United States Department of Defense.
Presenter: Presenter: Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director, Coalition Operations; and Daniel Senor, Senior Adviser, CPA
|Monday, April 12, 2004|
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing
MR. SENOR: Following this press briefing, Dr. Mowaffak Rubaie will be holding a short -- making a short statement here, I think taking a couple of questions. It's immediately following, so we would ask that you all stay put.
And then following Dr. Rubaie's statement and a few questions that he'll take, General Kimmitt and I will be doing a short off- camera backgrounder in the press briefing center.
As far as Ambassador Bremer's schedule is concerned today, he attended a meeting of the Iraqi Ministerial Committee on National Security, in which he and General Sanchez provided an overview on the current security situation, addressed a number of related issues. Later in the day he attended -- he and General Sanchez attended a meeting at the Iraqi Governing Council, again to deal with a number of issues related to the current situation.
As we come to closure of Arba'in and literally thousands of individuals who have traveled to the country are now departing, we still emphasize that it's especially important that everyone remain vigilant, knowing that the -- this holiday, this memorial holiday period, is a very vulnerable time for Iraqis, given the designs that Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi and his al Qaeda affiliates have had on the local Iraqi population, particularly the Shi'a, during their religious holidays, religious times at the religious sites. And we encourage them, again, to continue to be vigilant. We have document after document after document that indicates that Mr. Zarqawi continues to have terrorist designs on Iraqis. The one we most recently obtained, he refers to the Shi'a: "They are the insurmountable obstacle, the lurking snake, the crafty, malicious scorpion, the spying enemy and the penetrating venom. The unhurried observer and inquiring onlooker will realize that Shia'ism is the looming danger and the true challenge. They are the enemy, beware of them, fight them. By God, they lie."
And we see this rhetoric in Mr. Zarqawi's documents come up repeatedly, and we know that he's taken credit for past operations, particularly against the Shi'a during religious times at religious sites. And as this one comes to closure, we must continue to be cautious.
GEN. KIMMITT: Thank you.
Good afternoon. Coalition military forces in Iraq are continuing active offensive operations throughout the area of responsibility. In the north, the situation remains relatively stable. Government buildings and infrastructure are secure, with Facility Protection Service and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps actively augmenting municipal authorities to maintain public order, and Iraqi security forces are playing an active role in maintaining security. Task Force Olympia is supporting the U.N. Elections Needs Assessment Team today. And the Mosul governor has reviewed the curfew and has shortened it from 9:00 in the evening to 7:00 in the morning.
In the 1st Infantry Division, the situation remains under control. There was a marked reduction in attacks on Sunday, with very few attacks in Kirkuk, Tikrit, Tooz or Samarra, and minor attacks in Baqubah.
Task Force Danger assesses anti-U.S. sentiment has been heightened by Al-Jazeera and other anti-coalition media reporting on the closing of Al-Hawza, the detention of Yacoubi, actions in Fallujah, the one-year anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, serving as the catalyst for increased attacks on coalition forces in their area of operations over the past 10 days.
In Baghdad, Task Force 1st Armored Division and the 1st Cavalry Division continues offensive operations against Sadr's militia and other anti-coalition forces. Units conducted three intelligence-based attacks to destroy and capture enemy targets and secure government facilities and police stations in Baghdad. Ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication and reduce enemy activity -- vicinity Abu Gharib continues.
In the western zone of operations, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force continues to observe a unilateral suspension of offensive operations in the vicinity of Fallujah and remains postured to continue offensive operations on order in the remainder of the zone.
In Iskandariyah last night, there was one attack against a convoy; in Mahmudiya, a patrol attacked by indirect and small-arms fire. In Ar Ramadi, the situation remains calm; 1st MEF is not engaged with the enemy in Ar Ramadi at this time.
