(Also participating was Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, vice director for operations, J-3, Joint Staff.)
Clarke: Good afternoon, everyone. As President Bush said yesterday, the Iraqi regime is no more. Saddam Hussein is no longer the dictator and oppressor of the Iraqi people. But as the president also warned, there remain dangerous elements in the country who must be rooted out.
Coalition forces have taken Tikrit, Samarra and al Qaim. Our forces are securing key infrastructure in Baghdad; we are increasing our patrols of the city to provide security. And British forces are patrolling in southern Iraq, including joint patrols with Iraqi citizens.
The picture continues to brighten in Iraq, but our troops are still putting their lives on the line and the work is dangerous. Several American soldiers [and Marines] were killed in the last few days, including from the Marine Corps: Lance Corporal David E. Owens, Jr., age 20, of Winchester, Virginia; and Corporal Armando A. Gonzalez, 25, from Hialeah, Florida. From the Army: Private First Class John E. Brown, 21, of Troy, Alabama; Specialist Thomas A. Foley III, 23, of Dresden, Tennessee; Specialist Richard A. Goward, 32, of Midland, Michigan; Specialist Gil Mercado, 25, Paterson, New Jersey; and Private First Class Joseph P. Mayek, 20, from Rock Springs, Wyoming. And our thoughts and our prayers and condolences go out to their families and friends.
To rebuild Iraq, we are working with local leaders, clerics and ordinary civilians in towns across the country. Rebuilding is a major task not just because of the war, but because of nearly three decades of neglect and devastation by the Hussein regime. Local councils are forming to help rid cities and towns of regime remnants, and every day, civilians are leading our troops to enemy caches of large weapons, ammunition, TNT, plastic explosives, and homemade bombs. School, after school, after school is cleared by the weapons and ammunitions stored there by Iraqi forces.
On a more positive note, every day, more countries and organizations come to the aid of the Iraqi people. The Australian government will provide three planeloads of medical supplies to Baghdad. Overall, Australia plans to spend $60 million for humanitarian aid. Over the weekend, two Kuwaiti Air Force C-130s flew into Baghdad International Airport with 24 tons of medical supplies for hospitals and health clinics in the city. From Turkey, 1 million liters of water were delivered to Kirkuk. Repairs are being made there to the electrical and water systems. From Spain, the ship Galicia delivered humanitarian aid, as well as military vehicles and supplies for troops. And as the aid flows to many places throughout the country, more and more Iraqis are stepping forward to provide useful information and work with coalition forces on restoring police forces, providing electrical power, reopening schools and getting clean water flowing again.
We have a short video from Nasiriyah.
(Video is shown.)
Along with the material infrastructure of Iraq, a new political system is also being built. Yesterday, dozens of free Iraqis from in and out of the country, from diverse religious, civil and ethnic groups, met in Ur near An Nasiriyah. This was the first of many meetings as the Iraqi people begin to chart their future course, free of the oppression of the Hussein dictatorship. They talked about freedom and self-government in Iraq, they called for a country that respects the rule of law and diversity, they acknowledged that a lot of hard work lies ahead and they called for the next meeting in just 10 days.
And we have a very short clip of this.
(Video is shown.)
Clarke: The coalition role in this process is simple: to create the conditions so that the Iraqi people can rebuild their country. Our job is not to pick or choose leaders or factions. That is up to the Iraqi people.
Yesterday was only the first step, but an important one, in the journey toward freedom and self-representation. Slowly but surely, the Iraqi people will build a government and a system that preserves its territorial integrity, uses resources to benefit the Iraqi people, and is not a threat to the region or the world.
McChrystal: Thank you, Ms. Clarke.
I'd also like to extend condolences to the families and friends of those service members that Ms. Clarke just mentioned, that have been killed, as well as those who have been injured over the past few days. I won't review any new operational details. However, I would like to reinforce Ms. Clarke's comments that although major combat operations are likely behind us, the tasks faced by coalition members remain difficult and potentially dangerous.
And with that, we'll take your questions.
Q: Torie, on Abu Abbas, can you say who's holding him and explain the process with which you will -- his disposition to other agencies or --
Clarke: Not really. We're looking at the legal issues and possibilities and have nothing to say right now.
Q: Can you say where he is, who's holding him?
Clarke: No, but I'd -- you know, I'd take you back to the military objectives that the secretary and the chairman laid out in the first days of this war. And one of them is to root out the terrorists that have found sanction and harbor in Iraq. And clearly, this is a piece of that.
Q: Is there any evidence or indication that he was responsible for any terrorist activity or supporting terrorist activity while he was in Iraq, or is the U.S. interest in him primarily because of previous terrorist activities?
