United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director, Coalition Operations; and Daniel Senor, Senior Adviser, CPA
April 13, 2004 10:30 AM EDT
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

           MR. SENOR:  Good evening.  General Kimmitt has an opening statement, and then we will jump into questions.  There was talk about a backgrounder today, which is being postponed till tomorrow, given the late hour here.  We know a lot of you want to get going here, so we will do the backgrounder tomorrow.

 

            General Kimmitt.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Good afternoon.  The coalition is continuing to conduct offensive operations to destroy extremist and foreign fighter elements in Iraq, and stability operations to assist the restoration of essential services, revitalization of the economy, and handover of sovereignty to the people of Iraq.

 

            In Multinational Brigade North, the current situation remains relatively stable.    Government buildings and infrastructure are secure.  Facilities Protection Service and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps are actively augmenting municipal authorities to maintain order.

 

            In Mosul, the situation remains stable.  Yesterday the governor of Nineveh Province and other municipal leaders made televised addresses in which they discussed the importance of working with Iraqi security forces and maintaining order.

 

            Yesterday operating bases in central and southern Mosul were attacked with indirect fire, but there were no casualties or damage to coalition equipment.

 

            In Tall Afar, the Iraqi armed forces battalion base camp was attacked by indirect fire two nights ago, but there were no casualties.  In Irbil and Dohul the situation remains stable.

 

            In the north-central zone of operations, coalition forces remain on the offensive, and have seen a decrease in the number of anti- coalition attacks over the past week.  Over the next 24 hours, however, forces expect an increase in anti-coalition activity, with demonstrations in a number of cities in the area of operations.

 

            In Tikrit, the situation is stable. There were five reported attacks on coalition forces.  In Tuz, two reported attacks.  One IED attack last night resulted in two coalition force wounded, and in Samarra there were three reported  attacks  , Baqubah four reported attacks.

 

            In Baghdad, the 1st Cavalry Division continues offensive operations against Sadr's militia and other extremist forces.  The division conducted two intelligence-based raids to destroy and capture enemy targets within the battlespace, capturing 16 suspects.  This morning coalition forces detained an additional 29 individuals and confiscated numerous arms and ammunition.

 

            Today at 11:05, Hazim al-Araji (ph), a spokesman for Muqtada al- Sadr, was detained for questioning by coalition forces.  After questioning, al-Araji (ph) was determined to have no direct involvement in violent acts in Iraq, and is not viewed as an imminent threat to security.  He was released at 5:50 p.m. today.

 

            In the western zone of operations, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force continued offensive operations throughout the Al Anbar province, except in Fallujah.  In Fallujah the current situation remains stable. During the past 24 hours, there heave been a number of provocative attacks on coalition forces.  Early this morning a helicopter made an emergency landing due to ground fire.  The attack resulted in three wounded and a quick-reaction force secured the crew, and the helicopter was later destroyed to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.

 

            In Ar Ramadi, the situation is calm, and there were no attacks reported in the last 24 hours.

 

            In the Central South zone of operations, the situation remains relatively stable.  In Karbala there have been no attacks in the past two days.  The number of pilgrims in the city continues to decrease as the Arba'in celebration has concluded.  In the past 24 hours there has been no resistance by anti-coalition forces within Al Kut.  Task Force Dragoon has freedom of movement and is targeting anti-coalition leaders to demonstrate to the citizens of Al Kut the coalition's resolve to maintain a safe and secure environment.

 

            Coalition forces conducted four cordon-and-search operations, resulting in the capture of six individuals.  And Ukrainian forces have resumed responsibility of two bridges.

 

            Today the deputy CPA administrator and 16 members of his staff returned to the CPA building  in Al Kut, and they are expected to be fully operational in the near future.

 

            In Ad Diwaniyah the situation is stable, as is An Najaf, although anti-coalition forces continue to conduct night harassing attacks on coalition base camps.

 

            In Multinational Division Southeast the current situation is stable and calm.  There was one attack on coalition forces over the last 24 hours.  In al-Amarah, Basra, An Nasiriyah and Al Samawa the situation remains calm and there were no attacks reported in these cities in the past 24 hours.

 

            Yesterday there was a minor demonstration by local civilians in Samawa that had been fired by the local government.  This demonstration was peaceful and dispersed on its own.

 

            In al-Amarah, the civil military cooperation house was once again targeted last night by mortar fire.  All three rounds missed the target and impacted on the west bank of the Tigris River. Later in the night, in the town center, a Warrior fighting vehicle was engaged by what was assessed to be a rocket-propelled grenades, followed by small arms fire.  There were no casualties in either attack.

