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Tonight's program features General James T Conway United States Marine Corps commandant of the Marine Corp. General Conway is been the commandant in Marine Corp since November 2006, Prior to that he served as the JF 3 for the US Joint Chiefs of staff from September 2004, before that General Conway was the commanding general of the Marines and Iraq operation Iraqi freedom one for the march to Baghdad. It was his marines who pulled down on the statue of Saddam Hussein. He remained for operations in Iraq until he deployed his - redeployed his marines in August 2003, in February 2004 he returned to Iraq with his marines for combat operations until September 2004. It was his marines who fought so officially and valiantly in the attack into Fallujah on April 2004. General Conway has had a very distinguished career in both command and staff positions and he has commanded at every level and as you saw including commanding general of the first marine division. As commander, General Conway is one of the six members of the US Joint Chiefs of staff he is here tonight to share with us what's most pressing on his mind. Please welcome General James T Conway Commandant of Marine Corp. Thank you Thank you General Mike for that marvelous introduction. My mother would be delighted with that introduction. My mother in law would still be skeptical but that's another story. Folks it's great to be with you tonight in United that America most cosmopolitan city. I intend to offer a few remarks in and then I certainly forward to your questions. I sat this week and listened to United States senator who criticized the US effort in Iraq as being involved in an Iraqi civil war all ignoring the real fight with terrorism that was taking place in Afghanistan, with due respect to the senator, I would offer that he is wrong on two counts, the fact is that there is no civil war taking place in Iraq by any reasonable metric, there is certainly sectarian strikes but even that is on the declining scale over the past six months. Ironically the strike was brought about and inflamed by the very terrorists some claim do not exist in Iraq. The sectarians strike was a tactic aimed at creating chaos with little risk to the investigator, all it ties down correlation forces. Other misnomers about many in our country routinely characterize what is taking place in the Gulf as the war with Iraq. I would ask you to think of it differently, I believe we are seeing the first real battles against the field forces of terrorism both in Afghanistan and Iraq and what will be a generational struggle. Instead of the war with Iraq, it is more quick correctly said the battle in Iraq one of the battle in Afghanistan, words and phrases are important in terms of how we understand critical decisions that this nation will face and then how we frame our thinking as we go about dealing with it. Our nations forces have been in the Iraq over four years now, no doubt that mistakes have been made and opportunity is lost, but progress continuous to have an incremental pace slower progress in our country men that like but generally a pace of the historical norms nine to 11 years that we see when we study successful currents urgencies. We have over a 170,000 US troupes in Iraq a roughly 25,000 of them Marines and an another 11,000 plus correlation troupes, marines are almost exclusively located in the Al Anbar province west of Baghdad until recently termed "the deadly" or the "volatile Al Anbar". The region is still a dangerous place make no - no doubt. But the marines and soldiers assigned to marine expeditionary force have made tremendous progress over the past nine months. At one point, Baghdad believed that the province would be the absolute last to achieve an acceptable level of stability and security. Today conditions in the province have become the model for what's happening in the rest of the country. The reason for the progress is that during October of '06 the leading Sunni sheiks in the province decided that US forces were less in enemy to them than the Al Qaeda. They finally head their fill of the murder in intimidation campaigns the Al Qaeda was objecting them to and suddenly, teams the marines had held fast to over two and a half years began to resonate as was there a culture, the tribal leaders determined that the enemy of my enemy is my friend and thus began a partnership that is over the intervening months all but clear, the hard core terrorists from the region. The matrix shows the results, attacks are down 60 percent, cache discoveries are up 400 percent because tips of the local population of Iraq up a 150 percent. Sunni tribes now offer more of the young men each month for the Iraqi security forces than the correlation can train and yes causalities are down almost 14 percent for US troupes. A normalcy has returned to the province not seen in over three years and the people like it. Al Qaeda can be expected a counter attack but they have lost the supports of the population and when that happens an insurgency cannot survive. Economic progress must follow however was to fully capitalized on the security gains and that also was happening. Market places in all major cities are open and a decentralized economy flourishes, international businesses have been watching the security situation closely in Al-Anbar and many now feel the time is right for those willing to accept some risks but perhaps realize significant gains to act. The final leg of the stool is the political leg, at the national level the political patch work is problematic and Maliki government has been repeatedly cautioned that they must make better use of the time correlation forces have brought up. In the Al-Anbar province, things are slightly more encouraging, Prime Minister Maliki has made a Ramada with the leading sheiks in a schedule to meet with him again in Al-Karamah time this on. The sheiks realize that in order for the country to