Brig. Gen Mark Kimmitt and Dan Senor CJTF7 and Coalition Provisional Authority Update
20 March, 2004
Presenter: Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director of Operation, CJTF-7,Dan Senor, Senior Advisor to Coalition Provisional Authority
They talked about a number of security related issues regarding further stepping up of Iraqi security forces. They discussed issues relating to the Iraqi minister of defense, which will be formally announced and stood up shortly. It has been informally announced by the Governing Council about two months ago.
Then the ambassador had meetings inside the CPA. He met -- he did a round table today with a group of Iraqi journalists, members of the Iraqi press corps, and that was -- and that was it for up until about an hour ago. General Kimmitt.
In the northern zone of operations yesterday, coalition forces conducted a hasty raid in Haman al Allil (ph), resulting in the detention of seven Iraqis, to include one target. This morning at 10:20, the PUK main headquarters in Mosul was attacked with five mortar rounds. The attack resulted in one Iraqi civilian killed and three wounded. Local authorities responded to the scene, and the Iraqi police service is conducting an investigation.
In the north-central zone of operations, a 1st Infantry Division soldier passed away at Landstuhl Medical Clinic from injuries received when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle overturned on March 17th near Baiji. Two days ago, Iraqi Civil Defense service located two individuals east of Balad that were killed when the IED they were attempting to emplace detonated prematurely.
Two days ago, the Diyala governor reported a bus was en route to Baqubah television station on a road near Canaan. When the bus passed the radio tower, three assailants attacked the bus with small arms fire. Three persons were killed and 10 were wounded -- employees of the al Iraqia Media Network. Yesterday, coalition forces captured three targets in separate raids in the vicinity of Kirkuk. One target, Hamid Al-Mutlak, is a former Ba'ath Party member suspected of anti-coalition activities in Kirkuk. One 1st Infantry Division soldier was electrocuted and passed away while working on communications equipment north of Baqubah on March 19th. In Baghdad, Operation Iron Promise continues.
As of last evening, 1st Armored Division troops had captured 99 enemy personnel, 154 weapons, 75 artillery and rocket rounds, and significant quantities of IED materials since Iron Promise kicked off. Two days ago, an Iraqi vehicle attempted to run a cordon in support of the investigation into a rock -- into the rocket attack at the al-Hayat Hotel. A car approached the cordon at a high rate of speed, and despite other cars turning around and soldiers using voice and visual hand signals to turn around, the car continued to move forward. The driver accelerated through the cordon and rammed one of the Humvees head on, at approximately 50 kilometers per hour, pushing the vehicle 10 to 15 feet back from the impact.
Fearing a VBIED, the soldiers engaged the vehicle with small arms and killed the driver. In the western zone of operations, a coalition helicopter was downed due to enemy small arms fire near al-Amiriya. Both pilots were recovered without injury. Forces secured the craft site and complete recovery efforts. In the central-south zone of operations, a coalition patrol detained three civilian individuals attempting to move Air Force ordinance from an ASP west of As-Sawara.
The detainees were turned over to coalition officials at Camp Charlie for further investigation. On 13 March, the 1st Bomb Disposal Company from the 50th ICDC Brigade began basic training in Ad-Diwaniyah. Fifty soldiers will be trained to clear ASPs in the region.
As you know, on 14 January 2004, a criminal investigation was initiated to examine allegations of detainee abuse at the Baghdad confinement facility at Abu Ghraib.
Shortly thereafter, the commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force Seven requested a separate administrative investigation into systemic issues such as command policies and internal procedures related to detention operations. That administrative investigation is complete, however, the findings and recommendations have not been approved.
As a result of the criminal investigation, six military personnel have been charged with criminal offenses to include conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, assault, and indecent acts with another. The coalition takes all reports of detainee abuse seriously, and all allegations of mistreatment are investigation. We are committed to treating all persons under coalition control with dignity, respect and humanity. Coalition personnel are expected to act appropriately, humanely, and in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions. Lieutenant General Sanchez has reinforced this requirement to all members of CJTF-7.
