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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD(PA)

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD(PA)
June 01, 1995 1:30 AM EDT

Thursday, June 1, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to our briefing. Sorry I'm late. I was cramming on the Defense Ministerial of the Americas meeting for July, because I know you'll have a lot of questions on this important initiative to strengthen security relations throughout the hemisphere. That will be in mid-July in Williamsburg, and I hope you'll all be here. We'll have more on that later, but I'll take your questions on this or anything else.

Q: Will you be buying in Williamsburg?

A: I try never to get into a position of being a buyer.

I would like to make one announcement, which is that Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili will leave for Paris tomorrow night for meetings with representatives of NATO countries and European Union countries to discuss the situation in Bosnia and to discuss specifically a French plan and a Contact Group plan which are quite the same, very close to each other, to strengthen UNPROFOR.

As the President said yesterday, we believe that UNPROFOR's continued presence in Bosnia is the best insurance policy we have against an escalation of violence and warfare and killing there, and we fully support current European efforts underway to find ways to strengthen UNPROFOR, and that will be the main purpose of this meeting.

Q: Do you intend to make decisions at this meeting or to offer contributions? Will you be a little more specific on what the purpose of this is?

A: As I said, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss and review a French plan to strengthen UNPROFOR. The United States is prepared to participate in strengthening UNPROFOR in three ways. We're prepared to provide equipment; we're prepared to provide logistical support -- that would be primarily airlift; and we're prepared to participate in the planning for ways to strengthen UNPROFOR's mandate, its mission, and its ability to carry out its mission, including planning for changes in the ROE.

We are not, and I want to stress this, we are not prepared to offer troops that will participate in the UNPROFOR peacekeeping operation in Bosnia. The President made that clear yesterday. This has been our position for two and a half years and longer, since before this Administration, and it remains our position.

Q: Equipment and logistics support, primarily air. Does that mean the U.S. would be [inaudible] at this meeting to help reposition UN peacekeepers should that be needed?

A: As I said, we are going to look at a variety of ways to strengthen UNPROFOR. I don't know how specific this meeting will be. You asked earlier if decisions would be made at this meeting. I think there are discussions about ways to strengthen UNPROFOR currently going on in three forums. One is the UN, one is the French plan, and one is -- I've sort of linked the French and the Contact Group together. As you know, the Contact Group ministers met on May 29th. They issued a communique in which they said they wanted to do two things: one, look at ways to strengthen UNPROFOR; and two, reinvigorate diplomatic efforts to reach a peaceful settlement in Bosnia. A peaceful settlement in Bosnia is our ultimate goal, and it has been from the beginning. We are continuing diplomatic efforts to reach that.

There will also be discussions of the situation in Bosnia and proposals for strengthening UNPROFOR at the NATO meeting next week in Brussels.

So we have a series of meetings going on. Eventually the talk in the UN, the talk from the French and its allies, the talk in the Contact Group and the talk in NATO will come together in plans and will come together in a UN proposal for strengthening UNPROFOR. That's the goal.

Q: Will the Secretary and Shali be traveling together on the same plane? Is the Paris meeting for one day only or will it continue on? And will they both stay in Europe until the NATO meeting, or will they come back and then fly back again?

A: Yes, yes, and no. They will be traveling on the same plane. It is anticipated it will be a one day meeting. The Secretary is coming back on Sunday, leaving Sunday morning from Paris to come back here. I believe Shali is staying in Europe until the Defense Planning Committee meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

Q: Live fire training supposedly beginning this weekend in Germany. What is the relationship to Bosnia?

A: There is going to be a live fire training exercise that stretches over a period of about ten days. I would refer you to the European Command to get more detail on that.

Q: They've been referring us to you.

A: Well, it will involve up to about 1,900 people at its conclusion. It will involve some joint operations. To answer your question about its involvement with Bosnia, I want to step back a minute. I will answer that question. But I think if you're looking at this entire situation you ought to look at a time line. There are basically two main events on this time line. The main event that is closest to us but not immediate is coming up with a plan for strengthening UNPROFOR. That's what I've already discussed. There are meetings going on, and that will take a week or so, maybe much longer to put together. But that's what's going on at the UN, NATO, and this meeting with the French, etc.

