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DoD News Briefing, Wednesday, March 31, 1999 - 3:05 p.m.

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
March 31, 1999 3:05 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

I want to bring you up to date on two elements of our continuing operations. The first is on the humanitarian side, and the second is on the operational side.

As you know, the White House announced earlier today that the Defense Department will provide $25 million to support humanitarian relief. This will be in the form of supplies, and of course we'll be providing services as well. This is on top of $25 million that had already been earmarked for this back in January. That money is being spent out.

The European Command has an assessment team in Albania now. That team is looking at infrastructure -- airports, roads, ports, other facilities that would need to be understood for the movement of humanitarian aid.

In addition, the State Department is sending a Disaster Assistance Relief Team to Albania. I think the first person in that team may already be there. There will be a total of seven on site by the weekend, and they will work with the U.N. and other non-government organizations to assess what the humanitarian needs are and then try to get the U.S. linked up with other countries and other organizations to meet those needs.

The European Command has been instructed by the Secretary of Defense to be prepared to provide the following types of services or assistance. First, airlift with both helicopters or fixed wing aircraft. Second, air traffic control elements for the operations that we assume will be underway in Albania. There's something called a TALCE, which is Tanker Airlift Control Element, an Air Force unit that's deployed to remote locations. We've deployed them to Africa; we've deployed them to other places in the world where there have been earthquakes or natural disasters to help organize the aircraft and take care of the air traffic control.

Various goods and services that might be necessary. We have already pinpointed 250,000 humanitarian daily rations, which is a packet of food designed to provide a refugee the equivalent of three meals a day. We've also identified 140 tents in the European Command, several hundred tents in the United States that we can send over quickly. And we just learned today that the Air Force is in the process of taking down all its tents at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, because the airmen are moving into dormitories, and, therefore, these tents could possibly be available for use in Albania or Macedonia. We're investigating the shape, condition, and whereabouts of those tents now.

Obviously we will also identify all the ways we can to get food, shelter, medical supplies to the refugees in both Albania and in Macedonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

The Defense Department stands ready to provide whatever assistance we can. The degree of that assistance, the demand for help, will become clearer as a result of these assessment teams.

Many of you may have read the transcript of Julia Taft's briefing today at the Foreign Press Center. She's the Assistant Secretary of State for Refugees. She laid out again the fact that we had already prepositioned enough food to feed 400,000 people for six months in the Balkans area. That food is in a number of locations, some of which are in Kosovo, some in Montenegro, some actually in Belgrade. The UNHCR and other organizations will be working on ways to get that food to the proper people.

Right now there is enough food in Albania to feed approximately 100,000 people for several weeks. That is food that was prepositioned there before this crisis began with the expectation that it might be needed sometime soon.

On the operational side, operations are underway over Kosovo today. Last night NATO forces struck the headquarters of the Special Unit Corps in Belgrade. The Special Unit Corps is a--it's the Yugoslav equivalent to our Special Forces. It's an elite group that is now working in Kosovo and provides reconnaissance and other special forces support to the Yugoslav army, or the VJ.

We also have preliminary reports, but no overhead reconnaissance yet, suggesting that we have struck several tanks. NATO forces have been striking tanks successfully, we believe, in Kosovo and other heavy armored and military vehicles. As I say, we have preliminary reports on that, but we do not yet have imagery to confirm that because the weather continues to be quite bad with very low ceilings and heavy clouds.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: What did you strike them with? The tanks?

A: I do not know the precise weapons that they were struck with.

Q: Not A-10s?

A: No, they were not A-10s. Nor do I know whether they were American planes that struck them. This is an allied effort, and there are allied strike packages flying every day.

Q: I was checking the forecast a couple of hours ago, and the latest observation over Belgrade. I was given visibility of seven miles, a ceiling of 10,000 feet, broken clouds. Are we going to operate below 10,000 feet? The Joint Chiefs said everything was above 15,000 basically yesterday.

And any idea when you plan to use the A-10s against the armor?

A: Ivan, I've tried to make it very clear that we are not going to announce from this podium, certainly I'm not going to announce, the ways in which we will deploy our forces, the altitudes at which we'll be flying, or the types of aircraft that we'll be flying at particular altitudes. I just don't think it makes sense to do that. You may think that, but I'm not going to make such an announcement. So those types of operational details are "verboten" from this podium as far as I'm concerned.

