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Military

Press Briefing, July 26, 2007

Multi-National Force-Iraq

BRIEFING BY LT. GEN. RAY ODIERNO, COMMANDING GENERAL MULTI-NATIONAL CORPS-IRAQ AND STAFF LT. GEN. ABOUD GANBAR, COMMANDER OF BAGHDAD OPERATIONS, FARDH AL-QANOON.

TOPIC: CURRENT OPERATIONS

LOCATION: COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQTIME: 10:30 A.M. EDTDATE: THURSDAY, JULY 26, 2007

 

LT. GEN. GANBAR: I would like to inform you about the following things. Operations for the Qanoon during five months has achieved many successes and we have many indicators by which we can judge the operation.

First, the end of [in audibile] intention and civil role will not happen in our country. There is decrease in the number of violence or violent actions and our forces have proved that they are capable of tracking down the terrorists and they took the initiative and they are now on the offensive and they are developing their capabilities day-after-day and the level of crimes have decreased. The unidentified bodies have decreased by 90 percent and 40 percent of the IED's and the mortars have decreased to 40 percent and car bombs have decreased to 15 percent.

Life came to normal in many areas in Baghdad. We have noticed commercial movement in Baghdad after long suspension. Work in the government offices has started to be organized and many projects are carried out in Baghdad along with many services. The school year for all the schools and the colleges has ended with the least violent actions and no violent actions were reported during the examinations.

Life came to normal in many medical facilities and people are now going for these medical facilities and the services have raised by 300 percent.

Some of the Iraqi people in some hot areas rejected the terrorists groups after they felt that the Iraqi security forces can protect them and people are not cooperating with the Iraqi security forces.

Eight, the terrorists elements and the [in audible] elements were not pleased by the unity of all people after the victory won by our soccer team. Our people have proved that they are united despite all the terrorism which have been exposed and now we know that terrorism has no religion. It's the enemy of all the nations and all humanity.

Despite all these good results achieved by Operation Fardh al-Qanoon during the five past months, we have a lot of work to do and still we have many challenges to face. We have to face sectarianism and engage all the people in supporting the operation. And now I will like my colleague, the commander of the Multinational Forces Corps to take the podium.

LT. GEN. ODIERNO: Thank you so much and as-salaam aleikum. It's an honor to be here with Lt. Gen. Aboud, The commander of the Baghdad Operation Center. First of all I would like to start by congratulating the Iraqi people and the national soccer team on a brilliant victory against South Korea yesterday.

As hard working men from many different and diverse backgrounds, they represent what is best about this nation. I would like to wish them the best of luck against Saudi Arabia and hope that they are able to take home the Asian Cup for the fist time in history this Sunday.

Unfortunately, this joyous occasion was scarred by what directly followed, a barbaric attack on innocent Iraqi citizens both Sunni and Shia, woman and children who were celebrating Iraq's victory. This is done by terrorists and it's important that the Iraqi people continue to reject these terrorists who know nothing but violence and destruction. Who do not care about the future of Iraq. Who do not care about the future of the Iraqi people.

These cold acts of terrorism, like this, have gone on far too long. Together we can put a stop to this and we must throw these heartless zealots out of this country for good. The time is right now and the time is now to do this.

Coalition forces and Iraqi security forces continue to pursue successes and security throughout many areas of Iraq. Since the launch of Fardh al-Qanoon and the Multinational Corps Operation Phantom Thunder, we have had some significant success in the security arena over the past month. I attribute these successes to three factors.

The surge of coalition forces had an impact in denying sanctuary to al Qaeda and Iraq and Shia extremists. The important element to long-term effectiveness is holding these gains. The Iraqi security forces and coalition forces have made a commitment to insure that we hold these gains. There is clear evidence that Iraqi security forces are growing in strength and capacity and with such professional growth, comes a confidence of the population. Security provided by competent Iraqi security forces aroused the people to go about their business of restoring economic, political, and social growth of the nation.

Reconciliation efforts with tribal leaders continue to gain momentum. Ultimately reconciled groups come to understand that the political process is the best way to achieve their objectives peacefully and under the rule of law instead of through violence and fear.

Operation Fardh al-Qanoon and Phantom Thunder are supporting the Iraqi government's plan to secure the Iraqi population. Iraqi army and coalition forces have focused operations on ending the terror inflicted on the population by al Qaeda and other illegal groups who are interested only in gaining power for themselves.

