United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


3rd Infantry Division Commander Live Briefing from Iraq

Presenter: Army Maj. Gen. Buford C. Blount III
May 15, 2003 10:00 AM EDT

[Briefing from Baghdad, Iraq, on the involvement of the 3rd Infantry Division in the conflict and in post-war stabilization efforts. Participating were Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs (media operations), and Army Maj. Gen. Buford C. Blount III, commanding general, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized).]

Whitman: Well, thank you for joining us again this morning. This is the next in our series of briefings by military commanders from throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Q: (Off mike.)

Whitman: Very good. I'm glad you do.

And today, we'd like to introduce you to Major General Buford Blount III, who's joining us from Baghdad. As you know, the 20,000 troops or so of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division were one of the units that were at the point of the spear during combat operations. Now, the 3rd ID is on the front lines in the postwar stabilization process. General Blount will talk to you about the 3rd ID's ongoing role in Iraq, some of his unit's accomplishments, as well as what lies ahead for the soldiers of the 3rd ID.

(To General Blount.) So sir, thank you for joining us today. And I will turn it over to you.

Blount: Okay, well, it's a great opportunity to talk to you, and I want to thank you for giving me that opportunity to talk to you a little bit about what 3rd Infantry Division is doing, and what we have accomplished and what we still have to accomplish. Now, I'm speaking to you, you know, from my headquarters in Baghdad at the International Airport; a very hot Baghdad today, as it's 103 (degrees) here, and been over 100 all week and projected to get up to even 106 by the end of the week. So, not quite as cool as 101st has it up there in the north.

I appreciate the media interest in the Marne Division and its great soldiers. We had nearly 90 media embedded with us who crossed the berm into Iraq. I believe the arrangement was a success for the military and the media. A level of trust developed between the soldier and the media that offered nearly unlimited access.

The media did a great job telling the story exactly as they saw it, often as it happened, and introducing American soldiers to the American people and, in fact, to the world. The Marne Division led offensive operations into Iraq. As a vanguard for the attack and the main effort, 3rd ID moved 750 kilometers in 21 days, 500 in the first three days. This was the farthest offensive thrust accomplished in the shortest time period in history. The division was in contact with the enemy for all 21 days.

The enemy the 3rd ID fought ran the spectrum from paramilitary to Special Republican Guards, often in simultaneous operations across the battle space. Leaders and soldiers demonstrated incredible flexibility, dealing with every threat and defeating them decisively in every engagement. Our superior equipment, our vast technology and, most importantly, the greatest soldiers in the world accomplished what had never been done before.

But we still have a lot to do, and about a half-dozen media are still embedded with us watching us do it, two of which have been here with us from the beginning. They continue to tell the story of the 3rd, of the hard work this division is accomplishing to get Iraq, and Baghdad, specifically, back on its feet to self-determination.

The 3rd Infantry Division has transitioned from combat to a security force to help the people of Baghdad. Our combat engineers have become civil engineers, our infantrymen and tankers are security guards and police, and civil affairs have become paymasters.

Security is our number-one concern and top priority today. There is a general criminal element and a more organized element of left- over members of the former regime trying to undermine the work of the coalition forces. We're helping to get the Baghdad police department started and are conducting a few joint patrols with them today.

The division is guarding over 200 separate sites throughout the city, as well as conducting over 250 patrols of our infantry, armor and military police. Additionally, CFLCC is increasing our military police forces and they will double to nearly 4,000 soldiers by the end of the month.

I need to put a rumor to rest up front while we're talking about security. There are no "shoot to kill" or "shoot on sight" orders concerning looters. The article that suggested there are such orders was merely speculation, and I won't comment further on speculation. Let me just say that our current rules of engagement give us sufficient latitude to deal with most any problem. ROE is an operational issue, and I won't comment further on it.

