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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director for Coalition Operations and Dan Senor, Senior Advisor, CPA
May 20, 2004 10:20 PM EDT
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

             MR. SENOR:  Good afternoon.  Sorry we are running a little late. A couple of quick announcements.

 

            Ambassador Bremer received word earlier this week, and it was finalized today, on something he'd been working on with the World Bank and the Iraqi Ministry of Education, which was the largest grant issued by the Bank in 30 years, a $40 million emergency grant to print new textbooks for the 2004/2005 school year here in Iraq.  The World Bank grant will finance the printing and distribution of approximately 72 million textbooks for 6 million students in all provinces for the upcoming school year.  This quantity covers over 600 titles for all 12 grades of the primary and secondary system.  Criteria for the selection of textbooks to be financed by the grant give the highest priority to primary and secondary textbooks with special attention to final grades of each phase.  The World Bank and Ministry of Education, as I said, are in the finalization stages.  And an  additional agreement for a second grant of $60 million to finance the rehabilitation of schools is being worked out.

 

            As far as Ambassador Bremer's schedule today, he continues to work on these consultations in pursuit of the formation of the interim government.  Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special representative in Iraq, is doing the same.  Today Ambassador Bremer met with members of the Governing Council, including Mr. Jafari.  He met with Dr. Rouj (ph), who is Mr. Barzani's deputy on the Iraqi Governing Council, and who is a leading Iraqi political figure.  And this morning Ambassador Bremer met with the Iraqi Ministerial Committee on National Security for their regular weekly meeting on the overall security situation on the ground here in Iraq.

 

            General Kimmitt.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Thank you.  Good afternoon.

 

            The coalition continues offensive operations to establish stability in Iraq in order to repair infrastructure, stimulate the economy and transfer sovereignty.

 

            In the past 24 hours, the coalition conducted 1,879 patrols, 14 offensive operations, 29 Air Force and Navy sorties, and captured 43 anti-coalition suspects.  Four hundred and seventy-two detainees will be released from Abu Ghraib tomorrow beginning at 08:00.

 

            In the northern zone of operations, the mayor of Bayji was attacked at his residence by a drive-by shooter two days ago.  One Iraqi policeman was killed and another wounded, although the mayor is safe.  The Bayji local police responded and detained the assailants and have the lead for the investigation.

 

            This afternoon, 206 new police officers completed the eight-week initial entry training program at the Mosul Public Safety Academy. They will begin patrols immediately.

 

            In the north-central zone operations yesterday, coalition forces conducted a hasty raid of four houses west of Samarra.  The search resulted in four detainees and the confiscation of multiple weapons and miscellaneous Osama bin Laden paraphernalia.

 

            Yesterday three mortar rounds impacted west of Samarra.  After conducting an investigation of the impact area, Iraqi police reported that three children were injured in the attack and one of the children died en route to the Samarra hospital.

 

            In Baghdad, the 1st Cav conducted 521 patrols and captured 14 anti-coalition suspects.

 

            Last night coalition forces were patrolling in central Baghdad when one of their helicopters came under fire from two to three enemy personnel.  In the attack, one Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldier was grazed by gunfire and two insurgents were killed.  A reenforcement unit was sent to the scene and they too came under fire while en route.  One coalition soldier and one Iraqi were injured from a hand grenade with minor injuries.

 

            Later, while conducting a cordon and search for the attackers, two hand grenades were thrown at coalition soldiers, killing one coalition soldier and wounding three others.  Additionally, one Iraqi interpreter was killed and one ICDC soldier was wounded.

 

            In Sadr City, the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cav has started a weapons rewards program.  The program, initiated on Saturday, has been an overwhelming success, so much so that it has been extended two more days.  Citizens are given money for their weapons at equal to or above black market prices and, for example, the cost of an AK-47 can actually feed a family in Sadr City for three months.  Any illegal weapons not turned in during this amnesty period will be seized forcibly upon completion.  But as of 20 May, there have been over 3,200 AK-47s, 530 rocket rounds, 187 RPG launchers, 141 machine guns and 87 tank rounds turned in.  Coalition forces have paid out over $1.2 million to participants.

 

            In the western zone of operations, the security situation in the Al Anbar is improving.  Fallujah remains quiet, with no violations of the cease-fire since 3 May.  Two days ago in Fallujah there were two 82-millimeter mortar systems, 15 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and three RPK machine guns turned in as part of the heavy weapons turn in.  Coalition forces have turned over the northern joint checkpoints to Iraqi security forces and continue to maintain a joint checkpoint on the eastern side of the city.

