Wednesday, January 03, 2007

U.S. Military Transported Saddam To and From His Execution

Major General William Caldwell, spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq, talked to media in the Green Zone on Jan. 3, including comments about Saddam Hussein’s hanging.

Here’s the transcript of the press conference:
GEN. CALDWELL: Good afternoon. “As-salaam aleikum.”

Today, rather than providing an update on recent operations, I would like to briefly review the year gone by and to offer some thoughts as to what the Multinational Force-Iraq anticipates being some of the key issues the government of Iraq and its coalition partners will face in 2007.

Two thousand and six was a year of historic highs and heartbreaking lows for Iraq. The Iraqi people continue to work to overcome the legacy of 35 years of brutal dictatorship and to build a secure, stable and self-governing nation. Iraqis achieved many accomplishments in 2006 that serve as the foundation for future progress. Iraq seated the first democratically elected permanent government in their history. Months of negotiation produced a national unity government, rather than a government that privileges the interest of one sect or the ethnicity of another. The Council of Representatives passed its first significant pieces of legislation, the import liberalization law and the investment law.

Iraqs (sic) have stepped up and begun taking responsibility for their own security. Responsibility for the security was transferred to provincial Iraqi control in three provinces: Muthanna, Dhi Qar and Najaf. The Iraqi army and police now have overall responsibility for all law enforcement and security activities in those provinces, answer to their respective provincial governors and councils.

On January 1st, 2006, only one of Iraqis’ 10 army divisions was responsible for its own battlespace, meaning it would plan, coordinate and conduct security operations independent of coalition forces. Today 80 percent of Iraqis’ divisions are in the lead.

These achievements are important, but neither the Multinational Force-Iraq nor the Iraqi people achieved the strategic conditions we wanted to at the end of 2006.

Iraq continues to be plagued by unacceptably high levels of violence. The February bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra triggered a dramatic increase in sectarian violence, which now is the gravest strategic threat to our objectives in Iraq and the expressed desire of the Iraqi people to live in a multi-ethnic, unified country.

Moreover, the cost in innocent Iraqi lives taken by terrorist and extremist death squads is terrible in and of itself. Thousands of families, both American and Iraqi, have been shattered by the death of a loved one in this war. More than 800 American service men and women gave their lives in service to their country in Iraq this year, and the loss of every single one of these brave Americans is a terrible tragedy for a family somewhere. Even as we continue to work to secure Iraq and build a better future for the people of this region, we extend our deepest condolences for their loss and for our eternal gratitude to these families for the sacrifice of their loved ones.

We open 2007 facing significant challenges. Iraq security forces must not only continue to improve their capabilities, but must also work to gain the confidence of all Iraqi people. The government of Iraq and the Council of Representatives will have to rise above past divisions and work to realize the people’s desire for unity. This will likely entail difficult decisions on reforms to the de- Ba’athification process, and hard compromises necessary for national reconciliation.

The Multinational Force Iraq is committed to conducting operations and developing Iraqi forces in order to provide the stability necessary for this political process to occur. Coalition forces remain dedicated to this mission, and we have not given up on the Iraqis. We cannot write off a country where people have not given up on themselves. The United States, without always knowing it, has been fighting the forces of extremism emanating from this region since 1983 when the Marine barracks in Beirut was attacked. This violent extremism resulted in the 1993 World Trade Tower — Center attacks, the Khobar Tower, and the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, and attack on the USS Cole and, of course, the September 11th attacks.

The Iraqi people have suffered under a brutal tyranny for even longer — since 1968. In partnership with the Iraqi people, we are fighting to demonstrate that there is an alternative besides tyranny and extremism for the people of this region.

Success will create a better life for the Iraqi people and greater security for the people of America. If we fail, a new breeding ground for terrorism will have been created that will threaten both the Iraqi and the American people. This is what we perceive to be at stake in Iraq as we enter 2007.

