|DoD Newsbriefing: Friday, May 3, 2002|
DoD Newsbriefing: Friday, May 3, 2002
Source: News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense. DoD News Briefing: Victoria Clarke ASD (PA), Friday, May 3, 2002 - 10:30 a.m. EDT. Also participating was Air Force Brigadier General John W. Rosa, Jr., deputy director for current operations, Operations Directorate, the Joint Staff.
Clarke: Good morning everybody. I really don't have any opening remarks. I just wanted to add my comments to the secretary and others that have talked about May being Military Appreciation Month. And there are so many incredible people in uniform who do hard, dangerous work every single day. And I, like a lot of people, appreciate what they do.
So with that ... Sir.
Rosa: Thank you. In Afghanistan, coalition forces are operating along the border with Pakistan under Operation Mountain Lion searching for al Qaeda and former Taliban while also trying to prevent the enemy from regrouping, moving and operating freely in this region as we eliminate their sanctuaries.
At Guantanamo Bay, we now have a total of 331 detainees in the new detention facility, which we call Camp Delta.
Question: Camp who?
And with that, we'll take your questions.
Question: Torie, are either the Army's inspector general or the Pentagon inspector general investigating the Army's conduct in connection with the intended cancellation of --
Question: -- Crusader.
Clarke: The Army inspector general does have an investigation underway. I think it is probably some days away before we have something back.
Question: Could you tell us what they're looking at? I know you don't go into details about such inspections, but the fact that it's been said that they were looking into -- they were looking -- you were looking into it, you're talking about the memo that went over to the Hill, the action in with that?
Clarke: I honestly can't tell you what's going into what the Army IG is doing, but I can tell you, we're confident that Secretary White and the IG will get to the bottom of any inappropriate behavior. And we're also confident that --
Question: (Off mike.)
Clarke: -- Anyone who may be responsible for inappropriate behavior will be held accountable. And, you know it might be worth talking a little bit about what expectations are in terms of behavior. Now around here, when an issue is under discussion or under review -- fully, fully expect people to speak out forcefully, to speak out smartly, to make their case. But when the decision has been reached, the expectations are that you will support that. And that's what we expect. And that's what I think we'll see.
Question: And you're talking about including any situation where a tentative decision has been announced?
Clarke: When a decision has been reached, people are expected to support it.
Question: Had a decision been reached in this case?
Clarke: Well, I'll tell you what I can tell you. What happened was, as I think Pete Aldridge went into it some yesterday, and the secretary went into it a little bit. The deputy secretary did ask Secretary White to come back within 30 days with a program, with a plan that would terminate the Crusader and invest the funds in other technologies that would have a lot of benefits across the board.
So, that is what we ask them to do. What happened after that is still to be determined. Who talked to whom, who did what, those are the kinds of things I'm sure the IG will look into.
Question: Torie, I listened to the IG. The secretary seemed to indicate that he or someone in his office was also looking into this. Is there some effort on his part?
Clarke: I think he just meant "we" in the sense that we're all on the same team around here.
Question: So it's just the IG, the Army the IG? Okay.
Clarke: Yeah, mmm hmm.
Question: Torie, is it the expectation that the Army IG is actually also going to be looking at Army Secretary White's role in all of this and his conduct?
Clarke: I really can't talk to you about the Army IG. I just don't know.
Question: Has the Secretary showed he has full confidence in Secretary White?
Clarke: He has full confidence that they will get to the bottom of this, get to the bottom of any inappropriate behavior and if those who are responsible for inappropriate behavior. We'll discover that -- then they will be held accountable. Pam?
Question: You say that this decision has already been made, and therefore everyone is expected to support it, but [based] on what Secretary Aldridge said yesterday ... is that the decision has not been made, that this is simply one of a piece of things done in the defense planning guidance that --
Clarke: Let me clarify what I meant by a decision. Secretary White was asked by the deputy to come back in 30 days with a plan that will terminate the Crusader and find ways to invest the funds in other ways that could benefit a wide variety of services -- really move transformation forward, -- make the best use of the taxpayers' dollars. That was communicated clearly the other day.
And we fully expect that that would be supported.
Question: And what happened that doesn't seem to support that?
Clarke: Well --
Question: It seems that that effort could go forward while also --
Clarke: Some time after -- and I'm going to be very careful here for the obvious reasons -- but sometime after the deputy met with Secretary White and communicated what we would like to have happen, there were people making comments. There were talking points and facts sheets being sent around that did not support that direction. And I'll just leave it at that for now.
