Operation DESERT FOX Briefing with Secretary Cohen and Gen. Zinni, 21 Dec 98
(General Anthony C. Zinni, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Central Command also participated in this overview of Operation DESERT FOX.)
Secretary Cohen: Good afternoon.
Operation DESERT FOX was a highly successful operation. U.S. and British forces degraded Iraq's capability to use weapons of mass destruction in two important ways.
First, we estimate that we delayed Iraq's development of ballistic missiles by at least a year. This is going to make it more difficult for Iraq to use deadly chemical and biological weapons against its neighbors.
Second, we diminished Iraq's overall capability to direct and protect its weapons of mass destruction program. And we also diminished Iraq's ability to attack its neighbors by severely damaging the Iraqi military command and control system.
Our forces did this without any allied casualties. Our success reflects the quality of the men and women in our force. From General Anthony Zinni, the Commander in Chief of the Central Command, to the youngest soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine in Operation DESERT FOX, our troops performed brilliantly. They worked as a team -- a team that was dedicated to its mission, dedicated to supporting each other, and dedicated to fulfilling America's responsibilities in the world.
Later this afternoon I intend to make an announcement that will be of interest to all of our troops, not just those in DESERT FOX. But now I am pleased to be able to introduced General Zinni who planned and commanded Operation DESERT FOX.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can we just ask, have you frozen the buildup in the Gulf for the time being until after the New Year?
Secretary Cohen: It's a question we have under advisement right now. It's one of the issues that General Zinni and I will be talking [about] with the Chairman and others as we go through the day and tomorrow.
Q: And do you stand ready perhaps to launch more raids even during Ramadan if he threatens his neighbors?
Secretary Cohen: As I've indicated before, should he pose a threat to his neighbors, we're prepared to act.
General Zinni: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Good afternoon.
We have, as you know, completed Operation DESERT FOX, and I have reported to Secretary Cohen and General Shelton that I am satisfied that our objectives have been achieved.
Let me first say that I'm extremely proud, as you can imagine, of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. They performed magnificently. I could not have asked for better. And I'm also very proud of our allies that stood by us, the British especially. Their airmen and seamen that were by our sides again performed magnificently.
As you know, we suffered no casualties. Even in peacetime, exercises of this scale can be dangerous and can be very, very trying. To do this without any casualties in the environment our forces faced was truly remarkable.
The operation involved over 30,000 troops, and 10,000 more outside of our area of responsibility who supported and alerted from bases virtually around the world. We flew over 600 sorties in four days. Over 300 of those were night strike sorties. Over 300 aircraft were involved in strike and support roles. Over 600 pieces of ordnance and 90 cruise missiles were delivered by these aircraft. Over 40 ships performed strike and support roles with ten of them launching over 300 TLAM missiles. Thousands of ground troops deployed to protect Kuwait and to respond to any counteraction. Hundreds of our Special Operations Forces troops also deployed to carry out their assigned missions.
Numerous U.S. and British service and joint headquarters provided superb command and control, support, and detailed planning that helped ensure the success of this mission. We also received support from our friends in the region for which I am very grateful.
Every conceivable effort was made to ensure the safety of our people and the preventing of civilian casualties while accomplishing this mission.
Before I respond to your questions, let me say something about battle damage assessment because I know that's been a topic up here. I'd like to make a few points and then refer to some of the graphics.
First of all, the battle damage assessment is still ongoing and will probably take a few more days before we fully can make an assessment as to what the results are, but generally, we are very pleased and feel we accomplished what we set out to do.
Second, I'd like to explain a little bit about what our analysts go through in making these battle damage assessments. In that business, they're encouraged to be as negative as possible, or to be in a position not to tell the boss what he wants to hear, but if anything, to be more conservative in their estimates. I think that's for obvious reasons. A decision whether to restrike, a decision to continue on a mission that's dependent upon the previous one, lives could be at stake, so it is up to them to ensure that we have a clear understanding of what we actually did on the ground and to make no assumptions. So BDA is by nature from the analysts conservative.
Third, there's a qualitative estimate to BDAs as well as a quantitative estimate. That qualitative estimate is determined by the intent that I give to a given target set. Let me give you an example.
If I say that we intend to disrupt his communications or his air defenses for a period of time, the level of effort or the number of targets destroyed may be much lower. And some sort of quantitative judgment may say by God, General, you didn't accomplish as much as you did in other target sets. But we achieved what I intended to do -- disruption while we were conducting the attack or some sort of interference long enough for us to accomplish the mission.
