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U.S. Department of Defense
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Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook November 12, 2015

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


PETER COOK: Afternoon, everybody.

Got a couple of announcements, as well as a schedule update before I turn to your questions.

First of all, I know there's been a lot of interest in the current operation in Sinjar being carried out by Iraqi Kurdish forces. This is another example of the pressure being applied to ISIL across multiple fronts.

The Peshmerga forces, with the support of the coalition air campaign and coalition advisers, are attempting to sever ISIL's primary line of communication between Raqqa and Mosul.

The targeting of Highway 47 over Sinjar Mountain -- Mountain and the ground operation by the Peshmerga will degrade the ability of ISIL terrorists to funnel fighters and equipment into Iraq, and help cut off an important means of funding their terrorist activities.

Severing that supply route will impact ISIL's ability to move men and materiel between those two hubs, and since November 11th, I can tell you, the coalition has conducted 36 airstrikes supporting this operation.

I want to update you, as well, on the situation regarding the F-15s in Turkey that I mentioned on Tuesday. Earlier today, six F-15Es arrived at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. These F-15Es join our manned and remotely piloted aircraft already conducting counter-ISIL missions from Incirlik, alongside Turkish F-16s.

As I mentioned earlier this week, six F-15Cs arrived at Incirlik in response to the government of Turkey's request for support in securing the sovereignty of Turkish airspace. Turkey is a NATO ally, a friend of the United States, and important partner in the international coalition against ISIL.

Turkey's role in counter-ISIL operations -- including the hosting of U.S. assets, participation in counter-ISIL -- coalition counter-ISIL air operations, cooperation to reduce the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, and support for the vetted Syrian opposition -- is critical to our collective efforts to bring stability to the region.

I wanted to draw your attention, as well, to some news that's just breaking, actually, in the last hour, courtesy of the Department of Justice.

They put this out just a moment ago, the department announcing that they have arrested and charged an Ohio man with one count of solicitation of a crime of violence. Specifically, the allegations, here, that he was soliciting the murder of U.S. service members here in the homeland on behalf of ISIL.

I'll let the Department of Justice speak to the details of this case, but do want to reiterate that we take seriously any threats against our service members, and we will use every tool at our disposal, partnering with other agencies, to protect our men and women in uniform. And we sincerely thank the Department of Justice for its efforts in this case.

And a scheduling note for you. Tomorrow, the U.S. Army will induct Captain Florent Groberg into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes. That's going to happen at 10 a.m. tomorrow, here at the Pentagon. The secretary will take part in that.

The president, as you all know, presented the Medal of Honor to Captain Groberg at a White House ceremony this morning, in recognition of his valor during combat operations in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on August 8th, 2012. And again, that ceremony happening tomorrow, here at the Pentagon.

And with that, I'd be happy to turn to your questions.

Lita?

Q: Peter -- well, first, congratulations on what I think is your apparent promotion.

Second, on Sinjar, can you give us a little bit more detail on the advisers? What is the U.S. doing? How many advisers -- U.S. advisers are there? Are there advisers from other countries also participating? Other U.S. -- other -- military advisers from other countries also participating?

And what -- apparently, some of the U.S. advisers are on a hilltop on Sinjar. I'm wondering, how close is that to the action? And are there continued efforts to ensure that they're -- these advisers are not at risk of being on the front lines? And -- or has there been a change, and now U.S. forces are now moving closer to the front lines?

MR. COOK: Okay. Lot of questions in there. I'll try and unpack that, if I can.

First of all, this larger operation, as I mentioned at the top, is -- again -- another -- if you will -- front in the -- in the fight against ISIL, and it shows that -- that pressure's being applied in multiple areas, not just in Iraq, but also it's happening in Syria as well.

And this is a specific effort to target this one supply line, this critical supply line, between Raqqa and Mosul, that -- we think, if it is indeed severed -- would have an impact on ISIL in its operations, particularly in Iraq.

So that is the purpose here. The Peshmerga forces are carrying this out with, as you said, the support of coalition advisers. There are U.S. personnel. My understanding is there are coalition advisers from other countries, as well, participating.

Most of those folks, as I understand it, are in -- behind the front lines, advising and working directly with Peshmerga commanders. There are some advisers who are on Sinjar Mountain, assisting in the selection of airstrike targets.

They are not acting as JTACs, but they are working directly with Peshmerga forces in determining exactly where the most effective airstrikes would be conducted.

