CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Pentagon Press Conference
Aired December 5, 2001 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Victoria Clarke, the Pentagon press spokeswoman, is briefing reporters over there. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
VICTORIA CLARKE, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: ... pending the notification of their families, but we do want to offer our deepest sympathies and concern to the families of these service members.
And talked to some of you this morning, but this accident does underscore what needs to be remembered, and that is that every day the men and women of the U.S. military put their lives at risk defending our freedoms and our way of life. For that, we are very grateful.
And I would repeat what the secretary said yesterday. We did not ask for this war. We did not start this war. And every casualty rests at the feet of the Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
As we continue with military operations, and Adm. Stufflebeem will give you an update in just a minute, I did want to make mention of an advancement that took place yesterday.
From the very first days, we have said this war is being fought on many fronts -- military, humanitarian, diplomatic, financial and economic. All of these are critical elements, and yesterday the president announced an important action on the financial front. The Treasury Department has frozen the assets and accounts of the Holy Land Foundation, whose money is used to support the Hamas terror organization.
Federal agents also secured the offices and records of the organization. The accounts of a Hamas-linked bank and Hamas- linked holding company have also been blocked.
As the president has said, those who do business with terror will do no business with the United States or anywhere else the United States can reach.
I mention this economic activity because each of these advancements represents progress in our war on terrorism.
QUESTION: Just two quick ones, if we could. Number one, does that mean that you now have three dead and 19 injured or is it three dead now and 20 injured? Did one of the injured die? CLARKE: One of the injured on the plane on the way to another medical facility died.
QUESTION: So you now have three dead and 19 injured?
QUESTION: And also, have you any details at all on the injuries to Hamid Karzai, the southern Pashtun leader who apparently was slightly injured...
CLARKE: We do not. We have heard that Karzai has been out, he's been visible, seems to be doing fine.
QUESTION: Are there any other of the injured -- this is a question relates to what you're talking about -- who would be described as life-threatening situations...
CLARKE: You know, we have gotten much of a characterization of their injuries. They are what you might expect as a result of the munition that dropped in close proximity. And I'll leave that one to Adm. Stufflebeem to talk about some of those. But we haven't gotten much of a characterization of the level of the injuries.
QUESTION: Torie, three quick ones before you leave us. One, where are they being taken, (inaudible)? Two, what outfit -- rangers, Green Berets, Delta, what have you? And three, where do we now stand on the early investigation of why the bomb went awry?
CLARKE: They are being taken to other medical facilities in the region, and we'll just leave it at that. And we also are just saying these were U.S. special forces that died. And I should also mention, we have five Afghans, in terms of deaths, five Afghans and a number of wounded of the opposition groups with whom the special forces were. And finally, the investigation is under way and we don't have any progress to report on that right now.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about the special forces member who received a gunshot wound yesterday? (inaudible) an update on that case...
CLARKE: We checked on that just a little while before we came in, and it was the result of hostile fire. Other than that, nothing new to report.
QUESTION: These people were calling in the strike that hit them?
CLARKE: I'll leave that Adr. Stufflebeem to give you that one.
QUESTION: ... about the Navy reservist, whether he'll be buried at Arlington with his parents or in a separate plot? Can you address that and clarify the situation?
CLARKE: Sure. The Army has worked very hard with the family to come to an agreement where he will be buried in Arlington with his father, in the father's plot in Arlington, and they will change the headstone to reflect that.
QUESTION: Was there some change in policy after the Washington Post story and the parents...
QUESTION: ... "The Today Show"?
CLARKE: No. There was not. And I did not see "The Today Show," but I understand that in it they acknowledged that these arrangements were being made.
QUESTION: Will his wife also be permitted to be interred there in Arlington?
CLARKE: I don't know. I only know about the arrangements to have him...
QUESTION: And one of their primary concerns was that a flyover was not going to be allowed. What is the disposition of that?
CLARKE: The Navy is still reviewing it.
