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04 April 2003

Central Command Briefing Transcript

(Military update on Iraq operations) (9280)

Army Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, CENTCOM deputy director of
operations, briefed the media April 4 at CENTCOM's headquarters at
Camp As Sayliyah near Doha, Qatar.

Following is the transcript of the briefing:

(begin transcript)

TIME: 7:05 A.M. EST 

BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. 

Fifteen days since the coalition's entry into Iraq, our coalition
forces have preserved key resources for the future of Iraq, have
provided water, food and medical support to liberated areas of Iraq,
and have removed the influence of the regime throughout most of Iraq.

We remain on our plan and we recognize that the achievements to date
have come with a cost in lives. We continue to remember those who have
sacrificed all in doing their duty, and we remember their families.

The coalition operations over the last 24 hours remain focused and
effective. The coalition attacked regime command and control targets,
surface-to-surface missiles, air defenses, and any identified military

I have two products to show you from a recent precision attack against
regime targets. This image is a regime command and control facility in
the vicinity of Tikrit. The target was struck on the 2nd of April. And
I'll show you on the -- this image here, you can see there's only a
minor amount of damage that's apparent. The part of the structure that
was being attacked is actually under the ground. So, let's go back to
the split now. Again, it's this one. And post-strike, here. Some of
our weaponeering decisions will let us penetrate through concrete and
cause a detonation beneath them. There are many of these facilities
that are actually underground.

The second image is a command and control facility in Baghdad. And
this target was struck on the 1st of April. The post-strike, please.
And the split.

Our coalition special operations forces in northern Iraq continued
concentrated air attacks against regime military forces in northern
Iraq. They're maintaining effective control of roads leading into or
out of Iraq, and roads between Baghdad and Tikrit. Special operations
forces in key locations throughout the country are positioned to
locate regime facilities or strategic systems, and to direct precision
fires to destroy them.

This next video shows a special operations air asset engaging regime
command and control facilities in western Iraq. This is a military
complex for command and control. A series of buildings were engaged in
this case from an aerial platform.

The integration of operational fires by air assets, sea-based
precision guided munitions, and land-based long range fires, in
conjunction with a forceful land attack is proving to be devastating
to Iraqi military forces. That integration is a key component of
General Franks' plan. It's working, and we remain on plan to
accomplish our objectives.

The land component attacked further into the defenses of Baghdad,
seizing key objectives in the process. Concurrently, operations
continued to eliminate paramilitaries and regime elements remaining in
urban areas within the zone of attack.

In the South, U.K. forces continued to expand the area influenced by
the coalition. Their efforts to rid Basra of regime death squads are
effective and they're ongoing. Aggressive patrols beyond Basra
resulted in the seizure of a cache of 56 surface-to-surface
short-range ballistic missiles, and four missile launchers. And this
was in the vicinity of al-Zubair, just north of -- north and west of
Basra. While there may be more yet undiscovered, this particular
seizure was a significant removal of a threat to our forces in the
southern region.

Operations were conducted to ensure reply lines remain open,
especially in as-Samawa and an-Najaf. As coalition forces clear these
areas of regime presence, caches of weapons and ammunition are often
found in residential areas, as this next image shows. These weapons
and ammunition were found inside of an agricultural building in a
neighborhood of an-Najaf.

The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force continued its attack towards
Baghdad, destroying remnants of the Baghdad Republican Guard division
near al-Kut, and elements of the Al Nida Republican Guard division
between al-Kut and Baghdad. The attack continues.

Fifth Corps attacked Iraqi forces on the approach to Baghdad, and
seized several key intersections on the south side of the city. The
attack continued through the night, and by dawn this morning the
coalition had seized the international airport west of Baghdad,
formerly known as Saddam International Airport. The airport now has a
new name, Baghdad International Airport, and it is the gateway to the
future of Iraq.

We anticipate that in the coming days we will continue to see on the
ground the types of tactics that we've seen before, including the
hiding of combat equipment close to homes, the use of schools,
hospitals and mosques as military facilities, and even the use of
civilian assets or even civilians to hide their actions.

This short video shows an example of what I just described. In it
you'll see an ambulance near the town of al-Kut, after a firefight
that occurred. You can see personnel right here in this area being
extracted after a coalition attack. Let's go ahead and roll the tape.
And you can see the back of the ambulance is open. These are
paramilitaries. The destroyed vehicle there was a military truck that
had an anti-aircraft artillery system on its back, and you can see the
barrels of the anti-aircraft system right here. That had already been
destroyed by coalition forces, and the element you saw was trying to
extricate itself from the area.

Yesterday I told you that our maritime component discovered a small
boat beached along the Khor Abdullah. We've got an image of where that
is located it. It was on the north bank, and their work continues to
make sure the area is cleared. This find was done by our deployed
members of the U.S. Coast Guard that are part of the maritime force.

We have some images of what was recovered from that particular search.
Rocket propelled grenades in this particular image. Anti-tank guided
missiles systems. And the third image is the rubber assault boat
itself. As I mentioned, there were tunnels that were associated with
this set of seen caches that were found there, and these types of
things were found within the cache.

Our leaflet operations have now reached over 37 million leaflets
dropped, as we communicate our efforts to communicate directly with
the Iraqi population and with Iraqi military units.

