World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


DoD News Briefing July 8, - Clarke and Gen Newbold

NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense

DoD News Briefing
Victoria Clarke, ASD PA
Monday, July 8, 2002 - 12:30 P.M. EDT
(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.


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.


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.


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


The Gili Islands: A Community Earthquake Recovery Effort

Joseph Cederwall travelled to the Gili Islands in October 2018 to talk to locals about their experiences of the event and witness the impact and the rebuild efforts on this unique ecotourism destination. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Ongoing Carnage In Gaza

The past month has devoted a lot of space to the best music and films of 2018, and far less to the past year’s human rights violations. The under-reporting on the ongoing carnage in Gaza has been a case in point. More>>


New Report: Refugees In PNG Being Pushed To The Brink
Refugee Council of Australia and Amnesty International paint a stark picture of a traumatised refugee population hit hard by Australia's recent healthcare and counselling service cuts, as well as continued threats to their safety. More>>


Deal On Paris Implementation: Rapid Action Urged At Climate Change Conference

Following a year of devastating climate disasters around the globe, from California to Kerala, and Tonga to Japan, the annual UN Climate Change Conference opens with the goal of finalising the implementation guidelines for the Paris Climate Change Agreement. More>>