Friday, October 19, 2001 - 1:30 p.m. EDT
(Also participating: Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem, deputy director of operations for current readiness and capabilities, Joint Staff. Slides and videos used in this briefing are on DefenseLINK at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Oct2001/g011019-D-6570C.html )
Quigley: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. A couple of brief announcements this afternoon.
For starters, I know I'm doing this a little bit in advance, and we'll remind you again next week, as well, but next Wednesday, the 24th, at 10:00 in the morning [EDT], the Army will honor its heroes from the attack on the Pentagon at an awards ceremony in Conmy Hall at Fort Myer. Secretary of the Army Tom White will host the event honoring both soldiers and civilians for their actions and injuries on the 11th of September. And again, we'll mention this probably Monday or Tuesday of next week. I just wanted to give you a heads-up on that.
Second, the first C-17 dropping humanitarian relief to Afghanistan being flown in with pool media on board completed its mission several hours ago, and the products from that flight are available on the Web. Rather than reading the long URL, I will just tell you that it is on the Air Force's Web site, and we have press advisories for you afterward, so you can harvest some of the stories and the imagery from that mission.
From this point on, the C-17s will be flying with press on board -- and the tankers accompanying them -- with press on board filing unilaterally. But this first one was pool and available for all.
And finally, I just talked to Ms. Clarke a little bit ago on the phone. The secretary is en route to Whiteman Air Force Base this afternoon. I think they actually got off a little late from Andrews Air Force Base, but they are in the air. And he is visiting the 509th Bomb Wing out there at Whiteman, home of the B-2, the only home of the B-2 in the United States, and will be out there for the remainder of the afternoon.
And with that, I will reintroduce Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem from the Joint Staff. He has an operational update on yesterday's activities in Operation Enduring Freedom, and then he and I will field questions, depending on the category.
Stufflebeem: Good afternoon.
Before I begin the formal part of the briefing on yesterday's missions, I hope you'll understand that I'm not going to discuss any operational details regarding ground forces. As capable as these forces are, I think the reason is clear: If or when they are on the ground, being there would make them the most vulnerable individuals engaged in this campaign. And I will not discuss any matters that could possibly put our people at risk. I hope that you'll understand. And I'm sure that the families of those brave young warriors will understand.
Now I'll discuss the aspects of yesterday's campaign.
Today is the 13th day of operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Let me give you some more information about what we did. On Thursday we struck 18 planned target areas. Those included airfields and air defenses; AAA sites, including dispersed armor and radar at those sites; ammunition and vehicle storage depots; artillery camps; troop deployment sites; as well as military training facilities, including armored vehicles, trucks and buildings.
The CINC used over 90 strike aircraft. About 75 of those were carrier-based tactical jets; less than five are shore-based tactical aircraft; and about 10 land-based bombers.
Again yesterday we continued to fly missions in support of humanitarian relief. Three C-17 missions delivered approximately 52,000 humanitarian daily rations. The total delivered via airdrops to date is more than half a million.
We have an image of the Kabul military barracks west to show you. This is located in central Afghanistan. It's one of the training facilities and garrisons serving the central Taliban corps. The facility consists of barracks, support buildings, and vehicle maintenance and storage. As you can see, numerous armored vehicles and buildings have been destroyed. While the level of the occupancy of these facilities is unknown, destroying them makes them unavailable for the Taliban use during the winter months.
We also have several weapon-system video clips to show you.
Q: When was that, Admiral? Was that yesterday?
Stufflebeem: That was yesterday, as the video.
The first target you'll see in the video is a surface-to-surface missile-support facility near Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. This facility supports missile launch and stowage. This first clip shows the support vehicles being struck.
Q: Do we know what kind of missiles?
Stufflebeem: I don't know. I'm sorry. We can get that for you. Surface to surface. I don't want to guess. We'll get you the answer to that one.
Q: These are planes that carry bombs, though; right?
Q: No, no. I'm talking about the missiles that were hit.
Stufflebeem: In terms of the target.
In the next clip, a tank is protecting a facility, and is taken out.
Q: Where is that? Also the same place?
Stufflebeem: This is in the same facility.
Q: Excuse me, Admiral. You said it was a SAM missile support facility, and then you said --
Stufflebeem: Surface to surface.