Question: Going back to Afghanistan, according to the Washington Post ... now (about) the al Qaeda and Taliban who left from Afghanistan into Pakistan -- now Pakistan is considering, however, pushing them back into Afghanistan. So, what is the future if they come back to again reorganize or regrouping in Afghanistan? That will be threat to the next or new democratically elected government?
Rosa: I had not seen that report. Our mission remains the same in Afghanistan -- it's to locate the Taliban, former
Taliban and al Qaeda -- either destroy or capture them. When
they come -- if they come back, like you allege, they'll be there to find one way or the other, but that's not going to alter what we're doing now.
Question: And if I may follow? One more on Nepal: Nepal's prime minister will be in town on Monday. One, is he meeting with the secretary of Defense? And two, they are -- there is some kind of military-to-military relationship between the U.S. and Nepal or Nepal is taking some kind of assistance -- military assistance and training to combat terrorism in the -- marsh terrorism in Nepal.
Clarke: I'm not aware of a meeting that's scheduled, but we can take that one for you.
[The prime minister of Nepal may come to the Pentagon next week while he is in Washington. The details of such a visit are being worked out. The U.S. and Nepal have a long-standing military-to-military relationship, mostly focused on peacekeeping operations and exercises. An assessment team from U.S. Pacific Command recently visited Nepal to assist that government in determining its military assistance needs in light of the threat posed by Maoist insurgents there.]
Question: General, with the buildup of troops in Eastern Afghanistan and the new Operation Snipe there with the Brits, you've been hesitant in the past to characterize al Qaeda there. Can today you give us a picture of what al Qaeda looks like in Eastern Afghanistan?
Rosa: I truly cannot. Operation Snipe -- I think we need to put it into context -- is a part of Operation Mountain Lion. It's not separate; it's not independent. Operation Snipe, primarily led by the British commandos is, falls under, and is part of Operation Mountain Lion. They still report to Major General Hagenbeck, like the rest of the coalition forces. That is British-led. There are Americans, other forces in with them, and their mission is the same as the overall mission of Mountain Lion.
Question: Have you seen contacts or has their been contact with the enemy in recent days?
Rosa: To my knowledge, there's nothing.
Question: Is Operation Mountain Lion particularly along that eastern border being coordinated with Indian forces on the other side of the border?
Rosa: With who? (Murmurs, muffled laughter.)
Question: With -- I'm sorry -- with Pakistan -- (inaudible) -- from the other side of the border?
Clarke: We would have news! (Laughter.)
Rosa: That would be news.
We're coordinating and working every day, hand in hand, with the Pakistani forces.
Question: And are they -- are they mobilizing their forces in a way that would be in support of Mountain Lion?
Rosa: We'd have to talk to the Pakistanis -- let them characterize their actions. I can't really speak for them.
Clarke: Let's go way in the back.
Question: Torie, just a couple of points on -- going back to acquisition. On Crusader, is it safe to say no decision has been made and no decision has been imminent -- no decision is about to be made immediately -- say, in the next week?
Clarke: I don't know what your decision is, your definition of "immediately" is, but what is clear is what I've said -- is we've asked for the plan back within 30 days that says "This is what we do. We would terminate Crusader and we would look at other ways to invest these funds that could have real benefits across the board, not only for the Army, to improve land power, but also for other services as well." There are some Crusader-like technologies that evidently show a lot of promise, such as digitization. So that's what we're asking for, and that's where it stands right now.
Question: Torie --
Question: And number two, as far as --
Clarke: I'm sorry.
Question: There was a mention yesterday -- Aldridge -- let me see if I have this straight -- that you're looking at changing the way defense contractors are paid, where right now the system favors a defense contractor having more facilities, because even if they're not particularly necessary, that gets cranked into their fees, their facility fees, and it increases the amount that they're paid. And the Pentagon now is looking at possibly changing the fee to remove this incentive, so that contractors don't have an incentive to keep excess facilities in operation, so that they can run up the contract.
Clarke: Mm-hmm. I can't add to much what Pete Aldridge said, other than to emphasize the intent, and the intent is to make sure we get maximum value for every one of the taxpayers' hard-earned dollars. And we're doing that across the board. You know, very often, especially from up here, when we talk about transformation, we're talking about equipment or the way that we're organized, the way we train. But it is also about bringing the financial management systems into the 21st century. It's also about finding ways to get maximum value for the dollar, like Pete was talking about yesterday. So we think it's very, very important, and pushing very hard on that front.
Question: Torie --
Clarke: Just -- Tom, then come back.
Question: Torie, you probably know that the Chinese side, after the secretary's meeting with Vice President Hu, said that the two sides had agreed to a resumption of a regular mil-to-mil relationship or regular talks. Afterwards, were you comfortable with the way that the Chinese side characterized that meeting and the decisions that were made there?
