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DoD News Briefing - ASD(PA) Clarke And Gen. Rosa

NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense

DoD News Briefing Victoria Clarke, ASD PA Friday, Sept. 6, 2002 - 10:01 a.m. EDT

(Also participating was Air Force Brig. Gen. John W. Rosa, Jr., deputy director for current operations, Operations Directorate, the Joint Staff.)

Clarke: Good morning. I just have a couple comments, and I'll turn this over to General Rosa.

We want to express our condolences and sympathies to the people who were victims yesterday in the bombing, the attack in Kabul. It's deplorable for a couple of reasons.

First, it was a deliberate targeting of civilians, men, women and children who were just going about their daily business, and it was designed solely for the purpose of spreading carnage, instability and terror.

Second, it was clearly designed to undermine the efforts of the Afghan people and the Afghan government to get the country back up on its feet, to establish a free and democratic society in which they can live and work and worship in peace and security.

We don't know exactly who did this. We don't know exactly who was responsible for it. But we do know that there are Taliban remnants, as well as al Qaeda, who have been plotting these sorts of attacks. And these are exactly the sorts of tactics we associate with those organizations.

So again, our sympathies and condolences to the people and their families. And with that, sir --

Rosa: Thank you. Good morning.

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Early this morning one of our Navy SH-60B helicopters assigned to the USS Mobile Bay crashed into the North Arabian Gulf approximately 80 miles west of Bushehr, Iran. There were five people on board the helicopter. Four of the Navy personnel survived, but a civilian cameraman from KCBS Television in Los Angeles died in the incident. Our condolences go out to his family.

The helicopter had been hovering over a Syrian-flagged vessel to observe a health inspection boarding, and it crashed when the rotor blades struck the ship's mast.

As many of you have already reported, we experienced two significant events in Afghanistan yesterday. First, at 6:25 in the morning local time yesterday, two explosions occurred in downtown Kabul. No Americans were injured or killed. The second event occurred approximately at 10:20 yesterday morning, when an assailant fired upon President Karzai as he was leaving Kandahar's governor's mansion. Three people were killed in the incident -- the assailant plus two others. One Special Forces member was wounded superficially, as well as the Kandahar governor, Shirzai. President Karzai was not injured in the attempt.

And with that, we'll take your questions.

Clarke: Charlie.

Q: Torie, both the secretary and the deputy -- in fact, the deputy as recently as yesterday -- have been saying that Afghanistan is a relatively stable place now. First, is Afghanistan a relatively stable place, given what happened yesterday? And given what happened yesterday, does the United States still oppose putting American peacekeeping troops into Afghanistan in order to expand ISAF?

Clarke: Well, I'd say two things: Compared to what Afghanistan was like this time last year, it is a much better place. There are still problems, obviously. There are still going to be people who are killed. But it is a much more stable and secure place than it was. Afghan leaders were here a few weeks ago, and they attested to that, themselves, which I think is pretty powerful evidence. There will be problems for some time. You don't take a country that through what Afghanistan has gone through for the last 20 or 30 years and expect everything to be perfect in the short run.

On the deputy's comments and other comments regarding ISAF, if you read the deputy's comments yesterday in his remarks, he very carefully stated what we have stated before. We have no opposition to the expansion of ISAF. What we need is more support from other countries, resources from other countries. We're focused hard now on who is going to take over the head of ISAF after Turkey relinquishes it in December. We have no opposition to it, but we need the help and support of others on that front. The United States is heavily focused in so many different ways that are contributing to stability and security in that country. We have thousands of people there who are continuing to root out the remaining pockets of al Qaeda and Taliban. We are heavily focused on the training and formation of the Afghan national army, which Karzai, himself, has said is an important priority for the United States.

So we're working as hard as we can. We need support and resources from others, as well.

Q: How do you respond to criticism from other -- (inaudible) -- that the United States needs to seed the force with some troops in order to get others to step forward and take part?

Clarke: You know, right before we came out here, I was saying to some people here, I heard the tail end of something on the radio this morning and there was someone who was talking about ISAF and the expansion of ISAF, and said, "The United States can't be on the sidelines." And that's such a horrible thing to say. We have taken the lead in working with the Afghan people to try to restore the country to some semblance of security and stability. And -- I'll say it again -- we have thousands and thousands of people there who are putting their necks on the line every single day to root out the remaining al Qaeda and Taliban.

