MR. SENOR: Good afternoon. I just have a couple of quick announcements on Ambassador Bremer's schedule and then General Kimmitt has his opening briefing. And then we'll be happy to take your questions.
Earlier today Ambassador Bremer started his day with his regular meeting with the Iraqi Ministerial Committee on National Security that includes the Iraqi minister of defense, the Iraqi minister of interior, the Iraqi national security adviser, General Sanchez and other officials from the military and civilian side of the coalition.
Throughout the day, Ambassador Bremer has had individual meetings with Iraqi political leaders, including Sheik Ghazi, who is the current president of the Iraqi Governing Council; Dr. Rouj (ph), who is a deputy to Mr. Barzani, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, and he is seeing Mr. Barzani himself later today.
This is all part of our continued effort engaging in wide consultations with the Iraqi people, with Iraqi political leaders, as we get closer and closer to June 30th, and even before June 30th, as we get closer and closer to the formation of the interim government, which Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi will be advising in the weeks ahead as that process begins to come to closure.
GEN. KIMMITT: Thank you.
Good afternoon. The coalition continues operations to establish a stable Iraq in order to repair infrastructure, stimulate the economy and continue the transfer of sovereignty to the people of Iraq. To that end, in the past 24 hours the coalition conducted 2,021 patrols, 22 offensive operations, 55 Air Force and Navy sorties, and captured 55 anti-coalition suspects.
In the northern area of operations, last night an Iraqi policeman was killed during a drive-by shooting in Mosul and another killed in a checkpoint attack west of Qaiyara. The Iraqi police service has a lead for both these investigations.
In the north-central zone of operations, the coalition patrol conducted a hasty raid on a house northeast of Samarra. The target was an individual suspected of an attack on a convoy on 19 May. One individual was detained as well as 11 AK-47s, two sniper rifles, two pounds of homemade plastic explosives, other small arms and ammunition.
In Baghdad, activity continues in Sadr City. Yesterday at noon, 30 personnel fired small arms at the IP station in Al-Karama (ph). Coalition forces returned fire, and as a quick reaction force was dispatched to assist, two RPG rounds exploded in their vicinity, damaging one vehicle.
Yesterday evening, a coalition patrol was attacked in Sadr City by RPG and small-arms fire. There were no injuries to coalition soldiers.
In the western zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces continued to maintain security in the western Al Anbar province. The area remains quiet except in the Ramadi-Fallujah corridor and Kharma areas. Raids conducted over the past three weeks have disrupted the enemy's ability to support movement of drugs, weapons and foreign fighters across the zone. Other coalition forces' operations have saturated the outlying areas and have disrupted enemy operations, denied the enemy sanctuary and increased intelligence collections. Coalition forces continue to discover weapons caches at an accelerated pace, resulting in a reduction in the number and effectiveness of anti-coalition attacks in Al Anbar.
In the central-south zone of operations, on 22 May coalition forces conducted a series of offensive operations against Muqtada's militia in Husaniyah (ph), Karbala, and An Najaf and Kufa. In this operation, there was no enemy contact in Husaniyah (ph).
In Karbala, coalition forces cleared three objectives with minimal enemy contact. And while conducting the operations, local residents reported to coalition forces that the remainder of Muqtada's militia had appeared to have withdrawn from Karbala. Since then Iraqi police have begun patrolling the city, and it would appear that life -- normal life is returning to the city of Karbala, absent the militia that had been holding the city hostage for so many weeks.
In Najaf and Kufa, coalition forces on the eastern side of the Euphrates received mortars, RPG and small-arms fires two nights ago originating from the west side of the Kufa bridge, vicinity of the Saddam palace and the technical college of Kufa. Three- to five-man rocket-propelled grenade teams were engaging coalition forces from rooftops and fighting positions. Coalition forces responded, killing a number of Muqtada militia and destroying two 120-millimeter mortars, one pickup truck loaded with an unknown number of mortar rounds, and a 57-millimeter antiaircraft gun near the palace.
