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

15 April 2003

U.S. Central Command Daily Briefing Transcript

(Operation Iraqi Freedom update) (8440)

Army Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, CENTCOM deputy director of
operations, briefed reporters April 15 at CENTCOM's headquarters at
Camp As Sayliyah near Doha, Qatar.

Following is a transcript of the briefing:

(begin transcript)

UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND OPERATIONAL UPDATE BRIEFING
BRIEFER: BRIGADIER GENERAL VINCE BROOKS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
LOCATION: DOHA, QATAR


7:04 A.M. EDT -- TUESDAY, APRIL 15, 2003


GEN. BROOKS: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Today is the 26th
day since coalition forces entered Iraq to initiate Operation Iraqi
Freedom. And we're moving ahead with our efforts to return Iraq to the
Iraqi people. Iraqis are gaining confidence in their safety from the
previous regime and its oppression. The Iraqi people have gone beyond
celebrating their new-found freedom to beginning to work with the
coalition to begin to repair the infrastructure, the government, and
public works in their country.

Even as we make daily progress, our men and women continue to make
sacrifices, and as always, we remember the lives lost during this
campaign, and we extend our sympathies to their loved ones.

The focus of the coalition's operations in the last 24 hours has been
on eliminating the remaining pockets of resistance, locating key
regime leaders, and increasing military contributions to humanitarian
assistance. Special operations forces have been active in expanding
security in the northern Iraq areas of Mosul, Irbil and Kirkuk. And
you have seen those pointed out before. Again, just as a reminder,
Mosul, Irbil and Kirkuk.

All of the oil fields do remain secure in the north, and the oil well
fire I reported yesterday has been extinguished. At this point, there
are no burning oil wells in Iraq.

Special operations forces met with tribal and local leaders in former
regime stronghold to secure letters of compliance that work is
ongoing.

The cooperation by local populations is enhancing the activities of
special operations forces, and in one case near Ar-Rupa (sp) off in
the west, we found that our coalition forces were led to a group of
three former regime death squad members that had infiltrated into the
area and had resulted in the capture of these three death squad
members.

Humanitarian assistance is flowing, also with the special operations
forces. And in this next video I'll show you, shows some coalition
special operations troops distributing supplies to a remote community
in the west.

(VIDEO) And you've seen images like this over the last several days,
over many days for that matter, and there's always good, positive
interaction, especially out in communities where the regime no longer
has any influence whatsoever.

Direct action missions are also ongoing throughout the country. These
actions are intended to locate regime leaders and also to search
former regime facilities. In a reconnaissance mission, special
operations forces found 80 SA-2 or SA-3 surface-to-air missile hidden
in a revetment within a ravine. And so as we continue to move around
different areas, we find more and more vestiges of the regime and
weapons as well.

Coalition maneuver operations remain focused on increasing security in
urban areas throughout Iraq while also assessing and addressing
humanitarian needs. We're seeing a steady decrease in looting and
lawlessness as more communities organize themselves but with coalition
support.

The deliberate work of clearing sectors in Baghdad and Tikrit
continued yesterday. Coalition forces regularly find large weapons and
ammunition stockpiles with the assistance of the Iraqi people, in
circumstances very similar to what I described in the finding of the
surface-to-air missiles. In one example yesterday within Baghdad,
Fifth Corps forces found a weapons cache with 91 cases of TNT and
plastic explosives, six homemade bombs, 23 cases of rocket propelled
grenades, and then they were led by Iraqi people in the area to 10
smaller caches of ammunition and weapons in a different sector. And so
it's with the assistance of the Iraqi people that we find these
different stockpiles, and it helps to remove some of the threats, not
only to our forces but also to the Iraqi people.

And while this important clearing work is ongoing, it also reminds us
that there are still hazards lingering throughout the country of Iraq,
and our coalition forces are active in improving conditions throughout
the country.

Coalition forces are working closely with emerging leaders and
religious leaders in several areas to assist the formation of local
governmental structures. In Diwaniyah, for example, local
administrators are working to create a city council, get it started,
and get underway with local government. Two former generals in that
same area have volunteered to organize a local police force, and they
are being considered at this time.

In the town of Karbala, a local leadership council has formed. In As
Samawa, a local police force has formed, with over 150 volunteers.
Those were selected out of 1,500 that showed up for consideration.

So, everywhere we see citizens becoming more active throughout all
areas of Iraq in helping to restore order, and the coalition will
continue to work very closely with them.

Electric power and water supply remain the key needs, and they are
also interrelated. In most case, water capacity is limited by a lack
of power. Power is limited by either destruction or some sort of
mechanical malfunction of the power production plants. We have current
assessments ongoing that indicate the restoration of power will also
improve most of the other functions immediately, and so it remains one
of our focuses. Reestablishing electrical power in many communities
has to be done in what we call a step process.

