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CENTCOM Operation Iraqi Freedom Briefing 16 April

CENTCOM Operation Iraqi Freedom Briefing ~ 16 April 2003

Presenters: Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, Deputy Director of Operations April 16, 2003


GEN. BROOKS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Operation Iraqi Freedom continues in the 27th day since coalition forces entered Iraq. With each day that passes, more Iraqis are experiencing freedom and more Iraqis are expressing their desires for a stable and free Iraq.

The coalition remains strong and determined to carry out the work undertaken. We are responding to the immediate needs of the population, securing and repairing public works and resources, and working with the Iraqi experts and leaders to bring about lasting improvements. Several key objectives have been attained. More remain ahead of us, and the progress toward attainment is steady and the outcome is certain. Dangers remain, and our coalition soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and civilians continue to confront them with courage and compassion.

Lives are still being lost in the cause of freedom, and we honor the memory of those who have died, and we continue to remember those loved ones of all those who have lost their lives.

Coalition special operations forces continue to be a key ingredient of the coalition efforts to deny free movement to former regime members, to secure key facilities, and to enable other coalition operations. Coalition special operations forces are actively breaking the Iraqi links to terrorists. On the night of 14 April 2003, coalition special operations forces, supported by the 3rd Infantry Division of Fifth Corps, conducted an operation in southern Baghdad to capture the Palestinian terrorist Mohammed Abbas, also known as Abu Abbas. Abbas was often described as the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Front, the PLF, and was also a key planner of the Achille Lauro Hijacking in 1985.

Special operations forces, reinforced with conventional forces, continue to expand security and set conditions for stability in northern Iraq. Power, water and food are all functional and adequate in most areas of the north. In four key cities, Dahuk (sp), north of Mosul, Irbill, Kirkuk, and Sulimaniyah to the east of Kirkuk, all of these have been assessed as permissive security environments. And that's an important step that's been made, and it lets humanitarian action occur with much greater density and activity.

In Mosul, electric power has been disrupted, and there have been recent incidents of violent civil unrest. Our efforts continue to lower the tension of over 1.5 million, and to create a permissive environment there as well. The coalition by -- I'm sorry, the cooperation by local populations in other areas is again evident in the discovery of over 2,000 mortar shells and several hundred rockets in the city of Al-Kut. And these again were pointed out by civilians in that area.

Direct action missions are ongoing throughout the country to locate former regime leaders and to search former regime facilities. Yesterday, and Iraqi intelligence service training facility was searched by coalition special operations forces and resulted in the seizure of information and materials which will now be examined in detail.

As coalition maneuver forces clear more pockets of resistance, they remain focused on security in urban areas, and the transition to humanitarian assistance. Fifth Corps continued to attack to cut off regime escape routes and also secured key Iraqi facilities. Other Fifth Corps elements continued to secure population centers and key roads in central and southern Iraq, and supported ongoing humanitarian assistance operations throughout the zone.

In Al-Ramadi yesterday, an element of the 3rd Infantry Division accepted the capitulation of the 12th Armor Brigade, regular army, that was stationed in that area and had been defending the main road that leads from Jordan into Baghdad. This capitulation reflected compliance with the coalition instructions of moving into some sort of formation that would indicate a clear signal that capitulation was the desire of the command. This had been facilitated already by special operations forces that had been in contact with the commander of the formation, and some of their actions included moving vehicles into administrative parking, reorienting their weapons away from coalition forces, and in this case they even took additional steps of rendering some of the combat systems ineffective by removing batteries. Most of the force had already been released from service, but the commander had 40 soldiers that remained there to actually guard the equipment in the garrison. While there still may Ba'ath Party loyalists in Al-Ramadi, it's clear that the organized resistance there has come to an end.

The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force maintained the isolation of Baghdad north along the eastern side of the city, and also continued its operations within the center of the city, clearing additional zones and conducting joint patrols with Iraqis. The remaining areas in Baghdad that have not yet been cleared are all suspected to harbor armed regime loyalists. Other 1st Marine Expeditionary Force units continued to secure Tikrit. U.K. forces secured oil facilities in Al-Kurna (sp), and searched for the remnants of any irregular forces in the vicinity of Basra.

At this point, all coalition land units are conducting humanitarian assistance assessments throughout their areas. Coalition forces report that looting has dramatically reduced throughout the area of operations, and normal activities are starting to occur.

Loudspeaker teams and radio broadcasts are helping to discourage looting, as well as to reduce the tolerance of looters. Distribution of leaflets and handbills like the one that's shown here, focused on discouraging looting, are also having a favorable effect at this point. Emerging leaders have also joined in the call for looting to cease.

