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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Lt. Gen John Sattler, Commander, 1ST Marine Expeditionary Force, Lt. Gen. Abdul Qader Mohammed Jassim Mohan, Commander of Iraqi Forces and Mr. Thair Al Nakib, Spokesman for the Prime Minister of Iraq Friday, November 12, 2004 11:02 a.m. EST

Coalition and Iraqi Forces Briefing

(Note: General MOHAN' s remarks are made through an interpreter.)

MR. AL NAKIB : (In Arabic.)

GEN. SATTLER: Is there an English translation? She was going to translate. I'm not sure if we -- if she can read that in English so everyone can hear, for the English-speaking press.

MR. AL NAKIB : (In Arabic.)

Q Can he just summarize it for --

GEN. SATTLER: Well, can you just -- can you just summarize it in English for --

INTERPRETER: Yeah, sure.

Well, actually, first of all, the prime minister he would like to express his happiness regarding the great actions that have been taking place with the military, the Iraqi military and all the multinational forces. And he just want to say that we don't have that much casualties in both the Iraqi forces and the multinational forces. And we got some detainees, and the number is 10 from Iran, one from Saudi Arabia, one from Sudan, one from Egypt, one from Jordan, and one -- we believe he speak French. Up until now we don't know if he's French or not.

The prime minister has met with the secretary of interior and secretary of defense, and they met with the tribe leader of Al Anbar and Fallujah, and they discussed so many issues regarding the situation, future of Fallujah, future of Al Anbar, and how we can contain the situation there. They gave the prime minister of the full support to help him to contain the situation over there.

Also the prime minister met with the leader of the parties or the main parties in Baghdad, and they discussed the security issue and the Fallujah crisis, and they discussed how to go forward toward democracy and election. He got full support from the Sunnis, from Shi'ites and from the Kurds.

Also, the prime minister spoke with His Excellency the Secretary of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. He spoke to Kofi Annan. And he explained to him how the Fallujah issues is very important to the Iraqi, and we have to solve this problem as soon as possible, because it's affecting the security in Baghdad.

There is a medical team is going to arrive, to Fallujah, and to take a look on the hospital and what the needs of the hospital are, how can they support the medical issues over here in Fallujah.

Another team too is coming to Fallujah and to Anbar and to estimate the reconstruction of Fallujah. And the prime minister decided to start with the reconstruction as soon as the crisis in Fallujah will start or -- cool down.

He nominate like about a hundred million dollars for the reconstruction of Fallujah. And there is many projects already in hand that -- we are going to start with it as soon as possible.

Thank you.


(Note: General Mohan's interpreter is off mike during the following sequence.)

GEN.MOHAN : "Salaam aleikum." (About the ?) operation, military -- (off mike) -- (and we start ?) the second part of the -- (off mike) -- which means we transferred (the fight ? to the south part of the city.

At the same time, the north side, we start to clear it house by house. Our -- (off mike) -- of our troops and -- (off mike) -- situation, and they made clear (that this land ?) and they finish it in a good time. (Off mike.)

About the enemy forces, they just fight like the snipers, with a few groups like -- (off mike) -- and they start -- (off mike) -- outside -- (off mike).

Our troops, they continue the shelling to the (troops ?), and they had a good result. I want to -- (off mike). I'm not sure, but I want to make sure that -- (off mike). (Off mike.)

MR. AL NAKIB : Excuse me. There is one issue that he mentioned, that now there is a group of the insurgents, they are surrounded now, and there is 300 in the mosque, and they are negotiating surrender.

GEN. MOHAN : We continue the operation. (Off mike.) It's very hard to believe it. We -- (off mike) -- about the weapons -- (off mike).

MR. AL NAKIB : (Inaudible.)

GEN. MOHAN: Of course we find the place of --

MR. AL NAKIB : The massacre that happened.

GEN. MOHAN: (Off mike.) We cannot announce the names -- (off mike) -- and we cannot -- (off mike).

This is the north area, and this is the south area. We cleared the south area from -- (off mike). We started in the south area last night. As far as the -- (off mike). We (tried to secure ?) all the area in the south and in the north because Fallujah now is likely a big source for all kinds of weapons and -- (off mike).

