DoD News Briefing, Thursday, June 24, 1999 - 2:25 p.m.
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.
First, I'd like to welcome a visitor from Slovakia, Martin Lengyel, who is here. He's the spokesman for the Prime Minister of Slovakia. Welcome. If you're there, raise your hand. Thank you for coming.
Second, I want to bring you up to date on the return of aircraft to the United States from Europe. When the Secretary and the Chairman came here on Monday, they announced, the Chairman showed a chart indicating there would be several waves of aircraft coming back. They talked in terms of the first increment. We have now begun to bring back the second group of aircraft, approximately 221 planes. It includes the second half of the F-117s, 12. It includes a wide variety of other planes, and these are listed for you on a Blue Top available for you at the end of the briefing. But the main point is there will be a steady flow of aircraft returning to the United States over the next few weeks.
315 planes in the second increment? Is that right? 315 planes in all in the second increment including a lot of tankers.
Q: Not 221? I thought you said 221.
Mr. Bacon: I said 221, but I've been corrected by the ever-vigilant Colonel Bridges here telling me that the number is only a third higher than I told you.
Q: Does bringing the tankers home mean the Reserves...
Mr. Bacon: Fifty percent higher.
Q:...who are committed to the tankers will be coming home, too?
Mr. Bacon: Yes, they will be coming home. And indeed, in this group coming back, as you know, many of the tankers have Reservists in the crews, but there will also be three groups of A-10s that are from the Reserves here. There are 34 A-10 aircraft coming back, and they (sic) [only 18 come from the three Reserve units mentioned below] come from three Reserve units -- the 104th Fighter Wing from Westfield, Mass.; the 110th Fighter Wing from Battle Creek, Michigan; and the 124th Wing from Boise, Idaho, will return as part of the second group.
Q: Excuse me. Will these people be taken off active duty?
Mr. Bacon: Yes. When they return home, they'll be taken off active duty and returned back to Reserve status. That's true of both the A-10 pilots and crews and also true of the tanker pilots and crews as well.
Q: Is this a lot more than was initially, in the press release you gave us it was supposed to be like 200. Why the increase?
Mr. Bacon: When you add tankers and support planes, etc., it comes up to be a larger number.
Q: Is that the end of the return then, or...
Mr. Bacon: This should be the end of the return. There are also a number of planes that are returning from forward deployments in Europe to European bases. There are 60 European-based aircraft that were assigned to Operation ALLIED FORCE that will return to places like Lakenheath, England, for instance. There were 18 F-15Cs in Italy that will return to Lakenheath, England, and there are others that will return as well.
Q:...more European forward-based...
Mr. Bacon: There were forward-based ones in the first group, and now there will be forward-based ones in the second group as well.
Q: Aren't you still leaving a force of some sort at Aviano? You had a force there before this all started. Aren't you leaving a force there now for Bosnia commitments or...
Mr. Bacon: Yeah. There will be--the force will stay there. The 31st Wing will remain there. There's been a combined wing operating out of Aviano for some time, and that will continue to stay there.
There will be a force--we fly a CAP over Bosnia every day, and we'll fly it, I assume, over Kosovo as well. So there will be CAP flying in the area at all times.
Q: Do you have numbers on those planes? How many planes there are?
Mr. Bacon: At Aviano? We'll get those numbers. I've messed up enough numbers, I'm not going to go any farther with numbers.
There's another release for you here noting that the United States and the Russian Federation have signed a protocol extending the legal framework for a very important program, the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, until June 2006. This extension will allow Russia to eliminate an additional 349 missile silos, eliminate another 1,400 land- and submarine-based strategic missiles, and to dismantle approximately 30 strategic ballistic missile submarines with American support.
Since this program began in 1991 we have provided a total of $2.7 billion to cooperative threat reduction programs to help Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus to eliminate nuclear weapons and some of the support facilities for those weapons.
With that, I'll take your questions.
Q: Ken, this CIA IG report on the bombing of the Chinese Embassy says that, or reportedly says that a mid-level official at the CIA called mid-ranking military officers with the U.S. European Command in Europe and voiced his doubts that this building, in fact, was what they thought it was, the headquarters for that supply directorate.
You've known about this from day one, apparently. One, why did you not make this public when you professed to be making a clean breast of everything that went wrong several days after the mistaken bombing? And two, what are you doing now to determine why those mid-level officers in Europe didn't do something when this guy voiced his doubts that this was the right target?
Mr. Bacon: First of all, I think you've given a somewhat sketchy, not totally accurate, and, I would say, somewhat weighted account of what in fact happened. So let me walk you through what we understand happened, and then I'll take more questions if you have more questions.
