COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY BRIEFING WITH
LIEUTENANT GENERAL RICARDO SANCHEZ, COMMANDER,
COALITION GROUND FORCES
LOCATION: BAGHDAD, IRAQ
DATE: THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2004
GEN. SANCHEZ: Let me start out by giving you a brief opening statement.
First of all, I would like to express my sincere condolences to the families of
the Iraqi security forces, the innocent Iraqi civilians and coalition service
members who have lost their lives while helping to establish freedom here in
Today, former regime loyalists and terrorists continue to attack the citizens of
Iraq, the Iraqi security forces and our coalition forces. Those who attempt to
prevent a free and democratic state will definitely fail. We remain undaunted.
Despite the attacks, the list of Iraqis volunteering to join the Iraqi security
forces continues to grow and the training facilities for these forces are full
and continue to expand. Attacks designed to intimidate Iraqis from serving in
the Iraqi security forces, instead, have stirred patriotism among young Iraqis
and they continue to show up at a rate of four to one for every billet that we
have available. Police and army training classes are filled to capacity, both in
Jordan and here in the country. The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, which has 23
battalions this week, will have 13 more battalions by April, and we expect no
problems in being able to man and to train those units. The result is that
offensive operations now increasingly include joint and independent Iraqi
security force operations across the country.
Earlier this month, one particular event provided a very clear example of the
progress that is being made in Iraqi security force capabilities. On Sunday the
15th of February members of the national Iraqi police services Emergency
Response Unit tracked down and arrested number 41 of the deck of 55's most
wanted, Mohammed Zimam al- Razaq -- (audio break) -- a former Ba'ath party
regional chairman. The arrest followed an investigation and a series of
coordinated raids independently conducted by the Iraqi police service. This
achievement is a milestone in the continuing developments of Iraq's security
Meanwhile, the shape and structure of coalition forces continues to change.
We're in the midst of transitioning our forces, an immensely complex task that
is being undertaken with few problems up to this point.
In the south, the transition to Multinational Division Southeast and
Multinational Division South is complete and the forces are continuing to
provide a safe and secure environment throughout their zones of operation.
In the north, the 101st Airborne Division has returned to the States and it was
replaced by Task Force Olympia, which features a Stryker armored vehicle, which
is ideally suited for the missions required of them in this area. In addition,
the coalition is now more diverse with the addition of Japanese units in
Multinational Division Southeast. In their first deployment into a combat
environment since World War II, the Japanese soldiers reported to the Tamawah
(sp) area to provide much-needed medical assistance, water supplies and
reconstruction of public facilities.
Now in the coming months, the 82nd Airborne, the 4th Infantry and the 1st
Armored Division will rotate out of the country and redeploy back to their home
stations, and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, minus the 1st Infantry
Division and the 1st Cavalry Division, will deploy into the country and take
their places, in addition to numerous other rotations of non-U.S. coalition
During this ongoing process that will run through the May time frame, the size
of the coalition forces will decrease from approximately 130,000 troops to about
110(,000) to 115,000.
As Iraqi security forces become more numerous and capable, more of the security
responsibilities will be shouldered by them. However, the coalition will remain
shoulder-to-shoulder with the Iraqi security forces in a partnership to maintain
a safe and secure environment. Any organization that interprets the increasing
Iraqi role in the security mission as a sign that coalition forces are either
losing their resolve or moving to remote bases to avoid casualties will be
making a deadly error. We will remain as staunch partners with the Iraqi
security forces until our mission of bringing security and stability to this
country is accomplished.
In the area of civil military operations, the coalition continues to invest
heavily, on behalf of the Iraqi people, in projects aimed at restoring critical
infrastructure and public services throughout the country. To date, we have used
the Commanders' Emergency Response Program funds to support more than $182
million on over 17,500 projects throughout the country. This has included over
$8 million on health projects, $18 million on 2,200 reconstruction projects and
about $35 million on education initiatives.
Now let me conclude on that note and tell you that the coalition's military
focus, along with our Iraqi security partners, remains committed to establishing
and maintaining a safe and secure environment for the people of Iraq. Though we
can expect some setbacks as we move forward, the tide of change is now
inevitable as Iraq moves forward to a sovereign and united nation which protects
and defends the rights of its citizens to live in freedom and prosperity.
I'll now go ahead and take your questions. Yes, sir?
Q General, Gregor Mayer from the German Press Agency, DPA. General, the November
15 agreement foresees the closure of a status of forces agreement by the end of
March. Now we have a growing desire on the Iraqi side of having this postponed
after the change of authority at the end of June. Are you aware of this, and is
this posing problems to the coalition forces if there, let's say, is a gap
between handing over authority and not being any more occupation force, and just
later getting a status of forces agreement?
GEN. SANCHEZ: No, absolutely not. The November 15 agreement talked about
achieving some sort of a security arrangement with the Iraqi people, not
necessarily and specifically a SOFA, as you described. And at this point in
time, we do not see any sort of an issue with us continuing to operate here in
the country. It is still to be determined in the negotiations that are ongoing
what those security arrangements will be, and that is in the process of being
discussed in the discussions that are taking place at this time. It is not a gap
in our ability to hand over authority by the 30th of June.
