Also participating: Capt. Stephen Pietropaoli, USN, Spec. Asst. for Public Affairs, JCS
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Sorry we're late.
Welcome back from Paris, Charlie.
I'm going to talk about several things. First, bring you up to date on the humanitarian situation. Second, bring you up to date on some recent deployment decisions. Then third, turn it over to Captain Pietropaoli who's going to brief some slides for you. Then we'll take some questions.
First on the humanitarian situation. A C-17 left Dover Air Force base about two hours ago with the first shipment of the 500,000 humanitarian daily rations that we're going to ship to Albania.
You saw these yesterday, but this is a packet that holds enough food to feed one refugee for a day. It's about 2,200 calories, and it is all -- it is non-meat so it can be eaten by people of all faiths. We've been distributing these since 1993 around the world.
This C-17 that left Dover this afternoon had about 30,000 of these HDRs, the humanitarian daily rations. We are also dispatching today a C-5 carrying unloading equipment -- a 60,000-pound loader, four forklifts and other cargo handling equipment -- that will go to Italy and then into Albania as necessary to help unload the humanitarian goods that are flowing in there.
Another C-17 will leave Dover today carrying a Tanker Airlift Control Element (TALCE) which is a team of people with equipment who set up airport operations and help manage the traffic flow in airports on short notice.
Then throughout the rest of the week we will contract with a series of private companies for 747s to carry more humanitarian daily rations over to Albania as we get the full 500,000 over.
In addition, the European Command is going to begin shipping 80 U.S. military trucks and 30 State Department-purchased trucks to Albania to help move supplies from ports and airports to the people who need them.
In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, we also are in the process of delivering 200 large tents that can sleep 30 people each; 8,000 sleeping bags; 3,000 blankets; and 1,500 cots. In addition, we have another 700 of these large tents on pallets in California ready to go over as soon as we can get them there, or get them into Macedonia and distributed.
The Marines in the 24th MEU -- Marine Expeditionary Unit -- are on board ship now in the area, and they will dispatch a team of 24 into both Macedonia and Albania to help NATO do its assessment of the humanitarian operations there.
As you know, NATO announced this morning that it was taking a number of steps to address the humanitarian problems in both FYROM and in Albania. Those involve instructing General Michael Jackson, the British Commander of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, to take on the humanitarian organization, set up an infrastructure and help deal with the humanitarian problem in Macedonia. Also NATO is going to come up with a concept of operations to send a NATO force to Albania to deal with the humanitarian issues. I assume that while working with international organizations they'll deal with a whole spectrum of problems involving sanitation, water, food, shelter and medical care.
So that's the update on the humanitarian side.
In terms of deployments, the Secretary has approved the redirection of the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT battle group to the European theater for participation in Operation ALLIED FORCE. The TR is supposed to arrive in the Adriatic on the 5th of April. She is accompanied by a number of ships, which I ran through yesterday, and you can get from DDI if you need the list again.
The TR, as you know, was supposed to go to the Gulf to relieve the ENTERPRISE by the end of the month. Instead, the KITTY HAWK, which is based in Japan, will go to the Gulf to replace the ENTERPRISE and to support our operations in SOUTHERN WATCH.
Finally, the F-117s left Holloman this morning at about 10:00 o'clock. As I announced, we are doubling the number of F-117s in Operation ALLIED FORCE from 12 to 24, and they will arrive tomorrow and be able to begin their operations shortly afterwards.
With that, let me turn it over to Captain Pietropaoli, and then I'll come back and answer your questions.
Q: ...24 Marines each, or 24 total Marines?
A: (Bacon) It's one team of 24 Marines that is going to survey the situation in both Macedonia and in Albania.
Q: The TALCE is going to Tirana?
A: (Bacon) The TALCE is going to Tirana, yes. I suppose if it's decided it should deploy to another airport, it could go there, but Tirana does have international air traffic in and out of it. But it will be there just to help speed the flow of goods coming into Albania.
Q: Is this C-17 going to go to Tirana with the meals, or is it going to take them to Italy to be redistributed by...
A: (Bacon) The issue right now is sequencing flights into Albania. So the C-17 will actually go to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, and from there to Falconara Airfield in Italy. There the load will be -- either the C-17 will be called to go forward into Tirana or the load will be broken down into smaller planes, C-130s, and taken in as time permits. But they're in the process now of trying to sequence all of the aid coming into Albania in a way that is not counterproductive.
Q: As long as we're doing the deployments now -- the 117s, are they going into Italy or are they going somewhere else?
A: (Bacon) They're going to Spangdahlem, I think, in Germany. The 117s.
