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Press Briefing, April 4, 2007

Multi-National Force-Iraq

Wednesday, 04 April 2007

Multi-National Force - Iraq situational update with Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, MNF-I spokesman, Dr. Ali Al-Dabbagh, Government of Iraq spokesman, and Brig. Gen. Michael J. Walsh, commanding general, Gulf Region Division, U.S.Army Corps of Engineers.


MR. AL-DABBAGH: (In Arabic, interpreter inaudible) -- Baghdad to provide peace and security and backed by economic and political measures to enhance the internal reforms, and to boost security and also to boost the good (standard ?) achieved in Baghdad. And the progress we -- (cross talk) -- (intricate ?) forces will -- (cross talk) -- operation for the (Bangun ?). In spite all the challenges of terrorist groups against the Iraqi people and despite all the terrorist operations carried out during March which targeted the pilgrims of Imam Hussein and which targeted southern city and also Tall Afar.

Now we face this challenge, the Iraqi -- and the Iraqi army and the Iraqi people are facing this challenge, and the Iraqi people have more trust in the Iraqi security forces. Now the people trust the Iraqi security forces and it's consequentially lead to more cooperation between the people and the Iraqi security forces. And this success will be exploited to achieve more success in the security operation to provide security for the Iraqi people.

This is an opening statement, and now I leave the podium to my friend General Caldwell and then to General Walsh. Today we are talking about security and the economy because we think that security will lead to improvement in this economic sector and no services can be accomplished without good security. At the same time, economic -- the progress will enhance security and this is what the Iraqi government is trying to do.

GEN. CALDWELL: Good afternoon. As-salaam-malaika. I'd like to thank my good friend Ali Al-Dabbagh. Thank you very much for being here today, sir and Mike Walsh, too, for this opportunity to join both of you here today.

Dr. Al-Dabbagh has shared with you what this government has been going through and what they see occurring in their country today. Over these past four years, Iraq has undergone a historic transformation. Change is never easy, but the Iraqi people are showing great courage in the face of great adversity. We know that security is the key. When the people feel more secure, everything else is possible. That's why we are working diligently with our Iraqi partners to secure progress and provide hope. If together we can protect the Iraqi people, we know they can accomplish great things. Our efforts are centered around Operation Fard al-Qanun. This operation is still ramping up. The Iraqis have demonstrated their commitment by delivering their promised compliment of security forces. Coalition forces are still arriving. We pledge to provide five additional brigades to the fight, plus the necessary support personnel to augment them. Three of these five reinforcing brigades are now in Iraq. The third of these five is almost completely in place. It is the third brigade of the 3rd Infantry division.

The way ahead is challenging. All of us face savage and determined enemies. The people of Iraq will not see immediate results, but the effects of our commitment will be felt over the course of many months. We know that our increased presence among the people is having an effect. The people are seeing more Iraqi and coalition forces on the streets and the neighborhoods, and this higher level of contact is building increased confidence, which in turn is leading to greater cooperation. We can track this. Cooperation between the Iraqi people and their security forces is currently at an all-time high. After a phenomenal rise -- that's calls to the national tips hotline -- we saw a dip between the month of January and February. But this is actually in some respects a good new story. We've been building joint security stations all around the neighborhoods of Baghdad. This is an improved model. It is a true community police effort. Police and soldiers live among the people and share their knowledge and concerns. Now the people can report criminal activity directly to the stations. Iraqi and coalition forces have been distributing cards with local numbers that ring directly into these joint security stations. People are also visiting these stations, and we also find that as our troops and police are on the street and patrolling the neighborhoods, the people are engaging them more and providing them more information than when they originally started the operation.

This increased presence and increased cooperation is helping bring down the levels of sectarian violence. In March, we tracked a 26 percent decline from February. This matters. We are focused on making even more progress. IS -- Iraqi security forces and coalition forces continue to conduct -- (audio difficulty) -- operations against death squads. We assess that our increased presence on the streets with security forces growing greater familiarity in their area of operations with the help of the local people there -- that live there, we are in fact finding that we are able to restrict the movement and freedom of those who would conduct murders against innocent Iraqi civilians. We also believe that results produce more results. As the people gain confidence in their protectors, they feel less compulsion to take the law into their own hands. There are encouraging signs that more people are buying into restraint instead of retribution. However, we continue to be extremely concerned about the enemy's tactic of using high-profile car bomb attacks to massacre innocent civilians. More of these acts are being stopped at checkpoints by brave Iraqi security forces -- in some cases by some who have given their lives to stop these horrific acts of mass murder.

