United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director for Coalition Operation, Dan Senor, Senior Advisor, CPA
April 16, 2004 9:00 PM EDT
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

MR. SENOR:  I just have a couple of quick announcements, and General Kimmitt's got his opening briefing, and then we'll be happy to take your questions.

 

I just want to highlight this has been a very good week for the political transition, given the two respective announcements by the two U.N. teams that are in Iraq.

 

Mr. Brahimi, as you know, as many of you attended, held a press conference here earlier in the week after consultations with literally hundreds of Iraqis.  He's expected to return.  Ambassador Bremer issued a statement two days ago, which I will reread.

 

"We welcome Mr. Brahimi's recommendation for the structure of the interim government to which sovereignty will transferred on June 30th, 2004.  This followed an earlier visit to Iraq by Mr. Brahimi and a subsequent U.N. report at the request of the Iraqi Governing Council and the coalition.

 

"Mr. Brahimi's recommendation follows broad consultations with hundreds of Iraqis from across the country.  We are grateful to Secretary-General Annan, Mr. Brahimi and all the U.N. personnel here for their highly constructive contribution.  We hope that the U.N. will continue to use its expertise to play a vital role in advising Iraq as it moves forward with its political transition.

 

"This is an important step on Iraq's path to sovereignty on June 30th and first direct elections early next year.  We look forward to hearing further details from the U.N. mission, and we will work with the U.N. and the Iraqi Governing Council in the continued process of consultations with the Iraqi people."

 

And with regard to Ms. Perelli's press conference and the team she is heading here, which is focused primarily on setting up the requisite electoral infrastructure necessary for Iraq's direct elections, she has said -- she has reported that that infrastructure needs to be in place by the end of May this year if Iraq is to be on schedule for direct elections by January of 2005.

 

The Governing Council is on record supporting this.  They have been working with Ms. Perelli's team to put the mechanisms necessary in place by the end of May, which include an electoral commission, an electoral law and a political parties law -- again, all three of which must be in place by the end of May.  She has been working with the Governing Council's Electoral Committee on these initiatives.

 

Again, very good progress on both these fronts this week.  We look forward to more in the weeks ahead.

 

General Kimmitt.

 

GEN. KIMMITT:  Thank you.

 

Well, good afternoon.  In addition to Operations Resolute Sword and Vigilant Resolve, all major subordinate commands of CJTF-7 are conducting offensive actions in support of ongoing operations to identify, locate and detain or kill Saddam Fedayeen, former regime loyalists, Ba'athists and their supporters.  Actions against Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security forces and coalition forces remain at about two times their recent averages.

 

Let me take you through the overall area of operations.

 

In MND North, which is run by Task Force Olympia, the town of Mosul is quite quiet along with Tall Afar.  There were a couple of incidents last night in Mosul; primarily two mortar incidents resulting in an attack on a police station and an attack on a coalition base.  Both those attacks, both those mortar attacks missed the intended targets, resulting in approximately eight civilians killed and 17 injured.

 

In this area the Multinational Division North Central, the 1st Infantry Division, remains relatively quiet.  We've continued to have some actions around the town of Baqubah.  As you know, that's been a long-standing town with former regime elements operating out of there. But it has been quite quiet in the entire divisional area, with the exception of some operations in that region.  In the case of Baqubah, there was actually a car bomb last night that was used to attack the coalition force, attack the patrol -- wounded one of our soldiers.  We expect that soldier to recover from his wounds.

 

You know that we continue to focus on the town of Fallujah.  We have continued the unilateral suspension of offensive operations in Fallujah.  Inside the town of Fallujah there continue to be repeated and what we consider to be provocative cease-fire violations on the part of the enemy, ranging from 10, that I believe we had three days ago, to four over the last two days each.

 

The town of Ar Ramadi, which was pretty active about a week and a half ago has seemed to quiet down.

