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Military

Operations Update, Dec. 8, 2005

Multi-National Force-Iraq

PPT Slides


Wednesday, 07 December 2005

Briefer: Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch

BRIEFING WITH MAJOR GENERAL RICK LYNCH, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ LOCATION: COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQ DATE: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2005

GEN. LYNCH: Hey, folks. Good to see you all. Thanks for making the time this afternoon. I want to talk about four major topics, and then I want to talk about whatever you want to talk about.

I want to talk about current operations writ large, what we've been doing across Iraq, particularly in the area of how many of those operations are combined and how many are independent by the Iraqi security forces. I want to talk about the foreign fighters and the effect of our operation to disrupt the flow of foreign fighters. I want to talk specifically about the operations in Ramadi and how things are going out there. And I want to talk about an overall assessment of how we are in preparation for election security.

So with that, could I get the first placard, please?

I want to commend the youngsters that handle these placards. They do a very good job. They rehearse this over the course of the day. Let's not lose the fact of how important they are to this whole event. We now, coalition forces, are working across Iraq with over 214,000 trained and equipped members of the Iraqi security force. And by the time we come to the elections, a week from today, that number will be close to 225,000. Compare that to where we were last January for the elections, at only 138,000 at that point in time. So a significantly more robust capability for the Iraqi security force that will lead directly to the security for the environment for the conduct of the elections.

Let's just zoom in one day, the 5th of December. And you can see from the graphic generally where those operations took place and generally who was involved. And if it's a blue graphic, a blue dot, it was a combined operation -- coalition force members and Iraqi security force members. And if it's a green dot, it was an operation that was planned and conducted independently by members of the Iraqi security force. So just look at what happened on the 5th of December: 36 operations either combined or independent, and 14 of those were independent ISF operations.

Let's look at a bigger picture. In the month of August there were 259 independent ISF operations. These are company-level operations or above -- 259. In the month of November, 450 -- 80 percent increase in operations conducted, planned, executed and conducted independently by the Iraqi security force -- clear indication of their ability to take on increased responsibilities across Iraq.

The operations have indeed been successful. We have had a 40 percent reduction in the level of attacks from the month of October. And I'll show you in detail across four provinces how that related.

We've also had an increased capability to conduct operations based on information from the local Iraqi population. Think about this: In the month of November, 4,100 tips provided by the Iraqi population against the insurgency -- 4,100. That was a thousand more tips than from the previous month. And that's not just them calling in a national tip line; that's moving to a local Iraqi patrol -- Iraqi police patrol, Iraqi Army patrol -- and offering information about the location, capability, whereabouts, intentions of the insurgency -- 4,100 tips in the month of November.

So operations do indeed continue with good effect.

Next graphic, please.

I talked about a 40 percent reduction in numbers of attacks since October. Let's zoom in on the four provinces. Routinely I tell you that 85 percent of the attacks take place in four provinces, where 40 percent of the Iraqi population live. Look at the significant reduction in the number of attacks in Al Anbar, in Baghdad, in Nineveh province, and in Salahuddin -- directly a result of the effectiveness of our operations, specifically as a result of the increased ISF capability. Next placard, please.

We talked about operations across Iraq. Allow me to spend a few moments and talk about Ramadi.

Remember, our operations right now -- I've said numerous times from this podium that we in conjunction with our Iraqi colleagues are fighting our way to the elections. The end state is to provide for a safe and secure environment so that the people of Iraq can vote on the 15th of December. And we had great progress during the referendum. But there were areas of Iraq that caused concern, both to us and to members of the Iraqi government, in terms of lack of voter participation.

And an area that I want to talk about now is Ramadi. For the October referendum, we saw less than 2 percent of the registered voters in Ramadi participate in the election. We believe a lot of that was due to intimidation by the presence of insurgents. Remember, the insurgency writ large has two objectives: one is derail the democratic process, and two is discredit the Iraqi government. So the insurgents that were present in Ramadi in October didn't allow the people of Ramadi to participate in the elections. So we've been conducting detailed operations since then to provide that environment. And we believe with the effectiveness of our operations and the operation of the Iraqi security force there will be increased participation and "votership" in Ramadi a week from today.

