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Military

Press Briefing, Feb. 14, 2007

Multi-National Force-Iraq

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, spokesman, Multi-National Force - Iraq

IRAQ OPERATIONAL UPDATE BRIEFING BRIEFERS: MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL, USA, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ; AND MAJOR MARTY WEBBER, EXPLOSIVE ORDNANCE DISPOSAL EXPERT LOCATION: COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQ TIME: 7:00 A.M. EST DATE: WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2007

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

Although operations to secure Baghdad have continued over the past several months, last night the government of Iraq announced the beginning of the new buildup called Operation Fard al-Kanun (ph), which roughly translates into Operation Law and Order. This new iteration of the Baghdad security plan is Iraqi-conceived and Iraqi- led. It is an evolution of the previous phases with specific enhancements being made in the political, military and economic spheres based on lessons learned from the past operations.

Politically, Prime Minister Maliki's government has taken full ownership of this plan and is making a clear political commitment to its success. A resolution supporting this new strategy was unanimously endorsed by the Council of Representatives. Prime Minister Maliki has instructed his security forces that there will no longer be any political interference in military operations. Iraqi commanders have also been assured no neighborhood and no target is off limits.

Militarily, the first additional Iraqi forces and the first of five additional U.S. brigades have arrived in Baghdad and are conducting operations. General Petraeus is adamant that to win this conflict we have to protect the population. Consequently, Iraqi army, Iraqi police, and coalition forces will actually live together in joint security stations throughout Baghdad in order to be closer to the Iraqi people that they are protecting. The additional forces will also enable us to create more transition teams to assist, teach, mentor and coach the Iraqi security forces. There will be both an increase in the number and size of the teams, and they will reach down to the lower-level units within the Iraqi army and police units.

The non-military aspects of the plan have been strengthened as well. On February 8th, the Council of Representatives approved a new Iraqi budget that includes $10 billion for economic development programs such as refurbishing state-owned enterprises and assisting small businesses through microfinancing. This week the first state- owned enterprise won a competitive U.S. government procurement bid for $44 million to provide the new Iraqi army uniforms.

To assist in getting this money into Baghdad's districts, Provincial Reconstruction Teams consisting of State, USAID, U.S. military and Iraqi culture advisers will work directly for each of the U.S. military brigade commanders.

While there is cause for optimism, there are several reasons why -- need to be patient with this new strategy.

First, it will take time for all the additional troops being deployed to arrive and begin operations. Additional Iraqi and American troops comprising the, quote, "surge" will not be completely in place until late May.

Second, the non-kinetic efforts will take time to produce effects on the streets of Baghdad. The government of Iraq's economic development program, for example, places greater emphasis on long-term job creation, rather than make-work programs.

Finally, most of Iraq's problems are systemic and will not be turned around immediately because of the new security plan. The key to solving Iraq's problems, whether militarily, economic or political, is leadership -- Iraqi leadership, to be precise.

Much of the criticism of Prime Minister Maliki's government forgets that it is still less than 10 months old, trying to undo the damage caused by 35 years of brutal, corrupt dictatorship. This government, along with the Council of Representatives, is learning as it goes and will not discover solutions to the complex problems facing Iraq overnight.

Similarly, Iraqi security forces have improved since last year. Iraqi forces continue to gain in confidence and capability, and understand that they need to work to gain the trust of all Iraqis' ethnic and sectarian communities. Yet Iraqi forces still suffer from deficiencies in leadership, logistics, intelligence and, in some cases, loyalty. It will take more than two months to solve these problems.

While it is understandable that much of the focus of the media attention remains on Baghdad, successful operations continue in other parts of Iraq as well. On February 11th, Iraqi security forces conducted a raid near Baqubah that resulted in seven anti-Iraqi forces being killed and 27 detained, with only one Iraqi army casualty. And in Samarra, a series of caches consisting -- over 550 live rounds, of more than 1,200 pounds of explosives, was discovered and destroyed. And last night and continuing through this morning coalition forces detained 27 suspected terrorists doing a series of coordinated raids targeting al Qaeda in Iraq network. Twenty of these suspected terrorists were captured in Ramadi where ground forces also seized several weapons, computers and electronic equipment doing these operations.

Finally, this is the first media roundtable since General David Petraeus took command of the Multinational Force Iraq. General Petraeus brings a tremendous amount of energy, wisdom and enthusiasm tempered by the reality on the ground as to this mission. In his first week back, he has already conducted extensive talks with the government of Iraq, spent two days on the streets of Baghdad and visited coalition and Iraqi leaders throughout the country. He said that although some things about Iraq are worse than when he left in 2005, he also sees some encouraging trends such as the growth of the Iraqi ministries, Iraqis growing intelligence capabilities, a willingness to take on the perpetrators of sectarian violence and the cooperation between Iraq's conventional and special forces. He was also impressed by what he saw in Anbar province, particularly the progress that he's seen starting to be made in Ramadi.

As General Petraeus noted on Saturday when he took command, although many significant challenges lay ahead, he said, quote, "hard is not hopeless," unquote. Rebuilding and securing Iraq will be a total team effort requiring the cooperation of the government of Iraq, the U.S. government, coalition forces and the Multinational Force Iraq. While the recent measures announced by the government of Iraq are a step in the right direction, it would be a mistake if expectations are raised so high that people give up on the new strategy prematurely. The enhanced iteration of the Baghdad security plan needs to be given time to work.

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

Michael.

Q General, just in relation to the missing U.S. soldier, Ahmed Altaie. CNN has uncovered the web posting of the video of him on a website loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr and place it in the name of a break-away Shi'a insurgent group.

