CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Aired April 6, 2003 - 07:02 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: The CENTCOM briefing has begun. Let's listen in.
BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS, CENTCOM: I trust everyone adjusted their clocks properly here and in other places where the time zones have changed. Good afternoon.
Ladies and Gentlemen, since the coalition's entry into Iraq, coalition forces have been focused on the objectives of the campaign. We're in the 17th day in, and the outcome remains beyond doubt. With each day that passes, the coalition force grows stronger and more damages are inflicted upon the regime and its supporting agents, and with each day that passes, more Iraqis are celebrating freedom. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the family members of those of our fallen comrades who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The coalition attacked the regime, leadership targets, military force, command centers, communication nodes and all located aircraft to break the military capacity of the regime. At this point the coalition can operate throughout all of the airspace of Iraq. I have two weapons systems videos to show you today of recent attacks that we conducted to eliminate the military capability defending this regime. The attacks are focused on eliminating threats to coalition aircraft and preventing regime for using aircraft for any purpose. The first video shows an anti-aircraft artillery system that is firing at a coalition aircraft.
To let you see that in this film -- this target was west of Kirkuk in northern Iraq on the second of April. Now, what you just saw was two sets of black smoke. That was the firing of the anti- aircraft system at this aircraft conducting the attack. So, I would just remind you that these are not benign actions that occur. These are combat actions and our pilots have done very, very well and have been very effective. Let's continue with the tape, please. He won the duel. The second video shows a regime anti -- a regime aircraft located near the Al Takatam airfield. This was struck on April 4. As I mentioned, we will attack all identified aircraft first to prevent them from flying for combat purposes, but also to prevent potentially delivery of weapons of mass destruction, chemicals particularly, from aircraft. We will continue to attack the regime and its military capacity whenever and wherever we find it. I also have two products to show you from recent precision attacks against assets of the regime.
The first one is a regime command and control facility in Baghdad struck on April the 3rd. What I would highlight on this one is that there are 21 different weapons that were used. Each one of them is represent by a blue arrow. One of the reasons why I don't discuss sorties very much is because we have the capability of doing some of these attacks without involving an aircraft at all, or we may have certain aircraft that drop mission guided munitions that could find their way to the target. It may be one or two aircraft that do the weapons into the attack.
There's a difference in the technology and capability now than what we have spoken of in the past. This is a pre-strike, and the post-strike please. Varying degrees of destruction because the weapons systems chosen have varying degrees of explosive capability. That's by deliberate design. You will see on the far left side, for example, these don't appear to be as destroyed, as others, but they were effective hits. In some cases we went just outside of the buildings to penetrate. In other cases the buildings were destroyed. You can see some that were shredded in this case. This was considered an effective attack. If we don't see something effective, we will come back and attack it the at a later time. The second image is -- first let's show the split here.
The second image I want to show you is a command and control facility near Salman Pak to the south of Baghdad. This was struck on the third of April. Two weapons in this case. Post-strike. And the Split. As we are now able to operate around or within Baghdad, we see indications that the regime continues to put civilians and civilian areas at increasing risk. The following photo will show you Iraqi military equipment that the regime has intentionally placed next to the buildings of a residential area. Although it's a little difficult to see, each blue arrow points to a piece of military equipment that's pushed right up against the side of the building.
Some cases interest are multiple pieces of equipment. This is in a residential area. We don't know that these are houses, per se, but it is clearly a residential area. This kind of risk is another example of how the regime is more than willing to put its population into harm's way to protect itself and its weapons and its capabilities of continuing to inflict oppression on the population.
We, however, will continue to discriminate in our targeting. We'll continue to be selective and seek precision in all that we do, but it is clear at this point that the risk is increasing to the civilian population because of decisions made by regime leaders. Our coalition special operations forces in northern Iraq directed focused air support against regime forces in the north near Kirkuk.
Some of these forces some of these Iraqi forces from the First Corps relocated approximately 10 kilometers further to the south away from what has been described as the green line. Special Operations teams with the Kurdish security elements maintained contact with the First Corps elements and have moved forward in a portion of that 10 kilometer zone to keep their eyes on the relocating Iraqi forces. Our special operations forces are positioned along several key roads, and this is to prevent movement of ballistic missiles. We have talked about area of denial out in the west and also to deny free movement by regime forces or leaders. Hour Special Operations Forces represent a very broad capability and can be introduced into any area by a variety of means. You have seen some of those over the last several days of this campaign.
