April 9-Centcom Briefing
Presenter: Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, CENTCOM Deputy Director of Operations April 9, 2003
Operational Video Clips
Video 1 Video 2*** See photos from this briefing ***
BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS: It has now been 20 days since coalition forces entered Iraq with clear objectives. Today the regime is in disarray and much of Iraq is free from years of oppression. Televisions across the world today are filled with images of jubilant Iraqis who know the regime is coming to an end. There is still work to be done, and the coalition remains confident of the outcome.
In the course of the campaign, young men and women have sacrificed their lives for this cause, and we continue to remember them and their families.
The nations that are contributing to this effort are doing so with unity of purpose and resolve. The coalition remains strong and committed to seeing the job through.
Let me update you now on some of the latest occurrences of the operation.
With every day that passes, we break more of the grip of the regime. We do this by reducing the regime's options for operating or hiding. Recently, coalition attacked aircraft on five different airfields north of Baghdad, and also targeted regime leadership complexes and capabilities.
The following image is one example. This photo is a facility near Tikrit used for assembly and coordination by regime leaders. The coalition attacked this target on the 6th of April. The target was destroyed. And a comparison.
Efforts by our coalition special operations forces are deliberate and they're also very effective throughout all of Iraq. Our coalition special operations forces coordinated a strike mission against a Ba'ath Party headquarters near the city of Al Qa'im, off in the western corner of Iraq. In the north, special operations forces, in conjunction with Kurdish forces, seized a small town, approximately 25 kilometers north of Mosul, right here, and captured 25 -- oh, I'm sorry, over 200 enemy personnel. There were also attacks along the green line and just south of the green line against Iraqi positions along a ridge 36 kilometers south of Irbil. And in this case, these special operations forces, supported by coalition aircraft, were effective in destroying a number of tanks, carbo (ph) trucks and enemy forces.
The coalition's operational maneuver consolidated gains in the areas south of Baghdad while also continuing relentless pressure against the regime and its remaining forces. Beginning in Basra, coalition forces transitioned to security and stability efforts. Coalition forces also continued expanding their area of influence north of Basra, along the road that leads between Basra and Al Amarah, this area in the east. Their efforts there are focused against any remaining regime elements, and also transitioning to humanitarian assistance.
Fifth Corps also continued operations in Baghdad, and increased security areas beyond Baghdad to the west of the rivers, and they also transitioned to humanitarian assistance. The image here shows a patrol conducted as a part of an armed reconnaissance by the 101st Airborne Division near the town of Karbala. The reconnaissance discovered weapons caches of varying sizes. As you see here, these items, they were found inside of schools inside of Karbala. The armed reconnaissance also found an underground storage facility containing an abundance of food and also Roland-type air defense missiles. That's a specific air defense missile system.
The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force continued its attack near Al Amarah, and also in Baghdad. Near Al Amarah, the Marines there met minimal resistance from two of the divisions that had originally been deployed on the eastern flank. Those were the 10th and the 14th divisions. The divisions had already abandoned their weapons and departed the battlefield, after a period of air attacks, leaflet drops, and also following the liberation of Basra. Coalition forces at this point now occupy the 10th Armored Division headquarters, and will transition into humanitarian assistance and civil military operations in the Al Amarah area.
As regime security forces are eliminated from populated areas, more information is provided by the liberated Iraqis. In one example, Marines received information about a truckload of missiles, and you see that image here. They found this particular truckload of surface-to-air missile southeast of Baghdad. We assess these SA-6 surface-to-air missiles, and in this case they have been technologically altered to have an infrared seeker added to the nose of the missile. And the truck bed was full of those missiles, as you saw in the preceding image.
In the metropolitan area of Baghdad, the two corps’ attack to remove the regime from power continued. The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force continued its attacks across the Diyala River, into the southeast corner of Baghdad, and also proceeded along the west edge of the river into the northeast corner of Baghdad -- beyond the area that I show on this map, to block the roads that lead into or out of Baghdad. After entering in the southeast corner, the Marines continued their attacks into the heart of Baghdad, near key government facilities. Their encounters with the Iraqi population have been positive and receptive, and this is particularly in Shia areas that had been most suppressed by the regime's security organizations. And there are even messages of support being broadcast from mosques from the area of Saddam City on the northeast corner of Baghdad.
Fifth Corps forces continue to converge from multiple directions towards the center of Baghdad. If we can go back to the Baghdad image, please. The areas of convergence, as I mentioned yesterday, began in the north, towards the center of town, also already in position in the center of town, and from the south. Baghdad Airport remains underneath coalition control, and we find at this point that we're able to conduct operations with good freedom of action in each one of those areas. The white circles actually represent places where we've had a continuous presence or conducted continuous operations over the last 24 hours.
The operations remain opportunistic and focused, and there have been some sporadic engagements in different areas, particularly in the vicinity of the bridges in downtown Baghdad, right down in the center -- here.
