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U.S. Department of Defense
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News Transcript

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook November 10, 2015

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


PETER COOK: Good afternoon, everybody. Nice to see you all after our trip to Asia. I hope those who went on the trip have recovered better than I have. It still feels like Thursday to me.

Going to begin here with an update to our operations in Turkey before I turn to your questions.

Earlier this month, we announced that we will be sending about 12 F-15s to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, reflecting both our commitment to ensure the safety of our NATO ally, and our commitment to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

Last Friday, six F-15Cs arrived at Incirlik. These aircraft will conduct combat air control -- air patrols in Turkish airspace, in response to the government of Turkey's request for support in securing the sovereignty of Turkish airspace.

We also announced that we will deploy additional F-15Es to Incirlik as part of our counter-ISIL operations. Details on the number and the arrival timeframe of those aircraft still being determined. We expect they will be arriving soon.

Turkey's a NATO ally and an important partner in the international coalition against ISIL as well. We commend Turkey's decision to open its bases to U.S. and other coalition members participating in air operations against ISIL, and Turkey's participation in coalition counter-ISIL air operations.

These F-15Es will join our manned and remotely piloted aircraft already conducting counter-ISIL missions from Incirlik, as well as our personnel recovery assets based -- based also in Turkey.

They will also join Turkish F-16s based at Incirlik, which regularly participate in coalition counter-ISIL missions in Syria, including strike missions.

Beyond air operations, we continue our dialogue with Turkey to evaluate option on the most effective means of countering ISIL, including along its borders, in a manner that promotes Turkey's security and regional stability.

And with that, happy to take your questions -- Missy.

Q: Missy -- can you update us on plans for implementing the decisions related to the anti-ISIS campaign that were announced on October 30th?

MR. COOK: Yeah, the specific question --

Q: Send the American special forces into Syria.

MR. COOK: Yeah.

Q: When will that happen? How will they be deployed?

MR. COOK: I can tell you, we are moving forward with those plans. I'm not going to provide operational details as to exactly where that stands at this point, for security reasons, as you can imagine.

These special forces, operators will be going to, again, support and enable the moderate Syrian opposition forces that we believe have been successful in taking the fight to ISIL. And that these special operators will be able to further enhance their effectiveness.

And, again, not going to detail exactly where and when they're going to enter the picture. But that certainly is moving forward.

Q: Sure, but are we talking about days, weeks, months before that takes place?

MR. COOK: I think -- again, the secretary clearly said, up on Capitol Hill, that this is a program -- this is an -- an adjustment to our existing program that would happen soon. May have even said 'quickly'. I'm not sure.

Not going to put a particular timeframe on it, but these were changes that the secretary and -- and the military leadership here felt could be implemented quickly and could make -- again, prove to be effective and make a difference in the short term.

Jennifer?

Q: Peter, in the wake of the Russian downed airliner in Sinai, does the Defense Department think it's time to reach out to Russia and maybe court and -- and -- since there's been some suggestion that ISIS may have been behind that airliner bombing, that it might be time to work with Russia in Syria in targeting ISIS rather than sort of working in parallel?

MR. COOK: Well, I think, Jennifer, as we've said from the start, and the secretary made clear, even, with Minister Shoigu some weeks ago in their conversation, that there is an opportunity here for Russia to -- to play a constructive role in going after ISIL.

We don't have plans at this point to coordinate any activity with the -- with the Russians, in part because of their actions so far in Syria to support the Assad regime, their failure so far to focus their efforts on ISIL.

The secretary believes those have been counterproductive to -- to trying to end and resolve the Syrian civil war. So I would suggest, at this point, we -- we do not have plans to coordinate directly with the Russians.

We obviously have seen what's happened with the -- with the crash in Russia. Our sympathies go to the innocent lives lost in -- with that plane crash.

But at this point, we don't see an opportunity to -- to coordinate and collaborate with the Russians in the ISIL fight, in part -- largely -- because Russia seems more focused in supporting the Assad regime.

Q: And in terms of the figures that have come out in the last week that the U.S. is carrying out 95 percent of the airstrikes in Syria, 78 percent of the airstrikes if you include Iraq and Syria -- are those figures accurate? And does the U.S. still plan to shoulder the -- the -- the bulk of these airstrikes? Or are you trying to get other allies to pick up some of the air war?

MR. COOK: Well, as you know, Jennifer, we continue to work with the -- with a substantial and large coalition, and those coalition members are contributing in a host of ways -- not just in terms of aircraft.

