COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY BRIEFING WITH
BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT,
DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR COALITION OPERATIONS;
AND MR. GARETH BAYLEY
LOCATION: BAGHDAD, IRAQ
DATE: SATURDAY, APRIL 10, 2004
GEN. KIMMITT: We've had a quick replacement of speakers on the CPA site
today. Mr. Bailey will join us tonight, and answer any of your political
questions from the CPA.
Let me give you a quick military overview of operations throughout the area of
Good afternoon. Coalition military operations in Iraq involve active ongoing
offensive operations throughout the area of responsibility.
In the northern zone of operations, the situation remains stable. Task Force
Olympia is continuing offensive and security operations; police and ICDC are
very active. The governor and police chief are in control, and the present Task
Force Olympia is able to maintain control with the cooperation of the police and
the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
In the north-central zone of operations, the past 24 hours have been the most
active period since November, and continues a four-day trend of increased
activity across the area of operations as anti-coalition cells attempt to take
minor advantage of Sadr's militia activity, and from anti-coalition activity in
the Fallujah area.
The majority of these attacks remain uncoordinated and ineffective, though there
were significant operations yesterday in Baqubah.
In Baghdad, Task Force 1st Armored Division continues offensive operations
against Sadr's militia in Sadr City, Kadhimiya and also against Muhammad's Army
in Adhamiya and Abu Ghraib.
Task Force 1st Armored Division conducted two intelligence-based attacks to
destroy and capture enemy targets while continuing to secure all government
facilities and police stations in Baghdad.
In the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force area of operations the current situation
is stable. Today there have been multiple attacks on infrastructure in the
Marines' area of responsibility, and attacks on coalition forces. In Fallujah
the situation is under control. The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force is responding
to enemy provocations and attacks, although suspension of offensive operations
on the part of the MEF continue.
In Ar Ramadi the situation is under control. First MEF is not engaged with the
enemy at this time, and there have been no attacks in Ramadi since 8 April.
In Multinational Division Central South, the current situation remains
relatively stable. In Karbala there are over 1.5 million pilgrims in the city
celebrating Arba'in. The city hall in Karbala remains under coalition control,
but continues to be harassed with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades
In Al Kut, beginning on the night of April 8, offensive operations to destroy
Sadr's militia in Al Kut and restore coalition presence in the city were
initiated. On the first night, Task Force Two-Six conducted offensive operations
in Al Kut to secure three bridges and the Coalition Provisional Authority
compound. Attack helicopters and AC-130 gunships engaged the Sadr building with
preparatory fire before taking the building. Bridges one, two, three, and the
CPA compound were secured, and two-six continued operations yesterday to restore
order in the city of Al Kut.
Last night forces continued the operations to secure two municipal buildings, a
TV station and a fourth bridge. There were three enemy killed and 74 suspects
detained. In addition, weapons, ammunition and bomb-making materials were
Future operations in Al Kut will include cordon-and-search operations throughout
Kut to finish the destruction of Sadr's militia activities and seizure of
In Ad Diwaniyah the situation is relatively stable, with sporadic mortar attacks
against coalition forces.
In An Najaf the situation remains with Sadr's supporters continuing to gather at
Al Kufa. Anti-coalition forces continue to conduct night harassing attacks on
coalition forces around An Najaf, and the attacks in Najaf and Karbala are
likely to overshadow, sadly, the significance of Arba'in.
In Multinational Division Southeast the current situation is stable and remains
under control. There have been three coalition forces wounded in action today.
In al-Amarah the situation is stable and under control. There too has been
sporadic rocket-propelled grenade and mortar attacks that resulted in coalition
In Basra the situation is stable and under control, although there were several
reports of RPGs and mortar attacks, resulting in no casualties or damage to
In Samawa the situation is under control -- again several reports of
rocket-propelled grenades and mortar attack, resulting in no casualties or
damage to infrastructure.
If Mr. Bailey has nothing --
MR. BAILEY: We'll take your questions.
