CPA BRIEFING WITH GENERAL SWANNACK
GEN. SWANNACK: Well, thank you and good afternoon. I'm going to go ahead and
make an opening statement, and then I'll take your questions. I'm glad to see
all of you here today. I just want to tell you up front that Strategy Task Force
All American has used, the one out there in Ar Armada, the one I explained in my
last press conference, continues to be relevant and effective.
First, we continue to actively pursue, locate and kill or capture former regime
elements, extremist foreign fighters and criminals.
Secondly, we are creating all jobs every day, and essential services are
improving, thereby providing the unemployed ranks with legitimate income and not
blood money from attacking Iraqis or coalition forces.
And, third, we continue to consolidate or destroy the vast amounts of left over
weapons and munitions to take away the instruments to attack us.
This strategy continues to reap successes. But today I really want to go ahead
and talk about Iraqi-ization. That's what's going on in Al Anbar -- yes, Iraqi-ization
is all about Iraqis taking charge and moving forward.
Here are a few examples. In the first week of February, which just concluded
Iraqi security forces conducted 87 joint operations with coalition forces, and
109 independent operations -- and that's all on their own. Every day Iraqi
police and ICDC are working side by side with coalition forces, sharing
inforrmation which leads to the arrest of anti-coalition elements and anti-Iraqi
elements. And recruiting these folks to serve their country has never been
Cooperation from local civilians continues to build, and local Iraqis
increasingly are satisfied that we are jointly getting rid of the former regime
elements. One such event led to the capture to the capture of Khamis Sirhan
al-Muhammad, high-value target number 54. Information provided by a local Iraqi
led to his capture by coalition forces last month. This key financier and
facilitator was a major blow to the anti-coalition forces out in al Anbar. And,
in fact, the $1 million award will be paid tomorrow.
The number of local Iraqis turning in information has dramatically increased. It
improved 50 percent this last January, and 300 percent since last October. Good
Iraqi people continue to support coalition and Iraqi security forces. These
local citizens are tired of the violence, and want to provide a stable and
We've made significant progress in improving the capacity of Iraqi security
forces this past month. We have trained over 3,300 Iraqi Civil Defense Corps
members, and of the 5,400 Iraqi police on duty today in al Anbar, almost 10
percent have been retrained and are able to coach and train fellow officers. We
continue to equip the police and ICDC, and expect major equipment to be fielded
within the next 60 days.
I want to highlight the successful efforts of the Iraqi border police during the
ongoing hajj pilgrimage. Iraqi border police, customs and immigration officials,
local police, the Iraqi Red Crescent and mayors of many different towns all came
together to facilitate successful and efficient movement in processing over
16,000 pilgrims through the Arar checkpoint. Even more remarkable, they will
handle up to 25,000 returning over the next week. The entire hajj effort was
planned and executed primarily by Iraqi officials and personnel, and I couldn't
be more proud of the cooperative effort and work that has enabled us to go ahead
and complete this grand event.
Formally transitioning from Coalition Provisional Authority to local governance
remains one of our primary focuses. We've recently completed 25 caucuses
throughout most towns in al Anbar, and elected the 41 members comprising the
provincial council out there. They conducted their inaugural meeting this past
Monday, on February the 9th, and I was invited as a spectator and a guest at
this meeting. And I can report to you that the newly-elected council members are
really excited about the democratic process.
At the same time we continue to create jobs and establish essential services. As
of today, more than 22,000 jobs have been created, and more on the way. In fact,
on Monday, the al Anbar Young Businessmen's Association and I signed a contract
starting the civil improvement program. This program, which provides funding for
projects to refurbish residential facilities, will create another 12,500 jobs in
eight of our cities. We set the conditions, and the Iraqis are eager and anxious
to go ahead and get businesses fully operational out in the west.
Also last week I visited the super phosphate plant which is state-run out in al
Qaim, and provided the needed resources to make this facility operational. This
factory alone will employ 2,500 Iraqis, and once fully operational could easily
affect tens of thousands for employment. The factory manager briefed me on his
plan to expand the operations, hire employees and start employing his projects.