Q (Through interpreter.) First of all, you have just talked about up to the
subject of changing the or the moving out of the coalition forces and giving
authority to the Iraqi police and to the Iraqi security forces. So do I
understand that giving -- of course you are handing out sovereignty to the
Iraqis after the 30th of June, that you are not going to withdraw from the
centers of the cities? Are the coalition forces going to be situated in the
middle of the country, in the middle of the cities, or are they going to go to
the boundaries? So does this form any threat, specifically if U.S. forces are
going to be inside the country after giving the sovereignty and handing over the
sovereignty to the Iraqis? Does this form a threat to the Iraqis? Can you just
give us your view?
GEN. SANCHEZ: The concept of local control that we have described in the past
calls for us to move from inside of the cities to forward operating bases or
camps that are on the boundaries of the cities or outside of the major
population areas. The basic criteria that allows us to do this is the ability to
hand over law and order missions -- or responsibilities, rather -- to the Iraqi
security forces that are operating in that urban area. The condition is that
they are capable and credible enough to be able to assume those
responsibilities. And therefore, as you look across the country, we will evolve
into local control at varying speeds in the different parts of the country.
There are some parts of the country today that are already under the local
control of Iraqi security forces, but as a specific example let me talk about
Baghdad. Baghdad will, in fact, have the 1st Armored Division and the 1st
Calvary Division that will move to their operating bases on the outskirts of the
city. And we will, in fact, turn over the responsibility to the security forces
inside of the city, but that does not mean that we are not conducting operations
in the city. We will have joint coordination centers where we will have the
coalition forces, the Iraqi security forces all co-located to synchronize and
coordinate and accomplish the tasks that are necessary to continue to provide
security and stability to the city. We will still conduct operations in the city
in coordination with the Iraqi security forces, and we will have quick reaction
forces that are available to reinforce the Iraqi police, the Civil Defense Corps
or the army as required and to operate with them jointly in the event that the
mission requires significantly more capability than what they have available to
them at that time.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Go ahead and follow up. Go ahead.
Q (Through interpreter.) After you just hand over the stability to the Iraqis on
30th June, so you will go out of the country as (attacks come to ?) Baghdad. So
as forces, you will be out of the country at the middle of Baghdad instability.
Can you just give us a date that the coalition forces will be transmitted or
they are going to go outside Baghdad after exactly the 30th of June?
GEN. SANCHEZ: The exact date -- our goal, what we are shooting for is to have
our forces in these base camps that are on the outskirts of Baghdad by the time
that the 1st Cavalry Division comes into the country, which is in the middle to
the latter part of April. And we will have established our coordination and our
linkages to the Iraqi security forces. But let me reemphasize that this does not
mean that we are not in the city. We are still going to be conducting patrols.
We're still going to be working with the police and the Civil Defense Corps in
the cities to provide the security and law and order.
Okay? Yes, sir?
Q (Through interpreter.) Ahmed Zareybi (ph) from -- (inaudible). As the main
commander for the joint forces, are you going to be participating in the
elections now? And if you say no, why?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. I'm not sure I really understood your question. Your
question, I believe, was, as the commander of coalition forces, will we be
participating in the elections?
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Can you clarify that a little bit, please?
Q (Through interpreter.) Regarding because you are the commanding forces of --
are you going to be with the elections of --
SECOND INTERPRETER: Okay, sir. His question is that, as being the commander in
chief of the military, so are you with the idea of having election at the time
being, with the idea to have the election at the time being in Iraq? Is it
possible or suitable enough to have the election right now despite the security
situation in Iraq?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. I think your question is whether I believe, as the coalition
force commander, if it's possible to hold elections. I think the answer I have
to give you is that I have to defer to the United Nations' position and
Ambassador Bremer's stated positions on the conduct of elections.
As far as the security conditions across the country, I'd have to tell you that
the security conditions today are considerably better than what they were 60
days ago. In an -- on a average day today, we are encountering about 18 to 20
engagements across the entire country. And we have a significantly improved
security situation in the country, and the security situation that we're
currently experiencing is manageable for whatever governance processes need to
Q (Through interpreter.) Baram Hamid Arin (sp), from the Bashakayeh (sp)
newspaper. How do you see the capability of the Iraqi forces after the coalition
forces get pulled out of Iraq? Would (they) be able to secure the country by
GEN. SANCHEZ: How do I see the capability of the Iraqi security forces and will
they have the capability to secure the country by themselves is the question.
And correct me if that's not correct, if that's not right.
First of all, the capability of the Iraqi security forces today is growing. And
it is a capability that we continue to build across the entire country for both
-- for all of the police, the Civil Defense Corps forces and for the new Iraqi
Today we have only three battalions of the new Iraqi army trained and fielded. I
already gave you the numbers for the ICDC and the police. We continue to train
the professional police force, and that will take us some time into 2005.
The army will in fact be fielded. We believe that the program we have in place
is on track and that we can field the 27 battalions and three light motorized
divisions by the October time frame. And then there will be a requirement for us
to continue to train and to build the capability of those divisions to provide
external security for the country.
The ICDC -- the 45 battalions that we will have on line will in fact be there by
the end of April and May time frame, and they will be capable and continue to
grow over time.
