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Updated: 14 Apr 1999
DoD News Briefing
Also Participating; Major General Chuck F. Wald, J-5
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.
We will not have a briefing on Kosovo tomorrow because the Secretary is testifying on the Hill all day before the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Armed Services Committee. There will, however, be a briefing here at 1:30 by Dr. Bernard Rostker, the special assistant for Gulf War illnesses. He will release three papers tomorrow that summarize Rand studies on various ailments of Gulf War illness -- some of the continuing inquiries that he and his group have been completing. So that will be here at 1:30 tomorrow afternoon.
I only have one deployment order to announce today, and it's not the one you were expecting. This is the deployment of two Army logistics support vessels that will be used to take to Europe equipment for Task Force HAWK. Basically they'll be carrying over large loaders, or unloaders, things that can be used to move containers of supplies and get them onto trucks and take them off to support Task Force HAWK. They will be arriving in several weeks with this unloading equipment on them. We have some pictures of them and other information, if you'd like, after the press conference.
Mr. Bacon: Yes, they are.
Q: Leaving from the U.S.?
Mr. Bacon: Yes, they will depart Fort Eustis, Virginia, in the next few days and go to the theater. It will take two to three weeks for them to get there. As I say, they'll carry rough terrain container handlers.
Finally, to bring you up to date on what's happening with aircraft that have already been approved for deployment -- last weekend we announced 82 aircraft going over. The 24 F-16CJs will arrive tomorrow in Aviano. They're from Shaw Air Force Base. Also arriving tomorrow will be four A-10s. They'll go to Gioia del Colle, which is south of Aviano in Italy. They're from Pope Air Force Base. On the 16th of April, six EA-6Bs will arrive in Aviano from Whidbey Island and Cherry Point.
I know you all love numbers. There were 41 tankers set to deploy, but because of the efficiencies of our tanker operations, we've been able to reduce that to 38 tankers. There will be 33 KC-135s and five KC-10s going over. Of course, some will go with the planes and fuel them on the way over.
With that, I'll take your questions.
Q: Where are the tankers from?
Mr. Bacon: Various places.
Q: Have you any update or have you been able to check on the report, the charges by the Serbs, that NATO planes hit a convoy in Kosovo today and killed perhaps dozens of refugees?
Mr. Bacon: I have no confirmation of that, and NATO, of course, is reviewing as part of its normal bomb damage assessment operation to see what happened. General Wald will talk about this in more detail.
We did hit military vehicles in a convoy. We're quite sure that we only hit military vehicles. We will obviously review what happened there to find out if there was a problem.
In addition, we are receiving reports today from refugees coming into Albania, and these are unconfirmed reports, but we are receiving reports that Yugoslav aircraft have been used to attack refugee convoys in Kosovo.
Q: Helicopters or...
Mr. Bacon: Helicopters and some fixed wing.
Mr. Bacon: This has been actually going on for several days.
Q: Several days and you're just telling us...
Mr. Bacon: I'd say several weeks. They have been used to attack mainly KLA positions, but they've also been used -- we are now learning for the first time today from refugees -- that they may be used to attack refugee convoys. But we don't have any confirmation of that.
Q: Do you know if they picked that up on AWACS, that there were movement of this kind of unidentified aircraft?
Mr. Bacon: We do know that they have been using both fixed wing and helicopters to attack KLA. We know that from our own observation. We have not heard reports yet of attacking refugee convoys, and obviously, we will look and see if we can verify this.
Q: General Clark has reportedly told Bloomberg News Service that he has strong evidence that the military convoy was attacked and the Serb military then retaliated against refugees that were either in the convoy or in a separate convoy. Do you have any evidence to verify that?
Mr. Bacon: I have not been able to talk to -- I've heard that report. I have not been able to talk to General Clark about it.
Q: To follow up, how long has the NATO or the U.S. known about either these allegations or the observation of fixed wing and helicopters attacking refugees, and why haven't we heard about this before?
Mr. Bacon: We've only heard today from observers, NGOs in the area, that refugees are reporting that planes have been used against refugees. This is the first account that I have heard. It happens to coincide with this. I think it's a complete coincidence that we happen to be hearing this today.
Q: Unless I'm mistaken, I thought you said we had our own independent...
Mr. Bacon: We have confirmation that they've been using helicopters and fixed wing aircraft against KLA, to go against KLA. So you have to be very careful here.
We have known for some time that they have been attacking KLA units or suspected units with air power. We have heard today for the first time, and these are preliminary reports that may or may not be correct -- and I want to be very clear about that -- but we are hearing from refugees coming into Albania that there have been attacks against refugee convoys by Yugoslav aircraft. We will obviously talk to the refugees and use our own systems to find out if that's the case. But we don't know that to be the case, but we're hearing this.
Q: Ken, were U.S. planes involved in attacking the convoy?
Mr. Bacon: I don't know.
Q: So it could be that this is not a mistake by NATO, but rather something intentional by the Serbs? It could be. As knowledge is presently...
Mr. Bacon: If these refugee reports are correct, that could be the case, yes.
Q: Can you bring us up to speed on the possible call-up of Reserves and National Guard...
Q: Can we stay on the other thing for another question?
Mr. Bacon: Sure.
