MR. SENOR: Good evening. We apologize for the delay in getting started here.
As you know, we typically try to start our briefings at the exact time in which we schedule them for. Tonight there was an incident that you are all aware of, I think, that delayed it. Again, we apologize. It was important for us to take the necessary safety precautions and measures to ensure everyone's safety and apologize for the delay. And obviously, we always work to, as I said, start these things -- start these briefings on time.
I just have a few things to go over upfront and then General Kimmitt will do his opening statement. And then we'll be happy to take your questions.
Today, the U.N. general-secretary made an announcement about his intention to send a security team in to look at the viability of sending in a Iraq electoral team. The CPA welcomes the U.N. general- secretary's statement of intent to send a mission to Iraq to evaluate the feasibility of elections before June 30th. We are now working with his security experts, some of whom have already arrived in Iraq, and will provide all necessary security measures to ensure the success and safety of their team. We will cooperate fully as they move forward on this process.
Secondly, Ambassador Bremer today spent the afternoon in Mosul visiting Iraqi Civil Defense Corps training facilities. He met with General Petraeus and a number of Iraqi leaders who are heading up the training for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps has become a cornerstone in our efforts to empower the Iraqis with the responsibility for securing their own country. The ICDC right now has over 15,000 individuals deployed, working alongside the coalition.
The concept of the ICDC was approved in July of 2003. The Combined Joint Task Force Seven is establishing an ICDC with 36 battalions located throughout each region of the country. The ICDC battalions are attached directly to coalition divisions and work side by side with coalition units on the ground. And certain ICDC units have begun limited independent operations in January of this year, with coalition forces in support, something that General Kimmitt has spoken about before and will speak about tonight.
Again, you will see more and more of Ambassador Bremer's attention dedicated to spending time with the ICDC, spending time with the Iraqi police, spending time with the new Iraqi army. As we stand up these forces, which number now over 150,000, there are more Iraqis today involved with the security of their own country than there are Americans.
A few administrative items.
At 2:00 tomorrow the CPA will hold an open meeting with Iraqi business people, business leaders, small business owners, to discuss opportunities to bid for prime and subcontracts of the -- for the supplemental funding that was deployed by Congress last year. Speakers will include a number of CPA officials and Iraqi officials as well.
There's media advisories that will be available. If you just collect them afterwards, you can get the details. The event will be open to press.
U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao is traveling to Iraq. She arrives tomorrow. Tomorrow she will be visiting the Baghdad Police Academy. She will be accompanied by the U.S. national president of the Fraternal Order of Police and the group's executive director. She will visit with the interim Iraqi minister of labor and social affairs. She'll preside over the official reopening of a refurbished employment and training center. That is at 1:00 tomorrow. And there will be a media availability with Secretary Chao on Thursday afternoon. Again, details can come out of the press center here, with Jared (sp) and Susan, who you gathered information from the other day.
As many of you know, tomorrow and Thursday the town hall meetings continue. There's a town hall meeting tomorrow in Baghdad at the Palestine Hotel. Information available, again, at the press center. And there's another one in Baqubah on Thursday. Both are open to the press. We encourage you to attend. After very successful town hall meetings in Basra and up in Mosul, these are important events, and we encourage you to attend.
Earlier -- tomorrow a group of men and women who attended democracy training in Jordan will present a democracy training lecture at Al Hillah University for humanitarian, scientific and religious studies. They'll be explaining the things they learned at the democracy training seminar in Jordan. Again, it is open to the press. If you're interested in attending, please see the folks here to get the information.
GEN. KIMMITT: Thank you, Dan.
Before we start the evening update, what I'd like to do is give about a two-minute clip. We've talked at length in the past about the de-Ba'athification ceremonies that have been going on in the Mosul region. Yesterday the 101st hosted another one. This was attended by approximately 2,000 former Ba'athists. So let's just go ahead and show a quick two-minute clip from that. I've provided a translation to everyone that doesn't understand Arabic.
(NOTE: Film clip is shown in Arabic.)
GEN. KIMMITT: That's a copy of the agreement that everybody who disavows Ba'athism is required to sign.
Okay, just a short clip. But again, these de-Ba'athification ceremonies -- which I know General Petraeus has more of these scheduled in the future -- are a significant step towards what we believe to be one of the significant processes up in the 101st, and we're going to try to extend those throughout the rest of the country.
