Thursday, February 15, 2007

Iraq: Hard is not Hopeless & Iranian EFP's

Feb 14 Baghdad Press Conference

GEN. CALDWELL: Good afternoon. "A-salaam aleikum."
Although operations to secure Baghdad have continued over the past several months, last night the government of Iraq announced the beginning of the new buildup called Operation Fard al-Kanun (ph), which roughly translates into Operation Law and Order. This new iteration of the Baghdad security plan is Iraqi-conceived and Iraqi- led. It is an evolution of the previous phases with specific enhancements being made in the political, military and economic spheres based on lessons learned from the past operations.

Politically, Prime Minister Maliki's government has taken full ownership of this plan and is making a clear political commitment to its success. A resolution supporting this new strategy was unanimously endorsed by the Council of Representatives. Prime Minister Maliki has instructed his security forces that there will no longer be any political interference in military operations. Iraqi commanders have also been assured no neighborhood and no target is off limits.

Militarily, the first additional Iraqi forces and the first of five additional U.S. brigades have arrived in Baghdad and are conducting operations. General Petraeus is adamant that to win this conflict we have to protect the population. Consequently, Iraqi army, Iraqi police, and coalition forces will actually live together in joint security stations throughout Baghdad in order to be closer to the Iraqi people that they are protecting. The additional forces will also enable us to create more transition teams to assist, teach, mentor and coach the Iraqi security forces. There will be both an increase in the number and size of the teams, and they will reach down to the lower-level units within the Iraqi army and police units.


While there is cause for optimism, there are several reasons why -- need to be patient with this new strategy.

First, it will take time for all the additional troops being deployed to arrive and begin operations. Additional Iraqi and American troops comprising the, quote, "surge" will not be completely in place until late May.

Second, the non-kinetic efforts will take time to produce effects on the streets of Baghdad. The government of Iraq's economic development program, for example, places greater emphasis on long-term job creation, rather than make-work programs.

Finally, most of Iraq's problems are systemic and will not be turned around immediately because of the new security plan. The key to solving Iraq's problems, whether militarily, economic or political, is leadership -- Iraqi leadership, to be precise.

Much of the criticism of Prime Minister Maliki's government forgets that it is still less than 10 months old, trying to undo the damage caused by 35 years of brutal, corrupt dictatorship. This government, along with the Council of Representatives, is learning as it goes and will not discover solutions to the complex problems facing Iraq overnight.


While it is understandable that much of the focus of the media attention remains on Baghdad, successful operations continue in other parts of Iraq as well. On February 11th, Iraqi security forces conducted a raid near Baqubah that resulted in seven anti-Iraqi forces being killed and 27 detained, with only one Iraqi army casualty. And in Samarra, a series of caches consisting -- over 550 live rounds, of more than 1,200 pounds of explosives, was discovered and destroyed. And last night and continuing through this morning coalition forces detained 27 suspected terrorists doing a series of coordinated raids targeting al Qaeda in Iraq network. Twenty of these suspected terrorists were captured in Ramadi where ground forces also seized several weapons, computers and electronic equipment doing these operations.


As General Petraeus noted on Saturday when he took command, although many significant challenges lay ahead, he said, quote, "hard is not hopeless," unquote. Rebuilding and securing Iraq will be a total team effort requiring the cooperation of the government of Iraq, the U.S. government, coalition forces and the Multinational Force Iraq. While the recent measures announced by the government of Iraq are a step in the right direction, it would be a mistake if expectations are raised so high that people give up on the new strategy prematurely. The enhanced iteration of the Baghdad security plan needs to be given time to work.

And with that, I'll be glad to take whatever questions you have.


Q. Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times. ... one of the things that has also arisen is this apparent contradiction between what was said at this background briefing and what General Peter Pace has said, essentially saying that he was not personally aware or convinced, apparently -- and I apologize if I'm not paraphrasing his comments perfectly -- that the weapons that were found here were necessarily sent here at the direction of the Iranian leadership.

