MR. SENOR: Good afternoon. A couple of administrative items and then I have a statement to read. General Kimmitt has an opening statement, and then we will be happy to take your questions.
Ambassador Bremer's schedule today. He started off his morning meeting with a team that has recently arrived from the Department of Justice relating to the Iraqi Special Tribunal and the trial – future trial -- future Iraqi trial of Saddam Hussein. He's just meeting with technical experts. Later in the day he has been meeting with various members of the Iraqi Governing Council, including Dr. Mowaffak Rubaie and the current president. He had his regular meeting with the president of the Governing Council, Dr. Bahr Uloum.
Secondly, last night Ambassador Bremer signed a letter of approval that is being transmitted to the Governing Council today with regard to the transitional administrative law. Pursuant to the November 15th agreement, both the Governing Council and the Coalition
Provisional Authority must approve the transitional administrative law. These approvals must be documented in writing. As many of you know, yesterday the Governing Council signed and put forth their document, and now Ambassador Bremer and the coalition have put forward theirs.
I will read you the statement. I will also be made available to you in the international press center. The letter was sent from Ambassador Bremer to the president of the Governing Council, Dr. Bahr Uloum:
"Dear Mr. President:
"The Coalition Provisional Authority congratulates you and the Governing Council on the signing today of the transitional administrative law for the state of Iraq. The law joins the best traditions of the Iraqi people with a commitment to democratic ideals under the rule of law.
"The Coalition Provisional Authority approves the transitional administrative law. Its adoption inspires all who share our common goal of forging a free, democratic and unified Iraq.
"This day begins the formal process recognized by the November 15th agreement, by which the Iraqi people will reclaim their sovereign authority after more than 30 years of tyranny and murderous oppression. As established in the transitional administrative law, the Iraqi people soon will have their own representative government dedicated to the rule of law, built on a separation of powers, and committed to honoring and protecting the liberties of all Iraqis irrespective of religion, ethnicity or gender.
"The institutions of this new government are products of debate and compromise by individuals representing the rich diversity of political and religious thought in Iraq. The adoption of the transitional administrative law therefore demonstrates a triumph of cooperation over division, and sets Iraq firmly on course for a future of peace, stability, freedom and hope.
"As the state of Iraq enters the final stages of reclaiming its rightful place within the community of peaceful and law-abiding nations, we will continue to work with the Iraqi people to guarantee full, free and fair elections and the final transition to self-rule under a permanent constitution.
"L. Paul Bremer III, administrator, the Coalition Provisional Authority."
Again, it was signed last night. It is being transmitted today.
That's all I have.
GEN. KIMMITT: Good afternoon.
The area of operations remains relatively stable. Over the past week there have been an average of 19 engagements daily against coalition military, just under four attacks daily against Iraqi security forces, and just under three attacks daily against Iraqi civilians. The coalition continues to conduct offensive operations to kill or capture anti-coalition elements and enemies of the Iraqi people, and to continue those operations to obtain intelligence for follow-on operations and to ensure the people of Iraq of our determination to establish a safe and secure environment.
To that end, in the past 24 hours the coalition conducted 1,464 patrols, 26 offensive operations, 13 raids, and captured 66 anti- coalition suspects. In the northern zone of operations coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 38 patrols, one offensive operation and detained seven anti-coalition suspects.
On 6 March coalition forces conducted five simultaneous raids in Biahj (ph) and Sinjar. Six of the nine primary targets were apprehended and all the individuals are suspected of being linked to terrorist organizations in the area. Twenty-five lieutenants in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps completed the platoon leader course yesterday. Thirty-eight Iraqi Civil Defense Corps graduates completed training in Dohuk two days ago and joined the 103rd ICDC Battalion south of Habergate (ph).
In the north central zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 366 patrols, 10 raids and captured 49 anti- coalition suspects. At 09:20 this morning a U.S. soldier from the 1st Infantry Division was killed and another was wounded from the 13th Corps Support Command in a IED attack while traveling in a convoy east of Baqubah. The wounded soldier was medically evacuated to the 31st Combat Support Hospital and is currently in stable condition.
