(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 evening. We apologize for the delay in getting started, the having to postpone. You know, we normally try to stick to 5:00, and we try to stick to it and start promptly. Tonight is an exception.
I just have a couple words about Ambassador Bremer's schedule today, and then General Kimmitt will have an opening statement, and then we'll be happy to take your questions.
Ambassador Bremer today began meeting with members of the Iraqi Governing Council to make available to them the full copy of the Zarqawi al Qaeda memo. It is a 17-page memo, in Arabic, and he is beginning the process of allowing Governing Council members to read it closely.
This is part of the current stage in the Zarqawi -- in the Iraq strategy for Zarqawi. What I mean by "Iraq strategy" is, we intend to maximize exposure of the memo, maximize exposure of Zarqawi's plans for Iraq, and hope to maximize participation of Iraqis in the hunt for Zarqawi.
It is clear from Zarqawi's memo that Iraqi security forces have already begun to put enormous pressure on him and his efforts in Iraq. And we intend to ramp up that pressure, and working closely with the Iraqi Governing Council and with other Iraqi leaders throughout the country will be a critical element in our overall strategy.
Kimmitt: Thank you.
Good evening. The area of operations remains relatively stable. Over the past week, there have been an average of 22 engagements daily against coalition military, less than three attacks daily against Iraqi security forces, and just under one attack daily against Iraqi civilians.
To that end, in the past 24 hours, the coalition conducted 1,495 patrols, 21 offensive operations, 10 raids, and captured 73 anti-coalition suspects. In the northern zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 48 patrols, six offensive operations, and detained six anti-coalition suspects.
Yesterday afternoon two U.S. soldiers were killed and five wounded near Sinjar when confiscated enemy ammunition was being moved to a demolition point. A rocket-propelled grenade exploded, killing one soldier instantly and wounding five others. A second soldier died en route to the 61st Combat Support Hospital. Three soldiers are in stable condition at the 61st, and two other soldiers have been returned to duty.
Yesterday Navy divers recovered the remains of an Iraqi policeman lost on 25 January while patrolling the Tigris River with U.S. soldiers. The remains have been positively identified and returned to Iraqi authorities, and the search continues for the lost U.S. soldiers.
In the north central zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 375 patrols, 10 raids, and captured 16 anti-coalition suspects. A coalition patrol observed 10 men armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers north of Mukadiyah (ph) on the evening of February 9th, apparently establishing an ambush position. In the ensuing firefight, coalition soldiers killed 10 enemy and recovered five AK-47 assault rifles, four rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 2 RPK machine guns, two hand grenades, and a pair of night-vision goggles. The remains of those killed have been turned over to Iraqi officials.
In Baghdad, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 493 patrols, 37 escort missions, and captured seven anti-coalition suspects.
In the western zone of operations, coalition forces and Iraqi security forces conducted 257 patrols, including 15 independent Iraq Civil Defense Corps patrols, and captured 10 anti-coalition suspects. Additionally, 2,040 persons in 66 buses crossed back into Iraq at the Arar crossing site as they returned from the Hajj. To date, 5,357 persons have returned from Saudi Arabia through this region.
This morning, coalition forces reported a car bomb with approximately 500 pounds of explosives detonated at the Iskandariyah police station south of Baghdad. Current military reports indicate at least 35 persons were killed and 75 were wounded. The 82nd Airborne Division responded to the scene with an Air Quick Reaction Force, medical assets, ground troops, and additional investigative assets. No coalition forces were wounded in this incident.
Yesterday morning, 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers conducted a cordon and search in Ul Walium (ph) to kill or capture anti-coalition forces. The operation resulted in the capture of six enemy personnel, including three of the primary targets. Also confiscated were small arms weapons, five doorbells, six car-phone kits, phones, wire, identification cards and miscellaneous documents indicating that they were attempting to construct remote-controlled improvised explosive devices.
In the central-south zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 98 patrols, established 28 checkpoints and escorted 40 convoys.
Yesterday, 50,000 Iraqis gathered peacefully in An Najaf in preparation for the election of the next Imam of the Ali Shrine on 17 February. The event was peaceful and concluded without incident.
Senor: We'll be happy to take your questions.
