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Military

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

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby February 13, 2015

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Admiral Kirby in the Pentagon Briefing Room


REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: Good afternoon everybody. No opening statement today.

I'll spare you. We'll just get right to your questions.

Q: If I could just ask one housekeeping item, and then a question on Iraq.

Housekeeping item, do you have a time for a swearing in or anything on Tuesday, or any other details on when the next secretary of defense will be coming in?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: What I can tell you is that we do expect Dr. Carter to be sworn in as the next secretary of defense on Tuesday morning.

We'll have some updates that we'll be able to pass you over the weekend.

I just don't have specifics in term of -- in terms of time and location. I think that's all still being worked out. Secretary Hagel will remain secretary of defense through the weekend, and then we expect that swearing in Tuesday morning.

More details will come.

Q: Public announcements, are there any --

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't have anything on his public agenda for next week to read out. Obviously, as soon as things firm up, we'll keep you posted.

Q: On Iraq, on the attack at al-Asad, I'm wondering if you have any other details on whether or not the attackers were actually able to get inside the base at all.

And we keep hearing reports about the Iraqis, referring to them as suicide bombers.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah.

Q: Is there -- some suggested they were wearing suicide vests, something of that nature. Any -- any light you can shed on that?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Let me preface what I'm about to say with -- and you know this better than me. First reports are -- are not always 100 percent accurate, so I'm going to be very careful about what I say, because information is still coming in.

And there may be things that we think happen now that an hour from now, we may have a different view.

So, let me just tell you what basically we know. We're talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 25 total ISIL fighters. They -- the attempted attack was led, we believe, by at least several, and I don't have a good number for you, but at least several suicide attackers. And we do -- early indications are that yes, some of them did detonate their -- their vests, detonate themselves. And then they -- they were followed by roughly something on the order of 15 or so other fighters.

It does appear now that most, if not all of them, were wearing Iraqi uniforms. But again, all of this could change as we -- as we learn more.

They certainly did get to the perimeter of the base. I can't sit here and tell you, you know, the degree to which the perimeter was breached. I just -- I just don't have that level of detail.

But they certainly did arrive at the perimeter of -- of the base. I also think it's important to make clear that they were immediately engaged by members of the Iraqi army, the 7th Infantry of the Iraqi army, and all were killed.

We don't have any indication of any Iraqi, certainly no coalition casualties. We don't have any indication right now of Iraqi casualties as well. The attackers were -- were killed. And the -- the attack, the attempted attack, obviously was not successful on their part.

Also important to note that as you guys know this, many of you have been out to al-Asad, it is a big, sprawling facility. It's basically a base of many mini bases inside. And at no time were U.S. troops anywhere near the fighting: at least a couple of miles away. So, they might have heard shots being fired, but that would've been about it.

Does that answer your question?

Q: Yeah, just one -- one other detail. Was it largely Iraqis using you know, basically machine gun and other fire, or did -- was there some other -- other aircraft or some other large weapon fire that they needed in order to repel them, or --

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't know the exact weaponry that they used. I'm sure a lot of it was – their own-- you know, personnel carried, you know, small arms and ammunition.

I just don't have an inventory of exactly what, you know, weapons or munitions were used. There were no aircraft involved in -- in beating back this. This was done -- the Iraqi security forces, they did this on their own.

Q: OK.

To follow up on that, the coalition and Inherent Resolve put out a statement saying that U.S. surveillance was provided overhead while this was unfolding.

How long did this unfold, this encounter? Was this over in, you know, a few minutes, a few hours? Any idea how long it took to transpire.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't have a tick-tock for you, Craig. Again, information about it is still coming in.

It was not of long duration. I would say minutes, but I don't how many minutes.

I mean, it's not -- this wasn't an hours-long, enduring fire fight. It was over relatively quickly. I just don't have a specific tick-tock for you.

Nancy?

Q: A couple of points.

The Iraqis -- the -- I suspect that ISIS members were wearing Iraqi uniforms, you said?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: That is the initial reporting, that most, if not all, were wearing Iraqi uniforms.

Q: And so if I understand correctly-- there were a number of suicide bombers who -- some of them detonated themselves, and there was essentially a force behind them that was going to try to storm in. Is that right?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: That is the understanding right now.

