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Military

08 July 2002

Transcript: Defense Department Briefing, July 8, 2002

(Joint U.S.-Afghan/investigation team, Afghanistan/assassination,
security/Afghanistan) (6970)
Pentagon Spokeswoman Victoria Clarke and Lieutenant General Gregory
Newbold, director of Operations for the staff of the Joint Chiefs
briefed reporters July 8 at the Pentagon.
Following is the Pentagon transcript:
(begin transcript)
U.S. Department of Defense News Transcript
Presenter: Victoria Clarke, ASD PA
Monday, July 8, 2002 - 12:30 P.M. EDT
DoD News Briefing - ASD PA Clarke and Lt. Gen. Newbold
(Also participating was Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, Director
of Operations, Joint Chiefs of Staff)
Clarke: Good morning, everybody.
As most of you know, the joint team of Afghan and American
investigators has completed the preliminary investigation into the
July 1 raid in Southern Afghanistan. We are now moving quickly to form
the team that will conduct the full investigation into the incident
and what caused the civilian casualties. Within 24 to 48 hours, the
team is scheduled to be in Bagram to begin the investigation. This is
a very early sketch, but right now, the U.S. membership on the team
will include an Air Force brigadier general as the head of it, Army,
Air Force and Navy participation, AC-130 experts and
forward-air-control experts. We have asked Chairman Karzai to appoint
an Afghan to the board and to oversee Afghan participation on the
investigation. The team will take as long as they need to tour the
site, interview villagers, pilots, forward air controllers and Special
Forces and to as thorough as possible a job on the investigation.
There is a lot of ground to cover, but we will work hard to get as
many answers as possible. As we have said repeatedly, we go to
extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties and will continue
to do so going forward as we prosecute the war on terrorism. (Coughs.)
Excuse me.
Two points I'd like to cover here very briefly -- one on which we have
a great deal of certainty and one on which we don't. And first, we had
this region -- the region of the July 1 raid -- under surveillance for
several weeks prior to the operation. And the surveillance was
conducted by U.S. forces, coalition forces and Afghan forces working
together. And second, the issue of the number of civilian casualties
and civilians killed is much less clear. We knew they occurred, and we
regret every one of them. But we do not have hard and fast numbers
from what we have seen thus far.
What is not in doubt is our continuing and close cooperation with the
Afghan government and the Afghan people. We're working closely in a
joint effort to rid the country of the remaining pockets of al Qaeda
and Taliban, and we will continue that close cooperation until the job
is done.
General?
Newbold: Thank you, Ms. Clarke.
I have just a couple of quick comments. As you would imagine, our
operations in Afghanistan continue. We still have a significant and
viable mission there. Over the weekend, we found another arms cache.
You'll remember that we found several last week of significant size.
This weekend, in a small town north of Kandahar, our forces found a
cache that included 29 of the shoulder-fired anti-air missiles of
various makes, and we're glad to have recovered them, obviously. And I
would reinforce the comments that Ms. Clarke made on the loss of life.
That's all I have.
Clarke: Charlie?
Q: Torie, you said that the United States strives to avoid civilian
casualties and will do so going forward. Given the fact that these
airstrikes may be becoming counterproductive, is there any intent to
cut back on the air cover or cut back on the use of air power or
airstrikes in Afghanistan now?
And in the wake of the killing of the vice president, does the United
States and the Pentagon maintain -- maintain -- its opposition to
putting U.S. troops in ISAF (International Security Assistance Force)?
Clarke: Let me do the first part. I disagree with the premise of your
question. If you look at what has happened in Afghanistan since last
October -- military operations started on October 7th -- the success,
working with the Afghan people, working with the Afghan transitional
government, has been extraordinary. The military results have been
extraordinary. I don't think anybody in this room this time last year
-- I'm sorry -- October, November, this time last year would say that
you could have expected these kinds of results -- I mean, the
overthrow of the Taliban government, severely disrupting and degrading
the ability of the al Qaeda to operate in the country. The results
have been extraordinary.