Q: It was a surface you did say? Beg your pardon.
Stufflebeem: The last two clips are targets at the Kandahar training facility. The first is a barracks building in the foreground, hit by one coalition aircraft, while another in the background is struck by a second aircraft.
In the second clip, the view is from one aircraft targeting or lasing a maintenance building, and you'll see a second aircraft's bomb hit near this target just before this jet's bombs strike this building.
Q: What was the target on that, just the building?
Stufflebeem: These were barracks. Barracks and a maintenance building.
Q: Sir, can you say where that surface-to-surface missile target was? You said the previous one was in --
Stufflebeem: Near Jalalabad.
Stufflebeem: I think that concludes our visuals for today. And I'd be happy to take your questions.
Q: Admiral, Afghanistan is an awfully big country. I'd like to press you just once on the ground troops and why you can't confirm at least small numbers of ground troops are in -- somewhere in Afghanistan?
Stufflebeem: I think the best way to characterize it is to reinforce what has been said up here before. There are parts of this campaign that will be visible and there will be parts that are invisible. And I hope that all of your readers and your audience appreciate that these men, when and if they're on the ground, are those that are most vulnerable. So if and when we describe what operations may be going on, it's when that vulnerability is minimized. So until we have that kind of environment, to either confirm or deny that, I think is beyond what we want to get into right now.
Q: Well, last week Secretary Rumsfeld said that on the Muslim Sabbath, which is today, Friday, there were no planned or preplanned or fixed targets targeted, but under the engagement zones and the ATOs [air tasking orders] coming out of CentCom, that seems a little different. Is it pretty much the same thing or is it still wide open? And parenthetic to that, next month, on the 17th, begins Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar. The secretary was not quite clear, although he implied that there would not be a stand-down during that month. Can you add to that at all?
Stufflebeem: I can say that we'll leave all of our options open. The secretary pointed out when we did not do it on their Sabbath, that's not to say that we would not.
Q: Admiral, you said that there were 18 planned target areas yesterday. Does that include any targets of opportunity that may have emerged yesterday?
Stufflebeem: No. Planned targets may include engagement zones. You may not find targets in there, necessarily. So it's possible, though you have planned sites, if you go to the target area, you may not find the targets that you would intend to strike, and you're not just going to release the bombs onto just the dirt.
Q: Could you tell us a little bit more, then, about how many actual targets were struck, then? I'm a little confused on that.
Stufflebeem: I will only say what our intentions were for yesterday. We intended to go after those numbers of sites. How many we actually struck is really kind of beyond where we are right now to be able to either categorize as being damaged, destroyed or reassessed as a valid military target or one that we passed on. So, remember, I had mentioned the other day that there's a time lag in getting back the results of what you would intend to do, and that applies here, as well.
What we intend and launch for may not necessarily be what we have come back with.
Q: My question is really -- is there some way for you to quantify for us the target of opportunity -- targets of opportunities that you are striking, as opposed to the fixed, planned targets that you've seemed to be describing when you put up the slides each day?
Stufflebeem: I don't care to do that, and for this reason. The targets that are flushed out, if you will, by attacking planned fixed sites may provide other targets of opportunity that get on the move, when and if they moved might present themselves as an opportunity that we had not expected but took advantage of. But that also, in and of itself, is a tactic, and it's not necessarily one that we're going to want to get into just yet.
Q: All this week DoD officials have released the number of strike aircraft involved in the campaign, and the number of cruise missiles, except yesterday. Was there any reason that was left out?
Stufflebeem: I'll be honest; I wasn't here yesterday. Do you know, Craig?
Quigley: No, I don't know the reason for that. Let us take that question and see if we can get that number for you. I'd say it was more an oversight than anything else. [For Oct. 17 targets, 7; strike aircraft used, 15; bombers used, 8 to 10; HDRs dropped, about 53,000.]
Q: Admiral, a couple of quick questions. One is, the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan claims that the Taliban has suffered no leadership casualties in this first 13 days of bombing. Do you have any comment about that or any information that contradicts that?
Stufflebeem: I don't have any information. We are confident that their communications have been severed, and therefore I'm not confident that they necessarily know all that they think they know.