Even as the coalition works to preserve Iraq's resources on behalf of
the Iraqi people, we continue to find evidence of the regime placing
these resources in danger.

The next image shows parts of an ancient citadel of Arapa (sp) in
modern day Kirkuk within northern Iraq. This site is an archaeological
remnant of the Assyrian Empire, and it is very important to the
Assyrian people of northern Iraq since the ancient city of Arapa (sp)
existed thousands of years ago. The regime has chosen in this case to
use the ancient wall of the city to protect military equipment, and
that's what you see where the arrows are located. This is the actual
remnant of the wall itself. There is an ancient tomb inside of it and
some more modern buildings that have been built on top.

Day by day, the coalition is facilitating the distribution of
humanitarian assistance and providing quality of life improvements for
the Iraqis. We've learned that the most important need in areas
liberated is water. I'd like to show you a video of some of the recent
efforts in water distribution.

In forward areas, water is provided by military water trailers, as you
see here, providing immediate needs of water to the population. Bulk
water, larger amounts of water move by water trucks from the southern
region. These trucks are filled at one of the 11 water points at the
end of the Kuwaiti water pipeline near Umm Qasr.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I'll take your questions. Yes. 

QUESTION: Thanks. Neal Karlinsky with ABC. We've heard a late report
coming in here about another checkpoint suicide attack near the
Hadithah Dam, a pregnant, possibly three coalition troops being killed
in that. Can you tell us about that? And also a late report before
coming in here of a suspicious site of thousands of boxes of white
powder, chemical warfare documents, and nerve agent antidotes found
south of Baghdad. And if you will, in answering that, an update
perhaps on yesterday's remark about suspicious -- or bottles with
suspicious markings being found? Thank you.

BRIG. GEN. BROOKS: Okay, Neal. The first part, we do have a report of
a car bomb explosion at a military checkpoint southeast of the
Hadithah Dam area. And we talked about the Hadithah Dam and its
importance yesterday. It's still early in the process for us to have a
very full story of exactly what happened at the site. Initial reports
do indicate that a vehicle approached the checkpoint. A woman who
appeared clearly to be pregnant exited the vehicle, screaming for
assistance, in some degree of distress. As coalition forces began to
approach, she and the vehicle were detonated. So, she was killed by
the explosion from the vehicle. We do have some combat losses as a
result of this, and we'll provide more information as time goes on.

The report of the powder and boxes we've just recently heard about,
and we just don't have any details that are factually based to provide
to you at this point in time. Certainly it's an item of interest, and
we'll get more information and report that as it goes.

What we discovered in the west near Mudaysis, where a special
operations raid was ongoing, was a building that we think now was
probably an NBC training school. These bottles were samples -- I think
we have an image of that. Can we bring up the bottles? These were
there -- this what we saw. One of the had been marked "Tabin" (sp), a
chemical agent that was developed back in the '40s. Some of these were
taken away and testing is ongoing. But we think that there may have
been an explanation for this as an NBC training school, not an
operational facility. These sorts of things happen, we get
information, we proceed -- proceed to find more detailed information
about what it is that is in a particular location, and we make
conclusions beyond that. And that's how we see it at this point. We
don't have any further investigation we're going to do on that site.

Please, Tom. 

Q: Tom Mintier with CNN. There are reports out near the airport,
farther away from the city, that 2,500 members of the Republican Guard
laid their weapons down and surrendered. What can you tell us of the
status of the Republican Guard in and around Baghdad, and do you
expect more resistance in the city?

BRIG. GEN. BROOKS: We have been in contact with a number of Republican
Guard forces over the last several days, as you're all aware. Most of
the array was outside of Baghdad, and defenses that really prevented
access, easy access to Baghdad. We've attacked a number of those
divisions, particularly the Baghdad Division on the east near al-Kut,
the Medina Division near Karbala. We think there are mixtures, some
portions of the Nebuchadnezzar Division that had reinforced the Medina
Division, and today we believe we had contact with the Al Nida
Division between those two locations. There may be other elements of
Republican Guard forces command that have moved to reinforce or that
have become intermingled. At this point, it's very difficult to
separate one from another. We have had a tremendous effect on those
organizations that we have encountered in the process. We still
anticipate that special Republican Guard forces are operating from
within Baghdad or on the outskirts of Baghdad. Some of those we may
have encountered near the airport today with some very uncoordinated
small-unit attacks. I won't even call them counter-attacks. They
certainly came after we had possession of terrain, and they were
soundly defeated in each case. Not well integrated, not coordinated,
but nevertheless there is a presence of force that's out there still.

So, in answer to the question, will there be more fighting? Yes, there
will be more fighting. The fighting is not complete by any stretch of
the imagination. We remain cautiously optimistic. We have in fact
seized a very important piece of terrain that has importance not only
now but into the future of Iraq. But we don't have any doubts that
there will be more fighting ahead. The nature of that fighting, we'll
have to see how it unfolds. We're prepared to deal with a number of
contingencies, but we're not finished with this operation at this

Q: The surrenders? 

BRIG. GEN. BROOKS: The surrender number, I don't know. I've heard that
report, and we have not gotten any confirmation of 2,500 or any other
number like that surrendering. We have encountered forces that have
surrendered along the way. They're usually parts of units, not whole
units at this point.