Two days ago forces conducted a raid northwest of Taji. The target of the raid was Abu Ahmed Tabuki (sp), suspected of connections to recent rocket attacks in the Baghdad area. The unit conducted a cordon and search of the first objective and captured four adult males. At a second objective, forces captured 11 individuals to include the target and five foreigners. The unit also confiscated a bag of black headbands with Islamic slogans, two computers and several CD-ROMs that had Osama bin Laden written on them.
On 7 March coalition forces conducted a raid near Kalis (sp). The target of the raid was Sheikh Mohammed Moria (sp), who preaches jihad at the Saad Idna Abi Wogask (ph) Mosque and is also suspected of leading the Wahabi movement in Kalis (ph). Mohammed is also linked to a bomb attack in December 2003 that killed a civilian and a U.S. soldier. Coalition forces captured Abu Omar (ph), suspected of attacking coalition forces during a hasty raid near Baqubah on March 7th.
Omar was captured along with three others, and information obtained from the raid resulted in the capture of 10 individuals during a second raid on March 8th.
In Baghdad, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 594 patrols, 40 escort missions, and captured six anti-coalition suspects. Yesterday, soldiers from the 302nd Iraqi Civil Defense Corps battalion were attacked with small-arms fire while on their way to work in Baghdad. The enemy attackers fired AK-47s on the soldiers that were parked in a civilian vehicle. The enemy pulled up in two vehicles. Five attackers got out and began shooting. The attack resulted in three ICDC soldiers killed and three wounded.
Yesterday morning, coalition forces conducted a raid to capture individuals suspected of being members of the new Ba'ath party and of conducting attacks on coalition forces. The unit captured three persons to include two targets.
In the western zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 230 patrols, including 17 independent Iraqi Civil Defense Corps patrols, and detained one anti-coalition suspect.
Yesterday, coalition forces responded to an explosion west of FOB Manhattan. They found that the Khalidiya chief of police and his bodyguard had been wounded in a bomb emplaced at the chief's residence. The device was detonated as the two men were departing the house. And all the injured have been released from the hospital today with minor injuries.
On 6 March, two unknown personnel shot the Mahumdiya chief of police and one of his guards in a drive-by shooting. Both victims are in stable condition in the Mahumdiya hospital, and their injuries are not considered to be life threatening.
This past week, 434 Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers graduated from basic and advance training. Another 220 recruits will graduate tomorrow. They have also begun training another 364 recruits in the province this week.
In the central-south zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 104 patrols, 42 checkpoints, and escorted 40 convoys.
Two days ago, a coalition patrol detained three Iraqis in As Sawara. Three AK-47s, three hand grenades, and 77 rounds of ammunition were confiscated, and the individuals have been turned over to the local Iraqi police.
In the southeastern zone of operations, a vehicle drove directly at the Shatt al-Arab Hotel vehicle checkpoint two days ago. Coalition forces manning the checkpoint fired three rounds at the vehicle believing it was a VBIED. The vehicle stopped 10 meters short of the checkpoint. The driver ran away, and an explosives ordnance team inspected the suspected car bomb and declared it a hoax.
They also found a dead body in the vehicle, and an investigation has been initiated into this incident.
MR. SENOR: With that, we are happy to take your questions.
Q: (In Arabic.)
MR. SENOR: The Iraqis will actually have the lead role. This is their -- this'll be their trial. The individuals that are part of the delegation from the Department of Justice are technical experts here to provide a supporting role, not a lead role. And that was the basis of their discussion with Ambassador Bremer, was just to provide a(n) update on some of the things that he thinks would be helpful to provide the Iraqi special tribunal and the Iraqis involved in this process, and how they -- they were proposing ways they could be helpful. Just technical expertise, provide support to the Iraqis that will be leading this process. The nationalities of the individuals who are here are obviously American. They're employees of the U.S. Department of Justice. But their role, as I said, is supportive.
Q: Tim Franks from BBC News. I was just wondering if there's any progress in terms of the other regime members whom you have detained, people on the -- in the deck of playing cards, in terms of the -- any judicial process as far as they're concerned, whether some of them might be coming to trial soon, or, indeed, that you're planning to charge them, or, indeed, release any of them.
MR. SENOR: The judicial process for them will commence following hand-over of sovereignty. There's a lot of work to be done building up a case, going through evidence, compiling evidence. That takes time. And certainly, it would not all be able to be complete between now and June 30th. So the Iraqis will really be leading the process after the hand-over of sovereignty. There is not a trial to be expected between now and June 30th.