As I mentioned, the Baghdad International Airport -- there our efforts continue to increase both security and restore function. We have ongoing air operations, as this image -- this secured image shows a Bradley beside an aircraft near a terminal. They are conducting security work. We also have air operations that have begun for military purposes, and we're also increasing the coalition's capability to conduct operations from within the center of Iraq.
The continued success by our maritime component made possible the arrival of ships carrying humanitarian supplies from the U.K., from Australia, and also Spain. And there are large volumes of humanitarian supplies that are beginning to flow now for the Iraqi people.
We do continue to communicate with the Iraqis on a variety of levels. I showed you yesterday a video of some service members who were distributing leaflets by hand out on the street, and our efforts and options communicating with the Iraqi people grow with each day that passes, as we have more and more freedom of action to move throughout the communities.
I have a video to show you here of a tactical loudspeaker team using loudspeakers yesterday to broadcast a variety of information to residents of As Zubair, near Basra.
Broadcasts are given in Arabic, and they communicate that the coalition is present, and there are other pieces of information that come as well, like how to draw water and rations. They also passed on an address yesterday from coalition national leaders stressing that coalition forces would indeed rid Iraq of this regime, and that the actions of the coalition were not directed against the Iraqi people. Similar messages are broadcast in a variety of places with these tactical loudspeaker teams.
As our forces move across the battlefield, we often encounter Iraqis in need of medical attention and care. There are coalition medical teams imbedded with all of our units, and as they move through the battlefield, they provide medical care whenever they can, and they also provide medical check for Iraqi citizens in liberated areas. This is just one image of that. This is a medical officer providing a check to a child. We do these in a variety of areas deliberately. It's not just children, it's all citizens of a particular area to come and get medical check-ups.
I want to show you a video here also of some medical care provided from a military medical facility normally used for tactical military purposes. There is space available in it, and so as we encounter civilians, we provide care there.
This is a tactical field hospital. Coalition military medical personnel providing assistance wherever possible to Iraqis that were found on the battlefield.
A determined effort is also underway in the liberated areas of Iraq to restore function to existing civilian medical facilities. Re-establishing medical care in communities comes with some degree of challenge, such as immediately identifying some useable supplies and also useable facilities. This is a hospital in Nasiriyah as of the 5th of April. The forces that supported the regime staged operations from this hospital, as they did in many areas, and left it in this state. The coalition is now working to try to get it functional again. This is an image of a medical officer searching through the same hospital to try to find in the abandoned materials where there is -- there are records that are useful for information, or also any medical supplies that might be useful.
During our battles to gain a degree of security control in southern Iraq, forces supporting the regime also used educational buildings -- we've seen that example on a number of occasions -- and also health buildings in most of the cities. They used these as fighting positions and weapons caches, ammunition storage areas, and the majority of these facilities sustained some degree of structural damage. However, many of them have been returned to use. Recently, hospitals in An Najaf and Karbala became operational, as did a medical facility in Safwan. A hospital in As Zubair is in minimal working condition, and we have service members of the coalition working to facilitate the repairs.
We expect some time later today the arrival of a Spanish field hospital from the Spanish ship Gallacia (sp), which is inbound to Umm Qasr, and that will also significantly increase the medical support that's available in southern Iraq.
With that, ladies and gentlemen, I'm ready to take your questions. Yes ma'am, please.
Q General, Cammie McCormack (sp), CBS News. Can you tell us what you expect the resistance to be like in Tikrit, how well trained those fighters are, if you have any estimates of the number of Iraqi fighters there?
GEN. BROOKS: Cammie, we've seen that there have been some forces deployed in and around the Tikrit area. Many of them have moved as we were having more and more success on the southwestern side of Baghdad and the southeastern side of Baghdad. There have been some repositionings to try to reinforce those initial defenses. The amount of force that remains in Tikrit we are still making assessments of. We anticipate that any fighting that would occur there, if we happen to go to Tikrit, would be similar to what we've seen in other parts of the country. So, a combination of conventional military forces, those that may be remaining at that point in time, irregular forces that may be involved with them, some loyal to the Ba'ath regime still, and others, other circumstances like we've seen before.
I'm not going to predispose as to when we might go in that direction and what we would do. We certainly are focused on Tikrit, as I showed with the weapons system video, to prevent the regime from being able to use it as a place to command and control, to restore command and control, or to hide.
Yes sir, please.
Q Hi. James Forlong (sp) from Sky News. There are many Kurds now saying, having seen these pictures from Baghdad, who are now saying that they believe the time has come to move down towards Kirkuk, to joint up with Peshmerga fighters there. Is that a development you would welcome or view with alarm?