And so that's a little bit about what they're doing. But, again, this is a -- this is a strategically -- an important area in Iraq, in terms of taking the fight to ISIL. And we're watching very carefully what's happening on the ground, and doing -- providing the support we can to those Iraqi Kurdish forces carrying out this operation.

Q: But they're not working as JTACs, so in other words, they're not on the front lines with them, but they're --

MR. COOK: That's --

Q: -- serving as --

MR. COOK: -- that's --

Q: -- quasi-JTACs, because they're calling in strikes. Are they not, from the mountain?

MR. COOK: -- they're -- they're providing assistance in determining where airstrikes are -- are being carried out, but they are not acting to -- directly as JTACs, correct.

Q: Peter?

MR. COOK: Phil.

Q: Just to (inaudible) on that, how many advisers are we talking about? Dozens, here -- (inaudible) -- on the mountain, and then, with the headquarters folks -- with the -- with the Kurds?

And then the other question I had was, if they're -- if they're -- I can understand they're not acting as JTACs, but are all the advisers in line of sight of the operations?

MR. COOK: I can't answer that with 100 percent certainty, that -- some of these folks, again, are behind Sinjar Mountain. So I -- I think it's quite likely that they're not direct -- they're not directly in the line of action, but they might be able to visibly see it.

And I'm not going to get into specific numbers, Phil, in part because I don't know exactly what these numbers are. But you have to still remember that we've had U.S. forces operating in northern Iraq for some time, advising and assisting the Peshmerga in the past. So it's not unusual that there are U.S. forces, advisers on the ground in that part of Iraq.

Q: But you don't see this as any kind of -- part of the more assertive U.S. approach that was outlined --

MR. COOK: Well, I think it's fair to say that this a more assertive approach by the coalition writ large, including by the Peshmerga to go after this particular, strategic location.

And we're doing everything we can to make this as effective a fight as possible, and I think it reflects the larger effort to try and defeat ISIL, and to bring -- apply pressure to ISIL on as many fronts as possible, and this is just one example of where that is happening. And where, again, effective ground forces are posing a real challenge to ISIL, and we're doing everything we can to support them.

Q: Peter.

MR. COOK: Yes, Barbara.

Q: So, this -- early in the day, we were told by Baghdad that there were U.S. coalition advisers in nearby headquarters.

If I am understanding you correctly -- which I want to make sure I am -- you are now telling us that they are out in the field, and some are on Sinjar Mountain?

MR. COOK: Yes, my understanding is some are on Sinjar Mountain, assisting with, in particular, Barbara, the selection of locations for airstrikes, assisting the Peshmerga.

Q: So, what I don't understand is, what is the difference between assisting in selecting airstrikes and being a forward air controller?

Are they in communication with aircraft overhead? Are they in communication with their headquarters? What is the difference between what they're doing and a forward air controller does?

MR. COOK: Barbara, I am not going to get into every single operational detail, in part because I don't know every operational detail. That they --

Q: So, you're saying -- in respect, you're saying that it is different. I don't understand what's different.

MR. COOK: What is different is that they're advising directly, the Iraqi Kurdish forces that are there on site, who are engaging this operation, leading this operation, and the U.S. advisers there are working directly with the Peshmerga forces to determine the most effective locations for those air strikes.

So, they are not --

Q: So, they are picking out targets for U.S. airplanes?

MR. COOK: They are working -- they are indeed, and they're doing it in collaboration with the Iraqi Kurdish forces who are there leading this operation.

Q: Are they still, right now, behind the line of contact?

MR. COOK: That's my understanding, yes, they are behind the line of contact.

Q: This is my very last question. Why this operation now? You have known about all of this for months.

Why now?

MR. COOK: Barbara, we're going to take advantage of every opportunity we can to deliver a blow to ISIL.

This was an opportunity the Iraqi Kurdish forces saw right now, and working with the coalition, agreed that this was a good time to move on Sinjar Mountain, and to try and cut off this particular supply line.

And right now, we're assessing how that fight is going, but this -- the timing here, we saw an opportunity, the Iraqi Kurdish forces saw an opportunity, and we're taking advantage of that as we move forward.

Yes, Kevin.

Q: Follow that.

MR. COOK: Sure.

Q: So, it is -- is it the Americans on the mountains who are calling in the strikes? Or is it the Pesh or PKK, whatever it is, farther down the mountain at contact?

MR. COOK: Kevin, I don't want to get into every operational detail, because I'm not -- I honestly don't have everything in front of me.

