CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
CENTCOM War Briefing
Aired April 12, 2003 - 07:03 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIG. GEN. VINCE BROOKS, CENTCOM SPOKESMAN: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
We're now in the 23rd day of Operation Iraqi Freedom since coalition forces entered Iraq. The regime is in disarray and no longer in control of Iraqi, and the coalition remains focused on the objectives of the campaign. The attainment of objectives to date has not come without cost and, as always, we pause to remember those who have lost their lives and we extend our condolences to their families.
The operations of the last 24 hours have been characterized by simultaneous actions in all parts of the country. Some focused on removing any remaining chance of the regime returning to power, while others focused on setting the conditions for stable and free Iraq.
The situation in northern Iraq changed quickly yesterday as coalition forces, supported by Kurdish forces, moved into areas vacated by the Iraqi military. A significant increase in the number of special forces detachments in the area of Mosul in the north made it possible for us to meet with local leaders and set additional conditions for stability. There's a neighborhood watch system that's already gone into effect in Mosul, and the presence of coalition forces there contributes to the stability.
At this point, a wholesale capitulation has occurred and effective military forces have not been encountered in that area.
Coalition Special Operations Forces and the 173rd Airborne Brigade continued efforts to increase the number of oil field structures that are secured. They're receiving assistance from local oil experts as these facilities are assessed.
Important actions also occurred in the west. In Al-Qaim coalition Special Operations Forces continued their work in and around that area. They entered into a number of facilities, including searching a train station, an air defense headquarters, a phosphate plant, a cement factory and a water treatment plant. Worthy of note, they found two drums at the phosphate plant and, at this point, we don't have any additional information on that.
Coalition Special Operations Forces also entered Al-Saad airfield. This is a place that has been subjected to coalition attacks before, and what they found on the ground was 15 fighter aircraft, fixed-wing aircraft, hidden underneath camouflage and in what appeared to be undamaged condition. At a checkpoint in the west coalition Special Operations Forces stopped a bus with 59 military- aged men traveling west. Among their possessions were letters offering financial rewards for killing American soldiers and $630,000 U.S. dollars in one-hundred dollar bills. The men and all of their possessions have been taken into coalition control.
Coalition maneuver operations focused on increasing stability south of Baghdad to enable humanitarian assistance and on conducting combat operations to clear zones within Baghdad. Fifth Corps and 1st forces expanded into areas that are shown on this image, using the same convention we've used in the last few days. These are areas where new operations occurred in the last 24 hours. You can see there's a significant increase in the southern area because of the addition of one more unit, in this case, the 101st Airborne Division. In some cases there were pockets of resistance encountered and those were defeated.
As deliberate operations continue in Baghdad, more information is being made available to the coalition regarding any remaining regime elements, and also regarding the location of ammunition and equipment. Yesterday, for example, coalition received information from some of the Iraqi citizens about the location of some rockets, and as a very quick response occurred by 5th Corps Forces, they found on the ground five mobile launchers and one Al-Samoud missile, and these have been preserved for future examination.
These types of efforts will continue and additional forces have been added to the Baghdad clearance, as I mentioned, with the arrival of the 101st, having worked in areas further to the south. In every case we find that the presence of coalition forces is, indeed, contributing greatly to the establishment of stability.
In other areas the coalition continued its operational maneuver in the area of Al-Amarah, on the east, where U.K. forces and coalition U.S. forces are moving toward one another to link up. In the area of Al-Kut, just to the northwest, there are still some indications that there may be regime presence and we are turning our attention in that direction. Also, this morning the land component continued its attack to defeat any remaining forces north of Baghdad, beyond Baghdad in this area. It is an ongoing operation.
While combat continues in a number of areas, our efforts in increasing humanitarian assistance become more and more important. We also find difficult conditions to overcome in areas without power or adequate attention while the regime was in power. Last night, the first humanitarian-focused flight went into Baghdad International Airport.
This is an image of it being loaded in Kuwait. On this flight were humanitarian supplies provided by the Kuwaiti government and the International Red Crescent. They were delivered by Kuwaiti and coalition persons on a coalition aircraft. There were four pallets on two different aircraft with water, food and medical supplies that went into Baghdad International last night. We view this as a very important step and one which will be followed by many more in the days and weeks ahead.
First, water remains a challenge, and we continue to strive to meet this very important and basic need in a variety of ways. We continue to push packaged water forward into areas as regularly as we can. In this case, you see water stocks that have been received by U.K. forces in the area of Umm Qasr.
In addition, coalition forces continue to use military water purification equipment, in this case also in Umm Qasr, to make fresh water. We then move that water, using our military resources, to take the newly purified water forward. What you see here is the mother of all water bags placed on top of a carrier to move forward into an area.
Bulk humanitarian assistance supplies are also regularly arriving in the region as more and more countries make contributions to support the free Iraqi people. I have a short video clip to show you that shows the delivery of wheat from an Australian ship, the Pearl of Fujairah on the 9th of April. I'm sorry, this first one is a clip that shows a United Arab Emirates ship that arrived just yesterday that I spoke of, and it also was supported by the International Red Crescent. As I mentioned, it had food, water and medical supplies, about 70 metric tons worth, and it was a very important delivery.
