IWS - The Information Warfare Site
News Watch Make a  donation to IWS - The Information Warfare Site Use it for navigation in case java scripts are disabled

14 April 2003

Transcript: U.S. Central Command Daily Briefing, April 14, 2003

(Operation Iraqi Freedom update) (7400)

Army Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, CENTCOM deputy director of
operations, briefed reporters April 14 at CENTCOM's headquarters at
Camp As Sayliyah near Doha, Qatar.

Following is the transcript of the briefing:

(begin transcript)

UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
BRIEFER: BRIG. GEN. VINCE BROOKS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
LOCATION: DOHA, QATAR
TIME: 7:06 A.M. EDT
DATE: MONDAY, APRIL 14, 2003


GEN. BROOKS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We're in the 25th
day since coalition forces entered Iraq to initiate Operation Iraqi
Freedom. The coalition is expanding areas of influence throughout the
country and concentrating efforts on security and stability.
Gradually, the indications of every-day life are returning in Iraq,
and the Iraqis are adjusting to the freedom from the tyranny of the
regime. Today, the coalition is operating throughout Iraq to remove
the final remnants of the regime from any areas of influence. The free
Iraqi people are making their voices heard in seeking an end to
bloodshed and the removal of foreign fighters, who put the population
at risk.

Concurrently, the coalition is focused on creating conditions for
long-term stability throughout the country and establishing systemic
and infrastructural bases for in a free and democratic Iraq.

Even as hope shines brightly, we continue to remember those who gave
their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom and we remember their families.

Our special operations forces are creating ever-expanding contacts
with local leaders throughout the country, but particularly in the
north and in the west. The presence in the northern areas of Mosul,
Irbil and Kirkuk were reinforced yesterday by the increasing
commitment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and also by the arrival of
the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Operations remain focused on
locating regime leaders and searching key regime facilities.

Special operations forces and conventional forces expanded throughout
the northern oil fields and have now secured all of the northern oil
fields. Assessments continue with the active cooperation of Iraqi oil
workers.

Recently, special operations forces near Hadithah Dam, an area that
we've spoken about on a number of occasions, the location of intense
combat in recent weeks, met with oil workers and fire fighters to
organize an effort to extinguish and oil stabilization plant fire that
was triggered by the regime over a week. Close cooperation between the
coalition and Iraqis resulted in the fire being extinguished, as the
following video shows.

(Video is shown.)

Even on the same hose, coalition forces and Iraqis are getting the job
done, as they are throughout the country.

There are many similar examples throughout the country of coalition
forces and Iraqis interacting to repair damage to the infrastructure
or to simply restore capability to different parts of the country. And
I would add that at this point the remaining fire that was in the
southern oil field has been extinguished and that all oil fields
within Iraq now fall within areas secured by the coalition. There is
one well we've discovered in recent days in the north, a well fire
that is still burning, and that will be addressed as soon as we can do
so.

Special operations forces in the Baghdad area are supporting the
efforts of the land component as they continue their work. And as with
all military outfits throughout Iraq, these special operations forces
in Baghdad also provide any assistance they can to the Iraqi people.

Recently, two Iraqi brothers approached a special operations medical
team on the outskirts of Baghdad. In this case, the brothers asked the
medical team if there was anything that the medics could do for their
sister, who is suffering from cancer and had no medication. The
special forces medics gave what medicines they could to try to provide
some relief, and they earned the respect and thanks for the brothers
for at least making an attempt to provide some relief for their
sister. And as I've said before, scenes like these are repeated
everywhere throughout places where the coalition is conducting its
work.

Our maneuver operations are similarly focused on eliminating any
potential remnants of the regime leadership or forces within Baghdad
and the area north of Baghdad.

The land component sent a Marine task force to attack from Baghdad to
Tikrit within the last 24 hours. In this attack toward Tikrit, the
force met little resistance in the towns of Ba'qubah on the east side
of the Tigris River, and Samarra -- and I'll just point those again --
Ba'qubah on the eastern side of the Tigris River along the Biyala, and
Samarra, along the Tigris River further to the west.