As you can see, we are successfully creating short-term and also durable new
jobs that will help strengthen the economy out west.
Finally, reducing the caches of ammunition around the province has been a huge
success, which has exceeded my expectation. Al Anbar is much safer now because
of the non-availability of enemy weapons and ammunitions. Together we have
eliminated 85 of the 95 large depots of enemy ammunition. Some of these depots
are several kilometers in size.
We continue to employ almost a thousand Iraqi workers and over 50 trucks daily
to assist us in the reduction effort. Last month I told you that we had reduced
22,000 short tons of ammunition thus far. Working together, we have about
doubled that number to 40,000 short tons, and our plan is to have only three of
the 92 caches remaining by mid-March.
As a final piece of evidence of how Iraqis are taming the wild west, let me
highlight what most of you already know. The New York Times published an article
about the capture of a letter from al- Zarqawi, a suspected al Qaeda fighter, to
the leadership of al Qaeda. He provides his assessment on his struggles here in
Iraq. The letter identifies coalition successes that are limiting threat forces
from achieving their success. We are having significant impact on anti-coalition
forces in our area of operations.
The letter goes on to explain that the coalition resolve is strong, coalition
intelligence is ever increasing, and the Iraqis do not support the presence of
terrorists in their country. Zarqawi indicated that they must strike now before
it is too late when the new Iraqi government takes over later this summer.
This is a clear indication of the successes happening not only Multinational
Division West, but also throughout Iraq. And anybody out there who knows where
Zarqawi is, I want to inform you the reward for Zarqawi was just increased to
Yesterday's car bomb that killed and wounded over 100 peaceful Iraqi citizens in
Iskandariyah, and today's bombing in Baghdad show the desperation of these
So now let me talk about the way ahead. Several months ago I stated I thought we
would be ready to step back and allow Iraqis to govern and secure Ar Ramadi
about this time. We're almost there. I still plan on having fully-equipped Iraqi
police and ICDC conducting all security operations in Ar Ramadi in the next 60
days. Fallujah and other cities will follow shortly behind us.
The local standoff of our forces has already begun, and will be a gradual
process as we complete training the remaining security forces, and most
importantly receive the required vehicles and radios for Iraqis to do the jobs
to standard. Some resources and equipment have arrived. However, the major push
is scheduled to arrive later in the March-April timeframe. And at that time the
Iraqi security forces will be ready to assume primary security functions across
Al Anbar is about ready to undertake its role in a free and sovereign Iraq.
People are back to work. Essential services continue to improve. Iraqi security
forces are stepping out front, and progress can be witnessed there every day. Al
Anbar citizens are excited about their future. The outcome remains clearly
defined, and is not at all in doubt. So take me up on my offer, and come out to
see us in al Anbar province. The invitation is still open for those of you who
want to come out west and see the great progress Iraqis and coalition forces are
making. As a matter of fact, you never know what you might see paratroopers
doing out there -- maybe even jumping out of perfectly good airplanes with their
Thank you, Shukran, and I'll take your questions at this time.
Q Hi, general. Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times. I wanted to see what you
thought of the timing of the last two suicide attacks, if you think it's
connected at all to the U.N. being here.
GEN. SWANNACK: Specifically related to the United Nations being here, I can't
speak. I do think it's related to Zarqawi's letter though to go ahead and try to
create as much terror and havoc as can be accomplished. And I think it's the
only way terrorists in this country might have an opportunity to maybe create a
seam or some kind of wedge between coalition forces and Iraqi security forces. I
don't think they'll be successful, but that's exactly what I think their
strategy is right now.
Also, some time Zarqawi's letter indicates potentially a civil war. As you know,
Iskandariyah is right on the line between Sunni and Shi'ia, and so the attack
there might also be to try to foment some kind of civil war here -- which will
not at all happen, in my opinion.
Okay, right here in front.
Q (Arabic not translated.)
