Press Conference: Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, Sept. 26, 2007
GEN KEVIN BERGNER
SEPTEMBER 26, 2007
GEN: As-Salāmu `Alaykum. Good afternoon everyone.
The multinational force continues to work closely with the government with Iraq, the security forces, and the people of Iraq to keep pressure on extremist networks and to improve population security. This remains a tough fight, and one in which Iraqi forces, citizens, and coalition forces continue to make progress even amidst extraordinary sacrifices. There are a number of events that I’d like to update you on this afternoon. First, we join with the people of Iraq in condemning the al-Qaida attack on the citizens, government leaders, and security forces in Baqubah on Monday night. They killed or injured over sixty (60) Iraqi citizens and members of the security forces, and murdered the director of police there. This bombing, during an Iftar dinner, is yet another example of a barbaric enemy who will target innocent people during the holy time of Ramadan. We are working closely with Iraqi authorities to help investigate and bring those involved in this attack to justice. There has indeed been an increase in violence in the ladt few days, largely in areas which al-Qaida in Iraq operates, and with al-Qaida in Iraq signatures as they have sought to ramp up attacks. This is an increase which was actually expected some weeks ago, given past upturns in violence during Ramadan. So far this year, the number of incidents is well below the level of 2006, and about in line with what we saw in 2005. And in spite of the tragic losses, we are seeing the courage and skill of the Iraqi security forces interdict a number of these attacks and limit the effects that might have otherwise been caused this year.
Early Monday afternoon, an Iraqi army checkpoint near Tal Afar was attacked by a suicide car bomb. The Iraqi army soldiers in this situation employed escalation of force procedures and engaged the vehicle, causing it to detonate before it could reach its target. Tragically, one Iraqi soldier was killed and another was wounded, along with some nearby civilians. But their vigilance and action kept this from being a worse situation. Later on Monday afternoon, an Iraqi army patrol in Habbaniyah spotted a suicide truck bomb, which crossed the median strip and headed towards their patrol. They employed escalation of force procedures as well. They fired on the truck and caused it to detonate prematurely. This blast was large enough to cause a dump truck driving behind it to overturn. That dump truck was later determined to also be a truck bomb containing over sixty-six hundred (6,600) pounds of explosives. One Iraqi soldier was killed and two more were wounded, and in both of these instances the swift actions and courageous sacrifices of Iraqi army soldiers saved lives of fellow citizens.
As Iraqi army forces and citizens increase the effectiveness of their cooperation, we welcome other international commitments to help stabilize and improve the security situation. Public commitments from Iran to assist the government of Iraq and improving the security and stability have been made in two formal diplomatic engagements at the Ambassadorial level, and one at deputy’s level. We would like very much to report on their excellence in fulfilling the commitments they have made to Iraq. In the meantime, however, we have no basis to report, except for actions that are not consistent with fulfilling their commitments to the Iraqi people. As we have already reported, coalition forces recently detained a Quds Force officer in northern Iraq who was a long time operative with significant responsibility to oversee the Quds force operations here. He has been involved in networks that were providing extremist groups with sophisticated weapons, training, and funding that fueled violence against Iraqi citizens, security forces, and coalition forces. In the absence of discernible progress in fulfilling their commitments to Iraq, and in the presence of these destabilizing activities, we have most recently seen action to close border crossings, which is now imposing economic hardship on the Iraqi people during the holy period of Ramadan. It is difficult to reconcile these actions that undermine security and create economic hardship for the people of northern Iraq after publicly committing to help the government of Iraq. Nevertheless, we look forward to fulfilment of public commitments that have been made. We continue to see increasingly effective operations by the Iraqi security forces.
