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U.S. Department of State

The Long Global War Against Violent Extremism, Current Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and NATO Issues


Brigadier General Mark T. Kimmitt, Deputy Director, Plans and Strategy, (J5), U.S. Central Command
Foreign Press Center Briefing
Washington, DC
February 21, 2006

1:30 P.M. EST

MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome to the Foreign Press Center. For this afternoon's briefing, we have Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt who is the deputy director of plans and strategy for the U.S. Central Command and a face familiar to many of you. He'll be talking today on the -- what we are calling the long war, which the concept which is driving the United States military's Quadrennial Defense Review, as you've seen in framing our strategy for the next 20 to 25 years. General Kimmitt will have a few remarks at the top of the session and be happy to take your questions. Thank you.

BGEN KIMMITT: Well, good afternoon. I'd like to talk for about 10 minutes, 15 minutes ahead of time and then we'll use the remaining time for questions and answers. I think it's important to sort of take stock of where we are right now in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, obviously the government is forming now. This is not a provisional government, it's not a temporary government. It's not an interim government, but it is a full four-year government selected by 11 million Iraqis who came to the polls to pick their government. The government is forming now, going through the tough parliamentary procedures, the tough coalition building procedures that one expects from a parliamentary democracy and we would expect that in the next month or so we would see a government formed.

The same thing in Afghanistan. In December, the loya jirga, the upper and lower houses formed, sat. And the forming of the lower and the upper houses marked the end of the bond* period. And last month in London, the conference met -- the London conference met for the purposes of talking about the way forward in Afghanistan.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the military takes great pride in what they've accomplished to date because they've provided the military shield for those efforts because at the end of the day, this is about setting up a government, about restoring the economies, restoring the infrastructure, more than it is about the military activities.

Nonetheless, it is our view in Central Command that while there has been progress in Iraq in Afghanistan that the long work continues. And the long work in many ways is separate from this notion and these activities on a day-to-day basis in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it is our view at Central Command that if you look at the long war through the narrow lens of Iraq and Afghanistan, you're going to get the problems set wrong and possibly the solutions wrong as well. Because it is our view in the Central Command area of responsibility to the 27 nations that range from Kyrgyzstan* in the northeast to Kenya in the Southwest that the major problem, the long war must continue against al-Qaida and its associated movements. This is more than bin Laden, this is more than Zarqawi, this is more than Zawahiri. This is al-Qaida as the base, but it is also a number of affiliated and associated movements. We're talking about movement such as a Salafist Group for preaching and combat, we're talking about AIAI* in Morocco, Ansar al-Islam in Iraq, Zarqawi in Iraq, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Jemaah Islamiya, Abu Sayyaf. It is a group that may not be hierarchically bound together the way a military is, but certainly networked together with the center of gravity being this radical extremist ideology that binds them together. That's the fight that we have. That's the center of gravity for this enemy that we face. Those are the groups that we are facing.

What is remarkable about these organizations, even though they are not tightly bound together, they are put together much like a cellular network telephone. There is a network out there. There's no doubt about it. And this network manifests itself not simply in the normal ways that the military would view it with fighters, leaders, training camps, so on and so forth, but this is also a movement that makes tremendous use of what we call the "virtual domain." Not simply the geographic domain of land and space and terrain, but it is also the virtual domain of the internet.

This is a group that advertises on the internet, finances on the internet, proselytizes on the internet, sends its results on the internet that you can get on most of these websites, these extremist websites, as well as uses the internet for financing and for command and control -- loose form command and control. It also uses international criminal networks in many ways, smuggling in some cases drug money to finance its efforts and in some cases, uses sympathetic NGOs for this process.

So if you put this all together, you see a fairly sophisticated network. Now I don't want to mislead you. This enemy is not 10 feet tall, he's not bright, he's not strictly intelligent, but he is, in many ways, networked in a way that we are not. Now, that's point one. The second point I'd make about this enemy is we've seen its handiwork. We've seen its handiwork from -- since 9/11 and before in places such as Madrid, Jedda, Riyadh, Amman, Jakarta, Istanbul and, of course, New York, London and Washington, D.C. So not only is it a fairly clever, but it's a fairly violent organization as well. This organization shows no moderation in its behavior and certainly shows no moderation in its tactics. It shows no moderation in its brutality.

Third, not only is it dangerous now, but it is their declared vision to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, whether it is chemicals, biologicals or fissile material that can be used in a dirty bomb, we have little doubt that this movement wants to acquire weapons of mass destruction and use them in the prosecution of its efforts against not only the nations in the region, but also the nations outside of the region as well.