 

            In Karbala yesterday morning, coalition forces came under attack by small-arms fire and 10 separate RPG attacks.  The units returned fire, killing six.  And that evening, six RPGs and small arms were fired at coalition tanks.  Coalition forces returned fire, resulting in three enemy killed.

 

            Between 2330 and 0030 this morning, seven rocket-propelled grenades and small arms were fired at coalition forces, vicinity of the Mukhaiyam Mosque.  A coalition aircraft engaged three times, resulting in 10 enemy killed and two enemy wounded.

 

            In a separate incident, enemy forces fired one rocket-propelled grenade at a coalition tank from the second floor of the Abbas Shrine. Coalition forces did not return fire.

 

            In An Najaf yesterday at 1330, 12 to 14 mortar rounds impacted near the Najaf main Iraqi police station.  At 2300 last night, an additional 11 rounds impacted near this police station.  And this morning between 0100 and 0200, a coalition base camp, vicinity An Najaf, was attacked again with five to six mortar rounds.  There were no injuries or damage to equipment from these attacks.

 

            In the southeastern zone of operations, the CPA building in An Nasiriyah is still under a temporary withdrawal order of all noncombatants.  Coalition forces and Iraqi Civil Defense continue to guard the CPA building and secure the bridges over the Euphrates River.  Coalition forces are still patrolling the city with no signs of armed militia and no impediments to freedom of movement.

 

            Last night, the Cimic House in al-Amarah was attacked three times with seven mortar rounds.  All explosions were outside the perimeter   of the base and resulted in no coalition injuries or damage to equipment.

 

            MR. SENOR:  And with that, we are happy to take your questions.

 

            Yes.

 

            Q     Owen Fay, Fox News.  Dan, Ahmed Chalabi has just given a press conference in which he said that at least some of the documents seized today were related to the oil-for-food investigation.  Could you tell us the primary thrust of the reason behind this raid and how significant a role the oil-for-food is playing?

 

            MR. SENOR:  I would refer you to the Iraqi police on that issue. My understanding is they are the ones who seized any documents.  It was an Iraqi-led investigation, it was an Iraqi-led raid.  It was the result of Iraqi arrest warrants.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Stephanie Halasz, CNN.  Same topic.  Ahmed Chalabi today described his relationship with the CPA as non-existent.  Your comment, please.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Ahmed Chalabi, like many members of the Governing Council, has worked closely with us over a number of months as we have worked to set Iraq on a path to political sovereignty.

 

            Yes, Mark?

 

            Q     As well as describing his relationship as non-existent, he said it was an unwarranted raid led by a former Ba'ath party official. Could you comment on that?

 

            And on a slightly separate issue, although I guess it's not too separate, considering it has to do with honest people involved in the rebuilding of the country, could you comment on the -- are you troubled by the record of some U.S. civilian contractors -- sorry, correction advisers who have been involved in the rebuilding of the prison system out here?  There's some concern that some of them have got somewhat of a checkered past.

 

            MR. SENOR:  American contractors or Iraqi contractors?

 

            Q     U.S. -- I'm sorry, the second is U.S. contractors.

 

            MR. SENOR:  And you're saying there's an allegation that they have a checkered past?

 

            Q     Yes.

 

            MR. SENOR:  If you can show me specifically who you're talking about and what you're talking about, I'm happy to look into it.

 

            On your first question, your first question was --

 

            Q     As well as being a non-existent relationship now, he says that it was an unwarranted raid led by a former Ba'ath party official.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Again, you should -- I would take that up with the Iraqi police and the Iraqi investigators, and certainly the Iraqi judge, the investigative judge who led the investigation.

 

            Certainly, when we are looking to put former Iraq officials back onto the government payroll, we subject them to a very robust vetting process in order to ensure that former senior-level Ba'athists, those with Ba'athist (sic) blood on their hands, those who had a hand in the regime's former crimes, do not have a role in the new government.  I'm not saying that some don't slip through the cracks, and when that's made available to us -- and we hope officials who have information, like it sounds like the incident you're referring to today, Mr. Chalabi may have information, they should get it to us and we do our best to rectify the situation.  But again, as to a specific individual, you should take it up with the Iraqi police.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Yes, Steve Komarow with USA Today.  We were just informed by a senior official that the raids today were part of a process that included Ambassador Bremer.  Can you explain how much knowledge he had of these raids today, and whether he intervened in any way?