 

            MR. SENOR:  With that, we'll be happy to take your questions. Jennifer.

 

            Q     Jennifer Glass from "The World."  General Kimmitt, the Iraqi police have refused to engage the Madhi Army across central and south Iraq, and the Iraqi army wouldn't go after insurgents in Fallujah.  How do you work with these people who won't help you in operations against folks that you think are against the stability and safety of the country?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah, it was clear over the last couple of weeks that the progress we had hoped to have been made thus far on the Iraqi security forces is not as far along as  we would have expected.  But before we suggest that all the forces just walked away from the fight, in fact there have been numerous forces that when mustered went to   where they needed to be, and have performed brilliantly. In Fallujah, we have two battalions of Iraqi Civil Defense Corps that are fighting alongside coalition forces.  In many towns the Iraqi police service has come back to man their stations.  But, in truth, there were a number of troops, there were a number of police that didn't stand up when their country called. We're going to take a very hard look at those.  We are going to take a very hard look at where we are on the development of the Iraqi security forces and we are going to redouble our efforts so that our eventual goal, which is an Iraqi security apparatus capable of defending itself and providing public security is met.  That will take some time, it will take some equipping, but that's why the coalition forces remain here and will remain here for a long period of time.

 

            Q     Just a quick follow-up:  Who's in charge of safety and stability on July 1st?  Who do these troops answer to on July 1st?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  The same people who are responsible for safety and security on June 15th, which is the coalition forces, alongside the Iraqi security partners.  We will continue to work side by side with the Iraqi security forces as long as we're needed here.

 

            Q     Sorry, just to clarify, General Kimmitt, so the security portfolio stays with coalition forces and doesn't get turned over as part of sovereignty?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  That's correct.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Jane?

 

            Q     Thank you.  Jane Arraf, CNN.  Wanted to ask about the detention and release of Muqtada al-Sadr's deputy.  Now, we are told that he's been released, as you've said, because he was believed not to contribute to violence.  And we're told further that he was thought to be someone who promoted dialogue.  Does that mean that there are people in the Sadr organization that you will deal with?

 

            And if I could get in a second question, wanted to ask about the impact of a growing number of countries telling their citizens they should not come here, and those here should leave.

 

            MR. SENOR:  On your first question, I don't want to specify or designate people by organization.  I think General Kimmitt could speak to the basis on which this one individual was released, which I think was for very specific reasons -- the fact that he was not connected to any alleged crimes. But, again, General Kimmitt can speak to that.

 

            Broadly speaking, Jane, we have been approached by a number of individuals who are trying to seek a peaceful resolution to the situation with Sadr's militia, and we respect and appreciate their good intentions.  We too want to minimize the bloodshed, but we have a few principles that are very clear:   the rule of law must prevail in Iraq; there is no role for illegal militias and illegal mobs and mob violence; there is no role for individuals or organizations that take control of government properties.  And we have been very consistent about these principles and these positions to any individual that has approached us wanting to seek a peaceful resolution.

 

              Now, to the extent that they want to communicate that onward, that's their prerogative, but our position is very clear.

 

            Sewell?

 

            Q     Sewell Chan of the Washington Post --

 

            Q     The second question --

 

            MR. SENOR:  Oh, sorry, what was the second question?

 

            Q     (Off mike)?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah.  I think every individual and every country has to make an individual security determination in terms of ongoing operations here in Iraq.  We still have some tough fighting ahead of us.  It is not completely calm throughout this country.  We will continue to work closely with our Iraqi security partners to bring safety and security to this country.  But that has got to be a sovereign decision of the nations, and it's got to be an individual decision made by each person.  We can't at this point declare that it is as safe as we'd like it to be.  But we can declare that we will continue to work to try to reduce the amount of violence in this country, whether it's in Fallujah or what has sort of emanated out of Fallujah, whether it's in the south or whether it's here in Baghdad. Those are decisions that people have to make, and countries have to make.

 

            But I would also factor into that discussion and factor into that analysis the coalition and the Iraqi security forces continue to be determined to go to attack, to kill or capture terrorists, extremists and people who would bring violence into this country.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Sewell?

