Tuesday, October 16, 2001 - 3:00 p.m. EDT
(Also Participating: Marine Corps Lieutenant General Gregory S. Newbold, Director of Operations, Joint Staff. Slides and videos shown in this briefing are on the Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Oct2001/g011016-D-6570C.html)
Ms. Clarke: Good afternoon, everybody. Just a few brief remarks, then I'll turn it over to General Newbold.
We continue to make progress toward our goal to create the conditions necessary for sustained antiterrorist operations and delivery of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. We're now in the second week of military operations in Afghanistan. And I want to point something out in terms of expectations going forward. While at times you may see a certain leveling off of activities, other less visible activities may be underway. The war against terrorism is a wide-ranging effort. It's military, it's diplomatic, it's humanitarian, financial, economic. And not everything takes place at the same time in the same level of intensity. General Newbold will provide more detail about the military operations.
I just wanted to make one brief comment about the Guard and Reserve call-ups. They continue to make a huge contribution to the effort. And to date 53 state and territory governors have called over 7,000 Guard members, 7,038 Guard members to active duty to provide security assistance to 416 commercial airports. A total of 6,337 are currently in the airports while 828 are still in training status. Overall, 27,802 National Guard and Reserve troops have been called to active duty from over 200 units in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Germany.
We'll turn this over to you, sir. Thank you.
Q: Torie? Excuse me.
Ms. Clarke: Sure.
Q: Just -- I want to ask you just one quick, brief question --
Ms. Clarke: Sure.
Q: -- Pentagon -- chief Pentagon spokesperson. Is there any indication whether or not you hit a Red Cross warehouse in Kabul today, and do you have any indication how that happened, if it did?
Ms. Clarke: Charlie, we've heard the reports and we're looking into it. As we get some good information we'll let you know.
Q: But you don't have any confirmation of what I'm talking about.
Ms. Clarke: I have no confirmation at this time. If we get some more information, we'll let you know.
Q: Thank you.
Gen. Newbold: As Ms. Clarke said, I have a couple of comments before the questions and answers.
We did continue our operations against al Qaeda and the terrorists yesterday.
We struck 12 target areas that included a terrorist camp and a training area. We struck, and continue to strike, airfields, aircraft, AAA and SAM sites. We struck the Taliban forces in a robust way that included troop and vehicle staging areas, some storage and maintenance sheds. And we hit some troop equipment storage buildings.
We used over 100 strike aircraft. Most of them came off the carriers. We used six to eight long-range bombers in the mission. And we also used about five TLAMs yesterday.
As most of you know, we also introduced the AC-130 Spectre gunship yesterday. As you all also know, we won't discuss the specific targets it was used against or the bases it came from.
Once again, because our operation has multiple intents and objectives, we dropped humanitarian relief supplies, nearly 70,000 of them, yesterday, which through yesterday gave us a total of about 350,000.
As Ms. Clarke said, we have heard the reports about the Red Cross warehouse and we are looking into that, trying to determine whether it happened, what might have happened.
And I do have some pre- and post-strike images and some videotape.
The first one is image, and you'll see that it is a pre-strike of a communications station in western Afghanistan, near the city of Herat. This comm. station provides command and control support of the Taliban military operations in the western part of the country. I'd like to switch to the post-strike image. As you can see, the building has been destroyed and the intended purpose has been accomplished.
Q: That was yesterday?
Gen. Newbold: That was from the 13th.
I also have five weapon-systems video clips I'll show. The first two are of a Taliban military training facility in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan. You'll note a string of vehicles lined up and the munitions as they strike. These are armored vehicles.
Q: Can you tell us what's hitting them?
Gen. Newbold: Munitions are hitting them. (Laughter.) As you know, we won't cite the specific munition, but as you can see, these are laser-designated precision munitions.
Q: (Off mike.)
Gen. Newbold: I'm sorry. The next two clips are of Kandahar airfield and of SAM sites.
Staff: We're still on the second clip, sir.
Gen. Newbold: The second clip. I'm sorry.
This is the same area, and it shows that same convoy and different strikes against that.
Q: Sorry. Can you tell us the dates of that, sir?
Gen. Newbold: This was yesterday. I'm sorry.
