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Press briefing with Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, spokesman, Multi-National Force - Iraq, July 11, 2007

Multi-National Force-Iraq

Briefing Slides [PDF]


PRESS CONFERENCE WITH BRIGADIER GENERAL KEVIN BERGNER, SPOKESMAN AND DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF FOR STRATEGIC EFFECTS, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ TOPIC: OPERATIONAL UPDATE LOCATION: THE COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQ TIME: 6:00 A.M. EDT DATE: WEDNESDAY, JULY 11, 2007

GEN. BERGNER: "As-salaam aleikum." Good afternoon, everyone.

The security environment in Iraq continues to be characterized by a number of threats. Last week we provided an update on one of those, specifically, the special groups supported by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' Qods Force operatives and their surrogates from Lebanese Hezbollah. Today we'll provide an update on the principal near-term threat to Iraq, which is al Qaeda of Iraq.

In their own statements, al Qaeda leaders have declared Iraq their central front. Al Qaeda in Iraq and its affiliates are the greatest source of spectacular attacks and are fueling sectarian violence. Our intelligence community, the government of Iraq and the Multinational Force all assess al Qaeda in Iraq as the main near-term threat. Al Qaeda in Iraq is a network led and fueled by foreign extremists who envision a new caliphate. And according to al Qaeda senior leader al-Zawahiri's latest video, they claim the al Qaeda gateway to victory starts in Iraq. Their goal continues to be a Taliban-like state featuring an extreme and distorted vision of Islam, forbidding the most basic personal freedoms.

For all those reasons, the government of Iraq, Iraqi security forces and coalition forces are engaged in a tough fight against AQI and in particular its extremist ideology and leadership, which has of course been compromised -- excuse me -- which of course has been comprised by foreigners at the top levels of the network.

In recent months, more and more Iraqis have begun to reject its extremist ideology and take a stand against them.

We are pursuing those who run these networks, and we are enabled by increasing amounts of information from local citizens and increasing resolve by the Iraqi people to fight al Qaeda in Iraq.

Over the past two months, our collective efforts against al Qaeda leadership have begun to disrupt their networks and safe havens. Our operations are targeting al Qaeda sanctuaries in areas around Baghdad and in neighborhoods in the city itself.

We fully expect al Qaeda in Iraq operatives to lash out and stage spectacular attacks to reassert themselves, but we are making progress, and I'd like to summarize it for you today.

We routinely announce the results of operations as soon as possible after their completion, so we have previously announced the killing or capture of some of these individual terrorists that I will mention today.

But we want to provide a comprehensive sense of the effect our operations are having against their leadership.

Al Qaeda in Iraq organizes itself into both geographic and functional networks. This chart shows the results of some of our operations that have killed or captured 26 high-level al Qaeda leaders during May and June, along with the positions that they held.

Speaking from a functional perspective, 11 of these were emirs who were city or local al Qaeda leaders; seven were facilitators who smuggled foreigners, weapons and money into Iraq; five were cell leaders who commanded terrorist units that worked for the emirs; and three were vehicle-borne IED network leaders.

From a geographical perspective, we are conducting operations throughout Iraq, with particular effectiveness against al Qaeda leadership in Mosul and Baghdad, though we clearly have more work to do in both areas. In addition to the emirs, facilitators and cell leaders, during this same period, there have been hundreds of other al Qaeda members killed or captured.

Our operations are also impacting al Qaeda's infrastructure. Last month, we uncovered an al Qaeda media center near Samarra. The facility, which was not much to look at on the outside, was in fact a major media production center and distribution center for al Qaeda in Iraq. It was called the Al-Furqan Media Productions by AQI. It produced CDs, DVDs, posters, pamphlets, and web-related propaganda products and contained documents clearly identifying al Qaeda in Iraq's intent to use media as a weapon. The building contained 65 hard drives, 18 thumb drives, over 500 CDs and 12 stand-alone computers.

Pictured behind me is one of the graphics we found on a hard drive.

It represents AQI's view of the areas it claimed to control in Iraq in early March. It also asserts AQI dominated much of Anbar and northern Iraq, which by any measure was clearly not the truth. We also found a sampling of other propaganda documents: a letter that gives instructions on how to use the media to get out the al Qaeda message most effectively; an al Qaeda activity report highlighting car bomb, suicide, missile, mortar, sniping and IED attacks; a propaganda poster that encourages filming and distributing videos, showing al Qaeda attacks on coalition forces; and a pamphlet and a CD cover of their sniper school.

