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U.S. Department of Defense
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News Transcript

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook October 26, 2015

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Press Secretary Cook in the Pentagon Briefing Room


PETER COOK: Afternoon, everybody. Thanks for being here. Sorry I'm a little bit late.

Special welcome to the Air Force strategic policy fellows, who are here with us today. Welcome. Hope you enjoy yourselves while you're here.

Going to start with the news release that we released a short time ago, just to reiterate a few points here.

Early today in Iraq, at the request of the Kurdistan regional government, U.S. special operations forces supported an Iraqi Peshmerga operation to rescue hostages at an ISIL prison near Hawija, Iraq.

This operation was deliberately planned and launched after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution. It was authorized consistent with our counter-ISIL effort to train, advise and assist Iraqi forces.

The U.S. provided helicopter lift and accompanied Iraqi Peshmerga forces to the compound. Approximately 70 hostages were rescued, including more than 20 members of the Iraqi security forces.

Five ISIL terrorists were detained by the Iraqis, and a number of ISIL terrorists were killed, as well. In addition, the U.S. recovered important intelligence about ISIL.

One U.S. service member was wounded during the rescue mission, acting in support of Iraqi Peshmerga forces after they came under fire by ISIL. He subsequently died after receiving medical care. In addition, four Peshmerga soldiers were wounded in this operation.

On behalf of the men and women of the Department of Defense, we offer our sincere condolences to the family of the U.S. service member who was killed in this operation.

The U.S. and our coalition will continue to work with our Iraqi partners to degrade and defeat ISIL and return Iraq to the full control of its people.

I wanted to draw your attention as well to a statement -- at least a portion of a statement -- from General Lloyd Austin, the commander of CENTCOM.

It reads, in part, 'we commend and congratulate the brave individuals who participated in this successful operation that saved many lives, and we deeply mourn the loss of one of our own, who died while supporting his Iraqi comrades engaged in a tough fight.

'Our gratitude and heartfelt condolences go out to this young man's family, his teammates and friends.' And again, that from General Austin, commander of CENTCOM.

With that, I'm happy to take your questions, and I'll start here. Bob?

Q: Peter, you mentioned the 70 -- who you called hostages. -- (inaudible) -- 20 of them were Iraqi security force members. Who were the other 50? The Kurdish government says they weren't Kurds. Were they civilians? Could you fill in the blanks about who these people were?

MR. COOK: Yeah, we're -- we're still reviewing, along with the -- the Iraqi -- the Kurdistan folks in northern Iraq, exactly who this group comprised of.

But it was civilians as well, as -- as is our understanding -- members of the Iraqi Security Forces. So, a mix.

Q: So, Iraqi civilians?

MR. COOK: Yes, that's my understanding.

Q: In a related question, (inaudible) -- you mentioned that a number of ISIL terrorists were killed, (inaudible).

MR. COOK: Yeah.

Q: Were any of them actually targets of the operation to begin with? In other words, of high value, that that was a part of the purpose of the operation?

MR. COOK: No, this -- this was -- this was an operation -- specifically a rescue operation to try and -- and recover those people who were being held captive, and -- and again, there was intelligence information provided that indicated that their lives were at risk, and maybe imminently.

And so that was one of the reasons for this rescue operation at this particular moment in time.

Q: Were any of them killed?

MR. COOK: Any of the hostages?

Q: Yeah.

MR. COOK: Not that I'm aware of. Jim.

Q: Peter, was the U.S. role in this mission confined to the helicopter lift, or did the special operations forces participate in the assault on the prison where these hostages were being held?

MR. COOK: Jim, these -- the U.S. forces were there in a support role. So the helicopter lift for one, but they were in a support role as -- if you will, with the Peshmerga taking the lead into this compound.

And it was in that role that this one soldier was, unfortunately, wounded, and -- and later died from his injuries.

Q: So, when -- when you said the Peshmerga took the lead --

MR. COOK: Yes.

Q: -- but the U.S. special operations forces did accompany them on their assault mission on -- on the prison?