By week's end, we will have removed more than 1,000 truckloads of cached ammo and equipment from Baghdad. It amounts to more than 35 million rounds of various ammo, weapons and equipment. The city was one big weapons store when we arrived. It was scattered with arms and ammo in every school, every vacant lot, and hospitals and houses, and just about anywhere you went you could run into an ammo cache. And there's still large quantities of this to be removed, and we estimate it will take another two to three weeks to complete removal of all the weapons and ammo in Baghdad.

So we do have it all under control now and are working daily, taking out approximately 60 to 70 truckloads a day out of the city.

Today we have begun what we are calling Task Force Neighborhood. Every day, a neighborhood section will get a full-court press of support that will include garbage pickup, medical assistance, ordnance cleanup, and anything else we can do in a day to help the neighborhoods.

We continue to work closely with the NGOs to get fuel, food and other daily requirements to the Iraqi people. And I would have to say today that there are really no crises in those areas. There are some long fuel lines, but we are -- tripled the amount of fuel that's going out to the gas stations today, and hopefully that will result in better service at the gas stations.

The American soldier is extremely resilient and flexible. Did an outstanding job defeating an oppressive regime. I wish we could win the peace in three weeks as well, but it's going to take a while, and I would ask everyone to have patience.

Okay, with that, I'll take some questions.

Whitman: If you'd identify yourself and your news organization for the general, please.

Q: Yeah, General, this is Will Dunham with Reuters. Could you explain how much of the current security problems that you're seeing are attributable to what we would call "common criminals," and how much is attributable to people from the previous government and those still loyal and still fighting for Saddam Hussein?

Blount: Okay, this is just my opinion, but I would say probably about 90 percent is common criminals -- the looters, the car thefts, attempted bank robberies, et cetera, and only about 10 percent of our contact is a holdover from the previous regime.

Q: General, this is --

Blount: I will add, as we have increased our patrols and are doing more presence patrols on the streets at night, we are going to, of course, come upon more incidents where we're going to have more arrests. So we're aggressively out on the streets now and trying to show the people of Iraq that they do have a secure city to live in now.

Okay, next question.

Q: General, Thelma LeBrecht with Associated Press Broadcast. And could I just take a moment also to have you pronounce your name, just so everyone gets it correctly?

Blount: Okay. My name is Buford Blount (BLUNT), okay? Blount, I'll say again. Nickname is Buff.

Q: Great. (Laughs.) Thank you very much.

Could I just follow up briefly on Will's question, but the question I wanted to ask is sort of similar. Following up on Will's, explain -- is there a problem with the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime? Is that a major concern that's going to be causing you in the coming days -- in terms of disrupting the civil order? And also, what are the plans for the 3rd Infantry in terms of are any going to be withdrawing? Are any staying to make certain that the security situation is going to be under control?

Blount: Okay. We are definitely concerned about remnants of the Ba'ath Party and the Fedayeen. We have, you know, hit them pretty hard when we attacked the city and have continually put pressure on the de-Ba'athification of the city. There is a concern there, but it's really -- they don't have the capability, I don't think, to interdict or to hold up the operation of the coalition forces to this point. We do have occasional drive-by shootings, and an occasional grenade attack or RPG attack that we attribute to the former regime, but it's nothing that is going to slow us down in our progress to help stand Baghdad back up.

As far as the future of the 3rd ID, my soldiers ask me that every day; you know, when are they going home? I wish I could give them a firm date, but I can't right now. We are in the process of reassessing the security departments in the city as we are putting more and more soldiers on the street. We continue to have additional units flow in to -- that have been in the TPFDD in the troop flow. As an example, we have two more squadrons of the 2nd LCR coming in today and tomorrow. That will give us an additional 230 Humvees out on patrols when those units join us. And then, as other elements from the 1st Armored Division come up from Kuwait, and the corps CFLCC commander and CENTCOM will reassess the security situation and then we'll discuss when we can start pulling our 3rd ID forces out. But, you know, a lot of my forces have been over here since September, and fought a great fight and doing great work here in the city. But if you ask the soldiers, they're ready to go home.

Q: General, this is Sean Naylor from Army Times. In the early days of fighting in Baghdad, there were a lot of reports of foreign elements that your troops were encountering: Syrians, Iranians, other Arab terrorist types. Are you still encountering any significant numbers of fighters from these organizations? And can you give us any more details about that?