The issue here, of course, is the mistaken bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade that happened on May 7th.
A mid-level intelligence officer at the CIA, who was not involved in targeting, learned that the Yugoslav Federal Directorate Supply and Procurement Headquarters was on the target list. This was a building in Belgrade that was to be struck.
He had an interest in this building, even though he was not involved directly in targeting, and he reviewed imagery of the building and decided that the building that was targeted did not appear to be at the location of the building he believed to be the Headquarters of the Federal Directorate of Supply and Procurement.
He didn't know what the targeted building was, but he didn't think it was the correct building. He, in fact, thought that the building that was targeted was a valid military target, but he didn't think it was as high a value target or as lucrative a target as the Federal Directorate of Supply and Procurement.
On May 4th this mid-level officer called a mid-level officer in Europe and conveyed his concerns, and at the same time he attempted to arrange a meeting within the CIA to clarify his concerns. But he was not successful in arranging that meeting, a meeting with people in the CIA who were familiar with the targeting, and he didn't have a great sense of urgency about this, because he had no idea when the building was to be targeted. In fact he left the CIA for several days to participate in some pre-arranged training. He was out of the CIA on May 6th and 7th.
He returned in the afternoon of the 7th from his training to learn that the Headquarters of the Yugoslav Federal Directorate of Supply and Procurement was on the target list for the evening of May 7th.
So he called back to Europe in an effort to contact the officer he had spoken with before, and he was unsuccessful in contacting that officer, so he spoke to another mid-level officer in Europe and conveyed his concerns.
The concern he conveyed was not that they were going after an inappropriate target, but it wasn't perhaps the best target that they could be going after at the time. Although he thought they were going after a military target, he thought it probably was not the Headquarters of the Procurement and Supply Directorate.
He was told when he called the second time and spoke to another officer -- not the first officer with whom he'd spoken -- that the planes were already in the air, and, in fact, the building was struck a short time later.
He had no idea that the building that was struck was in fact the Chinese Embassy. So that's basically what happened in that case.
This was known at the CIA and was part of their review from the very beginning, and the other side of it will be part of the Pentagon review as it continues to look into this.
Q: What are you doing in terms of investigating...
Mr. Bacon: Secretary Cohen has instructed Deputy Secretary Hamre and General Ralston, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to conduct an after-action review of Operation ALLIED FORCE that will look at all aspects of the operation and come up with an analysis of what went right, what went wrong, what could have happened better, what happened better than we anticipated. As part of that review, we will look into this aspect--that is what happened on our side in terms of targeting for the Chinese Embassy--but it will be in a broader context, not just the Chinese Embassy incident, but we'll look at targeting decisions generally, how they were made, how the information was gathered, how the intelligence information was fused with the operating information, the speed of the decision-making process, the accuracy of it, etc.
[SEE CLARIFYING "STATEMENT FROM PENTAGON SPOKESMAN KEN BACON" AT END OF TRANSCRIPT RELATING TO MISTAKEN CHINESE EMBASSY BOMBING]
Q: When this guy called on May 4th, what did the mid-ranking officer in Europe that he talked to do as a result of the doubts that this guy raised?
Mr. Bacon: That's one of the things we're looking into, because we don't know the answer to that issue. That's one of the things we're trying to find out.
Q: Nobody's talked to him?
Mr. Bacon: I haven't talked to him, no.
Q: Nobody has?
Mr. Bacon: I can't say nobody has, but this is all going to be looked at in the context of the after-action review.
Q: Let me ask it a different way. If you're dropping 500- and 2,000-pound bombs and there's an element of doubt about what you're dropping it on, is that the right way to run a targeting operation?
Mr. Bacon: I think, again, one of the things that has to be reconstructed here--and has not--is the level of officials involved in this decision, what happened to the information, and exactly what the CIA official said to the military officials.
Remember, he did not say, "You're about to hit an embassy." He said, "I believe you're going after an appropriate target, but maybe not the best target." That's our indication of what was said. But the entire chain has not yet been reconnected, so we know for sure how this worked out, and that's one of the things we'll be looking at.
Q:...said, "I'm not sure that's the headquarters of this procurement directorate." Right?
Mr. Bacon: That's what we understand he said, yes.
Q: So people were not sure. People had doubts voiced...
Mr. Bacon: What we don't know, David, is what level this rose to, whether there was a review that led to a confirmation that turned out to be incorrect or there was no review. That's one of the things that's being determined.
Q: If you have a system where the doubts can't rise to the level...