With that as a view towards the enemy, it may be helpful to talk about how CentCom views taking this forward. What we call principals for this long war against al-Qaida and its associated movements.

The first principle I'd like to talk about is it takes a network to defeat a network. Now if this organization is networked as I postulated, that it has the capability to operate not only in the geographic domain, but also in the virtual domain. Also outside those areas that the military habitually has responsibilities for, we feel that to defeat this organization, we must have a network that's equally adept, more adept, more capable, more life to defeat that network.

Right now, a preponderance of the work, certainly not all the work, but a large amount of the work is being done by the military. But to defeat this enemy, it is far more than simply the military. It will take a network, interagency network, international network that brings together the Department of the Treasury, brings together the State Department, brings together all the intelligence agencies, bring together all of our law enforcement agencies, so that we can develop a network both here in America and internationally to fight this network and defeat this network.

It is our view that this network cannot be defeated, cannot be deterred. It must be defeated. And by putting together a strong network, we can work against this enemy, although it is transnational, it is borderless, it violates, it does not bind itself by any rules. We believe that the network we build up to this point has been somewhat successful and in the future as we take it forward, can be even more successful.

The second principle I want to talk about is helping others help themselves -- help others help themselves. It is the professed aspiration of this network to drive international interests, western interests out of the Middle East and after that, then turn its wrath and turn its fury on what it considers to be the apostate in secular regimes in the region. Most of our partners in the region, in fact, all of our partners in the region understand that and that's why it has been so encouraging to see the nations in the region take on the fight themselves.

In fact, many if not most of the operations against al-Qaida and its associated movements in the region outside of Iraq and Afghanistan have been taken on by the countries themselves. These are countries that have developed counterterrorism capabilities within their own ministries of interior or ministries of defense. These are countries that are developing their own intelligence capacities and these are the countries that are taking the will to attack al-Qaida and its associated movements itself within their own countries. Countries such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria. These are countries that recognize the danger that this extremist movement presents to their own countries and they're taking the fight to al-Qaida itself. I couldn't help noticing before I came in here that even the Somali warlords have banded together inside of Mogadishu to take on the Islamic as they call it, "the Islamic extremism inside of Somalia."

The U.S. and its coalition partners are part of helping those nations to develop that capacity. We have strong security cooperation, relationships with the countries in the region. There is significant amount of intelligence sharing that goes on between the nations and significant amount of training support that goes on with the nations as well. So it is right. It is appropriate for the nations to take on the fight against al-Qaida and its associated movements themselves and that's why that second principle of helping others help themselves we believe is fundamental to defeating this terrorist network.

A third principle that we operate under is "no sanctuaries and safe havens." It is not a coincidence that bin Laden found refuge in Sudan. It is not a coincidence that he then went from Sudan to Afghanistan and the federally administrated tribal areas of Pakistan during some periods of chaos and lawlessness. It breeds, it finds refuge, it finds safe haven in areas absent rule of law, absent rule of law, absent rule -- government control. And we view the 27 countries in our region as areas -- there are some areas in which in the future, these movements might find safe haven refuge. As we push al-Qaida further and further out of Iraq, further and further out of Afghanistan, we continue to look at some of the countries in the region, some of the areas in the region where there is very loose formed government control or none at all and we are making certain that we have eyes and that we have ears in those areas to ensure that if, in fact, al-Qaida seeks to use those as future sanctuaries that they've got -- they've got some people waiting for them.

What do I mean by that? You take a look at organizations in Central Command area of operations, such as the headquarters that we have in the Horn of Africa stationed right now in Djibouti, combined joint task force Horn of Africa, very small organization, less than a couple of thousand. They have responsibility and coverage in about seven countries in that area. They are providing primarily civil affairs and humanitarian assistance with veterinarian capability programs, medical capability programs. They do a lot of well digging and a lot of local support. But that gives us the capacity to help the local citizens and perhaps provide some sort of resistance when the citizens are asked by al-Qaida or are perhaps lured by some of these extremist movements. And so that third principle of "no safe havens and sanctuaries" is a responsibility that we take very, very seriously.

The last principle that I want to talk about before we hand it over to question and answers is a term that we call re-posturing for the long war. We have said many times that it is our view that were we to make the decisions with the coalition in Iraq and Afghanistan similar to the decisions that we made in post-World War II Germany and Japan, to have a long and large presence to garrison the Middle East the way we garrisoned West Germany after World War II; that we would be making a fundamental error. It is our belief that we will not keep and we do not want to keep a huge presence of ground maneuver forces in the region ad infinitum the way we did in West Germany.

