Operations Briefing, Aug. 9, 2006
IRAQ OPERATIONAL UPDATE BRIEFING BRIEFER: MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL, USA, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ LOCATION: COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQ TIME: 9:00 A.M. EDT DATE: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 9, 2006
GEN. CALDWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. This afternoon I'm going to address results; results of patience and persistence, results of hard work and creative thought, results of relentless pursuit of justice. Today's briefing will discuss examples of the dedication and teamwork of countless individuals working together to build a new Iraq, to secure a safe Iraq, and to do what is right without despairing the journey may be too treacherous or the road too long.
Slide and chart, please.
Yesterday, the Iraqi army marked an important step in the evolution of its force. The 4th Iraqi Army Division Headquarters officially assumed the lead in its area of responsibility in the provinces covering the major cities of Tikrit, Kirkuk and Samarra. Just to put it in perspective, if you look back to 2004, there were about 44,000 -- or 44,000 we show right here -- Minister of Defense forces. Today we're up to about 115,000 out here in 2006, two years later. Same thing when you look down at the Ministry of Interior forces: about 46,000 back in 2004; two years later, again, about 160,000, giving us today Iraqi security forces of about 275,000 operating inside the country.
In 2005, the area of responsibility for which the Iraqi army had the lead was that little piece of that province of Wasat. That was just over a year ago. And at that point, we had one division headquarters, four brigade headquarters, and 23 battalions that were in the Iraqi army in the lead responsible for security, their headquarters.
Next slide, please.
Here in 2006, with this latest evolution of the 4th Iraqi Army Division Headquarters assuming Iraqi army in the lead responsibility, these are the areas now in green that the Iraqi army has the lead for security operations.
Over time, we have watched as more and more Iraqi forces have stepped up and out to conduct operations, not only combined operations with coalition forces, but also operating independently.
The 4th Iraqi Army Division Headquarters marks not only the mid- way point for division headquarters in the lead in coordinating, planning and conducting security operations in Iraq, but shows a very tangible progress for Iraq's defense garnered through training and persistence.
Five of the Iraqi army division headquarters now are in the lead, with 25 brigade headquarters and 85 battalions.
Additionally, the 6th Iraqi Army Motorized Transport Regiment conducted a transfer of authority ceremony here last week, too.
Next slide, please.
The 6th Iraqi Army Division now has command and control of the 6th Motorized Transport Regiment, another important evolutionary step as Iraqis take charge of Iraq, making their own decisions, assuming responsibility from coalition forces and establishing a structure needed to eventually operate independently throughout their entire country. This example of Iraqi leadership exercising command and control over Iraqi forces moves them one step closer to their vision of the modern Iraqi army.
These turnovers from coalition forces to Iraqi security forces reflects the increased operational capability of the Iraqi security forces. Ultimately, progress will be measured not only in numbers of battalions or brigades, but in the long term, through the security of their country.
Slide and chart, please.
Over the last week, there were 11 operations conducted against death squads throughout Iraq. Ten of them were centered around here in Baghdad. And without going through the specifics of each operation, although listed here, if you look over here to the top right, you'll see the specific locations upon which each of these operations against death squad members was conducted. If you note, they were conducted throughout the entire city of Baghdad, not any one focal area, both on the western side and the northeastern side and in the center of the city.
Additionally, we conducted 406 operations at the company level and above, about standard for what we've seen in previous months, of which 60 percent of these were combined operations in which both coalition forces and Iraqi security forces operated together, and 28 percent were independent Iraqi security force operations.
As efforts focused on Baghdad to quell the surge of extremists seeking to exert control and impose their narrow, divisive view of the future of Iraq, Iraqi security forces and coalition forces continue to disrupt the terrorists and set the stage for Baghdadis to live stable lives.
Last week, we witnessed 25 caches being found, 222 IEDs found and cleared, 301 anti-Iraqi forces detained and the continuation of foreign fighters flowing through this country, of which 13 foreign fighters were killed and one was captured for a total of 14 during the one-week period.
As Iraqi and coalition forces continue to take the streets of Baghdad each day, countless deeds occur, and what I'd like to do is just sort of talk you through a couple of these to put in perspective some of the great things that these young men, the Iraqi army security forces operating with coalition forces in support of them have conducted over the last plus throughout the Baghdad area.
First slide, please.
Kidnapping is also one of the major things that we've been focused on and going after. As we look and find these death squads that are operating throughout the city, their tactics are both conducting murder, intimidation and kidnappings. This is a case here where we find that no one is above the law and based on a kidnapped victim that was released through relentless pursuit. With forces operating, they in fact did apprehend four Iraqi police personnel as they continued to clean up their own force and find those who have been accused of being involved there and are associated with kidnappings.