And although civilian casualties have occurred, as they always do in
military conflicts, they have been quite low. Every one of those
casualties is a tragedy -- every single one of them -- and we regret
the loss of every life. We regret the injury of every innocent
civilian. But overall, the results have been pretty extraordinary.
In terms of what we use -- and the general can help me on this one --
in terms of what we use, it depends on the circumstances, depends on
what we think is appropriate. As I said, we will go to extraordinary
lengths to avoid civilian casualties. This area had been under
surveillance for a long time -- several weeks, at the least. And it
had been under surveillance by us, by coalition forces and by Afghan
forces.
So we've gone to extraordinary lengths. We will continue to go to
extraordinary lengths. And we'll use the means and the tools and
tactics that we think are appropriate at different times.
Q: But given the fact that you're dealing with smaller and smaller
numbers of al Qaeda and Taliban, and you're often striking them at
night from the air, don't incidents like the killing of the Canadian
troops and this incident, this recent incident -- isn't that
counterproductive? Doesn't that give you such bad publicity that
people question whether the U.S. military should still be there?
Clarke: Well, I think what matters is the overall results and the fact
that we do go to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties,
and the fact that when these sorts of things do occur, the first thing
we do is get together with the Afghan government, get together with
Chairman Karzai, and figure out what's the right approach going
forward. I think it is extraordinary, in the short period of time, the
efforts that have been put forward already. I mean, within 24 or 48
hours, we will have a team, with Afghan participation, on the ground,
doing a full investigation into what happened and trying to prevent
these sorts of things from happening.
Q: So to make a long story short, you don't intend to cut back the air
cover or these airstrikes.
Clarke: We intend to use whatever tools and tactics we think are
appropriate at different times.
Newbold: To restate the obvious, of course we conduct airstrikes in
response to enemy action, and we also use them to protect our troops.
We have to strike a balance between accomplishing the mission and
taking prudent steps to ensure that we minimize any unintended
effects. But to negate one of our principal tools arbitrarily, of
course, would expose Afghan and the U.S. and coalition forces to
jeopardy I'm not sure we want to put them in.
Clarke: And on your second point, in terms of the assassination, this
is a country that has been in turmoil and at conflict and at war for
some 30 years. It's a country trying to come out of that, with our
assistance, and trying to move toward some long- term stability. But
there are going to be problems. There are still places that are quite
dangerous, as evidence of that happening. Chairman Karzai is starting
his own investigation. He has said if he wants it or feels he needs
it, he will reach out and ask for assistance on that investigation.
I'm sure if asked, we would provide it.
What we are about, one of our main missions, is to try to help the
country achieve long-term stability and security. We are helping in
many different ways, including the formation and the training of the
Afghan national army. The last time we were in Afghanistan and
secretary Rumsfeld met with Chairman Karzai, in the press briefing
afterwards, talking about in the broadest sense achieving this long-
term stability and security, it was Chairman Karzai who acknowledged
that the best use of the U.S. resources in terms of that objective was
to focus on the Afghan national army. You also have others working on
the ISAF. You have the Germans working on the police force. So there
are a lot of efforts that are all pointed toward that objective, but
it's going to take time. And bad things will happen.
Q: But this (inaudible) and this administration is still opposed to
U.S. troops in ISAF. Is that correct?
Clarke: We are supporting the efforts toward long-term stability and
security for Afghanistan in many, many different ways, including being
the quick-reaction force for the ISAF as is necessary, including
providing some intel, medical, logistical support. We're also devoting
considerable resources to the standing up of the Afghan national army.
We're also working with and encouraging the Turks, who are about to
take over. So we're doing a variety of things to help in that regard.
Q: But not putting U.S. troops in ISAF?
Clarke: We're doing many, many things to contribute to the long-term
security of the place.
Q: Is the secretary considering, Torie, in view of the comments that
have been made over the weekend by prominent members of Congress that
more needs to be done to ensure security and long-term stability of
the government there, is the secretary considering other ways that
that could be done, or responding to those comments?