Q: Another quick follow-up. Yesterday -- among the targets hit yesterday was a moving vehicle that passed by the area where CNN was operating in near Kandahar. Can you give us any indication of what that -- who was believed to be in that moving vehicle?
Stufflebeem: I don't -- I'm sorry. I don't have anything on that, Jamie. I don't know.
Q: Just one last follow-up. CNN is reporting today that U.S. intelligence has reliable information that the Taliban may blow up a major mosque in Mazar-e Sharif and attempt to blame the United States for that damage. Is there any information to support that?
Stufflebeem: I have not seen anything about that whatsoever.
Quigley: Can I -- Jamie, I have seen the story -- I think it was in Turkish press, I think -- that referred to that -- that you're referring to about that report. We don't -- like Admiral Stufflebeem said, we don't know if that's true at all. But it's certainly very clear that the Taliban have not hesitated to destroy religious sites.
I recall the very tall Buddhas, that were carved into the mountainside in Afghanistan, that were destroyed some months ago by the Taliban.
If this is true, and their intentions are to destroy a mosque and then blame it on coalition aircrews, I just hope we can hold that up as an example of the Taliban's techniques for destroying such religious sites.
But again, I'm quick to add that we don't have any way of independently confirming that. But I did see the piece.
Q: Admiral, can you talk in general terms about what it is about special operations units -- their capabilities -- that make them important at this point in the campaign?
Stufflebeem: Well, the capabilities of special operations are always important. I think in the main, to give you an idea, special operations have a tremendous capability in intelligence gathering, and they have a tremendous capability in training others, especially in small-unit military tactics. There is not a specific correlation to necessarily what they can do to what they might be doing if they were there.
Q: Sir, can you just say whether the United States has targeted -- has identified and struck any targets on the basis of information that you have received from people on the ground?
Stufflebeem: I can say that we use all source intelligence; we do our very best to validate that intelligence so that we are confident that it is a valid military target. I wouldn't characterize where-all we can get that from.
Q: Admiral, yesterday there were photographs coming out from the Kabul area showing that individual homes were hit. Can you talk about whether or not the United States has determined that the Taliban, for whatever reason, are using individual homes for military purposes? Or do we have information, perhaps, that these are the residences of Taliban leaders?
Stufflebeem: I don't have any specific information on those homes. I will say that we do track very carefully where we put our weapons, and if it -- the rare occasion that we aren't exactly on a target, we admit that. We regret that.
It is also not inconceivable that a propaganda organ of the Taliban might use this tactic that you're referring to to their advantage. But I have not personally seen any reports that indicate that they've done that.
Craig, have you?
Quigley: No, nor I.
Q: (Off mike) -- on that. The United Nations -- I think the United Nations demining campaign in Afghanistan has claimed that 10 (percent) to 30 percent of ordnance dropped thus far is unexploded. That's quite a bit of the over 2,000 ordinance. Can you address that at all?
Stufflebeem: I can't address that specifically because I don't have the statistics on how many weapons that we have dropped versus how many of them did not explode. I can tell you I would say generically, especially from my career experiences, that not all ordnance that you deliver works.
Q: Yeah, but is that conceivable, 10 (percent) to 30 percent of JDAMs and Tomahawk cruise missiles and the laser-guided bombs?
Stufflebeem: In my personal experience, I would say that that is a -- would be a gross exaggeration of the failures that we've seen.
Q: Admiral, speaking of that, the last stuff that we got on the minimum number of weapons, bombs and missiles used was 2,000. Could you give us an update on that? The strikes have been intense since we got that figure.
Stufflebeem: Charlie, we can take that question and give to you. I don't -- I know it's hundreds of thousands of pounds. I haven't tracked the exact number of weapons. [More than 3,000 total.]
Q: Would you do that? Will you take that question?
Q: You said that you were confident that Taliban communications had been severed. Could you explain a little bit more what you mean about that? Are they unable to talk amongst themselves? Are they still able to communicate with al Qaeda? What, specifically, does that mean? And as a follow-up, can you tell us of any specific al Qaeda targets that you have struck in the last few days?
