Thursday, October 11, 2001 - 2:30 p.m. EDT
(Also participating: Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Henry P. Osman, director, Operational Plans and Joint Force Development, Joint Staff. Slides used in this briefing are on the Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Oct2001/g011011-D-6570C.html )
Clarke: Good afternoon. Earlier today, Secretary Rumsfeld met with Governor Tom Ridge and Secretary White to discuss the initiatives for homeland security. We look forward to working with Governor Ridge as he sets the course and implements activities to heighten security in our country.
In just a few minutes, General Pete Osman, who is director for Operational Plans and Joint Force Development, will give an operational update on the war against terrorism.
Before he begins, I just wanted to make a couple of points on the strikes. The campaign is still underway with strikes against the Taliban and al Qaeda military targets throughout the country. And I just want to underscore once again the purpose of these, and that is to create the conditions for a sustained campaign against terrorism, and to enable us to continue to provide humanitarian aide.
As the secretary said just a little while ago out there, we want to make clear that our targets are military targets. They are specifically selected to minimize collateral damage. Unlike the actions of the terrorists, who killed thousands of people from countries around the world just a few weeks ago, we do not target innocent civilians, nor will we. The types of targets we attacked are troop training facilities, military garrisons, military vehicle repair facilities.
As the secretary has stated, we are very pleased thus far with support of countries around the world. And to date -- I can give you a few numbers -- we have 36 countries that are offering military troops or equipment; 44 countries are providing overflight clearance; 33 countries are providing landing rights; 14 countries are providing bed down, providing the place for equipment.
And closer to home, we have mobilized 870 Reservists in the last 24 hours. This brings the total number of mobilized Reservists to over 22,000 -- 22,713 -- from 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
And as I said, we continue to provide humanitarian relief to the Afghans who are suffering oppressive living conditions under the Taliban regime. Yesterday we dropped 34,440 rations. And the total delivered to date is 137,760.
And now I'd like to turn this over to General Osman. I'd like to repeat, this is an operational update, so we'll try to restrict your questions to that, and if you need more after he is done, I'd be happy to provide them.
Osman: Thank you, Secretary Clarke. Afternoon.
We continue operations against al Qaeda, as well as those who support them. We didn't brief you yesterday, so today what I would like to do is cover the last two days.
On Tuesday, U.S. forces struck six targets. That included the al Qaeda infrastructure, airfields and defense facilities. Six to eight land-based bombers out of Diego Garcia and Whiteman Air Force Base participated, as well as 10 carrier-based aircraft off the Carl Vinson and the Enterprise.
Yesterday, seven targets were hit. Targets included troop training facilities, military forces, motor pools, and missile and radar sites. They were near Kandahar and Kabul. About 10 land-based bombers out of Diego Garcia participated, and 12-15 tactical aircraft off the carriers were used to hit these sites. Additionally, three submarine Tomahawk missiles were fired from one of our submarines.
We also continue our air support in humanitarian relief efforts to the Afghan people. We delivered about 35,000 humanitarian daily rations from two C-17s on Tuesday, about the same on Wednesday. On both days the food was dropped in northern Afghanistan. If you'll recall, the first two days it was the southern part of Afghanistan. This was as requested by USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development].
Today we have several photos available to show you that would depict some of our efforts. First, I have a pre-strike image of the Mazar-e Sharif division regiment headquarters. This garrison has troops, tanks, armored and support vehicles as well as other facilities. Now, you note the building in the center and the one just up and to the right of it. These are maintenance buildings. Next is the post-strike damage to those facilities. And we struck these facilities on both Day One and Two in this compound.
Q: How many people in a division?
Osman: I do not have the exact numbers in the division. But I would like you to know that their divisions -- and when they say "corps" -- are nothing equivalent to what we have in our forces.
Second is a radio station near Kabul, Afghanistan. First, the pre-strike. (Pause.) Now in the post-strike photo you can see the two control buildings for the station have been damaged.
Third set, we have images depicting numerous fighter aircraft and what we believe to be a transport aircraft on an airfield hear Herat, Afghanistan. And here's the airfield and the aircraft in its pre-strike situation. And you can clearly see on the post-strike the damage that was incurred.
Q: Can you say what weapons were used in that strike?
Osman: I'm not sure exactly what the weapons were.
Q: Looks like a whole series of --
Osman: We have some tapes of that, and you'll be able to get a better picture of what it looks like at the conclusion of my remarks.
Finally, I want to show you the surface-air missile site near Kandahar that the chairman showed you on Tuesday. Here's the pre-strike photo we showed you then. The next photo, we also show on Tuesday, depicts the post-strike from day one. You see the control radar destroyed, but the missiles are still in place. We went back on day two and got the missiles. Here's a look at how successful the second strike was. You can see the missiles are no longer there.