Coalition land component units continued several meetings with the Iraqi leaders regarding critical needs and issues. In a number of areas, control of infrastructure and the organs of governance are back in the hands of the Iraqi people. In Al-Amarah, for example, the local population is already in control of most of the institutions, and the townspeople are very keen to get back to work and get the schools reopened, as they already have in Irbill in northern Iraq.

We continue to communicate with the Iraqi people through a number of different media. Our radio broadcasts are reaching all of Iraq. Television broadcasts are ongoing from airborne broadcast systems, and we'll soon broadcast from ground stations. More Iraqis will have access to these programs as power is restored.

Leaflets, like these that are currently shown, are being distributed to inform the Iraqis that the former regime is gone, and that Iraq is now on a path to the future that they will choose.

Our coalition efforts to set the foundation for the future of Iraq are ongoing. Assessments are taking place, and actions are following to meet the needs that have been identified. Power remains the root issue for many humanitarian challenges within Iraq. As we've stated before, power is necessary to produce or to move fresh water, and this allows hospitals to function at full capacity, and it also enables certain types of infrastructure repair. And further, it creates an environment where life may proceed normally.

I have some images to show of some work done recently at the Dawra (sp) power plant in Baghdad, where assessments and repairs are ongoing. Two days ago, coalition forces secured this site. Since then, coalition engineers and Iraqi power industry experts have had two on-site meetings, and these were to determine the way ahead in restoring the station to full function. Concurrent with that work, 200 Iraqi electrical workers returned to work, and the effort to reestablish power in these areas is ongoing. And as we've said repeatedly, power and water are systemically linked.

Until power repairs are complete, the coalition continues to distribute water supplies and assistance in Iraq. These images show water distribution at a point in Basra. In this case, water is delivered daily in a suburban area of Basra, as you see here, to local citizens, and they're very cooperative in ensuring that the process remains orderly. You can see that they have their own containers -- they're lined up. It's done in a way that I think is a very good example of interaction and cooperation between the coalition and the people. At this point, the water system in Basra is functioning at about 60 percent of the needed capacity, as it was before the war, and work is ongoing there to raise the system to 100 percent capacity in the coming weeks.

In some other areas, like As-Zubair, near Basra, 80 percent of the population now has access to running water. Humanitarian organizations are providing an additional delivery of bottled water and bulk water daily in that area.

And as I mentioned in the north, the water system in Kirkuk is functioning normally, and this should reduce, or ideally eliminate the need for water deliveries that have been ongoing in the last several days.

Medical care and public health are also areas receiving coalition focus. And in many areas, regime forces left public health buildings in terrible conditions, like this next image shows. Some facilities have already been restored to readiness, and the next image shows a coalition military civil affairs team with a public health physician, a military public health physician, conducting a joint assessment with Iraqi public health officials in Nasiriyah. Our coalition medical support efforts continue throughout the country. Medical supplies are flowing in through Baghdad International and also over land.

Coalition countries and countries from without the coalition are committing health professionals, supplies and facilities to provide assistance and relief. Some examples: A medical facility in Umm Qasr is now supplemented by Kuwait; the Spanish field hospital and ship-based hospital in the region as well; insulin, children's vitamins, and bandages are being pushed to the main hospital in As-Samawa. Qatar sent three pallets of medical supplies and 17 health professionals, including four doctors just within the last few days. They arrived at Samman Pak (sp) by coalition C-130, and they will be transported by ground to the main medical complex in Baghdad. A medical aid convoy and a Jordanian field hospital crossed into Iraq this morning, and they'll provide assistance near Baghdad. And also within Baghdad, water, fuel, pumps and batteries were supplied to several medical facilities in cooperation with the ICRC.

The coalition is also looking beyond the immediate and day-to-day needs of the Iraqis to set conditions for a stable environment and stable government chosen by the Iraqi people. Yesterday, a number of religious, ethnic and tribal leaders met in the historic and ancient of Ur -- this was near Nasiriyah -- to discuss the future administration of Iraq. The meeting had previously been described as coming into the big tent, and that's an accurate description, as the next slide shows. In fact, there were two large tents, and I would add that this particular shot is taken from the top of the Ziggurat at Ur. And you'll see that more clearly at the end of this short video.

What I want to show you now is the opening remarks delivered by the facilitator of the meeting, Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy. Let's go ahead and roll the tape.

BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.

DR. ZALMAY KHALILZAD: This is an historic moment for, I'm sure you realize, for Iraq, an historic opportunity for the Iraqis. I urge you -- I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity and to establish a democratic system that fits your circumstance. I have told some of you some weeks ago that help was on the way for the effort to liberate Iraq. I hope now you realize that we are delivering on that commitment. Today I want to make another pledge to you, that we will be with you until you achieve the goal of -- (inaudible) -- of a stable, democratic and prosperous Iraq. (Applause.)

END VIDEO CLIP.