GEN. BROOKS: I think the way we look at our operations in the north is on a consistent view of what we've had already. We do have coalition special operations forces working closely with Peshmerga in northern Iraq. There have been some limited advances that have occurred, as I described earlier, by coalition forces, supported with security by Peshmerga, and we think that's the circumstance that needs to continue at this point. There are still Iraqi forces in the north, and we continue to maintain pressure against those forces, first to prevent them from reinforcing toward Tikrit or Baghdad, and secondly, to prevent their use in further operations, and ideally convincing them that they should lay down their arms. And so those operations will continue at this point. We don't anticipate a change in the dynamics of the north, even though there certainly is good news to be seen throughout the country.
Yes ma'am, please.
Q Thanks, General. We've seen a lot of pictures today of looting in Baghdad. We'd seen it earlier in Basra. How are you prepared to deal with that? And does that pose any new issues of threat or concern?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I think we always have concern when there's any degree of disorder, civil disorder that occurs. I think in this case we're seeing a lot of jubilation, and people who have long been oppressed for years and years having choices. We believe that this will settle down in due time. It has already begun to settle down in Basra. Some of this occurs as a result of a vacuum that's created in the interim period between the departure of the regime or the perception of the departure of the regime and the establishment of conditions that move on a path of normalcy. So, I think that we'll see some of this in other areas that have been liberated.
This is a lot of pent up energy that's been part of the lives of many of these people for their entire lives, and some of it can be anticipated. We will deal with this though, obviously, as we try to establish more and more security in different areas as we move through, and work more and more closely with the Iraqi population itself, we think that these things will settle down.
Q Thank you. Jonathan Marcus, BBC. Can I push you a little further on the north, because it seems to me that one of the keynotes of your strategy has been to try to destroy as few Iraqi units as possible. We've seen the situation over to the east, down at Amarah and that area, where you appear to be taking the surrender pretty well of formed units.
In the north, you're not really in control; the Kurdish fighters are in control. What is to convince Iraqi units that might want to surrender that doing so wouldn't leave them at the mercy of people who clearly have a very long -- go back a long way and have scores to settle?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, Jonathan, I don't agree with your characterization. There are U.S. Special Operations forces, other coalition special operations forces, conducting operations in the north. The fact that it has been as stable as it is and as controlled as it is to date indicates really what the circumstance is.
We remain comfortable that that is a good operation. It's going well. There still are certainly decisions that some of the military commanders, the Iraqi military commanders, have the opportunity to make. And we think that there will be some new decisions made by them in the coming days, particularly with the news of what's occurred in Baghdad and Basra.
We remain optimistic. We certainly don't want to destroy any more human life than is necessary to accomplish our objectives. But, nevertheless, combat operations do continue in the north.
Q Tom Mintier, CNN. The force size in Baghdad is being increased. What will their role be? I saw that you mentioned on a couple of occasions that you're switching over to a humanitarian role for some of these troops that did come to Baghdad as combat troops; they're now working in the humanitarian field. And any update on possible location of prisoners of war that are being held by the regime in and around Baghdad?
GEN. BROOKS: Tom, first, the forces that are in Baghdad still have combat work to do. That is not complete at this point. We certainly have seen areas where the population knows that the regime is gone and will never return again in the way that it has been in the past. There are still pockets. We haven't located every leader of the regime. We haven't found every instrument of the regime. And, so, those operations continue.
What I would describe to you is throughout the country, wherever we can begin to establish the conditions for life going on, that occurs as soon as we can. And so there may be some things -- certainly the line of where we're doing humanitarian assistance and civil support has moved much further north. We have some of those things happening in Karbala, for example, right now. We're not to the point where we're ready to do that in the same kind of concentration in Baghdad.
Having said that, nevertheless, we provide medical assistance to injured Iraqis that we encounter on the battlefield. Where there's not a need for combat action and life can go on, we'll try to provide whatever assistance we can. But we're not quite at the same point at the front end of the spear as we are on the long handle of the spear that leads back down to the Kuwaiti border.
As to the question of prisoners of war, we continue to remain concerned about the condition of those that we have unaccounted for at this point, and, frankly, for those that are unaccounted for from previous conflicts.
We know that even from the Iran-Iraq war and the Gulf War of '90 and '91, there are still some unaccounted-for people. We have not found them at this point. We still expect whatever remains of the regime and whoever might have them in possession to follow the Geneva Convention and be responsible for their care. And in the meantime, we continue our efforts to try to find them if we can.
Second row, please.
Q (Inaudible) -- USA Today. You've said that hostility will continue until the regime is no longer in power. But if the leadership is wiped out, how will you know and when will you be able to declare victory and an end to hostilities?
GEN. BROOKS: I think we'll continue to get indications of less and less control by the regime and more and more information from the population about where any remnants of the regime might be. That then helps us focus our operations in a very deliberate way.
We have been as deliberate and focused as we can be to date. That will continue. And certainly with the type of jubilation you see in the streets and the recognition that the regime does not have the same grip that it once had, we certainly anticipate there will be more information coming.