The video I'm about to show you shows Special Operations Forces conducting another parachute assault within the last two days to secure an air with field for future use. Equally important are the efforts of the Special Operations Forces conducting unconventional warfare and doing more and more work with Iraqis who do not support the regime. This is an ongoing and increasing effort. The land component continues to achieve success. Our efforts to remove remnants of the regime from the areas of Basra, Samawah, Najaf and Karbala are ongoing. There have been encounters with regime forces in the areas. The numbers of encounters have gone down while the support from the population is increasing. Deliberate work by the U. K. forces in the vicinity of Basra have clearly weakened the grip of the regime.
Yesterday, a patrol from U.K. forces near Ar Zubayr outside of Basra came upon warehouses containing human remains in bags and boxes. While an accurate count is not yet known, estimates would indicate that the remains are of more than 100 persons.
Some had tatters of uniforms. In and amongst the human remains in one of the warehouses there were pictures of executed soldiers. These remains are not from this conflict. They are from some other conflict at some other time. Needless to say, the site will be thoroughly examined and we're looking for evidence of war crimes. There is still a regime presence in some of the towns, and the tactics that we see used remain the tactics of terrorists. An example of this is a recent action at an area secured by the 82nd Airborne division near Al Samawah. You can see Samawah here along the river line near Najaf.
In this case a company of airborne troopers were securing an area that had been established. They built a small unit checkpoint to control movements near the area. This was near a populated area. As we have seen in other cases, a sport utility vehicle approached the checkpoint at a high rate of speed. After several unsuccessful non- lethal attempts to cause the vehicle to halt, it continued approaching the checkpoint. This again as I mentioned was near a populated area.
There was a young sergeant in charge at that particular checkpoint and he saw objects in the back of this vehicle. He ordered one of his gunners to open fire on the threatening vehicle. This is an image of the vehicle from the rear after the attack. You can see it's in an urban area with a kid standing on the side of the road. The weapon impacting the vehicle caused the vehicle to have a significant secondary explosion and fireball. Let's go to the next image. The vehicle had been loaded with gas cylinders to be detonated in close proximity to the checkpoint. And finally from the side.
Our soldiers and marines out there, especially the junior leaders, are having to make very, very difficult but instantaneous life and death decisions. They're the only ones who can make the decisions. They're doing it very well, and they're also doing the best they can to protect the force as well as the Iraqi population. The two corps attack by Fifth Corps and First Mech continues to isolate Baghdad denying any reinforcements or any escape by regime military forces. Fifth Corps controls the corridor from Karbala to Baghdad in the east. The First Marine Expeditionary Force controls the corridor from Salman Pak to Baghdad. I mentioned the First. Excuse me. Fifth Corps is in the west, First Mech is in the east.
We continue the operations in and around the area and beyond. There was a raid last night by First Marine Expeditionary Force, but what they raided was a training camp near Salman Pak. You can see the explosion along on the map near Salman Pak. This raid occurred in response to information that had been gained by coalition forces from some foreign fighters that we encountered from other country, not Iraq, and we believe that this camp had been used to train these foreign fighters in terror tactics. It is now destroyed.
We continue broadcasting non-stop radio over all of Iraq. We do know that radio is the most common and popular medium that is used by the Iraqi population that's consumed by them. A much smaller portion of the population has TV, and an even smaller portion, mostly elites, have access to cable and satellite television. Some of the examples of things that we are saying on the broadcasts now to the Iraqi people, especially in the radio broadcast; first, we're telling the Iraqi people for their own safety to stay away from Baghdad International Airport. This is certainly in direct contrast to what the regime is telling its citizens.
We're also explaining the importance of carefully following checkpoint instructions as they approach them. There are checkpoints they may encounter. If they follow the instructions of the people at the checkpoint, there are not problems. We telling the Iraqis of the types atrocities and criminal acts that the regime is responsible for, and we're also telling the Iraqi forces that remain, specifically the special Republican Guard and special security forces that they should surrender, flee, or fight and face certain destruction. The good news is life is proceeding into a new state of normal in other places and places where the coalition has driven away the regime. Actions that we easily take for granted, things that have been stopped by the regime and the hazards of combat are now resuming. So, as we stop our combat actions, as we move the regime away, life can continue.