I do think that this is something that the coalition, the joint task force, and Operation Inherent Resolve, the folks on the ground in Iraq could provide more detail on.

But my understanding is that they are not on their own, calling in airstrikes. They are working in collaboration with the Iraqi Kurdish forces, and determining the most effective locations for those airstrikes to come in.

As I said, 36 delivered so far; it's part of the larger effort, but the Kurdish forces on the ground are leading this fight.

Q: So, again, that's different than a JTAC just because they're collaborating with the local forces? They're not doing it on their own?

MR. COOK: I think JTAC suggests a certain technical role, and a -- and a -- and a communications role that -- my understanding is these forces are advising. They are not performing the specific duties of a JTAC.

Okay. All right? Yes, Eric ?

Q: Peter, can you say what -- what the platforms are that have conducted these 36 airstrikes? Are some of the A-10s that have gone into Incirlik, for instance, involved?

MR. COOK: Eric, I'll try and get an answer to that question. I don't actually know all the platforms being used. But I can take that question. I'm not sure we'll be able to provide you the answer specifically, but I can just inform you of the 36 airstrikes by coalition forces so far.

Yes, Kristina?

Q: Thanks, Peter.

I understand that some B-52 bombers flew over the man-made Chinese islands in the South China Sea several days ago. Is it true that China contacted the aircraft, reiterating their claims to the territory? What can you tell us about those flights?

MR. COOK: I know that we conduct B-52 flights in international airspace in that part of the world all the time. And my understanding is there was one B-52 flight -- and I'm not even sure the date on it -- but there was an effort made by Chinese ground controllers to reach out to that aircraft, and that aircraft continued that mission unabated. Nothing changed.

Q: Thank you.

MR. COOK: Yes, Andrew.

Q: Peter, I'd like to ask about Sinjar, and what the approval process is for this. Is this something that the secretary approved beforehand?

And I guess what I'm asking is, do these operations where Special Operations guys go out as forward as you're describing -- is that something that's -- that's coming to this building? Or is that something that's being -- a decision being made on the ground over there, with the task force?

MR. COOK: Well, first of all, this is consistent with our fight against ISIL for some time. This does not represent something new and different other than this is a -- a particular strategic opportunity.

At the -- again, the Iraqi Kurdish forces saw this opportunity with the advise and assist of -- of coalition forces, decided to move forward with this. So this is not unusual.

And so certainly, the secretary is fully aware of what's happening here, and he's talked to his military leadership about this and the other developments in the fight against ISIL. But you should not see this as some unique operation here.

This is part of the larger fight against ISIL, and the secretary's talked about taking advantage of opportunities. This represents one of them.

Q: Did the operation in Sinjar, and the putting of U.S. troops forward, require approval from the secretary?

MR. COOK: This -- this is part of a larger operation. We've had U.S. forces there for sometime, at the secretary's approval. So my understanding is this is not something unique that required the secretary's additional approval to carry out.

Yes?

Q: (inaudible) -- welcome back.

MR. COOK: Thank you.

Q: Let me -- let me go back to the maritime security cooperation.

MR. COOK: Sure.

Q: As -- as White House announced today, President Obama will travel Asia-Pacific, and he's going to talk about maritime security with allies and partners. And he's going to be one of the top agenda in this trip.

And he mentioned about the maritime assistance as well. So, what kind of maritime assistance would the United States provide to the ally, like Philippines and Vietnam and Malaysia?

MR. COOK: I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to, from the White House today. But I know just from our own trip to Asia, and the conversations the secretary's had with many countries in the region -- he's talked about boosting maritime security and taking additional steps to enhance security in one of the most critical waterways in the entire world, the source of a tremendous amount of commerce around the world.

And that includes working directly in terms of joint operations, in terms of enhancements to maritime security overall, technology.

So, I think the secretary has talked about a range of areas of cooperation that I'm sure the president will follow up on with a range of countries, who all have a stake in the security and stability of the Asia Pacific, security and stability in that particular part of the world.

Q: Does the United States have a plan to provide some concrete, you know, capabilities, such as (inaudible) or other functions?

MR. COOK: We will continue to have ongoing discussions with our partners in the region to see what capabilities they may need going forward, and what extent the United States can help them in that effort.

That's an ongoing conversation that we're having with a range of countries. And again, the goal here is to provide additional security and stability for that part of the world, and the part of the world that has enjoyed significant security and stability, thanks in large part to the U.S. presence, and naval presence in particular.

So -- yes, in the back.