Q: Also with the deployment, since there are four TLAM shooters with the TR, and there are six already assigned to the operation in the Mediterranean/Adriatic, would that then increase the number of TLAM shooters to ten, or are you going to pull some of the ones that are already there?
A: (Bacon) I know of no plans to pull back the number of TLAM shooters at this time.
Q: So essentially you're increasing the TLAM shooters from six to ten.
A: (Bacon) That's what will happen over the short term, I believe.
A: (Pietropaoli) ...look at force levels in the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean for support of ALLIED FORCE in general, and there may be -- we have often split up ships from battle groups and moved ships into the Persian Gulf, leaving the remaining battle group in the Mediterranean, and vice versa. So the battle group need not remain intact. So it might not necessarily be a plus-up in the number of Tomahawk shooters. I don't expect to see any reduction.
A: (Bacon) We're going to turn it over to Captain Pietropaoli, and then I'll come back.
Q: You mentioned the decision about the Roosevelt. Have you made a decision about the Apaches or about any form of artillery?
A: (Bacon) That remains under consideration, but as I said, that's a longer process because it will have to be approved by NATO. But it remains under consideration, and I would expect we'll have something to say on that relatively soon.
A: (Pietropaoli) You might recognize this from the other day. It surprisingly is one of the more popular slides from that briefing, so we thought we'd bring it back, principally just as a reminder here, to give you an update, and forecast a little bit.
As you saw, we were severely affected by weather in the last few days, continuing here. That trend continues today. However, we are hoping to see and expecting to see a clearing trend over the Yugoslavian airspace in the days ahead.
As everyone I think here knows and has reported already, weather is never expected to be good this time of year in the Balkans. It was planned for, anticipated, and as we've told you, we've had work-arounds with other weapons that are not weather-dependent. However, it would be accurate to say that it has had an impact on our operations, particularly with respect to TACAIR which has to be able to see the targets before they can hit them.
Finally, the other slide that was of some use, it appears, from the feedback we got, was battle damage assessment. I know you would like to have imagery of the targets and the damage that was done. Unfortunately, the weather I mentioned a moment ago, which does affect our ability to hit targets, also affects our ability to get imagery for you to see, and hampers our targeting efforts with respect to that.
What we can give you at this point -- same categories you saw the other day. Some change. Some of you have seen BDA in the form of television pictures coming out of Belgrade; you've seen BDA from Brussels. The operational level of detail -- the cockpit video they've been releasing there -- is more available to the operational commander in theater, frankly, than we've got back here, so you're going to see your best, most recent information coming out of there.
But our assessments back here, based upon reports from the theater and our own reports, is that his air defense remains very capable. We have worked it over; we've had great success in suppressing that air defense. But it will take time with as robust and redundant as this air defense system is to work it down for physical damage.
- The fighter inventory has already been told. MiG-29s, principally, their air-to-air fighters have been reduced by half.
- On the command and control side, both at the tactical level in the field and at the higher national level, we've seen strikes on both army and special police headquarters. We believe this will affect their ability to coordinate their actions. These are the command and control facilities for those units who are responsible for some of the worst violence against a civilian population in Kosovo. We will continue to attack that command and control structure.
The police and army units themselves -- the force is conducting hostilities in and around Kosovo. Continue to be high. Again, much of this, if you can't see the targets because of the weather, it's difficult to hit small targets in the field. We continue to work those areas where we can find them. Staging areas. We believe they have suffered losses. We have this from a variety of sources. But, unfortunately, I can't show that for you yet in imagery because of the weather.
Also, we continue to attack those things that sustain their force. As we said from the beginning, you cannot stop this level of violence in Kosovo from air power instantly. But we can certainly work over the ammunition, the fuel, the other elements to sustain those forces that will enable them to continue this violence in the future.
Finally, some of you have seen some imagery released out of Brussels on this as well, the infrastructure, lines of communication, and we continue to work over their fuel distribution points primarily, as opposed to the storage, so that they have difficulty distributing that fuel to their tactical forces.
With that, if there are no questions on these...
Q: Can you clarify what you said about the TLAM shooters? You said this wouldn't necessarily increase the number to ten. Do you plan on pulling four out and just keeping six?
A: (Pietropaoli) As you know, Charlie, we have global commitments here, so we have to take a look. This battle group was intended to relieve the ENTERPRISE battle group which will sail. The details of which ships, if any, sail with KITTY HAWK into the Persian Gulf are still being worked out so that we ensure that we have an appropriate coverage still in Southeast Asia where we have very important interests as well to protect. So they'll work out the balance of naval forces between what we need to support ALLIED FORCE and what we need to continue to defend our interests in the Persian Gulf.
Q: Again, are you saying this is unlikely to increase the number of TLAM shooters?
