Central Command Daily Briefing

 

Tuesday  April 22, 2003 0403PST

UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BRIEFER: BRIG. GEN. VINCE BROOKS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS LOCATION: DOHA, QATAR TIME: 7:03 A.M. EDT DATE: TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 2003 GEN. BROOKS: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. This is the 33rd day of Operation Iraqi Freedom, since coalition forces entered Iraq. Currently, our operations have focused on actions related to establishing security and setting the conditions for a stable and free Iraq. The coalition is working closely with Iraqi citizens, Iraqi workers, and humanitarian organizations. Dangers are still evident, and there are continuing examples of lethal preparations being made by individuals who would seek instability instead of stability. Our efforts to pursue regime leaders and to defeat regime pockets of resistance continue to prove successful. In the meantime, our forces are establishing a presence throughout the country to better support those stability efforts that are ongoing. Even as we proceed further away from decisive combat, we remember those who lost their lives in this cause, and we also remember their loved ones. In the last 24 hours, forces have begun moving into a better posture for establishing security and stability, and in some cases they've encountered pockets of resistance. Near Mosul in northern Iraq and in an airfield just to the west of it, coalition forces yesterday took some direct small arms fire from a small and disorganized force. The force was repelled and it also moved away from the airfield before any of them could be captured. This reminds us that there will still be fire fights like this, not uncommon to stability operations in other places. And there will also be offensive action to defeat any of the elements that are identified who would seek to cause instability through force. Our clearing operations in Baghdad continued as 5th Corps forces took over the entire city, expanding into the eastern area formerly secured by the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. During an action to stop a looting, soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division discovered a significant amount of money behind a false wall. The amount is believed to be in excess of 600 million U.S. Dollars in $100 bills. This video clip shows the movement that followed the seizure. (Begin video clip.) These are $100 bills. They were moved on multiple pallets into a C-130 aircraft. Security was obviously a concern throughout. The items were moved to a secure location, transported by truck, and placed into a secure warehouse where law enforcement officials can have an examination of those particular items. We do have an estimated amount now, since it must be counted after all of them are opened. Not all containers have been opened at this point. They will be protected throughout that period of time. (End of video clip.) Over the last two days, coalition forces have taken two of the top 55 regime leaders into custody. The first is Jamal Mustafa Abdullah Sultan al-Tikriti, who is the deputy chief of tribal affairs office, and who we believe may have insights into the regime's inner circle. The second is Mohammed Hamza al-Zubeidi, a Ba'ath Party commander, a former deputy prime minister, and a key regime player with insights into regime decisions. These captures raise the count to 11 of the 55 currently in coalition custody. And our coalition efforts continue in pursuing all former regime leaders that are not yet accounted for. As the campaign continues and the situation changes, our operation also changes. Security, as I've mentioned, is one of the key areas of our current focus. While we work to make Iraq safe for Iraqis and others who are in country to help, it's clear that we continue to battle those who would rather see our peace efforts fail. Coalition forces are finding or being guided to caches of improvised explosive devices like the one I am about to show you. This is an explosive vest recently found. Some of these vests are vests that are normally used to carry ammunition. I've got some additional images of the vests. Explosives are inserted into the pockets, or in some cases they are sewn actually into the fabric. This is a -- the vest having been laid open. One more please. This is a little packet that is sewn into the fabric itself. It contains ball bearings to increase the amount of lethality when the explosion occurs. We have found a number of these in several different locations, and at this point we're over 800 that have been found in multiple finds. In other cases, we find objects that would normally be used in a casual setting being converted into deadly devices. You see some marble-looking coffee tables. These tables are actually laden with explosives and other materials that are intended to increase casualties and be more lethal when they're used. They're construction with sophistical electronic devices or timers like you see in this case. Let's back up one, please. Back up one slide. Let me make sure they hear me in back. Let's back up one slide, please. Thank you. This is a timing device that's in the top of that same container. It can be used to be detonated remotely or command detonated. And the next one shows another device. Let's go ahead to the next picture. Pretty sophisticated work that's being done. The finding of such devices reinforces the reality that terrorist tactics and actions were certainly supported by the