 

In the town of Baghdad, in the city of Baghdad, the main problem continues to be the routes in and out of Baghdad; primarily what we call MSR Tampa, the highways north-south, the highways east-west. There is what we believe to be a concerted effort on the part of the enemy to try to interfere with our lines of communication, our main supply routes.  It's really unfortunate because while there may be some interruption in supplies and logistics to the coalition forces, we have alternative methods to get those supplies to our forces.

 

By contrast, you can imagine if this is sustained for a long period of time the effect that will happen on the open market.  Fewer supplies are going to be able to get to the people of Baghdad and the surrounding region.  Prices will probably go up.  The reconstruction projects, which are so critical to the onward development in this country, will be slowed down because contractors will be intimidated to come in.  We have not seen a major problem with that yet, but if this continues realistically we would expect that to happen.

 

And even more significant, if in fact those contracts, those $18 billion in supports that the United States is providing -- for every additional security guard -- every dollar that is paid for security is one less dollar that's put into the infrastructure.  So it is clearly an attempt -- while it is clearly an attempt on the part of the insurgents to try to intimidate the coalition, at the end of the day the people that the insurgents are most harming are the people of Iraq.

 

In the Multinational Division South-Central, this area, we have seen over the past week a significant quieting down around the town of al Kut, Ad Diwaniyah.  There doesn't seem to be any problems around Al Hillah.  As everybody knows, we continue to focus on the town of An Najaf and to some extent Karbala as well.  We've got significant forces outside the town of An Najaf, were we believe Muqtada al-Sadr and the remnants of the Sadr militia are operating.

 

Down in Multinational Division Southeast remains very, very quiet.  The only activities that we're aware of was that there was one small IED attack on a coalition patrol, vicinity of al-Amarah last night.  As you can tell from looking at the map in the context that the vast majority of the country is stabile -- (background  construction   noise, laughter) -- and rebuilding goes on.

 

With that, let me turn this over to Dan.  (Background noise.)

 

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

 

Sewell.

 

Q     Sewell Chan with The Washington Post.  Representatives of Muqtada al-Sadr have been saying that the Iranian delegation has been playing an active role in the negotiations in Najaf, and also said specifically today that the Iranians have reached out to the United States through the Swiss embassy as an intermediary.  I was wondering   if you could comment on these reports and discuss the U.S. perspective on the Iranian involvement.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. SENOR:  Sewell, the Iranian delegation, to my knowledge, was self-invited by the Iranian delegation.  This delegation contacted U.K. representatives on the ground here.  They sought a meeting with the United States.  We provided a U.S. representative to the meeting that the Iranians were holding.  We had a firm message for them across the board, that -- (background construction noise) --

 

GEN. KIMMITT:  Apparently that 18 billion (dollars) is being put to work immediately.

 

MR. SENOR:  Right.  Okay.

 

We -- Sewell, we had a firm message for the Iranians across the board with regard to their role in Iraq, which is to be constructive, not destructive.

 

The purpose of the meeting was not to address the Sadr situation. And we believe -- it is our position that there is no role for the Iranians to play middleman here in discussions between us and Sadr. There is no role for the Iranians, from our perspective, in Sadr situation.  And in fact, we believe that the issue with Sadr and his militia should be resolved by Iraqis, not Iranians.

 

Q     A quick follow-up.  Could you just tell us when the meeting occurred and who the U.S. representative was?

 

MR. SENOR:  Sure.  The U.S. representative was U.S. Ambassador Ron Newman, who is a member of the CPA staff.  And the meeting occurred a couple of days ago, two or three days ago.  I can get you the exact date.

 

Yes?

 

Q     Kimberly Dozier with CBS.  Ali al-Sistani has come out with a comment today drawing a red line around Najaf and Karbala, and asking that -- telling you not to let coalition troops enter.  Can you comment on that?

 

And also, in the negotiations, it seems to imply that you might let Sadr escape that Iraqi arrest warrant.

 

GEN. KIMMITT:  The -- again, I think we continue to have a misunderstanding of the message.  Najaf is not the target.  Muqtada al-Sadr remains the target.  And frankly, his -- how he is picked up and brought to Iraqi justice may be incidental to the real end state that we are seeking, which is to bring Muqtada al-Sadr to Iraqi justice and the elimination of his militia as a threat to the nation of Iraq.

