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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Victor Renuart Holds Regular CENTCOM Briefing

Aired April 5, 2003 - 07:12   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go to the CENTCOM briefing right now. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MAJOR GENERAL VICTOR RENUART, U.S. AIR FORCE: ... the events that have occurred over the last number of days.

First of all, I just want to continue the statement that says that the plan continues, and I don't want that to sound like it's meant to be minimized. There has been a very concentrated effort to keep this plan going exactly the way General Franks and the staff have built it and the plan goes on on time line and in the direction we'd like for it to go.

As always, we take a minute just to remember those folks who have been wounded or lost in combat. It's important for us not to forget the cost that each of these operations exacts on the young men and women of all of the nations of the coalition.

The focus of today's briefing is going to be sort of an operational summary. There will be some history here, things that you've been before. But my goal today is to try to put some of that in a context for you that will hopefully allow you to understand how the operations have flowed over time.

As you know, we began building up forces some number of weeks ago, potentially months ago, as we flowed some forces in early days of -- or late days of last year with the Third Infantry Division. Those forces continued to build over time until we began combat operations on the 21st of March. On the 21st we began with an insertion of some Special Operating Forces and a strike in Baghdad by a number of Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles. Those targets were key leadership targets. We think the results were very favorable and we're not exactly sure of the result of the leaders that were involved in that, but we continue to see disruption in the command and control of the regime.

Shortly after that, the First Marine Division crossed the line of departure, moved north out of Kuwait into the oil fields in the south, taking control of those oil fields and began to secure them for the future of the Iraqi people. The key elements of those oil fields were the gas oil separators, the individual well heads themselves and the objective was to be able to secure those before the Iraqi regime had the opportunity to destroy them.

RENUART: As many of you know, there were some well heads that were destroyed. We have since been able to bring those well fires under control. We're down to two well heads remaining to be secured and the fires put out. A joint Kuwaiti and coalition oil fire- fighting team is working on those. We hope to get the last two of those oil well fires put out within the next few days.

In addition to the oil heads that were damaged, we had a number of breaks in pipelines. Some of those were ignited. We had a number of pools of oil that were let out onto the ground. Some of those were ignited as well. And we have since brought the majority of those under control, both securing the infrastructure in the oil fields and repairing those to be able to bring that back into operation.

I had some maps earlier that were going to go along with this, but as you know, sometimes computers trick you, and so, I'm going to have to go without the maps. We'll kind of walk you through what the ground looked like as we moved through southern Iraq. But during those first few days we moved with the First Marine Expeditionary Force from south to north from Kuwait, and then with the Third Infantry Division moving from Kuwait's northwestern border to the northwest towards An Nasiriyah, An-Samawah, An Najaf and then continuing on.

The Third Infantry Division attacked to seize initially the Tallil air field, the town of An Nasiriyah and then with a follow-on objective of the town of An-Samawah. We also seized key highway one bridges in the vicinity of An Nasiriyah to allow for the First Marine Division to then move forward to the north as they made the turn coming up out of the oil fields and continuing on towards Ash Shatrah and Al-Kut to engage the Republican Guard Division in the vicinity of Al-Kut.

I think the progress could be characterized as nothing short of superb. A lot was made about, we were out there for three or four days. As you know, bad weather had challenged us a bit. A lot was made of bringing the supply lines along. I think what we've shown is that the plan was very smoothly executed, that logistics support, humanitarian assistance as flowed in behind the combat troops in a rate that allowed the momentum of the fight to be carried to the Iraqis in a steady fashion with great results.

Over the five days from about the 27th of March until right at the end of the month, Fifth Corps Forces pressed north to the vicinity of Karbala. The forces pressed from An Nasiriyah towards Al-Kut, Amadiyah and the town of Ash Shatrah; in each case taking the time to reduce pockets of irregular forces in each of these locations, forces that were holding the local leaders of the towns and the populations of those towns hostage, if you will, and in some cases terrorizing them to the point of inactivity by any of the leaders in the town to resist.

The First U.K. Armor entered the battlefield also on the 27th of March beginning to secure the area from south to north from Umm Qasr through az-Zubayr into the town of Basra. In addition, they expanded to the northwest to provide additional security for the southern oil fields. And then in the north on the 27th, the 173rd Airborne Brigade jumped into an area near Basur in northern Iraq to provide additional combat power to the Special Operating Forces that had already inserted themselves into Kurdish-held territory.

At the same time combat operations were ongoing, humanitarian aid -- I mention this repeatedly because that is really one of the two great pillars of this combat operation -- at the same time you're exerting combat power against a very focused enemy, you want to be able to fuse into that fight humanitarian assistance that will begin to normalize the lives of the people in the towns that you're liberating; and things like bringing in wheat into Umm Qasr or bringing in humanitarian aid over land from Kuwait. Great support from the Kuwaitis to infuse that aid into the fight was noted as early as the second or third day after combat operations began.

A water pipeline was constructed and is completed now from Kuwait into Umm Qasr up to az-Zubayr, and we now have a situation, just a few days ago -- a couple of days ago where water into Basra is almost completely restored. We have a few small areas where we're completing that infusion.

Those operations continued until the 4th of April, just yesterday, where we saw great operations conducted on a two-corps front approach in towards Baghdad. The Third Infantry Division moved north from Karbala to the highway intersections of Routes 1 and 8, just south of the city -- about seven miles from the city's center. In fact, you saw some of the forces that were at that intersection today driving through the inner city of Baghdad. In addition, forces moved to the west initially creating a force to attack and then secure the Baghdad International Airport. Those forces have completed that operation and now hold the airport secure and we are continuing to flow forces in there to reinforce and establish a main operating base.

At the same time, the First Marine Expeditionary Forces were attacking from the vicinity of An-Diwaniyah and south of Al-Kut to destroy the remnants of the Baghdad division and then turn northwest along Highway 6 to the southeast corner of Baghdad attacking remnants of a regular army division and a Republican Guard infantry division, destroying those forces as they moved forth to establish an operating base on the southeast edge of Baghdad.

