Video: Interview with Gen. Tommy Franks

Image: Jim Miklasszewski
By Jim Miklaszewski Chief Pentagon correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/4/2004 1:35:16 PM ET 2004-08-04T17:35:16

As American ground troops stormed across the border into Iraq from the south, 11 divisions of the Iraqi army were dug-in hundreds of miles away — waiting for an invasion from the north that never came.

A United States military officer — acting as a double agent — had sold the Iraqis false invasion plans and Saddam Hussein took the bait. The secret plan was revealed by the former top commander of the war, retired General Tommy Franks.

"We do know that on the day we started the war, those divisions were all still way up north of Baghdad. And that’s just what we wanted him to think," says Franks.

And when Saddam finally realized his mistake and attempted to move those forces south?

"Too late,” says Gen. Franks.

In his new autobiography, "American Soldier," Franks provides insight into the planning and execution of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and those elusive weapons of mass destruction.

He reveals that Jordan's King Abdullah and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak both warned him Saddam had and would use chemical or biological weapons against U.S. troops.the war.

"And as it turns out, we got up in there as you know, we didn’t find WMD. People ask me about that and I say, ‘I was wrong," says Franks.

What went wrong in the post-combat phase — when American troops found themselves unexpectedly bogged down in a guerilla war?

Franks insists there was a plan to immediately start pumping money and manpower into Iraq and to provide jobs for former Iraqi soldiers, to keep them out of the fight — but the money wasn't there.

"What we found is that it's very difficult to raise that sum of money in a time frame where, when we needed it," recalls Franks.

Franks also led the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al-Qaida and, in his book, surprisingly says Osama bin Laden is no coward.

“We don’t have to like him to recognize that he is a worthy adversary. Osama bin Laden is a hard target. He is hard to capture. He is hard to kill."

Franks also reveals that he once became so frustrated with Donald Rumsfeld's second-guessing, he offered to resign in a phone call to the secretary.

Franks says he told Rumsfeld: "It's obvious to me that you don't have confidence in my ability to do this work, and Mr. Secretary, if that's the case, then you need to get a new guy."

But Rumsfeld stuck with Franks, who now predicts it will take three to five years before Iraqis take control of their country and American troops come home. Still, Franks insists, the fight was worth it.

"I think the decision was a good one, and I rest better knowing that Saddam Hussein and his sons are no longer in the picture," says Franks.

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