Blount: Yeah. Sean, you know, you were here during that time period, I believe, and there were many, I think, Syrian and other countries that had sent personnel; the countries didn't, I think individuals came over on their own that were recruited and paid for by the Ba'ath Party to come over and fight the Americans. We dealt with those individuals there for a two- or three-day period, had a lot of contact with them, but have not seen a reoccurrence of that at this point. We really don't have any contact with any other nationalities right now. We're just dealing with the criminals on the street, and primarily Iraqis.

Q: Dave Moniz with USA Today. I realize hindsight is always perfect, but a two-part question: One, could you have used more troops in Baghdad earlier? And two, what lessons have you learned in terms of tactics on the street, what works, what doesn't work, in terms of keeping order?

Blount: I think we have adequate troops, you know, for the mission that we have. Our soldiers did a tremendous job transitioning from the combat force, where one day they are fighting very intensely, as we did for 21 days, and then two or three days later being a helping force, where we're trying to stand back up the city of Baghdad and provide aid and comfort to the citizens here. So we asked a lot of our soldiers during that transition period and they did a tremendous job and are continuing to do that. So we quickly transitioned our soldiers from combat into a security-type force and assistance-type force operation. And we had adequate force for the combat situation and I think we have adequate force for the security operations here.

And as the additional forces have flown in, the additional MPs that we needed, you know, as we went to more security operations, it was a better role for more MPs. So CENTCOM already had them programmed and they got here. And of course, we got to Baghdad a little sooner than I think a lot of people were expecting us to, so it did take a few days for the MPs to come on in. But they're here now and I think we've got the adequate force to do the mission here.

Q: This is Steve Trimble with Aerospace Daily. I was wondering if you could talk about your plans right now for reconstituting, or repairing, if you will, your aviation units and the airframes and the engines that took a beating, and also, what your current mission capability rates are for those aviation units and what their role is right now.

Thank you.

Blount: Okay. Well, our aviation, I've got basically two types of combat systems here. I've got the Kiowa Warrior OH-58D, and then the Longbow Apache, and we used both of those in our attack up to Baghdad and they performed very well in the mission. We've always maintained a high operational rate, above 90 percent on both airframes, and they did a great job in our attacks up to Baghdad. And while we're in the city, we have been using them for reconnaissance. As you know, they've got great night-vision capability, great optics on the helicopters. We're using them for observing in the cities and doing sweeps around the outsides of the cities.

And here at the airfield, we've got a great hangar complex and we're able to do our maintenance on the aircraft; got a great maintenance facility here. Wish I could take it back to Fort Stewart with me. But we have a good maintenance plan here, and we'll be in pretty good shape when we depart here. Like I say, we maintain a high operational readiness rate on our helicopters.

Now, the other airframe that we have with us is the Blackhawk, and that traditionally has done great service here, and probably gets the most use on a day-to-day basis here moving troops and equipment around the city, and back and forth from Kuwait.

So, those are the three airframes. And I'm read proud of our aviation unit and the maintenance crew that have kept the aircraft flying, and I'm very pleased with our readiness rate, which, as I said, remains over 90 percent on a daily basis.

Q: General, this is Pam Hess with United Press International. I want to press you a little bit more on Dave's question earlier. Armchair generals back here, when your troops first went into Baghdad, were saying that had you had more troops, you would have been able to both handle the combat and the security end. And I'm wondering, is there something about that equation that we're not seeing, that maybe having more troops would have complicated matters for you? Because you said you had enough for combat and then -- and now you have enough for security. But there was also that sort of lawlessness piece that the military received a lot of criticism about. I'm wondering if there's something we're not seeing?

Blount: Well, as we came into the city, we were in a combat mode. And as we were fighting the fight, the lawlessness was -- well, it had already been in existence in the city to some degree. The government buildings that had been abandoned by the regime -- some of them had been hit by Tomahawks and bombing -- those were already -- had already been looted and were in the process of continually looting, as the -- basically, the regime had abandoned those buildings, those facilities. So that was already ongoing when we got to the city.

