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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

CENTCOM Briefing

Aired April 9, 2003 - 07:03   ET

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

BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: It has now been 20 days since coalition forces entered Iraq with clear objectives. Today the regime is in disarray and much of Iraq is free from years of oppression. Televisions across the world today are filled with images of jubilant Iraqis who know the regime is coming to an end. There is still work to be done and the coalition remains confident of the outcome.
In the course of the campaign, young men and women have sacrificed their lives for this cause, and we continue to remember them and their families.

The nations that are contributing to this effort are doing so with the unity of purpose and resolve. The coalition remains strong and committed to seeing the job through. Let me update you now on some of the latest occurrences of the operation.

With every day that passes we break more of the grip of the regime. We do this by reducing the regime's options for operating or hiding. Recently, coalition air attacked aircraft on five different airfields north of Baghdad and also targeted regime leadership complexes and capabilities.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

The following image is one example. This photo is a facility near Tikrit used for assembly and coordination by regime leaders. The coalition attacked this target on the 6th of April. The target was destroyed. And the comparison.

Efforts by our coalition Special Operations Forces are deliberate and they're also very effective throughout all of Iraq. Our coalition Special Operations Forces coordinated a strike mission against a Ba- ath Party headquarters near the city of Al-Kindy, off on the western corner of Iraq.

In the north, Special Operations Forces, in conjunction with Kurdish forces, seized a small town approximately 25 kilometers north of Mosul -- right here -- and captured over 200 enemy personnel.

There were also attacks along the Green Line and just south of the Green Line against Iraqi positions along a ridge 36 kilometers south of Irbil. And in this case, the Special Operations Forces, supported by coalition aircraft, were effective in destroying a number of tanks, cargo trucks and enemy forces. The coalition's operational maneuver consolidated gains in the area south of Baghdad, while also continuing relentless pressure against the regime and its remaining forces.

Beginning in Basra, coalition forces transitioned to security and stability efforts. Coalition forces also continued expanding their area of influence north of Basra along the road that leads between Basra and al-Amarah, this area in the east. Their efforts there are focused against any remaining regime elements and also transitioning to humanitarian assistance.

Fifth Corps also continued operations in Baghdad and increased security areas beyond Baghdad to the west of the rivers. They also transitioned to humanitarian assistance.

The image here shows a patrol conducted as a part of an armed reconnaissance by the 101st Airborne Division near the town of Karbala.

The reconnaissance discovered weapons caches of varying sizes. As you see here, these items, they were found inside of schools inside of Karbala. The armed reconnaissance also found an underground storage facility containing an abundance of food and also roll-end type air defense missiles. That's a specific air defense missile system.

The First Marine Expeditionary Force continued its attack near al-Amarah and also in Baghdad. Near al-Amarah, the Marines there met minimal resistance from two of the divisions that had originally been deployed on the eastern flank. Those were the 10th and the 14th divisions. The divisions had already abandoned their weapons and departed the battlefield after a period of air attacks, leaflet drops and also following the liberation of Basra.

Coalition forces at this point now occupy the 10th Armored Division headquarters and will transition into humanitarian assistance and civil military operations in the al-Amarah area.

As regime security forces are eliminated from populated areas, more information is provided by the liberated Iraqis. In one example, Marines received information about a truckload of missiles, and you see that image here. They found this particular truckload of surface- to-air missiles southeast of Baghdad. We assessed these as SA-6 surface-to-air missiles, and in this case, they've been technologically altered to have an infrared seeker added to the nose of the missile. And the truck bed was full of those missiles, as you saw in the preceding image.

In the metropolitan area of Baghdad, the two-core attack to remove the regime from power continued. The First Marine Expeditionary Force continued its attacks across the Diala River into the southeast corner of Baghdad, and also proceeded along the west edge of the river into the northeast corner of Baghdad, beyond the area that I show on this map, to block the roads that lead into or out of Baghdad. After entering in the southeast corner, the Marines continued their attacks into the heart of Baghdad, near key government facilities. Their encounters with the Iraqi population have been positive and receptive, and this is particularly in Shi'a areas that have been most oppressed by the regime's security organizations, and there are even messages of support being broadcast from mosques from the area of Saddam City on the northeast corner of Baghdad.

Fifth Corps forces continue to converge from multiple directions toward the center of Baghdad.

If we can go back to the Baghdad image, please.

Their areas of convergence, as I mentioned yesterday, began in the north, toward the center of town; also already in position in the center of town; and from the south. Baghdad Airport remains underneath of coalition control, and we find at this point that we're able to conduct operations with good freedom of action in each one of those areas. The white circles actually represent places where we've had a continuous presence or have conducted continuous operations over the last 24 hours.

