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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

CENTCOM Operation Iraqi Freedom Briefing ~ 24 March 2003

Presenter: General Tommy Franks and Brigadier General Vincent Brooks March 24, 2003


Slides and videos used during 03/24/03 CENTCOM news briefing
Click on the small image to view a larger version
Video of an airstrike on a MiG fighter jet that was towed away from the Al-Asad Airfield, and was hidden in a revetted area [492 Kb]
Video of an airstrike on an airfield command bunker complex in eastern Iraq [718 Kb]

Video of an airstrike on an armored personnel carrier in a defensive position in central Iraq [686 Kb]

Video of an airstrike on a tank in a defensive position in central Iraq [506 Kb]

Video of an airstrike on a tank in central Iraq [1.21 Mb]

Video filmed mine/counter- mine operations were being conducted in the Khor Abdullah to try to open the way to Umm Qasr to make it possible for humanitarian supplies and other needed things to go in. It shows a helicopter towing a mine sled [986 Kb]
Pre- and post-strike imagery of a special security organization complex. Visible by the blue arrows in the post-strike image are where the airstrikes occured. Only those buildings have been affected while everything around the outside of the camp is unaffected
Pre- and post-strike imagery an Iraqi intelligence service complex
Pre- and post-strike imagery of a Palace Guard barracks and office complex. the facility was attacked using precision-guided munitions. Each one of those blue arrows represents a different weapon that was delivered against the target set

GEN. FRANKS: Well, good afternoon. I see we have -- I see we have a full house. Let me begin by offering my condolences to the families, loved ones, friends of those lost and wounded thus far in Operation Iraqi Freedom. We know, honor their service by our resolve, our commitment, our dedication, to accomplish the objectives that the secretary talked about a couple days ago, as did I.

Well, we are in our fifth day of combat operations of Iraqi Freedom. Our forces are operating throughout Iraq, on the ground and in the air. United Kingdom and American marine forces are in the southern oil fields as we speak protecting Iraqis' future.

Our air forces continue to strike regime command and control and military formations virtually all over the country with precision munitions and precision application of those munitions.

Our special operations forces -- from the United Kingdom, the U.S., Australia -- are conducting direct action and strategic reconnaissance operations across the country. And major land combat formations continue to move, as you have seen them move over the last three or four days.

Progress towards our objectives has been rapid and in some cases dramatic. De-mining operations have cleared about half the channel up to Umm Qasr. A number of humanitarian assistance ships are loaded, and we'll begin to deliver needed humanitarian assistance -- food, water, medicine -- to Iraqis within the next few days.

Our forces have met sporadic resistance in a number of places on the battlefield. But as our troops fight, even in isolated areas, there will be casualties -- there have been casualties, because from the perspective of the fighting man on the ground, even an isolated set of combat situations represents violence which he must see face to face.

As you know, our forces have been moving rapidly. We have intentionally bypassed enemy formations to include paramilitary and the Fedayeen. And so you can expect that our clean-up operations are going to be ongoing for across the days in the future.

We know that the Fedayeen has in fact put himself in a position to mill about, to create difficulties in rear areas, and I can assure you that contact with those forces is not unexpected.

I've asked Brigadier General Vince Brooks to join me again this evening, and to provide some visuals for you. Vince?

GEN. BROOKS: Thank you, sir. And good afternoon again, ladies and gentlemen. I am going to begin by just giving you an update on some of the activities over the last several days and show you some images of some of the initial strikes that we've had against forces throughout central and eastern Iraq primarily, and the effect that we are having on those combat systems.

I'll talk several times to the graphics today, and if you'll bear with me while I point at some things, you should be able to see it very clearly. Let's go ahead and bring up the first set of weapon system videos, please. What we are going to show you is a series of attacks. All of these are done from the air. They're all precision engagements with precision-guided munitions against armored formations, against command post bunkers, and against other things that you'll see, like aircraft that have been moved into strange places. This first one is a MiG, a fighter jet that was towed away from the Al-Asad Airfield, and was hidden in a revetted area. So you will see that being struck on the ground. Go ahead and roll the tape, please. We have found a number of these aircraft in a variety of places, including in some cases near cemeteries.