Q: Peter, going back to Sinjar, these JTACs and the Kurdish fighters, or these advisers on the mountain not acting as JTACs, is there an unseen third party that I am missing here about the Kurds on the ground calling in airstrikes? The U.S. advisers on the mountain, and then the airplanes overhead?

Because what you have kind of defined is what a JTAC does. So, is there a political reason that you're not using that acronym, or --

MR. COOK: Well, I just -- my -- again, my understanding of the forces on the ground is that those advisers are not, specifically in the -- and you would know this better than most, acting officially as JTACs, but they are advising and helping the Kurdish forces as they call in these airstrikes, as they move forward with this operation.

They are in the lead, and the coalition advisers are doing their supporting role to make that happen. And that is specifically what these folks are doing up on the mountainside.

And again, there are additional coalition advisers back with Peshmerga commanders. So, I -- I'm just passing along what's -- when I asked the question, are these folks acting as JTACs specifically, I was told no. But they are advising and helping the Iraqi Kurdish forces as they move forward with their operation, they call in airstrikes. And I think what we're talking about here is the selection of the most effective locations for their airstrikes to be carried out, given the limited resources of an aircraft available.

Q: When you say they call in airstrikes, you're saying the Kurds are calling -- are talking to American aircraft?

MR. COOK: Yeah, this is -- this is a collaborative effort. They're -- it's a communication, and they're in direct communication with the Iraqi Kurdish forces there on the mountain top. They are having a dialogue together as to the most effective means for bringing in air power to sustain this effort going forward.

Gordon.

Q: Just to keep beating this horse, nobody else is calling in airstrikes to U.S. aircraft overhead, or if they're unmanned or whatever? I mean, Kurds clearly are not calling in airstrikes.

MR. COOK: This is a -- this is a coalition effort with -- yes, those U.S. advisers playing a direct role here in helping execute the air campaign portion of this -- of this fight, and it should be clear.

They're playing in an active role there, with the Iraqi Kurdish forces to make sure that the air power is delivered in the most effective means possible.

Q: And the -- just to clarify, coalition, but I mean, in this case, it's primarily, if not completely U.S. aircraft that are aiding this operation?

MR. COOK: Gordon, I can't say that with 100 percent certainty. I honestly don't know.

I know it's coalition aircraft who have carried out 36 strikes in the last, I believe, 24 hours or so.

So, Luis.

Q: Up until now, I think the practice has been that the Kurds -- or let's say UAVs that are flying -- all this information goes to the joint operations center in Erbil, and then that information, for potential airstrikes, is sent to the CAOC.

Are you saying, now, that that is no longer in place? That that procedure of -- where the U.S. would provide advice on airstrikes at this joint operations center that eventually -- it makes its way to the aircraft, is that no longer at play here?

MR. COOK: No, I don't think I'm saying that, necessarily. I think --

Q: Sounds like it, based on the questions that you're -- (inaudible).

MR. COOK: -- well, what I'm -- what I'm suggesting is --

Q: -- (inaudible) --

MR. COOK: -- in this instance --

Q: -- here is that -- are they calling in airstrikes, which means that there's direct communication between the Kurds and the aircraft, which I think has not been at play here.

So I -- I just -- if you could clarify that, please?

MR. COOK: -- you -- you've got U.S. forces there with the Kurds on Sinjar Mountain, playing a direct role in selection of -- of these locations for airstrikes, working collaboratively with the Kurdish forces. This is a collaborative effort.

With those ground forces on the ground relaying information to those U.S. advisers, and to the Peshmerga commanders, this is a -- these are decisions being made together. I want to make sure that I'm -- I'm crystal clear in -- in stressing to you that these Iraqi Kurdish forces are in the lead, are directing this campaign, with the support of -- of coalition advisers?

Q: But they're -- this information is being sent to this joint operations center in Erbil? Or is that not longer happening?

MR. COOK: I'm not going to get into the operational details about how every airstrike's being delivered, but let's just rest assured that it's being done in a coordinated, effective fashion, using the existing resources that we have on the ground in the region, so.

Q: Peter, I think -- (inaudible) --

MR. COOK: Hold on. Lita --

Q: -- clarify that, though, I mean -- what -- what -- I think what we're trying to ascertain is -- because you keep saying the -- the Kurds are calling in airstrikes, which, to date, hasn't been our -- has not been our understanding.

MR. COOK: They're working collaboratively with the U.S. advisers in determining the best location for airstrikes. It's -- it's -- this is not a mystery.

Q: But it's still --

MR. COOK: They're working together.