regime. Further, it reinforces the need for deliberate work to root out the terrorists that are still present in Iraq. An additional aspect of establishing security entails working with citizens, and also helping to establish police forces. I've got a short video here of some coordination done with local police. (Video clip is shown.) Our efforts in security also make it possible to have some events occur that would never have occurred under the regime. The next video shows a portion of the ongoing pilgrimage with participants walking from An-Najaf a few days ago. That's just a short portion. I know that there have been a number of networks that have covered the pilgrimage as well -- a very important event that's ongoing. The pilgrimage now has moved on to Karbala, and there are estimates that there are more than a million people participating in something that would not have been possible before. And thus far, it has occurred without any significant incidents. Our coalition efforts to restore and rehabilitate infrastructure are ongoing as another focus. And these efforts are key to putting Iraq's future on the best possible footing. Telecommunications are one aspect of the infrastructure to be restored. Service is available in some local areas, but the country-wide system will require deliberate restoration in order to get it back up online. In the next images, a coalition civil affairs team is meeting with telecommunications engineers to discuss the Basra communication center. Also in the infrastructure, we focus on the oil system. Now, oil system restoration will have an impact on the power and water industries, and also on the economic development of Iraq. At the base level, workers are required. Iraq's professional and trained workforce are returning to work all over the country, including in the oil industry. In this image, an Iraqi contractor hired by the coalition to assist Iraqi oil workers in returning to work, interviews a southern oil company worker inside of a small school near Basra. And this interview occurred on the 16th of April. On a larger country-wide level, the restoration of the entire system requires a thoughtful and technical approach. The coalition formed what we call task force RIO, and it stands for Restore Iraqi Oil. This task force was formed prior to the start of hostilities to address the challenge of restoring and rehabilitating the Iraqi oil system. This coalition task force organized the efforts to assess and extinguish the oil well fires, and has made assessments as well as initial restoration actions in the southern and northern oil fields. In the next video, you'll see a recent meeting between the task force commander, engineer Brigadier General Bob Creer (sp) and the Iraqi technicians for oil, water, electric, members of the Office of Humanitarian Assistance and Reconstruction, as well as contractors that are working for the coalition. Let's go ahead and play the tape, please. (Video clip is shown.) This discussion addressed security for workers as well as money that might be used and the restoration of electrical power through the systems. We continue to facilitate food distribution as well for the Iraqi people on several levels. In the next image, you'll see soldiers of the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion from Greensboro, North Carolina distributing rice to the Iraqi people on the 19th of April. Medical care remains an area of focus. The coalition provides medical care as required, and also enhances the medical care provided by the Iraqi medical system. A new field hospital opened on April 20th, and we've got a short video of that hospital as it opened. This is a field hospital and has U.S. and Spanish health professionals working in it, and their resources committed, and it can provide care ranging from primary care to minor surgeries and x-rays. Every day we find new evidence of the extraordinary disregard the former regime held for the Iraqi people. Coalition assessments and even media observations have seen the poor conditions of parts of the Iraqi medical system. Many hospitals and clinics suffer from a lack of local power, medical supplies and other needed items. The needed materials were available to the regime, but they were withheld from delivery. On April 19th, the 30th Medical Brigade from Heidelberg, Germany sent a team to assess the quantities of spare generators and parts that were found in warehouses operated by the Iraqi Ministry of Health. They found that available supplies and parts exceeded the coalition expectations and have been available since before the war. These are generators -- we know we've been trying to move generators to a number of hospitals, they've been available. Although these certainly require some work and repair, they are available indeed. Other supplies were also found at this warehouse in considerable numbers. As we said, we believe that there are enough supplies here, certainly that exceeded the coalition's expectations, but they're enough to make immediate impact on the condition of several medical facilities, and the coalition will facilitate delivery as soon as possible. I think we have one more image. Okay. While there are many facilities that remain unsatisfactory, others are being brought back into service for the benefit of the Iraqi people. The next image shows a hospital in Kirkuk. It has a clinic for women and children. It's clean and functional. The hospital recently reopened, and that was due to the efforts of coalition civil affairs teams in restoring electrical power and water into the