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CENTCOM Operation Iraqi Freedom Briefing ~ 02 April 2003

Presenter: Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, Deputy Director of Operations April 2, 2003

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GEN. BROOKS: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. On this 13th day since coalition forces entered Iraq, we continue our pursuit of the objectives set forth in this campaign. We honor the brave men and women who are fighting to achieve the objectives, and we mourn our fallen comrades with their families.

The coalition conducted simultaneous attacks over the last 24 hours against regime targets in Baghdad and against regime forces throughout the country. I have two products to show you from recent precision attacks against regime targets.

(Image is shown.) The first one is a regime command-and-control facility at the south end of the international airport near Baghdad. (Image is shown.) This is a closer view of it, where the arrow points down at the bottom.

In the attack, in this case there were 26 different aim points for this single target set. Each aim point had a different weapon applied against it. (Image is shown.) The after shot, in this case, you can see was effective.

I would point out that there is a mosque in this complex. You can see it in the lower right corner of the screen -- a rounded dome. And it is in good shape, as it was before the attack.

And the split, please. (Image is shown.) The second is a BaĠath Party headquarters in Basra. This one was attacked on the 25th of March, but, again, it is an example of our precision in attacking; two different aim points in this case. After shot. (Image is shown.) And the split. (Image is shown.) You can see the greatest amount of damage was done right here to this building.

We remain very concerned by regime actions taken against the Iraqi population in places with cultural or religious significance. The following video sequence is going to show you a heavy equipment transporter. This is a large flatbed truck that is capable of carrying tanks and other very large pieces of equipment moving into a populated area south of Baghdad.

I'll point out a few things on here first. (Image is shown.) This is the heavy equipment transporter off to the right. There's a tank on its bank. And inside of this retaining wall is a mosque.

You can go ahead and roll the video. (Video is shown.) There's usually one tank on each one of the heavy equipment transporters. A second truck shows up as well, and the tank is clearly seen on the back of it. You can see now these two.

There is a third heavy equipment transporter that is further up to the right. And in the next clip you'll see that it is containing -- it carries a container on its back, and that container explodes. (Video is shown.)

Coalition had no jets, missiles, bombs or anything else in the area at that time when this explosion occurred. I would say that we do look for heavy equipment transports, especially with armored vehicles on them, as indications of repositioning. And this, in this case, was an aerial surveillance platform that took the image and happened to record it.

Another example of disregard for the conditions of Iraq and the Iraqi people is the burning of oil trenches. A few days ago I showed you a color photograph of one of the first trenches, which had been prepared as part of the defensive array of Baghdad. It was set on fire, and we saw that several days ago.

The next image, we'll show you what the current condition is. (Image is shown.) There are over 50 oil trenches on fire around Baghdad currently -- 50 oil trenches. Let me just highlight a few points. This is, again, in downtown Baghdad, the center of the river as it passes through; Saddam City, a primarily Shi'a area, on the northeast side; the Saddam Canal, where we've already mentioned there are bridges rigged for demolition.

Most of the fires began here, but as you can see, each one of these is a different burn point. These are deliberately created trenches. Coalition action had nothing to do with the start of these fires.

Our coalition special operations forces maintain pressure on the Iraqi military forces in northern Iraq through precision air strikes directed against the regular army fifth corps. Our searches in the Ansar al-Islam training camp continue, with coalition and Kurdish hesmurga (ph) working closely together.

Our efforts to deny freedom of action and freedom of movement in the western desert also remain very effective. I have a short video to show you of coalition special operations forces, indicating how mobile they are in their ability to move throughout the western desert, actively searching for regime forces, ballistic missiles or air defense systems.

(Video is shown.) This, as with all of our other operations, is done completely blacked out. Multiple aircraft on this mission. You'll see a landing and then again taking off and going on an additional patrol. (Video is shown.)

These types of operations are occurring every night throughout the western desert. And as we encounter regime forces, missile systems, other points of interest, compounds that need to be raided, we're able to do everything we need to do to get the job done.

Our coalition Special Operations forces also seized the Hadithah dam, a very important dam that could potentially flood the Euphrates River leading down toward Baghdad, and particularly in the area of Karbala. That has been seized as of two days ago, and we prevented its destruction. There had been significant regime losses in the vicinity of the dam.

We also remain very effective in targeting regime concentrations, with the aid of local populations. That improves with every day that goes by.

Our land component initiated a two-core attack to destroy Republican Guard forces defending the outskirts of Baghdad. The First Marine Expeditionary Force attacked the Baghdad division near the town of Al Kut over here -- (image is shown) -- and has crossed the Tigris River. The Baghdad division has been destroyed.

Fifth Corps attacked against a combination of the Medina division and the Nebuchadnezzar division, both of the Republican Guard forces command. Their attacks are effective. And action continues in this case near Karbala along the Euphrates River.

Fifth Corps units also attacked to clear paramilitary forces in An Najaf. The attacking unit was welcomed by thousands of citizens. It was also welcomed by fire from regime forces who had positioned themselves inside the Ali mosque, one of the most important religious shrines to all of Shi'a Islam throughout the world.

Coalition forces were disciplined, discriminated, and chose not to return fire against this mosque to keep it protected. The regime's use of the Ali mosque for military purposes to trigger a coalition response is just the latest detestable example of the regime's strategy of deliberately putting sacred sites in danger.

UK forces continue securing the Al Faw peninsula and the Rumaylah oil fields while destroying any remaining resistance in the south. Among their recent successes are the capturing of five cruise missiles of the Styx variety near Ash Shuaybah Airport.

These missiles are designed for the Osa (ph) patrol boats that we sunk in the first days of the war. They can be fired into Kuwaiti territory or against ships that are out inside the North Arabian Gulf. At this point UK forces remain firmly in control of the northern approach to Basra.

In one particular encounter, UK forces captured a motorcycle courier. And this is a classic example of developing the situation on the battlefield and creating military advantage. The motorcycle and crew had maps in their possession that showed artillery positions. The UK forces went to find the artillery positions, found them, destroyed all the artillery, and also found three Ababil-100 missiles and destroyed them as well.

The maritime component handed over the port operations of Umm Qasr to the land component today. And a UK military port management unit will take over the running of the port from the military side.

Each day we see the effectiveness and the importance of pushing information to the Iraqi people. And this is done even at the tactical level. I've talked about some of the things we do at the operational level in our radio broadcasts, our TV broadcasts and our leaflet drops throughout the country.

But even at the tactical level, our coalition psychological operations teams are very effective and are having an impact on the battlefield; in a recent Fifth Corps engagement, as an example. This was against elements of the Nebuchadnezzar division when we first made contact a few days ago. Iraqi forces were encouraged to surrender by way of loudspeaker broadcasts. These are tactical teams with loudspeakers mounted on top of their vehicles.

A total of 67 Republican Guard troops surrendered to coalition forces, 10 of them surrendering to the psychological operations team itself. These teams work up close with the combat forces in the front lines, close enough in one case to have the loudspeaker knocked off the top of the vehicle during a fire fight.

The coalition advance continues forward to the objective of removing the regime. In the wake of these operations are the equally important efforts to start Iraq's future now.

I have a few photos for you to show some of our medical and civil affairs actions that have occurred, in this case near Nasiriyah, a town that we have all talked about a lot over the last several days. (Image is shown.) This shows a team in place doing medical assessments, and also, in this particular image, distributing food and water to the people who were only days ago threatened by the brutality of the regime.

We currently hold over 4,500 enemy prisoners of war, and we treat them according to the Geneva Convention. These next images show that the International Committee of the Red Cross has visited the coalition prisoner camps near Umm Qasr. (Image is shown.)

We're also building an additional camp. And the last images show the ongoing construction of the new internment facility. (Image is shown.)

With that, I'll take your questions. Tom.

Q We noticed that you made no mention of the rescue of Jessica Lynch and the special operations that went on. We understand that there is video taken by a combat camera team. Can you show us that video?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, let me first resume where we left off very early this morning, and that is that coalition special operations forces did stage an operation last night into the town of An Nasiriyah. It was in the Saddam Hospital in An Nasiriyah, a facility that had been used by the regime as a military post.

We were successful in that operation last night and did retrieve PFC Jessica Lynch, bringing her away from that location of danger, clearing the building of some of the military activity that was in there. There was not a fire fight inside of the building, I will tell you, but there were fire fights outside of the building, getting in and getting out.

