MR. SENOR: Good afternoon.
I just have a few short statements to read that Ambassador Bremer issued earlier today. And then I will turn it over to General Kimmitt to brief. And then we'll be happy to take your questions.
This morning Ambassador Bremer issued the following statement on the occasion of Arba'in.
In light of the current unsettled security conditions in the south, and especially in the holy city of Najaf, we in the coalition urge all parties to exercise great vigilance and caution during the upcoming commemoration of Arba'in.
Iraqis have been relieved of a dictator who, as a matter of policy, repressed their rights to practice their faith. Now, individuals who seek to take power through mob violence and by blocking Iraq's democratic path are also making it unsafe for Iraqis to worship God.
We are fighting to restore law and order so that all Iraqis can enjoy their new freedoms. I call on all Iraqis to cooperate with the legitimate security authorities to thwart those who seek to disrupt this holy commemoration.
I know that many Iraqis and pilgrims from other countries are worried about whether they can perform their religious duty in peace and security. And some governments have urged their citizens not to go. Each individual must judge the issue for himself or herself with the counsel of their religious authorities. For our part, we and the Iraqi authorities will do all we can with limited capabilities to facilitate safety and security, but the pilgrims should make their individual judgments knowing that the dangers this year are very real.
Again, that was a statement issued by Ambassador Bremer earlier today.
Secondly, Ambassador Bremer this morning met with the Iraqi Ministerial Committee on National Security, during which they addressed a number of issues, not the least of which was the appointment of the new Iraqi Interior minister and the appointment of Iraq's national security adviser. The two individuals, following consultation with the Iraqi Governing Council, that Ambassador Bremer named were Mr. Samir Shakir (sp) Mahmoud Sumaidy, who will be the new minister of Interior, and Dr. Mowaffak al-Rubaie as the new national security adviser. Both of their bios are available at the press center for those who are interested.
In the role of national security adviser, Dr. Rubaie will be the primary adviser to the head of the Iraqi government and the Ministerial Committee for National Security on national security matters and shall manage and supervise the national security advisory staff. Dr. Rubaie is tasked with providing balanced, impartial advice to the head of government and the Ministerial Committee on National Security, along with facilitating coordination among the ministries and agencies charged with national security-related responsibilities.
As Interior minister, Mr. Sumaidy will oversee the Iraqi domestic security forces, such as the Iraqi Police Service, Department of Border Enforcement, and Facility Protection Service. Mr. Sumaidy has been involved in opposition to the former Ba'athist regime for many years. He's an international businessman, and he is very well qualified for this position.
Finally, Ambassador Bremer issued a third statement today, stating that today at 1200 coalition forces initiated a unilateral suspension of offensive operations in Fallujah in order to hold a meeting between members of the Iraqi Governing Council, Fallujah leadership, and leaders of the anti-coalition forces; to allow delivery of additional supplies provided by the Iraqi government; and to allow residents of Fallujah to tend to wounded and dead. During the suspension period, coalition forces retain the inherent right of self-defense and will remain fully prepared to resume offensive operations unless significant progress in these discussions occurs.
GEN. KIMMITT: Good evening. What I'd like to try to do is give you an orientation on the situation here in Iraq by using this map, and give you an idea, rather than go through slides one at a time, of the current operational set. I think, as everybody knows, we have six different divisional areas inside of Iraq.
In the north, the area around Mosul, the situation is quite calm right now and everything seems to be quite stable.
In the north-central area, where we have the key towns of Tikrit, Kirkuk, Baqubah, Samarra, there has been a slight up-tick in the number of attacks in that area. We believe that that is some opportunity by some former regime elements to take advantage of the current conditions in other parts of the country. But clearly, 1st Infantry Division is conducting offensive operations, and they feel that overall the risk in that area has not increased at all.
We of course have out in the west the Al Anbar province, with the key towns of Ar Ramadi and Fallujah. As you know, at 1200 today we announced a unilateral suspension of operations in Fallujah. As Mr. Senor said, the purpose of those -- that unilateral suspension of operations is to give a political track an opportunity to attempt to reduce the violence. They are conducting those discussions at this time, and we'll let them work. However, it is important to understand that the coalition remains firm that, should these discussions break down, the coalition military forces are prepared to go back on the offensive operations, and at no time during the suspension of offensive operations do soldiers forfeit the inherent right of self-defense. If fired upon, they will fire back.
In the town of Ramadi, it has been quite quiet today. In fact, last night we had one of the local sheiks come forward, gave us the name of 11 of the belligerents that had been fighting against us. We were able to capture all those belligerents. They are currently under coalition custody.
