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DoD News Briefing with Gen. Ray Odierno from the Pentagon Briefing Room, Arlington, Va.

Presenters: Commander, Mulit-National Force - Iraq Gen. Ray Odierno
May 08, 2009
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, good afternoon. How we doing today? I have about a five-minute opening statement that I'd like to make, and then obviously I'll open it up to any questions that you all might have. 
 
            What I'd like to start out by talking about is, first, we continue to see overall levels of violence at or near the lowest levels since the summer of 2003 inside of Iraq. And overall, from an overall perspective, security in Iraq remains improved. 
 
            Obviously, over the last few weeks, the Iraqi people have seen high-profile attacks that remind all of us that the situation still is fragile in some areas. While the number of attacks is low, it's obvious that the terrorists are intent -- are conducting high-profile suicide attacks designed to garner attention and spark sectarian discord within Iraq. 
 
            But I would emphasize that this is not 2006 or 2007. We have yet to see sectarian retribution.   
 
            All the political parties and government officials are appropriately disavowing the recent attacks. The capacity and capability of the Iraqi security forces is much improved. The Iraqi people understand and continue to reject attempts by al Qaeda and other elements to create a new cycle of sectarian violence. 
 
            We continue to see indications that Iraqis want to move forward, whether it is in the form of voting for their elected leaders, improving economic conditions, or normalizing relations with their regional partners and the wider international community. 
 
            As the government of Iraq gains capacity and capability, we continue to step further into the background. We are fully moving along with implementation of the security agreement. We've closed more than 50 installations in Iraq. We've returned security of the Green Zone to the government of Iraq. And we've turned over the Republican Palace, which served as the U.S. embassy, among many other examples. 
 
            The government of Iraq has assumed complete responsibility for paying the Sons of Iraq, a clear sign of its resolve to continue the important program. The government has budgeted over $300 million to ensure full payments in -- in calendar year '09. But perhaps even more important, the leadership has shown its determination to move the SOI members into the Iraqi security forces and other ministries. The Council of Ministers this month approved the integration of 80 percent of the Sons of Iraq into non-security ministries and 20 percent into the security ministries. 
 
            We are fully aware that the challenges are still in front of us, as Iraq continues to involve and improve the problem -- as the situation continues to involve and it continues to improve, the problem set actually becomes more complex as we move forward. 
 
            But we still see evidence that Iran is funding, training and equipping surrogates who are conducting disruptive operations within Iraq. While the level of Iranian interference is somewhat lessened, it is nevertheless not what Iraq should expect from a neighbor. We expect that Iraq will have a relationship with its neighbors, and Iran has had an opportunity to make that relationship a positive one based on respect for Iraq's sovereignty. It should be clear to Iranian leaders that the ratified security agreement, which Tehran has strongly opposed, and the recent provincial elections, which largely repudiated outside interference, that the Iraqi people demand respect. 
 
            Likewise, some elements of foreign fighters continue to traffic through Syria. This rate has also been reduced, but Syria also has the opportunity to improve its status with Iraq through actions that demonstrate a commitment to eliminating the use of its soil as a staging area for foreign fighters. 
 
            The economy in Iraq, as in much of the world, has taken some blows. The Iraqi economy is, of course, closely tied to the price of oil, and the reduced prices have affected the government's budget. And they will have to make some very difficult decisions between Iraqi security force modernization, service improvement and infrastructure investment over the next couple of years. 
 
            As you know, President Obama announced that, at the end of August in 2010, we will end combat operations and change our mission to one of an advisory and training role. We will maintain a force of about 35(,000) to 50,000 to ensure that we can achieve our new missions while providing sufficient force protection and still target -- and still be able to conduct counterterrorism missions. 
 
            According to the security agreement, all U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, but this doesn't mean that our relationship with Iraq will end. I remind everyone that we signed two agreements back in December. The second was the Strategic Framework Agreement, which is designed to ensure cooperation in many areas between the United States and the government of Iraq -- areas such as medical, cultural, scientific, economic and other endeavors that will strengthen the country and help our two countries enjoy a long, enduring friendship built on mutual respect as sovereign nations. 
 
            I remain hopeful that Iraq can achieve long-term stability and develop a common vision for the way ahead. An Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors, is able to defend and protect its people against internal and external threats, and is a respectful participant in the community of nations is achievable, but much work is still ahead. 
 
            With that, I'll be glad to take any of your questions. 
 
            Q     General, what's your current opinion of whether the Iraqi security forces are going to be up to the task of assuming responsibility for the cities on deadline? And do you think there's any chance at this point that this deadline will slip? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, well, frankly, we're basically out of all the cities except for two, Baghdad and Mosul. We are on our way out of Baghdad. We've been slowly turning that over to the Iraqi security forces now for about three months, and I think they've made some pretty good progress. 
 
            We still have a major operation going inside of Mosul with all forces assisting and helping out. We expect that to end here within about 30 to 45 days, and then there'll be a decision to be made. I think if you ask the prime minister today, I think he would say that we will be out of the cities by the end of the 30th of June, and it is his decision. 
 
            But we'll continue to conduct assessments. I was just up there Saturday, and we conducted a joint assessment -- myself, the minister of defense, the minister of interior -- and we got a full brief from both Iraqi leaders as well as the U.S. leaders on an assessment of Mosul. And based on that assessment, there's some problems that we have to work through. But in fact, there's potential that they can handle the mission post starting on 1 July. 
 
