Tommy Franks: Battlefield Report
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TOM BEARDEN: The appearance of CENTCOM’s commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, was something of a surprise tonight. The public affairs office had previously announced that an air force general would conduct the briefing. Frank as dressed the growing perception in some quarters that his offensive was being stymied by fierce Iraq resistance and suffering high casualties.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS: Our forces have met sporadic resistance in a number of places on the battlefield. But as our troops fight, even in isolated areas, there will be casualties, there have been casualties because from the perspective of the fighting man on the ground, even in isolated set of combat situations, represents violence which you must see face to face.
TOM BEARDEN: General Franks was asked if the resistance encountered so far was any indication of how the fight for Baghdad will go.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS: I guess I would say that I actually have seen no surprise here, and I think that our people on the ground have not seen a surprise. There are people in the Iraqi army, whether special Republican Guard or Fedayeen, who have a lot of allegiance to this regime, and so one can expect, I’ll use a term that my boss Don Rumsfeld used a while back when he said, you know, you’re going to come across the dead enders. And we have come across dead enders and we’ve had some terrific fire fights with some of these. Not unexpected. And I think our people are prepared to fight this war, and as you correctly said, we’re five days into this.
TOM BEARDEN: Franks was asked why there hadn’t been a popular uprising against Saddam Hussein.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS: Fear. Fear. The practice of this regime over a long period of time. It has to do with fear. I mentioned paramilitaries and the Saddam Fedayeen in some of these towns, I answered a question a minute ago about how so can it be that things are not all calm in Basra – and Nasiriyah and so forth — it has to do with the fact that fear tactics are still being applied. In many of these locations, and that will change over time.
TOM BEARDEN: For the third night in a row, reporters asked if coalition forces had received any information on weapons of mass destruction.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS: We probably have received, oh, several handfuls of bits of information over the last three or four days about potential WMD locations. Some of those locations are in areas where we have control, some we have not yet gone into. I think Sec. Rumsfeld gave the right appreciation yesterday when he said, you know, we were then four days, we’re now five days into this, and we’re concerned about taking down this regime and about getting our hands on all these weapons of mass destruction and these technologies. And it’s a bit early for us to have an expectation of having found them. So this is what we call SSE, Sensitive Site Exploitation. And we will do some sensitive site exploitation as we go along, and we’ll do other sensitive site exploitation a bit later in the campaign. Sir?
PAUL HUNTER, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: What have you deduced from the fact that Saddam still has not used chemical weapons against coalition troops, and do you think the greatest risk would be when they converge closer to Baghdad?
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS: I think, I actually think we don’t know. There is a school of thought that says as the compression becomes tighter and tighter and tighter, the pressure will be greater and greater to use these weapons. So we don’t know. We don’t know whether the regime will use these weapons, my encouragement is not to the regime highest leadership, rather my encouragement is to the people who will have their fingers on the trigger to use such weapons. We have very carefully said, don’t do it. And that’s the best I can tell you. We don’t know if he will, we don’t know when he will. We fully understand that he has the ability to instruct, to demand of his subordinates the use of these weapons. But it would not surprise you that at this point, even five days into this operation, many orders which have been given by this regime have not been obeyed by a great many of the subordinates in his armed forces.
TOM BEARDEN: Gen. Franks said the coalition forces were still on the move and operations still according to plan. He said his forces had great resolve and great morale, and added as he has so many times before, the outcome is not in doubt.