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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing from Baghdad

Presenter: Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt
January 08, 2004 9:05 AM EDT
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing from Baghdad

(Participating were Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations, Combined Joint Task Force 7, and Dan Senor, senior advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority.)

 

     Senor:  Good afternoon.  I have a couple of quick comments before General Kimmitt will make his opening statement.

 

     I just want to point you all to a State Department poll that has just been released from the Office of Research.  I believe it is on their website.  If it is not, it will be on our website.  In this poll, which was conducted on November -- they were in the field November 19th to 28th, in which they surveyed 1,167 urban Iraqi adults ages 18 and over in Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk, Hillah and Diwaniyah.  I will note that the dates they were in the field were before Saddam Hussein's capture.

 

     And according to the results, large majorities in these five cities believe attacks against Iraqi civilians, police and international organizations are harmful for Iraq's future.  About two- thirds in all cities say the attacks emphasize the need for the continued presence of coalition forces in Iraq.  And finally, the other significant result is that the Iraqis say that the new police -- the new Iraqi police are trusted by and accessible to most members of their communities, and few think they are tied too closely to the previous regime.

 

     Again, this is a State Department Office of Research opinion analysis and poll available -- it should be available on the State Department website and/or the CPA website.

 

     General Kimmitt.

 

     Kimmitt:  Good evening.

 

     Before I start the normal operations update, let me pass on the following sad news.  At about 2:20 today Baghdad time, an Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter on a routine mission carrying nine passengers crashed southeast of Fallujah.  There were no survivors.  The cause of the crash is unknown at this time.  A quick reaction force has secured the area and an investigation is under way.

 

     The identification of those individuals is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.  We have no more information at this time.  We express our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those who perished in this incident.

 

     Over the past week there has been an average of 18 engagements against coalition military daily, slightly more than two attacks against Iraqi security forces, and slightly more than one attack against Iraqi civilians on a daily basis.  Today the coalition conducted 1,601 patrols, 28 offensive operations, 19 raids, and captured 47 anti-coalition suspects in the past 24 hours.

 

     In the northern zone of operations, coalition forces conducted a neighborhood engagement in west Mosul, where they searched 223 houses. They detained six individuals and seized weapons, ammunitions and extensive amounts of explosives.

 

     Ba'ath Party weapons turn-ins continue.  A Shua'bah-level Ba'ath Party member from Tall Afar turned in a total of 76 AK-47s and 108 AK magazines.  A Shua'bah-level Ba'ath party member from Zumar turned in 98 82mm mortar rounds and one complete 82mm mortar system and a sandbag full of mortar fuses.  The weapons turn-ins are continuing in the north, and evidence of the former Ba'ath party members' willingness to support coalition activities and assist in the reconstruction of a new Iraq.

 

     The coalition celebrated the reopening of another school in the northeast sector with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Kanosh, a small village in the southeastern portion of the region.  Coalition forces completely renovated the school, utilizing commanders' Emergency Response Program funds.  The Northern Region Telecommunications Summit was held today, and the summit included the directors and project engineers from Mosul, Dohuk, Erbil, Kirkuk, and al Sulimaniyah.

 

     In the north-central zone of operations, coalition forces and Iraqi security forces conducted 157 patrols, one raid, and captured 10 individuals.  Coalition forces conducted a raid near Tikrit, capturing Sulwan Ibriham Omar al-Musslit, a former regime-element leader. Coalition forces conducted another joint raid south of Dibs, detaining Salah Shahab.  Salah is wanted for murdering eight Iraqi soldiers who attempted to desert during the ground-combat operations phase of the war and is now believed to be involved in terrorist acts. Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers yesterday conducted a raid near Ash Sinya.  The intended target was a suspected weapons dealer.  ICDC forces captured two individuals and confiscated extensive small arms and ammunition.

