15 July 2002
Transcript: Defense Department Briefing, July 15, 2002
(Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bin Laden, Pakistan) (3710)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke and
Brigadier General John Rosa, deputy director for current operations
for Joint Chiefs of Staff briefed reporters July 15 at the Pentagon.
Following is the Pentagon transcript:
U.S. Department of Defense News Briefing
Victoria Clarke ASD (PA)
Monday, July 15, 2002 - 11:00 a.m. EDT
(Also participating was Air Force Brig. Gen. John W. Rosa, Jr., deputy
director for current operations, Operations Directorate, the Joint
Clarke: Good morning everybody. As most of you know, Deputy Secretary
of Defense Wolfowitz is in Afghanistan today for meetings in Kabul and
Mazar e-Sharif. He will also visit with U.S. and coalition troops at
Bagram, and he is headed to Turkey this evening for some meetings
there tomorrow. He spoke Sunday in Istanbul regarding Turkey, the
importance of our relationship with the country and Turkey's very
important role in the war on terrorism. If you haven't seen it, I'd
direct your attention to the speech at DefenseLINK.
As Secretary Rumsfeld has said repeatedly, Turkey is a valued and
close friend of the United States and a NATO ally. It is a nation,
being in that part of the world and having experienced terrorism that
is particularly sensitive and understanding of the problems we all
Rosa: Thank you, Ms. Clarke, and good morning. Earlier this morning in
Afghanistan, a CH-47 was conducting a resupply mission. On landing,
the rotor wash blew some equipment around the ramp, and three folks
were injured, three military and one civilian. All are minor injuries
and not life-threatening.
In Iraq on Saturday, aircraft supporting Operation Southern Watch
dropped precision-guided munitions to strike the air-defense
facilities in the vicinity of An Nasiriyah. The command-and-control
facility had earlier helped direct air attack against coalition
And yesterday, coalition aircraft used precision-guided munitions
again to strike a mobile radar associated with a mobile surface-to-air
missile system in the vicinity of Abu Sukhayr. The radar was struck
because it presented an imminent threat to our aircrews and coalition
aircraft flying in the no-fly zone.
And with that, we'll take your questions.
Question: There are reports out of London that Osama bin Laden is in
fact alive and that he suffered some sort of shrapnel wound in his
shoulder, and that he's going to come out and do a video after the
next attack on America. First of all, have you heard anything about
the fact that he had suffered this wound and is still alive and --
Clarke: No. I'm aware of the report out of London, and it seems like
almost a weekly occurrence, a different country has the latest rumor.
But, you know, we continue to get reports he's alive, reports he's
dead. And we just don't have the information.
Q: The secretary has said a number of times that there has been, I
think he said, heard neither hide nor hair of bin Laden since
December. Has that -- has there in fact been something more recent,
some indications more recently that he is alive of any kind?
Clarke: I haven't heard --
Rosa: We haven't seen --
Clarke: Anything one way or another recently.
Q: Today in Bagram, Secretary Wolfowitz stated categorically that
there were "bad guys," quote-unquote, in the vicinity of the villages
that were hit -- or in the villages that were hit in the raid. I'm
just wondering whether or not that's a definitive -- I mean, it's a
very definitive statement, and yet the investigation hasn't really
even begun. Can you -- I mean, have you got confirmation now that
there were indeed al Qaeda and or Taliban in those villages?
Rosa: We don't have confirmation whether they were al Qaeda or
Taliban. But as we came in closer to the village, we were obviously
fired on, like we have been in so many instances. So there was some
pretty intense fire -- that our folks returned fire back. By that
definition, I think you can say that -- safely say that there were
opposition in and around that village.
Q: But except -- could I just get a follow -- in the previous case, in
Oruzgan, it was the case that there was outgoing fire, probably
because people saw armed men approaching the village, and yet those
people turned out not to be opposition. They turned out to be
pro-Karzai gunmen -- forces. How can you not say that the same may
have been possible in this latest incident?
Rosa: Without getting into the investigation -- we'll let them do
their work -- these two cases, although some similarities -- had many,
many differences. In Oruzgan, we were much closer to the facility, to
the compound. We were further away in this case, further away from
that village, when we took fire in this case.
