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DoD News Briefing : Wednesday, December 27, 1995 - 1 p.m.

Presenters: Lt. Gen. Howell M. Estes, Joint Chiefs of Staff (J3)
December 27, 1995 1:00 PM EDT
[Also participating in this briefing is Captain Mike Doubleday, DATSD (PA)]

 

Capt. Doubleday: General Estes, the director of operations on the Joint Staff has agreed to give us a brief operational update on JOINT ENDEAVOR and to answer a few of your questions during this last week of the year. General Estes, I'll turn things over to you.

Gen. Estes: Well, it's been about a week since I've been down to talk to you all and I thought I might just come down for a few minutes today and give you a little update on where we are and how things are going. You all have been doing a good job of reporting from the area and we've seen a lot of it on various news programs and listening to it on the radio. And so, I think you've got a good feel, but there may be some specifics that you haven't heard before and I hope to be able to update you on some of those points today.

Let me start by saying that since I've seen you in about a week now we've had a very large movement of forces. And let me just put it in terms that may be a little easier to understand. About a little less than 400 aircraft have closed in this past week. That's due primary to the fact the weather has been a lot better. And it was also due to the fact that we now have certified the two airports -- the ones we're using primarily -- at Tuzla, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Taszar, up in Hungary, to allow aircraft to land in much worse weather. We have radars in there now and the various means for navigation that allow us to land in worse weather than we were able to initially.

So, the combination of the weather being better plus having these navigation aids and radars has helped us get a lot more air sorties in. So, as I said, a little less than 400 in the past week. A number of trains that have closed; a little less than 100 trains have closed at the major ports in which they should come into in terms of debarking of forces and their equipment.

At Kaposvar, at Zupanja, and at Slavonsky. About 103 buses and now -- the buses you think of maybe hold 50 or 60 people -- these buses have had 20 to 25 on board because the people have been taking equipment with them. But, it's still a substantial number of forces that have been moved by buses.

So, that gives you a feel for the magnitude of what's happened in the past week and accounts for why we are making good progress as I'll show you on this next slide. You've seen this slide before and I've shown to you a couple of times. Let me just show you the changes that are on here in terms of colors. Recall to this time we had the forces all in sort of one color all the way across. What I'm going to try to do for you now is show you where we are in the timeline of the overall flow of forces. Anything to the right side of that line is depicted in blue, as you can see, and that means that's sort of what the plan is. Anything to the left side of the line says its history and it tells you whether we thought it was on time generally, or whether we had minor delays or whether we've had major delays.

So, you can see for the enabling force which went in to Bosnia and to Croatia initially, the support force that went into Hungary, we had some delays. That's no news to anybody. The weather was not particularly good. The enabling force had to be put in totally by air and so we had some minor delays in getting in there. But recall that by the time G-Day arrived and we started the flow of the initial entry force which was the assault command post and its security, we had enough enabling forces on the ground to allow that force to come in and be ready by D-Day, which was the day in which the implementation force took control of the area in Bosnia-Herzegovina from the U.N. forces, and so, we had adequate force there to do that. So, it turned green slightly before the date in which it was required.

 

The rest of the forces now gone in terms of the initial entry. The bridging deployment, you can see here, we had some delays here due to the trains not moving as fast as we thought they might. But we think the deployment of the bridging units is now back on track. In fact, most of the first bridging unit is in place. The second bridging unit is now being deployed and is on its way down to the Croatia-Bosnia border.

The Aviation Brigade, which amounts to in the initial deployment over 100 helicopters, was initially slowed by the weather, but is now back on track as far as the commanders are concerned. We have about 50 helicopters already at their locations in Taszar and down in Tuzla. And there are another 50 which have already left Germany and are in route some of which I'm sure arrive today. But, that's the first 100 helicopters actually a little over that, 107 helicopters in this first group of helicopters that are moving. There are ten more to go on that first move. So, we're about 90 percent complete from where we want to be by the end of this time period here. So, we're in good shape moving the aviation brigade.