            Q     I want to follow up, though. Back on August -- April 12th, you were on CNN, and you said you wouldn't hesitate to recommend that the U.S. forces stay beyond June 30th if the violence levels continued. What's your current assessment there? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, I mean, again, we still have -- I mean, I would -- I just -- every day counts, and we still have another 45 days yet before the end of June. The recent operations there have had very good impact on Mosul. We still have some issues that we have to walk -- work through in Mosul, but I think we're on track. We should be in pretty good shape by the end of June. 
 
            Q     The trend of high-profile attacks is not -- the extent is not such that you would recommend U.S. troops stay beyond June 30th? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: That's correct. That's correct. 
 
            Yes, ma'am? 
 
            Q     What's your best assessment of the number of U.S. troops that would stay behind as enablers in the cities after June 30th? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, again, what I don't want to do is -- I've left that to the local operational commanders to figure that out. But let me give you some broad guidelines that I've given everyone; is that we will continue to have liaison elements inside of all the joint security -- inside joint security stations, one that we've agreed to. We will continue to have advisory and transition teams embedded with Iraqi forces in order to provide them enablers. That will be determined, the size and how many -- I'm letting each local commander determine that, because that is something that they have to agree upon between the Iraqi security force leader and the U.S. leader. But those are the general guidelines that I've given the commanders, and they're working their way through that. 
 
            Q     There's no number you're going to tell us about? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: There isn't a number. I mean -- I mean, I don't know what it is. And what I tell you today might be different 30 days from now, because they're working that out on the ground. And that's why I don't want to get into that. 
 
            Q     But is there an order -- is there an order of magnitude? Is it hundreds of thousands, tens of thousands? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I -- you know, I would say -- no, I would say it's probably -- let me -- I would say it's probably about 20 percent of what it is now. 
 
            Q     Based on what you said about Iran and Syria's growth, do you think that you need to coordinate your exit strategy with Damascus and Tehran by the end of 2011? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: No. What I think we need to do is we need the government -- what we're doing is we need to work with the government of Iraq. This is about Iraq. Iraq is a sovereign nation now. When we signed the security agreement, it was an agreement between us and them. 
 
            So as we leave in 2011, obviously we think -- what we want to see is the government of Iraq start to have discussions with the government of Syria and the government of Iran about how they should be acting as we leave and what help they need in order to protect their borders to keep some militant activity from coming in from either Syria or Iran. 
 
            Q     General, a follow-up, sir. I know it's hard -- maybe it's hard to answer this question. How do you see Iraq after -- after the U.S. force leave? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: In 2011? 
 
            Q     Yeah. How do you see the future? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: I think -- listen, I can't look into a crystal ball, but there's a couple things I will just say we -- I would ask you to look towards. One is, obviously, the national elections coming up. And I think we had very successful provincial elections. And I would say they were successful because the people voted on issues, they didn't vote on -- based on sectarian issues. They didn't vote based on -- based on potential religious standing. They voted on the issues that affected them every day. 
 
            It's going to be interesting to see how the national elections go, either in December or January, coming up. And I think how that goes, how the Iraqi people react to that, what the new government looks like, how does the government transition in the beginning of 2010 will have a lot to say with how the Iraqi government continues to improve and move forward, which prepares them for 2011. 
 
            So in my mind, it's much too early to be talking about. I think we're on the right path. I think we're on the right path that in -- at the end of 2011, the government of Iraq will be able to hold its own, will be able to stand up in the regional community, international community, as I look at it today. 
 
            If you ask me that a year from now, I might have a different opinion, but I think we're on track for that right now. 
 
            Q     General, you mentioned before the cycle of sectarian violence. And I think that one kind of welcome development has been that Shi'ite groups thus far, despite the deaths of hundreds of civilians, have not yet responded. Are you seeing either a reemergence of traditional Shi'ite militias? Jaish al-Mahdi, Badr Brigades, are they reemerging? And if not, are you seeing any new groups that worry you that are sort of on the horizon that could be the source of reprisals? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I think -- I think, again, in terms of reprisals, we have several indicators with that. And one of them is, in fact, the formation of militias. We have seen no formation of militias or any -- any movement to form militias, any talk of forming militias in order to go after sectarian violence. So that is a very positive sign. 
 
            I think part of that has to do with the basic improvement of governance at the provincial levels that -- based on the fact that we now have provincial governments that are very active, that help us with that problem, and as well as the national government, who's able to address some of these issues. I think that helps. 
 
            Now, that said, we watch it very closely because we know what we don't want is some event to cause all of a sudden a -- what I would call a snowball rolling down the hill that accumulates momentum and causes a significant amount of sectarian violence. But again, we don't see any signs of that right now, of all the indicators we look at. 
 
            Yes, ma'am. 
 
            Q     You said that you'd seen less Iranian participation or interference. Can you characterize or quantify that? Do you mean in terms of EFPs -- 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I mean -- yeah, well -- yeah, first off, yesterday or the day before, we just uncovered a huge cache down in Amarah, which is near the Iranian border, of over 100 EFPs, over -- over hundreds of rocket rails, over hundreds of rocket systems that we all know came from Iran. So what we don't know is, did it come over six months ago, three months ago, or a year ago? But what we do know, there's still a lot of Iranian-supplied munitions and other things that are still in Iraq that can be and are being used, in some cases, against both the government of Iraq and U.S. forces. 
 
            What I would say is, I think following the -- there's two things that happened, that I think Iran is looking -- relooking at their strategy, and -- and I think they've adjusted a bit. Why? Because of two events. One was, I think, the signing of the agreement between the United States and the government of Iraq. And second was the results of the provincial elections, where any parties that were closely associated with Iran didn't do very well in the elections. 
 