What does the military make of this short video, which his family claims appears to be him? What's the latest on the search for him and your intelligence in relation to this missing soldier? And who do you think has done it? What do you think is behind it? It all seems to fit a certain larger picture, don't you think?

GEN. CALDWELL: Michael, what I'll tell you is, we are aware of the video. We have already obviously made a copy; are doing the analysis right now to ascertain its authenticity. We maintain a team dedicated -- that has a sole mission of working personnel recovery. We continue to follow each lead. There is various times when information comes available, and when it does, it is pursued and followed up on. We were very concerned about Specialist Altaie, or now Sergeant Altaie, and we continue tracking and monitoring that situation.

Yes, sir.

Q (Through interpreter.) Yesterday some TV channels -- (off mike) -- Syrian-made weapons smuggled -- (off mike). Could you please -- (off mike) -- and are you sure of the origin of these weapons?

GEN. CALDWELL: I'm not sure who made that statement. I did not read it myself, so I'm really not prepared to comment on it. But I would be glad to follow up, get the information from you afterwards and get you a response.

Q (Through interpreter.) (Off mike) -- and newspapers like -- (off mike) -- and many TV channels have broadcast this, and the BBC has also talked about this issue.

GEN. CALDWELL: Okay. I'll make sure that right after the press conference, we follow up. We'll go back and go to those sources, look to see what it is. And if we could, we'll get your name and get you a response back. We'll do that this afternoon.

Yes, sir.

Q Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times.

Earlier this week, there was a presentation here. Three anonymous U.S. military officials presented evidence and allegations about Iranian involvement in violent actions here. There is a bit of controversy stateside about this presentation, specifically the anonymity of those participants. At this point, would you be willing to attach your name to that presentation? GEN. CALDWELL: I think what we said during that backgrounder that was done that if there's any questions that you have from it that you want to ask publicly, that when the press conference was conducted this week, feel free to ask them, and I'll take them on and respond to them during the press conference. And so if you have any questions, I'll be glad to take them. So if anything was asked at that press conference on Sunday that you would like to engage me on as the Multinational Force spokesperson, I'll be glad to take those on.

Q Well, I mean, one of the things that has also arisen is this apparent contradiction between what was said at this background briefing and what General Peter Pace has said, essentially saying that he was not personally aware or convinced, apparently -- and I apologize if I'm not paraphrasing his comments perfectly -- that the weapons that were found here were necessarily sent here at the direction of the Iranian leadership.

So I was just wondering if you had any suggestions as to how we should go about sorting out that contradiction, any guidance. And also, I mean, the response was very extraordinary state-side, by bloggers, by critics and so on. Does it dismay you that there's so much skepticism about the claims that were made at that hearing?

GEN. CALDWELL: Let me first start off by talking about what was said at that backgrounder on Sunday here in Baghdad and what General Pace said. I think what you'll find is there is a tremendous amount of agreement between the two. When General Pace was talking, and the same thing that was said during the backgrounder is that we in fact do have physical evidence of Iranian munitions, especially the explosively formed penetrators, the EFPs, being supplied to various extremist groups here in Iraq. General Pace said that, too, during those comments he had the other day.

We also talked about that we have in custody a number of Iranian Qods Force officers, and as General Pace said and we agree and has been stated, as a minimum who are here illegally in Iran (sic). General Pace is -- and to quote him, specifically said, quote, "We know that the explosively formed projectiles, penetrators, are manufactured in Iran," and, quote, "It is clear that Iranians are involved and it's clear that materials from Iran are involved." And I don't think you'll see any disagreement there. That's exactly what was said on Sunday, too.

There was a military analyst on Sunday who made a comment that made an inference that there was some connection, when asked about where does the Qods Force get their guidance and direction from, said it comes from the highest levels of the government. The intent behind that press conference on Sunday was not to talk about that. You know, it was very clear when we came out and talked Sunday, we stated up front, this is about a force protection issue. This is about the fact that American forces, coalition forces, Iraqi security forces and innocent Iraqi civilians -- men, women and children -- are being killed by munitions and weaponry that are being produced in Iran, produced as late as 2006 in Iran, and are making their way into Iraq, where they are being used to kill people.

And that was the point behind the press conference. The whole intent was a force protection issue. There's no intent to make any inferences or assertions at this point.

We are talking about the fact that munitions that are bring produced, weaponry that's being produced in Iran, is making its way into Iraq.

We also discussed at that press conference the fact that there's no question that Qods Force elements are associated with this. We did say that the weapons and munitions are being smuggled, mostly by extremist elements, from Iraq into Iraq -- from Iran into Iraq and are then being utilized in this country.

We showed some various munitions, which we'll be glad to share and show with you today, if you'd like to see them. If you want to ask any questions about them, we have those with us today. We'll be glad to talk about those, too. They're over here. And I have with me today a military explosive ordnance disposal person that works with a team here in Iraq totally dedicated to looking at and figuring how we can counter both IEDs, of which EFPs, explosively formed penetrators, are a subset of that.

We are concerned about EFPs. As a military officer, I have an inherent responsibility for self-protection. We will never, ever deny an American soldier the right to self-protection.

And when we start seeing EFPs rise at a rate of 150 percent since January of last year till the end of this past year; when we see the number of EFPs being utilized against Iraqi security forces and coalition forces at the highest levels ever in the months of November, December and January that we've ever seen in this country since mid- 2004, when we first noticed the first EFP being utilized, there is an incredible discussion that went on, asking ourselves: Do we acknowledge and tell those insurgent elements that are using this that it is a lethal weapon, that it is effective, and that it is killing people; or do we reach out, after having exasperated (sic) and tried through both diplomatic and other military means to ask Iran to not be associated with -- not allow the machining and production of and to stop the smuggling of EFP component parts that are coming from Iran into Iraq and killing people here in this country?