GEN. KIMMITT: We'll go ahead and take your questions.
Q Quinn O'Toole, NPR. The situation in Kut, if there had been three enemy killed
and 37 detained, does that qualify as the destruction of Sadr's army? And what
in your mind qualifies as the destruction of the army, which is your stated aim?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, first of all, the stated aim in the town of Al Kut was to
restore coalition control to that town. It is our overall objective throughout
the area of operations to destroy Sadr's militia, and frankly any militia in
this country that turns to violence.
Q General, Kevin Seitz with NBC News. If we could talk about the hostage
situation -- two Americans were kidnapped after the convoy was attacked
yesterday. Is there a procedure for getting them back? Are you going to engage
Special Forces here? What's the next step?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, I don't think it would be helpful at this point to discuss
our ongoing operations or our future operations in this forum.
Q Could both or either of you address -- this is Sewell Chan for the Washington
Post. Could both or either of you address please whether this morning's offer of
a bilateral cease-fire in Fallujah has gotten any response so far from the other
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, I would characterize the response. The enemy seems to
continue to fight. It does not seem to have either heard or is unable to
coordinate through Fallujah with all of its forces on the ground, and as a
result the Marines are still receiving small arms fire, indirect fire attacks
from mortar. And as and when necessary, they are responding.
Again, the Marines continue to observe the unilateral suspension of operations,
offensive operations; however, still retain at all times the inherent right of
Now, with regards to the enemy activities, there could be any number of reasons
why they have chosen to continue to fight. It may be a communications problem
that we have not got the message out to the leadership. It may be that there is
no leadership there but small clusters that haven't got the word. And it may be
that they have chosen to fight. If it is the latter, that's probably the wrong
decision to be making.
Q Sir, just as a quick follow-up: What proportion of the town do the Marines
actually have control of presently? And is it true also, as the LA Times
reported, that a third battalion has been moved in around Fallujah?
GEN. KIMMITT: There is a third battalion of Marines, and there's also a fourth
battalion, which includes the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps battalion that is
fighting bravely inside the city. Once we suspended offensive military
operations, as you know, that precluded us from continuing to move into the
objectives throughout the city. Had we not made that offer and were we not at
this point observing the suspension of offensive operations, I think we would
have been much further along, and it could well have been that we would have had
the entire city by this point. But they are well into the city in fighting
positions, and prepared to respond; and as and when necessary, if the decision
is made, ready to continue the offensive operations.
Q Yes, Vin Schodolski from the Chicago Tribune. Would either of you be able to
say anything about what came of the negotiations that did take place in Fallujah
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, we know that the team is still there. We are awaiting their
return this evening. We expect to sit down with the team sometime later today,
but they have not sent any advance notice to us about either any results or any
discussions they've had. We look forward to talking with them tonight and
hearing what they are able to bring back from Fallujah.
Q Yes, general, Gregor Mayer, German Press Agency, DPA. What are you expecting
from the team to hear to eventually stop the offensive?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, I think what we would like to hear from the team is that the
enemy has realized that it's not in the best interests of anyone in Iraq to
continue fighting. We would like to hear that they have decided to lay down
their arms. We would like to hear that they are prepared to turn over the
perpetrators of the attacks on the Americans of 31 March.
We would also like to hear that these people are willing to denounce their
memberships in extremist groups. We'd also like to hear that they are prepared
to move forward with justice, and also prepared to move forward with turning
Iraq into a democratic sovereign nation of which they are participants in.
Q (Through interpreter.) Ali Naser al Qoraishi (ph) from al Zemin (ph) Now.
General Kimmitt, good evening. According to the Geneva Convention, to provide
security and stability and not aggress over human rights, where is the security,
where are the rights of the citizens of Fallujah, of the children and the old
and the women? Bombing them with American weapons and bombs and planes and
killing and wounding and attacking worship places?