Q: I've been puzzled by this. Our Air Force is allowing them to conduct strike missions...
Mr. Bacon: We're not allowing them to conduct...
Q: I mean, we hit our own helicopters over Iraq; can't we hit their helicopters over Kosovo?
Mr. Bacon: This is -- as you know from our operations over Iraq in NORTHERN WATCH and SOUTHERN WATCH, there can be no-fly zone violations when our planes are not in the area, or they can be in parts of the country where our planes aren't. Our planes can either be not in the air or in a different part. These tend to be low-flying aircraft. They can go up quickly and come down. We have not been able to -- given the threat envelope in which we're operating -- been able to get them.
I'm sure that as the hostilities expand, as our ground campaign goes on, that we will be able to engage these aircraft. We've already made considerable impact on the Yugoslav air force, and I'm sure we'll be able to engage these lower-flying aircraft. Right now we haven't been able to.
Q: You seemed to indicate earlier that you know that NATO hit a military convoy on that road. You know that. So there was a visual by the pilot that they hit a military convoy, right?
Mr. Bacon: NATO pilots reported hitting military vehicles on a road. I don't know whether it's the same road. But they have reported hitting military vehicles. We have been attacking convoys as regularly as we can.
Q: Is it possible that refugees might have been inside military trucks and therefore not easily identifiable from the air?
Mr. Bacon: It is possible. We've heard reports of them carrying refugees in military trucks.
Q: We've seen the pictures now, and these were tractors loaded up with people and mattresses and things like that from the scene, so it doesn't look like any military convoy I've ever seen. But you seem to be saying that what you do know is you hit a legitimate military convoy, and that tractors don't look like military convoy, or you're just saying you know you hit something, and you're not sure...
Mr. Bacon: General Wald will talk about this in considerable detail, exactly how pilots discriminate between legitimate targets and targets they don't want to hit.
You have General Clark's statement which, as I said, I've not been able to talk to General Clark about, but it's been reported to me that General Clark has made a statement about what he expects happened. NATO is looking at this. This is something that if it happened happened only today, and it may take some time to sort it out.
But I think the only clear way to answer this question right now is that we are trying to find out what happened.
Q: This happened in darkness?
Mr. Bacon: I don't know when it happened.
Q: Are you confident that 60-plus refugees have been killed regardless of how it happened?
Mr. Bacon: No. I'm not confident of that. I've seen Serb reports, and Serb reports -- you can believe them or not believe them.
Q: Are you going to send additional Apache helicopters in the area?
Mr. Bacon: I have nothing to say on that beyond what I said yesterday...
Q: I talked to General...
Mr. Bacon: ...which is that it's possible we will end up sending more helicopters, but no decision has been made.
Q: I talked to General Clark about an hour ago, and he said that they hit the Serb convoy and that the Serbs attacked the ethnic Albanians.
But more to the point, you said they had imagery to prove the point. As soon as that imagery's available, can you get that here?
Mr. Bacon: Obviously, it's in our interest to release that imagery, and I'm sure that General Clark himself will release it.
Q: Do you know whether any of the low-flying aircraft were flying in the area at the time? That is to say of Serb aircraft.
Mr. Bacon: That's what we're looking at now. As I said, we just got this report from refugees, and we don't know whether they're reporting about something that happened today or something that happened several days ago. I want to be perfectly clear about what I said. We have known for some time that they have been using aircraft to attack KLA positions. This is the first report that I'm aware of that Yugoslav aircraft may have attacked refugees. This has come from refugees, and we're trying to confirm it -- one, by talking to refugees; and two, by using other methods to find out if it might be the case.
Q: So you have no direct indication right now that Serbian aircraft attacked this convoy, either...
Mr. Bacon: That is true. We have no direct indication that they did or they didn't.
Q: And some of those people that were in those convoys are actually being able to exit Kosovo and...
Mr. Bacon: Bill, I was very clear that I don't know whether these refugees who made the reports were in the convoy today. And I don't know whether they're reporting about something that happened today or something that happened previously.
Q: Can we get on to the Reserves?
Mr. Bacon: Sure.
Q: Can you give us a dump on where we stand on the possible call-up of Reserves and National Guard? How many are being contemplated? Are they individuals? Are they units? Including aircraft. What can you tell us?
Mr. Bacon: Not much. The Reserve call-up plans are still working their way through the bureaucracy. They haven't been completed. And I think until they're complete, it's not worth saying too much about them.
The numbers that have been reported are a call-up of several thousand, and I'd say that's probably going to be low, but there will be a Reserve call-up; it will involve primarily Air Force people and some Army people to fill in specialties that exist only or primarily in the reserves.
Major General Wald: I'll go through the brief first, if you'd like, and then we'll hold questions.
First of all the weather, as you can see, as I mentioned yesterday, it's starting to clear up and expected over the next couple of days to be very good. Once again, that's unpredictable. Just as when the weather is really bad, sometimes it can be predicted to be bad; it can be good; but the forecast is for good, and that's a good sign for NATO air.
Yesterday, somewhat because of weather and somewhat because of the weapon systems used, there were 14 target areas hit, several of them in the Kosovo area itself. Once again, focusing on the same target array as we had before.
Once again, some of these targets as we show here are multiple [aim points] and hit by B-2 and aircraft that carry more than one weapon.
