from Mosul, Iraq, on the involvement of the 101st Airborne Division in
the conflict and in post-war stabilization efforts. Participating were
Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs
(media operations), and Army Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, commanding
general, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).)
Whitman: Very good, General. If you could say a few words and make sure we can hear you.
Petraeus: Okay. Good morning from Mosul. Life is great here in northern Iraq.
Thank you, sir. I will dispense with the introduction that I gave while
you were watching me but not hearing it, and let you get into the
remarks that you wanted to make, and then we'll go right into the
questions and answers.
Okay. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Pentagon press corps.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to talk with you today. It's a
beautiful spring day here in Mosul. The temperature is about 90
degrees, the skies are blue and the warm, sunny weather mirrors the
mood of most here in the city right now. And I look forward to telling
you a little about what our soldiers have helped the people of this
region achieve since we first arrived here 22 days ago.
you know, the 101st Airborne Division is now over 1,200 kilometers from
where we went through the berm in Kuwait two months ago. Our soldiers
had a number of very tough fights in Southern Iraq, liberating An
Najaf, Karbala and Al Hillah, and then clearing al Mamadia (ph),
Escondaria (ph) and south Baghdad, as well as Hadithah in the western
desert. We then air-assaulted 500 kilometers further north to secure
and clear Mosul, Tall Afar, Qaiyara and other cities in Nineveh
Province. And we are now securing these cities and helping the people
of this part of Iraq get their lives back to normal and truly exploit
the wonderful opportunity our soldiers have given to them.
our soldiers had some tough fights to get here. Indicators of the close
combat in which our units engaged are that we shot some 3,500 rounds of
artillery, nearly 1,000 2.75-inch rockets and Hellfire missiles, 114
Army tactical missiles and over 40,000 rounds of Apache and Kiowa
machine-gun ammunition. And we also used some 150 sorties of close-air
support, and tons of everything else in our inventory. Beyond that,
three of our soldiers were killed in combat and some 79 were wounded.
more than 18,000 Screaming Eagles are on duty in the northern sector of
Iraq helping maintain a safe and secure environment in Nineveh
Province. Our soldiers have deployed throughout our area of operation,
securing cities and key infrastructure facilities; helping the new
interim city and province government get established; conducting joint
patrols with Iraqi policemen and manning police stations in the city;
helping organize and secure the delivery of fuel and propane; assisting
with the organization of the recently begun grain harvest, a huge
endeavor in this part of Iraq; building bridges and clearing streets;
helping reopen schools and Mosul University; assisting with the
reestablishment of the justice system in the area; distributing medical
supplies; helping with the distribution of food; guarding archeological
sites; working to restore public utilities, and 90 percent of Mosul now
has power and water; facilitating the payment of government salaries;
and working closely with our partners at ORHA North and a variety of
nongovernmental organizations to commence one- time payments to
government workers and pensioners in reconstruction efforts.
also are working very hard to collect and secure munitions and weapons
that could harm the citizens of Mosul in the area and that typically
are found in caches all over the region, some 400 that have already
been identified, including ones in schools, fields and former military
In addition, today we
helped reopen the Iraqi border with Syria to trade in accordance with
the U.N. Security Council resolutions that govern such trade. Our
soldiers have, together with the people of this city and region,
accomplished a great deal in the past three weeks in the north of Iraq.
very proud to have soldiered with the wonderful troopers of the 101st
Airborne Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom. They've repeatedly
proven to be more than equal to every challenge we've encountered since
the beginning of the operation. And I want to assure you that we're as
intent now on winning the peace as we were on winning the war.
And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions.
General Petraeus, it's Tammy Kupperman with NBC News. And I wanted to
ask what the situation was with the television station in Mosul. There
has been various reporting on whether the station had to be censored or
was being censored, whether there were U.S. military personnel
stationed actually on the premises. If you could clear up the confusion
Petraeus: I'd be happy to, Tammy. In fact, I welcome that.
actually had U.S. soldiers securing the compound within which the TV
station is -- or the TV facility is located ever since we arrived here
because there was some looting that had taken place there earlier and
the main station actually was looted. Our soldiers never were, however,
inside the actual operations booth there, and they still haven't been.
have visited on occasion, and we had two concerns about what was going
on out there. The first was, there were some local political operators
who wanted to get a bit more than their share of the air time and were
given to a bit of rhetorical excess when they had it.
second is that on occasion, the station has aired segments that are ---
could actually incite people to violence against our soldiers and
against other citizens of this region. An example of that is the Saddam
letter that incites Iraqis to rise up against the American occupiers.