Later that night in Kufa, coalition forces also cordoned the Shalah Mosque while Iraqi counterterrorism forces entered and secured the mosque, finding a significant weapons cache. Ten Muqtada militia were captured, to include a suspected commander. Even though aerial reconnaissance observed mortar rounds and mortar tubes being loaded into a truck inside the Kufa mosque compound and armed individuals exiting the Kufa mosque, coalition forced did not engage the mosque complex to ensure that the local holy shrines were not damaged.
In the southeastern zone of operations, the Iraqi police station in Al-Dur was engaged with mortars and small-arms fire shot by local tribal members. Two Iraqi police were wounded and two children were killed. Iraqi Civil Defense Corps members conducted checkpoints north and south of the village to prevent the escape of the attackers. Coalition forces later regained control over the situation and searched the nearby village for the perpetrators of the attack.
MR. SENOR: And with that, we'll be happy to take your questions. Yes?
Q (Through interpreter.) The Security Council expects to issue a resolution about Iraq and about the authorities given to the new government. Are you expecting this resolution? And do you participate in making out this resolution?
MR. SENOR: Is this the U.N. Security Council resolution?
INTERPRETER: No. It's international committee -- it's --
Q (In Arabic.)
INTERPRETER: Yes, it is concerned with the Security Council resolution.
MR. SENOR: Obviously, we have said for some time that it would be helpful if the United Nations did some sort of affirmation or endorsement of the political process going forward as it is formed by Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative here. But that is a matter that will be addressed in Washington and in New York City. It is something that the president will likely address tonight, President Bush, in his address that he's delivering on Iraq, and something in the days ahead that I'm sure Secretary Powell will be speaking to as well.
Q One for each of you. The first question for you, General Kimmitt, about security. We're seeing a lot of activity today and, I assume, in the weeks to come. How will this new government affect it? Do you think that if they are seen as a more legitimate government, the one that's coming after June 30th, that that will help with the situation here on the ground?
And the second question is for you, Dan. Can you talk about what really distinguishes this new government from the IGC and how you think -- how important is it that Iraqis see it as a legitimate government? Because what we've been hearing from a lot of people is that the IGC is really not considered legitimate. What is it that this government needs to prove to show that it is?
MR. SENOR: On your second question, I think it's important to keep in mind that this next government brings Iraq that much closer to direct elections. Iraqis we speak to everywhere say they want two things. They want sovereignty, they want control over their daily government functions and daily lives, and they want the opportunity to direct elect Iraqi officials and hold them accountable. This government will lead Iraq as it is handed sovereignty, but it'll only lead Iraq during interim period, because direct elections will be coming up quickly, January of 2005, seven months after sovereignty is handed over. So they will be preparing Iraq for those direct elections, they will be preparing Iraq for its 2005 budget, and they will be managing the day-to-day government operations during this interim period.
I think, to your specific question, the challenge here -- 100 percent legitimacy comes from direct elections. There is a balance we have to strike between the hundred percent legitimacy that comes from direct elections and the stage we're in right now, where Iraqis are still living under occupation. And so the middle ground here -- since Iraq isn't ready for direct elections, they won't be ready for direct elections at the end of June, the middle ground here is to hand sovereignty over to an interim government that gives Iraqi control of the government and then get them moving quickly as possible to direct elections. And that will come seven months following.
Q Sorry. Just a quick follow-up. But what is it about the people that will be on this government that is just --
MR. SENOR: Oh. Sure. The -- in fairness to the Iraqi Governing Council, the Iraqi Governing Council is the most representative government in the history of Iraq. It has Shi'a, Sunni, Kurds, men, women, Turkoman, Christians. It has virtually -- it has representation from virtually all regions of the country. It's probably one of the most representative governments in the entire Middle East region.