Q: Were any of those wearing Iraqi uniforms, were any of them carrying government-issued weapons? Can you give us any sense of what kind of weapons they were carrying?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm afraid I don't have that level of detail right now.

Q: And is there any indication that these -- that there were any sort of ISIS members dressed up as ISF as part of the effort to overtake the nearby town of Al-Baghdadi?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't know. I don't have any --

Q: Can you give us any sort of insight about what your assessment is of who holds Baghdadi and -- the city of Baghdadi and when and if it felt into ISIS hands?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: At this time, I think we still assess ISIL to be in control of Al-Baghdadi. I haven't seen anything to the contrary.

Q: So when did that happen, do you think?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: In the last several days. I don't have -- again, you know, I don't have very discreet knowledge of everything they're doing minute to minute, but, you know, we do assess that right, they have control of Al-Baghdadi.

Jim?

Q: Just a follow on that, the fact that they do control Baghdadi now, does that give them more of a launching-off point to make other attacks or in anyway threaten Al Asad?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I mean, look, Anbar has long been contested -- a contested -- a contested environment, and they have -- they have a presence in Anbar. Since before we even started doing humanitarian missions in June of last year, Anbar -- ISIL had a presence there.

So this is certainly in keeping with their desire to exert more influence in Al Anbar Province.

What they're able to do or intend to do by dint of -- of being present in Al-Baghdadi, I couldn't say. I don't know.

But their presence in Al Anbar is not something that we're -- that we're ignoring -- everybody is aware of that -- and what they're going to do about it, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't pretend to know.

Important also to -- to make -- make mention that the Iraqi security forces continue to operate in and around Al Anbar and continue to put pressure on ISIL.

We've said from the very beginning there's going to be ups and downs. There's going to be -- there's going to be gives and takes here. The -- the -- the -- I don't think we should make more out of this.

I'm not saying that we're dismissing the serious of the potential breech here or of the increased activity by ISIL, but we ought not to make more of it than needs to be made of it.

This is arguably the first in -- at least a couple of months, if not more, where they have had any success at all at taking any new ground. So this is an -- this is an enemy that we still assess to be in a defensive posture.

It's -- it's one town. It's not all of Al Anbar. It's not all of Iraq. We need to keep it in perspective.

Q: Given what's happened in -- with the constant mortar attacks and the rocket attacks, do you -- do you think the Iraqi forces are trained well enough to protect that base, considering how sprawling it is? Are there enough of them? Are you concerned about the security situation with so many Americans there?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: We're always concerned about the security situation when you have Americans out there like that.

And we've been -- we've said from the beginning of this -- this train, advise and assist mission one of the reasons why -- and you all were beating us up, because we weren't -- you know, I wasn't able to tell you we were getting to these facilities fast enough -- one of the reasons why we took a little bit more time putting American troops out there was to make force protection measures were in place.

And in this case, those force protection measures proved more than adequate, because they didn't get inside the base. Iraqi security forces were there at the scene, engaged them immediately, and the attack failed.

Nobody -- nobody said that, again, al-Anbar doesn't remain contested. Of course it does. And nobody is underestimated and we've all been very honest about the continued threat that this group poses, which is why we have to take it so seriously, which is why this advise and assist mission is so important.

And I think you're, you know, when you look at what happened today, I think it proves that the Iraqi -- that Iraqi security forces can fight effectively and can defend territory and ground when they're ready and they're able. And in this case, they were ready and able.

Q: Admiral, two quick follow ups, please.

First, Dr. Carter next week, do you know yet whether his ceremony will take here at the Pentagon or whether it will be at the White House, just in general terms?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't have -- honestly, I don't have any more detail about it. I'm sure we'll be giving you guys updates over the weekend as things firm up. I just don't have more detail right now.

Q: Second, I know you said you don't want to talk specifically about force protection, but can you tell us in a general way whether the Americans posted to al-Asad are armed and postured in a such a way to help defend the base if it should come to that? Or because of their train and assist role, would they not be prepared to help defend the base in extremis with the Iraqis?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: The job of U.S. troops at al-Asad is -- are -- their job is to train, advise and assist Iraqi security forces. That's what they're equipped for. That's what they were sent over there and prepared to do, and that's what they're doing. But like all American troops potentially in harm's way, they have the right, the responsibility, the obligation to defend themselves. And certainly they're trained and capable of doing that.

