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Weekly Press Briefing April 27, 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 27, 2006

Briefing Slides [PDF]


GEN. LYNCH: Thanks for taking the time. I always appreciate you carving out time on a Thursday afternoon. Lots that I want to talk to you about.

But before I do, I want to remind everybody of the end state that I've articulated in the past. It's the end state we've agreed upon with the Iraqi government. That's an Iraq that's at peace with its neighbors, that is an ally in the war on terror, that has a representative government that respects the human rights of all Iraqis, that has a security force that can maintain domestic order and deny Iraq as a safe haven for terrorists. And that's what we use to gauge our progress here in this very important mission.

So just think about that -- a security force that can maintain domestic order and deny Iraq as a safe haven for terrorists. We now have an Iraqi security force that's a quarter of a million strong, trained and equipped. And compare that to January of '05, when the security force was only 135,000 people. Now it's a quarter of a million strong. And a good portion of those individuals and units control operations in their respective areas -- so amazing progress.

And the other piece, this idea of a representative government that respects the human rights of all Iraqis, and progress on the political front.

We've talked before about 2005: elections in January; drafting, ratification of constitution in October; elections in December. And now the Iraqi people have worked to form a unity government. Council of Representatives met. They've elected a Presidential Council -- a president and two vice presidents, a speaker of the parliament and two deputies. They've designated a prime minister, and that prime minister is now working to form this national unity government.

So great optimism, on our part and on the part of the Iraqi people, that progress is being made towards that end state. And we got to applaud every day the courage and the commitment of the Iraqi people.

Today our heartfelt condolences go out to the family of Tariq Hashimi, the Sunni vice president. His sister was killed today. His brother was killed two weeks ago. But he and many others like him are true Iraqi patriots. They're doing what they're doing for the people of Iraq, at great risk and great personal sacrifice.

First graphic, please.

I want to talk about operations across Iraq. Remember, we continue to get to the point where we have more and more Iraqi independent operations. That shows you the number of combined Iraqi independent and coalition independent operations. And we continue to get more and more Iraqi independent or Iraqi-led.

So let me use that to talk about Operation Swift Sword. Started this week. Twelve hundred members of the Iraqi security force, 500 members of the coalition force. Directed intelligence-led operation to take out insurgent cells. Operation's been ongoing for a couple of days. They've already taken out 12 known insurgents and significant weapons caches.

One of the things that we see troublesome across Iraq is not just IEDs but indirect fire attacks by the insurgents that are killing innocent civilians. So we're targeting these indirect fire attacks, and let me tell you a story about Samarra this past week.

Coalition forces on the lookout for people using mortars and rockets. They saw a vehicle traverse the berm around the city of Samarra. They watched closely as three individuals got out of the car and set up a mortar base plate and started to set up a mortar tube to launch indirect fire. They attacked those three individuals, killed one. Two escaped. And when they got inside the car, they found three more mortar tubes, rockets, mortar rounds and IED-making material. But intelligence-led operation to take out indirect fire capability.

Let's look out west. In October of 2004, there were essentially no members of the Iraqi security force in the entire province of Al Anbar. In March this last year, only 2,800. Today 19,000 members of the Iraqi security force are conducting operations in Al Anbar. And there are seven Iraqi army brigades as part of those operations, and three of those brigades lead operations in their respective areas -- three brigades.

In addition to that, the people of Al Anbar continued to enlist in the Iraqi security forces, and today we have in training 900 sons of Al Anbar to be members of the army and 700 sons of Al Anbar to be members of the Iraqi police. And they'll go back to their areas and conduct operations as part of the Iraqi security force. And they continue to enlist to be part of the solution here in Iraq, rather than part of the problem.

Let's focus on Scales of Justice. Remember, we started that on March the 13th to create the conditions for the formation of a national unity government. And we brought in eight additional battalions: three additional coalition battalions and five Iraqi security force battalions. And those operations continue.