Q [Through interpreter.]: Yesterday we heard the assassination of Muhsin al-Khafaji, who was responsible of the Al Qadasiyah cell in Najaf. So what are the -- how can you prove that -- how much of this subject is true?
Kimmitt: I'm sorry, would you again tell me the name of the person?
Interpreter: Muhsin al-Khafaji. The name of the person is Muhsin al-Khafaji.
Kimmitt: If this is the sheikh that was from Al Ramadi --
Q [Through interpreter.]: No, no. He is responsible of the parties -- he was a member of the leadership. He was a member of the leadership.
Kimmitt: Let me take that question and we'll get an answer for you.
Senor: Any other questions?
Q: Vivian Walt from Time Magazine. This one's for the General. I wonder if you have any details for us about the explosives in the car bomb, what comprised the 500 pounds?
Kimmitt: We don't have any details. Obviously, the car was completely demolished. We have persons on site going through the investigation at this point. The estimation of 500 pounds was based on people making judgments based on the explosive power, the radius, so on and so forth. But in terms of the composition of the bomb, we probably won't know that for a while.
Q: Yeah, Jim Krane, AP. Does this attack bear the same hallmarks of the ones that you were blaming last night on the al Qaeda operative here whose letter that you got? Is there any -- can you say anything yet --
Kimmitt: We're not sure if there are any connections between that. However, it does show some of the fingerprints: large bomb, car bomb. We don't know at this point whether it was a suicide bomber or whether a person escaped from that and detonated it. Large number of civilians, outside of a police station that was heavily hardened. As a result, there were very few police casualties. But this is indicative of a number of types of attacks that we've seen directed against Iraqi civilians and symbols of Iraqi authority, which are consistent with some of the other bombings we've seen of late.
But it is too early -- no group has claimed responsibility, and it's really too early at this point in the process to start pointing fingers in any specific direction.
Senor: Yeah, just to follow on that point, while it's premature to speculate, the Zarqawi memo makes it clear that he and al Qaeda forces feel threatened by the growing Iraqi security services and by their increasing effectiveness and by the process by which we hand over sovereignty to the Iraqi people. And certainly incidents like today are consistent with the sort of attacks one would make against institutions like the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and Iraqi political leaders, by which these terrorists feel threatened.
So as I said, that point isn't lost on us, but obviously the investigation will have to bear out before we can make any final judgment.
Q [Through interpreter.]: (Name and affiliation inaudible.) One for Kimmitt and the other for Dan Senor.
General Kimmitt, after you received the documents or 17-page document, are there -- (Inaudible.) -- strategy that will be implemented by the coalition forces and to combat the terrorism and all terrorist acts?
The second question: After Paul Bremer read the 17-page document and gave it to the Governing Council, what are his comments on that letter? And what will his decision or the coalition decision be on that? Thank you.
Kimmitt: Well, as we've seen in all terrorist attacks around the world, the first element of the strategy is quite simply we will not negotiate, nor will we bend towards terrorism, nor will we bend towards terrorism's demand. That's number one.
Number two, what became very, very clear in that document is what the terrorist Zarqawi, who wrote this, is most afraid of is that the current strategy that we are implementing is in fact working. He's terrified of the coalition's will. He's terrified of the coalition's military capabilities. He is terrified of the fact that we are building a Iraqi security structure that prevents him from establishing a base inside this country. And he's terrified of a country that, rather than bowing to terrorism, is moving towards democracy.
And so what that does is it confirms for us that the current strategy that we have is the correct strategy. And as we continue to work, the coalition and people of Iraq together, to hunting down Zarqawi and those of his ilk, that is the best strategy we have to ensure that we limit his capability to operate inside Iraq.
Senor: And as far as Ambassador Bremer's intentions in showing the document to members of the Governing Council, we believe that Zarqawi is on the run. His memo makes it clear that he's frustrated with the ability to hide in Iraq; the geographical landscape and contours of this country, which he cites, makes it difficult for him to hide in Iraq, and the fact that fewer and fewer Iraqis are willing to bring people like him and his ilk into their homes and protect them.
So part of this effort is information. It's intelligence. The more Iraqis we put on -- we make aware of the Zarqawi strategy to, the more Iraqis that are aware of it and know about it, they will have their antennas up and could provide us information that will help us hunt him down. So as I said, first part of it is just improving our intelligence-gathering capability on Zarqawi by publicizing this with key Iraqi leaders.