Clarke: Well, what we're going to do is continue what we have done,
which is work closely with Chairman Karzai and the transitional
government. The best way to achieve what we all want, which is
long-term security and stability for the country -- and believe me,
that is very much one of our objectives -- is to work with the Afghan
people themselves, to work with the Afghan government and work through
these issues and do what they think is best for their country. We can
help. We can assist. We cannot do it for them.
Q: Stick to the same approach is what you're saying?
Clarke: Which is very, very close coordination.
Q: Over the weekend, though, after meeting with some of the villagers
at Kakarak and I believe the other village that was struck by the
AC-130 in which civilians were killed, Lieutenant General McNeill told
reporters that villagers there wanted some kind of U.S. military
presence or security and McNeill said that it would be in, quote, "our
best interests," unquote, to do that. Is that being considered, and
would not that be an expansion or modification of the U.S. role there,
to provide some kind of security force for NGOs and locals?
Clarke: (Inaudible.)
Newbold: A couple of comments. Valid question. I would point out that
-- in fact, I would connect it to the previous question that the
long-term stability in Afghanistan will take far more than just
military means. And training the Afghan army is a centerpiece of that
toward providing security, but certainly there are others as well. As
all of you know, Central Command and the forces in Afghanistan on a
daily basis conduct humanitarian actions to help the Afghan people.
There are -- other organizations do that as well, non- governmental
organizations. They will do that as we can provide a safe and secure
environment, coalition, U.S. and Afghan forces. It's those kind of
operations that we're doing in the area, as a matter of fact, that led
to this incident. What General McNeill was referring to is the fact
that he envisions providing more forces in there that can provide the
kind of stable environment and humanitarian assistance, not only from
the U.S. but from allies, to bring benefits and long-term stability to
Oruzgon Province.
Clarke: Humanitarian assistance, civil assistance, that was -- my
understanding of the report from General McNeill is that was a big
part of the discussion. This was an area where we had not been. We had
not had a presence in terms of humanitarian assistance or the kind of
civil affairs work that is going on in lots of other parts of the
country, which contributes to long-term security. So, one of the good
things that has come out of the last couple of days was this
discussion and agreement that a U.S. presence there, specifically with
regards to humanitarian/civil affairs support would be very helpful.
Q: And has the decision been made to increase the U.S. military
presence in that heavily Pashtun, pro-Taliban region?
Clarke: I believe a decision has been reached to try to work out ways
that the U.S. presence could be there, assisting on the humanitarian
and the civil affairs front.
Q: Numbers?
Clarke: No. Too soon.
Q: Two questions. General Newbold, could you explain what you meant
when you said those kinds of operations -- it was those kinds of
operations that led to this incident? You just said that it was the
civil humanitarian. Was there preparatory work being done, and that's
why the surveillance team was in there?
And Torie, could you explain how, if these villages were under
surveillance for several weeks, why people didn't know that a wedding
was being planned, why people didn't know that these houses were
occupied by, I think, you know, at least a couple of hundred people,
which would've maybe -- had they known that, called in a different
sort of response -- maybe not sending aircraft over where anti-
aircraft artillery is and getting you into that situation?
Newbold: As far as my statement, you can characterize one of the
methodology -- the operating style that we used there is to assist in
providing a stable environment for organizations -- international,
Afghan and U.S. -- to move in to assist the local population. That, in
itself, creates a more stable environment, interest in the future and
moves Afghanistan on the path they're following.
That means security precedes humanitarian. And this operation worked
on that premise. So security moves in first; humanitarian follows. And
what General McNeill was referring to was the fact that, clearly, he
intends to move the kind of civil affairs and humanitarian forces down
there to do that.
Q: And that was the intention prior to the incident?
Newbold: It characterized the entire country, in fact -- not just this
operation.
Q: So this operation in advance of trying to cure this area and then
see if we could start moving aid in or -- (inaudible)?