But too many still occur. Al Qaeda in Iraq is trying to ignite a cycle of tit-for-tat violence. Al Qaeda fears democracy and civilian cooperation with their security forces here in country between the civilians and the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army. Al Qaeda in Iraq sees anarchy and despair as what they want to achieve. The decline in sectarian murders may be a sign that the people are rejecting this cycle of violence, which can lead to the rule of law. On Monday, there was a victory for the rule of law. The Iraqi judicial system took a measured but significant step. In a new facility in Baghdad, an Iraqi court initiated legal proceedings against two alleged criminals in an even-handedness show of justice. The two were an al Qaeda terrorist of -- killing scores of innocent civilians and unfortunately, an Iraq -- an Iraqi policeman who was accused of abusing his trust to torture prisoners that were in his custody. There proceedings were in response to crimes against the Iraqi people. Instead of a cycle of violence, examples of fair and impartial justice can lead to a cycle we all want to see -- fairness leading to a belief that leads to a better form of policing injustice, which eventually leads to cooperation from the people.

As we look out to what's occurred in Ramadi, we've seen just -- last of March, we see -- when we look back to last November, we saw there were four recruits in that area. In December, we were only able to muster 40 recruits. Last week, during a three-day drive, they had over 1,500 recruits. Of course, our new efforts are still in their early stages. All of us still need to show patience, resolve and commitment. And military successes are not enough by themselves. Coalition can and will win every battle, but we cannot win the peace alone, and pre-security can only set the stage for political and economic progress. That's why we have here today my good friend Mike Walsh, and he's going to share with you some basic news about what's going on in the services here within Iraq. And with that, again, Ali, thank you for being here.

And with that, Mike, I'll turn it over to you.

GEN. WALSH: Thank you.

And good afternoon, everyone. Thank you, Dr. Al-Dabbagh and General Caldwell, for this opportunity to discuss reconstruction progress today.

As General Caldwell has stated, the way ahead is challenging. But I'm here to tell you that we are making progress in reconstruction. In the Baghdad Province alone, we had more than 2,500 projects that were planned and almost 2,000 of them have been completed. This number reflects all U.S. government reconstruction efforts, not just the Gulf Region Division, which I command. To me, this is a clear sign that we are making progress. As you can see from the charts around the room, we are making impact across Iraq and in the 10 security areas identified in Fard al-Qanun. You can see the projects are distributed equitably throughout the city, and give you an idea of how we are making a difference in the 10 security areas.

Police, fire and military facilities -- we have 28 projects that are ongoing or completed, totaling about $24 million. That's affecting 6 million residents. In water, we have 20 projects that are ongoing, totaling $10 million, affecting 2,000 -- 20 -- 240,000 residents. And in electricity, we have 79 projects totaling $125 million, affecting half a million residents here in Baghdad.

And another area of progress I'd like to discuss with you today -- electricity. One of the country's most talked-about essential services, especially with the summer months about to come upon us. The reality is that the country never had 24 hours of power. Before March 2003, much of Iraq received only four to eight hours of power per day, with Baghdad receiving 16 to 24 hours of power daily. Today the electricity's distributed more equitably throughout Iraq, with most of the country receiving 10 to 12 hours of power daily. In fact, 75 percent of Iraq now receives twice as much power as they did before the war. Baghdad currently receives six to seven hours of power daily. That's something that we're focusing on with Dr. Karim, the Minister of Electricity, on improving. To understand electricity, you must take time to understand the whole picture. After the war in 2003, the demand for electricity rose 23 percent and has risen every year since then by 10 percent. Currently, it is estimated that the demand for power has increased more than 70 percent since 2003. And that's a good sign. It means that people are buying items like washing machines, air conditioners, television -- things of that sort.

However, it means that we're chasing that rising demand with a capacity system that we're trying to put together. A few electrical projects that we're working in Baghdad is in (Khoudous ?) -- we're putting in two more plants that'll add another 200 megawatts into the Baghdad loop by the end of the year. A megawatt, by the way -- we compare one megawatt is about 1,000 residencies, and about five or six people per residence. In Dura, we're adding another 140 megawatts to the system and in Baghdad South, we're adding a computerized maintenance management system which will efficiently manage and schedule maintenance throughout Baghdad as well as the rest of the grid in Iraq. We are making progress, and every day along with our partners, the government of Iraq, we work hard to provide more essential service projects that will help build a brighter future for the people of Iraq. I'm confident that by continuing to work with our Iraqi partners we are building upon a foundation for continued success. And thank you for your interest in this important part of Iraqis' future.

