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24 March 2003

Central Command Chief Provides Update on Iraq Operations

(Transcript of Doha briefing) (6170)


CENTCOM Commander General Tommy Franks and Brigadier General Vince
Brooks of CENTCOM Operations briefed the media March 24 in Doha,
Qatar.


Following is the transcript of the Central Command briefing:

(begin transcript)


CENTCOM Operation Iraqi Freedom Briefing
24 March 2003

Presenter: General Tommy Franks and Brigadier General Vincent Brooks

March 24, 2003


GEN. FRANKS: Well, good afternoon. I see we have -- I see we have a
full house. Let me begin by offering my condolences to the families,
loved ones, friends of those lost and wounded thus far in Operation
Iraqi Freedom. We know, honor their service by our resolve, our
commitment, our dedication, to accomplish the objectives that the
secretary talked about a couple days ago, as did I.

Well, we are in our fifth day of combat operations of Iraqi Freedom.
Our forces are operating throughout Iraq, on the ground and in the
air. United Kingdom and American marine forces are in the southern oil
fields as we speak protecting Iraqis' future.

Our air forces continue to strike regime command and control and
military formations virtually all over the country with precision
munitions and precision application of those munitions.

Our special operations forces -- from the United Kingdom, the U.S.,
Australia -- are conducting direct action and strategic reconnaissance
operations across the country. And major land combat formations
continue to move, as you have seen them move over the last three or
four days.

Progress towards our objectives has been rapid and in some cases
dramatic. De-mining operations have cleared about half the channel up
to Umm Qasr. A number of humanitarian assistance ships are loaded, and
we'll begin to deliver needed humanitarian assistance -- food, water,
medicine -- to Iraqis within the next few days.

Our forces have met sporadic resistance in a number of places on the
battlefield. But as our troops fight, even in isolated areas, there
will be casualties -- there have been casualties, because from the
perspective of the fighting man on the ground, even an isolated set of
combat situations represents violence which he must see face to face.

As you know, our forces have been moving rapidly. We have
intentionally bypassed enemy formations to include paramilitary and
the Fedayeen. And so you can expect that our clean-up operations are
going to be ongoing for across the days in the future.

We know that the Fedayeen has in fact put himself in a position to
mill about, to create difficulties in rear areas, and I can assure you
that contact with those forces is not unexpected.

I've asked Brigadier General Vince Brooks to join me again this
evening, and to provide some visuals for you. Vince?

GEN. BROOKS: Thank you, sir. And good afternoon again, ladies and
gentlemen. I am going to begin by just giving you an update on some of
the activities over the last several days and show you some images of
some of the initial strikes that we've had against forces throughout
central and eastern Iraq primarily, and the effect that we are having
on those combat systems.

I'll talk several times to the graphics today, and if you'll bear with
me while I point at some things, you should be able to see it very
clearly. Let's go ahead and bring up the first set of weapon system
videos, please. What we are going to show you is a series of attacks.
All of these are done from the air. They're all precision engagements
with precision-guided munitions against armored formations, against
command post bunkers, and against other things that you'll see, like
aircraft that have been moved into strange places. This first one is a
MiG, a fighter jet that was towed away from the Al-Asad Airfield, and
was hidden in a revetted area. So you will see that being struck on
the ground. Go ahead and roll the tape, please. We have found a number
of these aircraft in a variety of places, including in some cases near
cemeteries.

The second image is an airfield command bunker complex in eastern
Iraq. Go ahead and roll the tape. As I mentioned, we are also
attacking combat systems that are in defensive and revetted positions.
The next one is an armored personnel carrier that we will bring up and
show in just a moment. And this armored personnel carrier is in a
defensive position in central Iraq.

Next there is an image of a tank in a similar position in central
Iraq. And finally one last combat vehicle, a tank in this case again,
in central Iraq.

General Franks spoke to you a few days ago about the effort we go
through to do precision engagement in all we do. First, to be very
precise about what it is we are targeting, how we choose to target it,
and also to minimize the effects on things we don't intend to attack.

