Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—October 15, 2014.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: And with that, I’ll start taking questions. Actually, I don’t have an opening statement, so, Bob, what do you got?
Q: I’ll ask you about the situation in Kobani area the last two days.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Sure.
Q: CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] has said 18 airstrikes over — well, 18 plus 21, large number of airstrikes over the last two days. What — what has — why have you been focused so much on that if it’s not a strategic location? And what has been the actual practical effect in recent days of these strikes?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, good questions. Let’s see if I can break this down for you. First of all, nothing’s changed about the focus and the attention that we have lent to Kobani and to the threat ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] still poses in and around Kobani. We’ve been watching this for a long time. We’ve been conducting strikes for a long time.
But there’s a few reasons why you have seen more strikes in the last couple of days. One of them is, frankly, there’s more ISIL in and around Kobani. We believe that the great majority of the population of that town has evacuated and left, and we — it ranges every day, but it’s in the realm of the hundreds or so of people left there.
Q: Per day, you mean?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: In Kobani. Huh?
Q: Hundreds per day?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Hundreds of — no, that there are only hundreds or so left in Kobani, sorry, citizens left there. It’s also — ISIL has made no secret of the fact that they want that town, and this is completely in line with what we’ve been saying before, that this was one of — these guys want to grab ground. They want territory. Kobani is a territory they want.
And so they have continued to flow fighters to Kobani, meaning there are more targets in and around Kobani. So one of the reasons why you’re seeing more strikes there is because there’s more ISIL there. We believe — and it’s hard to give an exact number — but we believe that we have killed several hundred ISIL fighters, again, in and around Kobani.
Number two, Bob, it’s also been a function of, quite frankly, the weather. The weather in central Iraq has not been overly conducive to air operations. And so Gen.eral Austin has had, as any combatant commander has, the flexibility to move his resources and assets around, so he has more resources and assets to apply to the — to the fight in and around Kobani.
But the principal reason is that there are just more ISIL there. And that’s a function of — you know, of what they’re trying to do. It doesn’t — it’s not meant to elevate the circumstances there at any higher strategic level than it’s been before.
I would also say — and I think it’s important for people to understand — Kobani could still fall. It could very well
Q: And did you clarify anything about across the border, what the arrangements are at this moment with our Turkish…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, as you know, Bob, we have a team — a DOD [Department of Defense] team, a combined team from European Command and Central Command that are in Ankara right now. I think this is day two of their — of their trip there. And they’re working closely with the Turkish military staff and authorities to work out more of the details on what contributions and specifically the kind of access that — that we might be able to receive from Turkey.
But they’re still working it. They haven’t — I’m not — I’m sure that we’ll get a report when they’re done, but I have nothing more to say about it today.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: PhBill?
Q: Thanks, Admiral. Kurdish officials have told Reuters that YPG fighters are giving coordinates for airstrikes to the U.S.-led coalition, could you talk a (off mic) bit about whether or not that’s helping inform targeting right now, whether that’s led to some of these latest strikes?
And also, on the situation in Anbar, what is your confidence that the U.S. coalition — the coalition is losing ground to IS [Islamic State] in Anbar?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: On your first question, I don’t have anything for you on that in terms of — I just don’t have any details to announce or speak to with respect to coordination on the — on the ground. We do know that the Kurdish militias there are fighting hard to keep the town and that we do believe that our airstrikes have helped them in that, that ISIL still threatens Kobani, but that they’re holding it — right now, we believe it’s still being defended and still — and still in their hands, the Kurdish militia.
It doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be pockets of Kobani that ISIL controls or temporarily has possession of. It’s a fluid situation. But by and large, our assessment today is that Kurdish militia still hold it. And again, I don’t have anything specific to talk about with respect to coordination.