But -- but some of those nations -- many of those nations -- do continue to engage in airstrikes on behalf of the coalition. But that's not all they're doing.

Some have provided bases with which to carry out the fight against ISIL. Some have provided financial support for this effort, training, as well. So there's a whole host of ways in which these coalition members have -- have stepped up.

Yes, it's true, the United States has conducted most of the -- a significant number of the -- of the airstrikes to date. There have been more than 8,000 to date.

But that does not diminish the contributions of these other nations. We have certain capabilities and assets that other countries do not, and we're going to continue to employ those, going forward.

Q: And you wouldn't quibble with those numbers?

MR. COOK: I'm not going to get into particular numbers. I'll leave it to the coalition members to -- to describe their own contributions to the air campaign. They have been very, very helpful, valuable, positive contributions to our effort against ISIL.

Q: (off mic)

MR. COOK: Can -- can we wait? I'll come to you in a second. Tony?

Q: Speaking -- any airstrikes, what steps is -- is the Pentagon taking to compensate for the movement of the Theodore Roosevelt out of the region? So there's no carrier there now. Are the F-15s and the A-10s that are going to Incirlik -- are those in part to compensate for the lack of naval aviation?

MR. COOK: No, Tony, as I -- I've said before, the movement of the F- 15s in particular, are in response to a request from the Turkish government. The Theodore Roosevelt, as planned, moved to a -- to the Pacific. And that was part of -- the operations had been planned for some time.

We feel confident, we have the assets and capabilities to continue to wage this air campaign, the coalition campaign against ISIL with the assets we have in place.

And certainly, the decision by the Turkish government to open Incirlik has expanded our capabilities, our options, and our flexibility, which is important.

Q: I have a specific question. In the Reagan speech on Saturday, the secretary dropped a little -- interesting bomblet there. He was talking about time line, he said, we are also changing fundamentally our operational plans and approaches to deter aggression, fulfill our statutory obligations to Taiwan, defend allies, and prepare for wider -- a wider range of contingencies in the region.

Can you flesh that out a little bit? What was his thinking -- or what -- what's he driving at there? And when might there be more detail about this fundamental change in how we deter Chinese aggression against Taiwan?

MR. COOK: Yeah. I think what the secretary was talking about, big picture here for anyone who heard the speech was, that this is a department that is innovating in a whole host of ways: technology, people, as well as the plans to conduct -- the contingency plans -- in the event of the need for U.S. forces to be engaged, for the U.S. Defense Department to engage in a very -- a variety of areas around the world.

We are constantly looking at the world as it is, potential threats on the horizon, and the secretary wants to make sure that this department is adequately prepared for all of those contingencies. And I think that is what he was referring to.

He spoke specifically about different areas of the world where -- we're evaluating those contingency plans, modernizing them as needed, and adjusting to the world as we see it.

Q: Did you see him detailing some of that any time, though, in the next four or five months, though, in Taiwan in particular?

MR. COOK: I would not expect the secretary to come out and detail those contingency plans to you and to the rest of the world for a variety of reasons.

But I think he was able to share with you in that speech, and perhaps he will at a time in the future, his thinking on how threats have evolved and emerged and changed, and what the U.S. is doing to prepare for it.

This is a department that wants to be able to outthink and out plan its enemies as well.

Q: Okay. Well, as the '17 budget rolls out and gets formed, he might want to use that as an opportunity to --

MR. COOK: That could be -- that could be an opportunity for him to reflect the priorities of the department going forward from a financial standpoint, as well as a strategic standpoint as well.

Courtney.

Q: There's a media report today that alludes to the fact that there are U.S. Marine snipers in Fallujah taking out ISIS.

Are you -- are there any U.S. Marines in Fallujah working as snipers? Or I guess, in Anbar, operating as snipers, to your knowledge?

MR. COOK: To my knowledge, there are not -- I was made aware of that media report, and my understanding is that it's not accurate, that there are no Marines operating in that way.

Q: Are there any U.S. Marines acting as snipers, I mean, anywhere in Iraq? Are you -- I guess even, any service of any snipers?

Is there anything to it that -- to this report at all?

MR. COOK: You know, honestly, I asked about this specific -- or I was made aware of this specific report, and was told that there's nothing to support the stories.

So, that's -- that's the only reference I know of, and again, my understanding is that it's not an accurate report.

Jamie.

Q: Just a short time ago, Congress passed the NDAA that includes that prohibition on the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to the United States.