In terms of their capability to secure the country by themselves when the
coalition forces pull out, that is exactly the objective that we have. The
timelines to do that are yet undetermined, and the Iraqis will have to make some
decisions, once they establish their own sovereign entities, as to the eventual
end state of the Civil Defense Corps, the end state and size and type of army
they will have, and the types of security arrangements that they might have to
or want to engage with the international community.
Yes, sir? In the back.
Q Alistair -- (inaudible) -- Fox News. Two questions.
The Senate Intelligence Committee in the past couple of days discussed the case
of the missing serviceman Michael Scott Speicher. Can you tell us, please,
whether investigations on your side continue into his disappearance and whether
there's anything to tell us on --
The second question is, can you tell us whether anything further came out of the
death of Zarqawi's lieutenant in Habbaniya a couple days ago?
GEN. SANCHEZ: You said Michael Speicher, correct?
Q Yeah, Michael Speicher.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Yes. The Iraqi Survey Group continues to work on Michael
Speicher's case. On every opportunity or every clue they get, they follow up on
that and we continue to search for him. In terms of the follow-on to the Zarqawi
lieutenant, at this point what you've seen in the press and what we have
released is about what we can tell you.
Q Patrick McDonald (sp) from the Los Angeles Times. General, could you elaborate
a little bit on what the role of the U.S. military is going to be
post-sovereignty handover. I mean, when you're kind of moving out of the cities,
are you essentially going to be providing backup? I mean, are you going to be
doing the primary intelligence gathering? Who's going to be coming up with ideas
for missions? Is it going to be a secondary role or a primary role?
GEN. SANCHEZ: The answer is yes. (Laughter.) And let me elaborate a little bit.
Primary and secondary -- where it is that we have been able to hand off local
control, we will be in a secondary role. And we will be there to provide quick
reaction forces and still continue to operate with those Iraqi security forces
every single day. Where we have not been able to build the capacities of the
Iraqi secure forces to the level where they can accomplish the task on their
own, then we'll be there with them as partners conducting those operations.
We suspect that on the 1st of July the conditions in the country will still be
unstable to an extent. We expect that we will still have to be conducting
offensive operations to defeat terrorists and possibly some anti-coalition
forces that will still be adamant about continuing their quest. And we will be
able to conduct unilateral operations given the intelligence and conduct those
precise intel- driven offensive ops to destroy them.
In the back.
Q (Name inaudible), CNN. We've got -- we've heard reports that there was an
explosion in a market in the center of the city Baqubah. Do you have any
information about this? If so, what happened?
GEN. SANCHEZ: No, ma'am, I did not have that when I walked in here. We can check
in the process and try to get you something before the end of the conference.
Q Yes, please. Thank you.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Yes, sir, in the back?
Q Two small questions, General. Luke Pfeiffer (ph), German television. Are
coalition forces involved in any means in the security operation ahead of the
Ashura events at the 10th of Muharram, which is next week in Karbala? And linked
to this question, do you have any control about the influx of foreign pilgrims
at this stage? We meet a lot of Iranian pilgrims in the city here. Do you have
any figures? Is this a controlled influx, or do you have any ways of controlling
GEN. SANCHEZ: The answer to the first question, whether coalition forces are
involved in the security for Ashura, definitely. We have been working with the
governors and the security forces in Najaf, in Karbala, here in Baghdad and some
of the other major cities to be able to assist in providing that security. We
have had meetings with the leadership, and in Karbala there's a robust plan that
is synchronized and coordinated to be able to provide security. It is a concern
for us, especially given the Zarqawi letter that talks about creating
instability and hopefully the conditions for civil war between the Sunni and the
Shi'a. We have paid special attention to this, but we think we've been working
closely enough with Iraqi security forces that we can provide reasonable
security. That doesn't mean that we're going to prevent every incident from
In terms of the influx of Iranians, that does continue. There is no agreement at
this point between Iran and Iraq as to the numbers that can flow into the
country, and that is a challenge that we're facing today.
Q A little follow-up. So there's no control at the borders?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, the --
Q You have no figures, actually, of how many people are entering?
GEN. SANCHEZ: No. I could not stand up here and tell you that we have positive
figures on the numbers of Iranians that have come in from the Iranian border.
When you say there is no control, there is no total control. There are some
ports of entry on the Iranian border that are being manned and run by the border
police -- the Iraqi border police and the border enforcement, but that does not
imply that there is total control of the borders. And therefore, there are some
areas where they can come across undetected and unaccounted for.
Q (Through interpreter.) From LBC. Do you have any intention as to have NATO
participate with the coalition forces? If the answer is yes, how would be the
process? And are they going to be the leaders, and are you going to put the
coalition forces under the leader of NATO?
So can you also tell us that, regarding the dissemination of the coalition
forces inside the country, if there is any programs or schedules for those
people, because in fact they are making the chaos inside the country and too
much traffic jams that annoy the Iraqi people while they are in the streets with
their patrols and tanks everywhere. So can you just give or try to schedule
those people or try to organize them not to annoy the Iraqi people in the
streets with their tanks over there?
GEN. SANCHEZ: The price of freedom. (Laughs.)
