MR. SENOR: Good afternoon. I have a brief opening statement, General Kimmitt has an opening briefing, and then we'll be happy to take your questions.
We are nine days away from handing full sovereignty over to the Iraqi people, although, as you've heard me say repeatedly from this podium and as you've heard Iraqi officials say repeatedly, the process is well under way. June 30th is not some magical date where suddenly Iraqis will appear to assume authority. That is a process that has been under way for some time.
It is important to note that nearly 60 percent of the Iraqi government has already transitioned to sovereignty. These institutions are the ministries of Oil, Foreign Affairs, Health, Education, Public Works and Municipalities, Science and Technology, Agriculture, Displacement and Migration, Culture, Water Resources, Industry and Minerals, Planning and Development, Youth and Sport, Environment, and Transportation. That's 15 of Iraq's 26 ministries, 737 Iraqi government workers reporting to Iraqi supervisors, reporting to Iraqi ministers, not to coalition officials or consultants.
For instance, the Ministry of Agriculture has approximately 11,000 employees, but only five consultants are currently working with the ministry -- coalition consultants. The Ministry of Electricity has approximately 45,000 employees, but only nine coalition consultants will remain once it attains sovereignty. The Ministry of Communications has more than 15,000 employees, but only 20 coalition consultants will stay behind post-June 30th. The Ministry of Industry and Minerals, which has approximately 130,000 employees, will have a single coalition consultant. And the largest ministry, the Ministry of Education, with 300,000 employees, will have no consultants from the coalition post-June 30th.
Once sovereignty is attained, these consultants have no operational authority and are only there to provide technical assistance as needed, determined and requested by the Iraqi minister.
And today I can announce that by the end of this week, all remaining ministries will be turned over to the Iraqi ministers. So by this time next week, every single minister will have control of their respective ministry. There are approximately 1.3-plus-million Iraqi employees in the national government workforce, and by the end of this week, all of them will be reporting to Iraqi supervisors and Iraqi ministers. This is several days, as you know -- this will be several days before the June 30th handover. In addition to the progress being made within the ministries, all provincial governments are operating, and about 90 percent of Iraq's municipalities have operating councils. And so the sovereignty -- the gradual sovereignty process that we have pursued is not just limited exclusively to the national government; it is also thriving at the provincial and municipal levels.
We will continue to provide updates for you on the various transition processes that are under way, but I wanted to get you information right here as to our new goal in getting total sovereignty handed over to the ministries by the end of this week. And there will be more information coming out on it; you should check your -- check for media advisories for events surrounding the complete turnover.
GEN. KIMMITT: Thanks.
The coalition and Iraqi security forces continue operations to maintain a stable Iraq in order to repair infrastructure, stimulate the economy and facilitate the transfer of sovereignty on June 30th. To that end, in the past 24 hours the coalition conducted 1,782 patrols, 12 offensive operations. Forty-seven anti-coalition suspects were detained and 19 detainees were released.
The next release at Abu Ghraib is scheduled for the 22nd and 23rd of June, and 157 detainees are scheduled for release.
Eight hundred and forty-three Iraqi army officers, to include 11 female officers, graduated this week from the Jordanian armed forces' military academy as part of the coalition's training and equipping of the Iraqi armed forces. Graduation from this academy marks the second and final class of Iraqi army officers to complete the courses in Jordan, and this completes officer training for the Iraqi army's three programmed divisions. The graduation culminated three six- to eight- week courses at the school, ranging from company and platoon leaders' course to brigade and battalion staff officers' course, and a brigade and battalion commanders' course; courses that train junior officers to lieutenant colonels. Iraqi officer and enlisted initial entry training will now almost entirely be conducted by Iraqi army trainers.
In the northern area of operations, coalition forces conducted a cordon-and-knock in eastern Mosul, detaining five individuals suspected of indirect fire attacks against coalition forces and murdering members of the Iraqi security forces. All five personnel are currently in coalition custody.