QUESTION: So is the bottom line of what you're saying that the Army secretary's position is unchanged, the one that had dissatisfied the family? Is it unchanged?
CLARKE: Again, I did not see all the comments that the family made.
What I can tell you is, the Army has worked hard over the last couple of days to work through this with them. And our understanding is the family is happy with this resolution.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that Carl Silas (ph) was in the region at the time of the friendly fire incident, that he was meeting with special forces and opposition groups?
CLARKE: I really can't. I can't tell you exactly where he was.
QUESTION: And you say he wasn't injured.
CLARKE: I have said that we have heard reports that he has been out, he has been visible and seems to be doing fine.
QUESTION: Tori, this morning the pool reporters were ordered to stay in their quarters during the transfer of casualties to RHINO (ph) Base. Can you explain why the only media in Afghanistan was kept away from that (inaudible)
CLARKE: I actually just don't have much information on it. I've gotten an e-mail or two from a couple of the reporters. So we're looking into what the circumstances were.
Clearly, there was a lot going on. This was a matter of some nine, 10 hours ago. There was a lot going on.
QUESTION: Well, who's decision would that have been -- had been the local commanders or is that an edict from DOD to prevent U.S. television cameras from seeing American injured?
CLARKE: I honestly don't know what the circumstances were at the time, so we're looking into it.
QUESTION: Can I just have one other...
CLARKE: OK, one more and then we'll let Adm. Stufflebeem do his...
QUESTION: Could you comment on this lawsuit that's been filed by the Air Force lieutenant colonel who objects to the policy in Saudi Arabia of requiring women service members to wear the (inaudible) or to basically dress like Muslim women when they leave the base?
CLARKE: We haven't seen it yet, so I can't.
QUESTION: Do you see any irony in a policy like that, that's similar to the restrictions the Taliban put on women?
CLARKE: No. I don't look for irony or anything else. As we get more information about what might happen -- what we have right now is some press reports, but we just haven't seen anything yet. So it's not appropriate to comment on it.
ADM. JOHN STUFFLEBEEM, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS: Thank you. Good afternoon everyone.
First thing I'd like to do is to add, on behalf of the chairman, the sympathies to those of Mrs. Clarke has offered to the family of those who were killed and wounded.
You know, the motto of these special forces is, "to liberate the oppressed." These men died as heroes and were wounded as heroes. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families.
Let me give you a brief update on the other operations that were going on yesterday. Continuing to focus on efforts in the vicinity of Kandahar in the mountainous regions near Tora Bora.
A Marine element, along with coalition forces, continue patrols in the vicinity of Kandahar, interdicting lines of communications. And as of this hour, they have not had any engagements with Taliban or Al Qaeda forces.
Yesterday, we conducted air strikes in four planned target areas, generally around Jalalabad and Kandahar. We used about 100 strike aircraft -- that included about 80 technical aircraft from seabased platforms, 12 to 14 landbased tactical jets, and between eight and 10 long-ranged bombers.
We dropped leaflets in Kandahar and in the Jalalabad area and continued our Commando Solo broadcast missions. Three C-17s dropped more than 44,000 humanitarian daily rations west of Mazar-i-Sharif, bringing our total to date to more than 2,187,000.
We have two videos from operations over the last few days. The first video is from Sunday of a strike by an F-18 on Al Qaeda troop positions south of Kandahar. As you'll see, there was a direct hit on a trench system. The last video is from F-16 strikes on buildings where Taliban troops reported to have taken refuge. A U.S. ground fort air controller, in coordination with opposition group forces, called the strike in. As you can see, the facility was heavily damaged, while sparing the civilian facilities around it. These strikes were also from Sunday.
QUESTION: Inside the city?
STUFFLEBEEM: No, outside the city.
QUESTION: Is that the same video from a different angle of two buildings?
STUFFLEBEEM: They're actually different; F-16's on different facilities.