So I was just wondering if you had any suggestions as to how we should go about sorting out that contradiction, any guidance. And also, I mean, the response was very extraordinary state-side, by bloggers, by critics and so on. Does it dismay you that there's so much skepticism about the claims that were made at that hearing?

GEN. CALDWELL: Let me first start off by talking about what was said at that backgrounder on Sunday here in Baghdad and what General Pace said. I think what you'll find is there is a tremendous amount of agreement between the two. When General Pace was talking, and the same thing that was said during the backgrounder is that we in fact do have physical evidence of Iranian munitions, especially the explosively formed penetrators, the EFPs, being supplied to various extremist groups here in Iraq. General Pace said that, too, during those comments he had the other day.

We also talked about that we have in custody a number of Iranian Qods Force officers, and as General Pace said and we agree and has been stated, as a minimum who are here illegally in Ira[q]. General Pace is -- and to quote him, specifically said, quote, "We know that the explosively formed projectiles, penetrators, are manufactured in Iran," and, quote, "It is clear that Iranians are involved and it's clear that materials from Iran are involved." And I don't think you'll see any disagreement there. That's exactly what was said on Sunday, too.

There was a military analyst on Sunday who made a comment that made an inference that there was some connection, when asked about where does the Qods Force get their guidance and direction from, said it comes from the highest levels of the government. The intent behind that press conference on Sunday was not to talk about that. You know, it was very clear when we came out and talked Sunday, we stated up front, this is about a force protection issue. This is about the fact that American forces, coalition forces, Iraqi security forces and innocent Iraqi civilians -- men, women and children -- are being killed by munitions and weaponry that are being produced in Iran, produced as late as 2006 in Iran, and are making their way into Iraq, where they are being used to kill people.


And when we start seeing EFPs rise at a rate of 150 percent since January of last year till the end of this past year; when we see the number of EFPs being utilized against Iraqi security forces and coalition forces at the highest levels ever in the months of November, December and January that we've ever seen in this country since mid- 2004, when we first noticed the first EFP being utilized, there is an incredible discussion that went on, asking ourselves: Do we acknowledge and tell those insurgent elements that are using this that it is a lethal weapon, that it is effective, and that it is killing people; or do we reach out, after having exasperated (sic) and tried through both diplomatic and other military means to ask Iran to not be associated with -- not allow the machining and production of and to stop the smuggling of EFP component parts that are coming from Iran into Iraq and killing people here in this country?

You know, the Iraqis deserve the right to be able to determine their destiny. They need -- deserve the right to be allowed to have security and stability and self-governance. And when these type of munitions are coming in from a neighboring country that says they want to assist and help this country move forward, then we want to engage them. We want to tell them we need to stop -- you need to stop -- we need your assistance; we need you to stop the production of EFP component parts that are being brought into this country, assembled and used against coalition forces and Iraqi security forces.

We know since 2004 there's been just over 170 coalition forces killed by these.

We also know since 2004, over 620 additional coalition forces have been wounded by these, and yet they're an extremely small percentage of the overall number of IEDs that we have been confronted with in this country.

So that's the purpose behind that press conference. That's why we came out and talked. It's all about force protection. It's about ensuring the safety and security of the Iraqi people, of which we have the coalition forces and Iraqi security forces working to help make that happen.


Q. How are you? Miguel Marquez with ABC News. ABC is reporting that Muqtada al-Sadr apparently has left the country, perhaps out of fear that he may be a target of the U.S. military, perhaps not. Everybody in his camp says he is still in Iraq. I wonder if you could address that at all.


GEN. CALDWELL: As far as Sadr goes, yes, our reporting does indicate that in fact he has left Iraq, and it appears that he is in Iran. Obviously I'm not going to discuss or speculate as to why he has done that. But we, in fact -- all reporting does indicate he has left Iraq.