GEN. SWANNACK: Okay, the question is about training and equipping the Iraqi
security forces. Specifically, coalition forces have tanks, we have Bradley
fighting vehicles, helicopters and those sorts of equipment. Well, it's never
intended to go ahead and field this type of equipment to the Iraqi security
forces for internal defense, and that's primarily what the Iraqi security forces
are being trained to do -- the Iraqi police forces for internal security, ICDC
to assist them in internal security, and the Iraqi army potentially in the
future for external defense. So small arms and machine guns, body protective
armor, vehicles to move around, radios to maintain situation awareness, is what
we are providing to them with equipment, but also the training that we are
collectively at squad and platoon level to maintain the internal security in
this country. And I think we're doing that pretty well.
The only area that I wish we had been able to proceed faster on is the equipping
of the forces specifically with radios and with trucks. If you understand
maintaining situation awareness as a coalition force with the police and with
the ICDC, the best way we can do that is have radio communication with them, and
that's what we don't have yet. Only in limited cases do we have it. So I hope
that answers your question.
Right here, sir.
Q (Off mike) -- magazine, Germany. Could you reveal any information about the
identity of the suicide bomber of today and yesterday? Is tthere anything known
whether they were Iraqis, foreign or anything?
GEN. SWANNACK: The only information I've received regarding the identity of the
suicide bomber yesterday is that the vehicle he was driving, he was observed to
have long beard and hair -- believed to be a Wahabi'ist, and that's about as far
as I can go on that -- nothing more. That was a sighting that occurreed down
there in Iskandariyah prior to the attack.
Back over here.
Q Hi, general, Jim Crane with the Associated Press. Two quick ones for you. The
first one, the $1 million award for Khamis al-Muhammad. Can you just give us an
idea of who it was that might have gotten that money or is about to get the
money, and whether you guys will be protecting him in any way or guaranteeing
his anonymity of some sort? And also today we hear that there was a, in Ramadi,
an attack on a GMC Suburban vehicle with some U.S. personnel in there. I wonder
if you have any info on that. Thanks.
GEN. SWANNACK: Surely, Jim. In the first case, on the award being paid to an
Iraqi, I cannot disclose the name or the location of this individual. As this
individual has provided us good information in the past, we are going to go
ahead and pay the $1 million award to him, and then we hope to use him in the
future. So I have to maintain in anonymity.
Second of all, on the attack in Ar Ramadi today, there was an improvised
explosive device attack on a military convoy, which included also an up-armored
Suburban, which was carrying some of our civilian -- the Coalition Provisional
Authority personnel who work out in Ar Ramadi. There was no damage or no
injuries resulting from that other than very minor return-to-duty injuries to I
know one soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division. But the Suburban was damaged,
but no serious injuries or serious damage to report.
Q From the concentration of attacking on Ramadi, do you think the basic cells
have been in Ramadi? And do you think the two cars that made the attacks on the
police station on the center of the Iraqi army, it came from Ramadi? Thank you.
GEN. SWANNACK: I think first of all that the former regime elements in the al
Anbar province are very much in disarray right now, specifically since Khamis
Sirhan has been captured. Their leadership, their financial direction --
provisions of financial matters is pretty much all in disarray.
We do -- I'm not sure if your question is about terrorist cells -- there are
indications of some terrorist cells in al Anbar provincce, and I believe they
are in disarray right now.
Q (Off mike)?
GEN. SWANNACK: The terrorist cells that we have been tracking and systematically
taking down out in al Anbar province have linkages as we know to al Qaeda, but
we are not directly associated with al Qaeda, as we know.
Right over here.
Q (Arabic not translated.) Arabic, please. (Arabic not translated.)
GEN. SWANNACK: Okay, two questions here. First is how is it we think that the
individual who used the car bomb yesterday in Iskandariyah is a Wahabi. That was
related to me by one of the police officers in Iskandariyah who observed the
individual, that they perceive based upon the identification as specifically a
major in the police force down there who saw this individual that he was Wahabi.
So that's where I got this information.
Secondarily, in terms of the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people, I
cannot speak for Ambassador Bremer or what he is doing and the timeline he's on.
I'm still tracking 30 June. But in al Anbar province, we have gone ahead and
established as part of this transfer of sovereignty our own provincial council
and elected provincial council as part of the overall transfer of sovereignty
for Iraq. So we are doing our part I guess is the best what I can tell you out
in al Anbar province in terms of democratically moving forward towards Iraqi
Q (Arabic not translated.)