This an example. A school in an Najaf. We have talked about that location in the last several days. Children are now safely returning to school. They have begun school for the first time since before the hostilities began. The image is in stark contrast with the one that I showed you a few days ago where with the help of the local population, we were resuming ammunition from the same school that had been used by the regime death squads as a place to fight.
The civil affairs units are traveling behind the combat formations are skilled professionals, and they're making daily assessments of the needs of the population they encounter and then they get to work trying to fulfill the needs with the assistance of the population. That's part of the plan. It always has been part of the plan and their efforts are making a major difference in the lives of newly liberated Iraqis. In some locations our soldiers are facilitating the delivery of supplies, and that includes things that are already on hand in storage warehouses that were not delivered by the regime as this image shows. These were school supplies that were in area near Basra. Our Special Operations Forces moving through the area found the warehouse, discovered what it was and began pushing them back out to the population. They had already been on hand and for whatever reason the regime did not see fit to distribute them to the population of Basra. We will continue with the humanitarian and civic work with the free Iraqi forces team members. They continue to help us communicate and earn a high degree of trust. The people teams will coordinate delivery of humanitarian assistance rations and the massive volumes of wheat and grain that are starting to flow in from all over the world. We have much more of that coming over the next several weeks with many countries making contributions those are coming in from the ports that have been secured by the operation and other land over areas that have been secured. With that, Ladies and Gentlemen, I'll take the questions.
QUESTION: Two questions, General. First of all, you showed us the photograph of the vehicle with the cylinders in it. Anyone who has lived in this part of the world knows those are the cylinders that everyone uses for domestic purposes and are often transported in vehicles like that. Was there anything in that you saw in the vehicle that proved that these were intended to be detonated? Secondly, you mentioned the training camp near Salman Pak. You said that the information from foreign fighters had helped you to identify that. You are saying that are there are foreign terrorist training camps in Iraq?
BROOKS: Well, first with regard to the vehicle and what's inside of it, we know that those canisters can also be used as explosive devices particularly when numbers of them are joined together. What we believe is the necessary decision-making at the lower level is what you see approaching, what behaviors are exhibited, and how does that then match into things that have happened as patterns over time? Then a life and death decision is made. When there's a need to do further investigation, we will, if we think something has been done incorrectly by the rules of engagement, but in many cases this is going to happen. It's possible while those are commercial use activities or items just like the vehicle is a civilian vehicle and the people inside were in civilian clothes. That's still the modus that is used by regime death squads to perpetrate these terror attacks.
With regard to Salman Pak, that's just one of the a number of examples we found where there's training activity happening inside of Iraq. It reinforces the likelihood of links between this regime and external terrorist organizations. Clear links with common interests. Some of these fighters came from Sudan, some from Egypt, some from other places. We have killed a number of them and we have captured a number of them. That's where the information came from. We continue to be on the lookout for the fighters. It won't stop us operationally. We will encounter them when we encounter them, but it does say an awful lot about the approach the regime is taking on battlefield right now. QUESTION: Kelly O'Donnell from NBC. Can you confirm the attack on the man known as Chemical Ali? Is he the highest ranking regime leader who has been hit, and what do you think his death would mean for the potential of chemical weapons used?
BROOKS: Well, Kelly, first we have made it clear we're going to do a number of things to affect the decision-making of this regime, whether that is attacking decision-makers like Chemical Ali, and there are a number of others, obviously, in this regime as well, or whether it's attacking the means by which they issue their instructions to do things that we think would be not in their interests to do. Or whether it's attacking the means of delivery like launchers for surface-to-surface missiles that might carry chemical weapons or aircraft that might deliver those.
All of that comes together to minimize the influence of this regime and minimize the ability of the regime to control itself. And we continue to remain satisfied that we are having a significant impact on the regime and that it is no longer in control. As to whether or not he's attacked or higher than him, and we will continue to attack others in the regime. We have said it's not about individuals. It's with the regime and any piece of the regime that's out there or any piece of the force that supports the regime will be attacked, it will be destroyed, or it will be otherwise removed by their voluntary actions.
QUESTION: Is he the highest ranking that has been killed?
BROOKS: I'm not going to characterize what his status is at this point. I don't think we know for sure. We certainly knew he was our target. We know that we feel comfortable that his body guard is now dead. As to Chemical Ali himself, I think time will tell. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: David Lee Miller, Fox News. There's a report of a friendly fire incident in the north. Do you know anything about that and if can you elaborate, I would appreciate it, and secondly, have any weapons of mass destruction been found and is there anything to suggest now that maybe the regime tried to move some of the weapons into Syria or other locations which we have heard for the past few weeks? Thank you.
