United States Department of Defense.
Presenter: Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director for Operations
|Thursday, December 18, 2003 9:00 a.m. EST|
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing
(Participating was Brig Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director for Operations and Daniel Senor, Senior CPA Adviser.)
MR. SENOR: I just have some brief comments to make, then General Kimmitt will have an opening statement and we'll be happy to take your questions.
Today approximately 100 Iraqi judges, lawyers, prosecutors and professors -- legal professors completed a two-week advanced legal training course here in Baghdad. This program was organized and coordinated by the CPA's Office of Transitional Justice and Human Rights at the request of the Iraqi Governing Council. The Iraqi Governing Council selects the participants.
I will read from an English translation of an Arabic statement that will be going out later today describing the program. "The seminar was designed to assist Iraqi jurists in the investigation and prosecution of alleged crimes committed by Iraq's former regime over the last 35 years. Seminar participants focused on the application of international legal standards to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
"Institute faculty and legal experts from Iraq, Great Britain, Australia, Spain and the United States led seminar discussions, which included international standards for the protection of the defendant, establishing proof of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and witness, victim and court protection. In addition, the participants examined and discussed the recently enacted statute creating the Iraqi special tribunal to try key Iraqis accused of committing atrocities in Iraq between 1968 and 2003."
In addition, I just point to your attention, in the event that you missed it, the statement issued by the Iraqi Governing Council yesterday, their statement -- their first formal statement following the capture of Saddam Hussein, their statement to the Iraqi people. You can find the statement on your own. I think we'll post it on the CPA website within the next 24 hours.
I'll just read two key themes -- three real key themes that this statement articulates, which we believe are all important, themes of justice, reconciliation and national unity. The statement says: "Those who died in Saddam's wars and the victims of his torture who ended up in mass graves or were subjected to chemical weapons carnage, and those displaced by his policies, now cry out for justice to be restored." But the statement also goes on to say that the Iraqi people have a history of "peaceful, brotherly and humane coexistence based on social harmony among the various elements of its population. Saddam and his regime tried to subvert this harmony, but the values shared by the Iraqi people are stronger."
And again, now this statement will be issued in Arabic later this evening.
GEN. KIMMITT: Thanks. Good afternoon.
The area of operations remains relatively stable. Over the past week, there's been a daily average of 22 engagements against the coalition military, three attacks against Iraqi security forces and two attacks against Iraqi civilians. Over the past month, the number of attacks on coalition forces remains lower than in previous months, although enemy attacks on Iraqi security services and civilians are increasing.
We do anticipate -- and the coalition remains prepared for -- any upturn in the weeks ahead. The coalition remains offensively oriented, in order to proactively attack, to kill or capture anti- coalition elements and enemies of the Iraqi people, to obtain intelligence for future operations and to ensure (sic) the people of Iraq of our determination to ensure a safe and secure environment. To that end, the coalition conducted 1,658 patrols, 49 offensive operations, 27 raids, and captured 183 anti-coalition suspects in the past 24 hours.
Simultaneous with these offensive tactical operations, the coalition continues to conduct stability operations to support the rebuilding of a free Iraq, reconstruction of its infrastructure and the transition of governance to its people.
In the North, coalition forces conducted 189 patrols, seven cordon-and-search operations, and detained 27 personnel.
Enemy forces conducted a drive-by shooting at a police station in north Mosul, killing one officer in the Iraqi Police Service and wounding a second.
In another attack, enemy forces fired a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms at an Iraqi police checkpoint in southeastern Mosul. One enemy was killed by Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers during an attack on a coalition convoy in Mosul yesterday. In another incident, three enemy were killed when they initiated a drive-by shooting on coalition soldiers in Mosul.
Ten enemy were captured during cordon-and-knock operations in west Mosul yesterday. In the first operation, soldiers were targeting a former Fedayeen with links to the Wahhabi. In the second operation, forces were searching for individuals suspected of anti-coalition activity.