Into the international contribution for the humanitarian aid. Egypt and Russia are now contributing. Russia is contributing food, blankets, and shelter; and Egypt is contributing food, shelter and medicine. 3,200 short tons so far in the food and the aid continues to roll in.
Just one change on the key air- and seaports at Tirane. Now they have improved the airfield so it can handle two C-17s at one time. And that's good news for the movement of both humanitarian aid and Task Force HAWK. Task Force HAWK is on schedule to close this week. The helicopters -- some of them have started to move today, about half of them. The other 50 percent will start moving tomorrow. They all should close out by Friday and Saturday.
One add to the sea LOCs and ground LOCs at Ancona. They have now contracted for ferry or ships to take a bulk amount of the food and shelter into Durres, and at that point it will be trucked over to Tirane and then from there will be taken by helicopter up to Kukes.
Some questions on refugee IDPs within Kosovo. It's a little bit hard to see from where you're sitting, probably, but the yellow circles with blue dots in them are areas of concentration of refugees within Kosovo. And these are all with thousands of refugees in those areas. You can see that they're mainly in higher terrain, somewhere around -- terrain that's in the 2,000 meter elevation range. You can see where the concentrations are. I think most of them were outside larger city areas and in the countryside.
Q: Are they moving, or is that...
Major General Wald: These are pretty much static. Of course, they could move, but they're pretty much staying in that particular spot for those, Ivan.
Major General Wald: This is an actual image made up from it, a previous image that we've made ourselves, but it's accurate. So this is not an actual satellite photograph.
Q: Do those pockets correspond with areas where there are not Serb forces generally?
Major General Wald: From what we understand, the Serb forces are dispersed all over this area, and many of the Serb forces are around the villages. But I can't say that they're being protected by Serb forces or that they're being held there. All we know is there are concentrations in those areas.
Q: Do you have a better number, General, today on whether -- that number you had between 250 [thousand] and 700 [thousand], have you been able to narrow that down at all?
Major General Wald: Right. 500 [thousand] to 700 [thousand].
Q: I'll put the previous question a little differently. Do you believe the area of KLA (inaudible)?
Major General Wald: They're all in Kosovo, or they're all in Kosovo area. As far as they're concerned, they're in their home territory.
The next slide I'll show you is similar to the previous, but all these yellow dots -- once again, a little bit difficult to see -- are all villages now that we have confirmed have been burned or destroyed in some way, fashion or form. Not all the buildings are being burned or destroyed. As you know, the Serbs are not burning their own buildings or homes, but in all these dotted areas here, which are in the area of hundreds, there have been villages that are either completely burned or partially burned and destroyed by the Serbs.
Q: How many of the dots are on that map?
Major General Wald: I didn't count, but it's in the hundreds.
Some imagery -- this is a munitions plant in southern Serbia, just the fact that there are several target areas, once again, in a target. They're bunkers -- you can see here -- that have been destroyed. This is a large holding area that has light damage on it. These bunkers here have been totally destroyed, so we're systematically taking out his ammunition storage.
The next one is fuel. Once again, you know the target array, but this area here, once again in Serbia, it's in Pristina, I should say, Kosovo area, where the main pumping station and some of the control facilities have been totally destroyed, rendering this facility unusable.
Major General Wald: These photos have all been taken within the last couple of days.
Q: Why are the tanks intact on that one?
Major General Wald: We just haven't hit them yet. They may be empty and if you get the control station and they can't get to it, then you've probably done your mission.
This is of an arms plant in Serbia itself. You can see the damage on the roof area, but internally this has been assessed to be severe damage on that and rendered unusable.
Q: Is that the Yugo factory?
Major General Wald: That's part of the Yugo factory, as a matter of fact. This is the military section of the Yugo factory.
Q: What kinds of military things do they make there?
Major General Wald: They're making parts to military vehicles, primarily, and other military equipment.
Q: Was the civilian part of the Yugo factory taken out as well, or was it...
Major General Wald: It's hard to tell, because the parts for the civilian vehicles are similar to the parts for the military vehicles. But the parts of the civilian plant were not struck. There may have been some minor collateral, but it was not hit.
This is a little hard to see, but we talk about the fact that they are starting to have a problem with fuel, obviously. They're trying to husband their fuel.
This is a rail siding along a small group of buildings that has some rail cars that have fuel on them that we were able to detect, and they're starting to disperse that fuel in various spots throughout Kosovo.
Q: Was that hit?
Major General Wald: I won't say whether that's been hit or not yet. But when we do hit it, if we do hit it, I'll show you. (Laughter)
This is another kind of a ploy the Serbs are using to try to hide and retain their equipment. This is actually a rail line that has tunnels dug at either end of it, here and here, and this particular end of the tunnel -- we've seen them moving equipment into that tunnel, military equipment -- was struck and actually closed the tunnel mouth here. I'll show you some gun camera film of that later.
Actually, I'll show you a closeup of that right now. You can see where it was struck in this tunnel, as being assessed to be collapsed and unusable at this time.
Q: What was in it?
Major General Wald: Military equipment, vehicles, supplies.
Major General Wald: Just one end.
I believe those are LGB 2000 laser-guided bombs.
Major General Wald: At the time the picture was taken it was one end. I'm not sure if it's been struck since then or not.