Yesterday, Iraqi special operations forces conducted an operation directed by the Ministry of Defense at the Iraqi Military College in Rustamiyah. The operation sought to apprehend individuals suspected in the kidnapping and murder of the former commandant and with the kidnapping of the current commandant who was subsequently released. The individuals detained had allegedly used security personnel to murder, kidnap, and conduct attacks using improvised explosive devices and EFPs, to include providing military equipment and weapons to criminal elements. According to Staff Major General Mohammed al-Askari, the Ministry of Defense spokesman, this action demonstrates that the government of Iraq is dedicated to establishing security and defeating criminal elements wherever they are in the country. He also said that Iraqi security forces are focused on eliminating criminals from within their ranks. Also yesterday in Diwaniyah, soldiers from the 8th Iraqi Army Division with coalition support located another cache of explosively foreign penetrators. Some of what they found in that operation is located on the table to my right. They include a twelve-inch shape charge, improvised explosive device, which you see in the center of the table. It also includes an array of five (5) Explosively Formed Penetrators concealed in foam. Not shown here, but as part of the weapons cache were to EFPs also constructed and tied together in foam, and an array that included three (3) Explosively Formed Penetrators in a similar configuration. And the weapons cache included twelve (12) 81-mm Iranian mortar rounds with fuses, which you see here as well, some of which were manufactured in 2001 and others which have a date of manufacture of 2006. This weapons cache was supporting criminals in the Diwaniyah area associated with groups that have relied in the past on support from Iranian sources. These weapons have just literally been brought back here this morning. And upon completion of this discussion, they will be further analyzed by the forensic elements to assess the details of their construction and other attributes.
Last week, Iraqi security forces also responded to an attempted car-jacking and kidnapping of two buses transporting Iraqi citizens from Kirkuk. After receiving initial reports, Mosul police contacted the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Iraqi Army Division who responded and interdicted the buses in Ninawa province. During the operation they killed one terrorist and wounded another, successfully freeing the kidnapped civilians and recovering the buses with no injury or further loss of life. And on Friday, Iraqi army soldiers discovered a large cache of weapons and military equipment in the village of al-Nur, northeast of Tal Afar. Using intelligence gained from other captured terrorists, soldiers from the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Division successfully located and cleared a buried cache of mortar rounds, rocket propelled grenades, weapons and ammunition. In al-Anbar province, another iteration of basic combat training began for Iraqi army soldiers with approximately a thousand (1,000) recruits.
And in al-Anbar we saw the first Iraqi ordinance disposal unit begin conducting independent actions northwest of Habbaniyah, destroying two caches in their first week. In addition to the tactical operations that continue, Iraqi and coalition forces are partnering in a wide range of medical and humanitarian actions for and with Iraqi citizens. A joint medical assistance visit to the Karkh Security District treated over a hundred and fifty (150) people as a special Ramadan activity last Thursday. In Baghdad, the Ministry of Health teamed up with Iraqi and coalition forces to conduct a medical operation where over six hundred (600) citizens were screened and treated to include dental, optometry and dermatology services. Citizens also received packages containing cooking and cleaning supplies. A joint operation by the 4th Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Army Division and the 2nd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division from the coalition was conducted in Hargawi, west of Yusufiyah, which provided flour, rice, and canned food to residents there. And finally, a joint assistance operation in Baghdad provided children and young adults with important hygiene supplies. This was an operation that was particularly well received, and the community has requested that security forces return to conduct another such operation in the future.
There are also a number of recent business and economic activities that are helping restore basic services and promote development. In Diyalá, the director general of social safety distributed payment for displaced persons for the first time in over a year. Several hundred people received a cash disbursement of $400, and this financial aide will assist citizens restoring their homes and providing for their families. In Salahuddin, the business center there completed its first day of on-the-job training for thirty-one (31) new apprentices at the Votech Training Center focused on carpentry and plumbing. And in Multinational Division Center, the 2nd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division also hosted a microgrant meeting with sixty-one (61) businessmen and completed seven (7) additional microgrant applications that they expect to provide loans of up to some $20,000 this week to local businesses.
As Ramadan continues, we also continue our joint venture with the government of Iraq to review cases and release eligible detainees. These releases are all in an effort to foster goodwill and reconciliation during the observance of the holy month of Ramadan. In Multinational Force West, seventy-five (75) men were released last week. All of them pledged to renounce violence and misconduct, and both provincial political and tribal leaders were on hand to help receive and help reintegrate the detainees back into their communities. Since Ramadan began, five hundred eighty-three (583) detainees have been released, and the program is continuing. That concludes my update, and now I’d be glad to take your questions.
