Home Page





GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, good afternoon. It's great to be back up here again after a little bit of a leave of absence for me from the podium. Since the last time we met we've had a couple of great weeks and we continue to move very aggressively to bring security and stability to the country and assist in transitioning sovereignty to the Iraqi people.

This week, I had the pleasure of attending a transfer of authority ceremony in multinational divisional central south, where for the last five months Polish commander Major General Tyszkiewicz has led the coalition troops from 21 countries in this low-intensity combat environment. And that contingent has made some tremendous contributions in maintaining the stability and security of that region. I thank him personally and the entire multinational command for their tremendous performance and for his leadership.

Now the task of improving the quality of life for Iraqis across the center-south region continues under the leadership of Polish General Bieniek as we begin the transition into Operation Iraqi Freedom II. This is the first major transition of authority as we move to reestablish the fourth -- the force between now and the end of April.

Across the country and in partnership with the Iraqi people, we continue to make great progress in two major areas. First, our offensive operations continue to bring about a safe and secure environment. And secondly, in our civil military operations we continue to provide the citizens of this country with the infrastructure that they need to have a healthy, self-sustaining economy.

In our offensive ops, we continue to exploit actionable intelligence from a variety of sources. Coalition and Iraqi security forces remain focused on former regime elements, foreign fighters and terrorists that continue with their anti-coalition operations and their operations against the Iraqi people. And just like the hunt for Saddam Hussein, we are and we will continue to be relentless in our pursuit of these elements.

These operations continue to produce results. This week, as you know, the 82nd Airborne Division and our special operations forces captured Khamis Sirhan al-Mohammed, number 54 in the top-55 deck of cards list. This occurred in the vicinity of Ar Ramadi. And he is currently in the coalition's custody. We will continue to pursue the remaining fugitives on the list until all of them are brought to justice.

This week coalition forces conducted over 150 offensive operations, over 12,000 patrols, and captured over 360 anti-coalition and anti-Iraqi personnel throughout the country of Iraq. Simultaneously, we continue to recruit, train, equip and support the development of Iraqi security forces across the country.

On the 6th of January, the anniversary of Iraq's Army Day, 700 Iraqi soldiers graduated from initial training and joined the ranks of the growing Iraqi armed forces as the 2nd Battalion of the Iraqi army. Members of the 2nd Battalion are now undergoing advanced training at Taji military base under the tactical control of the 1st Armored Division as they continue to prepare for follow-on operations. Additionally, 830 Iraqi army recruits and officer candidates continue their training as members of the 3rd Battalion at Kirkuk military training base. This battalion will graduate on the 24th of January. In addition, we have about 560 Iraqi army officer candidates that are continuing their military training in Jordan.

In the west, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps forces conducted their first independent operation east of Ar Ramadi, along Highway 10. As part of a security mission, these units patrol the area to deny enemy forces opportunities to emplace improvised explosive devices and to prevent black-market fuel operations.

In the north, coalition forces continue to facilitate Iraqi police training at four police academies -- in Mosul, Tall Afar and Irbil. To date, more than 2,700 members of the Iraqi Police Service have received training across the spectrum of police tasks. This week, about 2,000 Iraqis joined the ranks of more than 200,000 Iraqis actively involved in stability and security operations.

In the area of civil military operations, coalition soldiers continue restoring critical infrastructure and public services throughout Iraq. This week, coalition forces completed another 2,000 projects worth almost $3 million. This was funded by the Commanders' Emergency Response Fund Program. And to date we have used CERP funds to support more than $126 million of projects, totalling in excess of 15,000 projects across the country. This includes more than $6 million on health projects, almost $9 million on over 1,200 water and sewer projects, 3 million (dollars) of CERP on 450 electricity projects, and almost $30 million on over 2,900 education initiatives.

As the people of Iraq join us in building a new Iraq and hand over sovereignty, momentum continues to build. We are committed to working with our most important partners, the Iraqi people, as we prepare for the day when the Iraqis will govern and defend a free and democratic Iraq.

I'll now go ahead and take your questions. Yes, sir?

