United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


DoD News Briefing, Tuesday, July 6, 1999

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
July 06, 1999 2:05 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

First of all, let me announce that -- as many of you know, Mike Doubleday on whom I've depended for these last three and a half years, is going to retire relatively soon. He's been the very skillful deputy spokesman while I've been gone, and has dealt with many of you on a number of topics. We'll have ample time to say goodbye to Mike, but I wanted to note that he is going to go, unfortunately. But fortunately we have a good person to follow into his shoes, Craig Quigley, whom many of you know. I've been able to wrest him away from the Secretary of the Navy, and he will be hopefully making a seamless transition over the next week or so between Mike and Craig, so I hope you'll take a chance to talk to Mike and also talk to Craig over the next couple of weeks.

Second, let me bring you up to date on a couple of operational matters.

Secretary Cohen has officially ordered the THEODORE ROOSEVELT to go to the Gulf. She will be passing through the Suez Canal later this week and will be in the Gulf until late August. She'll leave the Gulf and return to Norfolk by late September, spending a little bit of time in the Med on the way through, but only a little bit of time.

She will replace the KITTY HAWK in the Gulf. The KITTY HAWK will return to Asia. Then when the THEODORE ROOSEVELT leaves the Gulf the CONSTELLATION will come in and replace the THEODORE ROOSEVELT.

That is something that the Secretary hinted at when he visited the THEODORE ROOSEVELT in the Med a couple of weeks ago, and now it's come to pass.

[Slides available at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/#slides]

Second, I wanted to use a chart here just to bring you up to date on the disposition of forces in the American sector. This is the American sector. As you can see in the far corner is where the Russian forces will be when they come in. There will be one to two platoons of Russian troops. A platoon (sic) [battalion] in the Russian system ranges from 500 to 600 people. You can also see that in our sector we have some Polish forces and also some Greek forces right here. These, of course, represent various American task forces.

The Marines have been operating here out of Camp Montieth and down here at Vitina. They will be leaving in the next two weeks or so and be replaced by Army troops from the 1st Infantry Division.

As you know, the Marines were only part of the enabling force and they went in to help get the mission settled. The Army is largely there, its equipment is in Greece or in Skopje, Macedonia. The soldiers are flying in, and they'll begin moving that equipment up relatively soon to replace the Marines.

So that's basically the latest disposition of forces in the American sector.

Q: Who do the Russians report to?

A: The Russians are under the tactical control of the commander of the Kosovo peacekeeping force, KFOR, and they're under national control on certain issues, as are all forces in KFOR, as a matter of fact. So they will take their orders through the KFOR chain of command for tactical control purposes -- that is go here, go there, do this patrol, do that patrol. They will be integrated into KFOR for the purposes of patrolling and carrying out their mission.

Q: But they will not be under the U.S. commander in the U.S. sector. Isn't he part of the chain of command?

A: They'll take their tactical control from the commander of each sector who in turn takes it from the KFOR commander, Lieutenant General Mike Jackson.

Q: When do you expect the Russians to be there?

A: Well, five or six planes have already landed, as I understand it, in Pristina. We think 200 to 300 troops have come in in those planes with some equipment as well. They will be flowing in over the next couple of days.

As you know, the Helsinki Agreement sets a limit of 3,616 people in the Russian contingent, and that includes 2,850 people who will be stationed in the various sectors. Maybe you can show the second map here.

I already pointed out where they'll be in the American sector here. There will also be some here in the French sector and then some in the German sector here. So here, here, and here there will be a total of 2,850 Russian troops working in KFOR to perform KFOR's duties.

Near the airport there will be an additional 750 Russians that will be running a logistics operation to support the other Russians throughout, and also to run the airport. Under the agreement, Russia has some joint management of the airport with a NATO official. So there will be 750 people there in the British sector, but they'll be basically a logistics operation to support the other Russians. Then the other 16 Russians, as you alertly calculated - 2,850 and 750 adds up to 3,600. The other 16 will be integrated into various parts of the NATO KFOR command structure. For instance there will be a Russian official at KFOR Headquarters, there will be a Russian official at Allied Forces South, and a Russian liaison group also at SHAPE Headquarters in Mons.

