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Press briefing with Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, MND-Center, on Operation Marne Torch, June 24, 2007

Multi-National Force-Iraq


GEN. LYNCH: As-salaam aleikum. I'm major general Rick Lynch. I'm blessed to be serving in Iraq as the commander of Multinational Division-Center, Task Force Marne. I've been back in Iraq this time for about four months. Previous to that, I was here as General Casey's deputy for Strategic Effects, and I had the privilege of being the spokesman for the force, so I'm having flashbacks to all the press conferences I did in here, you know, for about a year.

Thanks for joining me today. What I want to focus on today is an operation we have ongoing entitled Marne Torch. Marne Torch is an offensive operation under the larger core operation entitled Phantom Thunder. As everybody is aware, the U.S. military surged brigade combat teams; five brigade combat teams came in to be part of this large-scale core operation called Phantom Thunder. What I'm going to talk to you about in detail today is our piece of that, Marne Torch. As the commander of Multinational Division-Center, my battlespace is essentially the southern belts of Baghdad, the Madain qadha and the Mahmudiyah qadha, and the southern provinces, Babil, Najaf, Karbala, and as of the 20th of this month, Wasat province as well. And we have a clear task and purpose.

The first one is to block accelerants of violence into Baghdad. We believe that as goes Baghdad will go the rest of Iraq, and it's imperative to establish secure conditions inside of Baghdad. So our number one task is to block accelerants of violence into Baghdad. The second task is to secure the population, and that's critical. We believe that the people of Iraq want just what we want back in the states, and that is security. They want to be able to go to work, they want to be able to send their kids to school, they want to be able to flourish as a society and not be afraid of being attacked by extremist elements. So securing the population is critical. And the last piece of the mission is defeat sectarian violence, and we work hard every day with the Iraqi security forces and the government of Iraq to defeat sectarian violence. Marne Torch is part of those larger operations, so allow me to focus in on Marne Torch.

When I looked at our battlespace, the southern belts and the four southern provinces, we identified four enemy sanctuaries, places where the enemy was storing munitions, conducting training, building IEDs and VBIEDs and using those for attacks against the American -- against the Iraqi people and American soldiers.

So we planned operations to deny the enemy those sanctuaries. One of those operations is in Arab Jabour, and that's the focus of Marne Torch.

Our task force, Task Force Marne, in conjunction with the Iraqi security forces, and this is very important. We have a large contribution of the Iraqi security forces in portions of our area to conduct this operation, primarily, from the army perspective, 4th Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Army Division and, from the national police perspective, on the east side of the Tigris River, 1st Brigade of the 1st National Police Division. And those Iraqi security force members are critical to conduct this operation.

In addition to that, I have two of the surge brigades, the 2nd Brigade of our 3rd Division, the division that I command, and the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Division. And the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Division is essentially working west of the Tigris River and the 3rd Brigade is working east of the Tigris River, again, to block accelerants of violence into Baghdad. We're absolutely convinced that extremists are using the Tigris River Valley as a way to bring violence into Baghdad, and Marne Torch is to stop that.

Task Force Marne, in coordination with Iraqi security forces, conducts full-spectrum operations to, one, defeat extremist elements. The enemy can't have this as a sanctuary. He can't use Arab Jabour as a place to store munitions, train extremists, build IEDs, and we're going to take that away from him, defeat extremist elements here and deny those staging areas for accelerants of sectarian violence moving into Baghdad. We'll create improved security conditions all along the Tigris River Valley in Arab Jabour and allow the population to be more secure.

As we planned this operation, it was in three phases, as many of the military operations are. And the first phase was the shaping phase, and this started all the way back on the 15th of May, even before the last of the surge brigades were in Iraq. And it was really the time we used to build our intelligence preparation in the battlefield, identify where we thought the enemy might be storing munitions and conducting training. And then we used the latter portions of phase one to do detailed operations, offensive operations, to confirm or deny intelligence. And that took us from 15 May to about the 15th of June.

Just after midnight on the 15th of June, we started phase two, and that's the kinetic operations with ground forces working from north to south in Arab Jabour. At the same time we've got blocking positions all along Arab Jabour, because what we don't want to do is, we don't want to allow the extremists to leave the area just to come back and fight another day. So there's blocking positions to the west, blocking positions to the south and blocking positions to the east, to keep the extremists from leaving Arab Jabour, because we want to defeat the extremists elements in that battlespace.

