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Weekly Press Briefing May 18, 2006 -Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV

Multi-National Force-Iraq

IRAQ OPERATIONAL UPDATE BRIEFING BRIEFER: MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL, USA, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ LOCATION: COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQ TIME: 8:00 A.M. EDT DATE: THURSDAY, MAY 18, 2006

(NOTE: OFF-THE-RECORD INTRODUCTION AND COMMENTS PRECEEDED THIS PORTION OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE.)

Briefing Slides [PDF]


MODERATOR: At this point we're going to transition to a more narrow topic, (typical ?) operations update, some of the statistics that you may or may not need, and some -- (off mike) -- on the record, and we'll have a more narrow line of questioning. (Off mike.)

GEN. CALDWELL: I will just say, before I start, I'm not trying to paint a rosy picture. I'm going to give you two examples here today of things that I saw that were very positive this past week out in Baghdad, because that's the area I looked at this week personally. I mean, if I'm going to sit here and talk to you about something, I want to have gone out and experienced it and seen it, so I can feel like I've got some credibility to talk about it. But I don't mean to paint a picture like there's not challenges happening. We have American soldiers, we have coalition forces that are still dying every day. So please don't misinterpret it if I give you two good examples of things that I'm not very much aware of, and heartfully feel for those who are still giving their lives out there.

On weekly ops --

Q General, could you speak up a little bit?

GEN. CALDWELL: Oh, I'm sorry. Okay.

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. CALDWELL: That's probably my problem. I know I'm miked up for --

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. CALDWELL: I am miked up for this.

Anyway, this is the operations summary for the week in this past week in Iraq. Really the thing I wanted to point out to you here is 50 percent of our operations that were conducted were combined operations; that's Iraqi forces and American forces or Italians or British or somebody -- coalition forces operating together -- was 50 percent. The Iraqi security forces are now up to about one third of the operations conducted by them alone. I don't want to misrepresent that. When you look at 31 percent operating out there alone, that does not mean that they had all their own logistics, their own transportation, everything else. So don't let me misrepresent that figure. But it's a very -- but it's a positive trend. We know we have challenges still working the logistics and the resupply and everything else for the Iraqi security forces. That has not all been worked. But we do have forces that are organized, that are trained, that are able to go out there and operate independently at this point. And that was 30 percent of what was done out there this past week. So that gives me hope to see that it's the right trend to be on. It's a trending kind of thing.

All right, next slide, if you could.

These are two operations -- again, Baghdad operations, because that's where I focused this past week on my personal trip, that I'd like to share. This happened this past Tuesday. What occurred was there was a coalition patrol that was out, Americans and Iraqis. They got a drive-by shooting. They took off after the van. The van drove, and they followed it to this location right here. And then out of it, three males exited and ran into this mosque, or this mosque compound. They ran through the entranceway right here into this mosque compound.

The coalition forces, at that point the U.S., started searching the van, and they found all this stuff in it. So clearly these are anti-coalition force personnel that ran into the mosque compound.

What was good about this operation -- this is part of the 6th Infantry Division that's operating in Baghdad who did this. The 6th Infantry Division forces then started dealing with the local -- I'll make sure -- the Q-A-D-A -- the qada? I'm told that I'm not supposed to mispronounciate something, but the qada, the local like the local elected official that's there, the qada commissioner, he happened to be here. The 6th Infantry Division started negotiating with him and another local person that was here, and gained permission eventually, the qada official did from the imam, to go into the mosque compound here. At that point then the Iraqi forces, separate then the American forces, being escorted by an Iraqi official, went into the mosque compound. In the search of the mosque itself they did not find any weapons. But in the search of the mosque compound they found over here at this minaret those pieces of equipment and back here in the garden area all these pieces of equipment. Clearly when you start looking at artillery rounds and those sort of things, those are clearly IED types of things -- when you start looking at that, that's what they use in IEDs. So they did find things. They found 11 military-age males there -- they detained nine of them for further questioning; then outside over here in the shed, just a whole litany of other type of equipment.

The good thing about this operation though was they pursued a van, they didn't just go shooting up the neighborhood -- very -- went in and calculated and looked at the van and found something in it which gave them probable cause to continue searching. They dealt with some local officials. They didn't just go bursting into the mosque area. They were escorted by somebody. They treated the place with the respect and dignity like it should be, but still were able to accomplish their mission. You hear a lot of stories where things have not gone as well around a mosque. This was a good story that just happened this week, Tuesday, in Baghdad.

So, anyway, I share that with you all, because I was -- again, those are the kind of things you would hope that you'd start hearing about, where the Iraqis are taking their lead, Iraqi security forces, in doing the searches.

This was specifically though the Iraqi army that did this one.

