Central Command Briefing: Brigadier General Vincent Brooks
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GEN. BROOKS: [In progress] …the 23rd day of Operation Iraqi Freedom since coalition forces entered Iraq. The regime is in disarray and no longer in control of Iraq, and the coalition remains focused on the objectives of the campaign.
The attainment of objectives to date has not come without cost, and as always, we pause to remember those who have lost their lives, and we extend our condolences to their families.
The operations of the last 24 hours have been characterized by simultaneous actions in all parts of the country. Some focused on removing any remaining chance of the regime returning to power while others focused on setting the conditions for a stable and free Iraq.
The situation in northern Iraq changed quickly yesterday as coalition forces, supported by Kurdish forces, moved into areas vacated by the Iraqi military. Significant increase in the number of special forces detachments in the area of Mosul in the North made it possible for us to meet with local leaders and set additional conditions for stability. There’s a neighborhood watch system that’s already gone into effect in Mosul, and the presence of coalition forces there contributes to the stability.
At this point, a wholesale capitulation has occurred, and effective military forces have not been encountered in that area. Coalition special operations forces and the 173rd Airborne Brigade continued efforts to increase the number of oil field structures that are secured. They are receiving assistance from local oil experts as these facilities are assessed.
Important actions also occurred in the west. In Al Qa’im, coalition special operations forces continued their work in and around that area. They entered into a number of facilities, including searching a train station, and air defense headquarters, a phosphate plant, a cement factory, and a water treatment plant. Worthy of note, they found two drones at the phosphate plant, and at this point we don’t have any additional information on that.
Coalition special operations forces also entered Al Asad Airfield. This is a place that has been subjected to coalition attacks before. And what they found on the ground was 15 fighter aircraft, fixed-wing aircraft, hidden underneath the camouflage and in appeared to be undamaged condition.
At a checkpoint in the west, coalition special operations forces stopped a bus with 59 military-aged men traveling west. Among their possessions were letters offering financial rewards for killing American soldiers and 630,000 U.S. dollars in 100-dollar bills. The men and all of their possessions have been taken into coalition control.
Coalition maneuver operations focused on increasing stability south of Baghdad to enable humanitarian assistance and on conducting combat operations to clear zones within Baghdad. Fifth Corps and 1st MEF forces expanded into the areas that are shown on this image, using the same convention we’ve used in the last few days. These are areas where new operations occurred in the last 24 hours. You can see there’s a significant increase in the southern area because of the addition of one more unit — in this case, the 101st Airborne Division. In some cases there were pockets of resistance encountered, and those were defeated.
As deliberate operations continue in Baghdad, more information is being made available to the coalition regarding any remaining regime elements, and also regarding the location of ammunition and equipment. Yesterday, for example, the coalition received information from some of the Iraqi citizens about the location of some rockets, and as a very quick response occurred by 5th Corps forces, they found on the ground five mobile launchers, and one Al-Samoud missile, and these have been preserved for future examination.
These types of efforts will continue, and additional forces have been added to the Baghdad clearance, as I mentioned, with the arrival of the 101st, having worked in areas further to the south. In every case, we find that presence of coalition forces is indeed contributing greatly to the establishment of stability.
In other areas, the coalition conducted — or continued its operational maneuver in the area of Al-Amarah in the east, where U.K. forces and coalition U.S. forces are moving toward one another to link up. In the area of Al Kut just to the northwest of there, there are still some indications that there may be a regime presence, and we are turning our attention in that direction.
Also this morning, the land component continued its attack to defeat any remaining forces north of Baghdad, beyond Baghdad, in this area. It is an ongoing
While combat continues in a number of areas, our efforts in increasing humanitarian assistance become more and more important. We also find difficult conditions to overcome in areas without power or adequate attention while the regime was in power.
Last night, the first humanitarian focused flight went into Baghdad International Airport. This is an image of it being loaded in Kuwait. On this flight were humanitarian supplies provided by the Kuwaiti government and the International Red Crescent. They were delivered by Kuwaiti and coalition persons on a coalition aircraft. There were four pallets on two different aircraft, with water, food and medical supplies that went into Baghdad International last night. We view this as a very important step, and one which will be followed by many more in the days and weeks ahead.
Fresh water remains a challenge, and we continue to strive to meet this very important and basic need in a variety of ways. We continue to push packaged water forward into areas as regularly as we can. In this case, you see water stocks that have been received by U.K. forces in the area of Umm Qasr.
In addition, coalition forces continue to use military water purification equipment, in this case also in Umm Qasr, to make fresh water. We then move that water, using our military resources to take the newly purified water forward. What you see here is the “mother of all water bags,” placed on top of a carrier to move forward into an area.
Bulk humanitarian assistance supplies are also regularly arriving in the region as more and more countries make contributions to support the free Iraqi people. I have a short video clip to show you that shows the delivery of wheat from an Australian ship, the Pearl of Fujirah [ph] on the 9th of April. I’m sorry — this first one is a clip that shows a United Arab Emirates ship that arrived just yesterday, that I spoke of. It also was supported by the International Red Crescent. As I mentioned, it had food, water and medical supplies — about 70 metric tons worth — and it was a very important delivery.