Just yesterday we had 1,167 patrols -- in the last 24 hours, 1,167 patrols -- throughout the streets of Baghdad. Sixty percent of those were Iraqi security force independent patrols. We average 90 patrols on the street in Baghdad at any given time. There are now 140 checkpoints. And since mid-March when we started the operation, we, with the Iraqi security force, have apprehended over 1,000 insurgents in Baghdad and have found over 100 weapons caches.

Violence in Baghdad continues to decrease. This past week the number of attacks in Baghdad were 10 percent less than the week before, but we see a gradual decrease in attacks and acts of violence inside of Baghdad directly attributable to acts -- Scales of Justice.

Let's talk about IEDs for a minute. Last year, in the October time frame, we averaged finding and clearing about 34 percent of the IEDs that were emplaced. Now we average over 46 percent. And in the last 24 hours, there were 29 IEDs emplaced inside of Baghdad, but 59 percent of those were found and cleared. And out west, 12 IEDs were emplaced, but 50 percent of those were indeed found and cleared. So our increased training, our reliance on advanced technologies and our ability to take the bomb-makers off the street have helped with our operations against IEDs.

The next graphic, please. Let's zoom in on Baghdad.

The enemy has a vote. We've talked about this before. The guy that's got the most to lose if a national unity government is formed is Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq. And every day that we get closer in Iraq to having a national unity government that truly meets the needs of all Iraqis, every day he gets closer to mission failure. So we do see, at points, times where he surges his operations. And we saw that on the 24th of this month, in that he had eight VBIEDs detonate in a six-hour period of time inside of Baghdad, four of which were suicide and the other four were conventional car bombs. So he still has the capability to surge, and he surged that day.

So think about the timing. If you're Zarqawi and you've got the most to lose with the formation of a national unity government, what happened with the forming of the Council of Representatives and the selection of the vice president, the Presidential Council and the speaker and his two deputies was a disaster. So what he had to do is to pull out the stops and surge his operations, and that's what he did on the 24th of this month. Could I get the picture, please?

I want to talk about an operation that we did against the insurgency inside of the Baghdad area of operations. There was indeed, as a result of us taking bomb-makers and munitions of the street -- and let me talk about that again for those of you that are new to that topic. The reason that, we believe, that we're now finding and clearing about half of the IEDs is because we worked hard to take his bomb-makers off the street. We target those guys who have expertise and intelligence with munitions and take them away, either kill or capture them, and we take away the munitions, as well. And what he's left with are people that don't know to make a bomb or don't know how to emplace a bomb, or with substandard munitions making these IEDs. And that's what happened in this case.

A few days ago in New Baghdad, a bomb detonated. The national police moved to it and find out that what happened was three individuals were trying to put an IED in the back of their car, and when they put the IED in the back of the car, the IED blew up. Killed one and wounded the other two. The other two died enroute to the hospital. But now the national police knew that they were at an area where IEDs were being made, so they started a search.

And they realized that the house from which these insurgents came out of was a house that was on government property, so they worked to bulldoze the house. Over the course of bulldozing the house, they realized that underneath this house was this large stockpile of anti- personnel mines, 340 anti-personnel mines. They continued the excavation and the search over the next several days.

They found a large number of artillery rounds. They talked to some neighbors. The neighbors said, "Yeah, they've been building bombs in that house. But oh, by the way, they're building bombs in this adjacent house as well." They went and searched that adjacent house, and they found in there seven IEDs that were encased in concrete.

So operations continue against folks that are making bombs and emplacing these bombs. But it's a true statement that he still has the capability of conducting surge operations, and he did there, and he did that in an act of desperation because he sees this national unity government forming. And I'll talk more about that in a minute.

Next graphic, please.

We don't see Iraq on the verge of a civil war. I've talked to you about that before. And what I want to do is walk you through our thought process, the indicators that we're watching to see whether or not we're seeing significant increase of violence that could have the traits of a civil war. So I thought it would be helpful if I walked you through our thought process and what we're seeing. So there are indeed four indicators we're watching very closely, and I'll tell you what we see as of now.

