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CENTCOM Operation Iraqi Freedom Briefing ~ 28 March 2003
Presenter: Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, CENTCOM Deputy Director of Operations March 28, 2003
*** See photos from this briefing ***
Operational Video Clips
Video 1 Video 2

GEN. BROOKS:  Operation Iraqi Freedom continues this eighth day since the coalition ground forces entered Iraq.  The coalition is setting the conditions for future operations, and we remain focused on the key objective of removing the regime and disarming Iraq.  

As always, we remember our fallen comrades and their families.

In the past 24 hours, we continued combat operations against regime forces, conducted strikes against regime command and control, and took major steps forward in setting the foundation for the future of Iraq.  In places where we encounter paramilitary forces and terrorist-like death squads, we are inflicting severe blows. With each engagement, the regime loses more of its ability to deny freedom to the Iraqi people.  

We remain very proud of our men and women for the determination and their resolve.  The coalition continues to build capacity for future operations, while conducting a variety of operations in the present.  As more nations commit themselves to this operation, their contributions and their efforts are incorporated, and the coalition gets stronger.  We appreciate the role played by each.  Let me give you an update on our operations.  First, our direct attacks against the regime, its structures and its units focused on communications systems, hiding places of the regime, and surface-to-surface missiles that continue to threaten coalition forces and neighboring countries.  At this point, a total of about -- a total of 12 missiles have been fired.  We believe them to be in the Ababil-100 or Al-Samoud family, and those have been launched from within Iraq toward Kuwait.  We're seeing a rate of about one per day at this point, and all of the threatening launches have been intercepted by Patriot missiles.  Additionally, we have established combat air patrols near the areas where most of the launches are occurring.  We have been successful in destroying a number of launchers before and after they're fired, and we're actively hunting for them.

I want to show you a recent example of an attack against an Ababil-100 on its carrier, or as we call it, a transporter erector launcher.  The target was near Karbala.  Again, the missile is aboard, and so you'll see a fairly significant secondary explosion.

I have one before and after image to show you today.  The target is a military barracks for a division installation near Baghdad. Again, as you can see, the specific places where we target are by design, that's to achieve a specific effect against a particular part of a structure like this one.  The aim points are as you see them, and this is post-strike, the results of the attack.  The degree of destruction that is -- that is sort after varies depending on what type of weapons system we choose and what the desired effect is.  And again, the split.  Each attack like this against a military target removes one option from the regime.

Our coalition special operations forces continue their actions throughout all of Iraq.  A particularly effective operation occurred last night in An-Nasiriyah involving special operations aircraft destroying two paramilitary headquarters.  

Our land component consolidated territory gained over the last several days, and conducted active security operations to eliminate identified terrorist death squads.  The First Marine Expeditionary Force continued its advance beyond Kulat (sp) Sukhayr (sp), which you see on the right side of the map.  Fifth Corps, also from the land component, defeated paramilitary attacks north of An Najaf, and continues to shape the battlefield for future operations.

Our U.K. forces succeeded in preventing any reinforcement of Basra while securing the southern oil fields, and the key point of -- the key port of Umm Qasr.  

In the north, coalition forces kept pressure on regime forces while maintaining stability in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Our maritime component successfully cleared the mines that were found in the channel of Khor Abdullah, near buoy number 24 that you see on the map -- and we talked about that yesterday -- the mines were in fact cleared out.  The waterway has been reopened for the arrival of much needed humanitarian supplies.

On our information front, we have increased our broadcasts, and they now include television broadcasts covering all of southern Iraq, and we have also expanded that coverage to include Baghdad and the surrounding areas.  This is in addition to our radio broadcasts, which, as I mentioned, continue on five different frequencies, 24 hours a day.  The U.K. forces also have begun operating an AM radio station out of Umm Qasr.  From each of
CENTCOM Operation Iraqi Freedom Briefing ~ 28 March 2003
these platforms, our messages continue to focus on providing encouragement and lifesaving information to the Iraqi people.