A: (Pietropaoli) No, I meant to say it was unlikely to reduce the number of TLAM shooters. I think we'll continue a level of effort. But again, depending on load-outs, you can't necessarily look at the number of holes that are in theater and ascertain the precise number of munitions available.
Q: Along the same lines, what are you going to do to compensate for the absence of the KITTY HAWK in the Western Pacific?
A: (Pietropaoli) They're still working on that. As you know, we've done this in the past. We've brought in, either put units on alert back in the United States on a short strip alert, or, not strip alert, but a short tether to flow forward. They have a fairly significant Air Force capability there. All those details I do not have at this time, but we should have them hopefully before the end of the day.
Q: NATO implies that there will be more targets hit in downtown Belgrade. Without compromising OPSEC can you confirm that?
A: (Pietropaoli) As I think has been said clearly from the beginning of this campaign, it will be a sustained campaign. There is no sanctuary within the former Republic of Yugoslavia. We will continue and have continued, frankly, despite the bad weather, to hit a range of targets across Yugoslavia that are both air defense targets and those that support forces in the field.
Q: Last night's attack, we're told seven missiles from U.S. Navy ships. Did all of them impact on target, or were there any misses?
A: (Pietropaoli) Again, without getting into details of the number of targets or aim points on any specific number of missiles or target aim points, we have seen no reports of collateral damage from Belgrade.
As you know, we take collateral damage, civilian casualties, very seriously and we attempt to minimize that in all cases. I've heard nothing -- we've heard nothing coming out of Serbia of reported casualties, unless you've heard something more recently than we have.
Q: Can you try to give a little bit more detail on the BDA that speaks to the VJ and MUP units starting to take losses on personnel and equipment? Can you just try to be more specific on that?
A: (Pietropaoli) I wish I could. Frankly, part of it because of the weather, we do not have good imagery back. We know the things we've tried to hit; in some cases it's a staging area, broad areas targets. As I think they briefed this morning in Brussels, they showed the strikes from Thursday night which included the B-1s with dozens of 500-pound bombs each. But until you can get back some sort of confirmation on what damage is done there, we are extremely conservative in our battle damage assessment. To surmise and tell you what we think is probably going to happen without having been able to actually assess that might wind up being more optimistic, and we're just not prepared to do that.
Q: You keep mentioning imagery. Are you saying that you don't have imagery yourself to make an assessment of what you've done so far? Or you don't have imagery to release to us...
A: (Pietropaoli) The same weather conditions that affect our ability to see the targets, to strike them, affects our ability to see the targets, in many cases, to give you imagery and to determine our own battle -- even if we couldn't release the imagery, to do the damage assessment for you.
Q: But you're making these statements, so...
A: (Pietropaoli) As I said, they'll be conservative. We are unprepared to go out and give you a better assessment, a rosier picture, than we can support based on the limited information or the information we have today. We're working that very hard, but I think you've heard this from DESERT FOX, and you've heard it from before, the last thing we want to do is to tell people we think we've done all this and write a check that in fact we can't cash the next day when we get the imagery and say it wasn't quite as good as we told.
Q: Can you tell us how the degradation of the MUP and the VJ and the infrastructure has affected the operations on the ground in Kosovo. Is there any evidence that hitting these ammo dumps, that hitting these fuel supplies, that hitting these staging areas has decreased the level of the offensive against the...
A: (Pietropaoli) I don't think so. I think what you've got is, as we said from the outset, you can't stop at the unit level the violence that Milosevic's forces are perpetrating, and we're not seeing that. We're not getting reports of tanks stopped in the field yet for lack of gas. That is eventually one of the things we'd like to see happen, but we're not at that point where we have those kinds of reports.
Q: But he's at the point of pretty much completing his mission in Kosovo, isn't he? He's...
A: (Pietropaoli) ...better insight into what his precise objectives are. As near as I can tell, his objective is to unleash a brutality not seen on the continent for 40 years. I don't know precisely what his objectives are.
Q: From what NATO's saying, it appears that he's completing his mission in Kosovo. As a result...
A: (Pietropaoli) I believe NATO said this morning that they expect it will be 10 to 20 days before he could move the population -- I assume the portion of the population that they assess him to want to move out of the country. That was the assessment I heard from Jamie Shea this morning. Ten to 20 days.
Q: Is that essentially a deadline?
Q: Can you give any assessment on when you might have something that will stop these atrocities? When you will have gone far enough, when you can take out tanks that might...
