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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director, Coalition Operations, Gareth Bayley, CPA Spokesman
April 30, 2004 10:15 PM EDT
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, I'm glad to see the air conditioners are working in here.   They're certainly not working anywhere else in the building.

 

            MR. BAYLEY:  Good evening.

 

            First I'd like to take you through Ambassador Bremer's diary to day.  He had two substantive public meetings, both of which were in a series of outreach meetings, which he's holding, designed to allow him to gauge Iraqi views on progress in rebuilding the country and on the forward process.

 

            His first meeting was at a group of Iraqi women, representatives of the Iraqi Women's Network, representing 55 NGOs working women's issues, and the Advisory Committee for Women.  He had an exchange of views on issues facing Iraqi women and the Iraqi people as a whole. They agreed on the paramount importance of a secure environment in which Iraq's people could prepare the way for an interim government and free, direct elections by the end of January 2005.  He urged the group to ensure that women's views were heard in consultations with the U.N. special representative, al-Brahimi, and in the nominations process for the independent Iraqi electoral commission.

 

            His second meeting was this afternoon with a group of senior sheiks from various areas of Iraq.  This meeting was also an outreach meeting.  It allowed him to gauge the views of sheiks and also to encourage them to ensure that those loyal to them, the tribes, will play a constructive role in the weeks and months ahead.  Their concerns were focused mainly on the security and the economy.

 

            General Kimmitt.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Thanks.

 

            Good afternoon.

 

            In the north-central zone of operations, coalition forces conducted a cordon and search north of Muqadiyah (ph) last evening. The operation targeted and detained 24 individuals suspected of anti- coalition activity.

 

            In Baghdad last night, an Iraqi police colonel, Ahmed al-Kazraji (ph), was murdered in downtown Baghdad.  He was gunned down as he left his office to go home for the night, and the Iraqi police service are investigating.

 

            In the last 24 hours, activities by the Sadr militia has continued in Sadr City.  While executing patrols early this morning, coalition soldiers were engaged by heavy small-arms fire and multiple RPGs in five separate incidents.  In a separate incident, the body of the DAC chairman, Mr. Zawadi Shaadi (ph), was found in Sadr City by his family, hung with a sign on his chest that said "Mahdi Army business."  It appeared that he had been beaten, tortured and then hung.

 

            Despite continual attacks against coalition forces in Baghdad, 1st Cavalry Division is engaging the Iraqi people throughout the sectors in a concerted effort to improve their lives.  1st Cav forces are currently employing 1,000 people alone in Sadr City, and this is only one of the many projects throughout the city.  The 1st Cav continues to develop labor-intensive CERP projects that will repair or replace existing infrastructure, demonstrating to the Iraqi people that we care about their future and will continue to assist them if they are willing to take the steps forward with the coalition.

 

            As you know, in the western zone of operations there have been a number of initiatives to bring peace to Fallujah.  In one of those initiatives, today the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force is overseeing the formation of the first battalion of the proposed Fallujah brigade. The mission of this interim organization, to be completely integrated with that of the 1st MEF, is part of the ongoing aspiration to have Iraqi security forces completely cooperative and cooperating with the coalition forces to provide security tasks, and eventually to assume responsibility for security and stability throughout Iraq.

 

            The coalition objectives in Fallujah remain unchanged:  to eliminate armed groups in Fallujah, to collect and positively control all heavy weapons, and turn over foreign fighters, and disarm anti- Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah.

 

            This battalion will be recruited largely from former soldiers of the Iraqi army, and will work alongside the 1st MEF to assist in the return of peace and stability for Fallujah.  The battalion will function as a subordinate command under the operational control of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and the 1st MEF will provide the resources and equipment necessary to assure mission accomplishment by this force.

 

            Until the units of the battalion demonstrate a capacity to man designated checkpoints and positions, Marines will continue to maintain a strong presence in and around Fallujah.  Consistent with our duty to provide security, coalition forces will maintain the right of freedom of movement in all areas of the AOR.   As calm is restored, families will be allowed to return to the city.  And during this transition period, families will be allowed into the city on a daily basis, numbering about 200 families per day.

 

            After commencing the restoration of law and order inside the city of Fallujah, Iraqi security forces will work inside the city assisting police with investigations to identify the murderers and mutilators of the four American contractors and the criminals responsible for the 14 February attack on the Fallujah police station.  When captured, those persons will be tried in the Iraqi judicial system.

