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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell October 30, 2007

DoD News Briefing with Press Secretary Morrell from the Pentagon Briefing Room, Arlington, Va.

MR. MORRELL: Good afternoon. Sorry to keep you waiting. Thank you all for coming today.

Secretary Gates has just wrapped up an hour-long working lunch with Secretary Rice. The two spent much of that time talking about private security contractors in Iraq. It was their first conversation since Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte began meeting with a working group to devise ways to better supervise and coordinate DOD and State Department contractors in the war zone. That group has already agreed on general guidelines that provide MNF-I with considerably more involvement in contractor operations than they have enjoyed to date. But they still have to flesh out the details. Once they have done so, the working group will travel to Baghdad early next month and present their recommendations to General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker.

Based upon the comments of the commanding general and the chief of mission, the secretaries will make a final decision on how State and DOD contractors should operate in Iraq.

And with that, I'll take your questions. Lita?

Q Geoff, on that subject, could you fill us in maybe just a little bit more about whether they talked about if the Defense Department or the military should be the one in charge and what reservations, if any, either brought up about that prospect?

MR. MORRELL: Well, I think I made clear in my opening statement that I think the working group has come to an understanding, in general terms, that one of the things that needs to take place is increased MNF-I involvement in all contractor operations. In talking with the secretary, he made it clear to me that the keys to whatever they come to ultimately an agreement on must include a common set of standards, common rules for the use of force, and perhaps above all, thorough coordination of all contractor movements well in advance.

Additionally, as I just laid out the process, a key component of that process -- I just want to reiterate -- is the notion that this working group will present their recommendations to General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker for their comments. The secretary's view of that consultation is that is very important. Whatever the secretary is going to sign off on, ultimately, must be agreeable to the commanding general, to General Petraeus. He wants -- General Petraeus -- to be comfortable with whatever is ultimately decided, and if Petraeus is not comfortable, the secretary will not agree to it.

But I don't want to present a problem where there is as yet is none. I mean, we've had a good -- so far they've had a couple meetings, this working group has. I think they've made great strides already in terms of coming to some general understandings about the way forward, and we do not anticipate there being problems down the line. But I think the secretary is very concerned that the commanders in the field ultimately get what they need out of whatever it is we agree to.

Q And just -- I'm sorry. The commanders in the field, though, were the ones that brought up the issue, that they thought they should have more oversight, correct?

MR. MORRELL: Well, I think -- as I said before and I'll say again, it looks as though we're making progress towards that end with the fact that the working group seems to have come to an understanding that there has to be greater MNF-I involvement in contractor operations. And the keys to that, as I've just said, are common rules on the use of force, common standards, and most of all, coordination of movements.

Q Does the secretary still think that it's important to have a centralized authority over the contractors?

MR. MORRELL: The secretary believes that so long as there is a -- somebody, ultimately, who coordinates all the movements and has visibility of all the movements of armed contractors in Iraq, that could suffice in terms of giving the commanders the knowledge of what is going on in the battlespace so they aren't blindsided by contractors running in and out of their battlespace and potentially causing problems.

So if we can agree on a common set of standards, common rules for the use of force and can agree that there will be coordinated movements of contractors in advance that may suffice for contractors to operate within the battlespace.

Q Well, what about issues of accountability? I mean -- (inaudible) --

MR. MORRELL: Well, really, the -- the legal issues are -- listen, I'm giving you an update at the very early stage in this matter. The legal issues, at least based upon the lunch that the secretaries had today, were not resolved. I mean, as you know -- I think Secretary Rice said this on the Hill the other day. It remains to be seen whether non-DOD contractors can be tried in military courts. The Congress has clearly given us the permission, the wherewithal, to try, if need be, civilians who work for us in military courts through the UCMJ. It's an open question as to whether that applies to non-DOD contractors. So the legal issues still need to be worked out to some degree.

Let me just also make a comment in terms of timing. I think both secretaries want this matter urgently resolved. In my talking to the secretary, in his mind he sees this all getting wrapped up before Thanksgiving. So this has all got to happen rather quickly. I mean the working groups have already met, they will continue to meet. I think they meet again tomorrow, and then they will travel, as I mentioned, to Baghdad, I believe, early November is how I'd characterize -- maybe the second week of November are the early plans for them to go.