This one is the Australian ship, the Pearl of Fujairah. It was loaded with about 50,000 tons of wheat from Australia, and was delivered a few days ago into the area. In this case the delivery occurred in Kuwait. The amount of the load was so much that vessel sits too deep in the water and could not make it into Umm Qasr. So the first off-load is occurring in Kuwait. It will then be trans- loaded into trucks, as you see here, and moved forward for delivery. And then it may proceed on to Umm Qasr to deliver the rest of it in that area for forward delivery. There are other ships that are on the way as well that will follow.
Our assessments are ongoing in areas that have been liberated throughout the country, and our efforts are to put as much of the existing infrastructure back into use with the help of the Iraqi people. This locomotive is being aligned onto its tracks in Umm Qasr, which is the end of the rail line in the southeast, and it's just one of the ways we'll move supplies north toward An Nasiriyah and beyond. The coalition planned for combat operations deliberately avoided infrastructure like the rail system to ensure that they would be ready for use as quickly as possible after we were able to make assessments of their condition.
In addition to the supplies that are moving forward to the people of Iraq, our soldiers continue to redistribute supplies that are captured.
This shows cooking oil and flour and soap captured from the regime's forces. Now this film occurred just yesterday in the vicinity of An Nasiriyah.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is much work to be done still in military operations and also, clearly, in humanitarian operations. The coalition remains committed to completing removal of the regime, while also transitioning to an effort focused on the needs of the Iraqi people.
And with that, I'll take your questions.
QUESTION: You've showed us some impressive pictures of aid arriving. But is not the case that humanitarian organizations are now saying there is a major problem in security before much of that aid can be distributed? And I would like to know how satisfied you are that actually the coalition is fulfilling its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention to maintain security in the country?
BROOKS: Well, first, we know that there are a variety of humanitarian organizations out there, nongovernmental organizations, international organizations that have varying views about what the conditions are. The reality is, we are delivering humanitarian assistance right now and have been doing so for a great number of days. So while their assessments may differ in terms of the conditions of security, we're not going to wait for everyone in the world to be in agreement that all is secure. There's work that needs to be done right now, and that work is ongoing and will continue to occur.
As more and more countries get greater assessments of their own, I think we'll see more and more deliveries done by a variety of organizations. We know that the United Nations also is doing assessments, and there will be a number of organizations that will respond to whatever conditions the United Nations says exists in Iraq.
And so, all of this is really -- it's goodness, not badness, even though there is some difference of opinion.
As to our responsibilities, we believe we are fulfilling our responsibilities within the conditions and the parameters that we're currently operating under. As I continue to emphasize, the work of combat operations has not completed itself yet. We're still working on eliminating any remains of the regime. We're still gathering information from the Iraqi population. We're still doing very deliberate clearance operations throughout Baghdad and other parts of the country, and we still have work to be done in that regard. That's what the forces are really focused on.
In areas where we're present, as I stated, we find reports from commanders that there is, in fact, an impact that contributes to security just by the presence that's there. But we can't be present in all locations. And so, there clearly are someplace that have unrest, and we expect that will settle over time and we'll continue to fulfill our responsibilities in that regard.
QUESTION: Some Russian news agencies said that Saddam Hussein is dead and Washington knows about it. Have any information about Hussein -- is he dead or alive?
Thank you, sir. BROOKS: We really don't know at this point. There are any number of sources of information coming in with varying reports. They are conflicting reports, and therefore, we cannot confirm in either direction. What we do know is that the regime is not in power, that regime members have tried to flee areas where they previously were. Some of them have been killed. Their forces have been killed in many cases or captured. Some have simply gone back home, as we requested.
Key leaders of the regime we're looking for. We talked about that yesterday, and we continue our efforts in that regard to be complete in our work to remove the regime from power and ensure that it doesn't return, but we don't have any specific reports on that particular individual.
QUESTION: In the very beginning, you said some of the efforts over the last 24 hours focused on removing any chance of the regime returning to power. What exactly did you mean by that? And secondly, everyone keeps waiting north of Baghdad. The Marines are moving north, the 4th Infantry Division is moving across Kuwait right now into the theater. What significance is that?
BROOKS: Well, first, on the return to power, the regime clearly had a tight grip on the population, on all activities that occurred inside of Iraq. The regime had the power to do that through a variety of mechanisms; special security organizations, intelligence services, paramilitary forces that operated and kept a very tight grip on the population to ensure that there was no uprising that might overthrow the regime as it was, military forces throughout the country, rocket forces that could threaten neighboring countries and harboring of terrorists throughout the country -- none of those things can return. We believe we've defeated all of those.
While there are still pockets of resistance out there we must pursue and complete the work on, those types of capabilities have been eliminated, as I described. Our efforts remain focused on ensuring that that doesn't ever come back. So that means the capabilities to do that, the types of people who were involved in that and the various parts of the programs that they had, must be also removed to ensure that it does not return.
