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DoD News Briefing


Thursday, October 28, 1999 - 1:45 p.m.
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA

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QCould you fill us in on the training that is going to begin for the four Iraqis next week in Florida? (Inaudible) -- what it is and what it entails?

MR. BACON: As you know, the Iraq Liberation Act, which I think was passed at the end of last year, sets aside $97 million to help develop and support opposition to Saddam Hussein. This is to basically develop and support forces for democracy, for a move to democracy, within Iraq.

And we have just made -- the administration has just made its first two decisions to start using some of that money.

The first decision is to spend $2 million on equipment that will be used to set up a headquarters by the Iraqi opposition movement. There is an umbrella organization, called the Iraqi National Congress, that represents seven groups that the president has selected, or he issued a presidential determination in January selecting seven groups with which we'll work to develop as a more effective opposition force.

And the umbrella organization for them is the Iraqi National Congress. We've been dealing with that group as the representative of all the other groups. So $2 million to buy desks, fax machines, telephones, computers, file cabinets and other office infrastructure that's necessary to set up and man a headquarters. Second, $3 million has been earmarked for training support. This will be spent over a period of time. And it will be spent on six types of -- I'm sorry, five types of training. This is leadership training; management and administration training for setting up a civil society; legal issues; that's human rights, peacekeeping, basic legal approaches to setting up a democracy; and what we would call political opposition skills, which involve everything from organizing to communications to media training.

QExcuse me. Is that all military or is that military and civilian -- training for military and civilians?

MR. BACON: This is to train people to be able to set up a democratic movement, essentially. We want to train people in the mechanics of democracy. We want to train people who can be prepared to do two things. One, to begin working to build a democratic movement outside of Iraq -- we hope that sometime it can begin to operate in Iraq, as well -- and to train people who would be ready to set up a democracy and operate a democratic government when a change of government comes in Iraq.

We all agree, we agree with our allies, friends in the region. And P.J. Crowley is here. He has just come back from the region and will talk to you briefly about some of Secretary Cohen's discussions on the trip about Iraq. But we all agree that Iraq -- the Iraqi people would be better off with a different leader other than Saddam Hussein. And this is an opportunity for us to begin to work with people outside Iraq to develop an Iraqi movement for democracy.

QBut their training at Hurlburt Field is non-lethal --

MR. BACON: It's all non-lethal.

QBut this training at Hurlburt Field is being provided by the military. Will all of this $3 million be provided by the military, or will that be both State Department and military programs?

MR. BACON: I think most of it will be provided by the military, but some of it could be provided by the State Department. We have a series of schools that you could say includes the new African Security Center; we have a series of schools here and around the world designed to train people in how to operate in democracies, how to run militaries in democracies, and to give them the basic skills they need to begin to introduce democratic government to a country.

QJust one quick follow-up. Where will this center be set up by the Iraqi National Congress?

MR. BACON: That's for them to decide. They're holding a meeting this weekend in New York. I think it's one of the questions on their agenda as to where they should set up this headquarters.

QIs this the first time that these schools have accepted students that aren't sponsored by a sovereign government? And doesn't this set some sort of a precedent?

MR. BACON: That's a very good question, and I can't answer it for sure. But certainly most of the students are sponsored by sovereign governments, and I can't say for sure that there have never been other non-government-sponsored students there.

Yes, Jim?

QCan you rule out that these classes might move on to military skills when you get finished with civics lessons and fax repair?

MR. BACON: Well, all I can tell you is that right now the plans are to focus on the skills needed to learn about government and to govern; the skills needed to set up an effective opposition. Right now, of course, this opposition is all outside of Iraq, or generally outside of Iraq. There are some -- maybe there are some elements operating within northern Iraq in the Kurdish area. But what we're trying to do is work with an umbrella group that represents Kurds, it represents Shi'ites in Iraq, and also Iraqi Sunnis. The dominant religion in Iraq is Shi'a Muslim, but the ruling religion in Iraq -- the greatest number of people are Shi'ites, but the ruling coalition, Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party, are Sunnis. So we're working with people across the religious spectrum and also from the Kurdish community to develop an effective opposition.

P.J. tells me that all the money is DOD money and it basically comes from draw-down authority under the -- $98 million -- under the Iraqi Liberation Act, the Iraq Liberation Act.

QDoes draw-down authority mean that you are using old equipment and you're pulling stuff out of warehouses? So are the paper and the copying machines and stuff coming out of military warehouses?

MR. BACON: I think it is -- I think it probably is not all new stuff. Could be stuff that we have around from old DFAS centers or something like that.

QThe training is taking place at Hurlburt Field and other places, are you saying--

MR. BACON: Right now, the only training that has been specifically identified will start on November first, Monday, and that will be at Hurlburt Field. That is -- there will be four people who will go through a two-week course in civil military strategy for internal development, which means, basically, democracy -- how to communicate with people, how to organize, how to get your ideas across, how democracies operate, that type of thing.

QAre those four people civilian -- I mean, I guess it's kind of --

MR. BACON: Well, I think two are -- well, obviously none will be in the active duty Iraqi military. I think that's fair to say. (Laughter.) Two of them are former military officers in the Iraqi armed services.

QKen, do we envisage any kind of military combat training in the future? I mean, it's kind of unbalanced, isn't it? You're preparing them for a military in a democracy when they really don't have an army yet at this point to--

MR. BACON: We've put a lot of effort in the last year into trying to develop a unified coherent opposition unit, and Secretary Albright has met with Ahmed Chalabi and other leaders of the Iraqi opposition. She's met with Kurdish leaders. Other people in the government have been meeting with these people. We are trying to get the movement focused and unified so they can work effectively. That's what we are doing right now.

And right now, the only plans we have are for this type of training that I identified in the five categories; leadership, management, et cetera.

