The Bush administration, at a White House briefing February 24, outlined plans for humanitarian assistance -- food, medicine and supplies -- to the people of Iraq during and after a potential military conflict.
For the last several months a U.S. government inter-agency effort has been planning ways "to prevent or at least to mitigate" adverse humanitarian consequences if military action becomes necessary to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, Elliott Abrams, the president's senior adviser for the Near East and North Africa at the National Security Council, told reporters.
The inter-agency strategy for humanitarian relief, he said, has six key principles:
-- to minimize displacement, damage to the infrastructure, and disruption of services;
-- to rely primarily on civilian relief agencies;
-- to have effective civil-military coordination;
-- to facilitate the operations of international and non-governmental organizations (NGOs);
-- to preposition relief supplies;
-- and to minimize disruption of the Oil-for-Food ration distribution system in effect in Iraq.
At the start of any conflict, the U.S. military may be needed to "facilitate early secure access" to areas so that civilian relief agencies can fulfill their humanitarian mandates, Abrams said.
"There will probably be circumstances where there is no U.N. agency or NGO or civilian capability of any kind at a very early moment if conflict happens, he said, and there, "the military may be actually required to provide limited relief because there's no alternative."
Abrams said even before any war, the humanitarian situation in Iraq is precarious due to the international sanctions imposed more than a decade ago after the Gulf War, with 60 percent of Iraqis completely dependent on food rations. An estimated 750,000 refugees already have fled Iraq and 800,000 have been displaced from their homes but are still in the country, he said.
Speaking along with Abrams were officials from the Defense Department, State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Andrew Natsios, administrator of USAID, said "we're planning for about 2 million internally displaced people and refugees," and "contingency planning is what this is all about."
The U.S. government, he said, is training a 60-person civilian Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) that would enter liberated areas of Iraq in coordination with military forces to assess humanitarian needs and coordinate U.S. government relief actions with international organizations and NGOs.
"[T]here has been massive pre-positioning of supplies already in the region, in four different countries, in large warehouses that we've rented," Natsios said, and there have been "extensive conversations, extensive coordination" with relief organizations.
Natsios said $26.6 million has already been spent on prepositioning of supplies and "another $52 million is in the procurement system right now being spent."
"[W]hat we tend to do in the disaster business is plan for the worst and hope for the best," he said. "Very few disasters -- and I've been involved in dozens of them over the last 14 years -- have ever come out to be the worst case scenario."
However, he admitted that Saddam Hussein could do some very terrible things. "It could happen. I don't think it's going to happen, but it could. And there is contingency planning that goes into that," he said.
"But in terms of the normal course of events that would take in these emergencies, I think we are very well positioned."
Gene Dewey, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, said "the center of gravity of the humanitarian effort is the multilateral system." The U.N. agencies "have been in country for a long time, for years and years. They have systems set up. And they have systems that are particularly appropriate for emergency action," he said.
The State Department, Dewey noted, has provided $15 million to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and $100,000 to the International Organization for Migration towards this effort, and is attempting to get the rest of the donor community also to contribute.
Ron Adams, Deputy Director of the new Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in the Defense Department, said the office was set up to "facilitate and expedite the work that these U.N. agencies, NGOs and others will be doing to best benefit the Iraqi people and to achieve the strategy that Elliott outlined ... with emphasis on the six key points that he made in his presentation."
Joseph Collins, Deputy Secretary of Defense for Stability Operations, said that if President Bush orders military action, the Department of Defense is prepared to support humanitarian relief during combat and to support reconstruction efforts after combat.
But he added: "What all of us have been talking about here is not occupation, it's liberation. And, ultimately, creating a democracy inside of Iraq."
Abrams said in terms of preparing the Iraqis for self-government after the conflict, the general principle is to try to establish Iraqi responsibility for Iraq as soon as it is possible.
"[I]t's our view," he said, that at the local, provincial, and national levels, the more responsibility Iraqis can take, the better off they'll be and the better off the coalition forces will be.
Following is the White House transcript:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
February 24, 2003
PRESS BRIEFING ON WHITE HOUSE INTER-AGENCY HUMANITARIAN RECONSTRUCTION ISSUES
BY ELLIOTT ABRAMS, NSC SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR NEAR EAST AND NORTH AFRICA; ANDREW NATSIOS, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT; GENE DEWEY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE BUREAU OF POPULATION, REFUGEES AND MIGRATION; RON ADAMS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE PENTAGON OFFICE OF RECONSTRUCTION AND HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE; JOE COLLINS, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR STABILITY OPERATIONS; ROBIN CLEVELAND, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR NATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAMS
Room 450 Eisenhower Executive Office Building
3:40 P.M. EST
MR. ESKEW: Good afternoon, everybody. I'm Tucker Eskew, Director of the White House Office of Global Communications; thank you for joining us this afternoon. We've got a great panel for you -- "you" being members of the White House press corps, the foreign press and other specialty and beat reporters are welcome this afternoon.
