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DoD News Briefing, Thursday, June 3, 1999 - 2:05 p.m.

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
June 03, 1999 2:05 PM EDT

Also Participating: Major General Chuck Wald, J-5

Related briefing slides

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Let me start with the announcement that Secretary Cohen will come here this afternoon at about 4:30 to give you a readout of the chiefs' meeting with the President. I'd like to say it will be exactly at 4:30, but it will depend on when he returns from the White House.

The second issue on your mind, I know, is the news out of Belgrade. Let me just say that this is a time for caution, not celebration. The reports, if true, are encouraging, but we have to see performance, not promises. As far as I know, not one Serb soldier has yet to leave Kosovo.

There will be many details to be worked out in the next days. I don't know how long it's going to take to translate what we've read on the wires into a workable agreement, or if that can be done. All of that will depend on the willingness of the Serb authorities to live up to what's been reported.

No matter where we are today, we're there because of the steady, professional and strong application of air power over the last ten weeks. That is what has produced the reported progress out of Belgrade, and air power is what will continue until we get an agreement that meets all of NATO's five conditions, and principally that has to begin with a verifiable withdrawal of troops from Kosovo. Not just army troops, but also special police and paramilitary forces as well.

The President is supposed to speak more about this at 2:30, and therefore, our briefing will, indeed, be brief. I plan to turn it over now to General Wald, and he will run through the operational update, and then we'll take your questions until a little before 2:30 and knock it off then. Thanks.

[Charts available at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/#SLIDES]

Major General Wald: Good afternoon.

[Chart-Weather Conditions]

The weather, as I said yesterday, turned out to be a little bit cloudy this morning, and then over the next couple of days, we'll have a couple of sections of thunderstorms, and then it should be clear sailing throughout the next week or so into July.

[Chart-Level of Effort-Day 71]

A pretty heavy day yesterday in the fielded forces area. Thirty-three fielded forces targets out of 50-plus targets yesterday. Twenty-six artillery sites were attacked, 10 tanks and 15 mortars. Pretty heavy on command and control, TV transmitter stations, radio relay stations, and an alternate command post.

In air defense, we hit the Ponikve airfield yesterday, a couple of bridges. So once again, most of the activity in the Kosovo area was in the southwest area, where the VJ/MUP and the UCK have had some activity.

[Chart-VJ/MUP Losses in Kosovo]

Over the last seven days, reported attacking these sites. They haven't been verified as destroyed yet, but this is the report from both pilot imagery and overhead. A hundred and seventy-five artillery and mortars, over 100 tanks or APCs, armored personnel carriers, and then 35 tanks have been attacked. This has been confirmed through reconnaissance and cockpit video, and that's basically due to the improved weather, an increase in sorties, and then the UCK offensive has caused the VJ/MUP to get into kind of groups of more than onesies/twos and move around and take out from under the cover, so it's been easier for the forward air controllers to go ahead and find the targets as well as other means.

[Chart-Operation SUSTAIN HOPE-Last 24 Hours]

The refugee situation, 376 arrived at JFK yesterday. The refugee flow out of Fort Dix continues. We should have a couple of hundred over the next couple of days.

The IRC, International Rescue Committee, did an airdrop last night. It wasn't totally successful. They had some success. They're going to continue to try to do that over the next couple of days. Before they do in any zone, they'll drop the leaflets and let people know that food is coming.

Q: (inaudible) What was the problem?

Major General Wald: They had a little trouble with the actual food coming out of the back of the aircraft, and they think they've fixed that.

[Chart-Refugees/Level of Effort]

The level of effort remains high, almost a million places for shelter, tents, and other facilities for the refugees, and medical support and food continues to increase.

[Photos available at http://www.defenselink.mil/photos/#Operation+Allied+Force]

[Photo-Decani Piston Plant, Serbia-Post Strike]

A few images from the last few days. This is the Decani piston plant that we struck the night before last. You can see the previous picture of what it looked like, and then now what it looks like here. That piston plant is totally destroyed.

[Photo-Veliki Crljeni Transformer Station, Serbia-Post Strike]

The Veliki--you can name it there better than I can--transformer station. One of the primary transformers for power in the Belgrade area itself was struck again two nights ago. You can see at these spots, and that's been taken down. Hard kill.

