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Press Briefing, Dec. 27, 2006

Multi-National Force-Iraq


Tuesday, 26 December 2006
Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV
Spokesman, Multi-National Force - Iraq

BRIEFING BY MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN AND DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF OF STRATEGIC EFFECTS FOR MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ TOPIC: UPDATE ON SECURITY OPERATIONS IN IRAQ LOCATION: THE COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQ TIME: 7:00 A.M. EST DATE: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2006

GEN. CALDWELL: Good afternoon. "As-salaam aleikum."

In the past -- in the next few weeks, President Bush will announce the results of the administration's strategic review of Iraq. Whatever shift in strategy the president decides upon will be based in part upon the awareness that although coalition forces can win every battle against al Qaeda in Iraq and extremist militant groups, we cannot win the peace alone. Ultimately, Iraqis have to step up and develop solutions to their country's problems. Yet in the face of persistently high levels of violence, the Iraqi people are demonstrating that they are eager to do just that.

In Al Anbar province, the Iraqi security force recently completed its most successful recruiting drive to date. Despite repeated attacks against the Iraqi security force and recruits in Al Anbar, last month 1,115 Iraqi men signed up to join the police forces there.

To help put this in context, eight months ago, there were zero recruits in Ramadi. This month over 600 recruits from Ramadi alone have qualified for enlistment.

We're also seeing average Iraqis step up to help defeat the terrorists and criminals in Iraq. From January to September of 2006, Iraqis provided, on the average of 4,500 tips per month on possible terrorist or criminal activity in their areas. In October and November, these tips increased by more than 66 percent, to over 7,600 tips per month. As of December 22nd, we are on pace to exceed over 8,700 tips this past month. This would indicate to us that the Iraqi people are tired of the violence perpetrated upon them by terrorist and criminal elements, and they want to be part of the solution.

Consequently, we are accelerating some aspects of our plan to transfer more security responsibility to the government of Iraq and the Iraqi security forces. Last Wednesday we witnessed the responsibility for security authority in Al Anbar province being transferred from the Multidivision Baghdad unit to Najaf's provincial leadership. The Iraqi police forces and Iraqi army now have overall responsibility for all law enforcement and security activities in Najaf province.

Najaf is one of nine Iraqi provinces that averaged less than a single attack per day, and is now the third province to meet the criteria for this transfer. This transfer of responsibility comes as the Iraqi security forces continue to demonstrate increasingly tactical capabilities. Eighty-seven percent of operations that have been conducted this month have been conducted by Iraqi security forces operating either independently or in joint operations with coalition security forces.

Recent operations in Baghdad from December 15th through the 21st uncovered 18 significant weapons caches that included approximately 300 mortar rounds and artillery shells, 145 grenades, 100 pounds of explosive material, 21 RPGs, eight IEDs and four suicide vest and belts. The number of Iraqi civilians and security forces that could have been killed as a result of these is incalculable.

In Anbar province, scouts from the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Iraqi Army Division and coalition advisers struck 10 targets on the morning of December 22nd in the largest Iraqi army assault to date in that location. These ground and air assets were based upon intelligence provided by the Iraqi grassroots anti-insurgency group the Anbar Awakening. The 3rd Brigade was involved in every detail of the planning and the execution of these operations that resulted in the capture of 27 anti-Iraqi forces, including seven of the 10 targeted cell leaders.

There are still significant shortcomings in the Iraqi security forces. Iraqi security forces suffer from deficiencies in logistics, leadership and in some cases loyalty. That is why the multinational force is consistently and continuously reassessing and strengthening how we train, advise and assist the Iraqi forces.

We are seeing signs that the Iraqi forces are beginning to address some of these problems themselves. The current fighting in Samawa began when Iraqi police detained 17 members of an illegally armed group for violating agreements on not carrying weapons in public. In other words, rather than being controlled by militias, Iraqi security forces there are enforcing the writ of the government of Iraq against them.

Two days ago, Iraqi and British forces raided a rogue police unit, or the Serious Crimes Unit in Basra, that had been infiltrated by extremist elements. This operation rescued more than 120 detainees, most who had been tortured. While infiltration of some units persists, this operation demonstrates the government of Iraq takes seriously and understands that it is initiating steps to mitigate this infiltration within its police units.

Significant challenges do remain, and violence is likely to remain at unacceptably high levels in the very near term, but Iraqi forces are making progress to provide their own security and the Iraqi people are demonstrating great resolve to defeat these terrorists and criminals plaguing Iraq.

