Iraq and Afghanistan: A Reporter's Perspective with Eric Schmitt.
What's it like reporting from the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan? Schmitt has covered every war and major military operation involving American troops since the 1991 Gulf War. He discusses his nine trips to Iraq and four to Afghanistan, and his Pulitzer Prize-winning series exposing the sale of sensitive American technology to China.
Eric Schmitt is a reporter for The New York Times.
Collection, preparation, and distribution of news and related commentary and feature materials through media such as pamphlets, newsletters, newspapers, magazines, radio, film, television, and books. The term was originally applied to the reportage of current events in printed form, specifically newspapers, but in the late 20th century it came to include electronic media as well. It is sometimes used to refer to writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation. Colleges and universities confer degrees in journalism and sponsor research in related fields such as media studies and journalism ethics.
Right now it's my great pleasure to introduce our speaker Eric Schmitt. Eric as you I amsure most of you know is or has been the military correspondent for The New YorkTimes and he is currently a Knight Fellow at Stanford. For those of you who may notknow about this program it's a highly prestigious program to bring journalists together fora years break and it allows them to study most anything they want to study at Stanfordand that from what I understand it's a pretty rewarding experience. So we are delightedthat Eric has had it and that he is with us today; because he'll soon be moving back toThe Times. Eric is a graduate of Williams College in International Relations and he alsostudied at Harvard's Executive Program. He began at the Times in 1983 as assistant toJames "Scotty" Reston and then as a reporter after that with the with a range of beats.But since September of 2001 he has covered the Pentagon and the U.S. Military in theaftermath of 9/11, a job that has taken him to Iraq for nine reporting trips and toAfghanistan four times. He has covered every war and major military operation involvingUS troops since the Gulf War. In 1999 Eric shared a Pulitzer Prize with five colleaguesfor a series of articles that disclosed the corporate sale of American technology to China.And you may want to ask him more about that during the question period. I will now turnthe meeting over to Eric Schmitt.Well, thank you Lee for that very generous introduction. Thank you all for coming today.It's a kind of a course reminder here. Our days are winding short here at Stanford thiswonderful weather and experience we had. Kind of looking at I looked at the weathermap this morning, it shows about 90 degrees and 95 percent humidity in Washington DCwhere we will be heading back so I am I am jealous if you all get to stay behind here aswe go forward. I thought what I do today is talk a little bit about my experience as acorrespondent working in Iraq and Afghanistan and give you my assessment, essentially asnap shot assessment of what I see has been going on in Iraq, in Afghanistan and andthen we can open it up for some questions.Clearly in Iraq right now the situation is grave. I mean you don't have to do anything butlook at the newspaper everyday, I mean turn on the television to see the latest bombingand crisis that's going on there. American troop levels in Iraq had been graduallyincreasing. The Surge is somewhat of a misnomer that has been used both by the militaryand some of my media colleagues. But it has really been an incremental increase we haveseen over last three months. The goal of course has been to add about 30,000 Americantroops to by the end of this month, mainly in Baghdad with the goal being to end thelargely sectarian violence that has wrecked the capital of their and throughout the countryand give political reconciliation a chance to take hold. That is really what the currentstrategy the new strategy if you will is all about.The plan has been devised by a highly respected new Army Commander on the ground inIraq, General David Petraeus who is really one of the best and brightest that the militaryhas to offer. He is a Ph. D from Princeton, numerous combat tours in Iraq right now. Andhis plan is really focused on trying to set up a series of outposts security outposts thatare manned both by the American and Iraqi troops throughout the capital, right along theSunni-Shia fault lines that break into the various neighborhoods these mixedneighborhoods of in Iraq to try, and again bring down the sectarian violence has been thenumber one cause of violence in the capital, the center of gravity if you will, in Iraq forthe last year or so. And there are a few positive signs so far from this. The sectariankillings are down in the capital itself, the killing between Shia and Sunnis that have beengoing on, unfortunately however the number of car bombings the number of these roadside bombs called IEDs has been going up as a counter to that. The violence in thewestern part of Iraq, Al Anbar Province; which has been the most problematic place forAmerican forces since