As you look at, from an inter-agency perspective, the efforts underway in the United States government and working with others outside the government to provide for and provision for humanitarian support in Iraq in the event of any military action. Today's briefing is on the record, pen and pad, obviously. We've got six people up here; five will speak briefly -- and I'll tell you who the sixth is, as well.
Elliott Abrams will open today. Elliott is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and North Africa at the National Security Council. Andrew Natsios is Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Gene Dewey is Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration. Ron Adams is Deputy Director of the Pentagon Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. And Joe Collins is Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability Operations. And then we're also joined by Robin Cleveland, Associate Director for National Security Programs at the OMB.
Elliott will open with some remarks; four of the other five will have brief comments and then you can start asking Robin -- (laughter). And we have roughly until about 4:20 p.m. And I ask everyone, please, to identify yourself and your news organization so that we can make these folks understand where your questions come from and who you work for.
Thanks a lot.
MR. ABRAMS: We go into a situation where we recognize that military action in Iraq, if it is necessary, could have adverse humanitarian consequences. And we've been planning, therefore, over the last several months, an inter-agency effort to prevent or at least to mitigate any such consequences.
We're going into a situation where there are a number of humanitarian problems. About 60 percent of Iraqis, the U.N. estimates, are completely dependent on the food distributions of the Oil For Food program for their food supply, and many other Iraqis are at least partly dependent. There are roughly 800,000 displaced persons inside Iraq, and 740,000, it is estimated, who are refugees in nearby countries.
We also know that conflict can have a number of humanitarian effects. It can increase the number of displaced persons. It can interrupt the Oil For Food distribution of food. It can disrupt electricity supplies. It can lead U.N. and NGO workers to evacuate. Some have already evacuated. We believe that the International Red Cross will not evacuate, and stay during the conflict.
How much displacement will there be? How much of an impact on the humanitarian situation would a conflict have? To a substantial degree, the answer to that question depends on the regime. Does it use weapons of mass destruction? Are there efforts against their own oil wells, such as they did in Kuwait, when they set the oil wells on fire. Other efforts to cause, deliberately cause flooding. Other efforts to encourage ethnic violence or to destroy their own infrastructure. Those are questions we're not going to be able to answer at this time. We'll see.
But in dealing with them, the strategy we have for humanitarian relief has six key principles, and I think you've got those before you. The first is to try to minimize the displacement and the damage to the infrastructure and the disruption of services. And the military campaign planning has had -- has been tailored to try to do that, to try to minimize the impact on civilian populations.
We have what is called the humanitarian mapping program, in which the U.S. military has gone to very great lengths to work with humanitarian organizations, international agencies to locate humanitarian sites, key infrastructure, cultural and historical sites, and to protect them to extent that that's possible.
We recognize the potential for Saddam Hussein to target his own civilian population, he certainly has in the past -- and campaign planning has aimed, to the extent possible, to deny him that capability. We hope to discourage population displacement through -- partly through an information campaign, and partly by efforts to provide aid rapidly and restore public services rapidly -- for example, electricity, water supply, the Oil for Food Program, itself, and I'll come back to that.
Second principle, to rely primarily on civilian relief agencies. And civilian agencies and personnel are in the lead in all the coordinating and planning that we've been doing for about -- I'd say about four months. As a kind of offshoot of the deputies committee, Robin Cleveland and I have co-chaired an interagency group that has been doing this relief and reconstruction planning.
We want to rely primarily on civilian international organizations, which is the standard practice in situations like this: U.N. agencies; NGOs; other governments and their civilian agencies. OFDA, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, and the Refugee Bureau at State, PRM, have been meeting with representatives of the international aid community for several months now.
These organizations -- the U.N. agencies, the NGOs -- have enormous expertise and capacity. And we're going to try to facilitate and fund their efforts to the greatest extent possible. We welcome U.N. planning -- and there has been a considerable amount of U.N. planning by the specialized agencies to play a key role in Iraq, as they do generally, when there are humanitarian crises. And we will be trying to support and facilitate their activities.
