ASD PA Clarke and Maj. Gen. McChrystal
(Also participating was Maj. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal,
vice director for Operations, J-3, Joint Staff and Bryan Whitman,
Clarke: Good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for your patience
in moving the schedule around.
This is the sixth day of the coalition campaign to end the
Iraqi regime, destroy their weapons of mass destruction, and
free the Iraqi people from decades of torture and oppression.
We are making good progress on the land, the sea, and in the
air with the invaluable help of many coalition allies. As
President Bush said this morning in Tampa, the world is witnessing
the skill and humanity of the American military.
We'd like to express our condolences to the families of American
and coalition troops who have lost their lives in the war.
These are very, very difficult times. We know that. And we
also want you to know how much the American people appreciate
Our military has gone more than 200 miles in Iraq. They are
now closing in on Baghdad. Within just the last day, fighting
in the sand storm, coalition forces have engaged the enemy.
General McChrystal will provide further details on the military
progress in a minute.
As we said from the beginning, one of our military objectives
is to secure the oil fields for the Iraqi people, for the
benefit of the Iraqi people. Already our forces are putting
out fires lit by the Iraqi military at the Ramallah oil field
in southern Iraq.
With each passing day and every day an increasingly desperate
Iraqi regime violates many international laws and all norms
of human decency. As you know, enemy soldiers have pretended
to surrender, to give up, and then brought in fire on our
forces. They have pretended to be Iraqi civilians welcoming
coalition forces, and then ambushed them.
And as many of you have reported, in southern Iraq yesterday
the Iraqi military even used a hospital as a fortress, firing
on Marines. During time of war, a hospital is always considered
to be a safe place for the sick and the wounded. The building
was clearly marked as a hospital by a flag with a red crescent,
designed to protect it from attack. When the Marines took
over the building, they found a den of destruction. They captured
170 Iraqi troops; they found about 200 weapons, stockpiles
of ammunition, and 3,000 chemical suits with masks, and even
a tank. The Iraqi troops also had supplies of medicine designed
to protect against nerve gas. Since coalition forces obviously
do not have or use nerve gas, the conclusion is inescapable;
the enemy may be planning to use such agents against us or
the Iraqi people.
In the infamous attack on Halabja, which took place 15 years
ago this month, Saddam Hussein killed thousands of his own
people with chemical weapons.
We have repeatedly warned Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi military
not to use weapons of mass destruction. If any Iraqi uses
them, he will be considered a war criminal and will pay a
Because of Saddam Hussein's brutal policies, the people of
Iraq suffer from shortages of food and water. Coalition forces
are bringing relief as fast as possible. Some humanitarian
aid is already being delivered, and much more is due to arrive
shortly when the Sir Galahad moves into the port city of Umm
Qasr. Trucks carrying humanitarian aid have already entered
southern Iraq. Water, an urgent need in Basra, was disrupted,
and the Red Cross and others have been able to restore it
to some 40 percent of the city. The United States has already
given international relief agencies more than $100 million
to help Iraq, and we are preparing $300 million in direct
food aid to Iraq going forward.
Just six days into the war, we can look back and see some
remarkable progress on the land, the sea, and in the air.
As the secretary and as the president have made clear, challenges
still lie ahead, but the outcome is very clear: the end of
the Iraqi regime.
McChrystal: Thank you, Ms. Clarke.
I'd also like to add my condolences to all those families
who have lost loved ones. Our thoughts and prayers are with
Operation Iraqi Freedom continues. More than 250,000 U.S.
troops are deployed in support of combat operations, as well
as more than 40,000 coalition forces. Our ground forces are
pushing north towards Baghdad and al Kut. We are more than
220 miles into Iraqi territory, and have done it in over six
days, in spite of difficult weather.
Yesterday, many of you reported an engagement near An Najaf.
The 7th Cavalry was engaged by irregular forces firing rocket-propelled
grenades and anti-tank weapons. In the middle of bad conditions
our forces responded by destroying more than 30 enemy vehicles
and killing enemy personnel in the hundreds. No U.S. forces
were killed in the exchange.
