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DoD News Briefing, Saturday, May 29, 1999 - 11:00 a.m.

Presenters: Captain Mike Doubleday, DASD PA
May 29, 1999 11:00 AM EDT

Also Participating: Major General Chuck Wald, J-5

Related briefing slides

Captain Doubleday: Good morning.

Before General Wald comes up to give you an update, let me just let you know that Secretary Cohen has ordered forward an additional 68 U.S. Air Force aircraft to join the other aircraft that are participating in NATO's Operation ALLIED FORCE. These aircraft include one squadron of F-16CJs -- that's 12 aircraft -- that are from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, and two squadrons of F-15Es -- that's a total of 36 aircraft -- from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. Those 16s and 15s are, of course, from the Air Force's Air Combat Command.

In addition to those aircraft, from the Air Mobility Command now being ordered forward are an additional 20 KC-135 tanker aircraft or equivalents.

These additional aircraft are part of the 176 aircraft that were in the increment that Secretary Cohen approved for a deployment on May 6th in response to General Clark's earlier request. The 68 aircraft bring to a total of 129 the number of aircraft deployed under that May 6th announcement, and to a total of 769 the number of U.S. aircraft currently deployed for Operation ALLIED FORCE.

Q: (inaudible)

Captain Doubleday: No, deployed or about to deploy in the case of these aircraft. These aircraft, by the way, will not actually start moving until early next week, and they'll be moving over the course of about seven or eight days.

Q: Where are they going, Mike?

Captain Doubleday: We'll announce that once they get there, but European bases.

Q: These are different from the 54, I believe it was, including NATO and U.S. aircraft that were going to include the ones that go to Turkey?

Captain Doubleday: We have announced aircraft that have gone to Hungary. We've announced aircraft, A-10s, that have gone to Italy. These are a different group of aircraft.

Q: But those were also part of the 126.

Captain Doubleday: Right.

Q: Could I ask what, number one, the United States' reaction is to these reports that Slobodan Milosevic has...

Q: Can we finish this line of questioning first, Charlie?

Q: Go ahead.

Q: On these aircraft, the 16CJs, these are HARM-firers -- I guess I should ask General Wald -- but this is, again, to take out the IADS, or principally? Go against the IADS?

Major General Wald: The suppression of enemy air defense. To give actual, real-time support to the attack packages, if a SAM were to come up or something.

Q: Thank you. Excuse me, Charlie.

Q: What's the United States' reaction to these reports that Slobodan Milosevic has accepted, in principle, has accepted all of NATO's demands?

Captain Doubleday: Charlie, at this point we have seen no action that indicates that has occurred. We have not seen any signs of an end to the fighting. We have not seen any signs of troops moving out of Kosovo. We have not heard from him in a very direct way indicating that he is looking for an international peacekeeping force built around NATO command and control that would enforce the peace there. And certainly [we] have seen no invitation for the displaced people to return to their homes.

So at this point our intention is to continue the air campaign and to continue to intensify the air campaign, as General Clark and Secretary General Solana indicated earlier today.

Q: Also, what about the reports that -- the Germans, I believe the Germans and the French are calling for a meeting of the G-8 states to discuss it.

Captain Doubleday: Charlie, I think that everybody is open to any kind of diplomatic efforts that could bring an end to the fighting that is going on over in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. But I don't have any details of that. I certainly have seen the announcement that was made earlier today.

Q: Sorry. Let me just ask one more. What about the report in the New York Times that the SecDef flew to Thursday for a one-day meeting with the defense ministers of Italy, France, Britain, on this whole situation, and also the use of ground troops?

Captain Doubleday: Charlie, indeed the Secretary did go to Bonn, Germany, on Thursday of this week for a meeting with several of his counterparts, European ministers of defense, who actually were meeting in Bonn in preparation for a WEU defense meeting that was going to occur later.

