United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


DoD News Briefing - ASD PA Clarke and Gen. Rosa

Presenter: Victoria Clarke ASD (PA)
July 24, 2002 1:00 PM EDT

(Also participating was Air Force Brig. Gen. John W. Rosa, Jr., deputy director for current operations, Operations Directorate, the Joint Staff.)

Clarke: Good afternoon. I have no opening statements. The general, I believe, has a brief one. And we think this is going to be a short session.

Q: We'll be the judges of that. (Laughter.)

Clarke: I know. As you always are.

Rosa: And he's already started.

Clarke: (Laughs.)

Rosa: U.S. forces continue to conduct search operations. And over the last 24 hours we seized two caches of weapons. The first one, relatively small, included six rocket-propelled grenades and four anti-personnel mines. The second one, quite a bit bigger, seized earlier this morning, contained 400 rocket-propelled grenades, 20 cases of land mines, and a large quantity of machine gun ammunition. Both caches were seized in the area north of Narizah, which is on the southeastern part of Afghanistan, down on the Pakistani border.

And with that, we'll take your questions.

Clarke: Charlie.

Q: Torie, the U.S. troops, are they going to protect any other senior Afghan officials, or just Karzai?

Clarke: Only plans I know of are for Karzai. And they are actually providing some security right now. The training has not yet begun.

Q: So they've started providing that security. How many are going to be involved? The Afghans say about -- they were saying about 15, or -- ?

Rosa: The final numbers haven't been resolved. We're still working the details of who and how many. And the secretary hasn't signed that order.

Q: Do you have any more details on the weapons caches, like, have you been to the site before, or do you know who the weapons belong to, anything --

Q: Where?

Rosa: Where? It was Narizah -- N-A-R-I-Z-A-H. It's down there on the Pakistan border in the southeastern part of Afghanistan. It's hard to tell who they belong to, because there's so many weapons caches, there's so many weapons stored. And almost every place we go we find some type of weapons. We've found some fairly big ones. These are not the largest, and they're not the smallest we've found. But there are so many, it's difficult to say who they belong to.

Clarke: Pam.

Q: Do you have sense of how -- up to this point how much you guys have found? Have you been keeping track of it?

Rosa: I'm sure we have. I don't know if we have those numbers.

Clarke: I don't know if we've ever totaled it up. But it's a lot.

Q: Would it be an interesting statistic?

Clarke: It could be. We will try to get that interesting statistic. At least a ballpark figure. (For a complete list of weapons captured and destroyed in Afghanistan see http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jul2002/d20020724wc.pdf .

Ivan.

Q: A question for the general, if I may. General, as a fighter pilot, if you were charged with taking out somebody in his bedroom at midnight in a very congested area like row houses, would you use a 2.000-pound smart bomb, or something a little more surgical?

Rosa: Depends on what you find with a -- when you do your collateral damage estimates. Obviously in row housing like that -- and if you get in a hypothetical situation -- you want to use the smallest, most accurate weapon that does the least collateral damage, whichever platform will deliver it.

Q: Which, as you say, would not necessarily be a 2,000-pounder?

Rosa: It's very difficult to put a number on a hypothetical. I mean, there's cases that that may be all you have. But in broad, general terms, you want to use the most accurate weapon that does the least collateral damage. And many times, it's the smallest weapon you have.

Q: Torie, is Defense Secretary Rumsfeld under consideration to head up the new Department of Homeland Security?

Clarke: Not that I know of.

Q: The reason I ask is that the Hill newspaper today was quoting White House insiders as saying that he was under consideration and that under the plan, Paul Wolfowitz would then assume the job of secretary of Defense.

Clarke: It's not anything under consideration, as far as I know.

Q: Have you spoken to him about this issue?

Clarke: I have not.

Q: Has he spoken to you about this issue? (Laughter.)

Clarke: It hasn't been a topic of discussion.

Q: Has he expressed any interest in becoming director of Homeland Security?