As to the movement of forces, we have work to do still in the area of Baghdad.
That's one of the areas we're conducting operations. I've talked about others as well, and I certainly alluded to the ongoing operation north of Baghdad.
The 4th I.D., and other units that have been added to the fight, have been units that were always projected to join this operation and function underneath of the land component. That's on plan; they're arriving. Now, how they'll be used depends on the conditions we see at the time, and that really is a tactical option for the land component commander as to how he will introduce newly arrived forces into action. Some of already arrived in the last several days. One of the reasons why the 101st is now in greater density in and around Baghdad is because additional forces have been added further to the south. And so, we can maintain security of our lines of communication, and also complete the work that was done in places like Karbala, Nasiriyah, Najaf, Al-Hilla a few days ago, to eliminate the parts of the regime that were there and get on to other business.
So the "getting on to other business" is the part that is ahead of us, and the forces that are available will be used as the land component commander sees fit.
QUESTION: Two points. I mean, first of all, I know you've alluded in very vague terms as to what may be going on north of Baghdad, but could we be specific? There aren't too many towns of significance such as Tikrit, to the Iraqi regime. Can you confirm that the operations have begun in that particular direction?
And secondly, whilst you consistently say that you need to de- conflict peace-support operations from combat operations, and it's all very understandable, the pictures that are going on -- flashing around the world of the situation in many of the hospitals inside Baghdad, are very harrowing, indeed. They're creating a good deal of unease and concern. Is there not a great deal more your forces could do in terms of bringing better medical care to the people of Baghdad?
BROOKS: Well, first Tikrit is one of the areas where we saw concern that there may be presence of regime forces or some capabilities that still exist, and we have been relentless in our effort focused against the Tikrit area. This is not something new. This has been ongoing for some time throughout the campaign, because we know that it is an area that has been important to the regime and that regime leaders are from in and around the Tikrit area. But Tikrit is not the only area. And so, when we say north of Baghdad, that's the area where we've not conducted operations of a kind that have occurred south of Baghdad, and work must be done to do that. There are areas where we need to physically go into to find out what the conditions are. We know there's still military equipment in the Tikrit area, further off to the west and in some area to the east. And all of those must be approached and investigated. We may find that there's not much fight left, but some of the recent operations indicate that there's still some fighting to do even in those area. And so, we will remain focused on trying to get that job done as we continue toward that area and beyond. Any place we find that there may be evidence of the regime, we must go and put an end to it or seek its removal.
You mentioned hospitals, and certainly there are images of conditions in hospitals. We don't know that that's all of the hospitals. It's certainly not all of the hospitals that we're aware of, and there are a great many hospitals throughout the country. Many of them we've seen used already as military facilities. Those have been cleared out. That's part of what we're doing to try to provide aid. That's throughout the country. It's not just in Baghdad.
In many cases, we provide our own military medical assistance to people who are encountered on the battlefield or that seek assistance by moving toward our units. That is ongoing. There is a great amount of things we're doing medically right now within our capacity and even beyond what our capacity is generated for. Military medical units are created for military units, but because we have been fortunate in not having a significant number of casualties to overcome those locations, we make them available to any one that we find on the battlefield that requires medical attention.
So I think our focus has remained very consistent in trying to provide whatever aid we can within our capability. The provision of medical supplies like the flight that went in last night into Baghdad is just another example of trying to push what we can where we can to provide the assistance we can. And that will continue. There are some things that are beyond our ability to reach right now. We know that, and in due time, we'll do the best we can with it.
QUESTION: General, you said the regime is no longer in control, and because of that I wondered to what extent might it be more difficult now to locate POWs and/or missing troops? Who do you deal with and how do you approach the problem now? Is it more difficult?
BROOKS: There are challenges that come with removing structures. There are also opportunities that come with that. What we're finding throughout most of the country is those who have information or were aware of the behaviors and actions of the regime were not free to speak about that for fear of losing their lives. What we're finding now is that the regime has been moved away, people will speak about what it is they know. And so, we suspect that much of the information that will assist us either in finding prisoners of war from this conflict or previous conflicts or finding additional indications of the weapons of mass destruction program, or finding regime leaders who have fled from the areas or from the mechanisms of power, will come by way of the elimination of the regime. So while there is some risk to those who absolutely know where any prisoners of war have been held might be gone, there are others who may have information, and we'll seek to gather that. And then any number of sources will be brought together to try to find whatever we can about each one of these unanswered questions.
QUESTION: Can you fill us in a little more on the bus load of the 59 men: from what countries, do we know; the source of the letter offering rewards; and whose letterhead, if you will, was that? And also, can you tell us about the find of the suicide bombing vests that were outfitted with explosives?
BROOKS: I don't have any specific information on exactly what countries these men may have been from. We found people who are not Iraqis in a variety of places. I don't know, in this case, that they were or were not. I certainly know they were leaving Iraqi and headed to the west. Don't have any specific reports on whose letterhead that might have been.
The second part of your question was?
QUESTION: The suicide bombing vests.