I'll show you some gun camera film. The first one is the Pristina army barracks that has been struck before. Once again, this is an F-16 with laser-guided bombs yesterday. These are all from yesterday.
This particular picture here is actually of a forward air controller monitoring the area, talking other aircraft into the area. You can see the weather moving through, which is difficult. We were able to work around that yesterday and into the upper left hand side of the picture, shortly, you'll see the actual bombs starting impacting.
That army barracks has been severely damaged.
Radio relay site, once again for command and control and for the control of their integrated air defense with an F-15 with a laser-guided bomb yesterday.
Under the cursor you can see the actual facility itself. Once again, that was assessed to be either severely damaged or totally destroyed.
A highway bridge in southern Serbia that goes into Kosovo, F-16 with a laser-guided bomb. There had actually been another attack on that bridge previously, and this bomb then will take down the approach end of that bridge and render it destroyed.
A communications bunker, F-16 with laser-guided bombs, again, yesterday.
Q: Is that in Kosovo?
Major General Wald: This is in southern Serbia. You can see under the cross-hairs the actual bunker. It's very difficult sometimes because of weather or the time of the day -- the clarity of the film is a little bit less clear than others, but it's good enough to see the bomb impact the target, and that was also destroyed.
The next one will be the tunnel we talked about earlier, the railroad tunnel, F-15E with a laser-guided bomb. You can see the mouth of the tunnel; the laser designator is directly over the mouth of the tunnel.
You can see the bombs impacting, and it closes off the mouth of the tunnel here and here both.
The last one is a MiG-21 fighter. We talked about earlier -- are they using their aircraft against the KLA? We're not only taking them out on the ground, the airfield, but also their aircraft. There's two MiG-21s at Pristina airfield. This one will be attacked. Once again, F-16s with laser-guided bomb -- it's just overflown the target. The one under the cursor will be destroyed. There's a secondary explosion from fuel, and the one next to it probably received some damage, but we're not sure if it was damaged enough to destroy it.
I'll take your questions.
Q: But the distinguishing there here is, to a large extent the convoys that have hit have not been tanks, they've been trucks. They've been vehicles filled with equipment. But that also is relatively easy, are you saying, for a pilot to see, a forward air controller and an attacking pilot, a difference.
Major General Wald: Right. I wouldn't say it's easy, but unless they're sure, they will not drop. But it is easy once you can see, if you can tell what it looks like, which I can tell you they have ways of doing that, to tell a military vehicle from a civilian vehicle. But if the Serbs are using civilian vehicles painted like military vehicles, which could happen, then there could be a doubt. But once again, I go back, unless there's 100 percent assurance that what you're hitting is a military target -- and I've been through this for years over there -- you don't drop. And there have been many, many cases where I know people have come back with bombs thinking almost 100 percent they had the target identified, and with that little bit of doubt, would not drop.
Q: Can I do a follow up on that please, General? When you're a forward air controller, and I don't want to give away the candy store here, but do you stay high all the time? Will you change altitude to get a better look at what you're seeing?
Major General Wald: You're right, I won't tell you what altitude they're at, but you vary your altitude. But generally they'll stay out of AAA range, of course, and there are MANPADS that can range, so you're always in the threat area, but the tactics they use will keep you generally out of those areas, and of course, they've practiced it for years, so they know how to do that.
Q: And the guys that are in the FAC are in the most vulnerable position. They're the ones that are in the shooting gallery and going slow and hanging around the target. Is that correct?
Major General Wald: I would say so, yes.
Q: General, do you know if this was an American plane that dropped the bombs?
Major General Wald: No, I don't know what type of plane dropped this.
Q: Are there, the procedures you describe, are there standard rules of engagement for what level of certainty you have to have about a target? Do they vary? Are there cases in which something less than 100 percent, less than 90 percent would be tolerable? And how would you characterize the ROEs [i.e., Rules of Engagement-EC] applied here? Are they as stringent as possible?
Major General Wald: I would characterize the ROE as as strict as I have seen in my 27 years of military, and the procedures are very, very complex, but they're also set out and they've been standardized over the years. In a forward air control, combat, close air support mission if you will -- they call it CAS -- those procedures are practiced and trained for routinely. And once again, going back to my time in Bosnia, those are the type of missions we flew every day, day in and day out, with ground forward air controllers as well as airborne forward air controllers. So people are trained to that, and the ROE is very stringent. I will say this, I won't talk about the specific ROE, but I will say that the rules have been and are that unless you're 100 percent sure in your mind what you're hitting in a forward air control, CAS mission, is the target, you won't drop. That's for the reason of close air support de facto means there's some friendly or something you don't want to hit in close proximity. So it's very, very difficult and sometimes very frustrating because you many times think I have this target, I just know in my mind what it is, but I can't be 100 percent sure. So it's a dangerous mission for the pilots and the air crew.
Q: The Serbs have described this convoy that was struck as a 100 vehicle convoy including tractors and so on. Have any such very, very large convoys been struck by NATO in recent...
Major General Wald: I haven't heard any reports of that.
Q: You'd certainly be able to tell the difference between a 100 vehicle convoy and the kind of thing you normally would strike.
Major General Wald: Without a doubt.