And with that, we'll continue your questions.
QUESTION: Admiral, a number of...
QUESTION: Admiral -- sorry. I understand that these U.S. forces which were struck called in the strikes. Can you confirm that, and how far were they from the Taliban forces (OFF-MIKE)
STUFFLEBEEM: Here's what we can say about what we know so far. There was a fort air controller who called in a close air support mission, a B-52 responded with JDAM munitions. One of those JDAM weapons landed somewhere in the vicinity of 100 meters from where our troops were at, and that's what has obviously caused the casualties and injuries.
This mission was called in due to the fighting that was occurring between opposition groups and those Taliban forces that were dug in. This is north of Kandahar. The rest of this, in terms of how that weapon managed to not fall where the troops intended it to, is under investigation, and it's going to take a few days to try to find out why that happened. QUESTION: But you said the Taliban troops were under the fire. Weren't the American...
STUFFLEBEEM: This is opposition groups against...
QUESTION: I beg your pardon. You said the opposition groups are on fire.
STUFFLEBEEM: Groups against fire, yes -- exchanging fire with Taliban.
QUESTION: All right. Were American troops with them also exchanging fire, or were they elsewhere?
STUFFLEBEEM: Well, I assume that -- I don't know know that for a fact. I don't know if U.S. forces were engaged in the fight at that time.
They certainly do take on military forces when they're engaged. Whether they were in this case, I don't know.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Taliban forces...
STUFFLEBEEM: Taliban forces were hit. That bomb -- I don't know what casualties may have occurred on the other side. We're focusing right now on the (inaudible) side aspect of it.
QUESTION: Admiral, why were so many special forces gathered in the same place? We're sort of led to believe that most operations were conducted with smaller teams of special forces, operating independently of each other. This seems like one large group together. Can you explain why that many -- and we presume there were probably more than 22 -- why that many were together in one spot?
STUFFLEBEEM: I don't know the specifics of how this came to be, other than, these were two teams that were in the same location. You have to appreciate and understand that, as these opposition groups are collecting their forces together and concentrating their fire-power, that that may tend to bring U.S. forces that are with them in the same general vicinity.
I don't know that to be the case, but that's likely.
QUESTION: Admiral, can you give us any estimate of how far off the intended target this bomb landed? And can you just run through what the possible explanations could be for what happened?
STUFFLEBEEM: I don't know, and no. I don't mean to be flip about that. It's...
QUESTION: Well, it's a satellite guided bomb.
STUFFLEBEEM: I don't know what the intended target was, other than it was being called on troops; it was being called on Taliban, and if there were Al Qaeda forces with them. It was being called on enemy troops.
Where it landed relative to that, I don't know and will be part of the investigation. And I don't even want to begin to speculate what the possible causes could be because it would be more than we have time for.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Isn't there really just sort of a limited number of things that could've happened? The bomb might have malfunctioned; the coordinates might have been entered incorrectly; the troops on the ground might not have been where they thought they -- there aren't that many possibilities for what happened, is there?
STUFFLEBEEM: Well, I certainly don't mean to indicate to you that there are limitless variables here that come into play, but Jamie, this really does need to be investigated. We really do want to understand how it happened, to know why it happened, to prevent it from happening in the future.
Let me just go back to say what I've said before. As a pilot, I can do everything perfectly with a perfect weapon system, and still cannot account for every weapon going exactly where it's supposed to go. And that's just a fact of unfortunate life here in this case.
You also need to appreciate that as a close air support mission, this is one of the potentially most hazardous type of missions that we use as a military tactic.
Calling in airstrikes, nearly simultaneously on your own position on enemy forces that you're engaged in close proximity to, is a hazardous business and takes very fine control and coordination and precision. And this is, I think, illustrative of what we have seen in training when sometimes things just don't work out perfectly.