And we fought in from the east -- the western side of the city, starting at the airport and then south of the city, attacked into the city, to secure our objectives there.

At the same time, the Marine Corps, as you'll remember, were coming in from the eastern side of the city, to secure that part of the city. And so we had basically two divisions here in the city, and I think that was clearly adequate force to accomplish the combat mission.

And that was our focus, was combat. And as I said, it took two or three days to consolidate all our objectives, to make sure that we had defeated all the Fedayeen, the Special Republican Guard, the Republican Guard and the regular army forces that were here. And many had gone over to -- had shifted to civilian clothes, so it was not real clear as to who was who at certain times, as we were wrapping up the operations.

At the same time that was going on, the -- there was looting going on. And near that time period, the museum was looted, and other facilities where we did not have troops stationed and -- on our -- as we secured our objectives. So there was a time period where there was a good deal of looting going on in the city, and we really were focused on securing our objectives and consolidating our forces here to make sure that we could maintain our presence in the city And there was a period there where there was a lot of looting going on -- you know, a three- or four-day period, as we transitioned from the combat to the security operations.

During that time, as I said, our focus was on combat. And there was no -- we didn't know whether the police force was going to be here. We half-expected the police force to still be functional and the museum security force would still be in place, but they were not. They had all left.

Q: The -- it's Pam again. Just to follow up, the question, I guess, that people ask is, with all of that, then, why wouldn't have more soldiers been useful? Would more soldiers in that situation have made a difference, allowed you to guard some of those areas or something? That is a question that keeps coming back up.

Blount: Well, with more soldiers, we still would have been focused on combat at that time. As the looting was going on, we were still fighting in the areas that we were in. In the other areas, if we'd have had more soldiers, they would have been fighting, too, focused on military targets, military facilities, versus the areas that were being looted. So, I really don't think the additional troops, you know, would have made any difference.

Q: Hi, sir. This is Kathy Rhem from the American Forces Press Service. I was hoping you could expand some on Operation Neighborhood -- what kinds of troops are you using for those missions; what size elements; how are you choosing the neighborhoods; and what kind of coordination goes on beforehand, before you go to the neighborhoods, to determine what kinds of things need to be done?

Blount: Okay. Well, this is a new program that we've just instituted, and it was -- you know, Corps Commander General Wallace came up, I think, with the idea. But it's an effort to get more help out to the Iraqi people, to the different neighborhoods out there that would see the Humvees drive by or see the security force out, but aren't getting direct help.

So, this is an effort where we commit engineer resources with engineer soldiers, and dump trucks, and bucket loaders, scoop loaders; how we could commit medical resources there to conduct inoculations or to treat minor injuries, do health check-ups on children there in the neighborhood; and just a -- check out the neighborhood to see what other help they need that we could provide to them. And it's -- we pick the neighborhoods at random, going through the different zones, and we try not to coordinate -- right now, we're not coordinating ahead of time; it's kind of a surprise when we show up. We also hire on a -- for the day, men that want to work, and so we will -- we've got a paymaster there that can hire 20 to 30 workers that will assist us in picking up the trash and doing repairs, et cetera.

And so, it gives some infusion of money into the neighborhood; it gives them -- trying to instill a sense of pride and responsibility in the neighborhood; and shows the American soldier there helping them on a personal basis in their neighborhoods. And so, we hope that it's going to be a big success, and I'm sure it will be. And if it is, then we will expand it into more forces as we see how it works out. But it is new. We've only started it today, and have high expectations for it in helping the good will between the Iraqi people that we're here trying to help and the American soldiers.

Q: Hello, sir, Neil Baumgardner, Defense Daily. Sir, I was wondering if you could give us any sort of BDA numbers -- number of targets destroyed, tanks destroyed, if you have that. And also, if you could talk about the performance of the artillery munitions used, specifically the SADARM -- Sense and Destroy Armor -- artillery round, and ATACMS missile.

