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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Participating was Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director Operations and Dan Senor, Senior Advisor to Coalition Provisional Authority.)
November 17, 2003

(Participating was Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director Operations and Dan Senor, Senior Advisor to Coalition Provisional Authority.)

 

            Mr. Senor: Good afternoon. I have a couple of updates on Ambassador Bremer's schedule over the last 24 hours, and then General Kimmitt will provide a military briefing, after which we are happy to take your questions on all matters, civilian or military.

 

            Yesterday Ambassador Bremer met with Mr. Talabani, the -- (short audio break). Last evening he hosted an iftar for all members of the Governing Council, and this evening he hosted an iftar in this building here for the Iraqi Olympic soccer team, fresh off their victory, 4-1 victory against North Korea and Oman. And there were a number of Iraqi athletic teams that participated in the iftar.

 

            General Kimmitt?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: Good evening.

 

            Coalition forces are conducting offensive operations to defeat anti-coalition elements in Iraq, along with conducting stability and support operations to enable the restoration of essential services, the economy and democratic governance for the citizens of Iraq. The military situation is stable, but indicators of potential unrest during Ramadan caused the coalition to remain offensively oriented and active in pursuit of enemy targets. To that end, in the last 24 hours the coalition has conducted 1,729 patrols, 25 raids, and have captured 99 anti-coalition suspects.

 

            Additionally, we continue efforts to capture or kill Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. We have reason to believe he is a key figure in attacks against coalition figures and Iraqi citizens, and he is number six on the coalition most-wanted list.

 

            In the northern zone, an update on the helicopter crashes in Mosul. The wreckage has been removed, and a contractor will repair damaged homes in the area. Brigadier General Jeff Schloesser, the assistant division commander and the senior aviator in the division, is leading the investigation team.

 

            Despite the tragic loss of life, the 101st continues operations, conducting 229 patrols in a series of cordon and search operations. They have detained 18 individuals while confiscating numerous weapons and munitions and developing intelligence for future operations.

 

            In the northeastern zone, the 4th Infantry Division conducted 36 simultaneous attacks last night as part of Operation Ivy Cyclone II. Using Army Tactical Missile Systems, artillery, mortars, attack helicopters, fighting vehicles and tanks, those division soldiers destroyed 15 safe houses, three suspected former regime loyalist training camps, and suppressed 14 mortar firing points.

 

            In other raids, coalition soldiers killed 6 former regime loyalists and captured 21. As part of this operation, two Army Tactical Missile Systems were launched against known enemy positions. The first missile was launched during daylight hours against the suspected training camp on an island on the little Zab River. The camp was destroyed. The second missile was launched during the evening hours against a target identified as a sanctuary for anti- coalition activities. Damage assessment of the strike is underway. Now, ATACMS missiles were used for this mission to leverage their precision capability, which minimizes the possibility of injury to civilian and collateral damage.

 

            During Ivy Cycle Operations, a mounted patrol was attacked in the vicinity of al-Gushukar (ph). The patrol immediately returned fire, however, sustaining three casualties. One coalition soldier was killed and two soldiers were wounded. The casualties were evacuated to the 21st Combat Support Hospital.

 

            In and around Baghdad, the 1st Armored Division continues Operation Iron Hammer. Coalition forces conducted 609 patrols and captured 33 enemy personnel. Combat actions included two cordon-and- search operations against insurgent elements operating within Baghdad. Six individuals suspected of ties to Saddam Fedayeen and to other anti-coalition forces were detailed. Additionally, a brigade cordon- and-search operation was conducted in the Azamiyah section of Baghdad, using intelligence collected during Iron Hammer. Twenty-five enemy were captured, including a former Republican Guard general, and significant quantities of weapons and ammunition. An additional joint cordon-and-search operation was conducted with the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps in the Abu Ghraib area.

 

            In the west, the 82nd Airborne Division conducted six offensive operations, 171 patrols, and nine joint patrols with Iraqi security forces. They detained 26 personnel and cleared 11 ammunition stockpiles. For the third day in a row, enemy contacts in zone have decreased.

 

            Today, the CPA government's support teams will meet with provincial council members to discuss conditions for transfer of security responsibility to Iraqi security forces.

 

            Paratroopers from the 505th Airborne conducted offensive operations resulted in the capture of two individuals wanted for planning and supporting attacks against the coalition. The operation netted 11 other personnel wanted for questioning, and various explosives and bomb-making materials were confiscated.