Our combined forces have captured hundreds of weapons and ammunition caches found and cleared well over 1,3000 explosive devices and more then two dozen vehicle borne IED's. Just as importantly we have captured or killed key al Qaeda and extremist Shia leaders who have directed their murderous attacks on the Iraqi people, the Iraqi security forces and colation forces.

I wanna close by saying how much I understand the sacrifices of the Iraqi people. You have put your lives on the line for your country and many of your countrymen have paid the ultimate sacrifice so your nation may live in freedom. It is people like Lt. Gen. Aboud and the brave men and women of the Iraqi security forces that have made this possible. I admire their dedication and I am proud to have the opportunity to work along side them securing the citizens of Iraq. It is my hope that we will be able to continue standing along side you until the job is done.

I would like to finish by honoring those who have paid this ultimate sacrifice for Iraq, not only the men and women of the Iraqi army and police force but also the innocent Iraqis who have been needlessly killed as others try to destroy this country. You are in our thoughts and you are in our prayers. We will continue doing everything in our power to haste the day when the citizens of Iraq no longer have to worry about barbaric thugs terrorizing their country. And I look forward to the day when Iraqi security forces are in complete control of security within the country of Iraq.

With that, I will turn it over to questions. Thank you.

Q My question to General Ganbar. What's the role of your security forces in [inaudible ] and [inaudible] and Dora which are witnessing violent actions?

GEN. GANBAR: Our forces are deployed in Al Rashid West and Al Rashid East. They are also deployed in many other areas. These areas have never witnessed the presence of the Iraqi security forces. We have now cleared these areas and we have presence in these areas. We are taking control of these neighborhoods and according to the intelligence information, we are following up any targets whether from al Qaeda organization or any military activities. These areas are under our control but we cannot call them hot areas or rested areas. How can we define hot area? It's an area with some kind of a threat like opening fire or an IED but they are under the control of our security forces.

Q My question to Gen. Ganbar. The people in Husaynia are suffering. The multinational forces said that there are some weapon caches in some areas and rockets were fired at these caches. When are you going to end the siege around Husaynia?

GEN. GANBAR: Since the beginning of Fardh al-Qanoon, we have announced that little activities are not allowed. Only the Iraqi security forces have the right to carry arms and weapons in the streets. What happened in this quiet area there were some military activities in this area. The gunmen and the militias blocked the roads and they planted IED's and they prevented the Iraqi security force from entering into this area. This runs contradictory with the role of the Iraqi security forces in Baghdad. This is something illegal and it is against operations for al-Qanoon. So the Iraqi security armed forces have the right to right intervene and impose supremacy and rule of law.

A few extremist people are behind this incident and it resulted in some innocent victims but as for the area yesterday morning the barriers were lifted and we opened the roads and the services started in this area and life came to normal in this area.

Q Hello. Steven Ferro from the New York Times: Lt. Gen. Ganbar I wanted to ask you how long are you going to need U.S. forces do you think in Baghdad and Iraq given there is a daily debate going on in the U.S. about the length of time they should say and is that debate and the apparent indecision affecting the morale of your Iraqi forces?

Q Gen. Odierno I would like to ask: There are reports today of the Iraqi ambassador criticizing the pace at which U.S. forces are arming Iraqi forces saying it's a constant source of frustration to them. Is there an difference of opinion between the Americans and the Iraqis over the pace of arming Iraqi forces?

LT. GEN. GANBAR: The operations, we're carrying out joint operations with the multinational forces to end the violence in Iraq. These are not conventional operations. These are internal security operations. They are complicated operations and it needs time and patience. We have covered long strides of these and the next period, next phase I would like to insure to you that military activities and violence we're going to tackle these problems. And I hope that violence will end in Iraq.

These operations are carried out according to military principals different from ordinary military operations. It's not like the ordinary operations which ends in 48 or 72 hours. I hope that we are going to complete the mission.

Lt. GEN. ODIERNO: If I could, uh, I'm assuming you're talking about the equipping of Iraqi security forces. Um, I'll answer two questions actually related to that.

First, we continue to train and equip Iraqi security forces actually at a rather significant pace. What people tend to forget is we're doing this with an army that is contact with an enemy. And so it is not an easy thing to do. It's complex. You just don't wanna give people weapons and then they start fighting the enemy. There has to be some training that goes along with this. So it's slower than we'd all like it to be. We'd like it to go as fast as possible to develop a capable Iraqi security force, the size necessary for them to take on security themselves. We must do this in the right way so they're prepared properly to face the enemy that is out there.

