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HistoryCentral.com > > Free Iraq


 

CENTCOM Operation Iraqi Freedom Briefing ~ 06 April 2003
Presenter: Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, CENTCOM Deputy Director of Operations April 6, 2003

------------------------------------------------------------------------


BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS: I trust that everyone adjusted their clocks properly, here and in other places where the time zones have changed.

Good afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen, since the coalition's entry to Iraq, coalition forces have been focused on the objectives of the campaign. We're in the 17th day, and the outcome remains beyond doubt. With each day that passes, the coalition force grows stronger and more damages are inflicted upon the regime and its supporting agents, and with each day that passes, more Iraqis are celebrating freedom.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the family members of those of our fallen comrades who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

The coalition attacked regime leadership targets, military forces, command centers, communications nodes, and all located aircraft to break the military capacity of the regime. At this point, the coalition can operate throughout all of the airspace of Iraq.

I have two weapons systems videos to show you today of recent attacks that we conducted to eliminate the military capability defending this regime. The attacks were focused on eliminating threats to coalition aircraft and preventing the regime from using aircraft for any purpose.

The first video shows an anti-aircraft artillery system that is firing at a coalition aircraft. You'll actually see that in this film. And this target was west of Kirkuk in northern Iraq on the 2nd of April.

Now, what you just saw was two sets of black smoke. That was the firing of the anti-aircraft system at this aircraft that's conducting the attack. So, I would just remind that these are not benign actions that occur, these are combat actions, and our pilots have done very, very well and have been very effective. Let's continue with the tape, please. He won the duel.

The second video shows a regime anti -- a regime aircraft located near the al-Takatam (sp) airfield, and this was struck on April the 4th. And as I mentioned, we're attacking all identified aircraft, first to prevent them from flying for combat purposes but also to prevent the potential delivery of weapons of mass destruction, chemicals particularly, from aircraft.

We will continue to attack the regime and its military capacity whenever and wherever we find it.

I also have two products to show you from recent precision attacks against assets of the regime. The first one is a regime command and control facility in Baghdad struck on April the 3rd. What I'd highlight on this one is that there are 21 different weapons that were used, each one of them represented by a blue arrow. One of the reasons why I don't discuss sorties very much is because we have the capability of doing some of these attacks without involving an aircraft at all, or we may have certain aircraft that drop precision-guided munitions that can find their own way to the target. So, it might be one or two aircraft to do these 21 weapons into an attack. There's a difference in our technology and our capability now than what we've spoken of in the past.

This is a pre-strike; and the post strike, please. Varying degrees of destruction because the weapons systems chosen have varying degrees of explosive capability, and that's by deliberate design. So you'll see on the far left side, for example, these don't appear to be as destroyed as others, but they're effective hits. In some cases, we went just outside of the building to penetrate. In other cases, the buildings themselves were destroyed. You can see some that are shredded in this case. This was considered an effective attack. If we don't see something effective, then we'll come back and attack it at a later time.

The second image is -- well, first let's show the split here -- okay -- the second image I want to show you is a command and control facility near Samanpak (sp) to the south of Baghdad. This was struck on the 3rd of April. Two weapons in this case. Post-strike. And the split.

As we are now able to operate around or within Baghdad, we see indications that the regime continues to put civilian and civilian areas at increasing risk. The following photo will show you Iraqi military equipment that the regime has intentionally placed next to the buildings of a residential area. Although it's a little bit difficult to see, each blue arrow points to a piece of military equipment that's pushed right up against the side of the building. In some cases there are multiple pieces of equipment. This is in a residential area. We don't know that these are houses, per se, but it clearly is a residential area. This kind of risk is another example of how the regime is more than willing to put its population into harm's way to protect itself, and its weapons, and its capabilities of continuing to inflict oppression on the population.

We, however, will continue to discriminate in our targeting. We will continue to be selective and seek precision in all we do. But it is clear at this point that the risk is increasing to the civilian population because of decisions made by regime leaders.

Our coalition special operations forces in northern Iraq directed focused air support against regime forces in the north near Kirkuk. Some of these forces, some of these Iraqi forces from the first corps relocated approximately 10 kilometers further to the south, away from what has been described as the "green line." The special operations teams with these Kurdish security -- with Kurdish security elements, maintain contact with the first corps elements and have moved forward in a portion of that 10-kilometer zone to keep their eyes on the relocating Iraqi forces.

Our special operations forces are positioned along several key roads, and this is to prevent movement of ballistic missiles -- we've talked about area denial out in the west -- and also to deny free movement by regime forces or leaders.

