DoD News Briefing, Tuesday, June 8, 1999 - 2:40 p.m.
Related briefing slides
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. I'm sorry I'm late.
[Charts available at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/#SLIDES]
Let me just start with a quick review of the action yesterday. Then I'll take your questions.
[Chart-Level of Effort-Day 76]
Yesterday, as you can see, we concentrated on forces in the field. There were some B-52 attacks against some fielded forces in the Mt. Pastrik area both yesterday, June 7th, and June 6th. In addition, B-52s went against a petroleum refinery at Novi Sad yesterday as well.
You can see the fixed targets we hit were in the sustainment -- they were both petroleum refineries and air defense sites. And then all the rest were against forces in the field.
The reports are yesterday that we hit several dozen tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces, mortars, and rocket launchers. Yesterday, there were a total of 166 strike sorties, 410 support sorties, and that brings the total number of sorties through yesterday to 9,237 strike sorties, 25,012 support sorties flown by NATO.
The bombing is continuing today, again focusing on forces in the field in Kosovo. I might point out that these strikes in the last two days were around the Mt. Pastrik area where there has been fighting between the UCK and the VJ forces. That fighting has been going on for about a week or so. Actually, that seems to have slowed down some, and the more vibrant fighting is happening up in the Junik area now, where both sides seem to have increased their forces in the last day or two and where the UCK has had some success in opening and maintaining a communications or line of communications -- basically a road into Kosovo up in the Junik area.
Next chart, please.
Q: Can you confirm on that point, Ken, the report about B-52s hitting two or three battalions in the open and killing hundreds?
Mr. Bacon: It's very difficult for us to know numbers of people injured or killed. They did hit a two-battalion staging area on June 6th. The staging areas might be about two square kilometers each, so they hit two staging areas and there were some forces there. That was on June 6th. Yesterday they hit some broad areas as well.
As General Wald has shown -- and he was delayed from getting here today -- but he has shown in the past the B-52s can drop quite precisely into an area maybe 1,000 yards long and generally that wide, but they can drop fairly precisely in a limited area, and that's what they did on both these days.
Q: Were these gravity bombs or cluster bombs?
Mr. Bacon: These were Mk-82 gravity bombs, yes.
[Chart-Operation SUSTAIN HOPE-Last 24 Hours]
This is the latest update on the SUSTAIN HOPE operations. You can see running through Fort Dix here, the arrivals, the departures, etc. We have what's happening at Task Force Hawk. And the IRC continued dropping humanitarian daily rations and Swiss biscuits. They now have dropped about 8,000 food packets. Now I don't know what a Swiss biscuit is, but...
Q: Do they have chocolate?
Mr. Bacon: That's a good question. You should call the Swiss on that. Maybe it's worth getting some. They plan to drop again tomorrow to the internally displaced people in...
Q:...the people below are getting these goods, or somebody else is getting them?
Mr. Bacon: I think it's fair to assume that some of the people are getting them. I don't know how precisely they're reaching the people, but the international community has a pretty good idea of where the IDPs are concentrated, the internally displaced people are concentrated in Kosovo. So they are trying to drop in those areas.
Q: Is that new, that Task Force Hawk is providing force protection? And you said the 26th MEU had departed. They were doing force protection before, so now they're on their way to--I guess they've gone over to Greece?
Mr. Bacon: Do we have the next, can we have the next chart please?
[Chart referred to is a map of Kosovo, which has not been uploaded.]
The 26th MEU is now in the Aegean and it's waiting to release its Marines. Let me just bring you up to date on where we stand in terms of the Kosovar peacekeeping force.
As you know, the G8 has completed its work and sent a Security Council Resolution to the Security Council. The next step is that the military technical talks will resume on the border between Kosovo and Macedonia. That's supposed to happen in 15 minutes. Those talks, of course it will be 9:00 p.m. in Kosovo. I don't know how long those talks are going to last, but the U.N. Security Council Resolution refers specifically to the agreement that was reached, the Ahtisaari/Chernomyrdin agreement that was reached with Milosevic and then voted on by the Serb Parliament, and that agreement calls for talks to work out the precise details of withdrawal.