And then we want to reduce the violence to the people of that area. Very important.

So you get through phase two and you go into phase three, which is really creating a secure situation for the people of Arab Jabour and the Tigris River Valley. You have to have a persistent presence, either Iraqi security force presence, coalition force presence or members of the local population secure in their own areas. You have to be able to establish rule of law in that area. You got to have the support of the population. And I'll talk about that in some detail.

Acts of violence are taking place, and the people of that locality know those acts of violence are taking place. They know where the IEDs are emplaced, they know where the weapons caches are stored, they know where the training's taking place, and we got to continue to solicit population support of the local population. We got to continue to work in this area to recruit members of the ISF, both the Iraqi army and Iraqi police. And then we got to ensure that this area remains a denied sanctuary for enemy forces. Remember, from Task Force Marne's perspective, this is one of four sanctuaries that we'll be fighting through over the course of the next 90 days. Marne Torch is focused on Arab Jabour.

So allow me to tell you how it's going. But the key is these are deliberate, decisive combat operations that will take a period of time, and it just started on the 15th of June. So here we are about 10 days later, and I want to give you a sense of how the operation's going so far.

Could I get the next graphic up, please. You guys are doing very well with that. Thank you.

It's in your graphic. I wanted to give you a sense of arrests and detainees.

Now, what we don't want to do is we don't want the extremist elements to leave Arab Jabour. The majority of the enemy in this battlespace are Sunni extremists. That's who we're fighting, Sunni extremists and members of al Qaeda and al Qaeda-associated movements. So what we want to do is not allow them to leave, but to kill or capture them inside of the battlespace. And we have significant operations going through to detain and arrest individuals.

As of now, we've arrested about 130 people, all with known ties to the insurgency, and about 25 of those people are what we consider to be high-value targets, leaders of the extremist network in Arab Jabour. So we take them off the battlefield. They're now under detention. They can't direct acts of violence against the people of Arab Jabour.

So in general terms what we've seen is significant numbers of arrest and some of those being high-value individuals.

Could I see the slide, please.

Everything we're doing we're doing in conjunction with the Iraqi security forces. I can't overemphasize that. Even though there aren't enough Iraqi security forces working in our battlespace, those we do have are doing a magnificent job.

Now, operations like this come at a cost. No, so far in Marne Torch, U.S. force casualty rates, we've lost four of our soldiers, four fallen heroes, and 26 have been seriously wounded. But in addition to that, the Iraqi army soldiers have paid a price as well. Nine Iraqi army soldiers killed, over 20 have been injured. With the national police, eight of them have been killed, another 22 seriously injured.

So these are combat operations, decisive operations, Iraqi security forces, Iraqi army, Iraqi police and the coalition forces. And this picture just shows you what they look like as we're doing patrols. We're averaging about 200 patrols a day in Arab Jabour. Many of them are combined patrols. The patrol you see there is both Iraqi army and coalition soldiers.

Next slide, please.

Now, as I told you, a technique to defeat the extremists is to take out the leadership.

We studied the network of extremists in Arab Jabour. This is just an example of one of the over a hundred detainees we've talked about. He happened to be one of the high-value individuals.

And as we capture them, you see that they're always -- they have weapons, they have munitions, they have documents that we exploit as a subsequent interrogation and document exploitation.

Can I get the next graphic, please?

You got to deny the enemy his leadership. You got to take out his soldiers. You also got to take away his ability to conduct operations against you. So we have to take out weapons caches, and we have to take out IEDs. And so far to date, we've taken about 49 weapons caches away from them, and we've taken about 47 IEDs off the street. They were found and cleared before they could detonate and kill Iraqi soldiers or kill innocent Iraqis or kill coalition force soldiers.

Let me give you a sense of what those caches look like, and IEDs. Go ahead, please.

As we conduct these detailed intelligence-driven operations -- no, this is a very deliberate, decisive operation. So we get intelligence that maybe at this house they're fabricating IEDs. We conduct our raids. And as a result of the raids, we find individuals that we detain, and then we find things like this, which is significant components of IEDs. And we found this in one of the houses.

Next slide.

And you see more of that. That's -- that came out of the same house.

Next slide, please.

