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Operation Iraqi Freedom Briefing with Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan

Presenter: Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan
April 23, 2003 9:00 AM EDT

(Live Briefing from Baghdad, Iraq, with Gen. McKiernan, commander, Third U.S. Army and U.S. Army Forces Central Command and the Coalition Forces Land Component Command. Also participating was Bryan Whitman, deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs))

Whitman: All right, let's go ahead and get started; 9:00 in the morning and we have all of you here. It's good to see you.

This is the third in our series of briefings by the coalition component commanders of Operation Iraqi Freedom. And this is our first one from Baghdad, live from Baghdad. And today I'd like to introduce you to Lieutenant General David McKiernan. General McKiernan, as you know, is the commander of all land forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He's going to talk to you specifically today about the Army and Marine Corps participation in this conflict, and in the postwar stabilization process and what they're going to be doing.

We'd also like to welcome the Media Center in Kuwait, who is joining us by telephone. And so when we get to questions, we'll be trying to get some questions from them also.

With that, General.

(NOTE: There is a pause, but no audio from Baghdad.)

Whitman: General, if you can hear me, we're working on sound here right now. We're not hearing you.

McKiernan: How about now? Can you hear me now?

Whitman: Yes, sir, we can hear you now, if you would like to please start where you were beginning at.

McKiernan: Okay. I've got to admit that this is probably harder than conducting military operations. I had to go from "mute" to "on," but I think I've got it now.

Again, I am the commander of CFLCC; CFLCC standing for Coalition Forces Land Component Command. It's D-plus 35 in this campaign, a campaign that continues with combat operations as we speak. It is a joint and a coalition team. I have under my command predominantly Army and Marines, but I also have airmen and sailors that work at CFLCC. And as all of you know, it is a coalition effort; there are some 11 nations that are contributing today in Iraq. And we started this fight with significant contributions, as you know, from the United Kingdom and Australia.

We're nearing the completion of combat operations, that part of the phase of this campaign, but the campaign will continue. I would term the execution of the ground campaign to date as characterized by speed of operations, lethality, flexibility, and precision, as well as having the technology and the leadership in our formations to have decision and, most importantly, execution superiority over the enemy.

This has been a joint campaign. We have applied on a continuous basis the power of the air component, of the land component, of the maritime component, of special operating forces and information operations.

My intent for this ground portion of the campaign was basically to put continuous pressure on the regime of Saddam Hussein, and my mission was to remove that regime and search for, and find, and be part of the process of disarming weapons of mass destruction.

This ground campaign to date has reflected itself in high-tempo continuous operations, decisive maneuver, extended logistical support, where I accepted some risk in the length of our lines of communication and our logistical reach, which -- we have overcome that risk, and a execution of a plan that had several options in it but always remained focused on the enemy.

Most of our combat vehicles have driven in excess of a thousand miles to date. They have not run out of fuel. Our maintenance status is in good shape. Our logistics has been sustained and will continue to be sustained.

And I would refute any notion that there was any kind of operational pause in this campaign. There was never a day, there was never a moment where there was not continuous pressure put on the regime of Saddam by one of those components -- air, ground, maritime, Special Forces and so on.

But most importantly, the battles that have been won by the ground component have been won by individual soldiers and Marines and small-unit tactical skill.

It has not come without price. It has been a tough fight. And to date, we have suffered over 600 casualties in this fight. We have not suffered the last casualty.

And today, D plus 35, where we sit is in a blurred transition between combat operations and post-hostilities operations. We're still fighting pockets of resistance throughout Iraq, and we're still dealing with paramilitary forces.

And we're still expanding the ground component battle space. Today we have elements of the 101st Air Assault in Mosul. We have elements of the United States 5th Corps extending out into the western part of Iraq. We're securing -- continuing to secure Baghdad, Tikrit, other urban areas. But rapidly we are transitioning to a focus on civil military operations and an effort to restore basic services to the Iraqi people that are either at or better than their prewar standards.

My commanders have the authority across Iraq to work with local Iraqi workers, clerics, political figures, bureaucrats, to get Iraqis back into the workplace and back in control of their destiny. And at my level, I am teaming very hard with Jay Garner and ORHA, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, as we together try to bring civil administration back on line here in Iraq and get the basic services and businesses and economy back on line.