 

            In the central south zone of operations, while conducting routine security operations in support of Task Force Iron Claw, coalition soldiers yesterday were attacked by a car bomb 8 kilometers northeast of Mahmudiyah.  As announced yesterday, eight soldiers were killed in action and four wounded.  All the wounded soldiers have been transported for treatment.  Two of the soldiers have subsequently returned to duty.  The other two will be transported to Landstuhl for further treatment.

 

            After further investigation, the suicide vehicle was described as a brown Mercury station wagon with a Netherlands license plate.  Two Iraqis near the site were captured and tested positive for explosives with the vapor tracer device.  The initial assessment is that the car bomb consisted of 300 pounds of explosives, with mortar rounds included for shrapnel effect.

 

            Let's go ahead and take questions and answers at this time.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Ibrahim Hassan (sp), Shem Sel Huriyah (sp), the sun of freedom.  Ibrahim Hassan (sp), Selim (sp) Kurdish newspaper.  General, two days ago the Security Council has a unanimous decision that said that all United Nations countries, 192 governments, to prevent WMDs to get to terrorists.  General, don't you agree with me that the United States and Germany are the largest countries that are spreading these (inaudible word) through black markets?  And do you have intel information that say that such WMDs are already with the terrorists?  And thank you.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  No, I would not agree with your statement.  This is certainly outside of activities here in Iraq.  We have no WMD here in Iraq.

 

            With regards to nuclear proliferation, that is well outside my area of expertise.  But the United States is signatory to a number of nuclear nonproliferation agreements, and they are probably the most stringent, disciplined adherents to those nonproliferation treaties.

 

            Q     Gregor Mayer from the German Press Agency, DPA.  General, what our reporters have observed today is the certain withdrawal of Marine forces from Fallujah.  Is this part of these agreements which have been reached?  In which steps has this withdrawal to be concluded?  And is it confirmed that the person in charge of the Fallujah protective army is a former general of the Republican Guard?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, first of all, there is no Fallujah protective army.  There is a brigade that is being formed that is being referred to as the Fallujah brigade.  We are working on establishing the first battalion of that organization.

 

            We are certainly not withdrawing from Fallujah.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Some of the Marine forces are repositioning around Fallujah.  Some of the positions that they currently were holding are being turned over to the first battalion of this organization in a very methodical military manner, but that's only in certain portions of the cordon.  We understand that a couple hundred of these prospective Fallujah battalion members have shown up at the cloverleaf and some of the other areas and they're going through somewhat of a transfer of authority.

 

            But I think it's very important to understand a number of things. Number one, the Marines are not withdrawing from Fallujah.  These forces will be working alongside the Marines.  These forces, when they come to fruition, will be answering to the Marines as well as the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.  So this is just an Iraqi component of the coalition forces surrounding Fallujah.  It is only happening in certain portions of the cordon.  And the initial reports that we are getting would indicate that this repositioning of the Marines to allow these forces to come in is going well.

 

            With regards to the selection of the general who will be answering to General Conway, I understand -- I don't know his background.  I would refer you to the Marines on that.  I know that he has been carefully chosen, has been initially vetted.  General Conway and General Mattis have expressed confidence -- initial confidence in him, and we'll see where this proceeds.

 

            MR. BAYLEY:  I'd like to add to that, Greg, that the political objectives that we have in Fallujah are really absolutely the same. Talk of a peace deal that we've seen in some of the media yesterday and this morning is completely out of the question.  What we have here at the moment is a tactical change, but what we still have are objectives which are to restore law and order to the city as quickly as possible, to rebuild the judicial system there, and to ensure that those who have committed crimes in the past weeks of instability will face justice as soon as possible and as effectively as possible.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah.  I would just want to make one comment. Certainly we would hope that a peace deal is in the offing.  A peace deal is certainly not out of the question.  In fact, we are doing everything we can to achieve peace inside the city of Fallujah. However, this is not --

 

            MR. BAYLEY:  At this stage.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  -- this is not at this stage part of any long-term discussions between the insurgents inside the city of Fallujah and the  Marines.  In fact, what we have here is another example of Iraqis coming forward and saying we want to be part of this process.  Just as the Iraqi Governing Council came forward and said we want to be part of the political track for the discussions in Fallujah, you now have fellow Iraqis standing up and said we would like to be part of the military solution to this, as well.  And we welcome the contributions.  We think this will add a tremendous amount of benefit to the operations in Fallujah, in the Al Anbar province and throughout Iraq.