Fourth, the other point I'd like to make is about individual targets versus the total target set. Certain targets are more important than others, and you might seek a degree of destruction or disruption beyond what you would on other lesser important targets. That means you might restrike, you might put [out] more ordnance. So in judging these things, it's difficult to make a purely quantitative analysis and use a basis such as numbers of targets destroyed in determining success. It has to be measured against the intent and the commander's intent as to what he had attempted to achieve.
I'd like to go over a few of the photos we have out there to show you some examples of the results we've recently gotten in.
This is Talil airfield. I think you can see clearly that the bunker complexes, the maintenance shelters were destroyed. The ability for the planes to come back and receive the degree of maintenance they need -- the home is gone.
The next photo I'd like to show you is of the Ministry of Defense in downtown Baghdad. Again, I think you can clearly see where we have struck and the effects we've had.
Next is the Ba'ath headquarters. You can see the holes in the roof. Here again, [shows] our ability to render the building unusable. You might look at something like this and one of our analysts might say this is moderate or light damage, but I guarantee you, nobody's working this morning in Ba'ath Party headquarters.
Next are a couple of our communications targets. This is a jamming station in Tikrit. Again, here our intent was to disrupt the ability to command and control.
And one of the repeater stations in Basrah in the south.
Finally, one of the division headquarters in Taji. This is Republican Guard.
I'd like to show you the results as we have them now. I emphasize again that the battle damage assessment is still ongoing, but for those who like numbers, we have compiled it to the minute. If I had to put a score sheet up, which I am reluctant to do -- but I will because I know in some ways that's the way we get focused on BDA -- we successfully hit 85 percent of our targets, as we know it now. And fully successful in terms that I'm completely satisfied that we had the results gained was 74 percent.
Now that doesn't mean we're going to find out more in terms of our assessment in intelligence that we've done greater damage. In some cases we might not ever know. We know that we were effective in that a piece of a communications system, an air defense system didn't come up and engage us. We may look at that through an aerial photograph and not see any visible damage, but one bomblet could have gone through the radar and rendered it inoperable. For some reason it didn't engage, and the disruption was effective -- either through the lack of attempt to use it or through our efforts to temporarily disrupt it. So in some cases we may never know, but the end result was achieved.
With that, I'd be glad to take your questions.
Q: General, a two-part question if I may. One, what's the percentage cut between successful and fully successful? Would 73 percent have been successful or...
General Zinni: We didn't measure it in terms of target numbers. When I say 74 percent successful, I'm telling you that in 74 percent of those targets I am fully confident right now, today, that I achieved what I went out to do in the fullest sense. That doesn't mean there hasn't been partial success in others. That doesn't mean we will find out from further assessment that we met that fully successful. This is kind of a point in time.
Q: The second part of the question, there have been no statistics yet of damage to the Republican Guard, lead Guard. Reports coming out of Baghdad say 68 killed. Do you have any idea of how many were killed in the raids?
General Zinni: No, I do not have any numbers of casualties. We do know, however, Republican Guard infrastructure, barracks, command and control, we can tell from the likes of photos like we have here that we have significantly destroyed, disrupted those facilities.
Q: Have you put the...
Q:...Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz that the United States was targeting civilian targets such as schools, hospitals, private homes, government buildings, that sort of thing?
General Zinni: We absolutely do not target those types of things. We take every care to ensure that civilian casualties are prevented to the best of our ability [for] every target that we engaged, we were convinced that we did all the planning and all the technical work to ensure to the best of our abilities that there would be no collateral or civilian damage.
Q: Did you hit any civilian targets by accident?
General Zinni: Not that we know of.
Q: General, on the buildup. Have you put the buildup as of now, at least for Christmas, on hold? Will the carrier, will the ENTERPRISE move out of the Gulf, or will it remain over Christmas? Will you keep two carriers for the foreseeable future?
General Zinni: Right now as we speak, as the Secretary mentioned, we are making the assessment as to what we should leave in theater, what should come out, what adjustments we should make. I'm working with my service component commanders out there on these decisions, and I expect shortly to present a plan and a recommendation to the Secretary.
Q: And just a brief follow-up, could you give us any idea what this operation cost? Cruise missiles are very expensive.
General Zinni: I think it's too early for us to make that assessment. We'll begin that process, determine costs... As you can imagine, we've had other things on our mind right now, but we'll in the aftermath...