going in, it's the heart of the Sunni resistance and it has been themost difficult place to get into for the American forces. That is actually starting to showsome signs of turning around albeit with a somewhat risky strategy that some of you mayhave been reading about in the last few days and that is the Americans commandershave started turning to some of the very Sunni extremist groups that have been attackingAmericans in arming and helping assist them in their fight against some of the AlQaeda extremists who are now these the two groups that used to be allies are nowfighting with each other and the Americans are trying to help kind of turn the war in theWest by aiding these Sunni groups, some of whom had been fighting Americans. And theconcern here obviously is even if they do succeed in defeating some of these theextremists the Al Qaeda extremists, it could over the long haul only exacerbate thestruggle between Sunni and Shia.So you have got that going on. So some signs of improvement in the West, but if you goto a province just North-East of Baghdad called Diyala Province, that is the new AlAnbar of Iraq if you will. This is the kind of the new Wild West that has posed the mostsignificant problems for the American and Iraqi forces. Its where the violence is mostpronounced right now and where the where the Iraqi forces are really at their weakestand which is really where the focus is going to be, probably along with the Capital, overthe next several months throughout the summer and trying to get this violence tampeddown. That said, you still have a situation were everyday almost everyday in Iraq youhave as many as 100 civilians are been killed. They are being killed by these bombings,they are been caught in some of the cross fire and some of these killing that are going ondespite the best efforts of this of this new strategy. And perhaps most discouragingwhat we are seeing on the ground is effectively a de-facto sectarian partitioning of Iraq,starting with the Capital itself where you have nearly two million Iraqis are now displacedfrom their homes, these are people living, primarily have been living in mixedneighborhoods, Shias in predominately Sunni neighborhoods that are having to flee to theSouth or Sunnis in predominantly Shia neighborhoods fleeing to the West. They nolonger can live together because the Shia militias and Sunni militias, essentially deathsquads on either side are targeting each other and causing the country basically to breakup from the center from Baghdad if you will.That's that's inside of Iraq. You have an additional two million people who had just leftthe country altogether, mainly to Syria and to Jordan and to some other countries. So youare looking at looking at almost 20 percent of the country of Iraq, is being displacedeither inside or outside of the country adding to this turmoil. General Petraeus and otherAmerican Commanders have said they hope to have an initial assessment of how thisstrategy is working by September. They are under a lot of pressure right now, both fromthe administration and from members of Congress to produce this kind of assessment.But as The New York Times reported just about ten days ago an internal military reviewthrough the first three months of this strategy showed that the US and Iraqi forces who areon the ground control fewer than one third of the neighborhoods in Baghdad. This is farbehind what they had hoped to be at this time. And is just another sign of just howdifficult this mission is over all, the challenges that this particular strategy faces rightnow. It also shows continues to show the weakness of the Iraqi Security Forces,particularly the Iraqi Police in tying to get a hold of the security situation, to be able toadminister check points, to be able to carry out routine patrols in a non-partisan, non-sectarian way.In the early phases of this strategy the Petraeus strategy, there were initially there weresome signs that these militias, principally the Shia militias but also some Sunni militias,were going to be were lying low and avoiding confrontation with the American forcesas they moved in, principally into Baghdad. But in recent weeks we have see some of thatactivity bursting out again. You had Muqtada al-Sadr, who is the fire brand Shia cleric,return from Iran where he had, really left, and again issuing many in - kind of insightfulstatements and rallying his increasingly fragmented group, which is kind of an interestingtrend to keep an eye on, to rally against the Americans. So you have the you have thesemilitias which have been formed and and continue to be popular with people becausethey are not there is not a whole lot of trust in the National Security systems and this isagain what's really driving the sectarian violence that we see on the ground. The othertrend that we are seeing is increasing use of more sophisticated and deadly roadsidebombs. Again these improvised explosive devices, they call it IEDs, the bombs aregetting bigger, they have got more sophisticated triggering devices and right in themonths of April and May they account for 80 percent of the American causalities in thecountry. The United States military has spent over $6 billion