Two, it's to inform Iraqi leaders, so they can help protect against the ethnic warfare that Zarqawi is trying to provoke in this country. So if there is an attack against Shi'a leadership or there is an attack against a Shi'a holy site, the various ethnic leaders won't be easily drawn into reprisals, because that's exactly what Zarqawi and al Qaeda are trying to provoke in this country. They're trying to tear this country apart with ethnic bloodshed. And it is to put Zarqawi on notice. It is to alert all Iraqi leaders that this is his strategy.
And finally, it's important when we say the strategy of building up the Iraqi security services is working. It's important when the Iraqi Governing Council leaders say that building up of Iraqi security forces is working. But nothing is more important than when the enemies of Iraq say that the building up of Iraqi security services is working. And it's important for Iraqi leaders to see that the fact that there are over 150,000 Iraqis on the ground today, protecting their own country; there are more Iraqis in security positions in their own country today than there are Americans protecting their own country -- it's important for Iraqis to see that our collective strategy, the coalition working hand in hand with the Iraqis on protecting their country, is working.
Q: Gregor Mayer from German Press Agency, DPA. Mr. Senor, when you were speaking about maximum exposure, why don't you just release this document and give it to the media and have it public? And when was it written at all? So how many time ago?
Senor: We don't know the exact date that it was written. We did take ownership of it in mid-January -- if that's correct --
Senor: -- when we detained a certain Iraq -- al Qaeda courier who had it in his possession.
We plan to release the document in its entirety. We have to conduct further analysis on it. We are making it available to key individuals who can help us in this stage of the pursuit of Zarqawi. We are in the process of finalizing that. Part of that relates to Ambassador Bremer's meetings today with certain Governing Council members. Once we cycle through that -- and like I said, we're finalizing that stage now -- we intend to make it public to all of you. Fear not; everyone here will have an opportunity to see this complete document. And we intend for every Iraqi to take a close look at it to see what the foreign terrorists that are coming into this country have planned for Iraq and how we can protect against it together.
Q: Bob McMannon (ph), NBC News. It's a two-part question for the general and for Mr. Senor. With this bombing and other recent attacks, how much of a concern is it that it will affect recruitment and the Iraqi police performing their day-to-day operations?
And for Mr. Senor, how important are the Iraqi police to the handover, and why are they being targeted?
Kimmitt: Well, first of all, today was a tragic day for the Iraqi police service. They lost a number of police officers in the line of duty. I would like to report that this is the first day I've had to stand up here and say that; it is not. Nuri Badran has said that over 300 of his police officers have been killed since last April. Yet they continue to come back to work every day. They continue to get larger and larger; they continue to grow. We have approximately 70,000 persons in the police service right now. And I think the greatest compliment and the greatest credit to the Iraqi police service is that despite the fact that this is an almost daily event that they are attacked, threatened, terrorized, they still come back to work. And the overall number of the Iraqi police service gets larger and larger every day. And so we don't think that after repeated attacks and repeated bombings directed against the Iraqi police service that the recruiting efforts will be swayed by this one event today, since they've had so many others before this.
Senor: What was your question for me? I'm sorry. How well are they equipped?
Q: No. How important are the Iraqi police to the handover at the end of June and why are they being targeted?
Senor: Yeah. Every Iraqi security service is important to the handover in June because maintaining Iraqi security during the handover and afterwards are essential components to the success of the handover. That is why the U.S. -- United States Congress has appropriated over $3 billion in the supplemental that passed last year towards the building up of the Iraqi security forces -- training, equipment, et cetera. So we'll continue doing that.
We've just launched an eight-week training course for new Iraqi police recruits. In the past we had relied almost exclusively on Iraqi police officers that had returned to work, who just needed retraining, if you will, an accelerated training program to teach them, you know, basic skills and professional investigations; how to conduct policing in a democracy, respect for human rights, those sorts of things. But there are other basic Iraqi training skills they had had before. Now what we're doing in Jordan and other areas in Iraq is training first-time Iraqi police officers in a comprehensive course.
