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29 March 2003

Central Command Briefing Transcript

(Iraq/military operations; Special operations forces/activities; Air
operations/control of airfields/attacks on Iraqi forces, political
assets; Oil assets/refinery captured/ well fires extinguished;
Iraqis/reprisals against own citizens; Irregular Iraqi forces/ supply
line attacks diminishing; Ba'ath Party/attacks on facilities,
personnel; Iraqi car bomb/U.S. soldiers killed; Cruise missiles/some
malfunctions over Saudi Arabia; Kuwait/Chinese-origin missile attack;
Syrian shipments/warning; International Committee of Red
Cross/prisoner visits) (8560)


The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) held an operational briefing on
March 29 from its headquarters outside Doha, Qatar. Briefers were
Major General Victor Renuart, director of CENTCOM operations, and
Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, deputy director of CENTCOM
operations. The briefing transcript follows:


(begin transcript)

CENTCOM Operation Iraqi Freedom Briefing

29 March 2003

Presenter: MAJOR GENERAL VICTOR RENUART, U.S. CENTCOM;
BRIGADIER GENERAL VINCENT BROOKS, CENTCOM DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF
OPERATIONS

MARCH 29, 2003


MAJ. GENERAL GENE RENUART: (In progress) -- that were not here when I
was on last time, I'm Major General Gene Renuart, and I'm the director
of operations here at Central Command. And Operation Iraqi Freedom
continues. We continue to make good progress in accordance with our
plan. We continue to believe it's a well-orchestrated plan, it's
flexible, and it's producing the daily successes that we need on the
battlefield.

We continue to apply good pressure across a broad area of lines of
operations. This allows us to put pressure on the regime. It allows us
to communicate with the Iraqi civilian leaders in the various
communities and to take that information and then target some of these
terror cells that are holding hostage many of these cities of Southern
Iraq. It also allows us to work in the west and in the north with a
number of tribal leaders to continue to expand influence of free
Iraqis throughout those parts of the country.

It's -- it's important, as you look at the results that we see on the
battlefield and the results that maybe are briefed to you here, that
while there's a great deal of information that is passed through the
media from the battlefield, and from what we try to pass here, there's
a great deal of information that's just not covered out there, and
those kinds of things are also producing great pressure on the
battlefield. So, it's important to understand that we try to pass on
as much information that we can that you can see. There are many
things that we just can't pass to you because we don't visibility in
terms of visuals with some of those key elements out on the
battlefield. And, of course, as we continue to put pressure on some of
these terror-like cells throughout the country, we certainly don't
want to put any of our people at risk.

We continue to integrate a really superb coalition force. That comes
at the lowest level all the way up to the highest levels. And I would
tell you that -- I'll mention a couple of anecdotes in a minute that
can show you how important it is to be able take capabilities of each
nation, integrate it into a fighting force, and then get great results
in a very timely fashion.

As I said, we're moving very successfully along our objectives, but
that comes -- does not come without a cost, and certainly we mourn the
loss of those men and women who deployed here, committed to the
important aspects of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and we share the concern
of the families of those missing in this tough time.

But as I said, we continue. We continue to isolate the regime, its
forces on the field, its command and control networks. We continue to
take strides with humanitarian aid. We mentioned yesterday the port of
Umm Qasr opening. Twelve distribution points opened up on the -- in
the area today, and food being delivered to Iraqi people in the Umm
Qasr, Al Zubair, and to some to degree as we're able to get it to some
of the Basra population.

We continue to take control of airfield. We're operating from some
airfields in southern Iraq, with combat search and rescue, close air
support, and obviously logistic support to our forces in the field.

We continue to expand the influence in our air operations and have
virtual freedom of movement around the country. We've taken advantage
of very rapid censor-to-shooter links in order to re-target our airmen
as they move around the country to respond to situations on the
battlefield that the commanders feel are critical to them. It's a
great story of a combined nature. These are Australian, U.K. and U.S.
airmen responding through pretty rotten weather over the few days
prior, to the last couple of days where we've had much more of a
capability to engage the ground -- the fielded ground targets, and I
think we're seeing success, as we expected to.

I say it was -- it's an integrated operation, and I'll give you a
couple of anecdotes. We had a U.S. fighter aircraft out on a mission a
day or two ago, caught in bad weather, fought his way through
thunderstorms. And after having a few harrowing moments in his
airplane, found himself recovering, heading back out to a tanker. And
after what I would have called a mission where I would have been ready
to come home, he took on gas and went back and flew four more hours
striking targets in southern Iraq. So, it's that kind of heroism that
is occurring out there every day, and I can't show you that. I can't
-- there's not a good way, other than for me to communicate that to
you here, that kind of courage and heroism that occurs.

We've had Australian and U.K. fighters working through very difficult
conditions in the southern portion of Iraq to strike targets in the
midst of thunderstorms, Australian fighters who have swung from doing
defensive counter-air into strike missions. And so across the board we
have seen great flexibility.