 

            Q     Allow me a follow-up.  I mean, we could enter an academic discussion of what means "stay in Fallujah."  Of course, Camp Fallujah is in Fallujah as well.  But what is the idea?  That the Marines go or withdraw -- deploy in the camp, and the brigades will take over?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  No.

 

            Next question.  Sewell.

 

            Q      Sewell Chan with The Washington Post.

 

            I'd like to ask about two areas, if you don't mind.  With respect to Fallujah, can you tell me, General, what is the projected size of this brigade after it's fully formed?  And can you also tell us what proportion of the officers will actually be from Fallujah?  And finally, does this initiative come from Fallujans themselves in the form -- in particular, were any members of the Fallujah delegation that have been in discussions with the Marines over the past two weeks, did they -- you know, what was their take on this brigade plan?

 

            And then also, for both you and Gareth, could you tell us a little bit more about the impact of these assassinations in Baghdad today of the -- last night and today of the police colonel and of the (DAC ?) chairman.  And what sort of protection, in particular for Gareth, will CPA provide to people who are taking part in your governance initiatives?  You're trying to get citizens to come out and participate in local government.  But if they're getting brutally killed, you know, in such a horrible fashion, you know, what will the impact be?

 

            Thank you.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yep.  On the first battalion of the Fallujah brigade, we're looking at somewhere on the order of 600 to 1,100 personnel.  That is the number that our Iraqi interlocutors have said may be available to put this together.  It is our understanding that most of the personnel are either from Fallujah or the surrounding area.  I would refer you to the Marines on the specificity of each one of the officers and where they come from.

 

            On the issue of security, I'll certainly turn it over to Gareth. But I think that the assassinations last night of two persons is yet  again part of the long-standing attempt on the part of the terrorists, the criminals, those -- the extremists who are trying to derail this process.  I would like to say that this is the first time we've seen instances where government officials or police officials have been targeted, but certainly it's not.

 

            We've had, to our understanding, more Iraqi security forces killed by hostile fire since the end of hostilities last May than we've had coalition forces.  And it's a tremendous credit that even though we have lost so many of your fellow countrymen, that so many continue to come forward and say I want to be -- I want to have a stake in the new Iraq.  I want to be part of the Iraqi police.  I want to be part of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.  Now I want to be part of the Fallujah brigade.  And I just think it demonstrates that there are many, many people in this country who understand the stakes of not stepping up, who understand the stakes of not jumping off the fence, who understand that they must have a leadership role in the new Iraq.  And those that die in the service of their country are honorable people, and we should all be very grateful for their service.

 

            MR. BAYLEY:  Sewell, to just take you up on the security point, it's clear that in addition to the security forces being killed, intellectuals have been killed over the past months; people who are absolutely key to rebuilding a new Iraq.  That is why they have been targeted by all manner of people -- Saddamists and international terrorists as well.  It is a tragedy, and it's something that we work very hard to ensure will not be repeated.

 

            You know that for security reasons I can't go into how or when or why we put in planning to protect these people.  What I would say is that as we develop the Iraqi police and professionalize them over the next months -- we've got plans for professional training for 3,500 police officers going through the months ahead -- it will be absolutely essential that those police who know the streets of Baghdad, who know the neighborhoods, who know who is the bad guy and who is not, will take their full part in protecting these people, at the same time the coalition does everything it can too on its side to protect them.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Dr. Shabil al-Qadi (ph), newspaper Al Wasad (sp), and al-Hayat and Arabiyah.  Mr. Kimmitt, I have two questions.  The first question:  What is the best way to defeat terrorism and end it and take measures -- preemptive measures?

 

            Second question:  Why don't you have a strict control over those displaced, especially during the war?  And most of them are orphans. These people are now homeless and they live and sleep in parks and deserted places, and those are now an easy target for the criminals who are using medication and alcohol, and then they engage in criminal and suicide actions.  And thank you.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah, I think I -- we have talked very many times about what the best way to defeat terrorism in this country is.  And that is, we all need to accept --

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            INTERPRETER:  Microphone!