Q What you're saying here today, Geoff, sounds like something less than a single command and control, that the U.S. military would not take over control of these security contractors. Is that fair to say?

MR. MORRELL: I don't know that that is fair to say yet because we're still early in this process.

Q Well, but you keep stressing the coordination of movement so that commanders are not blindsided. But it sounds -- the coordination is separate from command and control of those movements, and it sounds like you're backing off from any idea that there would be one central command and control over these security contractors.

MR. MORRELL: Well, I mean, I think, ultimately, as I was just saying to Jim, I think -- the fact is that one person, one entity has got to know who's going where and when and what they're doing there, and if it is unsafe or deemed not advisable go to there, someone is going to have the control to say no, not at this time.

And as we envision that, as the common understanding of the working group has come to already, it would be MNF-I that would have that authority.

Now, in terms of is there one sort of bureaucratic entity that will ultimately control all contractors, I don't know that that will be the recommendation of this working group.

But I want to emphasize again, Jim, nothing will go forward ultimately with the signature of the secretary of Defense without assurances that the commanding general is comfortable with the arrangement. And if General Petraeus believes that no, what I'm describing here, what they ultimately may come up with falls short of a central entity in charge and he's uncomfortable with that, I think the secretary's prepared to back up the commanding general.

Q Who is it that would determine the --

MR. MORRELL: No, hold on. Dave, I'm -- it's alleged that I'm saying something different.

Q Now you're saying "in charge," a single entity "in charge." That's different from coordination. Will there be in the Pentagon concept one military authority who has final say over whether a convoy can proceed through any part of the battlefield?

MR. MORRELL: Whether it's -- on a specific question like that, David, i.e. the movements on the battlefield, it's my understanding -- and this has to be fleshed out yet; we're still not there -- but it's my understanding that coordination, the keys that the secretary has outlined to me -- one of keys is coordination in advance of movements. Somebody's going to have to coordinate those movements.

The person who coordinates those movements will be the U.S. military, okay. So that doesn't mean that we can say -- I don't believe that means that we can say willy-nilly, "No, you can't go there at this time," unless we deem it to be not safe. If it's not -- if it conflicts with our mission, if we believe it's unwise, ultimately, somebody has to be the one who says, "No, not at this time." And my understanding is, when it comes to coordination of movements, the military will be in charge of coordination of movement.

Q But the military will have the final say.

MR. MORRELL: In terms of coordination of movements. I don't want to confuse that for being, you know, the master of all matters contracting.

Q Just on the movements.

MR. MORRELL: Coordination of movements. At this point, my understanding of the working group is that there is -- well, first of all, my understanding of the working group is that there's a general understanding that MNF-I must have greater involvement in all of this. My understanding of what the secretaries believe the keys to this are is that coordination of movements is central to whatever agreement goes forward And ultimately, the military has to sign off in the battle zone of movements into particularly dangerous areas.

But these -- again, I just -- I hate to repeat myself to this degree.

I wanted to come out and share with you as much as I could about where we are in this process, but we are still early in this process. It's going to happen rather quickly, but we're still early.


Q Geoff, in yesterday's attack against Brigadier General Jeffrey Dorko, his convoy was being protected by a private team of security contractors from a British firm.

MR. MORRELL: Jamie, can I -- let's -- can we finish up on --

Q (Off mike.)

MR. MORRELL: Well, this is sort of on the State-DOD effort. I'll come back to you. I promise.

State-DOD effort: Are we still -- is everybody okay there?

Q Who determines the rules of engagement?

MR. MORRELL: The rule for use of force -- this working group is working on that right now. I mean, ultimately there's going to be an understanding about standards, rules for the use of force and the coordination of movements. That's what this is all about right now, so we just aren't there yet.

I should mention also, I think, that among the other things the secretary believes is necessary is that we at DOD have greater visibility on the training of all contractors, including -- of all contractors that operate in the battlespace, so that would include State contractors. We need to have a better understanding how they are trained, to what standards they are trained, so we have a degree of confidence in their abilities to work according to the rules that we will agree to.