QAt this point?

MR. BACON: At this point.

Now, it's conceivable that later on, we could get involved in certain types of humanitarian training that might involve medical training for instance, or engineering or some training on communications capabilities. But that would be a next step. And now all we are looking at is this type of training.

QWait a minute. These are all such benign kinds of things you are describing. The U.S. might also be involved eventually in training them how to fight. Wouldn't that be part of the --

MR. BACON: I am not going to rule that out. All I am saying is that now the training is of the type I have described; it's basically working on organization-building. And we think that's a very important first step.

As you know, from the very beginning, there has been a concern, in Congress and elsewhere, that you have to be able to walk before you can run; you have to be able to organize before you can fight. And we have put a lot of attention into working with the elements of the Iraqi opposition group to make them as effective as possible. That's what we are continuing to work on right now.

Yes, Pam?

QWhat's the growth path for this? It's four people now. Do you have waves of more people coming in?

MR. BACON: Well, we will; I mean, a lot will depend on this meeting in New York over the weekend. And obviously, we have taken a very important first step by allocating money, by finding two programs we are supporting.

And we have got the $3 million for training. Now, that includes the cost of getting people here, the cost of supporting them during the training, et cetera. But still, it's going to take a long while and many people to exhaust that $3 million. So there will be additional training as time goes on.

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MR. BACON: I just wanted to have P.J. give you a brief on -- to go back to the -- Iraq and talk briefly about Secretary Cohen's comments with the Middle Eastern leaders. So if you can give P.J. that --

MR. CROWLEY: Just very briefly, the secretary returned Tuesday night from a 10-day, nine-country trip. Some of your colleagues were on that trip. Iraq obviously was a major topic of discussion.

I think, coming out of the trip, the secretary has a view that there really is a shared vision within the region as to how to proceed to help reintegrate Iraq into the international community and allow Iraq to resume its, you know, rightful place within the region. These were leaders that actually know Saddam best. They're his neighbors. They share our view that hopefully sooner, rather than later, we'll have a regime change in Baghdad, and that will go a long way towards restoring regional stability.

I think the secretary found in his trip that there is still obviously great sympathy for the Iraqi people. It's a sympathy that we share, which is why we've pushed so hard within the U.N. Security Council to try to make sure that as we keep Saddam contained, we work hard to make sure that there is a great deal of humanitarian assistance that flows through the oil-for-food program. They talked at great length about the Dutch-UK resolution, which everyone agrees is the -- provides the best opportunity to restore the inspection program that we need inside Iraq and at the same time make sure there are a wide range of humanitarian assistance that goes to the Iraqi people.

But obviously, within the context of regime change, the secretary did brief leaders, when the issue came up, about what we are doing within the Iraqi Liberation Act to provide this kind of political assistance to help build a stronger voice for the Iraqi opposition within the region and also a better source of information to the Iraqi people, so that they really know that there is a viable alternative to the repressive regime that Saddam Hussein represents in Iraq. So it was one of, you know, the major components of the discussion that the secretary had in his various meetings with the regional leaders.

I think, finally, at the same time, the secretary made clear that until we see that day of change in Baghdad that we, the United States, have a long-term commitment to the region. We are going to maintain force levels at roughly their current size. There is, as is always the case, a constant review within military circles to kind of review, Do we have the right kinds of forces, are they in the right place? There could be minor adjustments as we go forward in terms of the placement of forces, but basically the force levels will continue as we continue to contain Saddam Hussein. The secretary forecast there'd be no major changes in our force posture in the region.

And I think the leaders responded very favorably to that. There was a great amount of agreement that Saddam needs to be contained. The force posture we have there right now is effective in doing that, and then the secretary took the opportunity to brief them on how we are working in other ways to create greater political momentum within the region starting, as Ken said, outside of Iraq but eventually evolving to greater pressure within Iraq to create a better climate so that perhaps at some point in the future this regime change can take place.

QWhat's the decision to put supplies and equipment for another U.S. brigade on barges or ships in the region rather than on land? Was that our decision? Was that our initial position, or did that come about because of political sensitivities raised by the other governments?

MR. CROWLEY: Not at all. That's basically our decision. It's still a process that is ongoing. I think General Zinni and CENTCOM have been working -- for example, we have the brigade set in Kuwait. We are about 80 percent complete in finishing preparations for the -- and finishing work so that you have a complete brigade set in Qatar. We have one brigade set afloat and General Zinni indicated during the trip that it would be his recommendation to the secretary to have a fourth brigade set also afloat, which gives you increased flexibility in terms of how you might be able to respond -- you know, where, when, how -- in the event that there is a future contingency. So that his thinking right now is that the fourth brigade set would be afloat.

QWhat can you tell us about military -- counter-Saddam military groups, dissidents, outside Iraq -- I take it all of them are outside of Iraq. But what about what's going on up in the north with the Kurds?

MR. CROWLEY: I think we've invested a great deal of time and attention. There have been at various times conflicts between the PUK and the other group in Iraq. We've negotiated with them so that really there is really peace in the north. And I think one of the things the secretary mentioned to regional leaders was the fact that the UNICEF report that just came out recently showed that because there's unity in the north, in an area that Saddam does not control, you're seeing vast increases in the health and welfare of those people compared to in the south where Saddam still has more or less complete control. And that's where you see that he has manipulated the system, and the health levels for children and other groups is not as good. So he did make that point, you know, to various leaders.

But there is right now a relative, you know, stable situation in the north. They're better off because of it. And we continue to work with them within the umbrella of Iraqi opposition groups to try to make their efforts as effective as possible; inside the region -- build up better political support inside the region, and then ultimately inside Iraq so that they know, the Iraqi people know that there's a viable alternative to Saddam Hussein.

QThank you.

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Thanks.

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