First of all, on NATO, at this point in time there are no plans for NATO to come
into the country to take over the mission here in the country. Discussions and
long-term plans are -- you know, clearly those are options for the future. The
decisions have to be made at the international level, at the national command
authority level in coordination with NATO and Iraq. And at this point in time,
there is no positive plan that is in place.
In terms of the traffic jams and the chaos, I think we're all part of the chaos
out there, not just the military. And we will continue to conduct our operations
as required. We are, in fact, minimizing the track vehicle movement. Part of the
process of moving to local control and moving to the outskirts is an attempt to
minimize all of our traffic inside of the cities. That's a side benefit to that.
But clearly, as I stated before, when required in order to bring security and
stability to the country, we will conduct our operations to kill or capture
anti-coalition forces. But we are working very hard to work together with the
Iraqi people to minimize some of the annoyances that are out there.
Q (Name and affiliation inaudible) -- Spain. General, every time that there is a
bomb attack recently -- it happened in Iskandariyah, it happened in Hillah, it
happened also in the (recruiting center here in Baghdad -- large amounts of the
population seem to be convinced that coalition forces, American forces, to be
precise, are responsible for that. No matter how preposterous that may be, why
do you think this happens that the people believe that? And is that something
that worries you?
GEN. SANCHEZ: I don't know. I don't know why the people think that. What I do
know is that it's not true, that it's rumors. And I do know that we have to
counter that. And I do know that we do, in fact, go out and talk to people and
show them that it is not the American forces or the coalition forces that are
doing that; and that it is, in fact, a terrorist element that is out there
conducting those attacks against their own people; that Zarqawi is operating,
that Ansar al-Islam and elements of al Qaeda are operating to kill Iraqis, and
other Iraqis are conducting operations to kill Iraqis; and that it's not the
coalition that is here to create instability and to get our soldiers killed.
So you know, we all have to work together to ensure that the people understand
that we're about partnership, we're about freedom and democracy and peace and
stability and security for everybody here in this country.
In the back, on the right. You, sir. Yes, sir?
Q (Through interpreter.) Abrahim Saradjak (sp), (inaudible name) Daily. Mr.
General, there was a hundred former Ba'ath -- (inaudible) -- and intelligence
for the army and media in Syria. Is the United States afraid that might form
some kind of terrorist organization which is against the area, create some kind
of fear against the area?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Explain that. Restate the question again, please.
INTERPRETER: Okay. What he's saying -- that there is ex- elements for the
ex-regime, ex-intelligence officers. They live in Syria. They have presence in
Syria. Some of them are businessmen. Are you guys afraid that these people might
get together and form kind of terrorist organization against the U.S. and maybe
create some kind of operation against Iraq, terrorists organizing in Iraq?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Clearly, the existence of former Ba'ath Party intelligence and
other operatives in countries either surrounding the region or in other
international locations are a concern in terms of their willingness and their
ability to support instability here in the country.
Syria in particular has shown that they are not totally committed to stopping
the instability that is being exported out of Syria into Iraq. They've got to do
a much better job of shutting down their borders to keep foreigners from coming
in, to keep some of the terrorists from flowing in, and preventing them from
staging inside of their territory.
It is a concern to us that there may be former regime elements that are outside
of the country continuing to foment instability and bringing it into the country
against the Iraqi people and against the coalition.
All the way to the right.
Q Richard Beaton (sp) from the Times. General, I was wondering if you could
comment on a report in the American press this morning that 112 sexual assaults
occurred against American servicewomen in the last 18 months in Central Command
alone. I was wondering how many servicewomen have been attacked in Iraq and
whether you consider that -- really consider it a serious problem.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, any violation of dignity and respect and the rights of an
individual are a problem in any organization. And you know, this is something
that we do not condone. This is something that we very aggressively tackle when
the allegations surface, whether it's sexual harassment or actual crimes. And I
could not tell you right off the top of my head how many have occurred here in
the last year. I think we've got those numbers and we can provide those numbers
to you in terms of actual sex crimes, sexual harassment and those details. We
can provide that to you.
Q (Through interpreter.) (Name and affiliation inaudible.) What you said about
the Iranian issues. As I heard that you said there is no capability of control
of the -- having the Iranian pilgrims to come into the country, and you said
that there is no specific agreement between Iraq and Iran indicating that. So in
fact, there is an agreement between Iraq and Iran indicating the -- allowing the
pilgrims, or 5,000 Iranians into the country. So how can you -- just give us
your opinion about that. Five thousand Iranians.
GEN. SANCHEZ: How can I give you my opinion about what?
INTERPRETER: About the agreement. They say --
GEN. SANCHEZ: About the agreement, lack of agreement, the 5,000, or what?
Q (Through interpreter.) Regarding the agreement, you just told us that there is
no agreement between the Iraqis and Iranians indicating or implementing the fact
that there is a permission of 5,000; every month, 5,000 Iranian pilgrims can
enter the country. So is there such agreement or there isn't?