But we believe that as the situation continues to unfold, that may
change. There may be larger sizes of units that we encounter,
particularly in other parts of the country where there hasn't been as
much combat, but we've had some attacks against those forces. And that
will remain to be seen. And if we have more confirmation, we'll
provide it to you.


Q: Jeff Reed (sp) from Sky News. One would expect a capital city's
airport, because of its psychological value, to be more fiercely
defended than apparently was the case. I wonder if you have any view
on that. Can you also tell us what options now it gives you,
possession of that airport, how you may exploit it? And thirdly, what
are the next installations that you have listed to rename?

GEN. BROOKS: We might rename this facility. We'll name it (right after

Q: (Inaudible.) 

GEN. BROOKS: The nature of what we're seeing in and around Baghdad
Airport is, first, there were some defensive forces there. We had
seen, over the last weeks, some reinforcement around it, positions
ringing it. And we've also seen air defenses located there.

We made efforts more than a week ago to ensure that that could not be
used for the takeoff of any regime leaders that might want to escape
the country, so we rendered the runway unusable for air operations.
You saw some images a few days ago against regime command-and-control
facilities that were associated with the area near the Baghdad airport
to the south. Those have been attacked and we believe effectively

And so the amount of force that we encountered there was not intense
in terms of the nature of the fighting. The actions of the force that
took that objective area were very effective on any forces that were
present. We think perhaps we may have gotten inside of the enemy's
decision-making cycle and arrived with a tempo that put us in place
before they could respond to the impending threat that now is a matter
of history, that now it's in our possession.

As to other facilities, I'm certainly not going to characterize what
comes next in this operation or where we would go next to direct our
energy. There are other facilities out there that are important. And
as it becomes appropriate for us to attack those, we will.


Q: (Off mike.) 

GEN. BROOKS: Let me go ahead and finish that. The airport gives us a
number of things. First, it prevents the departure of regime leaders
with it being in our possession. It is an airport. And so, in due
time, it would be something that could be used for air operations when
we decide to put it back into operation. And certainly that is
important, either for current military operations or for future
operations after conflict is complete.

Most importantly, we preserved it for the future of Iraq. And that's
the most significant aspect of what we'll get out of having that
terrain in our possession.


Q: Jonathan Marcus, BBC. One of the most interesting developments over
the past 24 hours has perhaps been a non-military one, your
interaction with this prominent Shiite cleric in Najaf. Is there
anything more you can tell us about your contacts with him and his
people? And how significant do you think his role might be in
spreading some sort of message to the Shiite population throughout

GEN. BROOKS: Well, Jonathan, I really don't have anything to add to
what we said yesterday. We certainly think that any religious leaders
that are coming out and making statements, or that would consider
doing so, do it with great courage. And they would have to speak for
themselves beyond here.

It's certainly advantageous when we have leaders that are interacting
with the coalition. A very good example occurred just yesterday in the
UK sector, where a religious leader is being provided loudspeakers to
do the call for prayer for the first time in 15 years in his area.

And so there are encounters that happen all over this area,
particularly in areas that have been liberated at this point. We
provide assistance. There's certainly a clear tolerance and no issues
in that regard. It's going very, very well.

Let me go on the left side. Sir. 

Q: (Inaudible) -- Irish Times. Just two points, General. At these
briefings you've gone to great lengths to outline the policy of
precision bombing and the lengths to which you go to avoid civilian
casualties. How does this tie in with the use of cluster munitions by
yourselves and, I believe, the British, which appear to be a rather
haphazard form of attack? We've heard of the color of these bomblets,
as they're called, being the same as the color of food packages.

And secondly, has the MOAB been used yet, the mother of all bombs? I
saw a report that it was, but can you comment on that? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: Well, I've emphasized repeatedly our approach to
targeting, particularly targeting against regime systems, targeting in
built-up areas, as a very precise, deliberate and unparalleled
process. We stand by that. We remain convinced that that's the right
way to do business, especially in this operation. And that continues.

There are a wide variety of munitions available to the coalition. We
use those based on tactical circumstances and also on the intended
effect at a given time. Cluster munitions are used to create
situational obstacles, as we describe them, and that is to create an
obstacle related to a tactical purpose. If we wanted to prevent the
movement of a Republican Guard force, for example, we might use that
munition or a munition like it to prevent their movement and to keep
them in place for further destruction.

The humanitarian daily rations have changed color. We learned some
lessons from Afghanistan, and the color of the package is different
now. Previously they were bright yellow. There still are some that are
out there in the possession of units that are trying to provide
humanitarian assistance as they make contact.

But the great majority of them in stockages that are being pushed
forward in bulk are a different color to account for that. So we're
sensitive to the concern about it, and we believe we're taking the
right approach to that potential issue and problem.

Third row, please. 

Q: (Off mike.) 

GEN. BROOKS: I won't characterize all weapons that have been used at
this point in time in the coalition.

Q: (Inaudible) -- BBC. General, could I ask you, have you been
impressed with the way the British have handled the situation in
Basra? And can you envisage that when you get to the gates of Baghdad
that your forces will employ a similar tactic?

GEN. BROOKS: We remain very proud of the coalition that we have here.
There are still 49 countries, some of whom are providing military
capability, like the UK forces clearly are. They've been highly
effective in their operations. We remain very proud to be partners in
this coalition with UK forces.