A: (Pietropaoli) I don't have any time limit for you there. I can tell you that we will continue the level of effort as much as we can do. We are bringing in some additional forces. As Mr. Bacon announced, we've got the THEODORE ROOSEVELT coming in. An additional 12 117s will be in theater tomorrow. But in terms of what combination of strikes -- we are going to get, as you saw earlier, some better weather. With additional assets and better weather, we hope to be able to significantly step up the level of attacking his forces.
Q: What has to happen, Steve? If you can explain what has to happen. The fuel has to run out? Can you go through any sort of day-by-day thing that might...
A: (Pietropaoli) I don't think it works that way, Martha. I know it doesn't work that way. This is not going to be -- invariably people have described to me this is going to be a grinding down effort. When you have 40,000 military and security forces deployed in the field in an area the size of Kosovo, a very small area, in and around villages, in and around the civilian population you're trying very hard to protect against this force, it is a very difficult thing to stop those forces in the field. He has a very significant air defense threat, so we have to operate in a way that those pilots can come back and restrike targets the next day.
It's not possible for us to predict the breaking point or the combination of targets that's going to break this. What it's going to be is to continue to wear down that defense.
We may have some synergistic breakthrough, but I don't think we can predict that point, and I certainly wouldn't want to project some date when that might happen and then disappoint everyone by having been too rosy.
Q: By how much is the force overall being increased with the arrival of the ROOSEVELT group and the F-117s? How much more firepower are you bringing into the area and what do you plan to do with it.
A: (Pietropaoli) I think we told you the B-1s have already struck targets. They're able to carry in excess of 60 500-pound bombs apiece, which is a significant attack. You remember from the imagery we had from DESERT FOX, it can do a significant amount of damage to area targets like staging areas. The F-117s have been very effective against the heavily defended targets, and, of course, the THEODORE ROOSEVELT battle group not only has the Tomahawk shooters, which have been quite effective in this campaign, and all weather, but also have an additional 50 or so strike aircraft on deck which will significantly enhance the package NATO has available.
Q: Can you also describe for us what happened on the ground? SFOR apparently blew up a rail line between Serbia and Montenegro and came under fire? Is that what happened?
A: (Pietropaoli) I understand -- just before I came in here I got the word that SFOR had in fact put out some release, but I've not had a chance to see that. That was my understanding, but I've only seen the reports on it, David. I haven't seen the paper yet.
Q: You said -- I believe you said 12 F-117s. Was it not 13?
A: (Pietropaoli) Thirteen are going. I'm sorry. It's an additional 12 plus the one replacement for the one...
Q: ...moving toward more infrastructure, economic targets? You see the downtown strikes in Belgrade. What about the bridges around Belgrade, highway junctures, and power stations?
A: (Pietropaoli) We've had this conversation before. As you know, I won't tell you what the targets are going to be for the obvious reasons. But we're going to continue to strike the targets we think will most effectively cut his ability or reduce his ability to sustain those forces. We've already tried in the infrastructure and industry side, those that would allow him long-term to repair and maintain aircraft and helicopters, etc. In terms of infrastructure that supports the ability to transport material in, that is something we will hit as we feel -- you have a level of effort you want to maintain. If we have target areas with forces in the field that we can hit, we may choose to pick those targets as to how it's going to be most effective that day. That's what the NATO planners are doing.
Q: I can see that with the air defense network. There's going to be endless targets there. But we've done the logistics for the troops and the special police in Kosovo pretty heavily in the past week or so. I don't know how much is remaining.
I wondered about politically-oriented targets that President Clinton talked today about the high price Milosevic would have to pay if he continues these policies. Is that where we're moving? Is that the direction we're moving? Less in Kosovo, more up country?
A: (Pietropaoli) Again, probably more than anybody I'm reluctant to give you any information that might assist President Milosevic in determining what targets to defend best on any given day.
I would only say that I think clearly from both Brussels and from this podium in the past week they've said there isn't any targets other than meeting our civilian casualty and collateral damage requirements, and that they be military targets that are not going to be considered in this campaign.
We have to go after those things, A, that are most effective now in achieving that military objective, of reducing its ability to continue the level of violence in and around Kosovo.
Q: Does that mean buildings where Milosevic might actually be?
A: (Pietropaoli) I won't get into that level of detail.
Q: If it's NATO's estimate that within 10 to 20 days the Serb force can essentially empty Kosovo of the Kosovar Albanians, does that amount for a deadline for NATO to be able to, as you put it...
A: (Pietropaoli) General Clark was very clear yesterday. This isn't a race. This is about a sustained serious campaign. There is a plan. He said again since yesterday that this military objective can be achieved, it will take time, but NATO's pursuing that vigorously.
Q: That doesn't change if all the Kosovar Albanians are out of Kosovo?
A: (Pietropaoli) I'm unaware of any change of the military objective.
Q: Can you give us some help on the three soldiers? Anything new?