This one is the Australian ship, the Pearl of Fujirah [pH]. It was loaded with about 50,000 tons of wheat from Australia, and was delivered a few days ago into the area. In this case, the delivery occurred in Kuwait. The amount of the load was so much that the vessel sits too deep in the water and could not make it into Umm Qasr. So, the first offload is occurring in Kuwait. It will be then transloaded into trucks, as you see here, and moved forward for delivery. And then it may proceed on to Umm Qasr to deliver the rest of it in that area for forward delivery. There are other ships that are on the way as well that will follow.
Our assessments are ongoing in areas that have been liberated throughout the country, and our efforts are to put as much of the existing infrastructure back into use the help of the Iraqi people. This locomotive is being aligned on its tracks in Umm Qasr, which is the end of the rail line in the southeast, and it’s just one of the ways we’ll move supplies north toward An Nasiriyah and beyond. The coalition plan for combat operations deliberately avoided infrastructure like the rail system to ensure that they would be ready for use as quickly as possible after we were able to make assessments of their condition.
In addition to the supplies that are moving forward to the people of Iraq, our soldiers continue to redistribute supplies that are captured. This shows cooking oil and flour and soap captured from the regime’s forces. And this film occurred just yesterday in the vicinity of An Nasiriyah.
Ladies and gentlemen, there’s much work to be done still, in military operations and also clearly in humanitarian operations. The coalition remains committed to completing the removal of the regime while also transitioning to an effort focused on the needs of the Iraqi people.
And with that, I’ll take your questions. Yes sir, over here, please.
Q [Off mike] — in London. You’ve shown us some impressive pictures of aid arriving, but is it not the case that humanitarian organizations are now saying that there is a major problem in security before much of that aid can be distributed? And I’d like to know how satisfied you are that actually the coalition if fulfilling its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention to maintain security in the country?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, first of all, we know that there are a variety of humanitarian organizations our there, non-governmental organizations, international organizations that have varying views about what the conditions are. The reality is, we are delivering humanitarian assistance right now and have been for doing so for a great number of days. So while their assessments may differ in terms the conditions of security, we’re not going to wait for everyone in the world to be in agreement that all is secure. That’s work that needs to be done right now, and that work is ongoing, and will continue to occur.
As more and more countries get greater assessments of their own, I think we’ll see more and more deliveries done by a variety of organizations. We know that the United Nations also is doing assessments, and there will a number of organizations that will respond to whatever conditions the United Nations says exist in Iraq.
And so all this is really, it’s goodness, not badness, even though there’s some difference of opinion.
As to our responsibilities, we believes we’re fulfilling our responsibilities within the conditions and the parameters that we’re currently operating under. As I continue to emphasize, the work of combat operations has not completed itself yet. We’re still working on eliminating any remains of the regime. We’re still gathering information from the Iraqi population. We’re still doing very deliberate clearance operations throughout Baghdad and other parts of the country. And we still have work to be done in that regard. That’s what the forces are really focused on.
In areas where we’re present, as I stated, we find reports from commanders that there is in fact in impact that contributes to security just by the presence that’s there. But we can’t be present in all locations. And so there clearly are some places that have unrest. And we expect that that will settle over time. And we will continue to fulfill our responsibilities in that regard.
Yes, sir, on the aisle.
Q [Off mike] — Georgia. Some Russian news agencies said that Saddam Hussein is dead, and Washington knows about it. Any information about Hussein? He is dead or alive?
Thank you, sir.
GEN. BROOKS: We really don’t know at this point. There are any number of sources of information coming in with varying reports. There are conflicting reports, and therefore we cannot confirm any of the direction. What we do know is that the regime is not in power, that regime members who have tried to flee areas where they previously were, some of them have been killed, their forces have been killed in many cases or captures; some have simply gone back home, as we requested. Two leaders of the regime we’re looking for. We talked about that yesterday, and we continue our efforts in that regard to be complete in our work to remove the regime from power and ensure that it doesn’t return. But we don’t have any specific reports on that particular individual.
Yes, please. Tom.
Q [Inaudible] In the very beginning, you said, some of the efforts over the last 24 hours focused on removing any chance of the regime returning to power. What exactly did you mean by that?
And secondly, everyone keeps waiting north of Baghdad. The Marines are moving north; the 4th Infantry Division is moving across Kuwait right now into the theater. What is — what significance is that?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, first, on the return to power, the regime clearly had a tight grip on the population on all activities that occurred inside of Iraq. The regime had the power to do that through a variety of mechanisms — special security organizations; intelligence services; paramilitary forces that operated and kept a very tight grip on the population to ensure that there was no uprising the might overthrow the regime as it was; military forces through the country; rocket forces that could threaten neighboring countries; and harboring of terrorists throughout the country. None of those things can return. We believe we have defeated all of those. While there are still pockets of resistance out there, we must pursue and complete the work on, those types of capabilities have been eliminated, as I described.
Our efforts remain focused on ensuring that that doesn’t ever come back. So that means the capabilities to do that, the types of people who were involved in that and the various parts of the programs that they had must be also removed to ensure that it does not return.
