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DoD News Briefing - January 14, 1999

Presenters: Captain Mike Doubleday, DASD(PA)
January 14, 1999 2:30 PM EDT

Capt. Doubleday: If anyone wants to stay around for a few minutes, those of you who do might move up forward and I will attempt to answer some additional questions.

I don't have any announcements. Let me see if there are any questions.

Q: I just wanted to ask about bomb damage assessment from the last several days of strikes in northern Iraq. And also, thus far, gun camera footage has not been released from those strikes, and I'd like to ask why not, and request the footage be made available.

A: I certainly know of your interest in gun camera footage, and on many occasions we are anxious to get gun camera footage released to the media so that everyone can see the effectiveness of our weapon systems.

In this particular instance we have some concerns from an operational security standpoint so we will not be releasing, at least for the time being, the gun camera footage.

Q: What does that mean?

A: That means that in some cases the gun camera footage can provide to potential adversaries information that may be valuable for them in taking measures which would counter our weapons, and to the extent that we can, we want to minimize those, and in those instances we withhold gun camera footage and other information that may prove of value to these potential adversaries.

Q: Is that at all because of the use of this AGM-130 boosted laser... I'm sorry, smart bomb that's been employed? Does that have some different capability from the other weapons you've used that you're trying to protect?

A: This, without addressing the specifics of this weapon system other than to say that I believe that the recent use of that weapon is the first in this kind of a situation; indeed, in many cases as we deploy weapons and before they are widely analyzed by the international community, they provide a capability and an effectiveness to the operational forces that we want to preserve to every possible extent.

Q: But that is, the video you're withholding is the video of the use of that...

A: That's correct. We are withholding the video from that particular weapon system.

Q: There's also a HARM video that's not being released?

A: We have released HARM video in the past. I have not seen any HARM video which is available over the last couple of days.

Q: Why would this material have been a risk to operational security... If it was not a risk to operational security last week, rather, why would it be a risk to operational security now?

A: Well I just haven't seen any HARM video that we even have. There may be some, but I am not aware of any that we even have.

Q: Is this a Defense Department decision to withhold this, or did this come at the request of the White House?

A: This is a Defense Department decision.

Q: Did the White House request that this video not be released?

A: No. No, in fact, they did not.

Q: Does this mean it's a decision by Secretary Cohen himself, or...

A: It means it's a decision by people who are operators and who have a role in this operation and in consultation with others in the building here. Ultimately, of course, Ken Bacon makes the decision.

Q: But you're saying that it is possible for, if HARM missiles are used in this current situation with Iraq, if the types of attacks continue that have been in the past, and HARM missiles are used, that type of video could be released?

A: There are types of video that we have released in the past and that we may be able to release in this situation. I'm not, at this point, in a position to be able to predict exactly which ones we'll release and which ones we won't, but for these particular pieces of gun camera footage, we're not releasing [them].

Q: Can you give us any details on today's, the latest incident today, what..

A: Let me go through this.

There were two separate events this morning. This on the 14th of January. Early in our day on the East Coast of the United States, the first one at about 4:15 a.m. EST, involved a U.S. F-16CJ which was involved in routine enforcement activity over Northern Iraq, fired high speed anti-radiation missile at an Iraqi surface-to-air missile, and anti-aircraft artillery system that posed a threat to coalition forces. That's the first one.

The second one was a U.S. F-15E which launched an AGM-130, one of these precision-guided munitions, at a SAM system that was a threat to coalition forces.

Q: When you say they were a threat, does that mean they were illuminating these specific aircraft?

A: Yes. I think most of you are aware that the aircraft get their best read when they are illuminated.

Q: Were there any missile launches from the ground in either incident?

A: I am not aware of any missile launches, but we're still looking at that. There are some initial reports that give us additional questions that we want to look into.

Q: Were the aircraft fired upon?

A: Well, that's what I say. We don't have any firm indicators at this point but there is some question that we want to look into further.

Q: You said this radar was connected also to anti-aircraft artillery. Was there any artillery fired?

A: That's another thing that we want to look into. There have been some reports of artillery fire, but it's not clear at this point.

Q: What is the effective range of these anti-aircraft artillery systems? We know that surface-to-air missiles have the capability of reaching planes, but what's the effective range of artillery into U.S. and British planes patrolling the no-fly zones? Do they routinely fly above the effective range of artillery?

A: The answer to the second question is that they fly above the range of AAA, and I can't give you a range right now, but it's significantly less than the altitude at which our aircraft fly.