There were no coalition casualties as a result of this. And in the destruction that occurred inside of the building, particularly in the basement area, where the operations centers had been, we found ammunition, mortars, maps, a terrain model, and other things that make it very clear that it was being used as a military command post.

The nature of the operation was a coalition special operation that involved Army Rangers, Air Force pilots and combat controllers, U.S. Marines and Navy SEALs. It was a classic joint operation done by some of our nation's finest warriors, who are dedicated to never leaving a comrade behind.

We did have the opportunity to have a combat camera crew with the assault force. And we'll show you only the portion that has PFC Lynch being retrieved.

Do we have the tape?

(Videotape is shown.) This is a coalition Blackhawk helicopter on the ground and PFC Lynch on a stretcher being carried to safety.

This, of course, was done under blackout conditions in the compound itself, where the helicopter landed. PFC Jessica Lynch. At this point she is safe. She's been retrieved. And some brave souls put their lives on the line to make this happen; loyal to a creed that they know, that they'll never leave a fallen comrade and never embarrass their country.

Next question? Please.

Q (Inaudible) -- with ABC News. Could you tell us about her condition? Who exactly was holding her? Was it the regime in a larger sense or was it some tribal faction or small controlling party in the area? And also, if you would, please, the status of some of the others, the reports that bodies were also found.

GEN. BROOKS: I don't want to comment too specifically on her condition. The good news is she's alive. She's in coalition control and receiving appropriate medical attention and care and screening right now. And for her privacy, I won't go any further into that.

As to who was holding her, the regime was holding her. The regime clearly had done this. It was regime forces that had been in there. Indications are they were paramilitaries, but we don't know exactly who. They'd apparently moved most of them out before we arrived to get in, although, as I mentioned, there were buildings outside of the Saddam Hospital, where we received fire -- or the assault force received fire -- during the night.

We did unfortunately also find the remains of 11 persons who are unidentified at this point. Two of the persons were inside of a morgue within the hospital building, and the other nine were outside in a grave area inside the community.

Our coalition forces were escorted to those locations by someone who was taken into custody during the assault, and the locations were pointed out by them. At this point we're doing additional forensic examination and medical examination to determine who they might be. We don't know at this point and don't have any further comment on who it is at the current time.

Please, Mike.

Q Mike Tobin, Fox News. We're hearing scattered reports about a weaponry and arms cache being found in a school. Could you elaborate on that?

GEN. BROOKS: We found this actually in a number of places. In a number of towns, as we go into places where the paramilitaries have been operating, the regime death squads, two things seem to be an emerging pattern. First is putting your weapons and weapons caches inside of schools, with children nearby in many cases. That's happened several times.

The second is using hospitals as a place to do command and control, to hide. In some cases we'll find military equipment positioned nearby, as in the case of the first hospital we encountered on the outskirts of Nasiriyah, where there was a T-55 tank parked right outside of it, we believe likely to try to trigger a coalition response and then turn that into something that says we're attacking hospitals.

The pattern is very clear at this point. We've seen it throughout the country. We've shown you evidence of how these buildings are being used. Fundamentally, it is against the laws of armed conflict -- absolutely against the laws of armed conflict. We don't do that. We will not do that. And we still remain very discriminating in our selection of targeting because of the way this regime is doing its work. That's really what we're seeing.

Please.

Q Jonathan Marcus (ph), BBC. You've said that the Baghdad division of the Republican Guard has effectively been destroyed. I know that there are obviously ongoing military operations, but could you characterize the status of the rest of the Republican Guard forces in that area south of Baghdad, because it looks as though there are elements from four or even five different divisions that have been moved there over recent days. Could you say a little bit about what the status of those forces is?

GEN. BROOKS: We have seen, over the last several days, some repositioning, as I mentioned before, mostly for survivability, but also, we think, because of the effectiveness of some of our air attacks and precision targeting over the last several days, it's relocating to positions where they want to hold certain terrain.

There have been some units that moved in from the north, from the north side of Baghdad, to reinforce. That's why we have a mixture of the Nebuchadnezzar division and Medina division on the west side north of Karbala, as an example.

If I were to characterize the condition of the rest of the Republican Guard forces command, I would probably say, first, they're in trouble. Two, they're under serious attack right now, and those attacks will continue until we're finished with the task at hand.

Our efforts will continue over the next several days. And without being too specific about where they'll go or how they'll go, we believe we'll continue to have the intended effect and that the operation will continue as planned.

Please.

Q (Inaudible) -- ABC News. In the hospital, was there any evidence of torture devices, sir? And secondly, regarding the two Baghdad market explosions -- the first one occurred a week ago today and the second one last Friday -- any assessment you can provide on whether or not coalition forces were responsible for those two attacks? Thank you, sir.

GEN. BROOKS: We don't have any information, to my knowledge, that there were indications of torture devices. I have not seen reports that would account for that. It may be too early for me to say conclusively that there were or were not. We continue to roll up information from the actual actions at the objective from the assault force. And when we know more, we'll certainly tell you that if we see such a thing.

Let me talk about one of the market attacks. As we've mentioned over the last several days, we are very deliberate, first, about our targeting, about our weapon selection to achieve a desired effect in any target area. That is particularly the case in Baghdad, where the strikes have been precision strikes throughout -- precision-guided munitions that can find their own way to the target. That's the way we've done our work and we'll continue to do our work.

We have examined our flights, our weapon systems that were used in the period of time associated with the explosion in the market. We've also examined imagery that we can get available to us, the best we can do to try to determine the size of some of the craters, the direction where some of the blast went, as indicated by surrounding buildings and what have you. And there's absolutely nothing that joins that to coalition action.

Q Was this the Wednesday one or the Friday one, sir?

GEN. BROOKS: It was the one we've talked about first, and that was the first of the reports, which was the Wednesday one a week or so ago; no indications of that being associated with coalition action at all.

Please.

Q General Brooks -- (inaudible) -- Independent. Our correspondent is reporting that the only explanation for the injuries suffered by people in Hillah, where there was a bombing and where I believe 11 civilians were killed, is that they were inflicted by cluster bombs. Can you comment on that and also explain that bombing incident, where a number of people died?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, I can tell you first that, in our approach to targeting and using things like cluster munitions, we always give consideration to what types of activities are likely to occur there next. Cluster munitions are available, and they're used by tactical commanders to create a tactical effect on the battlefield. And they, like other things, particularly in this operation, the conditions for people, the conditions for unintended consequences, are taken into account before the decision.

I don't have any specifics about that particular attack and the explosions that would link it to cluster munitions at all. What I can tell you right now is how we approach the use of cluster munitions. And we can try to get more information as it becomes available.

Same row, please.

Q Bob Roberts, The Daily Mirror. You talked about the fighting north of Karbala. Can you give us any indication of how close you are now to Baghdad or whether you have indeed reached the outskirts?

GEN. BROOKS: Because operations are ongoing and forces are still in contact even as we speak, it would not be appropriate for me to describe exactly where our front line is and where our penetration is. The efforts continue to the west of Karbala, to the south of Karbala, to the east of Karbala. And I won't get any more specific than that.

We will approach Baghdad. The dagger is clearly pointed at the heart of the regime right now and will remain pointed at it until the regime is gone.

Please.

MORE

Q Craig Gordon (ph) from Newsday. I just wanted to get you, if you can -- I know it is current operations -- if the Baghdad division has been destroyed, what is standing between the first -- (inaudible) -- and Baghdad right now?

GEN. BROOKS: We have choices to make in our schemes of maneuver in any operation. As I mentioned on some previous occasions, the dynamics of the battlefield create opportunities. We create vulnerabilities. We exploit vulnerabilities. And we try to protect our own.

So as the battle unfolds, timing for the next steps is related to other actions on the battlefield. And when we have made the choice to continue action in whatever direction it may go -- it may not be toward Baghdad -- in whatever direction we choose to go, it'll be synchronized with the other actions, whether we want the simultaneous effect that I've described on a few occasions or whether we want a sequential effect to occur. And so that's yet to be seen because it's future operations. I won't characterize it any further than that.

Off to the right, please.

Q General Brooks, Jeff Reed (sp) from Sky News. A couple of hours ago, one of our correspondents reported that he was 30 miles from Baghdad with a forward unit. What does that position say to you about the state of the defense of Baghdad? And does it concern you that perhaps this dagger that you talked about is being tempted into the city so that it can be blunted with street fighting, where your technological superiority doesn't count?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, Jeff, we certainly know that the regime would like to do some defending in Baghdad and they would like to draw us in. We also know that their intentions, as we saw them by their initial military designs, were to gradually pull back into Baghdad with forces and lines of force that we would encounter over time.

