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Coalition Press Information Center Briefing on Operations in North Central Iraq

Presenters: Major General John Batiste, Commander, 1st Infantry Division
January 13, 2005 8:00 AM EDT

To view the briefing slides:  www.defenselink.mil/news/Jan2005/d20050113slide.pdf

 

            BRYAN WHITMAN (deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Public Affairs):  General, this is Bryan Whitman at the Pentagon.  Can you hear me?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Yes, Bryan, loud and clear.  How are you?

 

            MR. WHITMAN:  I'm fine, thank you.  And thank you for taking the time today to be with us.

 

            I'd like to welcome the Pentagon press corps this morning and thank them for coming in at an unusually early time for perhaps our operations.

 

            Most of you probably know our briefer today, who is U.S. Army Major General John Batiste.  He is the commander of the Multinational Division-North Central, and also the commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division.  General Batiste and his division are responsible for the ongoing security operations in North Central Iraq, and he's here today to talk about what his division has been doing.  And he has a few comments that he would like to make, and then we'll start with some questions from the Pentagon and go back to Baghdad for the press that are in the room there.  And we'll keep this to about 30 minutes.

 

            General Batiste cannot see us here in the Pentagon, so when you ask questions, if you could just identify yourself, that would help him as he knows some of you out there, I'm sure.

 

            General?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Thank you, Bryan.  And good afternoon, or morning in the case of the Pentagon.

 

            Ladies and Gentlemen, Task Force Danger and the 1st Infantry Division combat team, as Bryan said, is operating in North Central Iraq in the four provinces of Salahuddin, Diyala, Kirkuk and Sulimaniyah.

 

            It's my pleasure to talk to you today about the great work of Iraq security forces in North Central Iraq and our combined efforts to prepare for the 30 January elections.

 

            After I take a few moments to address recent activities of the Iraqi security forces and preparations for the elections, I'd be glad to take your questions.

 

            I'll begin by saying that on the 6th of January, Iraqi Army Day, was a quite significant day in North Central Iraq.  Army Day, the celebration of the founding of Iraq's army in 1921, marked the merging of the Iraqi National Guard and the Iraqi army.  Along with eight other Iraqi army divisions, the day marked the activation of the Iraqi 4th Division.  The 4th Division consists of four brigades and 18 battalions, to include three recently activated oil security battalions.  The division is commanded by Lieutenant General Abdul Aziz, a man of courage and conviction who is dedicated to freedom, an integrated society and the value of every human being. Battalions are garrisoned throughout the four provinces of north- central Iraq and are partnered with the battalions of Task Force Danger.

 

            The results are remarkable and speak for themselves.  Perhaps most importantly, the Iraqi 4th Division represents what is and what is meant to be in Iraq.  The soldiers of the division not only reflect the rich ethnic/religious diversity of Iraq, but they also imbue with the energy, courage and determination which the vast majority of the Iraqi people have for freedom and representative government.  They love their country and they consider themselves to be Iraqis first. And like the United States military, which was the institution that integrated America, the Iraqi army will do the same for the people of Iraq.  The division has adopted a fitting motto:  "unity is strength."

 

            Here you see Iraqi drill instructors, not American, training a group of motivated Iraqi soldiers at a training center in Tikrit.  The same thing is happening every day in training centers in Kirkuk, Baqubah and Sulimaniyah.  It is easy to see the pride and commitment of these great soldiers as they complete their challenging basic training.  We see no shortage or committed -- of committed Iraqis willing to serve their country.

 

            The strength of the Iraqi security forces lies not only in ideals and mottoes, but is demonstrated every day by the actions of these brave men and women.  To cite just a few of the many examples of the proficiency of the Iraqi security forces in north-central Iraq, I'll start with the 205th Iraqi Army Battalion in the province of Diyala.

 

            During an independently planned and executed cordon and search in Miqdadiyah on January 4th, the 205th Battalion captured the six insurgents you see here.  On January 7th, after receiving intelligence tips from local citizens, Iraqi soldiers independently conducted a follow-on clearing operation.  After a fierce six-hour engagement, the 205th detained more than 70 insurgents, IED-making material and a large cache of weapons.  Following the operation, the Iraqi media reported that security forces are trained and committed to serve and protect anytime, anywhere.