The attack continued yesterday, and its first efforts were to isolate
Tikrit from the south, from the west, and also from the north, as well
as a key bridge in the center of town that crosses the Tigris River.
This morning the attack entered Tikrit, securing the presidential
palace there and also beginning the search for any remaining regime
supporters. And this is really the only significant combat action that
occurred within the last 24 hours.

Elsewhere, coalition land forces are actively engaged in setting the
conditions for a stable Iraq. Among the challenges are disposing of
all the materiel of war purchased and stored by the regime for use in
the defense of Baghdad. As coalition forces move to secure more power
stations, water facilities and hospitals in several zones of the city,
they often uncover or are guided to significant amounts of ammunition,
weapons, aircraft, and vehicles used by the regime.

In one example, coalition forces found 12 surface-to-air missiles and
six VIP helicopters near a Ba'ath Party headquarters building. Other
examples include 51 Iraqi trucks that were loaded with ammunition,
several buildings and bunkers also loaded with ammunition, with many
more truckloads worth that need to be moved and disposed of. And this
is artillery ammunition, tank ammunition and missiles.

Despite these challenges, the coalition is working diligently and is
contributing significant assets to restore function and to distribute
aid in Baghdad. We've contributed considerable assistance in helping
Iraqis restore the power and water service that ended when Baghdad was
still under regime control, and that was destroyed by the regime
forces as they fought our coalition. The land component has organized
several engineer teams to assess and facilitate restoration of
services throughout the country.

In Baghdad, two very important locations are the power plant that
services all of western and southern Baghdad, and also the water
treatment plant in the south of Baghdad that provides safe water to
the communities, and those are highlighted to the west and just south
of the bend in the Tigris River.

In the following photos that I'll show you, coalition military
engineers have met with senior Iraqi power industry officials and
electrical engineers to find the best way to restore power to the
city. Again, these are military engineers as they do their work. And
meetings like this one are happening at lower levels as well, with
military civil affairs teams or even operational commanders throughout
the country in places where the lack of power undermines the supply of
water and puts the population at risk.

The citizens are becoming active throughout all areas of Iraq in
helping to restore order and to start free Iraq on a path toward a
positive future. And I have just a few examples.

First, joint patrols have been initiated, and roughly 200 police
volunteers joined with coalition forces to start patrolling Basra. And
this is an effort to assist in quelling any looting or any other civil
unrest. In other areas, tribal leaders are establishing coalitions of
multiple tribes, and this is the foundation for local governance in
cities in the north and in the west. In Karbala, as an example, town
leaders have established a local police force with, again, over 200
volunteers, provided them with uniforms. They have 10 vehicles that
are marked as police vehicles, and they are taking efforts to try to
get some degree of control and stability established themselves, and
we applaud their efforts. And these efforts continue to multiply
throughout the country.

Electric power and water power remain the key needs, however, and
during the repair period, coalition forces continue to provide
military support wherever possible. I have some recent photos of
coordination done between Marines and the water purification experts
near the town of An-Nasiriyah. In this case, Marines and sailors
worked with the local Iraqis to try to repair this generation plant.
In areas where we can't immediately repair the water infrastructure,
we continue to use military assets and resources to provide a
substitute. And this is a short video of some more water purification
operations, in this case near Talill airfield.

(VIDEO.) Virtually any water source can be used to generate pure
water. It's a pretty well developed system. We have operators who are
skilled at how to make that happen. And it gets pumped freshly (?)
into water trucks for transport.

We continue our efforts to reestablish reliable medical care
throughout Iraq. First, several hospitals have been secured by
coalition operations recently, and as we go to those locations and we
find patients that require care that cannot be adequately provided at
some of these facilities, the patients are either transferred to other
Iraqi hospitals, or moved to military medical facilities. The U.S.
naval ship Comfort, for example, now has over 100 non-combatants
aboard receiving medical care in the most modern medical facility we
have available to us.

While medical supplies are flowing in from a variety of countries and
organizations, the coalition is also pushing medical supplies. In some
cases, these supplies come from stocks planned for use in caring for
coalition casualties, but at this point they are no longer required in
the same number. The next video is of coalition members using existing
military resources to push medical assets into Iraq.