There's expertise in every organization that comes into the coalition,
and all of that gets blended in such a way that we can learn from one
another on a continuous basis, not just from this operation but from
our experiences leading into this operation.

We've certainly seen great effectiveness from the approach that's been
taken in and around Basra, and those approaches are being similarly
applied in other areas, like As Samawa, An Najaf, Nasiriyah, in the
present time.

So I think we're doing the right thing in that regard, and I think we
are learning from ourselves within the coalition, all of our coalition
partners. And frankly, our units are learning organizations. Just as
you see tactics change on the battlefield by the enemy, we learn from
those tactics and we make adjustments to the way we engage in our own
tactics, decisions we make on the ground, what assets we use, other
things like that.

So I think, yes, we are learning already from our British
counterparts. We continue to learn from them. They learn from us. And
it just improves the strength and quality of the coalition on a daily

Q: (Off mike.) 

GEN. BROOKS: Baghdad will be approached like many of our other
objective areas. We'll be deliberate in our approach. We'll be
thoughtful in how we address our operations inside of that area, both
with regard to the protection of the force and the accomplishment of
the mission.

Yes, sir. Please. 

Q: (Inaudible.) British press quoted sources here -- (inaudible) --
that the power station in Baghdad was hit deliberately to pave the way
for deployment of Special Forces into the city. What's your comment?

GEN. BROOKS: We saw that the power went off in Baghdad last night. We
didn't do it. It's as simple as that.

Next question? Yes, ma'am. 

Q: (Inaudible) -- Associated Press. You mentioned that special
Republican Guards may have been engaged at the airport. I think you
also said that there were some engagements with -- you were
eliminating paramilitaries in the zone of attack.

Does that mean that you have gotten to the point of the inner ring of
Saddam's forces closest to Baghdad, the most loyal of his forces? And,
if so, the fact that you were able to get that far and didn't meet
serious resistance, what does that tell you about what he has closest
to him? And do you need to control the capital itself, secure it,
control it, in order to bring down the regime, the stated goal of this

GEN. BROOKS: First, we are clear that we have penetrated the defensive
ring that was set by the Republican Guard forces. That came by way of
the destruction of divisions of Republican Guard forces along that

We think we may have encountered some special Republican Guard. We
can't be certain about that at this point. And it did come with a
fight. Let me be very clear about that. The actions that I described,
the integrated actions, from air attacks, precision-guided munitions,
surface-to-surface missile attacks, land combat action, integrated
together, destroyed a number of units of the Republican Guard.

That was the fight. It should occur in that way. We don't ever seek a
fight on fair terms where it's an even exchange. We always seek to
fight with an advantage.

Now, as it relates to the future of what will happen in Baghdad and
our work there, it's too early to speculate on exactly how that will
unfold, what we'll do, or how we'll approach our work inside of
Baghdad. We certainly anticipate that there are forces that are inside
of Baghdad that will seek to fight us at the time we choose to enter

We'll develop intelligence. We'll develop our target set. And we'll be
very, very deliberate about the work that we do. There will be
absolutely no randomness associated with the way we make our approach
-- deliberate work and carefully done.

Q: (Off mike.) 

GEN. BROOKS: It's hard to say what will cause the regime to completely
be gone. And so we'll do our work throughout the entire country of
Iraq, bringing pressure to bear against any regime remnants that are
in outside areas, like regime death squads, Ba'ath Party headquarters
that are out there, and against targets that we identify inside of
Baghdad in the capital. How we get that done will be seen as time
unfolds in the future for us.

Yes, sir. Let me go to the end. 

Q: (Inaudible) -- Georgian Broadcasting Company -- (inaudible). How
far have the coalition forces -- (inaudible) -- control of Baghdad?
And do you think that you will find WMD in the capital? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: We still have work to do with regard to Baghdad. It's a
large city. It's well-developed. We know that there are forces that
are inside that have intent to fight within the city. So, again, we'll
be very deliberate about how we do our work regarding Baghdad.

It will take time to gain a degree of control and security over top of
all of Baghdad. We know that. We can see that from some of the towns
we're already dealing with. And so I would not want to put any kind of
time limit at all on when that will occur, when it begins, and
certainly not when it would be complete.

Weapons of mass destruction -- we believe that this regime does
possess weapons of mass destruction. We remain convinced of that. We
know that some of those may have been pulled into the Baghdad area,
either delivery systems or potentially storage systems.

But let's remember that this regime has been involved in a campaign of
denial and deception for decades and has been very effective at it.
And so we don't expect that we're just going to walk up on any WMD.
We'll have to do things that give us control of areas that let us then
do deliberate work. Our first efforts are to destroy the regime and
cause its removal. Secondary efforts will be related to WMD.

Front row, please. 

Q: (Inaudible) -- Al Jazeera. General Myers has said that Syria is
still providing assistance to Iraq despite the U.S. warning. Do you
have any proof of that, such accusation, General?

GEN. BROOKS: Hassan, we do have reports that there is certainly an
interest in people from Syria contributing in a way that is not in the
interest of the coalition inside of Iraq. That's probably as far as we
need to take it from this command. There are some concerns that have
been expressed by our capitals, and I would leave any further comment
for our capitals to address from Washington.

Second row, please. 

Q: (Inaudible.) I'd like to take you back to the N-B-C training
facility, I think you described it as. Could you just elaborate a
little bit on that? You seem to draw a distinction between the
possibility that it was merely for training versus operational.