GEN. KIMMITT: Let's be very clear about some of the assertions that you're
making, which are frankly unbelievable to hear from somebody who professes to
belong to a free and open press. I haven't heard that level of propaganda since
Baghdad Bob was standing up here.
Now, let me address the facts. The facts are that the Marines are conducting
extraordinarily precise operations. They are avoiding any operations that have a
risk of collateral damage. The enemy is not. They are going out of their way to
observe the rules of engagement and stay within the strict rules of
international law. The enemy is not. We are absolutely respecting religious
sites. The enemy is not. The enemy has chosen to use the religious site -- in
this case a mosque -- to fire mortars from and to fire small arms, to use it as
a defensive position to attack to kill coalition forces.
Very simply, when that happens, those Geneva Conventions that you are waving at
us specifically state -- and international law specifically states when the
enemy uses a mosque or any other religious structure for the purpose of attacks
and to fire from, that mosque, that church, that synagogue, loses its protective
status. And if military necessity requires, then the Marines can and will use
proportional force to respond to that attack.
Q (Through interpreter.) Ahab abu Saif (ph) from Middle East News Agency. I have
a question for the general for the cessation of hostilities from unilateral
cessation. Do you have a limited or specified dates that after which operations
The second question, for Mr. Bailey: I am going to the interior minister
statement regarding the request of Ambassador Bremer to ask for his resignation,
so he would appoint someone -- because he appointed Defense Minister (Shi'aii
?). Is this consistent with the fact that this is not a sectarian issue and
distribution of positions is not sectarian?
GEN. KIMMITT: That's a good question about when we are prepared to start
offensive operations again in the city of Fallujah. It is not based on a
calendar, it is not based on a clock. It's more based on conditions. As we said,
if the discussions do not bear fruit, leading us to a clear path to restore
Iraqi control over the city of Fallujah, we are prepared to go back into
offensive operations. Once those conditions are not met, once those discussions
do not bear fruit, a decision will be made by the military leadership, by the
coalition forces and their Iraqi counterparts, whether offensive operations
should begin again.
MR. BAILEY: As for the decision by Interior Minister Badran to resign from his
decision, that's very much his decision to take. We would not think it
appropriate to go into the reasoning behind his decision, and we would not think
it appropriate to go into details of what he explained in his press conference.
But we would like to reiterate Ambassador Bremer's remarks that he did a very
good job under difficult circumstances, and we think that he deserves the thanks
to the Iraqi people and the coalition for doing such a good job.
Q Nick Riccardi, Los Angeles Times. General, did the decision to cease offensive
activities and to seek a bilateral cease-fire this morning, was that influenced
by the reactions to the fighting by members of the Iraqi Governing Council, and
numerous other Iraqis, many of whom are vocally pro-American, but appear to be
having a very negative view of this combat, fear that it is stoking resentment
in the country?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, I think it's important that we recognize that as we conduct
these operations we really have two purposes -- not only have to attack to
destroy threats to this nation, such as Sadr's militia as we are doing now in
Baghdad, in Al Kut, Nasiriyah, Najaf, eventually Karbala -- eventually -- and a
number of other cities in the south. But we also have to keep in mind the
purpose of that is also to move forward and get the process back on track, move
towards democracy and sovereignty.
It's important that as we go after the extremist elements throughout this
country, whether they are in Fallujah or the rest of the country, that we keep
in mind that we must maintain the trust and confidence of the moderates. And if
in fact the moderates, the majority of this country, and their leadership has a
view in terms of how we are conducting operations, where and when we're
conducting operations, it's important for us to listen to those views. So as we
balance the need to maintain the trust and confidence of the moderates, as well
as conduct concise, powerful and deliberate operations against the extremists,
we must keep those two points in balance in order to move this process forward.