MR. SENOR: And before we take questions, just one thing I intended to mention earlier, we apologize for the late start. We typically try to start these on time, but we were waiting -- there was a group of journalists meeting with Ambassador Bremer and we wanted to get them over here in time so they would not be late for the press conference. So, with that, we are happy to take your questions. Yes -- (inaudible) -- go ahead.
Q Sewell Chan with the Washington Post. General Kimmitt, two questions, if you don't mind. The first, there is a report in a London-based Arabic language newspaper today that a man claiming to be from al Qaeda is sending an email claiming -- he wrote an email claiming responsibility for the attack on the Mount Lebanon Hotel on Wednesday. Could you comment on that? And then, secondly, is the incident in which one individual was killed at the checkpoint near the al-Hayat Hotel the same in which two Arabiya journalists were allegedly killed? And if so, could you tell us about the discrepancy between the Army's account and what we've been hearing from Al Arabiya?
We have conducted -- we have initiated and are conducting a separate investigation. I will tell you there are numerous discrepancies between what was reported by the Washington Post and the facts on the ground. For example, it is alleged -- and it is a fact that in the autopsy of the two personnel that were killed, and the driver of the vehicle, that there were five bullets that were involved in that.
We have done a round count of all the bullets that were shot at the car in the -- that we thought was a VBIED, not the al-Arabiya car, but the car that crashed through the cordon. We can currently account for all but two of those rounds, so there is a significant discrepancy between those rounds and the rounds that are alleged to have been fired at the al-Iraqia -- excuse me, the al-Arabiya journalists.
Second, the types of wounds that were suffered by the deceased are inconsistent with a moving car fired from a distance. That was very accurate shooting, and at this point it would not lend one to believe that that was -- that there was -- they had the capability of that kind of marksmanship at night. We have asked all al-Arabiya to provide the driver and the vehicle, the KIA that was supposedly being driven by the man that made the statement, so that we can take that information, conduct forensic tests on it as well, and we're hoping to get to the bottom of this.
We are not at this point denying the story, however, we had the battalion commander on site at the time of the alleged incident and his S-3. Neither of those two gentlemen, nor any of the soldiers, remember any such vehicle, any such satellite truck. So, the number of discrepancies that we have between what we have been reading in the accounts and the facts that we have on the ground are leading us to push forward with an investigation quite quickly so that we can ascertain precisely what happened at that time.
And again, on behalf of the coalition forces, let me offer my condolences to those journalists who were killed the other night. We certainly understand what it means to lose colleagues. We certainly understand what it means to lose friends. And -- so, we feel for you, and please pass our condolences on to the families.
Q Sir, if I may ask a very quick follow-up, could you --
GEN. KIMMITT: Let's move on to another question.
Q (Translation not provided.)
GEN. KIMMITT: Yes. I was -- I was quite taken by one journalist's account of the other night being -- (inaudible) -- There were three rounds that were fired, three rocket rounds that were fired towards the Green Zone. Two of those rounds, rockets, landed inside the Green Zone without effect. A third one landed nearby the Green Zone, again with out effect. We've been made aware that there might have been a minor injury sustained by a British contractor, but nothing significant.
MR. SENOR: Go ahead.
Q (Translation not provided.)
GEN. KIMMITT: No, there has been no naming to date of an Iraqi ministry of defense -- minister of defense. About two months ago, two-and-a-half months ago, Dr. Adnan Pachachi, in his last press conference as president, rotating president of the Governing Council, that the Governing Council, along with the coalition, would be moving forward in establishing a ministry of defense, and he said that would occur in the next several months. We have not formally announced a minister of defense. We will be doing that. The Governing Council and the Coalition will also be announcing a formal spokesperson for the ministry of defense. You can expect all this to happen in the -- in the week ahead.
MR. SENOR: Carol, go ahead.
Q General, when were those six MPs charged? What are they alleged to have done? Were they all in the same unit? And what's the maximum penalty for these crimes? And anything else you want to tell us about it.