 

MR. SENOR:  On your other question, we have been -- a number of individuals and organizations have approached us trying to resolve the Sadr situation peacefully.  We too would like the Sadr situation to be resolved peacefully.

 

But we have certain principles, and we communicate them to anybody who wants to listen, which is that the rule of law in Iraq must prevail.  Militias, illegal militias, and mobs must be disbanded. And of course government properties and assets must be returned. There is no room for mobs and militias to just decide unilaterally to take over government assets.

 

Yes?

 

Q     When I left my office, there were some reports that there were direct negotiations starting between representatives of the CPA and representatives of the military in Fallujah.  Is there anything you could tell us about what that's all about?

 

MR. SENOR:  Yeah.  There is a -- well, there has been a delegation going from Baghdad to Fallujah for -- over the past week to try and engage in discussions there.  The delegation is a -- consists of Governing Council members.  At their request, we have helped organize this -- these regular visits from Baghdad to Fallujah by this Governing Council group that is also looking to reduce -- minimize the bloodshed and seek some sort of a peaceful resolution.  And we have now allowed their safe passage in and out of Fallujah for six days.  In the last 24 hours, included in the delegation was a senior representative from the coalition on the civilian side, and also a senior official from the military side, from the CJTF-7.  And it is our way -- by adding coalition military and civilian representatives to this delegation, it is our way of showing our seriousness about trying to minimize bloodshed and engage in serious discussions that could keep the political track to a solution alive.

 

But I must be frank.  During this process, while we have suspended offensive operations, it has not been easy.  Our Marines -- and General Kimmitt can speak to this -- our Marines have been on the receiving end of shots and violence over the past week while we are pursuing this political track, while we are pursuing this political solution, and all this while the enemy seems to be strengthening their defensive position.  And there's only so long that this situation can continue, from our perspective.  We want to minimize bloodshed, we want the political track to move forward, we want a peaceful resolution, but we can't do that at the expense of our Marines, and Ambassador Bremer has been quite clear about that in his discussions with the Governing Council.

 

Yes?

 

Q     Carl Penhall from CNN.  Talking about those talks in Fallujah, can you tell us the names of the coalition representatives that have been involved in there?  And even if these are discussions, I guess that on either side there is a bottom line.  What is the coalition's bottom line to end the violence in Fallujah?

 

On another point, yesterday General Myers was mentioning the presence of Iranian extremists crossing the border.  Are those flowing into Najaf, as far as you're concerned?  Have they been using the pilgrim routes to do that, and have they got any official backing from any sectors inside Iran, including backing with weapons?

 

MR. SENOR:  I don't want to release the names of the individuals from the coalition that are involved, who are traveling there, for operational security reasons.  This is for their own safety and security.

 

As for the bottom line, Carl, I'd rather not engage in discussions with the enemy through the press.  We have discussions going on right now.  We hope they continue with our representatives and Iraqis, that are occurring in Fallujah.

 

I will say, though, that we want to see a serious effort in Fallujah by Fallujan leaders to turn over those foreign fighters we believe to be operating in and around Fallujah, international terrorists and those Iraqis that are supporting them.  We believe that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis living in Fallujah view the foreign fighters and the international terrorists there, and those Iraqis supporting them, as an enormous burden.  And it is they who have drawn in much of the misery and bloodshed.  And we don't believe that the majority of Iraqis living in Fallujah are the problem.  We certainly don't believe the coalition is the problem.  We believe this is a small percentage of the city that includes many foreigners that are the problem.  And it's in everybody's interest here now to seek these people over and turn them over to the coalition.

 

Q     And the Iranian extremists?

 

MR. SENOR:  What was the question with regard to the Iranian extremists?

 

Q     That was in reference to General Myers' comments yesterday about Iranian extremists crossing across.  Are they to your knowledge swelling the ranks of the Mahdi Army?  Are they bringing weapons with them in any kind of official backing from any sectors inside Iran?