Q: The -- (inaudible) -- local governors are asking for, you know,
greater coordination in any further raids of this type. You know, from
the podium, you've away described everything we've done, including the
most recent raid that resulted in the friendly-fire casualties --
we've always had coalition and Afghan people with us. So would -- do
you see any change here in what these governors are asking as far as
prior approval or clearance for this operation?
Clarke: I have read the reports of what some of them may have said. I
haven't actually seen what they have said. But since the very
beginning, since last October, one of the keys to success has been
working closely with the Afghan people, including the regional
leaders. That has continued to today. It has continued -- the July 1
raid -- we were working with Afghan forces on the ground. So we will
continue that kind of close cooperation going forward. We're always
looking for ways to make the coordination as effective as possible.
Q: Well, can you say, then -- first of all, who were the Afghan forces
on the ground that were operating with U.S. troops? Who did they
answer to? And was that operation cleared with either the government
in Kabul or the local governor or who? Who in the Afghan government?
Clarke: I don't have names of the people on the ground, but there were
Afghan forces with them on the ground. I don't know what their
clearance process may have been.
Q: Well, then how can you say that you're cooperating with them if
nobody seems to know --
Clarke: No, I'm sure people do know; I just don't happen to know. I'm
sure Central Command knows. I'm sure our people on the ground, I'm
sure General McNeill knows. But I'm saying from this podium I don't
know exactly who it was, but I know they were there with us in the
period leading up to the July 1 raid and the July 1 raid itself.
Q: General, you said that you -- we were farther away from this
village than we were in the other attack. How far away were we? And
did we actually have eyes on --
Rosa: Can't tell you.
Q: -- a target from a ground site?
Rosa: I can't -- I don't know the distance. I just know that, from
looking at maps, we were further away.
Q: Okay, but did we have eye -- I mean, General Newbold suggested in a
couple briefings that we had actually eyes-on from the ground on
target -- on a gun that was firing at the AC-130. Is that the case or
Rosa: Well, you can be pretty far away and see anti- aircraft.
Q: I understand. But can you tell us now that you had allied -- some
allied coalition force eyes on --
Rosa: I can't tell you that because I haven't -- I haven't seen that.
Q: Well, is there some reporting here within the building that would
support the statement of General Newbold?
Rosa: I haven't seen it.
Q: Are you pulling back from what General Newbold made the other day?
Rosa: I don't speak for General Newbold. He'd love to be up here, I'll
Q: General, on Iraq, you said that the Sunday incident, the mobile
radar was a threat to coalition forces. Can you say in what way? Was
it illuminating the target in some way? And also, given all the
incidents that have been occurring with the no-fly zones in recent
times, have you -- has the coalition upped the tempo of its operations
in any way in terms of patrols?
Rosa: We haven't upped the tempo. It appears that there's been a
spike, but these are, as we measure them over the last 18 months,
they're not unusually high. After 9/11, the firings in the no-fly zone
subsided slightly, but they're back up to the normal levels. This
radar was a radar that accompanies a surface-to-air missile, and any
time they move those types of radars and missiles into that no-fly
zone where our coalition aircrew are patrolling, that is a threat.
Q: It was a threat that they'd been moved into a particular area.
Rosa: Right. They had moved south, in this case, into the southern
Q: A question for General Rosa, please, using your command pilot's
wings. First of all, there has been a disagreement over whether or not
there was actually AAA fire from that village. The air crew members,
according to Central Command, say there was, ground observers say
there was. Can we now say unequivocally that the AC-130 was fired
upon? And also, even though many of us think we know, will you tell us
for the record, how do you distinguish between AAA fire, if you're
flying, and small-arms fire?
Rosa: I don't think we can say at this point -- I can't say --
unequivocally that the AC-130 was fired on. That will come out,
hopefully, in the investigation. Small arms -- when you see that type
of fire, it looks like little sparkles. AAA is a bigger flash. Many
times you can see up around the aircraft, if they're shooting at your
altitude, depending on the size of the caliber -- you can see those
explosions up by your aircraft. With many cases, you don't see it.
Q: Here's the follow-up: Do we believe or know that the unfriendlies
have proximity fuses that would detonate close to the aircraft?
Rosa: Don't know that. I assume that, but that -- I just don't know
Q: To go back to the issue that came up at the time of the raid, five
people having been detained: Has there been any success yet in
establishing the identities of these individuals? And were there more
than five people detained in connection with the disputed raid?