Newbold: And as we mentioned here last week, this is -- a portion of
this province is known to have significant Taliban sympathies. So
that's part of the security operation -- to defuse that.
If I could offer, on your second question -- the way this operation
was conducted, essentially moving security in and reconnaissance in,
in concentric rings closer to the sites that were likely targets or to
be put under observation -- as they moved in -- very obvious the
amount of fire that was coming from the area -- as I mentioned last
week, on the ground, where there were several contacts with forces
there -- and against our aircraft, as they operated -- so this took
place with increasing intensity. Were they in position close enough to
see individuals in that compound from the ground up close enough to
know non-combatants? Obviously not, because as everybody here knows
and General McNeill pointed out, it is termed an accident for
precisely the reason that we struck people we didn't intend to.
Clarke: And I'd just add on and say, now, one thing we know, and one
thing we hope to know more of. The one thing we know is, as far back
as February, I believe, this area has been under surveillance. And
it's really important, I think, to underscore it was not just U.S.
surveillance. It was coalition forces; it was Afghan forces. It was
under surveillance for some time by all three parties. I think as the
full investigation gets underway, we'll have more information and more
precise information of the tick-tock of what happened leading up to
July 1.
Q: Okay, and just let me follow up on that. So this area was under
surveillance since February. What did you know about it, and what
didn't you know about it that made this incident possible? It seems
like -- if I told somebody, if I tell my mom, "Well, it was under
surveillance, et cetera," her question is going to be, "So why didn't
they know?" So why -- what kind of surveillance was it under? And what
did you know?
Clarke: Well, I -- I'll just repeat myself. What we knew is it's been
under surveillance for quite some time by the U.S. and the coalition
and the Afghan forces. I think the full investigation will give us
more details about what happened in the days leading up to the actual
operation. But that we do not have right now.
Q: Well, but it was --
Q: (Inaudible) -- of the group that night different than the previous
surveillance missions? And was the three to four hundred troops, was
that larger than previous surveillance missions?
Newbold: As you know, we provide surveillance in very small teams so
that they can be inconspicuous and operate clandestinely, because
they're at risk when they're in there. They're in such small groups
that their best defense is to be unobserved. Therefore, as they
develop their observations and intelligence in combination with
multiple intelligence means coming into us from Afghans, coalition and
our own means, then they bring in additional forces. So that first
phase is collection. The second phase is then to move additional
forces in. And as you also know, about half of the forces involved
were Afghan and coalition and additional (inaudible).
Q: Sir, what was their mission as they moved in? Was it to occupy this
area? Was it to -- what were they -- what were the three or four
hundred troops moving in to do?
Newbold: We've already described one, to bring some semblance of
stability there to establish a secure environment. An additional one,
there was sufficient intelligence to believe that there were some what
we would call high-value individuals that might be operating in the
area. That's a very important part of our mission, stated from our
first action in Afghanistan.
Q: Following on the, General, was there intelligence the Mullah
Mohammed Omar was in one of those villages?
Clarke: We haven't gone into specifics. I doubt we're going to go into
specifics about the intel that led this to be such an area of
interest.
Q: Okay (inaudible). (Laughter.) Secondly -- secondly, if I could
follow up, now that the preliminary report is done and there were no
anti-aircraft guns found, is it the belief that they were moved, or is
there now an analysis that perhaps the plane or planes were not fired
on by anti-aircraft guns?
Clarke: I'll repeat what General McNeill said. And maybe General
Newbold has more. But he says we have a fair amount of evidence from
both people on the ground and people who were in the planes of
anti-aircraft fire. Beyond that -- and I think he said this as
recently as yesterday or the day before -- we didn't have much
information. Right now.
Newbold: I don't think there's any question that our aircraft and our
forces on the ground were fired at. The investigation will determine
the detail of what specifically precipitated the strike, and we'll
defer to that when it's conducted.
Q: Did people on the ground see anti-aircraft guns firing at aircraft?
Newbold: Yes.
Q: Yes.
Clarke: Yes, sir?