The air campaign is continuing as well. We flew nearly 700
sorties yesterday, most against Iraqi regime targets, in the
vicinity of Baghdad, as well as countering missile threats
throughout southern and western Iraq. Since March 20th our
forces have fired more than 600 Tomahawks and dropped more
than 4,300 precision-guided weapons.
There are recent press reports that coalition forces bombed
a marketplace in Baghdad. Coalition forces did not target
a marketplace, nor were any bombs or missiles dropped or fired
in the district outlined in blue on this image. And that's
called the Sha'ab district. The yellow circle in the center
for reference contains the presidential palace. Gives you
a feel where we are. We'll continue to look and see if we
missed anything, but another explanation could be the triple-A
fire or surface-to-air missile that missed its target, fell
back into the marketplace area.
But just like we mentioned yesterday, the bus on Monday that
we hit accidentally, once we have a better clarity, we'll
get it to you. We do regret the loss of any life, any innocent
life in any conflict.
Let me give you a summary of the missiles Iraq has fired
at coalition forces. Ten short-range ballistic missiles have
been fired thus far, all directed at Kuwait. Seven have been
intercepted by Patriot missiles; two fell in unpopulated areas
in the desert; and one landed in the Persian Gulf. Iraqi forces
continue to use civilian clothing and vehicles to avoid getting
into direct conflict with U.S. forces.
Finally, I have five videos for you today. The first video
is of an F-16 that was directed by AWACS to do time-sensitive
targeting against vehicles in support of ground forces west
of H-2 airfield. The pilot released a GBU [guided bomb unit]
on the vehicle, and the vehicle was destroyed.
The second video is of an F-16 dropping precision-guided
munitions on a tank west of Karbala.
The third is of an A-10 deployed against a guard shack south
of the H-2 airfield. He dropped a precision bomb that landed
approximately 10 meters short of the target. The mission was
successful, as the target had significant damage and the guard
shack was no longer standing.
The fourth video is on an A-10 tasked by an AWACS to assist
another flight in attacking a compound south of H-2 airfield.
The pilot dropped a GBU on the target, resulting in explosion
and a fire.
The fifth video is of an F-117 that dropped two GBUs on the
presidential secretariat in Baghdad, impacting the building.
Q: General, you said that -- I believe you said that nothing
was targeted in the Sha'ab district today. Do you have any
evidence whether anything might have landed in the Sha'ab
district? And CENTCOM now says that nine surface-to-surface
missile sites were attacked in downtown Baghdad today and
some of those sites were near residential homes. Number one,
do you know for a fact that nothing landed in the Sha'ab district?
And were any of those missile sites in the Sha'ab district
that were attacked?
McChrystal: Sir, we know for a fact that something landed
in the Sha'ab district, but we don't know for a fact whether
it was U.S. or Iraqi. And we can't make any assumption on
either at this point. We do know that we did not target anything
in the vicinity of the Sha'ab district.
Q: How big is the Sha'ab district? Could we ask? Approximately?
Clarke: Don't know.
But your question brings up something, a point that we've
made before and we'll make again, just a sign of the brutality
of this regime and a sign of how little they care about civilians
that they put military assets close to civilians, in and around
and near civilians, deliberately putting their lives at risk.
Q: Can you give us some idea how far away was the neighborhood
where you did target those missiles?
McChrystal: No, ma'am, we can't discuss the location of other
Q: Oh, you can't say whether it was near there or not near
Q: This says the missiles were about 300 feet from homes
that you were targeting; surface-to-surface missile launchers
were 300 feet from homes. Now, is this the same strike as
McChrystal: Sir, they were other targets within Baghdad.
Clarke: And we did not have a strike on the market.
Q: Not near there.
Let's do Carl, and then we'll move back.
Q: Torie, there's a report from an embed with the BBC that
a number of Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles have broken out
of Basra and are headed south. Do you have any information
on that, any indication where they might be headed?
