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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD (PA)

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD (PA)
July 13, 1995 4:15 PM EDT

Thursday, July 13, 1995, 4:15 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: I'll take your questions.

Q: Is anything being done to shore up Zepa and Gorazde--to shore up the UN peacekeepers [who are there]?

A: As you know, it's a UN operation, and to the best of my knowledge there is nothing being done in Zepa at this stage. Gorazde is not facing problems right now, and I don't believe there's anything being done there either.

Q: But the State Department said that Gorazde also could fall if it keeps up.

A: I don't have... Today Gorazde is reported quiet. There are very low levels of activity. It was basically calm in Sarajevo as well. Gorazde has a much larger Bosnian army force attached to it than Srebrenica did. It has a British outfit there that is well armed.

There's a fundamental difference between Gorazde and Srebrenica which is that Srebrenica, under the UN mandate, was disarmed. It was supposed to be an armless city. Gorazde was never disarmed. So the Bosnian army forces--Bosnian government forces in Gorazde--are better armed than the forces were in Srebrenica.

Q: Has the United States had any requests to remove the Dutch troops from outside Srebrenica?

A: We have not.

Q: Are you standing by... Are you ready, willing and able to do so if...

A: We have made a commitment to our allies to support them if the UN requests NATO help in withdrawing troops. We have not received a request from the Dutch. The UN has not received a request from the Dutch. The Dutch are standing by now in Potocari. They are monitoring the conditions of the refugees. They're trying to do their best to help refugees. A convoy carrying 12 metric tons [actual count is 22 metric tons] of material got through to Potocari today. The Dutch troops are helping to distribute that food and other humanitarian materiel.

So they are on post working, doing the humanitarian mission that the UN is trying to do throughout Bosnia. Beyond that, in terms of an extraction or evacuation, it looks as if... If the Dutch troops decide they have to go, they will be able to get themselves out, and that no assistance in extraction will be required.

Q: By marching out?

A: Marching or driving, but they'll be able to get themselves out.

Q: Today the President said that unless we can restore the integrity of the UN mission, its days will be numbered. With the state of the rapid reaction force and the length of time the withdrawal would take, how can that mission be restored?

A: First of all, the rapid reaction force should be pretty much on station in early August. It's now mid-July. So we're not talking about a huge amount of time. The rapid reaction force is moving in. As you know, both British and Dutch troops were moved in by American airlift this week, and the equipment is on ships and on the way to Ploce. So we believe that the rapid reaction force should make a big difference, and the rapid reaction force and the countries that are sponsoring it have spoken of it as a force that can make a big difference. That's one of our hopes for strengthening UNPROFOR.

Q: Restoring the integrity means what, exactly? Protecting the remaining enclaves?

A: Restoring the integrity is a term that the President used. He wasn't specific about it, but obviously what happened over the last few days in Srebrenica hurt the integrity of the UN forces, the UN itself, and the members of the UN protective forces in Bosnia have talked in terms of preventing other enclaves from falling, and from protecting the flow of humanitarian aid.

The main purposes of UNPROFOR are one, to provide humanitarian aid; two, to contain the fighting; and three, to protect people in the enclaves. To the extent that they're able to do that in the future, that I believe will restore the integrity of UNPROFOR.

Q: Have your attack helicopters been turned over to the rapid reaction force yet, or are they in the process of being... Is that in the process of being done? And are the AC-130s that you promised standing by?

A: I do not know the answers to either of those questions, but we will find out. I believe the AC-130s are standing by, but we will check that for sure. I don't know the status of the helicopters yet.

Q: Maybe if you could, with the numbers.

A: We'll do our best.

Q: What considerations in the Pentagon, or within the Administration, are being given now to consolidate the UNPROFOR forces in Central Bosnia, essentially banning any enclaves?

A: The short answer is none. That's a decision that will have to be made, if it's made at all, by the UN. That decision has not been made. In fact, today, I saw a statement by Jaques Chirac, the President of France, saying that the goal of the UNPROFOR forces must be to remain strong enough to protect the remaining enclaves. So it doesn't seem to me that this is the direction in which the UN is going right now.

