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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director for Coalition Operations; and Daniel Senor, Senior Adviser, CPA
April 19, 2004 9:15 PM EDT
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

            MR. SENOR:  Good afternoon.  I have an update from discussions that have been taking place in Fallujah, which I'll run through with you right now, and then General Kimmitt has an opening statement.  And then we will be happy to take your questions.

 

            As you know, as I've updated you on before, a delegation has been meeting in Fallujah for several days, April -- beginning on April 13th and then April 16th, 17th and 19th.  Most recently the delegation has been led by Ambassador Richard Jones, who is the deputy chief administrator of the coalition.  It has included other officials from the coalition, working alongside representatives from the Iraqi Governing Council, Dr. Hajim, as well as a representative of Dr. Pachachi and of Sheik Ghazi.

 

            Today -- later today the Governing Council and coalition delegation, alongside the Iraqi officials with whom they have been  meeting, will issue a joint communique.  The Iraqi -- the Fallujah delegation includes local political and civic leaders, as well as young -- as well as professionals from Fallujah.

 

            The -- I'll run through some of the highlights of the communique with you, and then we will have a full, complete copy available to you later this evening.

 

            All parties, according to the communique, welcomed the improved situation in the city of Fallujah and committed themselves to take all possible measures to implement a full and unbroken cease-fire.  They recognized that in the absence of a true cease-fire, major hostilities could resume on short notice.

 

            The parties agreed to a number of things.  Coalition forces will allow unfettered access to the Fallujah General Hospital to treat the sick and injured.  The parties also agreed to arrange for the removal and burial of the dead and the provision of food and medicine in isolated areas of the city.

 

            The hours of the curfew in Fallujah will also be shortened, so that the curfew will begin at 2100, 9 p.m., rather than 1900, 7 p.m., each night, so that believers may fulfill their religious duties and attend mosques in the evenings.

 

            Measures will also be put in place to facilitate the passage of official ambulances through the city, especially through checkpoints. Steps will also be taken to allow security, medical and technical personnel access to the city so they can work.

 

            In due course, consideration will be given to allowing additional civilians to enter the city, beginning with 50 families per day, commencing on April 20th.  That is tomorrow.

 

            As far as security is concerned, in an initial effort to restore security in the city, the parties agreed to call on citizens and groups to immediately turn in all illegal weapons, "illegal weapons" defined as mortars, RPGs, machine guns, sniper rifles, ID-making materials, grenades and surface-to-air missiles, and all associated ammunition.  Those who give up their weapons voluntarily will not be prosecuted for weapons violation, and unarmed individuals will not be attacked.

 

            The parties also agreed on the pressing need of restoring regular and routine patrols in the city by joint coalition forces and Iraqi security forces.  The parties will oversee the re-formation of the Iraqi police force and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, the ICDC, in the city on an urgent basis.  The police and the ICDC, supported by the residents of Fallujah and coalition forces, must move to eliminate remaining foreign fighters, criminals and drug users from Fallujah in order for stability and security to occur.

 

            The parties agreed that coalition forces do not intend to resume offensive operations if all persons inside the city turn in their heavy weapons.  Individual violators will be dealt with on an individual basis.

 

            The parties reaffirmed the absolute need to restore law and order in the city as quickly as possible, to rebuild the judicial system, and to initiate through Iraqi investigations into criminal acts committed in the city in this period of instability.  This includes the killing and mutilation of the four American contractors and the attack on the Iraqi police station in February.

 

            The consultations began on April 19th and will continue daily to resolve these issues.  The parties in attendance agreed to remain in constant touch and reconvene as necessary, but in no case later than April 25.

 

            General Kimmitt.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Obviously, you want to get quickly to the questions and answers, so let me go ahead and give an abbreviated update this evening.

 

            In the northern zone of operations, Task Force Olympia continues stability operations.  In Mosul, the situation remains relatively quiet.  West of Tall Afar coalition forces conducted an offensive operation targeting a terrorist financier, apprehending four individuals including the primary target.  In Hammam al Alil, Qaiyara, Erbil and Dohuk the situation remains stable.