I am going to show you a series of before-and-after images from
different regime targets that have been attacked over the last several
days, just to demonstrate the nature of that effectiveness and let you
see it for yourself. Let's bring up the first image, please. This is a
complex for the special security organization, well known as the
enforcement arm of the regime. You can see the compound is outlined on
the screen, and the portion to be attacked is on the lower left side.
And we'll show that before and after, and then a split view, so that
you can get oriented to it. I will tell you that the next image, the
post-strike, has been rotated. Let's go ahead and show the next,
please, the post-strike. It's rotated about 90 degrees. But you can
see where the attacks occurred with effectiveness at each of the blue
arrows. And only those buildings have been affected. Everything around
the outside of the camp is unaffected -- even the walls of the
compound -- excuse me, the compound were not affected. And the split
please: before, pre-strike and after.

Let me give you another example. The Iraqi intelligence service -- the
arm that ties to terrorism throughout the world and conducts
intelligence operations abroad. This complex is in the center of the
screen,a nd you'll see a post-strike image here in just a moment --
let's bring it up. Again, the surrounding area is intact, and only
those buildings that were targeted have been destroyed.

Another example. The Palace Guard, part of the regime's protective
structure. This is a barracks and office complex. It was attacked by
precision-guided munitions. Let's show the post-direct, please. Each
one of those blue arrows represents a different weapon that we
delivered against the target set. And different from the old days, we
don't bring multiple aircraft in; we may send a specific missile or a
specific guided weapon system against each one of those points to
achieve the desired effect.

And the split. Our attacks, particularly in the Baghdad area and other
built-up areas against regime targets continue to be very effective.
And we remain committed to minimizing the potential effects on the
people of Iraq, and also the infrastructure.

Let me now give you an update on some additional actions. General
Franks mentioned that coalition special operations forces continue to
conduct numerous missions throughout Iraq. They are actively hunting
for weapons of mass destruction and also looking for ballistic missile
systems. And they are on track, and they are doing exactly what they
need to be doing at this point.

On the next image we'll show a map, just to give you a highlight of
where some of our recent operational activity has been. Each one of
these pointers shows where the key highlights are. First the land
component did continue to expand its territory throughout Iraq, and
that included a continued advance beyond An Nasiriyah, and also an
aviation attack against Republican Guard forces near Baghdad. And
during that attack there was an attack helicopter downed. All the
other helicopters involved in the mission did accomplish the mission
and returned safely to base. Land components also secured Basra
Airport, all of the Rumailah oil field, and an ammunition storage area
near An Najaf. The pointers show where those key activities are.

Okay, change to the next image, please.

This is a video that was filmed as we were doing mine/counter- mine
operations in the Khor Abdullah to try to open the way to Umm Qasr to
make it possible for humanitarian supplies and other needed things to
go in. This is a helicopter towing a mine sled. We do anticipate that
there may have been mines laid; no confirmation of that as we continue
to go. It's a very deliberate process. And the map shows where we've
achieved at this point in time.

Go ahead and bring the map up, please.

The area that should be involved is down to the south of Basrah at the
mouth of the Khor Abdullah. We've got the wrong image up here.

All right, bring up the next image, please.

One of the things we've done throughout -- I mentioned a few days ago
an important line for us is using information, and as much as possible
communicating with the Iraqi people and Iraqi military forces and
informing them with information that indeed will save their lives, and
has already on a number of occasions.

I want to show you a few of the leaflets that we've used and tell you
that at this point in time we've already released over 28 million
leaflets. And that accounts for roughly 5 million more than all of
which were dropped in Desert Storm.

Each one of them has a different theme. It's targeted to specific
areas, whether it is to a unit or to the population. In this
particular case, it's a warning to units that they should abandon
their equipment or the equipment would be destroyed. And we certainly
saw that in the first few days.

Next, please.

We also emphasized to them that their future is tied to their economy
and that they should not do things like dump oil with the anticipation
that some of the oil fields and also the oil terminals might have been
damaged. This we communicated to the Iraqi people, that they should
not squander their future by way of dumping oil into the waterways.

The next one, please.

Capitulation instructions and how to signal to us that they're ready
for us not not to attack and, as we arrive, to either surrender or
capitulate. This is a graphic image. It joined with radio broadcast
that gave very specific information on how to do that so we did not
have a problem. And that has not been a problem at this point.

