Weekly press conference with Maj. Gen. Willian Caldwell IV, spokesman, MNF-I, and Maj. Gen. David Edgington, director, Air Component Coordination Element, MNF-I, May 9, 2007
WEEKLY PRESS CONFERENCE WITH MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN AND DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF FOR STRATEGIC EFFECTS, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ; AND MAJOR GENERAL DAVID EDGINGTON, DIRECTOR, AIR COMPONENT COORDINATION ELEMENT, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ TOPIC: SECURITY OPERATIONS IN IRAQ LOCATION: THE COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQ TIME: 8:00 A.M. EDT DATE: WEDNESDAY, MAY 9, 2007
GEN. CALDWELL: Good afternoon. "As-salaam aleikum."
It is my privilege to be with you here today, and I've brought with me -- to you my good friend Major General Dave Edgington. Dave is the director of the Air Component Coordination Element of the Multinational Force Iraq, and he'll also be involved in the press conference today.
As we have always said, the future of Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq. They are the key to the leadership of this country. Ultimately, our Iraqi partners must take responsibility for their own security, governance and economics.
As we have also clearly stated, this is not trivial. In fact, the challenges the people of Iraq face are significant, but they are not insurmountable.
Six months ago, some said that Al Anbar was lost, but today, due to the patience, perseverance and commitment of the people in that province, we are seeing encouraging signs of progress in regards to security.
A few months ago, the Anbar security conference, attended by the Iraqi minister of Defense, the Iraqi national security adviser, provincial Iraqi security force and coalition force commanders, provided a forum for sharing of knowledge. This meeting created an environment for the initial promising steps towards security that we see happening in the Al Anbar province today.
Increasing collaboration between tribal and Iraqi key leaders has resulted in numerous elected municipal councils and much more active community mayors. Today the people of Al Anbar have greater confidence and expectation in their Iraqi security forces and in their municipal and provincial governments.
Successful tribal engagement has also brought a dramatic rise in recruitment for both the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police from amongst the Anbari population. As a matter of fact, the last three basic training courses for the Iraqi army ran over 100 percent of capacity just to handle all of the new recruits -- this in spite and, in some cases, in defiance of al Qaeda's continuous campaign of murder and intimidation that we see out there.
Since the beginning of the year, there have been more than 500 attacks against the police in Al Anbar. The Iraqi police and provincial security forces' familiarity with the local neighborhoods is critical of ridding al Qaeda block by block from the cities and towns of Al Anbar.
While these security forces remain dependent on coalition force support, they are steadily improving both their professionalism and their capabilities. This is demonstrated by progress made in Ramadi. Much like our clear, hold and build strategy of Fard al-Qanun here in Baghdad, recent and relentless operations with Iraqi security forces and coalition forces have proven successful in clearing the majority of the city and allowed them to establish Iraqi police stations and joint security stations.
Thanks in large part to these joint security efforts, security district councils were quickly formed within the neighborhoods of the capital city.
Today these districts have designated one representative each to form the city council. The Ramadi City Council meets regularly and will soon have a renovated city government to call its home.
Along the Syrian border, al Qaim has become a model city to emulate. Al Qaim was the first city to fully stand against al Qaeda in late 2005. Today this important border city is represented by a municipal government effectively operating under the very capable leadership of Mayor Farhan. Al Qaim will soon open its border with Syria, an event that will fulfill many economic development objectives long sought by the people of al Qaim.
This is progress, but it is also just the beginning. So much more needs to be done. Continued vigilance against al Qaeda, improved government capacity, sustained economic development and focused reconstruction are among the critical challenges that remain ahead for the people of Al Anbar. It is clear that Anbaris that have a lot of work to do and will continue to need patience, perseverance and commitment.
This same patience, perseverance and commitment is needed in Baghdad as Iraqi security forces, supported by coalition forces, continue pressing our efforts as part of Operation Fard al-Qanun. As you can tell from the Al Anbar efforts, they are both complex, and there are many tasks that assist in supporting the stabilization of Iraq. But the most vital element is the people themselves. Together, they, with the Iraqi security forces and us supporting them, are making progress.
