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DoD News Briefing - Operational Update

Presenters: Lawrence Di Rita, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and Army Brigadier General Carter Ham, Deputy Director Regional Operations, J-3
May 26, 2005 12:05 PM EDT
DoD News Briefing - Operational Update

            MR. DIRITA:  Good afternoon.  I first want to welcome my friend and yours, General Ham, to the briefing studio.  He's on the Joint Staff in the Directorate of Operations.  As many of you know, was a task force commander in Iraq up in the north.  And we're very pleased that he's joining us today, and we hope to make more of a habit out of that.

 

            Just a couple of quick notes.  The secretary is down in Fort Bragg where he was attending the 82nd Division Review, which takes place once a year.  It's essentially a division parade and some review activities.  He was very much looking forward to doing that.  We expect him back in the building a little bit later today.  I saw some coverage of the wonderful ceremony down there.

 

            The chairman tomorrow will have his counterpart from Italy here, the chief of defense in Italy, minister of defense -- I should say the chief of defense from Italy, and he'll be hosting him tomorrow.

 

              A little later today, we are fortunate to be able to have General Hood from Joint Task Force Guantanamo, who's been pursuing what knowledge can be gleaned from the circumstances following the recent articles about allegations down there.  And he's got some very informative briefings.  And we're hoping to get him down here a little bit later today.  So you're welcome to --

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            MR. DIRITA:  He's up on the Hill now, so --

 

            STAFF:  About 4:00 p.m.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  -- about 4:00 p.m. today.

 

            And one final note, if I may.  We're going to be -- and I think all of you know this to be the case -- saying goodbye soon to Colonel George Rhynedance who's been the military assistant in the Press Office for -- in OSD Public Affairs for quite a long time.  He's a terrific fella.  He's going on to another important job in the Department of the Army, and we're going to miss him.  We welcome Colonel Joe Richard who is replacing him -- has replaced him. Many of you have seen him.  And I hope you're nice to him, and he's as nice to you as you deserve.  So -- (laughs; laughter).

 

            With that, maybe I'll ask General Ham to say one or two things, and we'll get into it.

 

            GEN. HAM:  Thanks, Mr. DiRita. 

 

            It is nice to be here.  Some of you I had the chance to meet over in Mosul.  And to tell you the truth, it was a little more comfortable over there than it is here.  But it is what it is.

 

            You know, I think it's important as we look forward to Memorial Day, it's a good time to remember those who have fallen in the service of our nation, and their families who have made such a great sacrifice.  And we really owe them more of a debt than we can ever properly repay. 

 

            Our armed forces today continue to serve with honor and distinction around the world.  Operations in Iraq -- many of you have heard of Matador, Squeeze Play, Hudson, New Market. 

 

            All of those have focused on disrupting enemy activities, and they've also provided opportunities for the Iraqi security forces to gain valuable experience. 

 

            And though we tend to focus a lot on Iraq and Afghanistan, it is important to remember that we are involved in a global war against terrorism.  And on that note, in the Pacific, Exercise SEACAT is under way involving six Southeast Asian nations.  This is training that's designed to enhance the capability to track and board vessels that are suspected of transporting suspicious persons, terrorists, or material that may support those terrorists.

 

            Thank you, sir.

 

            Q     Larry, the Iraqi Defense minister today announced the beginning of a massive security sweep in Iraq, beginning in Baghdad. They say they're going to mount a cordon around the city, divide it into parts, import 40,000 Iraqi troops from around the country to sweep neighborhood by neighborhood.  What part will U.S. troops play in this?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Can you talk about that?

 

            GEN. HAM:  I can.  I think this is great news.  And the Iraqi minister of Defense, minister of Interior talking about an operation like this certainly conveys the recognition by the transitional government the importance of counterinsurgency operations.  And while it's not appropriate for us to talk about future operations, I think this does convey the growing confidence and capability of the Iraqi security forces.  And I think that, in and of itself, is a positive indicator.

 

            Q     How about U.S. troops?  Will U.S. troops take -- I mean there are about 10,000 in the Baghdad area.  Will they take part in this?

 

            GEN. HAM:  Well, I think as a matter of practice we don't talk about future operations.  But should U.S. forces be involved, then we'll talk about that.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I'm going to like this guy!  (Laughter).

