||After a thorough review of the facts and
circumstances concerning the terrorist attack on Khobar
Towers in June 1996, the Secretary of Defense announced
today his decision regarding personal accountability on
the part of those in command.
The bombing of Khobar Towers was a wanton act of terrorism that represented the largest demonstrated terrorist capability ever employed against U.S. forces. The tragic deaths and injuries suffered by the men and women deployed there affected all Americans everywhere, and none more so than their families and those with whom they served. The families and friends of those who died and were injured in this terrible terrorist attack have our most profound sympathies and our continuing pledge to do everything possible to prevent a recurrence.
Following the Khobar Towers bombing, the Air Force undertook two extensive investigations, building on an earlier review conducted by retired Army General Wayne Downing. These investigations focused on force protection and accountability. What we learned in the aftermath of the Khobar Towers bombing and from our review of the facts and circumstances surrounding it has drastically altered the way the Air Force thinks about, prepares for, and defends against threats to the safety of our forces.
In a November 15, 1996 directive to the field on force protection, the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Ronald R. Fogleman, observed: "It is clear that the nature of the threat to our forces operating worldwide on a daily basis has significantly changed in focus and magnitude. In light of the changed environment, we are directing the following actions to ensure force protection measures are instituted to meet the new threat." These actions included the restructure of the Air Force Security Police and the creation of a new Force Protection Agency, which consolidates expertise from the Office of Special Investigations, the intelligence staff and the security police staff to provide force protection policy and guidance to the field; the expansion of planning and programming guidance to insure increased visibility for force protection issues throughout the Air Force; the expansion of rules of engagement for force protection during deployment; increased education and training at all levels on force protection matters; a streamlined intelligence/counterintelligence structure for Joint Task Force - Southwest Asia; and other measures designed to provide commanders with significantly enhanced force protection measures and resources.
These actions were in addition to steps taken immediately following the bombing and to ongoing efforts in the Air Force and throughout the Department of Defense to address force protection issues. The Air Force has relocated approximately 3600 personnel and 100 aircraft in Southwest Asia from Khobar Towers and other urban areas to an isolated, less vulnerable desert location, primarily at Prince Sultan AB, Al Kharj, and constructed additional facilities there. Most dependents have been returned to the United States.
After exhaustive reviews of the Khobar Towers bombing, the Air Force concluded that all individuals charged with the responsibility for force protection at that location acted in a reasonable and prudent manner under the circumstances as they then existed. The Chief of Staff and I accepted and support that conclusion.
Military operations have always carried tremendous risk. The painful lessons learned at Khobar Towers have been the driving force in changing the way the Air Force operates. Today, Air Force operations are conducted with a vastly different picture of force protection. Field commanders are given more in-depth force protection guidance. We have augmented major command staffs with trained force protection specialists. The integration of security risk assessments in planning and executing our missions is emphasized as a foremost consideration. We have invested a significant amount of additional money in equipment, weaponry and sensors, and we have activated a quick-response unit whose sole purpose is the protection of Air Force people conducting operations around the world.
The Secretary of Defense has thoroughly and carefully reviewed the investigative reports, and has made his decision regarding the accountability of command personnel at Khobar Towers. I respect and will support the decision of Secretary Cohen on this very complex and difficult matter. I know that it was made only after a painstaking analysis of all the facts and circumstances.