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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director For Coaltion Operations, Dan Senor, Senior Advisor, CPA
May 14, 2004 10:10 PM EDT
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

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

 

            Ambassador Bremer's schedule today, his main public event was a meeting with Diyala province officials, which was here today.  He met with the Diyala police chief, the mayor of Baqubah, a main city in Diyala.  This is part of our broad outreach effort as we engage in consultations across the country as we move closer and closer to sovereignty and the formation of the Iraqi interim government. Ambassador Bremer is also meeting today with individual members of the Iraqi Governing Council, same -- as part of his effort to engage in wide consultations.  And as you know, Mr. Brahimi is continuing with similar efforts in pursuit of the formation of the interim government, as is the Iraqi Governing Council.

 

            At the Diyala event -- meeting today, Ambassador Bremer addressed the issue of the role of coalition forces in Iraq post-June 30th.  A  number of you may have seen the wire stories.  Just to reiterate our position, that coalition forces do technically have a legal right to remain in Iraq through the constitutional process, under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1511.  However, we do not anticipate that being an issue because the U.S., to my knowledge, never stays -- U.S. forces never stay in a foreign country in a situation like we would be staying in Iraq post-June 30th, if we are not wanted.  This is, of course, a wild hypothetical because we anticipate a close partnership with the Iraqi interim government post-June 30th.  The majority of Iraqis we deal with anticipate a close partnership.  The Iraqi leaders anticipate a close partnership.  We all agree that there will be a significant terror threat here post-June 30th, and the Iraqi Security Forces certainly will not be in a position to defend against that terror threat, and so there will be a need for U.S. forces.  There seems to be a real consensus around that.

 

            Finally, we welcome the recent decision by the Iraqi Board of Supreme Audits to hire Ernst & Young to investigate alleged abuses in the administration and management of the oil-for-food program.  The Board of Supreme Audits conducted an open and transparent tender process, which closed on April 20th.  Following a technical review of the submitted proposals, Ernst & Young was selected.  Ambassador Bremer believes that the investigation must be comprehensive, independent and transparent, and has full confidence in the Board of Supreme Audits' decision.

 

            The CPA is not -- and I would like to stress this -- is not conducting its own investigation.  We are facilitating the work of the Board of Supreme Audit(s).  We consider the Board of Supreme Audits' examination of alleged oil-for-food abuses to be another important and concrete step toward returning sovereignty to Iraqi officials, who should be out front on such an important issue, one that affected the daily lives of the Iraqi people over a number of years.

 

            And finally, on the issue of investigations, there is some confusion, I think, relating to al-Sabah, the Iraqi newspaper sponsored by the coalition under the Iraqi Media Network.  Mr. Ismail Zayer, who was the -- until recently the editor of al-Sabah and has resigned -- there's been some mixed -- confusing reports about the basis for his decision to leave and what has gone forward since.

 

            The past financial management practices of Mr. Zayer and his nephew are under active investigation, following his departure from the newspaper.  He refused to cooperate with the Harris Corporation, which is the contractor, in getting to the bottom of the financial documents and financial practices of al-Sabah, and so he resigned. And Harris is, as I said, conducting the investigation.  They have hired a local Iraqi accounting firm to take the lead on that.

 

            General Kimmitt.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Thank you.

 

            Good afternoon.

 

            The coalition continues offensive operations, and in the past 24 hours conducted 1,866 patrols, 20 offensive operations, and captured 59 anti-coalition suspects.

 

            Today at Abu Ghraib 293 prisoners were released.  The next prisoner release will be on 21 May at approximately 1000 hours, and we anticipate 475 prisoners to be released.  Twenty-two prisoners delayed today are expected to be released on May 21st.

 

            In the western zone of operations, the Al Anbar remains stable. The situation in Fallujah remains calm.  Joint operations and planning continue with the Fallujah Brigade, and a substantial infusion of money for rehabilitation has increased local confidence in both the Fallujah Brigade and Iraqi security forces.  In Fallujah, the coalition engineers met with the contractor conducting work under the Fallujah cleanup and restoration contract.  We anticipate a significant increase in hiring over the next week as additional cleanup and restoration contracts some online, totaling over $1.5 million.