So it's a primary focus of our overall security strategy here in Iraq, and that's why over $3 billion is dedicated to the effort. But it's not the only one. There's the Iraqi police, of which there are over 70,000 serving in Iraq today. There's the new Iraqi army. There is the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, which I might add, Mr. Zarqawi references specifically in his memo; he talks about the effectiveness of an Iraqi security force whose members operate in the communities in which they live. I mean, it clearly helps get them -- get better intelligence for the Iraqi security services when they have individuals operating in their own communities, communities in which they live and sleep. They have, obviously, a better sense of the language than we do, and therefore, they're on the frontlines. They have a better sense for the daily rhythm of life in their communities and across Iraq. And so Zarqawi singles them out. That's obviously a critical component.
The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps is now conducting some of their own operations. The Border Guard, obviously, is key in protecting against these foreign fighters come over. And the Facilities Protection Services that are covering electrical lines and oil infrastructure and other state-owned assets. So, all the security services are important to promoting stability. We've made it a high priority with the funds we've deployed to this effort.
And we are pleased by the reaction we are getting from the Iraqis. As General Kimmitt said, despite repeated attacks, the Iraqis are lining up every day, signing up, wanting to join. No doubt part of it is many people want a job. But there's also a sense of patriotism we're sensing out there in the streets, and national pride. Iraqis want to play a part in the protection and the building up of the future of their country.
Q: Kristen Gossby (ph), CBS Radio. You were just mentioning the role of the different security services in Iraq. Have the Iraqi Mukhabarat, or intelligence services, been reconstituted? And if so, what is their role in foiling such attacks that we saw today? Thank you.
Senor: The answer to your first question is no.
Q [Through interpreter.]: The Iraqi policemen have been threatened so many times. Are you going to look over again re-weaponing the Iraqi policemen with new weapons?
Senor: We are constantly evaluating the weapons and equipment that we have the Iraqi police and other security services deployed with, and we are providing this equipment on a regular basis. As I said, over $3 billion of U.S. taxpayer funding is dedicated towards Iraqi security services, a large percentage of which is dedicated to equipping Iraqi police with the resources they need to do their job. We will continue to do that.
Obviously, Iraqi police and other Iraqi security services continue to be on the front lines of battling crime. They've been doing it effectively. In Baghdad in the last two months, crime on the streets has declined by 39 percent. We recently met with the governor of Basra, who told Ambassador Bremer that crime in Basra over the last two months has declined by 70 percent. Something is working. What is that something? What is the difference? The difference is the Iraqi police force, because when we arrived here in the spring, there was not one single Iraqi police officer on the streets. As many of you were here. You could drive the streets and would not see any Iraqi police patrols.
Here we are, some nine months later, and there are over 70,000 Iraqi police on the street. Could they improve? Should their numbers increase? You bet. But they have made an enormous difference. It's -- part because of their own commitment. It's in part because of their own professionalism. It's in part because of their own commitment to improving their skill sets. But it's also in part with -- it's also in part due to the resources we're providing them to do their job. And they are doing it increasingly better every single day.
Someone who hasn't asked something. Yes, ma'am?
Q [Through interpreter.]: Zena Murad (sp) from the German Radio. Do you have any information about the suicidal act or the suicide person in Al-Sheikh (sp) area?
A second question: Do you have any information on the capture of Mr. al-Khafaji, number, I think, 84? Thank you.
Senor: Forty-eight, yeah.
Kimmitt: Yeah. The -- I believe the first question you were -- asked was regarding an assassination attempt, vicinity Ar Ramadi last evening. At approximately 21:45 last night, military forces were -- reported that there was an explosion outside of Sheikh Antar's (sp) house in Ar Ramadi. The suicide bomber was a male between 22, 27 years of age. He apparently was wearing a black male dress with a tan jacket. He had -- the bomb was strapped to his body in a vest around his waist.
As you might expect, the suicide bomber has -- was killed, and the civilian authorities have taken four additional persons that were wounded in that event to the hospital. So we had a total of five persons injured from that explosion, and Sheikh Antar (sp) was not injured in that event.
With regards to Blacklist number 48, as CENTCOM reported, Muhsin Khadr al-Khafaji was brought in. He was number 48 on the top 55 Iraqi "Most Wanted" list. And I do apologize if this was the question you asked earlier, because I thought what was asked was, was he assassinated? I must have been --
Q: (Off mike.)
Q: (In Arabic.)
Q: (In Arabic.)
