Dep. Asst. Sec. of Defense (Public Affairs) Rear Adm. Craig Quigley
Briefing on Downed Russian Airliner and Afghanistan
The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia
October 4, 2001
1:30 P.M. EDT

QUIGLEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have one announcement today. We are pleased to welcome to our briefing today Mr. Paul Setsetsi and Ms. Joanne Collinge from South Africa, who are in the United States under the auspices of a Department of State International Visitor Program. Mr. Setsetsi is spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice, and Ms. Collinge has the same position at the Ministry of Health. They are here to learn about the organization and role of our government media offices.

Welcome to you both.

And with that, I'll take your questions.


QUESTION: Craig, is there any indication that Ukrainian military accidentally fired an anti-aircraft -- or fired an anti-aircraft missile that accidentally struck the Russian airliner which crashed?

QUIGLEY: I asked one question of our folks here in DoD this morning, and that was: Does DoD have any equities in this tragic accident over Ukraine? The answer was no. And I stopped asking questions at that point.

So I would refer you to the authorities in Ukraine and Russia to talk about this tragic accident.

QUESTION: Well, certainly the United States knows, with its spy satellites and other things, whether or not an anti-aircraft missile was fired by the Ukrainian military.

QUIGLEY: There's no "certainly" about it. And if --

QUESTION: I'm sorry?

QUIGLEY: There's no "certainly" about it. The appropriate folks to talk about the cause of today's accident are those in Ukraine and Russia.

QUESTION: So nobody in this building knows whether or not a missile was fired by the Ukraine military?

QUIGLEY: If we have any knowledge in that regard, it would be at a level that I certainly could not discuss here.


QUESTION: Could you, Admiral, say whether, though, military authorities in this country were attempting to contact military authorities in the Ukraine or Russia about such an incident, given nervousness about international air travel and --

QUIGLEY: Not to my knowledge, no.

QUESTION: So there was no attempt to get on the hotline or anything with anybody about --

QUIGLEY: Not that I am aware of, no. Perhaps through the State Department level, through our ambassador and the country team there in country. But not that I know of from here, no.

QUESTION: Excuse me. Was the Ukrainian military at that time, the Crimea Coast, the Coast of the Black Sea, were they conducting air defense exercises at that time, to U.S. knowledge?

QUIGLEY: I believe that's a great question to ask the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

QUESTION: Craig, you said today's "accident." Does that indicate that you --

QUIGLEY: Well, by that I imply that there was an airliner lost today with a lot of people on board that certainly was not a planned event. So I use the term "accident" in the sense that this is a tragic event that occurred today that was certainly not the intent of the folks that walked aboard that airliner.


QUESTION: Is there any potential for U.S. citizens to be on board that aircraft, though? Given that it came --

QUIGLEY: Certainly a potential, yeah. I have not yet seen a listing of the nationalities. I believe the airliner had taken off from Tel Aviv, if -- and I'm getting that from press reporting, so -- and had stopped, I believe in Bulgaria for refueling, or perhaps to take on and discharge passengers. So I'm sure you're going to have an international composition amongst the passenger manifest, but I have not seen that yet.


QUESTION: Aren't nations required to alert international airline authorities if a military exercise is underway, so that the airspace above is not --

QUIGLEY: Our procedures in the United States would be to put out a NOTAM or something like that -- shorthand for a Notice to Air Mariners, or Notice to Mariners, if it's a maritime issue -- saying that such and such an exercise is taking place.

I'm not familiar with the procedures that the Ministry of Defense, nor their federal aviation authorities within the government of Ukraine. I don't -- I know they're similar amongst nations, but I don't know if they're identical.

QUESTION: Craig, why can't you say whether you know whether or not the Ukrainian military was conducting an exercise?

QUIGLEY: Because I don't think it's appropriate for me to talk about what -- the conduct of Ukrainian military exercise. It's a very easy thing to check with the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense to ascertain that.


QUESTION: Craig, you probably know that President Putin initially said this morning that it may have been a terrorist incident. Certainly at this time, the American people, you know, are going to want to know if there has been another terrorist incident or not, and I would think the United States would have an interest in wanting to know that as well, and trying to get, you know, some clarity.

QUIGLEY: You're absolutely right. And that's not only true of the people of the United States, but of the world, certainly. If there's anything we can do to assist in the investigation that tries to ascertain the cause of this, we will certainly do so, I'm sure. But at this point there's also sovereignty issues involved and we must respect those.



QUESTION: Very frequently when exercises are held, the U.S. has observers, other countries have observers. Was there a U.S. observer involved in an Ukrainian military exercise today?

QUIGLEY: That was kind of a subset of the first question that I asked this morning, and again, the answer was no. We did not have any observers or participants or something in whatever may have been going on there.


QUESTION: Is there -- have there been in the past any concerns -- I know that there are concerns about loose nuclear material in the former Soviet states, but is there -- has there been any concern about positive control of weapons, say surface-to-air missiles or anything like that?