Our full expectation would be that if they come under fire, they will shoot back. They will defend themselves. And they have the means to do that.

Yes?

Q: Has the U.S. or coalition conducted any strikes against ISIL targets in al-Baghdadi over the last two days as it was coming under attack?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm sorry. I didn't --

Q: Were there any U.S. or coalition airstrikes against ISIL targets in al-Baghdadi?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: You know, I'm going to have to refer you to CENTCOM. I don't have the latest tally of their airstrikes and where they -- where they've been conducted. I just don't know.

Q: To clarify, when you said the group hasn't taken any new land in the last several months in Iraq, right? That doesn't include Syria?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Right, but we haven't seen much, you know, the mythical expansion of them in Syria I think needs to be put into some context, too. They haven't -- they're not actually grabbing a lot of new ground in Syria anywhere. Where we've seen them, quote-unquote, 'expand,' is really move into more ungoverned spaces in Syria. And frankly, if they want to move into ungoverned spaces, we're watching it. We're monitoring it.

But it's not -- it's not as important as when they try to take a populated area, an area that they can either gain resources from, develop infrastructure for, expand this -- their area of governing. And the way you govern is you've got to have people to govern. So the population areas are the most important areas that we're focused on.

So I still continue to push back on this notion that they've expanded inside Syria, because we just haven't focused on it. That's just not true.

Q: Thank you.

Quick question. Former ISI chief in Pakistan, Mr. -- General Asad Durrani-- said that Pakistan knew where Osama bin Laden was. And they told the U.S.

My question is now, do you agree with his accounts now, because last -- for the last 10 years, which they've been denying, including ISI military and General Musharraf that Osama bin Laden was not in Pakistan. How the relations will be affecting now?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm not going to re-litigate the bin Laden raid. Osama bin Laden is dead. Al Qaida core leadership has been severely hurt, decimated. They -- the core leadership has no where near the influence that they once had. I'm not going to re-litigate that -- that raid. What matters is that bin Laden is no longer around.

And as for the relationship with Pakistan, we've said this repeatedly. We share -- have a lot of shared interests and challenges and the relationship is important and we continue to work on it.

Q: Are there any followers of Osama bin Laden still in the region anywhere in the world or in Pakistan or in the region?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Followers of him?

Q: Yes, sir.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Sure. I mean, Al Qaida still exists as a -- as a terrorist organization. And there's offshoots and affiliates of Al Qaida -- AQAP in Yemen and the Khorasan Group which is an offshoot of al-Nusra that's still loosely affiliated; al-Shabaab has claimed affiliation with Al Qaida. I mean, absolutely, Al Qaida still exists as a terrorist organization and one that we're focused on.

Q: Including in Pakistan?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Look, they exist all over the world. I mean, they -- they exist all over the world.

Yes?

Q: Hi, James Rosen with Fox News.

To move to a different subject, staying in the region, can you address the New York Times report about the seized laptop and the supposed impact that has had in terms of surging the number of night raids by U.S. personnel in Afghanistan?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Nope.

I don't talk about intelligence matters from up here. I'm not going to -- I'm not going to start doing that today.

It is -- it is a fact that as we conduct operations, be they counterterrorism operations or otherwise, that -- that we try to assess and evaluate whatever resources and information might across battlefield operations.

And that -- that's just a fact. We do that.

And sometimes when we do that, we gain insight and information that could lead to follow on operations. That's just how we do it.

But I would not begin to talk from up here about the specifics of any one operation or what may have been learned as a result of it.

Q: So does it appear to you as though some U.S. officials have improperly done so in this case?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm not going to talk about specific intelligence on any specific operation. I think what needs to be remembered is that counter-terrorism remains a valid mission for U.S. personnel inside Afghanistan. We've said that there's, again, two -- two roles here: train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Security Forces, and counter-terrorism operations. Operations which continue as you and I talk, and operations which are partnered with our Afghan partners on the ground there.