GEN. BROOKS: Ladies and gentlemen, I'll take your questions. Yes please, Tom.

Q I have two questions, of course. The first being, throughout these briefings, you have talked about once offensive operations have halted that you will have more opportunity to visit sites, to have information provided to you, regarding weapons of mass destruction. It's my understanding there are more than two or three thousand teams that are now doing site exploration. Are you finding anything that would relate to the delivery of weapons of mass destruction, or instructions, or lack of instructions, to Iraqi soldiers, how to use them, where to use them -- any kind of training manuals or anything like that? What are you finding out there on these site explorations?

And secondly, where's General Franks today?

GEN. BROOKS: First, on the WMD, we did organize ourselves to have a number of teams that could go into sites and do what we refer to as exploitation, which is really doing a detailed examination to see if there's the types of things you described -- information, delivery systems, preparation, storage, or anything else that might pertain to the program, including information about how they may have been hidden.

At this point we have a number of teams that are operating out there. I don't know the exact number of teams that are currently in action at different sites. What we do have is several things that have been examined. Some have not proven to be chemical weapons, for example. Some prove to be agricultural, although they were stored in a way that would not indicate a normal use for agriculture. But nevertheless, we determined that those were agricultural products.

We have seen chemical protection-related things in a number of areas, chemical defense-related items. We certainly have encountered a number of delivery systems that have been captured or destroyed -- the Al-Samoud missiles, the Ababil-100 missiles, certain free rockets over ground -- that are capable of carrying chemical weapons.

But the real heavy-duty work of being able to get into sites and getting detailed access to people who have knowledge and the facilities about which they may have knowledge, that's ongoing. And we're really just in the earliest stages of that.

It is indeed true that as we came close to the cessation of hostilities, we'd have more and more opportunities and more and more access. And that's bearing out to be true. But it's very much putting together pieces of a puzzle, one piece at a time. And when you see the shape of the one piece, you can see how it may relate to other pieces that are out there. That's ongoing. It's deliberate work. And we remain confident in our approach.

General Franks is where he is every day. He's commanding his forces in a place he believes he needs to be on the battlefield. And that's about as far as I want to take it.

Yes, please.

Q General, Paul Adams, BBC. Also two questions. One, just following on the question of the weapons of mass destruction, the British are reported to have made a huge discovery of arms, described as 50,000 tons of shells, rockets and explosives near Al-Amara. I just wondered if you had any detail on that and whether anything there raised suspicions that anything might have been weaponized with chemical munitions.

And on Abu Abbas, I'm just wondering why you found it necessary to devote time and energy to arresting a man who, for the last dozen years or so, has not been involved, to the best of anyone's knowledge, in any acts of terrorism, who's actually renounced terrorism and condemned 9/11; is, in effect, a has-been.

GEN. BROOKS: Well, first, on the incidents near Al-Amara and the discoveries, we only have preliminary information as to what's coming in. There have been a number of areas where our exploitation teams have gone in, beginning out in the west at some of the airfields, and found massive volumes of ammunition and most of the artillery shells.

Some of those have been preliminarily examined and determined not to be weaponized. In Al-Amara, we don't know yet. We certainly have more work to do. There may be some preliminary findings that are made by forces that are on the ground. If something is worthy of further examination, then our teams that have the greater capability will examine those.

If then something is deemed worthy of further examination, then it can be evacuated to specific laboratory-like testing to determine exactly what the agent might be, and then we'll make further determination. So it's very early in the process on Al-Amara. It will be examined, like many others are at this current time.

Abu Abbas is a terrorist. He was a terrorist. He remains a terrorist. And he will be viewed as such. Notwithstanding any declarations that have been made in recent years, his role in terrorism, his links to terrorist organizations, are abundantly clear.

But perhaps what's more important is he was found in Baghdad. And we've said for a long time that Baghdad and Iraq and the regime that no longer exists have harbored terrorists, have provided a safe haven for terrorists, and in some cases have facilitated the operations of terrorists.

I think the arrest of Mr. Abbas makes it very clear that that was true. And we continue to do greater efforts than that in other areas to find other terrorist links and to eliminate terrorist organizations that are in Iraq.

Yes, please.

Q Patrick Mercer (ph) from Agence France Presse. Could you expand a little bit on what happened in Mosul yesterday? Essentially how many people were killed, and were they shot by U.S. troops?

Another question on Saddam Hussein. You have said on several occasions that finding him is not a priority. But at this stage, wouldn't you agree that not finding him, failure to find him, given his value, his symbolic value, is a major setback? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: Well, we know about the incident that happened in Mosul on the 15th is still developing. And this, of course, is something that's under investigation. But preliminary reporting tells us that coalition Special Operations forces with civil affairs, and reinforced by some Marines that are also operating in that area of Mosul, went into a location that they had selected to be used as a regional coordinating center, a place where people could come and meet and do the business that's necessary for creating a stable environment. This building was a former government building, and it also had a retaining wall around it. And that was one of the reasons why it was chosen.