Q: Has anyone reviewed the video from the AC-130? And does it provide
any information that would corroborate any of these initial accounts
of the events? Has anyone reviewed that video?
Clarke: I haven't seen it. People have seen it. And I think it's being
factored into this fuller investigation.
(To General Newbold) Is that right?
Newbold: There is a video. But I think the investigation will probably
study that with people that are experts in things like video from this
particular platform. But even then, the video has to be combined with
the things they learn on the ground by witness observers, et cetera.
Clarke: Yeah. And on that point, just trying to manage expectations on
this investigation, we are going to try to provide briefings as we can
of what the team finds as it goes along, but I'd just be willing to
bet that we're not going to pull up too many small pieces and say this
is significant or that is significant. I'd be willing to bet that
along the way, we'll probably be able to brief you somewhat on the
process, but in terms of content, they'll probably want to put a lot
of the pieces together.
Q: How long do you expect the investigation to take?
Clarke: I don't have a time on it. Just as long as it takes. There's a
lot they want to do. There are a lot of people they want to interview.
There are a lot of sites they want to visit. So, as long as it takes.
Q: Just to be clear, over the weekend General McNeill said that he
accepted for now, while the investigation was going on, the Afghan
figures of over 40 people killed, over a hundred injured. Do you
accept that those casualties took place, and not just that they took
place, but that they were the result of the U.S. airstrike? Are you at
that point yet?
Clarke: We're at the point where there were civilian casualties and
civilians killed as a result of this strike. We just don't have hard
and fast numbers.
Q: I wanted to follow up on the videotape. If, in fact, the videotape
supports the crew's claim that they were being fired upon, the crew in
the AC-130, doesn't it makes sense for the U.S. military, Pentagon, to
release that videotape if it in fact corroborates their claims?
Clarke: Again, I'd just like to manage expectations. I mean, my
knowledge, AC-130 video has not been released, and largely it is not
released because they don't want to show the bad guys the capability.
Q: It was released after Panama.
Clarke: We've been looking into this, and I've been told that maybe
once or twice before, unintentionally some of it was released. And
believe me, we are working hard on this. But there are some very
serious considerations as to what things might be revealed by showing
our capabilities. So, managing expectations.
Q: Well, these people already know the planes can shoot them and kill
them. I mean, what possibly could this reveal in terms of tactics or
capabilities that the people on the ground, who have already been shot
at, don't already know, including al Qaeda or Taliban?
Clarke: I'm just telling you the reasons given are that it might
reveal something by way of capabilities. The precedent is not working
with us here, but we've got it under consideration.
Q: Torie.
Clarke: Jim.
Q: With so much -- with so much surveillance, how could they not know
that this was an area where at the very least, civilians were mixed in
with hostile fighters, at the very least, particularly in light of the
fact that in previous raids on compounds, scores of people have been
arrested and detained who were later released? So they were -- I mean,
there has been a precedent for these kinds of operations on targets
where there were civilians present.
Clarke: Well, I think we'll know a lot more once the investigation
gets underway. I think we will know more about the details and the
more of who saw what and when they saw it and what was taken under
consideration in the days leading up to July 1. Right now, we do not
have that information. I'm just telling you what we know and what we
don't know. What we know is, the area was under surveillance for some
time by not just U.S. forces but Afghan forces, coalition forces. In
the days and hours leading up to the strike, I think we'll know a lot
more in the weeks going ahead.
Q: But did they know that it was an area where there were civilians
mixed in or at least potentially mixed in with hostiles?
Clarke: I don't know. I don't know.
Bob.
Q: Given that you've -- given that the U.S. government is
acknowledging that there were civilians killed, for what -- you know,
whoever was responsible -- is the government willing to offer
compensation to the families of the victims?
Clarke: You know, I want to separate out a couple of things. That is
something -- my understanding is, compensation in general is something
that is under interagency discussion. What we're focused on right now
in Afghanistan with this incident is finding out what happened and
what went wrong that led to the deaths and the injuries of civilians.