The role of the U.S. military is not to take a lead role in humanitarian relief activities. It is to facilitate early secure access, to create a humanitarian space, to provide information for U.S. civilian teams -- civilian relief agencies -- to fulfill their humanitarian mandates. There will probably be circumstances where there is no U.N. agency or NGO or civilian capability of any kind at a very early moment if conflict happens. And there, the military may be actually required to provide limited relief because there's no alternative. And with the guidance and assistance of USG civilian relief experts, they'll have to do that. We're going to anticipate that any such period would be short, and that civilian relief agencies would be able to get into those areas quickly.
Third principle, effective civil military coordination. We have been training and preparing a 60-person DART team, disaster assistance response team, which is really about the largest we've ever had. And it would enter liberated areas of Iraq in coordination with U.S. military forces, to, first of all, make an assessment of what are the -- what is the humanitarian situation, to coordinate then U.S. government relief activities that try to resolve whatever problems there are. They will be capable of immediate, in the field grant making. And their job is also liaison with the military, other donors, NGOs, international organizations.
The DART itself is made up of professionals in the field of humanitarian emergencies from several U.S. civilian agencies. And we'll have -- there will be a number of DART teams in the field. Andrew Natsios can say more about that. There are other coordination structures, humanitarian operations centers and civil military operation centers, being established in the region with the cooperation of several neighboring governments.
The government of Kuwait, for example, has made available a large facility to support a humanitarian operation center in Kuwait City. The job there is information sharing coordination, deconflicting efforts between U.S. military and Kuwaiti officials, U.S.-civilian representatives, U.N. agencies, international organizations, NGOs, coalition partners. The job of the humanitarian operation center is to gather them in one place so they can all coordinate what they are doing.
It is not a replacement for the U.N., which has its own coordinating structure through OCHA, the coordinator for humanitarian affairs. But it is a supplement to that. Fourth principle, facilitating IO and NGO operations. We will provide civilian experts to be the liaison with international organizations and NGOs, and to support and staff these coordination centers -- the humanitarian operation center in Kuwait and the civil military operation centers -- so that they are -- this is a customary pattern for NGOs and international organizations to work with the civilian side of U.S. government and they'll continue to do that.
And one of the things that our civilians can do by their own connection with the U.S. military is to provide information about access to particular geographical locations, security in those areas, and information about the populations in those areas that the U.S. military may have found. The DART staff is the primary contact for international organizations and NGOs in the field.
NGOs have raised the question of licensing, because due to the sanctions regime that are in place -- the U.N. sanctions, the U.S. sanctions on Iraq -- it has been difficult in some cases for them to undertake the planning they want to do. For example, they may want to go to Iraq. And we've had cases where they have been slowed down, so we have been streamlining the OFAC, Office of Foreign Asset Control, licensing procedures to expedite the issuance of licenses to NGOs so that they can operate inside Iraq.
State and USAID now have blanket licenses that cover agencies, NGOs that have received grants from them, from State or AID. And NGOs working in areas of Iraq that are not controlled by the Saddam Hussein regime and those who are only conducting assessments in the country will also have an expedited registration process.
We've given money, we have provided funding to relief agencies so that they can plan, hire staff and pre-position supplies. The Refugee Bureau at State has provided over $15 million to international agencies for pre-positioning and for contingency planning. Most of that to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
AID has provided over $9 million to a variety of agencies for contingency planning, including $2 million to UNICEF and $5 million to the World Food Program. AID is in discussions with international organizations to provide an additional $56 million soon.
We've also encouraged other donors. And a number of governments have come forward to pledge millions of dollars to -- mostly to U.N. agencies and to some NGOs.
Fifth, pre-positioning U.S. government relief supplies and response mechanisms. We have been stockpiling blankets, water, ladders, shelter supplies, medicines, other relief items at this point to serve about a million people -- the material in question worth about $12 million. And we're trying to forward-deploy those stockpiles into the region. One example, there are 46, 40-foot long containers of relief supplies en route to warehouses in the Gulf. We are stockpiling and pre-positioning humanitarian daily rations. You may remember those from Afghanistan and previous situations. This is a ration for one person for one day -- the equivalent in calories of three meals. And we're getting up to about 3 million of those pre-positioned.
And we are preparing to undertake immediate rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts to deliver essential services to the Iraqi people. And that means critical infrastructure, health facilities, water and sanitation systems. And electricity is key in all of those.
Finally, sixth, support the resumption of the ration-distribution system. That's a very important item. As I noted at the beginning, about 60 percent of Iraqis depend on it for their food. It is an immensely complex system that is run very competently by the U.N. and by the Iraqis. There are at the ground level about 55,000 ration agents. Iraqis get a ration booklet which tells them which day of the month their family should go to the distribution point, usually a local grocer, to pick up their rations for the month. We will make an effort to get that system up and running again if there is a conflict, and if we are in that situation.