Our goal and the allies' goal is to strengthen UNPROFOR and make it effective enough so that UNPROFOR can stay and continue to do its job of limiting the violence and protecting the flow of humanitarian aid in Bosnia. If that succeeds, we will never get to the second event on the time line which is the withdrawal of UNPROFOR from Bosnia. It is now currently the UN's goal and our goal and the allies' goal to keep UNPROFOR there.

The plan for withdrawing UNPROFOR is, as you know, called 40104. That planning has been going on since December. There is no one plan yet that has been approved by all the governments that would participate in 40104.

It is clear that the U.S. soldiers that would participate in that plan, up to 25,000 of them, would come primarily from Europe. So even though the plan has not been cleared finally by our government and the other governments that would participate in this NATO plan to extract UNPROFOR forces, the commanders in Europe, being prudent and interested in the welfare of their troops, committed to the welfare of their troops, are being trained in ways that will help them should their troops be asked to participate in a NATO-run evacuation plan from Bosnia. So some of the troops, basically the troops participating in this exercise, are troops that could be part of an evacuation force.

Q: And part of a relocation force?

A: Well, there was a fairly lengthy briefing here yesterday in which we talked about what the President has said about evacuation. And I think the relocation was described as an application of the broader evacuation policy. So yes, they could, they would be involved in the overall NATO plan to... Right now the training is in the context of training for possible participation in an overall NATO evacuation plan.

Q: So is this a long-scheduled thing, or was this on short notice?

A: The idea of training has been... I can't answer that question specifically. I know that a number of the training exercises have been anticipated for some time. Since the planning for the 40104 has been going on since December, there's been a fair amount of identification of what groups might participate, what U.S. troops might participate in this, and their commanders have intelligently planned to train these people.

Q: EUCOM is saying that it's a big deal when you train in Germany on Sunday, and you're talking about a live fire exercise that's going to begin this weekend. I presume in the normal course of training you would avoid upsetting the Germans by training on the weekend. Now you're talking about not just training, but having a live fire training exercise beginning on the weekend. That sounds like more than just ho-hum, let's get ready.

A: One of the advantages of Grafenwoehr is that it does allow for very realistic training. Also, you've probably seen it, they have one of the best computerized training facilities over there in the world as well. But it's the place where live fire training occurs.

Q: That's not what I...

A: This training is going on for ten days...

Q: Why is it starting on the weekend?

A: It's starting because they want to accomplish the training.

Q: Is there a sense of urgency about accomplishing this training?

A: We have been working on a broad NATO evacuation plan since December. It's now June. Maybe you can answer, does that convey a sense of urgency?

Q: I don't know. I'm asking you. Is there a sense of urgency?

A: There's a sense of preparation, there's a sense of need for training. This is an opportunity to provide valuable training, and the training should be seen in the context of preparing for an operation, if requested, under the broad NATO evacuation plan.

Q: Can we get a list of the units or at least the type of units that are going to be included...

A: I do not have a list of the types of units to give you here. We will try to get those.

Q: During the Vietnam War when a lot of people were agonizing about how America could get out of Vietnam, one solves that very easily, just turn the ships around. It would seem that the Serbs, and the Bosnian Serbs particularly, would be rather happy if UNPROFOR withdrew. Why is there so much concern about getting these people out if we make the move to get them out? If I was a Bosnian Serb leader, I would be providing transportation to get them out.

A: There are two sides in a war. That's why you have wars. If there is just one side, you don't have a war.

Q: This weekend training that's about to begin this weekend, how many troops will there be again?

A: I think the numbers will begin at 850 and go up to about 1,900.

Q: In the U.S. or...

A: Yes.

Q: The implication from what the President said the other day, and the clarification provided here in terms of the possible assistance in a redeployment or relocation mission seemed to indicate that we were talking about the 2,000 Marines off-shore, but some military experts have suggested that perhaps those Marines aren't really equipped for that kind of a mission, particularly if they had to stay on the ground for any length of time. Are those Marines equipped to handle a relocation mission, or might that necessitate bringing in Army troops from Germany, for example?

A: I want to go back to the time line that I tried to explain earlier. The second part of that time line is preparing for participation in the NATO plan to evacuate forces from Bosnia. We hope the evacuation will never occur. This evacuation, should it occur, would involve a large number of U.S. troops many more than the 2,000 Marines. The training that's going on now at Grafenwoehr, or that starts this weekend, will involve some of the troops that could be tagged to participate in an evacuation.