In the south-central region, between Baghdad and south, is where the predominant of the Shi'a population live, and that has been where Sadr has been operating.
Baghdad has been quite quiet in the last couple of days, with minor disturbances. We have, unfortunately, have had some casualties, but in the key sectors, such as Sadr City inside Baghdad, the coalition is in firm control and there's no challenge from Sadr and his people. That is beyond the capability of the Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces to handle.
There have been a number of incidents today, but again, none that would affect the overall security of the town of Baghdad, the city of Baghdad. All government buildings, all schools, all Iraqi police stations are in Iraqi hands and not being threatened by any of the Sadr militia.
In the south-central region that is under the direction of General Bieniek in Multinational Division Central South, in the key towns of Karbala, Najaf, Diwaniyah, al Kut -- I'll talk about each of those separately.
Ad Diwaniyah is quite quiet at this time and stable.
Karbala, we continue to have coalition presence and Iraqi security presence inside the city. There are some portions of the city where Sadr militia have been observed. But in the intent of allowing the observance of Arba'in to continue, we are taking a very passive role. That was always part of the plan for Arba'in. The coalition forces would take a[n] outside approach toward the situation so that the vast number of pilgrims, estimated to be approximately 1.2 million at this time, so they could conduct their observances with Iraqi security forces and local authorities taking the lead.
The town of An Najaf, I think we all understand that the Sadr militia currently are the predominant force inside the city, but the coalition bases outside and ringing the city and on the edges of the city are still remaining vigilant, maintaining force protection status, carefully watching the Arba'in festivities. And to the extent possible, maintaining security in their area.
We'll talk about -- let's talk about al Kut for a moment. Let's go ahead and bring up the second slide.
Next slide, please.
Based on the attempt by the Sadr militia to take over elements and different organizations and key facilities inside the town of al Kut, we directed additional forces to be moved from the Baghdad region very quickly down, first of all, to the town of An Najaf, which is where we thought we were going to need them at first, and then redirected them over towards the town of al Kut.
As you can see from the timeline, a very agile force, focused around 2/6th Infantry, roughly a battalion-sized, approximately 1,000 personnel, armored personnel carriers, tanks, mechanized infantry vehicles and infantrymen moved from the town of -- from the city of Baghdad. They were alerted on the 4th. The main body was moving that night. They arrived at An Najaf the next morning. They departed Baghdad that night, arrived at An Najaf the next day at 5:00 -- correction, 3:00. Two days later, on the 7th, they were alerted for movement from An Najaf. At night, they moved from An Najaf and arrived at al Kut at the 8th at 0900, and within 12 hours conducted a -- within 18 hours initiated an attack into al Kut.
Next slide, please.
This is the town of al Kut and this is the task force strike or assault on al Kut. As you can see from here, the CPA compound was the initial objective. That objective was taken quite quickly by the force. The three bridges over the town -- into the town were taken quickly. We've moved our elements into the town of al Kut. We destroyed the Sadr bureau through Air Force air. At this time, both 2/6th Infantry and elements of the light cavalry regiment -- the 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment are operating inside al Kut. They will continue operations tonight. We would expect by this time tomorrow morning that we should have firm coalition control of all facilities, government facilities, Iraqi police stations inside al Kut.
The characterization of the firing -- the characterization of the combat is such that, by and large, when coalition forces come in and attack the Sadr forces shoot and scoot. We've seen numerous instances of the people of al Kut, once they realize that the Sadr militia is no longer in control, they're coming outside of their houses, waving to the coalition forces. And we expect that the al Kut operation should be done quite soon; probably by tomorrow morning before we are able to make certain that all coalition facilities and all Iraqi government facilities are occupied, in this case, by coalition forces.
So we are fairly comfortable that the town of al Kut is well on its way to coming back under coalition control. There have been very minor casualties on the part of the coalition, a couple of wounded personnel. And the mission continues.
Now in the south, multinational division southeast, commanded by the British, reports that the entire area is quite quiet. In the key towns of al-Basra, al-Amarah, As Samawa there has not been a lot of enemy activity throughout the day. There was (sic) some contentious issues over the past couple of days in the town of An Nasiriyah.
There was a[n] ongoing operation between the Italian forces on the south side of the city and Sadr forces on the north side of the city. The Italian brigade, reinforced by their own elements, conducted operations this morning at 0001 [just after midnight], moved across the bridges over the Euphrates. And currently their locations -- we have an Italian brigade armored squadron, an infantry company here, and we also have the CPA building here which is currently under coalition control.