BROOKS: The suicide vests. I have seen media reports of that, but I have not gotten military reports about that. So we don't have any confirmation on it at this point. We certainly have seen the practice of using suicide vests, and would not be surprised if we, indeed, find that that report is true as we go on. What we do know of this report, or at least the media version of it, says that citizens told our forces about it because they were concerned. That's the report that I saw. When we see a military report to confirm that, then we'll have better knowledge, but I think that that is entirely believable because of the practice of using suicide vests on individuals who may or may not be Iraqis, who are willing to serve as human bombs.
And because of the openness that we're now seeing from the Iraqi population to tell us what's really doing on and to point us to places where they have dangers and concerns, and we'll continue in our efforts to keep that channel open.
QUESTION: Have you gotten any information that leads you closer to the POWs and MIAs? And also, there are reports that there will be a curfew enforced in Baghdad -- is that true -- by U.S. forces?
BROOKS: First, when we have information about the potential location of enemy prisoners of war, while we're always trying to find a way to get at them, we would never discuss anything we, in fact, do know. We know that there are still prisoners of war, and we can be quite open about that, and we certainly, again, remind any who would have possession of them that they're responsible for their treatment and their condition. We would certainly like for the International Red Cross to be given access to them to confirm what their status is. That has not yet happened. And so, we must pursue for ourselves to find any prisoners of war.
To date, there have been some indications of different prisons where they might have been held. We've entered some of these in the very recent days and have not found them, which means are work is not yet complete. And I'd like to leave it at that. We will remain focused on it. We haven't forgotten them. We won't forget them. And we'll commit actions to try to retrieve them whenever we have information that can be acted upon.
There was a curfew imposed by the regime, and that occurred well before we came into the cities of Iraq, particularly Baghdad. There has been no curfew imposed by coalition forces at this point in time.
Yes, sir, please?
QUESTION: General, you said that the mere presence of the troops does contribute to stability in some areas. At what stage would the troops open fire to prevent the situation from happening, for example, as the Brits did in Basra when there was a bank robbery? Is there any specific event in which the troops, other than self defense in which the troops would open fire to prevent looting of hospitals, for example?
BROOKS: Well, I'll keep it general because we begin to get into rules of engagement if I get too specific. But first, we always maintain the inherent right of self defense. So if there's a physical threat that's being imposed, or posed toward a coalition soldier or member, then they have the right to respond in a way that's appropriate to eliminate that particular threat. In some cases, that may include lethal force.
Conditions beyond that, are judgment calls for tactical commanders on the ground. If they find that there is a need to respond in a certain way, then they will issue an order to respond in a certain way.
In some cases, it's down to the lowest level. It's at the action level where young leaders have to make an immediate decision, a life or death decision to take an action to either eliminate a threat to themselves or to others.
The answer has to remain generalized because there's not a fixed response to it.
I think we'll find that the case in Basra, they were people who were armed. And there was a response to that. In other places, we may see activities that are occurring, but we also expect people to govern themselves in ways that are acceptable behaviors by the community.
This neighborhood watch that has been formed in Mosul for example, is a great example of the population setting standards for themselves. We have never had the intent of coming in with a heavy had or replacing one regime with another. It's not our design. It never will be our design.
It's to do things in cooperation with the population as much as possible. And there's a degree of risk in that. While some people in the population may make choices that are unacceptable, like looting, or like perpetrating violence on others, most are not. And we believe that in due time, this will settle down. That's our approach to it at the current time. Yes, please?
QUESTION: A couple of questions. You mentioned earlier that there are troops in the ground in Mosul and also in Kirkuk to provide stability. How do you respond to criticisms that the troops have arrived but have simply been staying on the base? And there haven't been large numbers of troops deployed on the ground, patrolling around on the streets. And the problem is that the force protection rules you're operating under preclude that sort of -- those sort of large scale patrols, high activity patrols.
And the other question was related to Al-Qaim, when you went into the phosphate plant. It doesn't sound in itself very surprising to go into a chemical plant and find two drums of chemicals.
QUESTION: It doesn't sound, in itself, very surprising to go into a chemical plant and find two drums of chemicals. Is there something more about these drums that causes you to be suspicious?
BROOKS: Well, first, your characterization of where forces are deployed is simply not factual. There are no bases in the northern oil fields, and we're there in abundance. We are in and around both cities and moving through those cities. This is where we say the presence does contribute to stability, and we're very comfortable that that's the right approach to take.
A number of forces have been used. The 173rd Airborne Brigade, for example, is operating in and around that area with multiple battalions. And so, we remain satisfied that we're operating appropriately with the right amount of force and in a way that keeps our presence there, and also is done in a constructive way, where we engage directly with city leaders and religious leaders, and they tell us what is appropriate behavior and they also decide what is appropriate behavior for themselves. So it's a very cooperative effort, and one that I think is a great example of how the work needs to be done throughout the country.
As to Al-Qaim, we've always had concerns, first, about its geographic location; and, secondly, about its history of having been involved in the launching of surface-to-surface missiles, long-range missiles, into neighboring countries, and also that it might potentially be involved in the weapons of mass destruction program. And so, we do deliberate searches in areas that we have any suspicion at all to confirm it or to eliminate it from the list of places that may be involved in the program that way. That's where our attention is focused as it is right now.
