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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director for Coalition Operations; and Dan Senor, Senior Adviser, CPA
May 10, 2004 9:35 AM EDT
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

            MR. SENOR:  Good afternoon.  I just have a couple quick announcements.  General Kimmitt has an opening briefing, and then we will be happy to take your questions.

 

            As we move closer and closer to June 30th, there are a number of efforts under way.  I've talked repeatedly from this podium about the wide consultations that are being engaged in by Ambassador Bremer and the coalition, as well as the U.N. teams that are here, one in particular led by Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi.  And the Governing Council is engaged in consultations as well with the Iraqi people.  As we begin to work out the -- apparently the translation is not working.

 

            Is the translation on?  I'm being -- okay, apparently it's back on.

 

            The coalition -- the U.N. team headed by Lakhdar Brahimi and the Governing Council are engaged in wide consultations on the formation of an interim government.  But on June 30th there will not sort of be a light switch turned on or turned off, where it's just instant.  It's a gradual process.

 

            More and more authority is being handed over to the Iraqi people every single day, as we move closer and closer to the formal handover on June 30th.  Iraqis will not assume all authority then; some of it they're already beginning to assume, and part of that effort has been the handover of ministries, which began on March 28th.

 

            And the following ministries have already been handed over for daily operational management to the Iraqi people: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Displacement and Migration, and today, the Ministry of Water Resources.

 

            The following three ministries are scheduled to transition later this week: the Ministry of Industry and Minerals, which is tomorrow; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is Wednesday; and the Ministry of Planning and Development, later this week, as well.  And we will continue to work every single week between now and June 30th to turn over additional ministries to the Iraqi leadership.

 

            General Kimmitt.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Thanks.

 

            Good afternoon.  The coalition continues offensive operations to establish a stable Iraq in order to repair infrastructure, stimulate the economy and transfer sovereignty.  To that end, in the past 24 hours the coalition conducted 1,637 patrols, 17 offensive operations, 32 Air Force and Navy sorties, and captured 29 anti-coalition suspects.

 

            In the northern area of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 111 patrols, two offensive operations and captured one anti-coalition suspect.

 

            In the north-central zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 305 patrols and captured 16 anti-coalition suspects.

 

            Two nights ago in the north-central zone of operations, coalition forces conducted a raid to disrupt anti-coalition forces near Baqubah. The targets of the raid were suspected of financing enemy forces in the area and the raid detained four targets, and all have been taken to a base camp for further questioning.

 

            Yesterday, a coalition patrol came across a civilian truck that had been engaged with small-arms fire.  There were two deceased civilians, two wounded civilians and one uninjured civilian inside. The vehicle is a truck that picked up trash from a coalition base camp.  A witness told the patrol that the truck was attacked by four men.  The attackers first disabled the truck and then engaged the people inside of it.

 

            In Baghdad, coalition forces conducted offensive operations last night in Sadr City, to reduce attacks and the overall presence of the Muqtada militia.

 

            Starting at 02:00 last evening, coalition forces conducted a cordon and search in conjunction with the destruction of the Sadr bureau building, to deny its future use by Muqtada militia members. Coalition forces observed numerous accounts of RPG fire from the alleyways directed at their elements as they approached the Sadr bureau and encountered numerous other engagements during the early morning.

 

            Forces cordoned off and searched the buildings to identify any militia present.  No one was present and coalition forces pulled back from the immediate area.  Coalition forces then initiated the destruction of the building.  Total roll-up over the last 24 hours from the numerous engagements in Sadr City resulted in 35 enemy killed, two enemy wounded and four coalition soldiers wounded who have been returned to duty.

 

            Yesterday evening an IED [improvised explosive device] exploded in the vicinity of Four Seasons al-Arabiyah Hotel in eastern Baghdad.  The Iraqi police service secured the site and confirmed two British citizens and two Iraqi citizens were injured.

 

            In the western zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 209 patrols.  Of note, the level of contact with the enemy in Al Anbar has continued at a reduced level for several days. Fallujah has gone over a week without a violation of the cease-fire agreement.

 

            Coalition and Iraqi security forces continued joint operations in check points around Fallujah.  Just after 10:00 this morning coalition forces conducted a joint patrol in Fallujah supported by the Fallujah Brigade.  With the 1st Battalion providing security along their route, Marines from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force traveled into downtown Fallujah today to meet with city officials.  The commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, Major General Mattis, met with the mayor of Fallujah and a group of tribal sheiks to discuss plans to rebuild and revitalize the city.