QUESTION: But, Admiral, when you think of close air support though, traditionally, you haven't thought of B-52s. Can you explain how the technology has advanced that a B-52 long-range heavy bomber would be used for a close air support mission?
STUFFLEBEEM: Sure. You have to think of it as one weapon system sort of in two parts in this case. You have a precision-guided munition and you have, in this case, an aircraft with a capability of very long endurance. Any kind of an aircraft -- nearly any kind of an aircraft can be brought into a close air support mission. So what has happened is the old technology of the B-52 has been upgraded with the precision weapon capability. It now has an ability to carry a large load of bombs and be on station for a long period of time.
In a case not unlike this one that has occurred, troops come under fire and need air support, and they'll call what is available, and it may be that it was the B-52 that was on station and had to remain on station when other aircraft may not have. And so, you know, our technology, our capabilities, have upgraded this old work horse, if you will, and been able to bring it to bear.
QUESTION: Can you comment on some skepticism about the accuracy of the so-called smart bombs, based on what some may have formed a perception of bombs that have gone astray and killed civilians because they hit in the wrong place, because of bombs that -- the bomb that fell last week at Mazar-i-Sharif which caused the friendly fire casualties and then this? Is there reason to be skeptical about just how accurate these -- how smart these smart bombs are?
STUFFLEBEEM: No. No reason to be skeptical.
We have seen in the improvements and the technology of our weapon systems and our weapons finer or tighter tolerances in terms of precision. And whenever any endeavor attains a new standard of precision, that new bar, if you will, becomes the lowest common denominator, and anything that falls outside of that becomes an aberration that you would like to explain, understand, and improve upon.
And that's certainly the case that we experienced here. However, these are human-made, human-designed systems, and therefore they're going to have flaws that are going to be built-in, or they are going to occur. We have not perfected a technology that is perfect in its execution. However, we have come to expect an extremely high standard with this precision that doesn't really allow for the realities of what happens when it doesn't meet that standard.
QUESTION: But Admiral, given the hazardous nature and the precision required as you mentioned a few minutes ago, should we then be lead to believe that a 2,000 pound bomb which strikes a lot of people as fairly large for close air support, that that was the only thing available in this particular mission?
STUFFELBEEM: I don't know what aircraft were in the area in an on-call status, therefore I don't know if other aircraft could have been called in. But I don't believe that there are other aircraft that you necessarily would achieve a higher degree of precision with.
CLARKE: Let me just follow-up on something there. I caution people about making too many assessments or making too many judgments at this stage of the game. It's still very early; we're still trying to get information about what happened, so I caution people about making assessments before we have more information.
QUESTION: If I could follow up though. Could you explain how the soldiers were evacuated out of there? Was anybody injured as you attempted to extract them out and take them to the (OFF-MIKE)
STUFFLEBEEM: The only reports of injuries that we have are the wounds that were sustained due to this weapon.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) describe the scene though as they were taken out?
STUFFLEBEEM: I can't describe the scene -- I don't have any facts on what it was. QUESTION: If I understand you correctly, the epicenter of where this bomb dropped was a football field away from where the fatal injuries occurred. Is that what you're saying? A hundred meters away from these guys?
STUFFLEBEEM: I think I heard it was about 100 meters away.
QUESTION: A hundred meters away, and I believe you also described that you believed in close enough proximity to Taliban lines that it may have created difficulty for them as well?
STUFFLEBEEM: No I'm sorry. If I gave you that impression, I apologize. I don't know what the intended target coordinates were. I don't know how far from those coordinates the weapon hit. I don't have any information about what even happened on the other side.
QUESTION: I know. But as the bomb dropped, whether it was the right place or the wrong place, I thought you indicated that it somehow dropped between friendly and hostile forces.
QUESTION: You're not indicating that?
STUFFLEBEEM: I don't know that. I don't know.
QUESTION: Were there other bombs that dropped at a near simultaneous place that found their correct targets, the Taliban forces, and inflicted the casualties on the Taliban?
