COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY PRESS BRIEFING
BRIEFER: LIEUTENANT GENERAL RICARDO SANCHEZ
COMMANDER, COALITION GROUND FORCES
LOCATION: BAGHDAD, IRAQ
DATE: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2003
GEN. SANCHEZ: (In progress) -- is introduce Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, who will be our deputy director for operations, and he will be conducting the daily press briefings here in the near future. Just had him arrive, and we're getting him prepared to conduct that critical business for us.
As many of you know, today has special meaning for those of us in uniform. Veterans Day is the day that we honor and remember those brave heroes who have defended the causes of freedom and liberty throughout the world. As the commander of the coalition military here in Iraq, I would like to personally salute our magnificent soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians from all 33 nations of the coalition as they continue in this proud tradition of service. They are today's veterans. Their valor and professionalism is honorable. I'm fiercely proud to lead these fine men and women. They deserve our highest respect and our admiration. They are all heroes.
During the last few weeks, the pace and intensity of our offensive military operations has increased. We are taking the fight into the safe havens of the enemy, in the heartland of the country, where we continue to face former regime loyalists, criminals and foreign terrorists who are trying to isolate the coalition from the Iraqi people and trying to break the will of the coalition and the international community. They will fail.
Not surprisingly, the enemy has reacted to our operations and our progress with increased violence, especially in the localized areas that benefited from the plunder and oppression of the former regime. The enemy has increasingly embraced terrorist acts. These acts are designed to attract media attention, to intimidate the Iraqi people, and, just as importantly, to create a picture of chaos in the country. The stark reality is that militarily, they cannot defeat us, and they know it. I remain supremely confident in this reality.
As we press our offensive to its inevitable conclusion, we must all recognize that progress in Iraq will come from the political, economic and diplomatic reconstruction of this great country, and that will be determined by the Iraqi people.
The coalition's efforts to rebuild Iraq and to bring stability and security continue. In northern Iraq, members of the 2nd of the 187th Infantry Regiment and members of a local community opened (the Sinjar ?) Clinic for Children. This is the first exclusively pediatric health-care that has been provided in that area.
Here in Baghdad, the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion cleaned a local playground, to enhance the quality of life for local children, including refurbishing and fixing of the playground equipment.
With help from local contractors and ambitious schoolteachers, the 1st Battalion of the 187th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division used the Commanders Emergency Response Program funding to open an adult education center that is designed to enhance educational opportunities for the local citizens. The center focuses on improving literary (sic) and mathematical skills, skills which are necessary to obtain jobs. The 101st used approximately 30,000 (dollars) from its CERP funds to repair the damaged buildings and to buy supplies that are needed to operate the center.
Especially vital to this effort is the continued rapid, accelerated training and equipping of the Iraqi police, the Civil Defense Forces, the border police, Facilities Protection Forces and the new Iraqi army. These emerging Iraqi security capacities are empowering the Iraqi people to assume a more prominent role in their own security. We all understand that in the future, it will be the Iraqi people who will ultimately provide security for this country.
I would like to remind those who might attempt to undermine or subvert the progress of the Iraqi people through violence that although the coalition can be benevolent, this is still the same lethal formation that removed the former oppressive regime. And we will not hesitate to employ the appropriate levels of combat power in order to safeguard the interests and safety of the Iraqi people, as well as our coalition service members.
Finally, I would like to publicly commend the continued exceptional performance of the Iraqi security forces. Last night the Iraqi police, with support from the coalition, captured another ambulance that was a vehicle-mounted improvised explosive device. This is the second time in recent weeks that terrorists and foreign fighters have attempted to use an ambulance for terrorist acts against the people of Iraq. Fortunately, the Iraqi police and our coalition forces stopped the terrorists before they could hurt anyone. These two incidents illustrate their true nature and purpose.