 

     The coalition forces and the Coalition Provisional Authority have initiated a micro-lending program in the region with over $3 million in United States Agency for International Development funds.  Civil affairs soldiers and officials from the Coalition Provisional Authority went to Samarra yesterday to distribute $50,000 worth of shoes and blankets to the city's underprivileged.  The items were divided to the needy with the assistance of the local Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, 20 school principals and local religious leaders.

 

     In Baghdad, coalition forces conducted six offensive operations; forces performed 569 patrols, of which 77 were joint patrols with Iraqi police service and ICDC soldiers.  These operations resulted in the capture of 11 personnel.  Coalition forces conducting a cordon and search to capture an individual suspected of rock attacks on coalition forces captured two enemy personnel, both suspected of being planners in an anti-coalition group.   Forces conducted a cordon and search for Abdal Razakh, suspected of the bomb attack on a local interpreter's house.  The unit captured Razakh and confiscated weapons and ammunition.

 

     Five hundred and eight soldiers of the Iraq Civil Defense Corps graduate from training at the two ICDC academies in Baghdad today. Training at both academies will continue weekly.  This brings the total number of Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers working in Baghdad to 3,145.

 

     The Ministry of the Interior and coalition forces will host an awards ceremony for the Iraqi police service, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, and Facility Protection Service members tomorrow here at the convention center.  Officers of all three services will be honored for their heroism.  And all members of the press are invited to attend.

 

     In the western zone of operations, coalition forces conducted 187 patrols, including nine joint patrols and four offensive operations, capturing 20 individuals.  Additionally, forces denied entry to 50 personnel at Trebil, all because they lacked passports, but turned away no one at Husbayah, Tanif or Ar Ar.  Coalition forces conducted a cordon and search near Nasir wa-al-Salam to kill or capture members of a former regime element cell operating in that area.  The operation was conducted without incident and resulted in the capture of six of the eight primary targets.

 

     The Jordanian hospital east of Fallujah was attacked by rockets yesterday.  The rockets landed inside the compound.  The blast destroyed two windows in the hospital, but caused no injuries or further damage.  Coalition explosive ordnance personnel responded and cleared the area.

 

     Iraqi Civil Defense Corps in Ar Ramadi continue to conduct independent combat operations to disrupt enemy activity and prevent enemy forces from inplacing bombs and selling black-market fuel along Highway 10.  This operation will continue for several more days, and those soldiers began to conduct limited visibility operations yesterday.

 

     Civil affairs personnel submitted proposals for 10 projects, totaling $1 million, to the Office of Transition Initiatives.  The organization is a component of the United States Agency for International Development Relief and Reconstruction Plan, and is a flexible group designed to respond to needs as they arise.

 

     In the central-south zone of operations, as part of its ongoing MEDCAP program, coalition forces provided medical treatment to 522 patients, delivered food and hygiene items, conducted a primary school  teachers conference, and inspected two CMIC projects along MSR Tampa. These events, combined with the efforts of four humanitarian assistance sections and Iraqi doctors in villages near Al Hillah provided aid to over 700 people.

 

     In the southeastern zone of operations, crowds gathered at the banks, but there have been no repeat demonstrations as we saw on Monday and Tuesday.  Payment is promised as the list and the money required will be made available to the bank in the near future.

 

     Senor:  We're happy to take your questions.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q:  Hi, Jill Carrol with ANSA.  Two things on the crash in Fallujah.  Can you tell us if the passengers on board were civilians, and their nationalities?

 

     Kimmitt:  There were no civilians on board.

 

     Q:  Okay.  And, I guess yesterday in Fallujah, two people were killed when an American rocket or something was shot at their house.  Do you have more details about this?  Last night, I guess around 10 p.m.

 

     Kimmitt:  The information that we have and what was reported to us was that in the course of a normal patrol, a coalition patrol was engaged by enemy forces.  Those enemy forces ran into a house, we believe there were two personnel that ran into a house, and continued firing on the patrol from the house.  Coalition forces engaged those two personnel.  And to the best of our knowledge, that ended the incident.

