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Weekly Press Briefing May 11, 2006

Multi-National Force-Iraq

IRAQ OPERATIONAL UPDATE BRIEFING WITH MAJOR GENERAL RICK LYNCH, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ LOCATION: COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQ TIME: 8:00 A.M. EDT DATE: THURSDAY, MAY 11, 2006

Briefing Slides [PDF]


GEN. LYNCH: Paul, welcome back. How's that marriage going?

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. LYNCH: Three weeks into it? Great.

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. LYNCH: And Greg, how are you doing?

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. LYNCH: Nice to see you. It's been a few years. Welcome to Baghdad.

What I want to talk about today, let me just jump right in. You know, we talk all the time that counterinsurgency operations are much more than just kinetic operations, and that we, the coalition, have a lot to do with events that have nothing to do with pulling triggers. Let me describe one for you today.

You know, the date palm crop is very important to the people of Iraq. And for the last three years, there have been no aerial sprayings of the date palm crop, and as a result of that, the crop production has been much less than it could have been. So the coalition, working with the Ministry of Agriculture, devised a plan that's currently being executed for aerial spraying of the date palm crop. Started the first of this month. We've already sprayed over 27,000 hectares, one-third of what we're going to spray.

It's contracted by the Ministry of Agriculture. It's his program, supported by the coalition. They've got 12 commercially contracted aircraft, both helicopters and fixed wings, that are conducting this aerial spraying. And it is being well-received, as you would imagine, by the people of Iraq.

So to conduct counterinsurgency operations, a solution is kinetic. The solution that we prefer is non-kinetic, and that is indeed working to meet the basic needs of the people of Iraq. So you have to concentrate on what their needs are, and when you talk to the farmers, they say, "We need help with our date palm crop." So we, with the Ministry of Agriculture, have worked this program, and date palm spraying is taking place now, the first time since the fall of the Saddam regime three years ago.

First graphic, please.

Let me talk about operational issues across Iraq. Today almost 254,000 trained and equipped members of the Iraqi security force, 254,000, compared to 135,000 in January of '05, conducting operations across Iraq every day. And just study these statistics. Almost 30 percent of those operations company level and above are Iraqi security force independent. You add to that another almost 50 percent of combined operations, and you get a sense that when operations are conducted company level and above in Iraq, it's either Iraqi security force independent or it's combined, and a very small percentage is now coalition force independent operation.

And as the Iraqi security force continue to stand up, the coalition will continue to stand down. We've reached the point now where we have less than 130,000 U.S. servicemembers in Iraq. Remember we peaked around the elections, brought in additional troops to provide for a stable condition for the elections. Those troops have rotated out. We're now below 130,000. Over time that will ebb and flow with troop rotations, but right now we're less than 130,000 U.S. servicemembers in Iraq. But that's okay because you got 254,000 trained and equipped members of the Iraqi security force conducting operations.

Now, I'm going to talk about a bunch of those. I want you to think about cordon and search, and I want you to think about actionable tips by the Iraqi people as I lay out these operations.

In a cordon and search operation, you've got some intelligence that leads you to believe in this geographical area something in there is happening that shouldn't be happening: weapons are being stored, bombs are being made, terrorism is being planned. So you got to have a group of people to kind of cordon the area, and you got to have a group of people that actually search the area. And the TTP that's developed over time is the individuals conducting the search are Iraqi security force members. And the individuals conducting the cordon operations, keeping people out and in, are generally the coalition force members. And the advantage of that is obvious.

The people of Iraq are tired of the insurgency. You know, we're at the point now where about 60 percent of the casualties are civilian casualties: innocent men, women and children of Iraq. And they're tired of the insurgency. So as Iraqi forces conduct operations on their streets, Iraqi people come up to those patrols and provide actionable intelligence, and it's happening all the time. I'll give you some details of that as we walk through the operation.

Operation Cool Spring VIII up north, vicinity of Mosul, is one of those cordon and search operations. It's the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Iraqi Army Division with some coalition support. And if you look at the numbers, it's about 550 members of the Iraqi security forces and only about 85 coalition force members. And they've cordoned an area as part of this operation and conducted a search, and they've detained three individuals that were on the Iraqi army most wanted list. So this is an operation that was planned and conducted by the Iraqi security forces supported by the coalition forces, but was, indeed, intelligence-led.

