United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Major General Martin Dempsey, Commander, 1st Armored Division
May 11, 2004 10:00 AM EDT
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  Well, good afternoon, and salaam aleikum.  I'm Major General Marty Dempsey, and I want to update you on Task Force 1st Armored Division.

 

            Next slide, please. If you'll direct your attention to the slide on my right, your left, there is a timeline that tells the story of how the 1st Armored Division left Baghdad and ended up where it is today, which I'll discuss in a moment.

 

            Essentially the division was in Baghdad in its entirety on the 1st of April.  And then as you see there, on the 4th of April, owing to some problems down in Najaf, we were instructed to send a brigade combat team down to Najaf.  We did that over the course of about a 12-hour period.  Shortly thereafter, the Muqtada militia seized the governor's complex in Al Kut, and so that same task force then was directed, or redirected, over to Al Kut to settle that situation, which we did.

 

            On the 8th of April, I was notified by General Abizaid and Lieutenant General Sanchez that the division would remain in combat to assist in stabilizing the situation through the sovereignty period.

 

            And then on the 15th of April we turned over responsibility of Baghdad to the 1st Calvary Division.   On the 20th, the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which has been with me since we arrived a year ago, went down to take control of Al Kut and Najaf, freeing up the 2nd Brigade to come up into the north Babel Province, defined as Iskandariyah, Mahmudiya, Yusifiya, and as well as Mustajab.

 

            And then on the 25th, the 2nd Cavalry sent a squadron-sized unit out to Diwaniyah.  And on the 29th the 1st Brigade Combat Team, which was operational reserve for General Sanchez -- we took one task force and sent it down to Karbala to assist the MND Center South.

 

            What I want to mention about this series of movements is that on the 1st of April we were about a third redeployed.  We had about a third of our equipment either in Kuwait, in Germany, or back in Fort Polk, Louisiana.  And we had several thousand soldiers who had already moved to those places as well.

 

            And so from a standing start, in contact with the enemy over the course of the time you see listed on the slide, we were able to shift our focus to the southern or center-south part of Iraq, and that's where you see we sit today. As you see on the map, on my left, on your right, we have squadron-sized units in Kut, Diwaniyah, a battalion in Najaf, a battalion in Karbala, a brigade-plus in the north Babel Province.  And we've got another piece of the force, whose size I won't disclose, sitting in reserve for General Sanchez.  And that's where the 1st Armored Division sits today.

 

            So, with that, I'd be happy to take your questions.  We've gone from about 770 square kilometers of space, for which we were responsible, to about just now 20,000 square kilometers.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q     Hey, general, Dexter Filkins of the New York Times.  We spoke to the governor today down in Najaf who said he essentially offered a deal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the Mahdi Army, which was essentially dissolve the army and we'll delay prosecution.  The governor said that he had done that or made that offer after pretty extensive consultations with the CPA.  I'm just wondering if you could talk about that a bit, and if there's any indication that that might actually happen.  And of course to the extent that you have offered that deal, it seems as if you've reconsidered your earlier commitment to kill or capture Muqtada.  If you could just talk about those things.

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah, I'm not personally involved in what you characterized as negotiations, although I do know that -- I have met   now -- I will tell you this -- I've met with, I'll describe them as "stakeholders" in center-south Iraq, that include religious leaders, political party leaders, tribal leaders, and tried to convince them that while we provide stability and security, they should seek a political outcome to this.

 

            I've also engaged with them on the reconstitution of the police and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.  And those processes are entrained, on plan, depending on how you like to describe it.  I've also encouraged them that through our tactical operations, which you're familiar with I think, in my view, we've opened a window for them to conduct these negotiations.  But I also encourage them to do so with some urgency, because that window wouldn't remain open forever.

 

            I don't know what particulars the negotiators are -- what tools the negotiators are taking to the negotiating table.  I would assume that at some point though as they make a deal they would present it -- or as they think they have a deal they'll then present it through the CPA to Mr. Bremer, who remains the Coalition Provisional Authority, at least through the 30th of June, and then that deal would be considered on the political side.  Tactically though I think we're doing a pretty good job of being both patient and deliberate, which opens this window that you're speaking of.

 

            Yeah?