Blount: Well, let me address the last piece first. It's the first time we've used the SADARM in combat, and it worked very well. We had several opportunities to use that, with two or three of our new systems, one being the LRAS, which gave our reconnaissance elements a capability to look out seven or eight kilometers and lase to a target and get a 10-digit grid, really enhanced the capability of our munitions from our artillery systems to be lethal against armored targets. And so we're very happy with that link-up and the success that we had using that. The additional use of -- you know, we had a lot of counter-battery fire. We received a lot of artillery and mortar fire, and are very pleased with our radar acquisitions, our ability to acquire the mortars and artillery shooting at us. And then we used various means for counter-battery, used artillery, used MOS rockets, and we also made good use of CAS, which was readily available. So we had basically three systems that we could use to take down his artillery, his mortar systems as he engaged us, as we conducted our movements. And that worked out very well.

If you could repeat the first part of your question again, I'll try to answer that.

Q: It's BDA numbers.

Blount: I believe you asked about the BDA. We're not going to at this point release our numbers of BDAs on tanks, personnel, et cetera. We are compiling that still. I can tell you that we engaged multiple divisions and defeated multiple divisions on the battlefield, from the 11th Division -- (Inaudible.) -- division, multiple Republican Guards divisions plus the Special Republican Guard units, and multiple elements of the Fedayeen. So it was a real combination of forces that we took on in each fight as we attacked in the multiple cities that we fought through.

Our equipment did great. We did have multiple tank battles and engagement with DMVs, as well as thousands of RPGs shot at us from the different elements. And all of our equipment performed outstandingly, as did our soldiers, as we engaged the different elements of the Iraqi army.

Q: Kathy Kay from the BBC here. I wanted to get back to the security issue. You've addressed the looting from the first few days after you went into Baghdad. What about more recently? I'm thinking really of the last week, the last week, 10 days, because you've said that you think you have adequate troops. Why do you think, then, that the security situation has carried on being so poor?

Blount: Well, we've done two or three things differently in the last week. One thing that we've done -- initially, we were holding looters, depending on the individual, his age, and what he was looting, we would hold him from a period of a couple of hours to a couple of days. And so now we are holding looters for 21 days. And so that, I think, is taking a lot of the looters off the streets.

The police force is standing up now and it is of assistance to us. And as I said, we've got a lot more patrols on the roads now, and a lot more dismounted patrols out in the neighborhoods.

There have been a multitude of things that have enabled us to do that. As we have completed sensitive-site exploitations and other security missions, I've been able to devote more forces to targeting specific areas of the city where problem areas have been reported. So we're getting better communication, better support from the civilians now as they're coming forward and identifying problem areas, and then we have the forces to go out and deal with them. And then again, as we get more MPs in, we'll have even more presence on the streets.

There are a lot of negative reports coming from the media here. Some of that's old information. Every city has crime, every city has car thefts, and hijackings and robberies. We are a police force now, we are basically, and we are going to be reporting those as we go through the day-to-day operations. And so, you know, the city has almost -- has over 5 million people in it, and there additionally were a group of criminals released out of the prisons. Saddam pardoned all criminals in the city, and in the country, for that matter, so there's an element of criminals out there that we're having to police back up as we come across them. And so we're working hard on the security aspect.

And part of it is a perception, too, on the part of the people. And part of it is that the power hasn't been working. We're getting that back on now; a lot of success in the power area. But the lights have not been on at night, the streetlights have not been on at night. The stoplights have not worked at the intersections. And so that gives a sense of lacking order. And so we're working hard to get the power back on. We're about 60 to 70 percent there now. We're working on getting the streetlights back on, getting the traffic police out at the intersections so that they'll have a sense of security, a sense of order in the city again.

And additionally, you know, no trash had been picked up for a couple of months, so we're putting a full-court press on that to get the Iraqi people, you know, picking up their trash. We've contracted multiple agencies to assist in the trash cleanup, and getting all the war debris off the streets, the damaged vehicles. And so, in the next week I think you'll start hearing a much more positive story coming out (about) security in Baghdad.