Concurrent with our combat operations, our efforts to preserve Iraqi resources and our humanitarian efforts are picking up the pace. Currently, there are three oil well files in the Ramallah oil field. Our firefighters are in the oil fields now, and we have a photo of that.  They're doing very dangerous work, and it's the work of extinguishing these very intense fires.  We did have a film crew present during the fire fighting yesterday.  I want to show you just some of the work that's ongoing with this short video clip.

It's very deliberate work, very intense work, and it requires some very skillful firefighters who are particularly well trained for this role.  This is a U.S. and Kuwaiti combined team doing the work.

At this point, we have two teams that are working simultaneously to put out the remaining fires, and it takes -- it generally takes several days per well to get the job done.

As more territory is secured, our humanitarian relief follows that secure terrain.  We recently sent some civilian assessment teams and other civilian organizations who have begun the work of providing relief, in the south particularly.  The most significant humanitarian action to report is the imminent and ongoing arrival of the Sir Galahad into the port of Umm Qasr, carrying much needed supplies in the amount of 200,000 kilograms of supplies or roughly 200 metric tons.  I believe the list of cargo has been provided to everybody so that you can see exactly what is aboard that ship.  The ongoing construction of a water pipeline from Kuwait to Umm Qasr also provides the promise of relief.  

Clearly, there is much work ahead for the combat action to remove the regime, and the humanitarian action to help those liberated from the regime.  The coalition is up to the challenge, and more than ever the outcome is not in doubt.

I'm ready for your questions.

Q    General, sir?

GEN. BROOKS:  Yes sir, third row. 

Q    General, Rob Morrison from NBC News.  We're getting reports from the field that Iraqi expatriates are returning by the thousands from Jordan, ready and eager to take up arms against the coalition. What information do you have on this developing situation?  And isn't it an example of Iraqis who are not willing to be, quote-unquote, "liberated"?  Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS:  We've seen this kind of example before. Afghanistan was one example of people from outside of the country seeking to come in, and they have different views of why they would -- why they would enter into the country.  Some are very interested in the liberation that's ongoing.  Some may seek not to support the actions of the coalition.  We're aware of some of these reports. We've not had any significant encounters with that, and it has not posed a problem for us in operations to date.

Q    General?

GEN. BROOKS:  Tom.  It's up there.

Q    It's everywhere.  Tom Mintier with CNN.  We have a report from one of our imbedded journalists, Lisa Rose Weaver, with the Second Brigade, Third Division, that the Iraqi Medina division is only working at about 65 percent of its capacity.  What information can you provide us with what the opposition force may be, whether there is any break in their formations, and whether you're seeing them operationally on the battlefield at battlefield strength or less?

GEN. BROOKS:  What we see in many of the formations of the Republican Guard is some efforts to try to reposition internally within their defenses, which we think are mostly survival, not a chance of their defensive set.  They certainly have been underneath of some attack for several days through a variety of means and will continue to be under attack.  As to the actual strength that's being reported, I won't provide an observation on that, but I will say that as we prepare for additional combat operations, we certainly are focused on the Medina division, as well as other Republican Guard divisions, and intend to reduce their strength as much as possible through either direct or indirect combat action.

Q    Thank you, sir.  Neil Gronsky (sp) with ABC News.  Yesterday at this briefing, I asked you if there were problems with supply lines being stretched too thin, and your response was that you feel comfortable, the logistics are fine.  But the leadership in the field continue to paint a very different picture, saying over-extended supply lines have become a real problem.  In fact, a Brigadier General Charles Fletcher said he's at a zero balance on food, out of rations. Are you saying that some of the commanders in the field are wrong in their assessments?

GEN. BROOKS:  What we would say is that we haven't had anything that's hindered our operations to date.  Our commanders continue to maintain close contact with General Franks and all the rest of the headquarters structure and the staff.  We find that we are able to push logistics as we need to.  We were indeed hindered to a period -- for a period of time by weather, our ability to fly in supplies, for example, was reduced.  And so the flow of supplies did change for a period of time.  But we're still able to conduct the operations as we see them, and we're still on our plan. 

Q    General, Jeff Meade from Sky News.  Didn't your colleague General Wallace yesterday in one short comment tell us much more about the reality of this than we're hearing in this briefings?  He said we didn't war game for this.  Have you broken the first rule of soldiering and underestimated your enemy?

GEN. BROOKS:  I don't think that we have.  I know that there is a report out there -- I have not gotten completely familiar with what General Wallace said.  What we do know is that, again, our commanders talk to each other on a continuous basis, and a subordinate commander's assessment is always taken into account at the next higher headquarters, and the headquarters above that.  

We believe that we're still consistent with our plan and how we designed.  There will always be things that occur on the battlefield that are not precisely as you calculated them in your design.  The strength of the plan is the ability to adapt it to the realities of the circumstance while still remaining focused on what it is we seek to do.  And there are different levels at which we have adjustments to planning.  At the tactical level, there may be certain impacts that, if the weather has changed, for example, then you're not exactly on your plan for that day.  But at the operational level, with what we seek to achieve, it remains unchanged.  

     And so that's what we're talking about at this level, at the CENTCOM level. There's a different view down on planet Earth, if you will, as you described it.  The closer you get to the line, the more precise the realities are.  And we take all of this into account from all of our commanders throughout the theater before making decisions to proceed, or what our actual status is.

We'll go on the left side, please.

Q    General, how many -- David Lee Miller, Fox News.

GEN. BROOKS:  Hi David.

Q    How many launchers do you think the Iraqis still have?  And at this point, do you believe the Iraqis still pose a threat to Israel because Israel is still very much on guard, fearful of a chemical or biological attack?

GEN. BROOKS:  I don't think we know exactly how many launchers the Iraqis have of any particular family of weapons systems.  And this is mostly because of the efforts of denial and deception that have occurred for so many years.  Only the Iraqis really know how many they have left.  What we know is that when we find them, we destroy them. When they are launched, we intercept them.

Is there an intent to continue a threat to neighboring countries? Absolutely.  As I mentioned, we're having at least one shot a day at this point in time, and we think that we're going to reduce that.  There is certainly a high degree of risk for those who would choose to launch, as you -- as you saw in the video clip earlier.

Because of the development of expanded range weapons systems by the Iraqis, and we've seen that already in some of the ranges of the Ababil-100s and the al-Samoud missiles, because of that development, we believe that Iraq still poses a threat to many of its neighbors by way of -- by way of missiles.

Please.

Q    (Inaudible) -- BBC.  Brigadier, you said you weren't entirely familiar with what General Wallace said, which is perhaps a bit surprising since he's the commander of Five Corps.  He said we didn't know they'd fight like this.  He was asked, "would this be a longer war than expected?" and he said "it's beginning to look that way."  Rather revealing comments.  What do you say to the suggestion that you have seriously underestimated the level of Iraqi resistance and the size of the force that the coalition needs to deal with it?

GEN. BROOKS:  I'd say that we've taken a number of things into account in the design of this plan.  First, we know that we have to be tactically patient, as we describe it, that circumstances have to be developed by design, and that our enemy always has a vote in how the circumstances go.  And, I am certain that there is no underestimation in that regard.  It was taken into account, and remains to this day taken into account.  What the circumstances are, what we've seen, and how the dynamics of the battlefield change on a daily basis are something we plow into every day's considerations and calculations.  

And so I would say that I don't think that we have necessarily underestimated, and I am certain that we accounted for enemy action. The specifics of the action, no one can ever predict exactly how a battle will unfold.  We can't even completely predict how our own actions will unfold, but I think we remain confident that we have a good grip on what's going on here, and we're proceeding.