MR. COOK: There were some, yes.

Q: Does that not violate the president's order -- mandate that there be no U.S. boots on the ground, if they were involved in a direct combat mission?

MR. COOK: This was authorized by the secretary of defense specifically under our -- in our -- our Operation Inherent Resolve mission, specifically the campaign to defeat ISIL through support to Iraqi security forces, which includes these Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

So it was within Operation Inherent Resolve that they were acting.

Q: But they were involved in a direct combat mission, which would seem to violate the president's mandate -- there will be no U.S. boots on the ground. I think --

(CROSSTALK)

Q: -- everybody understands that would constitute U.S. boots on the ground.

MR. COOK: Jim, but they're -- in that support role, they are allowed to defend themselves, and also defend partner forces, and to protect against the loss of innocent life. And that's what played out in this -- in this particular operation.

They were there in that support role, and -- again, acted under those circumstances.

Q: Peter, can you (inaudible) any indication of the size of this force -- the size of this operation? How many U.S. troops were involved? How many helicopters were involved? Can you give us any idea of the scale of the operation?

MR. COOK: (inaudible), I'd -- I'd like to, but (inaudible) -- for operational security purposes, I'm not going to divulge numbers here. Just to -- again, protect operational security more than anything else.

And -- and so I -- I -- I don't think it's appropriate to -- to get in to all those numbers. There were Peshmerga forces, Iraqi Kurdish forces, there with U.S. forces in support, and particularly with the helicopter lift, especially.

Q: Well, clearly, if there were 70 prisoners freed and -- and brought out, there had to be enough helicopter lift to take 70 additional passengers, so it --

MR. COOK: Hey, (inaudible).

Q: -- sounds like a -- sounds like a fairly substantial force.

MR. COOK: I'm not going to get into details. We were able to recover those hostages. We were able to take them and put them in the -- the Kurdistan regional government now has, if you will, control over those people. And I'm just going to leave it there, without getting into the operational details.

Q: Can you say whether the U.S. forces launched from a nearby country, or from where they came?

MR. COOK: I'm not -- I'm -- I'm not going to get into -- to operational details, and again, I hope you respect that.

Q: So does this -- this raid -- I mean, obviously, they've -- they've been done in -- in Syria before. But does this mark a new phase, I guess? I mean, kind of piggybacking off what Jim was asking, is this a new phase of the way that the U.S. is going to conduct operations, with these small forces on the ground, alongside Iraqi forces?

MR. COOK: (Inaudible), I would not -- wouldn't suggest you should look at this as some change in tactics on our part. This was a unique circumstance in which very close partners of the United States made a specific request for our assistance.

And there was a deliberate process to -- to analyze this situation and the circumstances, and that's when the decision was made to -- to move forward with this operation.

So I would not suggest that this is something that's going to now happen on a regular basis, but I -- I do think it is symbolic of the -- the kinds of efforts that we are taking on behalf of our partners, and -- and the steps that we're willing to take in conjunction with our coalition partners in -- in trying to address ISIL and the threat ISIL poses not only to us, but to our partner members as well.

Q: Why was this exception given? I mean, I'm sure that the Iraqi forces would -- would all constantly want U.S. support on -- on -- on their -- their ground maneuvers.

So what -- what was at -- particularly at stake here? I know you said that these -- these --

MR. COOK: There were -- there were -- there were lives at risk here. This was a unique circumstance, a specific request from the Kurdistan regional government. And again, we acted and, thanks to the actions of not only the -- the Iraqi forces involved here, but the U.S. forces, we -- lives were saved.

And, again, this is a specific circumstance -- a unique circumstance. But that's what took place in this instance, and -- and unfortunately, there was a U.S. service member who lost their life in this operation, and there were others wounded.

But there are people now -- again, there were people -- hostages at the scene whose lives were saved as a result of this operation.

Q: Peter?

MR. COOK: Gordon.

Q: Peter, just to clarify. The authority -- the specific approval for this operation came from Secretary Carter yesterday? And if that's the case, was the White House made aware of this operation prior to -- (inaudible)?