 

            MR. SENOR:  He -- Ambassador Bremer has the authority for referring any Central Criminal Court case to the Central Criminal Court, of which there have been hundreds.  According to the public order, he is required to refer the respective cases.  But that is only after there is a very serious detailed and thorough investigation that is initiated and run by the Iraqis.  That has been the case with all the -- some several hundred, I think it's between 100 and 200 -- I can get you the exact number -- cases.  Every single one has been Iraqi- initiated, Iraqi-led, it's been a thorough investigation, and only then will Ambassador Bremer, as a procedural matter, refer it to the Central Criminal Court.  Today's -- the result of today was not inconsistent with that process.

 

            Yes.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Ali al-Nasr al-Korashi (ph) -- (affiliation not translated).  Mr. Kimmitt, Mr. Dan Senor, my question is to Mr. Dan Senor.  In case you stay in Iraq, are you -- do you have the decision to reconstruct Iraq like building bridges at the time being?  Not carrying out the reconstruction of Iraq has caused traffic congestion.  When will you start these projects, please?

 

            MR. SENOR:  We are in the process of deploying $18.6 billion for the reconstruction of the country.  That cuts across a number of areas: obviously, training and equipping of Iraq's security forces, which $3.2 billion is dedicated; Iraq's electrical infrastructure, which is the number one line item in the spending package, what we call the supplemental package for the reconstruction of Iraq; billions of dollars dedicated to the reconstruction of Iraq's oil infrastructure; and then other areas, schools -- opening schools, courts, hospitals are all the focus of the supplemental.

 

            That's the -- the spending has begun.  In fact, we are employing many Iraqi workers and many Iraqi firms at the subcontract level in pursuit of meeting the reconstruction goals.  The process has begun. It's going to -- some areas will take a couple of years.  Some areas are seeing very quick results, determined on a project-by-project basis.

 

            Rachel.

 

            Q      One for you, General Kimmitt, and also Dan.

 

            The first one.  Can we have a few more details about what happened yesterday with this wedding party?  Specifically, you mentioned there were 2 million Iraqi and Syrian dinars.  How much of each?  What does that come down to in U.S. dollars?  What kind of weapons specifically?  Those were mentioned also in the press release.

 

            And on the second issue, about Chalabi.  Can you -- how many things is he being -- or group being investigated?  There seems to be confusion.  One has to do with oil-for-food program and there seems to be other allegations about Iraqi -- the new Iraqi money coming out and his involvement with that.  Can you specify?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Sure.  On the first question, I will say that, to my knowledge -- and I just saw the list today, but to my knowledge, Mr. Chalabi is not actually being pursued for anything.

 

            Q     His group.  His -- INC.  That's --

 

            MR. SENOR:  And I don't think the INC is, either.  I think there are individuals who may work for the -- individuals, a number of them.

 

            As to the details of what they're being charged with, I would refer that to the investigative judge and to the Iraqi police.

 

            Q     That's --

 

            MR. SENOR:  We really -- we really, Rachel, don't have anything to do with the investigation or the arrests.

 

            As far as the oil-for-food program is concerned, the investigation for that is an entirely separate issue, has nothing to do with what transpired today.  The oil-for-food investigation is in the hands of the Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit, which is an independent agency, an Iraqi professional oversight agency which is not -- does not consist of political officials.  They are -- it is an impartial body.

 

            Ambassador Bremer several months ago signed a public order to empower the Board of Supreme Audit to lead the Iraqi investigation for the oil-for-food scandal -- or fraud in the oil-for-food program. There are three investigations going on that I'm aware of.  There's the U.S. congressional investigation; there's a U.N. -- imposing its own investigation; and there's an Iraqi investigation.

 

            And the Iraqi investigation, as I said, is being led by the Board of Supreme Audit -- independent, politically impartial agency. Ambassador Bremer told them months ago that they would be the lead on it.  He dedicated funding for it and has made it clear and has been very public that they would be the lead on it.  He informed the Governing Council several months ago that the Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit would be on the lead.  So I don't know what's going on, how that intersects with what happened today.

