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tv   Pentagon Briefing  CSPAN  April 14, 2018 10:01am-10:40am EDT

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>> good morning. happy saturday. i want to start by making one point clear. the use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an inexcusable violation of international law. the united states will not tolerate it. on us out regime attack april 7 is horrifying and tragic. it demanded an immediate response. forcesay, united states under the direction of president trump launched precision strikes against the assad regime targets associated with the use of chemical weapons in syria. we launched these strikes to cripple syria's ability to use chemical weapons in the future. we were joined by the united kingdom and france to
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demonstrate solidarity in these atrocity. americans are united in condemning serious inexcusable use -- inexcusable use of chemical weapons and will not be tolerated. we are encouraged by what we receive from senators and congressmen on both sides the eye a. unitedproud of the states service members who carried out this operation on-site area they demonstrated unwavering courage and commitment in their defense of the american people and the values and ideals our nation represents. this was carefully orchestrated and methodically planned to minimize potential collateral damage. i can assure you we took every precautionmeasure of .o cycling most targeted
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we successfully hit every target. this operation does not represent a change in u.s. policy. to depose the syrian leader. these strikes were justified, legitimate and proportionate assad continued use of chemical weapons on its own people. i do not see conflict in syria but we cannot browse the -- of international law. while assadains backed by russia and around ignores international law. they have abandoned their commitment to the international .ommunity and resorted to
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we call upon russia to honor its commitment to assure the assad regime dismantle its regime and never use a chemical weapon again. we support our diplomats who are working to set the conditions of the united nations and back to geneva process to succeed and we look forward fdri now give you a detailed overview. i will spend the next few minutes talking about the military details of the strikes last night. can i get the first graphic? as you heard from the president and from secretary mattis and chairman dunford, the united states, the united kingdom, and france, three of the five permanent members of the u.n.
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security council, conducted a precision strike in response to the syrian regime use of chemical weapons. this military strike was against three distinct syrian chemical weapons program targets. i will show you them on the monitor behind me. the three facilities are more appropriately now were, fundamental components to the chemical warfare infrastructure. let's go to the first slide. the research and development center. the chemical weapons storage facility. the chemical weapons bunker facility located seven kilometers from the previous site. the strike aimed to deliver a clear regime to the syrian regime that the use of chemical weapons against innocent
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civilians is inexcusable and to deter future use of chemical weapons. we selected the targets to minimize the risk to innocent civilians. we are conducting a detailed damage assessment, but indications are that we accomplished our objections without material interference from syria. i would use precise, overwhelming, and effective to describe the operation. the first target, located in the greater damascus area, we deployed 76 missiles. 56 were tomahawk in 19 were joint air to surface missiles. you can see from the graphics the initial assessments are that this target was destroyed. this will set the syrian chemical weapons program back for years. we also destroyed three
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buildings in metropolitan damascus, one of the most heavily defended aerospace facilities in the world. against the second target, the chemical weapons storage facility, 22 weapons were employed. this target was attacked by all coalition forces. our tomahawks, british storm shadow, and french missiles as well. the next, the chemical weapons bunker facility, we deployed 7 scout missiles. the assessment was that this was successfully hit. i would like to talk about the specific platforms that were a part of the strike. the missiles that i described were delivered from british, french, and u.s. air and naval platforms in the red sea, the
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northern arabian gulf, and the mediterranean. they all hit their targets close to the designated time on target at 4:00 a.m. in syria, 9:00 on the east coast. i will give you more details about the platforms. in the red sea, the monterey fired tomahawk missiles. in the north arabian gulf, the higgins fire 23 tomahawks. in the eastern mediterranean, the french fired three versions of this cap missile. also the john warner fired six tomahawk missiles. in the air, 2 bombers fired 19 missiles. our british allies flew tornadoes and typhoons and
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launched8 -- launched 8 storm shadow missiles. taken together, these attacks on multiple axes were able to overwhelm the syrian air defense system. we also flew a variety of defensive counter air tanker and electronic war aircraft in support of the operations. none of our aircraft or missiles involved were successfully engaged by syrian air defenses. we have no indication that russian air defense systems were employed. we are confident that all our missiles reached their targets. at the end, all of our aircraft safely returned. we assessed over 40 surface-to-air missiles were deployed by the syrian regime. most of them occurred after the last impact of our strike was over. it is likely that the regime
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shot many on a ballistic trajectory, without guidance. the defensive efforts of syria were largely ineffective and an increased risk to their own people based on an indiscriminate response. when you shoot without guidance, it will come down somewhere. the precise nature of our strike and the care with which our team planned and executed, reduced risk to civilians. in a powerful show up allied unity, we deployed 105 weapons against three targets that will significantly impact the regime's ability to develop and employ chemical weapons in the future. i want to emphasize that by comparison the strike was double the size of the last one in april 2017. i would emphasize that this was a multinational effort. the precision strike was executed with france and the u.k., demonstrating our unquestionable resolve.
