Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing Ongoing Operations of Task Force 1st Armored Division and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps in Baghdad
GEN. DEMPSEY: Good evening.
[Arabic greeting] -- for those of you celebrating Eid ul Adha.
Today I'm going to update you on the Task Force 1st Armored Division's ongoing operations in the city of Baghdad. Because this operation is aimed at, focused on the former -- continuing to defeat the former regime operating here, some of it will be familiar to you. But the piece of it that may not be familiar that I want to highlight is the participation in these operations by the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps in Baghdad is currently trained to the company level. Now, what that means is companies are about 190 men strong and we've trained, as you'll see on a subsequent slide, about 4,000 of them in 190-man increments. The next step will be to form battalions, which are four companies of that size; and then eventually, one brigade-size unit inside of the city of Baghdad. So we've got them trained up to the company level and operating with us.
I want to introduce at this point Captain Fakr al-Jaleel, who's a company commander. He's one of the company commanders [of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps] in Baghdad. And I asked him if he would be a spokesman for them today and explain their part not only in these operations but in the ongoing effort to build the ICDC in Baghdad. And he'll have a statement in a moment, after my slide presentation. And then the two of us together will take questions.
Within weeks we'll have seven battalions -- that many soldiers trained, they won't be trained at the battalion level yet; that will take some time between now and the summer to train their staffs, to give them an indigenous intelligence capability, to give them communications and transportation. At this point, they rely on us for some of that. What we've got at this point, though, are thousands of willing, patriotic young men and women in Baghdad working in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
This is the task of Operation Iron Resolve, so named because it's our intention to demonstrate resolve through this period of time as well as work closely with the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
What you see up here are the highlights, I would call them, of operations to date. We started on the 12th of January. Operation Iron Resolve will go for as long as we have intelligence to justify it going. We anticipate about another three- or four-week period of Operation Iron Resolve.
The highlights you see there, though, are those places where we have interdicted, disrupted and in some cases defeated the cellular structure of the former regime elements working in Baghdad.
Now throughout this period, there have been other operations ongoing, and this is not the only thing we're doing. And in fact -- next slide -- this is the roll-up of the part of Operation Iron Resolve focused on the former regime.
And just recall that when we talk about operators, we mean the trigger-pullers, and then we talk about financiers, suppliers and leaders, it's just that. It's those that organize against us. The operators are the street-level shooters.
The next slide.
I mentioned we were doing other things through this period. We -- this period was characterized by a great deal of human intelligence, especially on the issue of weapons, arms and ammunition. And so those little starbursts you see depicted across the map there indicate places where we either found on our own or were led to caches of weapons.
And so Operation Iron Resolve, overall -- remember, I said we did other things than attack specific cellular structures. This is a summary of everything that's gone on since about the 12th of January in Baghdad. And I'd draw your attention to the last three bullets, the RPGs, the small arms and the IED-making materials. Those we consider to be significant items to take off the street, for the safety of all.
And next slide.
This is the future of Baghdad and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and the Iraqi police. Lower left-hand corner of that slide -- or the lower right-hand corner of the slide, I guess, is the new patch recently approved for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. The brigade in Baghdad will be the 40th Brigade and will have the battalions numbered 301 through 307. So that's the patch.
And then you see that over time we will build battalion-level organizations, three on the east side of the river, four on the west side of the river, with the brigade headquarters on the west side of the river. And they will over time integrate themselves into operations with the coalition, with the Iraqi police, with the fixed-site protective services and, if necessary, the new Iraqi army.
We have recently received responsibility -- that is, my division -- for mentoring a new Iraqi battalion -- I'm sorry -- an Iraqi army battalion. In fact, we don't call it new anymore. It's the Iraqi army battalion up in Taji, which is about 20 kilometers north of the northern limit of the city [Baghdad].
And so we're going to, over time, work with all three of these organizations to conduct operations, give them their own indigenous intelligence network, and then allow them to conduct operations, with our assistance, to defeat whatever enemies confront them.