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: Yes. Your question was that we detained a woman in Fallujah, under the pretext of looking for her husband, and you want to ask what my comments are on that.

As we conduct our operations, the Geneva Convention allows us to detain individuals that might be security risks or may have intelligence value as we continue to execute the task of bringing security and stability to the country.

In this case, my understanding is that that was the reason why we captured the lady. And if I'm correct, I believe she was released within a matter of 24 hours.

Next question, please. Yes, sir?

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: The question is, what is the mechanism for the release of the detainees that was announced by the ambassador? The release of detainees that was announced by Ambassador Bremer was part of a security reconciliation initiative package that we have put together, that will attempt to release detainees that we currently have in custody, based on a process that will bring together a guarantor that is identified either in their tribe or in their -- in the areas where they live. We're pairing them with those guarantors, and then that individual that is going to -- that is the guarantor will sign for the prisoner, and the prisoner will then return to his normal life. And there are certain responsibilities that the guarantor will have to assume in ensuring that this individual stays on the straight and narrow, if you will.

We are making progress across the entire country in identifying those guarantors. That is a basic premise of the program. And in fact individuals have started to come forward, given the names that we have identified. And it's an initial number of 500 detainees that we've already identified. We've spread it across the country. We're getting significant numbers of guarantors in all of our northern division sectors, and we've begun to pair them, guarantor and prisoner. And we've in fact made some releases at this point, and that number will increase as we complete the pairings.

Yes, ma'am? In the back.

Q (Interrupting.) (In Arabic.)

(In English.) I'm sorry.

GEN. SANCHEZ: Yeah, you.

Q (Off mike) -- you seem to indicate that there's -- getting the guarantors is more difficult than had been anticipated. And certainly when Ambassador Bremer announced the release, he said that they were -- it was going to begin the next day, and it did not. Can you explain -- go into the problems, perhaps, that you're facing? And also, what are the exact responsibilities that the guarantors have to assume?

GEN. SANCHEZ: The process -- at the time that Ambassador Bremer announced the program, we were beginning the process of identifying guarantors the next day. If we gave the impression that we had guarantors paired up with prisoners at that time, that wasn't really the case, from our perspective. We didn't have those pairings done.

The challenge that we have is just getting out across the battle space, if you will, down into the tribes, into the local villages, because we have names of individuals, and therefore it's getting into those tribes and identifying those guarantors to come in. And that requires a division commander, a brigade commander and battalion commanders to go out and canvass the neighborhoods. And we've had good success. And I could actually give you numbers of guarantors, if you chose. But it's gaining speed, and we're making progress, and I think this is going to be successful.

Example: Here in Baghdad alone, we have over 40 guarantors that we've already identified, that are willing to cooperate and help out with this program.

In terms of the challenges, it's just time. We just need to get the time to pair them up. And we've got those names spread out in different locations, of those that we're willing to release.

Now there's another aspect of the program: that as we get these names out into the divisions, if the divisions have been able to generate additional intelligence against some of these individuals, there may be a negotiation process that has go on to -- before we release them.

Q The guarantors -- what do they have to promise or do?

GEN. SANCHEZ: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Yes, ma'am. The guarantors will have to come in and validate that the individual has renounced violence. And then his responsibility will be to ensure that if this individual is involved in any sort of anti-coalition or illegal activities, the guarantor has the responsibility of reporting to that coalition forces.

Q Is that a legal responsibility?


Q I mean, can he be held responsible if that individual --

GEN. SANCHEZ: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. We've made it a legal responsibility, yes, ma'am, just like a parole officer back in the States.

Yes, ma'am?

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: The reason for the increase in the aircraft -- we really have not increased the numbers of sorties. I think what we've had is just a realignment of where they're flying and the altitudes that they're flying. And also, when you've got cloudy weather, it just seems like they're flying a little bit lower and involved in a few more offensive actions. But clearly, the message is that they're there, they're available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the event that we need them. And we'll definitely employ that combat power if required.

Yes, sir?

Q General, Brian Harper with ABC News. Can you give us an update on the rotation; how many troops have moved out, how many are moving in? And are you beginning to get an idea of what the SOFA is going to look like, what the responsibilities of the troops are going to be here after July 1st?

GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay, on the first part, rotation, we have -- as we know, the Stryker Brigade Combat Team has completed flowing and is conducting operations in the theater; they've been doing that for the last 30 days. We've got them moving up into the north to replace 101st. We've begun the movement of elements of the 101st, and one of the brigades has already started to redeploy. And that will now continue almost on a steady state basis for the next 90 to 120 days. We also have elements of the 3rd Corps that has started to flow into the country to begin the transition of the 5th Corps -- of my corps' staff -- out of here; that will be complete by the 1st of February.

And at this point, the rotation is going very well. And as I had briefed before, the multinational forces in central-south are also down at the levels below the division. I told you about the division TOA, but down inside of the brigades, those forces are also moving, primarily personnel that are being moved, and once again, that's moving along very very smoothly. And they will be complete by the early part of February also.

In terms of the SOFA, that is still in the process of evolving and there's really nothing that I could give you in terms of structures and end-states and negotiations at this point. The positions are still being developed.

Yes, ma'am, in the back?

Q In Arabic, please. (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. Could you repeat the question on 54, please? Translator, could you repeat the question on 54, please?

Q Okay. (In Arabic.) GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay, the first question on the rounds that were found in southern Iraq. The determination is that those are probably high-explosive rounds that have been there for some period of time, probably 10 to 12 years. And then we're pretty sure that that's the case, and we've turned those rounds over for destruction.

In terms of the blacklist personnel, those -- as you all know, we continue to treat all these individuals as prisoners of war. And their final end-states and the justice and whether they're facing tribunals, that will be resolved in the coming weeks and months. And that will be done in coordination with the Iraqi people.

Yes, sir?

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: The first question is about the newspaper reports on many in the American army committing suicide. That issue, in terms of rates, there is a slightly higher suicide rate amongst the forces that are deployed here in the country, but, you know, we've got the measures in place where we're working with all the agencies and providing the resources that are necessary for our soldiers to be taken care of. In the studies that were done, given the circumstances that we're in here, that is the appropriate thing to do, for us to provide our soldiers the support that is required.

In terms of a ministry of defense, those concepts are in the process of being developed, and they're being developed in coordination with the Iraqi Governing Council, the Interim Governing Council, and they will evolve over the coming weeks.

Q General, I'd just like to follow up on the question about detainees, of relatives of people who are on your watch list. According to Human Rights Watch, issued a report a couple of days ago saying that some of those detentions could be violating international law. And they also talked the demolition of at least four houses in the past two months, and they said that that also appears to be prohibited by the Geneva Convention. So I wanted to get your reaction to that report.

GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, on the first aspect of it, that we could be violating international law, I guarantee you that the Geneva Convention, given that we are still in a war environment, the Geneva Convention allows for the detention of security detainees and those detainees that are of intelligence value as we conduct our operations here in the country.

In terms of the demolition of houses, I've answered that question on multiple occasions. That those houses that are being destroyed are houses that are no longer of their original intended purpose. They are military targets because of the use that has been made by enemy forces. And we are making -- we've got about three or four different levels of cross-checking and legal reviews that those targets undergo before we make a decision to destroy those targets.

Yes, sir?

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: On al-Douri, we'll get him. Okay? We're going to get him. We continue to pursue every lead that is available to us. We have had great success in the last five weeks in taking down former regime elements and anti-coalition elements that are operating out in the environment. And we're going to be -- as I stated in my opening statement, we're going to be relentless in the pursuit of these targets. And there are no political deals out there that I'm aware of.

Second, on the tactics, I think the timing is perfect for the anti-coalition forces and the former regime elements to make a decision that it's time to embrace the future. The former regime is never going to come back. We're focused, we're effective in the pursuit of these individuals. We're going to capture them or kill them, as is our mission, those that remain at large. And given the pace that we're moving toward sovereignty, it is time for them to lay down their arms and become a part of the solution. That's a message that we are sending through whatever means we can. And we have to embrace the future.