MR. COOK: Yeah. The -- the secretary exercised his authority and approved this mission, and the White House's national security team was notified of this.

Q: Peter?

Q: Peter?

(CROSSTALK)

Q: You have several times called this 'unique' and 'a mission to save lives'. My question -- couple of questions: if it is unique, then -- and it's not happened before, how is this not, essentially, mission creep?

Advise and assist -- you -- we've asked many times, you -- this building has told us that U.S. troops do not go outside their training areas, they do not engage in something that would take them into combat.

So my first question is how is this not mission creep? What was -- sadly, ISIS has killed thousands of people. That is sadly not anything new. What was so worth it to risk U.S. military lives?

What specific benefit was there to national security that made it worth risking and knowing you were risking U.S. military lives?

And then my third question, fundamentally, is because this is --

MR. COOK: Can I -- can I get to the first two, and then we'll come back.

Q: -- (inaudible) -- as long as you come back to me.

MR. COOK: Okay. Again, Barbara, this was a support mission at the request of a partner -- a close partner of the United States, and the forces -- the U.S. forces that were brought to bear here were in that support role to try and save lives -- hostages.

There was information, as I said, indicating that these lives were at risk. I can tell you that some of the debriefs that we've gotten, already, back indicate that not only had some people been executed recently at this facility, but that the people at this facility feared that their lives were in danger within a matter of hours. They could lose their lives.

That's some of the early indications we've gotten from some of the debriefs, from some of those people. So our forces acted, again, after this request from the Kurdistan regional government, and knowing that information that there were lives on the line.

Q: Peter, what has changed that now you are putting U.S. troops into a position --

MR. COOK: Nothing has changed, Barbara. This is a -- this was a support mission that we were asked to perform, and we carried out, and under the terms of this -- under Operation Inherent Resolve, we are -- we provide support --

Q: -- (inaudible) -- had these requests before and turned them down? Have you had them and done them, and we don't know about them?

MR. COOK: This is -- I can tell you about this particular circumstance, in which we were asked to participate from a loyal and close partner, and we responded to that request after assessing this situation --

Q: What was --

MR. COOK: -- and determining that this was --

Q: -- what --

MR. COOK: -- this was an operation that merited our participation.

Q: Two things: what was the specific benefit to national security that made it worth risking U.S. lives? And because you did, for the first time, risk -- and sadly lose -- a U.S. military life in the war against ISIS -- the first one that we know of -- why is this not significant enough for Secretary Carter to be here today? Where is he?

MR. COOK: Secretary Carter made this decision, knowing, again, the potential risk to U.S. forces. He did so because, again, of the larger fight against ISIL. A partner was asking for U.S. participation, and, in that regard, he felt it was the appropriate step to take, given the circumstances involved in this particular situation, and -- I think --

Q: Why isn't he able to come and explain that decision to us?

MR. COOK: -- I think -- I am here on his behalf to explain exactly what's happened here, and the secretary -- again -- made this decision consistent with the authorities that he has, assessing the situation on the ground, and what has this situation produced, which is 70 people have had their lives saved as a result of this operation.

Q: It was done because he was asked for it?

MR. COOK: He was asked -- there was a specific request made of the Department of Defense to engage in this operation, and the secretary, along with his advisers, assessed this situation, determined that it was worthwhile for the United States to participate --

Q: -- (inaudible) – Is the country safer today?

MR. COOK: -- Barbara, let me finish, and then I'm going to move to some other people, because you've got a lot of questions here.

This was in the national security interests of the United States because this is part of the larger effort against ISIL and to support those coalition members -- those partners -- who are in the fight with us and have asked for our help in this unique situation, in which the United States was able to provide specific assistance to further this operation.

This was a successful operation. Regrettably, it did result in the loss of life for one U.S. service member. Carla.

Q: Thank you, Peter.

Can you help me understand what exactly are the parameters of this advise and assist mission in Iraq? Because it does seem to fit all of the qualifications of 'boots on the ground'. Is the advise and assist just protection for the trainee going out?

