DoD News Briefing - ASD Clarke and Rear Adm. Gove
(Also participating was Rear Adm. David Gove, deputy director for global operations, J-3, Joint Staff.)
Clarke: Look! We have a new person.
I have just a couple of notes, and then -- introduce my new partner here.
First, on behalf of the Department of Defense and the American people, we would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of Sergeant First Class Mark W. Jackson, Special Forces soldier and 19-year Army veteran who was killed Wednesday while supporting U.S. efforts in the Philippines. And we extend our condolences as well to the families of the Filipino soldiers who died in the same attack. Sergeant Jackson is one of 52 American service members who have lost their lives in the global war on terrorism since roughly this time last year. Their deaths remind us of the sacrifices these people -- these dedicated men and women -- make every day to defend freedom around the world. They also strengthen our resolve to eradicate terrorism and the threat it presents to our nation and to the world.
And clearly, there is a lot of focus right now, as there should be, on the very real and growing threat that Iraq poses. And there's much scrutiny, as there should be, of that regime's tactics. We believe it is very important to provide you with as much information as possible so the people can judge for themselves the nature of the regime, what we're dealing with as we go forward and help them make the tough decisions. And that's why recently, we had a senior Defense official here, talking about programs -- weapons of mass destruction programs, including the Iraqi regime's. That is why the secretary and the chairman went to some great lengths to talk about the no-fly-zone violations -- no-fly zones that were set up to protect the Iraqi people from the Saddam Hussein regime and the repeated attacks on U.S. and coalition aircraft.
In the next few days we hope to provide you with some more information on the Iraqi regime's denial-and-deception operations -- operations that are very organized, that are very comprehensive and clearly intended to hide Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. I think it's very important to remember, as the secretary said last week, that this is a regime that consistently lies. They lie to their own people, and they lie to the world. And people should consider that fact very, very carefully as they weigh their decisions on how to deal with Iraq.
Looking ahead to next week, Monday does mark the one-year anniversary of the start of military operations in the global war on terrorism. And we will be giving you an update then of the accomplishments so far, as well as some highlights of the accomplishments that we need to address going forward.
And finally, General Rosa has a big smile on his face this morning because he is not here. So I can introduce Rear Admiral David Gove, who is taking over for General Rosa. Admiral Give is deputy director for Global Operations on the Joint Staff. He is a submariner who has served aboard both ballistic missile and attack submarines. From '91 to '94 he commanded the USS Louisville and more recently the Submarine Development Squadron 12 in Groton, Connecticut. There he was responsible for operations command of seven attack submarines and overall submarine force tactical development and analysis of real- world operations. Welcome aboard.
Gove: Good morning, and thank you, Ms. Clarke.
On behalf of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I would also like to offer our thoughts and prayers to the families and loved ones of Sergeant First Class Mark Jackson, who was killed on Wednesday.
An Army Special Forces captain was also wounded in the explosion. He underwent immediate surgery at Camp Navarro on the Philippines and is currently in intensive care at a U.S. military hospital in Okinawa. Our best wishes for a complete recovery.
Our prayers also go out to all our Philippine friends who were killed or injured in this explosion, and to their families.
A military team has arrived to assist in the investigation.
In Afghanistan yesterday, U.S. forces destroyed a weapons cache near Kandahar. The cache was the largest amount of weapons destroyed to date and included nearly 420 500-pound bombs. The munitions were found several weeks ago buried underground.
The 3rd Battalion of the Afghan National Army graduated from Kabul Military Academy yesterday. U.S. forces trained this 3rd Battalion. The 4th Battalion started their 10-week training on September 15th, and the French are training the 4th Battalion.
And with that, we'll take your questions.
Q: Torie, is the DEFCON status -- what is the DEFCON status in the Philippines, especially the southern Philippines? And has it changed since the explosion? And have U.S. soldiers been told to stay away from public areas, such as markets?
Clarke: Well, we try hard not to talk about DEFCON status. They change. They go up and down. A great deal of leeway is given, if you will, to the local commanders to decide what they think is appropriate. And I am absolutely confident the commander is taking any appropriate measures.
Q: Have U.S. troops -- (inaudible) -- been told to stay away from public areas, such as markets?
Clarke: I'm not aware of it.
