Asst. Sec. of Defense (Public Affairs) Rear Adm. Craig Quigley
Briefing on Downed Russian Airliner and Afghanistan
October 4, 2001
QUESTION: Were there lessons learned from the drops in eastern Bosnia? Are you
talking basically -- one option is the very same thing you did there? And if
so, were there any lessons that you took from that about what works and what
doesn't work, et cetera?
QUIGLEY: Well, if you -- I was thinking of going further back even than that
and providing assistance to the Kurds in northern Iraq from Operation Provide
Comfort in the early 1990s. That was -- again, a lot of people did receive food
assistance from that program. But if you look back on it now, from the perspective
of 2001, there's some things that we could have done much more efficiently and
been more effective, simply more effective in providing more food to more people
in a more timely manner.
So there's options of delivery from palletized to dropping from an altitude,
and stuff like that, and scattering over an area. And you just have to take
the geography that you're faced with at the moment and make your decision in
concert with those other agencies, who probably have some recent experience
as to what worked well and what didn't work well. And you can avoid stumbling
in the early stages and get right to the most efficient way of providing the
QUESTION: Craig, can I just follow?
QUESTION: Just to clarify, are you talking about strictly -- from Barbara's
question -- people inside Afghanistan, or potentially also those refugee populations
that have gone across the border, say even into Iran?
QUIGLEY: I don't know of any that have gone into Iran. I think the focus of
the president's announcement this morning was providing the food assistance
and humanitarian assistance to refugees inside Afghanistan -- was the focus.
Can I go back with one previous question? There was a question on the Oman-U.K.
exercise. It is bilateral, and there is no U.S. involvement in that exercise.
QUESTION: Just to follow --
QUESTION: There were reports of an ebola-type of virus that's been going around
northern Pakistan. Is the United States -- have you sent aid, or is anyone in
DoD doing anything to either help them with that or try to protect its own --
any particular troops, U.S. troops that might be going into that area?
QUIGLEY: I had not heard that. Let me take that question, and we'll see what
we can find out. [Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases indicates
that World Health Organization has confirmed that the disease is an outbreak
of Crimea-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever. This has not been independently confirmed.
This is a seasonal occurrence of this fever in this area, not something new.]
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Going back on the food assistance, in the past, most
of the U.S. food assistance aid to Afghanistan was used by the Taliban, and
they left their people to die. What is the guarantee now that you will keep
away Taliban, not following the same thing what they did in the past with their
QUIGLEY: I guess we're very much aware of that. And we'll try our very best
to not let that happen again.
QUESTION: Yes. When do you think (inaudible) could be airdrops of this food,
the supplies start? And the second question, have you started dropping leaflets
to explain the U.S. position?
QUIGLEY: I can't give you a time line. We're just not to that point yet in our
planning to offer you a time line of when that might start occurring. And I
am not aware of any leaflets. I think the focus here is the provision of food.
If there would be the necessity for some sort of explanation commingled with
the rations as to how to use it and how to open it, if it's difficult, that
might be appropriate. I can't say that that's not a part of it. But I don't
know of any other leaflets.
QUESTION: I meant in terms of a different operation, of course, a military one,
explaining the U.S. position and the campaign and the future -- future campaign.
QUIGLEY: I'm just not going to get into any operational details in that regard.
QUESTION: Craig, about the risks to aircraft that would perform this sort of
humanitarian mission. Can you tell us what the major risks there are in that
part of the world, in Afghanistan in specific? And also, if the air defense
risk necessitates dropping from a much higher altitude, what would the accuracy
QUIGLEY: Well, you're very much sensitive to the weather conditions as to how
you deliver that: crosswinds, downwinds, things of that sort. And you would
just position yourself to accommodate for the weather conditions. You would
simply have to factor that into your planning.
On the first part of your question, on air defenses, that is what makes this
a particularly dangerous undertaking, should we choose the airdrop method. And
again, you'd have to be smart in your planning. And generally speaking, we know
the Taliban have anti-air capabilities. It's not at all clear what the specific
capability of their systems is. But as best we could ascertain that through
a variety of means, we would plan accordingly and help to plan the altitudes
and the flight profiles and things of that sort to try to accomplish both objectives:
be able to provide food in meaningful ways to the people of Afghanistan and
allow the aircraft to get in and get out in a safe manner.
QUESTION: Would you escort?
QUESTION: The 2 million figure, is that -- are we willing to commit all of that,
or do we have to hold some of the food in reserves in case there are other humanitarian
needs that we might be committed to around the world.
QUIGLEY: I don't know the answer to that.
