Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—October 28, 2014.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: Good afternoon, everybody. Let me start out with a few comments here.
The first thing I want to address is the safety of the military personnel responding to the Ebola crisis. The joint chiefs have made a recommendation to Secretary Hagel that he consider a regimented program of 21 days of controlled, supervised monitoring for all troops returning from Ebola response efforts in West Africa.
The secretary is in possession of that recommendation. He has made no decision yet.
Secretary shares the concerns by the chiefs about the safety and well-being not only of our troops, but also of their families, and he appreciates the thoughtfulness and the gravity of the recommendations Chairman Dempsey sent to him.
When a decision has been made, we will certainly let you know.
In the meantime, the secretary supports the decision made by Army leadership to place Major General Williams and his team under this same quarantine-like program.
Now, if I could, I’d like to turn just briefly to events against ISIL.
Over the last 24 to 36 hours, we’ve seen the Iraqi Security Forces and other anti-ISIL forces, such as the Peshmerga, make some gains in several parts of Iraq and Syria.
In central Iraq, ISF operations to expand Iraqi control of territory beyond the Baiji oil refinery are making progress. ISF is also advancing against ISIL, in Amiriyah, with the assistance of coalition airstrikes, and we’ve seen ISF achieve success in countering ISIL fighters in southwest Baghdad as well, or southwest of Baghdad as well. Sorry.
In addition, in northern Iraq, Peshmerga forces have regained control of Zumar, a town approximately 60 kilometers southwest of Mosul, and surrounding areas well inside operationally planned timelines. The operation was planned — was planned — has been planned for over a week, but objectives were achieved in a number of days.
This is the fourth offensive operation in which Peshmerga forces have been able to regain control of ground from ISIL, including Mosul Dam, Sardek Mountain, and Rabia Gate.
Finally, ISF, Kurdish, and coalition forces have targeted specific ISIL target tactical locations to impede its ability to shoot, maneuver, communicate, and move near Mosul Dam, Zumar, Baiji, and Baghdad.
This has included the destruction of multiple fighting positions, at least eight ISIL vehicles, to include an ISIL tank, a staging area, and a logistics base.
While we recognize that a major Iraqi offensive against ISIL may still be a ways off, these are encouraging reports that highlight Iraq’s determination to take the fight to ISIL. We continue to see that these combined targeting efforts are disrupting ISIL and forcing them to consider changes — more changes in their tactics to try to avoid being targeted.
Meanwhile, in Syria, the situation in Kobani remains tenuous, with ISIL continuing to put pressure on that city and anti-ISIL forces continuing to hold out.
As U.S. Central Command’s news release today pointed out, coalition airstrikes over the last 24 hours in Kobani destroyed several ISIL fighting positions and struck ISIL fighters. Despite these positive developments, it’s important to point out that ISIL remains a very determined enemy. They continue to reinforce areas where they’ve been losing ground, such as in Kobani, Anbar province, and in the vicinity of Mosul Dam, and they continue to threaten innocent civilians wherever they are.
No one underestimates the challenges before us. As we’ve said from the outset, this campaign is going to be challenging and it’s going to take time.
Finally, I have one other piece of news to pass along. At the request, the Government of Iraq, U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft conducted an airdrop early on the morning of October 27th, Iraqi time, in the vicinity of Al Asad Air Base to provide humanitarian aid for delivery by Iraqi Security Forces to members of Iraq’s Abu Nimer tribe.
U.S. aircraft delivered more than 7,000 Halal meals which were retrieved by the ISF and then delivered to the tribe, which had been recently relocated from their homes near Hit, Iraq, to flee ISIL aggression. C-130 aircraft which are deployed to U.S. Central Command area of responsibility exited the airdrop zone safely.
This assistance is just another example of our resolve to assist the people of Iraq and deny ISIL key terrain and safe haven, as well as our commitment to assist those forces who are opposing ISIL.
And with that I’ll take your questions.
Q: Yes, I wonder if on the Ebola recommendation from General Dempsey whether you could flesh out a little bit, how that would work in practice? Would it be uniform, regardless of whether it was in the United States or anywhere abroad? And also in Vicenza, in that particular case, did the Italian government require that that be the step to be taken in that case?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not aware of any requirement by the Italian government to do this. This was a decision by Army leadership in keeping with the recommendations that the Joint Chiefs floated up to the secretary.
On actual execution, I think there’s still some homework to be done on that, Bob. I don’t have any specifics for you on how that would work. Should the secretary decide to implement it force-wide, I think there’s still some spade work that needs to be done to kind of — to figure out all the eaches of that and we’re just not at that stage right now.
Q: Is he seeking outside advice on — before he decides how to do that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not aware of outside advice that he’s seeking. He greatly values the opinions and recommendations of Chairman Dempsey and the chiefs as well. But he’s going to take the time that he feels he needs to make a decision. And I think everybody understands the importance of that decision. And when he’s ready, when he’s made one, we’ll let you know.
Q: Admiral Kirby?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q: On ISIS if you don’t mind?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q: OK. Just to make sure, could you clarify what’s the status now, the situation at the Mosul Dam?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I talked about it in my opening statement. The Mosul Dam, the facility, still is in control of Iraqi forces — Iraqi and Kurdish forces. It continues to be a target for ISIL. They continue to want to threaten it, but they have not successfully since they’ve been dislodged from it.