Gove: I'm not aware of it. The Pacific Command has responsibility for the force protection changes and making sure that the troops are taking all necessary precautions.
Q: And Admiral, your statement about these -- the 420, 500-pound bombs -- these are aerial bombs that were found buried?
Gove: I don't know if they were aerial bombs --
Clarke: (To staff.) Yes. Did they say yes?
Q: Well, what would the Taliban and al Qaeda be doing with 500-pound aerial bombs?
Gove: I'll have to take that question and get back to you with the answer on that.
Clarke: Yes, sir?
Q: Good morning.
Good morning, Admiral.
Gove: Good morning.
Q: Can you tell me, will the secretary meet with Hans Blix today? If not, why not?
Clarke: Secretary Powell, and I believe the national security adviser, Condi Rice, are going to meet with him, and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz will meet with him. With the conversations, the discussions at the United Nations, clearly it's the Department of State taking the lead on that.
Q: And the secretary is not going to take part, just the deputy, right?
Clarke: Not scheduled to.
Q: Very good.
Q: On the Philippines, is there any actual evidence yet that Abu Sayyaf was behind the attack that killed the troop?
Clarke: The investigation is underway. And as the admiral said, we will be participating, helping in that. There have been some indications from the Filipinos that they believe that is the case. But it's still under investigation.
Q: So no clear evidence yet, it's simply an indication?
Q: Apparently Amos Yaron, the head of the Israeli Defense Ministry, had a meeting here earlier this week with Douglas Feith. I was just wondering whether it was conveyed to him that the United States would not like Israel to get involved if there were a conflict with Iraq, and whether it received any assurances to that effect from the Israelis?
Clarke: I don't know about the meeting. We can take that and see if we can give you some feedback on that. But the secretary, from up here, has said it would be overwhelmingly not in Israel's interest to get involved.
Q: Has he received any assurances from the Israelis in this meeting or in other forums, that they would not?
Clarke: I'm not aware of the conversations. I said we'll see what we can get you from the Doug Feith meeting, if anything. But again, those sorts of conversations -- one, you're talking about hypotheticals a little bit. But those sorts of conversations, discussions, the Department of State's going to have the lead.
Q: Admiral, can you provide a little more detail on this cache of weapons that was found, sort of exactly where, how it was found? And you said largest cache of weapons to date. It was all in one place? And any more detail you can provide.
Gove: It was the largest one to date. It was found several days ago buried underground near Kandahar. And the specifics about more detail in terms of what exactly was there besides that cache, I'll have to get back to you.
Clarke: But it is -- as we said before, it is an example of how much work we have yet to do. We continue to find caches of weapons and ammunition. Clearly, the al Qaeda, the Taliban had a great deal of intent -- some still have intent -- to do harm.
Q: When you say large, is it by tonnage, by numbers, by what?
Gove: I mean by numbers of large weapons. And we'll provide specific detail about what the Central Command discovered and destroyed.
Clarke: And also find out if it's the largest amount found or if it's the largest amount destroyed, because often when we find this stuff, some of it we destroy, some of it gets turned over and used for the Afghan National Army.
Q: But it was -- in one place this was the largest destroyed, so it was all found in one place?
Gove: That's my understanding.
Clarke: We can get some more on that. Sure.
Q: There's been a lot of talk about al Qaeda and Iraq connections. Does the U.S. have evidence of government -- Iraqi government involvement with al Qaeda in terroristic activities?
Clarke: The furthest -- repeat the last part of your question.
Q: Does the U.S. have evidence of Iraqi government involvement with al Qaeda involving terroristic activities?
Clarke: To separate from al Qaeda for a minute, clearly Iraq has been and continues to be a state sponsor of terrorists and terrorist organizations. On al Qaeda, the furthest I can and will go is say we know al Qaeda has been in Iraq. We know senior al Qaeda have been in Iraq. As the secretary said, it is very hard to believe that in a country with such an oppressive regime, in which very little goes on that they are not aware, it is hard to believe that they are not aware of what might be going on. But that's the furthest I can go on that.
Q: I have a non-Iraq, non-Afghan question. Last week the Pentagon notified Boeing and General Dynamics that they would begin collection efforts on the famous A-12 case starting Monday if payment wasn't made. Payment wasn't made. Collection hasn't started. What's the state of play there?
