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Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook October 13, 2016

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


PETER COOK: Good afternoon, everybody.

Hans, welcome. Good to see you.

Good to see some students here from Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern School of Journalism. Welcome. My alma mater -- one of my alma maters. Glad to have you all here. Nice to meet some of you the other night as well.

So, welcome. Hope you've enjoyed your visit to the Pentagon.

I want to begin by following up on the strikes -- the self-defense strikes we took overnight against radar sites in Yemen. As you know, the United States conducted strikes against three coastal radar sites on Yemen's Red Sea coast. These strikes are in response to attempted missile attacks in recent days against the USS Mason and other vessels in the Red Sea and the Bab-el-Mandeb.

The U.S. strikes were conducted using sea-launched cruise missiles launched from the USS Nitze. These targets were chosen based on our assessment that the radar sites were involved in missile launches in recent days. And they were struck in order to defend our ships and their crews and to protect freedom of navigation through a waterway that is vitally important to international commerce.

Let me emphasize two points from last night's statement that bear repeating today. The first is that these strikes were, again, a response to threats to our vessels and to freedom of navigation, which is a core U.S. national security interest. These strikes are not connected to the broader conflict in Yemen.

The United States continues to encourage all parties in the Yemen conflict to commit to a cessation of hostilities and to seek a political solution to that conflict. Our actions overnight were a response to hostile actions, the launch of multiple missiles, that presented a threat to U.S. Navy vessels, to other ships in the area, and to commerce in a strategic international waterway.

More than four million barrels of oil a day pass through the Bab-el Mandeb. This narrow passage is a vital link connecting Asia and Europe. Safe navigation through the strait is vitally important to economies in the region and to global commerce.

The second point I want to emphasize is that those who might threaten U.S. forces should recognize that we will not tolerate threats to our people. We will respond if our forces come under fire. We have taken swift action in this case and should we see a repeat, we will be prepared to take appropriate action again at the appropriate time.

Now, I also want to provide a quick update on our response to Hurricane Matthew. As you know, the storm is behind us, but the impact from the storm is still being felt in the southeast. Roughly 21,000 residents are in shelters; over two million people without power; and rivers still rising between five to 12 feet above flood stage in some areas.

In response, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting assessments on levees and dams and is coordinating with FEMA on possible debris management plans and temporary roofing assistance. About 5,500 National Guard soldiers and airmen have transitioned to supporting relief efforts -- flood relief efforts.

And in particular we want to know what's going on in North Carolina, which as many of you all know, has a significant military population. There's military installations in some of the areas of North Carolina that are being -- directly affected military families, and certainly our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who've been affected by the storm.

Now, the department continues to support relief efforts in Haiti as well, with nearly 100 tons of relief supplies delivered so far. The USS Iwo Jima arrived in Haiti earlier today and will cross-deck supplies and relieve USS Mesa Verde. Along with heavy-lift helicopters and landing craft, the ships can produce tens of thousands of gallons of fresh water per day and are stocked with pallets of food, medicine, baby formula, diapers, first aid supplies and other items.

A fleet surgical team is also aboard Mesa Verde. The Air Force is providing aerial search and rescue helicopters and cruise and support for forward distribution of supplies and equipment.

And finally, today a schedule note, Chairman Dunford is hosting the 41st Republic of Korea and U.S. Military Committee meeting, or MCM today here at the Pentagon. He will be joined by PACOM Commander Admiral Harry Harris and the Commander of Combined Forces Command General Vince Brooks, you may have seen them in the building earlier.

The Republic of Korea delegation is led by Chairman General Lee Sun-jin. And next week, Secretary Carter and Secretary Kerry will host their South Korean counterparts here, in Washington as well.

We'll be providing more details on that visit in the coming days. And with that, happy to take your questions.

Lita?

Q: Peter, a couple things that you mentioned. Obviously, its something -- if the ships are -- if there's another (inaudible) to be prepared to again, take action.

Does this sort of open the door more broadly for increased U.S. involved conflict in that region and do you have any information about the reports that there are two Iranian ships that have been deployed to the region?

MR. COOK: I will reiterate what I said off the top, Lita, that this was a response to direct threats to our people, to our ships and we responded to that threat and we will be prepared to respond again.