Work on the Kefayel (sp) fuel storage distribution project started yesterday. This $200,000 project will add 10 million liters of storage capacity in Nineveh.
One hundred and ninety Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers began initial entry training today, and the recruits are scheduled to graduate in January, bringing the total number of ICDC soldiers in the zone to over 4,300.
In the north central zone, Task Force Iron Horse conducted 122 patrols, six raids, and captured 99 individuals. Twelve of the patrols were joint operations conducted with the Iraqi security services.
In Samarra, coalition forces continued Operation Ivy Blizzard to kill or capture former regime elements, destroy their cells and assist legitimate Samarran leadership in repairing infrastructure, funding quality-of-life improvements and stimulating the local economy, to empower the local government.
Forces raided numerous locations in the city of Samarra, capturing 86 personnel, including 12 known targets, and conducted 16 raids. During the operation, soldiers located and confiscated, among other items, over 200 AK-47 assault rifles, large amounts of explosives and ammunition.
In other operations in the north central zone, near Balad, forces captured eight people believed to be involved in anti-coalition activity. Northwest of Baghdad, an Iraqi citizen led coalition forces to two houses, where five individuals were captured, and in -- so discovered a false wall in one of the houses. Behind the wall were three AK-47 rifles, one shotgun, one submachine gun, a rifle scope and a cache of small-caliber ammunition. At a second location nearby, they found a tactical platform used to conduct and rehearse attacks.
Switching to Baghdad, coalition forces and the Iraqi Police Service conducted Operation Iron Justice against criminal elements in Baghdad, by attacking and disrupting their funding sources. Forces conducted 552 patrols, 14 offensive operations, and detained 20 individuals. Six enemy, including four known targets, were captured in a joint ICDC and coalition raid yesterday in Sadr City, disrupting a counterfeiting ring. Additionally, acting on a tip from local Iraqis, coalition soldiers captured one of the former chiefs of staff for Qusay Hussein.
In the West, coalition soldiers conducted four offensive operations, 187 patrols, including six joint patrols, and captured 23 enemy personnel. Civil Affairs teams established a civil-military operations center at the Arar border crossing, in preparation for the hajj.
One hundred and seventy Civil Defense Corps soldiers graduated today. One hundred and twenty-one new ICDC recruits were in process for the next class. Border police training continues at al Asad, with 206 personnel, and the police academy at Ar Ramadi continues to train 113 officers. These forces will join 5,500 other Iraqi security services currently operating in the zone when they graduate.
In the central south zone, coalition forces conducted 129 patrols and detained 10 personnel. Four Iraqis were detained and their trucks confiscated, with 18 full 55-gallon drums and gas pumps. The individuals were detained for suspicion of smuggling and black marketing and were transferred to the Iraqi police service for custody.
The Judicial Review Committee in Baghdad dismissed the chief judge and five judges in Karbala from their duties after an investigation determined them to be corrupt or to have significant connections to the Ba'ath Party.
In the southeast zone of operations, coalition forces conducted 306 patrols and detained three persons. In An Nasiriyah, an officer in the Iraqi Police Service was killed on duty and three others were wounded following a drive-by shooting at an Iraqi police checkpoint.
A reverse-osmosis water purification plant was opened in Basra yesterday. The project was funded by the Coalition Provision Authority, completed by Iraqis, and the equipment donated by the Kingdom of Kuwait.
Let me now open the floor for questions.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q General Kimmitt, in reference to the tanker trucker explosion yesterday that killed 10 people, what is the evidence that this was simply a traffic accident? And how do you account for the dramatically different conclusion the Iraqi police reached?
GEN. KIMMITT: We reached a separate conclusion. I would go to the Iraqi police for their evidence. It is our -- it is the information we received from the Iraqi Police Service which led us to that conclusion.
Q But -- sorry, but they advised us that their information was that it was explosive-filled trucks. So what is the evidence that they provided you?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, that must be a new report provided by the Iraqi Police Service, so I would go with their report.