Clarke: He expresses enormous interest every day he shows up here to work hard at the job he has, which he really, really likes.

Q: Have you been considered for - (laughter) -- a post in Department of Homeland Security?

Clarke: Has General Rosa been considered for a job?

Q: There are other published reports, which have suggested --

Q: That you might become the spokesperson --

Q: -- that you might become a spokesperson for this organization.

Clarke: You know, the only people from whom I have heard those rumors are reporters. And I have every intention of staying here as long as I can. I like it very much here. I'd like to stay here.

Rosa: I, on the other hand -- (laughter) -- would love to go back to reality.

Q: Torie, when you say it's not anything under consideration as far as you know, is it that you've looked into it and you've determined that it's not under consideration that Rumsfeld would move, or is it that you haven't investigated it at all and therefore don't know? How much weight should we give what you're saying?

Clarke: It's just so far beyond any possibility that I don't think it's under any consideration at all. And I have not taken the time to look into it because I think it's just people rumormongering, which they seem to do a lot at the end of the summer.

Yes, sir?

Q: There's been a lot of discussion about al Qaeda dispersing, fighting a guerrilla-type war. Can you give us some idea of how many active al Qaeda you believe there are in Afghanistan and Pakistan that you're still in a position to go after?

Rosa: I'll go back to what the secretary said on Monday. It's difficult to put a number on. I mean, we've seen some estimates, but it's Q: Are we talking hundreds? Thousands?

Rosa: We've seen estimates from hundreds and estimates to thousands. But once they disperse and break up, it's -- I don't think anybody knows the true answer.

Clarke: But one thing we do know for certainty, though, what we do see are pockets. You know, lately it's been a lot of small pockets of them. We know they exist, and we're going to continue to go after them.

Q: But you would say thousands would be the upper level, under 10,000?

Rosa: I really don't even -- I really would not venture to make a statement.

Q: For clarification on the -- back to the July 1st attack in Afghanistan, which has been called sort of the "wedding party raid" for lack of a better term, General McNeill said the other day that that operation was in connection with the overall search for Mullah Mohammed Omar, who was last known to be in that area. Can you clarify whether or not you believed Omar was in the area; was there a hope that you might locate Omar; was there a hope that there might be some other person there? Did you have any idea who might be there? Or what was that operation all about?

Rosa: That operation was part of an overall larger operation throughout the country where we are searching, attempting to locate and eradicate the Taliban and al Qaeda. As you know, the Oruzgan Province, where this incident happened, is Omar's homeland. He's from that area. To say that this operation was targeted to get Omar, I think, would be -- would be an overstatement.

Q: Was there at least a hope that he might be --

Rosa: Oh, there's always the hope, and we're always hopeful that when we do operations, we'll get high-value targets.

Q: Some U.S. officials and officials on Capitol Hill are saying that there's increased evidence that Iran and Syria have increased their support of Hezbollah in recent weeks and months, and perhaps providing that group with longer-range missiles. From a Pentagon point of view, what is the threat assessment of what Iran and Syria are doing, and maybe the threat of Hezbollah?

Clarke: I want to be very careful, because questions like that, when you start talking about specific countries, you could very quickly start talking about issues in areas that are classified. So I'll try not to focus on a particular country.

But as the secretary, the chairman and others have said repeatedly, we are increasingly worried about what we call the nexus. You have terrorist states clearly identified as such. You have programs of weapons of mass destruction that are growing and vibrant and very dangerous, obviously. And you have terrorists, who would have no hesitation to use them. And we are very concerned about that nexus of those three things and those three things coming into contact with one another, if you will. So we're very concerned about it. It's a very real threat. It is a growing threat. But I would just leave it at that.

Q: Is Hezbollah seen as dangerous as al Qaeda?

Clarke: I'm not qualified to make comparisons.