GEN. SANCHEZ: No, okay, I understand the question. To my understanding, there is
Q Thank you, sir. (Continues through interpreter.) By the name of God, Allah hu
Akbar. From Al-Sawa (ph) newspaper. Salaam aleikum. As being the commander in
chief of the military divisions in Iraq, there is a very saddening campaign
against antiterrorism in Iraq. Do you have an idea of these figure of the member
of the terrorist insurgents, or at least you give us your idea, roughly, about
the number, or you don't know anything about that number of the terrorists that
are present in Iraq?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, I wouldn't say that I don't know anything about the number.
In terms of the actual number of terrorists, it's pretty difficult to pinpoint
them because they're moving back and forth through both borders -- in the Syrian
and in the Iranian border. We also have some homegrown terrorists in Ansar
al-Islam, Ansar al- Sunna, and the ability to be able to establish their support
base and their actual size is pretty difficult. So I couldn't give you a number
right off the top of my head that would be based on clear logic and, besides, it
probably wouldn't be smart for me to give you a number at this point.
Q (Inaudible) -- a Japanese newspaper. There is report some of the coalition
forces while they are making their raids they are practicing some improper ways
for not taking into consideration the Iraqis' traditions. So they are just --
the ways they are taking what they are -- the ways they are making their raids,
they never have any respect for the Iraqi families. So have you just got any
procedures or have you taken any procedures regarding respecting the families
when they're making -- or respecting the tradition of the Iraqi families making
GEN. SANCHEZ: Yes, I think we all understand that this has been a continuing
battle for the last 10 months and we have made significant improvements. We have
significant command emphasis on the conduct of our offensive operations and our
raids to ensure that we are protecting the dignity and the respect of the
coalition -- or correction, of the Iraqis that the coalition is engaging with
when we conduct our offensive operations. We are reemphasizing that during this
period where we're transitioning this entire force, and we'll continue to do
that. And we do, in fact, have Iraqis that are helping us to ensure that we
clearly understand what our training programs ought to be to be able to let all
the soldiers know what the sensitivities are. And there are a lot of lessons
that we learned last summer that we will have to ensure or pass on to the forces
that are coming into the country that have not had the experience here in Iraq.
So we'll continue to work that.
Q (Name inaudible) -- for the Arabiya channel. Can you please tell us about
yesterday's incident; if you released anything about the fall off a U.S. plane,
whether it's because a technical failure or because a fire -- an enemy fire? And
if it is by technical failure, why every time we hear about such incidents?
GEN. SANCHEZ: I'm not sure I understood the last part of your question. What --
why do you hear about what incidents?
Q Why every day we hear such -- we hear about such incidents, that there is a
technical failure and --
GEN. SANCHEZ: Yeah. Okay. No, that's not necessarily true. We have been very
upfront in stating when our helicopters have been shot down by enemy fire. We
have very clearly stated that when it has occurred. So that is not exactly
Yesterday what happened was, there was no enemy fire yesterday, and that was a
wire strike, as we understand it right now. The helicopter hit some wires and
wound up crashing and killing the two pilots.
But you know, we have absolutely no problem with telling you when it is that we
have lost a helicopter due to enemy fire, and we will continue to do that.
Q Christine Spolar, Chicago Tribune. Can you talk about these 17 military
personnel who have been, I guess, in detention of some kind or suspended for a
while, under investigation for mistreatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib?
And also, second, a not related question: When you talk about the drawdown of
troops here and how they were changing, are some of those troops going toward
the spring offensive in Afghanistan? And can you indicate troop strength with
that? Thank you.
GEN. SANCHEZ: First of all, on the 17 personnel that have been suspended, they
are suspended from their duties while we continue to conduct the investigation.
The investigation is not complete at this point in time, and therefore I can't
give you any more information than that. But at the right time, once those
investigations are complete and we've moved forward with the judicial process or
we've cleared those individuals, we will make that public.
Clearly, it is very important for us to protect the individual, the unit and the
institutions. That's why it's important for us to preserve the integrity of that
investigation process and not discuss it during this -- at this point in the
In terms of the drawdown of forces here in the country, these forces are all
returning to their home bases.
In the back, on the left.
Q (Through interpreter.) Yasser (sp) from the Free Iraq -- (inaudible). General,
after they convert the sovereignty to the Iraqis, who's going to determine the
timetable for the coalition to stay in Iraq? The new elected government or the
present Governing Council?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. The question is, who will determine the timetable for the
length of stay of the coalition here in the country after sovereignty? Clearly,
after sovereignty the responsibility for making decisions here in the country
will transition to some interim government moving towards a duly elected
sovereign government in the 2005 time frame. Those are the bodies that will have
the responsibility for determining how long the partnership with the coalition
forces will have to be sustained over time. And we will be here as long as it
takes for us to bring that security, and beyond the 30th of June, it will be
with the consent of the Iraqi people. And we believe that there is consensus
that at this point in time the presence of the coalition forces is necessary to
continue to ensure the stability and security of the country both internally and
Yes, sir? In the back. You, sir.
Q (Name inaudible) -- NHK. General, when you mentioned that for the transfer of
authority for the security, you judged Iraqi forces to be capable and credible,
could you elaborate on that point? What does it mean that they are capable and
credible? Is it going to be a technical judgment or is it going to be a
GEN. SANCHEZ: A what?
Q A technical judgment or a political judgment.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay.