In some cases we bypassed those lines of force. In other cases we prevented their withdrawal. In other cases we destroyed them as they tried to reposition. And, so, we believe we still have a considerable freedom of action, consistent with the designs of the plan, related to what we would intend to do to the regime, for the regime, and where the regime happens to be.

That dagger does remain pointed. It remains firmly in our grasp and under good control. And when it's time to apply it further, it will be applied further.

Please.

Q (Inaudible) -- Reuters. I wanted to ask about the mosque in Najaf. How do you deal with that situation if you can't fire back? Are they still holed up in the mosque, or, you know, how have you dealt with that?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, let me first say that we can fire back. We chose not to fire back. And that's a very important distinction. The regime is firing from within a mosque, something that doesn't have military value, that should be protected by them. It's protected by us.

And so, while we do always have the choice of returning fire to respond to any threat that's posed on the battlefield, we approach all of our decisions on the battlefield, even at the lowest tactical level, where these actions are occurring, with discrimination, with consideration to the outcome of that action. At the same time, we're going to protect our force.

Now, how do you deal with that? First, you've got to make it very clear to the people of Najaf, those thousands that met us on the street, where the real problem is. And it will require their support in many cases. We can be very patient with it. We don't have to go to that mosque. And we certainly want to try to keep it as protected as possible.

How that will unfold is a tactical issue for some commander on the ground to sort out. And we have great confidence in those commanders that, just like their decision to not willfully engage a sacred site, something we know to be sacred and something that the people of that town obviously know to be sacred, those same kind of decisions will be made for whatever the solution is going to be.

Please.

Q (Inaudible) -- Associated Press. Two questions. First, I'd like a definition, please, of the red line, this famed red line or red zone. And secondly, rules of engagement; yesterday you said there were no rules of engagement for the checkpoints.

But the Post today has a story saying there are new guidelines, new rules, regarding the rounding up of civilians and that, for those who are suspected of ordering up human shields, that they could be declared enemy combatants and possibly shipped to Guantanamo. Can you confirm that for us?

GEN. BROOKS: First, the red zone or the red lines that we describe is simply a term that characterizes that there may be a trigger line where the regime deems sufficient threat to use weapons of mass destruction, weapons that we know are available to them, weapons that we've seen the regime use on their own people in the past, weapons we believe are in the possession of some of their forces now.

That's the red zone. So it's a conceptual line across which there may be a decision made by regime leaders. That's why we attacked the regime. That's why we attacked the regime's methods of communicating orders. That's why we attack those who would make decisions.

It's all about preventing the action as much as possible. And if we're successful in that, that's very good. That's the desired outcome. We don't want to see weapons of mass destruction used. Just like our leaflets say, no one benefits from the use of weapons of mass destruction.

As to the rules of engagement, there will always be tactical adjustments that are made on the battlefield to account for the realities that come out from day-to-day action. The types of things you're talking about really are adjustments. The rules remain as they have been.

There may be some specific local rules that unit commanders give to their organizations, and those things don't rise to the level of visibility at the CENTCOM level. That's decision-making that's done by lower-level commanders. They have the authority to make adjustments as necessary, and they have the experience and judgment to make those changes as necessary. That's what we're really seeing.

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. BROOKS: I'm not aware of any CENTCOM-level orders that have been issued to make any adjustments.

Second row, please.

Q (Inaudible) -- USA Today. Could you describe to me what you mean when you say the Baghdad division is destroyed? Does that mean they surrendered? Did they run back into the city? Is all their equipment gone?

And then can you give us the status of the other divisions, what kind of damage you think you did to Medina and some of the other Republican Guard divisions?

GEN. BROOKS: When we say a unit is destroyed, another way to characterize it is, it's no longer effective of conducting combat operations as a cohesive force. That means its leadership is broken. That means that some of its equipment has been destroyed or it can't be brought to bear in an organized fashion that will have a favorable outcome on the part of that force. It may mean that we have killed or captured a considerable number of the force to make that possible. In this case, that's what we're seeing.

So, without getting too specific on exactly what the numbers are that remain in there -- and frankly, that's an imprecise process in and of itself -- we can never completely know exactly what the conditions are. And, frankly, neither can the Iraqi forces know exactly what their conditions are.

Other units, same sort of thing. We're in contact with them right now. The situation continues to develop. And it's premature for me to characterize the current condition of the other divisions, other than to say they are in serious trouble, and they're mainly in contact right now with the most powerful force on Earth.

Please?

Q (Off mike) -- the troops in the mosque in Najaf, are they the last resistance in Najaf? And, also, is there fighting happening inside the towns of Al Kut and Karbala at the moment?

GEN. BROOKS: It would be difficult for us to judge whether this is the last resistance. We know that this is still some resistance, and it's akin to the types of things we've seen in other urban areas as the attack has proceeded.

We do believe that because of the changing tides among the people that the chances for these type of actions will reduce over time. We are already seeing a reduction in that. Really the water is being drained from a swamp that has these brutal, ruthless people out there conducting their operations. And so as that occurs, as the population has less and less tolerance and greater and greater boldness, willingness to assist us and point us in the right direction, we think we'll see fewer and fewer.

The example of Basra is an example -- is one case in point, where the population it had enough of the brutality being exacted upon them by the regime and the elements of the regime in town. Our military actions, done by the U.K. particularly, put pressure on the regime in town. More information came to us by way of the population to help us be more precise, to go directly to where the BaĠath Party headquarters were, to find the meetings in progress, to go to the right place, and also to put enough pressure to begin squeezing forces out of town. When the regime forces realized that they no longer had a safe place where they could exercise their pressure on the population, they began to flee, and they were destroyed as they fled to the north by our coalition forces in very effective action.

Please?

Q (Off mike) -- Jeff Schaeffer (ph), Associated Press Television News. Yesterday the Iraqi information minister issued a call to arms, if you will, but some find it notable that it was Saddam Hussein himself who made this, issued this. I am wondering what you read into that, if anything. What is your latest intelligence about who is calling the shots in Baghdad?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, I wouldn't want to speculate on who's really in charge there. I can tell you that this organization, the coalition and this command, will seek to destroy the regime, any parts of the regime, the ability of the regime to command and control or issue orders -- all of that is the task we are currently undertaking.

I did find it somewhat surprising. We certainly saw warnings that it would be Saddam Hussein doing the presentations. I wouldn't want to speculate as to why that could not be done, or why the minister of information found it necessary to read a statement on behalf of the reported leader of the country. I can tell you that we are being effective in our operations. We remain satisfied with that. We know that we have the regime on the run. We know that we have been effective against some members of the regime, and certainly against the command and control structure of the regime. Our efforts are not complete, because the regime is not completely gone, and until it is, we will not stop.

Please, sir?

Q (Off mike) -- from BBC. Sir, could you give any comment on the reports we are getting that a Red Crescent hospital has been hit? And, secondly, can you shed any light on other reports that members of U.K. special forces are missing somewhere in northern Iraq?

GEN. BROOKS: I am not aware of the Red Crescent report, so I cannot address that. I have not heard that. This is another one where perhaps we can take that on if we have additional information, we can release that. I also have not heard reports of U.K. special operations forces missing in the north. What I will say is whenever we have someone missing, just like you saw in the tape earlier, we seek to find them. We seek to find information about them and what the circumstances would be, and we may engage in operations like the one last night, putting a larger number at risk for the sake of rescue. And those things of course, when we do have information, we will not discuss until they are complete.

Ma'am?

Q (Off mike) -- of Canada. Can you tell us where you are as far as your goals of distribution of humanitarian aid, or are there still significant challenges given that the only secure area is Umm Qasr at the moment?

GEN. BROOKS: You know, I think we're making tremendous progress. This is a great news story. It's not even a good news story. We have thousands and thousands of metric tons that are in-bound from a variety of countries -- ships full of wheat from countries that realize that there is an opportunity now to help. We have action ongoing on the ground, where the Kuwaiti government particularly has been effective in pushing water and water pipelines forward as a gift to the Iraqi people -- actions like that ongoing, more and more every day, there are more and more organizations.

