Tuesday, June 26, 2001 1:45 p.m. EDT
Quigley: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Two short announcements this afternoon, and then I'll be pleased to take your questions.
I don't have a time yet, but tomorrow afternoon as early as we can make it, Secretary Rumsfeld and the DoD comptroller, Dov Zakheim, will be here in the briefing room to provide an on-the-record, non-embargoed briefing on the '02 budget amendment for DoD. The budget will physically be delivered to the Hill tomorrow morning, it's my understanding, by the president, and then the secretary and the comptroller will discuss details here tomorrow afternoon. We'll put out a press advisory as quickly as we can with the exact time of that, but it will be in the afternoon tomorrow. We will --
Q: There won't be -- I'm sorry. The services won't be doing the normal breakout rooms?
Quigley: That's what I was going to say next. Because of the truncated span of time and the transition to a new administration and whatnot, the services have not had the time to develop the full comprehensive levels of detail to which you all have become accustomed over the years. They will have some of that, of course. But following the DoD brief tomorrow, we will -- if you have specifics that pertain to a particular military department, we'll ask you to go to that service and ask them that level of detail. I think in most cases they'll be able to satisfy your requests for detail. There might be some that they just have not had the time to flesh out to that level that you've come to expect over the years. But I think, Pam, for the most part it will be a pretty good level of detail. And again, we'll put out a press advisory as quickly as we can this afternoon when we have a time on that tomorrow.
Q: Also, are you going to have the budget for us when you deliver it to the Hill so we can review it, or will we only see it at that time, with the briefing?
Quigley: I don't know. Let me check that. I don't know.
And second, and last, welcome to a group of eight interns that John McWethy and Barbara Star are hosting here from ABC. Welcome to all of you, and welcome to the Pentagon and to our briefing this afternoon.
So with that, I'll take your questions.
Q: Craig, can you fill us in on what happened yesterday in Macedonia? Apparently there were a couple of incidents that -- a couple of Americans were wounded apparently?
And also, could you address the broader question of how is it that Americans now in Macedonia have become apparently drawn into the fighting there in Macedonia?
Quigley: You really have three separate events that happened yesterday in the Balkans, so let me take them one at a time. They really have very little to do with each other.
First, a U.S. Army soldier stepped on a land mine while on routine patrol on the Kosovo side of the Kosovo-FYROM [Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia] border. He received serious injuries. He lost his foot. But it was not life- threatening. He was medevac'd to the medical facilities at Camp Bondsteel, and there he remains. That was one.
Second, another U.S. Army soldier was part of an -- or was on an orientation activity southwest of Skopje at the request of and with the full knowledge of the U.S. ambassador and, of course, the government of FYROM. And that vehicle that he and some Macedonian officials were riding in received some small arms fire. And unfortunately, there the individual received wounds. And it's not clear, Bob, we're getting conflicting reports. I know that a round went into the soldier's hand. We're getting conflicting reports as to whether or not it struck another part of his body. But again, it was not a life-threatening wound, but serious enough, and he also was medevac'd, initially, I believe, back to Able Sentry in Skopje, and then on to Camp Bondsteel for treatment. And there he remains, as well.
And the third, and the most complex, actually, of the three, was the defusing of the situation that was rapidly building in Aracinovo. This is a small village not far from Skopje, as you know, and it had a large number of Albanian rebels, armed Albanian rebels, NLA members, in the village. Over a period of days, it had been the intention of the EU, of NATO, of NLA and the government of FYROM to defuse that situation and to get the fighters out of the village and out of that area, and to then reassert Macedonian government authority over the village itself.
EU, NATO, all four of the parties that I mentioned were all trying to design a way to defuse that situation: How do I lessen the pressure and lessen the tension on this? So with the full concurrence of the government and of the rebels, NATO Secretary-General Robertson sought the assistance of the U.S. national or of the -- I should say of the various national forces that were in the region -- and of course, the U.S. is one of them; we have forces there at Skopje, at Camp Able Sentry -- to help get the fighters and some other civilians that were not actually armed but -- out of the village.
So the U.S. forces there put together a convoy of about 20 vehicles, mostly buses, but also some armored Humvees that were armed with machine guns, a total of about a 101 U.S. people -- that would be 81 military people and about 20 contractors that were actually driving the buses -- and entered the village, again with the full knowledge and consent of all the parties concerned, and transferred a total of about 200 -- I'm sorry -- 350 total people about 11 miles -- that 350 is broken down by about 100 NLA fighters and about 250 other civilians, men, women, and children -- out of the village and to another village about 11 miles away, and then allowing the government of Macedonia to then reassert control over Aracinovo and defuse the situation.
And that is the details of that.