And, of course, the Aviation Brigade is designed to do a number of things. First of all, it provides protection with AH-64 Apache helicopters. It also provides a type of movement of forces done with a UH-60s -- that's a standard helicopter the Army has. You've seen many pictures of those over the years. And there are a couple of other helicopters. The CH-47s, which are medium-lift helicopters that have two rotors on it. Again, those helicopters have been around for awhile. And the last one is the OH-58 Delta -- it's an observation helicopter. It's the latest equipment the Army has and a number of those will be going as well. And the last is the Cobra helicopter, the AH-1, and a number of those helicopters are deploying as well, as part of this overall effort. So, those are the kinds of helicopters you'll see here and we're saying it's basically back on track.

This shows you that the 1st Brigade, this is the Mechanized brigade. These are the primary ground forces that will be going in to do the Implementation Force tasks. It has, in fact, departed, has marshaled and started its departure from its staging areas back in Germany. The 2nd Brigade will start here in the not too distant future and so we'll have both of these Mechanized brigades from the 1st Armored Division moving toward the area down in Kaposvar and then road marching from there south to the bridges which will get them into Bosnia-Herzegovina on their way down to Tuzla.

The Sustainment Force follows the primary deployment of the two Mechanized brigades that you see there and it will start in the not too distant future as well. Of course, the initial sustaining support for these units are all being put in ahead of them. We don't want to get things in place before our logistics is in place. But this is the long-term sustaining piece that you see on the bottom of the slide.

So, you can see that again, if you look at the timetable we've talked about, out here on the 19th of January is when we have to ensure that there are enough forces there for General Nash to be able to accomplish -- in the U.S. sector the tasks that he's being asked to do by the Implementation Force as a part of the Dayton Agreement. And you can see that, generally, we will have -- not "generally," -- we will have sufficient force there, when put in combination with the allies, forces that are going to be coming in as well: the Turks, the Turkish forces that are already there, the Nordic brigade, a number of them are there and more are coming. And then, of course, the Russian brigade, none of which are there, but they've had an initial site survey that the Russians have done. They've had conversations with General Nash and their force will be coming in the future. So, the combination of the NATO forces, and the Non-NATO forces that are a part of the U.S. sector, that will be coming in to do the tasks required by the 19th of January, will be adequate to accomplish those tasks and that's what we're all aiming toward.

Q: You said bridges, general. How many are laying down?

A: I'm going to talk to you about that next.

Why don't we go ahead to the next slide since we had a question on the bridging itself. This is a lot of attention focused on this, and this again shows you generally what's going on. I've shown you a slide similar to this in the past, but this gives you a little bit more amplification. You can see that coming out of Germany -- this shows Frankfurt as the general staging area its three or four days to Kaposvar, in Hungary, which is where our U.S. support base -- our forward support base -- is for the U.S. forces. They will deploy here and stage from this location, down this road through Zupanja, to Staging Area "HARMON," which is just short of the bridges that you see here.

 

Again, a lot of attention being put on placing these bridges across the river. They've had some early thaw. We've seen a lot of mud in the pictures we've seen on television. And in talking to the commanders there, certainly this is not the best of conditions, but they don't foresee any problems in getting the bridge across the river.

The river has widened a little bit. I told you the other day it was about 310 meters or about 1,000 feet across. It's expanded about another 50 meters or another 150 feet. This is not an issue. It's not a problem. I mean, you may hear of this as a big problem for the bridging company. It really isn't. It just means they've got to lay a few more spans down to cover the area that's got water running through it and the expansion of that on either side of the banks due to the heavy flow and early melt of snow that's gone on due to the warm conditions there.

The bigger problem, of course -- as you've heard General Neal talk about -- is the area short of the bridge here where they've got a lot of mud due to the softening of the ground, because of the melting of snow and so forth, and they've just got to do some prep work there. They have a number of bulldozers in there, a number of dump trucks that are hauling gravel and we don't anticipate this to be a problem. But, I'll let the commanders there.... You all have got good coverage of that.

You've got people on the scene talking this issue -- from the press -- and they're getting firsthand accounts of exactly what's taking place. General Nash in his press conference, this morning, said the bridge -- the first bridge -- will be up by the end of this year. I suspect you're going to see it anytime here in the near future as they span the first bridge across and, of course, that's the important thing so that we can, in fact, start the flow of forces.

