COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY BRIEFING WITH
BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR COALITION
OPERATIONS; AND DAN SENOR, SENIOR ADVISOR, COALITION PROVISIONAL
LOCATION: BAGHDAD, IRAQ
TIME: 10:29 A.M. EDT
DATE: TUESDAY, APRIL 13, 2004
MR. SENOR: Good evening. General Kimmitt has an opening statement, and
then we will jump into questions. There was talk about a backgrounder today,
which is being postponed till tomorrow, given the late hour here. We know a lot
of you want to get going here, so we will do the backgrounder tomorrow.
GEN. KIMMITT: Good afternoon. The coalition is continuing to conduct offensive
operations to destroy extremist and foreign fighter elements in Iraq, and
stability operations to assist the restoration of essential services,
revitalization of the economy, and handover of sovereignty to the people of
In Multinational Brigade North, the current situation remains relatively stable.
government buildings and infrastructure are secure. Facilities Protection
Service and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps are actively augmenting municipal
authorities to maintain order.
In Mosul, the situation remains stable. Yesterday the governor of Nineveh
Province and other municipal leaders made televised addresses in which they
discussed the importance of working with Iraqi security forces and maintaining
Yesterday operating bases in central and southern Mosul were attacked with
indirect fire, but there were no casualties or damage to coalition equipment.
In Tall Afar, the Iraqi armed forces battalion base camp was attacked by
indirect fire two nights ago, but there were no casualties. In Irbil and Dohul
the situation remains stable.
In the north-central zone of operations, coalition forces remain on the
offensive, and have seen a decrease in the number of anti- coalition attacks
over the past week. Over the next 24 hours, however, forces expect an increase
in anti-coalition activity, with demonstrations in a number of cities in the
area of operations.
In Tikrit, the situation is stable. There were five reported attacks on
coalition forces. In Tuz, two reported attacks. One IED attack last night
resulted in two coalition force wounded, and in Samarra there were three
reported forces, Baqubah four reported attacks.
In Baghdad, the 1st Cavalry Division continues offensive operations against
Sadr's militia and other extremist forces. The division conducted two
intelligence-based raids to destroy and capture enemy targets within the
battlespace, capturing 16 suspects. This morning coalition forces detained an
additional 29 individuals and confiscated numerous arms and ammunition.
Today at 11:05, Hazim al-Araji (ph), a spokesman for Muqtada al- Sadr, was
detained for questioning by coalition forces. After questioning, al-Araji (ph)
was determined to have no direct involvement in violent acts in Iraq, and is not
viewed as an imminent threat to security. He was released at 5:50 p.m. today.
In the western zone of operations, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force continued
offensive operations throughout the Al Anbar province, except in Fallujah. In
Fallujah the current situation remains stable. During the past 24 hours, there
heave been a number of provocative attacks on coalition forces. Early this
morning a helicopter made an emergency landing due to ground fire. The attack
resulted in three wounded and a quick-reaction force secured the crew, and the
helicopter was later destroyed to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.
In Ar Ramadi, the situation is calm, and there were no attacks reported in the
last 24 hours.
In the Central South zone of operations, the situation remains relatively
stable. In Karbala there have been no attacks in the past two days. The number
of pilgrims in the city continues to decrease as the Arba'in celebration has
concluded. In the past 24 hours there has been no resistance by anti-coalition
forces within Al Kut. Task Force Dragoon has freedom of movement and is
targeting anti-coalition leaders to demonstrate to the citizens of Al Kut the
coalition's resolve to maintain a safe and secure environment.
Coalition forces conducted four cordon-and-search operations, resulting in the
capture of six individuals. And Ukrainian forces have resumed responsibility of
Today the deputy CPA administrator and 16 members of his staff returned to the
CPA building in Al Kut, and they are expected to be fully operational in the
In Ad Diwaniyah the situation is stable, as is An Najaf, although anti-coalition
forces continue to conduct night harassing attacks on coalition base camps.
In Multinational Division Southeast the current situation is stable and calm.
There was one attack on coalition forces over the last 24 hours. In al-Amarah,
Basra, An Nasiriyah and Al Samawa the situation remains calm and there were no
attacks reported in these cities in the past 24 hours.
Yesterday there was a minor demonstration by local civilians in Samawa that had
been fired by the local government. This demonstration was peaceful and
dispersed on its own.
In al-Amarah, the civil military cooperation house was once again targeted last
night by mortar fire. All three rounds missed the target and impacted on the
west bank of the Tigris River. Later in the night, in the town center, a Warrior
fighting vehicle was engaged by what was assessed to be a rocket-propelled
grenades, followed by small arms fire. There were no casualties in either
MR. SENOR: With that, we'll be happy to take your questions. Jennifer.