At this point, I'd like to turn it over -- next slide -- I'd like to turn it over to Captain al-Jaleel for his opening statement.
[Note: Captain al-Jaleel's remarks are provided through interpreter.]
CAPT. AL-JALEEL: (Interpretation off mike) -- also, they were (invaluable and tactical ) -- (inaudible) -- with the American officers, who were very cooperative, and they were really capable enough to transfer all their facilities to us. All these facilities were helping and assisting the Iraqi people.
There have been so many responsibilities; we have been doing it, one with -- together with the coalition forces. And we have just been -- we have made so many raids to some of these houses, and we were capable enough to confiscate some of these weapons who were -- and we were capable enough to install some of these checkpoints in the streets and in the public streets. And in some of these -- through these checkpoints we were capable enough to take over -- we were capable to capture some of those people, some of those criminals.
And through intelligence, we were capable enough to also put our hands on so many of the bomb cars that -- they were threatening the lives of the Iraqi people.
And our people, our ICDC, also they have taken their responsibilities in the stations, petrol stations. And some of those people -- some of our people of the ICDC were capable enough to also take their places in the stations, in the petrol stations, so that they can provide help, and assistance to the Iraqi people. And they have provided their life, to sacrifice their life for the country and for the people of Iraq.
At the end of my speech I would promise the Iraqi people that we will stay forever helping and providing help for the Iraqis and they will take bigger responsibilities in order to maintain the security and save the life for the Iraqi people.
Thank you very much.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Thank you, Captain.
Okay, we're prepared to take your questions now.
Q General Dempsey, there is an opinion -- I'm Khalil Hafi for Al Arabiyah channel. There's an opinion saying that you, the Americans, use the Iraqi Civil Defense and the Iraqi army to protect the American -- some of the Iraqi army used to protect the American positions, vital positions, and it's better to use them for the -- to save the Iraqis in the different places; for example, to stop the infiltrators to come into Iraq on the borders, and something like that. Do you agree with this?
GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, in a moment I'm going to ask the captain to respond from his perspective. But in terms of using the Iraqis to protect us, I think you would agree -- I think you should agree -- that we are the finest -- the United States Army is the finest army in the world. And our motivation is to train the willing, patriotic, young Iraqi men and women to learn and to develop the skills they need to defend and protect their own country. Working with them side by side is really the only possible way to do that.
Now, as to how the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps will be used in the future, after we step aside, that will be for the Iraqi people to decide. But the reason they're in our formations and walking, marching side by side with us now is that's really the best way to train. But I would like to see if the captain has any other perspective.
CAPT. AL-JALEEL: Yes, the ICDC are working -- they're working side by side with the coalition forces. And we are taking our roles and taking the responsibility to provide protection for the innocent Iraqis from the attackers and from the criminals.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Questions. Yes, sir?
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. DEMPSEY: I actually, I lost that one. I don't know if the booth -- go ahead.
INTERPRETER: Okay. Here's the question -- he's from Kuwait TV; he's asking if you have any information regarding what happened today in al-Doura city regarding the capture of some of the people who have got some explosive devices. So do you have any idea about that?
GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, actually I do. There were -- the Iraqi police and some of the fixed-site protective services found two men today emplacing a roadside bomb, took them into custody. The initial indications are that one is an Iranian and one is an Afghani. And we, of course, have to develop that through interrogation and try to determine what that means. But yeah, there were two men apprehended today near the al-Doura refinery emplacing a roadside bomb.
Questions. Yes, ma'am?
Q Hi there, Margaret -- [name inaudible] -- CNN. General, quite a few members of the ICDC that are attached to the 1st AD have claimed that they haven't been paid for up to two months. They also say that every time they've approached the coalition they have been given no answers. Could you both kind of comment on this, please?
GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, I'll tell you that in Baghdad if that's the case that's news to me. We have had some -- I will admit to you that pay -- establishing a pay system, a financial system in the city has been a challenge. I am unaware of any of the ICDC soldiers that work for the 1st Armored Division going without pay.