I would tell you that all of us can be very proud of our service members -- all services. They have all participated and all been vital to the success of this campaign to date. You can be proud of our military capability and that of our coalition partners.

We do have much hard work ahead of us. Right now, our focus remains on military operations, but as I said, at some point, we will transition to really the focus being on civil military operations.

Many of you are going to want to ask me when are we going to leave; when do formations return out of Iraq? And the answer -- I'll give it now -- will be when the mission is complete. I won't decide when the mission's complete. But when the mission is complete, given what the president decides, the secretary of Defense decides and what my boss decides, then we will remove forces.

And finally, I would just like to publicly express my appreciation for the national support that's been behind the military in the conduct of this operations (sic), and in particular, if there are any families, and I'm sure there will be some -- many that might watch this, a great source of the strength of the ground component has been the support that we receive from our heroes, our families, back in the United States and anywhere else they live.

And with that, I'd be happy to take a few questions.

Whitman: Start right here with (John ?).

Q: I'm told that you have -- you now have about 132,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and about 20 (thousand) to 22,000 Brit and other troops. Do you have any idea -- and you all are continuing to flow troops in -- do you have any idea in the weeks ahead what the U.S. force will peak at, what you'll need for the stabilization effort?

McKiernan: I do not have that exact number, but I will tell you that the planned forces that are deploying to Iraq continue to deploy. No more forces, to my knowledge, are being asked for. And so, we're executing the planned flow of forces.

And as you know, at least one major combat unit, the 1st Cavalry Division, has been deleted from that force flow.

Q: But you're still bringing in about -- as I understand -- about 700 military police that were in that package. What are you -- do you have any idea what it will peak at? Will it be near 200,000 -- (off mike)?

McKiernan: I didn't hear all your question there, but yes, we are bringing in additional military police. And of course, as we transition to this post-hostilities period and we have many, many tasks in urban areas, our military police capabilities give us great options to perform those tasks.

Q: Could your force peak as high as 200,000 in the weeks ahead?

McKiernan: Again, I do not have the exact number with me. I'm not sure it gets to 200,000.

Whitman: Let's go to Carl and then back to Pam.

Q: General, good morning. It's Carl Rochelle with NBC News. You talked about some combat operations still going on. Could you describe where, how much, what level of actual fighting there is going on, whether it's skirmishes, whether it's major operations, and how much there's left to do?

McKiernan: Really, I would put it in three categories. There are some places where we continue to find pockets of regime resistance. We had some fighting last night in the Tikrit area. We'll have some fighting in other places as we continue to expand our control of the battle space. There's a second category of paramilitaries -- some of those, many of those are not Iraqi, they've come in from other countries -- they will continue to have to clear and deal with. And then there is a continued threat of protecting the force from suicide bombers or any other lethal threats that our forces might face. So I would say that the large combat decisive operations are probably coming to a close, but there are still pockets of resistance that we're having to deal with.

Q: General, do you find any armor still out there anywhere, tanks or armored personnel carriers?

McKiernan: We have found probably very small numbers of mechanized or wheeled Iraqi vehicles that are being used, and we also continue to find some that have been abandoned and many that have been destroyed.

Q: General, this is Pam Hess with United Press International. Thank you so much for being with us today. I have two questions for you.

One of the things that the U.S. or the coalition is getting criticized for is because it didn't protect some key places in Baghdad, like the central bank or the national museum, but the oil ministry was protected. Could you explain if there was a tactical reason for that? Did that have something to do with the way your forces were arrayed as they came into Baghdad, or another reason?

And the second question I have is with regard to your experience of friendly fire, if you can give us a sense of how many casualties was the result of friendly fire. And particularly with regard to the three Patriot incidents, did you direct any operational changes to the way that weapon system was used after those three accidents?

McKiernan: Okay. In response to the first question, there's a fundamental answer to that question, and the answer is that we had to fight our way into Baghdad. Now, that fight was characterized by decisive armor and infantry actions into Baghdad before he could set an urban defense of Baghdad. And the speed of our campaign allowed us really to seize the initiative and to exploit success, but even with that, we had to fight our way into Baghdad. So I can tell you from being here that those lead formations, both Marine and Army that maneuvered into Baghdad first of all, were killing bad guys, and secondly, were protecting Iraqi people. And so if some of the facilities became subject to looting over that period of time by Iraqis, I will tell you that our priority was to fight the enemy and to protect Iraqi people.