 

            In the north-central zone of operations Task Force Danger continues offensive operations, targeting anti-coalition forces and other threats to the area of operations.  Anti-coalition force attacks continue to stay at a lower level than recent norms, with 10 attacks over the past 24 hours.

 

            In Baghdad, the 1st Cavalry Division continues offensive operations against anti-coalition forces as well as security operations along critical supply routes.

 

            In the western zone of operations, the current situation remains stable for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.  The enemy's continuing operations against coalition forces in and around the region, with only three reported attacks in the past 24 hours.  These operations resulted in no casualties or damage to infrastructure.

 

            In Ar Ramadi, the situation is under control.  In Husaybah. There were no engagements with enemy forces today.  The battalion commander of the Marine battalion in Husaybah is meeting with the mayor of Husaybah today to try to resolve the conflicts over the last 48 hours.

 

            Multinational Division Central South remains relatively stable. There were four attacks in the AOR in the past 24 hours.  This morning in Karbala five explosions were heard in the city 500 meters east of city hall.  In addition, Camp Juliet was attacked with mortars last evening, with no reported injuries in either attack.  Coalition forces continue combat operations in al Kut to defeat Sadr's militia. And in Ad Diwaniyah there were no reported attacks in the past 24 hours.

 

            In the southeastern zone of operations, the current situation remains stable.  In An Nasiriyah and Al Samawa, the situation is calm, with no reported attacks against coalition nor Iraqi security forces in the last 24 hours.  In al-Amarah there were five attacks against coalition forces, with enemy forces utilizing improvised explosive devices, small arms and RPGs, resulting in the wounding of two coalition forces.  In Basra, the situation is under control.  There was one attack last night against Iraqi security forces, which resulted in one ISF soldier wounded.

 

            MR. SENOR:  And with that, we'll be happy to take your questions.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Nick Riccardi, Los Angeles Times.  Dan, one of the reasons for going into Fallujah, if I'm recalling correctly, was that there was a concern that the Iraqi police and ICDC were not able to establish control over the city and go after people such as the folks responsible for the killing of the contractors or the people storming   the station.  How does the coalition see them being able to restore control after this combat?  Will it be helpful to them to control the population that there will be joint patrols with coalition forces, who I think they've kind of been nervous about being seen with in the past because they're so unpopular?  Are the sentiments in the city after this combat going to help the police and ICDC do their job?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, I think that, first of all, it's very clear in the agreement, the parties also agreed on the pressing need of restoring regular and routine patrols in the city by joint coalition and Iraqi security forces.  The parties will oversee the reformation of the Iraqi police force and the ICDC in the city on an urgent basis.

 

            But I think what we're looking at is, first of all, let's get back in and restore stability.  Let's get back in and restore order. Let's not be too concerned about what uniforms are being worn initially.  The most pressing need is to restore order.

 

            And clearly, as we work this on a joint basis, along with the city leaders, you will see a gradual tapering-off of the joint nature of that, eventually leading, in the long run, to what we want for every city inside this country, which is independent Iraqi security forces, Iraqi police services responsible for the security in their own cities.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     Gene Chu, NBC News.  General Kimmitt, with the announced pullout of the Spanish forces -- and now we hear that the Hondurans will also be pulling out its troops -- how will this -- what will this mean to the coalition's effectiveness in terms of military? And also, how will it affect the mission, if it will?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, in the short term, obviously we all regret the departure of our fellow comrades from both Spain and -- if there has been an announcement on Honduras, I wasn't aware of that.  Both those countries have served bravely down here, served side by side, and we shared a lot together, not only here but also in other venues, such as Bosnia and Kosovo.  And they've been great partners.  They are a significant portion of what happens down in Multinational Division Central South.