But let's see what the captain has to say.
CAPT. AL-JALEEL: It's not true. The payments have been made regularly to the people of the ICDC as -- two days ago. And I was the person who was in charge of that, and it has been paid. The payments have been made directly to those people.
GEN. DEMPSEY: What I will admit to you is that the pay has been a moving target. We're trying to figure out what is the right pay scale without creating an inflationary economy here. Everything we do here has other, second- and third-order effects. So, for example, initially there was a base pay, and then we determined over time that the soldiers deserved a hazardous duty pay, and so we added that on.
Now by the way, this is not entirely different than we see in our own system as we decide whether to have the tax exclusion, hazardous duty pay, family separation. It goes up, it goes down. These things happen in any society, really. And it's something we're starting up here. But for right now, we feel like we've got it about where we need it.
Oh, yeah, let's go -- is there anybody in the Pentagon, or did they take the Super Bowl day off there?
Q No, General, some of us are here. Barbara Starr from CNN.
Could I ask you, General Dempsey, to talk in some detail about your plan to reduce the number of military operating locations in Baghdad? I believe you were at 60, you're now down to about 26, and you plan to go to eight by April. One, are those numbers correct? What's the strategy behind doing that? How convinced are you that the Iraqi security forces can realistically look after that much of the security situation in Baghdad by the June time frame?
And finally, is this solely a military decision, or were you given the guidance to do this by the Department of Defense and the administration?
GEN. DEMPSEY: You broke up a little bit, but let me answer the part of it that I did clearly understand, and then if you need to come back at me, please do.
The question is, why are we moving outside of the city. And initially, you know, when we came here in June, we had 60 operating bases inside of the city, and it was necessary to do so because there was no police force, no fixed-site protective service function. There was nothing called the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. That came on board about the 27th of August. So inside the city of Baghdad in June was the United States Army and its coalition partners. So we lived inside the city in 60 different base camps, both literally to provide security but also to provide the appearance of security by our presence.
Over time, that has become less necessary. We have now about 7,500, almost 8,000 -- we just graduated a class of police from the academy -- we have almost 8,000 police. We'll have 10,000 by May, and 19,000 by February '05. We had zero ICDC; now we have about 4,000. We'll have 6,000 here within the next few months. There were no fixed-site protective service functions; there are now 5,700 of them; 700 or so work directly for me, 5,000 for the ministries.
As we have built those capacities up, those capabilities up, it makes absolute sense to me that we should allow those functions to be performed by Iraqis, for a couple of reasons. One is a very practical reason, which is they want to do it, as you heard the captain say. The second reason is that they know more about what goes on -- far more about what goes on in this city than I do. We just mentioned that we found an Iranian and an Afghani. A couple of days ago, we found a Jordanian with an RPG. I can't tell you from a visual acquisition of a car driving down the street who's who; they can. It makes sense that they would therefore take responsibility increasingly over time. So we have gone from 60 base camps to 24 right now. It will be eight by about the 1st of May.
Now by the way, when we talk about moving out of the city, we're talking about kilometers, not hundreds of kilometers. We're talking about an organization that will live on the perimeter of the city, not out in the desert someplace. We're talking about the difference in getting someplace in five minutes, in 15 minutes. But it's an important difference, and in my heart I think this is what the Iraqi people want and deserve because when we're in the middle of a city, we create a -- and you know this for sure; you're a part of it -- a huge footprint that you have to maneuver around. And so we will be able to reduce some of the trafficability challenges in Baghdad; a city, by the way, which had 500,000 cars on the 1st of April last year and has about 1.2 million cars now. And you know that, too, because you have to fight to get here just like I do. So that's the intellectual underpinning.
As far as what kind of guidance did I get from Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, the guidance was to seek whenever possible, and whenever the capacity of the Iraqi security forces allowed us to, local standoff; that is, just what we're doing: local standoff. Move to the outside and allow the security forces, with our assistance, to be the forefront -- to be in the forefront of this security challenge.
