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Image of Pentagon oval   United States Department of Defense.
News Transcript

Presenter: Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director for Coalition Operations and Dan Senor, Senior Advisor, CPA
Tuesday, May 18, 2004 11:06 a.m. EDT

Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

MR. SENOR: Good afternoon. Just a couple of details on Ambassador Bremer's schedule, then General Kimmitt has his opening briefing, and then we'll be happy to take your questions.

As you know, Ambassador Bremer this morning attended the funeral for Izzedine Salim, the former -- the deceased president of the Governing Council. Later in the afternoon, he had a meeting at our headquarters with Sheik Ghazi, the new president of the Iraqi Governing Council; talked about the agenda for the month forward. And then later in the day, as part of Ambassador Bremer's broader process here and wide consultations with the Iraqi people and Iraqi political leaders, as we move closer and closer to the formation of an interim government, he had a meeting with Dr. Adnan Pachachi. As you know, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi is engaged in similar discussions across the country and in Baghdad as we all work on these wide consultations for the pursuit of the formation of the interim government well before June 30th.

General Kimmitt?

GEN. KIMMITT: Thanks. Good evening. The coalition continues offensive operations to maintain stability in order to repair infrastructure, stimulate the economy and transfer sovereignty. To that end, in the past 24 hours the coalition conducted 1,778 patrols, 23 offensive operations, and captured 21 anti-coalition suspects.

There will be a prisoner release at Abu Ghraib on the 21st of May, and 471 prisoners will be released.

In the northern area of operations, coalition forces conducted five offensive operations in western Mosul, targeting anti-coalition cell leaders. Four individuals were detained for interrogation along with several weapons.

In the north-central zone of operations, coalition forces conducted a raid to kill or capture suspected members of an anti- coalition cell in Khadizia (ph). One of the two primary targets were captured without incident.

In Baghdad, coalition forces met with the head sheiks of Sadr City on Sunday to arrange a cessation of hostilities. The sheiks conducted an arrangement by which no hostile acts would be committed against police, civilians, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps or coalition forces by local residents in exchange for a reduced coalition presence in the area. Since that time, the situation in Sadr City has calmed, although there have been two violations, mortar attacks by unknown personnel.

In the west, the situation in Al Anbar province remains stable. As employment opportunities increase for Iraqis, 1st MEF will shift the focus to supporting and accelerating the process of preparing the Al Anbar province for sovereignty. There were no violations of the Fallujah cease-fire today. Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and coalition forces continue to maintain joint checkpoints to the north and east of Fallujah.

In the central-south zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi police forces conducted a cordon-and-search operation in Al Hashimiya. Seven men suspected of anti-coalition activities were detained.

In Najaf, the situation was relatively quiet today. Six mortar rounds impacted near the main Iraqi police station very early this morning, followed by seven additional rounds 30 minutes later. There were no injuries or damage from either attack, and as I said the situation throughout Najaf has been relatively calm today.

In Karbala, there was a minor engagement this morning resulting in one enemy killed near the Mukhaiyam Mosque complex. The afternoon was relatively quiet until a number of attacks against coalition forces began in the vicinity of the former mosque at about 1700 this evening. Since that time there have been a number of mortars and RPGs fired from forces nearby the holy sites.

In the southeastern zone of operations, there was a temporary withdrawal of all noncombatants from the CPA building in An Nasiriyah. Coalition forces are securing the property while Sadr militia are using hit-and-run tactics in various parts of the city. Coalition forces continue to patrol, maintain security in the city. And the Cimic House in al-Amarah was attacked on three separate occasions last night with seven mortar rounds. These attacks resulted in no injuries to coalition personnel nor equipment.

MR. SENOR: And with that, we'll be happy to take your questions.


Q Sewell Chan with The Washington Post. A question for Dan.

Dan, did Ambassador Bremer meet specifically with Dr. Brahimi today during his meeting or after his meeting with Dr. Pachachi?

MR. SENOR: Ambassador Bremer meets regularly with Mr. Brahimi and today he had one of those regular meetings.

Q Could you tell us whether or not security came up at this meeting and what specific assurances Ambassador Bremer gave to Envoy Brahimi?

MR. SENOR: Sewell, obviously we are always evaluating the operational security situation and force protection details -- around coalition members, around Governing Council members, around ministers, and around any other international officials that are here, like Mr. Brahimi. These are discussions that we have all the time with officials, and it may have come up today in passing. But I will assure you that a constant review of the security situation and the force protection provided to these officials is something we give the highest priority to.