 

            I am aware that Mr. Chalabi was looking into an investigation of his own.  That may or may not be the case, but that certainly isn't the Iraqi government investigation.  The Iraqi government investigation is being led by an independent professional agency, Board of Supreme Audit.  Mr. Chalabi and other members of the Governing Council have been aware of that for a number of months now because Ambassador Bremer told them shortly after the oil-for-food fraud in the oil-for-food program broke.

 

            Q     The question about the wedding.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah, on the first question.  The reports we have -- it says that there will be more detail coming up in later op-sums, but on the weapons, several shotguns, handguns, rifles were left on site; several automatic AK-47s, pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, machine guns recovered from the location.  In terms of the dinars, it's about -- if you add it all up, it's roughly about $1,000 worth of dinar that were located on site.

 

            Q     Iraqi dinar.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah, Iraqi dinar.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, sir?

 

            Q     Hello.  (Name inaudible) -- Four Corners Media.  Were you aware that two days ago the museum in Nasiriyah was burned and looted, possibly by the Mahdi Army?  And there's continued looting at sites   all over the south of Iraq including reports of about 200 looters a night at Uma (sp).  And I'm wondering why this is still happening a year after the war ended and what plan you have in place to stop it.

 

            MR. SENOR:  We have built up an Iraqi security force.  If you look at all the security forces -- the Iraqi police, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, the new Iraqi army, Facilities Protection Service and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and the Iraqi border patrol -- five security forces, some 200,000 Iraqis in security positions.  We've built that up in about a year.

 

            When Ambassador Bremer arrived here last spring there wasn't a single Iraqi police officer on the streets.  Today we have recruited and deployed an Iraqi police force of approximately 70,000 individuals.  The building up of the Iraqi security forces, plus the reinforcement role that American and coalition security forces have played, has drawn down -- resulted in the reduction of looting dramatically.  I mean, just -- in the aftermath of the war, there was significant looting.  Now there's virtually none.

 

            In certain areas you've seen a direct cause effect where we've dedicated either coalition forces or, more primarily, Iraqi security forces, you've seen a dramatic reduction.  Take political sabotage attacks against the electrical lines, or the oil infrastructure. While we've seen a spike in the last week, you've got to understand, for about the past year, past 10 months, we've seen virtually none. Immediately after the war, electrical lines were being taken down on almost a weekly basis.  And we went for about 10 or 11 months and we see none of it, and that's because we have built up a Facilities Protection Service of Iraqis in the number of tens of thousands, who are now securing the electrical lines.  And that has done two things. One, it has made the marginal risk for those who engage in these attacks that much higher.  When they try to take down a line, the odds of them themselves getting killed or captured have increased significantly.  Also, our investment in the electrical infrastructure has meant there's more redundancy in the system, so the marginal benefit to those engaging in these attacks against infrastructure, and the looting, has gone way down because when they try to take down a piece of infrastructure, when they try to knock down an electrical line, it either doesn't have the desired effect -- electrical power doesn't go out, or our ability to put it back up increases that much more significantly.

 

            So overall, you've seen dramatic improvement.  That's not to say there aren't isolated pockets where there are still problems. Certainly, in the United States of America, where we have millions and millions and millions and millions of people in security positions, we still have crime.  We're still going to have areas where there's looting in Iraq.  Our goal is not perfection, our goal is making it that much more difficulty for those who engage in those attacks to complete them successfully, and we've done a very good job on that. The Iraqis have done an outstanding job on that.  And we've got to continue to improve it.

 

            Q     Just a quick follow-up.  Could you tell me if you think that the Italian Army is suited to fight the Mahdi army and some of the challenges they've seen?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  The Italian army has done a wonderful job in Bosnia, side by side with us along in Kosovo, and they've demonstrated equal aptitude down here in Iraq.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Campbell?

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            MR. SENOR:  If you could use the mike, please.

 

            Q     Yazmi Lukisar (ph) from --

 

            MR. SENOR:  No, she was going to ask a question.  She just needed the mike.  Sorry.

 

            Q     I know you can't comment on an ongoing investigation, but can you tell us how many investigations are under way relating to abuse within any military prisons at all within Iraq?  And just generally, do all of the prisons operate under the same guidelines that relate to holding and interrogating prisoners?

 

            And if I could just ask you one follow-up on the wedding situation, too.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Okay.  On the first question, I know that we have the Major General Fay investigation ongoing.  That investigation is not only going to look at the specific allegations that came up in the Taguba report and through the CID report, but it also is very, very encompassing.  So if there are other minor investigations going on at any of the other detention facilities we have, that certainly would fall under there as well.