Q: Are you expanding the target sets as NATO indicated this morning? And what is the purpose, if you are?

A: We are expanding the target set. We are moving I'd say almost daily to a broader set of targets which will be struck, weather permitting -- weather and other conditions permitting. And the purpose of the target set, frankly, is to help us move closer to achieving our military goal, which is to further degrade and diminish the opportunity of the Yugoslav forces to operate. We will do this by attacking command and control, and we'll attack all the facilities needed to support, fuel, and feed the forces. We will, as rapidly as we can, choke them off.

Q: Will that include hitting railroads, since that would be a military target, and hitting bridges?

A: Thelma, I think you'll appreciate that it doesn't make sense for me to announce any targets prospectively, and to speculate about what might be happening in the future.

Q: Because civilians in Yugoslavia are worrying about that. You can't rule it out as a civilian target as opposed to a military target?

A: If civilians are worried about military action in Yugoslavia they should tell their President that he can stop this by withdrawing his troops from Kosovo, by stopping the killing, and by agreeing to the conditions and the agreement that would bring peace and autonomy to Kosovo.

Q: You talked about a huge amount of food that had been prepositioned in I think you said Belgrade, Montenegro and Kosovo. There's no access to any of that, I would think, right?

A: I said that enough food to feed 400,000 people for approximately six months had been prepositioned in the area. Some of that food happens to be in Kosovo, Montenegro and Belgrade.

I will remind you that all during the Bosnia crisis there was a lot of food funneled through Belgrade that was delivered by NGOs, by the World Food Program, by the UNHCR, to people in Bosnia. So our hope is that there will be ways for the UNHCR and other international relief organizations to gain access to some or all of this food and to deliver it.

Should that not be the case, there is in addition, quite a lot of food already in Albania, and there is some in Macedonia as well. And as I indicated, we will be working with other countries and with the international organizations to bring more food there as quickly as possible.

We have food; we know how to get it to people. But beyond that, the international relief organizations are highly skilled at this. This is what they do on a day-to-day basis, in Africa, all over the world, wherever there's a disaster. There's a highly developed private and international network to get food to people in need, and we will work with them to make sure the needs are met.

Q: Was the special forces headquarters actually in Belgrade proper? If so, would that be the first time a target's been struck in the city?

A: It was not in downtown Belgrade. I believe it was the closest to downtown Belgrade that has been struck to date.

Q: Does the military strategy that you enunciated include the goal of stopping the killing in Kosovo, or does it stop short of that?

A: Jamie, the strategy from the very beginning, the military strategy that we can accomplish through military means has been to degrade, diminish, chip away at the forces, to make the price very high. Eventually that will lead to an end to the murderous ways in Kosovo. And we think it will eventually convince Slobodan Milosevic that the price he is paying in terms of losing his military will be high enough to force him to accept a peace, an end to this, which he's refused to do so far. That has always been the military goal.

The military goal is part of achieving a larger political and diplomatic goal. It is a means to achieving a larger goal.

Q: But by the time that happens, will there be anyone left in Kosovo to protect?

A: I think that the history of the ebb and flow of violence in Kosovo and this area generally is that people move out as they did last fall in the face of Milosevic's military machine, when houses were being burned and people were being massacred. They moved out first into the hills in Kosovo, then out of Kosovo all together into FYROM and into Albania and Montenegro.

When the conditions settled down after the diplomatic breakthrough with Ambassador Holbrooke, they came back. They basically think of themselves as Kosovars, and they want to live in Kosovo.

I have every reason to believe that once we stabilize the situation and provide a safe environment for these people, they will return home and the international community will help them rebuild their houses and their lives.

I wish that they had never been moved out. Everybody wishes that. Everybody wishes that we could have solved this with no violence. But this was a choice that Milosevic made; this is a choice that Milosevic is sticking with, and this is the violence and brutality that Milosevic seems determined to continue.

Our goal, our military goal is to choke off his ability to continue this brutality. We will do that. We will grind away at it, as Admiral Fry said yesterday, until the job is done.

Q: Can I a couple of follow-ups...

A: Just let me get somebody in the second row. Tony?

Q: Is the ability to grind away at the Yugoslav army diminished somewhat because there is a perceived shortage of air-launched cruise missiles?

A: No.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about how you can get quicker stocks over there to England for the B-52s?