Q Jennifer Glass from "The World." General Kimmitt, the Iraqi police have
refused to engage the Madhi Army across central and south Iraq, and the Iraqi
army wouldn't go after insurgents in Fallujah. How do you work with these people
who won't help you in operations against folks that you think are against the
stability and safety of the country?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, it was clear over the last couple of weeks that the progress
we had hoped to have been made thus far on the Iraqi security forces is not as
far along as we would have expected. But before we suggest that all the forces
just walked away from the fight, in fact there have been numerous forces that
when mustered went to where they needed to be, and have performed brilliantly.
In Fallujah, we have two battalions of Iraqi Civil Defense Corps that are
fighting alongside coalition forces. In many towns the Iraqi police service has
come back to man their stations. But, in truth, there were a number of troops,
there were a number of police that didn't stand up when their country called.
We're going to take a very hard look at those. We are going to take a very hard
look at where we are on the development of the Iraqi security forces and we are
going to redouble our efforts so that our eventual goal, which is an Iraqi
security apparatus capable of defending itself and providing public security is
met. That will take some time, it will take some equipping, but that's why the
coalition forces remain here and will remain here for a long period of time.
Q Just a quick follow-up: Who's in charge of safety and stability on July 1st?
Who do these troops answer to on July 1st?
GEN. KIMMITT: The same people who are responsible for safety and security on
June 15th, which is the coalition forces, alongside the Iraqi security partners.
We will continue to work side by side with the Iraqi security forces as long as
we're needed here.
Q Sorry, just to clarify, General Kimmitt, so the security portfolio stays with
coalition forces and doesn't get turned over as part of sovereignty?
GEN. KIMMITT: That's correct.
MR. SENOR: Jane?
Q Thank you. Jane Arraf, CNN. Wanted to ask about the detention and release of
Muqtada al-Sadr's deputy. Now, we are told that he's been released, as you've
said, because he was believed not to contribute to violence. And we're told
further that he was thought to be someone who promoted dialogue. Does that mean
that there are people in the Sadr organization that you will deal with?
And if I could get in a second question, wanted to ask about the impact of a
growing number of countries telling their citizens they should not come here,
and those here should leave.
MR. SENOR: On your first question, I don't want to specify or designate people
by organization. I think General Kimmitt could speak to the basis on which this
one individual was released, which I think was for very specific reasons -- the
fact that he was not connected to any alleged crimes. But, again, General
Kimmitt can speak to that.
Broadly speaking, Jane, we have been approached by a number of individuals who
are trying to seek a peaceful resolution to the situation with Sadr's militia,
and we respect and appreciate their good intentions. We too want to minimize the
bloodshed, but we have a few principles that are very clear: the rule of law
must prevail in Iraq; there is no role for illegal militias and illegal mobs and
mob violence; there is no role for individuals or organizations that take
control of government properties. And we have been very consistent about these
principles and these positions to any individual that has approached us wanting
to seek a peaceful resolution.
Now, to the extent that they want to communicate that onward, that's their
prerogative, but our position is very clear.
Q Sewell Chan of the Washington Post --
Q The second question --
MR. SENOR: Oh, sorry, what was the second question?
Q (Off mike)?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. I think every individual and every country has to make an
individual security determination in terms of ongoing operations here in Iraq.
We still have some tough fighting ahead of us. It is not completely calm
throughout this country. We will continue to work closely with our Iraqi
security partners to bring safety and security to this country. But that has got
to be a sovereign decisions of the nations, and it's got to be an individual
decision made by each person. We can't at this point declare that it is as safe
as we'd like it to be. But we can declare that we will continue to work to try
to reduce the amount of violence in this country, whether it's in Fallujah or
what has sort of emanated out of Fallujah, whether it's in the south or whether
it's here in Baghdad. Those are decisions that people have to make, and
countries have to make.
But I would also factor into that discussion and factor into that analysis the
coalition and the Iraqi security forces continue to be determined to go to
attack, to kill or capture terrorists, extremists and people who would bring
violence into this country.
MR. SENOR: Sewell?
Q Sewell Chan of the Washington Post. I have a question that I'd like both
General Kimmitt and Mr. Senor to address, if possible. As Jane pointed out,
there have been several governments, including those of France and Russia, that
have urged citizens working in Iraq to leave. In addition, there have been a
wave of foreign kidnappings, including several more announced today. Is there a
coordinated strategy for looking at these hostage-takings and these kidnappings
and abductions that examines specifically that tactics, methods and locations
used by these kidnappers? Who is coordinating this approach? What is the total
number of foreign hostages that are believed to be held right now? And what
progress specifically, if any, has been made to capture or stop these kidnappers
and these people who are taking hostages? Thank you.