In Fallujah the situation remains calm. The 1st MEF is not engaged with the enemy at this time. There was one attack reported on the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps personnel by indirect fire resulting in two wounded ICDC. The 506 Iraqi Civil Defense Corps Battalion continues to man outlying vehicle control points and the 36th Iraqi Civil Defense Corps Battalion is engaged outside Fallujah alongside coalition forces.
Enemy forces have conducted indirect fire attacks on several camps in static defensive positions in and around Fallujah and continue to use mosques, schools and houses to conduct attacks against coalition and Iraqi forces. Marines have also seen accurate sniper fire from the city and, again, today the situation is stable and under control.
In Multinational Division Central South the current situation is relatively calm. In Karbala the overall situation is stable. There remain approximately 8,000 pilgrims in the city center, completing the observance of Arba'in. The celebration ended yesterday, and pilgrims should be departing over the coming days. Sadr militia operates in certain areas of the city, but there have not been any reported attacks in the last 12 hours.
In al Kut the situation remains relatively stabile. The 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment continues operations to maintain order and restore legitimate Iraqi control over the city.
In Ad Diwaniyah the situation is stable with sporadic mortar attacks against coalition forces. There have been two attacks in the last 12 hours.
In An Najaf the situation is unchanged.
Looking forward, the division remains focused on force protection and supporting operations to defeat and destroy Sadr's militia. The division is planning to restore municipal governments and local law enforcement by working with local key leaders to facilitate the restoration of local control.
In Multinational Division Southeast the current situation is stable and under control. There were two attacks on coalition forces in the southeast that resulted in no casualties or damage to infrastructure.
In al-Amarah the situation is stable with two reports of attacks on coalition forces.
In Basra the situation is calm with no reported attacks this morning.
In An Nasiriyah the Italian brigade conducted a search operation in the town center on a building that was known to be the Sadr militia headquarters. The aim was to capture members of the Sadr militia and render the headquarters unusable. Italian troops conducted the operation. No Sadr militia were found. However, documents were recovered and a controlled explosion was conducted successfully in order to prevent any future use of the building in the short term.
In As Samawa the situation is calm. There's no reported attacks today.
MR. SENOR: And with that, we'll be happy to take your questions.
Q: Thank you. Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers. I wonder if General Kimmitt could just tell us, going back to the format that you had used before, what the number of engagements was for the week that ended on Saturday, the average number of engagements.
GEN. KIMMITT: I don't have that number with me. I can find it.
I think it's fair to say we probably saw somewhere between two and three times the average that we had seen in the weeks leading up, so somewhere on the order of between 50 and 70 over that time period, per day.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q: Sam Dagher, AFP. A question for, I guess, the both of you. There are reports this morning of an agreement between the coalition and militia in Najaf -- I guess maybe Sadr militia -- whereby the Iraqi police is allowed to go back into Najaf. Is that true? And could you tell us more about that, please? Thank you.
MR. SENOR: I know of no such agreement.
Q: (Through interpreter.) Thank you very much. Radel Azawi from BBC, BBC correspondent. At the outset, you were conducting so many conferences and interviews with the press, but without specifying exactly the casualties, the coalition forces casualties in Fallujah. While you have seen that most of the attacks were at the outskirts of Fallujah, but you haven't give us a figure or a number about the mortars that have been burned, or there are so many casualties among the coalition forces. Can you give us the figures and number of the casualtyies estimation, even if it is estimated?
The second question is, there is a saying -- some of the people or there is a report saying that the coalition failed to control Fallujah. And it has been said also that when you have just cease- fire, it was because you failed to control the whole -- to put all the areas under your control in Fallujah.
GEN. KIMMITT: I can tell you that the coalition casualties since the 1st of April runs about 70 personnel have been killed in action. I can tell you that the casualty figures that we have received from the enemy is somewhere about 10 times that amount -- what we've inflicted on the enemy.
