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Weekly Press Briefing April 13, 2006

Multi-National Force-Iraq

IRAQ OPERATIONAL UPDATE BRIEFING BRIEFER: MAJOR GENERAL RICK LYNCH, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ LOCATION: COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQ TIME: 8:00 A.M. EDT DATE: THURSDAY, APRIL 13, 2006

Briefing Slides [PDF]


(Note: This event was fed in progress.)

GEN. LYNCH: (In progress) -- this is important. It's a chance for us to tell you how we see things progressing here in our most important mission in Iraq. So without hesitation, let me jump right in to the first graphic.

A quarter of a million trained and equipped Iraqi security force members are now operating in Iraq conducting counterinsurgency operations. And I say that to give you an indication of our success, and that success is in protection of Iraq's most important infrastructure. The number of attacks against the Iraqi infrastructure has decreased by 60 percent in the last three months, and that is directly attributable to the fact that we've reached the point where we have that many Iraqi security forces out conducting very, very important missions all across Iraq. Allow me to talk you through a series of operations, first starting up in the north. As we've talked about before, we believe that the critical piece of the insurgency are the terrorists and foreign fighters, and the face of that is Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq. So we conduct detailed operations to take out his network, to reduce his capability to lead, to take away his freedom of movement, and that's what we did over the period 1 to 7 April up in the north, both on coalition force independent operations, but more importantly combined and Iraqi security force independent operations.

Just look at the statistic down here. We have reached the point now where 34 percent of the operations company level and above across Iraq are ISF independent operations. And if you add the combined with the ISF only, you see that 75 percent of those operations are either combined or independent. And the Iraqi security force continues to improve in capabilities every day, and I'll talk about that in some detail.

But just look up north. Over three specific operations, the Iraqi security force, supported by coalition forces, targeted terrorist cells, and the affect that they had is in all three of those operations they were able to take out over a total of 60 known leaders and members of the insurgency here in Iraq. Those individuals have been detained, and are now being questioned so that they can provide actionable intelligence against other terrorist cells.

Let me spend some time and talk about (Tigris Waves ?), a very important operation we started on the 25th of March in the city of Tarmia and one of Baghdad's -- (inaudible). The people of that city came to us and the Iraqi security forces and said, hey, we're tired of the terrorists and the insurgents in our city. So we planned and conducted an operation with the Iraqi security forces, started on the 25th of March.

The first thing we did is cordon off the city -- six kilometers worth of barrier material to cordon off the city to restrict access from the terrorists into the city, and two established checkpoints. After that operation started and that barrier material was there, we worked through the city to rid the city of terrorists. But as I've talked about before, kinetic operations are only a portion of counterinsurgency operations, so let me tell you the rest of the story in Tarmia.

Now that we're convinced we've rid the city of terrorists and we've blockaded the city so terrorists can't come in, we focused on improving the conditions for the people of that city. Two days after the operation started, we established a medical health clinic. And on that very first day, 375 citizens of the city of Tarmia were treated. We started working with the local leaders to determine what they thought they needed for infrastructure to improve and meet the basic needs of the people of Tarmia. And we have now dedicated $4 million worth of assets -- resources -- to improve their living conditions -- water, roads, infrastructure. The city leadership said, hey, to maintain the security situation we have now, we need to get local citizens enrolled in the police force. So they sent out a net call and said, hey, we need you, the citizens of Tarmia, to come forward and join the Iraqi police -- 2,000 volunteers out of that city. Detailed screening process, vetting process; of that, 225 were selected. They're now moving to Jordan to attend a police academy in Jordan, will come back and be policemen on the streets of their hometown. Think about that, 2,000 volunteers.

There's a corollary action going on right now in that same area for recruiting folks into the Iraqi army, led by the 9th Mechanized Division. It's a great operation that started kinetically and is now in the non-kinetic phase to improve the basic needs, meet the basic needs, of the city of Tarmia and allow them to continue to progress.

Let me show you some pictures. First picture, please.