And I believe that this afternoon the Ministry of Interior and the 1st Armored Division will hold a press availability at the 407th FSB at 1530. And you can get additional information from the CPIC here.
Thank you very much. What are your questions? Yes, sir?
Q (Name inaudible), Radio Free Europe. You said militarily you're confident that we will win this conflict. I'd like to ask you, do you see this whole resistance issue ultimately as a political issue or a military issue?
And if I could ask a second question: We've been using a lot of bombs lately in the triangle area. Do you see any contradiction between using such heavy bombs and winning the hearts and minds?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. First of all, sir, do I see this as a political or a military issue? Actually it's both, and more. It is a political, a military and an economic solution that is necessary in order for us to win this low-intensity conflict. And all three of those lines of operation must progress together in order for us to bring peace and stability to Iraq.
And your second question, do I see some sort of incongruity between using bombs, and the hearts and minds. I think we have to remember that we're fighting a low-intensity conflict. We are employing the combat power that is necessary to defeat those elements that we're encountering while at the same time being precise in our attacks in order to preserve the hearts and minds and the cooperation of the Iraqi people.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Sir, if I may, I believe your first question was whether there is a threshold number that has to be reached by the Iraqi security forces before we will hand off responsibility The answer to that question is that we have been working with the local security forces, both police, Civil Defense Corps, and as we continue to build new Iraqi army capacities and use them internal to the country, we will look at all three of those capabilities as we make our determinations on whether they are capable of accomplishing the local security mission. Our intent is to rapidly hand off that responsibility, and the criteria that we're using is that they are properly equipped and properly trained, and in the right numbers in a given area. We are working to identify what those areas ought to be in the near term, and we expect to move very aggressively to accomplish that.
The second part of your question, I believe, was that you heard a report that mortars had hit Basra and that the coalition had fired those mortars into Basra. Let me guarantee you that the coalition is not firing any mortars into downtown Basra. The report that we have at this point is that it was an improvised explosive device that probably prematurely exploded on a couple of terrorists. And two Iraqi were killed and two were wounded. Another attack on the people of Iraq.
Q My name is Tanako (sp), Japan NHK TV. Thank you, General. If you see a current Iraqi security situation, can you distinguish noncombat area from combat area? If answer is yes, can you show us the name of the region, noncombat area, please?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, sir, I think the question you're asking is one that is looking for a black and white answer. And that's pretty tough when you know that we're in a country that is involved in this type of conflict.
But I'll tell you that the majority of the country is in fact -- I would classify as being in stability and support operations. Over 90 percent of the engagements that occur in this country are occurring essentially in the heartland of the country. This is Al Anbar, from al Qaim to the Euphrates River Valley, into Baghdad and then up the Tigris River Valley, up towards Tikrit. That's where over 90 percent of the engagements occur.
Yes, sir? In the back.
Q John Berman, ABC News. It's been months, I think, since we've seen bombing from U.S. military jets. Why bomb now? What are you trying to accomplish by doing that? And does this signify that this conflict has reached a new level?
GEN. SANCHEZ: No, I think what we are seeing is that, unmistakably, the numbers of engagements have increased over time. The trend has gone up. It was in the mid-teens about 60 days ago, and it is now about 30 to 35 engagements in a day.
And why now? Because that's the combat power that is necessary to defeat and to send a very clear signal that our intent is to defeat the former regime loyalists, the terrorists, and those people that are attacking the coalition and the Iraqi people. We are going to accomplish our task here. And if that's what's necessary, that's what we'll employ.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. The question, I think, is, why don't we want to give the GC the security mission, and why are we not handing over more of the security responsibilities to the Iraqis, and when will we move to local control and out of the big cities.
First of all, I think we have to keep in mind that in total numbers, there are over 100,000 Iraqis that are providing security to this country already, when you take into account the border police, the Facilities Protection Service, the regular police, the New Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. And these are Iraqis that out there every single day bleeding and, in some cases, dying for Iraq. If we don't consider that handing over responsibility to the Iraqis, I don't know what the standard would be.
