United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


DoD News Briefing, Saturday, May 22, 1999 - 11:20 a.m.

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
May 22, 1999 11:20 PM EDT
Also participating in this briefing was Major General Chuck Wald, J-5)

Related briefing slides

Mr. Bacon: Good morning. Welcome.

The good weather over Yugoslavia yesterday was bad news for Slobodan Milosevic and his forces. NATO's attacks against a wide range of targets last night showed that the air campaign is working and inflicting increasing pain on the strategic military targets of the Yugoslav government as well as on the tactical targets and forces in the field in Kosovo.

The air campaign will intensify further until NATO achieves its goals. As General Clark has said, NATO is willing and Milosevic is losing. General Wald will detail the last 24 hours of activity, the most intense to date, in a few minutes.

NATO, as I said yesterday, is currently planning for success. Next week the North Atlantic Council in Brussels will consider proposals to send an enhanced peacekeeping force into the area. This will enable peacekeepers to enter Kosovo quickly after a peace agreement is achieved that incorporates NATO's five conditions. NATO will do this or plans to do this so that refugees can return home as quickly as possible after a peace agreement is signed.

NATO's policy remains the same. The air campaign will continue until Yugoslavia accepts NATO's terms.

Before turning it over to General Wald let me announce just one other thing. The Air Force today successfully launched a Titan IV-B rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base. That rocket is carrying a National Reconnaissance Office satellite. This is the first Titan IV-B to be launched from Vandenberg.

With that, General Wald.

[Charts available at http://www.defenselink.mil/#Slides]

Major General Wald: Good morning.

[Chart-Weather Conditions]

As Mr. Bacon mentioned earlier, the weather was good over the last 24 hours. It was better than expected, fortunately. They flew several hundred combat sorties yesterday into both the Kosovo area and into the FRY.

The projection is for possible thunderstorms over the next day and a half and then into the next week or so a good period of probably the best weather we've had since -- not probably--the best weather we've had since the beginning of this campaign.

What you'll see over the next several months is this cycle will continue where we'll have large areas of good weather for an extended period of time followed by a possible front moving through, maybe interspersed with a thunderstorm or two. So over the next few months into the fall, the weather should stay like this, and the flying should be good, and the OPSTEMPO should stay pretty high.

[Chart-Level of Effort-Day 59]

Yesterday was a very heavy day of ops for both the northern and southern part of the AOR, all the way into the northern part of the FRY with some command and control targets there, some lines of communication. Some of the fielded forces where their sustainment lies for the First Army as well. Then into the Kosovo area, out in the southwest area where the Third Army is, we hit them awfully hard yesterday, a line of communication, some of the forces spread out into the eastern part of Serbia itself.

Pretty conservatively, these are some of the numbers they had yesterday. I mentioned earlier that the A-10s have had a lot of success as well as the aircraft off the THEODORE ROOSEVELT, and conservatively in the neighborhood of about 28 artillery pieces and tanks combined with another 19 APCs and trucks, then once again, continuing to go after some of their air defense in a smaller way through the command and control element.

[Chart-Operation SUSTAIN HOPE-Last 24 Hours]

On the humanitarian side, in the last 24 hours they did have quite a few refugees come out of Kosovo and enter into Albania -- 3.7 thousand. Camp Hope is pretty much the first camp up and running, and then Camp Eagle, construction has started with the available timeline of about 25 May. Then, more tents arrived into Thessaloniki to continue to provide for those refugees that are coming out.

Once again, into JFK, nearly 500 refugees arrived yesterday, and the families are departing now from Fort Dix into the communities throughout the United States, either with families that are relatives or other families that have accepted to take refugees. I understand there is a long line of those people in the United States that have volunteered to help transport those refugees into their local communities, either in apartments or buildings that are close to where they live, and then help sponsor them. They're moving them into Albanian-type areas where that type of culture would be a little more prevalent.

[Chart-PROVIDE REFUGEE-Refugee Status]

Once again, the flights will continue. Flight 12 about 1 June, almost 3,500 folks into Fort Dix now. As the Health and Human Services and their medical review is completed, more and more of those families will move into the communities around the United States.


Not a lot of changes in the total refugees or camps, but they will continue to build more camps. There is some intermingling here with some of the soldiers that are over there taking care of some of the refugee help with UNHCR.