Clarke: My understanding is, they had a discussion a wide range of issues, on defense and security matters, including proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which is something we often talk about with them, and military-to-military contacts. My understanding of the agreement was that they would have their representatives get together to talk about future military-to-military cooperation.
Question: And so you would --
Clarke: And I'd also -- I'd just push back slightly -- I don't know if it was your characterization or theirs -- we have continued to have military-to-military contacts. They've tended to be conferences, attending meetings, the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement, those sorts of things -- just that we have been treating them on a case-by-case basis.
Question: But there was a suggestion that the DCT [Defense Consultative Talks consultations, for example, were going to resume, you know, as a result of that, and that -- are you saying that's not correct or --
Clarke: As much as I know, the action item, or the primary action item, that came out of it was the agreement to have the representatives get together and talk about how we proceed on military to military.
Question: Torie, back to Crusader just for a minute. So to be perfectly clear, no matter what that 30-day memo said, the memo Secretary White sent back, as far as Secretary Rumsfeld is concerned, Crusader should be killed?
Clarke: I -- you know, I will just keep repeating what I said before. What we have asked to have done -- and maybe if I back up and give a little explanation as to why that request was made. You've got the '03 budget, you have the '04 planning process. And as you continue to work through the '04 planning process and get more information, and more information about the Crusader and alternatives and technologies have come to light, it's become apparent that proceeding with the funding for the Crusader could delay, stall, prevent the funding of a lot of promising technologies that could really benefit a lot more than just the Army -- technologies that could also benefit the Army and land power in a very meaningful way. So that's why the request was made.
If you -- I'll just leave it at that.
Question: Okay. Can I ask General Rosa quickly, what you're seeing in terms of evidence of any sort of al Qaeda buildup or any enemy buildup in Afghanistan that was there, say, two, three weeks ago?
Rosa: We're not seeing anything different than we've seen in the past.
Question: With spring ... nothing new?
Rosa: Haven't. The snow is melting. We thought it would be a much more active time. But that's not to say that that won't happen.
Question: Torie, again for General Rosa. A general question again back on Afghanistan. Could you just outline what you might expect over the next few days? And also, have the forces, coalition forces, come under any sort of attack like in Khost? And then I have a specific question.
Rosa: Okay. Trying to predict in that region of the world what will happen is difficult. But as we surveil and accomplish reconnaissance, look for folks, when we come upon them, we'll handle them according with the rules of engagement and what we find. So it's difficult to predict what will happen.
We did experience a couple -- I think it was three to four rocket rounds in the Khost vicinity. And as we've said before, those are difficult to determine (from) where that came . Is it factional -- because the factions are pretty intense in that area. Was it criminal? Was it al Qaeda? We don't know. It's fortunate that none of our folks were injured.
Question: And the specific question, the Army's 18th Airborne Command Staff is being sent to Afghanistan. Why is that? And is that a precursor of maybe the 82nd Airborne might be going?
Rosa: I don't really want to address who's going to be where, but I can tell you that that's a consideration. Right now there are no plans to send the 82nd Airborne to Afghanistan.
Question: When you say it's a consideration, what's different with their --
Question: But it's a consideration?
Rosa: We -- we leave all of our options open. For me to stand here and say that no, they'll never be there -- but right now I can tell you that there are no plans.
Question: Can I follow up on that, please?
Rosa: Yes, (Mark ?).
Question: When you said, however, it's a consideration, is that not a regular troop rotation? Are you talking -- when you say -- is the consideration actually to send them in as an additional force to what is already there, is that what you're meaning to say?
Rosa: If they went in, the 18th Airborne Corps -- it would be a headquarters-type facility.
Question: I think they've already gotten their orders to go, the 18th Airborne Command people.
Question: When you said "that's a consideration" -- and then you said that there are no plans to send the 82nd Airborne, were you -- your statement, "that's a consideration" -- was that referencing back to the consideration to send the 82nd?
Rosa: No. No. I would not draw or infer that that's a possibility.
Question: What's the consideration you were referring to?
Rosa: I'm considering that everything is open, on the table. And if General Franks decides and thinks he needs certain forces, we'll keep that open.
Question: Can I follow up on another point? When you say there's been no changes in the last couple of weeks, aren't you guys a little curious? I mean, where do you think the al Qaeda is? Well, you've talked about they're in small groups; but if you have a thousand troops roaming through eastern Afghanistan and they're not finding anyone, they're not really seeing anybody, where are the al Qaeda? Have they gone back across the border into Pakistan? Or are they maybe just all dead? Are they not there? What's your assessment?