            And so I think they've decided to take a look at their -- what -- what their policy need to be towards Iraq, and I think they're still working that now. And so we're watching closely. We're seeing what they're going to do. We continue to ask them to stop the training of surrogates inside of Iran. We continue to ask them it stop funding these surrogate groups inside of Iraq. And we also asked them it stop sending munitions into Iraq. So we'll see what happens. 
 
            Q     But -- a follow -- you think it's more their political will than actions you're taking that's causing -- 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I mean, again, I think because of the progress we've made, and because of the success of the Iraqi security forces and the U.S. being able to stop some of this, is why they didn't do very well with the groups they backed in the provisional elections. So I think it's a whole combination of things. 
 
            I think they have not done very well, and so they're reassessing what they need to do in order to get more influence inside of Iraq. 
 
            Yes, sir. 
 
            Q     Do you believe the Iraqis have Mr. al Baghdadi? And have they allowed you access to confirm the person they have is or is not him? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, they believe they have Omar al Baghdadi. They believe that, based on the intelligence they have, the statements that they have, the people that have talked to them, that be they have Omar al Baghdadi. 
 
            We have -- we have not yet had access to him in order to question him or ask him any questions, so I can't say that our intelligence would -- agrees with that. But it's not -- it's mainly because we have not had access. 
 
            So they clearly believe that they have him. I think I'll just leave it at that. 
 
            Q     Why are they not letting you have access? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I mean, I think -- I don't think it's that they're not allowing us to have access. I mean, I think, as protocols go, they want to have -- they want to have the access. They want to question him. They want to bring in -- they want to make sure -- they're bringing in people now who supposedly made statements. They want to question them. So I mean, they're just doing a very thorough job. I think once they're done, they will -- they will turn him over to us. 
 
            Q     You have mentioned that the number of U.S. troops inside Iraqi cities would be roughly 20 percent of what it is now. 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. 
 
            Q     What is that number now? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: I don't know. I mean, listen, listen, I don't -- I don't know keep -- you -- I don't keep stats of how many soldiers we have in the cities. What I'm telling you is -- because it changes every day. It -- I mean, I could give you a number today; it will it be different tomorrow, it will be different the next day. Okay? First of all, I leave that up to my subordinate commanders to worry about that, okay? 
 
            So what I'm telling you is there's going to be about an 80 percent reduction of U.S. presence in the cities once we come out of the cities. And what we're going to be doing is non-combat operations. We're going to be in liaison cells. We are going to be in cells that can help provide enablers for them such as aviation, such as intelligence, such as other things. And if they need help, we have those elements there to say, if they request it, then we can bring in combat assistance to help them, okay? 
 
            Q     Well, since I struck out, can I get a follow-up? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Sure. (Laughter.) 
 
            Q     Are you worried -- you had said that the recent attacks show someone -- I'm guessing al Qaeda -- is trying to spark sectarian violence. Are you also worried that disaffected Sunnis might be trying to target the Iraqi government because they feel Maliki is not doing enough on reconciliation? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, first off, we have looked at this very closely. The attacks are being conducted by al Qaeda. We have confirmed this. We have looked at it. We have looked at it every which way. There's no doubt in our mind that these attacks are being conducted by al Qaeda. 
 
            We, of course -- I think, because of some of the success that we've had -- that we've splintered al Qaeda, that we've splintered many of the Sunni insurgent groups -- that there might be some coalescing of these groups out of necessity. 
 
            And we're starting to see a little bit of that. 
 
            So I think, you know, I would say there's some coalescing of them at the local level because they've been fractured, because they have less capacity and capability. So out of survival, there's some cooperation that there might not have been before. But I think that's more out of our effectiveness that we've had against them than it is anything else. 
 
            Q     There have been some unfortunate incidents where Iraqi security forces, partnered with U.S. forces, have actually killed some of their partners.   
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yes.  
 
            Q     Is this a trend? How is that going to impact the future mission? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: It won't impact the future mission. I've been very satisfied with the investigation that the government of Iraq has conducted on this. The individuals involved have been detained. One was -- in the latest incident, one was killed on sight. The other one was detained -- and actually was detained heroically by an Iraqi policeman. 
 
            So I would just say these are individuals -- we know that there's still some individuals that have been able to infiltrate the Iraqi security forces, and that's what you're seeing here. 
 
            I've been very proud of the U.S. units and the fact that they have continued to work with their Iraqi security force partners; that they have not even thought about their concern about continuing to work with their partners; that they understand that these are individuals who make these decisions and that we have to be vigilant about every individual because there are individuals that have still infiltrated some of the Iraqi security forces. 
 
            Q     Is that going to lead to a greater screening process in the future, or are those already in the security forces? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, you know, I mean, they're already there. I mean, this is about, you know, just making sure that we continue to screen everybody very hard, very well, at every one of our -- our combat outposts. 
 
            Q     General, the Pentagon is preparing to release hundreds of photographs later this month, many of which reportedly depict the abuse of detainees by U.S. servicemembers in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Given the backlash from the Abu Ghraib photographs, what concerns might you have that it could undermine the U.S. mission in Iraq or actually even threaten U.S. soldiers? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, again, I think there's a couple of lessons in here. 
 
            One is -- first, I think we've learned that these incidents that did occur are not who we are and that's not what we stand for as a military. And I think that's important, to make sure we make that point. 
 
            That we have done. We continue to take corrective action. We've stood up Taskforce 134 over time, which is -- we didn't have that in the beginning; we've stood that up -- totally responsible for taking care of detainees. And we constantly are updating and improving and trying to react to anything. 
 
            We have more -- we have more transparent of a detainee system then, I would argue -- then anywhere else in the world. 
 
