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DoD News Briefing with Maj. Gen. Hunzeker from Iraq

Presenters: Commanding General Civilian Police Assistance Training Team, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hunzeker
March 22, 2007 9:00 AM EDT
            BRYAN WHITMAN (Pentagon spokesman): Good morning, and welcome. I think that we have both good video and audio. Let me just see if General Hunzeker can hear me. 
 
            General, this is Bryan Whitman at the Pentagon.  
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: I can hear you, Bryan. 
 
            MR. WHITMAN: Well, good afternoon to you, General. And good morning to the Pentagon press corps here. 
 
            Our briefer today is Major General Kenneth Hunzeker. He is the commander of the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team in Iraq. He's been doing that since October of 2006. He is speaking to us today from Baghdad. And this is his first time in this format and venue with us. But he's going to be able to give you an update on the civilian police training, and then has been kind enough to give us some time to take your questions. 
 
            So, General, with that, let me turn it over to you to open it up before we get into some of the questions that folks have here. 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, good morning for you and afternoon for me. I am Major General Ken Hunzeker, the commanding general of the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team, more commonly known here in Iraq as CPATT.   
 
            I will first take a few minutes to update you on the progress of the training and the equipping of the Iraqi police forces, and then will take your questions. 
 
            The bedrock of the Iraqi police today is a professional and well- trained organization that enforces the law equitably among its citizens, while upholding human rights. It's a force that addresses crime and violence, but protects the dignity and the safety of its citizens. And this new approach is a dramatic change from a generation of Iraqis who were used to the terror tactics of the Saddam-era police. 
 
            The dean of the Baghdad Police College recently said, before April 2003, we did not understand what human rights meant. Today, we teach our recruits about human rights, and the students comprehend what it means to treat people with dignity and respect. To date, we have trained more than 200,000 policemen and women. This is more than 19,000 above our original target goal.   
 
            I recently visited al Kut joint training academy with Major General Moshen, who is the director general of border enforcement. I had the opportunity to meet students as they came through the front gate and welcome them to the academy. I had the opportunity to ask recruits a few questions. And I asked the recruits; I said, why did you join the police? And almost universally, they said, because I want to free Iraq, and I want to fight terrorism.   
 
            These new policemen are truly representative of the average Iraqis that I meet on the street every day. They want to make a difference; they truly want a safe and secure Iraq. And they are volunteering for one of the toughest jobs here in this country.   
 
            The particular training class I visited in al Kut is unique in two ways. It's the first class conducted by the Iraqis since assuming control of all their academies on January 1st of this year, and it's the first class of national police to be trained at al Kut. These recruits will go through basic and advanced training, much like our military does in the United States. Upon completion of this training, they will fill positions within the national police, and be a critical part of the joint Iraqi coalition effort to secure Baghdad known as Operation Fard al-Qanun.   
 
            Since 2003, we have built or refurbished nearly 500 police stations, 21 national police and emergency response units, 272 border sites, and 11 of the 13 academy sites. Today, the Iraqis are in control of their police stations and their academies. The Iraqi police have made significant progress during the past four years. However, there is work to do in the future.   
 
            Training does not stop when they graduate from the academies, but rather continues through their police careers. Like most police in the world today, a professional and competent organization requires constant training, with a great deal of it being done after basic training. We are assisting the Iraqis in their efforts to establish a solid program for that sustained training.   
 
            Thank you, and I'm happy to take your questions.   
 
            MR. WHITMAN: Well, General, thanks for that overview, and we do have a few questions here. And we'll start with Kristin.   
 
            Q     Hi, sir, this is Kristin Roberts with Reuters. You say that 200,000 Iraqis have been trained. I'm wondering if you can tell me how many of that total are able to operate independent of U.S. assistance?   
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, that's a great question, Kristin.   
 
            I will tell you that from the start, as we put the 18 provinces together, with their different chiefs of police and the national police who have transition teams with them and the border teams, they are running their own police forces now. They are in charge, and they have been doing that from the start. We do have transition teams with them to help with the enablers and the like, but by and large they have two-star commanders. They lead them on a daily basis; they do the feeding for them; they do the pay for them. So they basically are in charge of their police forces.   
 