So let's talk about operations in Ramadi. Just in the last two weeks -- six different named operations, with the most recent one being Operation Rams up here in the north portion of Ramadi. Started on Sunday -- 400 coalition force soldiers, 100 Iraqi security force soldiers, detailed operations, looking for insurgents, looking for weapons caches, precluding the ability of the insurgents to intimidate the residents. And if you look at a rollup of those six named operations, you can see the impact -- 29 different engagements that resulted in the detention of 78 people identified as insurgents. Now remember, those 78 people were people who were there to keep the people from Ramadi from voting. They can't, because they're not there anymore. They are now indeed detained. Twenty-eight IEDs were found, and I'll talk more about IEDs. And 20 weapons caches were discovered.

So good operations across Ramadi, and those operations will continue, because the intent, the end state, the objective is an environment on the 15th of December so the people of Ramadi can participate in the election and be part of voting for a new Iraq.

Next graphic, please.

Allow me to zoom back out. You've seen this before. I wanted to give you an updated version of where we think we are. Remember the color codes on the graphics. The red areas, or the pink areas -- I'm colorblind so you have to help me with that, but they look like red to me -- are areas where we saw insurgent influence, specifically Saddamist and Iraqi rejectionist influence. The black squares are where we saw terrorist and foreign fighter influence. And the yellow areas, or light green, are the areas of concentration for the Saddamists and the Iraqi rejectionists.

I know it's difficult to recall, but the version I showed of this before had many more of these spread across the Euphrates River valley.

Remember, operations we commenced on the 28th of September had a primary objective -- was to defeat the terrorists and foreign fighters in the western Euphrates River valley, and we believe we've accomplished that objective. And now the concentration of those terrorists and foreign fighters are more now in the center of the country, and that's why operations continue, specifically in the area of the Ramadi and Fallujah corridor.

We talked about it last week. We found that operations were successful. We found that the terrorists and foreign fighters when attacked tend to run away, if they weren't killed or captured. And if they didn't escape into Syria or elsewhere, they moved to the center. So we believe our operations continued to isolate the insurgents, and we'll continue to focus these operations to defeat the terrorists and foreign fighters and to disrupt the insurgency.

Next graphic, please.

Ninety-five percent of the suicide bombs are from foreign fighters. Zarqawi and his network recruits these foreign fighters to conduct these horrific acts of violence, primarily focused against the Iraqi people. Just today, another suicide vest attack in Baghdad. Suicide bomber mounts a civilian bus, detonates himself, and kills at least -- Iraqi civilians and wounds at least 30 additional ones. So we have to continue our focus on operations against terrorists and foreign fighters, and we have with great effect.

In the month of November, we captured 67 foreign fighters. And you can see how that was a significant increase over previous months. In addition to those 67 that we captured, we killed an additional 38 foreign fighters in the month of November. I told you last week: 23 suicide attacks in the month of November, which is the lowest that we've seen in the last seven months.

Zarqawi is still out there. We've got a week to the election. He's feeling the pressure. He's supposed to derail the democratic process and discredit the Iraqi government, and he's going to mount these operations. Remember, his weapon of choice is a suicide bomb, so it's still out there. But as I've told you in the past, his capability is significantly reduced: one, because we've taken away the foreign fighters -- the projectile, if you will. In the month of November, we uncovered 348 weapons caches, just in that one month -- a hundred more than the previous -- any previous month. So we're having effect against Zarqawi in numerous ways, and a way is killing or capturing the foreign fighters. But the point remains: He's still out there. He still has a capability. And he will still continue to conduct these horrific acts of violence, and we will continue operations against him.

And the last graphic, please.

Q Excuse me, General, I can't read the number of Egyptian and Saudis in that graphic.

GEN. LYNCH: Twenty-two Kuwaitis, 16 Syrians, eight Egyptians and eight Saudis.

I'm glad you pointed that out. There was a significant increase in the month of November with foreign fighters from Kuwait that we captured -- 22 in the month of November.