These strikes posed a threat to the crew of the Mason and as a result, we took this action. And we don't take it lightly but again, we don't take threats to our people lightly and we responded accordingly.

With regard to the Iranian Navy activities, I'll leave it to the Iranians to describe the disposition of their ships. I will say that we operate in those waters all the time with ships from many countries and it would not be surprising to have ships from Iran and that part of the world.

Yes, Joe?

Q: (Off-mic.) have you seen any evidence that Iran is either directly or indirectly involved in what happened to the USS Mason?

MR. COOK: Joe, we responded to these installations wherein Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen. We responded to these particular threats.

The broader, as you know, Iran has played a role and has been supportive of the Houthi rebels more broadly in the conflict in Yemen and our message to those involved in that separate conflict is that they should return to the negotiating table consistent with where they were just a few months ago.

So we're only responding right now to the direct threat to -- to our forces.

Q: (Off-mic.) as you said Peter, Iran is supporting and backing the Houthis. Any -- any information that the missiles that were launched at Iranian-made, for example?

MR. COOK: We do not have specific information. We're assessing everything that took place with regard to the attempted strikes against our forces. What we know, is where they originated from and we have responded to the source of those strikes as you saw overnight.

Yes, Tara?

Q: A couple more on the Mason. Several news organizations have shown photos of what they believe to be the missile that was launched first against the Swift -- (inaudible) -- which is an Iranian import from China.

Do you have any knowledge as to whether these same types of missiles were used against the Mason? And then on Wednesday's launch against the Mason, did the Aegis combat system aboard the Mason successfully defend the ship against the incoming missile?

MR. COOK: On your second question, I'm not going to get into the specific response of the Mason. I will just say that the crew acted as they were trained to perform. They did so in the professional fashion that we expect of U.S. Navy sailors faced with a challenging situation.

And again, they should be commended for how they conducted themselves out there. But I'm not going to get into the specific counter-measures that may or may not have been employed and how it played out.

We don't have any specific information at this time that we can share with you about what it was the posed a threat to our ship. The good news for us is that it didn't hit, and we'd like to keep it that way.

Yes? Carlo?

Q: Peter, following up on that. As far as you know, the information you're gathering about both attempted strikes, with the initial strike, there were reports that the USS Ponce was also in the vicinity of the USS Mason. Given the Ponce's capabilities and sort of mission profile, what's conducted off of that ship, is there any indication that it was the Ponce, not the Mason, that was actually being attacked the first round of -- during the first sort of salvo, I guess?

MR. COOK: It's our assessment at this point that the Mason was the target here. And that there were other ships in the area. And what's really most important here is that from the viewpoint of our sailors and that crew, they felt they were being threatened. And they responded accordingly.

And needless to say, we have responded further to that threat and to the fact that we have now seen two attempts to try and target U.S. vessels in that region. And we want to make crystal clear that if you threaten our forces, you threaten our ships, we will be prepared to respond, as we did in this case.

Yes? Barbara? Welcome back.

Q: So, you are saying, if I'm understanding you correctly, the assessment is that the Houthis were specifically, knowingly targeting a U.S. Navy warship. They weren't just firing at anything out there. Did they know they were attempting to hit a U.S. Navy warship?

MR. COOK: What we've said and what I'll repeat again, Barbara, is that these attacks, these attempted missile strikes against our forces originated from Houthi-controlled territory. And we have responded by taking out radar installations we believe played a role in the effort to try and strike our warships.

And we have responded accordingly.

Q: So a couple of follow ups. Did they know what they were striking at? And it goes to the point of what their military capability may now be. Did they know they were going after U.S. Navy warship?

MR. COOK: You'd have to ask the Houthis or whoever you want to talk to in Yemen, whoever is in that territory. We do not know what they were -- whoever fired these missiles were attempting to hit, but we know that our forces felt like they were under threat. We had ships in the area where these missiles were threatening and we responded -- they responded accordingly, and we responded since to reduce that threat.

Q: OK. So you cannot say that they did know they were hitting U.S. -- they were trying to hit. That's what you just said.

MR. COOK: We know that our ship in that region felt a direct threat, responded accordingly.

Q: My other question is: What can you tell us about the hybrid warhead capabilities that the Houthis apparently have on these missiles, with some advanced lethality and penetration capability.