Our special operations forces represent a very broad capability and can be introduced into any area by a variety of means. You've seen some of those over the last several days of this campaign. The video I'm about to show you shows special operations forces conducting another parachute assault within the last two days to secure an airfield for future use.

(Video.)

Equally important are the efforts of our special operations forces conducting unconventional warfare and doing more and more work with Iraqis who do not support the regime, and this is an ongoing and increasing effort.

The land component continues to achieve success. Our efforts to remove remnants of the regime from the areas of Basra, Samawa, Najaf, and Karbala are ongoing. There have been some encounters with regime forces in these areas, but the number of encounters have gone down appreciably while the support from the population is increasing. Some deliberate work by U.K. forces in the vicinity of Basra have clearly weakened the grip of the regime.

Yesterday, a patrol of U.K. forces near As-Zubair, just outside of Basra, came upon two warehouses containing human remains in bags and boxes. While an accurate count is not yet known, estimates would indicate that the remains are of more than 100 persons. Some have tatters of uniforms in and amongst the human remains, and in one of the warehouses there were pictures of executed soldiers. These remains are not from this conflict. They are from some other conflict at some other time. Needless to say, the site will be thoroughly examined, and we're looking for evidence of war crimes.

There is still a regime presence in some of the towns, and the tactics we see used remain the tactics of terrorists. An example of this is a recent action at an area secured by the 82nd Airborne Division near As-Samawa. And you can see Samawa here, just along the river line, south of Najaf. In this case, a company of airborne troopers were securing an area that had been established. They built a small unit checkpoint to control movements near the area. And this was near a populated area.

And, as we've seen in other cases, a sport utility vehicle approached the checkpoint at a high rate of speed. After several unsuccessful non-lethal attempts to cause the vehicle to halt, it continued approaching the checkpoint, and this, again, as I mentioned, was near a populated area. There was a young sergeant in charge at that particular checkpoint, and he saw some objects in the back of this vehicle, ordered one of his gunners to open fire on the threatening vehicle.

This is an image of the vehicle from the rear after the attack. You can see that it's in an urban area with a kid standing on the side of the road. The weapon impacting the vehicle caused the vehicle to have a significant secondary explosion and a fireball. Let's go to the next image. The vehicle had been loaded with gas cylinders to be detonated in close proximity to the checkpoint. And finally, from the side.

Our soldiers and Marines out there, and especially our junior leaders, are having to make very, very difficult but instantaneous life and death decisions, and they're the only one who can make those decisions. They're doing it very well, and they're also doing the best they can to protect the force as well as the Iraqi population.

The two-core attack by 5th Corps and 1st MEF continues to isolate Baghdad, denying any reinforcements or any escape by regime military forces. Fifth Corps controls the corridor from Karbala to Baghdad in the east. The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force controls the corridor from Samanpak (sp) to Baghdad. And I mentioned east first -- excuse me -- 5th Corps is in the west, 1st MEF is in the east. And we continue operations in and around that area, and beyond.

There was a raid last night by the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. What they raided was a training camp near Samanpak (sp). And you can see the explosion along on the map near Samanpak (sp). This raid occurred in response to information that had been gained by coalition forces from some foreign fighters we encountered from other countries, not Iraq. And we believe that this camp had been used to train these foreign fighters in terror tactics. It is now destroyed.

We continue broadcasting non-stop radio over all of Iraq. We do know that radio is the most common and popular medium that is used by the Iraqi population and is consumed by them. A much smaller portion of the population has TV, and an even smaller portion, mostly elites, have access to cable and satellite television. Some of the examples of things we are saying on our broadcasts now to the Iraqi people, especially in the radio broadcasts -- first, we're telling the Iraqi people for their own safety to stay away from Baghdad International Airport. And this is certainly in direct contrast of what the regime is telling its citizens.

We're also explaining the importance of carefully following checkpoint instructions as they approach them. There are checkpoints that they may encounter. If they follow the instructions of the people at the checkpoint, there are not problems.

We explain to the Iraqis the types of atrocities and criminal acts that the regime is responsible for. And we're also telling the Iraqi forces that remain, specifically the Special Republican Guard and special security forces, that they should surrender, flee, or fight and face certain destruction.

The good news is life is proceeding into a new state of normal in other places, in places where the coalition has driven away the regime. Actions that we easily take for granted, things that have been stopped by the regime and the hazards of combat are now resuming. So, as we stop our combat actions, as we move the regime away, life can continue.

This is an example. A school in An-Najaf -- we've talked about that location over the last several days -- children are now safely returning to school, and they've begun school for the first time since before hostilities began. And the image is in stark contrast with the one I showed you a few days ago where, with the help of the local population, we were removing ammunition from the same school that had been used by regime death squads as a place to fight.