There still is some measure of Sadr militia resistance inside Nasiriyah, but the latest reports from the Italian brigade is that that resistance is minor and manageable.
Slides off, please.
So overall, the key hot spots inside of the country -- Fallujah, as you know, continues to be under a suspension of offensive operations. The only other cities that have any measure of Sadr control remain An Najaf, partially Karbala, and we would expect that those special cities that are currently observing the Arba'in festivities will continue to have some measure of Sadr control inside of them, although I would note that we are getting reports that there are some ongoing engagements between Sadr corps -- Sadr militia elements as well as some of the Badr Corps elements down there.
So at this point our assessment is that the offensive operations are going well. We expect that we should be able to regain control over any government Iraqi facilities that have been occupied in the last couple of days by Sadr militia.
MR. SENOR: And with that, we'll be happy to take your questions. Sewell?
Q I have two questions, one for each of you, if you don't mind. They're unrelated.
For Dan. I wanted to ask whether the appointments of Misters Sumaidy and Rubaie will require their resignation from the Governing Council before June 30th, and whether there is any conflict of interest or other issues posed by their serving simultaneously in both roles. Do you want to answer that first, and then --
MR. SENOR: Sure. No Iraqi Governing Council member can serve as a cabinet minister, so they will have to give up their seats on the Governing Council in order to assume the position of minister, in the case of Mr. Sumaidy, and national security adviser in the case of Dr. Rubaie.
Q Has that already taken effect?
MR. SENOR: It's a technical point. I don't know if there has been a formal resignation. But it will be in the next, you know, few days. They've got to work out the issues.
Q General Kimmitt, for you. Toward the end of your presentation -- and thank you for the map explanation -- you discussed ongoing operations involving both the Sadr militia and also the Badr organization. Could you tell us a little bit more specifically about that, and whether other Shi'ite militias or other independent militias have had any activity against the coalition?
GEN. KIMMITT: Those are the only engagements that we are aware of. The Badr Corps is another one of the militias that's currently outlawed. But the Badr Corps, up to this point, has not taken to violence, has not grabbed the weapons. But we are getting preliminary reports at this time that there may be some engagements between those two organizations.
GEN. KIMMITT: In Karbala. Excuse me -- in An Najaf.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Nick Ricardi (sp), L.A. Times. And I like this two unrelated question thing, so I'm going to try it out myself. First, for General Kimmitt, there were reports that Sadr's convoy was cut off and he was prevented from returning to the Kufa mosque today. Is there any accuracy to those reports?
GEN. KIMMITT: I have seen those same news reports as you have. I can't confirm them.
Q And for Mr. Senor, two Governing Council members, Dr. Pachachi, and another individual who my Western tongue cannot get around quite yet, were both on television criticizing the Fallujah offensive and saying that it was illegal and amounted to collective punishment. I'm curious if you could respond to that.
MR. SENOR: I think everyone understands that we have a responsibility to address a situation that is hostile, and address a situation in which four American contractors, four American civilian contractors were not only killed but were mutilated and dragged through the streets; a situation in which five soldiers were recently killed there. This is not something that we can just turn our heads and look the other way. This is a situation we have to address head on. And General Kimmitt has spoken to -- over the past few days has spoken to the things -- the steps the coalition military has taken in order to address the situation.
However, Dr. Pachachi and other members of the Governing Council are aware of the steps we are taking right now with regard to suspending operations for an interim period of time here to allow the distribution of supplies into the area from the Iraqi government and, of course, to allow Iraqi political leaders to engage with Fallujah leaders here in the next little while.
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, I want to correct what I said. It was not in Najaf; in fact it was in Karbala. And I may have mischaracterized these being Badr Corps that were defending the mosque. But let me give you the report that we've been given.
We had a report earlier that Sadr's men are firing on a mosque, the Ali al-Massouwi (ph) mosque in Karbala. The Imam is very concerned since he is expecting 6,000 to 8,000 pilgrims there in the next two days. And in his words, "Sadr's actions are undermining the extensive security arrangements made inside that city for Arba'in."
MR. SENOR: Rachel, go ahead.
Q Thank you. Both questions are for General Kimmitt. Today we saw images of coalition troops, if you will, trying to take down pictures of al-Sadr in the very same square that a year ago today the statue of Saddam was pulled down. Are you in effect facing a new war? And if not, how would you describe what's happening right now?
And I'll have a second question after that.
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, first of all, we're not facing a new war. This is a war that we're conducting. We are conducting offensive operations against the Sadr militia. And we are -- we have said from this podium numerous times that we intend to destroy the Sadr militia and all of its elements within.