In terms of civilian casualties, there is no reliable, authoritative figure out there. We would ask the Ministry of Health -- perhaps once Iraqi control remains inside or is allowed back in Fallujah, they can get a fair, honest and credible figure, and not one that is somehow filtered through some of the local propaganda machines that are operating inside Fallujah.
With regards to any suggestions that the Marines had been pushed or forced -- I will wait till the gentleman in the front is finished.
Q: (Through interpreter.) And the second question?
GEN. KIMMITT: Let me go to the second question.
Are you finished? Yes. Thank you.
Now, with regards to the question whether the Marines have stopped fighting because they've run out of fight, I can tell you that there is nothing further than the truth. The fact is that the Marines are ready, on order to continue the operations, to complete the destruction of enemy forces in Fallujah. They are more than capable. They're more than equipped. They're more than armed. We are at this point, however, working a political track, and we look forward to the fruitful discussions that can come about to achieve the ultimate end state, which is to restore legitimate Iraqi control of that city.
MR. SENOR: Yes? Go ahead.
Q: Betsy Heil, the Pittsburgh Tribune. Lately I've been getting -- well, all over Baghdad we're finding these flyers of intimidation of Iraqi police, intimidation of Iraqi journalists, intimidation with death threats. Ba'athists are issuing these flyers calling -- there's jihad groups, squadrons of -- you know, there's just all this stuff going on out there. And many Iraqis I speak to are really feeling intimidated right now. They feel like this is a really chaotic situation. And are you aware of this? And what are you doing about it?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, we're certainly aware of it. We see this as just another tactic on the part of the enemy to try to cow the population into relenting on their deep aspiration to move toward sovereignty and democracy and individual rights. We have said over the past few months, as we get closer and closer to handing over governance to the people of Iraq, those who are not interested in a democratic form of government in this country, those who are not interested in providing and allowing for a free press, those who are not interested and who have everything to fear from individual rights, from individual voting, from free and open discourse will go to no end and use any tactic they can, whether it's combat, whether it's intimidation, whether it's terrorism, to try to derail the process.
What I would simply tell you -- and I think I can speak on behalf of the coalition forces -- the coalition forces and the Iraqi security forces remain resolved to attacking these elements, defeating these elements, killing these elements and moving forward and remaining here in Iraq to provide a security situation such that the process can move forward.
MR. SENOR: I would just add that the examples that you cited illustrate a broader problem that we are trying to address, which are, as General Kimmitt said, organizations and individuals that are trying to use intimidation, trying to use mob violence to determine who will have power in Iraq, who will have authority, rather than relying on elections, which is the path we're heading towards with our path to sovereignty June 30th and then direct elections in this country seven months later. It is critical that we confront those organizations and those elements that want to use mob violence and intimidation against the Iraqi people. It's critical that we confront them now rather than after June 30th. It is critical that we cleanse the Iraqi body politic of the poison that remains here after 35 years of Saddam Hussein's totalitarian rule.
And that is what is behind so much of what we are doing, whether it's in Fallujah, confronting individuals or organizations that would literally go to such depths as mutilating individuals, civilians, killing coalition forces; whether it is those who use mob violence to wreak havoc and intimidate and try to take over government properties in the southern part of the country, such as Sadr's militia has done. We must confront these forces now. The task will only become more difficult down the road.
Q Dan, General, it's Carol Rosenberg with the Miami Herald. In light of what you just said, I'm wondering if the two of you can speak to your two separate paths about what you're doing in the south to ramp up efforts in terms of civil affairs and CPA activities in response to the challenge that has been presented by Muqtada Sadr. It looks like the U.S. military is moving back in there in a way that they haven't been there since they arrived about a year ago.
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, first of all, I would not consider those two separate paths. I'd consider those a one overall synchronized operation. The military's back in there right now, restoring order, going after Sadr's militia, destroying Sadr's militia. And now that the situation has started to become more stable, we certainly are out there engaging with local leaders. The Coalition Provisional Authority is coming back into their facility. They're going to be working side by side with the military.