We are going to provide some background briefings to give a lot more detail on what humanitarian actions are occurring -- not only from the military side, but also from civilian organizations and non-governmental organizations that recognize that the opportunity is now, and things are going very well. And so they are moving at a rapid pace to join in providing relief to those who've needed it for so long. It's going well. Each area we go to, even like Nasiriyah, as I showed in the early part of the presentation -- each area we go to we bring some degree of aid and comfort, whether it's medical care, whether it's food, water, or even causing the infrastructure to be reengaged -- things that were put into disuse or turned of, or even attempted to be destroyed, like the oil fields, like the port of Umm Qasr -- all of that is ongoing action and it will continue as time goes on. The further into the country we go, the more effective that's going to be.

Yes, sir?

Q Paul Hunter from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Just more about the red line and the red zone. Can you tell -- like are the troops approaching it? Are they at it? Have there been incursions past it? And what is the thinking now on why no chemical weapons have been used? Is it still that until that line is crossed that Saddam would be holding back, and thus when troops do cross it they go on a heightened alert? What is -- as the troops get closer to the red --

GEN. BROOKS: Well, Paul, it's a conceptual line, so there is no physical line out there necessarily that absolutely is a trigger point. This is what we concede could be a trigger point. That's based on the latest weapons systems that might be used, where we think the threat to the regime might be viewed as the greatest, those types of things. We have forces that are across some of those red lines. Why is it not used? Well, we can't really speculate. We can certainly say that we have been effective against some of the delivery systems. We have been effective against those who would make the decision. We provided information to those who might pull the trigger or launch the rocket. And we have to believe that that's having at least some effect on why they have been used. The rest of the story is known only to the regime, and we will not ever know that. If we are successful, they'll never be used, and this red line will have been something that we just conceived and was not real. And that's fine. That's fine if that occurs. If it is used, we'll be prepared for it to be used. And so what it does for us is cause us to heighten our awareness that there is a potential for use. It causes us to maintain protective postures in our forces as they approach this area. But it doesn't make us stop. Our operations will continue, and they'll continue to be effective as we approach Baghdad, the capital, and the regime.

Please.

Q Good afternoon, general. Bob Morrison (ph) from NBC. At the time the announcement was made early this morning regarding the rescue of PFC Lynch, were CENTCOM officials aware of the 11 bodies that were found in that hospital? And, if so, why wasn't the full story released at that time? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: Okay. At the time when the announcement occurred, you may recall there was a bit of a delay before we actually came out and made the announcement. We still had forces on the objective. The initial force that went in and you saw extract PFC Lynch, departed the area -- and then we left another force there to finish doing the work of first clearing out the weapons and ammunition I described, being escorted to the different parts of the facility to ensure it was clear of hostile action, and also to go ahead and find the additional remains.

We released the information when we were certain we had the right news on PFC Lynch, that she was safe, and that contact had been made with her family in the appropriate way. We also wanted to preserve the safety of the forces on the objective. We had some initial indications that there were some bodies at that time, but the information was still sketchy. It was after her release that the force left the objective area. And so we've been forthcoming now that we have more information, and again we don't even have the ability yet to identify the remains of these 11 persons. And as that time approaches, and we have more information, we'll provide that information to you.

Yes, sir?

Q General, Pete Smallowitz from Knight Ridder. Can you talk a little bit about the level of resistance from the Republican Guard, how long it took to destroy the Baghdad Division? And also, without getting into specific numbers, can you talk about whether the remaining Republican Guard members are retreating into Baghdad, or more towards the cities and towns to the south?

GEN. BROOKS: Our actions occur over a period of time, and they are adjusted in scale and scope to achieve a desired effect. While some believe there was a pause, the Republican Guard recognized that there was no pause. Our operations continued throughout. We began targeting formations as soon as we could identify them. We began changing some of the mix of targeting -- for example, from some of the strategic attack against the regime as a primary focus to a sharing between strategic attack and forces in defensive positions. As we get closer to those formations, as we engage the timing of when we would want to begin this ongoing attack, we intensified it even further. So it happens over time as opposed to a start and stop, which I really can't characterize for you.

Other forces that are in the area -- again we see some moving around. We have not seen a considerable amount of efforts to withdraw into Baghdad -- and certainly that would be a very hazardous undertaking, given the effectiveness that we're having at the current time. We are seeing some movement from the north, and we have that well observed, and we are able to address that as well.

I don't want to appear overconfident -- there's a lot of fighting that still has to occur out there. There is fighting that is ongoing. We have the situation under control. Our forces remain very effective, as we anticipated they would be. So we're not meeting surprises, but we are having fights, and we're winning those fights as we go along.

Yes, sir?

Q General, Chas Henry (ph), WTOP Radio. From the beginning of this campaign we've heard anecdotes from the podium about incidents that could be described as atrocities. And we've also heard a recurring theme about holding accountable those behind them. Is the coalition engaging in an active effort to investigate these events as they occur, perhaps document them by investigators or combat camera teams, toward the end of some sort of legal prosecution after the fact?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, our first effort is to win the fights that are ongoing, and that's where our priority is. We do try to make efforts to do that. We have what we described as mobile exploitation teams, when we have suspicion of something that is untoward, and we will send those teams to try to document as much as we can, so that there is a foundation upon which to do any further pursuits when this is all said and done. The president has been very clear that there will be a time of accountability, and that time will come in the very near future.

I think we have time for one more question. Yes, ma'am?

Q Thanks, general. Anne Barnard from the Boston Globe. Just returning to the checkpoint incidents with the suicide attack and subsequently some civilians being shot, I just wanted to ask have you been able to confirm other incidents of this type? We asked you yesterday about it, and you said that we believe the reports -- we don't believe the incidents are increasing, we believe the reports are increasing. I just wonder does that mean there have been other incidents in the past that we weren't aware of? And also obviously this is a situation that puts both Iraqi civilians and U.S. forces in a terrible no-win position: they are afraid of each other, they are jittery. Have you seen any -- again, we may have been using the wrong term when we said "rules of engagement," but have there been changes in terms of orders on the battlefield? One unit reported -- an embedded reporter reported that the commander had said shoot on sight people that appear armed. I'm wondering if people are pulling back from those kinds of orders now, if people are even doing something as simple as putting up signs in Arabic that say "stop." Have there been any anecdotal improvements in the procedures that you are seeing? And, you know, what more can you say about this problem? Thanks.

GEN. BROOKS: Well, we don't have a significant increase in incidents, and I am not aware of a significant increase in reports. But we know that these tactics are used out there on the battlefield. This is a regime that is seeking tactical advantage by doing these types of things. We've seen clerics come out and say that in each case these vehicles that have approached checkpoints at high rates of speed were done under duress. It's not just the coalition that is identifying that there are some problems here with the way the regime is doing its business and the way it's brutalizing the population.

There are a number of things that have been happening out there on the checkpoints. We do have some signs that we have used before -- in Arabic -- three different types of signs that provide information about not approaching coalition checkpoints, returning away from them, how to approach carefully. That is certainly the case. Now, the dynamics of the battlefield may not make it so that you have a sign there every time you have a place where you need to establish security. That's just the reality. And, so, there we have to rely on the good judgment of our subordinate commanders out there who read the battlefield as it is -- not as we think it is down here at this headquarters. The realities of the battlefield are then measured. Decisions are made. And, where there are threats, the commanders give order for their subordinates to take action. We also maintain the inherent right of self-defense. And so orders like "shoot on sight," and those type of things may not seem appropriate at this level; they may be appropriate at a lower level. And we are not going to second-guess the work being done by our commanders down there.

Okay, thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen
CENTCOM Operation Iraqi Freedom Briefing ~ 02 April 2003
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They did take fire on entry from anti-aircraft artillery. Near the entry point of the compound itself, the helicopter was put down on the ground. And aerial gunship provided some support, as required. You can see the movement in the upper corner. Entering into the building, it was just blown open. The raid did not yield any regime leaders in this case, but documents were taken that will be valuable for intelligence, and they will be examined further. The raiding force did accomplish its mission, with no combat losses. And this illustrates the ability of this coalition to operate anywhere against any regime target.

The land component attack to destroy Republican Guard forces defending the outskirts of Baghdad continued throughout the day and is ongoing. We begin with actions by the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, isolating the town of al-Kut, and continue their attacks west of An- Numaniyah. This is a zoom-in that shows just the relationship between the two. Al-Kut on the east side, the river as it goes along -- this is the Tigris River -- and Numaniyah. There is a road that runs along the northern side of the river, and by seizing that location and the space between it, the 1st MEF commander now has a number of maneuver options.