 

            In the central-south zone of operations, in Karbala there were a number of mortar, rocket-propelled grenade and sniper attacks on the former Mukhaiyam Mosque, currently being secured by 20 Iraqi police and other coalition forces.  Last night six mortar rounds impacted vicinity of the complex, wounding a number of troops.  And today there were three incidents, beginning at 9:30 when coalition forces were attacked with 11 mortar rounds.  In the second incident at 12:20, a coalition soldier was wounded from a sniper attack.  And in the third incident, at 12:30, coalition forces were attacked with 11 mortar rounds.  Coalition forces determined the point of origin and destroyed the mortar system and crew without collateral damage.

 

            In An Najaf today there were a number of engagements responding to attacks by Muqtada's militia.  At 8:40, coalition forces reported four mortar rounds impacting near the An Najaf main Iraqi police station.  Two rounds impacted inside the walls of the compound and two rounds impacted just outside the walls.  At approximately the same time, two tanks came under fire from three rocket-propelled grenades while passing eastbound through a traffic circle.  The tanks reported small-arms and RPG fire coming from the north, the west and the east.  Elements at the main Iraqi police station also reported a large volume of small-arms and RPG fire directed at their location.

 

            At 10:00 today, coalition forces reported extensive rocket- propelled grenade and small arms from the amusement park and moved to engage the enemy.  Tanks provided supporting fires as a scout platoon cleared buildings and the park.  At 11:30, units at the main Iraqi police station reported continuing small-arms, rocket-propelled and mortar fires coming from the West Side in the old city.  Two tanks from the main station moved towards that location and encountered a large volume of small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire but did not have contact with the main -- with the suspected mortar position. Tanks returned to the main station while still in contact.

 

            At 11:30, elements positively identified an enemy 60-millimeter mortar position and rocket-propelled grenade teams inside a cemetery. Helicopters confirmed this visually but were unable to engage the enemy due to their proximity to the Ali shrine.  Ground troops were called, engaged, and destroyed the mortar teams at 1310.

 

            Finally, charges were referred against Specialist Charles A. Graner to a general court-martial.  The seven charges against Specialist Graner are conspiracy to maltreat detainees, dereliction of duty for willfully failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment, maltreatment of detainees, assaulting detainees, committing indecent acts, adultery and obstruction of justice.

 

            Of note, a military judge will arraign Specialist Graner along with Sergeant Frederick, Sergeant Davis, on May 20th, and all three court-martials will face trial by general court-martial.  A date and place have not yet been set for these courts martials.

 

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

 

            Yes, sir.  Go ahead.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Thank you.

 

            General Kimmitt, the operation militaries have started in Najaf and we have information that say that U.S. forces have attacked the Shrine of Ali.  This is the place that is considered the third most sacred place for Muslims after the tomb of the prophet and a site in Saudi Arabia.

 

            When you started the operation, military options -- does it mean that you lost patience to deal with Muqtada crisis and to deal with the sanctity and the importance of this site?  This operation that you are now conducting, is it for you to go beyond the red lines that were determined by the religious authorities?  And you have said that you have greatest respect for the religious authorities.  How are you going to deal with the reaction of the Iraqi street?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  As always, that's a very good question.

 

            Let's go ahead and put that board up.

 

            It is important to understand that we have not attacked the Shrine of Imam Ali.  We continue to respect the Shrine of Imam Ali. We continue to respect the red lines that have been established by the religious clerics.  And it is sad that there have been attempts by groups to use that red line to hide behind that to kill Iraqi police and to kill coalition forces.

 

            Let me give you an example.  This is a shrine, as we well know. We want to stay away from that shrine.  We understand its significance.  You had Iraqi -- excuse me -- terrorist forces inside that cemetery firing at these Iraqi police stations -- one here and one here -- using mortars from that location to try to kill Iraqi police here and Iraqi police here.  We've sent coalition forces against that cemetery to try to stop those rocket propelled grenades and mortars.  It is clear what is going on.  Muqtada's militia is attempting to use those red lines and use those religious shrines much like human shields.  He is hiding behind those, fully understanding that we will treat it with respect and they will not treat it with respect.