 

            Q     Just to follow up, is it then for the moment killing or capturing is still the objective here?  Or -- I mean, I -- I'd say you give the impression that it's much more subtle than that, that you're maybe just trying to -- you know, you're slowing closing the circle, and maybe hoping that he cracks.  But is killing or capturing still the objective here, or is it something again more subtle than that?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  Well, first of all, I find that to be an incredible compliment -- (laughs) -- that someone would accuse an Army officer and an armored division as being subtle -- that's wonderful. We've arrived, I think -- (laughter) -- if you're referring to our campaign plan here as subtle.  And I think I would as well myself describe it as subtle. So I will leave it for you to determine how subtle we are.

 

            Next question, yeah?

 

            Q     Bill Glauber from the Chicago Tribune.  Could you actually provide your game plan in general how you've been trying to deal with him?   And also, there was a report that you were trying to reestablish the security forces locally down there with, I think, some of the other militias down there.  Could you go into some detail on how you're trying to do that?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah.  No, I'd be happy to do that.  First of all, in general terms -- and it does get back to the previous question   -- in general terms we want to -- I think you used the term "squeeze," but essentially we want to eliminate Muqtada al-Sadr's ability to intimidate.  I mean, let's not romanticize this guy. He is seeking money to lead him into a position of power.  Now, why do I say that? Because of his tactics, he sets up checkpoints on roads and he extorts money.  He goes and he seizes buildings near holy shrines, and he seizes money.  He closes hotels and seizes money. He closes businesses and seizes money.  Now, why does he do that?  He needs the money to pay the militia.  There's this circularity to it.  S o what we're trying to do is we're trying to eliminate his militia from the outside-in -- now we're working inside-out, too -- don't get me wrong. But we are working a little more aggressively on the outside, again giving the opportunity to the Iraqis themselves to solve the particular problem of the man Muqtada al-Sadr.

 

            Now, (Greg ?), let me answer your question about what we're doing with the reconstitution of the security forces. One of the lessons I learned for myself in the past year here is that when we built the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps the first time, from the bottom up, what I missed is that we didn't provide for them an Iraqi institutional top cover and safety net -- top cover in the sense that there was no Iraqi institution providing them the kind of policy guidance and protection that they were used to in a culture that has existed for several thousand years based on patronages.  There was no patron -- there was us -- and I think it was pretty clear that we were going to leave some day.  So that was a shortcoming in our plan.

 

            And the other issue was there was no safety net for them -- pay and allowances, medical care, pension, death gratuity.  We were doing some of that ourselves, but again it didn't exist institutionally.

 

            So, what we decided after looking at the experiment with the -- what you may know as the 36th battalion, where we had drawn from some of the political parties, some of their young men, and put them together in very small units, and we found that they performed very well.  And we also found that when things became difficult they stood and fought.  Now, why did they stand and fight?  They stood and fought because they had this Iraqi pressure from their political party to whom they owed loyalty, until such time as there is a nation and an identity as a nation, and institutions that define a nation.   So we found that the 36th Battalion model may have some utility, and we have taken it because the 36th was ours as well, and we've taken it now down to center-south.  We've engaged with the political party leaders, we've engaged with the tribal sheikhs and the religious leaders.

 

            And we're also doing one other thing a bit differently.  I think -- well, what we're doing is we're going from consensus, to participation, to ownership.  The first time around we went from participation and tried to get to ownership.  We never did build consensus.  We are now building consensus, and I think you're going to find over time it will become a better model.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q       Shukran.  (Through interpreter.)  (Distor Nejema Rubaef from Adistor) (ph).   General Dempsey, you say that Muqtada al-Sadr is a political -- a politician -- and he owns an army.  This is not easy. He is part of the Iraqi situation. Where were you all this period? Why didn't you contain this trend?  Why didn't you deal with this trend within clear political perspectives?  Why do you deal with things when they come to a critical situation?  Can you explain this?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah, the question -- I guess most of you heard the question -- I will try to answer the question to your satisfaction, but I don't have any expectation that I will.

 

            As you might imagine, first of all I would love to think that Muqtada al-Sadr was a politician.  In fact, were he a politician we wouldn't be having this conversation about him.  It is in our interests that those with the best ideas, not with the most guns, prevail in determining the future of Iraq.  That's the problem:  He's not a politician.  I haven't seen him advocate any particular set of values or set of ideas for the future of Iraq, other than he wants us out.  And certainly that's his right to express that, but not when he expresses it in the way he has, through his militia.