QUESTION: You say you know that there are still POWs. Does that mean that you have recent information that they are still alive? And then secondly, on this whole issue of maintaining law and order. I know you're reluctant for the coalition forces to do that job. Who do you expect to do it, and what is the coalition doing now to encourage the rebuilding of a police force?
BROOKS: First, on the characterization of prisoners of war; we view them as alive until we know they're not, and that's why we don't forget them. And so, we remain focused on them until we have any confirming information that says we should stop. Right now we don't have anything that tells us that. Until they're back into our possession -- we certainly want them to be alive when that occurs -- but until they're back in our possession, we're not finished with our work regarding prisoners of war.
Law and order is an important dynamic of a stable society, and much of law and order comes from the behaviors chosen by the people in that society. That's really the fundamental aspect of it. There are artificial methods that can be imposed upon that; repressive methods and measures. The regime did that. They were able to maintain a degree of law and order, and they did so by making sure that no one stood up against them. If they did, they simply murdered them. That's not the kind of law and order we want to see in a free Iraq.
And so, we want choices to be made by the Iraqi people, and choices are being made in many places.
The Mosul example is just a classic case here, and that's why I keep coming back to it.
In a very short period of time since the departure of Iraqi forces, we've met with leaders, and those leaders have decided how the behaviors are going to be inside of their town. This is occurring in other places, as well, and we see stability occurring in more and more places throughout the country.
There are many more issues to be dealt with in Baghdad, particularly, one, because of its size, and secondly because of the intense pressure that the regime had in that city.
There may be any number of choices on how we create a police force in the future. It's a bit early to say that. I mentioned yesterday that the police force was involved in targeting coalition forces and contributing information directly to the regime. So it, in and of itself, is not an acceptable solution.
There may be some, though a deliberate process of vetting, who may be returned. But that deliberate process must occur. There are others who can be used as neighborhood watch, as an example, who are reliable, can be vetted, and can be put to use.
Much of this has to be determined by the Iraqi people. So we'll stay very closely aligned with as many leaders as we can find that are now emerging within all the cities that we pass through, and try to create a structure that works for them and also accomplishes what we're after.
QUESTION: On that same theme, what do you tell people, for instance shopkeepers in Baghdad, who found themselves having to use weapons to protect their property? What's the coalition's message to them in this interim period before things, as you say, inevitably blow over?
BROOKS: Well, first we tell them that we're not finished yet, we still have work to do, and we're continuing out efforts to eliminate the regime that had been once (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so severely.
There was a report from a commander today that, because of the presence of coalition troops, commerce can begin. And so, in many areas, shops are opening in places where they were closed for a while, where there was great concern.
And so we see a mixture. In some cases, there may be shopkeepers who are armed. And we would certainly want a condition in due time where they don't believe that they are threatened by anyone inside the population and certainly not threatened by anyone in the coalition.
This, I believe, will take time. There is physical conditions of security that occur, and then there are also mental and emotional conditions of stability -- or security that must occur. They're related to one another. The mental condition is a very important one that we have to also consider. And that's where, when we say the presence of coalition forces contributes to it, there's a feeling of security that comes, in many cases, from that. And then decisions are made, and life proceeds.
I think that's what we're going to see over time. It's still very early into this operation from the entry of forces and certainly the departure of the regime. And as time goes on, we'll find different methods and we'll find the people approaching their own perception of their security in different ways.
QUESTION: Are they essentially on their own right now, though, during this interim?
BROOKS: I wouldn't say they're on their own. There's not the same forces and structures that were out there before, but the coalition is in a number of areas. And so, where we are, they're certainly not on their own.
Where we are not, the population can take care of itself, in many ways. And we would anticipate that there's security in some parts, there is stability in some parts, there are decisions being made by local leaders in areas, to help them maintain the sense of security that's important to be able to proceed into the future.
BROOKS: Yes, back here.
QUESTION: President Bush says that it's the call of Tommy Franks as to when this war might be over. You say that it's day 23, everything is going well. If Tikrit falls, would that be the signal for you for you to say -- the regime is in disarray, it's gone? If Tikrit falls, is that the signal perhaps that Tommy Franks can come here to the podium and say that the war is over?
BROOKS: Well, I wouldn't presuppose anything that General Franks might way. What I would tell you is that we know that we still have work to be done by way of the objectives that were laid out at the beginning of the campaign.
If Tikrit falls, and is like other cities that we've gone into and there's an end to any presence of the regime, and no more controlled by the regime, and the removal of military forces, that's just one more city.
There may be still other areas. As I mentioned, Tikrit is not the only place where we believe there is still a presence of either regime forces or regime leaders or regime activities.
And so there would still be work to be done beyond that. But that's just the objective that relates to removing the regime.
There were a number of objectives that were laid out at the beginning of this operation. We still have a tremendous amount of work to do in the weapons of mass destruction program. And with each day that passes, we get new information from people we have access to. And they point us to new things which provides us yet more information.