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i would like to note that since the strike, we have not seen any military response from actors in syria, and we are postured to protect our forces and those of the coalition if anything occurs. >> with that, we will take your questions. >> thank you. he said that initially the attack set back the syrian chemical weapons program for years. can you elaborate? it was intended to cripple it? can you be more -- >> as of now we are not aware of any civilian casualties. i would also note, as i said in my remarks, that the syrians launched 40 large missiles in the air that came down somewhere. we should recognize that that is a part of the equation.
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right now, we don't have any reporting's of civilian casualties against any of the targets that we struck, and we will look at this closely going ahead. looking at your question, is a core site for them and it doesn't exist anymore. they have lost a lot of equipment and material. it will have a significant effect. the words cripple and the great -- and degrade are accurate. >> he was convinced that chlorine was used and is still waiting on sarin. he said he was confident that the syrian regime mounted the chemical attacks. what evidence do you have of chlorine in the syrian attack. the opcw is collecting information? >> we are still assessing. as the secretary said, he is confident of the evidence we
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already had. that is why he recommended the strikes last night. we are still assessing and getting details. we will provide more details when we have them. >> can you give us the evidence you do have? >> there is various intel. when we have more evidence and details i will come back to. >> could you speak about in the facilities, why are you convinced there was chemical agents inside at the time of the strike and how did you mitigate not having the dispersal of a chemical agent cloud? yesterday, the president talked about the possibility of a sustained response. the secretary spoke about this being a single straight at this time.
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help people understand, is there a difference? what are they talking about? that is for both of you. >> as we look at each of these targets, we have a variety of sophisticated models and analysis to calculate the effects of chemical or a nerve agent. in relation, we assessed that there was probably chemical or nerve agents in the target. we believe with the attack profile that we used we were able to minimize that. i would leave it at that. you will be a will to judge over the next few hours the results. we believe that we successfully mitigated the fact that there are unauthorized weapons at the sites. >> was there any air sampling to see if there was dispersal? >> we look at the target through a variety of means. >> with respect, i think that the operative words were "at this time." what happens going forward has
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everything to do with the assad regime. we sent a very clear message, and we hope that he heard it. >> general mckenzie, have you had contacts with the russians in the aftermath of these operations, or are you planning to have contacts within the next few hours? >> the channel that we use between us and the russians has operated frequently over the last few months and operated up to the strike. and on a routine basis after the strike. >> the three targets that you struck, were they manufacturing and researching chlorine or sarin? >> a little of both. >> do any of these facilities have any other nonmilitary application? >> no.
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there may be other activities that are carried on there, but this is the core activity associated with these sites. >> you said the russian air defenses were not turned on. how do you explain that? >> i said they were not employed. >> was there an agreement with the russians that they would not employ their defenses? you said the syrian air defenses did not have significant impacts on the operations. does that mean there was no interception of any of the missiles fired? >> we did no agreements with the russians before the strikes. we de-conflict, nothing more than that. at this time, no syrian weapon had any effect on what we did. >> for you, last year when a similar strike occurred, there was an assessment that integrated syria's ability to generate chemical weapons, yet a couple months later the pentagon
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saw the airfield was back at it. what assurances do you have that you significantly degraded syria's ability to generate chemical weapons? it appears they were escorted by u.s. fighters. who escorted the b-1's, what missiles were shot out? the russian defenses, if they were not employed, were russian radars employed? >> i will take the first one. last year the focus was on the delivery. this time, the strikes went to the heart of the enterprise. the research, the development, the storage. we are very confident that we have significantly crippled assad's ability to produce these weapons.
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>> b -- the b-1's were accompanied by u.s. fighters of to the release point, just as the french and british aircraft were accompanied by their own fighters as part of an integrated package of that provides defense for the shooters. we positioned defensive counter air. that is still operational now as we observe a potential syrian response. >> raptors? >> i don't know the answer. >> reports are that these facilities were evacuated a few days prior to yesterday's strike. you have indication that that was the case? wouldn't that degrade your assessment of the damages done to the regime? >> the regime knows that we have been looking at these targets, so it is possible some people may have left.
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we also struck at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning local time. we were not trying to kill a lot of people. i believe there is material and equipment associated with each site that was not movable. that is what sets them back. to go back to an earlier question, that is the difference of striking and airfield and a delivery platform and the research and generation platform. this is more damaging. >> the three targets struck, does this represent the totality of syria's infrastructure, or were there cw structures you didn't hit because of collateral damage concerns? is chlorine the new red line? it seems only to have taken action because a nerve agent appears to have been used.