The operations remain opportunistic and focused, and there have been some sporadic engagements in different areas, particularly in the vicinity of the bridges in downtown Baghdad, right down in the center, here.

As I mentioned, the Baghdad International Airport, there our efforts continue to increase, both security and restore function. We have ongoing air operations, as this security image shows a Bradley beside an aircraft near a terminal. They're conducting security work. We also have air operations that have begun for military purposes, and we're also increasing the coalition's capability to conduct operations from within the center of Iraq.

The continued success by our maritime component made possible the arrival of ships carrying humanitarian supplies from the U.K., from Australia and also Spain. And there are large volumes of humanitarian supplies that are beginning to flow now for the Iraqi people.

We do continue to communicate with the Iraqis on a variety of levels. I showed you yesterday a video of some service members who were distributed leaflets by hand out on the street, and our efforts and options communicating with the Iraqi people grow with each day that passes, as we have more and more freedom of action to move throughout the communities.

I have a video to show here of a tactical loudspeaker team using loudspeakers yesterday to broadcast a variety of information of az- Zubayr, near Basra.

Broadcasts are given in Arabic, and they communicate that the coalition is present, and there are other pieces of information that come as well, things like how to draw water and rations. They also passed on an address yesterday from coalition national leaders, stressing that coalition forces would, indeed, rid Iraq of this regime, and that the actions of the coalition were not directed against the Iraqi people. Similar messages are broadcast in a variety of places with these tactical loudspeaker teams.

As our forces move across the battlefield, we often encounter Iraqis in need of medical attention and care. There are coalition medical teams embedded with all of our units, and as they move through the battlefield, they provide medical care whenever they can, and they also provide medical checks for Iraq citizens in liberated areas. This is just one image of that. This is a medical officer providing a check to a child. We do these in a variety of areas deliberately. It's not just children, it's all citizens of a particular area who come and get medical checkups.

I want to show you a video here also of some medical care provided from a military medical facility normally used for tactical military purposes. There is space available in it, and so as we encounter civilians, we provide care there.

This is a tactical field hospital. Coalition military medical personnel providing assistance wherever possible to Iraqis who were found on the battlefield.

A determined effort is also underway in the liberated areas of Iraq to restore function to existing civilian medical facilities. Reestablishing medical care in communities comes with some degree of challenge such as immediately identifying some usable supplies and also usable facilities. This is a hospital in Nasiriyah as of the 5th of April. The forces that supported the regime staged operations from this hospital as they did in many areas and left it in this stage. Coalition is now working to try to get it functional again. This is an image of a medical officer searching through the same hospital to try to find in the abandoned materials where there are records that are useful for information or also any medical supplies that might be useful.

During our battles to gain a degree of security and control in southern Iraq, forces supporting the regime also used educational buildings. We have seen that example on a number of occasions and also health buildings in most of the cities. They used these as fighting positions and weapons caches, ammunition storage areas, and the majority of these facilities sustained some degree of structural damage. However, many of them have been returned to use. Recently, hospitals in An Najaf and Karbala became operational as did a medical facility in Soufan (ph). A hospital in az-Zubayr is in minimal working condition and we have servicemembers of the coalition working to facility the repairs.

We expect sometime later today the arrival of a Spanish field hospital from the Spanish ship, Galicia (ph), which is inbound to Umm Qasr and that will also significantly increase the medical support that's available in southern Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

With that, ladies and gentleman, I'm ready to take your questions. Yes, ma'am, please?

QUESTION: Can you tell us what you expect the resistance to be like in Tikrit, how well trained those fighters are and if you have an estimates of the number of Iraqi fighters there?

BROOKS: We've seen that there have been some forces deployed in and around the Tikrit area. Many of them have moved as we were having more and more success on the southwestern side of Baghdad and the southeastern side of Baghdad. There had been some repositionings to try to reinforce those initial defenses. The amount of force that remains in Tikrit, we are still making assessments of. We anticipate that any fighting that would occur there, if we happen to go to Tikrit, would be similar to what we've seen in other parts of the country.

So a combination of conventional military forces, those that may be remaining at that point in time, irregular forces that may be involved with them, some loyal to the Ba-ath regime still and other circumstances like we've seen before. I'm not going to predispose as to when we might go in that direction or what we would do. We certainly are focused on Tikrit, as I showed with the weapon system video to prevent the regime from being able to use it as a place to command and control, to restore command and control or to hide.

BROOKS: Yes, sir, please?

QUESTION: There are many Kurds now saying, having seen these patriots from Baghdad, who are now saying that they believe the time has come to move down towards Kirkuk to join up with peshmerga fighters there. Is that a development you would welcome or view with alarm?

