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DoD News Briefing - ASD PA Clarke and Brig. Gen. Rosa

Presenter: Victoria Clarke ASD (PA)
July 15, 2002 11:00 AM EDT

(Also participating was Air Force Brig. Gen. John W. Rosa, Jr., deputy director for current operations, Operations Directorate, the Joint Staff. A clarification of some of the comments at today's briefing about the C-130 is on the Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/2002/b07152002_bt367-02.html )

Clarke: Good morning everybody. As most of you know, Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz is in Afghanistan today for meetings in Kabul and Mazar e-Sharif. He will also visit with U.S. and coalition troops at Bagram, and he is headed to Turkey this evening for some meetings there tomorrow. He spoke Sunday in Istanbul regarding Turkey, the importance of our relationship with the country and Turkey's very important role in the war on terrorism. If you haven't seen it, I'd direct your attention to the speech at DefenseLINK.

As Secretary Rumsfeld has said repeatedly, Turkey is a valued and close friend of the United States and a NATO ally. It is a nation, being in that part of the world and having experienced terrorism that is particularly sensitive and understanding of the problems we all face.

General Rosa?

Rosa: Thank you, Ms. Clarke, and good morning. Earlier this morning in Afghanistan, a CH-47 was conducting a resupply mission. On landing, the rotor wash blew some equipment around the ramp, and three folks were injured, three military and one civilian. All are minor injuries and not life-threatening.

In Iraq on Saturday, aircraft supporting Operation Southern Watch dropped precision-guided munitions to strike the air-defense facilities in the vicinity of An Nasiriyah. The command-and-control facility had earlier helped direct air attack against coalition aircraft.

And yesterday, coalition aircraft used precision-guided munitions again to strike a mobile radar associated with a mobile surface-to-air missile system in the vicinity of Abu Sukhayr. The radar was struck because it presented an imminent threat to our aircrews and coalition aircraft flying in the no-fly zone.

And with that, we'll take your questions.

Clarke: Toby?

Q: Oh, okay. Hi. (Laughter.)

Clarke: (Inaudible.)

Q: There are reports out of London that Osama bin Laden is in fact alive and that he suffered some sort of shrapnel wound in his shoulder, and that he's going to come out and do a video after the next attack on America. First of all, have you heard anything about the fact that he had suffered this wound and is still alive and --

Clarke: No. I'm aware of the report out of London, and it seems like almost a weekly occurrence, a different country has the latest rumor. But, you know, we continue to get reports he's alive, reports he's dead. And we just don't have the information.

Q: The secretary has said a number of times that there has been, I think he said, heard neither hide nor hair of bin Laden since December. Has that -- has there in fact been something more recent, some indications more recently that he is alive of any kind?

Clarke: I haven't heard --

Rosa: We haven't seen --

Clarke: Anything one way or another recently.

Q: Okay.

Q: Today in Bagram, Secretary Wolfowitz stated categorically that there were "bad guys," quote-unquote, in the vicinity of the villages that were hit -- or in the villages that were hit in the raid. I'm just wondering whether or not that's a definitive -- I mean, it's a very definitive statement, and yet the investigation hasn't really even begun. Can you -- I mean, have you got confirmation now that there were indeed al Qaeda and or Taliban in those villages?

Rosa: We don't have confirmation whether they were al Qaeda or Taliban. But as we came in closer to the village, we were obviously fired on, like we have been in so many instances. So there was some pretty intense fire -- that our folks returned fire back. By that definition, I think you can say that -- safely say that there were opposition in and around that village.

Q: But except -- could I just get a follow -- in the previous case, in Oruzgan, it was the case that there was outgoing fire, probably because people saw armed men approaching the village, and yet those people turned out not to be opposition. They turned out to be pro-Karzai gunmen -- forces. How can you not say that the same may have been possible in this latest incident?

Rosa: Without getting into the investigation -- we'll let them do their work -- these two cases, although some similarities -- had many, many differences. In Oruzgan, we were much closer to the facility, to the compound. We were further away in this case, further away from that village, when we took fire in this case.

Q: The -- (inaudible) -- local governors are asking for, you know, greater coordination in any further raids of this type. You know, from the podium, you've away described everything we've done, including the most recent raid that resulted in the friendly-fire casualties -- we've always had coalition and Afghan people with us. So would -- do you see any change here in what these governors are asking as far as prior approval or clearance for this operation?

