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HistoryCentral.com > > Free Iraq


 

Presenter: Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, Deputy Director of Operations April 4, 2003
*** See photos from this briefing ***
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BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.            

Fifteen days since the coalition's entry into Iraq, our coalition forces have preserved key resources for the future of Iraq, have provided water, food and medical support to liberated areas of Iraq, and have removed the influence of the regime throughout most of Iraq.             

We remain on our plan and we recognize that the achievements to date have come with a cost in lives.  We continue to remember those who have sacrificed all in doing their duty, and we remember their families.           

The coalition operations over the last 24 hours remain focused and effective.  The coalition attacked regime command and control targets, surface-to-surface missiles, air defenses, and any identified military aircraft.           

I have two products to show you from a recent precision attack against regime targets.    This image is a regime command and control facility in the vicinity of Tikrit.  The target was struck on the 2nd of April.  And I'll show you on the -- this image here, you can see there's only a minor amount of damage that's apparent.  The part of the structure that was being attacked is actually under the ground.  So, let's go back to the split now.  Again, it's this one.  And post-strike, here. Some of our weaponeering decisions will let us penetrate through concrete and cause a detonation beneath them.  There are many of these facilities that are actually underground.           

The second image is a command and control facility in Baghdad. And this target was struck on the 1st of April.  The post-strike, please.  And the split.             

Our coalition special operations forces in northern Iraq continued concentrated air attacks against regime military forces in northern Iraq.  They're maintaining effective control of roads leading into or out of Iraq, and roads between Baghdad and Tikrit.  Special operations forces in key locations throughout the country are positioned to locate regime facilities or strategic systems, and to direct precision fires to destroy them.           

This next video shows a special operations air asset engaging regime command and control facilities in western Iraq.  This is a military complex for command and control.  A series of buildings were engaged in this case from an aerial platform.             

The integration of operational fires by air assets, sea-based precision guided munitions, and land-based long range fires, in conjunction with a forceful land attack is proving to be devastating to Iraqi military forces.  That integration is a key component of General Franks' plan.  It's working, and we remain on plan to accomplish our objectives.           

The land component attacked further into the defenses of Baghdad, seizing key objectives in the process.  Concurrently, operations continued to eliminate paramilitaries and regime elements remaining in urban areas within the zone of attack.             

In the South, U.K. forces continued to expand the area influenced by the coalition.  Their efforts to rid Basra of regime death squads are effective and they're ongoing.  Aggressive patrols beyond Basra resulted in the seizure of a cache of 56 surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles, and four missile launchers.  And this was in the vicinity of al-Zubair, just north of -- north and west of Basra. While there may be more yet undiscovered, this particular seizure was a significant removal of a threat to our forces in the southern region.           

Operations were conducted to ensure reply lines remain open, especially in as-Samawa and an-Najaf.  As coalition forces clear these areas of regime presence, caches of weapons and ammunition are often found in residential areas, as this next image shows.  These weapons and ammunition were found inside of an agricultural building in a neighborhood of an-Najaf.              

The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force continued its attack towards Baghdad, destroying remnants of the Baghdad Republican Guard division near al-Kut, and elements of the Al Nida Republican Guard division between al-Kut and Baghdad.  The attack continues.             

Fifth Corps attacked Iraqi forces on the approach to Baghdad, and seized several key intersections on the south side of the city.  The attack continued through the night, and by dawn this morning the coalition had seized the international airport west of Baghdad, formerly known as Saddam International Airport.  The airport now has a new name, Baghdad International Airport, and it is the gateway to the future of Iraq.             

We anticipate that in the coming days we will continue to see on the ground the types of tactics that we've seen before, including the hiding of combat equipment close to homes, the use of schools, hospitals and mosques as military facilities, and even the use of civilian assets or even civilians to hide their actions.             

This short video shows an example of what I just described.  In it you'll see an ambulance near the town of al-Kut, after a firefight that occurred.  You can see personnel right here in this area being extracted after a coalition attack.  Let's go ahead and roll the tape. And you can see the back of the ambulance is open.  These are paramilitaries.  The destroyed vehicle there was a military truck that had an anti-aircraft artillery system on its back, and you can see the barrels of the anti-aircraft system right here.  That had already been destroyed by coalition forces, and the element you saw was trying to extricate itself from the area.           

Yesterday I told you that our maritime component discovered a small boat beached along the Khor Abdullah.  We've got an image of where that is located it.  It was on the north bank, and their work continues to make sure the area is cleared.  This find was done by our deployed members of the U.S. Coast Guard that are part of the maritime force.             

We have some images of what was recovered from that particular search.  Rocket propelled grenades in this particular image.  Anti-tank guided missiles systems.  And the third image is the rubber assault boat itself.  As I mentioned, there were tunnels that were associated with this set of seen caches that were found there, and these types of things were found within the cache.                

Our leaflet operations have now reached over 37 million leaflets dropped, as we communicate our efforts to communicate directly with the Iraqi population and with Iraqi military units.           

Even as the coalition works to preserve Iraq's resources on behalf of the Iraqi people, we continue to find evidence of the regime placing these resources in danger.             