Our civil affairs units that are traveling behind our combat formations are skilled, they are professional, and they're making daily assessments of the needs of the population they encounter, and then they get to work trying to fulfill those needs, with the assistance of the population. That's part of the plan. It always has been part of the plan. And their efforts are making a major difference in the lives of newly liberated Iraqis.

In some locations, our soldiers are facilitating the delivery of supplies, and that includes things that are already on hand in storage warehouses but weren't delivered by the regime, as this particular image shows. These are school supplies that were in an area near Basra. Our special operations forces moving through the area found this warehouse, discovered what it was, and began pushing them back out to the population. They had already been on hand, and for whatever reason the regime did not see fit to distribute them to the population of Basra.

Assisting with much of our humanitarian and civic work are free Iraqi forces team members. They continue to help us communicate and earn a high degree of trust. The teams also coordinate delivery of humanitarian assistance rations and the massive volumes of wheat and grain that are starting to flow in from all over the world, and we have much more of that coming here over the next several weeks, with many different countries making contributions. And those will come in by way of the ports that have been secured by our operations, and over land through areas that have been secured.

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

Q Will Adams, ABC. Two questions, General. First of all, you showed us the photograph of the vehicle with the cylinders in it. Anyone who has lived in this part of the world for any length of time knows that those are the kind of cylinders that everyone uses for domestic purposes, and often are transported in vehicles precisely like that. Was there anything that you saw in that vehicle that proved that these were intended to be detonated?

And secondly, you mentioned the training camp near Samanpac (sp) and you said information from foreign fighters had helped you to identify that. Are you saying that there are foreign terrorist training camps in Iraq?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, first, with regard to the vehicle and what's inside of it, we know that those types of canisters can also be used as explosive devices, particularly when numbers of them are joined together. What we believe is the necessary decision-making down at the lower level is what is -- what is it that you see approaching? What behaviors are being exhibited? And how does that then match into things that have happened as patterns over time? Then a life and death decision is made.

When there is a need to do further investigation, we will, if we think something has been done incorrectly by rules of engagement that are out there, but in many cases we think that this is what's going to happen. And so while it's certainly possible that those things are commercial use activities, or commercial use items -- just like the vehicle is a civilian vehicle, and the people inside of it were in civilian clothes -- that still the modus that is used by regime death squads to perpetrate these types of terror attacks.

Now, with regard to Samanpak (sp), that's just one of a number of examples we've found where there is training activity happening inside of Iraq. It reinforces the likelihood of links between his regime and external terrorist organizations, clear links with common interests. Some of these fighters came from Sudan, some from Egypt, and some from other places, and we've killed a number of them and we've captured a number of them, and that's where some of this information came from. We continue to be on the look out for those types of fighters. It certainly won't stop us operationally. We'll encounter them when we encounter them. But it does say an awful lot about the regime is taking to what's going on on the battlefield right now.

Yes, please.

Q Thank you, General. Kelly O'Donnell from NBC. Can you confirm the attack on the man known as "Chemical Ali"? Is he the highest ranking regime leader who has been hit? And what do you think his death would mean for the potential of chemical weapons use?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, Kelly, first, we've made it clear that we're going to do a number of things to affect the decision making of this regime -- whether that is attacking decision-makers, like Chemical Ali is, and there are a number of others, obviously, in this regime as well, or if it's attacking the means by which they issue their instructions to do things that we think would be not in their interest to do, or whether it is attacking the means of delivery, like launchers for surface-to-surface missiles that might be able to carry chemical weapons or aircraft that might deliver those. All of that comes together to minimize the influence of this regime, minimize the ability of the regime to control itself. And we continue to remain satisfied that we are having a significant impact on this regime, that it no longer is in control.

As to whether or not he's the highest -- we've attacked higher than him, and we will continue to attack others in the regime. We've said that it's not about individuals, it's about the regime. And any piece of the regime that's out there, or any piece of this force that supports the regime, will be attacked, it will be destroyed, or it will be otherwise removed by their voluntary action.

Q Do you believe he is the highest ranking that has been killed?

GEN. BROOKS: I'm not going to characterize what the status is at this point. I don't think we know for sure. I know that we certainly knew that he was our target, and we know that we feel comfortable that his bodyguard is now dead. As to Chemical Ali himself, I think time will tell.

Yes, sir.