Q: Mike, do you have any comment on the news reports out of Ankara and the Turkish media that the United States has agreed to send some Patriot batteries to Turkey?

A: I have seen those reports. Indeed, we are in receipt of a request from the government of Turkey for Patriots. We're presently reviewing that request. I think you are aware that we are interested in being as supportive as we can to any of our coalition partners who are involved in this operation, and we will be looking at their request and reach a decision on that very soon.

Q: How many Patriots?

A: This does not get into numbers. It addresses the capability.

Q: Two quick ones. One, is Ankara reacting to a specific threat, or are they just aware of the growing tension in the region? And also, in this morning's incidents, were both aircraft illuminated or [was] just one illuminated? I wasn't clear on that.

A: Well, my understanding is that in both cases there was -- certainly the pilots felt a threat from these sites, and took appropriate action. The point that I made was that the indicators that a pilot gets of a location of these sites is from radar illuminations.

Now to answer your first question which had to do with the specificity of the Turkish request, I can't say exactly what motivated them, but I think everybody is aware of the change in operations that we've seen in Operation NORTHERN WATCH and in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH on the part of the Iraqis. As you know, Operation NORTHERN WATCH is flown out of a Turkish airbase, and we certainly appreciate the support of the government of Turkey as we undertake this mission in cooperation with them.

Q: Does the United States... Let's go back to cause. Why would be a need for Patriots or a desire on the part of the Turks. Is the United States capable in its surveillance of Iraq of detecting any roll-out, setup of SCUDs, of missiles that could threaten Turkey, or for that matter Saudi Arabia or Kuwait? Are we watching?

A: Bill, I think as you know we have a very robust capability to watch, to the extent that we can, what the Iraqis are doing. This includes not only the activity from the surface-to-air missile sites, but also any kind of SCUD activity. I am not aware of any kind of SCUD activity, but we have said in the past that we believe that the Iraqis did retain some SCUD capability after the Gulf War.

Q:...ready to act if there is any setup of such weapons?

A: I think, Bill, you're certainly aware that the purpose, the whole purpose of the operations that we're conducting to enforce the no-fly zones includes not only the capability to protect segments of the Iraqi population from Saddam Hussein's very violent attacks on them in the past, but also to provide an early warning indication should he at any time threatening to his Gulf neighbors. Or neighbors in the region, for that matter.

Q: I just want to ask two things. When you said the Turks had asked for a capability, was that in fact for the protection of Incirlik?

A: They have asked for Patriots. I don't know that they specified where these Patriots would be used. My guess is that it would be in that region, yes.

Q: And can I ask a follow-up, more on a policy level. From the Pentagon's point of view, just how long does this sort of daily, every morning, tit for tat, go on? Does it go on until they run out of SAMs, and radars because you've taken them out one by one? I mean what do you do about all of this?

A: Well, certainly the United States has been involved in this effort since 1991 in the North and 1992 in the South. As I mentioned on Tuesday, we've flown 140,000 sorties in support of these no-fly zone enforcements. All together the coalition has flown 200,000 sorties.

We are determined to continue to enforce the no-fly zones as part of our overall policy with regards to Iraq.

Q: I guess that's what I'm asking. What is the overall policy now? Is it in fact just to keep doing the once every morning hit on Iraq? Or is there some possibly [of a] more comprehensive solution available?

A: I think you know that the central elements of our policy with regards to Iraq are that number one, they must comply with all of the relevant Security Council resolutions; and secondly, that in accordance with the U.N. Security Council demands that Iraq must be disarmed of its weapons of mass destruction. As part of U.N. Security Council resolutions and pursuant to those that have been set up over the years, the coalition established these no-fly zones to essentially protect these population segments from Saddam Hussein and, as I say, to provide this capability for early warning.

We're determined to continue doing that. And it is not a determination that is going to be marked in days or months, it's going to be marked by the actions of Saddam Hussein.

Q: Mike, this week Baghdad has made some strong statements saying it doesn't recognize the borders of Kuwait. To what extent is that a cause for concern?

A: I think you've seen Secretary Cohen address that. He considers that a very serious matter. But the statements of the Iraqis in the past have come frequently, and what we hear in the Pentagon and out in the NORTHERN WATCH areas and the SOUTHERN WATCH areas are doing, is to watch his actions more than to analyze his words.

Q: Are there any actions to back up those words? Any troublesome movements of troops or other preparations that would indicate Saddam might be considering a move to the South?

A: No, we have not seen any kind of ground activity that indicates that.