BROOKS: I think the way we'd look out our operations in the north is, on a consistent view of what we've had already, we do have coalition Special Operations Forces working closely with peshmerga in northern Iraq. There have been some limited advances that have occurred, as I described earlier, by coalition forces, supported with security by peshmerga. And we think that's the circumstance that needs to continue at this point.

There are still Iraqi forces in the north, and we continue to maintain pressure against those forces, first to prevent them from reinforcing toward Tikrit or Baghdad, and secondly, to prevent their use in further operations, and ideally convincing them that they should lay down their arms. And so, those operations will continue at this point. We don't anticipate a change in the dynamics in the north, even though there certainly is good news to be seen throughout the country.

Yes, ma'am, please?

QUESTION: General, I've seen a lot of pictures today of looting in Baghdad. We'd seen it earlier in Basra. How are you prepared to deal with that, and does that pose any new issues of threat or concern? BROOKS: Well, I think we always have concern when there's any degree of disorder -- civil disorder, that occurs. I think in this case we're seeing a lot of jubilation and people who have long been oppressed for years and years, having choices. We believe that this will settle down in due time. It has already begun to settle down in Basra. Some of this occurs as a result of a vacuum that is created in the interim period between the departure of the regime, or the perception of the departure of the regime, and the establishment of conditions that move on a path of normalcy.

So I think that we'll see some of this in other areas that have been liberated. This is a lot of pent-up energy that has been part of the lives of many of these people for their entire lives, and some of it can be anticipated. We will deal with this though, obviously, is as we try to establish more and more security in different areas as we move through and work more and more closely with the Iraqi population itself, we think that these things will settle down.

Yes, please?

QUESTION: Can I push you a little further on the north? Because it seems to me that one of the keynotes of your strategy has been to try and actually destroy as few Iraqi units as possible. We've seen the situation over to the east al-Amarah, in that area, where you appear to be taking the surrender pretty well of formed units. In the north, you're not really in control there. The Kurdish fighters are in control. What is to convince Iraqi units who might want to surrender that doing so wouldn't leave them at the mercy of people who clearly go back a long way and have scores to settle?

BROOKS: Well, I don't agree with your characterization. There are U.S. Special Operations Forces, other coalition Special Operations Forces, conducting operations in the north. The fact that it has been as stable as it is, and as controlled as it is to date, indicates really what the circumstance is. We remain comfortable that that is a good operation. It's going well. There still are certainly decisions that some of the military commanders, the Iraqi military commanders, have the opportunity to make, and we think that there will be some new decisions made by them in the coming days, particularly with the news of what's occurred in Baghdad and Basra.

We remain optimistic. We certainly don't want to destroy any more human life than is necessary to accomplish our objectives, but nevertheless, combat operations do continue in the north.

QUESTION: The force size in Baghdad is being increased. What will their role be? I saw that you mentioned on a couple of occasions that you're switching over to humanitarian role for some of these troops that did come into Baghdad as combat troops, they're now working the humanitarian field. And any update on possible location of prisoners of war that are being held by the regime in and around Baghdad?

BROOKS: First, the forces that are in Baghdad still have combat work to do. That is not complete at this point. We certainly have seen areas where the population knows that the regime is gone and will never return again in the way that it has been in the past. There are still pockets. We haven't located every leader of the regime. We haven't found every instrument of the regime. And so, those operations continue.

What I would describe to you is, throughout the country, wherever we can begin to establish the conditions for life going on, that occurs as soon as we can. And so, there may be some things. Certainly the line of where we're doing humanitarian assistance and civil support has moved much further north. We have some of those things happening in Karbala, for example, right now. We're not to the point where we're ready to do that in the same kind of concentration in Baghdad.

Having said that, nevertheless, we provide medical assistance to injured Iraqis that we encounter on the battlefield. Where there's not a need for combat action and life can go on, we'll try to provide whatever assistance we can. But we're not quite at the same point at the front end of the spear as we are on the long handle of the spear that leads back down to the Kuwaiti border.

As to the question of prisoners of war, we continue to remain concerned about the condition of those that we have unaccounted for at this point; and, frankly, for those that are unaccounted for from previous conflicts. We know that even from the Iran-Iraq war and the Gulf War of '90-'91 there are still some unaccounted for people. We have not found them at this point. We still expect whatever remains of the regime and whoever might have them in possession to follow the Geneva Convention and be responsible for their care. And in the meantime, we continue our efforts to try to find them if we can.