[Photo-Pec Army Garrison, Serbia-Post Strike]

This is Pec army barracks. You can see these admin and support facilities have all been destroyed. I'll show you cockpit imagery of this, or a video of this building here being attacked last night, and it destroys this section of the building.

[Photo-Obrenov Garrison, Serbia-Post Strike]

This is the Obrenov garrison, Serbia, which is a vehicle storage supply site for a MUP garrison. You can see all their storage, vehicle supply, and I'm sure there are things inside these, in some of them. These have all been destroyed.

Q: General, did the two humanitarian aircraft draw any fire?

Major General Wald: I didn't hear if they took fire last night. There were no reports that we got of that.

[Start Video]

The weather today has been very good. This is a film at 1:30 this morning. You see a little bit of high cirrus, not really affecting operations whatsoever.

The prediction up through 2400-Z tomorrow morning--or this morning, I should say. You can see there's some weather coming through, predicted. It turned out, so far it's turned out better than this. They did have a little period of weather over Belgrade that didn't affect ops.

Q: How many sorties were planned for today?

Major General Wald: I think they had something under 800 scheduled today. They vary between 750 and 850, and that's counting support, as we've talked about before, but they'll stay around 750 to 800 over the next few days.

This is a radio relay tower in northern Serbia. We continue to take down his command and control. You see the tower itself here. This did not drop the tower on this particular shot, but it looks like it probably did some damage to it. F-16C with 2,000-pound bombs. Those towers won't be replaced.

Kragujevac TV/FM radio station, another command and control tower. You'll see this one actually does drop the tower. This is four 2,000-pound bombs. You'll see the tower drop inside. That's pretty hard to do on the first strike on these things.

Lines of communication, freedom of movement. Continue to hit their lines of communication and bridges. This is Dakovica, temporary--it's a temporary bridge they've tried to work around with a pontoon bridge. F-16 here, once again with 2,000-pound bombs. He flies over the target, and you'll see the bombs hit the approach end of the bridge. For a temporary bridge, that's probably destroyed.

Another highway bridge in central Serbia. More lines of communication. We take down his ability to resupply and sustain. You'll see this is two aircraft. This one here drops two, and his wingman dropped two right behind it. Those are all direct hits.

Sustainment. Continue to take down his ability to have any resupply or sustainment over a long period of time. This is ammunition storage in Gnjilane in southern Kosovo. Kind of an ammo bunker or building itself, not bunkered up very much here, so it's a softer target. It doesn't look like there was a lot of ammo in that particular one. Maybe some.

Novi Sad transformer station. Once again, their electrical power. I showed a picture of this earlier. You can see the bombs hit the middle of the this. There's probably some secondary arcing that goes on, because there's a pretty good explosion here. That will take that down for several days.

Integrated air defense. This is an SA-6 transport erector launcher with missiles on it. This is Novi Sad in northern Serbia. This is an F-16 again with an LGB. You'll see this is not a dummy.

Forces on the ground. There's some questions on A-10s, [which] we'll show in just a moment. This is an F-15E against Pristina army barracks. We've hit this several times. This is one of 32 aim points on that army barracks that we've hit many, many time[s]. Another set of 2,000-pound bombs.

Taking out their ability to have a place to live. This is the Pec army barracks in western Kosovo, F-16 with 2,000-pounders again. Once again, this area has been hit several times. The one I showed you the image of a minute ago, the bomb actually hits here and probably destroys that end of the building.

You can see it didn't hit right where the laser was, but it still hit the target, which was fortunate.

F-16CG with 2,000-pounders on an artillery piece, or at least an artillery position. It looks like there's an artillery piece in it. It's a direct hit.

There were some questions on the A-10. I'll show you a couple of films. The problem with the film here is you can see the actual target and vehicle under it, but once the missile leaves the actual aircraft, the film goes away, because it's not connected to the airplane. But these were later assessed to be hits. He's locked on there. They'll fire. Once that missile leaves the aircraft, you lose the connection with the aircraft, so you don't have the film any more.

Q: Was that a tank he was locked on?

Major General Wald: That was a tank, and this is an armored personnel carrier.

It's a difficult weapon to employ, but once you get a lock on, it's very accurate.

You can see this one a little bit better underneath there. So he fires and the weapon is gone and it will go direct and hit the target.

[End Video]

Any questions today?