And the last graphic, please.

You asked last week for some clarity on IEDs. I thought I'd take a moment and walk you through some details. This shows you the number of IEDs since June. The red show you the number that have been detonated, the green show you the number that have been found and cleared. Three points: the first one is, we've now been able to find and clear over 40 percent of the emplaced IEDs. That's a function of our improved tactics, techniques and procedures. And candidly, what we're seeing is a degradation in his ability, based on our operations, to effectively emplace IEDs.

We killed or captured in the month of November 38 bomb makers. The guys who do this for a living put together these munitions to kill Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security force members or coalition force members. Thirty-eight in the last two months -- more than the four previous months combined. And as I told you, 348 weapons caches across Iraq found. Find the weapons, destroy the munitions -- these bombs can't be built.

And you can see the glide path that we're on for the month of December: 40 percent reduction. Forty percent of the IEDs that are emplaced we find and clear, and you can see we're on that same glide path for the month of December.

Okay, with that -- that's what I wanted to talk about.

If you take that last placard down.

And I'm happy to answer any of your questions.

Please. Q Sharon Bane (sp), The Washington Times. When you say that you've killed and captured more foreign fighters, is that because more are coming in? Or can you give a percentage? Do you have any idea of the percentage? Are you --

GEN. LYNCH: Well, everyone that comes in that we know about, we kill or capture. We're focusing our intelligence-led operations against those foreign fighters.

Q You're saying it's almost 100 percent that you're doing.

GEN. LYNCH: Well, every one that we know, we chase down, we find, we kill or we capture. And the result of that is the fact that only 23 suicide attacks in the month of November, the lowest number in the last seven months. And we've only experienced in the month of December six suicide attacks -- three car bombs, three suicide-vest bombs. So we're going to continue to focus our operations against terrorists and foreign fighters. That is Zarqawi's weapon of choice, suicide bombers. And that was the effect of the operation in the month of November.

Q But do you believe you're capturing more because more are coming in, or the same number are coming in and you're capturing more percentage-wise?

GEN. LYNCH: We don't -- clearly, there are certain things I can't get into in this press conference. And we don't believe that there's been an increase in the number of foreign fighters coming in. We do believe that we're capturing more based on the effectiveness of our operations.

Candidly, let me go back to the 4,100 tips. What we're finding with the Iraqi population is they're now saying enough is enough with the insurgency. And they're pointing out these foreign fighters and improving the effectiveness of the operations.

Please.

Q Steve Negus, Financial Times. I noticed there's a lot more -- well, that your lead nationality here for foreign fighters is Egyptians. The last time I saw a breakdown of nationalities, they were sort of further down the line. So I mean, I assume that certain nationalities might come and go in waves. Can you say anything about any changing patterns in what you learn about how they were recruited, how they got into Iraq -- you know, just basically what might have happened before they crossed the Iraqi border and you got hold of them?

GEN. LYNCH: I really can't at this point.

Helen. Q (Off mike) -- 28 (sic) Kuwaitis -- that is the first time I've seen that many Kuwaitis. Is this a one-time incident, or is this something that -- could you tell a little bit more about this?

GEN. LYNCH: We looked back at the database, and the 22 Kuwaiti individuals who came in in the month of November that we indeed captured, that was the most we'd seen.

Q Did you find them in any one place? Were they together?

GEN. LYNCH: No. It's operations across Iraq, primarily in the Euphrates River valley. Please.

Q You've made it fairly clear that the operations in Ramadi are to ensure that a vote can take place come December 15th. A number of Sunni organizations have publicly called for those operations to end, saying, in fact, that military operations in that area will actually work against people voting, against people participating. First of all, are there any plans to stop those -- stop those operations soon? And how do you respond to the concerns of these organizations?

GEN. LYNCH: Just like I don't talk about intelligence sources, intelligence information, I can't talk about future operations. But I will say that in collaboration with the Iraqi government and the leadership of the Iraqi security force, we're making a determination of whether or not our operations leading to the election will have a positive impact or a negative impact on Sunni participation. So just know that point is with us, and we are examining that with the appropriate authorities.