 

            But numerically, those are numbers that should be able to be replaced in a fairly short order.  We've been -- ever since the initial projection by Prime Minister-Elect Zapatero of a potential departure of Spanish forces, we've been looking at the situation and saying:  If in fact that course of action comes to pass, how will we solve that problem?  Obviously, there are a number of courses of action that we'll take, but there will not be a security vacuum in that area at any time.

 

            We know that the departure of the Spanish and any other forces that will be departing at the same time will be orderly.  We know it'll be professional.  We know it will be military.  And we would expect that there will be sufficient time between the outgoing forces and the incoming forces to take over that area of responsibility, to hand it over without any lapse in security.

 

            MR. SENOR:  I would just add that as General Kimmitt said, we've known that this was likely the direction the Spanish -- the new Spanish government would be heading way back to the election of the new government.  And we've also said all along that each country, each government involved in the coalition will have make its own choices about how it intends to engage in the war on terror, how it intends to participate in securing freedom for the Iraqi people.

 

            We are grateful for the some 30 nations that have committed troops on the ground, the almost 20 nations that have committed civilian resources to this effort.  It is a very international effort.  We appreciate the signs and statements of solidarity that have come from a number of governments, from countries that have suffered setbacks with regard to their citizens on the ground recently.

 

            And as far as Spain is concerned, we will continue our close cooperation with this -- with our NATO ally Spain in the overall war on terror, even if they aren't participating in a direct way here in Spain (sic).

 

            Q     As a follow-up to that, General Kimmitt, this vacuum, then -- will this be filled with more U.S. troop commitments, or where will this deficit be made up?  How?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  There are a number of different ways this could be taken care of.  It could either be done by other units within Multinational Central South picking up that responsibility, it could be new units coming into Multinational Division Central South from other force contributions still incoming, or it could be done with existing forces on the ground.  It's an extremely agile force that we have on the ground.  We've demonstrated that over the last couple of weeks as we've moved forces from Baghdad down to that area.

 

            And with regard to the number of problems we face on a day-to-day basis inside the military realm, this is not a problem that we -- seem to be insurmountable.  In fact, this is probably one of the easiest issues that we've had to deal with in the last couple of weeks.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?  In the back.  Go ahead.

 

            Q     General Kimmitt, do you have a timetable for the -- David Lee Miller, Fox News, by the way.  Do you have a timetable for the withdrawal of the Spanish troops?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I don't know the specific timetable.  I know that -- I've read the news reports that say "as soon as possible," but what that actually means -- we certainly hope what that means is the possibility "as soon as possible" meaning an orderly military withdrawal, one that can be handed over.  We don't think that we will unnecessarily delay the departure, but it has to be done orderly and in a military manner.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?  Sorry.  Go ahead.  Do you have another question?

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yeah.  Use your microphone.

 

            Q     I had one second point I wanted to raise with you.  A few days ago a number of bodies were found outside of Baghdad, and there were preliminary reports suggesting they might be U.S. contractors, possibly U.S. servicemen.  Is there any more information about these bodies?  And have they been identified?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  What I know is that the bodies -- I believe one has been identified, not as an American, and that's the only identification we have of the other bodies as well.  We are waiting for the Mortuary Affairs to go ahead and finalize that.  But only one can we reject as being from America.  And I believe the country that believes it is one of their citizens will make the announcement.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Balma (sp), Al Manah (sp) newspaper.  Two questions, one for General Kimmitt and one for Mr. Senor.  Yesterday there was an engagement in -- (inaudible).  The reason of it was the existence of foreign fighters there.  As the U.S. president yesterday directed very harsh criticism for Syria for allowing those foreign fighters to enter Iraq, the situation of the borders -- why haven't you dealt with this situation till now?  And you have said that $3 million would be spent to secure these borders. What are you doing now about the entries of the foreign fighters from the borders?