BROOKS: We do have some initial reports of an engagement that occurred in the north that involves location forces and also some Peshmerga with whom we have been conducting the operations in the north. We don't know the circumstances at this point. As with every other report, we'll dig into it and find out what the contributing circumstances are and come to some degree of closure on not only what happened but also if there are things that we need to learn from it, how it happened and if we can prevent it from happening if we have involvement in what happened. That's something that's still ongoing and is a very fresh report as well, so it's going to take time before we get to the bottom of it. Weapons of mass destruction are something that is that remain a focus of the operation. It is not the primary focus.
We're he still conducting combat operations focused on the regime. That's first order of business. However, there are some places that we have now accessed to areas that we do searches for weapons of mass destruction either based on our anticipated or our knowledge of forehand that there may have been weapons of mass destruction stored there, developed there, over time. So, in some cases it may be years ago that we had the information. As we get access to the locations, we'll search often with the assistance of people who were working there, and as we get closer to Baghdad, we have more places that are like that. I think we can certainly be sure that this regime has been skillful at hiding the things they have. There are a number of items that we have already encountered on the battlefield that they said they didn't have, yet we find them, whether it's mines that float up or missiles that go beyond 150 kilometers, any number of other things are out there.
So, while we cannot say where they may have moved to, we certainly anticipate that there have been deliberate efforts to bury, hide, move or disperse all of these efforts that were part of the denial and deception campaign. As time goes on and we get more access to the people who really know what was happening inside of the regime that are not supportive of the regime, after the regime is gone, we believe we'll be able to do the deliberate work necessary to find more of it.
QUESTION: CNN. There is a report being carried by Interfax that some vehicles carrying Russian diplomats out of Baghdad were struck by coalition aircraft. Number one, did it happen? Number two, were you notified in advance of the departure of this delegation of Russians from Baghdad?
BROOKS: We have some initial reports from the embassy in Russia there may have been some sort of action that occurred with respect to that set of vehicles leaving Iraq. We were aware of them leaving Iraq. We certainly had information about that and had an anticipation of how they might move and with that, we wanted to insure we were providing as much protection as we could. We don't know the circumstances surrounding this or even the factual basis of it yet. We understand they are still moving at this point in time. As we get more information, we will absolutely want to get to the bottom of that particular report. I don't know whether it has or not, there are reports that it has been, but we don't have any specifics that confirm that in any way at this point.
QUESTION: You said it is still moving?
BROOKS: We understand that the group of vehicles is still moving, yes. What we don't know is of any coalition involvement, whether in fact someone was hit, what the circumstances were around a reported hit, and we'll see if we can find out about that, the rest of the story. Very, very fresh report. Just minutes before we came in here. Yes, please.
QUESTION: Jeff Meade from Sky News. Yesterday, Baghdad, today Basra. I wonder if you could talk about the action into the second city this morning, how you characterize it, what it's achieving and what the possible outcome. Could I also put you to a small issue. You talked about deception there. At your last appearance, you showed us a building command and control center in Tikrit which you said you been bombed on the 2nd of April. I wondered if you could explain that the same building, damaged, it's quite a distinctive building, was shown on Iraqi TV nine days before? Is this really the truth, but are both sides practicing deception?
BROOKS: Let's talk about the U.K. forces. As I mentioned yesterday, we are very, very proud of them and we're proud to be partners with them in the coalition. They're doing exceptional work in the south. We have already advanced very rapidly in the bringing on of the humanitarian aspects of this operation as quickly as it could be possibly done, and at the same time we find the U. K. forces are doing tremendous and deliberate work in Basra and areas beyond it, and they have had an exceptional effect on the regime forces that are in there. Their work is not complete.
I would certainly leave full characterization of exactly what unit is doing what to the U. K. forces to lay out for themselves, but they're doing very, very well and we remain proud partners with them in the coalition. The strikes that I show you are derived from intelligence products. They're real photographs, and the information we pass to you is that which we can pass you from our knowledge of exactly what has happened. And so, I know that what I'm delivering you is what I know is fact from those operations, and that's probably as far as I can take it. Yes, sir, in the back, please.