I talk every Thursday about weapons caches that we have uncovered. We know that's important because what we've done is we've taken away from the insurgents the tools of their trade. Without the munitions, they can't build the IEDs, they can't conduct indirect-fire attacks, they can't outfit a car as a car bomb. This is an amazing find. It took place over three days -- 5, 6, 7 of April -- and it was an island in the Euphrates River.

Again, a local citizen provided actionable intelligence. It's happening all the time. It's the people of Iraq who are tired of the insurgency, who've acknowledged that the insurgency has focused their efforts on the civilians of Iraq, and they say we've had enough. So they turn to the coalition forces and the Iraqi security forces and say, hey, I know where there's a weapons cache.

Look at the size of this weapons cache. I'm not an explosive expert, but there are explosive experts who work in the force, and they say between these high melting explosives and this nitrate and that quantity, that was a significant find of explosives and the impact of that munition, if employed by the insurgents, would have been horrific. That can't happen now because a local citizen turned it in, the coalition and Iraqi security forces went and secured it and found all those munitions on the first day.

The operation continued on the second day -- next slide, please -- they continued to find more and more munitions at that same area -- TNT, RPG rounds, electronic devices, those things clearly designed for use in building IEDs and VBIEDs.

And the next picture, please.

Mortars, munitions, electronic devices -- and we found in this particular cache Iraqi police uniforms to be used by the insurgents to do some kind of dastardly deed to the people of Iraq.

So weapons caches are important, those finds are important, and we continue those in our operations to take away from the insurgents the ability to conduct these horrific acts of violence.

Out west, operations continue. We're now down averaging about 18 attacks per day in Al Anbar. Remember, last October it was about 27 attacks per day. And the people of Al Anbar continue to raise their hand to recruit and be involved in the protection of their area, both in the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police. And operations continue and we did, indeed, in that period of time find 28 weapons caches out in Al Anbar.

Operations continue inside of Baghdad. The enemy still considers that to be the center of gravity. He still wants to stop the formation of a national unity government, and the closer the Iraqis get to that, the more intense his operations become. And as a result of that, we continue to focus all operations inside of Baghdad with Scales of Justice.

Just think about this. In the month of February, we averaged about 12,000 patrols -- security force patrols -- in the city of Baghdad. In the month of April and the month of March, 20,000 -- 12,000 to 20,000, 45 percent increase -- to give us more visible presence for the security forces inside the streets of Baghdad. Now, the enemy is still there and he's continuing to conduct these horrific acts and I'll talk about it, but we're taking the fight to the enemy, specifically in Baghdad, with the presence we have on the ground.

Next graphic, please.

Let's zoom in on Baghdad and Scales of Justice. Operations continue. Remember, it started with about 26,000 Iraqi security forces and about 10,000 coalition forces, and we increased that by 3,700. And the numbers of patrols now for a day average over about 100. We've got 130 checkpoints, and we continue operations. Remember, 45 percent increase in the number of patrols since last February.

And the effect of that is as seen up here in the top left. There has been, from this 14-day period -- 15 to 28 March -- to the most recent 14-day period -- 29 March to 11 April -- a decrease in the number of attacks. And there's been, in terms of Baghdad proper, about two attacks less per day in that reporting period, about an IED less per day and a small-arms fire attack less per day. The enemy's still out there. Baghdad's the center of gravity. He wants to stop the formation of a national unity government. So operations continue, and he's doing these most horrific acts.

The one that's most notable over the last week is the bombing of the Shi'a mosque up in Buratha with four suicide bombers. Horrendous affect in terms of innocent civilians killed and wounded -- the innocent men, women and children of Iraq that are the target of Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq. And what he tried to do in that day last week is he tried to inflame sectarian violence. Let's take four suicide bombers, let's take them to that Shi'a mosque, let's detonate, let's kill a lot of innocent civilians, let's damage the mosque if at all possible and let's see what happens. Let's cause this cycle of violence to continue. Let's see the Shi'as now, as a result of this attack, turn against the Sunnis and conduct significant attacks.