One of the objections that the Serbs had several days ago, over the weekend, was that there wasn't a U.N. Security Council Resolution that provided for the entrance of an international peacekeeping force into Kosovo. Now that's resolved. The resolution has been drafted. It's awaiting action by the U.N. Security Council. The next step is to move on to the Military Technical Agreement that lays out the specific details. That is what will start in 15 minutes.
Now after that agreement is reached, and it's not possible to predict how long that will take, but after that agreement is reached, the Serbs will then begin to pull their troops out. After the withdrawal, the start of the withdrawal has been verified, then the next step is that NATO would vote to, would review the information and vote to ask Secretary General Solana to institute a bombing pause -- not a halt, but a pause.
At that stage NATO would also begin work on an Activation Order, which would provide for the deployment of the KFOR, the Kosovo peacekeeping force or implementation force that would flow in. The U.S. part of that force, as you know, is 7,000 people, but the initial part will be a so-called enabling force which will be comprised of two elements. The first will be the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is now in the Aegean waiting for a signal to get off the ships and start moving.
The second part will be 1,700 soldiers from Task Force Hawk. That will be a light infantry battalion, I guess two light infantry companies actually, an anti-tank company, and a group of helicopters, a mechanized company, and some artillery. So these 1,700 people who are now in Albania will move into Macedonia, and then from Macedonia they'll move in with the Marines to Kosovo and assume the first positions in the American sector, which is in the southeastern part of Kosovo.
Q: From Tirane to Skopje, you said?
Mr. Bacon: Basically, they'll move down into Macedonia and then up from Skopje or just above Skopje, where the American staging area is, into Kosovo at the appointed time.
The schedule for this can't be known until the Military Technical Agreement is complete and until the Serbs demonstrate and allow NATO to verify that the withdrawal has actually begun.
Q: How long will it take the soldiers to move from Albania into Skopje? Any estimate?
Mr. Bacon: I don't know how long it would take, except that they'll be there on time to marry up with the Marines or to follow the Marines in.
Q: They'll be traveling over land?
Mr. Bacon: I think generally over land, but some may be going by air.
Q: How long will the verification period be?
Mr. Bacon: That will all be worked out. I think right now, before we have a Military Technical Agreement, we should be soft on the details, because that will be a part of the Military Technical Agreement. As I said, those talks are supposed to begin at 3:00 o'clock.
Q:...have agreement, you didn't have agreement over the weekend. What has really changed other than the fact that Russia lost out and Milosevic lost out on getting anything but a NATO core? The military people meeting from Serbia claimed they didn't have the authority to sign. What has changed?
Mr. Bacon: I think there's been a fundamental change, and that's the result of the G8 agreement. The G8 got together and drafted a U.N. Security Council Resolution, which has now been sent to the Security Council. It's been tabled, and it's been circulated for review. So now we have a resolution, not yet passed, but a resolution awaiting passage that lays out the U.N. plan for Kosovo. That plan calls squarely for a NATO-led peacekeeping force to go in after the Serbs withdraw.
The plan incorporates as an annex the Ahtisaari/Chernomyrdin agreement that Milosevic accepted and the Serb Parliament voted on Friday.
Q: They'd already accepted when the Serbian military apparently stalled. What makes you think that the talks are going to move forward now?
Mr. Bacon: Well, I think we have to wait. I think we have to be cautious. We think we have crossed one more bridge, and that bridge is that the G8 has produced a Security Council Resolution. Mr. Ahtisaari has been to Beijing to present these terms to the Chinese. China is obviously one of the permanent five members of the Security Council. Another is Russia. And the other three are in NATO. So now the Security Council will, at the appropriate time, pass this resolution, and that will happen, I believe, after the MTA, the Military Technical Agreement, is signed, after the withdrawal has begun, and after the bombing halt has been adopted, the bombing pause has been adopted by NATO. Then I would anticipate that right away the U.N. Security Council would vote out the resolution, and then NATO would go ahead and vote its Activation Order, which is the NATO authority for the KFOR to move into Kosovo.
Q: Two questions. Number one, have the Greeks given the okay to move the Marines, or will that not be until the bombing halt, which the Greeks have indicated they wanted? And number two, will Task Force Hawk, will any Apaches go in with Task Force Hawk?
Mr. Bacon: Yes. Eight Apaches will go into the enabling force. I think that's what you meant to ask--will any Apaches leave Task Force Hawk and go into the enabling force, and the current plan is that eight Apaches will join -- that's eight of the 24 Apaches--will join the enabling force.
