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Military

Daily Press Briefing

Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 19, 2016

Index for Today's Briefing

DEPARTMENT
SECRETARY TRAVEL
SYRIA/REGION
TURKEY/REGION
LIBYA
LEBANON/REGION
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
SECRETARY TRAVEL
PAKISTAN/AFGHANISTAN
INDIA/PAKISTAN
UGANDA
LIBYA

 

TRANSCRIPT:

12:45 p.m. EST

MR TONER: Hey, guys. Welcome to the State Department for a Friday briefing. I'm going to – I've got to be a little bit disciplined here, I apologize. I said 12:30. I'm a little late on that, but a couple of things at the top and then I'll get to your questions.

So first of all, today at approximately 6 p.m., the department plans to produce approximately 1,000 additional pages of former Secretary Clinton's emails. As you know, we received instructions from the court to produce emails this past Saturday, which we did, as well as provide additional information – rather, additional interim productions today and on February 26th, before completing the entire production by February 29th. So we take our obligations to the court very seriously and are making every effort to comply with this order.

Additionally, I did just want to touch briefly upon the Secretary's travel. As you know, many of you know, he departed Washington earlier this morning for a short trip to Amman, Jordan, where he will meet with King Abdullah and various officials about ongoing security issues in the region, to include the fight against Daesh; of course, the civil war in Syria; and continued tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. The trip will also include a brief stop in London.

And I think that is all I have, so Matt.

QUESTION: Where is he now?

MR TONER: He's just arrived in London.

QUESTION: And what's he doing in London? Is it refueling?

MR TONER: No, I believe he may have – I don't have anything to announce, but I believe he may have – he's going to remain overnight there and may have meetings in the morning.

QUESTION: Mark, is he --

MR TONER: And when we do, we'll let you know.

QUESTION: Is he going to meet with Palestinian President Abbas in Amman?

MR TONER: With Palestinian leader – now, so, we're working on scheduling a meeting with President Abbas, who we understand may be in Jordan this weekend, but nothing firm to announce yet.

QUESTION: Because the Palestinians announced it last week.

MR TONER: I'm aware that they have announced it but we haven't confirmed that yet.

Please, sir.

QUESTION: Anybody else?

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Syria.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: What is going on in Geneva right now? This meeting that was supposed to happen doesn't seem to have happened yet and no one seems to know what's going on. Well, I assume – presume that some people know what's going on, but I haven't been able to find any of them yet, so I'm counting on you, Mark.

MR TONER: (Laughter.) To illuminate you?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR TONER: Well, so you're talking about the – sorry, the ceasefire task force, which, as you know, was supposed to meet today. And there were conflicting – as you point out, conflicting reports, news reports earlier today about whether this meeting would take place. Look, our delegation remains on the ground in Geneva, obviously, talking. The – our hope is that this meeting does take place today in the next few hours. They have been – the groups have been meeting through the night and I think adjourned very early this morning in Geneva time, so the discussions are ongoing. But the – our – as I said, our hope is that this bigger meeting, task force meeting, will take place.

QUESTION: When you say groups have been meeting through the night, what does that mean? What groups?

MR TONER: Well, again, there – we have been talking to the Russians, we've been talking to other groups. Obviously, the opposition groups are – not the opposition groups – various other members of the ISSG have been also meeting preliminarily before the larger task force meets.

QUESTION: All right. Well, it's now --

MR TONER: I know it's late.

QUESTION: What time is it? Well, it's not that late, but I mean --

QUESTION: Six.

MR TONER: As I said, at this point, I'll just say it's our --

QUESTION: It's almost 7:00.

MR TONER: It's our --

QUESTION: Six – it's 6:51 in Geneva right now, so are they going to, like, go out for some fondue and then come back and meet, or is this going to get pushed into tomorrow and --

MR TONER: Like I said, we're hopeful they'll meet tonight. I'll leave it there.

QUESTION: Where are you in your effort to actually achieve a cessation of hostilities within a week?