That didn't happen. It didn't happen. And people say, well, why didn't that happen? That's because we've got effective security force presence on the streets in Baghdad. It's because the government of Iraq appealed to the people of Iraq for calm. It's because religious and local leaders said enough is enough and break the cycle of violence.

So Zarqawi's still out there. Al Qaeda in Iraq still wants to inflame sectarian violence. That is an indication of what he's capable of doing, and we will continue our operation with the Iraqi security force to keep him from doing what he wants to do.

Next graphic, please.

I talked about increased patrols. I talked about taking out weapons caches. I talked about conducting operations against terrorist cells. Now let's zoom in on the leaders of al Qaeda. We've talked about this before.

Over 115 tier one, tier two, tier three leaders of the al Qaeda network have been taken out over the last several months. On the 27th of March, we conducted a raid against Abu Omar al-Kurdi. Now, look at the things he's done in the last 15 years: extensive travel through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, and he formed specific relationships with al Qaeda senior leadership, to include Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri. The al Qaeda network gave him the title the al Qaeda "ambassador," and he established liaison between terrorist networks, and also became an operations officer here in Iraq. And then he focused his operations in the town of Baqubah and did a series of attacks that we now have information on, to include planning and conducting kidnappings. He was taken off the street by an effective raid on the 27th of March, and those kinds of operations will continue -- to take down the most horrendous enemy to the people of Iraq, and that's al Qaeda and Zarqawi and his network.

Next graphic, please.

Let's talk about progress. Last week, one of you asked me a question about border security and how is that going. Flash back to last January. Last January -- '05 -- there were at 51 border forts in all of Iraq, 51. Today, 258 border forts. Two hundred and forty-five of those are complete, and the rest will be complete over the course of this year.

All 258 of those are occupied by members of the Department of Border Enforcement. The Department of Border Enforcement now numbers 20,000 people -- 2,400 more than they had just last December -- and are on a glide path to have 28,000 people to occupy these border forts and to secure Iraq's sovereign borders.

Three academies have been established here inside of Iraq, DBE academies. People go to a four-week training program. There's 500 students in that training program right now, and they come out to be members of the Department of Border Enforcement and occupy these forts -- these border forts -- around the border of Iraq.

Last January, 51; today, 258. Twenty thousand people patrolling the streets, patrolling the borders of Iraq, now occupying 258 border forts. That's progress.

Next graphic, please.

Let's talk progress. What the graphic shows you is those areas in Iraq where the Iraqi army or the Iraqi police have the lead in counterinsurgency operations. They have the lead in counterinsurgency operations. They have the ability to plan and conduct on their own, with some coalition support, counterinsurgency operations in those areas that are reflected in green. So let's just walk back.

Now, as I said last Thursday, a frustration is people focused on the attack of the day and they lose the big picture. A year ago -- one year -- there were only three battalions in the entire Iraqi security force that had the lead in counterinsurgency operations in their respective areas. And now we have two divisions, 16 brigade headquarters and 58 battalions in those areas that are reflected both in Iraq and focusing in on Baghdad leading counterinsurgency operations with some coalition support. Magnificent progress -- two, 16 and 58. And I'm a visual person. You stand back from the map and you say, okay, here's what it looked like in October and here's what it looks like now. You can see the progress. Okay, I want to talk to you about a specific -- you can take that down, please -- I want to talk to you about a specific operation that happened also on the 25th of March. You know, I tell you all the time about company-level and above operations. You know, in the period 1 to 7 April there were 608. Thirty-four percent of those were Iraqi independent operations. But I want to show you what one looks like because sometimes I'm not sure you got that visual in your mind.

So can I get the video, please?

Okay, what we got here is we got an operation about a hostage taken in place. Individuals ran to this truck. You can see what they did is they pulled the truck driver out of the cab. They've got him under control. Now this black sedan zooms up. They take the individual -- the hostage that they found -- they take him out of the truck. They take him and put him in the trunk of that black sedan. Some individuals get back in the truck and drive the truck away, and the folks with the hostage in the back take off in their black sedan.