And it's a powerful story when you talk to one of the Iraqi army battalion commanders who were part of the operation, and he tells you that repetitively, on the streets, as his soldiers did their patrols, the citizens of Mosul approached them with actionable intelligence: this is the where the terrorist is living, this is where he's storing his munitions, this is where he's making the bombs. And we're seeing that all around Iraq.

Same thing happened with an element from the 4th Iraqi Army Division for an IED cell: actionable intelligence -- cordon by the coalition forces. They conducted an operation and detained nine suspected terrorists -- vicinity of Kirkuk.

Still have attacks across Iraq. We talk about it all the time. This is a vulnerable period for the people of Iraq as they form the national unity government. The enemy, the insurgency, they want to derail the democratic process and discredit the Iraqi government. And they're pulling out all the stops to keep this government from forming. And as they get closer to forming, we see more and more attacks. So yesterday in Baqubah we saw four attacks.

In the north yesterday we saw 23 attacks. And we're still averaging in a 24-hour period about 85 attacks across Iraq. Twenty- three of them were in the north yesterday, but we're concerned about Baqubah because there were, indeed, four attacks, and there was an incident where four members of the insurgency stopped a bus, pulled off two females, and killed everybody else that was on the bus.

Those kinds of operations continue on the part of the enemy to disrupt the stability and discredit the Iraqi government.

Let's look out west. This is the place where it used to average about 29 attacks per day -- Al Anbar -- and now it's averaging about 18. Yesterday there were 18 attacks in Al Anbar, and the majority of those attacks are right around Ramadi, because that's where the enemy is trying to reestablish a foothold. Remember, Operation Sayyid, Operation Hunter, was designed to deny him any kind of safe haven in Al Anbar. He's trying to reestablish that in Ramadi, so there are operations continuing in Ramadi.

And he has indeed found an abandoned train station out there where he wants to use that to store munitions, conduct sniper attacks and launch indirect fire attacks against the coalition. We're not going to allow him to do that. Over four days, repetitive attacks against that abandoned train station, and we killed 30 insurgents in that abandoned train station.

Of interest, we're still finding and clearing over 50 percent of the IEDs that are in place. And yesterday, in the vicinity of Ramadi, 12 IEDs, six of them were found and cleared. They did not detonate.

The Sons of Al Anbar continue to step up to the plate to join the Iraqi security forces. As they work with the national government, the people of Al Anbar say we want Sons of Al Anbar to be part of the army and the police. So there's an acknowledged shortfall of the Iraqi army in Al Anbar of 5,000 people. That will be filled by October of this year by Sons of Al Anbar. And I told you story last week of a thousand Sons of Al Anbar going to boot camp, Iraqi army training, and then graduating and going back out to Al Anbar.

Same thing's happened with the police. Just this week in Fallujah, 300 Sons of Al Anbar from Fallujah enlisted in the police, have moved off to training, and once they're trained, they'll move back to Fallujah and be members of the local police, just like we do in our hometowns to train police locally and use them locally. And that's what's going to happen out there. So by the end of the year, there will be over 11,000 members of the Iraqi police in Al Anbar. Right now there's only 3,000. So there's a lot of work to be done, a lot of training that needs to be done. Essentially, as I've told you before, west of Fallujah there's a significant shortfall in the police, but that's going to be worked over the year 2006. Scales of Justice continues, and it will continue until this national unity government is formed. We're very optimistic with what we see with the formation of the government. The prime minister- designate, Maliki, is doing the right things and saying the right things to form a government that truly is a representative government that will meet the needs of all the people of Iraq, regardless of what sect they happen to be.

But the bad guys, the insurgency, still want to disrupt that process. They continue to do detailed attacks in Baghdad; 30 attacks yesterday inside of Baghdad. So Scales of Justice will continue to disrupt that. Think about this; we started Scales of Justice on the 15th of March; on the 15th of March we brought in 3,700 members of the security forces, both Iraqi army, Iraqi police, and also coalition forces. In the month of April, 32,000 patrols, 32,000 security patrols inside of Baghdad as part of Scales of Justice. As a result of that operation, we have indeed detained 800 insurgents out of Baghdad, and we found over 140 weapons caches in Baghdad. So that operation continues and will continue until we're convinced that the government is formed and the situation in Baghdad has stabilized.

Operation United Front is another perfect example of a cordon and search operation, this one with the 6th Iraqi Army Division -- identified a location where there were known insurgents, conducted the operation with coalition support, and detained seven known insurgents.

Next graphic, please.