The military will be trying to use as much money as we can to get down to that area to rebuild some of the damage that has been caused by Sadr and his militia; try to get some newspapers down there so they're seeing, in fact, what's really being said and what's really happening around this country; and doing everything you would expect the Coalition Provisional Authority and the military in direct support to the Coalition Provisional Authority to be doing in those areas as we're restoring stability, which is getting money down there, bringing hope down there, getting security down there, putting some projects in place down there, restoring legitimate authority down there.
Q: So business as usual from what existed before Sadr overran the coalition forces?
GEN. KIMMITT: I'm sorry; say that again.
Q: So returning to business as usual that existed before Sadr's militiamen overran coalition -- CPA activities?
GEN. KIMMITT: I don't think it'll be business as usual because, of course, this was a new threat. We're going to have to address that threat, take a look at the consequences, take a look at what has been now put into the minds of the people down there. But frankly what we'd like to do is get everybody back on the same path and take those actions necessary to get that town, and all the towns in central- south, back on the path towards understanding that they have a future of democracy, sovereignty, one that they have a participatory role in, get the schools back open, get the health clinics back open.
MR. SENOR: Carol, let me just also say that there -- at a national level, at a broader level here, there is no greater foil to Sadr and his mob violence militias than moving forward with the political process. That is why we are continuing to hand over ministries. As you know, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Health have all been formally handed over effectively to Iraqi control. We are going to continue doing that.
As you know, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. secretary-general's special envoy, is here. He is working on proposals for the political transition, for the formation of an interim government. He's consulting widely with Iraqis. He's been traveling all over the country in so doing. And so much of his work, as he himself has stated, is in fact, as I said, a foil to Sadr's militias and what they represent. And so it is important to highlight, while it hasn't gotten probably proportionate attention in recent days because of all the violence that has occurred, it is important to highlight that the U.N.'s work in trying to find a viable political transition going forward here continues. And that is representative of our broader commitment to handing over sovereignty and getting Iraq on a path so it can hold its own direct elections here seven months after sovereignty is handed over.
Q: (Through interpreter.) Hamza Hashin al-Ferat Newspaper. Thanks God that the operation, combat operation is about to be stopped or to be finished in Fallujah. What was the aim behind having all these operations in Fallujah? And they couldn't get any benefit out of conducting this operation, they couldn't get the people who mutilated the bodies or who killed those Americans. But we do want to know what the purpose behind having all these combat operations in Fallujah while the civilians were most of the casualties.
GEN. KIMMITT: Well again, it is still undocumented who suffered the bulk of the casualties in Fallujah, so let's set that to the side for a moment. Let's also set to the side any declarative statement on what the outcome has been or will be in Fallujah.
Even though we are now on a political track, we're now having discussions with both sides, I think that the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi leaders who go into Fallujah are going to have some fairly tough terms for those people that have killed contractors, who have killed fellow Iraqi citizens, and who have tried to use Fallujah as a battle position from which they can wage their war. So let's not prejudge the outcome of Fallujah until it's finally finished.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q: Dan, it's Ann Bernard from the Boston Globe. Just back on the question of the governance process here. Over the last week, obviously Governing Council members have been under a lot of criticism, a lot of pressure. People are calling them traitors at the same time that you're trying to move forward with their drafting of the appendix to the transitional law, which is supposed to set out the method of choosing the government that takes over in less than 80 days.
How much time is going to be left to sell whatever the result of that process is to the Iraqi people as a legitimate representative of them that's going to take care of things for seven months? And at what point is the Governing Council at in developing that plan?
MR. SENOR: Let me split up your question.