We certainly understand that we have the residual -- after Iraq and Afghanistan are stabilized, we fully understand we've got the requirement to provide to a residual capability to continue to prosecute this primarily counterterrorist fight against al-Qaida, also to provide a deterrent effect against hostile actors in the region, but that will be a fraction in our belief -- a fraction of the number of forces that we have there now. We have over 200,000 American forces alone in the region; that is not a force presence that we believe will lead to winning this long war in the future.

So those are four of the principles that I wanted to take about. It takes a network to defeat a network, helping others help themselves, no sanctuary or safe haven and re-posturing for the long war. That ought to give you an idea of how Central Command sees this long war fight in our region. Clearly, General Casey, a four star headquarters with day-to-day focus on Iraq; General Eikenberry, a three star headquarters, with his day-to-day focus on Afghanistan, give us that type of leadership that is needed on a daily basis for those operations. That allows Central Command, headquarters and some of its components to stay focused at a higher level, at a broader level, looking further into the future, because while Iraq and Afghanistan are being prosecuted so brilliantly by Ambassador Khalilzad, Ambassador Neumann and General Casey and General Eikenberry that gives Central Command the ability to continue to fight this longer war, make the critical decisions for this long war for as long as it takes until we defeat this scourge of al-Qaida and its associated movements.

So with that, let me turn it over to the floor for questions.

MODERATOR: I would like to ask you to wait for the microphone, identify yourself and your country, please. Go to the fifth row there -- to Japan.

QUESTION: My name is Oikawa from Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun. And my question is about the cooperation with Japan in Iraq. It is said that the Japanese Government is planning to begin withdrawing from Samawah -- southern city of Iraq, later March. And although the United States expects Japan to continue contribution to Iraq's reconstruction, and I think it's -- one of the proposals you made, the Central Command made, has been turned down by the Japanese Government last month. And my question is what kind of duties do you expect Japan to do? What will be the desirable contribution?

BGEN KIMMITT: Sure. Well, first of all, on behalf of Central Command, let me clearly state how much we've appreciated the Japanese contribution in Iraq and in the overall war on terror efforts. As you know, Japan is part of the Multinational Division Southeast coalition that is -- with the lead nation being the Government of Great Britain. Those consultations are ongoing now with regards to the way forward for Multinational Division Southeast. In fact, I believe this Friday there are discussions in London to talk about the way forward. As I understand all those decisions at this point -- well, it really is pre-decisional at this point and there hasn't been a formal announcement either to the Government of the United Kingdom or to the overall Multinational Force Iraq.

We had been very clear with Japan that we appreciate the contribution and would like to see that contribution continue in an appropriate manner. The oiler that is provided by the Japanese Government has been a tremendous help and it is our understanding that the Government of Japan will continue that support. The C130s that are flying right now in the region, again are very helpful. And the ground troops in Samawah in Muthanna Province are helpful as well, but it is fully understood that we can't and we won't stay in Iraq with 150,000-plus soldiers ad infinitum. So it becomes -- when the conditions in a particular province reach a certain level that it's time to transform that mission.

And as I understand, that's what's being considered now by Japan, taking a look at while the Japanese forces in Samawah have been providing this type of support for the last year, the conditions on the ground are such that Japan is now looking for a different type and method for providing support. And that's being, for the most part, managed by the United Kingdom and we remain, you know, very sanguine that Japan will continue to provide support in both Iraq and in the broader Operation Enduring Freedom. So whether -- and it is our understanding that the decision has been made on the oiler. There will be some decisions made potentially about changing what the C-130s may be doing. And then of course the ground contribution, that's sort of subject to the local conditions.

MODERATOR: Go to Finland here.

QUESTION: Jyri Raivio, Helsingin Sanomat, Finland. How do you envision the end to this long war? What are the criteria that -- of course, we both are retired by that time, but what are the criteria to use to claim that now this war has been won?

BGEN KIMMITT: You know, that's a good question. And last month, I was over in the United Kingdom talking to a Fellow from our National Defense University who is writing -- she is writing a paper on, "How do you know when it's over?" You know, in a lot of ways, that's much like asking the question, "How do we know when the Cold War is over?" And we woke up one day and we recognized that the expansion of the Soviet Union was no longer a threat.