How did that affect the Pentagon's plans for moving forward with closing Guantanamo?

MR. COOK: I know that -- I think Josh Earnest was asked about this at the White House briefing today.

The secretary shares the president's commitment to close Guantanamo Bay as soon as possible, in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

These provisions within the NDAA do pose an obstacle, do pose challenges, to that process. But we are moving forward, and don't believe there's anything at this point that would prevent the secretary and this department from moving forward with the plan to close Guantanamo -- presenting that to Congress.

Q: Is it possible -- is -- is it conceivable you could have such a plan that doesn't include any transfer of -- of prisoners to United States? Or is that an essential part of whatever -- whatever plan is set forward?

MR. COOK: Yeah, I think -- again, let's -- let's wait to see what the plan finally looks like. The folks who are crafting that plan have been working very hard on this for months, here at the Department of Defense.

We'll obviously take into account the actions of Congress as they move forward, but in terms of commitment and trying to move that process forward, the department has -- is -- this is not going to deter the department from moving forward. Obviously, reflecting the will of Congress.

Q: Can -- can you just say whether the -- that plan will -- how soon we might see it? Would it be this week or next week? Or can you give us any idea?

MR. COOK: I can just tell you, soon. I wish I could give you more.

Yes, I'll move to the back. Geoff, and then I'll get to Joe.

Q: Let me ask a little bit more about your announcement at the top, about F-15s going to Turkey. You said half a dozen of them are going to be conducting operations in Turkish airspace.

MR. COOK: Yes.

Q: Can you say a little bit more what -- what that means? Are they -- is that going to be looking for ISIS fighters? Is it going to be against the PKK? What -- what -- what does that mean, exactly?

MR. COOK: This, again, was a request by the Turkish government. Do you recall -- on the heels of the incursions we saw by the Russians. And this was a request of a NATO ally to bolster their airspace. The protections around their airspace. And so it's a request that -- that we've honored. And so that's going to be the role of those F-15s.

Q: This some sort of concession trade-off for the support you're giving to the Syrian Kurds that they're not very happy with?

MR. COOK: This is -- this is a -- a request made by a NATO ally that -- that we've honored. It's going to enhance their air -- their airspace protection at a time when they've had questions about it and concerns.

And we're doing our part for a NATO ally in that regard.

Yes, Joe?

Q: Turkish president has said today that Turkey's allies are approaching the idea of implementing a no-fly zone -- a safe zone -- inside Syria. Do you have any comment on that? Is the Pentagon looking into implementing a no-fly zone or a safe zone inside the Syrian territory?

MR. COOK: Yeah, I'm -- I'm not sure exactly what President Erdogan has said today. But I can just refer you back to what the secretary said in his testimony up on Capitol Hill not too -- not too long ago, that the -- the United States and other coalition partners continue to look at a range of options in terms of addressing some of the issues in Syria itself.

Zones like this have been discussed. They've been -- they were discussed in the course of the secretary's testimony, and they come with a -- a -- a host of issues associated with them, both resource- wise and otherwise.

And it remains an option on the table, at this point, but there's been no decision made to -- to move forward, at this point, on any kind of safe zone or no-fly zone at this point.

Just a sec, let me start here. Tara?

Q: Thanks. Just to follow on Jamie's question, did -- is the secretary recommending to the president that he sign this defense bill, and are there any other provisions in the bill that give the secretary pause? There were a few in the last version.

MR. COOK: Yeah. My understanding is the president is going to go ahead and sign the NDAA, and we obviously did have some issues with some of the language within the bill, but overall, I think the secretary supports the president's decision to move forward and -- and sign this bill. That does not mean that everything within the legislation is exactly as the -- the secretary or the department would have liked.

But we'd like to move this process forward, and I think that's the -- that's the sense right now, that there may be aspects of the bill -- in the Guantanamo section in particular -- that are problematic, but the larger bill and the importance of getting some certainty going forward are -- are careful considerations as well.

Yes, Tolga?

Q: Hi, Peter, and thanks.

I want to clarify two points regarding the announcements. You said that the next six F-15s will be deployed to east of Incirlik, to another base then --

MR. COOK: No, there'll be -- a decision will be made in the coming days as to exactly how many and where they'll go.

Q: So -- so it will be not in Incirlik then?

MR. COOK: No, I don't -- in terms of the actual -- the location of them, the additional F-15s -- I know that the F-15Cs were sent to Incirlik, and -- I'm sorry, the additional -- the F-15Es will also go to Incirlik.