The camps, as I mentioned yesterday, will start to be winterized where the tents will be--the type of tents you would have with heaters in them are the non-flammable for safety protection; hardened floors of either wood or cement; then the water will be treated properly. There will also be helped where it wouldn't freeze during the winter and that type of thing. So they'll start doing that as well over the next few weeks.

[Chart-Level of Effort]

Food continues on in. They have the ability to provide food for nearly three-quarters of a million people. Once again, the UNHCR and the international agencies are still in need of food, so those contributions through the proper procedures are being provided.

Support for nearly a million people for tents and shelter. As I mentioned earlier, several hundred tents were sent to Thessaloniki yesterday from the U.S., and other countries provide those. Then they still have a fairly robust medical capability in place for people that would need that type medical care, about 1,200 of those.

[Photos available at http://www.defenselink.mil/photos#Operation+Allied+Force]

[Photo-Belgrade Milicija Depot, Serbia-Post Strike]

Just a few images from the last few days. This was the Belgrade Milicija depot near, about five miles from downtown Belgrade. It's a military depot that supports the First Army. You can see several of those buildings have been taken out, and there was ammunition in several of those. We'll continue to take out not just the Third Army in the southern part of Kosovo, but the support for that Third Army throughout the FRY, as well as the First Army in the northern part.

[Photo-Sjenica Air Base, Serbia-Post]

This is the Sjenica air base in Serbia from yesterday, a picture of the attack there. You can see the runway itself has been closed. They'll continue to try to repair that. We'll close it as they do that again. Then in this area, there are several hardened aircraft shelters that have dirt on them. We'll continue to take those down. This one has a hole through the roof, so if there was anything in it, it would be destroyed.

[Photo-Iranjica Radio Relay Bunker, Serbia-Post Strike]

Then the Ivanjica radio relay bunker, which is in western Serbia itself. This is one of their major backup command and control areas. It's hard to see here, but the entry way to both sides of the bunker, the major entry ways, have been hit. Some of the areas here are areas where they would recess antennas, etc., those type things. They would bring them out when they need to and then recess them. Those were hit. So we'll continue to take down this type of target. They're very difficult to find and hit, but we've had pretty good success with that, and it's taking away his command and control capability throughout his theater. He has to go to back-up means.

[Begin Video]

Once again, heavy on fielded forces. I'll just show you a few of those artillery and tank-type targets later.

The weather in the area. This is the computer projection. Actually, this is the actual weather here from the last, a few hours ago. It shows the area is clear. A little bit of puffy here and there, but better than projected for today.

This is the computer model projection of what it looked like, which we thought it was going to be worse than it actually is. It started out a little better in the computer model, then the computer showed it was going to be a little bit worse throughout the day. But it's turned out better than that, fortunately for us, unfortunately for the FRY/VJ/MUP armies. The projection is there could be some sporadic thunderstorms throughout the afternoon, but it shouldn't stop the flying.

A little bit of weather tomorrow, then through the week, outstanding weather projected.

Lines of communication yesterday, this is an F-117 against a LOC, a highway bridge. You can see a previous attack on the older bridge here. This is a fairly major bridge in northern Serbia. This attack was assessed to have taken the bridge down, functionally destroyed it. This was a night attack. A direct hit on the bridge.

So once again, throughout the FRY and Kosovo, his lines of communication, major ones for moving major equipment, are being taken down.

Sustainment. The Prahovo petroleum area in eastern Serbia itself. We've hit this before. You can see the storage tank here. Then, this is an offloading pier on the Danube north of that. These are two different strikes. You'll see the first tank obviously has fuel in it, and the offload area is hit there, then the tank, and they're both destroyed, burning afterwards. The offload pier is destroyed. That will keep him from taking fuel down the river and providing it to the forces in the field.

Ammunition storage in central Serbia. F-117 again. The previous was F-16s. Once again, some of these targets are hard to find. You can see the bunker underneath the cursor there with the laser. Once again, a direct hit. Some pretty significant secondary out of that one. It looks like a success.