 

            The Fallujah Brigade was responsible for establishing the conditions that have facilitated freedom of movement for the coalition convoy.  Fallujah Brigade officers participated in the planning for the convoy and Marines took no hostile fire during their time in the city today.

 

            Freedom of movement in Fallujah, like that demonstrated by today's visit, remains a critical component in the process of setting the conditions necessary to rebuild and revitalize this city.  Greater access to the city will accelerate contracting, engineering, fiscal and employment initiatives for Fallujah.

 

            In the central south zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 82 patrols and escorted 14 convoys. Saturday there was a dedication ceremony for two renovated schools in Trehan, a village in the vicinity of Karbala.  The total cost of renovating the schools was 50,000 U.S. dollars.  Authorities and local media participated in the opening ceremony.

 

            Yesterday coalition forces conducted a raid north of Mahmudiyah to capture multiple targets, suspected members of a cell who are suspected of conducting attacks on coalition forces.  The unit captured four of the seven targets plus one additional suspected enemy.  Yesterday a coalition patrol conducted a reconnaissance of the industrial complex across from a coalition base camp near An Najaf to kill or capture Muqtada militia and to prevent that militia from conducting future attacks at the coalition base camp.  The unit came under fire by small arms and RPG, and the unit returned fire, killing three militia.  The unit also captured two suspected militia and confiscated numerous RPG rounds and a machine gun.

 

            In the southeastern zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 254 patrols.  The situation in Basra has seen a moderate level of anti-coalition activity with four reported attacks in the last 24 hours.  The enemy in Basra continues to use RPG [rocket propelled grenade] and small arms fire to attack coalition forces.  Coalition and Iraqi security forces continue to monitor the situation, and there were three coalition soldiers wounded in the past 24 hours in these attacks.  The situation in al-Amarah is stable with only one indirect fire attack on coalition forces in the last 24 hours.  There were no casualties or damage to infrastructure as a result of this attack.

 

            MR. SENOR:  And with that, we are happy to take your questions.

 

            Yes, in the back.  Could you use your microphone?  We'll go to someone else and then come back to you.

 

            Q     Sir, can you explain the purpose -- this is regarding the May 19th proceedings.  Can you explain the purpose of not having cameras in that courtroom?  It would seem obvious that the Iraqi people would have a right to see what's going on in the courtroom.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, the people of Iraq will certainly have the same access that the international audience will have.  It's a practice of the U.S. military that in an open hearing we allow family, we allow observers, we allow print reporters.  It has not been our   practice in the past to allow cameras inside.  I think there is a concern that this is not a show trial.  But I'm absolutely confident that the gentlemen and the ladies of the Iraqi press will adequately record what happens inside that courtroom so their readers can observe it through the written word.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Rachel?  Welcome back.

 

            Q     Hi.  Thank you.  This is for General Kimmitt.  In what ways has this scandal been affecting operations or the ability for soldiers, Marines, et cetera, to go out there and interact with the Iraqi people, to be able to complete their missions, et cetera?  You touched on that today.  And the second question is, can you tell us a little bit more about how many units or individuals are actually under investigation?  I know you can't go into detail, but can we have an idea of how widespread?  Is it just this unit, or are there others included?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  On the first question, there have been no tangible expressions up to this point of rage or outrage being expressed to coalition forces, but the intangibles are out there.  The soldiers clearly walk up and down the streets.  The people that look at them look at them differently because of what they've seen, and the soldiers understand.  And the Marines understand that it's their responsibility to demonstrate to the people of Iraq that those pictures were horrible, those pictures were unacceptable, but those pictures don't represent the 135,000 American Marines and soldiers that are doing the right thing every day.

 

            Now we're not going to convince our Iraqi friends that today.  We probably won't convince them that tomorrow.  But every soldier, every Marine realizes that that doesn't stop them for the responsibility of getting out there, patrolling their area, maintaining a safe and secure environment, and convincing the people of Iraq that what they saw in those photos does not reflect the overwhelming majority of soldiers that are serving honorably in this country.