Clarke: Lots of conversations going on with the companies. The date was September 30th. They've not received payment. But the discussions are under way with the companies. The people in the building who are involved are hopeful that those discussions can actually produce some constructive efforts going forward.
There are - part of the discussions are the size of the payments and the timing and those sorts of things. So I know there are castes of many people here working hard on that one.
Q: Is it fair to say, though, that the Pentagon is moving toward a -- pulling the trigger and starting collection; or holding out hope that they don't have to do that?
Clarke: It's not fair or unfair. What's accurate is to say that September 30th was the deadline, that they are actively talking with the companies, trying to move this forward.
Q: Move it forward, though, in terms of figuring out how much to collect?
Clarke: It's figuring out the timing and the structure of the payments.
Q: But it seems to me that the decision's been made to go forward with the collection of -- now -- you're the -- the (small grasser?) or in terms of how it's being done.
Clarke: I wouldn't -- I wouldn't tilt it either way, Tony. The September 30th was a deadline, wasn't made, so they are in active conversations with the companies.
Q: Torie, speaking of aviation, can you give us an update on the V-22 program? How's the flight testing going? How's it look, as far as going into at least limited production? Has there been a change of heart by anybody about the program?
Clarke: Gosh, I guess it depends on what your -- where your heart was. There are lots of --
Q: Well, you know it should be -- (inaudible) -- to it. We're now told that. Maybe you swing around the other way, based on the flight testing.
Clarke: You know -- really can't give you any guidance on where things might end up. There are many, many programs -- a couple of dozen programs currently under review. And I think later this fall, you'll begin to get some indications of where these head.
I am absolutely confident that major weapons-systems decisions will have a lot of input and a lot of attention paid to them from the highest levels around here. I think the president himself has made it clear that he cares deeply about how some of these decisions get made. And -- cannot talk about where they might go; we can't even give hints of where these things might go, for the obvious reasons.
But you can say this: If you're looking for guidance, if you're looking for context of how they'll decide what to do with these, look at the defense strategy. Look at what the defense strategy calls for. Look at the context -- the world in which we find ourselves. And what you're looking for is weapons systems that are faster, that are more agile, that are more adaptive, that are more lethal, that focus less on from where the threats might come and more on the kinds of threats we might face. Look for weapons systems that, if you're a combatant commander, you're not thinking one of the services, you're thinking, "This is the job I need to get done. What's going to help me get that job done?" So look at things to go through a very joint filter, if you will. Then you get some indications of the factors that are being weighed as they decide what to do with the V-22 and all the others.
Q: Are the leaflet drops continuing in the southern no-fly zone today? And have they been extended to the northern zone? And do these drops involve at all Commando Solo, with perhaps broadcasts?
Gove: Yeah, leaflet drops are an ongoing program in support of Operation Southern Watch. Two occurred last year, and on occasion, we make the drops in order to further our strategy in Operation Southern Watch. I'm not aware of any drops being made in Operation Northern Watch. And --
Clarke: Not aware of Commander (sic) Solo, either.
Q: These are being dropped by what kind of plane?
Gove: It was an A-10.
Q: Two occurred last year. Can you tell us about those and what was dropped?
Gove: We can get you copies of the leaflets. They were routine drops. And typically, it's a message saying stand down from your anti-aircraft fire and -- otherwise, you could be killed or injured. And it's just trying to convince the folks that are manning the sites that that's the wrong thing to do, to fire on coalition aircraft.
Q: Admiral, was there any indication last year, when the leaflets were dropped, of any decrease in firing activity by the Iraqis after the leaflets were dropped?
Gove: The firing activity that we've seen over the last three years, and so far this year, is relatively consistent. On average, it's about the same.
Q: So you didn't see any drop-off after you dropped the leaflets?
Gove: Not that I'm aware of.
Q: Can we expect to see more of these leaflet drops in the coming days? I mean, is this -- in other words, is this part of a longer campaign, or is this just an isolated event?
Gove: This is in support of Operation Southern Watch, which is an ongoing operation. And as far as, you know, future operations, I'm not going to get into that. But it's possible that the decision will be made to make future drops, but I'm not sure of the periodicity.
