COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY BRIEFING
WITH LIEUTENANT GENERAL RICARDO SANCHEZ,
COMMANDER, COALITION GROUND FORCES
LOCATION: BAGHDAD, IRAQ
DATE: THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2003
GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, good afternoon.
As usual, let me start out by expressing my sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who sacrificed their lives week for freedom and democracy here in Iraq. This week the coalition suffered four killed in action, and we also had two non-hostiles, and our wounded in action totaled 46.
Sadly, this week we must also include among those who died the brave Iraqi policemen who were killed in a tragic incident involving elements of the coalition on the 12th of September around Fallujah. These were men who had signed on to contribute to the security and stability of their country, and they were our partners in this crusade, and they will be sorely missed.
We are in contact with key community leaders in Fallujah and the families of those who were killed or injured. To the families and friends that were lost, we express our deepest regret and our sincere condolences.
Despite the challenges, Iraqi and coalition forces continue to work towards our common objective: a free and democratic Iraq. Large areas of Iraq are peaceful. Reconstruction is under way, and in fact it's accelerating. The cadres of Iraq security forces continue to build on a daily basis, and the Iraqi people increasingly are taking charge of their own destiny.
This afternoon, let me highlight some of those important advances that we've been making towards this objective.
The first is a water project that was undertaken by the 14th Engineer Battalion. This water project brings clean drinking water to 15,000 people in Al-Zawiyah (sp). The 14th Engineers and the Iraqis developed the town water plan. They installed a 10-kilometer water main in the first phase, and then this was later connected to homes and businesses. And now, in phase two, they brought a water filtration plant on line that is providing fresh water to more than 15,000 Iraqis. This is another great example of how Iraqis and coalition forces are cooperating to bring a better quality of life to this country.
In the area of education, we continue to work very hard to help meet the educational needs of the Iraqi children, and coalition units all over Iraq are focused on refurbishing over a thousand schools by the 1st of October. We're confident that with the help of the Iraqi people we will be able to achieve this objective. Education continues to be one of the primary focuses for our commanders emergency response fund program, with more than $10 million invested to date in over 1,300 projects.
As an example, the 1st Armored Division here in Baghdad helped clean up about 25 schools around the city. The renovations included structural, electrical repairs, plumbing, glass replacement and paintings. These schools are now safe for the opening of the school year on the first.
In the area of health care, the 109th Medical Battalion has been training Iraqi personnel to provide emergency medical services in their community, and this program supports a larger initiative to ensure that every hospital and clinic in Baghdad is operating. To date, the Medical Battalion has provided EMS and paramedic training to 31 Iraqis that were selected by the Ministry of Health. This training provides crucial first-response medical skills to participants, and they have completed phase one of a three-phase course, with the second phase currently ongoing. The goal for the Ministry of Health is to certify more than 400 students who are currently enrolled in this program. And also, in the area of supply and power, the coalition has installed 128 -- or is in the process of installing 128 generators to provide a constant power supply to hospitals and clinics.
In the area of transportation, the 1st Armored and the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade continues to work on improving the streets of Baghdad. They're working closely with the City Projects director, and they've planned some extensive repairs, to include widening of roads, installing medians, posting signs. And I'm sure all of you, as you've driven around the city, you've seen Iraqis working to improve their streets.
In the area of the Iraqi security initiatives, we continue to develop and produce capability to provide both internal and external security for the country. And I believe many of you had the opportunity to observe the new Iraqi army in training in the last week. These recruits are eager and enthusiastic about serving their country. The old army was specifically built to oppress and exploit the Iraqi people. Those officers swore an oath to the cult of Saddam Hussein and to an ethos of terrorism and extortion. That is quite different from this new Iraqi army. These soldiers, these non- commissioned officers have sworn allegiance to the people and the rule of law, as expressed in the will of the people of Iraq.
So far, we've got a little bit under 800 recruits in training that will graduate by the 4th of October and begin to serve their country under the control of the coalition forces. On the 5th of October, we will start the training of the second battalion.
Now, those are a few examples of the many ongoing advances that we have made here in the country.