I told you a story last Thursday about how the insurgents are using mosques to stage attacks, store munitions, and conduct attacks. It happened in Ramadi. I told you the story of Ramadi. It happened this week in Baghdad.

There was an explosion in Baghdad earlier in the week. Initial reports said that the explosion came from the Sheikh Abdulkadir mosque. Upon investigation that's not true. It came from the school that was adjacent to the mosque. The army got on site, they called the fire department, and what they found was that this school was being used not only to store explosives, but also to build IEDs and VBIEDs. So here's the enemy using the school adjacent to the mosque to store ammunition and to build explosives. And what happened upon investigation is the individuals who were building bombs here in the school blew themselves up and took three of themselves off the street -- two killed and one wounded.

Could I get the picture, please?

This is the kind of stuff that was found inside this mosque school during this operation, and it shows you the pictures of the two cars that were outside the school that were outfitted to be car bombs. So think about this. If they hadn't blown themselves up, which is what they did -- they were using a school adjacent to a mosque -- those car bombs would have been employed somewhere inside of Baghdad. And they're using mosques and buildings adjacent to mosques to do those kinds of things.

Next graphic, please.

I talk all the time about weapons caches, because it's important. It's important that these were munitions that the enemy wanted to use to build IEDs, VBIEDs, suicide vest bombs, car bombs, and we took those munitions away from them. Since November of 2005 we have uncovered and destroyed 2,000 weapons caches -- 2,000. Just last week across Iraqi 47 weapons caches. This happened inside of Baghdad, again by elements from the 6th Iraqi Army Division and coalition forces who were conducting reconnaissance patrols in and around Baghdad, and they came across six weapons caches.

And if you look at the kinds of munitions that are found in this cache, you understand why that's so troublesome and why it's so important that we take it off the streets, because they're using these mines, those artillery rounds, these electronic devices, these artillery boosters to build car bombs, IEDs and suicide bombs.

So this was indeed another successful operation to allow us to take munitions off the streets and out of the hands of the enemy, but it is just one of 47 weapons caches we found last week, and one of 2,000 that we found since November 2005.

You know what we always do is we focus on what did the enemy do. Okay? He blew up a VBIED, he blew up a IED. But we never talk about what didn't he do. Well, there's a lot of car bombs he didn't use, a lot of IEDs he didn't emplace, a lot of innocent civilians he didn't kill because we're taking these munitions away from him. And that's just one example.

Next graphic, please.

As I look back over the last year, the thing I'm most impressed with is the growth and quantity and quality and capabilities of the Iraqi army. It's an amazing thing. We're at the point now where two Iraqi army divisions, 16 brigades, and 58 battalions lead counterinsurgency operations in their respective areas; they're in the lead. They're planning and conducting these operations. And they're fighting the insurgency, to include al Qaeda.

For four months, this particular unit planned an operation to take down a known al Qaeda cell leader in the vicinity of Baghdad. This was four months' forth of intelligence-gathering on their part. This week they planned this operation and executed this operation to take out the cell leader. And when they took out the cell leader, they found in his possession that kind of munitions -- 17 full AK-47 magazines, 20 rolls of TNTs, eight boxes of pistol ammunition. And then, as they're prone to do -- because I've told you before, loyalty is not a trait amongst the insurgents -- as soon as he was taken out, he immediately told about his buddies in the close-by proximity. Operations were conducted 90 minutes later by this same Iraqi army battalion and took out five additional detainees and all these additional munitions.

Now, it's interesting on this picture, if you look closely at it -- and it's in your package -- how they were designing these tubes to be used to launch mortars. You can see one that's emplaced in the ground outside, and one that's emplaced shooting out the window, all headed towards Kadhimiya. The 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division -- four months' worth of intelligence, focused on taking out this cell leader, conducted an effective operation, took out the cell leader. The cell leader decided he wanted to tell about his buddies. They took out his buddies as well.

Next graphic, please.

The security forces of Iraq. The Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces are focused on the most dangerous enemy, and that's Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq. I talked about that at length last Thursday. Let me talk about it a little more. But I want to make the point again that it's not just the coalition forces targeting Zarqawi and al Qaeda, but also the Iraqi security forces.

And the fact that they took out a tier 3 cell leader last week on intelligence that they gathered and operation they conducted is very, very important.