We are committing lots of people and lots of resources to the Afghan National Army. We are helping those who are training the police force, the border patrol. We are going as aggressively as we can to bring stability and security to that country. ISAF is one piece of it. It is an important piece of it. We have no opposition to the expansion of ISAF beyond Kabul. We need support and participation by others as well.

Q: Just to make it clear, you would support the expansion of ISAF into other areas, but you do not support putting U.S. troops into ISAF because you feel you're doing enough in other areas? Is that --

Clarke: Not under consideration at this time. And we are participating in ISAF. It's the quick-reaction force, it's in logistics, it's in communications. We are part of ISAF as well.

Q: Well, some people said that it would take U.S. leadership in getting the ISAF expanded. Would you say you're taking a lead in that as well, or you don't want to, or --

Clarke: I'd say the Afghan government is taking the lead on what's appropriate for long-term stability and security in that country. As I said, Chairman Karzai himself, President Karzai himself has said in the past he thinks the number-one priority for the United States in terms of long-term efforts is the formation and the training of the Afghan National Army. We are participating across the board and will continue to do so.

Did you want to add anything, sir?

Rosa: No.

Clarke: Okay. Pam?

Q: Can you give us a little bit more -- everything you know, actually -- about the assassination attempt, the three killed. The man who was the assailant, you said he was in military uniform. Was it an ANA uniform? Do you know if he was a trained member of the ANA, or was he someone just wearing a uniform? And what can you tell us about the two dead? Was one of them one of the Afghan bodyguards? And were all three people killed by U.S. Special Forces, or did the Afghan bodyguards have --

Clarke: I want to say one thing, and then I'll turn this over to you. I talked to the secretary about this this morning, and he said, "One thing I want people to know is what an excellent job the security forces did."

Rosa: Pam, a lot of the answers to those questions just aren't yet available. Our folks, the Special Forces, were part of President Karzai's personal security detail, and they did exactly what they were supposed to do. After shots were fired, they fired back. I'm not sure if -- yet -- I've seen some of the initial reports of the three folks that were killed. One of those was obviously the assailant. I don't know if the other two were killed just because they were in that vicinity, standing behind him. We did have initial reports that he may have been in some type of a uniform, but we don't know if it was ANA. We don't know what type of uniform it was. I'm sure they do now, but those reports haven't come in yet.

But it's a dangerous place, and the important thing to remember is that that is a very tough mission. Any time you have a personal security detail, it's an extremely difficult thing to do, and our Special Forces troops did it very well.

Q: So you have no concerns about how they handled themselves from the time that shots were fired?

Rosa: Right now the final reports, even the interim reports, aren't in. There's no indication that they did anything except what they were supposed to do, and do it very well.

Q: Yesterday President Bush said, of Afghanistan, we're not leaving. And at his last briefing here, General Franks said that U.S. troops would be in Afghanistan for a long, long time and noted that the U.S. has military engagements around the world.

The one example he cited was Korea. Can the American people expect that U.S. troops will be in Afghanistan as long as they've been in Korea, for 50 years or more?

Clarke: The American people can expect we'll be there as long as it takes.

Q: Is that --

Clarke: I don't know anybody with any real knowledge who's put a date certain or even an estimate on how long it will take. But we'll be there as long as it takes.

Q: Torie, could you give a readout, just generally, what Rumsfeld, Myers and, I presume, Franks are going to be doing at the White House, without actually saying what advice they're giving? And also, could you give the administration's position on any possible U.N. security resolution you might be thinking about?

Clarke: Well, the meeting in the White House -- General Franks comes up here periodically. The president made it clear -- the earliest days -- he was going to have a lot of face-to-face communication meetings with his combatant commanders -- General Franks obviously in the spotlight right now. General Franks comes up every two or three weeks and briefs the leadership, including the president. So it is just an ongoing series of consultations and meetings with the president. But I just don't want to go beyond that at all.

Q: Well, going -- (inaudible) -- Rumsfeld and Myers -- and what about the latest on any possible U.N. Security Council resolution?

Clarke: We talked this morning -- if we were going to be talking about the moon today for Pam Hess. And we won't. This is -- all I want to say is, reiterate what the president, the vice president, Secretary Rumsfeld and others have said -- is that the road ahead -- there is going to be a lot of close consultation and coordination with Congress, with our allies. There will be close work with the U.N., obviously. I'm not prepared to go into any details about that. The road ahead will also include sharing information as we can and as is appropriate -- with Congress, with our friends and allies, with the American people. That's really all we want to say right now.