 

            Q     Sewell Chan of the Washington Post.  I have a question that I'd like both General Kimmitt and Mr. Senor to address, if possible. As Jane pointed out, there have been several governments, including those of France and Russia, that have urged citizens working in Iraq to leave.  In addition, there have been a wave of foreign kidnappings, including several more announced today.  Is there a coordinated strategy for looking at these hostage-takings and these kidnappings and abductions that examines specifically th e  tactics, methods and locations used by these kidnappers?  Who is coordinating this approach?  What is the total number of foreign hostages that are believed to be held right now?  And what progress specifically, if any, has been made to capture or stop these kidnappers and these people who are taking hostages?  Thank you.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Sewell, I obviously for operational reasons cannot address a number of your questions, given that we are working to pursue the hostages and the hostage-takers at this point.

 

            The number i s  approximately 40 hostages from we think 12 countries.  The FBI is working with coalition forces and with Iraqi security forces to seek out the hostage-takers and the hostages.  We have a number of other international -- a number of other law enforcement agencies from the international community that are involved in this process.  And I'd really prefer to leave it at that. We are not terribly interested in tipping our hand with a great degree of detail right now to those who have taken hostages.

 

            Our message, however, has been consistent on this point:  we will not negotiate with terrorists and kidnappers, and it is in everybody's interest that these hostages be released as expeditiously as possible.

 

            Q     As a quick follow-up, Dan, when you say 40 hostages from 12 countries, sir, are you currently -- are you referring to people currently held or are you including people who have been held and released?  Thank you.

 

            MR. SENOR:  I am referring to people currently held.

 

            Q     Dan, for you, do you have a sense how much Iraqi attitudes have changed since Fallujah just anecdotally, and has any actual scientific polling been done on that?  A lot of us have the impression that there's been a very major change in attitude toward the occupation and the coalition now, and I would like to hear your views.

 

            MR. SENOR:  We don't have any, at least I don't have access to any statistical survey research within the past 72 hours.  I know there is work being done on it.  I can follow-up with you and connect you with our team who is working on it.  Anecdotally, though, which we have been meeting with leaders from Iraq who are very much in touch with the local scene in Fallujah, and while there are frustrations along the lines you have described, I would also say that there is a sense of frustration we are hearing among the silent majority of Fallujans about the foreign fighters and international terrorists that are hanging their hats in Fallujah right now, and consequently imposing enormous burden, and misery, and death in some cases by virtue of their location.  A number of Fallajans have spoken out on this.  Our -- the problem here is not with the Fallujans, the problem here is not with the coalition.  The problem here is with foreign fighters, international terrorists, people like Zarqawi, who we believe to be in Fallujah or nearby, and those Iraqis who would support the operations of the foreign fighters and the terrorists. That is not something the majority of Fallujans support.  The Fallujans we are hearing from would love to rid themselves of this burden, and put this sad past few days behind them.

 

            Yes.

 

            Q     Sam Dagger (ph) with AFP.  Just going back to Zarqawi, whom you mentioned right now, is going after Zarqawi part of your operation there?  And yesterday you read out a statement from a document, could you give us the date of the document that you referred to yesterday?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Sure, I can get that for you.  It was retrieved in the last couple weeks.  As for Zarqawi, I'm not going to talk about our specific plans for the hunt for Zarqawi.  Rest assured that it is robust.  But we believe that Fallujah right now is a hotbed for foreign fighters who are in Iraq, in which we include Zarqawi.

 

            Q     Just a question on the Italian hostages, what do you have on that?

 

            MR. SENOR:  I have nothing in addition to what I said about hostages broadly speaking.  We are chronicling and investigating every single report about hostages, including the Italian situation.  We are making it clear that there will be no negotiations with hostage takers, and we are making it clear that it is in everybody's interest for those hostages to be released as expeditiously as possible.

 

            Yes.

 

            Q     Question for General Kimmitt, it's Quinn O'Toole with NPR. I'm wondering if you can give us an update on the situation in Najaf, the number of American forces around there, and word today from a statement by Ayatollah Sistani that U.S. forces will not enter Najaf, and will not humiliate Muqtada al Sadr.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  It is clear that we are repositioning forces in this country where they're needed, as we saw in Al Kut, we have the capability to rapidly displace and reposition forces to counter any threat within this country.  Currently, we see a significant threat in the vicinity of Najaf by the name of Muqtada al Sadr and his militia. And we will get the forces to the place and at time when it is necessary to go after him, and his militia to end this violence.  It is that simple.

 

            Q     Update us as far as the size of the force around Najaf?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I'm sorry?

 

            Q     The size of the coalition forces around Najaf?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I will tell you that the size is significant, I will tell you that the force that is being brought to that region is powerful, and it will be disciplined, and it will be capable of conducting the full spectrum of military operations, which could range from full combat operations, and if necessary it could range down to humanitarian activities.  It's a multi-spectrum force.  It can do anything that it's asked to do.  It will go wherever it's needed to wipe out the violence inside this country.