Q Dan, I'm sorry. If I could ask just a very quick follow- up. I know that today's meeting with Mr. Brahimi was previously scheduled, but was the agenda -- I guess what I'm trying to ask, was the agenda changed specifically to address the assassination of Mr. Salim?

MR. SENOR: No. The agenda of the meeting is what the agenda of all their meetings are, which is the formation of the interim government.


Q Stephanie Halasz, CNN. One question regarding Nicholas Berg. We're hearing that there are reports that four arrests were made regarding the killing of Berg. Can you tell us anything about that?

GEN. KIMMITT: We have no information on the coalition that any arrests were made today.


Q (Through interpreter.) Lately the explosives and the explosive cause and assassinations of some officials that were happening -- do you anticipate that the transfer of authority will be done? Even the security has not been a shield.

My second question, General Kimmitt: During the operations two days ago the director of the police of Sadr City was changed. What is the reason for firing the director of the police in Sadr City?

Thank you.

MR. SENOR: On your first question, we have said for some time that we expected more violence, unfortunately, between now and June 30th as Iraq continues to make progress on the handover of sovereignty and the handover of government authority from the coalition to the Iraqi people.

Now over half of the ministries, for instance, are in the hands of Iraqi ministers. We've expected that there will be international terrorist organizations, former Ba'athist, Saddamists, Mukhabarat, Fedayeen Saddam that try to throw the process off track by engaging in violence. That will not deter us.

The second thing we have said for some time is that after June 30th there will likely be a significant terror threat inside Iraq, and that the Iraqi security forces, unfortunately, will not be in a position to defend against that threat by themselves. And therefore, American security forces will continue to play a role here helping to secure and stabilize the country. Iraqi security forces are increasingly going to play the enforcement role, and American security forces will play the reinforcement role. We've said that all along.

General Kimmitt often speaks to the things we are doing on the military side to pursue the terrorists and pursue the extremists associated with the former regime. That is our military strategy. It is dual-tracked, however, with a political strategy, and that is we believe as we hand over more and more authority to the Iraqi people, political authority, and as we continue to economically empower the Iraqi people, we make it that much more difficult for the terrorists and the former Saddamists to capitalize on a sense of despair, sense of frustration with the occupation. It is critical to isolating the terrorists that we continue to hand over political authority to the Iraqis, continue to let them see the economic benefits of the liberation. And so we have made a promise to the Iraqi people that the culmination of that process will be on June 30th. And we think it would be an enormous mistake to push off that date because it would be an enormous victory for the people that are trying to throw things off, like the terrorists and those associated with the former regime. We must stay on course here. American credibility certainly would be injured in the region if we made this promise that we've been quite vocal about, and then we broke it or postponed it. And secondly, it would make it that much easier for the terrorists who are trying to capitalize, as I said, on the frustrations here to score a win if we postponed it. So we're going to stay on track.

GEN. KIMMITT: And on the second question regarding the police chief in Sadr City, those personnel decisions are made by the Iraqi police service, Ministry of the Interior. I'd defer to them to give you the explanation for that personnel decision.

MR. SENOR: Yes, sir?

Q Anthony Lloyd (sp), The Times. A British national called Brown Tilley (sp) was shot and killed with five or six other people on Friday night in Baghdad in Al-Darah. I wondered if you got any details about that killing at all?

GEN. KIMMITT: We reported on Saturday that there was what appeared to be a case of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence in the al-Rashid district. I believe six people were killed -- six people were shot; five were killed, one was injured. There was an indication that one of the persons was of Western origin. Until you mentioned his name, did not realize he was -- who he was, nor that he was a British citizen. I think that we'd probably appreciate getting that information. That might help to go in and solve this case.

Q General, do you know what sexes the other five dead were?

GEN. KIMMITT: No, I don't. I can get that information for you. We can check that right after the press conference if you'd like to talk about it.

Q Thanks.

MR. SENOR: Yes, sir?

Q ARD, German Television, Joerg Armbruster (sp). Are you planning to improve the protection of the members of the government council? First question. Second question, the attack yesterday, was it aimed at Mr. Salim or was it just by chance that he passed by with his convoy?

MR. SENOR: On the first question, whenever we receive information about a threat to a particular Governing Council member, we obviously ramp up the close force protection. The existing president of the Governing Council, the acting president of the Governing Council at any given time has a more elaborate and comprehensive security detail than when they're not serving in the rotating presidency.