And we have sought to make the next government even more representative, and that's certainly something that Mr. Brahimi has talked about. And so he's engaged in even further consultations with more leaders from the around the country to make -- create an even more diverse body.
So it is to build up the base of the Governing Council, which is very representative, and then even broaden representation, which will come in the form of the -- or come at the end of the process of all the consultations that are going on now. I know Mr. Brahimi, having watched interviews -- he's met with civic and political and professional leaders from across the country in thinking about how to form the government, whether it's trade union leaders or educational leaders or attorneys or law enforcement officials, business leaders. He's traveled all over the country in engaging in this process. It's the culmination of efforts involving thousands of people.
GEN. KIMMITT: On the issue of security, I think we're just going to have to wait and see. It could well be that the situation will improve. We have said time after time after time that there are groups in this country attempting to derail the process, that they're trying to ensure that June 30th never comes around and that sovereignty is never turned over to the people of Iraq.
The clear message ought to be right now that that is going to happen and that we will have sovereignty on the 30th of June, and then on 1 July they have nothing to continue to fight for. Under that scenario, the terrorists, the former regime elements, those that thought they could turn back the clock will no longer have that opportunity. The clock will have stopped, and it will start moving forward to democracy, liberty and sovereignty for the people of Iraq.
It may well be that they say after 1 July that somehow they might interpret this new fledgling government as too weak to handle the security challenge and might use that as an opportunity to continue the attacks. Should that be the case, I think they will find themselves disappointed, because as we continue to build the partnership with the people of Iraq and the security forces of Iraq, what they will find is not only have the coalition forces not left the country, but every day after 1 July the Iraqi security forces continue to get stronger and stronger.
So I can't really read the minds of the terrorists, the former regime elements, the people who are against giving the people of Iraq sovereignty, democracy and individual liberty. However, we can respond, we can predict their actions, we can predict the -- you know, we can collect the intelligence and we can respond as necessary. But I think we will be responding, we will continue to work in a partnership with the people of Iraq and the security forces of Iraq. And should those attacks continue to come after 1 July, they will be met with the same amount of resolve that they're being met with before 1 July.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Thanassis Cambanis from the Boston Globe. Two questions. One is, can you tell us why the Iraqi Hezbollah leader, Hajj Hasan al- Sari (sp), was detained on Saturday and then released?
And secondly, can you tell us anything about the four dead in the Toyota hit by -- that exploded out front?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, first of all, the first gentleman you're talking about is from Najaf Kufa?
Q No, he's --
GEN. KIMMITT: I didn't catch the name. I'm sorry.
Q His name is Hajj Hasan al-Sari (sp), and he's an Iraqi Hezbollah. And he was detained and released on Saturday from his house in Baghdad, and his office headquarters are here.
GEN. KIMMITT: I wasn't aware of that. Let me get back to you on that. We'll try to find out whatever information there is to be found on that.
And on the second issue, there was an explosion outside the convention center just outside the green zone. There were not four killed, there were two killed, two wounded right now. And they were recovered. And that's about all -- it was done, we believe, through an improvised explosive device that hit the car about 150 meters from the checkpoint where you all normally come in.
Q And can you tell us who they worked for?
GEN. KIMMITT: No. Right now we're still going through the process of next-of-kin notification. When that next-of-kin notification is done, there will be a public announcement on who they were, who they worked for.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Charles Duhigg with the Los Angeles Times. Is the two that were not killed but were wounded, were they also British?
GEN. KIMMITT: At this point, let's wait for the next-of-kin notification to proceed, and then at that point, when all the families have been informed of what's happened to their loved ones, then there will be the opportunity to pass that on to the public. But for now, let's give the opportunity to families.
Q Just a quick follow-up. Do you know why this car in particular was targeted? And was anyone from the CPA inside the car?
GEN. KIMMITT: Again, I thought we were very clear. We will no longer discuss this until the families know the answers before you know the answers.