After the first group entered there, another group of Marines joined them, and they were encountered by a very large crowd outside of the complex. The crowd was violent upon their arrival, throwing rocks at the Marines, hitting them with elbows, hitting them with fists and spitting on them as they entered the complex.

The Marines entered the complex through that and then took up their positions to secure the work that was ongoing inside of the complex. At a later time, the crowd became even more incensed and agitated.

There was an arrival of an ambulance, as reported, that had loudspeakers on it. The coalition also had a vehicle with loudspeakers. It was trying to calm the crowd. The ambulance arrived to incense the crowd. And so it became an agitated crowd that then turned over a civilian vehicle, set it on fire in the streets, and the actions became increasingly violent.

The coalition Special Operations forces and Marines observed men with weapons in and amongst the crowd who were firing in the air. It wasn't aimed fire. Warning shots were fired by coalition into a field beyond where the crowd was forming.

Thereafter, fire was directed at the Marines and Special Operations forces in this complex. It was aimed fire, and aimed fire was then returned against some of the demonstrators, some of the agitated persons, who were now climbing over the wall of the compound.

Fire was indeed delivered from coalition forces. It was lethal fire. And some Iraqis were killed as a result of that. We think the number was somewhere on the order of seven. And there may have been some wounded as well. The attacking was occurring from two sides, and it was clear observation of men with weapons involved in firing on the building during that time.

The rest of it remains to be examined in detail. We know that the Marine commander and also the Special Operations commander went to the scene shortly thereafter. They've done their initial assessments, and further investigation is underway. And as we have more information, we'll put that up.

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. BROOKS: Oh, yes. I'm sorry. As we've stated all along, the coalition was our target. There are individuals within the coalition. There are decision-makers within the coalition. There are leaders -- excuse me, within the regime. Pardon me. Let me back up on that. (Laughter.) There are clearly leaders in the coalition as well.

Within the regime, there were leaders. There was capability. There were those who might issue orders. And those would be our targets. Now that the regime has been broken, we are pursuing individuals in order to completely remove the potential of the regime ever returning and bringing any of the regime leaders who were responsible for crimes against their own population and other charges to justice. And so that work is ongoing.

If we don't find every one of them but we can account that the regime is not in place, then we have succeeded. We believe that we have already succeeded in the task of removing the regime. Our efforts nevertheless will pursue any leads that tell us where any of the regime leaders might be, and that's really what the effort is.

So we're comfortable that we've been very successful in our efforts to date, and we anticipate we'll have more success now in the secondary actions of policing (of?) individuals.

Yes, ma'am, please.

Q (Inaudible) -- about Abu Abbas. Could you explain to us how he was captured, please?

GEN. BROOKS: Without getting too specific about the capture of Mr. Abbas, I would tell you that we had information that was credible. It was cross-checked, and it was therefore able to be acted upon. We had coalition Special Operations forces and conventional forces who quickly organized, moved into the area where the reports were that he might be found, and he was essentially captured at that point in time.

I won't be specific about how we find pieces of information like that, but let me say simply that we have good information that leads us to action, and that action in this case was fruitful. That's really how it worked.

Yes, please.

Q I'd like to talk for a second about another Abbas, this little boy, 12-year-old boy, Ali Abbas. He's become, to some extent, a symbol for the civilians who have been hurt in this war. Can you elaborate on what the U.S. has done to try and help him? And in what context should we look at his situation? And do you know any more about how he obtained his injuries? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: What we do know at this point, first, is that it's our understanding that he has been successfully evacuated to Kuwait and is receiving medical treatment. And that's very good news for him. And we certainly congratulate Kuwait on being able to take him in.

We offered our assistance to transport him. I believe, in fact, he was moved by a humanitarian organization, which is again good news that they can move in places of the country and provide unique and focused aid.

What remains our concentration and how I would put it into context is there are a number of civilians, there are a number of children, who are in need of medical treatment and who are receiving medical treatment. We, in our approach, have provided medical care to any that we've encountered, no matter what the circumstances are, no matter where we find them on the battlefield. And that continues to be our effort and our focus.

More medical aid is coming in to make it possible for more to be treated in a variety of areas. We know that some of the hospitals are overwhelmed at the current time, and most of them are operating at some sort of reduced capacity either because of a lack of supplies, a lack of water or a lack of power. And so we facilitate as much as possible, not only our own efforts but the efforts of others, to provide as much relief as can be done.

I have no knowledge at all as to how he may have been injured at this point, but the good news is he's in a place where he can receive some great care. That's what we know.