On the first part, I think it's important to highlight that we recognize that the Governing Council members have been under tremendous pressure. They are in a difficult situation. In many respects, they are representatives of various communities throughout this country and when some of those communities come under stress or are subjected to turmoil, be it even from within their own communities, they feel compelled to speak out and speak out to us. And we respect that. And it is a free country now and they can do that. And they have been doing it. And it actually has manifested itself in some very constructive discussions, not the least of which was today -- early today that Ambassador Bremer and General Sanchez had with the Governing Council. And there will be more.
The second part of your question, Ann. I don't think the way to look at this issue is whether or not it can be done within 80 days or 70 days or 60 days. The way we look at it is there is no alternative to getting it done, because if we allow the violence to pose a setback to the political process, the terrorists and the extremists will have scored an enormous victory. Sadr's militia and the thugs in Fallujah who mutilated Americans and murdered American soldiers will have won a major victory.
It is critical, we have said along, to continue our strategy, which is two-track. One is the military strategy, which General Kimmitt speaks to, about capturing or killing the terrorists and extremists that are waging their battle here in Iraq. Iraq, as we believe, is the central front in the war on terrorism.
Q: Can you give --
MR. SENOR: But there's also a political and economic strategy. And that is, by politically and economically empowering the Iraqi people we will do more to isolate the terrorists and more to isolate the extremists than just about anything else. And that is why staying focused on June 30th and staying focused on working hard, even if it requires a lot of work in a very short period of time -- we have got to be able to hand sovereignty over to the Iraqi people on June 30th.
Q: But can you give us a progress report on where they are in drafting that plan? What's the government going to look like? The interim government.
MR. SENOR: We have -- we in the coalition and the Governing Council several months ago requested the U.N. to play a role in making recommendations for the interim government to consult widely with the Iraqi people, which they have been doing, to look at what is necessary to get the requisite electoral infrastructure in place so Iraq can hold direct elections as soon as possible. They have been doing that. Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, Ms. Perelli, have both been here, heading up their respective U.N. teams, working on those separate issues. And I'd rather let them speak for themselves. I understand that they are -- they do -- they have been communicating with the press. They intend to communicate with the press increasingly in the days ahead. I will let them update you on their recommendations and where things stand.
Q (Through interpreter.) Najim al-Rubaie, from Distor newspaper. Mr. Dan, you just mentioned a little bit ago that there are -- some of the media were -- they were inciting violence and they were a catalyst for increasing attacks in the area. Do you have any measures -- have you taken any measures towards these media or toward these press? Are you going to have any political -- are you going to stop the operation in Karbala and Najaf also, or is there any other political solutions you are going to resort to it?
MR. SENOR: We have nothing to announce today in terms of plans to address our concerns with the satellite channels that you are referring to, which I presume is Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya.
But just to echo something that General Kimmitt said yesterday, we encourage all Iraqis, all Iraqi journalists, to take some of the reporting that is conveyed on those channels with a grain of salt, with a skeptical eye, because it really is -- I wouldn't even call it one side of the story. Many of the reports you're seeing are no side of the story. And there are many channels and avenues for accurate news reporting. Unfortunately, a couple of those prominent satellite channels are not the ones.
GEN. KIMMITT: With regards -- with regard to --
Q: (Through interpreter.) Comment only, Mr. Dan. (Inaudible) -- that we have to trust or we do not trust the reports, but there are pictures and there are photos that has -- can you just characterize a number of the resources that we can truly -- affected by or we can believe in? So if there are evidences, there are pictures, so why don't -- why do you -- why cannot we believe them?
MR. SENOR: It's not my role to recommend to you which news organizations to watch. I'm just telling you we have reason to believe that several of the news organizations do not engage in truth in reporting, and we want to raise your attention to that. These are judgments ultimately you're going to make for yourselves in terms of what you choose to watch and what you don't. It's a free country.
Q: (Through interpreter.) Fallaha Shakhati. How much is it true that you are having negotiations with some of the leaders in Fallujah, by saying that they have a condition, they just imposed a condition of setting free the Iraqi prisoners or detainees, that was one of the conditions of the side in Fallujah?