Q: What was the total again?

A: 3,616.

Q: Will there be like a Russian official with the, at Camp Montieth on that American staff?

A: I think there will be a liaison official there. There will be adequate liaison at all levels. Let me check specifically on that. I'm looking at the agreement here just to make sure.

Let me take that question and get back to you with the actual name of the official or the rank of the official.

Q: In the American sector where you showed the Russian troops in the area to the north, will the Russian troops be the only troops in that area to the north, above where that line was drawn?

A: This will be a Russian area. There will be American troops working in there with them from time to time, but this will be largely Russians taking charge of the operations up here in this corner.

Q: Do the Russian troops have the option not to take any orders that they disagree with?

A: Let me explain this because I think it's a source of unnecessary confusion. Let me tell you how the Russians operate now in Bosnia, because that's the way they will operate in Kosovo essentially.

In Bosnia, the Russians operate within a sector with Americans and other forces. And they operate under the command of an American general, that's their tactical command. The orders come down through an American general.

They have the right to not take orders if they contradict their national policy. I'll give you an example of one order they did not accept. There was a time when NATO forces in Bosnia decided to shut down various broadcast stations, Serbian broadcast stations. The Russians did not feel comfortable with this order and they did not want to take part in shutting down those broadcast stations, so they did not. That was performed by other NATO forces.

The same thing will happen in Kosovo. If there's an order with which they're uncomfortable, they can say this order contradicts our national policy. Then the commander of KFOR will assign that task to other troops in KFOR. So the job will get done, but it will get done by other troops.

Some of you know that after the Helsinki meetings where Secretary Cohen signed an agreement outlining the terms under which Russian forces would participate in KFOR, we issued a number of documents all of which are on DefenseLINK. If I could hold up one of these documents here, which was originally in color, but now is in black and white so it's hard to see.

What you'll see here is these are the sectors here -- the Italian sector, the German sector, the French sector, the U.K. sector, the U.S. sector. You can't see this because it's black, but the yellow lines designate the Russian participation in each one of these sectors. This yellow line designates tactical control. That's what I was talking about. They take their orders from the commander of each one of these sectors. Of course the commander of these sectors operates under the KFOR commander. The KFOR commander up here gives orders to each one of these sectors, then the sector commander gives orders to the troops participating.

Now, I pointed out to you that in the American sector there are not only American troops, but there will be Russian troops, there already are Greek troops, and there are Polish troops. There are approximately I think 550 Greek troops and a couple of hundred Polish troops, but I can tell you exactly in a minute or two.

There are 550 Greek troops and 720 Polish troops in the American sector right now.

Q: Your guess is there will be between 1,000 and 1,200 Russian troops...

A: No, my guess is there will be less than that. They can have one to two battalions, but after the discussions in Moscow over the weekend, what they announced was that they would start out with one battalion in the American sector. The average size of a Russian battalion in this case is 570 people, so it will be, if it's an average battalion, a little less than 600 people.

So going back to this chart, you can see here these yellow lines designate the tactical control that flows down through the KFOR chain of command, but there's this dotted line up here which stands for national control. It goes from the Russian national command authority, this dotted line goes down and goes into each one of their units. So this is what -- this communicates national policy to these units.

Now you could draw a national command line from the U.S. national command authority down to all the U.S. units. You could also have national command lines from the French, national command authority to the French units or the German national command authority to the German units. It is a fact that any unit in KFOR has to respond to its national commands as well as tactical commands, and should they conflict they can say this contradicts our national policy, we can't do this, and then the KFOR commander has an opportunity to assign another nationality to perform that job. It has worked in Bosnia and we have no reason to believe that it won't work in Kosovo.