But as I noted before, there is a cause for optimism in spite of the daunting challenges we face. The servicemen and women of the Multinational Force Iraq draw inspiration and hope from the fact that we are joined, not opposed, by the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people in this struggle. We share their vision for a free, prosperous Iraq and are committed to solving their nation’s problems.

And with that, I’ll be glad to take whatever questions you all may have.

Yes, ma’am.

Q: General, Mimi Spillane from CBS News. I’m wondering if you could walk us through the security leading up to the execution, how involved the U.S. military was. At what point did you hand him over to the Iraqis?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, what I would tell you is that — I guess the most important thing to know is that we continued operating just as we always have, dealing with the logistics, specifically both the security and the transportation of Saddam; that is, the routine matter that we’ve been doing ever since we took physical control of him.

As you know, the Iraqi government never did give up legal custody of him. That’s always been maintained with the government of Iraq. But we have handled the physical control. And so what did occur that day was — the decision was made by the government of Iraq that they wanted us to give back physical control to him within the timeframes we needed to do what we do, the logistics of both the movement and the security of Saddam. We went ahead and told them how soon we could arrange to have that done to transfer him back to their custody at their prison complex where they wanted us to make that effective, and so we took the necessary time for us to plan that so that was done properly. And then we passed him back over to Iraqi control.

Q: So who then was handling the security for the execution chamber? And who would be investigating how the cell phone was gotten in?

GEN. CALDWELL: Anything that was associated with that aspect — the way it occurred was that — let me give you some rough times — we took off at about 0505 that morning from the location where we had physical control of Saddam. We followed our normal procedures we always do in dealing with the logistics of movement and security for him with our military police squad and the other appropriate personnel.

We landed at the landing zone at about 0515, from Banzai landing zone, where then we moved him over to a holding cell. And at 0530 at Azbarata (ph) Prison, a Minister of Justice prison facility, we turned him back over, the physical control of him, to the prison warden, and then we backed out at that point. We had absolutely nothing to do with anything further than just the physical movement and security of him, as we had always done, to get him to a predetermined location, which in the past had been to the courthouse where the proceedings had been taking place.

Does that help answer the question?

Q: So then the Iraqis were in charge of everything after you handed over —

GEN. CALDWELL: That’s correct.

Q: — including the security, including screening, including collecting cell phones.

GEN. CALDWELL: Absolutely. In fact, what we did, we took him to — at the Azbarata (ph) Prison there, we took him to a holding building, went inside the building. They moved him into a holding cell. We signed the appropriate paperwork between our army colonel who was there, who was in charge of the thing.

Saddam turned around and — I have been able to get in contact with a group of Americans that were present at that point. They said at that point, he was dignified as always. He was courteous, as he always had been, to his U.S. military police guards. His characterization did change at the prison facility when the Iraqi guards were assuming control of him, but he was still dignified towards us. He spoke very well to our military police, as he always had. And when getting off there at the prison site, he said (sic) very well to his interpreter. He thanked the military police squad, the lieutenant, the squad leader, the medical doctor we had present, and the colonel that was on site.

And then we had absolutely nothing to do with any of the procedures or any of the control mechanisms or anything from that point forward. In fact, our forces withdrew from the building, back away from the whole location.

Q: May I ask one more follow-up?

GEN. CALDWELL: Absolutely.

Q: Thanks. Given how controversial this was going to be, and given that — obviously, you followed the procedures you did for three years, but given how big this was and has turned into, why were there no special provisions for extra security or for the U.S. to maintain security up until the last possible moment?

GEN. CALDWELL: The security we were responsible for is to ensure that he is returned back to the legal Iraqi authorities.

They have always maintained legal custody of him. We have never had legal custody. We have only had physical control. And so all we did was return physical control of him back to the Iraqis, who have always had the legal custody of him. And then at that point it’s a sovereign nation. It’s their system. They make those decisions. That’s not something we’re involved in, in how they — those proceedings go from there.

You know, if you’re asking me, would we have done things differently, yes, we would have. But that’s not our decision. That’s a government of Iraq decision.