Bring up the next image, please.

As you know, we conducted initial operations to secure the Rumaila oil
fields and the terminals that are inside of the North Arabian Gulf, as
well as the Al-Faw terminal. Those operations were successful, but
indeed there were some examples of the regime having set demolitions
on wellheads and blowing them.

Yesterday the assessment team that needs to go in and determine what
work needs to be done was able to enter into Iraq, do an assessment of
the oil field, and has already shut down a gas-oil separation plant.
And that turned one of the fires off by itself. So we're down at this
point to only seven fires out of an oil field that has 500 wellheads;
again, a very important story for the future of Iraq.

That's all we have to brief this evening, and I'll turn it back over
to General Franks. Sir.

GEN. FRANKS: I'll be pleased to take your questions. Please.

Q: Thank you, sir. George Stephanopoulos, ABC. (You were just talking
?), General Brooks, on the 28 million leaflets you dropped, and this
was an unprecedented psychological operations operation. Given all
that, why do you think there hasn't been more mass surrender? Can you
update us on the status of any negotiations? And do you think now that
some Iraqi commanders, who may have led you to believe they would
surrender, were engaged in psychological operations of their own?

GEN. FRANKS: I wouldn't speculate on the latter, George. I would say
that if you think about the content of that message, it talks about
how to surrender. And we've been delivering these leaflets over a
prolonged period of time.

And as I think we've said, perhaps from this podium before, a great
many people simply laid down their weapons and walked away from their
positions. And John Abizaid mentioned last night that rather than a
confined area like we saw in Kuwait, we have the broad stretch of Iraq
before us, and so units which chose to abandon their equipment and so
forth and walk away simply have done so.

A great many, because of confusion or being undecided, have not done
that. I think our enemy prisoner-of-war count today is in the vicinity
of 3,000. And so we'll continue to find and take prisoners as we move
through this.

And I'm sorry. Your second question was?

Q: Just on the commanders themselves, why do you think -- (inaudible)
-- motivation.

GEN. FRANKS: Sure.

Q: But have you seen any --

GEN. FRANKS: Oh, of course --

Q: -- (inaudible) -- commanders --

GEN. FRANKS: -- of course. As a matter of fact, we are in contact with
a number of Iraqi unit leaders as we speak.

Please.

Q: General Franks, Tom Mintier, CNN. I'm sure you have seen the
pictures of the attack helicopter down south of Baghdad on Iraqi
television.

GEN. FRANKS: Right.

Q: What can you tell us about the fate of the crew? Were they picked
up by another helicopter? Are they missing? What happened in that
incident?

GEN. FRANKS: The fate of the crew is uncertain right now. We
characterize that crew of two men as missing in action. We're not
sure. We know that this particular helicopter was one of between 30
and 40 attack helicopters that we moved into this particular target
set. We know that they were very effective in their mission. And we
know that as, I think, one of the networks has been showing, that the
attack helicopter didn't get back. And so we have a two-man crew
missing right now.

Q: General, two nights ago, you talked about fighting this war on your
own terms.

GEN. FRANKS: Right.

Q: Well, isn't the Iraqi opposition, the stubbornness and persistence
of it, forcing you in places to fight on their terms, where you have
far less technological advantage? And might this make you have to pay
less regard to the risk of civilian casualties?

GEN. FRANKS: I think we're precisely where we were two nights ago when
I spoke with you. We'll fight this on our terms. And what I mean by
that is, in a great many places in Iraq, one will find these isolated
units and enclaves that I described. And we'll undertake -- it isn't
that we don't know where they are. And so we'll undertake the
sequencing and simultaneity of our operations on a time line that
makes sense to us.

I will tell you, in response to the other part of your question, that
any time you find -- well, I guess I'll say perhaps criminal behavior
of intentionally placing non-combatants in close proximity to military
equipment and to military formations and so forth, then you certainly
are abusing your people. And this regime has done that. And I think
it's been, as a matter of fact, reported by embedded reporters.