Q And related to that, from a purely military point of view do you think that
June 30 is a bit hasty as a schedule?
GEN. SANCHEZ: First of all, on the credible and capable, I think it's fairly
straightforward. The "capable" aspect of the coalition -- correction -- of the
Iraqi security forces is fairly straightforward: are they able to conduct the
missions independently that they have been assigned? The police, as an example:
can they ensure law and order in a city in coordination with the other Iraqi
security forces that may be operating in that city, independently, or in
coordination with the coalition for missions that are above and beyond want they
were designed for? That's a very straightforward training, manning and equipping
determination that can be made.
In terms of the "credible" aspect, what we're working towards is to make sure
that we have Iraqi security forces that are responsive to the civilian control,
that are for the people, to protect the society, and that we have those security
forces that are respected by the population as ensuring the rights and freedoms
of the population. The "credible" aspect, we will continue to work very hard
with all the elements of the society and internally with those security forces
to build the right instincts. In terms of opinions on June the 30th -- is it
hasty, not hasty? I'll tell you that it is. June 30th is the date. And that's
what we're moving to and that's what we're supporting as a coalition force.
Q Lourdes Navarro, AP. There's been a news blackout about Saddam Hussein and
where he is and is he well, how's his health, and anything related to him. Have
you gotten any information from him regarding weapons of mass destruction,
regarding any of the points that you are looking into? And it would be greatly
appreciated if we can have some information about where he is and what he's
GEN. SANCHEZ: (Laughs.) Yes, ma'am, it sure would be nice, wouldn't it?
(Laughs.) One of these days we'll probably be able to disclose a lot of that
information at the right time at the right place and under the right conditions.
I think I can provide you some of that. Okay? Health is good. No issues. And I
think that's about it. (Laughter.) As to where he is, he's under our custody.
Q May I just follow up? (Laughs.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: Sure. (Laughs.)
Q Because -- well, "health is good" is great. But apart from that, when do you
expect to hand him over for trial? That surely isn't something that will
compromise your security.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Right. That's still undetermined at this point. There's still a
lot of work that has to go on to determine what the modalities will be for
trials and working with the Iraqi people. And in the meantime, he will continue
to be in the custody of the U.S. as a prisoner of war, and those determinations
will be made in the future.
Q Just one more thing. Is he -- (laughs) -- sorry about this, but, you know --
he is the number one -- he was the former leader of this country, which you have
in control, and we have so little information about what he's saying. Has he
given you anything at all about weapons of mass destruction? He should know
presumably. Have you gotten anything? Is he being cooperative at least?
GEN. SANCHEZ: He's in good health. (Laughs.)
Q Hi, Rachel with NBC. A question about female Iraqi detainees. I understand
there are at least a hundred, if not more. My question is what is their status
right now? How long will they be in detention? What's the process of them
GEN. SANCHEZ: Mm-hmm. Grossly exaggerated number. As of yesterday we have less
than 20 that are in custody. I can give you -- I forgot the numbers. I looked at
them right before I walked up here in my office. I can give you those numbers.
There are a couple of them that are high-value detainees that will remain in our
custody over time until their fate is determined as the result of the process we
just discussed briefly. We have some criminals. I think the number is about five
criminal detainees that are females that are in the custody of the Iraqi police.
And then there's a number, I think it's about 10, that are security detainees
that are under the custody of coalition forces.
Q I just want to follow up. What will happen with these detainees, not just the
women but the men as well, after June 30th, when authority gets transferred?
GEN. SANCHEZ: That is an issue that we're in the process of working our way
through. Some of these -- clearly, there's different categories of them. The
latest number that we've got is over 13,000 total when you look at all of the
detainees that are across the country. Some of them are criminals that are under
the custody of the Iraqi police. We have the 3,800 MEK that continue to be under
our custody out at Ashraf. You have the high-value detainees, and then you have,
of course, the security internees. Some of those in that security category are
-- some of them will become criminal detainees, some of them will be released
and then some of them will continue to be of value, that will be detained over
time. We are working through that process right now, and the end state on 1 July
is to be determined as we move forward in our discussions with the Iraqis.
Q All right, one last -- will any of them be transferred to Guantanamo, or is
GEN. SANCHEZ: I'm sorry?
Q Will any of them be eventually transferred to Guantanamo?
GEN. SANCHEZ: That's undetermined at this point.
All the way in the back?
Q (Name inaudible) -- German television. I just have two questions. One is, just
to clarify, you said the troops that are being replaced are going home, to their
home bases. That means, for example, for the 1st Armored Division, they will be
returning to Germany? And the second question is, there has been reports in
German TV that U.S. soldiers deliberately shot at already-wounded Iraqi soldiers
during the fighting action, so that would probably violate the Geneva
Convention. Do you know anything about it and can you comment on that?
GEN. SANCHEZ: No, I -- on the second question, I have no idea what you're
talking about. If you had some specifics, we might be able to take a look at it
for you and give you some kind of follow-on information, but that's just too
broad for me to comment knowledgeably.
On the first part, the 1st Armored Division will go back to Wiesbaden, okay; go
back to my home. (Laughs.)
Q Mine too.
GEN. SANCHEZ: Yours, too? Good. We need to talk. (Laughs.)