So that's what we're focused on right now, and that's all.
Q: But it is under consideration? (inaudible)
Clarke: No. The whole issue of compensation, wartime, is something
that is under some interagency discussion that's in channels beyond
mind. Right now, all we're --
Q: (Off mike.)
Clarke: Right. Separate out this particular incident, what we're
focused on is trying to find out what happened.
Q: There was some speculation actually on the ground from some of the
villagers that in fact the U.S. military may have been given bad
intelligence, perhaps by those who were trying to settle scores in
that region. Is that a possibility? Is that -- is it suspected that
the U.S. military was operating on bad intelligence?
Clarke: I just don't think it's useful to speculate. It's better to do
what we say we're doing, which is in very short order, putting
together this team to conduct a very full investigation with Afghan
participation to try to get to the bottom of what happened.
Q: Torie?
Q: Going back somewhat to I guess what Jim was asking, although
civilian casualties have occurred in the past, and the numbers you
said were relatively small.
Clarke: Overall.
Q: Right.
Clarke: And let me repeat. Overall, numbers have been relatively
small. Civilian casualties, unfortunately, are always part of military
conflicts. And we deeply regret every one of them. Because I just
don't want anybody saying that we said or suggested or discounted
civilian casualties, because we don't.
Q: Right. My question though, having said all of that, you have had
some incidents in this general region of Afghanistan in the past,
specifically, I guess, in Hazar Qadam. And you had said -- the
Pentagon, the government, had said after that that it was going to
work with the Afghans and try and develop tactics and procedures to
keep these things from happening again. And it did happen again. So,
my question is, can you help us understand and identify any change in
tactics or procedures that you had made after Hazar Qadam, after some
of the initial incidents? And what changes in tactics or procedures
you have now made after this incident so that you're not frozen in
place, you can do what you feel you need to do, but have some
assurance that this is not going to happen again? What changes have
you made?
Newbold: There are some distinctions between the two operations. I
know you're aware of them. This was an operation conducted by Afghan
and U.S. forces, coalition reconnaissance elements. It was based on
multiple and redundant intelligence. As Ms. Clarke said, it had really
begun five months ago and increased in volume and in specificity as we
approached the operation. I think those two factors alone mark it as a
change in process and procedure. So, this operation, I think, was
merited by what we knew at the time. So, the operation, in my view, is
unquestioned, the validity of it.
What the investigation will determine is a procedure, a specific
procedure, and a judgment on firing and some other things. but all
designed not only to get at the facts of it, but to reveal what we can
about our procedures so we can continue to improve. Because, as was
said by General McNeill, there's only one side that has intended
civilian casualties, and it's not ours.
Q: Can I just follow up? Since this occurred, have you now put in
place any additional tactical procedural changes to assure you can
continue to operate as you wish to without some incident happening
again?
Newbold: To be honest, I don't know the answer. Have there been any
procedures put in place since the incident? I just don't know the
answer to that.
Q: Are you telling us -- just to make sure I understood you that
basically this -- I guess I wasn't sure I did understand. You made a
reference to five months in the works. Can you explain that?
Newbold: As Ms. Clarke said, we have known from intelligence of
multiple sources that there were viable targets in the area, this
locale within Oruzgan province. We monitor and keep track throughout
the country of pockets of remaining resistance and for those -- and
those who would plan either the overthrow of the interim government or
attacks against U.S. and coalition forces. This had begun back in
February and continued right up until the operation.
Q: I want to make sure I'm clear on something. You've said at the
beginning and a couple times throughout that we're much less clear on
the number of civilian casualties. I mean, are you saying in so many
words that we don't believe the Afghans' account of 48 fatalities or
some-odd wounded --
Clarke: I'm not saying that at all. I'm telling you what the
fact-finding team or the preliminary investigatory team found and what
they saw and what they didn't see. They saw some evidence of deaths.
They saw some injured, obviously. But we don't have the hard and fast
numbers. I know those are the numbers some -- what the Afghan
government are using. That is fine. I think we'll know more as weeks
go forward, but I just -- you know, again, it's partially managing
expectations going forward. People want every- -- let me finish.