Now, we are working to build the leadership structures within those Iraqi security forces in order for us to continue to hand over responsibility to them. We are working now to build battalion- and brigade-level leadership structures, and we will begin to put senior Iraqis in charge in the different cities across the country.
In terms of the timing, I think I answered the question a little ago that we're working, and at the time that those structures in those cities and in those regions have the capacities and have the equipment and have the right numbers, we will hand that over. And we will still continue to support them, as we have done in Karbala, as we are doing in Najaf and other parts around the country.
Yes, sir? You, sir. Yes, you.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: I'm not getting any translation. Hold on just a minute, please. Do we have a translator? Okay, let's stay focused. Okay?
Go ahead. Start again, sir. Sorry.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay, sir. Two questions. The first one, I believe, was what are the numbers of people that have been arrested, and have we been able to identify any terrorist leadership or involvement, al Qaeda specifically, is what you asked. And then the last part of that is, what number of nationalities have been involved in some of these terrorist attacks.
First of all, the total number of detainees that we have in our detention facilities is over 5,000. In terms of identifying specifically the links solidly to al Qaeda, we continue to work that. At one point, we had up to about 20 suspected al Qaeda members, but as we have continued to refine and interrogate, we have not been able to establish definitively that they were al Qaeda members. We believe that there is, in fact, a linkage, if nothing more than, of course, ideology, and then also some training, and possibly some financial linkages that exist to the international terrorist groups.
In terms of the numbers of nationalities, I can get you a number, but I can give you an example of some of the nationalities that we are seeing, that are infiltrating in here. We're seeing Yemenis. We're seeing Sudanese. We're seeing Syrians and Egyptians, to name a few.
On your second question, in terms of border control, and your statement that their capacities are very limited, and why isn't it that the U.S. not just go ahead and accomplish the task, I think the first thing we all need to understand is that the borders of Iraq are well over 30- -- about 3,500 kilometers. And in order to positively control every kilometer of that border is a pretty significant challenge.
We do in fact have border control along the Syrian border, and that is manifesting itself in success every single day, with units -- U.S. units that are dedicated out there. We also have U.S. units that are dedicated to -- or coalition units, rather, that are dedicated to protecting the Iranian border. But more importantly, we have significant numbers of Iraqis that are continuing to build, that will provide that security all across the country.
And we're not at the levels that we need yet in the Iraqi border police service, but we continue to train them every day and resource them and enable them.
In the back, sir. Yes, sir, you.
Q Andrew Gray from Reuters. There's a lot of talk about "the enemy." I wonder if you could just give us your latest understanding of how many people "the enemy" is composed of in Iraq, how many people you think are actively working against you, and any more details that you've managed to glean now about how they're organized. Do you see now any signs of a national command and control, or do you believe it's still regionally organized?
And perhaps just secondly, if you could explain the reason for Brigadier General Kimmet's (sp) appointment. Does this mark a change in the way you're going to present things to the media? Does it recognize that perhaps you haven't got the message over as well as you would have liked up until now?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Did you say that we haven't got a message? Did you really say that? (Laughs.)
Q I'm asking you. I'm asking you.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Oh, that's pretty interesting. Of course we've got a message. Maybe y'all just -- maybe I haven't done a very good job of telling you that, you know, we're committed. The international community is committed. We are succeeding. We're supremely confident, and we're going to succeed.
And the people that are out there attacking the coalition -- and more importantly, attacking the Iraqi people -- are former regime loyalists that -- whose sole purpose is to reestablish themselves in power. That is something that the coalition and, more importantly, the Iraqi people do not want to happen.