And as for my degree of confidence that they will be able to handle it, clearly we will watch the emerging threat. We think we have made a very significant dent in the former regime's apparatus and network, and there are other challenges that may be emerging, and we will watch those. And we will help the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, for example, build up its own intelligence network that allows them to operate inside the city with the police and the fixed-site protective service. I'm actually very confident. I think it's a necessary and correct step.
Q Following on that, you mentioned earlier that you have had some success against four of the regime cells. And can you tell me, how many cells do you think are still operating that are former regime cells, what's their state, and what kind of clarity do you have on any al Qaeda cells or any other foreign cells that might be developing in Baghdad?
GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah. Let me -- I will -- I can certainly answer about the former regime. We knew for some time because of our bottoms-up intelligence -- that is to say, we built a picture inside the city over time. Between the time we got here and the time, let's say, of Saddam Hussein's capture, we had a very good picture of about eight cells. But as you remember in previous press conferences, I admitted that there was this cloud that I couldn't penetrate. Over top of that, I had a sense that there was an organization to it, but I just couldn't penetrate it. And then the capture of Saddam Hussein allowed us to penetrate into that and determine some of the leadership, especially the financial backbone of it. We also discovered that instead of eight, it was 14 cells. This isn't new news, by the way. And we began attacking the leadership. And of the 14 cells, we have certainly disrupted eight of them, and in this most recent operation, continued that effort.
Now, the thing about a cell of insurgents, let's call them, it's a living organism. And so, you know, the act of defeating a piece of it on one day, it can regenerate itself. And so what we're trying to determine is to what extent they have.
You asked about their state. I would absolutely say with confidence that the insurgency in Baghdad is both -- is much less organized than it was a month ago, and it is much more fearful than it was a month ago because our operations are much more precise and much more effective in bringing in exactly the right people on our terms for a change.
Q [Through interpreter] You have just captured Saddam, is he the person who showed you the way to these cells? Was Saddam Hussein that person who just led you to the way for these cells?
GEN. DEMPSEY: I wouldn't put it exactly that way. Let me, instead, say that the capture of Saddam Hussein and some of the documents that were captured along with him allowed us to get a view of the insurgent cell that we didn't have before.
Q Evan Osnos from the Chicago Tribune. You might remember about a month ago we talked about the transition to local control and how you would make that determination. In that month there has been, of course, a series of other attacks. There was -- the most major bombing would be in Baghdad, and then most recently, far out of your area of responsibility, up in Erbil. How do events like that enter into your calculus as you're making these determinations? Or do you consider them red herrings? Or how much do they really impact that decision?
GEN. DEMPSEY: They are always -- it's probably too soon to say that they're impacting on the decision because the decision isn't entirely clear, so it's hard to impact on something that's not yet fully developed.
But I will tell you that from our perspective here in Baghdad, the characterization or the quality of those attacks is different than the hit-and-run style of the former regime, and because it's different it bears additional study. It concerns us that it could be another enemy, a different enemy, a foreign influence enemy, a terrorist network enemy.
But I go back to what I said about how it would impact on local control. One of the challenges for us in figuring out who's working against us inside of Baghdad is that, you know, we bring a uniquely Western view of life. And I mean, for example, you know, I'm born and raised in Bayonne, New Jersey. So being in Baghdad, I'm not all that adept at sitting on the street corner and picking out people. I can tell you that the good captain here is. So in some ways, I think the question about whether this effects negatively the transition to local control could actually turn out to be quite the opposite. It could be that that's all the more reason to transfer more quickly to local control -- could be.
Now again, this is all too new to me to be completely articluate and completely confident in what I'm saying. But the sooner we get Iraqis involved in their own security, in my view the sooner we're able to defeat those coming in from outside because they know who they are, and in every case it's not entirely clear to us.
What other questions. Ma'am?
Q Yeah, hello. Could you talk a little -- could you talk a bit about the training that ICDC have undergone, and also Iraqi police if possible, particularly with respect to the terrorist attacks and increasing presence of foreign fighters, if you like, in Iraq?
GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, I can, and then I'm going to -- I will ask the captain to comment on the training. But about 60 percent of them, by the way, are from -- are come to us having served in the military before, so they don't come to us untrained. In some cases it's refresher training. In other cases, it's adopting methods that are more conducive to democratic societies. But we take them through a one-week academy course, which you're all welcome to visit by the way -- we have two of them, one on each side of the river -- and that's kind of a basic training and refresher training. And then we actually take them and we form a partnership with a particular unit in one of my formations, and they go through training in we call it cordon and search: the act of picking a target inside of an urban environment, cordoning it off, moving into it, penetrating it, attacking the target, bringing it out, traffic control points, route reconaissance to make sure that the route is clear and safe.
But now let me see what the captain has to say about the training.
CAPT. AL-JALEEL: [Through interpreter] At the beginning, the training was two weeks. They have been trained, the ICDC, on the methods, the main methods of how to use the weapons, as we mentioned before, and the assistance and the emergencies and the first aid with the -- through working with the coalition forces. And there has been an intensive course and a continuous course on how to get these trainings. Some of them have been trained how to attack the terrorists and how to stop these terrorism attacks in anywhere.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Let's go to the Pentagon again.
Q Good afternoon, sir. Sandra Jontz with Stars & Stripes. If I could take you down a slightly different path here, what are you being told about CENTCOM's R&R program, the rest and recuperation program, and thus what are you passing on to your troops about that and the possible cancellation of the program or suspension for February and March?
GEN. DEMPSEY: The question relates to the R&R plan. We did make a command decision -- that would be me -- that we couldn't do any more environmental leave, R&R, after 31 January. We did that principally because we have a mission to accomplish in transitioning the city of Baghdad over to the unit following us. And when you do the arithmetic, at any given time we had about 2,000 soldiers gone on the R&R program.
By the way, I completely supported it. I embraced it. We sent and achieved about 60 percent of our soldiers on the program. But I can't any longer have them gone at such a critical point. And so that decision was made. We also were beginning to bang into some transportation problems, challenges, in that, for example, a two-week leave was talking about 25 days from start to finish. And so your point is a good one.
We have -- for 1st Armored Division -- I got to make that clear, too. For 1st Armored Division, who is leaving in about -- well, some of them are leaving soon and some a little bit later, over the next 90 days -- we have effectively stopped that program. We've got two other, smaller programs ongoing for R&R, one to Qatar, which is a 96-hour program, and then we have a facility here inside of Baghdad where we pull people offline for 48 hours to 72 hours. And so there are still some opportunities. But yeah, you've stated the challenge correctly, and I responded to it the way I think I should have responded to it.
Q Jen Aybran from Reuters. Can you talk a bit about the foreign insurgents in Baghdad? What sense do you get? Is there an increase? And also, is there much cooperation between former regime elements and foreign?
GEN. DEMPSEY: I can talk definitively about the presence as we know it. And as far as their cooperation, I'll tell you that's the number-one question on my intelligence requirements list. The question I ask my intelligence officer every morning is what evidence, if any, exists that the former regime is cooperating with or has even potentially ceded the lead to foreign influences. I don't know the answer to that.
But I'll tell you what we have seen. Until three days ago, we had captured a total of 19 foreigners in the city of Baghdad, out of several thousand individuals that we captured. So it -- I would not have characterized that particular number as a significant part of the fight. We very clearly still are fighting, as the principal enemy, the former regime and its structures.
Now I just mentioned in the last 72 hours we've picked up three foreigners. And then you add that to the earlier question about the particular nature of the VBIED at the front gate here and the attack up in Erbil, and I think it causes us to try figure out exactly what is occurring here. I don't know the answer to that yet. I'll just tell you that I am alert to that. And we have -- as we build this indigenous Iraqi security network, that is a question we hope they will help us answer as well.
Okay. I think we've got about five minutes. So we'll go a couple more questions.