MR. SENOR: There is a delegation, representatives from the Governing Council and others, who have been moving in and out of Fallujah over the past couple of days trying to begin some sort of talks. It's at a very preliminary stage. Their goal, which is our goal, is to minimize bloodshed. They have also expressed an interest to use any suspension in hostilities to tend to the wounded, tend to the dead, to assist with the transfer of essential supplies from the Iraqi government into Fallujah. That's what's going on right now. We'll see where it goes from there. It's at a very early stage now. There are no sort of discussions, if you will, that have gone down the path that you're describing.
Q: General Kimmitt, Luke Baker from Reuters. Obviously, your forces have to retake Najaf in some way or other, and you've moved reinforcements down there. At this stage have you learned some sort of lesson from Fallujah and you'd rather pursue a political approach to retaking the city, or do you think it will require a military operation?
GEN. KIMMITT: I think that at this point all the options remain available. It would certainly not be our first choice to go into the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. We certainly understand what those cities represent to the people of this country, to the Shi'a religion. But we have an obligation and we have a responsibility to ensure that there is a safe and secure environment remaining in this country. And as long as Sadr and his militia continue to function within this country, we will have to consider all options necessary in order to bring Sadr and his militia to justice.
Q And -- I'm sorry, just a quick follow-up -- have you opened any political dialogue whatsoever at this stage?
MR. SENOR: There are no discussions that the CPA is engaged in.
Q: (Through interpreter.) Sohabin Mashafe from al Nahaba newspaper. Don't you think that the political and economical interests among the parties and among the individuals, and the democracy -- the aim, the banner of democracy that you came raising this banner, you came to Iraq under this address, where is the center, who is the master of situation, who is the real man of decision? Is it the members of the Governing Council or the CPA or the coalition forces? Is there any measures or any procedures in the coming days to stop all this kind of chaos in the country?
MR. SENOR: Ambassador Bremer and General Sanchez have been working quite closely with Iraqi political leaders to minimize bloodshed. And all of the decisions that they are making, whether it be in Fallujah or whether it be the manner in which we confront Sadr's militia, are focused on how we can head off violence, how we can minimize violence, how we can bring those individuals behind violence to justice.
GEN. KIMMITT: With regards to the question about the chaos in the country, again, a mischaracterization of the situation inside the country. It is not business as usual. We must acknowledge that. There are people out there who are taking hostages. There are people out there who are kidnapping people. There are people out there that are running through the towns of Kut, Diwaniyah, Karbala, Najaf that don't represent the elected officials, the appointed officials, the legitimate authority inside this country. But the situation is dramatically different today than it was as recently as five days ago.
We are restoring a tremendous amount of order to this country. We still have some time before it gets to where it was as recently as three weeks ago. Sadly, it's a tough job. Sadly, we're losing Iraqi soldiers to bring that stability back. Sadly, we're losing coalition soldiers to bring that stability back. Horribly, women and children are being drug into that fight by the extremists in Fallujah.
So it is not a rosy picture. It is not a happy picture right now. It will take some time before we can get this country back. But to characterize it as chaos is an overstatement -- (technical difficulties at source) -- small group of extremists that are having a large effect in the media. They're having a large effect on their capability to intimidate the 25 million people of Iraq. But the coalition and the Iraqi security forces remain resolved to go after these extremists, to kill them, and, as Mr. Senor said, to wipe this poison out of this society as far as possible before June 30th.
MR. SENOR: Sewell.
Q : (In Arabic.)
MR. SENOR: Sewell, go ahead.
Q: (In Arabic.)
MR. SENOR: You got to -- you got to -- go ahead.
Q Sorry. Sewell Chan with The Washington Post. General Kimmitt, as you just referred to, there's been a wave of foreign hostage taking, most recently seven Chinese hostages were taken yesterday. As you pointed out yesterday, a lot of the roads around Baghdad, including the major highways leading west and leading from Baghdad to the southeast, have seen a lot of insurgent activity; large -- you know, 40 to 50 men at once, you know, running vehicles off the road, shooting out tires, taking hostages.