Q David Lee Miller, Fox News. There's a report of a friendly fire incident in the north. If you know anything about that and can elaborate, I would appreciate it. And secondly, have any weapons of mass destruction been found? And is there anything to suggest now that maybe this regime tried to move some of those weapons into Syria or other locations which we have heard for the past few weeks?

GEN. BROOKS: We do have some initial reports of an engagement that occurred in the north that involved some coalition forces and some Peshmerga with whom we have been conducting operations in the north. We don't know the specifics of the circumstance at this point. As with every other report like this, we'll dig into it, find out what the contributing circumstances are, and try to come to some degree of closure on, not only what happened, but also if there are some things we need to learn from it, how it happened and what we can do to prevent it from happening again, if indeed we have some involvement in that. So, that's something that's still underway. It's ongoing, and it's a very fresh report as well, so it's going to take a little while before we get to the bottom of it.

Weapons of mass destruction are something that are -- that remain a focus of this operation. It is not the primary focus. We are still conducting combat operations focused on the regime. That's the first order of business. However, there are some places that we have now access to areas that we do searches for weapons of mass destruction, either based on our anticipated or our knowledge beforehand that there may have been weapons of mass destruction stored there, developed there, over time.

So, in some cases, it may be years ago that we had that information. As we get access to the locations, we'll search, often with the assistance of people who were working there. And as we get closer to Baghdad, we have more places that are like that.

I think we can certainly be sure that this regime has been skillful at hiding the things they have. There are a number of items we've already encountered on the battlefield that they said they didn't have, and yet we found them -- whether it's mines that float up, or missiles that go beyond 150 kilometers. Any number of other things are out there.

And, so, while we can't say where they may have been moved to, we certainly anticipate that there have been deliberate efforts to bury, hide, move, disperse -- all these efforts that were part of the denial and deception campaign. And, as time goes on, and we get more access to the people who know what really was happening inside the regime, that aren't supportive of the regime, after the regime is gone, we believe that we'll be able to do the deliberate work necessary to find -- to find more of it.

Tom, please.

Q Tom Mintier with CNN. There is a report being carried by ITAR-TASS that some vehicles carrying Russian diplomats out of Baghdad were struck by coalition aircraft. Number one, did it happen? Number two, were you notified in advance of the departure of this delegation of Russians from Baghdad?

GEN. BROOKS: We have some initial reports from our embassy in Russia that there may have been some sort of action that occurred with respect to that set of vehicles leaving Iraq. We were aware of them leaving Iraq. We certainly had information about that, and had an anticipation of how they might move. And with that we wanted to ensure we were providing as much protection as we could.

We don't know the circumstances surrounding this, or even the factual basis of it yet. We understand that they are still moving at this point in time. And as we get more information, we certainly will -- absolutely want to get to the bottom of that particular --

Q (Off mike)?

GEN. BROOKS: I don't know whether it has or not. There are reports that it has been, but we don't have any specifics that confirm that in any way at this point in time.

Q You just said it was still moving.

GEN. BROOKS: We understand that this group of vehicles is still moving, yes. And what we don't know is any coalition involvement, whether in fact someone was hit, what the circumstances were around a reported hit. And we'll see what we can find out about the rest of the story -- very, very fresh report just minutes before we came in here.

Yes, please, sir?

Q General, Jeff Meade (ph) from Sky News. Yesterday's was Baghdad's -- (inaudible) -- Basra. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the British action into the second city this morning, how you characterized it, what it's achieving and what it's possible outcome is.

Can I also put you also -- small issue -- you talked about deception there. At your last appearance you showed us a building, a command and control center in Tikrit that you said had been bombed on the 2nd of April. I wonder how you can explain that the same building was damaged -- it's quite a distinctive building -- was shown on Iraqi TV nine days before. Is this really a podium of truth, or are both sides practicing deception?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, first, let me talk about the U.K. forces. As I mentioned yesterday, we are very, very proud of them, and we are proud to be partners with them in this coalition. They are doing exceptional work down in the south. We've already advanced very rapidly in the bringing on of the humanitarian aspects of this operation as quickly as it could be possibly done. And, at the same time, we find the U.K. forces are doing tremendous and deliberate work in Basra and areas beyond it, and they've had an exceptional effect on the regime forces that are in there. Their work is not complete, and I would certainly leave full characterization of exactly what unit is doing what to the U.K. forces to lay out for themselves. But they are doing very, very well, and we remain proud partners with them in this coalition.

The strikes that I showed you are derived from intelligence products. They're real photographs, and the information we pass you is that which we can pass you from our knowledge of exactly what has happened. So I know that what I am delivering you is what I know as fact from those operations, and that's probably as far as I can take it.