It's very much within our right -- in fact, it's our responsibility to
maintain the safe and secure environment, and that includes, if
necessary, taking steps to avoid the transmission of segments such as
We examined language that we
could share with the station manager that would caution him against
such segments. We've been up there and talked to him, and I think
that's really all that's going to be necessary in this case. We did at
one time look at the possibility of having an officer and a translator
in the station, but we have not done that. And we've certainly never
seized the TV transmitter or given orders to that effect. And that's
really the long and short of it.
are watching what the station broadcasts. And again, it's very much
within our responsibility to make sure that broadcasts do not give rise
to violence against citizens in this area or our soldiers.
Does that answer that for you? (No response.)
Thanks, General. This is Pam Hess with United Press International.
Could you give us just a little bit more detail on the TV situation?
Had the Saddam letter already been broadcast and you were responding
afterwards, asking them not to do that?
then my actual question is, could you talk about when you first came
into Mosul? That town, we saw, had a great deal of looting and unrest,
but also in Kirkuk, in the north, there wasn't necessarily the same
experience. Could you explain, maybe, what the difference was in those
two cities; why you saw it in Mosul and not elsewhere?
Petraeus: Well, first of all, I'm not responsible for Kirkuk. That's the 4th Infantry Division's area of responsibility.
had, indeed, been the scene of some stiff firefights. We knew about
that. And when we came in, we came in with a tank battalion, an Apache
battalion, a Kiowa squadron, and several battalions of infantry, a
brigade, and a lot of other combat multipliers, artillery and so forth.
We immediately secured the city, established a civil military operation
center in the former governance building in the center of the city, and
immediately began our dialogue with the citizens of the city, with its
leaders, and so forth, to ensure that there weren't repeated instances.
did have several firefights our first week here. There were enemy
casualties, somewhere between five and 10 during that time in various
engagements. We took no casualties. We have not had effective fire
against our soldiers in at least the last week.
back to the TV station. As we were examining this, originally it was
really, based on my experience in Bosnia, where we, in fact,
encountered the TV station broadcasting vitriolic language that incited
a riot one time while I was there, and prior to that, a couple of years
earlier, the TV towers had actually been seized because the Bosnian
Serbs were using them again to incite violence.
believe the first Saddam letter had been transmitted at that time. It
was again transmitted a day after we began the consideration of what to
do about the TV station, and the development of legal language that we
could use that would caution against any kinds of broadcasts that would
threaten the safe and secure environment.
that definitely had taken place, although it took us a few days to
discover this, again, certain political figures in the city had been up
there, had threatened the employees with loss of their jobs after we
left, if they did not give them air time and allow them to broadcast
certain things. I talked to those individuals afterwards, and we have
not had instances of that again. And again, right now I don't think
there's going to be any problem with the station. If there is, we will
be happy to occupy it and to monitor what's being transmitted.
again, our job is to maintain a safe and secure environment for the
people of Mosul. That's an obligation that we have, a legal obligation.
We take that seriously, and we're certainly not going to let radios or
TV stations broadcast anything that would again foster violence or
actions against either our soldiers or the citizens of Mosul. Frankly,
right now, I don't think there's going to be any problem in that regard.
Q: Hey, General, Tom Bowman with the Baltimore Sun. I hope you're doing well. I wanted to ask you about a comment that --
Petraeus: We are, Tom.
I wanted to ask you about a comment that General McKiernan made about
the force level in Iraq. And he was saying that with 150,000 some-odd
U.S. forces, he doesn't have enough to secure the country. Do you agree
with what he's saying. And also, what have you heard from other
commanders about their situation, perhaps being stretched too thin? And
what about your own situation? Do you have the right mix of forces, the
right number of forces? Or would you like to see some other types of
forces in there -- let's say, MPs?