Q: It looks like you accomplished almost the opposite of what you intended. In the wake of evacuating the village, there is all kinds of fighting which apparently has broken out today. So was it a success, or was it -- did it end up being almost a provocation for further violence?
Quigley: I don't think so. There's no shortage of passions in that part of the world right now, on the part of all of the constituencies involved, heaven knows. There are those elements within the Balkans that absolutely did not want to see this action take place.
But when we looked about and tried to seek the appropriate authorities, certainly the government of FYROM was one of them. As a matter of fact, the president of FYROM has just gone on Macedonian television in the last hour or two, clearly saying that he had sought the help of the international community in defusing that situation around Aracinovo. You're going to have -- and clearly you have seen -- those individuals and organizations that do not support the action taken. But we think it was the right one, and anything that can be done to defuse that situation and bring about a political solution to the difficulties in that part of the world is a step in the right direction.
Q: Anything, Craig?
Q: You said anything. The U.S. is willing to do anything to defuse it, including getting involved in the --
Quigley: That's probably a poor choice of words on my part. I mean, I -- that's probably too far to go.
Q: Well, the point is that -- the U.S. forces have not been involved in any kind of operation of this kind, and there had been hesitation to be involved even in receiving arms in the event of an actual settlement, which there has not been. Seem to have taken a new step there, with this operation.
Quigley: I don't know how to predict the downstream activities, but in this particular case, you looked about you and you sought the views and the concurrence of not only the government but of the rebels and of the EU and of NATO, and those are -- those really counted in the decision to take this action. When you had the assent and concurrence and enthusiastic support of those four major entities, in this particular case it was the right thing to do.
But by the same token, I can't predict the next set of circumstances. They may not be as favorable. You may have disagreement amongst the parties next time that would lead you to say, "Wait a minute, this may not be the right course of action to take this time." But this time, we think it was.
Q: A couple questions on that. What was likely to happen if they had not been escorted out by NATO? Why couldn't they leave on their own? And what happened to the avowal last week of George Robertson and Secretary Rumsfeld saying the only NATO involvement in Macedonia would be in a permissive environment and the collection, or the receipt, of the arms from the rebels?
Quigley: I think you're seeing this as an action to contribute to that permissive environment; to try to defuse a very volatile situation.
Q: There's a very big difference between contributing to the creation of a permissive environment and moving into a permissive environment. One is peace-making and one is peace-keeping, and there has been a very stark line drawn between those two things just last week in this building. So is this a reversal of that policy?
Quigley: I don't think so. Again, it kind of goes back to the answer I gave Bob before. It is very situational. In this particular case, we feel very much that it was the right thing to do.
Q: Because it wouldn't have happened, otherwise.
Quigley: What I don't know is if I read the creation here of a new U.S. or a NATO policy, for that matter, to always do this sort of activity. I do not read that into this at all.
Q: What was the danger if NATO had not gotten involved at this point?
Quigley: It's kind of hard to predict as to what may have happened in Aracinovo had the fighters not been removed. I don't know.
Q: But why not just let them retreat on their own? I mean, this looks like NATO giving rebels an armed retreat -- a covered retreat.
Quigley: Well again, I think we're going back to -- and relying very strongly on the consent and enthusiastic support of the various parties that I mentioned before here. All were in agreement that this was a way to defuse a very volatile situation, and you knew that you would not be actively opposed by taking the action that you did by any of those entities. And I think that played a strong role in making the decision to take this action.
Q: You say that Lord Robertson of NATO requested the assistance of people in the region. Who on the U.S. side authorized the offer of the vehicles and the troops and contractors to actually undertake the mission? Does that come all the way back here?
Quigley: Well, certainly -- Hm. I don't know, to be honest with you. I know that it was approved by DoD, and I know that the White House was informed prior to the action ever commencing. I can't give you names, though; I don't have that level of detail worked out. But it was certainly -- the plan was worked out by the forces in the field and at NATO Headquarters, SACEUR and EUCOM and General Ralston's staff, certainly. He was in contact back here, I know, with the Joint Staff. And the White House was informed, although I'm less clear on the names.
Q: When they moved out -- when the rebels were moved out, were they allowed to bring their firearms and weapons with them?
Quigley: Yes, they were, under conditions that the weapons would be unloaded and the ammunition, or whatever the case may be, would not be in those weapons. But they were allowed to bring them out.
Q: Were they allowed to carry them out?
Quigley: They were in the same buses. I don't know if -- I don't know the means or the details of how they were actually transported.
Q: When was the agreement -- or the decision made to allow U.S. troops to be used for this operation? And also, were U.S. troops the only -- was the United States the only country that provided troops for this?