This is combat operations. I think if you take a look at what we were able to do over the past couple of days -- just the very fact that we were able to take a very lethal organization, such as Task Force 2/6th Infantry, give them a very quick mission order, send them down about 160 kilometers down to An Najaf, turn on a dime, get over to al Kut and go directly into combat operations to kill or capture the members of the Sadr militia, it, number one, demonstrates the flexibility of those military forces and, two, it also demonstrates the fact that this is more than just stability operations.
Q The second question is al-Sadr was a marginal figure up until the last few weeks. Even other clerics really didn't pay much attention to him. So how is it that this type of person can have incited so much violence over the past week? And is it not that he's tapping into perhaps other frustrations that Iraqis may be feeling? Not necessarily pro-Sadr people, but he -- is it that he's tapping into other feelings that are causing them to rise up?
GEN. KIMMITT: No, I think that's a mischaracterization. Sadr has for many, many months espoused very radical extremist views. We have been concerned about Muqtada al-Sadr since last summer. It is clear that he has always had an agenda that leans to extremism.
And I think the events of the last week, where the closing of his newspaper because it was inciting violence against coalition soldiers, and the fact that one of his lieutenants who was arrested by the Iraqi officials for murder -- those two events, which in any decent society should be excepted by people, in fact cause him to rally his organization to violence and he started calling himself the striking arm of Hamas and Hezbollah and he has told his militia to go out and kill Iraqis and kill coalition forces.
I think that, in fact, is the root of what the problem, is that we have one cleric, to use that term loosely, who is inciting violence. And that works against what this country stands for. And to suggest that 10,000 of his followers carrying guns is somehow representative of the 15 million fellow Shi'as in this country I think is a misrepresentation. The vast majority of moderate Shi'a are denouncing his activities. The vast majority of Iraqis are denouncing his activities, and they are clear in their conviction that they don't want 10,000 militia calling the shots for a country of 27 million and preventing them from moving on to sovereignty and democracy.
MR. SENOR: Rachel, let me just follow up on your first question and add to what General Kimmitt said. I think one way to think about it is a year ago we liberated this country from a totalitarian regime, and we are working now on replacing that regime with a sovereign, democratic government. And we are making tremendous progress on that path as we move closer and closer to June 30th, but along that path there are going to be small pockets in this country and small extremist organizations that are going to try to throw us off that path. When I say "us," I say that collectively: the coalition and the Iraqi people. And whether they are a handful of thugs in Fallujah who mutilate Americans and then celebrate or they are another group of thugs in the southern part of the country that are trying to use mob violence to determine who will rule this country because they don't want to rely on elections, which is the real path this country is heading on -- they're trying to accomplish with the barrel of a gun what they know they could never accomplish at a ballot box -- we have a responsibility to address those problems head on, and that's what we're doing.
Secondly, with regard to how representative Sadr and his militia are of the broader population, I point you to a statement made yesterday by the president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Mr. Barzani. And I quote, he says the Iraqi Governing Council "respects the memory of the two al Sadrs. May God have mercy on their souls." However, it refuses to see the name of the noble al Sadr family abused by any party, regardless of the claims it may advance regarding its closeness to the family, to tamper with law in order and act against the citizens' interest by spreading anarchy and preventing citizens from carrying out their normal activities.
Yes, go ahead.
Q (Through interpreter.) Sadeq Mahim (ph) from Al Zaman newspaper. General Kimmitt, since you have suspended activities -- offensive activities in Fallujah, we heard that after an hour and a half there was a violation of this. We would like some details as to why does this violation it happened and where did it happen from. Is it from the coalition, or what?
My second question: In Fallujah there was a crime that was condemned by the people of Iraq, but is it possible to treat an error by another error? Yes, we know that there was a crime that was committed by some people. If in the United States somebody committed a crime, is it fair to punish a whole city for that? Thank you.
GEN. KIMMITT: That's a very good question because I think that may be some of the blather that we're seeing over some of the other media. There's trying to be painted a picture that somehow the combat operations running in Fallujah are collective punishment to the city of Fallujah because of the crimes of one or two people or a larger crowd. Nothing could be further from the truth. We run extraordinarily precise operations focused exclusively on people that we suspect of, and have intelligence on, being perpetrators of crime, of violence against the coalition, of violence against the Iraqi people.