Q: Okay. And -- all of them, so 12 F-15s will be flying within Turkey, not in Syria?

MR. COOK: I think the decisions will be made as to exactly what the -- the missions of these aircraft will be decided once they're in place and -- and on the ground.

But the primary mission of the F-15Cs that are there already -- and remember, the F-15Es have not yet arrived -- is to provide additional support for -- for Turkish airspace, and protection or Turkish airspace.

Q: They will not join the combat against ISIS?

MR. COOK: At this point, Tolga, the -- my understanding is that their primary mission will be to provide additional support for Turkish airspace.

Yes?

Q: Thank you.

Two questions. One, talking about Asia trip, I understand the secretary met with the defense minister of India in Singapore, and also he's expected to visit here next month.

MR. COOK: Yeah. Not in Singapore. In -- in Kuala Lumpur.

Q: Kuala -- Malaysia. Thank you.

Some feels in India that India is being threatened by its neighbors, and there's a security need. That's why I think there's a greater security need for India.

What was the topic when the two -- about -- as far as security -- security needs of India is concerned? And what was the list do you think India had before the secretary?

MR. COOK: I can just say the secretary had a very positive conversation with his Indian counterpart, and they talked about a range of -- of security matters regarding India, and the cooperation between the United States and India moving forward.

I know the secretary's eager to -- to meet with the minister when he comes here in a few weeks to Washington, and expects to continue that conversation.

It was a brief conversation, but a productive conversation, and the secretary looks forward to -- to seeing what areas of further cooperation can be -- can be put together between the United States and India.

Q: And second, secretary also met the prime minister of Pakistan and -- here at the Pentagon after he met President Obama. Pakistan also have a lot of -- a bigger list of nuclear -- seeking nuclear from the U.S., and also F-16s and 35, and others -- a big list, he was here.

So do you -- don't you think it's a kind of competition between the two countries -- they are seeking the arm -- same arm from the same country. Where -- where do we go, I mean let's say, from here? Sending arms to both countries.

At the same time, now – General Musharraf saying in Pakistan that Osama bin Laden was Pakistan's hero, trained, and they are -- they still have, openly, the terrorists inside Pakistan, and also, at the same time, now, Pakistan has banned the press not to show any of the images of the terrorists.

MR. COOK: Yeah, I can just tell you that the -- the bilateral defense relationship that the United States has with Pakistan was the focus of his conversation with the -- the prime minister, will continue to be the focus of the prime minister, but he's having an active and productive conversation with his Indian counterpart and the United States will continue to -- and the Defense Department will continue to -- to pursue conversations with both countries that -- that can provide stability for the region, and that's the goal with those conversations.

Q: But -- (inaudible) -- Kerry's concern?

MR. COOK: I think the secretary and the United States has been pretty clear about our worldwide effort to address the threat of terrorism. All you have to do is look at the counter-ISIL campaign that's underway right now and it's -- this department remains very much focused, as you would imagine, on the threat of terrorism around the world.

JJ?

Q: This morning, Colonel Warren said in Baghdad that ISIL was losing ground and he was talking to reporters, I think at the embassy in Baghdad, Iraqi reporters, and he said that the Iraqi security forces get much of the credit for that. Is the Pentagon satisfied that the Iraqi security forces have worked out all of the issues that have been raising concerns over time and that they are now poised to go ahead and make the push against the Islamic state that many had hoped they would make before now? Or is this just another step in the process?

MR. COOK: I think -- I'm not sure exactly what Steve was referring to, but I think we've been pretty clear, the secretary's been pretty clear that the Iraqi security forces -- some in particular have made significant strides forward, but that overall, that there's still deficiencies. That's one reason they need support from the United States.

Some of their forces, the counter-terrorism forces have shown particular skill and resiliency. Those forces in particular that have received recent U.S. training have shown advances on the battlefield, but the Iraqi security forces obviously still need enhancements, still need additional training and -- and they need to improve their overall effectiveness.

But I think it is safe to say that some of them have shown strides, but this is going to be a step in the process. I don't think the government of Iraq would say that their security forces are where they need to be at this moment in time.

Q: Just a really quick follow-up. Does the training process for the U.S. shift to get them to them to the next level or is it sufficient for what is needed from them now? And if, of course, they demonstrate the need for more advanced training down the road, the U.S. would invest more money in that process?