 

            Q     What kind of operations are underway there now?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Right now, preparatory operations.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Two questions.  General Kimmitt, for a few days the media said that the Kurdish Peshmerga cooperated with the coalition forces in Fallujah, and in the same frame what is the fact of the 36th Battalion which works with the coalition forces?

 

            Another question for Mr. Dan, the Iraqi Governing Council announced stopping the violence in all of Iraq.  How do you see this?   As the Iraqi Governing Council says, the coalition forces are the side which are putting obstacles in the way of ceasefire.  What do you say about that?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I continue to hear that there are illegal militias operating inside the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Those are Iraqi citizens that are operating inside the 36 Iraqi Civil Defense Corps battalion.  They may have had a past history working as Peshmerga.  They may have had a past history working in any of the other militias that have either been friendly, or in some cases unfriendly to coalition interests.  What is important is that is the past, and that's history.  To join the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, you do not swear allegiance to an organization; you do not swear allegiance to a person.  You swear your allegiance to a nation, and you swear your allegiance to this nation of Iraq.  So regardless if they were past Iraqi armed forces, whether they were past militia forces, they are now the present, and the future, they are responsible for the protection of the country of Iraq, answerable to the people of Iraq.  That is their obligation, and that is their responsibility.

 

            MR. SENOR:  To your other question with regard to the governing council statement, we want to see a stop to all the violence in Iraq, too.  And we certainly share the sentiment of much of what was expressed in the governing council statement, not the least of which is the importance of the rule of law prevailing in Iraq.  That principle is what is driving so much of our activity over the last few days.  So we thought the governing council statement in most respects was very constructive.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  al Khofet (ph) Newspaper.  Your concerns for a peaceful resolution with al Sadr means that you will not carry out further attacks on Sadr militias?

 

            MR. SENOR:  We are looking for minimal bloodshed, peace, and justice. We are looking for the rule of law to prevail.  Much of this can be dictated by Mr. Al Sadr.  Much of this can be dictated by the actions of his illegal mob.

 

            Yes.  Najim (ph)?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  (Inaudible) -- newspaper, one question about Muqtada al Sadr, there is the contradiction between, in the U.S. theory, from one side it says that he is illegally wanted, and that the Iraqi law will take care of that.  Yesterday we heard that it will arrest or kill Muqtada al Sadr.  There is duality in the U.S. position, is there a certain purpose, or certain demand for Mr. al Sadr, from your side?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Najim (ph), what we have been saying, and it has been quite consistent, whether it's what you heard last night, or what   we're saying from the podium today, the rule of law must prevail.  The rule of Iraqi law must prevail.  I don't need to remind you that this arrest warrant was issued by an Iraqi investigative judge, not  by   an American official.  The actions we've taken have been in consultation with Iraqi legal authorities.  Given that this was issued by an Iraqi investigative judge, an investigative judge who, by the way, has made it clear that Muqtada al Sadr, from his point of view, from the Iraqi judge's point of view, should be tried under Iraqi law, in an Iraqi court, by Iraqi authorities, and his officials, his deputies, like Yacoubi, for instance, is being held right now in an Iraqi detention facility.  So the Iraqi investigative judge's message is consistent with our own.

 

            Q     If you allow me, each person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  You have called for the killing of Muqtada al Sadr, so how do you explain this?  He should be investigated, and tried by an Iraqi court.  He should be arrested.

 

            MR. SENOR:  The Iraqi investigative judge believes, or has compiled evidence that he believes connects Muqtada al Sadr to a brutal murder, and believes that Muqtada al Sadr should be issued an arrest warrant based on the evidence that ties into the crime.  We share that view.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q     Jonathan Steele from the Guardian.  There are reports from some of the negotiators, Iraqi negotiators going to Fallujah, that the U.S. has now dropped its demand for the early handover of the people who mutilated the four American contractors.  Can you confirm that?

 

            And the second point is there are also reports in Fallujah that photographs are circulating which show dismembered bodies without arms and legs, which the people circulating the photos say was done by the Marines.  Are you aware of such photos circulating in Fallujah?

 

            MR. SENOR:  On your first question, there are discussions -- and I don't want to over- or under-characterize them -- there are discussions that representatives from Iraq's Governing Council have been attempting to lead in Fallujah.  The notion of some terms and some conditions being dropped or added I think characterizes them in such a way as to imply that they are much further advanced than they probably are.