You know, the Iraqis deserve the right to be able to determine their destiny. They need -- deserve the right to be allowed to have security and stability and self-governance. And when these type of munitions are coming in from a neighboring country that says they want to assist and help this country move forward, then we want to engage them. We want to tell them we need to stop -- you need to stop -- we need your assistance; we need you to stop the production of EFP component parts that are being brought into this country, assembled and used against coalition forces and Iraqi security forces.

We know since 2004 there's been just over 170 coalition forces killed by these.

We also know since 2004, over 620 additional coalition forces have been wounded by these, and yet they're an extremely small percentage of the overall number of IEDs that we have been confronted with in this country.

So that's the purpose behind that press conference. That's why we came out and talked. It's all about force protection. It's about ensuring the safety and security of the Iraqi people, of which we have the coalition forces and Iraqi security forces working to help make that happen.

Q Were you dismayed by the skepticism?

GEN. CALDWELL: I wasn't attempting by any means to interpret how anybody would accept us. What I did know is that I have factual information that we wanted to present, we wanted to keep at the lowest level possible, you know, I think was actually portrayed there. I said we're not trying to hike this up. We want to present physical evidence, which we have here and we'll be glad to go through again today if you would like to discuss it, that we know is being manufactured in Iran and is making its way into Iraq. We know that we have picked up Qods Force personnel conducting other than supporting activities to the government of Iraq here in Iraq.

So we're asking the government of Iran, since we have been unsuccessful through other political means thus far, we decided to go public with this and talk about these EFPs, the explosively formed penetrators, because of the devastating effect that they do have when employed against security forces in this country.

Yes, sir?

Q General, Dean Yates from Reuters. So are you saying that that defense, that analyst spoke out of turn? Should he not have made that inference about the Qods Force getting its direction from the Iranian government?

GEN. CALDWELL: That was not the intent behind the briefing. The intent behind the briefing -- he was being asked questions, and he was trying to respond and be informative in his comments. And I -- but the intent behind by the briefing was talk about force protection, and I think multiple times during that briefing on Sunday we stressed that this is briefing about force protection, this is about explosively formed penetrators, EFPs; and coming out for the first time, acknowledging their existence and talking about them and the fact of where they come from, who manufactures them, and then the fact that they're smuggled into this country and then assembled and utilized against security forces.

Yes, sir?

Q Stephen Farrell with the London Times. I've just checked my notes that -- (off mike). Sir, I've just checked my notes of that meeting, and we were told repeatedly during that meeting Iran needs to stop what they are doing, and the Iraqi government should make very clear to Iran that it shouldn't interfere and so on and so forth.

I'm not questioning that there was a focus on the physical nature of the materials, but there was also repeatedly, not just one comment by one analyst -- a sense that Iran is behind this. And I seem to remember a phrase along the lines of: There's not much freelancing going on in the Iranian government.

So again, with one hand the American military seems to be saying Iran is involved, and with its highest hand it seems to be saying it isn't. (Off mike) -- messages here, sir.

GEN. CALDWELL: What I'm saying -- no, no. I think -- if -- I think people want to make an inference, and I think people want to hype this up. What we are saying is that within Iran, that these EFP component parts are being manufactured. Within Iran weapons and munitions are being manufactured that are ending up in Iraq. And we are asking the Iranian government to assist in stopping that from occurring. There's no intent to do anything other than that.

And it all boils down -- the reason why we have gone public asking for this and the reason why many, many weeks ago we came up and decided to put this briefing together to go public with it is because it is a force protection issue; it's about the fact that such an extremely small percentage of IEDs are producing such a large percentage of casualties because of the devastating effect that the EFP produces.

Yes, sir?

Q How are you? Miguel Marquez with ABC News. ABC is reporting that Muqtada al-Sadr apparently has left the country, perhaps out of fear that he may be a target of the U.S. military, perhaps not. Everybody in his camp says he is still in Iraq. I wonder if you could address that at all.

The other thing, I understand that an embassy employee was shot killed today, and I wonder if you have any information about that.

GEN. CALDWELL: As far as Sadr goes, yes, our reporting does indicate that in fact he has left Iraq, and it appears that he is in Iran. Obviously I'm not going to discuss or speculate as to why he has done that. But we, in fact -- all reporting does indicate he has left Iraq.

As far as the embassy employee being shot and killed, that's the first time I've heard that. I'd have to -- we'll be glad to follow up and check, I mean --

Q I wasn't sure if you had any information on it.

GEN. CALDWELL: No.

Q On Sadr, though, that he left the country, does the U.S. military draw anything from that? Obviously, there's been a lot of reporting as of late about the Mahdi Army and just what it is. And I think I heard one analyst refer to it as an organization that's not fully formed. What do we draw from the fact that Muqtada al-Sadr is not in Iraq?

GEN. CALDWELL: What I would tell you is that we obviously track Muqtada al-Sadr very closely. But obviously, the rationale or reasons behind why he might not be here right now, we are not prepared to talk publicly about. I mean, obviously we've got our own suppositions as to why at this point, and are tracking different means of intelligence and information. But there's nothing publicly we want to talk about at this point about that. We will acknowledge that we know he's not in the country, and all indications are, in fact, he is in Iran and left sometime last month.

Yes, sir? Q Thanks, General. Jim Glanz, New York Times. Are you -- first, we've all gotten letters on our pieces, no matter how balanced we try to be, in the presentation of evidence the other day. So I think we'd all appreciate if you did pull the veil off the evidence --

GEN. CALDWELL: Okay.