(VIDEO) They inventoried what they had, realized they had some excess
capacity, began to load them into boxes. The boxes were then taken to
helicopters aboard ship offshore, flown to a place to be transported
onto trucks, moved by trucks to aircraft, and then flown in by C-130s
at night into Baghdad International to be pushed into hospitals that
have needs, and that have been assessed as having those needs.

In addition to moving supplies, we are also facilitating repair to the
existing health care system. I've got several images to show you here
of some meetings that occurred between civil affairs soldiers working
with medical staffs, this -- in this case in Ad Diwaniyah. They're
making assessments to improve the hospital and the medical care system
there.

In addition to medical resupply and repair to the infrastructure, the
coalition still provides immediate medical care when it's required.
This immediate care is only a part of the coalition's daily
interaction with the people of free Iraq, and it contributes greatly
to establishing conditions of stability and security for the people of
Iraq.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I'll take your questions. Please
-- Omar, let me go to you first.

QUESTION: Omar Alsawi (ph), Al Jazeera Channel. Sir, I'd like to ask a
question about the volunteers who have come into Iraq, who have been
attacking your forces in various places, especially in and around
Baghdad. Do you have an estimate of how many there are, how long they
might be able to continue operations? And how are you going to seek
them out? Or is it just a case of waiting to come under attack and
then trying to find out more about them and how much of a threat it
is? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: Well, we find that these volunteers claim that they are
here in Iraq to protect the Iraqi people. But the Iraqi people
continue to inform us that they don't require such protection.

And so the first method of eliminating this existing threat is with
the assistance of the Iraqi people. And in many cases they notify us
where they think there may be pockets, where weapons may be stored,
where there may be some untoward activity, or where disruption and
threats may occur.

We don't have a good number as to how many there are, but we do know
that they don't have a place in the future of Iraq. And we rely first
and most importantly on the Iraqi people to help us rid Iraq of such
violent young men. In this case we're finding that they're all men.

Where we do find them, they're well-armed. We think that some of the
explosive vests were meant for them. And in the over 300 vests we
found, there were indications that some had already been removed. Up
to 80 were not accounted for.

And so we certainly recognize that there are still threats. Even
though there's not organized regime resistance, there are individuals
who may be willing to carry on acts of violence and acts of terrorism
without regard to any ideology or any national cause. And so we'd like
to see that gotten rid of.

We're not just waiting to be attacked, by any means, as we continue
our efforts through different zones of Baghdad. With the assistance of
the Iraqi population, we're looking for people just like this, as well
as any remnants of the regime that might still be present.

Tom, please.

Q: Tom Mintier with CNN. First, how many cards do you still have in
your deck? And secondly, we're getting reports that 18 Kuwaitis may
have been found by coalition forces inside Iraq from the '91 Gulf War.
Do you have any information on that or your deck of cards?

GEN. BROOKS: The card deck is still full. However, we do continue to
identify people who are no longer in play. So in this case that will
continue to go on. There are a number of cases where we have
unconfirmed information on some of the 55 that were identified as key
regime figures that we're seeking.

We don't have confirmation on who's alive or dead in some cases. And
as time goes on and we're able to do detailed examinations of
locations and get more information from the Iraqi population, we think
that the number of cards that are in the deck for play will continue
to reduce.

There are certainly reports that a number of prisoners are still
somewhere in Iraq from previous conflicts, not only the '90-'91 Gulf
War but also the Iran-Iraq War before that. We don't have any
information to confirm at this point, although we do still hear of
reports that remain unconfirmed.

We have an interest in their liberation as well and their
repatriation, and we certainly know that their governments have an
interest in that also. And our efforts continue to follow leads that
come up on anyone that is still missing or unaccounted for.

Q: But have you located any?

GEN. BROOKS: I'm not aware that we have located any at this point. I
don't have any reports that would indicate that.

Yes, please.

Q: (Inaudible) -- Associated Press. You said you'd secured the
presidential palace in Tikrit as well as a bridge. Can you give us any
details on what you found there? Were there Republican Guards holed up
in the palace trying to keep it from you? So more details on the
resistance in Tikrit.