 

     Q:  Do you know what, exactly, was shot at the house?

 

     Kimmitt:  Yes.  It was small-arms fires.  It was reported in some press statement that -- excuse me, a press journal that a tank had been used.  There was no tank used in that operation.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q:  Hi.  Brian Hartman with ABC News.  Earlier this afternoon, a flatbed truck filled with about 80 prisoners rolled out of Abu Ghraib prison.  We were told by the folks at Abu Ghraib prison that this was just a regular release of prisoners, and I just wonder how to put that into context with what was announced yesterday.  What's the difference between this regular release of prisoners that takes place, you know, every other day at that prison and the 500 that were announced yesterday?

 

     Senor:  I cannot speak to that specific group.  I can tell you that the process for releasing the prisoners that Ambassador Bremer announced yesterday is under way.  He said that approximately 100 prisoners would be ready to be released today.  They are ready. That, of course, is conditional upon commitments from the guarantors. This is the tribal leaders, the community leaders that he discussed. We are in the process of contacting those guarantors and waiting for them to step forward.  They've been notified, but we're waiting for them to step forward.  And so the process is under way.  It's going to take a couple days, we think, for all the guarantors to step forward. But as Ambassador Bremer said, we have 100 prisoners that are ready to be released.

 

     Q:  May I follow up on that, please?  But what is the difference, so we understand how to describe the people who were released today, so we're not confusing people?  What is the difference between the process that these 80 were released on?

 

     Senor:  Sure.  When a prisoner is detained, within 72 hours we make a determination about whether or not they will be classified as a security internee, as a POW or as a civilian -- we call it a criminal detainee.  If they are a civilian detainee, which means that they were involved in some crime not related to opposing or organizing against the coalition or in any sort of organized terrorist (sic) or insurgency against the Iraqi people, but crimes such as looting and regular robbery, burglary, sort of street crimes, they go into the regular Iraqi court system, the legal system.

 

     Others, which are determined to be involved or suspected of being involved in some sort of organized attack or planning against the coalition or the Iraqi people in an insurgent sense, are retained.  If in that 72-hour period or shortly thereafter we can determine that they weren't involved, then we try to release them immediately.  That is separate, however, from the group that Ambassador Bremer announced yesterday.  The group Ambassador Bremer announced yesterday are those low-level, nonviolent opponents, up to this point, of the coalition, those who may have had what we call some ties to opposition of the coalition but have not been directly involved in any violence, and we classify them as low-level violators, minor violators.  And we believe those individuals can be won over.

 

     And so that's the, sort of, evolution of the policy, is taking a hard look at those individuals who, in light of Saddam Hussein's capture, are either no longer hopeful that Saddam Hussein will return or no longer fearful, and those individuals who may have been left out of the new Iraq or may have opted out of the new Iraq, may be reconsidering.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q:  Hi.  Jan Obrai from Reuters.  Just two things I'd like to clarify.  One is on the prisoners.  Does that mean no prisoners have yet been released under this new scheme?  And the other question is about Fallujah.  One of the CPIC officers earlier told us that eight people have been killed on -- the helicopter was flying on a medical evacuation mission.  Is that incorrect?  And were all the soldiers aboard Americans?  Thanks.

 

     Senor:  For both security and privacy reasons, we are not going to being doing regular announcements of the number of individuals that have been released under this program.  We will let you know -- we'll try to give you -- to sort of update this in the future once the large majority of them are released, but out of interests of security and privacy, we are not encouraging enormous media coverage at Abu Ghraib.  We don't believe it is in our interest, and it's certainly not in the Iraqi people's interest, and it's certainly not in -- the prisoners that are being released, it's not in their interest, and it's not in the interest of the community leaders that have stepped forward.  Security and privacy is critical.

 

     The process is under way.  And we will give you an update a little bit here into the future in terms of how many have been successfully completed and how this sort of guarantor program is moving along.

 

     Yes?

 

     Kimmitt:  Let me follow up.