Q: And the Greeks, have they given the go-ahead yet?
Mr. Bacon: As I said yesterday, the Greeks made a public statement yesterday saying the Marines will be able to leave their ships and deploy through Thessaloniki when necessary, that there would be no hold-up, and we don't anticipate that there will be any problem. The Greeks have said it's okay.
Q: Will those Marines actually be going ashore?
Mr. Bacon: 1,900 out of the 2,200 Marines we anticipate will go ashore.
Q: The total, you can add the 1,900 and the 1,700 for a total of 3,600 is the U.S. part of...
Mr. Bacon: Yes, you can add those. Well, I mean that's the U.S. part of the enabling force will be about 3,600.
Q: Two questions... I forgot the first one. Let's go on to the second one. (Laughter)
Mr. Bacon: I was ready for the first.
Q: You said that it would be a NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, but I read part of a draft resolution that's been sent to the U.N. and it only says a peacekeeping force with a substantial contribution of NATO, but nothing about who's leading it.
Mr. Bacon: The U.N. Security Council Resolution incorporates as an annex the Ahtisaari/Chernomyrdin agreement. That agreement does say that it will be a peacekeeping force with a substantial or essential, depending on the translation, NATO component. It also says it will have unified command and control. Everybody understands that this is a NATO-led peacekeeping force.
Q: I just remembered the first question. The U.N. is going to time the ACTORD, has issued the instructions for an Activation Order. How soon until we can actually get troops in?
Mr. Bacon: I think the troops are ready to move in quite quickly. I saw an interview on the wires before I came in here with a British general saying that they could move very quickly in and actually describing some of their movement planned into Kosovo. So I would urge you to take a look at that.
Q: What about the Russians? I know that a lot of details have to be worked out yet, but what is the thinking in terms of how many troops--they apparently have offered 10,000, but apparently we think that's too many. Can you talk about that? Where exactly they would be? And what are those little red things on the map?
Mr. Bacon: Okay. The Russian participation, as President Clinton said earlier today, will be worked out by Strobe Talbott, the deputy secretary of state, and the Russians. Secretary Talbott is going to return to Moscow soon to resume those talks.
We've said all the way along that we hope there will be Russian participation. The Russian involvement in this process has been absolutely crucial to getting us to where we are today. We hope the Russians will participate, but Secretary Talbott will be working that out over the next couple of days -- the exact arrangements and details of that.
I think it's premature now to talk about the size of a Russian force or exactly how or where they'll be deployed until those talks have been completed.
Q: What about the red...
Mr. Bacon: These little red things--actually, when the withdrawal begins, the Serb forces will go through several, they will take designated routes on which they will be protected. They will go through designated exit points or gates, and these just indicate the routes that they will follow and the exit points they'll go through.
Q: Do you know what towns those are? The four exit points?
Mr. Bacon: Yeah. This one here is on the road from Pristina to Lisica.
Q: Can you spell that? Sorry.
Mr. Bacon: L-I-S-I-C-A. Then there's another one on the road from Pristina through Podujevo. Then it goes up here to a town called Raca, R-A-C-A, in Serbia. That seems to be the next biggest town after the border here.
This one is a little difficult because there's no obvious road here, but it looks like it's near a place called Slatina, S-L-A-T-I-N-A. Then the other one is a road that goes from Pristina through Kosovska Mitrovica. And up here through a border point that goes through a town called Rudacia, R-U-D-A-C-I-A, which is in Serbia just beyond the border.
Q: Are those roads and bridges completely intact, or are they going to have to do some rebuilding...
Mr. Bacon: I think some of them may require some work-arounds. As I said earlier, the NATO forces have tried to preserve some major roads in Kosovo...
Q:...you showed last week are not where the red spots are...
Mr. Bacon: Exactly right. These major roads are down here. Much of the bombing we did was outside of Kosovo against rail and highway bridges here, but we did bomb some bridges, and there will be required some work-arounds...
Q: Will specific numbers of troops have to go through those exit points to trigger a bombing pause, for instance?
Mr. Bacon: I don't think we'll be taking a census at the border. NATO will monitor the exodus really through, with airplanes and JSTARS and other ways.
Q: Ken, what's the purpose of the four specific exit points?