Quigley: I know that we were the only country that provided the troops and the assets because we had them immediately available. With the forces and the buses that are under contract to Brown & Root, the contractor that provides a lot of support to Camp Able Sentry there in Skopje, they were immediately available.
And it was important, speed was an important element of this operation because of the rising tensions and the desire to defuse it as quickly as possible. So as soon as the logistical details on routes to take and times and things of that sort were worked out, we had the forces available and the buses and the drivers for those buses to take immediate action, and that was important.
Q: Well, what --
Quigley: Time of the day, Jim? I don't know. I know it was yesterday, but I don't know what time of the day it started.
Q: Right. So that -- I mean, were discussions, were there discussions on the use of U.S. troops before yesterday, going back -- I don't know -- over the past couple of days, or was it something that was decided at the very last minute? Because there were reports that some buses were brought up and there was a decision that they weren't apparently suitable for the trip, and then the U.S. brought in their buses. So I'm wondering whether this is a decision that was made at the last minute, or whether this was something that had been discussed over the past couple of days.
Quigley: You've got more detail than I do on the potential use of other buses. I had not heard that. But I know the discussions themselves on using U.S. assets or U.S. contractor assets started Sunday night.
Q: So it wasn't impromptu, then --
Quigley: It was relatively brief, but it wasn't within a matter of a couple of hours or something that short, no. It was not.
Q: We understand that there were shots fired at this convoy as it made its way along this 11-mile route. Can you confirm that?
Quigley: I have not heard that. No, they had difficulty returning to Camp Able Sentry when --
Q: Could you tell us about that, please?
Quigley: Yeah. When the mission itself was done and the 350 people had been moved to the other village 11 miles away, then the convoy turned about and headed back to Camp Able Sentry. They encountered a checkpoint and were delayed, as you typically are at checkpoints in that part of the world. A crowd started to gather. Weapons were visible in the crowd, and the U.S. commander on-scene made the decision to again defuse that situation and seek another route. In that particular case we turned the convoy, chose another route, sent out a Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle to scout the way ahead, chose -- the Hunter detected another checkpoint at which a crowd was gathering some kilometers up the road, which again caused the convoy to halt, send out a Hunter to look for a third route, and that route was clear. And all elements of the convoy returned safely to Camp Able Sentry about 5:00 in the morning this morning local time.
Q: So without the Hunter --
Q: Does it not seem to you that the -- (laughs) -- these American forces were entering something that could have turned extremely ugly and very deadly in short order?
Quigley: There was certainly an element of risk involved; I won't take any issue with that. But again, we put great store in the enthusiastic support of the various parties that were involved in asking for this operation to take place in the first place. That is not to say, again, that there are elements within the country and the entire region that are unsupportive of efforts such as these.
Q: Well, on --
Q: Craig, were these official checkpoints? Were they set up by local mobs -- I don't know how you --
Quigley: No, it was not a criminal activity or something of that sort. It was a legitimate checkpoint. But they frequently become magnets for crowds to gather.
Q: And who do we think the crowds were that were brandishing guns?
Quigley: I don't think we know.
Q: It was a Macedonian government checkpoint?
Q: Can you explain what's the difference between two villages 11 miles apart, why, you know, is the situation -- you have a hundred armed rebels in one village and it's a threat to peace, you can just move them to another village 11 miles away with their weapons and it's no longer a threat to peace? Does the Macedonian government have control of both villages --
Quigley: Well, it's certainly safe to say that there are ebbs and flows in the controls that are exercised in that part of the world by both the rebels and the government. It changes all the time. In this particular case the government thought that the best move -- NATO, EU, all parties concerned thought the best move to defuse this particular situation was to transport these people from Aracinovo to that other village 11 miles away. And it seems to have been successful in that regard.
Q: Craig, this really does sound a lot like mission creep. These 700 troops, I think is the estimate of U.S. troops in Macedonia, are frequently described as basically all logistics people who are supporting the Kosovo operation, and Camp Able Sentry, and I guess there's force protection and so on. Now all of a sudden they're interposing themselves in a civil conflict. It's really -- what is their mission in Macedonia? Why are U.S. troops in Macedonia?
Quigley: Well, let me -- let me first comment on the first part of your question, on the scope of this.
We're talking about 81 soldiers and four armored Humvees.
It has never been stated from here or anywhere else that we do not have a robust self-protection capability in Camp Able Sentry in Skopje; we do. We always have from the get-go. Its purpose is to support the U.S. elements of forces in that region; now, that's principally Kosovo because that's by far where you have the greater numbers. And you have parts, and you have food and fuel, and you name it, Chris, comes in through the airport there at Camp Able Sentry at Skopje. But we have never said that that force is not without self-protection capabilities, and you saw an element of that self- protection force deployed here.