Clarke: I do not. I've seen the reports of it -- or, correction,
I've seen chyrons to that effect, and I asked a couple of
people. Nothing --
McChrystal: I've seen those reports as well. We wouldn't
confirm their movements, but we watch wherever they go, sir.
Q: Okay. How threatening would that be? What is the prime
target down in that area? I know there are coalition forces
McChrystal: Sir, I -- we're moving to the north, so we certainly
don't want to discuss that detail. What we would say is, where
they want to come and we have to fight, that's what we'll
Q: Torie, could I ask you and the general both to elaborate
a little on some of the stuff you talked about in your opening
statement about the tactics the Iraqis are using -- being
in the hospital, using Red Cross vehicles, et cetera? How
many of these things, General, are unprecedented, or do they
happen in every war? And what consequences are there for the
Iraqis, and what consequences are there for our forces? Do
our forces have to change their tactics? Have they? And should
the Iraqis be considered war criminals for doing this? I mean,
what's all this mean?
Clarke: Let me start, and you can finish.
You can and should talk about a pattern of behavior, a pattern
of behavior by this regime that clearly could not care less
about people's lives. And this month is the 15th anniversary
of the attack on Halabja, in which he killed thousands and
thousands and thousands of his own people using chemicals
against them. We know they have used torture and oppression
as a policy, as a matter of policy, and huge bureaucracy put
And just recently we have seen some absolutely unbelievable
examples of how little they care about civilians and how little
they value life, taking these people that -- we're trying
to figure out what we should call them; I know some people
have referred to the special military that Saddam Hussein
uses as "paramilitary," which I don't like using.
It just -- it sounds too positive in some way. But these people
have done extraordinary things which go outside all laws and
norms, which just show -- go to the brutality of the regime,
and they are considered war crimes. And people that we can
find and hold -- they will be treated as such. It's just extraordinary.
Now in terms -- I'll just make one point about our general
strategy. It is not changing the strategy. It is not changing
the overall game plan. One of the aspects of the overall game
plan, the strategy, was to be able to adapt and adjust as
appropriate, depending on what the enemy does.
Q: But is it changing tactics?
McChrystal: Well, that's an interesting question, sir. I
think one of the things our soldiers are remembering is, we
are there to liberate the people of Iraq. And because we've
got what we consider a very, very -- a noble purpose in this
case, the tactics and techniques and procedures won't change,
although that's what I really think that these elements are
trying to do. They're trying to get an overreaction from coalition
forces, so that we'll fire on people who are trying to surrender.
We won't change our rules of engagement. I don't think we'll
change the nature of our soldiers to charge them. They'll
Clarke: No, wait -- no -- no, Charlie. Wait for the follow-
up. Don't --
Q: (Inaudible due to cross talk) -- those things always happen
in wars, though.
Clarke: There are people with far more experience than mine,
but I don't think we've seen them to the level and the extent
that we have seen the Iraqi regime use. It's pretty extraordinary.
Q: General, tell us about what's being done to secure the
supply lines and also to root out the Fedayeen. We're being
told that elements of the 3rd ID and the Marines are being
either pulled back or diverted to those jobs.
McChrystal: Sir, I'm not aware of any specific units being
pulled back. Normally, doctrinally, when a force moves and
it gets an extended supply line like this, it uses a combination
of techniques. One is force protection by individual movements,
either convoys or small elements. They force-protect themselves.
They're in constant communication so that they can call air
power or artillery to support them as well. And then at key
points forces will often be put -- placed to help support
that line of communications as well.
Q: Who is doing that? What units? Do you know?
McChrystal: Sir, it'd be a number of units.
Q: So --
Clarke: But I think if you looked at the overall progress,
when you look at the movement moving north toward Baghdad
overnight, they continue to make considerable progress.
Q: But the bottom line is you are beefing security on the
McChrystal: No, sir. I would say we say we are continuing
to secure supply lines.
One of the points I'd want to make is the extent of this
move and the speed; the logistics have not been interrupted.
