|Content:||GENERAL MICHAEL CALDWELL BRIEFING AND BAGHDAD MORGUE|
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IRAQ OPERATIONAL UPDATE BRIEFING
BRIEFERS: MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL, USA, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ; AND MAJOR GENERAL JOSEPH PETERSON, COMMANDER, CIVILIAN POLICE ASSISTANCE TRAINING TEAM, MNSTC-I
LOCATION: COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQ
DATE: WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006
GEN. CALDWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. As-salaam aleikum.
Iraqi security forces, with coalition forces in support, conducted more than 600 operations in Iraq over the past two weeks. These operations are targeted against al Qaeda in Iraq, insurgent death squads, illegal armed groups, and makers of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. They've also conducted humanitarian and civic assistance operations focused on improving the quality of life for the Iraqi citizens.
At any given time, there are approximately between two to five battalion level and above operations being conducted across Iraq, in addition to the normal ongoing operations that are conducted on a sustained basis. Presently, today, we have 10 battalion-or-larger operations being conducted to deny sanctuary to insurgents and terrorists, and to disrupt their ability to coordinate violence prior to Ramadan.
14:17:20 If I can just point that out to you for a moment. If you take MND-North up here, again, without revealing the exact locations where the operations are taking place, but, rather, in the northern area, we have three battalion-or-larger operations occurring up there, three out in Multinational Force West, and then there's -- in the vicinity of and around Baghdad, four within the Multinational Division Baghdad.
14:17:44 As we all know, historically Ramadan has been a period of increased violence. Iraqi security forces, with coalition forces in support, have plans to address this concern.
14:17:56 With ongoing military operations across the country, one particular focus is trying to identify those foreign fighters. From January, 2005, to the present, there have been more than 630 foreign fighters that have been captured from over 25 different countries within Iraq. Egyptians, Syrians, Sudanese, and Saudi nationals are the most prevalent foreign fighters that we have captured or killed during that time period. 14:18:28 Currently today, there are approximately 370 foreign fighters in captivity. During August, there were approximately 40 foreign fighters killed or captured, most of these being killed in operations in Iraq. 14:18:44 This overall number was a decline when compared to the month of July, which saw approximately 70 foreign fighters either killed or captured. We do anticipate seeing an overall increase in foreign fighters killed or captured during this month of September.
14:18:59 Al Qaeda in Iraq, insurgents and death squads have recently increased their attacks, with the primary area being focused in the Baghdad area. 14:19:09 Attacks in most other areas of the country have decreased. Overall, the majority of attacks are still in the provinces of Al Anbar, Baghdad, Salahuddin, and Diyala. The Iraqi civilian population continues to bear the brunt of casualties as a result of these attacks.
Slide and chart, please.
14:19:33 This past week, there was a spike in execution-style murders in Baghdad. Many bodies found had clear signs of being bound, tortured and executed. We believe death squads and other illegal armed groups are responsible for this type of violence. There were eight focused operations in and around Baghdad this week that resulted in the capture of one death squad cell leader and 31 members.
If I can draw your attention to the map again, to this -- that we have talked about before. Again, one cell leader, 31 cell members. These are the primary seven locations that were conducted within the city of Baghdad itself.
14:20:13 There was another one just north of the city here. And then you can see here there's two outside in adjacent provinces. And again, as before, when an operation has been conducted and you see number one like this, and it says cell leader detained, along with one other cell member, number one, that's the location there. If in fact the operation was based on intelligence and was conducted, nothing was discovered at that location, then again, we have nothing significant to report, as you see on this one right here.
14:20:44 Iraqi-led operations in Baghdad as part of Operation Together Forward continued this past week in the same beladiyas we've been discussing before.
14:21:01 What I'd like to do is point out to you two notable changes. If you look down here in this area here, number nine, and jihad in the Abeyah (sp) beladiya, that's where operations have begun that were not there last week. So that's down in this area right here.
14:21:15 And then if you look up here and to the eastern side of the beladiya of Adhamiya, again, you'll see right up in there, near Shabura (sp) area, where operations have been complete up there, with the clearing having now been completed and clearing operations ongoing up in here.
14:21:33 Again, these are the focused areas that we're continuing with as part of the Baghdad security plan. Specifics associated with that -- and again, as you can see, we're up near 70, 000 homes, buildings, offices that have presently been cleared; approximately 100 detainees; over 1, 400 weapons seized; and again, lots of trash removed as part of that overall effort.