The tactics that we are using continue to be intelligence-driven, precise offensive operations to take out targets that we have intelligence on. We are using Iraqi security forces more and more as they begin to get deployed across the country. And at this point I have 22 battalions of ICDC that are already operating out there with us. You see them on a daily basis here in Baghdad already, and that number continues to grow. We're on track to complete our 36 battalions by the April time frame.

And the new Iraqi army, as I stated, also continues to grow in its capacities. And hopefully, in the coming weeks you'll begin to see that great institution of the Iraqi people conducting operations right here in Baghdad.

So the tactics that we're using is to begin to hand over that responsibility to these forces, but yet we retain the tactical control. We are committed to moving to local control, Iraqi security forces having the primary responsibility, positive links to the coalition forces so that we can ensure success and we can ensure reinforcement as required. I think this is working, and we will continue to throttle back on our offensive operations as the operating environment and the threat decreases.

Ma'am? All the way in the back. In the back. No, you.

Q Oh, me. Okay. Sorry. Neela Banerjee from The New York Times. Two questions, if I could.

The first one concerns the downings of the helicopters in the Fallujah area. And I'm wondering, you know, what kind of thinking or investigations are going on that you could share with us about what's happening there and how to somehow mitigate that problem.

And the other question is about the demonstrations that we've been seeing over the last week or so in the south. I mean, I know that a lot of that is an economic and political problem, but what role besides crowd control can the military play in that, given all the civil affairs and other activities that you have down there? And also the military down there is the front line in taking the brunt of this anger from those crowds. Thanks.

GEN. SANCHEZ: First, ma'am, on the helicopter shootdowns that we have suffered in, of course, the last few months, every one of these shootdowns, or really every accident that we have involving our helicopters is investigated. And we bring whatever resources are necessary to bear; whether they're in country or from back in the States, if needed, from the Army Safety Center, we'll bring those resources in to conduct those investigation.

We have ensured that all of our survivability equipment is operational. That's a prerequisite before we fly our aircraft here in the country. And we are changing tactics on a daily basis based on the intelligence and the operating patterns that we're seeing so that we don't present a steady-state pattern to the enemy.

The vulnerabilities, I think, are fairly clear when you look at where these incidents have been occurring. But we continue to work all aspects of that problem to eliminate these shoot-downs.

In terms of the demonstrations, we continue to be committed to helping the Iraqi security forces. And down in the south, there's been some great successes in the Iraqi security forces, police and ICDC, handling some of these demonstrations. And that's -- this is exactly what I'm talking about when I talk about local control: that we get them out in front, talking to their people and being able to contain these demonstrations.

We've had some successes down there, and then of course we've had others in the last couple weeks that got violent, where the police wound up shooting some of the demonstrators, based on the actions that evolved.

Clearly we remain committed to committing coalition forces, when required, as we did in that case, to bring situations back under control and to ensure that we don't lose control in the first place, if we can prevent that from happening. But those risks are there, and we're prepared for them, and we'll continue to conduct our ops accordingly.

Yes, sir?

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: First of all, on the transfer of authority, I believe your question was, you know, whether there are any time limits on the presence of the coalition forces here in the country and whether there will be bases here in the country. Now clearly, at this point, our position remains fairly constant: that we'll be staying here as long as it takes to ensure the security and stability of the country, and we'll do that as the security agreements are discussed. We'll be working that in coordination with the Iraqi people.

In terms of bases, it's way too early for us to make any sort of guesses on whether any bases are going to be here or not. That's not even in any discussions that I'm involved with. So the long-term security arrangements of the country have not been addressed, at least at my level.

In terms of the criteria for offensive operations and the great increases that might occur, yeah, they could. We could increase our operating tempo if the threat continues to -- or if the threat was to increase. We will gauge our offensive operations based on what the enemy is doing and the intelligence that we're obtaining. And when required, we'll conduct those offensive operations at whatever level they need to be.

Yes, ma'am?

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: I believe your first question was whether salaries will be given to all of the detainees that we have in custody. At this point, there have been no discussions on giving back pay to all those security detainees that we've got in custody.

Why do we raid houses at night only? Well, not exactly true. We conduct raids during the day also, at all hours of the day. And I guess there is a preference for us to conduct raids at night, and we'll continue to do that. That gives us great advantage.