And as I said to Sewell earlier, we are always evaluating the security situation, given this environment that we're operating in, which, as you know, is quite dynamic from a security standpoint. We are always evaluating the force protection needs of our own people, the CPA; CJTF-7 is doing the same; our multinational force is doing the same, as is -- we are doing for the Iraqi officials. It is something we always do. It doesn't depend on one particular incident.

GEN. KIMMITT: And with regard to the specific incident of the death of the president yesterday, we had no specified, specific threat intelligence ahead of time to suggest that he was going to be a target at that place at that time. At this point I don't think we can rule out that it was either serendipitous or it was a targeted attack, and we're pursuing the investigation with both those in mind.

MR. SENOR: Rachel.

Q Hi. Just a quick question for General Kimmitt. Talking to Iraqis, a lot of them are not very confident that tomorrow, as the beginning of these court-martials, is actually going to have justice. They complain that there won't be Iraqis involved. They're suspect about whether or not it will be a fair trial. What is at stake here? What do you hope these trials will gain in terms of confidence of the Iraqis in relation to the prison scandal?

GEN. KIMMITT: Well, the first thing that we're going to do tomorrow is hold a trial by court-martial against Jeremy Sivits. That's the primary focus of what we're going to be doing tomorrow. He's been charged with a number of criminal activities and he will be judged in front of a courts-martial. We would hope that by making it open to the public, by making it open to the press, that the press would take advantage of this situation, not only to see American justice in action, but to record it and tell their readers about their observations.

Our aspiration is not to turn this into a show trial. Our aspiration is to mete out justice to Mr. Sivits. He might be found innocent. He might be found guilty. This is not meant to be an expository on the American justice system; it is meant to be a trial, the U.S. v. Jeremy Sivits. If there are some collateral benefits by opening it up to the members of the media and to the Iraqi people to watch this, there should be some benefits from that.

One thing I would say, though, is I would hope that everybody understands that tomorrow is just the first of six trials that we expect to have inside of Iraq in the case of the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. So I would hope that people take a look at this trial tomorrow and understand that it is just the first of a number of trials, and any judgments to be derived from either the observations or from what one reads in the newspaper -- that the total judgments will be reserved until the end of all the trials.

MR. SENOR: Yes, sir?

Q (Through interpreter.) Ali Naser (sp) from -- (affiliation inaudible). Mr. Mark Kimmitt, good evening. I have two questions. First, one for you, and one for Mr. Dan Senor. We know that an American embassy will be established in Iraq. What is the fate of the American forces after handing authority and sovereignty to the Iraqis? Are there any military bases for the American forces that would be established in Iraq? And where is it going to be, these bases, in the case of its establishment? What is your response to this?

My second question, to Mr. Dan Senor: What is the fate of the journalists who are not registered with the Ministry of Information, the previous one? We are very few. I beg you to hire us, just like the Iraqi network. Until now, we have not received any salary, and we have families. Can you establish a small media committee and learn from the journalists? At this convention center, we ask you to -- we do not accept any journalist that represents a newspaper. He represents a newspaper and we represent a newspaper. And thank you.

MR. SENOR: Are you a former employee of the Ministry of Information?

Q (Through interpreter.) Yes.

MR. SENOR: Okay. Well, for former employees of the Ministry of Information, a number of them have been hired by the Iraqi Media Network. But for those who were left without a job following the closure of the Ministry of Information, we've established a stipend program that I know you are aware of and, I think, have taken advantage of. So if you stick around afterwards and come back, I'll connect you with someone who has information on it, to make sure that you're compensated for the work that you have done.

Obviously, in the new and free Iraq there is no longer a Ministry of Information. The Ministry of Information was used primarily by the former regime as a tool of propaganda. We don't have such an operation. The Iraqi Governing Council has indicated it does not need such an operation, and we don't anticipate that the Iraqi interim government is going to need one either.

What there will continue to be is, as I said, a national network that will be independent. There will be an Iraqi regulatory media commission, which has already been established. We recently announced some of the members of it. And those will be the bodies through which, if you have done work with the Ministry of Information in the past, you may want to consider working with in the future. But as far as a broad ministry that is engaged in monitoring and managing the affairs of journalists, that no longer exists.

GEN. KIMMITT: With regards to American forces and coalition forces after 30 June, I think you will see very little change on July 1st than you did see on June 30th. Where the handover of political sovereignty is very much CPA ongoing until the 30th of June and then it departs that day, the troop differentials, the troop changes will be very, very gradual and over time. You will not see any change, any measurable change in the disposition, activities, nor conduct of the coalition forces on 1 July. There won't be any transforming event.