Mr. Bacon: David, I'm not saying we have a system that allows that, or we don't. I'm saying we're looking into it, and the context for looking into it is a broader look at how targeting decisions were made, how the information was assembled, how it was conveyed, and how the types of doubts that were raised were processed--whether this was a one-time thing or whether it happened many times, and whether there was a process that worked or didn't work. That's all being done in the context of reviewing the entire operation and deciding how decisions were made over the course of the operation, not just in this one alone.
Q: When did the Secretary order that review?
Mr. Bacon: The Secretary ordered the after-action review after the operation was over. It was a week or so ago.
Q: When you came into the briefing room, didn't Cohen at that time--or am I remembering this incorrectly--did he not say that the Pentagon, the Defense Department, would be reviewing this matter at that time. Has there not been an ongoing Pentagon review of this?
Mr. Bacon: The review--we chose to concentrate on carrying out the military operation while the military operation was ongoing. The review was always going to be done after it was over.
The initial--there was a review that was done on the intelligence side that had to do with databases. It had to do with how the intelligence was gathered that led to the initial targeting decision. That was done. It's been reported to the Chinese, and it's been reported to Congress.
There's another side of the review that has to do with the military side, and that was always going to be done in the context of a broader after-action review. That's what's being done by Secretary Hamre and General Ralston.
Q: I would like to just also follow up. You said that we want to look into this and see if this was a one-time event, or you said if this has happened many times. I'm not clear what you meant. What are you looking into to see if it happened many times?
Mr. Bacon: The question of how--the issue of how questions about targets were handled. In other words, were there other times when mid-level officials raised issues about targets, about specific targets, one. That's the first question. Two, if so, how were they handled?
So was this a one-time event where a mid-level official -- who in fact was not involved, as I pointed out, in the targeting decision? He had another reason for being interested in this building, but it wasn't because he was part of the targeting team. Were there other incidents where an official called over, and for all we know he didn't call the right person, or it went to the wrong office? This is the type of thing that will have to be sorted out.
Q: Having raised the point, do you have any reason to believe there are other instances in which questions were raised about targeting?
Mr. Bacon: Absolutely not. I don't have any reason to believe that they were raised or they weren't. But that's one of the things that will be determined.
The effectiveness of the targeting system is one of the aspects that will be considered in the after-action report.
Q: Ken, do you have any indication how far his concerns went?
Mr. Bacon: No.
Q: We were told it went into...
Mr. Bacon: No.
Q: You don't know if NATO or anyone else ever saw that...
Mr. Bacon: No.
Q:...or the Joint Staff saw that?
Mr. Bacon: I do not know.
Q: Ken, you mentioned that the mid-level analyst, or a CIA employee, I guess we should say, believed that this was an appropriate military target. Earlier we were told that the NEMA maps and other maps showed this building that was, in fact, the Chinese Embassy as nothing. There was no indication of what that building was.
Do you know why the CIA employee believed this would have been an appropriate military target as opposed to anything else? What kind of a target he believed it was?
Mr. Bacon: Those are good questions for the CIA. I don't know the answers.
Q: Pickering said the Chinese apparently said that the technique and the procedures used for choosing this target were "totally inappropriate for precision targeting for air attacks." Do you accept that as a valid judgment on the procedures that were used?
Mr. Bacon: I was not there, and I don't know what Pickering said, and I can't comment on it.
Q: Do you think the procedures used for targeting that building were appropriate for precision targeting of air attacks?
Mr. Bacon: I can't answer that question. All I can tell you is that during an extensive military operation most of the, I would say the overwhelming number of bombs landed where they were supposed to land on appropriate targets. There were several mistakes. This clearly was one of them. It's been the topic of considerable analysis, which is ongoing. When it's completed, we'll be able to give a more accurate assessment of what happened.
Q: I don't understand why you seem to know so little about what the officers in Europe did. Clearly, from the moment it happened, this must have been something that people were tracking back on.
Mr. Bacon: Well, the fact of the matter is it's being done in the context of the after-action review. That review is not complete, and I can't comment on something that's not complete.
Q: It's not being reviewed individually? It's only being reviewed as an overall review?
Mr. Bacon: That's right. It's part of a broader review.
Q: Do I understand you to say that this was an analyst who was familiar independently with this procurement directorate or whatever it was? And he, basically, when he saw this imagery of what the targeters were saying they were going to hit, he said, "I'm sorry, I know what the directorate is. This isn't it. I don't know what this is." Is that basically right?
Mr. Bacon: Well, all I can do is repeat what I said, which is that he looked at the imagery and did not believe that it was the Headquarters of the Procurement and Supply Directorate. He raised that concern with a mid-level official, military official in Europe. I mean, I can repeat what I said before, but the fact is that he-- whatever happened, it was not raised beyond that level.
