Ted Koppel Interviews Gen. Tommy Franks

Retired Gen. Tommy Franks, who served as commander of the U.S. Central Command from 2000 through July 2003, led the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq. He discusses his life and career in a new book, American Soldier, released this week. The following are excerpts from an interview he conducted with Nightline's Ted Koppel.

KOPPEL: I want to take you back to an anecdote you tell in your book in which you say, in effect, when the president ended up on the carrier out there saying that major combat was over, that was you? You did that?

FRANKS: Yeah. I, I, I confess I did that, Ted. It's a, it's a sort of an interesting thing. I think initially reporting was pretty simplistic about, well, you know, there's great jubilation and joy, and, and so the president lands on the carrier and says, "Well, major combat operations have been completed."

And factually, I had recommended to [Defense] Secretary Don Rumsfeld several days before that that the president make such an announcement for a couple of reasons, actually. One reason was that I wanted all the troops who had been working hard on the ground in combat in Iraq to get some sense of closure. You know, the statue was down and Saddam was no longer in charge of Iraq, and I thought closure for the troops was a good thing, perhaps a bit selfish on my part.

Secondly, there were a number of nations who had indicated that they would provide force levels, troops to work with coalition forces up in Iraq, as soon as major combat operations had been completed. And so, yes, that was my suggestion.

KOPPEL: Now, you didn't suggest that he put on a flight suit and sit back seat on a plane landing on a, on an aircraft carrier, did you?

FRANKS: No one asked me about, about how he ought to do it, Ted.

KOPPEL: And I assume you didn't paint the banner that said "mission accomplished" either?

FRANKS: No, but I would have agreed with it, and as I looked at the president's comments on the 1st of May, I thought, "Good for him, good for him," and I appreciated that, that he did what he did. KOPPEL: Clearly, as we look back, the mission was not accomplished. A significant portion of the mission was accomplished, and as you suggest in your book, it was accomplished quickly, it was accomplished brilliantly, it was accomplished with far fewer forces than a lot of your colleagues in the Pentagon thought necessary.

FRANKS: Uh-huh.

KOPPEL: But the fact of the matter is, Phase Four of the war, which you describe as being the post-major combat phase, the phase that we're in right now, really hasn't gone well at all.

FRANKS: Oh, I guess it's eye of the beholder, Ted. I talk to a lot of people all over the country about the difference between hope and expectation. Gosh, I had a hope that the Iraqis would embrace a new government, would establish a new Iraq very quickly, and, but I never had that as an expectation.

I guess the expectation was, as the president said, it will take as long as it takes. And so I hoped it would be quick, but I expected that it might take much longer, perhaps three to five years.

Are We Safer?

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