The next image shows parts of an ancient citadel of Arapa (sp) in modern day Kirkuk within northern Iraq.  This site is an archaeological remnant of the Assyrian Empire, and it is very important to the Assyrian people of northern Iraq since the ancient city of Arapa (sp) existed thousands of years ago.  The regime has chosen in this case to use the ancient wall of the city to protect military equipment, and that's what you see where the arrows are located.  This is the actual remnant of the wall itself.  There is an ancient tomb inside of it and some more modern buildings that have been built on top.             

Day by day, the coalition is facilitating the distribution of humanitarian assistance and providing quality of life improvements for the Iraqis.  We've learned that the most important need in areas liberated is water.  I'd like to show you a video of some of the recent efforts in water distribution.           

In forward areas, water is provided by military water trailers, as you see here, providing immediate needs of water to the population. Bulk water, larger amounts of water move by water trucks from the southern region.  These trucks are filled at one of the 11 water points at the end of the Kuwaiti water pipeline near Umm Qasr.             

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I'll take your questions. Yes.           

Q    Thanks.  Neal Karlinsky with ABC.  We've heard a late report coming in here about another checkpoint suicide attack near the Hadithah Dam, a pregnant, possibly three coalition troops being killed in that.  Can you tell us about that?  And also a late report before coming in here of a suspicious site of thousands of boxes of white powder, chemical warfare documents, and nerve agent antidotes found south of Baghdad.  And if you will, in answering that, an update perhaps on yesterday's remark about suspicious -- or bottles with suspicious markings being found?  Thank you.             

BRIG. GEN. BROOKS:  Okay, Neal.  The first part, we do have a report of a car bomb explosion at a military checkpoint southeast of the Hadithah Dam area.  And we talked about the Hadithah Dam and its importance yesterday.  It's still early in the process for us to have a very full story of exactly what happened at the site.  Initial reports do indicate that a vehicle approached the checkpoint.  A woman who appeared clearly to be pregnant exited the vehicle, screaming for assistance, in some degree of distress.  As coalition forces began to approach, she and the vehicle were detonated.  So, she was killed by the explosion from the vehicle.  We do have some combat losses as a result of this, and we'll provide more information as time goes on.           

The report of the powder and boxes we've just recently heard about, and we just don't have any details that are factually based to provide to you at this point in time.  Certainly it's an item of interest, and we'll get more information and report that as it goes.           

What we discovered in the west near Mudaysis, where a special operations raid was ongoing, was a building that we think now was probably an NBC training school.  These bottles were samples -- I think we have an image of that.  Can we bring up the bottles?  These were there -- this what we saw.  One of the had been marked "Tabin" (sp), a chemical agent that was developed back in the '40s.  Some of these were taken away and testing is ongoing.  But we think that there may have been an explanation for this as an NBC training school, not an operational facility.  These sorts of things happen, we get information, we proceed -- proceed to find more detailed information about what it is that is in a particular location, and we make conclusions beyond that.  And that's how we see it at this point. We don't have any further investigation we're going to do on that site.             

Please, Tom.           

Q    Tom Mintier with CNN.  There are reports out near the airport, farther away from the city, that 2,500 members of the Republican Guard laid their weapons down and surrendered.  What can you tell us of the status of the Republican Guard in and around Baghdad, and do you expect more resistance in the city?           

BRIG. GEN. BROOKS:  We have been in contact with a number of Republican Guard forces over the last several days, as you're all aware.  Most of the array was outside of Baghdad, and defenses that really prevented access, easy access to Baghdad.  We've attacked a number of those divisions, particularly the Baghdad Division on the east near al-Kut, the Medina Division near Karbala.  We think there are mixtures, some portions of the Nebuchadnezzar Division that had reinforced the Medina Division, and today we believe we had contact with the Al Nida Division between those two locations.  There may be other elements of Republican Guard forces command that have moved to reinforce or that have become intermingled.  At this point, it's very difficult to separate one from another.  We have had a tremendous effect on those organizations that we have encountered in the process.   We still anticipate that special Republican Guard forces are operating from within Baghdad or on the outskirts of Baghdad.  Some of those we may have encountered near the airport today with some very uncoordinated small-unit attacks.  I won't even call them counter-attacks.  They certainly came after we had possession of terrain, and they were soundly defeated in each case.  Not well integrated, not coordinated, but nevertheless there is a presence of force that's out there still.              

So, in answer to the question, will there be more fighting?  Yes, there will be more fighting.  The fighting is not complete by any stretch of the imagination.  We remain cautiously optimistic.  We have in fact seized a very important piece of terrain that has importance not only now but into the future of Iraq.  But we don't have any doubts that there will be more fighting ahead.  The nature of that fighting, we'll have to see how it unfolds.  We're prepared to deal with a number of contingencies, but we're not finished with this operation at this point.           

Q    The surrenders?           

BRIG. GEN. BROOKS:  The surrender number, I don't know.  I've heard that report, and we have not gotten any confirmation of 2,500 or any other number like that surrendering.  We have encountered forces that have surrendered along the way.  They're usually parts of units, not whole units at this point.             

   But we believe that as the situation continues to unfold, that may change.  There may be larger sizes of units that we encounter, particularly in other parts of the country where there hasn't been as much combat, but we've had some attacks against those forces.  And that will remain to be seen.  And if we have more confirmation, we'll provide it to you.           

Please.           