 

            Q     Still on Iraq --

 

            Q     (Are we going to ?) like him?  (Laughter.)

 

            Q     For General Ham, still on Iraq.  There have been some brief reports about cross-border firings, Iraq and Syria.  Can you give us any more detail?  How often has that happened?  When was the most recent?  Are most of them American coalition towards Syria returning? And just, you know, how big a concern that is for the American military.

 

            GEN. HAM:  I'm sorry that I don't have the specifics about most recent or the actual number.  I feel very confident categorizing it as infrequent and an unusual occurrence, but they have occurred.  But I just don't have the specifics on when the last ones were.

 

            Q     Sir, following the question of -- about the Syrian and Iraqi borders, the Syrians said that a Syrian armored brigade covered the operation, Matador Operation, from the Syrian side, and for that reason this operation was successful, if we can say.  What -- how could you comment on this?

 

            GEN. HAM:  The -- Syria and Iraq share about a 400-mile long border, so it's a very significant neighbor to Iraq, and certainly of great interest to the Iraqi transitional government, to Iraqi security forces who maintain security along that border.

 

            There's been no change that I'm aware of, of any relationship between Iraqi and security forces along the border.

 

            Q     (Off mike) -- they actively are helping and cooperating, and this morning the Syrian ambassador in the U.N. said that Damascus has arrested more than 1,200 people trying to cross the border into Iraq in recent weeks.  So how do you explain the U.S. accusations that Syria keeps supporting terrorism?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Well, let me talk to that a little bit, Joe.  First of all, we know that Syria has relationships with terrorist groups; that's not news -- Hamas and others.  But the fact that there may have been some people picked up on the Syrian side of the border may be such as the Syrian minister -- or ambassador described it.

 

            But it should by no means persuade anybody that that border is a secure border.  It is a highly porous border; it's one in which there's only so much one can expect to be able to control.

 

            But the fact is, there has been regular communication between Iraq and Syria -- and Iraqi government officials -- with the extent to which it would be helpful for Syria to step up a little bit better security along that border.  And we have had government-to-government contact with Syria on the range of things that would be helpful in order to keep -- to minimize what we believe to be some measure of access that terrorists are getting through Syria into Iraq, so.

 

            (Cross talk.)

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Brett (sp)?

 

            I'll come back to you, Gene (sp).  Sorry.

 

            Q     The Iraqi defense minister also said today with confidence that the Iraqis know that Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi has been wounded; didn't go into specifics.  Obviously, we have seen these website postings about the status of Zarqawi back and forth.  Is there hard evidence that the U.S. has in any way, shape or form, that Zarqawi is wounded?

 

            GEN. HAM:  I'd love to be able to confirm or deny that, but the truth is, we are not able to do so.  We do not have an independent corroboration of the statements from the Iraqi government officials.

 

            I would also note, though, that it's important to put this in context.  While Zarqawi certainly is an important character, his organization is bigger than just one guy.  And so his demise, whether he be captured -- which would be preferable -- or if he's killed or wounded, that will not cause al Qaeda in Iraq to cease to function. So it is -- it is important, certainly.  But it -- if he's killed or captured, it won't cause the organization to necessarily crumble.

 

            Q     Can you talk about -- a little bit about the analysis of some of these postings, and whether this is really a power struggle within the network, or perhaps they're building him up for martyrdom, if in fact he is wounded.

 

            Can you just talk about some of the analysis of what the military is looking at with these different postings?

 

            GEN. HAM:  What we're most interested in is the veracity of the reports.  If we can identify where he is or what his current situation, condition is, that's what we're most interested in. Certainly the other discussions about why others may be posting this information -- all that enters into the discussion.  But our focus is, where is he now, and what is his condition?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  But there has been speculation inside of Iraq. Iraqi officials have speculated to various scenarios that would include -- we know that al Qaeda is active on the Internet.  We know that they have used it for information and for disinformation.  It's -- there's a lot of theories going around as to whether they might -- you know, there may be a desire to spread information that's inaccurate, for a variety of reasons.

 

            So it's a difficult thing for us to ascertain.  What General Ham said is accurate.  We'll either get this guy -- we'll eventually get this guy, but we don't have him now.  And when we do get him, there's going to be somebody behind him, and it's going to be something we're on for a while.

