United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing from Iraq

Presenters: Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt and Dan Senor
March 02, 2004
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing from Iraq

(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:  (In progress.) -- this evening, in response to today's attacks.  There will also be a couple of press conferences being held later this evening.  The details are being worked out.  I will have one announcement on it as it's finalized.  I hope to get a note on it by the end of this press briefing.

 

     Please keep in touch with the international press center throughout the evening for any other announcements that may be made with regard to press conferences this evening.  We will try to get the information to you with as much notice as possible, but understand that we may not be able to give you as much notice as we normally provide.  But we will send something out, so monitor your e-mail and be in touch with the press center.

 

     General Kimmitt.

 

     Kimmitt:  Thanks.

 

     Good evening.  This morning, between 10:00 and 10:30 hours, a series of near-simultaneous explosions caused numerous casualties in Baghdad and Karbala.  The reports that we have are as follows:

 

     In Baghdad, a number of explosions, vicinity of the Al-Kadhimiya mosque, caused 58 deaths and over 200 wounded, with blast-type injuries.  The Iraqi police service reports that three suicide bombers detonated explosives in the vicinity of the mosque, and a fourth suicide bomber, wearing an explosive vest, was apprehended.  All personnel are being treated in the Ministry of Health facilities.

 

     In Karbala, the commander of Multinational Division Central South reports an explosion in the city center, as well as multiple explosions three to four miles from the city center.  These explosions killed approximately 85 personnel and wounded approximately 230, with blast-type injuries.  The commander estimates that the explosions were caused by three methods:  a suicide bomber in the city center, explosives alongside the road outside of the city set off by remote detonation devices, and mortar rounds fired from nearby the city.  Six personnel were apprehended by the Iraqi police service.  No group has claimed responsibilities for these acts.

 

     Senor:  We will take your questions.  Yes, sir?

 

     Q [Through interpreter.]:  (Name and affiliation inaudible.) My question, General Kimmitt:  Regarding those who were earlier -- that person who was arrested in -- (Inaudible.) -- and the group that was arrested in Karbala, could you give us more information?  This -- (Inaudible.) -- of attacks -- does it indicate weakness in security of the coalition forces?

 

     Kimmitt:  First of all, with the people who were apprehended, we know very few details on who was apprehended.  In both cases they are being held by the Iraqi police service and we expect soon that they will be providing us information in terms of their nationality and perhaps their motivations as well.  We certainly don't believe that this indicates that the coalition is demonstrating weakness.  In fact, we had well coordinated plans with the Iraqi Civil Defense service, the Iraqi police service and the coalition forces to provide security at these and a number of other sites in observance of the Ashura festival.

 

     Senor:  I would just add that this was a clear and tragically well-organized act of terrorism.  And over the past couple of years, we've seen that these acts of terrorism can be carried out all over the world.  In cities and countries where security is maximum, in some cases, whether it was Istanbul or Casablanca, Riyadh, Jerusalem or New York City, terror attacks can be executed just about anywhere, as Secretary-General Kofi Annan said following the attack on the U.N. compound here in Baghdad last August.  He said it is impossible to provide security and prevent against these sorts of attacks 100 percent of the time.

 

     Yes, sir?

 

     Q [Through interpreter.]:  (Inaudible.) -- newspaper.  What is the reason for the penetration of the security arrangements?  Is it tactical mistakes or was it a technological penetration?

 

     Kimmitt:  Well, in the case of the Kadhimiya mosque, we wouldn't suggest that there were any failures in the security.  The terrorists had this well planned out.  They had obviously planned this for an extensive period of time.  They wore clothing, more than likely, which would hide the fact that they were wearing explosive vest devices.  They are very easy to hide devices, very, very difficult to detect.

 

     Senor:  Yes, sir?

 

     Q:  Just two quick questions.  Can you give us the identity of the suicide bomber that you captured, tell us something about him? And one of the things that you notice when you go to these scenes is that there aren't nearly as many American soldiers around as there used to be.  On some cases, you don't really see them except in the helicopters in the air.   And I wonder if you feel that that's the right strategy at the moment and how encouraging that is to the Iraqi people and security forces.

 

     Kimmitt:  In the question -- the first question, regarding the identity of the person that the Iraqi police service apprehended, we haven't been given that information yet.  We would expect to have it fairly soon.