Q: Just one last question, off-topic and -- and not asked in any -- in a kind of a snarky way, but simply for the purposes of the record of history, would you say that Barack Obama, as commander in chief, has had a positive impact on the morale of the men and women of the United States armed forces?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think -- look, I -- I have to really take issue with the question. I -- look, the commander in chief is the commander in chief, and it doesn't matter who he is. He has by dint of his office, and by being elected by the American people, he deserves and he has the respect of every man and woman in the United States military. And that's just the way it is.

We -- we swear an oath to the Constitution, to the American people. We don't swear an oath to a party. We don't swear an oath to a person. We don't swear an oath to an office. We swear an oath to the American people. That's what we are all about. And it doesn't matter to us who is in the White House or who sits on Capitol Hill. What matters is that we do the job we're told to do.

Q: So, you discount the proposition that the top officer in the United States armed forces can have some impact on the morale of the rank and file.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, leadership always has an impact on -- on people. That's what leadership is. I didn't say that leadership is devoid from morale. What I said is that we don't -- we don't make those kinds of judgment calls when you -- when you wear this uniform. You serve whoever the commander in chief is, and you serve them nobly, and you serve them with honor, and you serve them with 100 percent of your energy.

I am not going to get drawn into a political debate here. I just -- you're asking the wrong guy. I've been in the Navy 28 years and I've served under many presidents, and I can tell you that speaking for myself, it doesn't matter to me who sits in that office. That doesn't change the way I do my job.

Q: Just let the record reflect I didn't ask you a political question --

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes you did.

Q: -- I asked you to assess the impact of the commander in chief on the morale of our armed forces.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, we're just going to have to differ about the nature of your question. I believe it was political.

Julian.

Q: So, I want to turn to Nigeria, here.

President Goodluck Jonathan has said that he has requested, wants, and needs U.S. troops. Under what circumstance would the U.S. consider sending troops to Nigeria?

Is -- are there any discussions about increasing the military partnership there?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: What there is a discussion, Julian, is of a multi-national task force that -- that the international community is working with certain African nations to establish. There's -- right now it's still in the discussion phase. I don't have a timeline for that. But we believe that we support the discussion and dialog toward establishing a multinational task force that -- you know, that can -- that can operate there to help improve partner capacity, to improve counter-terrorism capabilities.

But these are -- these discussions are really just now starting.

I can -- I can tell you that there are no plans as I speak here to send unilaterally, to send or to add U.S. troops into Nigeria. There are no U.S. troops operating in Nigeria.

Q: Ten second follow up. As part of that multinational task force, do you -- is the U.S. -- has the U.S. ruled out sort of ground forces as part of that? Is that more likely to be the kind of advisors we've seen in the past, or ISR, or --

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think it's too soon to say, Julian. I mean it's not -- nothing's being ruled out or ruled in. These discussions are really kinda just starting.

So, I think it'd be premature to say I know exactly what the U.S. component would be or to characterize it. We're just not there, yet.

Joe?

Q: Admiral Kirby.

After the closure of the U.S. embassy in Yemen, could you give us an update about the status -- the current status of the U.S. military to military relationship with Yemeni forces?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: There's been no change since the last time I was here on Tuesday.

Q: That means -- does the Pentagon still have special forces in Yemen?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: We still have special operations forces in Yemen. We're still capable of conducting counter-terrorism operations in Yemen. We're still conducting limited counter-terrorism training with Yemeni security forces outside of Sana'a.

Q: Thank you.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Jon.

Q: Admiral Kirby, just wanted to clarify something about the al-Asad attack.

So, were all 20 to 25 of these fighters killed, either by detonating suicide vests or by --

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't believe they were all killed by detonating vest.

Q: Or by the Iraqi Security Forces, like --

REAR ADM. KIRBY: My understanding is all of the attackers were killed by Iraqi Security Forces. Now, some of them did, as I said, detonate their explosives and were killed thusly, but the rest were -- were killed by Iraqi Security Forces.

Q: They did not escape or anything?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I -- I don't have knowledge of every single individual. As I said, they were -- most of them were killed. I can't say that there wasn't one or two or three more who might have survived.

And if I mischaracterized that at the beginning, let me say it again: I don't have an exact nose-count on every one of them, but the attack failed. Most of the attackers were killed by Iraqi Security Forces. Some of them, they blew themselves up.

And again, folks, this just happened today. Information is going to continue to come in, so you know, everybody needs to be a little flexible on this.