 

            Now, why didn't we marginalize him sooner?  Because in the course of the year that I've been here, and in the course of seeking advice from as many possible people as we could -- religious leaders, political leaders, tribal leaders -- as you might expect, we received such a wide variety of advice on how to deal with Muqtada al-Sadr that it caused us to be a little bit careful, I think, because of his family name -- which we all understand is a very traditional and honored name in Islam and in Iraq, and also because he seemed to us to be, in the early days, a 31-year-old firebrand who was just simply trying to exert himself and gain some authority that he couldn't gain through is ideas or through his religious standing.  I guess, in retrospect perhaps, back in October or November we probably missed an opportunity.  But I think we missed the opportunity -- it wasn't a missed opportunity as much as it was a rational decision, which perhaps we would do differently now.

 

            Do you have a follow-up?  Yeah, go ahead.

 

            Q       (Through interpreter.)  You said that you missed the chance. What is the exact chance that you missed? Was it the chance of containing this threat?  And what were the solutions that you were thinking of with dealing with Muqtada al-Sadr?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  What was the chance we missed?  I guess what I would say to that…clearly in the six months between October and April when he instigated this nationwide attack, he was training troops, gaining resources, stockpiling ammunition. And so when I say we missed the opportunity, we probably gave him six more months than we should have.

 

            Next question, please.  Yeah?

 

            Q     General, David Lee Miller, Fox News.  To what extent do you see Shiites in the south rising up Sadr?  And to what extent, if any, do you think you might be able to use Iraqis to ultimately remove him from Najaf -- maybe Iraqi forces?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  Well, that is -- our goal -- I wouldn't describe our goal as to have Iraqi forces remove him, except if they're Iraqi police and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) that are part of what we're trying to build as a legitimate force.   And, incidentally, these young men we're getting from the political parties, the agreement is that they come into these ICDC units and they are broken apart and fused back together.  So we're not building a Badr organization/company and an INC company -- we're building -- we're getting young men from those organizations and bringing them together.  Yeah, I'd certainly like to get to the point where they would be the solution to the problem.

 

            To the extent you asked about whether we see Iraqis themselves tiring of the situation in Karbala, Najaf, Diwaniyah -- absolutely -- particularly privately -- I mean, the shop owners are absolutely committed to restoring something that you and I would describe as security and normalcy to the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf because their very livelihood depends on religious tourism, and it's not happening right now.  And as you know, there's been, just today, some small peaceful march to ask, and in fact demand, that the Muqtada militia leave the city.

 

            So, I think that -- that there is a great deal of concern.  I think that, at the end of the day, they still hold us accountable for security because we are, until certainly and through the 30th of June and beyond.  And so, you know, we're going to have to walk this fine line we've been walking between acting aggressively to reduce the threat and to increase security while at the same time trying to get stakeholders to buy into the process.  I mean, this is their holy city.  It's not my holy city.  I've said to as many people as will listen, "I'll provide you the support and the stability.  You solve the problem.  And if you can't solve this problem, if you can't solve the challenge inside of your holy city, then you're going to be hard- pressed to solve any problem."

 

            Yes.

 

            Q     Thank you. General Dempsey, Sewell Chan with the Washington Post.  Nice to see you again.  Could you tell us a little bit -- you mentioned the small peaceful march today, but there are also some signs of increasing anger against Sadr and his organization, including from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and also from a group calling itself, the Thulfiqar Organization, which as been giving out leaflets.  Could you tell us what you know about these groups, and in particular, are you worried that their agitation could lead to sectarian violence, and lead to a pretty destabilized security situation with different factions battling each other in the area.

 

            And then secondly, if you don't mind, could you give us just a quick operational update on the violence this morning in Kufa?  Thank you.

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  The first question, on are we concerned about the -- the summary of it I think would be how concerned are we that these groups that are becoming angry will resort to sectarian violence?  Of course we're worried about that.  And that's why we've been very careful in articulating our position regarding militias is that there are no militias.  It's not that Muqtada's militia is all by itself. We don't want any militias to be controlling the political discourse that should exist as the country of Iraq moves towards sovereignty.

 

            I have not yet been briefed on any military actions in Kufa. I've been -- I was down in the southern part of the North Babil province today with -- along what we call Route Tampa, doing some work with some soldiers down there, so I haven't even been back to get a briefing.  But, I mean, I think it's probably similar to what we've experienced before, small arms, RPGs, but I'll find out.

 

            Yes.