With regard to the tactical situation, over the past week there has been an average of 16 daily engagements against coalition military, just under four attacks daily against Iraqi security forces, and just over one attack daily against Iraqi civilians. In the past 24 hours, the coalition has conducted 1,412 patrols, 32 offensive operations, 12 raids, and captured 63 anti-coalition suspects.
In the northern zone of operations, the Mosul Public Safety Authority graduated 150 police officers from the eight-week police course, and 200 officers from the three-week course. The graduates included five female officers, a first since the program began.
In the north-central zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 180 patrols, five raids, capturing 23 individuals. Iraqi Civil Defense Corps forces conducted a separate raid north of As-Siniyah (ph). The target was Salih Zabor Asfor (ph), an individual suspected of conducting mortar attacks against coalition forces. The Civil Defense Corps captured three individuals, one target, and confiscated an anti-coalition letter and blasting caps. They transported the individuals and contraband to coalition forces. Coalition forces also conducted a raid near Samarra, targeting Jaseem Mohammed Hasan (ph), suspected of storing weapons, including the bomb used in the 24 January attack against the Samarra City Council building. Forces captured Hasan (ph) and no injuries or damage to equipment was sustained.
A coalition reconnaissance patrol raided 12 locations in the town of Abu Ajil (ph), 12 kilometers southeast of Baqubah, and captured nine individuals suspected of involvement with the local Fedayeen cell. Again, the individuals were captured without incident.
Three armed attackers were killed when they confronted coalition soldiers as they -- as soldiers raided four locations in Baiji (sp). The soldiers were attempting to capture individuals who are suspected members of Mohammed's Army, an anti-coalition cell operating in the area. The soldiers captured five personnel, including three targets.
In Baghdad, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted three offensive operations, 443 patrols, and captured 32 enemy personnel while confiscating weapons, ammunition and assorted bomb-making material. The 36th Iraqi Civil Defense Corps Battalion and coalition troops conducted a joint cordon and search to capture suspected enemy personnel believed to be in former regime element cells. The units captured 17 enemy personnel, including nine targets, and confiscated weapons and bomb-making material. Coalition forces also conducted a cordon and search of a shop suspected of being a sniper position and captured eight enemy personnel, confiscating an AK-47, an Opel and a pair of binoculars. The Opel was tested with the Explosive Vapor Device 3000 and came up positive for nitroglycerine and TNT.
In the western zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted three offensive operations, 222 patrols and captured 10 personnel. Additionally, no hajj pilgrims crossed the borders en route to Mecca, although 16,264 pilgrims and 565 buses have entered Saudi Arabia from that region to date.
At Ar Ramadi, four Iraqi policemen were returning to the Al Jazeera (ph) Police Station from a patrol when a civilian vehicle stopped and engaged them with direct fire outside the building, killing three of the policemen. The incident is under investigation by the Ar Ramadi Police Department and follows the assassination of the police chief, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Salah (ph), and the coalition extends their condolences to the families of the slain Iraqi police service members.
Coalition forces conducted a cordon and search north of Ar Ramadi to kill or capture Hassan Mohammed Oswald (ph) and Mohammed Hamad Oswald (ph). Hassan Oswald is believed to be planning attacks on coalition forces in the Ar Ramadi area, while Mohammed Oswald is suspected of being the key leader of a paramilitary force in the region. He was a colonel in the Iraqi police and a former national branch committee leader in the Ba'ath Party. Both primary targets are considered suspects in the assassination of Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Salah, and the operation was conducted without incident and resulted in the capture of both targets.
Civil affairs personnel working in the 82nd (Airborne) region purchased generators for a water treatment facility in Al Karmah region for a cost of 50,000 American. When delivered and installed, potable water will be delivered 153,000 persons in the area for the first time in 13 years.
In the central-south zone of operations coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 117 patrols, 30 checkpoints, and escorted 29 convoys. The coalition disbursed one-half of a million dollars in a combination of coalition provisional authority and commander's emergency response funds for the renovation of 14 schools and of sewage system repair in al Kut.
In the southeastern zone of operation, in al-Amarah over 11,000 persons gathered for the scheduled job fair. The day passed without incident, and 6,000 people registered for jobs. The total number of hajj pilgrims crossing the border from this region is 22,500. And as a rollup, as of yesterday an estimated 38,760 pilgrims have crossed the Iraqi border en route to Mecca.