A: I think it should be obvious to everybody that we're using a very wide range of munitions. We have, first of all, three very reliable ways of striking in all weather conditions, and they involve sea-launched cruise missiles, they involve air-launched cruise missiles, and they involve the JDAM or the Joint Direct Attack Munition which is being dropped now by the B-2 bombers.

We have ample supplies of all three of them right now. The most limited supplies are of the conventional air-launched cruise missiles, but we do have enough to continue striking high value targets and we will continue to do that.

Q: How long will it take to take a nuclear cruise missile and translate it into a conventional one? Are we talking months or a matter of days if you needed them?

A: It takes a fair amount of time. The production line for these has been shut down. The Air Force has a proposal to start it up again. I assume that that will begin relatively soon. But we are not talking about an instant solution. It will take a number of months before we can start producing new ones.

Q: Reporters in Yugoslavia have been taken to a so-called appliance factory that allegedly makes vacuums and stoves called the Sloboda Factory and it's in a place called Cacak.

Do you have any knowledge of whether this--it was apparently damaged in a strike. Do you have any knowledge of this particular target and whether there may have been a mistake on the part of NATO as to whether this was a military target?

A: With all due respect to the free press of Yugoslavia, I don't know with what degree of accuracy to take their report. We have struck a major ammunition manufacturing plant in that town, and I believe we struck it successfully. I'm not aware that there was a lot of collateral damage, but I don't have a complete picture on that.

I do not know whether they were allowed to see all of the plant or whether they were just taken to the laundromat in the front of the plant.

Q: The picture in Kosovo, can you tell yet whether it appears that the Serbian forces are sweeping broadly through the province or whether they are just sort of clearing out various pockets that they may think were KLA strongholds, and there may be parts that are populated with Albanians that are being sort of left untouched?

A: First of all, Albanians used to comprise 90 percent of the population of Kosovo, so they're pretty much everywhere. My impression is that they're doing both of what you mentioned. They are attacking KLA strongholds, and they are sweeping rather broadly through the province.

Q: Admirals Wilson and Fry yesterday said there were more than 300 tanks in and around Kosovo, and if I heard correctly, that up until yesterday NATO was not attacking the tanks close to the villages doing the most damage to the villages. You said now that you hit "several tanks," I believe you said. That's a far cry from 300. Are we going to go after the tanks more in earnest?

A: It would be hard to hit--there are actually 400 tanks in and round Kosovo. I don't think that anybody would expect to hit them all at once. But we are, as we have said many times, systematically attacking these forces and we will continue to do that.

Q: Are the UAVs flying? Are they up? If so, how are we using them?

A: Weather permitting, I believe the Predator is ready to go. I don't think the Hunter is on-line yet.

Q: The humanitarian relief that you described is for people who have obviously left Kosovo. What about the condition of the people who are still in, refugees from their own homes who are still in Kosovo. Is there anything the U.S. Defense Department is planning to do to help them?

A: They are the responsibility of the Yugoslav government. You can see every day how the Yugoslav government is exercising that responsibility for the welfare of its citizens.

It is difficult for us right now to help those refugees. It may become possible to find ways to do that in the future. Right now it is, I think it would be--the only way to do it would be through air drops, and I think that it's not a very hospitable area through which to fly air drops at this time. In addition, given the fact that the Yugoslav forces largely control the ground, we would have absolutely no assurance that the food or medical supplies would get into the hands of the people who need it most desperately.

Q: The NAC has rejected a number of the targets that General Clark put forward for a so-called phase three. Do you know why they were rejected, and is the Pentagon concerned about that?

A: I'm not sure that your statement is accurate.

Q: Ken, what's the makeup of the ships the Russian Navy is sending to the Mediterranean? What could their mission possibly be, and how does that complicate things?

A: First of all, we don't know exactly where these ships are going. I don't have a list of the ships they're sending. I understand there are seven ships and it includes an intelligence-gathering ship.

Let me just make a couple of comments about this. First of all, we of course have decades of history in dealing with Russian intelligence-gathering ships. They used to have one behind every aircraft carrier deployed on the seven seas, so we know what their capabilities are, and we know how to deal with them.

Second, President Yeltsin has said that the Russians do not plan to get involved in this conflict. Since that is a very reasonable tack for the Russians to take, we take him at his work on that.

Beyond that, I think it's probably not worth speculating until we see where the ships go and what they do.