Clarke: I have read the reports of what some of them may have said. I haven't actually seen what they have said. But since the very beginning, since last October, one of the keys to success has been working closely with the Afghan people, including the regional leaders. That has continued to today. It has continued -- the July 1 raid -- we were working with Afghan forces on the ground. So we will continue that kind of close cooperation going forward. We're always looking for ways to make the coordination as effective as possible.

Jim?

Q: Well, can you say, then -- first of all, who were the Afghan forces on the ground that were operating with U.S. troops? Who did they answer to? And was that operation cleared with either the government in Kabul or the local governor or who? Who in the Afghan government?

Clarke: I don't have names of the people on the ground, but there were Afghan forces with them on the ground. I don't know what their clearance process may have been.

Q: Well, then how can you say that you're cooperating with them if nobody seems to know --

Clarke: No, I'm sure people do know; I just don't happen to know. I'm sure Central Command knows. I'm sure our people on the ground, I'm sure General McNeill knows. But I'm saying from this podium I don't know exactly who it was, but I know they were there with us in the period leading up to the July 1 raid and the July 1 raid itself.

Eric?

Q: General, you said that you -- we were farther away from this village than we were in the other attack. How far away were we? And did we actually have eyes on --

Rosa: Can't tell you.

Q: -- a target from a ground site?

Rosa: I can't -- I don't know the distance. I just know that, from looking at maps, we were further away.

Q: Okay, but did we have eye -- I mean, General Newbold suggested in a couple briefings that we had actually eyes-on from the ground on target -- on a gun that was firing at the AC-130. Is that the case or not?

Rosa: Well, you can be pretty far away and see anti- aircraft.

Q: I understand. But can you tell us now that you had allied -- some allied coalition force eyes on --

Rosa: I can't tell you that because I haven't -- I haven't seen that.

Q: Well, is there some reporting here within the building that would support the statement of General Newbold?

Rosa: I haven't seen it.

Q: Are you pulling back from what General Newbold made the other day?

Rosa: I don't speak for General Newbold. He'd love to be up here, I'll tell you.

Q: General, on Iraq, you said that the Sunday incident, the mobile radar was a threat to coalition forces. Can you say in what way? Was it illuminating the target in some way? And also, given all the incidents that have been occurring with the no-fly zones in recent times, have you -- has the coalition upped the tempo of its operations in any way in terms of patrols?

Rosa: We haven't upped the tempo. It appears that there's been a spike, but these are, as we measure them over the last 18 months, they're not unusually high. After 9/11, the firings in the no-fly zone subsided slightly, but they're back up to the normal levels. This radar was a radar that accompanies a surface-to-air missile, and any time they move those types of radars and missiles into that no-fly zone where our coalition aircrew are patrolling, that is a threat.

Q: It was a threat that they'd been moved into a particular area.

Rosa: Right. They had moved south, in this case, into the southern no-fly zone.

Clarke: Ivan?

Q: A question for General Rosa, please, using your command pilot's wings. First of all, there has been a disagreement over whether or not there was actually AAA fire from that village. The air crew members, according to Central Command, say there was, ground observers say there was. Can we now say unequivocally that the AC-130 was fired upon? And also, even though many of us think we know, will you tell us for the record, how do you distinguish between AAA fire, if you're flying, and small-arms fire?

Rosa: I don't think we can say at this point -- I can't say -- unequivocally that the AC-130 was fired on. That will come out, hopefully, in the investigation. Small arms -- when you see that type of fire, it looks like little sparkles. AAA is a bigger flash. Many times you can see up around the aircraft, if they're shooting at your altitude, depending on the size of the caliber -- you can see those explosions up by your aircraft. With many cases, you don't see it.

Q: Here's the follow-up: Do we believe or know that the unfriendlies have proximity fuses that would detonate close to the aircraft?

Rosa: Don't know that. I assume that, but that -- I just don't know that.

Clarke: Alex?

Q: To go back to the issue that came up at the time of the raid, five people having been detained: Has there been any success yet in establishing the identities of these individuals? And were there more than five people detained in connection with the disputed raid?