14:21:58 Through our interaction with local citizens and community leaders, indications are that public perception of security and competence in the Baghdad security plan is fact increasing.
14:22:09 However, we have a sense from them that most Baghdad residents do not feel safe traveling outside of their neighborhoods, because of the current security situation.
14:22:19 While violence continues to remain at low levels in the focus areas, outside of the focus areas Baghdad did experience the actual spike in attacks, especially, as we talked about, in the murders and executions this past week. Iraqi security forces and coalition forces will remain vigilant and adjust our tactics as necessary to react to that.
14:22:40 Improvised explosive devices targeting coalition forces did increase over this past week. We also saw an increase in vehicle- borne improvised explosive devices and complex attacks. This is consistent with what we had anticipated after the AQ-allied leader al- Masri recently announced an edict to conduct targets against Americans.
14:23:04 In regards to AQI, reporting from the field indicates a decrease in the amount of popular support for AQI by tribes and other Sunni nationalist insurgent groups. We think this is primarily in response to AQI's indifference to attack -- and therefore casualties -- against civilians and the Iraqi security forces. Let me conclude with highlights of some significant milestones that Iraq has seen just during this past week.
14:23:31 Iraqi Ground Forces Command assumed operational control of the 4th Iraqi Army Division this week. Iraqi security forces surpassed the 300, 000 mark of being trained and equipped, with the government's overall goal of 325, 000. 14:23:49 Tomorrow local authorities will assume provisional Iraqi control for security responsibilities in the southern province of Dhi Qar.
14:24:00 On the economic and political front, we know that several hundred companies attended the third annual international expo, held this past weekend in Erbil. We know that ministers from around the world gathered to discuss the International Compact for Iraq, which is an Iraqi-led initiative to transform Iraqis' economy and achieve financial independence. And in Baghdad several hundred civil society representatives met this past weekend and reportedly agreed to condemn violence and the illegal use of weapons, this meeting being the second of four that was planned and announced by the prime minister as part of his overall 24-point national reconciliation and dialogue plan.
14:24:43 And we know that tribal leaders in Al Anbar province recently met to discuss cooperation with the Iraqi government to deter the region's insurgents.
14:24:54 Iraqi leaders are making strides and are just addressing the challenges facing this nation. However, they will have to make some difficult choices, specifically in security and prosperity. Coalition forces will continue to support them during this difficult transition.
14:25:12 Training of Iraqi forces has been a large part of this support. You're aware that coalition forces designated 2006 as the Year of the Police. We're fortunate today to have with us Major General Joe Peterson, who is responsible for training of the Iraqi police forces. He's here to talk about the progress within the Iraqi police forces. Shortly, he will end his tour here in Iraq, and should be able to provide some invaluable insights today as to what's been going on.
So if I could, I'll turn it over to you, Joe.
GEN. PETERSON: As-salaam aleikum and good afternoon.
Slide and chart, please.
14:25:56 This has been a good year both for the ministry of Interior in increasing their ability to administer, support and manage the ministry and its forces, and it's also been a great year from the standpoint of creating the capability in the police forces themselves to assist in the Iraqi army in providing a safe and secure environment in the country of Iraq.
From the standpoint of the Iraqi security forces and in particular the police forces, we are about 95 percent of what we planned and promised the Iraqis that we would train and equip. Eighty-two percent is our equipping level, and we see no reason why we will not achieve 100 percent, and in fact in some categories exceed 100 percent of what was promised before December.
14:26:54 From the standpoint of Iraqi police, we're about 128, 000 of the 135, 000 that we had planned to train and equip, and in fact, as we speak, the 135, 000th Iraqi policeman is in fact in school and will graduate in the middle of October. The national police have already completed their training, but we also have initiated some transformation training that I can talk to you about -- or I actually have talked to you about at the last press conference. From the standpoint of borders, 27, 000 out of 28, 000 have been trained and equipped.
14:27:34 In order to ensure that we maintain a good standard amongst our police forces in both training them and equipping them, we've attached 185 international police trainers who ensure that the curriculum is adhered to, and they also have assisted greatly in training Iraqis to take over the platform and to be able to assume the responsibilities for their own academies. At the end of this year, the 12 academies that are currently in Iraq will transition from the coalition to the Iraqis, and they will administer these academies and run them themselves. Now, this is really a part of the institutional training base and really focused on quantity -- getting policemen on the street in their uniforms and with the right equipment.