Q: General, Craig Gordon from Newsday. There was a report this morning that the 3rd Infantry Division has been told not to send any more of its soldiers home. It seems like there's been kind of a halt put on that, sort of indefinitely. Can you give us a sense -- if that's true, and sort of what -- what is the forecast for when some of your folks will get to go home?

Blount: Yeah. We have not had any -- we do not have any redeployment orders. So we really didn't stop anything, we just haven't sent home, starting sending soldiers back. We've been planning -- you know, as all military leaders do, we have to have plans for the future operation. We know we're going to go home. So we've put together our plans. The timing has always been on order, and, you know, when our higher headquarters make the assessment that the time's right to send the 3rd Infantry Division home, we'll start our redeployment.

Now, we are sending some equipment back that we don't need: for example, AVLBs, the tank launched bridge system. We don't need that here in the city. So we're going to -- we're in the process of sending that back. We're not using our MLRS systems now. We're not using artillery systems. So we're retrograding some of those elements back to Kuwait to get those systems back in the prepositioned stocks. And so, we are sending -- continuing to send back equipment we don't need. But we have not redeployed any units and haven't given -- received any orders authorizing us to do that up to this point. We're looking forward to that day, you know, when it comes. But it will, you know, depend on the security situation there and our relief in place when other forces arrive. And hopefully that will be, you know, in the near future.

Q: General, this is Eric Rosenberg with Hearst newspapers. You mention that 10 percent of the crime is from suspected Ba'athists. Is there any coordination to that at all? Is there any organization? Are they receiving orders from senior officials in the Ba'ath Party or any folks in Saddam's inner circle? And secondly, what are some of the emerging lessons learned from combat operations? What worked well, what didn't?

Blount: Okay. On the first part, there doesn't appear to be any cohesion or any organization. It just seems to be remnants and -- individual remnants out there that are continuing to resist, or that don't realize that the fight is over and they need to, you know, to get on with the new Iraq. So there are going to be some elements out there that continue to resist the change. But right now we've seen no organization or cohesive effort in that regard.

And as far as lessons learned, I'm assuming you're talking the combat, is that correct?

Q: That's correct.

Blount: Okay, we've got that delay. First time I've done one of these over this -- (Inaudible.) -- machines.

Like I said, we're very, very pleased with the performance of our equipment. It really worked well. It clearly showed that the heavy force has a place in an urban fight. The division had the opportunity to fight in several different scenarios, you know, in the deserts, we did river-crossing operations, did urban operations, did river assaults, and all done very well by our great soldiers out here.

Some of our new equipment worked very well. A couple I will highlight; one is our friendly force tracker system, which enabled the leadership to command and control on the move, and we did that from a new command and control vehicle that we had, this C2V. So in the C2V we had the friendly force tracker system, which enabled us to see all of our leadership on the battlefield, plus we could see where the MEF was and the 101st, and any element in the theater that had their systems on. So that gave us a situational awareness from where we were on the battlefield.

And then our communications, our ATACS communications, which is a new system to us, enabled us to talk over extreme distances. So -- and in an example, in one day we had the division over about a 230- kilometer front and we were attacking and fighting in basically three separate fights, and we were able to command and control that, divert resources or fix priorities, be able to talk to each commander, be able to see where his forces were and what was happening on the battlefield, and do all that while we were moving. And just a tremendous capability, a tremendous success for the Army. And that's just one -- or two of several of the systems that we have. I mentioned one, the LRAS, which is a night observation -- or day/night observation sight for our reconnaissance elements, just a tremendous success.

Our integration of CAS was a great success. The Air Force was very supportive. The CAS was nearly always there when we needed -- it was always there when we needed it, it was readily available. We were able to employ it quickly, when needed. And that integration of the Air Force with the ground forces was very successful in supporting the close fight, that worked very well.

And our ability to use our thermal sights at night and in poor visibility -- I think there is a clear advantage over the enemy. And we optimized that, and we did a lot of fighting at night. So those are just some of our lessons learned.