Q: General, how you are submitting the targets against Yugoslavia, and actually, how do (inaudible) countries like Germany, have avoiding the selection process?
Major General Wald: I won't talk about target selection. That's for NATO to speak to.
Q: Are they dropping any, are the planes dropping any anti-personnel weapons, or are they strictly unitary bombs?
Major General Wald: NATO is not dropping any what would be characterized as anti-personnel weapons that are in the category that aren't approved. Every weapon that NATO drops is well within the confines of international law, and all these weapons could be anti-personnel, which are army, VJ, or MUP, or anti-equipment, anti-armor. So there isn't anything that's characterized necessarily as anti-personnel.
Q: Cluster bombs?
Major General Wald: We have been dropping cluster bombs. They're well within the confines of international law.
Q: General, what do you know about these reports that the Serbs may have actually retaliated against these refugees that were either in that convoy or a separate convoy?
Major General Wald: Just as Mr. Bacon mentioned earlier, that's under review. I guess from a personal perspective, there's no doubt in my mind that the Serbs would do that type of thing, have been known to do that type of thing. And as I've gone through in kind of intricate detail today, in the way that the NATO air crew, trying to make sure that their targets are 100 percent identified, I don't see any of that coming from the Serbian army whatsoever. So they have totally different rules of engagement. So that wouldn't surprise me one bit that they'd do that.
Q: Is the Predator up and running to the point where it could have actually taken video of these two convoys under attack today and provide some kind of backup one way or the other?
Major General Wald: The Predator is up and running. I don't know if it had video. If it was in position, I'm sure it was there, but in good days, weather, it works very well.
Q:...that you have hit in the Dakovica area?
Major General Wald: I beg your pardon?
Q: You have hit a number of targets in this area before; do you happen to know what you have hit in Dakovica prior to...
Major General Wald: From what I understand, they've hit military, I think, some military vehicles before. I don't have the full list memorized, but I do know they've hit some fielded forces. I'm not sure if they've had supply areas or not. I'd have to check for you.
Q: Sir, how would you describe the air defense across the FRY as a whole?
Major General Wald: Pretty dangerous. It's still robust. It's been degraded. They're firing; last night from what I understand, they fired dozens of strategic SAMs and MANPADS. Of course, many of those you don't see. But I understand they are firing those in a fashion that would not necessarily show that they have a full-up capability, but they are very dangerous still. They have a lot of...
Major General Wald: I understand they fired SA-6s as well as SA-3s and MAN-PADS and AAA.
Q: Now that we've had a chance to see the cockpit video from the AGM-130 that hit the train, the passenger train on the bridge, can you explain a little more about -- it's pretty clear [from] the first sequence how difficult it would be for the pilot to see that train coming onto the bridge, but by the time they come around the second time and fired the second missile, it appears from the cockpit imagery that it's pretty clear that there's a burning train on the bridge. Can you explain, do you have any idea why the crew felt it necessary to fire another missile at that point?
Major General Wald: I think General Clark answered that perfectly yesterday, and I'll just leave his answer as the answer.
Q: Can I just follow up on one other thing you said? Senator Leahy, in a speech on the Senate Floor today said he'd received disturbing reports that U.S. forces were dropping anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines from planes. Can you just clarify, when you're talking about types of munitions that were dropped?
Major General Wald: I can unequivocally say that we will not drop any weapons that are illegal. Maybe Mr. Bacon has more to offer there.
Mr. Bacon: We have not dropped those weapons. We have dropped, as General Wald said, cluster bombs, but we have not dropped the ones that he was talking about, which are a combination of anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines. These are the self-destructing ones called Gator.
We have used CBU-87s, which are combined effect munitions, which are basically cluster bombs with bomblets, but we have not used the Gator.
Mr. Bacon: I have talked to General Clark, and I can tell you exactly what he told me, which is that NATO is looking into this incident. It happened shortly after 3:30 local time, 1530 local time, east of Dakovica. He has received reports from the pilots that they believe they hit only military vehicles. And as Tony Capaccio said, he's also received verbal reports of the possibility that after the convoy was hit military people got out and attacked civilians. He believes there may be some imagery of that, and he is trying to get it now, but he doesn't know for a fact that he does have it.
Q: On the ground?
Mr. Bacon: That's what his belief is. But as I say, he's trying to get film to show that. This remains under review, and I want to be very careful, that we don't know what the full facts are. We have what General Clark believes to be the facts, but he says the whole thing is under review, and he's waiting to see if we do in fact have some sort of film, possibly from the Predator, that would show more clarity on what happened.
Q: When you say about not raising the issue of Serbs airstriking...
Mr. Bacon: I made it very clear, and I want to repeat again, because there's confusion about this. We have reports from refugees. We don't know whether these reports are in fact correct, and we don't know when the incidents happened. We are getting today through U.N. agencies reports from refugees that refugee convoys have been under attack by Yugoslav aircraft. We have to confirm these reports by talking to other refugees and by looking for other sorts of information.
I want to be very clear again, though, that we don't know that this happened today and we don't know -- first, we don't know when it happened; second, we don't know if it happened. That's what we're trying to find out.
Q: General Clark himself in your phone conversation is not raising the issue of...
Mr. Bacon: No, he is not...