 

            Q      (Through interpreter.)  One of the philosophers said that the force of a nation is through the prevention and not the resources. If you have prevention, it would limit the losses.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Absolutely great.  And that's why all of us need to be part of that fight on terrorism.

 

            The fact remains that the single most important aspect to fighting terrorism in this country is intelligence.  If we know where the terrorists are, if we know where they're hiding out, if we know their intentions, if we know their locations, then Iraqi security forces, side by side with their coalition partners, can attack to kill or capture those terrorists.

 

            What we have to do in this country is all of us -- not just the coalition forces, not just the Iraqi security forces, but every person in Iraq -- must understand that they have a part in this fight against terrorism.  They must provide intelligence and information to the Iraqi security forces, whether it's the Iraqi police in their neighborhood or the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps or any other government agency.  The provision of that intelligence from the people, from everyone in this country, to the security forces is the best way to prevent terrorism inside this country.

 

            On the issue of the -- those displaced after the war, those who are homeless, living in parks, the best method we have for getting them out of the parks, into the houses is by revitalizing the economy, getting the jobs going, getting the economy going, so that one of two things can happen.  Either we can get them jobs and let them be part of the economy; or have such a base within the economy, such a productive economy, that it provides a social welfare net for this country, so that those that are ill, sick, can get the care and social assistance that they need from their government.

 

            MR. BAYLEY:  Let's not forget that over the last year we spent $3 billion in USAID money and other assistance, planning to spend over $18 billion over the next 18 months.  Our estimate is, that will provide 1-1/2 million jobs.  And therefore, the sort of the problem that you are addressing, we very much hope, will begin to ebb but not evaporate over the months ahead.

 

            Q     Thank you.  It's Guy Henshall (sp) with CNN.  You've got about 60 days, approximately, till the hand-over of the Iraqi government.  What do you need to do militarily in that time to accomplish a successful hand-over?  And what are your priorities?  And what will happen if the situation in Fallujah and Najaf is not resolved?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  The -- well, first of all, we don't think that the situations in Najaf and Fallujah are of sufficient scope and scale that that will prevent a hand-over on the -- at the end of June.

 

            What type of security situation would we like to see over the next 60 days?  We will never achieve 100 percent stability.  We haven't in any country we've ever been in, and no country can claim they are completely without violence, completely without crime.

 

            The metric for us is, is the security situation stable enough so that the other lines of operation are not impeded?  Restoration of the economy.  Restoration of the infrastructure.  Transfer of governance.

 

            And the sensing that we would have on the military side is, we need to continue to pursue all the initiatives that we are already pursuing, try to achieve peace in Fallujah, try to go down to Najaf and resolve that problem, getting Muqtada al-Sadr in front of an Iraqi court, and try to continue to work throughout the country to maintain a environment stable enough so that the other lines of operation can continue forward.  At this point we don't see the situation so unstable or destabilized that the 30 June date is at risk at all.

 

            Q     Can I just follow up?  If, as Mr. Barzani said, that the U.S. forces after this is handed over, you may -- they may talk about them not being able to have preemptive strikes or preemptive action. How would that affect the situation in Fallujah and Najaf?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, I think that's just one of the voices out there.  We've seen no suggestion from the vast majority of Iraqis, either on the street or in the government, that is going to attempt to restrict the capability of the coalition forces or the Iraqi security forces from performing their mission.

 

            MR. BAYLEY:  Yes, please.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Hamza Hashim (ph), Al-Furat international newspaper.  Where are you in your negotiations in Fallujah and Najaf after the other parties have refused to surrender their weapons?  Or do you have another language of conversation as to redeploy the U.S. forces and then strike by air?  Is air strikes is an alternative to prepare for the invasion of U.S. forces of the Iraqi cities?  And thank you.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Certainly not in the case of Najaf.  It needs to be understood that Najaf is not a target.  Muqtada al-Sadr remains the target.  There is no suggestion that we are going to use -- withdraw the coalition forces from that area and bomb Najaf.  Not in the cards. Not in any plans that I've seen.