city. Most importantly, every day more Iraqis are receiving the needed care, and they have a chance at a better future. With that, ladies and gentlemen, I'll take your questions. Yes sir, please. QUESTION: Thank you. Patrick Mercer, Agence France Presse. Can you tell us about this cease-fire that apparently has been reached with the People's Mujaheddin -- whether -- can you confirm whether it's true or not? GEN. BROOKS: We've had some encounters of various sorts with the People's Mujaheddin. We know that there was a presence inside of Iraq and had been for some time. And this -- some of our actions involve targeting them with lethal fires. There was some movement, some negotiations that were undertaken by our coalition special operations forces. At this point, a cease-fire is in effect, and some of the People's Mujaheddin have moved into what can best be described as assembly areas, in a non-combat formation. They do have combat equipment, but in a non-combat formation. That's unfolding at this time, and we still have some work to do to bring that all to a closures, but it is in fact an ongoing action. Yes, please. Q: Nicole Winfield from Associated Press. On the Mujaheddin, can you speak about what would become of the fighters? You spoke last week about the possible capitulation or surrender. The Muja is considered a terrorist organization by the State Department, so, you know, could you let them just melt away, or do you have to treat them as enemy POWs and deal with them as terrorists? And can you speak about the role of the INC in the capture of these two from the list of 55, they claim to have been involved in the capture? Have indeed these guys been handed over to you from the INC? Thanks. GEN. BROOKS: We certainly know that the United States has maintained the MEK, as we describe it, on the terrorist list, and they still are. So, until that changes, we view them that way. However, there's discussion that's ongoing right now to determine exactly what the condition and what the status will be and how we'll handle them. It's premature for me to describe exactly what that will be at this point. As for the Iraqi National Congress, we certainly have been working with them throughout this operation. They did play a role in the handover of Jamal Mustafa, and that was a useful role that they played. I don't want to characterize it too precisely and too specifically, since they've already proven that they have some access that's of value to the coalition. And we certainly appreciate their efforts in that regard. Q: (Off mike.) GEN. BROOKS: I don't know that there was any involvement of INC in that particular case. I certainly know there was involvement in the other one that I described that occurred yesterday. Yes, please. Q: (Inaudible.) General, I have two questions. Firstly, just now you mentioned you found -- coalition forces have found $600 million behind false wall. Can you tell us how this money will be used, for the rebuilding of Iraq or for paying for the war bill? My second question is, can you tell us how many children in Baghdad now have access to clean water? Thank you. GEN. BROOKS: The money that I showed is first to be secured and examined by law enforcement officials to determine first whether it's real money. It could be counterfeit money. We certainly can't tell that at the level where the soldiers secured and (moved?) it. So examination by law enforcement officials, perhaps determining where it came from, who might have been involved in its production, its movement, what its intended uses might have been. Any number of questions have to be answered first, so that the immediate priority is secure it until law enforcement officials can examine it and then let them do their work. Afterwards, decisions will be made depending on what it is we actually have. We certainly wouldn't want to distribute false money. But there will be other decisions that are made if it indeed is $600 million in U.S. currency. This command will not make a determination on how that will be used, so I would defer that question to a later time as we have more information. As to the people who have access to fresh water, you mentioned children. But everyone is part of our concern. We have ongoing efforts to try to make it possible for water to flow throughout the country. We've had some great success in the last several days at restoring power, restoring natural gas lines. I described a few days ago what happens when natural gas is restored from Kirkuk to Mosul and how that then goes to an electrical power dam, which then can provide power to Baiji, which then can provide power through Tikrit or straight into Baghdad. At the same time, we have work that's happening in Basra. We already know that we've gotten the water increased in Basra to well above the pre-war level. And that level continues to provide more and more people access to it; other areas as well throughout the country, whether we're providing reverse-osmosis water purification, done through military means, or whether we're trucking in the water supplies that have been ongoing for a number of days through water distribution points, like the one at Umm Qasr. Those efforts are ongoing everywhere. Some of that goes into Baghdad as well. There are packaged products that go into Baghdad and have come in by flights flown by coalition but donated by others. There is effort to bring the power systems back on. We know that we have the southern part of Baghdad powered again, with the power having been restored. We have six other locations throughout Baghdad that