MR TONER: Well, we – I mean, the first step in this is the meeting of this task force, and obviously, it's taken a little while to get to this initial meeting. We're still not there yet. I mean, it speaks to, I think, the complexity of this undertaking and this effort. I think that we don't yet have full agreement on the modalities of this ceasefire or cessation of hostilities, but I think the first step is for this task force to actually convene and to start talking. I think we always knew it would be hard. The Secretary has spoken about this. We can't stop these kinds of civil wars in an instant. It's not that easy. There's a lot of complex action on the ground, different groups with different equities. That speaks also – speaks certainly to the Syrian regime and Russia's role in all of this, but it also speaks to the fact that the opposition has also said it needed time to convene its groups on the ground and reach an understanding.

So I guess my bottom line is we're not there yet, obviously, but we're trying to work full-stop to get there.

QUESTION: Do you have a new target? I mean, you originally – and you were – originally you said about a week, or the target was a week. Do you have a new target since we're at a week now?

MR TONER: Right. It's a fair question. I don't have a date certain that we're saying now that we want a cessation of hostilities by this date. I think now with – once this task force convenes, the – it will work as quickly as possible to reach some kind of cease – end of hostilities on the ground.

QUESTION: So does that mean that you're accepting that you're not going to meet the Munich deadline? The Munich target is going to go without there being a cessation of hostilities?

MR TONER: Well, it was already a week. I mean --

QUESTION: Well, we were giving you – it came out – that statement came out, the Munich agreement --

MR TONER: You were giving me today.

QUESTION: -- it came out – yes, exactly. It came out on Friday.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: It was after midnight, after a long meeting Thursday.

MR TONER: No, understood.

QUESTION: So to give you guys all – everyone in the ISSG – the benefit of the doubt, because we're nice people – (laughter) – everyone was giving you until Friday, Munich time. Are you now conceding that that is not – that target is not going to be met?

MR TONER: No.

QUESTION: You're not conceding it?

MR TONER: I'm not.

QUESTION: So they could – they could – you think that they could – theoretically, they couldn't --

MR TONER: I'm not on the ground in Geneva. I'm not going to say --

QUESTION: -- they could have their fondue raclette dinners and not come --

MR TONER: I'm not going to say --

QUESTION: -- and go in and get a cessation of hostilities by midnight tonight, Geneva time?

MR TONER: I'm not – it's just – no, Matt, but it's also just not – I'm not in a position to say, yes or no, that that's going to happen or not going to happen.

QUESTION: Okay. The – related to this, the UN special envoy, Mr. de Mistura, has said that there is no way that they – he's going to be able to resume the peace talks on the 25th as – or resume – I don't know if "resume" is the right word, because I'm not sure I buy the idea that they actually started in the first place. But he says that he wanted to reconvene the parties for these talks on the 25th, and he says now that's not going to happen. What are your thoughts about that?

MR TONER: Our thoughts are that – we've talked a little bit about this over the past days. I mean, our thoughts are that these talks do need to reconvene as soon as possible, recognizing fully that the opposition and – and they've made these concerns clear publicly – that the opposition is looking for some progress on the ground, whether it's a cessation of hostilities, whether it's the delivery of humanitarian assistance to some of these besieged areas. And frankly, we agree that would be helpful. But we still stay firm to what we said last week, which is no preconditions. The Syrian opposition and the regime should meet together in Geneva as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Well --

MR TONER: Sorry, Elise.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, President Assad made some comments in the last couple of days along the lines of the fact that he saw this negotiating committee that's widely seen by the opposition as – and the United States and most of the coalition as the legitimate – or not the coalition, the ISSG --

MR TONER: ISSG.

QUESTION: -- or whatever – as the legitimate negotiating arm of the Syrian opposition. He saw them as terrorists. And so he felt that he could still go after terrorists. So given the fact that one of the parties is talking about the other party that they're negotiating with being terrorists and they're a legitimate target, what is – I don't see how this cessation of hostilities could even take place, if there is clearly a mis – different interpretation between the U.S. and the majority of the ISSG and the Russians and the Syrians.

MR TONER: Sure. So Matt was asking about the talks, the proximity talks in Geneva. And the fact is, is that --

QUESTION: Have you seen those comments?