Q: Can you say, though, just generally, whether there is some thought of any resolution? I mean, just as a general -- not -- without getting into the details --

Clarke: It's just not for us to talk about. There'll be very, very close coordination and consultations. There will be sharing of information. And beyond that, I'm just not prepared to say.

Q: Is the Defense secretary talking with Ivanov or the French defense minister or others on the possible shape -- the possible shape -- of a U.N. resolution, to make it tough enough for inspectors to go in?

Clarke: He talks to his counterpart from Russia frequently. And beyond that, I won't say.

Q: General, how do you view the possibility for success -- this idea of coercive inspections, where we would tell them we want to see something, and if they don't allow it, troops would attack somewhere?

Rosa: That's really out of my lane as the ops briefer. That would be a policy -- if it got down to that decision, we definitely have a course of action to do what we're supposed to do.

Q: The prospects of something like that working, having troops in the right places to do such a thing -- is this militarily --

Rosa: A speculative question like that I really -- I'd hate to even try and answer that.

Clarke: Let's go in the back.


Q: What can you tell us about the case of Omar al-Khadr? He's the Canadian-Pakistani teenager being held off Bagram Air Base in connection with the killing of the U.S. soldier. Do you know if he will be given access to Canadian officials? And how will the case be prosecuted?

Clarke: We just don't' talk about individual detainees.

Q: No information whatsoever?

Clarke: No. Mm-mm.


Q: General, going back to an operational issue: When you have incidents like what happened yesterday in Afghanistan -- and it's just the latest in a series of such events -- it appears that it contrasts -- yeah, setting aside a year ago, things are, in fact, getting worse, not better, now, in terms of this insurgency. So how are you going to cope with this type of trend?

Rosa: Well, I would not characterize it as getting worse not better. We graph and we normalize all the attacks, every attack that we have. And really, the attack on President Karzai is very, very visible; the car bomb is very visible. But we've had attacks for the last four or five months in the Khost area. And what we do is we search out each one of those. We learn from what we can learn in those attacks. And that's why we continue to have forces that are doing intelligence gathering, reconnaissance operations. We're searching those. Every time we go out, we find weapons caches. We just found two this week. So that's part of the operation of being very visible in going out and doing intelligence reconnaissance and those types of operations.

Q: Do you feel you've had some successes that we haven't heard about in terms of presenting incidents that would be --

Rosa: We have. And when we talk about successes, what we're talking about is where we discover something before it happens. We keep that relatively close hold because of the ways and the means that we found that information out. But there have been successes and we continue to improve our techniques, tactics, procedures every day.

Clarke: Well, I'd also push back on your statement that -- suggesting or stating that the situation is far worse than it was. A little while ago, we went back and looked at some reporting pre- September 11th out of Afghanistan, of which there wasn't a whole lot. Now, back in those days, attacks and killings and injuring people, civilians, were a policy of the government; it was a policy of the al Qaeda. People were starving because of what the Taliban government was doing. The situation was far worse.

I don't want anybody to say we, you know, didn't think much about what happened yesterday. That is a terrible tragedy that innocent civilians were targeted in that fashion. Those are the kinds of things we're trying to stop. But I do think we need to keep some perspective about it. It is terrible when it happens, and the situation is not wonderful. It's not like my neighborhood up the road, but it is better than it was. And again, the Afghan leaders were here themselves a few weeks ago and were attesting to that.

Q: (Off mike) --should be more secure than they are.

Clarke: And that's where -- that's what we're trying to get to. That's why we're working so closely with the Afghan government. That's why we are contributing in all those situations that I was talking about -- our participation in ISAF, creation of the Afghan national army; the fact that we have thousands and thousands of people there still to this day, who risk their lives every single day trying to root out the remaining pockets of these people who do the kinds of things that they did yesterday.

Let's do Jim, and then back up.

Q: Is -- I mean in this particular case, in the case of Karzai, also in the case of the vice president, is it the sense that these are actions that are being directed by al Qaeda, or that they're being directed by internal Afghan opposition? Because in the case of the vice president, there were suggestions that it may even have been enemies within the government.