We are happy to take your questions. Yes.
Q Hi. Jill Carol (sp) from -- (name inaudible). Do you guys have more information about this explosion out near Ramali-Fallujah- Khaldiya (sic) area today? What was it, exactly?
GEN. KIMMITT: If you're referring to the attack versus -- vicinity of Khalidiya -- yeah -- right. Three soldiers attached to the 82nd Airborne Division were killed and one soldier was wounded at about 12:55 p.m. today west of Fallujah and Khalidiya when an improvised explosive device detonated near them. The injured soldier was taken to the 28th Combat Support Hospital and is currently listed in critical condition. One Iraqi civilian was killed and several were injured and treated on the scene. A quick reaction force from the 82nd responded to the scene and took small arms fire from unknown assailants. There were no injuries in the second attack. No further information is available at this time, and our sincere condolences go out to the families involved in this incident.
Q Was there -- was it a convoy, or were they just -- ?
GEN. KIMMITT: I don't know if this was a convoy or if it was during a routine patrol inside the city.
GEN. KIMMITT: Yes.
Q Do you have any information on the CNN journalists who were attacked on their way up to Baghdad today?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. At about -- we were called at about 1500 today by CNN. We were told that two vehicles traveling north on Highway 8 approximately 5 kilometers south of Mahmudiya were passed by, I believe it was an Opel that fired shots at them. We understand one vehicle, two local Iraqis were killed. And in the second vehicle, CNN reported to us that persons had been taken for treatment for FOB St. Michael, and those persons were later transferred on to the 28th Combat Support Hospital. But again, I would defer to CNN, who has the best information on that.
Q Ashraf Khalil (sp), Fox News -- er-- Cox News. There was reports earlier today from Khaldiya that there was a second IED after -- designed to injure the response team. Can you confirm or deny that?
GEN. KIMMITT: The information that we have at this time is that when the quick reaction force came in, they were shot upon. But I don't have any information that there was a second explosion. I would defer to the 82nd for more clarity on that.
Q First, can you tell me -- you've recently picked up a fairly significant figure from al Qaeda, and I wonder what that says to you about al Qaeda's presence in Iraq and what ties they might have to some of the attacks. And also, the attack today is the third against the 82nd Airborne Division in a region that we had the commander here come and tell us his region was pretty well turning a corner recently. Do you think these attacks are somehow trying to send a message as Kofi Annan is making his decision, or are they thinking that deeply about the targets that they're blowing up?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, on the second question, the number of attacks has consistently and continuously gone down since about mid- November. Today we had 14 attacks, I believe yesterday we had nine or 10. So the overall number of attacks is going down. That is not, sadly, stopping the number of casualties from going down (sic). Whether that is being timed to send a signal, I can't speculate on that.
MR. SENOR: I would just say that Ambassador Bremer has said quite frequently, especially after the killing of Uday and Qusay Hussein, and after the capture of Saddam Hussein, that between now and June 30th, we should not be surprised if there is continued violence. We think that the trend will ultimately go down, but the violence will continue because as the insurgents and as the foreign fighters, the terrorists and the enemies of freedom who are collaborating from those two groups realize that we are getting closer and closer to handing over a sovereign, democratic Iraqi to the Iraqi people, they are going to seek to undermine that process.
And that's what these attacks are about. They are about turning the clock back on Iraq and preventing this effort from moving forward. And as this effort makes more and more progress, each day we're handing over more and more authority to the Iraqi people. If you had spent the afternoon with us up at Mosul, you would see just the rapid improvement that the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps has demonstrated in the very short period since the training and recruitment began. You would see that it is sending -- these sorts of activities and these sorts of trends are sending their own message to those that are trying to undermine this effort. And the enemies of freedom and the foreign fighters and the insurgents will try to stop it. And the violence will continue. And the violence will continue. We think it'll go down, but we shouldn't be surprised if it continues.
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. (Inaudible.)
Q And on the first question?
MR. SENOR: The first question --
Q The first question was, you know, following the capture of a -- you know, what's being described to us as a relatively significant al Qaeda figure, what do you now know about al Qaeda's presence in Iraq and their -- any ties that they have to any of the attacks against coalition forces?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, we believe, based on current operations, that al Qaeda is operating within Iraq. Whether they were involved in this latest series of attacks -- the TTPs that we're seeing don't typically lead us to think towards al Qaeda, Ansar Islam or some foreign fighters. This is more in line with what we've seen with former regime elements and such.