Q: Did you use over half a billion dollars worth of cruise missiles?
General Zinni: I really don't know. I couldn't make that call right now. I gave you the rough numbers as to what we used, and you can do the math, but right now we're not in the mode of counting dollars just yet.
Q:...that it won and that all the United States did was bomb empty buildings where they had already moved things out of.
General Zinni: I would just say to that that a lot of infrastructure was obviously destroyed. I would say to you that after eight years, you can just look at the Iraqi military and see the degradation, inability to modernize, the readiness rates. There are a lot of troops and a lot of headquarters that have no place to go home to and have lost a lot of the ability to command and control and a lot of equipment. I don't know how you measure that as a victory in any way. I think our friends in the region and others clearly look at what happened to Iraq and realize that Saddam suffered a defeat.
Q: General, a number of America's friends -- Russia and France -- are beginning to talk quietly about wanting to circumvent the sanctions against Iraq. Should they try to do that and send ships openly into Iraq, will American ships stop them? Shoot them? What is your policy going to be if some of our allies say we don't think the sanctions ought to be there and we're going to run them?
General Zinni: I don't want to get into a hypothetical situation. At this moment we're enforcing U.N. resolutions and U.N. sanctions.
Q: Can I follow up on that same issue of oil? You did strike an oil target. Was it just an oil loading station? I don't know. But the damage was fairly light. Would you consider striking more forcefully against their oil export infrastructure?
General Zinni: The oil facility we struck in the south was one that was used for illegal gas [and] oil smuggling. We intentionally did it in such a way to disrupt the flow, but not cause any environmental damage. We did not want to do what Saddam did. You're not going to see burning oil fields. You're not going to see oil spills into the water. We very selectively and very precisely went after a point in that target that accomplished our goal.
Q: General, can you tell us how long U.S. forces are going to have to contain Saddam, since this seems to be the emphasis on the policy now. Are U.S. forces pretty much a permanent presence in the Persian Gulf?
General Zinni: U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, based on all those leaders I speak to, are a force of stability in the region. I don't think anyone has a crystal ball and can predict when Saddam will go away. He is still a threat. I think those in the region view him as a threat. And those in the region appreciate us being there, providing a counter and a deterrence to that threat. I can't predict how long that would be, but our vital interests, I think, require our presence and, with the support of our allies, our ability to deter Saddam.
Q: You thank our allies in the plural, but you only mentioned the British. Who else came to our assistance there?
General Zinni: Well, obviously, we couldn't be launching from bases out there and overflying certain countries, we couldn't be moving forces into the region without a whole series of allies that would be able to support us. I don't want to get into specifically where we base different types of capabilities because that would give to the enemy, I think, more information than I would care to. But obviously a number of countries have to be supportive in this effort for it to happen.
Q: General, when will you know if this mission has been effective, and how will you judge that effectiveness?
General Zinni: I would tell you right now that I'm convinced that it was effective, and I'm convinced that it achieved our objectives.
I think from here on out what we'll find out is we will add more support for that judgment. But again, in my view as the commander and with the mission I was given and the measures of effectiveness that I determined would achieve that mission, I'm satisfied we were successful.
Q: What is your batting average with the say previous strikes -- DESERT STORM, Korea, World War II? Any idea?
General Zinni: [Based on] our initial look, if I think I understand your question, about ordnance effect and on target, we are very, very pleased. They've exceeded all previous ones that I know about. This is a first, quick, rough look. But in terms of equipment and technology performance, we're very happy.
Q: This would be the most accurate air war the U.S. has ever conducted?
General Zinni: I would like to see more analysis before I make that statement, but off the top of my head, I think we've achieved results that maybe exceed what has happened before. Overall, there might be specific systems that...
Q: General, there are still a lot of questions about the timing of the attack vis-a-vis the submission of Richard Butler's report to the United Nations. Can you flesh out a little bit your thinking on why the need to strike so quickly?
General Zinni: I think it was clear that if he did not comply, if Saddam did not comply -- and it was clear non-compliance, and I think the report of Richard Butler and the removal of his UNSCOM team could not have been more clear -- that there were no more options. In November, I think the right decision was made when reluctantly we had to pull back, but his hands were up, he said he would comply. I think the President went the last mile.
After Butler's report was done and UNSCOM was no longer able to do its mission and left, then I think an immediate response was called for.
Q: What did you prevent by striking so quickly? Did you prevent a widespread dispersal of forces and potential chemical/biological equipment?