And with that, I'll be glad to take whatever questions you have. Yes, ma'am?

Q Hello, sir. Molly Hennessy-Fiske with the L.A. Times. I wondered if you could talk a little bit about the operations that have been going on in East Baghdad, in the Sadr City area, recently, sort of what the plans are, what's been happening there.

GEN. CALDWELL: Is there any particular operation in question, or just in general what's the approach that's being pursued right now?

Q Well, within the past couple days we had just been hearing about particular assaults or operations that were being coordinated by MF Baghdad along with the Iraqi army units there.

GEN. CALDWELL: There's not anything in particular, I mean, I have to tell you about that other than just the normal, routine ongoing operations that do occur. There have been some focused operations against what we call EJK, or extrajudicial killing death squad members out in that location. I did not bring the particulars of those operations that have occurred, but would be glad to get that for you to tell you the specifics of those.

Q Was that any kind of -- is it part of the -- is it part of what happened in Basra? Is this sort of a concerted effort to target the death squad leaders?

GEN. CALDWELL: It's slightly different. What occurred down in Basra was this Special Crimes Unit, the SCU, had been there for a long time and had been infiltrated very heavily by extremist elements that were directly associated with death squads down in the Basra area. And we knew that there were also very high indications that the criminals that were in their custody were being tortured. And so the Iraqi army units down there, in coordination with the provincial governor, the ministry (sic) of Interior himself and the prime minister, went through a discussion and made the decision that they were going to go ahead and take down that special crimes unit and fully investigate that.

Several days before the operation went down, they did in fact arrest the leader of that unit. He was brought into detention, and then several days later they went ahead and executed the operation on that facility.

I was just talking today with a commander down there. There was about 800 British troops and about 600 Iraqi troops involved in that operation overall. They did in fact find about 127 prisoners in the facility. The signs of torture are fairly extreme. They estimate that over 80 percent of those who were in detention had been severely tortured. They do have videos, pictures of that -- they're bringing those up to pass off to the minister of Interior -- that were taken by the Iraqi security forces involved in that operation, and they're in the process of passing that back up to him so he can see what that unit had done down there. As they went into -- obviously, the whole purpose behind that, to take that down, was we had somebody who was entrusted to enforce the law, be the protectorate of the people, who was in fact doing the exact opposite, and therefore the reason for conducting that operation.

I thought it was interesting -- the commander told me he was approached yesterday, by really what he calls the senior imam down in the area, who told him that they had ridded Basra of a nest of vipers, was his comment that he had made to the commander about how pleased they were that this Serious Crimes Unit now was no longer functioning and unable to perpetrate crimes against the people they're there to protect.

Q I'm sorry, just one last question. So for Sadr City, are you in any way targeting some of the militia leaders that are known to be there? I mean, you were talking about some of the nest of vipers --

GEN. CALDWELL: Right. Within the Baghdad area, what we have repeatedly said is that anybody who is operating outside of the law -- especially that we know is involved in death squad activities, EJK, extra judicial killings -- we are, in fact, going to target and take down -- regardless of who they may or may not be affiliated with or claim they are associated with.

And those operations do -- we do conduct anywhere on the average between 12 to 20 a week in the Baghdad area, and we conduct them throughout the whole Baghdad city.

Yes, ma'am.

Q Hi. This is Jenna Matthews (sp) from AFP. There was a raid overnight in the Najaf area in which the coalition forces put out a statement today saying that -- Iraqi forces with coalition advisers -- in which a coalition soldier shot dead a suspect, which it claimed was responsible for car bombing attack -- or IED attack, I think. The Sadr guys and local police down there name him as a leading Sadr aide, and I wondered if you could confirm that -- that was, in fact, the same person and if so, provide any details about that raid and why it was authorized, particularly after the Najaf handover last week.

GEN. CALDWELL: Right. There was, in fact, a raid conducted southeast of Najaf in the town of Abu Sukhayr. That's where that operation was. It was an Iraqi-led operation done by the 8th Iraqi Army Division. There was 35 Iraqi army fores involved in that and eight coalition advisers. It was an Iraqi-led, planned operation consistent with the fact that Najaf now has been passed to provincial Iraqi control and that the U.S. forces don't operate there independently. What you have is the normal embeds that we -- I mean -- what we call transition team advisers within these different organizations, and so the 8th Iraqi Army Division conducted that operation, was responsible for it, but you did have the eight coalition advisers as a part of that operation.