I thank you, Dr. Al-Dabbagh and General Caldwell, for allowing me to participate today.

GEN. CALDWELL: Question on this side of the room.

Q (Through interpreter.) Hassam Munaffa (ph) from Al-Swatta (sp) Iraq.

Dr. Ali Al-Dabbagh, you said that the Baghdad security has been extended to outside Baghdad to the governatories, but we noticed that some outskirts in Baghdad the army didn't go to these outskirts. Does this mean that the security generally will continue in Baghdad and the governorates as well?

And toward General Caldwell: Yesterday you told CNN that the number of American troops will be increased to 27,000 soldiers. When are these soldiers going to arrive in Baghdad?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: (Through interpreter.) The security operation in Baghdad is being carried out simultaneously and it is entering the second phase. It covers Baghdad and outskirts of Baghdad. Of course, the situation will not go back as it was before the Operation Fard al- Qanun. We are going to secure the land and we are going to maintain our presence in these areas and we are going to extend the security plan to other important areas. This is the security plan of the Iraqi government.

GEN. CALDWELL: As far as the troop numbers go that are being used as part of this reinforcement within Baghdad, the third of five brigades have now arrived. That third brigade is getting moved into position within Baghdad as we speak. We still have two additional brigades that are going to deploy from the United States over here -- an additional two support assets. All of those assets will close and be in the vicinity of Baghdad by the end of May.

Q (Through interpreter.) Al-Abadi (sp) from Al-Diyar.

My question to Dr. Ali Al-Dabbagh: Recently there were many security violations during Fard al-Qanun operations by the car bombs and sectarian killing. Do you think that this is because the Iraqi security forces cannot penetrate the terrorist cells? Or is it the fault of the security forces who carry out these operations?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: (Through interpreter.) Certainly the Iraqi security forces do not claim they are perfect or they have accomplished the mission. The Iraqi security forces are making progress, but we are facing big challenges and the Iraqi security forces cannot bring these challenges to zero, because these are people who are operating and working in the darkness and they hide among the Iraqi people. But we cannot deny that we have a big progress. Yes, we have some violations and we need good intelligence.

And here I would like to say that the Iraqi intelligence is now working under the Iraqi command and is enhancing the Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi national intelligence is now being run by the Iraqi government and their government is supporting this service. And the intelligence has made good progress, but we need to support this service because the Iraqi government wants to support this intelligence service to penetrate the terrorist cells. And I think that this service has accomplished good results as you hear that there have been many detentions and many leaders of al Qaeda have been arrested and captured. And this is because of Iraqi intelligence in cooperation with the Multi-National Forces, because they are still supporting us.

Q (Through interpretation.) Yusef Mahara (sp).

My question to Dr. Al-Dabbagh: There has been chaotic security situation in Nineveh. More than 3,000 families of Kurds and Turkmen have moved out of the province of Mosul because of the threats. Why don't the Iraqi forces, the second Iraqi division, why don't you deploy this division inside Mosul like neighborhoods of Aden Kharama (sp) and Situsar (sp) to secure the areas in Mosul?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: (Through interpreter.) Yesterday we announced that the security plan is now being implemented in Mosul. We have big challenges in Mosul and the Iraqi government is aware of this fact. There are many terrorist groups taking some parts of Mosul as safe havens. And the attack in Tall Afar represents one of these challenges.

As I told you at the beginning of the conference, the security plan has been extended to Mosul and also in Diyala.

Q (Through interpreter.) Majad Abdu Khadar (ph) from Al- Hurriyah.

Many people criticize the Baghdad security plan because it is focused in some secure areas. Today, the people in As Sadiyah are walking up and they have found propaganda about the Islamic State in Iraq and the (ship ?) of Umar Baghdadi(sp). How do you respond to this?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: (Through interpreter.) You know we are waging a war against these terrorist cells. And these terrorist groups are working during the night in the darkness. We know that we face this challenge and the Iraqi government is well aware of this challenge, but the Iraqi security forces are now going ahead in the security plan to clear these neighborhoods. And we are going to carry out this plan phase by phase. And I cannot go into details about this military operation because of security, but we want to isolate these terrorist cells which have taken safe havens in these areas like -- (inaudible) -- and Abu Ghraib and Sabir (sp). But I cannot go into details because of security reasons.