A: (Pietropaoli) Unfortunately, Ivan, I do not have any new information on that. As you know, we're very concerned about their welfare. We have heard some assurances from the Yugoslav government publicly that they are being well cared of. We didn't see much reassurance out of the pictures that were shown on TV of those soldiers. We expect them to be released immediately. We don't see any reason for them to be held. We certainly don't see any reason for them to be tried on some charges that are made up in Belgrade. Until they are released, we expect them to be treated humanely under the requirements of the Geneva Convention.
Q: Have you heard from the Yugoslav government about them? You sent a message...
A: (Pietropaoli) That would not be communicated through the military side, I would suspect.
Q: Can I just check if I heard you correctly on the weather earlier in the briefing. You said that this level of bad weather was planned for and anticipated before the campaign began. Is that true?
A: (Pietropaoli) I know the planners who went into planning this campaign are well aware of the very changing and often very bad weather in the Balkans. I don't think anybody went into this campaign optimistically, but I can say that weather of this nature was indeed anticipated as they went into this campaign.
Q: Doesn't that make it even more baffling why (indiscernible) was chosen as the given means of NATO action? I'm aware it's a political decision, but doesn't it make it militarily completely baffling?
A: (Pietropaoli) I can't go back to when the original decisions for ground forces were made, but by the time this Operation ALLIED FORCE began, there was no ground option that could do anything more than the air option to stop the killing in Kosovo. The air option is the best bet to reduce his ability to sustain that effort, and that's what we're about.
Q: The President said yesterday there's a good possibility of achieving your goals by airstrikes. A good possibility remains a possibility. We understand they are (indiscernible) planners in the Pentagon. Are you foreseeing any progress, any plans for the use of ground troops in [Kosovo] if the Commander in Chief asks you to?
A: (Pietropaoli) The situation remains as stated before with respect to U.S. planning, with respect to NATO military staff planning. There are no plans underway for a ground force in Kosovo, U.S. or NATO, except under a permissive environment pursuant to some form of peace agreement that would allow that force to come in -- that NATO-led force.
Q: It was reported today in the Washington Post that the (indiscernible) of your aircraft EA-6B in Turkey to the Balkan theater (indiscernible). I'm wondering why?
A: (Pietropaoli) The Commander in Chief, European Command, has those assets in theater and felt he could move some of those assets, needed to move some of those assets in support of ALLIED FORCE. As we have said from the start, it is a very challenging air defense environment for our pilots, the NATO pilots. The suppression has been one of our most important measures for reducing the risk to the pilots, even as we continue to try to do physical destruction to the integrated air defense system.
Q: According to a map in the Los Angeles Times, U.S. and NATO are making plans to invade Yugoslavia using also Turkey as a stage area for the logistics. Could you please comment
A: (Pietropaoli) I have no information on that.
Q: Can we talk more about these ground forces, and maybe Ken's the right person to do it.
A: (Pietropaoli) Certainly. (Laughter)
Q: ...no change in any plans for use of a ground force, but clearly the thinking is changing here from a peacekeeping force [to] something that you might call a protection force. You say it still has to be a permissive environment, but apparently a signed peace treaty is no longer a precondition. It just has to be an effective (indiscernible) of resistance from the Serb military. Can you explain where this ground force thing is going?
A: (Bacon) Yes. The ground force, the basic thought about use of ground force has not changed. That is that there is not an intention or plan to put a ground force into a combat environment to invade Kosovo.
We have said all along that a ground force would go into a permissive environment. Now this was reasserted, I think, today at NATO when Jamie Shea was asked specifically about reports that there had been consideration of this among the NATO ambassadors of the North Atlantic Council. He said, "I've been at all the meetings and the military advice consistent from the Chairman of the Military Committee and from the Supreme Allied Commander Europe has been that air power will be effective provided that it is given long enough in order to make a telling effect."
That remains the goal. It remains the policy. We believe that we can meet the military goals with air power.
There's been some confusion, some confused reports, I believe, out of NATO today about what is NATO's view of Rambouillet. Secretary Albright plans to issue a statement about the U.S. Government's position on this soon. Maybe she's already done it. But in that statement she plans to say that she has been speaking over the last few days with her foreign ministry colleagues in other NATO countries, and that they all agree that NATO remains determined to achieve the goals that have been set out from the very beginning. Basically, those goals are to stop the offensive, to force a withdrawal of the Serb troops from Kosovo, to allow democratic self-government in Kosovo, to allow a NATO-led international peacekeeping force into Kosovo that will enable the return of the refugees. Those are the goals that are basically set forth in the basic principles of Rambouillet, and they remain the goals.
Q: Does there have to be a peace treaty?
