April 7-Centcom Briefing
CENTCOM Operation Iraqi Freedom Briefing ~ 07 April 2003
Presenter: Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, CENTCOM Deputy Director of Operations April 7, 2003
BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS: (In progress) -- since the entry of coalition forces into Iraq has been one of continued progress towards the objectives of removing the regime from power and bringing liberation to the Iraqi people.
The plan remains sound and effective, and there's also more work to be done. Our coalition troops continue to impress us all daily with their tenacity and with their disciplined compassion. They are setting the conditions for a future Iraq, and we remember those who have fallen in this cause.
The operation continues. Let me provide you a short update on some of the activities that occurred in the last 24 hours.
Even though the coalition has disrupted much of the regime's ability to wage war and its command and control systems, the regime retains some capability. The coalition continues attacks from air and ground to further erode the command and control of forces and to eliminate threats to coalition forces, Iraq's neighbors, and the Iraqi people.
I have two weapons systems videos of recent engagements against military assets that the regime could use to deliver chemical weapons. The first video is an attack on a surface-to-surface missile at Abu Risha (sp). This is near Aramadi (sp), west of Baghdad. And this attack occurred on the 5th of April.
The next video is also against a surface-to-surface missile, this one located northeast of Baghdad, and the attack also occurred on the 5th of April. And we remain focused on any assets that could potential deliver chemical weapons. That includes aircraft, surface- to-surface missiles.
Our coalition's special operations forces continued with unconventional warfare in northern Iraq, southern Iraq and central Iraq. These efforts are key to facilitating operations by the air component in the north and in the west, and by the land component in the center and in the south of Iraq. More significantly, they represent the mechanism that also makes it possible for Iraqis to join in the fight against the regime.
Coalition special operations forces are also conducting direct action missions to secure the Hadithah Dam, to deny the regime the use of ballistic missiles, and to destroy regime headquarters locations whenever they are identified. Another directed action example is a raid last night to seize a training camp near Hadithah.
The combined arms efforts of the land component remain deliberate, focused, and successful. In Basra, coalition forces led by the U.K. enjoyed success in reducing some of the remaining concentrations of the Ba'ath Party, party officials and also regime forces. There are still some pockets, but they are far fewer. And as military actions continue against the regime, power, water and food are increasingly available to the population. Of course, there is still work to be done in getting those distributed.
The towns of As-Samawa, Diwaniyah, and Najaf are all becoming more stable as time goes on with coalition efforts against the -- against the regime. In Najaf, for example, religious clerics are contributing significantly to the stability in the wake of the regime's departure. They're organizing assemblies within the towns and they're maintaining order, and the coalition very much appreciates their efforts. In Karbala, coalition forces destroyed a Ba'ath Party headquarters and fought against regime death squads to further reduce the regime influence in this very important city.
As coalition forces eliminate regime pockets of resistance, we continue to discover more and more weapons and ammunition stores. The images I'll show you know are weapons and ammunition removed from another school, this time in Karbala. Each time the coalition defeats the regime forces, this practice of taking schools away from students and turning them into magazines for the weapons of war comes to an end, and a future free of such practices begins.
The main focus of the operation continued in and around Baghdad. The Two Corps attack continued with 1st Marine Expeditionary Force isolating Baghdad from the east along the Biala (sp) River, and with the 5th Corps operating in the west, northwest, and into the town of Baghdad itself, the city of Baghdad. To the northwest, the attack prevented reinforcement by Iraqi forces north of the city, and resulted in the destruction of an Iraqi unit that was composed of tanks, armored personnel carriers, other armored vehicles, artillery systems, and infantry.
Our efforts to secure Baghdad International Airport continued from within the complex, where tunnels were found beneath it -- some of these tunnels were large enough to accommodate automobiles -- and from without, where artillery systems able to range the airport were attacked, and the forward observer, in this case an Iraqi colonel, was taken into coalition control. It's important to note here also that there are still Iraqi workers in and around the airport, and many of those have assisted coalition forces, providing blueprints of the airport structure itself, and also helping to turn back on electrical power and other services and utilities at the airport. And this is a very important step as we continue to progress towards getting the airport back into operation for the Iraqi people when the conflict is ended.
Finally, a second heart into the heart of Baghdad, to key regime locations, destroying any defending forces while protecting the civilian population and the city's infrastructure, reinforces the reality that the regime is not in control of all of the major city.