In response to your second question, there have been some blue- on-blue incidents. We take every one of those extremely seriously. Every one is investigated individually. And it's premature for me to comment on any of them, because, to my knowledge, none of those investigations have been completed. There were a couple that involved Patriot, but I would tell you on balance that every surface to -- surface missile that was fired that Patriot engaged was destroyed. Some of them we didn't engage because they landed out in places in the desert where it wasn't a threat or they landed out in the North Arabian Gulf. But I will tell you the Patriot's been a big winner over here in our theater missile defense plan.

But really to the question you asked, every one of these blue-on- blue incidents is investigated in great detail. And when those investigations are complete, I'm sure all the services and CENTCOM will have comments on all of them.

Whitman: Let's go to McWethy and then over here to Gjelten.

Q: General, it's John McWethy with ABC News. Weapons of mass destruction. You have been looking hard but, apparently, not finding definitive stores of things. When you first rolled into Iraq, was it your anticipation that you would, number one, be fired upon with weapons of mass destruction, and number two, relatively easily find stores of these weapons as you fought your way up towards Baghdad?

McKiernan: The answer to the first question is yes, I was very concerned that the regime would employ weapons of mass destruction, be they chemical, biological. And we trained and prepared and had a plan to deal with that.

Now he didn't. The regime didn't employ those weapons.

I think we had some great effects with our information operations campaign, and perhaps those that were going to -- that were told to execute those missions with weapons of mass destruction perhaps thought twice about it.

So to date, we thank our lucky stars that we haven't faced a situation of weapons of mass destruction.

The answer to your second question is, personally, I knew that this would be a long process, that we would not find the material for weapons of mass destruction right away. First of all, our intelligence basically said that they were very well hidden. He's had years of experience hiding them from UNMOVIC and others. And I think this will be a task that will continue for some time. And probably what will most greatly assist in completion of this task is Iraqis coming forward and telling us information that leads us to where material or documents or equipment might be located.

Q: Sir, if I heard you right in the answer to the first part of this, the regime did employ some of those weapons. Can you explain that? There was intelligence indicating that they might have in fact brought some of those weapons into the active force, to be used against the U.S. But there was never any real evidence of that beyond one or two intelligence reports. Was there, or can you explain that?

McKiernan: No, sir, I'm afraid our audio wasn't very good the first time around. I said the regime did not -- did not -- employ weapons of mass destruction. And I gave some personal opinion of why that might have been, whether it was the effectiveness of our information operations or the fact that those who would actually have to execute those missions decided that it was in their best interest not to. But weapons of mass destruction were not used against coalition forces.

Whitman: Okay. We'll get back over to you.

Q: General McKiernan, this is Tom Gjelten from National Public Radio. Going back to the issue of military policing, it seems there were some fairly detailed proposals drawn up before this war to bring in a constabulary police force -- to have a constabulary police force on standby, as it were, much as was used during the Haiti operation, where I think they were stationed in Puerto Rico. Did those proposals ever reach your command? Were they considered and rejected? Was there a particular reason why Central Command did not have on standby a constabulary police force to bring in immediately after moving into Baghdad?

McKiernan: Sir, I would tell you that those are policy proposals that wouldn't have reached my command or my attention unless I was told to integrate them into the plan. We all along knew, and we're here now where we have to do a policing function with the military, and the authority in Iraq as we speak is the coalition. But I really can't comment on any policy discussions about a constabulatory.

Q: (Off mike) -- just follow up? Sir, are you satisfied that the forces that you have are adequate and have been adequate from the first to carry out all those policing responsibilities that were thrust upon you?

McKiernan: I am satisfied that the forces are here and are continuing to flow here that will allow me to execute what are my phase four missions, and that is to provide a degree, a certain degree of stability and security in Iraq as we transition back to Iraqis in control of their own country. I would caveat that, though, by reminding everyone that there aren't enough soldiers or Marines to guard every street corner and every facility in Iraq, so there's some risk-taking in some areas. And we try to focus our forces where our intelligence and mission sets drive us to focus those forces. But I am satisfied that I have had enough forces on the ground to execute the campaign very decisively to this point. And we have the additional forces we need for phase four flowing in now.