Yeah?

Q: The United States is still several hundred troops below its kind of cap in -- in Iraq. And given the added pressure that ISIL is exerting in -- in Anbar, is there any thought to using some of those forces for additional protections, force protection means as opposed to other -- other -- maybe repurposing of it?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, we always force protection, Phil, as you know that. I'm not aware of any specific changes that need to be made as a result of this particular attack. But obviously, the commander on the ground gets to make those decisions, and I don't believe that General Terry has made any adjustments as a result of this. He very well might. We'll just have to wait and see.

Q: And on Yemen, the -- the Saudis have now also evacuated embassy staff from Sana'a. They're a crucial ally for intelligence as well. How has the U.S. intelligence picture been affected by the -- by the political upheaval in Yemen?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Again, without getting into specifics of intelligence, and you know, the Pentagon is not the only agency that is concerned with the gathering and analyzing of intelligence, as I've said before, because of the political uncertainty, even before all our personnel were removed from the embassy, the business of intelligence was made more difficult by the political uncertainty in Sana'a.

There's no question about that. I am loathe to kind of quantify that for you, but obviously it's -- it's harder to -- to get information than it was before.

But, you know, back to my earlier answer, we're still capable of conducting counter-terrorism operations there, and we're still doing some training, and you know, we're -- that capability remains. It -- it has been effected, no question, and in some cases curtailed, no question about that either. But it still remains.

And it's important for us to be able to try to continue it.

Carla?

Q: Thank you, admiral.

And my apologies if you said this before, but do we have any sort of initial estimates with the attack in the al-Asad on the Iraqi Security Forces that were killed?

Do we have any sort of estimates?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: My understanding at this hour is that there were no Iraqi Security Force casualties as a result of this one way or the other.

Jim?

Q: Thank you, Admiral.

Just to follow up, you have spoken and other officials have spoken about the effect that the situation in Yemen has had on counter-terrorism and that sort of thing.

Are you able to expand on that at all, just to explain in what way, I mean, there are less special forces there fighting AQAP since the fall of the Hadi government, or is there any way to explain in greater detail how the effect is --

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm smiling because you know I'm not going to talk about numbers of troops there in Yemen.

Let me try to do it this way. We -- we maintain special operations forces in Yemen. That number has historically fluctuated based on the needs and the requirements and the operations that have been conducted there.

I won't get into exactly how many are there or where they are. I think, for obvious reasons, you -- you can understand that. But -- but they are there.

And the most important part to remember about this, Jamie, is that while we certainly have the capability to conduct unilateral counterterrorism operations there, if need be, it's always better and more effective if you can do that with a partner.

And so when you -- you asked your question, it almost seemed like, you know, you were -- and I know you didn't mean to do this -- but implying that we had some large footprint and we were just sort of off on our own, and that was never the case. We -- we did enjoy a good relationship with the Yemeni security forces of the Hadi government.

Obviously, that government is -- is -- is being contested, if you will, and -- and so there's not the -- the -- the civil authority to which those security forces reported to is -- is -- is now not executing that authority, and -- and so it makes it more challenging.

But it's always been -- it's always been a limited footprint. It has fluctuated over time, and it -- you know, I think that remains the same today.

Q: Have you noticed an uptick or any change in -- in tempo in the way AQAP operates within Yemen? Going back to the fall of -- of the Hadi government, has -- has anything changed with your understanding of how they operate within that country?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I haven't -- I don't think we would be able to say that there's been a trend difference. They -- they remain an element inside Yemen. They remain a threat not just to our interest but to the interest of the Yemeni people and to the region.

And -- but I -- I don't -- I wouldn't say that it's gone up or gone down. I mean, they're -- they're still there, they're still dangerous, and we're still focused on them.

Q: The A-10's back in the news this week. The Air Force apparently released numbers saying that it's among -- it has among the most friendly-fire incidents among any aircraft that's been used over the last several years.

Do you or the secretary have an opinion about this type of budgeting, a tactic being used in a budget fight where it involves the death of American service members?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, look, I'd let the Air Force speak to -- to statistics regarding the A-10.

What the secretary has an opinion on is -- and remains very strong about it is that -- that we want and we need to retire the A-10, that what we -- that while it has been venerable aircraft -- no question over its long history -- what we really are aircraft that are more multi-mission capable and can -- and can conduct those kinds of -- not just those missions but other missions.