 

            Q     But just to be clear -- I'm sorry.  One more thing.  Isn't the Zarqawi network a little different than al Qaeda, in that Zarqawi has the rock star quality, if you will --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  He's an important figure.  There's no question.

 

            Q     -- and the demise of Zarqawi would be a little different than --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  He's an important figure.  There isn't any question about that.  He is a very important figure.

 

            Jamie?

 

            Q     Just to clarify, some of these Web postings have suggested that Zarqawi was smuggled out of the country in the company of doctors.  Is there any evidence that would suggest Zarqawi is no longer in Iraq, that you're aware of?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Not that I'm aware of.  We just don't have the information as to where he is presently.

 

              Q     And then just a couple other follow-ups.  The -- you talked about, you know, somebody would replace him.  Is there anyone who is the heir apparent or somebody who would be seen as in line to replace Zarqawi when the day comes and he is captured or killed?

 

            GEN. HAM:  Well, the Zarqawi network is a network of cells that operate throughout the country, and I would expect that if he were incapacitated, killed or captured, that there would be some decision- making as to who would step up and take his place.  But I don't know who that individual's name is.

 

            Q      General, on that same point, do you have any sort of guidance on the structure of the al Qaeda network in Iraq, what sort of factions there are and what real impact the loss of Zarqawi would have on that organization?  Like do you have a sort of a rough sketch of the leadership structure of al Qaeda in Iraq that you could give us?

 

            GEN. HAM:  I wouldn't like to get into a whole lot of detail, for obvious security reasons.  But it is -- I think the way to characterize it would be, it is a network of cells that are -- many of which are regionally based, that operate with broad guidance and intent from the leadership, from Zarqawi and his closest advisers.

 

            They are reliant to a degree on centralized funding, and certainly we try to take some effort to interfere with that.

 

            Q    So funding might be the -- is probably one of the more serious ways that this might be impacted if something were to happen to Zarqawi.  The funding might be the one point at which centralization is important to these cells?

 

            GEN. HAM:  I wouldn't say that it is "the" point, but it certainly is "a" factor. 

 

            Q     I know you don't know the status of Zarqawi, you've made that clear, but can you give us any idea what kind of credence you'd give these continuing reports on the Internet?  I mean, do they seem like they might be accurate?  I mean, are you dismissing them entirely or do you think there might be something to them?  Or any sense of how much credibility you're assigning to all this discussion of Zarqawi being wounded, including the statements from the Iraqi officials?

 

            GEN. HAM:  I think the best way to categorize it is that we look at those with great interest. 

 

            Q     Larry, a couple of related questions to General Ham.  My compliments, sir, for a very nice job when that bombing took place up in your old neighborhood.

 

            First of all, a clarification on this massive operation that Charlie talked about, the 40,000, you described as a future operation, yet we're told it's now ongoing.  And looking at Operation Squeeze Play, we're told that the ratio was about seven to one, seven Iraqi battalions to one American.  Do we anticipate the same kind of ratio in this?  And what is the mission; going after IEDs or just going after terrorists/insurgents?  And then I have a follow-up if I may.

 

            MR. DIRITA (?):  That was a lot of questions.

 

            Q     Well --

 

            MR, DIRITA (?):  We'll get through your questions, and then we'll come around, and if there's time, we'll get to your follow-up.

 

            Q     All right.

 

            GEN. HAM:  I think they're distinct.  Squeeze Play, I think as you're aware, is an operation that's specifically focused in the western side of Baghdad -- again, focused on some known, suspected IED-making cells, very clearly a large Iraqi army and Ministry of

 

              Interior force presence and involvement in that.  And that operation is proceeding well.

 

            My understanding from the announcement this morning by the Iraqi minister of Interior and minister of Defense is that this 40,000- person operation is a future operation; I think in the near future, but nonetheless a future operation.  So they may be connected somewhat in purpose, but I think they're probably distinct operations.

 

            Q     Can we go back to Zarqawi?  You had said, General, that al Qaeda in Iraq is bigger than one person.  Yet Zarqawi is the only one with a $25 million bounty for him, so clearly there is value in capturing him or having him out of the picture.  Can you talk about that?  Is it more from a logistic standpoint or an emotional standpoint to have Zarqawi out of the picture?