Or how often does this happen? I just feel the U.S. (inaudible).

MR. COOK: This was -- I said this was a specific circumstance in which it was a rescue mission, which the United States forces were in support, at the request of our partners in the Kurdistan regional government.

And as a result of that, you had U.S. forces that helped with the helicopter lift itself, and were also physically present in support of the Peshmerga forces that led on the ground. And this was part of the larger train, advise and assist mission, which allows, under certain circumstances --

Q: Which is -- which is -- I'm sorry, I'm -- I'm uncertain what that is, because where does the line cross from 'assisting' to being 'boots on the ground'? Because --

MR. COOK: Well, in this instance --

Q: -- (inaudible) -- somebody's being shot at.

MR. COOK: -- in this instance, U.S. forces always have the right to defend themselves, and in this instance, they also have the ability to protect partner forces as well, and to protect against the loss of innocent civilian life, and that's what took place in this circumstance in particular.

Let me move here.

Q: At any point during the planning of this mission, or the intelligence-gathering, was there any indication that there were American hostages at this site, and -- were there American hostages among the 70?

MR. COOK: Yeah, I'm not aware at this point that -- that there were any Americans among the group that were recovered, and -- and my understanding is there was no indication there were specifically Americans present here.

The understanding was that there were a number of hostages -- although we're not sure exactly who was among that group -- but that they'd been held there for sometime, and again, the information we had received -- the Kurdistan regional government had received was that those hostages did fear for their lives.

There was the threat of -- of a mass execution, perhaps within hours.

Q: And just a quick follow-up: we know the operation -- we've been told the operation was launched out of Erbil. But were the -- the special operations forces that undertook it -- were they based in Iraq, or were they based in a neighboring country?

MR. COOK: I'm not going to get into the details on that, so.

Q: Peter?

(CROSSTALK)

MR. COOK: Let me move on. Joe.

Q: Yeah. Can you -- can you -- can you say if -- if members of the Iraqi security forces were part of the operation? And -- and also do you know if the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the -- the Iraqi minister of defense were notified before mounting the operation?

MR. COOK: My understanding is they were -- they were notified about this operation, and with regard to the Iraqi security forces, they were specifically Iraqi Kurdish forces that were part of this operation in the lead.

Q: -- Peter.

MR. COOK: And that -- and as I mentioned, also, there were Iraqi security forces that were among the hostages at the compound itself. We've come to learn more than 20 were within the compound.

Yes?

Q: So, Peter, you keep saying this is a unique situation. So it's safe to say that this is the first time that advise and assist forces were on the ground, in ground combat with their partner forces?

MR. COOK: This particular circumstance -- I -- I can -- again, this -- this circumstance is unique in terms of all the -- everything that was involved here. With regard to the request that came from the Kurdistan regional government.

With request (sic) to specifically the capacity we were able to bring to bear, particularly the helicopter lift, to assist in this mission, and these are the circumstances that -- that again, the secretary assessed in making his decision to put U.S. forces -- to involve U.S. forces in this operation, specifically.

Q: (Inaudible) this sounds like the first time that we've done this and somebody has died, but not the first time that we have acted in this role.

MR. COOK: I'm just going to talk to the circumstances here in this particular instance, and why U.S. forces were in this situation in the first place, and the circumstances surrounding it. So, Nancy?

Q: I beg your pardon, Peter, but I think the public has the right to know if U.S. service members have been in a combat role or in a rescue role before this mission, because the -- you've from this podium repeatedly said that they're an -- an advise and assist role, and now we're hearing that actually they're in a very different role.

And Barbara's now asked the question, and (inaudible) asked the question, whether U.S. service members have been asked to do similar missions before. Can you at least answer us whether Secretary Carter -- or -- has ordered something along these lines before?

MR. COOK: We have --

Q: I think the public has the right to know that.

MR. COOK: -- Operation Inherent Resolve involves training and assisting, and in this particular instance, U.S. forces did -- were involved in the specific rescue operation at -- at -- in play here.