Q: No consideration within the Clinton Administration toward that type of plan?

A: Right now our focus on strengthening UNPROFOR is directed primarily at the rapid reaction force and getting that force into place and as our responsibility is, to get it there and to help equip it. We have not received any request to do anything else from the UN or from NATO.

Q: I'm asking if there's any active consideration within the Administration or within the Pentagon to consolidate, or recommending to the UN Security Council that they consolidate the peacekeepers.

A: We have not made that recommendation. That, as you know, is something that has been discussed. It was first discussed here in this room by former French Defense Minister Francoise Leotard back in December. It's an idea that's been around for a long while. There are other ideas for strengthening UNPROFOR. One involves opening up a blue route to and from Sarajevo. That's something that the rapid reaction force hopes to do.

The idea of reconstituting UNPROFOR is one that's been around for a long while. It's one that the UN has not requested help in doing. We will respond to requests or consider requests if we get a request, but we've gotten no such request.

Q: And nobody's considering that right now?

A: People are always considering things. That's why we have people making plans. That's why we have bright people thinking about contingencies all the time. But the fact is, that is not an issue that is on the front of anybody's list right now.

Q: But Ken, the British have said in the past that the whole idea of a rapid reaction force was to protect UN peacekeepers. Now you're saying, I believe, that the rapid reaction force would protect the enclaves. Doesn't that go beyond just protecting peacekeepers?

A: The definition or the mission of the rapid reaction force should be made, explained by the people who are participants in the force. We are not participants. But the French have spoken in terms of protecting the enclaves. I think you should go to the French and ask them what they mean by that, but the President of France made that statement today. I don't want to speak for the rapid reaction force or the members of the rapid reaction force. I've tried to be very careful in not committing a force that doesn't include any American participation. I don't think I can do it.

Q: Let me ask you about the American involvement as far as it does go with the rapid reaction force, which is transportation. You mentioned that the force would be essentially in place in early August. Does that really include their equipment and all the forces? Or can you be more specific about...

A: I can't be totally specific about that. But yes, it should be. For instance, we have airlifted about, we're in the process of airlifting British troops -- about 450 of them -- into Split now. Their equipment is coming later. We plan to airlift the main body of the British force into Split in late July. That's about 2700. And their equipment should arrive fairly soon thereafter by sealift. Twenty-seven helicopters that they'll be using will self-deploy.

Colonel Kennett has just handed me a note saying that there are four AC-130 gunships on standby at Brindisi Air Base in Italy.

Q: Do you have any idea what happened to those Bosnian Muslim men who were separated out by the Serbs yesterday? What was their fate?

A: I do not know what their fate is. I think it's deplorable that they've been separated out. The UN has asked that they be released. There are also still some Dutch peacekeepers being detained. I'm not sure it would be fair to call them hostages. They've got their sidearms. They're in radio contact with their confreres, but we think that all the detainees should be released, including the Dutch and the Muslim men.

Q: But you have no idea where the Muslim men are at this point?

A: I do not. I do not know where they are at this stage or what's happening to them.

Q: Is the U.S. moving any units into a place closer to the region to be ready to react more promptly to requests for emergency withdrawals?

A: No.

Q: Why not, given the fact that the situation is deteriorating somewhat, and given the commitment to help if a request comes.

A: I think it's important not to confuse the fall of Srebrenica with the collapse of the UN mission in Bosnia because it has not collapsed. It's continuing to protect other enclaves. It's working with the rapid reaction force to strengthen its ability to bring humanitarian aid into Sarajevo. The central core of Bosnia remains protected by the UN force. So yes, it's been a terrible setback in Srebrenica, but it doesn't mean the collapse of the entire mission.

