraq at some crucial times during the earlier stages of the Iraq war, he said yesterday, "It will take three to five years for the Iraqi government to stabilize enough to operate on its own." Do you agree with that?

RYAN CROCKER: That's a pretty broad statement. And, you know, whether he's talking about the entire political development of Iraq or simply about the security forces and their status isn't clear to me.

Iraq is going to be a work in progress I think for a long time to come; there's no question about that. This is a revolution, not just a regime change or a change in leaders. They're building an entirely new political society. That will take time. That will take years. There's no question.

JIM LEHRER: And a good three to five years is ballpark, then, you mean?

RYAN CROCKER: If that's what he's referring to. Does that mean that there has to be extensive, outside security support for three to five years? That doesn't necessarily follow. The question is whether, through the development of their political process and the development of their security forces, they can get to the point where they can carry on the rest of the development through peaceful debate, political debate, rather than street fights.

JIM LEHRER: And that is your definition of a stable government in Iraq, correct? Is that -- or would you add to it, your own definition?

RYAN CROCKER: I would say exactly that. General Petraeus has a great phrase, that what we're seeing in Iraq is ethno-sectarian competition for power and resources. I think that is exactly the case. The question then is, how is that competition going to be conducted? Is it going to be conducted through violence, or is it going to be conducted through a debate within a political system?

Keeping a large force in Iraq

Ryan Crocker
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq
I'm very comfortable that the troop reductions that General Petraeus has recommended will not lead to heightened instability.

JIM LEHRER: Now, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, said today, General, that your plan, your troop plan -- we'll talk about that in detail in a moment -- but your troop plan essentially would keep a large American military force on the ground in Iraq for at least 10 years in order to maintain the stability that I've just been talking about with Ambassador Crocker. Is she right about that?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, having been on Capitol Hill for the past two days, I think that that is very unlikely. Beyond that is not something that I could envision recommending.

In fact, what I showed on Capitol Hill and what was in the recommendations that I made to my chain of command is this stair-step reduction. And it will take place. What I cannot say at this point in time, and what I recommended we wait until about mid-March or so, is to recommend how steep the slope is beyond the mid-July timeframe where we reached the 15 brigade combat teams. We'll have already long since sent the MEU home. The Marine expeditionary unit goes later this month and the two Marine battalions.

JIM LEHRER: So in mid-March, you will make a decision as to if you will go below the 130,000 -- in other words, the original decision, the one you announced in your report that the president is supposedly going to endorse tomorrow night, is that the 30,000 that are there for the surge will be gone by, if I understand this correctly, by July of next year. And that will be back to 130,000, which was what the troop force was before the surge, correct?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, our focus right now is the combat units.

JIM LEHRER: OK.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: We'll have to work the enablers and to figure out which -- there are some of those that may have to stay, the additional MPs, the military police for the detainees. Some of those, depending on where we are with the detainee reintegration program and so forth, we'll have to see what level of those is required.

The bottom line is that we want to get as many troops home. I mean, one of the considerations that we informed my recommendations was, obviously, the strain and the sacrifice of our soldiers and of their families and of the services that are providing these brigade combat teams and other assets to us.

JIM LEHRER: What I was trying to ask, not very well, was that, are you committed -- or not committed -- do you want to, by mid-March, make a decision to lower the troop level below 130,000?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, what I'm committed to is no later than mid-March making recommendations on the pace of the reduction beyond mid-July.

JIM LEHRER: Below the 130,000?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, below -- again, our focus is these units of brigade combat teams, if you will. And, again, we will have taken out by that time five brigade combat teams, the two Marine battalions, the Marine expeditionary unit, and then the number of the enablers that go with them, if you will.

JIM LEHRER: And so the hope there would be -- or the plan would be to remove combat troops -- you might still have a certain number of troops there at any given time, but they won't be combat troops, is that right?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, over time. No, we're still going to have 15 brigade combat teams at that time. And, again, that's the key unit, if you will, in our operations. Lots of other forces that enable those ground combat organizations, but they are the essence of our involvement in many, many respects.

JIM LEHRER: Now, Mr. Ambassador, I assume that you go along with General Petraeus' plan, that you believe that the stability required to accomplish what you think needs to be accomplished by the Iraqi government can be done with these troop levels, right?

RYAN CROCKER: We're absolutely committed here to do everything we can to see that Iraq doesn't spiral back down into violence. The president made a policy change in January to use our forces for population security, and that was after a truly horrendous year in 2006, with massive displacements, sectarian killings that we've all seen. We obviously do not want to do anything that would give back these very hard-won gains.

JIM LEHRER: And you're convinced that this will do it, right? I mean, you and the general are together on that?

RYAN CROCKER: Absolutely. I'm completely comfortable with these recommendations.

JIM LEHRER: And that the government of Iraq can do what it needs to be done, that it needs to do with the military assistance that General Petraeus has laid out from the coalition, correct? That's what you're saying?

RYAN CROCKER: I'm very comfortable that the troop reductions that General Petraeus has recommended will not lead to heightened instability.