 

     With regards to the notion of not having coalition forces in the direct vicinity of the mosque, the plan was specifically meant to respect the cultural requirements and the cultural desires of those planning these events.  The military forces -- the coalition forces set an outer cordon.  The ICDC, the Iraqi Civil Defense service as well as the Iraqi police service set the inner cordon.  These were coordinated plans that were done not only amongst ourselves, but among other officials within the city and within the organizations.  We had set up joint coordination centers in the area so that we could both conduct the ongoing security as well as consequence management.  And as of this morning before the incidents, all the parties involved felt that there was sufficient security to mitigate the chance of a significant event, but not eliminate that.

 

     Senor:  Christine?

 

     Q:  Can you address the response that the troops had at the Kadhimiya mosque, where they said they were called three times by the Iraqi police.  They needed help medically.  They brought in an ambulance, three different kind of medical vehicles, and quickly realized that they couldn't handle the crowd.  They were stoned.  People -- I guess had some bones broken among the Americans.  How is that being coordinated?  And Lieutenant Colonel Myles Miyamasu gave me details about this.  What do you know about it?

 

     Kimmitt:  Well, first of all, Myles is the commander of [1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment], who had direct responsibility for the joint coordination center for the Kadhimiya mosque.  I don't know what was said in his report.  I did see the television clips of things being thrown at the American soldiers.  That's absolutely understandable in a time of grief like that that people might try to vent their sadness, vent their outrage at persons other than those who actually committed it.  I think the passion of the moment probably caused that, and I think once events settled down that there was a great opportunity for the Iraqi police service as well as the coalition forces to provide assistance and render assistance as necessary.

 

     Senor:  Yes?

 

     Q:  General, did you say that there were suspected mortars used in the Karbala incident?

 

     Kimmitt:  The report that we had was that mortars may have been used on the outskirts.  The report that we had indicated that they weren't very effective, but they had been fired, but that the main damage was caused in the explosive -- the injuries were caused by the suicide bomber who was able to get inside Karbala as well as the explosives that were detonated along the path outside the city -- the road outside the city heading in that most of the pilgrims were traveling.

 

     Q:  Would this have been the first time mortars have been utilized like this --

 

     Kimmitt:  Oh, no.  We see mortar attacks on a frequent basis here inside of Iraq.

 

     Senor:  Jim?

 

     Q:  Yeah.  There were a couple other attacks this morning in Baghdad, one on a humvee with some 1st AD soldiers, I believe there was one killed, and another on a vehicle apparently owned by Al-Jazeera.  Do you think those are at all related to the other two attacks and were just mistaken targets, or just completely unrelated, or --

 

     Kimmitt:  No way of knowing, but the proximity of the 1AD attack wouldn't indicate that it had anything to do with the ongoing Ashura festivals.

 

     Senor:  Yes?

 

     Q:  Hi, Sandra Brown from Reuters.  Can you just confirm, did you say three suicide bombers at the mosque in Baghdad and then one in Karbala?

 

     Kimmitt:  The report that we had from the Iraqi police service placed three suicide bombers inside the mosque -- in the vicinity of the mosque in Baghdad and one in Karbala.

 

     Senor:  Mark?

 

     Q:  Thanks.  Two quick questions.  Mark Stone, ABC.  The Governing Council seemed absolutely convinced that this was the work of Mr. Zarqawi.  Can you give us any other indication other than the letter that this is indeed his work?

 

     And secondly -- no, in fact just that one.  Thanks.

 

     Kimmitt:  Yeah, certainly one of the chief suspects in this would be Zarqawi just by the methods that have been used in the past, just by the techniques that have been used in the past; by the axiom of suicidal, spectacular, symbolic.  All those would point to some sort of transnational organization.  Probably had some local assistance, but very, very indicative of the modus that we have seen in some of the other suicide attacks as well.

 

     Senor:  I would just add in talking to the Governing Council members, they were referencing this Zarqawi letter which I know many of you have seen, and there were two items in the letter that jumped out at them, which led them to believe that Mr. Zarqawi or affiliates of Mr. Zarqawi or individuals of his ilk may have been involved in this.