The next phase that we really began also this year is to improve the quality of our police forces. From the standpoint of the institution, the real focus is the individual. 14:28:40 From the standpoint of training policemen, we have been looking at and focusing on improving community policing. 14:28:51 And so in order to do that, you have to get into the units, into the stations where policemen work as collective elements, units or organizations.
And so as part of that, in January we initiated the Police Transition Team process, where we have been embedding civil policemen or international police liaison officers, and right now we have about 600 of them embedded into our Police Transition Teams, and they are scattered throughout Iraq. 14:29:19 We have about 185 of these teams now who are embedded with stations and policemen in their stations at the station district and also the provincial level. That's about 6, 000 coalition members who are engaged with that. And then in March of 2005, we initiated our National Police Transition Team process, and we have 39 teams now embedded with the national police.
And so these organizations that we call Police Transition Teams and National Police Transition Teams are embedded and working with their organizations in their stations and in their units to help them improve their capability; working, again, on quality of the force.
The last thing I'd like to talk to you about, that really is not on this chart, is professional development. Our other target this year was to initiate a process to build a professional development system for the Iraqi police forces. The first two courses or classes that are part of that system will be implemented and put in place before the end of this year. The target really initially was the Iraqi officers at the supervisory and leader level.
We'll also initiate here next month the beginning of the Baghdad Police College, where we'll train, starting in October, 1, 000 policemen to become officers. And it will be a three-year program and they will graduate with a degree in law enforcement. The hope is that by next October we will increase the program by another 2, 000, bringing it to 3, 000 police officers who will be in training at Baghdad Police College to join their forces.
That's principally the focus that we have had on training the policemen this year. And again, my perspective is that the capabilities of the police force has improved significantly, and in addition to just quality -- correction -- quantity, we're also working on quality now.
Slide and chart, please.
14:31:38 What I wanted to do is also talk to you a little bit about ministerial capacity. My additional hat or responsibility is to advise the minister of Interior and to also assist the ministry in improving their capabilities, again, to manage, administer and support their forces.
14:31:58 From the standpoint of the ministry, we see considerable improvement. The minister himself has signed his vision statement and also has in draft a five-year strategic directive that will implement his vision, which is focused, as most of you who were able to witness his speech to the legislature -- it is focused on loyalty, accountability and also operational performance.
As such, the ministry continues to grow in its capability to again support its forces. They've established a national information and investigative agency. This is the equivalent of our Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States.
14:32:40 They've -- the directorates of he ministry have all established five-year programs, and they're working to execute those programs right now.
14:32:50 They have established and put in draft now a comprehensive national maintenance and logistics plan, and that will be key and essential to their ability to sustain operations in the future.
14:33:06 The 2007 budget submission was on time and synchronized and coordinated not only within the ministry itself but also with the provinces. It's a great effort on their part.
14:33:15 The ministry, as I mentioned to you, this year will start assuming responsibility for their academies. As such, they also take on the responsibility of providing the live support that's needed at those academies and also the contracts that are necessary to maintain their facilities and to improve their facilities. They have established a strategic communications plan. They have put in place this year a very detailed training program and have established already in draft for next year another program, which will ensure that they're able to regenerate and replace the forces that are attrited over the years.
14:33:55 And then, finally, the national command center is operational and functioning and controlling and executing operations. And they're also working on a daily basis with the provinces and in particular the provincial joint coordination centers all throughout Iraq.
14:34:16 So from the standpoint of the ministry, we see great progress and great improvement in their capabilities, again, to administer, manage and support their forces. Slide off, please.
14:34:28 I hope that gives you a good idea of where the ministry has come over the past years -- year and also a little bit of an insight on where we are relative to fielding the Iraqi police security forces that are needed to create a safe and secure environment in the country of Iraq.
And I think the one thing I want to impress to you is that where we are right now, with three months left to go in this calendar year, is that this ministry and the coalition has been able to assist them in the -- in almost achieving their objectives already. 14:35:07 And we will continue to work them to try to exceed the objectives.
14:35:15 And I'll use -- just use one more example. Relative to the police, we hope to train an additional 10, 000 policemen before the end of the year. Some of you, I'm sure, are familiar with the fact that we have lost over 11, 000 policemen in the force since September of 2004. Thirty-five hundred have been killed. Seventy-five hundred have been seriously wounded.