Q Just visibility, or control or approval of -- what do you mean by --

MR. MORRELL: I think I characterized it as I wish to characterize it. We want to know how they've been trained.

Q Same topic: Rightly or wrongly the debate up until now has been characterized as Secretary Gates seeking, as you said, a single entity to oversee it that is a military, MNF-I role, and that State has, in some way, has been pushing back on that, because they're not comfortable with DOD having oversight over their contractors. Is that an accurate depiction of where the debate is right now?

MR. MORRELL: I think it's an accurate depiction -- well, where it is right now or where it has been?

Q Both: where it was when you took a lunch, and perhaps what are some of those results afterwards?

MR. MORRELL: Well, I think we have been very forthright throughout this entire process. Obviously what precipitated this entire review was not a DOD-related action but it's an action related to the mission in Iraq, so it was clearly a concern to us. The secretary took a rather proactive approach, said, okay, I know this isn't technically us, but I want to know how this works in Iraq.

And as we've gone through at great length, you know, he sent a fact-finding team over there to look into this, and they came back with a memo that caused him to ask further questions.

He came eventually, I think, to a belief that there has to be, at the very least, greater visibility for the commanding general and all the other generals in Iraq on what's going on in their battlespace. Okay? That's at the very least. He also is throwing up the notion that perhaps ultimately in terms of accountability and command and control, it may be best if one person is in charge, one entity is in charge.

And that -- and so I think where that stands right now is that it's not -- I don't think it's entirely off the table, but I think the notion is perhaps we can get -- we can address his concerns in terms of standards, in terms of rules for the use of force, in terms of coordination of movements, without having -- without designating the military in charge. But I think ultimately there's going to be situations like David asked about, where someone traveling into a particularly dangerous area or where there's an operation under way, someone's going to have to make that call. And my sense is that it's ultimately going to be the military's call.


Okay, I guess I'm more confused now. This single entity may not be under MNF-I, then, you're suggesting.

MR. MORRELL: This single entity. No, I -- the single entity may not be under MNF-I? I guess I don't get the question.

Q Well, I mean, again, the debate has been characterized as the military would like to see this all under chain of command, unity of command under the military. The State Department's not happy about that because they feel they don't want their contractors answerable to DOD. Going to this meeting, that was our understanding of what the debate was, and I guess I'm trying to get a sense whether there's been movement on that where Gates had conceded that maybe we don't need them under the MNF-I chain of command, that there's going to be some other entity, a joint civilian --

MR. MORRELL: No, I don't think there's any notion at this point -- let me -- if I have led anybody to believe that there is going to be some joint civilian-MNF-I -- civilian-military entity we're going to create to sort of have oversight, as far as I know that is not the road anyone's going down. Again, the working group is early in its meetings, but as far as I know, that's not what anybody's laying out.

I guess what you're getting hung up on is, is there one uber- authority over all contracting issues in Iraq, and I don't know that that is where we are at this point. I think clearly there has to be an authority over at the very least the movements, the coordination of movements. Somebody at the end of the day has to be able to say yea or nay on movements to a given area.

But I also think it's going to be common sense, Peter, frankly, if in their attempts to coordinate -- State Department contractors to coordinate movements into an area and we advise them that it is a dangerous area or there's an operation under way there now or it's not advisable to go there now, I would think commonsense-wise in their effort to protect their principal, they're going to not want to go there, and so ultimately there won't have to be somebody who says, "I'm sorry; even you want to go there, you can't." But I think there has to be a backstop in this whole process.

Q (Off mike -- obviously common sense. Can you say whether Secretary Rice is in agreement with that?

MR. MORRELL: I don't speak for Secretary Rice.

Q (Off mike) -- from the meeting, that that was discussed in the meeting --

MR. MORRELL: The readout from the meeting I just relayed to you. I mean, I think there's a common understanding about what -- that MNF- I has to have a greater role in this and that we have to have these common standards and coordination.

Q But what you're speaking to does not directly relate to the conduct of the individual contractors, which appears to be in dispute regarding this Blackwater incident. So who will be in charge of overseeing the conduct of these contractors? And in a follow-up to your question about --

MR. MORRELL: Let me get this -- before I forget this one, let me get this one. In terms of the conduct, I mean, I keep talking about this, Jim, common set of standards, common rules for the use of force, and coordination.