Q -- present it publicly. And also, are you rescinding now the connection to the highest levels of the Iranian government?

In other words, are you saying you don't think that's the case; you're not willing to make that supposition? And if so, then what can you tell us about how much involvement you think the Iranian government has? Because you are -- you've said repeatedly you're appealing to them. But if it's just some smugglers -- you know, forgive me for being a little colorful here, but on goats coming across the border, well, that's a different situation than having it be ordered from Tehran.

So I think we'd all like to know where you think the line is drawn in terms of command here, command and control. And are you going to rescind the earlier supposition?

GEN. CALDWELL: Jim, what I'd tell you is that obviously the reason we have picked up some Qods Force officers within Iraq is because they are conducting -- we consider to be illegal activities here within this country. And Qods Force officers obviously work for the government of Iran. And as you know already, the government of Iraq has asked -- expelled two former Iraqi -- Iranian officials that were here, that were Qods Force officers and told them to go back to their home country.

So we know that the Qods Force is associated in some manner or form with these illegal activities that are ongoing.

The whole point is -- I guess what I'd say, Jim, as a Multinational Force officer, as the Multinational Force spokesman, we're -- we are not so much as worried about the intent behind why this is occurring, but rather the actions and the resulting effect of those actions and what they do to the security forces, both the Iraqi security forces and our coalition forces. It's the actions that we're concerned about. I mean, people can argue about intent all day long. I can tell you on the ground we are very concerned about the actions, the resultant effect that occurs because of what they are doing. And that's the reason we're getting involved and have gone public to talk about this. We're not trying to get into all the other discussions associated with this.

Q It just seems fair to ask, General, whether you're rescinding that comment. It just seems fair to ask, General, whether you're rescinding that comment. I'm sorry to be a pest on this, but that's been a big focus for all of us. We've all had to take questions on this. And so you're the guy with the answer on that. Is that -- are you still standing behind that, or is that being taken off the table now by the U.S. military? GEN. CALDWELL: Jim, I will tell you, again, the purpose and reason behind that briefing was to talk about force protection issues and the concern that we have with explosively formed penetrators that are being utilized against Iraqi security forces and coalition forces. And that's the reason we did the briefing. That was the purpose behind it. We are not trying to make any inferences. We are trying to talk to the government of Iran and tell them that we know these things are being produced and manufactured in Iran and are making their way into Iraq.

Yes, sir?

Q Hi. John with Fox. Yesterday in part of this plan that was announced, people were given 15 days to vacate homes that they've illegally occupied. First of all, did you know about this? Was this something the U.S. military was aware would happen? Secondly, is it perhaps a bit too early to be moving what could be thousands of people around given the security situation?

GEN. CALDWELL: Obviously, we remain in very close consultation with the government of Iraq. General Abboud is -- the Iraqi government has put together this plan. That's a decision that they decided to make. They're going to make a lot of key decisions that this government wants to do. And they've asked people, as we all heard, that are in homes illegally to move out within the next two weeks.

Q Are you worried, though?

GEN. CALDWELL: There's always going to be challenges when you start trying to establish ownership. Did somebody allow somebody to come into the home? Was a deed passed? I mean, they're going to have some real challenges working through all those aspects of it. They themselves don't yet have all their security forces fully emplaced in the city. They're moving their security forces in. You know, as we all know, they've talked about bringing in three additional brigades -- equivalents of Iraqi security forces. That will still probably be about another 30 days before all those forces are fully closed on the city and available to them to employ in operations.

We did see today in the northeast part of Baghdad some deliberate operations begin in support of this overall plan that the Iraqi government has put together with both Iraqi security forces and coalition forces working together up there, and those type operations are continuing throughout.

They talked about how they formed the 10 districts, and you'll see security forces moving into all 10 districts and these joint security stations being established. Already there's been 10 of them fully up and operational, and General Abboud has talked about forming maybe as many as 28 or perhaps more of these joint security stations throughout the city.

Yes, sir?

Q (Through interpreter.) As you know -- (off mike) -- one piece of weapon in their homes. GEN. CALDWELL: General Abboud has told us that his intent is to continue with the -- maintain the current Iraqi law.

The question was: Can the families, the homes maintain a weapon still in their home? And General Abboud has told us that he is going to allow each Iraqi family to maintain one weapon, AK-47, in the home with the requisite number of authorized magazines associated with us. There is no intent, he said, to rescind that.

Now, what he did talk about was carrying those openly on the streets, but that's -- you know, he does not expect to see that. But he did -- he has told us, the coalition forces that he's going to maintain and keep that authorization in place.

Q (Through interpreter.) (Off mike) -- this decision into consideration or do you have another view about that?

GEN. CALDWELL: No, I mean, as the security forces, both Iraqi security forces and coalition forces, do the clearing operations, everybody's been instructed by General Abboud that if they find an AK- 47 in the house, that's authorized to have. Everybody's allowed to have one. If there's multiple ones, then the additional extra ones would obviously be confiscated. But everybody's allowed to maintain a weapon in their home.

Yes, sir, back there.

Q (Through interpreter.) (Off mike) -- there are some people in the parliament and some ministers in the government they make propaganda for sectarian fighting. How do you expect the military plan to succeed with this vast amount of weapons in the hands of the people, and these people belong to the same political parties, at the time you say that each Iraqi family would be allowed to keep only one piece of weapon in their homes.

GEN. CALDWELL: The prime minister has stated before that the ultimate -- the concern was what about the weapons that exist out there and the fact that the people only have one weapon in their homes. And what the prime minister has stated on multiple occasions is that ultimately all -- there would only be one security force in this country, one element that provides security for the Iraqi people, and that would be the Iraqi security force, both the police and the army working together.