Q Jerry -- (inaudible) -- from AFP. A member of the Dawa Party, Jawad Maliki,
tells us that he delivered a letter from the coalition to Muqtada al-Sadr today
with a list of demands, including the dissolution of the militia, the withdrawal
from government positions. And he said he got a positive reaction from Muqtada
al-Sadr. Do you have any comment on that? Is that true, for one thing?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, I'm certainly not aware of the letter. I'm not aware of
those reports. We look forward to any positive developments in the situation
here in Iraq.
Q (Through interpreter.) Okaz, a Saudi newspaper. Yesterday Ambassador Bremer
agreed for the suspension of operations over there, but you have continued the
process. Is there something that happened?
Now, as to the cease-fire -- his words -- is this the last chance that are given
to the people of Fallujah? Is it the last solution?
GEN. KIMMITT: We are continuing to honor the suspension of offensive operations.
We've honored that since 1200 yesterday, and we will continue to honor that
until decisions are made otherwise. We never stopped it. Every one of our
military actions that we have taken since 1200 yesterday have been in defense of
Marines on the ground, and we have not taken new ground or attacked and seized
new objectives -- somewhat the definition of offensive operations.
The second part of your question would infer that somehow we are attacking the
people of Fallujah, that we are attacking the women and children of Fallujah.
Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not collective punishment, this
is not a punitive operation. Now, I know it is true that there have been some
media outlets that would like to paint it as such, and what I would suggest and
encourage is that we get the free press, the honest press, the open press,
embedded in units in Fallujah so you can see for yourself, so you can judge for
yourself, so you can document for yourself the type of operations that are going
on there. It is better for you to see with your own eyes than it is for you to
hear from me or hear from some of the other media outlets. So go out there,
listen to what's being said, judge for yourself, and I think you'll come back
with the determined conclusion that, one, they are running extraordinarily
precise operations there; number two, they are going out of their way to
minimize the amount of damage that is conducted, because they need to maintain
the trust and confidence of the people of Fallujah; but, number three, when
attacked they will respond.
Q General Kimmitt, Daniel Cooney from AP. Is the coalition willing to make any
concession to the rebels in Fallujah in regard to these ongoing talks at the
And then a follow-up question just about the violence that we've seen in Abu
Ghraib over the last couple of days. There seem to be continuous repeated
attacks on convoys -- is the military going to take any action to try to secure
GEN. KIMMITT: On the issue of the coalition prepared to make any concessions, I
would refer you to the IGC members that have gone out that are in fact
conducting discussions right now with the people of Fallujah. Let's wait until
they come back and see what they come back with.
MR. BAILEY: We wouldn't want to prejudice the discussions that they are having
by speculating about them beforehand.
GEN. KIMMITT: And I think your second question was, Is the coalition military
prepared to conduct operations against the insurgents, the enemy in the vicinity
of Abu Ghraib? Is that your question? Yes.
Q Hello, this is for General Kimmitt. One question -- I've actually been trying
for over a week to get imbedded in Fallujah, and they're not taking any imbeds.
I've been here every day trying to do that, to report what's actually happening,
and they're not doing that. And I'd like to you respond to that.
The second part of the question is, following up on the gentleman who just asked
the question, I was out at Abu Ghraib yesterday, and I'd like to know how you'd
characterize the situation. Is the coalition in control of the road between Abu
Ghraib and Fallujah?
GEN. KIMMITT: On the first question of CPIC, if you do an about-face there are a
whole bunch of people that are going. So I suspect they are prepared to help you
and facilitate to get you imbedded out in Fallujah. They all seem to be nodding
their heads up and down now, so I think your request has been granted.
With regards to the issue of the roads heading out to Abu Ghraib and onto
Fallujah, there have been a number of IED attacks. You can be certain that the
military is taking a hard look at that and is going to respond appropriately. We
will maintain freedom of movement on the roads in this country.