QUESTION: Aside from consulting with allies, is any part of Secretary Rumsfeld's
mission to reassure governments and maybe even stress the need to stay on board?
And secondly, in an exercise like this, in this kind of terrain, does the coming
of winter play any role in the planning?
QUIGLEY: Secretary Rumsfeld has described his visit to the four countries that
he's visiting as to discuss a variety of issues that are relevant to Operation
Enduring Freedom. And I think I'll leave it there.
And the coming of winter is very much an issue in that part of the world. It
comes earlier than this part of the United States, let's say as an example.
Afghanistan is at a higher elevation, and winter comes much earlier. Say, by
the first of November, give or take, it's arrived for real. And it's arrived
to stay during that part of the world.
QUESTION: And therefore -- how does that figure into any planning?
QUIGLEY: The weather is a factor in the planning of every military operation
QUESTION: Different subject? Secretary Aldridge is quoted this morning suggesting
that the department has pretty much made up its mind not to interpose any objection
to the competing merger proposals involving Newport News Shipbuilding. Can you
tell us that that is the case, and give us a little more than he provided on
the department's read?
QUIGLEY: I would read Secretary Aldridge's words from the article that appeared
this morning exactly. He is quoted accurately, but there's an inference in the
article that his words do not provide. But I will tell you that he is quoted
accurately in the article.
Time line --
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
QUIGLEY: I'm sorry, go ahead.
QUESTION: Do Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary Wolfowitz share his views on this
QUIGLEY: This was an interview that he did, and this is an item that they have
discussed, but I don't know the exact answer to your question.
QUESTION: On the aid -- this aid package, since Afghanistan is a landlocked
country, it would seem to me that delivering food aid via ship wouldn't really
get it in there. So --
QUIGLEY: Well, not directly, no, of course.
QUESTION: So is there another way of getting it in there besides air drops,
or am I making --
QUIGLEY: Well, the example I gave, there are options, and the options would
be to deliver it to a country with a coast and a port, and from there transport
it over land. So there's always more than one way to carry out this mission.
QUESTION: Can we go back on something? You were talking about -- and you, you
know, kind of opened the door on the notion that you have to acknowledge the
air defense issue if you're going to do food drops, because it's there.
So help us understand the Pentagon's thinking. Are you saying that one option
on the table in fact is to -- under the president's direction, to begin humanitarian
assistance prior to any consideration of actual military action in the way we
might understand that to unfold? Because you're going to deal with the air defense
issue as you drop, and that's coming first?
QUIGLEY: It's a time line I can't provide. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Is there any possibility the secretary will add stops to his trip
-- say, in other places in Southern Asia?
QUIGLEY: Not currently scheduled. I'll put it that way. Never say never, but
not currently scheduled.
QUESTION: Could you walk us through his itinerary?
QUIGLEY: I can tell you in a historical sense where he's been. I will not project
the last couple days.
QUESTION: Do you know which units are involved in Operation Bright Star -- Exercise
QUIGLEY: It's a large grouping of the units. I believe the aggregate is something
like 70,000. I don't have a listing of those. You might want to give Central
Command a call. I know it comes under their aegis.
The exercise starts Monday; I know that. We did -- I believe they're making
a release on that today, I believe.
QUESTION: They had a release today, but they didn't say which specific U.S.
units were involved; it was just sort of --
QUIGLEY: I'm sorry. I don't have that.
QUESTION: (Off mike) -- 70,000 American, either?
QUIGLEY: Oop, no. (Cross talk.) Let me take that. We'll get the numbers.
QUESTION: Going back one more on APEC and the food aid package, if the U.N.
or any other nation is playing part in this program, and number two, if anybody's
in touch with the Taliban in Pakistan -- I mean ambassador -- if they will allow
peacefully food aid for the dying Afghanis inside Afghanistan?
QUIGLEY: I don't know is the answer to both questions. If other countries choose
to participate -- and I believe they have, and have been over a period of time
-- they would make their intentions known themselves.
Certainly nobody in the Department of Defense has any conversations with the
Taliban. I don't know if there's any from other arms of the government.
QUESTION: Are the aircraft that you've got available for Enduring Freedom appropriate
and adequate for the airdrop operations?
QUIGLEY: If you -- I guess I'm thinking about it in two different ways. Enduring
Freedom is very broad by design, but I'm really -- I guess I would look at the
provision of humanitarian support as a subset of that, maybe not a direct piece
of that. So you may very well find yourself with a very different mix of aircraft,
configured very differently, and things of that sort. And you -- the duration
of that would not be clear either.
But we would take a look at the needs, and they use the cargo -- heavy cargo-lifting
type of aircraft to provide the food supplies that you need in this case.