Our maritime component has been very effective in maintaining open sea lines of communication, to make possible the flow of humanitarian assistance and supplies, and also the continued arrival of coalition forces. The maritime component has conducted strike operations from over 33 different naval combatants, air operations from one of the largest carrier forces ever assembled, and conducted counter-ballistic missile operations as well. All of these have been key enables to the coalition's successes to date.
Thus far, the coalition has distributed over 40 million leaflets, and the count continues to increase every day. The information we are providing to the population remains focused on keeping the Iraqi people and their resources safe and ready for a new future.
One example is a recent leaflet that was distributed warning the Iraqi people, or advising them, really, to not carry weapons so they are not perceived as forces defending the regime. And of course, we show you here in English as well as in Arabic as the actual leaflets are.
Broadcasts do continue on radio and television, and we continue to change our messages as required to ensure that we are providing the right information and recent information to the Iraqi population. As we continue dismantling the regime, we find the regime continues to disregard protecting religious and cultural treasures of the Iraqi people. In this image, you can see where the regime has placed military weaponry near an important mosque in Baghdad. Each one of these call-out boxes -- first the mosque is to the right, this is the mosque area, and there are pieces of military equipment at each one of these arrows. This is a zoom out, and yet another of these. And of course with closer inspection we can identify the types of equipment there are, but rest assured that they are military equipment, the types that would be targeted in other places. The coalition is well aware of this practice, and remains nevertheless committed to protecting sites like this mosque, while also conducting precision attacks as necessary.
Our efforts to facilitate humanitarian assistance in Iraq have increased in importance. There are still very important needs to be met, many of them resulting from years of oppression, and some resulting from the ongoing combat actions. Fortunately, there have not been any humanitarian emergencies on the scale of recent conflicts in this region or in other parts of the world in recent years.
Among our most pressing short-term requirements are returning power and running water to the cities of Najaf, Samawa, Nasiriyah, and Basra. And in most cases, power has to come first in order to get self-sustaining water supplies in there. So, we continue our efforts to push water in bulk wherever we can by way of water pipelines and water trucks, but there's also an ongoing effort to get power up in each one of those locations to have self-sustaining water.
These efforts are ongoing, and in one recently liberated town, we even saw some local citizens washing cars -- something that we certainly would not have expected to see before.
Yesterday I showed you some supplies being distributed to a school, and those supplies, as I mentioned, had come from a warehouse that the regime had chosen not to distribute out to the people. In this case, I have another image to show you. What it reflects is that our forces continue to do whatever they can to provide support to liberated Iraqi people. In this particular photo, you see U.S. Marines and free Iraqi forces members distributing food, and there's also medical suppliers that they are delivering, to locals in the Nasiriyah area. And these supplies were captured from Iraqi military forces.
We have one additional good news story to report today, and that is that the ongoing efforts to extinguish the two oil wells, one has been successfully extinguished, and there now remains one burning oil well in the southern oil fields. We've been able also to exercise a degree of control over now 940 -- I'm sorry -- 900 of the 940 wells that are in the oil fields south of Baghdad. And so that effort continues and is going very well.
Ladies and gentlemen, with that, I'll take your questions. Yes, ma'am.
Q General, Cammie (sp) McCormack (sp) with CBS News. There are a couple of reports today that some bridges near Baghdad, possibly to the east or the south, there was some fierce fighting and marine casualties, and an American quoted as saying they're fighting back, they seem to be fighting a bit more. Also, to the south of Baghdad, a report that a column of American armored personnel carriers was hit. Can you elaborate on either one of those?
GEN. BROOKS: Cammie (sp), what I can tell you is, first, we are continuing combat operations. We're not finished, and we have no illusions about the fact that there's still work ahead, and that there will continue to be combat action. As I mentioned, the marines, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, are conducting operations on the eastern side of the city of Baghdad. There are bridges across the Biala (sp) River. We know that one of those bridges was destroyed by Iraqi forces, and they also have positioned artillery on the other side of the river. So, there is combat action that occurs in that area. I don't want to characterize any more specifically since operations are ongoing as to what will happen next, or where we currently are located.