14:35:37 So in order to help the Iraqis continue to build their force, our goal has actually increased. And that's been a goal that we have established with the Iraqis in trying to, again, make up for some of the losses that they have accrued over the past several years.
That concludes my briefing, and we're open for questions.
14:36:24 Q (In Arabic.) (Interpreter's channel is inaudible.)
14:37:04 GEN. PETERSON: Well, thank you again for your question. At the time that I answered your question about the status of the policemen in Fallujah, they were actually returning back to duty. It was a silent protest that was focused on the fact that nine policemen in Fallujah had been assassinated over the previous three weeks. 14:37:27 Fallujah is back up to their standard operating levels.
14:37:32 And again I would like to emphasize the fact that never, ever was there an issue as to whether or not the city of Fallujah could be secured, because the force that we were talking about was the force that was internal to the city of Fallujah, and in the surrounding areas there are sufficient police forces that could have reinforced the city itself if necessary. But the Fallujah police forces have all returned to duty and are performing normal functions.
14:37:58 The other thing I'd like to emphasize is really a testimony to all of the forces and police forces in the Al Anbar. It is a high- threat area, and policemen every day are making sacrifices and some are giving their life up for their country, but yet they continue to come to work and they continue to volunteer to serve in the legitimate security forces of their nation.
14:38:24 One year ago we had barely 2, 000 policemen serving in Fallujah, and right now we're nearing 8, 000 policemen in the Al Anbar -- correction -- 2, 000 in Fallujah, but that was pretty much it. 14:38:36 Now we're at 8, 000 in the Al Anbar Province, and cities like al Qaim are starting to see a safe and secure environment that is being provided to them by the security forces. In Ar Ramadi we had only about 100 policemen; now we've got about 1, 800 policemen that are operating.
14:38:56 It is a dangerous place, but I would say to you that Iraq and also the coalition can be very, very proud of their policemen who are operating in the Al Anbar Province and continue to step up to the plate to provide security and a safe environment for their citizens.
Q Thank you very much.
Q (Through interpreter.) (Inaudible) -- saying that Iraq is heading towards a civil war, and the militias are not taking control of Baghdad, and Baghdad is not -- is now out of the American control. Is it true?
14:40:01 GEN. PETERSON: I'll go ahead and answer the first question.
14:40:06 Initially, there were a lot of allegations that death squads were not only coming out of ministry of Interior forces, but also organized by the ministry itself. I think General Caldwell and I will both tell you that certainly we have not identified any ministry of Interior personnel as a part of all of the death squad members and leaders that we have picked up, and so this seems to be counter to what the initial allegations were. 14:40:38 So again, discrediting some of the initial allegations that the ministry itself was engaged in death squad activities.
14:40:50 I'll let General Caldwell answer the second part of the question.
14:40:57 GEN. CALDWELL: As I recall, your second part of the question was, what is the state of affairs here in Iraq and whether or not the government was functioning?
14:41:04 What I would just tell you is that the government of Iraq is today functioning. The Council of Representatives is meeting. There's ongoing sessions, so the government itself is functioning. You're finding down within the cities, within the provinces that the governments is functioning down there, the police forces are in place, the army is supporting the government. 14:41:22 So the systems are all working right now in the country of Iraq.
14:41:27 Specifically within Baghdad, the government is still in control. The Iraqi security forces are still operating within the city under the command and control of the Iraq ground forces command structure and the ministry of Interior for the respective army and police forces.
14:41:44 So any reports that you've heard contrary to the fact that somebody else is in charge within Baghdad, I'll tell you, are not correct, and that in fact the government of Iraq is still in control of everything within Baghdad. GEN. PETERSON: Let me get one from the back. In the back, please.
14:42:08 Q Thank you, General. For General Caldwell, my question is about the foreign fighters. First of all, I'm -- (name and affiliation inaudible) -- News Agency. In speaking about the foreign fighters, you said that you have arrested foreign fighters from 25 nationalities -- and I didn't get the number exactly, but have you -- what -- the period that you arrested this number from the foreign fighters and how many from them that you arrest on the Iraqi and American jails? And have you contacted with their countries to tell them about -- details about their fellow -- their citizen that you arrested?
14:42:58 The second question, the Sadr's followers has been complained from a lot of American action against their militia and their offices in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. What are the facts of this operation against al-Sadr followers?
