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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Pentagon Briefing

Aired March 22, 2003 - 16:00   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to take you live to the Pentagon for a briefing there. We see people getting ready to speak.
VICTORIA CLARKE, PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: On a very sad note, I'd like to offer the condolences of the department to the families and friends of the U.S. and coalition forces who've died in the first 72 hours of operations.

The Americans are Major Jay Thomas Auben, Marine Corps, Waterville, Maine; Captain Ryan Anthony Beaupre, U.S. Marine Corps, Bloomington, Illinois; Corporal Brian Matthew Kennedy, U.S. Marine Corps, Houston, Texas; Staff Sergeant Kendall Damon Watersbey, U.S. Marine Corps, Baltimore, Maryland; Second Lieutenant Carol S. Childers, U.S. Marine Corps, Harrison County, Mississippi; Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez, U.S. Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California; and Lieutenant Thomas Mullin Adams, U.S. Navy, La Mesa, California.

We are all very proud of these people, the U.S. and the coalition forces, who are performing with incredible courage and skill and dedication. They're doing an outstanding job, and they're imposing some devastating impacts on the Iraqi regime.

Although much work lies ahead, and you hear us saying that repeatedly, coalition forces are making considerable progress. The oil fields in the south are being saved to benefit the Iraqi people. Coalition forces have the key port of Umm Qasr and are making good progress in Basra.

The Iraqi forces, including some leadership, are surrendering and defecting in some numbers. I think we have a few recent images here. It is only a matter of time before the Iraqi regime is destroyed and its threat to the region and the world is ended.

As we've made clear from the beginning, this is not a war against a people, a country or a religion. And the Iraqi people who are welcoming coalition forces are clear evidence that they know this to be true.

As operations go forward, we will continue to take extraordinary care to protect civilians. Our targets are military, and we continue to urge civilians to stay home and away from military assets.

Additionally, we are prepared to provide as much humanitarian aid as required, when and where it is needed.

Very sadly, we are also aware of the reports this morning and this afternoon of journalists who were not embedded with coalition forces that have been killed and wounded. We can't confirm that for you, and we'll leave it up to their news organizations to provide further details.

But it brings me to a very important point. As we've said many times, the situation in Iraq is fluid, it is quite dangerous, there are combat operations under way in a number of areas. We ask all news organizations to exercise restraint, especially with their journalists out there operating freely, and ask them to exercise restraint. There are risks. Combat operations are moving in a fast and unpredictable fashion.

The coalition forces will, of course, exercise extreme care whenever there are noncombatants. However, reporters who get between coalition and Iraqi forces put themselves at extreme risk.

And finally, I'd like to repeat a caution about the operations overall. As successful as they have been thus far, and as confident as we are about the inevitable outcome, we know challenges and difficulties may still lie ahead.

General?

MCCHRYSTAL: Thank you, Ms, Clarke.

I, too, would like to extend my condolences to the families of our British allies and those of our families who've lost loved ones in combat over the last days.

MCCHRYSTAL: Operation Iraqi Freedom continues. A-Day began yesterday at 1:00 p.m. eastern standard time. The goal of the air campaign is to neutralize Iraqi leadership, suppress missile threats to our forces and Iraq's neighbors, support our special forces operations, to target Republican Guard, Special Republican Guard and Iraqi intelligence service operations, as well as be on call for combat air control missions for time-sensitive targeting.

More than 1,000 sorties were flown against several hundred targets across Iraq yesterday. More than 400 Tomahawk Cruise missiles were launched from United States Navy and British ships and submarines. Additionally, about 100 air-launch Cruise missiles were fired, and several hundred precision-guided munitions were dropped by coalition aircraft on targets throughout Iraq.

On the ground, coalition forces continue the main attack toward Baghdad. Ground forces have reached more than 150 miles into Iraqi territory and have crossed the Euphrates River. Coalition forces are advancing north beyond An Nasiriyah.