 

     One is his detailed strategy for provoking sectarian warfare, ethnic warfare in this country.  And his indirect reference to attacks against Shi'a earlier last year, particularly the one attack in Najaf last summer, and the similarities between -- the Governing Council in our meetings earlier were pointing out the similarities between those attacks and these attacks, and Mr. Zarqawi in his letter takes credit -- takes responsibility for 25 such operations in Iraq over the past six months, nine months.

 

     Secondly, Mr. Zarqawi specifically references that the greatest threat to al Qaeda, its affiliates, foreign terrorists coming into this country is the path to Iraqi democracy.  The fact that -- he says explicitly, actually, as we move closer and closer to June 30th and the Iraqis have their -- and he says, quote, unquote, "their democracy," the terrorists will lose their pretext, their excuse to engage in the attacks.  And certainly when you have events like we've had over the past few days, where the Iraqis take an enormous step forward in their path towards a sovereign democracy, which is the drafting and finalization of their transitional administrative law -- the interim constitution that will govern affairs for them in a democracy -- that's a significant step forward, and certainly the kind of event and the kind of progress that the terrorists would seek to derail.

 

     Q:  If I could just quickly follow up with a slightly separate issue.  Dr. Arubai (ph) said that coalition forces must in the future be more proactive.  He even called for, you know, strikes against insurgencies in, you know, proactive strikes.  Can you comment on that?

 

     Kimmitt:  Yeah, we would absolutely agree that the answer is proactive strikes against enemies of the Iraqi people, enemies of the coalition.  As we get intelligence, as we gain intelligence, we will use that intelligence to develop actions; we will develop operations and we will attack, kill or capture those who committed this crime.

 

     Senor:  Yes?

 

     Q:  Hi, Rachel with NBC.  We've heard reports that yesterday there was an attempt -- someone had been detained that also had explosives, or was an attempted suicide that was trying to go down to Karbala.  Can you confirm that?  And second, what kind of intelligence were you getting locally leading up to the attacks, if any?

 

     Kimmitt:  We don't typically discuss intelligence matters in open forum.  And I can't confirm that first report.

 

     Senor:  Yes?

 

     Q:  Hi, can you give us a little more information about how they caught the fourth suicide bomber?  And there was some talk on the street that some of them were women.  Do you know anything about that, in Kadhimiya?

 

     Kimmitt:  Yes.  Know nothing about the gender.  We were -- it was reported to us by the Iraqi police service that they'd apprehended a fourth suicide bomber who -- and again, this is the first reports, so accept the credibility of that.  But apparently, the feeling was, the understanding was, that the device that he had put on himself had not detonated and as a result they apprehended him.

 

     Senor:  Rajiv (sp)?

 

     Q:  Two questions here, General Kimmitt.

 

     The first, can you just discuss what actions the U.S. forces took prior to the incident in the Kadhimiya mosque area.  You were talking about an outer cordon; were they involved in searching people?  What -- you know, just some description of what U.S. forces were doing there prior to the incident.

 

     And then second question:  Have any of your coalition forensics experts, the same people that go and pick through the debris of other car bombings and such, been sent out to any of the bomb sites today?  I was at Kadhimiya for several hours today and didn't see anybody that looked like coalition personnel, you know, going through any of the debris there.

 

     Kimmitt:  On the first, with regards to the security that the coalition put out both in Kadhimiya and down in Karbala, we would typically set up what is known as an outer cordon.  It would then be a series of checkpoints on routes coming in, but far enough away from the mosque to respect the cultural requirements, the cultural differences.

 

     There would be a series of inner cordons set up as well, set up by the Iraqi police service and the Iraqi civil defense service, where another checkpoints would be set up.  Those would be overlapping, so they would be somewhat continuous, and you wouldn't exactly see a line between the two of those.

 

     This would all be coordinated and was coordinated and is coordinated through a joint control center, JCC, Joint Coordination Center, where you have military forces -- in this case, in Baghdad, from 1/5 Cav -- side by side with the Iraqi police service and the ICDC, monitoring the situation, assisting when requested, facilitating when requested.

 

     Senor:  Deborah (sp)?

 

     Q:  (Off mike.)

 

     Senor:  I'm sorry.

 

     Kimmitt:  Second question.  I'm not aware that any specific requests for assistance of the type you're talking about with forensic has been requested.  But I suspect that if requested, they'll be more than happy to provide that.

