Washington, DC–(ENEWSFP)–June 27, 2014.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: Afternoon, everybody. I don’t have any announcements today, but I do want to note that today’s the last day for two of our stalwart reporters here in the Pentagon, Mathieu Rabechault from AFP (Agence France-Presse) and Pauline Jelinek from the Associated Press.
I know I’m speaking not just for the secretary, but for all the public affairs officers that work in the building when I say how much we appreciate the professionalism of both of these reporters, the hard work that they’ve done in the time they’ve been covering what is a challenging and dynamic beat to cover, for sure. Pauline got here right after 9/11. She’s been with the AP for 35 years and she got here right after 9/11. And if you think about what has gone on in this building and around the world since 9/11 for the United States military, it’s an incredible breath of experiences and — and events, and for somebody to be with it for that long.
And I always remember, she was the first person that I would see every morning, that shock of hair of hers, and the only person that could ask you a question and laugh at the same time. But just a terrific reporter and a great pro, and I’m going to miss her.
And same for you, Mathieu. Mathieu got here in the fall of ’10, right, 2010? So he jumped in, and before you knew it, we were — we were engaged in operations in Libya. And, you know, really, I’m sure a steep learning curve, but he handled it — as he handles everything else, and has since then with such grace at a gentlemanly demeanor. I mean, he is a true gentleman. And I know I’m going to miss you, and I know everybody else will, too. Plus, you come up with great wine recommendations on the road, so… (Laughter.)
But thanks for everything you do. And I know, you know, hardship redeployment back to Paris, where you’ll be covering, I guess, domestic issues, which can be, as I understand from Googling around today, just as combative as anything you cover here in the Pentagon. So — but thanks for what you do and what you’ve done here, and we wish you and Pauline all the best, as you move forward. Thank you.
And with that… (Applause.) Yes, round of applause. And since Pauline has decided she’s moving to Florida, I’m thinking sunscreen, Birkenstocks, knee-high socks, those are all the kinds of appropriate farewell gifts. She’s not here. But I am told she’s listening.
All right. With that, I’ll start taking questions. Yeah, David?
Q: So we were talking before you came in and we’re confused. Who does Army Major General Dana Pittard report to?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: He is — as I understand, he’s the deputy commander of the Army Central Command. And I don’t — I’ll have to refer you to Central Command for the exact line diagram, but he is — he’s taking over this job from his deputy position in Army — Army Central Command. So his chain of command will be through — up through Central Command’s authorities, but I don’t know the exact diagram, so we’ll have to get that for you.
Q: Is he forward in Baghdad?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t know if he’s forward in Baghdad, but I — I’ll have to get back to you on that. I don’t know exactly where he’s located. I’ll have to get back to you.
Q: I was told that requests for interviews with him have to go through the chief of mission in Baghdad.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Okay.
Q: It sounds like…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’ll have to get back to you on that. I don’t have the visibility on his exact line diagram. So is that a question or a complaint that you…
Q: It’s both.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Oh. (Laughter.)
Fair enough. Joe, you had your hand up.
Q: (OFF-MIC) on that, too. All of the people who — who are assigned to the JOC (joint operations center), all of the servicemembers, if they also are falling under both the embassy and the chief of mission.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Okay, let me take the question for the record, because I really just don’t have that level of detail in terms of their reporting requirements, but I’ll get back to you on that.
Q: Few questions, three quick questions.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: A few.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Hey, man, I don’t want to see your hand up the rest of the time.
Q: Okay, I promise. First one on Syria, do you have any details, any information you could share — share them with us about the $500 million to arm the moderate Syrian opposition? What kind of weapons or military assistance are you planning to provide them?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Okay, do you want to just go one by one? You want to start with that one? Okay. So — so — all right, so the first — the big answer is that we’re still working through the details of exactly how that money would be apportioned for a train and equip mission, but I think it’s important to remind everybody, first of all, this is a fiscal year ’15 request that still needs to be approved by Congress. So we’re grateful that the request went over. The secretary made — as I made clear in my statement last night, he urges Congress to approve this request, but he’s also at the same time directed his staff to start figuring out the — the details of exactly how we would spend that — and apportion that $500 million, but we’re just not there yet.