MR. SENOR: Sewell, I obviously for operational reasons cannot address a number
of your questions, given that we are working to pursue the hostages and the
hostage-takers at this point.
The number if approximately 40 hostages from we think 12 countries. The FBI is
working with coalition forces and with Iraqi security forces to seek out the
hostage-takers and the hostages. We have a number of other international -- a
number of other law enforcement agencies from the international community that
are involved in this process. And I'd really prefer to leave it at that. We are
not terribly interested in tipping our hand with a great degree of detail right
now to those who have taken hostages.
Our message, however, has been consistent on this point: we will not negotiate
with terrorists and kidnappers, and it is in everybody's interest that these
hostages be released as expeditiously as possible.
Q As a quick follow-up, Dan, when you say 40 hostages from 12 countries, sir,
are you currently -- are you referring to people currently held or are you
including people who have been held and released? Thank you.
MR. SENOR: I am referring to people currently held.
Q Dan, for you, do you have a sense how much Iraqi attitudes have changed since
Fallujah just anecdotally, and has any actual scientific polling been done on
that? A lot of us have the impression that there's been a very major change in
attitude toward the occupation and the coalition now, and I would like to hear
MR. SENOR: We don't have any, at least I don't have access to any statistical
survey research within the past 72 hours. I know there is work being done on it.
I can follow-up with you and connect you with our team who is working on it.
Anecdotally, though, which we have been meeting with leaders from Iraq who are
very much in touch with the local scene in Fallujah, and while there are
frustrations along the lines you have described, I would also say that there is
a sense of frustration we are hearing among the silent majority of Fallujans
about the foreign fighters and international terrorists that are hanging their
hats in Fallujah right now, and consequently imposing enormous burden, and
misery, and death in some cases by virtue of their location. A number of
Fallajans have spoken out on this. Our -- the problem here is not with the
Fallujans, the problem here is not with the coalition. The problem here is with
foreign fighters, international terrorists, people like Zarqawi, who we believe
to be in Fallujah or nearby, and those Iraqis who would support the operations
of the foreign fighters and the terrorists. That is not something the majority
of Fallujans support. The Fallujans we are hearing from would love to rid
themselves of this burden, and put this sad past few days behind them.
Q Sam Dagger (ph) with AFP. Just going back to Zarqawi, whom you mentioned right
now, is going after Zarqawi part of your operation there? And yesterday you read
out a statement from a document, could you give us the date of the document that
you referred to yesterday?
MR. SENOR: Sure, I can get that for you. It was retrieved in the last couple
weeks. As for Zarqawi, I'm not going to talk about our specific plans for the
hunt for Zarqawi. Rest assured that it is robust. But we believe that Fallujah
right now is a hotbed for foreign fighters who are in Iraq, in which we include
Q Just a question on the Italian hostages, what do you have on that?
MR. SENOR: I have nothing in addition to what I said about hostages broadly
speaking. We are chronicling and investigating every single report about
hostages, including the Italian situation. We are making it clear that there
will be no negotiations with hostage takers, and we are making it clear that it
is in everybody's interest for those hostages to be released as expeditiously as
Q Question for General Kimmitt, it's Quinn O'Toole with NPR. I'm wondering if
you can give us an update on the situation in Najaf, the number of American
forces around there, and word today from a statement by Ayatollah Sistani that
U.S. forces will not enter Najaf, and will not humiliate Muqtada al Sadr.
GEN. KIMMITT: It is clear that we are repositioning forces in this country where
they're needed, as we saw in Al Kut, we have the capability to rapidly displace
and reposition forces to counter any threat within this country. Currently, we
see a significant threat in the vicinity of Najaf by the name of Muqtada al Sadr
and his militia. And we will get the forces to the place and at time when it is
necessary to go after him, and his militia to end this violence. It is that
Q Update us as far as the size of the force around Najaf?
GEN. KIMMITT: I'm sorry?
Q The size of the coalition forces around Najaf?
GEN. KIMMITT: I will tell you that the size is significant, I will tell you that
the force that is being brought to that region is powerful, and it will be
disciplined, and it will be capable of conducting the full spectrum of military
operations, which could range from full combat operations, and if necessary it
could range down to humanitarian activities. It's a multi-spectrum force. It can
do anything that it's asked to do. It will go wherever it's needed to wipe out
the violence inside this country.
