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DoD News Briefing

L. Paul Bremer, US Civil Administrator to Iraq

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

(Ambassador Paul Bremer Interview with Belo Television)

Q: Mr. Ambassador do you have hired evidence pointing to Islamic terrorist as distinct from Saddam loyalist as responsible for the attacks on American personnel in Iraq?

Amb. Bremer: To date it appears to us that almost all of the attacks against American Coalition forces have been conducted by Saddam loyalist, not by Islamist now, it doesn’t mean that we won’t have Islamist terrorist attack us in the future, they are certainly a growing threat of Islamist terrorism but to date from what we know, from the people we’ve captured and killed after attacks on Coalition forces these have been almost entirely conducted by trained killers of the Saddam regime.

Q: And do you know that such attacks, as those on the U.N. and the Jordanian Embassy are by contrast terrorist led?

Amb. Bremer: No I think it’s to early in both investigations to reach any conclusion. You can certainly make a case that they were done either by Saddam’s trained killers – they had the capability of conducting these kinds of attacks or by Islamist terrorist. I believe one should in a case like this wait for the evidence and so far the evidence is not to be persuasive one direction or the other.

Q: You’ve said that setting up a police force and a self-defense Army might take 2 to 4 years, will American forces be required to stay after that?

Amb. Bremer: It’s hard for me to know how long American forces will have to be in Iraq, it really – I think it will depend on first on the security situation itself obviously, but also on the view of the eventual Iraqi government an Iraqi government will come into being at some point in the next couple of years maybe even as early as next year once there are elections. And that government will have to assess it’s security and decide what it wants to do about that, whether it wants to keep Coalition forces there or not, this is a matter that seems to be to far in future to make a conjecture.

Q: You’ve spoken in rather tentative terms today about the dependency of elections upon completion of the new constitution, are you any more or less optimistic about that than when you first created the one-year timetable this afternoon?

Amb. Bremer: No I think – I have not really changed my view, my view is that you can’t have – I know you can’t have elections before you have a constitution and everybody in Iraq seems to understand that national elections are not possible at the moment. There is no election law, there’s no political parties law there are no constituency boundaries you’d have to have a constitution first. How long it takes to write the constitution is really up to the Iraqi people, it may take 6 or 8 months, if it takes that long and then you need a another couple of months to organize elections you can have elections next year.

Q: What’s to keep a newly elected government from being overthrown or newly elected government from becoming anti-American entity and if so what do we do?

Amb. Bremer: Of course it’s a little early to tell what kind of government there might be. Our objective will be to have as the President has said, a stable, democratic Iraq at peace with its neighbor, able to defend itself against its neighbors if necessary. If you have a stable peaceful democratic Iraq you begin to give yourself some assurance that that government will have some survivability and it will be a stable situation.

Q: If more American troops are not needed as you and the Secretary of Defense have asserted, what kind of forces do you need – I know you’ve covered this one before but can you say it in little more detail what you don’t have enough of at the moment?

Amb. Bremer: I think, I have – since I’m not a military expert I tend not to focus on the numbers I tend to focus on military capability. I think the most important thing that we need to do is to reconfigure our forces, which as General Abizaid, the CENTCOM Commander is planning to do to make the forces more mobile so that they can move around the country more quickly to trouble spots rather than have them sitting in tanks in fixed places. In order to do that we also need to bring more Iraqis into the forefront in defending their country, particular with the civil defense force which we’re now raising, we’ve raised 18 Battalions of the civil defense force, they will be allowed – they will be able to take over some of these fixed site security post for us and we will then have more mobility.

Q: Is there a need for more civil authorities to help restore the quality of life for the average Iraqis – health care, education, and public utilities?

Amb. Bremer: Well the Iraqi government is functioning, all of the ministries are up and functioning and they’ve got lots of people there. We are trying to give them as much assistance as we can. We are trying to – I’ve been trying to bring more civilians to compliment the military structure and we are doing that, we’re getting several hundred more civilians from the United States and from Britain and from other Coalition governments so, it’s not a one for one change out but we think that we can use more civilians and we’re getting them.

Q: Thank you Sir.

Amb. Bremer: Okay.

- End –


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