QUESTION: Jonathan Marcus, BBC. Prior to your move on Baghdad, you were able to characterize for us which particular Iraqi divisions of the Republican Guard were broadly speaking in that area. Could you try to set out for us now what organized formations the Iraqis still have in the area of the capital? Could you also give us some sense of the state of command and control? You continually show us these buildings being struck, which are command and control centers. I find it extraordinary to imagine that any Iraqis turn up for work in these buildings each and every day. If I worked in one of these buildings, I would be a very, very long way away from it. So, are you hitting empty buildings; what actually is the state of command and control?
BROOKS: OK. The forces that were in and around Baghdad were mostly Republican Guard forces command, but not exclusively. We saw some mixtures of some indications that there may have been some regular army forces that may have gotten in and amongst them and people to reinforce them or they were held from escaping themselves. We saw paramilitaries. We have seen some technical vehicles as we refer to them, civilian vehicles that have been outfitted with weapons. So, there's a mixture that's there.
That makes it difficult to characterize exactly what we face. But what we do know is the forces that we encountered and focused our efforts against. We have inflicted a considerable degree of destruction. Many of the units cease to exist as effective combat formations. In some cases we have found abandoned equipment in the tens and tens of abandoned tanks and personnel carriers. In come cases we have found equipment that we had effectively destroyed by some of our air power being directed against the Iraqi formations that were out there as we were arriving and before we arrived. In other cases we saw some of the devastating effects of direct fire systems, and indirect fire systems supporting ground maneuver.
Attack helicopters that were used in support of ground maneuvers. The path that was cut was path through units in most cases. Having said that, we know there are formations out there, there are parts of Republican Guard form command, the Ail Knee Da (ph) Division, the parts of the Hamurabbi (ph) Division, the Ad Nan Division (ph) in the north. We'll fight them, unless they choose to surrender. Some of them may have moved toward bag Baghdad, but we have not seen movements into Baghdad, certainly not since the call for everyone to rush into Baghdad, or the call for everyone to rush from Baghdad out to Baghdad airport.
We have not seen examples of organized combat action. There are small packets that usually conduct counterattacks. They're generally company-size, somewhere between 20 and 40 vehicles with associated paramilitaries, sometimes some technicals, sometimes infantry in or not in uniform and those are dealt with when they arrive. We believe there is still some low-levels of command and control in some of the military formation, but as we find capability that exhibits that, we attack it. So, for example, we attacked two division command posts while we were attacking their formations.
We were able to identify, locate them and we struck them. The strikes were effective. That sakes away a level of command and control. You asked about the buildings inside of Baghdad that we showed. Most of the regime related buildings are places that house command and control structures that house the junction between a fiber optic network and other things, different means of communication. So, we'll strike that to break the links for communications in most cases. In some cases they may be empty. In fact, we attack it at certain times where people are not at work. We're trying to destroy the capability, not the population. All of that goes into the mixture of how we conduct our operations. That's probably a lot more information than you can take in, but since you asked that long question. Whoever is going to go to work, though, when they start going back to work, very much as they are in the south, it will be with our help.
Next question, please. Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Associated Press. This morning we heard that the toll from the Baghdad raid yesterday somewhere in the area of 2,000 to 3,000 Iraqi fighters killed. I'm just wondering how you came up with that number. That's a lot of people, and an early Saturday morning in Baghdad. We haven't heard much of enemy tolls to date, so I'm wondering why we're hearing that number now and where it came from. And second, on the Republican Guard, been saying that it's melting away, a lot of people just deciding not to fight, is there not a concern on the part of the coalition that even after you establish some kind of a presence that they might come back as a guerrilla force? They might just be melting away now, only to return if not tomorrow, some other time in the future?
BROOKS: First, you haven't seen me use numbers very much because they're very difficult to lay out and then stand on. First because reports change over time, as you get more information, and also because in many cases they have to be based upon estimates. We're talking about the results of combat action in this case that in many cases results in physical destruction of human best (ph). You cannot always make an accurate count.
We certainly are not stopping the account count. The practice of laying out numbers is something that I have personally tried to stay away from for that reason. In this case, there are estimates out there based on the amount of force that was encountered, the types of systems that were involved in the action, things that where we know we were involved in direct firefights that many of you were able to witness with the embedded media that went along with part of that attack. And the number of systems that we had involved and the types of engagements that occurred. So, that's an estimation, it could be on order of 2,000, it could be more than 2,000, it could be somewhat less than 2,000. We know it was a considerable amount of destruction on all of the force that was encountered. I have tried to characterize it in those terms. A considerable amount of destruction and virtually every engagement that we have, it's very one-sided. And in some cases we take a few wounded, and in some cases we have one or two killed.