Stufflebeem: Part of our systematic campaign is to target the Taliban command and control. And in that command and control includes the communications capabilities. So we have planned and intended and struck at those. I think a good piece of evidence of that is the ambassador, who I saw report just before I came down here, who was leaving Pakistan to go back to see Mullah Omar, ostensibly because he had no communications with him and so has to personally travel there to be able to do that.
We are also targeting what we know to be the al Qaeda organization, all of it, which would include its command-and-control capabilities. So, any of those targets that have to do with command and control, whether they are Taliban or al Qaeda, are going to be targeted, if they haven't been already.
Q: Do you believe that there is still any possibility of cell phone traffic capability within Afghanistan between the various parties? Are you talking about hard line? What are you really talking about here?
Stufflebeem: I think it's better not to characterize exactly what is or what isn't.
There are targets we may still want to use, and there are targets that we may want to take advantage of. And so I think it's best to say the way that our campaign has been constructed and being carried out is that we are targeting all of the communications that we want them not to use.
Q: Admiral, I'm going to try one more time on special operations. You mentioned you don't want to talk about anything that may -- any units that still may be vulnerable. Is it possible to talk about any units that are now out of Afghanistan that have already conducted certain operations, and what they may have done?
Stufflebeem: There may be a right time to talk about what has or what is, but now is not the time.
Q: My second question, on the humanitarian effort. There are still a number of groups that claim that the food crisis is a result of the bombing campaign. Can you talk a little bit about what's being done to try to convince these groups that want to deliver food that they are safe to do so? Is there any sort of coordination so that these trucks have a path to get the food to where they want to go?
Stufflebeem: I understand your question. It's really more of a policy question. I feel confident that what I have read is that our government is doing everything we possibly can to encourage the NGOs to support those in need. All of the reports that I have seen, and I would say that most of those are anecdotal or reporting in the major news outlets, have been that the Taliban are preventing the NGOs from doing what they need to do, and that there is not an impact from this campaign on that.
Let me go to the back. Sir?
Q: Can you tell us, is there any concern in the Pentagon because of the possible political vacuum after the Taliban is gone and maybe the al Qaeda group is dismantled? Do you believe -- there are too many groups fighting each other to gain the power of Afghanistan. Is that a concern for the U.S.? Is there any way it can affect the work you are doing now?
Stufflebeem: Well, it certainly is a concern of the U.S., as much as it is to the neighbors around Afghanistan. Where we are, though, in our military campaign -- I will take you back again to our objectives. We are going after al Qaeda. And for as long as the Taliban supports al Qaeda, we're going to go after the Taliban until they are no longer able to do that. The determination of what is to follow is yet to be, in my opinion, determined by the Taliban.
Q: Sir, you talked several times about disruption of the communications. We understand that al Qaeda has cells all over the world. By disrupting the communication in Afghanistan, are you -- do you have any evidence that you're able to keep the communication between those cells worldwide under some kind of control or hamper it in some way? Or is Afghanistan really self-contained in terms of --
Stufflebeem: You've asked a good question, but also a very broad question.
And you're getting at a little bit of worldwide intelligence capabilities. So I won't characterize any of that.
But what I will say is that Afghanistan has been the most successful and prolific haven for al Qaeda. We're going after al Qaeda. We're going to bring them to justice or bring justice to them. With that haven being disrupted or, if necessary, destroyed, that has got to complicate al Qaeda's worldwide operations.
But outside of Afghanistan, I don't want to characterize anything in terms of what we're developing as intelligence.
Q: Yesterday Secretary Rumsfeld talked about how ammunition, among other things, would be provided to the Northern Alliance. Has any of that actually made it there? And can you talk about what type of assistance the Northern Alliance is in fact receiving?
Stufflebeem: I don't have any information on what it is specifically that we're providing to the Northern Alliance. I'll ask Craig if --
Quigley: We'll take that and see what we can provide you.
Stufflebeem: What I can say is -- and this is sort of a follow-up to what we had discussed a little bit on the other day -- what we are doing in our approach right now has a positive effect for every anti-Taliban group there. I think that's probably the best way to characterize it. What we are doing is supporting the Northern Alliance.
Q: Admiral, you mentioned earlier about the surface-to-surface missile site. Can you tell us more about how many surface-to-surface missiles they may have, what kind of range? I mean, is this something that -- some missiles they could fire into neighboring countries?