Q: General Rosa, we've had another strike on an Iraqi air-defense command-and-control facility. And I know you don't want to go into the specific rules of engagement, and our forces have the right to defend themselves. But it seems like we don't respond instantly to things that happen; we go back, think it over and then strike something. How are those strikes in Iraq in reaction to what they do? Are they planned? Are they thought out? Or are they more or less spontaneous, when something pops up?

Rosa: It's a range of options. And to get into that and what those options -- and when we use the options, like you suggested, would be classified. In some instances, we'll attack as we're fired upon; in other instances, we won't. But the bottom line of that -- the operations in Northern Watch and Southern Watch is we're patrolling those no-fly zones, and those folks continue to threaten our pilots. And when they threaten coalition pilots, we'll protect ourselves.

Q: There has been an increasing number of U.S. responses in the last few weeks and months. Does that indicate that there is some either better connections on the ground in their air-defense system, some better formation of weapons, some greater concern about the threat to U.S. pilots?

Clarke: Now, I'd say two things.

(To Gen. Rosa.) And then you can give it the pilot's perspective.

If you look at historically, over the last few years, we're about at the same levels. Sure, if you picked out a week or a day, you might see a spike. But if you look at it historically, we have had approximately the same number of responses for the last few years and we --

Q: Just on that -- just on that issue, often when there are -- is a spike of responses on the part of the U.S., it is because there is a perceived greater threat, not necessarily just because people are shooting more on the ground. So sometimes they're connected.

Clarke: Well, on that point, exactly what the general just said, they continue to threaten and attack coalition aircraft. As long as they continue to do that, we'll respond in a time and manner of our choosing. If they stopped doing it, we would stop responding.

Q: So is there some new perceived threat or are they just shooting more at coalition aircraft?

Rosa: It's probably a combination of the two, John. I will tell you that over the last recent years, they've worked hard to improve their integrated air defense systems and we've worked hard to make sure that they don't improve them.

But the frequency at which they are firing is -- as Ms. Clarke said, is about the same as it was pre-9/11. And as you know, after 9/11, it kind of went quiet, and it's come back up.

Q: But do you see -- in the past, for example, sometimes missiles will get closer or anti-aircraft fire will get closer, indicating they're better at anticipating things. Do you see anything on the ground that indicates that they are putting the system back together in a way that is more threatening now than it might have been a month or two ago?

Rosa: No.

Q: Have they been able to rebuild their air defense network, including the fiber-optics that they were putting into place that the U.S. military attempted to take out in early 2001? Have they been able to rebuild that? And do the Chinese -- are Chinese technicians still operating inside Iraq helping them to do that?

Rosa: Don't know about Chinese technicians. I do know that they have fiber-optics. Their systems are linked by fiber-optic.

Clarke: And I don't know --

Q: Have they been able to rebuild that fiber-optic network?

Clarke: I don't know how much of a generalization you could make or specific parts and pieces, but we know in some instances when we've taken something out, they have managed to rebuild it.

Q: I think the last couple of strikes have been against something they will describe as military-capable repeater stations. Is that fiber-optics?

Rosa: Without getting into too much detail, those are parts of an integrated air defense system that we feel need to be taken out.

Q: How many times has the U.S. dropped since the beginning of the year?

Clarke: Since -- in '02, 14. In Operation Southern Watch it was 14, in Operation Northern Watch, eight.

Let's go right here, and then we'll come back, Ivan.

Q: Torie, how important would you assess the cooperation agreement between Boeing and AES on missile defense? And is that a first step of further cooperation in that respect?

Clarke: I don't assess it because I don't know enough about that particular arrangement. But I know we are working hard around the world. We've got several different people in many different countries right as we speak talking to them about missile defense. And the fact is we've said all along, it is a capability we want to develop to defend America and our forces stationed abroad and our friends and allies, so it's a very logical evolution of what we said we wanted to do.

Ivan?

Q: Going back to Afghanistan for a moment, over the past few months, really since Anaconda, there have been a lot of search-and- destroy missions, and very few people shot at or captured or fired on by our forces. Is the war changing, or is there a feeling in this building that perhaps the way that the U.S. and coalition forces are prosecuting the war in Afghanistan should change since there are very few people there, and if the mission is to go after al Qaeda and Taliban, since nobody is there, maybe the mission should be scaled back or changed?