MR. SENOR: I think we often find ourselves in the situation where we would like to provide you information, but we hope you all understand that it's probably not right for us to notify the families on international television before they have a moment to hear it from officials personally. So we hope you can be patient with us during this process.
Yes. Go ahead. Yes, sir.
Q Hi, it's Steve Komarow with USA Today. Two related questions.
There's this survey, as you know, coming out this week from Mr. Delamey (ph) and the Strategic Studies Institute here in town that shows extraordinarily wide support for Muqtada al-Sadr even in Sunni areas of the country now. And I was wondering if you could sort of explain that because, of course, you all have made a great effort to portray him as an outlaw and as a bad guy.
And the second part of my question is, several surveys now have shown among the Iraqi public that CPA/U.S./coalition credibility is very low with the Iraqi people. Could you two comment on those two things?
MR. SENOR: Sure. I haven't seen the study or the poll, so I don't want to comment specifically on it until I have a chance to. But broadly speaking, let me say this.
We have seen a series of polls over the past number of months that say something that's not inconsistent with your second point, which is that a majority of Iraqis, while they're grateful for the liberation, they want the occupation to end. And the Coalition Provisional Authority and the coalition forces right now are leading this occupation, and they want the occupation to end. We think it's understandable. It is not nice to be occupied. That is not a desirable state to be in. It is not nice to be occupiers. There's nothing we like less, probably, than being in the position of occupier.
But the third thing we see time and time again in these polls is, while they want the occupation to end -- a majority of Iraqis -- if you ask them specifically vis-a-vis their personal security, do they want the coalition forces to leave, they say no. That's because they recognize that there's still a significant terror threat in this country. They recognize that the Iraqi security forces right now, while albeit having performed bravely and courageously in many cases, are not in a position to defend against this terror threat themselves. And so they want the political occupation, if you will, to end, but they still want the security support provided by coalition forces.
And that's why we think June 30th is so important because what June 30th says to the Iraqi people is you're now in charge. The future of Iraq will now belong to the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people and Iraqi leaders will be in control of the day-to-day decision-making of their government. That accommodates the second point of that paradox, the "we want the occupation to end." It will be Iraqi officials, not coalition officials, responding to Iraqis when there are problems in the country. It will be Iraqi officials being held accountable for the day-to-day ups and downs in their country, not coalition officials. And as I said, that addresses the second point in the paradox. At the same time, it addresses the third concern because our security forces will still be here to help continue to stabilize the situation and help defend against the terror threat.
So if I were to sum up what we see over and over in the polls, it's sort of "glad to be free; sorry to be occupied; please don't go." And so we're trying to find the right balance between -- among all those three, and we think the June 30th scenario, handing over sovereignty but continuing to play a security role here, strikes the right balance.
Q (Through interpreter.) Brahim Hasan (ph) from Shemsil Hurriyah (ph). I have two questions. Mr. Dan, only 10 days are left, according to your statements, to form the Iraqi (undertaker ?) government. The appendix, which is an integral part of the law, according to Item 2 of the law that the appendix should be announced before the formation of the government. When are you going to publish this appendix?
The immunity enjoyed by the coalition soldiers, not be tried by the Iraqi courts and not paying compensation for those killed by the coalition forces, which amounts to $2,500, don't you think that these infractions encourage students (sic) to be indifferent and irresponsible, and which may cause violations, as long as there is immunity for the soldiers and compensation?
GEN. KIMMITT: On the second question, quite the contrary. It is certainly the case that our soldiers act responsibly and fully in line with the Geneva Conventions. That's not to say that there are not times when we have incidents where civilians, unfortunately, are drawn into the fight. But to suggest that somehow the small amount of compensation would somehow cause one of our coalition soldiers to be less concerned about the life of a fellow citizen and a noncombatant just does not square with reality.