General Zinni: I think from a military perspective that's exactly right. We prevented his ability to prepare, to set SAM ambushes, to disperse his forces, to do a number of things that would have made our mission more difficult. Obviously, I think, the resolve that was shown on a political level to react as we said we would was another factor.
Q: Secretary Cohen has said that he believes the missile program's been set back about a year. Can you tell us your assessment of how far, how much, how long it would take him to rebuild the command and control or reestablish the Republican Guard barracks that you have wiped out?
Secondly, if he tries to do that, since you've now linked those things to his ability to protect and deliver WMD, will you strike again if you see that he is trying to rebuild those?
General Zinni: First of all, I think the decision to conduct any other operations or strike again would be the President's, obviously. We are prepared, if necessary, to do that. I can't make a judgment on how long it would take him to reestablish those capabilities. I think with the sanctions on and what we've seen in his ability to reconstitute forces and modernize, it's going to be extremely difficult. Those estimates of a year to me seem probably right, although I have no way of measuring exactly how long it would take.
Q: Have you seen any signs that Saddam's grip of power has been weakened at all? Any military units of his not answering the telephone when they're called? Things like that?
General Zinni: I would just say I think all of you know that he divided up the country into four sectors. The people he put in charge, the mission he gave them would tell you that was not done. Since he didn't react to us at all for some military reason, if I were to make a judgment, I would say that was for internal control, and I would point to that one very open and obvious move on his part as maybe an indication he lacks confidence in his own ability to continue to ruthlessly rule.
Q: General, did the Iraqis at any time strike back, except for using AAA? And is there anything going on in the south of Iraq right now in the way of troop movements by the Iraqis? We've heard some reports.
General Zinni: To answer the second part of your question first, I have not seen any reports of troop movements in the south. There have been some minor movements that basically look like, again, their counterinsurgency, what they've been doing, those types of operations. The only thing we received, that we confirmed ,was heavy anti-aircraft fire. We had some reports of SAM firings, I think one or two. As we further investigated those, we couldn't confirm those, and I would say I'd discount those.
Q: Just to follow, is he rebuilding anything that you've hit so far that you know about?
General Zinni: No. I don't know of anything that [he] is rebuilding or significantly attempting to reestablish.
Q: A question about the Republican Guard. How many divisions of the six did you all target? And how do you translate attacking the infrastructure into their combat effectiveness vis-a-vis Kuwait?
General Zinni: Well, I would say that first of all, understand the role of the Republican Guard. They are obviously the elite forces. They normally lead the attacks or certainly "bolster," and I would put that in quotes, the regular army who may have to be encouraged to attack by being directly behind them. They are the most significant, most loyal, most ruthless of his forces.
In terms of did our bombing do damage? I think equipment loss, I think headquarters loss, command and control loss. It's pretty tough if you're a troop in the field. You've got no place to go home to at night, and you see the level of damage that you see in these photos. That has to be fairly demoralizing.
I think you know, we put leaflets on the regular army telling them they were not the target. As long as they stayed put, they wouldn't be the target. I think clearly they understand the elite status of the Republican Guard -- extra pay, extra care -- used to enforce discipline on the regular army, and I think seeing the effect on the Republican Guard might be even encouraging to the regular army.
Q: You don't have any figures on casualties to the Republican Guard...
Q:...before the bombs fell? Did most of those troops evacuate before the bombs fell?
Q:...but Tariq Aziz gave the following figures for the total of Republican Guards and Special Republican Guards. Thirty-eight martyred, as he said, and 100 wounded. Is there any way that those you think are accurate?
General Zinni: I have no way of telling.
Q: Didn't you, though, intend to kill thousands of those Republican Guard troops?
General Zinni: Our intention was to attack the infrastructure of the Republican Guard. There was dispersal immediately before. We did see some. I can't tell you how much we saw. We are not in the business of body counting. We have not gone about that or made any attempt to make that part of the figures here. I feel [about] the kinds of things we went after, equipment and infrastructure, we were highly successful.
Q: You were talking about overflights of other countries' territories. Was that for logistical purposes -- tankers, that sort of thing? Or was that territory required to increase the numbers of avenues of approach for things like missiles?
General Zinni: I think, obviously, it's both. We have to have an enroute infrastructure to get to the theater of operations. We require enroute basing, overflight, refueling, positioning of our forces if it's a staged deployment. Obviously in the region it's desirable to have multiple operating bases. In the region you need overflight rights not only for aircraft but missiles. Support structure needs to be in place, and our own infrastructure. I don't want to get into specifics again, but this involved quite a number of countries that that support was made...
Q:...any countries where we have strike aircraft based that those countries did not grant permission for actual strikes to be launched from their territory?
General Zinni: I don't want to get into who told us what we could do and where we could strike from for several reasons. And one might be to disclose where we operate from and what kinds of aircraft we operate out of those bases.
Q: Can you go back to the whole issue of equipment in a little more detail? And talk about where, how many tanks, APCs you destroyed. Did you actually destroy also missile inventories, artillery, bombs? What ordnance and delivery systems did you really hit?
General Zinni: Obviously, I think you know we went after missile production and missile repair facilities. We went after surface-to-air missile sites. In terms of getting down to individual pieces of equipment, my being able to tell you how many APCs or tanks or FROG missiles or whatever, we don't have that yet. That's part of the sort of more granular assessment that we will have to do. We may never know exactly.
Q: Certainly. But if UNSCOM has said that there's unaccounted inventories of missiles, artillery shells, bombs that they believe are filled with possibly chemical and biological material, did you hit any weapons depots or weapons sites where you believe there was chemical and biological material?
General Zinni: None that we know of. But again, I think you point out the reason why it was important to keep UNSCOM in operation and with full access. The only way we know is through UNSCOM.
Q: General, didn't you in fact...
Q: You said that seeing the effects on the Republican Guard might be even encouraging to the regular army.
General Zinni: Yes.
Q: Did you have that in mind when you went after the Republican Guards? Can you elaborate a little bit on what you're hoping the regular army might do?
General Zinni: Clearly, our mission was as has been stated -- to degrade his WMD capability and diminish his ability to threaten his friends. Part of that meant the targeting of the Republican Guard.
There are a number of regular army divisions in the south that could react very quickly toward the Kuwaiti border. Our intent, our clear intent, was to prevent them from reacting. That comes under the diminished ability to threaten his neighbors.
If motivation to do that might have come from the Republican Guard, by doing that simultaneously it again falls to that second part of our mission, the diminishment.
Q: For how many hours were the Iraqis dispersing before the first missiles struck?
General Zinni: I don't have the exact figures. A few hours before. I think once they saw the UNSCOM team coming out they were beginning to react.
Q: That was the trigger for the dispersal, you figure?
General Zinni: I believe that probably was.
Q: General, can you expand a little bit more on your thoughts of why there was an utter lack of resistance from the Iraqis?
And a sort of unrelated question, why did you name this operation after a German general?
General Zinni: To answer the second one first, we didn't name it after a German general. The name was chosen probably because we intended to use surprise and immediate reaction, to be a little bit foxy, if you will. And it was no intent to use Rommel as an example for this. I don't approve those names, the Secretary does. We did recommend the name... (Laughter)
Q: Getting back to the first question...
General Zinni: I'll be much more careful... (Laughter)
Q: Getting back to the first question. Did this seem to be a deliberate strategy for them to just hunker down and take the blow? Can you explain that a little bit?
General Zinni: No. As a matter of fact, I've been asked before what surprised me the most in these four days, and I will tell you it was the complete lack of resistance in any form.
I would hesitate to make a judgment why other than to say I think that the Iraqi military is fully aware what could happen if they reacted in any way. Obviously if you turn on a radar or react in any way, we're prepared to handle that.
Q: General, President Clinton and Secretary Albright said they'd redouble their efforts to help the Iraqi opposition. Do you still see the opposition as not viable?
General Zinni: I think there are two elements that to me are encouraging. One is that we obviously are supporting and maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq. I think that's key in anything we do. I think the very careful way we're going about it now to vet these groups and make sure they meet the criteria, to me, I definitely would support that approach. I had concern initially because there are lots of groups out there, some not viable. But I think if we take this care and these announced policy parts to this, I think it's the correct course.
Q: You mentioned a couple of minutes ago counterinsurgency activity in the south related to the question about supporting opposition. What sort of activity are you seeing down there in terms of uprisings? How significant is it? What do you see in the way of putting these down? Also in the area of Baghdad, the suburbs of Baghdad, I'm hearing.
General Zinni: In terms of the latter, I have no knowledge of anything in the area of Baghdad. We've heard rumors and reports, but nothing I would or could confirm.