As that information comes and we do our work in a deliberate way, we think we'll have more and more indications of what remains of the regime, if anything, and what additional work must be conducted. That's how our focus will continue.
Let me go back here, please. Yes, sir.
Q (Inaudible) -- Irish Television in Dublin. You talk about the jubilation in the streets of Baghdad, but the television pictures are just coming from maybe one or two areas. Now, you have troops all over the ground in five or six areas in Baghdad. What are they seeing in the other parts of the capital?
GEN. BROOKS: They're seeing a number of things in a variety of places. For the most part, it's well-received. But there are still pockets. And so what we see, when there are examples that the regime may still have influence, either physically or by just lingering senses of intimidation or potential retribution, that behavior is more subdued.
But we're not finding hostile behavior from the population. We believe that the population recognizes that the end is near for this regime, if it has not already occurred. And they certainly are supporting the actions of the coalition throughout.
We're seeing cooperation in the areas where we're delivering humanitarian assistance and support. You've seen some of those images yourself. But it's a fair observation that the camera's only in one particular place.
The image, though, that's occurring is much broader, and the places where we're having our encounters bear that out; much jubilation certainly in certain parts of Baghdad. And I think that corresponds more to how much oppression actually occurred in those areas. But there's certainly a willingness to support the continuing efforts of the coalition throughout the country as we're operating.
Yes, sir. Over here, please.
Q (Inaudible.) Given that the fighting seems very one-sided at the moment, why don't you consider some sort of cease-fire or halting operations so that those Iraqis who are still opposing you can either surrender or go home without being killed?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, without going to a cease-fire, they have the option to surrender. We have not been at a cease-fire yet, and we've taken many surrenders. At this point we have over 7,000 Iraqi prisoners of war. And so there's no need for a cease-fire at this point to achieve that purpose.
At the same time, we remain discriminating in our targeting. We're fighting those who choose to fight for the regime. And that must continue, because those are appendages of the regime. And our objective is clear: The regime must be removed.
The things that support the regime are part of that, and our efforts will continue in that direction. Those that choose to lay down their arms will be welcome to do so and will have made a very wise choice indeed for their own future and the future of Iraq.
Let me go to the side. Please, sir.
Q (Inaudible.) Shelling against Baghdad from the air has been reduced during the past two days. What does this indicate?
GEN. BROOKS: Our efforts in and around Baghdad, whether they are efforts that are conducted by rockets or efforts conducted by weapon systems delivered by aircraft or even our actions in surface-to-surface fires, remain focused on targets that have been identified.
That hasn't changed throughout the operation. We continue to remain focused on being deliberate, calculating in our application of military force, minimizing wherever possible the effect on civilians or other infrastructure that we don't intend to damage.
I think, when it's all said and done and people can move freely throughout Baghdad and see for themselves, there will be some scenes of destruction, particularly on regime complexes. There may be some evidence of places where fights occurred where there's damage to some buildings that cannot be avoided in close contact.
But there will not be the scenes that have been historical reminders of movements by military force into capital cities in other countries throughout military history. There will not be any image like that at all.
In fact, much of Baghdad, most of Baghdad, continues unaffected physically. The bridges are still up, with the exception of some that have been dropped for tactical purposes by the regime in some cases, or one that was dropped by coalition forces outside of Baghdad. Traffic can still move on the streets.
Now that the curfews will be lifted, as the regime moves away, I think we'll see the resumption of a lot of normal activity there. And we remain convinced that that's the right way to approach this. There is still work to go, though. And while we are satisfied with our efforts to date, we still know that there's a lot of tough work to be done to make sure that we continue in the same direction.
Back here, please.
Q (Inaudible) -- representing the Committee to Protect Journalists. General, my committee sent a letter yesterday to Secretary Rumsfeld requesting an investigation of the events yesterday regarding the journalists in Baghdad, and we hope that'll be undertaken.
I wanted to ask you about the future and ways of possibly averting similar incidents. You mentioned in yesterday's briefing how the military takes particular care with sites such as schools, hospitals and mosques. I wonder if a system could be arranged where similar care could be taken with sites where it's known that journalists are operating.
GEN. BROOKS: Well, first, let me say that sites where journalists or any other civilians or non-combatants are operating are already a focus for us to ensure that we have knowledge and that we're careful about our targeting. But we should be very clear that, first, Baghdad remains a very dangerous place. We've always said that.
And we've also informed that those who choose to stay in that location are putting themselves at risk by their own decisions. The circumstances of yesterday revealed that there was fire occurring inside of Baghdad and fire was returned.
It's important to note at this point that the regime will also use any civilians that are available to provide a degree of protection. Civilians may be located in places where the regime conducts other work. And when the two join together, they move into a targetable area that increases the danger.