 

            GEN. HAM:  Well, he is the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.  And clearly, his capture or removal from that position will have a significant effect on al Qaeda in Iraq.

 

            I would -- my only caution is, we ought not expect that when that happens, that the organization will crumble and will cease to exist. This -- the organization has proven to be somewhat resilient.  They certainly are very lethal and very dangerous.  So that's my only caution, is that one person won't cause that to stop in its entirety.

 

            Q     Sir, a couple of force-level questions on Iraq.  What are the current numbers of U.S. troops in Iraq today, roughly?

 

            GEN. HAM:  About 139,000 U.S.

 

            Q     Has General Casey in the last several weeks brought his recommendation about whether those levels should remain the same for the foreseeable future or be reduced?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I'll tell you, he was talking with the secretary this morning -- (to the general) -- and you're free to jump in -- but he's -- what he's doing is laying out his sense of events coming up. We've got elections.  We've got a continued transition in Iraq.  We've got certain goals that we've set for the development of the Iraqi security forces.  And that's how he's thinking. 

 

            He doesn't have -- he has not, to specifically answer your question, made some recommendation to the secretary on the future force levels.  What he has said is, "Here's how I think we're doing, and here's -- Iraqi security forces are developing as follows, and here are some milestones coming up that we're mindful of, and the elections cycle, et cetera, et cetera.  Here are some things that -- in the area of governments and political development that will matter, that will have an impact on this."  And that was the nature of his -- it was just this morning, a brief that he gave to the secretary.  And it had -- he's not made recommendations with respect to force levels. 

 

            Q     Do you have any sense at all of whether you stay the same, whether you -- no feel for that at all?

 

            GEN. HAM:  Well, in the near term, it is going to increase a bit, because we're in the -- we're starting now the next rotation.  So that -- so during that transitional period, the numbers of boots on the ground will increase somewhat while those -- while the replacement forces are in and they're doing their transitions.

 

            But overall, I think Mr. DiRita captured it exactly right. There's ongoing assessment of the security situation, on the capability of the Iraqi security forces, which is a very key component as to what the correct posture of U.S. and other coalition forces would be.  And that's -- that assessment is ongoing by Multinational Forces Iraq.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I think there's a strong understanding that the presence of foreign forces in that country, over time, is not desirable on anybody's behalf.  So -- on our own, on the Iraq's, on the region's.  And that tension is working against the importance of getting Iraqi security forces to the level they are.  So it's a tension.  I think there's -- if Casey came back tomorrow and said he thought he needed another brigade or two, that wouldn't surprise anybody.  If he came back tomorrow and said, "Hey, I think by the end of the -- you know, the -- this time next year, I think I could be down to here," it wouldn't surprise anybody. 

 

            But the tension is, I like what I have, we're making the problem work, we are gaining confidence in the security forces.  This operation in Baghdad made people feel pretty good about, you know, how at least in Baghdad the capability of the Iraqi security force is developing.

 

            On the other hand, we saw along the Syrian border there was very little Iraqi involvement.

 

            So it's -- there's an awful lot of variables in the equation.

 

            Q     (Off mike) -- I think you were -- unfortunately, you were in Mosul in December, the head of Task Force Olympia, as I remember, when the suicide bombing took place in the mess hall.  We're -- six months later now, we don't have the final answer of what happened. Can you give us a sense of where that investigation is?  It seems like a long time.

 

            GEN. HAM:  I don't -- I was the commander at the time in Mosul. I know that there was an investigation under way.  But I will tell you, since I've left, I purposely have avoided asking questions about that.  I do not know what the current status is.

 

            Q     Well, Larry, can you push that a little bit -- it's a long time, there was a huge --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  We'll get -- I would be happy to try and find the status of the investigation.  I don't know what it is, offhand.

 

            Q     (Off mike) -- conclusions of it.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Well, sure.  I mean, if it's -- if -- when it's ready to be discussed, we'll discuss it, of course.  But the question is -- what the status of it is, I think, is the first element.

 

            And we'll see what we can learn about it.

 

            Q     General, I just want to ask you a follow-up question on your reference to the rotation that's sort of ongoing.  As I understand it, it's not a finite period of time; it's sort of a rolling thing.  But what time frame were you referring to -- there would be a slight increase?  And how much of an increase were you talking about?