 

            Second question, for Mr. Dan, concerning Muqtada al-Sadr:  Some are saying that the negotiations have reached a dead road.  So how do you comment on that?  And how do you comment on Mr. Sadr, that when he warns the U.S. from attacking An Najaf, the sacred city of An Najaf?  What is your response to his warnings?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, let me answer the last part of your second question.  We have never said that An Najaf is the target.  Muqtada al-Sadr remains the target, and we will maintain and retain all military options to capture him.

 

            On the question -- I believe the town you were referring to is one that we call Husaybah.  Is that correct?  Al Qa'im Husaybah.  Was that the engagement that you were referring to in the border controversy?

 

            Q     (In Arabic.)

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah.  Presuming that is the city that you're talking about because that's the one that we've had a very recent engagement on -- is the translator getting across?

 

            Okay, let's go ahead and take another question in English until we can get the translators working up there.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Okay.  Well, I'll --

 

            MR. SENOR:  We'll come back.

 

            Yeah, Jane.

 

            Q     Thanks.  Jane Arraf, CNN.  Dan, you've described the majority -- not the majority -- you've said that the violence in Fallujah has been driven by foreign fighters.  Given that and the fact that in previous times it isn't quite clear who's been doing the negotiating on their side, why are you convinced now you have started to deal with the right people and that it will stick?

 

            MR. SENOR:  What I have said is that we believe Fallujah has become a hotbed for foreign fighters.  Many foreign fighters are either hiding out there or are organizing operations from there, but we don't think it's exclusively foreign fighters.  We also believe there are a lot of former Mukhabarat, former Special Republican Guard, former Fedayeen Saddam and other criminals there as well.

 

            And, Jane, what we have also said is that a majority of Fallujans want to bring an end to this bloodshed and this misery and this death,  and they believe that the presence of many of these foreign fighters or the activities of the Mukhabarat, Special Republican Guard and Fedayeen Saddam is drawing in coalition forces to take action that, if these enemies weren't there -- if these former Mukhabarat and foreign fighters and others weren't there, you wouldn't have the violence. And so we are trying to communicate with the majority of Fallujans that could play a role in putting pressure on these criminals, put pressure on these extremists, put pressure on these terrorists to help turn them over or get them out of the city, and that has been a big part of our message.

 

            While we are hopeful about the intentions of the Fallujan delegation that our representatives have been meeting with and the Governing Council representatives have been meeting with, we also recognize that there is a big question about whether or not they can deliver, and that remains to be seen.  And we have been very clear that time is running out.  There's only so much longer we can continue this process before we have to reengage and reinitiate operations.  And so we remain hopeful about their intentions, but we also are going to monitor closely about whether or not they are followed up with real deliverables.

 

            Yes, ma'am?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Lelah Shimari (ph) from -- (inaudible).  Iraq was occupied in a very short time.  Fallujah resisted the most powerful army in the world for two weeks.  What does this mean?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, what it means is that inside of Fallujah, that unlike when we started major combat operations, once the decision was made -- we had gone for years and years trying to come to a peaceful solution with Saddam Hussein about resolving the crisis in Iraq.  When it became apparent that there was not going to be a resolution, we then attacked.  And the results of that attack, those major combat operations are history now.

 

            The fact is with Fallujah, we did the same thing, we are doing the same thing.  We are trying to use peaceful negotiations to try to bring the situation in Fallujah to an end.  And it would appear by the statement made today, the agreed statement, that there is an agreed political track.  But there's also a very clear understanding inside that agreed statement that should this agreement not bear fruit, that the Marine forces out there are more than prepared to continue offensive operations, and that completion of that military operation would probably be completed in very short order.

 

            So I hope that nobody is taking away that impression that you're leaving by that question that somehow the military forces in Fallujah were capable of stopping the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, because that would be a dreadful mistake for people to make, and in some cases it may be a fatal mistake.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     Quinn O'Toole (sp) with National Public Radio.  General Kimmitt, about the roads; can you give us an update on the status of the road closures around Baghdad.  A drive by my colleague yesterday, she got almost all the way up to Balad.  And can you give us an idea of what happened between the communication of the notice of the road closures and then actually being shut down?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah, three things.  Number one, what we have waiting for you outside to be picked up is a press statement, both in English and in Iraqi, that lays out the specific terms and the specific understanding of what we'll be doing with the roads.  We also have a map, very much like this, that lays out what areas will be affected.