JIM LEHRER: And how do you measure that, General? What is it that you saw that makes you say, "Hey, this is what it's going to take, and this is all it's going to take, and then, in next summer, we can reduce it by 30,000, and then maybe by others." What are the measurements you're going to use?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, there are a number of considerations that we looked at, everything from the abilities of the Iraqi security forces, their growth literally in terms of size, and then also in terms of capabilities, sometimes not always measured, by the way, by these readiness reports, if you will, because you have a situation in many cases where they're maybe short equipment they've lost in combat, short leaders. But they are still conducting independent or operations with just our support.

That's a factor. Certainly, the local political factor is hugely important in this, as well, because, needless to say, as we've seen in Anbar province, and as we've now seen in other Sunni Arab areas beyond Anbar and actually in Baghdad neighborhoods up the Tigress River Valley and towards Baquba. If the population rejects al-Qaida, needless to say that's a very, very different circumstance.

And what made Anbar province possible was all of a sudden the tribes turning against al-Qaida, saying no more to their Taliban-like ideology and indiscriminate violence, and their young men all of a sudden volunteering for the police where previously that was not the case, and their population then telling us where the weapons caches are.

One of the statistics that I showed to the members of Congress was this vastly greater numbers of arms and ammunition caches that we've already found and cleared this year, and that's one result of this local support and local opposition to extremists.

JIM LEHRER: But, Mr. Ambassador, as you heard many times in the last two days from members of Congress, that "yes, but," there may have been these improvements on the ground militarily in Anbar and elsewhere, and these small, local improvements elsewhere, as well as Anbar, but dysfunction. You used the word yourself. But the national government of Iraq remains dysfunctional. And how do you see the connection between what General Petraeus wants to do over these next several months and that problem?

RYAN CROCKER: Well, I see some very clear connections. The Iraqi government faces a huge number of challenges, and there's a lot of dysfunction out there. But that is not to say the government doesn't function at all. It does, and in some very key areas, for example, resource distribution.

Iraq's provinces do not raise revenues on their own. They don't have a provincial taxation system like we do here in the United States. So revenues have to come to the provinces from the central government. And the government has been doing that on an equitable and reliable basis. These are oil revenues. And even though they haven't been able to pass a revenue-sharing law, they're distributing these revenues to the provinces.

And this is, I think, a vital issue. Just before I got on the plane to come back here, I was in Anbar. I was there with the two vice presidents of Iraq, one Sunni, one Shia, and the Kurdish deputy prime minister, and they were there to announce Iraq's first supplemental. This was a $70 million increase from the central government to the provincial government for the 2007 capital budget for the province, as well as $50 million in addition for compensation due to losses in conflict with al-Qaida.

So the central government is functioning definitely in the sense of distributing revenues to the province of Anbar and other provinces and responding to additional needs. So you then have what's happening in Anbar linked up to the center, and I think that's vital for Iraq's long-term political development.

Assessing potential for success

Gen. David Petraeus
Commander, U.S. Forces in Iraq
I can tell you that the feeling in Baghdad on a day when there has been a horrific suicide car bombing is not one that is conducive to people sitting down and hammering out the details of legislation.

JIM LEHRER: Back to the big picture, though. Senator Lugar, Republican of Indiana, former chairman, he's the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was on this program last night, and he outlined this thing, and I asked him, "How do you see the possibility for success here, as you outlined, and the big picture, the national government picture of Iraq?" And he said he saw a narrow margin for possible success. Do you see a narrow margin or a larger margin?

RYAN CROCKER: Well, again, I'm going to be very careful on making long-term or sweeping predictions. Right now, I see a trajectory that is upward, even if it is not dramatically so. I think we've got to work with the Iraqis to support a positive direction and kind of deal with the challenges as they come. I believe that a stable, secure, democratic Iraq is attainable. I wouldn't have delivered the assessment I did if...

JIM LEHRER: If you didn't believe it.

RYAN CROCKER: ... if I didn't believe it. I also believe that it is not going to be quick; it is not going to be easy; and it is going to take a substantial display of American resolve and commitment.

JIM LEHRER: Well, speaking of that, General, you know, the public opinion polls in the United States show public support for what's going on in Iraq. It's way down, and it gets lower and lower all the time. It goes back to whether or not it was even a mistake to go there in the first place, the conduct of the war, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And a lot of people are using the Vietnam analogy, that without public support was you cannot conduct -- you cannot put Americans in harm's way, and that was the lesson of Vietnam. Do you feel that there's a connection between the Vietnam lesson and what's happening in Iraq yet?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, we're keenly aware, again, as we saw the elected representatives of the people on Capitol Hill express enormous frustration and impatience. We feel that very keenly. It's a big weight in this rucksack that all of us are carrying in Iraq.

And if anything, we will return to Baghdad with an even more keen sense of the need to get on with it and to try to do everything that we can to help the Iraqis come to grips with these really tough issues that represent national reconciliation.