And so those other elements that have weapons, if seen, will be confiscated. I mean, General Abboud was very clear, I thought, yesterday in everything he laid out that are a part of this Iraqi plan for the city. And if there are folks out there that are seen with weapons illegally or out in public, then everybody has been instructed to stop them and confiscate those weapons and take them away.

But people are allowed to maintain one weapon in their homes, which is an Iraqi law. It's not something -- I mean, General Abboud just said we're -- that law remains in effect.

Did you have a follow-on?

Q (Through interpreter.) Just one weapon or just one piece of weapon could be used to kill people. So how do you comment on that?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, what I would tell you is it's an Iraqi law. The Iraqi law allows each -- Iraqi residents to have one weapon in their home.

And that's the Iraqi law. That's the way it exists. The council representatives, the prime minister can change that if they want, but that's the law as it currently stands. The intent behind that, obviously -- as we understand it's, you know, for self-protection.

Yes, sir. Back there.

Q Owen Walson(sp), BBC.

Are you still confident the security plan is going to work, given the fact that you've given your enemies, the insurgents or militias, so much notice that you're coming? I mean, this plan has been talked about since the president first spoke about it. We've heard numerous announcements that it's going to look like this in terms of division of Baghdad. The militias, in some cases, have just disappeared, I mean, across the border or out of Baghdad. Is it going to really work when your enemy has basically fled the city?

GEN. CALDWELL: The difference this time in the Iraqi security plan is, you know, as we've discussed before, is there's three aspects. It's not just a military plan; there's the political and economic piece associated with it. Unlike any time before when we have worked to deliver a plan in the city, this time, it truly is -- the Iraqis have put forth a political will. They are demonstrating the political will to follow through and make the tough commitment.

The fact that the prime minister on January 25th went and talked to the council representatives and laid out the principles of this plan to them, and then there is a overwhelming majority vote that voted in favor of those principles, of which a key aspect is no political interference with military commanders conducting their operations within the city, and the fact that there are no off-limit areas either within the city -- so there is an incredible political will this time that we have not seen before.

When you look at the prime minister talking to his military commanders on February 6th, which they broadcast live on Iraqi Arabic TV -- I mean, you saw a commander standing up there, a commander in chief, being very deliberate, very thorough, very committed to making this work. I mean, even he himself talked about the need that this has to work this time. You know, this is -- it's critical. I mean, they're at a key junction.

Q But the reality is that the leader of one of those militia groups is now safe and well in Iran, according to your own information. I mean, he wouldn't -- one can only guess that there's a good chance that he wouldn't have been there if he had not known that the operation was about to be launched and was in fact underway. I mean, it just seems to me that, you know, you -- far better when it comes to military history but you know, it's difficult not to defeat an enemy when they don't know you're coming. But when they know you're coming, how are you going to win that fight?

GEN. CALDWELL: The key aspects that you have to recognize, you know, and I say this very sincerely, is the economic piece. If we can go in and establish security in an area, secure the population, then we can get the economic programs up and going again. And if we can get, you know, one of these 114 state-owned enterprises, if we can get six or eight which have already been identified as key, viable entities and have found markets for the products that they produce, and we can get these up and running and produce long-term jobs for the people in the city of Baghdad, and if we can get the micro-loans going so the small businesses can get up and functioning again, I mean, that's the key aspect to this plan.

And if we can get the micro loans going so the small businesses can get up and functioning again, I mean that's the key aspect to this plan. Once the security is there, then the economic piece can take off, and they demonstrated they are committed politically to make this thing happen, then what you'll find is if groups try to come back in, if the security has been truly established and if we have the Iraqi police back in control of the neighborhoods, with the Iraqi army supporting them, the possibilities of these groups coming back in is greatly diminished; that people now have an alternative. They now have a way to make money and put food on the table and have jobs, and they see hope and have -- you know, they're making progress and moving forward. And some of the basic services are coming back that they feel have not been working properly over the last two or three years. I mean, then they're not as inclined to support or be behind any kind of extremist element that comes in.

So this plan takes time. You know, it's not till the end of May that General Petraeus will have all the forces that he wants, that the president has said available for him to fully commit. I mean, we'll really see the results of all that in the June-July time frame. But I think what we should be able to see, and sometime here in the next two or three months, is do we have the opportunity for this to succeed? Are we going to be successful in this endeavor? But it's not going to happen overnight. I mean patience is very, very important as we move forward in this thing, because people have an expectation that something's going to happen overnight. And we just continue putting more parts and pieces into place that will help this overall plan move forward. So it really is very different from what we've done before.

Yes, sir?

Q Lorenzo Cremonesi from Corriere della Sera from Italy. General, when we talk with Iraqis here in Baghdad, they generally tend to divide, to draw a difference between Iraqi police and army. And they will tell you that the army is okay, will tend to be okay, but the police is definitely infiltrated by militias, it's corrupted, it's full of bandits, et cetera. They're, in effect, very much afraid of the checkposts of the police. Are you aware of this? And do you see this difference? So if this is the case, how these police can implement the Maliki plan?

And the second question, if I may, do you see already any serious action on the ground by the Iraqi forces against the al-Mahdi Army? Thank you.

GEN. CALDWELL: I would tell you yes, we're very much aware. And through different atmospherics that are done on a regular basis, asking the people of Baghdad and Iraq themselves how they feel about the police and the army, we see different trends that have occurred out there. The Iraq army continues to be the one institution that the people have the greatest faith in and it continues to have the greatest support from the people. That's the Iraqi army.