 

            There may have been a misunderstanding, as I was falling onto my microphone the other day, about how this was going to be worked.  The idea is not that these roads are closed.  The idea is that there will be times when these roads will be closed for repair and for expeditious delivery of some of the convoys.  But you are absolutely right, it may be that you can go all the way from the south up to Balad without finding any of the closed segments.  It is not an intention to close the entire road for a semi-permanent period of time; it is, as and when necessary, closing certain segments of that for repair, for security, and then opening it up as soon as possible.

 

            So I hope that explains it better.  We have a release out there that makes it a little better, and I would hope that you would be able to publicize it, particularly in Arabic, to make sure that the people most affected by it, the people of Iraq, are very understanding of why we're doing this and when they should see this happening.

 

            Q     Quickly, can you give us an idea about what percentage of the time the roads will be shut down?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I really can't.  I mean, that's a road construction issue and a road repair issue more than a military issue. And as you said, you drove all the way from Baghdad up to Balad today, so apparently none of the northern segments are closed.  Those decisions will be made by the individual commanders on the ground. And there will be sufficient persons on those segments of the road detouring people off, detouring people on, very similar to our own system back in the States.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Larry?

 

            Q     Thank you.  For General Kimmitt.  Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers.  There have been a few things over the course of the Fallujah operation that have been said at one point and appeared to be contradicted later.  And I wonder if you could explain them, either one by one or in total.

 

            At one point you said, as an example, to show that you weren't hiding anything out there, that we should embed, and then we found out that actually the embeds were very restricted to a very small pool. You'd been saying that there was not any hindrance to ambulances in   the town; now we hear that one of the parts of this agreement is that there will be unfettered movement of ambulances.

 

            And I wonder also if the Marines are controlling the hospital there, which it sometimes sounds like they are.  I assume, as concerned as you say they are about casualties, they've gone in and counted what they have in the hospital.  Can you release what they found there?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  First of all, the Marines aren't controlling the general hospital inside Fallujah.  They do have the Jordanian hospital inside their area of responsibility.

 

            Second, I don't know that we have ever restricted ambulances, nor do we say ambulances in here.  I think we just talk -- (pausing to refer to document) -- yeah, it says it will facilitate official ambulances through the city, especially at checkpoints.  Sadly, that has been a problem in the past, as you well know.  And I think we saw it just the other day on a television segment.  We had a lot of people running around the city with blankets on their vehicles asserting that they are ambulances.  And as a result of those unofficial ambulances running around, you can imagine that naturally there was a security concern, as they came to the checkpoints, that we didn't have unofficial ambulances some of which could have been loaded down with explosives inside those vehicles.

 

            We have seen numerous times and have had numerous warnings, not only in Fallujah but throughout his country, that terrorists are not above using ambulances as car bombs.  So I think any prudent military force, any prudent security force would go out of their way to make sure that instead of having an ambulance that is carrying a wounded person but an ambulance that's carrying thousands of pounds of ammunition, it's a prudent measure to go ahead and try to check that.

 

            With regards to the third question, on the CPIC, you'll have to take that up with the CPIC.  That's an issue with the Marines.  That's an issue with the Coalition Press Information Center, and I'd ask you to address it to them.  As I understand -- what has been informed -- told to us is that the press operations seem to be going quite well. And that just may be one organization that may not be content with it.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Radis al-Adil (ph), Al-Lihraka (ph) newspaper.  Mr. Senor, 30th of July (sic) is coming.  So if you gave sovereignty to Iraqis in this situation of instability, it will be a massive defeat for the U.S. policy because you have promised many things but you have failed to achieve.  The least thing to be said is that all the promises of the U.S. are untruthful.  So what is your comment about this?