Q: In the past four days there have been what, about half a dozen instances where we've dropped bombs or we've fired missiles at Iraqi sites. I can only think of two where they have said anything about whether or not there was a hit. What's the effectiveness been? Do you have any more details on...

A: I don't have a full rundown on the effectiveness. I can say this, that we fire those weapons when we believe that our air crews and pilots are threatened by SAM sites or by radar systems that are integrated into an air defense unit. We'll continue doing that.

I think you know from yesterday that there was a strong indication that we have been very effective. There are other occasions where we have not been so effective. But we will continue to enforce the no-fly zones as we have in the past.

Q: In the situations where -- this is my next question also. We haven't been getting a lot of bomb damage assessment recently, and at roughly the same time we stopped receiving gun sight camera video. Shouldn't the bomb damage assessment from these incidents be in by now? Is this something that's just not being made available to us for whatever reason? Or should we assume that these are misses if we don't get the BDA and don't get the tape as to what happened?

A: Well, that's a good question and we'll try in the future get a little finer analysis of the assessment, and to the extent that we can, we'll provide it to you.

Q: Did you increase recently the number of U.S. aircraft in Incirlik for NORTHERN WATCH? And why must the (inaudible) which are taking place right now, are taking place around Mosul?

A: To answer your first question, the number of aircraft involved in NORTHERN WATCH out of Incirlik does fluctuate from time to time, although over the last several weeks it's remained constant. I can give you that number if you're interested.

At present we have 38 U.S. aircraft involved in Operation NORTHERN WATCH. A greater number involved in the Gulf area that supports SOUTHERN WATCH. That number is 182.

The CINC, of course, in both regions has the responsibility to assess the requirements that he feels are necessary in order to carry out his mission, and so it may be that in the future that number in NORTHERN WATCH will go up, as we expect the number in SOUTHERN WATCH to go up over the next several days when those deploying F-16s get to the Gulf region.

Q: How many of those F-16s are going...

A: There are eight, and four tankers that will be accompanying them. They were to have left today, but because of weather they did not. Our expectation is now that they will depart tomorrow.

Q: Are the tankers KC-135s?

A: Let me see if I've got that with me. I'll tell you what, let's get you that information. We'll get back to you, Bill.

Q: And Mosul?

A: Oh, Mosul. I think... First of all, when we talk about location here, we use that because that particular city is marked on most maps that are available to you. Actually, the site is some distance from the city, or these sites. There are an array of them. I think that the reason that much of this activity has been up there is because this is where they have a lot of these SAM sites. This particular area is probably the largest of the communication and oil infrastructure hubs up in that part of Iraq, and it may be that the Iraqis have deployed these systems because of that particular capability.

Q: Has the Department changed its view of Oil for Food?

A: First of all, I would refer you to the Department of State on Oil for Food. I think that it is best for them to address that subject.

Q: New subject? Or do you still have Iraq questions?

A: Does anybody else have any more on Iraq?

Q: I wanted to ask about... The Pentagon yesterday released some reconnaissance photographs showing the first bomb damage from the August 20th strikes on the suspected terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. In particular, one of the pictures purports to show a row of buildings, five buildings, which we're told was housing for top officials in Osama bin Laden's organization. Can you tell us what those pictures show in terms of the effectiveness of the U.S. strikes?

A: Well, first of all I should point out for those of you who have not seen these pictures, that they're available on our Web site that is available to almost anybody who has computer capability.

What these pictures show is that there was significant destruction to this particular site that was struck. It is an indication that these facilities that were being used by this terrorist group are not out of the reach of the United States and where we can locate them and where we can disrupt their planning and their infrastructure, we have the capability to do so.

Q: Was Osama bin Laden believed to be in that complex of buildings at the time the strikes took place?

A: We knew at the time the strikes took place that there was going to be a meeting of these terrorists for the purpose of planning further attacks against U.S. people, and U.S. facilities. And our actions, if you will recall the statements of the leadership at the time, were designed to disrupt that kind of activity, and we believe they were very effective in doing so.

Q: Subsequently, we obviously now know that Osama bin Laden survived the attacks because he has given interviews. Again, I'd just ask my question again. Was he believed to be at that location when the attack took place?

A: At the time the attack took place, we knew that there was going to be a meeting of Osama bin Laden's organization. The attack was against the infrastructure and the planning that was going to be going on at the time. The attack was not against any specific individual, and I think most of you are aware that we have long said that military forces are not an effective tool to be used against individuals.