As to the movement of forces, we have work to do still in the area of Baghdad. That’s one of the areas we’re conducting operations. I’ve talked about others as well, and I’ve certainly alluded to the ongoing situation north of Baghdad. The 4th ID and other units that have been added to the fight have been units that were always projected to join this operation and function underneath of the land component. That’s on plan. They’re arriving. Now, how they’ll be used depends on the conditions we see at the time. And that really is a tactical option for the land component command as to how he will introduce newly arrived forces into action. Some have already arrived in the last several days. One of the reasons why the 101st is now in greater density in and around Baghdad is because additional forces have been added further to the south. And so we can maintain security of our lines of communication and also complete the work that was done in places like Karbala, Nasiriyah, Najaf, Al Hillah a few days ago to eliminate the parts of the regime that were there and get on to other business. So the getting on to other business is the part that is ahead of us, and the forces that are available will be used as the land component commander sees fit.
Okay, in the back, please.
Q General, two points. Jonathan Marcus [pH], BBC. First of all, I know you’ve alluded in very vague terms to what may be going on north of Baghdad, but could we be specific? There aren’t too many towns of the significance of Tikrit to the Iraqi regime. Can you confirm that the operations have begun in that particular direction?
And secondly, whilst you consistently say that you need to deconflict the support operations from combat operations, and it’s all very understandable, the pictures that are going — flashing around the world of the situation in many of the hospitals inside Baghdad are very harrowing indeed. They’re creating a good deal of unease and concern. Is there not a great deal more your forces could do in terms of bringing better medical care to the people of Baghdad?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, Jonathan, first, Tikrit is one of the areas where we still have concern that there may be presence of regime forces. There are some capabilities that still exist. And we have been relentless in our effort focused against the Tikrit area. This is not something now. This has been ongoing for some time, throughout the campaign, because we know that that is an area that has been important to the regime and that regime leaders are from in and around the Tikrit area. But Tikrit is not the only area. And so, when we say “north of Baghdad,” that’s the area where we’ve not conducted operations of a kind that have occurred south of Baghdad, and work must be done to do that. There are areas we need to physically go into to find out what the conditions are. We know there’s still military equipment in the Tikrit area, further off to the west and some areas to the east. And all of those must be approached investigated. We may find that there’s not much fight left, but some of the recent operations indicate that there’s still some fighting to do, even in those areas. And so we remain focused on trying to get that job done as we continue toward that area and beyond. Any place we find that there may be evidence of the regime, we must go and put an end to it or seek its removal.
You mentioned hospitals, and certainly there are images of conditions in hospitals. We don’t know that that’s all of the hospitals. It’s certainly not all of the hospitals that we’re aware of, and there are a great many hospitals throughout the country. Many of them we’ve seen used already as military facilities. Those have been cleared out. That’s part of what we’re doing to try to provide aid. That’s throughout the country; it’s not just in Baghdad.
In many cases, we provide our own military medical assistance to people who are encountered or on the battlefield that would seek assistance by moving toward our units. That is ongoing. There’s a great amount of things we’re doing medically right now within our capacity and even beyond what our capacity is generated for. Military medical units are created for military units. But because we have been fortunate in not having a significant number of casualties to overcome those locations, we make them available to anyone that we find on the battlefield that requires medical assistance.
So I think or focus has remained very consistent. It’s trying to provide whatever aid we can within our capability. The provision of medical supplies, like the flight that went in last night into Baghdad is just another example of trying to push what we can where we can to provide the assistance we can. And that will continue. There are some things that are beyond our ability to reach right now. We know that. And in due time, we’ll do the best we can with it.
Q David Lee Miller [pH], Fox News. General, you said the regime is no longer in control, and because of that, I wonder, to what extent might it be more difficult now to locate POWs and/or missing troops? Who do you deal with and how do you approach the problem now on that? Is it more difficult?
GEN. BROOKS: There are challenges that come with removing structures. There are also opportunities that come with that. What we’re finding throughout most of the country is, those who have information or were aware of the behavior and actions of the regime were not free to speak about that for fear of losing their lives. What we’re finding now is that the regime has been moved away, people will speak about what it is they know. And so we suspect that much of the information that will assist us either in finding prisoners of war from this conflict or previous conflicts or finding additional indications of the weapons of mass destruction program or finding regime leaders who have fled from the areas or from the mechanism of power will come by way of the elimination of the regime.
So while there is some risk that those who absolutely know where any prisoners of war have been held might be gone, there are others who may have information, and we’ll see to gather that. And any number of sources will be brought together to try to find whatever we can about each one of these unanswered questions.
Q Hi, General. Can you fill us in a little more on the busload of the 59 men? From what countries? Do we know the source of the letter offering rewards? On whose letterhead, if you will, was that? And also, can you tell us about the find of the suicide bombing vests that were outfitted with explosives?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I don’t have any specific information on exactly what countries these men may have been from. We’ve found people who were not Iraqis in a variety of places. I don’t know in this case that they were or were not. I certainly know they were leaving Iraq and headed to the west.
