tv Pentagon Briefing on Syria Strikes CSPAN April 14, 2018 3:41am-4:05am EDT
thank you, and good night. thank you. >> shortly after the president's statement, defense secretary james mattis and general joseph dunford gave an update on the airstrikes and answered questions at the pentagon. mrs. 20 minutes. -- this is 20 minutes. >> earlier today, president trump ordered destroyed the searing regimes research development and production facilities. , the united kingdom and the united states, and france -- chemical weapons. , the assad regime did not get the message last year.
this time, we have struck harder and sent a clear message to assad and his murderous lieutenants they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack for which they willmurderous lieutey should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack for which they will be held accountable. i want to emphasize these strikes are emphasized that the syrian regime. we have gone to great lengths. it is a time for all civilized ending urgently unite in the sectarian civil war by supporting the united states. in accordance to the chemical weapons convention prohibiting the use of such weapons, week
urge responsibility to condemn the assad regime and join us in our firm resolve to prevent chemical weapons from being used again. general dunford will provide a military update. -- i'll address this from a military standpoint. french, british, and u.s. forces struck targets in syria in support of president trump subjective to determine the future use of chemical weapons. integratedwere throughout the planning and execution of the operation. the targets that were struck and destroyed were specifically associated with the syrian regime's chemical weapons program. we also selected targets that would minimize the risk to innocent civilians.
the first target was a scientific research center located in the greater damascus area. this military facility was a syrian center for the research, development, production, and testing of chemical and biological warfare to elegy. the second target was a chemical weapons storage facility west of -- we assessed this was the primary location of precursor production equipment. target, in the vicinity of the second target contained the weapons storage facility and an important command post. french naval, and it and air forces were involved in the operation and for reasons of air t, i won't be more specific this evening. before we take questions, i would like to address how this evening's strike where -- were qualitatively and oxidatively different than last year. we conducted unilateral strike on a single site. focus was on the aircraft
associated with the syrian chemical weapons attack in april 2017. this evening, we conducted strikes with two allies on multiple site that will result in the long-term degradation of syria's of elegy to employ chemical and biological weapons. infrastructure was destroyed, which will result in a setback for the syrian regime. they will lose years of research and development data, specialized equipment, and expensive chemical weapons precursors. this sends not only a strong message to the regime that their actions were inexcusable, but inflicted maximum damage without unnecessary risk to innocent civilians. when that, the secretary and i would be glad to take your questions. secretary, first of all, did the u.s. suffer any losses initially and more broadly the president in his remarks said the u.s. and its
allies are prepared to sustain this operation until they stop using chemical weapons. does this mean the u.s. and its partners will continue military operations beyond this initial operation tonight? sec. mattis: that will depend on mr. assad, should he decide to use more chemical weapons in the future and of course, the powers that have signed the chemical weapons prohibition have every reason to challenge assad should he choose to violate that. right now, this is a one-time -- hasd i believe it is sent a very strong message to dissuade him, to deter him from doing this again. >> [indiscernible] we will give you a full brief in the morning, right now we have no reports of losses. reporter: you seen any
retaliation from the russians or the iranians, and how long do you think this operation could last? is it a matter of hours, days, or could he go longer than that? gen. dunford: we did have some air missileace to activity from the syrian regime, that is the only retaliatory action we are aware of at this time. operation, wethe have completed the targets that were assigned to central command. those operations are complete. reporter: general dunford or secretary mattis, could you talk more about your concerns that you expressed earlier in the week about russian escalation? general dunford, were you able to talk to your russian counterpart? what are your concerns about i would like to know the sense of the british government about whether the situation with the russian
involvement in -- how the russian involvement played a role in your decision to enter this coalition this evening? gen. dunford: let me address the last point first, our attack are not going to get in front of their prime minister and president respectively. the national message will come from the capital's in. with russian concerns, we select mitigatetargets to the chance of russian forces being involved. we used active channels this week to work through the airway s. we did not notify the russians. a couple of days ago, you said you are still assessing the intelligence on the chemical weapons attacks -- suspected at this point you know