GEN. SATTLER: There's nothing else I wanted to add to the opening comments, as I realize everyone is here to ask questions. But this has been a combined, joint fight from the day we started it. We've had four battalions of Iraqi forces fighting alongside U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen from above, and Marines. And the operation is going extremely well, and we will continue to press the enemy until we have, in fact, returned Fallujah to the Fallujan people.

Thank you.

Please, questions?

(Cross talk.)

STAFF: Gentlemen, good evening. Can you hear me? Can you hear me?

GEN. SATTLER: Yes, we can.

STAFF: Well, thank you for joining us back here in the Pentagon this evening also. We'll go ahead and get right into questions here.

Go ahead.

Q Yes, this is Will Dunham with Reuters. Could you tell us what percentage of the city is now under control? And can you also give us some more details about this situation, if we heard correctly, that 300 insurgents are holed up in a mosque and there's negotiations for them to surrender?

GEN. SATTLER: Go ahead.

GEN. MOHAN: (Off mike.) About 300 people were surrounded in a mosque. I think maybe they are from the people off the street or maybe not. When I have more information, I will announce about it. And we discovered that the person, they made the families who lived with them to fight with them in part, too. Six of the people of the city, they surrendering to us today and they said they were a part of the group. They make them fight hard -- (off mike) -- they should fight or they dead.

GEN. SATTLER: I would just -- I would just add if we were to use a percentage, we occupy about 80 percent, 80 percent of the city right now. But as General Abdul Qader mentioned, there's still the clearing of each and every house to take away the caches of weapons and to find the stashes of ammunition. So there is much clearing to be done, even though we occupy about 80 percent of the town as we speak.

STAFF: Gentlemen, this is the Pentagon. Before we move to our next question, can we ask that the translator be given a mike or get closer to a mike? We really are not hearing the English translation here.

GEN. SATTLER: Okay. They would ask that you come close to the mike. No, you must stay here. You, too. I talk very loud; I'm good.

STAFF: Let's go to our next question here. Eric, go ahead.

Q General Sattler, Eric Schmidt from The New York Times. I'm wondering if you can characterize who you believe the resistance is now left in Fallujah? That is, are these members of Zarqawi's network, are they Islamists? Who exactly is resisting? And have you seen any indications that the insurgents are trying to reinforce the fight from outside Fallujah?

INTERPRETER: I can't hear it. Oh, yeah.

GEN. SATTLER: I'll answer the second part first, that based on the way that we secured the city from the outside with additional forces that in some cases did not go into the city under fights -- but those that did go into the city, their start point -- we choked the city off. We feel very confident that additional forces have been unable, if they wanted to, to go ahead and reinforce the city.

In the fight up to this point, though, we have not had the opportunity nor the time to go ahead and analyze who exactly we're fighting. As far as the Iraqi warrior or the U.S. soldier, Marine on the ground is concerned, they are fighting a very stubborn enemy, in most cases. And the goal right now is to continue -- we feel we've broken their back and their spirit -- to continue to keep the heat on them. The analysis may come later as to actually who is there. But as far as the warrior on the ground, going mano a mano, it's just take care of this fight, reestablish the rule of law and return the town to the Fallujan people.

STAFF: Did you want to follow up on the characterization of the resistance? I'm sorry. I --

Q No. He said it --

STAFF: Okay. Fine. Very good.

Q Yeah.

STAFF: Let's go to AFP here, then.

Q General, Jim Mannion from AFP. Could you give us your best estimate of the number of insurgents who have been killed at this point and also what are -- your latest casualty toll for U.S. and Iraqi forces, as well as the number of prisoners that you've taken at this point?

GEN. MOHAN: We fight the group and the people who destroy the Islamic idea, Islamic thoughts. The Iraqi troops, they defend about the Islamic. We are afraid they destroy the Islamic, these people. The Islam say don't kill the innocent persons without any guilt. We exactly (defend ?) about our religious and the Islamic.

And we work together to stop the fight between people. So we fight the idea. We don't fight -- we don't care if it's Zarqawi or another one.

Q General Sattler, could you answer the question?

GEN. SATTLER: Is the question do we think we're -- we think we're obviously fighting elements of the Zarqawi network. We've been fighting it now for close to three months, with precision strikes to shape the battlefield. But as General Abdul Qader mentioned, this isn't about one individual. This is about breaking the back of the thugs, the terrorists and the intimidators, so we can return this town to its rightful owners.