in the last two years to tryand defeat these, defeat these bombs. This is through a range of technical measures, it'sthrough a range of different strategies, but the enemy has proven to be very, veryproductive in terms of how they can adapt to the counter measures of the Americans putout. So that's a very that's a very troubling sign and in the troops and in the officers Istill keep in contact with primarily through e-mail but many of who have come throughStanford on tours and speaking engagements, the question that's in their mind is the surgestrategy is essentially too little late just to basically say in Iraq right now. In fact thecynics from the field have another term for it. They call this new strategy J-E-L or JELmeaning just enough to lose.Add to this of course you have this tremendous political dynamic that we have overlayingthe conflicts in Iraq, and Afghanistan right now. The Iraq is the main issue in theemerging Presidential campaign. I am sure most of you have seen some of these firstmeeting first debates for the Republican and Democratic candidates. This is issue numberone. In fact we haven't had a Presidential election really since late 60s or early 70sperhaps, our national security particularly a war like the Iraq war and is front and centerand it's going to be on every candidate's top list of things to do and things to address.President Bush, a few weeks ago gained approval for nearly $100 billion in additionalwar funding that will take the military through the end of September, this current fiscalyear. But Democrats and Congress both in House and Senate have allowed to go backagain, have more votes, they would essentially cut off funding if the administration doesnot set deadlines of some kind for bringing troops home or for setting some kind ofbenchmarks. So keep an eye on that as we move through the summer and as that dateapproaches when Petraeus is supposed to come through with an assessment, keep an eyeon whether he asks for and is granted an extension of that which some commanders arealready hinting at, that they may need until next spring to get a, you know, furtherassessment on you know what more time basically to see if this is really working or not.Another sign of kind of the political dynamics here in the stakes that it play just this pastweek there is another political causality. We saw Don Rumsfeld get thrown overboardafter the election in last November and even more extraordinary thing took place just theother day when Secretary - Defense Secretary Bob Gates basically reversed theadministration's position and decided they were not going to re-nominate General PeterPace for a second two-year term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Pace's two-yeartenure would be the shortest tenure of any Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in nearly 40years. They basically pulled the plug on this guy because they did not want to have to gothrough a very contentious Senate confirmation fight right about the same time thatPetraeus's assessment is due in September.As the war goes on of course it's putting a huge strain on American military forces bothin the reserves, the National Guard, and the active duty forces. Many of whom are now ontheir third or fourth tour of duty. These tours can last anywhere from seven months to 12months on the ground, these places. It's become a huge challenge for recruiting andretention for all the services, particularly for the ground services. The army and themarine corp, despite enlistment and reenlistment bonuses of up to $40000 per soldier ormarine in some cases. You got a huge cost of just operating the number of troops here.You got over 175000 troops in Iraq. You got over 27000 troops in Afghanistan. It'scosting the United States treasury a $100 billion a year to maintain the war operations inthese two countries.So the question that, a lot of this begs is well what's happened with the Iraqis. Wasn't itafter all the plan here to train up the Iraqis to take over the security functions of their owncountry? Well in fact there have been about 350,000 Iraqi soldiers, police, and othersecurity services that have been trained over the last several years. The problem is severalof this units still are suffering desertion rates as high as 50 percent, American trainers fearthat many of the Iraqi security forces especially the police still owe their real allegiancesto these militias that I was talking about before rather than to a National Security Network.Lieutenant General Marty Dempsey who is again one of the one of the smartest armyofficers I have met in my tours of Iraq recently he just he just finished a year or so touras the top American trainer in the country and he was testifying to a house committee justthe other day in Washington in which he said that the Iraqis remained incapable of takingfull responsibility for their security for many years. They will need to add perhaps another20 to 30,000 security forces to that number that I just gave you and then a long termmilitary relationship with the United States will be necessary.You also on top of this have what's called the National Intelligence Estimate. This isbasically the consensus of the American