But I guess one of the greatest I'll recount is the ability to see the division over a 200-, 230-kilometer plot and control the brigade fights and freed up an area at the same time, as I said, we were moving. So that just is quite a capability that our Army has now.

Q: General, Bret Baier with Fox News Channel. I heard your answer that you don't have redeployment orders yet. But do you understand that they were specifically delayed because of the security situation on the ground?

Blount: No, we have not heard that. You know, we're here to complete our mission, and you know, we are prepared to stay here, you know, as long we're required to. And it's up to our higher headquarters, who does, you know, daily assessments on the mission here and the troops required. And you know, I've said we've got -- I've got adequate troops here to perform the missions that -- required of us.

And the mission changes on a -- I don't want to say a daily basis, but every two or three days we get new missions, we finish missions. And the troops-to-task changes on a almost daily mission.

We've put -- I put an additional 300 soldiers against gas station and refinery security operations yesterday and today to help deal with the gas shortage at the gas stations. So we've started guarding the refineries and escorting gas trucks, making sure they get to the gas stations on time in the mornings and before the line starts. That -- you know, we've got that capability within the division and our force structure to divert troops from one task to another like that.

And so our numbers of troops to task change on a daily basis. And you know, our soldiers are flexible, able to deal with that. But -- and so we've not ever had a redeployment order that's been held up. And you know, I've said we're always planning for a redeployment, because we know it's going to happen soon. And so we've just been planning for it.

You know, the soldiers like to hear a date -- you know, "When am I going to go home?" And you know, we just haven't been able to give them that date yet. So we've been telling them, you know, "It's going to happen, we've got a plan for it, and just continue to do your mission," you know, as they are, day to day.

Whitman: We've got time for about two more.

Q: General, this is Sean Naylor again. As you approached Baghdad, were you given a list of sensitive sites to secure at the earliest possible moment? One of the things that's being heavily reported over here is the number of NBC sites, or suspected NBC sites and so forth that were pillaged before U.S. troops managed to get to them. And I'm wondering whether you were actually given a list of sites to secure; and how many of them you were able to secure, you know, quickly; and whether the intelligence that you got -- you know, how accurately it predicted the scale and speed of the looting that occurred, not just of commercial businesses, but of government installations?

Blount: Well, I don't think anybody could predict the degree of looting. That's just -- that's, you know, something that was unknown. Some people may have expected to have some -- everybody expected to have some looting, but I don't think anyone could actively have predicted, you know, what was going to happen. We didn't know how long the fight was going to take, how much damage was going to be done to the city.

There were a series of sensitive sites that there were issued beforehand that, you know -- that had been identified through intelligence before we left Kuwait, that as we came upon them, if directed, we would secure them. And there were three or four that we had requirements to secure as we attacked into Baghdad, and we secured those sites. There were multiple other sites that we did not have direction at that time to secure. Later on, we were given direction to go and secure those sites, and, you know, we did that.

But it's hard to tell, you know, when a site was looted, if anything was lost. It became clear to me that, you know, as we went around to the different locations, that most everything had been removed -- either destroyed or hidden -- (Audio break.)

(Pause.) (Talking, laughter.)

Staff: Tell the general what's happening here.

Whitman: Sir, we lost your audio. I don't know, can you hear me?

(Pause.) Looks like the audio is lost both ways.

(Pause.) Sir, if you're hearing us, we're not hearing you at all.

(Pause.) Okay, we have lost the audio. He has another appointment that was due to start two minutes ago, so even though he can't hear me, I'm going to thank General Blount for being with us today. (Laughter.) And when we get him back on the line, we will explain to him that -- where we lost him.

Q: Can he see us?

Whitman: He can see, so you can go ahead and wave and -- (Pause.)

Again, thank you for attending this morning. And we'll continue to try to bring these commanders to you on a periodic basis.

Copyright © 2003 by Federal News Service Inc., Ste. 220, 1919 M St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a U.S. government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service, please visit www.fednews.com or call (202)347-1400.

Additional Links

Stay Connected