Similarly, there are places and pockets of resistance in the surrounding Baghdad areas, and in some of the towns we've already passed through, as a -- Karbala as an example -- where we still have combat action occurring. And as I mentioned up front, the regime does still have some military capability. It also has some limited command and control capability over small units in certain areas. What we're not seeing is an overarching structure of control. We believe that's been significantly degraded, but that doesn't mean that there is an elimination completely of all threats. And so we continue with our efforts to find those, remove those, and proceed to a condition where the regime is gone and there's no longer any threats to us or to the Iraqi people.
Yes. Let me go to this side, please. Hasan (sp).
Q Hasan (sp) Bashidi (sp) from Al-Jazeera. General, what is the situation now in the Mosul, and what's your target in this city -- in this city?
GEN. BROOKS: We are continuing operations in the north near Mosul. Our efforts are right now to isolate regime forces in and around Mosul. We believe at this point we've had some success in causing some paramilitaries to leave that area, and that leaves some Ba'ath Party -- enforcers is probably the best way to describe them -- in that area. So, it is not yet complete stable. We have not conducted significant combat operations into that area, but we continue to focus targeting on forces that are in the Mosul region as well as other places along what has been described at the green line. Those operations continue at this time.
Q Tom Mintier with CNN. I'd like to go back to the videos you showed us this afternoon -- two missile launcher sites. I guess it's my turn to ask the usual daily question about weapons of mass destruction. We've had unconfirmed reports the last couple of days of finding locations that are cemented over, either in school yards or elsewhere, where you've had to dig underground looking for these things. What has been found in those? And the second question -- normally I only ask one -- British reports of the death of Chemical Ali in Basra, if you could talk to us about that.
GEN. BROOKS: We continue to find information that leads us to different sites, and we also, as we continue to advance, uncover areas where there is suspected activity. With each one of these reports that there might be some potential presence of weapons of mass destruction, or some potential means of using weapons of mass destruction, we do a thorough search. We've organized part of the force to be able to specifically go to sites, either ones that we have planned up front to examine as we arrive on them, or ones that can be done on an ad hoc basis when we find some piece of information we didn't previously have. And frankly, we expect there will be a lot of that since there was a deliberate campaign of denial, deception, hiding things, burying things.
I don't have any specific updates on the locations you're talking about where the concrete was found. There are some other areas as well that we think that we have to excavate sites to find out what in fact was buried there. As more information becomes available, then we'll certainly report that, but we don't have any extraordinary finds at this point while we're still looking.
As to the reports, I don't have any confirmed reports on the condition of the man referred to as Chemical Ali.
Continue on the right, here. Please, Jeff.
Q General, Jeff Meade (sp) from Sky News. Can you give us a sense of your emotion, how you felt when you saw that footage of tanks right into Baghdad, right by the river in the parade ground? What does that -- what sense does that give you? And also, how do you -- militarily, how do you assess that operation, its character, and how do you plan to develop on it?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, first, from here we also get to experience things at a distance. And the great value of embedded reporters is that you can see things that are happening the same way as they are in the eyes of the soldiers that are out there. I think most of the story was told by the soldiers who were involved in that.
The term I used a few days ago was "cautious optimism." And so while that increases the optimism and reinforces the reality of our ability to conduct operations even into the heart of the regime, where the regime does not have control, it also reminds us that there's still a great deal of hazard out there.
These are personal friends of mine that conducted that operation, people that I've served with, and I was delighted for their success. And we certainly wish them continued success and protection in the coming days.
What we do with them militarily, though, is that's where the cautious part of the cautious optimism comes back in. Opportunities are created by operations, and then new operations come as a result of those opportunities. So there will be things that come as a result of what you saw today. We're not going to specify what those are. We'll see them as they unfold.
Many of them are tactical decisions made by commanders down on the ground, where they see another opportunity to put the regime at greater risk, take away its ability to control, and remove the mechanisms by which the regime either oppresses people or conducts military operations. And so that's what we think we'll see here over the coming days, not just in Baghdad but all of the areas throughout the country.
On the left side. Yes, sir, please.
Q General, Paul Adams, BBC. Last time I checked, just as we were coming into the briefings this afternoon, it seemed as though American forces were still at some of the presidential palaces and didn't show any signs of moving out. Is it your intention that some of those forces will remain where they are through the day and perhaps beyond?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I think these are tactical decisions that we made out there, Paul. Again, there's opportunities that come from each action that's taken, and then the commanders on the ground will decide whether there's something new that needs to happen.