Please.

Q     (Inaudible) -- ABC News.  About 48 hours ago, we had the explosion at the Baghdad market.  Twenty-four hours ago, CENTCOM officials stood here at the podium and said it is likely, if possible, that the Iraqis were responsible for that explosion.

Within the last 24 hours, I assume that the Americans and coalition forces have received more intelligence on the ground and through satellite imagery.  Where do you stand now on the possibility that the Iraqis were responsible for that explosion that allegedly killed several Iraqi civilians?

And the second question I have is, as I understand it, right now there's a major humanitarian crisis underway in several parts of Iraq. And as I hear it, as it stands right now, only convoys on the ground are rushing towards different areas within Iraq to feed Iraqis who are hungry and starving, without water.  Why not drop food supplies from the air, as you did in Afghanistan, sir?  Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS:  Okay, first, regarding the market, I did say yesterday it is possible that it could have been surface-to-air missiles that fired in the ballistic mode.  And we still consider that possibility.

I also said that we examine as precisely as we can every weapon system, every mission that occurred.  We haven't finished doing that yet.  We think there's still more information to be gained.  And when we have more information, as we come to closure on the investigation, we'll be forthcoming about what we find.

The second part of it, regarding humanitarian circumstances -- we know that there are significant humanitarian problems.  And we also know that there are efforts ongoing, and we're starting to achieve some good success in that regard.

What was passed out in the last few days has already helped. We've already seen that.  What is entering the port of Umm Qasr right now will help even more.  So we have land work that's happening, that's already been ongoing, because we could.  We have now seaborne work that's occurring, because we can.  And as we have new capacities, we'll do that.

Air drop doesn't provide very much, particularly when you compare it to the amount that's aboard a ship.  So we think that the more efficient way to do that -- and again, it's by design -- is to use the methods that we have at hand -- truckload, ship, and then we'll begin to move things further forward.

Please.

Q     Thank you.  Jonathan Marcus (sp), BBC World Service.  Two points.  Could you respond to the reports on some networks and in the New York Times, I think, this morning that you have strong intelligence evidence to suggest that chemical weapons have been distributed to some of the Republican Guard units facing you?

And secondly, you put a lot of emphasis in each one of these briefings on the coalition.  Would it be possible for you to please give us a list of those countries that are providing direct military assistance in this operation, beyond the three that we clearly know of -- the United States, Britain and Australia?

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, let me start with the second question.  We generally don't list out the countries because we want the countries to say for themselves.  Some want to be publicly identified; some do not.  And so I think it would not be appropriate for me to give you that list.

Let me say this about it, though.  Each country provides a contribution that's relevant, and it is consistent with their national interest and it's consistent with their capability.  Not every country has the same capability.

In some cases we may just have a chemical detection unit.  Well, that's a very important role to be played.  In some cases we have aircraft.  In some cases we have assault troops, Special Operations troops.  It varies country by country.  But every contribution matters, and it makes it possible for us to concentrate our efforts on the things we need to do.

I'd ask you, if you would, to just please repeat the first question.

Q     (Inaudible) -- response to the intelligence reports in some of the newspapers and on some of the networks that the Republican Guard units facing you are already beginning to be equipped with chemical munitions.

GEN. BROOKS:  Right, thank you.  We have seen indications through a variety of sources and reporting means that, first, orders have been given that at a certain point chemical weapons might be used.  We've seen chemical protective equipment in a number of areas south of where we thought that red line might be.

We already know about the hospital in Nasiriyah and we know about things that have been found further down in the south.  So these are -- as we put just those two pieces together, we certainly have indications.  I have not seen anything that says an order has been given to fire.  We know that the capability does indeed exist.  We know that the will exists.  And we take it very, very seriously at this point and we'll prepare ourselves accordingly.

Second row, please.