14:43:22 GEN. CALDWELL: The specific number that we used was since January of 2005, Iraqi security forces and coalition forces operating within Iraq have, in fact, captured more than 630 foreign fighters. They do come from 25 different countries. And again, most of them have come from four countries, and that's Egypt, Syria, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. 14:43:55 Today in detention there are approximately 370 foreign fighters still in detention in Iraq. So that answers the question on foreign fighters.
Q Has there been contact with their countries to tell them about their citizens that are -- (off mike)?
14:44:18 GEN. PETERSON: I can answer that question for you. Relative to the 300-plus personnel that are currently incarcerated, the minister of Interior left about a week ago to attend a regional conference, and he took with him the list of all of the detainees, where they were detained and why they were detained. And that was provided to the ministers of interior of all the regional countries.
14:44:55 GEN. CALDWELL: In respect to your second part of your question you asked, when military operations are conducted by coalition forces in support of Iraqi security forces, there is no particular organization that is targeted. Rather, when they find, again, somebody operating outside the law, some illegal activity ongoing, then in fact that element, wherever that is, is in fact targeted and operations are conducted against that to bring it back into conformance with the laws as established by the government of Iraq.
14:45:32 Q (Name inaudible) -- HK, Japanese Broadcasting. Two days ago, General Abizaid announced that U.S. Army would keep the level of its forces, or may increase because of security threat. To what extent this announcement contradicts the U.S. forces reduce?
14:45:58 GEN. CALDWELL: In consultation with the government of Iraq, what we've always said is that the level of troops here in the country of Iraq are conditions-based. There is no set, predetermined number that must take place.
14:46:10 Obviously, as the Iraqi security forces show greater capabilities and efficiency and able to conduct operations, that's the point in time where there is a reduction in requirement in coalition forces. Our goal always is to let the Iraqi security forces handle any situations that occur. But right now, the current troop levels of U.S. forces is at about 144, 000 in the country. We maintain an approximate probably baseline of about 138, 000 currently. But there is no set number per se that has to be followed. 14:46:44 Again, it's all conditions-based, . as requirements dictate, in consultation with the government of Iraq.
14:46:59 Q Hi. Dave (Rising ?) with the Associated Press. Just a quick follow-up on the foreign fighters. You said there were 630 arrested, and now 370-odd remain in prisons here in Iraq. What's happened to the other ones? Are they now in like Guantanamo-type prisons, or have they been extradited or -
14:47:14 GEN. CALDWELL: Each case is, obviously, reviewed and gone through. And some have been put through the Central Criminal Court of Iraq and processed through their system. So, I mean, there's a variety of reasons why there's not that number anymore and why there's only 370 today still being detained.
14:47:31 Q Does processed mean brought to trial and then they're back in prison or -
(BOLD PARTS ARE UNAVAILABLE)
** GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah, some have been brought to trial and gone through the criminal proceedings here within Iraq, the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, that is, CCCI. And again, others whose cases are reviewed, if it was determined that in fact they were -- it was, for whatever reasons, insufficient evidence to hold them and detain them, then as their case gets reviewed very six months as they're in that process, until they're put into the legal proceedings and going through the Criminal Court process, then they may in fact be released too. But we weren't going to go into the specifics on each of those other cases.
Q Would they have been -- any of them been extradited back to where they came from if they're foreign fighters, or is that a possibility also?
GEN. CALDWELL: I would have to get back to you on the specifics of that question.
Q And, I'm sorry, I had a question also for General Peterson. Is that --
STAFF: (Off mike) -- one question and one follow-up, please.
GEN. CALDWELL: I think they want to ask you some questions, General.
GEN. PETERSON: Question?
Q Mark Brunswick from Knight Ridder. Can you expand a little bit more on what you said about the Ministry of Interior and no connection to the death squads? And as a follow-up to that, can you define who the death squads are a little bit better and what they are hoping to accomplish?
GEN. PETERSON: First of all, from the standpoint of all of the individuals that we have picked up tied to death squads, the majority of them have come from militias that were not tied directly to any of the ministries. They were operating independently. And we believe that their intent was to foment sectarian violence. And so if you want to take a look at the individuals that we have captured, and we have taken a look at each of them, none of them have been assigned or members of the Ministry of Interior. 14:49:41 And that's pretty much what I wanted to tell you.
