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DoD News Briefing - November 14, 1996

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
November 14, 1996 2:00 PM EDT

Thursday, November 14, 1996 - 2 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

I'm sorry for the delay. There's so much going on and so little to say, it takes awhile to get organized, to prepare. [Laughter]

First of all, I'd like to welcome 25 members of the National Capital Chapter of the National Association of Government Communicators who are here today under the auspices of a former DDI alumni, Lieutenant Colonel David Super, who is also the Deputy Director of the National Guard Bureau Public Affairs Office. Welcome.

Second, I'd like to announce that on Monday, Secretary Perry will appear at a press conference down here to announce the selection of two aerospace companies who will build and fly the demonstration Joint Strike fighter. That briefing is scheduled for 4:30 Monday afternoon, here. He'll also be accompanied by Under Secretary Paul Kaminski and others to provide details on this.

The British Ambassador, Sir John Kerr, will also be here, because the British are participating in this program.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: Solana said this morning that he's been assured the United States is going to take part in the new Bosnia operation this year. He thinks it will be 7,000 to 8,000 troops. Has the United States made a decision on how many troops will be involved in the new...

A: The Vice President made it very clear to the Secretary General that no decisions have been made regarding U.S. participation in a proposed IFOR force. He said to the Secretary General that the U.S. is evaluating options. As you know, four options were established by NATO in September in Bergen, and those are the four options that are being evaluated.

The President will meet with his advisers tonight to discuss those options. There is no telling whether a decision will be made. It's quite likely, in fact, that he'll carry on further discussions tomorrow. There has not been a decision made. The Vice President did not signal a decision to Mr. Solana, and we will have to wait and see how the discussions with the President and his advisers go.

Q: Are you saying that Vice President Gore and this Administration have not given either Solana or NATO any reason to be optimistic about...

A: I'm telling you that the Vice President made it clear to the Secretary General that no decision has been made.

Q: Following up on that, no decision has been made. However, Solana has the impression that the U.S. is willing to consider sending troops there. The clear impression that the U.S. was more than leaning toward the area of sending troops.

A: I have read what the Secretary General's spokesman said. I'm telling you that the Vice President does not believe he signaled a decision to the Secretary General, and he made it clear that no decision has been made, so he couldn't signal a decision.

Q: But no decision, correct. But he could at least signal, perhaps, that the U.S. was going to be more willing to send the troops than in the past it has said.

A: The Vice President made it very clear that this is a decision yet to be made by the President, and that decision will be forthcoming at the appropriate time. It hasn't yet been made.

Q: You mentioned the White House meeting this evening. Will that also concern Zaire and the military plans for Zaire?

A: I believe the meeting will focus primarily on Bosnia. I can't say what else they'll discuss. But the purpose of the meeting is to discuss Bosnia.

Q: Has there been an update from the assessment team that has reached Zaire? Has there been any word back from them at all?

A: The main action today on Zaire is discussions between the National Security Adviser, Anthony Lake, and Canadian and other officials at the UN. The assessment team is continuing its work. As you know, it moved from Entebbe to Kigali today. They're hoping to be able to survey other areas such as Goma. They haven't done that yet. I think they return, or they were to return to Entebbe tonight. They'll be in the area for awhile longer.

Q: A couple of days?

A: I think time will tell.

Q: I'm sorry, have they been to Goma yet?

A: No, they have not. My understanding is they have not. They were in Kigali today.

Q: Did the Secretary get a response from the lawmakers that he met with on Capital Hill today? What was the character of the meeting that he had?

A: I think the meeting went extremely well. He was asked to... He had spent the morning talking to members of Congress on the phone. The leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee asked him to come up and talk to a group of senators on that committee, and he did. The focal point of the discussion was on Zaire.

The Secretary made it very clear that although the President has agreed in principle that the U.S. would participate in a multinational force in Zaire to assist the delivery of food, medical supplies and other humanitarian equipment, that a final decision hasn't been made yet, and that final decision will depend on our ability to satisfy ourselves that we can carry out this mission as quickly as possible. As effectively as possible, I should say.