Secretary Cohen views this as an extension of the consultations that he has on a continuing basis with his counterparts. In that meeting the ministers discussed the full range of issues that are being discussed publicly regarding Kosovo. They agreed that the air campaign is working and should continue on the course to intensify it. They agreed that NATO should continue to strike a wide range of targets with the increasing number of aircraft that NATO nations are contributing to the effort. I think you've seen today some of the manifestation of that in that the United States is deploying additional aircraft.

They also agree that the expanded KFOR, which was recently approved by the NAC, should be deployed as soon as possible so that it will be in place to enforce a peace agreement when that occurs.

Q: Was Clark there, and did they discuss a possible ground initiative other than under peaceful conditions?

Captain Doubleday: To my knowledge General Clark was not there. But Charlie, as I indicated earlier, they talked about the whole range of issues associated with Kosovo that are being discussed in public. What they agreed on was that the air campaign was working to continue, and that the deployment of the expanded KFOR should be undertaken so that they're ready to implement a peace once one is agreed upon.

Q: Can you give us the dump on the proposed humanitarian food drops? We're getting different time tables here. Some say as early as today. Some say Monday.

Also, will NATO fly CAP for these, if they take place?

Captain Doubleday: I can do a little bit, but keep in mind, this is not a NATO operation, and in fact, we've gone to some lengths to ensure that it is well known that this is not a NATO operation. I think you can probably appreciate the challenge that is presented by aircraft flying into a country that has been shooting down aircraft. And they have, according to at least the press reports I've seen, there have been signs from the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that they will permit these airdrops to proceed, but there is considerable danger associated with doing this kind of operation.

NATO actually looked at it at one point as did the United States, the United States military, and decided it was not an operation that we should undertake.

The date that the airdrops will actually commence, I don't know. That's up to the groups that are preparing to undertake these airdrops. But my understanding is that it will be perhaps as early as the next several days.

What they are doing, however, in order to deconflict their flights with NATO flights is to communicate with NATO when they are planning to undertake these flights, and to provide the routes that they intend to fly so that they don't encounter NATO aircraft.

NATO has not provided any assurances of CAP or any other kind of cover for these aircraft.

Q: They haven't denied the possibility of CAP either, have they? It's still open?

Captain Doubleday: NATO has made it very clear that this operation is totally separate from NATO and is not supported by NATO in any way other than this deconfliction that I've just mentioned.

Q: To follow up this particular subject, just last night the BBC was reporting that in fact the Serbs were not going to allow, would not freely permit any airdrops. This, of course, goes opposite to what we have heard about them having approved it. Did you happen to hear that report? And did you...

Captain Doubleday: I did not hear that report, and it certainly is indicative of the challenge that is going to be faced by anybody who tries to fly in there on a humanitarian mission.

The track record of the authorities in Belgrade on living up to any of their commitments is not very good.

Q: Back to the Bonn meeting for a moment and the expanded KFOR, are there any specific recommendations or timetables that came out of that agreement to do it as soon as possible? When will we actually see countries putting people...

Captain Doubleday: I don't know of any timetable. I am aware that General Clark is working those plans right now. There is a meeting early in the week, which is called the Force Generation meeting. This is a step in the normal process that NATO goes through when they assemble any kind of a military force. That will occur early in the week. Then after that has occurred, there will be follow-on steps before any forces actually join those that are already in the region.

Q: Is that the Military Committee in Mons?

Captain Doubleday: Charlie, I can't tell you exactly where that meeting is going to take place.

Q: What are the follow-on steps?

Captain Doubleday: Well, there would have to be an Activation Order that would be sent out once the force has been assembled, but I really think you ought to talk to NATO, because they can provide you with a lot better detail on the steps they intend to go through in order to put this thing together.

Q: Why is the Pentagon just talking about this trip today? What's the reason for the secrecy surrounding the trip?

Captain Doubleday: Well, the trip was -- first of all Secretary Cohen was invited because these other ministers were assembling for this meeting that they were going to hold before the WEU defense gathering that was going to take place.