Those citizens in Fallujah who are just trying to live their life until the day Iraq turns into a functioning democracy have absolutely nothing to fear from the coalition. The operations are not punitive. The operations are extremely precise. And we go out of our way to use every method, every technique, every tactic we know to make sure that the focus of our combat operations is against people that would do violence to the people of Iraq and people who would do violence to the coalition, and try to keep the non-combatants as safe as possible.
This comment you made about a potential violation in the suspension this afternoon: again, at 1200 hours today, the coalition unilaterally suspended offensive operations. If there was a violation, it could well be that some of the enemy that were fighting in Fallujah, for some reason, whatever reason, didn't agree with that suspension. They were not ready to put down their weapons. They were not ready to stop killing civilians and stop killing soldiers and stop killing Marines, so they probably continued to fire. And with the inherent right of self-defense that every one of our soldiers and Marines possesses, they returned (aimed ?) shots. And my estimation is that they were probably quite effective in that process.
MR. SENOR: Carol?
Q I have one for a colleague who's locked down at the Palestine because of the extraordinary security in the square that's been set up. And that question is, why aren't we seeing the ICDC?
And then I had a couple of questions of my own.
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, well, in fact, in Fallujah, almost 25 to 30 percent of the operation conducted inside Fallujah is being conducted by an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps unit. General Conway and the members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force have been quite laudatory in their comments as to their performance, their dedication, their patriotism. So my suspicion is that those cameras that we have in Fallujah now would be -- are probably finding more news elsewhere than seeing brave Iraqis fighting for their country, dying for their country, and trying to regain Fallujah for the people of Iraq.
Q And then my questions were, can you tell us about a convoy ambush in Abu Gharib, about self-defense airstrikes on Fallujah after the noon suspension of offensive operations? And if you have any estimates on how many people you had to kill to take Kut.
GEN. KIMMITT: There was -- a coalition military convoy was attacked with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades at about 12:25 today west of Baghdad. One U.S. soldier and one Iraqi civilian were killed and 12 others were wounded in the attack. We don't know whether the wounded were military, civilians, and we can't -- we can get you that information a little bit later.
Q Was that an Iraqi civilian killed?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yes. It's my understanding that an Iraqi civilian was killed as part of that attack. These were fuel trucks. When they were attacked by the enemy, they probably had a collateral effect on other vehicles on the road.
Q There were two left over. Self-defense airstrikes called in after the suspension, and how many you had to kill to take al Kut.
GEN. KIMMITT: On the first question is -- on the first issue, the Marines operate as a Marine Air/Ground Task Force. They use the combined effects of direct-fire weapon systems, indirect weapon fire systems, and their own organic airstrikes to fight their operations. Those Marines are out there defending their own; they're going to use the appropriate level of force necessary to -- and proportional use of force necessary to keep their Marines alive.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Gregor Mayer from the German Press Agency, DPA. There were initial reports just before this press conference started about the kidnapping of further foreigners in the Abu Gharib region -- four Italians and some other foreigners. Do you know anything about that?
MR. SENOR: We are aware of initial reports and we are seeking to confirm those reports. But regardless of whether or not those reports are accurate, our message to anybody who would take hostage of any foreigner -- foreign citizen, foreign national or Iraqi is the same. It obviously will not be tolerated. We will not negotiate with any terrorist that takes hostage of any individual, and we will seek to capture or kill them.
GEN. KIMMITT: Just a moment, please. Is there a question from the Pentagon?
MR. SENOR: Oh, okay. (Pauses.)
Why don't we take the question while we're seeing if we can get this system working. Go ahead.
Q Yeah. (Name inaudible) -- from Kyoto News. Dan, I have a question for you and for General Kimmitt also. Dan, concerning with the kidnapping of the three Japanese citizens, do you have any information when and where they were kidnapped? And is there any coordination with the Japanese government?
MR. SENOR: On the hostage-takings in general, my earlier comment stands. We are not going to negotiate with any individuals or terrorist groups that have taken anybody hostage. We are confirming reports, we are in discussions with coalition members, and we will seek to capture or kill anybody who has gone down this path.
Q Yeah, Daniel Cooney from Associated Press. Can you give us some details about the negotiations that are taking place in Fallujah, what their purpose is, who are they with?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, first of all, it would be a mischaracterization to call them negotiations.
MR. SENOR: Yeah, I agree with that. There are no negotiations. We have been asked by members of the Iraqi Governing Council to have the opportunity to enter into Fallujah to speak with leaders in Fallujah to address ways in which bloodshed could be minimized. And we have agreed to that request, and a delegation departed for Fallujah earlier today.