Q     Jeff Reed (sp) from Sky News.  One would expect a capital city's airport, because of its psychological value, to be more fiercely defended than apparently was the case.  I wonder if you have any view on that.  Can you also tell us what options now it gives you, possession of that airport, how you may exploit it?  And thirdly, what are the next installations that you have listed to rename?           

GEN. BROOKS:  We might rename this facility.  We'll name it (right after you?).           

Q     (Inaudible.)           

GEN. BROOKS:  The nature of what we're seeing in and around Baghdad Airport is, first, there were some defensive forces there.  We had seen, over the last weeks, some reinforcement around it, positions ringing it.  And we've also seen air defenses located there.           

We made efforts more than a week ago to ensure that that could not be used for the takeoff of any regime leaders that might want to escape the country, so we rendered the runway unusable for air operations.  You saw some images a few days ago against regime command-and-control facilities that were associated with the area near the Baghdad airport to the south.  Those have been attacked and we believe effectively impacted.           

And so the amount of force that we encountered there was not intense in terms of the nature of the fighting.  The actions of the force that took that objective area were very effective on any forces that were present.  We think perhaps we may have gotten inside of the enemy's decision-making cycle and arrived with a tempo that put us in place before they could respond to the impending threat that now is a matter of history, that now it's in our possession.           

As to other facilities, I'm certainly not going to characterize what comes next in this operation or where we would go next to direct our energy.  There are other facilities out there that are important. And as it becomes appropriate for us to attack those, we will.           

Please.           

Q     (Off mike.)           

GEN. BROOKS:  Let me go ahead and finish that.  The airport gives us a number of things.  First, it prevents the departure of regime leaders with it being in our possession.  It is an airport.  And so, in due time, it would be something that could be used for air operations when we decide to put it back into operation.  And certainly that is important, either for current military operations or for future operations after conflict is complete.           

Most importantly, we preserved it for the future of Iraq.  And that's the most significant aspect of what we'll get out of having that terrain in our possession.           

Please.           

Q     Jonathan Marcus, BBC.  One of the most interesting developments over the past 24 hours has perhaps been a non-military one, your interaction with this prominent Shiite cleric in Najaf.  Is there anything more you can tell us about your contacts with him and his people?  And how significant do you think his role might be in spreading some sort of message to the Shiite population throughout Iraq?           

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, Jonathan, I really don't have anything to add to what we said yesterday.  We certainly think that any religious leaders that are coming out and making statements, or that would consider doing so, do it with great courage.  And they would have to speak for themselves beyond here.           

It's certainly advantageous when we have leaders that are interacting with the coalition.  A very good example occurred just yesterday in the UK sector, where a religious leader is being provided loudspeakers to do the call for prayer for the first time in 15 years in his area.           

And so there are encounters that happen all over this area, particularly in areas that have been liberated at this point.  We provide assistance.  There's certainly a clear tolerance and no issues in that regard.  It's going very, very well.           

Let me go on the left side.  Sir.           

Q     (Inaudible) -- Irish Times.  Just two points, General.  At these briefings you've gone to great lengths to outline the policy of precision bombing and the lengths to which you go to avoid civilian casualties.  How does this tie in with the use of cluster munitions by yourselves and, I believe, the British, which appear to be a rather haphazard form of attack?  We've heard of the color of these bomblets, as they're called, being the same as the color of food packages.           

And secondly, has the MOAB been used yet, the mother of all bombs?  I saw a report that it was, but can you comment on that? Thank you.           

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, I've emphasized repeatedly our approach to targeting, particularly targeting against regime systems, targeting in built-up areas, as a very precise, deliberate and unparalleled process.  We stand by that.  We remain convinced that that's the right way to do business, especially in this operation.  And that continues.           

There are a wide variety of munitions available to the coalition. We use those based on tactical circumstances and also on the intended effect at a given time.  Cluster munitions are used to create situational obstacles, as we describe them, and that is to create an obstacle related to a tactical purpose.  If we wanted to prevent the movement of a Republican Guard force, for example, we might use that munition or a munition like it to prevent their movement and to keep them in place for further destruction.           

The humanitarian daily rations have changed color.  We learned some lessons from Afghanistan, and the color of the package is different now.  Previously they were bright yellow.  There still are some that are out there in the possession of units that are trying to provide humanitarian assistance as they make contact.           

But the great majority of them in stockages that are being pushed forward in bulk are a different color to account for that.  So we're sensitive to the concern about it, and we believe we're taking the right approach to that potential issue and problem.           

Third row, please.           

Q     (Off mike.)           

GEN. BROOKS:  I won't characterize all weapons that have been used at this point in time in the coalition.           

Q     (Inaudible) -- BBC.  General, could I ask you, have you been impressed with the way the British have handled the situation in Basra?  And can you envisage that when you get to the gates of Baghdad that your forces will employ a similar tactic?           

GEN. BROOKS:  We remain very proud of the coalition that we have here.  There are still 49 countries, some of whom are providing military capability, like the UK forces clearly are.  They've been highly effective in their operations.  We remain very proud to be partners in this coalition with UK forces.           

There's expertise in every organization that comes into the coalition, and all of that gets blended in such a way that we can learn from one another on a continuous basis, not just from this operation but from our experiences leading into this operation.           

We've certainly seen great effectiveness from the approach that's been taken in and around Basra, and those approaches are being similarly applied in other areas, like As Samawa, An Najaf, Nasiriyah, in the present time.           