How could they have possibly done such a hybrid warhead without some help? What role do you believe the Iranians may have played?

MR. COOK: Well, I'm not sure what you're referring to in terms of information about weaponry that may have been deployed, here. I haven't spoken to what was fired into the Bab el-Mandeb because we are still trying to assess it ourselves so I'm not sure I can comment on what you're talking about.

Q: Let me just rephrase it, then. Let me try again in a different way. What is the U.S. Military assessment at this point about Iran's involvement and why did the Navy -- why did the military wait a couple of days after the first attack, knowing it was vulnerable, knowing these radars were targeting, why did you wait and let a second attack potentially happen? Why not go after it all right away?

MR. COOK: As we said at the time, we respond at an appropriate time at an appropriate manner and we've done so. We --

Q: (Off-mic.)

MR. COOK: We don't take this action lightly, both the threat against our ships, likewise our response to it.

When we want to respond, we'll do so in the appropriate fashion at the appropriate time and we've done so in this case. And we want to make sure that we know what we're striking.

We want to know that we're doing it in an appropriate fashion and we believe we've done so at this time. We want to make sure we know what we're hitting, we put a lot of rigor to this, as you know, whenever we use force.

And we have done so in this instance and likewise, we respond when our forces and our ships are threatened, we take that, Barbara, as you know, very, very seriously.

And anybody who has any doubt about that should know after what's happened in the last 24 hours and will be prepared to do it again.

Yes, Paul?

Q: Can you give us some information about the kind of radar installations that were hit and their -- (inaudible) -- level of sophistication, where they (inaudible) come from?

MR. COOK: Listen, I'm not going to get into details about that other than to say that we believe these were involved in the effort to target our warships and other ships in the area. And that by taking them out, we've reduced that threat.

Q: Any indication that the might've been supplied by Iran?

MR. COOK: I don't have any information on that. My understanding is that these are sites that may have been there for some time.

Q: These were sites that belong to the former government of -- (inaudible)?

MR. COOK: I believe that's right, David.

Q: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: -- you said at the top this is -- our strikes were in response to strength against the USS Mason and other vessels. So does that mean that you believe the strikes weren't limited to the USS Mason?

MR. COOK: There have been other -- there's been a strike recently in that area, as you know, a UAE ship was hit recently.

Q: (Off-mic.) Asia if you're not referring to other U.S. vessels during the course of these last two -- (inaudible)?

MR. COOK: Yep.

Yes Matt?

Q: (Off-mic.) you said Houthi-controlled territory. Do you know who was controlling those radar sites and the missiles when they were fired? Were they actual Houthi rebels or were they Army units loyal to -- (inaudible) -- who are allied with the Houthis? Do you guys have any clarity on that?

MR. COOK: Matt, I can't tell you specifically who is operating these installations. I'm just telling you where they're located, who's controlling that area now and that we responded in kind to these specific installations because the role we believe they played in targeting our forces.

Q: (Off-mic) one or the other, then?

MR. COOK: We're not there. I can't say with certainty from this podium. But we have taken out installations -- military installations that we believe played a role in targeting of U.S. forces.

Q: I know you said you don't see this as a broader move into Yemen, that this is specific to the threat. But you know suddenly you got U.S. ships firing in a region where there's a ton of commercial traffic, a lot of navies operating, now the Iranians as well.

And you've also got the Houthis who are today saying like, "Look, we're responding to a threat from the U.S. They're helping the Saudis. You know, they're threatening us."

But that -- but this could just draw in the U.S. further because you're suddenly in a situation where a lot of people who are operating there with grudges, is looking to defend themselves. (inaudible) -- see themselves as righteous I guess.

MR. COOK: I'll just make the point that we operate in those waters all the time, and have for years. And we will continue to do so.

What's different is that we had our warships targeted in recent days by missiles launched from Houthi controlled territory. And we have responded to that threat in this case.

Q: If you're -- I've now heard about (inaudible) warning that there would be a response if something happened again. What's preventing this from becoming a tit-for-tat situation?

MR. COOK: Well, hopefully the message has been sent to those who fired these missiles that there'll be a response from us. And they'll see the wiser move on their part would be to refrain from targeting U.S. warships and putting our forces at risk.