In all, this media center had the capacity of reproducing 156 CDs in an eight-hour period and had a fully functioning film studio. This media center and others like it play an important role in al Qaeda's recruitment efforts in Iraq and around the world.

If you noted on our first slide showing the captured and killed leaders, there's also a group called facilitators. These facilitators, like Abdel al Jabar (ph), Maqmud Terad Mohammed Jerala (ph), and Hussein Awa Hussein Hawawi (ph), recruited and smuggled foreigners into Iraq to conduct terrorism, many of whom become suicide killers. Of special note was a facilitator named Mahmed Ilmaz (ph), also know as Khalid al-Turki, who we mentioned two weeks ago as a top smuggler of foreign fighters into Iraq, a fighter in Afghanistan and a close associate of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attack.

Last week, Iraqi police in Ramadi captured one of these foreign fighters whose movement into Iraq had been facilitated by the kinds of cells I just described. He was recruited by a man who attended his mosque to join an al Qaeda unit in Iraq and kill coalition forces after listening to radical messages on cassette tape and becoming interested in jihad.

He was given the equivalent of a thousand dollars to pay for his travel expenses. He was instructed to get a passport and make his way to Syria, where an individual would facilitate his illegal crossing into Iraq. Without telling anyone, including his mother and father, he boarded a charter bus and traveled to Syria. The Syrian facilitator, using multiple vehicles, smuggled him across the border into Iraq. He was blindfolded throughout the journey and laid in the back of vehicles covered by a blanket.

Once across the border, the Syrian handed him off to another facilitator, who drove him to a small mud structure n the middle of the desert. He stayed at this remote location for approximately four days. It was here that he was partnered with another foreigner. From that point, the two men were handed off to another facilitator and driven to an area near Ramadi, a city whose citizens have banded together to successfully drive al Qaeda out of their neighborhoods.

The two men spent 10 days in hiding around Ramadi and were frequently moved from one location to another. It was at this point that they were told they would become suicide bombers by driving truck bombs to destroy a major bridge outside of Ramadi. He claims to have reluctantly agreed to do this.

On July 1st, the two men were driven to a location outside of Ramadi where they boarded two large trucks and followed their handler across the Ramadi bridge. As they crossed the bridge, he changed his mind and did not manually activate the explosive device as directed. His partner, on the other hand, did detonate his explosive device, collapsing two of the four lanes, as shown here in this photograph.

The Iraqi police quickly reacted and apprehended him and disarmed the truck he drove with a thousand pounds of homemade explosives as well as tanks of chlorine and acetylene. He remains in coalition force custody.

His story is not uncommon. Approximately 60 to 80 foreigners are lured to Iraq in any given month by al Qaeda. Approximately 70 percent transit through Syria, as this man did. Between 80 and 90 percent of the suicide attacks in Iraq are being carried out by foreign-born al Qaeda terrorists. And in the last six months, some 4,000 Iraqis have been killed or injured by these al Qaeda suicide attacks.

The attack on the Ramadi bridge happened at the same time as coalition forces thwarted another al Qaeda effort to attack Ramadi. Coalition forces operating by Lake Habbaniya, three miles southeast of Ramadi, received information from local sources that some 50 al Qaeda fighters were staging near a marsh. Our forces moved to locate the terrorists, making contact with them in an engagement that lasted over the course of two days.

The successful operation resulted in 35 al Qaeda terrorists being killed and three others being captured. The terrorists were found carrying al Qaeda propaganda, with many wearing suicide vests. One of the detainees was carrying a letter warning Ramadi -- excuse me, warning that Ramadi would be attacked unless its residents repented for abandoning al Qaeda. Also found was a weapons cache and a supply of additional suicide vests.

This operation further demonstrated al Qaeda's efforts to reassert itself in places like Ramadi, where progress has been made. More importantly this engagement was an example of coalition forces operating in areas that have served as al Qaeda sanctuaries in the past, in this regard, taking the fight to the enemy before they have the opportunity to strike at innocent civilians in population centers. While our operations against al Qaeda continue, we are also transitioning to support the Iraqi government in restoring basic services to areas once dominated by al Qaeda.