 

     Senor:  I'm sorry.

 

     Kimmitt:  On the second question, the number, the most recent number that we do have confirmed by the 82nd Airborne Division, who is reporting this, is that there were nine personnel on board the aircraft.  We don't have positive identification of all those personnel now, but we  are working under the presumption that they are all American soldiers.

 

     And one other clarification.  There was an earlier report that this was a helicopter from the 82nd Airborne Division.  It was not a helicopter flown by or crewed by personnel from the 82nd Airborne Division.

 

     Q:  Was it on a medical evacuation mission?

 

     Kimmitt:  It was on a routine helicopter mission.

 

     Senor:  Yes, sir?

 

     Q:  (Name inaudible.) -- Radio France.  I have two questions: first, what would you say as a responsible human being to the families waiting for their loved ones at the prison gates?  The second one, regarding the new troops that arrive, I've been told that they are not to wear dark glasses while talking to Iraqis.  What kind of orientation process did they receive; any classes or special instructions?

 

     Senor:  What's the first question?  What's our message to the families?

 

     Q:  Yeah, what did you say to the families waiting at the prison gates?

 

     Senor:  I can't -- I don't know which families are waiting at the prison gates.  We can say, however, to the families of those minor violators, to the families of those individuals who have had nonviolent -- been involved with nonviolent opposition to the coalition, and nonviolent opposition to the new Iraq, we say that this is our way of reaching out to you with a carrot approach, if you will, with an effort of goodwill and an effort to recognize that a number of people who may have thought they had been left out of the new Iraq, or chosen to opt out of the new Iraq, there's a second opportunity for them and their loved ones to play a constructive role and we encourage them to do so.  We're doing our part by reaching out to them, and we hope they'll do their part by stepping forward and playing a constructive role in this reconstruction.

 

     Yes, sir?

 

     Kimmitt:  He had a second question.  Let me finish up on that.

 

     Senor:  Oh, sorry.

 

     Kimmitt:  All of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marine that come into theater go through a significant amount of training on not only how to  fight and conduct their combat operations, but also to understand the cultural context of where they're going to be operating in.

 

     I read the same report that you did.  But I would assure you that the units that are here in theater today and the units that will be arriving in theater as part of the rotation plan, all will go through extensive cultural training, cultural awareness.

 

     We also understand that a couple of months of training could not replace 20 years of living and originating from this region, which is just another reason why we value the service of the Iraqi police service, the ICDC, and the new Iraqi army working side by side with us to work as -- somewhat as intermediaries to continue that training, that cultural awareness while they're here.

 

     Senor:  Yes.

 

     Q:  Emily Harris from NPR.  Could you clarify how many prisoners are actually held by U.S. forces?  There seem to be reports of 9,000 security detainees and then another, I was told by a specific press person yesterday floaty number of 3,500, which may be Iranian prisoners.  Can you clarify?

 

     Kimmitt:  As we said yesterday, and have said numerous times from the platform, we have roughly today somewhere over 9,500 -- just under 9,500 detainees -- that are being held in the coalition detention facilities, and then the other 3,400 to 3,500 of the MEK whose status is being determined at this time.

 

     Senor:  Denise, yeah.

 

     Q:  Can you tell us -- this is Denise (Inaudible.).  We got a report that a C-5 cargo plan had to make an emergency landing this morning at 7:20, and it had reported that it was having trouble. There were passengers aboard.  Can you tell us anything about that?  I know some of our folks were actually awake at that hour and thought they heard an explosion.  Is there any relation?

 

     Kimmitt:  Yes, I can confirm that early this morning we did have an in-flight emergency called by a aircraft departing out of Baghdad International Airport, and it did return to base.  All personnel are safe.  There were no injuries involved in this.  It is being investigated.  There are reports of personnel in the area when this happened.  We are investigating those reports, and as the full investigation is complete, we'll pass on that information and make that available.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q:  Omar Rask, BBC World Service.  Do you usually go to inform the families of those who will be released about the time of their release, or what kind of communications you have with the families?  How long do you expect it will take to release the 500 prisoners Mr. Bremer announced yesterday?

