Also participating in this briefing was Brigadier General Craddock (via telephone)
Mr. Bacon: This is Brigadier General Craddock. (Laughter) It's a great-looking picture, and any of you can photograph this picture or get copies yourself. We have a biography of him here. We hope that we'll have him by voice soon.
Q: Where is he?
Mr. Bacon: He is in Skopje. He plans to move tomorrow to the Task Force Falcon headquarters near Urosevac, so this is his last night in Skopje, and he plans to move out tomorrow.
I talked to him yesterday. He was extremely helpful, and I thought it would be good for him to be able to give you an on-the-scene description of what's going on both in terms of the Serb exodus and the American move-in.
General Craddock, this is Ken Bacon. Can you hear me?
General Craddock: Yeah, Ken. I hear you loud and clear.
Mr. Bacon: I hear you there. Can we turn up the sound so everybody else can hear him?
General Craddock: Is that any better? Have you got your sound up?
Mr. Bacon: I think it's coming through the box, but not through the sound system yet. Can we fix this up?
We're just working a few technical details. You'd think this was the end of the 19th Century, not the end of the 20th Century, but I think we'll have this rev'd up in just a minute. Thank you for your patience.
Q: "Mr. Watson, come quickly. I need you."
General Craddock: Not a problem. I've been working technical details all day.
Mr. Bacon: We can hear you fine now.
I'm Ken Bacon. We've got a room of about 20 people here, and I thought that you could start out and give us sort of an overview of your situation, both the Serb exodus and the American in-flow, and then take some questions maybe for the next 20 minutes or so, 25 minutes, and I'll ask the questioners to identify themselves and to speak slowly. I've shown them your picture, explained to them that next time we'd like to do this with a video link, but we'll have to work the details of that. We were very close this time. We'll get it next time. But thank you very much for joining us by phone.
Take it away. It's all yours.
General Craddock: Okay. I'm glad to be able to provide you an update of the situation.
First, if I could, let me start with what we're doing, where we are. We are continuing to deploy into Kosovo, into our sector of operations, and it is going very well.
As I talked to you yesterday, the movement in, the movement across the border up through what we know as the "defile," the Kacanik Defile, from a low-land plain to a high-land plain, was going very slow yesterday, but it's picked up considerably today. The time to get into our sector from the border dropped by about 50 percent today based upon better traffic regulation and an overall just better flow.
In addition, a lot of the heavy tracked vehicles have already gone into the sector not only from the U.S. brigade here and forces, Task Force Falcon, but also from the other NATO forces who used that line of communication, that main supply route to get in. So the movement in today was much better.
We continue to close forces into our sector. Well over 2,000 Task Force Falcon soldiers and Marines now are in sector, and we are continuing to occupy, provide a force presence and a presence throughout the area and the towns and villages.
That deployment will continue throughout the night, well into tomorrow, and we probably will be sometime mid-day to end-of-day of the 17th before we close in.
We are a part of everyone who's moving in, so we compete with and gain what we call "slot" times, march times for our units to cross the border and then move in an orderly fashion into sector. Other units will be moving in, and they will turn west or continue north, so it is indeed quite an undertaking over a very limited number of roads that are narrow, two-lane, and particularly the "defile," as I said. A lengthy climb through several tunnels, across bridges, that has been quite a challenge. But again, it's moving very well now.
As we moved in today with the Marines going into the eastern part of our sector, they have worked with the French who initially occupied. The French will be moving on shortly, so we've worked out the details whereby the French framework brigade will continue on to their ultimate destination, their sector in the north, and we will then move further east and occupy fully our assigned area. Then also in the west we've continued to fill forces in to occupy there.
So as I said, it's going very well. The command post elements are moving now. Their echelons, part are already there and they have established communications throughout the sector in Kosovo. The remainder have broken down here in Macedonia. They will move very early tomorrow morning, join up, and we will continue that process.
With regard to the VJ and MUP withdrawal, I can't speak to the entire Kosovo province, I can only speak to our sector. It appears to be going very well. We've had another large convoy move through our sector today from the west, from the German area, through to the east and then towards Serbia, so that moved through late this afternoon. When that happens, of course, because they will have right-of-way per the agreement, we block the main supply route to allow them to move forward without intermixing either NATO traffic, civilian traffic, or the Serb VJ and MUP withdrawals, but that's working very well with our traffic checkpoints and regulating points accommodating that. So that is ongoing now.
I know in our sector of no problems in the withdrawal with regard to Zone One and the entry-into-force timelines. That looks very good. We're very optimistic that that will occur on time.
Now, not to say there won't be, obviously, breakdowns, there won't be some who are having problems making it because of vehicle problems, running out of gas or what not. The key there is an honest effort. If it looks like they're trying to meet the timelines and abide by the agreements, then we will do what we need to do to help them along their way.
So we feel pretty good about that. We think that, obviously, that right now is a key focus, and we're watching that closely throughout the night.