intelligence community and they came out in lastin February of this year with the conclusion that even if General Petraeus's plan were towork. If it did let's say if it did reduce violence, Iraqi leaders would be hard pressed toachieve the sustained political reconciliation in economic reconstruction that is reallyessential to bring Iraq back. Given this sharp sectarian divisions that exist right now inIraq. These are divisions in the gap is actually growing rather than shrinking right now.Just last Sunday the new head of United States Central command which is the militarycommand that oversees the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon was in Baghdad andtold Prime Minister Maliki in an unusual directive from the Military Officer, basicallythat the Iraqi government needs to come up with some tangible political progress.Something like one of the the getting this oil revenue legislation passed in place by nextmonth. The Iraqis wanted to head off, encounter some of the opposition to the war that isnow going on in Congress. That's really the crucial issue here, is will the Iraqis be able toand be willing to take advantage of the breathing room that this search strategy issupposed to create. Will the search strategy work? Will it give them that kind ofopportunity to go in and do that?Shifting to Afghanistan I have to say it's equally glum news I think although it's not astory. It gets nearly as much coverage. It's overshadowed, perhaps understandably bywhat's going on in Iraq but it's just as serious what we see. The Pentagon earlier this yearextended tour of some 3200 troops by an additional four months. The first time they havehad to do that in an effort to counter what they expected to the fierce spring offensive bythe Taliban and some of their allies. The good news is that it looked like this strategyalong with some other things did help blend what was expected to be a quite bloodyoffensive by the Taliban. It didn't quite turn out to be as bad as they thought. But it's stillit's still a very problematic situation particularly in the southern part of the country andthe south eastern part of the country along the Pakistan border. And one of the signs ofthis is that the number of the IED attacks. These road side bombs again it used to be nonexistent in Afghanistan has doubled from the year 2005.Suicide bombers are now common place in Kandahar and Kabul where before they wereunheard of. The tactics are being borrowed from what people see in Iraq. It's notnecessary that the insurgents are physically moving from Iraq to Afghanistan. But clearlythey are learning about what works in terms of countering a much larger conventionalAmerican force. By most accounts the Karzai government in Kabul is weaker than ever.Corruption is endemic in this in the provincial and local governments. Poppyproduction hit another record high last year. And if you need to look at any one indicatorof trouble in Afghanistan it's that it's that one. I mean Afghanistan is on the verge italready is there of being the next major narco estate, the next Columbia, if you will, interms of the corruptive effect that poppy has throughout the country.The other problem of course with Afghanistan is its growing evidence that the Talibanand other extremists groups have sanctuaries effective sanctuaries just across the borderin Pakistan. And if the Pakistani forces for various reasons have not been as aggressive asthey may perhaps have been able to in rooting this out. It's been very episodic over thelast couple of years in terms of how aggressive President Musharraf can be with his armyin rooting this out. The bottom line however, is as my colleague and correspondentCarlotta Gall has documented that local officials are clearly complicit in supplying andaiding and assisting many of these groups that are right across the border in Pakistan andthen have sanctuary there. The United States forces can not go across the border except infew kind of shadowy cases when the special operations forces may attract a few across.But there has been no bombing or anything like that, that's been going on over there.The end game of course here and then in Washington and western capitals is the growingdebate about how much longer to support these operations, how much long will thepolitical support be there and the financial support to go along with it. As I mentionedbefore the House and Senate will most surely hold additional votes these summer and fallon setting deadlines for the withdrawal troops from Iraq and there is growing uneaseabout what's going on in Afghanistan. You have a situation where there is more supportfor the Afghanistan mission, but it's a mission now that NATO has taken over largely,still with American forces making up the bulk of the operation. But many NATOcountries have not yet fulfilled their obligations. The United States Military is having tofill gaps whether it's on specific kinds of troops, military helicopters, logistics that theEuropean countries simply aren't pulling it up. And it's not something that's going to get any better.And again as I mentioned all this has happened in the kind of white hot spot light of ourPresidential race, where