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DoD News Briefing, Tuesday, June 22, 1999

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
June 22, 1999 1:40 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Charlie, it's particularly nice to see you here.

Yesterday, Secretary Cohen outlined for you all that we have accomplished in the last week or so with the Serb troops leaving, the agreement with the KLA to demilitarize, and the influx of NATO forces, and the refugees beginning to return fairly quickly. We now estimate that nearly 175,000 refugees have gone back since the fighting ended.

As a result, the focal point has shifted from Washington and Brussels and other capitals back to the region in Kosovo. We'll recognize that by moving back to twice-a-week briefings on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Having said that, however, tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 o'clock we are going to beam General Craddock in here again -- this time by television, not by phone -- and you will be able to ask him questions. He'll give a briefing. He may have one of his subordinate commanders with him, and he'll sort of bring you up-to-date on what's happening in the U.S. sector in terms of dealing with the KLA, dealing with mines, other problems, and allow you to ask him some questions. So that will be here at 2:00.

Today, following my briefing, Rear Admiral Boyington, the commander of Patrol Wings, a P-3 operation with the U.S. Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk, will come and talk to you about the role that P-3s played with SLAM missiles during the Operation ALLIED FORCE. He has some video and other pictures to show you on that.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: Ken, I'd like to ask you about the Newsday report that quotes both ethnic Albanians and a member of the Serb security force saying that Russian volunteers had taken part in the killing of hundreds of Kosovars and the destruction of their towns and villages. Newsweek [sic] says that these Russians were organized as a single unit under the Ministry of the Interior.

Does the Pentagon have any evidence that what is being alleged here is true?

A: I read that Roy Gutman report in Newsday. We certainly know that Russians participated. Russian volunteers, mercenaries we believe, did participate with paramilitary and other Serb forces. There were reports during the 11-week Operation ALLIED FORCE of even some Russian deaths during the conflict.

I do not have verification that there were units or groups of the size that Newsday reports, but we do believe there was some Russian participation.

Now having said that, I want to point out that when the Russian forces arrive as part of KFOR, we expect them to be totally fair and professional in their dealings with both Serbs and Kosovar Albanians, as they have been in Bosnia where they have been very stalwart and successful members of the peacekeeping force. I anticipate that the Russian troops coming to Kosovo will be exactly the same.

Q: Is there any indication whether these were mercenaries or active Russian troops, or whether they had...

A: I told you that they were mercenaries. We believe that they were mercenaries. Whether some of them had served in the military at one time or not, I can't say.

Q: You mentioned the agreement on the Russian participation. Has that leaped over the final hurdle of approval in Moscow and at NATO now?

A: It has not. I just read a wire service story before I came in here saying that President Yeltsin is just submitting it to the Duma for approval.

Q: Ken, have the planes started flying into Pristina yet? NATO and Russian planes. Or will that await final approval? How is that...

A: I don't believe that any planes have flown in yet. I would anticipate that would happen soon.

Q: Gutman's piece is sort of focused on just one area of Kosovo, but do you have evidence of Russian mercenaries involved in massacres in a wider area? When did the Pentagon or the American government first become aware of this?

A: We were aware of it from fairly early on. We had reports mainly from the UCK that Russians had been, that there had been Russians killed, but it was only reports from the UCK. We hadn't been on the ground. I daresay that Gutman's sources are UCK sources as well, reporting on what they saw or heard or learned in other ways.

So I don't think we have firm evidence on the numbers of Russian troops or where they operated. These are facts that may come out later, but we didn't have very detailed evidence that there were Russian mercenaries involved. We did have reports from the UCK.

Q: That they were killed by airstrikes?

A: I don't know that, how they were killed.

Q: How about nationalities that might have been involved as mercenaries. Did you have...

A: I'm not aware that there were other ones. There could well have been, but I haven't seen reports on that.

And I must say that the reports that I saw did not suggest large numbers of Russian mercenaries. In fact, it would be hard to extrapolate from what I saw as to any numbers beyond very small numbers.

Q: Would this be a matter for investigation on whether they had any ties to the Interior Ministry?

A: The Interior Ministry in Belgrade?

Q: Whether it had any ties to the Russian Interior Ministry?

A: Well, it was, as I said, our impression that they were mercenaries, but this is something that I'm sure will be looked into by war crimes investigators who are now going into Kosovo in considerable numbers to try to figure out what happened and who was responsible for it. There have been many, many reports in the last few days of more evidence of atrocities, and all sorts of groups are going in to investigate these, including a group of FBI agents.