One further little note, that we had a circumstance a couple of days
ago where a long-range patrol element was out isolated in a bit of a
-- in a bit of a bind, and we used an Air Force combat rescue unit to
go pick them up and bring them out. Certainly not traditional missions
for each one of those, but adapting to the battlefield has been one of
our successes.

As we've mentioned, we continue to secure the oil industry resources
in the southern part of the country. We have begun to complete --
well, we've progressed nicely in the -- in the emergency or explosive
ordinance disposal operations in the southern oil fields. We have the
Basra refinery now secured, and we continue our commitment to keep the
economic assets safe for the people of Iraq in the future.

I mentioned our ability to destroy Iraqi command and control, but
we've also been able to target some of those key elements of Ba'ath
Party and some of these terrorist cell organizations. Later, General
Brooks will show you some imagery of a strike that went particularly
well. I'd like to focus a minute on the integrated effort that it
takes to make that work, taking advantage of an ability to use small
special operating teams to get close to targets that we can identify,
that a location is of interest to us. We can find that these terror
leaders are in fact having a meeting, and then call in very precise
strikes to destroy that, and I'm pleased to say the result of that, we
believe, were about 200 leaders of these -- of these irregular squads,
and key leaders we believe were destroyed last night.

Each time we make one of these attacks, we continue to degrade the
regime, we continue to degrade their capability. And in a very
systematic approach, we are moving nicely down the road.

Our plan remains unchanged. We continue to focus on movement of
logistic support up to our units. We've had, as you may have seen from
some of the imbedded reporters, consistent movement of long lines of
supplies up to the forces. That's going fairly well -- not without
some engagements by some of these Iraqi irregular forces, but there is
good force protection there with armed helicopters, with armored
patrols, and we feel that line of communication is moving along quite
nicely.

We continue to see these small units operating in the south, although
we're seeing them get smaller and smaller, reducing in the area of As
Samawa, An Nasiriyah and in Basra we're having positive effects, but
we still see that terror behavior. A couple of days ago -- actually, a
day ago, we had a report of an Iraqi woman waving a white flag to get
out of an area that was hazardous. Our troops allowed her to continue.
They continued on a patrol. Came back some time later in the morning
and found her hanged at the light post on a street corner. So, that
kind of terror continues. And we should not forget that that's the
approach of this regime. That's not the approach of this coalition.

Iraqi terror organizations continue to force young men to come out of
the towns and fight, and we have anecdotal evidence of young men
fighting in some of these small cities that clearly are not there
because they want. They're probably being forced to fight because they
fear for their families as opposed to being loyal to the regime, and
their prowess on the battlefield in some cases leads us to that
conclusion.

So, in conclusion, I guess I'd say that we continue to work on plan.
We continue to see the results that we would like to see on the
battlefield. There is I think good progress being made with the land
forces, conducting long-range patrols, artillery attacks to interdict
a number of enemy lines of communication as well. So, we're having our
effect on a much broader scale than these small attacks that are
getting some publicity are having on our forces.

With that, I'll turn it over to Brigadier General Brooks for a few
comments and video.

BRIGADIER GENERAL VINCENT BROOKS: Well, good afternoon again, ladies
and gentleman.

Our direct attacks -- I'll just begin with directly and go straight
into our daily discussion -- our attacks against the regime, its
structures and its units continued in the last 24 hours, and that
includes attacks against nine different Ba'ath Party headquarters
locations. And here are some examples of recent attacks.

The first one is the one that General Renuart told you about a bit
earlier. It's an attack against a Ba'ath Party assembly, northeast of
Basra, yesterday evening. It had about 200 members of the Ba'ath Party
in attendance.

(PAUSE FOR VIDEO.)

The next video is of an anti-aircraft artillery system in western
Iraq, and it also was struck yesterday.

(PAUSE FOR VIDEO.)

What I'd like to show you next is a before and after image set that
shows the regime-controlled television studio and broadcast facility.
This, like other facilities, was used as part of the command and
control network. There were three key facilities that were targeted
within it. The post-strike image shows the intended damage at the
three arrows. I particularly highlight the top most arrow, which shows
a building that was caved in. Different effects for each weapon system
delivered in that complex. And by comparison, the split.

Our targeting process remains deliberate, it remains sophisticated,
and it remains precise. The risk to civilians increases, however, as
the regime moves weapons into residential areas. What I'll show you
next is a video that provides just one example.

What you see is a set of buildings. These are buildings in a
residential area. It's just south of a major highway. Now, there's a
mobile rocket launcher that's beside the building in the shadows. We
tried to attack it earlier and did not have success in the preceding
attacks. It moved into the shadows of this housing area, and it was
eventually fleshed out and destroyed again. This is a zoom-in view.
You can see it much more closely.

(PAUSE FOR VIDEO.)

This is taken by an observation platform and not by a strike system,
so you will not see the attack in this case.

Our coalition special operations forces achieved good success in their
actions throughout Iraq in the last 24 hours, and I'll highlight four
particular events.

Now, the first two are very effective close-air support missions that
happened against enemy compounds in As Samawa and al-Rupa (sp), and
those are both indicated on this map.