            We let anybody come into -- through our facilities who want to inspect them. We let -- we bring the Iraqi leaders into our facilities. 
 
            So what I take this for is that there were mistakes made. Frankly, it was not something I'm proud of -- in fact, I was ashamed of. It's something that I think, though, that we've been transparent about, and that we are continuing to fix the problem. And I think that's the important message, and that's the message that we continue to try to send to the Iraqis. 
 
            I cannot predict how they'll react to the photos yet, but we are -- we -- what we do is, we're reaching out to them. We're letting them know that they're going to be released. We're letting them know what we've done to make sure -- that we have tried to correct all of these problems, that we continue to correct -- that we continue to do investigations if there's some sort of -- any allegation of abuse. And we will continue to do that. 
 
            We've changed our manuals on how we do interrogations. We have rewritten them -- so this is -- what this is bringing to fore is, yes, we had a problem. We probably weren't prepared for what we faced back in 2003 and '4 initially. We've continued to try to improve how we do this. We constantly review it. We constantly look at -- we constantly try to improve it. And I think that's what the message that we have to send is. 
 
            Q     Would you -- would you prefer that the photos not be released? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: It's not my decision. My job is to, whatever the decision is -- that I have to try to do whatever I can to make sure the impact on the ground is -- you know, is mitigated. 
 
            (Robert ?)? 
 
            Q     Hopefully this won't come across like a totally frivolous question -- 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yes? 
 
            Q     -- but I understand you have your own Facebook page now -- (laughter) -- and that you're somewhat of a fan of social networking in the military.   
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. 
 
            Q     I wanted to ask you about that, seriously, because you are -- have such a young population -- social networking, what do you do for social networking? Do you Twitter? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, no, you know. (Laughter.) 
 
            Q     And just talk about that for a minute.   
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, if I could. First, I realized about, you know, six months ago, I didn't -- I didn't know what Facebook was. I mean, I know it's been in place for a while. My son was on -- my -- both of my sons were on Facebook. My daughter was on Facebook. They used to talk about it. They used to talk about -- so my thought was, this is where young people communicate. This is a place where young people get together, they pass information. So I thought -- and really thought maybe it would be a good idea if I tried to do this. And I do it for a number of reasons.   
 
            One is to try to put out some information that's not normally seen on the news or, you know -- and something to let them know, maybe, some personal things about me, what it's like to be in Iraq, what it's like to be the commander in Iraq. So that's kind of the intent.   
 
            You know, we're just starting out with this. You know, the -- it's been a pretty good response. I've been pretty happy with the response. I mean, I think we're -- somewhere between 4(,000) and 5,000 people have signed up. It grows every day. People keep joining. So it's an interest. We'll see how it goes.   
 
            I think it's important for us -- the one thing I've learned over the last six years is you have to understand this global media explosion that we're having in a variety of forms, and that we have to try to figure it out and how we play in that, because people are interested in what the military is doing, because we -- we do play an important role in our nation's security. We do play an important role in the world. And so that's part of the reason why I did it. 
 
            Twittering, if I could just -- I'm still not sure exactly what it is, but I would just say what I found is there are some operational security issues. (Laughter.) And so, you know, I'm not sure I can be twittering where I'm going and where I'm at, and, you know, so I try to be very, very careful about that. 
 
            So I think it's great for some people. I think somebody like me, it's probably not a good thing to -- to do. But we'll see. I mean, we'll continue to take a look at it. If we -- if we find there's an advantage, then maybe we'll think about it. 
 
            Q     Well, can I just briefly follow up and ask you -- I mean, because you have so many -- tens of thousands of young people serving in Iraq, what's your view about operational security, about whether it's Facebook or blogging or Twittering, them amongst themselves, them with their friends back home, how do you control this sort of thing? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Again -- yeah, well, we put out guidelines and guidance. I mean, and we have to trust, then, that they will abide by the guidelines and guidance. And, obviously, we can check on it. 
 
            But, listen, it's going to happen. And that's how they communicate today. So we've got to allow them to do that, but we have to put guidelines on what you can and what you can't talk about. 
 
            It always comes down to we just don't want them to put the force at risk. We don't want to put the mission at risk. And so we've tried to put guidelines out that talks about that. 
 
            So, you know, you don't talk about future operations, you don't kind of talk about things that might be sensitive, obviously classified things. But, you know, so -- and the soldiers get it for the most part. I mean, we have a few hits and misses once in a while, but they understand that. But you got to let them do it. I mean, that's the bottom line. 
 
            I mean, you know, one of my guidance now, as I go around, there's -- there's four things I require that every place has to have. It's they got to have at least two hot meals a day; they got to have air conditioning or heat, depending on the type of the year; they got to be able to take a shower; and they have to have access to the Internet. That's -- that's my requirement. And the reason that is is so they can talk back to their family and everything else, and that's important for them, especially on multiple rotations. And it makes a huge difference in their life if we let them do that, so you got to understand that as you go. 
 
            Yes, ma'am. 
 
            Q     Admiral Mullen recently stated that Afghanistan he now considered the main effort and was going to issue potentially some guidance to that effect. Are you concerned that that will impact the prioritization of resources that you're getting, and that that will have any kind of impact on the Iraq mission -- 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, well, of course. You know, as the commander on the ground there, you're always concerned about that. But that's my job. My job is to raise the issues, if we have any, and to let people know that I think maybe this might have a detrimental effect on what we're going to do. But the process that's been put in place allows me to do that, allows me to voice my opinion. I don't always get what I want, just like I don't think any commander ever gets what they want. 
 