RENUART: Finally, continuing the great work in Basra and then moving further to the north, the First U.K. Armor Division has moved north through the oil fields to begin to secure more and more of those vital resources for the future, and we now have a substantial percentage of what we call the southern oil fields, the Rumeila fields, the Korna fields and some other smaller fields, Az Zubayr, under our safe control, and we continue to expand that U.K. lodgement position further north along Highway 6 to complete the destruction of the remnants really of four regular army divisions that began the fight in the vicinity between al-Amarah and Korna in the eastern portion of the country.

Finally, we alluded to Special Operation Forces throughout the operation, and I just want to spend a minute or two describing the intent of these very highly capable forces -- the use of those highly capable forces around the country.

As we were beginning combat operations, Special Operating Forces were infiltrated into western Iraq, into northern Iraq and in some areas in the south. The intent of these forces was to establish a relationship with leaders in the local area, to be able to call fires on theater ballistic missile launch sites in the west in order to protect neighbors in the region, other countries that were threatened by the Iraqi theater ballistic missile capability, to begin to set conditions to bring follow-on forces in to take advantage of airfields in the west and in the north. In addition, to begin working in an unconventional warfare manner engaging with Iraqi forces in the north who might be interested in laying down their arms and not continuing to fight. Those operations have been highly successful.

In addition to the unconventional warfare operations in the north, as many of you know, we attacked a terrorist-based camp near the little town of Korna. The intent here was to eliminate an Al Qaida and Ansar al-Islam-based terrorist training camp, a military facility and potential chemical WMD processing or manufacturing plant. Those operations were very successful. It was a combination of U.S. Special Forces and Kurdish fighters, and those operations actually continue to eliminate small pockets of terrorist activity in extreme northeastern Iraq.

Finally, on a note of success that was very visible to you all, the Special Operating Forces in coordination with conventional forces from the Marine Corps and the Air Force and the Army were able to successfully rescue Private First Class Jennifer Lynch out of a hospital and an irregular military headquarters facility that was being used by these death squads in Nasiriyah and successfully return her to U.S. hands and on to medical care and a reunion with her family.

I'll talk a little bit about that operation in just a little bit. So if you'll hold for that one just a second, I'll come back to it.

Finally, to continue to beat the drum of humanitarian assistance, we have worked to secure key bridges and infrastructure to maintain those for future use, and we have begun to really accelerate the infusion of humanitarian assistance into the country.

Throughout all of these operations we've encountered an enemy who has been determined, we've encountered an enemy who has chosen to use fear and terror and brutality as a means to push the people either to not support a change in their own communities or even to the extremes, to be used as shields to protect these fighters as they tried to engage our forces. We've seen forces fighting in civilian clothes from vehicles we call "technical" vehicles, pickup trucks with machine guns loaded onto them, SUVs. We've seen them stringing wire across roads that would be designed to decapitate people driving in trucks. We've seen them wearing uniforms that were U.S. or U.K. or Australia- based equipment so that they might fit in. We've seen them using flags of truce to gain a position of advantage on the battlefield. And on and on from suicide bombings to other acts of terror on the field.

This has been an unconventional enemy, but not one we have not trained for. Through it all, we've seen prudent use of the military, we've seen professional performance by our soldiers and they have been able to, in each case, defeat this enemy threat as we've moved on to each of our objectives.

Now, all of that happens because the people behind the scenes, the logisticians ensure that we have the tools that we need to carry the battle forward on the field. Some of you have had a chance to listen to some of the logistics facts that we've used out there and I won't go into lots and lots of them, but I do have a few tidbits of trivia that might be interesting for you.

RENUART: The line of communication that we are maintaining open from Kuwait up to Baghdad is about 350 miles. On any given day out there on the battlefield, we've probably got 2,500 or more logistics support-related vehicles traveling on that road. So if you can sort of imagine driving from L.A. to San Francisco, along the way there you'll see a whole -- it's sort of like having a big old convoy of semi-tractor trailers running up and down that road, moving food and fuel and water and humanitarian assistance to our forces.

We've moved something on the order of 65 million gallons of fuel into the region in order to fill supply points around the area to allow our forces to continue operations unencumbered. If you throw that into a -- well, I've got a little car, so I get about 20 miles to the gallon -- if you throw that into my car, I could do an around-the- world trip about 52,000 times. To fly the air-tasking order that we have up each day, the aircraft that are out there to support our operations, takes something on the order of about 2.5 million gallons of fuel and in that same car-mind, I could only make the trip around the world about 1,736 times.

So to give you some perspective, the support required to keep these operations going continuously is substantial, and the work that is being carried out by our logistics experts in the field is nothing short of herculean. There are some real superstars out there. In order to keep our forces properly hydrated, we use about 1.5 million liters of water a day, about 2 million tons of spare parts and support equipment is moved around the battlefield each day.

And then finally, soldiers -- as they say, you have to maintain its ability to eat -- and, you know, about a third of a million MREs are consumed each day. So for that one Marine out there that didn't get more than one on that day, we've got some more out there coming to him and I think we've solved that problem. We continue to have great days of supply out in the field at each of our supply points, and I think we have continued to excel day-by-day to improve that process.

I talked about a lot of humanitarian aid a minute ago, and I want to give you just a few tidbits on what we call CMO, civil military operations. These are some good news stories, and they're not stories that the military has brought to the fight. They're stories that other nongovernmental organizations, international organizations bring in. The World Food Programme, for example, delivered 1,000 metric tons of wheat yesterday.

We have had support from nongovernmental organizations to distribute kerosene to families to allow them to heat their homes. There's not many cool nights left, but there were a few and we've been able to get kerosene into some of the families in order to run heaters. The World Food Programme's warehouse in Basra has built up substantial stockpiles of cooking oil, coffee, flour and miscellaneous items, and those continue to be packaged for distribution.