Q Betsy Hiel, the Pittsburgh Tribune. Can you tell us if you have captured or
killed any of the people who are responsible for the murder of the four American
contractors? And if you could also give us a picture of how many foreign
fighters there are and from what country they are from that you might have found
GEN. KIMMITT: On the -- I am not certain right now if any of those persons that
have been captured by the Marines up to this point have direct implications that
can be directly implicated in the attacks on the four contractors. I think they
probably are not going out of their way to admit that up front, and so I suspect
after a time if we have any captured that were involved in that activity, we'll
find out here.
By my notes here, about 60 anti-coalition insurgents have been detained in the
Fallujah area in the past few days. The vast majority of these are Iraqis. Five
of the insurgents are foreigners. A mix of foreigners, of people holding
passports from Egypt, Sudan and Syria.
Q (Through interpreter.) I am Fawzi -- (inaudible). Since the violence took the
issue of this country now, it is a crisis and it is causing problems for members
of the Governing Council. Some of them have resigned and some of them have
suspended membership. Are these resignations and suspensions due to this crisis?
GEN. KIMMITT: We apparently have a new group of reporters that I haven't seen
here before. We look forward to having you, and I hope that your questions in
the future will be certainly more reasonable than they are tonight.
And to our friends who have been here for an extended period of time from the
Iraqi press corps, we enjoy a wonderful relationship, and we look forward to
that same relationship with you all.
MR. BAILEY: To try to take your question, members of the Governing Council are
of course entirely free to express their points of view. This is the whole point
of the Governing Council. And to set the record straight, one gentleman has
suspended his membership; none has yet resigned. And even if they were to do so,
they would be entirely free to do that. This is after all a new and free Iraq.
GEN. KIMMITT: Now I see my old friends. Why are you all hiding on me tonight?
Please, we'll start from the right. Please, come, come.
MR. BAILEY: A late entry.
Q My name is Sato (ph) from Japanese Newswire, Kyodo News. General Kimmitt,
today Al Arabiya TV station showed that several armed persons captured many
Saudi foreign hostages, and they are insisting that their demand is complete
withdrawal of coalition forces from Turkey or Iraq. And they call themselves as
a brigade of Al Ahmel Yashin (ph). But do you have any kind of information of
this kind of organization?
GEN. KIMMITT: We don't have a complete picture right now of the groups that are
taking hostages. It could be any number of fringe groups. We'll probably have
better intelligence in the next few days, but clearly we will not negotiate with
terrorists, plain and simple.
In the back.
Q Matt Schofield, Knight Ridder Newspapers. You just said that we will not
negotiate with terrorists. However -- maybe I'm wrong -- it's only been for a
week -- this week you've been referring to the Fallujah resistance as having a
Zarqawi connection. You referred to them a couple of times as terrorists. What's
the difference there? How is this different? How is negotiating right now with
the resistance in Fallujah different than negotiating with terrorists, given the
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, first of all, I think you may be mistaken. We've talked
about Zarqawi, but more in the context of the area around Karbala and Najaf. Abu
Musab al-Zarqawi is a well-known terrorist who has been operating, who is taking
claim for up to 25 different attacks here inside Iraq. As recently as February
he wrote a letter back to -- as recently as January he wrote a letter that we
captured heading back to al Qaeda requesting additional assistance. In the last
week he's put out a tape that seems to -- by the professionals -- seem to be a
legitimate copy -- or a legitimate tape of Zarqawi where he takes claim for many
of the most horrendous bombings inside this country.
But that's not who we are fighting in our estimate right now in Fallujah. We
believe what we are seeing in Fallujah and Ramadi are former military, perhaps
former Fedayeen Saddam, perhaps former Republican Guard. Their training looks
very much like ex-military -- their operations, their method of handling
themselves, how they fight, the techniques that they use indicate military
training rather than terrorist training.
Q (Through interpreter.) Sadiq Brahim (ph) from Al Zuman (ph). Thank you. There
is a problem that we suffer from in terms of issuing our newspaper. There are
some areas in Baghdad that are besieged or cannot do that, because today most
Iraqi newspapers were not published because of lack of communications. This is a
different situation. What I am asking for, general, what will happen after the
40th visit? They say the situation in the street, the situation will be not
stable, that there are preparations they see from the coalition forces. Is there
a vision that you could give us for after the 40th festivities?