what the chemical was used in that attack? at this point you know what the chemical was used in that attack? and also, what is your evidence it was delivered by the syrian regime? sec. mattis: say the last part? reporter: what is the evidence it was delivered by the syrian regime? sec. mattis: i am certain -- confident the syrian regime conducted a chemical attack on innocent people in this last week, yes. andlutely confident of it we have the intelligence level of confidence that we needed to conduct the attack. reporter: as far as the chemical use, was it a nerve agent, was a chlorine? sec. mattis: we are very much aware of one of the agent, there may have been more than one agent used. we are not clear on that yet. one chemical least agent that was used. reporter: i want to clarify on the d complexion line you russians ahead of
russians ahead of time before the operation began what you were going to do at what targets you would strike? gen. dunford: the only communications that took place specifically associated with this operation before the targets were struck was the nfliction of the airspace. general dunford, you mention syrian air defenses had engaged. syrian state tv says they genert -- shot down 13 tomahawk missiles. can you refute that? reporter: i can't tell you results. the time on target was about an hour ago and we came straight up here to give you the best information we have right now. we will giveing, you more detailed operational
over? gen. dunford: over? gen. dunford: yes, that is why we are speaking with you now. sec. mattis: i wanted to follow-up action, you said that would depend on whether or not the outside government index future chemical attacks. could you explain more about what would be the threshold for that? repeated chemical attacks between the april 2017 and would youay consider a small-scale chlorine attacks efficient to launch additional strikes? sec. mattis: right now, i would tell you where close consultation with our allies. we review all the evidence all the time, it is difficult, as you know, to get at it -- evidence out of syria but right now, we have no additional attacks planned. as far as the legal authority under article two of the
constitution, we believe the president has every reason to defend vital american interests and that is what he did here tonight under that authority. reporter: a couple of questions for general dunford. what were some of the targeting considerationsconsiderations inr chemical affairs -- facilities? how long did it operation take a plan and last year, the strikes were described as proportional, year, the strikes were described as proportional, moderate -- how would you describe this years in contrast to the? gen. dunford: we chose these targets to mitigate the risk of civilian casualties. we chose these targets because they were specifically associated with the chemical program and obviously, when we look at target planning, we look at the location relative to other populated areas, collateral damage, proportionality. targets were selected with
proportionality discrimination and being associated specifically with the chemical program. reporter: [indiscernible] gen. dunford: targets were seleh there were manned aircraft involved, but we will not give any details at this time. ,eporter: up until yesterday you said i cannot tell you we have evidence. when did you become confident that a chemical attack happened and the second one -- yesterday, after you said that. second, you talked about targeting the infrastructure of assad. were actually in a chemical weapons or agents in those facilities that you targeted, i assume they would create health hazards in the region are not? sec. mattis: we did very close analysis, as the chairman pointed out, we did everything
we could in our intelligence assessment and planning to minimize to the maximum degree possible any chance of civilian casualties. we are very much aware this is difficult to do in a situation the this, especially when poison gas that assad assured the world he had gotten rid of obviously still exist. sets a challenging problem and we had to the right military officers dealing with it. reporter: you can confirm there will be no leak into the air -- >> of course not, we will do our best. and we had to the right military officers dealing with it. reporter:reporter: when the suro air defenses engaged, did they become a target and the u.s. air power or other assets take up as targets? gen. dunford: i'm not aware of any response we took right now. we will gather overnight. as you can imagine, we tried to leave the central command alone, they were busy.
we will gather through the night operational details and be back tomorrow morning to provide those to you. last year, you changed force protection levels for syrian troops -- u.s. troops in syria. there were 2000 u.s. troops in syria. have you changed force level? gen. dunford: the commander always takes prudent measures, especially in the environment they were in tonight. they did make adjustments. to be to be complete -- clear on the deconfliction line, you told them you would operate in the airspace but not the targets. gen. dunford: that is correct, we used the normal channels to deconflict the airspace we're using. we did not court make targets or any planning with the russians. reporter: what was their response? --that was passed from the through the air operations center in qatar, but that information is passed routinely every day and every night.
they may not have found anything unusual about that aris -- airse deconfliction. reporter: can you talk about any targets you initially considered and why you may have not gone for them, and could your colleagues explain exactly the sort of -- you have made? our allied officers are here out of respect for the fact that they were part of the mission from planning all the way through to the political wants theiren and heads of state speak tomorrow, that will be the initial statement from those capitals. as far as any other targets, we look at targets specifically designed to address the chemical weapons threat that we have seen manifested. the whole world has watched in horror these weapons being used. those were the only targets we were examining for prosecution.
