Q: So both the military and the CPA gave you all of the support that you needed?
TANT: CPA gave us all the support we needed. The military definitely did as well. They went above and beyond the call of duty for us. I was on the phone or e-mail regularly with the commanding generals of the divisions. The U.S. Treasury Department gave us tremendous support and advice. A man named Tom Simpson arrived when I was there. He did an assessment of what he thought needed to be done. I used that to help me get things done, to get my head clearly in the game.
Q: Do you have anything else to add about the support?
TANT: Well, I just would like to say the 700 former soldiers we had, the security forces that were contracted to the currency exchange program, were terrific. They came out of Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, good old USA, South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and Canada. We had a coalition amongst ourselves of former soldiers. It was quite interesting.
Q: How were most of the foreign personnel brought into the project? Were they recruited by CPA?
TANT: Through the contract with Global Risk Strategies. The security and logistics force was predominantly from Global, and through their processes and means got the Fijians, South Africans, Canadians, and etcetera.
Q: You were working with a number of different groups, everything from coalition military to the CPA, as well as of course the different Iraqi organizations. Did you have any coordination difficulties, or was it a pretty well-oiled machine?
TANT: No, it wasn’t, and that's why they brought me in. I was a recently retired brigadier general, and I knew all the generals, like Rick Sanchez, the senior military guy over there. He and I lived across the street from each other for a year at the Army War College. I mean, if I needed anything, I'd just say, "Hey Rick, I need this," and it would happen.
TANT: Lieutenant General Sanchez, they don't get any better than him, and Dave Petraeus up in 101st, and Ray Odierno pulled my bacon out of the fire in Samarra. We were going into Samarra on – let me think – it was the 30th of November. The average number of attacks per day were like 15 a day in August/September, and then they started getting higher. There were about 35 attacks a day with IEDs (improvised explosive devices) or mortars or rockets.
November was a tough time with these attacks. We'd been attacked and ambushed in the Samarra area about four times previously. Major General Ray Odierno was the commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division, and Samarra was his area of responsibility. He provided us with an escort consisting of 10 tanks, four infantry fighting vehicles, an Apache attack helicopter, an A-10 Air Force Warthog (close air support aircraft), and we still got attacked. We were delivering to two banks that day, (one on the west of the town and one on the east), so I had two 35-man convoys,.
We went in with that heavy escort from the 4th Infantry Division, and sure enough, we still got attacked. There was about a 45-minute gun battle that ensued. I understand that there were at least 46 of the enemy, terrorists and former regime loyalist, who perished that day as a result. There were about six of us who got wounded. One of my guys got wounded in the knee. He got shot through the knee. He killed the guy that shot him, I understand. And then there were five of our U.S. troops who got wounded that day. But, in all of that, we still delivered the money and picked up the old money. So that was delivery under fire, that was the second motto that we had. Teamwork that works and delivery under fire. I'm just so proud of all of those troops. I mean, it was just the best of the best. The cooperation with the military and the troops that were provided to me, I couldn't ask for any better. It was an incredible experience.
Q: The people who were attacking you, were they part of the general insurgency, or were these criminals just out to make a quick buck?
TANT: Oh, no, we never lost any money. When they attacked us, they never got to the money.
Q: I understand that, but I'm just saying, do you know who they were?
TANT: Yes, it was the same terrorists and former regime loyalists who have caused problems in Samarra. The same kind that are in Fallujah. It's the same ilk. They're cut from the same cloth. About 5 percent over there don't understand anything except to be eliminated, and our guys are eliminating them as fast as they can. The coalition is eliminating them as fast as they can. Ninety-five percent of the people over there are fantastic people. They're just great people. But the 5 percent of them are causing all these problems, and they just have to be destroyed.
Q: Were most of your problems with attacks in the Sunni Triangle area?
TANT: Oh, yes. Yes. The rest of the provinces and the governorates, they didn't cause us hardly any problem. We had to stay at the ready all the time when we were in the Sunni Triangle.
Q: How about in the south, when Moqtad al-Sadr’s militia was active?
TANT: Yes, every now and then, down in – what was it?
TANT: Yes, Najaf. Occasionally, we'd have some problems down in Najaf, in that area. But the military was on top of that. If there were serious problems, we just had to change our mission and go somewhere else. We had that kind of flexibility. But for the most part, we were on track with our missions every day. We did have to adjust every now and then, and that's understandable, but we'd always go back and pick them up a couple days later, make the delivery a couple days later. That didn't happen that often.
Q: As far as other security questions, you mentioned that you had your own security force on the convoys and that you could always rely on coalition military to assist. There were also coalition forces who helped protect the banks during the transfer. You also mentioned, and this is what I'd like to get into, the Iraqi security teams that would protect the bank at night. I was wondering what the role of groups like that was, what the indigenous Iraqi security role was in your operations. For example, the police or other security forces.
TANT: That's another good point you bring up. We discussed that, “Who was going to secure the banks?” We wanted to put an Iraqi face on it, so the Iraqi police were coordinated with and these Iraqi indigenous security people, like their ...
Q: Facilities protection, or something like that?
TANT: The facilities protection. They actually performed that mission. And they were the main security of the banks themselves. They fell under the Ministry of the Interior. Now, of course, all military units over there had areas of responsibility, and so they were sensitive to things going on all the time in their area of responsibility. That's why we had liaisons, because we had to communicate with the active military every time we were going through an area.