 

            In the Salahuddin Province, the 203rd Iraqi Army Battalion has been very aggressive in carrying out its mission.  Alpha Company of the 203rd has been conducting independent operations to disrupt insurgent activity prior to the elections.  In the first 12 days of January, this great company captured 16 caches of weapons and munitions and, in conjunction with their coalition partners, 77 insurgents were detained during the same period.

 

            In Samarra, the 7th Iraqi Army Battalion, the 2nd Special Police Battalion and the 202nd Iraqi Army Battalion have seized 86 caches since October, when Iraqi security and coalition forces launched Operation Baton Rouge to successfully rid the city of insurgents.  The 2nd Special Police Battalion has also conducted 204 deliberate raids in Samarra during the same period.

 

            To the north, Iraqi security forces in the Kirkuk Province have been impressive.  Last night, the Kirkuk Emergency Services Unit, part of the city's police force, and the 207th Iraqi Army Battalion executed raids on eight objectives in order to prevent insurgent attacks prior to elections.  Four high-payoff targets and a total of 31 insurgents were detained.

 

            Recently a police academy was stood up in the Sulimaniyah Province to train up to 1,000 police recruits at a time.  The academy trains classes which reflect the ethnic diversity of the region. Coached by international police advisers, Shi'a and Sunni Arab, as well as Kurdish, Assyrian and Turkoman police recruits from north- central Iraq come together for an eight-week training program of instruction.  Although fielding police forces has proven to be a challenge, graduates of this program and others like it in Jordan and Baghdad consistently stand their ground and defeat the insurgents.  As is true with the Iraqi army, Iraqi police officers perform superbly when properly trained, equipped and led.  The key is finding the right leaders, and we have done just that in the towns and cities in our area of operations.  The Sulimaniyah academy is producing competent and well-led police.

 

            Across the street, patrolmen from the Department of Border Enforcement are also trained to properly secure the border between Iran and Iraq in our region.  The Department of Border Enforcement forces in both the Sulimaniyah and Diyala provinces have made remarkable progress with respect to training and equipping, and are performing well.  On a recent trip to a snow-covered crossing site on the Iran-Iraq border, I saw firsthand the professionalism and dedication of these great officers.

 

            Indeed, a prosperous and democratic Iraq rests with the country's ability to maintain a safe and secure environment, and it's a team effort.  Here you see Iraqi security forces working with independent electoral commission of Iraq officials, provincial civilian leadership, directors of joint coordination centers, Iraqi security forces and Task Force Danger soldiers to set the conditions for Iraq's historic elections on the 30th of January.  Throughout North Central Iraq, these leaders have come together in provincial and municipal Joint Coordination Centers to plan and synchronize their efforts to ensure successful elections.  From the distribution of ballots and election materials, to the security of over 1,000 polling sites, to rehearsing well-developed security plans, these teams have left no stone unturned.  This election will be an election for Iraqis, run by Iraqis.  The bottom line is North Central Iraq is ready for elections.

 

            Like all military and police forces fighting against the evils of terror around the world, the Iraqi security forces have been tested by the loss of their fellow soldiers and policemen.  On January 3rd, the 203rd Iraqi Army Battalion lost 21 brave soldiers when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated beside their bus.  And on January 11th, the Tikrit police force lost six police by another vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack.  Here you see members of the 203rd Iraqi Army Battalion conducting a memorial service which followed the January 3rd attack which I just mentioned.

 

            Like other soldiers and police officers around the world, the Iraqi security forces have honored their fallen comrades and then carried on their mission with renewed resolve and determination.  This resolve and determination has enabled the Iraqi army and police, either acting independently or in concert with coalition forces, to detain 1,371 insurgents, kill 170 insurgents, and wound another 36 insurgents in North Central Iraq since October 1st of 2004.