Now I'd like to show you some gun camera footage showing target destruction. In this case, the picture speaks for itself. So if we could roll the tape, please.
Q: What's your target?
Osman: That was the aircraft.
Q: No, SAM site.
Osman: SAM site.
Q: Day one or day two?
Staff: That was the day two strike.
Q: That was the same SAM site, different --
Staff: The same SAM site, different -- (off mike).
Osman: Military operations have been going on all day today. And as we previously said, we continue to update and adapt our plans. So I think you'll understand that I won't be able to discuss today's operations, but look forward to your questions.
Q: General, could you clarify what number or type of American troops are arriving in Pakistan at those two airbases?
Osman: We prefer to let Afghan -- excuse me, Pakistans speak for themselves on what types of troops may be going into the country or support for the operation.
Q: But I mean, they're American troops. Can't you characterize them in some way, as to whether they're ground or air or support?
Osman: Again, I would prefer to let the Afghan (sic) [Pakistan] government speak for themselves on that.
Q: There are reports -- the secretary said that the forces were using so-called "bunker-buster" munitions. What kind of targets were you aiming on with those type of penetrating bombs?
Osman: Bunker-buster munitions obviously would be used for the tunnels, for caves, hardened areas like that. The secretary has said we've used them, and of course we've used a wide range of munitions, that being one of them.
Q: And do you have any assessment of how effective those strikes were?
Osman: Have not gotten the BDA on that, sir.
Q: Sir, you've had many, many strikes, and thus far you have released a single piece of gun camera. Is that because you don't have it? Are you reluctant to provide it to the public? Why so little imagery?
Osman: I don't know if there has been other gun camera film taken at this point. We'll check and see what that situation is. I believe we may have more of it in the future.
Q: General, are you targeting any of the Taliban troops along the front line with the Northern Alliance?
Osman: Taliban troops will certainly be in the target array. At this point, as you know, most of our targeting has been to their air defense, command and control, air fields, and certainly Taliban troops and their facilities will also be targets.
Q: Any sense when?
Osman: I'm sorry?
Q: Any sense when you'll be targeting those troops?
Osman: They're part of targets set now. And of course the commander-in-chief of central command will be making decisions as to what targets he wants to address on any particular day.
Q: If you haven't hit them yet, you will in the future?
Osman: Again, the commander of central command will make that decision when it's appropriate for him to address that target.
Q: General, you said that you hit a radio station. I'm wondering, is that a military radio station, or is that a civilian radio station? If it's a civilian radio station, don't you run up against international law?
Osman: As Secretary Clarke said, we have tried very hard to ensure that all of our targeting is against military targets, against al Qaeda, against the Taliban regime, and trying to minimize as much as possible collateral damage. Our targeting has been against as much as possible military targets. That's been our intent.
Q: Was it a military radio station, or was that Voice of Shari'a radio station -- the Taliban's official radio?
Osman: I can't answer that question for sure, other than what our policy has been with regards to bombing.
Q: In yesterday's map that was released, there was a notation for a strike on al Qaeda forces north of Kandahar. Can you explain how you know those are al Qaeda forces and what exactly happened to those forces?
Osman: The disclosure of how we would know what kind of forces they were obviously would be classified, and I couldn't address that question.
Q: But you have had a successful strike against fielded forces?
Osman: I haven't gotten the BDA on that one, sir.
Q: Yes. Sir, can you tell us whether you have had any successful strikes to date against fielded forces, troops, masses of troops, concentrations of Taliban or al Qaeda troops?
Osman: The bomb damage assessment that we've provided you thus far is what we have available to provide you. And as we get more BDA, as we're able to analyze it and make it available to you, we will.
Q: General, you talked -- the October 9th strikes seemed to be centered up in the north, around Mazar-e Sharif and Herat; the 10th, mostly in the south. I'm wondering, does that mean that most of the primary targets in the north had been taken out?
Osman: That would be -- that would not be a correct assumption. On a day-to-day basis, the commander in chief of Central Command is making a decision as to what targets he feels at that particular time are the important ones for him to address. It doesn't necessarily mean that he has eliminated all the targets in the northern sector or any particular sector. It's just at that particular time, the targets that have emerged and the targets that he thinks are important to address at that particular point in time in his campaign plan will be addressed.
Osman: Over here, please.
Q: General, why do you say six to eight bombers and 10 to 12 strike aircraft? You must know how many planes actually flew the missions.
Osman: We prefer not to disclose precise numbers, and so we give you the best we can give you when it comes to the actual numbers of aircraft participating.