As General Franks mentioned, there are between 1,000 and 2,000 Iraqi soldiers who have surrendered and been taken into custody. And although numbers are hard to determine, we've seen significant evidence of many Iraqi soldiers simply abandoning their equipment and leaving.

Clearly, Operation Iraqi Freedom is moving forward. The success to date is a product of meticulous planing, effective integration of air, maritime, ground and special operations forces, and the impressive accomplishments of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen of the coalition.

But the operation is not over. There's a long way to go, and much of the Iraqi armed forces, highlighted by six Republican Guard divisions and Special Republican Guard divisions who may still fight. So we must remain prepared for potentially tough fights as we move forward.

That said, while the progress and timing of the operation remains impossible to forecast, the outcome is not.

With that, we'll take your questions.

QUESTION: General, you referred to the 1,000 to 2,000, approximately, Iraqis in custody. What became of the 8,000 members of the 51st that were said to have surrendered yesterday? Were they just allowed to go home, or what's become of those?

MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, we're seeing several phenomenon. The commander of the 52st division, one of the senior leaders, in fact surrendered themselves individually.

We also see soldiers essentially leaving the battlefield or melting away. The unit did not surrender en masse.

What we have for numbers is, as General Franks outlined this morning, as of this morning between 1,000 and 2,000 actually in an EPW status.

QUESTION: So in that specific case, you said only the commanders are in custody. The rest of them just left or were allowed to leave?

MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, I don't have any more information beyond what I provided.

QUESTION: Torie, first of all, a procedural question going back to Kosovo, will you be doing this on an almost daily basis now as long as the war lasts? And then I have a question for the general.

CLARKE: For the foreseeable future. But we'll see the level of activity and interest. But for now, that will be the general game plan. Try to get CENTCOM to brief early afternoon their time, early morning our time, and then somewhere from here early afternoon.

QUESTION: Great.

General, thank you. Welcome. You're going to learn to love us over here.

(LAUGHTER)

Question, you say that the forces have crossed the Tigris. Any other major...

MCCHRYSTAL: Euphrates, sir.

QUESTION: Pardon me. Any other major land barriers before these troops get to Baghdad? What's an ETA on the outskirts of Baghdad, do you have any idea at all?

MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, trying to predict the conclusion of the operation or reaching Baghdad would be impossible at this point.

The forces have moved with impressive speed thus far, as we outlined, and the product of that is where we are.

That said, whenever you actually execute a plan, the enemy gets a vote. We've still got significant Iraqi forces in front of us. They may fight, they may not. If they fight, there could be tough battle to be taken. So trying to predict a time would be really difficult.

CLARKE: I'd just add on to that, General Myers, I think, yesterday was the one who said we're making good progress. There are still a lot of unknowns out there.

And I've already picked up a tendency to look and seek for hard and fast benchmarks. We won't be predicting those, and we will be constantly cautioning. As much progress as we are making, bad things could still happen.

QUESTION: Just the first part of the question, any more natural barriers? Or are they just going to be speeding across mostly desert toward Baghdad?

MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, I don't want to talk about the operational details of their route. They've crossed the Euphrates very, very successfully.

QUESTION: But, General, of course the Iraqis obviously already know. Could you give us the furthest point of advance by, say, at least the 3rd Infantry (inaudible), to kind of pinpoint a little bit for us on the map?

CLARKE: Let me jump in there for a second. Operations are under way. A lot of parts and pieces are moving as we speak. And clearly, strategic surprise isn't something we've got.

There is still tactical surprise. And we're going to try hard not to stand up here and paint a picture for the Iraqi regime of exactly where we are and exactly what we've got going at any moment in time.

QUESTION: I don't mean that. I just mean ballpark sort of...

CLARKE: No, even ballpark.

QUESTION: General, you singled out six Republican Guard divisions, special Republican Guard divisions, the most loyal troops. Some of those, obviously, in and around Baghdad.