Yes, ma'am?

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay, I can barely hear you there, translator. You need to get closer to your mike.

Could you restate the question, please?

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay, no, if that's what you understood, I never said that we're treating them as war criminals. We are treating these people as -- according them all of the rights, under the Geneva Convention, of a POW. And I did not state and I have not used the words of "war criminal" at all during this press conference.

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: Yes, sir. I'll come back to you in a second.

Q I'm (name inaudible) of the Japanese news agency Kyodo News. The Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces are now being deployed through Iraq for the first time through the combat area. Although their role is limited to humanitarian assistance and they can't be involved in security maintenance, can you please comment on their deployment and their limited role?

GEN. SANCHEZ: Absolutely. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces are a welcome addition to the coalition, and we're looking forward to getting them integrated into the country. There's a tremendous contribution that can be made and will be made by this great army element that's inbound. And we clearly understand the limitations and the guidance, the national guidance that has been given to this force as it comes in here. It is part of coalition operations, and we will maximize their contribution, so that they can contribute to the progress of this great country. And I feel very comfortable with their deployment.

Yes, ma'am?

Q (In Arabic.)

(In English.) Thank you.

GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay, I don't know if it's good news or bad news, but I'm not leaving. (Laughter.) And oh, by the way, I've been here over eight months, okay?, not four. (Laughs.)

No, at this point in time, I will remain as the CJTF7 commander. And Lieutenant General Metz, the commander of the 3rd Corps, is coming in as the tactical commander who will be responsible for tactical operations within the country.

In terms of the detention of individuals across the country, I'll tie you back to the answer that I gave earlier, and this is that under the laws of war, if there is a security issue or an intelligence reason for the detention of individuals, that is clearly authorized within the Geneva Convention and the laws of war. And in order for us to accomplish our missions, that can be -- that can be employed.

Now, we work very, very hard to ensure that we're treating everyone with dignity and respect when they are in fact detained under coalition operations. And we'll continue to do that.

Okay, you.

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: On the first question, there are multiple reasons and different benefits that we get from the different altitudes that we fly. Sometimes, it's intended to fly low to ensure that the enemy forces that we believe are out there operating against us clearly understand the combat power that is available to the enemy -- for us to apply against that enemy force. So sometimes that's a very conscious decision on our part, and we'll continue to do that as required.

In terms of whether donor money or revenue of oil money, I couldn't answer that for you. We can take that question, and we'll get CPA to provide you some answer on. I do know that we are using some -- we will be using appropriated U.S. dollars for our SERP program, and we know that there is some Development Fund for Iraq money that is being used for the SERP that we are currently executing across the country by our major subordinate commanders. So there is some of that oil money that is paying for all those projects that I mentioned to you during my opening statement, okay? But I couldn't answer the donor part and the rest of it. Okay?

Yes, sir.

Q David Ignatius from the Washington Post. General, in recent weeks, some Marine Corps officers associated with units that are on their way into Iraq have been critical of the tactics used by coalition forces, especially in the Al Anbar region, arguing that they've been overly aggressive, that they have unnecessarily alienated the population. And they've said that they intend when they arrive to adopt different tactics. I wonder what comments you would have as overall commander on these statements and on what is proposed as a change in tactics in the crucial Al Anbar region.

GEN. SANCHEZ: Since the 21st of September, the Al Anbar region has gone to a very stable environment where we're experiencing probably on the average maybe three or four engagements a day when we put the 82nd out there. From the time that we were at our peak in engagements here in the country, which was in the mid-November time frame, averaged around 40 engagements a day, high of over 50 on a given day, we have dropped down to around 15 engagements a day.

I don't get into discussions about critiques that are being made of tactics. That is not my purpose. My purpose is to accomplish my mission here. And the tactics that I have employed here clearly show that we've had effect on the enemy. We will continue to do that as required.

Q A quick follow-up. Do you think it's appropriate, General, for other commanders to be so directly critical of the tactics that are being used, obviously contradicting your own rule?

GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, you need to ask them that question. I don't get into those discussions with anyone. It is counterproductive.