And I'm going to talk about this particular situation, and the train, advise and assist mission is -- you have documented it yourself. This is an unusual circumstance that involved these forces in this particular situation and again, the authority under Operation Inherent Resolve, allowed for these forces to be in this particular position for the secretary to authorize this action.

Q: I guess I'm asking is how unique was it? How unusual was it? Were U.S. service members put in a similar role in the past?

MR. COOK: This is a unique situation. This particular instance in which we were asked for assistance from the Kurdistan regional government, and in this particular instance, the United States, after assessing the situation, the intelligence information we had, the lives on the line decided to take this action.

Q: Can you say that U.S. forces had not been a similar situation before where they provided direct combat assistance?

MR. COOK: Jim, I'm not going to -- our mission in Iraq is the train, advise and assist mission. This was a unique circumstance. And you've seen what our forces are doing in terms of the training in Iraq. We've got several locations where U.S. forces are training and assisting Iraqis along the way. They have the right to defend themselves, those U.S. forces, but this was a unique circumstance. And this particular situation is not something that has played out across Iraq previously.

Q: So you cannot say or you choose not to say?

MR. COOK: I'm talking about this particular situation. U.S. forces are not in a combat role in Iraq. And this was a support mission, in which they were providing support to the Iraqi -- the Kurdistan regional government, and U.S. forces are not in an active combat mission in Iraq. And I can say that directly.

Q: To tie up a loose end, you said others were wounded. Are you talking Americans? And, what was the nature of their wounds? What was the extent of their wounds?

MR. COOK: Yes, some of the Iraqi forces involved here, the Pershmerga forces, suffered injuries.

Q: No other Americans?

MR. COOK: Correct.

Q: Okay.

MR. COOK: Correct.

Q: So on one clarifying point, you said that more than 20, at one point on the press release says 20 ISF were rescued. Can you help us understand the breakdown in terms of ISF versus non-ISF.

MR. COOK: More than 20? My understanding was the last number I heard was 22. Again, some of the debriefing is still happening and that number could change but that's the last number I got when I came in here.

Q: In your statement you mentioned that five Islamic State fighters had been detained by the Kurdish government. I'm wondering what sort of access U.S. interrogators will get to that and to possibly collect intelligence?

MR. COOK: I don't know the answer to that question. But I know that the Kurdistan regional government has control of those people and if that changes I'll let you know, but my understanding is that they will continue to have control of those folks. Let me move over here and then I'll come to Margaret.

Q: So the Kurds seem very surprised that there were no Kurds among the released prisoners. Were you also surprised? And if so, was it because of -- ISIS had known about this operation and they moved the Kurdish Peshmergas who had been kidnapped. Or, was it because there was faulty intelligence about the nationality of the prisoners in the first place?

MR. COOK: I'll leave the Kurdistan government to speak for itself. But in terms of the actual breakdown of who was there. It's not clear to us exactly who would be there, and so that is one of the things we're going through right now, the debriefs as to exactly who those folks were. The fact that there were Iraqi security forces there. So, we do not have a crystal clear idea exactly who would be at this compound, so.

Q: You went on a hostage rescue mission and you didn't know who was going to be there?

MR. COOK: We did not have a full accounting of everyone present at this compound, that is correct.

Q: And one more question, sorry. And why weren't there any Iraqi government commanders? Why did you have to rely on the Kurdish commanders, while (inaudible) is not with the jurisdiction of the Kurdistan region legally?

MR. COOK: Well this was --

Q: Was that a problem for you, like legally?

MR. COOK: This was a request specifically from the Kurdistan regional government. And the Iraqi Kurd forces that went with us led the way in this operation, so we provided support to them in that role.

Margaret

Q: Peter, the Kurds -- good to see you.

MR. COOK: Yes, good to see you.

Q: -- the Kurds have said there were 20 ISIS fighters killed. Can you confirm that number? And then, you know, given that this is the first American death since the drawdown in 2011, people do have this desire for some scope -- what made it worth it quotient. Can you tell us anything about what was uncovered or the intelligence that you mentioned in this release? What was gained from this raid? What made it worth it?