Now are there other elements that are out there operating against us? Absolutely. As I've stated on multiple occasions, we have the foreign fighter, and I just described some of the composition of that element, and we also have some fundamentalists that are here. Now, we don't want to overstate the foreign fighter numbers in the country, probably a couple of hundred, but they come in and out. We know that. We know where they come through, and we're working hard, by both deployment of military organizations and, more importantly, working the Iraqi security forces to help us identify foreigners and whether they have legitimate business in the country or not.
And in terms of their command and control structures, we remain convinced that local synchronization and coordination is ongoing. We are seeing some cooperation or collaboration between foreign fighters and local cells. There is some level of regional control and command and control that is displaying itself. And we've also had a few indicators that at least intent is operating at the national level. When you see a concerted effort to intimidate police across the country, when you see demonstrations that are pro-Saddam that manifest themselves in various parts of the country, that at least tells us that there is some sort of intent that they're operating off of.
So, you know, we are focused in trying to establish and identify whether there in fact is a national command and control structure, and we continue to try to defeat that.
Q Peter Kenyon with National Public Radio. Could you tell us anything you can about the message that General Abizaid gave to local leaders in the Fallujah area? And is there any connection between that meeting and the recent step-up of offensive operations there?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Sure. The message is pretty straightforward. It's time for us to work together to bring security and stability to the country. It is absolutely crystal clear to us that in the areas where the enemy is attacking us, there are Iraqis that clearly know who these elements are, noncompliant elements are, where they're operating from, and we need to get started working together to solve this problem. And until we're able to solve the problem, we're not going to be able to progress effectively in the economic and political and security lines of operations to bring that stability that we're all after.
And the most important message is that we're going to get pretty tough. And that's what's necessary to defeat this enemy. And we're definitely not shy about doing that when it's required, and we will do that in a precise, intel-driven mode. But we're going to get after them.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Sir, on your first question, I believe you were asking me -- and I didn't quite get it all, but you stated that there were negotiations or discussions ongoing between Talabani and General Abizaid for the transfer of security -- internal security to the Iraqi people. The only thing I've got to say about that is that I have no idea what you're talking about. There are no negotiations ongoing.
The second question, about the New Iraqi Army, that they don't have the modern equipment that is necessary to protect the borders, and when is it that we're going to equip them. The New Iraqi Army, the one battalion that we have of the New Iraqi Army is currently operating with the 4th Infantry Division out along the Iranian border. They are being supported and backed up by our own coalition forces in the event that they require any sort of augmentation.
And the equipment that they currently have is equipment that is appropriate for the missions that they have been assigned, and that is to be a motorized infantry formation. As we grow them into some other capability, after the Iraqis make that decision, then they will be equipped with additional capacity or capabilities.
In terms of ensuring that the individual soldiers have the proper equipment, that will be worked, and it is going to be available for the new battalions as they come on line.
Q I have a two-part question, General. (Name and affiliation off mike.) Number one, a general question about Saddam Hussein -- (off mike) -- that you said you'd be intensifying.
And secondly, in calculating the intensity of the campaign -- of the operations you'll undertake now, have you weighed the potential impact, negative and positive, on the Iraqi people, their estimate and the popularity of American forces and the popularity of American undertaking here? And as you have done that, what have -- conclusion have you reached?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. Sir, we continue to stay focused on Saddam Hussein every day, with significant capacities.
Do I believe that this would be a critical turning point in the -- in this low-intensity conflict? Personally, I do believe that. What will happen is we will relieve the people of Iraq from the fear of him returning and this blanket of fear that exists that is keeping some Iraqis from cooperating and focusing on the future.
That will not be the end of the fighting. There will still be some fighting that will have to be done beyond the point in time when we kill or capture Saddam.
Have we weighed the potential positive or negative impacts of conducting more aggressive operations? Of course we have. And this is something that we balance every time we're going to conduct an operation, and we will apply combat power to the levels that are necessary, with the hearts and minds of the people well in our considerations.