stay together there must be reconciliation with the Kurds and Shias at the national level, the conciliation conferences are taking place amongst tribal leadership, the clergy and elected officials. Recently just such a conference was attacked by a suicide bomb, though the attack made make sufficient efforts more difficult. It also shows the participants are much the Al Qaeda fear the success of these efforts. As one might expect the morality of the marines and sailors who are leaving those successes in the west is off the page, although our deployment tempo was intense, marines are normally deployed for seven months in home for seven months or in some cases less. The absolute best moral that our core is - our core has is found in units getting ready to go to Iraq or they are already there. I will give you a couple of examples, second battalion fifth marines was in Ramada on their last deployment and lost 15 marines killed and an another 150 plus wounded, schedule to return to Ramada again the battalion commander approached his combat veterans who were new in the interactive service and it would occur either before or during the deployment, the express concern that his younger marines who were not combat experienced would miss their leadership and their know how. They asked them to consider staying abroad through the next rotation. Ladies and gentlemen without a penny of incentive pay, 200 marines most of them in silos stepped forward to deploy again with that battalion. In another instance so happened that just last week Corporal Gareth Hawkins had his right leg shattered in an IED blast northwest of Karamah. Before he was medicated out by helicopter, he told his first soldier that he first needed to go back to the base. Once after treatment station, he announced he wanted to re-enlist before he was evacuated. His platoon commander read the oath, the corporal raised his right hand as he lay on the stretcher and his fellow marines shook their heads in amazement and he could only say thats as motivating as hell. Another more reason that marines and and sailors feel good about their mission and themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan said they are certain as they are defending this nation against terrorism. They feel that the reason the country is not been attacked since 9/11 is because they are killing the same terrorists in both places. They might otherwise be attempting to find their way to the US. Most would agree that the direct attack on terrorism was not the initial reason for going into Iraq in 2003 but it took a little less than three weeks for us to see religious extremes there, on a march to Baghdad my division commander then general - Major General Jim Mades outside a little town called Azeezia radioed back that he had just run into a bee hive. He said that there were about 300 fighters in the area who were not retreating and to the contrary they were dying in place on their guns. These people were phonetics, the last squad was cut down charging a 50 caliber machine gun on a tank. When we searched the bodies, we found that they were not Iraqis but were from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Yemen. In the innerving years we have locks the forces of Al Qaeda increasingly make it their fight, indeed they are the single most dangerous enemy we face. There is no way our troops want to back down from that fight and they and there are key counter parts have substantially destroyed the Al Qaeda organizations or forced to go else where. The Al Qaeda in Iraq are increasingly on the run, we have faced two enemies in the country, one we call the ACF or the Anti Correlation Forces the other AIF or the Anti Iraqi Forces. The anti correlation forces are basically local tribes men or former Iraqi army who believe we have become occupiers These types are essentially nationalists. They want to see a strong Iraqi government the correlation forces gone and ultimately better quality of life for their children. They might very well engage the US patrol moving through their area with lethal fires, but if the patrol were Iraqi, they would cheer their voice on. The anti Iraqi forces are different, they are principally Al Qaeda foreign fighters and criminals they do not want to see a strong Iraqi government, indeed their objective is to return to the caliphate and 15th century law. They are not likely to ever reach agreement with a recognized authority and will simple have to be captured or killed. For roughly 36 months these forces allied together to a police correlation forces for the past nine months, the anti correlation forces have joined with us to eliminate the anti Iraqi forces. The terrorist leaders are Al-Zarqawi foretold the day would come before his death. He said of Iraqi security forces in 2004, "we fight them and this is difficult because of the gap that will emerge between us and the people of the land. How can we kill their cousins and sons linked to the inhabitants by kinship, blood and honor, the real sounds of this land would decide the matter through experience. Democracy is coming, there will be no excuse there after". We are hopeful that the so called awakening movement of the tribes in Al-Anbar will continue to be a west to east phenomenon that has evolved, Baghdad is admittedly different with the ethnic mix found in the city. But even there we have recently seen some bonding against the Al Qaeda influence. The recent surge of plaza that has been directed by the president comes at an advantageous time to keep pressure on the Al Qaeda. I must caution however that the source of the additional troops to Iraq has created an impact on available force flow that can only be judged as severe. The efforts has brought both ground services to a precipitous edge where future rotations are in jeopardy of not being fully rested, trained or manned to go forward. Our message to the commanders in the field then to our leadership is that based on our current deployment