Our special operations forces interdicted several movements in the
west, including a group of 30 men dressed in civilian clothes carrying
mortars, Iraqi military uniforms, petroleum bombs, and cash.

And the last example is a coalition raid by Army Rangers last night
against an Iraqi commando headquarters. And this headquarters
controlled most of the commando operations in the western desert. And
we will show you a video from that operation.

Now, this begins in the daylight as they began to move out, where it
transitioned into darkness. This is through night-vision sights.
(Sounds of gunfire on video.)

The raid was successful and resulted in the capture of over 50 enemy
personnel, weapons, a large cache of ammunition, gas masks, and
radios. Now, that was of course done at night. You saw it through a
night vision device that was with the combat camera crew with the
rangers. Otherwise, it was completely blacked out. You would not have
been able to see that with the naked eye.

Our operational maneuver continued. Our land component conducted an
attack helicopter raid yesterday evening against elements of the
Republican Guard Medina Division north of Karbala. The attack had some
effect and reduced the strength of the Medina Division. All aircraft
returned safely.

An additional operation by U.K. forces north and west of Basra
positioned the coalition to be able to successfully interdict the
northern approaches to the city, and the land component continues its
efforts to destroy any forces that would threaten its supply lines.

The maritime component, having successfully cleared the Khor Abdullah,
as you saw yesterday, continued its support of coalition operations
with operational fires, strike aircraft, and missile attacks.

As an information update, at this point, we have dropped over 32
million leaflets and are continuing to do so on a daily basis. We have
also added an additional airborne broadcasting system to the coverage
area.

And finally, our efforts to preserve the resources of Iraq's future --
the oil well repair activities are ongoing. Fire fighting continued
yesterday. There are still three wells that are burning in the
southern oil fields, and we are confident that that will be reduced
here within the next few days.

I'm also pleased to report, as General Renuart mentioned, that the
Basra oil refinery, one of three in the country, is now secured by the
coalition. And we will enter that facility -- it appears to have been
shut down -- and get it started again as soon as possible.

Yesterday did indeed mark an important milestone for the humanitarian
action part of this campaign. The arrival of the Sir Galahad
positioned much-needed supplies into Iraq, and distribution began
first in the Umm Qasr area, and will be carried to other areas as the
security condition permits.

A short video of some of the coverage of the unloading yesterday.
There was a lot of media there, which is great because it's an
important story. This is just some of the work that we saw. These are
all water boxes, water containers. Water is one of the most important
resources we are finding the Iraqi people need at this point, and work
on the water line from Kuwait into southern Iraq continues. That will
considerably increase the amount of clean water available to the
people of the southern region.

And, finally, our civil affairs teams, coupled with teams of free
Iraqi forces, as I showed you a few days ago, continue their great
work in the trail of the land combat operations. These next two images
show that they are indeed well received.

Sir?

GEN. RENUART: Okay, thanks, Vince. Let me just make one point before
questions. We mentioned in a couple cases Kuwaiti support for oil
field repairs and humanitarian assistance. We are extremely grateful
to Kuwait and many of the other Gulf nations who have contributed to
this humanitarian aid and seem committed to expand that as move to the
future.

Okay, let me start with questions. Yes, sir.

Q: Some embeds with U.S. Marines have said that they are no longer
able to use Thoria (ph) phones. Could you tell us why this is, when
they'll be able to starting using this again? And doesn't this amount
to censorship?

GEN. RENUART: Well, let me get to the last question first. On the
battlefield operational security is critical to the successful
accomplishment of every military operation. And there are times and
places on the battlefield when you need to ensure that no
communications go out in order to shield your movements and your
intent. So I really don't see -- look at this as in any way
restricting the ability of the media to cover an event. But I really
see this more as the requirement for the operational commander to
ensure that his movements are appropriately secured until such time as
he has completed or begun that operation.

I think in some cases we have asked reporters to not use those. Those
have happened in a number of places on the battlefield. I had a
comment yesterday that it's maybe in one place but not in the other --
Why is it unfair for me and not for them? I think the important thing
is -- (as we ?) move around the battlefield that it will be critical
to the security of our forces out there that we make sure that nothing
gets out that may tip the hand of the Iraqis, because some of those
communications can be monitored somewhat easily. So I think that's
really the better way to describe what has occurred.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: I'm Nicole Enfield (ph) from the Associated Press. First I'd like,
if you could, a few more details on the Republican Guard engagement,
the Medina Division.

And the second question. The captain of the cruiser Cape St. George
has been quoted as saying that Saudi has closed the airspace for some
Tomahawk missiles because they have not landed at their designated
targets. I'd like you to -- if you could speak about -- if that is
indeed the case, confirm that, and are you -- are Tomahawks no longer
being fired from the ships in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean? And
if you could also speak to the issue of --

GEN. RENUART: You're going to overload me, aren't you? (Laughter.)

Q: Sorry. I'll leave it at that.