Here's what we do know. We know it won't define itself by geography. There won't be a crossing of the Rhine. There won't be a crossing of the beaches at Normandy. There won't be a taking of Berlin. But it probably -- first of all, I think that we will have terrorism in some form for quite a long period of time. This ideology may be around for a very long period of time. But it may simply be that the attenuation of the threat that it is no longer a daily threat to the nations in the region and to the nations in the world, but it may be one that is attenuated to the point where it is a local law enforcement problem. That may be one of those markers or metrics where we would say we have been successful.

But unfortunately, this probably is not a long war that is going to lend itself to a lot of metrics so that one day we will be able to stand up, have ticker tape parades and say we've been victorious. I just -- it is our view that that is -- it is not the case.

MODERATOR: Go to the third row here.

QUESTION: General, Sheldon Alberts with the National Post in Canada. Canada just deployed 2,000 troops to southern Afghanistan. I'm wondering if you can give me your assessment of the conditions and the challenges there, in particular, the strength of the Taliban.

BGEN KIMMITT: Sure. Again, we remain enormously grateful to Canada, too, for the lead role it has taken on being the first commander of the multinational brigade that is coming into the south, taking over from U.S. troops so that the U.S. troops can focus primarily in MNB East. That rotation is ongoing now. General Frasier* and his people are rolling in and our view right now is that the transition is going well.

The strength of the Taliban. The Taliban have episodic capabilities to create violence. They are clearly going to test Canadian forces, British forces, Dutch forces, the way they've tested new American forces and new international forces as they come into the country. But the Taliban are not necessarily a spent force, but it is certainly a spent ideology inside of Afghanistan. They do have the capability for random violence. They do have the capability for some fairly tough operations for short periods of time. And I know that the Canadian troops are up to the task.

But in terms of an ideology and in terms of ever having the opportunity to take over the region again, the area again, the way that Mullah Omar would like to in his old district in Uruzgan and Tarin Kowt or some of the kind of depravities that we used to see in Kandahar, that's just not going to happen. So my assessment is that the Taliban is certainly capable of providing episodic violence, but not much more than that.

MODERATOR: Go to the second row. Khaled.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. My name is Khaled Dawoud. I'm from Al-Ahram, Egypt. First, I'd like to ask you how would you respond to those who think that comparing the long war to the cold war is not really the right thing to do, considering that the danger from the former Soviet Union was much, much bigger than the one you're facing from al-Qaida? And al-Qaida, at the end of the day, could be, as you said, a local problem that could be solved with local authorities. I mean, do you think it's fair to compare between the two?

And my second question concerning your statement that you only want residual capability to fight the terrorists in Iraq, how many troops do you think those could be, like 50,000, 60,000? I mean, there should be some sort of presence in Iran* afterwards. Thank you.

BGEN KIMMITT: First of all, I do think it's a fair comparison with the Cold War. Bin Ladenism is about the easiest way I can sort of grip this and it really is the first "'ism" of the 21st century and to many ways the comparison with fascism may be more appropriate. This is a radical ideology that was allowed for some period of time to grow. In the case of fascism, in many ways, it became mainstream in some of the countries in Europe and I think that history would show what happens if one delays too long in attacking a problem of this type.

But yeah, I do believe it is fair to compare to the Cold War in terms of the fact that in many ways, it will be a generational struggle; in many ways, this is a ideology that certainly is not localized in one small place, but in fact, we've seen it in many, if not, most of the 27 countries in our region. But it is also comparable because in a lot of ways, it is more than simply just a military struggle, but it is a struggle that will require all of our elements of national power, all of our elements within the government to combat it.

And frankly, so will -- the same could be said about the nations in the region, so -- but to suggest that we have nothing to fear from this organization -- again, we've seen what this organization is capable of doing. We've seen it in many of the major capitals around the world, as recently as November in Amman and that certainly does not suggest a localized problem with a localized solution. We would like it to become, one day, localized and a law enforcement problem, but as it stands now, it is not. In fact, its capability to acquire weapons of mass destruction makes it potentially even more dangerous.

But again, I do not want to paint this enemy as 10 feet tall. That's like saying criminals with international criminal connections are 10 feet tall. No, they just may have -- they may take advantage of lack of law, lack of government enforcement, but to suggest that this can't be defeated with a full effort against it, I think, is incorrect. It can be defeated and it will be defeated.

