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CENTCOM Briefing

Aired April 2, 2003 - 07:06   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: A remarkable story of special ops forces raiding a hospital in Nasiriya and rescuing Jessica Lynch. She's 19 years old from West Virginia. Perhaps more on her story of rescue now from Central Command in Qatar.

BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS, U.S. ARMY: We honor the brave men and women who are fighting to achieve the objectives, and we mourn our fallen comrades with their families.

The coalition conducted simultaneous attacks over the last 24 hours against regime targets in Baghdad and against regime forces throughout the country. I have two products to show you from recent precision attacks against regime targets.

The first one is a regime command and control facility at the south end of the international airport near Baghdad. This is a closer view of it where the arrow points down at the bottom. In the attack in this case there were 26 different aim points for this single target set. Each aim point had a different weapon applied against it.

The after-shot in this case you can see was effective. I would point out that there is a mosque in this complex. You can see it in the lower right corner of the screen, the rounded dome, and it is in good shape as it was before the attack. And the split, please.

The second is a Baath Party headquarters in Basra. Now, this one was attacked on the 25th of March. But again, it is an example of our precision in attacking. Two different aim points in this case. The after-shot, and the split. You can see the greatest amount of damage was done right here to this building.

We remain very concerned by regime actions taken against the Iraqi population and places with cultural or religious significance.

The following video sequence is going to show you a heavy equipment transporter. This is the large flat-bed truck that is capable of carrying tanks and other very large pieces of equipment moving into a populated area south of Baghdad. I'll point out a few things on here first.

This is the heavy equipment transporter off to the right. There is a tank on its back, and inside of this retaining wall is a mosque. You can go ahead and roll the video. There is usually one tank on each one of the heavy equipment transporters. A second truck shows up as well, and the tank is clearly seen on the back of it. You can see now these two. There is a third heavy equipment transporter that's further up to the right, and in the next clip you'll see that it is containing -- it carries a container on its back, and that container explodes.

The coalition had no jets, missiles, bombs or anything else in the area at that time when this explosion occurred. I would say that we do look for heavy equipment transports, especially with armored vehicles on them, as indications of repositioning. And this, in this case, was an aerial surveillance platform that took the image and happened to record it.

Another example of disregard for the conditions of Iraq and the Iraqi people is the burning of oil trenches. A few days ago, I showed you a color photograph of one of the first trenches which had been prepared as part of the defensive array of Baghdad.

It was set on fire, and we saw that several days ago.

The next image will show you what the current condition is. There are over 50 oil trenches on fire around Baghdad currently -- 50 oil trenches. Let me just highlight a few points.

This is, again, in downtown Baghdad in the center of the river as it passes through Saddam's City, a primarily Shia area, on the northeast side the Saddam Canal where we've already mentioned there are bridges that are rigged for demolition. Most of the fires began here, but as you can see, each one of these is a different burn point. These are deliberately created trenches. Coalition action had nothing to do with the start of these fires.

Our coalition special operations forces maintain pressure on the Iraqi military forces in northern Iraq through precision airstrikes directed against the Regular Army 5th Corps. Our searches in the Ansar al-Islam training camp continued with coalition and Kurdish Peshmerga working closely together.

Our efforts to deny freedom of action and freedom of movement in the western desert also remain very effective. I have a short video to show you of coalition special operations forces indicating how mobile they are and their ability to move throughout the western desert, actively searching for regime forces, ballistic missiles or air defense systems. And this says with all other operations is done completely blacked out. Multiple aircraft in this mission. You'll see a landing, and then again taking off and going on an additional patrol.

These types of operations are occurring every night throughout the western desert. And as we encounter regime forces, missile systems, other points of interest, compounds that need to be raided, we're able to do everything we need to do to get the job done.

Our coalition special operations forces also seized the Haditha Dam, a very important dam that could potentially flood the Euphrates River leading down toward Baghdad, and particularly in the area of Karbala. That has been seized as of two days ago, and we prevented its destruction. There have been significant regime losses in the vicinity of the dam.

We also remain very effective in targeting regime concentrations with the aid of the local populations. That improves with every day that goes by.

Our land component initiated a two-corps attack to destroy Republican Guard forces defending the outskirts of Baghdad. The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force attacked the Baghdad Division near the town of Al Kut, over here, and has crossed the Tigris River. The Baghdad Division has been destroyed.