 

            Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division conducted two operations in the towns of Habbaniya and Ar Ramadi. Searches concluded with the capture of five individuals with explosives. Additionally, numerous anti-coalition documents were captured.

 

            As part of ongoing stability operations in zone, 82nd Civil Affair teams initiated projects for the renovation of four schools. Repairs to the schools will total over $600,000 and provide a learning environment for over 1,200 students.

 

            In the central south zone, coalition forces conducted 128 mounted and dismounted patrols, 11 joint patrols, and executed 104 checkpoints. Acting on information received from a local source, a patrol from the 3rd Battle Group searched an area on the edge of Karbala yesterday and found a cache of artillery rounds. Also yesterday in Karbala, a local citizen turned in 15 grenade launchers.

 

            The dinar exchange program in central south is receiving wide acceptance, as indicated by the large volume of money moving out of these exchange points.

 

            In the southeast zone, extensive patrolling in the zone continues. Carlos Raleiras, the kidnaped Portuguese journalist, was released by his captors. Following a debriefing, Mr. Raleiras was taken to a British hospital, and he is reported to be fit and well. He plans to return, to rejoin the Portuguese military force which he had planned to cover as his original assignment.

 

            Thank you. This concludes the briefing. What are your questions?

 

            Jane?

 

            Q Thanks. Jane Arraf, CNN. General, I wonder if we could ask you a little bit more about the search for Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. Presumably, he's always been a target. Is the fact that you're mentioning him now -- does that mean that you feel you're close to him or you have more information on him?

 

            And if I could also ask you about a recent operation in Tikrit, houses demolished of suspects, is that a new policy? And what is behind that?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: Well, let's first of all talk about al-Douri. Yes, we are getting more intelligence which suggests that he was directly implicated in the killing of some anti-coalition -- in the killing of some coalition soldiers. Are we any closer? We're getting closer every day.

 

            As to your second question, about operations in Tikrit, that is all part of General Odierno's Operation Ivy Cyclone II. Developed intelligence in that region, in the Tikrit-Baqubah area, and he is going after anti-coalition forces that have been laying IEDs, car bombs and booby traps in the region.

 

            Q This, though, is an operation to demolish the houses after they've been cleared of people. So clearly they're not going after the suspects. It seems to -- the implication is that it is retaliation against --

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: I don't think -- I don't have any information on that. I'll check, but I don't think that would be correct.

 

            Q Luke Baker from Reuters. General, some have suggested that this is very much more a show of force and that there's not that much substance to back up the image it is creating.

 

            How would you respond to that? And also -- firstly, how would you respond to that, please?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: Well, first of all, in the operation yesterday alone, we netted 99 personnel that were directly implicated or we have reason to believe had been implicated in anti-coalition activities. So our intelligence suggests that they had prior activities against our soldiers, and we're going to bring them in for questioning. And if they're determined to be working against our soldiers, working against coalition, we'll take further action.

 

            Q For example, a few days ago in Tikrit, you were dropping bombs on sort of empty buildings and that sort of thing. Is that -- is it really just something designed to intimidate, or is it actually having an impact? Or does it run the risk of actually feeding the anti-American insurgency?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: Well, all of our military operations have a military purpose. Some are to persuade. Some are to compel. Some are to kill. Some are to capture.

 

            Q Freeman Peachman (sp), Radio Free Europe. Two questions, if I may. Much of Baghdad has been without electricity since yesterday. I was wondering if either of you has information on why that is.

 

            And the second thing, if I may, on the timing of this press conference, it's obviously getting later and later, and it's kind of becoming inopportune for Iraqis and foreign reporters. Is there a reason why it's being pushed back? And is this the beginning of a trend?

 

            Mr. Senor: We are not replacing the existing press conference/press briefing schedule. We are adding to it. So press briefings will simply be more frequent. There will continue to be briefings during the day, and there will be briefings in the evening. So we will accommodate all media markets.

 

            As to your first question, we are in the process right now of autumn maintenance improvements on the electrical grid, which means we have to bring down some of the electricity. This is something that was never done under Saddam Hussein's regime, which partly contributes to the problem -- the problems that we are repairing today. Thirty- five years of chronic underinvestment was caused in large part because there was never any maintenance resources dedicated by the former regime.