So I think we're doing the right thing in that regard, and I think we are learning from ourselves within the coalition, all of our coalition partners.  And frankly, our units are learning organizations.  Just as you see tactics change on the battlefield by the enemy, we learn from those tactics and we make adjustments to the way we engage in our own tactics, decisions we make on the ground, what assets we use, other things like that.           

So I think, yes, we are learning already from our British counterparts.  We continue to learn from them.  They learn from us. And it just improves the strength and quality of the coalition on a daily basis.           

Q     (Off mike.)           

GEN. BROOKS:  Baghdad will be approached like many of our other objective areas.  We'll be deliberate in our approach.  We'll be thoughtful in how we address our operations inside of that area, both with regard to the protection of the force and the accomplishment of the mission.           

Yes, sir.  Please.           

Q     (Inaudible.)  British press quoted sources here -- (inaudible) -- that the power station in Baghdad was hit deliberately to pave the way for deployment of Special Forces into the city. What's your comment?           

GEN. BROOKS:  We saw that the power went off in Baghdad last night.  We didn't do it.  It's as simple as that.           

Next question?  Yes, ma'am.           

Q     (Inaudible) -- Associated Press.  You mentioned that special Republican Guards may have been engaged at the airport.  I think you also said that there were some engagements with -- you were eliminating paramilitaries in the zone of attack.           

Does that mean that you have gotten to the point of the inner ring of Saddam's forces closest to Baghdad, the most loyal of his forces?  And, if so, the fact that you were able to get that far and didn't meet serious resistance, what does that tell you about what he has closest to him?  And do you need to control the capital itself, secure it, control it, in order to bring down the regime, the stated goal of this campaign?            

GEN. BROOKS:  First, we are clear that we have penetrated the defensive ring that was set by the Republican Guard forces.  That came by way of the destruction of divisions of Republican Guard forces along that line.               

We think we may have encountered some special Republican Guard. We can't be certain about that at this point.  And it did come with a fight.  Let me be very clear about that.  The actions that I described, the integrated actions, from air attacks, precision-guided munitions, surface-to-surface missile attacks, land combat action, integrated together, destroyed a number of units of the Republican Guard.           

That was the fight.  It should occur in that way.  We don't ever seek a fight on fair terms where it's an even exchange.  We always seek to fight with an advantage.           

Now, as it relates to the future of what will happen in Baghdad and our work there, it's too early to speculate on exactly how that will unfold, what we'll do, or how we'll approach our work inside of Baghdad.  We certainly anticipate that there are forces that are inside of Baghdad that will seek to fight us at the time we choose to enter Baghdad.           

We'll develop intelligence.  We'll develop our target set.  And we'll be very, very deliberate about the work that we do.  There will be absolutely no randomness associated with the way we make our approach -- deliberate work and carefully done.           

Q     (Off mike.)           

GEN. BROOKS:  It's hard to say what will cause the regime to completely be gone.  And so we'll do our work throughout the entire country of Iraq, bringing pressure to bear against any regime remnants that are in outside areas, like regime death squads, Ba’ath Party headquarters that are out there, and against targets that we identify inside of Baghdad in the capital.  How we get that done will be seen as time unfolds in the future for us.            

Yes, sir.  Let me go to the end.           

Q     (Inaudible) -- Georgian Broadcasting Company -- (inaudible).  How far have the coalition forces -- (inaudible) -- control of Baghdad?  And do you think that you will find WMD in the capital?  Thank you.           

GEN. BROOKS:  We still have work to do with regard to Baghdad. It's a large city.  It's well-developed.  We know that there are forces that are inside that have intent to fight within the city.  So, again, we'll be very deliberate about how we do our work regarding Baghdad.           

It will take time to gain a degree of control and security over top of all of Baghdad.  We know that.  We can see that from some of the towns we're already dealing with.  And so I would not want to put any kind of time limit at all on when that will occur, when it begins, and certainly not when it would be complete.           

Weapons of mass destruction -- we believe that this regime does possess weapons of mass destruction.  We remain convinced of that.  We know that some of those may have been pulled into the Baghdad area, either delivery systems or potentially storage systems.           

But let's remember that this regime has been involved in a campaign of denial and deception for decades and has been very effective at it.  And so we don't expect that we're just going to walk up on any WMD.  We'll have to do things that give us control of areas that let us then do deliberate work.  Our first efforts are to destroy the regime and cause its removal.  Secondary efforts will be related to WMD.           

Front row, please.           

Q     (Inaudible) -- Al Jazeera.  General Myers has said that Syria is still providing assistance to Iraq despite the U.S. warning. Do you have any proof of that, such accusation, General?           

GEN. BROOKS:  Hassan, we do have reports that there is certainly an interest in people from Syria contributing in a way that is not in the interest of the coalition inside of Iraq.  That's probably as far as we need to take it from this command.  There are some concerns that have been expressed by our capitals, and I would leave any further comment for our capitals to address from Washington.           

Second row, please.           

Q     (Inaudible.)  I'd like to take you back to the N-B-C training facility, I think you described it as.  Could you just elaborate a little bit on that?  You seem to draw a distinction between the possibility that it was merely for training versus operational.           