And with that, I will open it up to your questions.
Q General Sanchez, Guy Raz, National Public Radio. We've encountered some soldiers who have been given instructions to double- check Iraqi police officers when they encounter Iraqi police officers in uniform. Do you know anything about that? And if that's the case, is there a possibility that that may have contributed to some of the confusion in Friday's incident?
GEN. SANCHEZ: No, I'm not exactly sure about where you may have encountered that. We haven't issued any of those instructions from the theater level. That is possible, that there is an area where there may be some concerns about what's going on, reports of activity going on with the Iraqi police.
I can't verify at this point what contributed to the incident in Fallujah. The investigation is ongoing, and as I've done before, I'll let you know what the findings are when that investigation is complete.
Q ARD, German Television, Joerg Ombuster (ph). Yesterday, I talked to some families of the killed policemen in Fallujah, and they told me that they are demanding a personal excuse (sic) and money, compensation with money. What are you offering them?
GEN. SANCHEZ: We have sent the leadership, up to the level of the division that is responsible for that area, to discuss with the mayor and the families, express our apologies and regrets and condolences to the families there, and those discussions are ongoing right now.
Q What role does money play, compensation in money play?
GEN. SANCHEZ: That's an element that's being discussed.
Q Can you say something about the amount?
GEN. SANCHEZ: No, not at this point. I just told you that's being discussed.
In the back?
Q Richard Engle from NBC News. The president has just said that there is no evidence linking the events, the attacks of September 11th and Saddam Hussein. Yet the military has often used here the events of September 11th to justify the soldiers' ongoing presence. How does this new statement put your soldiers and the whole reason that you're here?
GEN. SANCHEZ: I think we're making a leap there, Richard. What we have stated is that this is a battle, another battlefield on the global war on terrorism. I don't believe that there's any question that in fact there was terrorism being harbored here. There was terrorism being conducted here in the country against their own people. And the danger of exporting terrorism was present, as we saw clearly during the conduct of major combat operations, where terrorists camps were destroyed.
The linkage to 9/11 specifically is something that has never been stated, that I'm aware of, by any coalition spokesmen here in the country.
Q On the anniversary of September 11th, it was -- the linkage was very clear on all of the services, there was a clear linkage that the reason the troops are here is that -- so that another 9/11 wouldn't take place. It was all over the country.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, sure. I mean, I just told you that this is another battlefield in the global war on terrorism. I mean, we've stated over and over, and I believe that there is a very clear linkage here to terrorists being in this country. If we're not fighting terrorism here and some of these foreign fighters here, we're going to fight them in the streets of other Western countries. That's the link that's been established.
A precise linkage to the incident of 9/11, I think is the way I understand what you're questioning, that has never been made.
Q Barbara Platt from the BBC. Two questions. Can you confirm that the U.S. troops in Fallujah killed a teenager last night when they thought they were under attack, but in fact it was really a wedding party?
And do you know anything about reports of a sabotage on an oil pipeline in the north, near a town called Baiji?
GEN. SANCHEZ: First of all, no, I cannot confirm that that teenager was killed. I've read some of the press reports. We're looking into that, but I cannot confirm that for you.
On the Baiji sabotage, I'm not exactly sure whether you're talking in the last 24 hours. No, I can't confirm that at this point. What I can tell you is that we have very clear track record of sabotage being conducted against the oil pipelines up there in the North. And someone in my staff may be able to help us in establishing whether there was an attack in the last 24 hours, but I hadn't received that report yet.
Q The Washington Post had a story today about a new paramilitary force being organized by the Interior Ministry and the Security Committee of the Governing Council. It would something in between the police and the military. It would be answerable to the Interior Ministry.
Given the sort of lack of coordination or some problems with coordination with the Iraqi police -- for instance, in Fallujah -- and, you know, your creation of the Iraqi Civil Defense Force, how do you see the sort of proliferation of security apparatuses? Do you -- how do you view it?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, I think it's fairly clear that the security apparatuses that get stood up in the country will be done in coordination with the Coalition Provisional Authority. The training of those forces will also be done in coordination. And then the actual conduct of operations, as we have done to date, has to be done in coordination with the coalition forces, in order to be able to preclude these kinds of incidents from occurring or from recurring.