What is the military specifically doing to address the security of the transportation infrastructure, to re-secure lines of communication, and to make it safe for people to come in and out of Baghdad by road?
GEN. KIMMITT: It's a good question. In fact, the two routes that we've been most concerned about are the East-West road running out of Baghdad, and the North-South road running down south to Babel province. We've had some activities over the last couple of days. We remain very concerned about the capability of insurgents to strike in those areas. Over the past 24 hours we've put a significant amount of combat power on both those areas of operation to open up those lines of communication so that we not only can resupply our forces in Fallujah, Ramadi, Habbaniya, our forces down south, but also to make those roads safe for travel. They're at a condition we would currently call amber. It is certainly not green yet. When it is impassable, we consider it black. When it's in partial -- impassable, dangerous, we call it red. Amber means there is a certain measure of risk you take. We hope to have it green within the days and weeks to come.
MR. SENOR: Ali.
Q: (Through interpreter.) Ali Saheed from Al-Jamuriya newspaper. I have two questions. Mr. Dan, there have been so many casualties, more than 450 martyrs and 1,500 wounded in Fallujah. Why is such an intensive bombardment in Fallujah? I say that they have -- I say that a group, a small number of bands have mutilated the bodies of an American, but not that the whole people of Fallujah have participated in this brutal action. You say that we are building your democracy, we are helping the Iraqis to go forward. Tell me exactly who were those four criminals who committed the crime? One of them was working for Blackwater Company, he was working in the intelligence. Please a clarification for this question. Mr. Kimmitt, two days ago General Sanchez have called for the 4th Battalion of the Iraqi force army. They stopped or they refused fighting. As Major Powell stated, also that those Iraqis refused fighting the Iraqis. So would you give us a clarification of the reason behind the training of those Iraqi people and their refusal of fighting those Iraqis?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, let's first of all hold judgment on the number of civilian casualties --
GEN. KIMMITT: Let's hold judgment on those casualties until we have legitimate authority in there, such as the Ministry of Health, that can go to the hospitals and actually truly ascertain the number of civilian casualties.
Let's talk about the people that were killed. There were nine people killed in the vicinity of Fallujah and Habbaniyah in that day. Four were security contractors that were there to provide assistance, to provide food to that local area. Five were coalition soldiers that were traveling in an infantry fighting vehicle when it was blown up by an IED. We are conduction operations in Fallujah not to go after the one or two people that committed those atrocities, but the number of foreign fighters and the number of former regime elements who have now taken to weapons because they have, for whatever reason, been deluded into thinking that the coalition is against their interests.
The fact is, if you take a look at the number of fighters that we are encountering in Fallujah, it is a large number. We think many of them have come from abroad. Many of them have come from other parts of the country to have some sort of fight with the coalition not because they have the interests of the people of Fallujah in mind, but they have their own selfish interests in mind; not because they think they have something to offer the people of Fallujah in the way of a better government, better social services, better life, but they simply want to kill the way they killed those four security employees, the way they killed those five coalition soldiers.
What are they bringing to the people of Fallujah? What do they bring to the people of Fallujah as they stand inside of mosques and fire weapons from those holy places? What are they offering the people of Fallujah as they stand inside of schools and use the windows of the schools, which should have children inside, but in fact they have foreign fighters, former regime elements firing from them? What do they offer the people of Fallujah as they are sitting inside the hospitals, on top of hospitals, acting as snipers against the Marines?
I would ask you to take a hard look at who is doing the fighting, who is creating the damage, who is in fact committing collective punishment on the people of Fallujah? I would argue that the collective punishment on the people of Fallujah is those terrorists, those cowards who hunker down inside mosques and hospitals and schools, and use the women and children as shields to hide against the Marines, who are just trying to bring liberation from those cowards inside the city of Fallujah.