STAFF: I think the question that they were trying to get to, gentlemen, was can you characterize for us at all in some detail casualties, both friendly casualties, enemy, as well as civilian?

GEN. SATTLER: On the U.S. casualty, at this point we have lost 22 coalition warriors who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and approximately 170 of them wounded, of which today approximately 40 of those have been returned to duty. They were treated, took their weapons and went back into the fight.

As far as enemy casualties, there's been a number estimated of approximately 600. I would say that's a very safe number. But once again, this isn't attrition warfare, and we're not counting the enemy as they fall, we're continuing to press the mission.

GEN. MOHAN: From the Iraqi side, five killed, and 40 wounded -- injured.

GEN. SATTLER: From the Iraqi side, five killed and 40 wounded, on the Iraqi armed forces.

STAFF: All right. And the last part of that question, gentlemen, was is there any way that you could provide any detail in terms of numbers on those that may have been captured in this operation, insurgents that have been captured?

GEN. SATTLER: We have right now, before the 300 that surrendered at the mosque, we had 151 detainees that we have in our detainee compound. The 300 are being vetted. Those that are civilians, will be dislocated civilians, are obviously being provided humanitarian assistance. And those who are determined to be hostile will then be put into the detention channels.

I would like to stress the point that those that -- the civilians that surrendered today or asked to be taken under control did that with the Iraqi armed forces. That was a complete Iraqi armed forces operation. There were was no U.S. involvement in that.

Please, one more question from the Pentagon.

STAFF: Yes, back over here to CNN.

Q General Sattler, Barbara Starr from CNN. Sir, if I could impose upon you to step closer to the mike so we could be very sure to hear you.

I'd like to ask you to address in as much detail as you can the current humanitarian situation inside Fallujah. When will you allow the Red Crescent to go in? What is the medical situation, the ability to get food and water and other humanitarian assistance to the civilians that are left in the city?

And as you clear these houses and streets, we are seeing pictures, of course, of significant damage to homes and cars. Your plans for making restitution to the civilian population?

GEN. SATTLER: As soon as the security situation permits, the Iraqi interim government already has the humanitarian -- and I will obviously let the prime minister's representative discuss this -- already has the humanitarian supplies completely lined up and ready to come into Fallujah.

MR. AL NAKIB : Well, we already sent 14 trucks yesterday. It's very well-equipped with the medicine and humanitarian stuff in it, and blood and many things that the civilians will need. And we are going to send some more -- it's already been prepared -- with a group of doctors and personnel who's going to take care of the situation over here in Fallujah. And I believe if the general is (over ?) he will give us the green light tomorrow, we will be ready to bring all this equipment over here and we will start immediately.

GEN. SATTLER: Barbara, I'd like to also stress that we have one group of 30 civilians who came out who were taken and moved to a humanitarian assistance area. And the only other civilians -- we had one civilian who was injured, a family of three who was picked up by Iraqi security forces and brought out, and then the approximately 300 that I mentioned earlier that are a combination, we feel, of civilians from Fallujah and possibly some fighters embedded with them. And that is the only families -- the only civilians we've come across.

And the last part of the question, concerning the reconstruction, that's phase four. Actually, before phase three is completed, probably in the northern sectors, once security is established and the rule of law is in place, the contracting will start immediately to go ahead and repair damage. The contracts are already on the table. It's just a matter of creating a secure environment to move forward.

MR. AL NAKIB : The Iraqi interim government are putting $100 million for the reconstruction of Fallujah. It's already there. Everybody is ready to start the reconstruction of Fallujah, the contractors and the interim government and the people who's in charge of the ministries. So the projects are there, the money is there, we are ready to go.

STAFF: I think we're going to your reporters over there now.

GEN. SATTLER: Two questions from here in Fallujah, please, and then closing remarks.

Q (In Arabic.)

MR. AL NAKIB : (In Arabic.)

Q (In Arabic.)

MR. AL NAKIB : (In Arabic.)

INTERPRETER: He asks about who made the fence outside the city, the people fight outside the city? The answer was that they shot the fence by mortars and then they ran away.