Q: Have you received assurances from the factions that they will permit the international force to go in without causing them problems?

A: No. That is one of the issues we're continuing to work on. We need assurances that we'll be able to carry out this mission as a humanitarian mission, not as a combat mission. This isn't a combat mission.

If we participate, we'll send a force that is well able to protect itself, but basically we need a de facto cease-fire in place.

Q: To clarify on that, have you received permission from the governments of either country involved?

A: I can't bring you up to date on that now. Those talks are still ongoing. They're mainly diplomatic talks. But that is one of the issues we're looking at. There are a number of requirements here, and one is getting overflight clearances, basing rights, the ability to use airports along the way to set up an air bridge. We need the ability to operate uncontested in Goma and also the Bukavu Airfield. Also, we're assuming there will be a de facto cease-fire.

Q: As of today you don't know, or you have not yet received permission from...

A: I do not know.

Q: What do you know about the basing and the overflight and any of that?

A: All of this is being worked out, and I can't give you a status report on that because I just don't know the details. This is one of the things that Mr. Lake is working on in New York. We have not, as of 15 minutes ago, at least, Secretary Perry had not received a report from Mr. Lake or his team.

Q: Can you describe the tactics or the strategy that is involved here once American forces were to get on the ground. Communicating with people in the camps, trying to draw them back across the border. How will you do the communicating? Will you be using civil affairs people, PsyOps teams? Do you know any of that part of the fabric of this mission?

A: Yes. And the answer is yes, we will be using civil affairs people and PsyOps teams.

The primary goal of this mission will be to assist in the delivery of humanitarian aid to 1.1, 1.2 million refugees. We would also like to encourage the voluntary repatriation of refugees to their countries to try to alleviate the continuing refugee problem in Eastern Zaire.

However, this force is not being sent over there, if it goes, in order to force the repatriation of refugees. It would require a much, much larger force and a much differently configured force than we're planning to send to do that.

Q: How do you encourage them to repatriate? How do you do that?

A: Part of it would involve trying to work out political agreements among the parties that would increase the safety to the refugees returning home. Part of it would involve the ways in which, or the places from which food is distributed and services are provided. But basically, the purpose of this mission -- which as you know, would be short, about four months, if we participate in it -- the purpose of the mission is really to achieve a period of stability so that we can jump start the provision of aid, and also a period of stability that would allow some continuing political discussions to make it possible for the refugees to return.

Q: How big a combat element are you considering? Just a security force, or something more?

A: We're talking probably about an enhanced battalion from the Southern European Task Force.

Q: Will the troops that are going to Goma be afforded air cover, basically, one? Will it be from Goma? Will it be from support bases outside Zaire?

A: These are questions that I think will be better answered tomorrow after we come back from the UN. My hope is that we'll be able to get somebody from the Joint Staff down here tomorrow to go through these details.

Q: What about air drops for those refugees who are scattered in remote areas?

A: All of those are possibilities, but basically the delivery of aid will be done largely by UN non-government organizations. What we're doing is trying to facilitate the delivery of aid, so it will be up to them to figure out how to deliver the aid.

Q: Do you have any detail at all, or explanation, about what people mean when they talk about the air bridge? Are you talking about supplies in from Europe or Kenya or closer in?

A: The logistics trails are always longer than people expect for operations like this. One of the parts of the planning that's underway now is TRANSCOM has made a list of airports that we can use, airports that will support planes of various sizes in Africa. We're in the process of trying to figure out which of those airports we can use, what the conditions are in the airports, etc. When we get that figured out, as I understand it the Goma airport, based on the first operation in Goma in 1994, can, I think, process about two C-5s at a time. So there's fairly limited runway space there. We would have to stage in other airports to bring things in. There would be some queuing taking place, and that's why we would need other airports. I can't describe to you the exact airports we would use now.

Q: Can you go back one step? If you're trying to encourage the refugees to leave, and yet the refugees are being basically held hostage by the militia groups, how do you, or what steps would be taken to first get them out of the grip of the militia groups who are not letting them leave in the first place?

A: It is not our goal right now, and I don't anticipate that we will be involved in a mission that will throw our troops into the middle of refugee camps to separate the infiltrators out from the refugees. That's not what we're contemplating.