Q: So it's a question of he said, "This isn't what you think it is. I don't know what it is," but...
Mr. Bacon: I don't know precisely what I said. I mean I don't know precisely what he said. I know precisely what I said. But all I can tell you is that he did call and raise some questions about whether the building that he saw in the imagery was the correct target.
Q: He was unable both to get a meeting with the CIA targeting people in his own building--didn't get that; and he also didn't get any action from the military...
Mr. Bacon: Remember, he was not in the...
Q: I know. He wasn't in the...
Mr. Bacon: I have no idea what time of day this happened, or the circumstances under which it happened. This is really, this whole part of it is the CIA's issue to sort out.
Q: On the military side, if I could have one more, if he had, when he came back on the 7th and he determined that in fact this is the Chinese Embassy, are you confident that the procedures in place when he called over to the mid-level military officer, would have been able to, the command and control existed, to stop the B-2 from dropping bombs on the Chinese Embassy? If...
Mr. Bacon: I can't speculate about that. At no time did he raise the possibility that this was the Chinese Embassy. You should be very clear about that. He was not saying, "You're about to bomb the Chinese Embassy." All he said was, "I've looked at this, and I have some questions about whether you're aiming at the right target." He didn't say what he thought the building was.
Q: If he had, were the procedures, are you confident that the procedures you had and the command and control you had of the B-2 would have been able to stop it?
Mr. Bacon: I'm confident that we have shown many, many times that we are able to stop attacks at the last minute.
Q: Go back a second. You said now that he looked at the imagery and did not believe it was the headquarters of the supply directorate. But I understood you to say at the beginning of this briefing that he said that, but he also added in he believed it was, your understanding is he said it was an appropriate military target.
So in fact is it EUCOM and the military's understanding that this guy said, "Yeah, it's still an appropriate target?" Or did he simply limit his comments to saying, "This is not the headquarters of the directorate?"
Mr. Bacon: It is my understanding that he did not say, "This is a target that should not be hit." He said, "It's not the target you want to hit."
Q: But did he say it was an appropriate military target?
Mr. Bacon: It's my understanding that he raised the question of whether they were going after a high-value target or a lower-value target.
Q: The mid-level officer that you've referred to in Europe that was contacted by the CIA on this, there are a lot of mid-level officers in Europe. This is a person presumably on General Clark's staff?
Mr. Bacon: I don't see why you say that at all. In fact that's not my understanding.
Q: Then let me ask, is it a person who is on General Clark's staff? Is it a person who was involved in targeting? And are we talking about a captain or a lieutenant colonel?
Mr. Bacon: First of all, I don't know the rank of the person, and my understanding is that the person was involved in the air operations. The Combined Air Operations Center.
Q: The CAOC?
Mr. Bacon: Yes, that's my understanding.
Q: Why did the CIA employee call him as opposed to anyone else?
Mr. Bacon: These are all good questions. As I said, this CIA person wasn't involved in the targeting in the first place.
Q: He presumably was in an appropriate line of communication for him, calling from the CIA to call the CAOC and inform them that he had questions about this particular target. Correct? He did not have...
Mr. Bacon: I think, I don't think we can assume that.
Obviously, it wasn't a line of communication that succeeded in raising to the right level concerns about what was happening. Why that was, why that turned out that way is one of the things that is under review.
Q: Sometimes before investigations or reviews are completed, there is enough information available to the commander that he decides that he no longer has confidence in a particular officer because of what he learned in the course of his investigation.
Has anybody in the military chain of command lost their job and moved to another job because their commander had a loss of confidence in them as a result of this sequence of events?
Mr. Bacon: I'm not aware that that's happened, no. Nor am I aware that that would be an appropriate response.
Q: I just want to be clear. From what you've said--I'm having a hard time knowing--did the CIA person ever say to the military person that he thought that they had the wrong building? Or did he just say, "I think you're going after the wrong target?" Did he impart the information that your targeting might be bad, or your information on what that building is might be bad? Or did he just give his opinion that there might be a better target for them to hit?
Mr. Bacon: My understanding was that he looked at the image of the target and said he wasn't sure that that image was where he thought the headquarters was.
Q: Did he get that himself, or did he...
Mr. Bacon: That's what he looked at. He reached that conclusion on his own. Then he called the mid-level official in EUCOM, or in Europe, and raised this concern.
Q: And expressed the concern that the building that they were getting ready to target might not be the building they thought it would be.
Mr. Bacon: That was what--he didn't think it was the one they had identified. The words "headquarters" did not fit the picture that he saw in front of him.