MR TONER: -- regime representatives were there to begin with, and we fully expect them to return to Geneva once we can get the talks back up and running again. You're talking about the cessation of hostilities, and we agree in that it is incumbent on Russia to exert influence like it's – just as it is incumbent on the other members of the ISSG, where they have influence, to exert that influence to the forces on the ground to lay down their arms, to stop fighting each other, fully recognizing that Assad has made unhelpful comment after unhelpful comment. It's not surprising, to be frank. Yeah.

QUESTION: I'm not talking just about comments, though. But if the regime and the Russians see the very party that they're supposed to be having a cessation of hostilities with as terrorists and a legitimate target, I mean, isn't the cessation – the even idea of a cessation of hostilities meaningless? And what is the point of having proximity talks when the regime has made quite clear that they see the party that they're sitting at the talks with as terrorists and not to be negotiated with and to be legitimate targets? It sounds like they're playing for time.

MR TONER: Well, that's one argument. And that's part of this process is to simply hold their feet to the fire, if you will, to see if they're serious. We've talked a lot --

QUESTION: How do you hold their feet to the fire? I'm sorry.

MR TONER: Well, look, first of all we have seen this conflict wax and wane over many, many months and years. Certainly, Assad, backed by the Russians – you're absolutely right – has made some headway in and around Aleppo. He's made some gains. Not surprising; you see this kind of action before any kind of ceasefire. But he's --

QUESTION: Ceasefire? He's --

MR TONER: But – no, no, let me finish. But --

QUESTION: He's saying the ceasefire does not apply, or the cessation or whatever you want to call it. He's pretty clear that he does not – and the Russians are supporting this – that they do not – that does not apply to this HNC or whatever they're calling themselves now.

MR TONER: HNC.

QUESTION: Which is the main party that they're negotiating with.

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: So, I mean, again it sounds to me like even the concept of a cessation of hostilities, let alone having talks between these two parties, is meaningless.

MR TONER: So the Russians are there. They're in Geneva. They're part of this task force. They have influence on Assad or at least claim to have influence on Assad and his regime to stop the fighting. And we've said this before, the --

QUESTION: Against targets that they see – that they don't – that they agree won't be targeted.

MR TONER: But we --

QUESTION: But they're saying the main party, the main party that you're defending --

MR TONER: So let's separate the rhetoric that we're hearing from what's going on on the ground in Geneva.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: Let's let this meeting take place, this task force.

QUESTION: Or what about what's going on the ground in Syria, though?

MR TONER: I totally understand that. I'm just saying that I'm aware of all the things that have been said in the course of this week about the various groups fighting in and around Aleppo which is, to put it mildly, a very complex environment with a lot of different groups fighting each other. But absolutely, I mean, the regime – Assad – has said unhelpful things after unhelpful things.

What the ISSG's role is in this is to, as I said – not just Russia which can exert influence, Iran as well can exert influence on Assad, but also other parties on the ground, the other members of the ISSG need to do that. That's absolutely – if this thing's going to be successful, that needs to take place full stop. That needs to happen.

QUESTION: Mark?

MR TONER: And just to finish, Assad, his forces, his regime, and the Russians are deluded if they think that there's going to be a military solution to this conflict. Please.

QUESTION: It sounds – no, no, no, I'm sorry.

MR TONER: That's okay. Finish.

QUESTION: It seems as if there is a military solution to the, like, conflict and it's that they continue to launch military action until there's no opposition left. I mean --

MR TONER: But they're not going to – I mean, again, we've seen this wax and wane. They've made advances around Aleppo --

QUESTION: Just by telling --

MR TONER: -- but there's no way that they're going to run the table here.

QUESTION: But I just think like --

MR TONER: I --

QUESTION: -- you're holding up this – I'm not saying you have many other options. Clearly, you don't.

MR TONER: Well --

QUESTION: But I'm just saying you're holding up these proximity talks and these task force talks as something that's going to solve the problem, and I don't see how that even begins to even pretend to solve the problem when they're attacking the very party that they're supposed to be negotiating with. I mean --

MR TONER: But --

QUESTION: -- it sounds like a great idea. I just don't understand how --

MR TONER: No, no, I understand. And it – no, I understand.