Q: And when we look at potential targets inside Yemen, are you confident that you have all the radar facilities out? Are there additional targets? Or is it just unique to these three -- these three sites?

MR. COOK: We have responded and taken out three sites that we believe played a role directly in assisting in the targeting of our forces. And we believe we've reduced their capability to do that.

Q: Reduced but not eliminated?

MR. COOK: We will see. We'll see. We would be prepared to respond further.

But we believe we've taken action that will reduce their ability to carry out these kinds of attacks. And we certainly hope they understand that we will be prepared if need be. Yes?

Q: On Yemen, and then I have a follow up on Somalia and Libya as well. But on Yemen, you said that you could not say from -- with certainty from the podium who actually had these radar capabilities. Was that the reason for the delay in the response?

MR. COOK: As I said, we responded at the appropriate time after the kind of rigor and thought and discussion that you would expect us to have when we use force in this way.

Q: And then to quickly to follow on Somalia, do you have any update for us on the strike that happened on September 28 that Somalia government says killed government forces.

MR. COOK: Yeah, I know you've asked about this several times. I would hope that you're checking with AFRICOM. I know that we did today as well. And my understanding is that the assessment is still ongoing.

Q: And then finally on Libya, there have been some reporting out of Libya saying that the Islamic State militants in Sirte have been completed defeated. Do you have a comment that? Can you confirm that?

MR. COOK: I know that first of all if those reports are accurate that would be excellent news, and something certainly that would be an important step forward for the Government of National Accord and for the people of Libya. I can't confirm it from this podium.

I can tell you that our support for the GNA has continued, including air strikes even in the last 24 hours in Sirte. And, again, our support for those forces has been with the goal of eliminating ISIL from Sirte from its one stronghold in Libya. And it's certainly been helpful to that effort.

And if they've in fact achieved the elimination of ISIL from Sirte that would be an excellent step forward. But I can't confirm that. I'd leave it to the GNA to speak to that, and the forces aligned with the GNA in Libya.

Q: Thank you, Peter.

MR. COOK: Yes, (inaudible), go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Peter.

Chairman of the South Korean -- (inaudible) -- chief of staff -- (inaudible) -- visit to the U.S. Strategic Command, and met with -- (inaudible).

MR. COOK: He's here today as well.

Q: He met with Admiral Haney, the strategic commander. Do you have any details?

MR. COOK: I do not have a readout of their meetings. I'd refer you to STRATCOM who may have something more specific.

Q: But what is the -- (inaudible) -- deterrent -- (inaudible)?

MR. COOK: You know our position on this. You've heard the secretary speak to this in recent weeks about the United States' willingness to stand by our South Korean allies and the commitment we make to them as allies and the extent of that commitment. And I think the secretary has spoken to this directly.

Yes, David?

Q: Has there been any change to U.S. support for the Saudi air strikes since the attack on the funeral procession?

MR. COOK: We're in the same place we were before, David. As you know, the White House has announced a review of our support. But the limited support we have supplied in the past is consistent with where we are now, and that is refueling and other support in the form of trying to provide advice and counsel on the conduct with regard to how the Saudis conduct air strikes, the law of armed conflict advice -- that sort of general guidance that we've provided them in the past with regard to how they conduct the air strike -- their air campaign.

Q: You also said you were providing intelligence.

MR. COOK: Yes, and the fusion cell still exists, but the amount of interaction we've had with the Saudis has been reduced over time, as you know, as that campaign was reduced in terms of the cessation of hostilities there and we had peace talks. That has not been at the same -- there has not been the same amount of exchange in recent weeks that there had been in the past.

Q: Peter, two questions.

As far as U.S.-China, U.S.-Pakistan relations are concerned, there was a special mission -- missionaries from the military and civilian government from Pakistan in Washington for the last week. And they were going to different places, meeting and greeting -- (inaudible).

What they were saying that now China is a rising power; U.S. is a declining power; forget U.S.; look at China. And we have great relations with China. And President Obama is now the guest of the United States of America. Any comments on that?

MR. COOK: I'm not familiar with the comments that you're referring to or the group here in Washington. So I think it's best for me to skip that one. I'm just not familiar with those comments.