No, the IEDs are what's killing our soldiers. Task Force Marne, since its full operational capability on the 4th of April, has lost 49 soldiers. And of those 49, 33 have been killed by IEDs. So we're particularly sensitive to IEDs, and the counter-IED campaign is at the top of my list of things to worry about.

And what we're finding is, the majority of the IEDs are either victim-operated or command wire-detonated. So when we see command wire, we see -- (inaudible) -- IED, that's a significant find. We're taking those off the battlefield before the enemy can use them against us.

Next slide, please.

And then we find the weapons caches. As I say, we found almost 50 weapons caches -- mortar rounds, artillery munitions, either to be used for IEDs or for indirect fire attacks against our soldiers.

Now, one of the -- one of our operations -- as we move south, as we establish patrol bases, remember, a key is securing the population. And you got to be with the population to secure them, so we've established Patrol Base we call Murray. Murray comes under indirect fire attack on a routine basis. We got to take those munitions away, and finding weapons caches with mortar rounds is very important.

Next slide.

And then you always see IEDs have either been emplaced and then found, or IEDs have been fabricated, not emplaced. And that's what you're seeing here with those munitions.

Next slide.

Throughout the operations, as I say, they're all intelligence- driven. We think there's munitions being stored. We think there's individuals in there that are planning or conducting attacks. We'll take them down, very deliberate, as we work our way from north to south.

In this particular house, this was a planned operation, and when we came into the house, we found munitions. And in those munitions were munitions that were marked with Iranian markings. So as you're seeing, you're seeing munitions there that have Iranian markings. We've seen that before inside of Multinational Division Center battlespace. It's of great concern.

And there normally -- as you can see there, rather than the old, ancient munitions that have been on the battlefield for a period of time, there are new munitions, but with recent lot numbers.

Next slide.

And that's the stuff that was rolled out of that house. As you can see, nothing there is old, nothing there has been buried for a period of time. All of it was brought into Iraq to conduct attacks against Iraqis, Iraqi security forces or coalition forces. And that is particularly troublesome.

Next slide, please.

That's it for that. Could you get the next graph? STAFF: (Off mike.)

GEN. LYNCH: As I told you, a major concern of ours and the Iraqi security forces as we fight this fight is IEDs that have been emplaced.

We use fires to take away his ability to launch these IED attacks. You can see significant numbers of missions over the last 10 days -- over 200 total fire missions, many of those are area-denial missions, areas that we believe that the enemy is using to either place IEDs or store weapons, we (fire ?) munitions to take away that capability. We conduct troops in contact drills. You can see the amount of explosions, and it's not just artillery; it's also air weapons team and it is Air Force assets being applied to the task. So as you look at your chart, you see the number of munitions that were used up till yesterday.

But let me show you a couple videos. First video, please?

This is air weapons team footage out of an Apache aircraft. What we see there is we see tires emplaced on the road, a technique we've seen the enemy use is to burn these tires. That loosens the asphalt so they can plant IEDs, if you watch closely. The munitions went off as they hit those tires. You see the secondary explosions; those are all IEDs that were emplaced or were soon to be emplaced to take out our soldiers, Iraqi people or Iraqi security forces.

So we're looking across the battlefield all the time. These are all intelligence-driven operations. If we find a place that we believe the enemy's using to store munitions or place IEDs, we're going to attack it by fire, and that was an example. We know he's using those tires as places to burn asphalt and plant IEDs.

Can I get to the next slide -- the next video, please?

Now, the enemy's got lines of communication. As you know, Arab Jabour is compartmentalized terrain. The canal will cause you to go on specific roads. There are roads that we want to use, and there are roads we want to deny him using. So that's a B-1 bomber attack to take out that road so he can't use that as a way to transition to the battlefield. The night before last, we had 14 strikes from B-1 bombers; last night, we had 18 strikes from B-1 bombers, and it's an attempt to block all these lines of communication. So none of you would expect me to go into an intimate level of detail on how we're doing operations or where, because that would put all our soldiers -- coalition soldiers and Iraqi soldiers at risk, but just know it to be true that we study the enemy and we study the terrain, and if we think he's going to use a road to move, and we don't want him to use that road, we're taking that road away. Bridges we're taking away, using things like B-1 bombers in artillery missions to take away those roads. Okay, could you turn off the TV, please? Thank you. And our last graphic.