As these photos show you, we've had some recent efforts in An
Nasiriyah, in the An Nasiriyah district, and they show that first
we've got to secure areas before we can do additional work. Coalition
teams then conduct assessments to determine problems and the best
solutions to the problems, and these assessments are often done in
close cooperation with local experts and workers, as you see in this
case, meeting on the hood of a vehicle inside of a power plant.

I have some other examples of where we stand on restoring function in
different urban areas. And this is something we track within the
coalition headquarters and the subordinate commands on a daily basis
in a number of regional areas -- 26 different regional area -- looking
at food, water, medical supply, governance, infrastructure as areas of
consideration.

So, as an example, currently the power station in An Nasiriyah is
mechanically ready to resume function. However, it requires what is
essentially a jump-start from another power grid in order to get the
generators within it operational. This jump-start will happen we
believe within the next several days from Al-Basra. The two of them
are connected by power lines. The lines in fact are down right now,
and when the lines have been restored and repaired between the two
cities, power can move from Basra to Nasiriyah and begin the function
there. A similar process is ongoing in Al-Zubair, As-Samawa, Ad
Diwaniyah, al-Hillah, Najaf, Karbala, and of course Baghdad.

With the restoration of power comes the production of fresh water to
meet the broadest humanitarian needs. There are some images to show
you water treatment work as well. First we reestablished the flow of
fresh water through the existing Iraqi water systems, and this
requires the same process of securing the sites first, making an
assessment, and then coordinating with local experts and workers.
Through the coalition and humanitarian efforts, the water supply in
Umm Qasr and Safwan have been returned to their pre-war levels.

In those areas where we cannot quickly reestablish any existing
systems, direct delivery of fresh water remains the chosen
alternative. You can see holes in this one from combat damage -- this
is a water tower.

The water buffalos you've seen distributed throughout the area, they
continue to provide a source of supply for people in communities, and
they are restocked with fresh water as time goes on.

We also truck water to areas, including An-Najaf and Karbala at the
current time, and also in the north. Kirkuk, within the last few days,
has received over 700,000 liters of water, and they were able to
distribute the first 35,000 just yesterday. And this will continue
until we have gotten to the point where the existing water structures
have been restored and a permanent flow of water is reestablished.

A similar need is in medical. Our cooperation with communities is key
to our daily successes in medical care. I have a video to show you of
the coalition medical service support group, with -- (inaudible) --
Navy doctors, and it also has an Iraqi doctor that you see at the
beginning of this. And other civilians as well work with the coalition
forces at these military facilities to provide their support. Let's go
ahead and roll the tape.

(VIDEO) Hundreds of Iraqis visit this particular facility daily, and
they come in for a variety of treatments. Injuries that require a
greater level of care are taken to the Talill Airfield and then
they're evacuated to other locations. There's also a combat support
hospital right there at Talill that may be able to take care of
additional needs.

Many of the medical care problems we see throughout Iraq are due to
regime neglect, or regime use of the hospitals as military centers.
Today, five of the 11 hospitals in Basra, for example, are in need of
significant repair as a result of combat damage and also neglect.

But there are examples in other areas where hospitals are being
restored to operational capability. In Baghdad, for example, there are
two hospitals that have been secured by coalition forces and they've
been reported returned to service. Recently, a coalition group
escorted a team of -- from the Italian Embassy to a hospital in
Baghdad to deliver two generators and restore local power right there.
Hospitals are also open for treatment in An-Najaf.

We also recognize, though, like in An-Najaf, that with the restoration
of capability, there's often a need for medical resupply. These photos
are of civil affairs units and free Iraqi forces delivering medical
supplies to a village hospital near As-Shattra (sp), and this is north
of Nasiriyah.

In the northern cities of Irbill and Dahook (sp), medical conditions
are as they were before the war began, and they're in pretty good
shape there.

Finally, our maritime component continue their efforts to expand
access to the inland ports within Iraq, and this enables the free flow
of commercial vessels as well as humanitarian supplies. We've spoken
before about the efforts focused in the Khor-Abdullah from the
Northern Arabian Gulf into Umm Qasr, and that's the area right here,
where it ultimately ended up into the port of Umm Qasr. Work is
currently ongoing north of that area into the yellow box, to the port
of As-Zubair.

The next image shows you what is in our way at this point. Each one of
these dots represents a derelict vessel. These are vessels that have
-- are no longer functional. In some cases they're partially sunken or
completely sunken. In some cases they're afloat, but there is no
owner. There are 36 of these derelict vessels between the port of Umm
Qasr and the port of As-Zubair, and our efforts are now ongoing to
clear those out. Each one of them has to be examined, removed of any
potential demolitions or unexploded ordinance, cleared for mines in
and around it. And the 17 that you -- actually, the 16 that you see
highlighted here have to be physically moved in order to create a
channel into the port of As-Zubair. This work is ongoing, and it will
be very important when it's completed.

