|Wednesday, 19 January 2022|
Operation Deliberate Force - Transcript - Adm.Smith Press. Conf.-
From: Franco Veltri <firstname.lastname@example.org>
ADMIRAL LEIGHTON SMITH COMMANDER IN CHIEF ALLIED FORCES SOUTHERN EUROPE
PRESS CONFERENCE 1500(Naples time) 15 Sept 95
Good afternoon. You will know that, following the signing of agreement yesterday in Belgrade, that General Janvier and I agreed that as of last night at 2000 GMT we would suspend, for a period of time, the air strike operations for a period of 72 hours. During that period of time we will continue to fly close air support missions and we will respond to the United Nations should they request close air support missions to protect the United Nations. We are flying reconnaissance, suppression of enemy air defense, and if necessary, search and rescue. You will know that NATO, in full agreement with the United Nations, suspended this act because of a response by the Bosnian Serb leadership stating their willingness to comply with the demands of the United Nations. The temporary suspension will provide the Bosnian Serbs an opportunity to comply with the terms of the agreement. Obviously, our hope is that the end result of all of this will be a cessation of hostilities throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina. Both UNPROFOR forces and NATO will closely monitor the Bosnian Serb movements. We'll be searching for signs of their intent to comply with the agreement that they have signed. At the 72 hour point on Sunday evening, General Janvier and I will work together in very close coordination to assess the degree of compliance. If the heavy weapons relocation is, at that stage, judged to be demonstrating compliance with the agreement, then the suspension of NATO air strikes will be extended for a further 72 hour period until a relocation has been complete. You will know, because I have said earlier, that we're extraordinarily proud of the performance of our NATO aircrews and the men and women, both civilian and service personnel, whose support to that operation is so critical to its success. Again, our hope is that this pause, a temporary suspension of the bombing, will result in very positive actions on the part of the Bosnian Serbs. And that the net result will be a cessation of hostilities. I'll be happy to take your questions. It might be perhaps helpful if I mention to you earlier, I told you that we had a way of defining targets and aim points, and I didn't want to get into that. Things seem to have stabilized a bit. But I will tell you that we've had about 750 strike sorties against 56 total targets. Of those targets, there were 359 different aim points. But what I was trying to point out to you is the difference between a target and an aim point. These are things that we put aircraft into a bombing run against in attempting to strike with weapons. There were a total of some 3500 sorties flown to support these 750 that went in. Now, there's a photo right here that I'd like to show you. When I'm talking about a target, this right here, this entire complex is a target and you will see that right over here is the before picture. So there are an awful lot of buildings in there. You will see that not all of these were aim points because of the issue of collateral damage. You can look afterwards, when you can get a little closer John, and see this thing up close, that there are some buildings down here that were destroyed. These were aim points, these were obviously not. And when you see the photograph, you will know why they were not aim points. But I think this is a demonstration of the care that General Ryan and his people took in coordination with General Smith in Sarajevo, to avoid collateral damage to the degree that we could. And I think from the reports that I have, we have been successful in that regard. Now, for your questions. John, yes sir.
ABC: How are you going to verify the movement? Have you seen any movement as yet? Are you relying entirely on overhead-types of verification or do you get to walk the ground and look underneath roofs and things like that?
A: I think it's going to be a combination of all of that. We certainly are going to have reconnaissance aircraft up there just as much as the weather will allow. Right now we have information that there are some weapons being gathered together and that we expect to see them moving out, perhaps this evening. There are some reports, both from news media as well as from on the ground UN sources. So, we're happy that that, at least, has begun. I would like to see it progress a bit faster. But at least we think it's underway.
ANSA: (Italian translation) Sir, is it true that NATO troops will be asked to go there and oversee the implementation of a cessation of hostilities? What is the plan for the troops, like the French troops, which are there now?
A: You know that there are a number of initiatives right now, ongoing. I am not aware of any of the outcomes of those particular negotiations. We do have some expectations that if there is a peace agreement or a peace implementation to be put forward that NATO could very well be asked. I really don't know more than that because nobody has asked us yet. We are certainly prepared to respond to whatever the North Atlantic Council tells us to do.
ABC: In the past, when the Bosnian Serbs have agreed to terms, they have generally complied with somewhere between 70 or 80 percent for a while. Does this have to be 100 percent compliance as far as you're concerned? And after six days, if they aren't at 100 percent what do you do?
