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Lt. Gen. McDuffie Joint Staff, briefs on Humanitarian Efforts in the Balkans

Presenters: Lt. Gen. McDuffie, Director of Logistics, Joint Staff
April 02, 1999

Subject: Humanitarian Efforts in the Balkans

Mr. Bacon: We have, as I promised earlier, Lt. Gen. Mike McDuffie, who is the director of logistics for the Joint Staff. His full name, if you want it, is John M. McDuffie, but he goes by the name of Mike. And he is going to fill you in on the DoD participation in humanitarian efforts in the Balkans now.

Mike, welcome.

Lt. Gen. McDuffie: Thanks, Ken.

Good afternoon. In a report to you this morning, the President had a meeting with key nongovernmental organizations that are working in the relief operations in the Balkans. Accompanying the team was two reps from the Department of Defense, two reps from the Department of State and USAID, if you would, an interagency team, to meet with the NGOs and the President. The President confirmed his support for the humanitarian relief of the refugees in the region and feels strongly about the active role that the United States takes in that. What I'd like to discuss with you today is the DoD role and how we fit in this really very large equation, and it quite often gets complex because you have so many players.

Let's go to the first board here.

What we have here, as you can see -- we'll orient here, and we'll talk about all of the U.N. relief agencies that are working in the region, in the Balkan region. We look to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, to be the requirements, if you would, as we look at needs in a given area. We have a mission in Geneva that's part of State Department forward presence that works very close with these organizations. And in fact, as requirements are determined, they're passed to the U.S. mission, back to the State Department and through USAID and over to the Department of Defense. The point I'd like to make here is that the Department of Defense, while a very active role, is really in a supporting role. It brings the things to bear that many of these agencies do not have to a given problem at a given point in time.

Now, we use our unified command, Commander in Chief, U.S. European Command -- as you know, that's Gen. Clark, dual hatted -- as the U.S. commander, reporting back to Washington, but also as the supreme allied commander of Europe. We use this as our eyes and ears from Washington to usually provide that equipment or that coordination. And, in fact, the headquarters in Stuttgart works daily with the U.S. mission in Geneva and the UNHCR in determining those requirements. So, in fact, we get a heads up back here in Washington as this formal process work; military on the ground in Germany actually maintains this communications link with the U.S. mission and the U.N. relief agencies that are present in the Balkans. Now, that said, as you can see, this is the U.S. seal. Behind there, you see a NATO seal. So we are actually part of the NATO work on the current operation.

Let's diverge a little bit. Last night, in fact, Gen. Clark tasked one of the commanders in chief, Adm. Ellis, which is the Allied Forces South of Naples, to overwatch the humanitarian situation as it develops in Macedonia, Albania and the region. In fact, as we speak, let's go to the map. As we speak, you can see we're primarily focused on Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia. Those are our latest numbers. Of course, they're changing by the hour. As we speak, though, a NATO assessment team is working the issue in Macedonia and working the issues in Albania to try and get our arms around the problem from a military standpoint of what we can do. From the U.S. standpoint, we have a U.S. humanitarian assessment team going into Macedonia tomorrow morning. They will then work with that NATO assessment. They will then go into Albania, again, work with that NATO assessment to determine requirements and give us additional information. Most importantly, though, USAID has put a disaster recovery team into Macedonia and Albania yesterday. The team has been in Macedonia for several weeks. The team arrived in Albania yesterday. So the military teams will link up with the USAID DART teams, we call them, to leverage each other's information and determine what those requirements are.

What are we doing right now as we speak, U.S.? Most importantly, we received a request for 500,000 humanitarian daily rations. I just happen to have one up here and what a humanitarian daily ration looks like. Many of you have seen them and maybe some of you have even had it before. As you can see, and I'll read it to you. It says it's a food gift from the people of the United States of America. The bag contains one day's complete food requirement for one person. The humanitarian daily ration has been around since 1993. I think we've distributed somewhere around six million of these in 20 different countries. It's really a replacement for these types of ops from our MRE because of its content. It doesn't have meat and it really meets the requirement for all faiths. So that is our major operation. 500,000, that's quite a few airplane loads. We're in the process as we speak of moving these from Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania to Dover. We're building pallets there, and then we will fly those rations out of Dover in the next several days. Our intent is to have the first mission off tomorrow. And that flow will continue, and the plan right now is to move those into Tirana, Albania. That's where our urgent request is right now.