 

            In closing, my message to you today is that Iraq's security forces are steadily progressing.  Every day the Iraqi army, police and Department of Border Enforcement demonstrate their ability to carry out their mission, while relying less and less on their coalition partners.  Together with civic, tribal and religious leaders, the Iraqi security forces have achieved irreversible momentum towards prosperity and representative government.  Based on the competencies of the Iraqi team, I am confident in the future of Iraq.  We are right where we need to be in this important mission.

 

            And thank you.  At this point I'd be very happy to take your questions.

 

            MR. WHITMAN:  Thank you very much, General.

 

            We'll start over here.

 

            Q     General Batiste, Barbara Starr from CNN.  Can you sketch out for us on Election Day in your area, and even if you can discuss it more broadly across Iraq, the role that -- the security role that U.S. forces will play, the security role that Iraqi forces will play. Who will do what?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Barbara, as I said in my opening statement, this is an election for Iraqis by Iraqis.  I have been very impressed in the past couple of months with the incredible teamwork between the IECI directors in each province, the provincial governors and their deputy governors, the Iraqi security force leaders within each province -- that is,the Iraqi army brigade commanders and the provincial police chiefs; and the directors of the provincial Joint Coordination Centers as they come together to work through the details of the security plan for Election Day.  They've done this in all four of our provinces to exacting detail. They know exactly where the polling stations are and they developed the plans to secure them.

 

            Not only that, they've worked hard to rehearse the plans at the provincial level, at the city level, right down to the police station level.  All of this is going on every day.  In the next seven to 10 days, I'll be attending personally the final provincial election rehearsals in each one of the provinces.

 

            The job of the 1st Infantry Division Combat Team is to facilitate this, to set the Iraqi security forces up for success.  And we'll do just that.

 

            Does that answer your question?

 

            Q     Apologies, but no, sir, it really doesn't.  What will the role, what will the mission be, what will U.S. forces do in your area on Election Day?  Will we see them visible?  Will they be on the street?  Will they be working hand in hand visibly with Iraqi security forces?  Will they hold back in a less visible role?  What will they do?  Who will secure the polling places?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Barbara, let me step back in time a bit to answer your question.  And the answer really started weeks ago.   It's all about taking the fight to the enemy.  It's all about taking the fight to the insurgent with intelligence-driven, deliberate combat operations to kill or capture the insurgent.  We've been doing that in the 1st Infantry Division Combat Team and Task Force Danger, as has the rest of the corps, for a very long time.

 

            These operations go on continually day and night.  As I speak, there are three deliberate operations ongoing within Task Force Danger to the north.  There will be more operations tomorrow, relentless operations chasing down the insurgent, taking away his initiative and disrupting what he's trying to do.  That will go on continuously up through, to and after the elections.

 

            Meanwhile, as I described, we're working with the Iraqi security forces to assist them to develop plans for election security that will work.  You'll see Iraqi security forces at the polling stations. You'll see Iraqi security forces in the polling stations and around the polling stations securing every one of them.

 

            The 1st Infantry Division soldiers will support, will operate from a distance.  It will provide quick reaction forces as needed, will do whatever is necessary to ensure that this is an effective, safe and secure election.

 

            Q     General, it's Carl Rochelle with NBC News.  A couple of questions.  First one, this almost constant IEDs, VBIEDs, suicide bombers.  How is that affecting your ability to recruit Iraqis for your training purposes?  And how is that affecting the morale of trying to get them trained up and out on the streets and carry out their mission?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Carl, that's a good question.  We have great Iraqi security forces in north central Iraq.  As I described, we've got 18 battalions of Iraqi army, any number of police stations, with good policemen, getting better every day.

 

            We've had 45 suicide vehicle-borne IEDs detonate within AO Danger -- that's the 1st Infantry Division's area of responsibility -- since we assumed the mission 11 months ago, and 42 vehicle-concealed IEDs -- that is, a car loaded with explosives, without a driver, that's remotely detonated.

 

            Lately these IEDs -- these vehicle-borne IEDs have been targeting the Iraqi security forces.  And as I described in my opening statement, they have killed some number of brave Iraqis.