The first indicator is ethno-sectarian identities that are the overriding force driving decision-making. People are making decisions based on their particular sect -- Shi'a or Sunni or Kurd -- and not what's good for the people of Iraq. And what we saw with the forming -- with the Council of Representatives and the selection of the prime minister-designate, the Presidential Council and the speaker and his two deputies, was an indication that that particular indicator is not on the upswing but, rather, on a downswing. And we're seeing the formation of a national unity government. I've told you now many times that we're in a period of increased vulnerability while this government forms. But I can't overemphasize the importance of what happened at that Council of Representatives meeting, and the progress that we see, and as a result, the optimism that we have.

Now, as we've talked about before, there are indeed Iraqis, inside of Baghdad specifically, that are concerned about MOI forces and believe that those MOI forces are partisan. And we watch that very closely. And as I've talked about before, any indications that Iraqi security forces, either army or police, are doing something they shouldn't do, we work to investigate with the Iraqi authorities. So that particular indicator is indeed on a downward slide, and we're very optimistic about the political progress that we see as they form this national unity government.

Another indicator would be unrestrained, self-sustained sectarian strife across multiple provinces. We're not seeing that. If there's ethno-sectarian violence, it tends to be isolated in Baghdad and not widespread across Iraq. But even inside of Baghdad, the indicators are on a downward trend. In the last week, in that reporting period 16 to 22 April, inside of Baghdad we could account for 152 ethno- sectarian casualties, which was 60 percent lower than the previous week -- 60 percent -- and the lowest we've seen since the Golden Mosque bombing. So there is still ethno-sectarian violence. We do believe it's concentrated in Baghdad. But we don't see it on an upswing.

Another indicator is ethno-sectarian mobilization. Do we see widespread activation of militias -- Shi'a militias and Sunni militias -- to conduct acts of violence across Iraq? And we're not seeing that. There are indeed militias. We've talked at length about the concerns we have about militia operations, but it's not widespread and it's not across Iraq. We do indeed see some militias conducting intimidation tactics here in Baghdad specifically, and we watch that very closely.

Another indicator for civil war would be forced population movements. And we are extremely sensitive to that. We see reports of tens of thousands of families displaced here in Iraq, and we chase down each and every one of those reports. And I'll show you detail in a minute. But we have seen some displacement, pockets of families moving, but not in large numbers. The next graphic will give more details.

Get the next one, please.

And this is very important. We have not been asked for any assistance for displaced civilians. The provincial government has not asked, the local governments have not asked, the national government has not asked. So if there are indeed 36,000-plus families that have been displaced, we're not seeing it. We indeed move to check every report of displaced civilians. And we were told about displaced civilian camps, and of the 16 that we were told about, we can only confirm the location of four -- one in Fallujah, one in Baghdad, one in al Kut, and one down in Basra. And then when we got the report of 500 families displaced in Basra, we went to confirm, and all we could find was 43 families. So there is indeed indications of displaced persons inside of Iraq. Some of them truly are moving because they're concerned about their own personal security or their family's security, I'm sure of that. Some of them are moving for economic reasons. Some of them are moving to be with their families. But we're not seeing internally displaced persons at the rate which causes us alarm.

Could I get the other graphic back up, the one that you just had up? I know it's going to confuse you. So we as the multinational force in Iraq, with the Iraqi authorities, look closely at these four civil war indicators that would allow us to determine whether or not we're seeing increased sectarian violence that could indeed move Iraq to the brink of a civil war. We've never seen us close to a civil war, and all indications now are the acts of violence -- ethno-sectarian violence is decreasing.

The government is forming, and we believe that a national unity government will form over the course of the next 30 days.

The numbers of casualties inside of Baghdad, where the ethno- sectarian violence is concentrated, is going down -- 60 percent decrease in casualties in the last week -- lowest that we've seen since the Golden Mosque attacks. We're not seeing widespread militia operations across Iraq. There is militia activity we're concerned about, and we've talked about that before, and we're not seeing widespread movement of displaced personnel.

So we do not see us moving towards a civil war in Iraq. In fact, we see us moving away from it.

