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Media Availability with Mr. Di Rita

Presenter: Mr Di Rita
October 29, 2003
Di Rita:  The fact that Ambassador Bremer and General Abizaid were in town and if there’s some things we can discuss about that I’d be happy to try.


            DeFrank:  Do you want to do it on the record or on background?


            Di Rita:  I guess I’ll be on the record and if there is something that doesn’t work on the record I’ll say so.


            Let me just first – in the way of context, which I believe and feel strongly.  The last time Bremer was here we spent all day Sunday in the Pentagon.  Two times ago we spent all day Saturday and all day Sunday in the Pentagon.  So the fact that we spent all day and Monday and Tuesday with Bremer I consider progress in terms of the intensity of the discussions, which is being characterized in a way that from our perspective is no different from – he’s not here very often, he’s here as often as we’re able to get him here, as able as he able to get here I should I say.  It made sense on the heels of the Madrid Conference and just get over here and spend a little time.  The amount of time and the types of discussions that we had that the Secretary and General Myers and others had with him was about the same as it’s been over the last several times he’s been here.  As I said, I think two times ago we were here all day Saturday and all day Sunday or a big chunk of Sunday.  It’s just based as much as anything on his schedule and that’s what worked out this time.


            And there were good discussion about – again in the context of Madrid Conference having just completed we’re on the cusp of – it appears anyway by just watching what’s going on, on the Hill that the supplemental is getting close to some kind of decision in the Congress.  The UN voted a couple of I guess a week or so ago that lays out yet again a rationale for a continued Coalition Provisional Authority activities or at least a further context of those activities.  It just seemed like a good opportunity to get together and see where we stand and how we feel going forward about the whole range of issues that Jerry’s working on out there and that Abizaid is involved in so, on that basis it was good couple days of discussions.


            Q:  What were the major topics?


            Di Rita:  Well there was discussion about with General Abizaid being in town a lot discussion about where we stand.  The Secretary and the Chairman and others have talked about the growing numbers of Iraqis getting involved in security and so there was a lot of discussion about the individual elements of that, the Civil Defense Corps, the Facilities Protection, the border, where do we stand.  Walt Slocombe was here so he was helpful, he’s the one training, he is responsible with a quite a number of others in the country for the new Iraqi Army training so again in the supplemental -- and there’s various versions of it that are being resolved – the differences are being resolved in the House and the Senate Conference but there’s a significant amount of money out of the CPA elements in that supplemental that go to security forces so there was good discussion about the way forward.  In other words, we’re up to whatever we’re up to now and the number depending on what assumptions you make in terms of whose in training and when they finished training we’re in somewhere between the 80 to 95,000 range.  And those individual elements as I’ve mentioned the Force Protection Service and others have begun to take some real shape and so it’s an opportunity to sort of say okay over the next six months what’s it look like and how would we – now that we’re going to have these additional resources how do we feel about that and so there was a lot of discussion about that.  I mean there were no decisions; it was just, again, kind of reviewing the bidding as to where we stand and how as these additional units come on line how the Combatant Commander sees their value, their increasing value in the value for security in Iraq.


            Q: Do they see any prospect in six-months ahead of reducing the level of US forces?


            Di Rita:  Well that’s not the nature of how it was discussed.  I think the way that everybody understands it is that at least to this point what we’re seeing is that if you set the total number of security elements in Iraq as being US Coalition and Iraqi, without question, the fastest growing in absolute numbers as well as a percentage of the total is the Iraqi component.  And we’re going – the Secretary and the Chairman are going -- through the procedures or the thinking on the force rotation that we’ve talked a little bit for the next what people are calling OIF II, the next cycle of active-duty force rotations and in that context without question you sort of look at, and they weren’t talking numbers as much as just the sort of trends.  And the trends are that the Iraqis are going up.  They’re becoming a more structured -- in both the Army and in particular the Civil Defense Corps -- becoming more meaty structure of the security within the country and we’re working with them, the Coalition Forces out there are working with them and we’re seeing operations where they’re playing important parts.  And we saw one a couple of weeks ago in Karbala for example.  So, it was really more of the question of trends than it was specific numbers.


            Q:  When you say not the nature of how it was discussed I don’t understand that.