Q What kind of operations are underway there now?
GEN. KIMMITT: Right now, preparatory operations.
MR. SENOR: Yes.
Q (Through interpreter.) Two questions. General Kimmitt, for a few days the
media said that the Kurdish Peshmerga cooperated with the coalition forces in
Fallujah, and in the same frame what is the fact of the 36th Battalion which
works with the coalition forces?
Another question for Mr. Dan, the Iraqi Governing Council announced stopping the
violence in all of Iraq. How do you see this? As the Iraqi Governing Council
says, the coalition forces are the side which are putting obstacles in the way
of ceasefire. What do you say about that?
GEN. KIMMITT: I continue to hear that there are illegal militias operating
inside the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Those are Iraqi citizens that are operating inside the 36 Iraqi Civil Defense
Corps battalions. They may have had a past history working as Peshmerga. They
may have had a past history working in any of the other militias that have
either been friendly, or in some cases unfriendly to coalition interests. What
is important is that is the past, and that's history. To join the Iraqi Civil
Defense Corps, you do not swear allegiance to an organization; you do not swear
allegiance to a person. You swear your allegiance to a nation, and you swear
your allegiance to this nation of Iraq. So regardless if they were past Iraqi
armed forces, whether they were past militia forces, they are now the present,
and the future, they are responsible for the protection of the country of Iraq,
answerable to the people of Iraq. That is their obligation, and that is their
MR. SENOR: To your other question with regard to the governing council
statement, we want to see a stop to all the violence in Iraq, too. And we
certainly share the sentiment of much of what was expressed in the governing
council statement, not the least of which is the importance of the rule of law
prevailing in Iraq. That principle is what is driving so much of our activity
over the last few days. So we thought the governing council statement in most
respects was very constructive.
Q (Through interpreter.) al Khofet (ph) Newspaper. Your concerns for a peaceful
resolution with al Sadr means that you will not carry out further attacks on
MR. SENOR: We are looking for minimal bloodshed, peace, and justice. We are
looking for the rule of law to prevail. Much of this can be dictated by Mr. Al
Sadr. Much of this can be dictated by the actions of his illegal mob.
Yes. Najim (ph)?
Q (Through interpreter.) (Inaudible) -- newspaper, one question about Muqtada al
Sadr, there is the contradiction between, in the U.S. theory, from one side it
says that he is illegally wanted, and that the Iraqi law will take care of that.
Yesterday we heard that it will arrest or kill Muqtada al Sadr. There is duality
in the U.S. position, is there a certain purpose, or certain demand for Mr. al
Sadr, from your side?
MR. SENOR: Najim (ph), what we have been saying, and it has been quite
consistent, whether it's what you heard last night, or what we're saying from
the podium today, the rule of law must prevail. The rule of Iraqi law must
prevail. I don't need to remind you that this arrest warrant was issued by an
Iraqi investigative judge, not an American official. The actions we've taken
have been in consultation with Iraqi legal authorities. Given that this was
issued by an Iraqi investigative judge, an investigative judge who, by the way,
has made it clear that Muqtada al Sadr, from his point of view, from the Iraqi
judge's point of view, should be tried under Iraqi law, in an Iraqi court, by
Iraqi authorities, and his officials, his deputies, like Yacoubi, for instance,
is being held right now in an Iraqi detention facility. So the Iraqi
investigative judge's message is consistent with our own.
Q If you allow me, each person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. You
have called for the killing of Muqtada al Sadr, so how do you explain this? He
should be investigated, and tried by an Iraqi court. He should be arrested.
MR. SENOR: The Iraqi investigative judge believes, or has compiled evidence that
he believes connects Muqtada al Sadr to a brutal murder, and believes that
Muqtada al Sadr should be issued an arrest warrant based on the evidence that
ties into the crime. We share that view.
Q Jonathan Steele from the Guardian. There are reports from some of the
negotiators, Iraqi negotiators going to Fallujah, that the U.S. has now dropped
its demand for the early handover of the people who mutilated the four American
contractors. Can you confirm that?
And the second point is there are also reports in Fallujah that photographs are
circulating which show dismembered bodies without arms and legs, which the
people circulating the photos say was done by the Marines. Are you aware of such
photos circulating in Fallujah?
MR. SENOR: On your first question, there are discussions -- and I don't want to
over- or under-characterize them -- there are discussions that representatives
from Iraq's Governing Council have been attempting to lead in Fallujah. The
notion of some terms and some conditions being dropped or added I think
characterizes them in such a way as to imply that they are much further advanced
than they probably are.