We've talked about DART teams before, and these are designed to respond to a disaster, really, but this is also an element that gives us command and control for distribution of humanitarian aid. We've formed the largest DART team ever in history. It's a three-phased front from Kuwait to Jordan to Turkey to enable us to move humanitarian assistance very rapidly in, and I'm pleased to say that today we've moved a number of trucks of humanitarian assistance in from Turkey, as well as we are continuing to grow the size of assistance that we're able to move in from Jordan over time.

So the successes are there. We continue to have need for more. We're far from perfect in that regard, but we are making a stronger attempt every day to increase and improve our ability to move those kinds of supplies and support to the Iraqi people, at the same time we prosecute combat operations against the Iraqi regime.

Now, I told you I'd spend a minute or two talking about the rescue of Private Lynch, and I'd like to -- you'll forgive me for referring to notes a little bit more, but the facts of this are important and I'd like to go through those with you to try to give you a sense of what is really one of the characteristics of this operation. There is nothing done on this battlefield that is not a joint and integrated operation. It's a combined operation. It takes the capabilities of each of our components -- and I know I've talked about this a couple of times from the podium here, but I can't over stress this -- each nation contributing, each force on the battlefield brings a capability that has to be integrated in order to be successful out there. And this is but one example, this one very localized to a very unique problem, but across the battlefield, we have the same kinds of circumstances, and I'll cover those in questions if you like.

RENUART: In the situation that we're talking about here with Private Lynch, as you know, on about 23rd of March her 507th maintenance company was ambushed in the vicinity of An Nasiriyah. A number of the members of that maintenance company were killed, a number captured and a number were unaccounted for, she being one of them.

As the situation developed over time, we began to get some indications from local contacts in the community, and as we have used special forces to develop intelligence on the battlefield as we do everywhere on the battlefield, we got an indication that there may be an injured U.S. military member held in this hospital, the Saddam Hospital, in An Nasiriyah. At any time we have a situation like that, we put together a planning team that investigates the intelligence and decides, is this credible, and if so, do we have the capability to respond to recover our service member? In this case, after some detailed planning and study, it was felt that we not only had good intelligence information and had the potential for good access, but we, in fact, also felt that we had a feasible plan.

On the night of the 1st of April a coalition Special Forces Operation was put together that included the U.S. Army Rangers, Special Forces and aviators from the Army, U.S. Navy SEALs, Air Force pilots, combat controllers and the United States Marines. The team was designed in a way to very rapidly get into the area of the hospital to determine the location of Private Lynch and then to bring her out, and at the same time, exploit some areas of the hospital where we had reports of enemy headquarters, command and control facilities and the like.

As the night unfolded, the Marine task force was given two missions: Task Force Taro was asked to create a diversionary attack and to focus what small elements of Iraqi irregulars there might be in the surrounding part of the town away from the hospital in order to drawn them into a fight in another part of the town. At the same time, elements of the Marines, using helicopters, moved the recovery force rapidly into the hospital area with both ground transport and helicopter infiltration, with the principle priority being to recover Private Lynch and very rapidly move her out of the hospital area.

Upon entering the hospital, the assault force actually persuaded a local physician to lead them to Private Lynch's location and this local physician claimed that, at the same time, that there were potentially remnants -- I'm sorry, were remains of other U.S. military either in the morgue or possibly buried close by. As the team entered the hospital room, they found Private Lynch in a hospital bed. The first man approached the door and came in and called her name.

She had been scared, had the sheet up over her head because she didn't know what was happening. She lowered the sheet from her head. She didn't really respond yet because I think she was probably pretty scared. The soldier again said, "Jessica Lynch, we're the United States soldiers here and we're here to protect you and take you home." She seemed to understand that, and as he walked over, took his helmet off, she looked up to him and said, "I'm an American soldier, too."

As they prepared to evacuate her, a team member made a preliminary assessment of her medical conditions. The physician who had accompanied them -- this is our physician who accompanied the assault -- took the opportunity to further evaluate her condition, stabilize her for evacuation. She had injuries both to her legs, her arm, a head injury and seemed to be in a fair amount of pain.

After she was prepared for movement and secured to the stretcher, the team members carried her down the stairwell out the front door to the waiting helicopter. While the helicopter transported her to a nearby aircraft who was then going to move her on to a field hospital, Jessica held up her hand and grabbed the Ranger doctor's hand, held on to it for the entire time and said, "Please, don't let anybody leave me." It was clear she knew where she was and she didn't want to be left anywhere in the hands of the enemy. After a short period of time, the helicopter departed and she was moved back to the field hospital and her treatment was expanded.

After Private Lynch was removed from the hospital, the team continued with the rest of its mission. Searching through the hospital, they found a weapons cache, they found a terrain model. And in fact, what this was was a planning. RENUART: It was like a sandbox model done on the floor of the basement of the hospital. And it was a model of the town of An Nasiriyah. And it had blue and red markers on there, just like we would use for a war game, and depicted with relative accuracy the general positions of U.S. forces and also enemy forces in the town. So it allowed our special forces to gain a bit of intelligence, as well, from that activity.

At the same time, the team was lead to a burial site where in fact they did find a number of bodies that they believe could be American missings-in-action. They in fact did not have shovels in order to dig those graves up, so they dug them up with their hands. And they wanted to do that very rapidly so that they could race the sun and be off the site before the sun came up. A great testament to the will and desire of coalition forces to bring their own home.

After completing the excavation and ensuring that there were none other left behind, the force recovered all bodies and transported back to the staging location and moved those back with the rest of the assault force.

And as you know, we've since returned those bodies to the states. And we have identified nine of those sets of remains. Eight of them, in fact, were from the 507th Maintenance Company and one from the -- a soldier from the third forward support group of the 3rd Infantry Division. And those next of kin now know -- have been notified and they know the status of their loved one.