Clarke: Well, I wouldn't say nobody's there. Clearly, there continue to be pockets of al Qaeda and Taliban, and we continue to go after them. And again, I'll say I think it is almost exactly what the people who are running this war, prosecuting this war, said would happen, as time went on, it would get more difficult. It would be harder to find these people. The ones that are left are the deadenders that don't have much else left to lose. So, I think it's going almost exactly along the lines of what we predicted, as much as you could predict with any certainty what would happen in Afghanistan. And as we've said all along, we'll adapt tactics and techniques and resources for what was required.

Q: A follow-up. You know there are published reports I'm sure you've seen that state that the al Qaeda has given up in Afghanistan, that Osama, if he's still alive, is leaving Omar to twist in the wind, and they're going to continue to set up shop in Pakistan and elsewhere. Do you see that as a fact?

Clarke: I'm sorry. Can you repeat the first part, Ivan?

Q: The published reports are saying that the al Qaeda has given up on Afghanistan and has moved into Pakistan and elsewhere to establish a base camp and have no intention of going back as long as we're there. Do you see that as a happening or as a matter of fact?

Clarke: I certainly couldn't get into the heads or minds of the al Qaeda. Nor would I want to. But, clearly, there's -- there continue to be pockets of al Qaeda there. The flip side is we've made it much harder for them to do business there. You know, we have eliminated to the largest extent possible, I think, all the terrorist training camps that were training hundreds and thousands of these people. They operated completely freely, with no concerns whatsoever. We have significantly changed that. We have significantly debilitated their capabilities in Afghanistan -- not unusual or unexpected that they would pop up in other places, in other countries. But what their plans are -- don't know.

Charlie?

Q: Two quick ones. Number one, is the count of U.S. troops in Afghanistan still at around 7,000?

Clarke: It's somewhere north of 7,000, I believe.

Rosa: Just slightly above that. I didn't -- I think I saw the figures --

Staff: Seventy-five -

Rosa: Seventy-five.

Clarke: Seventy-five hundred?

Q: Seventy-five.

Two, Philippine newspapers have reported -- in fact, reported today -- (inaudible) -- that the United States is considering a new military operation in the Philippines, probably in October, involving perhaps a thousand or more troops and the same kind of operation as before -- you know, joint exercises, along with training troops -- and said that Secretary Powell will discuss that when he's there in the coming days. Can you give us anything on that?

Rosa: Our current operation that we've been -- over the last several months, for all intents and purposes, concludes the 31st of July. We will keep a small contingent for security assistance.

I do know that -- and again, this is kind of outside of our realm and in the State Department -- I do know the countries are talking at this point, but I don't think any decisions have been made what's -- exercise scheduling or -- I haven't seen anything.

Clarke: Barbara?

Q: Torie, last week the Pentagon announced that it would sell Israel 1,000 JDAM weapons, the 2,000-pound precision bombs. Two questions. Given what happened in Gaza City, is the Pentagon going forward with that sale, with getting congressional approval? Is there any thought to rethinking this sale?

And the second question is, leaflets are appearing, apparently, in both Gaza and the West Bank -- leaflets purported to be from Hamas, advocating retaliation and including retaliation against American interests and targets. Does the Pentagon see any threat to the U.S. military in that region from Hamas?

Clarke: On the first one, I'm not aware of any new considerations on the sale. I'm just not.

On the second one, don't know much about the leaflets, but individual commanders at those levels will make the adjustments that they think are appropriate. There are lots of different places in which U.S. forces can and are under threat, and the local commanders take the appropriate actions. I'm not aware of the leaflets you're talking about.

Q: To the first, are you concerned that the Israelis can use a U.S. aircraft and U.S.-made bombs to bomb their own civilian population?