 

            On your second question about how many units, how many persons are involved in these investigations, certainly you know that we have seven persons who have had criminal charges levied against them, and those are the ones that are going to go through the court-martial proceedings.

 

            There have also been a number of administrative and supervisory personnel who came under the rubric of the administrative investigation that looked at command practices and command procedures. Those -- we know those numbers.

 

            There is also a third investigation that is now looking at the military intelligence and interrogation procedures out at Abu Ghraib and frankly all of our detention facilities.  I can't put a number on how many people will be involved in that investigation.  I certainly know that the investigation will be widespread, will be thorough. We're going to be as comprehensive as possible.  So anybody who has, quite frankly, any association or affiliation is the subject of that investigation and will be investigated.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes.

 

            Q     Bill Glauber with the Chicago Tribune, for General Kimmitt. In Sadr City, there was a news report that a bomb was used to level the headquarters last night.  Is that true?  If so, what sort of bomb? And were there clashes today?  If so, how many were killed?  What occurred?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  It's my understanding that there have been -- that the number that I gave you was the most recent number we have in terms of the last 24 hours.  There have been some minor clashes today, but certainly nothing of the amount that we saw last night.

 

            Nonetheless, the 1st Cavalry Division knows they have the responsibility to maintain a safe and secure environment in their zone, and that includes Sadr City.  And they're also going to exercise freedom of movement and patrols throughout that area, so there may have been some engagements very recently that I'm not aware about.  The building was leveled through the combination of tank fire, as I understand, Bradley fire, as well as perhaps some helicopter fire as well, but not a bomb from a high-performance Air Force aircraft.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Bhagram Mohammed Ali  -- (inaudible) -- newspaper.  The first question to Mr. Dan Senor.  Four days have passed on the visit of Lakhdar Brahimi.  What were the results of your debates and discussions with him?  And the second question is, how many attacks have been conducted from the beginning of this month and so far?  And has the situation stabilized in Fallujah for the time being?  Is it stable?

 

            MR. SENOR:  On your first question, I would refer specific questions on the progress that Mr. Brahimi is making to Mr. Brahimi or the U.N.  I know from his public comments that he is engaged in wide consultations with the Iraqi people.  I think just yesterday he said that he had met with -- or his officials, his representatives said that he had met with a group of professors, university professors. He's been reaching out to trade unions, political leaders at all levels in all regions of the country.  And this will continue daily. Ambassador Bremer is holding similar meetings.

 

            Mr. Brahimi, when he was here and held a press conference in April, talked about the general principles he has for the shape and form of the interim government.  But those are to be fleshed out, right now, in the weeks ahead, based on these consultations.  He has no -- to quote him or to quote one of his spokesmen -- he has no pre- cooked plan in a briefcase.  He's talking to Iraqis, working through this process, and hopefully, will soon be able to unveil more information about the direction of the interim government that he's going to recommend.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I believe you asked two more questions.  The first one was how many attacks have there been against the coalition in the month of May.  We roughly are running about 2-1/2 times -- two to 2- 1/2 times our normal average from January through April of 20 days. So I would say probably just under 500 attacks, engagements, IEDs, incidents, since the beginning of May.

 

            On the second question, is Fallujah stable; Fallujah is quiet. We've had no cease-fire violations over the past few days.  As you can see on the story board, we actually had a joint convoy of Marines as well as Fallujah brigade go to the mayor's office, sit down, discuss the issues with the mayor and come out.  We have the Fallujah brigade operating inside of Fallujah right now, and we have the ICDC [Iraqi Civil Defense Corps] on checkpoints alongside Marines outside the city.

 

            There is still work to be done in Fallujah.  We still have not seen the enemy weapons that we know are in there.

 

            We still have some other justice issues inside Fallujah.  Those objectives have not been attained yet.  I think if we continue to have the stability that you see today after we have attained those other objectives, then I will say we have succeeded in Fallujah and it truly is quiet.  But as we continue to hold firm to our objectives inside Fallujah, it could be as we attempt to achieve those objectives that we might see an uptick in instability inside Fallujah.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Sewell.

 

            Q     Hi, Sewell Chan with The Washington Post.