And can you elaborate at all on the notion that you found a bottle that appeared to be labeled "Tabin" (ph)?  Was it the only bottle you found marked with something as a known nerve agent, or were there any other indicators there that told you there could be other chemical weapons or biological weapons there?           

GEN. BROOKS:  At that particular site, we believe that that was the only sample.  And it, in fact, was a sample.  That's why we believe it was a training site.  We know that the Iraqis have conducted chemical training.  We've seen it in a number of places we've gone throughout the country.  You go in and you see charts on walls on how to take care of yourself under chemical conditions, how to wear your mask, a number of other things that indicate training.           

We do have indications that they had a chemical training program in place for the Iraqi forces throughout the country.  And so our conclusion at this point is that was not a WMD site per se.  In this case, it proves to be something far less than that.  It doesn't mean they're not out there.           

As we gain additional pieces of information from captured leaders, from sites that we gain control over, from searches that are done that lead to other things, we'll continue to pursue it.  But as I mentioned earlier, that's really a secondary effort that will come after we have further control and the regime is out of the way.           

And, frankly, as the regime is gone, just as we've seen with humanitarian things, there's greater cooperation by the population. And we suspect that the population may have some information.  So as time goes on, we'll find more information that will lead us, we believe, to where the weapons of mass destruction are located.           

In the second row, please.           

Q     (Inaudible.)  General, can you tell us, do you plan to use Umm Qasr for military logistics?  And second question about the cautious optimism in the takeover of the airport.  How do you translate these things in the mood of the -- (inaudible) -- and the people you work with on-site, on the military base?           

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, Umm Qasr is a very important port, we know. That's why we tried to gain control of it and secure it as quickly as we could and why we've committed so much effort to transitioning it to the humanitarian role that is already beginning to play in a very important and significant way for Iraq.  That's really what the focus will be.           

Now, military logistics can be brought in in a number of ways, and we would look everywhere we need to to try to get that in.  We haven't had a need, thus far, to use Umm Qasr for military logistics, and unless circumstances change, that will probably continue to be the case.           

Having said that, military logistics to sustain the operation must remain a priority for us while we're conducting combat operations, and we'll make whatever adjustments we need to make that happen.           

It's important, however, that we not put that port at risk.  We believe we have a good condition of stability that's already occurring in and around Umm Qasr and the southern region.  And that's important to us.  And so we would seek other alternatives before putting Umm Qasr at any kind of military risk, as it goes right now.           

Your second question, the mood in the JOC?  Bunch of pros inside of there.  And my interactions with the professionals inside of the JOC -- some of you have met some of them before -- they're always focused on the mission.  They're always upbeat.  They're positive about things.  And they also have a cautious optimism.  Things are going well.  We're on-plan.  We're accomplishing what we set out to do.  There are many achievements, and we're only two weeks into this operation.  So that's the source of our cautious optimism.  But all military professionals always keep that cautious piece in there as well, recognizing that there's still work to be done.  We never underestimate our enemy, especially when there's capability that still exists.  And that's what the situation is there.           

Let me go back here, sir.           

Q     (Inaudible.)  What we have seen in Iraq is exactly what's going on in Palestine by Israeli occupation.  Are you considering the fact that many Iraqis are now united against you to (dividing ?) their country, and they see you as occupiers?           

Thank you, sir.           

GEN. BROOKS:  What you're seeing in this situation is only applicable to this situation.  What you're seeing is a coalition that has come together to rid a nation of a regime that has oppressed it for decades.  What you're seeing is humanitarian assistance being delivered from the first inception of combat operations as quickly as we could possibly do that, because we recognize that the Iraqi people need assistance, and they weren't getting it from their own leaders. What you're seeing here is a coalition that's dedicated to, after removing the regime, proceeding without any change to the territorial integrity of Iraq, to set a condition that will make it possible for a future Iraq that belongs to all the Iraqi people.  That's what you see in this case.  It can't be compared to anything else.  And really, that's all there is to it at this point.           

Yes, sir, in back.  In the back, next row.           

Q     Thank you, General.           

GEN. BROOKS:  And I'll come back to you -- your colleague next.           

Q     Dave Ross (ph) from KIRO (ph) in Seattle.  May I ask you to address a fundamental question?  This is day 15.  Can you say that Americans at home are safer today than they were 15 days ago?           

GEN. BROOKS:  I think we can clearly say that we have uncovered the realities of this regime -- that there are very close links with terrorist organizations, and there are much closer links with terrorist behaviors.  It's been very clear to us for some time, since before the start of combat operations that the worst thing that could happen would be for this regime, in its approach to its own people and its inimical interest to the United States, to join that with weapons of mass destruction, to pass those to terrorists that might be used against our nation or others.  We clearly have had an impact on their ability to do that.  So yes, as this contributes to a global war on terrorism, absolutely, we believe that we are safer as a result of this action.           

It still doesn't make us completely safe.  There are still all kinds of threats out there globally.  Our efforts are focused on taking care of the ones at hand in Iraq, and we're going to continue that effort until we complete it.           

Yes, ma'am.           

Q     (Off mike.)  Can I go back to the attack at the checkpoint. There are various things I was hoping you'd clear up.  First of all, you've talked about special forces doing interdiction on the roads. Was this one of those sort of checkpoints?  Were these special forces? If so, can you tell us what nationality they were?           