Yes, sir, in the back, please?

Q Jonathan Marks (ph), BBC. Prior to your move on Baghdad you were able to characterize for us which particular Iraqi divisions of the Republican Guard were broadly speaking in that area. Could you try to set out for us now what organized formations the Iraqis still have in the area of the capital? Could you also give us some sense of the state of command and control? And you continually show us these buildings being struck, which are command and control centers. I find it extraordinary to imagine that any Iraqis turn up for work in these buildings each and every day. If I worked in one of these buildings, I'd be a very, very long way away from it. So, I mean, are you hitting empty buildings? What actually is the state of command and control?

GEN. BROOKS: Okay. The forces that were in and around Baghdad were mostly Republican Guard forces command -- but not exclusively. We saw some mixtures, or some indications that there may have been some regular army forces that may have gotten in and amongst them to either reinforce them or that were held from escaping themselves. We saw some paramilitaries. We have seen some technical vehicles, as we refer to them, civilian vehicles that have been outfitted with weapons. And so there's a mixture that's up inside of there. That makes it a little bit difficult to characterize exactly what we face.

What we do know is for the forces we encountered and focused our efforts against, we have inflicted a considerable degree of destruction, and many of those units cease to exist as effective combat formations. In some cases we found abandoned equipment in the tins and tins of abandoned tanks and personnel carriers. In some cases we found equipment we had effectively destroyed by some of our air power being directed against the Iraqi formations that were out there -- as we were arriving and before we arrived. In other cases we saw some of the devastating effects of direct-fire systems and indirect-fire systems supporting ground maneuvers -- attack helicopters we use in support of ground maneuver. So the path that was cut was cut through units in most cases.

Having said that, we know that there are still some formations that are out there. There are still parts of the Republican Guard command, the Al Nida Division in particular, part of the Hammurabi Division, the Adnan (ph) Division still in the north. We'll still fight them, unless they choose to surrender. Some of them may have moved toward Baghdad, but we have not seen any big movements into Baghdad -- certainly not since the call for everyone to come rushing to Baghdad, or the call for everyone to rush from Baghdad out to Baghdad Airport. We have not seen any examples of organized combat action. There are small packets that usually conduct counter attacks. They are generally company sized -- somewhere between 20 and 40 vehicles with associated paramilitaries, sometimes some technical, sometimes some infantry in or not in uniform. And those are dealt with when they arrive. We believe that there are still some low levels of command and control in some of the military formations. But as we find capability that exhibits that we attack it. So, for example, we attacked two division command posts while we were attacking their formations. We were able to identify them, locate them, and we struck them -- and the strikes were effective. That takes away a level of command and control.

You asked about the buildings inside of Baghdad that we showed. Most of those regime-related buildings are places that house command and control structures, that house the junction between a fiber optic network and some other things -- different means of communication. So we'll strike that to break the links for communication in most of those cases.

In some cases they may be empty. In fact, we do try to attack at certain times when people aren't at work. We're trying to destroy the capability, not the population. All that goes into the mixture of how we conduct our operations. There's probably a lot more information than you can take in, but since you ask that long question -- whoever is going to go to work though, when they start going back to work, very much as they are in the south, it will be with our help.

Next question, please. Yes, ma'am.

Q Hi, Nicole Enfield (ph), Associated Press. This morning we heard that the toll from the Baghdad raid yesterday, somewhere in the area of 2,000 to 3,000 Iraqi fighters killed. I'm just wondering how you came up with that number. It's a lot of people, and early Saturday morning in Baghdad. We haven't heard much of enemy tolls to date. So I'm just wondering why we're hearing that number now, and where it came from.

And, second, on the Republican Guard -- you've been saying that it's melting away, a lot of people just deciding not to fight. Is there not a concern on the part of the coalition that even after you establish some kind of a presence that they might come back as a guerrilla force -- that they might just be melting away now only to return if not tomorrow, some other time in the future?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, first, you haven't seen me use numbers very much, because they're very difficult to lay out and then stand on, first because reports change over time as you get more information; and also because, in many cases, they have to be based upon estimates. We're talking about the results of combat action in this case that in many cases results in the physical destruction of human beings. You can't always make an accurate count. We certainly aren't stopping to count. And so the practice of laying out numbers is something I personally try to stay away from for that reason.