Q: Second, as far as U.S.-India relations in Afghanistan is concerned, Afghanistan -- in Afghanistan, India has put a lot of resources -- (inaudible) -- including financial and development and -- (inaudible) -- along with the U.S. But the same missionaries or same people from the Pakistani government are saying Pakistan will never let have a peace in Afghanistan unless U.S. solve and resolve the Kashmiri issue.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: (inaudible) -- we will never have peace in Afghanistan unless you have a deal with Pakistan on India.

MR. COOK: I think our views on Afghanistan and the importance of its neighbors playing a positive role in terms of helping the Afghans secure their own country -- we've talked about this at length. This was important to Afghanistan which is a country that faces challenges right now.

We're trying to support Afghanistan, certainly NATO countries are trying to support Afghanistan in terms of securing the country and I think the Secretary's spoken to this in the past, about the importance of Afghanistan's neighbors, of playing a constructive role as well. That that would be a welcome thing.

Q: Asking finally that -- can we have, or can the Afghan people have a peace there, a lasting peace given waiting for the last 30 years or so. That without Pakistan, can they have a peace and light in the dark tunnel for all?

MR. COOK: I'll leave Afghan and Pakistan relations to the Afghans and the Pakistanis -- our role there in Afghanistan, as you know, has been to support the Afghan government, to support the Afghan security forces, to make sure to allow them to be in position to secure the country for themselves. We'll continue to do that.

And I think again – the larger point about the positive role its neighbors can play in helping Afghanistan reach a brighter future is something the Afghans can speak to better than I can.

STAFF: (Off-mic.)

Q: Sorry, this is back to Yemen. I understand that the U.S. is not looking for a fight with the Houthis. But it looks like whoever was shooting at the U.S. did want to pick a fight anyway. What I'm still unclear about and I want to press you a little more on is, this issue of who's doing it and why and how?

And if the U.S. is taking action against the facilities I think it would be good for the American public to have a better sense of who and what that was firing at the U.S. And how they were able to do that.

I know it's difficult to discuss in a public forum, at this point -- but is there anything you can say about who may have actually pulled the trigger here and whether these weapons are --

MR. COOK: I can tell you what we know and what I've said from the start. These strikes came from Houthi controlled territory. They posed a threat to U.S. warships operating in the Red Sea. And we don't take that very lightly. So we responded. And we responded by taking out radar installations that played -- were directly involved in this effort.

Again, we don't know who was pulling the trigger, if you will, specifically. You can be sure that we're still trying to assess exactly what happened here, and the threat -- if there is still a threat -- posed to our ships that remain in that area.

And we'll continue to do that. But we've responded as appropriate to a threat -- direct threat to our forces. And they conducted themselves in a professional fashion, this was an unprovoked attack, an unjustified attack on our forces and we responded in kind.

Q: The whole idea that you've targeted radar facilities but if you don't know who it is that is firing at you what confidence can you have that they won't keep doing it. And if you don't know how they're getting their weapons then how do you know that --

MR. COOK: We don't have confidence necessarily that they won't do it -- other than they should have a pretty clear indication from what's happened in the last 24 hours that if they try it again it's quite likely they'll get a similar response.

Q: Houthis denied responsibility. Do you believe that?

MR. COOK: All I know is these strikes originated from Houthi-controlled territory. If somebody else is carrying this out in Houthi-controlled territory then I would encourage the Houthis to try and get that under control.

Q: Are you concerned this is going to provoke deeper involvement of the U.S. in this war, if this continues to happen and there continues to be a response?

MR. COOK: Our concern here is about the safety of our forces, the safety of our ships. And we don't seek a wider role in the conflict, as I said at the very top. This is about protecting our people, period.

I'll promise to come over here, sorry.

Q: The secretary of defense met with his counterpart of Mexico and Colombia. They were talking about the --

MR. COOK: Trinidad and Tobago.

Q: They were talking about the expansion of the role of Mexico in the defense and security of the hemisphere. What -- in what ways they can expand, to what Mexico will be doing now?

MR. COOK: Yeah, I think there was -- I think our readout spelled out, they had an excellent conversation. The secretary they've met before, most recently, I think in Colorado Springs at the NORTHCOM change of command. And there's been at least one other meeting, but, I think the basic tone of the meeting was very positive and the secretary made the point that Mexico has made an effort to be a net exporter of security in the region and globally.

