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

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD PA
December 14, 1995 1:30 PM EDT

Thursday, December 14. 1995 - 1:30 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to our briefing.

I'm sure you all got up early this morning and watched the ceremonies in Paris which were very momentous and exciting, the beginning of a new era of peace in the Balkans, we hope. Certainly an opportunity for that. I'd like to walk you through what happens next, from our standpoint.

As you know, the American troops and the NATO troops will not start moving until several other wickets are gone through here. The first is, we have to get the United Nations Security Council resolution setting up a multinational force. We expect that to happen tomorrow.

After that happens, the North Atlantic Council at NATO will then have to put its final stamp of approval on the plan, and then President Clinton will review these and issue the order for the U.S. to participate in the main force. All these are now scheduled to happen tomorrow. They haven't happened yet, but our intention is that they will happen by tomorrow. That will then be known as "G-day" or Go-day. That will start a four-day clock ticking, 96 hours.

During that time, NATO will begin to move in force at a fairly rapid rate. We expect about 4,000 NATO troops to move in over the 96 hours after G-day.

In the U.S. area, Tuzla, where the 1st Armored Division will be headquartered, we will start by moving in some troops from Vicenza, Italy -- the 3/325th -- to secure the headquarters area. Then the headquarters of the 1st Armored Division, the advanced headquarters will move in.

When we reach G-day plus 96 or G-day plus four days, there will be the official transfer of authority from the UN forces over to the implementation force, or IFOR. That's when the NATO forces will take control.

This is the schedule for moving over the next couple of days. As you all know, the weather, as you've seen on every network, the weather has been rather bad in Bosnia recently, and that has slowed down the arrival of some of the enabling forces. We are pretty much up to pace in Bosnia in terms of the enabling force. We're somewhat behind in Croatia, but we're beginning to move people in by buses and we expect a very rapid ramp-up there. The commanders do not believe we will slow down the deployment of the main force in any way.

Before leaving this topic and taking your questions, I want to point out one other thing, which, is upon signing of the agreement, the parties come under certain obligations. That is the Bosnian Muslims, the Federation Forces, the Bosnian Serbs -- starting today upon signing of the agreement, they have to begin withdrawing their forces back across zones of separation. They have to begin removing mines from the zones of separation which have been laid out, and marking boundaries. This will be taken up by the implementation force, obviously, when we move in, but there is an assertive obligation placed on the parties to begin demining.

On day three, air defense radars must be shut down.

On the 30th day, all foreign troops must be out of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

There are a series of deadlines that are imposed in the agreement that we expect these parties to meet, and they will all contribute to reducing some of the risk in Bosnia as the NATO forces move in. There also will begin a series of negotiations and discussions over a disarmament regime in Bosnia. So all of these things begin now, even as we begin preparing to move our forces in.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: You said you expect 4,000 troops to move in over four days. NATO troops?

A: NATO troops.

Q: How many Americans?

A: A quarter or more might be Americans, I would guess.

Q: You also mentioned the movement of the 3/325th from Vicenza. Was that expected to be happening tomorrow or over the weekend?

A: It probably will be happening over the weekend. One of the issues about tomorrow is exactly how the sequence will run. The UN Security Council has to complete its work first, and then the NAC has to complete it's. It's just depending on when they work through these issues.

Q: What about the timing of the movement of what I understand is the cavalry element with the engineering element from Kaposvar to do the bridging work and the crossing of the Sava there. Would they start moving in there concurrently with the airborne troops coming into the airport at Tuzla or later?

A: I don't know the exact timing of that, but they'll go somewhat later. Their job is to secure the road that goes from the crossing of the Sava River to Tuzla. There will be cavalry troops that will move in to do that. They will basically have to secure the road before the main force, and also on the sides. A lot of these roads run through valleys, so what they'll do is move to the hills surrounding the roads and make sure they're secure before the main force starts coming through.

This is obviously a crucial job. The initial security of that road will go from Tuzla up to the river, and that will be performed by some of the Nordic forces. But we will have our own escorts and security forces guiding in our troops.