            Q     (Off mike) -- understand that, then what does it mean for a U.S. transition team to be really with the Iraqi national police forces? Are the U.S. personnel doing the planning of daily patrols and operations? Or are the Iraqis doing them?   
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, you know, I do the train and equip mission here in Iraq, but I do have a lot of time. And I've spent time with, in fact, some of the transition teams this morning. And on the national police side, with General Hussein the commander, and what -- he is the deputy commander for General Abboud in the operational plan. He is involved in all the planning, and it is done with General Abboud on that side. But again, I do the train and equip, but I do get to talk to General Hussein about that on -- about every other day on that one.   
 
            MR. WHITMAN: Al? 
 
            Q     General, it's Al Pessin from Voice of America. As I'm sure you're aware, there was a report from General Barbero the other day about this incident where two Iraqi children were used in a car bombing. I understand that that report came originally from the Iraqi police, so I wonder if you have information that can confirm that and can provide any details about how old the children were, how they came to be there and what the status of the investigation is. 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, what I do know about that -- because I am the adviser to the minister of Interior, and I talked to him a couple hours ago about it -- is that in fact it did take place, and in fact it was three children. They have an eyewitness. And General Karim, who runs the National Command Center, is part of the investigation, and they're looking into it right now. 
 
            And when I talked to the minister, he really thinks that this is a result of the job that the police are doing at the checkpoints, and it's the progress that they've made as far as looking for, you know, VBIEDs and things along those lines. On a personal basis, I think the terrorists have gone to a new low here with this tactic. 
 
            Q     Can I follow up on that? Was the minister able to provide any details or do you have some other sources in the police, any details that -- you're saying all three kids were in the car? Do you know who these kids were and how they came to be there, how old they were, approximately? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: I do not know their ages. I didn't talk to the minister in detail about that. I will refer you to the government of Iraq, because I know he is doing the investigation on that, and the spokesman for the MOI is General Karim on that issue. 
 
            Q     Okay, thank you. 
 
            MR. WHITMAN: Jon? 
 
            Q     General, it's Jon Karl of ABC News. Two questions. 
 
            One, we hear complaints from the Iraqi police often that they don't have the equipment they need. From your perspective, where are we on that? Are the 200,000 police that have come through this program, do they have the equipment they need? And can you give me some kind of an indication of the sectarian makeup of these 200,000 trained police? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: That's -- if you look at the makeup of the organizations, it's -- and that really highlights the diversity from what you have for the Ministry Interior Forces. And in the -- for example, making up that 200,000 are over 135,000 provincial policemen in 18 provinces. Also part of that are 24,000 national policemen who are involved in the battle Fard al-Qanun. And then over 30,000 employees from the DBE - that's the Director (sic) of Border Enforcement -- and run the ports of entry and the border forts. And so that's the makeup and the composition of it. And when you look at the different challenges that they have as far as the borders, internal security and then the 18 provinces, it really is a complex issue. 
 
            And what was the first part of your question again? 
 
            Q     The training and the equipment, how well equipped they are. 
 
            Do they have the equipment they need? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, we've done -- as you know, last year was the year of police. They have the equipment they need to do the job. We are about -- if you look at the last couple of reports, we've delivered most of the equipment. I think in June we'll close out to the last province to the last border fort, but by and large, the forces in contact have what they need. We just did a resupply into Baghdad for the national police. They needed a couple other pieces of equipment, and we were able to provide that. And I would have to say that the government of Iraq was able to provide that because they did that through their own supply system. 
 
            Q     Okay. Can I follow up on the first part, though, the sectarian make-up. Okay -- complex -- we have the three different categories of police. Just focus on those national police for a second. How -- what is the Sunni, Shi'a, Kurd make-up of the national police? How does it break down? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, I will tell you. When you look across that formation, it's been fighting in Baghdad for about the last two years, and they've recruited from there extensively. I don't have exact numbers, but as they come through a major training center at Numaniyah, we do see what their composition is. And I would guess that they are probably between 85 and 90 percent Shi'a and between 10 and 15 percent Sunni. 
 
            MR. WHITMAN: Jim, go ahead. 
 
            Q     General, this is Jim Mannion from Agence France-Presse. The Iraq progress report to the police is being infiltrated, having a lot of problems with militia influence. What has been done about that, and what's the status of that problem now? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, I'll tell you that when you look at militia influence, when Minister Bolani came in in June, one of the things he said is he said he was not going to tolerate sectarian behavior, and he came in with an approach that really is no nonsense. And he has -- his actions have spoken louder than words. As you know, in January he discharged over 3,000 members of the MOI for a different range of issues. 
 