QUESTION: We understand they've been targets; they were on the target list.

Is there any assessment on the troops around Baghdad of what you're seeing with that resistance right now?

MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, nothing we can pin down at this point. We're continuing to gather effects of the operations to date.

QUESTION: If I could follow up, Torie, yesterday, Secretary Rumsfeld said that the Iraqi leadership is essentially losing control of the country. Is there more? Can you characterize it further today on command and control, what you're seeing and hearing?

CLARKE: It's really more of what he was talking about yesterday. They appear not to have a lot of control over all of the parts and pieces you would expect them to. There seems to be confusion in the command and control. And I'll leave it at that.

QUESTION: All along, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has, before this ever started, warned that it could take six days, six weeks or even six months. And this morning in the president's radio address, he had again warned that this could take a long time.

I wonder if it's time to remind the American people that this may not be wrapped up any time in the next dews days. It could be a considerable period?

CLARKE: I wouldn't put a timeframe on it, because we just don't know.

But we've said from the very beginning, even well before the start of military operations, there are a lot of unknowns. There are a lot of bad things that can happen, and we'll take it one day at a time.

And the only thing that is of great certainty is what the outcome is, the end of this regime.

QUESTION: Regarding the journalists who have been killed, any information that would suggest that they died as a result of U.S. military fire? And are we taking any steps to try to mitigate the risk to journalists who aren't actually embedded with U.S. troops?

CLARKE: We've heard several different versions of what may have happened to different sets of reporters. And it's very unclear to us right now what has happened in different places.

What is very certain is they are journalists who were not embedded with coalition forces. And as we've warned repeatedly, again weeks before the start of this operation, it seems like it's stating the obvious, but it is very, very dangerous out there, especially when people are wandering freely between coalition and Iraqi forces.

CLARKE: So we have no evidence to suggest what you said. We have lots of evidence to suggest that it is very dangerous out there.

And I will say again to news organizations -- and I've talked to bureau chiefs today -- we really, really urge you to exercise restraint with your journalists that are out there operating freely.

But we have no...

QUESTION: Has the U.S. military had to go rescue any journalists under fire who were not embedded? And has that resulted in any risk to U.S. troops?

CLARKE: We will get -- try to get you more information. I've received some information that U.S. forces may have medivaced one journalist. But we'll try to get you more information as the day goes on.

QUESTION: One last thing about the -- can you bring us up to date on whatever your state of knowledge is on the Iraqi regime, Saddam Hussein or anyone else in control? Do you know where any of those people are? Is there any evidence that anyone is leaving or defecting or making contact with...

CLARKE: Don't have information about specific individuals, but I'll repeat what I said before. We continue to see evidence of confusion, of not a real solid grip on the command and control aspects that you would expect at this time.

QUESTION: Have you seen any evidence of Saddam Hussein at all? Has he appeared anywhere?

CLARKE: I've heard -- probably heard as many different stories as people in this room have, five or six different stories, and who knows? Who knows?

QUESTION: Torie and General, either one of you, can you tell us how far Shock and Awe has gone? Is there more Shock and Awe left? Are we going to see more today? If you don't want to put a specific on it, but is there some left in the barrel there?

MCCHRYSTAL: Yes, sir, there's as much left in the barrel as required. The air campaign has been directed at a number of targets, most importantly, at the beginning, the Iraqi command and control capability, the regime leadership, and then weapons of mass destruction and their capability to execute those. And that's tied to command and control, as well.

It will continue to target additional parts of the force, as long as resistance is there, to include Republican Guards and Special Republican Guards, the intelligence.

It is -- we are waiting to get the feedback on how well that's working. And there's a lag time in that. We are hitting targets effectively and with precision, and pleased with that. But it takes a little while, as Torie just described, to get the feedback on how much we've affected it, because we know they have redundant capabilities in many areas.