Q Can I have one follow-up? What's the purpose? What will U.S. forces -- what will the U.S. Marines do if -- I mean, is there a possibility for an agreement between the insurgents and U.S. forces?
MR. SENOR: As I said, we have been asked by members of the Governing Council to have the opportunity to put this delegation together to head to Fallujah. They've also asked for us to allow the passage of supplies from the Iraqi government. They've asked for suspension of operations so Iraqis could tend to their wounded and dead inside of Fallujah. And so we have agreed to allow this to move forward.
Yes, ma'am. Go ahead. Yeah.
Q General, when you say leaders, or Dan, when you say leaders in Fallujah, who do you exactly mean? Tribal sheiks? Religious leaders? Or government officials? And also, do you think they really have any meaningful control over the mobs?
MR. SENOR: I would refer that question to the members of the delegation that are heading to Fallujah. As I said, we were asked by these individuals to have this opportunity and we agreed to do it.
In terms of who they're actually going to meet with and what they hope to accomplish is something that I wouldn't want to speak on their behalf for.
Q There are no Americans in this delegation?
MR. SENOR: No, there are not.
(To staff.) Ready. Are you ready for them?
Q (Via telephone.) This is Lisa Burgess with Stars and Stripes from the Pentagon. Can you hear me?
MR. SENOR: (To staff.) Oh, you had it.
Q This is Lisa Burgess with Stars and Stripes from the Pentagon. Can you hear me?
Are we okay?
MR. SENOR: Hello, how are you?
Q This is Lisa Burgess with Stars and Stripes from the Pentagon.
MR. SENOR: (To staff.) Okay.
STAFF: Try it again.
Q -- from the Pentagon.
(Due to technical difficulties, audio link from the Pentagon is disrupted. Q&A resumes in Baghdad.)
Q Yes, gentlemen, could you discuss the situation in Sadr City and then we have reports that U.S. troops are withdrawing today and what's behind this decision?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, I don't know specifically what units came into Sadr City, what units came out of Sadr City. The commander on the ground is the one who is going to make the estimate whether the level of force protection, whether the level of security requires his troops. I think it would be quite optimistic if the commander on the ground felt that the conditions in Sadr City were such that he could actually start withdrawing troops from Sadr City. That would indicate to us that the level of security is increasing, possibly passing over to Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, possibly passing over to Iraqi police service.
Q Would you say you are in control of Sadr City or the militias are?
GEN. KIMMITT: We feel quite comfortable that the city of Baghdad is under coalition control and Iraqi governmental control.
MR. SENOR: Yeah?
Q General, I believe you mentioned earlier the use of Air Force assets to take out a Sadr position in Kut. Could you elaborate on that? And is that the first time the Air Force has been called in in some time, I believe, to actually take some -- to fire on a position or something?
GEN. KIMMITT: No, we've used -- we use Air Force and fixed-wing and rotary-wing assets as a[n] ongoing element of all of our combat power. In the case of the CPA compound, we used attack helicopters. An AC- 130 provided fire to support the troops in contact. I also understand that in the Sadr bureau here in Baghdad, we used Air Force assets to help destroy that bureau. So we routinely and regularly use joint assets throughout the entire battle space.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q (Through interpreter.) General Kimmitt, you have explained to us the operations in Iraq and what you have achieved. As a general and as an expert in military operations, what is your assessment of the situation? The situation in Iraq is a war, it's not an offensive. There's a war, a widespread war in governates, except for Kurdistan. As a military expert, how do you assess the situation? Is there going to be an extension of the area of war or are things going to settle, especially in Fallujah?
For Dan Senor: In Fallujah, as you said, they were not part or targeted through these operations, but they happened to be there. We have children and women. How can you bring supplies, humanitarian supplies and care for the wounded over there in Fallujah?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, answering your first question, I would say it's a gross mischaracterization to suggest that the entire country is at war, that the entire country is now under the grips of combat. I think we can take a look at the map and see that currently there are some small, localized contact, such as here in al Kut, down here in An Nasiriyah, a little bit in Baghdad. But to suggest that somehow, that the 27 million people of the country of Iraq are currently in the midst of a war, that just isn't the case.
Is it spreading? I would ask those who want to attack the coalition or attack Iraqi government facilities or attack Iraqi police stations in any number to take a very close look at how quickly we were able to reposition a coalition force of over 1,000 soldiers, approximately two to three dozen combat vehicles and extensive air power in a very, very short period of time. That ought to be a very clear lesson that if, in fact, somebody has the idea -- perhaps in Arupa (ph) or over here at Samawa or up here at Tikrit -- that they want to start another set of violence, another set of engagements, that the coalition, with its 130,000-plus members, and the Iraqi security forces, with their 200,000-plus police, ICDC and Iraqi armed forces, has the flexibility, the capability to move anywhere in this country and put down that violence. So watch very carefully.