Each time we come here, we try to provide a (glimpse ?) that will bring a different aspect to better help you understand the contributions and the sacrifices to support these efforts. Today General Dave Edgington can talk with you about the commitment of protecting the Iraqi people, demonstrated daily by our coalition Air Force men and women.
GEN. EDGINGTON: Thanks, Bill.
As General Caldwell described to you, I am, in my role as the air component coordination element, the principal liaison from the coalition force air component commander to General Petraeus. I represent air power of all of the services and all of the coalitions that contribute to the effort over here. And as such, what I want to do today is to reinforce for you what many of you already know, the contributions, the integral part of the joint force effort that we have, the integral part that is played by air power. I'll talk a little bit about the capabilities that we provide, starting out with the space capabilities. I think everybody understands that we have a lot of satellite support to this theater. It starts with providing the signals for precision navigation, which all of our forces are so critically dependent upon, as well as a communications capability that the satellites have. Not only are we relaying the communication itself of verbal; it's also imagery but it's also the command and control communication link to allow for the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and the control of those from across the United States and from remote locations. And then also from satellites we have imagery and intelligence and surveillance that occurs from the satellites.
Then we go to the air power piece of this and we have what I think many of you are aware of, is the airlift contribution that we have with the number of sorties that the airlift provides. We carry the equivalent of the support necessary for the Normandy invasion on a daily basis here. We transport 3,000 -- on an average, 3,000 troops both into, out of and intra-theater. And every day we average about 50 detainees that we move to a permanent detention facility. There are over 100 sorties in theater every day from airlift that goes on to support this incredible part of what we do. As well as all of the supplies and the pallets that are carried, there are hundreds of convoys every week that are avoided based on what the airlift provides to the theater.
Looking at the helicopter contributions, of course through Army air we have attack helicopters, but there's a lot of medium lift and light lift capability in the helicopters. But I also don't want to miss the humanitarian piece of the emergency medical evacuation piece of the helicopters that we have in theater. All of the services have an air evac capability, and we have some incredibly talented regional hospitals that are dedicated to both coalition and Iraqi casualties to be able to have a great impact on life-saving skills to be able to save them, and again, a lot of that due to the helicopters that we have.
Refueling. We have the tanking capability that we're constantly providing. We pump about 3.5 million gallons of fuel a day to sustain the air effort that goes on in the theater.
Let me move to the surveillance and reconnaissance piece. We have a lot of unmanned aerial vehicles, the UAVs that we fly to keep a 24-hour, seven day a week watch over the territory to try to find insurgents and al Qaeda and those elements that we're working against here in Iraq. It not only is the Predators, the Warriors, the smaller UAVs that we have, but we also have U2 reconnaissance vehicles, and then we go to larger platforms like our AWACS radar and the J-STARS radar aircraft that are keeping a constant eye and contribute to the effort of adding those capabilities to the other forces that we have in theater.
And then most of the time people think about the fighters and the bombers, and they refer to this as the kinetic operation many times. And kinetics to me means that we're using an explosive, whether it's a missile or a rocket or a bomb off of an aircraft, that would be those that we have in the fighters and the bombers in the theaters. Now, with some of those I've brought several videos that I'll take the next five minutes to go through with you to show you some of the different things that we do to support the ground forces from the air.
So if we can go ahead and move to the first video. And let me set this up. The first one that I'll show you, to show that it's not all about bombs from the air, is -- this is one of the air drops. Now, this particular one happened on the 29th of April, just a week ago. Australian forces in the south of Iraq in a rather remote location were looking for resupply of water, food and tires. And these Australian forces are training Iraqi security forces in this part of southern Iraq.
And so this just demonstrates -- you can roll the tape -- that we would fly over instead of -- there's no prepared field. We will go ahead and have the pallets go off. You'll see the parachutes come off. And the accuracy of GPS-guided pallets will drop these to within meters of where the troops are ready to accept these and offload the pallets for resupply.