Today a contractor convoy was attacked by improvised explosive device and small-arms fire 50 kilometers south of Mosul. Four Iraqi contractors were killed and three wounded. And the wounded have been transported to a combat support hospital, where they are undergoing treatment.
In the north central zone of operations, coalition soldiers killed four suspected anti-Iraqi insurgents conducting a mortar attack on a coalition compound in Samarra. One civilian guard working was -- for the coalition was wounded when two mortar rounds from that attack near the compound.
A coalition combat patrol discovered two bodies in the vicinity of Tikrit. One of the bodies was identified as Sheik Izaldin al- Abdallah al-Bairati (sp), a member of the local governing council in the Salhuddin province.
In Baghdad yesterday, there was an assassination of the Rusafayah district advisory council chairman and vice chairman in northeastern Baghdad. The vice chairman, Sheik Majid (sp), was killed and the chairman, Dr. Kadum (sp), is in intensive care after surgery. Both had been shot multiple times.
Yesterday a South Korean citizen, Kim Sun-il, was taken hostage. The Jama'at al-Tawhid and Jihad group, believed to be led by Abu Musaab al- Zarqawi, are threatening to behead Kim Sun if Seoul fails to withdraw its troops from Iraq in 24 hours. Kim Sun-il works with a trade company in Baghdad.
In the western zone of operations, coalition forces conducted a raid east of al Qaim, targeting two anti-Iraqi force personnel, both brothers wanted for conducting attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi government officials. Four Iraqi males were detained in the raid, including the two brothers.
In the central south zone of operations, approximately 50 armed insurgents wearing black masks dismounted their vehicle by the Iraqi police station in Djor Askar (sp). The attackers placed explosives inside the building and then destroyed the structure. When coalition and Iraqi security forces approached the substation, they saw five vehicles matching the description of the attackers, and forces engaged and destroyed one of the vehicles and pursued another vehicle to a residence, where they found a wounded attacker, an AK-47 shotgun and blueprints of the police station.
Two days ago, coalition forces conducted a raid in the vicinity of Mahmudiyah to capture a suspect believed involved in the kidnapping of the Italian hostages. Soldiers detained three men, including the target, during the operation.
In the southeastern zone of operations, a coalition patrol reported a crowd gathered in front of the governate building in Basra, demonstrating against the Basra governor. The crowd grew to approximately 1,000 persons, remained relatively calm before dispersing peacefully. Apparently 40 persons have remained in the area, and they intend to stay on location for the next three days.
MR. SENOR: And with that, we'll be happy to take your questions.
Q (Through interpreter.) Bahram Hamid Ali (ph), Mashriq newspaper. Yesterday Dr. Fouad Massoum, who shall preside over the national conference, he said Muqtada al-Sadr has been invited to participate in the interim national assembly. What is the position of the coalition? And this national conference is going to be held after the transfer of sovereignty.
MR. SENOR: You actually hit the most important point there. This conference will be held after Iraq has full sovereignty, so this is a question for the Iraqis to determine, not for the coalition. But I would refer you to a statement that Dr. Fouad made today in which he denied that Muqtada al-Sadr has been invited, or will be invited to attend or participate, in the Iraqi national conference. Again, I would refer you to him for comment.
As far as Muqtada al-Sadr's broader role in Iraq's political process, please understand that, under Iraqi law, Muqtada al-Sadr is still being pursued for an arrest warrant that has been issued against him related to a brutal murder. I don't see how he would have a role in pursuing public office before that matter is resolved. He is the head of an illegal militia, and again I don't know how he could pursue public office before that matter is resolved. The political parties law, the public order that the coalition has been working at the initiative of the interim government, says explicitly no political entity -- I quote: "No political entity may have or be associated with an armed force, militia or residual element as defined in CPA Order Number 91," which is the CPA order that relates to the regulation of armed forces and militias within Iraq that Prime Minister Allawi announced a couple weeks ago.
So I refer you to -- again, as to any other statements made by Dr. Fouad I refer you to him directly, but today he was quite clear.