Troops. First of all, right now, we do not plan to keep any troops or bases in Iraq in the long term. We may have some small training elements that come in, but right now, the policy, particularly with bases, is we don't foresee having any permanent bases in Iraq. In the long run, we certainly don't see stationing troops in Iraq at present and so, the number of troops, I wouldn't even want to speculate, because again, it may be something as simple as a office of military cooperation operating outside the embassy -- within the embassy, the way that we have in most of the other countries in the world.

But we do not anticipate, nor do we seek to maintain a long-term presence with sizable force numbers in permanent bases in Iraq.

QUESTION: I have a follow-on.

MODERATOR: Yeah, sure, (inaudible).

QUESTION: On the issue of the permanent bases versus just temporarily bases -- but the concept of long war that -- unlimited with time and geographic location may require some sort of permanent presence until that long war ended. So, in that period of time that -- being contemplated, how many bases that United States will ask in Iraq to be used or how many bases that future government of Iraq may require, since their security forces are not built to the level that -- to be able to handle the security and military situation?

BGEN KIMMITT: Well, again, I can't ask -- I mean, I can't answer for the Government of Iraq. The Government of Iraq has not approached us about maintaining any permanent facilities in Iraq and it remains our policy that at this point, we will not keep any permanent bases in Iraq.

QUESTION: Did they approach you?

BGEN KIMMITT: I said they have not approached us.

QUESTION: Hi, Quil Lawrence from the BBC. You were in Iraq when it was General Sanchez and Ambassador Bremer. I'm just wondering if you could comment on how in -- I guess what you call Phase 4 operations -- stability and -- I don't want to say nation-building -- how the civilian and military are working together now, whether you think you've -- there have been improvements in that cooperation on the ground and if you could refer specifically, for example, to training the police force with the MNSTCIs --

BGEN KIMMITT: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and Ambassador Yellin.

BGEN KIMMITT: Ambassador?

QUESTION: Of -- he's the liaison from the embassy in Baghdad to the Ministry of the Interior Police Force.

BGEN KIMMITT: Yeah. The -- first of all, I think the relationship is healthy and it's strong. Ambassador Khalilzad and General Casey enjoy a very, very strong relationship. The establishment of MNSTCI in the June time period, the training command led first by General Dave Petraeus and now by Lieutenant General Marty Dempsey, has really been a model for bringing together an army, bringing together a police force.

The fact that General Peterson runs the police training, the -- and the other training that goes on for the military, I think, is -- there were some initial bumps as this thing was put together, but from our view, the relationship is going very well.

There is a -- that is a good example of what we're talking about in terms of this interagency harmony, the ongoing relationship between the State Department and the Department of Defense working towards a common effort, working towards a mutual effort without, sort of, the bureaucratic firewalls that went off in seas* is certainly one that we can start -- we can certainly see its results by the fact that we have over 200,000 Iraqi security forces out either on the beat, in the case of police, or in the field, in the case of the military.

So, it is going well and I think that they would tell you as much.

QUESTION: Thank you. Have there been or do you need civilian oversight with these sort of things or is this something that the military has the capacity to do long-term? It's -- you know, building a police force and a justice system is not something that you guys have been studying and preparing to do for --

BGEN KIMMITT: No, and that's exactly my point, that we need to bring in the Department of Homeland Security, who has helped us with some of the border training, INL from the State Department to help us with this. We don't anticipate these -- what we call these Title 22 functions. Title 10 is military. Title 22 is what the State Department works. And no, we are seeking more partnership with the State Department on this, not less. This is not something that we want the military to have a long-term requirement to do.

Right now, the unification of those underneath the MNSTCI is one probably more for -- not necessarily for convenience as much as it is for just organizational effectiveness, but this is not something that, in the long run, we would anticipate would be a core military task, the training of the police forces.

MODERATOR: Go to Germany there, Chris.

QUESTION: Christian Wernicke. I'm working with the German daily, Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Secretary Rumsfeld last week said that he's afraid that the U.S. might lose the war on informational propaganda. I would like to know, to what extent -- one of your principles and your -- and some of your analysis referred to this point indirectly -- to what extent the CentCom is concerned about this challenge at that soft front. And to what extent you are concerned that certain measures of U.S. policy on the war on terror, like Guantanamo, may be really counterproductive to your efforts.

BGEN KIMMITT: Yes. Well, this also goes to the point of building the interagency network. Certainly, the U.S. Military, the Coalition Militaries have some responsibility, primarily through their actions, on shaping the perceptions. But when we're talking about public diplomacy, that is a core competency of the professionals for the Department of State. That's why we need to work so closely with them. That's why, as an example, in Baghdad, the communications effort was led first and foremost by the Department of State.