They, in fact, did go after a suspected IED facilitator and cell leader down there, and there's a tremendous amount of information they've been collecting over time on him. He has allegedly provided recently several IDs to a cell for an attack that was directed and carried out against Iraqi and coalition forces in the Najaf area. He's also implicated in the October 2006 IED attack on the police chief in Al Najaf too. He's associated with that. And as stated during the operations, when the Iraqi forces with the court-appointed advisers entered him to search and detain him, he ran up to the roof of the house. They followed behind him, and --

Q (Off mike) -- statement. I just wanted to know if you could confirm his name, that he is, in fact, the senior guy in the Sadr movement? GEN. CALDWELL: What I do know is he's an IED facilitator who conducted illegal activities, and that's why he was targeted. It's -- Saab Al-Ameri is who they went after. S-A-A-B A-L-A-M-E-R-I. But the purpose for going after him is because of the illegal activities that he was conducting, not because he was associated with any particular organization.

Yes, ma'am.

Q Thank you. Mimi Spillane from CBS. So just to go to back to Sadr City, then -- you are in Sadr City, and given that, and Najaf -- is there a concerted move against Sadr's militia going on?

And I'll have a second question.

GEN. CALDWELL: We are routinely conducting operations in Sadr City and throughout all of Baghdad whenever we find somebody who is associated with conducting illegal activities, specifically the targeted raids that have been intensified on as those who are associated with death squads or extrajudicial killings.

Q And secondly, on the expected plan from the president, how can you, the military, convince the American people that you're not just sending more, if you will, fodder for the cannon over here, given the militias, given the IEDs and how difficult they are to fight?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, I haven't heard the president's plan yet. I haven't heard the strategy that he's going to announce, so I mean, it's a little difficult for me to say.

I mean, I can tell you, though, that for those of us serving here, I mean, we see each and every day the Iraqi security forces becoming more proficient and more capable of conducting their operations. We see an increased willingness by the people, as demonstrated by things like the amount of people who are willing to go use the tip line and call in and report things of criminal nature or terrorist-type related activity.

I mean, we see a lot of hope. When you talk to the young men and women out there, the servicemembers that are out there every day serving with the Iraqi people, you are going to find the vast majority of them are very positive about the experiences they're having and the willingness of the Iraqis to take on greater responsibility and wanting to turn around their country. All the atmospherics that we get show us that the vast majority of Iraqis want stability and security in this country.

They're not interested in having continued violence exist within their neighborhoods. They want to be able to walk down the streets peacefully, go to schools, go to the markets, drive around without threats of being kidnapped or assassinated.

So for us who are dealing with them on a daily basis, those young men and women that are out there on the street every day, they're very positive about what they're seeing and the interaction they're having and the progress that's being made.

It's challenging, though, and it's hard. And every time there's another sensational car bomb attack that occurs, and you see innocent Iraqi civilians being, you know, killed and wounded again, you know, it -- they take that very hard, because it's a another little setback again, and the people question, you know, is it going to get better? And it just takes one car bomb attack to give them that concern. So we all are working very hard together on this.

Yes, sir?

STAFF: (Off mike.)

GEN. CALDWELL: Oh. This -- (off mike.)

Q (Through interpreter.) Mofid Hamir (sp) from Sumariyah. What is the number of casualties of American forces? Recently we have heard that this number has been doubled. And recently there have been a siege around the city of Kamaliyah and Obeidi. The people are angry about the government and the coalition forces because this siege is preventing people from earning their livelihood. Why are you surrounding the areas of Kamaliyah and Obeidi, in Baghdad?

GEN. CALDWELL: In terms of your first question, about coalition force casualties, what I would tell you there is that this has been a difficult month for coalition forces. You know, our deepest condolences go out to those families, to their friends -- of those who have lost somebody very near and dear to them this month. Our numbers are probably right about 94 for those month, which probably makes it the second highest in terms of casualties this year that we've experienced. And the month is not over yet.

But what I will tell you is that those young men and women that continue to perform valiantly out there each and every day are committed to this mission, and they're committed to helping the Iraqi people. I was in the CASH the other day and saw one of our young soldiers that had been brought in and was sitting there talking to him. And you know, his first comment to me was, "Hey, sir, I need to get back to my unit. I can't leave them out there without me." His thoughts are not about him and his own welfare and taking care of him; it's about his unit and the mission he has at hand and being back with those that he serves with. And they truly believe in what they're doing here.

So yeah, it has been a hard month. There's a lot of us that have experienced it too. A young lieutenant I know -- I went to his memorial service just two, three weeks ago -- a guy named Mike Cerrone and, you know, a young second lieutenant out of West Point, who gave his life serving over here -- I mean, it's -- it touches so many of us in so many different ways.

