DoD News Briefing
Bremer Interview with
Q: Is it time to give an ultimatum to Syria and Iran about tightening up the borders and doing more to keep terrorist out of Iraq?
Amb. Bremer: I dont know if the word ultimatum is the right word but its quite clear that we have a problem with terrorist coming into Iraq now, its a growing problem and there are indications that some of these terrorist are making their way in through Iran or through Syria. We can see from the attack last week on the U.N. that these terrorists have virtually no respect for life, they attacked a group of people who were in Iraq with no political agenda who were just there trying to help Iraqi people so its a serious problem and I think those governments ought to take it seriously.
Q: With the mounting U.S. casualties is the search for weapons of mass destruction now taking a back seat to just protection forces in Iraq?
Amb. Bremer: No these are two different things. We have a very large group of people, more than a thousand in the country now who are continuing the search for weapons of mass destruction. Theyve been in the country now for I guess 5 or 6 weeks. Theyre making some progress and Im confident that they will in fact find evidence of chemical and biological programs but we have to do both of things at once. We also need to now be very serious about our looking for terrorist and dealing with the other security threats.
Q: Lets talk about some of those other security threats?
Amb. Bremer: You basically have three kinds of threats. You have the threats of the people who are killing our young men and women in the Armed Forces. These tend to be representatives of the former regime, Baathist, fedayeen Saddam trained killers. Those attacks have been small scale, usually squad level attacks in a very small part of the country they pose no strategic threat to us they do cause us casualties but no strategic threat. We can deal with that with the situation we can deal with that situation on the ground.
Second security threat is the terrorist, which is a different and somewhat growing one where as, as I said earlier we have to get better at dealing with that. And the third security threat, which is more for Iraqis than for us is the straight criminality. You remember Saddam let more than a hundred thousand prisoners out of jail just before the war and that obvious cause a problem.
Q: Do we have enough troops on the ground to get the mission done?
Amb. Bremer: Well you know Im not an expert on troop numbers, General Abizaid, the CentCom Commander believes he has enough force there. I think its a question of how you configure the force and want to have a force that is lighter and more mobile thats the direction were going right now.
Q: What can be done to stem the number of U.S. casualties in Iraq?
Amb. Bremer: We pay a lot of attention to force protection, which is the main point but I think the real key is to defeat the people who are attacking us who are these people who have a retrograde view of Iraq, they want to reestablish the Baathist tyranny we basically have to defeat them.
Q: What role do you see the Iraqi governing council taking in post-war Iraq?
Amb. Bremer: The governing council has three important responsibilities, which theyve already begun to exercise. First, to appoint a cabinet, I expect we will see that happen here in the next week or 10 days. Secondly to approve a 2004 budget for the budget for Iraq, again I think that will happen between now and the end of September thats our timeline. And thirdly to get a process started where a constitution can be written. Theyve already appointed a preparatory committee to look into the constitution thats already had its first couple of meetings last week. So theyre moving ahead on all three of these areas.
Q: How much money do you need to carry out this mission? How much more money?
Amb. Bremer: Its hard to know at the moment exactly how much more, we know we need billions of dollars more. The World Bank is in the process of finishing an assessment of Iraqs economic needs over the next couple of years, that should be done by about the middle of September and that will be the basis for a rather large donors conference, which the United States will go and other countries at the end of October where well try to put together the monies we need.
Q: Last question. How powerful is Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq? And what can be done to stop that terrorist cell?
Amb. Bremer: Ansar al-Islam is a deadly group of killers, they are Islamic extremist, theyre base was in northern Iraq and what concerns us now is there are scores of them actually in Baghdad and what we have to do is get good intelligence on them and go out and either capture or kill them before they can bomb us again.