STUFFLEBEEM: I don't know that either.
QUESTION: But you said that there were Taliban...
STUFFLEBEEM: Well, sure, this has been -- this was a fight that was going on, so they were exchanging fire.
QUESTION: But by that bomb?
QUESTION: But not by the bomb.
STUFFLEBEEM: I don't know. And I've only focused on just this weapon, because of the fracture sites. So I've not examined, you know, what else was going on there.
STUFFLEBEEM: I don't know.
QUESTION: Could I ask a little bit more about Jack's (ph) question. It's about 70 yards, I believe, 100 meters, isn't that correct?
(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: OK. It reinforces the question I want to ask. That's a long way away. Is somebody in danger a football field away?
STUFFLEBEEM: A 2,000 pound weapon is a devastating weapon.
QUESTION: At what...
STUFFLEBEEM: As a pilot, when I would drop a 2,000 pound weapon, I wanted at least 4,000 feet of separation from that weapon when it went off.
QUESTION: Could you describe that then as its blast area? Is that large, 4,000...
STUFFLEBEEM: You could.
QUESTION: Admiral, most of the wounded were taken to Base RHINO (ph) for the triage -- pardon me. How many of the 19 remaining wounded are listed as critical (inaudible)
CLARKE: We don't have it yet. We've not gotten characterizations of their condition or their status.
QUESTION: Admiral, platforms, we're talking about wide B-52. More specifically, why were not AC-130s, the most precise ground attack weapons you've got over there in the mix, given the number of special forces troops, involved?
STUFFLEBEEM: I haven't gone back and looked at the AC-130 or the MC-130 specifically. It does not have the same endurance that a B-52 has. It may, in fact, have been flying on the ATO for the day and it just happened to be -- it was not in this location or may have been out of the window that it was on station. So I don't know.
QUESTION: Can you give us some perspective on the number of bombs dropped to date and how many of those were precision-guided, so we can make a judgment here of ratios? Is it not 11,000 bombs total, with about 60 percent precision-guided?
STUFFLEBEEM: Let us take that question and get back to you.
QUESTION: Let me add some context to it.
STUFFLEBEEM: I haven't looked at the numbers lately.
QUESTION: When you talk about that third service member who died, you say he died on the plane. Was that on the plane to RHINO (ph) Base or on a plane out of the region?
CLARKE: On a plane to another medical facility.
STUFFLEBEEM: And do you know how long after the incident that was that he died?
CLARKE: No, I don't.
QUESTION: Who performed the evacuation of extraction of the force? Was it those Marine forces from the forward-operating base?
STUFFLEBEEM: It was a combination of -- well, it was Marines for sure. Marines from the forward-operating base responded and combat SAR responded from Pakistan. I'm not sure if those were Marine or Army. For sure Marine, and may have been Army as well.
QUESTION: Admiral, do you know if Karzai was among the two teams and special forces on the ground? And the special forces who called in the strikes, were they in communication with those who were injured? Or did they know of their whereabouts?
STUFFLEBEEM: I don't have any information on the whereabouts of Mr. Karzai at the time that the weapon went off or where he was in relation to the special operating forces. The forces that were killed and wounded were, in fact, the group that called in the strike.
QUESTION: And were they aware of the location of the other special forces who were injured in this situation?
STUFFLEBEEM: As I understand it, they were in the same area. So, yes, they would have know that.
QUESTION: Admiral, could you explain in a little more detail what the procedure is for targeting these weapons? I take it they're targeted while the plane is in flight not before it takes off. What happens? The guys on the ground radio to the plane or -- can you just go through the steps?
STUFFLEBEEM: I'll only do so very briefly just for the sake of time.
For a close air support mission, a forward air controller on the ground who has the perspective of what is occurring there that would cause them to want that support; either they're under heavy fire or they wish to achieve some sort of a condition and can see where it is they wish to have heavy munitions dropped, they determine those coordinates. They contact the aircraft on the radio. They pass the coordinates of where they are located. They pass the coordinates of where they wish the weapons to be placed and when they wish to have the weapons dropped. That then is a procedure that is turned around in the cockpit of the aircraft.