VINCI: I’m Alessio Vinci with CNN. Sir, would you say that the activities of Blackwater, especially the incident two Sundays ago now undermine these efforts to try to reach out to Iraqis in the streets? You just gave us a long list of successful programs here. At the same time, though, I don’t have to go over the incident again. But clearly the Iraqis are quite upset about all that. Is that...do you see Blackwater as undermining your effort here?
GEN: Well, let me start by saying I think that the actions that the U.S. Embassy has taken, the actions that the Secretary of State has taken to communicate directly to the Prime Minister all certainly convey a shared sense of seriousness and a shared mutual concern to address the issues that the government of Iraq has raised. And the fact that they have now agreed to a joint commission that will look more broadly at the circumstances that private security contractors will operate under in Iraq is another important sign of the seriousness and commitment that we share in dealing with this. It is important, I think, also to see through the investigation that the U.S. Embassy and Diplomatic Security Services are conducting and to hold any judgment or any other characterization until we see the results of that. And so we respect that, and we respect the leadership that the U.S. Embassy and the State Department have in this specific case. And we respect the importance this has to the people and government of Iraq.
VINCI: More than assessment, I mean, but it does undermine what you’re doing. I mean, on the one side your trying to reach out to these Iraqis on the street by distributing microgrants and whatever, and then at the same time Iraqis see something that is closely associated with the U.S. Some could even confuse them for U.S. military, for what we know, killing civilians in the streets. I mean, how do you... there’s some of your colleagues back in Washington say that this is going to hurt you, is worst than Abu Ghraib. This morning in the Washington Post...I mean, are you completely dismissing the fact that it is hurting you?
GEN: I am completely...I would restate exactly what I just said that we take very seriously and share the same concerns that our State Department colleagues have on the potential impact this could have. And I think the actions that our government has taken, and the investigation and the commission that have been established reflect the same seriously that we all realize this has. And so I think that’s the best statement of the impact and the importance it has. Yeah. Yes, sir.
NEGUS: Steve Negus, Financial Times. You mentioned that the level of incidents for this year is well below the level of 2006 and about in line with 2005. Would you actually have specific numbers of incidents for the years in question and sort of the range of dates, say the first week of Ramadan, the first...?
GEN: Yeah, I think actually we can give you at least something that reflects where we were last week, and I will work that for you after this press conference. And I would also remind everybody that we fully know where we are in relative terms, and we’re not trying to predict or project, we’re simply trying to characterize where we are at this moment. And so we still have a couple more weeks to go. And we know this requires continued hard work by our forces, Iraqi forces, and the government of Iraq to keep the pressure on the extremists that’s resulting in the improvement that we’ve seen. Yes, sir.
PRICE: Jay Price from the McClatchy Knight-Ridder. I’d also like those numbers as well. The question I had was the array of EFPs, the five (5) and then the three (3). I think we all know what one of them does. What is five (5) in an array designed to do?
GEN: Well if you look at that device there, and I know it’s hard to picture it. Maybe the graphic that they put up can give you a better sense of what’s in there. But on the top of that are two EFPs pointing basically out in this direction to the audience here. And then below it in line are three other EFPs. And that device is intended to be set off away from the road, away from the actual point of attack because is has a pretty good range to it. And it will create a molten copper slug that is fired at the target, whether it be a coalition one or an Iraqi target. And that’s what makes that specific device so dangerous and so sophisticated...is it’s a ability to create this Explosively Formed Penetrator. We actually have two (2) officers here from the explosive ordinance detachment that is taking these back now for analysis. And when we finish here today they will be glad to take you through a detailed explanation of what you’ve got and what they’re initial assessment is of the ordinance there.