We're watching this with a UAV. We've got ground forces on the ground that have actionable intelligence based on the UAV, and now they're going to take action. You'll see this black sedan pass that white car. Shots were fired to disable this black sedan -- three shots into the engine to disable the black sedan. Ground forces come up. They engage with the kidnappers. They kill two of the kidnappers and they free the hostages.

That's a coordinated operation. That's ground and air. That's focused on things that are happening in Iraq that shouldn't happen, like kidnapping. That was on the 25th of March. That was in the vicinity of the town of Tarmia that I talked about earlier. That was UAV presence watching this suspicious vehicle. Once the UAV and the folks watching the UAV saw the activity, realized that it was a kidnapping, ground forces were vectored to that. Ground forces engaged with the kidnappers. They freed the hostage and they killed the kidnappers. That's an effective company-level operation.

And with that, I'd be happy to take any questions you might have today.

Can I get the first graphic back up?

Okay, please?

Q Hi. I'm Tony Costanetto (ph) with the AP.

GEN. LYNCH: Hi, Tony.

Q How are you doing?

GEN. LYNCH: Good. Q I have one quick question for you.

GEN. LYNCH: No such thing as a quick question.

Q (Chuckles.) As I understand it, the Iraqi army policy for enlistment policies are that soldiers can leave any time during their contract. Let's say if I were to join the Iraqi army tomorrow, I could leave two weeks from now. Do you know if that indeed is the case, number one? And number two, has there been any thought given to changing it so that they have, you know, a set amount of time when they're supposed to -- supposed to work?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, we work with the Iraqi security force leadership on all their policies, those which need to be refined and those which need to remain in effect. I have not heard of that particular policy, but we'll check into it.

But the point to make is what they're trying to do is to build an effective Iraqi security force not just with people and equipment, but with policies that allows that to be effective. So things like tenure of service would be very important, and we work the Iraqi authorities and make sure that happens. And we'll get you the answer on that specific thing.

Thanks, Tony.

Q Hi. Zijay (ph) from AFP.

GEN. LYNCH: Hi.

Q I just --

GEN. LYNCH: Nobody smiles anymore. You got to smile, you know?

Q Yeah. (Chuckles.)

GEN. LYNCH: I'm the one standing here under the lights. You guys ought to be pretty happy on that side.

Q Right. (Chuckles.)

Just a quick question on this last couple of -- this first 12 days of the month have been pretty deadly as far as American forces are concerned. We had more than 30 troops killed in various insurgent or rebel attacks. Now, a few weeks back or just a couple of months, you've been saying that the whole pattern of insurgency is slightly changing in Iraq; the attacks are more on the civilians and Iraqi forces. Now, has that again changed, where we can see attacks coming back at American forces or the coalition forces, number one?

And two is, specifically for Baghdad, considering that a lot of patrols have been stepped up, 45,000 almost in the last two months, does it in any way also indicate that you have taken back some of the battlespace which was handed over to Iraqi forces in the last few months?

GEN. LYNCH: Okay. And the folks that are regulars realize that I'm smart enough to answer the first question; I'll have to repeat the second question. So work with me on this.

The enemy is still targeting Iraqi civilians. During the period 1 to 7 April, 75 percent of the casualties were innocent men, women and children of Iraq; 13 percent of the casualties were Iraqi security forces; 12 percent of the casualties were indeed coalition force members. And our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of all those who have fallen and given the ultimate sacrifice here on the field of battle -- coalition forces, Iraqi security forces, and innocent Iraqi civilians.

And you are correct, there has been a spike in coalition force fatalities -- not in the number of attacks against coalition forces or the number of casualties in general, but there has been a spike in the month of April on fatalities against coalition forces. But it's not a reversal of the trend that we see. The enemy is still targeting innocent civilians. He is still trying to inflame sectarian violence, and he's using his horrific attacks to inflame them.