But in all cases, we inflict a considerable amount of destruction on whatever force comes in -- into contact with us. It just is not worth trying to characterize by numbers. Frankly, in -- if we are going to be honorable by the warfare, we are not out there trying to count up bodies. That's not the appropriate way to go.
QUESTION: If I can follow up.
BROOKS: Your second question, if I can recall what that was. Prompt me again.
QUESTION: The Republican Guard that's melting away now.
BROOKS: Are they going to come back as guerrillas? They would do so at their peril. We believe when the regime is gone, there will still be some who are true believers. There may be still evidence of terroristic behavior. We don't think all of that is just going to disappear, but we also know that many of them have chosen not to fight and seek a future Iraq, and we think that the actions will take -- we'll take will reinforce that decision for those that have made that choice. There's no way to account for how many made the decision to walk off the battlefield and never fight again. There's no account to figure out how many are hiding from the regime so as to have to be killed for having made that choice.
We cannot make that accounting. What we can do is recognize as we have throughout the operation there are certain capabilities that will always exist out there that can threaten the force and also threaten the peace. We'll deal with those in a logical and appropriate way. Let me come back to the right. Yell. I haven't called on you before.
QUESTION: CBS News. We are told that one U. S. soldier was killed yesterday and the Iraqis are reporting 50 soldiers killed. Two Apache helicopters shot down. Can you specify U.S. losses yet in Baghdad? BROOKS: Just as I will not characterize in numbers the losses that we inflict, I'm not going to characterize in numbers the losses that we sustained. There's a mechanism which by which that's reported in official channels after we have notified family members. I will say that we did in fact have the report of a killed in action yesterday. That is true. Numbers are not appropriate. I'll tell you the numbers were very, very small. But any one number, any loss of anyone -- any one of our service members out there is something that gives us pain and concern. But it doesn't stop this operation and they would not want us to stop the operation. So, that's really where we stand on that. Yes, sir, please.
QUESTION: John Chalmers with Reuters. Can you confirm reports that special forces severed the pipeline between Syria and the rail link between Syria and Iraq and secondly, could you run us through the problems that you are likely to face as the temperatures rise and how you surmount them on the battlefield?
BROOKS: I don't want to characterize specifically what work is being done. We know we want to preserve the oil infrastructure of Iraq. And we have been focused on doing that throughout the conduct of the operations, and we're not going to do things within our pow power to put that few future, that resource at risk. I should just leave it at that. The heat conditions that are out there. The heat is certainly rising, but there are forces out there on the battlefield, coalition forces that have trained in the heat. They have trained in a variety of environments. They have trained with their systems. They have trained with their chemical protective overgarments on and they are accustomed to dealing with the degree of hardship. Having said that, it's hot.
When it's hot, decisions get made by all commanders, probably even Iraqi commanders in this case. The weather effects on the battlefield affect everyone. The advantage goes to the force that's is trained to deal with those weather conditions when they occur, whether it's daytime, nighttime, rainstorm, whatever it happens to be or even heat. So, we feel confident that our forces are well prepared, and they are well trained, and they get better with every day's action that goes by, and the regime gets in greater and greater danger with every moment they have chose ton remain in place. Please.
QUESTION: ABC News. In the investigations that you are conducting regarding the several checkpoint attacks conducted by and carried out by Iraqis against coalition forces, have you -- you can confirm that any remote controlled devices, explosive devices were used in attacks against coalition forces. The second question is we haven't heard too much about the two sons of Saddam Hussein, Qusai and Uday. Do you have indications that they are dead or alive? Thank you, sir.
BROOKS: I don't have any information on whether or not we found any remote controlled devices. We have heard some anecdotal reports but not anything official that I have seen at this point in time. We certainly know that is a tactic that's used in a variety of places in the world. Where someone might be pressed into labor as a human woman of some sort whether they're driving it and walking it, and they don't have control of the debt nation. That's not a tactic that we would be surprised at, but I don't have specific reports related to it. As to the son, they're members of the regime. If we have indications that they are alive and moving, we attack them. If we don't see them on the battlefield, we don't pursue them. It's not about individuals. It's about the regime and any capability that we see out there, I we will go after. I don't want to get specific about their conditions. I think they probably have not been seen on Iraqi TV lately, certainly not in live broadcasts. If they were, we might visit them during that time. I will leave that alone.