The other thing is, though, that just putting the bridge up is only one part of the problem. We need to ensure that we have sufficient forces down here so that when we cross the bridge we have adequate force to do the tasks that are required as we proceed down this road to Tuzla. And so, putting the bridge up is not just the only issue. The other issue is assembling sufficient force here so that, when it comes time to cross it, they can cross with adequate force to be able to do the tasks that are required in securing the road as they proceed down to Tuzla.

The second bridge, which is the question I had, which is going to go in will go in, oh, sometime around the -- up to about the first two weeks of the month of January. I think you'll see it in before then. But, sometime in the first two weeks of January. And what this will do is give them two-way traffic. They'll be able to go this way in and that way coming out or whichever way they elect to do it.

Initially, though, the important thing is to get the first bridge up. As I said, you're talking to the people that are there. They don't foresee any problems. I have talked to the commanders in the field, this morning -- or in the theater -- and if they run into problems, they've got work arounds. There are other things they can do. You've seen them already use the rafting of forces across the river here. They've taken some forces down and set up a initial checkpoint here, which was done yesterday by the 1st of the 1st CAV. And, again, this is in accordance with General Nash's plan in how he wants to move his force in and I'll just let them talk more to that issue and give you the details as they unfold.

 

But, this is the general construct of what's going on in terms of the placement of the two bridges across the Sava River that you see here. It's gotten a little bit colder in the conditions this morning. It's snowing in the area and, so, it's started to cool down a little bit, which will help with the mud problem I think on the entryways and exits from the bridge itself once they get it across the river.

OK. Let me move to the last slide now and just talk a couple of upcoming things that some of these you know about, some of them you may not. I showed you on the earlier slide the movement of the 2nd mechanized brigade, which starts here in a few days. The first one, as I mentioned, is already floating and started its initial movement. It has left on time and we expect the 2nd Brigade to do the same as it leaves from Germany.

This is one I don't hear much talked about, but it is very important, and that is, this says Belgrade but I want to also point out that we have been using Budapest as an aerial port as well. We've had aircraft go into Budapest off-load there and then go by road down to Tuzla, down to Kaposvar and to Taszar.

 

Here tomorrow, you're going to see the airport at Belgrade being used. There are going to be three to four C-17s going in there tomorrow and then you will see some of the forces that are off-loaded there from the 1st Armored Division proceeding by road from Belgrade to Tuzla.

My understanding is that there will be a number of people down there tomorrow possibly including General Joulwan and they will tell you more of the details of this operation and what's going on as the events unfolded tomorrow. But the plan again, is to start making use of Belgrade as an airport for us. It will help serve us well. The road movement from there to Tuzla is good and we might as well take advantage of it. So, this will be the first U.S. forces going into Belgrade.

Q: You said General Joulwan may be down there tomorrow. Where were you referring to?

A: Belgrade.

You'll see some reports on that if, in fact, that's where he ends up. But it's a possibility that you may see him there tomorrow as we open up this aerial port.

The next piece is a piece that's been in the news and that is the establishing of a target acquisition radars. There are two of them in the Sarajevo area. I know there's been some discussion about this. I can only repeat what General Nash has said before from the U.S. standpoint, these, of course, are U.S. radars going in. They will be part of IFOR. They are part of the radars that are going in with our forces anyway. And the key point on this is that the IFOR commander has the authority to use any of the forces he has committed to him by the nations to do whatever tasks he has to be done in accordance with the Dayton Agreement. And he has asked that these two U.S. radars go to Tuzla for 30 days as he shuffles other forces around to accomplish other tasks in other parts of the countries, other part of the country.

And so, I would not read anything into this except that we are sending two radars, two counter-battery fire radars into the Sarajevo area for a matter of 30 days at the IFOR commander's request and at the end of 30 days, these radars will proceed back up to the Tuzla area to become part of the U.S. sector assuming that's what Admiral Smith chooses to do with them.

I think the issue that I keep hearing and the issue I would like to bring up at this time is that is this in some way detracting from the protection of the U.S. forces that are already on the ground in Tuzla and the answer is absolutely not. These two radars were coming later in the flow and by the time they are required to support the U.S. sector, they will be released from their current position in Sarajevo and they will go up to the Tuzla area to do what it is they need to do. We are not going to short the force protection issue for U.S. forces in the Tuzla area as per General Nash's instruction and guidance as to where he wants to put his various systems in.