Q: General, it's Pauline Jelinek of the Associated Press. Can we go back to WMD for a moment? There have been reports that the pre- war list of suspected sites has turned out to be not very useful and that a couple or a few of the mobile exploitation teams have been taken off of the job of checking out these sites and are put on to the hunt for people. Now, you've mentioned that Iraqi people will be a big help in finding these things. Can you describe this shift in how you're looking for WMD? Is it less sites, more people? Or just sort of describe that.

McKiernan: Well, first of all, you're right, we did have several hundred sites that we had some history of intelligence on that we were going to exploit. But again, this regime, over the last decade, has been pretty good at hiding material and moving it around. So it was no surprise to any of us that many of these sites that we've already exploited have not necessarily turned up the material. And we think our greatest source of finding WMD-related material or equipment is going to be from human intelligence gained from Iraqis. So a lot of this is ad hoc; as we find the intelligence, we go to exploit it.

The Mobile Exploitation Teams and our Site Survey Teams, which are specially tailored and trained and equipped to go and exploit sites of weapons of mass destruction, are all doing that. There are none under my command that have been diverted to look for high-value human targets.

Q: So there's been no shift in their assignments? Because it's reported that two teams were taken off of site searches and put on the hunt for people instead.

McKiernan: No, ma'am. The Mobile Exploitation Teams that I have under an Exploitation Task Force are still focused on WMD.

Q: Sir, Chris Wright from Fox News Channel. To go back to your earlier comment on WMD, I think you said something like "perhaps those who were told to execute thought twice about it." And I think that gave us -- some the impression that there were orders to execute which then weren't carried out. But that did not happen, I gather?

McKiernan: I cannot confirm to you that there were orders. We all suspected there were orders. We all knew he had a capability. And when you -- in my world, in my profession, when you go through and you ask yourself all the time, "What's the worst thing that can happen to me?", it leads you to the conclusion that the potential is there to employ them.

I don't have any signal intercepts or pieces of paper that confirm that, but we all knew he had that capability.

Q: And that was my follow-up. My real question is, can you describe to us what's going on in Karbala with the climax of this religious pilgrimage? Is it peaceful? And how are you posturing your forces to deal with and interact with the Shi'ite community there?

McKiernan: Today is really the last day of this pilgrimage, and the first time that it's been held, as you know, in a couple of decades. The numbers have been estimated upwards of 2 million Shi'a that have participated in this pilgrimage. And to this date, to this time, it has gone very, very well.

What we tried to do with our military is achieve the right balance of providing some security and an ability to react if something went wrong, but we basically stayed out of it because it is a Shi'a religious pilgrimage and they have been very good at conducting that operation themselves. So, to date, I think it's been very successful and a very significant event for the Shi'a population.

Whitman: Go to Tony, and then Dale, and then back up to Mick.

Q: Sir, hi. This is Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg News. I have two separate questions. One, can you give us a reality check on what happened when Jessica Lynch was captured by the Iraqis? We don't have a good sense of where the truth lies in terms of whether she almost fought to the death, emptied her pistol at Iraqi troops and was stabbed and had gunshot wounds.

Second, I had a tactical question. We in the Pentagon keep hearing about the network-centric warfare that's transforming the battlefield. Can you give a couple of examples of how this network- centric warfare helped with some tactical turning points in the three- week campaign?

McKiernan: Okay. To the first question, I cannot -- I cannot answer that because I have not read, nor would I be able to read the -- all the interviews and the reports from Private Lynch from the time she was taken as a POW. So I cannot comment on any of the specifics about that. All I can say is, like every other American, I'm just -- I'm just pleased as hell that she's back home and going to be safe.

Network-centric warfare is an idea, a concept, and a reality that has been around now for some years. And to give you a good example, much of the command and control that this regime executed for its military was done through fiber optic cable and repeater stations. Through very, very good intelligence, and targeting and execution, that capability was consistently degraded to the point where we think he really had very little ability to command and control tactical formations before we closed with him with ground formations. And that's a reflection of network-centric warfare, of knowing where to go in that command and control network to take it out or degrade it so that he loses his ability to command and control his formations.

Q: (Off mike) -- to the destruction of the Republican Guard units that were primarily in the way of U.S. Marine and Army forces?

McKiernan: I'm sorry -- I didn't hear the first part of the question.

Q: Did that type of attack on the command and control network largely cripple the Republican Guard units that were in the way of Army and Marine forces?