So while we -- we grieve at the loss of those soldiers, we are pleased that we were able to make a determination of their fate and bring that back to their families.

Well, that completes the comments that I wanted to make. Let me open up for questions for you today.

This gentleman here was eager to get in early, so I'll start off right here.

QUESTION: General, could you give us some characterization of the events in southwestern Baghdad earlier today?

And could I ask that -- you know, you've been using a lot of precision-guided munitions. Some of the statements from the press officers here today have been very vague. Talk about downtown Baghdad, U.S. forces in the center of the city. We have people who are not -- who are in the center of the city, and they clearly haven't been actually in the center.

So I could for a little bit greater precision from some of the statements, but also some indication from you as to what has been going on?

BROOKS: Well, I think the very first clarity of what was going on was riding in one of those tanks in the 2nd Brigade combat team, and it was one of the embedded reporters. So you probably can't see a better up-to-date report than what you saw there. But I will try to put some context to what you saw.

This was an operation conducted by two task forces of the 3rd Infantry Division. They, in fact, had been south of the city and conducted a raid through the city proceeding north to the Tigris River and then continuing out to the west in the direction of the airport.

As to why your colleagues were not able to see that from the center of the city, I'm not sure. But I'm pretty comfortable that in some parts of downtown London, you can't see what's going on in other parts of downtown London. So I can't give you any better answer than that.

I'm pretty comfortable I know where those guys were. And I'm pretty comfortable the reporters gave you an accurate picture of the scenes on the road.

It was a, I think, a clear statement of the ability of the coalition forces to move into Baghdad at times and places of their choosing and to establish their presence really wherever they need to in the city. And those kinds of operations, I believe, will continue.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: At times, sir, your review sounded almost like a victory speech. Was it? Have you now reached the tipping point?

And can I ask the daily weapons of mass destruction question?

(LAUGHTER)

They haven't been deployed. They haven't been discovered. Is this war going to make history by being ended before you found its cause?

(LAUGHTER)

RENUART: That's a great question.

Let me first say that in no way should any of the comments I made be taken as a victory speech. Victory will come; of that there is no doubt. But this fight is far from over.

As we have said, we have been able to move into the area of Baghdad city. As you look at the map of Iraq, you'll note that there are many other parts of the country where we have not taken control of enemy forces in that region, and so the fight will continue. The fight is far from finished in Baghdad.

RENUART: As to weapons of mass destruction, I think we continue to look at sites around the country. But I think, as I mentioned last week as I was up here, many of the sites that we believe were most likely were in areas that we had not yet put troops.

We're beginning to close down some of those areas and put troops into there. And we will, in fact, over time, go through each of the sites where we believe to -- that they may have stored, hidden or in some way cached any kind of weapon of mass destruction.

QUESTION: You talked about setting up a base of operations at the Baghdad International Airport. Is the security such that that can be done now? And what about the runways? They were disabled for normal use, but will they suffice for your use?

RENUART: That's a good question, and I guess what I'd say in terms of base of operation, as you know, you can create a base of operation in the middle of the desert, where you secure a particular area and bring in your logistics forces.

The airport gives us a fairly substantial area to operate from, and I believe we will continue to operate from that field. Whether we make it a main base of operation or not, time will tell.

With respect to security on the airfield, the 3rd I.D. folks, elements of the 101st have, I think, secured the airfield to a fairly good degree. That does mean that there is not a threat from artillery, from enemy forces who have continued to attack throughout the course of today to varying degrees and in varying sizes but with no success.

There are a number of sites on the airfield that we want to make sure we spend extra time to ensure there's not booby traps and those kinds of things. But we feel like we can operate on the airfield with ease.

In terms of is the airfield functional, we believe that at least one of the runways will be functional very rapidly. Most of the obstructions there were dirt, so they can be cleaned off very quickly. And I think we'll have that capability very rapidly.

It appears the rest of the infrastructure on the airport was intact. And I think the -- well, the Iraqi government still today says we're not there. So clearly they were not expecting us, so they left the airfield in a fairly operable condition.

QUESTION: Who disabled the runways, the coalition forces? Or did they put obstacles in your way...

RENUART: Well, I think...

QUESTION: Yesterday it sounded like they took out portions of the runway so it couldn't be used. I don't think you could have put in dirt yesterday...

(LAUGHTER)

RENUART: Even we're not that fast. No, we had -- Baghdad International Airport has two runways, two sides of the airfield. One of them is the military side. And we, because there were some military capable aircraft over there that we were concerned about, obstructed that one ourselves.

On the other airfield, are intent was to leave that intact. The Iraqis, in fact, covered -- put dirt mounds in a number of places. I think they may have been worried that we were going to do some sort of an air landing or something, and they wanted to ensure that maybe that was not possible.

I think they underestimate our capabilities. However, we will be about clearing those dirt mounds and et cetera to get that runway functional very rapidly. And at the appropriate point, we'll start using it, as we need to, to bring in supplies or other items.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you firstly about the discovery of these bodies in az-Zubayr? Do you have any information about that?

And secondly, were you surprised by the level of resistance that you faced so far going into Baghdad? Do you really think the Republican Guard have gone, or do you think they're waiting for you somewhere else?

RENUART: First, the question on reports in Zubayr, I heard those really just coming over today. I can't give you any more specifics -- one, if the reports are accurate, or two, what the, you know, what type of people these might be, if they are accurate reports. So I'm afraid I can't give you too much more than that.

However, we have asked our -- in coordination with the land component commander -- to take these kinds of reports and try to run them to ground so that we can come up with some sense of truth. As you know, on the battle, many times first reports are in some say inaccurate. And so we physically need to go there and find out, and we'll know more once we (inaudible).