candidates are being peppered with questions everyday of what'sgoing in Iraq and what will be done do so with Afghanistan as well. And then almostcertainly all are having to come up with some version of an exit strategy for Iraq. Andwhat I would ask you to do is watch very closely what those candidates say, what exactlydoes an exit strategy mean? Does it mean a complete withdrawal of all American forcesby a certain date or, which I think is probably more likely, is it going to be some kind ofphase withdrawal that will include several thousand American troops, perhaps tens ofthousands of American troops remaining behind, in a training role, in a logistic capacityor in small numbers of counter terrorists specialists, actually special operation force stillcontinue to hunt down the worst of the Al Qaeda. These are things, right now, to keep aneye on. And its something the administration is being floating you know, just how manytroops can you actually keep in this region? The National Security Advisor StephenHadley and others have been talking more recently about a South Korea style mission,where you would actually leave tens of thousands of American troops in Iraq, or certainlyin the region as a buffer or at least to contain the violence that you see in civil war in Iraq right now.So as I look over this kind of quick snapshot of these two countries, it unfortunatelydoesn't surprise me all that much, given that the reporting troops that I have taken overthe last few years into both countries. And what I thought I do is is kind of wrap up bytalking about the benchmarks that I have used when I go into reporting these places andthere is essentially three of them, where I kind of use the barometer to see are thingsreally getting better, are they basically staying steady or things getting worse. The firstthe first benchmark I use is looking at how successful is the American military andAmerican government in general been, in terms of dealing with cultural sensitivity. Inother words, do we get it?And I will relay one story of one of my early imbeds in 2003 in December 2003 whereI was embedded with an army infantry unit in the city of Sumara, which is just north ofBaghdad. And this unit got in order they get some intelligence, essentially they was in aan extremist safe house that they believed would be a good place to raid. And so we Iwas out with them and we mounted up with about 40 or 50 soldiers, we go on a nightraid and we got to the door of this home, it was kind of in a residential neighborhood andbanged on the door, nobody answers. One of the soldiers pulls out a huge shot gun andliterally blows the door open. And as the door blows open, we are in the middle of thenight now, remember, moonless night, just these stream of soldiers pours into this house,everybody is wearing Night Vision Goggles you know, full combat gear, I meanarrived, if you will with dogs barking, so I am not quite sure how much surprise there wasin this, but the house you are going through this house I mean you know, severalbedrooms of this house and just kind of an organized chaos, worrying, of people yellingand shouting, they grabbed there was may about, it turns out about a dozen Iraqi men inthis in this home, they are put off in one area, about an equal number of women andchildren, and they are screaming and hollering, put them over in another area, troops aregoing through closets, the cupboards, wherever they can do to try and to find thecomputer disks, the cash and money and weaponry they thought and they said theintelligence said was going to be there. Well, after about an hour there was a little pile inthe middle of the living room. And it is an antique musket, there were some papers, andthere was a bunch of old ammunition. And that was about it - as one of the intelligenceofficials looked over to me and said this was this was basically a dry hole. Well theyoung army captain who led this raid, he is looking at all these and kind of surveying thedamage, you got a busted door and a shattered television for when they blew it open. Andso he summons over one of the Iraqi men one of the older man that's in the you know,over that kind of quaking in the corner, and he has got an Arabic translator with him, andhe posed out of his pocket a wallet of $100 bills, and he peels of three of his bills and heturns to the translator and says, I want you to you know, I understand that we havecreated some damage here, we didn't get what we needed and we want to reimburse youfor the damage that's being done. And he hands this money to this Iraqi, who is justlooking dumbfounded at this whole scene. Then the guy pulls out a blue receipt book andsays, oh by the way I need you to sign a receipt for the damages here. So they are trying todo the right thing. But as you go out of this building, you have alienated two dozen Iraqiswho at best were leaning forward, may be in support of the Americans at this point,remember it's December of 2003, they haven't quite caught Saddam yet, or at the veryworst may be they are leaning on the fence. But they are not leaning on the fenceanymore after something like this. And no and pretty much anybody in thisneighborhood is going to lean on that