McKiernan: I'll give you my tactical assessment, given the fact that all the observations and the lessons learned haven't been collected and studied and analyzed, but I think it probably did. I think his degraded ability to command and control his formations meant that those Republican Guard formations had very little situational awareness on the battlefield of where to maneuver to, which played right into the decisive lethality that both the ground and the air component were able to put on him.

Whitman: Tony, let's go onto somebody else, okay?

Q: Okay.

Q: General, Dale Eisman, with the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. Good morning. I'd like to follow up on the question about friendly fire. Secretary Rumsfeld made the point that we always expect to have some of these incidents. Can you tell us whether the number -- the seriousness of the incidents was about what you expected, more or less? And also, can you tell us about the effectiveness of investments that the United States has made since the last Gulf War in technologies to prevent friendly fire, whether we should have bought more of some things or less of some other things, and what worked and what didn't?

McKiernan: Yes, sir, let me take the second part of that first. What really makes all the difference in mitigating the risk of fratricide has nothing to do with technology. It has everything to do with the tactical discipline of units, of using the right fire support coordination measures, the right tactical graphics and the right weapons control status and discipline of formations. Technology does help mitigate it. The ability to use things like "identification friend or foe" technology or visual infrared reflective markers that help determine friendlies on the battlefield are all very important. All the services have made great strides since Desert Storm. Is there more that we can do? I believe there probably is, and I'm sure we'll address that as we look at resourcing future requirements.

The first part of your question was to try to put this in relative terms. And I would tell you that when you're fighting, for instance, in a dust storm at night in an urban area with special operating forces, conventional forces, air power, all operating in the same battle space, you are never, ever going to completely mitigate the risk of blue-on-blue fire. That's a danger we have in this profession that no amount of technology will ever completely erase.

I don't know what the final numbers are going to look like, but my initial impression is that we have greatly reduced, given the tempo of these operations and the time of this campaign when you compare it to Desert Storm. But I don't have the final numbers. As I said, we investigate each one and that will come out in due course.

Q: General, Jim Miklaszewski with NBC News. Another question about Iraqi Shi'ites. There are increasing reports that Iranian- backed fundamentalists are attempting to foment an Islamic uprising aimed at driving the U.S. military out of Iraq, taking control of the government. Can you tell us, sir, what sort of information you have about that potential threat? What's your level of concern that American troops could get caught in the middle of that? And what degree of anti-U.S. sentiment are your troops encountering there in Iraq?

McKiernan: First of all, I would tell you that we all have to understand we're in this period between a regime that was a dictatorship, that told everybody what to do and personally picked mid-level to senior level positions across Iraq, we're in a transition from that environment to forming at some point what the next Iraqi government and what that process looks like. So we're in this transition period where there are several competing interests inside of Iraq for a voice for what that future government looks like. There is a Shi'a interest. There's Sunni interest. There are all kinds of interest. We are particularly mindful of watching all of those to try to maintain what I told you earlier is my task, and that is create a stable and secure environment for that process to be able to mature.

Right now the Shi'a and any Iranian-influenced Shi'a actions are not an overt threat to coalition forces, but we're watching all these competing interests. And if truth be known, this is probably a little bit of democracy in process right now here in Iraq.

Your second question -- I can't put a percentage to it, but I will give you a personal example. About a week ago, I took a fairly fast, low-level Black Hawk flight around about three-quarters of Baghdad. And I will tell you, as I looked down in every area -- Shi'a, Sunni, every area in Baghdad -- probably 80 to 90 percent of those on the ground were waving at me. Now we can all say that's just a false signal, but I'll tell you, it kind of made my heart feel pretty good. And if it's 80 or 90 percent, that's a pretty good statistic at this point.

Whitman: Jim Mannion, right here in the middle.

Q: General, Jim Mannion from Agence France Presse. Today the British Defense minister said that he believes that Saddam Hussein is alive and inside Iraq. Does that fit with the information that you have? And are your forces actively searching for him?

McKiernan: I don't know whether Saddam Hussein is alive or dead. What I do know: he's out of power, and so is his regime.

Q: Are your forces actively searching for him?

McKiernan: And I'm sure if we have many intelligence -- yeah, I'm sure, as we -- if we have any intelligence that comes to us about the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein, that we will follow up on it with the -- across CENTCOM.