There have been some situations occur, but it has in no way
endangered or cut any of the lines of communication.
Q: Torie, what can you tell us about Iraqi forces wearing
Clarke: Well, I remember several weeks ago out here talking
about we knew they were acquiring uniforms that looked like
U.S. and U.K. uniforms. And the reporting was that they planned
to use them, give them to the thugs, as I call them, to go
out, carry out reprisals against the Iraqi people, and try
to blame it on coalition forces. So just recently we have
seen reports again that they may be wearing or using what
looked like U.S. uniforms to confuse people, to confuse our
forces, to confuse the Iraqi people.
Q: Have you seen specific reports about them wearing U.S.
uniforms accepting the surrender of Iraqi troops, and then
Clarke: I have seen -- I have seen at least one report.
Q: What else --
Clarke: I want to caution that and caveat that and say I
have seen one report like that.
Q: What else can you tell us about efforts by Iraqi forces
to suppress the populations in these cities?
Clarke: I've seen some right from the reporting of your colleagues
who are embedded that there seem to be some evidence of them,
for instance, putting civilians between the coalition forces
and the Iraqi military. I have seen some reporting from your
colleagues that suggests they turned fire on their own people.
So we've seen it. I -- it's awful. It's horrible. I don't
know why people are surprised, or why you wouldn't think they
might do that.
Q: General, will you have to go into the cities in the south
to root these people out? And is that what you intended to
do all along?
McChrystal: Sir, at some point, obviously, all of the elements
have to be dealt with. As we continue to move forward, the
first and primary objective, clearly, is to overturn the regime.
And I believe that when the regime in fact is taken down,
the motivation and the support for many of these elements
will stop and, therefore, they will become less motivated
and less effective. There aren't a huge number of them. If
in fact elements have got to go in to do that, they can do
that over time.
Q: But there's no plan to do that now, the first -- the focus
will be on Baghdad, is that right?
McChrystal: Sir, I wouldn't discuss General Franks', you
know, specific plans right now, but clearly at some point
they'll be addressed.
Q: General, does the administration have a policy of not
releasing the numbers of American casualties? And if it does,
Clarke: Absolutely not. We release the numbers and the information
that we have. In many instances, it's hard to get the ground
truth. But I think two things. I think if you look at this
embedding program, which is providing some incredibly full
and complete and robust coverage, I think that's a good sign
of how firmly committed we are to letting the American people
and others know what is going on in these military operations
-- the good, the bad, and the in-between.
When we have information about casualties, including civilian
casualties, and we have some ground truth to it, we bring
it forward. You've seen evidence of that in the last few days.
Q: The CENTCOM briefer said this morning that it is policy
not to release the numbers of American dead and wounded. How
many American soldiers have been killed, and how many have
been wounded up to this point?
Clarke: We've had 24 killed and I believe we've had 19 wounded.
(To staff) Is that right, Bryan.
Whitman: Nineteen categorized as hostile deaths.
Q: Is that KIA or does that include the accidents, the vehicle
accidents, that --
Clarke: We have the -- we have numbers on killed, and we
have some numbers on wounded, and we will provide what we
can. [24 U.S. servicemembers have died in Operation Iraqi
Freedom, 19 to hostile fire, five in accidents]. It will never
be as fast as some people like, it will never be as complete
as some people will like. But that information that we feel
is pretty solid, that information which is based -- and there's
going to be a briefing in here after this briefing to talk
about the process -- is based to a huge extent on the dignity
and respect with which we want to treat these issues. Next-of-kin
notification is incredibly important to us, and we'll take
the time to do it right, and we'll put out the numbers when
we think it is appropriate.
Q: And the other two categories, missing and captured?
Clarke: We'll give you -- we'll follow up after this, and
we will post something that gives you what we know at this
time. [As of Mar. 26 24 American servicemembers have died
in OIF; more than 28 have been injured or wounded; seven are
being held as prisoners of war and ten are currently missing.]
Let's do Tom in the back.