So I can’t give you any specificity with — with regard to exactly how every dollar is going to go. But it’s — but we believe it’s a — it, as well as the rest of the counterterrorism partnership fund, is going to be a really important enabler for us to get at this challenge.
Q: Are you concerned that this assistance might end up into the hands for ISIS, for example?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, again, we’re just now putting the details together on how we’re going to apportion this money. We’re always concerned about the wrong stuff ending up in the wrong hands. But that doesn’t mean that you — that you stop the effort to try to enable and build the capacity of partners in a very tough part of the world. You don’t just turn it off because there’s a risk that, you know — that some of it may fall into the wrong hands. We’re always concerned about that, of course. And we do meter and measure some of the assistance we give based on those — those risks, but — again, we’re going to work through this. We’ll make sure that we do this in the most responsible way possible.
Q: (OFF-MIC) confirm that armed drones are flying over Baghdad in order to protect the embassy?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: What I would tell you is that we continue to fly both manned and unmanned aircraft over Iraq at the Iraq — Iraqi government’s request, predominantly for reconnaissance purposes. Some of those aircraft are armed. The reason that some of those aircraft are armed is primarily for force protection reasons now that we have introduced into the country some military advisers whose objective will be to operate outside the confines of the embassy.
I would also tell you that we — we get paid to plan and prepare. The president has made no decisions about the use of kinetic force, but it would be irresponsible for us not to be planning, preparing and thinking and to be ready in case he should make that decision. But the primary reason that some of the aircraft flying over Iraq is armed is for force protection purposes, okay?
Q: Thank you, Admiral. Wanted to ask you a couple questions about Abu Khattala. Can you tell us when and where he’s going to touch down in Washington, D.C.? We’re hearing it’s over the weekend. Is it Saturday night? And can you comment on the interrogation process so far? Has it been successful? Can you describe it in any way?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Nope, I can’t help you on either of those questions. You’ve really got to go to the Justice Department on this.
Q: But he is in military hands, obviously.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, he’s not. He’s in — he’s in the custody of law enforcement personnel. And all the proceedings regarding Abu Khattala are being handled by the Justice Department. You’ve got to go to them.
Q: On the bigger picture of Abu Khattala, there are allegations from intelligence forces and special operators in the region that Khattala was low on the list of about 20 or so suspects who were engaged in the Benghazi terror attack. How do you respond to those accusations that this was sort of low-hanging fruit?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: He was a — we believe — and gathered the evidence to support the notion that he was a key figure in the Benghazi attacks. And based on that evidence and that information, and a painstaking process of gathering not just the evidence, but the intelligence necessary to get him, we got him. And now he’s off the streets.
It’s funny. You know, when — within an hour of us saying that we got him, the questions we were getting, “Well, why did it take so long? And how could this very dangerous guy be sipping mango juice at a cafe and you guys couldn’t pick him up?” And now we’re getting asked, “Well, wasn’t he just low-hanging fruit and why does it matter?”
He matters. We believe we’ve got a strong case. And that case now needs to be taken to court and he needs to face justice.
Q: Are you actively pursuing more suspects?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We actively pursue counterterrorism efforts all over the world.
Q: I know, but in regards to the Benghazi attack?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not going to talk about operations that — that may or may not happen in the future. We pursue counterterrorism efforts all around the world.
Q: Admiral, could I follow up? You said he was a key leader. How many key leaders do you think were involved in the Benghazi attack?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t have — I don’t have the inventory. We believe there certainly were more than one. We believe that he was a key figure in the — in the effort.
Q: You said you have intelligence, though. Can you give a sense of what — in what way…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I’m not going to discuss intelligence matters here from the podium. You know I can’t do that, Nancy. I mean — and I don’t see how that’s helpful, anyway. Even if I could do it, why would we want to talk publicly about counterterrorism efforts, particularly efforts that haven’t actually been executed yet?
I mean, let’s — I mean, we got — let’s remember the key, most important fact is, he’s on his way to a courtroom where he will face justice for crimes we believe that he committed that led to the — to the death of four Americans. I mean, let’s not lose sight of the big picture here.
He’s not sipping mango juice anymore on a cafe in Benghazi. He’s on his way to court. That’s what’s really important here.