In terms of the south, there's been ongoing counterinsurgency operations against the marsh Arabs, the Shiites. And there are units dedicated to this. They've been continuing. We believe during the four days of the strike -- I think there was mention of some movement down there. In our determination, that movement was continuation or specifically geared to counter anything that might be brewing. We have no specific information of anything major occurring other than the normal counterinsurgency operations that occur down there. And I hate to even use the word normal, because they're pretty brutal.
Q: Did you see Shiite activity step up during the course of the strikes? Did you see disturbances increase during the strikes? Do you think they're looking to the United States for backing at this stage?
General Zinni: We didn't see anything. There were some reports actually in the open media that I saw of that, but we saw nothing specifically, and nothing more than the normal.
Q: One last question, and then I'll shut up for the day and take a number. But is not an attack of this...
Mr. Bacon: his number. (Laughter)
Q: Is not a strike or strikes of this type an act of war? And even though it's not declared, are we not in effect at war with Iraq? And as such, do we then need presidential green lights to go ahead? Can't all advice on tactical and strategic missiles simply come from this building in a wartime situation?
General Zinni: First of all, I would say what we did was an enforcement of a U.N. resolution that the Iraqi leadership, Saddam Hussein, was in violation of, and we felt that we are legally justified in taking that action.
In terms of decisions to act, that rests solely with the President, and that's where I felt these instructions came from.
Q: It's not an act of war then?
General Zinni: I will defer to the lawyers, and I will defer to others. I will tell you we were enforcing a U.N. resolution as we know it.
Q: Can you help us define what the triggers would be for a restrike of Iraq? The rules of the game have changed now that UNSCOM is no longer there. What is it that you will look at, and what is it that you would define as grounds to hit again?
General Zinni: I can only speak from a military point of view. My only immediate restrike that under the rules of engagement I would be authorized to do is if he takes some action toward our forces that are enforcing the sanctions: the no fly zones, the maritime intercept operations, those forces. Within the rules of engagement that I have, and my forces have, we can react. Beyond that or above that, obviously that's not my decision.
Q: You mentioned...
Q: Can you tell us about how many B-1 missions, their effectiveness, and the overall ratio of guided bombs to dumb bombs that you estimate you used?
General Zinni: I would have to get you the direct statistics. I was very pleased with the performance of the B-1. We gave them specific targets that we felt they were best suited for. We're very happy with their performance that we received. I think you saw a photo of one set of barracks that they attacked in the past. If not, we'll make sure we get that for you.
Q: Wasn't the number of precision weapons and the percentage of those unprecedented in this operation?
General Zinni: I'm not sure of that, Jamie. I would have to go back and check.
Q: With the exception of the B-1, it's almost exclusively precision weapons -- either satellite or laser guided bombs?
General Zinni: There was a large number of PGMs. I would have to go back. I don't have right with me the exact numbers, but I think we have a packet afterwards that we can provide...
Q: Aside from the B-1s? Did any new system or new tactics make its combat debut in this operation? Did you use any new weapons that haven't been used in combat before?
General Zinni: Not off the top of my head that I know of. I think everything else had been used before.
Q: General, why four days? Why not longer?
General Zinni: We weren't hung up on time or days. I think obviously you understand we were, there's a sensitivity to Ramadan, but that wasn't the judgment. At the end of the third day and going into the fourth day, I was asked if I felt our objectives were achieved or could be achieved. I felt I needed the fourth night. Part way through that I was asked again, and informed the Chairman that I was satisfied that we had achieved the objectives as I saw them. I saw no need to go into the fifth day.
I was not in any way hindered from asking for a fifth day or going into a fifth day. We had planned this operation so that we could not only respond to different counteractions that might happen, but that we could sustain it if need be. So there was no magic to the fourth day.
Q: Do you see this as something that will be happening once a year, eight months from now? We're talking about how we've set programs back about a year.
General Zinni: Again, I'm not prescient enough to comment on what might happen. I think Saddam might have learned from this, and if he's smart, he wouldn't want to see a repeat.
Q: General Shelton said he wasn't targeting Saddam. Can you explain why you don't target Saddam in an operation like this? And I thought since the Gulf War you had the kind of bombs that could penetrate into bunkers and so forth and get him if you knew where he was at. Can you address that?
General Zinni: The answer to your first question is obviously, we don't target individual leaders. Secondly, one of our target sets is command and control. Obviously if he happened to be in a command and control facility that we were targeting, fine. Could we go get bunkers if we knew where they were or they were part of the command and control structure? Do we have the ability? Certainly. We have the technology to do that. But we were not targeting Saddam directly or specifically or individually.
Q: There's a report that his sister's house was struck. Is that accurate?
General Zinni: We didn't target his sister's house, so I have no way of knowing...
Q: Given the fact that intelligence is always an iffy business perhaps at best, why did you take dual use facilities off the table in Iraq, but yet you had previously already struck a dual use facility in the Sudan. What's the difference between the two cases?
General Zinni: I think in this case when we looked at facilities that we would strike, a number of factors came into play: obviously, things like collateral damage, our ability to get to these facilities, how much we knew about them. I think also in terms of what the dual use might be, and how assured we were that the second part of the dual use was in play.
You can make the case that almost any kind of, maybe a milk factory, again, could be a chemical factory or whatever. So I think we tried to be very selective. We tried to make the point on this, we tried to hit targets that we were very certain of.
In terms of the facility in Khartoum that we struck, again, I think we've been through this a number of times. Clearly we felt there was a connection, there was clear evidence, and in that case despite what might have been dual use, there was more than convincing evidence that it was used for the production of at least the precursor of chemical weapons.
Q: Can you tell us a little more, are there more details...
Q: General, following up on the BDA for a second. In terms of Tomahawks. They used basically a figure of 85 percent in the past in terms of success rate. How did this stack up, one?
And secondly, when you look at your chart here, IADS and surface-to-air missiles, it looks like the most number of misses. I was wondering why, if you could tell us if that's true for both...
General Zinni: On the first question, we far exceeded the 85 percent. We were very pleased. I won't give you an exact figure, and obviously we're still doing analysis. But we were extremely pleased on the TLAM performance and the low percentage of failures that we might have had.
In terms of the IADS, I would go back again and say you have to go back to what our objective was. In terms of IADS and SAMs, it was to disrupt. And when you say disrupt, it means we don't want him to be able to communicate, to use the integrated system, to connect the radar with the missile, to be able to fire accurately. The level of effort, the ordnance we need, then is a lot lower.
So if we're able to take a shot and it puts his head down, knock out one repeater out of four or five, you achieve disruption for the time you need. So you'll see a low level here, and it will seem inconsistent with me saying we achieved our results, but I would say that successfully, we had no SAMs fired for whatever reason, and we were able to get to our targets with a high degree of success and lack of interruption.
General Zinni: No, you don't have to have complete destruction on every target.
General Zinni: It could be, as I mentioned before, you might pick one specific target in a set and say I have to have destruction in that. The rest may be just a level of interruption. Or you might just need that level of interruption across the board. So when you look quantitatively, it will seem that it isn't as successful, but yet it achieves that commander's stated intent.
Q: Did you destroy any SCUDs at all? And did you use the GBU-28, the 5,000 pound bomb at all?
General Zinni: The answer to the second one is no. And the SCUDs, I have no knowledge that we have destroyed any SCUDs.
Q: You mentioned that the Special Forces were involved. Now that operations are over can you give us some idea of what they may be doing and tell us were any U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq over the past week?
General Zinni: There are a number of things that Special Operations Forces do. Obviously, I'm not going to get into all of them. I will give you some examples, though. They do work with our allies in the region. They provide a degree of connectivity, liaison connection with U.S. forces and coalition forces. I think all of you know we've had an ongoing INTRINSIC ACTION in Kuwait. They provide our coalition support teams, and they have a number of other missions that they support.
Also SOF, as part of that, has PSYOPS -- psychological operations. You know we dropped leaflets, three million in fact. Part of their responsibility is the development of those themes to be recommended, and then obviously the production and distribution of those.
Q: Earlier this year you talked about if you ever were to strike Iraq you would strike those tools that kept Saddam in power. To what extent have you diminished his power base?
General Zinni: First of all, I want to be clear that in this operation we had the degrade/diminish tasking. That's what we went after.
For me to determine whether we achieved, as a side effect, diminishment of those things he holds dear or regime stability or whatever, that wasn't an objective. I hope we contributed to it. And we may measure that we have and see indications of that in the future. I don't have any specifically that I could determine, but that wasn't an objective of this operation.
Q: Do you think it shows that?
General Zinni: I'm satisfied that the objectives of this operation were what they should have been.
Q: General, one of the criticisms that came out of the Gulf War was the lack of timely support from the intelligence community in providing imagery and dissemination. Can you contrast this operation with that in terms of the performance of the CIA and the National Reconnaissance Office?
General Zinni: I think I had tremendous intelligence support, and I think I can say that in several respects. One is the integration of all the intelligence effort. All the agencies were truly one in this operation. I felt that all my intelligence needs and requirements, my essential elements of information that I needed were serviced extremely well. The BDA that we've talked so much about has been rapid; it's been responsive; it's been well analyzed. I have seen no seams in the intelligence community in terms of differences of opinion. Maybe where we see things a little bit differently, they've worked very hard to understand why. The cooperation has been superb, and as a commander I could not have asked for better.
I think the ongoing intelligence effort we have out there over Iraq obviously has been very significant, so this day-to-day gathering of intelligence from all our sources has paid off in this targeting.
Q: General, the CARL VINSON now has arrived at the very end. Did they take any part in the strikes or...
General Zinni: Yes.
Q:... or were they too late?
General Zinni: No. They flew on the last night, and also two of their surface ships fired.
Q: Can you give us any details about your airstrikes, your air deployment of the mission there. We haven't been able to get much.
General Zinni: In what terms?
Q: Well, where you flew, what targets you hit, how often did you go to Baghdad, did you just go into the south?
General Zinni: I'd rather not get into what targets we put specific assets against or how we would do it, and where we might go in the future and what assets we might use in the future because again, that's contingency planning that we have ongoing.
Q: General, the threat of...
Q: General, there was dispersal ahead of time. In fact if you were watching your TVs at home, you had the sense before the missiles even struck that everybody knew about it.
Did you intend for there to be some early warning so there would be less loss of life as you went about your primary mission?
General Zinni: We did not intend any early warning, but by the same token, we obviously selected and planned our targets carefully to minimize as much as possible any collateral or civilian damage or casualties.
Q: Or were you surprised that there seemed to be news reports of this about to happen before you actually gave the orders for missiles to be fired?
General Zinni: No. Like I said before, I think when UNSCOM left, speculation, based on that alone, could have generated that reaction.
Q: When did you determine for this mission that the B-2 was not needed?
General Zinni: The B-2, like other assets, is in our planning and there's an appropriate time, a place and target, and that's where it stands. I don't want to go any further because again I'm into contingency planning and assets on particular kinds of targets.
Q: One of the ways Iraq can threaten its neighbors and also put down insurrections is a sizeable amount of helicopter gunships. I know you targeted those a little bit. How much success did you have?
General Zinni: We feel we had a great deal of success. We actually found some of the places where they were hiding the helicopters, and we were able to target those, we feel, successfully also.
Q: What degree of degradation would you say?
General Zinni: It's still ongoing. We still have a few more assessments to come in on several of the helicopter targets that we hit. Again, not only airfields, but several places where they were attempting to hide them.
Q: There are very specific terrorist threats floating around out there, targeting sites in your area of responsibility. How concerned are you about that, and is there anything that's being done in an effort to prevent this from happening?
General Zinni: I'm very concerned about that. I think, as you know, there have been some very recent and specific terrorist threats. Osama bin Laden and others. And we take those extremely serious.
All our force protection measures are in place. We feel confident that we have all the measures we need and the appropriate ones in place. But I will say this. There's no way to guarantee 100 percent. In order for us to do our mission and our job out there, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines take a degree of risk day-to-day, and there's no way of avoiding some of that. All we can do is minimize it, use our intelligence, react to it, and protect ourselves as best we can. But again, to their credit, they've been absolutely magnificent and this hasn't affected their performance one iota.
Q: How proactive can you be in an effort to deal with that beforehand?
General Zinni: Again, I think proactivity is really dependent upon intelligence, and we feel we can react with the appropriate intelligence. I think you've seen recently what has happened to Osama bin Laden's infrastructure based on intelligence, law enforcement, military and all the pieces working together.
I'm encouraged by that, but by no means do we deceive ourselves that this isn't a real threat, and there's still a formidable threat out there. Especially in our region.
Q: Any message for Osama bin Laden?
General Zinni: No, I think if truly he is, as he professes to be, a man of religion, he ought to study his religion very closely, because the things he's doing are not in keeping with the tenets of Islam as I know them.
Q: General, there was a little bit of U.S. military history made in this operation in that apparently for the first time ever a U.S. female pilot dropped bombs during this campaign. What do you make of that military milestone? Is it just a sign of the times?
General Zinni: My answer would be so what? We don't even count... Somebody asked me today how many female pilots or navigators. I have no idea. I can't find anybody that counts. So if you want a sign of the times, there it is.
Press: Thank you.