On your question about Anbar, I would put it this way. And it’s not going to be too terribly different than the way I put it before. The situation in Anbar province remains contested. There are — there are pockets around Fallujah and Ramadi that ISIL still possess. And I would — and the word still is deliberate, because they’ve possessed territory there for quite some time. I know we’re all watching it very closely now, but it’s not like they haven’t been there before throughout the summer and into the early fall.
Likewise, there are parts of Anbar province that the Iraqi security forces are in control and are fighting for to either maintain or to re-obtain. A full third of the Iraqi security forces, the Iraqi army are stationed in al-Anbar. A full third. That’s not insignificant.
Now, again, it’s mixed, and it’s fluid, and it’s going to change from day to day the situation there. But I can tell you that Iraqi — the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the Iraqi security forces very well know what the threats are there, and they’re fighting. It’s — again, it’s a mixed picture.
Q: What would you say about Senator McCain’s assessment that IS, the Islamic State, is winning and that the U.S.-led coalition is not?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I’m not going to — I would just tell you that we believe that — let me put it this way. It’s going to be a long fight. It’s going to be difficult. There’s going to be setbacks. There’s going to be wins, and there’s going to be losses.
The — we’re mindful of the complicated nature of this. And we’re also very mindful of the fact that — and I’ve said it before — military power, military action is not going to be decisive in and of itself. It’s just not going to work that way.
But the situation changes every day. And so I’m not going to qualify who’s winning or who’s losing today. This is — this — the strategy is still sound, but you don’t judge the success of a strategy based on a day or a week or even several weeks.
We are — we believe — and we’ve said it before — that we’re in this — we all need to be in this for a matter of years. And for us after just a couple of months going at it, we’ve only been doing airstrikes since August 8th, to — to make a decisive, you know, statement that we’re winning or losing — well, I can tell you is that there are — there are areas where we are having success. We have definitely made it harder for ISIL to sustain itself and to operate. They are continuing to feel the pressure, which is one of the reasons why we think they’re going after Kobani so badly.
I mean, I think part of it is they really want a win, because they’re not getting a win everywhere. They are getting pressured inside Iraq. The Iraqi security forces are stiffening themselves around Baghdad, and Baghdad remains secure.
So it’s a mixed picture, Phil. I mean, I don’t mean to ramble, but it’s a mixed picture. And I don’t think it’s — I don’t think it’s militarily — because I can’t speak for, you know, other elements of the government, but, I mean, I’d say, from a military perspective, it does no one any service to try to, you know, make a call on any given day.
We know we’re having some success. We know we’re making progress. But it’s going to take a long time. And just as readily, I’ll say there’s going to be days, there’s going to be moments where we’re set back, and not just — and when I say we, I mean the big we, and not just the United States, but our coalition partners and — and that includes Iraqi security forces.
Q: First of all, on Bob and Phil’s question, and then another question. So you mentioned the weather in Anbar. Once that clears, do we think that we’ll see the possibility of the kind of intense strikes we’ve seen in Kobani in Anbar province in the places where IS is making an advance? And more broadly, is the focus on Kobani in part driven by attention, media attention and otherwise, onto — on that city? Or is it purely a military decision, given the presence of Islamic State forces there?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I think you can understand, Julian, that I’m not going to speculate about future operations. Yeah, the weather’s been a factor in central Iraq. It’s been a factor. I didn’t mean to suggest that it’s the factor. And as the weather improves, I think you’re going to continue that you’ll see continued pressure applied as appropriate and as we’re able to. But, again, I won’t forecast specific operations.
On your second question, absolutely not. To suggest that strikes have been ramped up around Kobani because of media coverage is — it’s ridiculous. It’s a ridiculous assertion, and it’s not true. We had been focused on company before cameras started showing up there.
We understand that this is an area that ISIL wants. And one of the goals in Syria — and I’ve said this before — is we’re trying to get at their safe haven and sanctuary. They want Kobani for some sort of safe haven and sanctuary. Exactly what, you’ll have to ask them, but we know they want it.