We will be driven by intelligence, and we will strike where it is necessary to strike, where we know that enemy forces are operating. And we will do everything possible, just like we did during the high- intensity conflict period, to minimize the impact on the people of the country. And we were very successful in that phase, and I have absolutely no doubts that we will continue to be successful in this follow-on phase.
Q Can I just -- (off mike)?
GEN. SANCHEZ: No, sir. Next?
Q Are you fearful, with the latest campaigns, that you're actually losing the hearts of Iraqis?
GEN. SANCHEZ: I'm sorry?
Q Are you fearful that you could possibly lose the hearts of Iraqis, are not gaining?
GEN. SANCHEZ: No, I think what we are doing is we are working with the Iraqi leadership at all levels of the Iraqi structures, political structures. We are conducting -- as I stated, our operations will be conducted with precision. And we're working very, very hard to ensure that we do not lose the hearts and minds of the people. We understand that this is a critical requirement, strategic center of gravity for us -- is to maintain the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. And that's exactly what we intend to do.
I think we show that every day. If you recall from my opening statements, we are spending a tremendous amount of our military capacity in helping the people across all of the country. And we will continue to do that. And when and if it's necessary for us to apply combat power, we're going to do that. But our focus remains on helping the people of Iraq reestablish their society and get to a democratic and stable environment.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: How close have I gotten to Saddam Hussein? Not close enough. Okay? (Laughs.) I don't know. I don't know how close I've been to him, but by God, I got to get closer. Okay?
In the back.
Q James Head (sp) of the Times. The bombings and the increase in attacks seem to indicate that there's some clear escalation going on here. You're saying that the enemy can't win. But is the war actually getting worse? And secondly, you were saying that these were precision bombings. Can you tell me, in the Fallujah strikes, did you actually hit anything?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Say again in Fallujah?
Q In the Fallujah strikes, did you actually hit anything?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Is the war getting worse? Well, I think we've got to be realistic. When you see a trend line that goes from five to six attacks, single-digit attacks, in the May time frame, to an average of about 30 attacks in the last 30 days, I mean, it's unmistakable that the numbers of engagements per day are increasing. Now, you-all have sat in here when I've described to you how the enemy has evolved their tactics. And they've gone to remote tactics by the use of rockets and mortars so that they don't engage our forces. Where they do decide to engage, we're having great success in killing them, and that's why he continues to move to the remote engagement mode.
So the tempo has increased, and the approach that we're embarking on here is exactly what has to happen in order for us to defeat this enemy.
Did we hit anything in Fallujah? We hit everything that we intended to hit.
Q What did you intend to hit?
GEN. SANCHEZ: What we hit. (Laughter.)
(Chuckles.) In the back.
Q In Arabic, please. Thank you, sir. (Continues in Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Sir, that was a very unfortunate incident that occurred with the president of the municipal council here in Sadr City.
It was -- there is an investigation that is ongoing, but what we do know is that he attempted to get inside of the compound, where we've had a prohibition against getting vehicles inside of the compound because of the vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. He attempted a second time. Then he got out of his car and got into a wrestling match, if you will, with the soldier, with one of the NCOs, and attempted to take his weapon away from him. And that's when he was shot. And -- but the investigation is ongoing.
Q Mike Mount with CNN. You've said in the past that the intelligence -- your intelligence could use some improvement here in Iraq. Do you feel that in recent weeks you have improved your intelligence or tweaked it enough to be able to start to make -- take, I guess, a chip out of these -- rise in attacks?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Yes, sir. As I have stated, we've been working very hard to increase our intelligence capacity here.
We are not where we want to be yet. The key is to continue to build the human intelligence networks that allow us to get inside of the cells and understand what the leadership structures are and what the operating structures and methods are within the country. Some of this will come from us embracing our Iraqi security forces, and it'll also come from us increasing our own capabilities in the country.
There's been a significant increase in our capabilities over the last 30 to 60 days, and we're beginning to see some very focused intel-driven operations, with successes occurring across the country. So I'm getting a lot more comfortable with it.