Second of all, is there any indication -- I mean, can we be sure that this is a suicide attack, that, say, the woman wasn't coerced into doing this?  Have you had any evidence, say, from witnesses accounts elsewhere of people being coerced into any kind of attacks?           

GEN. BROOKS:  They were coalition special operations forces -- and I won't be more precise -- that are operating in that area.  And it was part of an interdiction effort, which continues.  We have seen a number of examples that provide us clear evidence that this regime will take civilians, will take women, will take children and use them to lead an attack.  Whether this one was coerced or not, it's now impossible to say.  She clearly exited the vehicle in distress, and she clearly showed signs of being pregnant.  The circumstances surrounding that, we have yet to completely discover, and some parts of it obviously never will be discovered.           

What we do know is, we're not surprised that the regime would do this.  Whether it was voluntary or not, these kind of behaviors have been exhibited all over the battlefield.  They're terroristic.  That's the only way to characterize them.  These are not military actions. These are terrorist actions.           

Let me go to the second row, please.           

Q     (Inaudible) -- from the Daily Telegraph in London.  Again, being a bit cheeky and doing a two-parter.  One is, do you think that Tikrit is being prepared as some kind of final rid-out for members of the regime?  The other one is, we've heard very little about the future military administration of post-war Iraq.  Who's going to be running this country, say, month one, month two, after the fall of the regime?           

GEN. BROOKS:  Tikrit is an area that's very important to the regime and to certain regime leaders.  We know that.  We have interests regarding the regime in Tikrit.  That's why you saw some targets that have addressed regime facilities in Tikrit.  We certainly know that there is a link between Baghdad and Tikrit.  And we have taken actions to influence that link in a variety of ways.  And so I'll leave our interest in Tikrit at about that point.           

As to the future, and the administration aspects of this, that really is a matter that ought to be better discussed in the Pentagon and also in Washington to determine who's going to do what.  We still have combat action that we're involved in.  That remains the focus of our operations.  And as we get closer to the conditions that you're describing, we'll have more to say about it.           

Up on the left, please.           

Q     Hi,  General.  Jeff Schaeffer (sp), Associated Press Television News.  I'd like to know if you have any details today of the investigation into what brought down the Hornet and the Blackhawk? Hostile fire or mechanical error or what could it be?           

GEN. BROOKS:  On the FA-18 Hornet, both of them, of course, are still under investigation, but the FA-18 Hornet we're continuing to dig deeper and find out what the causes were.  We don't have any final answers at this point.  Would be premature to talk about that.  Similarly with the UH-60.  Let me first say that we are comfortable in that case that it was not hostile fire.  We think there was a mechanical problem.  We haven't determined what the mechanical problem was yet.  There's still more work that needs to be done on both of those cases.  And as we have more to say, we'll pass that to you.           

I missed someone over inside of here.  Yes, sir.           

Q     (Inaudible) -- Broadcasting Company.  As far as the roads from Baghdad to the west and to the north are concerned, have you been able to cut the road to Tikrit?           

GEN. BROOKS:  Without being too precise about our actions along the road to Tikrit, we have the ability to influence movement on the road to Tikrit.  And I'd just like to leave it at that at this point since we have current operations ongoing.           

And let me go right here please.           

Q     Paul Hunter from Canadian Broadcasting.  How much of each day for troops closest to Baghdad is spent inside a chemical suit? And as the days go on and temperatures get hotter, how much of a disadvantage is that for coalition troops in that if Iraqi troops wouldn't have to be in -- if they were to use chemical weapons, wouldn't have to theoretically put their suits on until they were about to use them?           

GEN. BROOKS:  I can't characterize exactly how much of the day it is.  That varies unit by unit and commander by commander the chemical suit is used as part of a protective posture.  And commanders make a determination on what kind of risk they're under.  They can regulate what's worn underneath of the chemical suit, whether it's overtop of the desert camouflage uniforms or battle dress uniforms.           

Commanders are the ones who regulate the condition of their unit at any given time.  If it's time to reduce the amount of activity, for example, at certain times of the day when it's extremely hot, then they'll make that adjustment.  Then again, we're able to attack and conduct operations throughout the day.  So if they're involved in contact, they'll continue.           

This is something that's down at the tactical level, not at the CENTCOM level, and so I don't really have much information about that. The one thing I would tell you is, we train that way.  And so there are certain advantages that come to an organization that fights the way it trains.  That's how we do all of our work.  Throughout the coalition you see that.  And so we don't have any concerns about our ability to fight, even under a chemical environment after chemical weapons are used.  We can do that.  We train to do that.  The key part is how commanders take care of their organizations.  We're satisfied. We've got great commanders out there that are doing the right thing. They've shown their capability throughout the 15 days of combat operations.  They're pretty savvy young folks that make things happen the right way, and we're very proud of them.           

Let me go over in this area please.           

Q     (Inaudible) -- La Republicca newspaper, Italy.  Two questions, General, please.  First of all, on the Hadithah dam.  Could you tell us where the forces who are securing the dam come from?  They seem to be far apart from other ground forces there.  So are they a part of the 5th Corps or whatever?           

Second question, concerning they incidents of the past few days involving civilians, we heard from this commander a clear answer only on the first one in Baghdad in one Baghdad market.  Then the second incident in Baghdad.  Then Hillah a few days ago.  And the last one, we hear from the regime in Baghdad that there have been dozens of civilian victims around the airport.  Do we have any information on this?           