Yes, please.

Q Hi. Donna Leinwand (sp) from USA Today. You were mentioning the meeting yesterday in Ur. One of the things that the Iraqis talked about extensively was the security issue. That seems to be one of the top things on their agenda. And, in fact, it was one of their principles.

They said that they felt that it was the coalition's responsibility to help them to quell the violence, to quell the looting. And they didn't seem to be satisfied with U.S. efforts so far. They, in fact, said that some of the looting went on under the noses of coalition troops. Could you explain to me what you feel the U.S. responsibility is for security?

GEN. BROOKS: We want to create an environment, Donna, that allows security to continue not just by coalition forces but by the population itself. Looting was done by Iraqis. That's the bottom line. And so it was really done under the noses of the Iraqi population.

The good news is, at this point in time, many Iraqis are saying this is unacceptable behavior. The coalition is also saying it's unacceptable behavior. We believe that we have to create an environment that security is felt by the population and security indeed does exist. But that's done in partnership. It's not done by imposing a regime-like imposition on the population itself.

We certainly are aware of our responsibilities. We believe we're fulfilling our responsibilities very well. We also are focused on eliminating remaining pockets of regime resistance and regime loyalists. And that, of course, as we entered into Baghdad, where a lot of the attention was focused, was our primary concern. We still (had?) forces in contact. There are a number of areas that had not been cleared. And there are even today still some areas that have not been cleared that we know may harbor some violent people. And so that's really where it goes.

Security is something that's created throughout by presence, by the approach we take, and, very importantly, by the cooperation that comes from the Iraqi population themselves. And we've seen a significant downturn in the conditions that existed when liberation first came to Baghdad, as we knew it would.

And we're confident that in time, as time passes and more institutions are restored, that the incidents of violence will go down even further and incidents of lawlessness. So we remain confident in the direction we're headed.

Yes.

Q Thank you, sir. Since American officials began issuing their admonitions towards the Syrian regime about a week and a half ago now, have you seen a decrease in the amount of interference by the Syrians in this war?

And my second question is, now that the major military operations are over, is this now a time for the coalition forces to begin investigating claims made by some Iraqis of errant bombings, killing of civilians by accident by American forces and coalition forces? Thank you, sir.

GEN. BROOKS: What we've seen is, since we've been positioned in areas where there's not free movement across borders, that we have had an impact on the movement across the borders. That's the first observation we have, and certainly there has been a reduction in recent weeks really of any cross-border movement by young men who are volunteering to fight. Some of the movements, as I mentioned before, were from east to west, leaving Iraq, particularly after there were some significant battles against third-country persons that were reportedly volunteering to fight. And so that has gone down.

What role the national level discussions are in that I can't speculate on. I am certain there is some impact, but I can't characterize exactly what that is. So it takes a combination of these things to cause the movement back in forth to come to a lower amount than it was before.

Our operations are not complete. The decisive combat actions are coming to a close, and at this point our military actions primarily are focused against pockets that are still out there. There are still areas we have not been in throughout Iraq that we need to physically go to first to ensure that there is no regime loyalists there, or to remove any pockets if anyone chooses to still follow the old ways of the regime.

Investigations are really secondary -- much -- frankly, they may be much further down than that. I think we'll, as we get information that information will be gathered. But it's not a primary focus at this point in time when we have humanitarian issues to address, we have the establishment of good governance going into place, and we have the transitioning of the force from one area into another, and also the standing up of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in close cooperation with the coalition forces. That's where our efforts are right now. We think we ought to be oriented on that, not trying to determine whether or not any surface-to-air missiles that went up came back down in Baghdad, and what impact they may have had.

Yes, please?

Q James Forlong from Sky News. General, there have been reports that Abu Abbas tried to flee to Syria and was turned back at the border by the Syrian authorities. Presumably you would applaud the actions of the Syrian authorities in doing that?

And, secondly, could you tell me when does General Franks intend to visit Baghdad?

GEN. BROOKS: Good question. (Laughter.) First, we understand that Mr. Abbas tried to move a number of times, and did not succeed in escaping from Iraq. And, more importantly, he did not succeed in escaping from the reach of the coalition forces. For a has-been, he sure had difficulty getting to neighboring countries, and so we certainly think that others also, like the coalition, view him as a terrorist. He was and he is. That's what we know about that, and I certainly don't want to comment on specifically where he might have been, or what decisions were made by bordering countries on letting him in or not.

And I believe General Franks will probably visit Baghdad very soon. Thanks very much.

In the back please.

Q About Abu Abbas again. A PLO spokesman was saying today that according to the Oslo Accords no member of the PLO could be arrested or tried for crimes committed prior to September 13th, 1993. Could you comment on that? And also about the fact that the U.S. canceled their long-standing arrest warrant for Abu Abbas in recent years?