Can I get the last graphic, please?

We are dealing with an extremely violent insurgent population here in Iraq, and they indeed conduct horrific acts of violence against the people of Iraq. Last week, 56 percent of the casualties were innocent men, women and children in Iraq. The numbers of attacks against civilians in the last 10 weeks have increased 90 percent -- almost doubled in the last 10 weeks from the previous six months. And the insurgent continues to target the innocent civilians.

So this past week in Baghdad, one of our convoys was moving -- a convoy was attacked by an IED. Luckily, no one was hurt. As they got out to investigate the area, they found pamphlets from the insurgents to the people of Baghdad -- and the copy of that pamphlet is in your packet; you can take it home with you today -- but it says, hey, innocent people of Baghdad, we're going to kill you if you cooperate with the Americans. Innocent people of Baghdad, if you take a job in the fuel sector or if you take a job repairing generators, we're going to kill you. Essentially, if you do anything to meet the basic needs of the people of Iraq, we're going to kill you. And if you're out with a job that's taking trash off the streets, we're going to kill you, because we got that trash there to hide our IEDs. And when you remove the trash, we can't hide our IEDs, so we're going to kill you. So it's directed threats. And this is not an enemy that says, "Okay, I'm going to attack coalition forces" or "I'm going to attack security forces." They're attacking civilians. They're trying to intimidate civilians. They're directing their attacks against civilians.

In this last week, as you're well aware, Zarqawi posted on the Internet a video clip. He showed his face for the first time since March of '04. We believe that's an act of desperation. That is indeed Zarqawi in his final hours. He knows that the people of Iraq are on the verge of forming a national unity government, and democracy equals failure for Zarqawi, so he's pulling out all stops. And in the video, he said you got to stop the democratic process. Anybody that enrolls or joins the police, the army, we got to kill. So he is indeed on the verge of failure, and the people of Iraq are on the verge of forming a national unity government.

And with that, I'll be glad to answer any of your questions today.

Put the first map back up, please.

You can't be tired already. I'm the one doing all the work, and you're yawning.

Q Good evening. (Jerry ?) from AFP.

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah.

Q You're emphasizing on the fall in the sectarian clashes in the last one week in Baghdad and in and around Baghdad. Correct me if I'm wrong, but generally normally what happens in sectarian clashes -- which I've seen in some other countries, also -- is that it goes on for a few months, then there is a kind of a fall. And then the groups or various sects regroup themselves again, and again there is an outburst. Maybe the reason could be any trivial thing or anything. Now, do you, from your analysis or your assessment in the last couple of months after the Golden Mosque bombing, do you see that that thing could happen again? Or this fall which you see is actually really ending the sectarian clashes in the true sense because of sustained efforts of hammering from various authorities, U.S. and Iraq authorities? What is your gut feeling about it?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah. Thanks for that question.

The insurgency's objective is to derail the democratic process and discredit the Iraqi government. That's their stated objective.

That's what they focused on all along.

So we believe that the insurgency -- and the primary face of the insurgency right now we're most concerned is Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq -- they are indeed trying to inflame sectarian violence that would break apart this national unity government. That's what they're trying to do. That's why they target Tariq Hashimi's sister and his brother because now you got a Sunni politician who is standing up for the people of Iraq and say, "Let's do the right thing for the people of Iraq and not worry about Sunnis versus Shi'as versus Kurds." So we do indeed see these cycles of violence that you described.

So as soon as things get calm, Zarqawi attacks Baghdad with eight car bombs -- four suicide, four regular car bombs -- to inflame sectarian violence. What we saw right after the Golden Mosque attack was pikes -- peaks of violence. We saw significant murders, escalations in murders and intimidations, and we have not been seeing that lately. So we believe that the people of Iraq, specifically the people of Baghdad, have grown tired of the insurgency and have grown tired of these casualties and indeed are going to stop this cycle of violence.

And when the government is formed and truly reaches out to the people, we believe you'll see a great decline in violent activities in Iraq.

Please.

Q Liz Sly with the Chicago Tribune.