In Baqubah, and area that had become an al Qaeda operating base, operation Arrowhead Ripper has now resulted in some 60 confirmed al Qaeda extremists being killed and 155 others captured. Coalition forces have also uncovered more than 50 weapons caches and destroyed 122 improvised explosive devices there. An al Qaeda of Iraq flag that was once hung on the wall of an illegal court has now been removed.

And the torture and execution houses are being shut down.

The Iraqi government has now restored food and medical shipments to Baquba for the first time in some 10 months. To date, they have delivered 460 metric tons of food as well as 10 truckloads of medical supplies, enough to support the entire population, and efforts are under way to restore fuel oil shipments and begin a larger reconstruction effort.

It was not surprising that Ayman al-Zawahiri recently released another lengthy video. In it we see the number two man in al Qaeda focusing on disunity, conspiracies and discord in Iraq and pleading for more foreign terrorist reinforcements and threatening non- volunteers. He even goes on to threaten Iran, telling them al Qaeda will attack if their government doesn't stop its support of the Iraqi government. This is another indication of the nature of al Qaeda and why the Iraqi people continue to turn away from its extremist hatred and distorted ideology.

That concludes our operational update, and now I would be willing to take your questions.

Yes, sir.

Q (Through interpreter.) According to the statement, you said you killed a large number of al Qaeda operatives. How do you explain this increase in killing al Qaeda operatives? Does this mean --

INTERPRETER: Microphone, please. I don't hear well.

Q (Through interpreter.) Recently, the Green Zone was targeted by mortar attack.

INTERPRETER: Microphone, please. I don't hear well.

GEN. BERGNER: I only got part of your question because I hear someone else in the background. So if I can, the first part of your question was: To what do we attribute the increased level of effectiveness in operating against al Qaeda?

Q (Through interpreter.) Is it because of the Americans there increasing amount of soldiers, American soldiers arriving to Iraq? Is this why? GEN. BERGNER: That's a good question. Shukran.

First, what we see is the Iraqi people taking a stand against this terrorist network against those who are bringing this ideology and violence to their neighborhoods. You have seen it in Al Anbar with the Al Anbar Awakening. You see it now in Diyala with the Diyala Support Council. You see it in Salahuddin with the Salahuddin Support Council. And so first this is about the Iraqi people turning away from this and rising up against it in their neighborhoods.

The number of tips and amount of information that the Iraqi people are providing to the Iraqi security forces and to the coalition forces has increased significantly. There are now some 23,000 tips that we receive, which is about four or five times what we received at this time last year. And so there is much more commitment on the part of the Iraqi people, and they deserve great respect for their courage and for their resolve.

We do have more forces now operating in more places.

Many of those places have been in the past used as sanctuaries or operating bases by al Qaeda, and we are now able to simultaneously apply pressure in those operating bases outside of Baghdad at the same time that our forces are increasing the pressure on these networks inside the city itself.

And so it's a combination of the courage and the strength of the Iraqi people, their willingness to work more closely with the security forces and the greater presence of coalition forces and the capability that gives us to go into all of these different neighborhoods.

Q (Through interpreter.) The Green Zone was targeted by the mortar attacks. How can you control this?

GEN. BERGNER: I'm --

Q (In English.) Many mortars have landed in the Green Zone lately, and we heard of some employees in the embassy have been killed. So is the American administration or the forces of the -- coalition forces are having a hard time to hamper those attacks? And what are they doing about it?

GEN. BERGNER: Yeah. The indirect fire threat that is targeting the government of Iraq, the people of Iraq and those of us who are working closely to help the government of Iraq in their way forward are a serious concern for us. We have increased the level of effort to target those indirect fire cells. In fact, in the past few weeks, I believe the number is four or five of these indirect fire cells we have been able to interdict and remove. We continue to work very hard against those and those who are supplying the weapons and ammunition for those indirect fire cells.

Yes, sir?

Q (Through interpreter.) Ali Hansa (sp) from Al-Iraqiyah. The American president said that he wants to implement or to carry out the Israeli example in Iraq in dealing with the insurgents. Does this mean killing the civilians in Iraq? The coalition forces killed a large number of civilians while targeting the gunmen in Sadr City.