            So from his perspective and from the government of Iraq perspective, they are dealing with all these issues. They have procedures and policies in place, and clearly, it's something that he's dealing with and I feel that he's dealing with in a very appropriate manner. 
 
            MR. WHITMAN: Lisa. 
 
            Q     Hi, General. This is Lisa Burgess with Stars and Stripes. Can you give us some information about the Iraq rotational plan for these individuals who are participating in Fard al-Qanun? I spoke to the commander for the PTT team for the 8th Iraqi Police Brigade. He said that there have been no changes, as far as he knows, for those individuals. They're rotating the same way they always had. 
 
            We had been told earlier that there are some units that are participating that are not doing the usual three weeks on, one week off, and they staying in place for there full months. Can you give us some information about what you know as that applies to the police? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, again, we do the train-and-equip piece of this operation, but I do happen to know a little bit about 8th Brigade and General Ali down there, who's a greater commander, by the way, because he just finished up at Numaniyah in the January time frame.   
 
            I do know that he cares a great deal about his shurtas. I do know he has a rotation. And one of the big issues we had when he as down in training in Numaniyah was the fact that his policemen or shurtas did get rotated on leave. So knowing that he's in command there, I know that he's put those procedures into effect. 
 
            Q     Not according to his PTT team adviser. 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, I have -- I don't know his NPTT team adviser now, and so I can't comment on that one. 
 
            Q     Okay. Thank you. 
 
            MR. WHITMAN: Go ahead. 
 
            Q     Jennifer Griffin with Fox News, General. So are you saying that they -- that the police have all the equipment that they need; there are no equipment shortages at this point in time? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: What I will tell you is that they haven't issued all the equipment that they need. And one of the challenges we have going forward -- and it's an issue across the entire ministry -- is how we do replenishment and replacement of that equipment.   
 
            In fact, I met with the minister, in fact, three days ago to talk about this year's budget and next year's budget. And one of the challenges he has is finding that money for sustainment, because we have issued a lot of equipment, and you know, when it wears out, or when it's lost, or when it's damaged, there is a replacement issue.   
 
            They have put together a program on that. In fact, we're doing that through the Foreign Military Sales program. He signed up for four cases already on that, and our plan moving forward in the next couple of weeks is to put several more cases together not only so he can buy from our country and other countries, but to also generate the ability to reproduce that equipment that he's short inside his own country. 
 
            I do happen to know that the factories in Najaf, for example, are making a lot of the uniforms that we're using now. And the last set that came in for the trainees coming that are training at Hillah, those uniforms were purchased in Najaf.   
 
            So they are into the sustainment phase of this operation, they, the government of Iraq. 
 
            MR. WHITMAN: Go ahead, Jonathan. 
 
            Q     General, coming back to the figure you mentioned right at the top -- 200,000 police trained -- how many of those 200,000 are actually on the job right now? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, as you know, they have personnel reports that get reported to the MOI. And those that we've trained and equipped for this year's planning factor for what we needed to put into the training plan, we planned for about a 20 percent attrition. So on the worst case, I think you probably have 180,000 of the people that we've trained and equipped on the job, and best case, you have more than that. So -- and the good news in this story is the training plan for this year accommodates those losses that we've had in the force so far. And recruiting so far has not been an issue. 
 
            MR. WHITMAN: Jim. 
 
            Q     General, it's Jim Mannion again. I was wondering on the equipping of the police, how much visibility do you have over not what you've issued them, but what they have now? I thought that there was a problem with that, that poor record-keeping and problems of that kind has made it very difficult to say, you know, what has happened to the equipment that you've issued to them. Is that the case? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, I will tell you, on a personal basis, you know, we have put together a program down in Numaniyah where we take a national police brigade offline for a month and we put them through probably their first collective training they've had as an organization.  
 
            And it's during this training where they come down, we do a total assessment of not only the personal equipment that they have, but then we take a look at their vehicles, we put together a maintenance program, and basically they get a service on every piece of equipment they have. So from that end, we see exactly what they have of what we've issued, and when there are shortages, again, the government of Iraq are making up those shortages.   
 
            And when you look out in the provinces, that responsibility really falls on the chief of police. And the issue and what they need to replace on a local basis is done entirely through the government of Iraq right now, and it's through the ministry. In fact, all the chiefs of police are going to come in early next month and we're going to talk about exactly that issue; what are the things you need for the future, what don't you have? And it's a great dialogue that the minister has instituted with the chiefs of police. 
 