Q: But, isn't there an issue of mission-creep?

A: Let me address the mission-creep issue because I've heard this argument as well. I guess I would say that I'm having a little trouble understanding mission-creep when it relates to this from the standpoint of the IFOR tasks are the same as the IFOR tasks have always been. There's no "creep" in the mission. The mission is exactly the same as it was laid-out by the Dayton Agreement. The tasks have not changed.

What is happening is that forces for whatever reason people view the U.S. forces as only going into the U.S. sector. I will tell you there are U.S. personnel, armed forces, be they Special Operations forces or other support forces that are throughout the whole of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The bulk of them are going to Tuzla and the U.S. sector.

But, we have U.S. forces in other places throughout Bosnia. So, this is not mission-creep in the context of a change in the mission. It's exactly the same mission. Admiral Smith has the authority obviously to position forces that have been committed to him by the nations where he sees fit to accomplish the tasks that are laid out for him. And so, I would argue with those that are saying isn't this mission-creep. I would say absolutely not. The mission hasn't changed. The tasks have not changed. And this is the IFOR commander using his force as he deems appropriate in accordance with the plan as he's laid it out.

Q: General, you haven't gotten to it yet, but what J-STARS up until now there has been a reluctance to use JSTARS as operationally over there and the argument that has been given by this building that is because there were minimal targets that would be picked up by JSTARS and it wasn't worth doing. I think you were going to talk about this. What changed all that?

A: Well, let me go to that one next because that is, in fact, the next piece here. It's Joint Surveillance Targeting Attack Radar System is a radar resident in an aircraft. It is in the test mode right now. It is a system being purchased for further use and it compliments the airborne radar that gives us the broad-based picture of the air called AWACS which we've seen for a number of years. This gives us the ground picture. So, it compliments the air picture we get from the Airborne Early Warning and Control System.

This system is being deployed. It was deployed to Europe at the request of General Joulwan and the commanders in the theater. We are going to take it to Bosnia and we will use that system in accordance with the tasks that the IFOR commander needs to have done on a given day.

Now, in a mountainous region, if you're not positioned to look up valleys or so forth, you can get some mountain shadow with this particular system as you can with any radar. But, we are convinced that you can position the AWACS so that it can see what it is the IFOR commander wants them to look at on a given day by varying the orbit and accomplishing the tasks and I think this system will prove to be extremely valuable when using in conjunction with other systems to give them more total picture of what is going on in Bosnia-Herzegovina and for that matter, in areas that maybe supporting it.

Q: How many -- operational -- how many?

A: Two JSTARS aircraft have deployed to Europe. They're flying out of Rhein Main Air Base in Germany and a number of ground stations which will get the picture from this JSTARS aircraft have been deployed as well and most of them are in Bosnia, but some are located at various echelons and headquarters up to and including the headquarters at SHAPE so that they can all see the same picture that the force commanders are seeing in Bosnia. So, this is a very important deployment and I think we will find it's going to prove to be a very successful deployment.

I can recall as a young captain being stationed in Europe when we brought the AWACS over for the first time and there were a lot of people very concerned. We were bringing it over in an operational test mode and there might be some difficulties with it. But it proved to be extremely successful and it's turned out to be one of the most successful NATO programs we've had and I think you will see JSTARS along the same lines in terms of the work it does in Bosnia and in the accomplishment of the tasks that the IFOR commander needs it to do based on what he chooses on a daily or maybe even a weekly basis.

Let me finish these last two points and then I'll take some more of your questions. Another thing you're going to see happen this may seem like a small thing, but the completion of 13 base camps. We're trying to support 20,000 Americans in Bosnia and so the base camps need to be constructed. There will be about 13 of them in the American sector and, of course, this is a big task right now so that when the troops arrive, they've got a place to stay along the lines of what we discussed last time we got together and we can provide them the support necessary to deal with the conditions that they're going to face when they get to Bosnia.