Let me now move to a video that will demonstrate for you what the Predator capability is. This is our UAV, our unmanned aerial vehicle, which is keeping constant watch over the territory. Their mission many times is just to go survey and look for indicators of something that could be used against coalition forces. In this case, this Predator detected movement, looked at this area, and they find an anti-Iraqi force uncovering -- obviously a bad guy here -- an anti- aircraft artillery gun.
So go ahead and roll the tape. You can clearly see that he's taking it off. The size of this gun and the stanchions it is on is clearly something to be used against allied forces or the coalition forces. This information will be passed from the Predator down to a ground team. And the ground commander with that responsibility for that area will then go and engage that to render it incapable of threat to us.
The next one is in Basra. Let me show you this one. This is actually gun tape from an F-16. The F-16 carries those weapons capabilities, the kinetic option. In this case, however, because of the fact that this is in the middle of a very urban city, I want to show you the decision process and how we work with the ground forces.
This F-16 was asked to come provide some over-watch capability. Basra airfield and coalition forces in Basra had been taking some indirect fire, some mortar and some rocket rounds, and they thought that one of the points of origin was very close to this.
Roll the tape. What the F-16 will do is, as he's watching and (turning around ?), you can see the large intersection and the build- up of this. He will pick up right down in here the launch of a rocket. Once he gets that, he will narrow in on that, and you'll see this any second here, and what he does then is he will track that. He is able to see several people. There's the launch of a rocket. He comes down, finds the building, narrows in on that.
He's able to see some people disassembling equipment and running into the building, and he then goes into the building that was off to about the 5:00 position there, monitors those. Again, he has a kinetic option. He has weapons, but he recognizes because of the potential for not knowing what else is around and in a building, that's not something we're going to use at that point.
So he calls down to the ground team and gets a quick reaction team to respond to, and he describes the building that they went into. In this case we were able to go in and detain five people and find the rockets that were being used to engage that fire. So again, the cooperation from the air to the ground.
In this one, this is up north of Fallujah, I believe. This was a ground team of four -- well, there's more than four. There's several vehicles that we've got. But these are coalition forces, and you're going to see once we do roll the tape a team that is going into a building over here. And what they're doing -- it's been identified through intelligence that there are three high-value individuals over here. When we label a high-value individual, it's not just something who's shooting back at us. This is some individual who has been identified as being either part of leadership or key in building an IED factory, something of that nature. Three of them are reported to be in this building.
So what this F-16 is doing is providing cover. He will be available to apply weapons if necessary, but in this case, as you'll see -- and you can go ahead and roll the tape -- he's kind of covering for these individuals.
He's in radio contact with our tactical air controller on the ground; so that if he sees a threat developing that these guys would be unaware of as they're closing in on the building, he has the ability to call that out. If something was coming around this side of the building, they could warn our team as they're going in. So it's an overwatch; it's a constant communication in support of the ground troops. And in this case, the three high-value individuals were detained.
The next one I'd like to show you -- and this is where we start getting into some kinetic options here -- this one is a team of anti- Iraqi forces that were firing at Balad Air Base. Balad Air Base has taken some mortars and some rockets, and we located, via some of the sensors that we have, a point of origin of where we thought that this fire was coming from. We happened to have a Predator in the air coming back at the time to Balad Air Base. The Predator keyed its sensors over almost immediately and found a team, and you'll see here three individuals who are carrying things, running up this river road. There's nobody engaged with them at the time, but you'll see as this develops that we have an Apache who is also returning to base that is able to come in via the Predator, communicating with them, they engage the team.
Go ahead and roll the tape.
So we know where they started. We know that they're running up the road, so already highly suspect that these are bad guys. Then they will take cover and they will hide. You can see them hiding in here at this point. They may think that they're hiding from us. We like to say that you can run, but you're just going to die tired because we can trace you the entire time. And so these guys now run up farther, and you'll see they go down a river embankment to try to hide.