V Corps attacked against a combination of the Medina Division and the Nebuchandnezzar Division, both of the Republican Guard forces command. Their attacks are effective and action continues, in this case, near Karbala along the Euphrates River.

V Corps units also attacked to clear paramilitary forces in An Najaf. The attacking unit was welcomed by thousands of citizens. It was also welcomed by fire from regime forces who had positioned themselves inside the Ali mosque, one of the most important religious shrines to all of Shia Islam throughout the world.

Coalition forces were disciplined, discriminated and chose not to return fire against this mosque to keep it protected. The regime's use of the Ali mosque for military purposes to trigger a coalition response is just the latest detestable example of the regime's strategy of deliberately putting sacred sites in danger.

U.K. forces continue securing the Al Faw peninsula and the Rumaylah oil fields, while destroying any remaining resistance in the south. Among their recent successes are the capturing of five cruise missiles of the Stix (ph) variety near Az Zubayr Airport. These missiles are designed for the Osa (ph) patrol boats that we sunk in the first days of the war. They can be fired into Kuwaiti territory or against ships that are out inside of the North Arabian Gulf.

At this point, U.K. forces remain firmly in control of the northern approach to Basra.

In one particular encounter, U.K. forces captured a motorcycle courier, and this is a classic example of developing the situation on the battlefield and creating military advantage. The motorcycle and crew had maps in their possession that showed artillery positions. The U.K. forces went to find the artillery positions, found them, destroyed all of their artillery, and also found three Adabill (ph) 100 missiles and destroyed them as well.

The maritime component handed over the port operations of Umm Qasr to the land component today, and a U.K. military port management unit will take over the running of the port from the military side.

Each day, we see the effectiveness and the importance of pushing information to the Iraqi people, and this is done even at the tactical level. I've talked about some of the things we do at the operational level in our radio broadcasts, our TV broadcasts and our leaflet drops throughout the country. But even at the tactical level, our coalition's psychological operations teams are very effective and are having an impact on the battlefield.

In a recent V Corps engagement as an example, this was against elements of the Nebuchandnezzar Division when we first made contact a few days ago, Iraqi forces were encouraged to surrender by way of a loudspeaker broadcast, and these are tactical teams with loudspeakers mounted on top of their vehicles. A total of 67 Republican Guard troops surrendered to coalition forces, 10 of them surrendering to the psychological operations team itself.

These teams work up close with the combat forces in the front lines, close enough in one case to have the loudspeaker knocked off the top of the vehicle during a firefight.

The coalition advance continues forward to the objective of removing the regime. In the wake of these operations are the equally important efforts to start Iraq's future now.

I have a few photos for you to show some of our medical and Civil Affairs actions that have occurred; in this case, near An Nasiriya, a town that we have all talked about a lot over the last several days. This shows a team in place doing medical assessments and also, in this particular image, distributing food and water to the people who were only days ago threatened by the brutality of the regime.

We currently hold over 4,500 enemy prisoners of war, and we treat them according to the Geneva Convention.

These next images show that the International Committee of the Red Cross has visited the coalition prisoner camp near Umm Qasr.

We're also building an additional camp, and the last images show the ongoing construction of the new internment facility.

With that, I'll take your questions.


TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: General Brooks, we noticed that you made no mention of the rescue of Jessica Lynch and the special operations that went on. We understand that there is video taken by a combat camera team. Can you show us that video?

BROOKS: Well, let me first resume where we left off very early this morning, and that is that coalition special operations forces did stage an operation last night into the town of An Nasiriya. It was in the Saddam Hospital in An Nasiriya, a facility that had been used by the regime as a military post.

We were successful in that operation last night and did retrieve Pfc. Jessica Lynch, bringing her away from that location of danger, clearing the building of some of the military activity that was in there. There was not a firefight inside of the building I will tell you, but there were firefights outside of the building getting in and getting out.

There were no coalition casualties as a result of this and in the destruction that occurred inside of the building, particularly in the basement area where the operations centers had been, we found ammunition, mortars, maps, a terrain model and other things that make it very clear that it was being used as a military command post.

The nature of the operation was a coalition special operation that involved Army Rangers, Air Force pilots and combat controllers, U.S. Marines and Navy Seals. It was a classical joint operation done by some of our nation's finest warriors, who are dedicated to never leaving a comrade behind.

We did have the opportunity to have a combat camera crew with the assault force and we'll show you only the portion that has PFC Lynch being retrieved. Do we have the tape?