            But -- so I understand that Afghanistan is now a higher priority, but I -- of course, we have, as of today, 134,000 soldiers in Iraq. And so, you know, that's still a fairly large number of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that are still conducting a very difficult mission. So it's my job to make sure that we have enough to make sure we can continue to meet our mission, and that's -- that's -- that's what I have to make sure. 
 
            Q     Okay. Just to follow up a little bit -- 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. 
 
            Q     -- on the enablers in particular, as the drawdown is carried out, what -- what are your major concerns about those elements that are going to be in high demand still in Iraq? You know, will some of them have to go, like, directly to Afghanistan? Or what ones are you most concerned about maintaining there? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, we go through a process of identifying certain ones that we know that we'll probably have to move from Iraq to Afghanistan to meet that priority. It also should coincide a little bit, some of it, with the reduction of our forces in Iraq. So we're trying to make it as close as possible. 
 
            There's about a six-month period that this is a little more difficult, and it's kind of between now and the end of the year. And so this is kind of the tough six months where we have to juggle, and everybody's trying to juggle some of these enablers to make sure that we have enough in Iraq, but there's enough in Afghanistan for them to start being prepared for the additional people coming in. 
 
            So I mean, but that's what we have to do. We have to -- we have to look at this very difficultly. We have to look at it very seriously. We have to look at it with a lot of specific information to make sure that we have what we need to continue forward in -- yeah -- allowing for Afghanistan to stand up. And we look at that every day. 
 
            Q     Can you give us a couple of examples? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. I mean, you know, aviation is one. I mean, you know, aviation is one that we always kind of look at. But I think we'll be okay. Some of our intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance systems we look at. But what's good is the amount of intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance is growing, so that will catch up and I think we'll be okay. So I mean, those are the kind of things. 
 
            Yes, ma'am. 
 
            Q     General, you talked earlier about the -- that -- you said al Qaeda was responsible for the violence in an effort to restart the sectarian warfare. The most extraordinary tactic they launched, then, would be the attack on the shrine in Kadhimiya. Can you give us details about how they were able to launch that attack? And is there any evidence that they have been able to infiltrate the guards that protect the religious shrines in Iraq? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. What they've done is -- first, they didn't get into the shrine, okay? It happened outside -- it happened outside the front and it happened outside the back of the shrine. So they didn't get into the shrine. 
 
            What happened is, though -- they are -- their tactics are going after -- they are trying to create the tactics where -- for example, around the Kadhimiya shrine, two of the bombers were females, who were very inconspicuous and were people that you wouldn't suspect the way they were acting to be suicide bombers. They are picking on vulnerable populations that would make it easier for them to infiltrate certain areas in order to conduct these suicide attacks. 
 
            So you know, it's not -- it's much more difficult for them to bring in a foreign fighter and have them dress up and do -- they're still able to do that once in a while, but it's much more difficult. So what they're trying to do is pick people who will be harder to detect, harder for people to figure out, in order to go in and do these kind of attacks. 
 
            And so -- but there has been no infiltration near the -- best I can tell -- near the Kadhimiya shrine that allowed them to do this. You know, there was -- there was one, I think, that was -- where there was a suicide attack -- that was in Rusafa -- where there was a female holding a child's hand when she detonated. You know, so that before was -- something was a sign; if they were with children, they were, you know, usually not a suicide bomber. You know, so they're going after the most vulnerable -- I mean, this is the mind-set of these individuals. 
 
            And all it does is, frankly, it turns the Iraqi people more and more against them. And so we'll see how that works out as a result. 
 
            Q     Can I follow up? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. 
 
            Q     Are you seeing other tactics, other than using women? Are you seeing different kinds of -- different types of bombings? Any other change in tactics by al Qaeda in the last few months? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well -- no, no. We're seeing the use of teenagers and women. And teenagers because they're a vulnerable population to go after. Use of females -- we've seen a few in Mosul. A couple of the attacks were connected by Tunisian foreign fighters that came in, we think, through Syria. We actually detained the leader of the cell, so we're now learning more and more about it. So I mean, I think that's what we're seeing. 
 
            What we're finding, though, is actually the vests and the bombs are not as sophisticated as they were before. There are less sophistication. Although they're tragic and kill people, they were not as sophisticated or effective as they had been in the past. And I think that says a couple things: It's harder for them to do it. It's harder for them to get a hold of the things. It's becoming more difficult. But they're still able to do it, and that's what we still have to look at and stop. 
 
            Yeah. 
 
            Q     Are you getting any indications that the al Qaeda cells that may have been laying low have been emboldened now that the U.S. has shifted its focus on Afghanistan? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: What you're seeing is -- no, we have not seen that on the ground. What we are seeing, though, is -- again, every time there's any incident, what you'll see is they'll attempt to start recruiting again on their Internet sites, on the various sites that they use to do this. You'll start seeing recruiting going up. You know, when we did -- they'll show the event and they'll say, come -- you know, we want you to come join the jihad or whatever. And so we're seeing a little bit of that. But we have not seen any increase at all in the cells. 
 
            What I would say is what I said earlier: because we fractured al Qaeda and we've fractured some of the insurgents, we're seeing some of that coalesce at the local level. 
 
            That's about it. 
 
            Q     (Off mike) -- call -- at the -- when the British leave, there'll be U.S. troops and a few hundred Romanians and Australians. Why will it still be called Multi-National Force - Iraq?  
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, again, we will probably change the name in the future. We're working our way through that. 
 
            Q     To U.S. Forces Iraq? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Probably. But again, that's not been approved yet. 
 