GEN. LYNCH: How are you doing, Liz?

Q I'm fine. How are you?

GEN. LYNCH: Good. Thanks.

Q Yes, just -- you said -- maybe you could clear something up that seemed a little contradictory, which is, there was a 60 percent reduction in the number ethno-sectarian killings from last week --

GEN. LYNCH: Last week, right.

Q -- but a 90 percent reduction in the -- an increase in the number of attacks against civilians in the past six months. So can you explain how you're breaking down what's an attack against a civilian, and what's an ethno-sectarian killing?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, no, that's a good point. I mean, what I described with the 60 percent reduction is comparison of the number of ethno-sectarian casualties, 152, last week, compared to the week before, and that was indeed a 60 percent reduction. And --

Q (Off mike) --

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, they would do. Yeah, they would. They would include anything that we can either directly attribute to sectarian violence or we suspect to be tied to sectarian violence in that discreet period of time -- this week compared to last week.

And what we need to show you, Liz, is how that thing plays out over the last 10 weeks since the Golden Mosque bombing, and you can see that. But as you back away from that, and you look at a six-month period of time, you start seeing trend lines on attacks. And what we see in trend lines on attacks is we've seen increased attacks against the civilians; a 90 percent increase in the last 10 weeks. We've seen increased attacks against Iraqi security forces; 40 percent -- a 44 percent increase in the last 10 weeks, and a reduction in attacks against coalition forces.

So it is -- numbers are always difficult to ascertain if you look just at one number. What I gave you is one number of this week compared to last week.

Q (Off mike) -- if you're talking about a pile of bodies dumped in a sewage works, is that an attack civilians, or is that an ethnic-sectarian killing?

GEN. LYNCH: It's both.

Q Okay.

GEN. LYNCH: It would be counted as both. This is not a pure science, and what we're trying to do is best assess what's happening on the streets in Baghdad and across Iraq. So as we see violence occur, we try to parch that and determine what happened, which is difficult in itself, and then why it happened, which is even more difficult, and then make an assessment of where we're going.

But the point that I was making and that I stand behind is, in Baghdad, which is where the sectarian violence seems to be primarily isolated, we're seeing in general terms a decrease in the number of attacks and a decrease in casualties that we can relate directly to ethno-sectarian violence.

Another question? Hello. Didn't I just see you a couple of days ago?

Q Yeah. Borzou Daragahi from the LA Times. General, just if you could clarify, by casualties of ethno-sectarian violence, do you mean deaths and injuries or just deaths?

GEN. LYNCH: Deaths and injuries. All casualties -- wounded and killed.

Q Okay. Just wanted to ask you kind of a step-back question just with regard to the increased attention paid by the military now -- or maybe we just didn't know -- to the numbers of civilian deaths and civilian casualties and so on.

Could you give us -- it seems like there was a shift at some point to decide that, yes, we would try to track the civilian deaths. Could you give us an idea of the thinking behind that, or is it just a matter of going to the public with the figures that they already had?

Thank you.

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah. No, thanks for that excellent question. I mean, we're studying the enemy every day, and the enemy's changing its tactics, techniques and procedures; he's changing his focus. There is a changing nature of the insurgency that we're watching very closely, and what was alarming to us after the elections was the increased number of attacks against civilians and the increased number of casualties -- civilian casualties, either killed or wounded. And that marked for us a change in tactics on the part of the enemy; that he shifted from the target that we saw and focused on before, which was primarily the coalition forces and the Iraqi security forces to innocent Iraqi civilians. And we believe -- not having talked to Zarqawi -- but we believe what he's trying to do is to use that to spark sectarian violence and cause Shi'as to kill Sunnis and Sunnis to kill Shi'as.

And as a result of that, we are, indeed, more attuned to civilian casualties.

Another question. Please.

Q I wanted to ask a little bit about the sectarian violence. Have you seen any Shi'a-on-Shi'a violence? And then I wanted to ask you -- you said the Iraqi people are sick of the insurgency, but it's not only the insurgency they're afraid of any more. They're afraid of their neighbors, they're afraid of the Sadrist militia that has sort of said, "Kill Sunnis" right after the Samarra bombing. So is that a part of those casualties?