 

     Senor:  Much of this is dependent on the guarantors -- the tribal leaders and the community leaders -- stepping forward.  Now, we are in the process of reaching out to them and notifying them and securing the commitments from them to guarantee the individuals we are releasing.  We are ready to release today 100 prisoners, and we are waiting for all the guarantors to step forward.  Some will step forward today; we presume some will step forward in the days ahead. But as soon as they are ready, we are ready.

 

     Q:  What about the families?  I'm asking about the families because hundreds of families we saw today, they don't know if their relatives will be released or not.  Are they included or not?

 

     Senor:  The assumption is that if the tribal leader or community leader is aware that a family's loved one is being released, that that individual will notify the family.  So it is incumbent upon the guarantor -- the tribal leader or the community leader -- to notify the family so they are aware.  We would alert families to await information from their leaders to determine whether or not they should be expecting individuals that they know to be released.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q:  Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder.  I just want to be clear.  You said there are 100 people that have been cleared to be released.  I take from that that there has not been one person of that 100, or of the 500 total, released yet, to your knowledge?  None of them have been released so far.

 

     Senor:  I don't have a minute-by-minute update.

 

     Q:  Right.

 

     Senor:  I know this.  Here's what I know.

 

     Q:  To your knowledge.

 

     Senor:  Here's what I know.  The process is under way. Ambassador Bremer said 100 prisoners would be ready to be released today.  A hundred prisoners are ready to be released today.  We are waiting for all the guarantors to step forward and we can continue moving on that process.  That is where things stood today.

 

     Q:  I understand that you're not paged, you know, when one is released.

 

     Senor:  Right.

 

     Q:  But I mean, to the best of your knowledge, none of them have been released since you were last informed.

 

     Senor:  To the best of my knowledge, this process is under way and there are a hundred individuals ready to be released, as Ambassador Bremer said yesterday.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q:  Beth Potter from Erin News.  Just to clarify that number again of the people who are being detained, you say 9,000-and- something security detainees, and then the 3,000 Mujahideen Khalq. What about the criminal detainees?  Because some of the people that I talk to say up to 17,000 people might be in detainment.

 

     Kimmitt:  That is the total number that is being held under coalition control at this time.  No, the 9,400, 9,500 plus the 3,800, there are no others.

 

     Q:  Are the 9,000-some -- are they all security detainees, then?  Or what number is the criminal number?

 

     Kimmitt:  Some of them are a combination of security and criminal.  It is our intent that after they have gone -- while they're there, that we pass them over to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq.   And that's why you often sometimes see coming out of some of these prisons personnel going over to the CCCI.  But some are there for a combination of offenses.  If there is a prosecutable offense, they are considered criminals and passed over to the Iraqi judicial system.

 

     Senor:  Yes?

 

     Q:   General Kimmitt, you were saying earlier about working with the Iraqi army.  So how will the coalition train for the 25 battalions of the Iraqi army in eight months, considering that it took six months to create the first two battalions?  And then, I heard that you are in the process of naming a new Iraqi minister of defense.  If it's true, who is he?

 

     Senor:  The initial few months to get the training process moving for the new Iraqi army had as much to do with developing a training program, getting trainers in place and building the training infrastructure.  Keep in mind, when the old Iraqi army disbanded, it wasn't just the army that disappeared.  All the barracks, all the equipment was either looted or destroyed, right down to the pipes and tiles in the barracks on the bases.  So we had to build up the infrastructure shortly after the war.  Now, the U.S. Congress has appropriated over $3 billion -- $3.2 billion -- for security forces in Iraq, for the training of security forces in Iraq.  With these resources deployed, and with the equipment deployed, and with the training facilities built out, we are in a position now to really ramp up the training.