 

            General Kimmitt, could you clarify, please, just two things from your operations briefing?  First, when you said that 35 suspected enemy insurgents were killed in Sadr City, are you referring to the -- everything starting from 2:00 a.m. this morning, or are you also counting the 18 or so who were killed yesterday?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  It was my understanding that that included -- that is a new number.  I called 1st Cav just before I came in here.  I had that same question as well.  But they believe that last night during the operations it was somewhere on the order of 35.

 

            Q     So all since this morning, not --

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  That is my understanding -- all since 02:00 this morning.

 

            Q     Okay, and my second question, sir, you also -- can you tell us a little bit more about the significance of the joint convoy patrol in Fallujah?  Does it -- is this the first joint patrol with the Fallujah Brigade in which Marines were specifically involved?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yes, exactly.

 

            Q     And what --

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  It was the first time that we've seen coalition forces back in Fallujah since we started Operation Vigilant Resolve last month.

 

            Going back to the Sadr City, I'm pretty certain about those numbers.  I'll confirm them for you, Sewell, but as I talked to their assistant division commander, he wanted me to make sure that I   understood that some pretty fascinating activities happened last night.  He said numerous engagements, the enemy firing rocket- propelled grenades indiscriminately, using civilians as shields.

 

            I said, listen, you need to give me some pictures of those buildings that were affected by those RPGs as if they were in fact shooting indiscriminately.  But he was not terribly impressed with their military skills.  He was horribly and, quite frankly, shocked by their violations of the laws of land warfare, as they tried to insinuate themselves among the population and firing indiscriminately.

 

            By contrast, when the 1st Cav went in there, they used precision fire at every opportunity they could, didn't fire if there was any chance of significant collateral damage.  And for a unit that is relatively new to that area over the past couple of months, they were quite disappointed in, one, the quality of their adversary, and horrified by the indiscriminate use of firepower shown by the adversary as well.   

 

            Q     If I could ask just a very quick follow-up though.  Is the resurgence of militia activity in Sadr City a response to the raid of two nights ago --

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah.

 

            Q     And did you sort of anticipate that there would be such an upsurge in militia violence?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Clearly, the attempt by 50 armed Muqtada militia to reoccupy the Sadr building two nights ago was a challenge on the part of -- to the coalition, as they tried to reoccupy their building to set up organization, to set up operations, and the coalition has an obligation to prevent that from happening.  And they fully anticipated after that operation that there would be an uptick in violence. They've used appropriate force to control that, and frankly they continue to operate inside Sadr City, freedom of movement, but still they come.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes.  Go ahead.  You, yeah.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Abbas al-Falaki from Laminar Lioum newspaper.  I have two questions.  The first question is to General Kimmitt and the second to Dan Senor.

 

            Mr. Kimmitt, are you -- is Baghdad going to have or witness the closure of more of the roads in Baghdad due to the explosions and blasts that are taking place?  And do you think that the closure of these -- or blocking these roads is going to reduce the number of the blasts?  What are the reasons behind all the blasts that are taking place inside Baghdad?  And especially it is creating a traffic jam inside Baghdad.

 

            The second question, is the Geneva Convention of how to deal with the detainees -- the Geneva Convention concentrates on the good treatment for the detainees.  So do you think that those who have been mistreated or abused by these soldiers, by the American soldiers, are they going to be compensated according to Geneva Convention?  If you are committed by the Geneva Convention, are they going to be compensated, the detainees in custody?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Let me take the second question first.  We are reviewing that right now, compensation for anyone who is abused while under coalition custody.  I know that that review is being conducted at the highest level, and I would suspect that they will be making their decisions in the days and weeks ahead.

 

            You asked if -- is Baghdad going to witness an increase in blocked roads due to the increased number of bomb blasts.  First of all, the amount of IEDs that we've seen in Baghdad over the past month is a little bit higher than normal, but I don't think it's much higher, so much higher that we are going to start blocking roads and causing even worse traffic than we already have.  Our intent is to go in the other direction.  Our intent is to start opening up roads.  Our intent is to start opening up bridges.   But again, that all depends on the security conditions, and the commanders on the ground will make the appropriate decisions.  But right now, to answer your question directly, I am not aware of any commanders suggesting the closure of any more bridges or any more roads based on the local security conditions.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Luke.

 

            Q     Dan, just very quickly, I wondered if Ambassador Bremer is considering ordering the destruction of Abu Ghraib anytime; and if not, if it would be possible for Iraqi authorities after June 30th to call for the destruction of the prison.