These are discussions that we want to see an end to the bloodshed, we want to
allow Iraqi officials to get in there, tend to the wounded, tend to the dead, to
get in essential supplies from the Iraqi government, and obviously we want to
remove from Fallujah the foreign fighters, the international terrorists, and
those Iraqis that support the foreign fighters and the international terrorists
that have made Fallujah their home. And we want -- we believe that what we want
in that regard is something the majority of Fallujans want as well, and that
could include certainly the individuals that killed the four American
contractors. And it is all included as one group.
GEN. KIMMITT: As the to the photos being passed out, I don't know or nor do I
have reports of those being passed around. It could well be that they're just
passing around the photographs that showed in many of the major newspapers and
many on the major news channels during that same time period.
MR. SENOR: Yes, in the back.
Q Betsy Hiel, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. I was wondering first if you could
tell us whether you've secured the road lines right now coming outside of
Baghdad, both going north and south?
And, also, I've been hearing these different groups -- there's the Jihad
squadrons, the national Islamic resistance, the mujaheddin group, the Iman
Rafiye (ph) Brigade. Are these all fly-by-night groups that have just sprung up
now, coming out of the recent violence, or do you know who they are and can you
tell us anything specific about all these groups?
GEN. KIMMITT: To you first question, we would not consider the lines of
communication and the major roads coming out of Baghdad from East to West or
from North to South completely secure at this time. We think we've made a
significant improvement. We would still rate them in the military lexicon as
"amber" -- not exactly green. And we would advise anyone traveling on those
roads to take reasonable force protection measures, as you have been over the
past few days, if needing to travel along those.
With regards to the additional groups that have, as you characterized, cropped
up lately, some of those names are new to us. We are talking to our intelligence
services. They are working hard to find out if some of these nom de guerre, some
of these are just part of an overall propaganda campaign by one or a couple of
the organizations that we're very familiar with. The Ansar al-Islam, some of the
former regime elements, some of the former Saddam Feyadeen who now are putting
on different names to sort of give them a little bit of glamour and a little bit
of attention. But I don't think at this point that we've got a cohesive
understanding of all these organizations -- who they are and what they
represent. Except we certainly understand that what they do represent is
extremism, in some cases terrorism. And what they certainly do not represent is
the vast majority, the overwhelming majority of the people of Iraq who
understand these organizations for what they are.
Q (Through interpreter.) Arad Asadi (ph) from -- (inaudible). I have a small
message to Mr. Dan Senor. I hope that this message will get to the officials in
power. My message is that we learned from you when you were among us for more
than one year -- you brought new concepts for us on the professional side -- I
mean the press. We are lacking these conceptions: freedom of dialogue, freedom
of expression. Mr. Dan Senor, as you have learned -- taught this to us, I want
you to teach this to the people in power and those who will assume power in
Iraq. These principles have we have learned, a country without a free press
cannot be a healthy country. This is my message.
As for my question, you have always stressed that you respect law and the
supremacy of law, and you are calling on the Iraqis to respect law. Is there a
legal document issued against Mr. Al-Araji, or was he arrested haphazardly?
GEN. KIMMITT: In the case of Mr. Al-Araji, he clearly is a known associate of
Muqtada al-Sadr. I think all of us clearly recognize the violence that he has
brought to this country of late, the amount of deaths and destructions he has
brought to towns such as Kut, Diwaniyah, here in Baghdad, and Sadr City. We
wanted him for questioning. After questioning, we determined that he was not an
imminent threat to security. Like any other person we hold in detention, when he
is determined not to be an imminent threat to security, he is released, and that
is what we have done to him and with him.
MR. SENOR: Carol?
Q Carol Rosenberg with the Miami Herald. I have a couple of real quick ones, and
then a complicated one. When did the roads go from green to amber, north, south,
east, west? Are there any updates in casualties since you were last at the
podium? Do you have anything on a convoy heading south to Najaf losing 10 APCs?
And everybody held their breath and we just had a peaceful Arba'in. Can you guys
figure out or explain to us why it happened, and can you bottle it?
GEN. KIMMITT: I think the answer to your question is over the past few days
we've lost two Americans. Since I last said the number was roughly around 70
soldiers and Marines. I know that we lost one more Marine, one more soldier. And
our hearts go out to their families for these losses.
I'd like to be able to say it's been pretty quiet for the last few days, and
we've seen the amount of deaths go down significantly. But the fact remains that
we've lost two, and that's two too many.