 

     And one key component of the training is to have Iraqis training Iraqis.  Once we had Iraqis who had gone through the system, Iraqis who became officers or senior members of the new Iraqi army were in a position to train other Iraqis, we knew this schedule could move very quickly.  And that's why training the first couple battalions took as long as it did.  But once we have more Iraqi trainers deployed, we'll be able to move that much more quickly.  And I would say, the 1st Battalion is deployed, the 2nd Battalion has now graduated, the 3rd Battalion has already begun training, the 4th Battalion is already recruited.  We're on track to get to 27 battalions by next fall.

 

     Yes.

 

     Q:  What about a minister?

 

     Senor:  That's an issue that you'd have to take up with the Governing Council.

 

     Q:  Hi, Jim Crane with the AP.  We've had word that there was a mass grave discovered at the former Camp Dogwood that some Iraqi -- apparently looters or people that were poking around in the dirt there found some -- they appear to be Iraqi citizens buried, apparently, by the U.S. military.  We've sent some e-mail queries in and made some calls and haven't been able to get much on it from any of the military personnel here.  We're wondering if you guys have any idea what that was -- who those folks were, why they were buried there, whether they were killed or died of natural causes, anything like that.  I know this is stuff that we've been pressing you guys on and have yet to hear anything on.  Wondering if you had any answer for us today?

 

     Senor:  Why don't you stick around after -- one of the individuals who handles that issue is here and he -- who handles issues related to the Ministry of Transitional Justice and Human Rights, under which that would fall, and we can have him look into it.

 

     Yes, sir.

 

     Q:  Hi, sorry to (bang on?) about prisons.  Obviously you're not going to say whether or not anyone has been released today or not. But am I safe to say that truckloads of people haven't been leaving today, that if anyone has, it will be very few who will be leaving as part of the announcement made yesterday?

 

     Senor:  What you are not going to get from this podium is a play-by-play, minute-by-minute pager update as this gentleman said. What I can tell you is the process is under way.  As Ambassador Bremer said yesterday, 100 prisoners would be ready to be released today, and we stand by that.  And the process is moving, and the guarantors have been notified and we're waiting for additional guarantors to step forward.

 

     Someone who hasn't asked yet.  (Name inaudible.)

 

     Q:  (Name inaudible.) -- with the Wall Street Journal.  I understand that an appeals committee was formed at Abu Ghraib, where under the Geneva -- Fourth Geneva, security detainees could appeal their status as security detainees.  How many of these 506 people had filed appeals?

 

     Senor:  There is a program that we are working on with the Ministry of Transitional Justice and Human Rights to establish some sort of program or office at Abu Ghraib to assist families who have had loved ones detained, and to assist those detained.  And those details will be coming out in the days ahead.  We are in consultations right now with the Governing Council and with the Ministry of Human Rights and Transitional Justice.  So I have no further information today.  But if you'd just hold tight, the next few days we'll be able to follow up with you.

 

     Go ahead.

 

     Q:  Ned Parker with AFP.  I just wanted to clarify, because I wasn't at Abu Ghraib today, but those trucks were not from the prison release program?  Just so I get it from your mouth and not ABC's mouth.

 

     Senor:  There were -- again, I don't have a minute-by-minute pager update.  I do know that 100 prisoners are ready to be released today.

 

     Q:  Right.  Okay.  All right.  Gotcha.  And the other -- I just had two follow-ups --

 

     Senor:  I don't want to get into the business here of characterizing every release in terms of what category and what qualification they fall into each day.  So I can't speak to those.

 

     Q:  Okay.  The other two things I had were, with the issue of the number of detainees total in the U.S. system, in September, General -- I'm going to mispronounce her name -- Karpi-chinski (ph) --

 

     Senor:  (Correct pronunciation.)  Karpinski.