Q: (In Arabic.)
MR. SENOR: In a perfect world this process would be completed, the transitional administrative law would have been drafted by a body that was directed elected by the Iraqi people.
However, as you've heard me say on multiple occasions, it is – we don't believe it is possible to hold direct elections in this country right now with no voter roles, no political party laws, no constituent boundaries, no census in this country for 20 years if not longer. The
infrastructure that's necessary to hold direct election just aren't here -- just is not here. And if we were to rush into direct elections before the necessary infrastructure and legal frameworks are in place we could run into a situation where we have a chaotic electoral process, and the result that would be produced by that election would not necessarily be viewed as credible or legitimate in the eyes of the Iraqi people.
So it's important not to rush into direct elections. We feel strongly about direct elections. In the transitional administrative law that the Governing Council has passed, there are three direct elections next year. This is not only our view, it's the view of many of Iraqis we've spoken to. It's the view of the United Nations and the international community.
So short of direct elections, we had to figure out a way to help the Iraqis draft this interim constitution, and the Governing Council was obviously the next best alternative. It is certainly the most diverse and representative political body in the history of Iraq. It is arguably the most diverse and representative political body in the entire region: Sunnis, Shi'a, Kurds, Turkmen, Christians, men, women. And so -- and it's a body, by the way, that's recognized by the United Nations Security Council as the embodiment of Iraqi sovereignty. It is a body that is recognized by international organizations around the world, from the Arab League to OPEC. It has observer status at the World Trade Organization. So it is a body that is increasingly gaining recognition.
So we thought that was the most appropriate body to take on this task, but that said it's still important for them to consult with the Iraqi people. They have been doing that. There have been town meetings, neighborhood meetings going on across the country; some major town hall meetings in the recent months in Baqubah and Baghdad and Basra and Mosul and Tikrit, focused almost exclusively on this transitional administrative law. And so Iraqis have been talking about it. Iraqi leaders have been talking about it.
Is there much more work to be done? Absolutely, and that's why in the months ahead we, working with the Governing Council, will be launching a very elaborate public information campaign to further stimulate debate on this issue.
And then the permanent constitution, which will be passed -- drafted and passed next year, will be put to the Iraqi people. The drafters of that constitution will be directly elected. They will be the members of the transitional national assembly, the interim parliament if you will. They will draft the constitution. They will obviously be elected by the Iraqis. And then, once it's drafted, the constitution -- the permanent constitution has to be put to the Iraqi people for a vote, for a referendum.
So we agree on the importance of holding this -- the permanent constitution accountable to the Iraqi people, but until there are direct elections in place, you have to go for the next best alternative.
Certainly you shouldn't hold up the process of establishing a bill of rights, establishing institutions like the rule of law and some of the there -- federalism, separation of powers, these important principles hat are necessary for the governing of Iraq in the interim phase. You shouldn't hold up that process just because the direct electoral infrastructure just isn't in place yet.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. SENOR: I would -- well, first of all, let me say something else in response to your first question. During the negotiating process of this document and the drafting of this document, not only ere the Governing Council members participating in town hall meetings and traveling the country and explaining the principles in this document; they, throughout the negotiating process -- I was a witness to it -- they were in constant communication with constituents and leaders in their respective communities. So it is not as though they were not engaged in discussions and really checking in with individuals across the country.
As for the veto power, the veto power in the interim constitution is not defined by ethnicity. It is defined by population size and then defined by regional provincial -- number of regional provinces. So the majority of Iraqis have to vote for there to be a change, and the only thing that can stop that, short of a majority vote, is a vote by three provinces who vote, in a two-thirds majority each, in opposition to the change. There is -those three provinces are not defined by ethnicity. Any three provinces could either organize amongst themselves to vote against it or can just act individually, and the cumulative effect of those three could turn down the change.
Q: General Kimmitt, I wondered if you could go over a couple of things that you mentioned in the quick briefing. There were some folks captured up north -- I think it was in Taji -- that you mentioned, with some Osama bin Laden paraphernalia or CDs. That was the first one, if you could, you know, just let us know what they were up to. Were they foreigners, Iraqi nationals, et cetera?