We've measured the effectiveness of the operations in many ways. Remember, I mean, what I've found in dealing with the media is sometimes there is this insatiable desire for information right now, and what I'm telling you is this operation is going to take a while. It started on the 15th of June; my expectation, it's going to take us the better part of June and all of July to continue to work our way through Arab Jabour. But by the end of the mission, it will be a stabilized area, the enemy won't use it as a sanctuary, we will deny his ability to conduct acts of violence in Baghdad and in that area by moving his way through.

And you can see indicators of things that we're showing to highlight the progress. You know, to date -- and this changes all the time, so, you know -- this chart was made last night; I'll talk you through where we are today, but the numbers change all the time. I got a detailed update from the brigade commander before I came in here. So far, we can confirm 12 enemy KIA in the battlespace.

More importantly, like I talked about, we've now detained probably 142 people, of which about 30 of them happen to be high-value individuals. And we're doing detailed tactical questioning at the point of detention, and then detailed interrogation when we get them in interrogation to find additional intelligence to conduct additional raids. We've now found over 49 IEDs and we've cleared 47 weapons caches. Those are important, because those are IEDs that aren't killing our soldiers or Iraqi civilians, and those are weapons and munitions that aren't going to be used to build bombs going into Baghdad.

What we found in the area is, the locals aren't using the Tigris River for fishing. In fact, as we engage with the local population, they tell us that the only people on the Tigris River are extremists, insurgents. So what we've chosen to do is to take out all boats. So anything that's floating on the Tigris River, what we believe to be an enemy activity, and we take out the boats. Many of the boats that we've taken out -- we've taken out 17 -- there have been significant secondary explosions. They were being used to transport munitions.

We've got a system where we continue to -- as we come across people in Iraq, we enter them into a database. This is in conjunction with the Iraqi government. We've entered over 300 people into the database, and it's very deliberate. So as we work our way from north to south, we're clearing the structures, making sure that that's not a place where munitions are being stored and that's not a place where the enemy is using to hide extremists; that's not a place where training's being conducted. So the operation continues with this kind of effect so far.

But again this is just one sanctuary that we're working through in our battlespace, and it's part of a larger operation called Phantom Thunder that the corps commander's directing. So I know you're getting details on the operation that General Mixon's doing in the north, Arrowhead Ripper, operations in Baghdad and operations out west as well. But this is our piece of the fight right now.

The battlespace is bigger. It extends all the way out to the Euphrates River and all the way out to the Iranian border. I have a lot of other operations going on at the same time, but I wanted to zoom in on Marne Torch for you today. And with that, I'd be happy to take any questions you might have.

Larry. Q Thank you, General. Larry Kaplow with Newsweek.

GEN. LYNCH: When are you going to go out with me, man? I thought you were going to ride with me.

Q (Laughs.) I've been here on my own for a bit.

GEN. LYNCH: (Laughs.) Okay.

Q Just to get an idea of kind of how far along you are and how big this gets, you talked about, as you move south, you're establishing combat outposts or patrol bases. Do you know or have a rough idea of kind of what -- how many you've done and what percentage that will be and how many you might do by the end of 90 days, how many you've established?

GEN. LYNCH: At this point, you know, we're only about one-fifth of the way into the operation. And all indicators, of things we're emplacing, it's about one-fifth. See, what we refuse to do is the rush from north to south. What I find is, if we go deep too quick, the enemy then gets behind us and cuts our lines of communication, so it's a very deliberate, slow process. It's going to take a period of time.

But to answer your question, we're about 20 percent into the operation for all indicators. That includes establishment of patrol bases, those kinds of things. But across my battlespace, Larry, we now have 29 patrol bases established. These are company-level patrol bases, out amongst the population, to secure the population and continue to take the fight to the enemy, and some of them are being emplaced now in Arab Jabour.

Q When you said 29 patrol bases, does that include what they call combat outposts also?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, exactly, patrol bases, combat outposts, forward operating bases, all collected, 29 where I have American soldiers under my command living and working.

Q Okay.

GEN. LYNCH: Sir, good to see you.

Q Good to see you, General Lynch. (Name inaudible) -- with ABC News.


Q Who are the insurgents you're finding? And what do you make of the Iranian markings on some of those weapons?

GEN. LYNCH: As always, good questions. The insurgents we're fighting there are Sunni extremists. You know, I have yet to come across or detain a Shi'a extremist in this area, not that there aren't Shi'a extremists in my battlespace but they're not in Arab Jabour. It's primarily a Sunni extremist fight that we have now. Many of those have ties to al Qaeda and al Qaeda- associated movements, so that's the enemy that we're fighting. We're very sensitive to that.