QUESTION: -- in practicality it translates into any type of stopping of the violence.

MR. TONER: Totally. And this is very complex and very difficult and challenging.

QUESTION: It's not very complex really.

MR TONER: Well, it is in the sense of anyway the groups fighting around Aleppo. But what is clear is that Russia, who backs the Syrian regime, signed up last week in Munich to this commitment to implement a cessation of hostilities. Part of this --

QUESTION: I guess groups that they feel like stopping --

MR TONER: Part of this is a test of that commitment. So we just – let's let the – let's let the task force meet. Let's let this take place. Let's let them discuss the modalities of doing this, and then we'll judge from that.

QUESTION: And what if they fail that test?

MR TONER: Well, then we'll look at other options. I'm not going to get into what those might be.

Please, Michel.

QUESTION: Mark, to go back to Geneva --

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: Are the Iranians there, too?

MR TONER: I'm not – I'm not aware. I'd have to direct you – I don't know that the Iranians are there. It's a fair question. I just don't --

QUESTION: Did the American delegation meet with any Iranian official?

MR TONER: Not that I'm aware of, no.

QUESTION: Okay. And what was the problem? Why they weren't able to meet so far?

MR TONER: Well, I think they met – sorry, they didn't meet. The task force hasn't met fully yet, but there were meetings throughout the night. I think they're just discussing – and we've talked about this all week, is that there is – and it's not – I mean, we always point the finger at the regime, and that's certainly – they're a major part of this, but – and the opposition as well needs to coordinate among itself in order to work through what a cessation of hostilities might look like. And --

QUESTION: Although the opposition isn't part of the task force, is it?

MR TONER: No. No, no, but I'm saying – but they've had --

QUESTION: Isn't the kind of strange nut here is that the ISSG does not include the opposition, nor does it include the Syrian Government? And this task force, which is charged with arranging a cessation of hostilities between the two sides, also does not include either the Syrian Government or the opposition?

MR TONER: Agree.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: But we've all recognized that part of the task force role – these are the stakeholders and they are – their role is to then work with the different parties and different folks on the ground in Syria to bring about a cessation of hostilities.

Yeah, Michel. Go ahead.

QUESTION: A couple of questions. Jordan was working on a list of terrorist groups in Syria. What happened to this list?

MR TONER: So I think what happened to that is that it was – because, for a lot of different reasons, there was disagreement within the ISSG on what that list, that group of, to put it simply, good guys versus bad guys, terrorists versus good opposition, looked like, and that was not – just disagreements among – I mean, there was obviously agreement on two, al-Nusrah and Daesh, and I think two other entities that have been identified by the UN. But because of the ongoing disagreement over what that looked like, it was basically decided that the UN would head that up or follow that through and come up with the list, which, in essence, is what – it consists of the HNC.

QUESTION: And another thing. There is an impression or they feel in the region that there is a coordination between Russia and the U.S. and everything is happening now in the north of Syria is coordinating – is coordinated between the two countries. What can you say about that?

MR TONER: One more time the question? I'm sorry. I understand what – kind of what you were saying there.

QUESTION: The Syrian opposition and several reports say that what's happening in the north of Syria --

MR TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: -- is coordinated between the U.S. and Russia.

MR TONER: I mean, I would just disagree with that strongly in the sense of – that if your implication is that there is some kind of great powers game going on there, that's – it couldn't be further from the truth. I mean, what the U.S. is working on with its other coalition partners in the anti-Daesh coalition across a large swath of northern Syria is through groups on the ground, is a broad attempt to push ISIL out of the territory it controls in northern Syria. That's far from – away from – I mean, not too far away, but far away from what's happening on the ground around Aleppo. The Russian – or the Syrian forces, the regime forces, continue to try to take back Aleppo, and they have support from Russia. And that also – that needs to stop in order to get to a credible cessation of hostilities.