Other activities: we are moving tentage from the central region in Europe into Macedonia. We are also moving blankets, cots and sleeping bags out of the central region into Macedonia. We are moving material handling equipment. That's forklifts, things to be able to load planes and load trucks with into Tirana and we're also looking at the possible movement of additional tentage from the west coast and California, also into Macedonia.

An additional requirement that has been placed on our allied forces that [are] in Macedonia, the 12,000 peacekeepers that were there for the KFOR mission and remain there, is that they are to help with the humanitarian relief efforts ongoing in Macedonia, of course, maintaining focus on their original mission. I spoke with Julia Taft about an hour ago. In fact, the British are, in fact, part of that force. They are in the process of helping establish camps with tents and many other things. So we will use those capabilities in the region.

That's kind of the process and where we stand. Questions.

QYou said we're providing or you will be providing 500,000 meals or food per day in Macedonia or in all these different areas?

AThe request is for 500,000 total right now. That's the request from us, not per day. Right now, that request has been asked that we place those into Albania. And that's the challenge we have, because we'll find it's Albania one day and then we may need to divert. So I wouldn't tell you that all 500,000 will go there. That's the initial request. We will start the flow of rations into Albania and then adjust accordingly.

QI have two questions. How current are these refugee figures, would you say?

AThey are current as of about one hour ago. They are growing. I would tell you that the numbers underneath there were current as of this morning, and they've grown. I think we upped them about 60,000 since this morning.

QAll out of Kosovo or most of them out of Kosovo?

AThat's correct. These are all the numbers that we have coming out of Kosovo.

QThe other question I had is given your little historical precedent, we've often in operations such as this, moved in combat engineers, SEABEES, Red Horse, Army Corps of Engineers, to enlarge ports, to enhance airfields, to enhance distribution, all of those things. Any plans to do that?

ANot at this time, however, I'd like to talk about that a bit because I was very involved in humanitarian operations not only in Africa, but elsewhere in the Balkans before. While this is a terrible situation -- and it's tough. -- there's no doubt about that. When you compare this operation with an operation down in Africa where you had the tyranny of distance -- you did not have the infrastructure; you did not have a population even helping with the flow of refugees -- while this is challenging, it is not as tough. We have capabilities in the region. I mean, we have this 12,000-man force that's already there in Macedonia that's helping. The Albanian army, in fact, is doing a lot of work in moving refugees, dispersing them from the border back into the interior of the country. We have useable air-fields that we're using. So, while certainly, you could always improve road structure, you could always improve air-fields, we have the basic infrastructure already in place to be able to conduct the ops. And that's not just our assessment; that's the assessment from the U.N. relief agencies on the ground. While the roads are tough and rutted, you can't particularly go facts, you can at least get there, and you can get the airplanes in as we need.

QC-130s, C-17s can operate on those air-fields?

AI can talk about air-fields. We currently have an air-field that we're operating in Greece at, it's called Makedonia air-field near Thessaloniki. We have a TALCE there, in fact, because most of our other forces -- very useable in road transport on up into Macedonia. Skopje is a very, very capable air-field. Tirana in Albania, capable. There's another I can never pronounce it right -- it's up along the northern coast of Albania. I'm from Florida, so I call it Gator, but I'm not so sure that's the right pronunciation. It's G-a-d-j-r. We've determined that is useable. And in fact, there is a dirt strip up close at Kukas. We don't know the usability of that air-field ,though, for C-130s. I mean, everybody wants to say it's C-130 capable because of the length, but we really don't have that assessment. Our view, it probably is not.

QTo the extent you can do it, what are you projecting in terms of refugees in those four areas in the next three or four days or something like that?

AI really don't have a good number on that as we speak. We could go back and look at the numbers of flow. There is an anticipation, though, that the numbers in Macedonia are going to grow by another possibly 50% in the next three days. I don't have a good number for you.

QDo you expect Macedonia to absorb the bulk of the refugees from here on out, or you're not clear about that?

AWhat we've had just of recent is that Macedonia is our effort now with the major flow of refugees.

QHow are you going to get the MREs to the people if you take them into Albania? Any distribution network set up?