Q: Ken, one last one. You implied that the planes were already in the air when this conversation was going on?
Mr. Bacon: There were several conversations, Charlie. The first conversation occurred on May 4th. The bombing actually took place on May 7th.
Q: But when he called back on the 7th.
Mr. Bacon: On the 7th, at that point he was informed that the planes were in the air. Remember, he didn't, when he initially started this, he didn't do this with any great sense of urgency, because he didn't know when the target was supposed to be struck. That's when he went off and did his training and then came back.
Q: Are you aware of whether he contacted the same officer in the CAOC with the second call...
Mr. Bacon: Yes, I'm aware, and I made it very clear that he did not. He tried to call the first officer. He failed and spoke to another officer who had not been involved in the previous conversation. So he spoke to two separate people.
Q: Different subject?
Mr. Bacon: Go ahead, Barbara.
Q: Two others on a completely different subject.
On Kosovo, General Clark said this morning that he has now asked the member nations to accelerate their deployment of forces. Could you bring us up to date on the deployment of U.S. Army forces and whether any of those scheduled have accelerated?
Mr. Bacon: Of course, General Clark is also the commander-in-chief of the U.S. forces in Europe, so he's in charge of the deployment schedule for American forces in Europe, and the bulk of forces going to Kosovo are from Europe. There's been no change in the deployment schedule.
I can tell you, basically, there are several force packages of soldiers going to Europe. The first are going to Kosovo from Europe. The first one is largely there. It's going by air. These are the ones that will fall in on top of the enabling force, which is already operating there.
There are--the first force package is approximately 1,800 people, and it's largely there. It will require, I would say 90 percent of the plane-loads that have to take it there have done that. This is the Task Force Falcon headquarters and mechanized infantry task force that includes 38 Bradley fighting vehicles and four tanks; an engineering battalion; and then some military police, combat support, and combat service support elements.
That's going by air, and it is largely there.
Q: In Kosovo?
Mr. Bacon: Largely in Kosovo.
The second force package is going by ship. It involves approximately 3,500 people. The first ship, the USNS BOB HOPE left on the 22nd and will arrive, I think, on the 29th, then unload and the stuff will be driven up to Kosovo.
There's a second ship that will leave in a couple of days and will arrive in early July. So all our people will be in Greece by early July, and then they'll be in place by approximately the second week of July in Kosovo. So there hasn't been any change in that deployment schedule.
Q: What are the vehicles that go along with those 3,500 in the second group?
Mr. Bacon: A tank battalion, which includes 54 Abrams tanks; a mechanized infantry battalion, which has 58 Bradley fighting vehicles; an artillery battalion that has 12 M109-A6s and nine Multiple Launch Rocket Systems; an engineering battalion--a heavy combat engineering battalion--along with more MPs, combat support, and combat support services. Those will be all arriving on the ships.
Q: General Craddock mentioned yesterday that there would be Greek and Polish contingents in the U.S. sector. Do you know of other national groups that will be in the...
Mr. Bacon: The main one will be the Russians. That's what I know of so far.
Q: On the overall figures, I realize that you just do U.S., but I believe Clark said today it was 55,000 committed. That didn't even include the Russians, which is another 3,600. So it's getting awfully close to the 60,000 of Bosnia. I'm wondering why do you need so many people? That's probably five or six times the people in terms of area that you had in Bosnia.
Mr. Bacon: First of all, let me explain why the numbers are what they are.
NATO settled on numbers in the 45,000, 48,000 range. Then there was a force generation conference where they asked members of NATO to volunteer troops. The members of NATO volunteered more troops than were called for. So they volunteered approximately 53,000, 54,000 troops, as I understand it. So that explains why the number is higher than what NATO initially called for.
In addition, a number of non-NATO countries now have joined the force or said they would join the force. One is Russia. Another is the United Arab Emirates. There are some PfP countries such as Lithuania, I think, that plan to join. Argentina has volunteered some soldiers. Jordan has volunteered some soldiers. They aren't there yet, but they will be eventually.
So as these other elements fall in on the force, it will grow beyond the current level, and I think that's what General Clark was reflecting when he said 55,000 excluding the Russians. The Russian contribution will be 3,600.
Q: Have the Russians said how many will be in the U.S. sector?
Mr. Bacon: I don't believe they have, no.
Q: Have they said who the commander will be?
Mr. Bacon: Not that I know of, no.
Q: Ken, I just wanted to follow up General Craddock's report about the shooting that was going on yesterday between the Marines and some people who were shooting at them at the checkpoint.
Has it been determined yet, or do you know who was shooting at the Marines, what type of people?