In the back?
Q (Through interpreter.) Hassan Mounouf (ph), the news agency -- (inaudible).
The visit of Mr. Rumsfeld, secretary of Defense, to Iraq, has he just formulated
the main formation of the Ministry of Defense? Has he -- was his presence for
the purpose of setting up the new Ministry of Defense, Iraqi, or was there any
other purposes behind his visit?
GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, I don't have the specific task and purpose of the
secretary's visit, but it was to meet with key leaders of the coalition, both
military and the Coalition Provisional Authority. During his time here he
visited a police academy and he also visited some of the troops here in Baghdad
during the time that he was here. It was not a specific task of coming into the
country to establish the Ministry of Defense. That is still being worked by the
CPA and Ambassador Bremer.
Q General, I wonder if you could tell us -- something we've heard a good deal
about, but I'd like to hear your own estimate of it -- how the shape of the war
is changing and how much of a challenge, increased or decreased, you find that?
And related to that, what do you say to the proposition that the failure, if
that's what it proves to be, of the Iraqi political entities to agree on the
future political course beyond June the 30th could leave the United States Armed
Forces here in a difficult position of, in effect, defending a government that
might be at war with itself?
GEN. SANCHEZ: The first question is a lot easier than the second one. (Laughs.)
The shape of the war today. What we are seeing with the enemy is a decrease as a
result of our focused operations post-Saddam, where we were able to precisely
target significant amounts of leadership and strength of the former regime
element opposition, to the point where I think today we see them operating at
the cell level and maybe some local synchronization and coordination that may be
going on, and working to try to reestablish some sort of cohesiveness and
direction above that. But we continue to precisely target them, and I think we
have disrupted them significantly in the course of the last 60 days or so.
But what has happened, and it's very clear, is that the terrorist elements of
Zarqawi, Ansar al-Islam and the linkages to al Qaeda have begun to take
preeminence in the actions that are being conducted against the coalition and
all of its different aspects. The terrorist effort continues, even more focused
today at trying to split the coalition. That is what is manifesting itself --
that element of the strategy is what is manifesting itself when we see the very
focused attacks against the police, against the new Iraqi army, against the
Civil Defense Corps and against the governing -- political figures that are
working with the coalition to reestablish the country. This will continue.
I think the Zarqawi letter is fairly robust in laying out the strategy that
they're following. And they believe that they are at a critical stage. And the
way that they can disrupt the move towards democracy and freedom and economic
prosperity for this country is by creating ethnic strife and hopefully taking
the country into civil war.
We are very focused on that. We are engaging with all elements of the society
and ensuring that they clearly understand that this country has to stay united
as a single Iraq, federalism is probably their best option, and that democracy
is a worthwhile goal.
And I'm glad to say that just about all -- no -- well, all of the elements that
I have had conversations with are committed to one Iraq. And that's very good
news, because even though there is a lot of challenges still ahead in the
political arena, I think, in the end, we will succeed in having a clear way
ahead for the future of the country.
Is it possible that the country could move to civil war and the coalition forces
find themselves trying to separate ethnicities? It's possible, but I don't think
at this point it's likely.
Q Hi. (Inaudible name) with U.S. News and World Report. With regard to the
terrorist elements in the country currently, is there a plan for what's to be
done with the PKK up north?
GEN. SANCHEZ: The answer is yes. (Chuckles.) There is a plan, and we continue to
work with all interested parties on the way ahead with the PKK. That's about the
extent of the comment I could make on the PKK at this point.
Q Can you give me any idea of timeline for the plan?
GEN. SANCHEZ: There is a plan. (Chuckles.)
Yes, sir? On the right.
Q (Through interpreter.) (Inaudible) -- from the -- (inaudible) -- Kurdish.
(Inaudible) -- why the savages at -- was savage attacks against the Iraqis
before and during the visit of the U.N. team. And a lot of parts of the city,
they say that the coalition forces have a hand in that, have in the attack,
especially the one against the police station. Especially there's some people
who the Americans -- they said -- they expressed themselves that they work for
GEN. SANCHEZ: I don't know how clear I can be, that the U.S. and the coalition
has no hand whatsoever in conducting attacks against Iraqis and against the
police and other Iraqi security forces. It just doesn't happen.
Q (Through interpreter.) (Name inaudible) -- Al-Iraqiyah Television. Do you have
the intention to release another member of ex-regime elements just like -- (name
inaudible) -- who has been in your custody under the coalition forces? Do you
have any intention to release some other elements of the ex-regime people?
Specifically, those who are under the list, the list of the 55 wanted -- top
GEN. SANCHEZ: To the second part of the question on the 55, absolutely not. I
think I described just a while ago what the process will be for them to get
properly tried and the hand-offs that will have to occur between the coalition
and the proper authorities that are determined in coordination with the Iraqi
people and the coalition.