Q: Doing other things besides self-protection.
Quigley: This was a -- largely a capability to provide a safe means of moving people and equipment from one place to another quickly. And if that could --
Q: Why is it self-protection?
Quigley: No, the self-protection was the Humvees to provide protection for the buses and the people for them. So we would not send a convoy of buses out, let's just say, with no protection for that collection at all.
Q: They just happened to be part of a different mission from being the logistics and support for the Kosovo operation.
Quigley: We've not done this before. The principal purpose for Camp Able Sentry remains as I have described it. That does not mean it has no other capabilities.
Q: Admiral Quigley, throughout this mission, the transport part and then the second part as the convoy searched for safe way back to the camp, was there any request at all for air cover, or any consideration of launching helicopters or other air cover assets besides the UAV to help them find a route?
Quigley: I spoke to General Ralston on this an hour ago, and that was not an element of the planning.
Q: Has any consideration been given to increasing force protection there now in light of the fact that there were riots in the capital and people are really unhappy with the U.S. role in this case?
Quigley: No. I mean, it's something you always look at and you assess constantly to make sure you've got the right mix, given the circumstances. But I think we're pretty happy with the status quo at the moment.
Q: Sir, can you say what unit these guys came from, the Americans?
Quigley: No, I can't, just simply because I don't know. Let me take that. I'm sure we have it. I just don't have that detail in my head. [Update: elements of the 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division.]
Q: Were they deployed with the UAV or was the UAV back at Camp Able Sentry?
Quigley: The UAV was at Camp Able Sentry.
Q: Just to return to the theological part of this, you maintain that no milestone -- no corner was turned in the last 24 hours, when American forces played a brand-new role in Macedonia?
Quigley: It was a new event. We've not done this before. But what I'm reluctant to predict, John, is this being a harbinger of some major new policy decision at a new area of continued activity on the part of U.S. forces. I do not think that is the case.
But sometimes you're confronted with a particular set of tactical details, and you take all the elements into account as best you can, and you make your decision. And in this case, we think that that was a positive decision, one that contributed to the purpose of carrying out the mission in the first place, and that was to defuse the situation in Aracinovo.
Q: So you would maintain the Bush administration has not changed its policy, its strong desire not to commit forces like this in this kind of situation?
Quigley: That is my understanding. That -- I will certainly not preclude the president from coming to his own decisions that part. But this particular event -- I would not point to this as a -- as you put it, a turning the corner and proceeding down a path where we will now continuously provide this level of support. I do not look at it that way.
Given the circumstances, we think this was the right action to take. The next time, if there is a next time, all of those elements may not be aligned so well and so conclusively, so as to make this appear to be the right thing to do.
Q: If there was general support for this operation in the region, why were the Macedonian checkpoints giving you trouble and not just letting you through?
Quigley: The checkpoints have a very real purpose in life, and that is to stop all traffic on a given main thoroughfare and to ascertain the validity of individuals and vehicles and groups to be there. They stopped --
Q: (Off mike) -- buses with -- (off mike) -- Humvees and 80 soldiers runs a pretty --
Quigley: But it doesn't --
Q: And the enthusiastic support of the FYROM government.
Quigley: But it doesn't take very long for a crowd to convene, and particularly checkpoints have historically, in that region, been a very popular congregation point for crowds to gather very fast. And before the checkpoint officials could do what they were expected to do, all of a sudden you looked around you, and you had a very large crowd, with some weapons visible. And again, the U.S. commander on scene made the call: "Rather than try to continue through the checkpoint and continue the process, I'm going to turn around, I'm going to seek another way and defuse this situation as well."
Q: I don't understand. If there was a crowd gathering in this, this was enough to concern the commander of the operation, why -- I mean, it doesn't seem logical to me that it's more efficient, time-wise, to turn around a convoy of 20 buses than it is to just get the guy to wave you through.
Quigley: I don't have that level -- I can't answer your question. I was not there, I do not have that level of tactical detail.
Q: Were any shots fired?
Q: (Off mike)?
Quigley: Jim, again, I can't promise that. I spoke too quickly. If they were, they were certainly not directed at any of the convoy vehicles or individuals. Were weapons discharged in the air or somewhere in the vicinity? Again, I don't have that level of tactical detail. All I discussed with General Ralston is there were specifically no shots fired at the convoy or the people in the convoy.
Q: And do we have any sense of the size of the crowd?
Quigley: "Large" was all that was described to me, but I did not question numbers. And it gathered very quickly. And grew quickly.
Q: You said the convoy got back at 5 a.m. When did the convoy begin its operation, roughly?