 

     Q:  Why didn't you guys just go?  I mean, if you're looking at connections to Zarqawi here, why are you waiting for a request?  Why not just sort of go and take a look?

 

     Kimmitt:  Again, I think it goes to the point that those explosions happened at the gates and inside the mosque area.  We're very sensitive to that and don't just want to be very intrusive and just show up and start taking evidence, unless specifically requested, in this case.

 

     We have a practice that we will not go into a religious site, a mosque, unless specifically requested, or unless we have specific reason to go in for a violent -- for reasons of a violent nature.

 

     Senor:  Deborah (sp)?

 

     Q:  Hi.  Is this the deadliest day for Iraq since the end of the war?  And also, when is the signing ceremony going to be held, now you've got these three days of mourning, for the constitution?  Thank you.

 

     Kimmitt:  You know, sadly, I would like to say that today was, but as I look through all of the days that we've had where we've had significant explosions, significant terrorist attacks -- I'm not sure that we've actually added them up. I mean, I've got a list right here of 14 different days when there have been attacks on the International Committee of the Red Cross, attacks on the U.N., attacks on coalition forces, attack on the Iraqi police service.  Just haven't added the numbers up yet.  But it certainly ranks among one of the days where the terrorists have decided to take -- make a significant -- send a significant message to the coalition and to the people of Iraq.

 

     Senor:  As for the signing ceremony, the Governing Council has made no formal plans, as a collective, to change tomorrow's event. They're -- it obviously has been considered, in light of the events and in light of the three days of mourning, but they have not decided that as a group yet.  They have indicated to me that they will make an announcement tomorrow as for the plans for the signing ceremony.  So I would just stay tuned.  Tomorrow morning there will probably be some more formal, final information.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q:  Sebastian Rotella of the LA Times.  Two questions, please. We were shown what were described as fragments of grenades at the mosque in Kadhimiya.  Do you have any information that the bombers may have thrown grenades before they blew themselves up?  And the second question is, leaving aside the letter, based on your investigations and intelligence, do you believe Zarqawi's claim that he committed 25 attacks?  Is that what your investigations and intelligence show?

 

     Kimmitt:  On the first question, we've seen the pictures on CNN that showed somebody actually holding a grenade, or fragments of a grenade.  Whether that was part of the explosive vest or whether that was thrown is unknown.  We haven't recovered the other three persons to determine if that was actually integrated into the vest.  So we just don't know.

 

     With regards to the other investigations, we have not substantiated that Zarqawi was involved in all 25 or that we can specifically pin him down to all 25 terror attacks that he has laid claim to.  However, all of our suspicions would indicate that he has had a significant effect inside this country.  And as you take a look at the types of attacks that have gone on since May of last year, ranging from Iskandariyah, the IPS attack, to the attack on the U.N., to the attack on the International Committee of the Red Cross, clearly we have forces inside this country that are trying to disrupt the move to governance, trying to push out the coalition forces, trying to intimidate the Iraqi people, trying to stop the process towards moving Iraq to a free, sovereign, democratic and united country.  And despite the horrors of every one of these attacks, these terrorists will not succeed.

 

     Senor:  I would just add, you cannot ignore the significance of his letter when you consider how clearly it lays out a plan and then you see that plan being executed, and when we, at the same time, believe in the authenticity of the letter and believe that its author is Mr. Zarqawi.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q:  General, the two attacks, how much do you think it is coordinated?  And apart from the fact that it took (place) almost at the same time, what kind of similarities can you say?  And to do these two attacks at a very similar time, how many people do you think is required to organize such a coordinated attack?

 

     Kimmitt:  Well, we have, certainly, no idea how many people were either involved or it took to coordinate it, but we can -- let's acknowledge the fact that this was a very sophisticated attack, very well coordinated.  It was timed to take into account two significant events.  The fact that the plan for signing the transitional administrative law and Ashura happening at the same time certainly gave them the ability to find that spectacular type event that we've talked about so many times.  But this was not a pick-up team; this was not an organization that just started.  This clearly shows signs of a well-coordinated organization with some level of sophistication.

 

     Senor:  Yes?