Now, back to the Buratha mosque that we talked about, that was an example of what he's trying to do. And everybody kept waiting for the other shoe to fall. Here's four suicide bombers taking out all these innocent Shi'as at this mosque, and nothing happened. And it didn't happen because the leaders of Iraq -- the government, the religious, political leaders, the local leaders said, "No, we're not going to fall into that trap. We're not going to do what he wants us to do." And that's the indication that we're seeing now.

Please?

Oh, I'm sorry, second part of the question.

Q The second question was that with the increased number of patrols in Baghdad in the last few months, has it in any way -- is it related to the coalition forces taking back some of the battlespace which was earlier handed over to Iraqi forces in Baghdad specifically? GEN. LYNCH: We have great trust and confidence in our Iraqi security force brethren, and when you get out on the street and you talk to the soldiers, they're proud to serve and patrol side by side with the Iraqis. And the advantage is the Iraqis will get the actionable human intelligence; people will come to the Iraqis and say here's where the weapons cache is.

We as a coalition have not made any determination to take battlespace back away from Iraqi security forces because we have no confidence in them. That's exactly wrong. What we have done, the tactical commanders looked at it and said where do I need to reinforce existing security forces? He got an additional 3,700 security force soldiers and he made a determination. And like we all do, we study the enemy. We looked at the graphic and we said where are the attacks taking place? And he used those extra security force members to address those issues.

So no, we are not taking battlespace back away from the Iraqi security forces. Yes, we've got great confidence in their abilities. And yes, we're proud to serve side by side with them on the streets of Baghdad.

Please?

Q Hi.

GEN. LYNCH: And thanks for reminding me to do that second question.

Q No problem. Courtney Kealy, Fox News.

GEN. LYNCH: Hi, Courtney.

Q Oh, by the way, I saw the weapons cache. We're doing a story on it, so --

GEN. LYNCH: Wonderful.

Q -- I'll let you know.

When you just showed us that graphic with the Iraqi army and national police --

GEN. LYNCH: (To staff) Put that back up, please.

Q Can we go to the constant problem --

GEN. LYNCH: The map?

Q Yeah, the map, please. A lot of us have been out with the Iraqi army. We've seen their growth. What I don't see on this chart is any growth by the national police. It's zero two six, zero two six, from October 5 to March 6. Is that correct?

GEN. LYNCH: That is correct.

Q Okay. What's going to happen now? I mean, that's a very significant problem. Many of those Iraqi civilians that have been killed have been killed by assassinations and death squads, police -- impersonating police or actually infiltrating the national police force. Can you tell us concrete, immediate methods that are taking place right now?

GEN. LYNCH: Thank you for that, Courtney. And the observation is exactly right.

What we decided to do in 2005 and early 2006 is focus on the Iraqi army, and that's why we went from three battalions in January of '05 to this many units who have the lead in counterinsurgency operations from an army perspective. And now we have indeed turned our focus to building a competent, capable, trustworthy Iraqi police force. And we're doing that in a variety of ways.

The most important way is expanding our police transition teams at the local and regional level. We always had military transition teams with the Iraqi army, and we had special police transition teams with the national police -- the commandos and the public order brigades. Now we're doing an increased participation at the local level and the district level of police with U.S. police trainers. We've increased our number of civilian trainers as well, and we're focusing our efforts on improving their capabilities.

And it's all about training and it's all about equipping and it's all about having loyalties to the people and to the government of Iraq and not displaced loyalties. And we're going to work through that with the government of Iraq over the course of this year.

Q Just a quick follow-up question. The problem of people wearing police uniforms, like you saw the uniforms taken out of that cache. Is there anything that the military's doing assisting the police, that still don't have a lot of power and are fragmented, with stopping these counterfeit uniforms or checking police and coalition force checkpoints or paramilitary units on the street, trying to ensure some kind of check for these people that are roaming around in Baghdad, especially?