We are not a member of the WEU, and I think the reason for the meeting was to have this consultation with the United States Secretary of Defense present before they continued on with this follow-on meeting.

We did not publicly announce before the trip that Secretary Cohen was going to go. This was in part due to the fact that the Secretary considers this an extension of the consultations that he does with these leaders on a continual basis. He's on the phone to those who were in attendance and others on a steady basis, several times a week. And those consultations are normally held in private. He felt that it was appropriate in this particular case to do the same thing.

Q: You indicated that in that meeting they discussed a whole, wide range of issues. Did that, indeed, include the possibility of ground troops prior to the end of hostilities? If so, was there any consensus among them on this?

Captain Doubleday: Well, first of all, I would say, number one, the consensus was that the air campaign is working and that it should not only continue, but intensify, and that the ground troops that have been approved by the NAC are those that are associated with the peace implementation, which would occur after a peace agreement is actually reached. As far as I know, there is no consensus for sending ground forces into Kosovo in other circumstances.

Q: Secretary Cohen came back from that meeting and met with reporters yesterday, and without mentioning the meeting, he was very explicit in saying that there is no consensus. Surely, there must have been some discussion. Can you tell us a little bit about what that was?

Captain Doubleday: I can't tell you anything about the details of the discussion. I think that his comments speak for themselves.

Q: Were there any discussions -- you say they discussed all of the issues that are publicly being discussed now. One of the issues that's publicly being discussed is that that force of 50,000 could be the seed of a larger force that might be used if peace is not declared in time to get some troops in there for the winter. Was that discussed?

Captain Doubleday: Charlie, I think I've made it real clear that what the group agreed upon was that the air campaign is working and should be continued and intensified [and] that the NAC-approved expanded KFOR should be deployed as quickly as possible so that it will be in a position to move into Kosovo and establish a peace once an agreement is reached.

Q: Is that NATO's line or the U.S. line? You tell me that nobody is discussing, these defense ministers are not discussing and have not discussed the possibility of an expanded force moving in under other than peaceful conditions? They didn't discuss that or are not discussing that?

Captain Doubleday: Charlie, I am not going to tell you what they didn't discuss. What I'm telling you is what they came to an agreement upon and what the position of the United States is with regard to ground forces. Our policy on that has not changed.

Q: So you're not saying they didn't discuss...

Captain Doubleday: Well, they discussed everything that you would think that anyone would discuss in a position of authority with regard to this operation.

Q: Have you a number of (unintelligible) including President Clinton, President Carter on CNN that you cannot win the war in Yugoslavia without ground forces. At the same time you said that airstrikes are winning the war. But why for so long, 60, 64 days, he's still in power?

Captain Doubleday: I can't tell you why Milosevic is holding on as long as he is holding on. What I can tell you and what you've seen in the briefings that we've given over the last several weeks is that systematically we are degrading and destroying the Yugoslav forces who are operating in Kosovo, and we are systematically taking the steps that reduce his ability to command and control, to resupply those forces, to keep those forces going so that they become less and less effective to the point that at some point they will become totally ineffective.

Q: I'm sorry, but if the Rambouillet agreement, peace agreement -- what kind of role do you think the Yugoslavian forces will play in international forces?

Captain Doubleday: I can't predict what role they might play.

Q: New subject. British and U.S. jets fired on in the southern no-fly zone in Iraq yesterday. Can you tell us any more about that?

Captain Doubleday: I can't tell you any more. There's a press release that was put out. I think that's available in DDI.

Q: But it seems like in recent incidents, more in the north, and more that the planes were illuminated by radar (inaudible) actually fired on. Does this represent any greater threat or concern...

Captain Doubleday: I think you're aware that we continue to enforce the no-fly zones both in the north and the south. When we encounter any kind of a threat, we take appropriate action. That's what we've been doing for several years and we'll continue to do that.