QUESTION: You should've been able to get some BDA (ph) today, though. The skies are pretty clear; you could take a look at it. How successful? MCCHRYSTAL: Well, sir, we can see whether or not we hit targets, in many cases. And we're still gathering that. But we're running an effects-based campaign that is partially kinetic, partially non- kinetic, partially information operations.

And so what we judge effectiveness by is not just whether there's a hole in the roof of a building, but whether or not the function that that element did before ceases to be effective.

QUESTION: Are we likely to see another show like last evening?

MCCHRYSTAL: I won't predict the future, but I will say that it will happen as much as required.

QUESTION: The show last night, the weapons that you outlined...

CLARKE: You know, let me stop you for a second. I know I'm not always as careful with words as I should be. It's now a show. It's not a game. And I just think people should be really, really careful with the words.

QUESTION: All right. The campaign we saw unfold last night -- "show" was not my word, by the way.

(LAUGHTER)

There was a -- over the last month we've had this mythical 3,000 precision-guided bombs would rain down on Baghdad on the first night. This is "The New York Times" put that in play. Your math lays out maybe a thousand weapons at most, if conservatively.

Was that the original -- was the original plan a much greater number, or was this always kind of the state of play, roughly a thousand or so? Because that set the stage for this expectations for shock, awe, whatever you want to call it.

MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, a couple things. First is, to go back to Shock and Awe as a concept, the idea is very precise, and some people misinterpreted Shock and Awe for a wave of fire and huge destruction. In fact, in an effects-based campaign, as this was, we can achieve much shock and awe by hitting just critical points. And in fact, a perfect Shock and Awe would hit as few as possible to create those effects.

So the answer is, we believe we are having effect, but it's tough to do that. Whether it will go forward in numbers, it's...

CLARKE: Well, let me just add on one point to that. If you go back to our objectives, our objective very clearly is to break the back of the Iraqi regime while causing as little collateral damage as possible. That's what our objective is. What is so important about the plan is its ability to scale up and scale down.

QUESTION: General Franks today mentioned he doesn't think of strategic targets, he thinks about emerging targets. In the long run, might emerging targets, command and control and Iraqi Republican Guard units, might those be more important in the long run than the CNN kind of shock and awe we've been seeing out of Baghdad?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think that's a great question, and it gives an opportunity to discuss flexibility.

As we demonstrated the other night, the key to having a very effective effects-based campaign is to be flexible, i.e. not to have a program over day after day that you hit automatically.

MCCHRYSTAL: Instead, what they are doing is seeing what needs to be struck next, either lethally or non-lethally. And so I think that's exactly what you're seeing right now.

QUESTION: What's the role of SOF (inaudible)? Was SOF playing the same role it did in Afghanistan?

MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, the role is different, but the same. They are leveraging combat power. The key role of special operating forces is to take very mature, well-trained people and leverage power, i.e. it's not desirable that they get in direct fire fights themselves, but instead they use air, they work with coalition allies, they use information. And a small force has a disproportionate effect on the battlefield, and that's what we're having right now.

QUESTION: Could you -- on the map that you showed us, you identified the airfields H-2 and H-3 and showed special forces near them. Are they in control of both of those airfields? Could you describe for us what that green line is, what that represents?

Could you talk to us a little bit about the fighting in Basra? Could you tell us about Scud hunting? And you could you talk to about non-lethal weapons?

(LAUGHTER)

And now I'm done, and I'll remind you as you go through.

CLARKE: The first two...

QUESTION: The non-lethal...

MCCHRYSTAL: My mind is like one of those old computers. It can only take a certain amount.

The airfields out in the west, there are H-1, 2, 3, and 4, and they stretch into Jordan. I won't comment on which are under our control now. Clearly we have special operating forces in the west.

QUESTION: You said there was one, as of yesterday. Has that number grown?