MR. COOK: I think we're dealing with the situation we have right now. The training that's taking place right now is designed to improve their -- enhance their effectiveness. A good example, some of the training they're getting right now in dealing with the IEDs around Ramadi, counter-IED training, good example of specific U.S. capabilities that are being brought to bear, that kind of training for Iraqis.

But there's -- if there need to be adjustments going forward, I'm sure there will be. But we're working closely with our Iraqi counterparts to make that happen. And again, some of their units have shown greater effectiveness and resiliency than some of their others, and those in particular that have received some of that U.S. training have proven to be the most effective in the battle space in recent weeks.

Barbara?

Q: Two ISIS questions, if I may? Now the -- you know, there's so much concern that ISIS might have been behind -- an ISIS affiliate might have been behind placing the bomb on the airliner, and even the president says he's concerned there was a bomb on there. How does this change the Pentagon's assessment of ISIS' strength and the threat it poses?

MR. COOK: I think we've always been concerned that -- that ISIL would -- I think the secretary's words during the course of the trip would metastasize in -- in ways. That there would be other offshoot groups that would try and -- and, if you will, join forces with ISIL.

I think that remains a concern, in terms of new tactics. We've always been worried about ISIL changing its routine, adjusting, particularly as we've taken the fight to them in Iraq and Syria. We've seen them change their tactics in part because of the kind of force we brought to bear against the group.

So I think we're understandably concerned, if ISIL were to start changing its tactics. That does not mean that we aren't confident, at the end of the day, we'll ultimately be able to degrade and defeat them.

Q: So, let me ask you, then. The ISIS leadership that is so well known, starting with Baghdadi -- what's your assessment right now of how much, because you've sought to disrupt them, how much the very senior ISIS leadership is -- including Baghdadi -- is actually in charge, commanding the organization? Is he still in day-to-day control of the organization? What do you -- you know, what do you see right now with the most senior leadership?

MR. COOK: Barbara, from -- from this podium here, it's hard for me to gauge exactly what's happening in terms of their leadership structure. What I can tell you is that, thanks to the efforts of the coalition, and specifically U.S. forces, that to be an ISIL leader right now is to be in a very dangerous and precarious position.

We've very effectively taken out members of ISIL's leadership, and we'll continue to do so. We think this is important component in our fight going forward, and it has forced ISIL to change its operations -- certainly the operations of its leadership.

They have -- cannot be as effective today as they were before, largely because of our operations and what we've brought to bear.

Yes, Laurent?

Q: I know -- I think that the -- the secretary is quite involved in -- very involved in the negotiation with the Israelis on the future of the American military ahead.

So I'd like to know, can -- can you -- can you tell us a bit how the discussions are going right now with the visit of the -- the -- Prime Minister Netanyahu?

Can you comment on the -- can you say anything about -- the Israeli press has said that there are -- there is about -- the amount of the help could be $5 billion per year. So can you just tell us if it's --

MR. COOK: Well, first of all, let me --

Q: -- reasonable or not?

MR. COOK: -- well, the -- the secretary has been very involved. You know, he met with his Israeli counterpart, Minister Ya'alon, just a few weeks ago. He traveled to the region back in July.

And this is a priority issue for this secretary, ensuring that the defense relationship with Israel, and that -- is -- is -- stays positive, and that everything can be done to enhance Israel's defensive position.

Miss -- the president's been meeting with the prime minister. I'll leave it to the White House to characterize how those conversations went. I understand Josh Earnest was asked about it.

The secretary's conversations with Minister Ya'alon have been very productive, very constructive. They've talked about the future, ways to enhance the -- the relationship.

But I'm not going to get into dollars and -- and decisions that have yet to be made with regard to -- to further enhancements. But there have been a host of areas -- excuse me -- in which the secretary's been talking about further collaboration. Missile defense, cyberspace, just two examples.

And as strong as that relationship is right now, the secretary does see opportunities for us to -- to enhance it even further. So.

Q: Do you know is that $5 billion figure in -- in the range of what is discussed?

MR. COOK: I'm not going to get into dollars and cents. The memorandum of understanding that is in place right now is in place through 2018, so we still have time to -- to finish these negotiations and these conversations with our Israeli friends.

Yes?

Q: (off mic). I have a multipart question for you about the Russian plane crash. Has the U.S. military provided the Iraqi army with C-4 or other explosives? Is there any indication that ISIS may have obtained these among the other weapons that were seized? And is there any concern that -- that American munitions or explosives may have been part of what destroyed the plane?

