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Weekly press conference with Maj. Gen. Willian Caldwell IV, spokesman, MNF-I, and Brig. Gen. Marck Gurganus, commander, Ground Combat Element, MNF- West, on operations in Al Anbar province, May 13, 2007

Multi-National Force-Iraq


GEN. CALDWELL: Good afternoon. "As-salaam aleikum." Again, it's our privilege to be here today to dialogue with you all.

I'd like to start off by first of all saying that six months ago, some people would say that Al Anbar was lost. But due to the patience, perseverance and commitment of the people in that province, we are seeing encouraging signs of progress in regards to the security up there. This same patience, perseverance and commitment is needed in Baghdad as Iraqi forces, supported by coalition forces, continue pressing our efforts as part of Operation Fard al-Qanun.

The future of Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people. Our Iraqi partners must ultimately take responsibility for their own security, governance and economics. Iraqis are key to the leadership to this country.

Today I've brought with you -- with me my good friend Brigadier General Mark Gurganus.

GEN. GURGANUS: Thank you, sir.

GEN. CALDWELL: Mark is commander of the Ground Combat Element for the Multinational Force West out in Al Anbar province. Mark is on his second tour here in Iraq. He was here in 2005, where he was a regimental combat team commander in the Multinational Force West, operating in the Fallujah area.

And if I could, Mark, I'll turn it over to you at this point.

GEN. GURGANUS: Okay. "Salaam aleikum." It's good to be with you this afternoon.

As many of you have heard, Al Anbar has been a somewhat difficult province over the years, and the general just mentioned some of the progress. I'd like to share one little story with you and then turn it over to you for any questions that you might have for me.

Just this morning, we graduated 1,017 new soldiers at the Basic Combat Training Complex in Habbaniya. And these 1,017 new soldiers will join the 1st and the 7th Iraqi Army Divisions out in Al Anbar and become part of the Iraqi security forces that will combine with now what's nearly 15,000 police to work towards the security of Iraq in the future.

And with that, sir, I'm ready to take any questions.

Yes, sir?

Q (Through interpreter.) Amaram Hamid Mukarat (sp), Al Hurra TV. Concerning the American process in Anbar province, you've said that you've been with Sheikh Abdul Rishawi, and he said that the Iraqi Ministry of Interior does not provide any sufficient support to the Iraqi soldiers in Anbar concerning weapons.

And also there are some soldiers who haven't received their salaries for the fourth month in a row. How do you deal with this problem concerning supporting the Iraqi forces?

GEN. GURGANUS: We have built security forces at quite a rapid pace. We intentionally, you know, do not build them faster than we can equip them and faster than they can be paid. This has been a -- getting the pay system straight, getting the equipment, buying the new equipment and providing it has been a process that has taken a little bit of time, just by virtue of the fact that we didn't have enough equipment. Now we're adding these many security forces in Al Anbar that quickly.

So I will tell you that the pay issues are being resolved daily, and I will tell you that we have new equipment that is coming out as we bring the new police on line. And before we put them on the street, before the Iraqis take them and put them on the street, they are properly equipped. And by and large, they are being paid.

We do have some pay problems. We have some issues with that. But the Iraqis are working through the issues, and I think the pay problem is getting less and less each month.

Q The sheikh of Anbar said we need support of the leaders, they need the support from the Iraqi leaders. Do you have contact with these ministers?

GEN. GURGANUS: Just Friday, I spent about an hour and a half with a committee of four that was from the minister of Interior's office, led by Major General Farquhar, who had been out in Al Anbar province, particularly in the Ramadi area for about four days visiting all of the police chiefs, visiting all the police stations. And he found that -- he found things to be moving in a very good direction, and he is going back with areas where we do need more support from the minister of Interior, and he has carried those concerns back to the minister of Interior. I have no doubt that we'll get the support we need as we bring these new security forces on line.

Yes, ma'am.