GEN. KIMMITT: I'll take the first two questions on. They were charged with those crimes today. Those charges were preferred on them. There were six involved. And as I said in the statement, the charges were, as I said, they were all separate articles in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. We'll be able to provide that after the press conference. I don't want to at this point because the charges have only been preferred and not referred. In other words, we have not done the military equivalent of a grand jury investigation at this point. That is the point, at the end of that Article 32 investigation, that grand jury, if those charges are referred for trial, that would be the point at which we would start providing information with regard to their unit, their names, so on and so forth. But it's just not appropriate to do it at this time.
Q But they're going to an Article 32, and they're all charged in the same episode, sir?
GEN. KIMMITT: They are all being charged -- I don't know if each one is being charged with all the same counts. We can have a lawyer sit down with you perhaps in a day or so and go over which ones are being charged. Nonetheless, I don't believe they're -- all six are being charged with all those counts. It's just a range. And, again, I'm not a lawyer -- I have no idea what the maximum penalty for all of that is. Go ahead.
Q (Translation not provided.)
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, let me talk broadly about what their -- the objectives are for these -- for the U.N. effort, which is in response to a letter that was sent by the Governing Council to the United Nations, to the secretary-general, and by a letter that came from the coalition, in the process of transmitting the transitional administrative law.
The United Nations was asked to assist with the formation, advise in the formation of an interim government. This is the interim government that will take over on June 30th and be in power up until approximately the end of January 2005, at which point the transitional national assembly, a directly elected body, will take over. It could be sooner, but at the latest, the end of January of 2005. So they are to assist and advise in the formation of this interim government that will be in power approximately six months.
They're also -- have been asked and agreed to use their expertise in the preparations for direct elections in Iraq, to help us determine what sort of electoral infrastructure needs to be put in place to make Iraq ready, if you will, for elections, direct elections that are credible and legitimate. As you've heard me say from this podium before, there is no real electoral infrastructure in this country that can protect against illegitimate elections. There has not been a census here in some 20 years.
There are no political party laws. There's not an electoral law. There are no constituent boundaries. So, we are going to rely on the U.N.'s expertise to help us and help the Governing Council, in an advisory role, determine what needs to be done and how to go about developing it so that we can have direct elections in this country as soon as possible. Direct elections are something we want as soon as possible, the Governing Council wants as soon as possible, and most Iraqis we speak to share that view.
Q Were the six people -- were they doing abuse on the same person, or is it six different cases of abuse? And also, what are the -- where are they at the moment? Are they being held in detention?
GEN. KIMMITT: We believe that this was a small number of detainees, less than 20, that were involved in this. The persons, as we talked about a couple of months ago, they have been suspended from their duties. They are working administrative duties. They are still here in country, and they have been moved over to other duties pending the outcome of the investigation, and now pending the outcome of any further deliberations. Go ahead.
Q Sir, it Guy from CNN. A question for General Kimmitt. What's the reason for the shut down of the Abu-Ghraib prison, not allowing any journalists in to see what is -- what's actually happening inside? It's sort of seems to be getting a similar sort of reputation to what it had during Saddam's time in the moment.
GEN. KIMMITT: We -- we traditionally treat -- we don't legally classify, but we treat the detainees similar to the manner that we would treat enemy prisoners of war. The Geneva Convention, which is our guideline for that, specifically prohibits making detainees, making prisoners of war subject to public curiosity and humiliation, and so that's why we feel it's important that we follow the procedures and allow the ICRC in for routine investigation, routine inspections -- health, welfare -- to assure that we're doing everything in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, but it is not a matter of practice to allow journalists into those kinds of facilities.
MR. SENOR: Jim --
Q Just a follow-up -- Jim Clancy with CNN. I mean, if you're treating -- are they de facto, then, prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions? They are not, are they?
GEN. KIMMITT: They are not, but they are being --
Q Well, then why -- you know, in any other democracy, you would allow journalists into a prison to examine the conditions, if there were large public issues involved -- and I think that there are large public issues involved just because of this investigation you've announced. So --
GEN. KIMMITT: What I would -- what I'd ask you to do is go to the International Committee of the Red Cross. They would be more than happy to provide you with their findings, that they do on a regular and routine basis. And I think that you would find from their investigations that that is not the case.
MR. SENOR: Go ahead.
Q (Translation not provided.)