AIn fact, there is. There is road movement from Tirana all the way up into Kukas, which is the center (inaudible).

Q (Inaudible) contingency plans to transfer Albania [refugees} to other European countries like Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria since they have the resources to feed and shelter more than the other countries?

AI would defer that question to the Department of State. I know they have some contingency planning, but that would be their specific responsibility.

QCan you go over one more time some of the specific military tasks that the ARCC headquarters and the 12,000 troops in Macedonia might be undertaking to help with all of this? What might those guys be doing?

AThe one specific task that I know that they are, in fact, helping with now is the erection of tentage and the establishment of camps, you know, transit camps in Macedonia. That's the only specific task that I'm aware of, because the assessment is still going on.

QIf you're sending the meals to Albania but you expect Macedonia to have the biggest increase in refugees, what -- are you going to be sending food there, too?

AThat's correct. You have to understand again we're in the supporting role. There's a lot of food in this region. There's 20,000 metric tons here in Montenegro that U.N. relief agencies are not getting their hands on. I think Ken stated earlier; there's enough food in the region to sustain about 400,000 refugees for an extended period of time. It's a matter of getting to that. So the only issue we have right now is with the ACRs. Now, there's a unique requirement for this because this is primarily a transit ration because it's sealed; it doesn't get infected. And you can take and give it to someone as they're transiting. Much of the other feeding is done with not such a ration.

QWhat's in it?

AIt's primarily grain. I've got something here to tell you what's in it. High caloric. It has 2,200 calories. It's a grain-based meal, and it's enriched with many things. It does not contain animal products. It's not something that you want to sustain life with forever, but it will certainly sustain you for a period of time.

QCan we try some?

AYou can open one here.

QI'd like to get one later for television. One of the things I want to ask you, and, forgive me, I don't want to monopolize you, but as you get into these refugees coming in, you haven't mentioned water; you haven't mentioned sanitary conditions. How are you going to handle that?

ARight. All of the information we have back from the U.N. relief agencies through the NACR, we had a shift of focus. We had a lot of -- we really-- had a significant effort going on in Kosovo. That effort was redirected into Macedonia and into Albania. So we have World Health Organization, World Food - just a significant number of NGOs and PBOs working the region.

QTwo questions. A couple of days ago, our State Department -- with UPI -- and our State Department reporter talked to some folks in the Serbian area who said that the 400,000, much of the 400,000 meals have been burned up in warehouses. Do you have any indication of that?


QCan you talk militarily -- Ken had talked a little bit about why you can't do air drops?

ALet me answer the first question first. The only information we have of destroyed food was in Pristina in a warehouse. There is additional food in Belgrade; there's food in Montenegro. So the only place we have any definition that some food was destroyed is in Pristina.

QDo you know how much was involved?

AI do not know. We can get that for you.

The second question on air drops, and it's a favorite subject -- as you know, there's a significant air defense system in Kosovo and Belgrade. That's significant. To fly air drop, you normally fly in an airplane that you don't want to go into a high- threat environment. So it's very dangerous. But I will tell you, and more importantly is that you have to measure the effectiveness of what the air drop would be. One, I would look at it like we would be resupplying the Serb military more than we would be feeding Kosovars. And secondly, because of the situation in Kosovo -- and secondly, you would be establishing almost a magnet for Kosovars to put them in harm's way, that they could be rounded up by the Serbs even more. So we don't see air drops during this nonpermissive environment as an option.

QDirect delivery from Belgrade, are you going to fly the C-17 this weekend right into Albania?

AWe will probably. Our plan is, and it may change -- currently, we like to contract those missions with 747s, and then we would do a transload into C-130s at some place. We're looking at a place in Italy right now.

QNot C-17s but commercial 747s.

ARight. Of course, the C-17 could do it, but we've got C-17s busy doing lots of things right now, and when we can use a commercial variant for cargo, we like to do that.

QCan you clearly delineate for people watching the difference between these and the notorious MRE? When Les Aspen unveiled these things in 1993 for Somalia, he made clear distinctions. They didn't want the MRE; they wanted something they could eat and not choke on.