Q Richard Lloyd Perry (sp) of the Times. Can you tell us anything more about the circumstances in which the South Korean man was taken hostage? I mean, so far, all I've seen is the video which has been on television. Do you have any idea where he was? There have been reports that other hostages were taken with him. Can you confirm those? And what action, if any, is the coalition taking to try and get him out?
MR. SENOR: We view, obviously, as a very high priority any hostage taken, any civilian hostage, any military hostage taken. And we have made clear that this is tragic and we will put all the necessary resources, both military and intelligence resources, behind the safe rescue of any hostage, including this gentleman from Korea.
As to the intentions of the Korean government, I would refer you to the statements they have made, which have been quite strong, to my understanding, based on what I've seen in the reports. But anything further, I would refer you to them. We obviously want to pursue this as expeditiously as possible; seek his safe release, minimize bloodshed in the process. Those are our priorities right now.
Q So coalition military personnel are actively involved in looking for him, is that right?
GEN. KIMMITT: Coalition military personnel continue to collect intelligence throughout this country related to any threats, whether they be threats to the coalition forces, threats to Iraqi civilians, threat to civilians operating inside this country.
MR. SENOR: Kelly?
Q Kelly Wright (sp), Fox News. General Kimmitt, do you have any details about an attack that apparently took place on four soldiers in Ramadi? There's video circulating now that shows four dead bodies in uniform.
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. This morning we had servicemen operating in the vicinity of the city of Ramadi. As you might expect, they report in to their higher headquarters at certain intervals. There was a time when they should have reported in, did not report in. We sent a Quick Reaction Force to their location. I think we've all seen those videos and those photos on APTN and some of the other news services. I can confirm that we do in fact have four servicemen die as part of that combat action, and we're going through the next-of-kin notification procedure at this time.
Q Do you have any further details of how that happened? They were without their security vests as well as their helmets.
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, I don't think at this point we want to comment any further. The most important thing we need to do in the next 24 hours is next-of-kin notification. After we've notified the families, I think we're going to be a little more forthcoming on what happened up there.
MR. SENOR: Jim?
Q Yeah, hi. Jim Krane with the AP. General Kimmitt, there was a report in today's New York Times about some foreigners killed in the airs trike in Fallujah. I think the -- if I remember correctly, it mentioned Algerians, Saudis and Yemenis, I believe. Can you confirm any of that, and give any detail?
GEN. KIMMITT: All I can confirm is what we have read in the newspapers as well; that we had very, very strong pre-strike intelligence suggesting that that house at that location of Fallujah was occupied by members of the Zarqawi terrorist network. We conducted the strike. What we saw at the strike location, what we had prior to that attack and all of our post-strike intelligence continues to confirm that that was a safe house with a significant amount of ammunition being stored for whatever reason, we suspect to make VBIEDs and to attack Iraqis and coalition convoys with VBIEDs and to attack Iraqi civilians.
As to the actual nationality, we have no confirmation what nations they came from. They were described to us in news accounts, in some open-source intelligence reporting suggesting that they were not Iraqis. So again, more and more confirmation continues to come in suggesting that what we thought we were going to hit, a known Zarqawi safe house with a significant amount of ammunition, is in fact what we hit.
Q Would we be remiss in describing these folks as foreign fighters, foreign fighter suspects?
GEN. KIMMITT: I think we would probably have no qualm with that characterization. I would say more accurately these were key personnel in the Zarqawi network operating inside Fallujah with the capability to strike civilians and coalition forces throughout Iraq.
MR. SENOR: Tom?
Q Tom Lasseter, Knight-Ridder. Is there any intelligence suggesting that there are other captives along with the South Korean? And also, the question was asked before, where was he captured and under what circumstances? Could you speak to any of those details?
GEN. KIMMITT: I don't think we have any more intelligence right now. We're developing that intelligence about where he was captured, under what circumstances he was captured, but I'm just not sure that we have built that body of intelligence yet.