And the secretary welcomed that and they discussed opportunities, perhaps, for greater bilateral security cooperation and opportunities to meet again in the future and to discuss some of those.

Q: Are Mexico and U.S. trying to make more efficient the -- (inaudible) -- for a long time.

MR. COOK: Yes, I know the secretary specifically welcomed the contributions of Mexico to that board and to that effort. But, in terms of specifics, you know, I think I will leave that to the Mexican government to speak to the Mexican ministry of defense.

Q: Do you believe the relationship that was very different sometime ago between Mexico and U.S. from military to military have been changing -- evolving rapidly?

MR. COOK: I think the secretary believes on the basis of meetings like the one he just had that there is an opportunity for a positive military to military relationship between the United States and Mexico, that their -- security concerns that the two countries share and their opportunities to work together to try and address those and work regionally in the hemisphere and globally to address some of those security concerns. And I think certainly he left that meeting perhaps more optimistic that -- that there are opportunities to follow.

So I'm going to --

Q: (inaudible) -- question.

MR. COOK: OK.

Q: Did the U.S. provide any intelligence such as targeting information that would have had any role in the Saturday air strike against the -- (inaudible) -- funeral home, funeral?

MR. COOK: No.

Q: (Inaudible)

MR. COOK: No. No. As I said, our advice, the kind of guidance that has been provided to the Saudis has been on the conduct of the air campaign and how to improve and address concerns about civilian casualties and how they -- how civilian casualties could be limited. So we played no role whatsoever.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: (inaudible) -- aerial refueling.

MR. COOK: We've provided aerial refueling in the past.

Q: Did we provide aerial refueling on that strike?

MR. COOK: No. no.

Q: Peter, on Mosul, we are frequently updated by the coalition about the military preparations for retaking Mosul. But I wonder to what extent is Secretary Carter concerned about -- (inaudible) that should -- that might erupt after Daesh defeated -- (inaudible) -- in Mosul?

MR. COOK: The secretary has spoken extensively (inaudible). I think you know about how important it is, that given the central focus on this one enemy that we all share in Iraq and Syria -- that being ISIL. That needs to remain the focus and tensions that are there, it's a complicated picture in Iraq and in Syria. That those tensions -- it's important to keep the focus on ISIL and that efforts need to be made to try and address concerns about sectarian issues. It's one thing -- one reason he's spoken so often about the prime minister's efforts to make sure that sectarian strife is not something that follows in Iraq.

That's what led to ISIL in the first place. And so I think the secretary certainly feels confident that this is a conversation he's -- that he and Prime Minister Abadi have spoken -- discussed at length, and that he feels that Prime Minister Abadi and others have taken significant steps to try and address some of those concerns going into Mosul, because it's important on the day after that the people of Mosul and the people of Iraq have a peaceful situation of better life to look forward to once ISIL is removed.

Q: Turkish -- Turkish president the other day said that those post-ISIS sectarian feuds might leave the region in blood and fire in case of this kind of eruption. To what extent is secretary or this department is speaking to the partners in the region, allies in the region like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and as well other allies?

MR. COOK: I think this is a regular conversation. As you know, we talk all the time with our partners. Our State Department colleagues are engaged on a regular basis, talking about the issues, the diplomatic issues that need to follow afterwards.

So this is a constant conversation. This is a coalition that's been very focused on ISIL, understanding that there are complications in the region and one of the jobs of the United States as a leader of that coalition is to try and address some of those concerns and tensions. And I can assure you, Secretary Carter has done his best to try and manage some of those issues and so have our commanders in the field.

And I know that our diplomats, and I won't speak for my State Department colleagues, but this has been an active area of conversation, as you know.

Yes? Let me go to Carlo and then I'll ping-pong back and forth.

Q: Peter, I just wanted to follow up on Barbara's question about the capabilities of whoever pulled the trigger on these missile shots, whether or not they're able to positively identify U.S. ships, Emirati ships, and that sort of thing.

You said the department is still looking into those types of capabilities, if they're still out there. But you also mentioned that you're positive that the target was the Mason, not the Ponce, or any other ship that was in the region.