Now let me just take this on in a different sense. There has also been some questions about arming other groups that we're reconciling with. We don't arm anybody else outside of the Iraqi security forces. And I want to make that clear. What we do with them is we reach out to them and try then to bring them into the process working with the government of Iraq and Gen. Aboud specifically in making sure that these are acceptable individuals that will help us to defeat the threat.

And if I could, I would like to comment- make one comment on Husaynia. First off, Gen. Aboud said it exactly right. What you have is you have a small group of extremist that have taken over a city. And they've gone inside of the city. They built the barriers around the city. Coalition forces didn't. And for 45 days, they conducted uninterrupted attacks on coalition forces and Iraqi security forces as they drove by on the road outside. And it culminated this week in the killing of six coalition forces. In all of Iraq this week, we had nine coalition forces KIA. Six of them occurred in Husaynia by these extremists. And so it was important for us and we traced the four individuals directly involved in this back into the city of Husanyia. So that's why we conducted some operations in there. The violence has to stop. The violence has to stop attacking the security forces. And that's why this is going on.

Now, I will also tell you that yesterday there was a 70-vehicle convoy that went up there with supplies. We have been working with the local people in there. We've negotiated with them. We've talked down and sat down with them trying to discuss the problems. And I think it's been done by the Iraqi security forces along with coalition forces and the people of Husaynia. And I think we're making progress. But the important point here is the people must reject these extremist who continue to use their neighborhoods to attack security forces. That should be unacceptable. Thank you.

Q Lt. Gen. Aboud Ganbar we have a lot of calls from the Iraqi people. They complain about not responding to their calls to tackle some issues and some incidents caused by the terrorists, the families targeted by the terrorists. Forces in some areas are somehow weak and they cannot respond to these demands of the citizens. Recently we discussed the return of the displaced families to their origin areas and some of the areas which have been secure, the people want to go back to their homes but these houses are still occupied by some other people and the families cannot return to their houses.

LT. GEN. GANBAR: As far your first question, we don't work according to the demands of the people. We organize our work according to intelligence information and we plan well for our operations and then we clear them out. But we don't ignore the calls made by the, and the demands made by the citizens. But we verify these demands and sometimes we discover that these demands are not true. We are carrying out our military operation according to some priorities, military priorities and intelligence information.

As for the return of the displaced people to their homes, the issue of displaced people, we are going to oppose al Qaeda operation. The extremists and the terrorists are worried about the return of these families to their places because this means the end of these terrorists organizations. That's why they do their best and they make use of their intelligence information to resist this. At the beginning of the operation, now we have some displaced families have received the aids or humanitarian aid on these families. You know that the incident in Samarra caused this displacement and I would like to confirm that some families in Baghdad note about 140 families have came back to their homes. The people who have been displaced have changed their place of residence and they also have changed their commitments and their lives like the schools and the universities. Some of them have rented a house and they paid in advance for this rent. And the issue of services also these people need basic services. We don't prevent these people from coming back to their homes. We are waiting to provide the basic services and these people are also waiting for security. And I hope that Baghdad will witness mass return of these people to their collective return. And I hope that we are going to celebrate this as we celebrated the victory of the Iraqi soccer team yesterday.

Q There has been a slight down turn in the number of US casualties in the last month of so and I wonder if you can comment on to what extent that's resulting from anything or is it random and what maybe going on?

LT. GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah sure. I would just say there's trends. I think we predicted this in- we topped out in May I believe with casualties. And we kind of predicted that because we went into areas that we had not been in for a long time and they safe havens that had established by extremists. And we've now gone into those areas with Iraqi security forces and going into these areas we knew it would be tough from the beginning. We've now taken control of these areas. Since then, we've started to see a slow gradual reduction in casualties. And it continues in July. So we'll see. My initial thought is this is what we thought would happen once we get control of the real key areas that are controlled by these terrorists. And so we'll see if the trend continues. It's an initial positive sign but I would argue I need a bit more time to make an assessment of whether it's a true trend or not.

Q My question to Lt. Gen. Ganbar and then to Gen. Odierno. There are some facts about some elements are smuggling rockets and IED's of Iranian or Chinese made coming over through the borders. Is it the eastern or the western borders of Iraq?