Q: General, Rick Little with the Dallas Morning News. I'd like to ask you one question looking back and one looking forward. You -- there are analysts here -- (off mike) -- are looking back on the campaign and saying, "Well, you know, it's evident that the Iraqi military was hollow, that they just fell apart. It was an easy foe. There's not much you can learn from this." I wonder if you would give us your assessment of the Iraqi military and why it fell apart so quickly.

And secondly, when you talk about the combat operations yet in the future, do you see any possibility of regime supporters continuing to wage guerrilla war from any part of Iraq or from any neighboring country?

McKiernan: Let me take the first one first. I will tell you that why the coalition was so decisive in this campaign to date was because we have the military capability, training, leadership and equipment that makes us decisive. And I get very upset when I hear anybody say that this was so easy. There are 600-plus Americans who are dead or wounded in the course of this conflict, and it wasn't easy for them. And anybody that was here and anybody that traveled with those formations, I don't think you'll find anybody that says it was an easy fight. So if I sound a little emotional, I apologize, but there is nothing in wartime that's easy for that formation or for that pilot or for that ship when they're in harm's way.

The answer to your second question is, I don't know. I'm sure that as we take a regional look, there may well be groupings that are anti-coalition or anti-Western that will have to be addressed, but I can't see that far in the future right now. I'm just trying to get the lights and the water turned back on.

Q: Good afternoon, Lieutenant General. This is Yuko Nakano (ph) with NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation. You mentioned earlier that you are on the transition to the civil military operations. Could you give us a rough figure of how many civil affairs personnel have been brought in to the theater?

And my second question is that, how do they coordinate with the coalition forces under your command, as well as with General Garner's team?

McKiernan: First let me clarify. We are still in phase three of this operation, which is decisive combat operations. What we are seeing as we complete really the heavy fighting, the heaviest fighting, is we are now in a transitional period where we are transitioning to try to work civil military affairs very hard.

The priorities that I've set for my formation has to do with basic life-support services: turn the power on, get the water pressure up, work medical care, work the transportation systems, and get basic security and order back into the streets in all these urban areas so that businesses can start to flourish again, that people can come back to work -- and they are coming back to work -- and get affairs of Iraq back in order.

I have a significant capability under my command of civil affairs expertise. Our special operating forces also inherently have civil affairs expertise. But I couldn't give you a number of those that have been brought in that are not in the military that are working here in Iraq. What I would say is that, again, CFLCC and ORHA will work as a team, myself and Jay Garner, to work both military support to civil operations. And at some point the weight of effort shifts from military to civil, and that's where I will partner up with him to make that happen as quickly as we can.

Whitman: Let's get Brian Hartman and then Tom Shanker in the back there, and then we'll get over to this side of the room, which we've been ignoring.

Q: Hello, sir. Brian Hartman with ABC News. I wonder if you can talk a little bit about when we were back here, a lot of the things that you talked about in the beginning, the frustration you had with the media talking about this operational pause. When we were seeing that and thinking that was going on here, what was happening out in the field? What were your folks doing? How important was what they were doing at that point to the overall goal you had?

And then, just a follow-on to that; how important and how unique was the role that special operations forces played in this conflict?

McKiernan: First, the business of the fact that there was no operational pause, when you have a tactical formation that is perhaps in the middle of very, very bad weather, which we had on about day three or four of this campaign, and they are stopped for a period of time to pull their logistics up to them, to get their formation back together after several fights, that might seem like a pause if you're sitting there with that unit that day on the ground. But at the same time, there is no let up in aerial targeting, in attack helicopter operations, in other ground maneuver in other places on the battlefield, and in all the operations that our special operating forces did throughout Iraq. Now, the -- I'm not the right one to comment on the special operating forces, because I don't command those. But I will tell you that their effects were felt before D-Day and are still felt today, that they have been a huge combat multiplier in this joint campaign to topple this regime.

Q: It's Tom Shanker from the New York Times. General, thank you for your time today. There's great interest in lessons learned, and while I know it's very, very early in that formal process, you've had eyes on the battlefield in a most close-up way, you've certainly done some thinking about this. Can you just comment quickly on things that you think went well, or surprisingly well, whether a weapons system or a tactic? Are there things that you already can see need more work, whether it's training, again, a weapons system you didn't have or a seam in the joint force that should be tightened? And third, could you, as a senior commander, talk personally about what you learned and what you would say commanders at your level should be doing in the future to make this system work more efficiently?