Secretary Rumsfeld is right. It is a constant concern, at the lowest level, about the fact that the information is not being properly recorded. I mean, my view is, we have a generation of young Americans and international soldiers out there on the ground that are doing a marvelous job. If you ask them, do they think they're doing a marvelous job, they'll say, "Yeah, we're working 24 and 7 putting our lives on the line for this effort."

And then if you ask them, "Do you think that your story is being told," they will say, "No, we think that what we're seeing in the media is a different story, that it is not properly reflective of what we're doing over here and what we're accomplishing over here." It is not my intent to get into a debate of the proper role of information and the proper role of media on the battlefield. The media is there and that's a good thing.

I think that the right decisions were made in 2003 for the embedding, but I think it's also important -- my view -- personal view is it's also important to recognize that we are fighting an enemy who does not hold itself to the same standards of media scrutiny and to the same standards of media fairness, media accuracy. You used the term, "propaganda." We use the word "information" because we are not trying to intentionally spin the effort out there, at least on the part of the United States Military. We're just trying -- and the Coalition Military -- we're just trying to do our job.

It is clear, however, that this enemy is attempting to use the media as a propaganda device. I think the great quote I heard from the Secretary of Defense was -- you know, "A lie travels two-and-a-half times around the world before the truth gets its boots on." And so, I think we're taking a hard look in the military -- we are taking a hard look in the military, as part of an overall interagency effort, to try to figure out how we can address this issue of information, managing perceptions, getting the truth out in this long war.

So, the short answer is yes.

QUESTION: And concern about Guantanamo?

BGEN KIMMITT: Guantanamo is not in the Central Command area of operations. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on that.

MODERATOR: We'll go to --

BGEN KIMMITT: But if you want me to comment on Abu Ghraib, I will, because Abu Ghraib is not -- was not dissimilar. It is clear that the actions of a few dozen soldiers, at the absolute most, were absolutely devastating to the hundreds and thousands of other soldiers who, on a day to day basis, were doing their job honorably, professionally, and at great risk to their life. Those soldiers that violated the code and cannons and ethics for which our soldiers are out there living and die for are not only getting judgment in a court of law, but they've also had the judgment of their peers and their colleagues and I think we all know what that judgment is.

They let us down. They wore the same uniform as we do. They wore the same U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force symbol and they let us down. They violated the oaths they took as a soldier for democratic military.

QUESTION: Only soldiers, sir? No commanders?

BGEN KIMMITT: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Only soldiers, no commanders?

BGEN KIMMITT: No, we did have commanders that were heavily involved in that and also have lost their careers because of it. Brigadier General Janice Karpinski was the commander of the military police brigade that was responsible for that. Obviously, she was taken out of her command position as a result of this, as were others.

QUESTION: Jinsook Lee, MBC television of Korea. The al-Qaida network and its supporting groups are more sophisticated -- have become more sophisticated in using internet medium. They show less of graphic pictures like beheadings. And you were mentioning network versus network and here -- I'm not talking about Al-Hura or --

BGEN KIMMITT: Yep.

QUESTION: -- Voice of America as a means to reach out to the people in the region. Are there any internet networks that you are currently using to get to the people?

BGEN KIMMITT: None that I'm aware of. I mean, obviously, we have the normal internet networks, the normal command sites that anybody can refer to at any point in time. You can go to www.centcom.mil, you can get our latest press releases, so on and so forth. I'll defer to our public affairs people about that. I'm an operator, not a public affairs person.

But in terms of intentionally setting up websites that are funded by the U.S. Military for the purposes of getting the word out, none that I'm aware of, other than those that we normally do in the public affairs domain.

MODERATOR: Let's see. Go to Israel.

QUESTION: Shmuel Rosner from Haaretz Daily. You did not address at all the question of Iran and your policy toward it. Do you see it as part of this -- the question of containing Iran as part of the long war policy? Is it part of the network you described?

BGEN KIMMITT: Yeah, the -- when we talk about al-Qaida and its associated movements, we don't typically consider Iran to be a state sponsor of al-Qaida or its associated movements.

QUESTION: This is Zader Imadi from the Syrian News Agency on TV. You just counted Syria along with other countries and also, American officials have admitted that Syria has contributed to saving lives by pursing the war against al-Qaida. I wonder if the leadership is governed to supply Syria with the night vision equipment that Syria has been asking for.