The second image is an airfield command bunker complex in eastern Iraq. Go ahead and roll the tape. As I mentioned, we are also attacking combat systems that are in defensive and revetted positions. The next one is an armored personnel carrier that we will bring up and show in just a moment. And this armored personnel carrier is in a defensive position in central Iraq.

Next there is an image of a tank in a similar position in central Iraq. And finally one last combat vehicle, a tank in this case again, in central Iraq.

General Franks spoke to you a few days ago about the effort we go through to do precision engagement in all we do. First, to be very precise about what it is we are targeting, how we choose to target it, and also to minimize the effects on things we don't intend to attack.

I am going to show you a series of before-and-after images from different regime targets that have been attacked over the last several days, just to demonstrate the nature of that effectiveness and let you see it for yourself. Let's bring up the first image, please. This is a complex for the special security organization, well known as the enforcement arm of the regime. You can see the compound is outlined on the screen, and the portion to be attacked is on the lower left side. And we'll show that before and after, and then a split view, so that you can get oriented to it. I will tell you that the next image, the post-strike, has been rotated. Let's go ahead and show the next, please, the post-strike. It's rotated about 90 degrees. But you can see where the attacks occurred with effectiveness at each of the blue arrows. And only those buildings have been affected. Everything around the outside of the camp is unaffected -- even the walls of the compound -- excuse me, the compound were not affected. And the split please: before, pre-strike and after.

Let me give you another example. The Iraqi intelligence service -- the arm that ties to terrorism throughout the world and conducts intelligence operations abroad. This complex is in the center of the screen,a nd you'll see a post-strike image here in just a moment -- let's bring it up. Again, the surrounding area is intact, and only those buildings that were targeted have been destroyed.

Another example. The Palace Guard, part of the regime's protective structure. This is a barracks and office complex. It was attacked by precision-guided munitions. Let's show the post-direct, please. Each one of those blue arrows represents a different weapon that we delivered against the target set. And different from the old days, we don't bring multiple aircraft in; we may send a specific missile or a specific guided weapon system against each one of those points to achieve the desired effect.

And the split. Our attacks, particularly in the Baghdad area and other built-up areas against regime targets continue to be very effective. And we remain committed to minimizing the potential effects on the people of Iraq, and also the infrastructure.

Let me now give you an update on some additional actions. General Franks mentioned that coalition special operations forces continue to conduct numerous missions throughout Iraq. They are actively hunting for weapons of mass destruction and also looking for ballistic missile systems. And they are on track, and they are doing exactly what they need to be doing at this point.

On the next image we'll show a map, just to give you a highlight of where some of our recent operational activity has been. Each one of these pointers shows where the key highlights are. First the land component did continue to expand its territory throughout Iraq, and that included a continued advance beyond An Nasiriyah, and also an aviation attack against Republican Guard forces near Baghdad. And during that attack there was an attack helicopter downed. All the other helicopters involved in the mission did accomplish the mission and returned safely to base. Land components also secured Basra Airport, all of the Rumailah oil field, and an ammunition storage area near An Najaf. The pointers show where those key activities are.

Okay, change to the next image, please.

This is a video that was filmed as we were doing mine/counter- mine operations in the Khor Abdullah to try to open the way to Umm Qasr to make it possible for humanitarian supplies and other needed things to go in. This is a helicopter towing a mine sled. We do anticipate that there may have been mines laid; no confirmation of that as we continue to go. It's a very deliberate process. And the map shows where we've achieved at this point in time.

Go ahead and bring the map up, please.

The area that should be involved is down to the south of Basrah at the mouth of the Khor Abdullah. We've got the wrong image up here.

All right, bring up the next image, please.

One of the things we've done throughout -- I mentioned a few days ago an important line for us is using information, and as much as possible communicating with the Iraqi people and Iraqi military forces and informing them with information that indeed will save their lives, and has already on a number of occasions.

I want to show you a few of the leaflets that we've used and tell you that at this point in time we've already released over 28 million leaflets. And that accounts for roughly 5 million more than all of which were dropped in Desert Storm.