Q: Admiral, you said in answer to Joe’s question that this is fiscal ’15 money, it wouldn’t start rolling until later this year, if, in fact, Congress agrees to appropriate it. Is this department going to do anything in the nearer term, as in today, this week, next week, to change the situation on the ground in Syria? And is there a fallback plan if Congress doesn’t agree to this $500 billion fund the way it probably will not agree to the $25 billion Security Growth and Opportunity initiative that was part of the budget this year?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of actions that Congress may or may not take. As I said last night, the secretary urges Congress to — to approve this request. It is — it is the request for fiscal year ’15. There’s a process. That process is ongoing. And the secretary looks forward to working with the Congress through that process.
Obviously, we — we would like to see this get approved for very good reasons. And if you looked at the fact sheet, we’ve laid it all out there, how this money is going to be — in terms of the big categories, how it’s going to be broken out. So I believe we’ve made a substantial argument for why this is an important request.
And as for Syria, I mean, the United States continues to work on efforts in Syria. It is primarily through the State Department and — and that’s — that’s where we are now, humanitarian assistance. But as — as I noted last night, a key part of this overseas contingency operation request that we submitted is — would allow for money to be spent for DOD training and equipping of a moderate opposition.
That opposition, mind you, still has to be vetted. I mean, there’s a lot of work that would still have to be done, even if we got the money today. So I don’t want to — we shouldn’t put the cart before the horse here. There’s a lot of work that — a lot of spade work that has to be done on our part, certainly, you know, work that the Congress will need to do to go through the authorization and appropriation process. And we just need to let that continue.
Q: Want to ask about the landmine decision. The folks in this building have expressed concerns that signing onto that could put the military and the troops at a disadvantage. Is that still the military’s position here? And are you concerned about how that will be implemented going forward?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: There was a robust discussion of the national security team on this — on this policy that was announced this morning. The senior civilian and military leadership here in the Pentagon fully supports the policy that was announced this morning about the decision not to acquire or produce any more anti-personnel landmines.
Concomitant with that decision, there is an ongoing review which remains ongoing, which we continue to support, and a modeling and simulation effort that will help all of us determine how best to relegate — mitigate, sorry, the risk of — of no longer having anti-personnel landmines in the inventory.
So they remain part of the inventory right now. We’re just not going to acquire or produce anymore. But there is full support by senior civilian and military leadership in the building for this new policy, and Secretary Hagel is at the top of that list. He’s fully supportive of this.
Q: (OFF-MIC) review and how long is that supposed to take?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The ongoing review — it’s an interagency process. The Pentagon is a part of that effort.
Q: Nouri al-Maliki is quoted as saying the U.S. is slow-rolling F-16 sales to Iraq and that, because of that, he’s going to buy a bunch of used Russian fighter jets. One, do you have a reaction to the comments about the slow-rolling, the assertion that the U.S. is slow-rolling the sale? And, secondly, what are the broader implications of Iraq buying Russian aircraft?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, there’s been no slow-rolling. We’ve — I’ve said it from here for the last several months that the first deliveries, the first two were scheduled to be delivered in the fall. It’s June — the end of June right now. So I don’t know how one can make the case that we’re slow-rolling it when — when they weren’t even supposed to be delivered for another few months. We’re still committed to the program. We’re still committed to the sale. And the process continues to churn, even given the unrest in Iraq.
Now, make no mistake: The unrest and the violence going on in Iraq has affected some of the — some of the efforts there on the ground. As you know — and we talked about this before — Balad airfield, where much of the preparatory work was happening, in terms of logistics, parts, technicians, stuff that was starting to flow in, to be — to — in preparation for the delivery has been now — has been diverted because of the uncertainty and the violence on the ground, those contractors had to be moved out of Balad airfield.
So, you know, clearly, that effort on the ground in Iraq has been disrupted by the violence in Iraq, not by any decisions here in Washington.
Q: Admiral, back to the drones over Iraq, did — have there been — the ones that are armed, were they added or were they swapped out? Because my understanding is that there were high — high-altitude assets over Iraq to begin with. So if they were swapped out, that means you swapped out the type of intelligence that you’re gathering. So I just want to figure out, did you swap or did you add?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, I think — you’re couching this as some sort of binary effort. And when we first started to intensify ISR over Iraq more than a week ago, it was, almost at the outset, it was a mix of capabilities. I mean, we were pretty good about making sure we’ve got redundant capabilities wherever we’re operating. And so there was a mix of both manned and unmanned back then. There’s a mix of manned and unmanned right now.