Rosa: Hard to determine where they are. You say we have a thousand troops, and those numbers vary. But in that part of the country, it's a pretty vast, open area. A thousand troops really aren't very many people in that rugged terrain in that part of the country. But to tell you exactly, again, what we're seeing and where we're seeing them, I think we'd be remiss to do that from up here.
Question: General, if there's been no substantive engagements even with small groups of al Qaeda in weeks and weeks and weeks, certainly none that we've heard about, where are these people?
Clarke: I would just say I think it is almost exactly what we said you could expect going forward. If you go back to the earliest days and weeks of the military action, which started almost seven months ago, we said there would be periods in which you'd see a lot of military action, there would be periods in which you'd see very little military action. Clearly, we've made it harder for them to operate. Clearly, they've realized that getting together in large groups is not a smart idea. But I think this is almost exactly what we predicted, the kinds of levels of activity we would see.
Question: Do you think they're still communicating? Do they have any ability to communicate?
Clarke: I think we've degraded it.
Rosa: To say again -- you've asked that question probably five times --
Rosa: -- And I don't think I've given you a good answer, because you wouldn't keep asking it. (Laughter.)
Clarke: (Laughs.) Yes, they would!
Question: Sort of true.
Rosa: But they still have an ability to communicate. To which degree, I don't know. But to be so naive as to think that they cannot communicate between one another, I think we'd be remiss. Are they as effective as they were when we began this campaign? I think not.
Question: How many people do you now have in detention in Afghanistan? And is the intention to move all of them or some of them, most of them, to Guantanamo Bay?
Rosa: We've got -- let me check the figures. We've got 224 in Afghanistan today. And the second part of your question is, are we going to move them?
Question: Is that the intention, to move most or all of them to Guantanamo Bay? Or any of them?
Rosa: We don't really talk about plans for detainees, what we're going to do and where they're going to go or individual movements. We just don't do that.
Clarke: And there isn't one intention for all of them. We've said all along we have no intention and no desire to keep large numbers of them for any great period of time. Some will go back to the country of origin. You know, different processes for different ones. But just in terms of managing expectations, we will be moving them around, and we probably are going to get out of the daily tick- tock of exactly how many in each place, because half the time we'd be behind schedule and not be able to give you an absolutely accurate number. And it's just not useful for people to have -- or safe -- for people to have a lot of information about who exactly is where and when are they moving.
Let's go to Jim, and then back there.
Question: You mentioned a rocket attack near Khost. Was that today? And can you give more details, the target --
Rosa: (To staff) Do we have the date? I want to say it was the 2nd.
STAFF: Second of May.
Rosa: Second of May.
Question: And what did it hit?
Rosa: I can't tell you what it hit. It hit in the vicinity of the Khost airfield. I don't know what particularly it hit. We have some troops in that Khost area, but fortunately, none of our folks were injured.
Question: Were others injured?
Rosa: Don't know.
Clarke: Let's go back here. Yes, sir?
Question: What do you say on Japanese support in the war against terrorism so far? Did leadership of this building specifically request Japanese government P-3 and Aegis destroyers?
Clarke: You know, being in the region last week, we were constantly reminded about one of the great strengths of this effort; that's been the support of so many different countries, including Japan. Very quickly after September 11th, they stepped up to the plate and really pitched in in terms of support for the coalition. It includes some airlift capability. I believe we've got two destroyers and one oiler in the Northern Arabian Sea. It's been very helpful, it has been very useful in the war. Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz has met recently with some of the Japanese leaders, and I believe Doug Feith is meeting with some today, and they're having discussions about how to continue that kind of participation, which has been so wonderful.
And you're right, Aegis ships and some P-3 aircraft are the things -- some of the things under consideration that we think would be helpful.
I'm sorry, go ahead.
Question: Is it a request or just saying it's helpful?
Clarke: I was not in the meeting, so I don't know exactly the tick-tock of the conversation, but I know we have expressed the views that those things -- those kinds of things would be helpful, in addition to everything that was already done.
Question: Torie, I came in a little late, so excuse me if this has already been asked. But on this Army "talking points," can you clarify whether Secretary Rumsfeld asked Secretary White to have the Army IG look into the circumstances surrounding the document?
Clarke: My understanding is that Secretary White initiated the Army IG investigation.
Question: Now, can I follow up? The Army IG -- traditionally, those reports are not released to the public; the Army has traditionally not given them up. Can we get some assurance from you that whatever they come up with will be released, given the gravity of the situation and the fact that it involves defending a multi-billion-dollar weapons program?