It's prudent to train these troops. Whether we evacuate or not, it will be valuable. That's what's going on here. So if there were an evacuation, there would be more troops.

Q: Closer on the time line to us, this possible reconfiguration of the UNPROFOR forces and possible assistance by U.S. troops... What I'm asking is, would that necessitate Army troops from Germany as opposed to the Marines off-shore? Are the Marines capable of that kind of a relocation mission, or do we need more heavily armed ground troops rather than the lighter armed Marines?

A: I think you're asking about a contingency that hasn't presented itself yet. We've received no requests from anybody to participate in an evacuation or a relocation of troops. So without knowing what the situation is, it's difficult to answer that question.

Q: Can you be more specific then about... We heard Dr. Perry offered the equipment the other day, right?

A: Yes.

Q: You mentioned logistics of airlift. We hear some chatter about Army helicopters being involved in this reconfiguration, and maybe security troops for helicopters if they're based in Bosnia. Can you be a little bit more specific on that?

A: No.

Q: You just won't talk about it?

A: There have not been orders to deploy troops or equipment. Certainly not into Bosnia, and since we're not going to station troops or equipment in Bosnia I don't anticipate that. They would move down closer to Bosnia from where they are -- in Germany, primarily. They would move down to a country that's probably on the Adriatic, across from Bosnia. But that has not happened yet.

Q: When you talk about airlift, can you be more specific? You talked about airlift specifically.

A: Yeah. We would be prepared, one of the things we're going to discuss, and I don't think this is fleshed out, is what sort of support we could provide in strengthening UNPROFOR. That might mean bringing some equipment, if necessary, into the theater that would be used.

Q: That would be armored personnel carriers, helicopters...

A: That's a possibility. I don't think the details have been worked out.

Q: But that's essentially the limits of the airlift then is...

A: Yes. Transporting equipment that other countries would use as part of the UNPROFOR peacekeeping force. Since we don't plan to get involved in the UNPROFOR peacekeeping force, we presumably would not be shepherding it in there. We would be delivering it to people who would then use it in Bosnia.

Q: So you would not put any of the support equipment in Bosnia. None would be on the ground in Bosnia? I'm not clear how you're reconciling that with... Several months ago Shali promised in a Chief of Staff meeting at The Hague to deliver support equipment to UNPROFOR, including things like night vision goggles, I think some additional artillery locating equipment, things that they were going to put on the ground in Bosnia to support UNPROFOR. Are we no longer supporting that notion?

A: I said explicitly that we were prepared to provide equipment as part of an effort to strengthen UNPROFOR.

Q: I'm not clear now, based on what you just answered...

A: You asked me to give you specifics about how the equipment would get from one place to another and where it would be delivered. I can't do that. That hasn't been worked out.

Q: No, actually what I'm trying to ask, maybe not very clearly, when you said in theater, are you ruling out, are you saying that the U.S. would not put equipment in Bosnia? Are you ruling out putting it in Bosnia?

A: I'm saying that has not been worked out and I don't know.

Q: Is the United States willing at this point to consider lending military support to this rapid reaction or rapid response force that the British and French are talking about?

A: The briefer said yesterday that we would not be a part of that force.

Q: But would you be willing to support that force with logistics and other...

A: These are among the questions that will be worked out. I can't give you a yes or no answer to that. You should not read anything into my inability to give you an answer. That's one of the reasons the Secretary and the Chairman are going to Paris this weekend, to discuss a number of details about how we might participate, if there's agreement on a plan to strengthen UNPROFOR.

Q: ...officials have been describing Saturday's meeting as a "troop pledging" session for the rapid deployment force for strengthening UNPROFOR, for the number, for the relocation, for the numbers that have been described in the last few days. Is it the U.S. position that it may be premature, at least for the United States on Saturday to be ready to pledge any troops for whatever mission, that we'll only be ready at that point, possibly, to offer equipment for strengthening UNPROFOR...

A: I thought I said at the very beginning that we will not pledge troops to strengthen UNPROFOR. We do not plan to contribute troops to an effort to strengthen UNPROFOR.

Q: ...relocating...