The coalition will continue its military efforts in close cooperation
with expert Iraqis and with various organizations to speed Iraq on its
way to a stable future. And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I'll take
your questions. Yes, Adi.

Q: Adi Rival, ABC News. Regarding fugitive regime leaders, there are
reports now that some of them may have left Iraq to go into Syria and
other countries. Is there a rewards program set up for every single
member of the top 55? And also, do you have DNA of most of these
regime leaders in your -- at CENTCOM? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: There is a rewards program that's out there for
information that would lead to the capturing or even clarifying the
condition of those leaders, and others -- people that have knowledge
of the weapons of mass destruction program, for example -- and they
will be rewarded if they provide information about that program. So,
it's not just about individuals, it's about a variety of things that
are of interest to us. People that might have information about
terrorist activities inside of Iraq, and connections to terrorist
organizations, there can be some rewards there. There may be some
rewards also for turning in of weapons. And so there are a number of
things that remain available to us to provide enhancements and
enticements to those with information.

I don't want to comment on exactly what forensic material we have.
Frankly, I don't know the full scope of what we have. I do know that
we have some capability, and we'll bring that capability to bear when
we have someone we want to confirm, whatever that happens to be --
whether it's forensic information at that site that would like any
remains found with a specific individual, or whether it's other
sources of information that might be made available to us out there.
Anything we can make use of, we will make use of to get positive
confirmations in each case that's reported.

Please -- (inaudible).

Q: James Forlong (sp) from Sky News. You mentioned the process of
rebuilding in Iraq, and obviously it's going to be important to get
people to come back to many of the old jobs they occupied before. But
given that a lot of those will be, or will have been Ba'ath Party
members, what's the cut-off point -- what would exclude someone from
your wanting them to be involved in the rebuilding work?

And the second question is about DNA. You've mentioned you've got
Saddam Hussein's DNA. Do you also have Bashar Al-Assad's DNA?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, let me first comment on the rebuilding efforts. We
know that it's going to be a very deliberate process, and it's one
that will also entail a degree of risk. And this is something we think
has to be done in order to get the Iraqi people back to work.

Many of the structures were extended appendages of the Baath Party,
and we're certainly well aware of that. I don't know that we have a
fixed cutoff line. I would not say that we have a fixed cutoff line as
to who's okay and who's not.

I think we have to use good judgment as we get information about
specific individuals. We certainly know that anyone that's in the top
55 would not be acceptable for any service in the future. And there
are others as well that we believe were strongly associated with the
activities of the regime throughout time, not just during this
operation.

We'll have to rely heavily on what the population tells us about these
individuals, and we'll also have to rely on any additional information
that we may have about individuals. But the bottom line is Iraqis need
to go back to work.

The things that were functional as appendages of the Ba'ath regime,
we'll keep in place. So, for example, the distribution of food from
the oil-for-food program, parts of that program were extended from
parts of the Ba'ath Party. It was a functional distribution system.
There's value in using it.

Some of the port workers may have been paid by the Ba'ath Party. We
need to get them back to work to run the port. They won't be paid by
the Ba'ath Party anymore. So I think we'll use good judgment on that,
as well as we can.

And again, on DNA, I don't know who all we have DNA on. I don't have
that level of knowledge, and so I wouldn't comment on who we may or
may not have at this point.

Please, Tom.

Q: General Brooks, Tom Mintier with CNN. We have seen the pictures of
the looting and destruction that has occurred in Baghdad. And while
there are efforts to rebuild and reconstruct, there is also apparently
an effort to look into the past, some of the historical artifacts,
museums that have been looted.

The Secretary of State, in comments to the Kuwaiti foreign minister,
said that the U.S. government would indeed assist with the recovery of
some artifacts. Now apparently he's volunteered the services of the
Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs to help
restore the catalogues and things like that. What's being done about
Iraq's past that has been looted and pillaged as well?

GEN. BROOKS: This is something that has always been a concern to us.
And as I showed you in images throughout the war, there are so many
rich antiquities inside of Iraq and such a long history that's
important not only to the Iraqi people but to the world that we wanted
to try to protect that wherever we could, certainly in the nature of
our military operations.

It's most unfortunate that some Iraqis found it efficacious to take
away some of these key antiquities from museums in downtown Baghdad
when there was a void in security. We are hopeful that that can be
restored, that those antiquities have not left the country, did not go
on black markets. And we have efforts underway to prevent that from
happening.