I would say also that by and large this is a people-oriented operation. That means we're going to have to focus and have been focusing on the populated areas. Quite frankly, I'm surprised in looking at the maps we had available and then looking at the terrain and flying over it, the urban sprawl, if you will, even though it's not an urban area, where on a map there may be small villages not connected, when you look at it now, it's almost a maze from one end to the other of the valley of contiguous villages and towns. So that's a bit different than what we had envisioned. So it requires a presence in those villages and towns to make sure that any potential flash points are defused.
So we are patrolling, a force presence in the towns now, and we will continue to do that as we build the force and ensure that where there are tensions, where our people who go out and meet with the local officials determine that there may be delicate situations, then we focus efforts there to provide that presence, to defuse it as much as possible. But I think that's working pretty well so far, and we learn more every day about the situation and the environment and the atmosphere in the sector.
So that's probably as good a rundown as I can give you without getting into some specifics that are better left in this forum until later. But I'd be willing to take any questions you might have.
Q: General, Bradley Graham from the Washington Post. I have a question about the KLA.
What instructions do your soldiers have when they encounter armed KLA? We've seen some reports that at least one checkpoint one of your soldiers asked the KLA for their Kalashnikovs and received them. Is that their standard instruction, to disarm them of small arms as well?
General Craddock: Good question. As you probably know, right now, we have very specific instructions for our soldiers with regard to the Serbs via the Military Technical Agreement. Every leader carries that agreement. That is necessary and absolutely required. They refer to it whenever they need to with regard to VJ or MUP.
A different situation with the KLA. We have not had that to date. We believe that we will have some specific guidance forthcoming either tomorrow late or early the next day. And in the meantime, that I have directed...
Mr. Bacon: Hello? We'll try to reinitiate.
(Trying to reconnect phone line)
Mr. Bacon: A pretty exciting briefing, huh?
Q: Can I ask a few follow-ups on that? Why is it that they don't have instructions yet?
Mr. Bacon: I think it's a question of not being able to do everything at once, which is a fairly standard factor in life.
They chose the most important task first, which was to deal with the Serb forces, and they are--as I said yesterday, the primary goal is to get the Serb forces out, and then they will turn to the next task, and certainly demilitarizing the KLA, the Kosovar Liberation Army, is one of those tasks. But the most important task is to get the Serb forces out.
We can't really expect a full-fledged and successful demilitarization program to take place until the Serb forces are out.
Q: Are they disarming them as a routine matter, do you know?
Mr. Bacon: He was about to answer the question. What he said was that they had very firm instructions for dealing with the Serb forces, but they were in the process of writing directives for the KLA, and they expected those to be out tomorrow, I think, is what he was about to say.
Q: In the meantime, what are they doing?
Mr. Bacon: That's why he's going to come back on the phone, to answer those questions.
Q: The Russian supply convoy, where is it? Has it gotten to Pristina yet?
Mr. Bacon: We don't believe it has. We believe it's somewhere between Belgrade and Nis. That was the last time I knew about it, maybe two hours ago. It could be in Nis by now. But we don't believe that it's yet in Pristina.
Q: And you believe they have how many vehicles and how many people?
Mr. Bacon: I believe it has 11 vehicles and 29 people.
Q: Ken, back to the KLA matter. I understand there has to be a negotiation between NATO and the KLA leadership that will produce some kind of a policy...
Mr. Bacon: I think that General Craddock was about to answer that question to the best of his ability, and I think we ought to let him...
Q: Can we go back to the Russian thing for a minute? Do you know what they're bringing in?
Mr. Bacon: Food, water, water purification machinery. It's basically a range of resupplies, but it's mainly in the food and water area.
Q: Bakery truck?
Mr. Bacon: A bakery truck as well, right. For good Russian bread.
Q: Does this mean that they intend to stay for a long time?
Mr. Bacon: I think all armies have to supply themselves, and they came there with very few supplies. In fact, they ran out. I think they came in with a day's worth of water. They have basically been using water supplied by the British elements of KFOR.
Major Gunhus: This is Major Gunhus, the public affairs officer...
Mr. Bacon: Sir, can you hear me?
Voice: They've lost electricity down there.
Mr. Bacon: We'll try to get him back up in the next couple of minutes, if we can.
Q: What's the view from here of when you're seeing all these reports of the KLA moving into Prizren and elsewhere and asserting control, laying claim to all these areas?
Mr. Bacon: The view from here is that the first task is to get the Serb troops out. Then we will begin working on the other goals of the Military Technical Agreement. One of the goals that NATO has is to demilitarize the KLA. The KLA has said that it will honor the agreement. It has said that they will not harass Serb troops on their way out, and generally they have honored that part of the agreement. There have been some skirmishes, but they've been episodic and isolated.
We right now, everybody is concentrating on getting the Serbs out and getting NATO in. When there is a greater NATO presence, we will then concentrate on other aspects of the agreement.
Q: Mr. Bacon, any (unintelligible) Pristina area?
Mr. Bacon: Any what?
Mr. Bacon: No. Secretary Cohen had a very good discussion today with his Russian counterpart, Minister Sergeyev. They will meet tomorrow in Helsinki, then continue the talks on Thursday.