AActually, I like MREs, so I'd have to argue on choking. Of course, after 45 days, they get a little hard to take. The MRE is high in calories, obviously. One MRE is for one meal, so it's three meals a day. This is for all three meals for the day. It's significantly cheaper than the MRE, and the MRE is high in fat and has a lot of animal products. I mean, it depends on the meal you get; [you] could have pork, beef, chicken, all kinds of different things. For those of us who have been in uniform for a long time, we know which ones to pick. But it's primarily a religious issue and an availability issue. And for the calories you get in it, it's quite a bit cheaper than the MRE.

QDoes it have tabasco sauce?

AI don't see any.

QWhat has it got? Can you show us?

ASure. This is a fruit pastry, strawberry jam with a biscuit. This is a shortbread, another fruit bar, peanut butter and this is pasta with tomato sauce. And with your own little kit, spoon, salt, pepper and matches.

QDo you anticipate that you're going to be supplying more than 500,000 of these?

AWe're prepared to do that. And we have the capability to do that.

QBut you don't know --

AWe don't know. We're prepared to do that, though. We have the stocks to do that.

Q (Inaudible)

AI don't have that number with me. I do not.

QHow many can you go up to? You say you have the stores to do it, do you have a million, two million?

AI'm not sure of the exact number. We have 800,000 at the one depot we're working out of right now as an example.

QStart arriving in Albania when, Sunday or Saturday?

AWe will fly them -- the plan is to fly them tomorrow, so you would look at 36 hours after that probably into Albania. The point is we're not short food right now. People are not starving. The report out of Kukas, which is the tough area there in Albania, was that we had about ten days of food. If you notice on the TV, when people come across the border, they usually are eating something and clothed. The one issue that we're working on right now is the health issue. The initial refugees as they came across were actually pretty healthy. But if you remember, they weren't moving too far because they were in the southern part of Kosovo. Now, the refugees that are starting to come across the border have come from quite a ways. And we're starting to see a little bit more of a deterioration in health.

QIn terms of personnel that are going to be associated with this, military personnel, is it going to mainly be limited to pilots and then the 350 or so former UNPERDEP troops that are on the ground in Macedonia, or is there going to be others?

AWell, remember now, as I said, we are in a supporting role, and we want to let the U.N. relief agencies specifically as tagged -- UNHCR set the requirements for us through the Department of State. In that supporting role, we really will add as required. Remember, it's not just the 350 UNPERDEP troops there, there's 12,000 NATO troops there in Macedonia. So we will approach this as part of NATO in the region. That's why Gen. Clark has been given the task and is establishing the requirements for NATO support.

QWhat you're describing doesn't involve any additional U.S. military personnel?

ACurrently, what I'm describing does not, other than the assessment team. And as they make their assessment and come back, we will evaluate. And of course, we're very interested in the commander in chief's view, Gen. Clark's view at U.S. European command on what additional things he would need.

QAssessment teams of how many?

AAssessment team's about 16 strong, if I'm not mistaken.

Q (Inaudible)

AOne goes into Macedonia, and one will go over to Albania. That's U.S., and that's an augmentation to assessment teams that are being put out by NATO.

QThey arrive when? When do they get there?

AThe assessment team -- the NATO assessment teams are already in Albania and in Macedonia, and the U.S. assessment team will arrive tomorrow into Albania.

QShall we say men or people?

APeople. I don't know the composition of the team. We kind of use that generically.

QWater, (inaudible) ample stocks of bottled water, or are you being required to fly in some of those reverse osmosis machines?

AThat's a very good question. With the operations we ran in Africa, especially starting with Rwanda, OXFAM is the -- their water production capabilities are unbelievable. Very, very effective. We have not flown a reverse osmosis water purification machine into an operation in a long time because they are so capable. And they, in fact, as we speak, are flying in significant water production and water purification capability into the region.

QWho is this again?

AOXFAM. O-X-F-A-M. And I don't know what it stands for.

QI notice you did not list the number of refugees inside Kosovo itself. And yet, you have 55,000 in Montenegro. Is there a possibility that any of these goods could get to refugees inside Kosovo or in Montenegro?

AClearly, we have U.N. relief agencies working in Montenegro, so that is working as we speak. I really can't speak to the refugees in Kosovo. I really don't know. Ken, I don't know if you've got anything in addition to that at all.

QAre all the relief agencies out of Kosovo?

AAre they out of Kosovo, I don't know that question either. I know most are. All? I would not dare to guess.

QThank you.