Mr. Bacon: Actually, if you look, as I've said many times, there aren't a lot of roads out. The purpose actually is to, and it's conceivable that these points could change during the negotiations, but I doubt it, because there are so few roads out of Kosovo into Serbia. These are mainly the main routes. As I said, this one's the secondary route.
The point here is to just elaborate an orderly way for them to get out.
Q: Is it easier to monitor also by Predator and so forth having a certain gateway...
Mr. Bacon: Yes, it would be easier.
Q: It's pretty obvious that it's going to take more than seven days to come out.
Mr. Bacon: I don't think anything's obvious right now. I think that one of the issues that will be discussed is exactly how long will be necessary to get them out.
Q: You said they would be protected on the way out, protected against the KLA or U.S. or NATO bombing?
Mr. Bacon: The KLA has already agreed not to attack the Serb troops as they're leaving. I think they've made a public announcement about that, but it's one of the issues that Secretary Albright discussed with Kosovar Albanian leaders today.
The agreement is likely to call for the establishment of several assembly areas within Kosovo where the Serb troops would gather, pull together their units, and then organize and go out on predetermined routes. The NATO troops would not attack troops that were leaving; the NATO planes would not attack Serb troops that were leaving along these predetermined routes or that had gathered in predetermined staging areas.
Q: What would it be that would actually trigger the pause? What would be the requirements they would have to meet in order to trigger that NATO pause in bombing?
Mr. Bacon: That is among the issues to be worked out in the Military Technical Agreement, so I can't give you a firm answer to that.
Q: Time as well as numbers, or is it a combination of things?
Mr. Bacon: It will actually require a certain amount of movement from some zones, a zone or some zones in Kosovo. But those details remain to be worked out, and I think it's better to wait to discuss them until they're...
Q: It's still non-negotiable?
Mr. Bacon: Sorry?
Q: Is NATO's position, the agreement that was on the table on the weekend, is still non-negotiable? Take it or leave it?
Mr. Bacon: The agreement does allow some room for timetables, to find a timetable that works. A realistic timetable is what we're looking for. That's one of the things that will be discussed. Secretary Cohen has said that it could be slightly longer than seven days. That will be worked out by the military teams when they begin meeting.
Q: Other than that...
Mr. Bacon: Just a sec. Can I take a question from David?
Q: It's a follow-up. Other than that, there's no negotiations?
Mr. Bacon: Ivan, I think that we should allow the teams to do their work, and they'll discuss their work after it's over.
Q: Ken, presumably the Serbs already know the identities and locations of these assembly points, if they've been presented with a detailed document. Is there any sign that the Serbs are already preparing, making preparations to draw out? Are they forming up any kinds of convoys, bringing buses into these assembly areas, anything that looks to U.S. intelligence as preparation for a withdrawal?
Mr. Bacon: There are a number of indications that the Serbs plan to withdraw, including a statement on Sunday by the Serb army Chief of General Staff, General Ojdanic. And he talked about the onset of a peace agreement that will allow soldiers to return to their families.
We've seen also signs that they are mobilizing vehicles and other means to transport people out, but we have not yet seen signs that Serb troops or special police forces or paramilitaries are moving out, but we've certainly seen preparations for moving out.
Q: Have you seen any orders been given? Troops being told to prepare to, or expect to withdraw, break off contact...
Mr. Bacon: I'm not aware that there have been any publicly-announced orders.
Q: The NATO peace plan depends and [is] waiting for the U.N. approval. Some U.N. members are saying that in the beginning before the fight started, the conflict, U.N. was not consulted. Why you are depending now on the U.N. Security Resolution?
Mr. Bacon: That's not true. In fact the U.N. Security Council Resolution, the draft resolution, refers specifically to a number of U.N. Security Council Resolutions that have been adopted earlier. So the U.N. has been an integral part of this from time to time.
Q: Ken, because you said that the enabling force will be ready to go in a matter of days, and many of the troops are already in position to move in, and Russia has no troops prepositioned, is it safe to assume that when the enabling force goes in, it will be without Russian troops? At least initially?
Mr. Bacon: That is safe to assume, yes.
Q: The Russians would have to join at some later point?
Mr. Bacon: Yes, they would join at a later point.