QUESTION: My last question on Syria.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Turkish foreign minister has said today or quoted Secretary Kerry saying that YPG cannot be trusted. Is it accurate?

MR TONER: So look, I'm not going to question or challenge what the Turkish foreign minister said. I'm just not going to go there. And I'm also not going to read out the details of the Secretary's and the foreign minister's conversation, except to say that we've been very clear – our assessment, our policy towards the YPG and the PYD has not changed. And our policy towards the PKK has not changed. We view the PKK as a foreign terrorist organization. We view the YPG differently, and we've talked about this many times. That has not changed.

QUESTION: Do you trust them? Do you trust the YPG?

MR TONER: They have been very effective partners on the ground in northern Syria, as part of a broader group of forces fighting in northern Syria, in pushing back ISIL. And we've not seen, in our assessment, any inclination for them to do anything else other than take the fight to Daesh.

QUESTION: And Mark, (inaudible) --

QUESTION: And you trust them in this regard?

MR TONER: I trust them in this regard --

QUESTION: And you trust them in this regard?

MR TONER: Until proven otherwise, yes.

QUESTION: Mark, there are reports that (inaudible) --

MR TONER: Yes, go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: -- said Erdogan said that the Syrian – says that the YPG has used U.S.-supplied weapons against civilians. Is there any truth to that statement?

MR TONER: No, and I saw the same reports. We have not provided any weapons to – of any kind to the YPG. And we've also seen no evidence to substantiate the claim that the YPG is somehow smuggling any U.S.-origin weapons to the PKK.

QUESTION: So my question is quite simple: As long as the YPG continue to be an effective force against Daesh, you will continue to support them and you will not designate them like the Turks would like you to, as a terrorist organization, despite what the Turks may – or how – what kind of tantrum they can throw?

MR TONER: Well, again – I mean, yeah. I mean, we've – yes, we've all along differentiated between the two. I understand completely that the Turks feel otherwise. We understand that; we get it. We talk to the Turks all the time about their concerns. But that said, the YPG, as I said, as part of a broader group of forces fighting in northern Syria, is focused on defeating Daesh.

QUESTION: Are you concerned at all that the YPG's primary goal is to have – to extend its presence and authority in northern Syria and possibly as a prelude to some sort of an independent entity? Are you concerned about that?

MR TONER: Yes. I mean, we're aware of that belief. We have been very candid in our discussions with the YPG, as we are with all groups, that as they liberate territory, they need to ensure that good governance and a broad, inclusive governance is allowed to return in order for the refugees who have been displaced to return to those areas. So they're aware of our concerns on this.

QUESTION: Let me – I have one more question --

MR TONER: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: -- regarding the casualties among civilian populations and so on.

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: There was a report today in The Daily Beast that says that at least 38 people were killed by bombardments led by the coalition that – in which the United States leads. Do you have any comment on that? They're saying that some organizations called War.org has observed it. It was, in fact, American fighters.

MR TONER: You're saying that – and this is in Syria – that U.S. --

QUESTION: Right, yeah.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: In the Hasakah area.

MR TONER: Yeah. I apologize. I haven't seen the reports. I would only say, without having seen them, that we take any kind of allegations very, very seriously and obviously we seek to always avoid any civilian casualties. Obviously, if these are credible allegations, we'll look into them.

QUESTION: A couple more on Turkey, Mark.

MR TONER: Okay. But I want to make sure I get around. I'm sorry. I got to leave in about --

QUESTION: Okay. I'll be very quick.

MR TONER: It's okay, sir.

QUESTION: Today, TAK, which is a Kurdish group, claimed the responsibility of the Ankara bomb attack. I don't know if you have any comment on that.

MR TONER: I don't. We literally just saw that when I – before walking out here. Obviously we strongly condemn the terrorist attack that took place in Ankara a couple days ago. We don't know – we understand and we can confirm that Ambassador Bass, John Bass, went to the MFA yesterday, where he received preliminary results of the investigation by the Turkish authorities into the bombing. I can't get into any detail – further detail at this point in time. We would just point you to the Turks, as they conduct the investigation to share whatever findings they have.