 

            I don't have the exact numbers about how many specific investigations are going on at any one time, but you can be assured that anytime a prisoner lodges a complaint about his maltreatment or mistreatment, that starts an investigation.  So I mean, I can look up the exact number, but that number changes on a day-to-day basis.

 

            The important thing is that the major investigations to the detention systems and the interrogation systems in the military intelligence -- there's one large investigation that follows on from the CID investigation and from the Taguba investigation, and that's the Fay investigation, which is ongoing.

 

            Q     And the guidelines?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  The guidelines remain the Geneva Conventions.

 

            Q     And on the situation yesterday, you said that you were fairly convinced this was not what some of the Iraqis were saying, a wedding party that was hit, but -- and part of the justification was the weapons and everything else you found.  But it sounds like, you know, $1,000, a few weapons are not that unusual here.  Do you have other evidence that would suggest this is definite, and will there be an investigation?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, certainly because of the interest that's been shown by the media we're going to have an investigation.  Some of the allegations that have been made would cause us to go back and look at this.  But it's important to understand that this operation was not something that just fell out of the sky.

 

            We had significant intelligence which caused us to conduct a military operation into the middle of the desert, 85 kilometers south of Husaybah, al Qaim, and 25 kilometers inside from the Syrian border. Relatively barren area.  We had a group of people there, not Bedouin. They were -- would appear to have been town dwellers.  You saw 4x4s, jewelry.  This is one of those routes that we have watched for a long period of time as a place where foreign fighters and smugglers come into this country.

 

            We have consistently talked inside this forum about the foreign fighter flow.  This was clearly, in our -- the intelligence that we had suggested that this was a foreign fighter "rat line," as we call them, one of the way stations.  We conducted military operations down there last night.  The ground force that swept through the objective found a significant amount of material and intelligence which validated that attack.  And we are satisfied at this point that the intelligence that led us there was validated by what we found on the ground, and it was not that there was a wedding party going on.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Sewell.

 

            Q     Sewell Chan with The Washington Post.  One question for each of you, please.

 

            Dan, you said earlier in this press conference, quote, "We really don't have anything to do with the investigation or the arrests," end quote, relating to Ahmed Chalabi and his associates.  Are we to infer that Ambassador Bremer only learned about this operation today?  And if not, when did he learn about this operation?

 

            MR. SENOR:  He learned about the investigation when it was effectively completed, and it was referred to him because those leading the investigation wanted it referred to the Central Command -- (off mike) -- procedural matter.  He referred it, which is what he does almost always in cases -- (off mike) -- when they reach the stage that they're ready to move into court.

 

            As to what he knew about the actual operation, he was notified today by an aide, who was notified -- I think someone from the Governing Council notified one of his aides to let him know that this operation had occurred, and that's when Ambassador Bremer learned of it.

 

            Q     But you're saying that he did not have any effect whatsoever --

 

            MR. SENOR:  Again, he knew --

 

            Q     -- indirect or direct, on the timing?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Sure.  He knew the investigation -- he was aware of the investigation, but he was not involved with the operation.  He did not know that the operation -- (off mike) -- today.  He was notified after the fact.

 

            Q     For General Kimmitt, sir.  There was footage shown on Associated Press Television Network yesterday that seemed to depict civilians who were purportedly killed in the incident near the Syrian border.  Is the military disputing that any civilians were killed? There were graphic images of dead children.  Does the military have a position on whether these children were killed in this incident?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  The persons that we had on the ground did not find -- and they were on the ground for an extensive period of time -- they did not find any dead children among the casualties of that engagement.

 

            Q     Did they find any people who were not suspected to be involved in this foreign fighter cell?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I'm sorry; I have problems with double negatives. Say again?

 

            Q     I'm sorry.  Is everyone who was killed believed to have been involved in this foreign fighter cell?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  At this point, the intelligence that we have and the intelligence that we drew on to conduct this operation was sufficient for us to believe -- to conduct that operation.  We believe that we operated within the rules of engagement for that operation.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, ma'am.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  I have two questions, to Dan Senor and General Kimmitt.

 

            My first question is to Mr. Dan.  There have been two years for Iraq and the Iraqi people are suffering from outages.  This is not a very difficult issue for the United States.