            Q     Sir, we often hear here in Washington that the Iraqi police are the weak link in the security chain over there. Is that fair? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: I will tell you that when you look at the architects of the Fard al-Qanun -- and again, I do train and equip, not the operational side. But when you took a look at the architects and you look at the synergies that they put together with the plan, that every zone is given an Iraqi army unit paired with an Iraqi police unit to take advantage of the capabilities of both those organizations, I think that's what's valuable in how we're executing Fard al-Qanun, the fact that they've built those synergistic teams to fight together. 
 
            Q     So is that not fair, then, to say that the Iraqi police are the weak link? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Again, I will tell you what I see in the organization for how they're organized and equipped for the fight, for Fard al-Qanun, they truly are set up for success because in one capability where you need a police force to do a mission, they have it, and one capability where you need an army force to do the mission, they have it. So they've task organized within each one of those sectors to take the advantages of the strength and weaknesses of both organizations. 
 
            Q     General, in that operation in Baghdad, I know there was some concern at the beginning about coordination of command. And I'm not sure how deeply you get into this in your position, but can you tell us how it's going in terms of coordinating between MNF-I, Iraqi army and the various Iraqi police forces as they all try to work together in the neighborhood? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: You're exactly right, that is not something I do in my train and equip role. But as the mentor for the minister of Interior, I have actually sat down with the chiefs of police for the four different police forces that are in Iraq and we've talked about that exactly. 
 
            In fact, there was initially a void. We took -- that one of the retired police chiefs from Baghdad, General Khalid, and we moved him up as the liaison officer for the BOC, the battlefield operations center, where General Abboud is running the operation. So we recognized initially that that was a challenge, put an LNO up there, and then all the chiefs of police within the Baghdad districts are in fact connected to this plan. 
 
            Q     In your role with the minister, I wonder if you were involved in the decision of the process to release the Sadr aide who was released yesterday. And if so, can you tell us how that came about, and was it something that, from the U.S. point of view, was a good thing to do or was it something that Maliki pressured the United States to agree to, which would be in contravention to one of his commitments under the security plan? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, on a personal basis, the minister and I talked about several things yesterday and today, and that is not one of them. So I'm not familiar with the facts in that case. 
 
            MR. WHITMAN: Lisa. 
 
            Q     Hi, this is Lisa Burgess again. Did you make any shifts or adjustments in training and equipping when the Baghdad security plan was announced to accommodate that or make any tweaks in the training plan? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Yes, Lisa, we did. In fact, the biggest thing we did was the training as we initially stood it up for what we were doing with the national police brigades was a lot -- had a lot of police emphasis, and we did an after-action review with the first brigade down there. And the commander came up to me and said, "You know, I don't have enough of the tactical training going on for what we need in the fight," and based upon that, I sat down with the transition team leader there on the ground, and we built three combat lanes for the task that he would need during Fard al-Qanun. And then we trained them to standard in those lanes, and it's been done for every brigade since so. We're just about to finish up our fourth brigade, and they've gone through and trained to standard for those three combat tests. 
 
            MR. WHITMAN: Go ahead, Jennifer. 
 
            Q     General, it's Jennifer Griffin again. Don't you see there being a problem with the police force being made up of almost 90 percent Shi'a? And what are you trying to do to recruit in Sunni areas? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, the question was asked: What was the composition of the national police. And if you look regionally and you look at the make-up across the provinces, what we're seeing is that based upon the -- how a province -- you know, what the sectarian split is in a province, that's exactly what makes up your police force. 
 
            And in fact, down in Al Anbar, we have had a challenge recruiting Sunnis to join the police force until about six months ago. And when Sheikh Sattar energized the sheikhs out there -- and we've had record numbers of Sunnis join the -- sign up to join as policemen. And that force, based upon the population, is largely Sunni out there. 
 
            So again, if you look regionally and you look at the over 135,000 policemen that are trained and equipped in those regions, they reflect the makeup, much like in our country, of the neighborhoods that they protect and they serve. 
 
            Q     (Off mike) -- what is the breakdown? 
 
            MR. WHITMAN: I'm not sure he heard the question. 
 
            Q     Okay. 
 
            MR. WHITMAN: It was, what about in Baghdad -- the breakdown in Baghdad? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: The breakdown in Baghdad for the national police forces or for the local police? 
 