GEN. BROOKS: I don't have any knowledge on the accord you described. I am certain that the lawyers will take over and decide exactly what actions ought to be taken with Mr. Abbas from here on out. Our role was to remove terrorists from Iraq and break the terrorist connections that exist within Iraq. He is part of that terrorist connection, that terrorist network, and any decisions that are made from here, we will simply comply with the instructions that are given to us. But right now he's off the table as a terrorist, and we are certain of that.

Yes, please? The second half of your question was -- repeat it again, please?

Q Has the U.S.canceled their arrest warrant for Abu Abbas?

GEN. BROOKS: I just don't have any knowledge on that. So we know that he was here. We found him. He couldn't escape. We took him into our custody. And at this point the lawyers will tell us what comes next.

Yes, please?

Q Nicole Winfield from Associated Press. Is General Franks in Baghdad? Has he been in Baghdad today? Will he be in Baghdad today?

Second question, following up on the Mosul incident, you said that Marines fired on I guess where -- the people who were firing on Marines, or were the Marines firing on these people who were coming over the wall toward them? Just a slight difference. And do you know if any of the people that you -- that were killed were actually the people who were firing on you? Were they armed, et cetera? Or were these the unarmed people who were coming over the wall toward the Marines?

GEN. BROOKS: As a matter of practice, we don't comment on exactly where the commander is located at any given time, and so I am not going to comment on it today.

In Mosul, what we know about it -- again, it's still developing information that has to be investigated thoroughly -- is what we saw essentially was supporting fires, so fires were being delivered by people with weapons outside of the wall while people were scaling the wall. That's how you do an assault.

In one case we know there was certainly a person with an AK-47 behind the building who was running across an open area who was shot, and he was shot in the legs. As to the other ones, how many were armed coming over the wall or not, I don't know, but it was clearly an assault as we see it right now. And that's -- the rest of the story we'll have to see as time goes on.

Yes, please?

Q (Off mike) -- Network. Could you tell me about the Baghdad International Airport? Has it been clean? When the first civilian flight is going to land?

GEN. BROOKS: Baghdad International is a very, very busy place with military support activity and also with the flow of humanitarian supplies. There are still some threats in the area, so we haven't had commercial aircraft per se to land in there. We have used military aircraft provided by the coalition because of some of their protective countermeasures in the event that someone does try to get a shot at an aircraft. And so that's more for insurance as much as anything else.

The important thing right now is that it is very busy with multiple short tons of humanitarian supplies and assistance -- mostly medical -- flowing into Baghdad International, being pushed out of that key gateway to the future that I described before, and pushed out to the Iraqi people for use. As the security environment improves, as we have greater certainty that there's not someone out on the approach with a surface-to-air missile, then certainly commercial flights themselves we anticipate will resume. There's not a fixed date for that. It's when we believe the conditions are right.

So for right now we are playing it safe on who can fly in and why they would fly in. It's still a military facility under military control. Aircraft runways are active, at least for the types of aircraft we have, and our efforts are ongoing to improve that so that it can be used by other aircraft in due time.

Yes, please?

Q General, Pete Smallowitz from Knight Ridder. I know that the cross-border movement with Syria has been controlled since you have sent some forces there. But that didn't happen until after the first week of the war or so. Why wasn't that done sooner, given reports that Saddam might try to escape there and other movements across the border might occur?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, Pete, before the war started we were operating under a different set of rules of engagement. We certainly were not under combat rules that would let us penetrate, enter any place we chose inside of Iraq. We had to rely on governments to make choices about who would cross their borders at that point in time, and certainly where were some options available to all the bordering countries of Iraq during that time, and even to the present those choices still exist. Once we had the ability to position forces, we rapidly moved Special Operations forces into a position where they could influence movement of ballistic missile systems, of regime leaders trying to escape, or any reinforcement of units to or from Baghdad in the west. So that's really how our operations unfolded. We've maintained a presence out there. That presence has increased over time to cover more and more areas, and that's really where we stand at the current time: able to respond to movements that are going out with a variety of mechanisms -- physical presence, also surveillance of varying sorts. And we'll continue in those efforts until we are satisfied that the borders really are indeed controlled and the right decisions are being made and no regime leaders can escape.

Paul, please.

Q Hi, it's Paul Hunter, from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. You haven't shown any videos the last few days of the, you know, the laser-guided missiles and things like that. Are we to take it then that the aerial bombardment has ended? And, secondarily, can you give us some kind of ratio comparing like the amount of time, energy and resources the coalition is putting into direct military activity -- like soldiers with guns shooting things -- versus everything else -- the humanitarian search for chemical weapons, the -- all the other stuff going on? Like is it 80-20 the other way now? How would you characterize it?