Your second question was the Republican Guard. I think sometimes it's very difficult for people to understand the power of air power. And I don't want to sound like I'm an airman, you know, beating the air-power horn. But the integration of fires from both land and air was substantial.

RENUART: And we were able to take advantage of superiority in the skies to prepare the battlefield. And as the land forces moved through, they still found substantial Republican Guard capability, and in many cases, those forces fought hard. But they were more isolated, they were not well organized. And I think you can -- that is a direct result of the combined arms team that prepared that battlefield before the forces actually moved into the area.

QUESTION: We had reports today of another suicide bombing at Baghdad Airport. If you could address that?

And secondly, do you have any indications there are substantial Republican Guard in Tikrit?

RENUART: I heard the reports about the potential suicide bomb at the airport. We've had a couple of reports of those activities that have been true over the last few days. The one day I tried to check just before I walked in. That has not come up on anybody's radar scope. Obviously, I think it was a media report.

There have been a number of attacks out there. I would say some of them I'd term as "suicidal," in that very lightly armed forces trying to attack more heavily armored forces on the airfield. But I don't have what at least I would refer to as a suicide bomb attack that I'm aware of.

And I'm sorry, your second question?

QUESTION: Do you have any indications of Republican Guard still substantial in Tikrit?

RENUART: In Tikrit. Certainly through the conflict we've seen a number of Republican Guard units in and around Tikrit. We continue to look in that area very carefully, because certainly that's one of the key leadership nodes, we think, that tie to the Ba'ath Party.

As our forces drew closer to Baghdad, many of the Republican Guard units were sort of thrown into the fight literally. And there certainly are some remnants of Republican Guards in that area. As to how large a force that is, we're still trying to get a little better intelligence on that.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Can you elaborate on your definition of "favorable," with regard to the strike on the leadership of the 21st? What exactly does that mean?

And on the same track, can you give us your assessment of the Saddam Hussein video that was put out yesterday?

RENUART: "Favorable" means really good.

(LAUGHTER)

We hit exactly where we wanted to go, and we're pretty sure that one of the targets we were aiming at we got.

Now, beyond that, I'm going to leave it there. Good try, though.

(LAUGHTER)

And I think that goes to, really, your second question. Was this Saddam on the tapes yesterday? You know, I can't tell you. They are tapes, clearly. We know from intelligence that in the months preceding combat operations, a number of tapes were made to be used -- some to be released locally, some to be released from other places in the world. I don't know. I truly don't know.

But the fact of the matter is, it really doesn't matter. The operation is to end the regime in Iraq, and we'll continue with that one. So whether that was or was not Saddam is truly not relevant to the plan. We'll continue until we complete the operations.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: I have a question, General. What is the problems which is the American army's visit in Baghdad now, exactly? RENUART: I'm sorry, could...

QUESTION: What is the problem which is the American army's visit in Baghdad now?

RENUART: OK. So you're asking, are we having difficulties with our Americans...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) difficulties now exactly at the south of Baghdad.

Thank you.

RENUART: I think our operations, as I described earlier, that moved from the south through the center of Baghdad and out to the west, were very successful for us.

The challenge with that were pockets of very intense fighting. As I mentioned, we had a task force that moved through the city, made up of both Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and Abrams tanks. The fight through there was characterized by a number of irregular forces, mixed with Republican Guard or Special Republican Guard infantry fighting positions, rocket-propelled grenades, nests of irregular forces in the technical vehicles that I described earlier and air-to- air artillery weapons that were used in a direct-fire mode against our forces. So 23-millimeter, 57-millimeter anti-aircraft cannons that were used in a direct-fire mode against our forces.

RENUART: It was, as was reported, intense fighting in areas. On the other hand, in some areas, people were standing on the sidewalks waving to us.

So clearly, there is confusion in Baghdad. Clearly, there is some chaos, in terms of the command and control and the ability of the military defending Baghdad. On the other hand, there are people who appear to acknowledge the presence of coalition forces favorably in that area.

Does that answer your question for you?

QUESTION: Yes, sir.

RENUART: OK, good.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Can you confirm that the 3rd I.D. reached the center or the heart or the middle of the city today? And can you tell us where those troops are now?

RENUART: Moving wherever they need to.

You know, I'm not sure I can tell you -- define to you what the center of Baghdad is, but I think someone described the Tigris River makes a pretty narrow bend as Highway 1 comes into what I would call pretty near the center of Baghdad and then turns out to the west. So our forces moved up into that area and then continued out to the west, and it's as about as close to the center as I know how to define.

Yes, ma'am?

QUESTION: First of all, thank you very much for giving us that level of detail about Jessica Lynch. I had a couple of follow-up questions about her.

We had been told that possibly Chemical Ali (ph), as he is called, may have been in that hospital. Do you know anything about that? Did you get him?

And secondly, the injuries she has, did she sustain them during the ambush or did her captors inflict them on her?

RENUART: Let me go to your second question first because -- I guess the answer to the first one is, we think that he was there. He had used that area. But on the evening of the attack, he was not located in that hospital. That's not to say that we haven't been tracking him down at some other locations and will continue to do so until we're pretty confident that he's been eliminated.

As to her injuries, as I mentioned, arm injuries, leg injuries, she's undergone some back surgery as well. I don't have any way to determine if those were inflicted on her after her capture. And so, it would be unfair of me to try to speculate on that. I just really can't say. I don't know of any other information to be more clearer than that for you.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: The situation in Baghdad is such where the residents are getting mixed messages. One message from the Iraqi leadership, the information ministry, that everything is fine, don't worry about it, they haven't taken over any of our command and control facilities. The coalition force is obviously presenting a different message.

Now it seems the message -- your message, the coalition forces' message is more important than ever. How are you getting through the Iraqi propaganda and talking directly to the people of Baghdad, saying whatever you want to say in terms of issuing admonitions about, this is where we'll be, et cetera, et cetera?

And why is the information ministry still broadcasting its propaganda?

Thank you, sir.