GEN. LYNCH: Let me get to your first question, and then I'll probably ask you to repeat the second question. I've been doing this for 10 months, and most people know I can only remember one question at a time, and I apologize for that.

We have seen Shi'a-on-Shi'a violence. You know, we've seen indications, particularly down south, where there have been acts of violence. And as we try to parse that out, it seems to be Shi'a-on- Shi'a. And there are groups within the Shi'a community that don't get along with groups -- other groups in the Shi'a community, and we see that, and that is, indeed, causing us concern.

And your second question? (Pause, laughs.) It must not have been that important. We'll let you think about it and come back.

Any other questions?

Q General, thanks, I'm (Bartle Bowa ?) from Prospect magazine in London.

GEN. LYNCH: Hi. How are you?

Q Very well, thanks. How are you doing, sir?

GEN. LYNCH: Glad to see you.

Q Cool. I understand from what you said and generally that the what we might call the Sunni insurgency, the Zarqawi-type, or the -- if you guys are right, Zarqawi-dominated insurgency is our priority in terms of the violence that we're trying to address here. And I was wondering why that is so much more of a priority, bad as it is, or important as it is, than the Shi'a militias, who in many ways are possibly more dangerous to the long-term well-being. They represent a much bigger population, they're probably -- they are far bigger groups, their capacity for violence is ever more -- shall we call it military rather than terrorist nature, and so on. Thank you.

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah. Well, thanks for the question.

We believe the only way we can -- we can -- he doesn't want to let the mike go because I'm going to stumble with the question and he's going to ask another question just in case. We believe that the group, or the insurgency -- the insurgency is a large group. You know, it's not a homogenous group; we talked about this before. It's Zarqawi and the terrorists and foreign fighters. And they are, indeed, led by a Jordanian and are, indeed, the most lethal. And they're the ones who have the most to lose. Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri said, hey, Zarqawi, don't let democracy flourish in Iraq; we need Iraq to be an Islamic caliphate. And that's come across in Zawahiri's messages and bin Laden's messages and in Zarqawi's messages. And the only way we can deal with Zarqawi and al Qaeda is to kill or capture them. It's a pure military solution. It's find them and kill them or capture them. And we've got to use that technique to stop the violence.

Then you got the group in the middle that we call the Iraqi rejectionists. And that includes some militias -- Shi'a militia and some Sunni militias. And we believe that there are other ways to solve the militia problem. And we believe that a critical way to solve the militia problem is political engagement. And that's why we are most encouraged when the prime minister-designate says that his government has to tackle the militia problem right away. The solution to the militia problem is, indeed, a political solution.

Could it be a kinetic solution? Could it be a military-on- military engagement? Sure it could. Do we want it to go that way? No, we don't. We want the political authorities to reach out to militia leaders and get them to lay down their arms. And we want, just like Prime Minister-designate Maliki wants, the only people carrying weapons in Iraq are the members of the Iraqi security forces.

Please.

Q Thanks. Then on that --

GEN. LYNCH: How'd I do? Is that all right?

Q Yeah. Sure. Sure. Thank you very much. And then on that question of the Iraqi security forces, these next few weeks during the formation of the new government will be, I think, possibly especially critical. For that question, the formation of the -- or, rather, really, the choice of minister for the Ministry of the Interior will be pretty critical. GEN. LYNCH: Yeah.

Q And we'll also -- this might be more of a political question than is appropriate for you, but can you tell us anything about what our strategy might be to try to keep that ministry out of the hands of the militias?

GEN. LYNCH: I think -- I think you saw both with the secretary of Defense and secretary of State in their conversation with the Iraqi leaders the importance of picking ministers that have the needs of the people of Iraq in mind and aren't particularly sectarian. So that message has been relayed loud and clear to the Iraqis. The Iraqi government, the Iraqi people acknowledge that, and over a period of time they'll select the right ministers. And we do, indeed, hope that the ministers that are in place in the security ministries have the needs of the people of Iraq first and foremost in their mind.