 

GEN. KIMMITT:  We can't answer if they are state-sponsored, and frankly, I don't think we have a really good grip on what the numbers are right now.  We have seen some minor influence in these organizations.  But to characterize, for example, Sadr's militia as being Iranian backed, Iranian manned and Iranian controlled I think would be a mischaracterization.

 

MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

Q     (Through interpreter.)  I have so many points I would like to raise.  Yesterday I was at Najaf and I had seen the coming back of the Iraqi police in Najaf and there was no militia -- Sadr militia inside of Najaf.  I found that the Iraqi police were doing their job actively, and also I have found that the people of Najaf were -- they were really willing to defend their country.  And I have found that there have been some pamphlets or leaflets being distributed in Najaf for capturing or detaining Muqtada Sadr.  You at the same time -- yesterday there was no militia inside Najaf.

 

So is there any interpretation for -- I have heard a press conference for the American minister of Defense and he said that he has given this case to the member of the Governing Council to solve this problem.  Has the members of the Governing Council briefed you about any negotiation with Muqtada Sadr?  And give us a clear idea about what's your intent in Najaf.

 

GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, on the first issue of the return of legitimate Iraqi control into the city of Najaf, we would consider that to be a very positive step.  We think that the city of Najaf, which, much like al Kut, Karbala and many other cities, had been taken over by the Sadr militia -- who, in fact, went into those cities and took over the legitimate democratic organizations, such as city hall and the police forces -- that is a threat that needs to be eliminated. If it has been eliminated from Najaf, that is a good sign.

 

That is one of the efforts that we have in Operation Resolute Sword, which is to restore legitimate Iraqi control around its entire country, not a band of militia who are making the decisions for the people, not a band of militia who, through the barrels of their gun, are intimidating the population and making decisions for them.  That is a necessary condition to bring down the violence.  That is not, however, a sufficient condition; as long as there is an outstanding warrant issued by an Iraqi trial judge for the arrest of Muqtada al- Sadr, there is an obligation on the part of the Iraqi security forces and on the part of the coalition forces to execute that warrant.

 

MR. SENOR:  And to your other question, there are a number of people, as I said earlier, a number of individuals, a number of groups who are approaching us trying to seek a peaceful resolution to the situation with Muqtada al-Sadr.  We communicate the same thing to all of them.  We communicate our principles about the rule of law in Iraq prevailing, about the disbanding of illegal militias, about the complete, unacceptable position we have for there to be militias and mobs taking over government assets, government properties.  As I said, we communicate the same message to anybody.   They can choose -- it's their prerogative; they can choose to communicate that onward as they may.

 

Yes?

 

Q     (Through interpreter.)  Santa Mihal from Al Shure television.  Is it true that Muqtada al-Sadr has asked for negotiation directly with the coalition forces?  And after the operation comes to an end in Fallujah, what's going on later after these operations?

 

What are your plans for Fallujah?

 

MR. SENOR:  I know there are a number of people who are -- who have approached us, wanting to seek a peaceful resolution and trying to play some constructive role with Muqtada al-Sadr.  I don't know if these initiatives, however, are at his behest or their behest.

 

GEN. KIMMITT:  I think it's a very good question about what happens after the Fallujah operation is over.  It is our firm intent that once the Iraqi police are back in Fallujah, once there are Iraqi representatives representing the people of Fallujah in power, once the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps is back and creating a stabile situation in Fallujah, we intend to get on with what we are really here for, which is to do the same in Fallujah that we have attempted to do throughout the rest of the country: restore the health clinics, reopen the schools, introduce a democratic form of government, let the children have a future, let the families have a future.

 

So instead of a future which right now is one where you have anti-democratic, anti-coalition, anti-Iraqi forces holding those people hostage as they have for many, many months, and by some accounts for many, many years, we intend to bring democracy to that town.  We intend to put a lot of Commanders Emergency Relief Project money into that town, and possibly turn Fallujah into a model of what the new Iraq should look like, not its current example of the old Iraq that it does look like.