MCCHRYSTAL: I won't discuss. There are still forces operating, and I think we put them at risk if we talk too much about exactly what they're doing.

QUESTION: OK. And the green line that was on the map, what does that represent? It has a sign that says green line. MCCHRYSTAL: That is the line between the Kurdish controlled part of northern Iraq and the remainder of Iraq.

QUESTION: And I'm sorry, the Scud hunting, how is that going? Have we seen Scuds launching, or are we finding Scuds?

MCCHRYSTAL: Well, we've seen no Scuds launching. And that was what I was involved in during the 1991 war, and it was a combination of ground forces and air suppression over and then, of course, intelligence.

We're doing a different job of it this time, but so far there have been no Scuds launched, which is very positive today.

(CROSSTALK)

CLARKE: You got two and a half...

QUESTION: But everybody is interested.

(LAUGHTER)

CLARKE: You can ask her question.

QUESTION: Can you talk to us about the strategy of dealing with a large city like Basra and then basically sealing it off once you have destroyed the organized force, and then moving rapidly beyond?

QUESTION: Same strategy today in An Nasiriyah.

The risk that you take of having, potentially, a hostile city behind you, several of them, as you stretch out your lines of communication and resupply, high-risk strategy?

MCCHRYSTAL: It depends upon the situation, sir, and I'd let General Franks characterize it in each case.

Clearly, we try to avoid combatant in cities because of the effect on civilians and potential damage to infrastructure as well.

In cases where we can bypass or isolate and continue the operation forward and hope then that element or that location falls without pitched combat, I think that's in everyone's best interest. And the commander on the ground weighs whether or not the enemy forces in the city are any kind of threat to his lines of communication.

QUESTION: Aren't you leaving a boiling pot behind, potentially, if the reception of American forces is different than you hope it's going to be, you leave something that can hit you from the rear?

MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, I wouldn't speculate. I think the commander on the ground really has the feel to make the assessment in each case.

CLARKE: And they also have the ability to scale as needed and appropriate.

Barbara?

QUESTION: General, we saw some early morning bombing over Baghdad at dawn, Baghdad time. Should we take from that that you're not confident enough that you've taken down the air defense system enough over Baghdad and over Iraq to have daylight bombing?

MCCHRYSTAL: Ma'am, we have the capability to operate anytime. We still respect the air defenses in the Baghdad area. It, of course, as you know, was known as a super missile engagement zone, or MEZ.

But the air defenses there are an integrated system of air- defense artillery, radars, command and control communications and surface-to-air missiles. If you can take down parts of that and degrade it, then it gets more feasible to operate effectively in day or night.

We are still respectful of what they have. QUESTION: And if I could also follow up, Secretary Rumsfeld yesterday again spoke about communications that elements of the administration have had with Iraqi leadership, and that that was key to your decision-making on going forward in the campaign. If they were to surrender, that might be a good sign.

Has there been any sign, beyond the Republican Guard that you spoke about, that any member of the senior leadership in Iraq is responding to the overtures from the Bush administration?

CLARKE: I'd say two things. One, for quite some time now, with a variety of tools, the president of the United States speaking very openly, the leaflets, the commando solo, a variety of ways, a variety of conversations and discussions, we've been communicating with the leadership, saying, "End this now. Save your lives, save the Iraqi people's lives."

So we have communicated with them consistently over a range of -- with a range of tools, and we'll continue to do this. I'm not going to characterize individual conversations, but discussions are ongoing. And there is still an opportunity for some people to do the right thing.

QUESTION: General, have you found any evidence that the special operations forces operating in western Iraq found any evidence of Scud either missiles or launchers or fueling trucks or anything that might suggest there are any Scuds left out there?

MCCHRYSTAL: To my knowledge, we have not discovered any to this point.

QUESTION: In the air strikes that have targeted the Republican Guards, can you say whether you're going after headquarters and leadership, as opposed to field and forces? And if you are, why would you not go after forces that you may have to fight?

MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, I wouldn't give the operational details of exactly what we're targeting. We're trying to have effects-based outcomes on those organizations as well. Sometimes destroying the internal command and control of the division fragments its combat power more quickly than anything else, but I think that's as far as I'd go.

QUESTION: Without disclosing the location of where you actually crossed the Euphrates, can you just tell us, did you cross at a place where there were already bridges in place? Or did you bridge over the Euphrates at some other point and cross?

MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, in fact, we were able to utilize bridges that were already in place.

QUESTION: Can you get into the weapons of mass destruction sites? They were listed the first night of the air campaign.

How many were struck? What do you suspect was there, either chem, bio or long-range missiles? And did you use any special kinds of weaponry, incendiary devices for example, to take them out?

CLARKE: If you go back to what Secretary Rumsfeld talked about yesterday, and General Franks went through it again today, clearly one of our top priorities, one of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD.

There are a number of sites. I won't go into details, which ones they are, where they are.

CLARKE: But it is a...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

CLARKE: No, I will not give you a ballpark. But I will do two things. One is just underscore what a priority that is for us, and two, try to manage expectations.

We know with great certainty the Iraqi regime was extraordinarily skilled at hiding this stuff, at dispersing the stuff in very small amounts in underground bunkers. So I want to manage expectations. It would be difficult to find and exploit.

QUESTION: Any kind of special bombs and missiles used to take some of this stuff out, incendiary kind of weapons?

MCCHRYSTAL: That's a great question. In fact, the whole weaponeering process that we use in our very, very meticulous targeting process identifies every target, identifies the best munition to use. In some cases, a munition that might potentially help destroy any agents that might be there is an option. There are many other options.

But in addition to the correct munition from that standpoint, we also balance that against potential collateral damage, potential unintended casualties of civilians.

So a lot goes into the calculus that determines exactly what munition is used. QUESTION: When you mentioned the target category of weapons of mass destruction on the capability to execute them, what are you really talking about? Can you explain that? Because I don't think that you're actually bombing stocks of chemical weapons. What are you bombing?

MCCHRYSTAL: That's a -- I would not go into the specific exactly, but we are taking great care not to achieve a negative effect with something we're trying to hit.

QUESTION: Did you hope to see some of these sites with ground troops as opposed to bombing it because of the concern maybe about some sort of chemical plume, let's say, or something?

MCCHRYSTAL: Well, I think exactly. Every weapon of mass destruction location has its own inherent, built-in danger to it. Either if it's stored incorrectly, even just going in.

And so as we go after each of those, we'll look to secure them and we'll look to then render then safe in a very -- in a way that's not dangerous for our coalition forces going in or to the surrounding area.

QUESTION: Clearly something you feel safe to bomb as opposed to seize.

MCCHRYSTAL: I won't identify which we might feel safe to bomb and which we wouldn't.

QUESTION: The Iraqis have set trenches full of oil on fire all around the city today, which is a traditional way that the Russians have tried to create some sort of primitive air defense.

Would you speculate for us on what you think they're doing -- do they not know that the United States has JDAMs -- other than making pollution?

CLARKE: If the general wants to speculate about it from a military-operations standpoint, I encourage him to do so.

My personal opinion for a long time has been that they intended to do this for a very different reason. I don't think they truly thought it would impede our planes or our precision-guided weapons. I think for a long time, because their propaganda, their disinformation, their lies and deception are such a big part of the apparatus, I think they've planned for a long time to do that, to try to create very dramatic images of what it looks like is happening in Baghdad.

What we know with certainty is that we have carefully chosen every target. What we know with great certainty is that we have chosen every target toward our objective of breaking the back of the regime and keeping the collateral damage and the noncombatant casualties to an absolute minimum.

So I personally am quite confident it was for a very different reason. QUESTION: Well, don't there have to be explosions before fires are started? I mean, that sort of -- if there isn't a bombing campaign at that time, I don't know how stupid the Iraqi people or the international community is, but I don't know how that washes.