The Iraqi police doesn't enjoy as much support. And from some of those atmospherics that were done many, many months ago, you know, as we look at that and then you hear different stories from people on the street, that's the reason why you saw that one entire national police brigade pulled off line and put through that vetting process.

And that's why you see today each of the national police brigades going through an entire one-month rebluing process, where they go back in and go back through the entire structure of that organization, look at all the people and put it through a three-week retraining program, reinstilling in it the values that they have to have about protecting the people.

So, yep, we are concerned. We're watching the police very closely. The idea of putting these transition teams down at the lowest levels within the police -- you know, this time last year we did not have as many transition teams embedded with the police forces as we do today, and we're going to have even more in the next few months with the police forces. And these teams are down there to advise and assist and help the Iraqi police move forward with their professionalism and their commitment to the people so that they adjudicate and execute, you know, immaterial of what particular sect somebody is or where they're operating, so that they truly are the protectors of the people.

So a lot of effort is being put forward in that area. There is the acknowledgement it has some challenges. General Dempsey's talked about it, General Huntzinger's (sp) talked about it. And we're working hard to help them with that.

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. CALDWELL: What I would tell you, we don't -- we have intentionally not tried and do not target any one particular organization other than al Qaeda or some other true terrorist organization. After that, anybody who is operating outside the law is subject for interdiction. I mean, so you may claim to be a particular part of some particular group or organization. Irrespective of what you say, if you are operating outside of the law, if you're conducting illegal activities, then the coalition forces and the Iraqi security forces are going to target you, and we use whatever means we have available to go after you. And, you know, we saw that last night with the simultaneous 21 raid targets we took down, you know, out there.

So we will continue conducting very deliberate, thorough targets against those who are operating outside of the law.

Q (Name and affiliation off mike.) Do you see if the Iraqi security forces are pursuing the al-Mahdi Army; not the American one, but the Iraqi forces? GEN. CALDWELL: The Iraqi forces are working very closely with the coalition forces and we're all operating under the same instructions from General Abboud, and it's anybody who's operating outside the law is what we're targeting. I mean, he was very clear about that again yesterday, and he has been. So there is no particular organization that I have heard anybody is going after. It's those who are operating outside of the law.

Yes, sir?

Q (Name inaudible) -- AFP. Are you glad that Muqtada al-Sadr is in Tehran, or is he more worrying outside of your reach?

GEN. CALDWELL: We also, like I said, we tracked him very closely but aren't going to really discuss publicly anything about this at this time.

Q Is it significant, though, that he's gone? Does the military find it significant that he's left?

GEN. CALDWELL: We obviously continue to track him very closely. I man, we're just not going to comment publicly about it. I mean, I'll see -- everybody's looking at this very closely.

Yes, ma'am?

Q General Caldwell, you said repeatedly that under the new iteration of the Baghdad security plan, that there would be no political interference and that there would be no neighborhoods which are off-limits. Can you please tell us exactly which neighborhoods were off-limits before, and what was the scope and nature, and specific examples of the political interference that you had to contend with prior to this agreement? Thank you.

GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah. Laura, I don't have the particulars on the interference. I mean, I can describe them in general, some of the things that happened in the previous times. We would have members of the Council of Representatives who would call directly down to Iraqi commanders, police, army, and give them directions that they would not conduct operations in certain areas, that they would not -- if they did arrest somebody, that they would release that person. There was interference that was not at an extreme level, but there were cases that came to our attention where that did occur.

And so when you'd talk to the Iraqi commanders, police and army commanders, they would express some frustration and feeling like they didn't have the full support and weight of this government behind them and moving forward.

So for this iteration to be successful, it took the commitment of the Council of Representatives to vote and say that they would not interfere with military commanders, police commanders on the ground who are conducting their operations. And there were particular areas in the past where it was very challenging for them to operate because they felt pressure from members of the Council of Representatives not to conduct operations there.

Q Which areas were those?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, obviously there's areas within Baghdad that we have not conducted operations as aggressively in the past as we have in other areas. But the prime minister has been very firm and -- as General Abboud has too -- that that's not going to be the case this time. I mean, there's already discussion about where they're going to establish the first joint security station within Baghdad, within Sadr City, where that's going to be set up and working.

So everybody understands that the entire city is open for military operation. That's why they broke it into 10 districts. And the idea is, within each district, you're going to have an Iraqi army brigade, you're going to have a police -- Iraqi police element and a coalition force battalion in all 10 of these districts. And they'll operate full-time within that district. And obviously Sadr city and everywhere else, Rusafa and everywhere else are encompassed in one of those 10 districts and are going to have the forces operating inside that district.

Whereas before, you know, we tended to work in one area, then go to another area, then another area, when all the forces are fully in place, they'll be operating simultaneously throughout all 10 districts, and the additional forces will give them the ability to really thoroughly work an area by bringing additional forces into one place for a while. But then when they pick up and leave, those original forces that are always going to stay and remain there and work as part of joint, you know, security stations and patrolling will remain still in that district, whereas in the past we tended to uncover areas and not maintain a permanent presence there to the degree we needed to. So that'll be --

Q (Off mike) -- Sadr City? Or you're not -- (off mike)?

GEN. CALDWELL: No, no. I mean, it -- I mean, obviously everybody recognizes that was probably the most predominant one.

Q Karrada?

GEN. CALDWELL: No. I mean, we -- in the past, to be very honest, if you looked at some of the slides when we used to brief it, we really have turned over a lot of that to the Iraqi police. Karrada was operating pretty much as a successful endeavor. We intentionally did not highlight it and put it out in briefings because our concern was as soon as we would, then insurgent elements would go and target it just so they could discredit the movement forward that the Iraqi police were making in that area.