Fifth Corps penetrated the Karbala Gap, as we refer to it, and that's the narrow area between the town of Karbala and the Lake Razzaza which is off to the left side. You can see these marked on the map -- Karbala on the side, Lake Razzaza beyond it, and this is a narrow gap through which the 5th Corps forces had to push. It was defended by the Baghdad Division and elements of the Nebuchadnezzar Division. Most of those were arrayed in here and further up to the northwest.

In crossing through this area, the 5th Corps forces were able to seize a bridge intact over the Euphrates River. It was in fact rigged for demolition. They were able to remove the demolition, cross the bridge, and continue the attack. At this point, 5th Corps is conducting a deliberate attack toward Baghdad, carefully done, and developing the fight as opportunities emerge. They are also continuing raids against identified regime pockets in places where the regime no longer has control.

I want to highlight at this point the treatment that is extended by our forces on the battlefield. As our coalition forces advance, they do not overlook wounded Iraqi combatants. Medical attention is provided whenever it's possible. This next image shows you some medical treatment, emergency medical treatment being provided to a wounded Iraqi, who was stabilized before further evacuation. During this treatment, there was a report of an incoming missile. The medical treatment crews put on their protective masks to increase their protective posture, and continued to treat the patient.

The same thing applies to civilians that are encountered on the battlefield that require medical attention. One great example is the story of a child born in the battalion aid station of a Marine infantry battalion near Nasiriyah just yesterday.

Our maritime component continues its efforts to keep the waterways open, and as they did some patrolling yesterday along the Khor Abdullah, which remains a primary focus to ensure that humanitarian supplies can come in, they discovered a small boat that was beached along one of the banks. As the small boat was searched and inspected, they discovered first that there were booby traps on it, but also that there were weapons caches nearby in the surrounding area. Several weapons were found inside of this, and also a tunnel complex that joined these different caches one to another. Small arms, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, gas masks and uniforms were found at these sites. An expanded search is ongoing.

We continue to deliver leaflet products throughout the country. Some are related to not interfering with coalition forces, and others are directed to specific units, informing them of the consequences already inflicted on some of their colleagues in different parts of the battlefield.

The coalition's efforts to preserve Iraq's future resources also continue on a daily basis, and I would highlight a few things. First, our oil engineers and ordinance disposal teams are continuing to make assessments in the Ramallah oil fields and the southern oil field region. As these assessments occur, throughout more and more of the oil field we discover new examples of intentional sabotage and destruction attempts by the regime. These efforts -- these attempts have not occurred recently, but what we're finding is the evidence of attempts that occurred before we came in.

The good news is there are only two wellheads on fire still, but there are more that will require repairs that we've discovered. And these next images show some examples of what we've found.

In this case, the regime placed an explosive charge on the wellhead and detonated it, and it separated one of the pipes from the wellhead. You can see in this one that there are some flange bolts that are bent over, and other ones that are just severed off. The connecting pipes are also broken. There's usually a joining piece here. And, as with many other places, there is electrical firing wire that's associated with the demolition.

Another image shows a different wellhead, and you can see how saboteurs tried to explosively rupture the wellhead at its base. That's one of the methods of trying to create the fire. You blow an explosive at the base of it, which causes then a secondary ignition of oil spray that comes up, and it remains on fire. And that's what we've seen in the two wellheads that are still burning. In this case, it did not succeed in breaking through the pipe, but did cause some damage. Explosive scarring is visible, and also the denting of the casing. This one will be fairly easily repaired, and there are some that have a little bit more damage than that. What I would also tell you is that about 12 feet if time fuse and 60 feet of wiring were recovered at this particular wellhead.

We've also seen some electronic firing devices that were recovered from some of the damaged wells. The next image shows that. Each one of these is an electronic device so that they could be triggered to fire at a later time. Fairly deliberate work, but it was not done very well, and we're thankful for that. The good news is the damage is done, but will require relatively minor repair compared to the potential damage that could have occurred if the attempts had been more thorough.

And I would at that the -- at the current time, we have Iraqi oil field workers that are being interviewed to begin work again, and they should be able to begin work potentially as early as next week, with pay.

Our civil affairs teams continue their efforts to make great progress wherever they do their work. For example, I reported that a children's school opened in Umm Qasr recently. The next photo here shows another school, this one near An Najaf, where civil affairs teams are orchestrating and assisting repairs, getting it cleaned up to get it put back into use. This is a school. Also in An Najaf, the coalition is providing fresh water and interfacing with the populace whenever they can.

In the background of this image, you can see a military -- what we call a water buffalo. It's a water container, and it has spigots on the outside of it. That is being used to provide water to the Iraqi population, and that's being carried in this case in a very large container. The response beyond that looks about like this.

The last thing I'll point is, first, in the wake of yesterday's operations near Najaf and -- (inaudible) -- operations to date, a prominent cleric, Grand Ayatollah Sistani (sp), who had been placed under house arrest by the regime for a considerable period of time, issued a fatwa. And it was done this morning, instructing the population to remain calm and to not interfere with coalition actions. We believe this is a very significant turning point, and yet another indicator that the Iraqi regime is approaching its end.

I'll take your questions now. Please.

Q (Inaudible) -- from Reuters. I wanted to ask you about the F-18 jet that was -- came down today. We've seen reports that it might have been hit by a Patriot missile. Can you tell us anything about that?

BRIG. GEN. BROOKS: We do have one FA-18 fighter and strike aircraft that is missing. We have a number of things that we are examining at this point in time. There were several actions that were ongoing during the night when it was reported missing, to include the reports of some surface-to-surface missile fires and also some surface-to-air missile fires in and around where that aircraft occurred. We have more examination to do at this point. It's too early for me to be able to determine what the cause was, but as that investigation is complete, we'll provide additional information.

Yes ma'am.

Q General, Cammie (sp) McCormack, CBS News. Can you tell us what, as specifically as you can, will be behind the decision on when to enter Baghdad? And once that decision is made, what can the Iraqi forces defending the city and the world expect to see?

BRIG. GEN. BROOKS: Well, Cammie (sp), I certainly don't want to talk about the specifics of what the conditions will be and what the timing will be. What I can tell you is that first, General Franks is in command, and when General Franks believes it's time to take additional steps, he and his subordinate commanders will take those steps. We believe that we are operating in a way that we have control of the situation currently, but we are also cautiously optimistic. While we are having successes now, we still believe there's fighting ahead. We can't predict entirely what will occur next and how that fighting will unfold. So, the best thing we can do is be prepared, be alert to changing circumstances on the battlefield, see the opportunities as they develop, force the vulnerabilities to be exposed to us, and then take the appropriate action at the appropriate time.

Yes, please.

Q Tom Mintier with CNN. I'd like to go back to the Special Operations flight into the palace. You said that you had indications that this was a palace that Saddam and his son were known to frequent. What kind of information did you have going into that raid that he might be there?

GEN. BROOKS: It would be inappropriate for me to talk about the specifics of some of our intelligence information and the specific timings of when we do operations.

We believed that we could have success going into this particular objective area. We also have some indications of where regime leaders move at a given time. And we have a variety of methods that we use to try to attack those regime leaders wherever possible or to attack their mechanisms that they would use for control in a variety of places.

On the left side, please. Mike.

Q In light of the special operations, your spokespeople say that the Special Operations people have infiltrated a number of command-and-control structures; they also said one on the palace on the outskirts of Baghdad. Could you provide us any more clarity as to the number of command-and-control structures that have been seized? How many of them are BaĠath Party headquarters? How many of them are palaces? The extent to which you can tell us what is controlled now by the Special Forces since they have infiltrated these structures.

GEN. BROOKS: The locations where we actually have our Special Forces, we have to be very careful about. Some of them I've exposed to you, like Haditha Dam, where we have Special Operations forces still in place. And so I wouldn't want to comment specifically where we have Special Forces.

We've said throughout that we have the ability to conduct special operations throughout the country. And we will continue to develop new opportunities for our Special Operations force and, in due time, conventional forces as well.

What we do know is that this regime expended a tremendous amount of the Iraqi resources on building opulent palaces for recreation and also for protection. Many of those have been attacked by some of our precision-guided munitions and our work over the last several weeks, to destroy them, to take them out of the command-and-control architecture, because in many cases they're backup locations for command and control. And so those have been attacked.