GEN. KIMMITT: We certainly -- we have less than 20 women, at our latest count, currently be held in our detention facilities.
MR. SENOR: Go ahead.
Q Luke Baker from Reuters. General, two things. Were there any police or ICDC helping the U.S. forces manning that checkpoint the other night when the -- (inaudible)? And the second thing is, do you have any information at all about the five generals, quite senior generals under Saddam, who are now being trained in Jordan to take on responsibilities with the Iraqi army?
GEN. KIMMITT: On the first issue, the -- as I understand it, the coalition forces were manning the outer cordon. I would suspect that we had ICDC, Iraqi police service, so on and so forth, actually on site. You saw that in your own -- in some of the film from that -- from that event. You had the first responders there at that site. Whether they were actually side-by-side with the soldiers at their location, I'll find out. On the second issue about the generals, let me take that question. Don't know.
Q Might that account for -- sorry -- for the discrepancy in number of bullets and that sort of thing if the ICDC or police fired at the same time?
GEN. KIMMITT: All persons, as I understand, all persons that were anywhere near that location were part of the round count that we always do anytime we fire. So, I would expect under that, if there were additional persons in that location, they would have been accounted for. But as I understand, we accounted for 5.56, and 7.62, which is the caliber used in the American weapons system. So, I don't think there were, but let me take that question. We owe you the answer.
Q (Translation not provided.)
GEN. KIMMITT: No, it was my understanding that it was neither a rocket nor natural cause, but it was small arms fire from the ground.
MR. SENOR: To your first question, the focus of the meeting was on standing up of Iraqi security forces, it wasn't focused on coalition forces. As I said, they are putting the finishing touches now on the plan to stand up an Iraqi ministry of defense, and to announce the Iraqi minister of defense, and obviously, that is a very heavy issue for many Iraqis.
Many Iraqis, as communicated to us by the Governing Council, have unease about seeing the stepping up and the strengthening of Iraqi security forces because they have very understandable bitter memories about a strong security infrastructure with an Iraqi name on it from the previous regime.
And so there was a discussion about those sensitivities and how to protect against generating negative reaction to the formation of the ministry of defense -- a lot of issues about how a de-Ba'athification policy effects those who want to serve either in a civilian security role, or in a -- or in an actual military security role and how -- whether or not to continue those policies, which was agreed to about issues relating to Ambassador Bremer's decision last spring to disband the Iraqi army, and how that is affecting our overall process in standing up Iraqi security forces.
So, because we are about to take this next important step in formally opening up the Iraqi ministry of defense, naming a minister, as is consistent with the interim constitution, the transitional administrative law for civilian control of the military, they addressed a whole host of issues relating to this next important step and its significance for Iraqis. It was -- it was a very vibrant discussion. Jim.
Q Hi. Please excuse me, I've got a bit of a list of questions here, most very simple. Do you have a date for the prison offenses that the MPs were accused of?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, I believe it was in the bar time line -- it was in the November-December time period. It was in the November-December time period.
Q Second one is did the borders with Iran actually close today on schedule?
GEN. KIMMITT: I assume so. I said last week it would be done within a week, and I was told by our -- our policy people working the issue that it would be done. So, I haven't spoken to anyone today to confirm that it would be done, but I can double-check it.
Q I also just wanted to see if you had any progress at all in the Ashura bombings, the big blast the other night, or the killings of the CPA ministers, or the missionaries up north -- any of those investigations?
GEN. KIMMIT: I am not aware that -- we are continuing doing the investigation. I'm not sure that we have had any breakthroughs that we can pass on, Jim.
Q One more -- sorry to do this, sir -- on civilian casualties, after the bombing at the Mount Lebanon Hotel the other night, there were some pretty big discrepancies. We're wondering, is there any system, are you guys encouraging Iraqi ministries to develop a system for collecting or gathering and releasing civilian casualties? I understand that the U.S. military wants to back off from doing that in the future, and I was wondering, you know, what sort of a system might emerge in the future?
GEN. KIMMIT: And that's a good question. There always are discrepancies, any time you have a situation as chaotic as the aftermath of a bombing, the first couple of hours there are -- you get all sorts of different reports, Jim, and you might expect why.