And we would also ask that those who have knowledge on it would
provide that knowledge so that the antiquities can be returned. The
important aspect of this is the riches of the Iraqi population are of
interest to the world, and it's something that we honor and respect,
and we want to see that continue.

There have been a lot of public statements about the importance of
that to the United States, the United States government. And we have
work underway with the Iraqi population to try to get these things
back. I don't know that there will be a formal rewards program
established, but that's certainly a possibility that we're giving some
consideration to. Most importantly, we want people to take
responsibility for the items and provide them back so that the world
can have access to them.

You mentioned the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian
Assistance, that we sometimes refer to as ORHA. That's a body that's
been formed. It's an inter-agency group led by former Army officer
General Jay Garner, with others as well that have expertise in a
variety of areas, to help organize Iraq to be turned over to the Iraqi
people.

They work very closely with and in conjunction with Central Command
and coalition force headquarters and primarily our land component that
have been conducting operations inside of Iraq, to partnership inside
of there. For now, the way the work goes is through CENTCOM and the
coalition land component command.

In time, we will transition some responsibilities and activities to
ORHA. And in even further time, those responsibilities and activities
will be transitioned to the Iraqi people by way of an interim
administration. So we are very closely partnered with that
organization already.

They've already made assessments in a number of areas. They have teams
in place in the south and also in the north and, just within the last
two days, have done assessments in Najaf and Karbala to extend the
places where they're able to begin doing their work even further. And
that's done, as I mentioned, in close partnership -- in fact, integral
partnership -- with the military actions that are ongoing for
humanitarian assistance.

Yes, please.

Q: Pam Sampson (sp), Associated Press. Can you please comment on
reports that the Iraqi army's western An Bahr (ph) command surrendered
today to U.S. forces?

GEN. BROOKS: I don't have a report that confirms that, Pam, so I
cannot say so. But I will tell you that there are a number of places
where there are still former commanders of regime forces that we're
having dialogue with who have chosen not to fight anymore, and we're
seeking any final surrenders that may be out there.

These are not large pockets of military resistance. I don't want to
create the impression that there's some large Republican Guard
division that's still out there. Military capability throughout Iraq
has been destroyed or is simply walked away. But there are still some
places where there are leaders that we're in contact with, and we'll
seek to take them into our custody if necessary or to discuss what the
future might be with them.

These are ongoing at a variety of locations and areas, east, north and
west, primarily. And as it develops, we'll have more information to
provide you.

Please.

Q: General, Paul Adams, BBC. Just following on from what you said just
now, there's been a lot of talk about working alongside the police
force, trying to get police back on the beat in cities. Talk about the
army. I mean, is it too early to talk about putting bits of the Iraqi
army back together again, making them functional, making them a viable
security presence in the country, or is that jumping the gun by a
long, long way? And do you have details of an incident reported in
Mosul which may have involved fatalities and possibly involved
American forces?

GEN. BROOKS: We'll look at a number of options as to who should return
back to work and what role they might play in the future structure of
Iraq. We know that there are a number of military formations that
chose not to fight for the regime, and there should be due
consideration regarding that.

And so I certainly anticipate that there will be some former military
members that will have a role in the future of Iraq. And it's too
early to be able to say in detail what those roles would be.

As to Mosul, there are only initial reports. I have not seen any
military reports at this point, so I can't confirm anything you may
have heard up to the current time.

Please.

Q: (Inaudible) -- New York Times. Not to beat a dead horse, but to
return for a second to the DNA question, you said you do have samples
of DNA material from the Hussein family. Please tell us where, when,
how and from whom they were obtained.

GEN. BROOKS: I can't do that, John. I mean, I just can't do that. I
think it would be inappropriate to talk about the sources of any
material or information we have that we would use for forensic
purposes. We wouldn't do this if it were a trial for the United
States. We wouldn't do it for a police force. And it certainly
wouldn't be appropriate for us to do that, given what we have right
now.

In many cases, the types of things that are done to gain military
intelligence information or operational intelligence information puts
people's lives at risk. And so it's just something I'm not going to
comment on.

Yes, ma'am, in the back.

Q: (Inaudible) -- BBC. We have reports that you are searching sites --
this is fairly constantly raised -- for weapons of mass destruction.
Will you be bringing in or inviting in any impartial body to help you
with the search, possibly the U.N. weapons inspectors?

GEN. BROOKS: Without being precise on who might be invited, we
certainly would make available any samples that we retrieve as we're
doing our searches. Right now our searches are done under military
control, and it's not appropriate to add anyone to that equation. But
when things are found, I think we certainly would intend to keep that
as open as possible. And that's the way we intend to approach it.

Yes, sir, please.