RENUART: It's a good question. As you know, the technology for broadcast is pretty sophisticated, and you can purchase satellite time on a variety of different corporation satellites. And so, as to how they're still being able to broadcast, while I'm not technically proficient to tell you how that happens, I can say that it appears that there are a number of satellite companies who have sold broadcast time to Iraqi National Television. And so, we're trying to work in some way to encourage that not to happen. But I think more importantly is the question, really, of how do we get our message to the Iraqi people? We have a capability to broadcast on the Iraqi channel 3, and we are continuing to do that. We're trying to expand our ability for Iraqis to broadcast on satellite television. And as we try to improve that capability and expand that capability, we will do so.

We're beginning to see many more leaders in the communities of Basra and An Nasiriyah, au-Samawah, An Najaf, even now toward Karbala, become much more supportive -- openly supportive of the coalition forces as they see the threat from these other irregular troops go away. And some have expressed interest in helping to get that message out.

RENUART: You have to be careful though, you have to be careful because it has to be an honest message from the Iraqi people. And so we're sensitive to try to create the opportunity for Iraqis to broadcast on their network.

QUESTION: You said that you want to broadcast on Iraqi TV, but there are reports that the electricity in Baghdad was off. Do you know if the electricity is back on? Obviously that causes some problems in terms of wanting the coalition forces to broadcast their message.

RENUART: You know, I can't tell you throughout Baghdad if it's on. I know we have reports in certain areas that there is electricity. Certainly Iraqi TV has electricity. So they've taken it away from their people, but they save it for themselves.

But we're seeing reports that it is on it certain areas, and we're trying to develop that a little bit more. We're looking for ways to try to get that power back on as rapidly as we can.

Yes, ma'am, right here?

QUESTION: I'm just wondering about the coalition troops, it would like be sending messages through, you know, these know, asking, you know, people not to fight, all to surrender.

Do we have any reports about the Iraqi and the, you know, the Republican troops or the Iraqi people have been surrendering yet? Or...

RENUART: Yes, ma'am. Actually, that's a very good question. Because one of our real desires was to pass the message that it would for the future of the country, it was -- it would be important for them to preserve their ability to be part of the future.

We have now in custody some 6,500 Iraqi military members, many of whom surrendered without a fight. We also have reports of a number of units in the country who are -- who have expressed interest in that. But as we move through the country, we haven't been able to get to some of those yet to determine whether they will choose to fight or not.

We'll continue to work through step by step, continuing on our plan. And we hope that many of these units will make that decision.

I will tell you that many units we've seen in some areas, just left their equipment and went home. So they didn't surrender. They just chose not to fight and left and returned to their homes.

Back in the back. Sir?

QUESTION: Sir, what was the purpose of the raid today? And second question, if the troops move from the south towards the center and then back out west, does that mean they are no longer in the area of the center of the city?

RENUART: Well, I'm really not going to speculate on where we physically have troops sitting at any one time. I will just -- I gave you the characteristics of this particular movement. Whether -- when and where and whether there will be similar movements, whether we've left troops behind, I'm just not going to speculate on that.

I think that the message though really is to in a way put a bit of an exclamation point on the fact that coalition troops are in fact in the vicinity of Baghdad, do in fact have the ability to come into the city at places of their choosing, and demonstrate to the Iraqi leadership that they do not have control in a fashion that they continue to say they do on their television. And I think we made that point.

QUESTION: Kind of testing the mood, sir.?

RENUART: I have a great mood. Over here?

QUESTION: You said there had been some intense fighting in parts of Baghdad. Do you want to put a figure on what you estimate the casualties to have been on both sides in those engagements?

RENUART: I'd really not like to put a figure on it. And it's mostly because the reports of all of those operations are still being finalized. As you can imagine, taking a force like that and driving 20 or 25 miles at 30 or 40 kilometers an hour in those vehicles, there probably weren't a lot of people, you know, collecting their thoughts to put real numbers to that. The adrenaline was high, and the battle was raging.

However, at the completion of those operations, the forces then began to put together what they believe to be the facts of all of that. And from that, we'll get a better, I think, a better feel for what their estimates were of numbers and that sort of thing.

Yes, sir. I didn't give you a chance already, did I?

QUESTION: No.

RENUART: I got yelled at last time for letting somebody have two questions.

QUESTION: No, no, I've had my hand up since the beginning.

RENUART: OK.

QUESTION: You've given us an idea, obviously, of how this mission was conducted this morning. But beyond saying that it was to send a message, you haven't really identified any strategic purpose. Has any ground been taken? Is any ground being held? Or are you just back at the airport, having sent a robust message?

RENUART: Well, I think on the battlefield, messages are critical to your strategy. I also said that I'm not going to tell you what we still have or don't have in terms of forces that are in the city, and I think it's probably fair to leave it at that.

But the point we continue to make is we are moving very, very well along the plan that we've laid out. And in due time and in due course, I think the message and the plan will be more clear.

Let me come back over here. Yes, sir, right here.

QUESTION: Along the line of messages, General Myers at the Pentagon, I think a couple days ago, sort of painted this notion of you folks taking control of water plants, electrical plants, essentially sending the message to the Iraqi people that we sort of run the city now, not Saddam Hussein. Can you match that up with some of the military moves that you're making and put the two together for us so we can understand how some of the military maneuvers fit into the strategic picture, but also into almost the psychological picture of sending the message that the United States is in charge, not Saddam Hussein?

RENUART: Again, really good question. I think it's important to understand that -- it goes back to those two pillars I talked about. It's as important to demonstrate control of the battlefield as it is to demonstrate support for the people.

A lot of speculation a couple days ago. I think the power went out in Baghdad at, I'm just guessing, I think it was, say, 5:30 or 6:00 in the evening. Within about four minutes, I had 12 phone calls wanting to know what we had done. And in fact, our intent was not to take the power out, and we did not take the power out in Baghdad. The Iraqi regime took that from its own people. Our intent is to try to put the power back on.