fence after that.The US patrol and raid tactics have improved some what after that, there is a little bitmore sensitivity that goes into this. But still too many of the type of operations thatAmerican military performs they are going unfortunately on faulty intelligence.Sometimes with the worst of outcomes, as we have seen in the tragedy in Haditha forinstance, where several civilians were killed, by a marine unit there. The second thesecond bench mark I use when I am going into these places is what other is any one elsefrom the United States government here? And this has to do an anecdote with a trip that Itook just my last trip to Afghanistan which was a year ago in January to you know, Iwas in Kabul and we hopped on a Blackhawk helicopter and we flew east to Jilalabadthis is a small town in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, not far from the Khyber pass,where at the time it was the sight of about one of 20, were called provincialreconstruction teams. These were particulars teams of say a 100 to a 120 Americanpersonnel military and other personnel that were set up to help to jumpstart theAfghanistan economy. The idea here being that the Americans would come in, they workwith well, they work with the Afghan tribal and religious leaders, use some seed moneyand start some kind of economic program and then you would have troops there toprovide security for this to happen. The problem was as you looked around this room,as I sat around and talked to people, it was remarkably military heavy predominantlymilitary, in what it was doing. The State Department guy who was there and I askedhim how often you know, what he was doing. He said, well I am here in Jilalabad, Ithink it's you know, every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then I have got to gosomewhere else Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. The representative from AID, the Agencyfor International Development, well he was there every other week and then he had to gooff somewhere else. The Agricultural Department spokesperson couldn't really do awhole lot without getting prior clearance from Kabul and then often times the Embassy inKabul. But often times they had the wire back to Washington for instructions from there.So they were hobbled in what they could do. In the end what it meant was the dozens ofthe American soldiers were having to pick up many jobs either diplomatic orreconstruction jobs that will be best done by private sector or other government agencies.Many of the non governmental non governmental organizational agencies typical aidagencies that you expect to be on the ground, helping this kind of thing, are not enough inAfghanistan or Iraq because of the security situation. The only institution really that hasthe wherewithal and the resources and the ability to order people to places like Iraq andAfghanistan is the military. And yet too often were still left in a position now, whereAmerican military personnel doing jobs they just simply weren't trained to do. They aredoing the best they can, but they are not trained to do that kind of work. Secretary of StateCondoleezza Rice has tried to change this, at least the State Department by requiring newrequirements on Foreign Service Officers as a requirement for their advancement. Theyhave to deal with they have to have some kind of hardship posting on place likeAfghanistan, Iraq. But again we are talking about a Foreign Service that's it's tiny.Several you know, several thousand, when you are talking about the need overall. Andit's really just a drop in the bucket.The last benchmark that I will kind of explain has to do essentially with the security,whenever I went into a country, just how dangerous did it feel. When I first startedreporting over Iraq in 2003, I would be able to fly into Baghdad, typically on a militaryaircraft and arranged to have somebody from our bureau, The New York Times has alarge compound in Baghdad itself, to come out and meet me. We go back to the bureau,get hooked up with the driver and a translator, usually get some kind of beat up, shabbyand I dress down, so you didn't stand out too much. But just using a little common sense,you could drive pretty much anywhere in the country. And if you needed to stop in amarket place or Shish kebab stand and talk to everyday Iraqis you could do that with yourtranslator. And you could feel like you are getting some sense of what everyday Iraqiswere feeling about what was going on inside of their country. This all changed in thespring of 2004, right about this time three years ago, as the insurgency now is in full roar.And news organizations like The New York Times and others had to make a basic choice.You could do what I have been doing any way, that is imbed with the United StatesMilitary and using the military for both logistics, getting you around the country and forsecurity, get that slice of the story. Of course it's limiting in where you can go and youdon't have a lot of exposure to the Iraqis. Or you have essentially you have to hunkerdown in your compounds and right now the United The New York Times spendsabout $2 million a year and maintaining a bureau in Baghdad. And rely increasingly onIraqi