What I think is important is to realize at this point the government of Iraq has the opportunity to take advantage of what has occurred and really reach out now, in an attempt to bring more people back into the political process and bring the Sunnis back in and work this de-Ba’athification process, in terms of trying to build back a unity government.

I mean, it’s a real critical juncture that has an opportunity, if they want to take advantage of it, that’s out there, that they can look at.

Q: What would you have done differently?

GEN. CALDWELL: I think that’s a hypothetical question.

Q: You just said you would have done it differently.

GEN. CALDWELL: We would have. Right. We —

Q: What would you have done?

GEN. CALDWELL: I think it’s — it was not our decision as to what occurred at that point, but we would have done it differently.

Anybody else got any — yes, sir? Q What you just said, moving directly from the question of we would have — from your observation — sorry — John Burns, New York Times — that we would have done things differently, directly into observations about the need for reconciliation, suggests that you in the command believe that this event was a blow, perhaps a severe blow, to progress towards reconciliation.

GEN. CALDWELL: John, I’m not sure that’s what I said. But what we do see is, we truly see, given that they have moved forward with this process and that Saddam’s execution has occurred, there is a(n) opportunity here now that the government of Iraq can take advantage of and do an outreach to those Sunni extremist elements and the Sunni people, and try to be much more inclusive in their overall process. And they can start by working the de-Ba’athification, which has not really moved forward along, and there’s still concerns about whether or not we’re looking at people in that process because they were a member or they in fact may have done some criminal activity, and sorting through that. But there is a unique opportunity here that this government could perhaps try to work and take advantage of here in 2007.

Yes, sir?

Q: Jim Glanz, New York Times. We’re told, General, that there were some guarantees given to the American government, and possibly the American military, that there wouldn’t be too long a time from when Saddam was handed over to the point where he was executed. Were the people who were in charge of his movement at the last moments aware of that condition, and did you have a specific time frame that was involved there, requirement?

GEN. CALDWELL: The people who were responsible for his movement is basically the same group that always has been responsible for his movement, were aware that he is being returned to Iraqi physical control for them to follow through on his execution. Saddam recognized that they were at that point, too, I think.

Q: Was there any — the concern apparently was if you left him too long in the custody of Iraqis — (off mike) — some sort of abuse before he went to the gallows. And so was there any concern given to what could happen between the time of handover to his arrival at the gallows, and was there a time limit put on that?

GEN. CALDWELL: Obviously there were some discussions that did occur prior to us returning back physical control of Saddam back to the government of Iraq. And the discussions would have been, you know, we all would want to follow through and continue to show the proper decorum and demeanor at that point.

Q: Did you tell them, General, treat this guy well before he —

GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah, I think to get into those were really privy discussions at that point that did transpire and take place prior to that time point.

Yes, sir?

Q: Just to continue to same point, and to go to the subject of the present Iraqi government investigation into what happened in the execution chamber, we know that a group of officials was transported from the Green Zone to the execution site, and those people were searched by U.S. forces. Is it your understanding that there were then other people at the administrative justice site who could have got access who were not searched by your forces?

GEN. CALDWELL: We had absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with the facility where the execution took place. We were not involved in any search of any people, we had nobody present, we did not dictate any requirements that had to be followed. This was a government of Iraq decisions on how that whole process went down: who would be present was their decisions, when they would arrive was their decisions. I mean everything was a government of Iraq event. The multinational force had absolutely no direct involvement with that whatsoever.

Yes, sir?

Q: (Through interpreter.) From Al-Sumariyah. There are some fears about the future in Iraq because some people fear that violence will occur because of the execution of Saddam.

What are the procedures to be taken for this possibility?

GEN. CALDWELL: The question that was asked was there’s some fears out there that the violence levels may increase as a follow-on to this execution, and obviously that’s something the Multinational Force did discuss with the government of Iraq. And obviously forces were moved to a heightened state of readiness; additional forces were deployed out into the streets and other locations in anticipation that that might occur.