GEN. RENUART: Let me -- (laughter) -- so you got so far into the
second one, I've lost the first one. I'll come back to the first one
in a second. With reference to the Tomahawks in the west, actually
through Saudi Arabia, we have had, as is not uncommon with a Tomahawk
missile that there is a transition period from launch to flight, and
then beginning of its guiding process, where there are some steps that
have to occur. If one of those fails, then it's likely that missile
will not continue on its flight. That is something that the Navy has
been working on quite a bit.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, we did have a number of TLAM missiles
that were reported down in their territory, and basically we have a
situation where the Saudis have said, Can you see if you can figure
out what has caused this? -- and we do not want to in any way hazard
the people of Saudi Arabia or any of the other countries where these
may transit. And so we have agreed with them to conduct a review of
those launch procedures and make sure that we don't have a systems
problem that we might not have been aware of. And then once that's
completed we'll go back with the Saudis and work to resume those when
it's appropriate.

We are continued to use Tomahawk cruise missiles around the theater.
We have actually coordinated with the Saudis to hold on a couple of
routes that might put them in a position where they could be close to
any civilian population.

And back to your first question?

Q: The Republican Guard  -- 

GEN. RENUART: Yes  -- 

Q: -- Medina Division.

GEN. RENUART: As General Brooks mentioned, we conducted a helicopter
deep attack mission last night with a number of our Apache helicopters
into an element of the Medina Division. We believe it was a very
successful attack. A number of tanks, armored personnel carriers,
artillery pieces, multi-purpose vehicles and some surface-to-air
missile -- mobile surface-to-air missile radars were destroyed in that
attack. And the aircraft returned successfully. We did have two
airplanes that had maintenance problems, mechanical problems, and I
think those were reported in the press. But none were due to enemy
fire.

Yes, sir, right here.

Q: (Off mike) -- Television. Some sources told us that a few days ago
some Israeli military expert joined the Central Command headquarters
here in Sayliyah. Can you confirm that? And is the coalition receiving
any kind of military technology and information even logistic support
from Israel in this war?

GEN. RENUART: I can confirm that we do not have an Israeli
representative here at Central Command. As you know, Israel is a close
ally of the United States, and their traditional relationship is with
your European Command, and that relationship continues.

As to use of equipment, I am not aware of any specific Israeli
equipment that we are using anywhere in the theater to the best of my
knowledge right now. But I can't confirm anything more than that.

Tom?

Q: This morning apparently there was a different type of attack
involving the 3rd Infantry Division, where a vehicle pulled up and
apparently was loaded with explosives at a military checkpoint, and
caused casualties when it was detonated. This appears to be the first
time that this type of strike against coalition forces has been used.
Is this something that you train for, plan for, worry about?

GEN. RENUART: Well, I -- first I guess I'd make a point that I'd ask
where have we seen those kinds of events occurring before? And I think
we'd all agree that all of them are associated with terrorist events.
This -- that kind of an activity I think is something that's a symbol
of an organization that's beginning to get a little bit desperate.
Having said that, our troops do in fact train to those kinds of
events. I don't know the circumstances revolving around this
particular one, because as you mentioned it's been relatively recently
-- it occurred just recently, and we are still reviewing that,
determining exactly what that particular small element of U.S. forces
did at the scene. But I think -- I can tell you what we have seen
across the battlefield is a movement of civilians to try to get away
from some of these repressive cells that are in some of the cities.
And so there is a fair amount of civilian traffic that we just have to
be very cautious with, and obviously in this case these forces took
advantage of a situation, and caused some --

Q: But are you concerned about this type of strike against your
positions?

GEN. RENUART: Well, we are concerned about any kind of an
unconventional attack on our forces, and each one of those is reviewed
to ensure that any other means that might be considered at checkpoints
or in our force protection measures are taken into consideration. But
I think in this case it will not have any operational effect -- it's
certainly a tragedy for those families -- but no operational effect on
the battlefield.

Yes, sir.

Q: General, Jeff Meade (ph) from Sky News. I wonder if could talk a
little bit to this pause in the advance which there's been a lot of
speculation about this morning, and also whether as an airman you
might also consider now advisable a pause in air operations to avoid
more civilian bloodshed, which hands to your adversary -- I know you
will challenge the responsibility -- but hands to your adversary the
moral high ground which you claim.

GEN. RENUART: I wouldn't assign moral high ground to an body that
sheds or that allows the kind of terror to occur in some of these
towns that we have seen. I think with respect to a pause, I -- we are
-- there is no pause on the battlefield. Because you see a particular
formation not moving on a day, does not mean there is a pause on the
battlefield. At the same time that we are conducting our air
operations throughout the battlefield, we conduct artillery raids, we
conduct deep attacks like we did last night, we conduct long-range
patrols in order to fix and identify where enemy formations may be.
All of those things are part of the battlefield commander's tools, and
so it would be unfair to characterize the fact that you don't see
tanks rolling on every single day as any pause in the operation.
Certainly we had a pause with some bad weather, and it has -- we have
had a couple of good days now to go back and reevaluate where we see
the enemy during that period of time, and continue to work on plan.