can provide power on a somewhat sporadic but nevertheless available basis. And all of these tie back into the water system. I don't know the exact amount of who has access to water right now in Baghdad. It's a growing number with every day that goes by and with every effort we make to restore the power. And that will certainly increase as time goes on. Yes, please. Q: Martha Brant with Newsweek. I've got a couple of questions about WMD. There was a report in the New York Times yesterday suggesting that one of the MET teams had made some progress, received some leads. I wonder if you can comment on that. And then I'm trying to better understand how the MET teams work. Do they do all the field analysis? Do they send it back here for further analysis? Do you know how many of the teams in Iraq are actually dedicated specifically to WMD? I'm just trying to better understand the system in place, if CENTCOM is a clearing house for that info. And how does it work? GEN. BROOKS: Well, let me give you some of that. First, we continue to receive more and more bits of information. Some of this comes from individuals that we take into our custody. Some of it is offered freely by citizens that have some piece of information. As I mentioned before, we did organize for what we call site exploitation, which means that we have teams that have been dedicated solely to that purpose. The METs, the mobile exploitation teams, are only one example of that. And I'll come back to what they are and how they are configured in just a moment. But with each piece of information, we go and we pursue it, see if there's something there that's worthy of further examination. It may be in some cases that tactical units receive the information first. Someone that's local or someone that's taken into custody says, "I have something I think you ought to see." And they'll take a tactical unit to a location and begin an initial examination. All of our tactical units have the ability to do some initial detection of chemicals, and they use their equipment, which is very sensitive but nevertheless doesn't provide full confirmation of what an agent might be. If there's something that requires further examination as a result of these initial finds or something that looks suspicious or some papers, perhaps, that might indicate they are associated with a chemical, biological or other weapon-of-mass-effect program, then more examination will occur. When there's a suspected agent involved -- and I mean a chemical or a biological agent involved -- we may commit additional assets. For example, there are some mobile systems we have. A chemical reconnaissance vehicle that's common to several of our units has the ability to do some onboard testing to try to narrow down what the agent might potentially be. That's happened in several cases. In some of those cases we found, at a later time, that the materials were dual-use. They could have been used in a weapons program; they might also have been used in an agricultural program. And the quantities and substances were not something that would indicate weaponization. There's yet another layer, and that's where these teams come in. We have teams that have been organized that have a variety of embedded capabilities. They're what we call inter-agency teams. So there might be someone that has expertise in nuclear, somebody that has expertise in chemical, someone that has expertise in biological, someone that has expertise in weapons themselves, someone that has expertise in artillery systems, all these things. They're task-organized. And if there's something that's suspected that may not be part of that team, we'll find the expertise added to the team and then put the team in place. It is mobile. What that means is it can go to a variety of places in the country where we happen to find pieces of information. We've done a number of those at this point. Some of them have been to sites that we, before the war, anticipated might still be involved in the weapons-of-mass-destruction program. We know that in the past they have been, but they haven't been examined in all cases. We've been to a number of those as we worked our way through the western desert, as we approached closer to Baghdad, as we took control of some depots and facilities like airfields. Beyond that, as we find these additional bits of information that would indicate that things are buried, hidden, dispersed, disassembled, all these types of information that we're currently receiving, we go off on what we refer to as an ad hoc search, something that wasn't pre-planned but something nevertheless that we can respond to. In reality, for every one of the ones we have planned, we're finding two or three more that require an ad hoc search, and so that work is ongoing. It's very deliberate. We don't get excited about it at the first indication. You've probably noticed that by now. And the reason is because it requires detailed examination. When the mobile exploitation teams find something that's worthy of further examination from their part that exceeds their technical ability or that requires further verification, they can be evacuated to the United States for a more detailed examination. And we've had some cases of that thus far. There have been some cases of that, where we've had some samples, for example, that have been taken back for further examination. And that's where we get the confirmation that, yes, it might be chemical, but it might be dual-use as well. And so this is a very deliberate process. The most important part of it, frankly, is that with