QUESTION: You've said the hostilities will continue until the regime is no longer in power. But if the leadership is wiped out, how will you know and when will you be able to declare victory and the end to hostilities? BROOKS: I think we'll continue to get indications of less and less control by the regime and more and more information from the population about where any remnants of the regime might be. That then helps us focus our operations in a very deliberate way. We have been as deliberate and focused as we can be to date and that will continue. And certainly with the type of jubilation you see in the streets and the recognition that the regime does not have the same grip that it once had, we certainly anticipate there'll be more information coming. As that information comes and we do our work in a deliberate way, we think we'll have more and more indications of what remains of the regime, if anything, and what additional work must be conducted. That's how our focus will continue.

QUESTION: You talk about the jubilation in the streets of Baghdad, but the television pictures are just coming from maybe one or two areas. Now, you have troops all over the ground, in about five or six areas in Baghdad. What are they seeing in the other parts of the capital?

BROOKS: They're seeing a number of things in a variety of places. For the most part it's well received. But there are still pockets. And so, we see when there are examples that the regime may still have influence either physically or by just lingering senses of intimidation or potential retribution, that behavior is more subdued, but we're not finding hostile behavior from the population.

BROOKS: We believe that the population recognizes that the end is near for this regime, if it has not already occurred, and they certainly are supporting the actions of the coalition throughout. We are seeing cooperation in the areas where we're delivering humanitarian assistance and support. You've seen some of those images yourself. But it's a fair observation that the camera is only in one particular place. The image though that's occurring is much broader, and the places where we're having our encounters bear that out -- much jubilation, certainly, in certain parts of Baghdad, and I think that corresponds more to how much oppression actually occurred in those areas. But there is certainly a willingness to support the continuing efforts of the coalition throughout the country as we're operating.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Given that the fighting seems very one-sided at the moment, why don't you consider some sort of cease-fire or halt in operations so that those Iraqis who are still opposing you can either surrender or go home without being killed?

BROOKS: Well, without going to a cease-fire, they have the option of surrendering. We have not been at a cease-fire yet, and we've taken many surrenders. At this point, we have over 7,000 Iraqi prisoners of war. And so, there's no need for a cease-fire at this point to achieve that purpose. At the same time, we remain discriminating in our targeting. We're fighting those who choose to fight for the regime, and that must continue because those are appendages of the regime, and our objective is clear: the regime must be removed.

The things that support the regime are part of that, and our efforts will continue in that direction. Those that choose to lay down their arms will be welcome to do so and will have made a very wise choice indeed for their own future and the future of Iraq.

QUESTION: Shelling against Baghdad from the air has been reduced during the past two days. What does this indicate?

BROOKS: Our efforts in and around Baghdad, whether they are efforts that are conducted by rockets or efforts conducted by weapons systems delivered by aircraft, or even our actions in surface-to- surface fires, remain focused on targets that have been identified. That hasn't changed throughout the operation. We continue to remain focused on being deliberate, calculating in our application of military force, minimizing wherever possible the effect on civilians or other infrastructure that we don't intend to damage. I think when it's all said and done and people can move freely throughout Baghdad and see for themselves, there will be some scenes of destruction, particularly on regime complexes. There be some evidence of places where fights occurred where there is damage to some buildings that cannot be avoided in close contact, but there will not be the scenes that have been historical reminders of movements by military force into capital cities in other countries throughout military history. There will not be any image like that at all. In fact, much of Baghdad, most of Baghdad, continues unaffected physically.

The bridges are still up, with the exception of some that have been dropped for tactical purposes by the regime in some cases, or one that was dropped by coalition forces outside of Baghdad. Traffic can still move in the streets. Now that the curfews will be lifted as the regime moves away, I think we'll see a resumption of a lot of normal activity there, and we remain convinced that that's the right way to approach this. There is still work to go, though, and while we are satisfied with our efforts to date, we still know that there's a lot of tough work done to make sure that we continue in the same direction.

QUESTION: General, my committee sent a letter yesterday to Secretary Rumsfeld, requesting an investigation of the events yesterday regarding the journalists in Baghdad and we hope that will be undertaken.

I wanted to ask you about the future and ways of possibly averting similar incidents. You mentioned in yesterday's briefing how the military takes particular care with sites such as schools, hospitals and mosques. I wonder if a system could be arranged where similar care could be taken with sites where it's known where journalists are operating.

BROOKS: Well, first let me say that sites where journalists or any other civilians and noncombatants are operating are already a focus for us to ensure that we have knowledge and that we're careful about our targeting. But we should be very clear that, first, Baghdad remains a very dangerous place. We've always said that, and we've also informed that those who choose to stay in that location are putting themselves at risk by their own decisions. The circumstances of yesterday revealed that there was fire occurring inside of Baghdad and fire was returned.