Let me come -- yes, sir, right here with the glasses and the vest.

Q: (Off mike) -- Weekly Press. Is it true that you are going to take
for up to six days of rest in the offensive? And, secondly, do you
feel under pressure of us, of international media, and push to hurry
up with the offensive?

GEN. RENUART: I've asked General Franks if I could take four to six
days off, and he has allowed that I should continue working. And I
think everybody on the battlefield continues to do that. As I
mentioned just a minute ago, I don't believe there is any intent to
pause on the battlefield. We will continue to focus our operations.
Sometimes they will be focused in the west, sometimes in the north,
sometimes in the south, sometimes altogether. And so you have to be
careful to characterize movement on any part of the battlefield as a
pause or an acceleration for that matter.

As to having all the international media here, I enjoy having you
here. I think it's a good experience, and hopefully I'll survive it.

Yes, sir, back in the back with the -- yes, sir, with the glasses.

Q: (Off mike) -- Phoenix Television. Over 50 people were reportedly
killed in Baghdad yesterday. What is the coalition response?

GEN. RENUART: Well, we're -- I think the response of anyone is it's a
tragedy when innocent civilians are killed. We took note of that
event. We are looking at targets that may have caused something like
that. But it's
-- I really can't give you any more detail that would either clarify
or clear that particular issue.

Let me go back over to the side. Yes, sir, back here.

Q: (Off mike) -- from Defense News. Sir, are you worried that you are
being dragged into a war of attrition by the so-called irregulars? And
also, are you a bit concerned about the effect on the morale of the
Iraqis by seeing the 90 percent of the media in the Arab world print
and television -- not just al Jazeera -- just all TV stations
referring to operations as an invasion and occupation, and describing
the Iraq resistance as a legitimate resistance?

GEN. RENUART: Yeah. First, I think it's important to put this
operation in context. You'll recall on September 11th two years ago we
began an operation, or planning for an operation, and then October 9th
began in operation in Afghanistan against a very different foe than we
had here and that we have here, and it was a period of about 60 or 70
days before we installed President Karzai as the new leader in
Afghanistan.

I would go back to Desert Storm to tell you the time that it took to
accomplish the operations in Kuwait. So we are 10 days or so into the
campaign. I would not allow anybody to view those 10 days as too long,
as us moving too slowly. I will go back to what General Franks and
Secretary Rumsfeld and the president have all said, is that we are
continuing exactly on the plan that we would like, and I think the
morale of our troops is exquisite and not in any way harmed by the
time that we are taking to conduct operations.

And as to what the international press prints, we believe they can
print whatever they desire, and we think that we will continue on our
plan just as exactly as we began.

Q: Thank you, sir. Neil Cohen (ph) from ABC News. You have been
showing us a lot of pictures of tanks and weapons storage facilities
being hit by precision weapons pretty much every day here. Yet in
other conflicts -- in fact, here in Iraq in '91, it turned out many of
these were empty buildings or in fact decoys. And so I am wondering to
what extent you know the targets are hitting a real and meaningful
after the fact, what assessments do you have, are there any
percentages you can give us?

GEN. RENUART: That's a good question. The -- our intent in many of
these command and control facilities is not necessarily to kill
people. It's to take away the capability that that facility allows.
And while a facility may be unoccupied by a person, it may be the
house for key switching systems for communications, fiber optic
networks, coax-cable repeaters. And so there is very significant
military value in each of those targets -- command and control nodes
that allow the Iraqis to communicate with their units. So each of
those targets are looked at and vetted for their military
significance, not necessarily for a determination if they are
necessarily occupied.

Now, many of the other buildings, we believe, or many other
facilities, operational command posts, corps headquarters, those
things we believe in fact do have occupants.

Q: But for instance the tanks, missile storage shelters, that sort of
thing. After the fact, to what degree do you know they were real at
the time you hit them?

GEN. RENUART: Well, we have -- there is a group of intelligence
analysts spanning the world that look at those things and determine,
A, they were valid; and, B, it was a good strike -- before we strike
those in many ways. The targets are picked as they are vetted by the
intelligence community, and we are confident in their ability to give
us good information.

Yes, sir, right back here.

Q: (Inaudible) -- international. Having said that there's no intent to
pause a ground operation, can you confirm that there is a shortage of
supply and there's regular attack from the Iraqi side on your supply
line? Thank you.

GEN. RENUART: Well, let me -- second question first, and then I'll go
to the first one. I like going backwards. The attacks on the Iraqi --
or on our supply lines, we need to be careful that they're not
overplayed. Certainly there is -- there have been some harassing
attacks on our supply lies, and they continue. But they have not
stopped the movement of our logistics support forward to each of our
fielded forces. We continue to provide self-protection to those. What
we note is, those attacks have become fewer with fewer forces, and
they have all been defeated with relatively minimal cost to our
forces.

Now, back to the first question.

Q: Are there shortages of supplies, logistic support?