What we're finding in Ramadi -- remember, counterinsurgency operations are conducted with a variety of tools. And the military tool is just one of those tools. An important tool is the political tool and the economic tool. And there is indeed significant political engagement by the Iraqi government, by the U.S. government, by coalition governments with Sunni leadership around Iraq, and specifically in Ramadi, to promote active participation in the political process and no acts of violence, as we work our way to the elections.

Please.

Q General, to what extent do you believe the insurgency is being dominated or run by Ba'athists and rejectionists, and to what extent by Islamic fundamentalists?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah. We group the insurgency into three groups -- terrorists and foreign fighters, the Iraqi rejectionists and the Saddamists -- and we study them very closely. And our operations are focused on Zarqawi and his network. It's important to understand military parlance, and when we say defeat, we're going to take out Zarqawi, his leadership, his munitions; we're going to stop his ability to conduct any operations. Because he's the one that's most focused on derailing the democratic process and discredit the Iraqi government, and he doesn't care who he kills. I mean, just think about today. Suicide- vest bomber in Baghdad -- clearly identified, trained and equipped by Zarqawi -- mounting a civilian bus, blows himself up, kills eight, wounds an additional 30. So our focus is on him.

Now your question was do we see an interaction between the three different levels, and we do -- between the Saddamists, the foreign fighters and the Iraqi rejectionists. And we've made a conscious decision to focus on defeating the terrorists and foreign fighters and disrupting the capabilities of the rest of the insurgents. And the primary way to disrupt the capability of the rejectionists is through political engagement, and that's what we're working now with the appropriate authorities.

Please.

Q We saw a report last night that the Syrian border had been shut and the Marines had declared some sort of a closed military zone in parts of Anbar. Can you explain what's going on there?

GEN. LYNCH: That's the first I'd heard about that. We indeed, with the Iraqi authorities, look at border control. If you'll remember, last week we had a ceremony where the Iraqis had reestablished initial control of the border, and we did that in Husaybah. The border forts have been occupied, the Department of Border Enforcement personnel are on site. And we are indeed working to control the border. The Iraqi government may make a determination, as we get closer to the elections, to shut down the border, to establish a border exclusion zone, to establish a curfew. That may happen. And if you'll recall when we did the operations in Tall Afar, that's exactly what they did with the border. But this is a decision made by the Iraqi authorities in consultation with the coalition forces.

Q A follow-on about election security: We've seen an increase in attacks on, for instance, the former prime minister, Allawi, his headquarters down in Najaf, and some election people putting up posters. How much do you attribute to militia or political activity, and how much to the insurgency?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, I'd like to -- we study this very closely, different levels of Iraqi leadership and different levels of protection. And we have not seen an increase in acts of violence, intimidation against the senior levels of the leadership. We have not seen that. I'm conscious of the situation with Allawi in Najaf. But in general terms, we haven't seen an increase in attacks against the senior leadership and the senior political candidates across Iraq.

Please. Q Steven -- (name inaudible) -- London Times. The attack we saw today follows a model that we've seen many times in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Is it the first such that you're aware of? If not, how rare is it? And is there any indication that it may be part of a pattern, or is it just simply to early to tell?

GEN. LYNCH: This is the bus attack today?

Q Correct, the bus bombings along the lines we've seen in the Palestinian bus bombings over the last three or four years in the --

GEN. LYNCH: Every one of these events we examine in great detail. This particular one we'll look at, and I'll be able to tell you in detail as to what we think was behind it and why it happened. We haven't done that analysis yet. But I've got to tell you, when people think about why has the coalition force and why has the U.S. government dedicated so much time and effort and energy into Iraq, think about what happened today: innocent children, innocent civilians on the bus, and a suicide bomber conducts this horrendous attack. We want to defeat the terrorists here in Iraq so similar events don't happen in London, in Washington and back in our hometowns.

Larry.

Q Was it the first? Is it the first such bus suicide bombing we've seen in Iraq that you're aware of?