Obviously, we’re in the period of Eid right now. If anything, what we have seen over the last three days has been a downturn in the overall level of violence within Iraq. But that does not mean within the next few days that could not in fact surge back up, and so it’s something we’re looking at very carefully. We’re very much aware that could occur, and have put some different mechanisms in place in an attempt to preclude just that from happening.

Yes, sir.

Q: Thanks. Dave Clark from AFP. Following Saddam’s execution, his body was moved north to a village outside Tikrit. We understand that coalition forces were involved in the transfer of his body. Can you talk us through how he came back into your physical control, at least for this trip, and then to whom he was handed once he got into the other end?

GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah. What I would tell you is, again, we never, ever took physical control of Saddam again. Once we turned him over at the prison complex, the Multinational Force never again assumed physical control.

After the execution occurred, the government of Iraq did ask the Multinational Force for lift support, helicopter support to move some of the people from that location back to the Green Zone, the International Zone, which we did do. Those Iraqis that did move on our helicopters did have Saddam’s body with them. They — again, no coalition force or Multinational Force ever touched, was involved with or participated in the movement nor used any other vehicles other than our helicopter itself to assist with this. They did move back to the International Zone. There was a group of Iraqis waiting there with some vehicles. And then the next day — or later that day — that evening, we were asked once again if we would provide helicopter lift support again to move some Iraqis from the International Zone up to the vicinity of Tikrit, and we — the prime minister’s office made that request.

We did honor it, and went ahead and provided the helicopter lift support. And once again, those Iraqis who did board the helicopters did bring Saddam’s body with them. But again, once again, we had absolutely nothing to do with any movement other than just providing the physical helicopters with the pilots on board. The crew chiefs didn’t even participate in helping the people load Saddam’s body on or anything like that, that was entirely — remained at all times in the government of Iraq’s control.

Yes, sir?

Q: Hi, General. Michael Hastings from Newsweek.

It seems that with this cell phone tape coming out, and from what you’re saying, is that the U.S. military doesn’t want to have any responsibility at all for what actually happened, and kind of distancing themselves from that event, the actual execution and how that looked. Could you talk about your feelings about what you felt when you saw the cell phone video? Is it something that the U.S. government would stand behind as a proud moment in Iraq history?

GEN. CALDWELL: Here’s what I’d say. First of all, we’re not trying to distance ourselves from anything. We just actually had no physical participation. So it’s hard to — that almost implies we had something to do with it, and we didn’t.

Q: But you had the helicopter that brought him.

GEN. CALDWELL: We did the physical lift movement support, and then that is all we were associated with. And that’s because the prime minister’s office made the request, would we provide helicopter lift support, and which we acknowledged his request and did provide that to the government of Iraq. And after that, it’s a sovereign nation here, and they have made those decisions.

You’re asking me, would we have done things differently? Yes, we would have. But again, this is a sovereign nation; they made the decisions they made. But we, as a coalition force, would have done it differently.

Yes, ma’am? Q Sir, I have two questions. Was there anyone — can you tell us at all who the Iraqis were who were escorting Saddam’s body back to the Green Zone and then also on towards his village near Tikrit? And my second question is, do you have any indication from the government of Iraq on when the next two executions are expected to occur? Thank you.

GEN. CALDWELL: I really should let the government of Iraq talk about who was physical in each of the helicopter movements, both from the prison MOJ complex back into the International Zone, from there up to the vicinity of Tikrit.

I don’t have that list, actually, personally, right at my fingertips. But I really probably should let them go and answer that question, as, again, they — they totally organized and planned all that. All we physically did was provide a movement platform that was sitting there for them to put whomever they wanted to on that helicopter and then flew them to the next location they asked to go to.

Q: (Off mike) — on board — (off mike).

GEN. CALDWELL: Right. No, no, no.

Q: (Off mike.)