Q So -- but can you tell me what is the evidence that they gave you?
GEN. KIMMITT: Again, the evidence that was given to us by the Iraqi Police Service suggested at that time that it was an accident. If they have changed the -- their analysis, then I would go with the Iraqi Police Service conclusion.
Q Thank you.
MR. SENOR: Please identify yourselves before asking a question.
Lisa? You had your --
Q Lisa Barron, CBS News. The Governing Council yesterday asked Ambassador Bremer to change the designation of Saddam Hussein from war prisoner to war criminal. The Pentagon says, however, they have not yet put any designation or title on him. Can you clarify that, please?
MR. SENOR: Yeah, that's an issue that's going to have to be addressed by the lawyers, and we'll wait -- they're currently considering that issue. We'll wait for them to come down with a conclusion and recommendation before we move forward.
The important point is that any trial for Saddam Hussein is fair, transparent and subjected and consistent with the most -- highest legal standards from the international community. We are committed to that. The Iraqi Governing Council is committed to that. They've made that clear. The Iraqis will have a very important role in trying Saddam Hussein.
Q General, Peter Spiegel with The Financial Times. Can you give us some more detail what's going on in Samarra right now, with Ivy Blizzard? There seems to have been quite a bit of activity in terms of picking up folks. How much of this is tied to information that may have been gleaned from Saddam's capture? And is Samarra now seen as a rather -- a center of some of this opposition activity?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, as you know, we've had problems in Samarra for quite a few weeks. Three weeks ago, we had the incident where we had the major engagement with persons in Samarra trying to rob the ice trucks. We had a situation the other day where we had another ambush inside Samarra. It is our assessment that the city of Samarra continues to be a location where a number of insurgent groups, former regime elements are operating out of.
General Odierno and his forces are inside Samarra now, trying to separate the insurgents from the legitimate authority within Samarra. And those are the operations that you're seeing ongoing.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q I'm Steve Franks from The Chicago Tribune. You talked about increased attacks on Iraqi targets. Can you be more specific? And also, I think you mentioned that you expect an increase in the coming weeks in such similar attacks.
GEN. KIMMITT: What we -- what I said was that we are seeing a increase in the number of attacks perpetrated against civilians within Iraq. That usually defines itself or usually manifests itself in roadside bombs against civilians and against -- direct assassinations on the Iraqi Police Service, the ICDC, so on and so forth.
It is still too early to tell over the next few months if we're going to see it more stable or more turbulent. Ambassador Record -- Ambassador Bremer has gone on record -- and so has General Sanchez -- that as we get closer to transition of the government, that may create some more turmoil, whether it's intersectarian, whether it's directed against the coalition.
But nonetheless, if the activities start to spike up, we are prepared to handle that spike.
Q Just once again, do you have any ballpark figures? You say there's been an increase. We're talking about twofold, threefold, a minor increase?
GEN. KIMMITT: Over the past few months, we'd seen maybe one to two attacks against Iraqi civilians every other day or so. Now we're starting to see about two to three per day. I believe in the last week there have been as many as 21 incidents that we can attribute to people attacking civilians.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q General, Peter Wilson of The Australian. If I could just go back to the question about the tanker, it was widely reported yesterday that the Americans reached their own conclusion after their expert visited the site and decided that there were no traces of explosives, that there was no evidence of explosives having been there. Did you just say that they actually reached their decision based on information from the Iraqi police?
GEN. KIMMITT: What I said was that if the Iraqi police, who were handling the investigation, had come up with a different conclusion, they have the lead on the investigation.
Q (Name inaudible), the Romanian radio. Coming back to the attacks on the civilians, what will you do to protect them, considering that, according to some reports I've had, during the past several days, anti-Saddam civilians in (Dawr ?) were threatened by Saddam loyalists, they asked for help, and no one came to protect them?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, I think that's a good question in terms of what does any country do to protect their civilians. We have police forces, we have military forces in some countries that assist in that as well. And what we do to protect the civilians and the people of Iraq is to continue to grow the Iraqi security services along with the coalition. That's why you're seeing such an emphasis on the part of the coalition to grow the police services, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, the Border Police Service. And we need to make it very, very clear to those who would attack Iraqi civilians and the coalition that there is a price to pay. We will find you, we will kill you or we will capture you.
