'This Week' Transcript: Odierno and Chiarelli

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you about the violence. This weekend alone in Basra in the south, there has been a big explosion that's caused dozens of deaths. What is it? Do you know what it is, in fact, was it a terrorist attack?

ODIERNO: Well, I think it probably was. We're still sorting through that, because there was conflicting reports, but my guess is it was probably some sort of an improvised explosive device that went off.

I would just say, this is a reflection -- we have ups and downs here. As I step back, having been here since the dark days of 2006 and '7, to where we are today, what I see is a broad change in the security environment here in Iraq.

However, there are still groups out there who are conducting terrorist acts against the people of Iraq, and they are doing this to stop the political way forward, to stop the political process moving forward, to stop democracy moving forward, and to cause the government of Iraq not to continue its progress. And that's what we're seeing that's playing out on the ground now.

AMANPOUR: Well, General Odierno, in fact, it seems that the political parties in Iraq are not moving forward with the democracy as you describe it. Five months or more after the election, there is still no government. How much does that worry you, and what kind of vacuum is that creating there?

ODIERNO: Well, again, first off, we've seen during this time, this governmental formation timeframe, the Iraqi security forces have acted neutral; they've continued to conduct operations across the broad spectrum of operations that are necessary. In fact, I have found them to be very professional in continuing to execute the security profile. So we have seen no degradation in their ability to execute the security profile. And I think that's actually an extremely positive step forward for them, that they've continued to operate, even though -- or during this time of governmental formation.

AMANPOUR: So, how concerned are you and at what point will you be concerned if there is no government, and do you think that that is providing space for insurgents to reorganize, as many suggest?

ODIERNO: Well, I will just tell you, is what we -- again, what we can't do is overreact to incidents. There are going to be incidents that occur here. There is a level of violence and a level of terrorism here that's going to occur. But I will tell you, over the last six to seven months, the success that we've had against Al Qaida in Iraq specifically in decapitating the leadership has in fact affected them. The kind of operations that they now conduct are very different than what they did just six months ago or eight months ago. And the kind of their ability to surge and do this over a sustained period of time is limited, and that's due to a lot of the work of the Iraqi security forces, working with us to conduct these operations.

So I think they can handle it. I think the bottom is for us here now, it's not about the number of people on the ground. It's really about how we continue to sustain stability. And you have to do that through continued development economically, continued development diplomatically and politically, as well as the continued improvement of the security forces. And I think we have a plan to do that beyond 1 September.

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