 

            Q I'm sorry --

 

            Q Christine Spolar, Chicago Tribune. To follow up on that, I was told earlier by the coalition that two towers fell down because of high winds and that another line was also damaged and in fact that that's the reason for the power outage. And Baghdad is on low power now, and they don't know when the power will come back.

Mr. Senor: There may be some -- a tower down or a line down, but there will be -- during the fall season, there will be reductions in power in order to do the fall maintenance.

 

            Q Roneau Gira (sp) from Le Figaro, Le Figaro, the French daily. General, you have said that you have captured -- and I guess you are still detaining him -- a general from the Republican Guard. Did you capture him in his house, or did you capture him in an operation? He was on the ground with weapons, organizing some kind of attack against the coalition forces?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: I don't have those specific details. We captured him last night as part of the operation up north.

 

            Q Yes. Hi. Steve Komarow with USA Today.

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: Hi, Steve.

 

            Q You mentioned al-Douri. But I think there's another chap who's been in the news a bit more in the last 24 hours named Saddam Hussein. Can you give us an update on progress in capturing him?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: Every day we continue to seek intelligence to find him. Every day we continue to work to go after him. And that is daily business, and we will not stop to hunt for Saddam Hussein until we're absolutely sure we know where he is, and we will bring him to justice.

 

            Q I'm Alisha Rue (sp) with Voice of America. I have a follow-up question to the Saddam Hussein. A couple of days ago, General Abizaid pretty much dismissed what Major General Swannack of the 82nd Airborne had said, speculating that perhaps Saddam Hussein had laid down some of the guerrilla warfare strategy prior to the war.

What is your assessment, General, on this, and is there any, you know, opinion arising out of this that you can tell us?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: Well, if Saddam Hussein is behind the current activities, this will be the fourth war that he's lost in 20 years.

 

            Q Peter Grestor (sp) from the BBC. I have two questions. First of all, can you -- do you have any further information on the cause of the chopper crash up in Mosul, please?

 

            And secondly, I'm sorry, I don't fully understand the military logic of using a tank in -- of using battlefield weapons like tanks and artillery against an insurgency. Can you just explain a little bit further about how -- about the objective behind Operation Ivy Cyclone II in that respect?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: I'm sorry, please tell me again your first question?

 

            Q What caused the -- are you any closer to finding out what caused the chopper accident?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: We're no closer at this point to finding the cause of the accident. We have appointed, as I said earlier, Brigadier General  Jeff Schloesser, the most experienced aviator in the 101st Airborne Division, to find those facts out.

 

            Let's give him some time to work the investigation, and I'm sure he'll come to the root cause of it. And that investigation will take some time, but he'll find the right answer.

 

            As regards the use of armored vehicles, these are vehicles that are still here and have been here since the earlier operations we had during the springtime. Those actually provide a significant amount of force protection for our soldiers as they get close to targets. It provides the commander overwhelming firepower because if we have the capability for the enemy to recognize that he's overmatched in capability, it's probably in his best interest to surrender rather than to fight us. You know, we've seen that time after time after time.

 

            Q The problem is that it seems as though you're fighting a conventional war now rather than a guerrilla insurgency. Is that the way you're approaching it?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: Well, we certainly don't see this as a guerrilla insurgency.

 

            Q What do you see it as?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: We see it as criminal activity within the country, people laying pipe bombs, people laying booby traps, people using car bombs to go after coalition forces, because what they want to do is not fight us in a military sense, but they want to fight us and attack the will of the coalition to see if they can drive the coalition out of this country. We're responding with military results. We're responding with military weapons. And every time we have an engagement with the enemy, we always prevail, and we'll continue to do that until the situation is stable.

 

            Q Peter Kenyon, NPR. General, with the changing seasons, besides the electricity, we're hearing reports of possible fuel shortages, energy problems. What, if anything, is the coalition doing on that subject?

 

            Mr. Senor: We continue to ramp up oil production and oil exports. We are producing approximately 2.2 million barrels a day, exporting just north of 1 million barrels a day. And we are near pre- war levels. We have to import kerosene and LPG for domestic consumption. We continue to have to do that because we are not producing oil at a level at this point that is sufficient to generate the by-products that are necessary. But we're confident we'll get there. Up to this point, we have been in and around our projections of where we'd be generating at this point, and we continue to think we'll be on track.