MR. SENOR: And Tom, I would just add, you know, these situations of the hostage takings tend to be difficult questions to answer because on the one hand, I hope you can understand we want to provide you all with as much information as we can, but we also have to strike the right balance between doing so and maintaining the sensitive information from an operational security standpoint that is necessary to pursue their safe release. And often, revealing information in these sorts of venues tends to wind up in the wrong hands, for obvious reasons, because it's public information. And it's often not in the interest of those whose safe release we are trying to secure. So I just hope you all can understand.
Q (Through interpreter.) (Name and affiliation inaudible.) I have two questions. The first question is regarding the advisers, the senior advisers that will be working after the transfer of sovereignty. Ambassador Negroponte, who will be appointed U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has said a few days ago that we will have 150 advisers to work with the ministries. How true is this information?
The second question: Regarding the detainees once again, this issue of the detainees is still pending, and it has not been finalized by the coalition that will remain after the transfer of sovereignty. The nature of the negotiations that you are engaged in with the Iraqi government for the transfer on the control of the detainees in the prisons? Thank you.
MR. SENOR: Yeah. On your first question, I haven't seen the specific statement. So I won't response specifically to it.
But I'll say that the current plan, the latest plan I've seen, has approximately 200 current employees of CPA, be they consultants or full-time employees, that will be staying on, working under the auspices of the embassy. And a number of these employees of these 200 have relationships with a number of the ministries. And the idea is, during the transition phase, those roles will continue. That number of -- those individuals will not, for the most part, evolve into full- time employees of the embassy. And what's -- I guess what's classified as a full-time employee of the embassy is someone who's making, I think, a minimum of a one-year commitment. These are people who will just be here for a few months after, helping with the transition and continuing their technical consultancy with ministries or other Iraqi agencies with which they had been working.
GEN. KIMMITT: On the issue of detainees, we suspect that there will not be any significant changes between now and the near future with regards to the general security internees that we are keeping at places such as Camp Bucca. We of course will continue to release those who are no longer a security threat to the nation of Iraq. We will continue under the provisions of United States Security Council Resolution 1546, have the requirement and the obligation to ensure those who are an imperative threat to the security of Iraq remain detained or become detained. So we would expect that there will be a difference in how they are detained with regards to are there going to be Iraqi ombudsmen, will there be Iraqi guards in the detention facilities, and those discussions are still going on at this time.
But number one, coalition forces and Iraqi security forces will take security detainees after 1 July, as a consequence of the ongoing operations. That is not only a mission, but it's also an obligation to keep these people off the streets.
Number two, the character of the partnership that we will enjoy after 1 July certainly demands that we have discussions about what is the Iraqi participation in the detention policy, in those execution of detention operations as well. And those are ongoing at this time.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q My name is Yasu (sp) with Kyodo News Japanese news agency. I have two questions for General. One -- first question is, the Japanese government has decided that SDF is going to participate in multinational forces, and they say that the SDF has its own command. But the resolution of the United Nations says that the multinational forces is going to operate under unified command. What are your views?
And second question is, Prime Minister Allawi has said that the Iraqi -- Iraq is considering to a state of emergency in some selected areas in Iraq after June 30th. And what will be the coordinations of command between multinational forces and the Iraqi security forces?
Thank you very much.
GEN. KIMMITT: I think the answer to the first question is understanding the difference between the notion of command and the notion of control. Every one of our soldiers in the coalition answer in an unbroken line back to their sovereign power. In the case of an American soldier, the president gives the orders all the way down to the individual soldiers on the ground in terms of command orders. So that is never broken, and we would not expect as part of the coalition that that would ever be broken in the case of the British soldiers or the Japanese soldiers. But control is a different situation.
Operational control on the battlefield, on military operations, on peace support operations requires that you have an operational chain for day-to-day activities, and clearly that's what we would envision when we talk about the Japanese Self-Defense Forces participating in the multinational operations. Certainly you don't want to set up a structure so that every time that the forces are asked to pick up any missions on a day-to-day basis, they have to go through a long chain back to their host nation -- back to their own nation and then come back. So we have an expression called "operational control" where there is a certain amount of latitude given to the force's commander on the ground, in this case the multinational forces of Iraq. But we never get to a position where our forces, your forces or anyone else's forces break that link between their sovereign power and the individual soldier -- down to the individual soldier on the ground.