MR. COOK: What my point on that is the Mason, the crew determined a threat. And whether or not that missile, and I don't know exactly what kind of missile it was. I don't know all the capabilities. Others can speak to that.

What I know and what the crew on board knew is that that was a threat to the ship and they took the action that they needed to take at that time to protect themselves. And we have subsequently taken additional action to reduce the threat not only to the Mason, but to our ships and other ships in that area.

Q: So the confidence you have in the Mason being the specific target of this attack is based on the crew members' response, not because of whatever -- (inaudible) -- that was used --

MR. COOK: They determined there was a threat, and in-bound threat. They responded accordingly. And the good news is that that threat did not materialize. It was dealt with and it didn't hit the ship. And that's good news.

Q: And one quick follow up on Mosul.

There have been comments made out on the campaign trail about how planning for the eventual assault is in some ways telegraphing those movements to the enemy. I was wondering if the department can have any comment on that at all.

MR. COOK: So, I have to sort of chuckle at this, that if we don't answer questions about movements, we're not being transparent, (inaudible) just a joke.

Listen, I think the Prime Minister Abadi and the Iraqis have spoken to this at length. It's no surprise to people that we are going after Mosul, that the coalition is, the Iraqis are, the Iraqis are leading this effort. We're not going to reveal details about how that's going to be carried out. The Iraqis to their credit aren't going to do that as well. But, nobody should be surprised by the notion that the fight for Mosul is close and that we have every intention working with our local partners on the ground and the coalition of achieving that goal as soon as possible.

Joe?

Q: The same context about Mosul, if the tensions between Turkey and Iraq are not resolved, are you concerned that the plans to retake the city might be delayed -- might be affected to a certain point?

MR. COOK: Joe, it's a hypothetical let's -- we think it's appropriate for the government of Iraq and the government of Turkey to address these -- these issues directly to resolve them in a diplomatic fashion. We certainly encourage both sides to do that and we think the -- the goal for -- for everyone again is to remove ISIL from Mosul. We all share that goal, and we certainly hope that other issues won't deter from that effort.

Thomas, Matt and then I've got to run.

Q: Will -- (inaudible) -- be meeting with President Obama tomorrow to talk about possible military options in Syria beyond OIR?

MR. COOK: I don't have a schedule update for you right now.

Matt?

Q: Do you guys have any assessment of civilian casualties from the strikes overnight in Yemen, any sense of whether there were any?

MR. COOK: Matt, my understanding is the strikes were successful and the reporting I've seen so far indicates we have no indication of civilian casualty.

Q: The missiles that were fired on Sunday and on Wednesday, are those -- can they be effectively fired without radar guidance? Without the radar's end use?

MR. COOK: I don't know the answer to that question, Matt. I can only imagine not being someone who operates radars or missiles myself, that those radar installations if nothing else, could improve the performance of -- of missiles. And that in this instance, it was determined by the professionals within the Department of Defense and certainly our folks in central command who assess the situation that those installations did play a specific role in the targeting process in support of those strikes. And that by eliminating those installations, by targeting them in the way we did, we would reduce that threat.

Q: And were all three active during all of the strikes or was it like one active in this one, another active or another one?

MR. COOK: I don't have the specific answer to that question. We believe they've all played a role in the recent strikes, whether or not they were all on at the same time, I can't speak to that.

Q: (inaudible) -- any rebel casualties -- (inaudible) -- civilian casualties, were there any casualties?

MR. COOK: I'm not aware at this time of casualties. I know that the initial assessment we got was these strikes were successful and it happened at four in the morning and I'm not aware of casualties as a result.

But our assessment (inaudible) is still ongoing and its something we'll continue to look at as we continue to carefully monitor that coastline and of course threats to U.S. forces.

So with that, one final note -- a schedule note. The secretary will be a guest tonight on "Late Night with Seth Meyers." He appreciates the invitation, particularly appreciative of the fact that the show and Seth have been kind enough to invite a number of service members to attend.

That shows at the Warner Theater tonight. So, tune in if you want to catch it. And thanks again.

Welcome to all the Medill students. Appreciate you all being here. And enjoy your visit to the Pentagon.

Thanks, everyone.

-END-

http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/973367/



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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias