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DoD News Briefing: Lt. Gen. Howell M. Estes, Director, Operations Directorate, J-3

Presenters: Lt. Gen. Howell M. Estes, Director, Operations Directorate, J-3
December 18, 1995 1:30 PM EDT

Monday, December 18, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.

(Also participating in this briefing were Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD PA.)

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

We have a multi-media briefing today with charts, we have a video to show you, and of course, we have Lieutenant General Hal Estes, the J-3. He will speak on the record and take some questions, and then we'll have a defense official do some other questions on background. We'll do four questions on the record, and then the rest with the defense official on background.

General Estes?

General Estes: Good afternoon.

My plan today is to give you a little update about what's happened over the weekend. Many of you know from what's been in the papers and what you all have reported on the news networks what the state of play is, but I want to try to give you a feel for the major decisions that have taken place, where we are in terms of carrying out those decisions, and what the future looks like here in the very near future.

Let me just start by saying it's obvious that over the weekend we had both the approval by the NAC for main body deployment, the North Atlantic Council, that was the NATO decision. NATO has declared it's Go-Day, or what we're calling G-Day which was Saturday the 16th, and almost simultaneously, the U.S. decided to go ahead at the President's direction and approval; the Secretary of Defense has deployed the U.S. main body force, at least started the deployment of it.

Let me turn to a chart here and talk to some of these events and what you should expect coming down the road. I've used this chart with you before to depict the signing, the Go-Day I just described to you being here. Of course what we're looking for now is the transfer of authority or the assuming of command in the area by NATO forces, which will happen on the 20th. That's about two days away from now.

In the scheme of things, what we're trying to do now is, we get in, NATO takes command of the theater, then there are some tasks that need to be done here, the military tasks. The major military tasks to be done by the NATO forces is to monitor the ceasefire, the zone of separation. The forces that are on either side during this time period have agreed in the Dayton Agreement to withdraw from two kilometers either side of this ceasefire line is to be completed by this date, not started. So between the time NATO takes command of the theater and the 30-day period out here on the 19th of January, we should see a lot of movement by the warring factions as they've agreed to do in the Dayton agreement.

What does our force flow look like in relation to this NATO time table? I go through that with you because clearly, it's important that we have forces arriving in the theater at the proper time to be able to carry out these particular tasks that have been assigned to the implementation force. You've heard me talk about the enabling force that went in early. It now is, obviously, since we're past the Go-Day now, we're not sending enabling forces, we're sending main body forces, so it really stopped about right here, but these were part of the implementation force that went in early that would allow for the rapid movement of the kinds of forces you see down here on the bottom of the chart, and I'll explain those in a minute.

The other forces that you saw go in early into Hungary were these support forces. Of course that started shortly after the enabling forces did into Bosnia and Croatia, these forces started into Hungary. The purpose of those forces was to build a support base in Hungary so that we could have a rapid movement of the forces you see here in this reddish brown color once the decision was made to deploy the main body force. So these forces are building up at the support force locations in Hungary at Kapasvar, which is the railhead, and Tezar, which is the airfield. They will continue to build for another week or ten days until we get all the support forces in.

In terms of the decision to deploy the U.S. main body force, you see what we call route opening forces. These are forces that are going in to allow the land route from Hungary to Tuzla to be opened, and they have to secure the route that goes from the location at Kapasvar, which as I mentioned a minute ago is the railhead about 30 kilometers north of the Hungarian/Croatian border, secure the road down to the Sava River which is located on the border between Croatia and Bosnia. They also involve a bridging company because we're going to have to put a bridge across the Sava River so that we have secure and total land line of communication into the Tuzla area.

So that's what these forces are doing. They're security forces. They are a bridging unit for route opening of the land line into Tuzla.

The next piece is the initial entry force which you see here, and really what this involves are two units -- the C-130s you saw today landing at Tuzla in Bosnia comprised mainly of an assault command post, and also the security for that assault command post, a light infantry unit called the 3/325th. Those two units -- the assault command post and its security force -- comprise this initial entry. You saw the first aircraft landing today -- 13 C-130s landed today. We have another 14 scheduled today, assuming the weather will hold for that; and about an equal number, or actually a few more, scheduled for tomorrow. But their purpose is to air deliver with C-130s this initial force.