So what we'd encourage is decisions to be made -- now that the danger is well-known, even more known than it has been throughout time, that new decisions would be made. And we'd certainly like to see all non-combatants that are close to regime facilities or regime leaders to move away from those areas before they increase the danger any further.
Yes, please, Adi.
Q Adi Ravel ABC News. You spoke a moment ago about unaccounted-for POWs from previous conflicts. Are you saying you have no new information regarding the status of Scott Speicher from the first Gulf War? And a second question I have is, regarding the enemy POWs that you currently have and foreign forces who are fighting in Iraq, are you surprised by the number of Egyptians and others who have come into Iraq to fight against coalition forces? Thank you.
GEN. BROOKS: I don't have any new information about any specific coalition or other prisoners of war that might be in the possession of the Iraqis at this point. But we remain concerned about it and we remain also focused on it.
We have identified a number of what we think are foreign fighters that are not Iraqis that have been identified in different places on the battlefield. We certainly heard that there was a call for that, and there was certainly adequate time before hostilities began for those who had an interest in protecting the regime to come and fight with the regime. As we continue to see those, we simply collect them up as well and they're treated like all other prisoners of war that are taken into our custody, with proper respect, in accordance with the Geneva Convention. They're afforded medical care if need be. In some cases, they were wounded in action, and they received medical care from the coalition to stabilize them. That's our approach and that continues to be our approach. We may find more on the battlefield. If so, then that certainly is just a condition of the battle as we go on.
(Name inaudible) -- please.
Q (Off mike) -- with BBC Foreign Service. General, can you tell us about collateral damage in Baghdad? Have you been using inert bombs? And which quantity? And have they been efficient? The second part of the question is regarding these foreign fighters. Are you concerned that they are mixing up with the civilian population in Baghdad?
GEN. BROOKS: We use a variety of munitions. In areas where we need to have precise work, we use precision munitions. I don't want to get too specific about exactly what weapon combination we use inside of built-up areas, but suffice it to say that our work to date has been precision-guided munitions in the target areas inside of Baghdad. I'm not aware of any exceptions to that out of my own knowledge. I can tell you our approach would always be the same, as it has been from the start: discriminating on a particular target, positive identification, and then decisions on exactly what weapon system should be used to achieve the desired effect on that target while also minimizing the effect on things not intended to be targeted. That's a consistent approach, continues throughout.
Since we've been in close air support missions, additional types of weapon systems have been introduced into the Baghdad area. Close air support aircraft carry different types of things -- cannon, for example, that fire at a high rate of speed, in a very precise way but at a high rate of speed, multiple rounds. That causes a different effect than a precision-guided munition. And so there may be some different dynamics on the battlefield that have occurred out there, but I can certainly tell you that the efforts remain precise, deliberate, focused, and we believe that we have been successful to date in minimizing secondary effects on the population or other structures.
Let me come back to the left, please. Right here.
Q David Lee Miller (sp), Fox News. General, there was a report that American uniforms were found at the Rasheed airstrip at what was described as a military prison. Could you elaborate on that and tell us what was found? And might this indicate that POWs had recently been there? And secondly, have coalition forces secured the area where you believe the leadership was meeting a few days ago and there was an airstrike possibly targeting Saddam Hussein and his sons? Thanks.
GEN. BROOKS: We were certainly aware that the Rasheed prison near the Rasheed Airport had a history of being used to hold military prisoners. Part of our operational design in going through Rasheed airfield was to secure it and also to proceed on to the Rasheed prison. We did not find any prisoners of war or any human remains in that location. There are some reports of having found some uniforms. They were U.S. uniforms. And there were names on some. I'm not going to describe those names at this point.
What that tells us is that the uniforms were there. It cannot tell us anything else at this point. We remain concerned about those who are remaining unaccounted for, and we hold the regime, whatever remains of it or whoever might have our prisoners of war in possession, accountable and responsible for anything that happens to them at this point.
Your second question, about the location that was struck a few days ago, I don't know that we've moved onto that location at this point in time. The focus of our action is broader than just that location. There are a number of regime locations throughout the city. Some we are physically located at; others we're preventing movement to; others we have not arrived at yet. And that's really where we stand on that one.
Let me go back here, please, sir.
Q Ricardo -- (off mike) -- News. If Saddam is not found, then who would have to surrender for the cease-fire? How would you know?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, cease-fire doesn't have to come by way of a surrender. A cease-fire is a decision, and the decision will occur when we believe conditions have been set on the battlefield and also when we have political instructions from our leaders. Right now our operations remain focused as they are on any remaining portions of this regime, and that includes the forces that support it. And at the same time, our efforts increase daily on providing humanitarian assistance to the places that have been liberated, and tending to the need of the Iraqi people and beginning to move forward into the future.