 

            The incredible thing is, though, that these soldiers, these great soldiers in the battalions, in the four brigades of the 4th Division, are undeterred.  Their resolve is incredible.  And I know that because I spend a lot of time with them.

 

            We have partnered the battalions of the 4th Division with the battalions of the 1st Infantry Division, and we've been doing that for the past 11 months.  And the partnership that has developed -- the training, the rapport and the understanding -- between the Iraqi and the American battalions is quite phenomenal.

 

            We have no problem filling the ranks of the Iraqi army or the Iraqi police.  There is no shortage of brave Iraqis that want to stand up for their country.  It's phenomenal.

 

            Q     Second question.  We keep hearing reports that Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi is in northern Iraq somewhere and is behind most of these suicide missions, kidnapings and what have you.  Do you get any intel at all that he is in that area?  And what's being done to try to capture him?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Carl, we continuously press the insurgent with intel-driven combat operations, day and night, aggressive, to take the fight to him, very successfully.  And we certainly are chasing Zarqawi and his associates, and al Qaeda and anybody else who wants to stop the process within Iraq.

 

            MR. WHITMAN:  Brian.

 

            Q     Hi, General.  Brian Hartman with ABC News.  Two questions. First, can you give us an idea of the security environment in your area right now, how many attacks you're having on U.S. and Iraqi forces?  And then, second, how big of a problem is intimidation? Family members, the Iraqi security forces themselves, contractors -- how big of a problem in your area is intimidation of the Iraqis who are working with you?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Well, the number of attacks in the 1st Infantry Division Combat Team's area of operation ebbs and flows.  But yesterday it was about 24 attacks.  That is, 24 -- a combination of direct fire attacks, indirect fire attacks, and IEDs, either placed along the side of the road or a vehicle-borne IED.

 

            Generally, out of that number, about 25 percent is directed against the Iraqi security forces.  That number's going up in our area of operation, and we attribute that to the fact that the Iraqi security forces are getting better and better -- every day better trained and better equipped.  We have pumped $32 million of equipment into the Iraqi security forces that we are partnered with up in AO Danger since we got into this mission 11 months ago -- a huge amount of equipment that continues to flow to these brave soldiers and policemen.

 

            Q     General, the second part of the question was how big of a problem -- how much intimidation are these Iraqi soldiers, National Guardsmen, police that show up for work, how much intimidation are they, their families, those of contractors who work with you -- how big of a problem is that in your area?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  There's a fair amount of intimidation, no doubt about it.  That's one of the tactics of this insurgent, who has no values, who cares not how he kills.  And it has an impact.  But again, the resolve of the Iraqi people that I know in the four provinces of north-central Iraq, whether they're Kurd or Sunni Arab or Shi'a Arab or Turkoman or Assyrian, is incredible.  The vast majority of these people want freedom and they want representative government, and they're willing to fight for it.  It takes my breath away.  The small number that are doing this, intimidating the good people of Iraq, are getting desperate, and they will not be successful.

 

            MR. WHITMAN:  General, we have several more questions back here, but we don't want to monopolize it from the Pentagon.  Perhaps you'd want to ask a couple of questions, two or three questions of reporters in the room there, and then throw it back to us.

            GEN. BATISTE:  Okay, we'll do that.  Let's take this question right here.

 

            Q     Thank you, General.  Colin McMahon from the Chicago Tribune.  Two questions, one specific about Samarra.  How many U.S. forces are deployed there now?  And the other one is, General Metz about a week ago talked about four provinces in which it would be very difficult to have elections today.  One of those was Salahuddin; Diyala to a lesser extent.  How does that square with the portrait you've given us today?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Colin, two great questions.  Let me start with Samarra.

 

            Going back in time, you'll recall that coalition and Iraqi forces attacked on the 1st of October, based on a decision by Prime Minister Allawi to rid Samarra of insurgents.  And that's exactly what the division combat team, particularly the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division, did.  Very effective operation -- that it lasted a couple of days.  Very precise; killed a good number of insurgents.  And since then, we have moved into the phase of the operation where we are attempting and working hard to change attitudes and give the good people of Samarra an alternative to the insurgency.