This, then, will give General Nash, who is the Division Commander of the 1st Armored Division, the major unit that we'll have in Bosnia, it will give him the ability to, on the proper timing here with NATO taking control of the theater, have sufficient force there and the command and control to be able to do that in accordance with NATO's time table.

This strike aviation brigade that you see, or strike brigade, is an aviation brigade out of the 1st Armored Division. It, of course, starts to deploy, too. It will stage through the airport I mentioned earlier, Tezar, in Hungary, and then move on to Tuzla. But it's scheduled to go as well.

Then these two brigade combat teams you see, the 1st and the 2nd, are the movement of the primary ground forces that are going to be carrying out the implementation force tasks for the U.S. They will, once the initial entry force gets in, start to deploy. They will be there, for the most part, before this 30th day. You can see both of these brigade combat teams will be in place, the majority of them, prior to the zone of separation having to be monitored. The commander, General Nash, has made the determination for his sector and his division, that these forces, in combination with those of our allies that will be there with us, are a sufficient force to carry out the tasks required by NATO at this point in time.

Then the division support force continues, this is the sustaining piece for the other forces that you see already deployed in.

So that's the general flow of U.S. forces as it's laid out now.

Let me talk a couple of minutes about specifics, now. I already talked to you about the flow into Tuzla today with the C-130s, but overall the air flow, as it heads in towards Bosnia, some of it's coming from the United States, staging into Germany with certain pieces of equipment and people, and then those people are being forward deployed from Germany down to either Hungary or Croatia or Bosnia as the case may be.

So far there have been about 240 flights involving the movement of these kinds of people, either from the U.S. or from Germany itself to forward locations. About 4,000 people have been moved, and about 5,000 short tons of equipment. So it may look like small things have happened here so far. Obviously not true, in that there is a large ramp-up behind that of things moving in place which will eventually forward deploy in accordance with the schedule you see here, to get them into Bosnia at the right time, based on the NATO time table.

I think it's also important to point out we're moving forces in by road. About 50 busloads of troops have gone into Hungary or into Croatia so far. Overall, that looks like it's going on about on schedule. The rail movement, we've had about 30 trains close so far, primarily in Hungary, again, but some also down into Zagreb and some even down in the southern part of Croatia, down near Split. There are another approximately 35 trains en-route, and others being planned for and loaded at this time as we gear up to move the forces that you see shown here.

So we initially took a little time to get this started in terms of rail movement, but we think we're doing pretty well. NATO seems to be very pleased with the flow, so we don't see problems there.

Obviously, if we're moving by air, rail and road, the one place we've had obvious problems -- although they are not viewed as being anything substantial, but because of the weather you've seen at Tezar, and especially at Tuzla over the last few days. Obviously the aircraft that were scheduled in did not get there on the timing we would have liked to have seen them. But this is not a concern to the commanders who were responsible for these forces. They feel that the force flow is going according to plan as far as they can foresee, and that they will be, in fact, able to carry out the tasks they'll be asked to carry out by the NATO forces at the time they will be asked to carry them out, so we're very pleased with that.

I think I'll talk just a couple of minutes about the Reserve forces. I know you had a briefing earlier today by Lieutenant General Fisher who came in and discussed this with you a little bit, but just to, again, review where we are with our Reserve forces. As we know, the President has allowed the call-up of about 3,800 Reservists, and most of those are in the Army, either Army Reserves or Army National Guard. There are 77 units which have been identified for call-up, and so far 61 of those units have been directed to mobilize. That involves about 2,300 Reservists. Those Reservists will be going to one of three locations. A few of them are staying in the United States here, at the mobilization centers to facilitate the movement of people through the mobilization centers. The second place they're going is into, primarily Germany, to backfill the active duty forces that move forward to Bosnia. Then we have some that are going into Bosnia-Herzegovina itself, and some to Hungary. So the vast majority of all of the Reserves that are being mobilized will be moving forward to Europe.

I have one other slide here I'd like to show which talks about the tasks themselves. I promised you I'd bring this back. And recall, at the 30-day point we keep saying there's a job that the IFOR has to do, which is to monitor the ceasefire line and the zone of separation thereby created.

What I've tried to do on this schematic is to show you in general terms what the U.S. sector might look like, and that would be in this yellow area that you see here -- not the blow-up down here, but the yellow area. This would be primarily Federation territory, in fact it's all Federation territory. The darker color on the outside here is the Bosnian Serb territory -- this being Croatia, and the green over here being Serbia.