GEN. LYNCH: There have been allegations over the last several months of Ministry of Interior forces having displaced loyalties and conducting attacks against the people of Iraq. Those are the allegations that we hear. As we investigate those, the only one that we can confirm is the one I've reported from this podium, and that was the highway patrol. The rest of them are just allegations.

We do believe there are indications, just like we found in that cache, where the insurgents are gathering uniforms, Iraqi army uniforms and Iraqi police uniforms. So we are indeed working with the government of Iraq and Ministry of Interior to see how we can stop that from happening, whether it's different uniforms or it's some kind of badge program or some kind of access program, to confirm that these people are indeed police.

And it's the same problem we have in other countries around the world where people are impersonating police for the wrong reason. And that's what we're seeing here, as well.

Q But with the government stalemated right now, is it also at a stalemate to be able to change the uniforms or change the badges?

GEN. LYNCH: We all hope, as do the people of Iraq, that a national unity government is formed sooner rather than later. And once we get a competent, capable Iraqi security government that's focused on the needs of all Iraqi people, it will facilitate everything that we're trying to do and the people of Iraq are trying to do. So the answer to your question is, yes, once we get that national unity government, it will facilitate that. But even in the absence of that, we continue to work with the minister of Interior and his forces to address these problems.

Please.

Q Thank you. Jemani Karatsu (ph), Fox News.

GEN. LYNCH: Hi.

Q Hi, sir. In an interview with Fox News yesterday, the Interior minister said that the threat is greater now from Saddam loyalists than it is from al Qaeda terrorists. What do you say to that?

GEN. LYNCH: Well, the insurgency's always been grouped by us in three areas. One is terrorists and foreign fighters, one is the Iraqi rejectionists, both Shi'a and Sunni, and the other is indeed Saddamists, former members of the Saddam regime who want things to be the way they used to be and not the way they should be. So they're out there, and we focus our operations against them. Our primary target -- the coalition force's primary target is al Qaeda in Iraq, and the face of that is Zarqawi. Back here. A lot of new faces today.

Q Yeah. The first time.

GEN. LYNCH: Hi. Welcome. It's a lot of fun. We do this every Thursday. I can't sleep Wednesday night because I'm so excited. (Laughter.)

Q (Name inaudible) -- from Asahi Shimbun newspaper. My question is about handing over the security responsibility. You already handed over security responsibility in five provinces -- Najaf, Karbala, Kut, Erbil and Diwaniyah -- to the Iraqi side. But you didn't do that until now in (Samarra ?) province. So my question is about the reason of not handing over the security responsibility in this province, and despite that the security situation in this province is much better than others. Is it the existence of Japanese troops in this area and they need the protection of the multinational forces? And when do you expect that you will be able to hand over the security in this province?

GEN. LYNCH: Thank you for that question.

Q Thank you.

GEN. LYNCH: No, as we look at transfer of security responsibilities all across Iraq, we look at three conditions, and we talk about these conditions all the time. The first one is the level of the insurgency. And you don't just look at Iraq writ large, but see pieces of Iraq, like provinces and local areas, so what's the level of the insurgency. The second one is the capability of the Iraqi security force in that area. How are they doing? Are they now indeed prepared to lead counterinsurgency operations? And the third piece is the level of governance. Have we, with the Iraqi people, established capable governance at the local, provincial and national level so that transition of security responsibilities can indeed take place?

And we're looking at all 18 of the provinces with the government of Iraq and making determinations at the provincial level when to transfer security responsibility. And we'll do that in the situation you just described. I don't have details right now as to where that particular province is, but that's the system that we use.

Please.

Q Hi. Dave Enders with The Nation. How are you, sir?

GEN. LYNCH: Hi. Thank you. Thanks for asking. I'm doing fine. How are you?

Q Good. Thanks. GEN. LYNCH: Wife and kids doing all right?

Q None yet.

GEN. LYNCH: Mine are doing fine.

Q That's good.

GEN. LYNCH: I have a 22-year-old daughter, 20-year-old son. They're doing fine. Thanks for asking.

Q Glad to hear it.