And as I said, the more they want it, the more resources they apply to it, the more targets we have to hit. And part of what we’re trying to do is put pressure on them, and the strikes against them and their positions in and around Kobani allow us to do that. And as I said, we know we’ve killed several hundred of them.
Again, this is about getting at their ability to sustain themselves. And I think it’s an important — you know, to remember — in this — they have had — they have enjoyed in early summer — they’ve enjoyed some lightning-fast success, no question about that. But there’s a shelf life on that. It’s not like they have — first of all, we’re taking away a lot of their logistical and sustainment capability, and it’s not like they have a whole heck of a lot of ability to reconstitute that.
They can, and I suspect — they’re an adaptive enemy and they’ll try to. But sustainment over the — in the long term, in the long term, that’s an important thing we’ve got to think about. It’s going to be very difficult for this group.
So you announced — or, rather, the chairman today announced that this operation would be called Inherent Resolve, which was a name rejected by the Pentagon a week ago as kind of boring or blah. Why did you come about and decide that Inherent Resolve was the right name for this operation?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t know who — I understand that some anonymous sources said that the name was rejected. I’m not aware of any overt decision made by leadership here in the Pentagon to reject the name. But it is — that’s the name. It’s out there. And that’s what we’re calling it, and now we’re moving forward.
Q: One quick question on current fighting, which is — has the U.S. taken any steps to reinforce Baghdad Airport? And then I’d like to ask you a question about this whole business with the chemical weapons.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, to your first question.
Q: Nothing’s on its way (off mic) or anything like that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I wouldn’t get ahead of announcements on deployments, but I am aware of no plans to reinforce U.S. troops or assets at the airport.
Q: The — does the Pentagon have an estimate on the number of service members exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq as a result of destroying caches of weapons?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Right now, our best — our best estimate is — it’s around 20 that we believe through that period, mid-2000s, 2010-2011, were exposed to material from chemical munitions.
Q: And do you have any evidence that any remaining chemical weapons has now come into the possession of ISIS?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No. We have no indications that — right now that they have possession of those kinds of munitions. I think, you know, earlier, several months ago, we talked about a munitions depot that — that we — we couldn’t rule out that they were in possession of, but we said at the time — and still maintain — that we believe that that material, A, was very corroded and very old, not that it’s not still toxic, but that it was — it had been definitely degraded over time in terms of its toxicity and that it would have been — we still believe it would be very, very difficult for them to kind of weaponize it. So — but, no, I haven’t seen any indications that they’re in possession of stocks like that.
Q: Can I follow on that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Sure.
Q: Were any of these injured U.S. troops denied treatment after being exposed to those chemical weapons or told not to talk about their injuries?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I can’t speak for what guidance or decisions their unit commanders or medical staff may have given them at the time. I just can’t. So I can’t answer your question, were any of them denied treatment or were any of them told not to talk about it? I just — I don’t know the answer to that. Those were decisions that were made at a local level.
What I can tell you is that — I can tell you, Secretary Hagel has high expectations for all leadership, medical and otherwise, that we’re going to give our troops the care and support that they need. And if errors were made, mistakes were made, his expectation is they’ll be rectified. But I’m not going to — I couldn’t and I wouldn’t go into the case of each one of these 17 soldiers.
Q: (off mic) but that not a decision, that’s abuse, is it not? I mean, who would be getting injury — who would be exposed to sarin gas and then say, “Let’s decide not to treat that”? I mean, that would be abuse, would it not?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t know what decisions were made with respect to each of those soldiers at the time, Justin. I just don’t have that level of detail. This happened a long time ago, and it was on an individual basis.
Q: Okay, so K (off mic)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: And the other thing I’d say is that the treatment they received on the battlefield was — was at the operational level, and the treatment that they are or are not receiving now is either for the V.A. [Veterans Affairs] or for the services to speak to.