 

            Q     Yeah, I've just got a question about the nature of the people in the insurgency down there.  Firstly, I was wondering, have you got any evidence of people coming down from Fallujah to join these Shia insurgencies?  Do you have any evidence of foreign fighters, particularly maybe from Iran?  And how many -- how many people do you think there are in total?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  In order, I will tell you that there is what we consider to be low-level intel, that is to say walk-ins, who say that there are in fact people that have come from Fallujah.  We have not captured nor killed anyone who appears to us to have -- to fit that category.  Similarly, there is just as much talk of the influence of Iran inside of Najaf and Kufa.  There's talk, there's intelligence, but once again, I can't provide you any tangible evidence of that -- although we are constantly on the lookout for it.

 

            As far as the size of the militia, we think, in rough order of magnitude, inside of Kufa generally, it's probably 600 or so, trained to a certain standard, dedicated young men, who are largely there because, you know, they've been influenced by Muqtada al-Sadr, and it's a form of employment.  That's why we're trying to, as part of this process to move it forward, encourage them to lay down their arms and find some other form of employment.  I'm not against -- I'll tell you, I'm not even against the identifying some of those young men to become part of the legitimate Iraqi Security Force.  I mean, why not? I go back to my original comment -- this is their holy city.  They are stakeholders in it.  Why wouldn't we want to broaden the definition of stakeholders?  And again, that's how this thing is probably going to come out at the end of the day anyway, so we might as well move it in that direction.

 

            Let me go to the Pentagon for one.

 

            Q     General, this is Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg News.  One week into the prison scandal, from a tactical perspective, what impact is the scandal having on relations between Iraqi people and your troops?  And what are some of the signs you're going to be monitoring in the next month or so to see whether in fact the prison scandal is going to cause a major deterioration in those relationships?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  Well, they -- the question, if I can summarize it before I answer it myself, the question is:  What affect has the prisoner scandal had on my troops, and how am I going to watch for its long-term effects?

 

            We're all disgusted by it.  I mean, I've spent three years of my life in this part of the world -- three consecutive years of my life, since I got to Saudi Arabia on September 15th, 2001.  And I've spent three years trying to convince Arabs in general, and Muslims in particular, that the United States and Americans were interested in their well-being, wanted to be partners, lived a life of values. We're not here to pervert Islam, we're not here to steal their oil, and that we really meant what we said.  And this undermines that.  I mean, it can't help but undermine the relationship when the values we say we stand for are on display in such a negative way -- actually, the opposite of those values.

 

            Now, that said, those that know us generally realize that that is not the way we are, and also know that we will deal with it in an open and transparent way.  The problem is that even though there's 135,000 coalition forces and tens of thousands of civilians, we're not touching all that large a population.  We touch as many as we can. And, in fact, our approach to this is not to become less visible and less engaging, it's quite the opposite.  It's to consciously try to become more visible and more engaging so that we can try to undo some of the harm that's been done.

 

            What will I watch for in the future?  We have a report that we -- my commanders give me periodically that I call "a texture report." There's all kinds of statistical analysis you can do in places like this.  You can do number of attacks, you can do -- numbers of this and numbers of that.  Texture is something else.  And what we look for is do we retain access to local officials, political officials, tribal leaders, religious leaders?  Are the children still waving to us in the street?  Things like that.  There's about six things that we try to gauge and then make a determination at the end of that in a subjective way on how the texture of our mission is going over here.

 

            And I'll tell you that pre-April and pre-disclosure of Abu Ghraib, we were, on a scale of 1 to 10 -- if 10 was very positive and 1 was very negative, we were probably at about a 7.  I'd say we're down to about a 5.  Now, the question is -- that's subjective, by the way.  I mean, if you pressed me to defend that position, I would fail. But, it's about right, in our view.  And so the question is now will we be able to stop that particular movement in that particular direction and reverse it, and I think we will.  I think we will because we're about -- we've got stability about to pre-April standards, which should allow us now to get back to the more important work of helping with reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, and all those things -- which had to go on hold for about a month as we focused on fighting.

 

            Yes.

 

            Q     Khader (ph) Kabilni (ph) from al-Iraq.  Some TV channels aired images of al Mahdi army carrying American weapons they confiscated in Kufa and Najaf.  Does this mean that they have reached such a level of fighting that they are able to approach your forces?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  Well, they didn't get them off of my forces.  That doesn't mean that in some attack on a convoy on one of these big highways, where, as you know, they have had some success ambushing convoys, burning trucks and taking equipment out.  And it could be that the weapons you refer to came from there.