And so, in my view, this platform is not a platform for propaganda.
This is a platform for truth. And so what I'll do is I'll try to
provide you the best balance I can. And that's what I've asked that
our people here do. But to create problems, of course, because we're
going to do the best job we can to protect non- combatants in this. It
doesn't mean that we're going to be wholly and 100 percent successful.
You know we're not and I know we're not. But we're going to do our
best.

Sir.

Q: General, Tom Fenton, CBS News. What has been done to soften up the
Republican Guard units that we believe are around Baghdad? How hard
have they been hit? And what effect is this having?

GEN. FRANKS: They have been hit. They will continue to be hit, sort of
to go to the previous question, at points and places and times that
make sense to us, based on which of those units we intend to take
under fire at a particular point in time. The effect has been very
positive for us, sir.

Yes, sir?

Q: Craig Gordon from Newsday. I know we're in a very early stage of
this, but I guess the question is beginning to be asked if the
commanders have somewhat underestimated the tenacity of some of these
irregular units -- the Fedayeen and the Special Republican Guard --
and how much what we're seeing with some of these rear-guard actions
is essentially a preview of that the road to Baghdad is going to look
like.

GEN. FRANKS: Can't predict what the preview will look like, but I
guess I would say that I actually have seen no surprise here, and I
think that our people on the ground have not seen a surprise.

There are people in the Iraqi army, whether Special Republican Guard
or Fedayeen, who have a lot of allegiance to this regime. And so one
can expect -- I'll use the term that my boss, Don Rumsfeld, used a
while back when he said, you know, you're going to come across
dead-enders. And we have come across dead-enders, and we've have some
terrific firefights with some of these -- not unexpected. I think our
people are prepared to fight this war. And as you correctly said,
we're five days into this.

STAFF: General?

GEN. FRANKS: Ma'am? Please.

Q: Thank you, sir. Martha (Brown ?) from Newsweek. Is there any update
you can give us about the POWs from the maintenance division?

GEN. FRANKS: Right. There actually isn't. I think what we know -- I'm
sure that the Red Cross will be in there with them and reporting very
soon. I know that were these prisoners of war we held, then the Red
Cross would certainly be in there, in order to provide fact and
provide accountability and to ensure that they're well cared for. But
actually I can't provide an update. We have seen on television what
you have seen, and that is the reporting we have.

Sir? Please.

Q: My name's Niebao (sp). I'm from the Xinhua News Agency of China.
From the reports of CNN, BBC, people know the Iraqi people are more
united than before. For example, the farmers shot down two
helicopters. Meanwhile, the Iraqi forces are more strong than
expected, because the number of casualties of British and American
troops is on rise. Do you think the days ahead will be more tough or
more -- mean more casualties for America and Britain?

GEN. FRANKS: Okay. Thank you.

I think that anyone in my profession involved in a warfight will
expect that we will see casualties in a war. And so, yes, I expect we
will see casualties in the days ahead.

I actually won't confirm the first part of your statement before you
asked the question. I know with some precision how many helicopters
have been shot down, and I can assure you they weren't by -- that
those events did not occur as a result of farmers??, as you described.
And so we have every expectation to continue to place the most
sophisticated troops and equipment in the world in the face of this
dying regime, and we'll undergo some casualties while we do it.

Sir? Please.

Q: (Name off-mike) -- Abu Dhabi Television. In the beginning of the
war, so-called coalition forces claimed taking full control of Umm
Qasr, then Nasiriyah, and yesterday Basra; and apparently, it seems
now, it's not correct. Are you practicing a strategy of lies and
deception, or you just have been trapped by Iraqi army? Where is the
truth about the situation in southern Iraq? Please give us some
information --

GEN. FRANKS: Sure.

Q: -- static information about your location --

GEN. FRANKS: Sure.

Q: -- areas under your control.

GEN. FRANKS: Right. Actually, there are a great many areas under
coalition control. I mentioned in my beginning comments that we have
every expectation that some of the paramilitary and the Fedayeen will
fight. And I said it again just a minute ago. I think what you'll find
is that the people of Basra will, in the days ahead, be able to have
more access to food and more access to water than they have had in
decades. I believe within a few days -- I believe within a very few
days you'll see that occur in Umm Qusr. I believe that you'll continue
to see large numbers of coalition forces move in and around these
villages and towns that you mentioned. And so, that's the very best I
can give you. I think there's nothing at all unexpected about what
we've seen up to this point.

