Tuesday, September 5, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD (PA)
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to our briefing. It's nice to see you all again.
Hurricane Luis is lashing its way toward Puerto Rico. I'd like to bring you up to date on some of the steps the military is taking to prepare for Hurricane Luis.
Two six-man teams with satellite communications equipment have been pre-positioned in St. Croix and St. Thomas; two C-141 aircraft are deploying FEMA communications equipment from Martinsburg, West Virginia, to Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico which is the major military base in Puerto Rico. National Guard emergency operation centers have been opened in the U.S. Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico as well.
If the hurricane does, in fact, strike Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, we expect additional requests for potable water, water purification equipment, distribution of food and emergency equipment as well as transportation equipment, and the military stands ready to provide those if necessary.
That's all I have on that. I'd be glad to take questions on Hurricane Luis or any other topic.
Q: What kind of FEMA equipment are aboard those C-130s?
A: I said it was C-141s, and it was communications equipment, basically
-- emergency communications equipment.
Q: Have you evacuated any equipment from Rosie Roads and those areas?
A: No, we have not evacuated... Well, we have evacuated a small Navy facility from the island of Antigua, and we have moved some aircraft from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. Those are the only evacuations so far.
Q: Bosnia? Could you give us some idea or some details of the extent of the raids that are going on now? What types of targets are being hit.
A: The raids that started at about 7:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time are a resumption of earlier raids designed to win compliance from the Bosnian Serbs to three United Nations conditions. Those conditions are that they cease attacking Sarajevo or other safe areas; that they withdraw their heavy weapons from the 20- kilometer exclusion zone around Sarajevo immediately; and that they also allow freedom of movement of UN Forces and non-government organization personnel into and out of Sarajevo. That's both over roads and through air. So far, those three conditions have not been met so the air strikes were resumed in order to show the resolve of NATO and the UN to compel compliance with these conditions by the Bosnian Serbs.
The air strikes will be described in considerable detail early tomorrow morning at 3:00 a.m. This is part of our continuing commitment to cater to all parts of the news cycle. It will be 9:00 a.m. in Naples. This is a NATO operation, so the briefings are happening on a NATO time schedule rather than a U.S. time schedule, and you'll get a full description then of what's been happening. But we have been bombing, basically, a range of military targets, including ammo dumps, communications facilities, and other military targets.
Q: Only around Sarajevo, or does it extend beyond Sarajevo?
A: There have been a variety of targets, and we'll describe the full range of targets, or Admiral Smith will describe them, tomorrow morning.
Q: Again, do they go beyond Sarajevo or is it mainly in the vicinity of Sarajevo?
A: It's not just around Sarajevo, but there's a zone of action that includes more than Sarajevo, and this will all be described tomorrow.
Q: Can you give us an idea of the reaction of the Bosnian Serbs? Has there been any military response or, conversely, any hint of possible compliance?
A: We're interested in one reaction and that's compliance. So far they have not complied with the three conditions.
Q: Is the intensity-level, in terms of the sortie rate, the same magnitude as we were looking at last week?
A: These are intense. I don't want to compare them to last week's attacks, but there have been... This is a resolute action, and it's one that certainly conveys the seriousness with which we take compliance of these conditions.
Q: Any indications the Bosnian Serbs have fired any shoulder-fired missiles or surface-to-air missiles?
A: I have none so far, no.
Q: Can you tell us how much of this is an American operation? There seems to be a great effort on the part of the U.S. Government not to define how many of these sorties -- how many of the aircraft -- are American and how many are other countries'.
A: It's a NATO operation. So it's a NATO operation.
Q: So how much of it is American?
A: Well, I can't go into that right now. One, I don't know; and two, even if I knew, I wouldn't tell you what the composition of the strike packages were at this stage.
Q: ... not what the composition of the strike package is, but why would that be a big secret?
A: I think this is something that is best described by the operational commander tomorrow.
We have more than 50 percent of the planes involved in the operation, and so you could assume that we would be carrying on the bulk of the action, but it is a NATO operation, and I think it's important to look at the entire commitment to peace in the former Yugoslavia. We do not have ground troops there. Many of our allies do have a significant number of ground troops in Bosnia -- specifically, the British and the French, who have the largest complements of ground troops there. Our contributions have been in other forms because we don't have ground troops there, and one of the forms has been in air and sea power.
Q: The British and the French, as I recall it, are not shy about saying how much they have committed to this in terms of when they do operations, yes, there are a thousand British troops or whatever. So the question comes back to, is it political sensitivity about calling this "NATO" that makes you not want to...
A: It is a NATO operation and I don't want to get into operational details right now, but it is a NATO operation. I think that's clear to everybody. The decisions to act have been made in NATO. The rules of engagement under which they're acting were passed by the North Atlantic Council after the London meeting. There were two meetings by the NAC in which they issued directives describing the types of air strikes we would perform in the event of attacks against safe areas. And we're following through on the directive from the London meeting.
Q: Will these raids continue until the Serbs complete compliance of withdrawing those weapons, unlike the earlier raids?
A: Well, the earlier raids were suspended to allow them to comply -- to give them time to comply and to give us time to assess whether they've complied. We determined that they hadn't complied, they hadn't used the time we gave them profitably to comply, and now the raids have started again.
Q: And will you continue until it is determined that they have...
A: The decisions will be made by the commanders in the field -- primarily, Generals Janvier and Smith -- as to how long to continue these raids. But the intention is to continue until there is compliance.
Q: How confident are you that this approach will have the desired result?
A: It's hard to predict the Serb reactions. We're already seeing disagreement within the Bosnian Serb camp as to how to respond. There seems to be some political will to respond, to meet the conditions, and not yet military will.