So there's going to be an agreement reached between State and DOD on all those matters. Ultimately, I think that State -- if someone were to violate those rules -- and I'm getting out ahead of myself here -- I would imagine that if they worked for the State Department, the State Department will figure out how they've got to be prosecuted. Okay. But the rule -- they will not have different standards than our contractors do in the battlespace.

Q Okay.

MR. MORRELL: We will have uniform standards across the board.

Q And how it is intended to achieve this greater visibility on training? And will the U.S. military require diplomas in security -- I mean, how is this going to be achieved? Will they --

MR. MORRELL: They got out of this meeting what, an hour ago. I'm giving you what I got at this point. The secretary tells me he is concerned that we need to have greater visibility on how all contractors are trained. And I want to relay that concern to you. In terms of the mechanics of how we achieve that visibility, we're just not there yet. I mean, this is a thought he shared with me that I thought it was appropriate to share with you. But this -- and this is just not all hashed out yet.

Q And how does this pertain to foreign contractors, such as the Brits or others? (Off mike) --

MR. MORRELL: Who work for whom?

Q Who work within Iraq. Is this just strictly for those who work for the U.S. government entities? And then how do you resolve any issues with foreign contractors?

MR. MORRELL: Oh. So if the Brits had down in Basra independent contractors down there working for them -- is that the question? That's a good question. I'm not exactly sure at this point how that applies to them.

Yeah, Luis?

Q And Geoff, can you tell us who is on this working group? Is this Secretary -- Deputy Secretary Gordon England? Because we know that they've been -- he's been meeting with Deputy Secretary Negroponte --

MR. MORRELL: Yeah. I mean, as I said in the beginning, it's Gordon England who were -- sort of chair this working group. And I think each of those respective deputy secretaries has cobbled together experts, trusted people within their departments to work with them in that advisory group. It's not terribly formal. It is in terms of how it was picked. I think each of those men relied on those people who they think are best equipped to help them out.

But what it's not -- these are internal, Luis, these are internal -- we have not gone to outside advisers, as best as I understand. These are either State Department employees or DOD employees.


Q What role, if any, does MNF-I or any other entity of DOD have right now in the issues you talked about? Any role at all? No role? A little bit? Coordination of movements --

MR. MORRELL: Well, we'd have to -- I mean, I think that's the problem we speak to.

I mean, there has not been a satisfactory coordination of movement to this point. There clearly has not been the same standards for the use of force. I don't believe there's the same,necessarily, training standards.

We want to have -- we want everybody operating for the sake of the same mission, okay, which means, as the secretary has talked about before, invariably State Department contractors are going to have to assume greater risk, because we have to operate with the overall mission in mind. And that is winning the hearts and minds, the trust and confidence, of the Iraqi people.

It's a little different in the sense that the State Department, their contractors protect unarmed personnel. So they have to -- they have greater security concerns perhaps. But we have to have the overall mission in mind, and I think that's what the working group is trying to figure out. How do you make sure that the overall mission is balanced against the needs to protect the principles?

Q Has there been any MNF-I involvement?

MR. MORRELL: In what?

Q The issues you talked about.

MR. MORRELL: Yes, there's been some MNF-I involvement in these things, but not to the degree -- I think the State Department makes an attempt -- I think they do -- to coordinate some movements. Is it done on the basis that is satisfactory to MNF-I? I don't know. Presumably we're having this discussion now and these working groups are meeting now because it has not addressed the problem in its entirety.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. MORRELL: Hold on, you've gone. Let me --


Q Can I ask about a different subject?

MR. MORRELL: No, let's just finish up on this first.

Yes, Jim.

Q The rules from the use of force -- are they going to be toughened up, made more precise? I mean, you say that the State Department --

MR. MORRELL: I don't think, Jim, they're going to be made more lax. Let me put it that way.

Q I mean --

MR. MORRELL: But I should also --

Q (Off mike) -- and so to me that suggests that there are going to be changes in the rules of force that will imply greater risks for the contractors.