Causing me great concern, I told you, 33 of my 49 have been killed by IEDs, many of those by EFPs.

And the EFP technology and EFP munitions are clearly coming from Iran, and as we come across weapons caches that have new munitions, like the picture I showed you, that have Iranian markings, somehow, for some reason they're coming from Iran as well. And we have to block that flow of munitions because they're coming in to kill coalition force soldiers, Iraqi security force soldiers and innocent Iraqis. Great concern.

Other questions?


Q Thank you. Sam Dagher with the Christian Science Monitor.

GEN. LYNCH: Hi, Sam.

Q Hi. I have a couple questions, if I can.

GEN. LYNCH: Do them one at a time because I'm not smart enough to memorize them.

Q (Laughs.) Okay.

The first question is, the area around Arab Jabour and further to the north, al-Buitha (sp) -- I believe, yes, Buitha (sp) -- is sort of notorious for Baghdadis as a place where the extremists and the militants have held a lot of their hostages. Have you found any hostages? Have you released any hostages?

GEN. LYNCH: The answer to your specific question, no. We've found no hostages, we've released no hostages. I'm sensitive to the same kind of information you have, and as we work our way through the battlespace, we'll be looking for that. But so far, we haven't seen any.

Q Thank you.

My second question was about something you mentioned. You said one of your priorities was controlling sectarian violence or preventing sectarian violence. I mean, as you know, there's been a lot of blowing up of mosques and take over of mosques among the various sort of protagonists in all of this. Have you seen that in your area of operation, mosques being blown up or taken over by, say, in some instance, the Mahdi Army has been known to take over Sunni mosques and convert them into Shi'ite mosques? GEN. LYNCH: That's not happened at all in Arab Jabour, but is happening across our battlespace. As I described, I've got Mahmudiyah qadha and Madain qadha for the southern belts and the southern provinces, and there have been acts of retaliation against mosques, Sunni mosques and Shi'a mosques -- none to the level that you saw up in Samarra, but there have been attacks, which are clearly indicators of sectarian violence.

What I found across Task Force Marne's area, we have areas that are purely Sunni-extremist areas that are Shi'a extremist, and then inside the middle there tends to be a mix of both, and most of those attacks take place in the middle.

Q I just have a follow-up question, if I may.


Q Thank you.

Do you think we're going to see more of sort of mosques being targeted as you go after al Qaeda, I mean, that this might be a way for them to sort of strike back and maybe distract you from what you set out to accomplish? Do you expect that to happen?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, without a doubt. I mean, we're taking the fight to the enemy, and as we did this surge -- you know, General Odierno and I have sufficient forces to conduct Phantom Thunder and he's tasked all the subordinate of his commanders to do the same thing. So we have the fight. We have the resources it takes to fight the enemy.

One of the responses he's going to have is try to inflame sectarian violence, and the way he does that is to attack Shi'a holy places, just like he did in February of 2006. So we watch closely all these sites across our battlespace where he could indeed attack to inflame sectarian violence, but it's a TTP he's used in the past, a tactic he's used in the past, and we think he's going to use it again -- "he" being collectively al Qaeda.

Sir, please.

Q (Through interpreter.) Hamad (ph) from Al Hurra. I have two questions. The first question is, you said that you have been able to detain a large number of these insurgents. What are their nationalities? Are they Iraqis or Arab nationals or foreigners?

And second question, about the arming of the Iraqi tribes, does this benefit Iraq? Is it in the interest of Iraq? And will you be able to provide the security to Baghdad and to Iraq by this method?

GEN. LYNCH: The detainees we have as part of Marne Torch, none of them are foreign fighters, they're all Iraqis, and they're all Sunni Iraqi extremists. That's who we have now in our detention facilities. We have across my area come across foreign fighters in the past, but not in this particular operation.

And we're not arming anybody. You know, I see this in the press these days, where the coalition are arming people.

We're not arming anybody, except for the legitimate Iraqi security forces sanctioned by the Iraqi government.