As I told you last week, you got to think like the enemy. The guy that's got the most to lose if a national unity government is formed is a guy named Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq, because he's been told by his leadership that democracy equals failure. He's been told to establish an Islamic caliphate inside of Iraq, and that's what he's got to do. But he's been totally unable to do that. He couldn't stop the election last January, he couldn't stop the ratification of constitution in October, he couldn't stop the elections in December, and now he's trying to stop the formation now of this unity government. And the way he's doing that is by trying to inflame sectarian violence.

I told you we did a series of operations in Yusufiya. We found Yusufiya to be a staging area for suicide bombers into Baghdad. I talked about five operations we did in the month of April, one of which, on the 16th of April in Yusufiya, we came across a lot of documents. And I showed you and I gave you copies of this document last week. This is his strategy. This is what he's telling his people that we have to do: We have to drive a wedge between the Shi'a population and the Sunni population inside of Baghdad; we have to inflame sectarian violence; the Shi'as are the priority target; we got to remove the Shi'as from mixed neighborhoods; we got to incite the people against the Shi'as. That's what he wants to do. That's his plan, that's his strategy.

Next graphic, please. And I gave that to you last week.

This week I'm giving you another document that came out of that same batch. I told you last week, in those five operations in the vicinity of Yusufiya we came across video tapes, we came across documents, we came across a lot of information. And now that's all undergoing what we call document exploitation, DOCEX. We released this to you-all this week, but allow me to give you some more detail.

Zarqawi says, "Here's my strategy in Baghdad," and then one of his subordinates says, "Here's how things are really going, Boss." And that's what this document is. Now, are these documents that we're finding signed? No. Can we attest as to who the author is? No. But we can attest to the fact that they were found as a result of an operation that we planned and conducted against known Zarqawi locations, al Qaeda locations. This guy, this guy who gives this insider's critique, says, "Hey, we got a problem with our strategy. We understand that you want us to focus on the Shi'as and to inflame sectarian violence, but we can't see a clear or comprehensive plan to capture an area or an enemy center. And what we're seeing is a lot of disruptive activity that's not focused. We don't acknowledge the strategy." This insider says, "We see a problem with our tactics, and what the Shi'a government now has done is kind of looked at us as a simple annoyance." (Mujaheddin ?) are not considered more than a daily annoyance to the Shi'a government. And all these in red are in the documents that you see when you get a chance to get back to your room and look at them.

This insider says, hey, we got a problem with leadership.

My view, this is Lynch's view, we've taken out 161 of his leaders since January of last year -- tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 leaders. And is he able to reinforce those leaders and replace them? The answer is yes. Can he replace them with guys with the same capabilities and the same confidence that he has with Zarqawi? The answer is no. So this guy is saying, we've got a problem with leadership. And if these individuals who are coming in to be the emir of Baghdad are so young and so inexperienced, he's more of a problem than he is a help.

We shouldn't allow the situation to exist at all -- I'm talking about the Sunnis. They expressed their concerns about how the Sunnis, now, have embraced the political process. And they're participating in the government. And they're joining the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police. Remember, in this video, he declared war on anybody that joins the Iraqi security forces. So this -- when Zaider (sp) says, we've got a problem with the Sunnis; they're walking away from us, they're joining the government. And we're frustrated with our use of the media; we have to focus on the use of the Internet, and we got to figure out a way to increase our ranks -- small numbers of mujadin.

And I talked about this last week. The reason, we believe, that Zarqawi released the video is an attempt to influence recruiting and get more people to join his cause. So he says, here's my strategy, the people in his organization say, hey, boss, the strategy ain't working, we got these problems. I wanted to show you both those things as a result of what we came across in Yusufiya.

Next graphic, please?

I'm going to talk about tips in a minute. We always focus, when we take out operation -- Zarqawi against his potential safe havens, deny him freedom of movement, take away his munitions, disrupt his networks, and take out his leaders. So let me show you two that were taken out this past week.

Abdur Rahman, acknowledged as the al Qaeda in Iraq emir of the Tigris River valley, he was the one who was facilitating flow of weapons from Syria and Lebanon through the Tigris River valley. We did believe, we had intelligence that, he was expected MANPADS and an armored vehicle the day that he was detained. He's responsible for coordinating attacks against the coalition and Iraqi security forces. He, indeed, is a leader inside of the Tigris River valley that's been taking operations against the coalition. And he has now been detained. Next picture, please?

In addition to al Qaeda in Iraq, you have Ansar al-Sunna in Iraq. It's been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. They have the same goals as al Qaeda. They established the fact that they want to have an Islamic caliphate inside of Iraq, and they conduct operations every day against the people of Iraq towards that end state in cooperation with al Qaeda.