We take — you know, we take any indication, any indication that a member of the armed services did not get the medical care that they deserve seriously, just like we take any indication that they didn’t get any other kinds of support that they deserved seriously.
Q: This medical review that you talked about, that was announced months ago, and you mentioned in the statement today. So are they looking into — is this medical review going to look back into these reports? Or is it already looking at these reports…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Neither. The medical health system review that the secretary ordered and was completed and we rolled out to you was not aimed at any particular case or cases. It was — it was a system-wide review about access and care, quality and safety. And we’ve already rolled out the details of that. That review is done. It’s complete. And it’s over.
Q: And so you’ve got new — a new review into these specific cases?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The secretary has not ordered a review into these specific cases detailed by the New York Times.
Q: So what — I’m sorry. So what is being done about it, then?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: What is being done about each of the…
Q: About the claims that these people were — suffered injuries and nothing was done about it?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: This is — the secretary’s expectation is that service members and their families are going to get the care and support that they need. And if they aren’t, he wants to make sure that leadership address that.
But we’re not going to be ordering from the Pentagon level, Justin, a review of each and every one of these cases. The secretary saw the article. The secretary, as he does for any one of our service members, he shares — he wants — he has concerns about whether or not any — you know, they’ve been treated fairly and equitably and if they’ve gotten the care that they need.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: But this is an issue for their change of command to deal with, leadership at all levels to deal with. There’s no need for — and I don’t expect that there’s going to be, you know, a Pentagon-level review of these particular cases.
Q: Back to present-day Iraq, the Pentagon’s refined its cost estimate per day to $7.6 million. That was through October 7th — October 2nd. That’s a little down from the $10.5 million a day ceiling. Going forward, given that that’s a relatively modest amount of money in the scheme of the Pentagon’s budget, do you see the Pentagon requiring a boost to the current pending fiscal ’15 war spending request to Congress?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We still estimate the cost for operations against ISIL to be about $7 million to $10 million a day. That’s an estimate, and it fluctuates. I have nothing new to say with respect to future funding. We’re still, as you know, operating now under a continuing resolution, which brings forward the OCO [overseas contingency operation]– the ’14 OCO money. And that’s where we continue to source and fund operations.
And the last thing I’d say — and you heard Secretary Hagel say this many times — that we’re going to continue to work closely with Congress and consult with Congress about costs going forward. And there very well could be adjustments that need to be made, but we’re just not there yet.
Q: Col.onel Warren yesterday said the refined version was — number was $7.6 million a day…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q: … through October 2nd. So that’s lower than $10.5 million, which was an estimate. So…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, I don’t — I don’t remember saying $10.5 million. I think what I’ve said was $7 million to $10 million, and it fluctuates, and $7.6 million — if that’s what it was yesterday, then I have no reason to doubt that. That’s pretty much right between $7 million and $10 million.
Q: All right, but going forward, you don’t — you’re still mulling whether you need additional dollars?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: That’s correct. There’s been no decisions made about any additional funding requests for these operations.
Q: And then a quick question about the man who beheaded two Americans has been identified by the FBI. Director Comey told “60 Minutes” this a couple weeks ago. They’ve identified the killer of the two — two Americans. Has the FBI passed on his name to the Pentagon? And has that person been elevated to a high-value target status that was given to Osama bin Laden and al-Zarqawi a number of years ago? Is the Pentagon targeting that — the henchman who beheaded two American journalists?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, without speaking specifically to this — to this individual, Tony, you know we don’t publicly talk about intelligence matters and we don’t publicly talk about specific targeting. I mean, whether it’s of an individual or a group or a unit or a convoy, we just don’t get ahead of that kind of thing. This is really a matter for the intelligence community and the law enforcement community.
Q: Well, has the FBI conveyed the identity of the person to the Pentagon, though?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not aware of — of the conveyance of that information to the Pentagon.
Q: Admiral Kirby?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, Barb?