The second question is, I wonder if the local conflict or internal conflict or civil wars are part of their -- your contingency plans in the future to inter -- for the military interventions in the countries like, for example, in Lebanon now where things are -- escalate into Balkanization of Lebanon and the United States is pretty involved politically in there*.

What is your future contingency plans for local interventions like what used to be in Balkans*?

BGEN KIMMITT: Yeah. Well, first of all, obviously, I'm not going to be talking about contingency planning at all, so let me just go to your first question.

Syria has been helpful in some ways along the border with Iraq, but far from the expectation one would ask from a close neighbor or a geographic neighbor of Iraq. In fact, there are and remain Baathist remnants from the former Saddam regime, continuing to find safe haven and sanctuary inside of Syria. Damascus and the border continues to be a transit point for foreign fighters into Iraq. So where Syria has done some measure to try to address some of the concerns that the coalition has with the country of Iraq -- with the country of Syria -- in fact, we would call on Syria to do far more than it has done up to this point and become a responsible nation, one that is seeking stability inside of Iraq, rather than fomenting instability inside of Iraq.

MODERATOR: To Russia.

QUESTION: Thank you. I'm Vladimir Kara-Murza with RTVI Television in Russia. A question related to NATO, if I may. The Governments of Georgia and Ukraine recently signaled their intention to join the alliance in the near future. What's the Central Command's position regarding NATO enlargement and also on the possible inclusion of the state of Israel into NATO? Thank you.

BGEN KIMMITT: That's an easy answer on those three countries because none of those countries actually fall under the Central Command area of responsibility. It's really not for us to make a comment. I would tell you that General Jones and General Abizaid maintain a warm working relationship. The mutual effort between CentCom and NATO in terms of advancing progress inside of Afghanistan has been a model for all of us. In principle, we have no, certainly, view towards nor objection towards the expansion of NATO. We are in the business of providing stability and seeking stability and NATO remains a great forum and a great force for stability, not simply in the Middle East but primarily in Europe and East Asia.

MODERATOR: Go to the second row here.

QUESTION: Philip Sherwell from the Sunday Telegraph. You mentioned the principle of no sanctuaries or safe havens. In practice, they clearly are some sanctions and safe havens, most notably the Afghan-Pakistan tribal areas where it seems probably (inaudible) and Zawahiri are hanging out. How in practice, given particularly on the Pakistan side, all the political, tribal, geographic problems, do you actually plan to sort of enforce the principle of no sanctions and safe havens in that actual area?

BGEN KIMMITT: Yeah. And I think the answer to that question is the first principle, which is helping others -- the second principle of helping others help themselves. President Musharraf has been extraordinarily brave in committing, for the first time, Pakistani forces into the federally administrative tribal area. He has said, "I'll take this problem on." He's put 75,000 troops into Fatah and the progress that is being made by the Pakistani military in taking away that safe haven, to our mind, remains the best method for taking away that safe haven.

MODERATOR: Go to Germany here.

QUESTION: Christoph Marschall, German daily Der Tagesspiegel . I want to ask a little bit of complicated question, not about your perception but about your perception of the perception of the enemy. When you were talking about the enemy, I asked myself, well, does the enemy also see you as his main enemy? Maybe he sees much more the regimes in the Middle East as primary enemies and you're coming more and more into focus by engaging there. So it shouldn't be helping the other ones to address a problem be far more -- your first goal, than to do it all with this American network against the network?

BGEN KIMMITT: I couldn't agree more, which is why we believe that, again the ultimate solution to this is empowering and assisting the nations in the region themselves to fight this fight. Take a look -- Zarqawi and Zawahiri have been very, very clear about their goals. First, rid the Middle East and the Holy Lands, as he would refer to them, from Western presence. Then go after the apostate and the secular regimes, then go into Lavont*, into the old boundaries of the 7th Century caliphate and expand the caliphate to the point where you now have the holy sites back under control of, in his case, him, as well as Kalif*.

Yes, it is true that our presence there is being used by Bin Laden, by Zarqawi, by Zawahiri as an excuse to carry out their attacks. But the fact remains is we are going to be in the region as long as necessary, but not one day longer than necessary. Because as you said, it is better for the locals to fight the fight themselves, better for the countries in the region to fight the fight themselves. Which is why the last principle we talked about, reposturing the long war, it necessitates that we do not garrison the Middle East, but we get our force presence down to as small as necessary to do our residual tasks and empower the nations in the region to take this fight on themselves, because we want to take away that perception of occupation. We want to take away this notion that we are simply there for oil, which we are not; that we are simply there to occupy, which we are not; that we are simply there to invade, which we're not. You're right, those perceptions -- we must take away any reason for them to have those perceptions in the first place.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) accidents was the order of your --

BGEN KIMMITT: It was in alphabetical order.