Our troops will come in a road march, in tanks and Bradleys. They'll come down to the river on transports, heavy equipment transports, and then cross the river and come in a tactical road march.

Q: Is this road a part of the separation zone that is supposed to be evacuated by indigenous troops? And second, are there any indigenous troops posted along this stretch on the Sava to Tuzla?

A: First of all, we're not at the point of coming down this road. Your first question, I do not believe it's part of a zone of separation, but I'll have to check that.

Secondly, we're not at the point of moving down that road yet. By the time we move down, we will be moving through secured territory. That's our plan.

Q: Is there anybody in the way at the moment, though?

A: I can't answer that question. I can tell you that it's been quite calm so far. And we have not seen opposition to the NATO forces in our zone.

Q: These thousand troops you're talking about, will those be essentially the airborne troops?

A: Which thousand troops?

Q: You said about a thousand would be... You said about a quarter of the 4,000...

A: I said a quarter or more.

Q: All right, a quarter or more. Are you talking about those troops...

A: There will be two groups basically moving in the first four days. There will be the airborne troops and then a headquarters component to set up the headquarters for the 1st Armored Division in Tuzla.

Q: How will those be divided?

A: We'll give you more details on that later.

Q: All flying in?

A: That's the current plan, yes. But as I say, the weather's been hostile to flying recently.

Q: Will they be flying in helicopters or fixed wing or both?

A: Initially they'd be going in C-130s.

Q: The wires are reporting several explosions, machine gun fire, rifle grenades shot off in the Serb-held suburbs near Sarajevo. Does that give you any particular concern? What do you make of that?

A: There have been, of course, skirmishes going on and destructive acts taking place as people have left territories, have vacated areas that will be turned over under the agreement. It's unfortunate that this is happening, but it's reality in this part. We're fully prepared to deal with this.

Generally, there has not been opposition to the NATO forces coming in and we don't expect there will be. All parties have endorsed this agreement, and we expect them to abide by it.

Q: When does Admiral Smith arrive? On day four?

A: I'll get that for you. I don't know.


Q: Can you give us the latest numbers on the enabling force? How many are in Bosnia, how many in Croatia right now?

A: There are in Bosnia now 279 Americans. I don't know how many NATO forces are there. In Croatia there are 193.

Q: Wasn't it supposed to be about 700 by this time, or 750?

A: Yeah, as I said, the weather has slowed us down on that. There are 20 busloads headed towards Croatia now, headed towards Zagreb. Twenty busloads of people. So when we get through, these numbers should shoot up quite quickly.

Q: Just to be clear, the day of the transfer of authority, assuming that the actions take place tomorrow that you expect in the UN and the NAC, would that transfer of authority be on Tuesday, then?

A: Well, if that's four days from Friday...

Q: Will there be any symbolic transfer of authority?

A: That's a good question. I don't know the answer. I'm sure there will certainly be a change of flags, but I'll find out.

Q: The person who receives the authority, will that be General Nash?

A: General Nash will be the commander of the forces in our area, in the American area. Overall, it will be the ground commander, or the theater commander, will be Admiral Smith. Then you'll have different commanders, obviously, in the French and the British sectors.

Q: Are there any indications now that foreign forces are, in fact, leaving?

A: Yes, there are.

Q: What are those indications? Are any of them from Middle Eastern countries?

A: The indications are that foreign forces are leaving as they're required to do. We have various ways of monitoring this -- reports from the area, etc.

Q: Are you referring specifically to some of the Mujahadin?

A: I'm referring to them, yes.

Q: Do you know how many are leaving or how they're leaving?

A: They're leaving.

Q: On the U.S. part of this, is there now a resolution that you're aware of, familiar with, that's prepared? What exactly are they going to authorize?

A: I think you should talk to USUN about that. They're more expert

on the language of UN resolutions. But basically, it's always been assumed there would be a Security Council resolution setting up a multinational force mandate for that force going into Bosnia.

Q: ...the UNPROFOR mandate...

A: The UNPROFOR mandate will end and it will basically make NATO the agent for running this force, and NATO rules of engagement will apply, the NATO command and control, no dual key, etc. But there will be a number of changes, all of which you're familiar with in the operation of this force when it switches to a NATO force from the UN force.