Q: To what extent are the paramilitaries going to be required to leave? And to what extent is that going to be verifiable? Does NATO have a good sense of who the local militias are, how many there are, where they are?
Mr. Bacon: The agreement does say that all Serb forces--Serb army, Serb special police, and paramilitary forces--have to leave. And indeed, there's quite a long list of the types of forces that have to leave. In the end, however, the commander of the KFOR, the peace implementation force, Lieutenant General Sir Mike Jackson, has the authority, will have the authority to designate which forces he believes should leave.
So all military forces and paramilitary forces are required to leave.
In terms of monitoring those forces, that's something that KFOR will be working with to figure out how to do.
Q: Is there a good estimate of how many paramilitaries you're talking about at this point?
Mr. Bacon: I'm sure we have an estimate, but I don't have it at my fingertips.
Q: What do you know about the reports that as many as 400 to 800 troops may have been caught out, certain troops may have been caught out in the open and killed by B-52 bombings yesterday? And if there were these indications over the past couple of days that the Serbs intend to withdraw, could that be considered a bit of overkill at this point in the war?
Mr. Bacon: First of all, I can't confirm those reports. I have seen them. I have spoken to our analysts. And nobody has certain figures on that. We do believe that we have had, that NATO forces have had an impact against ground forces, Serb ground forces in the last few days, but that impact is just an extension of what's been happening over the last several weeks, in fact, starting in mid- to late-May, the damage has been quite substantial against forces on the ground in Kosovo, Serb forces on the ground in Kosovo.
In terms of--first of all, we are just beginning to see signs of preparation for withdrawal. We have not yet seen any withdrawal. As you know, many times in the past the Serbs have announced that they were withdrawing only to do nothing. So we have to, I think, wait until we see clear, verifiable signs of withdrawal before we can suspend or pause the bombing. That's what NATO plans to do.
Q:...that a B-52 attack on these open troops on the field is in any sense overkill at this stage in the negotiations?
Mr. Bacon: We have made it very clear that NATO will attack, degrade, diminish the Serb forces until they agree to NATO's five conditions. We do not have yet an actionable agreement on that. We have an agreement in principle, but we don't have anything that turns an agreement into action.
It's very important, I believe, for the Serbs and everybody else to understand that what we need here is a "delivered" withdrawal, not just a "discussed" withdrawal.
Q: How does NATO intend to guarantee that the hundreds of thousands of undocumented refugees will both be able to reenter Kosovo and be able to reside there again? What steps are being taken to assure that?
Mr. Bacon: I'm not sure this is primarily a NATO problem. It may well be a problem that will be addressed by the civilian authorities. There will be a military set-up and also a civilian set-up, or civil set-up, in Kosovo. Obviously, this will have to be worked out by the civil authorities.
Q: But that's to say the military will not be taking responsibility for that particular task? It's going to be up strictly to the civilians who are going to come behind the military, some ways behind?
Mr. Bacon: I'm not sure I understand the problem. I don't think a lot of people from Switzerland and Austria are going to be moving into Kosovo. I think the people most likely to go back are those who were thrown out, driven away from their houses and have a...
Q:...close to the border.
Mr. Bacon: Right, and have a right to go back there.
Q: Right. But they don't have any documentation. Is that seen as a hurdle at this point to getting these people back?
Mr. Bacon: No, I don't believe that will be a problem.
Q: What's happening with regard to the fighting around [Mount Pastrik] and the other area where the Serbs--basically, are the Serbs still on the offensive against the KLA? Are they still moving or is it static? What's the status?
Mr. Bacon: In the Mount Pastrik area, the Kosovar Liberation Army failed to make significant inroads and to open lines of communication into Kosovo. They remain sort of huddled along the border here. They are in Kosovo, but they've been pinned down. This is a rugged area.
As a result, they have seemed to be concentrating much more on making inroads in the Junik area where they have an open line of communication from Albania into the Junik area, which is right here. Both sides have been reinforcing their troops there, the KLA and the Serbs, and the KLA has been holding onto territory, and there are signs that they may be gaining some territory there.
Q: So there is escalation in Junik?
Mr. Bacon: In the Junik area there has been some recent escalation.
Q: Do we have anything on numbers of troops?
Mr. Bacon: This is all very tentative, but the UCK appears to have somewhat of an advantage, maybe as many as 3,500 troops there, and the VJ, we think, may have as much as 2,500 in the area. Both sides have been moving more forces in over the last couple of days.