I was inaccurate yesterday about Secretary Albright. She will arrive, I believe, in Helsinki, I believe, in the afternoon, Thursday afternoon, and join with Minister Ivanov, so there will be talks with the foreign ministers and the defense ministers Thursday afternoon in Helsinki.
I assume right now that we will have a press conference at some time on Thursday to discuss the talks.
Q: How long did he talk to Sergeyev?
Mr. Bacon: He was scheduled to talk to him for about 20 minutes.
Q: So it was more just setting times or setting agendas?
Mr. Bacon: It was both of those and expressing anticipation, mutual anticipation of the meetings tomorrow and Thursday.
Q: Have the Russians already tabled a proposal, if you know, for precisely what they want?
Mr. Bacon: There have been a series of proposals exchanged back and forth. I don't think it's appropriate to discuss them now, because that's, obviously, the subject of the talks over the next two days.
Q: Will the resupply problem be allowed to (inaudible) stay at the airport?
Mr. Bacon: We are trying to feed all sorts of people in Kosovo, including the Russian troops. Of course, it's appropriate for them to resupply their troops. We resupply our troops.
Q: But I mean the troops, can they continue to add to the numbers that are at the airport?
Mr. Bacon: They have informed SFOR that they don't intend to stay, that they intend to come back. We'll see what happens. But this is a small group of soldiers bringing in supplies in 11 vehicles, and it seems reasonable.
Q: What aspect of the 26th MEU do they expect to be using for the peacekeeping operations, and will they be involved in the removal of landmines?
Mr. Bacon: They will be involved in countermining operations, which is the removal of mines so that the Marines can carry out their military operations. That is they can move to places they're supposed to go; they can perform their patrols. So in the course of performing their regular business, establishing routes of operation, they will demine.
The military will not be involved in general humanitarian demining. They will help train others to do that.
Is he back? General, can you hear us now?
General Craddock: Loud and clear.
Mr. Bacon: Terrific. All right.
You were answering Brad Graham's question about the directives for dealing with the KLA.
General Craddock: I guess that's one way to avoid answering the question, but let me continue on and try to cope with it here.
With regard to the KLA, we do not have an agreement in place at this time, but we expect one very, very soon. Given that what I've done, and I think we approach it on a fair and even-handed manner in that we will assess each situation. Our soldiers are not instructed to routinely disarm. However, we have got to make sure that we defuse potentially explosive situations. We don't want KLA, armed KLA in proximity of withdrawing Serbs. So we assess the situation.
When that occurs, our soldiers will intervene and ask KLA to back off, because we have designated routes of withdrawal for the Serbs. If they comply, then they go about their way. If not, if they're in the assessment of the soldier, the leader at that location, a threat to good order and discipline, and knowing that they have law enforcement establishment requirements, then they are instructed to, in their judgment if needed, to disarm the individual, whether it be a Serb, a KLA, whoever. We cannot with any possibility of hostile acts or hostile intent let the situation go unchecked.
So that's the way we're operating now. I think it's been effective to date. I know of no problems in that area. Last night, there were some Serbs that came through in an "other than routinely scheduled time" in an "other than routinely scheduled location." They were detained, stopped, if you will, by the Army forces, the 82nd Airborne. They were told that. They were asked to turn over their weapons, and they could proceed on their way. They turned over weapons and continued to proceed to the east toward Serbia. So I think that's an indication that our soldiers understand what it is they're to do, and they're applying it evenly across the spectrum of their duties.
Q: You said you don't have an agreement but you expect one soon. You mean an agreement between NATO and the KLA?
General Craddock: That is correct.
Mr. Bacon: John McWethy, ABC.
Q: General Craddock, can you tell us how you're dealing with another situation that is apparently happening mostly in the Germany sector, I guess, but also in yours. When your troops come in and they see the Serbs withdrawing and they are burning down houses and villages, do you intervene, or do you stay away and allow them to continue the withdrawal as they are torching these buildings?
General Craddock: Obviously, I can't speak for what is happening out in the other parts of the region. I can only speak for what is happening in our sector.
When we came initially, we came in behind the British forces who had to move through our sector to occupy their own. We have done that in that part of our sector and displaced them. In the east we are now displacing--and it is ongoing right now; it will be completed tomorrow--the French, so that we will occupy our designated sector completely.
We did not encounter that situation. We encountered burning houses. We saw some that had recently been torched and others that were still burning. But in talking to my soldiers and asking did we encounter that and what do we do, that all happened before we got there while other troops were there, and I can't tell you what their actions were. I just haven't had the opportunity to talk to their commanders.
Q: What were your instructions to your soldiers, if they encounter that kind of situation?
General Craddock: The instructions are that we will not tolerate that, that we will intervene to ensure that those forces follow what they agreed to do, which is withdraw in an orderly manner, which is not to incite any problems with any other parties, and that they adhere to the agreements of the routes, the times, and for Serb forces the Military Technical Agreement, which says that they will not partake of those type actions. So we would have intervened to preclude that.
By the way, I would just tell you that, if there are any forces tonight that withdraw and that occurs, we will intervene until such time as they are clear of our sector.
Q: Are there some sort of discussions going on now between NATO and the KLA to strike this agreement? And what are those things like?