GEN. CALDWELL: What I would tell you is this plan is being done across the entire city of Baghdad. It's being done in a very evenhanded method. That's how the prime minister designed this plan.

When you go into look within Baghdad, you're going to see joint security stations and combat outposts that have been set up. And again, at these joint security stations, you're going to find Iraqi police, Iraqi army and coalition forces operating. And there's 50 of them that are today operational within the city of Baghdad and another 25 that have been approved to be put into place, which will give us about 75 here shortly towards the end of this month that will be up and operational within Baghdad.

But you're going to find them spread throughout the entire city. They're not just in one location. And a lot of times what has been done is we have added more here. These last 25 is -- we've gone in specifically and tried to identify, working with Iraqi counterparts at the operation center -- the Baghdad operation center that General Bood (sp) is in charge of and runs his commands and controls -- the operations of Baghdad -- out of, wherever there still is some sectarian violence occurring, you'll see where that's been an area of focus where they have looked at putting in a joint security station.

So they continue looking at that. It's a daily evaluation, but it's across the entire city.

Q General Caldwell, you spoke about democracy.

In November, Americans in great numbers voted for candidates who would bring our troops home. A majority of Americans want our troops home. What can we do to get that process started as soon as possible?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, what I'd tell you, ma'am, is back in the United States one of the great things about our country that we have is there is a tremendous amount of debate and we see democracy in action there each and every day. And that's a very healthy and viable part of what makes our country so great.

What I can tell you is that debate's back there. But what is not debatable is our commitment to the Iraqi people. We're here. We're committed. We're dedicated. And each and every day young men and women are putting on their boots, they're strapping them up, putting on their body armor, they're picking up their weapon and they're heading out on patrol with their Iraqi counterparts to protect the people of Iraq.

Q Ajay (sp) from AFP. (Off mike.)

Don't you think reduction of curfew in Baghdad is kind of slight over confidence at this stage -- it's too early?

And General Caldwell, looking at this increased spread of the security plan in Mosul and Diyala, how do you plan to manage the troop movement? Is there any kind of internal, unannounced surprise? More troops coming in? Or how do you deploy these troops? Will they be taken away from -- say, some troops from Baghdad? Looking at past mistakes, probably that may not be the right approach at this time.

MR. AL-DABBAGH: (Through interpreter.) Not only reducing the hours of curfew -- this proves that security is improving. We have also a plan to lift the concrete barriers in some areas -- in some areas where we have reached good security situation so that we are going to facilitate the movement of the Iraqi people. Certainly the Iraqi security forces are studying well any measure or any decisions. So the decision to reduce the hours of curfew was studied very carefully by the Iraqi government because we want to facilitate the movement of the Iraqi people in order to cancel the curfew. And this is our goal in the long run.

Q But don't you think that's exactly what a car bomber wants -- more people on the streets for increased number of hours? MR. AL-DABBAGH: (Through interpreter.) I think that this is a security assessment. And Iraqi security forces have made this assessment.

GEN. CALDWELL: As far as violence that has been seen in other areas around Iraq -- other than in Baghdad -- I think General Petraeus and General Odierno have always stated that as these additional U.S. brigades do arrive, they're going to maintain the flexibility to move them wherever they're needed to provide greater security to the people of Iraq.

We saw that recently when the decision was made by General Odierno to move a Stryker battalion up into Diyala province to give more mobility firepower and troop strength up there. And as these last two additional brigades come in, they have maintained the flexibility to put them -- position them, wherever they're needed to best help influence and provide greater security for the people.

Q (Through interpreter). Jatali Ayeev (sp) from Al-Iraqihay.

You know that many Iraqi ministries are ineffective and the prime minister is talking about Mr. Deshalfa (sp).

General Walsh, you talked about electricity where you talked about some statistics -- the Ministry of Electricity said -- complained about the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense and the American forces. I would like to confirm that any ministry shall follow not only the decision of the prime minister -- it is a decision to be taken by the political blocks which form the Parliament. This is a great responsibility and only one block has agreed to this reshuffle and as for the other blocs they have been postponing this procedure. I think that this reshuffle is very important to reform some ministries. Of course, the administration is having some shortcomings beginning from the minister, and we need radical change the Iraqi government and the prime minister asked for a free hand in these ministerial portfolios. Now the prime minister warns the ministerial portfolios to be distributed according to standards of efficiency and not according to the demand of the political blocks. We cannot accept any political block or parliamentary block to ask for certain ministerial portfolios. This should be decided by the Iraqi government in coordination with all politicians.