Q: Is it potentially possible that this intelligence-gathering ship could pass information to Yugoslav forces that would be beneficial to them about NATO operations?

A: It's my understanding--the Yugoslav forces have a very well developed information gathering system as it is. It begins with watching televised reports of planes flying from airports around Europe; it probably includes some observers they have near the airports; it certainly includes Soviet-designed equipment that they have for collecting various types of information within Yugoslavia. My guess is that there wouldn't be a huge amount of value added.

We don't know what the purpose of this deployment is; we don't know where it's going. There are--one possible reason for the deployment is for the Russians to upgrade their own information about our operations. They haven't been as active on the seas recently as they used to be, and they may want to create their own databases.

But I have talked to people in the Navy about this and people in our intelligence community, and everybody is quite confident that we can deal with whatever the ship may be doing.

Q: Do you have any more information on where the KLA is, the shape their forces are in, and if they are in any way--there have been some reports of fighting in the streets of Pristina.

A: I do not have very precise information, but I can give you a couple of general comments.

One, there is some resistance, despite the heavy assault they're under.

Two, clearly the assault has been damaging to the KLA.

Three, despite that, the KLA continues to recruit people, and it continues to maintain operations. But, of course, it is not an easy environment for them to operate within today.

Q: (Inaudible)

A: There have been conflicting reports in the press about executions. The latest reports I've seen tend to say that some of the leaders reported earlier to have been executed are in fact alive. I don't know the veracity of these reports, but I say there have been conflicting reports.

Q: Ken, are you in the posture now of actually encouraging Kosovar Albanians to leave Kosovo because the alternative is to stay and be under the thumb of Yugoslav forces? Is it actually not preferable for the United States if these people leave?

A: We're not in the posture of encouraging them. They're leaving because the alternative is to be murdered or starved by Milosevic. I think this is a rational human choice they're making. I'm not sure the question of the U.S. encouraging them is the right approach.

They are fleeing a murder machine. That's why we see this incredible flood of refugees, over 100,000 in the last six or seven days, coming out of Kosovo.

Q: A follow-up on John's question. Given all of that, does the Alliance think it can ever realistically achieve its military goal as long as Milosevic remains in power?

A: Yes.

Q: Can you address the perception that the NATO mission is failing in its primary objective, which is to make life better for the Kosovar Albanians? Perhaps offer an explanation about...

A: The NATO mission is a military mission. It has a military goal which we have stated from this podium many times, on which Admiral Fry briefed yesterday.

The military goal is a means to reaching larger diplomatic or political goals. We had hoped never to have to invoke force in and around Kosovo, but it was Slobodan Milosevic who chose force as the answer to the problems there. He refused peace, and he chose force. So we will prosecute the use of force as effectively and as long as possible to achieve our military goal.

Q: Could you elaborate a bit on the buildup of food supplies for refugees, which you talked about earlier, particularly in Albania, where you said there was food for several hundred thousand refugees for several weeks.

Could you talk a bit about where that food came from and its buildup, and does that mean that the U.S. had anticipated that there would be massive refugee flows coming out of Kosovo, which is the logical entry point for Albania.

A: We certainly realized that there was the possibility for massive refugee flows, and we realized that because it's happened in the past. This cycle of violence and repression is not new. This is not the first chapter. We hope it will be the last chapter. That's the reason for this military action; [it] is to make sure this is the last chapter, that there won't be more after this.

As I said, there have been times in the past, most recently last fall, when Kosovars were killed and repressed and forced out of their homes. They had to watch their homes be burned. They had to watch family members be killed, and they left Kosovo. They came back. I should say some left Kosovo; some, of course, moved to the hills, but they tried to come back to their homes when the conditions became more peaceful.

So the NGOs, the members of NATO, and the United States certainly knew that this cycle of violence, of repression and expulsion, this exodus of refugees, was a possibility and could happen again, and that's one of the reasons why large amounts of food were repositioned in the area.

Q: The Russian Chief of Staff General Kvshnin said today that the Yugoslav army (inaudible) shot down at least eight NATO planes. NATO says that only one plane was shot down. How can you explain the significant difference.

A: Serb propaganda. (Laughter)

Q: Has General Clark received authority yet to strike targets in downtown Belgrade?