Second, I wanted to see if there's any progress on the Tuesday bombings yet. I know you -- you know, there were some people arrested. I was wondering if there were any other folks arrested, you know, if you confirmed where those foreigners came from, what countries they were from, and if any had been released, et cetera.
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, I don't have the answer to the question on the group that was caught the other day, the -- up north. As you can imagine, when we first captured these personnel, they go through a series of interrogations. Oftentimes they're not real excited about providing their nationality.
I will tell you that the ones we have were speaking Arabic, the inference is that they are Iraqi, but it will still take a couple of days before that.
As you know, we captured 22 -- 24 persons the day of, the day prior and two days after the bombings at Baghdad and Karbala. Starting with Baghdad, you know that we captured two, released both of them that day. We still believe those persons were Iraqi citizens. Of the remaining 22 that we took into custody, there were five that were captured north of Karbala the night prior. Those persons are still in coalition custody, all speak Arabic, the presumption is that they're all Iraqi.
The 15 that were caught the day of the attack in Karbala, we said 10 were speaking Arabic, five were speaking either Farsi or Dari. Of the 10 Arabic-speaking detainees, we have released eight back to the Iraqi police service, and we believe that the Iraqi police service has released them back to the community. We still are hanging on to the five Farsi/Dari speakers, but would anticipate that we're going to be -- oh, excuse me, I take it back -- and we have released all five of those. So none of those, whether they are Iranian citizens, as they claimed, or from elsewhere, there was nothing that we felt as part of the coalition that we needed to hang on to, so they've been released back to the IPS as well.
And then the two Iraqis that we captured two days later, on Thursday, in Najaf, in fact turned themselves in -- that were captured by the Iraqi police service and then turned themselves over to coalition custody, they still remain under coalition custody.
Q: Can you report any progress or leads or anything on the bombings themselves?
GEN. KIMMITT: I know that the interrogations are going on, and I think that's what we're going to keep working on at this point, Jim.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q: Richard Beeson (ph) from the Times. General, did I hear you correctly as mentioning a new Ba'ath Party involved in some incident? And if you did, what is the new Ba'ath party?
GEN. KIMMITT: It's an organization we -- we believe it is of former-regime elements. We've seen some indicators that they call themselves the New Ba'ath Party. We believe it's just a -- almost a gang moniker that's being used up there in one of the cells, that we see in a number of the different -- like we see different names for different cells. But I wouldn't put too much onto it as an organization except, obviously, they embrace the old Ba'ath philosophy and are trying to distance themselves, we believe, with some of the other extremist groups.
Q: (In Arabic.)
MR. SENOR: I haven't seen the -- I haven't seen the statement. What -- do you have something you want to reference specifically?
Q: (In Arabic.)
MR. SENOR: I haven't -- I haven't seen the statement. I'd like to see it before I respond to it. I have only seen a statement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, which welcomed the transitional administrative law, saw it as a good sign, encouraged us to move forward as quickly as possible with direct elections. We agree with Iran on the importance of direct elections. And that was the only statement I've seen from the region.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. SENOR: We don't have any reports on that specific name, but we'll check on that and take that question for after the press conference.
Q: (In Arabic.)
Baqubah a couple of days ago, that was a different pronunciation. We had intelligence of his former affiliation. We had intelligence that suggested he was participating in anti-coalition activities. Once that intelligence was sufficient for us to conduct an operation to capture him, coalition forces went out and captured him.
Yes, go ahead.
Q: (In Arabic.)
MR. SENOR: All right, I'll work through these.
Working that out right now. That is the next -- that is the clear answer. It is something, now that we've got the transitional administrative law finalized, we can now work through various options.
We obviously have the caucus plan. That was outlined in the November 15th agreement. We have said that it is subject to change, substantial change. And we are now -- we've received some input from the United Nations. We are hoping they will return here shortly to propose some ideas. We'll be consulting with Iraqis. There is no one option that's in the lead right now; we are considering several.
But we -- let me just make one point here in response to something you said. While we will be handing over political sovereignty on June 30th, the coalition on the military side certainly won't be going anywhere, and much of the civilian-side reconstruction won't be going anywhere either. American forces, civilian and military, and many members of the coalition will still have a very active role in Iraq. For instance, much of the work we're doing on electrical infrastructure; in the training, recruiting and equipping of Iraqi security services; in the reconstruction of the oil production facilities; in health care; much of that work cannot be accomplished in four or five months. It's work that we have dedicated resources to address for the next three or four years.