On the second question, we are setting up those mechanisms now between the Iraqi -- the sovereign Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces. In some ways, it will mirror the same; that there will be an unbroken line of command from Prime Minister Allawi all the way down to the individual soldier on the ground. But as part of this partnership between the multinational forces and the Iraqi security forces, we will be working out arrangements so that we can operate -- interoperate every day while still understanding that we need to keep the Iraqi government informed on how we are conducting our operations, why, where, sort of all the typical questions that a sovereign nation would act, particularly since we are operating inside their nation.
We are fairly sanguine about the responsibility that this should not be a problem. We do this every day in places such as Korea. We have a U.N. force, we have U.S. military forces operating in the sovereign nation of South Korea. And these are the types of procedures that we operate under every day.
MR. SENOR: Patrick?
Q For General Kimmitt, I'm wondering if you could explain a little bit how the role of U.S. forces will change post-June 30th. There's been talk of pulling back from the cities, more emphasis on training, fewer raids, more joint patrols. Could you give us a little bit of an outline of how things will change as of July 1st for the U.S. forces?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well again, I don't think that July 1st is a particularly significant date in the part of coalition military operations, with the exception of we'll now be known as the multinational forces. We will continue to operate to establish and maintain a safe and secure environment here in Iraq. The objectives and the aspirations that you have discussed -- withdrawing from the city, reducing our presence in the city, turning more responsibility over to the Iraqi security forces, more joint patrols -- that's something we've been doing for a long, long time, Patrick. You know we've talked about that when we talk about local control.
But certainly, the character is not going to change dramatically on the 1st day of July militarily the way it is dramatically changing politically on the first day of July. So it remains our end state that we depart this nation with fully capable Iraqi security forces responsible for the internal and external security of their nation without the need for a multinational force inside this country. That doesn't happen on the 1st of July. I think all of us understand that it will be some time before those Iraqi security forces can take on the burden and the responsibility. And it will happen differently in different portions of the country.
In the quiet areas of the country, it may be that the Iraqi security forces take over that responsibility much quicker, and the coalition forces go from being the lead, as they were, to working side by side, as they will be, to a point where they have actually pulled out. It's sort of like the notion of being a policeman to being a fireman, to where they will no longer be walking up and down those streets every day, but they'll be outside the city sitting in their fire stations, ready to be in called in in emergency, but as and when the Iraqi security forces call them. And that will happen at different times around this country.
We would like to get to the position where all of our forces have passed off most of the responsibility to the Iraqi security forces, and then we will have achieved that concept, as we've called it before -- local control; and then regional control and then, eventually, we will be out of the country. So --
Q Just a quick follow-up. Are there any plans for permanent U.S. bases in Iraq?
GEN. KIMMITT: I know of no plans for permanent U.S. bases in Iraq.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Toby Harnden from the Daily Telegraph. General Kimmitt, can you tell us anything about the incidents in which three small British naval vessels were apparently seized by Iranian forces?
GEN. KIMMITT: I know a little bit about that. This morning, at about 05:00, three boats, eight persons from the Royal Naval Training Team that was operating out of Basra departed on a mission for training with their fellows in the Iraqi navy. We don't have much more than that.
I have been asked to pass on that any further information you can obtain from the Foreign Office in London. Their public affairs would be glad to provide you any more than that.
Q Just to clarify, General, they were training Iraqi naval people. Is that right?
GEN. KIMMITT: That's my understanding. Correct.
MR. SENOR: Go ahead.
Q (Through interpreter.) (Off mike) -- newspaper Lahktal (sp). You spoke about the transfer of authority after -- (off mike) -- American authority. Why are they not responding to presenting the authority to Iraqis?
And then, as to the tribunal, there is -- the military judge allowed for meetings with General Abizaid and other officers from the special task forces. Are there any particular problems of officers relating to such a problem -- high officers in this area? Thank you.