We have not occupied all of those. In many cases we've tried to render them unusable for command and control. And in many cases as well, if we have indications that there are regime leaders, we'll try to attack them while they're in there to ensure that the people as well as the physical structures are rendered incapable of command and control.

So that's an ongoing effort. I wouldn't want to get any more specific about where Special Operations are.

Second row, please.

Q (Inaudible) -- Washington Post. General, we understand elements of four Republican Guard divisions have been repositioning, moving forward to reinforce frontline Iraqi positions. Can you tell us a little bit more about that movement? Which units are being repositioned? Who are they reinforcing? And what does that tell you about the Iraqi strategy at this point?

GEN. BROOKS: As we've seen over a number of days, there are some repositionings that are occurring. Some of them occurred before we arrived at the close areas of Baghdad where we have current operations, and some of them were weeks ago we saw some repositioning.

It's difficult to determine exactly what decisions are being made, whether these are low-level commanders that are moving to the sound of the guns, whether they're moving on the regime themselves, or whether they're responding to the damages that have been inflicted on frontline forces by coalition actions.

Impossible to speculate on exactly what that means. What we do, though, is we read the circumstances and we make a determination of whether there's a new vulnerability that exists. Particularly moving forces are very vulnerable to our air operations and our precision attacks.

Things that we can see and meet on the ground, we have a variety of systems in the land forces that can address those targets as well. I think we have a fair awareness of movements that are ongoing, and we want to see what decisions are being made before we continue operations against them.

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. BROOKS: In a variety of areas. We see it around different parts of town. I wouldn't want to get too specific about that at this point.

Please. Let me go right here.

Q (Inaudible) -- Al Jazeera Satellite Channel. We've heard various reports throughout the day about coalition forces being about 10 to 20 kilometers on the outskirts of Baghdad, close to Saddam International Airport. Can you clarify that -- (inaudible)?

And I'm sure you're aware, sir, that the Iraqis contest your attestation that you've inflicted heavy damage on the Republican Guard in the past few days. I was wondering if and when you can show us videos, combat footage of that, proof of that? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: Omar, first, the exact locations where our forces are currently engaged, I will not disclose here. We have some embedded media that are giving some indications of where operations are occurring. But, remember, those are only with certain units. And so our forces continue operations throughout the majority of the country, whether they're Special Operations or conventional forces. And those operations will continue.

We certainly are in close proximity of Baghdad. I wouldn't want to characterize exactly how close or how soon it will be that we will arrive at different points in Baghdad.

As to the damage inflicted on Republican Guard forces command and other organizations throughout the country, I think time will have to tell exactly what level of damage has been inflicted. It's not a precise science. It's more an art than a science in this case. But we believe we have conditions set well for our current operations.

And, as I mentioned, we remain cautiously optimistic. We don't think the fighting is over yet. And so there are still options available to the regime, including the use of weapons of mass destruction. We take that very seriously. We take it in a sober fashion, and at the same time we remain prepared to continue operations.

Please.

Q (Inaudible.) If, as the embeds are telling us, the forces are very close now to Baghdad, militarily how do you read that? How do you interpret the apparent ease with which they covered that ground?

And also, again, can you tell us what you think has happened to these Republican Guard divisions? You haven't met the opposition you expected. Have they been killed? Have they deserted? Have they melted away? Or are they preparing defensive positions inside Baghdad? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: Well, I think a lot of us would like to know the answer to that question. And as I said before, it's not a precise science. I think, frankly, that all the things you described are possibilities, and we think that there are realities in each one of them.

We know that we've inflicted some damage. There's no question about that. We know that there are some that have pulled out of position and tried to move in different places, whether it is melting away, as you stated, by choosing not to fight anymore, or whether it's repositioning. There is some movement that's ongoing.

Some of those movements have been attacked. We know that we had a bus, for example, near Al Kut this morning -- actually, just off to the west of it -- a bus that approached. And I believe the number was 53 members of the Republican Guard said, "We've had enough. We surrender." And so there are surrenders that are ongoing as well. We've captured enemy prisoners of war as a result of combat action.

All these dynamics are in play. And so we would not want to be overconfident at what we are seeing. There still, we believe, will be fighting ahead. We should be sober about our approach, and we will be.

Let me come back to the left. Please.

Q (Inaudible) -- Associated Press. Following up on this melting away, I mean, the fact that you have plowed through so much of the Republican Guard, have you begun encountering what we had expected would be the paramilitaries closer in to the ring of Baghdad? If not, are you concerned that this is some kind of a trap, that they're giving you an easy entry only to suck you into the capital, which is what they've said they were going to do?

And secondly, can you give us just a few more details on the palace raid? You said you didn't find any regime leaders. But was the palace completely empty? Did you find anyone there? What was the reception once you were actually physically in the building?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, let me start with the palace raid. As I mentioned, the force did take fire as it was coming in, so most of the defending work was done from outside and on the outside edges of the palace complex. We did not find any regime leaders inside of it, but we did find a considerable amount of information.

The regime moves from place to place. The regime leaders move from place to place. And we track them where we can, and we act on those pieces of information when we can. In this case we didn't find them, but that's all right, because there are other options that are ongoing. There are strikes that occur. And we're able to react in a very, very timely way.

As to what is inside of Baghdad, we'll see soon enough. There are a number of things that could be considered at this point. Has this regime expended all of its capability in other areas? Did they use too much of what they had against us? Well, one would have to speculate on that. We take that into consideration.

Have they pulled back into Baghdad to await our arrival? Well, we'd certainly take that into consideration and see if that is the case and look for information that tells us one way or another.

Any one of these potential options goes into prudent military planning, and then decisions are made based on what we begin to discover. We seek information for ourselves through our own processes that tell us what is in front of us; what's next. And that's an ongoing process.

I'm not going to characterize what we see right now or what we think is going to happen. We'll make decisions based on what we think is going to occur in the future and what we see right now.

Please.

Q (Inaudible.) General, could you describe a little more the situation with the Black Hawk helicopter which was allegedly lost? There was some confusion about the casualties. And also there were reports that it may have been downed with small arms fire. Is that possible at all, that such a modern helicopter is downed with small arms fire? Thanks.

GEN. BROOKS: We did have a Black Hawk helicopter that went down during operations yesterday evening. And, as with everything, we have to always dig for the facts first. What we know is that there were some initial reports, as all reports -- and your embedded media have seen them -- all initial reports we treat as suspect, because there's usually immediate information that requires further development.

The investigation of that is ongoing. We believe we do have some casualties as a result of that. We don't think it was a result of hostile fire. But more will be developed as time goes on, and we'll let you know when we have more to talk about.

In the second row, please.

Q (Inaudible.) The British defense secretary said this morning there were 9,000 prisoners of war. Is he right? And, if so, how did that number go up so quickly in just a couple of days?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, I didn't hear the report. And I know there are different numbers out there. I think that within the coalition we'll examine all of our numbers and provide a report out. I'm certainly not going to position myself to argue with the minister of defense.

Yes, please -- back there.

Q Jonathan Marcus (sp), BBC. Yesterday you showed us this film of an unexplained explosion in a civilian area in Baghdad. Today briefers here have been talking about the possibility of some sort of alleged plot by the Iraqis to place bombs in Shiite areas of Baghdad.

Could you say a little bit more about what you're getting at here? There seem to be nudges and hints and winks, as it were. You're suggesting that the Iraqis are setting about putting explosives in their own capital. Could you say a bit more about what evidence you have to base this on?

GEN. BROOKS: What we have is a -- we've used this term a number of times -- a mosaic of information. We have bridges rigged for demolition. The first ones rigged separate Saddam City, a Shiah neighborhood, from the regime. We have fights that are happening outside of mosques, the most important ones in Shiah Islam.

We have a variety of pieces of evidence out there, like the explosion that's unaccounted for beside a mosque, like indications of command posts that move into or underneath of mosques in some cases, using schools, using hospitals. We have examples of the regime pushing people out in front so that they can be caught in a crossfire, and then there's an opportunity to say the coalition is doing something that is immoral or unjust.

We have this pattern that emerges, and that includes information of what might happen from a variety of sources, particularly explosions that will happen in certain areas that have no apparent connection, in our view, to coalition action, but often are accompanied by an accusation of some sort by the regime.

So I'll let you draw your own conclusion as to what might be ongoing here and what the real picture of the mosaic is. We have our view, and we believe that the population should be concerned about the regime, as it really is justified in having been for many decades.

Please.