So you will have the largest U.S. diplomatic mission here in the world. U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, will have a large mission here. The American civilian and military sides of this equation will continue to have a major role here. Ambassador Bremer will leave and the political process, which he's increasingly focused on, will be handed over to the Iraqis. They will manage their own political process. That's what we mean when we hand over sovereignty. We are handing them political sovereignty, but we will still have a significant role here.
And then finally on Saddam Hussein, no country -- very few countries, at least, have experience with the sorts of trials that will occur here with regard to Saddam Hussein and the other leaders of the former regime. There are not a lot of countries that have written into their legal code the body of law that addresses crimes against humanity and acts of genocide. And so it's important to reach out to other governments and get technical expertise when it is there, when there are resources that can assist. The Iraqis will have the lead. The Iraqis have asked for help.
I have no doubt that Iraq has a long legal tradition in this country, going back to the Baghdad School of Law, the Basra -- University of Baghdad School of Law, the Basra University School of Law. These were world-class legal institutions 30, 40 years ago. And I know that the Iraqi Governing Council and the Iraqi Special Tribunal intends to call on a lot of that talent -- a lot of that talent which is world class, but was effectively sidelined under Saddam Hussein. And so they are trying to rejuvenate those resources that they have, but it's also important to reach out to any individuals and resources that may have been involved in assisting other similar-type tribunals around the world. And that's all the American -- that's all the U.S. Department of Justice is providing; it's just technical expertise.
MR. SENOR: Go ahead.
You're competing with Rajiv for the number of questions you can squeeze into --
Q: No, no. I'm sorry. Just -- (continues in Arabic).
MR. SENOR: Iraq will have total control of their political destiny after June 30th. Iraqi politicians, not American occupation officials, will be in charge of this country. Our status here will be as invited guests, not occupiers.
If the freely elected Iraqi government, or the caretaker government that takes over post-June 30th, asks American civilian staff that are here reconstructing their country to leave, we will have to respect those wishes. We are not imposing ourselves on anybody. We will not be occupiers, we will be here in cooperation with the Iraqis. It will be on the basis of a bilateral, government-to-government relationship. We will use the tools of diplomacy that we use with other independent governments; we will no longer use the tools of occupation. It is a very functional role that the Iraqis will have post-June 30th. They will be the political leaders, not us.
GEN. KIMMITT: And in regard to your second question, before I give you the details of the incident today, it goes the same for the military forces as well. There are some that would presume that after June 30th that we are somehow either going to move out, go home, or step away from the security responsibilities inside this country. Nothing could be further from the truth. We will continue to operate on July 15th the same way that we did on June 15th.
Now, the political infrastructure that will be making the decisions will be substantially different. But we intend to stay here to continue to build up the Iraqi Security forces; we intend to stay here as invited guests to continue to work side by side with the Iraqi security forces to provide a safe and secure environment. And we intend to say here as invited guests as long as we are needed, as long as we are wanted, and as long as we are invited.
Those soldiers that are coming in today, coming up and down the roads doing the transfer of authority, they are here on one-year orders. There are no soldiers that are rolling into these base camps replacing units such as the 101st that believe they're going to be leaving anytime soon.
They are committed to supporting the security and stability of this country for a year. The military is going to be here as invited guests as long as we are needed.
And as we are now moving to Operation Iraqi Freedom 2, as we call this next phase, we are already starting to do the planning back in the United States for Operation Iraqi Freedom 3, which would be starting up about this time next year. We may never have to institute those plans or execute those plans, but we will be prepared to stay here side by side with our Iraqi partners to maintain a safe and security environment in this country and to build up the Iraqi security forces.
And sometimes that happens without pain and sometimes that does happen with pain. Today was a painful day. This morning, as I said earlier, at 9:20, an American soldier in the 1st Infantry Division was traveling between Baqubah and Balad. His convoy, one of a four- vehicle convoy, was hit by a roadside bomb. That bomb killed him and killed one -- and wounded one of his buddies. And that is the cost that we undertake every day. It is a cost that is borne every day by the Iraqi security forces, as well. But we are committed.