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was the jazzum first-generation or extensive range? >> mayor syrian chemical weapons system is larger than the three targets that we addressed. these were the best to avoid killing civilians and send a message. there is an element that is not part -- there are other elements that we will examine going forward. we did employee the jassm. >> the do destroy most of the of the structure? 80%? >> you can make your own conclusions. they had three buildings and parking deck, now they don't. i think we have dealt a severe
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blow. there is some left, but we have dealt a severe blow. >> what about the use of chlorine in the future? the administration did not act in the previous use of chlorine, is that a new red line? >> the assad regime has a pattern of using chemical weapons against some people against the chemical weapons convention, despite the fact that they agree to it and that the russians were there guarantors. what happens next has everything to do with what the assad regime decides to do and what the russian government decides to enable as well. >> why does the administration feel these strikes are enough to deter the from using chemical weapons again?
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>> the were very methodical in making the decision about these sites. it was a deliberate decision to go to the storage facility, to go to the research and development facilities. that was the difference. we think that by doing this, this was very successful. we are confident that we significantly degraded his ability to ever use chemical weapons again. >> what kind of response should the assad regime expect from the u.s. if they were to use chemical weapons again? >> it is important to remember that this represents 3 permanent members of the u.n. security council. the u.k. and france are our oldest allies. this is about values. read it this because it is intolerable for any civilized
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nation to tolerate the use of chemical weapons. >> i have one follow-up on michael's question for you, general. the chemical weapons program, can you give us an idea, should the american public understand that this is a minority of the existing chemical weapons program? is it more than half? can you give us a better sense of the scale of what these represented? also, how long did the strike last? how many minutes, hours? for you, can you put this in the context of the broader civil war? the u.s. policy is to not get engaged in the civil war and the objective is a negotiated settlement eventually, but we have a significant military
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response to chemical attacks that killed an estimated 45 people and to -- and the regime has used conventional attacks. what is the response to the isolated chemical attacks in the ongoing conventional attacks by the assad government on its own people? >> is clear to everyone that the syrian people have suffered for too long. that is why we are 100% behind the geneva peace process, and we encourage our allies and partners in the region to help facilitate that conversation. we have a new u.n. envoy. this is an opportunity to put real steam behind the process.
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our mission in syria remains the same, to defeat isis. it is not to be involved in the civil war. >> we believe we have attacked the heart of the chemical weapons program. i'm not saying they will not be able to reconstitute it, but this has dealt a very serious blow. that is the core of what i'm saying. how long to be attack last? an operation like this has many elements. from a time to target, all the missiles impacted within minutes, and hours before you begin to do a variety of things. probably a couple of hours before would be the maximum intensity for the mission. that is when you are beginning to launch from the ships and your aircraft are getting to the point to release their missiles. the operation was actually many
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hours before to get set up. >> what would trigger another wave of coalition attacks? another chemical weapons attack? retaliation? do we expect retaliation either from the regime, the russians, or the iranians? >> i cannot speculate on what could happen, but i can tell you that we took action. what happens next is the decision of the sought -- is the decision of assad. >> do you expect retaliation? >> i can tell you that we are ready for it. we are postured in the region and globally. we are on the ball's of our feet and ready for anything. >> was this that least extensive of the options crafted? was this the one that would meet up with the least amount of damage? >> i cannot comment on options
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that we present to the president. i will tell you that if all of the options, they carefully looked at minimizing collateral damage and maximum effect. these seemed to hit the sweet spot and do that. >> what impact did the public prelude have in terms of developing a 21st century bodyguard of lies in terms of deception? what effect did it have on launching? were ships used? >> if i can build on your bodyguard of lies comment, it had no effect on military planning. >> i heard you say that the strike put more steam behind the geneva peace process. how does this help bring peace
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to syria? >> we have been very clear about the fact that we fully support the u.n.-backed geneva process. our focus remains defeating isis. it is not to get involved in the syrian civil war. we call on all nations, and i think the demonstration of our allies, france in the u.k. helping us demonstrate that we are serious about the fact that chemical weapons use is intolerable, inexcusable, and we will remain committed to the 70-nation coalition to defeat isis. >> how does using chemical weapons affect the outcome of the syrian civil war? >> by demonstrating to the world that this is a heinous regime.
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this is a regime that murders its own people daily. yesterday, we addressed the fact that they continue to use chemical weapons against their own people. we continue to hope and urge, and we are confident, that the u.n. process will move forward. our mission remains to defeat isis. there is still work to be done, and we will do it. >> first, were you ready yesterday to engage russian targets in case russia responded to that attack? you keep talking about the current syrian chemical program. can you give us an idea about the size of the program in comparison to what the regime had before dismantling it?