GEN. SWANNACK: Okay, two questions.
First of all, back to how we know it's a Wahabi, and then second of all there
are accusations that coalition forces were involved in the attack on
Iskandariyah. Well, first of all, let me take and explain again that the major
of the police force down in Iskandariyah is the one that saw the individual who
looked liked a Wahabi inside of a red truck. And that red truck was the one that
was a car bomb, that blew up adjacent to the police substation in Iskandariyah.
Now, I can tell you without a doubt that no coalition forces were involved in
any activities or attacks in the Iskandariyah area yesterday, whether it be by
U.S. Air Force aircraft, whether it be by helicopters, whether it be by direct
fire or indirect fire. As a matter of fact, U.S. forces came on the scene
shortly thereafter to go ahead and render assistance to very professional Iraqi
police and emergency services to provide consequence management. And if you want
to stick around afterwards, I'll show you a couple slides of that exactly
Q Actually I was going to ask the more or less the same question, so I can
follow it up, because I was surprised yesterday how unanimously among the
population believed this was an American missile in Iskandariyah was. So why do
you think that the population -- I mean, what image do you have there that it's
-- the whole population of Iskandariyah happen to believe that. I was told tthat,
but not by one person, but probably by 50. So it was really their belief that.
So what does make it that they would believe that?
GEN. SWANNACK: All's I know is that there was a news agency down there asking
questions yesterday very shortly after the attack, and there very shortly after
that was when the crowd starting chanting they thought that coalition forces
were involved. Beyond that, I don't know why at all. But I can tell you
unequivocally that coalition forces were not involved in this attack, or this
explosion in any way. Okay?
Q (Arabic not translated.)
GEN. SWANNACK: The question is in regards to who is allowed at sites such as the
explosion yesterday, or I guess today, in Baghdad, and why is it only American
or like media allowed to the area to go ahead and take video footage of what
happened. I'll have to defer that to the press -- Colonel Darley (ph) -- to
answer that question.
Each area is pretty much secured, and individuals allowed based upon the
security situation there. And I know specifically out in al Anbar, where we're
at, that we don't differentiate between any news agency other than to go ahead
and make sure that they're all safe in their area, and let them free access to
report what's happened. And so I can't specifically answer any questions
regarding those two incidents, but I'll take it back and see if anyone was
specifically detained and not allowed there, and get back to you, if I could get
your organization after this. Okay?
Q (Arabic not translated.)
GEN. SWANNACK: Can you say again the name of the individual?
Q (Arabic not translated.)
GEN. SWANNACK: Our area of operations does not contain Najaf. What I'll have to
do is get the name of individual from you and go ahead and provide that to my
fellow commanding general down in the Polish sector south, who has An Najaf, and
he can go ahead and answer that for you. So we'll go ahead and take your
question and try to get an answer. But that's not an area I have responsibility
Over here, ma'am?
Q In Arabic, please. (Arabic not translated.)
GEN. SWANNACK: The question is regarding Zarqawi's memo, and specifically the
two attacks in the last two days. And if I could draw a relationship to his memo
and also these attacks. That's basically an assessment that we have made, yes,
they are related -- related in such that attacking as he says the coalition
forces has become much more difficult to do, and therefore to go ahhead and try
to create problems between coalition forces working with Iraqi security forces
to go ahead and do specific attacks against these likely armed targets -- police
stations, others areas where individuals congregate, that they could use that as
part of their attacks -- or to try to create an environment which looks like
Shi'ia-on-Sunni or Sunni-on-Shi'ia violence to foment a civil war. So I do
believe they're related. Direct, conclusive evidence to that I do not have, but
it's not going to work, I'll tell you that.
Yes, sir, right here.
Q Please, I want to continue. (Arabic not translated.)
GEN. SWANNACK: Okay, the question is a follow-up on that: Is in fact the attacks
of the last two days a reaction to the memo? I don't think so at all, no.
Over here, sir.
Q (Arabic not translated.)