Clarke: I think it is because of a pattern of behavior, but in terms of Iraq specific, don't have information for you.
Q: What we gather, he was turned back at the border trying to cross over to Syria. Is that some indication that Syria is cooperating now with the United States, or doing its bidding?
Clarke: I've only read press reports. I don't have any more information than that about what he was doing before they got him.
Q: Does the Pentagon plan to take any captured terrorists to Guantanamo Bay?
Clarke: There are no plans at this time.
Q: What do you know about --
Clarke: We almost could have ended it! (Laughter.) I saw an opening. (Laughter.)
Q: May I ask two questions --
Clarke: Yes, you may.
Q: -- on two entirely different subjects --
Clarke: Oh, no. We will come back to you. One question on one subject, and then --
Q: Oh, okay. Well, in that case, the question is for you. And it's not on the war. Franklin Graham is scheduled to be here on Friday to lead Good Friday prayers at the Pentagon. And some Muslim workers here at the Pentagon have objected to his appearance here at the Pentagon, saying that he is a controversial figure, that his movement champions converting Muslims to Christianity, and that he has publicly criticized Islam on television. So I'm wondering if you can tell me whether or not the Pentagon is re-thinking Franklin Graham's appearance here, and whether or not the Pentagon feels he's an appropriate person to have here to lead Good Friday prayers.
Clarke: I just found out today that he had been -- I read the press reports and heard that he had been invited. And I think it's important to remember that the Pentagon chaplain's office invites speakers and religious leaders from all sorts of different places representing all sorts of different faiths and organizations. And it is a policy of openness and inclusiveness.
I think we clearly have demonstrated from what the U.S. military has done over the last quite a few years how committed we are to fighting fights to protect people, to protect their right to practice their faith. You know, those who like to say some of the things we're doing are war against Muslims, clearly it's not wrong. You start with Kuwait, you go to Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan, what we are doing now. Clearly we're doing this to the benefit of Muslim people. So, I think you get a good sense of what the Pentagon's approach to this is. Specifically about his appearance here on Friday, I'd direct you to the Army.
Q: General McChrystal, you've said that major combat operations are over, you've said that there are pockets of resistance. Can you talk about combat operations currently now and if, across the board, the U.S. is generally moving to phase four, stabilization?
McChrystal: I think the characterization of phase four would be up to General Franks making a recommendation to the Secretary of Defense. But clearly, we are moving toward support and stability in many areas of the country already. The combat operations that remain -- there are some parts of the country we have not moved into at all. We just recently sent major elements into Ar Ramadi, into al Qaim. We still have a small city to the north of Tikrit that has not been -- not seen any presence of coalition forces at this point. So, there are potential in those locations for some fights, or at least in Baiji for fights. But most areas, we are transitioning to going after the pockets of death squads, towards dealing with those elements that want to rise up and cause threats to either the new Iraq or to coalition forces. So, I think it's transitioning fairly rapidly to support and stability.
Q: So, is it accurate to say that there's sort of a backfill in the places that now -- that you passed by on the way to Baghdad?
Q: Just to follow up on that, can you describe a little bit about -- a little bit more; we're hearing about the idea of redeploying the troops, with the Marines in the north and the Army in the south. And what's the thinking behind that and other --
McChrystal: Sure. I'd like to take it from the larger sense first in terms of shaping the force, and we talked a little bit about this last time. What's happening right now is General Franks has the authority to redeploy forces that are already in theater when he no longer needs them, and that has been ongoing now for several days. He's redeployed -- begun the redeployment of at least two of the carrier battle groups, a number of strike aircraft, and the expectation is that he will continue to shape that part of the force down as those requirements go away.
He will continue to shape by modifying whatever the force flow in any way he wants, to have the appropriate forces that come in. As you know, we've got the 1st Armored Division, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment still arriving. The 4th Armored -- or the 4th Infantry Division is on the ground in its entirety now. And we are shaping some of the force packages. I believe you've seen the announcement that the 1st Cavalry Division is not being deployed at this point. But we are deploying some of the elements from that force package, some of the water elements, some of the military police elements, because they match General Franks' requirement for the future.
I would expect that as he goes into the support and stability operation, that he will divide it into sectors: a Marine sector, an Army or 5th Corps sector, and then any other -- the coalition forces operating, as he sees fit, and then within those sectors operate, again, in each specific area within the sector as required. And he'll have Special Operations forces available to him throughout, to augment and complement regular forces.
Q: There have been instances in Mosul now for two days running where civilians have been shot, apparently by U.S. troops. Can you explain what's been going on there? And has this been an instance of a lack of fire discipline on the part of the troops and maybe an example of the kinds of problems we're going to be facing, you know, as they stabilize the country?