And day's like yesterday, as we see the TAL being signed, is proof positive to our soldiers what they're here for and why they must remain for some period of time.
Q: (Off mike.)
GEN. KIMMITT: There was one soldier killed, one soldier was wounded.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q: In terms of the caretaker government that would receive the sovereignty on June 30, in order to guarantee that it is indeed through widespread consultation from the public, what do you think would be the deadline that the U.N. or the CPA will show its first option for --
MR. SENOR: That's going to be something we determine once we establish what sort of body will take over. But absolutely there will be wide consultation with Iraqis. That's something the U.N. feels is important; it's something the coalition feels is important. So this process will be subjected to very widespread discussion with the Iraqi people before a final plan is made, final decision is made.
Q: I'll try to let you off the hook easy with just like two questions today.
MR. SENOR: Amazing. A red-letter day.
GEN. KIMMITT: Unprecedented.
Q: First one, just on former President Saddam Hussein and the legal proceedings against him. Do you guys have any estimate as to when he might be brought before a tribunal and when the coalition will be prepared to hand him over to the custody of the special tribunal so that the prosecutors of the special tribunal would be able to question him and start building a case, and how that process would work in conjunction with these DOJ advisors who have come here?
And the second question is, once sovereignty is handed over on the 30th of June, what will the legal status of the high-value detainees be? Will they continue to remain in coalition custody, or will they revert to the custody of the sovereign Iraqi government?
MR. SENOR: On Saddam Hussein, we do not know yet at this point how much time is going to be required to establish the case and compile the evidence. We have been in discussions with Iraqi – with the Iraqi Special Tribunal about that issue. Also, however, is the issue of who they want to try first. Obviously, there is going to be a debate about whether or not Saddam Hussein should be tried first or whether -- or one of the other high value targets should be tried first. It's something that the Iraqi Special Tribunal is going to determine. I know that those are some of the issues they're wrestling with. We just -- we don't have a schedule at this point. It's going to be driven by how long it takes to compile the case and when the Iraqi Special Tribunal thinks they're ready. If that is after June 30th, which is expected, obviously, like much of the support we provide here, we will offer for it to continue. And we will offer for the Department of Justice technical experts to continue on, and I think there'll be other advisers and consultants from around the world who will be providing support. The Iraqi Governing Council, the Iraqi Special Tribunal, virtually all the leaders we speak to who have -- who are involved in this feel strongly that they will want some kind of support even after June 30th.
And in as regards what will be the status of the high value detainees after that period, I mean, that is one of the reasons that we, in fact, have the Justice Department officials over here to sort of work our way through the number of options and what's the best way. No decisions have been made at this point. And it's coming up to that time where we've got to make those decisions so that we can work the transition as smoothly and efficiently as possible. But no decisions have been made yet.
Q: Hi. Guy Henshard (sp) from CNN. On Friday the article that delayed the signing was in regard to a minority vote being able to obstruct the implementation of the transitional administrative law. Do you not find it ironic that a single individual, an Iranian, was able to do this by himself? And what implications will this have for the future of democracy and the separation of religion and politics for Iraq?
MR. SENOR: Well, I'll say this. First of all, actions speak louder than words. The transitional administrative law was voted on unanimously yesterday. So it passed. I would also say that the document speaks quite clearly to the role of religion in a state, the role of Islam in the state, and how, while there's a recognition that it is the state religion and it recognizes the Islamic identity of a majority of Iraqis, it also says that the state religion will not subordinate democratic principles, nor will it act in conflict against the individual liberties that are explicitly guaranteed in the document. So the document is quite clear on the bill of rights, on the role of religion in the state. It came -- it followed a very vibrant debate among various members of the Governing Council that lasted quite a number of days. And that is what they agreed upon. That's what they compromised and negotiated, and that's what governing bodies do in a democracy. They can't get a hundred percent of what they want a hundred percent of the time. They've got to work to compromise, and that's what they did.
I will say that, you know, this is -- this experience that we went over here with -- the last few days with the delay because of some concerns raised by Governing Council members is quite similar to the experiences in any democratic process, whether it's a piece of legislation being drafted and put through a system, a pathway to law, or in the drafting of constitutions in other democracies, including the American drafting, where, for instance, the state of Massachusetts voted for the Constitution, one of 13 colonies to vote for it, yet the body was divided.