Kimmitt: Well, let me just give you what I do have on number 48. He previously served as the Ba'ath Party secretary in Dhi Qar Governate from 1996 to 2000. He was governor of Al Muthanna Governate from 1991 to 1995, former mayor of As Samawa, and he served as the Ba'ath Party regional command member with responsibility for Al Qasidiyah (sp) -- Qadisiyah and An Najaf governates in southern Iraq from 2001 and 2003.
He is in coalition custody. He is being held at a safe location. And when he was captured, he was in good health -- and is still in good health.
Q: Kayam Saddaq (sp), CNN. How would you categorize the Al-Badr group, and how would you think that -- how significant are they in the operations of Zarqawi and al Qaeda?
Kimmitt: Which group?
Senor: Which group are you talking about?
Q: Al-Badr. I often hear reports that they are captured in raids in Fallujah --
Kimmitt: Well, we certainly have the -- the Badr organization --
Kimmitt: That's an organization further south.
Senor: The Badr Brigade? Are you talking about the Badr Brigade?
(Off-mike conferral of briefers.)
Kimmitt: We are not aware that they have had any activities up in Fallujah region, that I'm aware of. We know that they operate in the southern area of the country, and when -- as and when individuals engage in anti-coalition activities, like all Iraqis, we take positive action.
Senor: Someone who hasn't asked. Go ahead, sir.
Q [Through interpreter.]: I have another question. I have another question because you didn't answer the second question. Can you give us information regarding the way that you have captured Muhsin al-Khafaji, the mechanism of getting hold of Muhsin al-Khafaji?
Kimmitt: Well, I'm sorry I'm going to have to disappoint you again. I can tell you that we do have him under control. The method by which he was captured -- we typically keep those tactics, techniques and procedures obviously secret, and we're prefer to keep it that way for tonight as well.
Senor: We have time for one more. Yes, sir?
Q: Yes, sir. It's a question for you. (Inaudible name.) from Kyodo News, Japanese news agency. For you, Mr. Dan. So about IMN activities -- Iraqi Media Network activities, yes -- because I have a report that Paul Bremer put nine-point list of prohibited activities. So --
Senor: I'm sorry?
Q: Nine points prohibited activities against the Iraqi Media Network.
Senor: Nine points of prohibited activities?
Senor: Where was this posted?
Q: Well, I have some reports about it. So my question is why they don't control the IMN activities? What's the purpose? So this is against freedom.
Senor: No, no. I'm asking you your first question, not your second question.
Q: No, no --
Senor: I'm asking about the premise of your question. What nine points? I need you to enlighten me.
Q: Well, yes. Including ethnic and religious hatred which make the -- you know, some -- (Inaudible.) -- towards the self- government.
Senor: I'm sorry. Can you repeat it one more time?
(Questioner confers off mike with his colleagues.)
Q [English-speaking journalist.]: I can just read this real quick, if you want. It says his nine point was to prohibit activities, include incitement to racial, ethnic or religious hatred, advocating support for the prewar Ba'ath Party and publishing material that is patently false, et cetera.
Senor: Right. That sounds to me like you're reading from -- I'd have to take a closer look at it. But it sounds like what you're reading from is the public order Ambassador Bremer signed with regard to incitement of violence in Iraq, using the media to incite violence in Iraq. It's not specific to the Iraqi Media Network, it relates to media broadly. It's a set of standards that's consistent with laws against incitement of violence that exist in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in Australia. It's consistent with international standards.
It is basically a public order that tries to strike a balance between the protection of a free media, which we have gone to great lengths to protect in this country; clearly, exhibited the nightly news conferences we hold. And there are over 200 newspapers operating in Iraq right now freely, some of which agree with what we do day to day; many of which often express criticism of what we do day to day. There are numerous radio stations, some television stations all operating freely in this country. It is something we feel quite strongly about. Certainly we have gone to great lengths to liberate the media, to protect a free media here in a much faster timeline than has been done in other postwar occupations, certainly in Germany is a good example.
But we have to strike a balance between protecting that free media and also protecting against the incitement of violence against the Iraqi people and the protection against incitement of violence against the coalition. And it's a sensitive balance we have to strike. We do the same thing in our country. But we think it's an important priority in engaging the media in a very liberal and free environment, but also not at the expense of the safety of the Iraqi people and of the coalition soldiers.
So, that's it. Thanks, everybody. Good night.
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