McChrystal: I've seen the reports and the articles about the incidents. I'm not prepared to judge on either side whether it's a lack of fire discipline or whether it was caused -- what was the cause. I will say it highlights the complexity of the situation.
In the first case, which I'm more familiar with, clearly there was a crowd; at some point there were shots, initially warning shots, and then lethal shots fired by both sides, or at least effective fire fired by both sides. And it shows the incredible complexity of dealing in a situation where we have service people trying to bring stability to an area and having elements of whatever party or group trying to oppose that.
Q: Do you know whether there have been any steps taken to tighten up -- or at least to -- you know, any additional instructions given to the Marines so that this kind of an incident is minimized in the future?
Clarke: Well, let me jump in here, and you can finish up. Again, people look at one incident. If you look at the last few weeks, the extraordinary care, the great caution, to protect civilians that U.S. and coalition forces have employed has been extraordinary; day after day, example after example of going to great lengths to spare civilian lives. So I think that's the appropriate way to look at this.
This is an incident. They're still looking into the details.
Q: Just to follow up on this question about the care taken to minimize civilian casualties; we're getting reports that some unexploded cluster bomb munitions have been showing up in and around Baghdad. And human rights groups have been complaining that the use of these weapons, particularly in populated areas, presents an indiscriminate risk to civilians.
Can you just respond to that? First of all, have cluster bombs been used in populated areas, and does that present a risk to civilians that perhaps should be looked at?
McChrystal: Sir, I don't know. I cannot categorically state whether or not they've been used. It is my understanding that they have not been used in any populated areas. But clearly, I'd have to get more information to know that. I will tell you that the care which was taken in targeting throughout this campaign, the right munition for the right target, has been unprecedented. And so in every case, I will tell you, scrutiny and care in every phase of it was the governing factor.
Q: I'm not sure that I understood your earlier responses on the issue of Syria and whether or not you feel that there might be some mild progress of any kind being made as far as the U.S. government is concerned. Are you seeing things in terms of actions or talk from the Syrians that might alter the U.S. government's posture slightly toward it?
Clarke: I haven't seen anything.
Q: And the second issue is leadership. Do you have any sense that large numbers of the former government of Iraq's leadership is still in Iraq in some way, shape or form? Do you think that many of them have left? Do you have any sense that they might still be roaming around?
Clarke: Well, we've gotten some of them, which is a good sign, and that's one of the most important parts of our military objectives. You hear rumors, you hear speculation. Obviously, it's a top concern for us. So we'll keep a close eye on where we think they might be and try to get them. I have not heard of large numbers getting out of the country.
Q: Torie, in his last press conference before the war, President Bush said that what Saddam Hussein had needed to do in order to avoid war was to disarm, and that if military operations were necessary, the purpose of them would be to disarm the Iraqi regime; that's the only objective he mentioned.
I almost get the feeling that there's kind of an effort now to refocus the operation towards other goals, such as restoring democracy or human rights. In your view, was the purpose of this war to disarm the Iraqi regime?
Clarke: Oh, I think the president and the secretary of Defense and the secretary of state and others made it very, very clear repeatedly we considered Iraq a real threat, the Iraqi regime a threat -- to us, to our friends and allies, to the region. We said it was important to end the regime so we can find and destroy the WMD. We think it is very, very important that it is a country that respects its ethnic diversity, that's not a threat, that's not invading its neighbors, that's not firing missiles into its neighbors. I think we made it very clear what the priorities are.
At the end of the day, it is about stopping a very real and growing threat, what was then a growing threat to the region and the world.
I'd push back slightly on how you phrased it. You know, we're not imposing anything. We're creating the conditions so the Iraqi people themselves can have a better life, so they can have a system that's more representative, so they can have a country that does not have and use WMD. It's a very important distinction, but it's one we try to make repeatedly.
Q: But it would be wrong to conclude that you're de- emphasizing disarmament as the purpose -- the main purpose of this war?
Clarke: I think you are wrong. I think if you look at what we're doing, we continue to root out the remnants, whatever is left, of Iraqi regime influence, or whatever is left there that want to keep the Iraqi people from starting to rebuild their country. We want to find and destroy the WMD. We want to root out those terrorists that are there. We want to find intel on terrorist connections. And we want to help the Iraqi people transition to a more representative government. It is more than one thing, but we can do more than one thing.
In the back.
Q: Could you give us an idea as to what level of cooperation you're getting from those two captured Iraqi nuclear scientists? And can you comment on reports in today's New York Times that the civilian members of your WMD search effort were frustrated by some problems they were having in terms of getting that effort started in a timely fashion?
