DATE: March 27, 2007
PROGRAM: "Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo"
TIME: 4:30PM ET
The following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC exclusive interview with Lieutenant General Ray Odierno on "Closing Bellwith Maria Bartiromo" today at 4:30PM ET. All references must be sourced to CNBC.
In the interview, Lieutenant General Odierno discusses a variety of topics including the Iraqis ability to handle their own security, the capability of the extremists, the U.S. troops needs, the capture of the British naval forces by the Iranians, oil prices and when he expects the U.S. troops to leave Iraq.
Lieutenant General RAY ODIERNO: In what we're seeing so far, we've just begun a small search here and we are seeing some changes. We're seeing changes with the Iraqi people. We are trying to, first and foremost, protect the Iraqi people. And by doing that, we are really starting to make some progress as we move forward. But we still have a long way to go, and the key is to be able to sustain this over a very long period of time so the Iraqi people gain confidence in the ability of the Iraqi army, Iraqi police, to provide them security. But so far, so good.
BARTIROMO: So when would you expect the Iraqis to be able to handle their own security then?
Lt. Gen. ODIERNO: Well, it's unclear. Clearly, that they are playing a much major--much bigger role now than they ever have been. They are in charge of this security plan. They have moved over 9,000 soldiers from outside of Baghdad into Baghdad and they have over 26,000 soldiers, over 25,000 police now operating. So they have some capacity. The concern is their ability to sustain this over time. We have to continue to equip them, they have to continue to equip themselves, which is more important, and they have to continue to build their training programs. They now have officer and noncommissioned officer academies all over Iraq, so we have to allow those to continue to grow. I believe that within five to six to eight months, we'll be able to make a good assessment of where they are in building their capacity, and based on that, we'll be able to make a decision on how long this surge will go.
BARTIROMO: Back in February, when you were addressed the country, you said that you had a chance to tour various parts of Iraq. You said you learned and found evidence of certain preparations, whether it's suicide bombings or artillery. Can you characterize today how aggressive the extremists are and really, how capable they are today?
Lt. Gen. ODIERNO: Yeah. First off, I continue to go around the country every day. And first, let me tell you is we're being extremely aggressive all over the country, not only in Baghdad. We're seeing some significant progress out of Anbar province, where we have the Iraqi people themselves, the tribes, joining with the coalition forces to fight al-Qaeda, while in the past, they have had some safe havens and strongholds where they were able to generate these VBIDs and SVBIEDs that you've seen. They still are attempting to do that but we've uncovered many, many more than we have in the part. So far, in the last 30 days, we've uncovered over about 50 percent more explosive device factories, cache sites with VBIDs and IEDs, and these are because we're getting the assistance of the Iraqi people, who are rejecting al-Qaeda. They are still trying to find these safe havens around the country, so with the surge of coalition forces as well as the Iraqi security forces, we are very slowly going after these networks.
I'm somewhat encouraged, but again, they are still attempting to do very heinous acts such as the release of chlorine bombs, the first time that this country has been gassed since Saddam Hussein did it in the early '90s, and it shows the extent that these terrorists are willing to go to to hurt the Iraqi people.