It's important to note at this point that the regime will also use any civilians that are available to provide a degree of protection. Civilians may be located in places where regime conducts other works. And when the two join together, they move into a targetable area that increases the danger. So what we'd encourage is decisions to be made, now that the danger is well known, even more known than it has been throughout time, that new decisions would be made. And we'd certainly like to see all noncombatants that are close to regime facilities or regime leaders to move away from those areas before they increase the danger any further.

QUESTION: You spoke a moment ago about unaccounted for POWs from previous conflicts. Are you saying you have no new information regarding the status of Scott Speicher from the first Gulf War? And the second question I have is, regarding the enemy POWs that you currently have and foreign forces who are fighting in Iraq, are you surprised by the number of Egyptians and others who have come into Iraq to fight against coalition forces?

Thank you.

BROOKS: I don't have any new information about any specific coalition or other prisoners of war that might be in the possession of the Iraqis at this point. We remain concerned about it and we remain also focused on it.

We have identified a number of what we think are foreign fighters that are not Iraqis that have been identified at different places on the battlefield. We certainly heard that there was a call for that and there was certainly adequate time before hostilities began for those who had an interest in protecting the regime to come and fight with the regime. As we continue to see those, we simply collect them up as well, and they're treated like all other prisoners of war that are taken into our custody, with proper respect, in accordance with the Geneva Convention. They're afforded medical care if need be. In some cases they were wounded in action and they receive medical care from the coalition to stabilize them.

That's our approach, and that continues to be our approach. We may find more on the battlefield. If so, then that certainly is just a condition of the battle as we go on.

QUESTION: General, can you tell us about the collateral damage in Baghdad? Have you been using inert bombs? And which quantity? And have they been efficient? Second part of the question is regarding these foreign fighters. Are you concerned that they are mixing up with civilian population in Baghdad?

BROOKS: We use a variety of munitions. In areas where we need to have precise work, we use precision munitions. I don't want to get too specific about exactly what weapon combination we use inside of built-up areas, but suffice it to say that our work to date has been precision-guided munitions in the target areas inside of Baghdad.

I'm not aware of any exceptions to that out of my own knowledge. I can tell you, our approach would always been the same as it has been from the start: discriminating on a particular target, positive identification, and then decisions on exactly what weapon systems should be used to achieve the desired effect on that target while also minimizing the effect on things not intended to be targeted.

BROOKS: That's the consistent approach, continues throughout.

Since we've been in close air support missions, additional types of weapons systems have been introduced into the Baghdad area. Close air support aircraft carry different types of things. Cannon, for example, fire at a high rate of speed, in a very precise way, but at a high rate of speed, multiple rounds. That causes a different effect than a precision-guided munition. And so, there may be some different dynamics on the battlefield that have occurred out there, but I can certainly tell you that the efforts remain precise, deliberate, focused and we believe that we have been successful to date in minimizing secondary effects on the population or other structures.

QUESTION: General, there was a report that American uniforms were found at the Rashid airstrip that was described as a military prison. Could you elaborate on that and tell us what was found and might this indicate that POWs had recently been there? And secondly, have coalition forces secured the area where you believe the leadership was meeting a few days ago and there was an airstrike, possibly targeting Saddam Hussein and his sons.

Thanks.

BROOKS: We were certainly aware that the Rashid prison, near the Rashid Airport, had a history of being used to hold military prisoners. Part of our operational design in going through Rashid airfield was to secure it and also to proceed onto the Rashid prison. We did not find any prisoners of war or any human remains in that location. There are some reports of having found some uniforms. They were U.S. uniforms. And there were names on some. I'm not going to describe those names at this point.

What that tells us is that the uniforms were there. It cannot tell us anything else at this point. We remain concerned about those who are remaining unaccounted for, and we hold the regime, whatever remains of it or whoever might have our prisoners of war in possession, accountable and responsible for anything that happens to them at this point.

Your second question about the location that was struck a few days ago. I don't know that we've moved on to that location at this point in time. The focus of our action is broader than just that location. There are a number of regime locations throughout the city. Some we are physically located at. Others we're preventing movement to. Others we have not arrived at yet, and that's really where we stand on that one. QUESTION: If Saddam is not found, then who would have to surrender for the cease-fire? How would you know?

BROOKS: Well, cease-fire doesn't have to come by way of a surrender. A cease-fire is a decision, and the decision will occur when we believe conditions have been set on the battlefield, and also when we have political instructions from our leaders. Right now, operations remain focused as they are on any remaining portions of this regime, and that includes forces that support it. And at the same time, our efforts increase daily on providing humanitarian assistance to the places that have been liberated, and tending to the need of the Iraqi people and beginning to move forward into the future.