Q (In English.) Does -- President Bush is using the system that is called the Ismaili (sp) way. The Ismaili (sp) way, sir, is a system where you target civilian and non-civilian. And this is what he is saying about it -- Ali from al-Alam (sp) Television. And he's accusing the coalition forces in targeting civilians in Sadr City. So what do you have to say about that?

GEN. BERGNER: We do not target civilians, nor will we target civilians.

We have great respect for the Iraqi people. We have great respect for their courage and their sacrifice. Our purpose here, as part of a U.N.-mandated security force, is to take the necessary measures to help the government of Iraq and the Iraqi people to establish security and stability in their country. And so that is our purpose, and we take very seriously our responsibility to protect civilians and to do everything possible to protect them from the effects of the fighting that takes place around them.

Perhaps the greatest danger to the Iraqi people is the nature of this enemy. This enemy is one who locates himself next to schools, he locates himself in neighborhoods, he places himself in positions that will put others, other civilian innocent people, at great risk when he attacks. And so it's the nature of this enemy to put others at risk, and despite that, we are very careful in our engagements, and we regret very much when there is an innocent loss of life, and we regret it a great deal.

Yes, ma'am.

Q Jamie Tarabay from National Public Radio. When you say that you consider al Qaeda the main near-term threat, how about -- how do you classify, you know, the Shi'a militia groups, the Sunni insurgent groups? And how do you actually define al Qaeda in Iraq -- I mean, who are they, and are they a combination of different groups?

And I just -- I also have one more question regarding the nationality of the recruit who was smuggled into Syria -- where did he come from, actually, and --

GEN. BERGNER: Well, I'll start off with that question.

Q Okay.

GEN. BERGNER: We are still exploiting the intelligence that's been gained from this foreign fighter, and we are still coordinating with the different intelligence services to develop that intelligence. And so once we have completed that, we will disclose his country of origin and we will disclose the rest of the information that we have about him, and that will come once we have completed the intelligence exploitation that we're engaged in.

I started off my discussion this afternoon by saying that Iraq continues to be characterized by a complex security environment, where there are a number of forces that are working against the government of Iraq and the people of Iraq. We talked about one of those last week, as you know, which is a principal fueling agent for militant extremists to organize themselves and undertake attacks against the coalition force, Iraqi forces and the government.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is another one of those whose support from foreign sources, whose leadership from largely foreign leaders is one of the principal accelerants to sectarian violence and the principal source of spectacular attacks that are killing innocent Iraqis in large number. Al Qaeda itself has established that Iraq is their main effort. It's their central front. I believe in the most recent video Zawahiri describes it as -- describes Iraq as al Qaeda's gateway to victory.

And so you have to look at this from the standpoint of the enemy, the threat, and how that threat characterizes its own priority. You have to look at it from the standpoint of what does this -- who is contributing to the largest number of suicide attacks and spectacular attacks and deliberately fueling sectarian violence, and which of those threats has as its main purpose destabilizing the government of Iraq and implementing an Islamic state. And all of those things are factors in that assessment -- that both the government of Iraq, intelligence services and the Multinational Force share -- that they are the principal near-term threat in Iraq.

Q Do you have evidence that it is such a homogenous group; that, you know, the people who are operating in Anbar or Mosul or Diyala all basically answer to the same leadership, have the same -- I mean, because they operate under different names, under different banners, they have different soldiers. What evidence do you have that they are actually all -- I mean, it seems very convenient to just be able to wrap them up in an al Qaeda bundle, when, you know, even they themselves differentiate between the different factions. So what evidence do you have to say that?

GEN. BERGNER: Well, I think that the information that we shared with you today is an interesting start point, in terms of how they track their own operations, how they produce a full range of media products, how they coordinate among different cells, both on a functional level and on a geographic level. You could see from the graphic that I showed you the breadth of their senior leadership's activities, whether it's in northern Iraq, central Iraq, in the Baghdad area. And so there is a coherence that is very evident when you look at how they're organized, how they're conducting their attacks and how they coordinate.

Now, there's also, as you point out, a very clear cellular nature of their operations, and that cellular nature of their operations is a technique used to help insulate them, to help protect them from our intelligence efforts and our own operations against their networks. So I think the challenge here is not to confuse the cellular nature of the network with a lack of coherence, a lack of unity of effort, a lack of direction in their operations. And that's not to say that on the local level and on regional levels there aren't independent operations. Of course there are.