We want to disrupt that system as little as possible, and get it back on its feet as soon as possible. And that is something that a lot of U.S. agencies are thinking about. We recognize that that is a critical aspect of -- a critical aspect of the humanitarian situation in Iraq.
Let's go down -- I've forgotten what the order is. I think -- we're skipping you, so Andrew.
MR. NATSIOS: I'm Andrew Natsios from AID. Let me first mention that this planning exercise has been going on now since late September. So I've been involved in emergency response now for almost 14 years. We have never had nearly five months advance time before a major emergency, should it happen. And so the amount of time that has gone into this, and the amount of staff that has gone into this has been enormous within AID, and the interagency process.
There are 60 people from the DART team, which comes out of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, which I headed in the first Bush administration. There is staff from Gene Dewey's office and the Refugee Office in the State Department, and the Public Health Service in HHS are on that team, as well. There are another 140 people working in AID who are technical staff back in Washington, on the planning exercises necessary to make sure all of this happens the way it's supposed to. And the areas that we focus on are first those basic humanitarian requirements that keep people alive and reduce human suffering in any emergency. One is health and medicine, the second is water and sanitation, which are critical issues, particularly in Iraq. Third is food and nutrition. Fourth is shelter. And a fifth is to internally displaced people and, of course, there could be refugee movements, as well, cross border.
And so the amount of time, the amount of preparation, the amount of planning we've done, the amount of staff working on this has been very substantial. I might also add that this is not new -- working with the military in conflicts is something that the U.S. government has been doing for a very long time, since even before the end of the Cold War. You may recall that we had a refugee emergency with about a million Kurds up in the mountains in northern Iraq. There was civil affairs units and military units, AID sent its largest DART team at that time -- in 1991, of 30 people -- that was sent in to work the relief effort there.
We've been in Bosnia and Macedonia and Kosovo, in Haiti, in Panama -- after Noriega. You can go through a list of instances where this has happened before. So this is not a new thing. It's been done before. The mechanisms for coordination within the international institutions have actually been established, they've been tested and they do work, I have to tell you. They've been refined. There are manuals on how the inter-connection between the NGOs, U.N. agencies, the ICRC, military operations and the DART team work in these emergencies. And that is a very important thing because, once again, we're not testing something that's new here.
And so the three fundamental things we're doing is to assemble the team, train it -- they're going through very extensive training -- getting everybody's job descriptions down and duties down. We've actually done some test operations. Secondly, pre-positioning the stockpiles that Elliott mentioned. Many of those stockpiles are actually in the region now, simply waiting should they be necessary. And, third, establishing these coordination mechanisms that I mentioned earlier.
The team will also do assessments, rapid assessments to determine what is needed. We do planning based on scenario building. But the reality is on the ground that you always have to actually see what's happened. And the assessments are then done and then decisions are made about the disposition of relief commodities and resources.
So I think we're in good shape, in terms of the effort that we've put into this exercise, given the amount of time that we've had to think through it. I might also add, we don't know what's going to happen, but contingency planning is what this is all about. Whenever we see something may happen, we try to plan for it. Thank you.
MR. ABRAMS: Thanks. Gene, I think you're next.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: The center of gravity of the humanitarian effort is the multilateral system. And that's the case for several reasons. One, the U.N. agencies have been in country for a long time, for years and years. They have systems set up. And they have systems that are particularly appropriate for emergency action.
For example, for the water sector, which is always the most critical sector, the system for that which works best, which is recognized as best, is UNICEF working with NGOs such as Oxfam-UK and other NGOs with the expertise in water. There are other systems for immunization, systems for food distribution. So this is another reason.
The U.N. agencies, as Elliott mentioned, have been very cooperative and forward-leaning on this for several reasons. One, it's humanitarian that we're talking about, as much as that can be separated from political questions. Secondly, it's prudent planning. It's the way you have to do it. In the possibility of a contingency, it's only prudent to do what the U.N. agencies are doing. And then a third reason is this planning is being done without any presumption of the inevitability of military conflict.
And so these have all contributed to a very smooth planning, preparing, pre-positioning effort on the part of the U.N. agencies working with their NGO implementing partners, in terms of coordination.
The principles that we're working, aside from multilateralism, include what has already been mentioned, and I can't stress it enough, that is the need to avoid population displacement, or to minimize it as much as possible, because that's one of the most costly, both in material and human terms, that can occur in any contingency, when people leave their homes and have to undergo the expense of being at the mercy of the international community for an extended period of time, and then the cost or maybe the impossibility of ever getting back to their homes again.