 

            Our soldiers will not stand at those locations and allow their fellow Iraqis at those police stations to be killed while the terrorists are using that cemetery as a place to shoot rockets from, as a place to shoot rocket-propelled grenades from, and as a place to shoot mortars from.

 

            We certainly understand the strategic significance of the Imam Ali  shrine.  The coalition has tremendous respect for the Shi'a religion, the Shi'a Islam religion.  We want to do everything we can to avoid widening this concern for Muqtada to something far graver than Muqtada.  I would ask you to go back to Muqtada's militia and say, "Why are you using this shrine to store weapons?  Why are you using the shrine as a place to set up firing positions?  Why are you using the shrine as a location to shoot mortar rounds at coalition forces and Iraqi forces that are inside legitimate Iraqi police stations?  What gives you the right to violate the Shi'a religion? What gives you the right to use this to protect yourself and your troops?  If you want to fight the coalition forces, go outside the city of Najaf.  Do not hold it hostage, do not hold the Shi'a religion hostage, and do not allow the sites to be held hostage to your seditious ways."

 

            MR. SENOR:  Carol?

 

            Q     Carol Rosenberg with the Miami Herald.  General, do you know how that hole got in the gold dome of the shrine?  And do you have anything on a helicopter that went down?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  We don't have any helicopters down that I'm aware of.

 

            If our forces were coming down this road and we're being shot at from a cemetery from north to south, I would go ask Muqtada -- if there is, I haven't seen it, but if there is a hole in that shrine, go ask Muqtada who put that hole in the shrine.  I suspect that he will tell you that it was coalition forces.  But I suspect if you look very carefully, the coalition does not yet have ammunition that can shoot to the north and then turn around and head south.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Next question.

 

            Yes, sir.  Go ahead.

 

            Q     Gregor Mayer from the German Press Agency.  General, there were reports that in Nasiriyah Muqtada militias have taken over -- would have taken over public buildings and police stations.  What do you know about that?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Right.  I got the -- as I was walking in, I was handed this report.

 

            Following Friday prayers today at 1400, a group of 40 to 50 members of the Jaysh al-Mahdi assembled in the courtyard outside the governor's new office and the Euphrates.  Four were -- crowd were carrying RPGs; the rest, small arms.

 

            It would appear that there was a conflict between the governor, the police and the police chief against these people, and it would appear, from this report, that there was a altercation and engagement at the governor's building.  And I am just reading this as I give this to you, but it would look that -- and there was also an engagement on one of the bridges.  But it looks like forces in Nasiriyah have things under control at this point.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, ma'am?

 

            Q     Tara Sutton, Channel 4 News.  Oh, sorry.  (Chuckles.)  U.K.

 

            The ordnance disposal units of the ICDC in Fallujah have been reporting that they've been finding cluster bombs in Fallujah.  Could you confirm or deny whether the U.S. Marines used cluster bombs in Fallujah during the fighting last night?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  We have no reports of Marines using cluster bombs during this operation.

 

            Q     Thank you.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Manarah (sp).  General Kimmitt, we would like more clarification about Najaf.  Two days before the press conference, you talked about a mediation that some Shi'ite sides have done.  And there were like seven points that they agreed on, and there was agreement from the CPA about it -- coalition forces.

 

            And now, concerning these assaults, we leave Muqtada al-Sadr and the subject of Muqtada al-Sadr aside.  But the question is, the Murjaya (sp), the authority, have to take the last decision because they have gained the respect of all the Moslems.  There was an agreement.  There was a violation of the agreement.  The reasons for this violation -- is it because of Muqtada al-Sadr or misunderstanding at the hands of coalition forces?  We would like more explanation about all this.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  First of all, I'm not certain that we have an agreement.  We are not aware of an agreement.  We're not aware of a negotiated settlement.  But what we are aware of is that we have Iraqi police, legitimate Iraqi police who have been trained by your country who answer to your country that occupy police stations inside Najaf. They also have a responsibility to protect not only the city of Najaf, the governor and all the other legitimate institutions of democracy.

 

            What we do understand is those police were fired upon by Muqtada's militia.  What we do understand is that we had troops that were being wounded, we had people that were coming under grave danger from these mortar locations.  There is an inherent right of self- defense for the police and an inherent right of self-defense for the coalition soldiers.  We were exercising that inherent right today against those that would attempt to kill your police and my soldiers.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Sewell.