GEN. RENUART: Ah! No. We have -- we have adequate amounts of support.
We continue to build those over time. As you can imagine, when a
mechanized or an armor unit pushes forward rapidly in the field, the
units with ammunition, et cetera, have to follow along behind. And
there is a period of time that it takes to keep the supply train
moving and make it robust. So we're more than comfortable with that
rate.

Yes, sir.

Q: Adi Reval (ph), ABC News. Approximately 72 hours ago, we had the
explosion at the market in Baghdad. Two days ago, 48 hours ago,
CENTCOM said that it was possible that the Iraqis caused that
explosion. Where do you stand now on that? And the second question is,
regarding the Iraqi missile the exploded near Kuwait City last night,
media reports indicate that it possibly may have come from the Al-Faw
peninsula. I was under the impression that that area was pretty much
secure. Does this foretell or does this show that possibly the Iraqis
have a lot more launchers in that region, and that is a primary
concern of yours?

Thank you, sir.

GEN. RENUART: Let me first talk to the market event. There is -- with
every one of these circumstances, we ask the component who is in --
who may have had forces involved, whether it's land, sea or air, to do
an investigation, and that takes a number of days to do that. The air
component in this case is completing his review. We think that will be
complete within the next day or so. And as soon as those -- the review
is completed, we'll make that available.

As to what do we determine to be the cause, I think certainly there
are a number of possibilities. We want to make sure that if in fact
there was an error on our part, that we found that out and made the
available. And if there was -- if it was caused by an Iraqi system,
that we also find that out as best we are able, or at least be able to
determine that it was not one of our systems.

With respect to the attack into Kuwait, we have a number of forces on
the Al-Faw peninsula. I couldn't tell you that they've been into every
single farmhouse that there may be out there, and so it's certainly
possible that someone could have hidden equipment that we may not have
been available -- or we may not have been aware of, but I do know that
the land component commander is investigating areas where this may
have come from and has put forces back into some of these areas in
order to determine what may have been the cause.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: Dinelle -- (inaudible) -- Canadian Television. One of the embedded
journalists with U.S. Marines near Baghdad is saying that their
rations are down to one meal a day. Is that not an indication that
there are problems with supplies and logistics?

GEN. RENUART: I'm going to ask you to go back a second. I wandered
off. But you said that an Iraqi unit --

Q: No, no, no. And embedded correspondent with U.S. Marines near
Baghdad has reported that their rations are down to one meal a day.
Isn't that an indication that there are problems with supply lines and
logistics?

GEN. RENUART: Well, I had not had that report. And I checked with our
logistics folks this morning to verify that we are moving supplies up
into all of those units and been -- it's been confirmed to me that in
fact we are. So I can't tell you that someone is only getting one meal
a day, and so I have no way to verify that for you.

Yes, sir, with the white tablet. Yes, sir.

Q: (Inaudible.) I'm just wondering, as every day passes, the
situation, particularly humanitarian crisis in Basra, is getting
worse. And obviously it's getting worse at the hands of the regime.
I'm just wondering how long do you wait before you go into Basra and
liberate the people? These people have limited food and very limited
water.

GEN. RENUART: Well, you know, Basra has been on of the cities that has
been most oppressed by the Iraqi regime for many years. There will be
no solution that happens overnight, even if we controlled the entire
city and it was secure. We are poising our humanitarian assistance. We
have improved the water supply into the city already. Up to about 60
percent of the people now have water flowing into the city. So we're
making progress there.

In terms of the military, we are taking, I think, prudent steps to
target the key elements of command and control of the forces to
intercede where we are able. Example: We had an incident just in the
last 24 hours where up to 1,000 or so Basra residents were trying to
flee. They were taken under fire by these irregular forces, and UK
forces placed themselves between the Iraqi forces and these civilians
to allow them to break free and took these Iraqi forces under fire and
destroyed them.

Those kinds of operations will continue to expand. And we'll continue
to very methodically root out the causes.

Yes, ma'am. Right here.

Q: Are there any indications or intelligence reports actually to
indicate that al Qaeda elements are fighting side by side with
irregular forces in Iraq?

GEN. RENUART: Well, a few days ago, General Franks mentioned what he
describes as the nexus of terror, when you take a regime who would
support terrorism and mix it with the fanatics of organizations like
al Qaeda. We have conducted some operations in the north that are --
that have been targeted at elements that we believe are aligned with
al Qaeda. We have not
-- I have not seen any firm indications that those forces are in the
south fighting. My sense is it's certainly not beyond the realm of
possibility. Okay?

Yes, sir.

Q: Yes, Paul Hunter (ph) from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Just
back to the terminology, this notion of terrorist organizations we've
been talking about and terror tactics, and yesterday, it was terrorist
death squads. Does that -- how does that effect how people who are
captured from these groups will be treated? Do they lose there Geneva
Convention POW rights?

GEN. RENUART: It's a good question. I'm not sure that I'm capable of
giving you a technical, legal answer. We have the authority to engage
as military targets both military and paramilitary organizations, and
we continue to treat all of these as hostile forces.

Q: So how do you decide who's who, I guess?