What you see here with the red line would be a depiction, a schematic drawing of the ceasefire line. You can see how it comes up like this. Here you see it dip down into Federation territory. I'm not saying that actually happens, I'm using this for depiction purposes to explain to you what needs to occur. That red line that you see running around the outside boundary here is the red line along which the forces must be separated, and withdrawn two kilometers either side by the 30th day. So that's what we're seeing here -- parties withdrawn four kilometers, two kilometers either side of the NATO, assuming command of the theater.

So it is along this red line depiction where the U.S. forces in its sector will be monitoring the separation of these forces at the 30-day point.

The next piece is at the 45-day point, and what I've done here is shown that using this cross-hatched area here. This is territory to be transferred from one side to the other.

What happens is, they negotiated with they call the inter-entity boundary line, and that's the blue line you see here. You can see it runs, at least right here, differently from the red line. That's because when the ceasefire took place, the Serbs actually were into this sector right here and controlled land that eventually is going to be turned back over to the Federation states. It could be the opposite in different parts. There could be sections in which the Bosnians or the Bosnian Croats have territory that must be transferred back to the Bosnian Serbs. But for examples' purposes, I've used this case where we have some land that must go from the Federation back to the Bosnian Serbs.

At the 45-day point this line, then, will be the line and the forces that are in here that would belong to the Bosnian Serbs in this case must withdraw behind the blue line on their sector. That's what NATO forces, the IFOR, will be monitoring in the time from the 30-days where they've separated four kilometers either side of this line; then 15 days later, the Bosnian Serb forces in this example that are here, would have to withdraw to the other side of the blue line.

The Federation forces cannot move into the zone that's been cleared until the 90th day, which is the third data point.

So there are some steps along the way for confidence building. First of all, we separate along the red line. Then if there's a difference between the red line and the blue line, the appropriate force must vacate the land to be transferred at the 45- day point, then at the 90-day point, the land that was vacated may be filled by the other side.

What does a blow-up of the line look like? You can see here, I've carved out a small sector of the line and shown it here. You can see here that this is the inter-entity boundary line which in this piece coincides with the ceasefire line, so it's the same line. You can see there will be roads that run across the boundary in three places here. What will happen is, we will have the zone of separation two kilometers either side of that line. That means no weapons of any kind will be allowed inside of that two kilometers either side, and this is the primary area that the IFOR will patrol. The implementation force, as Admiral Smith and the NATO commanders will tell you later, the implementation force has the right to travel anywhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but their primary focus is going to be along this line of separation to ensure the parties do separate properly and maintain the conditions of peace that we've had since the ceasefire was established.

You can see on this road, for example, these little triangles depict what would be crossing points, and there would be IFOR, Bosnian, and Bosnian Serb forces in each of these crossing points to monitor the flow of traffic to ensure it has free access across. We may, in fact, have to close down some of the roads if they're fairly close together so that we don't have too many roads we have to monitor. We'll put a sensor field out here and mark this as being a closed road. If somebody crossed it, the sensors would tell us they're there, and the NATO forces could go out and take a look.

There will be an IFOR, an implementation force command post inside of this sector in which we have access to commanders on both sides of that particular region in close proximity to each other, so that the NATO commanders that are there can do the job necessary of coordinating forces and information of forces on either side.

You see a helicopter here because the helicopters will be used to fly up and down this line of separation. We will not have forces every step of the way. That doesn't make sense because some of this terrain is very harsh terrain in terms of being mountainous. It wouldn't make any sense to put forces out in those areas in that no one on either side is going to be traveling across those areas anyway.

The forces will be in the places where we think there is a likelihood of passage of people across the boundary line. So that's a blow-up to give you a feel for what it might look like.

At this point I have one other thing I would like to show you on the screen here, if we can get the lights down a little bit. What I'm going to show you is a digitized data display of what it looks like coming down out of Hungary to the river crossing at the Sava River between Croatia and Bosnia where we plan to do that, and then the road network as it runs down into Tuzla, we'll show you what the Tuzla airport looks like. I apologize, this isn't as clear as I'd like to have it, but I'll try to talk you through it as we go so you have a feel for what things are going to look like.