Q: Isn't that the crux of the refugees' problem? They're not allowed to leave? So how do you get them to voluntarily leave if they're physically not allowed to leave?

A: As I say, there are a lot of political talks going on now, and that's one of the issues that certainly is first and foremost. This is not an easy problem. If it were an easy problem, we wouldn't be contemplating sending troops there. It's not a problem that's likely to be solved quickly, but this is one of the issues we're working on now.

Q: Can you put some numbers on the troops that will go there and where they will come from?

A: Secretary Perry said yesterday, and Mike McCurry also said, that we're thinking of around 1,000 troops on the ground in Goma. There will be several types of troops. The bulk of them will be from the Southern European Task Force which is based in Vicenza, Italy. They're airborne infantry troops, and they'll go in with fairly robust helicopter support. They'll also be what we call a Tanker Airlift Control Element, or a TALCE, which would be 100 people to 150 people; Air Force personnel mainly from Air Force ranks in Europe, USAFE, will set up the airport operations in Goma. There will be some civil affairs and PsyOps people who actually deal with the refugee groups and other groups in the area. There could well be some engineers doing work on the side. But we anticipate on the ground, as I say, about 1,000 people.

Aside from securing the airport, which will be the job of the U.S. troops, we will secure a very short corridor from Goma, Zaire into a place called Gisenyi, Rwanda. It's about two miles across the border between those two towns. That would also be part of the American task.

As I say, this force will be configured to protect itself.

Q: We heard figures of 4,000 to 5,000.

A: That's different. That would be the whole mission, and I think 5,000 is probably too many. We're probably looking closer to 4,000, and that would involve people outside of Zaire. The 1,000 people would be in Zaire, in the Goma area. The rest would be manning this air bridge, handling logistics and other operations, and they would be stretched basically between Europe and Africa, helping to support the troops on the ground.

Q: The Spanish said today that they were providing Torrejon to use.

A: I saw that.

Q: They gave a weird name for the operation.

A: Operation Phoenix Tusk is what Spain said the operation would be called. Actually, it sounds much better in Spanish. [Laughter]

Q: Has the operation been given a name?

A: Not by us. When I saw this arresting name I checked with the Joint Staff and they said they have not assigned a name to the operation yet.

Q: How would the refugees get from the camps to Goma? Is there going to be another... Are there going to be troops from other countries who would secure a route...

A: This, as I say, is going to be a multinational force, and troops from a number of countries have agreed to participate. Canada's leading it, Britain and France have also agreed. I believe Spain will participate. Today in the House of Commons, the Defense Minister, Portillo gave a fairly lengthy statement on this, and he listed a large number of African countries that might be potential candidates to participate in this, to provide forces.

He said, this is Minister Portillo, that South Africa, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Gambia, Tunisia, Kenya, Botswana, Ethiopia, Mawi and Chad have all offered themselves up as potential troop contributors. Also, on top of that, on top of the other European countries, Italy, the Netherlands have also said they might participate in this.

Q: I think you might have misunderstood the question, though. Is there a route that's going to be opened and secured between the refugee camps and the Goma airport?

A: I don't know that.

Q: You mentioned that Canada will be leading this operation. Who will U.S. troops take direction from?

A: All U.S. troops will be under the tactical control of U.S. commanders.

Q: What is the purpose of the corridor that's being opened up to Gisenyi, and what sort of territory does that go through? Is that...

A: It's very small. I'm going to be followed by an official who will be able to give you more of an explanation of the political and military conditions in Eastern Zaire and Rwanda. Why don't you ask him that question.

Q: You say we're not going in without a de facto cease- fire. What if we get in and any cease-fire breaks down?

A: Well, the first thing is that our troops will do everything they can to try to protect themselves, and they will be allowed to do this under this Chapter 7 arrangement which is peace enforcement under the UN mandates. We assume that there will be a UN mandate for this, and it will, under the UN Charter, Chapter 7, allow us to protect ourselves.

We've, obviously, reserved the right to leave if we can't complete the mission.