And this is about a team that we're building here. It's about a mission that we've got to accomplish. And it's about the judgments that have to be made and courses of action and decisions made by commanders on the ground who have a feel for the battle-space at the time they have to make that decision. And I'll go ahead and leave it at that. But it's not worth us getting into a theoretical discussion about this tactic or that tactic at this point, or really at any point.

Yes, sir?

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: I think your statement was specifically stating that you're not seeing any of the electrical infrastructure projects, if I'm correct. Well, I guarantee you that we have a very robust program that is executing maintenance on the power plants across the country at this point. That was a scheduled program for the fall maintenance that had to be done, because that hadn't been done in many years. And we also have a program that is rebuilding the power plants. And we also have tremendous amounts of the 400 kV line electrical infrastructure that has been rebuilt already, and not all done, but we're working very hard to get that done across the country, to be able to link the center and the south, to get some of that electricity moving north. We're also working the 132 kV line around the city of Baghdad, to give us the ability to move that power around the whole city.

And at this point, it is kind of difficult for you to see the tangible effort being done out there. But if you fly around the country like I do, you'll see work crews out there standing up pylons, getting electrical power lines extended across the country, and they're beginning to come together, so that we can link this infrastructure back together to provide equitable distribution across the whole country and to move it efficiently around the country.

I think, in terms of the CERP that is being applied, I think that's where you can see the immediate benefit across most of the communities in the country. And some of this will take a little bit of time for you to see it. I believe, if I'm not mistaken -- and we can provide you some details on the actual electrical projects that are being undertaken and some of the timelines for the completion of those, if you desire. Okay? There's a very robust package that we could provide, that I think is great news for the country.

All the way in the back, please.

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, at -- you know, I can't get into specifics of what Saddam is saying or not saying. And all that I'll tell you is that all you have to do is take a look at what was in November and what is today.

In the back, sir.

Q Thank you. It's Luke Baker from Reuters. Sir, nearly two weeks ago, some -- four people were detained by U.S. troops, who said that they believed they were enemy personnel who had been posing as journalists to fire on U.S. soldiers. These people have now been released. I wondered if you still would make the claim that there are enemy personnel posing as journalists, and if not, whether you are going to issue a statement setting the record straight.

GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. There's an investigation that hasn't been completed. That's being done by the division commander in the 82nd. And at the time that that investigation is complete, we'll be prepared to issue some sort of statement.

Q Do you have any idea on how long these investigations generally take?

GEN. SANCHEZ: Depending on the complexity, some of them could be done in a matter of a couple weeks and sometimes it takes us longer. I don't know a time line; I didn't get a status on that investigation before I came in here. But we can get you some kind of status report on it.

Okay. All the way in back.

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: On the weapons issue, there are sufficient weapons in the country for us to outfit the security forces. In terms of keeping all the weapons that we've captured during combat operations, we were, in fact, destroying the weapons as we were encountering them. That's the right thing to do in battle. And once we transitioned into the July-August time frame, at that point in time we started to secure weapons, knowing that we were going to have to build Iraqi security capacity over time. And since then, that's what we've been doing. We do continue to destroy those ammunition and weapons that are not of any further use based on our assessments, and we'll continue to do that as required.

First of all on photos on an Army website, there are no photos of Saddam Hussein on an authorized Army website; there are on other websites that are out there, and those are not official photo releases that were done by the coalition. That's all I can say on those photographs.

Yes, sir?

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: The way I'll answer that question is that there are a lot of Iraqi people that are helping us. Okay? It could be the average Iraqi that comes up to our front gates and gives us information, it's the Iraqi security forces that are operating now out there across the country that are helping us identify anti-coalition elements and identify locations of caches, weapons caches, and the police forces helping us out. So it's across the spectrum. So there are a lot of Iraqis that are, in fact, both official security forces and private citizens that are making a great contribution to ending some of this violence.

Yes, sir?

Q Nick Riccardi, L.A. Times. On the troop rotation matter: do you have any concerns that there will be a loss of on-the-street expertise when some of the soldiers who may have made personal relationships here, intelligence connections with regular Iraqis, are rotated out?