 

            Q     Sewell Chan with The Washington Post.  I have two related questions for both Dan and General Kimmitt, please.

 

            Dan, when you talked earlier about the status of U.S. forces in Iraq after June 30th, was your statement in connection with tomorrow's ceremony transitioning CJTF-7 to the new Multinational Force Iraq?

 

            MR. SENOR:  No.  There were some confusing reports, from my understanding, out of Washington that needed some clarifying.  And Ambassador Bremer sought to address that earlier today, and I was just reiterating what he had said.

 

            Q     Great, thanks.

 

            And for General Kimmitt, related to that.  Is there any change in either the jurisdiction or authorities of the U.S. forces in Iraq in conjunction with this transition, or is it mostly sort of a formality? Could you address that?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, it's certainly more than a formality.  It is trying to get the proper command structure for the days, weeks and months ahead.  There has been a concern for some period of time that a -- simply a core headquarters, a Combined Joint Task Force headquarters, was not sufficient to handle the range of military operations, from peace support, civil military operations, these types of operations on the ground, and at the same time strategic engagement, where we're talking to the sheiks, we're talking to the political authorities.  Those are typically functions that are performed by two different headquarters.

 

            The three-star headquarters, which will be commanded by General Metz, who will command Multinational Corps Iraq, will focus on the tactical fight; will focus on the day-to-day military operations and the maneuvering of the six multinational divisions on the ground.  The Multinational Force Iraq headquarters will focus more on the strategic engagement; will certainly be involved in the tactical operations, but only to the extent that they have somewhat of an operational and strategic impact on this country.  The multinational force headquarters will also be in charge of the training, equipping and fielding of the Iraqi security forces.

 

            So the work was just such that, in our hierarchies in the military, there was a proper decision made to set up two headquarters for the two separate functions that will be needing to go on for some period of time.

 

            Q     If I may just follow up, sir, quickly.  When was that decision made?  And also, is it reasonable to infer that General Sanchez's role is evolving as part of this transition?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  The decision was made some time ago.  I don't know the exact date.  I can find that out for you.  General Sanchez certainly will be focused more, as he is now, on the strategic aspects, but some of those tactical aspects and operational aspects that you see on operations such as Najaf and throughout the country, General Metz and his Multinational Corps Iraq headquarters will sort of be focusing on the day-to-day maneuvering of forces on the ground.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Luke.

 

            Q     General Kimmitt, I just wonder if you could give us a clearer idea of what the objective is and the tactics are in Najaf. You've said that you don't want to get engaged in fighting too close to religious shrines and that sort of thing, but inevitably you are being drawn closer into them.  We had tanks inside the cemetery today. One way or another, the Mosque of Imam Ali has been hit, it would appear.  So what are the U.S. forces trying to do, and what is going to be the technique or the tactic to avoid having any desecration of shrines?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, I think the first thing is we can talk more about what we want to avoid rather than what we want to conduct.  We certainly want to avoid any notion or any perception that the coalition forces are not respecting the religious sites in both Karbala and Najaf.  We also want to avoid being drawn into an attempt by the part of Muqtada's militia to create an incident that has strategic impact.  You know, obviously what we don't want to do is allow Muqtada to become a martyr, put himself in front of a great religious shrine and then all of a sudden draw fire.  We're just not going to do that.  It pays -- has no benefit.  It might have some tactical value, but it has significant strategic impact.

 

            But let's talk about what we are going to do.  We are going to continue to stay focused in a peaceful way on achieving a resolution to the situation in Najaf.  Those objectives remain fixed: restoration of legitimate Iraqi control inside Najaf, delivery of Muqtada al-Sadr to an Iraqi judge for Iraqi justice.  And we continue to focus on achieving this through peaceful discussions, the use of a large group of interested stakeholders.  But throughout all this, we've got to understand that while this is going on, while we continue to reintroduce Iraqi security forces into the city of Najaf, that we have a responsibility, we have a right, we have an obligation to defend ourselves when Muqtada's militia attempts to kill our forces.