And also just a technical question regarding Geneva Conventions and
your operations. In the area where coalition troops are operating, do
you consider yourselves to be, in the legal term, the occupying power
and thus bound by certain obligations under Geneva?

GEN. BROOKS: First, the operations in the Tikrit area, there was less
resistance than we anticipated. We certainly knew that that was an
area that was very important to the regime leadership, and we also had
indications that there might still be a presence of military force
there, Special Republican Guard, and potentially mixed with some other
formations.

There is equipment in the area, but there was not much resistance. And
so as the forces began to move in, they were successful in isolating.
And I should add that this came after a period of focused operational
fires over the last several weeks.

As I've mentioned, we were not ignoring Tikrit by any means. In fact,
we had a number of air operations that occurred in and around Tikrit
with great effect. We also had information on operations ongoing, and
there was also a Special Operations raid about 48 hours ago that
included an armored formation, the very same one that I showed you
crossing the Hadithah Dam a few days ago. So they crossed Hadithah
Dam. A day later they (attacked to?) an airfield just west of Tikrit.

The primary force, though, is the one that just arrived within the
last 24 hours. And so much of the shaping of the battle has been
successful and it occurred over time. We did not find any forces that
were defending the presidential palace. At least no reports that I've
seen have indicated there was any significant at the palace.

And we're now beginning to interact with people inside of the
community to see exactly what the conditions are. If there are any
regime leaders, we think they may help us find them. And we can also
get Tikrit now on the path toward whatever the future is going to be.

On the Geneva responsibilities, it's still a bit premature for me to
declare what our status is. I think that will come here in coming
days. What we do know is that we have responsibilities as a force that
has entered. The specific references to occupying power are very
precise and very legalistic, and I'm not really in the best position
to be able to give you information on that. We'll give you some more
as time goes on as it relates to that specific concern.

Q: (Inaudible) -- occupying power, even though some people might --

GEN. BROOKS: There is a view toward that. Right now we're still a
liberating force, and that's how we're approaching our operations.
Much of what we're doing is collaborative with the Iraqi population,
as I've described.

And while there may be a number of similarities to what the Geneva
Convention describes, that's not a category that we have stated
publicly at this point. Whether that changes over time needs to be
seen. And what the final legalistic declarations we make will be
forthcoming in the next several days.

Please.

Q: (Inaudible) -- Fox News. You just mentioned a moment ago the
presence or the belief that some long-term prisoners of war are
present in Iraq. Do you have any reason to be hopeful that Michael
Speicher would be among them? And on the subject of the prisoners of
war who were recently rescued, how did they get separated, with PFC
Lynch being found further south than the group of seven?

GEN. BROOKS: We remain hopeful that we can recover our missing warrior
who's been gone since the Gulf War. We don't have any additional
information. Any leads that would be available we will certainly
follow and try to restore him back to U.S. control.

The indications of others from previous battles as well -- there's
indications and information out there. The governments that are
associated with this are also looking for their people and have
expressed an interest in their return if we certainly find them. And
we would expect to repatriate them if we do encounter them. We don't
have anything that leads us to anything concrete at this point, but we
remain open to additional information.

As to the recovery of POWs, we really don't know at this point how the
separation may have occurred and why PFC Lynch was kept in Nasiriyah
and the others moved to different areas. That we have to find by
asking questions. And that kind of questioning is ongoing right now to
get more information about the circumstances under which they were
captured and how they were treated, where they were moved, anything
else we can find.

That's why it's one of the very important steps, after we get a good
medical assessment of the conditions of anyone that's been returned to
U.S. military control, that we also find out what they know. These are
warriors out there and they have information that will be of value to
us. And all that's ongoing right now.

Kelly, please.

Q: Thank you, General. Since General Franks indicated that the U.S.
possesses the DNA of Saddam Hussein, has any testing of remains begun?
Have any remains been recovered from the restaurant site? And does DNA
also exist for his sons? Or is the testing such, because he's the
father, might they be able to extrapolate if they were able to find
remains of the sons?

GEN. BROOKS: I think we have the forensic ability to confirm any
number of members of the family that are related by blood. At this
point we are doing examinations of a variety of sites. That is
deliberate work that has to happen. We refer to it as site
exploitation. But what we're talking about is doing detailed
examination and searches.