 

     Q [Through interpreter.]:  Mr. Dan Senor, let us acknowledge that these acts were to destabilize the acts of transferring sovereignty to people.  Tomorrow will we witness a ceremony for signing for the state administration law, or will you postpone this ceremony?

 

     Senor:  The decision on the signing ceremony will not be made by the coalition, the decision on the signing ceremony will be made by the Iraqi Governing Council.

 

     But let me be clear, the process for handing sovereignty over to the Iraqi people is still on track, on schedule.  We will hand over sovereignty to the Iraqi people on June 30th.  The process outlined in the November 15th agreement, which includes having an interim constitution, a transitional administrative law complete by the end of February, that milestone was met.  Implementation of that process, implementation of the transitional administrative law will not be delayed.

 

     There are formal ceremonies that may not be appropriate given the timing of this incident.  That's a decision for the Governing Council to make.  As I said, they will make that decision tomorrow.  I think they were going to communicate or meet as a group later today or tomorrow morning, and then make a formal decision on how they would like to proceed.

 

     But the interim constitution will still be the constitution -- will still be the document that governs Iraq post-June 30th, following hand over of sovereignty.  That will not change, it will still be on schedule.  And all the more when you consider the Zarqawi letter, it is all the more important to move forward with the kind of resolve that you've seen exhibited in the Iraqi people and the coalition. Zarqawi specifically references that in addition to handover of sovereignty, in addition to the political calendar, in addition to governing institutions that are effective that are run by the Iraqi people, the other greatest threat to the success of the terrorists is continued resolve.  And that resolve will continue.

 

     Someone who hasn't asked.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q [Through interpreter.]:  (Name inaudible.) -- from Al- Arabiyah.  Will you review the security measures applied in Iraq, especially that you are responsible for the security while in the country?

 

     Kimmitt:  You can be assured that every time we have an incident that we go back and we review everything with regard to that incident.  We take a hard look at our force protection measures, we take a look at our tactics, our techniques and procedures.  We take a look at what could have prevented this in the past and how to prevent it in the future.  That's part of a routine operational review that we do after every incident, whether it's the loss of a soldier, the downing of an aircraft, or in this case, a tragic terrorist attack such as this.

 

     Senor:  Christine.

 

     Q:  Just two questions.  Have you substantiated any attacks directly to Zarqawi, any of them specifically confirmed attacks to Zarqawi?  Also, how many, if you have, and specifically what are they?

 

     And also, when you talk about this outer cordon and inner cordon, are you helping the Iraqis and telling them and working with them on procedures in that inner area?  And the reason I'm asking that is the Shi'ite guards around the mosque said, "We are doing our own things, but the Iraqi police, who are Sunnis and don't trust us, haven't really coordinated with us inside."  So what are you doing to help the different policing forces near the mosque and around the mosque?

 

     Kimmitt:  Yeah, and it's certainly an exception in the case of Najaf and Karbala, with the shrine police.  We would -- the coordination that goes on between them and the Iraqi police service is a little bit different -- that goes on between the Iraqi police service, the ICDC and the coalition forces.  But those are some details that they need to work out.  And as long as the two forces can work side by side to ensure that they can provide the maximum amount of security, then we're not going to try to dictate how the Iraqi police service, how the ICDC should be operating with the shrine police.

 

     With regards to Zarqawi, we certainly are investigating him as a prime suspect in every one of those attacks that we've seen.  The investigations are ongoing.  As soon as we make a determination who is responsible, we'll go ahead and announce that.  And -- but in the meanwhile, as we develop intelligence, either against a specific individual or an organization, we will take actions, and we will develop operations to go and kill and capture those organizations or those persons.

 

     Senor:  Yes?

 

     Q:  Thank you.  Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers.  General Kimmitt, on the issue of investigating the bombings, it seems like again it gets back to the question of whether you have people on the scene.  I mean, I know in some cases they try to look at the pieces that were used in the bomb to see if there are common threads through different bombings.  How can you do that if you're not there, out there, looking at the debris?

 

     Kimmitt:  Well, certainly I'm not there, nor are the coalition forces, in this case.  But we have the Iraqi police service on site doing that right now.  They've got a forensic capability, albeit limited.  They've got a investigative capability.  And certainly as they come back from that scene with the information, that is shared with the coalition, shared with our intelligence services, and they can come out to a joint conclusion in that regard.