            Di Rita:  There was nobody that said, that by this date we’d be at this level.


            Q:  Right but did they discuss well if there are this many Iraqis by next summer then possibly we could go down to this number.


            Di Rita:  No because the force  –



            Q:  It was never discussed this way?


            Di Rita:  It really wasn’t because the force rotation which we’re going to have more to say about in the next few weeks has to happen.  In other words, we’re going to do that.  And how that looks when those force rotations are all buttoned down and decided upon, we’ll be at a certain level.  And part of that will involve notifications in getting units identified for potential deployment.  And, sure, if over the course of the months before those units deploy we start to see changes to either the way we can apply additional Iraqi resources or Coalition resources that’ll be reviewed again -- but at the moment we’re going to proceed on the basis of a force rotation that’s being worked that’s in the context of these other numbers but not dependent on those other numbers I guess is the way I’ll put it.  But it will be continually reviewed and, as I said, there is a lead time between when you identify a unit and when you actually deploy it; and if in that period these other factors become determinate in a way that we can make additional decisions on actual deployments then that will be factored – that will considered -- but at the moment we’re moving forward with the force rotation that will be of a certain set of components and (inaudible- coughing) hard to tell in the coming years.


            Q:  Did you talk about shifting intelligence resources from the hunt for WMD?


            Di Rita:  No.


            Q:  They never talked about that?  It never came up?


            Di Rita:  It didn’t come up.  Now – let me say this.  It was not a topic of discussion.  It is a – but it’s an issue that has been discussed over the past several weeks with respect to, we have – I mean the ISG is out there performing a mission.  That mission is – principally, there’s other things that the ISG is doing but the principal mission of the ISG is -- under the direction and control of David Kay -- to go about the task of sifting through the intelligence and sorting out the WMD picture in Iraq.  That mission is the mission of the ISG, the principal mission.  There’s been discussion about -- and General Abizaid has talked about this -- his desire to see additional intelligence resources – I’m laying aside the ISG at the moment.  To see additional intelligence resources applied to the problem of counterterrorism and they’ve -- to some extent within the resources in the theater, non-ISG resources -- done that.  They’ve shifted resources into the counterterrorism problem.  We’ve also applied additional capability to the counterterrorism problem apart from the ISG.  Because it’s an important problem for the Commanders out there, our intelligence is getting better so naturally the Commanders want more capability because we’re getting more refined intelligence and so they want more more-refined intelligence.  So we’ve got the ISG doing its mission, the mission is unchanged we’ve added some additional resources to the counterterrorism problem, not attached it to the ISG.


            Q:  Are those people you mean?


            Di Rita:  People yeah.


            Then you say okay we’ve done all of these things -- is it possible on a not-to-interfere basis with other priorities to see if there’s any capability on an as-available basis among any of those pots of resources, ISG, the troops that would be additional intelligence capability that we’ve provided to bring out yet even more kind of synergy to the counterterrorism problem -- translators, interrogators, that sort of thing.   But again the answering argument in that all along has been the ISG has a principal mission of WMD and that has remained unchanged, and the emphasis remains unchanged.  So without any, even discussion about diluting the ISG’s mission what additional resources and what resources even within the ISG that might on as-available basis be able to be applied to the counterterrorism problem -- it’s a fair question.  There’s been no decisions on that point but it’s a fair question so there was some stories in the paper that suggest that there’s been a shift in the mission.  That was never the discussion.  The discussion was, “That’s the mission and okay, if that’s the mission and we’ve provided some additional resources, what else might we be able to do to sort of keep the heat on the counterterrorism problem.”


            Q:  Where do those additional resources come from?  And I thought it was interesting yesterday that the CIA contractor have hired guns who are searching for Osama bin-Laden, US government employees.  I mean are you taking resources away from Afghanistan and the hunt for bin-Laden for Saddam?


            Di Rita:  No, it isn’t an either or prospect.  We have in the world and it isn’t even just those two theatres that you mentioned a global war on terror going on and that global war on terror requires constant assessment of what’s available and where do you want to apply what’s available -- and that’s just something that happens all the time.  And that’s just, you know, whether it’s spending dollars on weapon systems or whether its deploying resources for missions overseas you’re always looking at priorities and making choices but the priority is the global war on terror and that’s the universe against which all these choices are being made.


            Q:  But is it still on the table the idea that you could take shifts on resources away from the ISG and put them on counterterror?


            Di Rita:  What people wonder about is if the ISG is out there doing its job in the hunt for WMD and the analysis of intelligence -- while they’re doing that -- is there any synergies you could develop that would help the counterterrorism problem, as I gave you some examples?  If you’re having people interrogate on the basis of leads on intelligence that may be WMD-associated -- would it be – is there anything you could do to enhance the counterterrorism mission while that individual might be interrogating somebody?  That’s the way that people are thinking about it.  In other words, what dynamic relationships could be established between those two problems in a way that does not detract from the original mission or the principal mission of WMD?


            Q:  So people wouldn’t be moved off of the ISG?  Because somebody worded it as it would take the Secretary’s authorization because it would be a change in mission for the ISG, which has a certain sort of mandate.  So that’s not being considered?


            Di Rita:  Nobody is considering.  I’m going to kind of try and break the link there.  Nobody is considering changing the mission of the ISG, not under discussion.  Under discussion is with the pool of resources available in the theater the counterterrorism problem is a serious one that we’re getting better at, and we’d like to keep getting better at it.   So if that’s what we’re talking about then what can we do to get better at that?


            Q:  And it could require taking people off of the ISG and letting the remaining people do their WMD thing by taking people off and putting them elsewhere?


            Di Rita:  That’s a level of detail that I’m not confident on.


            Q:  Or reducing the number on the ISG mission, not changing the ISG mission but reducing the number?


            Di Rita:  I don’t know about that, what I know is what I’ve told you which is we’ve got a handful of priorities out there, we have one unit that’s been assigned a particular priority, that priority won’t change.  And now you have the Commanders all talking to each other always talking about what resources they have that can be made available to other Commanders and that’s the kind of discussion that they have all the time.  General Dayton is one of the Commanders out there.


            Q:  Have any ISG intelligence resources already been applied to counterterrorism?


            Di Rita:  I don’t know, I don’t know and again that’s something that we don’t have the best visibility into.  David Kay rightly is the one who decides what their day-to-day activities are.


            Q:  Beyond the ISG, what else can you tell us about what might – what’s being done to improve on the ground human intelligence for counterterrorism in Iraq, some specifics?  Is there any discussion of working more with any former Ba’athist intelligence officials that you may be able to vet and things like that?


            Di Rita:  I would say generally speaking we’re doing a lot more with Iraqis and that’s not meant to accept your characterization of the types of Iraqis but the Iraqis are getting much more involved in this as we get better understanding of who the Iraqis are that can help us and that want to help us.  The Commanders out there all talk about the relationships they’re starting to establish in these areas where Iraqis will come in, Iraqis will be the principal lead, Iraqis will be the ones sort of leading the actions that we take beyond the intelligence gathering.  So I think generally speaking the best thing that will happen is that Iraqis will continue to come forward in large numbers.  As we get better at knowing who these people are the vetting will get better too and we’ll have a better – and that’s already happening.   I mean the Commanders now – particularly the, I’m talking not so much about Odierno and Sanchez and those people but the battalion commanders and the company commanders who are out working the problem, they’re getting a lot better at knowing who in their areas have things to offer.


            Q:  The trends that Abizaid is seeing in the next six-months -- is he seeing an intensification in terrorist attacks like the ones over the past couple of days?


            Di Rita:  I don’t know.  I have not heard him talk about it like that.


            Q:  Wouldn’t that be the reason for shifting more resources to counterterrorism is because they expect this to increase?


            Di Rita:  Well I think what – I don’t know, I mean and I would just – I don’t know how Abizaid.  Let me just tell you what we think that situation is and then how Abizaid is thinking about it, I mean he’s got a lot of things he’s thinking about.  But we’re getting better at the counterterrorism problem but the problem – as we get better we’re learning more about the problem.  In other words, we’re seeing obviously the kinds of attacks that we saw on Monday were such that ought to give one pause to think is there more here than – as is always the case with these kinds of intelligence activities that we need to learn and we need to get better at and understand how are they organizing themselves and how are they doing and it’s different in Baghdad than it is in Tikrit and it’s different in Tikrit than it is down in Karbala for example. So I think what he sees is the intelligence is getting better because we’re getting better relationships with Iraqis but in order to exploit that better intelligence we need more resources and that’s the thing that he’s always evaluating.  But I don’t know if he has said over the next “X” period of time it’s going to get better or worse or stay the same I have not heard him talk about it like that.


            Q:  Well in the Baghdad situation are they seeing that this is terrorism that’s being planned and executed from outside or is it indigenous?


            Di Rita:  I mean both Sanchez and Dempsey have spoken about it over the last couple of days and I would just refer to you what they’ve said.  I don’t have a better.


            Q:  We get three answers on three different matters on one question?


            Di Rita:  Because the problem is varied, Odierno’s problem is different than Dempsey’s problem there’s no question about that.  That there’s no question about, I mean as Petraeus’ problem is different than Odierno and the Polish Commanders, I mean we’re seeing – I think everybody still feels that we’re seeing areas of activity that the enemy is exploiting based on the circumstances in that area.


            Q:  (Inaudible) more the transnational terrorist are sort of coalescing in one place, in one region?


            Di Rita: I don’t have a sense I don’t have a sense one way or the other.  Sanchez would certainly be in a better position to evaluate that and I don’t know what he said about that.


            Q:  Are they importing the suicide bombers?


            Di Rita:  Excuse me?


            Q:  Are they importing the suicide bombers?


            Di Rita:   I don’t know. I mean it’s a tactic that we’ve seen all around the world so its now appearing in the Iraq.  Are they importing or is it home-grown -- I’m not sure that it matters but it’s certainly happening and it’s a common terrorist tactic around the world.


            Q:  How much are you counting on more technologies and new technologies to address this problem?  Are you sending more UAVs, airostats, (inaudible) change detection devices over there, some stuff that hasn’t ever really be used in the theater before?


            Di Rita:  Yeah it’s a good question.  There are things that we’re – in our research and development operation here -- looking to see could be accelerated, exploited you know sent out to the theater quicker than we might have originally envisioned but now we’ve got an opportunity and the Deputy in particular has been spending a lot of time thinking about that and seeing what activities are going on.  He’s evaluating that and I think in some areas we have accelerated some technologies but I’m not in a good position to be able to say we’ve done this and not done that.  But the general point that if there’s technology that we’re working on that could help this problem there are people wondering – and the people that are responsible for that are spending a lot time, putting a lot of time and even possibly shifting resources, money to do that.


            Q:  Back to our earlier question in terms of where people have already come from, you’ve shifted people from.  You didn’t really say where or give us a sense of numbers or percentages?


            Di Rita: I don’t have that information I mean if I can get it I’ll provide it but I don’t know that I have it.


            Q:  Has Abizaid told the Secretary that the resistance is getting desperate or has he told him that the resistance is becoming better organized and more effective?


            Di Rita:  I can’t say that I’ve heard the discussion on that nature.  I mean I think – Abizaid doesn’t tend to try and characterize it; he just tries to say this is what I think we’re dealing with and I don’t know that he’s tried to apply adjectives to it like desperate or coordinated.  I mean it’s – as I said the Secretary talked to this on Monday and others did as well.  What we saw in Baghdad was a spade of attacks that indicates that at least in certain parts of the country, in Baghdad anyway, there’s a certain level of sophistication that we’ve got to deal with and Sanchez has discussed it in those terms as well.  I wouldn’t try and characterize Abizaid’s characterization because I just haven’t heard him talk like that.  I mean he has no illusions about what we’re dealing with and it’s one in which he thinks continuing to drill into the counterterrorism problem is an important priority and he’s doing that.


            Q:  But where does the idea that they’re desperate come from?


            Di Rita:  I think those who may have said that and I don’t know – I mean I’m not one who said that -- but I mean those who may have said are people who see a broader perspective of what’s going on there than we’re able to see from over here.  And I’ll give you an example and let me just for this particular portion of it, be off the record.


            Mr. Di Rita goes off the record


            Mr. Di Rita goes back on the record


            The Commanders over there, see the picture in a way that’s much more comprehensive than we’re capable of seeing the picture.


            Q:  Okay that’s the opinion we’re interested in?


            Di Rita:  Well and they’ve all spoken to this.