 

            In the case of Fallujah, what we are attempting to do there is, along with the other peaceful initiatives that Mr. Bayley can talk about with regards to the discussions with the sheiks, discussions with the other leadership inside Fallujah who are attempting to bring this into a peaceful resolution -- the repositioning of the Marines is not to get them further away so that we can start the bombing of Fallujah.  It is not our intent to use the air assets in that manner.

 

            MR. BAYLEY:  I'd just add that, as the general says, we've had negotiations since April the 13th in Fallujah, with repeat visits by Ambassador Jones to the area and Ambassador Bremer only recently.  And those -- there is no question negotiations must carry on, and they do carry on; constant contact.  And only yesterday a meeting of sheiks from around the area began in the town.  We haven't got a readout yet   of how that has developed, but it's one more track to address, we hope, a peaceful solution.  And therefore, anything that does work towards that is welcome.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  But I think it would also be inopportune if anybody was to somehow misread, again, what's going on in Fallujah. This is not a withdrawal.  It's not a retreat.  The Marines remain more than capable of continuing the operation to complete the military return of Fallujah to coalition control.

 

            But as long as we continue to see progress, albeit some days slower than other days, we will continue to pursue the peaceful track. It is only when the peaceful, the diplomatic, the political track demonstrates that there is no further chance of it bearing fruit will we then look at the capability of using the Marines to go back into Fallujah.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  General, what I say, there is an agreement between you and those groups, the insurgents or the resistance, there is an agreement.  So you would honor the agreement and then you will start airstrikes?  I would like a clarification of this.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  We certainly have an agreement that we have been honoring carefully every day.  We have suspended offensive operations in Fallujah, you are correct.  That is a self-imposed, unilateral suspension of offensive operation.  We didn't have any insurgents come to the table and agree to the cease-fire.  In fact, not only have we not had an agreement on the part of the insurgents to a cease-fire, but yet again, day after day after day, they continue to attack our Marines.  And our Marines take whatever necessary measures inherent in their right of self-defense, within the appropriate rules of engagement, that need to be taken.  But to somehow suggest that we are violating the cease-fire by constant airstrikes I think is a total misrepresentation of the facts.

 

            Q     Quinn O'Toole (sp) with NPR.  Arabic television stations began broadcasting pictures of prisoners and detainees that were abused at Abu Ghraib today.  What are you planning to do, and what can you do to counter those images that are now being seen by large portions of the Iraqi people?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  That's a very good question.  I talked with the Arab press two nights ago, before the "60 Minutes" show was broadcast because I wanted the Arab press to understand and possibly communicate to their fellow Iraqis a couple of key points.  Number one, we are absolutely appalled by what we saw.  There is no excuse for what you see in those photos.  And I'm not going to stand up here and try to apologize for what those soldiers did.  As I've said before, those soldiers wear the same uniform as 150,000 other soldiers that are operating proudly and properly here in Iraq.  And those soldiers let   us down; they simply let us down.  They have all -- that you saw in those pictures -- are facing criminal charges.  That process is moving forward.

 

            But very simply what I would say to the people of Iraq if asked that question is this is a very small minority of the hundreds and hundreds of guards that we have operating in Abu Ghraib prison.  It's a very small minority of the soldiers that walk up and down your streets every day trying to provide safety and security for the people of Iraq.  We've had thousands -- we've had tens of thousands of security internees at Abu Ghraib, and we believe that this involves less than 20.

 

            Am I going to apologize for those soldiers?  Hell, no.  They did wrong.  It would appear to us that if, in fact, the pictures are what they appear to be, they will face a court of law, a criminal court of law, and they will have to face a judge and a jury for their actions.

 

            But please don't for a moment think that that's the entire U.S. Army or the U.S. military, because it's not.  And if you think those soldiers that are walking up and down the street approve of what they saw, condone what they saw or excuse what they saw, I can tell you that I've got 150,000 other American soldiers who feel as appalled and disappointed as I do at the actions of those few.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  I have two questions.  You spoke about the inappropriate conduct among American soldiers.  What kind of assurance do we have that these conditions won't be repeated?  And are you going to allow the humanitarian associations to come and organizations to visit them?

 

            Second question.  You said that you're going to reduce the number of your forces to less than 50 percent after the transfer of authority, but now you are requesting support of equipment and mechanics, et cetera.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  On your second question, I don't remember anybody ever standing up and saying we were doing a force reduction of 50 percent here in Iraq.  Our force numbers are based on what we see as the security situation, and I don't think that in the near term, any announcements have been made about these large force reductions.