Q: On the additional 68 U.S. planes, we've seen over the past week record after record set in terms of number of attack sorties. What will this do to allow you to further intensify?

Captain Doubleday: This will be a good point for me to ask General Wald to come up here because he's going to show you how green the weather chart is, and he may be able to also answer that very good question.


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

Major General Wald: Good afternoon. Morning. It's afternoon someplace, but not here.

To answer your question, it will give us a chance to intensify the OPSTEMPO, more sorties, more strike sorties, and to actually start attacking from different quadrants as well, as this thing is fully filled out. As you know, the F-18Ds in Hungary are flying. They have over the last couple of days. So it just keeps putting the pressure on Milosevic from different spots around -- he's really got a ring starting to develop around him from all angles.

[Chart - Weather Conditions]

This weather will continue to help. The same story as over the last couple of days. Outstanding weather. A couple of spikes in here over the next few days where there will be some thunderstorms develop. Could be some isolated areas where they couldn't fly as well as others. Those won't last. This looks like it will extend that out for the foreseeable next few days and into the next few months. So a big change in what we had over the first couple of months of this operation.

[Chart - Level of Effort - Day 66]

Yesterday, 34 targets, and 15 fielded forces. The remainder of the targets were fixed targets concentrating on command and control. Again, some mobility, air defense, and sustainment. They had 19 artillery pieces that they knew of yesterday, most of them in the southwest Kosovo area where the VJ and UCK have had some clashes over the last few days. As the VJ and MUP fire their artillery, they're detected. Then we'll go ahead and attack them and destroy them.

Q: How many sorties, General?

Major General Wald: I didn't check, Ivan, but I think it was nearly 300 strike, and then you get into the 700 total type again. They're scheduling about 900 a day now, every day. That counts support, as you know, and the rest of that.

[Chart - Operation SUSTAIN HOPE - Last 24 Hours]

Refugee movement continues out of Kosovo. They still did have about 1,500 come out in the last 24 hours. About 1,000 into the FYROM. But they actually had 2,200 leave Macedonia yesterday, which is good, because they're decreasing the load there. Fort Dix had some refugees depart yesterday, and we've talked about humanitarian airdrops.

Q: How many IDPs do you still estimate are in Kosovo?

Major General Wald: The numbers -- UNHCR is sticking with about 250,000 to 700,000. There are different estimates. Some are a lot lower than that. As they come out, obviously, it's going down around the 550,000 range.

[Chart - Refugees/Level of Effort]

The refugees total are still at about 1.6 million at the top end. The camps are continuing to grow. The food continues to come in. They can support over three-quarters of a million people now in the shelters, going up towards a million.

General McDuffie mentioned yesterday that several of the refugees, the large majority actually in Albania and some in the FYROM, are living with host families, which is good, and they're getting into a little more of a routine in camp life, as you can see.

[Photos available at http://www.defenselink.mil/photos/#Operation+Allied+Force] [Photo - Belgrade Transformer Station 5, Serbia - Post Strike]

The imagery from over the last day and a half, two days. This was two days ago. This was another one of the transformer areas around Belgrade. They had five of them hit up here. You can see one of the major areas of the switching area was taken down, and then a couple of minor areas. That will be out for probably a couple of weeks.

[Photo - Dakovica Milicija Garrison, Serbia (sic) [Kosovo] - Post Strike]

This is a MUP headquarters in Serbia itself. This was one of their major barracks areas that was hit two days ago. We showed some imagery of it yesterday. You can see the previous picture [Pre Strike insert in photo], and that whole area of the building's been collapsed. It looks like it's all been burned out, and all the windows are gone, so that building has been destroyed.

[Photo - Dakovica Army Garrison Southwest, Kosovo - Post Strike]

This is another VJ and MUP combined army garrison in southwest Kosovo. You can see the major headquarters building has a bomb through the top of it, so it probably is destroyed inside. These other buildings have been destroyed and burned. So another one of their barracks areas being taken down.