Kandahar airfield and SAM sites will come up next. These are two different sites. One of them was an SA-3, the other was an SA-13 that you'll see, providing air defense coverage of Kandahar airfield. And the SA-13 is mobile. The SAM no longer is.
Q: Any idea what day this is from?
Gen. Newbold: This is from yesterday as well.
And we have one final clip, and this clip shows a tank near the airfield at Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, a crucial area, as you know. This vehicle is in a defensive position. It's hit with two weapons, and struck with some precision.
Those are the film clips. A couple of points that have been emphasized before. I've given you some numbers of aircraft used, munitions, and I've shown some images and video. Those are not the measure of effectiveness of a military campaign. Box scores are generally not helpful. Some days you'll see that the number of aircraft go up, and sometimes there will be few, and some days there won't be any. But regardless, we're going to keep up the pressure on the terrorists and on the Taliban leadership. The pressure will come from all elements of national power and include the military. Regardless, it's going to be relentless.
As we noted, we continue our efforts to assist the Afghan people through humanitarian drops. And the essence of what we're trying to do is to destroy the al Qaeda terrorist infrastructure and those within the Taliban leadership that have made sure that they're supported within their country.
That's all I have, and now I'd like to open it up for questions. And did yours count before, Charlie, or are you -- (laughter) --
Q: No, sir.
Q: Well, it should count.
Gen. Newbold: We can take a vote.
Q: General, could I ask you, number one, have you started hitting entrenched Taliban positions north of Kabul? And number two, while we know you don't discuss ongoing missions, were the missions this morning just as intense, with as many as 100 aircraft involved into today?
Gen. Newbold: We are striking Afghan Taliban military positions around Kabul, include those that protect the capital. We're striking -- we struck, in this day of the campaign, targets up near Mazar-e-Sharif, as you saw in the video clips, protecting that very important crossroads.
And I'm sorry. Your second question?
Q: And whether or not -- you mentioned a hundred aircraft yesterday --
Gen. Newbold: Yes.
Q: -- which would be more than previous reports have indicated. Are you using that many again today early into the day, or has it gone down somewhat?
Gen. Newbold: Yesterday was a particularly heavy day, as I think the secretary of Defense described. Today is another intense day, not quite to that level. But as I described, you will see fluctuations, and you should not read into it if you see a far fewer number in a future day or even a larger number.
Q: Thank you.
Q: General, can you give us some idea of why the AC-130 gunship was used without -- you don't want to get into exactly what it was going after, but why employ that weapon system in -- at this time? What effect are you trying to get from the use of this?
Gen. Newbold: The AC-130 gunship is an excellent platform to use in this environment, for a number of reasons. Let me list a couple of them. It has precision weapons platforms, which allow us to reduce collateral damage at the impact point. It is a system with a long loiter capability, so it has ability to station itself over a target area for a long period of target -- time. So as emerging targets appear, it's a very useful platform.
It also has a large crew of specialists who are able to acquire targets to a degree that a fighter aircraft, for example, moving at over 300 knots, cannot. So in fact its slow speed is useful in that regard.
Q: Is there also an intended psychological impact on the Taliban to be the recipient of the kind of firepower that this system can --
Gen. Newbold: I think that's a very good point. There is psychological effect of all that we're trying to do. I think the intended purpose of the military tool of national power is as much to convince the Taliban leadership that they have made an error, and their calculus someday will be that it's in their best interest to see that --
Q: General, In general, this system does it more precisely and more brutally, I guess, or with greater power than the other systems, I mean, because it can rain down fire? Is that the point?
Gen. Newbold: It can be extremely precise, and that's one of its great benefits, so you're right in that regard.
Q: General, can you say whether that mission was successful?
Gen. Newbold: It was a successful mission; I can go that far.
Q: General, can I do a follow-up on that, please, if I may? The AC-130 operates at a fairly low altitude, and it's low and slow as compared to strike aircraft. Now does the use of this aircraft mean that the AAA is threat -- the SAM threat, at least in that area, is now diminished to the point where the aircraft can operate safely?
And the follow-up on that is, that we're using 100 strike aircraft; it does seem that you're going more after targets of opportunity than fixed targets. Is that true?