Q: I'm a little confused about who exactly it is that these
Iraqis forces are. General McChrystal, you characterized them
as irregular forces, but you also said they're using anti-tank
weapons. I'm not, obviously, a weapons expert, but that's
not an AK-47. Yesterday, we heard that some of them had commandeered
tanks. Again, thugs, you know, wouldn't seem to know how to
operate a tank. Could you clarify a little bit about -- in
terms of how much military competence these forces seem to
have, and does that indicate they've got military training?
Could they be Republican Guard elements or what?
Clarke: And I'll apologize for any imprecision in words that
I may have used. I just -- and I'm struggling with this, because
for some reason, paramilitary just sounds too nice. They are
clearly part of the military apparatus; they're clearly directed
to do these things. But they are the worst of the worst, in
McChrystal: I'd like to answer that. Clearly, we'll get it
wrong, because we don't know the exact composition. But we
believe it to be Ba'athists who are in the area, Ba'ath Party
members who are not strictly military but are sort of the
thugs that Ms. Clarke mentioned. Also, some Special Republican
Guard elements sent down to stiffen that, maybe some other
elements that are in there, as well, to organize and make
that process work. That's why we believe that when we can
deal with the regime at large, part of the motivation and
control of that will diminish.
Q: General, I need to ask you another perception question,
and that is that the growing perception among some that reactions
of these shock troops, or whatever you want to call them,
has put the U.S. military off of its plan. And is that a function
of the fact that people don't really know what the plan is?
Or have you had to make major adjustments because of unanticipated
events that have unfolded?
McChrystal: Sir, I can be unequivocal on that, it has not
thrown the force off its plan. In fact, it's probably part
of the effect of seeing it so close in such raw terms -- sometimes
embedded media, sometimes other reasons -- but it makes fairly
limited engagements, fairly limited incidents take on a greater
perceived value than they are. As I discussed on the lines
of communication where these have occurred, the logistics
have flowed -- continue to flow smoothly, additional forces
continue to push forward. The plan has moved almost exactly
with expectations; fast where we expected it to be fast, gathering
strength where we expected to do that. So, the answer is it's
right on the mark.
Q: But if I could follow up, was it anticipated that these
Fedayeen Saddam and Special Republican Guard units would have
played the role they're playing now to the extent they are;
that is, preventing cities from being liberated to preventing
troops from surrendering and hindering operations in the rear
to the extent they are now?
Clarke: We said many, many times there were a lot of unknowns.
One of the unknowns was what is the role they will play, how
widespread would it be, those sorts of things. But we also
knew we have the plan and we have the people who are prepared
to deal with it. And if you step back and look at the overall
picture, we're on the sixth day of this campaign. And on the
sixth day of this campaign, going against a regime that knows
that the days are numbered, we have air dominance, we have
Special Forces in the north, the south and the west, the main
ground forces are moving at a phenomenal pace toward the north,
closing in on Baghdad, we've de-mined the waterways so the
humanitarian assistance can and is coming in, we're securing
the oil fields in the south for the benefit of the Iraqi people.
Most people -- you spoke of some; most people would look at
that and say that's pretty phenomenal for six days.
Clarke: Let's go -- let's do -- let's do George, and then
we'll come back over here.
Q: On the suits that were found in the hospital, can you
tell -- were they new, had they been used, were there an equivalent
number of hoods, were they protective-ready?
Clarke: The chemical suits?
Clarke: I don't know. We'll see what -- as more information
comes forward we will try to put it out. But it -- significant
numbers of them.
Q: Were there -- were there an equivalent number of hoods?
Clarke: I don't know.
McChrystal: I don't know either.
Clarke: It was described as suits with masks, which they
may have been describing as hoods. But we'll try to find out
Clarke: Let's go -- go to Thelma.
Q: Could I go back for a second on the convoy vehicles. General,
you had mentioned that the Iraqis used civilian vehicles.