            Q:  I’ve never heard one of them say eventually we’re going to flame out?


            Di Rita:  Who used the term flame out, some guy off the record?


            Q:  Some guy off the record.


            Di Rita:  I’m trying to tell you what they say.  What they say, Petraeus sees he’s pulling his troops back to some extent because he doesn’t need them on the streets as much.  The Iraqis are doing more work.  He sees the progress in the local council – the councils in Mosul or in the other places.  Odierno sees increasing cooperation with neighborhood watches and patrols.  And then he sees a car bomb here and we had one in Fallujah yesterday.  I mean without wanting to speak authoritatively on behalf of those Commanders there, my impression is that they believe the trends are in the right direction.  Eventually this is going to – the progress in Iraq and our offensive actions against the terrorist and the regime loyalists and others are going to overwhelm the problem and we’re going to continue to make progress.  And as I said the President’s resolve was obvious yesterday.


            Q:  But wait a minute, speaking about trends, didn’t General Schwartz with you on the podium last week say that the number of attacks is growing up to 25 daily from just 6 or 7, months ago?  I mean that’s not an encouraging trend and this there -- this notion that these guys are going to flame out also a concern, another is the intelligence community that if they’re able to sustain – if the terrorists are able to sustain this level of attacks for 3 months or 6 months that the momentum is going to shift.  I mean that then it’s going to be much harder for the Administration to continue to say our strategy is working, we’re sticking by it?  I mean isn’t there also a critical turning point the other way -- 3 to 6 months out?


            Di Rita: You look at the polls.  The Iraqis want us there.  They say that they feel things are better off now than they were before, notwithstanding all of the challenges that they face and they’re now the targets.  Iraqis are now very clearly the targets of the attacks with purpose – my impression is with purpose.


            But they see the progress that has been made, they see the effort that the Coalition is putting in to this and the tactics as the President said yesterday will change from here to there but

the strategy is what it is -- which is we’re going to see this thing through.  And I will just


            emphasise for the record there will be setbacks and there’s no question that we’re seeing at the moment a series -- as Sanchez and the Secretary have said -- more sophisticated attacks and we’re always evaluating them.  That’s why I said at the top of this counterterrorism threat. That’s an evaluation of what’s required and Abizaid feels  strongly that he needs more counterterrorism resources.  He’s going to get them.


            Q:  What can you tell us about whether there’s been any discussion of making more use and cooperation with regional intelligence agencies, it might have a much better on-the-ground feel in Iraq certainly before the war and perhaps now than we’ve had with cooperation from Kuwait or Jordan or other intelligence?


            Di Rita:  Well we’ve been getting a lot of cooperation from countries in the region as well as countries around the world.  I mean as I said this is a global war and we know that there are people coming from outside the country into Iraq.  The President has correctly identified this as a central front on the war on terrorism and if people don’t understand that, then the terrorists definitely understand that.  And so we’re going to remain engaged on that and we have a lot of Coalition support across the board including intelligence support and again without identifying individual countries.  It’s an important thing.  We appreciate it when we get it, and we’re always grateful for more.


            Q:  Larry you say one thing about intelligence is that Abizaid has in the past said he would like more counterintelligence assets and some have been shifted.  Does he right now think he has enough?


            Di Rita:  I don’t know.  I mean no Commander ever thinks he has enough of anything but I don’t want to characterize that reference to a specific thing.  I don’t know if he feels he has enough but he’s going to get what he needs.


            Q:  Well one would assume that if they are talking about the synergy with the WMD people that he doesn’t?


            Di Rita:  Abizaid will get what he needs and as the Commander there he has an awful lot of authority to determine how resources are balanced.  He can’t change priorities of individual units without kind of getting everybody to say yeah that makes sense but he can certainly – and General Dayton is a Commander.  He’s responsive to the Combatant Commander to some extent.  But I really want – if there’s one thing you walk away with please walk away with this.  The mission of the ISG has not changed and there’s nothing that would be done to evaluate how we would balance resources that anybody should properly characterize as having changed that.


            Q:  Could you actually just sort of technically reduce the size of that mission without other authority?  Abizaid could he say?


            Di Rita:  Unlikely.


            Q:  Okay.