General Craddock: I can only account for my own request, because I requested from COMKFOR clarification, as have other commanders. He was forthcoming this evening and said: "Yes, we are working on that. We may have an agreement soon." So I would presume that, but I have no firsthand knowledge of who or where or what those talks may be.
Q: General, how was your cooperation with Greece moving your forces from the (unintelligible) beach of the Aegean to Thessaloniki and then to Skopje? And from now on for any of the enforcement, are you going to use the same route?
Mr. Bacon: Did you catch that? It was about cooperation with Greece.
General Craddock: Right. So far, the interface we've had with the Greek government has been with the MEU coming ashore, and I think that went very well. Obviously, NATO has done a lot of work through the Port of Thessaloniki. The Marines, by and large, did a lot, logistics over the shore and did beach landings. So they did not come through the "ship unload" area in the port there, if you will, the big piers and such. It went very well.
They were given authorization. The convoys formed after the landings occurred and moved through in very good order, so I think that went fine.
With regard to the future, yes, with the remaining forces that will deploy, some of those yet to come will come in by air to Skopje, and others will come by sea from ports in Germany, specifically Bremerhaven by ship to the Port of Thessaloniki. And from all accounts I have and the preparation for that, we see no problems there. We think that will go about as smoothly as the rest of the movements have recently.
Q:...of the U.S. forces, there's a breakdown up here on a bulletin board. I wanted to know what percentage of that was Marine Corps and what is Army.
General Craddock: Right now, Task Force Falcon, when fully closed with all forces on this initial force, will be about 4,000. That will be in our sector in Kosovo. That will remain that way. The breakdown there is about 2,200 Army and 1,800 Marine.
That force then, as we flow more forces from Germany out of the central region, Army forces, they will come in, and they will do a relief in place or a relief of the MEU, the forces from Germany, so that at a designated time in the future, the MEU will withdraw and move back to the boats from which they depart, and the Army will take over the sector and Task Force Falcon then will be comprised of soldiers both from the central region and some, as we have them now, from the 82nd Airborne and other force providers in the continental United States.
Q: It's John McWethy at ABC again.
As you are going into this area, you describe it as being "more urban than you imagined it would be." Is it your feeling at this very early time--and we won't hold you to this--that the number of forces that you are going to have to occupy this section are going to be adequate, given the more urban environment than you expected?
General Craddock: A fair question. I think right now, based on the force that we've planned, based on the multinational forces that have made commitments to come in and participate, that the force lay-down will be entirely adequate. Again, it's urban to the point where the villages now have spread out. I won't say that it's modern, but there's not the fields and pastures that you would see on the maps we have, which are about 1993, but updated. The updates then are on infrastructure -- roads, and not so much the villages that have spread out. So that was the surprising bit.
But I think with regard to the number and the type of forces, absolutely. We have the mobility, because we have a lot of heavy force capability, and we have the right mix of units that will be needed for the tasks that follow on from the initial phase: the task of assessment, of civic functioning, and what needs to be done, and what repairs need to be made on the infrastructure with roads and water systems, and where is their power, and what has to be done. Not that we can do all that, but we will assist in the assessment. We will provide interim capability as the agencies, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations come in then and pick up the actions and the efforts to rebuild that.
Q: I'm Bill Eicher, General. I wanted to know about the humanitarian situation. Do you have Kosovars coming, the displaced persons coming down from the hills? People that need to eat? What's the status with getting in humanitarian aid?
General Craddock: I can't again speak for the entire region. I can only speak for our sector that we're occupying now.
We have not, where U.S. forces are, encountered any internally displaced persons, IDPs, that I'm aware of. If there are individuals, they have not identified themselves as such, but we have seen no groups, if you will, coming in any bad condition.
Now, what we have seen is a large increase in the population of the towns in the southern part of the region there, in our sector, on the main road coming in from Macedonia. The difference from day one of occupation until now is dramatic. So obviously, the refugees who left Macedonia are flowing back in.
But with regard to IDPs, there are reports that we may encounter some as we move further east and the French leave. That is not confirmed. We will look to see if they're there and try to find them, but we have not reported nor seen any, and quite frankly, we're a bit surprised by that.
Mr. Bacon: Brad Graham again.
Q: General, do you know what the logic was behind the way your sector was drawn? The boundaries and the size of it?
General Craddock: I can't speak to the size. I can speak to the logic, which I think was based upon experience in Bosnia and other factors. But essentially, what we looked at was the political, geopolitical division of the province with regard to opstinas and where the civil functions occurred, and also then based upon previous, if you will, occupants -- the KDOM, the KVM -- and how they aligned their efforts here with regional centers and overlaid the multinational brigade boundaries over those.
So what we tried to do is avoid a military organization having to deal with civil functioning, political organizations from one, two or three different regions or more opstinas, the counties if you will, than we have to. So we've aligned it that way.
Internally then to our sector, we've done pretty much the same thing. We've given specific units oversight, if you will, overwatch, over opstinas, counties, so that as they meet with and work with the civic leaders they can keep that in a homogeneous fashion, and they don't have to split functions and deal with different city councils and different governing bodies.
Mr. Bacon: David Martin.
Q: What are your instructions about the protection of evidence of war crimes? And what are your instructions if you were to encounter a suspected war criminal? I don't mean any of the five who have been indicted, but someone who is pointed out to your troops by locals as having been a person who was involved in war crimes and is trying to blend back into the community now?
General Craddock: Let me take the second one first.
First of all, one, it would depend upon the veracity of the source. Do we know that person? Did someone just walk by a patrol on the street and claim that an individual is a war criminal? If that's the case, then retribution and revenge would be very easy, and we would spend all our time, once we set the precedent, that all you had to do was tell the NATO forces or allege that that person is a war criminal, and we would spend our time probably chasing wild geese.
Having said that, we have a lot of folks whose business it is to make the contacts, learn the environment, talk to the people, and that is work in progress. So we have techniques, mechanisms, to sort through that. And when we have sufficient evidence, then we would do what we are empowered to do and what our orders tell us.
The second part. What do we do when we find what could be an atrocity? Obviously, the first thing is to safeguard and secure the area to avoid any contamination by spokespersons, units, people who might want to come through either purposely or don't understand what's there. So that is immediately done. It's reported. Those reports, I will tell, you travel quickly up through command channels, and then the proper authorities are dispatched, and we wait for them to come down and support their efforts to either confirm or deny what may be the case.
Q: General, you said when you have convincing evidence that someone was a suspected war criminal, you'll do what you're empowered to do. Exactly what are you empowered to do?
General Craddock: We will carry out the orders of senior commanders. Once decisions are made based upon the preponderance of the evidence, we will either assist and support, and as I said in the initial phases, that we are to establish law and order, discipline. So that's part of it. Now, war criminals falling into that? Again, that's a situation that will be determined and orders provided far above the tactical operational level at which we're working. We'll probably support whatever it is comes forward in that light.
Q: Just to be clear, you do have the power to arrest people right now?
General Craddock: The power to detain. Arrest, detainment might now may be intermixed. But the point is when law and order, good discipline is being threatened, we will, much like police in America, step in to disarm and detain. And then we will inform higher headquarters, and we will receive instructions as to what to do with the detainees.
Q: Do you have the power to adjudicate if you see people, for example, breaking into a store and doing vandalizing. You detain. Then what?
General Craddock: We will detain until such time as we are given disposition instructions for those folks from NATO headquarters. That's the orders under which I work. Immediately notify, and they will provide instructions from there.
Q: But there's no civil authority at this point to turn them over to, right? You are it.
General Craddock: That's correct. So we will detain them until we receive guidance as to whether to release them or remove them from the area and provide them to higher headquarters at KFOR.
Mr. Bacon: I think General Craddock has time for one more question.
Q: General Craddock, can you give us a rundown on what you would see, from what you know so far about the extent of the mine threat and the booby-trap threat?
General Craddock: We've seen mines, obviously. They were on the road coming in initially. The British had to deal with some of those. Now that a lot of forces have moved through, all the main highways are clear. We have not moved off into every small road, gravel roads, dirt roads, things like that. That will be the next task as we continue to provide this presence.
We're very cautious because of what the VJ and MUP told us in the Military Technical Agreement talks about the mines, that there were a lot of mines there around a lot of towns. They have provided information to us in the liaison operation prior to and during the move-in as to where these are, whether they are marked or not. Sometimes, yes. Most times, no. So we know a lot of information, and every day we get new reports of where mines have been found.
That is always a concern, and we have placed enormous emphasis on soldier awareness of the mine problem. We have talked to many of the local inhabitants in the area. They also tell us there may be mines in certain areas. They have suspicions. So we now are marking those for future clearance operations. But by and large, I think in talking with the local populace, the mine densities and locations where we are not as heavy as they could have been. I think that these earlier movements through by both VJ and MUP as they moved north and east through our sector, a lot of those have already been cleared.
We have not encountered booby-traps. That will be the next order of business as we go into a lot of the villages where houses have been destroyed or burned and could be booby-trapped. So always vigilant, and our soldiers have been trained, again, extensively, for that.
I would expect that for some time, until we have gone down every road, every trail. Obviously, when it's a dirt road, a gravel trail, the opportunity to bury a mine is much more likely than on a hard surface road, an asphalt road. So there's varying degrees of concern depending on where you are throughout the countryside.
We have a large border with Serbia that is in our sector. We know, and the VJ and MUP have told us that that has been mined extensively. So we will have to very carefully mark that in days to come.
So we have not experienced great numbers of mines. We have not experienced booby-traps. We are vigilant on unexploded ordnance. We have seen indications of ordnance that would--cluster bomb unit impacts--that would tell us [there] could be unexploded ordnance in the area, but no one yet has encountered any of that firsthand. We only have indications from flying over it and seeing the small craters that that type ordnance leaves in the ground.
Mr. Bacon: General, thank you very much. I appreciate your bearing with us through the technical glitches. This has been very helpful, and we may try to get you back on a TV hook-up sometime next week or the week after if possible. Thank you for taking the time.
General Craddock: Okay, Ken. Thank you.
Mr. Bacon: I should stress that General Craddock was talking about the mine situation in the U.S. sector which is the only one that he has real knowledge of.
Q: Where did he say he would get the reports from? He said U.S. forces were being told about the mines from whom?
Mr. Bacon: Under the Military Technical Agreement, they're supposed to get information from the Serb forces, the VJ and the MUP forces. And he said there has been some provision of information there. I suppose also they can get information from villagers as they fan out and get to know people better.
Q: Can we return to the Russian business for just one more minute? The 11 vehicles in the convoy, was there a negotiation with NATO as to how many vehicles? Did they want to bring more? Is this the number they requested, the Russians, to begin with?
Mr. Bacon: I'm not aware that there was a negotiation. They informed SFOR on Sunday, the 13th of June, of their intention to send a small resupply convoy down to Kosovo. The convoy went first to Belgrade. As I said, two and a half or three hours ago, it was on its way from Belgrade to Nis. It could well have arrived at Nis and perhaps have passed through Nis by now. It's, of course, six hours later over there than here. It's probably just getting dark. I don't know whether they plan to keep going, or maybe they're already there by now.
Q: Just returning briefly to the paratroopers that may or may not have been intended to be brought in from Russia itself. Has there been a renewal of a request by the Russians to fly those additional forces in, to the best of your knowledge?
Mr. Bacon: To the best of my knowledge, they have not made a request to fly troops into Pristina. They have said that they would not reinforce until arrangements were worked out, and so far we have not seen any sign that their intentions stray from those comments.
Mr. Bacon: I'm not aware that they have, no.
Q: Do you believe their original intent with those troops from Russia was to bring them in, and they didn't inform you of that? They were trying to do that, but that never happened? There wasn't communication ahead of time on that particular...
Mr. Bacon: I think I should let the Russians speak of their own intent.
Q: Has the United States invited the Russians to come and participate with the U.S. troops in the sector that's assigned to the U.S.?
Mr. Bacon: Bill, I think I'll just leave all details about the future geometry of KFOR to the negotiators right now. These are, of course, a matter of considerable discussion in our government and the Russian government and between our two governments, and also within NATO. I think that we're making good progress, but time will tell.
Q: Ken, of the Serb forces in the part of the airport controlled by the Russians, are they making preparations to leave, or are they looking as if they're going to stay?
Mr. Bacon: First of all, you asked yesterday if we had an estimate of the number of Serb forces at the airport. We do not. What we have seen is the airport being used as a staging area. We see people coming in, setting up convoys, and moving out. So it appears to be a regular part of their exit from Kosovo, from the province of Kosovo. We have not seen signs that they're moving into the airport and staying there. Rather they're moving in, staging, and moving out.
Q: Zone One includes Pristina and that densely--there are a lot of forces in that area. Do you think they will really be out by the end of today?
Mr. Bacon: Well, you heard General Craddock say that he was very hopeful that they would be out, and the signs were good. I think we'll just have to wait for the NATO commanders on the spot to make that determination.
We see every sign that they are trying to comply with the agreement. There is a relatively major and sustained movement of people out of Zone One. There are problems. Some of the problems include crowding on the highways, broken down equipment, a lack of HETs, or heavy equipment transports. We believe they only have 22 that they can bring to the task. So there are some bottlenecks, but basically, we see them trying hard to get out, and we have no reason to believe that they're not making a strong attempt to comply with the agreement.
Q: Do you have an idea how long this NATO invasion/occupational force will remain in Kosovo and Yugoslavia? Approximately.
Mr. Bacon: First of all, this is a peacekeeping force. This is not an invasion force, and it's not an occupation force, and I think that Greece, as a NATO ally, is very aware that it's a peacekeeping force.
Second, no. I have no idea how long it will stay.
Q: You have force power from the European theater to the war zone. (unintelligible) planes over in Europe. Do you have any idea when they're going to return back to the United States?
Mr. Bacon: I think that it's very likely that some of the planes will start redeploying back to the U.S. relatively soon. Within a matter of days I would expect some of the first planes, perhaps some of the heavy bombers to return back. We will leave in Europe a fairly significant tactical air force. We have one there, normally, anyway. We have over 700 American planes devoted to this operation, Operation ALLIED FORCE. It's been over now for a week. And I would guess that relatively soon, some of those planes will start coming back to the U.S.
Q:...deployed in Turkey, F-16s?
Mr. Bacon: In due time all the deployed planes will be sent back to their home bases, but I don't want to forecast specifically which planes will go back first, from where, or on what schedule. But I do think you'll see some redeployments starting relatively soon.
Q: Will the Reservists be the first ones to come back?
Mr. Bacon: Certainly, we would like to get Reservists back as soon as we can, and to the extent that Reservists support the early returning planes, they would come back. Many of the Reservists support tankers, and I anticipate that as the planes begin returning, the tankers will return with them, so those Reservists will come back. I don't have a firm schedule right now. I'm not sure that one has been fully coordinated. But I would anticipate by the end of this week, we'll have something to say about redeployments.