That work is ongoing. We don't have any confirmations at this point to
report on any of the family members. But if we are able to confirm any
of them, I think that we will be able to connect the dots to other
pieces of information through different sites.

This is something that will be an ongoing action. There will be others
as well that we want to confirm. In some cases it joins that piece of
information that's forensic with other information that is provided by
either intelligence or provided by Iraqi population and citizens. And
so all of it gets put together to tell us whether or not we're
effective and exactly who may be remaining alive or not. We don't have
anything to report at this point.

There was a second half of your question on that.

Q: Well, I asked about being able to identify the sons, which you
answered. But have you, in fact, recovered any remains from any sites
that you believed were targets of regime leaders? Do you have remains
upon which to use this DNA?

GEN. BROOKS: I don't have any reports of that at this point, Kelly,
whether or not we recovered it. I know that work is ongoing. And
unless there's some significant find that we corroborate right away, I
wouldn't hear about that until the sensitive site is completely
examined and explored.

There are a number of other things we look for there as well. There's
documents we look for. There are computer hard drives we might be
looking for; anything that might give us a deeper insight into the
regime, not just into the regime leaders themselves.

Let me go back here. Third row, please.

Q: Richard McGregor (sp), Financial Times. General, if, as you say,
you're trying to remove all the symbols of the regime, what steps are
you taking to give Iraq a new currency and remove the notes from
circulation that have Saddam Hussein's picture on them?

GEN. BROOKS: That's a great question. And this is one of the things
that will develop over time also. We certainly know that the notes
have images of the previous regime. Right now there is not a new
currency in use, and so there's a need for paying people that are
returned back to work. There's a need for some sort of currency that
provides exchange.

And I think in due time, as more active work occurs with the Office of
Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, and as the Iraqis
themselves organize themselves for an interim government, we'll see
many of these questions start to get answered. Right now it's not
going to be imposed by Central Command, but we'll certainly play a
role as it gets introduced.

Yes, please.

Q: (Inaudible) -- Univision News. Talking about Tikrit, if it is
falling as (steadily?) as you have just described, how far are you
from telling us that, at least militarily, this is over?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, it remains a difficult thing to say, Ricardo. And I
would tell you that we know that there are still some places where we
have not accounted for all military activity. There are also places
inside of the country we've not physically gone to yet. And that has
to be done.

But clearly we're at a point where the decisive military operations
that were focused on removing the regime, destroying its capability,
removing its ability to threaten neighboring countries, our coalition
forces or our own countries, that work is coming to a close.

But military work is not at a close, and even potential for combat
action is not yet over. It'll be much more localized when it occurs.
It will not be on a widespread scale. And it certainly won't be in
response to any organized regime effort. And so it's a transition
point that we're in right now.

As we've said before, there are a number of objectives to this
campaign, and all of those objectives have to be attained before we
say the mission is accomplished, the victory is complete, and we can
proceed on with other responsibilities we have.

It's been said a number of times also that we'll stay as long as it
takes to get the job done and no longer. And so we're on the path to
that right now. It's an important transition point that we're at, but
we still have much more work to do.

Behind there, please.

Q: Thank you, General. As you know, there has been a significant gap
in coverage of this war between the Arab and western media. At this
point in the war, do you have any thoughts on the implications of
this? And what have you done to bridge this gap? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: Sometimes what you present depends on what your
perspective is. And we certainly have done a number of things, not the
least of which is kept an open forum like this and other places for
all of the world's media. That's the first and most important step. We
didn't restrict that at all. We kept it open and continue to do so
even now.

But every organization represented inside of here has a different
perspective. And so I don't know that it's really a disconnect between
the western media and Arab media. I think it may be a perspective
difference on how you look at the same picture.

In due time, I think that as the influences of the regime, having now
been removed, there's an opportunity for free press, truly free press,
inside of Iraq, at least. And we hold out a great deal of hope that
that, in fact, will be what occurs from here.

We've seen a number of things that indicate that there's a chance, a
bright chance, for the future on this. We also know that we've also
communicated facts as we know them throughout. And that's our first
and most important responsibility to do so, and we'll continue to do
so as time goes on.