 

            My question to General Kimmitt.  Can you give us a statistic about the Iraqis and the Americans killed in Karbala and Najaf?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Are you talking about electrical -- electricity outages, power outages?  Yeah, okay.

 

            INTERPRETER:  Yes.  She's talking about electrical outages.

 

            MR. SENOR:  We are in a situation now where we are -- we've exceeded prewar levels in terms of electrical generation.  When we arrived here, Iraq was generating something like 300 megawatts of power a day.  And the prewar levels, as many of you know, was approximately 42 (hundred), 4,400, which we exceeded in October of last year.     Even when Iraq is generating its prewar peak, which was 42 (hundred), 4,400 megawatts, it's only meeting two-thirds of the country's demand. The country needs 6,000 megawatts.  So even under Saddam Hussein, the country -- the government was only generating two-thirds of the country's demand.

 

            Many parts of the country had very severe power outages.  Now, you may have lived in Baghdad, which had it far less worse than other parts of the country.  Some areas like Basra, under the former regime, were sometimes getting two, three, four, five hours of power a day; Baghdad, I think, ranged, depending, 18 hours and up.

 

            What we first tried to do is, as I said, rebuild the infrastructure, the electrical infrastructure.  We've dedicated -- the largest area of the funding we're dedicating to the reconstruction of Iraq is in the area of electrical infrastructure.

 

            We first tried to equalize the situation.  So Saddam Hussein used essential services as a tool of repression.  He gave some areas a lot of electrical power and he gave some areas virtually none.  Then what we tried to do is reach the overall prewar levels.  As I said, we did that last October after spending a lot of money and doing a lot of work.  It was work that involved American civilian engineers and coalition military forces working side by side with Iraqi engineers to get this done.  It was a real milestone.

 

            And now our focus is on reaching the country's demand, which is 6,000 megawatts.  So it's -- we have to get to about another 15 (hundred) to 1,600 megawatts of power here, which is not easy.  And it will be far higher than the electrical power that was generated this country at any time in the last 35 years.  Our goal for that is sometime this summer, to get to 6,000 megawatts this summer.

 

            And even though the Coalition Provisional Authority and Ambassador Bremer leaves here on June 30th, we are still going to have civilian reconstruction resources, both in terms of individuals and dollars and other resources on the ground here that will stay after June 30th to get this job done.

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I don't have the casualty figures for Najaf and Karbala.  They're quite shocking because they're so disproportionate, and if I had those numbers, I would tell you that the numbers would be   somewhere on the order of 50 to 100 casualties taken by Muqtada's militia to every one taken by the coalition.  And it kind of is sad to see a militia like that, so poorly led by a thug like Muqtada that he would allow those young men to fight against an Army as disciplined, as well led, as well trained, as well equipped as the coalition forces, only to see them fight to their death for no reason at all.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     Yes, Mike Georgia (sp) from Reuters.  There are relatives of a well-known wedding singer who say he and his brother were killed in this incident near the Syrian border.  And they brought the bodies back to Baghdad.  Are you willing to sort of review your assessment of what happened in terms of civilians and combatants at this point?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Oh, absolutely.  We said we're going to do an investigation.  We're going to take a hard look at that.

 

            Obviously, for operational and security reasons, I can't reveal much of the details of what got us there and what we did while we were there.  But I am persuaded that, again, the purposes that caused us to conduct that operation in the middle of the barren desert in the early mornings (sic) of the hour, which is kind of an odd time to be having a wedding, against what we believed to be 34 to 35 men and a number of women, less than a handful of women, which doesn't seem to be numbers that one would associate with a wedding, by a group in their four-by- fours, well away from any town, in a known RAT line, which is being used by smugglers and foreign fighters frequently, and other intelligence that we found on the ground, pretty well convinces us that what got us there had a valid purpose.

 

            Are we going to take a look at it, are we going to review it, are we going to conduct some measure of investigation based on some of the things that we're hearing here?  Of course we are.  I think that's the only prudent thing to do.  And we may find out new information that we don't have currently.  But we are satisfied that the intelligence that we had, the multiple correlated evidence that got us there, and the actions of our forces on the ground, what they found and what they brought back -- foreign passports, money, weapons, satellite communications -- would be inconsistent with a wedding party for sure, and fairly consistent with what we have seen throughout this country time after time after time, which is the flow of foreign fighters to come in to terrorize and kill the Iraqi citizens.