Q: As I understand the word "mercenaries," it's people who are paid, paid soldiers. Who was paying them?

A: You're asking me questions I can't answer. Presumably, they were soldiers of fortune of some sort who were going down and being paid by, I would say, largely by Serb paramilitary groups, but I don't know that for a fact. There were Serb paramilitary groups operating in Kosovo along with special police and Serb forces.

Q: I take it, Ken, the way I understand it, your report -- from what you understand about this -- comes from KLA sources, right? You don't have any other source of information...

A: That's correct. That's correct.

Q: Do you have any assessment of the status of the withdrawal of paramilitary forces from Kosovo now? You've talked about VJ and MUP, but what about the paras?

A: The paras are harder to follow, but we are satisfied that the bulk of the forces are out. You can't be satisfied that every single person is out, obviously. We know there is still some military equipment that was left behind. They plan to come back and collect that later on. Some of it was too broken down to get out. Some of it was out of fuel. Sometimes they didn't have the heavy equipment transports, the HETs, they needed to carry it out. So they have said that they plan to come back and pick up some of the Serb equipment later.

In terms of the paramilitaries, we think there's been a fairly massive exodus of Serb fighters out of Kosovo for the very simple reason that they don't consider it a safe place for them to be right now, if they had been involved in the atrocities or the killings or the fighting. And also they seem to have been serious about complying with the Military Technical Agreement and meeting the deadlines that were laid out in that schedule.

Q: Of the 47,000 troops you estimated have come out of Kosovo, how many would you say were paramilitary, would you say?

A: Most of those apply to special police and VJ forces. I don't have a breakdown of paramilitaries. We never had very good breakdowns on the paramilitary groups.

Q: Do you have any reason to think individual Russians are still in Kosovo?

A: I can't answer that question.

Q: Weren't Russians acting as advisors to Serb military in Kosovo?

A: I don't have a lot of information on that, and I'm not...

Q: They were, weren't they? I mean Serb forces...

A: Pat, I can't answer the question. I just don't know. I can't tell you something I don't know. I assume that there could have been some Russians as advisors, but I don't know that.

Q: Ken, a non-Russian Kosovo question. What is the status of the Pentagon's tallying up of the cost of the air war and whether you're going to need an additional supplemental for '99 or live with what you have?

A: We haven't completed the tally, so we can't answer that question.

Q: Another follow-up. At what point will we be getting some fairly good detail in terms of the numbers of munitions dropped and the types, a little bit more finality in terms of what actually occurred in the war by way of bombs and sorties, that sort of thing.

A: I think it's clear what happened. We won...

Q: I know that, but just a breakdown for the record in terms of "23,000 munitions" and "these are the various types," that sort of thing.

A: I think that we've given fairly good approximations of those, but we can give you a rundown of the total number of munitions dropped and the number of smart munitions versus non-smart munitions.

Q: Is there any chance of getting General Short to do a...

A: Sure, we can do that. He'd be willing to do that.

Q: Can you go into a bit of an explanation of the deal that was -- the agreement for Russian participation in KFOR -- that was signed last Friday? Could you especially address who will be at the top of the chain of command at the airport in Pristina, and who [is] in at least the U.S. sector? How the Russians will come into the chain of command? Who they will be taking their orders from?

A: First of all, all the documents that were -- the document that was signed and all the supporting documents that came out of Helsinki are on the Internet. They are very clear documents. They lay out in clear detail what the arrangements are, and I commend them to your attention.

To answer your questions, the Russians will send in five battalions of people that will be deployed in the American sector -- one to two in the American sector -- in the German sector, in the French sector, and in addition they'll have about 750 people stationed near the Pristina airport. Those people will provide logistics support for the other troops in Kosovo. There will be a total of 3,600 Russians in the Russian part of Kosovo spread in these four locations that I outlined earlier.

There will be a unified chain of command under NATO so that the tactical orders or instructions to the Russian troops will flow down from the NATO chain of command. Like all forces in this NATO operation, they will remain under the political control of their own country. That means that if there is a mission that they don't think is appropriate for them to undertake, they don't have to undertake that mission, but the KFOR commander has the authority to order other troops from KFOR into that sector to perform the mission, and they have to allow them passage into that area, freedom of movement within the area to do the job. This is similar to the arrangement we have now in Bosnia.