They'll come down in this area and try to duck down behind there, and you can see based on the heat of the body that they are down closer to the river on a river embankment, and now the Apache has come in and he is starting to engage these guys. The first couple shots are not successful enough to take these guys out. At this point, we're not sure, but we do follow up to ensure that these guys pay the ultimate price for their attempts at trying to kill people of the coalition on Balad Air Base. I think we've got about one more sequence here where we know that we've completed the mission. Okay. The next video I'd like to show you, as soon as this one is done -- let me get the dates straight on these to show you the currency of some of these. This one is of 30 April, so the next one is -- here we go. This one happened in 30 -- 30th of April. Predator -- and this is a Predator that we have now -- the advanced -- the more advanced UAVs coming into theater have the capability of carrying weapons. This is a Predator that has a Hellfire missile that is loaded up.
His responsibility is an area of Baghdad, and during his patrolling this, he notices movement and static movement, movement around this location, and this is an indicator of a team that is planting an IED at this point. We can confirm that based on the imagery and following this. This developed over about an hour's time frame.
Go ahead and roll the tape.
So looking at the options and looking at his capability and nobody else being in proximity to this to be able to run it, the Predator then is given the authority to -- again, based on the precision that he has and the ability from a lack of collateral damage -- again, he's going to shoot this direction so that there's little potential to hit the buildings next to it. And you can see by the secondary explosion that that was an explosive device that was in the ground there that was planted, again, aimed at either innocent Iraqis or coalition forces was the intent of that one.
This happens to be a pre-planned target that happened on the 1st of April, that we had F-16s -- (two-ship ?) of F-16s engaged. This was identified as an IED factory, and again, we've identified this one a day or two before, so a pre-planned target. We've already done all of the estimates of potential collateral damage. We know that it's a target we need to take out.
Go ahead and run it.
In this one, the F-16s dropped two bombs on these two buildings. Those are the two explosions. On those you can see the huge explosion, which is much more than our bombs produce by themselves. And then, finally, this last one, you can tell by that that there are a large cache of additional explosives in that building. So again, that one, a successful mission to taking out what could have been used against the Iraqi people or coalition forces.
This last one that I've got for you just happened this last weekend, in fact, on Sunday, the 6th of May. We have bombers, B-1s, that are now in theater here, and he was on a mission to support as necessary. The battalion commander on the ground identified this shack as being a weapons cache, so you know, mortar rounds, rocket launchers and so forth that were in here. He's identified it and confirmed it, but there's a little bit of time. There's nothing that's happening around here right now.
So what happens here is that the folks on the ground will call it to the airborne asset. He will relay that back to the CAOC, our air operations center for the region. They will go through an analysis and ensure and approve that this is a legitimate target, that there's no damage necessary. And then they gave -- this was over the course of about 30 minutes. The authority to engage this was relayed back, and then go ahead and roll the tape.
The B-1 with one bomb takes this out. And again you'll notice, by the secondary and the explosives there, that's more than just one bomb. And you see the plume coming out of it, so those were weapons that will no longer be capable of being used against coalition forces or innocent Iraqis.
Okay, that's all I have to share with you on the videos. Hopefully that helps reinforce for you what airpower is doing in the theater, and back over to you, Bill.
GEN. CALDWELL: Okay, and with that we'll be glad to take whatever questions you all have. Over here.
Q (Through interpreter.) Question for General Caldwell, do you think that these tribal collaborations represent a vital and a positive point? And will there be other collaborations like this in the future? This is the first question.
The second question is, it's not a question exactly. We're witnessing that there's so many -- American officials are visiting Iraq, but there is no invitation to the Iraqi media, just the Western media. So why is this happening? Why do you invite the Western media and not the Iraqi media, like Dick Cheney and others? Thank you.
GEN. CALDWELL: You are correct. Our vice president is visiting here. I was not aware that we had not made it an open press event, so I'll go back and look into that. I appreciate you bringing that to my attention if that was the case. I'll ask the question.
And your first question was about joint operations such as this we just observed. Is that what the question was? I'm just trying to clarify that I've got it right. Q (Through interpreter.) The question is, the first question, do you think that the cooperation that these tribes are doing in Anbar, are there any American --
GEN. CALDWELL: Well, I'll tell you about what's very interesting. First of all, the success that, and I should say, the progress that's being made in Al Anbar is because of the Iraqi people. I had a chance to talk again with the commander up there this morning. And he's very clear that all the coalition forces are doing is helping him set conditions.