QUIGLEY: There's always a concern about safe operation of military equipment. I think that's true around the world. Our focus, however, had principally been on the nuclear material, the nuclear weapons, the command and control procedures, the security procedures, all those sorts of issues surrounding the basic issue of nuclear weapons. A lot of the efforts on the cooperative threat reduction program, Nunn-Lugar, and things of that sort, in a variety of former Soviet republics, now independent nations, that has been the focus over the years.


QUESTION: Craig, can I ask what you meant when you said that you asked today if the United States had any equities in that? Do you mean --

QUIGLEY: No. If DoD. Yeah, if DoD.

QUESTION: Well, what do you mean by "equities"?

QUIGLEY: Well, kind of going along the question that was just asked about did we have anybody, any U.S. military involvement in this at all, did we have any airplanes in the region, did we have any observers of any activity that may have been going on in the region, anything. I just asked the question very broadly, and it came back no.

QUESTION: So you didn't ask if the United States knew how this might have happened, and nobody told you whether the United States knew how this might have happened.

QUIGLEY: I think that to give you a comprehensive answer to that, I'm rapidly treading on classified issues. And there's an appropriateness issue here as well. And the appropriate people to talk about this are those over whose airspace it occurred, and the nation that owns the airliner. And that's the Ukraine and Russia.

QUESTION: But you're not denying that the United States might know or suspect how this happened, you're just not going to discuss it.

QUIGLEY: Charlie, let me just start from scratch, okay? The appropriate people to discuss today's loss of an airliner are the governments of the Ukraine and Russia.


QUESTION: Yeah, you said that the aircraft stopped off in Bulgaria for refueling. As of at least a couple of hours ago Bulgarian authorities were saying it never stopped off and it never landed in Bulgaria. Do you have privy to some sort of information or --

QUIGLEY: No, other than the press reporting that I had read. And if that's in error, then I should not have used that. It was my understanding based on press reporting that it had stopped in Bulgaria. But I don't have firsthand knowledge of that.


QUESTION: When you suggest that the government, the Ukraine government would have a role in discussing this, are you suggesting that it had a role in the downing of the airplane?

QUIGLEY: No. I'm saying that in the context here that it happened in their airspace.


QUESTION: Have you had any conversations or communications with Israel, given that the flight originated there, about this?

QUIGLEY: Not from the Department of Defense that I know of, no.


QUESTION: Another subject? About Afghanistan. According to the report I understand now the United States is not using Pakistan's airspace because some experts are saying that it cannot be -- Pakistan cannot be trusted. And due to unrest in Pakistan, and also closeness with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

QUIGLEY: Well, I have -- President Musharraf made his address to the people of Pakistan -- two weeks ago, maybe? -- something in that ballpark.

We are most appreciative of the permissions that he has granted to the United States in that regard. We have not stated our intention to take advantage of any of the various offers of support from any of the nations around the world. We appreciate their offers; we do, in each and every case. But we have never made any comments as to whether or not we're going to use this offer or that offer in any regard.

QUESTION: And just to follow, the Indian military experts and defense minister and national security adviser were here in the building this week and last week. Any agreement reached with India, or how -- what -- how the U.S. will get India's help or what India offered yesterday, day before --

QUIGLEY: I would not take that any further than whatever the Indian government officials have said publicly.

Let me give you an example of a nation's offer. Prime Minister Howard of Australia yesterday, I believe, made available an Australian special forces unit, air-to-air refueling capability, and offered to extend an Australian frigate that is participating in the maritime intercept operations in the Persian Gulf as part of the international intercept ops. We very much appreciate that, and that is an offer that I can -- readily and gladly can comment on, because that is something that came from the head of the Australian government in a very public way.

But a lot of the other countries are simply not in a position politically, for their own internal reasons, to acknowledge the support that they have offered the United States and other countries in the world. So on the one hand, you've got that template, that countries have asked to be very circumspect in our comments on that publicly, and on the other hand, you've got the comments made by Prime Minister Howard yesterday that puts it in an entirely different light.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Are there plans to supply the Northern Alliance with arms and supplies? And if so, can you detail those points?

QUIGLEY: "No" is the short answer to the second question. (Light laughter.) I think that kind of takes care of the first question.

QUESTION: Just to follow -- (inaudible) -- can you describe for us that in one hand the Taliban are saying that they are ready to negotiate with the U.S. and on the other hand they are getting ready to fight a holy war or jihad against the United States, and also some Taliban commandos are willing or ready or making a way to leave Taliban or going against the Taliban? What -- where do we stand? And can we --

QUIGLEY: I can't sort that one out for you. I'm sorry.

There is certainly no shortage of reporting coming out of that part of the world right now, and I cannot help you sort that out.



QUESTION: Craig, on the subject of international help, are we satisfied with the level of support from Saudi Arabia? And in Secretary Rumsfeld's trip over there, has he made any specific requests to the Saudis? And have they been responsive to those requests?