Mr. Bacon: ...raising that issue. The issue is clearly, is a much different issue. It's that reports that after the attacks on the military vehicles, that then either Yugoslav army or special police people went out and began to attack civilians in the middle of the convoy.
Q:...civilians in the military convoy?
Mr. Bacon: Pardon?
Q:...in the convoy?
Q: Can you explain that? Where were the civilians?
Mr. Bacon: They were in the convoy, is what he said. That there were military vehicles at either end. But I want to be very clear, this is under review. He's looking for film. He is obviously trying to find out what happened, and I don't think he has a clear view of what happened at this stage. He has a theory based on information that he's received, and he was very clear about that -- that this has to be verified. Again, this is separate from the other incident that I mentioned, that we're getting reports from refugees that they have been attacked, some refugee convoys have been attacked by Yugoslav aircraft.
Q:...3:30 in the morning? Was it dark...
Mr. Bacon: 3:30 p.m. 15:30 local time.
Q: It was day time.
Q: And these verbal reports that the Serb troops got out and then retaliated, those are coming from U.S. pilots?
Mr. Bacon: They're coming from General Clark's sources.
Q: Was this an American plane?
Mr. Bacon: I did not ask General Clark that question. I do not know. We'll find out whether it was an American plane, but I don't know at this stage, and rather than speculate, I think I'd rather wait until General Clark completes his review.
Q: Back to this coincidence that we're getting these refugee reports today of aerial attacks on hostage convoys, did those hostage reports come before today's 3:30 attack on a convoy or after?
Mr. Bacon: The first I heard was through our Balkans Task Force, which was receiving it this afternoon, early this afternoon, which would have been after 15:30 Kosovo time, that they were getting reports from refugees coming across the border that these attacks had occurred by Yugoslav aircraft. But I want to be clear again, we don't know when these attacks took place or if they took place. We have to find out.
Q: What kind of military vehicles did the pilots say they thought...
Mr. Bacon: I don't know that.
Q: And General Wald, do the rules of engagement, as you understand them, preclude the possibility of attacking basically mixed convoys in which there might be both civilians and military moving together?
Major General Wald: I won't speak to specific rules of engagement. I'll only speak to the fact in a close air support mission, unless the air crew can be, in their minds -- and we have to give them some credit, they're in a tough situation -- but in their minds 100 percent sure what they're attacking is the target they want to attack, they will not attack.
Q: General Wald, based on -- I mean these seem to conflict.
Major General Wald: No, they don't conflict, because you can have vehicles that are separated by a distance of several meters, 100 meters maybe, and the vehicle could be at the beginning of that target area, array, and they can attack that target without striking any other vehicle around it or any other thing. So I'm sure they would not attack without knowing that it was a military target in their mind.
Q: General Wald, can you describe the air campaign a little bit for us of the Serbs?
Q: Could you bring us up to date, since yesterday, on the status of refugees with regard to how many got out or how many were allowed out, or were they allowed out? Then these areas in the mountains where they have gone to -- is there any intelligence coming from those refugees as to the status of these people that are up in the mountains, allegedly in bad shape, possibly starving?
Major General Wald: I've seen reports that the Serbs have let some refugees out. I think the number is 12,000 at one spot. So they evidently are letting some out of the country or out of Kosovo periodically. I don't know why they're doing that. But from the standpoint of are we hearing reports from the mountains, I have not heard any. I would think that at some point maybe some of the refugees that do get out, we could hear some reports, but I haven't heard. Maybe Mr. Bacon would have more on that later.
Q: But you don't know what kind of shape those people are in?
Major General Wald: I would suspect they're not in real great shape, necessarily. They're not living under normal conditions; they're out in the hills. I don't think they have great access to food, but I don't know the specific condition they're in. I would suspect not in great condition.
Q: Their situation could be critical, but we just don't know yet.
Major General Wald: Possibly. My condition could be critical, but... (Laughter)
Q: Could you describe in a little more detail for us what the Serb air campaign looks like?
Major General Wald: The Serbs do not have an air campaign that I know of. I'm not sure they could mount an air campaign. The Serbs are using their aircraft, as Mr. Bacon mentioned, in almost a terror form against civilians, in some cases, and against the KLA in a small way. But I don't think the Serbs could mount an air campaign today for anything.
Q: What does a still robust Serb air defense system say about the effectiveness of the campaign to this point to deal with that system?
Major General Wald: I think it's dealing with it in a good way. They had, as we've probably talked about here several times, hundreds and hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, an extremely robust and redundant integrated air defense system, and they can use backups.
Would I rather fly against them today than I would have two weeks ago? You're darn right. Do I still think it's dangerous today? You bet it is. One SAM against one airplane at any one given time is dangerous.
So I guess I may be speaking a little bit conservatively. They're degraded. I would have rather have them have this condition when we started two weeks ago, but they're still dangerous.
Q: General, is there anything in there, an expenditure of their SAMs, that suggests to you they're beginning to nurture their supplies? That they feel they may be running out?
Major General Wald: Interestingly enough, last night they fired I think the most SAMs, from what I understand, since any time since the engagement, the war started.
Q: How many?
Major General Wald: I mentioned earlier, dozens.
Q: Washington Post talking today for the possible invasion of Yugoslavia via Hungary all the way to Belgrade? Any comment?