Q. Jim Glanz, New York Times. Are you -- first, we've all gotten letters on our pieces, no matter how balanced we try to be, in the presentation of evidence the other day. So I think we'd all appreciate if you did pull the veil off the evidence --


Q. -- present it publicly. And also, are you rescinding now the connection to the highest levels of the Iranian government?

In other words, are you saying you don't think that's the case; you're not willing to make that supposition? And if so, then what can you tell us about how much involvement you think the Iranian government has? Because you are -- you've said repeatedly you're appealing to them. But if it's just some smugglers -- you know, forgive me for being a little colorful here, but on goats coming across the border, well, that's a different situation than having it be ordered from Tehran.

So I think we'd all like to know where you think the line is drawn in terms of command here, command and control. And are you going to rescind the earlier supposition?

GEN. CALDWELL: Jim, what I'd tell you is that obviously the reason we have picked up some Qods Force officers within Iraq is because they are conducting -- we consider to be illegal activities here within this country. And Qods Force officers obviously work for the government of Iran. And as you know already, the government of Iraq has asked -- expelled two former Iraqi -- Iranian officials that were here, that were Qods Force officers and told them to go back to their home country.

So we know that the Qods Force is associated in some manner or form with these illegal activities that are ongoing.

The whole point is -- I guess what I'd say, Jim, as a Multinational Force officer, as the Multinational Force spokesman, we're -- we are not so much as worried about the intent behind why this is occurring, but rather the actions and the resulting effect of those actions and what they do to the security forces, both the Iraqi security forces and our coalition forces. It's the actions that we're concerned about. I mean, people can argue about intent all day long. I can tell you on the ground we are very concerned about the actions, the resultant effect that occurs because of what they are doing. And that's the reason we're getting involved and have gone public to talk about this. We're not trying to get into all the other discussions associated with this.

Q . It just seems fair to ask, General, whether you're rescinding that comment. I'm sorry to be a pest on this, but that's been a big focus for all of us. We've all had to take questions on this. And so you're the guy with the answer on that. Is that -- are you still standing behind that, or is that being taken off the table now by the U.S. military?

GEN. CALDWELL: Jim, I will tell you, again, the purpose and reason behind that briefing was to talk about force protection issues and the concern that we have with explosively formed penetrators that are being utilized against Iraqi security forces and coalition forces. And that's the reason we did the briefing. That was the purpose behind it. We are not trying to make any inferences. We are trying to talk to the government of Iran and tell them that we know these things are being produced and manufactured in Iran and are making their way into Iraq.


GEN. CALDWELL: ... On Sunday during the press conference that was conducted here in Baghdad, these same pieces of equipment were showing that are on this table. These are pieces of equipment that have been seized here in Iraq by either Iraqi security forces or coalition forces; some as late as of about two weeks ago.

The first item there to probably show you is the EFP. This EFP was found and cleared in about two-three weeks ago now. ...

GEN. CALDWELL: Two weeks ago. So this is -- and they come in varying shapes and sizes, as you've probably seen from the pictures that were provided, but we wanted to show one that had been recently. So as late as 2007, this explosive foreign penetrator here was found and cleared.

(To Major Webber) -- was this one in Baghdad?

MAJ. WEBBER: Yes, sir.

GEN. CALDWELL: In the Baghdad area.

Now, if anybody would like to ask a question, please feel free to do so about the EFP. If not, we'll pick up another piece of equipment and show you that.

Q. General, I just have a question. How many -- you said that 170 coalition forces have been killed by these particular brand of explosives. What about Iraqi forces and -- (off mike)?

GEN. CALDWELL: I'll have to go back and get the exact figure on that. Obviously, what was showing in the picture the other day was a Hilla SWAT vehicle that had been hit by an explosive foreign penetrator that we used in one of the visual pictures there.