GEN. BROOKS: Clearly the air operations have gone down in terms of the kinetic activity that's ongoing. There are still close-air support missions. There is close-air support available to forces that are still maneuvering out there on the battlefield that are seeking places where there might still be some regime presence, places where we don't have capitulations yet. And so that continues. And so we always have an air presence that is associated with that.

The number of kinetic munitions that have been delivered has gone down significantly. There never was a bombardment. There were always precision engagements that were done, even in populated areas like Baghdad. And now that people have access to it, they should be able to see for themselves that they are regime complexes and regime buildings and some dual-use buildings that were used by the regime for commercial purposes and also military or regime command and control purposes that were very precisely struck. And so the traditional image of a capital city at the end of war after a force has entered that city -- it doesn't match the reality of what exists right now in Baghdad.

Having said that, the current mixture of our work is local combat activity. All of our formations still remain armed. They still remain protected with postures that their commanders determine in terms of body armor, helmets, et cetera. That's a local decision made by commanders based on their assessment of their situation. They are always in that mode first, which is establishing and maintaining security. Secondarily, they focus on other work.

So some may be oriented on clearing zones in Baghdad that have not yet been cleared, that we think may harbor some people who still want to fight. Others -- other parts of the formation may be oriented on delivering humanitarian assistance in places that were just cleared within the last few days. Some are escorting assessment teams that are looking for how do we get these power plants back on line, how do you get the water pumps restored? What kind of generator repair parts do you need at these hospitals that have generators to at least give them 50 percent capacity? I'm not sure what the mix is. But it really is a dynamic action that occurs inside tactical formations on a day-to-day basis, and our forces are flexible enough, our formations are agile enough and our people are disciplined enough to deliver supplies in an hour, and vice versa, or deliver supplies, get in a fight on the way, do whatever is necessary to protect the force, eliminate any resistance and continue delivering the medical supplies. That requires a highly trained, highly disciplined, highly agile force, and that's exactly what's on the ground in this coalition.

Yes, sir, please?

Q (Off mike) -- London. A couple of questions. First of all, you talked about the meeting in Nasiriyah yesterday. I know one or two groups, notably SKIRI (ph) for example, didn't show up, although they were invited. But of other groups, did you invite everybody? I have in mind for example the Shiite Dawa (ph) Party and the Communist Party whose guy showed up at eight in the morning and said he wasn't allowed in. In other words, was every possible group invited?

And my other question is you said several times this week that there are parts of the country you haven't been in yet, parts of Iraq you haven't been in. Could you give us some idea of where those parts of the country are?

GEN. BROOKS: First, the attendees at the conference themselves acknowledged that not every organization and every interest was represented at that meeting. This was the first meeting, a very important meeting. What's most significant about it is such meetings like this would not have occurred a month and a half ago, where different opinions could be expressed on what the future of Iraq should be, and what role each party might play. This was historic, it was momentous and it was significant.

There will be other meetings, and there will be choices made by other parties as to whether they want to participate, how they would participate. We certainly would expect that if anyone comes to a meeting in the future it would be in a constructive way, not in a disruptive way. And I think that's the nature of the invitation that goes out as time goes on.

Your second question, if you can prompt me on that again please?

Q (Off mike)?

GEN. BROOKS: Yes, thank you very much. All it takes is usually one word to get me back on track. There are parts in the northwest where we haven't had conventional forces move. We have had Special Operations forces that have established checkpoints, or they passed through areas or maintained surveillance on areas. In some cases it requires going physically to towns, like Ar Ramady (ph). We certainly have observed Ar Ramady (ph), and we've conducted kinetic operations against formations in Ar Ramady (ph), and we have maintained surveillance of Ar Ramady (ph). But we hadn't physically gone there. And by physically going there we had the capitulation of an armored brigade. So things like that. We had similar activities in Al Amara a few days ago. Now that we have had formations pass through there, the formations in Al Amara turned and went to Al Kut, which was initially isolated, bypassed to the west, and then we proceeded on to Baghdad. Many of the formations there, when they saw the successes in Baghdad, and also as we destroyed some of their forces through air action and some direct action, left the battlefield. What else is there? We've got to physically go look, and that's ongoing right now. We find Al Kut is headed in the right direction. And there are other areas that are like that as well. So in virtually any pocket that we have not been to or have not applied adequate presence to yet, even if we passed through there once already, we'll go to each one of them in a very deliberate way.

Yes, please?

Q If we could talk about WMD again for a moment, do you have any indications that any of the units that have capitulated had in their possession chemical gear, gas masks and so forth? Did any of the units that you have defeated show on the battlefield any evidence that they were in possession of those sorts of things? And, if not, and if after several thousand POWs and even some leaders are in your custody, if they are not providing evidence to lead you to those weapons, doesn't it suggest that the weapons were not readily available for use?