A: Well, first of all there are at least three phases of this John. One is that there are no more attacks on safe areas. We will certainly know when and if that occurs. And if that happens, then we will start generating air strike operations. Unimpeded freedom of movement on the roads and that includes UNPROFOR and UNHCR. You might be interested to know that a convoy left this morning from Sarajevo, went to Kiseljak, they are teaming up with a UNHCR convoy now. And we expect them back in Sarajevo tonight. So we have already tested that one way. We are going to test it again. My expectations are that they will not be impeded in any way, shape or form. We also know that an aircraft has landed at Sarajevo airport and departed, safely. And, so we have tested the airport and its unimpeded access. So far that has worked out. So we would expect that would continue. Those things are fairly easy. The movement of heavy weapons will not be quite so easy, frankly. And we'll just have to watch as that develops. General Janvier and I will have to assess together. And that assessment process, by the way, will not wait until the 11th hour, if you will. We will be doing an assessment all the way through the next couple of days. We will obviously talk, as we had before. On Sunday, as we get closer to the end of the first 72 hour period, then the two of us will make the decision about where to go from there. And the end of six days, General Janvier, in his statement today, expects that all heavy weapons will be removed from the 20 kilometer exclusion zone as defined in the agreement. I certainly don't have a quarrel with that. Our expectations are that the Bosnian Serbs have said that they will remove them, our expectations are that they will be removed. Period.
ABC: And if they don't?
A: Well, you're asking me to speculate. I can tell you right now that if we are not satisfied with the progress there, then first of all, we don't have to go to the second 72 hours. And if we get to the end of it and we see heavy weapons that are still there, one of the things we would expect, obviously, is that they would register those heavy weapons. More than likely, the rational could be something along the effect that it's broken and can't be moved. There may be some of that. I think General Smith is probably going to address those individually with the Bosnian Serbs in Sarajevo. I'm not prepared to say what we will or will not do at the end of six days. But just rest assured that we are going to be looking at it very closely. And we do have a number of options, one of which is to recommence air strikes. The other one is to perhaps give them another push, but I'm certainly not going to stand here and tell you that that's something that a lot of people favor right now. We would like to see compliance. They were the ones who came forward with this type of thing. And we expect to see them comply.
AP: Now the term, the definition of heavy weapons, has slightly modified, how many of the estimated 300 weapons still in that area are supposed to be moved in order for those Bosnian Serbs to comply?
A: I don't have a number for you on that. I just don't know. I don't know right now. I can't even guess at this point. What I need to be able to do is to work very closely with General Smith. As you might expect, he's been kind of busy lately. We're obviously going to see some tanks, we're going to see some mortars, we're going to see some heavy weapons. You know what those definitions are. And we certainly think that there is a fairly substantial number of those and we're going to want to see them start to move. What I need to do is work with General Smith and he will be giving us his thoughts about that particular number and what we expect to see.
AP: Are we talking about heavy weapons over 63 millimeter? Is that what we're talking about over the next three days?
A: The definition was above 100 millimeter, above 82 millimeter mortars, and tanks. That's precisely what's in the agreement that was signed by the Bosnian Serbs and by the Serbian leadership. Am I correct in that? Good. I'm correct in that.
ABC: It sound to me as though, now that the bombing has stopped, that NATO has moved into a phase where it's more willing than it has been in a while to sit down and talk and that there is flexibility as you begin to negotiate about time-frames and specifics. You're not on a hair trigger, obviously. If there is a single violation, you don't go. Are we into a period of protractive negotiation now on this compliance?
A: John, I wouldn't characterize it that way at all. Clearly, what I expect to see during the first 72 hours is a fairly substantial number of weapons moved. Then the second 72 hours I expect to see that movement be completed. That which is not completed, we expect to see listed and why it's there. I leave it up to General Smith as to how he might deal with that. I don't foresee any protracted period of negotiations. I certainly don't see that we're going to sit around and wait for a period of time, give them additional time. I mean, the fact of the matter is, the weather is not that bad over there in the terms of moving things. They said that they were going to move them. Let's see them move. That's what I'm looking for.
AP: Is NATO considering offering the Bosnian Serbs some kind of protection against the advancing Bosnian government and Croatian forces? And if so, what form will that take?
A: My understanding is that part of the agreement was that the Bosnian government has agreed to no combat operations, no offensive operations, either within or from the 20 kilometer exclusion zone. So, that guarantee has been given by the Bosnian government. We have not, NATO has not been asked to provide any guarantees in that respect.
AP: But does it worry you that they are indirectly taking advantage of the air strikes and moving into Serb held territory?
A: We're talking about Sarajevo here, not some place else. And I would just as soon disassociate myself with what's happening in the rest of the country. I have no control over there, over that. And I certainly can tell you from a personal perspective and as we've developed the air plan and the air operation, there was certainly no intent, nor was there any connection whatsoever with what went on on the ground otherwise. So that one of the pieces of the agreement is after this 144 hours, then there would be a sit down attempt to try to gain a cessation of hostilities throughout all of Bosnia- Herzegovina. And that's certainly what we're hoping for.
ABC: Those are very impressive numbers of the sorties and the targets attacked. What is missing from that chart is how many time those attacks were actually on target. Do you have any general estimate of how accurate all this tonnage was?