That's not to say that they are not involved in the country or -- nor are we trying to minimize their impact. It's just the latest ones don't really seem to indicate that they're coming from that direction.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q General, Dean Yates from Reuters. Could you just please repeat the details on the attack on the police at Ramadi? Thanks.
GEN. KIMMITT: I can give them to you afterwards, if you'd like to.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. KIMMITT: Sure.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Given what you said about violence expecting (sic) to continue till June, how confident are you that you can provide adequate security for the U.N. experts who are expected to arrive?
GEN. KIMMITT: We have a responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment for Iraq. That is not to suggest that it's complete security all times, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We believe that the amount of violence in the country right now is manageable. We certainly have enough forces in the country. We certainly are growing the Iraqi police service, the new Iraqi army, the ICDC quickly and effectively. And we believe that we got sufficient capability to maintain a reasonable security level here in the country and look forward to the U.N. coming down to make that same determination as well.
MR. SENOR: I would just -- I would point you to the general secretary's statement following the U.N. bombing here in Baghdad last summer, when he basically said that it is impossible to protect against these sorts of incidents all the time, everywhere. Hundred percent security is impossible. If that were the case, you wouldn't see violence in Baghdad or in Najaf, nor would you see it in Istanbul, Bali, Jerusalem, Riyadh, New York City, a number of other areas that have been hit by terrorism.
The important point here is for us to do everything we can to give the general secretary the confidence that he needs that we are minimizing risks and maximizing the security of the electoral team that he possibly will deploy here. And we have made it clear to him that we will make every effort.
And Ambassador Bremer has gathered -- over the last 24 hours has gathered his top people on security matters and informed them that they should provide everything that is necessary to Kofi Annan's security team, so they can have all the resources and all the information they need to make a decision about the deployment of an electoral team.
Q Mr. Senor, do you have any date for the arrival of the U.N. election experts? And will they be working on deadline, given the fact that the 28th of February is the deadline for the basic law?
And one more question, if I may.
MR. SENOR: Sure.
Q Does the CPA believe at this moment that the caucus system for selecting members of the interim assembly is the best way?
MR. SENOR: I'll start with your first question and work backwards. The -- what the secretary-general said today -- he didn't say that he was deploying a team -- an electoral team. He said he's deploying a security team to look at the security issues for the electoral team. So the electoral team isn't coming immediately; it's the security team that's being deployed. The actual schedule for, you know, when each individual comes in and whatnot, when they hit the ground, I would refer you to the United Nations. I don't want to speak for them on the schedule and those details. There's a lot of operational security details related to that that we don't want to speak for them on.
And what was your other question? On the caucus system.
Yes, we are moving forward with the implementation of the November 15th agreement. We believe that that is the best way at this moment, based on the information we have, to organize fair and legitimate and credible elections in the very short period of time that we have with the goal of meeting the June 30 deadline, of handing over sovereignty to the Iraqi people. We have been working very closely with the Governing Council on implementation of the plan.
I just came from a meeting that Ambassador Bremer was having with Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani, members of the Governing Council. They were working on implementation of the November 15th agreement. So the plan moves forward.
And as far as time is concerned, when we had our meetings at the U.N., both the Governing Council and Ambassador Bremer expressed a sense of urgency to the general-secretary, that if he decides to deploy a team -- an electoral team to Iraq -- that he do it quickly so that it can influence the February 28th deadline for the drafting for the interim administrative law. And he absolutely understood that. And he said he would move quickly and he has, given that it's been just about a week since we met with him and he's already spoken on it today.
Q A follow-up question, if I may. A lot of talk has been -- a lot of people have spoke while Ambassador Bremer was in Washington and New York about modifications to the caucuses system, but no one actually has gone into any detail about what these alterations or modifications might be. And I was just wondering if you could perhaps give us some detail about what these modifications might be.
MR. SENOR: Mm-hmm. What I can tell is that the proposed -- proposed -- modifications, proposed clarifications, proposed elaborations on the political process are coming from a number of people, from a number of different directions, and there are no clarifications that are final at this point.