Q (Through interpreter.) There are some fears that the armed tribes might grow in Anbar. Do you think that these tribes could be militias? There are also some fears that these groups could increase in Diyala province, which might influence the security situation in Iraq.

GEN. GURGANUS: I'm not very qualified to speak on what's going on in Diyala province. But to go back to your answer (sic\question) about some of the -- what we call provincial security forces that are being formed from different tribes becoming militias, I do not see these becoming militias at all, primarily because each one of these young men are screened to the same requirements that it takes to be an Iraqi police officer. And they are put through training before we ever equip them. We make sure that they have hiring orders from the minister of Interior before we use them in a security role. And additionally, each one of these that comes from the tribes as part of the provincial security forces will be required to attend the full eight-week Iraqi Police Academy eventually, as the seats become available in the academy. Right now we have a few more recruits than we have seats in each one of the academies.

So it's a good-news story. And I will tell you that we partner these forces with the Iraqi army, we partner them with coalition forces, and we work side by side with them. We put transition teams with each one of these units and we continue to work with them to build their capability and turn them into a more professional force, and they're doing very well.

GEN. CALDWELL: If I could, I could add on to the Diyala piece. There is a recognition, clearly, that up in Diyala there has been an uptick in the violence there. Due to that fact, General Odierno made the decision to move an additional 3,000 U.S. forces up there over the last six weeks. The most recent unit to have arrived up there is the 4th Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, which is comprised of two Stryker Battalions and one artillery battalion. That's in addition to the other Stryker Battalion that he had already move up there, the 5th Battalion of the 20th Infantry. So he has put in about 3,000 additional forces already to help that situation up there, and he's right now waiting to see them fully implemented and operating to see what the impact is on the overall levels of violence to make an assessment whether any additional forces are needed.

He is literally -- I talked to him this morning again about this. He's in a daily dialogue with his commander, the Multinational Division Commander North about this; it's something we're watching very carefully. But it's important to understand that, you know, we clearly recognize there's only one legitimate armed authority in this country, and that's the Iraqi security forces. The prime minister's been very clear about that. And so to ensure that those forces can operate up there and provide the security necessary, we've moved additional coalition forces up there to assist them.

Q (Through interpreter.) In one of the press interviews, one of the Anbar Awakening said that one of the regions that had been liberated from the terrorists, we don't find any police stations there. And once the U.S. troops withdraw or get out of these countries (sic), terrorists go back in. How do you comment?

GEN. GURGANUS: Could I get you to repeat that again, please?

INTERPRETER: The question is that in Al Anbar province, once we attack the terrorists as MNF-I, we do not establish any security stations with the Iraqi over there. So once we pull out from there, the terrorists will come back again to the same area. So how can we do -- what can we do about that to avoid having terrorist groups again in that same area?

GEN. GURGANUS: Okay. I can tell you that now we have Iraqi police in every major population center in Al Anbar province, and in most every one of those cases, they are partnered and -- with coalition forces. And where they're available, they're also partnered with Iraqi armies. In the police stations, you have not only the Iraqi police, but living with them also in many cases, particularly in the city of the Ramadi, you have Iraqi soldiers living there right along with the coalition forces working out of the same office, staying there, eating out of the -- you know, eating the same food and just working together day and night.

Many of these joint security stations -- and quite frankly, there are 22 total security stations that have been established in Ramadi now -- and those are all needed at the present time. As security continues to improve, we don't think that there will be a need for all of the security stations, and the minister of Interior will make those decisions. But there are security stations being built throughout these different cities and being manned not only by coalition forces, but these things -- we rely most heavily on the Iraqi police and on the Iraqi soldiers to provide security.

Yes, sir.

Q Do you have any additional information on the three soldiers that went missing yesterday? And would you be able to confirm whether the translator was among those who are missing or among those who were killed in yesterday's attack?

GEN. GURGANUS: Sir, I'm going to pass that off to you.

GEN. CALDWELL: All right.