This is a SAM support bunker, F-117. Some of these targets are harder than others to find. This was one along a road here. This bomb penetrates. It's a dirt-covered bunker SAM support capability here. Once again, an F-117. You can see it penetrates. It's not a large explosion. Most of the explosion probably was under the bunker itself, internal, so whatever was in there is destroyed, I'm sure.

Forces on the ground. Armored vehicle in western Kosovo. F-16 with a laser-guided bomb yesterday. Once again, estimates of probably the best day for armor attack yesterday. It's difficult to see under the cursor here. You'll see it as he changes infrared detector from white hot to black hot. It becomes a little more apparent there's a vehicle. It looks like there was some fuel in it and some burning afterwards. So another one destroyed. I think, as I said yesterday, at least 12 tanks yesterday.

Revetted artillery. Another F-16 out of Aviano Air Base. You see the target, previous strikes from other aircraft. So they continue to hit the fielded artillery, tanks, trucks, APCs. If there was an artillery piece in that revetment, there's probably not anymore.

Novi Pazar army barracks, northwest Kosovo. Once again, an F-16 with a laser-guided bomb. You see a previous strike here. The target's under the cursor. A previous strike here that had probably landed a little short. And once again, we just continue to grind him down and take out his capability to sustain or have a place to go back to operate from. Cumulatively, it's adding up.

[End Video]

Any questions today?

Q: Why are you destroying bridges? Some of them are far away from Kosovo, over 1,000 miles. Why you are targeting all the tunnels and bridges?

Major General Wald: Well, there's nothing 1,000 miles from Kosovo in that area. But anything in northern Serbia, middle Serbia, southern Serbia or Kosovo that has a military relationship to it is a target, and we'll continue to attack those for him to continue to be degraded for his ability to either sustain or move forces around, either near-term or long-term.

Q: Are you planning to bring refugees back to Kosovo by winter with or without agreement, as it was reported by General Clark yesterday?

Major General Wald: I think General Clark stated it exactly like he meant it to be. The fact of the matter is, we'll continue to do the campaign to degrade his military until such time there is an agreement by Milosevic to comply with the NATO conditions, and until that point we'll continue the military mission.

Q: General, can you tell us what you know at this point about the NATO bombs that may have hit targets that contained ethnic Albanians -- the border post and the prison complex? What more do we know about that at this point?

Major General Wald: The only thing I know is exactly what I read and what you've just heard, that they're reviewing it at NATO, and as soon as they can find out what the answer there is, they'll come back and let us know as well.

Q: You said yesterday that you had no direct coordination with the Kosovo Liberation Army. Does there need to be some improved communication in order to avoid a situation like what appears to have happened at this point where the KLA took over a position that was being used by the MUP, and if NATO, unaware of that, bombs that target?

Major General Wald: We'll do everything we can in NATO, as we've said before, to make sure the targets we identify are valid military targets of the VJ and MUP. When those targets are identified, we'll attack those. And we use various sources to determine what a target's actual identity is and what it's used for. When we know what that target is and can identify it, we'll attack it.

Once again, I think everybody knows we're attacking VJ and MUP forces in the field, so there has to be a certain caution on everybody's part. From what I understand, NATO's reviewing whether or not that was a, some of the UCK that were in that area or not. They're not sure yet. When they find that out, they'll let us know.


Q: Are the border targets still being hit by the AC-130 aircraft?

Major General Wald: I'm not going to talk about when the AC-130 attacks -- when, where, what target. But the AC-130 continues to be used at the time and place when the commander in the field desires to use it.

Q: But to what extent is there coordination or communication between NATO and the KLA, if any, that could avoid this...

Major General Wald: I know of no coordination at all from a military perspective with the KLA.

Q: For instance, if they take over an area formerly held by the Yugoslav army, do they report that in some informal way or through some secondary source? Is there any way to know if they have taken over a target that until then might have been a Yugoslav target?

Major General Wald: There are various ways and means of receiving information, intelligence information, as well as refugees and other means. So when those sources are available, we'll review whether there is any voracity to that report and put it into the equation. But as I said before, there is no coordination militarily with the KLA that I know of.

Q: General, the Chinese and Russians are saying that NATO intelligence is a failure now in this war because that's why the obstacles, [the hospital] in the civilian sense, embassies have been hit by the NATO--reporting also about (unintelligible) theater.