So there's still work to be done, without a doubt, and we remain focused on that work. We believe we will ultimately achieve a point where hostilities can cease, but we're not at that point yet.

BROOKS: Yes, sir?

QUESTION: General, I believe one of the few variables left at this stage of the war is that lots of Iraqi soldiers took off their uniforms and got dressed with civilian clothes. I believe this might some trouble to you, especially you got to face more and more urban combat situation. So you have to -- you want to find and attack your enemies, but also you need to minimize the civilian casualties at the same time. So how would you cope with this dilemma?

BROOKS: Well, it's a tough challenge, no doubt about that, and it has been a challenge throughout this operation because of the tactics used by forces loyal to the regime. Our young men and women, though, out there fighting are great professionals and they've dealt with this in as complete and competent a way as possibly can be done.

We know that there are some soldiers who took off their uniforms and went home. They're living as civilians now. And some of them did so in an honorable fashion. We know that there are some who took their uniforms off and fought in civilian clothes. Some were pressed back into service.

I think when it's all said and done, with the help of the Iraqi population, we'll have a clearer view of who was fighting really in support of the regime, who perpetrated war crimes and fought as criminals, violating all the laws of land combat, and who did not. That will take some time to sort all that out and it can only be done with the help of the Iraqi population. And what we're seeing right now is we believe that we'll have that support from the Iraqi population as time goes on.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: General, the dancing in the streets that we've seen, is it because they love you or is it because they fear you? And if it's because they love you, how do you make sure that the love remains?

(LAUGHTER)

BROOKS: Well, I'm feeling a lot of love in here right now, so I appreciate the question.

(LAUGHTER)

I think the reality is, it's not about us, it's about the regime. What you're seeing as celebration in the streets is a recognition that the regime is gone and will not return again. It can never be returned to what was. That's what they're seeing. What it tells us is, thus far, our efforts have been successful in those areas. It also tells us that we have more work to do to ensure that's the scene throughout the country.

QUESTION: As you well know, General, a May Day call has been made by our reporter in Abu Dhabi, and the group of journalists has been, you know, they are still caught in that building, with Abu Dhabi TV reporters and Al Jazeera staff, and they are for more than 24 hours caught there, and they are calling for help. Could you tell us, General, is there any measures has been taken to help this reporter to get out of there?

BROOKS: Well, I think there are a number of people, as I said earlier, who are still inside of Baghdad in a variety of areas, and as long as they're moving away from where the regime is conducting its operations they shouldn't be at any risk. Now, they need to move out of that area, move through our lines, identify themselves as reporters, identify themselves in such a way that they have no appearance of hostility, and we would anticipate they should be able to move out of the area. And there are some other folks that might want to make the same sorts of decisions. At this point, that's a responsibility of the people in the station to make that decision to leave.

QUESTION: They're trying to get out this morning, but still the fire is coming out of the door, they cannot get out unless some people has to locate them and say they are the reporters, they are not the enemy, they just want to get out of there.

BROOKS: We certainly have concern for their safety and their welfare, and we would want them to move away from any combat area, particular where regime forces might still be located.

QUESTION: Just back to what you're seeing on the streets of Baghdad today. Could you further characterize how the coalition interprets what's going on? Are you suggesting this is like some kind of turning point? I don't think you've ever walked out here before and said today the regime is in disarray. I mean, is it in much more disarray than it was yesterday? How do you fully characterize what we're seeing today in Baghdad?

BROOKS: Well, with every day that passes throughout the entirety of this operation, the regime has had less and less control over top of its people, over top of its forces, and over top of this country of Iraq.

It is more out of control today than it has been before. I think we are at a degree of a tipping point where, for the population, there's a broader recognition that this regime is coming to an end and will not return in the way that it has been in the past. That's a very important point in the operation.

Militarily, however, we proceed on a plan that says that there's more to follow. All of the regime is not gone. There are still regime appendages in a variety of places. There'S still capability. There'S still also potentially the intent to use weapons of mass destruction. All of these hazards have not been eliminated completely from the battlefield.

And so we certainly stand on the position, and we have said it before, that the regime is in disarray, the regime is losing control, the regime no longer has control over certain areas.

The capital city now is one of those areas that's been added to the list of places that the regime has lost control. And we'll still focus on pockets inside of the capital city. But their efforts to maintain control, we believe, have come to an end at that location.

QUESTION: You showed us a picture earlier with some white circles on it. Are you telling us those are areas that you believe you actually control, or that's merely where fighting is going on? Can you give us sort of a percentage of what amount of the capital city you do believe you control?