PRICE: Kind of following up on the question about Blackwater...getting away from the incident itself, which I don’t want to discuss, and you currently feel good about not discussing it to...the nature of counterinsurgency’s winning hearts and minds...these guys run up and down the streets. They have a reputation for running up and down the street, shooting, clearing people off the street. Forget about just killing people, but just as kind of people who are projecting America’s image here...I’ve been told time and again by some of your commanders that they’re undermining the effort to win the hearts and minds. Are you not hearing this?
GEN: I think everybody is taking this just as serious as I mentioned earlier. It is absolutely a serious circumstance, and one that we all have great concerns about, the implications of it. So there is no question that it’s an important and serious issue and it warrants the investigation and it warrants the broader commission that the State Department and the government of Iraq have agreed to create to get at those kinds of issues and assess the levels of accountability and assess the specific circumstances that these companies will operate under. Yes, sir.
REP1: Asking question in Arabic.
INT: A question from Hora TV. General Bergner, these Explosively Formed Penetrators that are actually in front of us right now, according to what we heard that they’re supplied, or they came from Iran to Iraqi groups. Could you tell us the exact locations where you found or these EFPs can be found in Baghdad or in Iraq? And how far do these EFPs form danger for the multinational forces and Iraqis? This is the first question. In addition that in these questions how do you view the violence? Because there are American reports that say that the violence dropped in Iraq compared with the past days or in 2006. Yet, there are also increased attacks by armed groups. So I would just like to get a comment about these two questions.
GEN: Let me start with the first one, which was where did we find these Explosively Formed Penetrators and the shape charge and the mortar rounds. They were found by units of the 8th Iraqi army operating in the area of Diwaniyah, and they were discovered yesterday during their operations there. They were part of a weapons cache that included some other mortar rounds and the other Explosively Formed Penetrator arrays that I referred to my remarks, one that was grouped as two and one that grouped as a group of three. We have seen those kinds of systems deployed here in Baghdad. We have seen them operated north of Baghdad. And we have seen them in southern parts of Iraq as well. And so those are consistent with the kinds of sophisticated EFPs and IEDs that we have seen in all of those areas: in the belts around Baghdad, in the city, and south of Baghdad as well. And then the last part of your question was what about levels of violence. We have seen an upturn in levels of violence in the last few days, and you have seen it reported, I think. So we are continuing our efforts to suppress it and keep the pressure on the extremist networks. And we’ll continue to keep that focus because we know this is a specific period of time that the extremists in past, and we know this year, will try to increase the level of violence during the period of Ramadan.
REP1: I want to add something. Speaking in Arabic.
INT: There are also American reports that say that the Iraqi army does not control all the...actually only controls 12% of Baghdad. And al-Qaida now...how would you describe al-Qaida in Baghdad? Does it have an impact or are there other organizations that have more impact than al-Qaida or influence in Baghdad?
GEN: I think the numbers that you’re referring to, in terms of levels of control in Baghdad, were provided by the commanding general of the multinational division here in Baghdad during a recent press conference. So I wouldn’t further characterize them other than what he said. And I think the number you’re referring to, and we’ll follow up after this just to confirm, I think his point was there’s a percentage of places where there are only Iraqi security forces controlling security. And then there are many other places where they are doing it in partnership with coalition forces still. So I think that’s the point he was trying to make. In terms of the threat that al-Qaida represents, I think just by some of the attacks that I described in my remarks this afternoon -- the suicide truck bombs, the suicide car bombs, the attack on the leaders in Diyalá province -- show that al-Qaida in Iraq continues to use indiscriminate violence. They continue to try to achieve a spectacular attack that would insight sectarian violence. And as the main accelerant to sectarian violence, they continue to be the most difficult near-term security threat for the government of Iraq and for the coalition forces. That’s not to say that there aren’t other security threats, and that they aren’t significant. Of course they are. And Iraq really is, as we have described before, very much a mosaic of security challenges. There are a number of them that exist, to include the special groups and what we have learned from their organizations and operations from people like Kais Kazali and Ali Musa Daqduq, the Lebanese Hezbollah operative who was here special groups. And so it very much is a mosaic, and one where Iraqi security forces and coalition forces have to be aware of the broad range of threats that exist. Shukran. Thank you.