GEN. CALDWELL: I’m not saying we’re not aware of, I’m just saying I really should let the government of Iraq talk to that, because that was not something we had any control over — responsible for or directing. They just asked for a helicopter to move people. They came, brought those people. We obviously are aware of who got on each of our helicopters. But that — again, then — that’s how Saddam’s body was moved from the MOJ prison system, International Zone, then up to Tikrit. But after that, I’d really prefer to let the government of Iraq talk that, since that was all their — those — it was their decisions and their responsibility.

Then your second question, about the next two executions — I know the discussions are ongoing, but I really should let them announce when they’re going to do those, rather than us, because again, that’s going to be their decision, not ours. So I really would probably let the government of Iraq answer that one.

Q You don’t think it’s the opportunity to handle this one differently?

GEN. CALDWELL: I’m not sure we’d do it any differently than we did it before. I mean, again, we’re — we only have physical control of Saddam. That’s all we had. We never had the legal custody of him. And so those decisions were not ours to make. Those were for the government of Iraq to make, which is a real distinct difference. And so these are government of Iraq — a sovereign nation’s decisions they’re making.

Yes, sir?

Q: (Through interpreter.) Assam Unah (sp) from Aswat al-Iraq (sp). General Caldwell, in the next few days there will be the Iraqi army day. Do you think that the Iraqi army will be ready in 2007? Will it be ready to combat insurgents? And about the recruitment of the Iraqi army, the Iraqi army is equipped with light arms. The Iraqi army cannot combat the terrorists by these weapons. And what is the number of the airplanes the Iraqi army will receive soon? (Pause.)

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, I’m looking for a chart I have that actually has some of the — those specifics.

The question was: In 2007, do we think the Iraqi army will be ready to assume responsibility for ground operations, and what would be the new equipment that they’ll have associated with them? Let me first off by saying, absolutely, in the year of 2007, you will see all — what will be 11 Iraqi army divisions operating independently. The challenge will still be working their logistics, the leadership and the loyalty in some cases of those organizations, along with some intelligence support. But as far as the day-to-day operations and the play and execution of those, that will be the government of Iraq and the Iraqi army’s decisions.

We do know that mid-December the government of Iraq invested more than $1.5 billion, U.S. dollars, in the foreign military sales agreement with us, which are going to fund a significant number of initiatives they have both for their army and for their police forces.

As of the end of December right now, the Iraqi air force — when you talk about airplanes — has 10 MI-17 helicopters, three C-130 cargo planes, the Hercules, and then has an assortment of 18 other fixed-wing aircraft that they already have in their physical control. We do know that the navy right now has five Predator patrol boats, one other different kind of a patrol boat and then additional 10 rigid hull boats that they have. And during this next year, we do know that they’re going to do — add an additional 300 armored personnel carriers, and these are out of that fund that’s part of the $1.5 billion in foreign military sale; 600 more up-armored humvees and a number of UH-2, the Advanced Heli Helicopter, to their inventory, and this will be during the year of 2007 — along with things like the — more wheeled, armored-type personnel carriers that they’re going to buy.

So they have plans to, in fact, continue to upgrade the equipment that’s existent within the Iraqi army this year.

Yes, sir?

Q: (Through interpreter.) Laith Ahmadi (ph) from (Free Iraq ?). I have two questions.

My first question: why was Saddam handed over to the Iraqi authorities minutes before the execution? Second question: there are some American troops which are coming to Iraq to complete the security plan. What is the role of these new forces? Will they only train the Iraqi people or take part in combat operations?

GEN. CALDWELL: The first question was, if I heard you correctly, is, why was Saddam turned over just minutes before the execution? And that was something that had been talked out between the Multinational Force and when the government of Iraq wanted us to have him arrive at the ministry of Justice prison complex. And so the decision was to make — to ensure he was there some period shortly before they had anticipated on conducting the execution, but that was something that was agreed upon that afternoon before as to when they would have him there.

Does that answer that question? Okay.

And then the second question I think you asked was about reports of — are there reports of additional troops coming to Iraq? And if so, how would they be utilized? And I guess what I would say at this point is any future operations that are going to occur within the country we don’t talk about ahead of time, so it’d be really inappropriate for me to address and take on that subject right now.