Q: Do you have an update on the skirmishes, any further fatalities in connection with this operation that you know of?
Mr. Bacon: I don't have much beyond this morning. There have been between 25 and 30 skirmishes, I think in the area. They tend to be, as I said, relatively episodic and isolated. They've occurred in several different locations. There have been some casualties, but we're generally satisfied with the amount of compliance.
We think that since KFOR went in, there have been around 25 skirmishes, maybe a few more. Several hours have elapsed since my figures.
Mr. Bacon: Well, they vary. Some involve the UCK attacking VJ people; some have involved attacks against NATO; some have involved attacks against reporters; and the bulk of them have involved skirmishes between the VJ and the Kosovar Liberation Army--some initiated by the Kosovar Liberation Army; some initiated by the VJ and the MUP. There have been about probably two dozen people killed in the course of these skirmishes over the last several days.
Q: Any NATO people killed, Ken?
Mr. Bacon: No.
Q: To bring in the kind of supplies and troops and equipment over the long term to make the peacekeeping operation work, how soon does NATO really need access to the airport in Pristina? And are there any other alternative airfields that you could just use in the meantime while the arrangements are all being worked out?
Mr. Bacon: There are--the Pristina airfield, I believe, is the largest, has the longest runway in Kosovo. I think it's around 8,000 feet, but this is all from memory. I'd have to go back and check.
There are some other airfields with runways ranging from 2,000 feet up. They're in various states of repair and disrepair, obviously, because of the bombing.
It doesn't take a lot of time to repair an airport, but to repair an airport to the state where it can handle heavy transport planes, such as C-17s or even C-130s, could take a fair amount of time depending on the state of the airport. So we have done a survey of airports, and there are some we could use.
[The map referred to is of Kosovo and not posted.]
Frankly, right now we can get our supplies in by road. As General Craddock said, the congestion seems to be dissipating somewhat. As the Serbs continue to exit, particularly from the southern part of the country and move up, we would anticipate that the congestion--the Serbs are moving out through exits here. We anticipate that the congestion will diminish further.
Q: A couple of questions. One, I don't know whether you or General Craddock talked about Urosevac or near Urosevac as where the headquarters for the American sector would be, when a lot of people thought it would be Gnjilane, is that correct?
Mr. Bacon: Yeah. I said yesterday, and I initially had thought it was going to be in Gnjilane. Now, I think that they've decided that Urosevac is more centrally located. It's on what they call Route Hawk, which is the main road between Skopje and Pristina. It's also--I think one of these roads is called Route Badger that goes over to Gnjilane. But I think the Marines will be located here; the Army will be located here; and as General Craddock made clear, the Marines are part of the enabling force, and initially, they'll be replaced by soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division.
Mr. Bacon: The Marine headquarters will be here at this town of Gnjilane, right here.
Now the French are here now, and they'll be moving out soon. As the Serbs clear out, the French will move from Gnjilane up into their sector, which is here. As they move out, the Marines will move in on their heels to fill in the vacuum.
Q: The Serbs are due out of our sector by when?
Mr. Bacon: I'd have to go back. Do we have the sector map there? Unfortunately, I don't think the pull-out--no, the pull-out schedule map. I'm not sure it's superimposed over the sectors in a clear way.
You can figure it out at your leisure. (Laughter)
Q: What do you know about these NATO/KLA talks that General Craddock mentioned? Who's involved, and how broad an agreement are they trying to draft?
Mr. Bacon: I don't know much about that, and that's, obviously, something that we'll learn more about as the talks continue.
Q: Can we go to North Korea at some point?
Mr. Bacon: Yes. Let's finish...
Q: You've raised Secretary Perry's talks with his counterpart as sort of a precedent for the talks that are going to go on in Helsinki. I believe in those talks the then-commander of NATO, General Joulwan, was an important part of that, too. Obviously, General Clark does not seem to be in the picture this time. What are the differences in these talks versus the earlier ones?
Mr. Bacon: First of all, what we've always said is that the Bosnia set-up is a model. It's not necessarily a prescription of how this will turn out, but it's an indication of the type of arrangement that Russia and NATO could reach.
Obviously, the talks between Secretary Perry and then Russian Defense Minister Grachev were starting from scratch. They had to negotiate through a series of issues, which they did basically in three talks -- the first in Geneva; the second were spread between Fort Riley, Kansas, and Washington; and the third occurred in Brussels.
These talks start from a somewhat different basis in that one, we have an agreement, [and] two, the Russians have been more involved, I think, in securing the peace agreement here than they were involved in securing the Dayton Peace Accord. A fundamental difference, of course, is that the arrangement before was worked out, I think, just before SFOR began and the troops went in, and this time we weren't able to get an agreement, although we tried very hard before KFOR moved in. I think that was part of the Russian reason for moving their troops down, to show that they were determined to be part of KFOR even as KFOR was moving in.
So I anticipate that we'll be able to work out a mutually satisfactory agreement with the Russians in this case as well.
Q: I just wondered on that point, the Bosnia agreement was predicated on the existence of this senior Russian officer in Mons, but there is no senior Russian officer at NATO any more. I think we just, NATO just rejected the replacement that Moscow wanted to send. How much is that complicating modeling the Kosovo arrangement on the Bosnia situation?