every day that goes by we get more and more information. We have more pieces of the puzzle being revealed to us. And, given some of the players that we are currently taking into our custody and those we continue to seek, we remain confident that we'll find the evidence of the program that's been in place in Iraq for some time. Okay, please. Q: Alex Neal (sp) with Army Times. A question on -- questions on two topics. One, could you discuss the level of threat of suicide attacks, particularly in comparison to when some of the deadly attacks were carried out at the checkpoints, and whether any lessons learned have been applied to manning and rules of engagement and so forth at manning of the checkpoints? And secondly, since Iraq has been -- areas of responsibility have been divided among the military branches, how might that affect unit rotations, what type of units are brought in, and ultimately whether there's any short-term plans to bring some of the units that have been serving the longest, such as 3rd ID, back home any time soon? Thank you. GEN. BROOKS: Well, actually, let me address the first part of your question. From what I showed you today, the suicide vests that we found and the reports of the presence of people who want to destabilize, not seek stability, we remain concerned about the potential for suicide attacks. It's very clear that that capability exists. Have we retrieved all of the vests that there are? We don't know. There's certainly no way to know that. We know that there's someone who's been producing, importing and using those types of vests. Have we found every improvised explosive device that there is in Baghdad or elsewhere around Iraq? Impossible to say. We know that there's someone who produces them, distributes them, and intended, at least, to use the ones that we found. And because of that, we remain vigilant in our work. It's not a matter of just standing on the street and observing things. Our work must be offensive in its orientation, which means you've got to go find the places, like the ones you saw, where these things might be located, to prevent their use. Those actions are ongoing. So that's one of the first and most important lessons that has been applied. And that's not a new lesson. That didn't come from this operation. As to rules of engagement on the checkpoints and other places, we have learning organizations, and they learn by everything that occurs, everything they're involved in -- the things that went well, the things that didn't go as well as they wanted, and more importantly, what can be done to either sustain those or to improve those. That's an embedded part of our current military culture. And it applies even to combat operations. So adjustments are usually made down at the tactical level, whether it's the standoff distance or where you put sandbags, how much wire you put out, what you use to canalize or channelize the movement of vehicles that might approach. As you've seen, we've had some success in driving down the frequency of vehicular improvised explosive devices. At the same time, we are not disengaging ourselves from the population. In fact, we're engaging with them in a number of ways. And so that requires us to be alert and conscious, but it also requires us to maintain a degree of force protection that prevents an easy attack against coalition forces. Now, you mentioned unit rotations and what decisions might be made in that regard. It's still certainly rather early to talk about that for all units. At the same time, we've made some adjustments to try to build the composition of the force in such a way that it matches what our current mission needs are and what we anticipate will be our mission needs in the near-future. Some of our aircraft, for example, have been relocated from operating in this area of responsibility back to other bases, home bases back in the United States or in other countries. There'll be some additional adjustments that occur over time. Some of our maritime component has relocated either to different parts of the world, where they have additional responsibilities, or back to home ports that they've been deployed for an extended period. At the same time, we increase much of our presence on the ground. And that's required to be able to expand the physical presence that's required to create the conditions of stability and to provide security as required. And so you see a different flow happening with many of the land-component forces. The forces that are flowing in right now were always part of the plan. They were always part of the calculation. And, in fact, we have stopped the flow of some that we don't anticipate will be required from the original plan. As to times for rotation, we're doing examination right now to see what should be the sequence of movement out, what size the force should be, who should come out first. And those will be decisions that are made not just here at Central Command but also in conjunction with our national commands for all coalition forces. And it will take some time as we go through that. We're alert on it. We're watching it. And that continues. Please, Mimi. Q: Thank you, General. Mimi Spillane (ph), CBS News. The United Nations is saying it's being denied an air corridor to bring relief into Baghdad. Is that accurate? And given how important humanitarian relief is, wouldn't you want as much help as you could get? And the second question, if you could comment on yesterday's demonstration in Baghdad after the arrest of Mohammed al-Fartusi, or the apparent arrest, and the kind of anger