QUESTION: "USA Today." Can you describe any forays that U. S. forces have made into Baghdad today, this morning, and can you tell me what this strategic idea is behind those kind of parades through town?
BROOKS: Well, given the degree of destruction that occurred yesterday, and the significance loss of life on the part of the Iraqi forces that challenged that operation, I certainly wouldn't characterize it the way you have. It was a combat action. It certainly demonstrated our ability to operate within Baghdad at a time and place of our choosing, and to inflict severe damage on anyone that opposes the force that comes into Baghdad. It should also make a very clear statement about how much control the regime does or does not have. Even while the attack was ongoing there were reports that we are not even reached the airport.
There's a degree of reality in there that I think is settling into a number of people inside Baghdad. Soon we believe it will settle in also on members of the regime. The nature of our approach to Baghdad, I should emphasize will be like our approach to other places. We will do our operations on our plan, conducting attacks at a time and place of our choosing when the battlefield conditions are set by us in a way that's favorable for the outcomes that we seek. So, that will be deliberate work, sometimes it will be just like that, and we're in to Baghdad. Sometimes we'll stay. Sometimes we won't. Sometimes it will be like what you see in Basra or Najaf or Nasiriyah.
We want to attack a specific regime location where a meeting is ongoing and kill everyone in the meeting. We might do that in some cases. That could happen in Baghdad. What I would emphasize is the approach remains focused and it also remains oriented on protecting the population as much as possible and keeping them away from the combat if we can. You have seen the things that -- the decisions being taken by the regime that put the population at risk. So, again, there's caution that I would emphasize that the population does get put at risk when we work in an urban area. We'll be as careful as we can in the operations but we'll also be very effective against the regime. Yes, sir, please.
QUESTION: Paul Hunter from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Do you accept yet as a possibility that you might not find chemical weapons because they have gone to Syria or they have been destroyed by your own aerial bombardment, if that's the case, would it matter if you have regime change, would it matter if you also didn't have the chemical weapons smoking gun? BROOKS: We know we want Iraq to be free of weapons of mass destruction. When this operation is complete. Whatever point we say the operation is over, that is one of the stated objectives. We will search for it. We will assist in searching for it, and we will expect assistance in searching for it. While we haven't found anything yet, we think that the places where it's most likely to be found, we have not gotten to most of them yet. There's a considerable number out there where there could be weapons of mass destruction or evidence of weapons of mass destruction programs. So we're not ruling anything out at this point, whether they will be there or not, whether they have been moved or not.
But we are focused on right now is the removal of the regime. That comes first. Searching for weapons of mass destruction in a concentrated way comes after that, and we believe we will -- we still believe that the regime has them and we also believe they have the will to use them. We take away more and more mechanisms by which they can use them at this point, but we're not finished yet. Yes, please. Second row.
QUESTION: Daily Telegraph in London. Just on that point, were you not surprised when you overran the Republican Guard positions that there were no chemical shells in those positions?
BROOKS: Surprise is not really the right term to use. I think that the better way to describe it is that we had new information that we did not find chemical weapons shells in the positions that we passed through at this point. Does that mean they're not with the other divisions on the north side of Baghdad. Doesn't mean they did. Does it mean they're not potentially going to be used by something repositioned elsewhere, different delivery systems. Doesn't mean that yet. Does it mean they're not potentially for aircraft to deliver and not to be used by artillery. That cannot be ruled out yet? So, while we have passed through and taken away the potential for use by those unit, there's still potential for use by other units and other mechanisms.
We remain as seriously focused on it as we were from the start. I would say that the closer we get, even across what we characterized at the red line before, there are fewer and fewer options on what can be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction. Certainly early in the war, we had Ab Abdul (ph) 100's that could have delivered into Kuwait. That area is no longer safe for them to do launches and we haven't had launches in the area. It's been taken away.
As we continue to advance, more areas are taken away. At the same time, we don't take for granted the fact that there could be something that's hidden and now uncovered behind us. While we do the security work, that includes looking for things that are threats. Whether it's technical vehicles with machine guns on them or car bombs or regime members that are holed up in a certain place in a town or things that could deliver weapons of mass destruction. That's what we remain focused on, taking nothing for granted, please that it wasn't used to date, but not satisfied that the hazard is gone. Necessary, please. -- yes, sir. Please. QUESTION: Chief of the National Newspaper Publisher's Association News Service, the Black Press of the United States. As you move closer to Baghdad, you have gotten any more information on coalition soldiers who have been captured, and is there any reassurance that you can give the families waiting for news?