Here we are coming down out of Hungary now, and we're headed down toward the Sava River. You can see Sapanja showing up here, here's the Sava River crossing, the river you can see right here. Aranja is just on the Bosnian side. Here is the river crossing itself. Again, it doesn't show up quite as well as I'd like it to. The actual road network you can see, if you can just hold that for a minute, runs about right here, and we're going to put the river crossing a little bit further to the west of that.

Now we're headed to the southeast, toward Tuzla. If we had some clouds it would be what it really looked like. You can see Tuzla coming up in the distance here. They've swung around now, and they're landing, they cut the picture for us. They're landing now toward the Tuzla airport, and they swung around to the east side. We're landing east to west. So the distance, you're going to be looking toward the west as we come in on this.

This is called Tuzla East, a very small little airfield out here; another one here; but this is the main airfield, right here.

You can see a small little dirt strip here, which will probably be used by some of our helicopters. Here we are coming in on the main runway again. The west is out in the distance. Now he's going to stop here over the airfield itself, and we'll swing the camera to the south, and I hope we can see off in the distance a little bit. You can see some of the mountains off in the distance. Swinging from west now, down towards the south. We can see the higher terrain to the south. Sarajevo is about right in here to the south. You can see Pale going by at the top of the chart. It's on the other side of that ridge line.

Now you're looking east... I guess they've swung all the way around and we're headed out back to the west again now. Now they're just pulling back away from the airfield itself.

Withdrawing to the west now obviously not the east back off to the west. Here the city of Tuzla and you can see it is to the north there is a wedge line right in here sort of between the city and the airport itself. Okay go ahead and turn that off.

The last thing I want to talk about just for a minute is the river crossing itself than we get to a couple of questions.

I showed you very briefly it was coming in this direction from north to south, this is [inaudible] the town on the Bosnian Serb side of the river. Here is where the main bridge was taken out and here is where the first bridge will go in. There's a ferry crossing at about this point right now, and here is where the bridge will go in and we'll come out this road network and head down toward Tuzla.

This depiction shows you generally what's happening. We're using rail to bring the bridging equipment down through Kapasvar to Zapana, offloading at Zapana and then taking it down to the bridging sites you see here.

Between the bridging site and Zapana there will be a staging area which we will, as forces come down, units come down the road network out of Kapasvar, and a lot of them will come down the road network vice the train, they'll go into the staging area before they go out here onto the bridge to cross, and then proceed along here to Tuzla.

You can see on here that the security forces for route security, it's our responsibility up to this point initially, and the security forces are already at the bridge crossing. Right now, today as we speak, some of them are there with some small numbers of engineers as they start the prep work at the bridging site on the north side of the river.

You can see the distance across here is about 1,000 feet. This is a very typical kind of a bridge crossing. We don't expect any difficulty whatsoever in bridging this river. The forces that are doing this are extremely well trained, practice this all the time. They've looked at the conditions here and see absolutely no problems with getting this bridge across in very short order.

The responsibility for security down to Tuzla here will be the Nordic battalion initially, and then once we have secured this route and forces moved in this direction, we will assume security for our own forces along this route. That's the general plan for, you can see here is what sort of one piece of a bridge might look like. This has obviously been opened up, but there's a drive-on section here from the land, and then out onto a pontoon system and there's a series of those connected as it goes out across the river.

Q: How wide is it there?

A: The river crossing here? About 1,000 feet -- 965.

With that, why don't I take some questions if you have them. I'd be glad to answer them.

Q: How many troops on the 13 C-130s that arrived today, and how many on the 14 that are scheduled to arrive? In other words, how many do you expect in today? And are the Apaches in yet?

A: The answer to your first question is, the exact number of forces on that I won't be able to tell you until a little later, but I can tell you that in the assault command posts, in the security element going with it, there are about 1,000 to 1,100 in terms of the total number. How many of them got in there today, I don't have a count on. What we tried to do today was to get the assault command post in there and some elements of security, and you'll see more of that flowing tomorrow as hopefully the airport, it's apparently going to be about like it was today, so we expect to get the remainder of that force in there tomorrow some time.

The issue of the Apaches, the Apaches have loaded... Remember, the Apaches are part of the aviation brigade going. The initial deployment of the first Apache battalion has loaded equipment and they're going to self-deploy. That means they're going to fly their helicopters down to Tezar in Hungary first, and establish an ability there to provide support to the forces as they're moving in to Tuzla. Then once the forces are there, shortly thereafter they will stage forward into the Tuzla area, so you're going to see them going to Tezar in Hungary first, and then moving forward into the Tuzla area maybe a week to ten days later. Maybe not quite that much. My recollection of exactly the timing escapes me at the moment, but that's approximately what it is.