Major General Wald: I'm not sure who reported that. I didn't hear that part. But from a military perspective, I think the intelligence for this campaign has been outstanding, and I think the job they've done has been superb.

You mentioned the hospital. That had nothing to do with intelligence. That had to do with a bomb that landed a little long. If I were the commander in the field, I'd be more than pleased with the intelligence, and if I were flying these missions, I'd have all the confidence in the world in it.

Q: What can you tell us about NATO reported this morning about an increase of landmines along the border with Albania. Do you have any information on that at all?

Major General Wald: No, I don't. But I think Mr. Bacon--NATO's mentioned it before, and it's been stated in the press that the VJ/MUP have placed mines in various places. We know they've mined the LOCs. So their placing mines any place along the borders would not be a surprise. I wouldn't be surprised a bit.

Q: Were there both soft bombs and conventional bombs dropped on electrical facilities in Belgrade and elsewhere last night?

Major General Wald: Once again, there are certain things I'm not going to talk about at all. I've mentioned it before. In certain areas, I just won't discuss it, and that's one of them.

Q: Can you talk about the electrical systems and power grids in general? Weren't they hit by something last night?

Major General Wald: Yes, they were attacked last night.

Q: Do you know how many and to what extent?

Major General Wald: I won't talk about how many or what type of weapon, but the electrical system from the command and control standpoint for him to contact and talk to his forces in the field, coordinate those, those are a valid military target.


Q: This might be a better question for Ken, I'm not sure. But I'm a little confused in this policy. It sounded like the peacekeeping deployment was aimed at getting these people back home before winter, and you talk about winterizing tents. How do these two...

Major General Wald: Let me answer my part first, and then I'll let Ken. From a military perspective, our job, our mission, our objective from the beginning has been very simple and very clear. Our job is to degrade the military capability of the FRY/VJ/MUP forces and that's exactly what we're doing.

Mr. Bacon: I don't see any inconsistency in that at all. We know what the calendar says. We have to be prepared for a number of contingencies. So we're, on the one hand, looking at what it's going to take to winterize the tents and other parts of the camps while we are looking at plans through the NAC for an enhanced peacekeeping implementation force.

The idea, as I explained yesterday, is the NAC is debating now about getting that force of the right size in the right place at the right time so when a peace agreement is reached that incorporates NATO's five terms, the peacekeepers will be able to help the refugees get back quickly. That's always been a primary goal, to get the refugees home.

There are now about, nearly a million refugees in the area, and they won't all be able to go back at once, so there's some possibility that even if a rapid flow of refugees begins to return to Kosovo, that some will remain even as winter begins and they'll have to be accommodated.

So I think NATO, as well as the humanitarian relief organizations, would be negligent not to plan to deal with winter conditions, and that's exactly what's happening.

Q:...are going to go back with or without agreement?

Mr. Bacon: I've said many times, Mr. Papantoniou, that I don't believe refugees would go back without an agreement and without an international peacekeeping force with NATO at its core, because they have had broken promises in the past. What they need is the security and stability of a good, well-trained international force that can provide some security for them as they return to their homes to rebuild their lives.

Q: Just to be clear, you would like to see a peacekeeping force in place as soon as possible, whether or not there's a peace agreement, to have them there immediately, if possible.

Mr. Bacon: First of all, this is exactly what NATO is in the process of deciding. But the idea is to get a peacekeeping force there that can move quickly as soon as there is an agreement that incorporates NATO's five standards. You could all recite those standards. But what's most important from a humanitarian standpoint is to take every action possible to get the refugees home as quickly as they're able to get there. That involves having a secure environment in Kosovo.

Q: Do you have any better sense today about how soon that force will move in there, and...

Mr. Bacon: As I said yesterday...

Q: Does NATO have to go through the whole force generation process? How long will that take?

Mr. Bacon: It could take a week or so. This is a complex issue that will take the North Atlantic Council some time to debate. They may spend several days on it next week. Once they make a decision, that decision will have to be translated into a whole series of orders that lead to the requisitioning of troops, and then countries will come forward and make their offerings, and the force will be assembled, and, of course, NATO will then decide when the best time is to move it down there and how best to move it down there.

Q: Ken, once there is a peace agreement, would the humanitarian relief operation move into Kosovo itself? Would the U.S. and the allies start building camps near destroyed towns and such so people could rebuild?