Q You mentioned that Iraqis are still frightened of the specter of Saddam. And clearly there's been some reprisals against people who are perceived to be collaborators. What parts of your operations are most hampered by Iraqis' fear that either Saddam will come back or that they will be attacked for cooperating with you? Where does that most hurt you and where you'd like it to change?
GEN. SANCHEZ: I think the first place that I would identify is in their willingness to identify the anti-coalition forces that are operating in their towns and villages. If we could eliminate that fear and they know that that regime will not return, then I think we'd get a lot of cooperation. Every day we still continue to get Iraqis that identify perpetrators, that identify caches and identify IEDs that have been emplaced, but I think that would increase by orders of magnitude if we could eliminate the Saddam specter.
Yes, sir, at the end.
Q (Name inaudible), Romanian Radio. Sir, would you say that the coalition forces currently deployed in Iraq are insufficient to provide security, and that is why efforts are being made to get more countries to send troops in?
And my second question: You were saying earlier that you know where the foreign fighters come through. Can you be more specific on that?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay.
Q Thank you.
GEN. SANCHEZ: First of all, the desire to continue with the internationalization of the force is primarily to ensure that the people of Iraq and the international community understands that the whole world is focused on bringing stability and security to this country. We have 33 nations that are here today sacrificing to accomplish that mission. The more countries that make the commitment, the greater feeling of security and hope for the future that will be provided to the people of Iraq.
It is not a function of a lack of forces. I've stated repeatedly that our military capabilities here in the country are more than adequate to defeat the enemy that's out there. The issues are the human intelligence that we've talked about. And by bringing in additional international capacity, I think we make an unmistakable statement to the world and to the people of Iraq.
I'm sorry, I lost your second question.
Q You were saying that you know where these foreign fighters come through; and can you be more specific?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Yeah. I'm sorry
Q Thank you.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Yes. They're coming from two different routes in Syria, and there's also a ratline that comes out of the -- or into the northeastern part of the country out of Iran. And the challenges we're having right now is in making sure that we've got the immigration capabilities built up in the border police of the country to be able to identify those individuals that are coming in and out with false documentation. We believe, as I stated earlier, that we do have military capacities out there that are giving us some visibility on those that are trying to cross illegally outside of the major crossing points. And even at the crossing points, we're turning back a lot of non-documented visitors that want to come into this country. That happens every day.
Yes, sir? In the back.
Q George Nasser (sp) from German Television, ZDF. To come back to what General Abizaid said, he threatened to use drastic measures if the attack continues on the coalition forces. Can you elaborate on that, please?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Yes, sir. "Drastic" would be defined as the application of all combat power that is available to us to defeat the enemy that we are encountering at that moment. Not a single tool that we have available would be spared if necessary to defeat that enemy.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Sir, that is exactly what we're doing, is we are working to increase the numbers of policemen across the country. We have -- here within the next few weeks, we will open up the Jordanian Police Academy that will begin to train professional policemen. We have already deployed the cadre that will be trained to provide the professional police training here in the country of Iraq. We're in the process of standing up three training academies in Mosul and Baghdad and in Basra that will continue to provide professional policemen, both for community and border security. So we are working to do that.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: We are in the process right now of attempting to expedite the trials for some of the people that are currently being held. We've got a significant number that are prepared to go to the central criminal court and other courts that are available for us in the country to get tried. Those Iraqis that have committed crimes against other Iraqis is a first priority, and then those detainees that we have that have committed crimes against the coalition.
The problem of just taking people and exposing them on TV, what you wind up with is the rights of the detainee, you wind up with some restrictions on the laws of war, and therefore we've got to be very careful that we do not violate those laws of war. We want to make sure that we're treating those detainees properly.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. I think the message you have to take back is one that I have not captured any Israeli terrorists whatsoever in this country in the last seven months, and we have captured a lot of Arabs that are attacking the Iraqi people here. And I just gave you some of the countries that are here. Okay? And also a lot of Iraqis that are attacking Iraqis.