 

            I can tell you that the fighting that we've had with the Muqtada militia has gone very well for us, and not so well for them.  And that's -- that's -- I don't say that with any pride.  I mean, I'm happy my soldiers are doing well, but I would certainly prefer that these young men, who are, frankly, very misled, would -- would understand that they're not going to win this fight.

 

            Yes.

 

            Q     Hi General.  Jim Crane from the AP.  I had a couple of questions for you on this force that you're speaking about for Najaf. I'm wondering if there was any parallels to the Fallujah brigade model with this force that you were talking about?  Also, if there's a commander for this thing being eyed or if you've got anybody in mind for that?

 

            Also you mentioned inside-out ops in Najaf as well.  I was wondering what you were speaking of there, if you had any dealings with any of these militias that are working inside Fallujah or if you were speaking of something else?

 

            Also, one other thing - I hate to pile on here - but there's been a rumor going around that al-Douri was captured.  I wonder if you had anything on that.  Thanks.

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah, let me go from back to front, because that's the way I remember them, I think - if I remember all the questions.

 

            I have no idea about al-Douri.

 

            Let me go to the - and then the next question back was have we had any contact with other militias inside of Najaf?  The answer is no.  And I won't.  I mean, you have to carry that away here as a definite.  I'm not looking to ally myself with another militia.  I'm looking for political parties who, let's face it, have had militias, to give up their young men who maybe have been part of their militia, give them to me, allow me to form them into a security force that works on behalf of all of the Iraqi people, not just their particular political party.

 

            But until there is this institutional architecture in Iraq and a true national identity and a government in which they have complete trust and confidence - I don't know if that's achievable, by the way - and my point is, until that exists, something has to be there to give them some reason to stand and fight.  And I'm looking for that through the stakeholders.  Again, I use the term.

 

            I don't entirely - I have not studied the Fallujah model, so I don't know exactly on what basis General Mattis and Lieutenant General Conway put that together.  I will tell you that it is very - what I'm doing is very much the model of the 36th ICDC battalion.  And so, if you remember that model, that should give you some insights into how we're doing that.

 

            As far as leadership, between now and the end of June, a reasonable goal will be to build the ICDC back up to squad level; that is to say, a small unit, about 10 or 12 in size, with a single - we would put that in charge of a staff sergeant.  And so we will be looking for leaders among the young men that we get, and see who has those kind of military credentials.

 

            And then I'm not against -- as we get closer to finding bigger units and more senior leaders, the same stakeholders that contributed and who have a stake in this, I will certainly take them into consultation.  What I can provide is testimony to their military credentials, their leadership skills.  What the stakeholders can supply is an assessment of their loyalty to the future of Iraq.

 

            Yeah.

 

            Q         General, Anthony Lloyd (sp) from the Times from London. General, can you tell us about some of the methods you're using to assess casualties from within Muqtada's forces in Najaf and Kufa?  And also, is there an existing method or methods to establish civilian casualties in those areas?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  Well, yes in both counts.  And in both counts, I'm sure there's some statistical margin for error.  But in many cases, it's a matter of going - for wounded, for example, or those that die of wounds over time, we go to the hospitals.

 

            We spend a lot of time canvassing hospitals, for two reasons. One is to find out about civilian casualties, to find out about militiamen that we've wounded, because if we find them in the hospital wounded, we then, as soon as they're back on their feet, we take them into custody.  And then, as far as those killed in action, we generally make that assessment on the ground at the time.

 

            These are not engagements at great distances.  I mean, most of the engagements in an urban environment take place inside of 300 meters.  So it's not that difficult to make those kinds of assessments.

 

            Yeah.

 

            Q     Nick Pelham, The Economist.  Under what circumstances could Muqtada al-Sadr be one of your stakeholders?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  Well, again, because he's under indictment by the Iraqi legal system, the only one that can release him from that particular challenge is the Iraqi criminal system.  So he can't become one of my stakeholders until such time as he clears the record with the Iraqi criminal system.

 

            Now, however, he's got four lieutenants that we track inside of Najaf-Kufa, and he's got other lieutenants - we call them lieutenants, but they're his deputies or his assistants; pick your own word - around the country, who are not indicted.  And if, at some point, they came forward with some idea about how to lay down their arms and be integrated into the group that cares about the future in a positive way, we probably could work something out.