Ali Wali was a leader in Ansar al-Sunna. He was a(n) explosive and chemical expert. He'd been trained in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

We conducted an operation this past week and killed Ali Wali. He was indeed a leader in Ansar al-Sunna, and he was one of the most vocal critics against Zarqawi and Zarqawi's operations. And he personally blamed Zarqawi for the 2004 loss of Fallujah as a safe haven.

Operations continue against al Qaeda, and they will continue until he's defeated and destroyed. And the people that are going to help with that are the Iraqi people.

I talked before about counterinsurgency operations. The average length of successful counterinsurgency operations is nine years -- nine years, and the people that are going to win this counterinsurgency fight are the people of Iraq. And we're seeing momentum in that direction, and we're seeing it through the tips line.

I told you the story of Iraqi security force battalion commanders commenting that locals are walking to them on the street and providing actual intelligence. Look at what happened in the month of April. We had over 1,100 more tips just the month of April than we've had any time since we've been in Iraq -- 1,100 more. And that's from local walk-ins, local tips and call-ins to the national tipline. Just last week, we had 400 tips come in on the national tipline. Remember, that's an MOI facility, MOI organization, and they got 400 tips. And this an amazing statistic. Ninety-nine percent of those tips provide actual intelligence.

So the information they give to the tips line we pursue with the Iraqi security forces, and 99 percent of the time, we find the insurgents they've identified, the weapons caches they've located, the bombmakers that they've identified.

Just this last week, a call to the national tipline. They said, "Hey, I see an IED on a bridge between Baghdad and Yusufiya." From the time the caller hung up to the time that the Iraqi Army Explosives Ordnance Detachment Group took out the IED was 25 minutes from the call to the removal of the IED. A call came in from a concerned individual tired of the insurgency; the Iraqi police got the call. The Iraqi police called the Iraqi army; the Iraqi army vectored to the site -- (inaudible) -- IED called EOD; EOD took out the IED before it exploded in 25 minutes. Amazing.

Get the first map back up, please.

Okay with that, I'd be happy to take any questions you have today. (Speaking to a reporter.) You can't ask me questions. You just got back.

Q Actually, I just want a clarification. The mosque that you mentioned or the school next to it, that was in Baghdad, correct?

GEN. LYNCH: In Baghdad.

Q And where in Baghdad?

GEN. LYNCH: Jeff (sp) will get the exact location.

Q And there was also there was a meeting state between Iraqi police, I believe, Iraqi security and I believe, local imams of mosques, that included a U.S. military representative, where they came to an agreement that Iraqi security forces would only go into Sunni mosques with U.S. forces in the area.

Have you heard about this at all?

GEN. LYNCH: No, I have not heard anything about that. I mean, I'll research it and find out some information for you about it, but that's all --

Q Because apparently a U.S. military person was present during the meeting.

GEN. LYNCH: That's all news to me. That's a surprise to me. So we'll find out.

Q Nelson Hernandez of The Washington Post.

GEN. LYNCH: How are you doing?

Q How are you doing?

GEN. LYNCH: Good.

Q You may have heard that President Talabani said yesterday that, I think, almost 1,100 Iraqis had died in Baghdad alone, according to a recent report from the morgue. Who do you think is committing these acts of violence? It doesn't seem like it's all al Qaeda in Iraq. And what is the coalition's priority in stopping it?

GEN. LYNCH: Thanks for the question. I've talked about this before. We acknowledge that the primary target now of the insurgency is the -- are the innocent men, women and children of Iraq. Sixty percent of the casualties, as I said, are Iraqi civilians.

I'm not sure about the president's numbers, but I do know that there's a spike in attack against civilians. And what we believe is happening, Nelson, is we believe Zarqawi and the hard-line insurgency are conducting operations to inflame sectarian violence, and then folks like militias, either Shi'a militias or Sunni militias, are conducting retaliatory attacks and killing innocent men, women and children.

So the fact that there are -- that the president talks about a thousand bodies -- I can't confirm or deny that. But we are indeed concerned about the increased number of attacks against civilians. I mean, if you compare the last 10 weeks to the period of time six months ago, there's been an 80 percent increase in the number of attacks against civilians. And the percentage of casualties now that are innocent civilians is around 60 percent.