Q     Thank you, sir.  Martha Brant with Newsweek Magazine.  I've got a couple of questions related to Iraqi state TV.  Would you first give us a battle damage assessment of the attempts to hit that compound?  Could you explain why that wasn't one of the first targets that coalition forces hit?  Was it an attempt to maybe use that infrastructure later to communicate with the Iraqi people?  And then lastly, sir, any attempts to jam Saddam Hussein's TV broadcasts?

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, there are several parts to the questions you asked, and I'll try to roll them really into one answer.  First, the targeting we go through is designed to achieve a particular effect. And there are a number of parts to the command-and-control apparatus of this regime.  It's very robust.  It has many redundancies built into it.  And it, in fact, has taken into account that it might indeed at some point be attacked.

The timing of any attack, including the ones against television stations that broadcast and also support the regime in its decision- making, the timing of that is associated with when we want to achieve a particular effect.

What we'll do in a number of cases is try to influence one layer and then another and then another of decision-making and degrade the capability of the regime to command and control, to issue instructions, to cause reinforcements, all the things that a headquarters or a command would need to do to make operations successful.

And so that accounts for a bit of why the timing was done when it was.  It was because we chose to attack it when we did and why it was attacked the way it was.

There are, as I mentioned, some redundancies in the system.  So what we might have, in effect, on one location, it might pop up somewhere else.  And we'll find where that backup is and we may address it.  And we'll peel that back, which degrades the capability again, and attack it.

So as we see capability, we attack to remove the capability.  And it's as simple as that.

Q     (Inaudible.)  Is that also going on?  Can you address that?

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, what I'll say on that is we have a number of methods of disrupting command and control.  Jamming is only one of them, and we use that when we believe it's appropriate. 

Q     (Inaudible.)  Speaking of this news briefing and what you are showing us here, video films and slides, yesterday you showed us short video film about Iraqi children receiving humanitarian aid, and today we saw another one about firefighting operations.

         Why don't you show us video film about the military actions or fighting occurring in battlefield, especially about destroying Iraqi tanks and defeating counterattack or something like that, if there was successful operation?

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, Ahmed (ph), the primary reason is it's just harder to get that footage back here.  I mean, it's much further out and our lines are -- we're challenged on being able to move those sorts of things when we have much higher priorities for what should be moved.  That's part of it.

Also, the nature of the combat action that occurs up in the line is brutal in some cases.  We take people into custody.  They become prisoners of war.  We don't film prisoners of war.  And, so all these dynamics that happen up inside of there make it a bit more challenging for us to show it.  We certainly aren't hiding anything.  It's just something we don't have in our possession to be able to show.

Q     Hi, General.  Jeff Schaeffer (sp), Associated Press Television News.  You spoke a moment ago about your ability to degrade the various levels of the regime within Baghdad.  I mean, can you speak specifically to what evidence you have that you've been able to accomplish this at all?  I mean, have you crippled the regime?

One of the stated goals of the war, from the coalition's perspective, is the destruction -- the change of regime in Baghdad. I'm wondering, do you have any sense, any evidence, that the leadership is in disarray, that you've crippled their effort to mount a war against you?

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, Jeff, we do have indications that the regime is in disarray, and its abilities to command and control are clearly being affected by the work that we're doing.  It wouldn't be appropriate for me to characterize exactly how we know that or exactly what we know.  But suffice it to say we're comfortable that we're having an effect.

There's more work to be done.  The regime has not been removed yet.  It hasn't completely lost its influence.  And we're about the business of making that happen.

Third row.

Q     (Inaudible) -- Chicago Tribune.  If I can follow up on Martha's question, are you trying to take Saddam Hussein off the air, his television appearances?  And also, we've seen some headlines throughout the region about casualty numbers -- 3,000-4,000 civilian casualties from the bombing in Iraq.  Can you comment on those figures and tell us if you have any calculations of civilian casualties from the bombing?