In this case there are estimates out there based on the amount of force that was encountered, the types of systems that were involved in the action, things that where we know that we were involved in direct fire fights that many of you were able to witness with the embedded media that went along with part of that attack, and the number of systems that we had involved and the type of engagements that occurred. So that's an estimation. It could be on the order of 2,000. It could be more than 2,000. It could be somewhat less than 2,000. We know that it was a considerable amount of destruction on all of the force that was encountered. And, so I've tried to characterize it in those types of terms, a considerable amount of destruction in virtually every engagement that we have. It's very one-sided. In some cases we take a few wounded. In some cases we have one or two killed. But in all cases we inflict a considerable amount of destruction on whatever force that comes into contact with us. It just is not worth trying to characterize by numbers. And, frankly, if we are going to be honorable about our warfare, we are not out there trying to count up bodies. This is not the appropriate way for us to go.

Q (Off mike)?

GEN. BROOKS: Your second question -- I don't recall what that was. Prompt me again, please.

Q The Republican Guard that's melting away now --

GEN. BROOKS: Yes, okay, are they going to come back as guerrillas? They would do so at their peril. We believe when the regime is gone there will still be some who are true believers. There may be still evidence of terroristic behavior. We don't think all that's going to just disappear. But we also know that many of them have chosen not to fight and to seek a future Iraq, and we think that the actions we'll take will reinforce that decision for those who have made that choice. There's no way to account for how many made the decision to just walk off the battlefield and never fight again. There's no way to account for how many are hiding from the regime so as to not be killed by them for having made that choice. We can't make that kind of accounting.

What we can do is recognize, as we have throughout this operation, that there are certain capabilities that will always exist out there that can threaten the force and also threaten the peace, and we'll deal with those in a logical and appropriate way.

Let me come back to the right. Yes, ma'am?

Q I'm Louise Skillane (ph), CBS News. We're told that one U.S. soldier was killed yesterday, and the Iraqis are reporting 50 soldiers killed, two Apache helicopters shot down. Can you specify U.S. losses yesterday in Baghdad?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, just as I will not characterize in numbers the losses that we inflict, I am not going to characterize in numbers the losses we sustained. There's a mechanism by which that's reported through official channels after we have notified family members who are involved and other things. I will say that we did in fact have a report of a killed in action yesterday. That is true. Numbers are not appropriate. I'll tell you the numbers were very, very small. But any one number, any loss of any one of our service members out there is something that gives us pain and concern, but it doesn't stop this operation, and they would not want us to stop the operation. So that's really where we stand on that.

Yes, sir, please?

Q John Chalmers (ph) with Reuters. Can you confirm reports Special Forces severed the oil pipeline between Syria, and indeed the rail link between Syria and Iraq? And, secondly, could you run us through some of the problems you are likely to face as the temperatures rise and how you surmount them on the battlefield?

GEN. BROOKS: I don't want to characterize specifically what work is being done. We know that we want to preserve the oil infrastructure of Iraq, and we have been focused on doing that throughout the conduct of our operations, and we are not going to do things within our power to put that future, that resource, at risk. I should just leave it at that.

The heat conditions that are out there -- the heat is certainly rising, but there are forces that are out there on the battlefield, coalition forces that have trained in the heat. They trained in a variety of environments. They trained with their systems. They trained with their chemical protective overgarments on, and they are accustomed to dealing with this degree of hardship.

Now, having said that, it's hot. And when it's hot, decisions get made by all commanders, probably even Iraqi commanders in this case. The weather effects on the battlefield affect everyone on the battlefield. The advantage goes to the force that is trained to deal with those weather conditions when they occur -- whether it's daytime, nighttime, rainstorm -- whatever it happens to be -- or even heat. And so we feel confident that our forces are well prepared, they are well trained, they get better with every day's action that goes by, and the regime gets in greater and greater danger with every moment they have chosen to remain in place.

Please?

Q (Off mike) -- ABC News. In the investigations that you are conducting regarding the several checkpoint attacks conducted by and carried out by Iraqis against coalition forces. Have you -- can you confirm that any remote-controlled devices, explosive devices, were used in these attacks against coalition forces?

And a second question is we haven't heard too much about the two sons, about Saddam Hussein, Qusay and Uday. Do you have any indications that they are dead or alive? Thank you, sir.

GEN. BROOKS: I don't have any information on whether or not we found any remote-control devices. We've heard some anecdotal reports, but not anything official that I have seen at this point in time. We certainly know that that is a tactic that's used in a variety of places in the world where someone might be pressed into labor as a human bomb of some sort, whether they're driving it or walking it, and they don't have control of the detonation. So that certainly is a tactic that we would not be surprised at, but I don't have any specific reports related to it.