Mr. Bacon: Serbs. The Marines believe they were being shot at by Serbs.
Q: General Clark said recently that the Yugoslav forces skillfully deployed a lot of decoys in Kosovo during the air campaign -- inflatable tanks, artillery pieces, and so forth. Meanwhile, we're starting to get reports coming out that only three destroyed tanks have been found so far. The KFOR forces are telling people that no where near 100 tanks were destroyed. Sometimes, people are saying only 13 tanks were destroyed.
How extensive was the decoying by the Yugoslavs? And have we found anything on the ground to substantiate what we thought we had actually destroyed in terms of numbers?
Mr. Bacon: I don't know how extensive the decoys were. You'll recall, I'm sure, that General Wald referred to decoys several times when he briefed up here, so we do know that they used decoys. It's a standard operating procedure to use decoys in situations like this.
I can't answer your question about--we've done no census on the ground of tank carcasses at this stage, but in general numbers we believe that before this began, there were approximately 1,500 tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery pieces in Kosovo. We destroyed approximately 700 of those, and approximately 800 exited during the 11 days when the Serb troops left. That's in round numbers what we think happened.
Now we tried to be pretty careful throughout this, not to get into the precise bean-counting business, because we were operating on a lot of estimates and precision's--there's no such thing as a precise estimate. But this is our best guess as to the size of the force, the damage that was done, and the number that exited.
Q: You don't believe that the number of decoys being struck was way out of proportion where we were really throwing away millions of dollars of...
Mr. Bacon: I think the only conclusion that matters here is that we struck enough targets to win.
Q: Did the films that you folks were watching every day, the gun-camera footage, show any substantial number of targets that after the bombs struck it was obviously a decoy? Or after...
Mr. Bacon: Well, there were some. There was--I mean, General Wald showed several decoys being hit. Other times he said that was no decoy.
Q:...in his mind, and we didn't bring it up to him. That's why I wonder if he or other people saw a large number of these.
Mr. Bacon: As I said, I don't have a figure on the number of decoys that were hit. Clearly, we did hit decoys. There were, clearly, decoys put up, and we also hit many real tanks. I think you saw pictures of tanks blowing up. You wouldn't fill a decoy with oil or ammo just so you'd get a pretty picture on the Pentagon gun-camera footage. At least I assume the Serbs didn't do that.
Q: Change the subject?
Mr. Bacon: Yeah.
Q: Actually, I'd like to follow up on a couple of General Craddock's comments from yesterday. He told us about the firefight with the Marines and the situation there. He also mentioned an exchange of fire between some U.S. Army troops there and some people with guns--I don't think they were identified either--that occurred 48 hours before General Craddock's briefing. I'm wondering why that exchange of fire was not made public, and whether there is a criteria for making these situations public or the information made available to the press.
If U.S. Army troops are being fired on and returning fire and taking people into custody, is that the kind of thing that you deem suitable for release? Or is that not enough of an incident to make public? And I'm wondering whether there were any other incidents comparable to the one that General Craddock described that now occurred three days ago.
Q: Excuse me, how did you say you learned about that incident?
Mr. Bacon: We learned about it 48 hours after the fact.
Q: From whom?
Mr. Bacon: From General Craddock.
Q: Who made it public.
Mr. Bacon: Forty-eight hours after the fact.
Mr. Bacon: Well, General Craddock was asked to come and give an operational update, which he did. Obviously, that was made public by him. For whatever reason I don't think they felt it rose to the level that had to be made public at the time. He happened to disclose an ongoing operation as well where somebody now determined to have been a Serb was shot and two others were wounded.
We have made it very clear that this is a dangerous operation and that there is fire being exchanged throughout Kosovo in all sectors, and I think we've given pretty accurate reports of that. Whether we've reported every incident, I can't say for a fact. But we certainly...
Q: Can you tell us how many incidents there have been with U.S. troops being fired on and how many times we've returned fire and how many people have been taken into custody or killed?
Mr. Bacon: I think we have--I cannot give you those summaries, because I just don't have the numbers, but I think we've been pretty aggressive at pointing out what we've been doing, and that we have dealt with snipers. I think that General Craddock has spoken about that several times, and will continue...
Q:...the press corps here at the Pentagon, and normally, or historically perhaps, that's the type of information that would be released to the press also at the Pentagon in a relatively timely fashion rather than it being made public as a passing reference from General Craddock, who is over there. I mean, that's one of the reasons that we cover the building is to get this sort of information. And 48 hours after the fact, we had not been made aware of it. I'm just concerned that there may have been a lot of other incidents that we're also not being made aware of.
