Alisha Ryu interviewed Lt. Gen. William Scott Wallace, Commanding General of U.S. Army Forces in Iraq.
Ryu: Can you think of any one key event or factor that allowed the coalition forces to win this war as relatively quickly as they did?
Wallace: "I don't think it happened in one event. I think it evolved over time as we developed young leaders and old leaders to deal with this kind of battlefield, this kind of decisiveness, this kind of incredible cooperation among the services."
Ryu: How much did the British help in the coalition fight?
Wallace:"They were tremendously helpful and very, very successful down south. They ended up dealing with the second largest population center in the country. We watched with great interest how they went about that and probably learned some lessons from how they went about their business in dealing with both the military aspects and the fight in and around Basra and subsequently their humanitarian and civil affairs actions that they've done."
Ryu: Do you think Saddam Hussein believed that by throwing his Fedayeen and especially his Republican Guard elements down to the south that it could hold up the advance long enough for them to sort of regroup in Baghdad?
Wallace:"I believe that he believed that one of the keys to his success was drawing us into an urban fight, slowing us down thereof while maintaining control of the population. We were able to wrest the control of the population from him and we were able to win the urban fight very early."
Ryu:The bounding of artillery and the air strikes that went on for days, how much of an affect did that have in getting the Republican Guards to capitulate as early as they did?
Wallace:"I don't think any one arm or any one service had everything to do with the results of the campaign. I think that all the services combined, in an extraordinary display of combined arms/maneuver/warfare led to the successful conclusion of the campaign. We did strike the proper balance both in the tactics and the operational level and led to the successful conclusion of the campaign."
Ryu: The collapse of the Iraqi military has left possibly hundreds of thousands of soldiers who have presumably melted back into society - what do you think these soldiers are doing, what should they be doing, and how to you prevent them from consolidating again into a force opposed to the U.S.?
Wallace:"Last question first: They are substantially demoralized. I think that the coalition - not just the U.S., but the coalition has demonstrated its superiority with regards to military operations. So at the very least they are going to be discouraged from rejuvenating themselves as some kind of opposing force. As to what they're doing - I don't know. I think they are all wearing civilian clothes. I think a lot of them are standing on street corners. I suspect that some of them, perhaps many of them, have gone back and reunited with their families and they, like all other free Iraqis, are now waiting for the emergence of a government and have this supreme opportunity to take advantage of opportunity we've given them. So I'd like to believe that as former military men they are standing by waiting to become part of the solution to a free Iraq."
Ryu: The Army is moving right now into the area where the Marines have been patrolling parts of Baghdad. What is the Army's plans for securing those sectors that are still unstable in terms of ongoing looting, robbery, and how much trouble are you expecting in those areas?
Wallace: "It's a very deliberate process over a number of days to make sure we transfer as much information and as much knowledge from the old commander to the new to make sure the new guy does not have a substantial dip in situational awareness about what's going on in this sector. Inasfar as how are we going to deal with it, we are going to deal with it the same way we've dealt with it in western Baghdad, through presence patrols, through military checkpoints, through interface with the civilian population."
Ryu: Are you seeing more civilian cooperation with the ground forces there?
Wallace:"Yes, we are seeing a tremendous amount of cooperation, and some of it is relatively subdued, I guess. You don't see people flagging you down on the street, but you do on occasion - in fact, ever more frequently - we get information from Iraqi citizens who just want the security in their area to be as good as it can be. And they're coming forward and pointing out people and pointing out locations of weapons caches, they're pointing out places where unexploded ordinance might be so we can go in and clear up the mess."
Ryu: There is some hesitancy among the civilians. I was told by some of the locals it's because some people do not believe that Saddam Hussein is really gone, that this is just a dream and they're going to wake up and find Saddam Hussein back in power. How do you reassure the people that this is not going to happen?
Wallace:"Well, if Saddam isn't dead, he's running like hell. I think it's going to take a little bit of time to convince the people that they really do have an opportunity, that they really do have their freedom."
Ryu: And they are already clamoring for the 'U.S. Occupation' to end and to leave. We're riding a very fine line of welcome and being rejected at the same time right now.
Wallace:"I don't have a timeline, I think it's all conditions-based, based on the security situation improving, improving the population's awareness of their obligation, responsibility to seize the opportunity to control their own destiny. I can't put a time line on it. I can't put a number on a number. I can't put a horizon on it, because it's all based on conditions and how they emerge. But I'm very hopeful, even optimistic, that it's going to turn around in a relatively short term."