Clarke: I can't do it right now, but we can take the question and we'll look into it, see what we can do.
Question: (Off mike) -- If you can, just look.
Question: The whole issue of can they investigate themselves will also come up, you know, properly investigate charges against officials.
Question: Taking another crack at what Charlie asked earlier about the secretary's confidence in Secretary White, clearly, Secretary White, with all of these investigations going on, is under something of a cloud. What is Secretary Rumsfeld's view on how effectively he can operate as the secretary of the Army right now, that he can actually fulfill his duties, given all that's going on?
Clarke: It's Secretary Rumsfeld's views right now, and I'm just not going to stand up here and characterize them. I think it's obvious, from what Secretary Rumsfeld said yesterday, from Pete Aldridge's comments, from my comments today, that we take these things very, very seriously.
There are a few very, very important issues here, if you draw back from it, and the one is the absolute imperative that we transform the military. If people haven't figured out over the last seven months how important it is to move quickly to transform the military so it can really face and address and overcome the kinds of threats we're facing, then they've just been asleep.
Secondly, the kind of priority and emphasis we've put on taking great care with the taxpayers' dollars -- that is money they've worked hard to make and we want to make sure we get, you know, every nickel that we can out of them.
So we take these issues very, very seriously.
And then also, I -- trust me -- I am in a lot of these meetings and I know the clear direction is, when you've got an issue in play, you argue your case, you make you case, you make it very, very forcefully, you speak up; you do everything possible to advance your part of the issue. When a decision has been reached, direction has been given, you're expected to support it. So I'll just leave it at that.
Question: So did this --
Clarke: I'm sorry. Let's go to Alex.
Question: I'd like to go back, General, to your comments about troop movements or -- (inaudible) -- being deployed. Currently, how many troops do we have, roughly, in Afghanistan itself?
Rosa: We have -- and it varies day-to-day and week-to-week. Right now, we have about 7,000.
Question: Is there some consideration, to back to your phrase, to increasing that by -- (inaudible) -- additional troops, or would that be in the way of replacing troops?
Rosa: Right now I see no increase or plan to increase troops. As you know, we have continued to rotate. We rotated the 10th Mountain Division. We've got the 101st in there. And there will be normal rotations. But right now there are no plans that I've seen to do any kind of increase of troop strength.
Question: And then, following that connection and somewhat related to your response on the question of Japanese support, have we seen any slackening of allies' support or pressure from allies to sort of -- they want to pull back any of the forces that they have deployed, whether in Afghanistan itself or in the adjacent region?
Rosa: That's not my area of expertise, but I have seen or heard of none.
Question: So you're appealing to more than just Japan to stay the course?
Rosa: Yeah --
Clarke: The support -- I think we have -- in Tampa now we have 31 --
Rosa: Thirty-one liaisons.
Clarke: Thirty-one representatives -- liaisons from different countries. Again, we were really struck by it -- it became so apparent -- on the trip last week. You know, you'd see the French. You saw the Italians. You saw the Spanish. The level and consistency of support from so many different countries has been truly phenomenal.
Let's do Pam and then Brett, and we'll finish up here.
Question: On the Crusader decision, was there an opportunity for the Army to make those arguments before this decision was upon them? Did they have the opportunity, say, a month ago to go up to the Hill and start marshalling their resources, or was this something -- a decision made in OSD and sort of handed down to them?
Clake: My understanding is -- and I want to back up first -- let me say the Army and they -- it's probably not really accurate or fair to lump them all into one big group.
Question: (Off mike.)
Clarke: But having said that, it's an issue that's been under some discussion and consideration -- no secret to anyone here -- for quite some time.
Brett, last question.
Question: General, as these troops continue to sweep the caves and tunnels in Operation Mountain Lion, what are they seeing? Are they sweeping some of the tunnels they've been through before? Are they seeing new things? What are they seeing on the ground?
Rosa: We have not seen anything different than we've seen in the past -- caches of ammunition, some papers, some -- just regular pieces of -- bits and pieces of intel. I mean, we haven't found anything than we've talked about up here for -- probably for the last month.
The area -- I will say the area that the Snipe is conducting -- to my knowledge, we've not been in that area before. It's a little bit further south and east of where Anaconda took place, for example. And it's in that rugged terrain, and I don't believe we've had folks up there. So it'll be -- it'll be interesting to see what comes out of that.
Question: But to follow: In the places that we have been, is there evidence that al Qaeda fighters have been back in since we've left?
Rosa: I haven't seen any of that evidence.
Clarke: Thank you.
Rosa: Thank you.
Question: Can I just clarify on a sweep? It is in Afghanistan, though -- not in Pakistan.
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