Mr. Bacon: I'm not aware that that's the case, but if you want to be made aware of every single incident, we will do our best to make that possible. There are also many reporters over there who have taken the time to get over there and marry up with a unit. They are free to report what's going on. I think the public affairs officers as well as the operators, including General Craddock, have been quite open with the reporters who have been there. I've never heard anybody claim that General Craddock is withholding information, and certainly his willingness to get on the phone and talk with you here in each of the last two weeks indicates that that's the case.
I've been reading...
Q: I wasn't suggesting...
Mr. Bacon: I've been reading reports in USA Today and other papers where there are people on the ground, and I think there's quite a richness of detail in there that has been coming out from General Craddock's operation.
Q: Ken, can I get you to address the issue of the Apache helicopter readiness of Task Force Hawk? Specifically, Brigadier General Richard Cody's memo to Army leadership that George Wilson first broke on Monday.
It paints the picture of a real problem there. We weren't getting that type of insight from you or NATO in terms of the Apaches' condition at the time.
Can you give us a sense of your reaction to the memo?
Mr. Bacon: I think this is really an Army issue. I know General Shinseki talked about it some yesterday, and I'd just refer you to the Army to deal with that.
Q: That's a NATO issue because that was a NATO asset, and we were led to believe that except for lack of political authority to use the Apaches, they were largely ready to go early on. And his memo indicates they were not largely ready to go.
Mr. Bacon: I think this question of readiness of an Army element is most appropriately addressed by the Army.
Q: Ken, kind of a related question that you might be able to answer is, can you confirm that in Germany, that Germany does not allow night flight training exercises except at two particular ranges, and this might have contributed to the fact that these crews were not particularly ready for night flight training?
Mr. Bacon: I can't confirm that, but it wouldn't surprise me. There are two major ranges in Germany. Germany, like many other countries where we train, including the United States, has certain rules against training near urban or populated areas, so it would be highly appropriate and expected that they would limit night training to certain ranges.
Having said that, the Army is perfectly able to sequence its units into those ranges to require the requisite amount of training.
Q: Ken, today the State Department announced a bounty on the head of Milosevic and others. Given our experience in Bosnia, how hard is it going to be to bring this guy to justice, to arrest him? And is this something that you could foresee U.S. forces being dedicated to this effort?
Mr. Bacon: First of all, I think we've had considerable success with war criminals in Bosnia. I think approximately 60 percent of the indicted war criminals in Bosnia have been either captured or taken care of in some way. Many are still awaiting trial. Some have had their charges dismissed. Others have been tried and convicted. Some have died either while being captured or afterwards. But I think that out of the 85 or 86 indicted war criminals in Bosnia, about 58 or 59, as I recall--and this is just from memory--have been brought into the justice system in one way or another.
In terms of Karadzic who is the most visible, he pretty much is living under a regime of where he can hide, but he can't run. He lives basically under close monitoring by NATO troops and doesn't have any freedom of movement whatsoever. Although he hasn't been captured, he really can't go any place or do anything. Of course, he's been cut off from his political structure and has no more political power and hasn't for some time.
In terms of Milosevic, I think time will tell.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the differences between the situation? What makes it much more difficult with Milosevic?
Mr. Bacon: I think that it's very clear that Milosevic is right now living in Belgrade where his own countrymen will have to decide what the best way to deal with him is, whether they're better off keeping him as President, whether they're better off letting an indicted war criminal remain as President, or even stay in the country. This is for the people of Yugoslavia to decide right now.
We've made it very clear that there's no statute of limitations on war criminals for war crimes, and I think it's also very clear that the international community will make it very difficult or impossible for President Milosevic to leave Yugoslavia, should he try to do that in any other way but under escort to the Hague.
So the people of Yugoslavia will have to make an initial decision as to whether they think they're better off with him there, in office, or not. After they make that decision, then we'll see what happens next.
Q: Ken, a question on a different subject.
Q: I have one. About a week ago, Louise Arbour and NAC signed an agreement that NATO would be more proactive in going after war criminals. Has any guidance been given to troops? Is there any--what are they being told? What is it they're allowed to do?
Mr. Bacon: I don't know what they've been told.
Q: Sorry to get you to a different part of the world for a second, but on Iraq. Could you bring us up to date. Since March 24th, while the world has sort of been consumed by Kosovo, what U.S. military forces have really accomplished in Iraq in Northern and Southern Watch? And a second related question, will you now think about changing your policy of making gun camera video on strikes against Iraq available, which you had not done because you said it would be a security risk. Now that we've seen so much Kosovo gun camera, will you start making Iraqi gun camera available?