Q: Can I follow up on Iraq? And then a different topic. You — on the weather, I’m confused, because what kind of — the fighter bomber forces, all weather, using GPS guided weapons, so my first question is, what kind of weather is keeping the military from being able to target?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Bad.
Q: Well, what is it? Is it sandstorm?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Weather — I don’t have the exact details. I just know that the weather has not been optimal, but it’s largely affected ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] support overhead more than it’s affected the actual…
Q: (off mic) oh, so it’s on the front end…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, I mean, look, our fighter bomber aircraft are all-weather aircraft, but you’ve got to have good information, and that means you’ve got to have good support from an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance perspective, and that is heavily affected by bad weather.
Q: Another question, if I could just briefly change topics, Yemen. There’s been a good deal of fighting in the capital between factions. Rebel groups have taken some key cities in that country. What concerns now — since there’s so much concern about Al Qaida in Yemen targeting the United States or U.S. interests in terrorist attacks, what’s the level of concern you have about Yemen at the moment and sort of the lack of ability of the government there to control the country and your own counterterrorism program, which clearly doesn’t appear to be working very well?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We’ve maintained a focus on the situation in Yemen for several years now, Barb. You know that. And we have worked closely with the government there to get after the terrorist threat inside Yemen. It is — it’s indicative of how difficult these operations can be, that you’re — that you’re going to have ebbs and flows, you’re going to have good days and bad.
So I would just say that we’re continuing to monitor it. We’re continuing to work with the Yemeni government. We’re mindful of the threat that Al Qaida and offshoots and affiliates still pose inside Yemen and outside Yemen, with their aspirations. And we just continue to work at it.
Q: The government controls the country right now?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not in a position to make a call about governmental control. We continue to work with the government there. It is — it is as — as it is in Iraq right now, it’s a fluid situation. And again, we’ve just — you know, we’ve got a good partnership and we try to work every day to solidify it.
Q: I have a question about the Philippines. The government there is — authorities there are investigating a murder case, in which they’ve identified the suspect as a Marine. They said they’re preparing charges against him. He’s being held on a Navy ship in Subic Bay.
Would the U.S. government or the military consider handing custody of him over to the Philippine government? Or is that a nonstarter? And is the Pentagon concerned that this will have broader ramifications for military cooperation with the Philippines?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: On your second question, obviously, we hope not. We’re working very closely with Philippine authorities and law enforcement authorities as this investigation unfolds. I’m not going to get ahead of that investigation as you might imagine, so I’m not going to speculate about — about future law enforcement actions that may or may not be taken.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family members of the victim. We — there’s a great sense of gravity over what happened. But it’s — as I said, it’s under investigation. We’re working closely with law enforcement authorities there locally, and that cooperation will continue, and we’ll let the investigation proceed.
Q: (inaudible) said this morning that he hopes that international partners will provide protective equipment and other supplies to the Ebola mission in Africa. As you know, there’s an Ebola treatment unit. There’s 17 of them, 100 beds per unit. And they require several personal protective equipment pieces(inaudible) per day, per bed. Is there some indication that the (inaudible) Pentagon lacks access to that amount of (inaudible) supplies or that their too expensive?(inaudible) I’m just trying to figure out why there’s a need for international partners to be supplying this (inaudible) material to our mission. (inaudible)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not aware of the stockpile, Maggie. I’d have to refer you down to Gen.eral Williams to talk to that. That’s just at a level that I wouldn’t have here.
To the larger point, we’re doing what we can — the U.S. military and the U.S. government — to try to stem the spread of Ebola there in Liberia and in West Africa. We’re lending our unique capabilities. And we certainly encourage other militaries in the region and outside the region to assist, as well.
But I just don’t have the level of detail on the protective equipment, to answer your question.
Q: (off mic) Can I have a follow up on same topic?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Sure.