We have an old saying in the military, "The first report is usually wrong." That's one of the reasons, as you know, we're kind of slow to actually put out the official numbers. What we do is we work very closely with the ministry of health, Dr. Abbas, and the ministry of interior, Minister Nouri Badran, because what we try to do is to get both of those organizations to check the numbers and confirm each other's numbers. The ministry of health is very good.
They actually go to the different hospitals, talk to the doctors. And the same with the ministry of the interior, they will try to check those numbers as well. But you can imagine, in the kind of chaos typically associated with a car bomb, that there are a lot of things that need to be done. We need to take care of people. We need to evacuate people. We need to get them in ambulances, get them to medical treatment. Control the situation. So, if the people aren't out there with their scoreboards counting the numbers precisely, it will come after a time. But that, quite frankly, is not the first priority at the scene.
Q (Translation not provided.)
GEN. KIMMITT: I am not familiar with the escalation that you're referring to. The numbers that we are seeing over the past few days are generally in the same range of between 18 and 22 attacks per day. Frankly, we thought there were going to be more attacks in the lead up. It may well be that our intelligence has allowed us to preclude some of those attacks. But, what we have seen over the past week is pretty much the same range and type of attacks that we've been seeing for the last couple of months.
Q (Translation not provided.)
GEN. KIMMITT: The -- during this month particularly, as we move towards Al-Bayin (ph) and some of the other religious festivals and holidays, the coalition is working very closely with particular towns where we see the most vulnerability.
And, through the partnership of the coalition forces, the Iraqi security forces, and the local governments, we are trying to put together a plan to mitigate, to reduce the amount of risk associated with these festivals and these religious holidays, which are so critical to the lives of the citizens of Iraq. I would be less than candid if I stood up here and told you that we can absolutely guarantee that we will prevent 100 percent of the attacks 100 percent of the time this month.
We will work very, very hard with that partnership to try to reduce to the greatest extent possible. Frankly, one way to completely eliminate any chance of having these festivals being attacked is to cancel those festivals. We don't believe that that would be the right answer. We believe that that would be bowing to the terrorists, that would be knuckling under to their demands, and that would be showing weakness when it is far more important that the coalition and the people of Iraq show strength.
Q (Translation not provided.)
MR. SENOR: We have said all along that while we believe it is important to do what we can to secure the borders, it is difficult, it is a topographical fact of life, these are very porous borders. The length, the total length of the borders, it's longer than the U.S.-Mexican -- the length of the U.S.-Mexican border.
And for those of us from the United States know how difficult we have securing those borders. And in this case, we are bordered with some countries whose governments we would encourage to do more to help stem the flow of illegal border crossings by individuals, not the least of whom -- or at least some of whom are foreign fighters coming here to wreak havoc in the country. So, we would encourage the foreign governments along those borders, in very strong terms, to do more to control their borders.
We are also doing more to try and control the borders, recognizing it is a difficult task. As I announced here last week, we are doubling the size of border security. We are concentrating the immigration -- the border crossing processing staff, down from close to 20 border crossing sites, 19 border crossing sites, down to three to help better control the process.
We are now issuing passport requirements, entry permit requirements, we'll ultimately move to visa requirements. And we're taking a number of steps to increase the control of traffic over the borders. But, let's be frank here, it will not be perfect. People will still sneak through, and we have to do more within our own country, as General Kimmitt can speak to, to capture and kill those who illegally cross into the country and seek to cause trouble, and we are doing that.
And certainly with the increase in the number of Iraqi security forces, well over 150,00 -- actually close to 200,000 now Iraqi security forces, or personnel in Iraqi security forces, helps us improve the quality of our intelligence dramatically. We now hare Iraqis on the front lines who are better able to determine than we are who is the foreigner, who is a domestic insurgent.
The Iraqi security forces have a better sense, obviously, for the local language, and the local culture, and the rhythm of life, and are increasing the quality of our intelligence, which is doing just as much if not more to target the terrorist than tightening up the border. But again, we are working to tightening up the borders. I don't know if you have anything to add to that, General. Go ahead.