 

            Q General, following up again on this heavy-handed -- this new sort of aggressive approach, are you trying to intimidate these insurgents into silence?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: We're taking offensive operations against those anti-coalition forces that will attack our troops, that will set out booby-traps, that will take car bombs against innocent Iraqi civilians and against coalition forces.

 

            Q Tom Popp (sp) with ABC News. Following up on that, you mentioned the intent of these airstrikes or these bombardments.

 

            What actual military objectives have been achieved?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: Well, if you take a look at two things; the number of personnel that we captured that are directly implicated in anti- coalition activities, those are people that are no longer on the street either financing or building car bombs, booby traps, explosive devices.

 

            Q As opposed to ground operations, specifically the airstrikes and the bombardments, what have those achieved, as opposed to your patrols?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: The commander has the authority to use whatever capabilities are within his rules of engagement. If a commander on the ground chooses to use airstrikes to go after a target, or ground troops, that's his choice.

 

            Q (Name inaudible) -- from the Romanian Radio. Sir, you said that those people are no longer on the ground operating against the coalition. And yet, the number of attacks, as far as I know, increased recently. So who is doing them, if you are capturing the perpetrators?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: Sir, you're exactly right. And we have said for months and months that we expect the cycle of violence to increase; we expect the number of engagements to increase. And we're seeing those engagements increase. And in response, we are increasing our offensive operations to go after those who would threaten security -- a safe and secure environment here in Iraq.

 

            Q Yes, but it seems that you're not getting anywhere, in spite of all your operations.

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: I don't think that that is the case. Every one of these people that we have in detention are no longer building bombs, driving car bombs, putting bombs by the side of the road that kill, maim and injure innocent Iraqis and other military forces here. And as important, the people of Iraq see those people being taken off the street. It is as important for us to convince the people of Iraq that we are here to provide a safe and secure environment, and the Iraqi Security Forces to provide a safe and secure environment, so that we can do what we're really here to do, which is restore the economy, provide essential services, provide governance for the people of Iraq.

 

            Mr. Senor: I would also add to that that based on our statistical survey research and the anecdotal information we hear from Iraqis, we hear three things over and over: One, the Iraqis are overwhelmingly grateful for the liberation. Two, they don't want us to leave; they want the country stabilized, and they want an independent, democratic, sovereign Iraq before we depart. And third, they want the security situation to improve.

 

            We think the general mood of the country and the cooperation we will receive will improve the more aggressive we get in pursuit of the enemy than decrease.

 

            Q I met in a restaurant, by chance, an American technician working on this 914 cell phone network, you know, the cell phone that journalists cannot use. And he told me that if the Egyptian company who won the contract should come here in Baghdad, in the central region of Iraq, was moving, which apparently it is not moving, it will take this company six months to set an efficient mobile network.

 

            Do you think that his assessment is right or wrong?

 

            Mr. Senor: I would refer you to the Iraqi minister of communications to answer that question. I will say that the minister of communications, in consultation with the coalition, has developed a plan for cellular telephone infrastructure, and they seem to be working according to plan. And if there are any delays, the minister of communications will be the one to ask.

 

            Q General?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: Yeah?

 

            Q The coalition has' started two big operations against the terrorists. Would this mean that terrorists become more sophisticated, or that means the -- what's called resistance become -- threaten against the coalition forces?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: Again, as we have said for the last couple of months, we expect during this time period, particularly during Ramadan, that the number of engagements and the activity of the terrorists would increase. That in fact has borne out. And we are now taking offensive operations, based on intelligence gathered in those operations or provided by local Iraqi citizens, to go after those that would try to impair the activities and the impede the activities of the coalition.

 

            Q How many attacks have you had in the last 24 hours? And also, you mentioned the raids on the camps. I was a little bit unclear -- maybe I just didn't catch it -- whether people were actually captured in the camps or killed there, or whether they were -- had already been evacuated. And you said they were former Saddam loyalists, and how do you know they were former Saddam loyalists and not foreign fighters?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: Well, first of all, there are a number of questions there.

 

            Q Sorry.

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: We do not believe that as a result of the ATACMS strikes, that there were any personnel killed in those strikes. Number two, early indication -- one of the first things soldiers will do when they capture prisoners is try to determine -- get as much tactical intelligence information from them as possible. That is where we got the reports that these were probably former regime loyalists.