 

            These are discussions that we want to see an end to the bloodshed, we want to allow Iraqi officials to get in there, tend to the wounded, tend to the dead, to get in essential supplies from the Iraqi government, and obviously we want to remove from Fallujah the foreign fighters, the international terrorists, and those Iraqis that support the foreign fighters and the international terrorists that have made Fallujah their home.  And we want -- we believe that what we want in that regard is something the majority of Fallujans want as well, and that could include certainly the individuals that killed the four American contractors.  And it is all included as one group.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  As the to the photos being passed out, I don't know or nor do I have reports of those being passed around.  It could well be that they're just passing around the photographs that showed in many of the major newspapers and many on the major news channels during that same time period.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, in the back.

 

            Q     Betsy Hiel, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.  I was wondering first if you could tell us whether you've secured the road lines right now coming outside of Baghdad, both going north and south?

 

            And, also, I've been hearing these different groups -- there's the Jihad squadrons, the national Islamic resistance, the mujaheddin group, the Iman Rafiye (ph) Brigade.  Are these all fly-by-night groups that have just sprung up now, coming out of the recent violence, or do you know who they are and can you tell us anything specific about all these groups?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  To you first question, we would not consider the lines of communication and the major roads coming out of Baghdad from East to West or from North to South completely secure at this time. We think we've made a significant improvement.  We would still rate them in the military lexicon as "amber" -- not exactly green.  And we would advise anyone traveling on those roads to take reasonable force protection measures, as you have been over the past few days, if needing to travel along those.

 

            With regards to the additional groups that have, as you characterized, cropped up lately, some of those names are  new to us. We are talking to our intelligence services.  They are working hard to find out if some of these nom de guerre, some of these are just part of an overall propaganda campaign by one or a couple of the organizations that we're very familiar with.  The Ansar al-Islam, some of the former regime elements, some of the former Saddam Fe da y  een who now are putting on different names to sort of give them a little bit of glamour and a little bit of attention.  But I don't think at this point that we've got a cohesive understanding of all these organizations -- who they are and what they represent.  Except we certainly understand that what they do represent is extremism, in some cases terrorism.  And what they certainly do not represent is the vast majority, the overwhelming majority of the people of Iraq who understand these organizations for what they are.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Arad Asadi (ph) from -- (inaudible).  I have a small message to Mr. Dan Senor.  I hope that this message will get to the officials in power.  My message is that we learned from you when you were among us for more than one year -- you brought new concepts for us on the professional side -- I mean the press.  We are lacking these conceptions:  freedom of dialogue, freedom of expression.  Mr. Dan Senor, as you have learned -- taught this to us, I want you to teach this to the people in power and those who will assume power in Iraq.  These principles have we have learned, a country without a free press cannot be a healthy country.  This is my message.

 

            As for my question, you have always stressed that you respect law and the supremacy of law, and you are calling on the Iraqis to respect law.  Is there a legal document issued against Mr. Al-Araji, or was he arrested haphazardly?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT: In the case of Mr. Al-Araji, he clearly is a known associate of Muqtada al-Sadr. I think all of us clearly recognize the violence that he has brought to this country of late, the amount of deaths and destructions he has brought to towns such as Kut, Diwaniyah, here in Baghdad, and Sadr City.  We wanted him for questioning.  After questioning, we determined that he was not an imminent threat to security.  Like any other person we hold in detention, when he is determined not to be an imminent threat to security, he is released, and that is what we have done to him and with him.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Carol?

 

            Q     Carol Rosenberg with the Miami Herald.  I have a couple of real quick ones, and then a complicated one.   When did the roads go from green to amber, north, south, east, west?  Are there any updates in casualties since you were last at the podium?  Do you have anything on a convoy heading south to Najaf losing 10 APCs?   And everybody held their breath and we just had a peaceful Arba'in.  Can you guys figure out or explain to us why it happened, and can you bottle it?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I think the answer to your question is over the past few days we've lost two Americans. Since I last said the number was roughly around 70 soldiers and Marines.  I know that we lost one more Marine, one more soldier.   And our hearts go out to their families for these losses.

 

            I'd like to be able to say it's been pretty quiet for the last few days,  and we've seen the amount of deaths go down significantly. But the fact remains that we've lost two, and that's two too many.