But it's the Iraqi people themselves that have made the difference out there. They have made a decision that they're not going to tolerate al Qaeda anymore, because of the brutal methods that they've been using against the Iraqi people in that area. And so they have taken a stand, and he has seen it.
Since February time frame up till now, he sees it in terms of the number of recruits that are joining the army, the number of recruits that want to come into the police force.
I mean, is he explaining it -- he said there are so many recruits now trying to join the police force that we can't put them all in through the process and into the system quick enough, that the decision now has been made to build a police academy -- and it's in progress of being built -- out there in Al Anbar just to handle this incredible flow that has started since about the late January-beginning of February timeframe, because of the tribal decision that was made, that they want their young men to be involved in providing greater security for Al Anbar province. But it's truly the Iraqi people that have made the difference out there. And they're showing steady progress, and it's very encouraging to watch.
And we of course are staying very closely linked with them. We provide the training for a lot of these forces and the Iraqi government provides the munitions, the weapons and everything else. That's not something we do. And this of course is sanctioned by the Ministry of Interior, where the police forces (are moving forward ?).
STAFF: Right there.
Q Hi. I was wondering if you could give me an update on what's going on with the walls that are going up in certain districts in Baghdad. I've been out of the country, sorry. The last I heard was that the prime minister -- that he wanted it stop, but I understand from people in Adhamiya that this wall is still being built around Adhamiya, so if you can tell me what's going on with that.
GEN. CALDWELL: Sure. As I think you know, it's part of the whole Operation Fard al-Qanun. The intent is to protect the people. So as they've been putting up these temporary protective barriers throughout Baghdad -- I mean, they've been putting up literally thousands of them. And you'll see them around marketplaces, you'll see them around banks, you'll see them around hospitals, government institutions, and you'll see them in the neighborhoods.
If you just take Rusafa alone, in two months, over 3,200 of these temporary protective barriers were put into Rusafa. I mean, so it shows you the magnitude and the effort that's ongoing, with the primary purpose to thwart the car bombs. That's the real intent that really started off behind most of these being placed out there.
You're also seeing them put in neighborhoods. In Adhamiya, they predominantly were put up along the major thoroughfare there to protect both the people traveling on the road from any kind of firing or gunfire back and forth with the vehicles moving along it and people coming up to the edge and firing at vehicles.
But the prime minister is aware. The discussions continue as to where these temporary protective barriers are being emplaced, and they do discuss it each week in part of the Ministerial Commission for National Security. So that committee each Sunday is discussing this.
General Aboud makes the final decisions. I mean, he is the commander for Baghdad. It's not an American commander. It's General Aboud. He's been designated by the prime minister. So the instructions he gets and the guidance that we take from him as we move forward in this are closely coordinated. It's nothing being done independently.
So there are still temporary protective barriers being put up and around Adhamiya at this point, but it's not -- it's being done with the government of Iraq's full awareness.
Q So is General Aboud overriding the cabinet, though?
GEN. CALDWELL: No, no, no. In fact, there is a discussion that occurred at the Ministerial Committee for National Security. They did discuss where these -- I mean, there's literally thousands and thousands of temporary protective barriers going up throughout the city. I mean, again, just take Rusafa -- 3,200 in 60 days alone. So they are still going up, and they're going to go up wherever they're needed to protect the people.
That's the intent, is to put barriers up, these temporary protective barriers, where they in fact are going to provide greater security for the people of Baghdad. And so wherever that's determined, but the Iraqis, the Iraqi government, General Abboud, they are the ones that are aware of and make that decision and approve where these things are going to be emplaced.
Q Can you say when that last meeting was?
GEN. CALDWELL: There's one every Sunday.
STAFF: A question on this side of the room?
GEN. CALDWELL: Yes, sir?
Q (Through interpreter.) Ali Humza (ph). First question. What about the detainees -- the Iranian detainees? And have the United States allowed their families to visit them? The second question, for Mr. David, the American forces yesterday have bombed an elementary school in Diyala province. How could you explain this bombing?