The purposes that we're dealing with are to relieve hardship and acute human suffering, but at the same time, prepare the way for almost immediate movement to rehabilitation and reconstruction, and to facilitate that next step.
The populations of concern that our bureau, the Population, Refugee Immigration Bureau is most concerned about include refugees -- those refugees that are already the charge of the U.N. high commissioner for refugees outside of Iraq, but those that will also be displaced outside the country in the event of any conflict and those that will try to seek asylum outside the country but may be clustered on the borders. Those two groups are going to be a primary concern for us.
But we also have a concern for the internally displaced, those that are already internally displaced -- as mentioned the 800,000 that are internally displaced. We have an arrangement with USAID which we recently negotiated as to how we divide up the effort for internally displaced persons. Normally those that are dealt with unilaterally through NGOs, AID will take care of those needs. And we coordinate on those that are serviced mainly by the international community, and those agencies would include the International Committee of the Red Cross.
And in the case of Iraq, since there is no U.N. agency that is specifically tasked with the responsibility for internally displaced persons, the Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, will be playing a prominent role in coordinating the assistance to the internally displaced.
Keep in mind, too, that other agencies, such as UNICEF, will be working on sectors that cut across the needs of the internally displaced. UNICEF's work with immunizations, with mother-child health care, with health needs IN general and water and sanitation, that will be very important. We'll also be working with World Food Program for those needs and with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Basically the functions of our bureau will be to help make coordination work. Our core expertise is the multilateral system. We'll do our best to make the humanitarian operation center and the civil military operations centers just that, civil military and not military operations centers. And we'll be doing our best to bridge those cultures between the civilians and the military, planners and implementers if implementation becomes necessary.
We were first out of the box in terms of providing funding for pre-positioning and preparedness, we gave just about all we had, the $15 million that we've given to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and $100,000 to the International Organization for Migration. We did it, though, also to try to leverage as much as possible the efforts of the rest of the donor community. This is slow going. It's heavy lifting, but it is going to be one of the major efforts that can assure success in the humanitarian field to get as much burden-sharing contribution as we can before the contingency is actually upon us. Thank you.
MR. ABRAMS: Thanks, Gene. We have actually done that. We have actually sent cables out and also raised this a number of times in bilateral meetings, requests for other governments to step forward and do whatever they could by way of contributions to NGOs and U.N. agencies.
Ron Adams is deputy director of the new Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.
MR. ADAMS: Thanks, Elliott. I'm Jay Garner's deputy. And we're participating in the interagency process that Elliott outlined for you earlier. It's our job to operationalize or to implement the plans that are being developed by the interagency process and by our coalition partners in support of the Commander of U.S. Central Command and the coalition forces that would be involved.
I want to emphasize a point that's already been made a couple of times: our organization is a civilian-military organization -- predominantly civilian. And it's made up of representatives from federal government agencies and departments. Some are represented right here. Many of Andrew's people and Gene's people are involved in our organization. And these are the kinds of people, experts that you're used to seeing being involved in these kinds of activities. These are the people who have worked on the ground with international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, U.N. agencies across the gamut.
Our job then is to, we hope, facilitate and expedite the work that these U.N. agencies, NGOs and others will be doing to best benefit the Iraqi people and to achieve the strategy that Elliott outlined later, with emphasis on the six key points that he made in his presentation.
MR. ABRAMS: Thanks. Dr. Joseph Collins is Deputy Secretary of Defense for Stability Operations. Joe.
DR. COLLINS: Thanks. Elliott, I came here prepared to say ten things. All of them have been said twice, so let me repeat only about seven of them for the third time.
If the President orders military action, the Department of Defense is prepared for military contingencies, but it's also prepared to support humanitarian relief during combat and to support reconstruction efforts after combat.
Some of the key things that we are able to do in those areas have been mentioned. The first, humanitarian mapping and careful targeting to avoid excessive damage to the civilian population. Secondly, during the combat phase the Department of Defense is ready to assist AID and State in providing humanitarian relief to the people of Iraq.
Thirdly, and if necessary, DOD is ready to provide special services and supplies, such as the famous humanitarian daily rations. Fourth, on the reconstruction effort, DOD is prepared to assist State, AID, NGOs and the United Nations to help the Iraqi people in reconstruction. And also -- and, perhaps, most importantly -- to help them prepare for self-government. And I think that's the key point to remember here. What all of us have been talking about here is not occupation, it's liberation. And, ultimately, creating a democracy inside of Iraq.
Among the key things that we'll be doing in the reconstruction phase are things that also have a military flavor, and that would be the location of weapons of mass destruction and their subsequent destruction. And, finally, the provision of security and the ensuring the provision of security throughout the nation. Thank you.