 

            Q     Is it possible that you were targeting these fighters and you hit a wedding party next door?  Is that possible?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, I think let's let the investigation bear out.  But this was not "next door."  This was in the middle of the open desert.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, in the back.

 

            Q     I have a question -- German Television, Jurg Ahmeizer (ph). Do you know anything about the pictures we saw yesterday evening -- who made them, who are the people on the pictures?  One older man was talking about two air raids and that private houses were destroyed. Do you know anything about these pictures?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I mean, there were some buildings out in that area, but nothing that could be associated with a town or a village. Again, this is what's going to cause us to review our photo imagery that we have of that area, talk to the people that were on the ground, take a look around, hear the evidence.

 

            So, there may be some new evidence that crops up.  We will keep an open mind about this.  But what we saw in those pictures and what we saw on the ground at this point are inconsistent.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, sir?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  (Name and affiliation inaudible.) My question, the question has been raised by one of the citizens from Maysan,  Sheik Rahim Saudi (ph), he is a deputy governor.  What is the reason behind having a different amount of money has been allocated for the provinces?  There is a difference in this amount, for example, in Salahuddin and in Maysan.  And why not all the bridges and highways are not treated equally in terms of the allocation of the money, the highway that links Baghdad to Mosul?

 

            MR. SENOR:  We have dedicated and are in the process of dedicating, if you count up all the reconstruction funding, $18.6 billion.  That's in pursuit of the reconstruction of the entire country, spread over a number of provinces.  We've not released any sort of province-by-province breakdown.  That's not how we make our determinations.  We do it on a project-by-project basis.  And I'll give you an example.

 

            There are certain areas in the country where oil infrastructure tends to be centralized.  Therefore, there's a lot of funding going to get Iraq's oil resources flowing again.  There are certain areas where some of the electrical infrastructure is hubbed.  And while there are electrical lines across the country, some of the central resources are centralized in certain parts of the country.  So because a lot of resources will be going to those areas, you could make the conclusion that that particular province is on the receiving end of a substantially -- on the receiving end of a disproportionate amount of money from a another respective province.  But it's not based on a province-by-province decision-making process.  It's not political -- we want to help this province versus that province; it's purely based on where the needs are and where we need to dedicate funds to get the reconstruction on track.

 

            Yes, Charlie?

 

            Q     Thanks, Dan.  Putting aside what's happened today with Ahmed Chalabi and his associates, how would you characterize the way in which his relationship with the coalition has evolved over the last couple of months?  And do you think that he's still a player in the forming of an interim government?

 

            MR. SENOR:  You know, Charlie, I would suggest you ask that question of the Iraqi people.  We are heading now down a path where   there will be direct elections in this country seven months after we hand over sovereignty.  Iraqis will choose their leaders and hold them accountable.

 

            And in terms of having a speculative discussion, which I'm not terribly interested in having, about the ups and downs and ups, trials and tribulations of any respected political figure, that's a discussion to be had with Iraqi newspapers and Iraqis on the street who are going to be engaging in a dialogue about who they're going to elect in just a few months.

 

            Q     Right, but how has his relationship changed with the coalition over the last couple of months?

 

            MR. SENOR:  There has -- I mean, I'm telling you that we don't sit there evaluating one GC member's favored over another GC member. These are decisions that the Iraqis are going to make about who they want in power, about who they want running their country.  That's how this process is going forward.  The Coalition Provisional Authority is disappearing in less than six weeks.  Iraqis will be choosing their leaders.

 

            Last question.  Yes.

 

            Q     Anthony Deutsch with the Associated Press.  Is it not true that the raids that took place today were the result of information provided by the coalition to an Iraqi court, which issued the warrants that led to the raids?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Again -- and the details I just received in terms of the complete warrants today, so my information is new.  But to my knowledge, this was information that was made available from the Ministry of Finance, and it was from there.  It was taken by the Iraqi Ministry of Finance by Iraqi staff at the Ministry of Finance, and it was taken forward there by Iraqi investigators and by the investigative judge.  But for more clarity on that, I would refer you to the investigative judge and any others involved with the investigation.

 

            Q     But just to clarify, it's not true that the coalition provided information that led to this investigation?

 

            MR. SENOR:  No, my understanding is the information came from the Ministry of Finance.  But you should talk to the Ministry of Finance, talk to the investigative judge, work with them on it.  They took the lead on this process.

 

            Thank you, everybody.

 

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