Clarke: The first one, no. The second one, I read the article. I read it very quickly, and I -- you know, I haven't talked to them, obviously.
A lot of people want to be helpful. A lot of people want to get in and start to get these jobs going. You know, Jay Garner and his team want to get in there and help the Iraqi people get this country up and running again. So I can understand people who say, "I want to get in there and get to the job that I've volunteered for." I can completely understand that.
But still, from a military perspective and security perspective, we have to make sure the conditions are right, that they can get in there and do those jobs without exposing themselves to great risk or causing problems that will set us off our track on some of our other objectives.
Q: When you said no earlier, are you saying that there is no cooperation from those two --
Clarke: I don't have any information for you on it. Sorry.
Q: General McChrystal, yesterday Secretary Rumsfeld spoke a bit about the lessons learned process tied to the combat operation. Is there a similar substantive body of work the military can draw upon as you move to this transition period, as combat operations wind down, you're in there and you're doing some civil operations and -- (inaudible)? Is there anything that you drew upon to look at successes, failures in past operations, and how is that being applied to Iraq?
McChrystal: There's a tremendous amount of information. Just within the Army, I'm most familiar with Center for Army Lessons Learned, or the CALL system, and it's a database system that's built to capture lessons learned of all kinds. Our experiences in Haiti, the Balkans, for a number of years now, and in other areas have built a force. Many of these young leaders over there have done it themselves. But we've also captured the lessons learned and turned them into preparatory exercises and training. So there's an entire body of knowledge that is built.
Now, having said that, each situation is unique enough where there's no cookie-cutter solution for how you operate, support and stability operations. But it gives you a foundation upon which to build, and I think from that standpoint we're in good shape.
Q: Is there anything quick look that you have seen so far moving into this transition that maybe you're learning new in Iraq? (inaudible) circumstance that you've been presented with?
McChrystal: There are -- I'd like to think about that one and -- before I answer.
Clarke: The good news is the system and the process and the people were put in place well before the start of the military operation. So the information is being gathered and the documentation is being done. At the appropriate time people like General McChrystal and others will sit down and really study them in a thorough way.
Q: Going back to the redeployment of forces, as you know, General Franks has been in Baghdad today. I wonder what the U.S. military is thinking in terms of considering moving the operating -- the headquarters from Doha to Baghdad. Would that make sense?
McChrystal: I would anticipate that at some point a joint task force of some type reporting to General Franks will be located within Iraq. Whether it'll be located in Baghdad proper I can't say. But at some point I think as he transitions to the next phase he will probably recommend and stand up that kind of headquarters and put it right in within Iraq.
Q: And what sort of benefit would that have?
McChrystal: Well, it gives you two things. From an organizational standpoint it makes it much easier just for your communications. Even though we've got very modern, long haul communications it's still good to be close. But then it also gives the person who's making the decisions what we call the feeling of the mud between his toes. There's no replacing walking on the ground, leading your people, getting a feel for the situation that you just can't get from any distance away. So I'd say that it will be key.
Clarke: Right there, and then in the middle, and we're done.
Q: For you and General McChrystal. You've said repeatedly, and we've seen the video, throughout this war that the United States has tried to target the precision-guided munitions as best as possible. Is the U.S. military keeping track of Iraqi civilian casualties that may have occurred as a consequence of any mistakes or other incidents? And can you tell us when we'll know what kind of metrics you have to compare the success rate in terms of accuracy of this campaign versus Kosovo and other ones before that?
McChrystal: We keep track of the effectiveness of our munitions. We will certainly not at this point try to track specific number of enemy soldiers killed or unintended civilian casualties. Over time, as we gather data, we'll gather it both for a humanitarian sense, and then also for how can we do it better. It goes right to the "lessons learned" issue: how can we improve our effectiveness so that next time we can do it even more rapidly and with as little collateral damage and unintended negative consequence as possible.
Clarke: Yes, ma'am?
Q: Mr. Zakheim, a short time ago, said the war estimates were holding up reasonably well on the mark and that he projected about $2 billion, roughly, a month for just the troop maintenance, troop support. Do you have a sense at this point then how many troops will be required to maintain stabilization in a postwar Iraq?
McChrystal: No, it's really too early to tell. That will be based on what we call a troop-to-task ratio that's based upon the situation in each area. What I believe General Franks will do is he'll make his initial assessment as we continue to flow these forces over. He'll position forces, and then start to draw those down as the situation in each area sorts itself out. He may find that in some areas he needs a greater density of certain kinds of capabilities than in other areas. But he'll want to pull that down as quickly as he can.
Clarke: Thank you.