Almost half of the Massachusetts Commonwealth convention voted against the Constitution. And in fact the leaders of the commonwealth issued a statement, based -- with reservations and concerns, and hoping that their reservations would be addressed after the process was complete. Almost half of the Massachusetts Commonwealth convention voted against the Constitution. And in fact the leaders of the commonwealth issued a statement, base -- with reservations and concerns, and hoping that their reservations would be addressed after the process was complete.
You see that all the time, I'm sure, in the United Kingdom, at the House of Commons. You certainly see it in the United States Congress, where individuals think it's important they support the entirety of a -- they support the totality of a piece of legislation but have some concerns, and they make clear, whether it's statements on the floor of the House of Representatives or the Senate, or in committee hearings, that after the bill is complete and after it's law, they may raise some concerns or they may try to address some changes.
This is par for the course in the democratic process. We view it as a good sign. Iraq's Governing Council is behaving the way most democratic bodies behave when they're establishing something significant. And nothing, we believe, is more significant since liberation than the drafting and unanimous agreement by the Iraqi Governing Council to this interim constitution.
Q: General, I'd like to ask you a few questions on the rotation of American troops. If you could provide a general assessment, in either your personal view or the command's view, at this point, on how it's going. Can you possibly provide a percentage to how far it's been completed to this point, a timeline; and if you're holding to a timeline, as far as the rotation of troops; and when it's supposed to be completed, when the last troops are supposed to be back in the States or back in their home bases?
And finally, do you anticipate extending any more troops who have already been in Iraq for about a year, a bit longer, to cover the transition?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yup. Apparently you're related to Rajiv, and we appreciate that. No, but that's a good question.
We are at about the 50 percent point. We have six multinational divisions here inside the country. We have already rotated -- completed the rotation of three of those: MND Southeast, MND Central South and the 101st up in MND North. We still have three more to go.
As we've said before, we started this process in November. We expect it to happen -- to be completed just about May, when the last unit will do the transfer of authority and the last forces will go across the border, down to Kuwait, on their way back to the United States or whatever country they come from.
Coincidentally, we're just at about the 50 percent point in terms of the U.S. transfer of authority, the 250,000 soldiers coming and going. Today was just about the top of the peak; so the numbers will start going down from this point until we complete this rotation in May.
There are a lot of great logisticians that have been working day and night to make this happen. We have been able -- I think the real proof of how well this is going is not just the fact that we've been able to do this somewhat seamlessly, recognizing that there has been some burden on the people of Iraq as we fill up the roads, but it's not just the fact that we've been able to make this happen – people coming, people going, having a bed for everybody, getting chow for everybody, conducting the right seat/left seat -- but that we've also been able to maintain an offensive operational tempo during this time period. We have not had to stop the offensive operations to transfer the forces. Yes, there's been some times when the soldiers have had to work side by side, the outgoing and the incoming, to sort of learn the terrain, learn the people, learn the organizations that they're going to be working with. But if you take a look at the number of
operations that we have conducted on a daily basis, you look at the success that we have had over the past couple of months in continuing to reduce the number of attacks on coalition forces, to be able to not only do the largest rotation of forces in anyone's memory, and certainly in 20th century history in the United States, but still be able to conduct an operational offensive tempo -- to go out to kill and capture enemies of the Iraqi people and enemies of the coalition -- I think is a great credit not only to the logisticians that planned it, but the leaders that led it, guys like Carter Ham, guys like General Swannack, General Dempsey, General Odierno, General Bieniek down in MND south-central -- central-south, and General Stewart down in southeast.
So at this point, it's at about the 50 percent point for the American rotation; about the 60 percent point for the overall rotation. I know that General Sanchez feels this way, and I think I can speak for the command in saying we're quite pleased how the process is going.
MR. SENOR: Time for one more.
Q: I can't do any less than The Washington Post, so I'll go for two. For you, Dan: Is the decision to bring in an American Justice Department team to look at the forthcoming trial of Saddam Hussein driven in the main by Saddam Hussein's failure to cooperate in interrogation, and therefore the decision that you might as well go for trial, or by the tempo of the political process here and the desire to get on with it against the background of the developments we've been discussing on the political front?