The air crew will respond if they are not able to achieve those conditions; either in locations or time or anything else that they don't quite understand. But once they've got that, they'll move as quickly and as precisely as they possibly can to meet that time. It's a time-sensitive targeting process.
QUESTION: Do they have to type the coordinates into a keyboard or...
QUESTION: Admiral, can you tell us what's the latest on what's going on around Tora Bora? What are U.S. forces doing, whether in the air or on the ground, to support any of the Afghan opposition groups who are forming up to, in fact, go after or, in fact, are attacking those caves around Tora Bora?
STUFFLEBEEM: I only know in a general sense, their mission as has been other special operating forces make contact with opposition groups, determine what their needs are, what their requests might be, and to develop intelligence, and do reconnaissance. So they are there to help facilitate the air strikes with, or for the benefit of the opposition groups, as well as to determine through this intelligence gathering, the potential for planned targets.
QUESTION: And what precisely are these planned targets that they're going after in that region, and what kind of BDA have we had over the past several days?
STUFFLEBEEM: Well, they're trying to determine locations of Al Qaeda, and specifically Al Qaeda leadership, and the remaining Taliban that might be in the area. The reports from that region are is that many of these forces may have or have had taken up refuge in caves and tunnels. So we're working to determine where these bad guys are, and then to bring strikes on them.
In terms of bomb damage assessment, I have very little. In terms of hit assessment, we have been very effective and have had a lot precision in hitting the areas that have been called.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, one more. To what extent are U.S. forces on the ground working with supporting or leading the Afghan opposition troops on the ground there supposedly attacking these gate complexes?
STUFFLEBEEM: The understanding I have, and I would say that it is incomplete, is that they are supporting opposition groups -- they are not leading opposition groups.
QUESTION: And are you aware that any of the opposition groups have actually made it to any of the tunnel cave complexes -- that actual human beings who are in the opposition, with or without American forces with them, have actually gotten into these complexes?
STUFFLEBEEM: I have seen reports where they have entered some caves. I don't have any more information other than that, than that local opposition groups from local villages in this area, who know the terrain, have gone into some of the caves to confirm whether or not somebody, you know, was or might be there.
QUESTION: And reports that top Al Qaeda leaders, including perhaps even son-in-law of Osama bin Laden have been killed?
STUFFLEBEEM: Well, I've seen reports, single-source reports about Al Qaeda who may have been killed. We have not been able to confirm any of that.
QUESTION: Admiral, can you tell us the success rate of the JDAM munition so far in this campaign, and is the JDAM any more or less successful or accurate depending on the plane from which it's dropped?
STUFFLEBEEM: That's a good question; that's also very technical. It's going to take a lot of data analysis gathering, which is building, and not yet being consumed I guess is the right word. So I..
STUFFLEBEEM: I can tell you that we know that it's a generation's improvement over dropping unguided bombs -- I think that's relatively obvious. But in terms of is one aircraft, or one weapons system better at doing this than another, no.
QUESTION: I'm just curious, if the B-52 is not your first choice for dropping a JDAM if you have a target in very close proximity to friendly forces?
STUFFLEBEEM: No, not at all. And that's what I was hoping I was trying to convey in the sense that there's two parts to this. The B- 52 may be an old work horse, but it is updated with the newest in technology of this JDAM weapon system. So I don't perceive -- I have not seen any data that would indicate that a JDAM drop from a B-52 is any different in its precision or reliability than it is from an F-15 or or F-14.
QUESTION: Was weather a factor at all? I mean, was there cloud cover that would prevent a laser-guided bombs or was it -- or do you know?
STUFFLEBEEM: I do not know. And I don't know why the choice of the weapon. I think what they were looking for was a maximum blast affect, and that's why it's a 2,000 pound weapon.