MR. MORRELL: My understanding is, and I think I would address some of these questions to the State Department, that they have strict rules for use of force as well. Whether those rules were adhered to in this most recent Blackwater incident or not is something that's being investigated now. But I think that it's -- I believe it's safe to say that all this stuff needs to be tightened up, that we need to be more clear about -- whether it be the standards by which they are trained, their understanding of the mission, their rules for the use of force, and clearly coordination, all of that, I think, is the desire of this group to be tightened up.

Q Does that mean greater risks for the people the State contractors are protecting as well?

MR. MORRELL: Listen, I mean, you're presenting hypotheticals to me. I mean, I believe that everybody who is working in Iraq has the same goal in mind, which is to earn the trust and confidence of the Iraqi people. The sooner we do that, the sooner we -- you have a safer environment in that country, the sooner we all leave. So I think everybody's in agreement on what the goal here is, and I don't think anybody would take issue with that.

You still on -- you want one more on this?


Q Was the secretary concerned when he heard reports that some immunity, even if limited immunity, was given to the Blackwater --

MR. MORRELL: I didn't ask him about it.

I mean, frankly, it's not our deal.

Q But it would affect the Iraqi perception of operation -- (inaudible).

MR. MORRELL: Yeah, but it's -- I did not ask him about it, so I'm not clear on how he feels about these reports of immunity being granted.

Q Can I just ask quickly, Geoff, why not just simply put this all under MNF-I? Everything to do with contractors, whatever they want to do, the military ultimately -- are ultimately responsible for security in Iraq; let them do it. You seem to be talking about some sort of hybrid type structure here which talks about greater involvement, but not then being in overall complete control of them.

MR. MORRELL: Well, there's two different departments of this government at work here. We do not -- I mean, ultimately, the chief of mission in Iraq is a State Department employee. The ambassador is the highest-ranking U.S. government official in that country. He has considerable power, and I think that we need to be mindful of that. But is there a way to achieve what we both wish to achieve here, which is probably more responsible behavior by all contractors.

Now, again, I feel the need to make this point again, and that is obviously I don't want to paint anybody with a wide brush, because the vast majority of contractors operating in Iraq are doing so bravely and responsibly, and these rules will not really affect at all, because they already adhere to them. But we have to make sure that everyone has the same understanding of what's expected of them.

Yes, Jamie. Thank you for being patient.

Q That's okay. Help us understand why senior U.S. military officers, such as General Dorko yesterday, are protected by private security contractors and not U.S. troops.

MR. MORRELL: My understanding of that is limited, but let me suggest this. I think this is a very limited case. I don't think this is indicative of how general officers operate in Iraq. He, as I understand it, was from the Army Corps of Engineers and works with a group that is basically comprised of civilians. And this, I think, has to do with Iraqi reconstruction and so forth. And for that reason, I believe that there were contractors procured for his protection.

I think this gets back though, Jamie, to the overall issue of dedication of resources. We simply do not have the resources to do everything that perhaps we would like to do. And so you have to make choices about where they can best be used. And it's our belief that our highly trained and competent U.S. military personnel are best used going after the enemy, going after al Qaeda, and that's why certain fixed structures are protected by contractors and that certain personnel, as you mentioned with General Dorko, are protected by contractors. I also think it may be in the case of that group an effort to prevent less of a militaristic face to the endeavor, to reconstruction.

Q If you had more resources, if you had more troops, would it better if U.S. generals were protected by U.S. troops? Or is it just as good or fine for them to be protected by contractors?

MR. MORRELL: I think, by and large, U.S. generals are protected by U.S. troops.

Q Well, those who command combat forces, I take it, but --

MR. MORRELL: Well, for example, when we go to -- when anybody goes to Iraq, when they go to the international zone, you're protected -- all of us there are protected by private contractors. I mean, you've got Triple Canopy who protects the compound there. So I think at some point or another we all benefit from the protection provided by private security contractors -- you know, generals, civilians alike. Now when they leave the wire, that's another question.

Q I guess the only thing I was getting at was whether this arrangement with private contractors in some cases is a bit of a compromise, or is it seen as essentially equally good as protection by the U.S. military?

MR. MORRELL: I don't know if I would characterize it as equally as good; it could well be. I'm just not an authority on such matters.