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, I'll go back to the answer I said earlier. In terms of the methods we use to disrupt command and control, there are a number of methods, and those are ongoing.  It's not about broadcast.  It's about command and control.  And so that's where our influence is.

The civilian casualties -- that topic will always come up in war. And it should come up.  Any civilian casualties are always an unfortunate circumstance of war.  We do the best we can to try to prevent that, to try to reduce it.  It has never been completely prevented in human history.  And it has not been prevented in this case.

In some cases it's accidental.  In other cases, as we've seen, particularly from the hands of the regime, it's deliberate.  It's very deliberate and very, very brutal.

I don't know what the number is in terms of civilian casualties on the battlefield.  As we encounter civilian casualties, we treat them immediately, provide them medical assistance.  And if we need to help dispose of remains, we'll do that as well.  That's what we know about civilian casualties.  I don't have a number to be able to report to you.

The row behind you.

Q     (Inaudible) -- KIRO in Seattle.  Not to beat a dead horse here, but you've said you're trying to interrupt command and control, not broadcast.  But don't these repeated broadcasts have the effect of boosting the morale of the outlying forces of the regime?  Even if they don't give direct orders, don't they seem to reflect that somebody in Baghdad is still in charge and that they can still exert some influence?

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, I think they do reflect that in some cases, although I wouldn't want to speculate on what impact they actually have on people who are observing broadcasts, whether they're members of the regime, military forces or others.

What I'm saying is the purpose of our operation is related to the military aspect of those broadcasts, the military aspect of the command-and-control facility that is joined with the broadcast areas. That's what we seek to disrupt.  We want not to have the regime in control.  And everything that we do is directed to prevent the regime having control.

We'll go with the right hand, please -- far right.

Q     (Inaudible.)  Could you confirm or deny reports that allied forces opened fire on civilians trying to flee Basra?  (Inaudible.) Second question:  Is the pre-war scenario in the north going ahead?

GEN. BROOKS:  Your first question was about whether or not coalition forces have fired on civilians leaving Basra.  We've seen a number of people dressed as civilians with weapons entering and leaving Basra.  And as we determine hostile act, yes, we have fired, in those cases, against those types of targets as presented.

That's what the modus operandi is of these terrorist squads, these paramilitaries that are out there.  As we have encounters with them, we engage in combat with them.  And generally we defeat them.

You asked a question about the north as well.  We certainly have the ability now to increase our presence in the north with the arrival of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.  We continue our efforts to, as much as possible, maintain a degree of stability in the north.  More than anything else right now, that's our primary focus.

Q     Jim Wolf (sp), Reuters.  You've explained the care you've taken in your targeting to achieve the effects, the specific effects that you are seeking.  But how is it that, as of yesterday, day seven of the war, the Central Command said it had used a B-2 bomber to hit, quote, "a major link in Iraq's national communications network," unquote, in downtown Baghdad?  In other words, why would a major link in the national telecommunications network have been left for seven days of the war?

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, again, the timing of action, where we seek to input or inject and influence, is part of the art of war.  So we make our decisions based on what we know, what we seek, and what we expect the outcome to be.  It was an operational decision.

I can't go into the specifics of why we made the decision when we did, because that really is just an operational matter.  But the approach we take is what I want you to understand, and that is that when we have an effect we're trying to achieve, we select the right method of achieving that desired effect, and the timing is associated with when we want that effect to occur. 

Q     General, Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News.  Will you provide for us the name of the vendor and the country of origin of all these chemical suits you've now found in multiple locations, described as new and ready for distribution?

And secondly, in the early days of these briefings, they were referred to as irregular forces.  Now you're describing them as paramilitary death squads.  Does that change in language reflect a change in how you view them?  And does it suggest that you did not view them as threatening in the first days, as you do today?

GEN. BROOKS:  On the chemical suits, I don't know any reason why we would not be able to give you that.  So as soon as we find out what the answer is, perhaps we can provide that to you.  And we'll have our media relations folks follow that up.