GEN. RENUART: Once they are captured, they will -- interrogation will
determine what their appropriate status would be, and they'll be
treated appropriately. I'm really not able to give you a more
technical, legal answer.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: Yeah, hi. Sally Balmer (ph) from Time Magazine. First a comment.
You said you had lots of great stories to tell, but you didn't have
the images to go with them. As a print reporter, I don't --

GEN. RENUART: (Laughs.) (Inaudible.)

Q: -- I don't care about images. I'll hear a great story any time.

But a serious question. There's be reports that there have been found
on the battlefield remains of what appear to be U.S. soldiers, and
perhaps these are some of the POWs from the 507th. Can you tell us if
that was the case?

GEN. RENUART: That report actually was in print today. I can tell you
that we do have that situation developing now up in the vicinity of An
Nasiriyah. I can't tell you whether they were the former POWs or POWs.
I can't tell you whether they were soldiers who were in that
engagement and were killed in the engagement and subsequently buried.
I can't tell you for sure that they're 507th soldiers. We have a
mortuary affairs team that is on its way to the site, may be there
already, and it will conduct the normal, appropriate levels of
investigation.

We will also approach it from a -- from the aspect to ensure that
there were no war crimes committed in their death, that may have
caused their death. So we'll have a full forensic evaluation as well.

Yes, sir.

Q: General, Pete Smallis (ph) from Knight-Ridder. Two questions, if
you don't mind. You mentioned before that some Saudi routes for
Tomahawk missiles were on hold now, and I was wondering, without
getting into specifics about future operations, how that affects
things generically?

GEN. RENUART: Doesn't affect our plan, without getting into specifics.

Q: How is that? Not using the same -- the route that you planned to
use, that doesn't affect the plan?

GEN. RENUART: We use other routes. Or we use other systems. We have a
great deal of flexibility on the battlefield, and that -- it's not an
operational impact to us. Okay?

Yes, sir. On the end here.

Q: Sir, good afternoon. Peter Lloyd (ph) from Australian Television,
ABC. As an airman, I wonder if you could give us some perspective
about the air force, its capacity to realistically get up -- this is
the Iraq air force
-- get up in the air and deliver WMD? And the daily question: Any WMD
found yet? (Laughter.)

GEN. RENUART: Wait, this lady back here normally answers that -- asks
that question. (Laughter.)

With respect to Iraqi air force, they've not flown an airplane.
They've not had the capability to fly an airplane. They've not shown
any inclination to fly an airplane. And I can tell you, as an airman,
that I am absolutely 100 percent comfortable that the air component
commander has a number of airmen up there who would be ecstatic if one
of the Iraqis tried to fly.

Now, I'll also tell you that we have -- we keep a very close eye on
the Iraqi airfields. We've kept them closed. We continue to -- we
intend to continue to keep them closed. We're concerned about any
possible use of an airplane to conduct terror of military operations,
and we watch that very, very carefully.

And your other question was, where the WMD?

Q: (Off mike.)

GEN. RENUART: We continue analyze a number of sites throughout the
country. We have a number of pieces of both information and raw data
that we've received from individuals that we're refining, but I can't
really give you any more information that that right now.

Yes, ma'am. Way in the back.

Q: (Inaudible) -- from Fuji TV, Japan. I have two questions. One
regarding the 82nd Airborne Division --

GEN. RENUART: Yes.

Q: -- and the 173 Airborne Division. First, about the 82nd. How much
is it involved in the operations in the west and the north of Iraq?
And second, about the 173 or the remaining part of it, what are the
operations other than the insertion of the Harir (ph) airfield?

GEN. RENUART: I'm going to disappoint you, because I'm really not
going to tell you how we're using any of the units on the battlefield.
I will just tell you that both the 82nd Airborne and the 173rd are
active, on the battlefield, and they will be integrated into the land
component's plans at the appropriate point on the battlefield. And
that's really as much as I can give you.

Sir, with the pad over here.

Q: Robert Hodian (ph) with Army Times.

GEN. RENUART: Did you say Army Times?

Q: Army Times.

GEN. RENUART: Okay.

Q: Back to the Thoria (ph) phones for a second, Thoria (ph) was
singled out as the one provider that there's concern about because it
broadcasts latitude and longitude locations. Is that true? And second,
if that is the concern, what does it say, after eight or nine days of
bombing Iraqi communications nodes and command-and-control centers
that you're worried they still have the real-time capability of
recognizing from rather sophisticated analysis where a unit is and
taking action based on that information?

GEN. RENUART: Thank you for your question, but I'm really not going to
talk about what we can or cannot get out of any phone system.

And the specific issue of what we were concerned about in terms of
operational security is now appropriate for this --

Q: It's widely known that the phone broadcasts its GPS location.
Everybody knows that --

GEN. RENUART: Then you have answered your own question.

Q: The question is: What does it say about the capability of the
Iraqis to be able to continue to analyze that information after you
have spent nine days attacking its communications centers?

GEN. RENUART: Well, I didn't say that the Iraqis have any capability
to use it for location.

Q: Then why cut off just the Thoria (ph) phone and not the other
satellite phones?