Q: (Inaudible.) You talked a lot about switching the power back on,
and consequently the water supplies today. Can I just talk you back
and can you say how much of the power grid across Iraq, and indeed
consequently the water system, were actually damaged by allied bombing
or by combat or indeed by Iraqis switching it off? I mean, can you
give us some kind of breakdown of the causes of that damage?

GEN. BROOKS: I don't know that we have a specific number at this
point. What I think we're finding in our -- what we are finding in our
assessment is this: First, that our targeting remained focused
throughout the operation. We knew that the infrastructure would be
very important to the aftermath of combat operations. And so it was
rarely, if ever, targeted. And if it was targeted, it might have been
for a temporary purpose alone.

We did see some indications of damage where some of the Iraqi workers
may have thrown the switches off and caused generators to go out. And
then, when additional power systems went out, it takes a lot more work
to get those restored and back on.

Certainly we would anticipate that there's some results of combat
action from direct-fire engagements that occurred in and around
water-treatment facilities, although I don't have a specific number
that's associated with that.

We also know from our assessments that much of the dysfunction that
we're seeing in the power grid and power stations and in some of the
water systems was simply from a lack of attention to it over the
years. As money from the oil-for-food program was diverted into
opulence and palaces and weapons that were not to have been developed,
the water supply system, the power system, things that would take care
of the Iraqi people, these things were neglected. And we know that
that's the case as well.

Where we are right now is how do you fix it? What do you do next? And
we're making as many assessments as we can, committing resources
wherever we can, to try to solve the problem and make sure that the
burden does not continue to rest on the backs of the Iraqi people.

Yes, please.

Q: Michael Weiskopf, Time Magazine. What is the price on Saddam's
head?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, let me describe it like this. We've said a number
of times that there are a number of leaders from the regime that we're
interested in knowing the status of. We have targeted leadership of
the regime. We've targeted leadership capability throughout the
operation.

There may be rewards associated with information leading to the
condition, status and verification of members of the regime. There is
no specific price tag that I'm aware of, and I doubt that there will
be a specific price tag.

Information that's provided, when there's a reward that's exchanged
for that information, is dependent upon what information that comes at
that time. It's not predetermined.

Yes, please.

Q: (Inaudible) -- ABC Television Australia. Back on the question of
surrenders of Republican Guard commanders, can you confirm this report
around that the commander of the Republican Guard Baghdad reached an
agreement with American forces to surrender and get his men to quit
and go home in exchange for transfer, via an Apache helicopter, to an
undisclosed safe haven? And if that's correct, how significant is
that? And how typical has that been with the secret war you fought to
stop it being a military campaign and a more strategic defeat?

And the second question, on the children of Baghdad, we've seen some
very disturbing pictures lately from hospitals of maimed children who
are dying. Can you not airlift these children to Germany and other
places using your planes and get them to western medical care rather
than dealing with them here in Iraq, where the situation is fairly
dire?

GEN. BROOKS: I'm not aware of any deals that have been struck with any
commanders for transport on helicopters or anything close to that, so
I don't have any report that's like that. When we do deal with leaders
that are out there, either local leaders, tribal leaders, religious
leaders, or in some cases military leaders, former military leaders,
it's a discussion that talks about how to end hostilities and how to
begin the future of Iraq.

These things are discussed at low levels and they result in exactly
what's described there -- cessation of hostilities, steps toward the
future of Iraq, what roles might be played, and what conditions need
to be set. And, very shortly thereafter, we tend to arrive with
humanitarian assistance, because there's people in every one of these
areas that need something. And that's the way we tend to approach it
right away.

You've seen a number of images. I've shown you a great number of
images of children being cared for by military medical facilities,
children being evacuated, wounded Iraqi civilians being treated all
over the battlefield, being moved to field hospitals. I've told you
about movement to the best care we actually have available in the
theater, which is a comfort. And I've also stated that on no occasion
did we pass someone that requires medical care. We never pass that up.

The images you've seen, we don't have access to those individuals. And
when we encounter people, we provide treatment to them. What treatment
is to be provided is determined by health professionals, medical
professionals. What we know, though, is we provide whatever care and
treatment we can with what we have available at the time.

And so that's really our -- that's our approach to it. That's a
consistent approach to being humanitarian in our efforts, using
military resources when they're available, or moving to civilian
resources when they're available to take care of whatever the
requirement happens to be at the time.

Yes, sir, please.

Q: (Inaudible) -- Al Jazeera. Actually, I've just been back from
southern Iraq up to Nasiriyah, and I've witnessed the humanitarian
efforts. And they were going up -- I mean, finding our way slowly. And
actually can you give us some sort of a breakdown as to how much human
aid have you injected into that area? What was taken from Iraqi
warehouses from the stocks of the oil-for-food? What did you provide
yourselves? And on the medical sort of thing, do you have all the
answers to all the cases that are there?