Sir, please?

Q: Yeah -- (name inaudible) -- BBC World Service. You spoke the other
day about a mosaic; we're looking at a very small part of Iraq,
essentially focusing on southern Iraq. Could you please tell us a
little bit more about coalition operations in the west and in the
north of the country?

GEN. FRANKS: Sure. Without talking about whether these operations,
sir, are in the west or are in the north -- (laughter) -- I will tell
you that in fact, United Kingdom and Australian and American Special
Operations Forces are about their business from left to right and top
to bottom, in the west and also in the north. And they have
accomplished some wonderful things out there. They're operating in
small teams, they're very, very mobile and they're doing for us just
exactly what we want to have them do.

Ma'am?

Q: Hello, again, General. Kelly O'Donnell from NBC. On the subject of
weapons of mass destruction, from this podium we've been told that
there has been information from detained Iraqis over the last several
days. Now that time has passed, can you give us any indication of the
quality of that information?

And secondly, there are reports that the chemical plant contained no
chemicals at Al-Najaf. Can you update us?

GEN. FRANKS: Right. I think the -- I'll do my best. I think that we
probably have received, oh, several handfuls of bits of information
over the last three or four days about potential WMD locations. Some
of them -- some of those locations are in areas where we have control,
some we have not yet gone into. I think Secretary Rumsfeld gave the
right appreciation yesterday when he said -- you know, we were then
four days, we're now five days into this. And we're concerned about
taking down this regime and about getting our hands on all these
weapons of mass destruction and these technologies. And it's a bit
early for us to have an expectation of having found them. And so, this
is work we call SSE, sensitive site exploitation. And we will do some
sensitive site exploitation as we go along and we'll do other
sensitive site exploitation a bit later in the campaign. Best I can
do.

Q: May I follow up just on the chemical plant, sir?

GEN. FRANKS: Sure.

Q: Can you confirm that there were no chemicals found at that plant?

GEN. FRANKS: Actually, I can't confirm. I will say that it would -- it
would not surprise me if there were chemicals in the plant, and it
would not surprise me there weren't. And the reason I say that is
because I have access to something that -- of course, that none of you
do, and that is all of these bits of information that come in. And
more times than not, they'll be based on speculation rather than based
on first-hand knowledge. I think it was -- someone mentioned in the
past two or three days, when you get very close to WMD is when you're
able to discuss with the people who have actually been involved in the
WMD program. And so we'll just -- we'll wait for the days head.

Sir, please.

Q: Jim Wilson (sp), Popular Mechanics Magazine. Have we come away from
the aviation operation this morning with the impression that the
regime command and control network is more resilient and more robust
than we had believed when we went in?

GEN. FRANKS: The regime command and control network. Actually, I
wouldn't put a percentage on it. I will say that command and control
within the country is much less robust than it was five days ago. That
does not mean that we don't have an expectation that for the
foreseeable future that we will find means to communicate, sometimes
by radio, sometimes by wire, sometimes by courier. And so no, there
actually isn't anything unexpected about it. But that's where we are
right now; they still do have a means, a somewhat limited means, of
communication.

Sir, please? Here.

Q: Audie Robal (sp), ABC News. Sir, there haven't been that many
popular uprisings against Saddam Hussein's regime with respect to the
Iraqi people. Why do you think that is? Does that show the power and
effectiveness of Saddam Hussein in terms of interspersing his more
elite troops amongst the civilian population --

GEN. FRANKS: Sure it does.

Q: -- to keep them at bay?

GEN. FRANKS: Sure. Sure it does. Fear. It's fear -- the practice of
this regime over a long period of time. It has to do with fear. I
mentioned paramilitaries and the Saddam Fedayeen in some of these
towns. I answered a question a minute ago about, so how can it be that
things are not all calm in Basra and Qasr, al-Nasiriyah, and so forth.
It has to do with the fact that fear tactics are still being applied
in many of these locations. And that will change over time.