MR. COOK: Margaret, again, just getting back to what made this worth it, there were 70 people who -- again, whose lives may have been in imminent jeopardy who were saved as a result of this action. And I think -- hope that they have a chance perhaps to share with the media what was happening to them at that compound. But our early indications were that they did fear for their lives and that this rescue operation saved those lives.

This was a partner, close partner of ours that has worked very closely with us in Iraq up to this point, made this request of us, and to further our cooperation with them, to further our effort against ISIL, the decision was made to take up this operation in support of the Kurdistan regional government.

And again, in terms of justifying this action, the secretary assessed the situation on the ground, saw that U.S. forces could make a difference here, could perhaps make this operation more successful. And at the end of the day, there are 70 people whose lives were saved as a result of this. And again, our sincere condolences to the family of the service member who did lose their life here.

There are U.S. men and women in Iraq engaged right now in support of the Iraqi government whose lives are at risk right now simply by their presence in Iraq. There are people throughout our entire coalition taking the fight to ISIL whose lives are on the line. We have pilots right now whose lives are on the line every time they fly. And again, we -- saddened by this loss of life, but this is a difficult fight against ISIL and it's one we're going to continue in partnership with a host of other nations and with a significant number of partners who are looking to the United States for help and assistance.

Q: So you say the prime value here is saving those hostages' lives, not the intel that was gathered, not the five ISIS guys that were captured.

MR. COOK: You remind me that there was information collected at the scene. I'm not going to get into everything that was recovered. But certainly, we believe that those things that were recovered, that the intelligence that can be gathered as a result of this operation will be beneficial down the line for sure.

Q: Can you tell us anything about the service member who was killed? Whether his family has been informed? Anything?

MR. COOK: Not at -- not at this time.

Q: But just to -- just to follow up on that, so we know that the verification procedures mean that eventually -- tomorrow or maybe the next day -- we will learn the identity of the -- of the U.S. service member who was killed. Can you -- because that information will be public very soon, can you at least tell us what branch of the service --

MR. COOK: Jamie, I can't. There are very specific rules that I need to follow in these circumstances, and so I'm -- we'll have more information for you when we can.

Q: Sorry, the 20 ISIS fighters. Is that number accurate?

MR. COOK: That is -- I know that there were a significant number of ISIS fighters who were killed in this operation. I don't have the exact number with me. I think -- again, I think the Kurdish folks have released a number and I'll point you to their number. But I don't have a specific number myself. Bill?

Q: Yeah, I had a question on Korea. It's been over a year since the commander there requested the deployment of the THAAD missile defense. The secretary met with the Korean defense minister recently. Can you tell if that issue was discussed? And if you have an update on whether or not the commander's request will be met?

MR. COOK: I'll take the question as to whether or not the topic came up. And I don't have anything specific for you, any update with regard to that issue.

Q: Can you take the question?

MR. COOK: I'll take the question and try and get back to you.

Q: -- (inaudible) -- on Korea?

MR. COOK: Let me -- yes, right here.

Q: Yes, -- (inaudible) -- about Korea.

MR. COOK: Yes.

Q: South Korea and Japan and the United States held security talks in Japan today. Do we have anything on this?

MR. COOK: I'm sorry. I'll take that question as well. I don't have an update on -- on what happened in those talks.

Q: One clarification and then one -- (inaudible) -- question.

The person who died, is it more accurate to say he -- assuming it was a he -- was the first American to die in hostile action in Inherent Resolve? Your casualty lists on the website had nine U.S. KIA, but not from hostile -- non-hostile action. So can you just -- what is an accurate way to depict the life lost today?

MR. COOK: Let me take that question as well, because some of those casualties pre-date my arrival here. I want to make sure that I'm not forgetting some action that took place earlier. So let me -- let me get that officially just to make sure that the classification is accurate.

Q: Okay. Now, the other major -- (inaudible) -- defense news in Washington today is the expected veto of the national defense authorization bill by the president.