A: They'll discuss the whole situation in Bosnia. Our primary goal in going over there is to discuss and encourage ways to strengthen UNPROFOR. The way, I mentioned already, that we're prepared to encourage that with equipment, with logistical support -- mainly transportation, and with planning.

Q: Does your reference to the U.S. wanting to encourage strengthening, is that equivalent to saying the United States favors the redeployment of these forces and therefore is encouraging that, and U.S. participation on that? Or do you have other ideas about strengthening...

A: We're going to Paris to find out what the latest thinking is on ways to strengthen UNPROFOR.

Q: What is the U.S. thinking on that?

A: We're going to Paris to discuss the latest thinking about ways to strengthen UNPROFOR. The President made it clear yesterday what we were prepared to do. We are basically prepared to participate in three ways to help our NATO allies in Bosnia. The first is part of a broad evacuation plan should that be necessary, and we hope it won't be. The second is an emergency evacuation of forces, if necessary. The third would be this relocation from an untenable position that was talked about yesterday.

Q: Do you think 5,000 troops to strengthen UNPROFOR are sufficient? If not, what kind of estimates would you give to the size of troops sufficient to strengthen?

A: I can't answer that question.

Q: Several months ago Dr. Perry made a speech and he talked about national interests. He broke it down. He talked about vital national interests; he talked about important national interests; he talked about national interests; and he talked about humanitarian efforts. Where does the Bosnia situation fall on that spectrum?

A: Certainly we have, he described the vital national interest as one to which we were prepared to send troops, and this is not in that, not on that spectrum from our standpoint. It is clearly a major humanitarian problem, and it's clearly a time when we are trying to show solidarity with our European allies in dealing with what for them is a much more immediate problem.

Q: So you look at this whole thing as a humanitarian issue and not a national interest issue?

A: I think it's clear that this is not something that threatens our security or our borders the way other problems we've dealt with in the past do.

Q: The President was very specific yesterday when he said that a temporary deployment of American ground troops... I know we've got semantics between evacuation and reconfiguration, but I've heard you say nothing today to match up with what the President said yesterday. Are you backing away from that or...

A: I described the three ways in which we were prepared to use troops.

Q: None of those...

A: Temporary...

Q: Giving them equipment doesn't match up with what the President said. Logistics with airlift, is that what you mean by deployment of American ground troops? Landing planes there?

A: No, that's not what I mean. I've tried to explain this. I don't know how many times I have to say it. Imagine this time line with two major events on it. One involves strengthening UNPROFOR, one involves preparing for an evacuation we hope will never occur.


The President's remarks yesterday were primarily under the evacuation umbrella. What we've said is there are three types of actions we're prepared to lend assistance to if requested, and we haven't been requested. One action is the broad evacuation of all the UNPROFOR forces. That's Plan 40104. That's what's been under consideration, under discussion since December.

The second is an emergency extraction of some elements, maybe all... Probably some element of the UNPROFOR forces.

The third would be assistance, if necessary, to relocate UNPROFOR units if they find themselves in a dangerous or untenable position.

Q: ...the evacuation then, would that fit with reconfiguration...

A: The emergency evacuation would fit under the evacuation umbrella. That's why we used the term emergency evacuation. It would be taking forces out...

You have to make a distinction here. The overall Plan 40104 envisioned taking out all 22,000 UNPROFOR forces from Bosnia. That was the initial plan.

Q: Reconfiguration is taking them from one area of Bosnia back to Sarajevo. That's what they're talking about.

A: It could mean... Yes, it could mean that.

Q: It could be participating in that as well?

A: Relocation would be moving troops from one place to another. We would, the President said we would consider participating in that if requested, and after consultation with Congress. That's what he said yesterday.

Q: The Bosnian Serbs have been the aggressors against Sarajevo, against the enclaves, most of the troubles that the UN/UNPROFOR forces have run into with the taking of hostages have been at the hands, or by the Bosnian Serbs. The Bosnian government/Muslims, have not been protagonists, as far as I can determine. Are you or is this building concerned that if the withdrawal plan is executed, that they would be the ones, the non-Bosnian Serbs who would try and prevent the withdrawal?

A: This is a very complex civil war in Bosnia that involves fierce fighting on both sides. I think moving into what essentially is a war zone where people are being killed every day is a dangerous proposition that requires us to be prepared to deal with anything we confront. That's what we're preparing to do, in part, with the training in Grafenwoehr.