            Q     I guess the -- how would you -- how would you paint the divide between Sunni and Shi'a? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: I think I understand your question is, how would you paint the divide between Sunni and Shi'a? Okay. 
 
            I think in the police forces, as they're organized and you look across all the different police forces that are there, I think Baghdad in particular -- if you look to the neighborhoods and you look at the makeup -- I believe that the police forces, in most cases there, are representative for the -- for what the neighborhood is made up. So based upon the sectarian balances there, that's what's in the police stations. 
 
            Q     So you are assigning -- would you say that not you but the Iraqi police forces, they're assigning in Sadr City, say, mostly Shi'a police units to go in there, or in Sunni areas, they're trying to keep Sunnis in those areas in Baghdad? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, basically what's happening is the local police chief is responsible for recruiting, and then we train his policemen, essentially, across the country. So he recruits locally for who's going to make up his police force, and he does it of the neighborhood he has. And that's really been the challenge, because most of the people who have signed up to be a policeman want to stay locally. So as a result, if you're in a largely Shi'a neighborhood, your police station is going to be largely Shi'a. As you saw in the west, if you're a large Sunni neighborhood, then your police station is going to be largely Sunni, and that's the composition on the local police that we see pretty much throughout Iraq. 
 
            MR. WHITMAN: Courtney. 
 
            Q     General, this is Courtney Kube from NBC News. We heard a couple of teleconference briefings like this in the past few months, where U.S. commanders have told us that in the Sunni areas, the Iraqi security forces don't have the equipment and everything that they need. 
 
            What are you specifically -- what are you personally doing to ensure that there's not a sectarian bias in the Iraqi government when they dole out the equipment? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, I heard the -- I heard some of those same rumors. And what I've done about that personally is, I've gone out to Al Anbar, and I've sat down on the ground with the local police chief, I've sat down with the Marines who are working the issues, and I've said, "What equipment don't you have? What do you need?" And based upon what they said they actually had on the ground, not what we said we'd issued, I issued them to the level to which they needed in the west.  
 
            And I can tell you, personally, in Al Anbar I've given them exactly everything that they've asked for, and they have everything they need. So that is not an issue. 
 
            Q     Can I follow up on that, though? How much, if any, equipment and other financial support is flowing from the government in Baghdad to the police forces out in Anbar? Is there any? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Oh, absolutely. In fact, that -- because we had a challenge standing up police forces in the past, what we've done is -- and it was a challenge, quite candidly, training their policemen -- we have found police academies in Mosul and Sulimaniyah, where we're training, you know, the large numbers that are signing up now. And we decided, with the government of Iraq, to build a police academy out west. And we're doing that. The start-up is with U.S. money, but the maintenance of it and putting the trainers in there and all the facilitization of it is a burden on the government of Iraq, and they've signed up to do that. 
 
            Q     And that money has already started to flow? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Oh, absolutely.   
 
            As you know, in the budget process, similar to what we have with continuing resolutions, they now have the authority to pass that money, and they do it -- all the 18 provinces. And they've started doing that this month. 
 
            Q     But sir, are you saying that you had to fill a gap when you went out to Anbar and you found that Sunni areas didn't have enough equipment, perhaps because the central government hadn't sent that equipment? Are you having to fill the gap in Sunni areas? 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, that -- let me be very clear here. What took place there in Al Anbar is, they didn't have policemen signing up in large numbers. So there was no real requirement to ship equipment out there. And what we saw was a surge in recruitment, and then basically we had to catch up to the number of policemen they had signed up. So really the gap that was created was based upon the fact that we didn't have a large number of policemen signing up in the first place. 
 
            MR. WHITMAN: Well, General, we have reached the end of our allocated time just about. And before we close, I wanted to throw it back to you to see if you had any final thoughts that you might want to share with us. 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Well, thank you for taking the time today. I will tell you from my personal perspective that from what I see here on the ground -- and I see it every day in the ministry and I see it dealing with policemen, whether they're in a police station or absolutely training -- that they are in charge and they clearly want a safe and a secure Iraq, and that we are making progress. Progress is made very day. But I got to tell you, this progress is going to take time. As you've heard my boss, General Petraeus say, it's going to take months, not weeks and not days. But the Iraqi government and the people that I work with on a daily basis are up to the task. 
 
            MR. WHITMAN: Well thank you again for sharing your time this afternoon with us. And perhaps in a couple of months we can get another update from you. 
 
            GEN. HUNZEKER: Thank you very much, Bryan.
 
 
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