MODERATOR: Go to the fourth row here.

QUESTION: My name is Munir Mawari from Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper. And I would like to ask you about that 23 escapees from Yemeni prison. Yemen is located under CentCom charge and what did you do to prevent those escapees from getting into some other country? And do you suspect that the Yemen Government helped them somehow to escape?

BGEN KIMMITT: No. First of all, the prisoners that you are referring to were under the control of the Yemenese civil authorities. They were not under CentCom control. We are working with the Yemenese Government to provide whatever assistance they might need to bring them back under control. But number one, no, we don't believe the Yemenese Government was involved. Number two, they were not under CentCom control but Yemenese civil control themselves.

MODERATOR: Go to Italy here, please.

QUESTION: General, Giampierto Gramaglias from the Italian news agency ANSA. I have two sort of follow-ups of the question asked by German colleague before. First of all, I would like to know if you think that in this particular war some short-term measures or tactics are counterproductive in the long term?

And the second question, if at the end of the day, this war against terrorism is a war for democracy and freedom. Do you think that some local regimes are able to (inaudible) the war for democracy and freedom?

BGEN KIMMITT: Yeah. I will sort of defer on the second question. I'm a military officer. I think that's a question better asked of the State Department.

On the first one, on the tactics, this is -- there's an old saying, "No plan survives the first shot in combat." And we have a thinking enemy who will try to use his advantage against us. And part of that advantage that the enemy has used against us is this battle of perceptions. And as a result, we've got to be very careful and very -- we think our way through the tactics that we use at any point in time, because we've got to understand not only does it accomplish a mission but what is also the perception that is left behind.

I would point to General Casey setting up the counter-insurgency school in Taji as a pretty good example of that kind of self-examination that is now going on and has been going on for some time within the coalition military. He demands that all of his combat commanders go to the school. And in many ways, it really is a great opportunity for these commanders to reflect on how they're fighting this fight and are there better ways to do it. Could it be that some of the tactics that we have used at times have a tendency to have second and third order effects, which are not helpful? Absolutely. That's why learning on the battlefield is something that one continues to do, armies continue to do, and we try to minimize those collateral knock-on effects, second and third order effects, as much as possible.

MODERATOR: In the back row.

QUESTION: Thank you, General. My name is Wada. I'm with Japan's Mainichi newspaper. I would like to ask you a follow-up question to my colleagues regarding Japan's reported withdrawal from Iraq. What kind of negative impact do you foresee with the withdrawal of Japanese troops at the timeframe that's being talked about in March? And also could you say, to the extent possible, if you're talking with your Japanese counterpart about the new area of contribution in connection with Iraq -- added an oiler and C130 and ground troops?

BGEN KIMMITT: Sure. Well, first of all, it is important to understand that we have a broad-based coalition. I mean, there's 70 nations involved in different aspects of the war on terror and participation in and of itself is extremely helpful. It adds legitimacy to the operations and adds clearly a notion that this is not simply one country fighting this fight alone, but it's a whole broad coalition of countries that are fighting this fight.

And it has always been understood that countries will make sovereign decisions, and that's why we've appreciated the contribution Japan has had thus far. We understand that Japan may seek to transform its contribution in the future; we understand that. This is not an alliance in the sense we have a mutual obligation, but this is a coalition. And whatever that transformed contribution inside of Iraq is going to be, whether it turns out to be more police trainers and fewer ground combat soldiers, more advisors to the civil ministries and combat soldiers, we're certain that it will be appropriate and it will be appreciated.

And you asked -- the second question about the oiler. The oiler has been working with us for a couple of years. The C130s have been working with us for a couple of years. So perhaps I didn't understand your question, but it is our understanding that those contributions will continue into the future, even if -- were the decision made by the Government of Japan to bring the troops back from Samawah*.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) in talks with Japan about Japan making additional contributions?

BGEN KIMMITT: We have discussed -- we've had some military-military talks at my level with Japanese military officials, but again, those military decisions are only one or two of the inputs into the actual government policy that will be announced or the decisions that will be made.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
BGEN KIMMITT: Thank you.