Clarke: And stretching it out a little bit, going forward, very clearly, the secretary has stood up here and said as much. We want to send a very clear message to the Iraqi people this is not about them. You know, this is not about the Iraqi people at all. Send a very clear message to those people, who for 10 years have been firing on our pilots, and coalition pilots, trying to bring those planes down, is a very bad thing to do and there are going to be consequences. So we're going to find lots of ways to deliver those sorts of messages going forward.
Q: Could you tell us how widespread the drops were yesterday? How many sites? There were an awful lot of leaflets dropped.
Gove: There were 120,000 leaflets dropped. And I don't know what the geographic separation was. The mechanism is to go out in a package and then burst over a wider area for better coverage.
Q: Was it just one A-10 or two or --
Gove: They were A-10 aircraft. I'm not sure the number of aircraft.
Q: Torie, maybe you can talk about this. What's the idea of these drops? What do you expect these people to do? What do you expect Iraqi army people to do -- not follow orders? And what's the psychological impact here?
Clarke: I'm not a leaflet expert, but I think it's pretty straightforward. And you can see from the message on this: Do not fire on these aircraft, do not fire on these -- not this many words, but don't fire on these aircraft that are patrolling these no-fly zones to protect people from Saddam Hussein's regime. That's a pretty extraordinary backdrop for this.
Number two, do not fire on these aircraft. There will be consequences. Other people who have fired on these aircraft have suffered consequences. I think it's just a very direct and very clear message.
Q: It sends a clear message, but rather a difficult one for someone in the Iraqi army to follow. That's, I guess, my question. What do you expect? How do you expect this to work?
Clarke: Well, if you go back to the Persian Gulf War -- and I don't see -- one of the fellows who used to be in here sometimes talked about when Iraqi soldiers surrendered to him during the Persian Gulf War. I mean, people have proven they don't have to do what they're being told. Secretary Rumsfeld stood up here and talked about the leadership in the Iraqi regime and the Iraqi military, saying, you know, think about it. If you think about executing orders that Saddam Hussein might give -- for instance, using weapons of mass destruction -- think twice, because you'll be considered part of the Iraqi regime.
Q: So this is more in the future, because there's nobody to surrender to now, so --
Clarke: Correct. We're all talking hypotheticals and all that.
Q: So -- I mean, so would it be fair to characterize it as the start of a psychological campaign to undermine the morale of the Iraqi military?
Clarke: This particular leaflet -- I think you're getting too far down the road. This particular leaflet is designed for a very straightforward effect: quit firing on our aircraft.
Q: Was there a specific trigger? I mean, the last one happened in last October, I believe. Was there a trigger that caused this leaflet drop?
Clarke: I don't of a specific trigger, but the commander makes a decision: what's the best use of our various tools and tactics at what time.
Q: Did it work last year?
Clarke: I don't know. Somebody asked that question. I don't know what the impact was last time Matt asked it.
Gove: The numbers of firings and -- have been relatively consistent from year to year.
Q: (Off mike) -- decline after the drop? (Off mike.)
Gove: I don't have visibility on statistical analysis that was done on the firings.
Q: Can you go back and check for us?
Gove: We can check.
Q: Great. Thanks.
Clarke: Mm-hm. Matt?
Q: Torie, on another topic, is the Defense Department concerned about the missile tests today by Pakistan and India?
Clarke: Don't have anything for you on that.
Let's go -- Tim, let's go behind you and then come back.
Q: There's a report on Al-Jazeera Television that Ayman Al- Zawahiri is dead. Are you familiar with that report? Is that anything you can comment on?
Clarke: I -- no, I'm not aware of it on Al-Jazeera. I heard another rumor yesterday. But we don't have anything on.
Q: It's strictly a rumor at this point? Nothing to --
Clarke: You can call it whatever you want. I had not heard about the Al-Jazeera report. I had heard about another one yesterday, I believe, on -- Tass or somebody was sending one around. But I'm not aware of anything.
Q: The firings themselves -- can you characterize whether there's been any trend toward more guided missile or guided ack-ack firing? Or has it been continual kind of unguided "golden BB" shots in the air, aimlessly, visual, without radar guidance? Is it more sophisticated, is what I'm asking.
Gove: It's been relatively consistent. Mostly unguided and anti-aircraft artillery, AAA.
Q: So the leaflets weren't dropped in some effort to stem a more sophisticated use of their ack-ak and radar guidance?