Each one of them has a different theme. It's targeted to specific areas, whether it is to a unit or to the population. In this particular case, it's a warning to units that they should abandon their equipment or the equipment would be destroyed. And we certainly saw that in the first few days.

Next, please.

We also emphasized to them that their future is tied to their economy and that they should not do things like dump oil with the anticipation that some of the oil fields and also the oil terminals might have been damaged. This we communicated to the Iraqi people, that they should not squander their future by way of dumping oil into the waterways.

The next one, please.

Capitulation instructions and how to signal to us that they're ready for us not not to attack and, as we arrive, to either surrender or capitulate. This is a graphic image. It joined with radio broadcast that gave very specific information on how to do that so we did not have a problem. And that has not been a problem at this point.

Bring up the next image, please.

As you know, we conducted initial operations to secure the Rumaila oil fields and the terminals that are inside of the North Arabian Gulf, as well as the Al-Faw terminal. Those operations were successful, but indeed there were some examples of the regime having set demolitions on wellheads and blowing them.

Yesterday the assessment team that needs to go in and determine what work needs to be done was able to enter into Iraq, do an assessment of the oil field, and has already shut down a gas-oil separation plant. And that turned one of the fires off by itself. So we're down at this point to only seven fires out of an oil field that has 500 wellheads; again, a very important story for the future of Iraq.

That's all we have to brief this evening, and I'll turn it back over to General Franks. Sir.

GEN. FRANKS: I'll be pleased to take your questions. Please.

Q Thank you, sir. George Stephanopoulos, ABC. (You were just talking ?), General Brooks, on the 28 million leaflets you dropped, and this was an unprecedented psychological operations operation. Given all that, why do you think there hasn't been more mass surrender? Can you update us on the status of any negotiations? And do you think now that some Iraqi commanders, who may have led you to believe they would surrender, were engaged in psychological operations of their own?

GEN. FRANKS: I wouldn't speculate on the latter, George. I would say that if you think about the content of that message, it talks about how to surrender. And we've been delivering these leaflets over a prolonged period of time.

And as I think we've said, perhaps from this podium before, a great many people simply laid down their weapons and walked away from their positions. And John Abizaid mentioned last night that rather than a confined area like we saw in Kuwait, we have the broad stretch of Iraq before us, and so units which chose to abandon their equipment and so forth and walk away simply have done so.

A great many, because of confusion or being undecided, have not done that. I think our enemy prisoner-of-war count today is in the vicinity of 3,000. And so we'll continue to find and take prisoners as we move through this.

And I'm sorry. Your second question was?

Q Just on the commanders themselves, why do you think -- (inaudible) -- motivation.

GEN. FRANKS: Sure.

Q But have you seen any --

GEN. FRANKS: Oh, of course --

Q -- (inaudible) -- commanders --

GEN. FRANKS: -- of course. As a matter of fact, we are in contact with a number of Iraqi unit leaders as we speak.

Please.

Q General Franks, Tom Mintier, CNN. I'm sure you have seen the pictures of the attack helicopter down south of Baghdad on Iraqi television.

GEN. FRANKS: Right.

Q What can you tell us about the fate of the crew? Were they picked up by another helicopter? Are they missing? What happened in that incident?

GEN. FRANKS: The fate of the crew is uncertain right now. We characterize that crew of two men as missing in action. We're not sure. We know that this particular helicopter was one of between 30 and 40 attack helicopters that we moved into this particular target set. We know that they were very effective in their mission. And we know that as, I think, one of the networks has been showing, that the attack helicopter didn't get back. And so we have a two-man crew missing right now.

Q General, two nights ago, you talked about fighting this war on your own terms.

GEN. FRANKS: Right.

Q Well, isn't the Iraqi opposition, the stubbornness and persistence of it, forcing you in places to fight on their terms, where you have far less technological advantage? And might this make you have to pay less regard to the risk of civilian casualties?