We continue to work very hard to put fixes in to ensure that we all have the situational awareness. As I've described for all you before, here in Baghdad, we set up a joint operations center because of some synchronization, coordination issues that had resulted, and that is working very well. Those joint operations centers are designed to address this type of problem.
Q Would you welcome the creation of this new paramilitary force in the --
GEN. SANCHEZ: I am not deeply familiar with the concept that you're describing. So any force that is going to be set up, we'd be involved in looking at it and in making some decisions.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. As I understand your question, where is the new Iraqi army battalion that's coming out in October going to be fielded and what are the missions that are going to be assigned to the new Iraqi army?
The new Iraqi army will have an external defense focus. We will employ it in making sure that we have coordinated, synchronized operations that will protect the borders of the country. We will also deploy that force across the country over time, to ensure that we're getting it towards its end-state footprint, if you will, its actual locations where we expect that it will be fielded over a period of time. And the assignments of the new Iraqi army will clearly be external defense-focused, to protect the sovereignty of the country.
What you are going to see in the cities, as I'm sure some of you already have, are the Civil Defense Corps. That will definitely be operating in patrols with us inside of the cities.
Is it possible that the army could be assigned to jointly patrol with the coalition? Definitely. We are considering that. But at this point in time, it will be an external-focused organization.
Q Teresa Arbol (ph) from Spain, La Razon. I'd like to know what is the current situation of the deliverance of -- (inaudible) -- and stuff to Spanish troops and Hispanic troops in the South.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. We're still continuing to work to provide the equipment for the Latin American battalions. I'll tell you that the Latin American battalions are conducting operations at this point in time in already. They have been for two weeks. And they're conducting effective operations at this point in time, under the command and control of the American forces down there.
Q (In Arabic.) Three questions.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Three?
Q Three, yes. (Laughs.) (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Number one, I owe you that. I told you that last week. And maybe somebody can make a phone call for me and see if we can get the answer to that -- 14th of July bridge opening date. Yeah. Okay.
The second one, compensation to the Iraqi people. I'm not sure what specific -- I mean, I've got lots of incidents that are out there, and there are still some that are pending, yes. I'm not sure which one you're referring to. Have you got a list?
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. I'll take the list from you.
And the last one is the patrols that are having traffic accidents with Iraqis. Same kind of situation. If it's the Iraqis' fault, we're not going to pay them for it, but if it's our fault, then we'll go ahead and consider it. Okay?
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay.
Q Yes? Thank you.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. (Laughs.) Okay, was it the U.S. fault? (Chuckles.) Okay, we'll go ahead and consider that claim, all right? And we are, we're paying a lot of claims. We've paid, you know, a few hundred thousand -- almost a million dollars in claims across the country over the last --
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. Well, if it's a legitimate claim, we'll definitely consider that. Okay?
Sir? In the back.
Q Excuse me, it's Nabil (sp) from Radio Free Europe. My two questions I have in Arabic, please.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. I'm going to ask you to repeat the second question, sir. To what extent do we -- did we achieve the -- ?
Q Disarming -- (continues in Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. First of all, on the news stories that I believe you're referring to, on the arrest of eight Americans, we currently have no Americans under arrest in our detention facilities. Okay? There just aren't any. Have we had -- have we detained Americans in the past? Yes.
On your second question, on disarming of the militias, where we encounter Iraqis that are carrying weapons without authorization and the weapons card, we will disarm. Where -- we have clearly stated that militias are not authorized, and we are not about to authorize the establishment of any militias in the country. The mechanisms are clearly in place for them to contribute to the security of the country, and we continue to recruit ICDC organizations across the entire country that will allow them the opportunity to contribute to the security of their regions.