In this case here, an Iraqi checkpoint, this car here was speeding up to the checkpoint. The Iraqi security forces there used an escalation of force, fired warning shots. The vehicle stopped. Upon question of the two individuals that were in the front seat of vehicle, they said they were in a hurry to get to a hospital for emergency reasons. The Iraqi security forces were attentive, heard some noise. went around to the back of the car and in the trunk, found a victim that -- who had been bound and gagged, beatened and tortured, and were able to release him and take in possession those two individuals, along with a Glock pistol, a magazine, 650,000 dinars, numerous identification cards and a cell phone -- all of which had been taken or -- and had been exploited.
In this case here, in a mosque that was being built in this area here in Mansour, local citizens -- again, Iraqi citizens coming forth, talking to Iraqi authorities reported they had seen men going into the mosque, that was under construction, taking things in there. The 1st Battalion of the 1st Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Army Division responded and moved into that location and moved inside. And upon entering, they found an IED that had been set with an electronic device attached to it, with 122 artillery shells connected to it, two of them, and they also found lines that had also been established too. They called an EOD and were able to diffuse both IEDs. These are the mines that have been found. They were able to diffuse both of the IEDs and render them safe by moving them to another location.
Again, Iraqi citizens within Baghdad reporting to Iraqi security forces, incidents and then people following up -- in this case, the 6th Iraqi Army Division -- and taking action against it.
Next slide, please, and chart.
Taking weapons off the streets remains vital if we're going to establish peace here in the Baghdad area. When reports of a possible rocket site in the Karrada district were received, again, security forces went to investigate, and they did in fact find rockets with timers associated with them in the area that had been reported, again, by Iraqi citizens. Iraqi police cordoned off the area to secure EOD support. They found six Katyusha rockets with a cell phone timer and launching tube. There were no casualties or damage associated with this operation.
Again, in this case here, as we continue to disrupt and disgrade (sic) the terrorist networks, what we found here was an IED -- that initial IED had been reported and found and detonated. Security forces went ahead from the coalition forces and put that site under observation. And at a later point in time, they did in fact find personnel coming back in for them, attempting to emplace more IEDs in that location, and took them under fire, at which time they killed two and two fled from the scene.
Slide and chart, please.
As part of the focus on Baghdad and ongoing operations to make each neighborhood safe, early on morning operation, the 6th Brigade of the 2nd National Police Division detained a suspected terrorist and discovered a weapons cache and, in doing so, led from one thing to another, and which you can see during the operation that they conducted in this area -- again, this -- these are the Iraqi national police units that came in and cordoned off this area and then systematically went through, based on the tip from one person that they detained that led them to three other houses. And out of that, you can see right here 38 AK-47s, a shotgun, hand grenades and Iraqi army uniforms
Slide and chart, please.
Disturbingly, anti-Iraqi forces, death squads and others continue to use mosques, not as a place of worship but to store arms and to spread terror. The 2nd Battalion of the 1st Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Army Division conducted a cordon-and-search and went in here and conducted a raid here on this mosque site here, and in fact throughout -- from that raid, in fact, came out with all this different equipment, which clearly was associated with making IEDs and provides explosive devices and assorted timers, det cord, CD-ROMs of propaganda and then, of course, direct kinetic-fire weapons, such as RPGs and AK- 47s.
Again, no casualties or damage were associated with this operation as conducted by the Iraqi army on this mosque site.
And again, in combined operations again that went on between Iraqi security forces and coalition forces, again within the Baghdad area we continue to see them operating in coordination with each other, going after death squads. And this is another one of the operations that was conducted here on August 1st, and they did in fact detain and capture the person in question, and have him right now under -- in detention.
And again, this was another operation that was conducted. This was against a very high-level al Qaeda leader that they had received information on. Again, going into this location, this is Iraqi security forces in the lead with coalition forces working in support of them, specifically advisers in this case. And they were able to, again, detain the al Qaeda member, along with some armament in that location.
Realistically, the litany of military police and military successes just cited are only a few that have been going on over the last week within the Baghdad area. But these alone will not create the end state that everybody envisions, that the Iraqi government, the prime minister has called for that he wants to see here in Iraq: Iraq at peace with its neighbors, with a representative government that respects the human rights of all Iraqis, and security forces that are sufficient to maintain the domestic law and order and preclude Iraq from being a safe haven for terrorists. Security can and will set the stage, but economics, governance, leadership and popular support will allow for law and order and unity to ultimately prevail, which will give the security to the Iraqis that they so desire.