Can I have the other one? The other one was done by the Iraqi national police in the city. And what had occurred -- there had been a raid about three weeks ago. They have derived some information from that raid, and then this is a subsequent follow-on raid based upon that -- an Iraqi national police unit. And in that raid they captured Abu Jibril. Abu Jibril was an IED ring leader here in the city that they were able to capture in this raid with two of his associates; and then up, as you can see, 500 pounds of ammonium nitrate, video cameras, spotting scopes, computers. So the raid, it was actually a great cachet of material that they were able to acquire. More importantly, you know, for me is thinking about my young men and women out there. You know, we took more IED bombing material off the street, too, and took out a key person, who obviously was leading a cell in that. But again, this was another good operation that was done, and this one was done by the Iraqi national police.

Okay. And then one other one, please, the last one.

And this is on tips. As I talk to Major General J.D. Thurman about tips in Baghdad and how they really have contributed to the fight that he is fighting, what I said was, well, how effective is it? I mean, when you get these calls and tips and you act on them, how many are actionable, what do you do? And we went through this long discussion. Again, has anybody ever been in his command center? I mean, it is a truly state-of-the-art command center. It is an incredible system.

He was able to immediately drill down and show data back a month, six months for me, the number of tips that came in, how many they acted on, what the results were. I mean, anyway -- so then, from that I said, well, gosh, let me go back and ask the big question from the Joint Coordination Center where all the tips come in. What we're finding is that when we go out and act on a tip, almost 70 percent actually have something there; that the tip came in, that something was happening that they would find would occur, and in fact, when the military or police units went out there that, in fact -- it was of value to have gone, and enabled them to help better establish just security in the city. And then there's about 30 percent that, for whatever reason, may have been a tip. I think there was one tip that there was a truck out there that, quote, "had bomb-making material in it," and when they got there, there was no truck there. So the truck may have driven away. The truck may never have been there. But bottom line they're just getting -- it was not verifiable.

So 70 percent of the time that it's actually verifiable, and they're able to provide enhanced security to the city through the actions of an Iraqi citizen who took the time to call into the Baghdad joint coordination cell, make the report and then it gets passed down to military and police units to take action on. And this is just -- this is the kind of thing right here that just gives me tremendous hope. And you can see the rise in the number of tips being called in. I don't think it's because we're producing more cells or putting up cellular phones or putting up more cellular towers and, therefore, more people are able to finally call; I think it's just the Iraqi people themselves, in many cases, are just tired of the violence out there.

Q Do you know how many calls were received between January 7th and now?

GEN. CALDWELL: We have that, don't we?

STAFF: (Off mike.)

GEN. CALDWELL: Okay, it's -- I was going to say, I think last month it was like 5,000-something. But it has been -- I mean, I've got the actual chart here.

STAFF: (Inaudible) -- just over 6,600 at that site from January 7th to the current time.

Q Is this just Baghdad or is this --

STAFF: This is focusing on Baghdad.

Q Last week, the graph showed that the number of tips reached a record in April and there were more than ever before. But couldn't that mean that the number of bad things is going up?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, I guess you can make that analogy if you want. I think the level of violence -- if you go back -- and we since January -- in January, there was 4,025 tips. In April, there was 5,855 tips. Since November of '05, just because that's what I've got written down here, there was 30,153 tips.

I don't think that you're seeing a rise of 1,300 tips in a month just because all of a sudden there's that much more violence. I think you're seeing a rise because the Iraqi people -- many of them are very tired of the violence. And I think they realize there is somebody now who will respond and take some kind of action. There are clearly some groups that would prefer the police units not to show up. They would prefer an army unit to show up. I mean, you do have that still existing in Baghdad. Baghdad is an incredibly complex situation out there. I mean, it's -- but I think it's a situation that can also, with the government of Iraq being in charge, something they can work through, too, with time. It's going to take many months, but I think they can do it.

Q Have you gotten any tips that turned out to be coerced to try to get the forces in to stage an attack when they arrived?

GEN. CALDWELL: I think for operational reasons I probably shouldn't answer that one. But we do obviously track that and stay very attuned to that. I had a long discussion with John Thurman about that one.

Yes, sir -- yes, ma'am. Yes.

Q What's an effective call? I mean, is it if you find somebody with the same name as the tip or car bombing materials in the house. What's an effective --

GEN. CALDWELL: An effective tip is they call in and they say there's a truck out here with IED material. And we arrive and there is a truck and we do find something. We may not have found IED material. We may have found the weapons or IED materials. You know, they call in and they say there's somebody over here who's in distress and we arrive. We may not have found somebody in distress. At that point, they may be in a car trying to flee and somebody's chasing them and now we're finding somebody in a car. It doesn't mean there's 100 percent direct correlation, but we're able to find something that does enhance security. We then call it effective.