MR. SENOR: Can you just ask the first question? I think I missed the first part of the first question.
Q (Through interpreter.) (Off mike) -- do you expect that the U.S. will seek to issue a resolution at the U.N. for the transfer of authority? And if not, why is it that the U.S. has not taken a role in pursuing a resolution at the U.N.?
MR. SENOR: Well, we -- a U.N. resolution recently passed, which expressed strong support for the political transition, the plan going forward for the interim government. It passed in the Security Council unanimously, 15 to 0.
Now, as you've seen, Prime Minister Allawi has been quite outspoken, using momentum generated by the U.N. Security Council resolution to reach out to the international community to broaden its support for Iraq going forward here as it enters this sovereign phase.
GEN. KIMMITT: I'm going to be very careful in what I say, because I'm not a lawyer. But as I understand, in today's proceedings, the motion hearings, that there was a motion put forward on the part of one of the defense lawyers to be able to bring in witnesses. Those witnesses included some of the significant members of the chain of command -- General Sanchez, General Abizaid -- and it is my understanding that the judge did allow that motion.
What that means, what its significance is -- I know we have a lawyer here somewhere. I'm sure that she will be glad to explain what that means on background after this. The significance of that -- I just -- I think it may be that, as a matter of course, anybody who is ever accused of a crime always wants the right to call witnesses up to and including the president of the United States. And to avoid those types of frivolous actions, that typically, when you start talking significant people, that there has to be some measure of justification given to the judge for the right to call those witnesses. But I will defer all those questions to a trained lawyer, which I am not.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. SENOR: Can you ask that again? I didn't get the first part. He's going to -- go ahead.
I think we're having some technical difficulties in the translator booth.
Q (Through interpreter.) The resolution that was passed was not pertaining --
MR. SENOR: Yeah, any future resolutions, I would refer you to the U.N.; to the U.S. mission to the U.N., to the U.S. State Department. As I said, there is a resolution that's been passed. It supports the political transition going forward. It supports Iraq's path to sovereignty. It supports the interim government. As for any future actions, those shouldn't be addressed from this podium. We'll be gone in nine days.
Yes? Last question. Can you -- yeah.
Q Many of the Assyrians and other minorities are leaving the country or are quite worried, and one of the reasons --
INTERPRETER: Microphone, please! Microphone please!
Q (Off mike.)
INTERPRETER: Mike, mike, mike, mike!
MR. SENOR: Yeah.
Q Oh, sorry. Many of the Assyrians and other minorities are leaving the country, and one of the concerns is what role they'll have in the future; in particular, the Transitional Administrative Law and the fact that it's not mentioned in the U.N. resolution. There's some concern as to whether it will go forward, and -- some of the items in the law itself. But can you like give a -- some kind of word of assurance to the minorities --
MR. SENOR: Sure.
Q -- that they'll have a part in the future, as well that the transitional law will in some way be -- continue on?
MR. SENOR: Sure. The Transitional Administrative Law, which is effectively Iraq's interim constitution, is a document similar to other constitutions, interim constitutions, which typically aren't mentioned in U.N. Security Council resolutions. The principles most central, however, in that document are specifically referenced in the U.N. Security Council resolution and supported. In fact, the preamble talks about principles like minority rights, federalism, Iraq's democratic path forward. And so a number of those issues are of importance to the communities you referenced and others.
And the Transitional Administrative Law, as you know, has very strong protections for all Iraqis, regardless of religion, gender, regional origin. And the Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, has made a very strong statement about his government's support for the interim constitution and to the extent that that document should continue to serve as a legal guide for their activities going forward and constitutional parameters for their government going forward during this interim period. He feels quite strongly about that.
Finally, I would say that the interim government is probably the most representative government and inclusive government not only in Iraq history but probably in this entire region, and that also is a positive sign.
So I think any minority community should feel that their rights are protected in Iraq, in the new Iraq, in the free Iraq, that the rights outlined in the Transitional Administrative Law will be protected and enforced, and there really isn't cause for concern. It's something I think the interim government feels strongly about.
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