Major General Wald: Could you repeat the first part?
Q: The Washington Post is talking today for a possible invasion of Yugoslavia via Hungary all the way to Belgrade.
Major General Wald: General Clark is the commander over there, and he does the planning. I haven't heard anything about that. And the Washington Post doesn't do planning, I don't think.
Q: General, did you say all the Apache helicopters would be there by this weekend? And if so, do you still estimate it could take a month from then before they're all put into action?
Major General Wald: No, I didn't. I said they would be there by the end of the week, and when the commander in place, the JTF commander and General Clark, decide they're ready to get into the engagement, they will. I can't speculate on when that is. I don't want to talk about things in the future or when we're going to take off, what target we're going to hit. So that will be up to the commander. But they should be there the end of the week, and when they're ready to fly, they'll fly.
Q: When they get there, will they be operational? Will they be ready to go?
Major General Wald: They're operational right now.
Q: Are they flying under their own power then from Germany?
Major General Wald: Yes, they are.
Q: About the Serb aircraft used either against the KLA or the civilian population, what kinds? They have several kinds of aircraft in their inventory they can use for these kinds of roles. What parts of Kosovo, and how often? And how recent?
Major General Wald: I think it was mentioned earlier, there have been reports as recently as this week. The type of aircraft that they would use that I understand are -- there's one called a Galeb, a Super Galeb, which is a fixed wing air-to-ground aircraft of not real new vintage, but it's the same type of aircraft that were shot down in Bosnia in 1994. And also Hind helicopters, which are Soviet built air-to-ground helicopters. They have some other type, Orao and some other Galebs that they could use. But once again, they're short of fuel. We're taking them out on the ground.
And once again, as Mr. Bacon I think mentioned, when we're doing this campaign, we're taking out the runway; we're taking out aircraft on the ground, as I showed earlier, taking away their munitions and their sustainability. So it's not just going against aircraft in the air.
Early on in the campaign, there were several MiG-29s and MiG-21s shot down, and since then they've been a little more careful.
Q: Are you seeing mostly helicopters being used?
Major General Wald: I wouldn't even speculate on "mostly." It's either one.
Q: Even though these flights may not be numerous, shouldn't you see them coming up on AWACS and be able to shoot them down?
Major General Wald: Once again, it depends on the time of where the surveillance is, where they're flying. As you know, it's hilly terrain. It's their home court, by the way, too. So they don't have to fly very far sometimes, and they can terrain mask, but they're at great risk when they do this. But I can't say that we see everything that happens over there all the time.
Q: General, you've been using the word "weeks" more frequently in the last few days - some time to get the Reservists in line, a couple of weeks to get these container lifters over there. What does that mean? Have you gotten any assessment of how long this may go on?
Major General Wald: I don't have any assessment of how long it will go on, but I will say it's probably an indicator of our resolve that we're going to see this through to the end.
Q: General, back to Task Force HAWK for a minute. If I understood correctly, the ships that Mr. Bacon mentioned that are leaving here in the next few days are in support of Task Force HAWK?
Major General Wald: They'll be in support of the full theater mission, whatever it takes.
Q: So the operations of Task Force HAWK aren't going to be limited by the fact that those vessels aren't there yet.
Major General Wald: No, not a bit.
Q: General, do you have any indication that these Yugoslav aircraft are flying anywhere near the concentrations of refugees you've shown?
Major General Wald: I don't have any indication of that whatsoever. I suspect they could. I don't know. But I don't have any indication of that.
One more question.
Q: Would you call this refugee, internally displaced refugee situation in some cases, at least, ethnic cleansing by deprivation?
Major General Wald: That's hard for me to make that definition. I know there's ethnic cleansing going on, and the atrocities that Milosevic [is] incurring upon his civilian population is almost beyond my belief. I'll leave it with that.
Q: Ken, you said earlier that the helicopters, and the Galebs of course, are low flying aircraft, and as you said, we haven't been able to get them. Is that partly due to any reluctance on the part of NATO aircraft to fly low because of heavy anti-aircraft fire?
Mr. Bacon: I think that our record of not talking about the altitude at which our planes fly is well established, and I won't break the pattern today. What I will say is that obviously we do, as we move more forces into the area, bring more forces to the fight, and do more to suppress his air defenses, we will be able to get at these forces that we haven't already eliminated. But as General Wald pointed out, it's not always easy to hit helicopters that fly close to the earth in hilly terrain.
Q: Ken, could you define again, I'm not sure I understood, this mixed convoy that was hit and possibly hit refugees. There were military vehicles at the beginning and military vehicles at the end, and in between were only refugees?
Mr. Bacon: I don't know that to be a fact. I had a very brief conversation with General Clark during this briefing. I think this is the type of information that will come out in the course of his review. As I said, he thinks he may have some film of this, and if so, that will shed some light on exactly what the composition was, but my understanding was that there was a convoy of military vehicles and in the middle there were some civilian vehicles. But I think we should wait until we get the full review.
Q: Do you know what sort of weapons were used against them? Precision, near precision, cluster?
Mr. Bacon: I don't. I think all this will come out. I didn't ask General Clark about that.
Q:... how long this review would take? Are we talking hours...
Mr. Bacon: He was hoping to get film on this relatively quickly, if we have it.