MR. BAILEY: On the point about opening up facilities, we have already put in
place some measures to try to get that situation resolved for you, because it's
obviously very much important that your newspapers and other newspapers come out
on time, and that they come out and put across a free and fair point of view.
On the point of the Arba'in ceremonies, as Ambassador Bremer has made absolutely
clear, we have made every effort -- continue to make every effort -- and the
general will no doubt add -- to ensure that the security situation is as secure
as possible in these days. And, in addition to that, he ha made clear of course
it is up to each pilgrim who takes part in the Arba'in ceremonies to take their
own decision as to whether they wish to take part. We very much hope that they
will want to take part, because that's something that was never possible under
Saddam's regime, but it is of course a personal decision, and we respect such
General, do you want to add?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, and with regards to your point about do we expect after
Arba'in for things to -- the situation to become more stable -- we certainly are
working in that direction. We are certainly working with our Iraqi security
partners in the 1st Armored Division to continue offensive operations here in
Baghdad, to ensure that Sadr's militia is destroyed, and anybody else that would
attempt to create instability inside this city.
There's some belief -- as I think one of the questions was asked earlier that
somehow this is going to cause the coalition to rethink its strategy of staying
here in Iraq and possibly start pulling out. I can guarantee you that our
resolve is fixed. We will continue the mission. We certainly understand that we
have a mission to provide a safe and secure environment in Iraq. The recent
instability promoted by the types of Sadr and his militias, Zarqawi and his
terrorist network, is not affecting either the military resolve nor the
political resolve of the coalition, despite what you may hear in some of the
other media outlets. We believe that things are under control. They could spike
from day to day. We think that we are making significant headway in the
destruction, the complete destruction of Sadr's militia. But we would expect
that no matter how much we take it out, there may always be some small residual
elements left. But it is our assessment that the Sadr's militia doesn't have the
capability to conduct prolonged offensive operations. And every time his militia
is faced with the determined resolve of the Iraqi security forces of the
coalition military forces, they typically will shoot a few rounds and run away.
So we think that in the near term that we have made significant headway in
starting to reduce some of this tension. We certainly hope that's the case. But
in any instance we certainly plan to continue offensive operations throughout
the country at the time and place of our choosing, deliberately, precisely and
powerfully to ensure the security of the people of Iraq.
One more question. Somebody who hasn't asked one. Sir?
Q (Through interpreter.) Mohammed Ali (ph), weekly Akasat (ph). Through what you
have said, you have talked of Zarqawi and Sadr. Do you consider Muqtada al-Sadr
to be a terrorist as you consider Zarqawi to be one?
GEN. KIMMITT: There's a fine line between terrorism and mob violence, or any
violence -- attacking women and children, attacking legitimate government
infrastructure. Clearly Zarqawi, by using human shields, by using human bombs,
by attacking in the middle of the crowds to try to create a spectacular event,
killing hundreds of civilians -- that is a pure terrorist.
Sadr and his militia at this point seem to be focusing primarily on attacking
coalition facilities, coalition members, Iraqi security forces. His effect may
be a little bit different, but at the end of the day it doesn't matter if you
are Sadr or Zarqawi or former Fedayeen Saddam, former regime elements -- I can
lump them all together in a group called "extremists" -- those people who
represent an enormously small percentage of the people of Iraq who are trying to
make decisions for this country with the barrel of a gun because they are
absolutely terrified of a country where the decisions are made by the ballot box
by 25 million people, each who had their own voice, who had their own vote, who
have their own freedoms, who have their own dignity, who have their own
sovereignty. Those moderates are the ones who will succeed. The extremists will
fail. This country will move to democracy and sovereignty, and the coalition
stands by to provide t he security for that, the assistance for that, and the
resolve for that.
MR. BAILEY: Thank you, everybody.