And we believe that we will have a lot to do. We still remain convinced that they're present inside of the country and that we'll find them. That's going to take time. Tikrit is not related to those conclusions.
There are a number of other things as well, and I would encourage you to go back to the beginning of this campaign what was laid out by the secretary of defense, and see if we've accomplished all of those. We believe we have not. And until we have, we're not ready to say we're finished.
Yes, ma'am, please.
QUESTION: Has a reward been established for information leading to the capture of Saddam Hussein or other leaders, or WMD for that matter? And if so, what kind of price would the coalition be willing to pay for that information?
BROOKS: I won't be too specific about prices. What I will tell you is consistent with work we do in other parts of the world, Afghanistan, for example, a rewards program has been established for information leading to the capture of key leaders. And you've seen a number of them. I laid out 55 of them yesterday, and there are even more beyond that that are of lesser importance to the regime, but nevertheless are of interest to us.
But not only the personalities; also information regarding weapons of mass destruction programs. There may be information regarding the location of weapons caches. Any number of things may be considered out there.
The price tags vary. We think it's appropriate prices.
We have to also recognize that in some cases there can be a tendency for lawlessness that includes black-marketing. And that's very important. We have always sought not to have the weapons of this country move into the hands of terrorists. So while the regime may have been removed, there may be those who are still interested in causing that link to occur.
And so it's very important that we not stimulate a black market; in fact, that we undermine the black market in what we do. That's part of our approach, and I'd like to leave it right there.
QUESTION: There has been a lot of photographs and footage out concerning the looting. How widespread is it, and is there any indication that it's dropping off?
BROOKS: Well, first I would say it's not nearly as widespread as the focus seems to be when the camera happens to be at those locations. That's just a reality. This is a very large country with many cities, and even the city of Baghdad has many areas.
We believe that it is tapering off. The examples of Basra, the limited looting that happened against regime locations in Mosul has come to an end. Some of these were retribution against the regime. Some have gone beyond that, clearly. But we think that it is already tapering off significantly.
It's not an acceptable behavior for the Iraqi people, and where leaders are stepping forward in communities, it's coming to an end. And we certainly encourage that to happen in as many communities as possible. That's how we're approaching it right now.
QUESTION: We've heard a lot about oil fires, or lack thereof, in southern Iraq. But what about the status of oil wells in other parts of Iraq? I've heard one estimate that there are about 2,000, approximately 2,000 oil wells all over Iraq. What can you tell us about the status of oil wells in other parts of Iraq besides southern Iraq?
And the second question I have is, there are reports now that in Basra the British are going to implement some sort of combined police forces with local Iraqis. They're still in the local vetting process. Does that seem like a good idea in Baghdad?
Thank you, sir.
BROOKS: OK. We estimate there's somewhere on the order of 1,500 or so oil wells throughout the country. And we are certainly well aware of how those wells are laid out and what the important parts of the oil production system are. Some things are different in the north than they are in the south, just based on the content of the oil, for example.
We focused on things like gas-oil separation plants, storage tanks, some of the pipeline, the well heads themselves, the distribution terminals, and distribution manifolds.
And you saw early in the campaign some operations directed specifically against those key terminals and manifolds to ensure that they would always be available for export when export resumes.
In the north we have seen also that there were earlier reports that some of the well heads might have been rigged for demolition, as we found was the case in the south. Thus far, we have not found any examples of that, although we did have some very credible information that said that preparations were underway. The conditions of the wells in the north so far are pretty good. We don't have any known well head fires. There is one location -- we know of a spill a few months ago that had caught on fire. I believe that was the result of some sort of industrial accident. That's since gone out. We also had information about a break in a pipeline that was on fire off to the west, and that's finished burning and is now somewhat smoldering and we believe we can address that here very soon now that we have freer movement in that area.
Throughout the country that's really the conditions. Now what has yet to be done is a complete assessment of the entire oil infrastructure, and it will be necessary to do that before the work of the oil system can really resume. There's some limited capacity that's still moving, but for the most part, it's not export and the systems of the oil production really are not completely engaged. Some of the refineries are not reactivated or what have you. That is a very deliberate process also.
We've got an organization that's been created to do that work, to do assessments. Some civilian organizations are a part of that, military engineers that are part of that, chemical and oil engineers from the military are also being a part of that, and the work is ongoing as we get assess to more and more.
The good news is it's in much better condition than it could have been, and, certainly, much better condition than it would have been without coalition action, without a doubt.
QUESTION: On the second question regarding Baghdad (OFF-MIKE).
BROOKS: Right. You mentioned the Basra approaches that are being taken. I think we're going to see a number of options being considered to try to re-engage the Iraqi population in taking care of itself. That has always been our thrust and will remain our thrust to, as quickly as possible, empower the Iraqi people to run their own country. We will assist from the coalition's perspective wherever possible, and we think that that's as good a solution as any right now in terms of how do you find someone that might want to be police. There are other solutions that might be considered, and so that wouldn't be the only one.
I won't project what the solution for Baghdad is going to be. That's yet to unfold in its fullness.