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in percentage? third, you're talking about evidence of chemical weapons attack, we haven't seen any is what you are saying. however, there is an organization on the ground that will conduct an investigation. why didn't you wait for that investigation to end? >> let's remember that opcw and others have been blocked from entering. that is because of the assad regime. we need to remember that everything happening with respect to the murder of these people, innocent people, is the responsibility of the assad regime. we were very confident about the evidence we had. it was clear. the secretary said he was confident about the intelligence and evidence, that is why we move forward.
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>> we have an active channel with russia that has been used months before the attack and through this strike and afterwards. i cannot comment on anything more specific. >> the current program with what the regime has now? you made an assessment, you have a good idea, in comparison -- >> there is a residual element of the syrian program out there. i believe we took the hard out with the attacks last night. i will not say that they will not be able to conduct a chemical attack in the future, however i suspect they will think hard about it based on the activities of last night. >> president trump tweeted an hour ago "mission accomplished." you left the option open for future strikes in case chemical weapons are used again.
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could you reconcile those two statements, mission accomplished and can be used in the future. does the secretary have to go to president trump, or has he delegated to carry them out as ec's fit? >> the operation was very successful. we hit the sites, the heart of the chem weapons program. it was mission accomplished. give me the second part. >> if there are future strikes, what is the process? >> the president has the authority under article 2 to defend u.s. interests and national interests. i will not speculate on anything in the future, but this was a fully legitimate operation. >> did the chairman of the joint chiefs communicate in the days or hours leading up to the
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strikes? did you assess this has fundamentally changed the military balance of the syrian civil war, or does the assad regime maintain its advantage? >> i will go back to the deconfliction channel with the russians. i will not be able to give you more information on our particular conversations that the chairman may or may not have had. >> the military balance of the civil war? to the strikes affect that? >> i think our strikes sent a message about the employment of chemical weapons, and i think they were successful. >> someone who hasn't spoken? >> if the mission is to deter president aside from spreading
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chemical weapons, is it impossible militarily to know if that mission was accomplished? >> last night, operations were successful. we made all of our attractive's and hit all of our targets. no aircraft's or alliedsuccessf. no allied aircraft's were engaged. it was a successful mission. what happens next depends on what the us on -- what the assad regime tries to do. >> you said you did not observe any material affects during the strike? can you describe any other affects that were targeted and havealition craft you observed any activities around remaining sites that you did not strike that suggests an after action plan to hide or
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used chemical weapons in some other way? response was remarkably ineffective is the best answer i can give you. they had no impact on the strike . as i noted, they began to fire their missiles after the last impact of our weapon. no appreciable effect we know at this time. >> finish your thought. >> other activity around other sites, the movement of weapons in the movement of chemicals? >> i do not have that information. >> you said we are very confident about the evidence we have. russia and syria denied any chemical weapons were used. why not share your evidence with the world? adlai stevenson went to united nations with evidence of the russian buildup in cuba.
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why not share the evidence? >> a lot of this has to do with intelligence. i'm happy to share evidence if i can. we were very confident about the decision we made. >> you have already spoken. give someone else a chance. >> just a couple clarification points. general mackenzie, you said there was still an air defense potentialn case of retaliation. how long do you intend to keep that in the area? --ing the strike last year were there any weapons that do not make it to their targets this time? >> none of the tomahawks experienced any problems. we typical -- we typically keep
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dci over the airspace. the commander will continually readjust the posture we have. will make adjustments based on our observations of the environment. >> lucas. >> the syrian government is saying they shot down over a dozen tomahawks. are they lying? can you explain this deacon iction? -- this deconfl avoidyou say you want to conflict with syria but with all due respect you just lobbed a dozen cruise missiles into the country. can you explain that? >> our mission stays the same. it is to defeat isis. assad's actions were beyond the pale. -- we want toing
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diplomatic political resolution to the syrian conflict. civilized nations cannot let what has happened in syria stand. ahead.at -- go >> you asked about deconflic tion. the best way to understand it is this -- the russians do not have a veto on anything we do. we are not cooperating with them in syria. we do not want to get into a fight with them, they do not want to get into a fight with us. the best way to do that is to share certain information, but we are not cooperating with them. andwe it to our servicemen women to do the best we can to simplify the environment in which we are going to fight. tion mechanisms
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allow us to do that. syrians know what the are saying or not saying, but i am telling you what actually happened. -- therussian didn't russian disinformation campaigns have already begun. there's been a 2000 percent increase in russian patrols over the last 24 hours. we will keep you abreast of the faxed going -- of the facts going forward. thank you. >> the united nations security council is holding an emergency meeting this morning at 11:00 eastern. the meeting is at the request of russia to discuss the joint air strikes in syria last night by the u.s., great britain, and france. we will have live coverage of that meeting at 11:00 on c-span.

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