 

            Part of the challenge in Samarra, and we're facing it head on, is to rebuild the police force.  In the past, the Samarra police force was poorly led, corrupt, not respected by the people of Samarra.  In fact, that police force was working with the insurgency and, under pressure, they quit.  So before we conducted the operation on the 1st of October to free the city, we set the conditions to rebuild the police force, we set the conditions to begin the repair of infrastructure to improve the quality of life of the people to set the conditions to prepare for the phases after combat operations.

 

            We're right now deep into the process -- and this is a long answer to get to your question -- we're deep into the process to build that police force.  We have a police commander now.  The chief of police in Samarra has been identified.  He's a good man.  He's been approved by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior.  We have 350 police recruits currently in training in Jordan and Baghdad, and our intent is to bring those police recruits back, start the next rotation of trainees.  But we're going to bring them back and train them more with the international police advisers that support the 1st Infantry Division and develop a cohort, if you will, of a great police force, properly equipped, before we introduce them back into the city.

 

            Meanwhile, back in Samarra, the government of Iraq has given -- committed four battalions into the effort to secure that city, and they're doing a great job.  As I showed you in my opening comment, they have identified 186 caches of weapons and munitions, significant. They have conducted 204 deliberate raids that are very good; no surprise that the Iraqi special police battalion knows exactly where to go and where to follow up on an operation.

 

            But at the moment, we have four of these great formations.  We have the 2nd Special Police Battalion, we have the 7th Iraqi Army Battalion, we have the 3rd Public Order Battalion, and of course the 202 Iraqi Army Battalion that's partnered with the battalion from the 1st Infantry Division in Samarra.  On top of that, we have four U.S. companies of infantry permanently garrisoned in Samarra.

 

            We do all of this to ensure that that city is secure and that the insurgency is not allowed to regain a foothold.  And the insurgency, let there be no doubt, is attempting to do that, but they will not be successful.  They will not be successful because of the resolve of the interim Iraqi government, the Iraqi security forces, a police force that we are in the process of rebuilding that'll be competent, well- led, well-equipped.

 

            Now what was your second part of that?

 

            Q     Sir, it was regarding General Metz's comments and that four of the 18 provinces would be ill-prepared to hold elections.

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  We have been working hard for several months now in each of the four provinces of North Central Iraq, as I described in the opening statement, with the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq director in each province, the provincial leadership in each province, the Iraqi security force leadership in each province, and the Provincial Joint Coordination Center director in each province to work this planning, to pull it all together, to identify polling stations.  We know exactly where they are.  We understand the plan to secure each of them with Iraqi security forces.  We understand the plan to employ the 1st Infantry Division combat team in support of the Iraqi security forces.  All of that's coming together well.  We will succeed in all four of our provinces.

 

            General Metz is correct; in Samarra and Baiji we are still working through some problems.  There are still problems in Samarra. There's no doubt that there will be elections in Samarra.  We will set the conditions and the polling stations will be there.  In Baiji there's another problem set.  That's the crossroads for all the insurgents heading from Mosul to Baghdad, and from Fallujah to Kirkuk. And we are still in the process of developing and setting the conditions for successful elections in Baiji.

 

            Yeah, in Diyala Province, Baqubah, things are going very well. Very well.  I see no problems there.

 

            Next question.

 

            Q     Steve Negas, Financial Times.  Actually, in specific regard to Diyala Province, there were four additional governates to the four where there's quite a few attacks which are marginal.  I believe there's between -- said to be between one and three attacks per day. We had guessed that Diyala and Kirkuk were possibly two of those provinces.  Can you say anything about the number of attacks in those two provinces and about the threat to the election there?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Yes, Steve.  Diyala and Kirkuk actually do not have the majority of attacks that we experience on any given day. Diyala has a tremendous Iraqi army brigade.  The 32nd Brigade down in Diyala is well-led, and the four battalions of that outfit, 205th Iraqi Army Battalion, that I explained in my opening statement, is outstanding.  They go after the enemy day in and day out.  They do it   without coalition assistance.  They're well-led, well-trained, and well-equipped.  And it's outfits like that that are setting the conditions.  The police in Baqubah -- aggressive.  The Diyala governor -- dedicated, committed to his people, a very brave man.  I'm not worried about the Diyala Province.

 

            Moving to Kirkuk, another great province with a whole different set of problems, a whole different set of dynamics, as you all are well aware.  They have the best police department that I've seen. They also have a great Iraqi National Guard brigade, the 31st brigade, commanded by Brigadier General Anwar.  Great battalions.  And as I described, he has now picked up three oil security battalions to help him secure the oil infrastructure from Kirkuk to Baiji.  And I know he'll do a great job.  We're working with General Petraeus to get him the guns and the ammunition that he needs, and all of that is working as we speak.  Trucks are moving.  We're going to stop that interdiction of the oil infrastructure.   The Iraqis are going to stop it.  And I'm very confident in that.

 

            The Kirkuk Province has done a tremendous job in preparing for the elections.  The teamwork up there is phenomenal.  Again, the polling stations are well known, the process has been rehearsed, and I know that it will go well.

 

            Yes?  Right here.

 

            Q     General, Rod Nordland from Newsweek.  A lot of Sunnis, particularly, complain that the military or the security forces in Iraq are becoming predominantly Kurdish and Shi'a.  Could you comment on just the degree to which that's true in your area; and if it's not true, how much of a problem that perception is, that's widely held?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  I agree that the perception would be a problem. The reality within the North Central four provinces of Iraq is that there's a good mix, a very good mix.  The division commander is absolutely committed to an integrated Iraq.  This is a very capable general who spent many years in the army.  He was an armor officer. He was wounded six times.  He was in 22 campaigns.  He ended up his career as the commandant of the war college.  He knows every single lieutenant colonel and colonel from the previous Iraqi army and can absolutely rate the capabilities of each of those officers.

 

            But he's dedicated to an integrated Iraq.  It matters not to him whether a soldier is Kurd or Arab or Turkoman or Assyrian.  In the four provinces, in the four brigades there's a pretty good mix.  I mean, clearly in Salahuddin it's primarily Sunni, and that would be the 30th Brigade.  The 32nd Brigade, in Diyala, is mixed.  The 31st Brigade, in Kirkuk, is mixed, as it should be.  The brigade in Sulimaniyah -- no surprise -- is Kurd.

 

            But no, I don't see a Shi'a majority in any of these brigades that I am partnered with.

 

            Q     Is that General Aziz you're referring to?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Yes.

 

            Q     Is he Kurdish?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  As a matter of fact he is.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Thank you, General.  Steve Fainer (ph) with The Washington Post.  You mentioned that the U.S. forces will be maintaining a distance on Election Day and will be providing quick response.  I was wondering if you could elaborate on that strategy and why U.S. forces are not playing a more direct role in protection of polling places?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Steve, it's important that this election be an Iraqi election for Iraqis, by Iraqis.  It's important that the 43,000 Iraqi security forces in my area -- 43,000 soldiers in the Iraqi army -- a combination of soldiers in the Iraqi army, police and Department of Border Enforcement -- are in charge, in control, conducting operations to secure those four provinces.  We will certainly support them, but the infrastructure that they have developed, with joint coordination centers in each province, with joint coordination centers in 21 of the cities, to tie it all together, to synchronize their efforts to command and control the operations on the 30th of January is very, very good.

 

            My 25,000 soldiers -- and by the way, that includes an extra brigade and twice the helicopters that I had a month ago -- will be in full support.  We will be working with our Iraqi security force partners to make sure that what they're doing makes sense, to make sure that if they need help we are there to mentor and advise, and as I said earlier to provide the quick reaction forces that will be necessary to stomp on the insurgent when he raises his ugly head.

 

            Yes?

 

            MR. WHITMAN:  A couple more from back here.

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Well, just a second.  One more here.