GEN. FRANKS: I think we're precisely where we were two nights ago when I spoke with you. We'll fight this on our terms. And what I mean by that is, in a great many places in Iraq, one will find these isolated units and enclaves that I described. And we'll undertake -- it isn't that we don't know where they are. And so we'll undertake the sequencing and simultaneity of our operations on a time line that makes sense to us.

I will tell you, in response to the other part of your question, that any time you find -- well, I guess I'll say perhaps criminal behavior of intentionally placing non-combatants in close proximity to military equipment and to military formations and so forth, then you certainly are abusing your people. And this regime has done that. And I think it's been, as a matter of fact, reported by embedded reporters.

And so, in my view, this platform is not a platform for propaganda. This is a platform for truth. And so what I'll do is I'll try to provide you the best balance I can. And that's what I've asked that our people here do. But to create problems, of course, because we're going to do the best job we can to protect non- combatants in this. It doesn't mean that we're going to be wholly and 100 percent successful. You know we're not and I know we're not. But we're going to do our best.

Sir.

Q General, Tom Fenton, CBS News. What has been done to soften up the Republican Guard units that we believe are around Baghdad? How hard have they been hit? And what effect is this having?

GEN. FRANKS: They have been hit. They will continue to be hit, sort of to go to the previous question, at points and places and times that make sense to us, based on which of those units we intend to take under fire at a particular point in time. The effect has been very positive for us, sir.

Yes, sir?

Q Craig Gordon from Newsday. I know we're in a very early stage of this, but I guess the question is beginning to be asked if the commanders have somewhat underestimated the tenacity of some of these irregular units -- the Fedayeen and the Special Republican Guard -- and how much what we're seeing with some of these rear-guard actions is essentially a preview of that the road to Baghdad is going to look like.

GEN. FRANKS: Can't predict what the preview will look like, but I guess I would say that I actually have seen no surprise here, and I think that our people on the ground have not seen a surprise.

There are people in the Iraqi army, whether Special Republican Guard or Fedayeen, who have a lot of allegiance to this regime. And so one can expect -- I'll use the term that my boss, Don Rumsfeld, used a while back when he said, you know, you're going to come across dead-enders. And we have come across dead-enders, and we've have some terrific firefights with some of these -- not unexpected. I think our people are prepared to fight this war. And as you correctly said, we're five days into this.

STAFF: General?

GEN. FRANKS: Ma'am? Please.

Q Thank you, sir. Martha (Brown ?) from Newsweek. Is there any update you can give us about the POWs from the maintenance division?

GEN. FRANKS: Right. There actually isn't. I think what we know -- I'm sure that the Red Cross will be in there with them and reporting very soon. I know that were these prisoners of war we held, then the Red Cross would certainly be in there, in order to provide fact and provide accountability and to ensure that they're well cared for. But actually I can't provide an update. We have seen on television what you have seen, and that is the reporting we have.

Sir? Please.

Q My name's Niebao (sp). I'm from the Xinhua News Agency of China. From the reports of CNN, BBC, people know the Iraqi people are more united than before. For example, the farmers shot down two helicopters. Meanwhile, the Iraqi forces are more strong than expected, because the number of casualties of British and American troops is on rise. Do you think the days ahead will be more tough or more -- mean more casualties for America and Britain?

GEN. FRANKS: Okay. Thank you.

I think that anyone in my profession involved in a warfight will expect that we will see casualties in a war. And so, yes, I expect we will see casualties in the days ahead.

I actually won't confirm the first part of your statement before you asked the question. I know with some precision how many helicopters have been shot down, and I can assure you they weren't by -- that those events did not occur as a result of farmers??, as you described. And so we have every expectation to continue to place the most sophisticated troops and equipment in the world in the face of this dying regime, and we'll undergo some casualties while we do it.

Sir? Please.

Q (Name off-mike) -- Abu Dhabi Television. In the beginning of the war, so-called coalition forces claimed taking full control of Umm Qasr, then Nasiriyah, and yesterday Basra; and apparently, it seems now, it's not correct. Are you practicing a strategy of lies and deception, or you just have been trapped by Iraqi army? Where is the truth about the situation in southern Iraq? Please give us some information --

GEN. FRANKS: Sure.

Q -- static information about your location --

GEN. FRANKS: Sure.