But we're dedicated to this mission. We're committed to seeing it through. And you know, I go back to saying to all those who have lost someone here, whether it's your friend or a family member, you know, our deepest heartfelt condolences on behalf of all the Multinational Force.

Your other question, about the operation that's going on here within Baghdad City, I'm not exactly sure of that particular area. But what I can tell you -- and I do know operations have resumed within -- back in Baghdad City. Normally, when they first go into an area, there is a coordinated effort to secure that area first, before the clearing operations begin.

Q (Through interpreter.) The situation has led that the Iraqi people demonstrated in the city of Kamaliyah and Obeidi. They demonstrated against the coalition forces. And the Iraqi people are calling on the Iraqi government to end the siege. The Iraqis even wanted to go to the human rights organizations to complain about the Multinational Forces and the military operations carried out in these areas.

GEN. CALDWELL: I will have to get back to you on the particulars of that. What I can tell you, though, is that when we do conduct operations, we would go in initially and secure an area, but they immediately set up checkpoints and allow the access of people in and out of wherever they're operating, through checkpoints, in order to monitor any possible flow of illegal arms or illegal persons coming in and out of there. But I'll be glad -- we'll check into that and get back to you with the specifics on that. I'm just not familiar with it.

Yes, sir?

Q (Name off mike) -- NHK, Japan's broadcasting. General Caldwell, could you please tell us how much troops do MNF need to secure Baghdad, particularly?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, I'll tell you that the real mission to secure Baghdad is the responsibility of the Iraqi security forces. And as we continue with operations here, you're going to see a much -- you know, as you said, 2007 is a year of transition and adaptation. We're going to transition much greater responsibility and command and control back to the government of Iraq. And that goes for security force operations also.

There is a need for additional Iraqi security forces inside of Baghdad. And the minister of Defense has already been talking about and has just recently moved, I know, one battalion back in, an additional battalion into Baghdad. And there is ongoing discussions of some additional forces, but I really need to let them talk about what their plan is associated with that.

So, what are the numbers that are necessary? That's really up to the minister of Defense, the Iraqi government, to state what that requirement is, as they really are overall responsibility for the security within Baghdad. We're here to assist them and help them and provide forces to support them in that effort. But as a continuing, ongoing dialogue, that is occurring, but it would be a little premature for me to discuss any future operations at this point.

Q What battalion numbers are -- (off mike)?

GEN. CALDWELL: I'd have to go back and check that one out, Sabrina. I'm not sure.

Yes, sir?

Q General, Jim Glanz, The New York Times. A couple questions. You have, so unfortunately, 94 dead American troops this month. This month and in recent months, can you say what proportion of the IEDs that are being seen are the shaped charges, called EFPs? And can you say something about what the death toll is relatively between the sort of old-type, unshaped ones and the new shaped charges, in Baghdad specifically?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, Jim, obviously, any kind of threat to coalition security forces we monitor very closely, but we've pretty much held to a policy at this point that we do not discuss any specifics or particular that might, in fact, give any group that's using something against us any kind of understanding of how effective or ineffective it may have been. But we're very much aware of enhanced IEDs, the concern we have with them, we look at that very closely. And we do track, obviously, ourselves, but don't release it publicly.

Q Okay. I understand.

Just one separate question. There's been a lot of talk, at least among the Iraqi ministries, about how difficult it is to secure the infrastructure that feeds electricity to Baghdad. And recently some statistics were released on how little electricity is coming into the city for that reason.

And there was also talk about a siege in a city north of Baghdad that shut down Baiji power plant. Can you say something about that? And are the American forces going to start -- going to respond to those requests for protection of the infrastructure?

GEN. CALDWELL: There's been ongoing discussion about the infrastructure. You know, they've got what they call the -- the Iraqis have an -- infrastructure security battalions that are out there that have that responsibility to secure the structures, and we are in fact placing some additional coalition transition team advisers within those organizations. They're helping assist them in further developing their professionalism, their capabilities and their organization within those entities.

We leave -- the responsibility for infrastructure really falls upon the Iraqi government to provide that security through their infrastructure security battalions and brigades that they have out there and whatever additional forces the government of Iraq wants to move to help with that. So we'll provide them assistance. We in fact deal with aerial assets and some other things that we feed directly down to Iraqi forces that are involved in that in particular places.