 

     Senor:  Yes?

 

     Q [Through interpreter.]:  Al-Falahim (sp) from Al Manat (sp). I have two questions.  General Kimmitt, don't you think that the issue of the withdrawal of the Iraqi forces from the cities, especially here, from Baghdad, will give the terrorists an opportunity to achieve   their goals, and consequently, there will be sectarian strife in Baghdad in particular?  (Inaudible.) -- that the explosions took place today is an evidence that Zarqawi is determined to perform his terrorist acts, which he intends to commit?

 

     A second question.  Don't you think that the Governing Council had issued a state administration law, that the coalition authority should make a statement about the role of the American forces in the country?

 

     Kimmitt:  As to the first point, about sectarian strife, we certainly give the people of Iraq far more credit than perhaps is suggested.  The people of Iraq certainly understand that what is going on here is an attempt by an outside agency to try to create that strife between the different organizations and different religions, the different ethnicities here in Iraq.

 

     One thing that came out loud and clear throughout the entire day was that there were very few people blaming other Iraqis for these incidents.  While it wasn't very helpful to, in some cases, try to blame the Americans, because we certainly understand that they were not behind this, the very fact that very few people were suggesting that one fellow Muslim could do this to another fellow Muslim -- it was very helpful to understand that even though there are those that would try to create sectarian strife, the people of Baghdad, the people who were at Karbala today certainly understand that these terrorist attacks were not Iraqi on Iraqi, religion on religion.

 

     With regards to your point about the withdrawal, we have said many times that the coalition forces are not withdrawing from the cities.  We have a plan, over time when the conditions permit, to transfer much of the responsibility for security in those cities where the conditions merit it over to fully formed, trained Iraqi security services.  That will not happen independently for a long period of time.  There is not a suggestion that the Iraqi police service will be operating outside the range, outside the control, outside the capability for the coalition forces to reinforce.  You won't see that any time soon.  You will continue to see coalition forces working side by side in a partnership alongside of our Iraqi colleagues.  And any notion that we are withdrawing from the cities, withdrawing from the governance or withdrawing from this country is just patently false.

 

     Senor:  And to your second question, as far as the role long term for the coalition forces, the coalition has been quite clear on this.  We will not leave, we will not withdraw until the situation is stabilized here.  Ambassador Bremer has made this point clear. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has made this point clear.  So long as American forces are welcome here and so long as there is a security need here, our forces will remain.

 

     The fact that the Governing Council has requested that the ultimate arrangement be negotiated and finalized by a sovereign Iraq, by a sovereign Iraqi government after June 30th doesn't change our intentions.  Our intentions are still to play a role here.  And even those governing Council members who did request that there be a postponement of the discussions on the final arrangement, those Governing Council members still acknowledge that there was a role for U.S. security forces post-June 30th.  They just want it to be ultimately determined by a sovereign Iraqi government.

 

     And I would just add that this is something we see with all Iraqis we speak to.  Whether they are political leaders, religious leaders, regional leaders, whether it's based on the polling results that we've seen on Iraqi public opinion, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis, while they don't like the occupation, they don't like the notion of being occupied, which we certainly understand, at the same time they don't want coalition forces to leave.

 

     It's sort of a paradoxical situation.  On the one hand, they don't like the occupation; on the other hand, they want our presence here.  And we think that that issue can be reconciled, that paradoxical scenario can be reconciled post-June 30th by handing over to the Iraqis political sovereignty while at the same time continuing to provide security here, which is the path we will go.

 

     We have time for a couple more.  Rachel, go ahead.

 

     Q:  Are you worried that similar attacks -- we'll see similar attacks in the coming weeks as more key dates come up -- the fall of Baghdad, the beginning of the war, et cetera?

 

     Kimmitt:  Yeah, we've said for months now that as we come closer and closer to governance there will be those people that will recognize that this is probably their last opportunity to try to drive a wedge between the people of Iraq and the coalition.  We are fully prepared for that.  We would like to say we're going to be preventing 100 percent of the attacks, 100 percent of the time.  Today is evidence that that's probably a metric that we will never meet, but that doesn't mean we're not going to try to meet it.