 

MR. SENOR:  Yeah.

 

Q     Nick Riccardi, Los Angeles Times.  General, on the supply route and communication route issue, what has changed in the past couple weeks that this has become an issue?  Is this demonstrating any more sophisticated or more numerous groups of insurgents?  Where have all these folks come from who are suddenly attacking?  Where were they previously?

 

GEN. KIMMITT:  It's a different tactic.  And as we've said over the last couple of months, we've seen sort of a shift on the part of the enemy from attacking coalition forces directly, as we would see last year, as they have sort of worked their way down the spectrum, down the flagpole from attacking coalition forces, then to attacking Iraqi security forces, then starting to use VBIEDs and IEDs against civilians.  Now they've gone to the point of taking hostages.  Now they're putting the country at hostage by putting bombs along the sides of the road to make sure that they can interdict these lines of communication.

 

It's not a very sophisticated tactic; in fact, it's quite a crude tactic.  It doesn't take much sophistication to put together a roadside bomb, and then once the roadside bomb explodes to jump out like a pack of wolves and fire a few rounds, taking the items from those trucks, lighting the trucks on fire.  That's not very difficult, and it is something that we are addressing now.  We have combat forces being used to go up and down those main supply routes, not so much, as I said earlier, to protect the military supply routes, which are, to some extent, being affected, but truly to make sure that those are supply routes so the people of Iraq can get food in and can get oil out, can get products out, can bring money in; because the real tragedy would be if these supply routes are turned from, as we've said earlier, amber to red, to the point where commercial traffic can't move along these roads.

 

Then who's going to suffer?  It won't be the military, because the military will have the capability to fly their assets in, to some extent.  We can go from eating normal rations to our combat rations. We have ROWPU, reverse osmosis water-purification units for our water. But the civilians are the ones who are going to feel this the most, through higher prices in the market, through the decreased availability of products.

 

And so again, I think, without trying to be too dramatic, it just again typifies the same kind of groups that would take hostages from all different countries, are not above holding the country hostage. And as you see, in the days and weeks to come, we will continue to use coalition and Iraqi security forces to attack, to kill or capture these people along the roads.  The roads will be affected for some period of time, till we can get this under control.

 

MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

Q     Jill Carroll with ANSA.  We heard just a little while ago a report of an American being kidnapped in Basra, if there's any information about that, as well as how many people now are being held hostage?  Do we know?  And what role are the groups of the Sunni clerics playing in the negotiations to get people free?

 

GEN. KIMMITT:  On the first report, we heard that there was a report out of a Basra police station that an American had been kidnapped.  We have no reports at this time from either Multinational Division Southeast or through the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior to verify that claim.  We think it just may be a rumor.  But if we find out anything different, we will certainly put it out.

 

MR. SENOR:  On the actual number, I, a few days ago,  provided an estimate in response to a number of questions from you, in part to calm down and put in perspective some of the numbers I heard flying   out there, because some of the numbers that were flying out there were sometimes two times the estimate that we had.

 

What we're not going to do, however, is day by day give an update, whether the number's increasing or decreasing, at least for the time being.  From a security standpoint, it is not in our interest to be providing the hostage takers a daily update on how they're doing overall.

 

Q     But is this 20 figure we keep hearing -- is that accurate, instead of 40 now or --

 

MR. SENOR:  I really don't -- I mean, precisely for that -- for the reason I just articulated, I think -- and I think everybody here understands that it's not in the interest of those that are held hostage right now, it is not in the interest of anybody who's a potential target for us to be providing a tally here.  We are putting everything behind trying to rescue these hostages.  We will not negotiate with the terrorists who are -- who have engaged in the hostage-taking, but we are putting everything behind their release, both from an intelligence standpoint and from a military standpoint and other resources we have at our disposal.  We have law enforcement agencies from around the world involved, including the FBI.  And we are really focused on not giving any unnecessary information to those who are engaged in kidnapping right now.

 

Yes?