GEN. BROOKS: I think the only thing we can conclude at this point is that the information we have has guided us to some different places. The people that have been taken into our custody had knowledge of things. But understand that this is a very, very compartmented program that only certain key regime leaders had the key to the puzzle on. And so while there may have been some commanders of depots out in the west, for example, that said, there's bunkers in here that I don't know what is contained -- even I didn't have access to it -- we have entered some of those. In some cases we find documents, we find information. In some cases we find nothing there anymore. But it's a piece of the puzzle.

As we find units on the battlefield, we've certainly encountered protective chemical protective equipment -- atropine injectors that were purchased under the oil-for-food program, a number of other things that indicated a readiness for operating in a chemically-contaminated environment, and we don't use chemicals. So that reinforces that someone expected that there might be chemical use on the battlefield.

And then so beyond that each one of these pieces is put back together. We move to different areas where things are buried. We've uncovered them, done some initial examination -- found other things that are buried that have yet to be excavated, and that work is ongoing. It's a very deliberate process. It requires diligence, focus and good information, and that information has to be harvested from different sources over time.

Q (Off mike) -- individually with various Iraqi soldiers?

GEN. BROOKS: I think we've seen some of both. To my knowledge we have seen combinations of that -- some equipment in possession of soldiers and paramilitaries and certainly stocks hospitals commonly, or in schools and other places. As time goes on, we will find more and more of these things. The buried and hidden items I think will be where the significant findings will be. But we have to go through them one by one as we get each lead and do deliberate, examining work on each piece of information we find.

Yes, sir, please? Q (Off mike.) Going back to the civilian sort of thing, there were civilian houses that were struck whether it was by mistake, misinformation, inaccuracy, or due to the existence of some sort of resistance within these areas. We understand that the reconstruction will go to the government buildings. But for those civilians who had nothing but these houses and these homes that were destroyed somehow by the bombardment, would there be some sort of compensation? That's one question.

The other is we have seen some of the vehicles that were in the warehouse of -- (inaudible) -- that were taken to reinforce the means of transportation for some troops. Will there be an investigation on that?

GEN. BROOKS: Let me start with the second question. I am not familiar with the reports on that. And anything that we use for practical purposes there is a practical need for it. We are not going to leave the country with something like that. We want to try to provide as much support to the Iraqi population as we can, but sometimes you have to commandeer things on the battlefield just to get something moved. I don't know if that circumstance has occurred or not, so I wouldn't want to speculate as to the specifics of what you have referred to.

We certainly know there have been civilians impacted by war. Our approach has been to be very deliberate in our targeting and very deliberate in our actions, to prevent bombardments, to ensure that there was not indiscriminate action. But we know that the population was exposed significantly and deliberately by the regime, by the former regime, and certainly some populations have been affected by that.

I think as our work goes on and we make assessments, some of the work that can be done will include food, water, medical -- all these things we've talked about -- repairing infrastructure, getting good governance in place. Part of good governance means taking care of the people who were affected in area. How that will unfold I certainly cannot predict at this point in time. But we know we have got an Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance that will focus on those types of issues, the whole scope of issues related to the reconstruction and assistance of people in Iraq. And we also know that the Iraqi government, whatever form it takes in the future, will focus on its people. That's what we want to see -- something that takes care of the population, where everyone has representation. We believe it will develop in that way right now.

I don't have specific information for you on exactly what methods or what measures will be taken for individuals affected.

Q (Off mike) -- civilian buildings that were hit?

GEN. BROOKS: I honestly don't know what the specific method will be. That would be something that certainly will be addressed by the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. They'll address any and all questions that come to them, and decisions will then be made as to where compensations should be, what would be appropriate, and what actions might be taken to provide that assistance.

Let me take one more question. Sir, in the back, please.

Q (Off mike) -- from Kuwait TV. General, do you think that there is a possibility to establish a unit or liaison office in conjunction with the Kuwaiti authorities to coordinate the efforts towards finding Kuwaiti prisoners of war?

GEN. BROOKS: I think that virtually any method that helps us to gain the release of anyone that is yet unaccounted for is an appropriate approach. We remain interested in ensuring that all who are unaccounted for are accounted for when it's all said and done. We know the Kuwaiti government is very concerned about those who have remained unaccounted for for a number of years, and we are certainly in a position to provide assistance where we can within our means, consistent with the operations we already have ongoing to find those that have been lost. And so just as we have cooperated with the Kuwaiti government, and other governments on a variety of issues -- whether it's getting water into the port of Umm Qasr to be distributed, or whether it's the movement of humanitarian supplies, or movement of medical personnel, with all the governments that have an interest in doing the right thing for populations, we remain available and ready to assist how we can.

Thanks very much.

ENDS

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