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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Secretary of Defense William Cohen
Remarks at press stake-out on Capitol Hill
Washington, D.C., August 21, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: (In progress) --in those two cities, it reminds me of a war zone. It is much worse than what has been seen on television. The rubble is there; there are bloody hand marks still in the buildings; and they have not been cleared out. It is a sign of the devastation that can be caused to innocent human beings by the threat of terrorism.

We are determined to deal with that threat, and that is what the strikes were about yesterday, and our determination to make sure that innocent civilians -- whether they are Americans or those from other countries -- do not suffer the scourge from these cowardly terrorist acts.

SECRETARY COHEN: The Secretary and I and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs came here today to brief Members of Congress and key staff members. Obviously, we had to maintain a very strict operational security as far as the attacks yesterday; but we did want to make sure that we were in a position to brief those members who were here or those who might call in to discuss the basis of our action over the phone during today or tomorrow.

So this was a consultation as such, a briefing to the members who were interested in what the information was we had to operate on; what kind of intelligence we had; the basis for the action; and any reports about its success. So that's the purpose of the meeting here today.

QUESTION: Are more US attacks ahead?

SECRETARY COHEN: Pardon?

QUESTION: Can we expect more US attacks ahead?

SECRETARY COHEN: Well, that's always a possibility. We have contingency plans that we are developing, and there may be more in the future.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think what we really have to understand now is that the terrorist threat is a longer-term one and it's a global one. We will maintain, along with other civilized countries in the world, a sustained effort to deal with what is an increasing terrorist threat.

QUESTION: Can you tell us any of the damage assessment as yet?

SECRETARY COHEN: We're going to wait on that. The cloud cover over Afghanistan has precluded a full assessment; so we want to get as complete a picture as possible. I think from the pictures you've seen in Sudan, that particular attack was quite successful in terms of destroying that facility. The other information will have to wait for further clarification.

QUESTION: So you don't know what you've accomplished so far?

SECRETARY COHEN: We know that we launched what we believe to be a successful attack upon a terrorist training camp, and we believe it is successful in the sense that we destroyed a number of facilities. The extent of that damage has yet to be determined in terms of the clarity which we would want.

QUESTION: Were any terrorist leaders killed?

SECRETARY COHEN: We have no information pertaining to that.

QUESTION: Are you still convinced that this convention was actually going on there -- a meeting of the terrorist leaders?

SECRETARY COHEN: We had information that led us to believe that a gathering would take place. Whether it took place or not remains to be determined. But we had information that one was planned. If it did, that certainly would result in some difference in terms of casualties; if it didn't, that would be the opposite result.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you clarify one thing? When was the plan in place where the President could have said go?

SECRETARY COHEN: The President indicated last week -- he gave his tentative approval; namely, that we were to go forward unless he decided to shut it off. He did not make that determination until early in the morning of yesterday morning. So he wanted to preserve that flexibility that any Commander-in-Chief would want depending upon what had taken place on the ground, whether Osama bin Laden had either surrendered or been turned over, other factors that might be taken into account. He wanted to make sure he had all of the up-to-date intelligence, to make sure he was satisfied that we had made every effort to minimize collateral damage; that the targeting was complete; that the assets were in place -- all of the details he wanted to be satisfied of. In fact, he was up until 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. in the morning, satisfying himself of those facts; and then gave the final decision early in the morning.

QUESTION: In the Afghan attack, if large numbers of bin Laden's lieutenants were not taken out, would that still be considered a success?

SECRETARY COHEN: We did not target, specifically, individuals; we targeted training facilities. This is a training camp that is known as Terrorist University. We are determined to take down those facilities and disrupt them to the extent that we can to help minimize the ability of these individuals to wreak their terror upon innocent people. So striking the facilities in themselves is a worthy goal.

QUESTION: Members who had been briefed by Mr. Berger had said that this was a new campaign against terrorism; that people should be ready for an ongoing effort on the US' part to fight terrorism -- specifically this group. Is that your intent; is that what we're seeing here?

SECRETARY COHEN: I think the Secretary just answered that question for you. I'll let her speak again for herself. But she indicated very clearly that this is a long-term struggle; that these people are dedicated to destroying innocent people wherever they can find them, and we are determined to protect them.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it's very important for the American people to understand that we are involved here in a long-term struggle. We have been affected by this before. This is, unfortunately, the war of the future. I think that we have to understand the importance of having sustained operations here. We're all dedicated to making sure that Americans, whether they are at home or abroad, as well as other innocent people in other countries, do not have to live their lives under the threat of those who believe that taking down innocent people is some form of political expression.

It is not any form of political expression; it is not a sense of religious freedom. It is murder, plain and simple.

Thank you.

QUESTION: There have been doubts expressed at home and, particularly, abroad about the convincing nature of the evidence for this target in Sudan being a chemical weapons or an imminent self-defense target. Could you share with us some of the evidence as to why this target was not a pharmaceutical plant?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have evidence that they were producing the precursors to VX nerve gas, but I think we cannot go beyond that in terms of discussing our intelligence information.

SECRETARY COHEN: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I just have a clarification? You were talking about Terrorism University. How do we know we did damage if there's still cloud cover over Afghanistan? Do we have any idea of the extent?

SECRETARY COHEN: When the clouds are removed, as such, when we have greater clarity as far as our ability to assess it, then that will be made public.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- Coats on his criticism?

SECRETARY COHEN: Senator Coats, I've known for many years and have a high regard for him. I believe that he is satisfied, based upon the material he heard, the information he was given today, that this was the responsible course of action for us to have -- for the President to have ordered and for us to have carried out. I believe he's satisfied with that.

[End of Document]

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