Last May, we had the opportunity to go with some of you all here up to Tarmia, take a look at it. It was an area in which coalition forces, along with Iraqi security forces, had gone on in and secured it. At that point, the living conditions were very tough. They came up with -- sitting down with the city council members from Tarmia, with a developmental plan that the people of Tarmia approved. They continued to provide security. They found local citizens that wanted to go become Iraqi police. They sent them off for training in Jordan at the training academy there; they came back in early July. And today what we found is they worked all the various projects in Tarmia, that it's continuing to slowly move along towards greater prosperity up in that area. And this is the grand opening ceremony that just occurred here this past week in the town there. In addition to that, they also were building a youth center.
Slide and chart, please.
The Tarmia Education and Youth Center opened also on August 1st. And what it does, it offers literally to hundreds of local children a place to play sports, reading and paint. The renovated complex is equipped with two full-size international basketball courts, a sand volley ball court, two soccer fields, an art studio, library, and a theater for plays, and a place to practice martial arts. And you can see that here. This is the opening into the facility here, and these are some of the places within the facility itself. The center was a $200,000 refurbishing project that was completed in about a four-month time period, primarily by local Iraqi contractors from Tarmia itself.
Rooms throughout the center have been set up specifically for functions children are interested in. And again, this was a partnering that went on, understanding -- working with the local citizens there to understand exactly what renovations they wanted done and what did they want this recreation center turned into. The exterior of the center is surrounded by concrete walls, making it safer for all the children with which to play in that area.
It was a massive rebuilding effort taking place, and again, established by the 9th Iraqi Armored Division working very closely with the citizens of Tarmia.
In addition to the youth center, improvements can be seen everywhere up there. The medical center that this community looks forward to is about to see its first birth next month as it opens up, too, and is now made available, which will allow the citizens of Tarmia not to have to come all the way down to Baghdad to receive medical care, but in fact can provide it there, from birthing to more significant medical assistance.
Additionally to that, many of the roads have been repaved, and a $2.4 million pipeline project, which was started over a year ago, has just about been completed and is bringing fresh water into the city of Tarmia, and that'll be later this year.
Life in Tarmia literally, though, is by no means perfect to this point, nor will it be easy to compete (sic) all the projects or move along and progress with them as we envision. But this community has made a conscious decision that they want to support law and order. They sent their local citizens to become national police or -- excuse me, local police. They've gone through the training and now have returned, and are taking control of and being in charge of their own city.
Tarmia can be literally the microcosm of Iraq, an example of diligence and creativity to build a future not through violence, but through hard work and entrepreneurship.
Here in Baghdad, security must set the stage for the same entrepreneurial spirit to prevail. A 13-story, 106-ton rectangular concrete stairwell, the last remnant of the old Al-Mamoon Exchange and Telecommunication Center located in Baghdad, was removed August 5th to make room for a new seven-story telecommunications building, a hub through which Iraq can connect with the global community. The Ministry of Communications offices will be located there, as well as a 1,300 square meter post office, and is also going to feature an auditorium and a cafeteria, expedition hall and numerous conference rooms and several floors of communications switchgear. Over 70 Iraqis are currently working on this construction project, but that's going to eventually grow to 400 laborers.
Funded by the Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund, this $22.7 million project is designed to provide reliable communications, but it is also -- will be the focal point upon the city of Baghdad can build.
Lastly this afternoon, I'm sure most of you are aware of a series of articles regarding the ordeal of reporter Jill Carroll, in which she will detail her abduction, detention and survival that will soon be published. As such, we are now compelled to release information regarding a small portion of the aftermath in Ms. Carroll's ordeal involving the contributions made by our Marines out in the Al Anbar province.
Coalition forces have detained four Iraqi men that we believe to have been involved in the kidnapping of Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor journalist held hostage in Iraq for 82 days earlier this year.
As I relate some of the specifics in the capture of these individuals, we'll run the site documentation video taken during the original contact with the first kidnapper we apprehended, which we believe was the last site where Jill Carroll was held captive.
Finding and detaining these four individuals was the product of national assets pushed through interagency cooperation all the way to the action officer level. The Multinational Division West Tactical Fusion Cell conducts all sorts of intelligence collection and analysis, and provides fused intelligence to the commanding general out there and all his subordinate elements.
Troops on the ground -- young Marines and sailors paid attention to what may have been considered minor details at the time. Ultimately, the four kidnappers were detained in several intelligence- driven operations that took place between Fallujah and Baghdad.
Marines from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were able to identify the location at which we believe Jill Carroll was held, approximately 13 kilometers west of Fallujah. A lieutenant from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, noted a suspected house on the location that he had previously read about from intelligence reports.
Marines detained that owner. After questioning the first suspect, Marine intelligence officers identified additional locations where Jill Carroll was believed to have been held. The second location raid believed to be the residence of a kidnapping cell member who was also a member of the Mujahideen Shura Council, was raided by Marines from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment. The Marines detained one local national there.
At the third location, north of Abu Ghraib, soldiers from the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division detained three suspected kidnappers there and freed two others being held as captives at that location. And then, they also raided a fourth location which yielded further information for which we are continuing to pursue as we continue to develop the intelligence.
The names of those being detained in custody are being withheld pending a decision on their prosecution. U.S.-Iraqi authorities are currently discussing prosecutorial options and will make a determination shortly.
Slide and chart, please.
We should take note some of the specific actions taken. Slide one which we discussed was the first location where our young Marines were able to first make the identification based on intelligence, which ultimately led to finding sites two, three and four, as we continue to exploit the intelligence gains at each site.
Slide one is where I'd like to take you first and talk a little. Right there, al-Habbaniya, at this location right here and talk to you for a few minutes about that.
Next slide, please.
This is a side view of the house in which we believe Jill Carroll was last detained.
Next slide, please.
Specifically what it was, the young Marine lieutenant from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment had led some intelligence as where we thought people who had been kidnapped have been held and detained and had identified through reports this little structure here on the door and that specific gate leading into the entrance way. Upon observing that, he decided to pursue further on his own to see if in fact anything else matched from the reports he had read.
Next slide, please.
This Marine crew, as you see here in this picture, went to the door, knocked on it and then asked for permission if they could come in and talk to the owner of the house, which he gave them.
Next slide, please.
As they entered the house, there was very distinct features about this, of which the Marines had read, about this report. Again, a young Marine, probably our best tactical intelligence that we're going to find of those young men and women in uniform operating out on the streets, having read something, continue to follow up on what he remembered from the reports and were able to specifically identify some features associated with that, which at which point he determined that in fact he had probably found the house where kidnapped victims may have been held, specifically this case Jill Carroll. And so he went ahead at that point and detained the individual.
Next slide, please.
And further examination of the house, up on the second floor, he found some things in this room, specifically the bookcase, that further collaborated what he had previously thought he should be looking for at that location.
Based on the tactical information they were able to glean off the person that was detained at that site and other information from their all tactical fusion cell out there and Multinational Force West, they then proceeded to site number two here. This time that was executed by Marines from the 1st Battalion of the 25th Marine Regiment, a Reserve Marine unit from New England.
Next slide, please.
The detention of the person there led them to another site. Based on that, again, intelligence, when they went over here to a site -- now we're getting closer -- west of Baghdad, near Abu Ghraib -- sound intelligent (sic) was paramount here. And again, soldiers now from the 4th Infantry Division, having passed this intelligence information from Multinational Force West now to Multidivision Baghdad, went ahead and executed on that.
As they went into the home -- next slide, please -- they were looking again for some distinguishing features, again, at all these sites where we believed Jill Carroll in fact had been held at some point during her ordeal. According to newspaper accounts yesterday, it says she was held at nine different locations. We don't know if that's correct or not, but we do know that we had at least four sites that we have exploited and have followed through on.
The young officer going into this location here from the 4th Infantry Division had read reports that, again, you can always expect to find some booby-trapped when you're going into facilities where anti-Iraqi forces may be holding kidnap victims. They in fact going in this house did look for and did find -- and neutralized -- devices that had been set intentionally to in fact inflict harm on them if they entered the home. So they were able to defuse those.
And going in, they did find two hostages, two kidnap victims in this home here, which they were able to free and return them back to their families.
Based on the information that was gleaned from this site -- next slide, please -- and again, it's in the picture -- they received information about site number four, from that site and the accumulation of all the other intelligence, and then they were able to detain a person in site number four. The personnel associated with all four sites are currently, as we said, in custody. And further exploitation of the information that we were able to glean is still ongoing at this point.
But what's important to remember is, this is just one small part of the ordeal of a number of kidnap victims. But the hunt continues for anybody and anyone else that was involved not only in these kidnappings but in those who scorn law and order, who disrupt democracy and who spread terror in the lives of the everyday Iraqi citizens.
And with that, I'll take your questions that you all may have. Yes, sir?
Q Good morning --
STAFF: Wait for the mike, please.
Q Good morning. I'm David Clark from AFP.
You talked -- you started your presentation about the raids on death squads in the Baghdad area. In one of those raids on Sunday night, early Monday morning, there was a clash in the Sadr City area of Baghdad. And since them, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has complained that he did not authorize that mission and does not endorse it, and has demanded that he be informed in the future of any such raids.
Could you clarify the chain of command for deciding on such operations and explain why there would seem to be a division in perceptions as to what happened between the Iraqi government and the international force?