Thank you.           

GEN. BROOKS:  I mentioned yesterday, the -- actually the last two day, the Hadithah dam has been seized by coalition special operations forces.  And so I'll leave it at that, and our special operations forces are able to conduct operations throughout all of Iraq.           

Civilian casualties are being reported on the battlefield through a number of sources, and we know that in warfare, throughout history, civilians do get injured, civilians are killed as a result of combat action.  The numbers that are out there and certainly the reports from the regime we would put into great doubt.  You've seen evidence of the regime killing their own civilians.  So there is certainty on the regime's part that there are civilian deaths and what the cause would be.  Our approach has been very deliberate about minimizing the potential effect on civilians and other structures that we don't intend to cause any effect on.  We've seen this demonstrated in a number of places.  We can take an example, the mosque in Najaf, how we approach our work, on the ground or from the air.  We take these things into consideration.           

I can't stand here and tell you that there have not been any civilian casualties caused by coalition action.  I suspect that there are.  But I can tell you with absolute certainty that we've done everything we possibly could to prevent that and to drive it down to an absolute minimum.  And I'll stand on that.           

Yes, ma'am, with the red shirt, please.           

Q     (Inaudible) -- from Independent Television in Finland. General, you said you want to prevent the members of the regime to escape.  Does it mean your previous offer for President Saddam Hussein to go in exile is not valid anymore?           

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, this command never made such an offer.  We were committed to action by our national leaders.  We've got objectives that are clearly laid out for us.  The offers that you described are matters for capitals to deal with, not for this command. We remain focused on our objectives, and that includes removing this regime.  We cannot allow an escape to occur at this point.  If we're ordered otherwise, then we'll do things otherwise.  But at the current time, we want to prevent departure from Iraq until we have completed our operations.  And there will be a time of accounting.  We've said that before.  And it's important that we complete our work before we make any more pronouncements in that regard.           

Yes, sir, in the back.           

Q     I wonder if you could talk a little bit about, short of a surrender, what kind of things are you looking for when you will know you have control over the country militarily at least?           

GEN. BROOKS:  I think some of the things we're already seeing throughout much of the country tell us that we have established an environment of security where life can begin to proceed into the future.  Control is probably not a very good word, and so that's not something that I would use to characterize it.  Rather, it's a matter of establishing conditions that life can go on.           

Militarily, when we have removed military threats, that's the first and most important thing.  Some of those things, some of those efforts to remove military threats will take time.  For example, we know that in some of the towns through which we've passed or towns that now fall into the area where we believe we have general security and have removed most of the regime's influence, there is still presence.  It's not so much an effect anymore, but there is presence.    And so as conditions continue to go favorably in the coalition's direction, as we have more and more impact on the regime's ability to issue instructions or to take actions in a coordinated way, then we'll find that we can do that.           

So that's what we see in terms of military conditions related to when we think that we've got the right security environment.           

Q     If I could just follow up, in terms of regime change, how will you know when the regime is no longer -- no longer has any ability to control the levers of power?  How --           

GEN. BROOKS:  I think we'll have a --           

Q     -- what are you looking for to establish that?           

GEN. BROOKS:  We'll a combination of things.  And I don't want to give you the laundry list of what the indicators will be.  Certainly throughout all of our processes that integrate intelligence that comes in, the conditions we're finding out on the ground, how much fighting are we experiencing, what is the population telling us, all these things get brought together in a way that tells us whether or not we still have work to do.  Right now, we know we have work to do.  And so we're continuing with that work, and we'll be very deliberate about it as we get it done.            

Yes, please.           

Q     Adi Rival (ph), ABC News.  Over a week ago now, we had the incident involving the two M1 Abrams tanks.  These were destroyed, the first time ever in combat that these tanks had been destroyed.  There were indications -- reports I should say that possibly Coronets (ph) were involved.  Over a week -- over a week later now, can you tell us what the status of your investigation is regarding what destroyed these two tanks?  Was it the Coronet (ph) or was it another kind of device that destroyed these two tanks?           

And also, sir, U.N. violations.  As you are going through and finding these weapons caches, the 56 surface-to-surface missiles, as you reported moments ago, how many of these missiles and other sorts of weapons violate the U.N. sanctions?           

Thank you, sir.           

GEN. BROOKS:  Let me recharacterize what you said first about the M1 tanks.  We have not had any M1 tanks destroyed by hostile fire. We've had a number hit by hostile fire, and we've had some that have been damaged by hostile fire.  None have been destroyed at this point.           

As to U.N. violations, we've seen a number of things that indicate clear evidence that what was described as a campaign of denial and deception has true foundation.  We've seen missiles that have gone beyond 150 kilometers.  I mentioned one earlier that landed in the North Arabian gulf, and it splashed at about 190 kilometers. We've seen atropine injectors that we believe were purchased under the oil for food program, requiring adjustments by the United Nations on the good-review list.  We've seen heavy equipment transporters that are moving tanks.  In some cases, they move explosives near mosques.           

There are all kinds of things that have shown up through our operations that indicate that the campaign of denial and deception was true.  There was in fact a campaign ongoing to prevent global knowledge of what was really happening here.  I think we're going to find even more of it as time goes on.  We won't be surprised with what we find.           