[Photo - Marrizit Border Post, Kosovo - Post Strike]

The Marrizit border post. They have about 24 of these along the border that monitor the coming and going and actually direct artillery. This is another one. We've taken about two-thirds of these down. This has been totally destroyed.

[Photo - Vinca Nuclear Research Installation, Serbia]

There is a question that came out in the press, and I'm not sure whether it was that Serbia reported it, or it was just open press, but that they have, I think, a nuclear research station, installation, that has actually been non-operational for since before this operation started. There was a claim that we had some collateral damage on that over the last couple of days.

This picture was taken last night. The expert photo interpreters have looked at it as close as they can, and we see no indication whatsoever of any damage that would have been caused by any bombing. The closest we've gotten to there is over several kilometers away in any attack. So we cannot find any damage whatsoever that we can tell from this picture. Of course we're not on the ground, but we doubt very seriously if there's any damage whatsoever to that facility.

Q: Where is that located, General?

Major General Wald: It's southeast of Belgrade.

Q: How far, do you know?

Major General Wald: I don't know. I'll check for you.

Q: What sort of research is done there?

Major General Wald: They were doing nuclear research for nuclear power, and it's been non-functional for, like I said, since before this started and, I think, for probably over a year. But as you can see, they took a close look. We've looked as hard as we can. We can't see any damage to it at all. There may be damage inside, but...

Q: Any weapons production capability there?

Major General Wald: None that we know of. Purely for power.

[Photo - Aleksinac Military Garrison, Serbia - Pre Strike]

This is Aleksinac. We've hit this area several times. You can probably tell why. There's a lot of buildings in it. It's one of the major military garrisons for vehicle storage, etc. I showed some film of that before. I'll show some today. We hit it in four places yesterday. There were four places aimed at. One of the bombs landed long in a field. There was some claim of some collateral there yesterday. We can find no indication whatsoever where any of our bombs landed where they could have been collateral.

Now there was collateral on 5 April here, so we're not sure what the report's all about. We cannot find any reason why we would have collateral there.

[Begin Video]

Several films today, again. First we'll show the weather. You're going to see a picture that is rare in Europe -- that's weather where there are no clouds whatsoever. This was as of this morning, 4:15 Eastern. That's about as good as it gets for operational flying. And it actually is predicted -- I'll show in a minute here, basically a computer model of what we would have predicted for moisture in the air up to about 2400-Z coming in tomorrow, and it shows that some clouds would have formed. You can see the earlier part, very clear. Computer modeling, again. It starts building up some clouds over the afternoon. We haven't seen any indication of this, so it's better than predicted so far today. You can see Kosovo and most of the FRY itself are remaining clear even in the model, so we expect the weather to be as predicted and stay pretty clear over the next few days. This kind of trend will stay through about mid-week. We'll have a little bit of a cloud layer come through, we think, and that shouldn't be too big of a deal.

Command and control. Continue to take down his ability to coordinate his troops and it's starting to hurt. This is one of his national command posts in Novi Sad. It's an underground bunker, very hardened. It's difficult to see here, but you'll see it's a direct hit on the bunker. He's trying to aim for a little spot over here, right in here. Moves it in, and has a pretty good shot at hitting that either entry point or vent. It looks like it hits it well. So that's a very difficult target, and it's continued to take down his backup command centers and command and control.

Freedom of movement from lines of communication. We haven't talked a lot about that over the last few days, but we've continued to hit bridges.

This is Medrgovac, a highway bridge in southeast Serbia. It's a fairly large highway bridge. This was a direct hit and causes structural damage to the bridge to the point it's not usable.

His sustainment, Mike talked about that, Captain Doubleday, a little bit. It's not just fielded forces, it's sustainment. Pristina storage depot, you probably remember seeing films of this area before. You can see why you've seen some films before. We'll go into the next one, same type of thing.

[End Video]

We lost our film. Unless we can get that back up -- I'll show it to you in a bit.