So it’s not that we swapped something out for something else. It’s just that with the introduction now of additional U.S. personnel in an advisory capacity designed to go outside the embassy confines that the commander on the ground, Central Command commander, believed it was prudent to arm some of these aircraft and make sure that we have additional force protection measures in place. But it’s not about swapping out platforms.
Q: So you added drones, is what you’re saying? You added to whatever mix you’ve got going on there? I just don’t want to mistake…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: All our — almost all our aircraft used for ISR purposes can be armed, not…
Q: (OFF-MIC) the high-altitude assets, like Global Hawks, they can’t be armed just yet. So you had to add something or swap it out. I’m just trying to figure out which it is.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I don’t think we had to add anything. I mean, you — many of our aircraft can be armed, and they can be flown armed or unarmed. And so we’re still flying — last week, I got up here and I said, hey, we’re flying around 30 to 35 flights a day. That’s about where we stay. We’re still providing the ISR coverage that we were. It’s just that some of the aircraft are armed, and for the purposes I said.
It’s not — it’s not about swapping — it’s not an additive — it’s not an airframe addition. It’s just changing the mix a little bit.
Q: Okay. So it’s not an airframe addition. You changed the mix. I’m confused, because we changed the mix, you sort of implied that you’ve added in new aircraft. But if you say you haven’t changed the airframe, that implies that you — can you just — none of what you’re saying is making sense to me. You’re not saying that you added; you’re not saying that you swapped. I’m just asking you to choose.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: But I’m — what I’m saying is we don’t have to — I don’t think we have to — there doesn’t have to be a choice here. We are still flying ISR missions over Iraq, still to the tune of 30 to 35 flights a day, and it goes up and it goes down, I mean, but that’s a rough average.
As we now have introduced personnel on the ground in an advisory capacity, an assessment capacity, the purpose for which will be to go embed at higher headquarters down to the brigade level with Iraqi security forces, so outside the embassy confines. We believed it was prudent to allow some of those flights, some of the 30 to 35, to be armed for the purposes of force protection.
I’m not — there’s not a — the choice that was made was, do we arm some of these aircraft or do we not? And the choice was made to arm some of them.
Q: Okay. So maybe we can take this in a different direction. If you chose to arm the aircraft, does that mean that you didn’t have high-altitude assets there to begin with?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not going to talk about the mix. We have been — since the beginning, we have flown a mix of aircraft and airframes, some manned, some unmanned, and I’m not, and I said then and I’ll say it again, I’m not going to get into the particular airframes and the operating systems involved here. It’s not relevant. What matters is that we’re continuing to provide useful ISR over the country, information that we’re sharing with the Iraqi security forces to the best we can, and that we’re using ourselves to help in our assessment.
Q: Well, I — I think it’s relevant, because you change the type of capabilities when you change the type of aircraft, but I do understand that you can’t talk about…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We didn’t change the type of aircraft. You’re making an assumption that because some aircraft are — because we’re arming some, that all of a sudden there’s a whole new inventory here.
Q: No, that’s what I was asking…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: But I’m — but that’s what I’m saying. You know, it’s a mix of aircraft. And, yeah, the mix changes from day to day. I’m not — but I’m not sure why that is — you know, why that should be all that surprising.
Q: Can I ask you about the JOC (OFF-MIC)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Sure.
Q: (OFF-MIC) the JOC in Baghdad. Do you have any more specifics about — is it physically at the embassy where the individuals working and the advisers — have any of the advisers flown in or gone in the past week or so, have any of them moved outside Baghdad yet? Are they all still there?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The whole purpose of the initial six teams was to work in and around Baghdad. And so that’s where they’re focusing their efforts, is in and around Baghdad. The joint operations center, the one in Baghdad, has been established and is working. There are still resourcing and staffing decisions that I’m sure they’re making. But that’s why we flew those extra personnel over the last couple of days out there, to help stand that up. And I understand that that establishment is ongoing and proceeding apace.
I will go so far as to say this first one is in Baghdad, but I’m not going to talk about the specific location. I think you can understand why giving the street address of — of that would probably not be a useful thing to do.
Q: (OFF-MIC) on the embassy grounds?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not going to talk about where it is. I’m just going to say that it is in Baghdad.