Q Andrew Gray (sp) from Reuters. There are some press reports about plans to gradually pull U.S. troops out of the major cities, or pull them at least to the edges. Obviously, that's something you would want to do in the long term, anyway, and let Iraqi security forces take over. Have you come up with any sort of provisional timetable for that -- three months, six months -- when we might begin to see that?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Yeah, we've got a conditions-based timeline. The key is exactly as you stated, is the capacity that we can build in the Iraqi security forces to be able to take care of the security problem inside of an area that we are going to be vacating. The concept is that we will achieve that standoff as quickly as possible, hand over the responsibility internal to an area to the Iraqi security forces. And then, once we have moved external to that location, we will remain in close coordination, and respond as required to assist the Iraqi security forces in achieving a steady-state security environment.
Q Sorry, just to follow up. When you say a "conditions-based timeline," if all the conditions were met, as you would hope, what's the kind of earliest the timeline could start to kick in?
GEN. SANCHEZ: That could happen -- we would be willing to do that immediately, if those conditions existed anywhere in the country. And we are looking at that right now to see if there are some cities where we are inside of them, where the capacity is already in place. And we'd be more than glad to begin to move out of there. I'm going through that assessment right now. I have not set a timeline that says we won't do that until six months from now. We are doing that on a weekly basis, and as soon as we achieve that capacity, we're more than willing to hand over those responsibilities.
Yes, sir, in the back.
Q Mark (Baer ?), BBC News.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. I've --
Q You mentioned --
GEN. SANCHEZ: Go ahead.
Q I'm sorry.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Go ahead. No, you're right.
Q You mentioned that you have no U.S. nationals in custody. What about British nationals?
GEN. SANCHEZ: None.
Q Thank you.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Yes, sir?
I'll come back to you.
Q (Name inaudible) -- with CBS News. To go back to the oil question, clearly, the incident this morning showed that the pipeline up north needs patrolling. Can you tell me what's being done to patrol the pipeline, how long you intend to patrol it. And also, could you tell us if it's in fact true that America is spending between $5 million and $7 million a day to import oil from Turkey?
GEN. SANCHEZ: To import oil from Turkey? The answer is no, not that I'm aware of. We are in fact importing electrical power. There is a deal with Turkey that was put into place that is oil for power. We are exporting oil in exchange for power coming into the country, the same way as we are doing with Syria.
So, I am not aware of anything that is importing oil into Iraq, okay?
And on the pipeline, there is -- we are actively conducting reconnaissance on the pipelines. Our units out there are conducting patrolling. As most of you are aware, we're doing fixed-site security on just about all the critical sites of the pipeline that are out there. And this is an important mission that we've got to continue to secure it because of the tremendous cost to the Iraqi people when it is interdicted. We lose, as you all know, I believe, up to about $7 million a day when we cannot export that oil.
So, we are looking at alternative ways of increasing the security of the pipeline across the country, in coordination with the Ministry of Oil. And we expect that we'll continue to increase the security of that pipeline over the coming weeks.
Okay, yes, sir? I'm sorry, you had your arm first. Go ahead.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: As far as the results of the Najaf investigation, that investigation is not complete at this point in time. There is cooperation between the FBI and the Iraqi investigative services to try to establish what may have occurred and who may have been responsible for that bombing. But those investigation results are not available, and that investigation is not complete.
In terms of what has been done to secure Najaf proper, in the immediate aftermath of the incident, the Coalition Provisional Authority authorized a stand-up of members, individual members, of some of the elements or the groups that were in Najaf to provide immediate security, while the police were involved in providing the internal security immediately around the mosque. These groups were working with the Iraqi police. The Iraqi police, in turn, was linked into the Marine forces in an outer cordon, if you will, that was available to respond, as required and as requested by the Iraqi police.
About a week before the bombing, the Coalition Provisional Authority had authorized the stand-up of a 400-man security force that was to be deployed around the mosque. That force, at this point, stands at 200 having been trained. Another 100 are in training. So within about a week to two weeks, we will have that 400-man force in place, operating under the Iraqi police there in Najaf.
Q (In Arabic.) (In English.) In Arabic. In Arabic, please.