MR. SENOR: And we're also -- I'll just add to that - we're also seeing a steady trend of an increase of number of Iraqis that want to participate in the various security services. In fact, I don't want to make too much of this too early on because it's difficult to quantify up one data point and whether it will impact the result in some sort of trend line. But on the morning after Saddam Hussein's capture was announced, we had a record spike in the number of Iraqis signing up voluntarily to serve in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. And what's interesting is the concentration of that spike was mostly in the Tikrit area. Again, I qualify that by saying we have to monitor that, but it certainly is a good signal, and it's consistent with what we have been seeing across the board: steady increase in the number of Iraqis who want to participate in protecting their country.
Q Julie McCarthy with National Public Radio. Could you give us an idea of what that spike represents, how many, what numerically what that represents, firstly? Secondly, can you address -- either of you address this question of the discovery of a 500-page document in Saddam's possession when he was captured? And thirdly, is Saddam providing any kind of information that is generating the offensive actions? In other words, is he providing names, locations, any sort of information that has created what appears to be a spike itself in offensive actions, in Samarra and other places in the Sunni triangle? Thank you.
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, as regards to the intelligence, as you know, we don't typically comment on sources or methods or on ongoing operations, so -- the interrogation of Saddam Hussein has been turned over to the Central Intelligence Agency. If you have any questions about those specific issues, I'd take that up with the CIA.
MR. SENOR: And as to your first question, Julie, we are not releasing the numbers yet, but we have been told by our recruiting personnel that it is a record number that they saw Monday morning. In the days ahead, we will, hopefully, have that data and be able to release it to you.
Q On the attacks on Iraqi civilians -- sorry, Nick Watt, ABC News. With the recent killing of Mohammed al-Hakim, are you expecting to see a spike in, perhaps, factional assassinations? And is there anything that you can do to specifically guard against that?
MR. SENOR: We have seen targeted assassinations against a number of Iraqis over the past few months who are working with the coalition and working on building a new, free, democratic Iraq, whether they're Iraqi police officers or Iraqi political leaders, member of the Governing Council, deputy mayor of Baghdad. I mean, this is something we've seen.
Clearly, the bitter-enders, the remnants of the former regime and the former terrorists recognize which direction this train is heading. And it's heading towards the transfer of political independent sovereignty to the Iraqi people this summer, and the train is moving quickly. And as General Kimmitt referenced before, Ambassador Bremer and General Sanchez have been clear, those who want this to fail will likely increase the frequency of attacks, not decrease them, between now and then because they want to send this -- throw this train off the rails. It will not.
So if you reference a specific attack against an Iraqi leader, we will do everything we can to protect the situation, to prevent against it. That's what we're doing. That's what our own security is doing, our own military on the ground, as General Kimmitt referenced. That's what we're doing with Iraqi security personnel who are stepping up. But we have to be clear: there will be more attacks. We work hard to prevent against them. It is a sign of the threat the situation is posing to those who are invested in an undemocratic, terrorist- supported Iraq.
Q Alan Sipress, Washington Post. General, you said there are about 21 attacks daily, on average, against Iraqi citizens now, civilians.
GEN. KIMMITT: Weekly.
Q Oh, 21 weekly.
GEN. KIMMITT: Right.
Q Right. Can you give us a sense of what type of jobs or functions those civilians are filling?
GEN. KIMMITT: Really haven't done the analysis on that.
Q Anecdotally. What types of folks, what types of jobs?