 

            MR. SENOR:  That would not be a decision made by Ambassador Bremer; it would be made at a different level.

 

            As for jurisdiction over Abu Ghraib, that is a matter that clearly would have to be worked out in the weeks ahead, once we have an interim government formed and all these technical matters with regard to operational control of facilities is addressed.

 

            Q     So potentially it is a decision that could fall into Iraqi hands?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Again, I don't want to prejudge the outcome of any discussions related to that.

 

            Alissa.

 

            Q     Alissa Rubin, Los Angeles Times.  Two questions.

 

            One, as you know, Muqtada al-Sadr's -- one of his spokesmen today suggested that perhaps it was time to move to a second stage of resistance against the United States forces.  That was then somewhat retracted, but at the same time there's also been the suggestion that other Shi'ite groups might try to have a large group protest or -- setting the stage possibly for confrontations.  What does the U.S. see as its role in that situation?  These are all events slated to occur near holy sites.  How are you looking at that in terms of how you might handle that?

 

            And also, can you clarify what happened over the last couple of days with the oil pipelines down around al-Faw?  There were sort of conflicting stories this morning, and it was hard to get a clear sense and whether indeed the oil exports were reduced, shut off; if they were reduced, how much, that sort of thing.  Thanks so much.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Sure.  Alissa, the al-Faw pipeline, to which there has been some damage, there has been a fire, my understanding is the Iraqi minister of oil will be conducting another press conference or doing some interviews either later today or tomorrow to provide more details.

 

            We are reluctant at this point to provide any of the details because, as you can imagine, the oil pipeline infrastructure, like much of Iraq's infrastructure, is often the target of political sabotage and terrorist attacks, and any information we provide about the success or failure of those attacks, particularly the details, can be used as the basis for information in future attacks.  And so right now, until we have much more visibility and are much more confident in the information and investigation, we are going to hold back on providing details.  And again, we'll defer to the minister of oil.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  On the issue of holy sites, we are very much in agreement with the moderate Shi'a leadership and the vast majority of the Shi'a population that does not want to see military activities conducted in the area of holy sites.  We have a tremendous respect for the holy sites of Karbala and Najaf, and we're doing everything in our power to avoid a confrontation in those areas.  The moderate Shi'a and the coalition band together and call on Muqtada al-Sadr to remove his presence from anywhere near those holy sites.

 

            It's amazing the word on the street down in Najaf.  They are talking to our soldiers now and they're saying we wish that Muqtada would show the same care and same respect for the holy sites that the coalition does.  They're starting to understand that Muqtada's militia is doing nothing but shutting down the economy of Najaf, terrorizing the people inside the city of Najaf; going up to their markets, going up to their stands, appropriating whatever they can find and, frankly, holding the city of Najaf as hostage so that he can continue to vent his anti-Iraqi screed from inside there.

 

            So there is something that we have absolute agreement with the majority of Shi'a in this country, the overwhelming majority of Shi'a in this country, which is a high respect for the holy Shi'a sites, and a great desire that Muqtada al-Sadr remove himself from those sites, turn himself over to Iraqi justice, and face the Iraqi judge so that he can be tried for the murder of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Khoei.

 

            Q     Just quickly to follow up, though, what will you do if there is fighting between Shi'ite groups there?  Do you feel you have an obligation to stop that in the interest of stopping bloodshed?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I think our first response to that, Alissa, would be that there are sufficient Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers, there are sufficient Iraqi police in that area that they should be the first responders to any type of operation.  If they were to call on the coalition for assistance, we'd evaluate that given the conditions of what's happening on the ground.  But that would be appropriately an Iraqi-led operation so that they could show the proper cultural sensitivity to that particular engagement.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?  Ma'am?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Hamar Sheli from Al-Firat.  My question to Mr. Dan Senor:  Are there any compensation for the houses which have been destroyed in Fallujah?  And my question to Mr. Kimmitt:  Is it true that General Abdel Fais (sp) called on the Marines to withdraw from Fallujah so that Fallujah will be more stabilized?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  On the second question, I'm unaware of any of the generals inside Fallujah calling on the Marines to withdraw from Fallujah.  As you can see, with the exception of the small number of Marines who came into the city this morning, there are U.S. Marines side by side with Iraqi Civil Defense on the outskirts, but it would be unlikely that he would call for the redeployment of Marines outside of Fallujah, because they're not inside Fallujah at this time.