So very deliberately, although we showed it in different colors at different times on the map, as we moved forward we made a decision just not to talk about it real publicly, but rather we all recognized and understood the Iraqi police truly had the Karrada area and were responsible for it without any coalition forces or really Iraqi army forces operating there.

STAFF: We have time for one more question.

Q I'm sorry. Can you just confirm something about Muqtada al-Sadr, that this is not the first time he's gone to Iran, he made repeated visits there?

GEN. CALDWELL: I'd have to go back and ask that question specifically to give you that answer.

Laura, we'll go back and ask that question. If you want me to -- I mean, we'll be glad to -- we have the equipment over here. Yeah, this -- if I could, where's -- yeah, where is Rusty? Is he back here?

STAFF: Yes, sir.

GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah, if you want to come on up here. If you would, do me a favor -- I'm sure the one -- (to staff) -- can you flip them on?

On Sunday during the press conference that was conducted here in Baghdad, these same pieces of equipment were showing that are on this table. These are pieces of equipment that have been seized here in Iraq by either Iraqi security forces or coalition forces; some as late as of about two weeks ago.

The first item there to probably show you is the EFP. This EFP was found and cleared in about two-three weeks ago now. MAJ. WEBBER: Two weeks ago, sir.

GEN. CALDWELL: Two weeks ago. So this is -- and they come in varying shapes and sizes, as you've probably seen from the pictures that were provided, but we wanted to show one that had been recently. So as late as 2007, this explosive foreign penetrator here was found and cleared.

(To Major Webber) -- was this one in Baghdad?

MAJ. WEBBER: Yes, sir.

GEN. CALDWELL: In the Baghdad area.

Now, if anybody would like to ask a question, please feel free to do so about the EFP. If not, we'll pick up another piece of equipment and show you that.

Q General, I just have a question. How many -- you said that 170 coalition forces have been killed by these particular brand of explosives. What about Iraqi forces and -- (off mike)?

GEN. CALDWELL: I'll have to go back and get the exact figure on that. Obviously, what was showing in the picture the other day was a Hilla SWAT vehicle that had been hit by an explosive foreign penetrator that we used in one of the visual pictures there.

But I'd have to go back and check with the Iraqis on their -- I mean, we generally know their numbers, but we don't track it as thoroughly as we do our own numbers, the coalition force numbers. I'd have to ask to see if we can get you --

Q Can you say on the record, you know, what links these things to Iran? We talked about this before, but you've showed the EFP, the serial numbers, but could you just briefly reprise on the record how these are linked to Iran.

GEN. CALDWELL: The explosively formed penetrator that they had there, the machining that is done to produce that is such of a fine precision. There have been very rude, elementary attempts to replicate it here in Iraq, very unsuccessfully.

But we know that those, in fact, are produced and made in Iran and then smuggled -- component parts are smuggled in and then assembled here in Iraq.

When you look at the 81-millimeter mortar shell -- this is an 81 -- (To Major Webber) You know, rather than me talk, you're the expert, why don't I let you talk.

MAJ. WEBBER: Yes, sir. It's an 81-millimeter high explosive mortar round. Again, distinguishing features for us identifying country of origin are the actual stenciling on the warhead itself, the geometry of the tailfins, and the construction of the tail boom itself, which is a one-piece construction cast, which is for us a key identification feature that it's of Iranian origin.

Q Can you give your name and rank, sir?

MAJ. WEBBER: Major Marty Webber.

Q Marty?

MAJ. WEBBER: Yes, sir.

GEN. CALDWELL: I think what's key about this too -- and, Marty, correct me if I'm wrong -- is that the weapon of development that normally occurs in this region is an 82-millimeter mortar shell. This is an 81-millimeter mortar shell, which really is just produced in Iran. The American version of the 81-millimeter mortar shell, as Marty was talking about, the tailfin can spin off. And the one that's produced in Iran is of a single piece.

Q General, could you give an assessment of how much Iranian munitions are found here in comparison to, for example, Egyptian or -- (repeats question using microphone) -- Can you give an assessment of how much, in terms of quantity, Iranian munitions are found here in comparison to, say, Russian or other countries of origin?

MAJ. WEBBER: Sir, that's a very tough question. Ideally, all the reporting that we see come from our EOD teams out in the field. The Iranian ordnance that we see and recover is not as much, taken into a whole, the amount of caches, the amount of ordnance, especially what was left over from the Saddam era and pre-Saddam era. Therefore, what we're seeing now -- what we're drawing the attention to is the stuff that's been manufactured post-Saddam era, 2006, 2005. GEN. CALDWELL: I think the key thing to make on this is that when we introduced this on Sunday, the intent was to talk about the explosively formed penetrator, and the recognition that there are other munitions making their way in here. But the one that we were concerned about is the explosively formed penetrator, which specifically is made in Iran and, again, causes the greatest number of casualties from IED incidents.

Although there's a lot of IED incidents that occur every day in this country, the EFP use is very, very small, yet has the preponderance of casualties as a result of it.

(Cross talk.)

If you would, how about -- show the RPG round, would you, Marty, and talk that for a second? I'll let him talk that one for a second.

MAJ. WEBBER: This is essentially a P.G. 7 round, specifically a P.G. 7-AT-1. Historically, Iran manufactures four versions of this, which you can find in their ministry of defense industry's catalogue. However, this one, based upon the markings, that it is a -1, which indicates it is a new model of the P.G. 7-AT round, which there is one other version called the NADER, which is very popular. However, this one, again -- the lot number, it's a lot five, manufactured in the year 2006.