GEN. BROOKS: What I can tell you is in general terms -- I don't have
the specific numbers of exactly how much has moved into those areas.
First, any supplies that we found that were taken from Iraqi forces,
first, we have redistributed -- and I've shown some examples of that
-- and there were some stocks in and around An Nasiriyah, and other
areas as well. We've produced significant amounts of water in and
around Nasiriyah -- some with military capability -- reverse osmosis
water purification units that can go into any water source, and
provide fresh water.

From Nasiriyah, we moved to other areas as well with those supplies.
We've done work in hospitals in and around Nasiriyah. We've worked on
the power. I've shown some examples of that as well. Medical supplies
have moved in there. Field hospitals have been established there, and
care has been provided as well. Some of the stocks from the and
oil-for-food program we seek to have distributed by those who are
involved in the oil-for-food program. And we have indeed found some
large stocks of oil-for-food program food stuffs, but it's further
north. I don't know that we found any in and around Nasiriyah. I
believe Karbala was the area where we found large numbers of stocks.
Those also will be distributed, so that nothing is withheld from the
population. We found some in Basra that were part of the oil-for-food
program, had not been distributed -- those were distributed right
away. And we have shown a number of examples of that. That will
continue to be the approach that we have.

As I mentioned, each town, each one of the 26 metropolitan areas, or
urban areas, is being examined in each one of those different
subcategories of food, water, medical -- the structures of governance,
and also the infrastructure. And we work on that on a daily basis.
We've got civil affairs teams that are out there very active -- one
extremely active team in and around Nasiriyah, where some of our best
work is being done.

We also know that based on the security environment the area has been
declared what we call permissive, which means that more and more
humanitarian organizations can move into the area now. That's just
within the last few days. And of course the Office of Reconstruction
and Humanitarian Assistance has already passed through Nasiriyah, and
finds it certainly worthy of additional activities by other
organizations. So there's a lot of great work that's happening in that
area, and other areas of the country. Nasiriyah is a key hub, just
based on the place it's located geographically. That's part of why the
fighting was so significant there. It's also why it's important to be
able to move in the area to the east, to the north, to northwest, and
also from the south, where the key ports are. That's how we are doing
our work.

Yes, please, Chas?

Q: General, Chas Henry, WTOP Radio. Can you give us a sense of the
scope and scale of the coalition's effort to hunt for weapons of mass
destruction? How many people are involved in this effort? Dozens?
Hundreds? And how are they focusing their efforts?

GEN. BROOKS: Now, this is a good question, and let me just describe a
bit of how we approach the entire WMD program. First, we have -- we
remain convinced that there are weapons of mass destruction inside of
Iraq, and we remain unwavering in our view of that. We know there are
systems that could deliver it -- many of those have been destroyed.
Some have been taken into our custody. We also know that there are
people who have knowledge of the program and that it would take time
before we get access to these people. Some of them we have access to.
More we will have access to over time.

The way we've organized for the work is first to have a number of
mechanisms that let us do the initial checks when we think we might
have found something. These are unit level detectors and monitoring
equipment. And that may give the first indication that maybe there's
something that's chemical, maybe there's something that's
radiological. We then take it to another level. We have other
organizations that have been brought in, military units that have the
capability to do a more detailed examination and confirm an agent,
specifically what it might be. If we find a confirmed agent of some
sort, we may evacuate it further for yet a better confirmation. Each
one of these things provides us greater fidelity on what it might be.

We've also organized some units to do this, and embedded in other
units, for example within some of our Special Operations units and
some of our forward operating units the ability to do what we call
sensitive site exploitation -- the ability to go into a place, to
examine it in detail, with the right knowledge, with the right
equipment related to weapons of mass destruction. An entire brigade
has been devoted to that, an artillery brigade -- changed from its
normal mission of delivering fire support, trained to do site
exploitations in small teams. And so we can cover a number of areas.
But the key part is that we have to get information that leads us to
the areas for the work to be done. And that's very deliberate. We have
to be very patient about it. We knew that much of that would unfold as
we got into Baghdad, and indeed we are beginning to get more and more
pieces of information that have to be joined together in this mosaic
that I have described to find out really what the picture is. The
efforts are ongoing. We have some preliminary examinations that have
occurred that did not prove to be weapons of mass destruction. We
found some things that were potentially agricultural. And so that's
why we have not been loud and boisterous about every find that occurs,
because we have a structure for getting a very deliberate read and
being conscious about it. Nevertheless, we remain convinced we're
going to find something as time goes on.

In the back, please? And then I'll come to you next.