Q: Going back to the figures for one second. Will the Reserves be called up? And where would they come into the overall figure? Would that be in addition to the 1,000 in Goma and the overall 4,000 to 5,000 figure?

A: Any troops that go into the Goma area will be included in the overall umbrella figure.

Q: So the Reserves that would be called up would not be an additional figure, they would just be filling in those holes for the...

A: There are certain specialties that exist only in the Reserves, and one is civil affairs. So it's quite possible that a relatively small number of Reservists could be called up. I don't believe any Reservists have been notified about serving in this area. Remember, we have not yet made a decision to participate in this mission.

Q: That would be what, exactly? A hundred, 150?

A: I don't think I'll speculate now.

Q: Can we return to the issue of who is the commander and who gives orders? This group is led by the Canadians, but the American general is not taking orders from the Canadian? How is that possible that a subordinate would not be taking orders from his superior?

A: The operation here is, the command and control is very simple. It's been well worked out with Canada. Canada understands it and we understand it. American soldiers on the ground in Goma will take orders from American officers. They're under the tactical control of American officers. The overall mission is being directed by a Canadian general and his deputy will be an American. So the overall operational direction will come from the Canadian. We've worked out very clearly with the Canadians what the definition of the mission is, what the conditions are for serving, and what the goals of the mission are, and what the duration of the mission will be.

Q: Who's the boss? Does the boss of the top general issue orders for what happens?

A: The orders telling American troops where to go, what to do, when to do it, will be issued by Americans. All the troops, we assume, will follow uniform rules of engagement which have been designed to, we believe, offer full force protection for American troops.

Q: So the deputy, who is American, will not be taking orders from his superior?

A: The overall operation is under the command of a Canadian general.

Q: He will be giving orders to the American general...

A: He will give general direction, but the specific orders of what to do, the tactical orders, as I've said twice before, will be given by American officers to American soldiers.

Q: You don't feel you're being mildly evasive here?

A: I feel I'm being mildly mau-mau'd by you, but I'm manfully standing up here... [Laughter] ...to give you the standard definition here, which is tactical control is under American officers.

Q: We've been told by an official yesterday that the Brits and French troops are expected to be at the southern end of the lake. Are there camps down there? Why would they be at the southern end of the lake and not up with American troops where the trouble is expected to be? Where the refugees on the camps are.

A: The British and the French have made the decision to serve down there. There's trouble in a number of places. They've chosen to be in that area.

Q: But aren't hundreds of the refugees just across the border now, in Goma now, though?

A: The largest number of refugees is around Goma, but there's also a fairly large number of refugees at the southern end of the lake as well.

Q: Does the deployment of the mission depend on U.S. participation?

A: I think that's for the other countries to answer.

Q: Is there any concern that the Army may be stretched too thin with dual decisions potentially on deployments -- one to Bosnia and one to Africa?

A: First of all, there are 495,000 people in the Army, and right now there are about 15,000 of them in Bosnia, and except for a very small survey task force, none in Africa. So I think this is something that the Army will be able to do. It's an expert operation at logistics and planning, so I don't think this will stretch the Army thin.

Q: Was the recent violence in Bosnia, is that weighing in the Pentagon's thinking, the Administration's thinking, on the follow-on force?

A: The demonstrations in Bosnia indicate that there are still continuing tensions there. These aren't surprising. The important thing to focus on, I think, is that there's been over a year of peace, and that a year ago, certainly 18 months ago, people were being killed at places throughout Bosnia. That killing has stopped.

Q: Do you expect a decision on Bosnia before the President leaves tomorrow?

A: I think that's up to the President to decide.

Q: This kind of quick response mission in Zaire has traditionally been the province of the Marine Corps. Is there some reason the Marines aren't being used in this, Ken?

A: Africa comes under EUCOM in terms of our division of the world by military commands, and the Army has a relatively large force in EUCOM and the Marines don't. I can't answer that question. It's just that we have a Southern European Task Force that's well positioned to do this, and that's the force that's being chosen to provide the Army part. There will also be, of course, a lot of Air Force participation.

