MJ: Have you been in touch with military personnel or policymakers about planning for withdrawal?
WN: Have I talked with some folks who work for the government who deal with those issues? Yes. But I go back to where we started this. It's very important that they can do a lot of notional planning—how many people have to move, how much equipment we are going to move, and how many supplies we are going to move. But the withdrawal plan cannot be achieved until there is political military guidance issued by the president and the secretary of defense saying, "This is what we want you to do and this is what we want you to accomplish as we go about our withdrawal." When they are saying, "There is planning" or "No, there is not planning," it cannot be anywhere near detailed enough until the appropriate political guidance is issued. We have to think this thing through and then act accordingly, and that will be expensive, and that will be time consuming.
If I take two and a half years to leave and I provide various aid packages to various parts of Iraq, the Iraq central government, and the region, and I keep troops there and I do this thing in a very deliberate way, it will be more expensive to the American taxpayer than if I left quickly. And by the way, more people will get hurt over that time frame because I am still going to be exposed to hostile acts, but the objective is to maintain and hopefully improve near and long-term national security interests.
MJ: If we withdraw through Kuwait, do you anticipate us taking heavy fire?
WN: Why would you not think there would be IEDs? People are not going to dance in the street that we are leaving. They are going to try and take advantage of it. Go back and watch the end of Lawrence of Arabia where the Turks withdraw from Saudi Arabia up through Iraq and everything.
MJ: There has been this idea that it's starting to look like India when the English withdrew.
WN: Right, Right. The occupation of Iraq was not like the occupation of Germany or Japan. The dummies who talked like we could do it like that are one of the reasons we have had all the problems we have had.
MJ: Do you think there will be contractors in Iraq after the military leaves?
WN: I think contractors will be hip deep in everything we do as part of the process. The logistics of withdrawal of supplies and stuff will be very heavily contract work.
I think some of our security system efforts will be done through contractors in the Iraqi government. But not a police force. I think contractors with guns are dangerous things. Contractors with trucks are good things. Contractors with guns are bad things.
MJ: What do you think are the most important steps Iraq's politicians can take to prepare for a withdrawal?
WN: They have to maintain a sense of nation-state. Two, they have to have a good-faith commitment to finding the formula for sharing power and wealth in the country.