Have you been able to take control of this? My question to Gen. Aboud are you going to tackle this issue through regional negotiations?

LT. GEN. GANBAR: This issue is very well known. These extremists have received weapons from the- now we are coordinating with the multinational forces to follow up these people who receive the weapons from the neighboring countries. You know that we cannot control these borders 100 percent. These weapons have started to worry us and we know the launching pads or the launching areas of these weapons. We are in coordination with our friends. We cannot respond to this threat like the way the terrorists do. We target the [in audible] and the target anybody who carry the weapons. We have targeted them. Now we are going to track them down.

LT. GEN. ODIERNO: If I could, let me just add to that. I would say that it's clear to us that there are networks that are smuggling weapons both explosive formed projectiles, IED's as well as mortar and other capabilities from Iran into Iraq. And there's networks that have been established directly to extremists here in Iraq. One of the reasons why I think we're sitting down with the Iranian government as we did yesterday is trying to solve some of these problems that in fact these weapons are coming across. And in fact, we believe some training is also going on inside of Iran. We have seen in the last three months a significant improvement in the capability of mortarmen and rocketeers to provide accurate fires into the green zone and other places. We think this id directly related to training that was conducted in Iran. So we continue to go after there networks with the Iraqi security force. This is not done independently by U.S. or coalition forces. This is done in conjunction with Iraqi security forces and we continue to attack those networks. And we will continue to do so until they stop bringing these weapons in.

I would just comment on in the Syrian border, I would just say that what we see coming in there that's where we find most of the suicide bombers and other terrorists coming in through those borders. And we're trying, working again with the Iraqi security forces to stop the flow of foreigners into Iraq which end up killing many innocent Iraqi civilians.

LT. GEN. GANBAR: What has been achieved during Fardh al-Qanoon operation is something very great and life came to normal in Baghdad. I visited the hospitals and these hospitals were working very well and they have all the medical equipment with them. There are many efficient Iraqi doctors who told me that the civilians are coming to these medical facilities. The number increased by three-fourths and many surgical operations are being conducted in Iraq. And Iraqi civilians are coming to receive the medical treatment in these hospitals.

This is a good indicator and you know that life in Iraq as you see in the schools, in the markets and what happened yesterday how the Iraqi people were united. You saw the celebrations of the Iraqis about the victory won by the Iraqi national team. This proves that the Iraqis are the Iraqis and Iraq is the cradle of civilization. The country of tolerance and these are some ideas, extremists ideas which came from outside Iraq.

What we have achieved during Fardh al-Qanoon Operation now the Iraqi people are cooperating with the Iraqi security forces and the terrorists begin to be defeated. And now the terrorists training camps are now being targeted and the Iraqi security forces are now taking the offensive and terrorists cannot spend one night in one house . They change their hideouts everyday.

We have a very important mission. We want to defeat terrorism and all kind of aggression and we want to impose the rule of law in the streets of Baghdad. Only the Iraqi security forces have to right to carry the weapons and I think that we have covered the long stride and we need patience and we need more work and all the government institutions should support the Iraqi national forces.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk in this conference. Thank you very much.

LT. GEN. ODIERNO: If I could, I would say I have the opportunity to travel across the entire county of Iraq as well as spend a lot of time inside of Baghdad. And over the last six months and specifically the last sixty days, two months, I am very encourage with what I am seeing. I am encouraged by the increased security that allows the Iraqi people to start to begin to have normal lives. We are not there yet. We still have much more work to do. But we are starting on providing them a way to live a normal life. And that's what we're tying to do here and achieve.

The most important point is that Iraqis themselves are rejecting the terrorists and that's what changed. They are rejecting them. They don't want them as part of their country. And we're working together with them to rid Iraq of these terrorists.

I have a chance to go around almost everyday inside of Baghdad. What's encouraging is every night I see hundreds of soccer games going on in the streets and Baghdad. I see several markets up growing every single day. I see people returning to their neighborhoods from those who were out in Syria and Jordan and other places. They are hearing that security is improving.

Again, we still have a long way to go. We're not finished yet. But these are encouraging signs. And as we continue to work together under the command of General Aboud, we hope to continue to improve the security situation within Baghdad.

Again I want to thank all of the Iraqis for their dedication and their sacrifices that they have had over the last several years. And we wish them in the near future they will have a safe and secure country and their children will be able to grow up safely. Thank you very much. That's all I have.

END.



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