Q: (OFF-MIC) I mean (OFF-MIC)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It’s in Baghdad, and that’s as far as I’ll go.
Q: And then…
Q: Go ahead.
Q: Well, I have a different subject, so if you want to go on this.
Q: Have the — have the advisers gone out yet, regardless of whether — where the — the JOC is located, have they gone out to Iraqi units down to the brigade level?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: They are working through that process now. I don’t have a tick-tock of exactly where they’ve been today, but I know they’re working aggressively to get themselves at the higher headquarters level. I just don’t have the details on exactly where they are today.
And even — and, again, I mean, we’re not going to get into everybody’s specific location. I think you can all understand why force protection matters and we’re — and operational security matters, too, here, so we’re going to be very careful about detailing their exact whereabouts at any given time.
Q: You don’t have to give us an address of a brigade headquarters (OFF-MIC) tell us that they’re out doing what you said they were going to do.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Right. And I know that they’re working hard towards that process right now.
Q: Can I ask one more on the — on (OFF-MIC) has there been — I know a week or so ago, we were told that you guys were going to accelerate the deployment of supplies, weapons, whatever to the Iraqis. Has that actually happened yet, the sales of…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, I mean, we have continued to provide…
Q: Have you specifically accelerated, as we were told two weeks ago?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think I have a summary here somewhere. I thought I had something. Well, I can’t find it now. We have — oh, here it is. I’m sorry. So we’re in the process now of a delivery of an additional 200 Hellfire missiles that — that case has been moving forward, 200 Hellfires. They should arrive sometime mid-July. Another sale of more than 600 Hellfire missiles is in execution right now, with a delivery of most of them expected by the end of July.
And I’m told right here, two shifts of Lockheed Martin contractors are actually working at full capacity right now to modify and test these missiles and get them on their way. We have received a letter from Iraq asking for another 800, and we’re processing that as we speak.
So just in the delivery of Hellfires, there’s been quite a bit of movement. There’s been other requests for small arms and ammunition, rifles, grenades, flares, and those are all being worked on as fast as possible right now, as well. So, yes, there’s a lot of energy being applied to this.
Q: Has anything arrived?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah. Well, there’s been 300 Hellfire missiles delivered just since the beginning of this year.
Q: Those were…
Q: Scheduled, right?
Q: … before the Iraqis said they were (OFF-MIC)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’ve given you the laydown as I got it right here, so there’s things on the way. We’re doing this as fast as we can.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Huh?
Q: That’s expedited, right?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: These are all being expedited and worked as fast as possible, yes.
Q: (OFF-MIC) ISR aircraft, armed ones…where are they based?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not going to get into specific basing, Craig.
Q: Is it safe to assume that not all are taking off from Navy ships?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think it’s safe to assume they’re not all taking off from Navy ships, but I’m not going to get into specifics of where they’re flying out of.
Q: Is that for security reasons or sensitivities of host nations?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think it’s for both. I think — look, we have basing agreements with the various countries in the region and we try to respect those agreements and — and, again, I — while an interesting factoid not relevant to the mission that we’re performing, which is to get eyes on over Iraq. So we’re not going to get into the details of where they’re coming from.
Q: There was a report about the reduction of ISR flights over Nigeria today. I wondered if you could characterize or tell us if it’s accurate for us to characterize if that was a separate policy decision or was it related to the need for more ISR over Iraq currently?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Let me start from a higher level point, which is we continue to support aggressive efforts to try to find these girls that were kidnapped from Nigeria by Boko Haram. Since the initial surge of effort, we have been joined by more coalition partners in that effort. And those capabilities have now been integrated to a much higher degree than they were before. And so I think the burden-sharing has more leveled out now.
So are we flying exactly as many flights as we were at the outset? No. But the same level of effort is being sustained now internationally by everybody. So the same effort is being applied, same eyes are over. We don’t have any better idea today than we did before about where these girls are, but there’s been no letup of the effort itself.
Q: But that being said, like, is it at all accurate or fair to draw a connection between the significantly increased demand over Iraq for ISR and the decreased — you know, this announced decrease…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not aware of any — no.