Rosa: I don't know the identity. Somebody obviously does, but at this
level, I personally don't.
(To Ms. Clarke.) I don't know if you do.
Rosa: And that's the only detainees that I've heard.
Q: So we still don't know whether they're Taliban and al Qaeda
foreigners, Afghans -- ?
Clarke: I don't know of any identifications that have been made on it.
Q: Do you know anything about -- two questions -- anything about
Canadians taking some detainees and who they might be? And also, who
did Wolfowitz meet with in Mazar?
Clarke: On the Canadians, I don't have any information. In Mazar, we
were trying to confirm right before we came out and were trying to
call the plane to confirm if he had met with [Afghan Gen. Rashid]
Dostum, because that was a possibility. But I do not have
confirmation. We can follow up with you.
Q: Do you have an agenda if he did meet with Dostum -- something that
he was going to bring up with him?
Clarke: No, he was, as I said -- Kabul -- the plan was for Kabul,
Bagram, Mazar-e Sharif, then back to Turkey and meet with a variety of
officials, meet with the troops there, the U.S. and the coalition
troops to express our appreciation. So we were trying to call the
plane just as we came out, and we'll try to get confirmation of what
Q: Can we just go back to this AC-130 again? Is it your understanding,
General, that the AC-130 engaged the target on the ground because it
was under fire at that moment or because it had been and other
aircraft had been fired on from that site in previous days and weeks,
as General Newbold had laid out earlier?
Rosa: I just have not seen a sequence that would lead me to believe
that I can stand here and make a conclusion. We need to let the
investigators -- they just got there. There's 11 of them plus the
general officer, and they'll sort that out.
Q: I know, but what's your understanding -- I mean before this
investigation started, there were a few days here before we had any
kind of formal inquiry begun into this. What was the understanding at
the time the kind of curtain came down on the subject of the inquiry?
Was the plane under fire at that moment or not? Or was it actually
going against a target that had been causing problems for allied
aircraft for some days?
Rosa: I don't know that.
Q: Could I get two points of clarification? You said that you can't
say unequivocally that the AC-130 was fired upon. Therefore, what kind
of fire -- you said there was hostile fire. What kind of hostile fire
was it? And who was it aimed at? And second of all, I'm wondering if I
can get clarification on your statement regarding the demand or
request from the governors -- six governors in Afghanistan that the
United States get prior approval from them before conducting such
raids. I wasn't sure whether or not you said definitively that the
United States would give such approval -- or would seek such approval.
Clarke: Sure. And let me try to address the first part of it. I think
we have to let the investigation take place. I think there is a lot of
information that we want. There's a lot of solid information that we
don't have at this time. So, I think we have to let the investigation
do what it's supposed to do, which is get those sorts of answers.
In terms of what we are doing, I'll repeat. We have coordinated very,
very closely with the Afghan people, with the regional leaders, since
last fall. And we will continue to do so going forward. In terms of
approval, you should go to Karzai in terms of how it works on their
side of the fence. He is the head of the interim
[transitional]government. He is our primary means of coordination, if
you will. But in terms of how he coordinates that in Afghanistan that
is up to him.
Q: So, you're saying there is always prior coordination with President
Karzai on these kinds of --
Clarke: I'm saying we consult and work very, very closely with
Q: I'm still puzzled about the definitive statement by the deputy
secretary saying that there were definitely bad guys in that village,
and you're saying, no, we've got to let the investigation go forward.
Rosa: No, no.
Rosa: You're mixing apples and oranges. Okay? Let me see if I can set
this straight. There's two different types of fire. There's one that
if I fire at you, that's ground fire. There was definitely ground
fire. Our troops were fired on. There's another type of fire that
folks over there customarily fire in the air, for whatever reason.
There was firing in the air. People witnessed that. You asked me
whether it was directed at the AC-130. I can't tell you that. I don't
know if it was or not. But there were definitely two types of fire.
Q: Typically are these operations approved or cleared or run by
anybody on the Afghan side?
Clarke: Well, there are Afghans with us.