GEN. KIMMITT: I can talk at length about the ones in the security service. We see that the majority of attacks against the Iraqi security services are primarily concentrated against the Iraqi police services. Regarding the individual civilians, I couldn't even speculate.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Marie Arvala (sp), CNN. We keep hearing rumors about some prisoners may be being transferred to Guantanamo Bay. Can you clarify this for us, General Kimmitt, please?
GEN. KIMMITT: Sure. We are not transferring detainees to Guantanamo Bay at this time.
Q Any plans?
GEN. KIMMITT: I'm not aware of any plans to do that.
Q Thank you.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q David Endew (ph), Sunday Times. Troops arrested 16 kids at a high school yesterday in Baghdad, and I was just wondering why that would happen, and why at least it wouldn't happen until after they had left school.
GEN. KIMMITT: I'm not aware of that report. Let us get back to you on that.
Q Dan, can I ask a bit about the -- again, Peter Spiegel, Financial Times -- about the contracts coming from the supplemental. There was some reporting this week that some of that had been moved to the right. I think this week we were supposed to get sort of the final approved list of who was qualified, and then contracts awarded sometime in February. Can you bring us up to date on where that is and why Admiral Nash was brought back to Washington?
MR. SENOR: I don't know about Admiral Nash's travel plans. But that is an issue being addressed in Washington. I'd refer you to the administration spokespersons in Washington. It is not a decision- making process that's being led out of Baghdad.
Q (Name inaudible), Al-Jazeera. Is there going to be international interference in Saddam's prosecution? And could you verify the position of the judges -- the international judges that were here in Baghdad?
MR. SENOR: To your first question. As far as the special tribunal is concerned -- and we are talking with the Iraqis and -- in response to Lisa's question -- we are working out, based on discussions with the lawyers, about what Saddam Hussein's status would be and how, exactly, he'll be tried. But if your question is about the special tribunal, I can tell you that international observers and experts are required on the tribunal. They are given the -- the tribunal is given the option to request international judges. So there is an international component to the tribunal.
But precedent in the past in various countries that have had special tribunals, when the international community takes complete ownership of the process, it is not to replace an existing legal infrastructure, but rather to get involved in situations where no legal infrastructure exists. That is not the case in Iraq. There is a strong legal tradition. There is a strong legal academic tradition that dates back to the University of Basra legal school, the University of Baghdad law schools. It is a legal institution, if you will, that was on hold, put on hold for 35 years under Saddam Hussein's regime, but not necessarily corrupted and not necessarily involved with the atrocities.
So what we're doing right now is working with a number of the judges, retraining them, those who need it, and then putting them in motion so that they could be selected for a tribunal.
The international standard is based on whether or not the local population is willing and able to conduct their own tribunal. And the Iraqi population is more than willing and more than able to handle the job. There will be opportunities for international help. It's detailed in the special tribunal statute. But this is a process that will be led and managed by the Iraqi people.
Q Carol Williams with the Los Angeles Times. Have any of the Iraqi jurists or prosecutors had access to interrogate Saddam Hussein, or is the Sunday meeting between the four Governing Council representatives the only contact that there's been between Iraqis and the prisoner?
MR. SENOR: To my knowledge, the only meeting that has occurred was between the four members of the Iraqi Governing Council that visited the undisclosed location.
Q Maria Arbelais (sp), again, CNN. Going back to the tribunal and the announcement that you made today that these courts -- the first court has been held, has finished, and all these people have, quote, unquote, "graduated" from it, how long do you think it'll be before trials are actually being held by the tribunal?
MR. SENOR: That's very difficult to speculate upon. This program is merely a training program, as I said, for approximately a hundred individuals, from which the Council of Judges can select individuals to serve on the tribunal.
But as for the first case, that's going to take some time to figure out. As you know, in other countries, it sometimes takes time to begin the -- get the indictment organized and to launch the investigation and do all these things. So there is some time involved. But we're working on that right now.
Q Okay. To make something clear on that, if I may, these members, these people are going to be selected by the committee. Does -- is the CPA involved in the selection of these people, who eventually will be judges and defense lawyers and prosecutors?