So they'll make the decisions on what parts of Baghdad they wish to retain control of, where they want to conduct operations out of, whether they want to move to a different location, exert greater authority in different places, or simply go directly to where they happen to have intelligence on where any regime forces might be located. And so I can't characterize exactly what the intentions are for the tactical commanders on the ground.
The most important thing for us at this level is it reinforces, again, the reality that we will and will continue to conduct operations at a time and place of our choosing and that the regime does not have the means of preventing that.
While we will encounter fights, and some of the fights have been fights that are worthy of respect for forces that unfortunately may be dying for a regime that does not have a future, and we take that into account, we don't take for granted that there still will be some actions in a variety of places.
Our efforts will be continuous in trying to find out where the additional forces are located, and in many cases we'll take the battle directly to those forces. That's how I'll characterize it.
Q (Inaudible.) I'd like to ask you, what, to your mind, constitutes victory? And second, I know you've said day after day that this is a fight against more than one man, but as far as the search for Saddam Hussein goes, can you claim victory while Saddam eludes you? And how concerned are you that he will, in fact, elude you?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, Jeff, let me recharacterize a part of what you asked in the question. We have at no time said there is a hunt for any particular individual. An so, because of that, he can't be eluded. So what I will tell you is this. We continue to focus not on individuals but on the regime and its capabilities.
The characterization of victory will not occur from here. We're going to conduct operations until we accomplish the objectives that have been set out for us. And if you review those objectives that were laid out at the very beginning of the operation, it's very clear to all who consider it that we haven't finished our work yet.
And so we're a long way from being able to celebrate victory. We certainly continue to say that the outcome is not in doubt. But there is still work for us to do at this point, and that's where we remain focused.
Second row, please.
Q (Inaudible) -- Russian State Television. General, do you have any new information about the incident with the Russian convoy, apart from what has been released yesterday? What would you say to the reports that bullets from M-16 rifles used by the U.S. Army were extracted from the vehicles who had been shot upon, and also during the surgery, and also to the information that the convoy was prevented from moving by the U.S. forces? Thank you.
GEN. BROOKS: What we know is that we had reports that the embassy personnel were going to be moving out to the west and departing Iraq. We had awareness of that. We have received reports, as many of you have heard, that there was some sort of exchange of gunfire that hit part of the convoy as it moved.
What we don't have is anything that would confirm the role of U.S. forces in that. We do know that it went through a contested area and an area that certainly had Iraqi forces present, and we fought those forces later in the day.
There are any number of reports out there at this point in time, and none of them are factual. So I can't provide you an update until we've had the opportunity to continue our interaction, which we already have, with the Russian embassies through our embassies, some of the direct contacts that have occurred. And when this group has completely gotten to safety, as well as has the opportunity to make their own examination, we may have more to say. Right now we don't have anything else we can (talk about?).
Second row, please.
Q (Inaudible) -- USA Today. There have been some reports this morning that in an agricultural warehouse near Baghdad, there were some G-series nerve agents found. Several people had to be decontaminated. Can you tell us a little bit about what was found there and how it was found and what this indicates to you?
GEN. BROOKS: Donna, I honestly don't know. I have not seen that report and I have not seen that as what we call a significant act that gets immediately posted. So it's not within my awareness at this point in time.
What I can tell you in general terms is, first, we have always expected that this regime has chemical weapons and also possesses the will and the means to use it. As we continue to advance, we've taken away some of those means and we've taken away some of the will by our leaflet drops, by our messages, and by our military action.
We continue to remain focused on the potential of encountering it, either by being delivered or going into places where it might be stored. And so I don't know anything specific about this case. I'm sure that whoever encountered that took the appropriate actions.
We have, inside of our tactical formations, right at the front of the formations, we have things like chemical-agent monitors, chemical detectors, chemical reconnaissance vehicles that specifically look for things.
So when there's an anticipation that there might be some agents nearby, commanders will make a determination, push those assets to where they can see if there's a hazard or not. And if there is, they take appropriate actions. And so that's all I know about that. It's more a matter of our approach than that specific report.
Let me go to the second row, please.