you mentioned three target areas that were struck. how can you be sure that from now on, these are all of the target areas -- or production facilities for chemical weapons that the syrians are using and you believe there are additional locations? where they are producing? gen. dunford: great question, we had a number of targets to select from and again, we did not select those that had a high risk of collateral damage and specifically, a high risk of civilian casualties and so the -- modeling was done to mitigate the risk of any chemicals in those facilities, mitigate the risk of civilian casualties. were there other targets we look at, their work. based on thehese significance to the program, as well as the location and layout. reporter: secretary mattis, it
seems like this strike tonight was pretty limited -- not dissimilar from last year. three targets this time instead of one, but it still seems a little more targeted and more specific than what a lot of people were expecting. can you walk us through your -- the concern about escalation with russia, did it affect your concern to keep this more limited and moving from there, how much of assurance can you give us that this is going to deal with -- do it last year's strike didn't do, which is stop president assad from using chemical weapons? sec. mattis: nothing is certain in these kinds of matters, -- the concern about escalation with russia, didhower double the number of weapons this year and we used last year. it was done on targets we hurtved were select did to
the chemical weapons program. we can find it to the chemical weapons type target. we were not out to expand this. we were very proportionate but at the same time, it was a heavy strike. reporter: prior to the attack, how important was it to get the support from the allies not only from an intelligence point of view, but also from the countries themselves? sec. mattis: it is also important that we sec. mattis: it is always important that we act internationally in a unified way over something, especially that is such an atrocity as this. that we have observed going on in syria. i would also tell you that these allies, the americans, the french, the british, we have operated together through thick and thin, through good times and bad. this is a very, very well integrated team.
wherever we operate, we do so with complete trust in each other, the professionalism, and more than that, the belief the other will be there when the chips are down. it is important and it is a statement about the level of trust between our nations. reporter: general dunford, were the syrians able to hide all these chemical weapons the last several days, there has been talk, did it give the syrians time to move them off-limits? secretary mattis, to confirm earlier when you are saying you had information about one of the chemicals. we are all assuming that means chlorine, not necessarily sarin, if you could clarify that part. gen. dunford: i am not aware of any specific actions the syrians took to move chemical weapons in the last couple days. sec. mattis: we are very confident that chlorine was used. we are not ruling out sarin right now. reporter: i would like to follow-up on the question about the targets that you first
examined and then triaged down to three tonight. it sounds like you went after facilities and not the weapons, as indicated earlier, to minimize accidental risk to civilians. in the targets that remain, would you characterize perhaps the ability to pursue it, to ramp it up again and again have chemical weapons? gen. dunford: i think it is too early to make that assessment right now. reporter: general dunford, did any russian defenses engage u.s., british or french ships or missiles? secretary mattis, were any of the strikes intended to kill bashar al-assad? gen. dunford: the only reaction that i am aware of of this time was syrian surface air missiles. i was at the military command center and was aware of that activity. i am not aware of any russian activity. i am not aware of the full scope of the syrian regime response at this time. those are details we will pull together for you in the morning. sec. mattis: the targets tonight again, were specifically
designed to degrade the syrian war machine's ability to create chemical weapons and to set that back. there were no attempts to broaden or expand that target set. ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming in this evening. based on recent experience, we fully expect a significant disinformation campaign over the coming days by those who have aligned themselves with the assad regime. in an effort to maintain transparency and accuracy, my assistant for public affairs, ms. dana white and lieutenant general mckenzie, the director of the joint staff. washington, will provide a brief of known details tomorrow morning. we anticipate at about 9:00 in this same location. thank you again for coming in this evening, ladies and gentlemen.
>> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1970 nine c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme eventsand public policy in washington dc and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> sunday, a 1968 america in turmoil, conservative politics and disenchantment with the size of government gave the rise of the political right and
republican presidential victory. ronald reagan made his debut as a presidential candidate, foreshadowing the conservative revolution to come. watch 1968 america in turmoil, live on sunday and 8:30 eastern on c-span's washington journal. >> yesterday evening president trump announced the u.s. was launching airstrikes in syria. in cooperation with france and the u.k., in part of a response to the alleged chemical attacks taking place last weekend, killing more than 40 people and inju