Quigley: Well, I have two time lines, neither of which is the one you've asked for. It returned to Camp Able Sentry about 5 this morning local time. It completed its mission about 8 p.m. local time last night. But I don't know what time of day it actually started.
Q: They completed -- in other words, they got to the 11 miles --
Quigley: They delivered the people to the village 11 miles away at about 8 [p.m.] local.
(Off mike remark, laughter.)
Q: But it took them till 5 a.m. to get back.
Quigley: It took them from 8 p.m. to get back to that 11 miles, okay, down --
Q: Where did they go through, Albania or -- (laughter) --
Quigley: No, no, no. I mean, the roads -- there are no -- the roads in that region, for those of you who have been there, are not very well developed even on the best of events. So it was a lengthy delay at the checkpoint as well. And then you had to find another way, and that one was then -- you had another checkpoint that you saw with a crowd developing there. So you find a third way. And eventually -- that took a while.
Q: So you don't know what time they started from Camp Able Sentry?
Quigley: I don't.
Quigley: I don't know what time they started the mission.
Q: The checkpoints were FYROM government checkpoints?
Q: And the U.S. military did not ascertain in advance that they would be waved through, they didn't do that through logistical -- however that we have grown to expect it from them?
Quigley: I don't have that level of tactical detail, either. I'm sorry.
Q: What's the situation today at Camp Able Sentry, and have there been any incidents today, anti-American incidents today as a result of what was --
Q: It's quiet?
Quigley: It's business as usual, I guess is the answer to your question, at Camp Able Sentry today.
Q: Any unusual security measures being taken there?
Quigley: Not that are significantly different from what we have in -- it's a pretty good force protection package that's involved there on any given day. And it's something like I had mentioned before: you're constantly assessing to make sure you've got it right. But there's no apparent increased threat to the forces at Camp Able Sentry that we're able to discern.
Q: Macedonian forces are apparently shelling ethnic Albanian villages today. It doesn't sound like peace and quiet to me.
Quigley: Well, we share -- support -- the attempt to find a political solution to this and not military, and anything that would contribute to a raising of tensions, and a thought that a military solution would somehow be the answer, we just don't think that's the right way, John. It won't work.
Q: And you don't think you've raised tension by doing this, even though the ethnic Serbs in Macedonia are now outraged and rioted last night, and the war is continuing?
Quigley: I think in that particular instance, that on balance you would have to say that we were successful in defusing that localized situation. Are there Macedonian citizens, Serb nationalistic Macedonian citizens that are unhappy with that decision? Apparently so. There's no shortage of opinions as to the right way ahead in that part of the world. But whatever that way is, we feel very strongly that it needs to be a political one and not a military.
Q: And that localized situation, could you describe that for us? What was it that --
Quigley: This was the constantly raising of tensions in Aracinovo with the Albanian fighters present in that village.
Q: And were there clashes between ethnic Serbs and the Albanian fighters, that's what was going on?
Quigley: Mm-hm. (Affirmative response.) On the outskirts. And it was an attempt by the government to regain control of that village. And it was an attempt by the Albanian rebels in the village to not let them do that and to retain control.
Q: It almost seems like these NATO forces, U.S. forces, participated in a version of ethnic cleansing if what you're doing is separating ethnic groups.
Quigley: I don't subscribe to that description at all.
Q: But, I mean, is the -- the village 11 miles away, is that an -- that's an ethnically Albanian village?
Quigley: I believe it is, yes.
Q: So you moved ethnic Albanians out of a --
Quigley: Out of a high-tension area into a low-tension area. Yes, we did.
Q: In the other incident, how many -- you know, where the -- I believe it was a staff sergeant was wounded by fire.
Quigley: With the land mine or with the --
Q: No, no, not with the land mine. In the car. How many other people were in the car? Were they also all Americans?
Quigley: Three, I believe. No, they were Macedonian government officials, I believe, and I think the number is three.
Q: Three total?
Quigley: Three other people in addition to the U.S. soldier.
Q: Do you know what kind of vehicle it was?
Quigley: It was described as a "sedan" but I don't know beyond that.
Q: Okay. Was it marked in any way?
Quigley: Don't know.
Q: Was that entirely unrelated to this incident you just described?
Quigley: Yeah. Different part of the country; different incident completely.
Q: Was anybody else hurt?
Quigley: This incident was southwest of Skopje, whereas Aracinovo, I believe, is just about straight north; a little east, maybe. But a very different -- very different part of the country.
Q: Why do they think Macedonian government troops are the ones who were shooting?
Quigley: I don't know that we do know that. They came under small arms fire, but I don't know as if we know the source of the rounds.
Q: Since you say several times that, yes, in fact, this is a new thing that has happened here, and -- I guess my other question is, since Sunday night when it started becoming a discussion here, did you notify Congress? Did you consult with Congress? Was there any communication with Congress that U.S. forces would now be doing this?