Don’t have any specific reports on whose letterhead that might have been.
And the second part of your question was?
Q The suicide bombing vests.
GEN. BROOKS: The suicide vests. I have seen media reports of that, but I have not gotten military reports about that. So we don’t have any confirmation on it at this point. We certainly have seen the practice of using suicide vests and we would not be surprised if we indeed find that that report is true as we go on. What we do know of this report is that — or at least the media version of it says that citizens told our forces about it because they were concerned. That’s the report that I saw. When we see a military report to confirm that, then we’ll have better knowledge. But I think that that is entirely believable because of the practice of using suicide vests on individuals who may or may not be Iraqis who are willing to serve as human bombs and because of the openness that we’re now seeing form the Iraqi population to tell us what’s really going on and to point us to places where they have dangers and concerns. And we’ll continue in our efforts to keep that channel open.
Yes, ma’am. Please.
Q Thank you, General. [Inaudible] — CBS News. If I can just follow up on the Fox question. Have you gotten any information that leads you closer to the POWs and MIAs? And also, there are reports that there will be a curfew enforced in Baghdad. Is that true? By U.S. Forces?
GEN. BROOKS: First, when we have information about the potential location of any of the prisoners of war, while we are always trying to find a way to get at them, we would never discuss anything we in fact do know. We know that there are still prisoners of war. And we can be quite open about that. And we certainly again remind any who would have possession of them that they’re responsible for their treatment and their condition. We would certainly like for the International Red Cross to be given access to them to confirm what their status is. That has not yet happened. And so we must pursue for ourselves to find any prisoners of war.
To date, there have been some indications of different prisons where they might have been held. We’ve entered some of these in the very recent days, and have not found them, which means our work is not yet complete. I’d like to leave it at that. We’ll remain focused on it. We haven’t forgotten them. We won’t forget them. And we’ll commit actions to try to retrieve them whenever we have information that can be acted upon.
There was a curfew imposed by the regime. And that occurred well before we came into the cities of Iraq, particularly Baghdad. There has been no curfew imposed by coalition forces at this point in time.
Yes, sir, please.
Q [Off mike] — from Agence France Presse. General, you said that the mere presence of the troops does contribute to stability in some areas. At what stage would the troops open fire to prevent a situation from happening, for example, as the Brits did in Basra when there was a bank robbery? Is there any specific event in which the troops, other than self-defense, in which the troops would open fire to prevent looting of hospitals, for example?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I’ll keep it general, because we begin to get into rules of engagement if I get too specific. But first, we always maintain the inherent right of self-defense. So if there is a physical threat that’s being imposed or posed toward a coalition soldier or member, then they have the right to respond in a way that’s appropriate to eliminate that particular threat. In some cases, that may include lethal force.
Conditions beyond that are judgment calls for tactical commanders on the ground. If they find that there is a need to respond in a certain way, then they’ll issue an order to respond in a certain way. In some cases, it’s down to the lowest level, it’s at the action level, where one leader’s had to made an immediate decision, a life- or-death decision to take an action to either eliminate a threat to themselves or others.
The answer has to remain generalized because there’s not a fixed response to it. I think we’ll find that the case in Basra, there people who were armed, and there was a response to that. In other places, we may see activities that are occurring, but we also expect people to govern themselves in way that are acceptable behaviors by the community. This neighborhood watch that’s been formed in Mosul, for example, is a great example of the population setting standards for themselves. We have never had the intend of coming in with a heavy and and replacing one regime with another. That’s not our design; never would be our design. It’s to do things in cooperation with the population as much as possible. And there’s a degree of risk in that. While some people in the population may make choices that are unacceptable, like looting or like perpetrating violence on others, most are not. And we believe that in due time, this will settle down. That’s our approach to it at the current time.
Q [Off mike] — from Sky News. Couple of questions. You mentioned earlier that there are troops on the ground in Mosul and also in Kirkuk to provide stability. How do you respond to criticisms that the troops have arrived, but have simply been staying on the base, and there haven’t been large numbers of troops deployed on the ground patrolling around on that streets, and that the problem is that force protection rules you’re operating under preclude that sort of — those sort of large-scale patrols, high-activity patrols?
And the other question was related to Qa’im when you went into the phosphate plant. It doesn’t sound in itself very surprising to go into a chemical plant and find two drums of chemicals. Is there something that — more about these drums that causes you to be suspicious?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, first, your characterization of where forces are deployed is simply not factual. There are no bases in the northern oil fields, and we’re there in abundance. We are in an around both cities and moving through those cities. This is where we say the presence does contribute to stability. And we’re very comfortable that that’s the right approach to take. A number of forces have been used from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, for example, that is operating in and around that area with multiple battalions. And so we remain satisfied that we’re operating appropriately with the right amount of force and in a way that keeps our presence there, and also is done in a constructive way where we engage directly with city leaders and religious leaders, and they tell us what is appropriate behavior, and they also decide what is appropriate behavior for themselves. So it’s a very cooperative effort, and one that I think is a great example of how the work needs to be done throughout the country.