Q I've got one more follow-up. Sorry. When you say things like, in Diyala, the Islamic State of Iraq, do you consider that to be al Qaeda? I mean, when you say Ansar al-Sunna (north ?), do you consider that to be al Qaeda?

GEN. BERGNER: They are -- the al Qaeda affiliates are clearly identified. They associate themselves with al Qaeda in Iraq. They sometimes take on different naming conventions to play to a more nationalistic audience and to try to pass themselves off as something other than an international terrorist organization. And so we see that across the board.

Yes, sir?

Q My name is Ziad. I'm a correspondent working Al Hurra channel. Sir, I want to ask you about this question. We have sources, came from al-Muqdadiyah. The sources in Muqdadiyah, exactly its position it's northeast of Diyala. There is a lot of members of al Qaeda there, like thousands, he said that. And he said al- Muqdadiyah now is like a volcano. So how can the U.S. forces -- I mean multiforces and the Iraqi forces -- treating with these criminals?

GEN. BERGNER: Well, we have said before that the nature of our operations is to simultaneously place pressure not only on the networks that are operating in Baghdad, but to also pursue them in the belts that surround Baghdad, because we understand that they will need those operating belts to use as sanctuaries to otherwise launch and support their operations from.

The forces that are operating in Diyala province, the Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces, are working very hard to find those sanctuaries and take action to deny them as safe havens, to deny them as any kind of an operating base. And so the people of Mahmudiyah that you mention are clearly, it sounds like from your description, working very hard, I assume with their security forces and others, to deal with that threat. And it's one where we will continue to pursue these terrorists wherever they seek to establish themselves, wherever they seek to establish operating bases. Shukran.

Yes, ma'am?

Q Kiyan (ph) from NBC News. You mentioned ioned Diyala, Salahuddin and Anbar awakening. Regarding the vigilantes, can you tell us a little bit about how many of these guys are out there, how much of an impact this has had? And do you see this as a flipping point in the war in Iraq?

GEN. BERGNER: Well, first of all, there may be a difference in terminology here. We will -- we do not support any kind of vigilante activity. What we do -- what we are encouraging and what we are assisting is those who turn away from al Qaeda and want to work with legitimate security forces and their legitimate governments to align themselves to protect their own neighborhoods.

They have to do that in conjunction with legitimate security forces. They have to do that with the government of Iraq. So these are people who we want to help move very quickly from fighting with al Qaeda to fight against al Qaeda and rapidly get into some sort of local security force arrangement where they are coordinated and they are working closely with either the Iraqi police or the Iraqi army and/or the coalition forces, and then quickly move them into training programs -- vetting them, checking on their reliability and their security -- and then quickly moving them into the training programs that will allow them to become members of the Iraqi police or members of the Iraqi army.

And that's different than, I think, in an American or an English version of what we mean by vigilante. A vigilante operates outside the bounds of law, and that's not what this is about.

Q Well, you know, again, this process, how many of these guys are out there? How much of an impact has it made? And do you see it as a -- because it's been going on for quite some time now.

GEN. BERGNER: Yeah.

Q So just -- you know.

GEN. BERGNER: We'll have to come back to you with a specific quantification or number of how many people are involved. And I'll get that for you.

I think in terms of the impact that they're having, they're having an important impact in terms of the intelligence that they're sharing, in terms of the encouragement of others to work with legitimate security forces and the government of Iraq, and they're helping both the Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces find those members of the terrorists networks so that we can take action against them. So they are having a significant impact in those areas where they're operating. Yes, sir?

Q Thank you, General. (Through interpreter.) We are talking about security in Iraq and the region and vice-versa. Two days ago a third aircraft carrier joined the 5th Fleet in the Gulf. Does this mean an American show of force against Iran or to confront Iran on the military level? What's the comment of the Iraqi -- the American administration? And what are the response of the American -- of the coalition forces in the neighboring countries?

GEN. BERGNER: Our responsibility as the Multinational Force in Iraq is limited to the territorial bounds of Iraq. And so our focus as the Multinational Force is on all the necessary means and measures necessary to improve security inside Iraq. And that's where our focus is. The movement of naval forces and the activities of those naval forces is separate and distinct. And so I'll refer that question to the people who have the Arabian Gulf as their area of responsibility, but it is not a function of what we are doing in the Multinational Force in Iraq.

Shukran.

Yes, sir.