QUESTION: President Erdogan's top advisor today said Turkey may go ahead and shut down the Incirlik airbase for America – American Air Force. Do you have any comment or has the Turkish Government --

MR TONER: I don't have any comment, and we've certainly seen no action in that regard. My only comment, I guess, would be to say that we've been very appreciative that Turkey, as a NATO ally and strong partner in the anti-Daesh coalition, has allowed anti-Daesh coalition members, including us, to use Incirlik. It's allowed us to provide close air support for some of the groups fighting against Daesh in northern Syria.

QUESTION: And the final one. It seems Turkey continues the shelling northern Syria, and also there are American special ops there. Are you worried about American security officials there may be under danger or have you been communicating with --

MR TONER: Well, so just on the Turkish shelling, cross-border shelling, we've been very clear we would like to see that stopped for a variety of reasons. But it only continues to escalate some of the tensions there, but I can't speak to where our special operation forces may be --

QUESTION: Can I change the subject to Libya?

MR TONER: Yeah, please. Libya, of course, yes.

QUESTION: Just, like, in light of the action today by the U.S. military, I was just wondering – there's been a lot of talk for some time about the anti-ISIS coalition and their actions – potential actions in Libya and whether you were going to open up another front there. And I was just wondering, is this indicative of what we might see in terms of more action in Libya, and if you could just kind of expand on the context of this?

MR TONER: Sure. So – sure. So I think it's indicative of what we've said previously, and of course, this is not the first strike of this kind. But the President made very clear we won't hesitate to act when it comes to defending U.S. national security interests. And if we have opportunities, we will take action. And our fight against Daesh or ISIL, unfortunately, is broader than Iraq and Syria.

So I don't want to say this is the opening of a new front. I mean, it's just consistent with what we've said previously, which is as we see opportunities to take out senior leaders, to attack some of their camps --

QUESTION: Well, is that all this was, a target of opportunity? Or – I mean, look, you've been talking about Libya and ISIS growing presence there since maybe early in the summer, and yet there's been very little action against ISIS in Libya, where – and during that time their presence has swelled – some would say doubled. And some might say it's kind of a redo on Syria, where you said you would go after targets of opportunity, but by the time you kind of went after targets of opportunity, they had already taken over large swaths of the country. And Libya is definitely – as you kind of pressure them in Syria, a lot of people, as you know, are moving to Libya.

MR TONER: Yep, yep.

QUESTION: So I'm wondering, again, is this just one target of opportunity?

MR TONER: Not at all. I mean, I don't want to say this is the – so I don't want to get out ahead that this is some kind of policy shift, not at all. I mean, we fully recognize as we put --

QUESTION: So it's not?

MR TONER: No, not at all. So as we put pressure, we fully recognize that as we put pressure on Daesh in Syria, in Iraq, they're going to seek to establish themselves elsewhere, affiliate, whatever – however you want to put it. Libya – we've certainly seen that. It's been an area of concern for some time. We've been very clear that we're going to – as we have opportunities, we're going to carry out airstrikes against those ISIL elements that are operating in Libya. Longer term, what we'd like to do is – once a new Libyan Government is fully in place – we want to work with that government and with Libyan security forces in order to help them develop the capabilities to carry out the fight against ISIL in their own territory.

QUESTION: Well, that's – I mean, you – that could be a long way. I mean --

MR TONER: Understood. So that's what I'm saying. I --

QUESTION: So I mean, in the meantime, are we just going to see these one-offs, or is it going to be a larger campaign against ISIS and Libya before you have the same situation in Syria where they – their presence just kind of --

MR TONER: So I think it's just – yeah.

QUESTION: -- grew and they took over most of the country before your very eyes?

MR TONER: No, I wouldn't call it a one-off. I think actions like these are part of our comprehensive effort to go after ISIL where we see it establishing footholds.

Please.

QUESTION: Under what legal authority did the U.S. carry out strikes in Libya this morning?

MR TONER: It was in full accordance with international law. We've talked about this many times. I'd refer you to the Department of Defense to speak about specifics.

QUESTION: So not the AUMF? It's – it was international law?