As to Al Qa’im, we have always had concerns first about its geographic location, secondly about its history of having been involved in the launching of surface-to-surface missiles, long-range missiles into neighboring countries, and also that it might potentially be involved in the weapons of mass destruction program. And so we do deliberate searches in areas that we have any suspicion at all to confirm it or to eliminate it from the list of place that may be involved in the program that way. That’s why our attention is focused as it is right now.
Yes, please, George.
Q Hi, General. Two questions. One, I wanted to follow up on [Mimi's ?] question. You say you know that there are still POWs. does that mean you have recent information that they are still alive?
And then secondly, on this whole issue of maintain law and order. I know you’re reluctant for the coalition forces to do that job. Who do you expect to do it, and what is the coalition doing now to encourage the rebuilding of a police force?
GEN. BROOKS: First, on the characterization of prisoners of war, we view them as alive until we know they are not. And that’s why we don’t forget them. And so we remain focused on them until we have any confirming information that says we should stop. Right now we don’t have anything that tells us that. Until they’re back into our possession, we certainly want them to be alive when that occurs. But until they’re back in our possession, we’re not finished with our work regarding prisoners of war.
Law and order is an important dynamic of a stable society. And much of law and order comes from the behaviors chosen by the people in that society. That’s really the fundamental aspect of it. There are artificial methods that can be imposed upon that, repressive methods and measures. The regime did that. They were able to maintain a degree of law and order, and they did so by making sure that no one stood up against them; if they did, they simply murdered them. That’s not the kind of law and order we want to see in a free Iraq. And so we want choices to be made by the Iraqi people, and choices are being made in many places. The Mosul example is just a classic case here, and that’s why I keep coming back to it. In a very short period of time since the departure of Iraqi forces, we’ve met leaders, and those leaders have decided how the behaviors were going to be inside of their town. This is occurring in other places as well, and we see stability occurring in more and more places throughout the country.
There are many more issues to be dealt with in Baghdad particularly, one, because of its size, and secondly because of the intense pressure that the regime had in that city. There may be any number of choices on how we create a police force in the future. It’s a bit early to say that. I mentioned yesterday that the police force was involved in targeting coalition forces and contributing information directly to the regime. So it in and of itself is not an acceptable solution. There may be some though, through a deliberate process of vetting, who may be returned. But that deliberate process must occur. There are others who can be used as neighborhood watch, as an example, who are reliable, can be vetted, and can be put to use. Much of this has to be determined by the Iraqi people.
So we’re still very closely aligned with as many leaders as we can find that are now emerging within all the cities that we’ve passed and try to create a structure that works for them and also accomplishes what we’re after.
Q General, Chas Henry, WTOP Radio. On that same theme, what do you tell people — for instance, shopkeepers in Baghdad who found themselves having to use weapons to protect their property — what’s the coalition’s message to them in this interim period, before things, as you say, inevitably blow over?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, first we tell them that we’re not finished yet. We still have work to do, and we’re continuing our efforts to eliminate the regime that had been once — oppressed so severely. There was a report from a commander today that because of the presence of coalition troops, commerce can begin. And so in many areas, shops are opening in places where they were closed for a while, where there was a great concern. And so we see a mixture. In some cases, there may be shopkeepers who are armed, and we would certainly want a condition in due time where they don’t believe that they are threatened by anyone inside their population, and certainly are not threatened by anyone in the coalition. This, I believe, will take time.
There’s physical conditions of security that occur, and then there are also mental and emotional conditions of stability or security that must occur. [Inaudible] — very important one that we have to also consider, and that’s where when we say the presence of coalition forces contributes to it, there’s a feeling of security that comes in many cases from that, and then decisions are made and life proceeds. I think that’s what we’re going to see over time.
It’s still very early into this operation from the entry of forces, and certainly the departure of the regime. And as time goes on, we’ll find different methods, and we’ll find the people approaching their own perception of their security in different ways.
Q Are they essentially on their own right now, though, during this interim?
GEN. BROOKS: I wouldn’t say they’re on their own. There’s not the same forces and structures that were out there before, but the coalition is in a number of areas, and so where we are, they’re certainly not on their own. Where we are not, the population can take care of itself in many ways, and we would anticipate that there’s security in some parts, there’s stability in some parts, there are decisions being made by local leaders in areas, to help them maintain the sense of security that’s important to be able to proceed into the future.
Yes, back here.
Q Charlie Byrd [sp] from Irish Television and Dublin — [inaudible] — News. President Bush says that it’s the call of Tommy Franks as to when this war might be over. You say that it’s day 23, everything is going well. If Tikrit falls, would that be the signal for you — you also say the regime is in disarray, it’s gone — if Tikrit falls, is that the signal perhaps that Tommy Franks can come here to the podium and say that the war is over?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I wouldn’t presuppose anything that General Franks might say. What I would tell you is that we know that we still have work to be done way of the objectives that were laid out at the beginning of the campaign. If Tikrit falls and is like other cities that we’ve gone into, and there’s an end to any presence of the regime, and no more controlled by the regime, and the removal of military forces, that’s just one more city. There may be still other areas. As I mentioned, Tikrit is not the only place where we believe there is still a presence of either regime forces, or regime leaders, or regime activities. And so there would still be work to be done beyond that. But that’s just the objective that relates to removing the regime.