 

            But for now, the problem that Muqtada al-Sadr has is that he's indicted.  And therefore, it's not my position to negotiate with him.

 

            Yeah.

 

            Q     My name is Oliver Poole, Daily Telegraph.  I just want to clarify that.  Are you saying, if members of the medi-army came forward as stakeholders in your group, you would provide them with arms to help secure the area?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  Let me phrase it a little differently, just to be clear.  If, as part of the solution to this problem - I mean, what we've got is 600 or 800 young men being paid off by Muqtada al-Sadr, to extort, in all the ways I described to you.

 

            If, at some point, as part of a solution, particularly in the city of Najaf, which I remind us again is the holy city, if they came forward - if some one of the tribal sheikhs that I deal with or some one of the political parties came forward and said, "Look, we can help solve this by taking 100 or so of these young men and checking their credentials for you and then giving them to you to train so that they become part of a legitimate future," then I think that I would probably favorably consider that.

 

            I mean, I haven't had the offer made to me, but I'm just telling you that at some point in time these - I mean, if the militia dissolves tomorrow, what I've got is 600 unemployed young men on my hands.  Some of those are probably decent young men who have been badly led astray.  Now, what do I do with the other 400?  I don't know.  I mean, there's all kind of jobs programs and reconstruction we're trying to work as well.

 

            I guess the point I would make is I hope that the Iraqi tribal leaders, religious leaders and politicians are as concerned about the future of their youth as I am.  And if they are, they'll figure this out.

 

            Yes.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  What are the procedures taken by the coalition forces in case of a clash or engagement with any party? Do you issue decisions to your forces not to harm the peaceful citizens?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah, let me make sure I understand the question. Do I give specific instructions to my soldiers to avoid harming innocent civilians?  Absolutely.  Since the day I took command, we have emphasized and re-emphasized that.

 

            In fact, I'll just tell you exactly what I tell my soldiers.  If someone attacks them, I tell them that they should maintain contact and finish that fight in as precise a way as they possibly can, because it does no good to be attacked and then to drive by and allow that attacker to live to fight another day.  So if someone attacks us, my soldiers understand that the response to that is to turn into the attack, attack back and finish the fight.

 

            As part of that, though, we also talk about being precise, being disciplined and being very careful not to create collateral damage among innocent Iraqi civilians.  We've had about a year of experience with this in Baghdad.  I think we have a fairly good record with that. You will be the judge of that probably more so than I, but I'm satisfied with it.

 

            The other thing we've done through the course of the year is we've continued to train.  We trained for a long time to come over here.  We didn't stop training when we came here.  We established a range east of Baghdad.  And every soldier in the division at some point during the year went out to this range, spent a week firing all of their weapon systems, so that they could hit what they aim at and not create problems for innocent civilians.

 

            So I'm very proud of our record in that regard.  Is it a perfect record?  No, it's not.  I would never claim it would be.  But I will tell you that I think we've got it about where I think we can have it.

 

            And let me go to the Pentagon.

 

            Q     General, this is Sandra Erwin with National Defense.  You mentioned earlier that your area of responsibility has expanded from 700 square kilometers to 20,000 square kilometers.  In what ways does that complicate the situation as you transition out of Iraq and you have replacements coming in?  I know that's going to be happening relatively soon.  So how do you expect that to pan out?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah.  I think the question is, having taken my unit and expanded it from responsibility for 750 square kilometers to 20,000, how will that affect my ability to get out of here?  That's a great question.

 

            But I'll tell you this.  It has always been my view that as our mission in Iraq evolves, it will be less important to be responsible for every square inch of Iraq than it is right now.  I mean, over time - we've had this conversation - over time, the Iraqi people not only must, but want to, take responsibility for their own security.  They are not ready today to do that.  Over time they will be.  How much time? I don't know.  I've got to see how this new approach is going to work for me with the Iraqi civil defense corps.

 

            But I think that's probably the answer to the question.  I don't necessarily need to be responsible, or whoever follows me doesn't have to account for 20,000 square kilometers.  It may be that where we really need to be responsible is a far smaller footprint and we're in support of Iraqi forces over time, not necessarily the only show in town.