Q (Inaudible) -- Newsday. There are some reports that the United States military flew the head of the Iraqi National Congress into southern Iraq, into Nasiriyah. Three questions: Can you confirm if that's true? Can you tell us, if it is true, they also brought 700 soldiers and what role you see for them? And thirdly, what does this tell us about how the Pentagon views the Iraqi National Congress as a possible starting point for an Iraqi interim authority or the future of the Iraqi government?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, it should come as no surprise, Craig, that our government has done work with the Iraqi National Congress and we've taken their interests and concerns seriously.
At this point I don't want to characterize exactly what work has been done in recent days with the Iraqi National Congress, but there is ongoing work. Suffice it to say that there are Iraqis outside of Iraq who are interested in helping to liberate their country, and we are interested in having them contribute to that effort, and also the Iraqis that are inside of Iraq. There are many who want to help in liberating their country and have already assisted coalition. And we anticipate there will be even more in the days ahead.
Q (Inaudible.) As the coalition military actions in Baghdad increase over time, certainly more regime leaders and other Baath Party officials are going to attempt to flee from Baghdad. Where do you stand on the issue of checkpoints around the city of Baghdad? There was a report today that there were checkpoints established at all of the main artilleries (sic/means arteries) leading from Baghdad. Thank you, sir.
GEN. BROOKS: Well, since we have ongoing operations, it wouldn't be appropriate for me to characterize exactly where we have established varying degrees of control.
Suffice it to say that we focus on places where regime leaders or regime assets, be they military, paramilitary or others, might want to move. And we want to deny freedom of action, just as we have out in the western desert against weapons of mass destruction, just as we have in other parts of Iraq.
We remain focused on that as it relates to Baghdad so that we know who's moving in and out. There may be some who can move and there may be some areas where we exercise a high degree of control. There may be other areas where we simply maintain surveillance. In some cases we may target certain things.
So, again, these are all very tactical decisions that are made by commanders on the ground who seek to achieve a particular effect, with the ultimate objective of having a degree of control over movement inside and out of Baghdad. That's how we're orienting ourselves right now.
Let me go a little bit further back. Yes, sir, please.
Q (Inaudible) -- the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. We've got troops in Baghdad. It seems like we've got the whole regime on the run. If ever there was a time that this regime would resort to weapons of mass destruction or chemical warfare, wouldn't it have happened by now? And since it hasn't happened, wouldn't it be reasonable for some people to conclude that they didn't have them or weren't willing to use them?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, some might come to that conclusion. We don't come to that conclusion. We look more at not what the actual decisions are; we don't speculate on what decisions are actually going through the minds of those regime leaders that remain or those that might have some influence.
Rather, we look at is there a capability still to use weapons of mass destruction? Is there still potentially a set of chemicals that's stored somewhere that can be put into use? Is there still a mechanism to deliver that? Is there a mechanism to issue orders to deliver that? If so, then the threat is not gone.
As to when the best time to use it might have been, there have already been a number of places where it could have been used and it was not used. And I think that's not just because of decisions made. It's also because of influence against decision-makers.
We believe that our operations have been effective in convincing, first -- you saw some leaflets early on that we delivered to units that had the capability. We said, "No one benefits from the use of weapons of mass destruction." And we also reminded them of what happened at Halabja. That was on the leaflet.
We also did deliberate work against things like Astros (sp) missiles, free rockets over ground, Al-Samoud missiles, Ababil-100s, the missiles that could deliver these types of chemicals. Where we saw them, we destroyed them. And we also moved into areas where they had been launched in the early days, particularly toward Kuwait, to take away the opportunity for them to actually deliver those.
That work continues. But there's also still capability. While it hasn't been found, we're reminded that because we haven't found it, it's still there. That's the approach we take.
Yes, sir, please.
Q (Inaudible.) With so many Iraqi POWs (in custody?), has the coalition been able to identify criminals of war?
GEN. BROOKS: What we've seen, Alan, is the behaviors of a regime that resorts to criminal activity. And we've seen actions by people who can only be categorized as criminals. How we will deal with that will unfold over time. It's still a bit early to say what actions will be taken.
But the president and our other national leaders have been very clear that there will be a day of accounting for those that have committed war crimes in this operation, in plain view of most of the world.
So it's not just the coalition forces that are seeing these types of behaviors, and unfortunately we see them continuing. And we want to drive that regime to an end so that it doesn't continue -- (inaudible).
Yes, sir, please.