Quigley: Not that I'm aware of, no. But again, I kind of go back to the answer to John's question before as to do we look at this as a major turning point in the development of a new policy, and the answer is, not at this point, we don't.
Q: You have said several times here that this was something new, it has not been done before, this is a new thing for these troops.
Quigley: I don't know, is the honest answer to your question.
Q: And I guess the other thing is you say, you know, that a military solution is not what you're looking for and I know you're probably referring to other things, but how is it not a military solution, in that U.S. troops injected themselves into this civil war? Is that not the injection of the U.S. military into a civil war? I don't understand how it's not.
Quigley: I don't agree with your description that you just provided. "Injecting U.S. troops into the middle of a civil war" is not my description of what just happened. We were asked by NATO to consider -- to assist in moving people, to lower tensions in a very volatile city, and we had the assets and the capability immediately available to do that and, as I've said, you know, with the support of all of the parties that have been described here earlier, we felt that was the right thing to do, and still do.
Q: Do you think, given the fact that you had to spend nine hours looking for a way back to the U.S. military installation, in retrospect you still did have the support of all the parties?
Quigley: I would make no pretense that we had the support of 100 percent of the people that live in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Clearly, we don't. But you had the government's support. You had the EU's support. You had a specific request from the NATO secretary-general. It was the right thing to do.
Q: Given what happened, my last question is, how lucky did you feel that, does the Pentagon feel, that those U.S. troops didn't come under fire?
Quigley: I think I'm very proud of them, and they carried out a difficult mission with amazing professionalism and skill.
Q: You spoke with General Ralston about this today and you just said that the NATO secretary-general specifically asked for this.
Did General Ralston then approve it, as far as the participation of the --
Quigley: Yeah. The initial discussions on this came Sunday night between Secretary-General Robertson and General Ralston.
Q: So General Ralston was the one who approved the use of the fleet?
Quigley: Well, I know, again, he called back here to the Joint Staff. And again, the White House was informed before any actions took place, before that convoy ever moved. And again, I don't have names, I'm sorry, but the parties were certainly informed, yes.
Q: Did the secretary approve it?
Quigley: I don't know. I don't have the names.
Q: Was he informed?
Quigley: I can't track it. I'm sorry. I've just not been able to do that in the time that I had to prepare this morning.
Q: Can you take that question for us as to when Secretary Rumsfeld was made aware of this mission what his approval was of it, when that happened?
Quigley: Yes. Sure will.
Q: Given the strategic importance of the airfield there to the U.S. mission, is there any commitment on the part of the U.S. to keep that airfield open? I know that the rebels have threatened to take it over.
Quigley: Which one, now, are you referring?
Quigley: We think the airport, the airfield there at Skopje is very important, not only to our efforts but to local citizens and businesses and that part of the country, as well. We do not anticipate the airfield to be taken over.
Q: A question on the sequence of events. Did they have basically a reconnaissance support all the time, or did they call that in when they encountered the first checkpoint?
Quigley: As they were leaving the first checkpoint and seeking an alternate route, they had plotted a route that would work, and they sent Hunter out to reconnoiter that route, to make sure it was clear.
Q: But it wasn't with them during the rest of the operation? They called it in, essentially.
Quigley: It was not, no. It was not.
Q: Has there been any commitment on -- last week NATO was talking about getting member countries to provide troops for this disarmament operation once there is an agreement. Has the U.S. given any sort of response in terms of what troops it might commit to that should that go forward?
Quigley: Not that I'm aware of, no.
I need to correct myself on something. I don't remember who asked the question. It was the three people in the car with the U.S. Army sergeant were Americans, and these were members of the U.S. Embassy observer team, not Macedonian government officials. Let me correct that.
Q: What time was --
Quigley: I don't have the time.
Q: Was this day or night or --
Quigley: I'm sorry, I didn't ask that question.
Q: So that means there were four Americans in a car; one of them was wounded, three were not. Is that correct?
Quigley: Right. One military and then three members of the --
Q: They were all from the embassy; is that right?
Quigley: They were all from the American embassy.
Q: Including the sergeant?
Quigley: Correct. Correct.
Q: I can't pronounce, but how far was the original -- the Aracinovo, is that it? --
Q: How far is that from Camp Able Sentry?
Quigley: Don't know that either. [Update: Aracinovo is about seven miles east of Skopje.]
Q: So we don't know how long this round trip was? We know there's at least 11 miles in there.
Quigley: Well, 11 miles takes you from Aracinovo to the village 11 miles away. But from that point back, I do not know.
Q: What's the name of that other village, do you know?
Quigley: Don't have that one either.
