On the January 8 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, retired Gen. Jack Keane, former Army vice chief of staff and ABC News contributor, appeared to support plans to send "[a]n additional 20,000 troops" to Iraq, despite having asserted, less than two weeks ago, that "at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so" was the "only" option to "[b]ring security to Baghdad." Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer failed to question this apparent discrepancy.
Also, Sawyer failed to follow up on Keane's defense of a prolonged troop increase and on his assertion, unchallenged, that "[w]e have the military capability, the prowess, to secure Baghdad." Sawyer did not ask, nor did Keane offer, how the military could fulfill such requests for additional troops. In fact, according to the January 8 edition of Newsweek, an unnamed "former senior Army official" alleged that Keane has been advised by the Army's vice chief of staff that "the actual figures on readiness" show that Keane's plan to increase troops for the length of time needed to secure Iraq was "not doable."
Despite suggesting on Good Morning America that a smaller increase in troops would be acceptable, in a December 27 Washington Post op-ed, Keane and American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Frederick Kagan wrote that bringing "security to Baghdad ... is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail." While Sawyer asked Keane whether he believed an increase of 20,000 troops would be "enough" to make a difference in Iraq, Keane did not directly answer her question, replying instead that an increase in troops "really is a change of mission as part of an overall strategy change." Keane went on to detail his proposals of what to do strategically with the additional troops. At no point did Sawyer ask Keane about his previous assertion that "only ... a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops" would be successful, and why he has, in just two weeks, apparently backed off that claim.
Further, in addition to asserting that "[w]e have the military capability, the prowess, to secure Baghdad," Keane claimed it was "just rubbish" to suggest there was "a capital city in the world that the foremost military in the world, when it applies itself, cannot secure." Keane also attacked critics of proposed plans to increase troops, such as Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), as holding opinions "based on ignorance," and concluded that it would "probably" take "18 months to two years" to secure Iraq.
Yet, according to the January 8 Newsweek, Pentagon officials dispute the feasibility of Keane's idea. For instance, the magazine reported that "U.S. Army officials fret they don't have the forces or equipment for the kind of long deployment (perhaps 18 months or more) that would be required" of the plan Keane endorses. Additionally, according to an unnamed former Army official, Keane has reportedly been advised by Gen. Richard Cody, the vice chief of staff of the Army, that the Army's "actual figures on readiness" show that the Army is not capable of increasing its troop presence in Iraq, as Keane has asserted:
According to a former senior Army official who would describe the internal discussions only if he was not identified, "Keane told the president: 'Don't you dare let Army and Marine Corps tell you they can't do it.' Soon afterward, Gen. Richard Cody, the vice chief of staff of the Army, called Keane in and gave him the actual figures on readiness, telling him: 'Look, here's the status of these brigades today. It's not doable'."
According to Newsweek, "Keane did not respond to several calls asking for comment," and in her interview with Keane, Sawyer did not use the opportunity to ask for Keane's response to Newsweek's report.
From the January 8 edition of ABC News' Good Morning America:
SAWYER: All right, Jake [Tapper, ABC senior national correspondent], thanks. And now we're going to turn to one of America's most respected generals and a strong advocate of the surge, retired General Jack Keane. He has met with the president, advised the White House on the plan, and he's also an ABC News consultant. He joins us from our Washington bureau. And good morning, General Keane. OK, an additional 20,000 troops; 18,000 going right into Baghdad, which would double the number of U.S. forces there. My question to you is: Where you would put them? What would you have them do? And in a dangerous city of six and a half million people, are they enough?
KEANE: Well, first of all, it really is a change of mission as a part of an overall strategy change. And the troops, yes, would go into Baghdad. There are 23 Shia-Sunni mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad, east of the Tigris and west of the Tigris. That is a logical place to start because that's where most of the violence has been; that's where our presence has been contested the most. You do not have to deal with the entire 6 million population at one time, and that's true of most military operations. So, we would go into those districts, and that's were we could begin the campaign.
SAWYER: You'd go into the hot spots and you go, what, door-to-door? Doing what?
KEANE: The problem we've had in the past, Diane, is that we have cleared the enemy out of neighborhoods, out of cities like Fallujah, Samarra, Ramadi, twice in Baghdad, in the neighborhoods, in some of these very places I'm discussing, and we've never had enough troops to hold those neighborhoods. In other words, we cleared them out, we've had to go door-to-door, we'll do that again, but this time the operation and the mission will be to secure the population. So, once we clear the Shia death squads out, the Al Qaeda, the Sunni insurgents, as we've done before, we will put a force in 24/7 that stays in the neighborhoods -- it does not go back to its bases -- and it protects the people. Then, in a number of weeks, once that protection has taken hold, the terrorists and the death squads and the Al Qaeda will try to come back. We will not permit that to happen. That has always happened in the past. That's where the operation failed. And then, we'll deliver economic packages to them to increase their basic services. That's the essence of the operation. We begin there, in the Shia-Sunni neighborhoods, to demonstrate our evenhandedness.
SAWYER: But let me --
KEANE: That then -- go ahead.
SAWYER: I'm so sorry -- but I want to ask you about what Senator Joe Biden said about this door-to-door operation, because he said all the king's horses and all the king's men can't secure this neighborhood if the Iraqis don't want it secure. And, in fact, we have American troops who don't speak Arabic going there. And I want to play a bite of what he said because he said this could just be a greater disaster, more targets for the Iraqi insurgents.
BIDEN [video clip]: Think of this: We're going to surge 20, 30 -- whatever the president says -- thousand troops into Baghdad again, a city of six million people. Six million people, where civil war is raging. We're going to have our troops go door-to-door in 23 neighborhoods. This is a prescription for another tragedy.
SAYWER: More troops in harm's way. How bloody could it be?
KEANE: Well, I really believe that statement is based on ignorance. Lookit -- this is the United States military, assisted by the Iraqis. We have the military capability, the prowess, to secure Baghdad. You're telling me that there's a capital city in the world that the foremost military in the world, when it applies itself, cannot secure the population in a given city? That's just rubbish. Of course we can do this. We do not have to do the six million. The Sunni enclaves to the west, not a lot of violence there. I would think initially, we do not have to go into Sadr City. Once we secure hundreds of thousands of Shias, I believe for the first time [Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-] Maliki then has an instrument to use with the Shia militia leaders, and that is the people are secured and he can have some positive effect on pulling back those Shia death squads.
SAWYER: Quick question about how long you anticipate the troops would stay, the surged troops would stay. News this morning, General Raymond Odierno, who's the second in command now in country, has said it would be two to three years -- two to three years -- before he thinks Iraqis can take over.
KEANE: Well, listen. The reason why this operation is being conducted is because the current strategy has failed, which is turn it over to the Iraqis. The fact of the matter is the enemy has raised the level of violence so high that the Iraqis cannot cope with it. We have to bring this violence down so they can. The operation in Baghdad will take probably most of '07. Then we turn our attention to the al-Anbar Province and secure the population in that area, then other places in -- other places outside of Baghdad where our operations are being contested. Yes, it'll probably take 18 months to two years. It's difficult to put a timetable on it, certainly, because the enemy votes. But that's a reasonable timeframe.
SAWYER: All right. Well, again, General Keane, thanks so much for being with us. It is a --
KEANE: You're quite welcome.
SAWYER: -- big week for history and Iraq.