These are part of a larger discussion we are having as we move closer to the February 28th deadline of bringing the basic law, the interim administrative law, to closure. So I don't want to speculate on the manifestations of those and the directions those will take. Let's wait for the process to play out.
Yes? Someone who hasn't -- Ed, go ahead; he hasn't asked a question.
Q One question for General Kimmitt and one for Dan.
General Kimmitt, can you give the latest figures on how many insurgents you estimate, or guerrilla fighters, are operating in the country, and, of those, how many are foreign fighters, according to the military's estimate?
And Dan, several commanders I've spoken to, as well as U.N. officials, say that the thing that might block direct elections isn't so much whether a mechanism can be put in place in time but the security situation in the country. And yesterday Nori Badran said that that was the main reason. Can you address that?
GEN. KIMMITT: We've seen a number of intelligence reports that vary widely. But I would tell you that sort of the mean figure, that is we typically talk somewhere on the order of 3,000 to 5,000 active anti-coalition forces out there; roughly -- perhaps 5 to 10 percent of them from abroad. The vast majority of them we still believe are homegrown anti-coalition elements, possibly former regime elements, possibly disenfranchised youth. But those are normally the numbers that we throw around.
MR. SENOR: As to your second question, the basis upon which we have come to the conclusion that direct elections would be very difficult in the very short time frame ahead, we're talking really about three or four months, if you think about the fact that they wouldn't get started till after the February 28th deadline for the interim law, then they have to be finished by June 1st because June 1st, then, the transitional assembly or the parliament would have to elect an executive branch or choose an executive branch. There's just not sufficient electoral infrastructure, as I said before, in the country to accommodate that very accelerated timeline, if the goal is direct elections. There hasn't been a census in this country for over 20 years, there aren't constituent boundaries, there are no voter rolls, there are no political party laws.
All the independent advice and expertise we have had, we have received from organizations we've consulted, some NGOs, has said that -- has indicated that it would be very difficult. That has been the focus, that has been the information upon which we have made the decisions we have made.
What we're going to hope for now is that the U.N. will come in and do its own independent analysis. And they are experts in the areas of elections and constitution-drafting and putting the mechanisms in place for electoral processes. We want to let them come in and make those decisions. And all the factors that are associated with that, including the one you raised -- security -- they will have to consider all these issues in making a decision on what they want to recommend to us for going forward.
Q Well, it's kind of a follow-up to General Kimmitt. The 5,000 -- the 3,000 to 5,000 figure that you just cited, is that more or less, or fewer -- more insurgents or fewer insurgents than there were three months ago? I think it was in November that General Sanchez said he thought there were about 5,000. Are there still about 5,000 or -- and have they replenished themselves after you've killed off some of them? Or do you think the number is actually going down?
GEN. KIMMITT: I think all of the above. I mean, these are very, very gross figures as you can imagine. We don't have people out there announcing themselves on a day-to-day basis. These are templates that we are working with and estimates that we are working with. And those are operating assumptions, and we could be wildly off the mark. But those are the numbers that we've worked with just based on some of the intel reports that we have.
So don't try to hold us too closely to those numbers because if you start the scorekeeping, we will inevitably be disappointed in the process.
Q Yeah. There was a report in an Iraqi paper a couple of days ago listing the names of the couple of hundred people around the world who apparently received bribes in oil from Saddam. Do you -- bribes in oil. Do you believe these documents are accurate? Is there something that either you are investigating, or the Iraqis are investigating that you're aware of?
MR. SENOR: I have not seen the documents. I will look around and look into it and follow up with you after. If you can just touch base with Jerod (sp) or Susan (sp) that are sitting right there, they can -- they can get you the information. But it is the first I am hearing about it. So, I don't know if -- where the reports are coming from. I'll look into it.
Q Is there any anticipation of any kind of a surge in attacks timed to coincide with the upcoming Eid, the several-day vacation coming up?
MR. SENOR: I don't --
(To General Kimmitt) Do you have any intelligence that speaks to that?
GEN. KIMMITT: And if we had any intelligence on that, I don't think we'd be sharing it in this forum.
MR. SENOR: And -- but we will say, as we've always said around the holidays, it would be a dreadful mistake on the part of any enemy or antagonist to try to test our will and test our capabilities during the holiday periods. We see this as a 24 and 7 job, and we are not taking holidays. We are out there to ensure that the people of Iraq can take the holidays.
(Pause.) Thanks, everybody.
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