GEN. SWANNACK: Okay, the question is about foreign fighters and how they
basically gain access here to Iraq. And I'd like to explain to you that I
believe it's getting more and more difficult for foreign fighters to come into
Iraq, however, they come in both legally and illegally. In a legal sense they
have documentation that allows them the process through the checkpoint under
some disguise -- identification papers that are legal. We have instances where
this has happened. There are incidences where individuals, these terrorists come
across the border -- across open border, porous border here in Iraq. We're
generating the capacity with the border police at the ports of entry, and now we
are starting to generate the capacity for border police along the border to
maintain patrols out there. But the border has been very porous, and that's how
I believe they've gotten there.
I think we're making very good improvements though in closing down the borders,
and we have to go ahead and get the proper means at the border checkpoints to go
ahead and now track accurately, with computers and international-type databases,
who these individuals are coming into Iraq. So I think we need to improve it,
but that's how we're getting there.
Yes, right here.
Q (Arabic not translated.)
GEN. SWANNACK: It's a good question regarding the religious leaders out in al
Anbar, if they're cooperating with us, or if they are harboring some of the
foreign fighters coming in. In most cases that we have found the imans are very
supportive of Iraqi efforts and coalition efforts to rid foreign fighters. There
are isolated cases though, however, where imans have been involved in harboring
and providing safe haven to some of these terrorists. We actively pursue this,
and I know in a couple of cases have detained imans who have been involved in
this type of activity. So, most of the imans are very supportive of our efforts,
working with the Iraqi security forces and our efforts to go ahead and find
these foreign fighters -- there are a few that we still conclusively find out
that they are assisting terrorists, and we take them down.
We've got one more question over here.
Q Thank you. Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers.
GEN. SWANNACK: If it's an easy one, I'll take two. Okay?
Q Do you know how many police were killed in the attack yesterday? And how do
you decide to provide coalition security for an event like yesterday, where
you've got people coming to apply for jobs?
GEN. SWANNACK: That's a good job. Specifically, we have identified over the last
several months that police substations and stations are areas that are targeted
for these attacks. And so we've very systematically provided barrier systems to
most of the police stations, whether they be the low barriers, the medium
barriers, or the very high barriers -- we provided them too. In this case, we
provided about -- I'd say somewheres -- I got a briefing last night --
somewheres aaround 100 of these barriers to the police substation there in
Iskandariyah. And what that resulted in was there were five policemen wounded --
none killed in Iskandariyah yesterday -- policemen. The 40 or 45 individuals who
were killed, and the 70 to 75 individuals wounded were Iraqis -- civilians, most
of which were there applying to become part of the police force, or to get jobs.
And so the attacker specifically targeted this facility -- blew up the car right
there in the middle of the street and wounded or killed fellow Iraqis.
One last question. Ma'am, you had one right there?
Q Since the strategy seems to have shifted mainly to suicide bombings, do you
provide the police with special training to go against this?
GEN. SWANNACK: Specifically suicide bombers are a function of trying to find
them before they come into the country, or as they come into the country -- find
their means or the vehicles that they are preparing for suicide bombs, and then
systematically taking them out before they hit their target. It's more an
intelligence requirement. We work extensively with Iraqis. I say that because
someone coming from Syria or Jordan or Saudi Arabia has a certain dialect that
Iraqis can figure out who they are. And we need their help to tell us who these
foreigners are coming in doing the suicide bombing. And that's the way we're
going to get at it. It's better to go ahead and take them down as they try to
get their suicide bombs together and recruit the people to do it, than it is
trying to protect the target.
Thank you very much. I enjoyed coming to see you today. Shukran.
STAFF: For those who have interest, General Swannack and his staff have brought
a copy of the diskette that has some imagery, as well his prepared remarks. For
those who want them, they'll be over here -- over there -- who have a copy of
this. And if there's not enough, we can have some made.
One other thing here. Shortly we're going to pop up two pictures here that
showed where that bomb went off yesterday in Iskandariyah. You'll see where that
red truck blew up. It is clearly not a missile strike. It was clearly a
terrorist bombing involving a red truck. So, again, those who want that, it's