Rosa: I don't know the identity. Somebody obviously does, but at this level, I personally don't.

(To Ms. Clarke.) I don't know if you do.

Clarke: No.

Rosa: And that's the only detainees that I've heard.

Q: So we still don't know whether they're Taliban and al Qaeda foreigners, Afghans -- ?

Clarke: I don't know of any identifications that have been made on it.

Pam.

Q: Do you know anything about -- two questions -- anything about Canadians taking some detainees and who they might be? And also, who did Wolfowitz meet with in Mazar?

Clarke: On the Canadians, I don't have any information. In Mazar, we were trying to confirm right before we came out and were trying to call the plane to confirm if he had met with [Afghan Gen. Rashid] Dostum, because that was a possibility. But I do not have confirmation. We can follow up with you.

Q: Do you have an agenda if he did meet with Dostum -- something that he was going to bring up with him?

Clarke: No, he was, as I said -- Kabul -- the plan was for Kabul, Bagram, Mazar-e Sharif, then back to Turkey and meet with a variety of officials, meet with the troops there, the U.S. and the coalition troops to express our appreciation. So we were trying to call the plane just as we came out, and we'll try to get confirmation of what actually occurred.

Eric?

Q: Can we just go back to this AC-130 again? Is it your understanding, General, that the AC-130 engaged the target on the ground because it was under fire at that moment or because it had been and other aircraft had been fired on from that site in previous days and weeks, as General Newbold had laid out earlier?

Rosa: I just have not seen a sequence that would lead me to believe that I can stand here and make a conclusion. We need to let the investigators -- they just got there. There's 11 of them plus the general officer, and they'll sort that out.

Q: I know, but what's your understanding -- I mean before this investigation started, there were a few days here before we had any kind of formal inquiry begun into this. What was the understanding at the time the kind of curtain came down on the subject of the inquiry? Was the plane under fire at that moment or not? Or was it actually going against a target that had been causing problems for allied aircraft for some days?

Rosa: I don't know that.

Q: Could I get two points of clarification? You said that you can't say unequivocally that the AC-130 was fired upon. Therefore, what kind of fire -- you said there was hostile fire. What kind of hostile fire was it? And who was it aimed at? And second of all, I'm wondering if I can get clarification on your statement regarding the demand or request from the governors -- six governors in Afghanistan that the United States get prior approval from them before conducting such raids. I wasn't sure whether or not you said definitively that the United States would give such approval -- or would seek such approval.

Clarke: Sure. And let me try to address the first part of it. I think we have to let the investigation take place. I think there is a lot of information that we want. There's a lot of solid information that we don't have at this time. So, I think we have to let the investigation do what it's supposed to do, which is get those sorts of answers.

In terms of what we are doing, I'll repeat. We have coordinated very, very closely with the Afghan people, with the regional leaders, since last fall. And we will continue to do so going forward. In terms of approval, you should go to Karzai in terms of how it works on their side of the fence. He is the head of the interim [transitional]government. He is our primary means of coordination, if you will. But in terms of how he coordinates that in Afghanistan that is up to him.

Q: So, you're saying there is always prior coordination with President Karzai on these kinds of --

Clarke: I'm saying we consult and work very, very closely with Chairman Karzai.

Q: I'm still puzzled about the definitive statement by the deputy secretary saying that there were definitely bad guys in that village, and you're saying, no, we've got to let the investigation go forward.

Rosa: No, no.

Clarke: No.

Rosa: You're mixing apples and oranges. Okay? Let me see if I can set this straight. There's two different types of fire. There's one that if I fire at you, that's ground fire. There was definitely ground fire. Our troops were fired on. There's another type of fire that folks over there customarily fire in the air, for whatever reason. There was firing in the air. People witnessed that. You asked me whether it was directed at the AC-130. I can't tell you that. I don't know if it was or not. But there were definitely two types of fire.

Q: Typically are these operations approved or cleared or run by anybody on the Afghan side?

Clarke: Well, there are Afghans with us.

Q: I mean anybody in responsibility, like, say, Karzai or --

Rosa: I do not know their approval process. I just don't know at what level. Their folks are with us. They've been with us on almost every one of these operations. But I don't know at what level the Afghan approval comes.

Clarke: Otto?