GEN. LYNCH: In my recollection it is, but let me check the database and we'll get back to you. Okay?

Larry, please. You guys have lots of questions today.

Q Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers. Just, do you know how much foreign fighters account for the kidnappings? Is it presumed that they're doing most of those, or do you know --

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, we think -- remember, the actual number of foreign fighters that's part of the Zarqawi network is relatively small, but we think all those guys, at least the majority of those guys, are the suicide bombers. That's the activity that they are indeed conducting. About 95 percent, as we see it, of the suicide bombs are by foreigners.

Chris.

Q Chris Tomlinson, Associated Press. You've reported a great deal of success in the last two months. At the same time, you've also seen an increase in the number of U.S. troops on the ground here. How much does your success have to do with the increased number of troops? And also, is that why we're seeing higher than average casualties in the last two months? GEN. LYNCH: General Casey has authority to go back to the administration of our government and ask for additional forces, as he sees fit -- and he saw fit for both the referendum and the conduct of the election. That's why the force level now is where it is. And those individuals will stay here through the elections because we are not complacent. We know that Zarqawi and the insurgency -- wants to disrupt the democratic process -- is going to conduct acts of violence in the next seven days. So the improvements we've seen in the last two months have a lot to do with our increased force presence -- but candidly, more to do with the increased presence, capability of the Iraqi security forces -- 138,000 in January, 225,000 for the elections in December.

As I've told you many times, they are increasingly in the lead. The fact that they conducted 450 independent operations in the month of November shows how much they're in the lead.

So Chris, I would attribute the success we've had in the last several months to -- a good deal to the coalition forces -- not so much the increased presence, even though that's a factor -- but the increased capability of the Iraqi security forces.

Q And the issue of the increase in the average number of casualties for U.S. forces in October and November? It's been higher than average.

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, we'll get you the casualty rates, but I do know that we had a 34 percent reduction in casualties the month of November. We had a peak in October. But we'll show you casualty rates. And in fact, if you like, my next press conference we can talk about that. Okay?

Q General, could you clarify whether you think that the elements you consider to be the terrorist forces -- are they trying to create a sectarian division? For example, the bombing today, apparently, of this bus was of Shi'ites who were traveling southwards. Do you see a pattern of the actual attacks not being totally random on civilians but aimed specifically at Shi'ites?

GEN. LYNCH: Zarqawi and his network are doing everything they can to discredit the Iraqi government and derail the democratic process. And one of those things is to create acts of sectarian violence. So no one believes that what he's doing he's doing randomly. He does really two things: one is he does events that has the most media impact he can achieve. So he's going to conduct these acts of violence at a place where people can see it, not just in Iraq but worldwide. And he's going to do it at points of friction to have the most impact he can have for the conduct of his operations.

When you think about the enemy, you think about his capabilities, his vulnerabilities and his intentions. And his intentions are derail the democratic process, and he's going to pull out all stops between now and the election. He's been trying to do that since October, but we've been able to stop him based on the effectiveness of our operations. But you just got to know he's still out there and he still has the same intent. Please.

Q Richard Beason (sp) from the Times. I was wondering if you could tell us if you had any information about who the group was that was behind the latest kidnappings and what efforts are being made to try and free these hostages before the deadline now set for Saturday night.

GEN. LYNCH: I'm sorry, I don't have anything on that.

Helen.

Q Do you know, twice this week in Baghdad there were political functions, private political functions where private militias shut down a lot of Baghdad for several hours. On one day this week it was the Badr forces for a SCIRI event, and the next day it was the Mahdi Army for Sadr. Did the -- these are private militias that aren't supposed to be in existence. Is this -- did the U.S. military have any input? Did they do any -- did they object to this, to the militias shutting down so much of Baghdad?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, neither the coalition force or the Iraqi government condone the presence of these militias. And as you're well aware, in acts of law these militias should have been disbanded and either integrated into the Iraqi security forces or just basically went home. We're conscious of the presence of militias, and we work with the Iraqi government to stop their pronounced activity. They're out there. They're not supposed to be out there, and over time, they won't be.