Q: .but it -- is -- but is it not still going through the same process, which is --

MR. COOK: Yes, of course.

Q: -- the Kurds go -- and it goes through the JOC, and then it -- (inaudible).

MR. COOK: Of course. Of course. They're very careful -- they're very careful --

Q: So it's -- (inaudible)?

MR. COOK: -- yes, if I'm -- I don't want to -- maybe I misunderstood your question. This -- the process of determining where coalition airstrike -- aircraft strike is indeed a very careful selection process.

So we are taking into account the risk of civilian casualties, making sure those airstrikes are hitting the targets that are intended, and that those are legitimate targets.

So yes, by all means, those careful procedures that the coalition has been carrying out through -- from the start of this campaign are in effect around Sinjar, and please, don't let me suggest to you otherwise that something new and different is happening.

Q: So they're not -- you're not suggesting that the Kurds are communicating directly with the aircraft above?

MR. COOK: No. No. I don't -- I don't want to convey that. I just want to convey the notion that this is a collaborative effort between the U.S. advisers and the Peshmerga forces who are in the lead in this operation.

Tony?

Q: What's the metric of success here? If the supply line is cut, over the next two or three weeks, what are some of the results you hope to see? A diminished flow of foreign fighters? Truck traffic --

MR. COOK: This is --

Q: -- from Syria into Iraq, or -- (inaudible)?

MR. COOK: -- this is -- this is a -- this is a primary -- as it's been described to me, this is a primary supply line, a key conduit, connector, between Raqqa and Mosul. And if this is indeed severed, then that does mean a -- potentially, a significant impact on ISIL's operations in that part of Iraq.

We have to wait to see exactly how this plays out. This is -- could take some time. We don't have a timeline for it. But we do believe that this would have an impact on ISIL, specifically in northern Iraq, and the ability to resupply their forces, the ability to provide new foreign fighters into the -- into the fight, and even potentially the ability to interrupt some of their financial flows as well.

Q: How would bombing interrupt financial flows?

MR. COOK: I'm not going to get into all the operational details, but this a primary supply line for a variety of -- for ISIL, and those are among the considerations, some of the factors that we have taken into account, here.

Q: I have a follow up question to -- you're dropping bombs, which means they need -- they're using up munitions. The Air Force secretary this week in Dubai said Gulf allies have been concerned that they're running out of munitions, and that she is going to take that message back to Washington, and try to speed up the resupply process.

Does DOD -- is DOD aware of those concerns? And what steps are you taking to meet those, to mitigate those concerns?

MR. COOK: I'm sure the secretary will hear what Secretary James brings back from Dubai.

This is something that we've heard from some of our partners in the region. And I can assure you, that the United States will continue to make every effort to hear what the needs are of our partners in the region, and try to address those needs to the extent possible.

Obviously, this is a very specific process, involves the State Department, other agencies. So -- so, we'll continue to have that conversation with our partners, and work as we can to try and address some of those needs.

Q: Fair enough. Thanks.

MR. COOK: Yes.

Q: Hey, Peter. Bryan Bender with Politico.

MR. COOK: Bryan, how are you?

Q: I know (inaudible) all the faces. Kind of a follow up to Tony's first question.

To what extent is this -- you keep referring to the Iraqi Kurdish forces. To what extent is this being coordinated with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Security Forces, which are not necessarily all the same animal?

And the reason why I ask is, obviously if this is successful in cutting off the supply line, presumably, somebody is going to have to hold that territory, and prevent ISIL from returning.

Can you give us some sense of the -- some of the discussions about what might happen next, so that this is not a Pyrrhic victory, but it's a victory that actually keeps that supply line closed?

MR. COOK: Well, the --

Q: Can we do that --

(CROSSTALK)

MR. COOK: As you know, Bryan, first of all, I'm not going to speak for the Iraqi government, I would refer you to the Iraqi government.

But they -- my understanding -- fully aware and cognizant of what is happening in Northern Iraq and supportive of this effort.

The -- the Peshmerga forces have been among the most capable and effective forces. And I think the expectation would be that they will have an ability to hold this ground, working with the government of Iraq and the Iraqi Security Forces overall.

And so, that would be a -- that would be, certainly, the hope and expectation. But that is -- you have pointed out a critical component here, and that is, to defeat ISIL, you have to hold that ground. And that is a critical test for Iraqi forces going forward, for the Peshmerga forces specifically in this instance.

And something that we're, again, trying to provide as much assistance, advice, counsel, support that we can to allow them to do that as effectively as possible.