QUESTION: Can either of you update us on what, if anything, has been determined about what happened in the previous errant bombs episode near Mazar-i-Sharif? Has there been any -- have you gotten any feel for what happened there?
CLARKE: No. Very little new information.
STUFFLEBEEM: No. We've asked. In the investigation, they're still studying that to try to determine.
QUESTION: Well, Admiral, a JDAM wouldn't be affected by weather. I mean...
STUFFLEBEEM: No. His question was having to do with comparing that to a laser-guided bomb, as opposed to a GPS guided...
QUESTION: ... the outcome of this investigation, have you made any changes in your use of weapons? Have you put the use of JDAMs on hold or is it business as usual? Are you continuing to use them with no hold on them until the investigation's done?
STUFFLEBEEM: There are no restrictions on the use of JDAM that I am aware of. I don't know that Central Command is not looking at that. I think as part of the investigation, they'll ask a lot of questions to try to reduce these numbers of variable possibilities.
But the JDAM, in its testing and in its use, has proven to be an extremely precise and very effective weapon. And the fact that we now have had two weapons that didn't land where we would have intended that they would go, but we need to understand more about why that happened before we can say we really might have a problem.
CLARKE: Two more questions.
And let me just follow-up on that again. People are trying to draw conclusions here where we don't have enough information. And as many improvements as there have been in the technologies, technology is not perfect. It never will be perfect.
Next to last question.
QUESTION: To what extent do you think the Taliban are actually being flushed out of their hiding places, are they on the run in the open?
STUFFLEBEEM: Well, certainly around Kandahar we're seeing reports of Taliban digging in, building or erecting defensive positions. They are also on the run. In this strike, that we showed the video of, is where the Taliban were intending to take refuge when that strike was called on those facilities.
We also are watching, as you are, the number of individuals who are exiting the city and trying to make their way into Pakistan. And we don't know that Taliban or former Taliban aren't in there, as well.
So I think that you continue to see this fluid situation around Kandahar and the mixed bag of reports.
CLARKE: Wait, one thing on that and then -- again, don't make generalizations. I think the secretary and General Myers were very careful yesterday to say there were different kinds of pockets of resistance. So don't generalize one big group.
QUESTION: Tori, this morning, you seemed to suggest that one of the air strikes yesterday did hit a cave and tunnel complex, or you think that there may have been Al Qaeda leadership, but it sounds like the admiral is saying something a little bit different. Can you clarify?
CLARKE: No. I think it's the same. We have some reports, but we don't have any specific information about names or positions or anything like that.
STUFFLEBEEM: So single reports are no verification.
QUESTION: Just a housekeeping issue.
CLARKE: Yes. This is the last question. QUESTION: I know you may not know what the exact circumstances were at Camp RHINO (ph), where it's reported that, in fact, U.S. pool members were locked up and kept away from covering the medevac treatment for these soldiers that were injured. But is it the Defense Department, the Pentagon, policy to prevent media coverage of any U.S. military killed or injured?
QUESTION: And if such an event occurred, would the Pentagon try to rectify that situation?
CLARKE: What we try to do and we will continue to try to do is provide access and facilitate media coverage of this very unconventional war. If something could impede or hinder operational security or to put lives at risk, then we will not let something go forward. But as a general course, as a general principle, what we'll try to do is facilitate coverage. And we would not -- again, let's not talk about specific here, because we don't know. But as a general principle, we want to facilitate coverage, and we will.
QUESTION: So you have no information right now that any reporters were impeding anything?
CLARKE: I just got a couple of calls on it, and we haven't had a chance to run it down. But I will.
STUFFLEBEEM: Good afternoon.
BLITZER: Victoria Clarke and rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, briefing reporters at the Pentagon on the latest series of developments, including the deaths of three U.S. soldiers in what's described as a friendly fire incident.
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