MR TONER: Exactly. I mean – exactly. But I'm not going to --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) international law?

MR TONER: -- get into details here. I will let you follow up with the Department of Defense on that.

QUESTION: Well, the Pentagon said the airstrikes in Libya were approved by Libyan authorities. Does this mean approved by this new unity government, or what authorities?

MR TONER: Well, again, I think what – how I'd say is – put it is that the Libyan authorities were aware that we were going to carry out these strikes.

QUESTION: This new unity government – is it functioning? What authorities?

MR TONER: The new – well, I mean, there's obviously Libyan authorities on the ground. It's not – we're still working to stand up the Government of National Accord. We want to see it returned and establish itself in Tripoli. That's longer term, but obviously there are – there is some governmental structure present in Libya at this time.

QUESTION: On Lebanon, Mark?

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia has stopped its aid to the Lebanese army and security forces. How will this affect the military equipment that the U.S. was planning to deliver to the Lebanese army and funded by this Saudi aid?

MR TONER: Well, I'd refer you to the Saudis to talk about why they halted their deals with the Lebanese army. We're going to continue our support to the Lebanese Armed Forces and security services with one objective in mind, which is to ensure that the army continues its role as a legitimate protector of Lebanon's borders, people, including from extremist threats. So we've given, I think, some 1.4 billion since 2005, and that support will continue.

QUESTION: But there were plans --

MR TONER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- that the U.S. will deliver Lebanon airplanes and other ammunitions. And these airplanes were funded by this Saudi aid. How will this affect this delivery now?

MR TONER: I don't have anything specific to – on that. I just don't – in terms of whether that would affect their ability to purchase any other planes or anything like that.

QUESTION: Can I ask you --

QUESTION: Sorry, 1.5 or .4 billion?

MR TONER: 1.4.

QUESTION: 1.4?

MR TONER: 1.4 billion.

QUESTION: 4?

MR TONER: Since – 1.4, yes, since 2005.

I'm sorry, Michel, I just don't have – I'm just not aware that that was part of whatever we were providing, that that was contingent on that money.

QUESTION: Really quick question --

MR TONER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: -- on the Palestinian issue.

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: According to The Washington Post, the Palestinian journalist Mohammed al-Qiq is really – is on his deathbed, so to speak. I wonder if you raised this concern with the Israelis – he's not been charged with anything – and whether this could have some dire ramifications.

MR TONER: Sure. Who are you talking about? Al-Qiq?

QUESTION: We talked about that last week that --

MR TONER: Al-Qiq. Yeah.

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: Right. Of course, we've raised it. As we raise these issues with Israeli authorities, we hope for a resolution to the hunger strike. We believe all individuals, including prisoners, should be treated humanely and have their human rights respected.

QUESTION: What does that mean, you "hope for a resolution to the hunger strike"? I mean, there are several ways that a hunger strike can be resolved --

MR TONER: I understand that. And I'm sorry, I didn't – I'm --

QUESTION: -- one of which is death. Certainly, you're not hoping that he dies, are you?

MR TONER: -- I'm trying to – I'm trying to speak quickly because I'm on a tight timeline here. That does not result in the loss of his life, a resolution that does not result in the loss of his life.

QUESTION: All right.

MR TONER: I'll give you the full --

QUESTION: Mark?

QUESTION: Can I – I want to move to someplace else, but it'll be really quick. Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: How come the Secretary is not going to Israel?

MR TONER: I can't speak to why he's choosing to just go to Jordan. It's just – he's – has meetings planned there. He's certainly open to traveling to Israel sometime in the future, but I have nothing to announce.

In the back, sir, but very quickly.

QUESTION: All right. So Daesh is no more a regional threat if we see it's turning into a worldwide threat. But if we see in Pakistan, the interior minister who controls the security situation there says that there are no signs of Daesh in Pakistan, while the intelligence chief of Pakistan told the parliament that it is getting stronger and stronger in some parts of the country, especially in Punjab. So despite these contradictory statements, how United States are watching the situation in Pakistan about Daesh?