Q      The last question, about the role of Sunni clerics playing in negotiations or, you know -- or helping --

 

MR. SENOR:  We have a number of tools at our disposal.  I'm not going to comment on what they are.

 

Our priority right now, with regard to the hostages, is ensuring their release safely and preventing further hostages, hostage-taking from occurring.  And in light of that, in pursuit of that, it would be irresponsible for us to provide information that could stand in the way of that process.

 

Yes, sir?

 

Q     (Through interpreter.)  (Name and affiliation inaudible.) I have two questions, the first question to General Kimmitt and the other for Dan Senor.

 

General Kimmitt, yesterday there have been a press conference for General Richard Myers and  Chief of  Staff of the Army (sic)  [Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff]  , and he talked about the possibility of sending extra forces to reinforce the situation in the south of Iraq.  Don't you think that sending in extra forces under this situation -- this will cause the frustration, and it will increase the resistance and the operation of the resistance because they are waiting for such a chance?  So what are the new strategies that you are going to follow in case that these forces came in and created a much more problem rather than assisting the forces in the south of Iraq?

 

There is another question, there is the -- why don't you try to open a direct dialogue with the political powers and the parties in Iraq that have  a direct effect in the Iraqi street, there are other -- better than resorting to some of the individuals of the people, all the people.  I say that some of the member of the IGC are mediating or doing the role of the mediator, but I say it's better to come from the inside the Iraqi street rather than coming from other parts.  So why don't you consult those people or powers?

 

GEN. KIMMITT:  On the first question, I think all of us have recognized that over the past few days, the situation in the south has been quite stable, and I'm glad that you acknowledge that.  I would not expect that we will have very many more forces.  The numbers that General Myers, our  Chairman of our Joint Staff, had mentioned are forces that are going to stay on, and those forces are already there.

 

As we have talked about, we have a significant presence in the vicinity of An Najaf, and we have a significant U.S. presence down here in the vicinity of al Kut.  So those forces are already there. And the reports that I'm getting from General Morgan and General Scaparati are that they are already out conducting operations. They're getting a tremendous reception from the people in that region. They are not out there simply to prepare for combat operations -- which they are -- but they're also out there engaging with the local leaders, having those local leaders talk back, expressing their concerns, asking where they can bring some of those 18 billion American dollars to add to the infrastructure in those outlying regions of al Kut and outside of An Najaf.

 

The indications that we've had thus far is those forces that are outside al Kut and outside An Najaf, those additional forces that have been brought in that you say may in fact be seen as a disruptive force, are in fact turning out to be quite a stabilizing force compared to approximately 10 days ago when we had Sadr's militia running rampant through al Kut, running rampant through Karbala and Kufa and Najaf.  So I think as long as those forces understand that their primary mission down there is to continue the process towards governance, enhancing the infrastructure, increasing the economy, that will be a stabilizing factor down there.  If it comes to requiring them to conduct combat operations, as the forces at al Kut did, they will do it swiftly, they will do it resolutely, and they'll do it successfully.

 

MR. SENOR:  And as far as discussions are concerned, we have been approached by a number of individuals who want to play a role in a peaceful resolution and a political solution to the Fallujah situation.  Those who have approached us we want to work with, and there is a role for them in many different ways.  The Governing Council members have approached us.  They've taken the lead.  If others want to get involved, we welcome that.

 

Yes.

 

Q     Yes, could you comment on reports that there were clashes between U.S. forces and Muqtada Sadr's militia in Kufa today?

 

GEN. KIMMITT:  There were no clashes between Muqtada al-Sadr and American forces in Kufa today.

 

MR. SENOR:  Yeah.

 

Q     Quinn O'Toole with NPR.  On the hostages, is there any indication that this is a coordinated effort, or are these isolated incidents of hostage-taking?

 

MR. SENOR:  We've seen a number of groups claim responsibility. We don't know if, as we had talked about a couple of days ago, if these are just different organizations that are claiming different names to give the appearance of being uncoordinated, spontaneous activities or if this is a centrally planned operation.  The fact that it's happening over different parts of the country to specifically targeted countries with the intent of apparently trying to disrupt and find purchase inside the coalition, try to break the coalition apart, would lead us to believe that there was some sort of at least loose coordination among these different hostages and these different groups.