And we've really talked this last issue. You will see the first and second bridge go up here along the timelines of what I discussed earlier. I listened to General Nash this morning. He was asked the question when is the bridge going up and his answer was sometime late this year or early next. I guess I'll just leave it to that. We don't want to be too specific on it due to the movement of forces. But I must tell you that the bridge is not the big issue. The bridge could go across very quickly and will go across very quickly. It's just trying to get everything else ready so when the bridge goes across, we're ready to do what needs to be done in terms of moving the forces across the bridge and down the road to accomplish the tasks that General Nash has for his forces as they arrive in the theater.

OK. With that, I think that's the end of the slides. Let me go ahead. David?

Q: General, your timeline for that first slide left December 27th, which was today when they were suppose to pull back from the confrontation lines in Sarajevo. What is your assessment of the compliance?

A: That would have been about in here and, of course, that dealt specifically with Sarajevo as you mentioned, they were supposed to remove forces from some 40 locations and my understanding is from the NATO commanders and you really ought to ask them this question that by and large that's been complied with. They are trying to verify it. It's not that it may not have been complied with throughout. It's just the verification process they're going through and I think I best leave that issue because this is not an issue for me as an American to be talking about. This is a NATO issue. This is an IFOR issue and I don't want to speak for them. I'm not on the scene. They are. And they can give you a much better answer to that question than I can. Yes, sir?

Q: General Estes, regarding the rules of engagement, specifically the policy stated that if war criminals, Mladic and his crowd, if those people were encountered by our forces that our forces would make an attempt or might make an attempt to detain such war criminals. Would that mean one, I guess, that other forces NATO forces then would come to arrest and remove those people? Yesterday, Admiral Leighton (Smith) was in Pale and his spokesman, I believe in Pale, was speaking about this particular thing. If one of our commanders was in a convoy and one of these people came to be recognized, certainly we would not --

A: Let me tell you the rules of engagement say about that and be very clear. The rules of engagement say that we are not in the business of --

Unknown Speaker: Can you speak into the microphone please, general.

General Estes: You can't hear it, huh? The rules of engagement are very clear on this. It says that the IFOR will not seek out war criminals. If, in fact, we come into contact with them, they will be detained and turned over to proper authorities. So, those are the rules that the IFOR are operating under. It's as clear and straight forward as that. We are not going to seek them out. But if, in fact, in the accomplishment of the IFOR tasks we run into a war criminal, they will be detained.

Q: Would a requisite be that we had sufficient force to detain them and remove them?

A: Well, I mean, that sort of goes with it. If you are there as one person and you have no way to do the arrest, then you can't accomplish that. You obviously have to have the force there to accomplish the task. I think that goes without saying. But that is clearly the intent. No question. If we have a chance meeting with a war criminal, the forces are there adequate to carry out the arrest or carry out the detainment, I should say, the detainment of that individual, it will be done and then that individual will be turned over to the appropriate authorities to carry out whatever it needs to be carried out in terms of the war tribunals. And that's all I need to say about that. Yes, sir?

Q: A few questions. One on the radar on Sarajevo just to be clear. Did Admiral Smith request that or did the deputy request that?

A: Well, the force requests ultimately comes from the commander and so, where it originated from, my understanding of this is there are radars that are there now, but Admiral Smith has chosen to move to other sectors because they are needed there. And the countries that put the radars into the Sarajevo area in the first place need to use them elsewhere in Bosnia as their mission has expanded. And so, to fill the gap until other radars can come in, they're asking the U.S. to bring some radars in for about 30 days until other forces flow they can take up and make up the difference. So, that's the issue. Let me go in the back here and I'll come back.

Q: Are those radars to be manned by U.S. forces or are they going to be manned by --

A: Yes, they will be manned by U.S. forces. U.S. radars will be manned and operated by U.S. forces.

Q: How many people?

A: I don't have an exact count for you and I wouldn't want to guess at a number at this point. I can get that for you if need to know how many folks are involved in these two radars.

Q: General, another question along the same radars in Sarajevo. Some of the critics of this say that having U.S. forces with radars that are apparently better than anybody else's radars there may mean that the U.S. is going to have to end up defending Sarajevo which is certainly not part of the U.S. mission there. What's your reaction to those critics who say that?