Yes, sir, please, in the back.

Q: (Inaudible) -- Kuwait TV. General, would you tell us if American
Army find any Kuwaiti prisoners of war from the first Gulf War or any
information about them?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, sir, unfortunately I cannot report that we have
found any at this point. We certainly remain very interested in
accounting for anyone that has been left unaccounted in previous wars,
and we know the Kuwaiti government would like to have them returned,
and that's something that has been important to this command -- not
the coalition, but this command -- since that time. We remain focused
on trying to accomplish that, if we can, with whatever information we
gain. But right now I don't have any positive news to provide you on
that.

Yes, please?

Q: Richard Klug (ph), German Television, ARD. The Republican Guard
didn't even put up a fight in Tikrit. What is your military assessment
of that, and is it perhaps because you have cut a deal with some of
their leaders?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, the first military assessment is that we were
effective in our operations. We intended to remove a capability, the
command and control, so those that would issue orders could not do so,
and they did not do so. We made efforts to isolate units, so that they
could not be linked to other operations, and might not even know what
was going on in other operations. We were successful in doing that. We
attacked their capabilities directly, and physically destroyed some of
their assets that might be used in combat operations. We were
effective in doing that. We also attacked their will through a number
of means. First, all of the items that I just laid out, that has an
impact on the will of those who might choose to fight. We also
communicated with them directly by leaflets, telling them that it was
in their best interests to not fight for a dying regime. We were
effective in that. Any one of these I could go to. And then we also,
as we had access to leaders, we spoke with them and said, You need to
make a choice here, because we are going to continue the combat
operations until the capability is destroyed, the regime is destroyed
-- and we were very clear about that and very forthright. And so there
were no deals that were cut, but there was clear communication that
occurred between commanders that had choices -- those that made the
choices will have an opportunity to live another day. Those who did
not did not survive the operations. That's my assessment.

Yes, ma'am, please?

Q: (Off mike.) On that subject, where have they all disappeared to,
these Republican Guard, and how will these tens of thousands of people
who were the heart of Saddam's army going to be sort of integrated
back in -- what role are they going to have in the future? You know,
where have they gone? What are they going to do?

Second question, on the oil, especially in the north, it seems it
could be back in operation very soon. How -- can you give us some kind
of estimate on the time scale of when you think Iraq might be able to
begin exporting oil again?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, we saw a number of people walk off the battlefield,
from the earliest days of the war until the very last days. The fall
of the formations in the north were perhaps the most recent example of
that. But in other places we didn't see, places we didn't have a
camera, it happened there as well. So where are they now? In some
cases, there may be some leaders who are in hiding, and I believe that
in due time they will be retrieved, and if there is a need to bring
them to justice -- for example, if they were involved in gassing their
fellow citizens some years back, then they will be held accountable
for that. If they were involved in mistreatment of prisoners of war
who are in their possession, they will be held accountable.

But many others were simply part of a regime that they didn't believe
in, and we've seen that type of jubilation as the regime disappeared
throughout the country. So their role is whatever they choose to be
their role in the future. We've set the conditions for the Iraqis to
determine what their destination and their destiny is going to be
throughout the future. Former soldiers are a part of that. And I think
that as time goes on we will get more information about those that
were tainted and require more attention, and perhaps those that can
make a useful contribution to the free Iraq of the future.

Now, the second half of your question?

Q: (Off mike)?

GEN. BROOKS: Yes, was about oil. And you mentioned the north. We
should be under no misconceptions that while we kept things
successfully intact without a lot of destruction that there's still --
it's not going to happen right away -- let me put it like that. What
must first happen is an assessment in each one of these areas. As we
found in the south, once we had access to the oil fields, we found
that there were some things that were damaged that we couldn't see
from a distance. We also then looked to see how well can the
facilities run when they are brought back up? What work might be
required? Any repair work? Are there any breaks in the line? Can
things run to their normal capacity? And we found that there's some
work that needs to be done there. And the good news is Kuwaiti oil
workers -- I'm sorry, Iraqi oil workers, as well as Kuwaiti workers
for that matter, help us make the assessment and have been active in
helping us get the fields restored.