 

Yes.  Right.  No, no.  Right.  Go ahead.

 

Q     Hi.  Betsy Hiel, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.  There have been reports of Fallujans going to these weapons bazaars that are at various places around the country, buying up weapons, as well as flyers around saying mujaheddin from Rhamada   held the -- and Fallujah are going to bring the fire of resistance to the streets of Baghdad.  Given some of these reports, does it really seem like the people in Fallujah are really looking for a negotiated settlement? And how long will this cease-fire hold?  And should you -- should the cease-fire not hold, what will you do to try and get most of the civilians out of Fallujah?

 

GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, first of all, the number of civilians have come out of Fallujah.  Women and children who have asked to come out have all come out.  They've been assisted as necessary, as requested on the part with -- by the Marines outside of Fallujah.

 

How long will the cease-fire hold?  I think Mr. Senor said it correctly.  There is a limit to the amount of time that we will allow these discussions to go on before we conduct offensive operations.

 

With regards to this characterization that this is a large-scale uprising by all the citizens in the town of Fallujah, that's different from our assessment.  We believe that some of the voices that are coming out of Fallujah may be amplified a couple of times trying to be louder than they really are and more numerous than they really are.

 

We still fundamentally believe that inside Fallujah, where it has been a problem for days, months, and in some cases years -- there is a persistent problem inside the town of Fallujah based on its former position as one of those Ba'ath sanctuaries that was pampered by Saddam, the presence of Abu Gharib prison very nearby.  This is not one of the towns that people actively seek real estate in because of the schools.  This is a tough town and right now it's being surrounded by a bunch of tough Marines, and we are hoping for a peaceful resolution.  But if that peaceful resolution -- if these discussions do not bear fruit, then we are prepared to conduct offensive operations to complete the mission assigned to the Marines.

 

MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

Q     Gregor Mayer from the German Press Agency.

 

Mr. Senor, when you're speaking about turning over foreign fighters in Fallujah, people who are supporting them, do you have a warrant list, whom exactly you seek to be turned over?  Or is this a more general request?

 

And General Kimmitt, there were reports that when civilians from Fallujah wanted to leave the city men were not allowed by the U.S. Marines to leave and perhaps separated from their women and children. Is it true?

 

GEN. KIMMITT:  It is certainly true that military-aged males who attempted to leave the city as part of the humanitarian policy of allowing noncombatants to leave the city were delayed for the simple purpose of establishing that these people had absolutely no hand in the recent violence.  And I don't know what the current policy is, but I think that it is clear that we are looking for a period of time at the end of this operation, as was suggested earlier, where we can vet those people in Fallujah and those that contributed to violence will meet justice.  Those who contributed to a peaceful resolution and seek peace will be allowed to continue in Fallujah and enjoy the fruits of the post-Fallujah operation.

 

MR. SENOR:  On your other question, we -- there are individuals, foreign fighters we believe to be operating the Fallujah operation -- that we know to be operating the Fallujah area, that we know of, like Mr. Zarqawi.  There are others that we don't know of by name but we know that there are foreign fighters who have been using Fallujah and the surrounding area as a hotbed, as a base of operations.

 

Yes?

 

Q     Bob Moran with the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Regarding Kufa, was there any sort of confrontation with American forces in or outside of Kufa, maybe not involving directly the Mahdi Army?

 

GEN. KIMMITT:  I will have to go back to the reports.  I think we had a situation where one of our organizations might have gotten lost and gotten near the town of Kufa.  And there might have been a brief firefight.  But I think that was about 36 hours ago.  But I owe you the answer to that and we'll get back to you on that.

 

MR. SENOR:  Thank you, everybody

 

(C) COPYRIGHT 2004, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1919 M STREET, N.W., SUITE 220, WASHINGTON, D.C. 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