 

     Q:  What kind of security measures are you taking to increase on those specific dates?  Or have you -- do you have plans --

 

     Kimmitt:  Yeah, every time -- first of all, we've got a very high level of security throughout the country, all the time.  We never talk too much about the attacks we prevent, we only talk about the attacks in here that actually are committed.  Much like finding IEDs along the side of the road; we probably find three to four IEDs for every one that goes off.  We prevent a significant number of attacks repeatedly.  We always take a look at the methods, the techniques, the procedures that are used as part of that after-action review that we discussed earlier.  We hope to get better every time.  We hope to get better every day.  We hope that every time there's an attack like this, this is just one last trick that the terrorists can use.  And we hope to get better --

 

     Senor:  John?

 

     Kimmitt:  -- we keep at it.

 

     Q:  (Off mike.)

 

     Senor:  Use the mike, John.  Please.  Yeah, thank you.

 

     Q:  John Burns, New York Times.  General, Mr. Senor, the most accessible part of the reaction today at the Kadhimiya mosque -- not the only reaction, but certainly the most accessible one -- was fury against the United States, and it was expressed in various ways.  But however you define it -- they didn't protect us -- that's the most favorable part of their reaction.   Otherwise it goes all the way to they were responsible for this.  "You are with Saddam," as one woman shouted at me.   However you define this, it presents a serious problem for the United States in maintaining or generating confidence amongst the Iraqi people about what lies ahead.

 

     Can you perhaps talk a little bit more than you have about why there is this kind of reaction on the streets which seems perhaps somewhat paradoxical; how less than a year after the fall of Saddam, American journalists can be attacked, American soldiers can be -- come under verbal and other forms of assault in the face of something like this?

 

     Kimmitt:  First of all, with the specific instance of why the Americans were being blamed this morning.  Again, I think if you were to give it 24 hours and see if that same level of blame was coming out -- or if that was just a first reaction to a tragic event. On one hand, we could have cancelled the entire ceremonies, the entire events.  That would have served no purpose.  We could have put armed guards from every country in the coalition to surround the Kadhimiya mosque.  That would have served no purpose either.

 

     I think most people will recognize a fairly objective view is, as we've said, you cannot prevent 100 percent of the terrorist attacks 100 percent of the time.  Now, does that make it difficult to win the trust and confidence of the Iraqi people?  It does.  It is something we continue to work on, John, every day.  We can't do that with words, we have to do that with deeds.  The worst thing the American military forces and the coalition forces could do in response is somehow run away from the people that need our help; hide behind the HESCO barriers, hide behind the base camps.

 

     Regardless of what is said in a moment of outrage, in a moment of pain, in a moment of sorrow, I can guarantee you that the coalition forces will be out on the streets tomorrow conducting their mission.  And even though it's a difficult day today and it makes it a little more difficult tomorrow, the coalition will be out there trying to demonstrate to the people of Iraq that we are here to provide a secure environment so that we can progress with the transitional administrative law, we can continue to progress with a handover to sovereignty, we can continue to progress with the restoration of electrical services, oil services, and try to get them the life they so have been deprived of for the last 35 years under the dictatorship of Saddam.

 

     Senor:  John, I would just add; our sense for some time has been that the mood among many Iraqis -- and this comes up in a lot of our public opinion research and focus groups we hold -- is they were led to believe for over three decades that they had the most powerful military in the world, the most powerful government in the world.  And then you have the Americans who come and sweep that military aside in less than three weeks.  And I think many Iraqis believe, well, if they could defeat our all-powerful military and get rid of our brutal dictator in less than three weeks, can't they get the lights on, can't they shorten the gas lines, can't they improve the day-to-day security situation?  It's an understandable reaction.

 

     The fact is, the kind of terrorism that we are -- the kind of violence that we're facing right now is terrorism.  We've said for some time Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism, and the kinds of attacks that are being thwarted, that are being thrusted upon Iraq are very difficult to protect against all the time.  It's an   asymmetrical battle here.  The terrorists have to be successful once in a while to be very successful.  We, in protecting against terrorism, have to be successful every single time.  It's an inherently unbalanced, disproportionate scale, and for all the reasons that General Kimmitt just said, we're not going to be successful 100 percent of the time.