Mr. Bacon: I assume that would happen. Obviously, that's something--well, I'm sure the international relief organizations are planning, as you know, there's a U.N. mission in Yugoslavia now, and it will spend some time in Kosovo. The question is whether they'll spend enough time in Kosovo and get enough access to see the full dimensions of what the Serb troops have done to the Kosovar Albanian people and their infrastructure -- their homes and villages. But they're now making an assessment of what the reconstruction and humanitarian needs are in Kosovo. That will help inform everybody about what's necessary. And obviously, the same international relief organizations that have worked so diligently to take care of the refugees outside of Kosovo will work with the same amount of energy to deal with their needs in Kosovo.


Q: General, can you give us some sense of how closely you track the movements of the KLA? Not just to avoid hitting them, but as you were, a couple of days ago you were talking about that the presence of the KLA sometimes offers opportunities to hit Serb forces that may be massing to attack them.

Major General Wald: Well, any information we can get from the KLA from any source would be beneficial. So if we have it, we will track it, and we're tracking them as best we can just like we are the FRY/Serb/VJ forces. Obviously, the KLA is not, we're not attacking the KLA, so they're probably a little more willing if they can try to contact somebody via whatever method, whether it be refugees coming out or any other method, to inform people of where they are. So any of that data we could ascertain, we would use that.

Q: Is that a priority, following the interplay between the KLA and the MUP?

Major General Wald: Well, the whole area of Kosovo and the FRY, but particularly Kosovo because of the fielded forces, is a high priority for all of our intelligence sources to try to find out who's where, when and what. The IDPs as well. So there's a lot of effort going into that. It comes from pilot reports as well. When they land, they report whatever they see, and that's all accumulated in a very comprehensive manner. There's a lot of different sources. It's synergistic. When that comes out, then we go ahead and feed that to the CAOC and the pilots, and they have a sense of where something may or may not be. But once again, it's difficult, because we're not in contact with the KLA militarily or any other means that I know of, so they're not giving us their actual position all the time. So we work hard to try to find that out.

Q: Ken, if NATO does deploy more potential peacekeepers to the region, is it anticipated that most of the sources could go into Macedonia for a staging area? Would they also go into Albania?

Mr. Bacon: As you know, the initial KFOR was going to stage out of Macedonia. I think in light of the flow of refugees there, NATO will have to consider the best place to put them, and, of course, it will have to consult with countries in the area.

There already is some infrastructure for the peacekeeping force in Macedonia, and NATO will have to decide the best way to deploy and support and enhance the peacekeeping force, and that's one of the things that's going on in Brussels now and will continue next week.

Q: We have been familiar with the numbers for a few weeks now in terms of the enhanced force that would go in accompanying the refugees. I think some of the interest in the headlines stems from the fact that to a degree it's [a fit] that this force would provide the basis for what could be a force to go in without a peace agreement. So I guess...

Mr. Bacon: ...That's not true. That's not the plan. The plan is to put a peacekeeping force down there that will be able to do exactly what I said -- get the refugees home as quickly as possible after a peace agreement is signed. We are confident that the accelerating air campaign will continue to impose greater and greater damage on the forces in the field in Kosovo as well as the military command and control and infrastructure throughout Yugoslavia, and that it will lead to an agreement incorporating NATO's five demands.

Q: Another way to approach that tactically or even psychologically is whether--even if that's the stated policy, is it all based on your eye on the calendar, as people are saying and as you said yesterday, or is there in any degree a threat level increased to Milosevic and his forces just by having that number of troops in the region?

Mr. Bacon: The level of damage being inflicted on the Milosevic military machine is increasing every day we have good weather. I think the last 24 hours makes that abundantly clear. There is no sanctuary from NATO's planes. There is no way for his forces on the ground in Kosovo to avoid repeated and continual attacks, and that will continue. More planes are arriving in the area even as we speak, and they will be deployed quickly and increase the level of force that we can bring to bear in pursuit of our goals.

Q: You haven't really answered the question. I mean if you put in 50,000 troops under whatever auspices and they're standing there armed and ready to do whatever they're told to do, isn't that in itself a hammer, a threat to Milosevic from across the border?