We have not received any requests to extricate troops. In fact, one of the lessons of Srebrenica may be that if there is a problem in an enclave, the troops, the peacekeepers may be able to get out on their own fairly safely. That is, in fact, what happened to the Dutch. So there is not a crisis of extraction facing the UN force now. In many places the UN force continues to do its job and if anything, I think the tragedy in Srebrenica and the double cross by the Bosnian Serbs, the violation of the safe haven, shows the need for a continued UN presence. We have to provide humanitarian aid. We have to provide as much support as we can.

Q: You say it's not collapsed, but everybody from President Clinton on down is saying it's in the process of collapsing.

A: They're saying it could collapse, and it definitely could collapse. On the one hand, you've got the UN and the members of the UN and the countries that are providing the rapid reaction force -- particularly France -- saying we have to redouble our efforts to strengthen what we're doing there. Will they be able to do this? Time will tell. We hope so. We support the continuation of the UN forces in Bosnia. We think they're performing a very valuable function. We think they've prevented this war from spreading, and we hope that they will stay there and continue to prevent it from spreading. I was asked specifically if we're moving forces down into the area, and we are not.

Q: Are you preparing to do so?

A: We are not.

Q: Are they any new measures being taken as a result of the deterioration of the situation there?

A: Yes. The French and the British are reorganizing their forces..

Q: By the United States.

A: No.

Q: Do you think you have enough forces there already to do an emergency extraction if it [should come up]?

A: First of all, we have not been asked to do an emergency extraction, and I want to keep stressing that because you seem transfixed on the idea of emergency extraction, so I want to say one more time, we have not been asked to do an emergency extraction. We have on station the Marine force in the Adriatic which can, contrary to what I said last time, is prepared, can bring out small numbers of people and can extract a small force from an enclave. That is on station. It can get into position very quickly. That is one of three emergency extraction forces that are planned and have been planned for operation in this area if they are called upon, and I stress, they have not been called upon to act.

The second is the so-called DARING LION exercise which involves the use of a lot of helicopters. Those helicopters have not been moved down from Germany to Italy, but they can be moved down in a matter of days. It would take some days to assemble that force and to put it into operation. That is the main American contribution to an emergency extraction force.

In addition, there is a multinational amphibious force on station in the Adriatic that would be composed of Marines from the United States, from France, as well as some forces from Britain and from the Netherlands. Those are the three forces that would be available for an emergency extraction should that need arise.

Q: Those Marines would be over and above the ones that are there now?

A: No, they would include the same Marines, but they would operate in a different configuration and on a different mission. But I want to point out that in a certain respect, one of the lessons of what happened in Srebrenica is that in this case, at any rate, and we would hope in other cases, it would be possible, if necessary, for the peacekeeping forces to get out on their own. I don't know how the Dutch forces will be redeployed, but if they come out, it's our expectation that they will be able to get out through Serbian-controlled territory on their own without being escorted by others.

Q: ...this thing as being that the UN mission, they're putting out the post mortem sign. They're talking about it in the past tense. They're saying it was lost before it started. It's time to evacuate. The leadership in the Senate Armed Services Committee -- Dole, Barbara Boxer -- all over the place. Everyone is considerably more pessimistic than the President is. There's a lot of feeling out there that we're growing closer to the time where an emergency evacuation will become necessary.

Does the Administration, does the Pentagon not see it that way? Is there not a time table on doing this before winter comes? Is that not a concern militarily? And are you saying now that our portion of the evacuation force can be in place within a matter of a few days?

A: The Secretary said on your network the other day that the emergency extraction force under the name of DARING LION could be in place in several days. Actually it's longer than a week, but given warning time, etc., it can move quite quickly.

We do have the Marine force there on the Kearsarge so that's a force there. And the rapid reaction force should be able to help in that. But I don't know how to make this point more forcefully than I've tried to make it before. But as discouraging as UNPROFOR is, as bad as it looks, as much humiliation as it has endured, the alternative to UNPROFOR is much, much worse. From our standpoint, the alternative to UNPROFOR could involve putting 25,000 U.S. troops into that theater to help extract the UN forces. It could be difficult, it could be done in very tough conditions, it could be done in times under fire. It's not something we want to do.