 

            MR. SENOR:  I'm not sure about the second question.

 

            But as far as your first question is concerned, you need to ask yourself who wants a delay in the handover of sovereignty.  The overwhelming majority of Iraqi people do not want a delay in the handover of sovereignty.  The overwhelming majority of Iraqi leaders, be they religious, regional or political, do not want a delay in the handover of sovereignty.  The coalition does not want a delay in the handover of sovereignty.

 

            The people who want a handover and the delay of sovereignty are people like Mr. Zarqawi, the al Qaeda affiliate who has explicitly said in the document we obtained that the sooner Iraq has a self- governing democracy of their own, the harder it will be for the international terrorists to come into this country and use the occupation as a pretext for launching further terrorist attacks.

 

            The other individuals that want a delay in the handover of sovereignty are the former Mukhabarat, the former Fedayeen Saddam, the former Special Republican Guard, individuals that want to turn this country back to an era when the dominant form of governance was executed through rape rooms and torture chambers and mass graves and chemical attacks.  They, too, want a delay in the handover of sovereignty because they hope to capitalize on any sense of frustration with the current state of affairs in order to justify further attacks, and promoting and inciting violence.

 

            Those are the people that want a delay in sovereignty, and if we delay handing over sovereignty, they will score an enormous victory. It will send a very dangerous message.

 

            We have said all along there is a two-track strategy to defeating the terrorists and defeating the remnants of the former regime like the Mukhabarat and the Fedayeen Saddam.  It is a partly military strategy, which are the things that General Kimmitt talks about, about going out and capturing and killing these individuals, but there is also a political strategy, and that is through the political and also economic empowerment of the Iraqi people, we will isolate the terrorists, we will isolate the extremists.  It will make it that much more difficult to justify what they're doing when they are doing it against an Iraqi government rather than an American-led occupation.  And that is all the more reason that we have to stay focused on the June 30th handover.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     A question from Ben Shadulski (sp) from the Chicago Tribune for Dan Senor.  When Ambassador Bremer issued his statement yesterday evening, it didn't tell the people who have been coming to these briefings anything that we didn't know before.  And I was just wondering, what was the thinking that went behind his decision to issue that statement last night?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Well, I it was a -- I don't think it is, as you have said, I don't think it's anything that General Kimmitt or myself or Ambassador Bremer or the leadership -- the rest of the leadership of the coalition has said before.  We've been saying these things for some time, that after June 30th, we believe there will still be a substantial terror threat here in Iraq.  After June 30th, we do not believe that the Iraqi security forces will be in a position to handle that threat by themselves.  While they have performed in some areas very impressively, in other areas they have underperformed, and they will still need the support of the coalition.  That's why while we hand over political sovereignty on June 30th, coalition forces will still have a presence here to work with our Iraqi colleagues, Iraqi security forces, to help stabilize this country.  We've been saying it for some time.

 

            Ambassador Bremer was speaking at some forum yesterday, and in the context of his remarks he mentioned this again, as he often does. It must have been a slow news day that there was so much attention given to it.  But the truth it, it was nothing new.  It is something he says at almost all of his public appearances.

 

            Q     Follow up.  It was not just from the context of a speech, but there was a separate release issued with his statements, and it came quite late yesterday evening.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Right.  Right.  Well, we -- whenever he does a public event, we release his statements.  So that's standard practice.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q   (Name inaudible) -- from the Boston Globe.  You said from the podium a couple of days ago that if things continued as they were, some reconstruction projects might be slowed down.  And I was curious if at this point you have an assessment of how much has been slowed down, and if so, where.

 

            MR. SENOR:  You know, it's too early to tell.  We obviously are monitoring the effect this is having on interests by foreign companies, foreign contractors to come into the country, the effect it's having on existing contractors that are already in place.  Some have signalled an interest in departing, some have withdrawn.  Others have signalled a strong commitment to sticking it out.