MR. COOK: Yes?

Q: What practical impact will the veto have on Defense Department operations?

MR. COOK: As of right now, obviously this is a situation where this department would very much like to have this situation with the NDAA resolved and the overall budget picture resolved. There are lots of good things in this bill, lots of things Secretary Carter likes in this bill, but there are aspects to it that are problematic, most specifically the question of funding for this department and stable funding going forward.

At this point, I'm not aware of anything immediately that the veto of this legislation will have directly on the department immediately, but obviously the longer-term picture is much different. And we would like resolution of the budget certainty, of the budget situation. You saw hopefully the secretary's op-ed in The Wall Street Journal to this effect, that we need budget certainty.

This department needs budget certainty moving forward and anything that can be done to resolve these issues sooner rather than later to provide that budget certainty, certainly Secretary Carter would applaud and support wholeheartedly.

Q: One -- (inaudible) -- one contract a lot of the aerospace industry is watching for the U.S. and the Air Force is bomber contract. Do you know whether a veto would delay the award of that contract?

MR. COOK: I am not aware of any reason that the veto itself would delay the award of that contract. Again, longer-term picture for DOD programs writ large, significant impact on the overall department and its budget -- its ability to allocate money to certain programs if we don't get the budget certainty that I was referring to earlier.

I've got time for about two more here.

In back?

Q: ISIS has killed tens of thousands of people. Did this -- was this operation unique because the Kurds asked for this -- made this request specifically? Or was there a high-value hostage or hostages among this group that needed to be saved that prompted the need to use U.S. special forces?

MR. COOK: I think the answer to that is, as I mentioned earlier, is specifically because of this request from a close partner who requested assistance for this particular mission, this particular operation, and also because of the information we've received that the hostages being held at this compound did have their lives threatened, and that without action, there was the risk that -- that they could lose their lives.

And what we've been able to learn since then from the prisoners who were being held there -- the hostages being held there -- that they did fear for their lives. So those were the -- the two things, I think, that are most important in terms of the decision that was made to move forward.

I've got time for one more.

Q: Thank you.

Can you give us just a few more details on this service member that passed away? Was it one gunshot wound? Multiple? Where were the gunshot wounds?

And also on these 22 ISF, where were they from? Do we have that information? And where were they -- (inaudible)? Were they part of the Baiji fight that's going on?

MR. COOK: I -- I don't have any more detail on the ISF forces who were recovered, other than they were Iraqi security forces members. We may get more information from the Kurdistan regional government as they've been able to do more of these debriefings.

And on your first question, I'm not at this point able to give you more detail on exactly what happened to this service member, but I hope in the coming days to be able to provide more -- more information, specifically, on it.

Thanks, every -- Bob?

Q: One -- one last thing, can I -- (inaudible) -- just for clarification purposes, it's described in here, the site of this operation, as a prison.

MR. COOK: Yeah.

Q: Is it literally a prison in the normal sense of the word, or was it somebody's home who was being used to hold people?

MR. COOK: My understanding, Bob, that this was specifically a prison, and that there were -- some of the facilities there were intended to house people -- to contain people.

And so it was -- it was not something that was a house where people were being held. This was a specific compound where people were being held, for the specific purpose of being held for an extended period of time.

What I don't know is that -- whether or not this is a prison that was created after ISIL moved in, or whether or not it predated even ISIL's arrival into the -- into the area.

Q: One more loose end?

MR. COOK: One more loose end.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: Technicality, I assure you.

Who specifically -- was there an individual who specifically made the request for U.S. military support on this mission? And was it made directly to the secretary, or did it come up through the chain?

MR. COOK: I'll refer you, Jim, to the -- to the Kurdistan government, if they want to disclose exactly who made the -- the request. But this -- my understanding -- it did not come directly to the -- to the secretary himself, but obviously he was brought in on this decision, and -- and consulted with his leadership team before making this decision.

Okay. Thanks, everyone.

Q: Thank you.

http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/625643/



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