A: I'm not going to get into what General Clark has received, what he's likely to do in the future and what he's not. It should be clear to everybody that NATO has cleared a broader set of targets, and it has done this progressively in order to tighten NATO's noose on Milosevic. We will continue to pursue that policy.

Q: Is there anywhere in Yugoslavia that's off-limits to NATO airstrikes?

A: General Clark has said there is no sanctuary.

Q:...it looks like will be going on for a few more days. Is there any reconsideration of bringing in the carrier battle group when it passes? Actually using it?

A: The carrier battle group will arrive early in the Mediterranean. Its assignment to this theater remains a possibility, but no decision has been made.

Q: Do you know if it's going to restock cruise missiles? Is that planned? Is that part of their mission?

A: Of course, it arrives with--in fact the members of the battle group left before the carrier did, because not all can go as fast as the carrier, so they should all arrive at the same time. Members of this battle group, of course, do have cruise missiles. I think there are two cruisers and a destroyer and other assets as well.

Q: A follow-up on that. General Clark has put in a formal request for the ROOSEVELT. Is that true?

A: General Clark certainly has raised the possibility that the ROOSEVELT could be used in his operation.

Q: Back to the KLA. Are you aware of any request from KLA leadership for air drops? And if not, if you would receive such a request, what's the likelihood that the U.S. or NATO would respond favorably?

A: I'm not aware of requests from the KLA for air drops. I can certainly appreciate the fact that they might want support, but I'm not aware of specific requests, and I don't think I'll answer a hypothetical question.

I will point out what I said earlier, that a problem with air drops of food or anything else is making sure it gets into the right hands in an area that's largely controlled by the Yugoslav army and Yugoslav special police.

Q: One of the Kosovar Albanian leaders said on German television in the last day or two that the Serbs have created three concentration camps including one in the Pristina stadium that he said was holding 100,000 people. Through aerial photography or any other means, has the United States found any evidence to confirm anything like that?

A: One, that would not surprise me. Certainly it would repeat the pattern of behavior in Bosnia. But having said that, I'm not aware of any evidence that that has happened. It doesn't mean it hasn't happened. The cloud cover has been very unhelpful to our intelligence gathering in the area, and we have not been able to track some things as well as we would like.

Q: There have been reports that the Yugoslav military leadership, and perhaps the political leadership, has retreated to bunkers that were constructed for the possibility of nuclear war.

Are there any targets in Yugoslavia that are beyond the capabilities of NATO or American conventional weapons?

A: I don't know the answer to that question. We do have a whole class of weapons that has been designed to attack very hardened or underground bunkers, a class of conventional weapons that have penetrating devices on the front and have significant explosive power. So we certainly do have the capability to attack certain types of bunkers.

Q: Is it fair to say that in the first five days of the operation that the most plentiful sort of weapon, the laser-guided bomb dropped from an F-15, say, has been largely negated because of the weather, and that as the weather clears up there will be greater reliance on those types of weapons?

A: There have been openings in the bad weather most nights, and every night we have been able to launch some laser-guided weapons. So I don't believe there's any night that we've been completely blanked out. A number of laser-guided weapons have been dropped. I can't give you an accounting at this stage. But they are being dropped, and they're being dropped successfully.

In addition, we, as I said earlier, do have an all-weather capability, and we are using that as well.

Q: Are any of the 5,000 pound so-called bunker-busting bombs in the theater? GBU-28, I think.

A: Yeah, the GBU-28 and the -37. I don't have an answer to that question.

Q: Ken, the attacks on the tanks you mentioned, which I believe were the first you talked about, can you tell us, night or day? Can you tell us whether they were targets of opportunity or planned things? Can you tell us what the tanks were doing when they were struck.

A: I don't have the answer to those questions.

In general, our goal is to, as we've said many times, is to shift our ability toward attacking armor and troops on the ground, and we have begun to attack staging areas and other places where we find these tanks. The targeting has been complicated by the fact that they are putting some of their equipment near schools and mosques and other places.

Q: A related question. The NATO briefing this morning talked about a valley, the Pagarusa Valley, or something, that had three designated military units along it shelling civilian populations into it. When you have a case like that where you have the friendlies separated from the unfriendlies, was any action taken against the people doing the shelling?

A: I don't think the weather allowed it, but that's exactly the type of target we will attempt to go after when we have a better correlation between what we can see and the types of weapons we can use.

Q: Any decision on the Apaches?

A: No, there's no decision on that yet.