BROOKS: George, I wish I did have some good news to tell on that. The reality is that we have not heard anything by way of the ICRC. I don't believe that the ICRC has been given access, the international committee of the red cross has been given access to our prisoners yet. We hold the regime accountable, completely responsible for anything that's done to prisoners of war that have been taken off the battlefield. We expect them to be treated the same way we treat theirs and we now have over 6,000. The number continues to grow, and we take care of them as well as we can.
In some cases we provided surgery. We always provide food, water and shelter. We have been inspected by the ICRC and remain open to that. That expectation applies also to what we have for the regime but we don't have any news at this point. And we remain hopeful that they're being cared for properly. At the same time we remain active in trying to seek their release or rescue. Yes, sir, please. I'll then come to the front row.
QUESTION: Australia. Can you give us more information about the attack in Salman Pak. You mentioned there was several other foreign fighters. Can you give us more data about the nationalities, and what was in the camp to characterize it as a terrorist training facility?
BROOKS: There are a number of nations that were involved. I don't know all of them. I know that we had some from Egypt, some from Sudan and people that we have captured, and that was before the raid that gave us information about the rate. -- raid. The nature of the work being done by some of those people that we captured, their inferences to the type of training that they received, all of these things give us the impression that there was terrorist training that was conducted at Salman Pak. We did also find some other things there.
We found some tanks and destroyed them, we found armored personnel carriers and destroyed them in small numbers. We destroyed builds that were used for command and control and other buildings that were used for morale and well fare. We destroyed the complex. All of that when you roll it together, the reports, where they're from, why they might be here tell us there's a linkage between this regime and terrorism and that's something that we want to break.
QUESTION: Do they have links to terrorism organizations?
BROOKS: There's no indications of specific organizations that I'm aware of inside of that. We may still find it as with all operations that we conduct into a place, we look for more information after the operation is complete. We'll pull documents out of it and see what the documents say, if there's any links or indications. We'll look and see if there's any persons that are recovered that may not be Iraqi. All of that is detailed and deliberate work that happens after the fact. Let me come to the front row, please.
QUESTION: Al-Jazeera. Reports come in from Washington said that Apache helicopter faced a lot of problems, meaning a technical problems on the ground. And that CENTCOM will minimize or reduce the use of Apache. What's your comments, please?
BROOKS: Well, the Apache helicopter is a great combat system. It is crash worthy. When it does go down, we have had hard landings and the crews walk away. It is battle worthy, we have had Apaches take fire and they have flown back to the base in some cases with the holes in the side. It is functioning exactly as it designed. It has had significant effect on the enemy and we are increasing the number of Apaches. I highlight with the units that we have on the battlefield with units inside the divisions there are attack Apache helicopters. There units arriving there are attack helicopters, Apaches.
In the units in use, in Fifth Corps there's an attack helicopter regiment, the number is increasing, the their involvement on the battlefield is increasing and the destruction that comes as a result is also increasing. I this I we have time for one more question on this side.
QUESTION: Could you just clarify the situation independence in London. Could you clarify the situation in the airport. You know the Iraqis are claiming that the situation is more fluid than we understand it is. Is it 100 percent secure, 90 percent secure? How would you characterize it?
BROOKS: Being a conservative military guy, would never say 100 percent on anything. The airport is under coalition control. We have increase the amount of presence in the location. We continue to expand the area beyond the airport to eliminate the influence of coalition -- I'm sorry of regime forces. There are still battles that happen. To the northwest, for example, there have been pretty good fights that occurred. We're still moving beyond it. And we're able to operate the way we intend to operate inside of the airfield. There's still work to be done in there. There are building complexes. It's an international airport and it doubled as a regime command and control facility. Until everything is cleared, until every potential booby trap is gone, until every obstruction is off of the runways we don't say it's secured but that work is ongoing, even while we conduct combat operations to destroy additional regime forces we encounter.
Thanks very much, Ladies and Gentlemen. Have a good day.
COSTELLO: Carol Costello here. You've just listened to the CENTCOM briefing. General Vincent Brooks said the U.S. is continuing to isolate Baghdad, and the coalition forces are doing that on their own timetable. This as explosions continued over Baghdad in the last 24 to 48 hours.
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