It's -- it's time to retire the A-10. Nothing has changed about the Pentagon's view of that.

I'll -- I'll let the Air Force speak to the information and data that -- that they're providing about the aircraft's history and use.

Q: South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-goo has mentioned yesterday about the strategic value of THAAD?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: The what?

Q: Strategic value of THAAD missiles.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: The THAAD missiles?

Q: Yeah.

Do you think this is what Korea has strategic value if U.S. placed on THAAD missile safety

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Do I think what about South Korea?

Q: Do you think this is what Korea has strategic value?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Strategic value of THAAD to --

Q: U.S. place THAAD --

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Let me just make a couple of points. Actually, I'm grateful for the question. Let me make a couple of points.

One is it's not for me to decide what is of strategic value to the Republic of Korea; that's -- that's for the -- the government there and the people to decide. A key strategic ally, obviously, we take our commitments on the peninsula extraordinarily seriously.

We -- we -- there are no formal consultations or discussions about THAAD with our Republic of Korea counterparts, no formal consultations about THAAD. And we want to be very clear about that.

We do discuss a full range of military capabilities with our allies in South Korea, of course, and some of those do include missile defense. But there are no consultations with respect to THAAD.

Q: But you do constant discussion on THAAD between U.S. and Korea --

REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I just said there's no consultation or discussions about THAAD specifically. We discuss a wide range of military missions and capabilities with our allies there. Some of those do include -- they would have to, of course, include the idea of missile defense. But there's no formal consultations on THAAD.

Q: On Carter, after he's confirmed, what are his one or two major challenges over the next two -- two or three months as opposed to the long-term budget issues he'll have to deal with over the next two years in Iraq and others parts --

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think my answer to you would be stay tuned. I mean, I'm sure that Secretary Carter will want to articulate -- soon-to-be Secretary Carter will want to articulate for himself the areas that he wants to focus on. And after he's sworn in, I'm sure we'll all have an opportunity to hear from him.

Q: All right. One other thing is CENTCOM this week laid out -- released its latest tally of destroyed targets. There's 4,800 tanks and VIBDs and just a whole catch-bin of targets. How should the public look at a list like this? I mean, what does it represent? And how do you square a list of destroyed vehicles and buildings with the offensives going on in al-Anbar? Are they -- how does one look at it?

You've got a list of destroyed -- a lot of destruction, but they're still able to take on the Iraqi army in various places.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, they're not offensives. We're talking about, you know, one movement here in al-Anbar. I think it's important to keep that in perspective. The way I would look at a list like that is that those are things that ISIL no longer has. They're gone. They're destroyed. They can't use them anymore. And this is an enemy that has a limited ability to reconstitute strength, at least material strength.

It's not like they've got, you know, a ready supply chain of armored personnel carriers just streaming across, and, you know, manufacturing capability to replace this stuff. It's not like they've got a team full of mechanics that can keep them running after they've been hit and broken.

These guys steal to survive. I mean, one of their chief sources of income is stolen money. They just move into an area and basically rob banks. And that's how they get a lot of their money. And when they're not capturing new territory, they're not robbing a whole lot of new banks.

So, there's a -- there's a shelf life here on their material capability. They do not have the ability to reconstitute strength the way a normal armed force would be. So when CENTCOM put these numbers out, I think the way I look at them, and the way I'd want you to look at them is these are now assets that no longer belong to this group, and are not going to be easily replaced.

Q: We should look at these, though, as major measures of effectiveness in terms of the goal toward degrading and destroying ISIL?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, they -- I don't know if I'd say 'major,' I mean, but they are certainly a measure of effectiveness against degrading and destroying. Remember, degrade and destroy is of their capabilities and those are capabilities. If you've got a tank or you've got an armored personnel carrier and an artillery piece, that gives you capability. Now, you no longer have it.

Q: Can I ask one -- 62 tanks were destroyed. There's kind of an urban myth that they actually captured M-1 Abrams tanks from the Iraqis. Did they have any American tanks, ISIL?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't -- I don't know what their inventory of tanks looks like. I mean, as you know, the Iraqi army did have possession of some Abrams tanks. I don't know how many.