 

            Q     Thanks a lot, General.  Ashraf Khalil from the L.A. Times.

 

            You mentioned earlier a specific set of dynamics and a specific set of issues around Kirkuk.  I wonder if you could speak a little bit to that not only for the national election, but for the provincial election?  There's been a lot of pressure for a delay to the Kirkuk provincial election from some of the Kurdish parties.

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  You're right, there has been pressure to delay the provincial elections, and that, quite frankly, is a decision that needs to be taken by the interim Iraqi government, by the sovereign government of Iraq, in consultation with the independent election committee of Iraq.  And I'd just as soon leave it at that.

 

            I --

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  The difficulties primarily have to do with the resettlement, with the resettlement of the peoples -- all ethnicities, by the way -- that Saddam Hussein wronged terribly with his Arabization process.  And there's no doubt that we are committed to a Kirkuk for all Iraqis.  There's no doubt that we are also committed to right the wrongs of Saddam Hussein.  And it's all spelled out in the TAL, in the Transitional Administrative Law, fully supported by the interim Iraqi government.

 

            There's a deliberate process.  There's the Iraqi Property Claims Commission that is up and running and doing their business.  There are 18,000 claims right now filed within the four provinces of north central Iraq, at local Iraqi Property Claims Commission offices.  And the good news is that 76 of these claims have now been adjudicated.

 

            So the momentum is going in the right direction.  I saw this in Bosnia, in Srebrenica.  And these kinds of issues are not solved in one year.  They take time, they take patience, and they take a process, which we have.  The Iraqi Property Claims Commission process, laid out in the TAL, is good, it's deliberate, it's transparent, and it's impartial.

 

            Yes?  Back in the back here.

 

            Q     Shamal Ayu (sp) for CBC.  Why does it seem that your troops are so aggressive to Iraqis on the road?  Many Iraqis are so afraid of patrols on the road.

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  That's nonsense.  The Iraqis up in the north central portion of Iraq need to respect the coalition and Iraqi security force convoys.  They absolutely need to do that.  Because of the vehicle-borne -- the suicide vehicle-borne IED threat, I think the good people of Iraq understand the complexity of this issue.

 

            But to say that we are aggressive on the roads is simply not the case.

 

            Q     Would that --

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Let me go back to the Pentagon and see if there's any questions there.

 

            MR. WHITMAN:  Go ahead, Tony.

 

            Q     Yeah.  Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg News, sir.  On January 26th, 27th, 28th, what will you be looking for by way of some measures of success to determine whether your aggressive campaign up in the north central region has somewhat succeeded in managing the insurgency?

 

            And second, a numbers question:  Can you just double -- on the helicopters, how many did you have three weeks ago, and how many do you have today, to give a sense of buildup there for quick reaction?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Let me start with the second question first.  I'm not going to give you numbers.  But suffice it to say I've got twice what I had, and it's more than enough.

 

            With respect to the measures of effectiveness, this is something that I deal with all the time.  How do I know that the soldiers of the Iraqis security forces, how do I know that the soldiers of the coalition are being successful?  And I think, as we get closer to the election, my measure of effectiveness is how well we are doing in deliberate intelligence-driven combat operations to kill or capture the insurgent.

 

            Q     Can you say to me in layman's language, I mean, how many you've killed or how many targets you've successfully intercepted, based on what you were told earlier?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Based on our read of the enemy, based on our analysis as to where the leaders are, where the financers (sic) are, where these people are that are building vehicle-borne IEDs, my measure of effectiveness is how many of those we roll up.

 

            Q     Then to date, in the last month or two.

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Let me give you some figures.  Let me go to the next question, and I'll come back to that; I promise.

 

            Go ahead to the next question.

 

            Q     General, Jim Mannion from Agence France-Presse.  I was wondering if you could comment a little bit on what it is you see the insurgents doing in anticipation of these elections.  How do they appear to be organizing themselves to stop it, disrupt it?  And for instance, I think in the area of Tikrit it was pretty quiet until just fairly recently.  So do you see cells moving into some new areas ahead of the elections?  Can you describe what you're seeing in that regard?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Sure.  Let me first go back and answer the last question.