 

     Q:  Karpinski.  Thank you.  She said, in mid-September, there were 600 security detainees in addition to the -- what was essentially the Muj, the Mujahideen.  So, since September, there's been a significant rise in the number of security detainees, from 600 to -- I   mean, I don't -- it's hard to qualify them now because your numbers are -- it's not clear what's a security detainee and what's a common law criminal.  So how do you explain, if you only had 600 security detainees in mid-September besides the Mujahideen, how do you explain the rise?

 

     Kimmitt:  Well, first of all, I don't know the number of personnel that General Karpinski mentioned in September, but I do know what we do have here today.  And I think ongoing operations on a daily basis, as we go out to kill or capture anti-coalition forces is what accounts for the large number that you see.

 

     Q:  Well then, was there a steady rise in the number of security detainees in the last -- that's what I'm really curious about -- in the last three or four months?

 

     Kimmitt:  Well, at every one of these briefings, we tell you on a daily -- at every briefing, how many we captured and detained that evening.  And it's been a very large number over the past few months.

 

     Q:  Larger than before, than in the --

 

     Kimmitt:  I can't speak to the time period before then.

 

     Q:  The other question I had -- sorry -- was about in Tikrit, the arrest of -- was that Sadi Omar al-Muslitt (ph).  Did he have any connection to Saddam Hussein?  Was he one of these lieutenants that have been spoken about who were --

 

     Kimmitt:  I was not -- I am not aware that he was what we would consider a high-value target on any -- the white or the black lists.

 

     Q:  Okay.  Thank you.

 

     Senor:  Go ahead, Denise.

 

     Q:  We've heard that Sistani has said that without the participation of the U.N., this election scenario is not going to be fair or transparent.  We've also heard that he's characterized the coalition forces as occupation authorities.  Would you consider that a hardening of his position, or do you want to comment a little bit about his position on the election?

 

     Senor:  Under international law, we are technically an occupational force.  As Ambassador Bremer has said repeatedly, it's not a pretty word, but it's a fact.  That said, as you can tell from the State Department poll I referred to today and as I've said numerous times from this podium, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis want the coalition to stay here to finish the job until the mission is done, to help stabilize this country, hand in hand working with Iraqi forces, Iraqi security forces that they are having increasing confidence in.

 

     As for comments and statements by individual Iraqi leaders, I'd refer you to the Iraqi Governing Council.  Our agreement was reached with the Iraqi Governing Council.  On November 15th, Ambassador Bremer signed a  historic agreement that would create an accelerated path to sovereignty for the Iraqi people that would result in a democratic, politically independent government, at which point the coalition, the occupational civilian side of operations here, would withdraw.  We are working right now with the Governing Council on implementation of that agreement.  If the Governing council has issues or concerns with other Iraqi leaders, that's between the Governing Council and those Iraqi leaders.

 

     I would add, however, that we view it as a positive sign that there are many people in this country who have many different views about this political process.  That's partly what this liberation was about.  It's about stimulating for the first time in 35 years a free dialogue about where this country is heading and what kind of government this country should have, and holding government officials accountable.

 

     And I would remind you that just about 10 days ago there was a town hall meeting held in Basra in which Iraqi leaders, some from the Governing council, other local leaders, debated this political process.  They had a heated discussion, probably one of the first of its kind in this country, not to mention this part of the world.  And next week there will be another town hall meeting, in Mosul, and that will be followed later in the month by a town hall meeting in Baghdad. So, free, lively debate, freedom of speech is alive and well in this country, and it's something that we view as a healthy sign.

 

     Q:  A quick follow-up if you would.  When is that Mosul town hall meeting?

 

     Senor:  The Mosul town hall meeting is -- I was going to announce it this weekend the exact date.  But right now it's scheduled for January 12th, but we are nailing down details.  So I will provide you -- there's going to be a number of these town hall meetings throughout the country over the next couple months.  And what I'll try to do for you at the beginning of each week, starting next week, is give you a schedule and the update for those events.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q:  A question about the rewards schemes and so on that you've got going on.  What's been your experience with Iraqi informants who have come forward to give you information help leading to capture of other people, have there been people, for example, coming forward just after the money, giving you false information or have there been successes?  Could you just talk to that, please?