GEN. CALDWELL: Well, first of all, I think you all realize that was an Iraqi-run operation, in which they were coalition force advisers assisting in the execution of that operation.
Everybody has the same goal during the operations here in Baghdad. The intent is to reduce the level of violence in the city so that normal Iraqi citizens can go back to living a more secure and stable life. I mean, the prime minister has stated that is his goal, and that's what everybody's working to do.
And in this case, I think as you all know too, I mentioned that every day -- every week across Iraq we conduct anywhere from 400 to 480 company-level and above operations. I mean think about it, that's a huge magnitude. In a seven-day period, there's between 400 to 500 operations at the company-level and above. That doesn't even count the numbers below that. And clearly, when those are being executed both by Iraqi security forces, of which we discussed about 30 percent of those being done independently, and then other portions being done as combined, those are done by local commanders making decisions about the need to conduct the operation. And most of these are based upon intelligence, too, that is normally very fleeting -- target acquisition, information provided and then being executed in a very timely manner.
There is no question the prime minister is in charge of this country. We are here as guests of the Iraqi government. General Casey and the ambassador are in very close consultation on a continual basis with the prime minister and, clearly, talk about everything from security to economics to governance; specifically, though, security is their primary topic and they do it on a very regular, routine basis, almost daily, if not sometimes twice a day. So there is close consultation going on. And I don't think anybody's at odds here as to what the intent and purpose is and what we're trying to all achieve in Baghdad City.
Q General, Mark Strauss from CBS News. I have sort of a follow-up on his question. I guess I have a two-part question. One is, but is anything the prime minister said publicly likely to change any tactics used in future raids? And isn't there a certain frustration factor involved when -- sure, everybody's got the same goal, but if you're going after somebody and the prime minister of the country essentially is apologizing to the country for actions that forces have taken to try to root out torture cells, death squads, et cetera, I mean there has to be a certain frustration factor in play for you guys.
GEN. CALDWELL: First, let me just say, as far as the tactics go, the tactics that are being employed and utilized will not change. I mean, there is an awareness -- what you have to realize is he's the prime minister of his nation and he, just like we are, are always very concerned about any collateral damage, especially if there are civilians involved.
And for him to come out and be concerned and to voice that, we would expect him too, and just like we -- we've always expressed to administer regret and condolences whenever there is a civilian.
What we do know is that these death squads, the anti-Iraqi elements, the terrorists out there continually try to embed themselves right in within the civilian population. That's a tactic they've been using. They want to get in close to the civilian population. They want to make it extremely difficult to get to them without inflicting casualties on civilians. They know exactly what they're doing by where they're placing themselves. There have been numerous operations, as you can imagine, with, you know, 400 plus operations being conducted every week at company level and above, where there was in fact no collateral damage, no civilian casualties involved. In this case there were, and we, the coalition forces regret it just as much. Even though it was an Iraqi-led operation and run, we had coalition force advisors with them.
I think everybody understands that the intent was to go in, apprehend the individual in question and come out. Nobody intended to have to use force unless absolutely necessary. The Iraqi security forces, as reported to us by our coalition force advisors that were with them, were fired on first. They used escalation of force, and it wasn't until they were trying to extract from the objective area and get themselves out that they became under such intense heavy fire from elements there that they had to use some air support in order to extract themselves safely.
Nobody will ever take away from a soldier on the ground who's trying to execute their duties, the ability to use escalation of force in the pursuit of lawful orders against a defined target that they're attempting to prosecute if it means that their life is danger. I mean, we all regret the loss of life, and the prime minister has every right to, you know, say exactly what he did. And we feel the same way he did too.
So the tactics we'll still see the same. I mean, we'll always be very much aware of and concerned about anytime we conduct something around population centers. It's a challenging mission.
That young trooper on the ground is challenged each and every time they have to operate inside of a city, and when there's civilians around, it even gets more challenging for them out there. And as far as frustration, every young trooper out there on the ground wants to see peace and prosperity brought back to Baghdad. They're frustrated that we have extremist elements on both sides out there that continue to do nothing but incite violence and will use any means possible in order to get a flare-up between the different elements within the city. I mean, that's what frustrates us -- is that they can't understand that the vast majority of Iraqi people want peace, they want prosperity, they want security. They don't want to be involved in anything else. They have proven over many, many years that they can live in tranquility with each other, in harmony with each other, and yet there's these extreme elements. That's the frustration they feel, that are out there operating on the fringe elements.