There were a number of objectives that were laid out at the beginning of this operation. We still have a tremendous amount of work to do in the weapons of mass destruction program. And with each day that passes, we get new information from people we have access to, and they point us to new things, which provide us yet more information. And we believe that we still have a lot to do. We still remain convinced that they are present inside of the country and that we will find them. That’s going to take time. Tikrit is not related to those conclusion.
There are a number of other things as well, and I would — I’d encourage you to go back to the beginning of this campaign, what was laid out by the secretary of defense, and see if we’ve accomplished all those. We believe we have not, and until we have, we’re not ready to say we’re finished.
Okay. Yes ma’am, please.
Q Sue Marker Grant [pH] with — [inaudible] — Magazine. Has a reward been established for information leading to the capture of Saddam Hussein or other leaders, or WMD for that matter? And if so, what kind of a price would the coalition be willing to pay for that information?
GEN. BROOKS: I won’t be too specific about prices. What I will tell you is, consistent with work we do in other parts of the world — Afghanistan, example — a rewards program has been established for information leading to the capture of key leaders. And you’ve seen a number of them. I laid out 55 of them yesterday, and there are even more beyond that that are of lesser importance to the regime but nevertheless are of interest to us. But not only the personalities, also information regarding weapons of mass destruction programs. There may be information regarding the location of weapons caches. Any number of things may be considered out there. The price tags vary. We think it’s appropriate prices.
We have to also recognize that in some cases there can be a tendency for lawlessness that includes black marketing, and that’s very important. We have always sought not to have the weapons of this country move into the hands of terrorists. So while the regime may have been removed, there may be those who are still interested in causing that link to occur, and so it’s very important that we not stimulate a black market — in fact, that we undermine the black market in what we do. And that’s part of our approach, and I’d like to leave it right there.
Yes please, George.
Q George Curry, editor-in-chief of National Newspaper Publishers New Service. There has been a lot of photographs and footage out concerning the looting. How widespread is it, and is there any indication that it’s dropping off?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, first I would say it’s not nearly as widespread as the focus seems to be when the camera happens to be at those locations. That’s just a reality. This is a very large country with many cities, and even the city of Baghdad has many areas. We believe that it is tapering off. The examples of Basra, the limited looting that happened against regime locations in Mosul has come to an end. Some of these were retribution against the regime. Some have gone beyond that, clearly. But we think that it is already tapering off significantly. It’ not an acceptable behavior for the Iraqi people, and where leaders are stepping forward in communities, it’s coming to an end. We certainly encourage that to happen in as many communities as possible. That’s how we’re approaching it right now.
Yes please, Adi [pH].
Q Adi Rival [pH], ABC News. We’ve heard a lot about oil fires, or lack thereof, in southern Iraq. But what about the status of oil wells in other parts of Iraq? I’ve heard one estimate that there are about 2,000 — approximately 2,000 oil wells all over Iraq. What can you tell us about the status of oil wells in other parts of Iraq besides southern Iraq?
And the second question I have is there are reports now that in Basra the British are going to implement some sort of combined police force with local Iraqis. They’re still in local vetting process. Does that seem like a good idea in Baghdad?
Thank you, sir.
GEN. BROOKS: Okay. We estimate there’s somewhere on the order of 1,500 or so oil wells throughout the country, and we are certainly well aware of how those wells are laid out and what the important parts of the oil production system are. Some things are different in the north than they are in the south, just based on the content of the oil, for example. We’ve focused on things like gas-oil separation plants, storage tanks, some of the pipeline, the wellheads themselves, the distribution terminals, and distribution manifolds. And you saw early in the campaign some operations directed specifically against those key terminals and manifolds to ensure that they would always be available for export when export resumes.
In the north, we have seen also that there were early reports that some of the wellheads might have been rigged for demolition, as we found was the case in the south. Thus far, we have not found any examples of that, although we did have some very credible information that said that the preparations were underway. The conditions of the wells in the north so far are pretty good. We don’t have any known wellhead fires. There is one location we knew of a spill a few months ago that had caught on fire. I believe that was the result of some sort of an industrial accident. That’s since gone out. We also had information about a break in a pipeline that was on fire off to the west, and that’s finished burning and is now somewhat smoldering, and we believe we can address that here very soon now that we have freer movement in that area. Throughout the country, that’s really conditions.
Now, what has yet to be done is a complete assessment of the entire oil infrastructure, and it will be necessary to do that before the work of the oil system can really resume. There’s some limited capacity that’s still moving, but for the most part is not export, and the systems of the oil production we are not completely engaged. Some of the refineries are not reactivated, what have you. That is a very deliberate process also.
We’ve got an organization that’s been created to do that work, to do assessments. Some civilian organizations are part of that, military engineers are part of that, chemical and oil engineers from the military also being a part of that, and the work is ongoing as we get access to more and more.
The good news is it’s in much better condition than it could have been, and certainly much better condition than it would have been without coalition action — without a doubt.