 

            Since the 1st of October, the Iraqi security forces working with us have killed, we think, about 200 of these insurgents, and we have detained 1,371.  I give you those numbers just to give you a level of effort, to show you that we are aggressively going after the enemy. We take the fight to the enemy.  We don't wait for him to come to us.

 

            To answer your question, it is true that in Tikrit two days ago there was a vehicle-borne IED; there hadn't been one in Tikrit for some time.  And quite frankly, Tikrit is doing very well as a region, as a city and a region.  It's an example where full-spectrum operations, properly conducted, work very well.  Full spectrum -- on the one hand, combat-driven, intel-driven operations to kill or capture, as I've already described, and on the other, stability operations that are designed to change the attitude of the people, that are designed to give the people an alternative to the insurgency. It's all about what are we doing to improve infrastructure and giving these great people a job, to give them an alternative to the insurgency.

 

            But it is true, two days ago there was a vehicle-borne IED that exploded on the southbound lane of Highway 1, about 200 meters away from the provincial police headquarters -- probably al Qaeda, if you believe what's in the Internet.  I don't know; very likely.  But I expect the insurgency to continue with intimidation in small cells. He is going to intimidate the weak.  He's going to go after the lamb. He'll go after the Iraqi security forces when he can find them in   small numbers, because he's beginning to fear the Iraqi security forces.  He'll attack us from a distance.

 

            Does that answer your question?   

 

            MR. WHITMAN:  General, this is Bryan Whitman.  You've been very generous with your time, and we've already exceeded the time that I know you've allocated for this.  So I'd just like to thank you, on behalf of everybody that's in this room, for spending some time with us this morning, wish you the best.  And hope that we can have you back again soon to talk about what the 1st ID is doing.

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Thank you, Bryan.  I should take this opportunity to thank you and everybody in the Pentagon, but also the American people for the incredible support that they're giving the soldiers of the 3rd Corps, and certainly the 1st Infantry Division combat team Task Force Danger.  That support is incredible and it means a lot to our soldiers.

 

            Let me see if there's any other questions back here in this audience.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Sir, Jim Garamone with American Forces Press Service. Could you just go into a little more detail on the mentoring program? And is that something that you can export to, say, the other divisions in Iraq so that they could work with the Iraqi security forces the same way?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  Jim, this is something that certainly has worked for us.  And as I described, it's all about establishing personal relationships.  It's personal relationships between battalion commanders -- Iraqi and American; battalion executive officers, battalion operations officers, company commanders, 1st sergeants, platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, right on down the line.

 

            What we have found is that the Iraqi army -- no surprise -- is just like us.  There are so many similarities, and you build on that, and you build that team and that trust.  You train hard.  Training must be realistic, dynamic, and you need to put soldiers in the same stress that they're going to experience in combat.  We found that the typical Iraqi soldier, when we got here, fired three rounds a year under Saddam's army.  That same soldier today is firing 3,000 rounds. He's absolutely qualified as a marksman with his AK-47.  That was definitely not true in the past.  So it's those kinds of things.

 

            One last question.

 

            Yes, in the back.

 

            Q     Alicia Rue (ph) with Voice of America.  I was just wondering, General, I was speaking to the electoral commission for Iraq the other day, and they said that they will probably will not have election results for at least seven to 10 days.  And I'm just wondering if you can -- if you say that violence is going to escalate towards the election, what's going to happen during that period while everybody's waiting for the election?

 

            GEN. BATISTE:  That's a great question.  It will take time for the IECI to gather the ballot boxes, count the votes and come up with an announcement.  And in the Balkans, in our experience, that takes some number of days.  And we expect the same.

 

            It's anybody's guess what the insurgent is going to do during that period of time.  But rest assured that the 1st Infantry Division combat team will continue our relentless pressure; we will not let up, working with our Iraqi security force partners.

 

            Okay.  Well, thank you all very much.  I appreciate it, and thank what you do. 

 

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