Q: With the expansion of the targets, are you considering deploying other equipment in addition to the Apaches?

A: Not at this time, no.

Q: Are we able to get a rundown of exactly what the U.S. contribution to the NATO forces are over there?

A: We've given pretty much of a rundown. We've got approximately 210 airplanes. I think you know the major elements: B-52, B-2s, F-117s. There are also A-10s, F-15s, F-16s, a wide range of--obviously a large number of tankers.

Q: Aside from the aircraft, in addition to the aircraft in terms of...

A: Ships. We've listed the ships in the past, but there are six ships -- five ships and a submarine [sic, four ships and two submarines] that are supporting the mission.

Q: Do you have any assessment just on the sort of related point, why with all this going on Saddam Hussein is so quiet? (Laughter) Why have we not seen any...

A: That's a very interesting question. I suppose the most charitable answer is, perhaps his forces are exhausted and taking a break. But there has not been a no-fly zone violation since March 19th.

Q: Are we actually flying Northern Watch right now?

A: We did not fly today, but we will be flying, I assume, tomorrow and the next day.

Q: Have you flown Northern Watch recently?

A: We have not been flying for the last week or so. But we still know whether there are no-fly zone violations, and there have been none in the south either.

Q: On that subject, there are reports in Iraq that Russia is actually helping Iraq to upgrade its air defense systems, particularly its SA-6s. They've even gone so far in Iraqi newspapers to name the guy that's in charge of that. And in the weeks leading up to that, there are reports inside of Russia that they were getting ready to send over and help out Iraq.

Are there any indications that that's going on? Do you guys know anything about that?

A: Certainly something like that would be a threat. Iraq, as you know, is subject to the United Nations embargo that prevents shipping military equipment to Iraq. Russia is a member of the Security Council, a permanent member of the Security Council of the U.N. I think it would be a grave error for Russia to, as a member of the Security Council, to be violating that arms embargo.

Q: Are they?

A: I'm not aware that they are, no.

Q: Can you tell us, have U.S. forces been carrying out any psychological operations such as leafletting, broadcasting messages in the media in the area where we're bombing, either prior to the start or at the present time?

A: No. We did drop leaflets in Iraq, and it's something that we certainly would be prepared to do in Yugoslavia as well. I'm not aware that we have at this stage.

Q: To get back to the humanitarian operation, you said the Defense Department stands ready to supply what's necessary. Would that also include sending military personnel, troops, to Albania or Macedonia if it's needed to help setting up camps and providing order?

A: First of all, no such request has been made. And I guess I'd rather not comment on it until or unless such a request is made.

I will point out that there are international relief organizations that are extremely good at this. They know how to operate, and they know how to operate in all sorts of conditions. What they need is support. They need the goods, the shelter, the medical supplies to hand out and to administer. If they have those supplies, they are usually perfectly capable of working in situations like this. They have been in FYROM; they have been in Albania for some time, so they know the territory, and they know the problem.

Having said that, if there is something we can do, some special value added we can bring that would assist the operation, I'm sure that we would look favorably on that request, but we've received no such request.

Q: On the air operations. It's clear the targets are being very carefully controlled by (inaudible). But can you tell us whether there are any categories of munitions that have been ruled out? Conventional munitions that have been ruled out by political leadership? I think (inaudible) that would work just fine against (inaudible) for instance shelling Albanian refugees. What constraints have been put on the use of those kinds of ammunitions by the political leadership?

A: I'm not aware that there are any political restraints on munitions. There may be that I don't know about, but I'm not aware of any.

Q: Could you take it and get an answer to it?

A: We'll take the question, sure.

Q: Is there any consideration to whether or not there ought to be set up safe areas in Kosovo or whether there ought to be a NATO protectorate, or was there any rethinking of the status, the ultimate status of Kosovo, whether it should in fact be autonomous or independent, rather than just autonomous?

A: Ultimately, the international community will have to decide the appropriate status of Kosovo. The Rambouillet accord, agreement, which we supported, calls for it as an autonomous province of Yugoslavia for three years. The Yugoslavs have never accepted that, and that, of course, is one of the issues. It calls for many other things, a cease-fire, withdrawal of forces, disarmament.

Q: Since President Milosevic has clearly at this point rejected that peace agreement, does that put the status of Kosovo back on the table and raise the possibility that it could in fact end up being an independent region or some sort of NATO protectorate?