And do we know where the power generation plans are? Yes. Is it our intent to get to those and get the power back on as we are able to? For sure. Is it our intent to ensure that water flows and there are utilities and normal services for the city of Iraq -- or for the city of Baghdad, excuse me? Absolutely. But this is also a very complicated battlefield, and it will take time to make all of those happen.

You'll recall that it -- about 48 hours ago, General Brooks was standing up here, and we were still moving. So in a very short period of time, we've moved rapidly into the vicinity of Baghdad, continue to move forces to a number of areas around the city, continue to engage Republican Guard units outside of the city to prevent them from moving into the city. And as we are able to create more stability, we will very rapidly try to return normal services to the people of Baghdad.

Yes, sir. I'll get you both here.

QUESTION: It's unusual for a senior military leader to be relieved of command in the course of conducting combat operations. So a number of questions have been raised about the decision to do that with the Marine Corps regimental commander operating in Iraq.

At the Pentagon, they've said this is a question to be addressed by his chain of command, so I put the question here. Can you tell us why he was relieved?

RENUART: Really, I'm not going to discuss it. At every level of command, commanders have to make tough decisions about the nature of the leaders that they have under their chain. And in this case, this was a decision made by the commander in the field. I don't think it's fair for me to go into why or what his rationale may be. He made a decision he felt was right, and that's his decision.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: First, could you tell us the number of air sorties? Two, perhaps a naive question, but why this bold and dangerous move inside the city during daytime instead of nighttime, where you have more night-vision capability?

And third, any contacts with Iraqi military officials defecting or giving you insurance that you could move around the city with less fighting?

RENUART: First, to your last question, I'd say that it probably would not be a good thing for me to discuss how much or how little contact we have with any Iraqi officials. That's critical battlefield information, and I think that's better left in that category.

In terms of day or night, I think that it was very clear to the people of Baghdad that coalition forces were in the city. That image is important, and so I think being in the daytime was a very clear -- it was a very clear statement to the Iraqi regime, as well, that we can move at times and places of our choosing, even into their capital city.

And your first question was the number of air sorties for today?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RENUART: I think -- I'll be wrong, because I'm going to give you an estimate. But I think, overall, around the theater, we flew something close to 3,000 total sorties. I think within the Iraqi -- immediate Iraqi area, probably about 1,500 in actual combat missions, something under 1,000 inside the country itself.

That's a rough order of magnitude, but -- and that's a relatively typical day.

Way in the back, sir. QUESTION: General, you've told us in great detail about rescue of Jessica Lynch. I'm just wondering, can you give us a copy of the story, "Saving Private Lynch," before CENTCOM posted the transcript of today's briefing? Because I -- you know, in order to report on this rescue.

RENUART: I'll just defer that to Jim Wilkinson, and he'll do whatever he does in magic, because I'm just a humble operations guy.

QUESTION: And also, another question. There are reports today there is a U.S. Army military commander, Joe Dowdy, sacked. Can you explain that and confirm that, please?

RENUART: Yes, I think that was similar to Chaz's question up here a moment ago.

Yes, the reports are there that a military commander was relieved, but I'm not going to speculate on the why. I truly don't know the reasons for that. That is a decision made by a commander on the battlefield, and I have to respect his judgment to do what is right for his situation on the battlefield. QUESTION: Will the coalition invite any independent analysis of suspected weapons of mass destruction?

RENUART: I really -- I'm probably not able to tell you one way or the other. The battlefield is a pretty dangerous place out there right now, and so it's important for us to gain control of the country and to gain control of sites that may have weapons of mass destruction or evidence of those.

And I think that once those are complete, those will be, you know, made available in due course. And I'm sure there will be thousands of independent people who will do analysis of that information. But right now, I can't speculate on when or how that might occur.

QUESTION: General, I'm sure you have some timing, some goals for the timing. How many more days do you think this war is going to take?

RENUART: You know, General Franks has been up on a number of occasions, and I think we have all been consistent to say that the plan is very well put together and it will take as long as it takes.

Now, that's not an answer -- you know, we in our society want to know, "Well, that must be four days or eight days or a hundred days," and I think it's just not fair to try to put a time to it.

It's important that we are -- that we actually achieve all of the objectives that we've laid out in the operation, and to try to put a time to that is really unfair. It's unfair to the military members on the battlefield to put them under a time constraint, and it's unfair to create an expectation that may or may not be realistic in the public.

QUESTION: You spoke a lot about the south of Baghdad. We know some coalition troops control the roads to the north. Can you tell us what you're seeing up there? We have reports that some residents are fleeing. Are you seeing that? Are you able to control that? Are you able to control or see if any reinforcements are coming down possibly?

And second question: One of our embeds had reported some very, kind of, hand-to-hand combat in the southeast of Baghdad, including some foreign fighters -- Jordanians, Sudanese, Egyptians -- that were engaging the Marines. Can you speak about that? Is that the first time you have seen a significant number of foreign fighters who have come in to support the regime?

RENUART: OK, two good questions. Let me go to the second one first, and I'll come back to, sort of, the status of potential refugee movements.

The southeast of the city and the east side of the city is the Marine zone. The 1st MEF is operating in that area.

They did have some very challenging areas of combat over the last 36 hours. Some of it, what we could call dismounted combat, which some might call hand-to-hand, but that's basically infantry moving through positions on the battlefield. And so I'm certain that they probably had some very difficult engagements in that area.

I've seen the reports also of other nationalities fighting on the battlefield. I have no way to confirm that specifically. We certainly would like to get more of that information and will continue to try to pursue that.

As to, does that surprise me, well, we saw in Afghanistan Chechens and members of other countries fighting on the side of Al Qaida. So nothing would surprise me on a battlefield.