I want to point out one thing. This applies equally to the Russian troops and to all other troops participating in KFOR.

Q: Ken, aside from whether or not they can obey orders from above, have the Russians signed off to rules of engagement of KFOR?

A: Yes, they have.

Q: Is that understood, or have they signed, specifically agreed to rules of engagement?

A: They have agreed to rules of engagement. That is implicit in tactical control, that you accept the rules of engagement.

Q: I take it the Russians are barred from taking any unilateral actions? In other words...

A: That is the whole point of unity of command. That's been central to these talks from the very beginning, and it has been NATO's foremost goal to preserve unity of command. Therefore, there is that. Under the KFOR commander, he is the unified commander for the entire KFOR. He tells forces what to do and what not to do.

Q: How many Americans are there now in that sector?

A: In our sector there are currently about 5,400 American troops and the total will be 7,000 in all.

Q: Reading the two documents, the one before and this one, I don't see anything really different, and yet there were all these days of negotiations. Did the Russians get any changes or anything extra that they were looking for when the negotiations...

A: I wouldn't say this is a question of either side getting something extra. It was basically achieving greater understanding and clarity.

The Helsinki documents signed by Secretary Cohen and Minister Sergeyev were quite clear. They had a few questions about command and control, number of troops in various areas, etc. The discussions settled those. So I think that you're absolutely right, the new agreement out of Moscow is very, very similar to the Helsinki agreement. And after all, that's to be expected because it was agreed to by both Ministers of Defense.

Q: There was a published report that the map used in Helsinki by Secretary Cohen and Secretary Albright was out of date and had some information on it that was out of date and that that might have led to some of the subsequent confusion. Is that true?

A: There have been some changes made in the number of counties or opstinas that led to a slightly different interpretation, but I think that everybody's agreed on the map now and it was, if anything, a relatively minor issue.

Q: Ken, can you show that chart again that you were just showing?

A: The schematic?

Q: Yes, that one right there. (Laughter)

Russian participation on the right. Then there is no direct link, I take it, from the Russian command to the NAC? You have to go through the Security Council? Is that correct?

A: All of this is on the Internet. What you'll see here is that the Russian national command authority has a consulting connection here with the Permanent Joint Council, which is the NATO/Russian Joint Council, and from there to the NAC, the North Atlantic Council. There is also a consulting relationship between the NAC and the U.N. Security Council.

Then you see that you have this line of this operational control goes down through the chain of command to the commander of KFOR down here. Then you have this tactical control between all of the units and the commanders of each one of the sectors.

Q: So the Russians are currently consulting and conferring with the NAC, with KFOR, through that PJC, is it called?

A: PJC. They have a consulting relationship with the Permanent Joint Council, which has a consulting relationship with the NAC.

The description of the Permanent Joint Council, the description between -- the relationship between the Permanent Joint Council and the NAC is that the PJC has a voice but not a veto over what the NAC does. So...

Q: I see. So they will be consulted at the highest level before there are any orders given at the lower levels.

A: There is a standard consulting chain that has not only been set up but strengthened dramatically by this agreement. That's because one of the changes that took part as part of the, that will occur as part of the Helsinki agreement, is that the Russians will return their liaison with SHAPE. Remember, they had pulled that out at the beginning of Operation ALLIED FORCE. They will return a person to be a liaison with SHAPE at Mons, and that is a vice admiral who will take that job. And they will also have liaison groups with Allied Forces South in Naples that will be a Major General Kiselyov. And they will have liaison groups at the CAOC, which is the Combined Air Operations Center in Vicenza, Italy, and also at the KFOR headquarters in Pristina. That will also be a major general.

So there will be liaison throughout the chain of command.

Q: Just a point of clarification. How many U.S. troops will cohabit that little slice in the north of the sector with the Russian troops?