Q -- areas under your control.

GEN. FRANKS: Right. Actually, there are a great many areas under coalition control. I mentioned in my beginning comments that we have every expectation that some of the paramilitary and the Fedayeen will fight. And I said it again just a minute ago. I think what you'll find is that the people of Basra will, in the days ahead, be able to have more access to food and more access to water than they have had in decades. I believe within a few days -- I believe within a very few days you'll see that occur in Umm Qusr. I believe that you'll continue to see large numbers of coalition forces move in and around these villages and towns that you mentioned. And so, that's the very best I can give you. I think there's nothing at all unexpected about what we've seen up to this point.

Sir, please?

Q Yeah -- (name inaudible) -- BBC World Service. You spoke the other day about a mosaic; we're looking at a very small part of Iraq, essentially focusing on southern Iraq. Could you please tell us a little bit more about coalition operations in the west and in the north of the country?

GEN. FRANKS: Sure. Without talking about whether these operations, sir, are in the west or are in the north -- (laughter) -- I will tell you that in fact, United Kingdom and Australian and American Special Operations Forces are about their business from left to right and top to bottom, in the west and also in the north. And they have accomplished some wonderful things out there. They're operating in small teams, they're very, very mobile and they're doing for us just exactly what we want to have them do.

Ma'am?

Q Hello, again, General. Kelly O'Donnell from NBC. On the subject of weapons of mass destruction, from this podium we've been told that there has been information from detained Iraqis over the last several days. Now that time has passed, can you give us any indication of the quality of that information?

And secondly, there are reports that the chemical plant contained no chemicals at Al-Najaf. Can you update us?

GEN. FRANKS: Right. I think the -- I'll do my best. I think that we probably have received, oh, several handfuls of bits of information over the last three or four days about potential WMD locations. Some of them -- some of those locations are in areas where we have control, some we have not yet gone into. I think Secretary Rumsfeld gave the right appreciation yesterday when he said -- you know, we were then four days, we're now five days into this. And we're concerned about taking down this regime and about getting our hands on all these weapons of mass destruction and these technologies. And it's a bit early for us to have an expectation of having found them. And so, this is work we call SSE, sensitive site exploitation. And we will do some sensitive site exploitation as we go along and we'll do other sensitive site exploitation a bit later in the campaign. Best I can do.

Q May I follow up just on the chemical plant, sir?

GEN. FRANKS: Sure.

Q Can you confirm that there were no chemicals found at that plant?

GEN. FRANKS: Actually, I can't confirm. I will say that it would -- it would not surprise me if there were chemicals in the plant, and it would not surprise me there weren't. And the reason I say that is because I have access to something that -- of course, that none of you do, and that is all of these bits of information that come in. And more times than not, they'll be based on speculation rather than based on first-hand knowledge. I think it was -- someone mentioned in the past two or three days, when you get very close to WMD is when you're able to discuss with the people who have actually been involved in the WMD program. And so we'll just -- we'll wait for the days head.

Sir, please.

Q Jim Wilson (sp), Popular Mechanics Magazine. Have we come away from the aviation operation this morning with the impression that the regime command and control network is more resilient and more robust than we had believed when we went in?

GEN. FRANKS: The regime command and control network. Actually, I wouldn't put a percentage on it. I will say that command and control within the country is much less robust than it was five days ago. That does not mean that we don't have an expectation that for the foreseeable future that we will find means to communicate, sometimes by radio, sometimes by wire, sometimes by courier. And so no, there actually isn't anything unexpected about it. But that's where we are right now; they still do have a means, a somewhat limited means, of communication.

Sir, please? Here.

Q Audie Robal (sp), ABC News. Sir, there haven't been that many popular uprisings against Saddam Hussein's regime with respect to the Iraqi people. Why do you think that is? Does that show the power and effectiveness of Saddam Hussein in terms of interspersing his more elite troops amongst the civilian population --

GEN. FRANKS: Sure it does.

Q -- to keep them at bay?