MR. ABRAMS: Thanks. Questions?
Q: I have two questions of the briefers. How many refugees are you planning for? How many IDPs? How many DART teams, and where will they go?
MR. NATSIOS: Well, just in terms of the number of DART teams, there is one large team of 60 people that we'll divide into three sub-units. There will be a core headquarters that will control all of the operations. So there will be three teams that will be dispatched to different parts of the country.
I think we're planning for about 2 million, as I recall, internally displaced people and refugees. What was the third question?
Q: It was IDPs, refugees and how many DART teams --
MR. NATSIOS: Right.
Q: And where would they go?
MR. NATSIOS: Yes.
Q: The U.N. issued a report saying that casualties will be as a direct result of U.S. bombardment and invasion, about 100,000 civilians killed; 500,000 wounded. They're talking about maybe a million and a half refugees, then a half million malnutrition. What are you accounting for? What kind of figures do you have in your six-point contingency plan?
MR. ABRAMS: I have not seen that U.N. report. What part of the U.N. released it?
Q: Could you repeat the question, please?
Q: The question was, they're talking about figures -- you know, killed and wounded civilians, the direct result of combat. And, in fact, Michael Allen, the other day, of the Institute -- the Brookings Institute also --
MR. ABRAMS: The answer is that this is just plain speculation, as is our number for the number of displaced persons. It is just speculation. It depends on a number of variables, not least of them, how long does any potential conflict continue. But one of the other key variables is not the damage that the conflict does to the population of Iraq, it's how much additional damage the government of Iraq does to the population of Iraq. But numbers like those, I think one is really just pulling them out of thin air.
Q: Do you have any number, any figures in mind?
MR. ABRAMS: No, no.
Q: Could I follow on that? As you know, Refugees International and, I think, the International Crisis Group has prepared numbers not too different from the 2 million that you suggested. They suggested about a million and a half would be put to flight beyond the borders, and about 900,000 internally displaced.
Is that in the ballpark of what your calculations suggest and, two -- understanding that you respect -- and two, both of these groups have criticized you, saying that there is not nearly enough pre-positioned supply, particularly food and medicine, to address that. Can you respond to that in any way?
MR. NATSIOS: Let me first say, I've heard a lot of comments, and I find it a little annoying in some cases because the people who have been making them are sitting in the meetings with us, knowing that it's not true.
Q: These folks?
MR. NATSIOS: No, I'm not going to mention individual organizations. We've had meetings every week, for the last two or three months, with humanitarian organizations to go over this stuff. For months, every week, and they sit there, and we all go -- or not me, but my staff from AID goes, and the rest of the agencies, and we go over the detail planning that we're going through. So they know very well that there's been massive pre-positioning of supplies already in the region, okay, in four different countries, in large warehouses that we've rented. The stuff is there now, and more stuff is on the way.
So it's really not -- it's not the case that -- there has been extensive conversations, extensive coordination and extensive pre-positioning of supplies. I might also add, what we tend to do in the disaster business is plan for the worst and hope for the best. Very few disasters -- and I've been involved in dozens of them over the last 14 years -- have ever come out to be the worst case scenario. And we don't know -- I mean, if Saddam does some very terrible things, we can't predict that. But in terms of the normal course of events that would take in these emergencies, I think we are very well positioned.
Q: On that point, to what extent does the possible use of weapons of mass destruction factor into contingency planning that you're all doing?
MR. NATSIOS: There is some of it, but you know, you never can predict entirely what Saddam will do. You know what he did to the Kurds, in the infamous Anfal campaign, where he massacred 100,000 to 200,000 of them. He displaced the Marsh Arabs, one of the richest cultures in the Middle East, 500,000 people were driven out of the marshes after they were drained. There were execution squads sent in. The United Nations rapporteur on human rights wrote a scathing report on the atrocities committed by the Iraqi government displacing these -- these are among the poorest peoples in Iraq.
The same thing happened in Kirkuk with the Turkmen population. They purged them out. They shut off all their food rations. And they're internally displaced within the country now. That has nothing to do with the American campaign; that was done by the regime in the 1990s, over the last five or six years. So some of the displacement we're going to have to deal with already occurred, and it has nothing to do with the military campaign; it was the actions of the government.
Q: That's not weapons of mass destruction. That's what I asked --
MR. NATSIOS: Yes, it was weapons of mass destruction. That's the whole point. The Kurdish -- the attacks on the Kurds were using chemical and biological weapons. The first time any head of state or any government ever used those weapons against their own population.
