Tuesday, May 14, 1996, 1:30 p.m.
Doubleday, DASD, Public Affairs, and Colonel Douglas Kennett, Director, Directorate for Defense Information.)
Captain Doubleday: Welcome. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Bruce Riedel is here today to open the briefing with some news about some recent agreements. Bruce, I'll turn it over to you. Following that, I will return to the podium with a record number of announcements and if you still have interest after that, I'll stand by to answer your questions. Bruce.
Mr. Riedel: Thank you. Good afternoon. I'd like to announce that following consultations between the United States and the Government of Qatar, we have decided to deploy our third air power expeditionary force to Qatar. This will be a deployment of 34 aircraft -- 30 fighters and four tankers. We'll be handing out an announcement which will give you the bases that they're coming from. Like the earlier two air power expeditionary forces, this one is intended to demonstrate our ability to deploy land-based air forces to augment regional assets. It also gives us an opportunity to train and work with a coalition partner.
We think this is a very effective means of demonstrating our determination to deter aggression against Qatar and our other allies in the region and to maintain stability in the area. This is the third deployment we've made. The first was to Bahrain last November. The second one was to Jordan which is currently operational and under deployment. And this third one we think demonstrates that we can go to a wide variety of countries in the area if we have to and augment our forces in the region. It is not cued to any specific threat and should not be interpreted in terms of a specific threat.
Like the two previous air power expeditionary force deployments, the aircraft in this one will participate in flight operations enforcing the no-fly zone over Southern Iraq, Operation SOUTHERN WATCH.
This announcement comes out of the talks that we held here last Friday between Secretary Perry and the Qatar Foreign Minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani. They had excellent discussions on Friday afternoon reaffirming our excellent defense relationship with Qatar.
In June, 1992, we signed a defense cooperation agreement with Qatar. Since then we have done extensive prepositioning of equipment in Qatar. And in the meeting on Friday, the two reaffirmed the United States commitment to Qatar and to all of our partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council and our determination to deter aggression against any of them.
The current AEF deployment in Jordan will be coming to an end at the end of June and I would just highlight for you that last weekend, King Hussein made a visit to the base in Jordan from which the operation is being flown and praised it and particularly highlighted the extensive cooperation that our forces had had with the royal Jordanian air force in a training exercise, Operation EAGER TIGER. I think I'll stop there and take any questions.
Q: This begins, did you say, I'm sorry, but did you say it begins in late June?
A: End of June. That's right.
Q: The end of June. Is this to make up for a lack of a carrier in the Gulf as the one in Jordan is or --
A: No, this is not tied to a carrier gap. It is simply an effort to demonstrate our ability to augment our forces there. You're right in other deployments, there have been often contemporary with a carrier gap. That is not the case in this one.
Q: How much is this going to cost?
A: I don't have a full figure for you. We can try and look into that. I just don't have it. We haven't developed that yet. It's about 34 aircraft. I should have also said it's about 1,300 personnel.
Q: Can you describe in any way the Qatar air force?
A: Qatar has a very small air force equipped with French, I think their Mirage 1 fighters. About a dozen or so.
Q: How long is this deployment for? Is it temporary deployment?
A: It's a temporary deployment until the end of August.
Q: Didn't the United States send some F-16's to Qatar during the Gulf War? Weren't there planes, supposed to be at Torrejon, [that] were sent from Torrejon fromto Qatar during the Gulf War?
A: There were some aircraft deployed in Qatar during the war. I don't recall whether they were F-16's or not.
Q: How long is the one in Jordan been going on?
A: It began in April, mid-April.
Q: These are F-16's that are going to --
A: This will be a combination of F-16's and F-15's. I can give you the F-16's will come from Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The F-16's will come from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. And the tankers, the KC-135's will come from Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.
Colonel Douglas Kennett: We have a bluetop for you.
Mr. Riedel: It's got all the details.
Q: What's the status of your further talks with Qatar on land based prepositioning and other brigade sent?
A: We have already begun deploying or prepositioning some equipment in Qatar. I think we have now already a battalion. We have agreement from Qatar to deploy a full brigade plus some headquarters elements for a division. And we're in the process of doing that. It's a matter of constructing the facilities.
Q: Are you still talking to them about a third brigade set?
A: It's a possibility. No decisions have been made.
Q: This pre-deployment, is that just equipment or is that also U.S. troops?
A: It's just equipment. It's equipment for a heavy brigade.
Q: And can you refresh my memory. How stable is the government of Qatar right now? Isn't it just in recent times there's a shift or something?
A: They had a change in leadership last year. Our sense is the country is stable. The change in leadership was unaccompanied by any violence.
Q: And they remain a strong U.S. ally?
A: I think that's correct. In fact, the foreign minister's meetings in Washington last week demonstrated the depth of our relationship with them. The foreign minister called not only on Dr. Perry but also met with Secretary Christopher and Vice President Gore. And I think it's important to note that Qatar has taken really a leading role in supporting the Arab-Israeli peace process as well hosting a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Peres last month.
Q: This pre-positioning of equipment for a heavy brigade. I didn't quite get what you said. Is that underway or is that --
A: There's already a battalion worth of equipment on the ground and we're constructing the facilities for the rest of the brigade.
Q: So this will in no way effect the operations of the carrier battle groups that's already there?
A: That's correct. Ok?
Press: Thank you.