Mr. Bacon: Probably not. I can tell you that in April in Operation Southern Watch, coalition forces responded seven times to provocations from Iraq. That is, they attacked targets seven times in the south in April, four times in May, and six times in June to date, including one yesterday. So that's a total of 17 strikes in April, May and June.
In Operation Northern Watch, the number is 28, including a most recent strike in the north on June 22nd.
The impact of these strikes, I think, is the continued containment of Saddam Hussein. As you know, we patrol these no-fly zones, which account for 60 percent of Saddam Hussein's airspace, in order to prevent him from attacking his neighbors or attacking his own people. I think that the patrols have been successful in preventing that.
I think also they are part of a broader containment policy that involves economic sanctions as well as political isolation for Iraq. I think that he's brought the political isolation on himself by refusing, I think, in several ways: one, by refusing to comply with UN Security Council Resolutions, and therefore continuing to act as an outlaw or pariah state; second, by doing things like threatening the regimes of countries around him, therefore incurring their at least political hostility. And I would say he's isolated himself as well by doing nothing to eliminate the problems that got the sanctions imposed on him in the first place.
Q: Do you see a build-up of Iraqi troop movements in the south these days?
Mr. Bacon: I'm not aware that there's been anything recently. There are from time to time movements of Iraqi troops. As you know, what he can move in the south is limited by demarches that have been imposed by the coalition forces. But I haven't seen anything unusual in the south.
Q: Ken, speaking of that, since we're in that part of the world, we're coming up on the third anniversary of Khobar Towers. There have been no arrests, no blame laid for this. You expressed some disappointment and frustration last year when I asked you about it.
Is there still a strong sense of disappointment, frustration on the part of the United States that nobody's been arrested or brought to justice in this? And has this in any way hurt strategic relations between the two countries? Is it damaging?
Mr. Bacon: Which two countries?
Q: Saudi Arabia and the United States. Saudi Arabia was (inaudible) the investigation.
Mr. Bacon: Well, of course we're upset and frustrated that there have been no arrests. However, we have pursued criminals in the past for years, even decades, and ultimately gotten them. We will pursue these criminals until they are brought to justice.
We will continue to work with Saudi Arabia to make that possible and to do our level best to get terrorists off the streets.
Q: How about relations between the two countries over this continuing failure to...
Mr. Bacon: We have strong relationships with Saudi Arabia.
Q: Can I ask why you say you think you probably won't release videos from strikes in Iraq after, as Barbara said, so many videos were released from the conflict in Yugoslavia?
Mr. Bacon: I'll take the question again, but so far every time that we've examined it, we've decided not to release the videos.
Q: Do you know why?
Mr. Bacon: For tactical reasons. If we change that, we'll release them. I'll raise the question once more.
Q: One of the reasons given for the AGM-130, for example, was that it might reveal too much detail to the Iraqis and help them in creating more realistic decoys or something. But a lot of AGM-130 video was released during the conflict with Yugoslavia, which Saddam could have slapped a tape in his VCR and learned everything that there was to learn about the type of detail that it gets. I'm just wondering whether...
Mr. Bacon: And undoubtedly did.
Q: I'm just wondering whether that holds up at this point.
Mr. Bacon: You're saying if we made a mistake once we should continue to make it?
Q: Did you make a mistake by releasing videos from the Yugoslavia conflict?
Mr. Bacon: Time will tell.
Statement from Pentagon Spokesman Ken Bacon
I want to clarify several points made in today's Defense Department briefing during the discussion of the mistaken bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade on May 7. The issue is conversations between an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency and military officials prior to the bombing.
1) The Defense Department has not yet completed an independent, formal review of this incident. Such a review is part of an ongoing after action study of the U.S. role in Operation Allied Force. However, following the embassy bombing, DoD participated in a review by the Director of Central Intelligence. As part of that inquiry, the Defense Department received accounts from the two mid-level officers who spoke to the CIA analyst.
2) In the first conversation, on May 4, the CIA analyst discussed the target with a military officer in Naples, Italy (not at the Combined Air Operations Center in Vicenza). The military officer thought that the CIA analyst was questioning whether the target was labeled correctly. The intended target was the Headquarters of the Yugoslav Federal Directorate of Supply and Procurement.
3) The CIA analyst made a second call to another military officer on May 7. The analyst questioned whether the selected target was the headquarters of the Federal Directorate of Supply and Procurement. Based on what the CIA analyst said, the officer concluded that the building was a legitimate military target, although perhaps not as valuable a target as the headquarters. The military officer recalls asking the CIA analyst if there was any reason to cancel the strike and being told that there was no reason to call off the attack.