Q: Okay. The general also mentioned that the Pentagon’s working on a — it’s a crime reaction force in case there needs to be an evacuation from the area. Can you tell me a little bit about — more about that? Can you flesh that out for me?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I’m sorry. I don’t. I didn’t hear the general’s comments, and I wouldn’t want to get ahead of what he’s planning. I don’t — yeah, Jon?
Q: Admiral Kirby, to what extent are air operations at Baghdad International Airport being affected or being threatened by ISIL mortar or rocket fire capabilities?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The airport is still open and operating. And from our perspective, it is not under imminent threat.
Q: (off mic)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, sure.
Q: If Kobani falls, would you consider it a major strategic setback or just a little tiny item in the bigger picture?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Certainly, if Kobani falls to ISIL, that would — that’s a setback. There’s no question about that. I mean, they want ground, and the Kurdish militia there are trying to prevent them from having that ground. We are trying to help in that regard through airstrikes.
So, clearly, nobody wants to see them succeed in getting Kobani. But as I said earlier, I think, you know, you talked about strategic setback. Let’s talk about strategy. And strategy’s bigger than any one town. And I said before, we all have to prepare for the eventuality, the possibility that Kobani could fall.
Likewise, we ought to be prepared for the eventuality that other towns and other villages, other pieces of ground will either fall to ISIL or we may not be able to dislodge them from that, for quite some time. This is going to take a while.
The strategy is not about pinpointing a particular place on the map, you know, and that — and then that’s it. It is — it is about denying them safe haven. It is about denying them sanctuary. It is about getting at their ability to sustain themselves. It is about hitting them tactically and dynamically where they are, just like we’ve been doing around Kobani.
But if we — if we hinge the entire success of the strategy, the regional, comprehensive, long-term strategy on any, you know, one point, then I think we’re missing — we would be — we’d be doing the strategy a disservice and missing the larger point here, which is to try to eliminate the threat this group poses by taking away their ability to breathe. Does that make sense?
Q: Yeah, just quick follow-up. Do you think right now — follow-up (off mic) Baghdad is safe? We read a lot of Iraqi reports that they don’t feel safe, Iraqis.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, well, I mean, again, the way I would put it is we do not assess that Baghdad is under imminent threat right now, one. Two, we do assess that the Iraqi security forces continue to stiffen their resolve and actually spread their security belt a little further on the outskirts. It’s mixed, but they are.
And, number three, we’ve said it all along, so it bears repeating, that we are well aware that — of the threat that ISIL would like to pose to the capital city, no question about that, that they want to put pressure on Baghdad. And they’ve been doing that. And you’ve seen some of our strikes have been to the south and southwest of the town to try to get at some of their positions there.
So nobody’s under any illusion that Baghdad is certainly in their sights. But we do not pose — we do not believe that there’s an imminent threat to the security of the city right now. Does that answer your question?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes, ma’am?
Q: A couple of questions on Kobani. The Syrian Kurds defending the city have asked for heavy weapons. So, A, is U.S. providing them any kinds of weapons right now, heavy or light? And if not, why not?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: There is no resupply mission into Kobani that I’m aware of. And I’m — I’m not — I mean, I’m not privy to exactly what these requests are that you’re — that you’re referring to. Again, the Kurdish militias — we believe that they’re holding the town. We’re trying to support them from the air the best we can.
Q: But they’re asking for weapons. So is — is the U.S. planning to provide them any weapons or…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not going to — I’m not going to speculate about future operations and what we would or we won’t do. We’re watching it very closely. And we’re doing what we can from the air to try to support them in their effort to defend the citysystem.
Q: So other than air, there’s no other — no weapons that are being given…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: As I said at the outside of the outset of my answer, I’m not aware of any resupply mission that has occurred to date.
I’ve already got you. Yeah?