This is a coalition Black Hawk helicopter on the ground and PFC Lynch on a stretcher being carried to safety. This, of course, was done under black dot conditions in the compound itself where the helicopter landed.

PFC Jessica Lynch. At this point she is safe. She's been retrieved and some brave souls put their lives on the line to make this happen, loyal to a creed that they know that they will never leave a fallen comrade and never embarrass their country.

The next question? Please?

QUESTION: I'm Neil Palentier (ph) with ABC News.

Can you tell us about her condition? Who exactly was holding her? Was it the regime in a larger sense or was it some tribal faction or small controlling party in the area? And also, if you would, please, the status of some of the others and the reports that bodies were also found.

BROOKS: I don't want to comment too specifically on her condition. The good news is she's alive and she's in coalition control and receiving appropriate medical attention and care and screened right now and for her privacy, I won't go any further into that.

As to who was holding her, the regime was holding her. The regime clearly had done this. It was regime forces that had been in there. Indications are there were paramilitaries, but we don't know exactly who. They'd apparently moved most of them out before we actually arrived to get in, although, as I mentioned, there were buildings outside of the Saddam Hospital where we received fire or the assault force received fire during the night.

We did, unfortunately, also find the remains of 11 persons who are unidentified at this point. Two of the persons were inside of a morgue within the hospital building and the other nine were outside in a grave area inside the community. Our coalition forces were escorted to those locations by someone that was taken into custody during the assault and the locations were pointed out by them.

At this point, we're doing additional forensic examination and medical examination to determine who they might be. We don't know at this point and don't have any further comment on who it is at the current time.

Please, Mike?

QUESTION: Mike Toppel (ph), Fox News.

We're hearing scattered reports about weaponry and an arms cache being found in a school. Could you elaborate on that?

BROOKS: We've found this, actually, in a number of places. In a number of towns, as we go into places where the paramilitaries have been operating, the regime death squads, two things seem to be an emerging pattern. First is putting your weapons and weapons caches inside of schools with children nearby, in many cases. That's happened in several towns.

The second is using hospitals as a place to do command and control, to hide. And in some cases we'll find military equipment positioned nearby, as in the case of the first hospital we encountered on the outskirts of Nasiriya, where there was a T-55 tank parked right outside of it. We believe likely to try to trigger a coalition response and then turn that into something that says we're attacking hospitals.

The pattern is very clear at this point. We've seen it throughout the country. We've shown you evidence of how these buildings are being used. Fundamentally, it is against the laws of armed conflict. Absolutely against the laws of armed conflict. We don't do that. We will not do that and we still remain very discriminating in our selection of targeting because of the way this regime is doing its work.

That's really what we're seeing.


QUESTION: Jonathan Marcus, BBC.

You've said that the Baghdad division of the Republican Guard has effectively been destroyed. I know that there are obviously ongoing military operations. But could you characterize the status of the rest of the Republican Guard forces in that area south of Baghdad, because it looks as though there are elements from possibly four or even five different divisions that have been moved there over recent days. So could you say a little bit about what the status of those forces is?

BROOKS: We have seen over the last several days some repositioning, as I mentioned before, mostly for survivability, but, also, we think, because of the effectiveness of some of our air attacks and precision targeting over the last several days. It's relocating to positions where they want to hold certain terrain. There have been some units that moved in from the north, from the north side of Baghdad to reinforce. That's why we have a mixture of the Nebuchadnezzar division and the Medina division on the west side north of Karbala, as an example.

If I were to characterize the condition of the rest of the Republican Guard forces command, I would probably say first, they're in trouble. Two, they're under serious attack right now and those attacks will continue until we're finished with the task at hand. Our efforts will continue over the next several days and without being too specific about where they'll go or how they'll go, we believe we'll continue to have the intended effect and that the operation will continue as planned.


QUESTION: Art Araval (ph), ABC News.

In the hospital, was there any evidence of torture devices, sir? And secondly, regarding the two Baghdad market explosions, the first one occurred a week ago today and the second one last Friday, any assessment you can provide on whether or not coalition forces were responsible for those two attacks?

Thank you, sir.

BROOKS: We don't have any information to my knowledge that there were indications of torture devices inside. I've not seen any reports that would account for that. It may be too early for me to say conclusively that there were or were not. We continue to roll up information from the actual actions at the objective from the assault force and when we know more, we'll certainly tell you that if we see such a thing.