On your question about when did the roads go from green to amber, over the
weekend is when we started seeing, particularly in the area of Abu Gharib, we
started seeing some attacks being directed from the Abu Gharib vicinity onto
coalition convoys, personnel convoys, and that was a determination in my
estimation when the roads went at that point from green not to amber, but
actually to red and nearly black. We've sent a lot of brave soldiers out there
over the past few days. They've conducted a lot of tough combat. What they're
trying to do is get those roads open. But it's going to be some time before in
our estimation they're truly green. And frankly at any time, as we've seen
throughout this country, somebody who has a vested interest in trying to kill
Iraqi citizens or kill coalition soldiers nonetheless will still put an
improvised explosive device on the road. So you may have none of those for a
period of four or five days, and then all of a sudden you have one that
tragically kills women and children, coalition soldiers, Iraqi citizens.
So to answer your question directly, I think it's still going to be some time
before we feel that those lines of communications are to the point where we can
say they are green.
MR. SENOR: To your other question, Carol, I think the past few days we've been
grateful and relieved that there has been none of the terrorist violence that
you raise. I think it's a function of a number of factors, including the fact
that we were on high alert. We engaged in extensive comprehensive planning to
prepare for Arba'in, coalition security forces working extremely closely with
Iraqi security forces, focused intensively on the Arba'in period. And as pleased
as we are, I think it's also important to be realistic. Between now and June
30th, as we have said from time to time, the terrorists and the foreign fighters
have a real incentive to try to throw what is otherwise a successful path to
sovereignty off track. And even though we've had a bumpy few days in the general
security situation, I think most foreign fighters who have decided to stake
their ground in Iraq recognize that by and large you have a process on the
political track against the backdrop of an interim constitution, with the
reality that there are two U.N. teams on the ground -- one working on putting in
place the requisite electoral infrastructure for direct elections, another team
working on setting up -- consulting widely with Iraqis in the hope of
establishing an interim government to govern for seven months between June 30th
and the direct elections. There is a lot of activity. It is very real. It is
beginning to take a life on of its own. And it is very difficult -- as Zarqawi
has said, as you move closer and closer to June 30th to turn back the momentum.
And so as I said, we recognize that there is an incentive for those who are
against Iraqi democracy, who are enemies of freedom, to engage in attacks
between now and June 30th. We are grateful they did not happen during the
Arba'in period. We will continue to be vigilant. We encourage all Iraqis to
continue to be vigilant. The terror threat is still very real. And we will
continue to confront it everywhere we have to.
Q Hi, Dan. I just wanted to ask a little bit further about the question, about
the peshmerga. I wonder if there's any concern at this point that if people see
Kurdish fighters in Fallujah at a time, even if they are members of the new
Iraqi security forces, at a time when some other battalions have refused to
fight in Fallujah, whether this would reinforce the perception that the U.S.
might be fomenting or encouraging a split between Kurds and Arabs in the
My other question is about Najaf. Is there a plan in place in case there is
violence around the shrine? Clearly there might be a very strong reaction -- not
just in Najaf but in Baghdad and around the country. What are the plans to keep
the situation calm if a situation like that happens? Thanks.
GEN. KIMMITT: On the first question about the members of the Iraqi Civil Defense
Corps, what people will see will be a soldier, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps member
wearing a uniform. On that uniform it will have a flag of Iraq. Again, where
that soldier came from, where that Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldier had a prior
association does not matter. There will be some that try to turn that into a
tool of propaganda. But should we also argue that the former members of the
Iraqi armed forces, if they are attacking Fallujah, are truly former Saddam
loyalists that are trying to restore his government to power? Should we somehow
suggest that Shi'a members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps are secretly trying
to go after all the Sunnis in Fallujah? Those people who responsibly and
reasonably look at the question will come to a responsible and reasonable
answer. Those who don't, and who want to try to spin it for other purposes, we
can only respond with facts.
On the second question, we seem to miss a point about the force deployment to
the south. The target is not An Najaf. The target is Muqtada al-Sadr and his
militia. We will hunt them down and we will destroy them. It does not
necessarily have to be in An Najaf. We would prefer it not to be in An Najaf or
Karbala. We have very great respect for the shrines for the Shi'a, for the
religion. We will do what is necessary -- but we will only do what is necessary.
It does not necessarily have to be in the town of An Najaf nor in the town of
Karbala. The target is not a town. The target is a group that is promoting and
executing violence, who is trying to disrupt the process of sovereignty, and who
is trying to intimidate through the barrel of a gun the vast majority of the
people of Iraq. That will not stand. They will be hunted down. They will be
killed or captured.
MR. SENOR: Yes, ma'am?