But they're encouraged when they see Iraqi citizens, like we see many examples right now current, when they're coming forth and talking to us and passing information -- especially when they are passing it, you know, to Iraqi security forces -- about people they've seen going into a mosque that's being built, or when they're able to stop a car and rescue a kidnapped victim out of it, or when they have an individual that reports that there may be rockets, and they're able to find Katyusha rockets with a timer set, ready to fire into some portion of Baghdad.
I mean, that's when they see a lot of hope and a lot of encouragement, when they see those kind of reports coming from the people of Iraq, especially right here within Baghdad as we conduct these operations.
Q And speaking of operations, if I could just follow up real fast, can you give me some sort of an update on phase two? What is going on in the streets for soldiers that are actually involved -- already on the streets in phase two?
GEN. CALDWELL: Obviously, the multinational corps put out a press release last night saying phase two is in execution now. It's an evolutionary thing. It's not something that just starts on one day. I mean, there are more forces still moving into the city even as we speak. Not all the forces are in place yet. They're going to be associated with working over many months to bring greater security to Baghdad.
This is not a short-term operation. This is something that's going to go on between now out till the December time frame. There will be additional forces still coming into assist with this operation. Clearly, the intent is to reduce the level of violence, and you will see a focused effort being made. They're still going to continue operations across the whole city like they always have done. You'll still see them focused in those five or six key areas we've talked about where we have seen the highest number of incidents, murders, intimidation kidnappings occur. They'll continue those operations, but then they're going to take and focus in a specific area, and it's going to be a multipronged approach, and we're going to not just use military force. Military force may go in there initially with the Iraqis in the lead and coalition forces working in support of them to clear an area out, and they're going to hold it. And then they're going to turn it eventually over to the Iraqi police, the local police, to continue providing the law enforcement and security in that location.
But they're going to come in with some economic development, too. And I know Dr. Rubaie was down talking with the Baghdad Provincial Council about a lot of the projects that they've been working on. I know that there's projects that USAID has been working on, and there's a lot of different elements that are going to bring some additional economic programs into the city of Baghdad and try to target them in some of those specific areas where operations have been ongoing so that we can put people back to work, we can get the basic services up to a higher level of proficiency than they are today so that the people do see a difference in their lives. And so that's the intent of this program. And again, it's going to be evolutionary.
It's -- and, you know, we're very guardedly optimistic by what we have seen so far. There's no question that there has been a drop in the number of attacks and the number of casualties over these last five days. But nobody wants to talk to that right now because we really need to see it over a long term. And what the real test will be is, what is life like in the November-December time frame? And that's the real test of how successful we are. It's not, did you reduce the level of casualties today or tomorrow or next week -- although we exactly do want to do that -- but eventually lead to a more secure and stable life for the Iraqi citizens.
Q James Hider from the London Times. A couple of questions.
First of all, would it be normal for the prime minister to be briefed about an operation of this scale?
And then secondly, if you'd give us some details on the helicopter crash in Anbar. How did the helicopter go down? How did the two people come to be missing when apparently four people were picked up? And what exactly is being done to locate them?
GEN. CALDWELL: James, the coalition forces, along with the minister of Defense and his element, and the minister of Interior, always have very close consultation about significant operations, like the Baghdad Security Plan is a perfect example.
I mean there has been tremendous amounts of discussion that have gone on, of which briefings have gone to the prime minister by his leadership, with us there in support of them as we've talked about that plan. And there have been other operations that have been executed which the prime minister has been briefed on.
But there is a continual dialogue that goes on with the prime minister. I mean, he's also governing his whole country. We don't -- and with the number and volume of operations that are conducted each and every day inside of Iraq, he's not briefed on every one, but there are specific things that do get briefed to his level. But he, like I think most commanders, turns and gives that general guidance and lets his commanders on the ground continue to operate and make the decision, you know, within his Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior.
As far as the helicopter crash goes, from what we know at this point in time, the helicopter went down with some kind of malfunction. It did crash. The two personnel -- it crashed in water. I think as you know, it's upside down in the water. Dive teams have gone in there today. I have not received the most current report, although I know we'll have full status on all our personnel that were associated with that helicopter by -- shortly, and then appropriate notifications will be made to the families.
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. CALDWELL: The first part of your question I just missed. The translation wasn't quite working. The name of the individual that you were talking about?
Q (In Arabic.)
GEN. CALDWELL: Well, obviously, any policies dealing with militias is a decision of the government of Iraq's and not the coalition forces. I mean, they'll make those decisions and decide how they're going to handle that. As I understand, this is a recommendation that's being put forth. I'm sure the government of Iraq is going to look very closely at that. I have not heard the prime minister rule anything of the table. You know, as he keeps stressing and emphasizing, he's looking for reconciliation. He understands how important that is for this country to reconcile their differences among groups and come back into dialogue with each other. And so I'm sure he'll give that due consideration.