            Q     General -- well, you said -- things appear to be on track on be able to abide by the SOFA and draw U.S. forces out of Iraq by the end of 2011. Do you see that SOFA being renegotiated to permit some elements of the U.S. military to remain -- air support, for example, and protective services? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, I would just say I think it's too early for that. I mean, I think that's something that's down the road, that will have to be decided jointly between the United States and the government of Iraq. But I don't think now is the time to assess that. 
 
            Q     Let me ask how you characterize the insurgency. Five years -- in '05, Vice President Cheney said it looks like, you know, their last throes. On April 7th, the secretary said he hoped that these high-profile attacks indicated the insurgency was in a last gasp. 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. Yeah. 
 
            Q     You said they've been fractured and they look like they're coalescing. What's an accurate depiction here? Last throes? Last gasp? I mean -- 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, well, I don't -- I -- first off, I think there's always going to be -- whether we like it or not, there's always going to be some level of violence in Iraq, okay? So I think there'll always be some insurgent elements that are attempting -- whether they're supported by -- a number of different areas. So I will never say last throes, almost ready to end. I'll -- I won't say that. What I will say -- I -- what I will -- I won't say that the insurgency's in their last throes.   
 
            And it's not going to end, okay? There'll always be some sort of a low-level insurgency in Iraq for the next five, 10, 15 years. The issue is, what is the level of that insurgency? And can the Iraqis handle it with their own forces and with their government? That's the issue. What we're seeing now is -- as I would -- described it is, you have overall security improving in Iraq. You have normalization coming back. You see it in the streets. You see it in most places. 
 
            But what's happened now is, now it gets fractured once in a while by a high-profile attack that happens randomly, frankly. So, on a day-to-day basis, stores are open, all -- normal life's starting to come back. But it gets fractured by these high-profile attacks, for the most part. 
 
            Now, let me just go a little bit further. We're a long way -- there's still some more work that has to be done yet. And it mostly has to do -- along the political line, which will help, overall, create security.   
 
            And you have Kurd-Arab tensions. You have the Article 140 process. You have the disputed territories that we have to work through. That has to be worked through. 
 
            We've made some progress on Sunni accommodation, is what I call it, not yet reconciliation. We have to continue to move forward on that.  
 
            These are political issues that have to be resolved and continue to be resolved in Iraq. And as long as they keep working towards these -- and we believe they are -- we think that then the level of security will continue to improve and we think that by the end of 2011, they will be able to handle it themselves. 
 
            Go ahead. 
 
            Q     Can you -- General, let me ask you, along the same lines, is there anything more specifically that the U.S. or Iraqi forces could do militarily about these high-profile attacks in the last couple -- 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, there's always something to be done. I mean, we're trying to get inside of these cells. We're trying to understand where they're coming from. We're trying to understand who is behind them. 
 
            And we have been successful. We are picking people up. We have picked people up. We've picked up -- over the last three weeks, we've probably picked up about 200 individuals who we think had some either, you know, funding, supplying. So -- and we'll continue to do this. 
 
            I mean, so -- and what we have to be able to do is make it very, very difficult for them to move around and conduct these attacks. Because of the lack of sophistication, that shows they are having problems moving around and doing this. However, I want it to be where it's even difficult for them to move at all to conduct these attacks.  
 
            So we're working together to do this, and it's about sharing intelligence. You know, we are working very hard now really to increase the transparency between U.S. intelligence and government of Iraq intelligence. We're much better than we were six months ago, but we're trying to even get better than we were. 
 
            You know, their strength is the human intelligence. Our strength comes in other ways. And so we're trying to combine those together so we can work towards solving this problem. 
 
            Q     As U.S. military attention and resources shift to Afghanistan, are you worried about a leadership deficit in Iraq, that the Army's best minds or up-and-comers won't want to go there? And do you have any mission envy yourself? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah -- no, I don't. I have enough to do in Iraq. You know, as I said earlier, Iraq is as -- I would argue Iraq is more complex right now than it's ever been. And it's a very -- and it has to do with -- success breeds more complexity. The security success breeds more difficult issues, because it allows the Iraqis to start dealing with some of these fundamental issues that we haven't dealt with. And I go back to the Arab-Kurd tensions. I go back to Sunni reconciliation. I go back to center (sic) government versus provincial government. Those are the more complex issues that we're now dealing with. And so I don't.  
 
            And I will tell you -- is, I've continued to be able to handpick the leaders that come over there. And so I feel very comfortable with all the people I have over there. 
 
            And you have Kurd-Arab tensions. You have the Article 140 process. You have the disputed territories that we have to work through. That has to be worked through. 
 
            We've made some progress on Sunni accommodation, is what I call it, not yet reconciliation. We have to continue to move forward on that.  
 
            These are political issues that have to be resolved and continue to be resolved in Iraq. And as long as they keep working towards these -- and we believe they are -- we think that then the level of security will continue to improve and we think that by the end of 2011, they will be able to handle it themselves. 
 
            Go ahead. 
 
            Q     Can you -- General, let me ask you, along the same lines, is there anything more specifically that the U.S. or Iraqi forces could do militarily about these high-profile attacks in the last couple -- 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, there's always something to be done. I mean, we're trying to get inside of these cells. We're trying to understand where they're coming from. We're trying to understand who is behind them. 
 
            And we have been successful. We are picking people up. We have picked people up. We've picked up -- over the last three weeks, we've probably picked up about 200 individuals who we think had some either, you know, funding, supplying. So -- and we'll continue to do this. 
 
            I mean, so -- and what we have to be able to do is make it very, very difficult for them to move around and conduct these attacks. Because of the lack of sophistication, that shows they are having problems moving around and doing this. However, I want it to be where it's even difficult for them to move at all to conduct these attacks.  
 