At the airport, essentially, there will be two officials, one Russian and one from a NATO country. They will both work for Lieutenant General Mike Jackson, who is the KFOR commander. The Russian official will be basically in charge of the operations on the ground at the airport, and I would describe them as largely administrative operations; whereas the NATO official will control the air traffic flow into and out of the airport and be in charge of the operations of the airport.

We anticipate that this will work smoothly. We've been able to work smoothly with the Russians in Bosnia, and we have no indication that we won't be able to work smoothly with them in Kosovo.

Q: Can I go a little further and follow that? There will be Russians and some NATO -- a Russian officer and some NATO officer will both report and be subservient to Lieutenant General Jackson as far as the airport control is concerned?

A: That is correct. They will work for Lieutenant General Jackson.

Q: Ken?

Q: Let me just finish briefly.

A: All of this is laid out. There's a piece of paper -- which if you don't get that off the Internet, I can give you -- that lays out in great detail the operations at the airport.

Q: Are the agreements with the Germans and the English signed and sealed, just as the agreement between the U.S. and the Russians? Or they have yet to be....

A: No, and they don't have to be. There's one master agreement that was signed by Secretary Cohen and Marshal Sergeyev that lays out the overall arrangements for Russian participation in KFOR. Secretary Cohen signed on behalf of NATO, and obviously, Marshal Sergeyev signed on behalf of the Russian Federation.

Then there are a number of attachments to that master agreement, which is only a page and a half long, that detail specific aspects of the arrangement between the Russians and the NATO forces.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Ken, can you give us an update on the present in-flow of peacekeeping troops into Kosovo? And also, have some non-NATO countries such as Argentina already sent their troops? What non-NATO countries have agreed to pony up?

A: I don't believe yet that the Argentines are there. There may be some -- there will be some Lithuanian troops, for instance, in the U.S. sector. I don't know whether they're there yet. But I would anticipate they'll come in relatively soon.

I think by now there are about 20,000 troops in Kosovo, 20,000 KFOR troops out of the approximately 50,000 we'll have at the end.

Q: Ken, the SecDef said yesterday that more than 300 planes are being brought back. How many planes are there, and how many planes do you plan to leave for the time being?

A: What we've announced so far is two increments of planes to come back that totals actually closer to 400 than 300 when you put in the tankers. And we had over 700 planes there, U.S. planes. Seventy-one were on the THEODORE ROOSEVELT. They've already departed. The THEODORE ROOSEVELT was most recently in Mallorca, Palma, [Spain] where the Secretary visited the crew, and you did as well on Sunday. So almost 500 will have come out. That will leave somewhat over 200 in the theater. Many of those, of course, were assigned to the theater anyway. I think at the beginning there were about 200 U.S. aircraft assigned to the theater. They'll stay there.

Q: So essentially, you're going back down to pre-buildup.

A: Yeah, well, the conflict's over. That's what happens when conflicts end. You return to the...

Q: Some of the...

A:...pre-conflict status. And there's a significant Air Force, U.S. Air Force in Europe on a regular basis. We have a carrier in the Mediterranean quite frequently, which can augment that Air Force, and, of course, we used a large number of allied planes in this as well. The allied planes remain in Europe.

Q: Are the B-52s or other aircraft actually moving today?

A: I believe the B-52s will leave tomorrow, and they'll be the first planes back.

Q: Is that all the B-52s, by the way?

A: Twelve are there and 12 will return tomorrow. They tend to leave in groups. They leave at 15-minute intervals, and three go, then they wait for an hour and three more go. They have to fuel them up, etc. So they can't all leave at once. They leave in a sequence.

Q: I was interested yesterday in the 47,000 figure of troops that are leaving. I know that that number has been sort of fungible throughout the conflict, but in the last couple of weeks NATO was pretty adamant about 41,000. This is 15 percent higher than that. To what do you attribute that difference? And should it be of some concern? I know there's some grumbling up on Capitol Hill. "What the hell are we doing? We don't even know how many troops were there." What does that say about our intelligence?

A: We always said that the numbers were approximate. If there's a difference, it has to do with estimating error.

I think that some of that may be accounted for by paramilitaries that we hadn't counted before. I haven't seen a breakdown by groups. But it's easier to count them going out, because they went through four check points. There were four gates for them to exit. In fact, the bulk of them went through just two of those gates, so it was much easier to count them on the way out than it was to count them coming in over a long period of time.