First of all, let me just say, you know, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who both are missing or were killed in that attack that occurred yesterday morning. We have an ongoing effort obviously to find our three soldiers that are -- have a duty status of "whereabouts unknown." That's continuing. We've got about 4,000 U.S. forces that have been directly associated now with this ongoing effort. And in addition to the forces and probably more importantly are the additional assets in terms of aerial assets and intelligence assets that have been redirected and focused in there, again, trying to help us find our three missing soldiers.

The identification of those who were killed is ongoing still. We can establish now the identity of three of the American soldiers who were killed and the one Iraqi army interpreter that was killed. So the identification of four of the five who were killed is now complete. The fifth one is still ongoing. Because of that, obviously we have not released even the unit identification to which those soldiers are assigned, because we don't know who the fifth soldier is yet. That identification should be complete hopefully here shortly, the families notified, and then we'll make that announcement as to what organization that was associated with.

But I think it's important to understand. You know, when you stop to think about it, you know, in the United States military, we have a thing called the Soldier's Creed. And it says, "I will never leave a fallen comrade." It's one of our four tenets that we all live by. And to every man or woman out there serving in uniform here in Iraq from the United States, we believe in this deeply, and therefore will make every effort available to find our three missing soldiers.

You know, the families that are right now -- who have been notified that it's a question as to the status of those three members are going through tremendous anguish. And to them, you know, we can only say that everybody is fully engaged. The commanders are intimately focused on this. Every asset we have from national assets to tactical assets, and when I say national I mean United States government assets that may not habitually be routinely used on a daily basis, are being used all the way down to the 4,000 troops, the tactical assets, to locate these three missing soldiers. Q (Through interpreter.) You know that the Anbar province has witnessed some dangerous developments. So how can you assess the security operations that are going on in that province? Do you think that you have achieved some success in vanquishing the terrorists?

And the other question is, most of the people who travel to Syria or Jordan, they face -- and western places, too -- kidnapping. And so how can you assess or how can you guarantee the safety of those passengers who head to Jordan and Syria?

GEN. GURGANUS: Okay, first off, I'm not here to tell you that Al Anbar isn't still a dangerous province. There are still dangerous things going on there, and there is -- while we have achieved a great deal of success, the -- it still is -- there still are dangers. The greatest success that we have achieved has been achieved not by the coalition forces but by the Iraqi citizens themselves.

We clearly see that the Iraqi citizens have grown tired of what the insurgency has to offer. They do not want any part of it. They want a secure tomorrow. They want to move forward as part of the country of Iraq and be part of the governance, and we're seeing more and more every day that they're ready to start reconstruction and economic development.

The second probably biggest success we've seen after the fact that the citizens have stepped forward are the brave men that have stepped forward to serve in the Iraqi army and in the Iraqi police forces. Even in the face of great danger that they face every day, they come back to work. They now see and they now believe in themselves as they're part of -- they are the solution, not the coalition forces. They know that they're the solution for the future.

So those have the been the two greatest successes. We will continue now to achieve successes against the insurgents because now we have a full partnership, and coalition forces now just almost becomes an added benefit. When you look at the way the Iraqi citizens, number one, are bringing forth information, pointing out where insurgents live, pointing out where IEDs are -- but again, one of the other key successes is now the sons of Al Anbar have stood up and have -- are stepping forward to join the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police. Those will be the keys for success, not only today but primarily long term from now into the future.

The second part of your question dealt with people traveling through Al Anbar to Syria. Again, are there kidnappings that go on along the way? Yes, there are. Can their security be guaranteed all the way from Baghdad to the Syrian border? Not today it can't be. But again, we are -- the Iraqis, as they have come forth, as they're going through training, as they continue to develop capabilities, the routes between Baghdad and Syria, Baghdad and Jordan, Baghdad and Saudi Arabia will become a lot safer.

But they're stepping forward and working in that direction now. But I would never tell you that I can guarantee my own safety home this afternoon, but I think things are much improved over what they have been in the past.