Q (Inaudible) -- Daily Telegraph in London. Can you just give me a bit more of the sense of how the Iraqi regime in the center of Baghdad is functioning? When you say that it's largely dismembered in terms of communications terms, is there still a body of senior Iraqi government figures who, to some extent, are communicating, directing? And maybe give us some idea of what kind of organized resistance -- (inaudible).
GEN. BROOKS: There are parts of Baghdad that we've not been through, obviously. There are parts that the regime still has control over, particularly the population. Saddam City is an example, a Shi'a concentrated neighborhood just on the opposite side of the Saddam Canal in the northeast corner of town.
A considerable amount of energy has been committed by the regime at making sure that that population does not turn against the regime. We see intelligence services that are on the ground. We see special security members on the ground. And that's the best information we have about the circumstance there.
We do also see that there are places where the regime can exercise control over military forces and capability. Some of it is positioned inside the town. I showed you some military equipment near a mosque in Baghdad.
Those decisions are, for the most part, low-level decisions. Commanders that have control of actual forces can order those forces into action. There is a small amount of communication that joins different parts of remnants of the forces that are out there, without getting too specific about that. But what we don't see is an overarching structure that can order action from north to south and east to west throughout the country. Only the coalition has that capability right now.
And as each day passes, there is less and less that the regime can do to order action by their forces. Either the capability is destroyed, as in the context that I described during the night on the northwest corner of Baghdad or actions that occurred on the southeast, actions that are ongoing right now, where that capability is completely taken away so there is no one to order.
We did -- we know that we encountered some division commanders, and some of them did not survive the combat from some of the Republican Guard forces. That takes away capability. And we also know that there are degraded mechanisms by which remaining regime leaders would issue their instructions. And those also we are able to degrade in some more cases beyond that.
So that's where our efforts are, and they will continue to go in that direction, to take away all capability of the regime, make it clear the regime no longer has control at all in Baghdad or any other area; with the assistance of the population, take those regime members into our custody or out of control some way or another, so that the future can begin in all areas of the country.
Let me come center on the right side, please.
Q (Inaudible.) Has the Iraqi air force been operational in the course of this war? And does it still have an operational capability?
GEN. BROOKS: We've seen some very limited movement by Iraqi helicopters that had not yet been attacked. We found a number of aircraft locations, some of which I've shown you over days. As you've seen, some of the aircraft were moved into places to hide them or to disperse them away from airfields themselves.
One example where we saw all of that was near Al-Asad Air Base. In some cases they're moved near cemeteries. In some cases they're moved -- in some cases we've seen aircraft actually being buried to try to protect them.
So the Iraqi air force is not functioning in terms of a force that brings a direct threat. All assets, however, have not been accounted for or eliminated. And so, again, as with other things, there is still a capability that has to be addressed, and we can't ignore that capability in our considerations on a daily basis.
Let me go in the back, please.
Q (Inaudible.) And as the coalition forces are advancing to the center of Baghdad and there are possibilities of urban fighting, how could you spare the civilian casualties or minimize the civilian casualties? And question two is that last night the Iraqis, for the first time, imposed a nighttime travel ban. What (effect had that?) for your military operations? Thank you.
GEN. BROOKS: We can never guarantee that civilians will not be injured as a result of combat. And you're right in assessing that the potential increases as we go into more closed spaces common to an urban area. And that's not just in Baghdad; that's in other areas.
But I think our track record to date shows that as we enter into an urban area, we do it in a very deliberate way. Our fires are discriminating. We don't randomly shoot throughout town. Our fires are focused on specific military targets or against specific threats that are identified, military or non-military.
That will continue. That's already been the case. We've had very large formations with significant combat power entering into the heart of Baghdad, down to the Tigris River in some cases, or in other parts of town, as you saw earlier today.
And while there may have be
en civilian casualties we don't know about, we know that our fires were focused in such a way that they were oriented against regime elements, regime forces. That will continue to be the case. And so we'll remain focused on doing all we can to protect the Iraqi people from the hazards of combat. You saw the leaflet that I showed today. Those types of communications also contribute to protecting the Iraqi population.
We still have great concern, though, because this regime has demonstrated a willingness on a number of occasions to hide behind the civilian population, deliberately putting them between coalition forces and regime forces.