And can you elaborate at all on the notion that you found a bottle
that appeared to be labeled "Tabin" (ph)? Was it the only bottle you
found marked with something as a known nerve agent, or were there any
other indicators there that told you there could be other chemical
weapons or biological weapons there?

GEN. BROOKS: At that particular site, we believe that that was the
only sample. And it, in fact, was a sample. That's why we believe it
was a training site. We know that the Iraqis have conducted chemical
training. We've seen it in a number of places we've gone throughout
the country. You go in and you see charts on walls on how to take care
of yourself under chemical conditions, how to wear your mask, a number
of other things that indicate training.

We do have indications that they had a chemical training program in
place for the Iraqi forces throughout the country. And so our
conclusion at this point is that was not a WMD site per se. In this
case, it proves to be something far less than that. It doesn't mean
they're not out there.

As we gain additional pieces of information from captured leaders,
from sites that we gain control over, from searches that are done that
lead to other things, we'll continue to pursue it. But as I mentioned
earlier, that's really a secondary effort that will come after we have
further control and the regime is out of the way.

And, frankly, as the regime is gone, just as we've seen with
humanitarian things, there's greater cooperation by the population.
And we suspect that the population may have some information. So as
time goes on, we'll find more information that will lead us, we
believe, to where the weapons of mass destruction are located.

In the second row, please. 

Q: (Inaudible.) General, can you tell us, do you plan to use Umm Qasr
for military logistics? And second question about the cautious
optimism in the takeover of the airport. How do you translate these
things in the mood of the -- (inaudible) -- and the people you work
with on-site, on the military base?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, Umm Qasr is a very important port, we know. That's
why we tried to gain control of it and secure it as quickly as we
could and why we've committed so much effort to transitioning it to
the humanitarian role that is already beginning to play in a very
important and significant way for Iraq. That's really what the focus
will be.

Now, military logistics can be brought in -- in a number of ways, and
we would look everywhere we need to, to try to get that in. We haven't
had a need, thus far, to use Umm Qasr for military logistics, and
unless circumstances change, that will probably continue to be the

Having said that, military logistics to sustain the operation must
remain a priority for us while we're conducting combat operations, and
we'll make whatever adjustments we need to make that happen.

It's important, however, that we not put that port at risk. We believe
we have a good condition of stability that's already occurring in and
around Umm Qasr and the southern region. And that's important to us.
And so we would seek other alternatives before putting Umm Qasr at any
kind of military risk, as it goes right now.

Your second question, the mood in the JOC? Bunch of pros inside of
there. And my interactions with the professionals inside of the JOC --
some of you have met some of them before -- they're always focused on
the mission. They're always upbeat. They're positive about things. And
they also have a cautious optimism. Things are going well. We're
on-plan. We're accomplishing what we set out to do. There are many
achievements, and we're only two weeks into this operation. So that's
the source of our cautious optimism. But all military professionals
always keep that cautious piece in there as well, recognizing that
there's still work to be done. We never underestimate our enemy,
especially when there's capability that still exists. And that's what
the situation is there.

Let me go back here, sir. 

Q: (Inaudible.) What we have seen in Iraq is exactly what's going on
in Palestine by Israeli occupation. Are you considering the fact that
many Iraqis are now united against you to (dividing ?) their country,
and they see you as occupiers?

Thank you, sir. 

GEN. BROOKS: What you're seeing in this situation is only applicable
to this situation. What you're seeing is a coalition that has come
together to rid a nation of a regime that has oppressed it for
decades. What you're seeing is humanitarian assistance being delivered
from the first inception of combat operations as quickly as we could
possibly do that, because we recognize that the Iraqi people need
assistance, and they weren't getting it from their own leaders. What
you're seeing here is a coalition that's dedicated to, after removing
the regime, proceeding without any change to the territorial integrity
of Iraq, to set a condition that will make it possible for a future
Iraq that belongs to all the Iraqi people. That's what you see in this
case. It can't be compared to anything else. And really, that's all
there is to it at this point.

Yes, sir, in back. In the back, next row. 

Q: Thank you, General. 

GEN. BROOKS: And I'll come back to you -- your colleague next. 

Q: Dave Ross (ph) from KIRO (ph) in Seattle. May I ask you to address
a fundamental question? This is day 15. Can you say that Americans at
home are safer today than they were 15 days ago?

GEN. BROOKS: I think we can clearly say that we have uncovered the
realities of this regime -- that there are very close links with
terrorist organizations, and there are much closer links with
terrorist behaviors. It's been very clear to us for some time, since
before the start of combat operations that the worst thing that could
happen would be for this regime, in its approach to its own people and
its inimical interest to the United States, to join that with weapons
of mass destruction, to pass those to terrorists that might be used
against our nation or others. We clearly have had an impact on their
ability to do that. So yes, as this contributes to a global war on
terrorism, absolutely, we believe that we are safer as a result of
this action.

It still doesn't make us completely safe. There are still all kinds of
threats out there globally. Our efforts are focused on taking care of
the ones at hand in Iraq, and we're going to continue that effort
until we complete it.

Yes, ma'am. 