Let me talk about one of the market attacks. As we've mentioned over the last several days, we are very deliberate first about our targeting, about our weapons selection to achieve a desired effect in any target area. That is particularly the case in Baghdad, where the strikes have been precision strikes throughout, precision guided munitions that can find their own way to the target. That's the way we've done our work and will continue to do our work.

We have examined our flights, our weapons systems that were used in the period of time associated with the explosion in the market. We've also examined imagery that we can get available to us. The best we can do to try to determine the size of some of the craters, the direction where some of the blasts went, as indicated by surrounding buildings and what have you, and there is absolutely nothing that joins that to coalition action.

QUESTION: Is this the Wednesday one or the Friday one, sir?

BROOKS: It was the one we've talked about first, and that was the first of the reports, which was the Wednesday one a week or so ago. No indications of that being associated with coalition action at all. Please?

QUESTION: General Brooks, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), independent.

Our correspondent is reporting that the only explanation for the injuries suffered by people in Hillah, where there was a bombing and where I believe 11 civilians were killed, is that they were inflicted by cluster bombs. Can you comment on that and also explain that bombing incident where a number of people died?

BROOKS: Well, I can tell you first, in our approach to targeting and using things like cluster munitions, we always give consideration to what types of activities are likely to occur there next. Cluster munitions are available and they're used by tactical commanders to create a tactical effect on the battlefield and they, like other things, particularly in this operation, the conditions for people, the conditions for unintended consequences are taken into account before the decision.

I don't have any specifics about that particular attack and the explosions that would link it to cluster munitions at all. What I can tell you right now is how we approach the use of cluster munitions and we can try to get more information as it comes available.

The same row, please?

QUESTION: Bob Roberts, "The Daily Mirror."

You talked about the fighting north of Karbala. Can you give us any indication of how close you are now to Baghdad or whether you have, indeed, reached the outskirts?

BROOKS: Because operations are ongoing and forces are still in contact, even as we speak, it would not be appropriate for me to describe exactly where our front line is and where our penetration is. The efforts continue to the west of Karbala, to the south of Karbala, to the east of Karbala and I won't get any more specific than that.

We will approach Baghdad. The dagger is clearly pointed at the heart of regime right now and will remain pointed at it until the regime is gone.


QUESTION: Craig Gordon from "Newsday."

I just wanted to get you to, if you can, I know it is current operations, if the Baghdad division has been destroyed, what is standing between the MEF and Baghdad right now?

BROOKS: We have choices to make in our schemes of maneuver in any operation. As I've mentioned on some previous occasions, the dynamics of the battlefield create opportunities. We create vulnerabilities. We exploit vulnerabilities and we try to protect our own. So as the battle unfolds, timing for the next steps is related to other actions on the battlefield. And when we have made the choice to continue action, in whatever direction it may go -- it may not be toward Baghdad -- in whatever direction we choose to go, it will be synchronized with the other actions whether we want the simultaneous effect that I've described on a few occasions or do we want a sequential effect to occur.

And so that's yet to be seen because it's future operations. I won't characterize it any further than that.

Off to the right, please.

QUESTION: General Brooks, Jeff Reid (ph) from Sky News.

A couple of hours ago, one of our correspondents reported that he was 30 miles from Baghdad with a forward unit. What does that position say to you about the state of the defense of Baghdad and does it concern you that perhaps this dagger that you've talked about is being tempted into the city so that it can be blunted with street fighting where your technological superiority doesn't count?

BROOKS: Well, Jeff, we certainly know that the regime would like to do some defending in Baghdad and they would like to draw us in. We also know that their intentions, as we saw them by their initial military designs, were to gradually pull back into Baghdad with forces and lines of force that we would encounter over time.

In some cases, we bypassed those lines of force. In other cases, we prevented their withdrawal. In other cases we destroyed them as they tried to reposition. And so we believe we still have a considerable freedom of action consistent with the designs of the plan related to what we would intend to do to the regime, for the regime and where the regime happens to be.

That dagger does remain pointed. It remains firmly in our grasp and under good control and when it's time to apply it further, it will be applied further.



I'll just ask about the mosque in Najaf. How do you deal with that situation if you can't fire back? Are they still holed up in the mosque or, you know, how have you dealt with that?

BROOKS: Well, let me first say that we can fire back. We chose not to fire back. And that's a very important distinction. The regime is firing from within a mosque, something that doesn't have military value, that should be protected by them. It's protected by us. And so while we do always have the choice of returning fire to respond to any threat that's posed out on the battlefield, we approach all of our decisions on the battlefield, even at the lowest tactical level where these actions are occurring, with discrimination, with consideration to the outcome of that action.