A: Well, all I can tell you is that Admiral Smith and the ARRC commander, Lieutenant General Walker, have this thing well in hand. They are on the scene. They are the people charged with this mission and I'll have to leave it to them to decide what they need to do with various assets. I'm just not in a position to answer your question.

Everybody has counter-battery radars. All of the major NATO countries have them. The Dutch have them. The British have them. The French have them. And there's absolutely no reason-- It's just that the U.S. has some right now that they could make available. We were asked if we did. We said yes we do; and we are helping out in this time period as other nations close their forces to pick up this mission. So, I would not read anything into this at all. This is not -- people are trying to view this as mission-creep and that's the way I've heard it couched and I think I have tried to state as clearly as I can, this certainly is not mission-creep. The IFOR commander has the authority to move forces wherever he chooses within Bosnia to accomplish the tasks with the force that he has. It's as simple as that.

Q: This is a part of the larger issue. If you have the Americans in the American sector, but then problems crop up in other parts of Bosnia and the U.S. has the particular capability needed to deal with that problem, how is it going to say no to its allies? It's not. It's going to end up committing forces to deal with these other problems and that may not be mission-creep for NATO, but it's going to be mission-creep for the American troops that are part of this operation.

A: This is what I'm trying to tell you. You all have said the only place U.S. force -- this is something you all have said -- This was news to me that this even became a story to tell you the truth. Because U.S. forces operate in areas other than the U.S. sector which is in the northeast. We're not all there. We have a number of forces and I hope at a later date to come down and talk to you about the Special Operations forces. I've about got something put together that's worth coming down and talking to you about that. But, they are not operating in the U.S. sector exclusively. In fact, many of the Special Operations forces are operating outside of the U.S. sector because that's where they are needed to link up with the other nations that don't speak English to allow for communications and coordination to take place with those units. And so, this notion that the only place U.S. forces can operate is in the northeast sector I think is a misnomer. Certainly, that is the sector in which the U.S. has been given the responsibility for the initial line of separation based on the cease-fire line and then finally here in about another 45 days, the inter-entity-boundary line. It will transfer from one to the other as I've described before. But, that's where our primary mission is. But, it doesn't mean that if the IFOR commander sees things that need to be done, he can't use French to go somewhere to do something, or British to go somewhere to go do something or U.S. for that matter within the tasks that he's been given by the NATO -- the North Atlantic Council.

Unidentified Speaker: Two more.

Q: General, what's the planned life of these bridges. I understand they're portable pontoon bridges. But, will they be taken down at the end of the year when the U.S. forces theoretically leave or will they be left behind for humanitarian reasons?

A: No, I think the intent is to use these bridges initially. But clearly, as quickly as possible, we want to get as many of the permanent bridges back up and operating as we can. Because we would much rather use a permanent bridge. And in some cases, there are some bridges that have just two spans let's say out of ten that are down. We have engineers that know how to fix things like that on a relatively short order. It's been done before. They're called medium-girder bridge companies. There is, in fact, a medium-girder bridge company in Europe now with that specific task. It will move down in the river, inspect the permanent bridges that are there and determine what's necessary to bring the bridge back up to full operational status. And we'll get into the permanent bridges as quickly as we can. But, the pontoon bridges will serve our purpose for as long as we need to have them. Yes, one last question.

Q: General, this morning the Wall Street Journal reported some remarks made by U.S. brigade commander. How appropriate do you feel those remarks are and has there been any discernible effect in the way the U.S. has been able to deal with authority?

A: Well, I think the comments by people under General Nash's command is General Nash's business. I think this is an issue for him to address. It's not an issue appropriate for me to address. Whether I think his comments were appropriate or not is irrelevant. His commander is dealing with this issue and we'll just have to wait and see what General Nash's view is of this.

Q: Has it harmed -- has there been any impact at all though in the U.S. dealing with warring sanctions?

A: I know of none. I know of none.

Q: Plans to dismiss him?

A: Again, this is an issue. General Nash has got to look at the issue and decide what he is going to do. He has said today that he is looking into the issue and he will talk to you when and if there's anything to talk about. Thank you very much.