And it does feel like you're going a little farther today in your comments about the regime losing control. I mean, you said several times here the regime may have ended. It may no longer exert control over its own capital city. How close are we to then -- I mean, the goal of this operation is regime change. You're talking today as though the regime has changed or is about to change. How do we know what a victory looks like, what a surrender looks like, what a cease- fire looks like?

BROOKS: Well, first, on the circles on the Baghdad map. Those represent areas where we have had a continuous presence over the last 24 hours. In other words, we didn't come in and leave. We stayed in those areas with a force that was able to maintain security and control in and around its area and prevent action by any Iraqi forces that were inside of the city. So it represents areas where we've had freedom of action.

Control is not a term that would apply very well in describing the circumstances here. It's more a matter of being able to maintain security of our force, conduct operations in a manner that we choose, at times and places of our choosing.

What I think is instructive of that is, how many different places of the town, the western part of Baghdad, particularly, and on the east and northeast corners of Baghdad, we're able to conduct those operations in times and places of our choosing. That really is the point to be made by that.

As time goes on, the physical places where we are free of Iraqi regime influence and are able to conduct operations, begin to provide the humanitarian assistance -- it was asked earlier about Baghdad -- those will expand beyond the areas that we have right now. And we believe that in due time, there will be an end of hostilities.

I want to be clear that we know that there is still work to be done in this operation. That is absolutely certain. There are still places where the regime does have control. There are places where clearly the regime no longer does have control.

Whatever remaining portions of the regime there may be, fragmented as they are now, there still is capability, there's still intent. So it's not over. We still have work to be done in that regard, and we'll stay focused on that work as the coming days approach.

QUESTION: I'd like insist on the investigation of what happened at the Palestine Hotel. You probably don't have yet a full picture of the investigation, but according to the footage from the French TV crew, there were no shots coming from the hotel at least 30 seconds before the Abrams tank fired back. Could you tell us, what did the crew inform their superiors before firing please? Thank you, General.

BROOKS: I don't have any reports of what the crew specifically said before engaging or what decisions were made in that moment in time. What we know at this point is that the reports that have come up to us from the force involved in the fight was they received fire and returned fire. Everything else beyond there is speculative and must be investigated much more thoroughly, and I certainly am not in a position to describe anything further at this point in time.

QUESTION: Thanks for taking my question, General. The Canadian commodore in charge of multinational naval task force, that's the Task Force 151, its mandate is to hunt Al Qaida terrorists in the gulf, he said yesterday that the Canadian federal government has expressly forbid him from handing over suspected Iraqi terrorists, Iraqi war criminals or even fleeing members of Saddam Hussein inner circle. As well, he said that the government does not want to be put in the embarrassing position of having to relinquish Iraqis to the United States military given Canada's neutral policy in the war.

As a former policy man for binational political-military affairs with Canada, what's your personal reaction to this very public refusal to hand over Iraqi criminals if found fleeing to your forces? And why would this key task force remain under Canadian command?

BROOKS: What you're describing is really a contribution by a coalition partner in a coalition involved in a different operation than this. And as with all coalition operations we involve ourselves in, we respect the prerogatives of the countries that are involved. And so that's really different than our Operation Iraqi Freedom and is not related to it at all.

QUESTION: The commodore -- sorry, just to follow up on that.

BROOKS: That's the answer. It's a different coalition and a different operation. And we always respect the prerogatives of the countries involved, whether it's this coalition, Iraqi Freedom, or different coalition operations that preceded this operation as it goes right now. QUESTION: We were told that the American strategy in Baghdad would be similar to the British strategy in Basra, but in Baghdad, where the regime has a firmer grip on power and more formidable defenses, we've seen some of the celebrating and some of the looting much quicker. Can you explain what's been different from a military standpoint or from the citizen standpoint?

BROOKS: Well, I think what we're seeing first is the similarities are that we are very discriminating in where we conduct operations. We're deliberate and patient. We do our operations based on information that comes to us where opportunities may be, and then we take advantage of those opportunities in some tactical military way.

Cameras are in places where military forces are not, and there's jubilation that's occurring in places we haven't necessarily entered. I think we also saw some images in Basra and we saw some images in other places, and there have been other cases where there were no images, where initially, in a vacuum, there's jubilation that sometimes goes beyond into looting.

BROOKS: Many of these looting incidents are reported to be against Baath Party locations that still existed there. That doesn't change it in terms of the activity that's going on, but that certainly is -- it's instructive in terms of what really you may be seeing. Don't know that to be factual, but that's certainly a report that we're having at this point in time. What we know is that we want to cause order and stability to occur in all areas as quickly as that can be done. We'll remain focused on that as we transition away from combat operations in areas that have been liberated that we physically have entered.