Q (Inaudible) -- General Kimmitt. (Translation not provided.)
GEN. KIMMITT: I don't know the exact date. I know it was in early January when some of the charges, some of the allegations started coming forward. But it is clear that we can always expect that officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers within the U.S. Army and with most of the coalition militaries, all the coalition militaries, may see something that violates their basic principles, such as abuse of prisoners. That information is going to be recorded. That information is going to be investigated, and the proper actions are going to be taken against those that would violate the trust that has been placed in them for the proper treatment of detainees. Yes.
Q (Inaudible) -- NPR --
Q General Kimmitt --
Q -- I had a quick question of clarification for General Kimmitt. You had mentioned in the al-Arabiya incident on Thursday that the battalion commander was on the scene and he doesn't remember seeing an SUV of that type at all there? I'm just wondering what conclusion we should be led to there, whether it's the investigation suggesting that maybe they weren't in the area even at all? And -- one tiny other little itsy-bitsy question --
MR. SENOR: Itsy-bitsy.
Q I'm just wondering if, more broadly, I can ask about the coalition relationship with the Arab media outlets. It seems that the incident on Thursday night wasn't exactly the first moment of tension between the coalition and Arab media, and I'm wondering how the coalition feels about the Arab coverage of the war in Iraq?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, first of all, I would say as to what happened on the ground, that's still being ascertained, that's still being determined. We've got a separate, independent investigating officer that's going through all the statements that have been provided by all the persons at the scene.
Preliminary reports would indicate that a couple of the key leaders that were on site do not remember any particular vehicle of that size being in the location. So, let's just wait and see where the investigation takes us. The Arab press. I think our people in the front row can talk about our relationship with the Arab press. It's getting better every day.
We have issues in a war zone with all the press, that we've got to ensure that all of us stay safe, that the soldiers on the ground don't mistake the intentions of the journalists, and the journalists, in their rush, in their haste to get a story, don't possibly signal through either their actions or their words that they may not be who they are, or that purposes may be otherwise.
So, I would not characterize this as the military having a particular concern about any regional, local press, that there are just natural tensions on the battlefield that we all work very, very hard to address -- whether it's Arab press, whether it's Western press, whether it's Eastern press.
MR. SENOR: I would just add to that that the Iraqi press attends our press briefings ever day, or every day that we hold them. They are full participants. Ambassador Bremer meets with a group of different Iraqi journalists every single week. We -- Ambassador Bremer and his surrogates, General Kimmitt and myself, appear on Iraqi and Arabic, Pan-Arab satellite channels, news programs, every week doing interviews. So, it's a fully -- I think the folks here can speak to it -- it is a fully engaged relationship.
GEN. KIMMITT: And we certainly understand that if we don't take about every third question from the Iraqi press, our friends in the front row will make sure that we do.
MR. SENOR: We'll have a couple more. Kevin, go ahead.
Q Just back to the Abu-Ghraib, can you -- can you tell us whether anyone -- any commander has been temporarily or permanently relieved of duty anywhere in the chain of command?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, I think we talked about that a couple of months ago, that there were 17 personnel suspended from their duties until the outcome of the investigations. And some of those involve people in the chain of command because even though it was a very small number of soldiers involved, even though it was a very small number of detainees involved, that's the kind of cancer that you've got to cut out quickly, and if there is a problem, you need to address it very, very rapidly. So -- but again, these are all allegations at this point. Those that have been suspended from their duty until the outcome of the investigation, if they are found to be completely innocent of any assertions or any allegations, they will be returned to duty.
Q And when -- when will the -- if the investigation is completed -- when can we expect more detail or to see something official on this?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yes, there are two -- again, there are two investigations. There is a criminal investigation, which is -- where we have charges levied against, preferred against six soldiers. There is a separate administrative investigation that is being conducted by the combined forces land component command that is conducting an investigation on command policies, administrative procedures. All of those will still take some time, but we will try to keep you informed as the process goes along, consistent with property rights, consistent with the axiom that -- innocent until proven guilty.
MR. SENOR: Thank you, everybody.
GEN. KIMMITT: Thanks. #### END