 

            Q     And so just quickly to follow that up, it is no longer the objective, therefore, to capture or kill Muqtada or destroy the Mahdi Army?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Muqtada's militia must go away.  There's no doubt about it.  And as you have seen and we have seen over the last month and a half, this is an organization that has spent most of its existence attacking the legitimate institutions of a democratic society here in Iraq.

 

            Look what they're attacking.  They're attacking police stations; they're attacking media stations; they're attacking government buildings, governors' buildings.  They are trying to achieve through the barrel of a gun what should be achieved in this country through the ballot box.  They're attempting what can only be called seditious behavior as they attempt to take over this nation and various parts of this nation so that they can for whatever they're final objective is.

 

            That army must go away.  That army must be destroyed.  In fact, to even call it an army is giving it a dignity it doesn't deserve.  So it must go away.  All the organs of that army must go away as well -- the financiers, the planners, the leaders.

 

            In the case of Muqtada al-Sadr, clearly we have a strong desire and an intention and an objective to see him face an Iraqi judge.  We also have a strong desire not to allow himself to become either a martyr or a victim.  So the Iraqi people have spoken.  Through their judge they have delivered an indictment that says Muqtada al-Sadr must face justice and must face a trial for his connection to the murder of Ayatollah al-Khoei.  We are attempting to facilitate that process.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     Hi.  Peter Kenyon from NPR.

 

            General, we've had reports from Najaf residents that a cleric, Kubanji (ph), was not able to give his Friday sermon because of the presence of Sadr men, either right in front of or perhaps even in part of the shrine.  Do you have any information from your commanders or other sources down there who's in control of that facility?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  We have said for some period of time that the people of Najaf have been concerned about the ongoing presence of Muqtada's militia inside that town.  They are -- continue to try to extort goods and services from the townspeople, goods and services from the stores.  The town of Najaf creates much of its revenue, generates much of its revenue from the tourist trade as the Shi'a faithful come to the town of Najaf to worship.  That is all being stopped, that's all being held up, it is being obstructed.  And that's why I used the term Najaf is being "held hostage" by Muqtada's militia, because this town is right now sort of in a stasis, and the problem of Muqtada's militia must be resolved. It is certainly the desire of the people of Najaf, it is certainly the desire of the legitimate clerical, governmental, tribal leaders in the area, and it's certainly the desire of the coalition.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, go ahead.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  General Kimmitt, you have talked about the fact that you are still looking for a peaceful resolution. What do you mean about peaceful measures, and how can you get there because you're closing the door for negotiations.  You have talked about a Iraqi judge.  Nobody believes in the independence of the Iraqi justice.  Even the IGC last Wednesday have said that the CPA has generated that warrant to arrest.  When you talk about helicopters, the BBC Arabic has said -- on the Internet has a picture of a helicopter that is hovering over the place of the engagement.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  On the second question, or the second point, the question was asked were there any helicopters shot down or go down anywhere in the south of Iraq today.  The card I just received, we've gone back to our commanders and we said have there been?  Answer: There are no reports of a helicopter being shot down or going down for any reason today.

 

            I would prefer to use the term "doors opening" rather than "doors closing" on the peaceful resolution.  We continue to engage clerics, we continue to engage responsible civic leaders, the governor of Najaf, legitimate institutions, because we do want to see this achieved in a peaceful manner.  If those who are facilitating this process could simply cause Muqtada and his militia to stop trying to kill Iraqi police in the city of Najaf, would stop trying to rob from the people of Najaf, would stop trying to interfere in the Friday prayers of the people of Najaf, that would go a great way into bringing this -- would be a great leap forward to bringing this to a peaceful resolution.

 

            MR. SENOR:  On the Iraqi judge, the arrest warrant was issued by him probably 10 or 11 months ago, 12 months ago.  He put this -- he built the case against Muqtada al-Sadr and built the arrest warrant and gathered the evidence and contacted witnesses, eyewitnesses, before the CPA was even on the ground here.  He got to work, my understanding is, shortly after the murder occurred.  This is completely independent, at his own initiative, not ours.  And of course we learned about it after we had arrived here, but the civilian presence in Iraq and the formation of the Coalition Provisional Authority both occurred sometime after the judge began work on the arrest warrant.