A: John, what I've seen, we have been very, very successful in the delivery of ordnance. You will of course know because of your experience that weather has an impact on that. Some of the sorties may or may not have dropped ordnance. Some of the sorties would have dropped, cloud cover interferes, you break lock and you loose it. My expectations are that when the tally is done we will find ourselves very, very happy with the figures. I don't know what they are. I have not one clue to what the figures are now because I haven't asked Mike Ryan. That's a piece of the bookkeeping that we'll probably get to much later. But he's got a lot of other things on his mind right now.
ABC: Has there been any direct contact with Mladic in the last 24 hours? Or is all of this negotiation being done through Milosevic and Belgrade? Can you describe that process?
A: I don't know what happened between Dick Holbrooke and when he was in Belgrade. So I can't answer that part of the question. It is not my understanding that personal contact has been made subsequent to what was negotiated in Belgrade. So, I think I can say no to your question, based on my personal knowledge, but it could have occurred.
ABC: So at this point, there has been no face-to-face words spoken by representatives of the Bosnian Serb government to say that they agree to this whole package? It has all been done by proximity? By a surrogate?
A: I don't think I said that. Your question was whether or not they had talked directly to Mladic. It is my understanding that has probably not occurred. However, there have been contacts with the local leadership in Sarajevo and they are the ones who are starting the process. It is my understanding they are empowered to make that happen. We're obviously going to see pretty quickly.
AP: After two weeks of strikes, I'd like to know what kind of damage have you inflicted on the Bosnian Serb air defense and whether it still poses a threat to NATO pilots?
A: We think we've been fairly successful in that. It would be very, very difficult for me to tell you that everything has been, quote unquote, destroyed. But, I can tell you that we have seen no evidence on the part of the Bosnian Serbs to be able to turn on their radars to track our aircraft with either their radars or their missile systems. We've not seen any evidence of that whatsoever. So, we have been very successful in suppressing the enemy air defense. Remember, suppression of enemy air defense is the mission and the objective, not necessarily total destruction. You will know because you have obviously been here and seen some of the videos that we have shown you, that there has been some destruction on some of the fixed sites. But we suspect that there are still mobile SAM sites that are there, that have not been destroyed by our aircraft. And those represent a threat. I might tell you that we will be watching for those very carefully through this period as well and I have made it known to the United Nations that we intend to fly in the air over Bosnia- Herzegovina. And we will respond to any threat to our aircraft using the rules of engagement that currently address that particular situation. We hope that we won't have to, obviously.
ABC: If the Bosnian government does not comply with this agreement, and they in fact start to take territory around Sarajevo where heavy weapons are being removed, what is the procedure there? Is NATO prepared to launch air strikes against the Bosnian government for violating or will it be a stern warning? I know it's hard to predict but it is a very definite possibility.
A: John, you asked me a question that I am absolutely unqualified to address. It has not been addressed or discussed with me. And, so I just have no idea how to answer your question other that to say that I am unqualified to address it.
ABC: So just to recap on the readiness of your forces. You have stood down the bombing mission. But at this point, you are ready to stand it up again at a moments notice all across the theater here, you are ready to go. Just because you've stopped now, doesn't mean you can't get it up within a hour?
A: Precisely. We have aircraft, as I mentioned, we will be flying close air support. Obviously, if a problem arises, those aircraft would be able to respond immediately, using the tactical air control parties on the ground, forward air controllers. We have the suppression of enemy air defense aircraft. That is another offensive capability. We obviously have on-deck alert. These are strike packages that are already pre- briefed that, if necessary, could launch and go take on a mission if they had to. We have the carrier out there which maintains itself on station. We have all of the bases in Italy. So we're ready, yes.
ABC: If you are painted by a target opposition radar, you'll take it out, right?
A: If we are flying in Bosnia and we observe hostile intent, then we will respond in accordance with the rule of engagement that our pilots know very well and which I am not going to discuss in detail in this forum.
AP: What does hostile intent mean to you?
A: Hostile intent? Well, let me give you an example of hostile intent. You know what a hostile action is, somebody shoots at you. Hostile intent, somebody points a gun at you and looks like he's starting to squeeze the trigger. Let me put it in a different way. A surface- to-air missile, if you see one coming up, that's a hostile act. If he turns on the radars and paints your aircraft with a certain signal, and you know that you are being painted, that is obviously a demonstration of hostile intent. Now, there are varying levels of that and the reason I don't want to get into the details of it. But clearly we know when that occurs and our pilots know how to respond to that. And they have been given orders to respond according to the rules of engagement that are in effect. And we will respond.
Thank you very much.
The following charts were displayed during the press conference:
Direct and essential military support facilities - ammunitions, storage and repair depots - command, control and communication sites - lines of communications
Integrated air defence system - Control nodes - radars - SAM sites
Total sorties 3500 Strike sorties 750 Number of targets attacked 56 Number of aim points 359