Mr. Bacon: Milosevic can look at it any way he wants to. The fact of the matter is that our policy is exactly the same as it's been for the last two or three months, and that policy is that NATO is prepared to send in a force that will help maintain a peace agreement, an international force with NATO at its core. That's what NATO is now considering, whether that force should be enhanced and how it should be deployed and how quickly it should be deployed.

There's been absolutely no change in NATO's thoughts about this, and there's been no change in the United States' thoughts about this either. All the support is for a peacekeeping force, and there is no intention of any other type of force now.

Q: Ken, how many [sorts] of forces are you talking about and also how many U.S. forces, how many NATO forces, how many international forces? Any particular countries that have shown interest?

Mr. Bacon: Well, the broad international force will take shape later. The key right now is working through the organization that is considering this, and that's the North Atlantic Council. Obviously, we hope that the force will include representatives from a number of non-NATO countries, and these countries could range from countries in the heart of Europe such as Austria, Sweden -- Sweden has, for instance, participated in the force in Bosnia. It's not a member of NATO. I would anticipate that it would want to participate some way in this force as well. The Russians participate in the Bosnia force, IFOR, and I would anticipate that they might want to participate in this force as well. But those details remain to be worked out.

Q: What about reports that Russians have been found and even killed among the Serb troops? We asked about it yesterday. Is there any more...

Mr. Bacon: I don't have anything to add to what I said yesterday, which was nothing. We've seen the reports. We're looking into them. Without more information I think it's inappropriate to comment.

Q: If we have no direct communications with the KLA but get information through intelligence sources, was there a communications failure that could have led to this former VJ barracks being hit?

Mr. Bacon: I think General Wald made it clear that NATO continues to study this, and I don't think it's appropriate to say more than NATO said.

Q: Is there any concern that as you, as NATO forces, ground forces are built up along the border, that it might lead to increased cross-border attacks from the Serbs? Or are you confident at this point that those border areas are under control?

Mr. Bacon: I think that would be a big mistake by the Serb forces. We're working very hard to reduce their ability to strike across the border. If you look at the maps that General Wald puts up every day, you'll see that there's a concentration of attacks in the corners of Kosovo along the Albanian/Macedonian borders, and that will continue.

I assume that the commanders will take all prudent and appropriate action to protect their forces.

Q: Ken, 7,000 is the number that's been reported for U.S. troops in a peacekeeping mission on the ground. Is that the maximum number that the U.S. will agree to?

Mr. Bacon: First of all, as I made clear yesterday, President Clinton has not signed off on any number. The last number he signed off on is the 4,000 in the initial KFOR, which was 28,000 people. Four thousand out of 28 is about a seventh or 14 percent. I wouldn't anticipate the U.S. participation would be much higher in a larger force, but there's been no decision made on that yet.

I think that the 7,000 figure comes out from applying 14 percent to a 49,000-person force -- one-seventh.

Q: A question for the General. Just how many total bombs do you think we have dropped so far in 59 days? And how long will it continue?

Major General Wald: I think the number--I'm not sure exactly--is over 15,000 weapons of different sorts. There have been some that aren't bombs. And we have enough weapons to continue indefinitely, and it will go as long as Milosevic wants it to go.

Q: General, to what extent are targets like power plants and other utilities designed to have a psychological impact on Milosevic, based on the fact those are the ones that greatly inconvenience his people?

Major General Wald: Once again, the targets are not directed whatsoever at the Serbian people. These are directed at his ability to coordinate his military forces in the field, his ability to attack innocent civilians, the IDPs and refugees, and his ability to command and control his fielded forces. Anything that contributes to that in a military fashion will be attacked, but we certainly have no intention of causing any problem for the Serbian population. That's not a military target. But once again, you need to go back. Milosevic knows exactly what his targets are and what things he needs to maintain a military force, and those will be attacked.

Q: Ken, the reports out of Brussels indicated that the political authority was reaffirmed to strike targets in downtown Belgrade. Can you confirm that, or shed any light on that, whether that's the case?

Mr. Bacon: I'm not aware that Belgrade targets were ever off the list, and I think history has shown over the last eight weeks that we have attacked targets in Belgrade from time to time. We've attacked them with great force and great precision, and we'll continue to do that.

Thank you very much.

Additional Links

Stay Connected