Gen. Newbold: The first part of the question regarding the AC- 130 and the threat to it, its protection comes from two things: reducing the threat, which you've alluded to, and the other one is the way and manner in which it flies. It flies with self-protection; it flies with external protection -- other aircraft; and it also can fly at the altitudes so that the current threat is acceptable. And that's the way they've done that.
Now as far as the --
Q: Following up on the number of strike aircraft. Are you going more after targets of opportunity more than fixed targets?
Gen. Newbold: I think you have seen over the past four or five days a shift to strike emerging targets, and that is exactly the way you'd want a campaign to go, to emphasize agility in execution.
Let me go to the back here.
Q: General, I wanted to ask if you have the number of how many bombs, missiles have been dropped in Afghanistan, and also if the U.S. military is testing some new equipment and weapons in this new war. We understand there was an effort of the secretary of Defense to transform the military to face the new threats. This transformation is already working?
Gen. Newbold: We are using all of the technology that is available, and that translates into a number of different things: into the platforms, the aircraft that are used; the collection, the intelligence; and to how our assets are used; the training -- all as a result of technology and the benefits from lessons learned from previous engagements or from operations and training.
But you had another question. I'm sorry.
Q: It was the number of bombs and missiles that have been dropped.
Gen. Newbold: Yes. In fact, I do know that. (Laughter.) I don't think it's useful, though, to use that as a measure, except that when you're talking about the number of errant munitions, I can tell you that the number would be so minuscule compared to the overall number, well over 2,000 -- any is unacceptable, but it is a small --
Q: I'd like to shift to --
Q: General, there are reports that Northern Alliance troops captured Mazar-e Sharif to the north.
Can you confirm that, or can you give us an update of Northern Alliance troop movements?
Gen. Newbold: I can't give you Northern Alliance troop movements. I have heard those reports. It's our belief that the Northern Alliance forces are very close to Mazar-e Sharif. You've noticed the airfield there. It's about 10 kilometers from the town. And I think there are Northern Alliance forces at the edge of that airfield.
Q: How critical --
Q: General --
Gen. Newbold: I'm sorry?
Q: How critical is that to the Taliban?
Gen. Newbold: Mazar-e Sharif has two critical elements to it. One is it's a crossroads, mostly for resupply of their forces. The other one is a psychological one. As most of you know, Mazar-e Sharif has been fought over for three years now. And it's changed hands. Its loss to the Taliban would be a significant setback.
Q: Would you say that loss may be close?
Gen. Newbold: I would say to a large degree that's up to the Northern Alliance.
Q: And one follow-up. On the Red Cross, you say you can't determine yet whether it was U.S. weapons that hit it. But were there strike operations underway in that region at the time?
Gen. Newbold: I know that there were strike operations in the area of the city. So I actually truly don't know the answer to your question --
Q: General? General?
Gen. Newbold: You've had your --
Q: The Northern Alliance is saying that they're seeing hundreds of volunteers cross in Shir Khan, for example, to fight with the Taliban. Have you seen any evidence of this, either in Shir Khan or elsewhere in the country?
Gen. Newbold: We've heard a lot of reports not only from the Northern Alliance, not only from news reports, which are usually extremely accurate, but -- (laughter) -- also from other intelligence services reporting from allies, and they all indicate the same thing, that there are defections, that there are factions that are changing sides. And that's a great measure of effectiveness and a metric for success.
Q: I'm talking about actual volunteers coming from Pakistan into Afghanistan --
Gen. Newbold: I have seen those reports. And no, I don't know the accuracy of those. And that's accurate to say. I don't know whether they're accurate or not.
Q: General, you had said that the loss to the Taliban will be significant of Mazar-e-Sharif, and then you said it's up to the Northern Alliance.
Why is it just up to the Northern Alliance? Why doesn't the U.S. move in to help, if it's going to be a significant psychological advantage against the Taliban?
Gen. Newbold: I think the series of strikes we've conducted over the past nine days have had a fairly dramatic effect on the Taliban. And any degree to which the combat power of the Taliban is dissipated vis-a-vis the Northern Alliance is a net benefit to the Northern Alliance. What I was describing was the physical occupation of the town, and at some point that's up to the Northern Alliance to decide the timing of that.