You say that the soldiers of the coalition are immune from prosecution for their actions. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. They are still held liable for prosecution by their own countries. As we've seen in the case of the Abu Ghraib soldiers in those pictures, that very swiftly from the time those pictures came out, came to the attention of the military and those pictures were then subject to the investigation, then criminal charges were levied against those soldiers, were referred against those soldiers, and those soldiers have started the process of going to court for their responsibility in those activities.
So our soldiers -- no soldiers of any of the coalition forces are immune from prosecution. To suggest that they are somehow immune from prosecution, immune from investigation, immune from law just is not correct.
MR. SENOR: On your other question, we have said that we are going to hand over sovereignty on June 30th and that the U.N. special representative here, Mr. Brahimi, will take the lead in advising on the formation of an interim government. And that, according to him, will be accomplished in the next several weeks.
So these issues you're raising -- what will the government look like; how will the appendix, as you said, the annex to the Transitional Administrative Law be worded; what issues will it address going forward -- that will all be rolling out here in the next several weeks. So I plead for your patience because there will be news soon.
Q Steven Grey from the Sunday Times of London. Can you tell us, General Kimmitt, what the latest is on the investigation into the attack on the alleged wedding party last week?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. As we have talked about over the last three press conferences, there are inconsistencies between what we saw in those videos and what we found on the ground. We have started an investigation. Let me offer some more photos of what we found on the ground.
Let's go ahead with the first one.
These aren't working, so let me talk about the investigation while they're getting the technical pieces -- there we go.
These are pictures that are somewhat inconsistent, to my mind, with a wedding party. This is the number of weapons that we saw there. One could say, yes, it is true that out in the desert that you need to have a rifle to protect yourself against Ali Baba; but the necessity for rocket propelled launchers, rocket launchers on the bottom, special machine guns may be a little much for Ali Baba out there.
Again, we talked about -- we are doing the field tests on this white powder. We are doing field tests on those needles, and it could well be that those items that we've picked up are illegal drugs.
These are the passports of Sudanese citizens that were involved in the raid. We have numerous additional pictures that were found at the location. We believe that there was somewhat of a production system there for making false IDs, for making fake passports and making fake entry and exit visas.
This is the money we found. About 1.3 million Iraqi dinar, $100 U.S., 7,000 Syrian pounds.
This is what we showed. Some of this we showed the other day. Over on the bottom left you see a significant amount of ammunition, pre-packaged; bottom right you see a tremendous amount of drugs inside the suitcase there along with ammunition; top left, again, more what potentially could be illegal drugs; and top right, syringes, needles.
More weapons, battery packs that we typically associate with those that are used for improvised explosive devices, a full-sized medical treatment bed for hasty operations in the field; top right, as we've showed before, the binoculars that had reticle patterns in them that one typically uses for adjusting artillery, adjusting mortar rounds.
So what do those slides tell us? What those slides tell us that there is reason to conduct an investigation, because we have the seen the videos that are being shown on APTN. We've seen what has been discussed. We are trying to get copies of those videos. Those haven't come forward yet. But we understand that there are inconsistencies.
But I would tell you that, again, day after day after day, as we continue to get more evidence in, as we continue to get more new evidence coming in, it is pretty clear to us that what happened that night from the -- about after midnight until about 0400 -- that the activities that we saw happening on the ground were somewhat inconsistent with a wedding party. And it could well have been, as we have said before, that there was some sort of celebration going on. I notice that in the APTN video those activities that we saw were all happening during the daylight. Granted, these pictures were taken in the daylight, and the post-forensic analysis as well. There are inconsistencies. We will do an investigation. But at this point, we have seen really nothing that causes us to be -- to change our minds. That's why we need to get as much evidence as possible, hand it to the investigators. Let's see where the investigation takes us.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Can I just -- a quick follow-up --
MR. SENOR: Sure.