QUESTION: Do the aircraft that you've got there now include the ones that you
would need like that?
QUIGLEY: I won't be specific about the composition.
QUESTION: Craig, would 17s and 141s more likely to be used than big C-5s or
small 130s? Would it be 17s --
QUIGLEY: I don't know if we've got to that level of detail yet either. I don't
QUESTION: Craig, earlier there was a reference to nuclear safety, and it got
me to thinking, is the Department of Defense concerned about the safety of Pakistan's
nuclear facility? Has it expressed any concerns to Pakistan? And were nuclear
issues among the subjects that were discussed when the Indian minister was here
QUIGLEY: I would say in general that we are concerned about nuclear safety issues
around the world, but I'm not going to get into the specifics of discussions
with other countries.
QUESTION: Not even a readout on the talks with the Indian minister?
QUIGLEY: I will see what I can do.
QUESTION: Is it possible that some of the forces involved in Bright Star would
be diverted to Operation Enduring Freedom at the end of the exercise, or is
that highly unlikely because it's a training exercise?
QUIGLEY: I can't give you a good answer to that. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, just to follow up?
QUIGLEY: Yes, sir?
QUESTION: Secretary Rumsfeld, yesterday, I believe, said that he's seen satellite
pictures of refugees streaming across the desert. I'm just wondering, is this
information that you would share in detail with humanitarian organizations,
NGOs? And are these kind of images that would be made available for publication
QUIGLEY: We have in the past shared locating information on concentrations of
refugees, because the goal is to provide assistance to those people in the most
efficient way. There has historically been a sharing of information. If a non-government
organization has already been on the ground in an area of strife and can provide
us, and other countries and organizations, that critical, "I'm there; I'm
looking at it with my own eyes" sort of information, that's very valuable.
And again, it goes back to an earlier question; it allows you to get assistance,
whether it's food or medicine or what have you, to the people that need it most
in a quick manner.
We have provided -- and the second part of your question, on publicly releasable,
we have provided imagery publicly in the past. We're very careful when we do
so. And it's a decision that we make each and every time on a case-by-case basis.
Can I go back to the Bright Star question a minute? There are 23,000 U.S. troops;
70,000 total from 10 countries.
QUESTION: Secretary Rumsfeld also said yesterday that he had some idea about
the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Can you elaborate for us? (Laughter.)
QUIGLEY: No, I can't.
QUESTION: On the question of the airdrop, if U.S. planes encounter hostility
from Afghan air defenses, how would that change things in terms of would we
then consider ourselves to be at war with the Taliban?
QUIGLEY: We would take appropriate action, should that occur.
QUESTION: Is there a precedent for sending in armed escorts with a humanitarian
QUIGLEY: I don't recall having done that in the past. I certainly wouldn't rule
it out. It's not something we would discuss publicly.
QUESTION: Have there been any discussions or actual redeployment that you can
discuss from the Balkans that would involve troops that might be becoming involved
in Enduring Freedom?
QUIGLEY: Would you ask that again?
QUESTION: Have there been any redeployments of troops that are currently in
the Balkans or are scheduled to be going to the Balkans, in light of Enduring
Freedom, or any discussions with NATO allies to allow for redeployment?
QUIGLEY: We have not provided information as to the destination or identity
of units that have received orders to deploy around the world.
QUESTION: What kind of lessons are you -- will you be using what you've learned
from your humanitarian operations in Somalia that you would use here?
QUIGLEY: I think you would use them all. I mean, from the various operations
that you have -- that we have been a part of over time, it would be something
-- you might choose this lesson learned from that operation, and these two from
this instance over here. But each and every time, you're going to go back and
take a look at the database and what is similar in the circumstances that we
confront today, what's different, and pick and choose the lessons there that
suit your needs. Again, always, always getting smarter each time you do this,
with the goal of trying to more efficiently provide assistance.
QUESTION: For example, can you tell -- all of them?
QUIGLEY: I mean, the Balkans, both Bosnia, Kosovo, northern Iraq, Rwanda, Somalia;
sadly, I could go on. I mean, but there's lots of geography types, lots of altitudes,
lots of different cultures that have -- that we have provided assistance to
over the years.
QUESTION: Secretary Wolfowitz said this morning that Secretary White's position
as executive agent on the homeland security effort would be a temporary thing.
Can you tell us any more about what he'll be doing, how long you expect he'll
be doing it, and what uniformed commands he will be using?
QUIGLEY: Sure. I can't give you any estimate at all on the duration. But I will
tell you that Secretary White has already set about his task.