model, the troop levels associated with the surge cannot be sustained indefinitely, that said that - I have heard this effort described as a "hail Mary" a last desperate attempt to achieve success. The analogy follows that if the effort fails that is to say if the past falls incomplete, then the clock runs out and the game is over, folks, I think it what we have at stake in Iraq is far too important for us as a nation to take that view, the much advertised September report from commanders indeed will provide us an in sight as to the progress on the ground and awake of that report, we has a nation need to take an objective look at where we are in the struggle. We should not over estimate our progress made or under estimate the momentum the enemy would gain if we were to conduct an unabated withdrawal of forces. There are many options left available and we need to be pragmatic in terms of what is best for the nation both in the near term and in the context of this long war. You know ladies and gentlemen the Iraqis are very proud people, they consider this themselves fortunate to be Iraqis and they look forwarded to the day when they can obtain security and prosperous surroundings. A professor told long ago that a sovereign nation needs five things to make it prosper - freshwater, available land and educated population and exportable product and a sea port Iraq has all those things, I would add that sixth element to the list I think leadership but the point is Iraq is potentially a very rich country. Her neighbors look on that wealth with a less degage and Al Qaeda do like nothing better than to control such resources for the long war. We in turn when we do draw down must develop a regional strategy that protects Iraq on the - such time that she can build back her own forces sufficient to defend national sovereignty and yet we need to limit the footprint of our forces inside the country. Let me switch topics at this point and talk about regional security in the next steps in the war on terrorism. be able to reset our core, trained more broadly for other contingencies and prepare ourselves for the next engagements with extremists. The key question will be are we reducing our forces in Iraq confident in the ability of Iraqi security forces to carry the partners of the fight and the ability of the Iraqis to self govern or are we drawing down because we feel progress is not sufficiently dramatic, that Iraq is simply not worth the cost in treasure and blood or because as some say we have already lost. For those who subscribe to the latter point of view I would offer to you that there is something else inextricably tied to our presence in Iraq and that is the credibility of the United States of America. Whether or not we want to admit it as a nation the fight interact has involved into a struggle between us and Al Qaeda. The religious extremists of our modern day world and the people we must defeat in this long war. Our enemy has said from the outside that Americans are weak of spirit and we will lose our will to end of the fighting gets tough, he has looked at or other withdrawals in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia and is gained confidence that he can recreate yet another such scenario. I said to you earlier that Iraq and Afghanistan are the first battles of the long war, he knows just as we should know that whoever wins the first gains incredible momentum, the loser faces are vastly different and much more donning set of circumstances. The keys to a successful struggle that Iraq are developing the rudimentary elements of self governance sufficient to protect the citizens of the country whole the nation together and provide basic services to the people. The keys to a successful regional strategy will be posturing the moderates for success in regaining control of the Muslim religion preventing wider out breaks of sectarian violence amongst nations and containing the Iranian threat, not withstanding possible development of nuclear weapons Iran is already the recognized power in the region among skilled states. The nations in a regional watch for is uneasy not yet willing to accommodate but in no position to challenge their Persian neighbor. Iran for its part is also uneasy, she has significant correlation presence on both her eastern and western borders and an entire fleet of correlation combat ships in gulf waters. The Iranian responds to this - thus far has been coward that is to say deniable support for both the insurgence in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. She is exporting the successful Hizbullah model in an attempt to prolong both conflicts in order to avoid greater focus on Iran, the strategy today has only been minimally successful but carries with it a high degree of risk. The stability of the region is in the best interest of the industrial world as 30 percent of the world's oil supply flows from gulf force and I will continue to be the case to at least the next couple of decades however the threats are also enduring Al Qaeda, Iranian sponsored and terrorist organizations in international - internal movements associated with virtually every middle eastern nation to name them most serious. But there has been unrest and extremist movements in the past, indeed there have been five previous jihads in history and relative peace was only possible after the moderates were - were sufficiently mobilized to say enough and regain control of their religion. Western nations have had little impact on settling previous jihads, the solution must invariably come from within but with wide state craft, we can't with our partner nations positively influence event in the region and help safety environment for success. One of the things that Western Asians can and must ensure is that this long war is not somehow evolved into a cultural war between Muslims and Christianity. Of course the extremists would like nothing better and just as they been able to engineer sectarian strike