GEN. CALDWELL: And again, to point out our concern that incurs again here is, these are munitions that are being produced as late as this past year. It's not like they were already in existence or been around for a while like most of the munitions that we find in this country. But rather, this is something that was produced as late as 2006 and then smuggled into Iraq and utilized over here.

Marty, if you would, how about showing them the EFP slug.

MAJ. WEBBER: Yes, sir.

Essentially, this is an EFP, explosively formed penetrator. When you have the soft, malleable metal -- in this case, this particular one is a copper slug, which means the concave disk that was in the nose of the EFP, explosively formed penetrator, was made of copper. The explosives, when they detonate, essentially take the soft, malleable metal, form what we call a "slug," and that's what you see here. And this is the slug that travels at high rates of speed towards its target, and the kinetic energy is what ends up penetrating whatever the target is.

GEN. CALDWELL: Let me -- you had a question over there, sir. Go ahead. You haven't asked one yet.

Q One was, I think we were told that the English writing is because they're sold in the international arms market. GEN. CALDWELL: That is correct, sir.

Q And again, it seems like you're getting into an inference there. If they're on the international arms market, maybe people here bought it from Syrian contacts or Lebanese contacts. I mean, that seems to work against the idea that it would be brought in by Iranian directors.

GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah. I guess, as we went through on Sunday, in the last 60 days, between -- just to take a current piece of intelligence, when you look at some of the Iranian and Iraqi detainees that we have picked up and conducted debriefings with, they in fact have told us that Qods Force provides supports to extremist groups here in Iraq, in the forms of both money and in weaponry. I mean, these are -- through the debriefings, they're telling us.

And we also know -- they've said that they have gone so far, the Qods Force has, to provide training for extremist groups within Iran. They have talked about how there are extremist elements that are given this material in Iran, and then it's smuggled into Iraq. We have in fact stopped some at the border and discovered it there, coming from Iran into Iraq.

I think what you saw today is part of the government of Iraq's initiative here on their new security plan, the enhancement of this. They shut down all their borders, points of entry, for the next 72 hours. And during that next 72 hours, as the government of Iraq has explained, they're going to re-look a lot of their procedures, reorganize the physical layout of and revamp these points. And one of them will be transfer points that will be established so that when vehicles do come in that they have suspicion or they decide they want to unload and transfer, they can in fact check the cargo to make sure in fact there aren't illegal munitions and weaponry being smuggled in from other countries into Iraq.

Q But General, General?

GEN. CALDWELL: Yes, sir?

Q Wasn't it said at the briefing the other day that the government of Iraq had actually confirmed to you that two of the Qods Force officers had provided offensive weapons to a political faction here in the country? The two Qods Force officers arrested on December 20, 21, with the list of inventory of weapons supplied. At that briefing we were told was the government asked for a response; it was said that yes, the government responded and said that groups need these weapons for their protection and that they've been supplied by these officers. Will you clarify that, please?

GEN. CALDWELL: I think the discussion there was talking about an inventory sheet that was picked up in that raid that had a list of weapons on it. And when senior members of -- were confronted with that and discussed it, both political parties and government officials, some explained that there is a need for certain weaponry to be -- that do come in that people use in, quote, for their -- "for protection purposes." And the concern we had in looking at that list is that on that list were sniper rifles, mortars and some other elements that are clearly offensive in nature, not defensive in nature. And so therefore the concern that that list of weaponry was not defensive in nature only, but rather had offensive capabilities associated with it.

Q But it was described as a list, though, an inventory list of weapons supplied, past tense, already happened. So you are saying that the government told you, yeah, they came, and also this reason.

GEN. CALDWELL: The explanation came from somebody associated with the groups where the raid was connected (sic). Q We got them, and they offered this reason.

GEN. CALDWELL: And so when we were doing --

Q Is that correct, General? We got them and it was for this reason?

GEN. CALDWELL: I just want to be real careful in trying to quote somebody who provided information. When we asked for an explanation from security personnel, civilian security personnel and others, as to why we would see an inventory with that type of equipment on it, that was the initial explanation given. And then we said, but there are offensive weapons on this and therefore that's the part that's unacceptable.

Q So did they get the weapons or not?

GEN. CALDWELL: Okay.

Sir, do you have another question?

Q (Inaudible) -- weapon against a ground target, but do you think can appear in the theater more sophisticated ground-to-air weapon, like IGLAR (sp) or -- and the last helicopter who were shot down -- do you have evidence that sophisticated weapon can come from Iran?

Do you understand my question?

GEN. CALDWELL: Yes, I do. What I would tell you -- the -- there was a discussion the other day about a MANPAD -- a man-portable air defense weapons system component part that was found in 2004 with a foiled attempt that occurred in the -- near the Baghdad airport. But that was the -- but there is not one that we have, other than that, to show.

So what we're talking about specifically -- at that briefing we were trying to focus, again, on the explosively formed penetrator, a form of IED that is extremely lethal. That was -- that's the point behind the briefing. But rather we know there are other munitions and armament that is made in Iran that does make its way into Iraq.

The other day we had a CH-46 helicopter that went down. Initial indications were that it was mechanical. As the investigation has continued, it's now been determined that was not in fact the case and in fact it was downed by hostile fire. And as the investigation has continued, it now appears that that was probably brought down by some sophisticated piece of weaponry. That investigation is not complete yet, but those are the -- now the indications.

But we're not trying to make any inference that it came from any particular area, but rather just that's what brought it down. So please don't make a leap of association here, because we are not doing that at all. We have nothing at this point that we would talk about, associate with that.

Listen, I want to thank everybody today. If you would like, afterwards I'll ask Marty if he'll stay for a few minutes, if you want to ask any more particular questions to him about this weaponry. Thank you.

Q Thank you. END



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