I was talking to the director of the Iraqi Red Crescent, and he said he's made a request to MNF for assistance with the thousands of families that have been displaced, specifically sanitation and water, and was wondering if there was any action on that, when that might be filled, what you guys were doing.

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah. Thanks for that question.

I had not heard specifically about that request. But I do know requests like that will be actioned upon. We're very sensitive in this period of time, this sensitive period of time of displaced civilians, people, for whatever reason, that are leaving their house and moving elsewhere.

So we'll work with the Turkish Red Crescent. We'll work with NGOs, whoever, to improve the conditions of those people that are indeed displaced, and as importantly create a security situation so they can get home, back to their homes.

So I don't know any specific details of that request, but I do know it's our policy to support those kinds of operations.

Q Hi. Jamie Tarabay from National Public Radio.

GEN. LYNCH: Hi.

Q I keep forgetting who I work for. (Chuckles.)

I just wanted to ask you about this internal report that The New York Times published last week, written together by the military and the U.S. embassy here, and what you make of the -- I guess the final, kind of, conclusion that after three years, the only places that have been deemed stable are those that belong in the North that have been stable anyway.

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah.

Q Thanks.

GEN. LYNCH: I do worry about those reports, so let me kind of walk you through a relatively lengthy answer to your very good question.

What I do every Thursday is I stand up here and talk about operations across Iraq, and you normally ask me questions about attack levels, and I talk about attack levels. You know, 12 of the 18 provinces have less than two attacks a day; nine of the provinces average less than .3 attacks per day, and that's what I'm reporting.

As we look closely at the situation across Iraq, we look at more than just the security. We look at the governance capacity, we look at economic development to make an assessment on not just security but stability. And it ties into that gentleman's question on transfer of security responsibilities because all those are indeed combined.

The report that The New York Times cited was an internal report -- we're trying to look at, by province, where is the progress being made? And candidly, we are making magnificent progress across Iraq. You know, people look at terminology used in that report about serious and critical, and they make their own interpretations. But we can walk province by province and tell you, from our perspective, where we are with the stability in that area; not just the security line, but how are we dealing with economic development, which is so very important; how are we dealing with rule of law establishment; how are we dealing with governance at the local and provincial level, and that's how we make those assessments.

So there's not a disconnect. The article talked about a disconnect between what I'm saying and what that report is saying. What I've reported is security and numbers of attacks. As you get into the details on stability, there's more refinement that has to happen, and that's what was in that report.

Okay?

Any other questions?

Please. And you didn't even get a chair. I'm sorry. I made you stand in the rear.

Q Thanks, General. I'm Bartle Bull from Prospect Magazine.

GEN. LYNCH: Hi.

Q And I wanted to thank you very much for all this.

In the context of this latest mosque bombing, you mentioned very specifically Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq, and I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about that attribution.

GEN. LYNCH: Okay. I mean, you know as a professional journalist that there are certain things I can't talk about. I can't talk about future operations. I can't talk about detailed intelligence sources.

But I can tell you with great assurity (sic) that we can indeed, for attacks like that, label those attacks as Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq attacks. And we know -- we don't think -- we know he's using those attacks to inflame sectarian violence.

Now, whether or not he ever stands up and claims credit for the attack is irrelevant. But we do know that's his method, and his signature are these suicide attacks. Please.

Q During the past two and a half years during briefings like this, there have been, you know, way more than -- but dozens and dozens of caches found, shown as evidence of progress against insurgency. I was wondering whether -- what you make of the insurgents' ability to continue to have these caches to be found?

You know, are they -- you know, are these from storehouses of weapons left from the prior army? Are these weapons being brought in? And, you know, if you could talk a little bit about their -- you know, are they regenerating these weapons or these -- you know, or is this a matter of there are X number of caches out there and you, you know, have found X percent of them and --

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah. I really wish it were that simple. I wish it were there was X amount of munitions, and we found half of them so now we got half of X left. And it ain't that way.