 

            And I think you really have to evaluate the ripple effect, if you will, of the violence of the last couple of weeks and how it affects the reconstruction, and that will take a little time.  We just have a very quick snapshot right now, and it's too difficult to gauge any sort of trend.  It's going to take a couple of weeks for us to see how things play out.

 

            I would add, though, that most contractors, even before the violence of the past couple weeks, had made their own assessments about security needs and the risk here and recognized that this was an environment with some element of risk.  And they themselves had put together security packages, security details for their own projects, for their own personnel, to deal with situations like this.  So, many of the contractors have security infrastructure on the ground.

 

            Yes, ma'am?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  My question to Mr. Dan Senor:  The Swedish embassy was attacked today by rockets.  It seems that the series of attacks will target embassies.  Now, what are your measures to prevent the embassies from leaving Iraq?

 

            My question to General Kimmitt:  During the last combat operations, which is the more dangerous, the al-Sadr group or Fallujah group?  Which is the most dangerous?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  On the first question, as you know, the Swedish embassy has been uninhabited for quite a period of time, so we don't think that there was a mistake that the -- well, we just don't understand and we don't have the facts right now about why there was an explosion in or near the Swedish embassy.  There are a number of beliefs right now.  It could have actually happened from inside because since it's been uninhabited, it may not have been guarded very well.  And it could well have been that it had been used for other purposes.  It could have been a mortar attack.  But if they're attacking an unoccupied building, I really can't understand the motivation behind that.

 

            We're not certain or nor have we seen over the last couple of months any deliberate targeting of embassies.  That issue has not crossed our scope at this point.

 

            With regards to which is the more dangerous organization, I think the most dangerous organization inside of Iraq are the extremists, whatever type they are and wherever they crop up, whether they crop up in the form of international terrorists, whether they crop up in the form of foreign fighters, whether they're home grown fighters such as former regime elements, former Fedayeen Saddam, Mukhabarat, or whether they're Sadr's militia, because these people collectively are the greatest threat to this country.

 

            And to somehow either ennoble them or belittle them by saying one is more dangerous than the other escapes the true fact, which is, extremism in any form in this country is a poison that must be leached from the body politic and from the body of this nation, because as we get closer and closer to sovereignty, as we get closer and closer to the day when Iraq will be a free-standing democracy, these kind of impediments, these kind of dangers, these kind of threats to what Iraq is moving to be and will be --which is a country known for democracy, a country known for its freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech -- they are all threats, and extremism is a threat that must be eliminated from this country.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, sir?  Go ahead.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Ehab Abu Saif (sp) from -- Mr. -- General, a lot has been said about the Syrian border and the infiltration along the Syrian borders by foreign fighters.  Do you have evidence that those who are coming from the Syrian border only -- do you blame Syria for controlling the border?  If you consider the capabilities of Syria, America has great capabilities.  Why don't you control the borders?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, I think of late we've seen a tremendous effort on the part of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to control the border with Syria.  These recent engagements along the Syrian border, in my mind, are evidence that they are doing exactly as you are suggesting.  These engagements with persons either in the town of Husaybah or along the Syrian border demonstrate that the Marine Expeditionary Force is out there patrolling the border and ensuring that the traditional rat lines, as we call them, coming in from, for example, that portion of Syria are being patrolled.

 

            We would appreciate -- and Ambassador Bremer has been very specific on this a number of times -- that we would appreciate additional assistance from the other side of the border, such as in Iran, such as in Syria, so that we understand that it's a joint effort to prevent this type of cross-border operations that are being conducted along these borders.  So yes, we would ask Syria to help us out in keeping the flow of foreign fighters halted on both sides of the border.

 

            MR. SENOR:  John?