GEN. SANCHEZ: How did you know we were considering decreasing the curfew? We're -- (chuckles) -- we're -- you have pretty good intelligence there. I need to here you to give me some intelligence.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: (Chuckles.) We are in fact considering decreasing the curfew at this point in time. This is obviously something that has to be coordinated and synchronized, because there's a lot of implications to the curfew being decreased. As we all know, it will require police to adjust their operating tempos. It'll require, of course, notification of the Iraqi people once that decision is made. And of course, it'll also adjust the operating patterns of terrorists and anybody else that's out there wanting to conduct operations.
But we are considering that. Okay? And we are -- we expect that we'll have some decisions here in the near future.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: The -- in terms of the disarming of militias in the North, what is being done up in the North with some of the militias, like the peshmerga -- we are in fact doing the same things that we are trying to do across the country with the peshmerga -- is getting them to contribute to security, in terms of getting them on to the fixed-site protection services, trying to get them into the new Iraqi army, and of course also getting them to contribute to the Civil Defense Corps, just like we are everywhere else across the country.
Q Just follow, sir, in Arabic, please. (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Oh, we are. We're definitely conducting raids up in the North, looking for former regime loyalists. We're finding caches up there almost on a daily or every-other-day basis. We're finding caches up in the North, just like we are in other parts of the country. So that is definitely going on up in the 101st sector.
Yes, ma'am --
Q (Inaudible) -- Kurdistan? In Kurd area?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Yes, in the Kurdish area, up in the North, northern part of the country.
Q Theola Labbe, Washington Post. I have two questions. You said that you have detained Americans in the past. During what time of Operation Iraqi Freedom have you detained Americans, and for what offenses?
Second question: I had met an intelligence officer when I went up to see the Iraqi army train. How large will the intelligence aspect be of the new Iraqi army? And what will their functions be, mission be?
GEN. SANCHEZ: The Americans or American that has been detained was in the post-major combat operations phase -- the one that I'm aware of. And he was detained on suspicion of having conducted operations against coalition forces. It turned out that it was a mistaken identity, and he was released.
In terms of the intel officer and intel capability within the new Iraqi army, at this point, what is being produced out of the Kirkuk training program is companies that are focused on company-level operations and platoon and squad-level operations. There is no decision yet on what is the actual structure of brigades and divisions. When that structure is determined, that is when intel capability and structures will be determined. That is still ongoing. So there is no intelligence arm of the new Iraqi army that has been decided at this point, or being trained.
Q Sir, why was the timetable accelerated? Who had decided to make it go from 800 to 40,000 in one year?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Eight -- from what? From 800 to 40,000?
Q Yeah. Soldiers, total.
GEN. SANCHEZ: No, the plan was always to build three divisions in two years. What's been -- what we're working towards is accelerating that timetable. That is a decision that we made here --
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: -- and that is in order for us to be able to hand over responsibility to the Iraqi security structures as rapidly as possible. That is an initiative that we've got going across all of the security structures. We're trying to in fact get Iraqis, as I've stated over and over again in the past few weeks, responsible for their own security, and this is just another means of getting them to contribute quicker.
Q Yeah. Mark Fineman, Los Angeles Times. If I could just follow up on that, I think the exact timetable what Walt Slocombe was quoted as saying is that half the time -- in other words, 40,000 soldiers by the end of this year. That's correct, right?
GEN. SANCHEZ: That's -- yes, sir, that's correct. That's the intent --
Q Now in your opinion, are 40,000 soldiers sufficient to defend this country -- in other words, the external capabilities? And if not, how many soldiers do you think would be required to do that?
GEN. SANCHEZ: It is clear that three divisions are the initial component of the army. The actual end-state composition, structure and size of the Iraqi army will be determined by the Iraqi people, the elected government of the country, and those decisions will be made once their national security strategy and their national military strategy is determined. We are not imposing a number on the Iraqi people for their size of their end-state army.
Q And is 40,000 soldiers sufficient to defend this country?
GEN. SANCHEZ: No, clearly not.
Q Do you have any idea how many would be?
GEN. SANCHEZ: No, not at this point. We have not done the analysis at my level to establish what an end-state army would look like.