A: (Bacon) Pardon?
Q: Does Milosevic have to sign...
A: (Bacon) We have said that he has to embrace the principles of Rambouillet, the framework. It is different than signing. He has to embrace these principles.
Q: If the Serb army, as a result of the airstrikes, were either, was either unable to continue fighting or started pulling out of Kosovo, that would be enough to meet the conditions for sending in a ground force?
A: (Bacon) I just listed five conditions here, and those are the five conditions that are at the core of the agreement. They have been our conditions from the beginning. They remain NATO's conditions
Q: Secretary General Solona is saying openly that it's his personal opinion that a force is going to have to be put into Kosovo in either a permissive environment or a non-permissive environment, is going to have to go in. What does that say when the leader...
A: (Bacon) Just before I came in here Jamie Shea issued a statement. I urge you to go get that statement. I saw it reported on CNN.
Q: Can you clear up one thing? Let's say, as David suggested, the troops in the area of Kosovo are demolished and can't fight back and maybe even retreat, but you don't have an agreement yet, and you want to get the refugees back in, as Clinton stated yesterday. Would you consider or are you considering or planning for being able to send the refugees back in with a protective force minus an agreement in the hopes of still fulfilling other parts -- not stopping the bombing campaign, but allowing those refugees to go back while you continue the bombing campaign...
A: (Bacon) I can run through these requirements again, but these requirements are basically unchanged.
Q: I'm not saying to stop the whole campaign. Are you saying that you couldn't send the refugees back in until the entire air war is over?
A: (Bacon) I think you have to go back and review again what happened last fall. Last fall massive numbers of refugees left Kosovo because of a Serb attack against them. Two thousand people were murdered by Serb forces last year in Kosovo, and more than 200,000 people became internally displaced within Kosovo, and well over 100,000 people left Kosovo and became refugees in Albania, FYROM and other neighboring countries.
Many of those went back after the October agreement because they believed that Milosevic would live up to his word to withdraw his forces and to stop preying upon Kosovo Albanians. I do not think that people will go back now, after what's happened, without an assurance that there will be an agreement that ends the fighting, a cease-fire, a withdrawal of forces on the one hand -- those are part of our conditions -- and an international NATO-led peacekeeping force on the other hand, that can give them the protection that they did not have last October. I think it's unrealistic to think that any refugees, after what they've been through -- the killing, the pillaging, the murder, the brutality -- would return again to Kosovo without this assurance.
So when we listed these requirements, we listed them in what seems to be a very logical order. Stop the offensive, withdraw the Serb killing forces, agree to democratic self-government, the insertion of an international NATO-led peacekeeping force, and the return of the refugees.
The return of the refugees can only come after the other conditions are met.
Q: Sir, are you concerned about the rising cost of this military conflict? And how do you respond to some estimates that just came out that said that the NATO air campaign has cost some $350 to $500 million in the first nine days?
A: (Bacon) We're primarily concerned about the rising human cost of the Serb brutality, and that's what this campaign is designed to prevent, and we will continue until it stops. I think that the monetary cost is a small consideration beside the appalling human cost that's occurred so far.
Q: There are reports of another bridge being hit in Novi Sad. A, can you confirm that? And, B, can you talk about the importance of, if it's true, of the routes through that city which is north of Belgrade -- what kinds of supplies go through there, what are you trying to accomplish there, what kinds of things are you trying to constrict?
A: (Bacon) Without getting into the mechanics of how these targets are chosen, they have to do with determinations about which transportation lines are militarily useful and which are not. Novi Sad is a transportation nexus and I won't go beyond that.
There have been reports there was at least one cruise missile launched early this morning. I'm not sure of what the target was. Sometimes these targets change during the day. The commander in chief of the operation, the SACEUR, has the ability to make changes on a day-to-day basis.
Q: I'm wondering why the Department of Defense asked the Greek Government to allow 6,000 Turkish troops to be transferred to Skopje by trains via Greece against Serbia? And what happened to your proposal?
A: (Bacon) I'm not aware of that proposal. We'll look into it.
Q: Would you expect the (indiscernible) government to do something like that?
A: (Bacon) Well, I don't think I'll speak for another government.
Q: I was told that last week a Turkish delegation had consultation with Department of Defense regarding deployment of ballistic missiles toward Russia. Do you know what it is about?
A: (Bacon) I have not heard about that. I've been so focused on Kosovo that I haven't been worrying about other important issues.
Q: It's connected with the development of the Balkans because Russia -- they have been so far of the crisis of Kosovo, that's why Turkey...
A: (Bacon) Russia has given assurances that it plans to stay out of this crisis.