A: It certainly leaves open the question of the status of Kosovo, but I want to be very clear. The U.S. position is that Milosevic should embrace the terms or the conditions of Rambouillet, and one of those is an independent, [sic, autonomous] Kosovo.

Q: What do you say to critics who raise this idea that if U.S. military experts knew that a humanitarian disaster of this dimension was going to occur, why wasn't more planning done ahead of time to have prevented it, other than just the prepositioning of food?

A: I would say to people who say that that they haven't studied Milosevic. Milosevic is responsible for what's going on in Kosovo today. The international community clearly was aware of the potential for a humanitarian crisis, and that's one of the reasons a lot of food is prepositioned and had been prepositioned in the area.

I think everybody is appalled by what's going on. And even knowing rationally that a man has a record of ethnic cleansing, of supporting concentration camps, of supporting massacres, of supporting killing, you're shocked every time you see it again. But you can't--I guess you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Milosevic is an old dog up to his old tricks, which is plain old ethnic cleansing.

Q: Ken, with all of the rhetoric that's been heaped on Milosevic from this podium and others, is there not a fundamental flaw in a strategy that is essentially putting everything on Milosevic to end the crisis?

A: Milosevic is the man who controls Yugoslavia. He's the man who rejected peace. He's the man who has chosen ethnic cleansing and violence instead of peace.

Dick points out that I may have misspoken, and I want to be clear. I think I said it both ways. But our policy is an autonomous Kosovo, not an independent Kosovo. So I want to clear the record on that.

I don't see you scratching this out of your... (Laughter) Maybe I didn't say it.

Q: Do you have any information about any of our cruise missiles being successfully shot down by Serbian jets? Has it happened at all during the operation? We have a report that possibly it happened today over Kosovo.

A: I do not have any evidence that that's happened, but that's one thing we're constantly looking at. But I don't have any evidence that it's happened.

Q: Does this Operation ALLIED FORCE demonstrate the limits of air power? That is to say, if ground troops had also been committed, couldn't this military goal have been achieved much sooner?

A: I don't think it would have been achieved any sooner. I think the results would have been exactly the same. It would have taken us a long while to send, to pull together the troops, to marshal the forces, to get them into the area. Kosovo is not an easy place to enter. There are only 14 roads going into the entire province -- two from Macedonia. It's largely saturated and controlled now by enemy forces. It would not be easy to go into Kosovo. And while we were preparing to do that, you can be absolutely sure that Milosevic would be doing exactly what he's doing now, because the last thing he would want would be a rear guard guerrilla force attacking his forces as they were trying to repel an incoming NATO force.

He made it very clear from the beginning that he would repel any effort of foreign forces to go into Kosovo. So I think the results would have been exactly the same, and I think if we had decided to deploy ground troops, you'd have been sitting here asking exactly the same questions that you're asking today.

Q: The Administration has been saying over and over again that it has no intention of sending ground troops to Kosovo. But no intention is not the same thing as we'll absolutely never send ground troops, under any circumstances.

Is it fair to say that the ground troop option has not been ruled out?

A: It's fair to say that we have no intention of sending in ground troops in a non-permissive environment. The President has said that time after time.

Q: Does NATO or the United States have any plan to arm the Kosovo Liberation Army?

A: Not that I'm aware of. Our effort is to try to stop the fighting in Kosovo, not to fuel more fighting in Kosovo. That's why we tried to settle this peacefully.

Q: Humanitarian aid--when will it be available to the NGOs? The $25 million worth of...

A: Well, as soon as they need it. Right now they do...

Q: Has it been formally request...

A: It has not been formally requested. We stand ready to provide aid when and if requested.

I will say that the UNHCR has said that its primary needs right now are shelter, logistics support and medical supplies. Because there is a lot of food in Kosovo, in Albania already, these three -- shelter, logistics support and medical supplies -- are their primary needs.

Q: How long will it take to pack up the tents that you know you do have already and send them...

A: I think we can do this very quickly.

Q: In a matter of days or hours or...

A: I would say between hours and a day.

Q: Have you been able yet to confirm whether or not a surface-to-air missile was responsible for the downing of the F-117?

A: That report has not been completed yet.

Q: The first two days of the campaign the B-2 bomber was used, and we heard nothing more after that. Has it been used throughout, or were those just the first two times...