 

            MR. SENOR:  On your first question, the coalition is currently considering solatia payments.  And as soon as we have final information on that, we'll be sure to let you know.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     On the Abu Ghraib case, I understand that civilian contractors are under investigation.  If they are deemed to be involved in any cases of abuse, will they possibly go on trial in Iraqi court?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I'm not sure what the specific legal status of U.S. civilian contractors operating inside of Iraq.  But since we know of no pending charges against them, I think it would be premature to make any statement in that regard until we see whatever charges are   brought forward.  But I will defer to the lawyer that we have here, who can talk about this afterwards if you have any questions.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Jim?

 

            Q     Hi.  Jim Krane from the AP.  A couple of quick questions for General Kimmitt.  General, you said there were 32 sorties flown by military aircraft, I think, over the past 24 hours.  I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about those sorties, what the targets were, et cet cetera.  And we heard something about -- in Karbala -- that there was an ultimatum given to Muqtada's office in Karbala today.  They were given two hours to clear out, or something like this, and U.S. forces were going to take over the office, or some allied forces with the U.S.

 

            Anything on either of those?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah, I don't have the breakdown on what the sorties -- some, no doubt, were airlifts; some, no doubt, were close air support; some may have been tactical reconnaissance.  But I'll get those numbers for you and get back.

 

            Q     Were those fixed-wing or rotary wing or both?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Those were fixed-wing Air Force, fixed-wing Navy. Those typically don't include the rotary wing Army -- included in that number.

 

            And to your other point, neither the 1st Armored Division nor coalition forces, to my knowledge, have offered any ultimatum over the past day.  We checked with the 1st Armored Division anticipating that question and they kind of didn't know anything about it.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)   What about the investigation regarding the Iraqi reporter who has been killed by the American soldiers -- he and his friend?  What about the updating of the investigation?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I don't know which event you're talking about. There were two Iraqi media network correspondents -- journalists -- that were killed in Samarra about three weeks ago.  Is that the ones that you're referring to?

 

            Q     Sir, no.  The reporter -- (inaudible) -- and the driver from Al- Iraqiyah who has died before --

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  As of two days ago I talked to the lawyers and they said the investigation is ongoing; it is not yet concluded.  We anticipate that as it comes to conclusion that we'll talk to the lawyers, see if there's any public release on that.  It would certainly be our intention to be as transparent as legally possible on that.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, sir?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  (Name inaudible) -- from Al- Hurriyat newspaper.  On your opinion, when will be an end for these blasts -- especially the minister of Interior is not capable enough of closing all these gaps.  Who is responsible for having all these blasts and all these casualties from women and children?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  The blasts that you hear in Baghdad and the blasts that you hear throughout this country quite simply are the result of those people who are trying to stop this country from becoming a free democratic and sovereign nation.  I would like to say that these blasts are going to stop tomorrow, but I can't tell you that.  These are something that we've seen for many, many months now. They've actually gone up in recent days.  Primarily as we get closer and closer to handover of sovereignty to the people of Iraq, we believe these groups are getting more and more desperate in their attempt to try to derail the process of you moving on to sovereignty.

 

            How do we stop these?  I think the only way we stop these is twofold.  We continue to grow the capacities, the size and the quality of the Iraqi security forces, your police, your military, your border patrol, and we continue to improve the capacity for intelligence gathering amongst your citizens, because these blasts are being created by people; they don't come out of thin air.  These blasts come from bombs that have to be constructed.  The parts for those bombs have to be bought from somewhere, they have to be stored somewhere, they have to be constructed somewhere, they have to be placed out somewhere.

 

            So the more that we can get the people of Iraq understanding that these blasts will be over only when everybody joins together and says we are going to have a collective determination to stop these, and you start providing the intelligence to the Iraqi authorities or the coalition authorities, and we use that intelligence in operations to go kill or capture those that would try to kill your children, kill your wives, kill your friends; until then, until we have an entire country dedicated to that process, these blasts will continue.  But I can tell you that the Iraqi police forces, the Iraqi security forces, and the coalition forces in partnership are still resolved to try to minimize these to the maximum extent possible.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, ma'am?  Go ahead.  Right there at the end.  Go ahead.  Yes.