Q And how large will it be by the end of '04, then, if you get 40,000 by the end of '03?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Forty thousand, until the Iraqis decide what the next step is. You ain't gonna trick me into that one! (Laughs.)
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: I'm going to answer two.
Q (Laughing) Only two? (Laughs.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: I'm going to answer two, okay? (Laughs.) So we can give somebody else a chance. (Chuckles.)
Q Okay. Okay.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay, the first one, on the Jordanian, U.N. bombing, and the gaps in security. I think well before the bombing occurred, we were already making statements that terrorism and that terrorists were coming into the country. We suspected that. We knew where the (rat ?) lines were and where we were focused on trying to deter and defeat and kill any terrorists that were coming into the country.
So, we were also working at that point in time to increase our capability to be able to identify the terrorists so that we could prevent this. Clearly, terrorism is a tough challenge for our intel system, and we continue to work that hard every day to improve our ability to defeat terrorists wherever they may be.
In terms of giving responsibility to the Iraqi people, this is something that I've been talking about now for months. This is the Civil Defense Corps, this is the police, this is the new Iraqi army, this is the acceleration of all of those security structures, this is Iraqi policemen conducting independent operations in this city, conducting joint operations with the coalition forces here in the city -- all that is about giving responsibility to the Iraqi people.
It is not about allowing people to establish their own militias and run around the country with their own militias to provide independent security. If you allow that to happen, we will revert back to the circumstances that you had -- that we had here in the country in the recent past.
The mechanism for Iraqis to contribute to the security of their country are clearly in place, and we don't want to unilaterally provide that responsibility -- or correction -- that capability. We want the Iraqis to share with us. And there's, clearly, as you yourself stated, 55,000 Iraqis that have made that commitment to share that responsibility with us. But that isn't about just 55,000, it's about every single Iraqi in this country contributing by helping us identify who the criminals are, who the terrorists are, who the former regime loyalists are so that we can eliminate that together to bring peace and stability to the country.
Yes, sir? In the back.
Q Rory Mulholland (sp) from AFP news agency. Can you clear up for me the number of prisoners you have? A few days ago it was about 5,500, and now suddenly it's apparently 10,000?
GEN. SANCHEZ: And tomorrow it will be another 15,000 or something, probably? (Chuckles.) No.
Yeah, sure, I can clarify that. The difference is in the MEK. There's a group of about 4,000 -- actually, about 3,856, I believe is the exact number, of MEK that we are detaining. Sometimes when you get the number, you get those 3,800 or so that are included, and sometimes it's not included. That's the real delta there in those numbers. Okay? The security and criminal detainees are in the 5,000 range. And I can give you the exact number. I don't have it right off the top of my head.
Okay. Done? Okay.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. The statement is that al Qaeda elements entered the country immediately after the cessation of major combat operations, and that sabotage operations were conducted by those elements, is the statement that was made. And then the question is, what can I tell the Iraqi people, and what can I tell you about the conduct -- or the presence or conduct of operations on the part of AQ elements here in Iraq?
It is clear to us that there are terrorist elements that are operating in the country. There are Ansar al-Islam elements that we're sure are operating across the country. We are working very hard to establish the linkages to al Qaeda. We suspect that there may be elements that are here in the country. And we're working very diligently to identify their operating bases, their cell locations and, of course, to deter and defeat any planned strikes against the Iraqi people and the coalition forces.
What I would tell the Iraqi people is that we need to work together to eliminate this threat. This is, clearly, not a threat just against the coalition, not just against the American forces, but it's a threat against the Iraqi people, it's a threat against the international community, it's a threat against democracy, it's a threat against your economic well-being, and it's a threat against the women and children of Iraq. We've got to work together. Clearly, with the help of the Iraqi people, we can identify these people and we can defeat them and capture them and ensure that they don't kill any more people here in the country.
Q General, Geoff Thompson, ABC, Australia. Do you believe that the coalition, from what you know, gets fair dealing by the Iraqi media, in the Iraqi press? From what you know of reports that you see and hear about, are you satisfied with the balance, et cetera?
GEN. SANCHEZ: I think the press is the press. We look for the story that will get us the headlines.