 

            Yeah.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  You said that you gave orders to your soldiers not to attack civilians.  Do you know what your soldiers do when they raid the houses, when they beat people?  Yesterday I received a letter from a citizen.  He said that the soldiers raided his house and stole some money.  Do you know that?  Do your soldiers obey your orders?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  My soldiers do obey my orders.  And if I catch them not obeying my orders, I have many tools at my disposal to correct that behavior.  I'll tell you, though, when we go into someone's house, we do a couple of things.  We always - we try always to film it, because there have been accusations.

 

            And, by the way, I mean, again, I'm not going to suggest to you that we have been completely innocent of any wrongdoing in our year. We have a handful of cases where we have had to discipline soldiers for things of the nature you're speaking about.

 

            But we've learned a lot of lessons over the course of the year. We mostly film our entrances.  As you know, we take media with us often.  Some of you have been with us.  You also know that we - for about the last six months, any time we went into houses, we had either police or ICDC with us, neighborhood council members.

 

            It was a rare event in the last six months that we went into houses without some outside agent accompanying us, for the reasons you're mentioning.  And, you know, I have a - I hold the reputation not only of my division in my hands, but I hold the reputation of the Army and the nation in our hands.  And we're very aware of that.

 

            Yeah.

 

            Q     Tom Perry, Reuters News Agency.  Just on the unit you want to form in Najaf, how far down the road are you towards that?  I just wanted to clarify exactly where you stand now.  Does this unit exist at the moment in any way?  And are you saying that Sadr's lieutenants could play a role in that force?  And could it be expanded outside of Najaf?

 

            GEN. DEMPSEY:  How far down the road are we?  We have approached the stakeholders and given them numbers.  We've asked them to provide a certain number of young men by party, by tribe, and they have about a week now to give us the numbers.

 

            Incidentally, we're not building from zero.  About 50 percent - you've heard me say this -- about 50 percent of the pre-existing force did stand tall during the attacks of early April.  So we're really building not from ground zero but from about the second floor of this six- or seven-story building.

 

            And we've got the request out now for the recruiting.  Once we get the recruits in, then we'll put them through a basic training cycle and then we'll embed them with our own units, which we had great success with in Baghdad.  And then we will begin small-unit training. And as I said, our goal is to have squads formed by about the end of June.

 

            Will this model be expanded or imported or exported outside of Najaf?  Yes. We're going to try this model any place that I control right now, and I think probably you're going to see some similar approach across the country.

 

            Can Sadr's lieutenants be part of this?  The ones that are not indicted can.  But, you know, he's not alone in his indictment, and it's not, again, not for me to decide how those indictments are handled.

 

            Pentagon.

 

            Q     General, I'm Carl Osgood.  I write for Executive Intelligence Review.  There's been a lot of talk around Washington about us, even though we might be winning every military engagement, or nearly every military engagement, that we're losing the war because we're losing the support of the population.  And your colleague, General Swannack was quoted by name on this.  I'm wondering what your view of this larger question is?

 

            GEN. DEMSEY:  Well, my view is that that's the most important question that we all must answer, those of us that have responsibility both here and back in Washington.  I mean, the tactical campaign plan has to be linked to a strategic end state.  I mean, that's not a revelation.  I think that in the aftermath of the events of early April there's a lot of work being done on that.  I know there is.  I know there's a lot of work being done on how we define ourselves after the first of July, which is the first step in sovereignty, and then after January '05.

 

            I think it's grotesquely premature to say that we have failed because it's not linked right now as closely as we'd like, because one of the things you learn even as a young officer is, we say, you have to fight the enemy not the plan.  You can't make the plan, and then hold to it so doggedly that you ignore everything happening around you.  Well, what we're doing now is, we had a plan that was moving along.  It was interdicted and disrupted in April.  I'm telling you that, as I stand here in May, we're back at it.  And I think that we're moving in the right direction.

 

            Now, what we've got to do is, we've got to manage expectations. We've got to manage our expectations. we've got to manage the expectations of the Iraqi people.  There's a lot of expectations to be managed.  And there's a lot of work to be done.  That's, by the way, why I'm still here.

 

            What else?  Jim, I asked you already.  Did I ask you, I don't remember.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter):  General Dempsey, as President Bush said that Muqtada al Sadr should be dealt with by Iraqis, Iraqis Shias have asked him to break down his army, but you always try to provoke problems, such as in Karbala and Najaf, so why don't you give enough time to Iraqi and especially Shia to mediate with al Sadr to resolve this conflict?  Thank you very much.