Yes, sir.

Q (Through interpreter.) Ahmad Mahdi (ph), Radio Sawa. Recently, there were demands by the tribes of Anbar, especially those who are under the Anbar Rescue Province, there were some demands by them to take control of administration in the province by moving the governor himself. So does that mean that this will lead to some political issues or problems or security problems?

The second question is to General Caldwell concerning some of the members of the parliament who accused the U.S. forces of being -- some violations -- there are some violations with the Iraqi interpreters that work with the U.S. forces in Diyala province. How do you comment about this?

GEN. GURGANUS: You want me to take the first part first, sir?

GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah, go ahead.

GEN. GURGANUS: We're seeing a lot of movement in terms of a political process in Al Anbar, and we think it's a -- this is a very positive step forward. This is a step for the -- for Iraqis of one province to join the political process and to join whatever form of democratic government that is decided upon by the Iraqi people. So we see this as a healthy debate. We do not see this leading to -- we do not see this at all leading to something that's going to be a step backwards. We think this is a positive step forward.

GEN. CALDWELL: I might add for clarification this was a statement made by the members of parliament, you said, about interpreters in Diyala province, is that --

Q (Through interpreter.) Yes, sir. He said that some parliament members take that interpreters in the Diyala province are infiltrated inside the MNF-I forces and they're giving information, and this is why we are failing in the mission over there. So what do you have to say about this comment?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, first of all, what I would say is that I'm not aware of that particular statement -- we'll go back and look at that -- that was made. But what I can tell you is this, the Iraqi citizens that work with us as interpreters are absolutely critical to our mission. We could not accomplish it without them. We look at ourselves as one team.

I think the incident yesterday -- where our patrol was attacked, and you had coalition force soldiers, American soldiers who died and an Iraqi army interpreter who died too -- shows that we're continuing to fight side by side as one team in this effort to help bring greater peace and secure (sic/security) and stability to this country for the Iraqi people. So they're an indispensable member of the team, and we count on them.

But I'll go back and look at this one. We do vet our interpreters very closely. I mean, I can let Mark talk to you about how they do it out in Al Anbar, but there's a very deliberate process that goes on. They are watched -- you this whole process is watched very carefully not only by us but our Iraqi counterparts. They assist us in this effort too. So if there's somebody who's suspicious of not working for the good of the Iraqi people, then, of course, we would not allow them to be a part of our efforts.

GEN. GURGANUS: Well, I agree with that a hundred percent. The interpreter that's working primarily with our commanding general now and works with me -- he's been here for four years, and he's got a vested interest in how this goes. He's very much a part of the solution and part of our team. I agree with everything you've said, sir.

And generally, if we have one who is not working along with us and who is working against us, someone will step forward and point that out very quickly.

So I do not know the particulars of this statement either, sir, but we have pretty good luck with ours.

Yes, ma'am. I think I saw your hand first again.

Q (Through interpreter.) Two days ago there was an intention to the parliament to issue -- preventing U.S. forces to make search. Also, there was some criticism by -- for the U.S. forces that they focus on some places other than -- other places like Sadr City.

GEN. CALDWELL: What I would tell you is that any operations that are conducted inside of Baghdad as part of Operation Fard al-Qanun are closely coordinated and done with our Iraqi counterparts. When they are conducted, they're conducted against those who are operating outside of the law.

When coalition forces conduct operations, I can tell you that we absolutely only go after those who are operating outside the law. Whatever group somebody is affiliated with makes absolutely no difference to us. If they are in fact breaking the law, then they are going to be targeted, and coalition forces are going to go after them. So that's how we conduct the operations we do do.

GEN. GURGANUS: Yes, sir.

Q (Through interpreter.) Okay, sir. The second part of the question is us concentrating on Sadr City more than Al Karkh, and Al Karkh area is considered a hotter zone of terrorists. Why are we focusing only on Sadr City?

GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah. Okay. What I'll tell you is this. Within Baghdad, as part of Operation Fard al-Qanun, we've set up, under General Abboud, 10 districts that we operate in. And within each of those districts, you have a coalition force battalion along with Iraqi army and police forces that remain permanently in that district and conduct operations in that district.

So there is not one area that the Multinational Force, in coordination with the Iraqi security forces, are conducting operation over another area. The forces have been equally distributed throughout the entire city, so that they have the capability to conduct simultaneously both presence, interaction and, if necessary, you know, combat operations throughout the city at one time.

There are points in time where we go in and target a specific area, and we bring some additional forces in to assist, but there's a permanent presence now.

I mean, this is a big part of what Fard al-Qanun's about. It's getting down into the city and maintaining that long-term presence with the Iraqi security forces that had not previously been there, and then coalition forces supporting them for some period of time.

So you see these joint security stations being built, you know, that are out there so that there is a permanent presence in each of these districts by people who live there, interact with the people. Because the more contact that the Iraqi security forces and us have with the people, the greater that confidence is going to be developed. And when you achieve that kind of confidence, and again you know being out there on the ground you see this each and every day, that leads to much greater cooperation between us and the people. And that's really where we start seeing more of the information coming in, in terms of you know tips and everything else that was not necessarily as abundant or available just even four months ago, before we initiated this operation.

So the bottom line is, they're being conducted throughout the whole city all the time. It's just that every now and then you'll hear of a particular operation, a particular part of the city, because there was some contact that was made. But the troops' presence is out there each and every day throughout all of Baghdad.

Q Hello, my name is Terry Nicholson (sp). I'm an independent filmmaker. I just spent a week at an outpost in Baghdad where many of our American soldiers are working closely with Iraqi police. And in order for them to -- in this area, in order for them to do joint patrols, the American soldiers have to pay out of their own pocket for fuel purchased on the black market in order for the Iraqi police to have fuel for their vehicles.

I have a couple of questions. One is, can you speak to this? And two, when the 1,000 new Iraqi security force graduates take up their duties, what resources will be available for them to do their job?

GEN. GURGANUS: Yes, sir, I think I can answer that one.

One of the challenges you have when you rebuild an army and rebuild police from scratch, and probably one of the largest challenges, is rebuilding the logistics capability. And we're having to do that at an -- you know, I say a lot of "we" here, and there's a reason I say a lot of "we," is because I see the Iraqis as my full-up partners. I mean, we're with them day-in and day-out, but this has to be built from a national level as well -- very difficult thing to do.

What we're seeing in Al Anbar now with the 1st Division, and coming online even stronger with the 7th, which is the newer of the two divisions -- we've had the 1st Division for a couple of years now in Al Anbar. They are starting to not only develop their logistics; they're starting to deliver it.

They have fuel trucks that are bringing fuel to them.

So -- and by and large, they are working towards self- sufficiency. I won't tell you it's completely there yet, and in some cases we will back-stop them and we will provide fuel so that they continue, so that we can continue to train together so that we can continue to operate together. But I will tell you, we have had a tremendous improvement in that just -- and we're seeing that improvement -- probably monthly we see it get a little bit better. That, I think, is working itself out.

The thousand new recruits that joined, when they join and go today, when they left today to join their units, they will go with the basic individual protective equipment that they need, and they will go with their weapon. And then they will be picked up and provided transportation to their new units and then assimilated into their new units in Al Anbar, whether it be in the 1st Division or in the 7th Division. But when they leave today, they will have the -- they will have all of their equipment, their basic individual equipment that they need to fight.

GEN. CALDWELL: If I could, though, when the press conference is over, if you wouldn't mind, I'd just like to know if you wouldn't mind providing for us the joint security station that you're at here inside Baghdad, because clearly that's not the intent. And if there is a challenge, though -- you know, just like Mark said, everybody's working very diligently. This is a key thing we are focused on this year is the coalition force to help the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police to develop their logistic systems so that they're not dependent upon the coalition forces to do that.