GEN. WALSH: I think Dr. Al-Dabbagh did a wonderful job in working the political piece on that. Certainly I worked very closely with Dr. Karim (ph) and Ministry of Electricity, and he works extraordinarily hard for the people of Iraq in bringing additional power into the -- both the Baghdad grid as well as the Iraq grid. He just recently came back from a trip abroad in trying to figure out how to have more megawatts imported from the countries around Iraq. He's a good hero for the Iraqi people. Q I'm Alexandra Zoffis (ph) from the Los Angeles Times. I -- a question to both of you if I may. There have been reports today that permission has been granted to an Iranian representative to meet with the Iranian nationals in U.S. custody. I just wanted to find out if that's correct. If so, when that's going to happen, and if this is something you think might help defuse the case of the British -- (inaudible) -- who are detained in Iran.

MR. AL-DABBAGH: Do you want --

GEN. WALSH: No, this is mine -- okay. I am aware of that report that said that permission has been granted. What has occurred so far is the international committee for the Red Cross has in fact visited with those five people that are detentioned. Among them was a Iranian who was a member of that delegation that when they did the visit, and thus far what we have is a informal request that has come in for a consulate visit, and that's being assessed at this time.

MR. AL-DABBAGH: That's okay? Here's the mic.

Q Do you think that granting access to a diplomatic representative to Iran to these detainees could help defuse the situation for the British detainees?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: During the international conference in Baghdad this issue was discussed by the Iranian representative and the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, and the two sides asked to solve this issue -- the issue of the detention of the Iranian officials in Irbil, and there was a promise to solve this issue peacefully that would maintain the situation in Iraq and without any further consequences. I think that this issue is being taken into consolation (sic) and many of us are exerted to talk this issue and the Iraqi government would be happy to solve this problem. We want the relations between the parties in Iraq -- we don't want these issues to be affected on the situation in Iraq, and there should be a chance to solve this issue peacefully. As for the British sailors, the Iraqi government wants this issue to be solved peacefully and the British sailors would be returned to their military base. According to my information this force was under the command of the Iraqi government and these forces are working under the command of the Iraqi government, and we have information from the -- these sailors have been detained in the Iraqi territory waters and Iranians claim that these sailors have entered the Iranian territorial waters. The Iraqi government would like to end this issue peacefully.

Q (Through interpreter.) General Caldwell, you said that the American forces -- say that the Iraqi forces cannot hold up the responsibility to assume security in Iraq while the American forces are now handing over most of the troubled areas without any presence for the American forces. How do you explain this?

GEN. CALDWELL: Just to make sure I understand the question correctly, you're talking about within Baghdad. Is that correct? Q (Through interpreter.) The American forces now say that the Iraqi security forces is incapable of assuming security in Baghdad, but now we see the Iraqi Army stay in most hot areas in Baghdad without any presence for the American forces. How do you explain this?

GEN. CALDWELL: Within the Baghdad area there's -- General Aboud has set up ten districts, and within each of the 10 districts you're going to find an American or a coalition force battalion that's operating there in partnership with the Iraqi security forces there. So wherever you go within the Baghdad area -- the 10 districts -- you're going to find a coalition force battalion there, so that we all are working together. You're also going to find a much greater number of transition teams. These are the embedded military personnel that are working both within the army and the police forces -- where we've increased both the number of the transition teams and the size of the transition teams, so there's a greater coalition force presence there too, and that's throughout the entire Baghdad area. So there is not a particular place within Baghdad where we all aren't working jointly together. That's why we call these things the joint security stations because you'll find in each one of these an Iraqi police representative, an Iraqi Army representative and a coalition force representative present there 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

MR. AL-DABBAGH: (Through interpreter.) The Iraqi security forces are making progress and I would like to announce now that security will be assumed during April in the government of Maysan.

The Iraqi security forces in Maysan have progressed to the level that they can assume security in Maysan, and the commanding general of the armed forces will authorize the governor of Maysan to sign a security agreement to assume security from the commander of coalition forces in Maysan. We have a program for assuming security, and this proves that Iraqi security forces are making progress in training and also in assuming security. I haven't heard about any incapable Iraqi security forces. We are reviewing this periodically to rehabilitate the Iraqi security forces.