And that's happened even in the last two days -- reports of moving civilians out in front, firing over the top of their heads to cause a response by coalition forces, with the intent of causing the coalition to create what has been referred to in some cases as collateral damage, actions against civilians that we don't intend to hit or against structures that we don't intend to hit.
We're disciplined, we're trained, and we're also very accurate. And so that's not been a problem. And we believe we'll continue to take an approach that prevents it from becoming a problem.
Yes, ma'am, please.
Q (Off mike) -- of Reuters. I wanted to ask you about the various palaces that your coalition forces have been into (from now ?) There's been -- (inaudible) -- there's a Basra one; there's several in Baghdad now. What were you expecting find there? Have you actually found documents, leaders, weapons, those sort of things?
The other question, quickly. You mentioned the arrival of new coalition forces when you were talking about maritime ops. Can you give us an idea of the scale of that?
GEN. BROOKS: The different places that we go into sometimes have value because they might have intelligence inside of them. And so we'll enter them for those purposes and see if we can find papers or other information that might give us greater insight into the regime or into regime leaders. We've not found a lot of weapons inside of palaces. Those are more commonly reserved to schools and hospitals, where we have found lots of weapons and lots of ammunition. In some cases, we find regime leaders inside of their homes or palaces. In the ones you saw today, that was not the case.
Some of these had already been attacked. Some portions of palaces complexes had been attacked, particularly the parts that are associated with command and control systems.
Our efforts are not about individuals; our efforts are about the regime and its capability. And so while some of these attacks that you saw today did not turn up individuals, they may well turn up information. They certainly show clearly that the regime does not control those areas, that the coalition can control those areas whenever it chooses to. They also show the great juxtaposition between conditions you see in Umm Qasr and conditions you see inside of the palace in Baghdad. It says an awful low, in my view, about the regime and its approach to the great riches of Iraq.
As to the continuing buildup of forces, as I mentioned, we do have forces that are flowing in. They've always been part of the plan. We remain on-plan. And without being too specific about how much force has come in, where they're going to do, how we'll use them, suffice it to say that this has always been considered from the start, and that process continues. It will increase the combat capability of the coalition. It's not just U.S. forces that are still arriving. And we believe the coalition continues to gain strength with every day that passes.
Please, in the back.
Q Yeah, General, thank you. Jonathan Marcus (ph), BBC. Just clarify please. I think you just said that in some cases, we find regime leaders in the palaces that are attacked. Could you expand on that please? Could you also tell us whether -- if you special forces or aircraft have attacked any long-range Scud missiles to the west of Iraq? Would you have shown us pictures of those attacks of those particular weapons systems?
GEN. BROOKS: I made reference to finding regime leaders in their homes. And we certainly have had some evidence of that in the last few days. We believe that Ali Hassan Al-Majid, "Chemical Ali," may have been in a home. And so sometimes we do see them returning to homes, and sometimes we see them going into other places. Where we have the opportunity, we may direct an attack against that. Sometimes we can; sometimes we cannot. But we continue to monitor for that.
The second part of your question?
Q Yeah, you've told us a lot about operations by special operations forces and aircraft against alleged Scud sites, launch sites and installations. There was actually an article in Aviation Week this week describing one of those missions, and it seems to suggest that targets were hit. So my question was, if you had hit or found indeed long-range Scud missile systems, would you have been able to show us pictures of those attacks? Have you attacked such systems?
GEN. BROOKS: What we have seen is, first we conducted some operations in places that have been traditionally used to hide long- range surface-to-surface missiles, particularly in the western desert, in areas that would threaten neighbors of Iraq. Those areas have been denied. In some cases, we've found missile-assembly locations, and those were attacked. And I've shown you some of those images. In other cases, we've found missiles themselves. The Scud family -- I don't recall exactly how many of those we've encountered. We have found some. Mostly what we've seen in the Al Samoud/Ababil family of missiles, and those also can range neighboring countries, as we've certainly seen in a number of cases fired against Kuwait. All of these are capable of carrying chemical munitions and potentially biological munitions as well.
So our operations do continue, looking at places where they might hide, where they might move, denying their free movement. We've seen evidence of missile launcher concentrations between the lakes near Al Rimadi (ph), as an example, and closer to Baghdad. And it seems logical, as we know that there has been some missile development over the last several years in secret that extended-range would mean that the western areas don't have to necessarily be used. Areas closer to Baghdad might be used and still range the same target areas.