People want everything to be neat and buttoned up, and it's just not.
Q: Didn't they just ask for -- (off mike)?
Q: Can you tell us -- I mean, can you tell us what they did find? I
mean, in the U.S. government's estimation, how many bodies did they
see? How many graves did they see? What is your rough number of how
many people were civilian casualties -- (inaudible) -- U.S. fire?
Clarke: The general's got a better brief from the fact- finding team
than I do.
Newbold: But that's a dangerous path to follow, because just as you
cannot conclude that there were no anti-aircraft artillery in the
village because there were none three days later, you can't conclude
that because the fact-finding team saw specific things related to
casualties, that that would limit the number or give a high end to it.
I think Ms. Clarke is exactly right. There are enough different views
out there that the only prudent thing, I think, is to wait until the
investigation gets a chance to do its work. And it might be that we
never know the exact number.
Q: But it is fair to say, from what I'm hearing here, that we did not
find 48 bodies or 48 graves that would line up with the Afghan --
Clarke: The preliminary team was not shown that many graves. But
again, any civilian that is hurt, any civilian that is killed is not
acceptable, as far as we're concerned. And I think you can see how
much we care about this and how concerned we are by the efforts that
are being put into these investigations and the speed with which we
are undertaking these investigations.
Q: And you won't tell us how many graves were seen, observed by U.S.
--
Clarke: I don't have those numbers.
Q: Torie?
Clarke: Martha?
Q: You talk about -- maybe General Newbold should answer this. You
talk about the fact that you had viable targets in this area, you've
had it under surveillance, and yet you don't know the difference
between combatants and noncombatants from the surveillance. Then how
do you protect those noncombatants when you go after a viable target
if you don't even know who's who?
Clarke: As I described, this operation worked -- and I'm
oversimplifying -- in decreasing concentric circles, operated a
distance from this village -- and this village was not the specific
locale expected to be the site of conflict, by the way -- but
operating throughout an area, trying to better define where there
might be targets, might be pockets of resistance, et cetera. As I
mentioned, they were taken under fire as they got closer, ground
action, observation post, clearly characteristic of an area that
didn't want the coalition around.
As you remember, that almost all these operations are taking place at
night. As I described a little bit earlier, our troops operating
during this phase were in very small teams that were outnumbered
enormously by anybody that would wish them ill, so their observations
are at night, and they are what they see from great distance. You
don't want reconnaissance elements being really close to the enemy.
So, as they got closer and closer, they were taken under increasing
volume of fire. There were known observations over the two weeks in
particular about anti-aircraft fire being directed at our aircraft
with some frequency.
Those forces do not close with a specific site in such a way that they
would distinguish the civilians. As you know, the strike wouldn't have
taken place if they had. But any time that there are people on the
ground trying to kill us, on the ground or in the air or our allies --
Afghans, et cetera -- it almost becomes an obvious follow-on point
that we have to defend ourselves.
Clarke: Otto?
Q: General, you said --
Clarke: Let's go to Otto, and then we'll come back.
Q: (inaudible) some talk about anti-aircraft fire. The general well
knows that anti-aircraft fire can be anything from a handgun to an AK
-- you know, 14.5, 27, 57-mm . What size of guns are they talking
about? Some of them are highly portable. Others are not. I mean, the
small-arms fire is not really a danger to a pilot if he stays above,
you know, 10 or 11K. You know, we got that situation of the guys who
bombed the Canadians. They were not endangered until they dropped on
their -- what size weapons are you talking about? We had all this
observation. Somebody must have some feeling on how big these AA
weapons are.
Newbold: There's a distinctiveness to what we call AAA, anti-aircraft
artillery, versus small-arms fire. The small-arms fire was directed at
us on the ground, just a reminder, and in and of itself was -- made it
obvious that we were in an area -- a hostile area. But the AAA fire
could be up to 24-mm, 12.7-mm. It has a distinctiveness, and our
troops on the ground appreciate the difference.