 

            GEN. HAM:  Well, that the transition of forces does occur over a period of months.  The first -- the first rotation is now underway, with the replacement brigade largely on the ground in Iraq, and so both the replacement brigade and the current brigade are there.  And then that sequence will continue over a period of the next several months.  So it'll be through the end of summer, to be sure, and --

 

            MR. DIRITA:   And I'll tell you what -- and I don't -- you've got a better sense of this than I do.  But I'll tell you what, why don't we hold, and I will try -- we'll try and get you some information. Because it's not clear to me that there'll actually will be a temporary increase in the numbers.  Maybe there will.  I don't know. But why don't we see if we can't get something on that.  And it's not clear to me that's the case.  I just -- I don't know.  I've not heard that, but that doesn't mean it's not the case.  So -- so we'll --

 

            Q     All right.  But --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  And I'm unmaking the news, because I'm not sure it's accurate.  And I know how much you'd hate to report something that's not accurate.

 

            Q     I know we're going to hear from General Hood later, or hopefully later this afternoon --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I hope so.

 

            Q     But can you just give us the department's general reaction to this release of FBI documents that indicate that in August of 2002, a detainee made an allegation of Koran desecration?  Could you just give us a summary of what you know about that incident and --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Well, what we know about that allegation is that we've gone back to the detainee who allegedly made the allegation, and he has said that's not what -- it didn't happen.

 

            So the underlying allegation -- the detainee himself, within the last two weeks said that didn't happen.  I didn't -- I cannot -- he was asked a specific question; he was told it did not happen.  So what was -- the original report that we are dealing with is an FBI summary of interviews from an earlier period of time that didn't say somebody talked to the detainee; it was recounting an interviews -- series of interviews.

 

            So we just went back and -- and General Hood will talk about this in more detail -- but we've been unable to -- we've not only been not able to corroborate, the detainee has said it didn't happen, so.

 

            Q     Well, just on that point, it seems that you're saying today something slightly --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Yes.  Because we have a little more knowledge, because General Hood is here.  He's not on an airplane, so.

 

            Q     All right.  So yesterday you were unclear about whether he simply just declined to repeat the allegation, but now you're saying it actually -- he actually said it didn't happen?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  It did not happen is what we're -- (To staff)  Is that correct?

 

            STAFF:  He indicated that -- when asked about the desecration that there -- that he was not knowledgeable of any.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  He was not knowledgeable.  This is the detainee himself, who was alleged to have made the earlier allegation.

 

            Q     And what about the --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  And Hood will talk about this in detail, so I don't want to --

 

            Q     But what about the general charge that interrogators desecrated or mishandled Korans in order to either rattle the prisoners or --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  We have found absolutely no indication of that.  We just have found no indication that as a matter of interrogation policy, the Koran was used.

 

            And one of the things you'll see -- you'll see two things from General Hood -- and I would encourage you to ask about it.  He will talk a lot about the procedures for the Koran and how much care went in from the very beginning.  He will also talk about a detainee population that is organized; it has leaders, it has cliques, it has -- they're able to communicate with each other, and they know very well that allegations of Koran abuse has the effect that it had.  And he'll talk a little bit about that, how they are able to communicate with one another, and how careful they try and be so that that communications can't lead to broader disturbances in the camp.  So --

 

            Q     Larry?

 

            Q     Just to be clear.  As of this point right now, are you aware of any substantiated incident in which the U.S. military, U.S. personnel, intentionally desecrated a Koran?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  For the purposes of interrogation?  I mean, in other words, to -- I'm not aware of any.  And what he's looking at is log entries that indicate that there may have been mishandling, and then the question is what kind of mishandling was it; was it intentional mishandling or not?  And that's -- he'll be able to talk about that. 

 

            But as we understand it at the moment, we know that they have been extremely cautious; that the interrogators and the police are trained to know that this is a high sensitivity issue, so don't use it because it's too sensitive.  And then what we're trying to determine is, are there people who violated that.  And so far, we haven't been able to develop any chain of indications that would suggest that.

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Well, he's going to talk about this more, so I don't want to get too much further into this.