Q: General?

GEN. CALDWELL: Yes, sir.

Q: John Burns, New York Times. We know that the final decision — political decision to carry out this execution was not taken until around about midnight on Friday night, and you’ve just said that the time schedule for the handover of Iraq — of Saddam, the physical handover of Saddam was agreed upon that afternoon. So how was that possible, that you were negotiating a schedule for the delivery of Saddam when there had been no final decision to execute him?

GEN. CALDWELL: John, in the armed forces, we normally (bill ?) what we call an X-Hour sequence. It’s from the time that we say something will start — you know, you work a number of things that will happen before and afterwards on by hours. And so there had been a discussion that, depending on when the government of Iraq decided they wanted the — to conduct the execution X number of hours before that, we would begin the movement.

We did not necessarily know far in advance when that decision was going to be made as to when they would execute him, but we did know that when the decision was made, that we would ensure, as you backed off from the execution time, we would have him present on-site at the Minister of Justice prison complex.

Q: Did Saddam know on Friday afternoon that he could be turned in to Iraq?

GEN. CALDWELL: I did not specifically ask that question. We can go back and look at that. I just didn’t ask that question.

I do know that obviously, when the final flight occurred that took him to the Minister of Justice facility — occurred, he knew as he was departing from where he was being held. And partly from the statements, you know, from the soldiers that I got, that were present on-site — because of the cordial manner in which he conducted himself, as he always had with them during all previous movements, and he thanked them for the way he had been treated, and said goodbye to them.

Q: Did that occur at Camp Cropper, or did it occur at the facility in Habbaniya?

GEN. CALDWELL: As he was departing the location where he was being held, he did thank some of those guards there that don’t travel with them, and then he thanked the other guards. Once they arrived at the building where the holding cell was, he then turned to his U.S. military police squad that traveled with him, along with his medical doctor we had travel with him, and the lieutenant and colonel.

Q: (Off mike) — speak English? Did he say, “Thank you”?

GEN. CALDWELL: I didn’t ask that question. They didn’t have it in the — but we can go back and ask that question. My understanding it was, but I would not want to tell you for sure, but as I understood, that’s — there was, obviously, and I probably failed to mention, there was an interpreter that always traveled, too. But I believe it was in English. I’d have to ask that, though.

Yes, ma’am?

Q: Lauren Frayer from AP. You spoke about some decisions and negotiations being made before the transfer to ensure that — perhaps a time frame in which Saddam would be executed. Were there any stipulations that the U.S. made before the execution to ensure that it would be carried out in a fashion that the U.S. approved of? And was there any point at which the U.S. could have intervened if — granted, it was a sovereign Iraqi process, but was there any point that the U.S. could have stopped it if it had gone in a way that the U.S. wasn’t comfortable with?

GEN. CALDWELL: Again, I’d go back — you know, we never had legal custody of him. We only had physical control. Obviously had we, while we had physical control of him or were still in the presence of him, seen anything that was outside of the manner in which you would treat any detainee that was in our custody or in proximity to our custody, we would have said something. But — and through the process, up to the time we turned him over to the prison warden, and when he signed for the physical control of Saddam, everything had still been done in a proper manner. Everybody had been treated respectfully. And then we left that building and moved away from the — that location, because we had no part at that point anymore in the process.

Q: And did you have some confidence and reassurance from Iraqi officials that the execution would be carried out in any certain way?

GEN. CALDWELL: Obviously there had been a lot of dialogue that had gone on ahead of time. I guess I’d go back to the same thing I said before: you know, had we been physically in charge at that point, we would have done things differently.

Yes, sir? Q General, one of the ways in which you could have assured yourself that things were going to be done in a certain way would be to look at the execution chamber ahead of time and just assure yourself of what was there and what was planning to be done. Was there an inspection of the execution chamber by American forces?