Q: Ken, after a week or so we've got 250,000 refugees, 290,000 refugees. There's an estimated 1.9 million ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. In another week we could have the same number? What's your projections on this? Is he still being effective in expelling people?
A: (Bacon) I think it's very clear from everything we know and can see on television, everything you can see on television, everything that your correspondents are reporting from over there, that refugees are continuing to leave.
Q: I mean about the size. Can we...
A: (Bacon) I don't have a projection. You heard what they said at the NATO briefing this morning. Obviously there's an exodus of massive proportions that continues. And I see no reason for it to stop right now because the Serb brutality is continuing.
Q: On the five conditions, condition two. We're told of the Serb killing forces. (indiscernible) withdrawn to the October level and to be garrisoned and those other things. Is that still your position, or has the situation on the ground, has the brutality made it such that the U.S. Government now believes that all Serb forces should be...
A: (Bacon) I'm not sure you're giving an accurate account of Rambouillet. It involved, it had a very firm disarmament regime in it, as well as a troop withdrawal plan that was phased.
I think it's very clear that there can be no return to peaceful conditions, nor can there be any expected return of refugees as long as the Serb forces that have been responsible for this killing remain in Kosovo. No one in their right mind would go back. That's why withdrawal of forces is an important part of this.
Q: There's a report that NATO is considering sending thousands of troops into Albania to stabilize the situation there, or for whatever purposes. The report said perhaps Italian forces might be going.
- Is that true? If so, will the United States be providing airlift for those forces?
- A: First of all, the report is true that NATO is considering that. What NATO said this morning was they have asked the SACEUR to come up with a concept of operations for a humanitarian force in Albania. That force hasn't been defined yet and -- maybe it has by now, but as of 8:30 this morning it hadn't yet been defined. Therefore, it's sort of premature to talk about the size of the force, although the range that was given was six to eight thousand people perhaps.
Now once -- we've been through this before. There's a very elaborate NATO process for planning the size and composition of forces. It involves coming up with a concept of operations. Then they have to go out -- they make a statement of requirements -- and they go out and they ask countries what they're willing to contribute in order to meet the requirements. At that stage -- the requirements are not only in terms of manpower, but they're also in terms of the type of equipment they need, etc., and the length of time it's going to take. So once they get that, they will go out and ask NATO members to respond. I expect that we and other NATO members will respond aggressively to put this force together and get it in there as soon as possible.
What we would be called on to do I think is premature to say.
Q: Are there also plans to augment the NATO forces in Macedonia?
A: (Bacon) At this stage I'm not aware of that. There are 12,000 NATO forces in Macedonia. They've already put their shoulder to the wheel and started working on humanitarian operations. They're setting up tents for the refugees; they're abandoning the barracks they've lived in so the refugees can move into the barracks and have better housing and sanitation care facilities. They're distributing food. They're doing other things to help the refugees. So they have now really a dual task of working on the humanitarian issues on the one hand, and continuing the preparations for putting a force, a peacekeeping force, into Kosovo at the appropriate time.
Q: Can I ask you about the Liman, the Russian ship that is now through the Bosphorous and on its way there? A reconnaissance ship. Is there any fear or concern on the part of NATO that that ship might be used to provide intelligence to Yugoslav forces about activities on U.S. and NATO ships?
A: (Bacon) The Russians have said that they plan to stay out of this conflict, and we take that commitment seriously.
- We have had a lot of experience dealing with Russian intelligence ships. They've been trailing our carrier battle groups for years and years. We know what their capabilities are.
- We also know that the Serbs have a fairly substantial indigenous capability to collect electronic and signals intelligence and other types of intelligence, and they are doing that now. It's one of the reasons that we've had to be so adaptable and flexible in putting together air packages to stay ahead of their defensive operations.
So, obviously, it would be an issue of concern to us if there were active intelligence sharing. I don't know exactly what the value added would be at this stage given the indigenous Serb capabilities.
Q: NATO has issued a warning, I guess, to Milosevic about the possible overthrow of the civilian government in Montenegro. What would NATO do about it? Is there military planning in the process or a plan in place to militarily either prevent or respond to the overthrow of the civilian government in Montenegro?
Q: ...seemed to indicate that NATO would intervene (indiscernible), that NATO would intervene to prevent a coup. Is that U.S. policy?
A: (Bacon) I'll stick with what NATO has said, that there would be a strong reaction to any attempt to interfere with the current government of Montenegro, and I think that you can see from what we're doing now that we have the capability to interdict forces by choking off their supply lines, and we would do that to the best of our ability given the weather. We would rely on air power to do this.
Q: ...stopping the refugees. The...
A: (Bacon) I think that the weather has been an impediment, but weather does not stay bad forever.