Q: (Off mike.) Can I go back to the attack at the checkpoint. There
are various things I was hoping you'd clear up. First of all, you've
talked about special forces doing interdiction on the roads. Was this
one of those sort of checkpoints? Were these special forces? If so,
can you tell us what nationality they were?

Second of all, is there any indication -- I mean, can we be sure that
this is a suicide attack, that, say, the woman wasn't coerced into
doing this? Have you had any evidence, say, from witnesses accounts
elsewhere of people being coerced into any kind of attacks?

GEN. BROOKS: They were coalition special operations forces -- and I
won't be more precise -- that are operating in that area. And it was
part of an interdiction effort, which continues. We have seen a number
of examples that provide us clear evidence that this regime will take
civilians, will take women, will take children and use them to lead an
attack. Whether this one was coerced or not, it's now impossible to
say. She clearly exited the vehicle in distress, and she clearly
showed signs of being pregnant. The circumstances surrounding that, we
have yet to completely discover, and some parts of it obviously never
will be discovered.

What we do know is, we're not surprised that the regime would do this.
Whether it was voluntary or not, these kind of behaviors have been
exhibited all over the battlefield. They're terroristic. That's the
only way to characterize them. These are not military actions. These
are terrorist actions.

Let me go to the second row, please. 

Q: (Inaudible) -- from the Daily Telegraph in London. Again, being a
bit cheeky and doing a two-parter. One is, do you think that Tikrit is
being prepared as some kind of final rid-out for members of the
regime? The other one is, we've heard very little about the future
military administration of post-war Iraq. Who's going to be running
this country, say, month one, month two, after the fall of the regime?

GEN. BROOKS: Tikrit is an area that's very important to the regime and
to certain regime leaders. We know that. We have interests regarding
the regime in Tikrit. That's why you saw some targets that have
addressed regime facilities in Tikrit. We certainly know that there is
a link between Baghdad and Tikrit. And we have taken actions to
influence that link in a variety of ways. And so I'll leave our
interest in Tikrit at about that point.

As to the future, and the administration aspects of this, that really
is a matter that ought to be better discussed in the Pentagon and also
in Washington to determine who's going to do what. We still have
combat action that we're involved in. That remains the focus of our
operations. And as we get closer to the conditions that you're
describing, we'll have more to say about it.

Up on the left, please. 

Q: Hi, General. Jeff Schaeffer (sp), Associated Press Television News.
I'd like to know if you have any details today of the investigation
into what brought down the Hornet and the Blackhawk? Hostile fire or
mechanical error or what could it be?

GEN. BROOKS: On the FA-18 Hornet, both of them, of course, are still
under investigation, but the FA-18 Hornet we're continuing to dig
deeper and find out what the causes were. We don't have any final
answers at this point. Would be premature to talk about that.
Similarly with the UH-60. Let me first say that we are comfortable in
that case that it was not hostile fire. We think there was a
mechanical problem. We haven't determined what the mechanical problem
was yet. There's still more work that needs to be done on both of
those cases. And as we have more to say, we'll pass that to you.

I missed someone over inside of here. Yes, sir. 

Q: (Inaudible) -- Broadcasting Company. As far as the roads from
Baghdad to the west and to the north are concerned, have you been able
to cut the road to Tikrit?

GEN. BROOKS: Without being too precise about our actions along the
road to Tikrit, we have the ability to influence movement on the road
to Tikrit. And I'd just like to leave it at that at this point since
we have current operations ongoing.

And let me go right here please. 

Q: Paul Hunter from Canadian Broadcasting. How much of each day for
troops closest to Baghdad is spent inside a chemical suit? And as the
days go on and temperatures get hotter, how much of a disadvantage is
that for coalition troops in that if Iraqi troops wouldn't have to be
in -- if they were to use chemical weapons, wouldn't have to
theoretically put their suits on until they were about to use them?

GEN. BROOKS: I can't characterize exactly how much of the day it is.
That varies unit by unit and commander by commander the chemical suit
is used as part of a protective posture. And commanders make a
determination on what kind of risk they're under. They can regulate
what's worn underneath of the chemical suit, whether it's overtop of
the desert camouflage uniforms or battle dress uniforms.

Commanders are the ones who regulate the condition of their unit at
any given time. If it's time to reduce the amount of activity, for
example, at certain times of the day when it's extremely hot, then
they'll make that adjustment. Then again, we're able to attack and
conduct operations throughout the day. So if they're involved in
contact, they'll continue.

This is something that's down at the tactical level, not at the
CENTCOM level, and so I don't really have much information about that.
The one thing I would tell you is, we train that way. And so there are
certain advantages that come to an organization that fights the way it
trains. That's how we do all of our work. Throughout the coalition you
see that. And so we don't have any concerns about our ability to
fight, even under a chemical environment after chemical weapons are
used. We can do that. We train to do that. The key part is how
commanders take care of their organizations. We're satisfied. We've
got great commanders out there that are doing the right thing. They've
shown their capability throughout the 15 days of combat operations.
They're pretty savvy young folks that make things happen the right
way, and we're very proud of them.

Let me go over in this area please. 

Q: (Inaudible) -- La Republicca newspaper, Italy. Two questions,
General, please. First of all, on the Hadithah dam. Could you tell us
where the forces who are securing the dam come from? They seem to be
far apart from other ground forces there. So are they a part of the
5th Corps or whatever?