GEN. FRANKS: Sure. Sure it does. Fear. It's fear -- the practice of this regime over a long period of time. It has to do with fear. I mentioned paramilitaries and the Saddam Fedayeen in some of these towns. I answered a question a minute ago about, so how can it be that things are not all calm in Basra and Qasr, al-Nasiriyah, and so forth. It has to do with the fact that fear tactics are still being applied in many of these locations. And that will change over time.

Back here, please.

Q Patrick Malcolm (sp), Radio Television Hong Kong. What is your reaction to Saddam Hussein's TV public address? Do you think that it will, say, rise any resistance force from the Iraqi people? Thank you.

GEN. FRANKS: I don't know. I actually didn't see it. Several people talked to me about it, and it was very interesting. It -- no, I won't give an analogy. I started to give a joke analogy, and I don't think I will. Let me say it this way. There are a lot of opinions about that. And so what will be the reaction to that? I think people will believe what they want to believe. And I believe that some people within the country of Iraq and some outside the country will believe that the tape was real, and I believe there will be others who will want to believe that the tape was not real. And so I think that in terms of our ongoing military operations, it doesn't make any difference.

You remember the point we've made several times: this is not about one man; this is about an oppressive regime. So that's my view.

Sir, please?

Q Thank you. David Muir (ph) with WCTV out of Boston. Can you talk a little bit about the prisoners of war, the American troops, perhaps some of the training they've received to deal with these types of situations, what they can say, and how they're trained to deal with this mentally?

GEN. FRANKS: Right. I think none of us in this room could conceivably put ourselves in a circumstance where we're under the stress and strain that one sees when a prisoner of war. The expectation is that our military members will comport themselves in accordance with their beliefs as people of our country. And I guess I would just say that I have every -- I have every confidence they will do that. Our people are well-trained. They're also highly motivated. And I think that's really important, the "highly motivated" part.

What I am interested in seeing from time to time or in having some of my staff or subordinate commanders talk to me about is the embedded reporters and what they're seeing and what they're experiencing as they're with our young people on this battlefield. And I think all of us in this room would have to -- would have to agree that the levels of motivation, training, capability, proficiency as demonstrated by those just like you seem to be very, very high. And so that's kind of my take on it. Motivation, training, stamina. Tough kids.

Sir?

Q Michael Wolff, New York Magazine. Speaking of the embedded reporters, what do you think has been accomplished message-wise from the embedded program?

GEN. FRANKS: Well, I think that's a great question. I really don't know what's been accomplished. I think that the decision to permit the embedding and in fact facilitate the embedding of reporters -- of a great many nations, by the way, Western press, Asian press, press from -- Arab press, from right here -- I think what it permits is it permits the viewership and the listenership and the readership of the various countries on this planet to be able to get a sense, to be able to get a take of what's going on on this battlefield. I'm a fan of it. I think it was a very good thing to do. And we'll see how it plays out.

Sir? Please.

Q Paul Robertson of the Daily Mirror. Can you tell us anything about the British soldiers which are missing today? Are they now prisoners? And if not, what are you doing to try to help find them?

GEN. FRANKS: Actually, I won't talk about the Brit potential missing troops any more than I would talk about the specifics of our helicopter pilots or of the youngsters in this maintenance company.

I will say -- and I've seen speculation in a number of places -- that a coalition like this would take action, where action is appropriate, to secure the release of people who are taken prisoners. I think you can go back a long, long time in the history of warfare, and you'll find that to be the case. And so we'll just have to wait and see what the days ahead look like.

Sir? Please.

Q Yes -- (name and affiliation off mike) -- News. The sirens have being going off in Kuwait all day. So after the pounding the Iraqi army has gotten, the guys you've been talking about, the several -- do we understand that the Iraqi army the ability to launch counterattacks -- missile counterattacks on its neighbors?

GEN. FRANKS: No, I mentioned the other night from the -- from this podium that we have assessed for a while the possibility that this regime has ground-to-ground, surface-to-surface missiles. They certainly have not all been destroyed yet.

But I can tell you this. The ones that have been shot into neighboring countries, to include two more within the last 24 hours, have been destroyed by Patriot. And so we like the technology, we like the configuration, and we're going to continue the destruction of these systems as we're able to find them.