Tom, all I can really talk about, honestly, is my situation in the
northwestern part of Iraq, northern part of Iraq. And we honestly
believe we have just about the right force mix up here right now. To
give you a description of that, I've got over 18,000 soldiers actually
assigned or attached to the division and probably another 1,000 or two
(thousand) that are non-divisional units that are supporting us in some
way, such as a field hospital, a variety of support group assets and so
This is perfect country --
this area -- for an air-assault division. As you know, we have 250
helicopters. Our distances range probably well over 200 kilometers in
width and about 100 kilometers from south to north. There are multiple
air fields up here. We are occupying three of them. They are huge. One
of them will be C-5 capable in a couple of weeks, once we pour concrete
in some of the holes that are on it. We cleared the other two; they are
already operational. One of them is being used by C-130s already. So,
we have lots of hard (sand ?), lots of grass up here. And again, it's
wonderful to be out of the dust that we encountered southwest of An
Najaf, for example.
We have an MP
battalion, plus our own organic MP company, which is dynamite. We have
MPs in 14 of the police stations in this city. And the MP battalion
commander is taking charge of the training and the professionalization
of the police force. There are some nearly 3,000 police back on the job
here, and a good police chief who came out of retirement, had good
credentials and is doing a good job for the city.
have three Engineer battalions. Those are always in short supply in a
case like this. That is not the case right now. In addition, we have an
Engineer group headquarters, which brings engineer design experts, as
well, which is very, very useful as we and ORHA assess various projects
for reconstruction and then work with the local -- the interim new
government to prioritize those and get them built.
also have, in addition, an entire Civil Affairs battalion. As you
probably know, that brings a great deal of expertise in a host of
different areas, including governance, even economics, legal, and we're
helping work to stand the justice system back up in a variety of other
Then we have the
ORHA element -- for example, the Treasury Department representative
that -- up here. And I worked with Major General Moore, who's ORHA
North, in Bosnia before. We have a great relationship. He's the former
chief of staff of the 101st Airborne Division. His Treasury rep brought
in $5 million the other day, and on Saturday they'll start the one-time
We already are paying
salaries to government workers and have for about the last four days,
with funds that the bank manager up here from the National Banking
Ministry safeguarded during the looting, which we have helped safeguard
since. And they are methodically paying the salaries of those workers
who had not received salaries through the month of April, and then
later this month will begin the payment of salaries for the month of
I mentioned the helicopters.
We have some heavy forces, but frankly we have enough to do what we
need, which is really not much now, other than occasionally intimidate.
And we have three battalions of Apaches and a Cav squadron to help with
that, when that's necessary. And that has not been necessary much in
the past week.
And then what we
have is lots of infantrymen on the streets, nine battalions of those
spread throughout the area of operation. And as you well know, there's
nothing like an infantryman on the beat, both to reflect America's
commitment to be here for a while and to reassure the population that
we are really on the job.
honestly, Tom, we have the right force mix up here. We have enough
forces for the mission we have, and our troopers are doing fine.
General, this is Matt Kelley with the Associated Press. I'm wondering
if you can tell us some more about the discoveries of the -- at least
two possible biological weapons mobile laboratories that were
discovered up there.
can, Matt. Let me read, because I want to get -- be right on this and
actually talked to an expert from a special mission unit this morning
about the one that we found.
suspected mobile biological agent production lab found on 9 May in our
area was found by one of our infantry units during operations at the
Al-Kindi Rocket and Missile Research and Development Center. Our own
chemical section looked at the trailer and confirmed it as a trailer
that was very close to identical to the first trailer that was found by
Special Forces southeast of here last week.
expert I talked to this morning said that he had a reasonable degree of
certainty that this is in fact a mobile biological agent production
trailer. The layout is nearly identical to the first trailer that was
found. It contains a 5,000 PSI compressor, 2,000- liter reactor vessel,
small feed tank, 3,000-liter water tank and a water chiller.
do not believe that the lab trailer that we found here was completed.
Several welds were not finished, and shipping plugs were still in
place. And in addition, a water pump, forward air compressor, canvas
cover and some of the piping were looted.
data plate work order number is identical to the work order number
found on the first trailer. The trailer plate from the first trailer
had a manufacture date of 2002 and a serial number of 1. The trailer we
found at Al-Kindi had a manufacture date of 2003 and a serial number of
The trailer we found is now
secured and will be moved to Baghdad International for further
exploitation by a team coming from the United States. And that team, I
believe, will be quite a few civilian experts as well.
And that's about what I've got on that.
General, Brian Hartman with ABC News. Could you talk a little bit about
any lessons you've learned about some of the strengths and limitations
of attack helicopter warfare? And do you have any idea when you'll be
Petraeus: First of
all, we don't know when we're coming home. We think we're here for at
least probably three more months or so. And that -- the latest briefing
we had was that possibly a coalition force might replace us then, but
everything is really still quite uncertain at this time.