So to answer your question about what we're going to do about it, we continue to work with the Iraqi security forces to increase patrols. The fact that there are 32,000 patrols the month of April in Baghdad shows you that there's more presence on the street of security forces. You know, people want to talk about what the enemy did. They don't want to talk about what the enemy couldn't do. And there's a lot he couldn't do because of that increased presence.

And we're working with the Iraqi government about the militias. Nobody believes that the militias should exist. Prime Minister- designate Maliki says the only people that should carry weapons in Iraq are the members of the Iraqi security force. So action has to be taken to stop the militias. We believe that's primarily a political solution, but action has to be taken.

Liz, how are you?

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. LYNCH: Good.

Q (Off mike) -- The New York Times is reporting today that there's going to be a major reorganization of the security forces in Baghdad so that they're brought under a single command. What do you know about that? And when's it going to happen? And how will it happen?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah. Thanks for that. I mean, we, with the embassy, are in constant communication with President Minister- designate Maliki as he thinks through his thoughts and ideas on what he wants to do with the government of Iraq. Right now he's focused on forming a national unity government, but he's also thinking through critical issues, like meeting the needs of the people of Iraq in terms of essential services and the security that needs to be provided for the people of Iraq.

And he does have an idea, with some of his advisers, that you could create a Baghdad command that would be a security command that would include both police and army.

And right now it's an idea, it's an idea that he has voiced that we're going to work through with him over time. There is no set plan or any set date when that's going to go into effect, but it is an idea. And what you see is a prime minister-designate who's thinking through the issues of what do we need to do for unity, prosperity and security in Iraq, and he's thinking through security issues. He's talking about four pillars of security. He has ideas on a Baghdad security command. And we'll continue to work with the government of Iraq to refine those ideas.

Q What do you think of this idea? Would it be a good idea? Is it something that you'd support? Is it something that would be easy to do?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, thank you for that. I'm an advocate of unity of command, and all military professionals are. What we're seeing, Liz, is increased cooperation between the police and the army in Baghdad. And as we talk through the numbers of security forces on the street in Baghdad every day, they're working effectively because there's great coordination between the police and the army. So that would lead you to believe that it might not be necessary to join them under one command, if they have effective coordination day to day under two separate commands. That doesn't mean it's a bad idea, it just means you have to look at all aspects of the arguments.

Please?

Q Andrew Tilghman with Stars and Stripes.

GEN. LYNCH: Hi, Andrew.

Q Just to follow up on her's, do you have any idea how that might affect the relationship between coalition forces and the Iraqi army and Iraqi police?

GEN. LYNCH: I mean, it is indeed nothing more than an idea right now. There's been no substantive analysis on what could happen or what should happen, and what would be the relationship between the coalition forces and this Baghdad command, if it happened. So right now it's pure conjecture. It's not even appropriate to go into any level of detail because that level of detail doesn't exist.

But it's an idea. What you got is a dynamic, articulate leader in Prime Minister-designate Maliki who has ideas on what he needs to do for the people of Iraq, one of which is security in Baghdad. He's acknowledged that security in Baghdad is critical. This idea of unity, security and prosperity for the people of Iraq is an idea that he continues to work through.

Q I just wanted to clarify another thing you mentioned in your briefing about the Sons of Al Anbar. As we know, I guess a few weeks ago, a thousand, almost a thousand Iraqis graduated from one of those classes. And I believe they were told that they would be serving all over Iraq, as opposed to in Anbar specifically. I was wondering if you could clarify that. Thanks.

GEN. LYNCH: Thank you for that. Good question.

When people join the Iraqi army, they sign a contract, and that contract says you can be used anywhere inside of Iraq. That's what they acknowledge when they sign. There were individuals who came out of boot camp who expressed concern that they were not going to be used inside of Al Anbar, and they expressed their concern by demonstrations or by (leaving ?). That was an unrealistic expectation on their part.

They signed a contract that they can be used anywhere in Iraq. The preference is to use them in Al Anbar for the reasons that I described, because they know the community, they know the people. It's more likely they're going to get actual intelligence from an area where they grew up in. But there's no guarantees that they're going to be able to serve in Al Anbar.

Q If I could just ask a follow-up on that.

GEN. LYNCH: Sure.

Q If they're serving in Al Anbar, are there still concerns about their loyalty to the police and military forces as opposed to the insurgency -- you know, threatening their families at home?

GEN. LYNCH: Okay. We talk all the time about the importance of loyalty to the government of Iraq, and not displace loyalties. So whoever joins the Iraqi security force police or army swears an oath to the constitution of Iraq to support the people of Iraq. That's there.