 

            On your question about when did the roads go from green to amber, over the weekend is when we started seeing, particularly in the area of Abu Gharib, we started seeing some attacks being directed from the Abu Gharib vicinity onto coalition convoys, personnel convoys, and that was a determination in my estimation when the roads went at that point from green not to amber, but actually to red and nearly black. We've sent a lot of brave soldiers out there over the past few days. They've conducted a lot of tough combat.  What they're trying to do is get those roads open.  But it's going to be some time before in our estimation they're truly green. And frankly at any time, as we've seen throughout this country, somebody who has a vested interest in trying to kill Iraqi citizens or kill coalition soldiers nonetheless will still put an improvised explosive device on the road.  So you may have none of those for a period of four or five days, and then all of a sudden you have one that tragically kills women and children, coalition soldiers, Iraqi citizens.

 

            So to answer your question directly, I think it's still going to be some time before we feel that those lines of communications are to the point where we can say they are green.

 

            MR. SENOR:  To your other question, Carol, I think the past few days we've been grateful and relieved that there has been none of the terrorist violence that you raise.  I think it's a function of a number of factors, including the fact that we were on high alert.  We engaged in extensive comprehensive planning to prepare for Arba'in, coalition security forces working extremely closely with Iraqi security forces, focused intensively on the Arba'in period.  And as pleased as we are, I think it's also important to be realistic. Between now and June 30th, as we have said from time to time, the terrorists and the foreign fighters have a real incentive to try to throw what is otherwise a successful path to sovereignty off track. And even though we've had a bumpy few days in the general security situation, I think most foreign fighters who have decided to stake their ground in Iraq recognize that by and large you have a process on the political track against the backdrop of an interim constitution, with the reality that there are two U.N. teams on the ground -- one working on putting in place the requisite electoral infrastructure for direct elections, another team working on setting up -- consulting widely with Iraqis in the hope of establishing an interim government to govern for seven months between June 30th and the direct elections. There is a lot of activity.  It is very real.  It is beginning to take a life on of its own.  And it is very difficult -- as Zarqawi has said, as you move closer and closer to June 30th to turn back the momentum.  And so as I said, we recognize that there is an incentive for those who are against Iraqi democracy, who are enemies of freedom, to engage in attacks between now and June 30th.  We are grateful they did not happen during the Arba'in period.  We will continue to be vigilant.  We encourage all Iraqis to continue to be vigilant.  The terror threat is still very real.  And we will continue to confront it everywhere we have to.

 

            Go ahead.

 

            Q     Hi, Dan.  I just wanted to ask a little bit further about the question, about the peshmerga.  I wonder if there's any concern at this point that if people see Kurdish fighters in Fallujah at a time, even if they are members of the new Iraqi security forces, at a time when some other battalions have refused to fight in Fallujah, whether this would reinforce the perception that the U.S. might be fomenting or encouraging a split between Kurds and Arabs in the country.

 

            My other question is about Najaf.  Is there a plan in place in case there is violence around the shrine? Clearly there might be a very strong reaction -- not just in Najaf but in Baghdad and around the country.  What are the plans to keep the situation calm if a situation like that happens?  Thanks.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  On the first question about the members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, what people will see will be a soldier, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps member wearing a uniform.  On that uniform it will have a flag of Iraq.  Again, where that soldier came from, where that Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldier had a prior association does not matter.  There will be some that try to turn that into a tool of propaganda.  But should we also argue that the former members of the Iraqi armed forces, if they are attacking Fallujah, are truly former Saddam loyalists that are trying to restore his government to power?  Should we somehow suggest that Shi'a members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps are secretly trying to go after all the Sunnis in Fallujah?   Those people who responsibly and reasonably look at the question will come to a responsible and reasonable answer.  Those who don't, and who want to try to spin it for other purposes, we can only respond with facts.

 

            On the second question, we seem to miss a point about the force deployment to the south.  The target is not An Najaf.  The target is Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia.  We will hunt them down and we will destroy them.  It does not necessarily have to be in An Najaf.  We would prefer it not to be in An Najaf or Karbala.  We have very great respect for the shrines for the Shi'a, for the religion.  We will do what is necessary -- but we will only do what is necessary.  It does not necessarily have to be in the town of An Najaf nor in the town of Karbala.  The target is not a town.  The target is a group that is promoting and executing violence, who is trying to disrupt the process of sovereignty, and who is trying to intimidate through the barrel of a gun the vast majority of the people of Iraq.  That will not stand. They will be hunted down.  They will be killed or captured.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, ma'am?