 

            As to your first question, I think that that's a very good question;  how can we guarantee that these types of activities will not happen again in the future?  We are taking, as a coalition, as an army, very aggressive steps to ensure that the risk of this happening again is absolutely minimized.  We have brought a two-star general in whose previous job was running the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay; probably the military expert in the world today on conducting appropriate detainee operations. He's on the ground now.  He's already making a significant difference.

 

            The new units that are coming in to conduct the detention operations have all had significant additional training to ensure that any excuse of, "well, I wasn't properly trained," is no longer an excuse.

 

            We're conducting another investigation -- two more investigations, as a matter of fact:  an administrative investigation as to the conduct of the leadership, who should have known, who should have been able to ensure that their soldiers were doing the right thing -- and would appear that that wasn't in fact happening.  So not only are we going -- are conducting a criminal investigation on those who actually participated in the criminal acts, we are also taking a hard look at the chain of command of the organizations that should have known what was happening inside of their unit.  And third, we're also taking a hard look at the interrogation procedures and the interrogation policies that are being used out there as well.

 

            Are we opening this up to humanitarian organizations?  The International Committee of the Red Cross does frequent visits with our detention personnel for the purpose of answering that question.  And I would also tell you -- how else can we provide some public oversight? I would expect that in the next couple of weeks, we will in fact organize, within some restrictions -- such as no taking of pictures -- not only the recent visit of the interim Governing Council out to Abu Ghraib, but we are entertaining the notion of making a press visit out there as well.  So you can yourself judge how we're doing out there.

 

            Q     Ed Wong from The New York Times.

 

            Can you tell us the name of the two-star general you just mentioned?

 

            And second question is, how can you ensure that the first allegiance of the Iraqi officers who will be returning to Fallujah will be to the occupation forces, given the fact that tribal alliances are usually the dominant form of loyalty here in Iraq, and two, that the events of the last three weeks have shown that when Iraqi security forces are asked to turn their guns on their fellow countrymen, then they're generally reluctant to or they're unable to?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Major General Geoffrey D. Miller, who was running the Guantanamo operations, is now on the ground serving as the deputy commanding general for detention operations.

 

            With regards to your question about the loyalties.  Very simply, we have developed an Iraqi security structure where everybody had a previous loyalty.

 

              If you look at the ICDC, some of those people who are in the ICDC now used to be part of militia organizations, used to be part of the Iraqi army.  The same thing in the Iraqi armed forces, same in the Iraqi police service.  There has been a demonstrated willingness on the part of the vast majority of the Iraqi security forces to pledge their allegiance to the nation of Iraq rather than to a tribal leader, a militia leader, a dictator.  They all understand that the whole notion of a democratic society and a nation is that if you are permitted the privilege of being responsible for the defense of your nation, that your first and foremost obligation is to that nation.

 

            Will there be some people that may try to bridge that?  We would hope not.  But all the intentions and all the discussions we have had thus far with these personnel who are coming in to work in the Fallujah brigade, the first battalion of the Fallujah brigade, they have demonstrated a willingness to entertain the notion of serving the nation of Iraq rather than their tribal leader, rather than their former militia leader, rather than their former Iraqi army leadership.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Muqdam Mohammed Ali (ph), from Al- Qasid (sp) newspaper.  Yesterday there was an initiative from tribal heads and from notables of Najaf.  What is your position vis-a-vis this initiative for a peaceful solution to Muqtada al-Sadr's case?

 

            MR. BAYLEY:  As you know, we don't have any direct negotiations with Muqtada al-Sadr.  At the same time, there have been Iraqis who have approached us with their views about how this might be resolved. They have, I believe, made clear some of these views to Muqtada al- Sadr himself.  And we have, on our part, made clear to any Iraqi who wants to listen and who wants to communicate, our conditions.  We've made those conditions extremely clear that he must face Iraqi justice; that government buildings must be returned to their rightful owners; that the Jaysh Mahdi, the Mahdi Army, must be dissolved; and that basically there should be a return of the rule of law over all the cities of Iraq, including Najaf.

 

            Now, we've heard, as you've heard, or seen reports that there are sheiks and all kinds of other people who are making these sorts of views clear.  And we see a lot on Al-Jazeera and Arabiyah of reports of this nature.