Q: Yes, on Ebola, where are we with the treatment centers? And also, have you guys encountered any problems as far as infrastructure in certain places where there may be a lack of electricity?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Let me see if I can give you an update on the — so for the 25-bed facility, all the site preparation has been completed. The main tent structure assembly is complete. Construction of the supporting facilities continues. The target date for the completion of that is the 21st of this month. The 25-bed facility will be manned by public health service employees, and we expect that team to arrive by the end of October.
On the emergency treatment units, as you know, we’ve commenced work on two of them. One of them is still on track to be completed by the end of the month. The second one is still on track to be completed by around the first week or so in November, so shortly after that.
There are 17 eventual ETUs that are going to be stood up. Not all of them are right now scheduled to be constructed by U.S. troops. The majority are, but not all of them, so — now, that could change over time. I get that. But that’s — that’s where we are right now.
Q: And who are those that are helping — who are the others that are helping to build that, so it’s not troops, just troops?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: U.N. The U.N. is responsible for the other ones. I don’t want to guess. I think it’s — well, I won’t guess right now. But the majority of the 17 are — we’re responsible for building. But, again, that could change. We — I just don’t know. We’re going to be flexible. We’ve got great expertise down there.
I would also add that, while we — we see the construction as sort of on pace right now, the weather continues to be a real factor there. It’s still — it’s the rainy season, and there are hours and hours every day where our troops are not able to work, just because you can’t — you can’t build, you can’t — you can’t prepare a site in a monsoon. So we need to be flexible here, as I — everything’s on track. But that could change, too, over time.
Q: Admiral, on the operational name, can we say when this began? Was it August 8th or another date?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes, the name — the name is retroactive, and it goes all the way back to August 8th.
Q: To August 8th, OkayK. Can you say — is there a particular message that the U.S. is trying to convey through this name, Inherent Resolve?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, I think — I think CENTCOM probably put it in their press release, too, when they did this. But, I mean, the name, we believe — first of all, we — we talked about this name with our coalition partners, as well, you know, so that — that everybody had visibility on it and that there — and that there was a general sense of — of approval of it.
And what it says, what it means, and for us what it means is that we are going to stay resolved and determined to get after this threat. We’re going to do it in as fulsome a way as we can. And we’re going to do it for as long as required.
And the last thing I’d say is, we’re going to do it in partnership. And I think that’s where the inherent comes in, in the name. We’re going to do it in partnership with other nations, and there are some 60 now that are involved in this effort in various forms and fashions, but it’s very much a multinational, multilateral approach. And I think that’s what the name signifies.
I have time for just one more. Yeah, Jim?
Q: Just a quick follow-on on Anbar. You mentioned, I think, that about a third of the Iraqi security forces are there now, and what I’m wondering is, is that sort of a redeployment of forces? Have they pushed forces in that direction?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes.
Q: And, secondly, is it your assessment that those forces are sort of — at this point capable of offensive-type operations? Or would they still need a fair amount of support before they can do that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, so the answer to your first question is, yes, we’ve seen them move forward. Number two, yes, but — we do see Iraqi security forces branch out, move forward. They’re taking the offense in some areas. But as we’ve said, again, all along, these forces for three years were not given the proper resources, staffing and leadership that they needed, so it’s a mixed picture.
I can’t honestly look you in the eye and say that every unit there of that third of the army is of the same caliber of quality and competence. They aren’t. That’s one of the reasons why our advise and assist mission is so important and why, you know, we continue to try to give them help, again, at the brigade level or higher.
And we do have, I think, seven advising teams that are focused on Iraqi headquarters in the south and in and around Baghdad. The other five are up near Erbil. So that’s a key part of this effort, is to…
Q: Sorry to interrupt, but any of those teams in Anbar?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No. As I said, they’re at — they’re at brigade- or division-level headquarters. Those headquarters staffs do not go out in the field. The advising teams are not out in the field. The Iraqi security forces — to Jim’s question, they very much are, and they are pushing forward. But with mixed success. And I said that, I think, in my answer to Phil. There’s — it’s a mixed picture there in Anbar.