Clarke: Well, for instance yesterday, we don't know for certain, and we may not know for certain. We do have some evidence from a variety of sources that it was likely it could have been Taliban. We do not know for certain. But we do know, because, again, it has been stated by the Taliban and al Qaeda, their intent and desire to continue to disrupt things. And so we know these sorts of things will happen.

Q: Can I ask another question on a separate subject? There was a report that yesterday's airstrike into Iraq was the biggest in four years and involved as many as 100 aircraft, and that it marked some sort of a preparation -- or a possible preparation for future action there. Could you comment on --

Clarke: I'd just say one thing, and then turn it over to you for the strike itself.

Rosa: Sure.

Clarke: People are trying to connect dots and patch things together to come to a conclusion. Don't read more into things that you've seen than you should.

Rosa: Yeah, when I read that article, I thought maybe we'd had another strike I didn't know about. I guess if you went and took every airplane that was airborne at the time, I still think the estimate of a hundred was high. The strike that we conducted was one of 25. It was our 25th strike in the South. We've done 10 in the North this calendar year. That was the 25th. There were 12 airplanes, dropped 25 weapons. Was it bigger than most? It was bigger than the ones we'd done in the last probably two weeks, but we've done strikes of that size several times over the last 10 or 11 years. And it was a strike on a critical command-and-control node, part of their air defense -- their integrated air defense system, which is a pretty complex, sophisticated system.

Clarke: But also the kinds of targets we've gone after before. And also, when these stories pop up, I always go back and look at the numbers and say, okay, how does this compare historically to years past? In terms of numbers, it's about at the same level.

Rosa: The other thing that I think is important is, we were fired upon when we were in that no-fly zone. We were fired upon and we responded. And we will continue to do that. We've done that for the last 10, 11 years, and we'll continue to do that.

Q The strike was also at a target at an airfield.

Rosa: Right.

Q: Is that unusual?

Rosa: No. I think that when you lay out their air defense system, because it was a pretty good distance out to the west, people think, well, most of the targets have been over here in the east. When you look and see how they tie that system in, that's a critical node in triangulating and looking and measuring where our airplanes are. So if you take that node out, it makes it more difficult to track your airplanes.

Clarke: Charlie?

Q: General, you said at the beginning of the briefing that the SH-60 that crashed was hovering over a Syrian -- I guess a Syrian flag vessel. I think you said for a health inspection landing or a medical inspection. This wasn't, I guess, part of the embargo. And was this an accidental crash? What happened?

Rosa: We don't know exactly what happened except that the rotor struck the ship that it was hovering over's mast. It was part of maritime intercept ops -- operations. We've been doing those for many, many years, as we stop vessels, look at their manifest, and that was just part of an ongoing operation.

Q But it wasn't a -- I thought you said part of a health inspection of some sort.

(Q/Clarke): Health board.

Q: I thought you said a health board.

Rosa: It was a detained vessel -- a vessel we had detained and we were doing a routine health-and-comfort inspection while the ship was detained.

Q: Okay.

Q: How long had it been detained?

Rosa: Four days.

Q: Were the crew rescued by the crew of the ship? Who rescued the crew of the helicopter?

Rosa: Don't know. Don't know.

Clarke: (To staff.) You can try to find out? Okay.

Back here.

Q: You talked about the attack in Afghanistan may have been perpetrated by the Taliban. Can you give us an assessment now as to the command and control structure, then, in the Taliban, how coordinated they are, who's calling the shots?

Clarke: No. Severely debilitated. Disrupted, to a large extent. But you know, the age-old -- we know there are still pockets out there. But no, I couldn't give you any kind of assessment of numbers or anything like that.

Q: Forgive me; you may have mentioned this earlier. I came in late. But re: not making too much of things, what is one to make of the $660 million in airlift contracts let yesterday?

Clarke: We move people and resources all the time. We have exercises going on around the world. So I just wouldn't connect too many dots right now, if I were people, and not read too much into it.

Q: You're saying -- (off mike) --

Clarke: I would just say don't read too much into these things.

Q: Torie?

Clarke: Mm-hmm.

Q: May I ask a 9/11 question, please?

Clarke: Sure.

Q: As you both are aware, this is certainly the weekend before the anniversary, and I was wondering if there was any particular thoughts that either one of you might have about this upcoming anniversary and about the Pentagon commemoration on Wednesday.

Clarke: Yeah. The secretary will address this next week. We've -- a lot of us have talked over the last week or so, and some of us were out last night. It is extraordinary that a year's gone by. It is just -- if you told me it was two months ago, I'd believe you. It's just extraordinary that a year has gone by.