It would also mean a cessation of all humanitarian aid. The U.S. alone has delivered 54,000 metric tons of food to Sarajevo. This is not an inconsequential amount. The UN forces are helping to feed a million and a half to two million people. Convoys are continuing to get through. I told you that a convoy got through to Potocari today. A convoy got through to Bihac on July 11th. A convoy got through to Gorazde on July 7th. There is still food and humanitarian aid being provided by the UN. It is not a dead letter. It's continuing to function in parts of Bosnia.

Beyond that, it has kept this conflict from metastasizing, from spreading into nearby countries such as Macedonia, and it has led to a sharp reduction in civilian casualties, from more than 100,000 civilian casualties in 1992 to under 3,000 civilian casualties in 1994. This is a substantial accomplishment. We may never get credit for it, but you should recognize it, you should write about it, you should let the public know that this has happened, because it's important.

Q: ...are continuing and growing victory by the Serbs. What does that say about...

A: Pardon?

Q: At the same time it's presiding over a continuing growing...

A: I said it is difficult to be proud of a force that on the one hand is doing some good, and on the other hand is suffering defeat and humiliation. I understand that. And that is what the President meant when he talked about looking for ways to change and enhance and improve the force. He was referring to the rapid reaction force.

The alternative to pulling UNPROFOR out is either a withdrawal that could be time consuming, dangerous, complex, and highly costly, or going with something like Senator Dole's unilateral lift proposal, which could, we believe, lead to a widening of the war, an intensification of the conflict in combat, more killing, no aid, and a very rapid withdrawal of UNPROFOR. Those are not alternatives that we find attractive. They are worse alternatives than the bad course of action we have right now, but sometimes you have to choose among bad alternatives, and a bad choice is better than worse choices. That's what we're faced with. I admit it. I'm not trying to say this is the greatest thing since the World War II American Army. It clearly is not.

Q: Last night Senator Dole said on Nightline that if NATO were asked to extract UNPROFOR, he would support putting U.S. ground forces in to help with that, but only to extract people, not your equipment. Is that your understanding of what 40104 calls for?

A: No, it is not. And I'm sure it's not your understanding either, as one of the world's experts on 40104 and the complications of the 1500 page plan.

40104 is a massive plan that would involve 70 to 80,000 allied troops, including 25,000 U.S. troops, specifically dedicated to this plan. What it involves is securing routes into Sarajevo and into the other enclaves and bringing out the UN troops and their equipment. That's what 40104 envisions. That's why it's such a costly, complex, time consuming, and manpower intensive plan.

Q: But that's not DARING LION.

A: DARING LION is a subset of that, and DARING LION provides for emergency or more rapid extraction. That would be people, but not equipment.

If you're sending Marines in, if you're using the first option which is the Marines in the Adriatic; if you're using the second option which is DARING LION -- the Army unit that would come down from Germany; or if you're using the third option, the multilateral amphibious force, these would concentrate on bringing out people, not equipment.

Q: Talking about 40104, that sounded like new figures to me. I thought it was 60,000 and about 25,000....

A: These figures...

Q: Now there are reports that the U.S. contingent could go as high as 35,000. Are those wrong?

A: The President has signed off on 25,000, and I wouldn't expect it to go, the U.S. commitment to go higher than that. But you are going to be driven bezerk by the numbers behind 40104 because they are going to be very difficult to nail down. One of the reasons that General Joulwan did not come to the CINCs conference was that he remained in Europe to continue tweaking the elements of 40104. This has been continual non-stop planning refinement since it began, and it will continue to go that way until... If it's needed, and if an operation is launched, we will be planning up until the last minute.

Q: You said 70,000 to 80,000. Is that...

A: That's the latest number I have, is 70,000 to 80,000 total.

Q: In addition to 40104, there are three separate from 40104, or included in the overall package, three sub options available on different scales on smaller scales?