Q: New subject or -- are you done with --
Quigley: New subject?
Q: Okay. Yes, on Vieques, has the department decided to submit legislation to the Hill to get legislative relief regarding the referendum in November?
Quigley: Still working on it, but that is our intention.
Q: So you still intend to submit legislation sometime soon?
Quigley: Mm-hm. (Affirmative response.) But we're still working on it, too.
Q: There are reports that there are pressures from the White House and political appointees in this building to get the Navy to agree to deploy battle groups of the Atlantic Fleet at C-3 readiness level. Do you want to comment on that?
Quigley: I have never heard that before.
Q: Never heard that before?
Q: Okay. In terms of the local referendum in Vieques, the one set for July 29th, even if you're able to get the relief for the November referendum, the legislative relief, apparently the local referendum is still going to take place. You don't feel that that would embolden some of the local protestors to keep on pressuring for the immediate withdrawal of the Navy from Vieques?
Quigley: Those that are pressuring for immediate withdrawal, I don't think that they will be any less enthusiastic for an immediate withdrawal no matter how the referendum may come out on the 29th of July. So I don't think it's going to have a major impact on their enthusiasm one way or the other.
Q: A new subject as well. In the Persian Gulf, is there any change at all in terms of the threat situation facing U.S. troops there?
Quigley: Well, as I have said before here on a couple of different occasions, we are not going to be specific about the force protection and security measures that we have in place not only in the Arabian Gulf but in any part of the world at any given time. As should be obvious to all of you, we have taken additional protective measures for U.S. forces in that part of the world, but I'm not going to be specific as to what those measures might be in any given geographic location, nor how long they might last.
Q: But without being specific, can you say whether there was any change since Friday?
Quigley: We are always, always taking a look at the right situation to put in place, given the circumstances, but I'm not going to give you a blow-by-blow -- I'm sorry -- on any given day, when we go up and when we go down. That's a very localized issue. We rely heavily on the judgment of the local commanders, and the local intelligence reports that we receive through a variety of means. They influence our decision-making process heavily. It can be different, and in only a small distance; a few hundreds of miles will create a different set of conditions there than here. And it's something you always pay very close attention to. But I'm not going to be helpful -- I'm sorry -- in providing details of when we took actions or where or what they might be.
Q: Craig --
Q: On the same topic?
Quigley: Go ahead.
Q: Well, I just wanted to check if you could get any status for us on the V-22 and the inspector general.
Quigley: Just asked that question this morning, as a matter of fact, and they still don't have any -- it's still a work in progress. As I've said before, they repeated again to us this morning that it's proving to be a much more time-consuming effort than they had initially predicted. It is making progress. We're closer to the end than we are to the beginning. But they're still not making any predictions as to time.
Q: Can you say why it's taking so long?
Quigley: When the inspector general has interviewed the Marines that have been assigned there, each one of -- you have a variety of people that have been transferred over a period of time. Some have left the Marine Corps. Some say, "Well, you should talk to this person, but don't worry about talking to that person." And so every person that the inspector general has spoken with to interview about this typically has led to at least one additional person who is no longer attached to the unit. So you've got to track that person down, find them, wherever they may -- stationed, if they're still in the Marine Corps; if not, try to ascertain their location when they've entered civilian life. Sometimes they're successful. Sometimes they're not. And it has just been a very time-consuming process to take that, Rick.
Q: Just one procedural issue -- can the IG offer someone they're interviewing in the process immunity from prosecution if they're trying to ascertain a fact about someone else in the chain of command?
Quigley: You're going to have to play that one by ear in each and every case.
If the inspector general really does believe that that would be of a benefit in that particular instance with that particular person, it's something they would consult very closely with our general counsel to make sure that they're on solid legal ground for doing that before they would proceed. So, do they have their own authority to do that? No, not without the careful consultation with DoD general counsel.
Q: And if charges are brought, does the IG or the general counsel bring them against the individual?
Quigley: Well again, the inspector general is not the legal authority here. You would have an inspector general's report that would come out of this and say this is what we did, this is what we found, here's our recommendations. And then that would be submitted to the secretary, and then he would determine the way ahead from there.
Q: One more on that. Will that be public? Are you going to come out and say the IG's finished and here's what he found and here's his recommendations?
Quigley: Well, ultimately, I mean, as you have seen many inspector general reports before, I mean, we ultimately publish the inspector general reports. If they're classified, we're going to either have to do an unclassified treatment of those portions or redact those portions, but ultimately, the unclassified portions would be released publicly, yes.
Q: There's a British newspaper report that the Iraqis are preparing for an attack in northern Iraq. Have you see any -- is there any evidence of that?