The characterization is a difficult one to make.  I don't know how you describe a group of people that would go in and out of uniform, that will move in civilian vehicles on a known battlefield, that will carry weapons, hide weapons, that will march children in front of them, that will take children away from their homes and tell their families that everyone will be killed if the males don't fight for the regime.  I don't know what you call that.  And I don't think anyone knows exactly what you call that.

And so, as a result, our terms are a bit broad and moving around as we try to characterize in descriptive terms the behaviors that we're seeing, as opposed to giving a label that appropriately matches what the actions are.  I don't know what to call it, and I don't think anyone else does.  That's why the names are changing.

Q     Does it reflect a change though in how you perceive their potency on the battlefield?

GEN. BROOKS:  It certainly does not reflect a view of the potency.

        It more reflects a view of their brutality.

In the back, please.

Q     (Off mike) -- Xinhua News Agency of China.  General, as we know, 47 U.S. and British military personnel have been confirmed killed since the war began.  And there are many persons still missing. Some American reports say if coalition casualties exceed 150, that's the number in the Gulf War in 1991, the U.S. government will face a big problem.  Could you give some comment about that?  And when do you think this war is going to end?

GEN. BROOKS:  We haven't put out any numbers on what our total casualty count is and killed in action, so I don't know what the source of that report is.  And I am not going to put out that number. I think it's not appropriate to do that from here.

There is not a fixed number that's out there that will cause a change in the operation related to Desert Storm.  This operation is this operation.  And, unfortunately, combat casualties do occur when we engage in battles like this.  We cannot predict what that amount will be, and thus we are not limited by any particular amount in our operations.

And as to how long the war is going to take, it's going to take as long as it takes.

Yes?

Q     Greg Gordon (sp) from Newsday.  A minute ago you said, to the question about chemical weapons use, you believe first orders have been give that at a certain point they might be used -- and of course we're finding the suits.  I wonder if you could just clarify that a little bit.  There has been some reporting before the war started that he had issued some preliminary orders to do that.  Are these orders you're discussing here today something new that you picked up on, that there have been orders since the war has begun that at a certain point chemical weapons might be used?  Or are you still referring to the earlier reports?

GEN. BROOKS:  We're really referring to the earlier reports that it remains consistent as there might be trigger lines that are out there or places that which the regime would be threatened enough that they would use it.  And as we add the additional evidence we found on the battlefield, again, we begin to take that very seriously that in fact there is a linkage between the two.

Yes?


Q     (Off mike) -- al Jazeera satellite channel.  Sir, I am under the impression that your regular armed forces are facing more and more of a type of guerrilla warfare.  We are seeing more and more pictures they are now coming in of troop concentrations, your troop concentrations coming under fire from these guerrilla type forces. What sort of a physical and psychological effect is this having on the troops?

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, if you are talking about classic guerrilla warfare, it generally requires a force that is accepted in and amongst its population.  And we are not seeing that in this case.  We are seeing a force that we are encountering on the battlefield that is brutal to the population that it lives in amongst.  We are also seeing that they are well rehearsed with the tactics of brutality, and this is something that comes as no surprise given the years of what has been described as counterinsurgency by the very same forces.  I think that's really our assessment.  It is not something that has affected the morale.  Our morale is very high.  We are still well prepared for this operation, and well capable of executing that which has been set forth.  I think that the results of action, if anything, have boosted morale from where it already was.

Back here, please.

Q     Philippe Bonsare (ph), French newspaper (Le Monde ?). During his first press conference one week ago, General Franks said that there were 52 nations involved in the military operations. Yesterday you said 49.  I was wondering where are the three missing, which ones they are, and why they left.