And so we look at a number of places to find these types of things. And I can't characterize a number for you at this point in time, but our work continues. Q Could you name a few locations -- (inaudible.) GEN. BROOKS: Al Rimadi (ph) is one area where we see that concentrated, I say between the lakes on the west of Baghdad.
Yes, sir, please.
Q General, thank you. (Inaudible) -- BBC. I think a lot of us in this room have been fascinated, would be one word, by the various pronouncements of the Iraqi Information minister. I think it reached its most surreal when he was on television saying he saw no Americans. And this it was two minutes later, followed by one of your commanders, saying he was across the road, so he though he might go across and say hello. It begs the question, why don't you go and say hello, tap him on the shoulder and bring him in?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, in a number of occasions, we've said that this is not about individuals. And we've also said that we report facts, and we've certainly seen some misrepresentation of facts in other places, some of them glaringly obvious. Our operations are focused for purposes that are conceived by commanders on the ground, and those operations have been very effective. So it's not so much about individuals at all.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. BROOKS: Perhaps, but we have a regime that's engaged in this type of disinformation to its people for a long time. Right now, many of the broadcasts are not being seen by the Iraqi people. They're being seen internationally on satellite. What's being shown to the Iraqi people is something very different than that. And I'll just leave it at that point.
Off to this side, please.
Q I was wondering if you could tell us -- Nick Spicer (ph), National Public Radio. We have a report that some American troops outside of Baghdad are being told that they don't have to wear their chemical protection suits anymore? Could you confirm that? And would their actions be speaking louder than your words about the potential threat in Baghdad in terms of chemical or biological weapons?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I don't know if those decisions have in fact been made. What I can tell you is that they use of the chemical protective overgarments or chemical protective suits is a protective posture, and the decisions for putting it on or taking it off are made by tactical commanders. They make their assessments based on what they see, what they sense, and it's a judgment call. In some cases, they may make a decision at their own time. In some cases, it may be a higher commander that issues that order. That kind of an order will not come from this command at this headquarters. It'll be delegated down to a much lower level.
So if that's true, then that's a tactical commander's decision, and that's certainly their call to make.
Right behind, please.
Q Sir, Peter Lloyd (ph) from ABC. I'm just confused about your response to the definition of victory. You've got a timeline which you talk about. Where on your timeline is the milestone and what is it that signifies victory not just to you, but to the Iraqi people. And if you haven't got one or can't tell us what it is, how can you convince the Iraqi what it's over that it is over?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, what we have is a plan. And the timeline is really not the appropriate term. Timeline says things are going to unfold in time, a specific time having been preconceived. Rather, we see a related series of actions and objectives to be attained. And we remain on that plan.
There is still work to be done. We know that. All of our objectives have not bee attained. But I think the Iraqi people are already beginning to realize that life has changed in areas where the coalition has passed through. They're beginning to enjoy the freedom of choice on a number of things. They're enjoying life without a regime that orders them to do certain things, and if they don't, they murder members of the family. That's been moved away from a number of areas. So for the population, victory is already occurring in some places. And we rapidly move into the things that are necessary to begin the start point for the future.
In other areas, combat action is still going on, and we're not finished with that. We remain focused on achieving the combat-related objectives.
Rather than stating time -- we've stated on a number of occasions that this will go on as long as it needs to go, and we'll be here as long as it takes to accomplish what it is that is required. We're not going to abandon this mission. We're going to see it all the way through. And that is ongoing.
I have time for one more question. George.
Q Yes, thank you, General. I'm George Curry (ph), editor in chief to the National Newspaper Publishers Association's news service, the Black Press of the United States. I wanted to follow up on an earlier question regarding the Iraqi National Congress. There was a very public report today on page one of the Washington Post that said that exiles were being airlifted back into southern Iraq. Can you at least confirm that they are now part of the mission to help overthrow the regime?
GEN. BROOKS: I don't want to be too specific about that, George. We do have ongoing operations; some of them are very dangerous in their nature. Again, there should be no surprise that Iraqi National Congress wants to see a different Iraq than that which existed a few months ago. And that is ongoing. They're participating, working closely with the coalition. There are some who are willing and ready to fight for the liberation of Iraq. As that develops, there will be more information to talk about it, but it's too early for us to be specific at this point in time.
Thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen. See you again.