MR TONER: Well, I can't speak specifically to ISIL's presence or non-presence in Pakistan. I can say that we've seen elements of ISIL or ISIL-affiliated groups spring up in Afghanistan. I mean, they look for ungoverned spaces. There are parts of Pakistan that are havens for some of these terrorist organizations. We fully recognize the Pakistani Government's commitment to pushing back and fighting these terrorists. No one's more affected by terrorism than the people of Pakistan, and we're going to continue to support them, whether it's ISIL or other terrorist groups operating on their soil.

QUESTION: Sir, I have one more, sir, if you'll allow me. Sir, one more please.

MR TONER: One more, quick.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you very much. Sir, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Modi have accepted the U.S. President Barack Obama invitation to attend the nuclear summit, and there are strong chances that both the premiers will meet here in Washington. And if they – if it happens, it will be a breakthrough in the relations of two countries. What really is being done from the U.S. side in this regard?

MR TONER: What --

QUESTION: What really is being done by the U.S. side in this regard? I mean, is there any efforts on for --

MR TONER: You mean to promote this trip or this --

QUESTION: For the meeting between Modi and Nawaz Sharif.

MR TONER: The meeting, okay. I mean, look, we – I don't have anything specific to point to. Certainly, we remain engaged with the Indian Government. We want to see this entire effort move forward. We're supportive of the – of any decisions that could be made for this to take place.

QUESTION: Just one --

MR TONER: I will get to you.

QUESTION: In his call with President Museveni of Uganda --

MR TONER: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: -- this morning, did the Secretary say that there would be any kind of consequences if the situation surrounding the election and the treatment of the opposition didn't improve? Or did he warn that there might be?

MR TONER: I'm not sure that he has actually said that we said there'd be any consequences other than we obviously always retain the option to take steps if we --

QUESTION: So --

MR TONER: -- if we see a lack of progress or clearly efforts to impede free and fair elections.

QUESTION: Yeah. Did he --

MR TONER: I think the Secretary was very frank with – sorry, just – with President Museveni about our concerns that detention – steps like the detention of the opposition presidential candidate, which is clearly a significant step, but polling stations opening late, other things we've seen on the ground lead us to have the concerns about the fact that whether these elections are free and fair.

QUESTION: Right, but do you know if he actually told the president that there – or said that there were – that this kind of – these kind of actions could draw a – could result in consequences from --

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- from the United States? Did he specifically say that, do you know?

MR TONER: I don't know if he specifically raised that. I'll – what I can say is that any further actions on our part will depend on the actions of the election and the government officials in Uganda over the next few days.

QUESTION: Just quickly.

MR TONER: Quickly, yeah. Sorry.

QUESTION: Back to Libya, yes. There are many who say the U.S.'s first intervention in Libya in 2011 has made its second intervention now necessary. What do you say to that?

MR TONER: I disagree, because no one's talking about a second intervention. What we're talking about is the fact that – and we've said this before – is that due to the lack of a political – or lack of a government, a unified government, in Libya for some years now, it has led to, as we talked about, some of these ungoverned spaces where groups like ISIL can establish a foothold. We're very clear-eyed in our assessment that when we see ISIL take these kinds of actions, we need to be able to strike at them. But our overall strategy towards Libya – and we've been effectively working with a number of governments, including the government – the Italian Government on this, is to get a representative government in place in Tripoli so that it can begin to provide basic services, basic security for the people of Libya.

QUESTION: Yeah, but from what you see now, do you think that the U.S. intervention in 2011 has yielded positive results?

MR TONER: I mean, look, I mean, it was – first of all, it was a broader intervention than just the U.S. intervention. It was – that intervention was in part in response to Qadhafi basically threatening to wipe out large segments of the population that were opposed to him. The international community came together and took action to stop that. In the aftermath of his downfall, we've certainly seen a certain amount of instability occur because of that lack of a centralized government. And so that's what we're working towards, that's what we're focused on.

So I don't want to point it to one act or one – this was something that evolved out of the chaos of Qadhafi's departure and death. And so – but our focus now is on getting a legitimate government in place.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:26 p.m.)



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