Q: Isn't that a little problematic, though, Ken? If it's an internal coup that overthrows the government? I mean how do you stop that? Bomb Montenegro again?
A: (Bacon) We would have to react against Serb forces as aggressively as possible, and we would.
Q: Two questions. The Army has very specific definitions for the words diminish and degrade and destroy -- I think it's like 10 percent, 20 percent, and 30 percent. Do these apply in this conflict?
A: (Bacon) I don't know what the Army definitions are, so I guess I better not say whether they apply or not.
Q: And in the planning stages...
A: (Bacon) I'm sure you have given an accurate account of their definition, but...
Q: I'm just repeating what I'm told.
A: (Bacon) I think I should be careful with embracing definitions I haven't seen.
Q: When you all were, when you were doing your planning for this and you were thinking about attacking ammunition and petroleum reserves, was there any algorithm developed saying if we can bomb X amount of ammunition things in 12 days we'll begin to see an impact?
A: (Bacon) No.
Q: ...haphazard, let's bomb it, and see what happens?
A: (Bacon) This was not a formalistic approach. It's difficult to fight battles, particularly when you have such enemies as fickle weather and rugged terrain, and to come up with an algorithm that defines exactly how many days it's going to take to achieve what you set out to achieve.
Q: It's just frustrating because we keep being told to be patient, and it almost feels like you guys know how long we should be patient for, but you haven't told us yet.
A: (Bacon) No. We've been very clear that we don't know how long. We've been very clear that this can take time and that we have to give it the time that's going to be required.
Q: If you don't have the images, and this might be better for Captain Pietropaoli, to evaluate the damage that's been inflicted on the VJ and MUP units, how can you make the evaluation that they started to take losses in personnel and equipment?
A: (Bacon) There are many ways to assemble information. Not all of them lead to pictures that can be shown on a briefing board or on television, but there are many ways to gather information, and we aggressively gather it from all sources.
Q: Can you describe in a little more detail what losses you think you may have inflicted and how?
A: (Bacon) In terms of numbers, numbers of either tanks or APCs or artillery pieces or people, we do not have right now good measurements of that that we could give you. That is one of the things you lose by not having a good view of what happens on the battlefield, particularly when you're dealing with armored equipment.
I think in more general terms, we do have indications, and remember we monitor press reports like you do, and we monitor refugees coming out, and we monitor other sources of information. But we have information that there have been losses of personnel and equipment, but we can't quantify them. We have information that suggests that the leadership is more dispersed and hunkered down, which could make command and control more difficult, more tenuous. And we see also signs that the army is having a harder and harder time mobilizing reserves. And the fact that it has mobilized reserves suggests that it is feeling some pressure. The fact that it's having a hard time mobilizing reserves suggests that there is some public concern about what's happening in Serbia today.
Q: Along those same lines, Ken, is there an indication at all that the Bosnian Serb army forces are either entering or considering entering the fray there?
A: (Bacon) I do not have information about that.
Q: Can you talk about what you've seen today in terms of the disposition of Serb forces? Are there more coming down into the region. Are they dispersing elsewhere? Also can you talk about what sort of things might have been struck in the last 24 hours that you haven't talked about before?
A: (Bacon) Those questions are both very easy to answer. The weather has been probably at its nadir, at its very worst over the last 24 or 48 hours. It was lousy yesterday. Strikes were dramatically curtailed because of that. You saw the most dramatic action on television. Because the weather has been so bad, it's very difficult for us to measure what's happening on the ground.
Q: Any comment on the Wall Street Journal story that U.S. and NATO must prepare invasion of Serbia via (indiscernible) in the region, all the way to Belgrade using (indiscernible)? It was yesterday.
A: (Bacon) I have a comment on all newspaper stories that say we're planning to invade Kosovo or Yugoslavia. We are not. Our intentions have been very clear from the beginning. That is that we will send a force in to enforce a peace agreement, and that we'll go in not in a combative way.
Q: Can we assume that the A-10s still have not been used at all?
A: (Bacon) A-10s have been used, as I explained yesterday, in several fundamental ways. I don't believe they've dropped ordnance yet; you may know for sure. But they have been used primarily in their observer mission, their OA-10 mission, because of their loitering capability. They've been used in ways that have helped other planes vector themselves in to attack.
Q: Why is there a holdup in the Apaches? Is there some reluctance on the part of NATO to send these helicopters in?
A: (Bacon) I don't think that it's reached the NATO planning phase yet, I mean the formal NATO approval process yet. I would expect action to be forthcoming on that. That's all I can say at this stage.
Q: ...days, a week?
A: (Bacon) I would expect relatively soon it will be into the NATO process.
Press: Thank you.