14:49:45 Now, in the previous press conference I did mention to you that we had, in fact, captured four individuals from the Ministry of Interior that we believed were part of a death squad. They were taking an individual away to kill him who was a Sunni. But after further investigation, what we determined was the individual had killed actually a brother of one of the four individuals that are incarcerated and going before the courts. So it was more of a revenge killing.
14:50:25 And so again, from a general allegation that the Ministry of Interior was sponsoring the death squads and that they were the principal governmental agency that was supporting this effort, it certainly has not been borne out by those that we have captured and detained to date.
Q But you're not saying that there's no connection at all, the Ministry of Interior and death squads; it's just that the people that you've captured have no direct connection to them.
GEN. PETERSON: Well, I don't know that I would say that I ever believed there was any connection to the Ministry of Interior and death squads. Certainly our efforts to capture individuals that have been involved in these squads have not revealed any connection to the Ministry of Interior.
14:51:15 Is that something that is totally -- should be disregarded? No. I think we're looking to prevent any agency or group that is involved in extrajudicial killings, and if we determine that any ministry is involved, then certainly we'll bring that to the surface and ask the country of Iraq to address it. But so far it has certainly not been tied to a ministry, at least in our basic -- our first assessments.
Question in back.
Q Ned Parker with the London Times. I just wanted to ask you, you're saying that even beyond your scope, that whether with the Iraqi army or other U.S. military units in Baghdad or elsewhere in the country, they have not arrested anyone who was a member of the Iraqi police, Interior Ministry, who were involved in death squads; or are you just talking about in your direct experience?
14:52:23 GEN. PETERSON: No, what I'm really talking about is over the past month or so where we have really focused our efforts on stopping sectarian killing, we have made many arrests, every week, of individuals that were tied to extrajudicial killings. And so far, at least, to our knowledge, they are not tied to any specific ministry or agency. And randomly, they're from all different walks of life and agencies -- and organizations --
Q So you're talking about in the last month, really, then.
GEN. PETERSON: That's right. And our focus has been -- as you know, part of the campaign for security of Baghdad is really to stop the sectarian violence, to reduce the extrajudicial killings. And so that has been a real target, and the coalition has made a concerted effort to capture anyone that has been involved in that.
Q Which militias? Which militias have you caught people affiliated with? What are their names, the militias?
GEN. PETERSON: I think I can tell you that the majority of the individuals that we have captured that are tied to any one specific militias, Jaish al-Mahdi is certainly one of them.
Q And the Badr Corps?
GEN. PETERSON: Not Badr Corps.
14:53:45 Q Liz Sly with the Chicago Tribune. Just to explain this point just a bit further. You said not tied to any specific ministry or agency, but you did mention a case in which individuals who were employed by the Interior Ministry were perhaps using their uniforms or their positions as a cover for a personal act of revenge perhaps not ordered by anybody. Is that going on? Because the anecdotal evidence is out there of the people -- either they are militias but they're accompanied by police sometimes, they act in full sight of a police checkpoint, they appear to have the cover or the blessing or the blind eye of the police, if not the involvement. Do you think that -- is this reaching into the police force, even if it's not being encouraged or promoted by the police or by the ministry?
And I actually had -- that's to kind of follow that one. I also had a separate question on the 600 police advisers and the 39 teams with the national police battalion. That's significantly lower than the number you projected would be brought in, I think was about 2, 000 to 3, 000 advisers that were supposed to be. Did you never manage to get that number up?
14:55:00 GEN. PETERSON: There is a total of 6, 000 U.S. forces and coalition forces that are tied to the Police Transition Teams and the National Police Transition Teams, the core of which are international police liaison officers. And that's really civil policemen who are working with the civil policemen of Iraq. And they form, really, the baseline for our effort and the expertise for our effort to increase community policing and democratic policing in the country of Iraq.
And so what I'm telling you is that we have about 600 international policemen who are tied to these 185 teams who go around to police stations and work with them on a daily basis to increase their capabilities.
Relative to your first question, the incident that I mentioned to you happened about four or five months ago. Since then, there's certainly been a lot of allegations against policemen and police forces in the country of Iraq. Lots of times, we have identified issues with regard to police uniforms being used. That's obviously one of the reasons why the national police are going to transition to a new uniform on the 1st of October, and that we're also going to specific markings for all security forces in the country of Iraq. The target is the month of October or certainly before December, that we will have all of the vehicles with very distinctive markings, distinctive paint schemes so that any citizen could readily identify not only what type of vehicle was being used but also where that vehicle came from. That will also assist all of the coalition members who are working in Baghdad and also the Iraqi security forces who man the majority of the checkpoints in Baghdad in identifying what police vehicles are operating in their area, and they certainly can identify if there's a police vehicle that is operating outside of their area or it would be somewhat suspicious because of where they're located.