Q Thank you. For General Caldwell, what kind of statistics are you seeing for overall violence in Baghdad? You mentioned the sectarian killings but if you put everything together -- attacks on coalition forces, Iraqi forces, mortar strikes, rocket strikes, bombings -- how -- what have been the trends in that from January, February and March? And I wondered if you would commit to giving us some kind of running count on that each week as you go through the months of this operation so we can see for ourselves how things are progressing.

GEN. CALDWELL: What I would tell you is that because of the car bombs that, in fact, and the suicide vests that have been used with -- inside of Baghdad the overall numbers have not seen a significant decrease as we have seen when you go and look just at the sectarian murders and assassinations that have occurred. So that has been offset and you're exactly right -- even though we've seen a tremendous reduction -- I say tremendous -- you know, 27 percent reduction over the -- from the previous month, we have not seen the overall same significant amount of decline in the overall number of casualties. We continue to be very hesitant to start putting out weekly statistics in terms of casualty numbers. Each time al Qaeda -- and they're really the ones who've been responsible for this spate of car bombings and suicide vests, where they're trying to come in and conduct mass murders against innocent Iraqi civilians. And had it been not for some very brave and courageous Iraqi security forces, many more of them would have penetrated into and got closer to even larger numbers of people than they had intended to.

But there -- we have seen an increase in the number of Iraqi security force casualties. And some of those have been directly attributed to the fact that they have been stopping some of these car bombers and taken them on and not abandoning their posts, but remaining there and doing exactly what they're supposed to do to protect the people. But we have not seen the overall reduction the other way.

Q Two questions. The first is for Dr. Dabbagh. A few weeks ago when we were talking, you mentioned that the true dialogue on reconciliation hadn't started yet. The political dialogue on reconciliation -- that a lot of the parties or blocks were still very much in their -- holding their positions on reconciliation. And I was wondering when you think this dialogue will start -- and what you think you will need to start this dialogue?

And the second question is, when you talk about the security plan being put into effect in other areas of Iraq -- this is for both General Caldwell and Dr. Dabbagh -- can you give us any statistics on exactly the shifting units -- both among Americans and Iraqis, on where they might have been shifted from in some parts of the country to these other places, and give us the exact locations of where these new units are being placed?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: (Through translator.) As for national dialogue, the Iraqi government is now exerting tremendous efforts to conduct an open dialogue among the political blocks. Today we have a meeting for the Political Council for National Peace. President Talabani called for the conference that the Political Council will hold continual meetings to encourage the political dialogue, to activate decisions already taken to achieve reconciliation. And we're going to take many steps to enhance the security. We have to enhance security by the political efforts and all the politicians should shoulder this responsibility.

The majority of the security threats come from politics. The violence in Iraq is because of politics -- and this can be solved through political means. And as for the violence, for the Fard al- Qanun operation, we take care of this. And in al-Anbar we intend to carry out the security plan in cooperation with Iraq security forces. I would like General Caldwell to talk about the details about the security.

GEN. CALDWELL: Thanks, Ali. What I would tell you is this. As we saw in Dyala Province, when we saw a rising level of incidents occurring there -- you know, General Petraeus and General Odierno made the decision to move an entire Stryker battalion up to that location to give them additional mobility, firepower -- and, as we say, troop strength, boots on the ground -- to take that into account.

We have already announced that we're going to move two additional U.S. Marine battalions out to the al-Anbar Province, when they arrive, to provide additional forces out there. Most of the time, the other assets that are being moved are being moved by division commanders within their own divisional areas. Sometimes it's simple things like intelligence assets, collection assets, tracking assets and other things of that nature that can be moved around, depending on where they sense that there's the greatest threat that exists out there.

But it's not -- we don't normally talk about troop movements until they've already occurred and forces are in place. But once they are in place and have been moved, then we're, of course, willing to talk about that at that time.

Q (Through translator.) Naseem Abdulwalhad (sp) from Al- Iraq. My question to General Caldwell. Is it sensible that America, with high technology developed in every aspect -- in politics and in everything, how can we believe that the U.S. cannot get rid of violence? The U.S. has been waging a war against terrorism for four years in Iraq and they cannot reform security or provide security or electricity to people. How can you convince people that the United States cannot, for example, provide electricity for the people?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, sir, I'd like to jump in on there in regards to the electricity. Since we have been in the country, we have either restored or refurbished or added 2,800 megawatts to the Iraqi grid. As I mentioned earlier, we have -- 75 percent of the country has more than twice as much power as it has had before.