Q (Inaudible.) We're hearing reports that U.S. forces have begun to arm some Shiite tribal leaders to the south to help stabilize their villages and also potentially defend themselves against the regime. Is this true? What can you tell us about this?

And also, a couple of days ago you mentioned that you captured an Iraqi general, with no mention of who, where, when, how. Can you tell us anything more about that?

GEN. BROOKS: First, unconventional war, as we describe it, occurs throughout the country. We make contact with a variety of leaders who are against this regime. And there are far more than I would even hope to begin to number at this point, and more emerge every day.

The actions we take with them, we have to be very careful about discussing. And so I'm not going to characterize specifically what we do to try to organize, assist, guide, or even work with different organizations and different groups that emerge.

The second part of your question I'm happy to answer if you prompt me one more time on it.

Q (Inaudible) -- general.

GEN. BROOKS: Okay. We have a number of senior leaders that have been taken into our custody through combat action, through surrenders, through voluntarily coming into our lines. Information is gained from each of them, and we then act on that information.

The one I referred to the other day was a senior military officer, and he had information that was of value to us. We've begun to act on that. And with each one of these actions, more information emerges. It's too early for us to talk about who that is or what information is given us.

And similarly, it's too early to talk about information we've gathered from other leaders. But there's a clear pattern out there that not all the leaders of military forces were loyal to the regime. That's what I would leave with you.

Off to the far right, please.

Q (Inaudible.) Can you confirm that military vehicles were shipped into northern Iraq via Turkey? And while we're still in the area, can you give us an update on what was described as a major terrorist training facility up there? Is there anything to be said about that? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: First, we have Special Operations that are doing work in northern Iraq. We've been doing that for some period of time. Those outfits, like all of the military outfits, require support. And so there are support packages that have been moved in through a variety of means.

It's inappropriate at this point to describe exactly how they got there, because the methods that we use to deliver forces are then exposed to risk and a variety of other things. So I'm not going to characterize specifically how they got in place.

The terrorist camp in northern Iraq also -- as General Franks mentioned, it is a massive complex. And while we directed some initial combat action against it to destroy much of the facilities, we also moved forces into place, coalition forces and also Peshmerga, as I mentioned yesterday, to try to get a closer look at what's on the ground, to do a detailed examination of different areas, to look through the remains of what has been damaged and see what evidence there might be to tell us who was there, what actions they may have been involved in.

There are caves associated with these complexes. There are outlying villages that are associated with this. And work continues in that area to find more information. Again, it's premature to talk about what it is we've found. When that time comes for us to reveal what we've found, that will come out.

Right beside you, please.

Q Paul Martin from World News. Could we ask you what indications you're having now of who's in charge in Baghdad? Is it President Hussein? Is it one of his sons? Or is it some other general? And what intelligence do you have or that you can reveal to us about the kind of communications going on between them? What does it indicate to you, sir?

GEN. BROOKS: We can't tell who's in charge. I don't think the Iraqi people can tell who's in charge either. And we have indications that the Iraqi forces don't know who's in charge.

We are able to observe communications having been degraded. We're able to see things that would indicate that there is not a coherent unified structure giving orders. And we have not seen the faces of some of the people you described in a considerably long time, and we don't believe the Iraqi people have seen them either.

So I wouldn't want to speculate as to what their condition is. And we certainly cannot speculate as to who really is in charge.

Okay, let me go to the second row.

Q (Inaudible) -- Los Angeles Times. Last night a Red Cross worker described a fairly horrific scene in Hillah. And you put out a release shortly after that saying that you were investigating that. What has that investigation shown so far?

GEN. BROOKS: I don't have any kind of update on that at this point. We've certainly heard the reports. If they're true, then we'll examine that to see what may have contributed to the cause. We don't even know if the report is true at this point. So I don't have any update to provide you.

Third row.

Q (Inaudible) -- follow up on that. Was there any U.S. aircraft or artillery (or even?) cluster bombs in that area at the time that the casualties were reported? And why is the U.S. military using cluster bombs there or elsewhere?

GEN. BROOKS: I don't think we know enough at this point to say exactly what may have contributed to this report. We don't have a factual basis to even begin from at the current time.

The munitions we choose to use at a given time are related to a tactical purpose. We have a number of munitions that are available to us on the ground, in the air, and things that are delivered even from ground to ground. So all these things are tactical choices that are made to achieve a specific effect at a given time. And that's probably as far as I need to go about that.

Second row, please.

Q (Inaudible) -- from the Sun in London. If I could ask you to give us some indication of the numbers of enemy forces still in action, if you like. So far as we've been told, only three Republican Guard divisions have been taken out of action, effectively.

But presumably they have had hundreds of thousands of soldiers who, for all intents and purposes, we don't know where they are. Are you saying that there are still several hundred thousand Republican Guard and special Republican Guard in Baghdad?

GEN. BROOKS: It's really not possible to account for every soldier in the Iraqi formation, and that includes forces we've encountered. Some may have gone back to their homes. Some have moved to fight another day. Some were destroyed by combat action. Some are in our possession. Some are just flat unaccounted for.

And so I can't give you a number as to what is still out there. We examine military capability where we see it appearing on the battlefield. If we see something that looks like a coherent formation, we make an assessment of where that is and what strength it might have, and also what vulnerabilities it might have. And then we seek to address that, or bypass it in some cases.

We know that there are still a number of forces on the battlefield that have not been joined significantly in battle. And what choices they'll make, we don't know. Some of them may still be looking for an opportunity to surrender if they can get the regime away from their formations; in the north is an example.

We know that there are leaders that would be willing to change their association and not be focused on the regime. But they also have members of the regime, BaĠath Party leaders and others, that are there to ensure that they don't break; they don't leave the line. How long that will last, we'll have to see. We know that that's still out there.

So there are a variety of dynamics on the battlefield right now that make it very difficult to account for everybody.

Second row, please.

Q (Inaudible) -- USA Today. Can you tell me what becomes of the Republican Guard who surrender, like the 53 who surrendered yesterday? Are they taken prisoner of war or are they allowed to put down their arms and return home?

GEN. BROOKS: Generally speaking, forces we've already engaged in combat with, when any of the combatants come into our possession, they're treated as enemy prisoners of war. That's the general convention.

There have been some cases where we deemed it was appropriate, when someone no longer had a choice or desire to fight, and we sent them back to their homes, particularly in the early days.

The forces we're engaging with now and the circumstances that we're encountering, they're treated as enemy prisoners of war. And then we have later opportunities to determine different status, if it's appropriate.

Q What are those different statuses?

GEN. BROOKS: There are a number of things that are out there. There is -- there's really an Article 5 tribunal on it. I'd ask you to go back and look into the details of what that means.

Okay, in the back, please.

Q (Off mike) -- Telemundo network. And I need to find out the number of POWs taken so far by the regime. Any news on the transportation unit that was shown on TV, and also if the Red Cross, International Red Cross, has made any attempts to contact them? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: Well, there's controversy surrounding our POW numbers today, so I am going to be very careful about that. But we certainly are over 4,000 -- I can leave it at that point. And we have a good grip on what that is, and we'll sort out what the differences are in reporting.

The transportation unit that was on the battlefield -- I assume you are referring to the one that PFC Lynch was from. We are still gathering more and more information to find out what the circumstances were surrounding that particular outfit and the combat it was involved in. That story is not complete yet. It will be a long time before it is complete.

And your third question was what?

Q Has the Red Cross made any attempts --

GEN. BROOKS: Okay --

Q -- to get in contact with them?

GEN. BROOKS: I can't speak for the Red Cross. There have been reports provided to us from the Red Cross that say they've made contact with coalition prisoners of war in possession of the regime. We continue to reiterate that the regime is responsible for the treatment of any held prisoners of war, and we expect them to treat our prisoners of war the same way we are treating prisoners that we have taken into our custody.

In the back, please?

Q Ivan -- (inaudible) -- Looking at the military operations reminds me with the Israeli invasion of Lebanon 1982. Are you taking in your consideration the Israeli experience, (taking ?) any Israeli advice at all, or any -- (inaudible) -- working in the field? And are you going to surround the capital and keep bombing the city, that city, and waiting for a collapse in the regime?

GEN. BROOKS: Well this operation is unique in military history, and so we focus on the design of this operation. We take into account the realities of this operation. We take into account the circumstances that led to this operation. And we designed the operation to be what it is, and that's ongoing. All lessons from military history are considered, our own experience and the experience of others as we consider what we are going to do.