And so if there's still a challenge out there like that and it's reached that point that you described, then we'd sure like to take it on, address it and fix that. So if you wouldn't mind, I'll ask -- okay. If we could right afterwards, that would be great.

GEN. GURGANUS: Yes, sir.

Q I believe you said last month that the number of bodies that you were finding in the streets of Baghdad had declined by about two-thirds because of the security plan. We're receiving reports now that those numbers may be up again, possibly as high as they were before the surge. Would you have any information on that? And do you think that the level of sectarian killings that are happening in the city is rising again? GEN. CALDWELL: What I'll tell you is that the number of murders and executions -- and I separate those out from those as a result of car bombs -- but the number of murders and executions that are occurring in the city are still far below the numbers that we saw before the initiation of Operation Fard al-Qanun. However, in the last two weeks, we have seen a slight uptick in those numbers, and it's something that we're looking at very carefully and making an assessment from.

The way that the joint security stations were built within inside of Baghdad that are there today is -- if you go and correlate where they are, in many cases, you'll see that that's where a lot of previous sectarian violence had occurred. And so we have placed them such that we could interact with the people and work with the people to help bring down the levels of violence.

Not all the joint security stations have been established yet that are planned to be put into place, and so that is a factor that is being looked at. As we've looked and watched over the last two weeks this slight uptick, it's obviously not anywhere near (where) it was before Operation Fard al-Qanun, but still any increase at all does concern us and makes us go back and relook with General Abboud as to where we want to emplace future joint security stations, because that's a location where the Iraqi security forces, police and army, you know, will continue to operate for much a longer period than even we would.


Q (Through interpreter.) A question to General Caldwell. A few weeks ago, there was an operation in Hayaljamniyah (ph) in western Baghdad. There's a -- there were some half an hour between clashes between those who work in the radio station and some insurgents and militia there. You said there was fast operations in all states of -- districts of Baghdad.

So there was -- but how can our fight between militias and members and the media -- no one has interfered to stop that violence there. How would you comment?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, first of all, I'll tell you, I will go back and look at this, the specifics of that incident so that we can get back to you on that with more detail. But there's nothing more important than we -- as you look at what all of us are trying to achieve here in Iraq than the media. They are absolutely paramount if we're going to have a transparent, open society, where people have confidence and trust in their government and in the governmental institutions.

What you all do on a daily basis is in fact a very dangerous business, and I understand that. And I mean, you only have to look at the statistics of the number of Iraqi citizens who work with the media to understand the challenges that each and every one of you all face on a daily basis as you're out doing your jobs trying to convey to the Iraqi people and to the world what's going on here in your country. But you're a vital piece, if in fact we're going to have an open, transparent, accountable system. And so we very much -- "we" the coalition forces very much want to support and embrace what you do and be a backstop to help you, so I will go back and look at that very closely, and we'll get back to you. Because those things are monitored on a daily basis. I mean, I can pretty much tell you where all the different Iraqi institutions that are associated with the media of any type are located within Baghdad, what kind of protection generally is associated with it, because we do take a real interest and desire to see that be able to continue to develop and work for the people of Iraq. But thank you for what you do. And it is a dangerous business, and I realize that.

GEN. GURGANUS: Yes, sir.

Q General Gurganus -- (off mike) -- was commander in Fallujah in 2005. But in this time, many information is talking about the terrorists -- they are going back to Fallujah. Why?

GEN. GURGANUS: Well, there's several things that have changed a little bit since 2005. If you recall, 2005 was right after Al-Fajr, when the city was pretty much cleared of everyone that was in it.

As people moved back in -- the last count I had, the last pretty, pretty good estimate, there were -- about 239,000 citizens had moved back into Fallujah. I think it would be -- I think we would be remiss to think that part of them that go back into Fallujah weren't going to be some of the insurgents and some of the bad people.