So there's still work to be done, without a doubt, and we remain focused on that work. We believe we will ultimately achieve a point where hostilities can cease, but we're not at that point yet.
Yes, please, sir, fourth row.
Q Yes. (Off mike) -- from SBS (?) TV, South Korea. General, I believe one of the few variables left at this stage of the war is that lots of Iraqi soldiers took off their uniforms and got dressed with civilian clothes. I believe this might be some trouble to you, especially you get to face more and more -- (inaudible) -- situation. So you have to -- you want to find and attack your enemies, but also you need to minimize civilian casualties at the same time. So how would you cope with these dilemmas?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, it's a tough challenge, no doubt about that, and it has been a challenge throughout this operation because of the tactics used by forces loyal to the regime. Our young men and women, though, out there fighting are great professionals and they've dealt with this in as complete and competent a way as possibly can be done. We know that there are some soldiers who took off their uniforms and went home. They're living as civilians now. And some of them did so in an honorable fashion. We know that there are some who took their uniforms off and fought in civilian clothes. Some were pressed back into service.
I think when it's all said and done, with the help of the Iraqi population we'll have a clearer view of who's fighting really in support of the regime, who perpetrated war crimes and fought as criminals, violating all the laws of land combat, and who did not. That will take some time to sort all that out, and it can only be done with the help of the Iraqi population. And what we're seeing right now is we believe we will have that support from the Iraqi population as time goes on.
Yes, sir, please?
Q General, the dancing in the streets that we've seen, is it because they love you or is it because they fear you? And if it's because they love you, how do you make sure that the love remains? (Laughter.)
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I'm feeling a lot of love in here right now, so I appreciate the question. (Laughter.)
I think the reality is it's not about us, it's about the regime. What you're seeing as celebration in the streets is a recognition that the regime is gone and will not return again. It can never be returned to what was. That's what they're seeing. What it tells us is, thus far our efforts have been successful in those areas. It also tells us that we have more work to do to ensure that's the scene throughout the country.
Yes, ma'am, please.
Q Thanks, General. Noor Aqabi (ph) from Abu Dhabi TV. As you well know, General, a mayday call has been made by our reporter in Abu Dhabi, and the group of journalists has been -- you know, they are still caught in that building with Abu Dhabi -- Abu Dhabi TV reporters and Al Jazeera staff. And they are for more than 24 hours caught there, and they are calling for help. Could you tell us, General, is there any measures has been taken to help these reporters to get out of there?
GEN. BROOKS: I think there are a number of people, as I said earlier, who are still inside of Baghdad in a variety of areas. And as long as they're moving away from where the regime is conducting its operations, they shouldn't be at any risk. Now, they need to move out of that area, move through our lines, identify themselves as reporters, identify themselves ins such a way that they have no appearance of hostility and we would anticipate they should be able to move out of the area. And there are some other folks that might want to make the same sorts of decisions. At this point, that's a responsibility of the people in the station to make that decision to leave.
Q They're trying to get out this morning, but still the fire is coming out of the door. They cannot get out unless some people have to locate them and say they are the reporters, they are not the enemy or they just want to get out of there.
GEN. BROOKS: Well, we certainly have concern for their safety and their welfare, and we would want them to move away from any combat area, particularly where regime forces might still be located.
Yes, sir, please?
Q Paul Penter (ph) from (Daily ?) Broadcasting Corporation. Just back to what you're seeing on the streets of Baghdad today. Could you further characterize how the coalition interprets what's going on? Are you suggesting this is like some kind of turning point? I don't think you've ever walked out here before and said today the regime is in disarray. I mean, is it in much more disarray than it was yesterday? How do you fully characterize what we're seeing today in Baghdad?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, with every day that passes throughout the entirety of this operation, the regime has had less and less control over top of its people, over top of its forces, over top of this country of Iraq. It is more out of control today than it has been before. I think we are at a degree of a tipping point where, for the population, there's a broader recognition that this regime is coming to an end and will not return in the way that it has been in the past. That's a very important point in the operation.
Militarily, however, we proceed on a plan that says that there's more to follow. All of the regime is not gone. There are still regime appendages in a variety of places. There's still capability. There's still also potentially the intent to use weapons of mass destruction. All of these hazards have not been eliminated completely from the battlefield.
And so we certainly stand on the position -- and we have said it before -- that the regime is in disarray, the regime is losing control, the regime no longer has control over certain areas. The capital city now is one of those areas that's been added to the list of places that the regime has lost control. And we'll still focus on pockets inside of the capital city, but their efforts to maintain control, we believe, have come to an end at that location.