Q: (OFF-MIC) ISR flights?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No. The reason why — the reason why the U.S.-specific effort in Nigeria or in that — out of Chad has changed is more because we’ve been able to integrate the capabilities of other nations and, quite frankly, and you know this, Gordon — I mean, ISR is at a premium in Africa, too. And some of those resources had to be taken off of other missions in Africa to assist in this effort, so it has allowed us to free up some of those resources for other missions in Africa. I’m not aware of any connection or link or tie to the efforts with Iraq and Nigeria. Does that answer your question?
Q: Admiral Kirby, I just wanted to clarify something about the landmine review. Is the U.S. government considering getting rid of all of its landmines sometime in the next couple years? I mean, what kind of timeframe are you looking at?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The policy says we’re not going to acquire or produce any more anti-personnel landmines. So the stockpiles that we have will stay in stockpile status, in an inventory status. But they’re not — we’re not going to buy any more. We’re not going to produce any more.
And I would also — I think it’s important to note, there are no anti-personnel landmines that the U.S. has deployed anywhere.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: So they are — they are all in inventory and they will stay. And that’s where they will stay.
Q: There aren’t any in Korea? I’m a little…
Q: Wasn’t that the big issue, the reason that the U.S. didn’t originally want to sign the Ottawa treaty, was because it would require getting rid of the landmines along the DMZ in Korea (OFF-MIC)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not an expert on the Ottawa convention. I think what we — the secretary supports the humanitarian objectives of the Ottawa convention. And as you saw this morning, the policy decision was made, was — you know, to work towards eventual accession to that convention, which, again, the secretary supports. I’m not an expert on every clause in it.
Q: I mean, basically, what I’m asking is, are you considering removing all of the landmines from Korea?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: You’ll have to — we don’t have any minefields of landmines anywhere deployed in the world. So to the degree that anti-personnel landmines are being used in Korea, that’s a question for the Korean government to answer and not the United States government.
To your — was that Mark? Was that you? We have an active stockpile of just over 3 million anti-personnel mines in the inventory.
Q: (OFF-MIC) shelflife?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: They do. We anticipate that they will start to decline in their ability to be used about — starting in about 10 years. And in 10 years after that, they’ll be completely unusable.
Q: Admiral, do you have any update for RIMPAC?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I know the exercise just started. I don’t have an update for you. I’d point you to the Pacific Fleet and Pacific Command. We’re real excited about this year’s exercise, of course.
Q: (OFF-MIC) General Dempsey is heading over there over the weekend. Is that true?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I — I’d point you to his staff on his travel arrangements. I don’t have visibility on that.
Q: Back to Iraq?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q: Just one question. Beyond the up to 300 advisers sent to assist the Iraqi security forces, do you envision sending some advisers to the Peshmergas in Kurdistan as one of the most competent forces over there?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, as the president said, I mean, one of the — one of the joint operations centers will be in northern Iraq. As far as I know, there’s been no final decision yet about location. But I think it’s our expectation that — that Peshmerga forces, as well as — as well as ISF forces, would be contributing to that — to that overall effort.
But I don’t have — I don’t have an exact location or an establishment date right now. We’re focused on the one in Baghdad right now.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Having them embedded in – I don’t know. We just haven’t reached that level of decision-making yet, Mathieu. Right now, the focus is on assessing — remember, these first six teams are assessment teams. They’re not doing advise and assist missions just yet, and they’re doing it at higher headquarters level there in and around Baghdad. They’re — the whole — as I said before, one of the reasons that we want these teams on the ground is to give us good recommendations about follow-on advisory teams on where they should go, who they should be embedded with, and where they should be operating.
Q: Do you not expect more people — more of these advisers to start flowing in until the two- or three-week time period of these assessment teams? So pretty much what’s there right now is going to be the force…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: That’s the way it looks right now, Courtney. I mean, it’s a fluid situation, but right now, it looks like that’s probably going to be it for a little while, while these — get these guys on the ground, let them come back to us with some — you know, their thoughts, recommendations, that kind of thing.
Q: Admiral, on landmines, is General Dempsey onboard with the — with the White House decision? Because some of the Republicans on the Hill are citing things he said in the past in which he was against it.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m going to refrain from speaking for General Dempsey. I’m not his spokesman. But as I said in my original answer on this, that the senior civilian and military leadership of this department support fully this policy decision. But I would point you to Colonel Thomas and the public affairs staff for the chairman to speak specifically for him. I won’t do that, Phil.