Q (Through interpreter.) Halida (ph) Khamadi (ph). al Musharaka (ph) newspaper.
Mr. Kimmitt, don't you agree that you have took it so far in the operation of
vengeance for the four American contractors and that you give more importance to
American citizens than Iraqi citizens. Aren't Iraqi children and women who are
dying -- aren't they also human beings? There have been very big losses in
Fallujah, and your excuse is the protection of Americans. How do you explain
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, first of all, I don't explain it as protection of Americans.
Nor do I explain it as conducting operations against Fallujans. Nor do I explain
it as punitive retribution of the loss of American citizens in Fallujah, whether
they were in Fallujah as the contractors, or outside Fallujah for the five
American soldiers that were killed by an IED that day. That is just one small
town. You have seen coalition forces operating throughout this entire country --
in Mosul, in Basra -- you've seen them in An Najaf, Al Kut. You've seen
coalition soldiers fighting and dying for the people of Iraq -- not solely for
the purpose of as you would say, but I won't, retribution for the killings in
Fallujah. We have been here for a year, we have stood side by side with Iraqi
security forces. In many cases our soldiers fighting and dying in areas that
have not seen any Americans or coalition soldiers fight and die. They are dying
and they are fighting simply to bring this country and those young children and
those young women that you're talking about to a better life, to freedom and
democracy. So those that would try to tell you that what we're doing in Fallujah
is to wreak vengeance, I would tell you that that is wrong. It is no different
in Fallujah than it is the fight that we had in Al Kut, the fight that the
Italians had in Diwaniyah, the fight that the British had in Basra, the fight
that the Americans have in Mosul. They are fighting to bring this country -- to
make this country safe so those children that you're talking about can grow up
in a better society than their parents have.
MR. SENOR: And I would just add the poisonous reporting to which you are
referring, these reports out there about the targeting of women and children, is
something that we encourage every journalist here to take a very tough critical
look at. It is part and parcel with the reporting that we have been seeing, or
the misreporting that we have been seeing on a number of the satellite channels
like al Jazeera and al Arabiya, and they certainly do not make a constructive
contribution to the debate in this country about how to move forward as we try
to minimize bloodshed.
I actually have here with me just a couple of examples -- we have many -- but
just a couple of examples of some of the irresponsible and clearly incorrect
reporting that has occurred on al Jazeera over the last few days. Saturday, for
instance: Baghdad students, according to al Jazeera, gathered at Mustansiriyah
University to prepare relief supplies for people in Fallujah. And al Jazeera
reported that U.S. troops surrounded the university and demanded via loud
speakers that the students leave the university. The report is accompanied by a
clip of an armored vehicle driving around Mustansiriyah. And we of course looked
right into this when the report as concerning as this one came out, and we
learned that approximately 20 students from Mustansiriyah University came to a
coalition force compound complaining of an armed militia on their campus.
Coalition forces and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps responded to the college,
responded to the university and searched 14 buildings, confiscated nine AK-47s,
one pistol, pro-al-Sadr banners, and one al-Sadr uniform. The armed militias
subsequently departed the area.
I'll give you another example. On Saturday in Kut, al Jazeera reported that
large numbers of British soldiers were killed, their vehicles destroyed in an
attack on their camp in the governorate of Maysan. And we confirmed this with
our officials in Maysan, who confirmed no casualties of any kind, after nine
mortar rounds fired at an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps base.
Also on Saturday al Jazeera reported that they themselves were being targeted,
and that they were being targeted by coalition tanks twice, but they escaped,
they reported, but the U.S. wants them out of Fallujah. "But we will stay," the
reporter said -- they were reporting that we wanted them out of Fallujah so
badly that we sent tanks after them. The last one is especially absurd. I don't
thin it deserves clarification.
The fact is there is poisonous reporting out there, and it is seeping out on a
number of these stewardship channels, like al Jazeera and like Al Arabiya. And
it is important for all responsible journalists who are getting their
information from these new channels to give them a very tough critical look.
Q Matthew Fisher from the National Post of Canada. Do you have any figures on
the number of POWs you have taken this month? And also how many arms you've
seized from the insurgents? I understand the Marines in Ramadi had a very big
weapons seizure. And do the weapons that you are seizing tell you something
about the quality of weaponry that your enemy has?
GEN. KIMMITT: I'll get you those numbers about how many detainees we've captured
this month. Of particular interest, some of the weapons that we found in Ar
Ramadi, which we have not seen in any large numbers that are Dragunov sniper
rifles, which isn't your typical garden variety buy-it-off-the street AK-47.
