Ted Koppel (remember him?) is with NBC News now, after a long career with ABC and appeared on the panel during the second half of Meet the Press yesterday to promote a piece that will air tonight on “Rock Center,” the new newsmagazine program.
Koppel is just back from Baghdad to investigate what the U.S. will leave behind when the last “combat troops” pull out this mohth. The discussion starts with a clip of Koppel interviewing the U.S. ambassador, seeking confirmation of what his reporting suggested would be left behind. The ambassador makes a pretty funny statement by way of saying “I confirm what you learned but I’m not allowed to say so.”
MR. KOPPEL: I realize you can’t go into it in any detail, but I would assume that there is a healthy CIA mission here. I would assume that JSOC may still be active in this country, the joint special operations. You’ve got FBI here. You’ve got DEA here. Can, can you give me sort of a, a menu of, of who all falls under your control?
AMB. JAMES JEFFREY: You’re actually doing pretty well, were I authorized to talk about half of this stuff.
(End of clip, now Koppel discusses it with Meet the Press moderator David Gregory. Scariest bit is right at the end:
MR. GREGORY: Revealing. The full interview tomorrow night, as your piece is tomorrow night on “Rock Center.” Your point there, Ted, is that we’ve got a big footprint and a lot could still happen in Iraq.
MR. KOPPEL: The point is Ron Paul was almost right last night. You remember, and it was one of the overlooked points in the debate, he spoke of the 17,000, he spoke about civilian contractors who are still in Iraq. We do have 17,000 people still in Iraq. They’re not all civilian contractors, but a great many of them are. You’ve got a consulate in Basra, a consulate in Erbil. The one in Basra is just less than 20 miles from the Iranian border; 1,320 Americans down there. They are rocketed two or three times a week. They are about as vulnerable as any Americans have been since 1979 at the embassy in Tehran. And if they were to be frontally attacked, and I’m suggesting that that’s not unlikely at all, you’re going to see the U.S. military come back in. Because, while the ambassador said, “No, no, no, we’re going to rely on the Iraqis to do the job,” there is no way that the U.S. military will wait for the Iraqis to save those Americans, and they’re going to need saving.