DefenseLINK Transcript

DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, November 26, 1996 - 1:58 p.m.
[Also participating: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)]


Q: An update on the number of troops in Zaire and where this stands at the moment. Are you sort of in standby while the diplomats sort it out, or where is that ...

A: You took my map, I think, didn't you? There are about 330 or 340 people in the theater now. When Captain Doubleday comes back I'll give you the exact numbers on where they're disbursed. Basically, most of them remain in Entebbe. We have some in Kigali and also some in Mombasa, Kenya. This number is actually down by more than 100, from last Thursday when I briefed you, because a TALCE unit that had gone to Mombasa has left. So, we're in a position to build an air bridge when we have to do it, we've sized our mission to what we think we might have to do, but basically no decision has been made to go forward.

Q: The TALCE unit has redeployed to the States?

A: It's been redeployed to Kuwait.

Q: If, in fact.... There were some clips in the Early Bird this morning that said a broader, multinational military effort may not be necessary. If that is, in fact, the case, would the military people that we have down there stay to assist in the relief effort, or would they come out?

A: I think all of that remains to be decided. We've been willing to participate in the relief effort from the beginning. In fact, that was our goal. Our goal was never to mount a military operation in Eastern Africa. Our goal was to assist in the provision of humanitarian aid and to assist in the repatriation of refugees. The refugees have been repatriating themselves very quickly and smoothly, so that's a part of the job we haven't had to take on. That's one of the reasons why we and the rest of the international community are still watching and waiting to see what the best course of action is.

Let me bring you up to date on the numbers, if you're interested. There are a total of 358 Americans in the region. That includes 243 in Entebbe; 26 at Kigali; and 89 in Mombasa.

Q: Now that some of the prepositioned assets have gone elsewhere, how much has this whole prepositioning effort cost?

A: I'm afraid I can't answer that question. I just don't know. I'll try to get the answer for you, if we know.

Q: May I ask a Zaire question, then? Do any of the American assets in the area, are any of them able to tell you or give you a better sense of the refugee problem in Zaire, any numbers or anything? There were reports on the wires today that there are huge numbers of people queuing up near Goma. We're still trying to get a handle on the numbers ...

A: So are we. But, basically, there were -- we think -- between 550,000 and 600,000 people have already left Eastern Zaire and gone into Rwanda. In addition, there are probably nearly 100,000 people who have gone into Burundi or Tanzania. Maybe some of those into Rwanda as well. They've gone in more from the south into other countries, rather than up by Goma.

There have been, over the last several days, large groups of refugees moving up just inside Zaire, moving north along Lake Kivu. The question was, when they got up toward Goma, were they going to turn left or west, or were they going to turn right or east? If they turned right, or east, looking at a map, they would go into Rwanda. If they turned west, they would go into Eastern Zaire and sort of fade into the mountains or into the vegetation. They do appear to be turning -- at least some significant number of them do -- appear to be turning east and going into Rwanda. So the repatriation -- the peaceful, successful repatriation -- is continuing. That's one of the things we continue to watch as the international community decides what's needed to deal with this problem.

Q: So any sense of how many are still ....

A: I'm afraid I don't have a sense of that. That's where all the debate's been. There have been numbers that have ranged from 100,000 or 200,000 up to a higher number.

Q: Who will actually make the ultimate decision about where to go from here with this mission?

A: The international community. The Canadians have taken the leadership in this in setting up meetings, in calling nations together to discuss this. I assume that they'll take the lead in trying to set up some sort of a format for making a decision. But I don't think anybody ... I think the conclusion you have to draw from what the Canadian Defense Minister, Minister Young said yesterday, and from what Secretary Perry said yesterday, and what Glyn Davies said at the State Department yesterday was that we want to have the fullest possible picture of what's happening over there before we decide what to do. Right now the picture continues to change, and it's changing in the right direction.

Q: Can you give us an update on the Navy's surveillance flights over there? I understand they've picked up again. Are they flying higher than they were last week?

A: Last week the P-3s were flying high enough to avoid being shot at or being hit ... They were shot at, they weren't hit. They continue to fly at a height that keeps them safe. We have actually boosted our P-3 fleet, and I believe we're in the process of moving in two other P-3s now. There will be a total of, I believe, three there by the end of today or early tomorrow.

Q: Where were they based, in Sicily?

A: They're based in Entebbe.