            So we're working together to do this, and it's about sharing intelligence. You know, we are working very hard now really to increase the transparency between U.S. intelligence and government of Iraq intelligence. We're much better than we were six months ago, but we're trying to even get better than we were. 
 
            You know, their strength is the human intelligence. Our strength comes in other ways. And so we're trying to combine those together so we can work towards solving this problem. 
 
            Q     As U.S. military attention and resources shift to Afghanistan, are you worried about a leadership deficit in Iraq, that the Army's best minds or up-and-comers won't want to go there? And do you have any mission envy yourself? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah -- no, I don't. I have enough to do in Iraq. You know, as I said earlier, Iraq is as -- I would argue Iraq is more complex right now than it's ever been. And it's a very -- and it has to do with -- success breeds more complexity. The security success breeds more difficult issues, because it allows the Iraqis to start dealing with some of these fundamental issues that we haven't dealt with. And I go back to the Arab-Kurd tensions. I go back to Sunni reconciliation. I go back to center (sic) government versus provincial government. Those are the more complex issues that we're now dealing with. And so I don't.  
 
            And I will tell you -- is, I've continued to be able to handpick the leaders that come over there. And so I feel very comfortable with all the people I have over there. 
 
            And you have Kurd-Arab tensions. You have the Article 140 process. You have the disputed territories that we have to work through. That has to be worked through. 
 
            We've made some progress on Sunni accommodation, is what I call it, not yet reconciliation. We have to continue to move forward on that.  
 
            These are political issues that have to be resolved and continue to be resolved in Iraq. And as long as they keep working towards these -- and we believe they are -- we think that then the level of security will continue to improve and we think that by the end of 2011, they will be able to handle it themselves. 
 
            Go ahead. 
 
            Q     Can you -- General, let me ask you, along the same lines, is there anything more specifically that the U.S. or Iraqi forces could do militarily about these high-profile attacks in the last couple -- 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, there's always something to be done. I mean, we're trying to get inside of these cells. We're trying to understand where they're coming from. We're trying to understand who is behind them. 
 
            And we have been successful. We are picking people up. We have picked people up. We've picked up -- over the last three weeks, we've probably picked up about 200 individuals who we think had some either, you know, funding, supplying. So -- and we'll continue to do this. 
 
            I mean, so -- and what we have to be able to do is make it very, very difficult for them to move around and conduct these attacks. Because of the lack of sophistication, that shows they are having problems moving around and doing this. However, I want it to be where it's even difficult for them to move at all to conduct these attacks.  
 
            So we're working together to do this, and it's about sharing intelligence. You know, we are working very hard now really to increase the transparency between U.S. intelligence and government of Iraq intelligence. We're much better than we were six months ago, but we're trying to even get better than we were. 
 
            You know, their strength is the human intelligence. Our strength comes in other ways. And so we're trying to combine those together so we can work towards solving this problem. 
 
            Q     As U.S. military attention and resources shift to Afghanistan, are you worried about a leadership deficit in Iraq, that the Army's best minds or up-and-comers won't want to go there? And do you have any mission envy yourself? 
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah -- no, I don't. I have enough to do in Iraq. You know, as I said earlier, Iraq is as -- I would argue Iraq is more complex right now than it's ever been. And it's a very -- and it has to do with -- success breeds more complexity. The security success breeds more difficult issues, because it allows the Iraqis to start dealing with some of these fundamental issues that we haven't dealt with. And I go back to the Arab-Kurd tensions. I go back to Sunni reconciliation. I go back to center (sic) government versus provincial government. Those are the more complex issues that we're now dealing with. And so I don't.  
 
            And I will tell you -- is, I've continued to be able to handpick the leaders that come over there. And so I feel very comfortable with all the people I have over there. 
 
            You know, our brigade commanders and division commanders are essentially selected. They're all the same, and we're still getting allocated. So, I mean, there is no problem with having the expertise. I have the expertise. I have people. I have people who have multiple, multiple rotations in Iraq. I have general officers who have multiple rotations. I have brigade commanders. So we have the expertise we need to do this. And you need that expertise because of the complexity I just talked about. The hardest thing for a military is to start stepping back and allowing the Iraqis to do it. And how do we best enable them to be successful? And that's what we're doing now. And that takes very sophisticated leadership at the lower levels up to the senior levels. And I'm seeing that on the ground.
 
            Q     General, historians have said that traditionally Arab armies have had problems because their non-commissioned officer corps is too weak compared to the officer corps. Has the Iraqi army been trained by U.S. soldiers to model after the U.S. Army in that regard?
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: We have worked very hard. We have established professional development schools in all of their institutions to develop non-commissioned officers. They have made a little progress, but nowhere near enough progress yet. And it's not the development of the non-commissioned officer; it's about the officers buying into the role of the non-commissioned officer. And I think that's going to take a little bit -- while longer in the Iraqi military for them to do that.
 
            Yes, sir?
 
            Q     General, just going back to staying on top of these high-profile attacks, are you concerned that -- you said you have 45 days left before your troops go behind the wall. Are you concerned that, once they are behind the wall, it's going to be harder to stay on top of -- on top of --
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, first, the troops coming out of the city, they're not going behind the wall. And that's an important point. I want to make that very clear, that we will have plenty of other missions that we have to do, and we will not be sitting behind the wall. We will be out assisting in areas outside of the cities that we have always called to be support zones and other areas, where we'll flood and work with the Iraqi security forces.
 