And you know, my personal reflection -- it is extraordinary what people have done. I mean, it was so awful what happened on 9/11. And talking to the families of the victims, both here in the Pentagon and in New York, one thing they tell you again and again and again is, "We don't want people to forget. We don't want people to forget that our friends, our relatives, our loved ones were slaughtered on 9/11."

And so then I go through the last year, and I think about the amazing efforts of the people in uniform, who are putting their necks on the line every single day, trying to make sure those things don't happen again. I think about the people out at the crash site who worked so hard to get this building finished in one year, which is an extraordinary accomplishment.

And so as awful as it was, what happened on 9/11 -- and it truly was -- I think an awful lot of good things have happened since then.


Rosa: I think about the nearly 200 people that lost their lives. When you go by the big displays and you look at each picture, that's a life and a family. That means a lot.

Yesterday -- I went to a meeting yesterday afternoon. As I walked out, my mind was someplace else. And for a split second, I looked up, and it was the same color sky, the same type of day, not a cloud in the sky, no wind, about the same temperature as the day we that we had the attack. And it was an eerie, eerie feeling. That just -- that came upon me, and I thought, "Gosh, it's been a year already."

Clarke: Pam.

Q: The --

Clarke: That'd be a nice one to stop on, Pam.

Q: Yeah --

Clarke: But if you want to drag us back to -- (laughs).

Q: On the car-bombing, was there anything remarkable about that -- you know, in the materials that were used or in the size of the blast that would mark it as Taliban or al Qaeda?

Clarke: I will just say one thing -- because the short answer's no -- but one thing: Again, going back to -- let's think about the kinds of people who did this and what their intent was. The notion that there was a small bomb to get a bunch of people to the scene and then a larger one -- horrible, for all the obvious reasons. But I don't think we have much information yet as to the size and scope of the larger one.

Yes, sir.

Q: Are U.S. forces assisting with or doing the investigation of both incidents? The Afghans, as you know, have come under some criticism for their investigations of, certainly, the two assassinations.

Rosa: I would pretty much -- because our troops were involved in the Karzai incident, we'll definitely play a part in that. I do know that Marines from the embassy responded after the bigger bomb, and I don't know what part they'll play in the investigation, if any.

Clarke: Let's go back here and then back to Charlie, and we'll finish up.

Q: I've been hearing for months -- I'm sure this is true, too -- that there's no infrastructure in Afghanistan. Whatever there might have been has all been destroyed by the two decades of war and so forth. And so I'm wondering, is there any discussion at all of deploying the Army Corps of Engineers to build roads and bridges and things like that over there?

Clarke: Well, to push back on your statement -- and we can give you fact sheet after fact sheet. I actually wasn't here when this particular briefing was done. But there was a pretty good recitation of what has been done in terms of roads, in terms of wells.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Clarke: Sure. But roads are very, very important. That's an important part of the -- you know, it's only so much the country can absorb at any one time. Clearly, that's -- the significant, complex infrastructure you're thinking of is where you want to head. But incredible progress made, in terms of roads and wells, civil, humanitarian side. Again, United States government and others -- heavily involved in those activities. But we can give you a lot of information on it. And that -- you know, sometimes people will get inquiries from the public or say, or they'll say, "Well, why's the U.S. military involved in that?" That is an important part of achieving long-term security.

Q: One last question.

Clarke: Okay, we've got some facts and figures for you. And let's go back to Charlie, and we're going to finish up.

Q: Buried in a New York Times report on the front page this morning was an indication from a former U.N. -- a weapons inspector in Iraq that satellite photos -- current satellite photos show that there are active nuclear-arms-development sites in Iraq. Is there any indication of that? Is there any evidence of that?

Clarke: All I know is what I read in the story.

Rosa: Yeah, that's what I was going to say. I haven't seen any kinds of reports like that, Charlie. I mean, I read the article this morning as well.

Clarke: And don't read too much into what I'm about to say, but I'll just repeat what I said before. As the president and the vice president and the secretary, and I've heard the secretary and the vice president talk about this with members recently, to the extent possible and the extent appropriate, as we go forward, we will be sharing information with our allies, we will be sharing information with Congress, we will be sharing information with the American people to demonstrate what a real and growing threat we're talking about.

That's it. Thanks, guys. Have a good weekend.


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