QUESTION: But how have you gotten to this point so much faster (OFF-MIKE)?

BROOKS: It's a different place and different circumstances. And so every place on the battlefield unfolds a little bit differently and creates different opportunities. Different forces are used. They arrived a different way. The regime's condition is different. It's just a different situation. And so the timing becomes different as a result.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BROOKS: Well, those are some of the examples: different size, different composition of the town, different introduction of forces, any number of other things that could be taken into account that just make this operation and every other city operation different from other ones that are out there.

QUESTION: General, could you just clarify, in relation to the Palestine Hotel, is it possible that there could be future attacks by coalition forces on the Palestine Hotel? Or has it been now designated as having the same status as a heritage site or a mosque?

Secondly, there was footage on the BBC last night of Iraqi prisoners with their hands tied behind their backs, in their underwear, standing and facing a wall, for what period I don't know. I'm not an expert on the Geneva Convention, but that doesn't seem to be in line with the Geneva Convention that I would expect. Have the Red Cross been able to visit prisoners in all areas where they're held by the coalition?

Thank you.

BROOKS: As we've said a number of times, downtown Baghdad remains a dangerous place. There's still potential for combat action. The area in and around the bridges last night, we reported there was some contact. Our efforts remain focused on the regime, regime targets that present themselves. We retain the inherent right of self-defense.

There are still choices that can be made by those who are inside of Baghdad as to whether they believe themselves to be in a safe position or not. Our approach remains the same and consistent.

Prisoners of war for the coalition, prisoners that are taken into our possession, are treated in a way that's consistent with the Geneva Convention. When we find there's any deviation from that, commanders have the opportunity to deal with that.

I have not seen the images. I have not seen the report. And so at this point I remain convinced that our commands are doing what's necessary and appropriate under law and under convention to do what's necessary to take control of prisoners of war, move them to the proper areas, ensure they don't remain a threat to themselves or to others, and then put them in the condition where they're safe and protected, yet under control.

QUESTION: In your presentation, you talked a lot about hospitals in other towns. Are you doing anything in particular to make sure that hospitals in Baghdad, where there are a lot of civilians, including journalists now, are not going to be targeted, especially now that you seem to be, you know, the difference in force, the Americans are really running away with it, the threat back might not be that big? So can you tell me what you're going to do to protect those hospitals?

BROOKS: The first thing we do to protect hospitals is we recognize that they're hospitals, and we treat them as such first. And we expect them to be hospitals.

We certainly have seen a pattern in a number of towns that the regime does not see it that way. The regime sees hospitals as fighting positions. The regime sees hospitals as storage locations. The regime does not see a hospital as a hospital.

BROOKS: We know there are hospitals in and around Baghdad, and we certainly had reports of large numbers of wounded inside of those hospitals, people that have been injured by combat action of some sort or another. We remain concerned about that, and where we can provide relief I'm sure we will in due time.

Our focus right now is against the remaining portions of the regime. As we encounter civilians in need, we'll provide whatever assistance we can within our capability at that point in time. If we find there's an increased need, we may deliver additional things, just as we have in other parts of the country, but we're not quite at that stage yet.

Think I have time for one last question.

QUESTION: I'm trying to understand what coalition policy is in the case of civilian deaths. Do you investigate all of them or are they considered collateral damage of war, inevitable? Is it only when they're controversial that you'll look into them? And in the case maybe of Al Jazeera it might be illustrative, if it was an air strike will the pilot be interviewed, will Predator video be reviewed? What will happen in that particular case?

BROOKS: Well, as you can imagine, the number of combat engagements that have occurred over the last 20 days down at the lowest level, where someone makes a decision to deliver a weapon system against some target, whether it's physical target or a human being, is a number that we cannot begin to count. And so every engagement that occurs is certainly not investigated.

Where there is an indication there may have been something that didn't go the right way, commanders have the opportunity to investigate. We regret the loss of any civilians on the battlefield, and we have done all that we can reasonably do to prevent that from happening either from the air or on the ground. But we know for certain that there have been civilians killed in this operation because of the decisions taken by the regime to put them out in front, to hide behind them, to use pregnant women to blow up cars at check points. We've seen this happen on the battlefield. Those are not being investigated by us at this point in time.

If we think we have some involvement in other cases where we need to look deeper, we do, and we look very closely at ourselves to see what procedures need to be changed, and if there's accountability, then that accountability is taken care of.

QUESTION: So are you saying in the case of this particular case you would look into it because it's controversial, and has that process started?

BROOKS: What I'm saying in this case and all cases is, when we believe we have something to look into, we do look into it in greater detail. I'm not going to specify this particular one.

Thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen. Have a good day.

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