Apaches did a great job for us. We did in fact change our tactics from
night-long deep attack operations, for two reasons. After a successful
deep attack, but one in which we crashed a helicopter in a night dust
landing on return, and also had problems on take-off -- so we had two
One was that night dust
landings at -- southwest of An Najaf, where we were, and all throughout
the area, where we originally began these operations, about 400-plus
kilometers into Iraq, were very, very difficult, and it's despite
soldiers who had flown in Afghanistan, spent quite a bit of time with
environmental training in Kuwait, had no problems there, and so forth.
other problem, frankly, was that the Iraqis dispersed very early on and
moved their tanks and fighting vehicles and artillery away from the
avenues of approach that the 3rd Infantry Division, in particular, was
going to use. And so they flat -- weren't massed in the way that we
want usually for Apache operations. We did, as I say, have one quite
successful deep attack operation, had reasonable BDA. But it was not
the kind that we had hoped to with the, frankly, you know, 100-plus
tanks, tracks, artillery and air defense systems.
that, when we could not get the target definition that we needed, we
went to daylight, deep armed reconnaissance operations and conducted a
number of very successful operations of that type. I don't think they
were given the publicity, in part because, frankly, exciting offensive
operations were being conducted against Karbala, some of the stuff we
were doing in Najaf, Karbala and Al Hillah. And the BDA in some cases
was not huge, although they did knock out very significant targets on a
number of occasions, and did have one or two that did have very
substantial BDA, on the order of several batteries of D-30 artillery, a
number of air-defense pieces, and so forth.
packaged these operations with ATACMS missiles, and as I mentioned, we
shot -- or we called for 114 of these. Each of these clears an entire
grid square. They're massive munitions. We had those a direct line
between the shooters and the Apaches. We also had JSTARS supporting
them, to direct them; AWACS, EA-6 jammers, and close-air support all
packaged together with HARM shooters. And that package went down range;
we could identify the target at up to eight kilometers. And then,
depending on how much fuel the Apache had, if he had a lot of fuel,
would bring in close air support, ATACMS, and save his missiles and
rockets for later. And then, as he got toward the end of his time on
station, find a target, use his munitions, be relieved in place by
another platoon or company of Apaches, and do the same thing again and
again and again.
We also had
considerable success with attack helicopters operating in close support
of our infantry soldiers. The one operation in which we actually ran
into a substantial fight with the Republican Guards, and one of the few
cases that I'm aware of where the Republican Guards employed combined
arm operations was the morning that the V Corps attacked with an armed
recon by our Apaches to the northwest of Karbala, the lake; the 3rd
Infantry Division attacked into the Karbala Gap, both in the west and
the east of the city; and then, of course, really never stopped from
We attacked into south Al
Hillah, where we encountered a dug-in Republican Guard battalion with a
tank company, with artillery and with air defense, and it fought very,
very effectively. We had a very heavy fight there, lost our first
soldier. The tank battalion commander attached to us received a Silver
Star for his actions already. The Apache company in that operation
fought very, very hard, and eight helicopters take some degree of fire.
All of them made it safely back, another sign that the Apache can get
hit and just keep on flying, as it showed in Afghanistan as well, in
In that fight, we
destroyed that Republican Guards battalion. We destroyed the tank
company. We destroyed two D-30 artillery battalions, destroyed an
artillery battery and a number of other systems. We never again saw a
Republican Guard unit stand and fight and employ combined arms like
We also employed our Kiowa
Warrior cavalry squadron attack helicopters directly over cities, with
enormous success. That squadron commander, in fact, also will receive a
Silver Star and a Distinguished Flying Cross and a Bronze Star with "V"
for actions in three different fights. He had two helicopters shot up
underneath him. Each of them made it back safely. And again, they were
very, very effective in their role as well.
tended to use the Kiowas over the cities, where they flitted around a
bit, were hard targets to hit generally, and could take the doors off
and look directly down through the palm trees and into the city streets
where the regular army and militia and Fedayeen were hiding their
systems, and then using the Apaches around the edge of the city and
occasionally bringing them in for really robust attacks. That, again,
worked quite successfully.
Apaches did great for us. But I would say that I'd like to think that
we were flexible and adaptable in the way that we used them when we
encountered both the problems with night dust landings and the problems
with the enemy massing his systems, as he would have had to to actually
stop an enemy attack up the route through Karbala on the way to Baghdad.