Clarke: You start to get into questions and areas that are better left up to the State Department. It's so sensitive, I just think, as the secretary has said repeatedly, it is better to leave conversations and the discussions to the president and the State Department.

Q: But if I could follow up on that -- I'm sorry, but I mean, after -- I mean, it's a known fact, you know, after the previous military action on the West Bank, after Jenin, there were a number of reassurances from the Israeli military to this military that they were very concerned about collateral damage, that they had made every effort in their West Bank action, and they offered a lot of assurances, which of course the secretary has even talked about. Does the Pentagon feel a little less reassured that Israel is placing -- the Israeli military is using their weapons with the same priority on being concerned about collateral damage and civilian casualties.

Clarke: I think you should shoot your questions over to the State Department.

Q: Could you explain why the sale of a thousand JDAMs is going forward at a time when Boeing has its factory 24/7 cranking out JDAMs just to replenish the U.S. stock?

Clarke: I can't explain anything, Alex. I'm just not aware of any changes that may be under consideration.

Q: But -- and I'm not suggesting there is a change. There is a sale that's been announced, a thousand JDAMs, to Israel. And it's at a time when the United States industry is working overtime, triple shifts, to get JDAMs back into the U.S. arsenal. So why, at this point when the U.S. is, you know, trying to, I think, build something like 12,000 of them, would you divert a thousand off to some other country?

Clarke: The first part, again, I just don't think it's appropriate for us to talk about from here. The second part, in terms of making sure our people have the resources, the equipment, the ammunition that they need, I am absolutely confident that's being taken care of.

Way in back.

Q: Are there any -- you've mentioned and have said several times that all the training camps in Afghanistan have been eliminated. Is --

Clarke: I said -- I think -- I said we think we've done a pretty good job of that.

Q: Are y'all aware of any al Qaeda training camps anywhere else in the world? Is there any in existence that you know of or suspect?

Clarke: Again, you start to get into information that's classified, so I'll be very careful. But we are aware that in different places, training of different kinds has gone on. And it ebbs and flows, just like lots of other things that they do.

Mm-hm? There, and we will finish up.

Q: Do you have any data or information on the progress in de- mining in Afghanistan? The amount of area that we've cleared, et cetera, et cetera?

Clarke: I don't, but we can get you some information on that. I know I read something just about a week or so, and I'm sorry, I just can't recall it right now. But I do know -- I am aware of some work that has gone on. A lot more work needs to be done. I think -- correct me if this is wrong, but I think it is one of the most heavily mined areas, which goes to activities well before 9/11. But we can try to follow up on that. [U.S. and coalition forces have cleared more than 1.7 million square meters of terrain. Additionally, the U.N. and other organizations conduct de-mining operations in Afghanistan.]

And I don't know if this will help, but this just in from the front office regarding -- I don't know which rumor they're talking about, though.

Q: (Off mike.)

Clarke: Okay, thank you.

(Off-mike remarks, laughter.)

Clarke: (Laughs.) On the secretary, no truth to the rumor at all, exclamation point.

Q: Did that come from him?

(Off-mike remarks, laughter.)

Clarke: That comes from -- that comes from Larry DiRita. This comes from Larry DiRita.

Q: Oh, okay.

Q: Is that bigger than a snowflake?

Q: So it's not a package deal? (Laughter.)

Clarke: A snowflake? No, it would be -- this would be a --

Q: A blizzard?

Clarke: No!

Q: (Off mike.)

Clarke: No. What's smaller than a snowflake, because it's not from him. I think smaller than a snowflake.

Q: And is General Rosa staying or is he going somewhere?

Rosa: I'm starting that rumor. I'm out of here. (Laughter.)

Clarke: (Laughs.) Thanks, guys.

"THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS PREPARED BY THE FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE INC., WASHINGTON, D.C. FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE IS A PRIVATE COMPANY. FOR OTHER DEFENSE RELATED TRANSCRIPTS NOT AVAILABLE THROUGH THIS SITE, CONTACT FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE AT (202) 347-1400."