REP2: If I could get those numbers as well? I was just wondering about the Iranian who was detained. The Iraqi government has criticized the U.S. government for detaining this man, and to say it’s an affront to their sovereignty. And I was curious. According to President Talabani it was insulting and etc. The communications going on about and why it is that the Iraqi government and the American government have opposing views on this man?
GEN: Let me first start off by saying that I think our diplomatic engagement with the government of Iran, and they were trilateral, so they involved the government of Iraq. There was a clear understanding that Quds Force operations in Iraq that are fueling special groups and other extremists that are providing sophisticated weapons are a significant destabilizing effect. And it was clear that if Quds force officers are going to continue to operate in Iraq, that we have an obligation, it’s our responsibility to operate against those accelerants to these networks. And so that’s the context that I think is important to understand. And your second point about who was this guy, what was he involved in. He is a Quds Force Officer who has been directly involved with networks that are providing those resources, training and funding, sophisticated weapons that are targeting the Iraqi people, the Iraqi government, and coalition forces. And so we have a responsibility, our mandate inside Iraq is to take the necessary means to improve, help the government of Iraq achieve a safe and secure environment. And so we take that responsibility very seriously. We’d like nothing more than to see something more positive to report on there, but in this case this is what we’ve run into. The individual involved, we have actually been updating Iraqi leaders on what we have learned about this officer. And I think there is an increasing awareness in the government of Iraq about who this individual really was and exactly what he was involved in.
REP2: I mean how do you...I mean they’ve said that President Talabani, you know, said this arrest was against Iraq’s sovereignty. So, I mean, how do you reconcile that, saying we don’t want this as the Iraqi government and your own comments that we have a mandate to do what’s best for Iraq? I mean it seems there’s a contradiction there between the two sides.
GEN: Yeah, I’m not sure there really is a contradiction. There may be a catching up of information and knowledge and intelligence. And so you know that we have great respect for President Talabani and great respect for his leadership and his partnership. And we have an obligation to help inform and share what we learn about this individual so that senior leaders do have a clear understanding of what they were involved. And we’re continuing in that engagement with the leadership as well. Yes, Sir.
GARZON: Oh, yes, is Garzon Ragama of the Washington Post. There was a raid yesterday on an Iraqi military academy. Can you provide some more details about this? And we believe some people were detained?
GEN: There was a raid conducted at the direction of the Ministry of Defense. The Ministry of Defense directed the Iraqi special operations forces to conduct the operation to detain individuals who were involved in the kidnapping of a previous commandant, of Rustamiyah, which is the Iraqi Armed Forces College. And the kidnapping and subsequent release of the…of a second commandant at Rustamiyah. The Iraqi special operations forces conducted this operation also to locate individuals who had been conducting other criminal activities and using their position and/or their access to weapons and military capabilities for criminal purposes. And I would point out what my colleague from the Ministry of Defense, the spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said in his comments last night, which was this is an indication that the Ministry of Defense will take the necessary actions to police its own ranks and to deal with individuals in the Ministry of Defense who are conducting criminal activities. And that’s the best characterization I can give you. The number of people detained we’re still confirming with the Ministry of Defense. We’ll follow up with you with that number. But my understanding is they did apprehend the individuals they believed were specifically involved in the criminal acts that I’ve mentioned. Yes, sir.
REP3: Asking question in Arabic.
INT: There are some news about an operation made by the multinational forces of detaining huge officers in the Iraqi army regarding also the military academy. And there are also some news about detaining one of the senior officers in the Iraqi intelligence. Could you give us some details about this, and why did the multinational forces detain those people, or those officers? Thank you.