Q: Well, 400 or something.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: OK. Well, I'll take your word for it then. I don't know how many of those fell into ISIL hands. I don't.

Q: Fair enough.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes? Yes?

Q: Admiral, after the attack to al-Asad base, do you think you have the means to protect -- evacuate -- to rescue the U.S. personnel in case of another attack?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes.

Q: And can you give us an update of the supplies requested by the king of Jordan in order to reinforce the attacks against ISIL?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't have an update for you. We have a strong partnership with Jordan, and obviously are mindful of the -- the -- one of the strengths of that defense relationship is a robust foreign military sales program, but I would you to the State Department for that. That's not something we handle out of the Pentagon.

Yes?

Q: Thank you, Admiral.

Can we get an update on Ukraine? With the activity in the last 24 hours, how does the DOD assess that an actual ceasefire will be reached Saturday night?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, we're hopeful. I mean, there's no question about that. We've long said there's not going to be a military solution to this, much less a U.S. military solution; that this conflict should be resolved diplomatically and through political means.

So, we welcome this second agreement and we're hopeful that this weekend all sides take it seriously and it goes into full effect. It's more than just a ceasefire, as you know. It requires Russia to pull back the support that it has for separatists and to take back the equipment, the massive amounts of equipment and machinery that they've -- that they have provided to the separatists, and to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

So we're hopeful, but actions speak louder than words, and we're going to have to see. I mean, the ink wasn't even dry on the first Minsk agreement before Moscow violated it. So, again, we're going to be watching this very closely.

Q: Could I follow up on that?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Sure.

Q: The State Department just said that over the last couple of days, U.S. analysis has shown deliveries of heavy artillery, even air defense systems, to eastern Ukraine, specifically around Debaltseve. Russian units along the border with Ukraine are also preparing a large shipment of supplies to pro-Russia separatists.

She said, Jen Psaki said this was based on U.S. analysis. Did that come from this building?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't know where it came from Cami, but we wouldn't quibble with it.

I mean, it's a -- oftentimes that analysis is an interagency approach. It -- it comes from largely the intelligence community, but as you know, that -- that network spans many agencies. It's not just in one building. So, we would not quibble with that assessment at all.

And frankly Cami, that we've been watching that same sort of activity now for months. This constant supply to the separatists of heavy equipment and armor and air defense systems, as well as the posturing of -- of more than a dozen battalion tactical groups right along that border.

So, it has -- it has definitely gotten our concern.

In the back there?

Q: Admiral Kirby, quickly on Afghanistan, General Campbell was testifying in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this week, and he was saying that he'd recommend a more situational-based withdrawal plan. Is the DOD reassessing their troop withdrawal plan for Afghanistan?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I wouldn't say the DOD is reassessing. I would say that the ongoing discussions within the interagency, which includes the Department of Defense continue about the scope and scale of the U.S. footprint inside Afghanistan going forward over the next couple of years. No decision has been made though to change the current withdrawal plan that we're on right now.

We have time for one more. Let's -- looks like you guys are good.

All right. Have a great weekend, long week.

Q: Got one.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Go ahead. Sure, go ahead.

Q: All right.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: This better be an easy one because I should've been in the green room by now.

Q: Thank you, Admiral.

On the Cyber Caliphate Twitter hacking incidents, Colonel Warren said this week that the department has been talking with Twitter about these breaches. What I'm wondering, I have a couple questions, but the first one really is, is it really Twitter's fault sorta the users whose job it is to operate these accounts failed to activate necessary security measures such as two-party verification?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Did we say it was Twitter's fault?

Q: I don't -- is it your fault? With CENTCOM, was that -- was that your fault, the reason that the password just got out and there wasn't two-party verification, and as a result, somebody got into the account?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think they're still working through how that incident occurred, and obviously would -- I don't -- can't speak for any single individual servicemember or command. I'm pretty careful about my own Twitter account, and we encourage commands and individuals who are on social media, whether for professional or personal reasons, to execute, you know, safe and secure measures and to, you know, be -- be mindful of the security of their passwords.

Q: Are you advising the use of two-party verification in light of these incidents?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: We think that that would be a very helpful measure for commands and for individuals, yep.

All right, thanks everybody.

http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=5589



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