Q: Did you say earlier the numbers of coalition versus fighters on the ground are -- (inaudible) -- estimate?

MR. COOK: I didn't. I don't have numbers for you specifically on the number of coalition forces.

Q: Can you take that question for us?

MR. COOK: I can take it. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to answer it for you, but I'll try. Do my best.

Okay. Back to Luis.

Q: Switching gears to Guantanamo.

MR. COOK: Okay.

Q: There was reporting that the Pentagon's response for the plan for closing Guantanamo would be presented to Congress this week.

Is that still on track? Or what timeline to you see?

MR. COOK: Luis, what I can tell you is that this department, and working with the interagency process, continues to move forward with a plan to deliver on the president's commitment to close Guantanamo during his presidency.

The secretary has talked about that, but I don't have a specific update for you as to when that plan is going to be presented.

Q: So, the indication is that it might happen this week. Is that still the case, then, or is this moved on?

MR. COOK: I'm just going to -- there's no -- I don't have an update for you as to exactly when the plan will be presented. I know that the secretary would like to deliver it as soon as possible, and he's working towards that goal.

Q: There was also some criticism from Congressman Gardner from Colorado, earlier this week, that the site surveys that were conducted as part of this presentation may not have been allowed under the current law, under the -- under the language in the NDAA. Do you have a response to that?

MR. COOK: The department feels confident that we have the legal authority to carry out the site assessments that have been conducted to date.

All right. All right. We all set? Here in the front?

Q: If we could go back to Sinjar for just a moment?

MR. COOK: Sure.

Q: Can you -- can you give any description of what type of fight the Islamic State fighters are putting up at this point? And to -- to what extent do you actually expect them to try to hold the city, as opposed to trying to inflict as much damage as they can on the Peshmerga forces as they retreat from the city, like they've done in other cases?

MR. COOK: Well, they've been there for a year or so, and so they -- we expect that the ISIL forces will be dug in, will have placed defensive measures -- put those in place to try and -- and hold this ground.

So we do not expect that this is going to be an easy fight. But we do have confidence in these -- in the forces, the Iraqi Kurdish forces there, who have shown their capability in the past, and with the support of coalition -- with the support of the coalition -- particularly the air campaign -- we think this is an opportunity to deal ISIL a blow.

And so -- but again, I don't want to lead you to think that it's -- this is going to be an easy fight. Every aspect of this campaign has proven to be challenging, and this is going to be no different. But we feel good about where things stand right now, and obviously this is a situation we'll watch very closely.

Last one, Tony, and then I've got to go.

Q: Yep. Airplane techie question. What -- what capabilities --

MR. COOK: A what? Sorry?

Q: -- an airplane techie question, since you're getting a lot of these JTAC techie questions. What capability does an F-15E give that the coalition hasn't had before, flying in Turkey?

MR. COOK: Well, the F-15E can -- as opposed to the C, is -- can also engage in ground targets as well. So we expect that those F-15Es will be part of the coalition taking the fight into Syria.

We expect that those six new F-15Es that have been landed at Incirlik will be part of the coalition air campaign once they're part of the tasking order going forward.

So, all right. Thanks, everyone.

Lucas?

Q: Peter, what took so long to strike this supply line? Presumably it had been up and running for the past year. Why did it take so long to bomb a highway?

MR. COOK: I think that, Lucas, this has been a -- a difficult fight, challenging fight. And this is, again, a question of opportunities. And striking -- when they're -- the resources and capabilities to deliver a -- a blow to ISIL, and I think that -- I'd refer you to the -- to the Iraqi Kurdish forces in particular, and the Kurdish government that has made this decision to move forward.

They saw an opportunity here to strike. The coalition is backing them in that effort, and we'll see what happens.

Q: This -- has this building been lobbying -- has the secretary been lobbying, for the past how -- you know, six months, to conduct this operation? Was there any pushback from the White House?

MR. COOK: This is an effort that is fully supported by this department, by the coalition in -- overall, and by the administration. We see this, again, Lucas, as an effort where we can deliver a challenge to ISIL on multiple fronts.

You know what's happening in Ramadi right now. That continues to be a contested fight. We've seen what's happening in Syria at the same time, and the challenge now being posed to ISIL by some of the forces there.

And so this is an effort, to be clear, where ISIL is on the defensive.

And so, we see this, again, as an important opportunity, important moment for those Iraqi Kurdish forces, and an important moment for the coalition as well.

Thanks, everybody.

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