GEN. CALDWELL: Let me start off first. The Multinational Force did inform the International Committee for Red Cross that the Iranian detainees could have family members visit with them. And we understand that there is an intent to visit. The names have been provided, as I understand at this point, to the ICRC and they're being looked at. And that visit, I would assume, would take place fairly soon. But yes, they are allowed to visit. It's done through -- just like anybody else that wants to come visit somebody who's in detention. The same procedures will be followed. And they'll be allowed access to meet with and talk with those who are in detention.
As far as the second one goes, let me just be real clear. There was not any kind of attack against a school. I just want to make sure we're very clear on that. There was a helicopter engagement up in Diyala province yesterday in the Mandali area that it occurred. And aerial assets had observed and seen some insurgent elements setting up illegal checkpoints, were observing them, and then when they were observed to be emplacing an IED, a roadside bomb that could be used against anybody, Iraqi civilians or anything, coalition forces, security, any kind of security forces, the decision was made at that time to engage those bomb emplacers, and that did occur. From the people we have on the ground up there right now, we have been told that it has been reported that there may have been some civilians that were both killed and injured in that attack against the bomb emplacers. Obviously, that's extremely regrettable, and if it did occur -- and we're looking into that aright now. There is an ongoing investigation to ascertain exactly what did occur up there. We have people on the ground and that's developing as we speak.
GEN. EDGINGTON: I can't add anything to that. I know you directed the question to me, but he -- (inaudible).
GEN. CALDWELL: And I only took it because it was rotary wing aircraft from the United States Army that did that engagement.
Q (Through interpreter.) I have a question for Major General Caldwell concerning an incident that happened last Monday where an American force or a unit (in Shula ?) had also detained at checkpoint in -- (inaudible) -- and also detained some Iraqis with giving no justification.
So my question is, how can the American forces detain these Iraqi troops or Iraqi checkpoints?
GEN. CALDWELL: I'm not familiar with the specifics of this one incident. I will tell you, though, we are -- we, all the security forces -- the Iraqi security forces and us -- are very concerned about illegal checkpoints that are set up and are used at different times.
And so this may have been -- and I am not sure -- it may have been an illegal checkpoint, and that's why those people may have been detained. But we'll be glad to get the specifics and look into that case you're asking about and get back to you and talk about that one specific case.
Q (Through interpreter.) Santal Qaim (sp) from Ashur TV. General Caldwell, yesterday the Pentagon has announced that there will be redeployments and use of 10 brigades. Where will they be located and deployed? Where and when?
And a question for General David. According to -- we have seen that the insurgents and how they implant the IEDs -- how much time do you need so that these informations can get to you? And how much time do you need to move towards these places and towards the IEDs that are planted and you can get rid of the --
GEN. CALDWELL: I'll take the first one on. The announcement by the Department of Defense yesterday about the 10 brigades is a normal troop rotation announcement. This is -- when the units have completed their deployment over here, which is now 15 months, the replacement unit that's going to come in for them is notified ahead of time, put on alert for deployment, so that both the families and the troops can prepare for that deployment, the troops can go through the required training, and then preparations can be made to deploy over here.
So those 10 brigades will deploy sometime between the month of late August through December, as normal -- as part of a normal troop replacement, not as -- these are not additional forces coming in. They'll be a troop replacement coming in.
And again, whether or not they all finally deploy will be a decision that's made based upon the conditions on the ground, an evaluation made by both the commander and the leadership of the U.S. government, in close consultation, obviously, with the prime minister of Iraq.
GEN. EDGINGTON: And as to your second question, I hope you all appreciate the number of the IEDs that are being placed right now. And this is a concerted effort on behalf of the coalition forces to take down the IEDs either at a factory level, at the planting level, when it's being implanted, or after they've been detected to be into disturbed earth.
On a daily basis, if I could offer to you that -- you know, obviously there's some tragic, catastrophic explosions that cause many casualties. There's also several that cause just a few casualties, and there's some that cause absolutely no casualties.
We probably disarm about half or a little less than half of all the IEDs on a daily basis that are detected. So -- to give you an approximation of the numbers that we're having an effect against.
You asked how fast we can do that. Well, that depends on the resources.