Q: Can you give us your military assessment, with all of the bridges and roads that we've bombed from Kosovo back into Serbia, how could the Serb forces withdraw quickly with the bombing damage that NATO has done, [how would that] impact their ability to get out and go back to Serbia?

Major General Wald: It won't be as easy as it would have been for them. But the fact of the matter is, if they start withdrawing, they'll find a way to get out of Kosovo, I'm sure.

Q: There is some speculation that if the Serbian troops come out of concealment, even if they want to move out, that will be too dangerous; they'll be taken out by NATO aircraft.

Major General Wald: I'm sure in the agreement they'll have accommodations for that, but until that agreement is made and until we're sure there's an agreement and it's not just idle words, as Mr. Bacon mentioned, they'll be vulnerable to be attacked.

Q: So he can't withdraw until there's an agreement, even if they're trying to?

Major General Wald: They could withdraw right now, I think, if they wanted to.

Q: (inaudible)

Major General Wald: Until there's an agreement, they're a military target.

Q: Can you tell us...

Q: Wait a minute. The State Department is saying that if they begin a full-scale withdrawal, we will know it, and that will be the signal for us to stop bombing. What you're saying is, if they begin a full-scale withdrawal, we will bomb them.

Major General Wald: No, what I'm saying is if there is an agreement and they agree to withdraw, I'm sure there will be an accommodation for them to be able to withdraw.

Q: But there's nothing yet...

Q: The point is, everybody's saying there has to be concrete action before we accept--nobody's accepting Milosevic's word.

Major General Wald: As far as I know, and Mr. Bacon could elaborate on this, there has not been an agreement signed that I know of.

Q: So if we see substantial groups of troops moving north, moving toward Yugoslavia, we'll hit them, even...

Major General Wald: Let's put it this way. Just before I came in here, they're attacking targets in Kosovo. They've hit 19 artillery or mortar sites that I've heard of today. They've hit some APCs. They're attacking targets throughout the FRY and Kosovo, and until there's an agreement and the military is told to stop bombing, that's exactly what the military will do.

Q: But troop columns. I mean if a group, a significant, visible, sizeable group of Serb troops was moving, would you hit a troop column?

Mr. Bacon: I think these are hypothetical questions, because the fact is we have not seen signs of an agreement. They are continuing to shoot at our planes, at NATO planes, carrying out their operations. Everybody hopes there will be an agreement. Everybody hopes there will be concrete signs of withdrawal. We have not seen that yet.

The point is that it is premature to stop the military attack until there is a clear sign of withdrawal and a clear sign that they are going to live up to the terms that NATO has been demanding. We haven't seen that yet. And rather than speculate exactly what that's going to involve, these are the types of details that must be worked out as soon as possible. But they haven't been worked out yet, and it's going to require a Serb willingness to actually turn some of these broad phrases in what the Parliament has reportedly passed into concrete actions. That hasn't happened yet.

Q: So what is your understanding, Ken, about the possibility of a pause? A 24-hour, 48-, 72-hour pause in the bombing, short of a full-scale agreement? Because Jamie Rubin alluded to a pause in the bombing today. What sort of provisions are there for pauses as opposed to a cease-fire?

Mr. Bacon: I saw nothing in what I read out of Belgrade that talks about a pause.

Q: What is your understanding about what was taken into Belgrade in terms of a possible pause?

Mr. Bacon: I think those are the types of details that will come out as we get more information on what happened in Belgrade.

Q: Under any agreement would the Serbs be allowed to withdraw their tanks and armored personnel carriers and their artillery pieces from...

Mr. Bacon: Jim, you're asking for a degree of specificity that we just don't have at this time. What we have is a relatively bare bones statement that has to be translated into a much clearer military and operational plan. That hasn't happened yet.

Q: Is there concern in this building and in the administration of how the KLA will react to any kind of peace agreement? If they are, as we understand it, intransigent about demanding his attendance, and if under the terms of the agreement that's not to be forthcoming immediately, is there any concern that they will not disarm, that they might fight even the KFOR out of the hills as they're fighting the Serbs?

Mr. Bacon: I think it would be a grave mistake if they were to take that tack. I think right now everybody is agreed on one thing. Certainly the KLA, certainly the NATO allies, and if this statement out of the Yugoslav Parliament is correct, the Yugoslav Parliament as well agrees that the refugees should be able to return. And the refugees are not going to want to return into an environment where fighting continues.