 

     The attacks we're seeing in Iraq today we see all over the world, certainly in large numbers since September 11th.  We just have to continue to forge ahead with our plan.  We have to continue to demonstrate the same resolve.  The reason we believe that there are these attacks, the reason we believe the terrorists, specifically the foreign terrorists, have made Iraq the central front in the war on terrorism is because of events like yesterday; because when Iraqis come together, be it Shi'as, Sunni, Kurd, Christian, Assyrian, Turkmen, men, women -- when they all come together in a unified front and move this country forward to a sovereign, democratic government, it makes the stakes for the foreign terrorists very high.  If this is successful, if we are successful -- which we will be -- in working with the Iraqis in building a sovereign, democratic Iraq, John, it will do more to set back the global terror campaign than anything else we do.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q [Through interpreter.]:  (Name inaudible.)  You said that Zarqawi and outsiders are responsible for these attacks.  Why didn't you try to control the borders to avoid such attacks as you save the Iraqi people from such attacks?  Thank you.

 

[NOTE:  The general's response is partially inaudible due to technical difficulties from the source.]

 

     Kimmitt:  Well, first of all we did not lay blame for this directly on Zarqawi -- (Inaudible.) -- suspects -- (Inaudible.).  Why did we not put a mile-high wall around the country of Iraq so we keep terrorists out?  (Inaudible.) -- because we'll be ultimately unsuccessful.  Terrorism cannot be stopped at the border, plain and simple.  If you expect to have terrorism stopped at the border, you will be -- (Inaudible.).  It can only be stopped through the width and breadth of the country inside the cities, inside the governates, inside the councils, inside the homes, and it's got to be a joint partnership among the people of Iraq, their security forces, and for now the coalition to root out the evil of terrorism.  It is not simply enough to stop it at the borders, as we saw today.  Even if we had a mile-high wall around the country of Iraq, I would argue that it probably would not have stopped this attack today.

 

     Senor:  I would just add it's a topographical fact of life. Iraq has very porous borders.  Stopping it all at the borders, as General Kimmitt said, will be very difficult.  But one additional thing that would certainly help, which Ambassador Bremer has referenced on multiple occasions, is we would hope that governments of countries that border Iraq would do more to stem the flow of foreign fighters that have come into this country over the last year or so.

 

     We have time for one more, preferably someone who hasn't asked a question.  No?  All right.  Rajiv, go ahead.

 

     Q:  I just want to follow up on something that you said, General Kimmitt, and you're saying what was going on here is an attempt by outsiders to create strife and these terrorist attacks were not Iraqi on Iraqi.  Are you saying that, you know, today's attacks were perpetrated by foreigners?

 

     Kimmitt:  What we -- what I meant to say was, in fact, this was not an organized group of Iraqis such as one ethnic group trying to attack another ethnic group or another religion for the sole purpose of trying to create an advantage, either positional, geographic or within the government.  We have no suspicion at this time or we have no suggestion whether -- we have no evidence at this time to suggest that the persons involved in this were either completely Iraqi, completely foreign or a mixture of both.  All indications are that it was probably a mixture of both.

 

     Senor:  I just have one administrative announcement.  I was asked by the Governing Council to read this announcement.

 

     Sayed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who, you all know, is a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, will be available to answer reporters' question at a press conference this evening at 7:30 p.m. at his offices located near the -- this is written by them, so I -- for those of you who know where they're located, this will be obvious to you.  For those for which this is unclear, perhaps follow up at the IPC, the International Press Center, with Jared and Susan.  They'll, hopefully, have more information gathered.  It is located near the two-level bridge in the Jedriya (ph) district of Baghdad.

 

     So Sayed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim will be answering reporters' questions and holding a press conference at 7:30 p.m. this evening at his offices located near the two-level bridge in the Jedriya (ph) district of Baghdad.  And that is tonight.  I presume because of security they will have some time advance needs in terms of getting there, so if you intend to go, I actually would recommend going right from here.

 

     Secondly, a statement will be issued later today by Ambassador Bremer; there may be a second press event held later on this evening. So please stay in touch with the International Press Center, monitor e-mails.  We'll try to get you information as soon as we have it.

 

     Thank you.

 

     Kimmitt:  Thank you.

 

Copyright © 2003 by Federal News Service Inc., Ste. 220, 1919 M St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a U.S. government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service, please visit www.fednews.com or call (202) 347-1400