And so all these things are being done to address that issue of police-like vehicles being used and policemen in police uniforms. The expectation is that by doing -- by ensuring that we have distinctive uniforms and distinctive markings of vehicles that we can identify any rogue policemen that may be in fact supporting illegal activities out there. It remains a concern, but certainly the ministry is working on that to be able to more readily identify and also to allow citizens to more readily identify what vehicles and what forces are participating in these illegal activities.
14:58:10 Question in the front.
14:58:17 Q Elena Backatoris (sp) from the Associated Press. You said identifying any rogue policemen or rogue police vehicles -- are you saying that there is no infiltration of the police force either in Baghdad or elsewhere in Iraq by militias or potentially death squads?
14:58:34 GEN. PETERSON: Well, I think I'll answer the question by basically saying this. CPA 91 in the Iraqi law specifically focused on inviting militias to become part of the legitimate security force of the country of Iraq. But we have asked individuals to join these security forces and leave behind their ties to their militias. It certainly remains a concern that any of the members of our legitimate security forces, that they are still tied to the militias from whence they came.
And so there is a focus, and we continue to look for that. We continue to query our leadership of the police forces to make that a concern and to ensure that we do not have militias operating with their -- within their organizations. Is that possible? Absolutely. We're not naive enough to think that that is not occurring. But certainly the ministry, the coalition members, the national police transition teams, the police transition teams all focused on that issue, and it's certainly part of improving loyalty, accountability and the operational effectiveness of the force. So it remains a focus for the ministry and the coalition.
Question in back.
Q Thank you. (In Arabic.)
GEN. CALDWELL: First of all, what I would say is that if you go look at the focus areas where the Iraqi security forces with coalition forces are operating, you'll in fact find a low level of incidents still being in those areas because that's the focus area that the (prime minister ?) has designated. He wanted the combine forces working in -- within the city. If you go outside the focus areas, as we stated up front, there has been a spike over the last week in the numbers of murders and executions that have been found within the Baghdad area. That's obviously of great concern to everyone. It's something that's being looked at very carefully. There has been ongoing dialogue, that if you historically look at this time period just before and going into Ramadan, there has unfortunately been an increase in violence. That, in fact, is occurring within the city.
We're very hopeful that we'll find more people, Iraqi citizens utilizing things like the tipline to give us the tips -- we being the Iraqi security forces -- so they can respond to and take care of those things. There will continue to be focused operations within the city against the -- any kind of illegal death squad activities that we see. Those will obviously continue to increase, and then the prime minister has some additional measures that he will announce very shortly to add greater security to the Baghdad area, but that's something that the government of Iraq will be announcing themselves some additional measures that they're going to take during this time period.
MODERATOR: Time for a few more questions.
GEN. CALDWELL: Back in the back. Yes? Q Brian Bennett from Time Magazine. About the focus areas that the combat components are operating in right now to clear houses and working closely with the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army, it's clear to a lot of the residents that while the large component -- say a brigade component -- is in the neighborhood securing off the area, keeping vehicle traffic from moving, that it is safe and the numbers of killings do go down.
But when you look at, for example, the numbers in Ghazalia this week, which has been cleared and on your map here is listed as complete, the killing numbers are back up to the level they were before the operation started. And the brigade, the large component -- in this case, it was the Stryker Brigade -- has since moved on weeks ago to clear other areas, leaving behind a reduction in troops for the trash pickup and the rebuilding.
With that in mind, wouldn't more troops inside Baghdad help to maintain these quiet weeks of lowered killing in more neighborhoods than we're seeing right now?
GEN. CALDWELL: Brian, the first thing I would tell you -- that in the focus areas, we are not seeing a -- the increase in violence like we were seeing in the areas outside the focus areas. And we track that fairly closely. So you know, we may have a difference in some numbers here, but I think the important aspect to remember of the Baghdad security plan -- it's not just the security piece; it's also the economic piece, the rebuilding piece that's supposed -- that's occurring and also the governance piece. It's getting the NACs, the neighborhood advisory councils; the DACs, the district ones, back up and operational; getting the people back involved, letting them have a part of making the decisions about their life -- the Iraqi people.