Q (Name and affiliation off-mike.) You showed us a picture earlier with some white circles on it. Are you telling us those are areas you believe you actually control, or that's merely where fighting is going on? Can you give us sort of a percentage of what amount of the capital city you do believe you control? And it does feel like you're going a little farther today in your comments about the regime losing control. I mean, you've said it several times here, the regime may have ended, it may no longer exert control over its own capital city. How close are we to then -- I mean, the goal of this operation is regime change. You are talking today as though the regime has changed or is about to change. How do we know what a victory looks like, what a surrender looks like, what a cease-fire looks like?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, first on the circles on the Baghdad map. Those represent areas where we've had a continuous presence over the last 24 hours. In other words, we didn't come in and leave, we stayed in those areas, with a force that was able to maintain security and control in and around its area and prevent action by any Iraqi forces that were inside of the city. So it represents areas where we've had freedom of action. "Control" is not a term that would apply very well in describing the circumstances here; it's more a matter of being able to maintain security of our force, conduct operations in a manner that we choose, at times and places of our choosing.
What I think is instructive is how many different places of the town, of the western part of Baghdad particularly and on the east and northeast corners of Baghdad, we're able to conduct those operations in times and places of our choosing. That really is a point to be made by that.
As time goes on, the physical places where we are free of Iraqi regime influence and are able to conduct operations, begin to provide the humanitarian assistance that was asked earlier about Baghdad, those will expand beyond the areas that we have right now, and we believe that in due time, there will be an end of hostilities.
I want to be clear that we know there is still work to be done in this operation. That is absolutely certain. There are still places where the regime does have control. There are places where clearly the regime no longer does have control. Whatever remaining portions of the regime there may be, fragmented as they are now, there still is capability, there's still intent. So it's not over; we still have work to be done in that regard, and we'll stay focused on that work as the coming days approach.
Yes, please? Back here.
Q (Name and affiliation off mike.) I'd like to insist (sic) on the investigation of what happened at the Palestine Hotel. You probably don't have yet a full picture of the investigation, but according to the footage from the French TV crew, there were -- there were no shots coming from the hotel at least 30 seconds before the Abrams tank fired back. Could you tell us what did the crew inform their superiors before firing, please? Thank you, General.
GEN. BROOKS: I don't have any reports of what the crew specifically said before engaging or what decisions were made in that moment of time. What we know at this point is that the reports that have come up to us from the force involved in the fight was they received fire and returned fire. Everything else beyond there is speculative and must be investigated much more thoroughly, and I certainly am not in a position to describe anything further at this point in time.
Yes, sir, please? Here we go.
Q Jerry Dimakato (ph) of Citizen Canada. Thanks for taking my question, general. The Canadian commodore in charge of Multinational Naval Task Force, that's the Task Force 151 -- its mandate is to hunt al Qaeda terrorists in the Gulf -- he said yesterday that the Canadian federal government has expressly forbid him from handing over suspected Iraqi terrorists, Iraqi war criminals, or even fleeing members of Saddam Hussein's inner circle. I'm just wondering -- as well, he said that the government does not want to be put in the embarrassing position of having to relinquish Iraqis to the United States military, given Canada's neutral policy in the war.
As a former policy man for binational politico-military affairs with Canada, what's your personal reaction to this very public refusal to hand over Iraqi criminals, if found, fleeing to your forces? And why would this key task force remain under Canadian command?
GEN. BROOKS: What you are describing is really a contribution by a coalition partner, and a coalition involved in a different operation than this. And as with all coalition operations we involve ourselves in, we respect the prerogatives of the countries that are involved. So that's really different than our Operation Iraqi Freedom and is not related to it at all.
Q (Off mike)?
GEN. BROOKS: That's the answer: It's a different coalition and a different operation, and we always respect the prerogatives of countries involved, whether it's this coalition, Iraqi Freedom, or different coalition operations that preceded this operation as it goes right now.
Q General, Pete Smalowitz from Knight Ridder. We were told that the American strategy in Baghdad would be similar to the British strategy in Basra. But in Baghdad, where the regime has a firmer grip on power and more formidable defenses, we have seen some of the celebrating and some of the looting much quicker. Can you explain what's been different from a military standpoint or from the citizen standpoint?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I think what we are seeing, first, is the similarities are, we are very discriminating in where we conduct operations. We are deliberate and patient. We do our operations based on information that comes to us where opportunities may be, and then we take advantage of those opportunities in some tactical military way.
Cameras are in places where our military forces are not, and there is jubilation that's occurring in places where we haven't necessarily entered yet. I think we also saw some images in Basra, and we saw some images in other places, and there have been other cases where there were no images where initially in a vacuum there's jubilation that sometimes goes beyond into looting. Many of these looting incidents are reported to be against Ba’ath Party locations that still existed there. That doesn't change it in terms of the activity that is going on, but that certainly is -- it's instructive in terms of what really you may be seeing. Don't know that to be factual, but that's certainly the report that we are having at this point in time.
What we know is that we want to cause order and stability to occur in all areas, as quickly as that can be done. We'll remain focused on that as we transition away from combat operations in areas that have been liberated that we physically have entered.