 

            Q     John Burns, New York Times.  General and Dan, both of you, you must be aware that there's considerable, increasing concern amongst foreigners in Baghdad -- and, I've no doubt, amongst Iraqis as well -- about the security of Baghdad and, to put it at its bluntest, whether United States armed forces are truly in control of the city. We've heard within the last 24 hours of a journalist being stopped at an unofficial checkpoint by ununiformed people just off the airport expressway, citizen demanded and passed because she was a German.  We know of the attacks today, we know of other kidnappings that have taken place in the city, and we believe that most of the civilian contract personnel within the Green Zone who are committed to work outside the Green Zone have in fact been locked down in the Green Zone for some time.  So both as a matter of concern for ourselves and for the general situation, can you tell us directly: Are the United States armed forces in full control of this city?

 

            Second, in terms -- a supplementary question.  We have a report that there was an attack today on a convoy north of Kufa, an American military convoy north of Kufa involving several Humvees; one report, unconfirmed, that American soldiers were killed in that attack.  And the question is, if you can't confirm that, can you tell us how much longer the United States military will continue to sustain losses of that kind whilst leaving Muqtada al-Sadr in effect taunting you from within the safety of the holy cities?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  On the first question about full control, I don't think there's ever been a time that any nation could stand up and say we're in full control of a city.  Certainly the security forces that we're running inside of Baghdad have reduced the risk in the past couple of weeks from where it was in April 5th, 6th time period.  Are we pleased where it is?  No.  Do we still have some work to do?  Yeah, and we have some work to do probably in two different areas.

 

            One, in the actual, the reality, which is that even though the attacks have gone down substantially over the past couple of weeks in Baghdad, they are still not at a level where we want them to be. There is an inherent risk in operating in Baghdad.  All we can do is minimize that to a reasonable level.

 

            But there's also a perceptual risk, which is that this is a deliberate campaign on the part of small groups that may be working together to try to intimidate, to try to go against the coalition in different ways.  Rather than fighting the coalition in straight-up conventional operations, they're moving more towards the asymmetric type of operation -- the type of operation where you attack the will, you don't necessarily attack the physical domain; where you try to instill fear; where you try to intimidate; where you try to break the will of the coalition and the different members of the coalition apart simply by creating fear.  You do that by taking hostages.  You do that by random car bombs.  You do that by random bombs along the river and on the routes.  What you are trying to do is create a general intimidation on the part of everybody so that you can achieve through fear what you weren't able to achieve through force of arms.

 

            The only way we're going to be able to solve that, John, is by continued military operations to kill or capture these people so that we can demonstrate after a period of time that the fears that may be expressed by the citizens inside of Baghdad today, two weeks from now that we have made measurable progress to keeping that at a level where you feel the same and you fear the same as you did, say, for example, three weeks ago.  There probably will be attempts on the part of the enemy to create some sort of spectacular event over the next couple of weeks to demonstrate that somehow he has the ability to attack at his choice, at his location, on his terms.

 

            But the worst thing that one can do is to capitulate to the terrorists.  The worst thing you can do is knuckle under to those that will try to intimidate you.  This is tough.  Nobody said that freedom was going to be easy, and nobody said that freedom was going to be a free ride.  And we don't negotiate with terrorists, and you've always got to stand up to terrorists.  That is the best chance and the best opportunity for you to have to beat the terrorists.  And what they want more than anything else is your fear.  What they want is for you to capitulate.  What they want is for you to negotiate.

 

            And will the coalition remain here and remain resolved? Absolutely.  Are we looking at pulling out?  Absolutely not.  Do we fear the terrorists?  Hell no.

 

            MR. SENOR:  I would just add in closing that while we say we will not negotiate with terrorists or the hostage-takers, which is true, we also are putting, as General Kimmitt has said before, everything behind the pursuit of the hostage-takers and the safe release of the hostages.  We will put our intelligence, our best intelligence resources behind that effort, we will put our best military resources behind that effort.  It is a priority.  The safe release of hostages taken here in Iraq is a high priority.

 

            Thank you, everybody.

 

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