But I'd have to go back and check with the Iraqis on their -- I mean, we generally know their numbers, but we don't track it as thoroughly as we do our own numbers, the coalition force numbers. I'd have to ask to see if we can get you --

Q. Can you say on the record, you know, what links these things to Iran? We talked about this before, but you've showed the EFP, the serial numbers, but could you just briefly reprise on the record how these are linked to Iran.

GEN. CALDWELL: The explosively formed penetrator that they had there, the machining that is done to produce that is such of a fine precision. There have been very rude, elementary attempts to replicate it here in Iraq, very unsuccessfully.

But we know that those, in fact, are produced and made in Iran and then smuggled -- component parts are smuggled in and then assembled here in Iraq.

When you look at the 81-millimeter mortar shell -- this is an 81 -- (To Major Webber) You know, rather than me talk, you're the expert, why don't I let you talk.

MAJ. WEBBER: Yes, sir. It's an 81-millimeter high explosive mortar round. Again, distinguishing features for us identifying country of origin are the actual stenciling on the warhead itself, the geometry of the tailfins, and the construction of the tail boom itself, which is a one-piece construction cast, which is for us a key identification feature that it's of Iranian origin.


GEN. CALDWELL: I think what's key about this too -- and, Marty, correct me if I'm wrong -- is that the weapon of development that normally occurs in this region is an 82-millimeter mortar shell. This is an 81-millimeter mortar shell, which really is just produced in Iran. The American version of the 81-millimeter mortar shell, as Marty was talking about, the tailfin can spin off. And the one that's produced in Iran is of a single piece.

Q. General, could you give an assessment of how much Iranian munitions are found here in comparison to, for example, Egyptian or -- (repeats question using microphone) -- Can you give an assessment of how much, in terms of quantity, Iranian munitions are found here in comparison to, say, Russian or other countries of origin?

MAJ. WEBBER: Sir, that's a very tough question. Ideally, all the reporting that we see come from our EOD teams out in the field. The Iranian ordnance that we see and recover is not as much, taken into a whole, the amount of caches, the amount of ordnance, especially what was left over from the Saddam era and pre-Saddam era. Therefore, what we're seeing now -- what we're drawing the attention to is the stuff that's been manufactured post-Saddam era, 2006, 2005.

GEN. CALDWELL: I think the key thing to make on this is that when we introduced this on Sunday, the intent was to talk about the explosively formed penetrator, and the recognition that there are other munitions making their way in here. But the one that we were concerned about is the explosively formed penetrator, which specifically is made in Iran and, again, causes the greatest number of casualties from IED incidents.

Although there's a lot of IED incidents that occur every day in this country, the EFP use is very, very small, yet has the preponderance of casualties as a result of it.

If you would, how about -- show the RPG round, would you, Marty, and talk that for a second? I'll let him talk that one for a second.

MAJ. WEBBER: This is essentially a P.G. 7 round, specifically a P.G. 7-AT-1. Historically, Iran manufactures four versions of this, which you can find in their ministry of defense industry's catalogue. However, this one, based upon the markings, that it is a -1, which indicates it is a new model of the P.G. 7-AT round, which there is one other version called the NADER, which is very popular. However, this one, again -- the lot number, it's a lot five, manufactured in the year 2006.

GEN. CALDWELL: And again, to point out our concern that incurs again here is, these are munitions that are being produced as late as this past year. It's not like they were already in existence or been around for a while like most of the munitions that we find in this country. But rather, this is something that was produced as late as 2006 and then smuggled into Iraq and utilized over here.

Marty, if you would, how about showing them the EFP slug.

MAJ. WEBBER: Yes, sir.

Essentially, this is an EFP, explosively formed penetrator. When you have the soft, malleable metal -- in this case, this particular one is a copper slug, which means the concave disk that was in the nose of the EFP, explosively formed penetrator, was made of copper. The explosives, when they detonate, essentially take the soft, malleable metal, form what we call a "slug," and that's what you see here. And this is the slug that travels at high rates of speed towards its target, and the kinetic energy is what ends up penetrating whatever the target is.