But you're right, their -- the electrical system has been experiencing attacks, and I do know that they addressed that. They have ongoing discussions about other forces they move around, provide some additional security. But it'd be, again, something premature for me to talk about. I'd just let the government of Iraq talk about that.

Yes, sir.

Q (Through interpreter.) From Aswat in Iraq. Could you please explain the detention of the Iranian officials in Baghdad?

GEN. CALDWELL: The question is, could we explain the detention of Iraqi (sic) officials in Baghdad?

What I'll tell you --
STAFF (?): Iranian --

GEN. CALDWELL: -- Iranian officials -- what I will tell you is this, that there was an operation that was conducted on the morning of December 21st. It was based upon intelligence, and we conducted a raid on a site in Baghdad at about 4:30 in the morning. And then in the course of that raid, coalition forces detained 10 adult-aged males. Based on intelligence that was seized in that operation and preliminary interviews we have had with those that were detained, it was determined that two of the 10 were, in fact, Iranian citizens. We did seize on the site additional items such as documents, maps, photographs and videos.

Debriefings of these detainees and investigation of the seized materials have yielded intelligence that link perhaps some of them to some illegal activities that have occurred. This investigation is ongoing at this time. Those 10 personnel are still in the custody of the multinational force, and we are maintaining a continuous dialogue with the government of Iraq.

Yes, sir.

Q Corey Flintoff from NPR. Just to follow up on that question, we have seen reports that there were actually six Iranians who were detained. Two of them turned out to have diplomatic passports and were released. But are there two other Iranians that we haven't discussed yet that are in custody?

GEN. CALDWELL: What I would tell you is -- I think what you're referring to is the day prior. On the 20th of December, December 20th, there was another operation conducted. I think we have a slide. If you would throw up operation one, please, of 20 December -- but again this was conducted by coalition forces. And as you can see there, at approximately 7:00 p.m. we stopped a vehicle, detained the four individuals that were in the vehicle. No shots, again, were fired; nobody was injured. And it was determined that three of them were Iranian nationals and one was an Iraqi. Those have since been released to the government of Iraq -- those four personnel.

Q I just have a question on a separate issue. I'm interested in the coalition military advisers that are going along with patrols. You mentioned they were used in Najaf. That seems to be the pattern that is going to be followed increasingly as the U.S. tries to train more and more Iraqi security forces. How are they embedded with the forces? Do they ride along in the Iraqi humvees or do they have separate patrols that go along with them, or --

GEN. CALDWELL: And it's going to vary slightly in each situation, but generally we travel right with and are part of the -- in this case, the other night, it was nine different humvees that were associated with that operation that occurred down in southeast of Najaf.

And the coalition force humvees were embedded with and moved right along with the formation and to that house. And then they move inside and they're part of the operation moving with the Iraqi security forces. And like in this case, what happened was you had an Iraqi soldier that followed the person that they were trying to detain up the stairs to the roof. Right behind him was the coalition adviser. And as the adviser says in his statement, when the person in question turned around with a weapon and was raising it towards the Iraqi soldier, he took measures to protect that Iraqi soldier and engaged and shot the person they were attempting to detain.

So they're an active part of the movement and of the operation as they go through with their advisory role. It's not sitting back in some building providing advice and guidance and then letting them go off on their own. The intent is to be down there, to see them, to observe them, to help them afterwards, talk through what went well or didn't go well, what they might do differently in the future -- we call it an after-action review in the Army -- to teach them so they can continually assess how they did and try to get better through each operation.

Q Can you tell us what the approximate percentage of U.S. advisers might be on a given patrol?

GEN. CALDWELL: Boy, that really varies depending on the organization, what the mission is, what they're doing. It will be a slightly higher number, normally, when you're dealing with some kind of specialized Iraqi army forces, like in this case, a scout element, or the Iraqi special operations forces; there's normally a higher number of coalition forces. And it will be a much lower number when you're dealing with conventional Iraqi army unit conducting operations. So it truly varies depending on the threat they perceive they're going to experience, how spread out the, I mean, formation will be. It's a lot of military factors, because they may in fact surge at a time as they go out with the Iraqis on operation, or go out with minimal force if they think it's going to be, you know, just a sweep-type operation.

STAFF: Sir, we've got time for one more question.

GEN. CALDWELL: Yes, sir.

Q Thank you. Jim Maceda, NBC News. We were talking earlier about how deadly December has been. Of course, we've hit another milestone. It's the -- I believe the number, at least according to AP -- the number of U.S. soldiers who have died here in Iraq has now surpassed the number killed during 9/11. Some see this as an arbitrary figure; others see an irony in the fact that more people died in trying to prevent another 9/11 than those who actually were killed on 9/11. Could I ask you for your thoughts, your comments about this, your conclusions or comparisons, having reached this milestone?