Quigley: Well, I can't -- I've seen the reports. We're constantly watching Iraqi force movements in that part of the world, as we have for many years now. I will not be able to provide you an answer, however, as to the specifics of our intelligence findings.
But I would just remind everyone that we have U.S. forces and coalition forces in the region to preclude a variety of things. One of them is Saddam from threatening his neighbors; another is from threatening his own people. And we have the forces present and the national will to take action as we deem appropriate if we see those circumstances unfolding.
Q: Can you say whether the Iraqis are exercising in the North?
Quigley: I'm not aware of any exercise activity in the North.
Q: But you're not disputing the story that says troops are massing on the --
Quigley: I didn't say that either.
Q: (Off mike) -- what you were saying. You didn't seem to -- (inaudible) -- deny it.
Quigley: I just am not going to be able to confirm for you the reports, other than to say that we are watching Iraqi forces move throughout the region, and if we see the conditions that exist that we put them there in the first place to carry out, we certainly meant what we said the first time. But I don't mean to say that there is an action imminent here either, Bob. I don't want to leave you with that impression.
Q: In the past, maybe not you personally, but people have commented from the podium on Iraqi force movements.
Quigley: If we have seen exercise activity in the past, where you really do see large numbers of Iraqi military forces and ascribe it --
Q: (Off mike) -- movements of forces towards the Jordanian border, and you talked about those.
Quigley: Yeah -- and ascribe it to exercise activity, things of that sort, we have acknowledged that in the past.
But it's from a variety of sources of information when we have done that. And this time I'm just not in a position to be that clear, I'm sorry.
Q: Back to the threat protection steps in the region taken that were announced Friday. I realize there may have been some that were not announced, but the ones that were announced all essentially involved U.S. forces bailing out: the ships flushed, the Marines came out of Jordan and so on. I'm Osama bin Laden, and I know that all I have to do is have a couple of my guys make some cell phone calls that I can count on being overheard and know that every time I do that, you know, everybody leaves. (Light laughter.) It would seem that that is a policy that would empower the very people we are trying to undercut.
Quigley: You always take a look at the intelligence sources that provide you your information with a couple of different discriminators. You take a look at the source of the information, you take a look at the credibility of the information that you have received from a variety of means. It's putting together a puzzle. And if the puzzle pieces absolutely make no sense at all, you can attribute it to bad intelligence, just perhaps intentional feints and stuff like that. But in this particular case we feel that the confluence of the intelligence information is specific enough and credible enough so that we had to take this prudent, cautious course of action, because you're talking about people's lives. And we're not going to do that.
Q: But that's my point. Assume that it is -- we conclude that it is high quality intelligence. Our response is to cede the field to this guy?
Quigley: Well, I wouldn't put it that way. I'd say it's taking what we consider to be prudent cautionary measures to put in place, to make sure that we don't provide an opportunity to more easily attack American targets than we could possibly do. If we can put ships to sea, if we can remove Marines from an exercise, if we can increase force protection measures throughout that region and make it harder -- it's never impossible -- but make it harder to attack U.S. forces, then given the circumstances that we see in this case, we felt that was the right thing to do.
Q: North Korean freighters are intruding into South Korean waters, thereby violating the NLL -- that means northern limit line. However, South Korean government is not taking any measures to stop these. Do you have any comment on this?
Quigley: I don't have any details on that, I'm sorry.
Q: Every year for the last few years there have been these protests at Fort Benning, the former School of the Americas now has a new name. The same thing happened last fall, and instead of just holding the people who are arrested briefly and letting them go, at least some of the people who were repeat offenders were actually sentenced to substantial -- or, six-month jail terms or something like that.
A number of the people involved were elderly nuns. And I wonder who made the decision to change the policy and just instead of tag and release, actually make people serve jail sentences? And isn't it a bit excessive to have aged nuns in jail?
Quigley: Were they not processed through the civil court system?
Q: I believe they were. But somebody had to make a decision --
Quigley: I think that's the answer to your question.
Q: But who serves as the prosecutor in such a case, I would think it would be somebody involved with Fort Benning, wouldn't it?
Quigley: I don't think so. I don't think so. I think it is the civil court system, where you have an individual who is accused of the violation of some law who is then charged with the violation of that crime in a civil court system, and the court process then takes its own course and takes into account the evidence and the facts in the case and comes to its own independent conclusion.
I would invite any of you that have an interest in that school to go down there and take a look. I have been there. I was there with former Deputy Secretary de Leon, perhaps last summer, last fall, something like that. Dramatically revised curriculum, one that I thought represented an awful lot of work, an awful lot of effort to provide the focus on that facility that we want to have. And it is one that I think we can be very proud of, and I would invite you down to take a look.
Q: Thank you.
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