Q Can I just ask, I mean, given what you just said there, does this also shed any light on your -- or cause you to think about your own tactics in these kinds of operations, whereby clearly there were women and children and others and young people killed in this attack who even could conceivably be --
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, first of all, that's not clear. We have found no evidence of any children being killed, by people on the ground. We had a ground force element that went through the objective. It did not identify any children killed. And so this, again, is part of what needs to be determined by an unbiased investigation. And that's exactly what we're taking forward.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q It's Anthony Deutsch of the Associated Press. The footage shows dead children. Witnesses who were there say children were there. Can you truly refute that there were no children killed in this attack?
GEN. KIMMITT: Again, we have witnesses say that there were no children killed there. So that's why we need to take all of that evidence; we need to take all that information, put it before the investigators; and let's see where it takes us. We would appreciate anybody who has that information to come forward to the coalition forces and provide that information to us.
We have nothing to hide. We have drawn no determinations on this.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Jackie Spinner with The Washington Post. Can you clarify how many prisoners were released today at Abu Ghraib?
GEN. KIMMITT: I'm not aware that any prisoners were released today at Abu Ghraib. We have one scheduled for -- (to staff) -- Sam, what do we have? I think it's the 28th where we have a couple of hundred that will be released. I believe it's either -- I believe it's the 28th, but I may be off on my dates. We typically do them on Thursdays. So we'll check and get back to you on it.
Q I saw about 15 walk out today, so I just wanted to clarify.
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. There are -- on any number of days we have certain people that go out because they may be part of the guarantor program. But whether -- that small number is typically what comes out on a day-to-day basis. But we also try to have large releases on Thursdays as we work in the review boards, get the transportation so that we can get these people back up to Mosul, get them back down to Basra, get them out to Ramadi, so on and so forth.
But if we had -- if we released a large number today, we'll find out. But if you're telling me 15, that wouldn't be unusual on a day- to-day basis.
MR. SENOR: Yes, Mark?
Q Thanks. Mark Stone, ABC. General, I don't think anyone is suggesting that you actually were targeting civilians and children and women during this local wedding party attack. But I wonder, is it possible that they could have been from collateral damage? Maybe you were targeting the people who held all these items that you've shown us, but that women and children were somehow caught up in it. You said yesterday, or a couple of days ago, very clearly that no women were shot by U.S. soldiers. Could they perhaps have been killed from the bombing which took place as well?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well --
Q And secondly, if I could just ask, we've seen drugs in those photographs, we've seen some weapons. Was it -- is it -- I mean, I don't know, is it really necessary to kill 40 people for what seems to be a very small amount of money, not too many weapons, and some narcotics?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, first of all, rereading the transcripts, I don't think I ever said that women were not killed. We've admitted that there were six women --
Q You said women were not shot.
GEN. KIMMITT: They could have been killed by the bombing, that is true, and we acknowledged that last time.
On the second part, we were not going after drugs, we were not going after money. We were going after the targets that are a tremendous threat day after day inside this country, and that is the foreign fighters and the terrorists who routinely try to use the RAT lines to come into this country, to get on Iraqi clothes, to blend in with the Iraqi population and to carry out tremendous attacks on the people of Iraq.
We have been -- we have talked about, inside this room, many, many times what are we doing on the borders, what activities is the coalition doing to protect the borders, what are we doing on the borders to prevent people from coming in and bombing at places like Kadhimiya, at places such as Karbala. You saw the other day that the attack on the deputy Interior minister admittedly was done by a Syrian who came in this country and who got behind the wheel of a car and rammed that car as a VBIED into that house killing four people.
This is what we're doing to protect the borders of this country; we are carrying out offensive operations based on actionable intelligence to kill or capture those people that would try to kill the people of Iraq. That is our requirement. That is our obligation. It is true that we carry out the most precise operations we can. When we find out that those operations -- other evidence comes forward for us to take a look at those operations, we're going to do that. We're going to do that openly, we're doing to that objectively and we're going to do that without any prejudgment.