A: No, it is not used every day, but it is used on a regular basis.

Q: Was it used yesterday?

A: I don't know for a fact, but it's used very regularly. Not every day, but probably two out of three days.

Q: Can you clarify something you said about Apaches yesterday, that you basically said the political authorities would have to decide whether Apaches could be moved there, and there's a related report that General Clark has asked for them, and he's been turned down by those political authorities. Why...

A: I don't think that report's correct. He has asked for them. I don't believe he's been turned down. But this is a NATO force. It would be a NATO decision.

Q: Can you explain why do you need NATO authority to move around your military assets...

A: We don't need the authority to move them around. Operation ALLIED FORCE is a NATO operation. Therefore, we are acting as part of NATO. This is being run by General Wes Clark in his capacity as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, as the leader of NATO's forces. He also happens to be the Commander in Chief of U.S. Forces in Europe. That's his American hat. But this is being run by Wes Clark in his international NATO hat, which has 19 flags on it.

Q: Is the issue that they would have to be based somewhere close to the action, or that just by their introduction that changes this from strictly an air operation to something closer to something else.

A: Well, there are a number of issues. One is basing. One is the kind and tempo of fighting that we'd be taking on. Another is the risk. There are a number of issues that have to be sorted out. But all these are currently under consideration.

Q: Have you replenished the F-117, so to speak?

A: It hasn't been replaced yet, but one will go over to replace it, yes. And I don't know when that will happen, but it could happen sometime soon.

Q: Has that pilot resumed combat operations?

A: We have the right to increase the number, any number of aircraft that we want to, that we need to to enhance the force. If we want to augment the force, we can do that, but no decision has been made to have more than 12 F-117s. Should such a decision be made, we can send over more.

Q: Has the pilot returned to combat operations?

A: I don't know for a fact that he has. I know he certainly wanted to, and he was very lightly injured. So whether he's done it or not, I don't know.

Q: Following up on the Apache thing. If the U.S. were just conducting...

A: Let me be clear on the Apaches. A request for the Apaches has been made, but it has not been approved yet. That's all you need to know.

Q: A question about the process. If the U.S. were just running a war on its own, does the Secretary of Defense approve every single piece of equipment that's going to get used? Or is this a very different kind of operation? It seems like it's getting micromanaged by non-military folks.

A: In general, the Secretary of Defense approves all deployments that are not intra-theater. An intra-theater deployment can be made by the CINC, the commander in chief for that theater.

Q: That's allowed in this operation, too?

A: Yes, but in any major intra-theater deployment it would certainly be reviewed by the Joint Staff and potentially by the Secretary of Defense. In this case, let me stress again, it's an allied operation, and therefore certain aspects of the allied operation are considered by the allies.

Q: But Ken, again, to follow up, my understanding is the primary (inaudible) consideration for it is not NAC; it's this building. People in NATO simply say it is not the NAC that's holding up the Apaches. It is this building.

A: It is fair to say that the final decision has not been made, and it's still under review.

Q: On the special unit headquarters, you used the word "struck." Can you be any more specific as far as, like, the damage or if there were any troops in there at the time?

A: We don't have a full assessment right now, but we do believe that it was damaged, and that's about all I can say at this stage.

Q: If every major -- or even relatively minor, in the case of a battalion here or there -- movement of forces has to go through, has to be approved by the NAC, and if every phase of the operation, every change of a phase of the operation has to be approved by the NAC, are you essentially giving up the chance of achieving any form of strategic, or even in some cases, tactical surprise in this war?

A: I think there's very little that's been surprising about this. NATO assembled its force in October. The size and composition of the force was well advertised. Everybody knows where the force is stationed. Planes are pictured taking off on television all the time.

This is an unusual type of warfare. We announced what we were going to do, and now we're doing it. We announced the circumstances that would lead us to do this, and that is the refusal to get a peace agreement, and now we're doing what we said we would do.

In terms of the NAC, I think there are two points to make. The first is that NATO is united in this venture. It has been from before it began. It has been since it began.

Second, the military campaign, Operation ALLIED FORCE, has grown systematically larger. Just as we predicted it would if it didn't complete, if Milosevic continued to carry out his repression and killing of the Kosovar people, we said we would apply more force, and we've done that. NATO has not backed away. There have been no pauses. There has been no hesitation. There has been a consistent increase of pressure from the beginning.

Press: Thank you.

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