GEN: First of all, let me clarify an important point. The operation yesterday at Rustamiyah was conducted by Iraqi special operations forces at the direction of the Ministry of Defense. Coalition special operations forces as advisors frequently and generally do accompany Iraqi special operations forces on those kinds of missions, and they did yesterday as well. But the operation that you refer to at Rustamiyah was conducted by Iraqi special operations forces. And they did that, as I mentioned earlier, in response to a Ministry of Defense decision to detain individuals or were conducting criminal activities and were using their position as a basis to do some of that. So this was a Ministry of Defense directed and conducted operation. Your second question about an individual in the national police was detained. He was detained because of sectarian action, criminal sectarian action. And his investigation and the way ahead with that individual is something the coalition and Iraqi forces are cooperating on and still assessing. Shukran. Thank you.
PALMER: Elizabeth Palmer from CBS news. I wonder how much of a security vacuum you think now exists in southern Iraq following the deployment of the British forces. And also could you sketch the security threat as you see it from southern Iraq? And I’m particularly interested in fighting between Iraqi groups as well as any threat you might see from Iran.
GEN: First of all, I would start off by saying that the government of Iraq has taken a number of actions to ensure that there is no security vacuum in southern Iraq, in particular in Basra. They have deployed a mechanized battalion to augment the capabilities of the Iraqi army there. They are standing up two additional Iraqi army brigades that will be employed there over time. They have created the Basra operational command and designated Lieutenant General Mohan to lead that effort to better unify both the Iraqi army and Iraqi police forces there so that there is a much better cooperation, a much better accountability for all of the security forces in Basra. And they have also sent a new chief of police, General Jaleel to Basra an in effort to better reform and organize and hold accountable the local police there as well. And so the government of Iraq is taking some definitive steps, specifically to get at the issues that you raised as a concern.
That security challenge for the government of Iraq is one that is also we see in other places in southern Iraq, and it’s one where there is a criminal element to this. There is a competition between, among different shia groups in different ways in different places. And so it is a complex one that is both intra-shia and it is one where criminal activity for personal gain and for those kinds of reasons is being taken at the same time that you see extremists targeting coalition forces and targeting Iraqi security forces. So that’s how I would overall assess the actions that the government of Iraq is taking. And the nature of the challenge, one that arguably is quite complex and one that requires clear leadership by the government of Iraq and sustained support from coalition forces. Yes, ma’am.PALMER: I’d be interested to know how much of a threat it poses southern Iraq and the various forms of instability on sort of a national scale; if you had to rate what worries the multinational forces the most. How big a destabilizing threat is southern Iraq?GEN: Well, stability in southern Iraq...first I think you have to start by saying that there’s clear agreement that stability in southern Iraq is very important to the overall security in Iraq. It is the main economic connection for Iraq’s major industries. It is the economic connection to their seaports. It is an important source of trade and commerce to the other countries in the Middle East that flow from southern Iraq. So it is very important to the overall security and the over all viability of Iraq as a nation. The activities that we see criminal elements there conducting and the activities that we see extremists there conducting are ones that the government of Iraq and the coalition take very seriously.
You saw the reaction that the government of Iraq took in the wake of the incidents of violence in Karbula. You have seen the operations that are underway yesterday by the 8th Iraqi army in locating and picking up weapons caches that there are very sophisticated systems and ones that have great concern to us. And as I mentioned earlier, you’ve seen the actual deployment of forces and the commitment to build more forces to serve in Basra, which further reflect the importance that it has to the government of Iraq there. So it is very important. I’m not sure I could give you a 1,2,3 kind of ranking, and it’s mostly because the overall security situation in Iraq is, as I said before, a mosaic. And so what happens in central Iraq and what happens on their western border, what happens in northern Iraq, relative to their ability to sustain trade with Turkey and other places is important as well. But it is one that most importantly the government of Iraq and their security forces have and continue to take seriously, as do we. Who has not asked a question? You guys all have, okay. Ned?NED: I’ll share it with Sadarson who was going to do a joint question. With the raid yesterday on the military college, what was this criminal group? Was it related to special groups, to criminal, to al-Qaida in Iraq? Can you give a more description of who they were aligned with?GEN: Yeah. That is something we are still investigating. And actually the Ministry of Defense will actually sort out a great deal of. They were definitely criminal groups and exactly what their alignment was and who they might have been associated with is something that we’re still assessing. And we will follow up with you once we get more details about exactly what the connections were.