Q: Have there been any recommendations from this building to the White House as to when it might be good for the President to visit the troops?

A: I am not aware of any recommendation to the White House about that. And I'm not aware that he is... He will, obviously, wait until we're established there, as will other officials before they go and visit the troops.

Q: Is it dangerous, do you think, for the President to go to Bosnia after you're established?

A: I think when any military operation begins, the airfields and all the facilities have to be devoted to bringing in the soldiers and their equipment. This is a small airfield at Tuzla. There's limited ramp space. In the early days of an operation, we have to concentrate on getting it established. Everybody realizes that that makes the operation effective, it makes it safe, and that's what we're going to concentrate on.

Q: And we're so close to the holidays now that that won't be done in time for a holiday visit?

A: It will take several days. I can't give you a precise amount of time, but it will take a certain amount of time to get the people and equipment in, particularly with bad weather. We want to make sure that we're well established before we start receiving visitors.

Q: What can you tell us, if anything, about the search underway in Iraq for the wreckage of a plane lost in the early days of the Gulf War?

A: I can tell you that it's not a search for the wreckage, because we know where the wreckage is and we've seen the wreckage. It's a search for remains of a lost pilot who has been declared killed in action but body unrecovered. That search has been continuing.

Q: Have they recovered any remains thus far?

A: I can't give you any reports on what they've found, because anything I did would be preliminary. We want to wait until they get out.

The length of the mission is not... I checked just before I came down here. We don't know when the mission will end at this stage. When it ends, we'll have to sit down and go through all the evidence. So it's not now appropriate to comment on anything that they have found.

Q: But you will confirm that they have been going through the wreckage. They have reached the site and...

A: Yes, they've been at the site for some time. The mission began on December 9th.

Q: Does this improve the atmosphere of our relations with Iraq, the fact that they allowed this?

A: I think it's important to look at this for what it is. It's a humanitarian mission. We made an appeal to Iraq through third parties to allow a team under the auspices of the International Committee for the Red Cross to come in and survey a site. They agreed to that humanitarian request. We see it as a humanitarian act on their part.

Q: Do we know anything about the circumstances under which this plane went down?

A: We do not know the full facts of how it went down.

Q: Are they going to check the wreckage to see if they can determine the cause of...

A: The main reason we're going in there is to search for remains.

Q: Did the Iraqis' agreement have any conditions?

A: I'm not aware of conditions.

Q: Is this the first time that the U.S. military has been part of an official sanctioned visit to Iraq since the Gulf War?

A: There are a number... I'm hesitating because there are a number of United Nations missions, and we're a member of the United Nations. We contribute to some of these missions. I can't give you a firm answer on that because I don't know our participation in some of these United Nations missions that are sometimes in and out of Iraq.

Q: Can you take that question?

A: Yes, I will.

Q: Back to Bosnia. Do you have anything on the UN helicopter being fired on over Sarajevo?

A: I'm afraid I don't.

Q: Is it your expectation the President will be able to sign off on the troop deployment tomorrow, that they'll be able to do the UN, NATO, and the President tomorrow?

A: That is our expectation. That is not only our expectation, it's the current plan. But I want to stress that it is a three-part process, and we do have to wait for the UN and the NAC to operate. And we expect that they both will complete their work...

Q: Any sense of what time that might be here? Will there be any kind of ceremony marking that...

A: I think it will actually be late in the day when it occurs. I'm not aware there will be a special ceremony.

Q: Does the President actually have to sign something, or does he just call the Secretary and say all right, start...

A: I will take that question. It's an interesting question, and I don't know the answer.

Q: Will you also check, if he has anything to sign, can we get a copy of the execute order, since this is a peacekeeping mission?

A: Probably not, but I will also check on that. I want to keep my promises extremely limited. (Laughter)

Q: No ground troops can come in from the north until they throw that bridge across the river, is that correct?

A: Basically no substantial force can come in. There are ferries and there are other ways to get across the river, but I'm not ruling out that troops will go across in other ways, but for any substantial force to go through, they'll have to get that river bridged.