Fallujah's an iconic city, not only to the insurgents but also to -- particularly to the U.S. Marines but to the coalition forces. A lot of brave Marines died in -- and soldiers as well -- in 2004 in the city, and the insurgents gave a tremendous amount in that city, so it's kind of one of those places that we both feel the connection to be.

We anticipate that they will continue to try to get into the city. That's okay. The key part is that, can they get in there? Yeah, probably, in small numbers.

If you were to ask me today, are we losing Fallujah; is it backsliding? I don't think so. Let me tell you a couple of good things about Fallujah, as well.

Fallujah -- the battlespace, what we call battlespace, is not even under the command and control of the coalition forces. It's under the command and control of the 1st Iraqi Army. And what we've had, we have an Iraqi army brigade in Fallujah, and we have the Iraqi police primarily in Fallujah. And they're doing great things. If you want to see some of the successes that are going on at Fallujah, I would invite you to go to the entry control point, and just stand there and check the number of trucks going in that are hauling foodstuffs to the markets, that are hauling reconstruction materials: the dirt, the bricks, the cinderblocks that are going in.

I was in Fallujah just Thursday and had not been in the city, down in the city proper, and driven around the city since I had returned. I was amazed to find the progress that is being made. But I do think we have some people that have tried to get back into Fallujah. I think we have some that are there.

And as with everything else, we will continue with our partners to find them. We're finding them every day, and we take -- bad people are taken off the street every day. And the greatest successes that are going on in the city of Fallujah right now are completely attributable to the Iraqi police, Colonel Faisal (sp) and his police in Fallujah, and Colonel Ali and his Iraqi soldiers there, who cooperate hand in hand and work very much together to make Fallujah and keep it a safe place.

Q (Through interpreter.) (Name and affiliation inaudible.)

Question to General Caldwell, you speak about Fard al-Qanun always, and you always talk about it. And for the past two months there were so many violations, the rising of the death of the American forces, and also they're targeting the Iraqi parliament. Honestly, how do you assess this operation? Do you think it's successful? Why are you so optimistic about this operation?

GEN. CALDWELL: I can tell you, my real optimism about what the potential that exists in Fard al-Qanun is because, what I see when I go downtown. It's not based on reading reports. Being down in the Rusafa market, going down in the Karrada peninsula, going down into Sadr City all in the last couple of weeks, and having the opportunity to visit the joint security stations, walk through the markets, go into businesses, see what the businesses are doing.

A year ago, when I arrived here, if I had attempted to do the same kind of circular, you know, walk-through and observation that I have in the last couple weeks, it would have been a lot more challenging. I've seen businesses opening that were not there before. I see factories that were not there before. I see markets that are out there, like in -- especially the one I went to in the Rusafa market. I mean, it was bustling with people. There was every kind of commerce that you could have imagined being sold there, from candy to nuts, to bicycles and tricycles, to clothing. I mean, it was -- there was -- just packed.

And the people are moving on with their lifes (sic). They're making -- the Iraqi people are making the determination that if the conditions have been set to reduce the levels of violence, they're going to move on with their lives and start taking back control of their future.

And so Fard al-Qanun is to help set those conditions. There is no question -- and it's especially from al Qaeda -- that they're going to try to create sensational, high-profile attacks inside of the city to steal away the very progress that is being made and to dash the hope of the Iraqi people. That's exactly what they want to do. They do it by going after bridges, where they take away the basic necessities of the people of Iraq. That's not attack on a bridge. That's attack on the Iraqi people themselves when they do that type of thing, when they try to take down the infrastructure that's there for the people of Iraq.

I mean, I just look around. You know, we're out there helping build schools. They're out there putting bombs in schools. We're out there trying to build water treatment plants and get them up and running and get the water into the cities and the towns, and they're out there blowing up the pipes. We're out there helping put up electrical lines and get the power generation going, and they're out there taking down the power grid. I mean, they're not doing anything for the good for the Iraqi people.