And also, in the economic piece, it's -- already, if you go down into Dura, I mean, you can already see millions of dollars of ongoing things that are just now starting to begin taking place that will go over many months. You'll see a lot more people being brought back in to work on the streets, on the sewer systems, on the water systems, on the electrical systems, you know, the three primary focus areas the prime minister wants the efforts being made against. I mean, you really do see the stores -- a lot more reopened than were, you know, a month ago. So the focus areas have seen an actual tremendous amount of success.
And the idea is, when the area has been made stable and the economic development starts, the rebuilding occurs, the people take a greater interest in and involvement in their own communities, then the police force, you know, which Joe Peterson has been talking about -- eventually they will stand up and provide security in that area, which allows the Iraqi army, with coalition forces, to move on to other areas within the city of Baghdad.
So I'll tell you, it's a three-part process. It's not just the security, and you've got to have the other two elements, too. We have the forces we need today to conduct the operations that the prime minister has directed to be done in the city, and we're moving along with the plan that he keeps directing. And as he so designates and announces through the MCNS, the Ministerial Committee on National Security, then those operations are put in the plan and executed.
So the plan is moving along as he directed. We have the forces we need currently to execute those missions that have been directed to be executed. And it's going along as we had planned.
Q I have a follow-up on that. I mean, you're clearing three neighborhoods at a time right now. Wouldn't it be better to clear 10 neighborhoods at a time and, you know, move through -- this operation forward faster, to affect more people in Baghdad? And I mean, sure, the prime minister's asking for the three, but I'm sure that's three neighborhoods at a time, and I'm sure that's because that's all the troop levels that we have. We can't suddenly make more troops appear. But it -- you know, unless the commanders on the ground say, Hey, this is a priority, and we should adjust the troop levels to follow that.
15:07:25 GEN. CALDWELL: Well, Brian, what I say is the troop level's only a portion of the solution to this plan. It's one-third of the solution. And in fact if we can't get in there and restore basic services, the water, the electricity, the sewage, then in fact the people are going to see some security, but they'll see no basic services. They will not see an improvement in their quality of life. They won't see the murders, the executions like they did, they won't see the bombings like they had previously experienced, but they will see nothing else occurring.
So as they go in and finish the clearing, it needs to be immediately followed by the basic services being restored and then the NACs -- the neighborhood and district advisory councils being stood up and actually functioning and empowered and working with the -- you know, the Baghdad provincial council here, so that they can in fact restore the services and work those projects.
We literally on a daily basis, down to the mahala level, track in a joint operations center that we have established here each one of the -- I mean, literally within the beladiyas all the way down to the mahalas, all those basic services across the entire city of Baghdad, to make sure that in fact the contracts are being let, the contractors are coming on site to execute their duties, they're being done to the standard they should be, and the services are being restored to the Iraqi people.
15:08:15 And the pace by which that's going is just as much determined as anything else out there in the city, because that whole effort to get that thing going and reenergized with the assets that are available out there, from the Iraqi services that are available in the country right now, is just on an upswing. And we hope to see, in about another 60 days, a much more energized and energetic effort occurring out there in those areas which allow us to further expand throughout the city.
STAFF: We have time for one last question.
Q (Through interpreter.) My question is to General Peterson. You talk about the efforts exerted to develop the police and the Iraqi police in Baghdad. I, as a citizen, I see the car bombs and the execution-style killings might arise, and the Iraqi police cannot deal with these attacks. What's the development which has been achieved? For more than one time there have been many attacks against the policemen and Iraqi soldiers inside Baghdad. What's the benefit of these checkpoints if they are not active?
GEN. PETERSON: Thank you for your question. I think I can answer your question fairly simply. If we were not executing our checkpoint operations at the levels that we are now, if the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army and the coalition weren't as active in Baghdad, then the levels of violence would be much more significant.
We believe that over the time that the security of Baghdad phase of operation we're going through right now has been initiated, that certainly the trend is a reduction in sectarian killings and murders, and a more return to the norm in lots of the communities, the focus communities that we're operating in.
15:10:58 Like General Caldwell said, certainly in Dura, if you'd gone there a month ago, you would not see the kinds of activities that you see today: citizens walking on the streets, businesses opening, the restoration of public services. All of those things are occurring and they're occurring in all the other focus areas that we have been working in.
An additional piece that's very important here is the coordination that is occurring between the minister of Defense and the minister of Interior.