Whitman: We've got time for about two more.
Q: Sir, thank you for that information. Neil Baumgardner --
(Inaudible.) -- by the way. We sent back to General Dick Cody, who was
my predecessor as the commander of the 101st -- he's a G-3 in the Army,
as you probably know -- a briefing that lays out what the Apaches and
the Cav squadron and all of our helicopters did. And I think that you'd
be impressed by it.
Baumgardner, Defense Daily. Thanks for that information. I wonder if
you could talk more about the use of the ATACMS and how effective they
were, and also about your use of the Javelin anti-tank missile -- any
number of rounds you fired, how effective they were.
First of all, the ATACMS were tremendous. You obviously have to have a
large area to fire them into. Needless to say, we didn't use them
anywhere near built-up areas or civilian targets. We did use them,
again, very, very effectively out in the desert, both west of Karbala
and northwest of Karbala, packaged with our Apaches for both
suppression of enemy air defenses en route to battle positions and then
once our Apaches were in those positions. As I mentioned earlier, those
missiles clear a grid square, a square kilometer. And so, those are
incredibly lethal. And they were absolutely devastating against those
enemy targets in which we employed them. And as I mentioned, we used
I don't know how many Javelins
we used, and I'll probably have to research that. I do know that we
used Javelins and TOW missiles on a number of occasions, and also the
SMAW-D, the squad medium anti-tank weapon, which is a very good bunker
buster. And we used these against buildings typically in the outskirts
of cities and then inside when we encountered fire.
of my battalions also, which went in with 3 ID to the airport and
cleared the airport terminal, and later fought a very, very substantial
fight at the east gate of the terminal -- I believe that they also used
the Javelin quite effectively that night that they were attacked, along
with a lot of close air support, and again, the TOW ITAS system, which
proved very, very effective for us.
FLIR and the TOW ITAS, in particular, was the hero of the battlefield.
It enabled us to see the enemy way, way out before he could even
believe we could see him. And that night outside the airfield, for
example, our TOW gunners could see the enemy and bring in either close
air support or artillery before the enemy even realized he was being
seen. Same with, of course, the tank FLIR or the Avenger FLIR.
Whitman: General, we're going to make this your last question here, then get you on to your other interview.
This is Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg News. I want to go back to the
weapons of mass destruction question that Matt brought up. Up until
finding this trailer, your unit -- your division had been involved in a
number of high profile potential finds of weapons of mass destruction,
including potential missiles tipped with chemicals that turned out not
to be the case. Can you give us your best thought on why no technical
weapons of mass destruction have been found, much less any facilities
or labs, given the ground that your units have covered?
Well, one of the speculations, of course, is that the individual who,
in fact, passed the note to our soldiers around Karbala and who was
subsequently interviewed at some length by the 75th Exploitation
Brigade -- and I think that Judith Miller wrote some articles about him
in the New York Times -- he claims that whatever they had left was
destroyed shortly before the war. So that again is one theory. We did
think at various times -- and, you know, you would -- there were
Stations of the Cross of evaluating the various items that we would
find all the way from the soldier himself with his test kit, then to
the chemical NCO, then the battalion and on up to the division experts,
and then we'd bring in the Fox recon vehicle. And as you know, we went
all the way with positives all the way through the Fox and even beyond
once or twice, and then the real experts got it and said, yeah, it was
chemicals, but not necessarily precursors or chemical weapon-type items.
again, I just don't know whether it was all destroyed years ago. I
mean, there's no question that there were chemical weapons years ago.
Whether they were destroyed right before the war, whether they're still
hidden -- we did find, as you know, the mobile -- what looked -- what
clearly was a mobile lab that was dug into the sand northeast of
Karbala -- still have no understanding of why someone would bury these
vans, these conexes, take so much trouble to bury those. And I think
the explanation is still out there to be found.
General, we want to thank you for your time and for joining us today.
And in the weeks and months ahead we wish you the best and hope that we
can do this again sometime soon.
Petraeus: Thank you.
2003 by Federal News Service Inc., Ste. 220, 1919 M St. NW,
Washington, D.C. 20036 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not
affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript
may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of
Federal News Service Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of
the original work prepared by a U.S. government officer or employee as
a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing
to the FNS Internet Service, please visit www.fednews.com or call (202)347-1400.