There still is indeed a concern about potential displaced loyalties for people who join the Iraqi security forces, and that's never a perfect science, so that is a concern.

There also is a concern from people who join the security forces that their families will be threatened. And I got to tell you, every day I applaud the courage and commitment of the people of Iraq. We've talked about this before. There's no shortage of recruits.

You know, last week I told you the story of a suicide vest bomber in Fallujah that blew up an Iraqi police recruiting station, and an hour later people were back in line again to join the police. It's an amazing thing. But they do that at personal risk and at risk to the people in their family, and they do it because they know it's right for the government of Iraq.

Liz.

Oh, I'm sorry. Whoever.

Q Jim Rainey of the LA Times.

GEN. LYNCH: Hey. Q Hey.

I'm wondering if you think, with all the militias, all the apparent sectarian violence that's stopping al Qaeda -- let's just say you could stop the al Qaeda operatives, the foreign operatives altogether -- do you really think that would cut the violence down substantially, given that there seem to be so many other sources?

GEN. LYNCH: If you focus on the source of the problem, you focus on Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq because they're the ones using the most ruthless attacks against the people of Iraq to derail the democratic process.

We believe that a lot of the violence in Iraq is stuff that he has stimulated through his attacks. And we believe that when -- not if -- when we take out Zarqawi, and when we take out al Qaeda in Iraq, that the stimulus for that violence will go away, and there'll be much less retribution as a result of very much fewer attacks by Zarqawi and his network.

Any other questions?

Q Yeah, I just wanted to -- you said you don't know the author of this document.

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah.

Q Could you give any more context as to what -- was it on a disk? Was it a scrap of paper that you found? What makes you think that it was written by somebody in his organization?

And I think it says somewhere that there's, like, 40 Mujaheddin in Karkh side of Baghdad and 30 Mujaheddin in Rusafa side. Do you really believe there's only 70 al Qaeda operatives in Iraq -- in -- sorry, in Baghdad? And -- yeah, I mean, that sort of dovetails with his question about whether they can be responsible for all of the violence or not.

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah. You got to look at all those documents with great skepticism, and we do as well. We conduct operations against locations where we believe al Qaeda is, Zarqawi is, and in Yusufiya, that was a staging area for suicide bombers -- we found in five different operations those kinds of documents. Some of them were on a disk, some of them were on paper, and I'm not sure in this particular case which this was, Liz, but we'll find out for you.

But none of them are signed. None of them are dated. But all of them give us an insight into the mind of the enemy, and that's what we're trying to do.

So we saw the Baghdad strategy, and as we looked at the document, we saw in that document the kind of strategy we believe that Zarqawi's following, that he's trying to inflame sectarian violence and target the Shi'as. And we're not just seeing it in the document, we are seeing in his actions.

What we saw in the document I gave you today was the insider's view of how it's going in Baghdad. Now, how legitimate is that document? We don't know. We do know it's a document we found at the location of the operation that wasn't intended for us because nobody walked in and said here's this document. So we found this document and we're analyzing this document through a process we call document exploitation.

So you got to be skeptical in all these things that you find. None of us take that document and take it at face value and say that's exactly right, but it sure gives you some insight into the minds of the enemy. And none of us are looking at those numbers and saying, yeah, that's the number because we're not sure that we can confirm or deny that number.

Remember, we've always said that al Qaeda in Iraq is the smallest number of insurgents -- the smallest number of insurgents. But it's got the most lethal impact because of the horrific attacks that they do with no regard for human life.

Q And I think from last week, you can't tell us any more detail, then, about where the exact location where this material was found, or the timing or anything?

GEN. LYNCH: Sixteen April and Yusufiya. That's the best I can do. After your questions last week, I went back to see what I could find out, and that's what I got.

Q Okay. And then a separate question. Just in the last 24 hours we had this prison break. I think there were five folks that escaped, and I believe you guys had part of the -- the coalition forces had part of the security there. Do you know anything more about what happened and who these folks were? GEN. LYNCH: Yeah. At Fort Sussi, five detainees escaped. You know, as we do our investigation of what took place, they were able to cut through the fence, those five individuals who got out. Only five got out. That's the first time it's happened down there. We had a meeting with the Iraqi authorities, took the pictures of the five detainees, circulated that to the local police and the checkpoints, and we continue to search for those five detainees.

But it's not an indication of a bigger problem, Jim. It's five people at that location who did an escape, cut through the fence and got out. But we'll find them over time.