GEN. BROOKS:  This is -- it's always a tough number to be able to count.  And we saw yesterday with the confirmed list of countries involved was 49.  That number continues to change on a daily basis. There are some nations who -- in case you haven't noticed that.  There are some nations that before the war began offered a willingness to support, but wanted to see how things would resolve diplomatically before they chose to support.  Some of those nations have come in. There are others who said they might support, and were willing to provide assistance in planning before the war began, but as the war began they chose to go in a different direction.  So it's not a calculus of three missing at this point; more, it's this is what the current aggregate mass of the coalition is for those countries that have publicly stated they support the efforts of the coalition.

Far side in the back. 

Q     Michael -- (inaudible) -- freelance journalist.  General, the situation in Basra is very confusing.  There aren't many independent sources of information from there.  Yet a lot of information has been put out.  For instance, yesterday at the briefing it was said that the path of the water had been disrupted by the regime.  And yet today I was reading on a British government website that in fact there was not any indication that that was so, that the power lines were down, and now the ICRC has put it up.  So I would like to ask you to clarify where does the information on something like that come from, and in general information on what's taking place in Basra about these death squads and other things?  Where is that information coming from, and how reliable is it?

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, it comes from a variety of places.  And while we certainly aren't going to talk about every source of information we have, we try to aggregate as much information as we can from the variety of sources to come up with as clear a picture as we can.  But that never gives you a 100 percent answer on exactly what is occurring.  There is always some variation based on the nature of reporting that occurs inside of there. 

What we do know is at this point some pumps have been restored to flow water back into Basra, and roughly 50 percent of the capacity has returned.  We know that there were power outages beforehand, and that continues to be an area of improvement for Basra -- very important improvement since -- their critical need right now has really been water, as well as liberty.  But those of those issues are currently being addressed.

Right here, please.

Q     General, Mohammad Missan (ph), Gulf News.  You said at the beginning of the briefing that some part of your operations in the last 24 hours have been to pave the way the future in Iraq.  Can you elaborate on that, please?

And the second part is Iraq has reported today that there was an intense bombing of Basra, which resulted in dozens of casualties.  Can you confirm that, please?

GEN. BROOKS:  The first part, that refers to the future of Iraq, is particularly oriented on the humanitarian actions that have occurred in the last few days.  It also joins to the efforts we have ongoing to protect the resources of Iraq that will be so vital to Iraq's future economically.  Already we know that a considerable portion of the economy is based on what is done with the proceeds from oil.  And so, by protecting the oil field, we believe we have ensured the future of Iraq.  By providing food to those who are in need at this point in time, and making it clear that that is our design, that is our purpose for them, we ensure the future of Iraq.

I have nothing to confirm bombings of Basra.  All I would say on any attacks that we make with any weapons, whether it's bombs, missiles, whatever it happens to be, I remain firmly in position saying that we target deliberately; we try to reduce the effect on humans that should not be involved in the combat, or buildings and other infrastructure that should not be involved in the combat.  And we also know that there is a developing situation in Basra that's somewhat confusing, and that also we have these forces that are out there that have shown a willingness to fire into Basra, which resulted in counterfire by U.K. forces just a few nights ago.  So at this point I have nothing else to confirm such a question.

I think we have time for one more?  Let me go on this side, please.

Q     (Off mike) -- from Spanish -- (inaudible) -- Network.  We know that there are some Spanish ships coming to the Persian Gulf.  Do you have already any plans for them?  Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS:  Well, all the nations that make a contribution -- and there are some Spanish vessels that have done some work with us -- and we know will continue to do work with us -- all of them that are providing -- we then take into account based on their national interests what it is they believe they want to be able to do.  Some vessels don't want to engage in combat operations, and they would rather become involved in maritime patrolling, for example, to ensure that the lines of operation don't get closed -- very important ones, not only for military operation but also commercial shipping and those sorts of things.

I won't comment specifically on what Spain's role is.  Spain should comment on what it's role will be.  But we will incorporate them into the coalition, as we have in the past, in a way that makes good sense for their nation, it makes good sense for the coalition and its mission.

All right, thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen.

 

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