 

            And I'm sorry. I didn't catch your third question. Oh, the number of engagements per day --

 

            Q Yes.

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: It was on the first slide that we showed this evening. We'll get you those numbers right after this.

 

            Q Okay. Thanks.

 

            Mr. Senor: Yes, sir?

 

            Q (Name off mike) -- BBC. The other day, I think, we were given a figure of 5,000 people in detention. Is that figure much the same or significantly different? And what's happening to all these people who are being detained?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: The people that are being detained right now are, of course, being interrogated. Their future is being determined, whether it will be done by military tribunal, whether it will be done through the Iraqi court systems, or whether they will be released because there was not enough evidence to hold them.

 

            Q And the number, the total number?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: I think your number is pretty accurate.

 

            Q Just getting back to your comment that this is not a guerrilla insurgency, given that this has been a campaign that has included suicide bombers, helicopters being shot down, rockets, mortars, at what point do you feel it would become a guerrilla insurgency?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: I think one of the indications for us would be that there was some sort of competing ideology that was fighting against us. What is the ideology that they're looking for? The only ideology that we can see is that they somehow -- those that would attack the coalition forces are those that would have something to lose from a free and democratic Iraq -- former Ba'athists who profited under Saddam, former Ba'athists who were promoted under Saddam. But we are at a loss to understand what competing ideology there is out there that would somehow suggest there's a rising insurgency. To what end? We can't answer that question.

 

            Q Does that mean you're discounting ideologically driven foreign fighters, for instance, those that would normally be associated with al Qaeda?

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: We continue to -- we don't discount any intelligence we receive. It is a puzzle that our intelligence analysts are trying to put together every day.

 

            Q Hi, Steve   Kamarow (sp), USA Today, again. Just, Dan, could you flesh out a little bit about the press briefing schedule you're talking about; what markets you felt weren't being served before and what you're trying to accomplish bringing in a one-star general, of course, and other improvements?

 

            Mr. Senor: When we do briefings at the earlier part of the day, we hear a lot of support from journalists from this part of the world and from the European world. When we do briefings later in the day, we hear a lot of support from the American reporters, but not from those from here. So we're accommodating both. We are increasing the frequency of briefings. We are covering all time cycles to provide more information both to you and to folks around the world.

 

            What was your other question?

 

            Q (Off mike.)

 

            Mr. Senor: We are at a critical stage right now in the reconstruction effort. I don't think there's been any three- or four- week period since the end of major combat operations you've seen more concentrated periods of intense activity.

 

            Let's just roll back here. Not long ago, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution unanimously putting a December 15th deadline on the Governing Council to come up with a constitutional timeline. Following that, the United States Congress appropriated almost -- you know, somewhere in the area of $19 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq.

 

            Shortly after that, over 70 nations participated in the Madrid donors conference and made a serious international commitment. The international community became increasingly engaged in the reconstruction of Iraq. And just recently, this past weekend, you have had, as you've all covered, the historic agreement between the Iraqi Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority on a path to sovereignty.

 

            All that, combined with increased security activity, has made this a very active month, more activity concentrated in this period of the reconstruction, as I said, than any period since the end of major combat operations. So we've got a lot of information to get out and we know there are a lot of questions, and we hope you are finding this helpful.

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: And on the military side, we certainly understand the complexity of operations that we're running now. At that point, I think General Sanchez decided that rather than have a spokesman, he would prefer to have one of his officers that work in the operational field to better explain the operations that we're running and to try to provide those technical details which inevitably come up at briefings such as this.

 

            Mr. Senor: We have time for one more question.

 

            Q (Name and affiliation off-mike.) General, last night, within 10 minutes after the end of (Saddam's ?) announcement broadcast on -- (off mike) -- we heard -- (off mike) -- very loud explosions which sounded like mortars. Can you tell us anything about those, what happened? There were a lot of helicopters -- (off mike) -- (appeared in the air ?) after that.

 

            Gen. Kimmitt: We have a number of explosions that happen every other night. I mean, these are tactically insignificant mortar rounds being fired. We are not aware of any casualties, either civilian or military, that accompanied that. There was no attack on any coalition facility that we're aware of. These were nuisance bombings. They're clearly trying to go make a statement, a spectacular statement, but militarily, tactically insignificant.

 

            Mr. Senor: Thanks everybody.

 

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