Q: Those are not -- you know, a 27-mm is a little bulky weapon. It's
harder to move around and hide, you know. But, again, no one has found
traces of those once we moved into the area.
Newbold: As you know, we found one in that cache the next day about 10
miles away. But as you know, this area is extremely rugged. It is a
huge area that we're talking about, this operation -- that's probably
important to point out -- filled with caves, and it is not difficult
to hide a AAA weapon.
Q: Sometimes these weapons are -- in Afghanistan, are mounted on
trucks. Is there any evidence of truck-mounted anti-aircraft weapons
in --
Newbold: Yes, there have been in the past. I'm not being specific
about in this village at that time, but certainly in the past.
Clarke: But as part of the investigation going forward -- let me just
add this on, and we'll just take one more and wrap this up. The
investigatory team working with the Afghans will be talking to a lot
of people, people who were on the ground, the people who were in the
air, the forward air controllers. They'll be, I'm sure, asking a lot
of these same questions.
Q: Torie?
Clarke: Yeah? Here, and then we'll finish up with Al.
Q: A couple of totally unrelated questions, General. I apologize for
that. First, you mentioned that in this operation with the concentric
circles, that this village, Kakarak, was not the location where you
expected to encounter someone or expected to have combat. Can you tell
us what the location was? And what did you find when you got there?
Because I assume troops have gotten there by now.
Newbold: My comment referred more properly to the fact that the entire
area of the operation, literally hundreds of square miles, did not
have a specific point in mind when it began, but was rather designed
to scan the area and find these folks wherever they were, and they
were drawn to the area by the fire and by some intelligence we had.
And that was the distinction I wanted to make.
Q: Okay, and totally unrelated to that, a few months ago, couple of
months ago, regarding the Afghan national army, General Franks, I
believe, referred to the training of that army as an experiment and
gave a figure, which I'm afraid I don't have, but I think about three
thousand -- two or three thousand troops that they were going to
train, see how it went, and then decide whether to make it any larger.
Can you give us an idea of whether that is still the thinking or
whether people have made a decision to make that army larger or not to
make it larger?
Newbold: To make it larger. The number of those ultimately to be
trained depend upon the wishes of the Afghan army and the policies of
the international community. We are -- we have trained two battalions.
We're about to undergo training of a third one. We will have follow-on
battalions to the degree that the international community provides
funding, ammunition, equipment, et cetera, and the success of that
training. But it also depends upon the degree of threat. If the
country is relatively benign and passive, you may not need to train a
full number, 18 battalions or more. You'll see different figures,
depending on who you talk to and when you talk to them. But that's --
that will ultimately determine how many are trained, those factors I
gave you.
Clarke: Jack ?
Q: General, last week, you mentioned that there were some individuals
detained in this operation. Can you tell us how many? Were any of them
the high-value individuals your intelligence led you to believe? And
were any taken in the vicinity -- in the immediate vicinity of the
village where the incident took place?
Newbold: Yes, there were a number detained in the vicinity of the
village. As of right now, they are still in custody and being
questioned. As you know, if it's not patently obvious that it's an
extremely high-value target that's recognizable to everybody, it takes
some time before we find out who they are. And the stories are true
about those found in Guantanamo detention center who, only after
months of questioning or from information revealed by another source
did we discover that they were a key planner or operator of al Qaeda.
So the fact that we don't know a week later whether these are
high-value or high-priority for us is not an exception.
Q: Do you have a rough number that you can give us on the number of
detainees?
Newbold: As I recall, the number was five.
Q: Five.
Q: Victoria --
Clarke: Thank you.
Q: (Inaudible) -- gone beyond the investigation team? You didn't say
--
Clarke: Very roughly, I was hearing 12 to 15, but very roughly. And as
we get more information, we will put it out.
Q: (Inaudible) -- who the brigadier general is?
Clarke: No, we did not have a name as of about an hour ago.
Thank you.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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