Stufflebeem: Off the top of my head, I don't have that information. I'd be glad to that for you and get back to you. I just -- I'm sorry, I just don't have that in my --
Q: (Off mike.)
Stufflebeem: -- I'd be giving you a wag, and I just don't know.
Q: Admiral, what would the special operations ground forces bring to this fight that can't be achieved by the intensive airstrikes now under way, in terms of meeting the objectives of the campaign, as you have laid them out repeatedly today?
Stufflebeem: As the secretary said yesterday and as the chairman, I think, reinforced, the full spectrum and capabilities of the U.S. military are going to have to be brought to bear in this war on terrorism.
We are in a phase that currently is in Afghanistan. Afghanistan and those there have withstood war for many, many years. They're battle-hardened. There are very few of us who are confident that just an air campaign alone would necessarily help us achieve our objectives. And so we would not necessarily limit ourselves to only a campaign of just from the air. We'll do whatever we need to do to meet these objectives, and that will apply worldwide, not just in Afghanistan.
Q: But what specifically did the special forces bring to this fight that would allow the U.S. to meet its goal in this campaign?
Stufflebeem: Well, to get back to sort of the generic answer to the question of what the special forces bring, they are experts at developing intelligence. From on the ground, ground forces can provide intelligence that we had no capability to from a signals collector or from the air from visual photography. In fact, I would say that CNN does a terrific job at giving us feedback sometimes on what we see happening from targets that have been struck.
The other thing they do particularly well is train forces -- like opposition forces -- to be a force multiplier in achieving objectives, either internal to the country or what we hope to achieve out of it.
Lastly, I think that -- there's no surprise -- is that they're also experts in small-unit tactics and direct-actions warfare.
Q: Admiral, is it true that a long time ago, the special operation forces were deployed -- maybe since 1999 -- to provide some training to the people of the Northern Alliance, and also to gather some intelligence information in Afghanistan? Were they before the events of September 11th?
Stufflebeem: We don't talk about the specifics of what our special operating forces do.
Q: But they have been deployed before or later?
Stufflebeem: They have been deployed, and they deploy throughout the world at the request of other governments.
Q: Sorry. Yeah, I've just been wanting to ask this question actually from the beginning: You've been dropping leaflets to Taliban troops, to try to neutralize or demoralize them because you're after al Qaeda. Are you really very concerned about confrontation on the ground, that's why you're doing that? Because we still hear defiance from Taliban troops that we are actually after, or we want ground kind of battles that they can -- or they think they can win.
The other thing, in the absence of accurate information as to the damage inflicted on Taliban by independent agencies or by Taliban themselves, are you in for surprises? Do you expect any kind of retaliation? And are you ready for it?
Stufflebeem: To the first question, about the leaflets, the leaflets are part of our capability or part of our arsenal, and they're providing instructions to those forces for their safety as well as for ours.
To your second question, I think that it's prudent that we would expect a reaction from al Qaeda somewhere in the world at some time. The secretary has articulated more than once that these are plans that probably have been hatched a long time ago and are just waiting, for either a timing sequence or a signal, to be executed. We don't have any specific information that we are currently preparing for at the moment, other than to say that we're doing everything in our power to pool intelligence, to learn more about this organization so that we can dismantle it worldwide.
Q: Admiral, can you talk about the situation around Mazar-e Sharif? A couple days ago, we heard that Northern Alliance forces had pushed to the edge of the airport. Since then they've reportedly been bogged down, it's been a to-and-fro battle. I understand that there has been some close air support from the United States. Can you talk about what the situation is there now?
Stufflebeem: As I understand it, it's the same. There still is an ebb and a flow from one day to the next. The Taliban claims to have the upper hand, and at another time, the Northern Alliance is close to feeling that they have taken the airport. I think the best way to characterize it until we actually -- you know, this has been going on now for a number of years, and I think it's going back and forth and probably will continue to for some time.
Q: Are U.S. sources powerless to --
Q: (Off mike) -- clarify it. There are reports now -- and at last count, four major American media outlets -- saying that special operations forces are on the ground in Afghanistan, and sourcing their story to Defense Department officials. Are you specifically denying the accuracy of those reports?