Q Do you know, did the military speak to the Iraqi government, to speak to the SCIRI members of government about their -- this demonstration that they held?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, every time we see a pronounced influence on militias that aren't supposed to be here -- remember, they should have been disintegrated and either merged with the Iraqi government -- correction, Iraqi security forces -- or gone home -- when we see these evidence of militias, we ensure we bring it to the attention of the Iraqi government.

Chris.

Q Why haven't they just been shut down?

GEN. LYNCH: I'm sorry?

Q Why haven't they just been shut down?

GEN. LYNCH: As you're well aware, in all existing law the intent was to transition those militias. Working with the government -- some success and some no success. It will be worked over time. Q Yes, sir, I wanted to ask about Mosul. The president talked about it quite a bit yesterday, and your graphic shows it's still a center for terrorist and foreign fighters. Could you expand on the situation in Mosul today?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, we had significant influence, clear influence by the insurgency in Mosul. And if you'll recall, of the 117 leaders of the Zarqawi network, a lot of those have been taken out out of Mosul. So we've had a reduction in enemy activity in Mosul to include last month a 40 percent reduction in enemy activity. But they are indeed still there. And we continue to conduct operations against them.

Please.

Q General, Anita Powell, Stars and Stripes. In the past few months in north central Iraq and in Baghdad especially, I've heard an overwhelming amount from citizens and from local leaders of lack of trust in the Iraqi security forces. Iraqis are telling me that they don't trust the police and the Army. Are your commanders reporting this to you? Do you consider it meaningful? And if so, what does it mean and what can be done about it?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, we work with the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces to get a sense of the perception of the Iraqi people. And polling data that we've recently acquired tells us that across Iraq 81 percent of the people of Iraq have confidence in their army, and 80 percent of the people of Iraq have confidence in their police force. So we're not getting the same indications that you are based on, you know, your conversations.

Please.

Q Can you tell me whether or not you're planning to release more detainees before the elections as part of sort of a goodwill gesture?

GEN. LYNCH: There is no intent between now and the elections for a massive release of detainees. Our existing release process continues, and those individuals that are there go through the procedures for release. But right now, there's not an intent for a massive release between now and the elections.

Please.

Q General, what do you make of the claims by Barzan al- Tikriti and Mr. Hussein that they were not treated in the dignified manner to which they had been -- which they'd been expecting in detention under U.S. control? Do you believe that their descriptions are in any way accurate, and is any such step being taken to check these claims? GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, we focus in great detail on the care and comfort of any detainees, not just the ones you mentioned but any detainees, in any kind of coalition custody and in Iraqi custody. And we have indeed looked to see about these allegations, and both those detainees have been properly cared for.

Please.

Q There have been reports that Zarqawi has actually moved his operation headquarters to Baghdad.

Do you have any reports on that?

GEN. LYNCH: No, I have no reports.

Further questions.

Q When you described operations and the number of operations by the Iraqi security forces as significantly increased, what exactly constitutes an operation?

GEN. LYNCH: At the company level, which is about a hundred soldiers, an operation is defined as a specific objective -- either they're doing a cordon and search operation or doing a search and seizure operation, or establishing some kind of cordon, if you will. Those individuals, given that objective, planned the operation and conducted the operation independently.

Please.

Q Steve Negus, Financial Times again. Last time I spoke to someone in detail about the status of the Iraqi forces, they identified as the main point of weakness at the time was logistics, to be able to sort of deploy independently and support troops without the Americans. Is that still a weakness? Is that to be addressed? Has that been addressed? Is that going to be addressed in the next year?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, when you talk to professional soldiers, regardless of the nationality, they'll tell you that one of the most difficult things we do is sustain them -- getting to the right place at the right time, the fuel that you need, the ammunition that you need, the uniforms that you need. And it's extremely difficult. It's difficult for our army. And we have focused now and over the next several months on "sustainment" capability for the Iraqi security forces. So it is indeed improving. And as we look at assessing the battalions and brigades and the divisions, one of the measures of success is their ability to sustain themselves, and we see improvement.