A: I don't believe any will be cohabiting at this stage. American troops are there now. There are some American troops there now as part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and it will be up to the commander to decide whether American troops stay there or not stay there. But certainly American troops will be able to move through to do their missions as is necessary.

Q: When do you anticipate the first Russian troops will be in that American zone?

A: I don't know the answer to that. My guess is they'll come into Pristina, they'll form up in battalions and then move into their sectors. It could be this week. I just don't know whether they plan to go to the French area or the German area first.

Q: On the U.S. forces and the schedule, I thought they were supposed to be in there by the second or third week of July, and now the chart up there's saying close in 30 to 45 days. From when? I don't know.

A: This is an old chart. This chart we put up about the time the U.N. Security Council Resolution was passed back in June. So it's actually about...

Q: So you're still on track. So when will the close date be?

A: The close date will be in the next week or so. The Marines are already packing up to come out. I think they'll begin moving some of the forces out in two or three days. I don't know how [long] it will take all of them to get out, but the Army forces are flowing in and there are about 1,800 Marines there. They'll be able to move out quickly when they decide to go.

Q: Can you give us an assessment of the KLA demil program? How's that going? Also, the KLA leader Thaci apparently was raising questions about UN civil authority in Kosovo. Do you guys have any concerns about that?

A: We have concerns that it's not being set up quickly enough, and those concerns have been voiced by General Clark and others.

We know it's a complex operation for the UN, but it's necessary for them to move forward as quickly as possible. They've now named a new full-time administrator for Kosovo. That happened over the weekend. I understand a French official has been named. I think that will accelerate the whole process, for which we're grateful.

Obviously, from the very beginning we've said we have to have the development of civil authority working hand-in-hand with the inflow of KFOR and the establishment of political stability. So KFOR has moved in more quickly than the civil authorities have, but now that there's a full-time administrator, I think that will begin to change.

Q: Are there any concerns that the KLA will not accept the civil authority of the U.N.?

A: First of all, NATO is there and NATO will be working, as I said, hand-in-hand with the U.N., I think the KLA is interested in having civil authority established.

Clearly one of the goals here is to develop a police force that can fill vacuums and begin to develop a civil police and justice authority to take over and do functions that NATO isn't really qualified or trained to do but has had to do briefly, such as detain people. This should be handled by civil authorities and will be when that's developed.

In terms of the KLA, the agreement of course sets a schedule that I think goes out over a period of months for the KLA to meet, and they are meeting that schedule pretty much. It's not 100 percent compliance, but they're making an effort to comply, the leadership has said they should comply, and they are turning in many of their weapons. They're not turning in all of their weapons because NATO is still seizing KLA weapons from time to time, but we think it's generally working.

Q: Just one more question to make sure I understand on the KLA. Do you know how many weapons they had to begin with?

A: Not precisely, no.

Q: How do you have any idea?

A: We have some ideas of the types of weapons they have. We clearly don't have a census of the weapons they have. They've signed an agreement saying they will turn in their weapons and their leadership has said they will comply with this agreement, and we expect compliance. But do we have a census of how many weapons they have? No.

There are many things in life that you have to take on faith. This is not one of them, because we continue to do patrols to look for KLA weapons, and when NATO finds them, they seize them. I think that's been happening from the very beginning.

Q: Do you have a feel of how many additional American aircraft are likely to be coming back? Are more scheduled? Sort of what is the outlook here for the next few weeks?

A: The third phase has started, and I think of those the only ones coming back to the United States are five EA-6Bs. They will return to Cherry Point. There are a number of aircraft that will move in-theater, some tankers. I think the ABCCCs will be returning to places in-theater. There are some other surveillance or communications aircraft that will be moving from the forward part back. That's ongoing now. I can get you a list, but it's not that exciting actually. It's all stuff we've announced before.

Q: Do you have a price tag yet from the "bean counters" on how much this all cost?