McKiernan: Thanks, Tom. (Chuckling.) Those are kind of weighty questions there. I've for years, and I have during this campaign -- I travel around with a little notebook, and no matter what time of day or night it is, I make sure I've got time to write reflections, observations in that notebook, which I'll pull out at some point -- there are several of them, as a matter of fact -- and I'll review those and I'll try to answer the questions that you just posed. I'm not going to touch what might have been better, because I need to stand back from it a little bit and analyze it and look at it and make sure that I understand all the observations before I say this is something we need to improve on.

On the opposite side, though, I will tell you that we are more of a joint military organization than we ever have been. And the ability and the coordination between air, maritime, ground, special operating forces has been to a degree that I have -- in over 30 years, I've never witnessed before. It's never perfect -- no military operation is perfect, but jointness has been huge in this campaign. I would also tell you that our training and our training doctrine that is both service-related and joint-related has been -- and I'd kind of like to think I was part of that; that we've been working very hard for the last decade -- paid off in spades in this military operation.

And finally I would tell you that our junior leaders today, our noncommissioned officers, our lieutenants, our captains, our majors, our colonels are the very finest that I've ever seen. I couldn't compete with half of them. But I will tell you, leadership, jointness and training are big, big pluses in this campaign.

Whitman: Maybe two more for you, General, and then we'll let you go.

Q: General, I'm Carl Osgood. I write for Executive Intelligence Review. At a certain point in the campaign, I think about eight or nine days in, General Wallace was widely quoted saying that the enemy that we are fighting is not the enemy that we war-gamed against. Can you talk a little bit about the kinds of things that have developed over the course of this campaign that you did not anticipate that required you to make changes in the way you had planned to do things?

McKiernan: First of all, General Wallace is my V Corps commander, one of my two subordinate commanders. And I will tell you that his leadership has been nothing short of brilliant over here and the execution of his corps has been nothing short of brilliant. And probably the remarks he said, the one that was captured in print was that one.

And I'll tell you that Scott Wallace, a close friend of mine, what he would tell you if he was standing next to me here today, he would say that the fact that we ended up fighting a lot of paramilitary or death-squad formations that were coming out of urban areas in the southern part of Iraq was probably not the most likely enemy course of action that we war-gamed against, but it was certainly a course of action that we war-gamed against and it was one that we adjusted our plan that we had options built into our plan to adjust from, and his divisions were magnificent in making that adjustment.

There was one day at that same point that you talk about, about the eighth or ninth day, where elements of the 3rd Infantry Division attacked north, attacked east and attacked south simultaneously against just that enemy that he described. That's what I'd say about that.

Whitman: Hunter, I think you had one.

Q: General, thanks very much. This is Hunter Keeter from Defense Daily. I had a question about command and control, to follow up on what Tony Capaccio had asked before, and that is, you told us that in network-centric warfare operations, you degraded the enemy's ability to use his command and control networks to defend himself against your attack. Could I ask you to take the same question about your ability to command and control your forces and how you assess the assistance technology and network-centric warfare concepts of operations helped in your speed of decision in getting command and control down to the forces that were acting out the plan according to your dictates?

McKiernan: A great question. What I will tell you is that the technology advances in our military today, compared to my experiences in Desert Storm, allowed me to talk via tactical satellite communications and other means across a battle space of hundreds of miles; to be able to conduct, when we need to, video teleconferences, where commanders can plot out where they're at and what decisions they need to do next; and all of that put together in a joint construct, where I could see where all the airframes were, where all the ships are, where my counterparts in the air and the maritime components can see where the ground formations are.

When you put all that together, that allowed us to make decisions with situational awareness of where we were at, where the enemy was at, and our view of the terrain and the weather much, much faster than we ever could in the past and exponentially faster than our opponent could. So when you put all that together, it allowed us to make decisions and then execute those decisions faster than any opponent.

But I'll go back to something I tried to articulate in a little opening statement there: that none of that counts if you don't have tremendous airmen, sailors, Marines and soldiers who can execute those orders. And we have them, and they did, and they will continue to do so.

I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you all today. This is probably harder than doing my normal job, but I also appreciate the story that -- the great story that you tell about our military in this campaign. Thank you very much.

Whitman: General, thank you for taking the time this morning to be with us, and we know that you're very busy, and very much appreciate it. Thank you.