Second question, concerning they incidents of the past few days
involving civilians, we heard from this commander a clear answer only
on the first one in Baghdad in one Baghdad market. Then the second
incident in Baghdad. Then Hillah a few days ago. And the last one, we
hear from the regime in Baghdad that there have been dozens of
civilian victims around the airport. Do we have any information on

Thank you. 

GEN. BROOKS: I mentioned yesterday, the -- actually the last two day,
the Hadithah dam has been seized by coalition special operations
forces. And so I'll leave it at that, and our special operations
forces are able to conduct operations throughout all of Iraq.

Civilian casualties are being reported on the battlefield through a
number of sources, and we know that in warfare, throughout history,
civilians do get injured, civilians are killed as a result of combat
action. The numbers that are out there and certainly the reports from
the regime we would put into great doubt. You've seen evidence of the
regime killing their own civilians. So there is certainty on the
regime's part that there are civilian deaths and what the cause would
be. Our approach has been very deliberate about minimizing the
potential effect on civilians and other structures that we don't
intend to cause any effect on. We've seen this demonstrated in a
number of places. We can take an example, the mosque in Najaf, how we
approach our work, on the ground or from the air. We take these things
into consideration.

I can't stand here and tell you that there have not been any civilian
casualties caused by coalition action. I suspect that there are. But I
can tell you with absolute certainty that we've done everything we
possibly could to prevent that and to drive it down to an absolute
minimum. And I'll stand on that.

Yes, ma'am, with the red shirt, please. 

Q: (Inaudible) -- from Independent Television in Finland. General, you
said you want to prevent the members of the regime to escape. Does it
mean your previous offer for President Saddam Hussein to go in exile
is not valid anymore?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, this command never made such an offer. We were
committed to action by our national leaders. We've got objectives that
are clearly laid out for us. The offers that you described are matters
for capitals to deal with, not for this command. We remain focused on
our objectives, and that includes removing this regime. We cannot
allow an escape to occur at this point. If we're ordered otherwise,
then we'll do things otherwise. But at the current time, we want to
prevent departure from Iraq until we have completed our operations.
And there will be a time of accounting. We've said that before. And
it's important that we complete our work before we make any more
pronouncements in that regard.

Yes, sir, in the back. 

Q: I wonder if you could talk a little bit about, short of a
surrender, what kind of things are you looking for when you will know
you have control over the country militarily at least?

GEN. BROOKS: I think some of the things we're already seeing
throughout much of the country tell us that we have established an
environment of security where life can begin to proceed into the
future. Control is probably not a very good word, and so that's not
something that I would use to characterize it. Rather, it's a matter
of establishing conditions that life can go on.

Militarily, when we have removed military threats, that's the first
and most important thing. Some of those things, some of those efforts
to remove military threats will take time. For example, we know that
in some of the towns through which we've passed or towns that now fall
into the area where we believe we have general security and have
removed most of the regime's influence, there is still presence. It's
not so much an effect anymore, but there is presence. And so as
conditions continue to go favorably in the coalition's direction, as
we have more and more impact on the regime's ability to issue
instructions or to take actions in a coordinated way, then we'll find
that we can do that.

So that's what we see in terms of military conditions related to when
we think that we've got the right security environment.

Q: If I could just follow up, in terms of regime change, how will you
know when the regime is no longer -- no longer has any ability to
control the levers of power? How --

GEN. BROOKS: I think we'll have a -- 

Q: -- what are you looking for to establish that? 

GEN. BROOKS: We'll a combination of things. And I don't want to give
you the laundry list of what the indicators will be. Certainly
throughout all of our processes that integrate intelligence that comes
in, the conditions we're finding out on the ground, how much fighting
are we experiencing, what is the population telling us, all these
things get brought together in a way that tells us whether or not we
still have work to do. Right now, we know we have work to do. And so
we're continuing with that work, and we'll be very deliberate about it
as we get it done.

Yes, please. 

Q: Adi Rival (ph), ABC News. Over a week ago now, we had the incident
involving the two M1 Abrams tanks. These were destroyed, the first
time ever in combat that these tanks had been destroyed. There were
indications -- reports I should say that possibly Coronets (ph) were
involved. Over a week -- over a week later now, can you tell us what
the status of your investigation is regarding what destroyed these two
tanks? Was it the Coronet (ph) or was it another kind of device that
destroyed these two tanks?

And also, sir, U.N. violations. As you are going through and finding
these weapons caches, the 56 surface-to-surface missiles, as you
reported moments ago, how many of these missiles and other sorts of
weapons violate the U.N. sanctions?

Thank you, sir. 

GEN. BROOKS: Let me recharacterize what you said first about the M1
tanks. We have not had any M1 tanks destroyed by hostile fire. We've
had a number hit by hostile fire, and we've had some that have been
damaged by hostile fire. None have been destroyed at this point.

As to U.N. violations, we've seen a number of things that indicate
clear evidence that what was described as a campaign of denial and
deception has true foundation. We've seen missiles that have gone
beyond 150 kilometers. I mentioned one earlier that landed in the
North Arabian gulf, and it splashed at about 190 kilometers. We've
seen atropine injectors that we believe were purchased under the oil
for food program, requiring adjustments by the United Nations on the
good-review list. We've seen heavy equipment transporters that are
moving tanks. In some cases, they move explosives near mosques.