And for the general -- I know you'll like this one – after listening to Mr. Abdul Aziz Hakim this morning saying, as it seemed to me, that he didn't bother to show up yesterday to sign because everything in that document is subject to revision and the majority will eventually decide, and the majority he seems to be talking about is an Islamist majority, as I understood it, what are people saying in the mess halls and the command centers of the United States armed forces here in Iraq about the possibility that you may have 115,000 men defending a government that doesn't look tremendously different from an Islamist government to the east?
MR. SENOR: On the first one, neither of the scenarios you described have been a factor in sending the DOJ team. The plan all along, based on our discussions with Iraqis, they've always said they were going to need some expertise from the international community, from the United States government. And the decision -- the only decision that was worked out is whether that team should come from the Department of Justice or the State Department. There was never an issue about the timing of when it would happen and what was going to drive the decision to deploy a team. Early on, when the Iraqi Special Tribunal was being created, when it was in a development phase, the Iraqis made clear to us that they would want expertise here. So the recent events have not been a factor.
Q: But is it true that he was not cooperating in interrogation?
MR. SENOR: That is true, but I am saying -- yes, he has not been cooperative at all. We have said that publicly before, but that hasn't been a factor in the deployment of the team. The decision to deploy the team was made -- deploy a team, deploy some American expertise was made prior to that realization.
GEN. KIMMITT: The question about Islam, one of the great nations -- one of the great religions in this world, is not one that sort of causes a lot of the American soldiers in their mess halls to worry too much. We have worked side by side in Turkey for many years, and whether the government was Islamist or secular hasn't really made too much of a difference in the mind of the soldiers.
Let me tell you, though, I was in a mess hall yesterday down in Kuwait, and I watched the TAL. And I watched the soldiers and I was watching the TAL signing as the soldiers were seeing something very important happen. They understood what they were doing. They understood their purpose and why they were here. And one small ceremony, it came very close to their minds why they need to be here and what the mission is all about.
And I think those soldiers that we've lost in this mission certainly were looking down yesterday from afar and were probably telling every one of those soldiers in Kuwait who are about to cross the border to come up here, this is the torch that is passed to you. This is the reason we fought and we died in the country of Iraq. It wasn't for fortune. It wasn't for empire. It was so this nation could stand around 25 representatives of the different parties, the different religions, the different ethnicities. They came together to speak about one thing, and that's one single nation, free and democratic, sovereign, where individual rights are respected, where freedom of choice is respected, where freedom of press is not only respected but encouraged.
And they understood that their responsibilities were to make sure that they continued the work that had been done by the soldiers of the 101st, who have now departed us; the Marines that are departed; the 4th ID that will be departing; and the 82nd, which will soon to be departing. They looked at that in one single ceremony, when they saw that young man from Iraq stand up and talk about what this nation can be and will be; when they saw those young ladies and men doing that small dance. And then they saw those people standing around a table, signing a declaration of independence. It somehow connected in their eyes to what their country was founded on and understood that they may not have had the opportunity to be around in 1776 to create an independent United States of America, but they're going to make a big, big difference in creating a free, democratic and sovereign Iraq.
MR. SENOR: And I would just add to that, John, while Abdul Aziz Hakim -- al-Hakim was not there yesterday, he was certain that his top deputy, Dr. Adel was there, who had played the lead role on behalf of Mr. Hakim in all the negotiations on the transitional administrative law.
That is common with some members of the Governing Council; they choose to have their top deputies handle the business of the Governing Council, and that has been Mr. Hakim's modus -- M.O. throughout not just the transitional administrative law, but other working business as well -- official Governing Council business as well. So that -- his decision not to attend yesterday was not inconsistent with the way he tends to conduct himself with the Governing Council.
He and his organization had a very significant role in the drafting of the transitional administrative law; in fact, one of the lead roles. And so I wouldn't read too much into his participation in the ceremony.
You've been waiting very patiently. We'll take the last one and then we'll --
Q: Thanks, Dan. Now, General, a very quick question. I just wondered if you had any details about the death of three Sudanese people in Fallujah yesterday.
GEN. KIMMITT: Not at all. But I'll -- we'll take that question. We've got somebody from the 82nd here and we'll check with them. We'll talk about it right after this.
MR. SENOR: Thank you.
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