They're trying to deploy now, as soon as the weather's good enough for them to air deploy, you will see the initial Apaches moving forward and their equipment is loaded on trains and is moving towards Hungary at this very moment.

Q: I guess what I was getting at is that you're not just going to use those... You mentioned using those in the zone of separation. But I assume that in the mean time you would also want some in there to provide security for the forces...

A: That's precisely why they're forward deploying to Tezar. They have operated out of there, initially, to provide exactly what you're talking about.

Q: And you'll let us know when that...

A: We'll let you know when they get there.

Q: What indications, you mentioned all the things that the warring parties agreed to do and the time tables they've agreed to do them. Do you have any indications at this point of good intentions, that they intend to follow through on this agreement?

A: This is a question you're really going to have to ask the people in the theater, but from where I am with the things that I have seen, they have, in fact, carried out as General Joulwan said on the television yesterday, that in fact the radars were supposed to shut down by the 72-hour point, and that happened. These are indications that things are going to go well. They are, in fact, abiding by the agreement for the things that they should have done by this point in time. So I think we're all very optimistic, and that's the same report we're getting from the commanders in Europe.

Q: What option do you have to force them to comply if they don't do all the things they promised to do? And isn't it kind of risky flying helicopters up and down these ridges? Couldn't they easily be shot down?

A: Well, again, the issue of compliance, there are very specific tasks that were in the Dayton Agreement that the NATO forces have been asked to accomplish. These tasks, according to the commanders in Europe, General Joulwan in particular, he says he has the force necessary to accomplish those tasks. So I don't anticipate any problems with that. Specifically what the IFOR will do in response to a given condition, they have rules of engagement that tell them exactly what to do and what not to do, what they're allowed to do within the bounds of what they've been given. We've said all along that from our standpoint in the U.S., we've insisted on robust ROE to ensure that one, we can protect ourself; and two, that the IFOR has the authority to carry out the military tasks of this agreement. So all I can tell you from our perspective, since ours is not operational here, ours is to be sure from a national standpoint they have the right ROE, and our country has pushed very hard for that, and that they have the right people and equipment to carry out the tasks. We have tried in every way possible to make sure that happens as well.

Q: One of your other charts showed 1st and 2nd brigade combat teams. Those are the folks who are actually going to be monitoring inside the zone?

A: That's exactly right.

Q: Will they be doing that before the 30-day mark?

A: Again, this is an operational question. You'll have to ask Admiral Smith what his plan is, and General Joulwan, and within our sector General Nash will give you the answers to those questions. It's just not proper for me to try to articulate for you what commanders are or are not going to do with their forces.

Q: I'm wondering whether you expect a certain number to have already been in country by that date, the 30-day mark, or...

A: Remember the chart I showed you, recall I mentioned to you that the 1st combat brigade and 2nd combat brigade will have started flowing...

Q: How many people are you talking about?

A: Here's where the 30-day point is right here. You can see that the majority of the 1st Brigade Combat Team and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team will be there. Recall we said overall, for the U.S. forces going into Bosnia, it's about 20,000. I can't tell you exactly what that number is at that point. You can see some divisional support forces, and some elements of these two will still have to flow. But again, the decision has been made and the orchestration of this flow has been set up so that General Nash will have sufficient forces in theater to carry out the tasks that he's going to be asked to do in the U.S. sector in combination with our other allies that are going to be there. Recall that the Turks are going to be there; the Turks have a brigade-sized force. The Nordic brigade will also be there from the Nordic countries and there are other countries involved in that. Then we have the Russian brigade as well, so it's the combination of these forces that General Nash will have to be able to carry out the tasks that he's going to be asked to do in accordance with the Dayton Agreement on the 30-day plan.

Q: What's the status of the Russian brigade's arrival? Aren't some advance teams already in Belgrade?

A: I've seen the same reports you have. I haven't got any more insight into it than that. Again, this is a NATO issue, but I've seen reports that there are some initial elements, very small numbers of initial people that come coordinate the arrival of the Russian brigade when it does come, and that they are, in fact, flying into Belgrade and then driving down. I've seen the same reports you have. I have no more information other than that.

Thanks very much.

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