As to the sons, they are members of the regime. If we have indications that they are alive and moving, we attack them. If we don't see them on the battlefield, we don't pursue them. It's not about individuals; it's about the regime and any capability we see out there we will go after. So I don't want to get specific about what their conditions are. I think that they have probably not been seen on Iraqi TV lately -- certainly not in any live broadcasts. And, if they were, we might be visiting them during that time. So I'll just leave that alone.

Yes, ma'am?

Q (Off mike) -- with USA Today. Have you -- can you describe any forays that U.S. forces have made into Baghdad today, this morning? And can you tell me what the strategic idea is behind those kind of parades through town?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, given the degree of destruction that occurred yesterday and the significant loss of life on the part of the Iraqi forces that challenges that operation, I certainly wouldn't characterize it the way you have. It was a combat action. It certainly demonstrated our ability to operate within Baghdad at a time and place of our choosing, and to inflict severe damage on anyone that opposes the force that comes into Baghdad.

It should also make a very clear statement about how much control the regime does or does not have. Even while the attack was ongoing there were reports that we hadn't even reached the airport. And so there's a degree of reality in there that I think is settling into a number of people inside of Baghdad, and soon we believe it will settle in also on members of the regime. The nature of our approach to Baghdad, I should emphasize, will be like our approach to other places. We will do our operations on our plan, conducting attacks at a time and a place of our choosing, when the battle conditions are set by us in a way that's favorable for the outcomes we seek. And so that will be deliberate work. Sometimes it will be just like that (snaps fingers) -- and we're into Baghdad. Sometimes we'll stay, sometimes we won't. Sometimes it will be like what you see in Basra or Najaf or Nasiriyah where we want to attack a specific regime location where a meeting is ongoing and kill everyone that's in the meeting. We might do that in some cases. That could happen in Baghdad.

What I would emphasize is our approach still remains focused. It also remains oriented on protecting the population as much as possible, and keeping them away from the combat, if we can. You've seen the things -- the decisions being taken by the regime that put the population at risk, and so again there's caution that I would emphasize that the population does get put at risk when we work in an urban area. We will be as careful as we can in the operations, but we'll also be very effective against the regime.

Yes, sir, please?

Q It's Paul Hunter from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Do you accept yet as a possibility that you might not find chemical weapons because they've gone to Syria or they've been destroyed by your own aerial bombardment? And if that's the case, would it matter if you have regime change -- would it matter if you didn't also have the chemical weapons smoking gun?

GEN. BROOKS: We know that we want Iraq to be free of weapons of mass destruction when this operation is complete. At whatever point we say the operation is over, that is one of the stated objectives. We will search for it. We will assist in searching for it, and we will expect assistance in searching for it. While we haven't found anything yet, we think that the places where it's most likely to be found, we haven't even gotten to most of them yet, and there's a considerable number out there where there could be weapons of mass destruction or evidence of weapons of mass destruction programs. And so we are not ruling anything out at this point, whether they will be there or not, whether they have been moved or not. What we are focused on right now is the removal of the regime. That comes first. Searching for weapons of mass destruction in a concentrated way comes after that. And we believe that we will -- we still believe that the regime has them; and we also believe they have the will to use them. We take away more and more mechanisms by which they can use them at this point, but we are not finished yet.

Yes, sir, please?

Q Good afternoon, general. Neil Tweedie from the Daily Telegraph in London. Just on that point, were you not surprised when you overran Republican Guard positions that there were no chemical shells in those positions?

GEN. BROOKS: "Surprise" is not really the right term to use. I think the better way to describe it is that we had new information, that we did not find chemical weapon shells in the positions that we passed through at this point. Does that mean they are not with the other divisions on the north side of Baghdad? It doesn't mean that yet. Does it mean that they are not potentially going to be used by something that's been repositioned elsewhere, different delivery systems? It doesn't mean that yet. Does it mean that they are not potentially available for aircraft to deliver and not to be used by artillery? That can't be ruled out yet. So while we've passed through and taken away the potential for use by those units, there's still potential for use by other units and other mechanisms, and we remain as seriously focused on it as we were from the start.

I would say that the closer we get, even across what we characterized as the red line before, there are fewer and fewer options on what can be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction. Certainly early in the war we had Ababill 100s that could have delivered into Kuwait. That area is no longer safe for them to do any launches, and we haven't had any launches in that area. It's been taken away. As we continue to advance, more areas are taken away. At the same time, we don't take for granted the fact that there could be something that was hidden that's now uncovered somewhere behind us. And so while we do our security work, that includes looking for things that are threats, whether it's technical vehicles with machine guns on them, or car bombs, or regime members that are holed up in a certain place in a town, or things that could deliver weapons of mass destruction. That's where we will remain focused, taking nothing for granted; pleased that it wasn't used to date, but not satisfied that the hazard is gone.