Q: (OFF-MIC) clarifications. On (OFF-MIC) Nigeria, can you say when the U.S. has started scaling back the number of flights? Was it a month after the start of the ISR mission? And on Syria, with the training money, when that budget was put together — and I don’t know if you can discuss numbers — but was there a target number of how many forces could be trained within the fiscal year that was used to get — to build that number?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: On your first question, let me just push back a little bit on the presumption, the scaling back. The effort still remains a high-intensity effort. It’s just that it’s — there’s more help involved than we had at the outset. So we’re not scaling back.
There’s — there’s a little less U.S. involvement, but that doesn’t mean the effort is being scaled back or the search isn’t still important to everybody. And I don’t have an exact date on the calendar when those — I suspect those decisions were made over a period of weeks, as more help became available and — and areas that we were searching in, we didn’t need to search in anymore, because we were able to sort of, you know, rule those out to some degree.
So the character of the search has changed, as all search operations change over time. I don’t — so I don’t think anybody can peg a date certain to you on that.
On your other question, I would be careful drawing, you know, a bold line between the dollar figure and number of troops or the dollar figure and a certain amount of you pick the type of supplies they’re going to get. We believe that it’s an appropriate figure for us to begin to start looking and planning and providing the details towards a train-and-equip mission.
There’s been no decisions made about where or exactly how many. What we’ve got to do first — first of all, we — the money needs to be appropriated. But in the meantime, what we’ve got to do is take a look at how we would do this, and that’s what we’re working through right now. That’s what the secretary directed the staff, is how would we now apportion this money in the most efficient and effective manner, to include how would you vet, properly vet moderate opposition fighters? And that’s what we’re working on right now.
Q: The Pentagon has experience doing this over the recent past, first with the Iraqis and then the Afghan national security forces. So you’ve got pretty good granularity about what it bought with certain dollars in those cases. Can you give us a ballpark about what $500 million means in terms of people or units or capabilities?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I can’t. I can’t. That’s what the secretary has directed the staff to do right now. And, you know, your two examples were — you know, they were state — you know, state armies, state security forces, security forces that we’ve been working with for a while and that we knew the character of.
We’re talking about — this isn’t a state army. It’s helping train and equip a moderate opposition, and that’s a very different thing than an army in a uniform, you know, being paid by its government. It’s a very different thing.
Q: (OFF-MIC) at the same context, does the Pentagon see any priority (OFF-MIC) moderate Syrian opposition in case they receive the U.S. assistance, should focus its fight against ISIS, instead of (OFF-MIC) fighting the Assad regime?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think the whole purpose of trying to work with a moderate opposition is to — is to work for the Iraq — or the Syrian people and against a brutal regime. But clearly, ISIL poses a like threat. But this is about the moderate opposition, an opposition to the Assad regime.
Q: Thank you (inaudible) already know that (inaudible) North Korea (inaudible) South Korea (inaudible) South Korea (inaudible) today (inaudible) what is your comment (inaudible)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I would say the same thing we have said repeatedly, that North Korea should pay more attention to feeding its people than to provocative actions that do nothing to advance security and stability on the Korean peninsula.
I got time for one more.
Q: Italy question?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Italy.
Q: The secretary met with his Italian counterpart this morning, correct?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: He did, yes.
Q: There’s a report that an Italian counterpart was going to ask for more work-share on the F-35 program. Did that issue come up? And what was Secretary Hagel’s response if it did?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The F-35 absolutely did come up. I won’t get into every detail of what they discuss, but — and I won’t speak for the Italian government, but it was clear that they are still working their way through. How they’re going to — how they’re going to build their air fleet for the future and considering the role of the JSF in there and — you know, the secretary obviously expressed our support for continuing to help them do that. But I won’t go into the exact details.
Q: Did he express (OFF-MIC) World Cup loss?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t think they talked about soccer very much.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: But — you know, he did — but he did thank them — I know you guys are — I didn’t get a question about it, but you’re tracking it — the Cape Ray is on its way to a port in Italy, so he did thank the Italians for their support for providing a port where we can transship the chemical materials from the Danish ship Ark Futura to the Cape Ray. We expect that transshipment to occur in about the middle of next week, so he did express his thanks for their effort there. I don’t think they talked about soccer.