There are, however, as we work our way in operations, we're finding, even in Arab Jabour, we're finding areas that, once we clear, the local populations say, hey, thank you for the clearing, and, two is, can we help be part of the security? It's the local population who says, let us help, let us be part of the security apparatus in the local area, and candidly, we think that's a good idea, primarily because no one else is securing the area. Right now we're working with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces to get more Iraqi security forces in Arab Jabour. The reason that's been an enemy sanctuary is because there's been no security forces there.

So as we work our way south, there will be coalition patrol bases and there'll be Iraqi army and Iraqi police checkpoints, but having locals who are willing to secure their area is very important. But we're not arming anybody, we're not getting anybody munitions. But indeed, if they say, hey, let us help -- you know, for example, we're finding situations where the locals are saying thank you for being here, let us show you where the IED is. You know, when I say we've cleared over 49 IEDs, a lot of those are pointed out by the locals who want to be part of the solution. They want to say, no more violence in my area, no more explosions in my area, let's take away those IEDs, take away those caches, so we're endorsing that. But your question's a great question. But no one on the coalition side is arming anybody except for legitimate Iraqi security force members.

Other questions? Sir.

Q (Name and affiliation inaudible.) -- (off mike) -- a political solution in Dura district -- Dura is very huge and large. Arab Jabour is just a small piece of Dura. Did you think to make any political solution in this area with the tribes or the sheikhs of mosques there?

Thank you very much.

GEN. LYNCH: No, shukran. Shukran. You know, we talk about lines of operation all the time. One of the lines guys like me talk about all the time is the security line. It's a combat operation, but what General Petraeus has labeled as the most important line of operation is the political line, and that's developed in capacity for the government at the national level, the provincial levels and the local levels. So we continually outreach to the leaders -- the tribal leaders, the local leaders, the government leaders -- to help them become more capable so they can indeed stabilize the situation.

See, all we're doing now is through these security operations is trying to create time and space so that the leadership of Iraq can develop security forces, mature the situation, stabilize the population. So your point's an excellent point; that has to be the major effort, and I know General Petraeus, working with the Iraqi government -- in my area, I work with the provincial governors, I work with the nahiya and qadha chiefs, I work with tribal sheikhs to get them to help us with the security situation. But that capacity's very important.


Please. You want to --

Q General --

GEN. LYNCH: I'm sorry. Let's go back there, and then I'll come back to you.

Q General, Tom Frank from USA Today.

GEN. LYNCH: Good to see you.

Q Hey. Are the numbers on the bottom of that accurate? Because you had said that --

GEN. LYNCH: No, it changes --

Q Okay. So the totals at the bottom aren't accurate.

GEN. LYNCH: I don't know what it's like with USA Today, but I hate PowerPoint slides.

Q Okay.

GEN. LYNCH: What happens is PowerPoint slides get made, and then things change. So what I try to give you is the updated information. The numbers I gave you were from the call I got from the brigade commander just before I came in here.

Q And to clarify the number of U.S. troop deaths, you had said in your presentation that four were killed, but you also said 49 --

GEN. LYNCH: No, no. We've lost -- for Marne Torch, this operation that kicked off on the 15th of June -- we've lost four American soldiers and 26 more wounded. Since I've been the commander of Multinational Division-Center and Task Force Marne, which started on the 4th of April, we've lost 49 soldiers. Q I see. Okay.

GEN. LYNCH: Those are four are a subset of the 49.

Q So when you add the U.S. troops who were killed with the Iraqi troops and the Iraqi police who were killed, it comes out to about 21 or so -- the four and eight and nine -- which is a lot more than the enemy killed in action. Is that a surprise, that you -- that so many more of the troops and police have been killed than enemies? And I'm wondering why that is.

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, you know, you might want to use enemy killed in action as a number to fixate on; I don't. What you just said is a true statement.

What I have here is the numbers of enemy that's KIA that I can confirm, that we've seen the seen the body, I can confirm.

All those strikes, those B-1 bomber strikes, all the aerial denial munitions, I'm not sure how many enemy we killed in there, and I'm not going to inflate any numbers, because they're not important to me. What is important, though, is the number of people we have detained, and those numbers are quantifiable numbers, and I told you now it's much more than the 119 reflected there. And those are people we took because we know that they are tied to the insurgency. Those are the ones we fixate on. So we grieve the loss of our soldiers, the four soldiers I've lost, the soldiers lost by the national police and the Iraqi army. They've paid the ultimate sacrifice. But that's where you're seeing the difference in the numbers.

Okay? Please.