A: I would like to give you a definitive answer, but I don't have one to give you. I've asked this question myself. Some days it seems to change. I'll try to nail this down. I would like to know myself. But I'm telling you that precision may elude us for awhile. Precision may be the realm of historians when it comes to 40104.

Q: ...very fluid, and the evacuation plan depends on the circumstances at the time that...

A: Could I just say... Well, yes, in some respects that will happen. We don't know what will be required. It will depend on what we face.

I'd like to say just two other things...

Q: Just one more quickly. Are there any conditions that the U.S. has to have in place before we would go in and extract? If the UN decides to withdraw, division of labor, command and control, are those all settled?

A: Yes, we've made it very clear from the beginning that we will go in as part of a NATO force under NATO command and control and this would mean NATO rules of engagement and very clear command and control provisions that are acceptable to us. Those are the main provisions. Domestically, of course, we'll consult with Congress.

Q: Is there not a concern in this building about the time line, that if it's going to happen it should happen sooner rather than later because of weather concerns?

A: We don't want this to happen. We want UNPROFOR to stay. We are prepared to assist our allies in any way we can to strengthen UNPROFOR and help it to stay. But we're always concerned about doing things in the winter time.

I'd like to just mention two other things.

The first is, I would like to note that in the United Kingdom, Parliament was informed that the UK's Ministry of Defense has decided to buy 67 Apache helicopters, which will be built jointly by Westlands and by McDonnell Douglas with Rolls Royce engines. This is a sale worth about $2.5 billion pounds, which is slightly under $4 billion, $3.8 billion.

In addition, the UK Defense Ministry said it has made a decision to buy conventional Tomahawk cruise missiles which can be launched from submarines, and they will explore the details of a future purchase of those.

The second thing I'd like to say is that the President met with the CINCs today at the White House. It was a meeting that ran about half an hour longer than the scheduled one-hour meeting. They discussed a wide range of issues. Each CINC -- or many of the CINCs -- made presentations of the conditions in their theaters. General Peay, for instance, talked about the conditions in Southwest Asia. They spent a lot of time talking about Bosnia, and the... Where the current plans for withdrawal stand. That was done by General Shalikashvili standing in for General Joulwan, whom I said earlier didn't come. I suppose that one of the -- two of the -- bright points of that were that there were very upbeat reports from General Sheehan about Haiti and from General Luck about Korea, which Shali pointed out that in the past, Korea is almost always a crisis area, and General Luck had a lengthy discussion. But this time things are going well enough that it was a relatively brief discussion about Korea.

Q: General Shalikashvili was up on the Hill and said additional comm equipment would be sent over to Bosnia. Do you know what that is?

A: I'm sorry. What did he say?

Q: Additional communications equipment would get sent over.

A: I don't know that. We have already sent over some communications equipment, and we have an advanced party in Zagreb setting up communications networks that would be needed for the withdrawal. I don't know the facts, we'll try to find out. But I assume it's part of...

Q: And what hardware is involved?

A: I will try to find out, but I'm not sure I'll be able to satisfy you on that. Why don't you ask Commander Franklin about that. He'll check that.

Q: How quickly can this force of 25,000 be stood up once the call comes?

A: Well, that's an interesting question. We'll have close to a couple of brigades there in 30 days, but we're talking about... I'll have to get more details for you. I don't know how long it would take to get the last person there, but I think we could have a pretty significant force on the ground in 30 days that would begin to make a difference in terms of working toward withdrawal, but I stress that we've received no requests for withdrawal.

Q: Does that 25,000 include... I don't know if you made it clear before, but there's the Marines and...

A: I tried to stress to you that I was not going to be able to make all the numbers clear. We'll keep checking on that.

Q: That number is actually the number of troops with their feet on the ground there. We're not talking about the ship -- we're not talking about support people in Germany -- we're talking about troops with their feet on dirt.

Q: And that's what you've been talking about all along.

Q: That's the 25,000...

A: Well, they have dirt in Germany, too, even though the Germans may not want to admit it.

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