 

            (Cross talk.)

 

            MR. SENOR:  No, no, sir.  Ma'am, go ahead.

 

            Q     (Name and affiliation inaudible.)  I have a question about Abu Ghraib.  Did you inform or did Ambassador Bremer inform the Governing Council?  At what point did he inform them?  Who was informed, and what kind of information did they get?  And did you put into consideration the comments, if there were any, from the Governing Council?  And if they haven't been informed, why?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Okay.  I'm not sure which incident you're referring to that he would have informed the -- the most recent events, the cases of humiliation and abuse?

 

            Q     Yes.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Okay.  Ambassador Bremer was made aware of the investigation on January 16th when it was made public.  So the same information that Ambassador Bremer was provided, which was in the public domain, was made public and accessible by members of the Governing Council.

 

            Other issues, however, related to concerns that we all had at Abu Ghraib relating to the number of detainees, the rate at which detainees were being released, those were issues that we were dealing with for many months, we here on the ground -- the civilian and the military leadership, the principals within the administration in Washington, D.C., DOD and State, and others.  That had been going on for some time, and often it was based on information we received from the Governing Council.  And we did repeatedly keep the Governing Council informed of the situation, and certainly kept them up to date on any changes we were making to improve the situation at Abu Ghraib.

 

            Yes, sir.  Last question.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Assam Hamid from Al Alba Salam.

 

            My first question is about the detainees in Abu Ghraib.  General Kimmitt, you told us in your press conference four months ago, when you talked about reduction of the U.S. forces, you said that some soldiers are attacking some detainees.  They are using these methods to get rid from the Army.  You know that these are personal conducts. Legally, you are responsible about these soldiers.  You know the history of these soldiers, and some of them have committed crimes in America.  You don't let the media or the humanitarian organizations to visit Abu Ghraib prison.  You allowed the Red Cross to visit Saddam Hussein while you deny the humanitarian organizations access to Abu Ghraib prison.

 

            My question about Fallujah.  Mr. Carl (sic) talked about the Marines.  He said he didn't get any results in the handover of heavy weapons and didn't get the four -- people who mutilated the American contractors.  Thousands of Fallujans were killed.  What did you get from Fallujah?  When you compensate people in Fallujah, is this an acknowledgement that you have killed many innocent people?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  A couple of questions there.

 

            On the first one, of the detainees, you say that we don't allow the media or the International Committee of the Red Cross or other humanitarian organizations into Abu Ghraib.  That's not correct.  The International Committee of the Red Cross would conduct visits, sometimes unannounced visits, every six to eight weeks.  So the International Committee of the Red Cross has been a repeated visitor to Abu Ghraib.  In terms of the media, as you know the media is allowed to come into Abu Ghraib.  Many of you may have been on the media visit to Abu Ghraib today.  So again, we are opening up Abu Ghraib to the media.

 

            I know General Miller's intent is to make Abu Ghraib consistent with security and consistent with mission requirements, a transparent organization.  He has made that pledge to everybody here, and he says that he will live by that pledge.

 

            Yes, you're right; four months ago we did talk about the allegations that some soldiers had been conducting improper conduct, had been abusing detainees.  I hope that you have seen from the process, since January when we first talked about that, that the U.S. military and the coalition have been very forthright and very open throughout the entire process.  March 20th we talked about the criminal charges.  Since then, we've had an active discourse as the process went forward, and even as recently as last night announcing the first court-martial, which will be held in this building or in this vicinity on May 19th.

 

            And we intend to continue to be as transparent, as much as security and as much as legal requirements permit us to be because we believe that it is important for you to understand exactly the process that these soldiers will go through as they are taken to court- martial, as they are offered the opportunity for a free, fair and honest trial.

 

            You had a question about Fallujah.  You say no heavy weapons yet; we have not yet found the killers of the contractors.  And you're entirely correct.  That's because the mission isn't yet over.  Just because we have been able to send Marines into a meeting at the mayor's office today, just because we have the Fallujah brigade inside of Fallujah, do not for a minute think that the Fallujah operations are over.  We remain committed to our objectives, we remain committed to achieving those objectives through a peaceful process.  But we will not flinch on those objectives and will continue to work until those objectives are accomplished.

 

            Thank you very much.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Thanks, everybody. 

 

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