Q (Through interpreter.) (Name and affiliation inaudible) -- Iraq. The U.S. forces yesterday at dawn raided many houses in Al Aalam neighborhood in Baghdad -- southwestern Baghdad in Al Aalam neighborhood. After searching these houses, they detained one youth from every house without explaining the reason behind his detention, even if they don't discover any weapon in that house.

GEN. BERGNER: The coalition forces are conducting a full range of security operations in neighborhoods around and throughout Baghdad. We do not detain individuals indiscriminately, nor do we detain them for any reason other than the security threat that they pose to the Iraqi people, to the Iraqi security forces or to the coalition forces.

And so if you will provide us some additional information on the specific concern that you raise, we will follow that up.

Shukran.

Yes, sir.

Q Jay from AFP. In early May, General Khalul (sp) said that Syria had started showing some action against the whole foreign fighter crossing into Iraq. In your statement today, you have come down again pretty heavily on Syria. Has that changed in the last two months? I mean, is there any more doubts on Syrian efforts on the borders, or what exactly is happening, but they are not anymore taking any efforts on those lines?

GEN. BERGNER: I would simply say that they have an important role to play, and it's an important role for the government of Iraq. I believe the government of Iraq has engaged the government of Syria in asking them to do more, to work with them and control the borders. And the facts that I've provided for you today are simply the facts. Those are the numbers of foreign fighters and their role in suicide attacks that we are seeing flowing into Iraq, and we would very much like to see those numbers reduced, and we would very much like to see the transit through neighboring countries better controlled and better restricted so that the Iraqi people would not be subjected to the threats that they are being subjected to. Thank you.

Yes, sir.

Q Ilyaz (ph) from Turkish ITA News. I would like to ask more about these two Turkish facilitators that you captured two weeks ago. My question is, do you think they have smuggled so much fighters or some fighters from Turkey? And in this regard, do you think they may also be using northern Iraq border? The Turkish government is always claiming about that is used by PKK terrorists as infiltrating in and out of Turkey. Is there any indication that al Qaeda might be using this border also for filtering?

And my second question will be about Armili explosion last Saturday. Is there any new details about -- is it an al Qaeda operation?

GEN. BERGNER: Khalid al-Turki and Khalil al-Turki were experienced members and participants in the al Qaeda network. They had originally gone to Afghanistan and served as fighters in Afghanistan. They had returned to Iraq in I believe 2005 or 2006 to establish a foreign fighter cell, and they were active in moving foreign fighters into Iraq from a number of sources.

In terms of the specific role and route that they might have been using, I cannot say that it directly involved sourcing of fighters coming from Turkey.

In terms of your question from Armili, the first thing I want to say is to express our condolences to the families and to the associates of those who were killed and those who were wounded. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them. The government of Iraq, the Iraqi Army's 4th Iraqi Army Division, along with police and medical support, responded very swiftly and very effectively after that devastating attack.

They were assisted on a number of levels, to include assistance from the government of Turkey, in humanitarian assistance, medical supplies and providing medical aid to some of those who were wounded, and it was very useful.

There is nothing new to report on the outcome of the investigation. It certainly has a similar profile to things we have seen, but we are still determining exactly who was involved and what networks were involved in that attack.

Thank you.

Yes, sir?

Q From your presentation, it would seem that if al Qaeda in Iraq were defeated, then it seems like most of the problems would go away. The sectarian strife would dissipate. You know, the Shi'ite militias would not be an issue. The Sunni insurgency would not be an issue. Are you saying, that it's al Qaeda and they're causing this and these other -- they're just facilitating these other problems?

GEN. BERGNER: Really what we're saying is that they are the principal threat within a complex security environment that involves al Qaeda. It involves other extremist organizations. It involves extremist militants and different militia organizations. They are clearly one of the principal -- they are clearly the main accelerant in sectarian violence and the greatest source of these spectacular attacks that are killing innocent Iraqis in such large numbers.

Q Despite the fact that their numbers are so small?

GEN. BERGNER: That's right. It's interesting, because there are -- if you looked at the number of foreign fighters that I have mentioned come into Iraq, their numbers are relatively small, but their effect is very, very devastating to the Iraqi people, because they're employed frequently as these suicide bombers. And so this isn't a monolithic security problem, but it is one where it is quite clear that al Qaeda is the principal threat and the principal destabilizing factor that is targeting the government of Iraq and their security forces.