CLARKE: Well, one of the -- who knows right now what the Iraqi people are seeing or hearing. But -- and also we're trying to keep tabs, but it's hard to see what people in the other parts of the world are seeing or how it is being characterized to them. But the images in and of themselves can be dramatic.

We're trying very hard to explain to people how careful the targeting process was, how we tried to hit certain targets with certain purpose, how we were not doing those things.

The very placement of some of these trenches gives you an indication of what they were thinking: Putting trenches near hospitals and mosques and schools, which are clearly not targets for us.

So if the general would like to...

QUESTION: Is there any military reason -- does it impede any aspect of anything you do, General?

MCCHRYSTAL: I believe there could be a belief that any obscurant could assist them. But it is -- I do not believe it will have the effect that they may hope.

QUESTION: General, could I ask you a question about activities in the north? We haven't heard much, other than that there are special operations forces there. Can you tell us whether the oil fields in the north have been secured? And also, any details that you might have on the raids against the terrorist camps?

MCCHRYSTAL: At this point, we continue to have special operating forces in the north. In fact, there was a strike as part of last night's operation against the facility that you've written about before, Kirma (ph).

MCCHRYSTAL: We're still gathering battle damage assessment from that.

In regards to the oil field, that is not yet in coalition hands.

QUESTION: Have there been any sabotage there like we've seen in the south?

CLARKE: Have not seen evidence of it yet.

Let's go over here.

QUESTION: General, you said that the troops were making good progress, but by the evidence of the names that were read at the beginning of this press briefing, clearly it's not a complete rollover. Can you give us any idea where the coalition forces are meeting the most resistance? And can you give us any details of what the fighting has been like?

MCCHRYSTAL: I would leave it to CENTCOM to describe that, because I think they do it better than we have. I think the speed of the advance will indicate that any engagements there have been have been settled fairly rapidly.

QUESTION: General, will the north remain a special operations area, or will there be regular Army forces, ground troops moving in larger numbers?

MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, I won't really add to what the chairman said. There will be a northern option or part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and whatever operational forces we decide to use will be seen as it unfolds.

QUESTION: Is there any evidence so far that any of the resistance encountered by advancing troops has been directed from Baghdad, or perhaps are the units on the ground responding to standing orders in place? And then also, have U.S. forces encountered any caches of WMD of any kind?

MCCHRYSTAL: We have found no caches of weapons of mass destruction to date. It is difficult to say what causes the engagements from the Iraqi forces.

CLARKE: Way in the back. QUESTION: Torie, and for the general, is it your belief that Saddam is the only really cohesive force holding the Iraqi defenders together? In other words, that the demise of Saddam and the demise of his leadership circle would translate automatically into immediate evaporation of resistance? Or is there some scenario where you could see Saddam going away but the fighting continuing?

CLARKE: I'll try, and then you can follow up.

As I've said before, who knows about Saddam Hussein. There are five, six, seven different reports about what his status might be.

Clearly we're having an impact on the leadership. As I said before and the secretary has said repeatedly, there is confusion. There doesn't seem to be the vigorous, robust command and control direction that you would expect.

So clearly we're having an impact on the leadership. And I think we'll just leave it there.

QUESTION: More about the strikes on Ansar al-Islam in the north, can you tell us the extent, if those were cruise missile strikes and were there also (inaudible) strikes?

MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, they were Tomahawk land-attack missile strikes that went into the Kirma (ph) facility.

QUESTION: Torie, what about those four PIA that were reported today? Has that been sorted out, whether they were four?

CLARKE: Mixed reports. Don't have anything for you on it.

Thank you.

QUESTION: If I could get a clarification, General, real quick? You said there were special operations forces on the ground used to raise (ph) targets in any of these strikes?

CLARKE: I don't think he said.

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