 

            Q       (Through interpreter.)   Halida (ph) Khamadi (ph). al Musharaka (ph) newspaper.  Mr. Kimmitt, don't you agree that you have took it so far in the operation of vengeance for the four American contractors and that you give more importance to American citizens than Iraqi citizens.  Aren't Iraqi children and women who are dying -- aren't they also human beings?  There have been very big losses in Fallujah, and your excuse is the protection of Americans.  How do you explain that?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, first of all, I don't explain it as protection of Americans.  Nor do I explain  it as conducting operations against Fallujans.  Nor do I explain it as punitive   retribution f or  the loss of American citizens in Fallujah, whether they were in Fallujah as the contractors, or outside Fallujah for the five American soldiers that were killed by an IED that day.  That is just one small town. You have seen coalition forces operating throughout this entire country -- in Mosul, in Basra -- you've seen them in An Najaf, Al Kut.  You've seen coalition soldiers fighting and dying for the people of Iraq -- not solely for the purpose of as you would say, but I won't, retribution for the killings in Fallujah. We have been here for a year, we have stood side by side with Iraqi security forces.  In many cases our soldiers fighting and dying in areas that have not seen any Americans or coalition soldiers fight and die.  They are dying and they are fighting simply to bring this country and those young children and those young women that you're talking about to a better life, to freedom and democracy.  So those that would try to tell you that what we're doing in Fallujah is to wreak vengeance, I would tell you that that is wrong.  It is no different in Fallujah than it is the fight that we had in Al Kut, the fight that the Italians had in Diwaniyah, the fight that the British had in Basra, the fight that the Americans have in Mosul.  They are fighting to bring this country -- to make this country safe so those children that you're talking about can grow up in a better society than their parents have.

 

            MR. SENOR:  And I would just add the poisonous reporting to which you are referring, these reports out there about the targeting of women and children, is something that we encourage every journalist here to take a very tough critical look at. It is part and parcel with the reporting that we have been seeing, or the misreporting that we have been seeing on a number of the satellite channels like al Jazeera and al Arabiya, and they certainly do not make a constructive contribution to the debate in this country about how to move forward as we try to minimize bloodshed.

 

            I actually have here with me just a couple of examples -- we have many -- but just a couple of examples of some of the irresponsible and clearly incorrect reporting that has occurred on al Jazeera over the last few days.  Saturday, for instance:  Baghdad students, according to al Jazeera, gathered at Mustansiriyah University to prepare relief supplies for people in Fallujah.  And al Jazeera reported that U.S. troops surrounded the university and demanded via loud speakers that the students leave the university.  The report is accompanied by a clip of an armored vehicle driving around Mustansiriyah.  And we of course looked right into this when the report as concerning as this one came out, and we learned that approximately 20 students from Mustansiriyah University came to a coalition force compound complaining of an armed militia on their campus.  Coalition forces and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps responded to the college, responded to the university and searched 14 buildings, confiscated nine AK-47s, one pistol, pro-al-Sadr banners, and one al-Sadr uniform. The armed militias subsequently departed the area.

 

            I'll give you another example.  On Saturday in Kut, al Jazeera reported that large numbers of British soldiers were killed, their   vehicles destroyed in an attack on their camp in the governorate of Maysan.  And we confirmed this with our officials in Maysan, who confirmed no casualties of any kind, after nine mortar rounds fired at an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps base.

 

            Also on Saturday al Jazeera reported that they themselves were being targeted, and that they were being targeted by coalition tanks twice, but they escaped, they reported, but the U.S. wants them out of Fallujah.  "But we will stay," the reporter said -- they were reporting that we wanted them out of Fallujah so badly that we sent tanks after them.  The last one is especially absurd.  I don't thin k  it deserves clarification.

 

            The fact is there is poisonous reporting out there, and it is seeping out on a number of these stewardship channels, like al Jazeera and like Al Arabiya.  And it is important for all responsible journalists who are getting their information from these new channels to give them a very tough critical look.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Matthew Fisher from the National Post of Canada.  Do you have any figures on the number of POWs you have taken this month?  And also how many arms you've seized from the insurgents?  I understand the Marines in Ramadi had a very big weapons seizure.  And do the weapons that you are seizing tell you something about the quality of weaponry that your enemy has?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I'll get you those numbers about how many detainees we've captured this month.  Of particular interest, some of the weapons that we found in Ar Ramadi, which we have not seen in any large numbers that are Dragunov sniper rifles, which isn't your typical garden variety buy-it-off-the street AK-47.  These are fairly accurate long-range, well-telescoped weapons that have a significant range and a significant lethal capability.  So I think those are the weapons that probably are a little bit different than what we've seen over the past few months, and ones that no doubt gave the Marines some measure of concern.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yeah, time for a couple more -- go ahead.