Yes, sir? In the back.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, I guess my comment is that, you know, I got to go out there and find Saddam and capture or kill him. The issue of sovereignty hand-off from the coalition to -- (audio break) -- the Iraqi people is an issue that I am not working personally. My responsibilities are in the security lines of operation, and sir, that is a question that you would have to ask of Ambassador Bremer.
Q Alissa Rubin of the Los Angeles Times. As you try to hand over more control over security to Iraqis, the police, the border -- all the border forces, there have been constant complaints from them that they are, like the army, very ill-equipped and particularly lack bulletproof vests. They often feel quite intimidated in the situations they're in. They want to do their job, but that's a difficulty. And often only a few of them have the guns they need. What is your plan for trying to deal with this situation, and what's the timetable?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, I have to -- well, I'll be brutally honest with you. We've not done a very good job of equipping them up to this point. And we're working that very, very hard right now, to make sure that we can get the bulletproof vests, get them the equipment that they need, and that. We are, in fact, getting some equipment in now, but it did take us a while to get that properly contracted and focused and then distributed to the Iraqi security forces.
Q When do you think they'll actually have --
GEN. SANCHEZ: We're beginning to get some of that deployed now, and it will continue over the course of the next 30 or 45 days.
Okay. Yes, sir?
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, it's kind of hard for me to answer, to get inside of the attacker on what his strategy was. But I could guess that what he was looking to do was to inflict mass casualties that would continue to attempt to break the will of the United States and the coalition and to walk away from this problem. It's not going to happen. We're not walking away. We're not faltering here. Okay? We're going to win this battle and this war.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: On your first question -- your second item was a statement. Acknowledged. On your first one, on Habbaniya, I don't know the circumstances. There are some very clear considerations that have to be taken into account on whether anyone can sue the military and what is it that is possible in the aftermath of an engagement of that sort. We'd have to have some more details before we could give you a positive answer. And if you can get those details to us, to my public affairs officer at the far end, then we can probably give you a more definitive answer.
In the back.
Q Yes, sir. I read that Mr. Paul Bremer said that he was waiting for more and more attacks in the next weeks, or months, even, against the coalition forces.
I'd like to know if you share the same feeling, and how do you explain that there will be more attacks? Either the guerrilla is more -- improving his methods or is it because you're (waiting ?) more and more foreign fighters going inside Iraq?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, I think it's unmistakable, as you look at what the goals are, what we believe the goals are for the anti- coalition forces that are here, it's inevitable that we've got to be prepared for more attacks in the near future. I have stated in this forum before that as long as American forces and coalition forces are here, we're going to take attacks from fundamentalists and other terrorists that are aimed at killing Americans, British and other coalition forces. That's just going to continue. That's a fundamental belief on my part that some of that will continue. Will we be able to abate it and get it down to a minimal level? Of course we will, as time goes on. I think in the near term, given the focus that we have on our offensive operations, given the level of engagements that the enemy has chosen to move to, yes, sir, we're going to have more attacks here in the next 30 to 60 days.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Rumors.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Could you restate the question, please?
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: My statement about terrorists coming through Iran and Syria, and your question, I believe, is are the two governments involved, and what is happening inside of Iraq.
I think at a minimum, the two countries need to get control of their borders in order to prevent those foreign fighters from moving into this country. We do need them to engage and take some aggressive actions to stop some of the movement coming in here. So, in that sense, there is at least that level of involvement.
Q Has there been any further movement towards the investigation of the Blackhawk investigation up in Tikrit?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Yes, sir. We have a team from across the Army that is present in the country that is looking at what occurred there. But it's fairly clear to us that what we had was probably a rocket- propelled grenade fired at -- during a period of great vulnerability for an aircraft, when it is in its final approach for landing.