GEN. CALDWELL: You know, what I'd tell you is on 9/11, those were American citizens and other people that were there just going to work that day. They didn't ask to be involved in that. They were drug into it.

Everybody serving over here in uniform is a volunteer, and we're all here serving our nation, and we're accomplishing what we all feel is a very necessary mission. Our nation has been at war now since at least back in 1983 when we had the Beirut bombing. I mean, people don't always look at it that way, but this has been an evolutionary thing that's been going on. You look at Khobar Towers, you look at the Cole, USS Cole, you look at the bombing of our embassies in Africa, I mean, this is not something that just started on 9/11 but moved to the point where we were then attacked on our own homeland on 9/11, and that's how a lot of us serving in uniform understand and recognize what we're confronted with and dealing with here.

And so, you know, every time somebody asks me about an American servicemember that dies over here, you know, I mean, I think every one of us who wears a uniform feels it greatly.

I mean, I've lost and known quite a few close friends that have died over here. I mean, it's touched all of us in one shape or form or another. This is a deep commitment we have to seeing something through that we think is very, very important for the future of our nation, for our children, for our country, and it's just as important for the Iraqi people too.

But we all believe in what we're doing. We believe in the cause for what we're trying to achieve here, and we continue to work very diligently with the Iraqi government so that they can take on and have a much greater responsibility and role. And we see that occurring over this next year in 2007. It's taken us a while to get to this point. I mean -- but we have a government that's been up for about eight months now, nine months, so it hasn't even been in existence for a year. We have security forces that truly in about another week or two we'll graduate the last and bring them up to the initial levels of -- that we want to have equipped and trained out there to start operating in the field. So we're really just getting to the point where we now can start that transition, and that's very, very important and critical for the overall success of this operation here in Iraq.

Q The national security adviser told us the other day that one of the major mistakes made in Operation Together Forward was that MOI was operating in an ethically happy area, friendly area. The MOD was also operating in an ethnically friendly area; and that now what they're trying to do in the new Baghdad security plan is to do joint operations along some of these fault lines with MOI and MOD working together -- not mixing, but working in joint collaboration.

Do you see that as feasible and viable? And if so, how would U.S. forces operate in that environment?

GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah, well, as we say, the most important thing we see occurring in 2007 is us working this transition team with both Iraqi police forces and Iraqi army forces and Iraqi border forces, border guards. So we'll see a much greater use of transition teams than we've ever seen before. But I -- you know, the -- in the actual Baghdad security plan as we're involved in on this has not actually been briefed publicly.

But clearly, coalition forces will continue to actively work with and support the Iraqi security forces in the near term here within Baghdad, and again, it's an ongoing discussion. I mean, they'd probably -- I'd be out ahead talking about what they've sort of come to agreement on and are repositioning some forces right now to execute, but --

Q (Off mike) --

GEN. CALDWELL: -- but there is -- yeah, there is some stuff going on right now. It'd just be -- it'd be premature for me to talk about it.

Q Are they repositioning American forces?

GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah, I really probably shouldn't get ahead of -- I probably need to let the government of Iraq talk about what the -- because it truly is -- the one significant difference occurring here is you're going to see the government of Iraq in the lead, you're going to see the Iraqi security forces, their chain of command taking a much greater responsibility and role in the command and control of this operation, and in the formulation of what the -- of changes that are being made, you'll see the Iraqi security forces -- really, the minister of Defense, along with the government of Iraq -- having had a tremendous say in how they want to achieve greater security in their city, with us truly working just in support of them.

Q Are they asking for more transition teams?

GEN. CALDWELL: There's an ongoing dialogue, and I -- and obviously American commanders on the ground have already seen some tremendous utility from these transition teams and on their own have already started taking down some combatant units, coalition force combatant units, and making more transition teams, because they see the value in what's able to do for the Iraqi security forces.

Okay.

Q Sir, just before -- (off mike) -- can we talk to you about the Iranians some more? Between the two incidents, is it seven Iranians?

GEN. CALDWELL: Five total.

Q Five total.

GEN. CALDWELL: Three from the first one, on the 20th, and two from the second one, on the 21st.

All right.

Q There's only two who are still in U.S. custody?

GEN. CALDWELL: That's correct.

Thank you very much.

Q Thank you.

END.



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