in Iraq, we can accurately predict that they will attempt to inflame religion on a global scale. We must continue to focus like a laser on extremism, but extend the helping hand to other nations particularly Muslim nations, who seek it secretary Rumsfeld used to say that the most important success we have had against terrorism to date was the tsunami relief and we didn't fire a single round. There has been other successes in the wake of the tsunami disaster where our military responded magnificently during the Pakistani earthquake, the Philippine mud slides and even Lebanon comparative evacuation but the response should not unless absolutely necessary always be a military response. Perhaps more than any other conflict we have engaged in, this generational struggle calls out for the application of other elements of American power a fledgling country in north Africa it susceptible to fundamentalists ideologies might not welcome a squad of marines in the back of astray but they will be anxious to have a fire team of Americans from agriculture and justice, border and drug enforcement to help them get their institutions right and prosper a higher standard of living. We need to properly resource and develop a deployment mentality among our US government agencies, so that they can stand at the shoulder of our arm forces during this long war. Just as we must broaden our own ability to respond, we must welcome our contributions of other nations, who would have guessed it ten years ago that NATO would be as engaged in Afghanistan as we see today, more over I don't think when they did agree to go in, that they did so realizing their forces will be under frequent attack by a resurgent Taliban. By my estimation however the NATO forces in the southern region have done pretty well this past point even though there are those in Washington gross data was more that this nation or that one is not doing as much as it should. Folks I am reminded of the phrase "a nation would invariably do what is in the best interest of that nation to do". I am convinced our country appreciates a correlation effort and we need to do all on our power to encourage it. If its not in a nations capability to provide combat troops, then we ought to ask for military advisory teams, police trainers are those who can counter drugs, each nations should be encouraged to do as much as it can, but the key is to keep there flag at it in that circle of flags that are engaged in this long war on terrorism. One more element of information for you that may impact how you see the problem. Our nation must make some very critical decisions in the next several months I am supremely confident in the power of a democracy to make tough decision, we elect men and women of character and the people of our great land feel free to engage in this debate, its therefore critical that our country men certainly are elected officials, understand the enemy strategy we have both intercepted it and he has arrogantly placed it on his websites, the strategy has five phases, the first phase calls for Jihad for all the brothers to rise up and slaughter the infidel that base is only been partially successful, as we calculated there are probably a couple of thousand hardcore Al Qaeda world wide and may be a few tens of thousands of tribes. The second phase calls for the removal of all western influence out of the old caliphate read the Middle East I believe that that's the phase we are in now. Based on the discussions taking place in our government one can argue that the enemy is perhaps more on planning in Iraq than than we are. During the third phase the jihad plans to turn on and destroy what they would call the apostate governments of the Middle East, those that had partnered with the infidels, those that have sold its oil and the execution of this phase something very important happens. The enemy knows that he cannot defeat us on the battle field but believes that he can defeat our nation by wrecking our economy, bankrupting and making it impossible for us to deploy our forces. He intends to do that through control of the Middle East oil supply either by destroying the capacity to produce or if he takes it intact by so distorting oil crisis hundreds of dollars per barrel that western economies come to a standstill. The next phase includes the destruction of Israel and increasingly devastating terrorist attacks in the west. Finally he says and this may take a hundred years, he extends the caliphate to encompass the globe and every nation that adopts his laws and his religion. Folks if you listen closely you know that I mentioned at least two vital US national objectives. My view is if we don't get the job done right in Afghanistan the first time, we will be going back and things are always tougher the second time around. Lets talk briefly about one last topic and that is the role of the US marine corp in the future and they are those who point out that the marine corp has over the past few years started to perform the function and take on the look of a second planned army, that's true. That rather remarkable transformation began in 2003 where we lined up along side an army core and then matched them straight for straight all the way to Baghdad, several hundred miles beyond our traditional operating ranges that takes at the sea. Then the marine on a task force attacked another hundred miles supported by organic air to capture Saddam's home town of Tikrit, I mentioned it because it reflects the adaptability and the versatility of our court to respond whatever force the nation needs. My belief is that for this long war there is no more relevant or capable force in the nation's inventory than the US marine core. To be that force however we must understand what the environment would look like in the out years and the role our expeditionary strategy will play. We see a world in 2025s still suffering the effects of Islamic extremism, the dangers of weapons of mass destruction