QUESTION: I'd like to do a follow-up question on the looting situation in some of the cities. I mean, according to the pictures that we're seeing, starting from yesterday, some of the looters are now even own guns. And so, I'm just wondering, don't they pose a threat to the coalition force, addition to the one they have already brought to the Iraqi civilians?
And also, I would like to know, why do they allow to have -- to own ammunition and roaming around the streets when the war is still going on?
BROOKS: There are many conditions that have to be settled in a place that has just had the regime removed from power. The possession of weapons is one of those. And we'll have methods out there that will help us to collect up weapons from people that should not have them.
Military forces when those are restored, police forces when those are restored, and potentially some others that appropriately should be armed will be armed. What the outcome will be for the civilian population, some of that will be a decision made by the Iraqi people, whether it's OK to possess weapons.
But certainly we know that there are weapons out there that are available. You've seen the piles of weapons in some of these hospitals, in some of these schools. They're certainly accessible. It takes time to sort through those sorts of things.
We don't want to have lawlessness; that's not part of the objective. And it certainly is not part of the long-term view of what a free Iraq will look like. And so, I think we all just need to be patient and recognize that this is not something that happens overnight.
Where we have threats to the coalition, we deal with those threats. Everyone who is in possession of a weapon is not necessarily a threat at this point, but they are in a position where we ultimately have to address whether they should or should not have them.
You had a second question, and I thought I wrote it down but I didn't. What was the second half of your question?
QUESTION: I'm wondering how come they're allowed to own guns and weapons when war is still going on?
BROOKS: OK, I think I addressed that. I've already covered that. OK?
QUESTION: What is your assessment today of the level of threat that chemical weapons will be used during this war? I mean, even though you haven't found any yet, do you think they could still be -- have you taken away their capability yet to use them as weapons? And if not, where do you see the hot spots being? I mean, are any soldiers still regularly suiting up, as they were on the approach to Baghdad?
BROOKS: Well, we certainly have seen a change of the conditions and a change of the potential threat of use, first because we've broken much of the regime and its ability to communicate instructions to launch things that would deliver chemical weapons.
But we haven't found all the delivery systems. We just found five more mobile launchers and an Al-Samoud missile. That's chemical- capable. Could it have been fired? Perhaps. Would it have been fired? Unknown. We know it won't be now.
And we still find missiles in other places. There are some missiles that have been identified north of Tikrit, and they were struck by aircraft, just as it has been throughout the war.
It's not just missiles. The two drones that were found. Could they have been potentially used? Perhaps. We have to do further examination to see if they might have been capable of delivering chemicals. And these are the unmanned aerial vehicles that have been described before.
So there's still a capability. There may be a will. And we want to make sure there's not a way to get that done. It's deliberate work, it's ongoing, and it's going to take some more time to find exactly what we need to find.
QUESTION: You mentioned that part of the reason why al Qaim is being targeted is because it's potentially a place where weapons of mass destruction could be developed.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate a little on why you think that? And also, we were told earlier this week that some of the resistance there was stiffer than it had been in other Iraqi cities. Is that still the case?
BROOKS: Well, let me go to the later part. The resistance in and around Al-Qaim we believe has been much defeated. Not completed, but much defeated.
There were a number of forces that were defending in and around the Al-Qaim area. We can't presume what the reason was, why it was important to the Iraqis. We certainly know the reasons why we consider it important and why it might have been of value to the Iraqi regime.
I laid out before why we believe it was important. It's not appropriate for me to lay out all of the sources and methods that lead us to have any concern about why it might potentially have been involved in the program of weapons of mass destruction.
We have a number of sources that give us information, and then we have to physically examine to see if that's true. The most important part was to make certain if we erred on one side, it was to make certain that that area was not used again as it had been used in the past. And we were successful in doing that thus far. If we didn't find weapons of mass destruction, we were still successful in our effort at Al-Qaim.
And we'll go in other places to find the weapons of mass destruction as we find more and more people who have knowledge. They'll point us to those storage sites. They'll point us to pieces of information that might lead us to evidence. That's already beginning. And we'll follow every lead that we can as we go through this deliberate process.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the question of oil? You said in the north that they're still in pretty good condition. Can you give us an idea of how long, how soon you think they might be able to restart exports? Is the pipeline optimum in there? Is it going to be days, weeks or months? And equally, in the south of the country? And the second question, yesterday you talked about leaders fleeing, indications of leaders fleeing. Can you tell us more about that? Expand on that, where they might be going, how you know that?
BROOKS: The second question really talks about the leaders and where they're going. And again, I don't want to reveal how do we know what we know.
There are a number of things that tell us, a number of sources that might give us information. They're not always right. We have to be very clear about that. But when there's enough information that says we should act, we act. We know tht the regime is not in some of the places where they previously were. We've destroyed their locations for meeting, their locations for commanding and controlling. And people tell us that they're not present any more.
Where they're going, we don't know. We know they're on the run. And we will pursue in places where we think they might have gone, certainly within Iraq, where we have the military capability to conduct operations. And we will seek the assistance of the Iraqi population to help us find out where they might have gone or where they might be. And we'll take action as appropriate to gain control of those individuals to ensure that the regime does not have a chance of resurging here or anywhere else.