Q On the second question, regarding Baghdad — [inaudible] — police force — [inaudible] –
GEN. BROOKS: Right. You mentioned the Basra approaches that are being taken. I think that we’re going to see a number of options being considered to try to re-engage the Iraqi population in taking care of itself. That has always been our thrust, will remain our thrust as quickly as possible, empower the Iraqi people to run their own country. We will assist from the coalition’s perspective wherever possible. We think that this is certainly as good a solution as any right now in terms of how do you find someone that might want to be a police. There are other solutions that might be considered, and so that wouldn’t be the only one. I won’t project what the solution for Baghdad is going to be. That’s yet to unfold in its fullness.
Okay. Yes ma’am, please.
Q Kathy Shin [SP] from Phoenix Allied TV in Hong Kong. I would like to a follow-up questions on the looting situation in some of the cities. I mean, according to you, the pictures that we’re starting from yesterday, some of the looters are now even own guns. So, I’m just wondering, I mean, don’t they pose a threat to the coalition forces addition to the one that they have already brought to the Iraqi civilians? And also, I would like to know why do they allow to have, to own — I mean, ammunition, and roaming around the streets when the war is still going on? Thank you.
GEN. BROOKS: There are many conditions that have to be settled in a place that has just had the regime removed from power. The possession of weapons is one of those. And we’ll have methods out there that will help us to collect up weapons from people that should not have them. Military forces, when those are restored, police forces, when those are restored, and potentially some others that appropriately should be armed will be armed.
What the outcome will be for the civilian population, some of that will be a decision made by the Iraqi people, whether it’s okay to possess weapons. But certainly we know that there are weapons out there that are available. You’ve seen the piles of weapons in some of these hospitals, in some of these schools. They’re certainly accessible.
It takes time to sort through those sorts of things. We don’t want to have lawlessness. That’s not part of the objective, and it certainly is not part of the long-term view of what a free Iraq will look like. And so I think that we all just need to be patient and recognize that this is not something that happens overnight. Where we have threats to the coalition, we deal with those threats. Everyone who is in possession of a weapon is not necessarily a threat at this point, but they are in a position where we ultimately have to address whether they should or should not have them.
You had a second question, and I thought I wrote it down but I didn’t. What was your — the second half of your question?
Q I was wondering how come they are allowed to own guns and weapons –
GEN. BROOKS: Okay. I think I addressed that.
Q — when the war is still going on.
GEN. BROOKS: I’ve already covered that. Okay. Yes please.
Q Hi. It’s Paul Hunter from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. What is your assessment today of the level of threat that chemical weapons will be used during this war? I mean, even though you haven’t found any yet, do you think they could still be — have you taken away their capability yet to use them as weapons? And if not, where do you see the hot spots being? I mean, are any soldiers still regularly suiting up as they were on the approach to Baghdad?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, we certainly have seen a change of the conditions and a change of the potential threat of use, first because we’ve broken much of the regime and its ability to communicate the instructions to launch things that would deliver chemical weapons. But we haven’t found all the delivery systems. We just found five more mobile launchers and an Al-Samoud missile that’s — that’s chemical capable. Could it have been fired? Perhaps. Would it have been fired? Unknown. We know it won’t be now. And we still find missiles in other places. There are some missiles that have been identified north of Tikrit and they were struck by aircraft, just as it has been throughout the war. It’s not just missiles. The two drones that were found — could they have been potentially used? Perhaps. We have to do further examination to see if they might have been capable of delivering chemicals. And these are the unmanned aerial vehicles that have been described before.
So, there’s still a capability. There may be a will. And we want to make sure there is not a way to get that done. It’s deliberate work. It’s ongoing. And it’s going to take some more time to find exactly what we need to find.
Over here, please.
Q [Inaudible] — Al Qa’im is being targeted is because it’s potentially a place where weapons of mass destruction could be developed. Can you elaborate a little bit on why you think that? And also, we were told earlier this week that some of the resistance there was stiffer than it had been in other Iraqi cities. Is that still the case?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, let me go to the latter part. The resistance in and around Al Qa’im we believe has been much defeated — not completed, but much defeated. There were a number of forces that were defending in and around the Al Qa’im area. We can’t presume what the reason was, why it was important to the Iraqis. We certainly know the reasons why we consider it important, and why it might have been of value to the Iraqi regime.
I’ve laid out before why we believe it was important. It’s not appropriate for me to lay out all the sources and methods that lead us to have any concern about why it might potentially have been involved in the program of weapons of mass destruction. We have a number of sources that give us information, and then we have to physically examine to see if that’s true. The most important part was to make certain, if we erred on one side, it was to make certain that that area was not used again as it had been used in the past. And we were successful in doing that thus far. If we didn’t find weapons of mass destruction, we were still successful in our efforts at Al Qa’im, and we’ll go in other places to find the weapons of mass destruction as we find more and more people who have knowledge. They’ll point us to those storage sites. They’ll point us to pieces of information that might lead us to evidence. That’s already beginning, and we’ll follow every lead that we can as we go through this deliberate process.