Most of them know -- or actually, pretty much, you know, they may call in and say -- it may be a tip that got called in and said that at this location there's somebody who's been gagged and shot. And we go there and, in fact, there was four people. I mean, they're not necessarily 100 correct, but we find something there every time.

And the sheer fact that an Iraqi citizen called it in and then sees a response occur is where I think, really, when the question comes is it more violence that's occurring, don't think so. I think people are finally seeing that if you call and pass this to the tips line, that something does occur from it. It's not neglected. I mean, they actually have worked a great system out to pass this information and get it down to the military and police units.

Q And this goes across all Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Information forces?

GEN. CALDWELL: This is for operating with inside of Baghdad.

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah. Oh yeah. Yes, it does. Q Who runs it exactly? Is it the Ministry of Defense or the Ministry of Interior people?

GEN. CALDWELL: You know, I didn't -- I was focused more on the result and outcome. I have not personally gone to the coordination center. Obviously not something we want to publicize where it is or who works there or those kinds of things just for the same security of the people involved. But yes, I can at least find out a little more about it if you'd like. I mean, if you're interested we can get that for you.

Did you get that?

STAFF: Yes, sir.

GEN. CALDWELL: Okay.

Yes, sir.

Q My apologies if my math is not exact, but if 6,600 -- roughly 6,600 -- calls to Baghdad --

GEN. CALDWELL: You're right. You're right. I just saw it; you're right. We're off by 10 percent.

Q Well, no, no. Let's just --

GEN. CALDWELL: No, no, you're right. I'm sitting here doing the math -- no, no, that's right. That's 100 percent.

Q That's right, that's right. Now, but let's take the 69 percent.

GEN. CALDWELL: Okay.

Q That's 4,300 instances that led to substantial IED materials being discovered, people being bound and gagged found killed -- assassinated -- some place. That's 4,300 instances in just four months. That's success? I mean, that's a hopeful indication?

GEN. CALDWELL: The hopeful indication is that the people are calling it in because they want something done. They're not sitting there listlessly not involved, not engaged. They want something done. And to me, when you have somebody that wants to do something, a lot of times it's the matter of giving them the capability to do it and then they'll do it. So --

STAFF: Ladies and gentlemen, we have time for one more question.

GEN. CALDWELL: Go ahead, sir. I haven't taken you.

Q Can you give us what the attack figures were for the last week? How many average per day attacks on coalition forces and Iraqi forces? Usually, it's tallied every Friday. Are we going to get it?

GEN. CALDWELL: Yes, we can get it. Yeah, I mean, I've seen the data. I mean, when we have it.

Q Can we get that data? I mean, because this is -

GEN. CALDWELL: I don't -

Q We seem to be dealing with a lot of people in your - I mean, we get a lot of data on tips, weapons caches that are found. But really, those are sort of a means to a goal, which is reducing violence. And you'll probably be working with a lot of people who have seen the method for how they release information about the violence here go through a lot of different phases. General Kimmitt used to just get every day and say how many attacks there were the previous 24 hours along with how many patrols and detentions and casualties. And then he would give the -- he wouldn't announce them, but he would give them if they were asked. And then he started giving like ranges. They would say well, in the last week there were a low of 40 and a high of 60. We wouldn't know if it was one day of 40 and six days of 60. And then they just started giving kind of approximate. Well, it's been around 80, 70 a day for a while. So -- but then every once in a while, they'll pop up and release like a whole list of every week for a year at one point we got or it will come out through Congress or some place else.

Can we get just a running total every week of how many attacks there are on coalition forces?

GEN. CALDWELL: I'll have to go back and check. I know we do keep it and it is briefed every day. I will need to check and see if I'm allowed to release. I don't know, but that's important. I know what you're looking for, so let me go back and see what I can ask on that one.

Q Can you comment on a trend? Is the trend up or down over the past three or four months?

GEN. CALDWELL: I have not -- I know what it's been in the last week or two, but I've have to back. I'm sure trending, like you say, I'm sure -- if I can -- just a minute. Let me ask if I can just go off the record for a minute with everybody. I'd be very interested in knowing things like that you're interested in. And if that's the kind of data you want, then I'll go back and ask my boss. I'll talk to General Casey and explain to him hey, this is something they would like to track. Whenever it will impact, perhaps, on military operations, like your question about Ramadi -- you know, what's your future plans. Well, I know we can't talk about future plans any place in the country. I mean, because that would not be something you would want to do to the coalition forces. But if it's past data -- like your case --

Q And I'll tell you -- I mean, it's been raised before. And we've gone up to -- you know, General Alston was asked about it. He had one idea that basically he said he didn't want us to do a lot of comparing from one time to another because he wanted to kind of frame how it was going. General Lynch did a little more, released a little more. So I'm just kind of making another appeal at this point. If we're hoping that there will be some kind of six-month or even a year's significant trend downward, it would make it a lot more credible if we're able to watch it while it's happening rather than kind of see it selectively.