            Di Rita:  Besides that’s not the way things are set up.  David Kay has the responsibility for that mission so you know we’re in good communications with Dayton and with Kay with respect to resources.  So in that sense it wouldn’t happen by fiat.


            Q:  What about progress and force consolidation?  Back in late July, Dempsey was saying that he has to devote 33% of the 1st Armored Division to force protection and that if they could consolidate the forces they can shift those people who are now protecting themselves, he called it a self-licking ice cream cone.  Are they still moving towards consolidating the forces in Baghdad and elsewhere?


            Di Rita: I don’t have a good feel for what the Commanders are doing with respect to how they’re organized. I can say this though.  It makes the broader point, which is what all the Commanders have been saying to the Secretary without hesitation -- they don’t want more American forces because it contributes to the same problem.  That’s why they don’t – that’s one of the reasons they don’t want more American forces because you’ve got to add the force protection, you’ve got – even at 20 to 25 missions a day. Sanchez said in September when it was 13, 12 to 13 missions a day that it occupied -- it wasn’t enough of a military problem to occupy more than a Platoon of his units.  Just from a strict sort of military coalition of forces so even if you say there’s 20 to 25 a day they’re serious, we take them seriously, we’re working the problem but there’s 132,000 US troops out there and so it’s still.  Your question is force protection’s a problem when you have a lot of Americans?  The answer is that’s correct, it’s a priority, it has to be done and it’s one of the reasons why the Commanders don’t want more American forces they want more Iraqi forces and would be happy if more Coalition forces showed up but it’s really the Iraqis that are the ones on the upswing.


            I don’t know how much more time we have.


            Q:  American training Iraqi forces either in the context of the military forces or the civil protection forces in intelligence methods – counterterrorism, counterintelligence methods?


            Di Rita:  I don’t know.  I know that in the police training there are interrogation techniques, that’s part of their training they get certain courses of training 6, 8, 10 12 weeks, I don’t know how long.


            Q:  So more and more Iraqis are helping with this is that because more Iraqis are coming forward rather than dedicated Iraqi assets?


            Di Rita:  I don’t have enough refinement but what I was referring to is what the Commanders talk about, people in the neighborhood say something is going on in that house and then they can refer to the civil defense corps people, the local sort of militia – not militia but sort of National Guard-type people that they can assemble quickly and say we’re going to go ahead do an operation here and they’ll work closely with the US units, the company that happens to be in that particular area.  That’s what I was referring to.  With respect to whether they’re being trained on intelligence I just don’t know, I know as I said the police probably do some interrogation.


            Q:  Last night I think it was on NBC I think it was Miklaszewski reporting from the region and General Sanchez naming a former senior Ba’ath party official and saying that this is the guy that they believe is sort of the top of the pyramid of the resistance?


            Di Rita:  I can’t sustain that or confirm that but I would go with Sanchez if that’s what Sanchez thinks.  He’s got a better sense.


            Q:  I think it was on the record.


            Di Rita:  Was he on the record?


            Q:  He was on the record right?


            Q:  He didn’t say.


            Di Rita:  I am not in a position to confirm that Sanchez.  The people out there will have a better feel for it than I do.


            Q:  Even if it wasn’t on camera?


            Di Rita:  If there’s something we can get on that, Jay, we ought to.


            Q:  Is Rumsfeld still writing snowflakes and is he taking any steps to guard against future leaks?


            Di Rita:  The answer is respectfully yes and no.  I mean you bet he’s still writing them, I don’t think 50 years of habit he’ll be breaking ...


            Q:  Would you like to share any of them with us?


            Di Rita:  {Laughter}.  I believe, I’d like to think I am anyway for the sake of all my colleagues I get the most of them every day.  It’s the broad range of things.


            Q:  Why does he stamp them classified?  Can he do that?


            Di Rita:  If they’re classified, they are classified.


            Q:  But his thoughts?


            Di Rita:  If they’re classified, he classifies those.  But there was nothing in that memo that was classified, you know sensitive.  It’s not appropriate to just say something is classified so that it won’t leak -- in fact some people believe they leak faster when they’re classified.


            Q:  Are they going to be briefing on the Hill?


            Di Rita:  Who?


            Q:  They were supposed to brief on the Hill yesterday right?


            Mr. Di Rita goes off the record

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