So I think the primary goal will be to get the refugees back, and I would anticipate that all of the parties will work to make that happen as soon as possible.

Q: I may have missed something coming in late, but you keep referring to an agreement.

Mr. Bacon: Well, I'm referring to a report of what has come out of Belgrade, and I made it very clear at the beginning that the challenge of the next few days is to translate whatever these words are into a plan of action.

Q: How does that happen? How does this get translated into a plan of action? Is this where NATO military officers go to Belgrade to meet with the Serb military? How does that happen?

Mr. Bacon: Without getting into specific detail, I would anticipate that we would end up with a document that would be similar to the Annex 1A that came out of Dayton. That was the military annex that laid out the specifics about how the military was going to operate, and I would anticipate that there will be some annex similar to that, but exactly how that will be worked out, I think it's too early to tell. Or when.

Q: We're talking about a period of days here in which there has to be some negotiation...

Mr. Bacon: I don't think it pays right now to predict time. It could be days, it could be less. It depends a lot on the will of the Yugoslav authorities. This could be done very quickly, if there's a willingness to have it done quickly. If there is not such a willingness, it could take much longer. In fact, it might not happen at all.

Q: It could be done over the phone? Do people have to go to Belgrade to work these out?

Mr. Bacon: I think these are exactly the types of details that remain to be worked out, and there will be more clarity later.

Q: ...the details to be worked out, but there's got to be some withdrawal, some sign that the MUP and VJ are going north to their home in Serbia before any kind of cessation of NATO air activity would come into effect, is that correct?

Mr. Bacon: That's what I said, yes.

Q: But if there is such a withdrawal, just to be clear, in advance of a signed agreement, would we still attack them as they're withdrawing?

Mr. Bacon: I told you so far we have no sign of a withdrawal, so this is hypothetical until we have a sign of withdrawal.

Q: What's not hypothetical, though, is the question of what triggers a bombing pause. You've said up until now that basically--I mean, you've implied at least that any agreement, any words from Milosevic are worthless, and you want to see actual acts of withdrawal. Now there's a suggestion that you want to see a signed piece of paper, then you stop bombing, then the withdrawal begins. I just want to know what triggers...

Mr. Bacon: I don't think I said a signed piece of paper. What I said was that we have to translate promises into performance, and that hasn't happened yet. We haven't seen one Serb soldier leave.

Q: What triggers a suspension of bombing?

Mr. Bacon: I think those details will be worked out. It's very clear from the agreement that there is work to be done on that. If you read what has been reported on the wires, either the Reuter translation or the AP translation, it makes it very clear that there are details of withdrawal still to be worked out -- timing, amount, etc. Those still have to be done. As David asked the question, "what's the format for doing that?" These are among the details to be worked out.

What we have right now is emissaries who have done very good work. Mr. Chernomyrdin and Mr. Ahtisaari have gone to Belgrade. They have held discussions with Serb authorities, including Milosevic. The Serb Parliament has voted on the text of a potential plan for agreement. That, by its own internal words, says that more details have to be worked out before this can become a final operating plan.

So the next few days or hours -- however long it takes -- will be spent trying to take this broad plan and translate it into a group of specific actions that will presumably be followed first by the Serb side, and then if appropriate, by the NATO side. But that hasn't been worked out yet. That's what remains to be done.

You can't expect to have an instant result in something this complex. But our hope is that if it can be done, it will be done quickly. So far it has not been done, and what I started out by saying, and will end by saying, is that the NATO campaign will continue until there's a decision made that there is tangible action by Milosevic and the Serb side to withdraw their troops, end the fighting, and allow the next three steps of the NATO conditions to be met, which is a NATO, an international force with NATO at its core coming in; the refugees coming back; and then, of course, the discussion of some self-government or autonomy for the Kosovar Albanian people within Yugoslavia.

Q: How prepared is the United States to quickly dispatch its contribution to the enabling force should that become necessary in the coming days?

Mr. Bacon: Very prepared.

Q: Have you got Marines ready to go in? Are you moving any ships...

Mr. Bacon: We could have a part of an enabling force on the ground in Kosovo within several days of a decision to do so.

Thank you very much. We'll end it there.

Q: The President's always late. He's... (Laughter) We're going to be another 15, 20 minutes.

Mr. Bacon: I think you need time to get ready. (Laughter)

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