Q: Does it mean that some of those planes didn't drop their bombs, or --
Osman: We do have some planes that return to base that have not dropped bombs. If the target that they were supposed to hit was not as expected, rather than expending munitions needlessly, they return to base. And as you realize, some of the munitions are fairly expensive munitions.
Q: On the munitions question, it looked in that brief footage you showed, that there were cluster bombs being dropped on the aircraft. One question is, are you using cluster bombs? And B, is thousand-pounders the biggest you've been using for bunker busters, or you've got bigger munitions than that?
Osman: The secretary made a statement earlier today, and obviously that statement will hold, with regards to the bunker busters.
As far as the other question, we're using the full range, if you will, of munitions available for the target that's intended. And of course, different targets essentially require different types of weapons systems.
Q: Well, are you confirming the thousand-pounder, or is it bigger than that?
Osman: I can't answer that question, sir.
Q: Sir, there's been real -- just a trickle of information that's come out in pictures, that kind of thing -- one -- (inaudible). Is that because of some problem you're having with the system or a reluctance to show more of what the results have been? What's going on there?
Osman: I think we can say the results have been good. It's a matter of trying to make sure that when we do report to you bomb damage assessments, that they are accurate, that they are as we portray them to be. And of course, there are a number of ways that we go about ensuring and checking to make sure that the bomb damage is as reported. And of course, the bomb damage assessments sometimes take, as you can see, several days to come. As they're available, sir, we'll certainly make them available.
Q: Do you have evidence of defections from the Taliban and/or evidence of movement of the front line? The British report that there is increasing evidence of that. What can you tell us that you are seeing tactically from the ground?
Osman: We have been receiving some information that would indicate that there have been some defections from the Taliban.
Q: And success of the opposition on these front lines? Are the front lines changing now?
Osman: I can't answer that question precisely, sir.
Q: Are defections in the hundreds or tens or twenties or --
Osman: I do not know, sir.
Q: Sir, are you so far satisfied, from the targets or from the mission you are carrying in Afghanistan? Also, any -- do you have any assessment of the damage to their military, as far as personnel are concerned, and also to military equipment?
Osman: I think we can say that we're satisfied to this point that the strikes have been fairly successful. As far as damage to the military equipment, obviously, some of the pictures that we've showed to you would show that there has been significant damage to some of their military equipment.
Have we degraded all of it at this point? Of course not. But we've made some good headway.
And of course, as I mentioned earlier, at this point, we do not have any bomb damage assessments with regard to the personnel. But that personnel and compounds that have personnel will obviously be targeted.
In the back.
Q: General, have you altered any missions or not had bombs up -- to avoid specific civilian casualties on --
Osman: I'm sorry. Would you just restate the --
Q: Have you altered any missions to specifically avoid civilian casualties on the ground, or how do you --
Osman: To say we "alter" missions -- when we establish the mission to begin with, obviously it's to preclude collateral damage or civilian casualties. So the mission is designed from the get-go to avoid casualties to civilians.
Q: But is there any way, once it's set, that you can alter it, if there is a crowd on the ground, or something like that?
Osman: As I mentioned before, in some cases we've had aircraft return with munitions still intact because they weren't delivered, and it could be for a variety of reasons, and I can't say specifically it was because of that.
Q: General, the forward bombers, could you be able to tell us whether or not if more than half of them came from the U.S. or less than half of them came from the U.S.? Not specific numbers, but sort of give a general idea.
Osman: The bombers, of course, originate from Diego Garcia and Whiteman Air Force Base. I don't have a breakdown at this point that I can offer to you as far as how many came from what location.
Q: General, Secretary Rumsfeld has said that one of the goals of this campaign is to get the al Qaeda leadership out of the shadows and get them on the run. Have you reached the stage where they're on the run yet?
Osman: Sir, I don't have the answer to that question at this time.
Q: Could I follow that up a little bit? We're into several days, and most of the assessments have been about how Taliban forces have been affected. How would you assess your objectives in disrupting, destroying, getting to al Qaeda, both in terms of people and its infrastructure?
Osman: Again, the bomb damage that we've offered to you shows the impact that our strikes have had at this point. Beyond that, I can't offer any more information.
Q: Well, do you feel like you're making progress in getting at the al Qaeda network?
Osman: Yes, sir, we are.
Q: And can you give us any details on -- say from Sunday to now, where is the al Qaeda network today?
Osman: There's no doubt we've disrupted their network. As far as the movement of the al Qaeda themselves from their command and control locations, I cannot discuss that at this point.
Q: Are the bunker busters GBU-28s, and what planes are you using to carry them?
Osman: I don't want to try to get into what planes are carrying what munitions. We have some charts, I believe, that lay out for you different types of aircraft and the munitions they carry. And I can't get into specifics at this point as to which aircraft carry which kind of munitions.