 

            Q     I know you're trying to wrap it up, so I'll make this quick.  Kevin Seitz (ph) with NBC News.  Two quick questions. Concerning the convoy, are there actually going to be shortages of food and fuel and supplies at those forward-operating bases because of the convoy attacks?   And, secondly, we've seen some very dramatic pool footage come in recently overnight from Fallujah -- Marines certainly returning fire in great quantities -- also reports that Marines had been killed -- two Marines -- because of a mortar attack. What does this do to the cease-fire there?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  On your first question, no, we are not going to lose any -- let me rephrase that.  None of the coalition forward- operating bases are in danger of running out of supplies at this time. Between the stockpiles and our capability to resupply by many different ways -- whether it's by air, whether it's by ground -- we are absolutely confident that we will not have any of our forward- operating bases imperilled by a lack of supply.

 

            Number two, on the issue of the mortar rounds, we understand there was one mortar attack last night that cost the life of a Marine. And the footage that you saw probably is indicative of what we've said all along about the operations in Fallujah. The Marines have been very set over the past 72 hours. They have suspended offensive operations. They can't and they won't ever forfeit their inherent right to self- defense.  It is clear to us that many of these attacks that are being conducted by the enemy in Fallujah are meant to be provocative, meant to be spectacular -- get it on the screen, try to throw a grenade or couple of grenades at a Marine position, intentionally to cause them to return fire -- get it on the film, get it on to Doha, and get it on the next morning's reels, to try to demonstrate that in  

 f act the Marines are something that they are not.  The Marines are an outstanding fighting organization.  They are precise, they're deliberate, they're powerful.  When they are told to suspend offensive operations, they will.  Retaining the right, the inherent right of self-defense, if fired upon they will return.  They will put aimed, accurate fire, often in large quantities against those that would try to kill their fellow Marines.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Christine, last question.

 

            Q     I just want to get to the point that with every day of violence you are losing days toward preparing for sovereignty.  Are you redefining the term of turning of sovereignty? And what will it mean at this point?  And even as far as the embassy -- how many people   will you be able to get here in order to be ready for turnover of sovereignty?

 

            MR. SENOR: Our vision and our plan for sovereignty turnover remains the same.  Christine, we have said all along that on June 30th we will hand over political sovereignty to the Iraqi people.  They will be in control of their political destiny.  But Iraqis, American and coalition -- many coalition country security forces -- will still have a significant role in Iraq to help support the Iraqi security forces.  We recognize there will still be a major terror threat here after the Iraqi people have sovereignty.  We recognize that the Iraqi security services may not be in a  position to defend against that terror threat after June 30th.  And so we will still be here.

 

            We have said since last fall, when the U.S. Congress passed an $18.6 billion supplemental package that almost $20 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds alone, let alone the contributions from the international community, will be deployed over several years.  There will have to be American civilian reconstruction workers involved in that.  You will have -- we have said all along you are going to have one of the largest U.S. Embassies here in the world -- if not the largest.  So the plan remains the same, and while these days have been difficult and we are still working to address the problems that are associated with them, I think that postponing sovereignty is all the more not an option now.  Changing the nature of sovereignty is all the more not an option now -- because to do so would be to allow the terrorists and the extremists and illegal mobs and militias and the foreign fighters to have scored a major victory.

 

            Q     So, but Dan, what do you mean by "sovereignty"?  If the Iraqis can't defend themselves, and the politicians can't guarantee public security -- which is the nature of government -- what is sovereignty here?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Iraqis will be in control of their government.  We will be here to support them on the security front.  Ambassador Bremer will be gone.  We will no longer be occupiers.  There will be an Iraqi head of state.  There will be an Iraqi -- some form of  an Iraqi legislative body.  Iraqi officials will be held accountable by Iraqi citizens.  This is the end of an occupation.  This is Iraqis taking control of their political future.

 

            We have security forces in many parts of the world where we play a supporting role -- in some cases, depending on the nature of the local threat -- to the local governments or the local countries. Those countries are not occupied by the United States of America.

 

            Thank you, everybody.

 

            MR. SENOR:  One other quick thing.  This -- the few examples I cited on the misreporting we -- have English and Arabic copies and translations of them.  Our staff can distribute them before you depart.    

 

(C) COPYRIGHT 2004, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1919 M ST. NW; SUITE 220; WASHINGTON, DC - 20036, USA.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.  UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.  FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.  NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.  FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL JACK GRAEME AT 202-347-1400.

Additional Links

Stay Connected