Q: Why does it necessitate U.S. involvement? Again, if most of the UNPROFOR forces are being faced off against the Bosnian Serbs or vice versa, and they wish to withdraw, it would seem to me the Bosnian Serbs would say "Go and God speed." Where is the threat coming from?

A: As I said earlier, there are two sides to every war. Presumably, if one side would be glad to have us go, the other side might be less glad to have us go.

Q: But are we anticipating, then, that the other side would try to block...

A: We are prepared to deal with problems wherever we find them. We hope we won't have to because we hope that UNPROFOR will be able to stay and do its mission.

Q: What American troops would be involved in deployment for the emergency evacuation?

A: The overall evacuation planning... We are proceeding with our planning for 40104. That would involve close to 25,000 American troops if the entire plan were put into effect. The troops that would be involved in an emergency evacuation, which would be smaller and involve a much lesser commitment of U.S. troops than the broad evacuation plan, would be among those 25,000 troops who are training now for the broader evacuation plan.

Q: Is Secretary Perry talking with congressional leaders today?

A: Yes.

Q: How would you characterize the reaction you're getting from them?

A: I'm afraid I don't have a readout. He's making calls as he can between meetings, and the consultations have been going on for -- they started yesterday, and they'll continue today and into tomorrow.

Q: To what extent will negative congressional reaction influence what the Administration is willing to undertake?

A: We're consulting with Congress, and we hope that Congress will agree that the first priority here is to work with our allies to strengthen UNPROFOR so it can continue to provide its protection and humanitarian aid in Bosnia, and we hope they'll agree that if that doesn't work, the second priority here is to help our allies evacuate their forces from Bosnia. We think that supporting our allies is an extremely important task for the U.S. to perform. We hope Congress will agree. We assume they will agree.

Q: Who will pay for a broader 40104 evacuation? If there are subsets of that, what is the cost? I know you can't give a cost estimate, but who at least would pay for this sort of thing? Would this come out of training funds, or would the UN pay, or would NATO have to pay?

A: I think, in the end, we will end up paying a substantial amount of that. I can't give you a figure on that right now.

Q: When I looked at...

A: If it happens under a UN umbrella or a NATO umbrella or we pay unilaterally, we're going to end up paying a substantial portion of the cost.

Q: 40104 envisioned at one point an armored division with tanks, Bradleys they're pretty complex, heavy, a long time to move. The short term deployment, are you thinking about a light infantry unit from Germany?

A: I don't think tanks were going to be involved in 40104. I think it was more Bradleys.

Q: Armored units. But my question is, for the emergency short term, the smaller force, are you considering a light infantry...

A: We're considering a range of options. I think right now we don't know what we'll be requested to do. We've been requested to do nothing yet. But we're considering, we will size our troops to the challenge at hand. That's one of the reasons we're training now.

Q: Are U.S. planners working with European planners, looking at the relocation mission as well as the possible collective emergency extraction mission?

A: Right now the primary priority is to find ways to strengthen UNPROFOR, and that's what we're going to Paris to discuss over the weekend. It is the job of planners to plan to do whatever they might have to do, and I'm sure there is some planning going on, but I'm not specifically aware of what's happening in that regard.

Q: You wouldn't know what parameters U.S. planners have been given as to possible use of U.S. troops in either of those missions, the relocation mission or extraction mission?

A: No.

Q: Can you address the way this particular situation is evolving, where you are forced to do planning before you have a decision by NATO, before you have any sort of mandate, new mandate from the United Nations. It's sort of going backwards instead of the way it normally ought to work. One would think you'd get political guidance, you'd do things from the multinational organizations, and then you do your planning, and then you do your execution. To a certain degree the execution is already underway unilaterally by certain countries. You are doing on-the-ground military planning. It's all backwards. Is that a frustration for the Defense Department?

A: Our primary goal is to guarantee that whatever we ask our troops to do will be done as safely and as quickly and as effectively as possible, and that requires training. We can do that training before we have a firm plan. If we're requested to do something, we will take the time that we have to prepare to do it. Right now we've received a request to do nothing, but that doesn't mean we can't plan and we can't train, and that's what we're doing.

Q: Can you spell for us the name of the location in Germany where this training is taking place?

A: G-R-A-F-E-N-W-O-E-H-R.

Press: Thank you.