Q: Why not aid them in that effort? Why isn't the campaign aiding them in that effort?
Gen. Newbold: I think the campaign has added them materially, I really do. I think -- as I say, the combat power of the Taliban has been eviscerated, and will it progressively over time.
Q: General, is whether or not the Northern Alliance take Kabul, is that also up to the Northern Alliance? And secondly, a follow-up, is the targeting of Taliban forces north of Kabul a deliberate attempt to soften up the Taliban to allow the Northern Alliance to move in on Kabul?
Gen. Newbold: I think there is a symmetry in objectives by the Northern Alliance and what the coalition -- U.S. and the coalition forces are doing. But the Afghans have been at war for 20 years, and prior to September 11th, the United States was not picking sides. I don't believe it's our policy now, although I defer to those who make policy and decide policy. So I think the symmetry is in our common foe, the terrorists and the Taliban leadership.
Q: General, you mentioned at the outset that a hundred strike aircraft were used yesterday. And if I'm not mistaken, you said mostly carrier-based. Is that true, they were mostly carrier based? Can you say whether some of those 100 were land-based strike fighters?
Gen. Newbold: There were over 100 aircraft that were used in strikes against Afghanistan. More precisely, about 90 of them came off aircraft carriers. And as I described the number of bombers that were used, rounded out that number so --
Q: General, going back to the issue of the front lines around Kabul, has the United Sates targeted Taliban front lines on the Shamali plains, and specifically around Bagram airbase?
Gen. Newbold: I won't get into the specific targets. I would tell you that the campaign does include targets that are in -- all around the country, through a variety of means, north and south. And that none of them, including those that are opposite the Northern Alliance, are immune in any way.
As a matter of fact, I think they're feeling the weight of the effort.
Q: General, do you have all four carriers now contributing to the strike package? And there has been some reporting that -- I guess that the Enterprise would rotate out as one of them rotated in or something. Can you sort of walk us through that?
Gen. Newbold: Okay. Your question is about future operations and --
Q: How about yesterday? (Laughter.) Were all four carriers involved in providing those 90 strike aircraft?
Gen. Newbold: You're absolutely correct that there were four carriers involved in operations in that region.
I'm sorry, in the back?
Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about your assessment of the threat from manned portable missile -- anti-aircraft missile systems and the extent to which that has played into our planning over these last few days in the airstrikes? Do you have a minimum altitude that you're requesting your aircraft to operate from and so forth? And how big is that threat? How big is the manned-type threat?
Gen. Newbold: Our planners, our strike planners worry about the manned portable SAMs because we've learned the lesson of those who went before and of our own experiences. It goes into each strike, so the altitude and the way in which we fly and the protection, which escorts our missions all take that into account. And in fact, we're seeing very little evidence of effectiveness from SAMs.
Q: General, two different questions. I think I understood you to say four carriers were involved in the operations yesterday. So are you now confirming to us that there were operations conducted off the Kitty Hawk? And then I have a different follow-up.
Gen. Newbold: Okay. You're being kind to a Marine general, asking them separately. The first question about the carriers, I said four carriers were involved in operations in that region. And I wouldn't characterize it further to say how many were used in the strike, because I would --
Q: No, sir, but that includes, then, operations were conducted off the Kitty Hawk?
Gen. Newbold: I was very, very intentionally vague.
Gen. Newbold: And there is a reason for that. I would prefer that the Taliban had to worry about four carriers, aircraft from every direction and attitude and from a variety of sources, because it contributes to some of the things we were talking about before.
Q: And then my follow-up question is, in terms of the leadership target sets in all of this that you're discussing, is there anything you're doing to try and find Mullah Omar or bin Laden?
Gen. Newbold: We are using all of the platforms we have, whether they're space-based or aircraft or ground-based or humint [human intelligence] allied coalition members, to try to find out the key centers of gravity that will compel the Taliban leadership to accede to what the president has required.
And their command and control is a center linchpin for keeping the factions together that represents the Taliban. To the degree to which we can eliminate effective command and control, we will try to do that as a legitimate military target.
Q: General, can we go back to Mazar-e Sharif for a second? Could you tell us the size of the Taliban forces in that area and whether they are effectively cut off from resupply by the rest of the Taliban?