What I would suggest you do, though, Jamie, is talk to specifically the Army Corps of Engineers about why it is they felt it best that General Dorko be protected by a private security contractor. I can only guess that it had to do, perhaps, with resources and it had to do, perhaps, with the image that they wanted to project to the Iraqi people in the areas they operated.


Q Are you saying a contractors -- this bill is moving basically through the Iraqi government to strip this immunity from Iraqi law. Does this building have any thoughts on that issue, because obviously it would affect some companies as to they would be less inclined to send private security contractors if they are subject to Iraqi law?

MR. MORRELL: I think our belief is that our contractors are subjected to American law, and we will hold them accountable if they operate in any way illegally and that should suffice. But I'm not going to get into the internal politics of Iraq from this podium.

Q The fact -- when you said "that should suffice," makes me think that you guys don't think there needs to be an Iraqi --

MR. MORRELL: Well, I think we believe at this point that we have the means by which to hold the people who work for us accountable, and beyond that, I don't want to get into Iraqi politics.

Q Can I press this a little bit and ask --

MR. MORRELL: You can press. I don't know that I'm going to give you any more, but --

Q (Laughs.) But are you guys at all concerned that if the Iraqi government does take this step, the -- (word inaudible) -- that has been sort of put on the private security contractors may have to be taken back up by the U.S. military because contractors will be less willing to go.

MR. MORRELL: It's something I haven't thought about.

Q No one's discussing that in the building as you know of?

MR. MORRELL: It's not a discussion that I've been privy to.

I should point out also, though, I think there is a law or there is an amendment being proposed in our Congress that would address some of the issues that we are trying to resolve here in this working group, and I think as the law is currently written it would have the DOD ultimately in control of all contractors in Iraq. But it is the desire of this working group to try to resolve these matters so that it does not have to be legislatively solved.

Barbara Starr.

Q Different topic?


Q I had one final --

MR. MORRELL: I'll come right back to you.

Q This all sounds vaguely familiar to after the Fallujah killings of the Blackwater employees in late March of '04. There was a whole motion -- there was a -- there was lack of coordination, and the military kind of -- well, we're going to tighten up on this. I think the Pentagon even instituted regulations in the middle of '05 on the subject.

What you're saying here now there doesn't seem to have been much progress since then.

MR. MORRELL: (Inaudible) -- Tony, I love you. You have wonderful institutional knowledge. As you know, I arrived here about four months ago, so you -- on that a little bit of a disadvantage as you throw out things that happened in '04 and '05.

Q The issue of coordination of movement, though, did your reviews show that there's been little to no progress over the last several years to try to improve that?

MR. MORRELL: Well, I think, anecdotally, I shared with you and the secretary shared with you on one of these trips, I think, coming back from Russia this notion that he had gotten back from this working group a tale from his -- or not a story -- an account from one of his generals in the field, who said that 30 percent of all his rapid response calls go to contractors in trouble in his battlespace that he was not aware were even there.

So, whether or not we had rules in place to deal with this, they haven't been adhered to to the degree that makes any of us comfortable, and particularly not that -- not that general.

Is this on contracting? Okay, so who -- Barbara Starr. And I'll come back to you.

Q As you may be aware, there's two ongoing anti-piracy operations today by the U.S. military in the Horn of Africa. I want wanted to ask you to address --

MR. MORRELL: I'm vaguely aware, Barbara.

Q Well, in one of them the military has actually put out an announcement; U.S. Navy has boarded a North Korean cargo vessel to rescue crew members that fought back against pirates. Several of the North Korea crew were injured. They are now aboard a U.S. Navy ship receiving treatment. How extraordinary is it for the U.S. military, first of all, to be rendering assistance to North Korea on the high seas? And if these crew members being treated aboard a U.S. Navy ship choose not to go back to North Korea, will they be allowed to stay?

MR. MORRELL: I don't think I'm prepared to answer any of those questions, Barbara. And I don't mean to be difficult with you; I'm just not in a position to answer them.