GEN. CALDWELL: Fair enough. And what I want to be careful of is I just want to give you accurate, straightforward reporting. My problem is, I can't remember what I say one day to the next. So if I'm not completely straightforward and honest with you -- and I don't want to try to spin something that particular way. I'm not a professional Public Affairs officer. I'm a military Infantry officer, born and raised, spent most of my time in Airborne units. You know, I love serving with soldiers. I love serving my country. And I've been asked to be a spokesman for next year and I'm going to be as honest and as straightforward with you as I can.

And if I know things that you all want, I will seriously go back and ask if I can't release that kind of data. If the idea is you'd like to know the trending, I'll see if I can't release that. And if we want to do some kind of trend thing each week -- you know, what I'd like to do if, you know, this is okay with everybody -- what I'd like to do is like next Thursday, instead of a press conference, I'd like to take you all out. You know, get two Black Hawks and fly to a location and go visit Iraqi and American troops.

I think we'll see the inauguration by Monday. And if we do, then at that point the Iraqi government's in charge. Zalmay Khalilzad will be the guy out there doing most of the press stuff. I don't need to be out doing the press thing, but I'd love to have you all go out and see troops, visit with young men and women -- Iraqi, American, whatever nationality that's out there. There's a lot of them in the coalition. That's what I'd like to do next Thursday and my boss is fine with that. I just told him -- I said hey, sir, I don't want to stand up there and talk about something when the focus should be on the national government and everything else.

But if there are other things like that people are interested in, you'd like me to -- yes, sir. Q I just want to reiterate I think what he's saying is that -- and I think everybody in the room agrees -- it would help you, too, if you knew every week that's what we wanted. And it would take you and your opinions out of it if there was a consistent kind of report. You wouldn't even have to speak about it. If there could be a handout that says this is how many we lost last week, how many the Iraqis lost and then how many casualties on the other side. Because the bottom line, I think --

Q Are you talking casualty body counts or --

Q No, I was actually asking about attacks. (Cross talk.)

Q There is a figure --

GEN. CALDWELL: Right, right, right.

Q -- not just on coalition forces here, I think it's the number of attacks in Iraq. It was 70 and it was every time they tell us it's always 70s.

Q It seems like everyone -- the Iraqi people, our people, everybody -- that that is going to be, like Larry said, that's going to be bottom line for people. As much as there are more tips coming in, everybody's opinion of how things are going -- less explosions and less deaths. So if we can get that number, then we can make better sense --

GEN. CALDWELL: So what we're looking for is number of attacks on coalition forces. That's what you're interested in.

Q General attacks, right?

Q Just general attacks.

Q Just all attacks.

Q The figure for attacks in Iraq each day. I mean, we used to get it every day and then --

Q Well, I wouldn't ask any more. They can give one on coalition forces and attacks on Iraqi security forces and attacks on civilians.

STAFF: I understand what you all want and we'll go through it with them and see what we're able to do. And you understand all the issues around it and what we go through time and again on this issue - (off mike).

GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah. Q (Inaudible) -- attacks as well whether IED attacks, whether it's small arms fire attack.

GEN. CALDWELL: Right, I know --

Q (Off mike) - it's a big concern in the United States about roadside bombs and IEDs and the effectiveness of -- (off mike).

GEN. CALDWELL: And there is a memorandum out from Secretary England that's very directive in what we're allowed to talk about with respect to IEDs. And because of the fact that if I tell you the number that we dismantled and all that other stuff, that feeds right into the insurgents or anti-Iraqi forces' hands. I mean, it does. If I'm a bad guy, what better than to watch the news to find out whether I'm being effective or not with my IEDs by you telling me there were 60 IEDs this week of which 40 we were able to dismantle and 20, you know, hit coalition forces. I mean, it's a real --

Q They do know what - (off mike) -- putting off. I mean, they know for themselves how many bombs they're placing down.

GEN. CALDWELL: But there's so many different groups out there that are not necessarily all interconnected that it's the synergy I think they'd want to be looking for to see if they're being successful. Q Yes, but I mean, each individual group will know which of their own devices were effective and which aren't. I mean, they don't have to see the news to know it's not working.

Q I guess we all --

(Cross talk.)

GEN. CALDWELL: I'm not trying to give you a reduction.

Q I know, I know. I'm just saying --

GEN. CALDWELL: Yes. No, no, no --

STAFF: I'm sorry. We have gone so far over on our time and I do apologize. This has been excellent, but this must stop now because we have another appointment that we have to go to. I'm so sorry.

We really -- sir, please. I promise next time you have the first question.

Thank you, all. This has been extremely productive. Thank you very much.

END.



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