MR. SENOR: Do you have --
Q: (Through interpreter.) Salama from New Iraq. There have been reports that a battalion, an Iraqi battalion, refused to join the operations in Fallujah. So what's your clarification about that or your comment?
GEN. KIMMITT: I think the -- there are units that, for whatever their level of training, whatever their level of experience, whatever their level of willingness, chose not to stand side by side with the coalition to liberate the people in Fallujah.
We have said for quite a long time that the development of the Iraqi security forces was going to take a long period of time. This unit felt it was not ready to fight, may not have been willing to fight. I certainly don't think that they were turning away from that fight because of any other reason.
We will be here for quite some time, working side by side, training, equipping and modernizing the Iraqi security forces. Any suggestion that those units are fully prepared for combat -- I think that we have said time after time it will still take some period of time.
But just as one of those units did not fight, we do have two other units from the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps side by side at vehicle checkpoints and also side by side with coalition forces, fighting the extremists in Fallujah.
MR. SENOR: Jane, go ahead.
Q: Thanks. Jane Arraf, CNN. Dan, I just wanted to ask you a bit more about the political process. Now our understanding is that the U.N. team is not doing a whole lot of traveling because of the security situation. How much do you think what's going on with security militarily is impacting the political process and that race to get an interim government in, particularly what's happening in Fallujah?
MR. SENOR: I would let the U.N. team speak for themselves on how the security situation is or is not affecting them. I can only point you to things that Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi has said and certainly to what Ambassador Bremer has said: that there is no more important foil to the violence being organized by terrorists and extremists and former Ba'athists than moving forward the political process.
So while moving forward the political process may be challenging in this environment, no doubt, I think all parties understand it is especially critical to move forward, in light of the violence, and stay focused on the June 30th hand-over and stay focused on our commitment to put together an interim government to which we can hand over sovereignty and to follow that up with direct elections, seven months following.
John, go ahead.
Q: Dan, John Burns, New York Times. With your usual felicitous choice of words, you said the CPA is not engaged in any negotiations with Sadr's people in Najaf, Karbala, Kufa. That doesn't preclude the possibility -- in fact, it seems like a certainty -- that Mr. Mohammed Douri and possibly people from Mr. Sistani's organization, or the Hakim organization, are talking and attempting to come up with some kind of formula that precludes or saves the coalition forces from the unwanted business of mounting an operation in those two holy cities. Could you tell us as much as you can about that?
MR. SENOR: You know, John, I can't. I'm not in a position to comment on discussions that other organizations or other individuals may or may not be having.
I can comment and I can speak on behalf of Ambassador Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority. And our position has been clear: The rule of law must prevail in Iraq. Our policy on the disbanding of militias, illegal militias, has not changed. It is fundamentally illegal for government buildings and government assets and other public assets to be stolen or taken over by illegal militias. Those are our positions. We've made them clear.
You're asking me to comment on what other people are doing or what other organizations may be engaged in, and I would just direct you to talk to them directly.
Q: Can I ask you a supplementary on that? Mr. Pachachi of the Governing Council, who is fairly careful in his choice of words, said at the weekend that there was a possible solution in the deferring under Iraqi law of the execution of the warrant against Mr. Sadr. Is that an opinion based in any reality at all?
MR. SENOR: I have heard Dr. Pachachi be quite outspoken on the matters related to Fallujah. I have not heard him comment on matters related to the south central part of the country. I know with regard to Fallujah he has expressed concern about what he characterized, or what he has characterized, as collective punishment and matters of concern relating to the overall military operation. We've addressed that with him.
He's been involved in discussions when we've talked about a Governing Council delegation heading to Fallujah. He's been involved in very constructive talks. I have not heard him at least communicate to us proposals for addressing the issue with regard to Sadr's militia.
Thank you, everybody.
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