And so I look inside of Baghdad, and I see Fard al-Qanun taking place, and I see the Iraqi forces taking much greater control than they ever have before. They're more involved. They're more engaged.

Do we have -- do we still have some ways to go? Yeah, we do. We still need to work on their professionalism. We still need to work on some -- some cases, their loyalty. We talked about their logistics -- there's still a challenge, but it's being worked on -- and providing them better intelligence, too. Those are probably the four key areas that we need to work on.

But there are signs of progress, and there are signs of hope.

And so when you asked me, why do I feel good about what I'm seeing -- because I am seeing a change. It's not where we want it to be yet, but you have to advance forward someplace, and I see that starting to occur inside of Baghdad.

GEN. GURGANUS: Can I add one thing to that, too, sir?

Fard al-Qanun and the general's optimism in the progress that he sees stretches well beyond the limits of Baghdad, too. Just two weeks ago, I took a walk from the very southern portion of Ramadi all the way to what is now the Ramadi mosque -- used to be called the Saddam mosque -- I walked through. I have already seen markets opening in Ramadi. If you remember when we got here just in February, you weren't walking anywhere in Ramadi.

About three weeks or a month ago, we saw General Petraeus, and we've seen General Odierno walk the streets of Hit. And to see the progress that's going on there in -- I'm seeing streets being repaved, I've seen drainpipes and sewer pipes being repaired there. This is what's the cause, I think, for excitement, not only in Baghdad or not only in Al Anbar, but this is the Iraqis stepping up now. And we -- that's what keeps us going. That's what gives us great hope for the future here, is that you're (sic) taking the ownership of their own country, and that's exactly what it's taken. And -- but it is exciting times, in my opinion anyhow.

STAFF: Last question.

Q (Through interpreter.) General Caldwell, concerning your optimism about the success of the operation, there is an impression of the Iraqi people that this operation is a failure, especially in yesterday's parliament session. And, frankly, the Iraqi people, they say that this operation is a failure, and they had given a suggestion to summon the minister of Defense and minister of Interior to ask them why this operation is not succeeding. So the Iraqi people now say that this operation is a failure. And what you talk now about markets are being opened and people doing some shopping -- so these are actually normal things that -- and I think that these are not just signs of a successful operation, so how would you comment about this?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, first of all, I think it's real important to remember that the plan has not been fully implemented yet, and I think some people forget that. General Aboud stated and -- that all the forces will not arrive, these reinforcing elements that are made -- that are coming in from the United States to assist in the effort here will not be fully in place till early June.

So we're still about a month away from right now until all the forces will be in place and have arrived in-country to help start making a difference of what we're seeing.

And again, those forces, the intent by having all these additional security forces are to set the conditions to allow the political process to move forward so that it has the opportunity to take the steps that it needs to move forward.

So first, the plan is not fully implemented yet. We need to get all of the additional forces in here, and they are arriving, they're on time, and they're coming, but it'll be about this time next month in June before they're fully in place.

And then, secondly, the Council of Representatives having that dialogue about the security of Baghdad is a good thing. When you see the parliament who represents the people of Iraq having a dialogue and discussing and being concerned about the people's security, that is a good thing. The fact that they want to hold people accountable and they're talking about bringing in the minister of Defense and the commander of the Baghdad security effort, Fard al-Qanun, there's nothing wrong with that either. That's holding the leaders accountable for the actions that they're responsible to do. That's a good thing.

So the people have high expectations, and the people of Iraq are tired. They do not want to live in violence anymore. They want the levels of violence to come down. That's very apparent by everything we see, all the interactions we have on the street with the people. So they do feel that frustration when they haven't seen the dramatic change that they want to see.

But again, I would say, patience and perseverance in this case are very important as the rest of the forces continue to arrive in- country to get them in place, so that they can fully implement Fard al-Qanun, which is not fully implemented yet.

Okay. With that, thank you very much everybody.


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