Q Ashak Khalil with Cox News. I have a question for Captain -- [inaudible] -- or Captain Fakr.
[Through interpreter.] Captain Fakr, can you talk to me about the -- [inaudible] -- their presence in the petrol station, and what is their role for the protecting the people in the petrol stations?
CAPT. AL-JALEEL: The ICDC people were present at the petrol station so that they can organize the traffic and so that they can solve the traffic jam and the -- because some of the people were trying to violate or trying to stop the -- trying to create a problem. So the ICDC tried to organize the traffic and the cars in the petrol station. And they tried to stop some of those people who were trying to create problems and trying to do such a traffic jam.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah. I'd only add that the ICDC has been a tremendous group of young men and women willing to do whatever they can to contribute to stability in Baghdad. I mean, if you live in Baghdad, you've got to appreciate that.
We'll take two more questions. There's one.
Q James Hyde of the Times. What's the status of the foreign fighters that you pick up and detain? And are they processed in any different way to the former regime loyalists that you have in detention?
GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, I hope you don't mind a one-word answer to that one. The answer's yes. Are they processed differently? Yes. Why? Because we want to know why they're here.
And I can actually take two more. That was a short one. Yeah. We'll go with the Pentagon the last question, but let me have this gentleman here.
Q [Through interpreter.] -- Al-Arabiya, from Al-Arabiya. There are -- four units are organizing security: the Iraqi forces, the ICDC, the Iraqi police and the police for protecting the establishment, this variety of those forces. What is the future between the Iraqi minister of defense and the forces of the ICDC? Are those going -- the forces of the ICDC, are they going to join the Iraqi forces -- the ministry of defense?
GEN. DEMPSEY: [Off mike] -- I will let him have shot at it.
But let me ask you this, are you an Iraqi citizen living here in Baghdad?
GEN. DEMPSEY: Then I say you probably will have a voice in that decision. I think it's premature for us to put any particular structure in place that you may want to undo after we leave. Now I will tell you for now, they're all working for us and we're training them and we will continue to work with them, but I think those kind of questions are best left for sovereignty as it is achieved. I think the Iraqis -- now, my personal opinion is I think the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and the police are a powerful team for this kind of urban warfare and urban security challenge.
CAPT. AL-JALEEL: [Through interpreter] The ICDC is an independent corps, but we are quite confident in the future that they might join the ministry of defense. And for the time being, I don't have any idea about that one, about which ministry are they going to be classified or which ministry are they going to join.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Okay. Pentagon?
Q Yes, sir. Barbara Starr again, CNN. Given your one-word answer about whether people are being processed differently, I wonder if I could just follow up on that. To your knowledge, sir, has anyone taken into custody in Baghdad or in Iraq who is perhaps not Iraqi been sent to Guantanamo Bay?
GEN. DEMPSEY: I don't know about that. When I say that they're being handled differently, that's by me and in the cooperative organizational intelligence network that we have on our side, that's representing all of those potential government agencies' intelligence apparatus to determine collectively what is going on, not only in Baghdad but throughout the country and in the region. So no, I didn't -- no, please don't take the implication that they're going to Guantanamo. I don't know -- you know, I process them through, I get as much tactical intelligence as I can get, and then they go into -- generally speaking, into Abu Ghraib. But what my point was is we have different questions for them than we do for the former regime who's shooting an AK-47 at us.
Look, I wanted to -- first of all, thanks for coming today. I know for some of you, this is one of only two holidays of the year, so I appreciate your attendance.
I wanted to publicly and personally thank the captain for appearing with me. You know, it's not without its challenges and concerns and risks.
But here's my message to you, to the Iraqi people really: There are a lot of courageous young men and women that are willing to be part of the future of Iraq; this young man just happens to be one of them. And I'm very proud that he agreed to be here with me today. I'm very proud of what he's doing and his soldiers. And it's reason -- you often wonder why I'm so optimistic about the future, it's, generally speaking, because I run into a young man like this captain here often.
So please join me and give him a round of applause. (Applause.)
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