JIM LEHRER: But you don't feel that the level of public support for what's happening in Iraq is so low that it is, in fact, influencing the way you can conduct your operations?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, the job of an operational commander in the field is to understand his mission, and to request the resources that he believes he needs for that mission, and then try to use them to the best possible effect. And that policy is up to -- policy put forward by one end of Pennsylvania Avenue with the advice and consent and resources provided at the other. And that's where we have to leave that.

JIM LEHRER: I will not read from your 1987 PhD...

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Please don't.

JIM LEHRER: ... but the lessons of Vietnam, and one of them was that, without public support, a counterinsurgency operation isn't going to make it. I'm paraphrasing, and I won't read the whole thing. But you're saying that does not apply yet, as far as Iraq is concerned?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, I don't know. That's up to Washington, again. This is a big Washington issue. Again, the White House will put forward a policy. It's going to be debated, certainly, and this will be a national decision. This is not a soldier's decision. It's not a commander in the field's decision. It's something we're keenly aware of.

Again, you see that, you feel it. And when you come to Washington -- and I assure you, that, in these two days, pretty lengthy days of hearing, that we came away with an enormous sense of that, to put it mildly.

JIM LEHRER: And you feel the same way? Do you feel you're going back with a weight of nonsupport, Mr. Ambassador, that's going to work against you, rather than for you, or it's going to encourage you to do different things or what?

RYAN CROCKER: It certainly gives me a sense of urgency, that the clock is running here and that people expect to see results. At the same time, I hope that part of the assessment that I conveyed was also heard here, and that is that, if people are tired of this, if they don't want to do this anymore, if they want a dramatically different approach or simply to be done with Iraq entirely, that they think very carefully about the consequences, because this is not a -- it's not a TV program. You can't just switch the channel and it goes away.

Iraq will go on with us or without us. The neighbors will react with us or without us. And while I can't predict the future any better than anyone else, if we decide that we're tired of this and we just want to pull back, I can see some very, very negative consequences emerging for our vital national interests.

JIM LEHRER: And you share that, General, is that correct?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Yes, I do, indeed.

JIM LEHRER: Petraeus and Crocker, Crocker and Petraeus, the two of you are now linked. How linked are you? How does it operate in Baghdad? Who's in charge of what?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: It's very linked. Well, we actually have a joint campaign plan. One of the first things that we did after the ambassador arrived was to convene a joint strategic assessment team, a lot of big brains and folks that had a good bit of experience in Iraq, and we trusted to give us candid and forthright input.

JIM LEHRER: Diplomats and military?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Indeed, yes. And also representatives of the U.K., Australia, and so forth. So it was a coalition affair, military and diplomats, and then put together a joint campaign plan, revised, actually. There was one before. General Casey, Ambassador Khalilzad had one, and again we revised that fairly substantially.

And it actually establishes that the main effort -- you know, we have these lines of operation. And the political and security are among the major ones, of course. But the main effort, the one that gets the two ends on the arrow, if you will, is the political line of operation. We all recognize that, that is the deciding piece in this effort, enabled, enormously, obviously, by the security effort, which has to make that political progress possible.

I can tell you that the feeling in Baghdad on a day when there has been a horrific suicide car bombing is not one that is conducive to people sitting down and hammering out the details of legislation. So that line of operation has to enable the political one.

But at the end of the day, this is going to be solved by politics, we hope. That's how we want the ethno-sectarian competition for power and resources to be sorted out.

JIM LEHRER: And what would you add to that, Mr. Ambassador, how you all work?

RYAN CROCKER: Very, very closely. For example, normally when one of us sees the prime minister, it's both of us seeing the prime minister. And we coordinate our agenda and sometimes we swap chairs, depending on whose issue is up. And that's the way it has to work.

JIM LEHRER: Why does it have to work that way?

RYAN CROCKER: Because in the complexity of Iraq, we've got to be very carefully coordinated. The different lines of operation -- economic, political, security, diplomatic -- are literally intertwined. And what is being done on the security front affects the political front and vice versa. So we've got to stay coordinated, and we do.

JIM LEHRER: Who do you answer to? Who's your boss?

RYAN CROCKER: The secretary of state.

JIM LEHRER: And who's yours, General?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Admiral Fallon, the Central Command commander, of course up to the secretary of defense. But, in fact, the counterinsurgency manual, what it calls this is unity of effort. It's not unity of command. There's not one of us that's in charge of the other, but there has to be unity of effort.

In fact, our offices are actually -- we share the same waiting room. I mean, that's how close this has to be. And we wander in and out of each other's offices several times during the course of the day, in addition to normally scheduled meetings between the two of us and between our staffs, which are also very much coordinated and unified.

JIM LEHRER: So, in a word, both of you are comfortable with the term Petraeus and Crocker, Crocker and Petraeus?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Very much.

RYAN CROCKER: Absolutely. We're in this together.

JIM LEHRER: Thank you both very much.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Good to be with you.

RYAN CROCKER: Thank you.