But that will be something the government of Iraq will make that decision on, not us.
Q Corey Flintoff from NPR. I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about the Sadr City raid. You know, you showed us these details about operations. Do you have -- can you give us similar details, something to show us, that that operation was not misdirected and that -- was it a tactical success, in your view?
GEN. CALDWELL: The -- they -- that operation was conducted in order to go in and get what was a leader of a death squad. In fact, they did detain three personnel on the objective site and did bring them out. So practically, they were able to accomplish the objective they set forth to execute -- did.
There has been conflicting information as to exactly the extent of damage that occurred at that location. I know there's been -- trying to get full resolution on that. And that is still going on, because there are differing reports, as rendered by those who conducted the operation and some people who went back the next day and looked at it, too. But there's no question that there was a lot of firing that went on, that they did have the use of aerial support to extract themselves, to get out of that location.
So the operation did achieve what it set out to do at the tactical level. So I mean, I -- we can get more details. I knew we're -- everybody's attempting to find out exactly what did get destroyed, if anything, and how many people actually did get injured in the attack. I've seen different reports right now. But we're trying to get ground truth still ourselves.
Q Did your investigation develop any evidence of torture cells? Because that was one of the reasons given for, you know, going after this particular objective.
GEN. CALDWELL: The tactical interrogation is still ongoing at this point. The information gleaned from that obviously nobody's ready to release at this point.
Q General, Paul von Zielbauer from The New York Times. (Off mike.) I have a question -- two questions. The first is about the searches that are going on with -- in the neighborhoods around Baghdad, with Iraqi army and American advisers. Are you concerned at all about the quality of the searches being done by the Iraqi army units and whether they're doing thorough -- and have been properly trained and are able to do thorough searches? And also, are you concerned about any intelligence leaking to residents in those neighborhoods that allow them to either leave or sort of escape before you guys roll in?
And the second question is about just the civil affairs element of -- that I understand follows these searches, such as garbage pickup and things like that. Could you talk about that?
GEN. CALDWELL: Sure, Paul. The -- as far as the searches and the quality and the capabilities, obviously this is an Iraqi-led effort. They're the ones who are conducting the searches. They've been doing an absolutely great job, and from our perspective -- I mean, you can look at some of these examples -- those are being done by Iraqi security forces. And each and every day that they operate out there, especially when they operate independently, they're just getting that much more proficient, that much more capable.
If you try to compare them against an American unit that's been operating for, you know -- we've been in existence for over 200 years as an Army -- against their army now, which has been in existence for just over really two years, I mean, there's a quantum leap in terms of developmental phases of what we -- they've been able to achieve.
They're doing an extremely good job at what they're doing out there. There's no reason to believe that they are not capable of doing that.
And so, as far as intelligence leaks and people leaving, as they move into an area, they in fact are telling the citizens what they're doing. I mean, this is -- it's not a surprise kind of thing. They -- they're putting security around that area, and they're telling the citizens that they're cleaning out all the -- whatever may exist in there that's an illegal weapon or illegal armament or munition -- to get it out of the way so that citizens can live in security afterwards. And I think what we probably will end up finding is a lot of citizens coming forward with information with time too. I mean, it just literally started this thing, as you know, working in an area there within Baghdad.
So if somebody wants to pick up and leave, they have that capability to. I mean, the intent is not to lock down people and preclude them from making any movements at all, but obviously, they'll be -- their vehicles and their personal gear will be searched as they come in or out of the location where Iraqi security forces are operating.
As far as civil affairs goes, there is in fact a plan; it's a -- I know the Multinational Force Baghdad has been working that very diligently in coordination with the Iraqi security force counterparts. They have different things in place that will go, specifically look at trash, sewage, water. They have additional longer-term things, where they'll look in electricity and job employment opportunities for personal in that area. And obviously, each one is going to be somewhat different based on the area where they're going to be operating too.
Q Thank you. Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers. With these Article 32 hearings this week and some of the details that came out, I'm wondering if there's been any progress or any developments you can talk to us about in terms of Iraqi officials who requested access to these investigations, especially, remember, on the Haditha investigation, and they've wanted everything from -- to see the work that you all did, to maybe have access to soldiers involved themselves. Can you update on whether any of that's been granted?
GEN. CALDWELL: There has been a joint committee established between the Iraqi government officials and the multinational force officials, along with U.S. mission embassy officials, where they in fact are looking at different cases together. During these Article 32 proceedings that went on, you would have seen personnel there such as the minister from Human Rights in attendance with a military lawyer there to help answer and explain the process by which it occurs and what's happening during the proceedings.