MR. SENOR: To your second question, I think it's obvious to most Iraqis that we go to extraordinary lengths to minimize civilian casualties, to minimize collateral structural damage to the country. Our record speaks for itself during the major combat operations of Operation Iraqi Freedom. There's virtually no structural collateral damage because of the great lengths we went to and the resources we invested in to ensure the minimizing of damage here.
Unfortunately, during wars, combat operations like the ones General Kimmitt has spoken to, there will be casualties, there will be civilian casualties. But the question should be directed to those who have provoked the violence, who have incited the violence and have provoked the necessary response, as to whether or not they have put their own fellow citizens in harm's way. And as I said, despite that, despite their putting their own fellow citizens in harm's way, we go to tremendous lengths to minimize the pain and suffering imposed on them. And it's one of the things we hope to address over this period here, this suspension period.
Q (Name and affiliation off mike.) (Through interpreter.) Military analysts and politicians are putting the blame on what's happening in Iraq because the coalition or the decision-makers in the CPA, the IGC, did not take the appropriate or preventive measures to deal with the events, the daily events since the fall of the regime last year, to treat the events as quickly as -- or with the appropriate -- and there is now a limited support of the coalition, although there is a great effort militarily and in the media. What is your comment on that?
MR. SENOR: I think if you asked a majority of Iraqis whether or not they want us to address the security situation, they would say yes. If you asked the majority of Iraqis if they want us to confront a two-bit thug who was trying to use mob violence and intimidation to throw the path of democracy off track here and use a real minority of Iraqis in order to terrorize the majority, most Iraqis would say yes, confront this individual and confront his militia head on.
The fact is is Muqtada al-Sadr is connected, we believe, based on the arrest warrant of an Iraqi judge, an Iraqi investigative judge, Muqtada al-Sadr is connected to a brutal murder of a fellow cleric who was doing nothing here but trying to promote human rights and lay the path for the liberation of Iraq. It was a brutal murder that involved repeated stabbings, a murder -- gunshot wounds, ultimately resulted in a fatality. It's not the only time this investigative judge believes that Muqtada al-Sadr was connected to brutal murder. There are other cases, other heinous crimes to which he is connected. He has set up extrajudicial courts and prisons and torture chambers. I mean, this is not an individual that the majority of Iraqis want ruling the new Iraq, and he is trying to determine who will rule the new Iraq through his mob violence and through his intimidation rather than elections. And so I think that most Iraqis would want us to confront this situation head on and we are doing it, and I will add that we are doing it in part at the behest of Iraqi officials.
Q Can you tell us where the Japanese were kidnapped? And do you have any idea who these people are? Are they, you know, Sunni, some sort of Sunni group? Are they al-Mahdi? Are they -- and then I had a second question as well.
MR. SENOR: We aren't going to comment really on the operational details related to that incident in any way. As I've said, we are looking into it and don't want to compromise the situation at this point.
Yes. I'm sorry; go ahead.
Q It's one year after the fall of Baghdad, and people are still broadcasting very violent pictures coming out of here. Is this what you expected to see?
MR. SENOR: In terms of a year ago was this what we expected to see? I think it's safe to assume that we are pleasantly surprised with the tremendous progress on the political track. The fact is is -- I remember when the November 15th agreement was signed. Most individuals involved, most spectators and most commentators believed that it would have been virtually impossible to get an interim constitution that enshrined the principles that is enshrined in that document, and yet Iraqis from across the country from various ethnic backgrounds, from various regions came together and produced a document that is unprecedented for this part of the world. They produced a bill of rights, which is unprecedented in the history of this country.
I can point to multiple examples: city councils and town councils across the country, a path to sovereignty for June 30th, restoration of essential services that in almost every metric and every category now has moved beyond prewar levels, an unemployment rate that is probably about a third of what it was when we arrived, several hundred -- 200,000 Iraqis serving in security positions. We are beginning now the deployment of almost $20 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds to further stimulate this economy, which we think will continue to improve the situation.
Lots of progress, but lots of work to be done. There is no doubt that the security situation continues to be a problem. And that is why we are taking the steps now that General Kimmitt has spoken to. We have a responsibility to preserve a safe and secure environment here, and that is why we are taking these decisive steps.