Q: The general mentioned that the investigating team had just gotten in the country. When I checked with CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] last week, they wouldn't name the members of the investigators until they did arrive in country. Could you give us the fill on who was in that? You said -- the general said there was 11 people. Who is in that team, and who are the --

Rosa: I can't give you a mix -- names, but there's a mix of folks. There's AC-130 expertise. There's expertise from coalition. It's a joint team.

Clarke: And you can get the -- you can pronounce the name of the brigadier general who's in charge of that --

Rosa: Actually --

Clarke: -- who is a close personal friend of General Rosa's, so --

Rosa: He's a good friend of mine, but he's got a name like Jim Miklaszewski, and it's very difficult to pronounce. We call him Tony P [BGen.Anthony Przybyslawski]. He's just given up the Wing at Whiteman, the B-2 Wing at Whiteman, and is on the way over to head up that investigation.

Q: Is there a Special Ops guy in there, since there were Special Ops on the ground? Is there Special Ops --

Rosa: I could almost equivocally (sic) tell you yes, but I don't know, because I haven't seen all of the makeup. But it -- they would have to be part of that team.

Q: He was a B-2 driver [pilot] before he took the Wing, obviously. Does he have any AC-130 experience?

Rosa: I don't know that. I don't know.

Clarke: Jim?

Q: There are reports that the U.S. has given the Pakistanis some helicopters to use to monitor the border. Could you explain how that arrangement works, whether it's going to be the -- whether the Pakistanis are going to be flying them, whether there are going to be any U.S. troops involved, whether those patrols have begun?

Clarke: We would -- we'd leave it up to the Pakistani government to talk about what's going on in their country. It's been very, very good cooperation that continues. But we'll let them talk about what's going on in their country.

Q: But you would speak of any U.S. military involvement in Pakistan? Wouldn't you?

Clarke: I would --

Q: If it involves U.S. military --

Clarke: I would generally let the Pakistani government talk about what is going on in their country. It's been a long-standing policy. We understand it is -- you know, not everybody has the exact same circumstances we have, so we appreciate the support we have been getting from Pakistan, even in difficult times. And we continue to appreciate that support, and we continue to stick to our policy of letting them talk about what's going on in the country.

Q: They announced it already. So can you edify us with a little bit more detail? They announced this --

Clarke: Not I.

Toby.

Q: Is part of the reason for --

Clarke: (inaudible).

Q: ...Secretary Wolfowitz's visit to Turkey sort of to smooth the way early on for any kind of action next year on Iraq, in terms of regime change?

Clarke: It's a very, very important country in an important location. We've had a long-standing relationship with them. It is not only not unusual, it's expected that senior administration officials would be there. He's had this trip planned for some time to talk about a variety of issues. We certainly would not be talking from this podium about anything that may happen in the future.

Q: But that is one of the issues that he's discussing?

Clarke: I don't have the breakdown on his issues. He's there for a variety of topics.

Q: I think he said he's going to be visiting U.S. troops in Turkey. Is he going to Incirlik, or --

Clarke: We think. Not unlike the secretary's schedule, it tends to get put together as it's going along.

Ivan, then we will wrap this up.

Q: Going back to "Where Is Waldo?" -- there's an Arab journalist at an Arab-language newspaper in London who reportedly has close ties with Osama bin Laden who claims that Osama bin Laden was wounded by shrapnel during the assault on Tora Bora, but he's alive and well and is plotting new attacks on the United States and that he's probably in that tribal area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Can we shed any light on any of this?

Clarke: No. We're aware of the reports. I mentioned to Toby where I'm aware of the report coming out of London, but we don't have anything to add to it.

Okay, thanks, everybody.

Q: One more?

Clarke: Alex, one more?

Q: Yeah. I really have to go back to this issue of how can you (inaudible) --

Clarke: No, not going back; it's a new issue.

Q: -- changing the sound from the podium about whether or not the AC-130 was fired on? Because previous speakers from the podium have made that quite clear, it seemed to me. And then you today, General Rosa, seem to be saying --

Rosa: I'm telling you that I don't know that.

Q: You're saying YOU don't know that.

Rosa: I don't know that. And I have seen nothing that said the aircraft was fired on. I don't know that. It could well have been.

Clarke: Just wait till the investigation to finish.

Thanks, everybody.

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