Q You said you don't have enough Iraqi troops in that area. In the end when you're done, you're going to leave and it will be the Iraqis who will have to hold that area. How confident are you that they're going to be able to do that? Are they going to need the continued help of these neighborhood organizations you're talking about?

GEN. LYNCH: Just like General Dempsey talked about when he left Iraq, there has to be more Iraqi security forces. I can't tell you the exact number, but I know in my battlespaces -- I work from north to south -- there's got to be security forces stay behind. They can't be coalition forces. We have what we have. There's got to be more Iraqi security forces. So that number, both Iraqi army, Iraqi police, Iraqi national police, that all has to grow much bigger than it is today.

I deal with magnificent leaders in the Iraqi army. I'm partnered with the 6th Iraqi Army Division commander and the 8th Iraqi Army Division commander, and they are competent, capable, military professionals that are Iraqis. They're not Shi'a, they're not Sunni; they're Iraqis. And they got great subordinated commanders.

As you look down at Wiski (ph) One, which is one of our checkpoints, and ECP-20, which is up north, there's an Iraqi army company commander working with a U.S. Army company commander, and they're co-equals in terms of capabilities, productivity and focus. It's magnificent. But there's not enough of them. There's not enough of them. So I believe the Iraqi government's got to work to create more Iraqi security forces, get them trained and employed. And I believe they ought to embrace this idea of local security. If somebody in this area wants to be part of the solution, they want to make sure IEDs aren't in place, make sure bad guys don't store weapons, the Iraqi government should embrace that and let them be recognized as local security. Just like in our hometowns. You know, I'm from Hamilton, Ohio, and the police in Hamilton, Ohio, are all from Hamilton, Ohio. You know, and they're there to secure that area.

Q What if that organization ends up being a group like the Mahdi Army?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, that is a concern everybody seems to have. Right now I'm focused on fixing the near-term security situation. I'm not arming anybody. There's no locals that we're giving weapons to. But I believe this idea of reconciliation writ large, which is really a national level issue, has to be embraced. And at the local level, it doesn't matter if you're a Shi'a or Sunni, you got to work together for the common good.


Q Don't you think it would be a very good idea if you recruit some people from this area, from Dura, to keep it safe and to keep the security after you finish your operation? Because most of Iraqis, as you know, were soldiers and officers during Saddam regime. So I think they are qualified to do this.

GEN. LYNCH: Shukran. Thank you.

If you'd go back to the first chart, please. Go back to the first chart.

See, ISF recruiting is critical. ISF recruiting is critical in the last phase of this operation. And we have to embrace the local population, who want to be members of the Iraqi army and Iraqi police.

Right now part of my battlespace is out in the Yusufiya area, and we're doing Iraqi police recruiting there. And there are more recruits there than they can handle, because the people of Iraq, they want to help. They do. I'm convinced of that. And there's got to be aggressive ISF recruiting in Arab Jabour at the conclusion of these combat operations, and we're going to help that the best we can.

I have time for one more question. Over here, Larry.

Q (Through interpreter.) Hamza (sp) from Al Ahram. General, there are many areas in al-Madain, called Jahara (sp) and Al Wardiyah (sp). The people there are accusing the American forces of arming the Sunnis to fight al-Mahdi Army in Jahara (sp) and Al Wardiyah (sp). Eyewitnesses said that the American forces entered these areas, and after that they fire rockets. Rockets are fired from these areas, like Jahara (sp) and Al Wardiyah (sp), where Jaish al-Mahdi and the Shi'as are residing.

GEN. LYNCH: We're not arming anybody. You know, as we work our way through this battlespace, we're not arming anybody to fight anybody.

Candidly, though, everybody seems to have a weapon anyway. This idea that we got to arm folks to me is silly, because everybody has a weapon anyway.

And we're not using any of the locals to direct attacks against Jaish al-Mahdi or anybody else. All we want to do is -- the locals to do is help secure their area, secure their population. And as General Odierno talked about, we're prefer them to be shooting at al Qaeda in Arab Jabour, rather than to be shooting at coalition/Iraqi security forces.

So the important point is, no one's arming (anybody ?) from the coalition, and we want the locals to be part of the security solution of this problem.

Okay. As always, thank you. I mean, what you do is so very important. You're telling a story to the American people. You're telling a story to the Iraqi people. And it's so very important.

So "shukran jazilan. Masalama."


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