GEN. CALDWELL: Let me -- you had a question over there, sir. Go ahead. You haven't asked one yet.

Q. One was, I think we were told that the English writing is because they're sold in the international arms market.

GEN. CALDWELL: That is correct, sir.

Q. And again, it seems like you're getting into an inference there. If they're on the international arms market, maybe people here bought it from Syrian contacts or Lebanese contacts. I mean, that seems to work against the idea that it would be brought in by Iranian directors.

GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah. I guess, as we went through on Sunday, in the last 60 days, between -- just to take a current piece of intelligence, when you look at some of the Iranian and Iraqi detainees that we have picked up and conducted debriefings with, they in fact have told us that Qods Force provides supports to extremist groups here in Iraq, in the forms of both money and in weaponry. I mean, these are -- through the debriefings, they're telling us.

And we also know -- they've said that they have gone so far, the Qods Force has, to provide training for extremist groups within Iran. They have talked about how there are extremist elements that are given this material in Iran, and then it's smuggled into Iraq. We have in fact stopped some at the border and discovered it there, coming from Iran into Iraq.

I think what you saw today is part of the government of Iraq's initiative here on their new security plan, the enhancement of this. They shut down all their borders, points of entry, for the next 72 hours. And during that next 72 hours, as the government of Iraq has explained, they're going to re-look a lot of their procedures, reorganize the physical layout of and revamp these points. And one of them will be transfer points that will be established so that when vehicles do come in that they have suspicion or they decide they want to unload and transfer, they can in fact check the cargo to make sure in fact there aren't illegal munitions and weaponry being smuggled in from other countries into Iraq.


Q. Wasn't it said at the briefing the other day that the government of Iraq had actually confirmed to you that two of the Qods Force officers had provided offensive weapons to a political faction here in the country? The two Qods Force officers arrested on December 20, 21, with the list of inventory of weapons supplied. At that briefing we were told was the government asked for a response; it was said that yes, the government responded and said that groups need these weapons for their protection and that they've been supplied by these officers. Will you clarify that, please?

GEN. CALDWELL: I think the discussion there was talking about an inventory sheet that was picked up in that raid that had a list of weapons on it. And when senior members of -- were confronted with that and discussed it, both political parties and government officials, some explained that there is a need for certain weaponry to be -- that do come in that people use in, quote, for their -- "for protection purposes." And the concern we had in looking at that list is that on that list were sniper rifles, mortars and some other elements that are clearly offensive in nature, not defensive in nature. And so therefore the concern that that list of weaponry was not defensive in nature only, but rather had offensive capabilities associated with it.

Q. But it was described as a list, though, an inventory list of weapons supplied, past tense, already happened. So you are saying that the government told you, yeah, they came, and also this reason.

GEN. CALDWELL: The explanation came from somebody associated with the groups where the raid was connected (sic). ... I just want to be real careful in trying to quote somebody who provided information. When we asked for an explanation from security personnel, civilian security personnel and others, as to why we would see an inventory with that type of equipment on it, that was the initial explanation given. And then we said, but there are offensive weapons on this and therefore that's the part that's unacceptable.


GEN. CALDWELL: ... we know there are other munitions and armament that is made in Iran that does make its way into Iraq.

The other day we had a CH-46 helicopter that went down. Initial indications were that it was mechanical. As the investigation has continued, it's now been determined that was not in fact the case and in fact it was downed by hostile fire. And as the investigation has continued, it now appears that that was probably brought down by some sophisticated piece of weaponry. That investigation is not complete yet, but those are the -- now the indications.

But we're not trying to make any inference that it came from any particular area, but rather just that's what brought it down. So please don't make a leap of association here, because we are not doing that at all. We have nothing at this point that we would talk about, associate with that.

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