Back here, please.

Q: Patrick Malcolm (sp), Radio Television Hong Kong. What is your
reaction to Saddam Hussein's TV public address? Do you think that it
will, say, rise any resistance force from the Iraqi people? Thank you.

GEN. FRANKS: I don't know. I actually didn't see it. Several people
talked to me about it, and it was very interesting. It -- no, I won't
give an analogy. I started to give a joke analogy, and I don't think I
will. Let me say it this way. There are a lot of opinions about that.
And so what will be the reaction to that? I think people will believe
what they want to believe. And I believe that some people within the
country of Iraq and some outside the country will believe that the
tape was real, and I believe there will be others who will want to
believe that the tape was not real. And so I think that in terms of
our ongoing military operations, it doesn't make any difference.

You remember the point we've made several times: this is not about one
man; this is about an oppressive regime. So that's my view.

Sir, please?

Q: Thank you. David Muir (ph) with WCTV out of Boston. Can you talk a
little bit about the prisoners of war, the American troops, perhaps
some of the training they've received to deal with these types of
situations, what they can say, and how they're trained to deal with
this mentally?

GEN. FRANKS: Right. I think none of us in this room could conceivably
put ourselves in a circumstance where we're under the stress and
strain that one sees when a prisoner of war. The expectation is that
our military members will comport themselves in accordance with their
beliefs as people of our country. And I guess I would just say that I
have every -- I have every confidence they will do that. Our people
are well-trained. They're also highly motivated. And I think that's
really important, the "highly motivated" part.

What I am interested in seeing from time to time or in having some of
my staff or subordinate commanders talk to me about is the embedded
reporters and what they're seeing and what they're experiencing as
they're with our young people on this battlefield. And I think all of
us in this room would have to -- would have to agree that the levels
of motivation, training, capability, proficiency as demonstrated by
those just like you seem to be very, very high. And so that's kind of
my take on it. Motivation, training, stamina. Tough kids.

Sir?

Q: Michael Wolff, New York Magazine. Speaking of the embedded
reporters, what do you think has been accomplished message-wise from
the embedded program?

GEN. FRANKS: Well, I think that's a great question. I really don't
know what's been accomplished. I think that the decision to permit the
embedding and in fact facilitate the embedding of reporters -- of a
great many nations, by the way, Western press, Asian press, press from
-- Arab press, from right here -- I think what it permits is it
permits the viewership and the listenership and the readership of the
various countries on this planet to be able to get a sense, to be able
to get a take of what's going on on this battlefield. I'm a fan of it.
I think it was a very good thing to do. And we'll see how it plays
out.

Sir? Please.

Q: Paul Robertson of the Daily Mirror. Can you tell us anything about
the British soldiers which are missing today? Are they now prisoners?
And if not, what are you doing to try to help find them?

GEN. FRANKS: Actually, I won't talk about the Brit potential missing
troops any more than I would talk about the specifics of our
helicopter pilots or of the youngsters in this maintenance company.

I will say -- and I've seen speculation in a number of places -- that
a coalition like this would take action, where action is appropriate,
to secure the release of people who are taken prisoners. I think you
can go back a long, long time in the history of warfare, and you'll
find that to be the case. And so we'll just have to wait and see what
the days ahead look like.

Sir? Please.

Q: Yes -- (name and affiliation off mike) -- News. The sirens have
being going off in Kuwait all day. So after the pounding the Iraqi
army has gotten, the guys you've been talking about, the several -- do
we understand that the Iraqi army the ability to launch counterattacks
-- missile counterattacks on its neighbors?

GEN. FRANKS: No, I mentioned the other night from the -- from this
podium that we have assessed for a while the possibility that this
regime has ground-to-ground, surface-to-surface missiles. They
certainly have not all been destroyed yet.

But I can tell you this. The ones that have been shot into neighboring
countries, to include two more within the last 24 hours, have been
destroyed by Patriot. And so we like the technology, we like the
configuration, and we're going to continue the destruction of these
systems as we're able to find them.

Q: (Name and affiliation off mike.) There are several friendly fires
-- friendly fire occur recently. Do you have any idea -- try to reduce
the cases? And there are several journalism reported dying on the
battlefield.

