Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt on the Situation in Najaf, Iraq

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, April 14, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: This is a "Fox News Alert." U.S. forces are tightening their grip around the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf after vowing to kill or capture rebel cleric Muqtada al Sadr. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt (search), deputy director for coalition operations, joins us on the phone from Baghdad with a late-breaking update.

Welcome, General. And what can you tell me about the search for al Sadr?

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, DEPUTY DIR. FOR COALITION OPERATIONS: Well, as you know, we've repositioned forces in the south to be able to react to any sighting of Muqtada al Sadr. We remain committed and resolved to going after him, destroying his militia and capturing him and bringing him to justice.

VAN SUSTEREN: General, in Fallujah, Mike Tobin was just reporting that the Marines are still fighting, that it's not a total cease-fire, and that may be the wrong word to use, but can you give me an update on what's happened in Fallujah?

KIMMITT: Again, the Marines are continuing to observe a unilateral suspension of offensive operations, which means they're not going to be attacking to seize new objectives deeper into the town. However, there have been repeated and numerous attempts on the part of the enemy to take potshots, fire at the Marines, drop mortar rounds on them. And the Marines are exercising their inherent right to self-defense and firing back when necessary.

VAN SUSTEREN: If they're going to get fired at -- potshots, to use your word -- why -- why are the Marines having to sort of wait to get shot at? I mean, if this is a consistent firing at our Marines, why is it that they're standing down?

KIMMITT: Well, they're not standing down at all. We're giving the political track a couple of days to work. We're having discussions with the people inside Fallujah to see if they can help us move towards justice, return of Iraqi control to the city and the elimination of the foreign fighters and terrorists inside Fallujah.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I guess that I feel -- I mean, I -- in listening to the description, General, if our Marines are getting shot at, and we've been waiting a couple days for this sort of political solution to go forward -- are you satisfied that the political solution is moving forward, so it's worth putting our Marines at the position of having to wait to get fired at first before they can fight back?

KIMMITT: Well, we've been very clear that we are going to give these discussions some period of time, but when they don't look like they're bearing fruit, then we will continue the offensive operations.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sir, Secretary Rumsfeld has now authorized extended stay in Iraq for about 17,000 of our troops. Have these troops been notified that their stay is going to be extended three months?

KIMMITT: It's my understanding that General -- General Dempsey (ph) has written a letter to his units to let them know where they're going to be, how long they're going to be staying, and so on and so forth.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any idea -- I mean, how -- how is that done? Is the letter then read to the troops? I mean, how -- how's that information delivered?

KIMMITT: Well, we've got a very extensive series of what we call Family Readiness Groups back in Germany, and I would suspect that our rear detachment commanders have been sharing it with all the Family Readiness Groups in order to make sure that the families know precisely the details of this extended deployment.

VAN SUSTEREN: General, our troops have been fighting hard and they're pretty tough, and I know that, you know, they're pretty determined. But how is morale? I mean, how are they doing generally?

KIMMITT: Well, first of all, they understand their mission. They also know that they've got the support of the people of America back there. They understand they've got the support of the Congress and the support of the United States president. So as long as the public support is holding strong and supporting what these great soldiers and Marines are doing over here, the morale's going to be high.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, General, thank you very much for joining us this evening, sir.

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