you're finding among the Shiites? GEN. BROOKS: Well, first, let me say that all of the airspace over Iraq is military airspace and military-controlled, as it has been since a notice to airmen was issued publicly and internationally at the start of this combat operation. The airspace requires control by some airspace control authority. And right now, that's the coalition. Now, you're exactly right about taking the help that we can -- that we can take. And there's great help that's coming in. There have been a great number of convoys that have come in. Over 90 humanitarian assistance convoys have come in through various points, with coalition support and with coalition knowledge, contributed by a variety of humanitarian organizations. We know that we've had a number of flights to go into Baghdad International and to Tallil Airfield near Nasiriyah as well carrying humanitarian assistance on coalition aircraft because of the defensive conditions that are required during that delivery. As time goes on, the airspace will become normalized, if you will, where commercial traffic can move through it. We're not there yet. And it will be done in a deliberate way, and it -- like the start that took that airspace away internationally, it will be restored in a way that is public and is made known to all airmen. It's a notice to airmen, is what it's called. That time is coming. For right now, the best thing to do is to coordinate with the coalition. And we can facilitate any humanitarian organizations that choose to assist in the process. It doesn't require them to have an open corridor to do that. And that's work that's ongoing. And I think we will sort out the specific problem that you referenced. You mentioned demonstrations. Let me just comment on demonstrations. Do you think demonstrations would have occurred seven months ago, that you're seeing? This is what we see as a major success story. We have demonstrations in our own countries that would prefer us not to have been here. Those demonstrations continue even now. That's their right. We fight for their right to be able to have those demonstrations. We've now fought for the right of Iraqi to be able to have similar demonstrations to express their concerns. Clearly there are some who would like for us to leave very soon. Clearly there are some who would like for us not to have come. I think there are some regime members that might like -- might have liked for us not to have come. And there are others who benefited from the regime during its time who would like to see us leave as quickly as possible before real stability is set and they lose whatever grip they had on their nefarious activities. That work is ongoing. And so while we see demonstrations, we don't feel disappointed by that at all. In fact, we feel rather excited about it. They have a right to express their concerns, and they are. It's been done in a non-violent way. That's all we would ask. And we certainly support that as it goes on. I have time for one more. Please. Q: General, David Schuster (ph) from NBC News. I thought I heard you say a few minutes ago that some samples of WMD, possible WMD had been taken out of theater to be analyzed. I wonder if you can just tell us if there are any results from any of those samples and how long results might take. And then secondly, on Saddam Hussein, yesterday, Ahmad Chalabi said that he had credible information that Saddam has been sited at least a dozen times in Baghdad. I think Secretary Rumsfeld was asked about this yesterday and referred questions to CENTCOM. So I'll refer that to you. Thank you. GEN. BROOKS: Well, the samples that I referred to, we've had samples. And I would not characterize them as WMD at this point. We've not found any weaponized chemicals, biological agents or any nuclear devices at this point. That work is ongoing, as I've mentioned. And we'll be patient about it, and we'll remain very deliberate about how we do our work. Some of what has been evacuated though might have been used in chemical training locations. That's how we're characterizing most of these. The amount was too small to be weaponized. We continue to examine documents as well though, and computer drives that have been taken. And we have information that has to be developed at this point before we can determine what we've actually found. The amount of time this requires really depends on what it is we have ongoing and how far it has to be evacuated back. It does take some time. I don't think we have a full answer the whole scope of how long it takes to take a sample to an answer on every particular type of item we might find. It's been about 10 to 12 days, roughly, on some of the items that we find forward, do preliminary testing on, determine that it's worthy of further evacuation, send it back to the States for examination and then get some answer -- about that period of time, somewhere less than two weeks. Will that continue? Most likely. As we find more things and may find more volume, it may be easier to determine it in the field, but perhaps not. So that's something that we have yet to see as we proceed through. And as to the statements about whereabouts of former regime leaders, we don't have any current, credible intelligence that tells us that. Certainly, as we gain current and credible, actionable intelligence, we've demonstrated for 33 days that we will act on it. And as we gain additional information, then we'll see what comes out of that. Thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen.

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