Mr. Bacon: Well, most problems are soluble, and I assume that we can work out a solution here that will involve the proper command set-up, whether it has somebody in Mons or somebody working in Pristina or elsewhere. But I think that there will be an arrangement worked out, and there will be Russians working in a coordinated fashion, both at the command level and the soldier-to-soldier level with NATO troops. So I'm not sure it matters whether the officer is in Mons or not. The mere fact that there isn't one there now doesn't mean there couldn't be one there in a week. So this can be worked out, I'm sure.
Q: General Craddock said that they had not in the American sector come across large numbers of IDPs. Does it appear now that those very large estimates that were made during the campaign about the number of internally displaced were accurate, or is it becoming apparent that maybe they were a little on the high side?
Mr. Bacon: That's a good question. I don't think we know at this stage. But to be frank with you, most of the IDPs were not in this corner of Kosovo. The IDPs tended to be stretched in areas sort of to the west of Pristina, both north and south. And so I would anticipate that as troops move in here, we'll begin to see more IDPs there. Obviously, there were some here, but not nearly as many IDPs in this area as up here. So I don't think we know enough yet to make a dispositive statement about the IDP estimates.
Q: Can we shift to North Korea?
Mr. Bacon: Please, yes. I actually have to leave in a couple of minutes, so I'd like to finish this quickly.
Q: What do you know about the situation over there, about what happened?
Mr. Bacon: What do I know about it?
Mr. Bacon: Well, I know that there has been a confrontation between North Korean patrol boats, perhaps joined by some fishing boats on the one hand, and South Korean boats.
Obviously, we take any security challenge in this area, security ripple in this area very seriously. But it does seem to have quieted down since the events of early on June 15th, Korean time.
Let me explain basically what happened. There is a line that is called the Northern Limit Line that runs out into the ocean between South Korea and North Korea. The North Koreans have always resented this line. There have been many skirmishes in the past, maybe hundreds over the last 40 or so years, challenging this line. Some challenges began several days ago, I think on June 11th, and there was an incident where a North Korean boat came across the line and a South Korean boat bumped it to sort of bump it back across the line. Without firing, it was an effort to block the North Korean boat from coming across the Northern Limit Line.
Then on the 15th there was another bumping incident, but this time the bumped boat sank. The bumped North Korean boat sank, and there was fire exchanged between the North and South Korean boats. And another boat was hit and we don't know whether it sank or not at this stage. It's dark over there so we don't have a good view of what happened. And several other North Korean boats were apparently damaged.
Mr. Bacon: We presume hit by projectiles. Several other North Korean boats were damaged.
The North Koreans disengaged and pulled back. As I said, it's been relatively quiet since this incident occurred.
There were some talks about this issue. General officer talks at Panmunjom began in the morning and lasted for about an hour and a half. Since then, as I said, it's been relatively calm there.
Q: What other additional reconnaissance assets has the U.S. put in in the region to keep an eye on things?
Mr. Bacon: We're keeping an eye on it, but we don't get too detailed about reconnaissance in situations like this.
Q: Were there any U.S. personnel actually there, either on board or nearby, watching this happen, this bumping?
Mr. Bacon: I do not believe so.
Q: The paper said South Korean troops are on high alert. How about the 2nd Infantry?
Mr. Bacon: I'm not aware that there's any change in the U.S. alert status at this stage. We're generally on a pretty high state of alert there.
Q: Will there be any--I believe there's a carrier visit scheduled. Is it going to be speeded up in any way?
Mr. Bacon: I don't know that. We'll check into it.
Q: Where is that line? Is it along the 38th Parallel? Is it...
Mr. Bacon: Yeah, it's about along--it's sort of an extension of the 38th Parallel, although it does curve. We should have a big map here that we could roll down in moments like this, and we could all be educated. Once we get the phone system working, we'll work on maps. (Laughter)
Q: It wasn't part of the original agreement at Panmunjom, right?
Mr. Bacon: This is something that--I don't know the history of it. We'll try to find out when this line was declared.
Q: Do you see any higher state of alert on the northern side of the border? Are they taking any unusual preparations that you've observed?
Mr. Bacon: They, obviously, the forces in the area are both on an increased state of alert, both the Republic of Korea forces and the North Korean forces, the DPRK forces. But we don't see signs of a wider North Korean alert at this stage.
Obviously, the U.S. position is that the North Koreans should refrain from provocative acts and that both sides should be as restrained as possible in not allowing disputes that occur from time to time to spin out of control.
Q: Could you describe a little bit more the boats involved? Are these frigates, are they coastal patrol kinds of small craft? What are they?
Mr. Bacon: They vary in size, shape, and technology. There's a wide variety of North Korean boats, and I couldn't really tell you what size. Some have crews of 20 to 30, I understand, and others have crews of maybe four or five people. I'm afraid I don't know what the South Korean patrol boats were.
Q: Do you have a casualty estimate?
Mr. Bacon: I don't have a very reliable casualty estimate, no.
Press: Thank you.