GEN. FRANKS: Right.

Q: Do you have any advices for the people still working there? Thank
you.

GEN. FRANKS: Right. Thank you.

Friendly fire incidents -- I'm aware of several, and I guess I would
have to tell you, once again, that is not beyond my expectation. That
doesn't mean that in command of an organization like this we like it.
What it means is that we understand in the nature of war that we're
going to find ourselves in circumstances where, because of a tactic or
a technique or perhaps a weapon system, maybe because someone's tired
-- not sure -- but we will have these blue on blue, or friendly fire
incidents. We've seen them. And our subordinate commanders work very
hard to avoid that. But I suspect in the days ahead that we'll
probably see more.

And I'm sorry, your second -- the second part of your question was?

Q: A lot of journalists have reported --

GEN. FRANKS: Oh, yeah, the journalists. Right. I'm not -- and I may be
in error, but I'm not aware of a single embedded journalist who has
been harmed on this battlefield. I'm not aware of one. I think that --
well, were it possible to keep journalists absolutely safe, I think
all of us, you and I, would do that. But the fact is that there are
people who will go in harm's way to report the news and I think,
unfortunately, when that happens, in some occasions they will find
themselves either in a cross fire, they will find themselves in a
position where they're attacked by the enemy, as I believe was the
case with a suicide bomber up in northern Iraq here a day or two ago.
And so it's not a good thing. But once again, it does not surprise me.

Please, sir. Back in the back, please.

Q: (Name inaudible) -- for the Voice of America. General Franks, the
Red Cross in Geneva says it still hasn't received a response from
either the coalition or Iraq to its request to interview prisoners of
war and get information on them. Are you preparing such a response?

GEN. FRANKS: To tell you the truth, I did not know that a response had
not been given -- didn't know where we were in the administrative
chain on that. But I do feel very strongly -- very firmly that in
accordance with the Geneva/Hague and that, that we need to move
forward as quickly as we can in order to get the Red Cross involved in
these situations. I'll assure you this. We'll do our part and we'll
take care of the prisoners we hold.

Let me go back over here. Sir, please?

Q: Matt Harer (ph) from the -- (affiliation inaudible). Tell us what's
going on in Nasiriyah tonight.

GEN. FRANKS: Sure. Nasiriyah is in fact a crossroads community, and if
you look at a map of Iraq, you'll understand what I mean by that. In
fact, we have been conducting operations in and around Nasiriyah for
-- gosh -- a couple of days now. Our forces are in there now and
they're going to remain in there. That's the best I can tell you about
Nasiriyah.

Last question, please. Let's go back here. Sir, you in the blue shirt.
Thank you.

Q: What have you deduced from -- it's Paul Hunter from CBC Television
Canada. What have you deduced from the fact that Saddam has still not
used chemical weapons against coalition troops? And do you think the
greatest risk would be when they converge closer to Baghdad?

GEN. FRANKS: I think -- I actually think we don't know. There is a
school of thought that says as the compression becomes tighter and
tighter and tighter, the pressure will be greater and greater to use
these weapons. So we don't know. We don't know whether the regime will
use these weapons. My encouragement is not to the regime highest
leadership, rather, my encouragement is to the people who will have
their fingers on the trigger to use such weapons; we have very
carefully said don't do it. And that's the best I can tell you. We
don't know if he will, we don't know when he will. We fully understand
that he has the ability to instruct, to demand of his subordinates the
use of these weapons. But it would not surprise you that at this
point, even five days into this operation, many orders which have been
given by this regime have not been obeyed by a great many of the
subordinates in his armed forces.

Let me -- let me just sum up by saying well, our forces are continuing
to move, they're moving in ways and to places that we believe are just
exactly right, in accordance with a plan that is flexible, designed to
be flexible. We know for a fact that the forces on this battlefield
are the most capable, certainly the most capable I've ever seen,
whether it's by way of technology or training or motivation. Our
resolve is great. The morale is good. And as I think we always say,
there is no doubt about the outcome.

Thank you very much.

Q: Thank you, General.

(end transcript)

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