 

            At the same time, it's not clear so far that Muqtada al-Sadr is prepared to hand himself over to the legal process which he must face. He knows there's an arrest warrant issued against him.  He knows what he has to do.  And we would urge Muqtada al-Sadr to hand himself over to Iraqi justice and face that because the alternative that he wishes to impose on the country by the barrel of the gun, not through the ballot box, is something which no Iraqi can sympathize with.

 

            Okay.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  But if the tribal heads and others have been able to reach some close solutions to your will, will you agree with them?

 

            MR. BAYLEY:  (Off mike) -- we're not talking about our desires, we're talking of the desires of the Iraqi judicial system and the Iraqi judge who issued a legal arrest warrant against Muqtada al-Sadr. We are of course at the service of this judge to fulfill those legal procedures. I don't think we can talk about a solution which is close to what the Iraqi society wants.  We have to talk of a solution which is absolutely what the Iraqi society wants.

 

            Q     Yes.  Bob Moran with the Philadelphia Inquirer.  In the last 24 hours, was there a car bomb in the vicinity of Fallujah that killed or injured Marines or other coalition personnel?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  There was a car bomb that was in the vicinity of Camp Fallujah, which is some distance away from camp -- from the actual city of Fallujah.  Initial reports indicate two U.S. Marines were killed and six were wounded when their patrol was attacked by a suicide bomber driving a VBIED at about 1110 today.  The wounded Marines have been transported to a military medical facility.

 

            MR. BAYLEY:  Okay.  Abbas (sp).

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Abbas al-Salehei (ph).  Two questions.

 

            The first one, regarding the visit of a delegation of the International Red Cross, they visited with former President Saddam Hussein.  We would like to know what's the nature of the visit and what happened in that visit.  There are information saying that there is -- one of the attorneys are going to visit Saddam Hussein, one of these attorneys.  We would like to verify this information.

 

            The second question, regarding the detainees.  The release of the measures are still being slow and complicated, as evidenced -- when  there's a detention of any suspect, he goes through waves of complications and that takes three, four months.  And maybe after 10 months the investigation is not going to be over.  So where are you when you say that you want to have appropriate investigations and and to release the problems of detainees?  Because large members of those are innocent, but they're still detained in prisons.  We want a solution to this problem.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yup.  On the first question of the visit of the ICRC to President Saddam -- former President Saddam Hussein, very simply, we keep somewhat closed-lipped, by agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross.  They have the lead for this.  I would refer all of their -- all of your questions to the ICRC, although we can confirm that we did have a visit just the other day.

 

            The release of the detainees -- well, I think that we may have a different view.  There have been thousands of detainees released over the past couple of weeks.  Any detainee that we keep after 72 hours is being kept as a -- if he is a security internee, because there is documented evidence that he is an imperative risk to the security of this country.  We do not intern or detain innocent people.  They must go, after 72 hours, in front of a magistrate judge, where in front a judge to have their case reviewed for substantial evidence that would merit and warrant retention of him as a security internee.

 

            I know that there are many that would come out and claim innocence, but the fact remains that most have very compelling cases for why they're being kept there.

 

            We want to expedite, as you want to expedite, the release of the detainees.  We have released thousands of detainees in the last couple of months.  Those numbers inside the prisons are far less than they were over the past.  Where it was over 10,000 a couple of months ago, it's well under 8,000 now.  I haven't checked the number today.  It could well be under 7,000.

 

            But nonetheless, we are committed to expediting the detainee release process for those persons no longer considered an imperative threat to the security situation in Iraq.

 

            Last question.

 

            Q     (Off mike) Allen Tizzi (sp), CBS News.  Up until recently, you've always used the phrase "kill or capture" when you mention Muqtada al-Sadr's name.  Now we only hear you saying, "Bring him to justice."  Has a decision been taken not to kill him? And if so, when and why?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, we've been very clear about the -- Muqtada's militia, Sadr's militia.  We will kill or capture members of that  army, not only the actual foot soldiers, but we'll also go after the planners, we'll also go after the operators, and we'll go after all tentacles of the leadership inside that organization.  It's that simple.

 

            MR. BAYLEY:  Thank you very much, everybody.

 

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