TOM BEARDEN: For the first time since the war began, the top commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, met with the international media at his headquarters in Qatar. Emphasizing the coalition war he says he is fighting, Franks was flanked by officers from Britain, Australia, Denmark, and the Netherlands. He said the operation was going according to plan.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS: Let me begin by saying this will be a campaign unlike any other in history, a campaign characterized by shock, by surprise, by flexibility, by the employment of precise munitions on a scale never before seen, and by the application of overwhelming force.
TOM BEARDEN: Gen. Vincent Brooks, a central command operations officer, used plasma video screens to display combat footage. The screens are part of a $275,000 Hollywood-designed TV set created for CENTCOM press briefings.
BRIG. GEN. VINCE BROOKS: Coalition special operations forces entered Iraq at night after destroying Iraqi military outposts, as this short video shows. You will see two clips. The first is an outpost along the border, and the second is a building that supported observers on the border. Our coalition maritime forces have destroyed Iraqi naval forces, as the following video shows. This is a patrol boat being attacked from the air, and in a moment you'll see the secondary explosion completing its destruction. They are also very active in ensuring that the waterways remain open and un-mined so that Iraq is not cut off from the aid that is prepared to flow in.
TOM BEARDEN: Gen. Franks then took questions for some 40 minutes. He was asked if negotiations were under way with senior Iraqi political and military leaders.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS: I will say that we have ongoing dialogues, as I think was mentioned in the Pentagon press brief yesterday, with a number of senior Iraqi officials. And so those discussions, both with people in uniform and not in uniform, will continue in the hours and the days ahead.
TOM BEARDEN: Franks was asked to describe the kind of opposition his forces were encountering.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS: Our forces on the ground, to include our special operations forces, have encountered enemy formations on a number of occasions in a number of places, and the fight has been joined in several places inside Iraq. With respect to the air defenses in and around Baghdad, we... I think it was pretty evident last night that there was a lot of air defense going up in the air. It is obvious that the regime continues to move air defense assets around as best it can for the purpose of survivability. We will continue to do our work with these magnificent airmen, and over time, we'll take down all of the air defense capability that exists today. Sir?
KEVIN DUNN: Gen. Franks, what can you tell us about the success in attacking so-called regime targets? What can you tell us, what you know of the status, whereabouts, or health of Saddam Hussein?
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS: With respect to what is going on with the regime right now, I think that there is a certain confusion that is going on within the regime. I believe command and control is not exactly as advertised on Baghdad television. I believe that we should all be very confident that the application of force that's going into that country is designed to be so precise that it avoids in every way possible exposure of non-combatants to that. And with respect to the first part of the... of your question, I think... actually, I don't talk about strategic targets and so forth. What I talk about is emerging targets. Emerging targets can be leadership targets. They can be military formations. They can be some mobile communications capability that the regime has. And on several occasions up to this point, in fact, we have attacked emerging targets, several within the last 24 hours.
TOM BEARDEN: Gen. Franks was asked about the status of Basra, Iraq's second largest city.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS: We have seen the regime position weapons in and around precious facilities, civilian facilities, inside Basra. We have not seen large numbers of formations. And so our intent is not to move through and create military confrontations in that city; rather, we expect that we'll work with Basra and the citizens in Basra, the same way I believe has been widely reported in Umm Qasr. What we have seen up to this point is that the Iraqis are welcoming the forces when they come in. And so, once again, this is about liberation, and not about occupation, and so our desire will be to work with the civilian populations in Basra.
TOM BEARDEN: Franks was asked if the reported movement of Turkish troops into the hotly disputed Kurdish area of northern Iraq would complicate his planning.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS: Actually, I believe that the Turkish formations that we see in northern Iraq are very light formations. We see them move in and out of Turkey. There is continuing discussion, I know, at the political level to decide exactly how much of that, when, is acceptable, and so forth.
TOM BEARDEN: Gen. Franks ended the briefing the same way he began it, by offering his personal condolences to the families of the servicemen who have been killed. He called them wonderful young people who had made the ultimate sacrifice.