MR. SENOR: They will be selected by the Council of Judges, the Iraqi Council of Judges, which is an Iraqi institution.
Yes? Go ahead.
Q About Saddam Hussein tribunal, maybe the United Nations sends somebody as a supervisor of this tribunal?
MR. SENOR: We have said that there's a role for the international community in the tribunal. This is -- we have said that international observers and experts can assist --
Q Observers --
MR. SENOR: -- observers and experts can assist the judges and that the Iraqis can request international judges to try cases in the tribunal. That is very clear in the statute that was drafted by the Governing Council, which the coalition gave them the authority to draft. So that is quite detailed.
As to specifying who -- which organizations, be they international organizations or NGOs or whatever that would be represented, is not something that we have addressed. But to your point, there is plenty of opportunity for international representation and involvement in the process.
In the back.
Q Why is there a shortage of petrol in Baghdad still?
MR. SENOR: Ah, pet--? --
Q A shortage of petrol.
MR. SENOR: I thought you said ‘ a shortage of people.’ I think it's about 5 million -- anyways, the petrol problem or the gas problem, for our American audience, is -- emanates primarily from three areas. We have a demand problem, and we have a supply problem, and we have a distribution problem.
The demand problem isn't so much a problem as actually good news. As you may have heard me reference from this podium before, we have a quarter of million new cars that have come into the country since liberation. That's the result of removal of customs and the end of sanctions and a burgeoning commerce environment. So there's increased demand on gas.
The supply problem emanates from trucking problems at the Kurdish border, and there's holdup there. There has been a holdup there. We've addressed it. It's stopped. It may, you know, resurrect itself.
There has been supply problems with attacks, political sabotage on the refineries. This -- these refineries, as you know, with all the oil infrastructure and the electrical infrastructure and the water infrastructure in Iraq -- is very susceptible to political sabotage, political attacks against the infrastructure, because of 35 years of chronic underinvestment by Saddam Hussein. These are -- this is equipment that is literally held together by duct tape and wires. It is equipment that has not been maintenanced for decades.
So when -- and there's no redundancy built into the equipment. So when there is an attack, it is very common that it can stop or slow down activity. So that -- those two factors have been contributing to the supply problem.
Now the distribution problem is, of course, getting the trucks of petrol down to the gas stations. It involves the actual antiquated technology at the gas stations. These gas pumps operate -- I heard an estimate today that came to us through the Ministry of Oil -- the gas pumps operate at a speed of about 25 percent or a quarter of what normal modern gas pump operates. It just takes a lot more time to pump gas here.
Again, we've got to get the infrastructure built up. Even at the gas stations, the technology's got to be improved.
So you have all these factors at play, and they compound themselves by creating a sense of -- an environment where hoarding is common; where, as a result of all these issues, people tend to fill up their gas, 50 liters, a hundred liters at a time. They're doing it much more frequently, whereas letting their gas tank go down to half -- you know, they're filling up at half a tank or a quarter of tank, rather than letting it come much closer to empty. So they're filling up that much more often.
And there's also black market manipulation, as you may have seen on the streets, that are going on around the gas stations.
We are tackling the supply problem. We are tackling the distribution problem. There is nothing we can do about the demand problem. That's a good sign of commerce and business activity in Iraq.
And we are also -- in the days ahead, we'll be launching an information campaign to the Iraqi people to explain to them that there is enough gas in this country to meet their needs. And so they don't have to engage in the sort of hoarding that's been going on, which is perfectly understandable based on the information they have up to this point. But hopefully they'll cut down on it once they have better information, and that will really contribute to a reduction in the lines at the gas station.
Q Tom Frank from Newsday. The 250,000 new cars you mentioned --
MR. SENOR: Yes.
Q -- do you know to what extent that represents new drivers? Because my impression is that a lot of people have just gotten new cars without being new drivers. That is, they've traded in their old cars.
MR. SENOR: I don't have information on that. I can or you can check with the Ministry of Transportation, and they may be able to answer that question.