GEN. SANCHEZ: Every time you do a major rotation, or really any time you do a rotation of forces in this kind of an environment, the situational awareness of both the -- well, of the incoming forces are of concern to a commander that has got to sustain operations. We have put the systems into place that will try to minimize the decrease that will occur in that situational awareness. We think we've got a fairly robust plan to sustain that level at an acceptable level for continuing successful operations.

But it's inevitable that we'll lose some of that capacity and that great experience and instinct that's out there. I mean, we've got a force that is here in this country that has been operating for about a year at the time they leave. That's experience, that's understanding, that's an instinct that builds over time. And I have absolute confidence that the inbound forces will be able to reestablish that in short order.

And the other thing that contributes to our ability to control this is the way that we're spreading out the force rotation over about a four-month period. So I'm comfortable in the prognosis.

Yes, ma'am?

Q Najia Vermat (ph) from AP. I'm just wondering if there any Iraqis participating in questioning of Saddam Hussein. And if not, are they going to be allowed to, or if there is a plan that at some point they will participate in this?

GEN. SANCHEZ: I think those are policy decisions that are not made yet. At some point they will be made and determinations will be forthcoming on how that's going to proceed. But at this point they've not been made.

Q Just a quick follow-up. Has already there been a demand by Iraqis to do that?

GEN. SANCHEZ: I'm not in charge of that process, so I couldn't answer that question. I don't know. I honestly do not know.

Yes, sir?

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: On the MEK, we continue the process of determining status of the MEK, and that process will continue over the coming weeks. I am not aware of any countries that have invited the MEK to come into their country at this point. If that has happened and has been announced, I missed that. But we have stated clearly that the United States is in control of the MEK and will continue to do that and determine dispositions in coordination with the Iraqi people.

Yes, sir?

Q Rod Nordland from Newsweek. General, a lot of soldiers are worried that they're going to end of doing more than their 365 days in Iraq. Can you assure them that that's not the case, that the rotation is on schedule?

And a second just brief question: Do you know anything more about the -- just what happened when the Japanese diplomats were killed last year?

GEN. SANCHEZ: I'll answer the second first. No, I do not have any more information that I could provide to you on the Japanese diplomats at this point. We can ask what that status of the investigation is and get that, so if you could pass that to Colonel Darley (sp), we'll try to get you some data.

In terms of the 365 boots on the ground, I guarantee you that we are -- and our soldiers know this -- we are managing every unit, every detachment very, very carefully so that we can get those great young Americans back home, as we promised them. We've told them that it's 365 days with a window for transportation, and that's what we're working very hard.

As you know, we've already made some decisions and some announcements on some units that we just couldn't bridge the gap, and therefore they've been told that they're going to stay a little bit over 365. But I feel very, very comfortable that the announcements that were made here in the last week of those units that had to stay beyond 365 days is what's going to happen. I don't -- I could be very, very comfortable in saying that there won't be any other units that will be surprised. We're working individuals and that kind of thing, but not units. Okay? We're very comfortable. We're managing it very, very carefully, because this has -- you know, this has obviously impact on families, on the individual soldier, on the organization, and we're committed to the 365 boots on the ground.

Yes, sir?

Q (Inaudible) -- with Russian new agency (Novistya ?). Minister of defense of Georgia told that his plane was attacked yesterday while he was leaving Iraq. Can you give us more detail? Who attacked it? When it happened?

GEN. SANCHEZ: The minister of defense's aircraft was attached yesterday?

Q Yes, that's what minister of defense himself told in Tbilisi.

GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay, news to me. I have not heard that before. That was not reported through the military command channels. Okay? I'll go back and take a look at it and provide you some kind of comment. We'll get our public affairs personnel to respond to that question and give you and update.

All the way in the back, sir.

Q Thank you. Nehel Pakotski (sp) from Polish Radio. Do you know anything about changing of tactic of multinational division after the rotation, after the new commander? And what are your expectations for a multinational division which is under new general command?