A: I talked to a "bean counter" just before I came down here, and we don't have a final price tag. One of the reasons is that before we can get a final price we need to know the cost of the wear and tear on the aircraft to the best of our ability, so we're trying to do a check on all the aircraft as they return to their home bases to find out how much work might have to be done. We just don't have a good estimate at this stage. So before we have a final figure we want to complete that.

Q: When John Warner said last week that he had been told by the Pentagon that it was about $5 billion, that's not an authoritative number at this point.

A: Well, "about" is a big word. What I've said is that I believe that the supplemental we got will be enough to cover the cost of Operation ALLIED FORCE, or at least the American participation which was called NOBILE ANVIL. Plus the KFOR deployment for the rest of this fiscal year. That's an early estimate from the Comptroller's office. It still seems to be holding, but time will have to tell as we complete more calculations.

But if you look at the $4 to $4.5 billion that was available to cover these operations, that should cover Operation ALLIED FORCE plus about three and a half months, four and a half months -- three and a half months, I guess, of KFOR to the end of this fiscal year, from the time it started flowing in until the end of the fiscal year.

Q: One more Kosovo-related question. Can you comment on the published report that suggested that the actual number of tanks destroyed by NATO in this air campaign wasn't in the hundreds or even a hundred, but could have been as low as 20 tanks? Can that be right?

A: I'm completely mystified by that report. The person who wrote it asked the question of General Clark on Thursday. General Clark answered the question very clearly. He gave his best estimate which was 122 (sic) [110] tanks, as I recall. Obviously, we're still looking at the figures, but our rough estimates, and we've always been clear that we don't have precise figures on this, but our rough estimates are that at the time this began there were approximately 1,500 tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery pieces in Kosovo. During the air campaign we destroyed or severely damaged about 700. And that left about 800, and about 800 pieces left, were taken out by the Serbs when they withdrew after the agreement, the Ahtisaari/ Chernomyrdin agreement, and the Military Technical Agreement that followed that.

So we know that a few pieces were left, that the Serbs couldn't move everything out on time, and some weren't in good shape, and they'll come back and collect those later. But in rough numbers, 1,500 to start with, about 700 damaged/destroyed/disabled, and about 800 left. Those are still our best figures.

I checked on this late last week, and somebody in my office checked again this morning.

Q: Any rough numbers in retrospect now on how many decoys you might have destroyed?

A: I don't think we have numbers on that. Decoys were something that General Wald mentioned from time to time during his briefings here. One of the things we'll be looking at, obviously, is any clearer definition between actual pieces of military equipment and decoys. But this anonymous NATO official who's been mentioning 20 tanks, we haven't been able to locate. (Laughter)

Q: ...been around the Mount Pastrik region? And have they -- that's where a lot of these tanks supposedly were killed. Have they been able to do any battle damage assessment on the ground there?

A: We eventually will send in people to look. I don't think they're there yet. They weren't as of last week, the last time I checked, but obviously we'll go in and look around.

Q: Are they're not there because of mines or just they haven't gotten there yet?

A: I just don't think they've gotten there yet. I think the process isn't that far along. Our main consideration and NATO's main consideration has been getting the KFOR forces in at this stage.

Q: Another NATO/Russian question, something you may have already covered, about specifically NATO asking that overfly rights not be granted the Russians over the weekend. Did you get into that subject, and into the suspicions that NATO officers, officials have expressed about the Russians playing games with their participation in Kosovo? Did you get into that stuff?

A: No.

Q: Could you get into that a little bit?

A: No, I don't think so. Look, we've had extensive discussions with the Russians in Helsinki and in Moscow. We have an agreement. It's a good agreement. The Russian troops are coming into Kosovo now and we anticipate that they will integrate into KFOR and perform their patrols well, as they performed their patrols well in Bosnia. I think that's...

Q: Was there an overfly blockage of the Russians? Was that truly reported, accurately reported?

A: I just don't want to get into the details of what happened over the weekend.