At the same time, we're going to protect our force. Now how do you deal with that first? We've got to make it very clear to the people of Najaf, those thousands that met us on the street, where the real problem is. And it will require their support, in many cases. We can be very patient with it. We don't have to go to that mosque and we certainly want to try to keep it as protected as possible.

How that will unfold is a tactical issue for some commander on the ground to sort out and we have great confidence in those commanders that just like their decision to not willfully engage a sacred site, something we know to be sacred and something that the people of that town obviously know to be sacred.

Those same kind of decisions will be made for whatever the solution is going to be.


QUESTION: Colin Hill (ph) from Associated Press.

Two questions. First, I'd like a definition, please, of the red line, this famed red line or red zone. And secondly, rules of engagement, yesterday you said there were no rules of engagement for the checkpoints, but the "Post" today has this story saying there are new guidelines, new rules regarding the rounding up of civilians and that for those who are suspected of ordering up human shields, that they could be declared enemy combatants and possibly shipped to Guantanamo.

Can you confirm that for us?

BROOKS: First, the red zone or the red lines that we describe is simply a term that characterizes that there may be a trigger line where the regime deems sufficient threat to use weapons of mass destruction, weapons that we know are available to the, weapons we've seen the regime use on their own people in the past, weapons we believe are in the possession of some of their forces now.

That's the red zone. So it's a conceptual line across which there may be a decision made by regime leaders. That's why we attacked the regime. That's why we attacked the regime's methods of communicating orders. That's why we attacked those who would make decisions. It's all about preventing the action as much as possible. And if we're successful in that, that's very good. That's the desired outcome.

We don't want to see weapons of mass destruction used. Just like our leaflets say, no one benefits from the use of weapons of mass destruction.

As to the rules of engagement, there will always be tactical adjustments that are made on the battlefield to account for the realities that come out from day to day action. The types of tings you're talking about really are adjustments. The rules remain as they have been. There may be some specific local rules that unit commanders give to their organizations and those things don't rise to the level of visibility at the CENTCOM level. That's decision-making that's done by lower level commanders. They have the authority to make adjustments as necessary and they have the experience and judgment to make those changes as necessary. That's what we're really seeing.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?


Let's go back to Qatar right now and CENTCOM command.

QUESTION: ... what is your latest intelligence about who's calling the shots in Baghdad?

BROOKS: Well, I wouldn't want to speculate on who's really in charge there. I can tell you that this organization, the coalition and this command, will seek to destroy the regime, any parts of the regime, the ability of the regime to command and control or issue orders -- all of that is the task that we are currently undertaking.

I did find it somewhat surprising, and we certainly saw warnings that it would be Saddam Hussein doing the presentations. I wouldn't want to speculate as to why that could not be done or why the minister of information found it necessary to read a statement on behalf of the reported leader of the country.

I can tell you that we're being effective in our operations. We remain satisfied with that. We know that we have the regime on the run. We know that we've been effective against some members of the regime, and certainly against the command and control structures of the regime. Our efforts are not complete, because the regime is not completely gone, and until it is we will not stop.

Please, sir.

QUESTION: Tim Rogers (ph) from BBC. Sir, could you give any comment on reports we're getting that a Red Crescent hospital has been hit? And secondly, can you shed any light on other reports that members of U.K. special forces are missing somewhere in northern Iraq?

BROOKS: I'm not aware of the Red Crescent report, so I cannot address that. I have not heard that, and this is another one where perhaps we can take that on if we have additional information, we can release that.

I also have not heard reports of U.K. special operations forces missing in the north.

What I will say is whenever we have someone missing, just like you saw on the tape earlier, we seek to find them. We seek to find information about them, what the circumstances would be, and we may engage in operations like the one last night, putting a large number at risk for the sake of rescue. And those things, of course, when we do have information we will not discuss until they are complete.


QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of Canada. Can you tell us where you are as far as your goals for distribution of humanitarian aid? Or are there still significant challenges given that your only secure area is Umm Qasr at the moment?

BROOKS: You know, I think we're making tremendous progress. This is a great news story. Itís not even a good news story. We have thousands and thousands of metric tons that are inbound from a variety of countries, ships full of wheat from countries that realize that there is an opportunity now to help. We have action ongoing on the ground, where the Kuwaiti government particularly has been effective in pushing water and water pipelines forward as a gift to the Iraqi people, actions like that ongoing. More and more, every day, there are more and more organizations.