In terms of general release of detainees, we are in the process, as I
highlighted earlier, of going through a daily review of the detainees that are
in our custody -- security detainees -- to determine whether we need to keep
them in custody, or whether we need to go ahead and release them. And we are --
we have released at this point almost 300 detainees to guarantors. We have
another about 250 that have been linked up with guarantors to be released in the
coming weeks. And we continue to very aggressively move to draw down those
Q General Sanchez, in case the sovereignty has been handed over to the Iraqis
according to the exact date and according to the agreement with the Iraqi
government, and in case that the Iraqis were not capable to take over this
responsibility, will there be any agreements taking place between the coalition
and the Iraqis for a period of 10 years that will indicate the presence of the
-- that will approve the presence of the coalition forces for another 10 years
until everything will be settled and the Iraqis will be capable enough to take
the responsibility or to be handed over the sovereignty? Will there be any
agreements taking place between the coalition and the Iraqis for a period of 10
years that will indicate the presence of the -- that will approve the presence
of the coalition forces for another 10 years until everything will be settled
and the Iraqis will be capable enough to take the responsibility or to be handed
over the sovereignty? So in case the sovereignty hasn't been handed over in the
exact time, what will be the other option? Is it true that there is another
option for that?
GEN. SANCHEZ: The position of the United States and the coalition at this point
is that sovereignty will be handed over on the 30th of June. I don't know of any
10-year deal that is out there.
Q Ned Parker from AFP. I was wondering, it seems the last month there have been
more casualties -- Iraqi casualties than any other month since the U.S. forces,
coalition forces arrived here. Does that mean that -- if the terrorist threat is
preeminent, does that mean that they're deadlier than what came under Saddam?
How do you explain the fact, if engagements are less and the security situation
is better, that more people are dying?
The second question is just, where do you think Izzat Ibrahim al- Douri is now?
Do you think he's in country, or is it possible he left?
GEN. SANCHEZ: On al-Douri, we continue under the assumption that he is in the
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. SANCHEZ: About as close as I was on the 12th of December in catching
Saddam. We chase him every day. Okay? And we will get him.
Q I think before, in December, you thought he was a major -- in November he was
described as a major player in the resistance and making an alliance between, I
guess, former Ba'athists and potentially foreign fighters. Do you still feel
that he's playing a role like that, or even does he have ties with Zarqawi in
GEN. SANCHEZ: I don't have anything to indicate that there's a linkage to
Zarqawi at this point. I believe that with the very focused offensive operations
that we have conducted, as I stated earlier, we've disrupted the leadership
structures of the former-regime elements. I believe that al-Douri is definitely
on the run. He knows that since we have shown very clearly our ability to track
him down and kill him or capture him, that he's next, and we're relentless, and
that we're going to get him -- unless he dies first.
On the first question, how do we explain more people dying, I think that's
fairly straightforward. As I described earlier, it's the terrorist element that
is focusing the Iraqi people. It's focusing people that are defenseless. The
attack on Assassin's Gate killed Iraqis that were going about their daily lives,
moving around the city. The attack at the new Iraqi army recruiting station
killed Iraqis that were lining up to serve their country. And the killing of
ICDC, police and political servants of the country are -- those are individuals
that are not out here fighting like we are every day, prepared to engage,
especially those civilian servants and political members.
So how do I explain that more people are dying and there are less engagements?
It's that there is a terrorist element that has focused on the Iraqi people and
trying to kill them and keep them from achieving their vision of security and
stability and democracy and freedom and economic prosperity, that's how I
explain it. They have -- we have shown them very clearly that we are prepared,
the coalition forces, and more and more every single day the Iraqi security
forces are getting capable and credible enough to be able to defeat them, and
therefore they've got to strike to discourage that during these initial phases
as we ramp up their capabilities. That's why we will continue to continue to see
this type of violence.
I'll take one more question, please. Yes, sir?
Q General, you said something elliptical about Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. Unless he
dies first, do you have information from Mr. al- Douri's family, who we know --
some of whom have been detained, that the illness from which he was suffering
when he visited Vienna a couple of years ago is advanced?
And in connection with that, a much broader question. It's only about a year ago
that we sat in this room, listening to Mr. al-Douri telling us how the American
Army would suffer defeat at the gates of Baghdad. I wonder if you'd like to tell
us now, a year on, as one of the officers who planned that operation, some of
your reflections on how it went, how much more difficult it proved, perhaps,
than had been intended? And what do you think people in the war colleges will be
saying about the American military effort here when it passes into history?
GEN. SANCHEZ: The first part, no, we don't have anything definitive from the
family that would give us any indication that he's near death. However, we do
know that he's got significant health problems. That's why I made this
I think what history's going to show is that the coalition and the American
military clearly was the best war-fighting force that has ever been fielded. It
is a force -- the coalition service members and the American soldier, sailor,
airman and marine -- is a flexible, agile, ferocious, compassionate warrior that
can adapt very rapidly across the entire spectrum of conflict. They are capable
of fighting in a high-intensity conflict environment, achieving victory and then
taking care of the defeated.
We have clearly shown that we have made and are capable of making tremendous
strides in the rebuilding of a country that had been neglected by a dictator and
oppressed by Saddam Hussein for over 30 years. And we've been able to restore
freedom, some semblance of a better quality of life and economic prosperity that
continues to grow every day in remarkably short period of time. And oh, by the
way, in a little bit over a year, we will have restored sovereignty to the
country. It will be remarkable case study in what a powerful, benevolent army
Thank y'all very much.