GEN. SANCHEZ: Okay. As far as change of tactics under General Bieniek, no, at this point he's got to make his commander's assessment of the situation on the ground. I think we had great success and have had great success over the last six months under General Tyszkiewicz. But every commander that comes on board does his assessment, makes -- takes a look at the threat and then makes some decisions, and then over time he'll make recommendations to me as to how he sees the environment. My expectation is that he will continue to improve the security and stability environment down in central-south, and there's no reason to believe that he won't be able to do that. I have tremendous confidence in those forces of all those countries that are down there and tremendous confidence in General Bieniek just like i had on General Tyszkiewicz.

Yes, sir?

Q (In Arabic.)

GEN. SANCHEZ: Well, most of the detainees that are being taken are based on intelligence that we're deriving, that is corroborated, in most cases. I say in most cases because sometimes we're doing tactical intelligence and follow-on raids based on what we're finding on the ground as we're taking down objectives and arresting people. So I feel very comfortable that those folks that we've -- and further more, we screen them for a period of time at the lowest levels of the command and they go through multiple screenings before we make a decision for long-term detention. So I feel fairly comfortable that those that we're holding have either intel value or are security risks for the coalition or clearly are unlawful combatants that have clearly committed some kind of an infraction against the coalition or the Iraqi people or are criminals.

Okay. I think we got maybe this one and one more. In the back.

Q General, I wonder if -- Michael Hirsh with Newsweek. I wonder if you could expand on your earlier comment or just look at the difference between what was in November and what is today in terms of the insurgency. Could you comment at all, whether it's a question of what's happened since Saddam's capture and what you've learned, on how you see, how you assess the nature of the insurgency, who you're fighting, the balance between old regime elements, new insurgents, foreign activists and so forth?

GEN. SANCHEZ: Sure. We have had great effect on the midlevel and operational level leadership of the former regime elements. At this point, we still see the preponderance of the threat in the former regime element sphere. There is clearly a linkage to fundamentalists, foreign fighters that are coming into the country. And as we continue this intelligence-driven cycle of eliminating that midlevel leadership of the former regime, I envision, over time, the fundamentalists becoming our greater threat. That has not occurred yet, but it is clearly an evolving threat, and it is ever-present.

The effect that we have had on that leadership and on those cells is, in my opinion, clearly what has caused this decrease in the numbers of attacks across the entire country.

Furthermore, what has happened is that a lot of the Iraqi people have recognized the opportunity for the future. And if you've kept tabs on what's going on up in the north, where former Ba'athist senior members are coming forward, renouncing the regime publicly, turning in significant amounts of weaponry in open forums with the coalition and in front of the people, I think it tells us that a large portion of this population recognized that it's time to embrace the future, as I stated earlier.

Q Just a quick follow-up on that latter point. Do you attribute that to Saddam's capture?

GEN. SANCHEZ: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. The point that I would make is that we knew all along that this would be a -- we would have a significant impact, and it's borne itself out.

Okay. One last question, and we're going to do it over on the left.

Q (Name inaudible), Romanian Radio. If I understood right, as soon as the new Iraqi army is established, it's being deployed on the streets of the cities. Isn't that a dangerous precedent?

GEN. SANCHEZ: No, absolutely not. I think, given the security situation, these forces are going to be operating under the tactical control of the coalition forces. We will have coalition personnel that will be operating with them. I think when you look across the Middle East, the use of armed forces in internal security during times of crisis has always been there, and it is a well-established precedent. And it's going to be done under very limited circumstances during this crisis period, which -- I don't think anybody can argue that we are in a crisis period of internal -- on the internal security of the country.

At the right time, we'll go ahead and refocus that element to external security, which is its proper role. And that's exactly the principle that we're following as we stand them up.

So no, I think, with all of the checks and balances that we have built into the employment of that force, we'll be fine. That -- they will operate under my control.

Okay. Thank you all very much. I've got to go. Okay. Have a great day.


A simpler version of this page for printingPrinter-friendly Version

Home | Official Documents | Budget and Finance | Transcripts | Press Releases
Requests for Proposals/Solicitations | Business Center | Webmaster
Privacy and Security Notice

Volunteers For Prosperity First Gov USA Freedom Corps White House Foreign Aid in the National Interest