We're going to provide some background briefings to give a lot more detail on what humanitarian actions are occurring not only from the military side, but also from civilian organizations and non- governmental organizations that recognize that the opportunity is now and things are going very well. And so they're moving at a rapid pace to join in the providing relief to those who have needed it for so long. It's going well.

Each area we go to, even like Nasiriya as I showed in the early part of the presentation, each area we go to we bring some degree of aid and comfort, whether it's medical care, whether it's food, water, or even causing the infrastructure to be re-engaged, things that were put into disuse or turned off or even attempted to be destroyed, like the oil fields, like the port of Umm Qasr. All of that is ongoing action, and it will continue as time goes on. The further into the country we go, the more effective that's going to be.

OK, please, sir.

QUESTION: Hi, Paul Hunter (ph) from Kennedy (ph) Broadcasting Corporation. Just more about the red line and the red zone. Can you tell -- like, are the troops approaching it? Are they at it? Have there been incursions past it? And what is the thinking now on why no chemical weapons have been used? Is it still that until that line is crossed that Saddam would be holding back? And thus when troops do cross, will they go on a heightened alert? Like, what it as the troops get closer to it?

BROOKS: Well, Paul (ph), it's a conceptual line. So there is no physical line out there necessarily that absolutely is a trigger point. This is what we conceive could be a trigger point, and that's based on the radius of weapon systems that might be used, where we think the threat to the regime might be viewed as the greatest and those types of things. We have forces that have already crossed some of those red lines.

Why is it not used? Well, we can't really speculate. We can certainly say that we've been effective against some of the delivery systems. We've been effective against those who would make the decision. We've provided information to those who might pull the trigger or launch the rocket. And we have to believe that that's having at least some effect on why they have not been used.

The rest of the story is known only to the regime, and we will not ever know that. If we're successful, they will never be used, and this red line will have been something that we just conceived and it was not real. And that's fine. That's fine if that occurs. If it is used, we'll be prepared for it to be used.

And so what it does for us is cause us to heighten our awareness. If there's a potential for use, it causes us to maintain protective postures in our forces as they approach this area, but it doesn't make us stop. Our operations will continue, and they'll continue to be effective as we approach Baghdad, the capital, and the regime.


QUESTION: Good afternoon, General. Rob Morrison (ph) from NBC. At the time the announcement was made early this morning regarding the rescue of Pfc. Lynch, were CENTCOM officials aware of the 11 bodies that were found in that hospital? And if so, why wasn't the full story released at that time? Thank you.

BROOKS: OK. At the time when the announcement occurred, you may recall there was a bit of a delay before we actually came out and made the announcement. We still had forces on the objective. The initial force that went in and you saw extract Pfc. Lynch, part of the area, and then we left another force there to finish doing the work of first clearing out the weapons and ammunition I described, being escorted to the different parts of the facility to ensure that it was clear of hostile action, and also to go out and find the additional remains.

We released the information when we were certain that we had the right news on Pfc. Lynch that she was safe, and that contact had been made with her family in an appropriate way. We also wanted to preserve the safety of the force that was on the objective. We had some initial indications that there were some bodies at that time, but the information was still sketchy. It was after the release that the force left the objective area.

And so we've been forthcoming now that we have more information, and again, we don't even have the ability yet to identify the remains of these 11 persons. And as that time approaches and we have more information, we'll provide that information to you.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: General, Pete Small (ph) from "Knight-Ridder." Can you talk a little bit about the level of resistance from the Republican Guard? How long it took to destroy the Baghdad Division? And also without getting into specific numbers, can you talk about whether the remaining Republican Guard members are retreating into Baghdad or more towards the cities and towns to the south?

BROOKS: Our actions occur over a period of time, and they are adjusted in scale and scope to achieve a desired effect. Now, while some believe there was a pause, the Republican Guard recognized that there was no pause. Our operations continued throughout.

We began targeting formations as soon as we could identify them. We began changing some of the mix of targeting, for example, from some of the strategic attack against the regime as a primary focus to a sharing between strategic attack and forces in defensive positions. As we get closer to those formations, as we gauged the timing of when we would want to begin this ongoing attack, we intensified it even further.

So it happens over time as opposed to a start-and-stop, which I really can't characterize for you.