GEN. CALDWELL: There was no reason for us to inspect that, because we’re not responsible at that point. They had — the government of Iraq had legal custody of Saddam, not us. And we returned physical control back to them from the physical control we had been maintaining. And we made sure that as we did that, everything was done properly, that they — he was treated respectfully, that he was put into a holding cell there, that we saw he was back under their positive control, and then we departed.

GEN. CALDWELL: Yes, sir?

Q: (Through interpreter.) General Caldwell, you said that if it is for us, we would have acted differently. What would you do if Saddam was in your legal custody? And what is your opinion about the new security strategy in 2007?

GEN. CALDWELL: The question is how — goes back to the question that was asked earlier, how would we have acted differently. And again, what I would just say there — that’s a hypothetical question that would be really inappropriate to address, because we were not in charge at that point. I’d — suffice it to just say we would have done it differently.

And about the strategy for 2007, the biggest thing I would say — there has been an — intense ongoing discussions back and forth with the government of Iraq, with the prime minister, the ambassador here, Ambassador Khalilzad, and General Casey. There have been secure video teleconferences that gone between our president of the United States and your prime minister here in country as they have continued these dialogues.

What’s important to understand — it’s not like this is the first time adjustments have been made in looking how we’re going to move forward. I mean, General Casey has done that in the last eight months I’ve been here in country on a repetitive basis. I mean, he’s always going back and challenging us in the Multinational Force to look at how we’re doing things. Is it achieving the results that we would hope to achieve? Are we in fact continuing the transition to put the Iraqi security forces more in the lead and ensuring they’re more capable and competent than they were before? So that’s an ongoing process all the time.

But I really need to let your prime minister discuss this. I believe he’s looking at some time here in the future, laying out some of his thoughts and ideas.

And really the key difference that you’re going to see in 2007 is, this is truly the year of transition and adaptation. We are going to transition and by the summertime have turned back over — ensured that all Iraqi army divisions are back under the Iraqi Ground Forces Command, that they’ll be in charge of all the command and control of all the Iraqi ground forces.

By the fall time frame, we’re looking at all the provinces have gone back under provincial Iraqi control, so that by the end of the year 2007, a significant year of transition, the multinational force and the U.S. mission here in Iraq will be truly in support of the efforts of the government of Iraq and not commanding and controlling those things but working as a support mechanism for them.

Q: General, one more question, if I might. (Off mike) — you can tell from the timbre of your voice, to use a word you used in another context, that you are seriously disheartened by what happened last Saturday morning; that after having custody of Saddam for as long as you did, to the extent that he thanked his captors as he went to his execution, to have seen those images on television must have been for all of you a terrible disappointment, a personnel as well as a professional disappointment, to put it at its mildest.

GEN. CALDWELL: John, I would just go back to say we would have done things differently, and this is a sovereign nation. They’re going to make their own decisions. They’re going to learn from each thing they do. I would just leave it at that.

Q: Will there be an investigation, do you know?

GEN. CALDWELL: The prime minister has announced he’s going to conduct an investigation from what I understand. I’ve not talked with any of the senior officials that understand what that investigation will include and to what extent, but as I understand from press reporting and what I heard him say, that he plans to conduct an investigation.

Q: Will the U.S. participate?

GEN. CALDWELL: There has been no request for us to do so at this time.

Okay. Listen, I — if I could, let me just say to everybody here in the press corps, I very much appreciate — you know, we wrapped up the 2006 year; the challenging times we’ve had from truly tremendous highs to some really disheartening lows that occurred this past year — but I do appreciate the open dialogue and the frankness and the discussions that have ensued. I look forward to that in this next year. I am — we, the multinational force, are very optimistic in the opportunities that can lie out ahead, and we look forward to working very closely with the government of Iraq and especially their security forces as we go through this transition period and see them assume the complete command and control of all their ground forces, to take on responsibility for the security of this country. And as they adapt and modify what they do to where by the end of this year the dynamics will be entirely different than they are today, when we’re all back here again one year from today.

So thank you very much.

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