Q: If I could just follow that up. I see in the charts that you can use the F-111 or the F-15. But there were reports yesterday you're using B-1, B-2 bombers to carry them. I'm just trying to figure out what the story is.
Osman: The mix of munitions on those aircraft, I do not have available at this point, sir.
Q: General, could you go back to the slide of yesterday's strike and detail for us a little bit more what are the troop concentrations that were struck?
Osman: (To staff) Can we get that one back up?
This was the one of the maintenance compound we were looking for?
Q: October 10th. You showed several spots where you targeted what you described as troop concentration and forces, and I was wondering if you could describe for us what kind of forces those were. Were they al Qaeda forces, were they Taliban forces? What was the nature of the targets you struck?
Osman: I don't have that information with regards to whether they were purely al Qaeda forces over Taliban forces. Sorry.
Q: Pentagon officials have mentioned that part of this operation has shifted to increasingly hitting targets of opportunity rather than fixed targets. Can you talk a little bit about that, perhaps give us a breakdown as to how many missions have become something you look and find and then you task an aircraft as opposed to a fixed installation? And the second part of that is intelligence. I know you can't talk specifically. But can you give us a general sense for how good the intelligence support is for this military operation in terms of helping you find those targets of opportunity, since sometimes it's here and then are gone, quickly?
Osman: As far as addressing what we call emerging targets, I do not have any specifics with regards to numbers of targets that have emerged that we have attacked. But I do know that that, in fact, has taken place, and we've obviously gone back and repeatedly hit targets we've hit before for further damage, and we showed you some slides of that today.
Q: And the intelligence question?
Osman: As far as the intelligence goes, I'm presenting to you an operational picture, and I'm not comfortable with addressing that particular question.
Q: General, with regard to the B-2, as I understand it, you used it the first three days, it was not used yesterday. Can you tell us a little bit about why it's out of the mix and what it is that it brought to the mix in the first place that made you want to use it?
Osman: Again, each day as the -- in the CINC's campaign plan he has an idea of what he wants to address. Depending on what the targets may be would determine what kinds of munitions and then what kind of aircraft are required. So I cannot explain to you in particular why one aircraft would be used one day and then not another.
Q: The last couple of days I've noticed on your charts that you are hitting targets north of Shibarghan in northern Afghanistan.
That has been an area of combat activity by the Northern Alliance. And there are reports today that the Northern Alliance has, in fact, made some gains, particularly -- actually in central Afghanistan. I'm wondering if you could talk about possible coordination with Northern Alliance ground forces. That road by Shibarghan is a strategic road going to Herat. I'm wondering if you give an idea as to why you keep hitting that particular area up in the north.
Osman: It is -- "coordination" is probably too strong a word. We are obviously receiving communications from the Northern Alliance. It's possible to use that in target planning. But as far as coordinating targets with the Northern Alliance in the sense of discussing with them targets, that is not taking place.
Q: But Secretary Rumsfeld said earlier that targets provided by the Northern Alliance were being used to the extent that they were actionable. Can you characterize in some way how useful the information you're getting has been, how reliable it's been?
Osman: I can't answer that question. I do not know.
Q: General, you said that discussions with the Northern Alliance on particular targets were not taking place. Why not? Wouldn't it be sensible?
Osman: I'm sorry; say again, please, sir.
Q: You said discussions with the Northern Alliance on particular targets were not taking place, and I was asking you why not; wouldn't it be sensible to ask them what the useful targets would be from their point of view?
Osman: As I mentioned we're receiving information from them on possible target locations we might want to hit. Those are being taken into consideration as we build our target list. But again, getting down to the actual coordination that we normally think of in our services as far as coordinating targets, that has not taken place.
Q: I was asking why not.
Osman: I cannot answer that, sir.
Q: General, just to follow up, is it a political decision that you shouldn't, or is the operational decision that you needn't?
Osman: It's in the political side, sir.
Q: Sir, can you -- General, can you answer two questions? One, if you are helping or supporting the Northern Alliance? And number two, if you can confirm that U.S. forces are on Pakistani soil?
Osman: With regards to your first question, I would have to believe that the targets that we've hit have been of assistance to the Northern Alliance. I think we can stand on that one. As far as the questions with regard to Pakistan, that's more of a political question and I'll stay away from that.
Q: General --
Clarke: This is the last question, folks.
Q: General, on Tuesday, General Myers gave a concrete number in terms of damage assessment. He said that 85 percent of the -- or targets had been 85 percent damaged. I'm wondering whether you can give us another concrete number or whether you still are enjoying 85 percent success.
Osman: I would say 85 percent probably still stands. And I think that we can see from the BDA that we've been able to share with you that we have been successful in addressing targets.
Clarke: Thank you, sir.
Osman: Thank you.