            So, frankly, there's a potential that this could actually work, and increase. If the Iraqis are able to maintain in the cities, and we're able then to spend more of our time in the support zones outside of the cities, we actually could come up with actually a stronger method of going after these forces. But we have to wait and see.
 
            Yes?
 
            Q     Sir, in the -- as a number of detainees are released throughout the year, are you seeing any greater levels of recidivism, with some of these people going back and to the insurgents? And among the 200 that you spoke about recently, are there any indications that they were --
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, I mean, we see some recidivism, but it's still very, very low. We have a very complex process that makes sure that we vet all of these individuals before they leave. But the ultimate issue, though, is if they cannot be prosecuted under Iraqi law, they have to be let go. And the Iraqis make that determination, not us.
 
            We have a process in place that screens them for 70 days before they're released, where the Iraqis get to vet them to see if they have anything that they could charge them with or not. And if they can't be charged, they're released. So we have a very complex system to do that.
 
            Are there some that get out there? And yes, there is, but it's a fairly small number.
 
            Q     Sir, you said, you know, violence will always be kind of a part of Iraq. Of course, violence is way down. At what point is "insurgency" the wrong word to be using there?
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. There's a -- it's a very -- it's a good question, very good question, by the way.
 
            A lot of times, we struggle between insurgent activity and criminal activity now. There's still an insurgency out there. The intelligence tells us there is still an insurgency. It's lower -- it's less than it was, but there's still a bit of an insurgency. There also, though, is a criminal element to it. And I would argue there is some percentage of those attacks that you see there that is really criminal in nature that we might confuse with insurgent activity. It's hard to determine that sometimes.
 
            You know, the other piece is what makes is difficult for us is, you know, we can't -- it's getting harder and harder to lump them into groups because what you have is you have people that just conduct things for money. So it depends on who's -- you know, they are just -- there are people who conduct violent acts just to get paid. And so sometimes they'll work for this group, sometimes they'll work for this group, sometimes they'll work for this group. They're just doing it because it's a way to make money. And that's why one of the most important things we're trying to do is going after the money -- is going after the finances of these insurgent groups. And we've been a little bit successful in that, but we still have a lot of work to do in that.
 
            Yeah, Jim.
 
            MODERATOR: Quickly, before we let the general go.
 
            Q     After June 30, will there be any U.S. military advisers embedded with Iraqi forces in the cities?
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah.
 
            Q     So they will continue that role?
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. I mean, our plan is, in joint security stations, there'll be -- there'll be liaison officers and there'll be advisers -- adviser teams with the Iraqi security. Not all, but some. And it depends on the level of where they're at.
 
            Yeah.
 
            Q     Earlier, you said there were still some issues to be worked out in Mosul. Explain -- walk us through some of what those are, what you meant, and what --
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I mean, I'm not quite sure. You know, we're still clearing Mosul. We're still -- you know, we now have enough Iraqi security forces and U.S. forces where we're clearing through the city and establishing the Iraqi security forces as the primary security element inside of Mosul. And we're still in the process of doing that, and it's going to take us another 30 days to finish that. So once that's finished, that will give us a better idea of where we are in Mosul.
 
            Q     Those are house by house --
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. I mean, it's neighborhood by neighborhood. Yeah, it's neighborhood by neighborhood. We've been doing it now for about 75 days.
 
            Yeah.
 
            Q     I just had a follow-up on that.
 
            I mean, I think we heard from the commander in the north that, even once they do move out, that they can come back at any time or would be coming back at the request of the Iraqi forces.
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, that's correct.
 
            Q     So that --
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: As part of the security -- and that's exactly right. As part of the security agreement, they can ask us to come in at any time. And that's why we have the liaison elements with them and the advisers with them. So if -- if they get in trouble, they need help, we can come in.
 
            Q     And so, theoretically, they could be going back every day?
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: They could be. But I think we'll have to put some -- what we have to do yet -- and we'll do this in the next 30 days or so -- is the government of Iraq will establish some ways of how we do this and what -- you know, who has to ask. Is it the local commander who asks, or is it the minister of defense, or is it the governor? That's what we have to work through yet. We're working through that now, but we haven't come to a resolution yet.
 
            Q     Just one more brief clarification involving airstrikes. Are Iraqi military -- would they be allowed to call in U.S. airstrikes? Or would that have to be done by the liaison and/or adviser?
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: We would have to -- no, only -- we have to do that.
 
            Q     Okay.
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: We would be standing right next to the Iraqi forces in order to do that, but yeah.
 
            Q     Trends on IED attacks, this is a different trend, obviously, over here --
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah.
 
            Q     -- but what's the trend on IED attacks against U.S. forces and Iraqi forces?
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, it shifts back and forth. Clearly, these are targeting civilians for the most part. The IEDs are -- we found is about a third/a third/a third, Iraqi security forces/U.S. forces/civilians. Now, with the civilians, sometimes it's difficult because you don't know if they're really trying to go after an Iraqi security force and end up hitting civilians, but we try to work through that. But we think it's -- it's roughly a third/a third/a third.
 
            Q     (Inaudible.)
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: Oh, yeah. Yeah, if you look -- let me see. Let me get the -- the blue is IEDs, but that also includes the amount we have found and cleared. So what's not -- and we're about 50 percent. So we find about 50 percent of what's put out there.
 
            Q     And the (effects ?)? Can you give us --
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: They're about the same. I mean, they're about the same I think about the last three months. You know, we either find one or one will explode every day.
 
            Q     They haven't gone up dramatically?
 
            GEN. ODIERNO: No. No.
 
            Okay, thank you, everybody. I appreciate all your time. Hopefully it was helpful to you. And I look forward to talking to you again. Thanks.
 
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