Why don't we stop the film for a minute and then we'll go back. Somebody bumped it back there.

Can you bring the lights up, and we'll have questions.

Q: General, you said that, excuse me, Mike said that this would bring the total number of planes deployed or about to deploy to 769. What's the allied force...

Major General Wald: They're at over 320. So the total is about 1,089 with that new group coming in.

Any other questions? If not, we can go for Memorial Day weekend.

Q: General, about the airdrops, I realize Mike said there would be some type of notice, I guess, from the people dropping the...

Major General Wald: What NATO has asked for is that those individual private organizations that are going to fly the airdrops -- if they would notify NATO, [then] their flights would be placed on the Air Tasking Order as information for the NATO air crew, and then they could deconflict, at least know where they're going to be. And I think they're going to have a monitoring frequency of some sort they can listen to. So if they let us know where they're going to be, we'll do our best to stay clear of them, and that will help us to make sure there's no accidents from [our] end of it.

Q: Could that disrupt our plans, though, the NATO plans for...

Major General Wald: I don't see it as disrupting our plans at all.

Q:...for information.

Major General Wald: It's mainly information, deconflicting, and [if] we see an airplane flying out there, it will be good for us to know exactly who they are and what they're doing. We have no problem operating around them.

Q: Do you know who some of these groups are, these...

Major General Wald: USAID is working with a group of pilots from Moldova that would fly a Russian aircraft in, and then the Russians, Swiss and Greeks have a consortium that has been considering doing this as well.

Q: A followup on that subject again. Once again then, NATO will in no way cooperate by safeguarding, escorting. The only involvement that NATO will have in any airdrops will be to coordinate those flights so that they're safely...

Major General Wald: We're not going to coordinate them. We are going to ask for information of where they'll be -- and the more information we have, the better -- but we're not going to fly combat air patrol. We're not going to escort them. But I will say that if the Serbs try to fly during that period with their aircraft, they'll be just as vulnerable as they would have been before to be shot down, and we can tell the difference between a transport and a different type of aircraft, obviously.

Q: So without deliberately escorting, NATO could in fact take out any threat...

Major General Wald: The consequence of the fact that we are not letting the Serbs fly will give them some solace. But the fact of the matter is, we don't stop them from shooting SAMs or AAA either.

Q: Have you seen anything in the air photographs with regard to the viability of those that are camped in the mountains? Any changes? Have you done any body counts, counts of the people that are in these camps, etc., to tell us the kind of, what their status is as far as their health is concerned?

Major General Wald: The only counting we've heard is from either humanitarian organizations that have had access to them, or reports of refugees coming out of Kosovo, or with different types of imagery trying to count. But we have no knowledge or actual data to tell you exactly how many are in certain camps.

Q: Nothing from the imagery, huh?

Major General Wald: The imagery itself shows you large groups at some times, but I haven't seen any of those groups late[ly], Bill, that I could tell you the exact numbers.

Q: I have an unrelated question, I don't know who would take this. But Hun Sen of Cambodia is at West Point today for the graduation of his son, and there's been some concern on Capitol Hill saying that he should have been handed an indictment, not a visa. I'm just wondering if there's any reaction to the former senior official in the Khmer Rouge now...

Major General Wald: That's certainly not my question. I can tell you that. (Laughter) And I'm not sure if -- Captain Doubleday, maybe they can get back to you.

Q: Thank you, General.

Major General Wald: Thank you very much. Have a nice weekend.

Captain Doubleday: We're certainly aware of the young man who is graduating today from West Point. Our interest, of course, is in him as an individual. He's been attending the school, has done very well, well respected student. He's part of a program that has been going on at West Point for many years which is the International Cadet Program. There are 36 students that have been attending the school from 18 countries. Seven of those are going to graduate today. They come from Turkey, from Trinidad, from Cambodia, from Barbados, from Bulgaria, from Poland, and from Estonia. And so our focus is on the young man who has done very well and in a very challenging school.

Press: Thank you.

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