I think the message that's being delivered here is that NATO is resolute in enforcing compliance with the UN resolutions, which I talked about earlier -- the conditions that General Janvier laid down for protecting Sarajevo.
It's not unreasonable for the UN, and for NATO, to seek what's being sought here. It's pretty simple: it's stop the shelling of innocent civilians in Sarajevo; stop attacks such as occurred last week in the marketplace; and it's to allow the free flow of food, fuel, and medical supplies into Sarajevo. Those aren't unreasonable demands and they aren't difficult to comply with.
Q: Was there an internal dispute between NATO and the United Nations about the timing of restarting the bombing raids?
A: I wouldn't describe it as an "internal dispute." This is a life and death matter. It's a risky military operation, and it's appropriate, and it's also a military operation that has a considerable diplomatic impact -- potential impact -- and it's not inappropriate that such an operation be discussed thoroughly, and it was discussed thoroughly. The fact of the matter is, the raids began again, and they began relatively soon after the initial deadline laid down by General Janvier.
Q: Would you characterize the intensified strikes and the program -- the NATO program -- that's been going on now for the past week as, essentially, reflective of the U.S. position that was advanced at that meeting in Europe last month?
A: It's important to remember that that meeting was attended by, I think, 14 countries, and there was very broad agreement on the course of action to take. It was agreed to by NATO -- by the North Atlantic Council. This was not an American initiative. The meeting, first of all, was called by the British Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind. It was called at the British initiative, and it was attended by all the parties, including the Russians, who have involvement in the former Yugoslavia now. This is not an American solo operation. It's very much an allied operation in which, behind which there is very strong agreement now.
Q: This isn't something that the United States has been advocating strongly?
A: The United States has been advocating a stronger use of air power for some time, that's right. We're not alone in seeing the utility of that now.
Q: The Russians do not appear to be wildly enthusiastic about this. Do you have a read on their interest in continuing...
A: The Russians are interested in peace in the former Yugoslavia, and so are we. The Russians realize that the Bosnian Serbs have taken a number of very provocative acts. No one involved here -- no one on the side of the Contact Group or on the side of NATO or on the side of the UN -- condones what happened, which was the brutal, senseless killing of civilians in Sarajevo by bombing the marketplace last week. This is a response, specifically, to that. The response has been broadened to include conditions -- the enforcement of conditions that would allow the resupply of Sarajevo.
Q: But it doesn't sound like the Russians are on board. Kosyrev, today, has specifically criticized the operation.
A: There have been some disagreements over tactics throughout, but I think the Russians are fully on board on looking for ways to achieve peace in the former Yugoslavia.
Q: Does the Serb armor have a safe exit from the exclusion zone if they're withdrawing, even though they're attacking them?
A: I'm positive that if the Serbs announce that they plan to withdraw their armor from the exclusion zones -- in other words, outside of the 20-kilometer perimeter -- that they will have no trouble doing that.
Q: Last week, in this room, the targets were described as being about two dozen and 90 hit points, something like that. Would it be fair to say there's a new target list at this point that goes beyond those original targets?
A: I don't want to get into that now. That's the type of detail that will be discussed tomorrow morning.
Q: Do you think the planes are doing a good job hitting the targets? There were stories over the weekend, a Serb farmer's outhouse got blown up while the communications tower on the hill was standing and operating. How do you rate the performance of the jets?
A: In rating the performance, I think, you always have to go back to the initial goal that was set. The initial goal was to stop the shelling of Sarajevo. That is one of the three conditions. So far, the shelling of Sarajevo has stopped, so in that regard, the raids have been successful. They have not yet been successful in compelling compliance with the other two conditions, which are removing the weapons from the exclusion zone, and also allowing the free flow of food and supplies into Sarajevo. But in the main goal -- that the shelling of Sarajevo has stopped -- the raids have been successful.
Q: You described the targets today as ammo dumps, communications, anti-aircraft things. Since there are roughly 300 artillery sites, why don't we just blow those up? Then they don't have to pull them back.
A: Well, again, I don't want to get into that detail, but sometimes these artillery pieces are around where people live. It's not always as easy to hit them surgically as we might want to.
Q: Has the performance of ASPJ changed this building's opinion on that system as to whether or not we might look more seriously at buying it?
A: I'm sorry, I'm just not prepared to answer that question. I'll look into it.
Q: Have British and French artillery joined in on this, or is it mainly air strikes? Do these air strikes include both planes from the carrier and from Italy -- ground-based?
A: Yes, they do.
Q: How about the artillery?
A: I don't know the answer to the question about artillery.
Q: Will there be any need to augment the inventory of American airplanes that are over there, beyond what was announced last week? Will more jammers be going over?
A: I think we always reserve the right to augment the force, but having said that, I know of no plans, right now, to augment the forces further. It depends somewhat on how much longer the raids go on, and what intensity the strikes are continuing. But right now we're completing the enhancements that were announced last week, and I know of no additional plans. But that's not to say there won't be additional plans.
Q: Is there a timetable for ratcheting up these strikes further if the Serbs don't comply -- by a certain time the bombing would be intensified, or Tomahawks would be used?
A: We assume that the Serbs will get the message and comply with the conditions.
Q: Over the weekend, there was a fairly authoritative account of the two French pilots being taken into captivity by the Bosnian Serbs. Do you have any comment on whether they are captured or not? Whether they are alive?
A: No. I have no comment. It's not up to me to comment on the fate of the French pilots.
Q: Is there a search and rescue operation continuing?
A: Well, the pilots aren't back yet. I think you could assume that. But these are questions that should be appropriately addressed to the French.
Press: Thank you.
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