Q And if I can follow up, what caused the shortages of the -- the long lines at this moment, because the conditions you described, I don't understand what would have happened that would have triggered it precisely at this time.
MR. SENOR: It's typically not just one event. For instance, in the last couple weeks at this time, at this period, there was a strike, a truckers' strike, the transporting the gas across the Turkish border. That held things up for a couple days. Therefore, there was no distribution down to Mosul, which was receiving gas from up on the Turkish border. So that created a buzz that there was these enormous shortages, so people were going to fill up earlier than they normally would, and so that contributes to the hoarding. And then the hoarding then feeds on itself and contributes to the market manipulation.
So, you know, it varies. At this time, the last couple weeks, we had the problem up north, we have the antiquated distribution problems that -- the antiquated technology problems I described that, you know, complemented with the strike and the shortages and the stops up north, all sort of played together.
Q Taha Barrak (ph) from (INN ?). Did you, the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Governing Council, did you assign a date for the Saddam Hussein's tribunal? And if you did, when it's going to be? Second question, please, is -- the second question is, if Saddam Hussein is really detained in Iraq or abroad right now.
MR. SENOR: What's the second question, sir?
Q Saddam Hussein, his capture, is he captured in Iraq right now or he's abroad? We heard he's in Qatar.
GEN. KIMMITT: Saddam Hussein is in coalition custody in a safe location.
MR. SENOR: As for the trial of Saddam Hussein, the date, that's a decision that will be dealt with down the road, and it is a decision that will be driven by the Iraqi people, not the coalition.
Time for one more question, anyone who hasn't asked one already. All right, two more. Julie and you and then we'll wrap up. Go ahead.
Q Back to the gas shortages. Can you tell us precisely what have been the latest sabotages on the pipeline? Have there been any in the past three weeks, for example? And if the trucking strike is over, it would seem that things should be moving much better than they are. And the trucking strike's been over for two weeks.
MR. SENOR: I cannot release any information right now on specific attacks. We've been asked by the Iraqi Ministry of Oil to not be releasing attack information and also not to be releasing detailed data about production and supply like we have in the past, because those pieces of information are obviously monitored by those executing the attacks and they capitalize on that information. So I cannot answer the first question.
To your second question, look, these things have a ripple effect. I mean, you know the way things work here, as in many parts of the world, particularly this part of the world; when a statement is made and a buzz continues off it, it creates a rumor and it generates and it has this ripple effect that's hard to contain within 24 or 48 hours. It's a much more sort of longer-winded effort to contain the spread of the rumor and address the concern in sort of a media sense that is necessary to address the problem.
There was one other. Right there. Go ahead. Will you turn on your microphone, please.
Q Steve Franklin, Chicago Tribune. There have been two soldiers ambushed in the last few days. How does that figure hold up? You talked earlier about the number of attacks on troops. And secondly, there have been also figures reported on estimates of the number of insurgents, a figure of about 5,000. Can you talk about that figure also?
GEN. KIMMITT: On the second figure, we've seen varied assessments that range from 500 to 5,000 or even higher. I don't think we really have a good fix on that number. That's one of the issues that our analysts, our intelligence analysts work on every day. I'm not sure that we come with any clarity into a range on that, but they keep working on it every day.
With regard to the loss of coalition lives, yes, that's a -- it's tough every time we lose a soldier. It's tough every time we have to tell a family that the soldier's passed on. But the numbers of soldiers that have been killed over the last week or so, in fact the last couple of weeks, is down considerably from the trend that we saw in November. Every one of them is tough. Every one of them is a tragedy. And I'm glad to see that the numbers are going down, but nonetheless, we'd like to get that number down to zero.
Q What does "down considerably" mean?
GEN. KIMMITT: I can't remember the exact number from November, but if you look since May, the number has ranged about one to two every day. We have not seen that during the month of December right now.
MR. SENOR: Thanks, everybody.
GEN. KIMMITT: Thanks.
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