Gen. Newbold: The size of the forces varies fairly dramatically according to the source you pick, whether it's the Northern Alliance, whether it's our allies, or whether it be the Taliban. But I would say that they're in danger of being cut off right now, and I would say their positions could be in jeopardy over the next couple of days, depending on what the Northern Alliance chooses to do.
Q: General --
Gen. Newbold: Let me go on to --
Q: Can I ask you another question about the AC-130?
Gen. Newbold: Yes.
Q: As I understand it, that aircraft has some close air support capability in conjunction with forces on the ground that allows you to pinpoint friend and foe. Can you tell us whether those capabilities are being used and if this airplane is involved in close air support for the Northern Alliance?
Gen. Newbold: It really is to our advantage that the Taliban has to worry about forces coming at them from every aspect. And that would be from allies; from the Northern Alliance; from us; from air, ground, sea; from whatever capability we have. And I wouldn't eliminate any capability from causing worry and anxiety to the Taliban leadership, because sooner or later they're going to have to worry about it.
Q: General, a follow-up on the AC-130s. Those planes traditionally have been used in conjunction with Special Operations forces -- Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm, and they were requested for Somalia. Should we take a look at that airplane as the beginning of the transition from the more overt attached to the more covert operations over there that we may not see enough of or it would be working with ground troops, basically?
Gen. Newbold: Its missions over the last -- they were used yesterday -- were for specific purposes, and it took advantage of the unique capabilities of that platform. It has a wide array of unique advantages, including support of ground troops, including precision striking, its ability to loiter and discriminate and to acquire, and it ought to worry the Taliban.
Q: Are there two being used, or just one?
Gen. Newbold: Used in the strike yesterday?
Gen. Newbold: Two AC-130s.
Q: General, on the Red Cross --
Gen. Newbold: Let me try somebody who hasn't --
Q: On the Red Cross, can you just clarify for people why it is that -- what is being done to try to assess -- why do you need some time to assess before making a determination?
And secondly, are you concerned that given that some television pictures are already out there, the Red Cross building on fire, that -- how do you respond to those, such as our allies, who might suggest that with each passing hour of ambiguity at the Pentagon that U.S. credibility in this issue is harmed?
Gen. Newbold: I think what you're looking for is a good definitive answer from us that describes what has happened and whether or not we were responsible. It would be irresponsible for us to speculate, and that's what we'd be doing, and that's what Ms. Clarke referred to, and I did. We truly don't know right now what happened there. And the range of possibilities is considerable. But I would add, and this audience knows, that nobody, no armed force, no coalition has ever shown such care and caution in discriminating, has put so much effort in planning and in selection of tactics, techniques and weapons to ensure that collateral damage, unintended casualties are kept to a minimum. And I would highlight the distinction between those who we are after and the deliberate targeting of the innocent and the unprotected.
Ms. Clarke: One more question?
Q: One more on the specifics of the use of the AC-130. Can you tell us in what areas of Afghanistan or over what cities those two were used, and were they used in two different areas? And also, can you tell us whether any new systems are being added to the arsenal today for use in Afghanistan?
Gen. Newbold: Last question first: no new arsenal -- weapons in the arsenal today. And I would prefer not to characterize or further define where it was used --
Q: Can you tell us if the two were used in different areas?
Gen. Newbold: I'd prefer not, and I think you can understand why I would prefer not to: for the protection of the crews and the mission and for future mission --
Q: General, a U.S. military official told us today that the AC-130, for the enemy on the ground the AC-130 is probably the scariest thing in the sky. Do you agree with that, and why would that be? Why would that weapons system be the scariest thing in the sky to the enemy on the ground?
Gen. Newbold: I think it's fair to say that it is an extremely effective platform, and it provides a presence that's visible, or at least audible. And for that reason it has psychological impact. I would say that B-52s carrying the munitions they do would be at least as scary and carry with it the psychological effect. And there are some other ones that are as well in the way that they're employed. But you're right: the psychological -- the moral is to the physical as three is to one, and the psychological effect here is very important. So it's useful.
Q: One farewell question, General?
Q: Thank you very much.
Ms. Clarke: Thank you, sir.
Gen. Newbold: Thanks.
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