stringers who are varying quality and in reliability. What this essentially did was itnarrowed the window into the Iraqi society that we had, from being wide open right afterthe initial invasion to a point were it became very difficult to get a sense of what peoplewere thinking.Now there is still very good enterprise reporting to be done. And the likes with mycolleagues John Burns, Kirk Semple, Damien Cave, Eliza Rubin and Rich Oppel. It's justwhen they do that they have to be very careful in what they are doing. It's almost like amilitary style operation. We have a retired British marine who is the head of our securitythere. And we are now dealing with when you go out to interview somebody, if youwant to get outside our compound are doing with armored sedans of gunmen who gowith you, of having multiple cars in case one is broken, one breaks down or one isambushed, you never want to have to be left alone. And when I learnt in my last trip toBaghdad, again a little bit over a year ago was, if you need to you just don't stop. Wehave this thing where we are driving along a sedan and suddenly we hit a road block, atraffic stop and its just terribly traffic. Well, they just put one of these blue lights on thetop of them it hops right over the median and he is going in opposite direction with hissiren screaming. The whole the whole message here was you don't stop. If you stop,you will become a target, even in a place like this especially in a place like Baghdad,even if it's just for a routine appointment. So I think and and certainly since then it'sthe situation has gotten even worse in just a basic benchmark of how you get around andhow correspondents do their job.So just to conclude the outlook as I have seen as I kind of go through some of theseindicators, that I have used on my my reporting trips into Iraq and Afghanistan. And bythat by these measures the outlook is is pretty gloomy. And the question is well, is alllost in these places. I I don't want to be that pessimistic, especially in Afghanistan. Ithink there they still meet there may be still time, it's not a lot of time. As I said thecorruptive effect of the poppy is just really overwhelming right now. But in bothcountries it has become more and more difficult to craft the necessary political andeconomic solutions that will ultimately you know, basically be the solution here. Themilitary component alone cannot be the solution here. It just won't happen. And withoutthat without those economic and political bedrock, the beefed up security measures willbe fleeting at best. And I think that's worst scene perhaps with this current Surge strategy.In Iraq the best possible outcome right now is perhaps this so called soft partition. Andwhat that would look like is a relatively weak Central Government that would administera weak Central Government in Baghdad that would oversee a Foreign Policy. It wouldmaintain a national army. And in the best of times it would administer some kind of oilrevenue sharing plan. But at the Kurdish, Shia and Sunni areas of the country, north,central and south, would operate on a much more autonomous basis, certainly than theyever did under Saddam and more certainly do it now. Can that happen?The Maliki government that's in place right now has done very little to broker politicalreconciliation or economic reconstruction in the country. They have been accused ofwithholding aid to the foreign west, in Sunni areas, in Al Anbar for instance to the benefitof Shias in the center of the of the country. I am skeptical just because from what I haveseen on the ground, from talking to colleagues since I left, that all three sides are stillincredibly distrustful of each other. And each feels their group can still win. And thatunlike in the Balkans for instance where the warring sides essentially fought each other toexhaustion, to the point where you had an opportunity for a Dayton peace accord in theBosnia campaign. In Iraq, unfortunately killing has really only just begun. And it's hard tomake peace stick when all sides feel they can still get an advantage on with a deal likethat. In Afghanistan again it's hard to see things improving without tougher measuresbeing taken against the drug production and without tougher measures on the AfghanPakistani border. This may be just too tall an order for President Musharraf who has gothis hands full with all sorts of other problems. Some of you have probably read about theriots and protests over his handling of the dismissal of the Supreme Court Justice inPakistan. That has that has really hamstrung his operating room his maneuvering ifyou will even even greater. So add to these the already volatile that the US they werealready in the midst of this Presidential campaign you have all the ingredients for a verycombustible combination. As I said you are likely to see more votes in Congress thissummer and fall to restrict funding for the war in Iraq and setting benchmarks for theIraqi troops and for getting out of Iraq altogether. Bottom line is just buckle up becausewe are all in for a rocky ride for the next couple of years.Thank you very much for your attention.I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.