QUIGLEY: I think Secretary Rumsfeld's words from the transcript that came back from the stop on the trip in Riyadh were that he's very pleased and appreciative of the agreement on the part of the Saudis to provide assistance. He was not detailed in what that assistance would entail. And I won't be able to take it any further than his remarks.

QUESTION: Craig, could I --


QUESTION: What role might the United States military be playing in the joint military exercises that are planned between the UK and Oman in the coming weeks? Does the United States have a role in those?

QUIGLEY: I do not think so. I believe that's a bilateral exercise between the armed forces of those two nations.

QUESTION: And there's an additional role that might have been added.

QUIGLEY: Let me -- let me double-check. I don't think so, but let me take that, and if there's -- we'll let you know, but I don't believe so.


QUESTION: Could you tell us about the humanitarian food drops that the Pentagon has been told to get ready to do? What kind of timing? What sort of stuff you're talking about doing or like what's going to be included?

QUIGLEY: Wow, let me try to take those in order. The president announced this morning a significant expansion in aid to the people of Afghanistan. He has tasked the Defense Department to be prepared to provide assistance in helping to deliver those emergency rations to the people of Afghanistan. We are making those plans now. We are prepared to carry out that mission. And we can do so in a variety of ways. If you choose the air drop method, which is one option available to you, you've got to do this very carefully, because of the effectiveness of the drop that you would try to put in place, of the safety of the aircraft and the aircrews as they carry out what would be a dangerous mission under any circumstances. So we're prepared to carry out that as well as other methods, but I won't be able to get into any details of that for you.

QUESTION: Can you detail the other methods and what they would be?

QUIGLEY: Well, you could provide some sort of assistance via ship to other nations in the region and haul it over land, if you'd like to do that. So there's options to do that. And we're prepared to do that in any way.

QUESTION: Would the food be, though, humanitarian daily rations?

QUIGLEY: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: And how many does DoD have on hand?

QUIGLEY: I think the nation has something in excess of 2 million. You know, this would be a stop-gap measure by anyone's yardstick, to help alleviate the hunger in the refugees in that part of the world. But there would be a variety -- if this would assist as a stop-gap measure and stave-off hunger from the refugees in that part of the world, then we're prepared to assist.

The humanitarian daily rations provide enough calories, and there are also vitamins and minerals so that you can also build up your body's health -- each one of them is enough for one person for one day. And so they are very useful in the situation that we're faced with there.

QUESTION: Craig, can we assume that you would avoid Taliban-controlled areas? And these drops, if they be drops, would be to areas where refugees have gathered? In other words, this is -- you're not going to supply the Taliban; you're going to try to avoid that --

QUIGLEY: Oh, no. Absolutely. Yeah. You would take a very careful look at where refugee populations have gathered. You know, sadly, I think we have quite a bit of experience in that over the past 10 years or 15 years in the world, of how to deliver emergency rations to people that are fleeing unrest in their native lands. We've learned some dos and don'ts of how to do that over the years, and I think we're quite a bit better at it now than we were, again, 10 or 15 years ago. But the goal would not be in any way to support the Taliban, it would be to support the people of Afghanistan.


QUESTION: Just to clarify, the 2 million that you say you have in inventory, are those Islamic humanitarian daily rations? I know you have special meals.

QUIGLEY: They were described to me as "culturally neutral." (Laughter.) So, I'm -- you know, there are religious and ethnic sensitivities, as I'm sure all of you know, in a variety of parts of the world, and they're different. So we crafted the rations to be culturally neutral so that you would not be -- you don't want to try to be helpful and then end up providing food to people who it is against their religion or their cultural beliefs to eat it. So we're -- that's one of those things, I think, that we've learned over the last years.

QUESTION: Just one other clarifying question. You talk about trying to target refugee populations that can actually use the assistance. Are you including refugee populations that have already moved into the border areas inside Pakistan?

QUIGLEY: I don't have that level of detail. I mean that -- that would be something we would work -- we, Department of Defense, would work very closely with State and with non-government organizations to try to figure out the smartest way to do this.


QUESTION: Is it fair to say -- just to elaborate a little bit on the ethnically neutral, that what you're talking about is the "vegetarian's delight"? You're talking about a variety of vegetables and grains, period, no meat?

QUIGLEY: I do not believe that there is any meat in there. I think it's largely a rice-based dish that's high in energy, high in protein. And like I say, it's enriched with vitamins and minerals as well. So that a person who is in an already weakened condition, probably, and would be very weakened and more prone to the taking on of disease or something, we'd like to build them up and give them some natural resistance to resist getting sick. And so that's the purpose of those things.

QUESTION: And could I ask one follow-up question, which is, of the various delivery alternatives, is it fair to say that the favored approach is the airdrop approach, at this point in the planning?

QUIGLEY: I don't think we're that far along to say that it's favored. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and we could do either. And again, it's that trying to figure out the smart way to do that, and we're working with the other agencies to figure that out.