GEN. RENUART: Operation security is a broad area that we continue to
monitor, and we will take the actions that we need against any
particular system.

Sir with the vest back here. You first, then you, then I have this
lady over here who I promised -- I forgot, sorry. Go ahead.

Q: William Heinzer (ph) Swiss Television. Did the Red Cross already
visit prisoners? And do you know that if you make interrogation with
prisoners it's not allowed?

GEN. RENUART: It  -- 

Q: It's not allowed to interrogate prisoners.

GEN. RENUART: Ah, I understand, I understand  -- 

Q: To ask questions to prisoners -- allowed just to tell their name,
and that's all.

GEN. RENUART: Absolutely. And we will try to validate whatever
information that they provide us against intelligence information that
we have. Have the Red Cross visited the prisoners? I can't confirm
they have gone back to visit. I know they have visited the location
that is under construction. We're -- those prisoners are in many
places on the battlefield. They will be brought back to the central
location, and I am sure they will be made available as soon as that
occurs. I can't tell you if that has occurred yet.

Q: (Off mike)?

GEN. RENUART: I don't know the exact number, but we are well above
three and a half thousand, I really don't know the specifics beyond
that.

Sir in the back.

Q: From Toronto, Asian Weekly. Did you find any activities of Iraqi
navy? Because this morning they may have launched an anti-ship against
Iraq -- against Kuwait. Thanks.

GEN. RENUART: We've not seen any activities of the Iraqi navy per se.
But as you may be aware, those missiles could be put on other types of
vehicles, and so we continue to be mindful of small dhows that might
be out or tugboats, or any kind of vessel that might have a capability
to launch those. And our naval component is actively monitoring
anybody that might have that kind of --

Q: (Off mike) -- launched? What type of a missile?

GEN. RENUART: I think the reports show that we are seeing on the media
today say that it was a Chinese-made missile -- and I won't go beyond
that.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: Kathy Shin (ph) from Phoenix Satellite TV in Hong Kong. General,
you mentioned many, many times in today's briefings there's no pause
in the operation. However, yesterday Lieutenant (General) Wallace told
the Washington Post that overextended supply lines, combined with
unconventional Iraqi tactics make a longer war look likely. And the
other day President Bush just said that there is no time table for
this war. My question is: Would you be surprised if this war turned
into -- the duration of this war turned into another Vietnam War?

GEN. RENUART: I really don't think there is any parallel between this
operation and Vietnam. So that's as far as I am willing to comment on
this one.

This side is getting tired over here. Yes, sir, in the blue shirt.

Q: (Off mike) -- Network. My question is the Chinese missile that was
thrown into Kuwait wasn't detected by radars. My question is: Any kind
of bombs, all bombs, wouldn't be detected by the new technology?

GEN. RENUART: I don't think any technology is perfect. I don't know
the specifics of what may or may not have been seen on our radars. We
are working with the air defense units to determine what exactly they
did or didn't see, and we'll know more after we have taken a look.
Sir?

Q: John Jammas (ph) from (Reuters ?). Given the warning that we heard
from the defense secretary yesterday to Syria, what efforts are you
making to prevent any weapons from coming into Iraq?

GEN. RENUART: Well, I think Secretary Rumsfeld was pretty clear in his
comments. We have had indications on a couple of instances where
either people or some equipment may have been coming across from Syria
into Iraq. We will take action to not allow any kind of reinforcement
or equipment to come from really any outside country to the
battlefield.

Yes, sir?

Q: Greg Gordon (ph) from Newsday. You said in your opening statement
that we have been in contact with some tribal leaders, I believe, in
an effort to
-- I am not sure what the effort is. Can you talk -- elaborate on that
a little bit -- what kind of contact that is and what's the nature of
it? And can you also give us a little sense of I think there's a
little bit of a feeling that we have not begun to win the war for the
hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. How much of that is the fact
that we don't -- the faces that are telling them they're liberators
are American faces, British faces, and not Iraqis. There seem to be no
Iraqis sort of putting that message out, at least none that we can
see.

GEN. RENUART: Well, I think, again, as I mentioned, there's been
30-plus years of repression in Iraq, and that has an effect on
generations of people. So there will certainly be very conservative
response to anyone in a uniform.

Our goal is to convince with our actions. And it is humane treatment,
it's medical care, it's food, it's water, it's treating people -- the
people of Iraq as honorable human beings and not as an oppressed race
as Saddam has treated the Shiia.

Last question. Yes, ma'am?

Q: (Off mike) -- reports that Iraqi dissidents are talking about camps
that are being sponsored to teach the kinds of practices that may have
been seen with the attacks we have had this morning that killed a
number of soldiers. Do you have any specifics that those camps exist?
And have any been targeted yet?

GEN. RENUART: I don't have any confirmation that those camps exist. As
we have talked about a number of terror-like activities, those tactics
have been used by other terrorist organizations, and so it would not
surprise me that that is being used here. But I have no information to
tell me that there are camps somewhere or that someone specifically is
being trained in them.

(end transcript)

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