Q: In the new map, not old map?
Mr. Bacon: This map? It says 1998.
Q: The Chinese embassy...
Mr. Bacon: The Chinese embassy was not in Kosovo.
Q: A two-pronged question. Number one, for the 1,700 guys from the 82nd Airborne, do you anticipate that they will hit the road fairly soon, even though there hasn't been an ACT Order on the part of NATO, to position themselves as the Marines are apparently about to do? Number one.
Mr. Bacon: That's a very good question, and it should be simple to answer. The problem is right now that all of the movements are somewhat contingent on what happens in the Military Technical Agreement talks that are just beginning. I'm not sure there will be significant movement until those talks show some sign of progress.
The Marines will be able to move very quickly. They can move from their ship--and the lead ship is the USS KEARSARGE in the Aegean--they can be into Kosovo in 96 hours or less. That would mean getting off the ship and moving up here to north of Skopje, then waiting until they get the word to move in, and then moving into the U.S. sector which is in this area.
The Task Force Hawk people can move down either by road or by helicopters, and probably by boat, and I would expect that they'll start moving in time to marry up with the Marines and go in either with them or shortly after them.
Q:...the 82nd Airborne?
Mr. Bacon: Let me just tell you what is involved here. There will be, the light infantry troops will be from the 82nd Airborne. The tentative makeup of this 1,700 people is there will be an aviation task force that will have, as I said, eight Apaches, and a number of other helicopters, Black Hawks, CH-47s. There will be several, there will be two light infantry companies, an anti-tank company, a tank company, and a Bradley company, both of which will actually come from the 1st Armored Division. They're already with Task Force Hawk, but they're not part of the 82nd Airborne. They're with the 1st Armored Division. Then there will be some artillery, field artillery task force that will have some 105mm Howitzers, some Paladins and some Multiple Launch Rocket Systems with them. This is the group that will be moving in. They will be in place in Skopje; they can be in Skopje between 72 and 96 hours from notification. So if they're notified today, it would take three to four days. If they're notified tomorrow, it would be three or four days from tomorrow.
Q: My second question had to do with the visible signs that certain kinds of assemblies have begun. You said there was no public orders that you know of to begin such an assembly. Can one safely assume in the Serb military that they don't do this kind of assembly unless there's quite a bit of communication ordering them to begin to move buses and various things to assembly areas?
Mr. Bacon: I actually did not say that we have seen the troops beginning to assemble. What we've said is that some vehicles have begun to assemble, perhaps to pick up troops. I think that it's fair to assume that they're doing this with a reason, but we really have to walk through a series of steps here. The first step is to complete the Military Technical Agreement. Obviously, we would be happy to see the Serbs start withdrawing before the agreement is signed, sealed and delivered. It would actually be a wise thing for them to do, to start moving out ahead of time. But so far we have not seen Serbs move Serb forces, either army or special police, moving out of Kosovo.
Q: Ken, when the enabling force gets there, what will be their initial most urgent primary mission? Will they, for instance, have to be involved in some de-mining? What will be "job one" when the enabling force gets there?
Mr. Bacon: Job one is that they'll, obviously, do some de-mining. I believe that the U.S. forces will use their headquarters in Gnjilane here, and will use their, they will make their headquarters in Gnjilane, and they will then set up a headquarters there; they will secure it; they will begin patrolling around it, so they will provide early and very obvious visible presence of NATO activity in Kosovo, which would help stabilize the situation and reassure people. Then the de-mining, the setting up [of] a headquarters, the security of the headquarters and the beginning of patrols around the headquarters will establish a situation that will allow the army troops to start coming in.
Q: Can you spell Gnjilane, if you wouldn't mind?
Q: It's a common spelling, I believe. (Laughter)
Mr. Bacon: The common spelling is G-N-J-I-L-A-N-E. How else would you spell it? (Laughter)
Q: Any school child would know.
Mr. Bacon: Barbara?
Q: Would you expect that any element of the U.S. enabling force would go into the U.S. sector directly by air, or is it your expectation that everybody comes in by land?
Mr. Bacon: I assume the helicopters will arrive by air. (Laughter)
Q: My second question is, at this point does NATO have to give the Serbs petrol to get out of Kosovo?