 

            GEN. DEMSEY:  Yes.  That's a fair question.  Why do we move -- the question is, why are we moving at the pace we're moving?  We're   moving at the pace we're moving for several reasons.  First of all, I would suggest to you, we actually are moving very deliberately and patiently.  I have the combat power to go any place I want to go.  I mean, I just do.  There are some places I'm choosing not to go, so that we allow this process that you're talking about to take place.

 

            Where have I gone?  I've gone to places where Iraqis have asked me to go.  I've gone, for example, to reclaim the governor's complex in Najaf, because the governor asked me to get his office building back.  So I went and got the office building back.  I've gone to Sadr bureau headquarters in some of these cities, and I have evicted the members of the Muqtada Militia, because they were extorting, or stealing is a less delicate term, I suppose, the profits from any number of things from common Iraqi people.

 

            So we have moved very, very deliberately.  It may not appear entirely so, when you see that we've had engagements every day, but they have been engagements that we have very carefully chosen, and once again, where we are in support of the Iraqi people and this process, not moving something on my own timeline.  I mean, as I said, I really want this to be solved by the Iraqi -- those that have a stake in the holy cities, and I'm giving them time to do that.

 

            I have time for two more questions.

 

            Q     Thank you.  Sir, in the current -- in the upcoming issue of the New Yorker Magazine Sey Hersh quotes you saying last November that intelligence is critical to controlling the insurgency in Baghdad.  In light of the revelations at Abu Ghraib, and the role that military intelligence seems to have played, have you in any way, sir, respectfully, I'd like to ask you, rethought that advice, have you rethought that imperative, and do you feel that imperative of collecting good intelligence from suspected insurgents was perhaps misapplied in the case of Abu Ghraib?  Could you comment on that, please?

 

            GEN. DEMSEY:  If it's truly an imperative, then I can't deny it. And it is an imperative, in a counter-insurgency you must have intelligence in order to be effective.   It goes back to the question I answered here about how precise are we?  Well, you can only be precise if you have intelligence to allow you to be precise.  So it is an imperative.  Now, did that imperative -- contribute to the problems at Abu Ghraib.  I think the investigation will probably make a determination on that, and I'm not part of that investigation.  But, I will tell you this, what I saw in the pictures at Abu Ghraib, it has very little to do with the, in my view, the training that these soldiers did or didn't receive.  I mean, there were some fundamental flaws of human conduct and human nature.  Now, I can't say more than that.  I may be called to sit at a court martial panel at some point. So I can't predispose myself to the outcome.  But, I think it would be incorrect to say, because we needed intelligence so badly, these soldiers acted like they did.  There's no excuse for that.

 

            All right.  One more.  Ma'am?

 

            Q     Yes, it's my understanding that the Governor of Najaf said today that there were concrete plans to recruit 4,000 members for the ICDC, do you know anything about that, and if so, are those numbers sufficient for what you're talking about, about rebuilding the established security force there?

 

            GEN. DEMSEY:  We are in close consultation with the new Minister of Defense, and Minister of Interior.  I talk to the National Security Advisor it seems like daily, and we're in sync with the numbers we need.  Down in center south we need about 2,500.  I'm going to build -- there was one battalion in Najaf, I'm going to build two.  Why am I doing that, because the advisors I have, and stakeholders I've contacted tell me that because Najaf is so important, because of this huge influx of pilgrims periodically, they needed more security forces.

 

            The other thing we're going to do is look at increasing their weaponry.  At some points they were just outgunned by the militia. The militia came after them with RPG-7s, and heavy machine guns.  So I've got to find a way, as we rebuild the force, how much extra and heavier weaponry they need.  And we'll work that out, but we won't work it out ourselves, we'll work it out with the Iraqi Minister of Defense, the Minister of the Interior, the National Security Advisor, and by the way, the Office of Security Cooperation headed by soon to be Lieutenant General Dave Petraeus.

 

            Listen, it's good to see you all again.  I think I'll probably see you at least once or twice more before I try to make my way to Kuwait again.  In the meantime, be safe and -- (speaking in a foreign language) --

 

(C) COPYRIGHT 2004, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1919 M ST. NW; SUITE 220; WASHINGTON, DC - 20036, USA.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.  UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.  FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.  NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.  FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL JACK GRAEME AT 202-347-1400.

Additional Links

Stay Connected