The other one?

Q (In Arabic.)

MR. AL NAKIB : (In Arabic.)

INTERPRETER: The question was, when will you allow the families to go again to their houses in the city, inside the city? The answer was the security is very important for the families, and -- (off mike) -- complete 100 percent, all the families will be back to their houses. We are -- (off mike). And -- (off mike) -- and for the money, financials. And we are ready to help them to repair that house. (Off mike.) And we are ready to help them to return back home, and also we will pay for them reparations to rebuild their houses. As well as -- (off mike).

Q Jim (Grant ?) from -- (inaudible). General Sattler, one of the things that we heard about is the curfew and the rules of engagement are trapping civilians inside the city. All males trying to leave have been turned back. Yesterday I think there was a crowd of about 225 people, and 200 males were turned back inside the city -- (off mike). (Off mike.) I was wondering if you can explain those rules of engagement that are preventing civilians from leaving the city and why that's necessary?

GEN. SATTLER: As was evidenced by this afternoon, those who in fact want to surrender, those who want to go and give themselves up and then go through the vetting process, there is a process in place, by virtue of the fact it's ongoing as we conduct this interview.

I'll go ahead and finish.

The rules of engagement, the curfew was put in place to protect those warriors who were moving through the town. As you all know, we have been victims of suicide attacks, of suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices; a car that's driving down the street that there's no way to stop him and determine whether or not it's a bomb, and if it gets right up on top of you and detonates, we've taken casualties.

So that's why the prime minister put some very stringent temporary rules into effect for the town of Fallujah -- to keep vehicles off the road; to ensure people stayed in their homes until they were approached or they moved forward in a group and surrendered; to make sure that those who were on the street were not killed unintentionally, assuming that they were part of the murderers and intimidators that I've already talked about. So the intent was to protect them, and as we uncover them, as they surrender, they are in fact being taken care off. So there is no intent to drive everyone back into the town.

The last point I would make is that all of the targeting that we have done within the city -- each and every strike that's been conducted has been terminally controlled, meaning that the bomb is dropped on a specific target, controlled by a specific individual and dropped for a specific reason -- either troops in contact, a sniper in the building, or a cache of weapons or ammunition inside that building. We have not nor will we conduct indiscriminate bombing with either our aircraft, our helicopters, our fixed-wings or our artillery.

(Aside.) That's going to be a hard one to --

MR. AL NAKIB : Yeah. You want me --

(Cross talk.)

Q Can I have one question?

MR. AL NAKIB : No, no, she's going to --

(Pause for interpreter's translation.)

MR.AL NAKIB : (In Arabic.)

Q (Off mike.)


Q I'm asking about the French-speaking detainee --

MR. AL NAKIB : Yeah.

Q (In Arabic.)

MR. AL NAKIB : (In Arabic.)

Q (In Arabic.)

MR. AL NAKIB : (In Arabic.)

Q (In Arabic.)

Q (Off mike) -- in English.

Q (In Arabic.)

MR. AL NAKIB : (In Arabic.)

Q The question --

INTERPRETER: The question about was about the French guy who's -- (off mike).

MR. AL NAKIB : Well, actually he asked me about the French detainee that we have right now. I mean, I cannot say he's French, but he speaks French fluently. We are checking this issue, and when we will be sure about it, we'll give you the details.

(Cross talk.)

STAFF: (Off mike) -- please. Just go to the closing remarks, please.

MR. AL NAKIB : (In Arabic.)

INTERPRETER: The Iraqi government, with the leadership of the prime minister, they have a lot of meetings --

MR. AL NAKIB : Envoy.

INTERPRETER: -- (off mike) -- and he send --

MR. AL NAKIB : He just said -- excuse me. (Inaudible.)

INTERPRETER: -- and he sent --

MR. AL NAKIB : Yeah. He -- the prime minister sent an envoy to the Arabic countries. And we explained to the Arabic leaders the situation in Baghdad and the situation of the insurgents that have (been destroying ?) our country. And we got full support from Jordan, from Kuwait, from Saudi Arabia, from Egypt. And we are working with them very closely to close up up this mess in Iraq. And we have the full support from these countries to Iraq.

STAFF: Thank you very much for your time.

GEN. SATTLER: Thank you.

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