Q Claudia Parsons of Reuters. Could I go back to the question of oil? You said in the north they’re still in pretty good condition. Can you give us an idea of how long, how soon you think they might be able to restart exports, there’s a pipeline off to the Mediterranean there? Is it going to be days, weeks or months? Equally in the south of the country.
Second question, yesterday you talked about leaders fleeing, indications of leaders fleeing. Can you tell us more about that, expand on that, where they might be going, how you know that?
GEN. BROOKS: The second question really talks about the leaders and where they’re going. And again, I don’t want reveal how do we know what we know. There are a number of things that tell us, a number of sources that might give us information. They’re not always right — we have to be very clear about that — but when there’s enough information that says we should act, we act. We know that the regime is not in some of the places where they previously were. We’ve destroyed their locations for meeting, their locations for commanding and controlling, and people tell us that they’re not present anymore. Where they’re going, we don’t know. We know they’re on the run, and we’ll pursue them in places where we think they might have gone, certainly within Iraq, where we have the military capability to conduct operations. And we’ll seek the assistance of the Iraqi population to help us find out where they might have gone, or where they might be, and we will take action that’s appropriate to gain control of those individuals to ensure that the regime does not have a chance of resuming here or anywhere else.
As to the condition of the oil system, it’s really not possible for me to guess how long it’s going to be before export and production goes up in earnest. We know we want to have that happen as soon as possible, but the deliberate assessment has to be done first, and it’s the assessment, frankly, that will take the longest period of time. Well by well, terminal by terminal, separation point by separation point, refinery by refinery, pipeline by pipeline. And then there may be things that need to be improved before real production can get generated in earnest. And so that assessment process is the most important ingredient in getting the oil program restarted, and that’s ongoing right now.
Okay. Yes please.
Q [Inaudible] — from TV South Korea. [Inaudible] — Iraqi civilians are being killed by U.S. troops at checkpoints only because they don’t understand what the soldiers direction. I think it’s obvious it’s because the U.S. soldiers now thinking of Iraqi civilians as potential suicide bombers after the incidents or explosion near Saddam City the other day. Are you going to let this happen again, or do you think it’s something you can avoid in this situation to kill innocent people? Or how — or if not, how you going to deal with this rather tricky situation?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, you’re drawing your own conclusion as to why it’s happening. I don’t agree with you at all. But what I would tell you is that we have procedures for checkpoints, and we set up the checkpoints in such a way that there are a number of options available to anyone approaching that checkpoint to make a decision to not approach it. We use a variety of methods of information to try to make it very clear what actions should be taken, and sometimes people don’t follow those. Sometimes those people are suicide bombers.
The one part that I do agree with is the last part of your characterization that talks about a very difficult situation. It’s a life and death situation. It’s not at all theoretical. And because of that, people have to make decisions on the ground. And we think that that will continue. We know that there are still ongoing attacks by individuals who would want to have an impact against coalition forces — whether they’re strapping bombs on their body, whether they’re driving a car full of civilians, whether they’re driving a vehicle that gets exploded by remote control. All of these things we’ve seen throughout the operation as methods of attack. It certainly causes us to be alert, but we are not targeting civilians. We never have, and we will not for any part of this coalition operation.
All the way in the back, please.
Q [Inaudible] — from French Television. Regarding the half- brother of Saddam Hussein, some reports say that he was dead. Some have said that he was arrested. Can you tell us more about him? And if he was arrested, can you tell us the story?
GEN. BROOKS: He has not been arrested and we don’t know whether he is alive or dead. We’ve also seen conflicting reports. That’s really where we stand right now. Again, it’s not — while we are focused on individuals now because the regime has fractured and we must remove those individuals or take them into custody or confirm their status in order to know the regime is finished, it’s still about ensuring the regime does not have any capability and ensuring the regime does not come back. So he is one of many that we are now seeking to gain some degree of control over.
I’ll take the last question. Back there, please, with your hand up and the paper.
Q [Inaudible] — ABC News. I may be confused, but help me with this matter — the curfew. We heard yesterday from the Pentagon that indeed there was a curfew in effect in Baghdad. You’re now telling us there is not. If not, why not? Is it because you simply don’t have the manpower on the ground to enforce one?
Secondly also, have your men yet to reach the Monday decapitation strike, the bomb scene? If so, what have they found, if anything, that would lead you to believe that Saddam Hussein was or was not there when the bombs fell?
GEN. BROOKS: There’s probably been some confusion out there about whether or not there was a curfew. There was a curfew. It was not coalition-imposed. So that should clarify what it is that we’re talking about there.
At this point we have not imposed a curfew. And whether one is imposed or not, I think, will be a tactical decision that’s made down at a lower level. It’s not something that necessarily rises up to General Franks’ decision that has to be made.
Each one of the cities throughout the country is in a different status, and each force in every one of those cities has a different commander, and those commanders must measure the conditions.
If we put a universal curfew on all the cities of Iraq, for example, from Central Command level, then we would undermine the neighborhood watch that’s occurring so effectively in Mosul. We would undermine the good progress that’s been made in parts of Basra.
And so a heavy-handed solution is not the way to solve any of these problems. A very focused solution made by commanders on the ground…