Any other questions?

Q Yes. Do we know -- (comes on mike) -- do we know what manner of crimes that they were being incarcerated for?

GEN. LYNCH: No, I don't. We'll --

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. LYNCH: We'll find out for you.

I believe that they were security detainees, not criminal detainees. We had picked them up as a threat to the security of the people of Iraq, and that's they were at Fort Sussi.

Okay, anything else?

Q Sorry, I've got one more.

Can you comment on --

GEN. LYNCH: That's why I'm here.

Q -- (chuckles) -- can you comment on the situation? We had this dispute over guns and the parliament and some people knocking each other around a little bit, and the suggestion that maybe there shouldn't be weapons allowed in there. What's your opinion on that?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, I don't know anything about that. I apologize. I just don't know. I hadn't heard the story. Weapons in the parliament? I don't know.

Q (Off mike) -- bodyguards, and there was a suggestion that perhaps gun -- do you have an opinion on that? Should the parliament members' bodyguards be allowed to bring guns in there?

GEN. LYNCH: There's no reason that I can see why inside the parliamentary chambers you would need armed individuals. There is sufficient security for those 275 members of parliament.

And I got to tell you, as we watch to see what Speaker Mashhadni is doing, he is indeed scheduling meetings of the Council of Representatives routinely, and having substantive work done during those meetings.

Okay --

Q Can I ask one more?

GEN. LYNCH: Sure.

Q Continuing on with the proposal to consolidate some of the command over the police force, it's my understanding I don't think they were going to consolidate army and Ministry of Interior forces, but just essentially all the Ministry of Interior and all the other government ministries' forces.

Can you comment at all as to whether you think that any lack of command there has been a source of any problems? I mean, do you think there needs to be some addressing of the lack of command within the Ministry of Interior and other government forces?

GEN. LYNCH: There's always room for improvement. And as we work with the police and the army, we continue to work to improve their capabilities for command and control and for coordination.

And I talked last week about the fact that we've established now an Iraqi Joint Ground Force Command Headquarters Operation Center to give them the situational awareness that they need.

So there's always room for improvement. And I do know that General Dempsey, working with the MOI, is working to see how to better facilitate command and control in the Iraqi police. So it's a good thing, not a bad thing, that there's a continual assessment and a continual move towards improved command and control configurations.

Liz?

Q Just a small question. This abandoned -- maybe I missed this at the beginning. But the abandoned train center -- the abandoned train station, from which 300 Sons of Anbar departed, is that the same abandoned --

GEN. LYNCH: Hold on. I'm sorry, Liz. There's a semicolon there?

Q Yeah.

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah. The abandoned train station was a great story I told about the fact that the insurgents in Ramadi were using the abandoned train station as a place where they were launching indirect- fire attacks, sniper attacks, and storing munitions.

Q And you bombed it.

GEN. LYNCH: And we've continued to attack that and killed 30 insurgents.

Break.

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. LYNCH: No, 300 Sons of Anbar were for the police training.

Okay, I'd just like to do two things.

I'd like to remind everybody of the end state for our mission here. I say it almost every time. It'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, has a security force that can maintain domestic order and deny Iraq as a safe haven for terrorists.

I'm completing a year tour in Iraq. This is my last press conference. As I look back towards -- our movement towards our end state, it is magnificent progress. To be successful, you got to be successful on two lines. You got to build that security force that can maintain domestic order and deny Iraq as a safe haven for terrorists. And we now have 254,000 trained and equipped members of the Iraqi security force. By the end of the year, there will be 325,000, and they are assuming lead for counterinsurgency operations all across Iraq. By this summer, 75 percent of the brigades will have the lead; by this fall, 80 percent of the divisions; and by God, that's progress. That's progress.

And the second line that has to be successful is the political line. And regardless of whether you want to argue is it the right leaders, is it the right government, they were able in 2005 to have two elections -- one in January and one in December. And in December, 75 percent of the people that were eligible to vote came out to vote. Seventy-five percent. And they were able to draft and ratify a constitution. And now they're making progress forming a national unity government. And I leave Iraq most optimistic.

The second thing is, I want to applaud your courage and commitment. I say that all the time. I've become close friends with a lot of you. What I've seen you do every day is most impressive. You got an important job, an important story to tell. You're out here in harm's way in the middle of a war zone and you're doing your work, and I praise your efforts.

Thank you so much. God bless.

END.



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