It's also why after June 30th, while we will hand sovereignty over to the Iraqi people and they will be in control of their political destiny, American armed forces will still have a substantial presence in this country to ensure that it continues to be addressed and the security situation continues to be advanced. So nobody has to be concerned, no Iraqis, many of whom we've heard from have been concerned about us just pulling out en masse on June 30th. Ambassador Bremer will get on a plane and go home. But General Kimmitt and his colleagues will still be here after June 30th to ensure that the security situation continues to be addressed.
Someone who hasn't asked a question.
Q Mr. Dan -- (through interpreter) -- we heard that there are negotiations between you and Muqtada al-Sadr and there are elements from the Governing Council and others. Where did this arrive?
As to the crime of murder of Abdul Majid al-Khoei, we understood that the family of Abdul Majid al-Khoei dismissed this case and withdrew it. Where did this situation arise too?
MR. SENOR: We have not been involved in any discussions.
What was your second question?
Q (Through interpreter.) That the murdered person, al-Khoei, who he's accused of that, there was an agreement between the family of the murdered person and those people. Where did this lead to?
MR. SENOR: I don't know. This is the first I'm hearing of that. I have no comment on that.
Next question. Yes?
Q (Through interpreter.) This is to General Kimmitt. You spoke about the 120,000 American or coalition forces here. Can you tell us exactly how many of the coalition forces are engaged in the areas of Fallujah and al-Mahdi militias? And there are reports, journalistic reports they say about the destruction of convoys and movements. You have not told us about the losses on the coalition side.
GEN. KIMMITT: With regards to how many of our forces are involved in Fallujah and some of these other operations, a very, very small percentage; probably -- oh, I'd estimate somewhere on the order of a brigade-and-a-half worth of forces are directly involved in combat operations at this time in terms of ground maneuver forces. And that's a very small percentage of what's available to be drawn upon here in Iraq should we need to move forces from one sector to another. Now I may be a little bit off on that estimation. It may be a little more, perhaps two-and-a-half brigades, but nonetheless whether it's one and a half or two and a half, that is a very, very small percentage of the available combat force here in the country.
Your second question, about convoys, I don't think I understood it. Could you repeat your second question, please?
INTERPRETER: (In Arabic.)
Q (Through interpreter.) It is relating to there were losses on the coalition forces side. We heard that there were equipment have been destroyed by the American forces. You have not provided an account of how much losses have occurred in this particular conflict.
GEN. KIMMITT: I don't think I really understand your question, except I -- unless you were trying to find out from me how many coalition forces have been killed in this operation up to date. Is that correct?
INTERPRETER: Sir, he means equipment, how much losses?
Q And how many people killed? I don't know what -- how many tanks, how many Humvees? You don't give us the total numbers of --
GEN. KIMMITT: You're right, but the numbers are very, very small. We continue to lose small numbers of Humvees on a daily basis, partially damaged by IEDs and such, and I think we had today some fuel trailers that were blown up. But as a percentage of the total force -- I'm not certain that we have lost any tanks. I'm not certain that we have lost any Bradley Fighting Vehicles. I have no report that we've lost any light armored reconnaissance vehicles as part of any of these operations. I suspect that you may have been reading accounts from some of the more extremist websites, more extremist publications that would suggest somehow that there have been large losses, but those just don't square with the facts. I'll see what I can find out in terms of the actual numbers and get them to you tomorrow.
MR. SENOR: Sewell, last question.
Q Thank you, Dan. Sewell Chan with The Washington Post. Just a question for you, Dan. What is Ambassador Bremer's response or reaction to the resignation of Abdul Karim Mahoud Muhammadawi from the Governing Council today, the resignation of Abdul-Basit Turki from the position of Human Rights minister, and also former Interior minister Nori Badran's allegation that he was asked to leave by Ambassador Bremer because he is a Shi'ite and two Shi'ites could not occupy both the Interior and Defense Ministry positions?
MR. SENOR: The only resignation that I'm aware of that's final and has been formally announced is that of Nori Badran. And Ambassador Bremer issued a statement saying he was grateful for Mr. Badran's service to the country, he served at a very difficult time in a very challenging environment, and was unaware that he was going to resign, but respected the decision. And he has since moved quickly to replace him.
It's a free country -- what a difference a year makes. And while we welcome his service, we understand if he wants to step down; it's his prerogative. And as I said, we're fast at work on addressing the security situation, and Ambassador Bremer moved quickly to replace Mr. Badran.
The basis for what candidates are selected or nominated for various ministries is based purely on who we believe is the most qualified candidate available for the job.
Thank you, everybody.
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