Q: Let me go back to the question of Canadian command. Why has the United States agreed to allow a Canadian commander, in this situation, if, in fact, as you say the U.S. has latitude of command and control, complete latitude to run affairs in Goma? Why is this structure necessary? Is this a political thing?

A: This is a multinational operation, and the ability of forces for stability in the world to provide that stability frequently depends on the ability of countries to work together. The Canadians offered to head this organization. They have extensive experience as peacekeepers. They've operated around the world as peacekeepers. They are long time and loyal allies of ours in NATO. We share commands with Canada. We know their military well. We've worked with their military in the past. It's perfectly appropriate for them, one, to offer to lead this organization; two, to provide the command structure; and three, for us to work with them hand in hand, and that's what we're doing.

I really don't think there's anything unusual about this. The model for peacekeeping and for stabilizing operations in the world today is more often than not multinational than one country operating alone.

Q: Has the SecDef yet gone over the options, the contingency plans for the different options from the NATO Military Committee on a possible post-IFOR, and given a recommendation to the President yet?

A: He has not.

Q: Has he gone over the plans yet? Is he going to do it tonight?

A: As I said earlier, the President will meet with his National Security Advisers tonight to talk about Bosnia. It's quite likely that he'll have to have other meetings. But the President clearly has been following this situation very closely. He knows what the options are. But this is an opportunity to have a detailed discussion with his advisers.

Q: Has he yet been briefed on the different options that the NATO Military Committee has...

A: He's well aware of the different options.

Q: How soon can we expect a decision on this?

A: I think that's a question you should ask the White House.

Q: To clarify, has the North Atlantic Council formulated a final report and passed it on?

A: The North Atlantic Council has not completed work.

Q: Back to Rwanda for a second. Obviously, an operation like this is not planned for, and therefore, not budgeted for. Is there a cost estimate, and where it might come from?

A: There is not a firm cost estimate of this yet. As a model, you could look at Operation Restore Hope in 1994. I think we had about 600 soldiers in the Goma area for six weeks. It cost about $88 million. This would be a longer operation involving more soldiers, so it would cost presumably more than $88 million if we go ahead with it.

Q: (inaudible)

A: Not that I'm aware of.

Q: Would the cost get eaten by the Army? Is that the way the money trail works?

A: Initially it would come out of operating costs. Depending on how much it costs and what other demands are being placed on the Air Force and the Army, we could see supplemental appropriation. But initially it would come out of operating costs.

Q: Does the U.S., or maybe you don't know this yet, assume a portion of the responsibility for the other participants? I know each slice is supposed to be taking care of itself, but somehow when you're talking about some of the African nations, for example, that usually doesn't happen. The UN ends up having to supplement, which means the U.S. does.

A: It is likely that we would have to bear some portion of the cost of participation by some African nations. But all those details remain to be worked out.

Q: Can I go back to the discussion you had earlier with us on the cease-fire? Did you say that the U.S. would not go into the region without a cease-fire?

A: What I said was that we will assume a de facto cease- fire. Next you're going to ask me what a de facto cease-fire is?

Q: Right.

A: It's an assurance that hostilities will stop. It's not necessarily a written, signed document.

Q: What's the difference between that and nothing? They will verbally tell you that they won't shoot?

A: If we could get a written signed document we would, but I think that's unlikely, so what we would like is a pledge by the sides that there will be a cease-fire.

Q: Goma has been shelled yesterday and today. If the U.S. troops were there, would they have the right to take those guns out?

A: We would have the right to protect our troops.

Q: You're saying if the troops go into Goma airport and they're opposed by a force of arms, that those troops would, rather than leave, retreat, they would go ahead and take out whatever opposition there is and take over?

A: I'm saying the troops have the right and they will have the armaments to protect themselves from all anticipated opposition. But our plan is to move into an area where there is, as I said, a de facto cease-fire. We aren't anticipating a combat operation. The point of this is to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. But we will be prepared to protect our troops as appropriate.

Q: So if de facto is not a fact and they arrive on the ground and meet hostile fire, they will proceed to take that airport.

A: I can't get into... What you're saying is speculative and I can't talk about how they respond in any given situation. Our troops in Bosnia went in well trained, well armed, well prepared, to protect themselves. Our troops will go to Goma, if they go, under similar circumstances.

Q: How quickly will they be ready to go, well trained, for that area?

A: First of all, there isn't a decision yet to go. But the troops that would provide the protection in Goma are the same troops or from the same unit, the Southern European Task Force, that led our operation into Bosnia last December. They are the people who went in and provided the initial security as our forces began to flow in from Germany.

Q: They were given special training, right? For that mission?

A: This is a very well-trained force of airborne troops. I'm sure they can protect themselves.

Q: Are they training for it right now?

A: I can't answer that question.

Q: Once you have the go, how long will it take for the first forces to be on the ground at Goma?

A: Not long, but I can't give you a specific time.

Q: Days?

A: Well, days rather than weeks, yes.

Q: What is the speculation on how far away it is that you're going to get the de facto cease-fire? Do they anticipate this will be days, or...

A: I don't know.

Q: Is there anything on the Army sex scandal that we should be made aware of?

A: No, I don't think there's anything new.

Q: This is still only an Army sex scandal, put it that way.

Q: Any movement on the Secretary asking the Service Secretaries to examine their...

A: We issued a letter last night which you should have gotten, which was actually signed by the Deputy Secretary. I hope you saw, yesterday, the Secretary's statement on this. He pointed out that sexual harassment is both morally and ethically wrong, and that it destroys good command relationships and destroys the respect that's necessary among members of the services to work together.

Yesterday the Deputy Secretary issued a letter in which he asked the Secretaries of each one of the services -- Army, Navy and Air Force -- to report to him on how each service communicates the Department's resolve not to tolerate sexual harassment or unprofessional relationships. He went on to say, "I appreciate your ongoing efforts to maintain our armed forces at a highly professional level. The wisest policies do little good, however, if they're not reinforced at every tier within the services," and asked them to report back to him in mid-January on their own efforts to communicate the Department's very clear and forceful policies against sexual harassment.

Q: Is there any sense in the building as to whether the Army has been handling this situation well, or whether the backlash or the media reporting on this has been a problem?

A: The Secretary said yesterday he believes the Army has handled it extremely well. I think the media reporting on this has been fair and balanced. I think the editorial commentary has pointed out that the Army is moving very aggressively to deal with this issue.

The only comment I would have on some of the media reports is that it's necessary to put examples of sexual harassment in the military in a broader context. This is a problem that afflicts all of society -- not just the military. It is a social problem that has run through Mitsubishi, it's run through all sorts of organizations in this country -- business, academic organizations, as well as the military.

Q: Are you expecting any more charges at Aberdeen?

A: I can't speculate on that.

Q: Nora Slatkin said yesterday you were going to convene a review board for the long-awaited CIA computer model on the plume for Khamisiyah. Who is going to head that board?

A: I'd like to ask Bernie Rostker to answer that question, but before I do, I just want to say that we do have another briefing coming that's supposed to begin ten minutes ago. We're prepared to run right into it or we can give you a 10 or 15 minute break.

Q: We need a break.

A: So shall we come back at 3 o'clock? Is that okay?

Q: Yeah.

A: I'll let Bernie answer that question, then we'll break off.

Dr. Rostker: The short answer is the Deputy Secretary has asked the Institute for Defense Analysis to bring together an expert panel to review the model, and I should say models. There are more than one model. The focus has been on the CIA model because that's what was asked for by the President's commission, but DoD has its own models, and we want to better understand what is the best model to use given the quality of the data.

So as we talked before, this is an issue of the model and the data, the interaction of the two, and the Institute for Defense Analysis is an organization that has supported both the Defense Department and does work for the CIA. It's well known in town, and they have the facility to pull together the best people to make that judgment and advise both organizations on what is the best model, and given the quality of the data, can we rely on the output of any of those models.

Q: What defense models?

A: The nuclear proliferation people have plume models. We're talking about models that can provide the effects of chemical weapons, and there are several organizations within DoD that own models. We want to make sure we have the best model, given the data, to give us the best results concerning Khamisiyah.

Press: Thank you.

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