Yes, sir, please.           

Q     We understand that General Franks was conducting battle damage assessments today.          

Is there anything, any light you can shed on the effectiveness of what's been going on, this joint air, ground, sea-based attacks and on the effectiveness of the Republican Guards?           

GEN. BROOKS:  Let me first describe how we approach battle damage assessments.  This is something that's an ongoing process after every action at every level.  A rifle squad may be involved in an action, as many of your embedded media have seen.  They make an assessment of what the damage is at that point in time.  Have they eliminated the threat?  Did it move?  Should they pursue it?  What's the condition? The same thing happens at every level up and down the line.  After each one of these precision attacks, battle damage assessment is done. The images that I am showing you are part of what is considered by our analysts.  They take a close look.  Did we achieve the desired effect? Did all of our weapons hit?  Have we accounted for everything?  Did we minimize the effect on civilians or other structures in the way we intended it?  All of that is rolled in continuously, and General Franks and all other commanders inside the coalition receive information, assessments of what damage has been done, and they make their own conclusions as well.           

We certainly have concluded over the last several days that several parts of the Republican Guard forces command have been destroyed.  That destruction has come by way of focused coalition action, some decisions by Republican Guard forces members to leave the battlefield, surrenders that have occurred, or just plain destruction that has occurred also.  This is an ongoing process, and we continue to update it.  It's not precise.  It's done by analysis first, and then intuition and instinct finally.  That's how we see things at this point.           

Let me go in the back, please.            

Q     General, Paul Adams (sp), BBC.  Can you confirm reports from Western intelligence agencies that suggest that the Pentagon's forensic examination of the bomb attack at the checkpoint in Najaf concluded that that bomb was remotely detonated, and that the driver of the car may not have known anything about it?           

GEN. BROOKS:  The tactics that you describe is one we've certainly used by terrorists in other parts of the world.  I don't have anything to report or confirm at this point.  The situation remains under investigation.  All of these things take a lot of time to put literally the conditions back into place that may have contributed to the initial bombing.  It would not be surprising if we found that out, because of the nature of the behaviors of this regime thus far, but we don't have anything to report on that currently.           

Yes, ma'am?           

Q     Thank you, general.  Anne Barnard from the Boston Globe.  I just wanted to clarify a couple of things about the airport. Are you saying that the runways are not operable, and therefore the coalition forces can't use the airport, at least right now?  And do you control the entire airport?  Just a few hours ago we were hearing that there were still some people in the north end of the airport holding out.  Do you control the entire territory?  Thank you.           

GEN. BROOKS:  We rendered the airport unusable for normal air operations.  We had some capabilities that the regime does not have. Hence, I would not say whether it limits our ability to conduct operations.           

The amount of control that is exercised there -- this is an ongoing process.  We found that there are underground facilities at this airport, for example.  Those require clearance.  It's an ongoing process.  We don't know what we'll find there.  There may in fact be someone to fight in those underground facilities.  The work is ongoing.  Until we are completely satisfied that there are no threats to the airport, or at the airport, we will continue our efforts to ensure that security has been provided for.  In the meantime, the force that's present there remains alert to a variety of things that still remain possibilities for the regime, whether it's the use of weapons of mass destruction or attacking forces to try to retake it. And we have seen some of those this morning, and it destroyed nearly all of them.           

Let me go to the second row, please.           

Q     General, the failure of the power grid in Baghdad last night seemed fortuitously timed for the ground action that the coalition was taking.  The coalition says that they didn't target the power grid.  Could the lights have been turned off by fifth column working, whose goals were in alliance with the coalition, or do you believe the regime turned off the lights?           

GEN. BROOKS:  I wouldn't want to speculate on who actually turned them off.  We know we didn't direct it.  And we certainly have had some concerns about the power in Baghdad.  We tried to do a number of things to protect the people of Baghdad.  Electrical power in Baghdad also relates to water in Baghdad.  Electrical power in Baghdad also relates to power in hospitals in Baghdad.  That's not part of the coalition design at this point, so I wouldn't characterize it the way you did as fortuitous.  It's a matter of concern at this point in time for the population that's inside of Baghdad.  I think we have time for one more.  In the row behind -- yes, sir, with your hand up?           

Q     Scot -- (inaudible) -- VOA.  Regarding the weapons of mass destruction you believe to be in Baghdad, is there not a risk, given the number of airstrikes that you are engaged in of accidentally setting off some of this?  Or what are you doing to perhaps minimize that?            

GEN. BROOKS:  There are places we think weapons may have been stored, and that goes into our process for targeting.  So if we think they may be stored there, then we make decisions about how we should approach it.  We don't want to create a weapons of mass destruction hazard, and so we will not create one by any of our designs.           

Having said that, the regime, that we believe possesses weapons of mass destruction, having been engaged in a campaign of denial and deception, has hidden weapons of mass destruction.  Only the regime knows where they are for sure.  And so it's possible that we could be hitting something out there, and we have concerns about that as well. So the decisions we make try to take that into account as much as we possibly can.  We think we have been very careful thus far to avoid such conditions, and our efforts will continue that way.           

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.   

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 Ba’ath 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, Ba’ath 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 Ba’ath Party headquarters that had been identified. That happened in, as I recall, two different locations last night. In some cases we destroyed Ba’ath 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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