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Former CIA Officer Says Iraq Can Be Stabilized By Trained Security Forces

Next in a series exploring how the United States should handle the war in Iraq, former Army special forces and CIA officer Michael Vickers discusses how the security situation can be improved by properly training Iraqi security forces.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And now, we resume our conversations on specific ideas about what the United States can or should do next in Iraq. We've already explored ending the occupation immediately and decentralizing Iraq. Tonight, in the third conversation, the focus is on training Iraqi security forces. Ray Suarez is in charge.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    And with me is Michael Vickers, director of strategic studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington research institute. He served as an Army Special Forces officer and a CIA operations officer. He's briefed President Bush twice over the past few months.

    And, Michael Vickers, when we asked you what to do in Iraq here on out, you said, "Finish the training of the Iraqi security forces." Why did you name that as your best idea on how to proceed from here?

    MICHAEL VICKERS, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments: Well, I think the key to the strategy going forward is really to transition over the next 18 months or so from an American-centric, direct approach — where American forces have primary responsibility for security — to an Iraqi-centric, or indirect approach — where Americans are in a support role, a vital support role as advisors, trainers, providing logistics and firepower.

    But the Iraqis are the ones who are going to have to win this war over the longer term, and America has to have a strategy that's sustainable across political administrations.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    So when General George Casey said this week that he believes the Iraqi military could be expected to take primary responsibility for securing Iraq in 12 to 18 months, to you that's a plausible time frame?

  • MICHAEL VICKERS:

    I said I don't think the specific date is important; I think the outer end of that18 months, 20 months really is. But the important aspect is that we begin to hand it over rather than continue to assume primary responsibility for ourselves.

    As the famous T.E. Lawrence or Lawrence of Arabia said, "It is their war. Your job is to help them, not win it for them, and that's the way you defeat insurgencies over time."

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