In the north we find that the conditions that the fields and some of
the key structures of the oil fields are under, was better than in the
south. They were put into safe modes, for example, in a way that is
closer to standards we would expect. And so there may indeed be less
repair or less work that has to be done in the north, but that
assessment is ongoing.

Even in the best cases we think it's weeks before we're back there
getting into the business of running oil. Everything has to be put
into a safe mode, evaluated, cleared of any potential ordnance or
explosives that might still be out there, assessed as part of a whole
system, and then assessed item by item before we can go on. And if
there is modernization that needs to happen, then there probably will
be, because frankly the oil system has been neglected by the regime
for a number of years. The potential of the oil fields and the oil
structure in Iraq is much greater than the reality of how it's been
operating for decades, and we think that that can be restored over
time, but it will take time to do that.

Please, Adi (ph).

Q: Adi Raval (ph), ABC News. Sir, in your encounters with Syrian
fighters, are you noticing that they are operating amongst themselves,
one or two-men groups, or are they part of larger components of
remnants of the Republican Guard units? And how -- in your encounters
with them, are they engaging in a specific kind of attack against
coalition forces?

And my second question is, sir, if you were a resident of Israel,
almost a month now into this war, would you still bring a gas mask to
work every day?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, first, the foreign fighters we are seeing -- and
some of them are Syrians, some are, as I indicated, from other
countries, as we have seen throughout the conflict. We've seen the
whole gamut. Early on they were mixed in and amongst the regime death
squads that might have been joined with regular army forces, that
might have been joined with Republican Guard, and there were some
foreign fighters present in some of those early engagements. Many of
them were soundly defeated and had severe losses inflicted on their
formations. In other places we have seen them in groups of 10 to 20,
as the last hold-outs on areas, ambush points. In other cases we have
seen what appear to be just foreign fighters, as in the Imam al-Adham
Mosque incident a few days ago -- a lot of foreign fighters there.
Several hundred were killed. Some were captured. And this is where we
get some of our information.

We also see individuals who are willing to attack the coalition as
individuals, wearing either the explosive vests or the unfortunate
shooting we had a few days ago at a checkpoint at point-blank range,
where someone walked up and literally fired on a Marine. Foreign
papers -- in this case we suspect Syrian. And so as we see these
different circumstances out there, the full range of tactics are being
applied. The best way to describe it right now though is the tactics
are tactics of terrorists, and the people perpetrating them are at the
very best mercenaries who have been paid to come into Iraq. And they
are not contributing to stability. They are not protecting the Iraqi
people at all. In fact, they put the people at risk and contribute to
instability, and there's no role for them in the future of Iraq.

The second part of your question -- I can't completely project myself
into that. We certainly know there have been some statements made, and
changes of threat conditions within Israel. Those are decisions for
governments and members of the civil society to decide for themselves.

What we know is we were effective in preventing firing on that country
or other neighboring countries. We did have firings on Kuwait. We
weren't completely successful in that regard, but our operations
eventually moved that threat away. There were a total of 18 missile
firings that we know of throughout this operation, all of them
directed toward Kuwait or toward coalition forces as they moved
through the southern desert, and we were successful at destroying many
of those, preventing them from firing again, moved back the line where
they could fire, and in a very short period of time, we got Kuwait out
of range and then eventually got our forces out of range as well.

So the best I can assess is that we were successful in that objective
of not letting the regime expand the conflict by threatening its
neighbors. And that's a good-news story, we believe.

Please.

Q: James Forlong from Sky News. There's been evidence of a number of
foreign fighters from a variety of different countries; from Morocco,
some from Libya, some even from Malaysia, a whole host of countries.
Why do you only talk about Syrians?

GEN. BROOKS: I think because we're seeing them in the greatest
density. And certainly in recent days we've seen people with papers
from Syria as well, identification documents and what have you. We
have seen a number of countries, as you stated, and there may well
still be representatives from additional countries that are out there.

We also know that there were attempts to enter from Syria and some
recruiting occurred in Syria. While we suspect that may well have been
Iraqi intelligence service doing that work, it still came from that
direction. That's why we keep referring to Syria. It's just the role
that Syria has been involved in in this case.