Coalition forces will continue to provide security in this country alongside their Iraqi security partners. Coalition forces will continue to work side by side with the Iraqi security forces, training them, manning them, equipping them. And we will continue to work side by side with our Iraqi security partners to grow them over time so that, as they become more effective, there will be less and less need for coalition forces in the future. But that is a gradual process that has started months ago and that will continue on for months and months to come. It will not be a very large change that you will see on 1 July as you would see on the political side, as such notables as Ambassador Bremer and possibly Dan Senor walk out the door and head back to the United States.

MR. SENOR: I would just add to that that, while Ambassador Bremer will leave the country and the Coalition Provisional Authority as a body will wind down and disappear on June 30th, there still will be a substantial presence here of American and likely other members of other coalition countries, civilian reconstruction workers.

In the case of the United States, we are deploying $18.6 billion here on the reconstruction of Iraq. And while we've started to deploy some of those funds in some areas, like electrical infrastructure for instance, oil reconstruction, oil infrastructure reconstruction, that will take several years to get it up to where we want it to be. And, therefore, we will be deploying some of those funds over several years and there will be civilian staff here that continue to work. The largest U.S. embassy in the world will be here in Baghdad. The largest USAID mission in the world will be here in Iraq. So Ambassador Bremer goes home, an Iraqi interim government takes over. But America's civilian reconstruction commitment to Iraq will continue.

Yes, in the back.

Q There are suggestions that Izzedine Salim was turned away from the checkpoint yesterday because he didn't have the right credentials. Do you know anything about that at all?

GEN. KIMMITT: That Mr. Salim was turned around yesterday? I knew of another senior official that was turned away for not having the right credentials, but I don't believe that was Mr. Salim.


Q (Through interpreter.) (Name inaudible) -- spokesman of the al Kut Al-Harra (sp). My two questions is for Mr. Kimmitt and Mr. Dan.

General, after the violations against the Iraqis in the prisons, do you have the intention of letting the CDC and the Iraqi police to participate in the management of jails to avoid these abuses in the future?

Mr. Dan, there's only 42 days remaining for the dissolving of the CPA and its administrator, Ambassador Bremer. It is noticed that the meeting of Ambassador Bremer is almost continuous with the majority -- (inaudible) -- that did not face any damages. Yet your statements say that we are here to protect the minority that has been subjected to damage. So wouldn't this minority deserve the attention of Ambassador Bremer as well?

Thank you very much.

GEN. KIMMITT: Ever since the -- well, in fact, for quite a few months now there has been much consideration about where do we go forward with the issue of detainees, both the detainees themselves and the detainee facilities. Much of that has been accelerated in light of the recent photographs that have been seen and the encompassing attention that has been drawn on Abu Ghraib since that time, and the other facilities as well.

There has been a commitment on the part of the coalition and the coalition forces to enhance the transparency, increase the transparency at Abu Ghraib and the other facilities. We have seen media visits out there. We've seen senior Iraqi notables visit out there. We allow families to come visit out there as well. That is all part of a method, a determined purpose on the part of General Miller and General Sanchez, to allow greater transparency, to demonstrate that what you saw in those pictures was a rare and isolated event, and that on a day-to-day basis that is not how those prisons are run.

The concept or the thought of bringing in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and the Iraqi police to work side by side with the coalition forces is not one that I've heard. That is certainly something that at least merits consideration. I'll pass that on to General Miller.

MR. SENOR: On your second question, Ambassador Bremer has made it a priority to ensure that all ethnic communities and regional communities in this country have a seat at the political table of Iraq's future. And those are communities, whether they're minority communities or majority communities -- some majority communities that didn't have a stake under the former regime -- the Shi'a community, which represents some 60 percent of the country, had no stake in the regime of Saddam Hussein and now has a substantial role in the affairs of the Governing Council. Sunnis are obviously represented on the Governing Council. Kurds. So are much smaller communities. Turkomans, Christians. Women certainly didn't have a role in Iraq's governance structure prior to liberation.

The Iraqi Governing Council that the coalition helped form is the most representative government in the history of Iraq. I would argue it's the most representative government in the region.

That said, it's still not enough. Ambassador Bremer has made it clear, Mr. Brahimi has made it clear, members of the Governing Council have made it clear that for the Iraqi interim government we should broaden the representation even further, even beyond the current makeup of the Iraqi Governing Council. We should always be striving to make it more and more representative. And as part of the consultations that Ambassador Bremer has been holding in the last several weeks, a number of the meetings that Mr. Brahimi -- my understanding -- has been holding over the past number of weeks are with communities sand community leaders that have never had a seat at Iraq's political table and now will. They will have a hand and they will have influence in forming this new interim government.