 

     Kimmitt:  I think the record of success speaks for itself. Fifty-five on the top list; of those 55, 42 have either been killed or captured.  We are now announcing additional rewards for lower-tiered personnel, and we fully expect that we're going to be as successful with those as we have been with the top 55.

 

     Senor:  And we've also, seen since the capture of Saddam Hussein, that the quality of the intelligence has improved dramatically.  We view that as a positive sign.  And the reward money is to reward any individual who comes forward with credible and useful information.  And many of those individuals tell us that the reason the funds create a positive incentive for them to surrender -- or to come forward with information is because it helps them mitigate the risk that they are subjecting themselves to by stepping forward and contributing to the reconstruction in Iraq, and in their own way contributing to the fight against those terrorists and insurgents that are trying to turn the clock back on Iraq.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q:  Brian Hartman with ABC again.  Do you have any data on the sort of trend line of surface-to-air attacks over recent months?  And also, I understand when helicopters first started coming out of the sky there was a change in some tactics, techniques and procedures that I know you don't like to talk about, but could you talk about maybe the success of those tactics, techniques and procedures?

 

     Kimmitt:  Well, I don't think it would be helpful to discuss any aspect of that, either the trend lines or the modified tactics, techniques and procedures.  However, every time we have an incident we review our TTPs; we do not shut down completely.  We have a responsibility to get from Point A to Point B, we have a responsibility to continue our combat operations.  And those pilots don't stop for a minute.  They look at the operational threat, they make conscious decisions of the risk they're taking and they get back up in the air.

 

     Senor:  Time for one more question.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q:  Just, I'm curious, with these people who are guaranteeing the behavior of the -- what happens to them if one of these people they guarantee does something bad?

 

     Kimmitt:  Well, they are being held to a personal bond, but not a legal bond.  We would hope that the guarantors have a capability of being part of that rehabilitation process as we bring the released detainee back into the community.  We would hope that the guarantor will continue to work with the coalition forces, and we fully expect that.  And we will ask and we will check.

 

     But if that detainee does not follow the straight and narrow and in fact reverts back to his old ways, unless we can see complicity on the part of the guarantor, I don't think that we will, ahead of the fact, announce that we will in all cases go after the guarantor because the detainee went back to his old ways -- unless complicit.

 

     Senor:  I would also add that the program that Ambassador Bremer and Adnan Pachachi, Dr. Pachachi, announced yesterday, are not only targeted at those individuals that are being released, but they are targeted at their communities.  It is part of the reconciliation process.  By engaging the tribal leaders, and by engaging the community leaders, we are asking them to participate in this process. And this is certainly important in some of the more difficult areas we've been dealing with since the end of major combat operations, to not only engage those implicated in attacks and implicated in organization of attacks, that we later find out are really just low- level, non-violent individuals, but also their communities; having their communities own a part of this process.

 

     President Bush often talks about his vision for Iraq being democratic, stable, and at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbors.  The path of democracy, as I've talked about this afternoon, is clearly articulated in the November 15th agreement, which is in fact a political agreement that accelerates the path to sovereignty and democracy.

 

     In terms of a stable Iraq, that's part of what we're doing by building up the Iraqi security forces.  Our goal right now is to get to 220,000 security forces.  We are at over 150,000 right now.  There are more Iraqis in Iraq today defending their own country and securing their own country than there are Americans.

 

     And finally, an Iraq that's at peace with itself.  The reconciliation process is an important part with Iraq being at peace  with itself.  Our contribution yesterday is one small part that we hope will lead to a bigger part, which is releasing those individuals who are thinking twice about playing a constructive role in their country, and engaging their communities and engaging their families and engaging their leaders in a meaningful way.  It's also about the Special Tribunal we've worked with the Governing Council on setting up -- also part of the reconciliation process.  It's part of leaving an Iraq that is at peace with itself.

 

     Thanks, everybody.

 

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