Q: Based on what you know now, which is more than when we first started the briefing, what's your assessment of the Yugoslav charges that in fact these up to 70 refugees were killed by NATO airstrikes? Do you simply not believe it now? What's your assessment?
Mr. Bacon: My assessment is we ought to wait for the review to be complete.
Q: Yesterday, you said you might have more details on the allegations about the rapes at the Yugoslav army training camp in Dakovica. Do you have any more you can tell us about that?
Mr. Bacon: We have more reports on that basically from the same source we had before. But other than that, we don't have new information.
Q: The same single source?
Mr. Bacon: Yes. I'm talking about the Dakovica army camp. But we clearly have new commentaries about rape being used. The British defense minister has spoken about that; we had a story in the paper; there have been stories in the British press as well that have been based on interviews with refugees coming into Albania primarily. There's a lot of reporting coming out about various problems taking place, and I actually have excerpts that I can give you based on refugee reports from people coming from the village of Lovce in southeast Kosovo, very near the Macedonian border, about attacks there against men by a group called Arkan's Tigers. I think Arkan is called Arkan because his real name is virtually unpronounceable to Americans. But it's Zeljko Raznjatovic. You can get those back there that are excerpted from reports we've gotten from interviews with refugees that give you sort of a flavor of the types of atrocities that are taking place including Serbians coloring their cars to resemble journalists' cars. I wasn't aware that journalists had specially colored cars in Kosovo, but maybe this is a journalistic invention that has escaped us here.
Q: Can you give us some feeling for when you think the review of the 300 aircraft will be complete, and when you think into the public domain the Reservist numbers are likely to come out?
Mr. Bacon: Several days.
Q: Tomorrow? Not necessarily?
Mr. Bacon: Well, tomorrow would be included in several days, but I would guess it would be, I guess both would be closer to the end of the week or over the weekend.
Q: You said yesterday, I think, that it's estimated that the cost, the additional cost of this is about $3 to $4 billion. Can you give us any idea what that money is basically for? Is it mostly for munitions? There are certain obviously fixed costs. What is the biggest additional cost that that money has to cover?
Mr. Bacon: Operations.
Q: Is it moving airplanes or jet fuel...
Mr. Bacon: It's fuel, it's imminent danger pay, hazardous danger pay; it's the marginal costs of operating at a higher tempo. Probably the next highest will be munitions, then after that there will be humanitarian costs, and there will probably be some costs in there to cover some of the marginal costs of DESERT FOX as well.
Q: Do you know when the supplemental will go over? Has it gone yet?
Mr. Bacon: I don't believe it has gone yet.
Q:...more than $4 billion?
Mr. Bacon: I'm learning that all numbers rise, so I think there's a good chance that it will be more than $4 billion. Every day we delay in sending it up it rises.
Q: Did you place all the Albanian and (inaudible) air force under strictly U.S. control? It was reported extensively in Europe.
Mr. Bacon: I'll get the answer to that question. I don't have it.
Q:...Bulgaria is cooperating with you in this military operation?
Mr. Bacon: I think I'll let the Bulgarians talk about their level of cooperation.
Q: Do you have independent confirmation of Ratko Mladic being apparently in Kosovo?
Mr. Bacon: I've heard the report on the radio, but I don't have any independent confirmation.
Q: Ken, has Operation NORTHERN WATCH been put on virtual hold because of...
Mr. Bacon: Operation NORTHERN WATCH is operating today.
Q: What is the independent evidence or confirmation we have that Serb either helicopters or fixed wing aircraft have been attacking KLA? What sort of evidence do we have of that?
Mr. Bacon: It basically comes from our internally generated evidence that I guess I can't describe. But we've had these reports really for the last couple of weeks, pretty much from the beginning of this operation, that this was happening.
Primarily against KLA strongholds, so you could gather that some of the reports are from KLA sources. But the report that we have today, the possible use of Yugoslav aircraft against civilians, was from a U.N. source.
Q: Are there indications that this is continuing? Or that this might not be happening now but was happening earlier?
Mr. Bacon: It's always been episodic. We don't have reports that it's happening every day, but that doesn't mean it isn't. The reports are episodic actions.
Q: You said the budget numbers are rising. Can you give us a new range of what the price tag might be?
Mr. Bacon: No.
Q: There was a story today from NATO asking neighboring states to voluntarily cooperate in not sending oil supplies to Yugoslavia, and reports that a tanker may have docked at a Montenegran port as recently as early April. Is there a reason if you're bombing a country you can't simply stop ships from arriving at that port?
Mr. Bacon: I'm not aware that there is a reason, and certainly that's one of the things we're looking at. It's what we would do to interdict oil supplies that might be coming into Yugoslavia.
Q: Can you just be clear, has the comptroller of the Pentagon come down with his or her supplemental request yet?
Mr. Bacon: I don't think I'm going to say anything more about costs until we have the final package done.
Q: Referring to the chart of the villages that have been razed and the populations driven out, is there any indication of the method to the Serbians' ethnic cleansing? Are there quite a number of villages that have left behind, or some that could be explained by the ethnic composition or anything else?
Mr. Bacon: They don't share their ethnic brutality plans with us, but looking at the chart, their method seems to be pretty complete.
Press: Thank you.