NED: These individuals were actually working inside the academy? Were they civilians? Were they military?
GEN: They were working inside the academy. And I believe they were members of the military.
NED: How senior were their ranks?
GEN: As I said, I’ll follow up with you on the details once the Ministry of Defense shares those with us.
NED: Could you give us more of a description of their operations? I mean they were about the kidnapping and murder of the commandant and the kidnapping of the second. But, you mentioned, I think, sort of weapon...could you give more detail of what they were selling weapons to different groups? Were they carrying out hits for people, etc.?
GEN: Yeah. The best characterization I can give you at this point is that they were involved in those crimes of kidnapping and murder, and they were involved in possibly providing weapons to carry out those kinds of crimes. And once we find out more from the investigation and the follow up of the individuals that were detained, we’ll have more to share with you on that.
NED: And just a follow up. One is a factual one, and that is when was this commandant kidnapped and murder? And the second thing was this was the latest incident in a series of issues with the military. Last month there was an Iraqi battalion commander who was arrested in western Baghdad. I mean there are constant reports from there from officers on the ground, commanders of intimidation or cooperation with militias. I mean, what does this tell us about the strength of the Iraqi military? Or in fact does it have many problems with criminals, militias, different armed groups from all stripes?
GEN: Well the first thing I would say is I think it tells us something mostly about the Ministry of Defense and its commitment to take action. I mean this is a significant operation, and everyone would have the same assessment of it that you just described. This is an important step that they have taken to deal with problems in the ranks. So I think first I would draw the conclusion that their action says something about the level of commitment and their willingness to take the necessary steps. And this is very much a work in progress. And it’s most important I think that the government of Iraq and their ministries continue to step up to those challenges and hold people accountable when they find a basis for that action. I would also point out that there are a number of Iraqi army units, unquestionably the majority of Iraqi army units that are performing under extremely difficult circumstances and doing quite an effective job. And I saw those myself during a recent trip to Mosul with the 2nd Division and their operations there. I know from my past experience here the quality of the 3rd Division and their ability to do this.
And I know from the guy who commands the 6th Iraqi army division, General Abdul Amir that there are very strong and accountable Iraqi army leaders out there who don’t want to see this kind of criminal activity in their ranks either. And so it’s one of those things that the Ministry and the leadership have to continue to step up to. And by yesterday’s operation it appears they are.
NED: When was murder of the first commandant?
GEN: I do not know the date. We will find out and get back to you Ned.
REP3: A couple of weeks ago when you brought in a fragment of a rocket you had mentioned features like color and the actual lot numbers distinguish it as Iranian, which I would assume would be how the identification, or the origin, of these mortars would also be determined.
GEN: Actually I can just tell you that the only country that I’m aware of that makes an 81-mm mortar is Iran. And that is a unique weapon on the international market, and it’s the only place I believe it comes from. And I’ll ask our explosives guys back there to backstop me on that, but I believe that is the case. So that’s how you would know in terms of that weapon.
REP3: I thought 81-mm was a fairly common mortar caliber. Is 81-mm at all or that specific shape of 81-mm?
GEN: No actually an 81. And 82-mm mortar is a more common mortar. Are they back there, Vic? Can I get a head nod from them that...They’re the experts. And I’ll be glad to have them take you through it.
REP3: Are any of these databases of weapons systems publicly available? Or are they all classified? I mean is there any way that we, you know as lay people, could, you know, see for ourselves.
GEN: Actually I think there are some, and I think they’ll be able to share those with you. It points you to the right place. Last question, yes, sir.
REP4: The Iranian man you guys picked up in Sulaymaniyah, just going back to that. Did he have anything with him? Did he have EFPs, any sort of weapons at all?
GEN: Actually it was a Quds Force officer that we picked up in Sulaymaniyah. The individual and everything that he had is being investigated. It’s a work in progress. I won’t talk specifically about what he had in his possession. But we will as that investigation goes further. I thank you all very much. Shukran jazilan and masalam.
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