As to the condition of the oil systems, it's really not possible for me to guess how long it's going to be before export and production goes up in earnest.
We know we want to have that happen as soon as possible, but the deliberate assessment has to be done first, and it's the assessment, frankly, that will take the longest period of time; well by well, terminal by terminal, separation point by separation point, refinery by refinery, pipeline by pipeline. And then there may be things that need to be improved before real production can get generated in earnest.
And so, that assessment process is the most important ingredient in getting the oil program restarted, and that's ongoing right now.
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Iraqi civilians are being killed by U.S. troops at checkpoints only because they don't understand what is the soldiers' direction. I think it's obvious it's because the U.S. soldiers now are thinking of the Iraqi civilians as potential suicide bombers after the incidents or explosion near Saddam City the other day. Are you going to let this happen again or do you think it's something you can avoid in this kind of situation to kill innocent people? If not, how are you going to deal with this rather tricky situation?
BROOKS: Well, you're drawing your own conclusion as to why it's happening. I don't agree with you at all. What I would tell you is that we have procedures for checkpoints. We set up the checkpoints in such a way that there are a number of options available to anyone approaching a checkpoint to make a decision to not approach it. We use a variety of methods of information to try to make it very clear what action should be taken, and sometimes people don't follow those, sometimes those people are suicide bombers.
The one part that I do agree with is the last part of your characterization that talks about a very difficult situation. It's a life and death situation. It's not at all theoretical. And because of that, people have to make decisions on the ground, and we think that that will continue. We know that there are still ongoing attacks by individuals who would want to have an impact against coalition forces, whether they're strapping bombs onto their body, whether they're driving a car full of civilians, whether they're driving a vehicle that gets exploded by remote control. All these things we've seen throughout the operation as methods of attack. It certainly causes us to be alert, but we are not targeting civilians. We never have and we will not for any part of this coalition operation.
QUESTION: Regarding the half brother of Saddam Hussein. Some reports say that he was dead. Some others have said that he was arrested. Can you tell us more about him? And if he was arrested, can you tell us the story?
BROOKS: He has not been arrested, and we don't know whether he is alive or dead. We also have seen conflicting reports. That's pretty well where we stand right now. Again, while we are focused on individuals now because the regime is fractured, and we must remove those individuals or take them into custody or confirm their status in order to know the regime is finished, it's still about ensuring the regime does not have any capability and ensuring the regime does not come back.
So he is one of many that we are now seeking to gain some degree of control over.
I'll take the last question.
QUESTION: I may be confused, but help me with this matter. The curfew -- we heard yesterday from the Pentagon that indeed there was a curfew in effect in Baghdad. You're now telling us there is not. If not, why not? Is it because you simply don't have the manpower on the ground to enforce one?
Secondly also, have your men yet to reach the Monday's decapitation strike, the bomb scene? If so, what have they found, if anything, that would lead you to believe that Saddam Hussein was or was not there when the bombs fell?
BROOKS: There's probably been some confusion out there about whether or not there was a curfew. There was a curfew. It was not coalition-imposed. So that should clarify what it is that we're talking about there.
At this point, we have not imposed a curfew. And whether one is imposed or not, I think, will be a tactical decision that's made down at a lower level. It's not something that necessarily rises up to General Franks' decision that has to be made.
Each one of the cities throughout the country is in a different status. And each force in every one of those cities has a different commander. And those commanders must measure the conditions.
If we put a universal curfew on all the cities of Iraq, for example, from Central Command level, then we would undermine the neighborhood watch that's occurring so effectively in Mosul. We would undermine the good progress that's been made in parts of Basra.
And so, a heavy-handed solution is not the way to solve any of these problems. A very focused solution made by commanders on the ground that can make a good assessment of what's needed, what's available and what's appropriate, that's the way we'll conduct our operations.
We've mentioned we're very deliberate about what we do, and we also empower our subordinate commanders to do what is necessary throughout the operation. And we'll certainly approach this problem, as well, in the same way.
The strikes that occurred, that was just one of a number of regime targets that had been struck. We've not been to every one of them in Baghdad. We've had some observation of that location, but we have not remained there on the location you referred to. As we have a need to do that, we will.
If it was effective, we don't have anything to worry about. If it wasn't effective, then we're right to continue to look. So right now, it almost doesn't matter for us.
We attacked because we had actionable intelligence and other information. We attacked with a method we thought was appropriate at that time. And we've continued operations since then.
As time unfolds and we're able to do deliberate searches through all areas -- and some of that's ongoing right now -- we'll gain more information about the effectiveness of that strike and others. And at that point in time, I think we'll have a lot more to say about it.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, you have reached that site and inspected it on the ground? Not from aerial surveillance, but on the ground?
BROOKS: We have presence throughout all of Baghdad. And we have been able to get to that site. We have not searched through it rock by rock, stone by stone, through all the rubble. And that's not going to occur anytime soon. OK?
Thanks very much.
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