And in January of 2005 Iraq will hold its first direct election, just seven months after Iraqis get sovereignty. And there Iraqis will be free to organize in a political debate and political campaigns and elect the individuals they want to elect, whether they're the minority or the majority.


Q Thanks, Dan. Charlie Mayer from NPR. Ayatollah Sistani has called for forces to get out of Najaf. I wonder if you've seen any effects of that on the ground there or if you expect to see any change.

MR. SENOR: I have seen the reports. I have seen nothing else. I'll tell you, Charlie, that there are often reports about what the grand ayatollah has instructed that don't actually turn out to reflect reality. I don't know if that is the case here. We often see reports coming across a number of the Arab satellite channels that indicate that this political leader or this religious leader has instructed troops, whether they're coalition troops or members of the Mahdi Militia, to do this, that or the other thing. And it just -- we have to obviously look closely at it, make a determination as to whether or not Ayatollah Sistani has expressed wishes on this particular issue.

(To the general.) I don't know if you've heard anything on it.

GEN. KIMMITT: No, I haven't.

MR. SENOR: Okay. Yes, sir?

Q (Through interpreter.) Al-Khalidi from Al-Iraqiyah. You mentioned in your previous statements that two military bases would be inside the green zone and six outside in Baghdad. What about the governorates? Will all these bases depart or these bases will remain and the matter is limited to Baghdad only?

GEN. KIMMITT: I know that -- (inaudible) -- agreed on we would have two bases inside the green zone and six outside the green zone encircling Baghdad, but again, I think in the near term you're not going to see a significant shift in the basing arrangements for the coalition forces. We will still have forces in Mosul. We will still have forces in Tikrit. The same numbers of forces will be here on the 15th of July that are on here on the 15th of June. There will be no significant movement, transfer, reorganization, rebasing of coalition forces in that short time period of one month. And at this point we are still looking at the same level of forces to remain in Iraq for the near future.

As conditions change, as the security situation changes, hopefully improves, and as the Iraqi security forces grow and are able to take on more responsibility, then that would be the time that we would reevaluate the number of forces and their locations and their arrangements. But that won't be for some time.

MR. SENOR: You asked one. Go ahead, sir, right here.

Q (Through interpreter.) Abdulnasa Jamil (ph). Mr. Dan, according to your belief, will Iraq be for the Iraqis in fact after the transfer of authority? I mean, those who were subjected to damages from the previous regime, as my brother here mentioned, those who were subjected to damage, until now they do not have any rights, any salaries or anything. What would you say, Mr. Dan about those who suffered for tens of years? Thank you.

MR. SENOR: Ambassador Bremer has for some time talked about setting up some sort of compensation structure, that would live beyond our presence here, to compensate those families who lost loved ones under the former regime or those who survived the former regime but experienced torture or job loss or whatever suffering they may have been subjected to at the hands of the former regime. I announced about two weeks ago that we were close to finalizing details on a formal fund, a compensation fund, and there were a number of mechanics to be worked out, not the least of which is working with a number of Iraqis to select who will actually chair the fund, and finalize the amount of funding that will be dedicated to the fund.

It's a high priority, and we recognize its importance. And certainly, while we are looking to address -- work with Iraqis in dealing with reconciliation initiatives, compensating those who suffered under the former regime is at the top of the list. So I think shortly we'll unveil the details and there will be an Iraqi who steps forward that will chair that effort.

Last question. Yeah?

Q Owen Fay, Fox News. General, yesterday you said that the attack bore the hallmarks of a Zarqawi attack. Even though it's very early on in the investigation, do you have any information or intelligence that would suggest or lend credence to that? And do you also have anything that would suggest that he himself and his organization is likely to ramp up his attacks in the next few weeks?

GEN. KIMMITT: What we said yesterday was that it did show some of the hallmarks that we've seen in past Zarqawi attacks. As you know, there was a group that claimed responsibility last night. The name escapes me. But it certainly was not a Zarqawi affiliate that we're familiar with. Plus, some of the forensics evidence that we have picked up at the site would cause us to think that possibly this was not an attack conducted by Zarqawi, that it might have been an attack conducted by a different group because of a different methodology in some of the techniques that were used. And that's really about all I can say.


MR. SENOR: Thank you.


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