They knew we were coming and would be traveling to a bank in their area. And so they would often provide us additional escorts, or at least they knew we were there and ready to help us, should we need help. Ray Odierno, Major General Ray Odierno, with the 4th Infantry Division, I told you about his support during the 30th November attack in Samarra. On the 13th of December, about two weeks later, that's when they pulled Saddam out of the hole. That was the same unit that pulled Saddam out of the hole.
Q: The last thing I have to ask is just about the Iraqi banking system in general. We kind of touched on this early on. How would you characterize it? Was it largely intact? Not from a physical sense, but from ...
TANT: There had to be a lot of construction to get the flooding out of the vaults at the Central Bank of Iraq, so there were a lot of things that had to go on. But those two gentlemen, al-Jabouri and Haji Fallah… It was very apparent to me and others that their employees highly respected these two individuals. They had good teamwork as well and got things going again for the Central Bank of Iraq in short order. It was amazing what happened there. Many of the branch banks required some renovation as there was extreme looting that occurred after the fighting.
Now, we actually delivered over 2,300 tons of new currency, but we took out of over circulation 13,000 tons.
Q: Oh, wow! THEY TALK ABOUT IT IN TONS NOT DOLLARS OR DINAR THIS IS ONE RICH COUNTRY
TANT: The original estimate was like 3,000 tons, and they realized that, no, there was a lot more currency. So we had to expand our operation dramatically to accommodate that. 13,000 tons of old currency is a lot. One of my fellows figured it out, if you put the notes end on end, it would go around the earth's circumference about 32 times.
Q: That's a lot of money. So these gentlemen, al-Jabouri and Haji Fallah were the heads of the bank?
TANT: They were the deputy governors. The actual head is Dr. Sinan al-Shabibi. He was an economist, a PhD, and they brought him in. Wonderful man.
Q: These gentlemen had worked for the Central Bank before?
TANT: Yes, Haji Fallah and al-Jabouri were at the bank, yes.
Q: There wasn't any problem with a Baathist element in the bank.
TANT: Nope, nope. They were vetted and good men.
Q: I'm not saying that they were Baathists, but was there a large Baathist presence in the banking system that had to be vetted out?
TANT: Not that I'm aware of. I'm not aware of that.
Q: I think that is all the questions I have for you, sir. Do you have any final comments that you'd like to add? Any lessons learned or any advice that you'd pass on for future operations?
TANT: Well, for future operations, there needs to be one contractor that provides security, logistics, and life support. We had to have a company provide life support, and they were unacceptable. They provided us trucks that didn't work a lot of the time. They didn't provide us the living quarters needed for those 700 troops in a timely manner. The food was less than it should have been from time to time. I understand that they're under investigation for falsifying contracts, and not just with our operation, but with other security operations that they were involved with.
Q: Who was this?
TANT: That's a company called Custer Battles. They are under investigation. It hit the news. We were just a piece of their pie, but in the future, it would have been much better to have one contractor that provided not just the security and logistics, but also the life support. To me that was the most critical lesson learned.
Q: All right. Just to clarify, you were based in Baghdad, but you traveled all throughout the country, is that correct?
TANT: I personally lived in Baghdad at the Presidential Palace, where Ambassador Bremer was, and I reported to him on a regular basis. Sometimes daily. I answered to him. Fantastic leader. If our motto was “Teamwork that Works”, his motto should be “Leadership that Works”, because he was absolutely the best leader for that situation. And I experienced a lot of things I haven't told you about in terms of examples of leadership and all over there, but Ambassador Bremer, he has my highest regard and so does Lieutenant General Sanchez, for that matter. That was a dynamic duo, there.
Q: The funding for the currency exchange operation, was that funded out of DFI (Development Fund for Iraq) funds?
TANT: As I understand it, yes. Overall, it was about a $200 million operation. The largest portion of that was for the printing of the currency and the transportation of the currency, and it was somewhere around – I'm giving you approximations – $60 or $70 million for the security force and life support.
Q: Right. But most of the transporting of the currency, at least in Iraq was done with the military vehicles?
TANT: No. They were mostly not done with military vehicles. They were done mostly with contractor-provided vehicles. They were just foreign-made trucks, and it was just different sizes of trucks – big trucks, small trucks. They were not government vehicles for the most part. When the contractor failed to provide operationally sound trucks, or a sufficient quantity of trucks, we had to call on the military to support us.
Q: These were locally contracted from, for example, an Iraqi contracting firm? A firm would be contracted to help deliver?
TANT: That's right. We used a contractor who would sub-contract with foreign firms for different requirements and services.
Q: Regional. The flights: did you charter flights to bring the money in from the various places?
TANT: Yes, we contracted through Hanover Aviation, which is a British firm, for the 747s which were hauling the new currency into Iraq. We used Global Risk Strategies for the IL-76s, the former Russian aircraft, and for the Antonov aircraft. Those were used inside of Iraq.
THERE WAS APPROXIMATELY 4.3 TRILLION DINAR DELIVERED TO THE UST IN 2006 JUST BEFORE GWB ANNOUNCED FOR THE FIRST TIME THAT THE AMERICAN TAX PAYERS WOULD NEVER PAY FOR THE WAR IN IRAQ.
Q: OK, well, I promise that's the end of my questions. Do you have anything else you'd
like to add, sir?
Last edited by Honugirl; 07-20-2012 at 05:10 AM.
Work like you don't need the money,
Love like no one has ever hurt you,
Dance like no one is watching,
Sing like no one is listening,
Live as if this was paradise on Earth