Yes, sir, please?

Q George Kurad (ph), chief of the National Newspapers Publishers Association News Service, the Black Press of the United States. As you move closer to Baghdad, have you gotten any more information on coalition soldiers who have been captured? And is there any reassurance that you can give those families waiting for news?

GEN. BROOKS: George, I wish I did have some good news to tell on that, but the reality is we have not heard anything by way of the ICRC. I don't believe the ICRC has been given access, the International Committee of the Red Cross has been given access to our prisoners yet. We still hold the regime accountable, completely responsible for anything that is done to prisoners of war that have been taken of the battlefield. We expect them to be treated the same way we treat theirs -- and we now have over 6,000 -- that number continues to grow -- and we take care of them as well as we can. In some cases we provided surgery. We also provide food, water and shelter. We have bene inspected by the ICRC and remain open to that. That expectation applies also to what we have for the regime, but we don't have any news at this point. And we remain hopeful that they are being cared for properly. At the same time, we remain active in trying to seek their release or their rescue.

Yes, sir, please -- then I'll come to the front row.

Q (Off mike) --- Australia. Can you just give us some more information about this attack in Salman Pak? You mentioned there were several other foreign fighters. Can you give us some more details about those nationalities, and what was in the camp to characterize it as a terrorist training facility?

GEN. BROOKS: The -- there are a number of nations that were involved. I don't know all of them. I know that we had some from Egypt, some from Sudan, in people that we captured. And that was before the raid -- that gave us information about the raid. The nature of the work being done by some of those people that we captured, their inferences to the type of training they received -- all these things give us the impression that there is terrorist training that was conducted at Salman Pak. We also found some other things there. We found some tanks -- and destroyed them. We found some armored personnel carriers, and destroyed them in small numbers. We destroyed some buildings that were used for command and control, and some other buildings that were used for morale and welfare. We destroyed the complex. All of that, when you roll it together, their reports where they're from, why they might be here, tell us that there is still a linkage clearly between this regime and terrorism, and it's something we want to make sure we break.

Q (Off mike)?

GEN. BROOKS: There's no indications of specific organizations that I am aware of inside of that. We may still find it. As with all operations we conduct into a place, we look for more information after the operation is complete. We'll pull documents out of it, and see what those documents say, if there's any links or indications. We'll look and see if there are any persons that are recovered that may not be Iraqi. All that is detailed and deliberate work that happens after the fact.

Let me come to the front row, please.

Q (Off mike) -- from al Jazeera. Reports coming from Washington said that Apache helicopters face a lot of problems, meaning technical problems, on the ground, and that CENTCOM will minimize the use of Apaches. What's your comment, please?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, the Apache helicopter is a great combat system. It is crash worthy, when it does go down. We had some hard landings, and crews walked away. It is battle worthy -- we have had some Apaches take fire, and they've flown back to base--in some cases with holes in the side. It's functioning exactly as it was designed. It's having an effect, a significant effect on the enemy, and we are increasing the number of Apaches. I would just highlight that with the units that we have already on the battlefield, inside units like the 3rd Infantry Division, there are attack helicopters, Apaches. In units that are arriving, there are attack helicopters, Apaches. In the 101st, which we currently have in use, there are attack helicopters, Apaches. In Fifth Corps there's an attack helicopter regiment. The number is increasing. Their involvement on the battlefield is increasing, and the destruction that comes as a result will also increase.

I think we have time for one more question. Yes, sir, on the left side.

Q General Brooks, could you just clarify the situation -- sorry -- (inaudible) -- from the Independent in London. Could you just clarify the situation at the airport? As you know, the Iraqis claiming that the situation is more fluid than we understand it is. Is it 100 percent secure, 90 percent secure? How would you characterize it?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, being a conservative military guy, I would never say 100 percent secure on anything. But I will tell you that the airport is clearly under coalition control. We have increased the amount of presence in that location. We continue to expand the area beyond the airport to eliminate the influence of coalition -- I'm sorry, of regime forces. There are still battles that happen -- to the northwest, for example, there have been some pretty good fights that occurred. We are still moving beyond it, and we are able to operate the way we intend to operate inside of the airfield. There's still work to be done in there. There are a lot of building complexes. It's an international airport. And it also doubled as a regime command and control facility. So until everything is cleared, until every potential booby trap is gone, until every obstruction is off of runways, we don't say it's completely secured. But that work is ongoing, even while we conduct combat operations to destroy any additional regime forces we encounter.

Thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen. Have a good day.

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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