 

            Someone who hasn't asked.  Go ahead.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Ahmed al-Hamdani (ph) -- (affiliation off mike) -- Kurdish TV station.  Regarding the issue -- Al-Jazeera has said yesterday that there are forces that belong to the peshmerga in Najaf and that they had an interview that was broadcast twice regarding this issue.  We'd like to have a comment.  Are there any peshmerga in Najaf, the holy city of Najaf?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  We are unaware of any current or former peshmerga forces operating with the coalition or the Iraqi security forces in Najaf.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, sir.

 

            Q     Peter Hermann from the Baltimore Sun.  Are charge sheets available for Sergeant (sic) Graner?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah, I think they are.  And also on that issue, we will have a lawyer available after the press conference to talk about military arraignment procedures and any other questions you may have with regards to these ongoing arraignments.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Carol.

 

            Q     I just wanted to follow up.  General, are you saying that the coalition didn't fire the ordnance that put the hole in the gold dome and in the shrine, or that if you did it's Muqtada's fault?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  What I'm saying is, first of all, I have not seen any reports of a hole in the Imam Ali Shrine, so I can't comment on who did it.  But I can just tell you that, by the looks of where we were firing and where the Muqtada militia were firing, probabilistically I would put my money on Muqtada's forces having caused it.  But it's a hypothetical since I haven't even seen a report that suggested it happened.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes.

 

            Q     Stephanie Halasz from CNN.  We're still trying to -- this is regarding Nicholas Berg -- we're still trying to understand why you're -- well, you keep saying that he was never in coalition forces' hands when we have it from several sides that he was detained by U.S. forces, U.S./coalition forces.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah.  That -- again, it's one of those common misconceptions, and it may have been facilitated by some of the e-mail reports.

 

            When that question was asked, we went up to Brigadier General Carter Hamm (sp), the commander of the Multinational Brigade forces, whose jurisdiction extends into Mosul.  General Hamm (sp) is a friend of mine.  He said, "No, Mark.  That just didn't happen."

 

            It is true that we have joint IP -- Iraqi police -- stations. For good reason, we put oftentimes Military Police side by side with Iraqi police in the police stations.  That facilitates command and control.  If there's a military issue, then we can work it through there.  If there's a civilian issue, if there's crime on the street, they can talk to the military.  If there's a military incident, they can talk to the civilians.  That makes sense.

 

            In this particular IP station where Berg was brought, he was put into a cell with other Iraqis.  The Military Police did have contact with young Berg.  They found out that he was in there.  Being good, compassionate Americas, they checked in on him every once in a while and said, "Hey, do you need a toothbrush?  Do you need some soap? Anything we can do to help you."

 

            But that is, to our understanding, the only contact that Nicholas Berg had with American military forces during that 12-day time period between the 24th and the 6th, while in Mosul.

 

            MR. SENOR:  And the only other contact -- primary contact he had with American officials was, as you know, the FBI visited with him three times.  But as General Kimmitt said, during the entire period, he was detained by Iraqi police in Mosul, and he was in the custody of Iraqi police in Mosul. And I do know there's a lot of these e-mails circulating.  We're trying to get to the bottom of them.  But as far as we know, at this point, at no time was he out of custody of Iraqi police.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Thanks, Dan.  I'm Charlie Mayer from NPR.  I spoke yesterday with the chief of police in Mosul, and he said that once the FBI became involved in this case, they asked him to hold on to Mr. Berg.  I wonder if you know about that.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Well, as I said, that does -- that's not inconsistent with the Iraqi police having -- maintaining custody of Mr. Berg.

 

            As far as things the FBI may or may not have asked the Iraqi police, I would refer you to the FBI's national press office in Washington, D.C.  One of our folks at the press center could provide you the phone number and point of contact afterwards.

 

            Sul (sp) -- or Dan?  Same difference, but Dan hasn't asked a question yet.  Go ahead.