 

            Q     But you're saying that his investigation hasn't determined that -- he will go into more detail about it -- but you're saying that --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Yeah, what he's doing now -- and he'll talk about this -- is now he's going back to look at lawsuits that have been filed around the world by lawyers for detainees, because he wants to make sure there isn't something in there.  And that's a reasonable thing to do.  I think it's admirable that he wants to do that.  But we

know these guys are making these allegations and most of them are nonsense.

 

            Q     On that subject, what I've been hearing you saying for the past couple of weeks, since all this broke, is that on their face the allegations aren't credible because you know that these guys have been trained and practiced lying about that.  But I just went through the State Department's report on human rights around the world, and the State Department regularly quotes throughout that report detainee allegations, defense attorney allegations, family allegations.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Sure.

 

            Q     And I'm wondering if there isn't a double standard here where it's good enough for the State Department to use it to condemn other nations, but the Defense Department will reject all allegations on --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  We don't reject them.  And you're going to hear a lot about how they've been reviewed and investigated.  I mean, I reject them as not credible, and when you hear the degree to which they go into -- the caution on how the Koran is handled, on its face it is hard -- it is not believable that the nature of what's being alleged, notwithstanding the fact that when they hear these allegations they go try and run them down.  And you'll hear a lot about that, and I don't have any more to say about it.

 

            Q     To go back to Iraq, on the timing issue, you talk about future operations, I mean, it's generally when you're going into al Qaim or something, you're not getting up and announcing that four days from now we're going into al Qaim.

 

            Why do you think it makes sense for the Iraqis to get up and say, we're going to have 40,000 people mounting this massive security operation?  What do you think that's about?  Why announce that so far in advance of an operation?  Doesn't that seem to run counter to what the goals are, give people time to, you know, pack up whatever you have in the basement and run out to some other town?  Is that maybe what it's part of, trying to flush people out?

 

            GEN. HAM:  The announcement was made by senior Iraqi government officials, not by coalition or Multinational Force Iraq officials.  So I don't have a good idea as to what their motivation may have been.

 

            Q     Larry, could I --

 

            Q     General -- or actually, Larry.  Earlier this spring, I think General Casey said that he was optimistic that force levels could begin to come down fairly substantially early next year. 

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Mm-hm.

 

            Q     Has he given any indications that the current level of violence there has tempered that optimism? 

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I don't know exactly what he said.  He was down here talking about -- I guess is what you're referring to, something he may have said down here when he was down here?

 

            Q     Well, no.  You said that --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I would say this.  I've seen him brief regularly, and I haven't seen any change in his sense of how things are going. He thinks that the Iraqi security force development is proceeding.  He and others, General Abizaid, have talked about how important it will be to get the police training moving and getting -- it's an important component of Iraqi security force training that is not as advanced as some of the other units of Iraqi security forces, and he's talked about that. 

 

            But I haven't heard any change in the way he talks about what's going on out there.  He has raised his concerns about how the threat evolves, he has raised concerns about the political process and how important it is that that continue, and he said that his own interaction -- his sense of the interaction between the MOI and the MOD is as good as it's ever been.  And these are new ministers.  So they are newly in place, and he said this morning his impression is they're interacting quite well with one another.

 

            So I have not seen -- I can't stipulate to what you said he said, because I just don't remember him saying anything like that, but I can tell you I've seen him briefing for quite a while now and I've seen -- his sense of it is kind of what it is.  And I haven't seen any point where he's said, "I know I told you something a while ago, Mr. Secretary, but I'd like to change my assessment."  I think he thinks we're kind of on the track, and there's a lot of challenges in front of us but there's a lot of things that are going right, and he's highlighted those things. 

 

            I wish I could better for you.  If you have the chance and we can get him to ask, we'll get to him.

 

            Q     (Off mike.)  General, briefly, can you give us an assessment of the various operations?

 

            Have they been successful?  You said that Squeeze Play is still ongoing, I believe.  But starting with Matador, Squeeze Play, New Market and -- you talked about Hudson, I'm not familiar with that one. Can you give us a brief overview of how they were conducted?  Are they successful?  What -- were the goals met?

 

            GEN. HAM:  Again, Hudson was an operation in western Mosul, conducted -- again -- jointly between Iraqi security forces and U.S. forces.