The requirements are, as I mentioned earlier, are continuing to grow -- so we're trying to catch up with what the demand is. To build a generator system, it takes about five years to put a thermal generator in, and about a year-and-a-half to three years to put a turbine generator in -- and that's here in this country. In our country, it takes even longer to put those -- to put those systems in because of many of the different requirements that are needed before we're able to install those things.

So there is -- it does take time to build electrical generation systems and plants. The laws of physics is the same here as it is in the -- as it is in the United States or in any country -- and it takes time to build those structures.

MR. AL-DABBAGH: (Through translator.) I think that it is the responsibility of the Iraqis to improve security -- not only the American forces. The ministry of electricity should provide electricity for the people. As for the other parties, they help us in this respect -- the Iraqis are mainly responsible about that, especially the ministry of electricity.

We ask the minister of electricity --

Q Hi. You've talked a lot about how the -- there was the thought that maybe if violence came down in Baghdad, there would be some pushing out to Dyala to other provinces - and you've seen that. But you also said today that the numbers for casualties are still roughly the same, or -- in Baghdad. So is your -- are you concluding that the insurgency or al-Qaeda is actually more active than, or more pervasive than you thought? Has there been more cells? How do you explain that they seem to be almost expanding, or is that your conclusion -- what is your conclusion about that -- the pervasiveness of the violence that you're seeing?

GEN. CALDWELL: What I would tell you is the -- and I probably should have been more clear with you -- the levels have, in fact, dropped in Baghdad, but not as significant as the murders and executions. So there has been a drop in overall casualties within Baghdad.

I was also looking more holistically at all of Iraq because they have, in fact, done sensational high-profile car bombs outside of the Baghdad province. And that has -- when you looked overall at the country at large -- writ large, you have seen a, not a great reduction that we had wanted to see thus far.

But again, they've -- what they've, what al-Qaeda has done, they have deliberately gone against very soft areas where they can get to a larger number of innocent Iraqi civilians. I mean, these people are just conducting mass murders is what they're doing. And they're trying to discredit this government for what it's trying to do for its people -- to bring back security, to provide basic services, to give them the ability to live, you know, with a relative degree of stability and security in their country. And then they're also trying to discredit the security forces that are out there operating to protect the people themselves.

So the thing that amazes all of us as we watch the continued resiliency of the Iraqi people. I mean, more and more, you can see that they understand what's going on. They truly are starting to reject a lot of this violence and the Iraqi security forces are becoming more capable all the time too. And they're becoming more determined in protecting the Iraqi people.

We can just look -- you look at what happened, you know, about two weeks ago, even within Baghdad city, when they stopped that car bomb down near Sadr City. I mean, seven Iraqi security police officers gave their lives at that check-point in stopping that car bomb from getting into the city.

I mean, time and time again, we see the security forces being very dedicated, very committed to protect the people of Iraq. So everybody recognized that some of this would go to the outskirts -- and everybody is making adjustments, moving some additional intelligence collection assets and some other things to, in fact, take on and confront that very issue.

MODERATOR: Time for one more question.

MR. AL-DABBAGH: (In Arabic)

Q There was a -- General Caldwell, Dr. Dabbagh -- there was a report a couple of days ago in a British newspaper that basically said that the five individuals that were -- the Iranian individuals that were taken into custody, were -- it was because you guys were actually going after two high-level (al-Quds ?) guys. And I just wanted you to comment on this report. I'm sure you've seen it and maybe you can elaborate a bit on it if you --

GEN. CALDWELL: What I would tell you is that the operation was conducted that day -- going after some people that were alleged to have been conducting illegal activities inside of Iraq. And, as we have stated multiple times, if there is people who are inside of Iraq who are conducting illegal activities, then we will, in fact, target them and go after them. And that operation was conducted against that facility up there -- that was not a diplomatic facility, it was just a normal building up in that area -- and we detained those five personnel that appeared to be Iranian intelligence officers, that were there and have picked up information from that site too and have shared some of that already with the government of Iraq.

MR. AL-DABBAGH: (Through interpreter.) Thank you, General Caldwell -- (inaudible) -- General Walsh, thank you very much.


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