I would like to work against the characterization you described on bombing the city of Baghdad. I have shown you day after day that our attacks against anything in Baghdad are precision attacks. Every attack that has occurred has been a precision attack against a specific regime structure or against a military complex, something that has military relevance. Unlike previous wars in history, there is no bombing of a city, there is no bombing of a population. It hasn't happened in this case. Now, the regime has some different evidence in terms of what they have been doing to their own population, and we have concern about that. But as for our actions in the coalition, this is unlike any war in history.

Yes, ma'am?

Q Kathy Shen (ph) with Phoenix Satellite TV from Hong Kong. If the plan to take down Baghdad didn't succeed, and the coalition would have to retreat, and without giving a detailed description of the location, where would the coalition troops retreat to, since most of the cities around Baghdad are only partially secure -- not completely taken by U.S. led force? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: Well, that's a highly speculative question, and you will not get a speculative answer. Right now we are on plan, and we are doing fine. So I am not even going to consider what it is you ask.

Yes, ma'am?

Q (Off mike) -- with CBC News, Canada. Just to go back to the leadership question, and given the special operation targeting of a palace used by Saddam Hussein and his sons, does that mean that you think that Saddam Hussein is alive?

GEN. BROOKS: What we know is these regime palaces have protection and command and control opportunities for a number of members of the regime. We have stated from the start, from the outset, that this is not about any single individual. It remains that way. This is about a regime that has oppressed its people for decades. This is about a regime that marches people out in front of military formations. This is about a regime that takes people they consider to be military forces, put them in civilian clothes, and have them attacked from buses. That's what this is about.

So while that complex may or may not have had regime leaders in it, we certainly focus on the structures of the regime and those that might be in power, whoever that happens to be at this point in time.

Let me go in the third row, or fourth row, excuse me.

Q I'm Michael Mazzan (ph). I am here representing an organization called the Committee to Protect Journalists. And we are concerned about two missing members of the ITN News crew where Terry Lloyd got killed in the Basra area. And it's believed that that was -- that they were caught in crossfire between U.S. and Iraqi forces. And those two are still missing. And the wife of Fred Nerac, who was the cameraman, has appealed to the U.S. government and military to do an investigation. Do you know if the U.S. military is investigating that, or undertaking any efforts to locate those two people?

GEN. BROOKS: We have heard the reports, and we certainly regret the loss of any lives, journalists included, on the battlefield. (Laughter.) But in this case what I would tell you, in all seriousness, is that the reports we have is that they were in an area that was involved in combat. We don't know the circumstances surrounding the lack of accountability for them at this point in time or what their circumstances are. We take the -- we take the concerns seriously, and we are looking into it. And that's about as much as I can tell you at this point in time.

Q (Off mike) -- BBC French Service. From the initial debriefing of soldier Jessica Lynch, do you know if there were any signs of torture in the area of An Nasiriyah Hospital?

GEN. BROOKS: I am not aware of any information, but I don't have all the reports from her initial debrief. And so I really don't know. We didn't see indications of torture structures within the building, but there's still additional examination that is ongoing. I believe some media crews have been taken to the building to take a look for themselves as well.

As time goes on we will determine more and more. We certainly know that from what we have already seen by images that were televised that our prisoners of war were not treated in a way that we would expect them to be treated. What we will find out about this case is yet to be completely told.

Yes, sir, in the back?

Q Jack Kelly (ph) of Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Have you made any progress in identifying the 11 bodies found in and near the hospital where Jessica was recovered?

GEN. BROOKS: That also is an ongoing piece of work. It takes a little bit of time to get good, solid information. We do know that we evacuated the -- what we think is the remains of 11 persons, and there are a number of additional steps that have to be taken to do a real detailed pathological testing. Some of the remains will be moved to Dover, in the United States, to do a detailed examination. That process is ongoing, and we will find out more as the work is done -- that very complicated activity.

Let me go right here, sir.

Q (Off mike) -- from AFP. Do you have any information about al Jazeera reporters' expulsion from Baghdad? And how do you feel about that?

GEN. BROOKS: The al Jazeera report about what? I didn't catch that portion of your question.

Q Do you have any information about the al Jazeera reporters' expulsion from Baghdad?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, I think that's a --

Q And how do you feel about that?

GEN. BROOKS: I think that's a matter for the al Jazeera network and whoever ejected them. I don't know if it was regime leaders who rejected them, or the minister of information who rejected them. But that certainly is an issue for al Jazeera to deal with and not this command.

Yes, please?

Q Pete Smallowitz from Knight Ridder. You mention that special forces last night and took documents. Can you, without getting too specific, can you give us a sense of the number of locations they went into around Iraq last night, and what else -- what kinds of locations they were and what else they might have found?

GEN. BROOKS: We did a number of things in a variety of areas to regime complexes. What I'll tell you about is the types of work done last night. In some cases we raided with conventional forces into BaĠath Party headquarters that had been identified. That happened in, as I recall, two different locations last night. In some cases we destroyed BaĠath headquarters, the Iraqi intelligence service meetings in progress, terrorist groups. It's wherever we find these types of targets emerging that we will direct our efforts to attack and destroy those. In other cases, like the Tharthar (ph) Palace. It was a physical raid that went into the complex.

Another example is an operation that occurred near H-3 airfield, where we went into -- the location, I am sorry, was in Mudsasas (ph), in the southwest part of the Iraqi desert -- went into this complex and found a number of bottles. Some of them wee marked in strange ways, and we are doing further examination on that. All over the country we conduct operations. We have good freedom of access at this point to apply our forces, conventional or unconventional forces, in a way that we see fit, to gather more information, to limit the capabilities of the regime to command and control its forces and its structures, and also to make it clear to the Iraqi people that the end is near for this organization.

I'll take one more question.

Q (Off mike)?

GEN. BROOKS: I think we'll have more information here in the next few days and we can talk about that some more.

Yes, please, Kelly?

Q Hello, general, Kelly O'Donnell from NBC. You described the comments of the grand ayatollah as a significant turning point. To what extent did the U.S. or U.S. allies facilitate, encourage, participate in his comments. Is he under protection now, and are there others who are being encouraged to make similar statements?

GEN. BROOKS: We believe that the grand ayatollah's statement was his statement, and it has been pushed out to the Iraqi population. We think it was a courageous statement also, because we know that he has certainly been under threat by this regime for a considerable period of time.

We are seeing evidence of other religious leaders that have had enough of this regime, and in due time we believe that they will also speak out.

We have to always bear in mind that because there are still elements of the regime, and because of the methods that they have used for so long, there is not a careless willingness for people to just step out and say things that might lead to their death. It's very, very serious. We recognize that. And so any steps, like this one taken by the ayatollah, are very, very courageous and bold, we believe.

Q Are you protecting him?

GEN. BROOKS: I don't want to go too specifically into what his condition is, where he is located or what circumstances he is under right now. It just wouldn't be appropriate.

Last question.

Q (Off mike) -- two-pronged approach to Baghdad on the west and the east. What about at the center, back to Hillah again? We are hearing very little from there. Are you meeting greater resistance there? Are you stalled there? And looking further back down the supply line, how would you characterize the level of resistance at places like Najaf and Nasiriyah? Are you close to being in a position to free up troops from there to move forward again?

GEN. BROOKS: What we are finding is as we continue our movements and our operations, we are having effectiveness again causing the population to assist us more, especially in areas we have already passed through -- Najaf, Nasiriyah, Basra, Umm Qasr -- all these areas that we can follow the pathway of the operation up the map. That's very positive and encouraging.

As it relates to forces, we have forces available to be used, as the commander sees fit to use them, at any time. The center area, as you've described it, is also influenced by our operations. We have good freedom of action inside of them. As you saw in the early days, we choose where we are going to fight. We chose where we are going to apply our military force. And so we may decide to bypass an area at a given time, or bypass a unit at a given time to achieve what it is we are after now. And then we'll deal with that problem later.

As you have seen as well in some circumstances, leaving formations alone may cause them to melt. There's a dynamic that also occurs when people realize their side is losing. And we take that into account. We don't take it for granted, but we do take into account. And so in this case, as we continue our advance with the two corps, that does not mean two separate lines that are not joined by fires, the ability to maneuver, security, and a number of other things that we have in place. And we're doing fine. We are on plan, and we remain very confident in the outcome of our operations.

Thank you very much.

 

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