Q (Name and affiliation off mike.) There are several friendly fires -- friendly fire occur recently. Do you have any idea -- try to reduce the cases? And there are several journalism reported dying on the battlefield.

GEN. FRANKS: Right.

Q Do you have any advices for the people still working there? Thank you.

GEN. FRANKS: Right. Thank you.

Friendly fire incidents -- I'm aware of several, and I guess I would have to tell you, once again, that is not beyond my expectation. That doesn't mean that in command of an organization like this we like it. What it means is that we understand in the nature of war that we're going to find ourselves in circumstances where, because of a tactic or a technique or perhaps a weapon system, maybe because someone's tired -- not sure -- but we will have these blue on blue, or friendly fire incidents. We've seen them. And our subordinate commanders work very hard to avoid that. But I suspect in the days ahead that we'll probably see more.

And I'm sorry, your second -- the second part of your question was?

Q A lot of journalists have reported --

GEN. FRANKS: Oh, yeah, the journalists. Right. I'm not -- and I may be in error, but I'm not aware of a single embedded journalist who has been harmed on this battlefield. I'm not aware of one. I think that -- well, were it possible to keep journalists absolutely safe, I think all of us, you and I, would do that. But the fact is that there are people who will go in harm's way to report the news and I think, unfortunately, when that happens, in some occasions they will find themselves either in a cross fire, they will find themselves in a position where they're attacked by the enemy, as I believe was the case with a suicide bomber up in northern Iraq here a day or two ago. And so it's not a good thing. But once again, it does not surprise me.

Please, sir. Back in the back, please.

Q (Name inaudible) -- for the Voice of America. General Franks, the Red Cross in Geneva says it still hasn't received a response from either the coalition or Iraq to its request to interview prisoners of war and get information on them. Are you preparing such a response?

GEN. FRANKS: To tell you the truth, I did not know that a response had not been given -- didn't know where we were in the administrative chain on that. But I do feel very strongly -- very firmly that in accordance with the Geneva/Hague and that, that we need to move forward as quickly as we can in order to get the Red Cross involved in these situations. I'll assure you this. We'll do our part and we'll take care of the prisoners we hold.

Let me go back over here. Sir, please?

Q Matt Harer (ph) from the -- (affiliation inaudible). Tell us what's going on in Nasiriyah tonight.

GEN. FRANKS: Sure. Nasiriyah is in fact a crossroads community, and if you look at a map of Iraq, you'll understand what I mean by that. In fact, we have been conducting operations in and around Nasiriyah for -- gosh -- a couple of days now. Our forces are in there now and they're going to remain in there. That's the best I can tell you about Nasiriyah.

Last question, please. Let's go back here. Sir, you in the blue shirt. Thank you.

Q What have you deduced from -- it's Paul Hunter from CBC Television Canada. What have you deduced from the fact that Saddam has still not used chemical weapons against coalition troops? And do you think the greatest risk would be when they converge closer to Baghdad?

GEN. FRANKS: I think -- I actually think we don't know. There is a school of thought that says as the compression becomes tighter and tighter and tighter, the pressure will be greater and greater to use these weapons. So we don't know. We don't know whether the regime will use these weapons. My encouragement is not to the regime highest leadership, rather, my encouragement is to the people who will have their fingers on the trigger to use such weapons; we have very carefully said don't do it. And that's the best I can tell you. We don't know if he will, we don't know when he will. We fully understand that he has the ability to instruct, to demand of his subordinates the use of these weapons. But it would not surprise you that at this point, even five days into this operation, many orders which have been given by this regime have not been obeyed by a great many of the subordinates in his armed forces.

Let me -- let me just sum up by saying well, our forces are continuing to move, they're moving in ways and to places that we believe are just exactly right, in accordance with a plan that is flexible, designed to be flexible. We know for a fact that the forces on this battlefield are the most capable, certainly the most capable I've ever seen, whether it's by way of technology or training or motivation. Our resolve is great. The morale is good. And as I think we always say, there is no doubt about the outcome.

Thank you very much.

Q Thank you, General.



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