There are all kinds of things that have shown up through our
operations that indicate that the campaign of denial and deception was
true. There was in fact a campaign ongoing to prevent global knowledge
of what was really happening here. I think we're going to find even
more of it as time goes on. We won't be surprised with what we find.

Yes, sir, please. 

Q: We understand that General Franks was conducting battle damage
assessments today.

Is there anything, any light you can shed on the effectiveness of
what's been going on, this joint air, ground, sea-based attacks and on
the effectiveness of the Republican Guards?

GEN. BROOKS: Let me first describe how we approach battle damage
assessments. This is something that's an ongoing process after every
action at every level. A rifle squad may be involved in an action, as
many of your embedded media have seen. They make an assessment of what
the damage is at that point in time. Have they eliminated the threat?
Did it move? Should they pursue it? What's the condition? The same
thing happens at every level up and down the line. After each one of
these precision attacks, battle damage assessment is done. The images
that I am showing you are part of what is considered by our analysts.
They take a close look. Did we achieve the desired effect? Did all of
our weapons hit? Have we accounted for everything? Did we minimize the
effect on civilians or other structures in the way we intended it? All
of that is rolled in continuously, and General Franks and all other
commanders inside the coalition receive information, assessments of
what damage has been done, and they make their own conclusions as

We certainly have concluded over the last several days that several
parts of the Republican Guard forces command have been destroyed. That
destruction has come by way of focused coalition action, some
decisions by Republican Guard forces members to leave the battlefield,
surrenders that have occurred, or just plain destruction that has
occurred also. This is an ongoing process, and we continue to update
it. It's not precise. It's done by analysis first, and then intuition
and instinct finally. That's how we see things at this point.

Let me go in the back, please. 

Q: General, Paul Adams (sp), BBC. Can you confirm reports from Western
intelligence agencies that suggest that the Pentagon's forensic
examination of the bomb attack at the checkpoint in Najaf concluded
that that bomb was remotely detonated, and that the driver of the car
may not have known anything about it?

GEN. BROOKS: The tactics that you describe is one we've certainly used
by terrorists in other parts of the world. I don't have anything to
report or confirm at this point. The situation remains under
investigation. All of these things take a lot of time to put literally
the conditions back into place that may have contributed to the
initial bombing. It would not be surprising if we found that out,
because of the nature of the behaviors of this regime thus far, but we
don't have anything to report on that currently.

Yes, ma'am? 

Q: Thank you, general. Anne Barnard from the Boston Globe. I just
wanted to clarify a couple of things about the airport. Are you saying
that the runways are not operable, and therefore the coalition forces
can't use the airport, at least right now? And do you control the
entire airport? Just a few hours ago we were hearing that there were
still some people in the north end of the airport holding out. Do you
control the entire territory? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: We rendered the airport unusable for normal air
operations. We had some capabilities that the regime does not have.
Hence, I would not say whether it limits our ability to conduct

The amount of control that is exercised there -- this is an ongoing
process. We found that there are underground facilities at this
airport, for example. Those require clearance. It's an ongoing
process. We don't know what we'll find there. There may in fact be
someone to fight in those underground facilities. The work is ongoing.
Until we are completely satisfied that there are no threats to the
airport, or at the airport, we will continue our efforts to ensure
that security has been provided for. In the meantime, the force that's
present there remains alert to a variety of things that still remain
possibilities for the regime, whether it's the use of weapons of mass
destruction or attacking forces to try to retake it. And we have seen
some of those this morning, and it destroyed nearly all of them.

Let me go to the second row, please. 

Q: General, the failure of the power grid in Baghdad last night seemed
fortuitously timed for the ground action that the coalition was
taking. The coalition says that they didn't target the power grid.
Could the lights have been turned off by fifth column working, whose
goals were in alliance with the coalition, or do you believe the
regime turned off the lights?

GEN. BROOKS: I wouldn't want to speculate on who actually turned them
off. We know we didn't direct it. And we certainly have had some
concerns about the power in Baghdad. We tried to do a number of things
to protect the people of Baghdad. Electrical power in Baghdad also
relates to water in Baghdad. Electrical power in Baghdad also relates
to power in hospitals in Baghdad. That's not part of the coalition
design at this point, so I wouldn't characterize it the way you did as
fortuitous. It's a matter of concern at this point in time for the
population that's inside of Baghdad. I think we have time for one
more. In the row behind -- yes, sir, with your hand up?

Q: Scot -- (inaudible) -- VOA. Regarding the weapons of mass
destruction you believe to be in Baghdad, is there not a risk, given
the number of airstrikes that you are engaged in of accidentally
setting off some of this? Or what are you doing to perhaps minimize

GEN. BROOKS: There are places we think weapons may have been stored,
and that goes into our process for targeting. So if we think they may
be stored there, then we make decisions about how we should approach
it. We don't want to create a weapons of mass destruction hazard, and
so we will not create one by any of our designs.

Having said that, the regime, that we believe possesses weapons of
mass destruction, having been engaged in a campaign of denial and
deception, has hidden weapons of mass destruction. Only the regime
knows where they are for sure. And so it's possible that we could be
hitting something out there, and we have concerns about that as well.
So the decisions we make try to take that into account as much as we
possibly can. We think we have been very careful thus far to avoid
such conditions, and our efforts will continue that way.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

(end transcript)

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