These are fairly accurate long-range, well-telescoped weapons that have a
significant range and a significant lethal capability. So I think those are the
weapons that probably are a little bit different than what we've seen over the
past few months, and ones that no doubt gave the Marines some measure of
MR. SENOR: Yeah, time for a couple more -- go ahead.
Q I know you're trying to wrap it up, so I'll make this quick. Kevin Seitz (ph)
with NBC News. Two quick questions. Concerning the convoy, are there actually
going to be shortages of food and fuel and supplies at those forward-operating
bases because of the convoy attacks? And, secondly, we've seen some very
dramatic pool footage come in recently overnight from Fallujah -- Marines
certainly returning fire in great quantities -- also reports that Marines had
been killed -- two Marines -- because of a mortar attack. What does this do to
the cease-fire there?
GEN. KIMMITT: On your first question, no, we are not going to lose any -- let me
rephrase that. None of the coalition forward- operating bases are in danger of
running out of supplies at this time. Between the stockpiles and our capability
to resupply by many different ways -- whether it's by air, whether it's by
ground -- we are absolutely confident that we will not have any of our forward-
operating bases imperilled by a lack of supply.
Number two, on the issue of the mortar rounds, we understand there was one
mortar attack last night that cost the life of a Marine. And the footage that
you saw probably is indicative of what we've said all along about the operations
in Fallujah. The Marines have been very set over the past 72 hours. They have
suspended offensive operations. They can't and they won't ever forfeit their
inherent right to self- defense. It is clear to us that many of these attacks
that are being conducted by the enemy in Fallujah are meant to be provocative,
meant to be spectacular -- get it on the screen, try to throw a grenade or
couple of grenades at a Marine position, intentionally to cause them to return
fire -- get it on the film, get it on to Doha, and get it on the next morning's
reels, to try to demonstrate that in f act the Marines are something that they
are not. The Marines are an outstanding fighting organization. They are precise,
they're deliberate, they're powerful. When they are told to suspend offensive
operations, they will. Retaining the right, the inherent right of self-defense,
if fired upon they will return. They will put aimed, accurate fire, often in
large quantities against those that would try to kill their fellow Marines.
MR. SENOR: Christine, last question.
Q I just want to get to the point that with every day of violence you are losing
days toward preparing for sovereignty. Are you redefining the term of turning of
sovereignty? And what will it mean at this point? And even as far as the embassy
-- how many people will you be able to get here in order to be ready for
turnover of sovereignty?
MR. SENOR: Our vision and our plan for sovereignty turnover remains the same.
Christine, we have said all along that on June 30th we will hand over political
sovereignty to the Iraqi people. They will be in control of their political
destiny. But Iraqis, American and coalition -- many coalition country security
forces -- will still have a significant role in Iraq to help support the Iraqi
security forces. We recognize there will still be a major terror threat here
after the Iraqi people have sovereignty. We recognize that the Iraqi security
services may not be in a position to defend against that terror threat after
June 30th. And so we will still be here.
We have said since last fall, when the U.S. Congress passed an $18.6 billion
supplemental package that almost $20 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds alone, let
alone the contributions from the international community, will be deployed over
several years. There will have to be American civilian reconstruction workers
involved in that. You will have -- we have said all along you are going to have
one of the largest U.S. Embassies here in the world -- if not the largest. So
the plan remains the same, and while these days have been difficult and we are
still working to address the problems that are associated with them, I think
that postponing sovereignty is all the more not an option now. Changing the
nature of sovereignty is all the more not an option now -- because to do so
would be to allow the terrorists and the extremists and illegal mobs and
militias and the foreign fighters to have scored a major victory.
Q So, but Dan, what do you mean by "sovereignty"? If the Iraqis can't defend
themselves, and the politicians can't guarantee public security -- which is the
nature of government -- what is sovereignty here?
MR. SENOR: Iraqis will be in control of their government. We will be here to
support them on the security front. Ambassador Bremer will be gone. We will no
longer be occupiers. There will be an Iraqi head of state. There will be an
Iraqi -- some form of an Iraqi legislative body. Iraqi officials will be held
accountable by Iraqi citizens. This is the end of an occupation. This is Iraqis
taking control of their political future.
We have security forces in many parts of the world where we play a supporting
role -- in some cases, depending on the nature of the local threat -- to the
local governments or the local countries. Those countries are not occupied by
the United States of America.
Thank you, everybody.
MR. SENOR: One other quick thing. This -- the few examples I cited on the
misreporting we -- have English and Arabic copies and translations of them. Our
staff can distribute them before you depart.