And back to the first part, have we seen refugees moving out of the...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RENUART: And reinforcements. I think we really focus on two aspects: both. We want to create a situation where reinforcements don't get into the city, so essentially isolation, if you will. And we'll continue to operate with our forces around the city to prevent forces from coming into the city and challenging us.

I think, with respect to refugees, we've had some reports of people leaving the city to the north and to the northwest. Again, sort of contrary to the information minister's comment about, "There's nobody out there, it's all a virtual war."

I think many of the people in Baghdad are concerned because they know that there are coalition forces, and we see reflections of that in some intelligence, that people are saying, "Hey, the Americans and the coalition are coming." I think there is some concern that they'll be caught in a crossfire. So it's understandable that people will try to leave to move out. We have not seen large numbers, I mean, you know, hundreds of thousands of refugees moving. We have seen, in some cases, numbers of cars, trucks, et cetera, households goods. In fact, I think in the Marine zone yesterday, we showed a -- there was a picture of an elderly gentleman with his car and all of his households goods on the roof trying to leave the city to the southeast. Marines took very good action to ensure that he was who he was and that he was not threatening in any way and allowed him to continue on.

Many people in the Baghdad area have family in other parts of the country, and our intent would be to, obviously, have folks stay in their homes primarily. And if there is a number of folks that are displacing themselves to get away from the city, we'll try to accommodate that in a manner that doesn't endanger anybody on the battlefield.

Let's see. Gentleman back there in the blue shirt.

QUESTION: Do you have any signs that the Iraqi regime would use human shields to defend Baghdad? And what are the instructions in case a huge amount of civilian people are approaching the airport? RENUART: I've not seen any indications in Baghdad that that has occurred. We have seen a number of cases well documented on the battlefield where women and children have been used as shields for some of these Iraqi forces.

Our forces are continue -- I mean, continue to train to deal with that kind of a situation, and I'm confident that the commanders on the battlefield are able if, in fact, they see something like that, to make the right decisions to preserve life and yet allow them to defend themselves if there is a need.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about Tikrit. We've heard that you've sealed the road between there and Baghdad. Have there been indications that people have been moving up there, important people? What is the situation in the city itself, and are you still targeting things there?

RENUART: In the city of Tikrit? I don't know what the situation is in the city. And as to whether we've closed the road or not, I can't really tell you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) you've had special forces in that area?

RENUART: We have had special forces up in that area. I don't think I said we closed the road. But we certainly are monitoring the traffic in the roads throughout the country, and so we'll continue to do that.

In terms of have we had forces in Tikrit, I'm really not going to talk about where we're moving forces other than those I've already talked about today.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RENUART: In term of leadership moving out of the city, I'd like to not speculate. And I think I will leave it at that one.

QUESTION: Thanks, General. Just to follow up on the situation inside Baghdad and the civilians there, more broadly than just the specific use of human shields, what's the situation? When the forces entered Baghdad, were people mostly staying inside their homes? Were civilians in the way, in the crossfire? And what do you know about the situation with water supply, sanitation and other problems affecting civilians?

RENUART: I don't have any information that would indicate the water supply has been turned off or the sanitation system is not functioning. So I can't give you more than that.

I do know -- we do know that power has been shut down. That will have some effect, although most facilities have some backup power to continue to operate those.

In terms of what have the civilians been doing in the city? I think you saw a good characterization of that with the movement through the city. In some places, the sidewalks are quiet. In some places, there were people that appeared to be trying to have some normalcy in their lives. And I think that's probably a fair characterization of what we have seen in the city itself.

So I think we'll have to -- there will be, just as the gentleman behind you asked, there are parts of the city that may not know we're there yet, and so their life probably continues about as normal as they can make it.

I think I have time for one more. The whole row is standing up to tell me that I'm about done.

(LAUGHTER)

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: The conventional wisdom has been that if the regime felt cornered that it would use weapons of mass destruction. At this point, the U.S. military seems to be sending the message that you are, indeed, cornered. So could you give me your assessment of what the likelihood is that you think the weapons of mass destruction will be used?

And also, what's the situation with these unconventional attacks? How does that affect the way you will respond in Baghdad?

RENUART: Well, I hope you were saying that the Iraqi regime is cornered, not we're cornered.

QUESTION: Right, the message from the U.S. military is...

RENUART: OK, I got that.

QUESTION: ... the Iraqi regime.

RENUART: There you go. As with any desperate regime -- I don't have a lot of experience in many desperate regimes, but I think any person that feels threatened is likely to lash out in a way that might be unpredictable. So we would not, in any way, expect that this regime might not take the opportunity to do something desperate and to use a weapon like that, even in the area of its own city where its own people were.

So how does that affect what we do? We continue to have our forces prepared. And clearly, they are well trained to operate under the most diverse and difficult situations, to include chemical or biological attacks. And I think that's probably a fair depiction of what I see there.

And then, I'm sorry, I forgot what the first part of it was.

QUESTION: The second part was the Iraqi minister has said that there would be these unconventional attacks, meaning suicide bombings.

RENUART: Ah, OK. Well, he said yesterday that there would be this amazing new attack last night, and I don't know what that was, unless it was the videos.

(LAUGHTER)

You know, we really do prepare our forces for any kind of unusual or unconventional attack. We've seen a number of these technical vehicles, irregular forces assaulting our positions. We had a number of these forces take one of the fire trucks on the airfield in the early days and try to attack an Abrams tank. For those of you who have been on the road in L.A., if you get in the way of a really big, heavy vehicle, you'd probably lose. And unfortunately, this guy took a gamble that was not good for him, and the vehicle was destroyed.

So we will continue to see, I think, those kinds of tactics, but it does not affect the ability on the battlefield for us to continue to accomplish the mission. The forces that we have train against those unconventional kinds of enemies just like we train against a conventional enemy, so I'm really not -- I don't feel that will be a distracter for us.

Folks, thank you very much. I really appreciate your time today.

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