Q: Curt Campbell told us last week that there are signs that the North Koreans are preparing for a missile launch. Are those signs continuing? Have the North Koreans formally informed the United States, South Korea, or Japan that they are preparing for a possible missile test?

A: I'm not aware that there's been any formal notification of that, no.

Q: Do the signs continue that they are preparing...

A: We have the same evidence last week that we have this week, which are signs of preparation.

Q: The South Koreans have asked to develop a missile that has a 500 kilometer range, and the United States apparently is taking that under advisement. Any reaction to that yet?

A: No.

Q: One other thing, not exactly related. Lieutenant Colonel Peter Hoffman, I believe is with the Attache's office in Moscow. He's been forced to leave Moscow. What's going on there? Do you have anything...

A: I have nothing to say about that.

Q: Will there be any Russian officials asked to leave the United States?

A: It's not something I can comment on today.

Q: A different part of the world, India/Pakistan. I wanted to get the Pentagon's sense of the fighting there in terms of how concerned are you that the border fighting might escalate into a larger conflict with the use of ballistic missiles?

A: The President met on July 4th with the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He has also had phone conversations with the Prime Minister of India. He's been very engaged at trying to find a peaceful solution to the tensions between India and Pakistan. These tensions, of course, have existed in Jammu and Kashmir for 50 years, and there have been I think three or four wars fought over this area. We hope there will not be another war fought over this area. Both countries now have nuclear weapons, they've been developing long range missiles, and the stakes could be much higher this time around than they've been in the past.

So President Clinton and others, General Zinni, have been working very hard to prevent this from happening. I think that both India and Pakistan are concerned about the risks that they face during this standoff, and there have been important discussions between the governments of India and Pakistan, but the crisis isn't over. We're hopeful that it will be over.

Q: Is it possible to get a readout from General Zinni on his visit to that region?

A: I don't think so at this stage because it's still ongoing. I thought there was a very detailed readout of the President's meeting from the White House on July 4th done by a senior Administration official, and I think that's probably the best statement right now of the situation.

Q: Ken, the statement by President Clinton today, the Executive Order to put sanctions on the Taliban in Afghanistan. Is that out of frustration because almost a year after this cruise missile attack on Osama bin Laden he's still operating and threatening U.S. interests abroad?

A: I'm afraid I have not had a chance to read the Executive Order, so that's probably a question best left to the White House at this stage.

Q: Now that it's been almost a year since those attacks, do you assess that they had any real impact in curbing Osama bin Laden's operation?

A: Yes. I think the strikes were significant in several respects. First, they signaled the degree of concern by the United States government with terrorism. They signaled that we aren't going to sit idly by and accept terrorist attacks against our diplomats. They signaled that we have the ability to go after terrorists no matter where they hide. And they leave open the possibility that we will exert that ability at the time of our choosing and the place of our choosing. I think that all of those sent strong messages to the terrorists and have had an impact on the way they operate.

That's not to say that the terrorist problem is over. It is not. It remains a clear and present danger to the United States. It's something that we're working on intensively, both with our planning at home and our planning abroad. We've increased the intelligence assets that we devote to following terrorists and trying to find them. We have had considerable successes in the last year in frustrating what we believe were potential terrorist attacks, but the threat continues. We will have to work hard and will work hard to do our best to fight terrorism.

I think it's fair to say that terrorist attacks will succeed from time to time. That when you're dealing with this type of enemy it's impossible to be successful in defeating them all the time. But what, going back to your question, what we did show was that we are determined and we have the ability and we have the will to fight, and we will.

Q: What possible attacks have you frustrated, have you had success in frustrating?

A: We believe we've frustrated several attacks against American interests both diplomatic and military around the world. I don't want to get into the details, but we think that our intelligence has been successful in helping us do that.

It's unfortunately the kind of intelligence that you learn about and write about any intelligence failure, but rarely hear about intelligence successes. One of the reasons for that is that we want to have more successes tomorrow.

Press: Thank you.

Additional Links

Stay Connected