MR. COOK: We don't have any reason to believe that any U.S. munitions were involved in whatever transpired with the crash itself. We're still waiting for the investigation to run its course. The Egyptian authorities are obviously leading that and the United States -- my understanding is there has been an effort to share intelligence with the investigators to try and move the process along, but I don't have any indication that there's any suspicion at this point that anything -- any United States munitions played any role whatsoever.

Q: Is it possible that ISIS has high-explosives that were given to the Iraqis?

MR. COOK: I don't have any reason to believe that and no one's passed that information on to me.

Yes?

Q: Let me as about the U.S.-China exercise.

MR. COOK: Yes.

Q: The U.S. Navy and the PLA navy conducted a joint exercise off the coast of Florida on the 7th , while U.S. warns China's maritime operation. So could you explain the purpose and the timing of this exercise?

MR. COOK: I -- I think I'm -- I'm not actually totally familiar with the exercise you're referring to, but I think it -- it highlights that the United States and China -- that military-to-military discussions between the two countries are positive things, can build, perhaps strengthen the relationship between the two countries, going forward.

Certainly can break down barriers that might lead to misunderstanding. The secretary and his counterpart discussed some of these confidence building measures that can be -- the difference that they could make going forward in the relationship.

Both believed -- at least made the case in their conversation that military-to-military relations could be an important component of the U.S.-China relationship moving forward.

And so I think it's consistent with what the secretary said and what this department believes, that -- again, military-to-military conversation with China is important, yet it does it -- it does not diminish the significant differences we have with China on a range of issues.

Alright. Last one for Tony.

Q: You were away when the -- one of the bigger Afghan stories of the year broke, when the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction -- the $43 billion gas station, basically -- $43 million gas station. It's got headlines all over the country, a lot of members of Congress were upset about it. Small amount of money, but emblematic, according to SIGAR of wasted dollars.

Has Secretary Carter commissioned any kind of review of, A, the accuracy of the report, and, B, if it was accurate, how the heck this happened?

MR. COOK: Tony, I'm -- I'm not totally up to speed on that issue because it did pop while we were on the -- on the trip, but I understand that there was a response from the folks at resolute support regarding the -- the report from -- from SIGAR, from the special inspector general. So let me take your question, find out if there's something more. I can -- something that happened even while we were gone, but I know we're aware of that report and the work of the special inspector general.

But my understanding was there was some formal response from -- from Afghanistan itself, and if there's something more from the secretary's office, I'd be happy to pass that along.

Q: SIGAR wrote to Carter directly and then there's this -- December 9, there's a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Afghan waste, and this is going to be showcased, so you might want to get your ducks in a row.

MR. COOK: I'm sure we will be ready for that hearing, and if there is a formal response, Tony, I'll -- I'll share that with you. I'm just not aware of a formal response at this point.

Q: Peter, on Afghanistan. What is the hold-up for the hospital investigation in Kunduz?

MR. COOK: Yeah. I -- I know General Campbell and his team continue to work diligently to try and -- and finish off their work. To their credit, they want to get this right.

They want to get this done, so that all the questions are -- are answered, and I think we're waiting for them to report back with a report that can answer those questions. And I think -- my understanding is that they continue their work.

I don't have a timeline for you, I don't have a time -- a final deadline when they hope to release it. But that every effort is being made on their end to try and complete it in as timely a fashion as possible.

Q: Sorry, Peter, just a follow-up on that. General Campbell said in a hearing that -- that -- that he would try to get an initial assessment, that he expected an initial assessment to be within thirty days.

And my understanding is that Casualty Assessment Team is normally done with that in -- within 48 hours. I mean, isn't this an indication of some sort of failure to understand what happened -- you know, within the -- the U.S. system in Afghanistan?

I mean, it's -- it's -- can you explain to us, really, what's happening here?

MR. COOK: Well -- two different investigations, first of all, the CCAT investigation and the larger 15-6 investigation.

My understanding from General Campbell and his team is that the delay with the CCAT investigation, specifically -- which identifies civilian casualties -- there have been several reasons for the delay there.

One in particular has been the actual identification of the casualties, which is the primary goal of that report, and that there have been some issues in terms of the actual identification of casualties, who they are, that sort of thing, and that that has proven to be much more problematic than they expected going in.

They've been working with Afghan authorities, with MSF, as well, to try and determine exactly who those people were and -- and that that in particular has taken much longer than they thought.

They obviously took a while to even get to the facility itself. They were able to do that. So -- but that's just one of several factors, I understand, that delayed that particular part, that particular investigation.

So, all right, thanks, everyone.

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