Q: Pat Doyle (ph) from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Given the
emphasis in the beginning of the campaign on eliminating weapons of
mass destruction and getting rid of Saddam Hussein, if coalition
forces are unable to capture or verify that Hussein is dead, either
using DNA or some other process, and if they are unable to find
unambiguous weapons of mass destruction, will the campaign have been
less than a success?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, we've certainly said that this regime had to be
removed. The regime had to be removed so that the nexus between
terrorism and this regime could be broken; so that threats to
neighboring countries, threats to the Iraqi people, and threats to our
own nations in the coalition could be removed. Those are the first and
most important measures of success. We know that the regime has indeed
been broken and will not return.

As to the individuals inside of it, we have a process that is ongoing
to try to find out what their status is, so that they can be brought
to justice for the deeds done over many years against the Iraqi
people.

Weapons of mass destruction, the same thing. Removing weapons of mass
destruction from this regime's hands, and eliminating the threats from
emerging again in the future are part of this operation. The efforts
to get it done are ongoing, and we believe that we'll be successful in
that. The fact that they have not been used yet is a success story. It
is not the story of failure by any means. And we have been able to
keep this from weapons of mass destruction being delivered against our
forces, or being delivered against neighboring countries. Now the work
of removing the weapons of mass destruction can begin in earnest, and
that work is ongoing as I speak.

Yes, please, Paul. I'm sorry, I promised to go to her, and then I'll
come right back to you. Please?

Q: I'm Karen Sloan (ph) with AP Radio. I had two questions. One was
getting back to the antiquities issue. Asking people to return things
now is kind of like shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted.
Why did the coalition, when it went to great lengths to protect oil
facilities not go to any lengths at all apparently to protect some of
the museums in Baghdad that had great antiquities?

My second question is we are hearing some reports of anti-American
demonstrations in Nasiriyah in conjunction with the political meeting
going on there. Do you have any comment on that?

GEN. BROOKS: Let me go to the second question first. I have not heard
of any reports that are happening there. When liberation occurs,
people have the right to express their opinions on a number of things.
We certainly know in the countries that contribute to this coalition
that there are protestors and demonstrators who are expressing their
opinion, and we believe that's a good news story even here. We
certainly would want there to be no civil unrest, any violence. But
the right for them to express their opinion is something that we
believe is a good news story and a trend perhaps for the future.

The efforts to secure antiquities. First, as we entered Baghdad, we
were involved in very intense combat, and our focus was the combat
actions necessary to remove the regime and any of its appendages. In
removing the regime, there is a vacuum that is created -- that
certainly did occur -- and the vacuum will be filled as time goes on.
I don't think that anyone anticipated that the riches of Iraq would be
looted by the Iraqi people, and indeed it happened in some places. So
while it may now be after the fact that that looting has occurred,
it's still important to try to restore it as much as possible. It's
simply not useful to speculate as to why we did, did not, what could
we have done differently. We did what we did, and our operations were
focused on objectives at hand at the time. And we believe that as time
goes on we will be able to sort out this issue as well.

They are riches. They are important to not only Iraq, but the world,
and we have to count on others as well at this point now to assist in
trying to bring that back to a degree of closure and protecting those
antiquities for the future.

Please, Paul?

Q: Hi, it's Paul Hunter, from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Two
questions, if I may. One --

GEN. BROOKS: I'm getting used to that. (Laughter.)

Q: Yesterday you came close as Tikrit was falling. Do you today
declare the major military operations in this war finished? And,
secondly, back to weapons of mass destruction, we've seen a lot of
pictures of regular ammunitions -- it seems every corner you turn
there's a pile, or every school has them, and people are giving you
tips and pointing you to regular ammunition. Does it not defy logic
that if there were -- if Saddam was going to use them against your
troops that there would have been some residue, that something would
have turned up by now? I know you've got a lot of sites left to
search, and you still have big chunks of the country. But if they were
about to be used there would be some evidence by now? Do you know what
I mean? Like --

GEN. BROOKS: I certainly do know what you mean. First let me say that
Tikrit was one of a number of areas where there still was a potential
for regime stronghold, regime activity and some military presence. We
have not been in every area of the country yet. There are operations
that are ongoing right now in areas that we think there still may be
some. So it's not time to say that's the last military action.

Even if we identified all remaining pockets where there's some
capability that still exists -- in some cases we find that there are
formations that have been abandoned. But, nevertheless, on initial
look there appears to be military capability. Even when all that is
done, we still have individuals, we have regime death squads, we still
have 80 suicide vests that are unaccounted for, that may have been
distributed for us. And there's still a military hazard that exists.
All these weapons that we found in piles, in caches in a variety of
places, say that there's capability still out there that hasn't been
removed from those who might seek to to gain access to it and use it.
And so our military work is not complete. It's still ongoing.