Q: Yes, but the question is, what are you planning for now? Tell us what you anticipate.
MR. NATSIOS: We are anticipating it could happen. I don't think it's going to happen, but it could. And there is contingency planning that goes into that.
MR. ABRAMS: Yes?
Q: From where and how, first, you will start delivering the humanitarian aid? And, two, how much the -- is preparing to allocate for this haven't aid that's going to be spent on Iraq?
MR. ABRAMS: Two questions -- from where and how much money. I guess I can ask Gene or Andrew.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: From where the humanitarian aid will be delivered, of course, there has been stockpiling in country. The people of Iraq have been asked to have at least a month's supply of food on hand. So there is something already there. There are stockpiles, as Andrew mentioned, in neighboring countries which will be drawn upon.
Q: -- first spot for you deliver this humanitarian aid to Iraq?
MR. NATSIOS: There are about four countries in the region that have stockpiles, NGO staging areas and U.N. staging areas. They're there now. And I'm not going to go through which ones have what --
MR. ABRAMS: No, and to go into further detail would take us into the area of military planning, as well. So, money?
MS. CLEVELAND: We're in the process of developing cost estimates. We've done our planning based on a series of tasks that we assume, regardless of what the political management structure may be. And we've examined health, education, water and sanitation, finance, telecommunications, and infrastructure, and tried to sort of lay out a series of expected tasks on a sliding scale. For example, in education, what would it cost to rebuild 2,500 schools and get all primary school children back in school?
If we don't need to rebuild 2,500 schools, we can shift it to some other area. But we've sort of tried to lay out a series of benchmarks. And we expect to take the overall cost by sector to the President some time in the next week or two.
Q: -- ceiling that you assumed?
MS. CLEVELAND: No, we've built from the ground up, in a series of tasks, AID and PRM have sort of identified what they think will need to be done, and laid out sort of what needs to be done in one -- would be the emergency humanitarian piece, what needs to be done in six months -- just as AID plans in any country, in any mission for reconstruction and rehabilitation.
MR. NATSIOS: We've spent $26.5 million to date, another $52 million is in process through the procurement system right now.
MS. CLEVELAND: But that's a very preliminary --
Q: That's not what the cost of the budget is, that's the --
Q: Could you repeat that?
MR. NATSIOS: The numbers?
Q: Yes, repeat the numbers.
Q: Please repeat the numbers that you just did.
MR. NATSIOS: The $26.6 million has already been spent. That's what bought the commodities that are in the Gulf region now, and then another $52 million is in the procurement system right now being spent. That's what we have to do for the pre-positioning in the early work.
Q: The cables that you sent out and the appeals that have been made in private meetings, have they generated any money from any other countries?
MR. ABRAMS: There have been -- I can't say whether it was generated by American cables, but there have been contributions by a number of governments, in the millions of dollars.
MR. NATSIOS: I have been --
MS. CLEVELAND: Two international organizations, to UNHCR and those kind of organizations.
MR. NATSIOS: Right. I've talked to at least 10 of my counterparts, the development ministers in other governments, about what they're planning to do. We've had conversations and decided what we would do and how much -- they've told me how much they intend to put in. So there is coordination going on at the donor level, government level.
Some of that money will go through NGOs, some of it will go to the U.N. agencies and the --
Q: I noticed that you say you're being very careful as you plan your military operation to look out for infrastructure and to also look out for cultural sites. How much of your effort to protect that is going to be complicated by the fact that Saddam Hussein is already positioning a lot of his equipment around these cultural sites, around these crucial points of infrastructure? Is that going to cause you problems?
DR. COLLINS: Yes. We've had, I think, an extensive effort to map cultural sites. And we've made tremendous progress in the last few weeks doing that. It's a well known fact that Saddam has positioned military equipment, not just near cultural sites, but also hospitals and other places which one would expect wouldn't be a part of the military command.
There's an extensive effort here to separate the wheat from the chaff. And ultimately, the burden will be on the field commander to make decisions on critical targets where there are compromised situations. And I have to leave it at that.
Q: Could I just follow up on a budgetary question? In this process, according to the budget of the President, how long is the time frame? And drawing on your experience from Afghanistan, how long is a sensible time frame for humanitarian assistance?
MS. CLEVELAND: One of the reasons that we got started five months ago was to assure that when and if the President -- or if and when the President made a decision, that we would, simultaneous with the initiation of conflict, not only ask for resources for the Department of Defense, but ask for roughly a year's worth of resources for humanitarian and reconstruction agencies.