So there's been an ongoing dialogue too where we've been briefing senior officials in the government of Iraq as to what the investigations are, where they are, what's sort of happening with them, to make sure they're informed and aware of the different things that are occurring. So there is a much more robust interplay occurring between us and the government of Iraq then there was before when the prime minister went back to Washington.
It's a formalized committee. They brief at least once a month, if not twice a month, under the current agreements that have been made. And then, there's an ongoing dialogue, literally, on a daily basis, as questions are discussed, information is passed between them.
STAFF: Two more questions.
Q Thank you. (Name inaudible) -- from the Associated Press. A couple of questions. Do you have any information about this incident last night in Baqubah? We're hearing that a mosque and several houses were destroyed in an American area, that's according to the local police.
I don't know if that's -- if you have any information on that.
The other one is still about Sadr City. You said your tactics are not going to change. Does that mean if you have information of more death squads or kidnapping squads in Sadr City, you would again go back into the area?
GEN. CALDWELL: First of all, as far as Baqubah goes, I know of no airstrike, but we'll go back and double check that to see if there had been one up in that area. I don't recall hearing of one in the last 24 hours, but we'll double check that to make sure, and we'll get back to you with whatever information we have on that. The Baqubah area, is that correct?
And as far as tactics going, I'm talking about the tactics that those in uniform down on the ground employ when they're executing an operation. As far as other mechanisms that are in place in terms of who might be notified, by when, by whom, that doesn't apply to those young men and women who are in uniform down there executing the tactical operation. They need to stay focused on their mission, do what they're trained to do, follow the rules that are in place, and prosecute their target that they've been told to go prosecute. And then those above them will take care of all the other procedural things.
STAFF: One last question.
GEN. CALDWELL: Yes, ma'am?
Q Nancy Youssef with McClatchy Newspapers. I have two questions. One, after the operation in Sadr City, did Prime Minister Maliki or any members of his government put any restrictions on the U.S. military in terms of how or where they operate in the capital?
And secondly, I'd like to talk about the operation in Baghdad. There have been several operations in the capital before in the last three years -- Operation Thunder, and Moving Forward, I believe. And the public -- at least the Iraqis I speak to, are not optimistic that this operation will lead to any significant changes in their lives, given the past operations.
How will this operation be different than those of the last three years?
GEN. CALDWELL: Let me take your second question first. The key thing about this operation is that, one, it counts on the Iraqi citizens; they have to be involved. The Iraqi people have to want this to work. If they are not involved, if they're not willing to commit, if they're not willing to be a part of the solution, then there is no solution.
Military force alone cannot achieve peace, it can only set the conditions to allow for peace to be -- take hold and to grow. So the Iraqi citizens are going to have to be involved in this. But one of the key aspects here is there is a very deliberate, conscious effort by the government of Iraq, in coordination with the coalition forces supporting them, to bring in the economic piece and the governance piece as they work in the areas too. And that's key.
Again, military force can only set conditions. We can make it stable for a time period. But if we don't then go right in behind it and establish some economic growth, some jobs, give the people a better way of life, reinvigorate the basic public services that are available to them, then the people will become disillusioned.
But then we need their help, too. They're going to have to be involved. They're going to have to report information. They're going to have to be part of the solution. All the different governing councils that -- from the Baghdad provincial council all the way down, are going to have be energized and being part of finding solutions to all the problems that exist out there.
I think that's the real big difference that everybody's looking at as we move forward in this operation. This one is truly a government of Iraq lead. It's not a U.S. It's not a coalition. It is a government of Iraq in the lead, with the coalition forces operating in support of them. I mean, you've heard that before, but it's truly, when you -- just the sheer numbers, you know, with the Iraqi security forces outnumbering coalition forces four to one that are operating in this area and -- but all the other pieces are going to have to take hold, too, when -- the economic and the governance in those areas, for the people to see a difference.
As far as restrictions being placed on it, the prime minister has always had a continual dialogue with the coalition forces, with the ambassador. That will continue, as they always have. I think that's one of the real strengths of what I -- anybody sees that operates here in this environment, is that close interconnectivity that does occur between the prime minister and the U.S. mission, with the ambassador and the coalition forces. And that's going to continue. There will be no change in how we do that. And there is great dialogue that occurs here, too.
But the one thing we always remember is, the prime minister is the prime minister of this nation, and we are here as his guest, the guest of the people of Iraq. And so ultimately, whatever decisions are made, the prime minister makes them, and he asks for -- he allows everybody to work in consultation and coordination with him, but they're ultimately his decisions.
But we're all after the same objective, and that's to bring greater unity, prosperity and security to the people of Iraq.
All right. Thank you very much.
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