Q: I want to ask one more time, but you only get four possible answers. [Laughter] The question is, was Osama bin Laden at the site at the time of the attack? And your possible answers are: yes, no, I don't know, I'm not going to say. [Laughter]

A: Let me get back to you. [Laughter]

Q: Can you say how this significant destruction was brought about? By what weapon system?

A: No, we have never announced the weapon systems that were used.

Q: Why not?

A: Again, to the extent that we can, we talk about the capabilities of our weapon systems. On this particular occasion we elected not to get into the specifics of the types of weapons that were used, nor the particular starting points for the launch of those weapons.

Q: Why can we have so many pictures be displayed of the types of destruction that were obtained against Iraq -- and that doesn't seem to be any problem with telegraphing to Saddam Hussein what kind of weapons are being used against him; but for some reason Osama bin Laden isn't supposed to know what's being used against him? I don't quite get it.

A: I think we look at these things on a case by case basis. In this particular case, with this particular group, we felt that it was appropriate not to provide detailed information on what weapon systems we used in these instances.

Q: Aren't you really in effect just keeping from the American people what types of weapons systems are used?

A: No. Actually, we would love to, and have on many occasions, talked about the effectiveness of our weapon systems, and certainly at some point in time we may be able to do that in these cases. But to this point, we have not released that kind of... that level of information.

Q: There seems to be a growing ability on the part of the Pentagon to use those reasons, rationalizations, whatever you want to call them, for a lack of willingness to discuss certain types of operations. Is there an individual behind this, such as Gen. Shelton, who is not really quite as open as perhaps other Chairmen might have been? Or perhaps is this more a reflection of the Secretary's feelings? Where is this coming from inside the bureaucracy of the building?

A: I think that it's coming from the fact that we are facing in this age a variety of threats, on a variety of fronts, from groups that have not been threats before. Groups that are transnational, groups that are very well financed, groups that carry out their attacks in a very stealthy manner. They do not operate as organized threats have in the past, and as such, at this point in time we believe that our withholding of certain pieces of information is appropriate.

Q: Can you confirm that there is planning going on in this building for future strikes against Mr. bin Laden's associates in Afghanistan? And since you probably won't do that, can you reassure his associates that you're not going to strike?

A: I can neither confirm any upcoming military operations, nor can I say that no such operations will be undertaken. In fact I would say that based on the actions that we took in this particular case, we demonstrated that these organizations, where we can identify them and locate them, are not outside of our reach. And where we feel that we are threatened, we have the capability to take action which is not only appropriate but highly effective.

Q: I just want to get back to this picture again that was released yesterday showing the five buildings. As we look at that picture, can we take from that that two of the buildings were destroyed and the other three were missed? Of the five buildings there were three missed and two hit?

A: There was almost total destruction of two of the buildings. There was significant damage to the other three, but not total destruction.

Q: China. Mike, there was a report yesterday from the, quoting the Chinese Director, Chinese Foreign Ministry's Arms Control Director, Mr. Zia Zucheng that his, where China is warning, is very critical about a ballistic missile defense system including Japan, Taiwan, and the United States. And I would like to ask, what is the Department's reaction? Why would China be, why would China object to a defensive system, let's say, on Taiwan?

A: I have not seen those comments that you cite there, and so I will refrain from any comment on those particular comments. But what I will say is that the Secretary is presently over in that region of the world. He is talking to both our Japanese allies and our allies in the Republic of Korea. And one of the concerns that those allies have is over a missile capability which is being developed by the North Koreans.

And I think as you know, we have a multi-part missile defense program in the United States, one part of which is for theater missile defense. That is to say defense against threats to our deployed forces and to people close in to regions where our forces are operating.

We have said, and the Secretary has indicated on his current trip, that the United States is certainly willing to work with Japan as we develop those systems.

Q: Do you think, though, to go back to my second part, that China is showing its hand, so to speak, by saying we want to hold you hostage to our missiles and deprive you of a BMD system?

A: I cannot analyze for you what the Chinese have said.

In closing, I would just like to say that this, in some respects, is a sad day because one of the Pentagon press corps is leaving us. Susanne Schafer who has been the Associated Press representative here in the building for longer than I have been assigned here is going to be taking a leave of absence. She has been at her desk for many, many years reporting very accurately and completely on the activities of the building, and we'll miss her.

Susanne, we certainly wish you the best as you leave the building, and as you focus attention on your family, and we look forward to many visits from you in the future. Hopefully, you will return to the Pentagon press corps at some time.

Susanne: Thank you very much.

Press: Thank you.