Now, whether it's something done by government, we don't know. And
that's really for our government to determine. There have certainly
been communications at governmental level from capital to capital, and
that's not something I need to comment on at this point from this
command.

Yes, ma'am, please.

Q: Kathy Shin (ph), Phoenix Satellite TV, from Hong Kong. I'd like to
know what's your engagement with the civilians in Tikrit. And my
second question is, are we going to expect to see another American
flag around Saddam's statute in Tikrit?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, let me talk to the first part, and then I'll come
back to the second. Our engagement in Tikrit with the population is
like it is everywhere else. We very quickly transition from combat
operations that are focused and lethal, to interacting with people
that want to interact with us.

I'll give you an example. Now, this is not in Tikrit, but just south
of Tikrit. As the Marine forces began to advance forward in the town
of Samarra, they had two fights. One was with about a platoon-sized
element, which was destroyed by the Marine force. They advanced, had
contact with another platoon-sized element and destroyed it. Shortly
thereafter, the Marines took up temporary positions and some of the
townspeople came out with roses and greeted them. They were warmly
received, and shortly thereafter, the guards that were holding the
prisoners of war came forward and said, "We've got something to show
you."

We transitioned very quickly, because we're a highly disciplined
force. We're a very capable force. And so I suspect that our
operations in Tikrit and our interactions will continue to be like
that. As the people of Tikrit want to interact with us, we'll exchange
information, we'll talk to them, and we'll also treat them with
respect. If we find there are some regime leaders in there, they'll be
taken into our custody. But the people of the city remain treated with
respect.

As to your question about the flag, I don't believe you've seen that
circumstance yet, you've not seen a flag flown, and so I wouldn't want
to speculate as to what would happen, but I think our soldiers and
Marines are disciplined. We've talked about that before. And since it
hasn't occurred, it's probably not something to speculate on.

I'll take one more question. Let me go over here. Please, Paul.

Q: Hi. It's Paul Hunter from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. When
you look back to your expectations 25 days ago, at the outset of this,
did you think -- you said you're on plan every single day, but was the
plan to be rolling into Tikrit virtually unopposed 25 days later? Did
you expect to be almost militarily finished within a month? I mean,
are you way ahead of schedule, or behind? How would you characterize
where you are in terms of your expectations before you knew what kind
of level of resistance you'd -- or not -- that you'd meet throughout?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, we did say continually that we were on plan. We're
still on plan. (Laughter.) We are. (Laughter.) What I have to specify
is that at the operational level, as General Franks has emphasized a
number of times and as I've certainly said and General Renuard said
and General Abizaid, when you lay out a plan, it has certain
objectives that are to be accomplished, and those objectives are
accomplished by certain combinations of action. Sometimes they're
sequential. Other times they're done simultaneously.

The dynamics below that, at the tactical level, are subject to the
various circumstances that are encountered on the battlefield.
Opportunities emerge, they're acted on. Conditions occur and we create
new opportunities, and those opportunities are then acted on. The
enemy gets a vote that you can't always predict. You may see tactics
used that were considered but arrive in a more dense way. There may be
fights that occurred in areas where you didn't expect them. There may
be some areas where you expected a fight and none occurs.

And so the plan that we refer to at the coalition force headquarters
talks about what actions are necessary, what conditions must be set
for us to say we've accomplished what we're after. And absolutely
we're on plan, and we remain on plan, because part of our plan is also
to transition from decisive combat operations into a focus on
stability, support, and setting the conditions for the Iraqi people to
choose their destiny. That's right on plan. How that will form, what
actions we'll see, there will be a number of dynamics that cannot be
completely predicted, but they'll be responded to. Some will be
consistent with what we anticipated.

You mentioned time. We believed that our decisive operations campaign
would be measured in weeks, not months, and we believe we're
consistent with that. That was a design from the front. The arrival of
additional forces to either reinforce on the battlefield or to relieve
forces on the battlefield was part of the plan. It's right on track.

And so I certainly reinforce what my boss has said on a number of
occasions: that the plan was sound from the start, the plan is
working, and we remain on plan.

Ladies and gentlemen, thanks very much.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)