Q General, sir -- (off mike) -- before on your calculations of the effect of an intensified campaign on Iraqi public opinion, it might be useful to ask you the question in another way. Can you tell us what your estimate is of the popularity, or otherwise, of the American enterprise here, including the military enterprise? Because I think there's a lot of confusion and doubt about that now in the countries from which the coalition forces come. Is this a popular undertaking or is it now a deeply unpopular undertaking? Is this Vietnam all over again?
GEN. SANCHEZ: It's not Vietnam, and there's no way that you can make the comparison to the quagmire of Vietnam. When you look at the progress that is being made, you look at the lack of popular support for the regime, there is no alternative political structure that the people of Iraq are going to embrace that is being advanced by this anti-coalition element. I think it's just amazing that we would think that there is some alternative, to go back to an oppressive, brutal regime here in the country.
Now, the question -- Is this popular or is this unpopular? -- I think all the indicators that we're getting is that the Iraqi people clearly understand that in order for progress to continue, the coalition forces need to stay in the country for a while, and that we -- as we have stated over and over again, as rapidly as possible, we will hand over responsibility to the Iraqi people, and we will stay here only as long as is necessary to ensure that they're on the path to a stable, secure, democratic environment.
STAFF: Three minutes -- (off mike).
GEN. SANCHEZ: Yes, ma'am?
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: I didn't understand the question. (Pause for interpretation.)
I'm not exactly sure what you're talking about. You say that you believe that there were assaults against mosques? Is that what I understood, ma'am? (Pause for interpretation.)
Q (Yes ?). (Pause.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: I think those are rumors. No, no, no, let me restate that. I absolutely know that those are rumors. Okay?
And are there --
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Let me finish answering the question, please. In terms of are there imams that are dangerous or creating instability in this country? You all know better than I do that there are. You know that there are imams out there that are advocating violence, that are advocating anti-coalition activity.
And I think everybody here also knows that the U.S. and the coalition are being very respectful of mosques. We are being respectful to the point where we're working with the Iraqi security forces whenever it's necessary to go into a mosque, given that we've got the proper intelligence to go in there and conduct an operation.
So yes, ma'am, I would say that there are some imams out there that are working against the Iraqi people, that are creating instability, and that are of concern.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: In terms of protecting campuses and universities, we have worked very, very hard across the entire country to ensure that the educational system of the country was stood back up. And we've done that since the day we arrived here in the country. And I think everybody clearly knows that the year -- the school year was successful because of that a tremendous effort last year and then schools opened on time after a tremendous amount of work that was done by the coalition in cooperation with the Iraqis to get those campuses back in shape to conduct their classes.
We work with the local security forces to ensure that all critical areas are protected. We conduct our patrolling in coordination with them. And in some cases, we actually have coalition security forces that are co-located and working with university presidents and on campuses to provide some added measures. So I think there's some good working relationships up there.
In terms of when we're going to start trying the officials, and your comment that there may be some deals being cut, I guarantee you that there are no deals that are going to be cut with the high-value detainees. And the issue of starting the trials is an issue that is being worked at this point in time to ensure that we do that as expeditiously as possible. That has to be worked in coordination with the Governing Council and, of course, the Coalition Provisional Authority.
As I stated earlier, we are working to get some of the other criminals and other attackers in front of the Central Criminal Court and other trials, and you'll begin to see some of that. There are some cases that have already been tried against smugglers and some other attackers that have been publicized. And we'll continue to do that once the trials are complete and the Iraqis have made decisions on what their guilt is and what sentences they have received.
Okay. I think I'm going to take one more. Okay. Yes, sir?
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: We are working -- on a weekly basis we have a release board that we conduct to review the cases of some of our detainees, and we do release detainees. And right now we are, in fact, conducting some additional boards to see who we may be able to release in the coming weeks. So that is not a rumor. Okay? All right.
Okay. Thank you all very much. Have a great afternoon.