I was wondering if there is a chance that convoy that was
talked about might be actually civilian vehicles that Iraqi
forces are using to move south. And also, could you give us
a bill on the latest on An Najaf; have they captured some
McChrystal: Well, on the civilian vehicles, I haven't looked
closely enough at the reported movement yet to tell you. I
just had heard a report that there were vehicles moving. So
I'd have to get back with you on that.
I'm not familiar that there was a problem around An Najaf
with bridges at this point. We are past An Najaf at this point.
Q: And could you set -- you elaborate a little bit on that?
So, have you -- you've secured the bridges in An Najaf? And
when you say past, how far past, and what's the situation
McChrystal: As we talk of more than 200 miles, it would be
inappropriate for me to give you the front-line trace of our
organization. But that organization has moved very effectively
up that route.
Clarke: (Inaudible due to cross talk.)
Q: When you talk about the civilian vehicles, are you referring
to the convoy moving south from Basra, or the one that's reported
moving south from Baghdad and said to be a large convoy of
Republican Guards possibly disguised --
Q: Towards Karbala, right.
McChrystal: The second one is the only report that I'd seen,
ma'am. And I don't know any details on it.
Q: So you're not referring to this one. So you're not confirming
that there's Republican Guard moving south from Baghdad --
McChrystal: No, ma'am.
Q: -- either in civilian vehicles or otherwise.
McChrystal: I'd only be confirming that I had seen one report.
And I have not idea what's --
Clarke: We're going to do Tom -- wait --
Q: The --
Clarke: We'll do Tom, and then John, and we'll have to wrap,
because we have another briefing coming up.
Q: What is the earliest date that the 4th Infantry Division
could be in place and ready to fight? And how has the military's
inability to have an armored thrust from the north negatively
affected the campaign?
McChrystal: Sir, we wanted an armored thrust from the north,
and the 4th Infantry Division's a powerful division. It works
from the south as well. In fact, it will be helpful wherever
it comes in. I won't put a precise date on it because they're
moving, but they'll be ready in fairly short order because
the vehicles are already on ships and the personnel are prepared
Q: (Off mike.) Very short?
McChrystal: Sir, I wouldn't put a date on it.
Clarke: I wouldn't either.
John? Last one.
Q: Sure. General, these Fedayeen soldiers, or paramilitary,
or thugs, or whatever you want to call them, are wearing civilian
outfits, they're using civilian vehicles. Does that make them
enemy combatants? Does that change their status in the eyes
of U.S. military justice, or has that been decided at this
McChrystal: Well, I'd -- I'm sorry.
Clarke: They are lawful targets.
Q: Lawful targets, but I mean, if they are caught, are they
POWs, given the same treatment as military soldiers, or are
they treated -- are they to be treated differently, in the
same way we saw in Afghanistan?
Clarke: It was described to me this morning, as they are
lawful and legitimate military targets.
Q: What happened with the targeting of Iraqi television last
night? Please tell us a little bit about --
Clarke: I've had mixed reports that it was down for a while,
it may have come up in some ways, but not in as robust fashion
as it was. Clearly, it has been degraded to a certain extent.
What happens going forward is up to General Franks.
Q: Why is a legitimate target -
Clarke: Command and control. Command and control.
Q: Torie, you keep saying --
Q: Have we dropped MOAB? Have we dropped MOAB, General? Are
we going to drop MOAB? (Laughter.)
McChrystal: Sir, we have not dropped MOAB. And that would
be up to General Franks, any munition use.
Q: You keep saying that the Iraqis put military targets near
homes in Baghdad.
Q: Are you going to continue to attack these targets? And
if your precision-guided weapons go awry, are you saying then
it's the fault of the Iraqis that civilians are killed?
Clarke: A couple of things. We have made clear again and
again, and we will repeat it, that our objective with this
campaign is to end the Iraqi regime with as few casualties
as possible. We go to extraordinary efforts to achieve that,
including an incredible targeting process and I'm half-inclined
to say we should do our targeting brief in here again. We
go to extraordinary efforts to reduce the likelihood of those
casualties. Any casualty that occurs, any death that occurs
is a direct result of Saddam Hussein's policies.