Stufflebeem: I'm neither confirming nor denying. I'm stating a policy that we don't talk about what our special operations forces do in operations.
Q: Are you concerned that officials at the Defense Department appear to be talking to the media about things that you specifically are -- I mean, are you -- you know, on the podium and officially, we're getting nothing, but clearly there's -- unless these major American media outlets are lying, clearly there are conversations that are going on confirming these things.
Stufflebeem: I'm not concerned. If I have a concern, it, again, would be for those forces that might become vulnerable or those families that might become concerned.
Q: At Mazar-e Sharif, if we could just follow up, are U.S. forces powerless to tip the balance there? And if not, why haven't we, say, taken out some of the artillery positions or made it easier for the Northern Alliance to take Mazar-e Sharif?
Stufflebeem: Well, the coalition forces are certainly not powerless. But we have a specific campaign. We have mapped it out to a degree that we have specific objectives internal to the overall ones that we wish to achieve. When the time would be appear right, we'll do what is necessary to get rid of those military portions of Taliban that may or may not be directly against Northern Alliance.
We're working on our campaign on our timeline for our specific goals and objectives. We are not concerned at this point, necessarily, how that may appear to those in a particular spot on the ground.
Q: Admiral, on the Kandahar barracks, to what extent are those barracks still occupied, with all the bombs falling, or are they just empty buildings at this point? And specifically, given that it's in Kandahar, to what extent are al Qaeda forces integrated with Taliban and might have been in that barracks?
Stufflebeem: Well, we don't know who would have been in that barracks. We know it's flattened now, so we know that it's no longer available for anybody to occupy. That is part of systematically taking away that military capability. There now is not a garrison at that location to come back to, to refresh, to retrain, and re-equip in.
Q: So it doesn't really matter if it was occupied or not?
Stufflebeem: It does not. It is -- it was a designated military target of the Taliban. There may or may not have been somebody there, they may or may not have been associated with al Qaeda, but it is no longer available to them.
Quigley: A couple more questions.
Q: How do the Taliban forces seem to be observing the Muslim holy day? We had reports of very active artillery barrages from Taliban forces in the Bagram area.
And I have a follow-up.
Stufflebeem: I don't know how the Taliban intend to worship on the Sabbath. I have not seen anything on that.
Q: And the follow-up is, there have been daylight, very active artillery barrages in the Bagram area on Northern Alliance forces. And yet there does not seem to be any airstrikes in that area. Why is that?
Stufflebeem: Again, it's because in our campaign construction, we have objectives that we wish to achieve. If at that particular moment the artillery barrage was particularly heavy in that part of the country -- I'm sorry -- Afghanistan --
Q: Is that the Shamali Plain? I noticed you had that on your map for the first time, the Shamali Plain. Is that the same place?
Stufflebeem: It is. And that area runs sort of the north part as it turns down through a pass towards Kabul. And again, the specifics of an action that occur on the ground in the vicinity of the Northern Alliance may not be in consonance with the timeline of our campaign.
(Cross talk.) I think we have a chance for one last question. Yes, ma'am?
Q: Can I ask you -- do you have any evidence or any feeling for whether these leaflets and the radio broadcasts to the Afghan people are having any of the intended consequences that you hoped for?
Stufflebeem: We're hearing anecdotal reports that there are some who are defecting. We're hearing anecdotal reports there are some who are switching sides. So I'm convinced that those leaflets are not hurting.
Q: Admiral, you did -- (cross talk) -- excuse me. Regarding Ramadan --
Stufflebeem: Thank you very much.
Q: Regarding --
Q: Are you going to brief tomorrow, Admiral?
Quigley: No, we do not currently have any intentions of briefing tomorrow. If there is news to share, by all means we'll put that out. We may brief. I don't have any plans to at this point. But we would do that another way, whether it would be a blue topper or something else, Ivan. So --
Q: Craig, regarding Ramadan, the admiral refused to say whether or not you might or might not strike during Ramadan.
Q: How about today? Was it like last week, where you are laying off hitting preplanned targets on the --
Quigley: No, today was nothing like last Friday.
Q: Ah. So you -- (inaudible) -- all targets?
Quigley: Mm-hmm. (Affirmative.)
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