 

            Q     Dan Williams, The Washington Post.  I'm afraid I'm going to ask for a rather broad briefing of the situation in the south.  A week ago the commanders in the south were describing the American strategy for dealing with Muqtada as chipping away or moving around the fringes of his forces to isolate him and so on, and advance the political settlement.  I wonder, in the week, has any of that changed, especially given the fact that Muqtada's forces have shown themselves capable of popping up from place to place, taking over neighborhoods or taking over -- in the case of Nasiriyah today, creating some sort of havoc you say is over.  And furthermore, is there any role in the south, besides the Polish, the, I guess, Bulgarians and the British, for other multinational forces in this rebellion?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, certainly in Nasiriyah, where the Italians are operating, that's happening.  But I think if you were to bring General Dempsey in, as he briefed the other night, I will tell you that he would tell you that they are still on strategy.  They still continue to chip away at Muqtada's militia.  They pop up, they're dealt with, and then they move on.

 

            As you can tell from this board right here, the coalition forces were well outside the city, and about the only involvement they have in Najaf is also to make sure that there is some presence at the governor's location, as well.

 

            But this small engagement today has been characterized as something that it really wasn't: somehow it was a strategic shift, that somehow this was the final attack on Najaf.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Coalition forces were taking casualties. Coalition forces had an obligation to protect their forces, protect themselves and protect each other.  They responded to those forces that were attempting to kill them.  They took care of that situation and then they went back to their locations.

 

            Q    If I may, your description that the Muqtada sources move on, isn't that the basic description of guerrilla warfare generally and that's what you're fighting?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I wouldn't go so far as to -- I would be probably more correct calling it counterinsurgency warfare; that this is an insurgency, they pop up.  They have shown very poor military tactics. My term "they move on" was euphemistic.  The correct term would be they die.  They have shown time after time that they attempt to fight coalition forces, and the coalition forces, with better leadership, better discipline, better tactics and better equipment, are overwhelmingly defeating the enemy at every turn.

 

            Q     You-all said that a year ago when things began popping in Fallujah and central Iraq.  I remember that it was drive-by RPGs and so on.  Isn't there concern, in fact, that this is an embryo, rather than the beginning of the end of something?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Not in the case of Muqtada's militia, because they are so roundly criticized, condemned and despised by their fellow Shi'a that this one probably is going to be stillborn.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Last question.  Yes?

 

            Q     Jim Rupert, Newsday.  General Kimmitt, just to understand your thinking here, what's the difference between counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, probably neither of them are correct very simply because both a guerrilla war, and to some extent a counterinsurgency, have some sort of end state that they are seeking. And that's one of the hardest parts that we've been having in understanding what causes some of the outbreaks of violence in this country.  They certainly don't have any unifying theme.  What unifying them would they have?  Return this country -- in the case of the former regime elements, return this country to an authoritarian dictatorship such as Saddam?  Well, I'm not sure my troops would rally around that flag.  Or perhaps in the case of Muqtada, to bring it to some sort of radical religious state, such as the Taliban tried to achieve in Afghanistan.  I don't think we have the vast majority of Iraqis attempting to rally around that flag.

 

            I think what we're seeing, perhaps, are some isolated incidents of what our secretary of Defense often calls "deadenders," who are trying to create and trying to attempt to push this process of democratization off the rails.  We're talking relatively small numbers in the proportions of 25 to 26 million people here inside of Iraq. And the fact is, we have not seen great numbers of people clinging to the cause of Muqtada.  The vast majority of Shi'a in the south despise his activities, despise what he has done to a family name that means so much to the Shi'a religion, condemn his tactics, and condemn his abusive militia.

 

            In the case of what's happening -- or what happened in Fallujah, the foreign fighters who were trying to incite, perhaps, a sectarian warfare in inside this country, they have even less to cause people to bring allegiance to.

 

            So all I know is we have the enemy out there, and that's an enemy that is not only an enemy of the coalition forces, but it's an enemy of the free people of Iraq who are seeking to move on to democracy, sovereignty; to enjoy the freedoms and liberty of the press, of speech, of religion -- the things that we take for granted.  And the coalition continues to work in partnership with the Iraqi people so that these small elements, such as Muqtada's militia, such as the foreign fighters, such as some of the former regime elements, do not, one, as suggested earlier, turn from an embryo into something larger; but even more importantly, prevent the overwhelming voice of the people of Iraq, which is moving towards democracy, sovereignty and freedom, to try to stop that voice from being heard.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Thank you, everyone.

 

            Q     But, General, just to follow up, if there's --

 

            MR. SENOR:  (Off mike.)  Thanks.

 

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