Q: I want to go back to the chronology, the part where you mentioned that forces now will be coming out of the zone of separation, the indigenous forces, should be moving out, should be demarcating that zone of separation. When will our people in the American sector be going up the zone of separation? I take it first to mark, and then there will have to be patrols on foot out to do the surveying and the marking of the zone, is that correct?

A: I suspect we'll go in vehicles -- in Bradleys and tanks. That's one of the reasons we're sending a substantial well armored, well prepared, strong force over there. But I can't give you that exact schedule. We will have somebody here relatively soon to explain that to you, but our initial challenge is to get in and get established. Once we do that, we'll begin our job of marking and monitoring the zones.

Q: Is there evidence that this is happening, that the indigenous troops are preparing or are leaving the zone at present?

A: The agreement was just signed several hours ago and it's now dark in Bosnia. I do not have any evidence that this is happening. But we do have basically good and encouraging signs that the agreement will be honored.

Q: When is the weather going to lift?

A: The weather is actually supposed to improve this weekend, but I can't even predict Washington weather, let alone Bosnian weather. (Laughter)

Q: Given the bad weather so far and the fact that these enabling troops have been so slow in getting in, do you all still hold to the promise we should have half of the force in three to four weeks and all of them in in 60 days?

A: That is still our plan, yes. Weather is a factor, but our plan is to have the full force in 60 days.

Q: And half in three to four weeks.

A: Yes. There has been no change in that deploying schedule.

Q: If I understand it correctly, then, once this bridge or these several bridges are up, then a substantial flow of forces in the U.S. section will begin then.

A: Right.

Q: That's maybe a week from now or two weeks from now?

A: It will be at least a week from now before that bridge is set up.

Q: Have there been any reports of the weather limitations on the armored vehicles? When does the snow get too deep? When does it get too...

A: That's the next phase. I'm not aware. I've seen the same pictures you've seen on television, but I think, just because it snowed yesterday doesn't mean it's going to be snowing next Wednesday or the Wednesday after that. We live in a world of change, after all.

Q: Is there anything in the agreement that leaves that bridge there for an extended period of time. I notice the Sava is a navigable river, and our bridge would block the river.

A: I guess maybe I should ask the Coast Guard representative on our team. It's a good question, and we'll find an answer to that question.

Q: Back to Iraq. How many other Americans are killed in action, body not recovered, and what are the circumstances of their disappearance?

A: There are, I believe, a total of 13, I believe -- ten of whom died in a C-130 crash.

Q: ...locate the wreckage on that?

A: We're talking about bodies not recovered. Everybody else was lost at sea, all the other bodies were lost at sea. This was the only one lost over land. The 13 military personnel from four separate incidents are listed as killed in action, body not recovered; ten of those from an AC-130, one from an A-6, and one from an F/A-18. As I said, all those planes went down in water.

Q: Twelve...

A: Plus this one, so 13 in all. This was an F/A-18. Just so one of you nit-pickers won't have to come back and ask me this question later, one of the bodies of the two-person crew in the A-6 was recovered.

Q: When was the wreckage discovered first?

A: Pardon?

Q: On the F/A-18.

A: The wreckage was first discovered about two years ago by a party of hunters in the area. They took a photograph and brought back a piece, and through various channels alerted us to the fact that they had discovered this wreckage. The piece they brought back confirmed that it was an American plane.

After that, through an extraordinary act of technological detective work, we were able to locate the whereabouts of the plane. We were able to do that by going back and screening the imagery that had been stored from the Gulf War, that had been assembled in the course of looking for SCUD launches. And we were able to look at bright flashes and determine that one of the bright flashes we had photographed was actually the F-18 rather than a SCUD launch. That allowed us to find out approximately where the location was of the plane, where the plane went down. Then we were able to use other technological techniques to figure out exactly where the plane had landed. So we have basically known where the plane was, we've known of the plane's debris for about two years, but it took us awhile to zero in and find it exactly. Then, of course, to negotiate the entrance into Iraq under the ICRC auspices.

Press: Thank you.

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