Other forces that are in the area, again, we see some moving around. We have not seen a considerable amount of effort to withdraw into Baghdad, and certainly that would be a very hazardous undertaking, given the effectiveness that we're having at the current time. We are seeing some movement from the north, and we have that well-observed, and we're able to address that as well.

I don't want to appear overconfident. There's a lot of fighting that still has to occur out there. There is fighting that is ongoing. We have the situation under control. Our forces remain very effective, as we anticipated they would be. So we're not meeting surprises, but we are having fights, and we're winning those fights as we go along.

OK, yes, sir.

QUESTION: General, Chas Henry (ph), WTOP Radio. From the beginning of this campaign, we've heard anecdotes from the podium about incidents that could be described as atrocities. And we've also heard a recurring theme about holding accountable those behind them. Is the coalition engaging in an active effort to investigate these events as they occur, perhaps document them by investigators or combat camera teams toward the end of some sort of legal prosecution after the fact?

BROOKS: Well, our first effort is to win the fights that are ongoing, and that's where our priority is. We do try to make efforts to do that. We have what we've described as Mobile Exploitation Teams when we have suspicion of something that is untoward, and we'll send those teams to try to document as much as we can, so that there is a foundation upon which to do any further pursuits when this is all said and done.

The president has been very clear that there will be a time of accountability, and that time will come in the very near future.

I think we have time for one more question. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Thanks, General. Ann Bernard (ph) from "The Boston Globe." Just returning to the checkpoint incidents with the suicide attack and subsequently some civilians being shot. I just wanted to ask, have you been able to confirm other incidents of this type? We asked you yesterday about it, and you said, we believe that the reports -- we don't believe the incidents are increasing. We believe the reports are increasing. I just wondered, does that mean there have been other incidents in the past that we weren't aware of?

And also, obviously this is a situation that puts both Iraqi civilians and U.S. forces in a terrible no-win position, and they're afraid of each other and they're jittery. Have you seen any -- again, we may have been using the wrong term when we said "rules of engagement." But have there been changes in terms of orders on the battlefield?

One unit reported -- an embedded reporter reported that the commander had said, "Shoot on sight people that appear armed." I wonder if people are pulling back from those kinds of orders now, if people are even doing something as simple as putting out signs in Arabic that say, "Stop." Have there been any anecdotal improvements in the procedures that you are seeing? And you know, what more can you say about this problem? Thanks.

BROOKS: Well, we don't have a significant increase in incidents, and I'm not aware of a significant increase in reports. But we know that these tactics are used out there on the battlefield. This is a regime that is seeking tactical advantage by doing these types of things.

We've seen clerics come out and say that in each case these vehicles that approach checkpoints at high rates of speed were done under duress. It's not just the coalition that's identifying that there are some problems here with the way the regime is doing its business and the way it's brutalizing the population.

There are a number of things that had been happening out there on the checkpoints. We do have some signs that we've used before in Arabic, three different types of signs that provide information about not approaching coalition checkpoints, returning away from them, how to approach carefully. That is certainly the case.

Now, the dynamics of the battlefield may not make it so that you have a sign there every time you have a place where you need to establish security. That's just the reality. And so there, we have to rely on the good judgment of our subordinate commanders out there, who read the battlefield as it is, not as we think it is down here at this headquarters.

The realities of the battlefield are then measured, decisions are made, and where there are threats, commanders give orders for their subordinates to take action. We always maintain the inherent right of self-defense.

And so orders like "shoot on sight" and those types of things may not seem appropriate at this level, they may be appropriate at a lower level, and we're not going to second-guess the work that's being done by our commanders down there.

OK, thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen.

HEMMER: All right, General Brooks there wrapping things up in Qatar at Central Command. Three interesting points, that videotape showing last night the special operations force in that hospital around Nasiriya backed up by the U.S. Marines rescuing and bringing 19-year-old Jessica Lynch to safety. We're told she's in stable condition based on the reports we had earlier today. Two more points to make. While he was talking, you heard Walt Rodgers now say that the U.S. military is about 25 miles south- southwest of Baghdad, and they're wearing their chemical suits as well as a precaution, well inside that so-called "red line" that we've talked about now for weeks.

In respect to the Republican Guard division, now getting an indication the Baghdad Division that at last check was southeast of the capital city has been -- quote -- "essentially destroyed." General Brooks saying they're in trouble and under serious attack.


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