There are clearly elements of the Arabic press that are operating on the margins, against the coalition, and that is a concern. They are -- some elements are focused on highlighting the successes of the anti-coalition forces here.
And universally we are not doing a good job of letting both the world and the Iraqi people know the tremendous progress that is being made. We have to do a better job of that. That is our responsibility to humanity, that is our responsibility to our respective national audiences, and that is our responsibility to the Iraqi people. We must shoulder that responsibility, because there's tremendous good news that's going on in this country. And if we don't provide a balanced picture to our constituents, then we are failing in that responsibility, and we ought to be ashamed of it.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Is that it? (Laughs.)
Yes, sir? Did we get an answer?
STAFF: (Off mike.)
Q Yes. (In Arabic.) (In English.) Thank you.
GEN. SANCHEZ: The question is, is it possible that the coalition forces will stop the Arabic press if they are inciteful? It is very clear that Ambassador Bremer has an order that prohibits inciting violence in the country, and that order applies to anybody, not just the press. If there is anybody that is inciting violence against the coalition or against the people of Iraq, then that order will be applied.
Q Sorry. Could I just ask for a clarification? When you said that we are not doing a good job in getting that message across, do you mean we, the coalition, or we, the coalition and the journalists together?
GEN. SANCHEZ: I would have to say we, the universal we. We are working at it. We've -- we -- the coalition has to do a better job. But I guarantee you that there is an avoidance on the part of the press, and we know that. We all -- we, the big we, knows that.
Okay. Next. Theola?
Q I want to go back to al Qaeda for a second. What would it mean for your military campaign if you were to establish a linkage? You said that you're working hard to do that. What would that mean?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, I think what it would do is it would, of course, verify that we have some fairly hard-core elements that are operating in here. We already do, I believe. But then you would clearly have this firmly convincing the world that this is in fact the battleground -- another battleground of the global war on terrorism. You know, we've been saying that.
We are prepared. We are working hard to identify these terrorist elements that are out there.
In terms of adjusting our tactics or adjusting our focus, little would change. We would just be probably reprioritizing our effort in terms of intelligence, and we would dedicate a few more resources in here.
Q If I could just follow up, have you found any evidence yet that al Qaeda is here or that there are direct links between al Qaeda and the people who are here, including Ansar al-Islam? I mean, you said you're working hard to establish --
GEN. SANCHEZ: A specific linkage is -- a specific linkage that -- that I could stand up here and state to you that there is an al Qaeda element operating in here -- I can't do that for you today.
Q Are there --
GEN. SANCHEZ: There are indicators, clearly indicators.
Q Indicators that they're -- ?
GEN. SANCHEZ: That they may be conducting, they may be cooperating, they may be training, they may be funding.
I got one answer on a bombing of the pipeline this morning. What we know is that there was a pipeline fire, and we have not established whether that was sabotage or not. And that was 9 kilometers north of Baiji. I believe that's what was being referred to in the question earlier. As we all know, there are incidents that occur out there. There's pools of oil that are out there based on either just an infrastructure failure, or from tapping in. And sometimes those light up, and we can't establish what happened until after we've put those fires out, and then afterwards we can clearly establish whether it was sabotage or just another failure.
Okay, and the bridge is still pending.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: All right. Well, we're not going to stay here -- I'm not going to stand here -- (laughing) -- waiting for that answer. I've got to apologize. I had -- I was supposed to bring the answer to you this week, and I must really apologize. So.
Okay, I'll take one last question. One last question.
Q It's sort of a follow-up. I'm just curious what the indicators are that you have of these --
GEN. SANCHEZ: Come on! (Laughs; laughter.) This is an easy one! Come on!
Oh, oh. You may have held me long enough.
(Note: Staff confers off-mike with the General.)
Okay, mid of October, middle of October to open up the bridge. Okay? So we'll put a suspense on there, and I'll have my two aides back there, my XO and my aide make sure that we've got a picture for you at that press conference to see if we've got traffic flowing on the middle of October. Okay?
All right. Well, thank you all very much, and may God bless you.