I mean, I think the piracy issue is an interesting issue. I think it does pose a number of dilemmas for the U.S. military. Those were not the ones I was thinking of. But among them is, what do you do once you apprehend these pirates? Where is the proper place to hold them or to dispose of them? How do you adjudicate them? I think piracy is a problem that we are trying to figure out how to deal with, and I don't know that we're in a position yet to sort of state as a matter of policy how we're going to deal with it.

Q (Off mike) -- U.S. Navy warship has now entered Somalian waters with the permission of the Somali government, which also, as one understands it, not something that's done on a routine basis. Is the U.S. military somehow recently taking a more aggressive stance against this type of activity on the high seas when it finds it?

MR. MORRELL: I don't know that I can characterize it as more aggressive. I mean, I think since I've been here I've certainly heard discussions about issues relating to piracy, and I think there is a concern that, especially in that area of the world, you're talking about an area that is seeing a greater terrorist involvement. You're seeing an outgrowth of terrorists in the Horn of Africa. And as a result, that right now is in the CENTCOM AOR and that is an area that they are concerned about. It seems to me logical that they would be concerned about what is being transported on the high seas and who was out there operating and if they had nothing but the best intentions in mind.

Q If the pirates are, in fact, captured, and which some were, will they be went to Guantanamo Bay?

MR. MORRELL: I do not believe that any pirates would be sent to Guantanamo Bay.


Q Thank you, Geoff. Regarding extension of the South Korean troops in Iraq, does the United States expect continued presence of South Korean troops in Iraq?

MR. MORRELL: The United States very much appreciates the really commendable service of South Korean troops in Northern Iraq. They have done a terrific job, and we would certainly hope they would continue to serve in that capacity. I know that they have had -- they have decided to pull their troops out of Afghanistan, out of Operation Enduring Freedom. But they have nonetheless decided to recommit their forces -- it is my understanding -- to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and we very much appreciate that. We think they provide a very valuable role in securing the North of Iraq.

Hold on, I haven't gotten to this young lady.


Q Today, Japan's prime minister and the main opposition leader failed to agree on an extension of the Japanese refueling mission in support of OEF. What impact do you think that would have on the U.S.-Japan defense alliance? And are you encouraging Japan to renew its mission?

MR. MORRELL: I don't know that it will impact the U.S.-Japan defense alliance. I mean, Japan is a dear friend and long-time ally of this country and this department. And we have very much appreciated the work they have done on behalf of Operation Enduring Freedom. We still hope that they will continue to support the mission through their refueling efforts.

But if they ultimately choose not to, we will certainly come up with alternative means of making sure that our men and women have the fuel they need to go about their missions. And you can rest assured that our friends at the Joint Chiefs are working on that, and CENTCOM are working on that. But we do clearly appreciate the efforts of the Japanese and hope they continue to support the mission.

Q Geoff, will the secretary raise this issue when he's in Japan?

MR. MORRELL: I haven't spoken to the secretary yet about what's on the agenda for the trip next week. I would imagine something like that would come up, but I haven't spoken with him about it.

All right, let's just do two more.


Q I mean, do you expect any operational impact? I mean, as far as I understand --

MR. MORRELL: No, I do not expect any operational impact whatsoever.

Q (Off mike) -- refueling has taken place, I think, under the current arrangement, which ends on the 1st of November.

MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I do not expect any operational impact.

Yeah, Al.

Q Geoff, have you had a chance to find out about the Mosul Dam situation, how imminent the danger is, what is or needs to be done about it?

MR. MORRELL: I haven't and I would really direct you to the Iraqi government or to MNF-I about that. It's just not an issue that's been addressed to this department as far as I can tell.

Q Part of the reporting involves and Army Corps of Engineers report expressing the danger. That's why.

MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I'd talk to the Army Corps of Engineers, okay?

Yeah, Jeff, I didn't get back to you, did I? Okay, sorry about that.

Q Do you have any updated figures on how many MRAPs have been sent to Iraq so far this year? (Laughter.)

MR. MORRELL: What I'm trying to do on that is to do it at the end of the month. I don't think it's -- just because of the way production works, which is that it basically piles up, and the end of the month is when they're all produced, I think it's more reflective of the progress to do it once the months ends. So I think a week into November, I should have monthly totals and I'll be happy to share them with you.

Okay, thank you all. Appreciate it.

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