Q: I mean anybody in responsibility, like, say, Karzai or --
Rosa: I do not know their approval process. I just don't know at what
level. Their folks are with us. They've been with us on almost every
one of these operations. But I don't know at what level the Afghan
Q: The general mentioned that the investigating team had just gotten
in the country. When I checked with CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command]
last week, they wouldn't name the members of the investigators until
they did arrive in country. Could you give us the fill on who was in
that? You said -- the general said there was 11 people. Who is in that
team, and who are the --
Rosa: I can't give you a mix -- names, but there's a mix of folks.
There's AC-130 expertise. There's expertise from coalition. It's a
Clarke: And you can get the -- you can pronounce the name of the
brigadier general who's in charge of that --
Rosa: Actually --
Clarke: -- who is a close personal friend of General Rosa's, so --
Rosa: He's a good friend of mine, but he's got a name like Jim
Miklaszewski, and it's very difficult to pronounce. We call him Tony P
[BGen.Anthony Przybyslawski]. He's just given up the Wing at Whiteman,
the B-2 Wing at Whiteman, and is on the way over to head up that
Q: Is there a Special Ops guy in there, since there were Special Ops
on the ground? Is there Special Ops --
Rosa: I could almost equivocally (sic) tell you yes, but I don't know,
because I haven't seen all of the makeup. But it -- they would have to
be part of that team.
Q: He was a B-2 driver [pilot] before he took the Wing, obviously.
Does he have any AC-130 experience?
Rosa: I don't know that. I don't know.
Q: There are reports that the U.S. has given the Pakistanis some
helicopters to use to monitor the border. Could you explain how that
arrangement works, whether it's going to be the -- whether the
Pakistanis are going to be flying them, whether there are going to be
any U.S. troops involved, whether those patrols have begun?
Clarke: We would -- we'd leave it up to the Pakistani government to
talk about what's going on in their country. It's been very, very good
cooperation that continues. But we'll let them talk about what's going
on in their country.
Q: But you would speak of any U.S. military involvement in Pakistan?
Clarke: I would --
Q: If it involves U.S. military --
Clarke: I would generally let the Pakistani government talk about what
is going on in their country. It's been a long-standing policy. We
understand it is -- you know, not everybody has the exact same
circumstances we have, so we appreciate the support we have been
getting from Pakistan, even in difficult times. And we continue to
appreciate that support, and we continue to stick to our policy of
letting them talk about what's going on in the country.
Q: They announced it already. So can you edify us with a little bit
more detail? They announced this --
Clarke: Not I.
Q: Is part of the reason for --
Q: ...Secretary Wolfowitz's visit to Turkey sort of to smooth the way
early on for any kind of action next year on Iraq, in terms of regime
Clarke: It's a very, very important country in an important location.
We've had a long-standing relationship with them. It is not only not
unusual, it's expected that senior administration officials would be
there. He's had this trip planned for some time to talk about a
variety of issues. We certainly would not be talking from this podium
about anything that may happen in the future.
Q: But that is one of the issues that he's discussing?
Clarke: I don't have the breakdown on his issues. He's there for a
variety of topics.
Q: I think he said he's going to be visiting U.S. troops in Turkey. Is
he going to Incirlik, or --
Clarke: We think. Not unlike the secretary's schedule, it tends to get
put together as it's going along.
Ivan, then we will wrap this up.
Q: Going back to "Where Is Waldo?" -- there's an Arab journalist at an
Arab-language newspaper in London who reportedly has close ties with
Osama bin Laden who claims that Osama bin Laden was wounded by
shrapnel during the assault on Tora Bora, but he's alive and well and
is plotting new attacks on the United States and that he's probably in
that tribal area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Can we shed any
light on any of this?
Clarke: No. We're aware of the reports. I mentioned to Toby where I'm
aware of the report coming out of London, but we don't have anything
to add to it.
Okay, thanks, everybody.
Q: One more?
Clarke: Alex, one more?
Q: Yeah. I really have to go back to this issue of how can you
Clarke: No, not going back; it's a new issue.
Q: -- changing the sound from the podium about whether or not the
AC-130 was fired on? Because previous speakers from the podium have
made that quite clear, it seemed to me. And then you today, General
Rosa, seem to be saying --
Rosa: I'm telling you that I don't know that.
Q: You're saying YOU don't know that.
Rosa: I don't know that. And I have seen nothing that said the
aircraft was fired on. I don't know that. It could well have been.
Clarke: Just wait till the investigation to finish.
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