All of our collection assets, our surveillance assets, are constantly looking for any indications. And so if we see disturbed earth, a spot that may indicate there's a potential for an IED, we will call that down to the ground commander who's responsible for that area.
Of course it depends on his proximity, access and the safety of his forces, as to how quickly he can respond to that. But in almost every case when we have high suspicion of an IED, we will block the road to protect any innocents or certainly coalition from being exposed to this until we can neutralize the situation. In the things that you saw in the videos, if we see individuals planting an IED and we have the capability, whether it be an Apache helicopter or a Hellfire on a Predator, we will engage as soon as we go through the routine decision matrix that we have to ensure that there's no collateral damage, and that we confirm that this is anti-Iraqi forces that are implanting this device. So you know, timeliness, we will do it as quick as we can.
Q I wanted to ask you about the dead bodies being found, especially around Baghdad. The numbers seem to have been increasing in recent days. What do you attribute that to? Do you think that -- do you attribute it to the sectarian death squads?
GEN. CALDWELL: We do. There has been a very slight uptick in the last two weeks in the numbers of murders and executions that we have observed within the Baghdad area. Obviously we're making adjustments and refinements to where our forces are operating, we being the Iraqi security forces and us together, and looking also at future joint security station locations, too.
It's been very minimal. I mean, it's not been anything significant, obviously nowhere near what it was before Operation Fard al-Qanun started, but there has been a slight uptick. And we're looking at that very closely, and obviously we're very concerned about it, too.
Q Do you have a percentage --
GEN. CALDWELL: It's not a real significant -- I'd have to go back and try to figure percents. But it's nothing over -- it's a slight uptick. But any kind of uptick, you know, we get very concerned about and want to watch very closely and track, and obviously trying to figure out where it's occurring; why do we think it's occurring; what are the patterns associated with them? And we go back and are doing some pretty detailed analysis. And some of the numbers I've heard have been less than through our system have been reported over the last two weeks. But still there has -- even through our own system, which at least stays consistent, now we do report, there has been a slight uptick.
And again, I guess the thing I'd say about that is, too, we also know, we do not have all our forces in place yet. You know, we still have a fifth brigade coming in. We still have our aviation brigade coming in; we still have additional Iraqi security forces that are being trained and equipped as part of the prime minister's initiative that he announced back in January. So there are still additional forces that are going to be put into this overall effort.
Q (Through interpreter.) You said that the security situation in Anbar is good, and the people of Anbar have good confidence in the Iraqi forces that within three months, there is also training for the Iraqi forces. And this includes heading to Ramadi and that there will be a center for you in Ramadi. Do you think the Iraqi forces now can handle the responsibility of security there, or there should be some more training for them?
GEN. CALDWELL: What I would tell you is that the situation in Al Anbar is improving. And there's still a ways -- I mean, it's still risky out there. I don't mean to make the impression that the security has been brought back under complete control, but the progress that was made just alone between January and today is extremely significant. But we still have a ways to go out there.
The Iraqi security forces have turned out in numbers that we've never seen before.
Six months ago, when we tried to form -- fill the classes for police training, we could not get enough Al Anbaris to come to and be a part of the Iraqi police force. Today we have them waiting in line for more classes to occur.
So they have made a decision out there themselves. This is nothing to do with the coalition force. I mean, these are -- the Iraqi people have made the decision that they are going to do something different, that they're going to take back, they're going to decide their future out there, and it's having an incredible impact. I mean, we see it just in the -- if you go in and look at the number of caches that used to be found if you took a 12-month average and then looked at it in the last three months, it has gone up several thousand. I mean, it's just an incredible difference, and again, it's not because we are getting better at finding caches. It's because the people of Al Anbar are reporting more where these caches are.
And there's a lot of other indications like that that are very positive, that if continued, could really turn the situation out in Al Anbar for the Iraqi people to allow those other aspects of economic development and governance to continue.
I mean, just the other day they went out to Ramadi and went -- this is the Iraqi judicial system, went out there and took the 150 Iraqis that were in detention and had investigative judges listen to their cases. Out of that, about 20 of them were easily released because of insufficient evidence. The others -- we decided they were going to move on to the trial process and bring them into the central criminal court of Iraq in the Rule of Law Complex that they've established here in Rusafa. I know 50 of them came in yesterday and will go through now their court system.