But the intelligence that we had, that got us there, what we found on the ground and our post-strike analysis suggests that what we had was a significant foreign-fighter waystation, smuggler waystation in the middle of the desert that was bringing people into this country for the sole purpose of attacking to kill the people of Iraq. We have a responsibility to maintain a safe and secure environment. That is our responsibility, that is our obligation, and we will carry that out.
MR. SENOR: I would just add, if you had engaged in a raid on the 20-plus individuals that were involved in executing the attacks in the United States on 9/11, if they were all together before 9/11 and you conducted a raid, I'm not sure you would have found the resources with them at the time of the raid that were proportionate to the damage that they -- and the death and destruction they were able to inflict on the United States. So I think there are other indications one looks for, as General Kimmitt has articulated, some of the things that were with them, that speak more significantly to their possible intentions than the items that you cited.
Q Staying on the same topic. On one of the videos, I think it's the latest one, the wedding -- fairly famous wedding singer was identified, who was buried the next day in Baghdad. How does that match your investigation?
MR. SENOR: Well, again, that's part of the investigation. We need to get that information. We don't want to draw any conclusions on what happened out there till we have all the evidence. But all we're doing right now is seeing that evidence come forward through the television station. It needs to be brought forward.
Q (Through interpreter.) Fawil al-Wahel (ph) from the Shevat (ph). General Kimmitt, in all conferences you have always say something that makes Iraqis angry. You say, "We killed the enemy." You are not. You are fighting my people. If you are fighting my people, then I am an agent of yours. Why don't you say that we are killing the outlaws? You are an occupation force.
(Second part of the question not translated.)
GEN. KIMMITT: It must possibly come across different in translation. When we refer to the enemy, we refer to people that would kill women, that would kill children, that would kill the people of Iraq. If there is a better term for us to use, we will talk to the translators to make sure that we are more empathetic to the way it comes across.
The information on Abu Ghraib.
MR. SENOR: Yes? Last question, right there.
Q Yes. Jean Vernier (sp), French TV, France 2. When we talk to American soldiers, almost all of them say that they want to go home. But, they say, the job has to be done. So I just want to ask if it's possible to sum up again for us what is this job that has to be done.
GEN. KIMMITT: Oh, I think the job that has to be done is quite clear. The job is one that brings freedom and liberty to the people of Iraq. It allows the people of Iraq to have a certain level of internal security so they don't have to fear at night. It is a certain level of freedom so they no longer have to be afraid of waking up in the middle of the night and having somebody knock on the door and take them away never to be seen again. It's the freedom to choose their own religion. It's the freedom to choose their own press. It is the freedom to read the words of truth.
It is very simple what this army is doing, what this military is doing, what the CPA is doing is attempting to bring freedom, liberty and sovereignty to the people of Iraq. That's the job that has to be done. And when that job is done, we will be happy because we all will go home, but we can't leave one day too soon. We can't leave until we can be relatively assured that the Iraqi security forces are capable of maintaining the defense of this country. We can't pull out of this country so soon that it creates a security vacuum only to be filled by the likes of Zarqawi, only to be filled by the likes of Muqtada al- Sadr, only to be filled by the likes of terrorists or former-regime elements that want to return this country to the days of Saddam.
Sure every soldier wants to go home. We'd much rather be at home. But we understand we have a responsibility here, we have a mission here. It is a mission that is difficult, that it's a mission that is dangerous. Seven hundred soldiers from different countries have lost their lives doing that. Thousands of soldiers have been wounded to bring liberty and freedom to the people of Iraq. Hundreds of Iraqi police have died to bring freedom to this country. Hundreds of Iraqi Civil Defense Corps have done that.
That's the reason we're here. That's the reason we'll stay until the mission is done. And when the mission is done, then we will leave and turn the country over completely to the people of Iraq.
MR. SENOR: Thank you everybody.
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