Q Could, for example, say, a battalion move, for example, from one city to the other at this point without U.S. support?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, we're seeing that now. You know, in Tall Afar, you know -- when we did the operations in Tall Afar, there were 11 Iraqi security force battalions and only five coalition battalions. Those battalions were moved to that area -- by Iraqi C-130s, by the way -- to be able to participate in those operations. So we're seeing that now. We're seeing movement across Iraq, planned and conducted by the Iraqi security force -- 214,000 now, 225,000 by the conduct of the elections.

Please.

Q Do you have a figure for what portion of those troops are ex-militiamen whose units have been integrated into the security forces?

GEN. LYNCH: No, I don't. We'll chase that down, but I don't have that.

Any other questions? Please.

Q To slightly change the area of focus: Kirkuk this morning, there's been reports of -- at 5:00 a.m. there was a serious incident. Could you tell us what the security situation is like in Kirkuk?

GEN. LYNCH: We watch all the major cities very closely. I can't recall, but we'll check, whether or not there's been any significant increase in insurgent activities in Kirkuk. But based on the fact that I'm watching it on a daily basis and I can't recall -- and the answer's probably no. But we'll get you that answer.

Q And just to clarify your previous answer to our question about detainees, the HVD types: You said these detainees -- the ones I referred to -- have been properly cared for. Is that at all times since they were in coalition hands?

GEN. LYNCH: Sure.

Any final questions? Helen.

Q General, this is on a different topic. On the question of PSD firms who the U.S. government contracts with here in Iraq: Does the military or the U.S. government have any oversight of the rules of engagement of the PSD firms? And does it have oversight of the operations? And would any kind of judgment of excessive force by these PSD firms against civilians be grounds for termination of any of the contracts?

GEN. LYNCH: Sure. We work very closely with the contractors involved, with the Iraqi government to ensure that personnel security detachments comply with Iraqi law and with the established rules of engagement. And if there's an indication that someone's not complying with either of those, an investigation is launched. If the investigation leads us to believe that a contractor is not operating within the parameters of its contract and those rules of engagement and that Iraqi law, then we can take appropriate measures to either change the contract, stop the contract, terminate their operations. And in every case where we get an allegation, we go through that investigative procedure.

And now you've got a phone call. (Laughs.)

Other questions. Please.

Q Last time we had some significant date coming up, we didn't see attacks on the day, but then we -- as soon as security eased a bit, we saw a number of car bombings afterwards. Do you think that might be what's coming up for these elections? You'll be safe on the day and then have to brace for an explosion or series of them?

GEN. LYNCH: He's still out there. And he wants to discredit the Iraqi government and derail the democratic process. And if he can't stop it by the elections, he will continue. He will continue. He knows -- he's a thinking enemy -- that the security situation around the elections is going to be very tight. And as we've talked about before, in all these polling sites -- and there were 6,200 for the referendum -- the inner security is Iraqi police, the outer middle ring is the Iraqi Army, and the coalition forces are in a reaction mode. So Zarqawi knows that in the area around the elections, there will be intense security in those polling sites. So he could make a decision to defer any acts of violence until after the elections. No one should believe that on the 15th of December when there's a safe and secure elections, that the insurgents will go home, because their objective is still out there.

Please.

Q May I ask whether you've captured or -- if you've captured any Ba'athists who are -- leading Ba'athists who are involved in the insurgency? And if so, could you give any details?

GEN. LYNCH: Well, on a previous press conference, we talked about the deck of cards and the 55 members, the former regime element, of which 10 are still active, and those 10 are still out there. So you've got to know the operations continue looking for those 10, because they've still got the same stated objective as the rest of the insurgency.

I've got time for -- I'm sorry.

Q So all those 10 in fact are still actively involved in insurgent operations?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, we conduct operations to search out those 10 people. And if we can find them, we'll kill them or capture them. They're still out there.

I've got time for one more question. And you don't have any more questions. Okay. Have a good day. See you. Bye-bye. END.



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