I mean, if we're ultimately going to establish a difference here in this country -- the Iraqis that is -- their judicial system has to work, and you see that taking hold. It's by no means where they eventually want it to go, but it's a major step forward doing something that has not occurred for the last three years out in Al Anbar. So that's a very positive sign that a difference is starting to occur.
STAFF: General, we have time for two more questions.
Q Yeah, I have a question about the incident yesterday in Diyala for either of you. The target was described as bomb emplacers, but according to the release, two children were killed, which leads me now to: How certain were you they were emplacing IED and -- because normally that activity doesn't traditionally take place with children. So are you absolutely certain they were bombing emplacers and it was not something else?
GEN. CALDWELL: The two suspected IED emplacers that were killed were identified by local residents, and according to local residents -- again, the same people that are being interviewed at this time -- these were supposedly high-level bomb-maker manufacturers/emplacers. They're identified as Abdow Hadir Dadousch (ph) and Watah Khalifa Dadousch (ph) -- are the two names that the local citizens up there have told us are actually bomb-makers and emplacers. But again, they also reported that there was the loss of civilian life, which is extremely regrettable.
And that's why we're doing the investigation.
GEN. EDGINGTON: And I'll just add to the point of -- the reports that I have read on this have -- again, they go along with everything that General Caldwell said. But we detected this from a UAV-type oversight, that they were watching them emplace the IEDs. So there was absolutely no question of that.
During the handover over to the helicopters, the helicopters engaged them at a subsequent time, with a positive identification on the IED emplacers. So from what I have read, there was little question that these were, as produced by the names, the guilty parties. Now, again, we are investigating why civilian deaths were caused in this attack.
STAFF: Gentlemen, last question.
GEN. CALDWELL: Yes, ma'am?
Q General, in the past week, you have spoken about collusion between -- probable collusion between Iran and Sunni insurgents, citing weapons that Sunni insurgents were using that came from Iran. Can you tell us anything more about that -- i.e., are these weapons that are directly going to Sunni insurgents from the Iranians? Are there middlemen? How does this transaction happen, and to what extent does it exist?
GEN. CALDWELL: What I would say about the connection between the Iranian intelligence operatives and Sunni insurgents -- I think we've been real careful to try to say at this point that we have come -- confidence in -- we can -- we have credible intelligence on and information from debriefings that they are providing support. I don't think we've gone so far as to try to specify the specific kind of support that is being provided. Again, it is only select elements. It's not all Sunni insurgents. But rather we do know that there is a direct awareness by Iranian intelligence officials that they are providing support to some select Sunni insurgent elements.
And again, we have not gone any -- really further than that to describe the specifics of that support.
Q Are weapons -- is there evidence of weapons being used or -- GEN. CALDWELL: What we don't know is -- we're still ascertaining exactly -- what we will say is, we do know they're providing support in terms of financial support at this point, and then we're still more carefully examining the information and intelligence we derived before we would say anything further.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. CALDWELL: Right now what we have said is to Sunni -- to some Sunni extremist elements. And again, we're just trying to make sure that -- if we make a statement, that we have the definitive information and intelligence and corroborate it with one or two sources, more than one, before we say something like that.
We'll take one more. Yes, sir?
Q (Through interpreter.) This evidence against Iran -- do you think that Iran is backing the insurgents to fight Americans in Iraq or also just funding these militias just to sabotage Iraq?
GEN. CALDWELL: I think it's a combination of both. You know, again, I think they were real clear in Sharm el-Sheikh. There was a statement signed by all the parties present that everyone should allow Iraqis to decide Iraqis' future and that there should be no outside interference and there should be no support from outside elements to anybody other than the legitimate government of Iraq that's recognized by, you know, international standards and, you know, has been elected by the people themselves of Iraq. So that's what we would encourage everybody to do. They all signed that statement, and we would just encourage everybody to do that, so that Iraqis can decide Iraq's future.
Okay. Thank you very much.
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