Q Hi. Back to militias again. When -- last week, when Maliki was made the prime minister-designate, the first thing he said was obviously to rein in militias.

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah.

Q And just to brief you on the latest, that two hours back in Najaf he says that immediately I can't do much about the militias because they -- if we take the arms out of their hands, it would represent as if we are disrespecting their fight against the former regime. This is a quote, and he has gone on record saying that in just two hours back after meeting Sistani.

Now, this kind of statement immediately -- in four days after what he made earlier, does it cast any kind of doubts in your mind that it's going to be still a long journey of trying to make Shi'a-led leaders or ministries to understand that these people need to get off with their arms? And how are you going to handle these kind of changing sentiments?

GEN. LYNCH: We believe that it's absolutely critical that the new government, the national unity government, tackles the militia problem right away because it is indeed a problem for the people of Iraq when you got Shi'a militias and other militias carrying arms when they're not particularly focused on what's good for Iraq. So that has to happen right away, has to happen right away.

And we'll just watch as this government forms and determinations are made on what to do. And we, as a coalition, will do whatever we can to help taking these militias, reintegrate them with security forces or with society, disarm them and demobilize them. But the government of Iraq has our pledge to help wherever we can, but it's critical they address the militia problem right away.

Q General, I just think it's kind of intriguing -- and I've been noticing this more and more -- is referring to certain elements of the Sunni Arab insurgency, or what used to be called as the insurgency, as "militias." I've been noticing that among Iraqi politicians. And you kind of referred to rejectionist as Shi'ite and Sunni militias. Is that a conscious effort to possibly try to reach an agreement with certain elements of the insurgency, at least kind of an informal settlement of some sorts? Am I just reading something into it that isn't there?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, you're reading something into it that isn't there. I'm not smart enough to work words like that.

But I do know that the rejectionists, the guys in the middle that we're focused on, that truly want to derail the democratic process and discredit the Iraqi government, some of those folks are grouped as militias and are part of the insurgency.

Any other questions?

Liz, please.

Q Just to follow that, kind of on the semantics here. But what's an insurgency grouped as a militia as opposed to just an insurgency? I mean, where do you -- how do you define that? I mean, obviously you weren't thinking too much about that, but it is an interesting point.

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, no, I understand.

Q I mean, we know what a Shi'ite militia is. But what does a Sunni -- what does a rejectionist militia look like, and where are they, and what do they do?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, I believe -- I believe militias are groups of people who have come together for specific purposes. And I do believe that there are some militias out there inside of Iraq whose specific purpose is to derail the democratic process and discredit the Iraqi government. And as a result of that, we could lump them with this large group of the insurgency that we call the Iraqi rejectionists. Now, I can't go to the point where I can define who that is, nor could -- nor would I.

Q (Off mike) --

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah?

Q -- (off mike) -- about that house with the arms that you found in it, and the IEDs and all that, do you know which group was in that house, in that government property? Was that a Shi'ite militia, or was it Sunni militias? Or --

GEN. LYNCH: That's a good question. I'm looking to Jeff. Jeff doesn't know. But we'll chase that down and see what I can find out. I don't know.

I've got time for one more, if you guys have got one more.

Q Do you have any more on Nasiriyah? I came in late, so maybe you mentioned it at the beginning.

GEN. LYNCH: No, I don't. I don't.

Okay. A representative government respects the human rights of all Iraqis. The national unity government is on the way to being formed.

The Presidential Council has been elected. The speaker and two deputies have been elected. The prime minister has been designated. He's got 30 days to form this government, so very important. And then progress in the Iraqi security force, a security force that can maintain domestic order and deny Iraq as a safe haven for terrorists. Quarter of a million members, the Iraqi security security force. Two Iraqi army divisions, 16 brigades, 58 battalions, have the lead in counterinsurgency operations in their respective areas. That's progress.

Thank you very much.

END.



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