Q One follow-up. There's, you know, a huge amount of American forces in Baqubah, and in your report you said only 155 captured, 60 killed. I mean, how long are they operating in there for? And what are they accomplishing if it's such small numbers? And why is it such a problem for them to deal with?

GEN. BERGNER: The most important thing that they're accomplishing in Baqubah is they're restoring population security to a city that had been hijacked by al Qaeda. And success in a counterinsurgency operation is largely determined by establishing an effective security force, getting it working with the people of that community or that city, and getting the people of that city and their security forces working with the government -- in this case, the provincial government -- and the government of Iraq, because when you do that, you now create the conditions where that kind of terrorist activity does not have the freedom of movement and the freedom of action that they otherwise had.

So what's happening in Baqubah is the restoration of security and the establishment of cooperation between the people, their security forces and the government. That is going to establish conditions where Baqubah can be a place that the rule of law is abided by and where the future security is provided for because it's not going to be a place where al Qaeda and other extremist organizations will be able to operate as they have in the past. And so that's what's happening in Baqubah, and that's what's important to see through in terms of the results.

Yes, ma'am?

Q I have two questions. The first one is, based on what you just said, as you secure and hold places like Baqubah with the operations like Marne Torch, are some of these fighters, like you mentioned in the briefing, moving -- these al Qaeda in Iraq fighters -- moving to other parts of the country, like Mosul, like you mentioned; that AQI activity is picking up in Mosul?

And then I also just wanted to clarify what the connection is, because we get this a lot back in the States, is what is the connection between al Qaeda and then al Qaeda in Iraq. Is it these facilitators? Is that a direct connection? Is it something they're trying to play up in this media stuff?

GEN. BERGNER: The first answer to your question -- the answer to your first question is, it's about the simultaneity and being able to put pressure on these networks and extremists who are operating, whether it be in Baghdad, in the belts around Baghdad, in the Tigris River Valley between Baghdad and Mosul. It is the ability to do that simultaneously that is important to us. And I think you get some sense from our update today that we are not isolated just on Baqubah or just on Baghdad or just in Anbar There are operations going on in Mosul, there are operations going on in Baghdad and south of Baghdad, in Amarah, all of which are targeting these terrorist organizations.

And so it's not about a sequential or linear approach to this, it's about one where we are able to put pressure on geographic areas simultaneously. And that's what we're now able to do with much more capability.

Who has not asked a question? Yes, sir? I'm sorry.

Q I'm sorry, the second part, just to clarify the connection between al Qaeda and then al Qaeda in Iraq, because I know you're saying it, and she had asked earlier about the amount of grassroots support for al Qaeda in Iraq. But if it's not grassroots support, what's connecting the two?

GEN. BERGNER: Yeah. Al Qaeda senior leadership does provide direction to al Qaeda in Iraq. They do establish focus. They do establish and provide resourcing and support the network. And as you could tell by the media center that I talked about, it has a broader application than just al Qaeda in Iraq. And so there is a higher- level direction and higher-level connectivity between al Qaeda senior leadership. Very clearly. I mean, Zawahiri's video is perhaps the best description of some of that.

Last question. Yes, sir?

Q (Through interpreter.) Ali Hamid (sp) from Al-Baghdadiyah. At the beginning of Fard al-Qanun operation until now, we have witnessed some security deterioration in al-Karkh area. Where are the Iraqi and American forces from this deterioration? Second question. There were many sit-in strikes that paralyzed Baghdad (in general ?), in al-Karkh. How do you explain these events?

(The same question repeated through a second interpreter.) Here lately we have witnessed in the al-Karkh area lots of killing and increasingly attacks over there. And second, we have seen a lot of marching in al-Karkh, protesting. So what is -- why are we seeing that in al-Karkh area exactly? And this is a question from Al- Baghdadiyah Television.

GEN. BERGNER: There are a couple of -- there are several neighborhoods in Baghdad where the fault line, the attention has become more acute. And that's a function of terrorists and other extremist organizations who are seeking to incite sectarian differences and seeking to turn the Iraqi people against one another. And so we're working very hard with the Iraqi security forces and with the local officials in those neighborhoods to help deal with that, to improve security and to provide for the needs of the citizens in those neighborhoods. Shukran.

Thank you everybody. Have a good afternoon.

END.



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