Q (Off mike) -- done it so much faster than in Basra?
GEN. BROOKS: It's a different place, different circumstances. And so every place on the battlefield unfolds a little bit differently, and creates different opportunities, different forces are used. They arrived a different way. The regime's condition is different. It's just a different situation, and so we -- the timing becomes different as a result.
Q (Off mike)?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, those are some of the examples -- different size, different composition of the town, different introduction of forces, any number of other things that could be taken into account that just make this operation, and every other city operation different from other ones that are out there.
Q (Off mike) -- Irish Times. General, could you just clarify in relation to the Palestine Hotel is it possible that there could be future attacks by coalition forces on the Palestine Hotel? Or has it been now designated as having the same status as a heritage site or a mosque?
Secondly, there was footage on the BBC last night of Iraqi prisoners with their hands tied behind their backs in their underwear standing and facing a wall, for what period I don't know. Is that -- I am not an expert on the Geneva Convention, but that doesn't seem to be in line with the Geneva Convention that I would expect. Have the Red Cross been able to visit prisoners in all areas where they are held by the coalition? Thank you.
GEN. BROOKS: As we've said a number of times, downtown Baghdad remains a dangerous place. There's still potential for combat action. The area in and around the bridges last night we reported there was some contact. Our efforts remain focused on the regime and regime targets that present themselves. We retain the inherent right of self-defense. There are still choices that can be made by those that are inside of Baghdad as to whether they believe themselves to be in a safe position or not. Our approach remains the same and consistent.
Prisoners of war for the coalition, prisoners that are taken into our possession, are treated in a way that's consistent with the Geneva Convention. When we find there's any deviation from that, commanders have the opportunity to deal with that. I have not seen the images, I have not seen the report, and so at this point I remain convinced that our commands are doing what's necessary and appropriate under law and under convention to do what's necessary to take control of prisoners of war, move them to the proper areas, ensure they don't remain a threat to themselves or to others, and then put them in a condition where they are safe and protected, yet under control.
Yes, ma'am, please?
Q (Off mike) -- Carsons (ph), Reuters. In your presentation you talked a lot about hospitals in other towns. Are you doing anything in particular to make sure that hospitals in Baghdad, where there are a lot of civilians, including journalists now, are not going to be targeted, especially now that you seem to be -- you know, the difference in force -- the Americans are really running away with it -- the threat back might not be that big. So can you tell me what you are going to do to protect those hospitals?
GEN. BROOKS: The first thing we do to protect hospitals is we recognize that they are hospitals, and we treat them as such first, and we expect them to be hospitals. We've certainly seen a pattern in a number of towns that the regime does not see it that way. The regime sees hospitals as fighting positions. The regime sees hospitals as storage locations. The regime does not see a hospital as a hospital. We know there are hospitals in and around Baghdad, and we certainly have reports of large numbers of wounded inside of those hospitals -- people who have been injured by combat action of some sort of another. We remain concerned about that, and where we can provide relief, I am sure we will in due time.
Our focus right now is against the remaining portions of the regime. As we encounter civilians in need, we will provide whatever assistance we can within our capability at that point in time. If we find there is an increased need, we may deliver additional things, just as we have in other parts of the country. But we are not quite at that stage yet.
I think I have time for one last question. Yes, ma'am, please?
Q Martha Brant with Newsweek magazine. I'm trying to understand what coalition policy is in the case of civilian deaths. Do you investigate all of them, or are they considered collateral damage of war, inevitable? Is it only when they are controversial that you'll look into them? And the case may be of Al Jazeera might be illustrative. If it was an airstrike, will the pilot be interviewed? Will Predator video be reviewed? What will happen in that particular case?
GEN. BROOKS: As you can imagine, the number of combat engagements that have occurred over the last 20 days, down to the lowest level, where someone makes a decision to deliver a weapons system against some target, whether it's a physical target or human being, is a number that we cannot begin to count. And, so, every engagement that occurs is certainly not investigated. Where there is an indication there may have been something that didn't go the right way, commanders have the opportunity to investigate. We regret the loss of any civilians on the battlefield, and we have done all that we can reasonably do to prevent that from happening either from air or on the ground. But we know for certain that there have been civilians killed in this operation, because of the decisions taken by the regime to put them out in front, to hide behind them, to use pregnant women to blow up cars at checkpoints. We have seen this happen on the battlefield. Those are not being investigated by us at this point in time. If we think we have some involvement in other cases where we need to look deeper, we do, and we look very closely at ourselves to see what procedures need to be changed; and, if there is accountability, then that accountability is taken care.
Q So are you saying in the case, in this particular case, you would look into it because it's controversial? And has that process started?
GEN. BROOKS: What I am saying in this case and all cases is when we believe we have something to look into, we do look into it in greater detail. I'm not going to specify this particular one.
Thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen. Have a good day.