Q: And another one, actually on Iraq. There's a report out of Baghdad this morning that Iraqi troops are moving up into the northern area around Mosul where they're supposed to be going after some Kurds. Can you confirm that independently? Because this comes from an opposition group inside...

A: I've seen nothing on that.

Q: Ken, how soon will the TR be headed for the Arabian Gulf and the KITTY HAWK back to WESTPAC?

A: I can't answer that question. I don't think the decision's been made.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about the number of cluster bombs that were used during the campaign? Is it dozens, hundreds, thousands? What's the dud rate? And what I'm trying to get at is the, since the Gurkhas were killed by cluster munitions, how large a problem will this be in the future? Is this an isolated incident? Will this be a continuing problem?

A: The U.S. dropped about 1,100 cluster bombs. Not all of those were dropped in Kosovo, obviously. They were dropped -- since cluster bombs are useful against refining facilities, airports, they're very good at destroying runways for instance -- they were dropped in a number of places. I'm trying to find out if we have an estimate of how many were dropped in Kosovo alone, but so far that estimate has eluded me. And we may not have it. We just may not have kept records in that way.

The dud rate for a standard cluster -- most of these were CBU-87s. There are 202 bomblets in each CBU-87, and the dud rate is approximately five percent.

Q: Do they deactivate automatically?

A: I'm not aware that they do.

Q: So they're live until they're...

A: That's a question I haven't asked. I haven't heard that they deactivate automatically, but they may. We'll check that.

Q: On a related topic, early on there were complaints that the Serbs had not yet given the landmine maps and other information. Have they begun to comply with that requirement?

A: The compliance has been very slight in that area. They have given us, I think, a total of two maps, and the maps haven't been particularly accurate.

We've been told by Serb officials that they mapped about 80 percent of the minefields in Kosovo, so that leaves about 20 percent unmapped. We estimate that there are several hundred thousand mines in Kosovo, but we don't know how accurate that estimate is at this stage.

Q: It could be a million?

A: It's just not worth speculating about.

Q: On the 7,000 troops, can you give us a status of the 7,000? Their movement toward Kosovo. You said before that you expected [then] to be in within 30 days. Will this supplant all of the Marines and the 82nd troops that are in there now?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you still expect them to be in within the next three or four weeks?

A: Their equipment is coming by ship, and the soldiers will come by plane. There are about 1,800 or 1,900 Marines there now, and about probably 2,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne and other units. I'll get you the exact number on that. They will be supplanted by people largely from the 1st Infantry Division, although there will also be some people coming in from the United States, some specialists -- civil affairs people, public affairs people, other soldiers crucial to the success of any mission. But most of them will come from Germany.

The equipment is coming by ship. The first ship was supposed to have left at noon today, the BOB HOPE. The second ship will leave in a couple of days. They'll go to Greece, unload, and then the equipment will be moved into Kosovo. And as the ships land, the soldiers will be flown into Macedonia, and then they'll move up with the equipment.

Q: Another subject?

A: Sure.

Q: It was reported Litton Industries has bribed four Greek individuals [with] $12 million when they built the supplier (unintelligible) systems for Greece's F-16 jet fighters, violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Since the Department of Defense was involved, including the process of the approval, I'm wondering are you going to investigate this conduct along with the Department of justice?

A: This is -- the Department of Justice handles law enforcement in our government. This is their job and they'll handle the investigation.

Q: Any involvement on the part of Defense, DoD...

A: It's basically an issue for the Justice Department.

Q: If the Serbs have only turned over two maps and 80 percent of the minefields have been mapped, what comes next? Isn't this a serious problem, to get more maps? How do you...

A: We'll work on that with the Serbs, obviously, to try to get more maps. They may not have particularly accurate maps. But clearly -- you can't do everything at once. Our initial goal was to get the Serbs out and to restore as much stability as possible. We will go back to the Serbs and try to get more information from them on these minefields.

Under the Military Technical Agreement, which I'm sure you've read, the Serbs are supposed to come back in and actually participate in demining. So at that time I would anticipate that there are certain groups of Serbs that are spelled out that are allowed to come back in and perform very discreet functions under the watchful gaze of KFOR troops, and one of those functions is demining.

So I would anticipate when that happens they'll come back with maps so they'll be prepared to do their work.

Q: There's probably (inaudible) they could provide, don't you think?

A: We have Admiral Boyington here now to talk about the powerful P-3/SLAM combination. Welcome.

Press: Thank you.