What it is, is you got an enemy who needs those munitions to conduct these horrific acts of violence. So some of the munitions were here and have been here for the last three years. And as we uncover those munitions, like you saw some of those, they're clearly dated munitions. They're still effective, but they've been in the ground for a period of time. They've been there.

There are munitions that are being brought in. You know, there are some neighbors that are being particularly unhelpful and allowing their borders to be used to get munitions in here. And we're stopping some of that as well.

So it's not a never-ending supply of munitions, but it's not a quantifiable number that's already here and if we take it out, he doesn't have any more. He's out there trying to get more and more munitions. He needs people, he needs time, he needs money, he needs munitions, and we're working to stop all those things.

Q So obviously, when you find that cache, that's a cache that the insurgency can't use. But broader picture, you know, how significant are finding those caches in terms of sort of a broader sense of victory against insurgents?

GEN. LYNCH: (To staff.) Can you get back to the pictures? Is it possible to go back to the pictures, the first picture? (Pause.)

I'm trying to remember the number of caches we've found over time. We'll get that to you. But some of those -- like I said, last week 28 found out in Al Anbar. I didn't bring your attention to those 28, other than the number. But some of them are just so -- there's so much there that taking them out of the hands of the insurgents had such a great effect. Now, if he had the opportunity -- like I said, I'm not an explosives expert -- to use this high-melting explosives and these 55- gallon sacks of nitrate and put those together in a bomb, a VBIED, a SVBIED, that would have had horrific effect somewhere; next to some mosque, in some market somewhere, a lot of innocent women and children would have been killed. Taking those off the streets, taking them away from them kept that from happening.

(Pause.)

You didn't like that answer either?

Q Again --

GEN. LYNCH: Want to do one more?

Q -- I understand that finding this cache kept them from being able to use that cache.

My question is, is, again, you know, repeatedly finding these caches over the past two and a half years, are you troubled by the insurgents' ability to continue to have these caches? What does this say about, you know, their ability to regenerate both men and equipment?

GEN. LYNCH: We'd love to be able to attest to the fact that the enemy's got no munitions left, and that's just not where we are. We are convinced that conducting these operations has good effect over a period of time because it takes it out of the hand of the enemy and he can't use it to blow up innocent women and children.

So we're optimistic that we're making progress. We don't believe that he can resupply as quickly as we can take it away from him. So in the end, there will be a -- it will be a problem on his part on gathering these munitions. So we just got to continue. I mean, if you were to sit down with the battalion-level commander, say, for example, out in Al Anbar, he's thinking, what does the enemy have, what are his capabilities, vulnerabilities and intentions, and one of the things he has are these munitions. So he's planning operations to take those munitions away from him, and that's going to continue.

Any other questions?

STAFF: Last question.

Q One last question, sir, on the militias. What are the multinational forces doing to limit the militias' influence in the security forces?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah. We go with the Iraqi government through a detailed vetting process on people that join the Iraqi security forces. Remember, I told you in Tarmia, 2,000 folks popped up their chests and said, "I want to join the Iraqi people." And as a result of screening and vetting, only 225 were found appropriate to join the Iraqi police. We do that in conjunction with the Iraqi security forces -- detailed screening and vetting to make sure the right people come in.

When the wrong people get in, when people come in and have displaced loyalties, we take action with the Iraqi government to remove those individuals. The perfect example is the fact that a Public Order Brigade commander was relieved of his duties for misconduct by the minister of Interior. And then when they replaced him with another brigade commander, he looked and saw what he had in that Public Order Brigade and he relieved 60 people. So they're working to police themselves as well.

Is that it?

Okay, thank you for your time today. I appreciate this. I got to talk about this one more time because it will make me feel better. There's progress being made in Iraq. I mean, we are working hard with the Iraqi security forces -- first the army and now the police -- to get them to the point where they can indeed assume the lead for counterinsurgency operations here in Iraq. And that graph shows you not just numerically, but graphically the progress that we're making. Great progress.

Thank you for your time.

END.



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