As to the weapons of mass destruction, we have to always remember that
this regime has had a good period of time -- since the last war -- to
be very deliberate about how it deceived and denied the existence of a
program, just like they did deception and denial operations to say
there were weapons that were not being developed, and we found some of
those weapons used. The efforts to try to hide are very deliberate,
and they have been ongoing for a number of years. It's almost embedded
in the culture of the regime to deny and to deceive. And so I think we
have to be very patient as we do our work to find these things. The
advantage we have is that we can enter a place by force if need be,
and we have already done that in some areas. In some cases we found
conventional munitions. Those were not being hidden from view. Other
things were being hidden deliberately. We've seen a number of
indications of items being buried that are not logical. So when you
ask, doesn't it defy logic? Burying things that we have found is not
logical. Why would we bury airplanes? We found buried airplanes. We've
seen airplanes being buried -- jets, MiG fighters. There are other
things like that as well, and we'll examine each one of those to find
out what it is that's there, and trace the logic that caused the
deception and denial. And I believe that we'll be successful in due
time. That's how our efforts are ongoing. It will take time to uncover
things that are deliberately hidden. And with the assistance of those
who have some knowledge, I think we'll get pointed more accurately to
those things.

Yes, please.

Q: General, Pete Smallowitz from Knight Ridder. With more than 50
Iraqi leaders who are captured or who surrendered, what happens next
with them? Is there a trial? Is there a sentencing? And how long does
that process take? How will it work?

GEN. BROOKS: Well, I think that the -- let me say it like this: the 55
top leaders that we are looking for are of interest to our government,
and so there will be additional governmental decisions that are made
when they are taken into our custody or confirmed dead -- whatever the
outcome should happen to be in that regard. And so it's -- I shouldn't
speculate on exactly what will happen to them when they are taken into
custody. We'll see when that occurs.

The statuses of others will be governed by law -- in some cases for
the most part the military leaders we've taken are governed as
prisoners of war, and we treat them that way, and their status has not
changed. There may be others that are out there as well that may fall
into a different status as we counter them.

Q: Can you say what is going to happen to those that have already
surrendered or been captured?

GEN. BROOKS: Right now they are still in coalition control. Their
status has not changed. We are maintaining dialogue with them. We are
treating them properly, treating them with respect. And that really is
about all I can tell you about at this point in time.

Yes, ma'am, please?

Q: (Off mike) -- of Reuters. Can I ask what the situation is along the
Syrian border? I know in the past you've said you control at least one
of the border crossings. Do you control the whole border? Is it
possible for leaders to cross over there? Is there evidence that they
are doing so or that weapons of mass destruction have been taken over
there?

GEN. BROOKS: We have forces that are located in a number of places
along the Syrian border with Iraq. I mentioned the border checkpoint
at Highway 11. That's currently under our control. Highway 10 also --
we have vehicle checkpoints that are located along some of the key
routes. In the northwest area, Al Qaim is an important area for us. We
have a presence there, at that very important crossing point. We are
located in other areas as well that I would not want to be too
specific about at this point. We believe that we are having success on
preventing free movement by regime leaders out of country, or others
into the country for that matter -- and our operations will continue.
But of course we are not arm in arm, inch by inch, and so there may be
places that we have not found yet, and we have other methods to try to
determine whether there's activity there. Thus far we are not seeing
that, and we believe we are being successful.

I have time for one more. Yes, sir, please?

Q: (Off mike) -- with Univision News? Can you tell us more about the
three death squads, what their nationality is, if they had any of the
suicide vests? And then also there was a report yesterday about some
trucks buried -- I mean containers -- mobile, chemical, biological
labs. Are you now going to use some sort of subterranean mapping
equipment to locate more buried stuff? Thank you.

GEN. BROOKS: First, the three regime death squad members were
identified by the local population. We had been operating in and
around that area. The population made contact with us and said, These
are bad guys. I don't know anything about their nationality at this
point. I have not seen any reports to confirm that or what equipment
they may have had with them. That certainly will come as additional
military reports come in. The way they were described they are most
likely akin to some of the regime death squad members we have seen
other places. So nationality will be determined in time, and that I
don't know.

As to the methods we use to locate other things that may have been
buried, we have a number of methods that we use. All of them will be
brought to bear to try to point us in the right place. This is as it
is on any other part of the battlefield for any other function. We
want to get as accurate a picture of information we can gain before we
take action, and then act in such a way that it's appropriate for
whatever it is we seek. So in this case if we need to dig something
up, need to locate something, then we'll use what we have, the
telesat.

Q: Do you have any special equipment? -- is my question.

GEN. BROOKS: We do have some special equipment that can help us, and
it has to be used in a focused way, but we do have equipment that can
help us to locate some items that may be buried.

Thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen.

(end transcript)

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