Mr. Bacon: I have not heard that discussed. Obviously, we would be willing to help as appropriate, to help them leave. But I haven't heard that as an issue.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about how difficult this job is going to be over the coming months for the Kosovo force and all the challenges they face? Does the hard part start now?
Mr. Bacon: I would say if you're a pilot, the hard part has been going on for 77 days and will go on until we have a Military Technical Agreement and firm signs of withdrawal by the Serb forces.
Having said that, this is going to be a daunting mission, because we're moving into a territory that we have not been able to scope out in the same way we were able to, for instance, in Bosnia. In the Bosnia case, U.N. people, U.N. observers had been in Bosnia for years during considerable fighting, and therefore, we, we the NATO forces, had a much better idea of what to expect in Bosnia than we have in Kosovo today. We've done extensive overhead observation, but that's not the same as having people on the ground. So that's one part that's going to be difficult.
We know the terrain is quite difficult. In fact, the British general who was talking about moving in the British forces from Skopje up towards Pristina talked about flying in and securing the tops of hills along the route through some gorges to make sure that they had the high ground before starting to move de-mining equipment in along the road.
So to answer Barbara's question again, I would anticipate that there will be some helicopter activity to go in and secure certain areas to help make it easier for the troops to move through and make sure they're protected on the way through.
In one respect this could be easier than Bosnia, which is the mines. We know there are mines there. We know that some bridges have been booby-trapped, etc. But there hasn't been the years of fighting that took place in Bosnia where there had been significant minefields laid out by both sides. Here we do have some mines laid out, but they've been mainly laid out by the Serb army.
One of the things that we hope to achieve is cooperation of the Serb army in at least identifying and also removing some of the mines, so it will be easier for the allied troops going in to deal with the mine problem.
Q: For the U.S. forces going into the U.S. sector, if the 82nd comes in after the Marines for the U.S. enabling force, who takes the high ground and protects the Marines on their way in when they come in by land with slower than helicopters? Who's going to protect them?
Mr. Bacon: To the extent that the major route here is from Skopje up to Pristina and the British are going up into their section, which includes Pristina--if you look at the road here, the easiest way in is to take this route and then to dog-leg out to the east. That's what I anticipate. This is Gnjilane here. So what looks like the obvious route is to go up here to Urosevac, which also would be in the U.S. sector as it's currently set up, and to take a right here and go out east to Gnjilane. So some of this--this will be a common route for many forces, not just the U.S. force.
Now, all of this is still subject to negotiation and change, and at the appropriate time, I'd like to get an Army expert down here to talk about the firm deployment plan.
Q: The Marines carry attack helicopters.
Mr. Bacon: The Marines do have helicopters. They have a variety of helicopters, and they will use them.
Q: Will the British--sorry...
Mr. Bacon: Pardon?
Q: Including Cobras?
Mr. Bacon: Yes. They have--I think this particular Marine Expeditionary Unit has four Cobras.
Q: Will the British be the first in, or will there be an intent to take all the troops from various nations in virtually simultaneously?
Mr. Bacon: My assumption is the British will be in the vanguard, but I think other nationalities will be...
Q: How synchronized will be the entry to the Serb withdrawal? I saw in the draft thing they're talking about synchronization with NATO on...
Mr. Bacon: Everybody agrees--the Serbs, the Kosovar Albanians, the NATO forces, the Russians--everybody agrees that we don't want a security vacuum in Kosovo, and that the NATO forces should come in as quickly as possible on the heels of the withdrawing Serb forces. Exactly how long that will be it's impossible to tell right now. It will depend in part on the details of the Military Technical Agreement.
Q: Ken, is everybody coming in--I can't see the map from here--but is everybody coming in on one road from Skopje? Or are there several entry points?
Also, can you say what other nations will be in the U.S. sector?
Mr. Bacon: I don't know what others. I'm not sure that's been worked out yet in terms of what other nations will be in the U.S. sector or any other sector at this stage. And I assume that they will go in through different roads, but what the British general has talked about is this main road from Skopje to Pristina.
Q:...coming in from Albania?
Mr. Bacon: Well, that eventually could happen, but it's not planned right now. Of course, those are other sectors and other countries.
Mr. Bacon: The Skopje to Pristina highway. (Laughter)
Press: Thank you.