But, as you know, AID is -- so that doesn't speak or beg the question as to what kind of political infrastructure will be there. There's likely to be some kind of AID support for some period of time, which shouldn't, as I said, beg the question of what the nature of a political infrastructure would be. I think we would be anticipate a year's worth of support for AID.
Q: As we all know, the Turkish government is trying to avoid any crush of refugees again, as we had it before during the Gulf War. My question is to Mr. Collins. What kind of cooperation you already have with the Turkish side?
DR. COLLINS: I'd love to be able to answer you, except I couldn't give you a good detailed, professional answer because that's really not in my lane, and I don't know.
Q: In terms of preparing the Iraqis for self-government after the conflict, how quickly are you going to try to get Iraqi opposition leaders into the country? And do you intend to appoint an indigenous interim Iraqi leader before you move to free elections?
MR. ABRAMS: The general principle is to try to establish Iraqi responsibility for Iraq as soon as possible. This will -- this may differ in different regions of the country. It may differ according to the nature of the responsibility -- civilian military, for example, might be different.
But the general principle is to try to do this as soon as it is possible. I can't really go much beyond that about what -- how long will that take. It depends in part on questions that we don't know the answers to. What will the security situation inside Iraq be if there's a conflict, at the end of that conflict?
So I can't give you any time lines. But what I can tell you is that it's our view that if the local, provincial, and national levels, the more responsibility Iraqis who are currently free, who are soon to be free, can take, the better off they'll be and the better off the coalition forces will be.
Q: Elliott, I think this is a question for you. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. viewed and used humanitarian assistance, not just as an end in itself, but as having a political purpose as well. The Hearts and Minds Campaign, which is, you know, is now viewed as tainted failure to it. That comparison is being made now given that there is a larger political program for Iraq, winning over people to a notion of democracy that they'll believe in and that will last. Can you take that comparison further? Again, there are differences, but the fact that Hearts and Minds was seen not to have worked last time around, what's the difference this time?
MR. ABRAMS: I would not take that comparison. I would take the comparison, really, to Afghanistan. It was the President's instruction from the outset that we make not only a military effort, but that we make a large humanitarian effort because the whole purpose of the involvement was to benefit the people of Afghanistan as well as to attack terrorist bases.
The effort in Iraq, if it comes to pass, will be aimed at eliminating those weapons of mass destruction, and the regime that built them, and freeing the Iraqi people from one of the most monstrous regimes on the face of the earth. Clearly, the better we can do in this humanitarian effort, the better off the Iraqi people will be, and the more quickly they will come to see this intervention by coalition forces as having changed and improved their lives. So there's no way of avoiding the fact that the better we do at it, the more positive of political impact it will have inside Iraq and in the region.
But as in Afghanistan, that's not the purpose for doing it. The purpose for doing it is humanitarian.
Q: Can I follow up on that?
MS. CLEVELAND: In answer to the question about how long we're planning -- one of the reasons that we're planning for basically a year is that we will start the follow-on year budget cycle in December, something like that. And so what we wanted to avoid was sort of the gaps that we felt we created by uncertainty in Afghanistan. So it's neither a presumption about the political structure, nor is a presumption that it's one year and it would be over in terms of whatever support we would offer.
Q: I remember a campaign pledge about nation-building. Isn't that what this is? Maybe the Defense Department representatives can talk about that? Isn't this nation-building?
DR. COLLINS: I've always been of the opinion that the indigenous people build their own nations. I'm not sure what the right phrase for what we are engaged in is. We speak about -- in two different phases, humanitarian relief and reconstruction. And I would prefer to leave it at that.
MR. ABRAMS: I think that's right. The responsibility for turning Iraq into a stable, peaceful democracy falls to the people of Iraq. The most we can do is get -- if this conflict occurs, is get this monstrous regime that is preventing them from doing that out of the way.
Q: This is a question probably to Joe Collins. But others might want to answer it. A number of the aid agencies in Iraq, or on the border at the moment, are concerned that once a conflict starts there will be attempts by some of the displaced people to try and regain homes or land that was taken from them in the past campaigns you mentioned. What sort of arbitration system will be immediately set up to deal with these conflicts, especially as Saddam Hussein's forces have already installed people in those lands?
DR. COLLINS: I think in a combat phase, if it were to come to that, I think most of the reconciliation and redivision would sort of fall under the heading of reconstruction. But during the reconstruction phase, and prior to that, during the combat phase, the local commanders have the responsibility to maintain order in their areas. And any sort of large-scale efforts to create civil disturbances would also interfere with the military operation. So they would have a great incentive to ensure that that doesn't happen during the combat phase.
MR. ABRAMS: Okay, thank you very much.
END 4:27 P.M. EST
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