Gove: Not that I'm aware of. This is part of an overall program to make sure that the folks on the ground understand what their risk is and how the coalition views their attacks on our aircraft.
Q: You said you're going to tell us over the next couple of days about Iraqi denial and --
Clarke: We hope to.
Q-- deception operations? How will that happen?
Clarke: Well, hopefully, we can do a briefing on it and related topics. It is a very organized, very comprehensive effort that involves a lot of people in the Iraqi regime, involves inputs and guidance from the highest levels. Very, very sophisticated programs to cover up weapons of mass destruction.
QIt's all looking like the theme that sort of keeps coming up here is this orchestrated campaign to somehow influence public policy.
Clarke: Secretary Rumsfeld will send me down a note about Pam Hess's use of the word "orchestration." Just let the record show. (Laughs.)
Q: At any rate, maybe you can address the question. Is this, in fact, an orchestrated campaign to somehow address or influence public policy in a particular way? It all seems to be coming at a very critical time, when Congress is taking up the matter, the U.N. is beginning inspections.
Clarke: I'm tempted to repeat something the secretary said about people ascribe an awful lot (of/to ?) strategy. But --
Clarke: It just seems like --
Q: -- Monday giving us a briefing.
Clarke: It just seems like a very obvious, important thing to do. Clearly we, the country, the United Nations, Congress, are dealing with incredibly serious issues right now, trying to figure out what do we do with the Iraqi regime that has blatantly violated U.N. resolution after U.N. resolution after U.N. resolution, which has tortured and oppressed its own people, which has threatened and invaded its neighbors, which has a very active and very dangerous program of weapons of mass destruction.
People ought to be spending a lot of time thinking about it and wrestling with those issues. And part of the thinking, part of the consideration has got to be the fact that lies and deception and deceit on the part of this regime are a very active and effective part of their offensive, if you will.
So I just think it makes common sense to make sure people focus on those sorts of things and weigh those sorts of things as they're making these tough decisions, as they're weighing these issues.
QTorie, is this going to be the theme, though, that inspections are going to be impossible to carry out because they have such an aggressive denial and deception program? I mean -- is that the theme we're going to be hearing, though?
Clarke: You guys are better at themes and titles and headlines than we are. I'll just repeat what I've said, which is it is very, very important for people to weigh the fact that there has been this pattern and this practice for so long. So there is a very, very high threshold to overcome in terms of credibility.
Q: And inspection -- and the effectiveness of inspections, I would think, is it --
Clarke: One would include that in the mix.
Q: Can you give us an update on where the negotiations are on payments to Iraqi opposition groups like the INC, getting that -- keeping that going?
Clarke: Very little. And I'll be honest with you, I've been pushing for more information on that. You know, it's an interagency effort which involves a lot of parts and pieces. And so I know what is under consideration right now by the interagency team, including our folks, is figuring out where do we go next and what kind of training, logistics, et cetera. So, George, we can take that one and try to get you more information.
Q: To go back to the issue of denial and deception, while we're waiting for the briefing, could you perhaps tell us -- Admiral, as well --
Clarke: You've got --
Q: -- whether there's evidence already that Iraq is making efforts to conceal its WMD programs in anticipation of the return of inspectors?
Q: Can you elaborate?
Q: Why not?
Clarke: Because. (Laughter.)
Q: Because why?
Q: Well, if it's obviously important on Monday, why isn't it obviously important to do it today and answer that kind of question?
Clarke: Because there are people with far greater skills than mine and far greater level of detail of past practices and patterns of behavior and the kinds of things they do with a certain amount of specificity. So I very much want to leave that up to the experts.
In terms of what is actually going on now, you start to get into classified information. It is for people at a far higher pay grade than mine to decide if and when they put that sort of information out.
Q: Admiral, I wonder if you could tell us, if we start bombing -- this is -- I guess could be a hypothetical question. I'm not asking about specific plans --
Clarke: It's hugely hypothetical.
Q: But if we go after Iraq's weapons of mass destruction facilities, the facilities that house the chemical and the biological agents, and so forth, is there any concern that attacks on these facilities could result in accidental release of these agents?
Gove: I'm not going to get into future operations that may or may not occur and speculate about what might happen if such an attack were to happen.
Clarke: Thanks, folks. Have a good weekend.
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