being used against the home land will increase, alternative energy sources will not be mature, so industrial nations and increasingly the developing nations will depend on the free flow of oil. However, fresh water will be equally important to petroleum product, during the 20th century while the population increased 300 percent the demand for water increased 600 percent. Demographics and the ageing of the population of industrial countries accompanied by the youth bulge in developing countries will literally change the face of the world as we know it. The US technological advantage, economic power and military might will still exceed that of other nations would not be nearly as dominant by 2025. The marine core, navy and coast guard are developing the maritime strategy to meet this changing world it realize heavily on forward presence and extensive use of the global commerce in this instance the oceans. Key elements of our strategy include integration with the naval forces of other nations to keep open sea lines of communication, a form of strategic distributed operations where we have a small number of marines in barter board ship working partnership with the forces of developing nations sea basing our capability in an effort to minimize US presence of shore on any other nations land and yes maintaining a sufficient forcible entry capability to the situation demand. To continue to be the nations forceful choice the core of today will have to require some changes folks - we once again have to attain our expeditionary flavor, we have grown heavy in our effort to accomplish the mission and protect our troops in an IED laden environment, another layer of armor has a good feel to it but it also limits the ability of an expeditionary force to be mobile and agile. Our battalion equipments sets and the mortar pools have become populated with over three times the gear that we once felt was sufficient, most of us it is a good stuff for the environment were enough but the day must come when we sort out what we can carry, what we must have versus what is nice to have. We will have to intelligently add the 27,000 marines the president has offered us most of the number would be used to grow additional units so it had been hard pressed in this war on terrorism. New capabilities armor will also be created. We see the need for a training an advisory group they will provide advisory teams and nation developing a professional military, or who are perhaps already engaged in a fight with extremists. We will have to train all our new marines active and reserved and bread and butter competencies and tedious operations combined arms maneuver and not in a jungle war fare training to ensure that they are indeed ready for any climate place. There are a couple of other areas we have to fix as well recently in army mental health study pointed to the fact that the marines in our recent rotation in Iraq the percentages that I was not comfortable with will lose in their interpretation may be even application of battle field ethics. At the same time we have a couple of incidence involving civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq under investigation are engaged in trial. New information emerged just last week on yet another alleged incident, now we are going to let those things play out, no one is prematurely judging guilt or innocence but the very convergence of all these events concern me and so we are examining as a core how we prepared our young squad leaders to become that strategic corporal. The long war indeed is small unit leaders fight and we have to make sure our young warriors operating sometime with little sleep and then a 120 degree heat are up to the task of making rapid tactical decisions that may have strategic impact, because of the importance of the quality of the individual marine we will grow the force roughly 5,000 marines a year over the next five years but we do not intend to lower our standards that makes it tough for our recruiters are working hard and we are making our cores. I believe it helps that there will always be a certain number of great young Americans out there who wanted to be marines once again however I have concerns this time not with our core but with the army. Folks we have a great army and I will be the first to tell you that the marine core wins battles but the army wins the nations wars our army is not having a good time of it right now recruiting and yet there successes are inextricably tied to the successes of the nation. I have encouraged our recruiters, I encouraged you tonight to help where you can if a young American is never going to be a marine there is tremendous pride in serving this country as a soldier in the United States army. Folks let me leave you with the just couple of positive thoughts everything that we read about in the future indicates that well trained, well lead human beings with the capacity to absorb information and rapidly react to the environment have a tremendous asymmetric advantage over an advisory that advantage goes to us. All the young marines of today are courageous, willing to make sacrifices and are marvelous team players. I am confident our core and indeed our nation will be in great shape for a long time to come as these people continue to grow and assume greater positions of responsibility. Finally our recently named book "First to Fight" by Lieutenant General Victor Krulak has a commandant selection I must read from our reading in the book he says that they will always be a marine corp because America lose her marines, that is unless one of two things were to happen. One would be that we as an institution were found to be somehow abusing the sons and daughters of this great land. The other would be if the nation would call on the corp at a time of emergency and somehow we failed to answer that call. Ladies and Gentlemen let me assure you here tonight neither of those two things are going to happen on my watch. Thank you very much.