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            GEN. HAM:  Yes.  Started yesterday, I believe.  Maybe the day before, and continuing today.  Each of these operations focused on disruption of enemy activity in their specific locales.  Intelligence- driven:  in many cases, that intelligence derived from Iraqi sources, human intelligence sources that had provided information either to Iraqi security forces -- which is occurring more and more frequently, either person-to-person or via the hotlines -- or intelligence that has been made available to U.S. forces.

 

            So when they get these kinds of information -- and New Market's a great example in the town of Hadithah, where the Marines got some intelligence that indicated Hadithah was being used as an endpoint for transit of arms, munitions, funding and people.  They used that intelligence to plan and conduct a focused, very focused operations in that city. Each of those operations had a little bit different objective, but I would say that each of them, if you were to ask the commanders involved, U.S. and Iraqi, that they would say largely successful to this point.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I'll take maybe two more, because we got to get out of here.

 

            Yeah.  (Sorry ?).

 

            Q     Larry, can you say -- did Defense Department personnel present themselves as State Department or FBI employees while questioning detainees at Guantanamo?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  That's one of the allegations in some of the FBI e- mails, as I recall.  And the Schmidt-Furlow investigation is going into that.  And I don't know the answer, but it will be part of that investigation and when it's complete.

 

            And let me -- for one second on the Schmidt-Furlow investigation. One of the -- they're looking into the FBI e-mails.  At least, what we think we have by way of what the FBI e-mail has provided -- what the FBI has provided.  General Craddock's trying to work very closely with the Department of Justice -- which is conducting its own investigation, because we are dealing with agents from another agency. So, the Schmidt-Furlow investigation is in sync with the Department of Justice.  So where that investigation is open.  It remains open, Schmidt and Furlow, and we may have more things we want them to go -- that General Craddock will determine, including things that General Hood may have found -- and they want a further clarification or understanding, in which case General Schmidt and General Furlow would be obvious people to go do that.

 

            So, we'll know when the Schmidt-Furlow investigation is complete, whether that allegation was true.  I don't know.  But I also want to just caution that because there -- you know, documents come and they appear, and we investigate them when the come up.

 

            And when we learn about them, we put it out.  And there's plenty of documents in the world and it's very easy to create documents.  And it's easy to create documents that are summaries of other documents which themselves are hearsay from somebody else, and pretty soon you're into a never-ending investigation. 

 

            But we're looking into all of these things when they appear, and at the moment, the Schmidt-Furlow investigation is open and to some extent in sync with the FBI for that very purpose, because stuff keeps popping up.

 

            Q     Can you explain why the POW/MIA inspection teams have been pulled out of North Korea?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Well, the Pacific Command put a statement out on that yesterday.  I thought it was pretty self-explanatory.

 

            Q     It raised more questions than it answered.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  And I answered an awful lot of them last night on the record, as a matter of fact.

 

            Q     Could you say something on the record about why --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  We can release the transcript of what I put out last night.

 

            Q     But it's better to have you on camera saying it, saying it with your --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Spoken for -- a guy who works for a camera organization.

 

            Q     Larry, what does the North have to do to get these things started again? 

 

            MR. DIRITA:  First of all, I would refer you to the State Department when we talk about the six-party talks.  The U.S. government's position has been for some time, and the other partners in the six-party talks, that it would be best if North Korea returned to the six-party talks. 

 

            There are declarations by the government of North Korea and signals of intent that are difficult to understand.  They've declared themselves a nuclear power.  They've withdrawn from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.  They've made a lot of -- they've presented themselves -- on their own behalf, they've withdrawn from the six- party talks, they're not negotiating with anybody.  They've created an uncertain atmosphere.  And in an uncertain atmosphere, there was a judgment made by the people who are responsible for this team that it's not the best time to be there. 

 

            But the U.S. State Department is in the lead on the negotiations with North Korea and I would refer you to the State Department with respect to the broader relationship.  But the fact is that the U.S. government made a decision with respect to these DOD personnel and they were directed not to go in for the next mission.

 

            Q     That they're physically unsafe, or is it --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Again, it's a question of an uncertain environment in which everybody thought it was prudent that they not be in the country at the moment.

 

            Q     Was there a formal review of that program to say, well, should we continue doing this, or was it --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  No.

 

            Q     -- a spot decision?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  It was based on at this moment.  The program itself is an important program and it's conducting an important mission.  So.

 

            Thanks, folks.

 

            Q     Thank you.  Thanks, General.

 

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