Q: Now would the broad picture that you have provided that the Peshmerga and the Iraqi forces that are gaining ground in many areas. But then the same time, we heard in the past hours, that even — that the Assad regime forces have gained ground close to [inaudible] at the border between Syria and Iraq and also in the north near Aleppo. Do you have any information on that? How do you describe it?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t have any specific information about the Syrian regime and their operations. There’s no doubt that the Assad regime continues to pressure opposition forces, continues to attack them. That’s absolutely true. And we’ve said, all along, that his legitimacy to govern is gone and that we’re going to continue to work on this train-and-equip program to get a moderate opposition that cannot only go against ISIL, but can work towards a political settlement inside Syria. But I don’t have details on, you know, Assad’s military movements specifically.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Admiral, following up on your ISIL summary, you said there was some early encouraging progress against them in Iraq.
But General Allen, when he was in Kuwait this week, talked about the importance of fighting them in the information space and having a propaganda effort to counter their social networking, like the video that’s out from Kobani.
Can you tell us what this department is doing on that score and whether it’s going to expand its efforts to fight against the information aspect to this terror campaign?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, we’re obviously supporting the effort. It’s an interagency effort as well as a cross-DOD effort.
I won’t get into — and I think you can understand why I wouldn’t — get into too much specifically about this, because this is a — there’s a cyber component to this, and then there’s also a messaging component to this as in any kind of counter-propaganda work.
So again, I really would be low to get into too much detail from the podium. But I can tell you that we — we’re taking it seriously. The Department of Defense is contributing to an interagency effort to do this, and it will continue to do that.
We’re — we’re very good in this realm. We’re very flexible in this — at these kinds of capabilities, and we’re confident that over time, we’re going to be able to have an effect.
Q: One other thing on Iraq, just real quick.
OPCW said today that they have not been asked either by Baghdad or Washington to actually investigate these reports about ISIL chlorine gas attacks there.
Can you tell us whether people in this department have decided not to ask them to do an investigation? You said last week DOD is not looking into it. Can you explain why you wouldn’t ask them to see if the reports are accurate?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, let me take that for the record, Phil, and get back to you. I’m not aware of any decision that’s been made here in the Defense Department to ask or not to ask OPCW to do it.
What I said last week is that this would — this is a — this is a typical OPCW function, not something that the Defense Department would normally do.
But I owe you a better answer, so let me get back to you on that.
On the 21-day quarantine decision that Secretary Hagel has to make, in effect, hasn’t the decision already been made for him with General Odierno’s orders to quarantine these people already? It’s already in practice.
He said he supports it, so he’s not going to reverse it, is he?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not going to get ahead of a decision that the secretary hasn’t made yet, but no, it hasn’t been made for the secretary.
The secretary reserves the right to make this kind of decision, a policy decision for the entire Defense Department, for all our troops, and like I told Bob, he’ll take the time necessary to make the decision, and then like I said, we’ll — we’ll let you know what that is.
But he supports the decision that was made by Army leadership to do this for General Williams and his team, and we’ll go from there.
Q: OK. Well, can you tell us why he supports the decision when the CDC says that, you know — the scientists working on this say, in fact, that decision doesn’t make sense, and it’s not the recommendation?
Why does it make sense for the military when it doesn’t make sense for the civilians?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: This was the first group of U.S. military personnel that have come back from Liberia. It’s the very first installment.
I think the secretary understands that Army leadership, supported by the recommendations of the Joint Staff, wanted to take a very conservative approach, particularly for this first group, and again, he understand that and didn’t feel it was necessary to step in the way of it.
But broadening it to the entire force and making a department-wide policy decision is something that he wants to take very seriously, and as I said, when — when he’s had time to consider it, we’ll let you know.
Q: Clarification on that? So is he reviewing the Army decision, or will the Army decision stand, and he is deciding whether to expand it to the other military services?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: So let me try to do some forensics on this. You have — you have a Joint Chiefs recommendation that went to the secretary. In keeping with that recommendation, Army leadership made this decision because time was a factor here.
These guys were coming out of Liberia right away. So, I think using prudence, caution, and a conservative approach, Army leadership made this specific decision for General Williams and his staff. And it was in keeping with a recommendation that was working its way to the secretary.
That recommendation is now with the secretary to — for him to consider doing it force-wide, and to implement this across the force. He’s got it. He’ll examine it. And then — and then we’ll go from there.
I mean — but it — but the decision was made as the recommendation was making its way up because these individuals were, at the time — at the time the recommendation was being proffered, they were actually traveling back from Liberia.
Q: What I’m asking is, if he — if he says “no, we’re going to just go with the CDC guidelines. We’re not going to do this force-wide.” Is General Williams then released, or does General Williams stay in his 21-day quarantine?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: That’s a hypothetical question, Julian, and I’m not good at that. But I will — I don’t foresee any plans to change the regimen for General Williams and his team at this time. I don’t foresee that there’ll be any change, regardless of what the secretary decides to the regimen that they’re going through.
Q: Admiral Kirby.
You keep saying that it’s for General Williams and his team. But in fact, General Odierno’s statement is all military, all Army personnel, all of them coming out of West Africa, not just General Williams and his team, will be subjected to 21 days of controlled monitoring. So, this is already a very broad program.
And you also have Air Force personnel, as well as others already going back and forth. And I want to try this again. You say that the secretary supports what General Odierno has done, which is for all Army personnel.
So, if he supports it, he supports it. I mean, otherwise, he doesn’t, and he’s going to reverse it. Which is it?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: He supports this decision for — for Major General Williams and his team and what they’re going through right now. But as the Secretary of Defense, he reserves the right, and it’s his responsibility, to determine whether this should be applied across the force. And he’s got the recommendation. He’ll review it and he’ll make a decision.
Q: So, to be clear, your statement that he supports it right now, just to make sure I’m understanding —
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Let me put it in another way. He’s not going to oppose or get in the way of the decision that Army leadership made with respect to this group of soldiers coming back. He’s not going to —
Q: Please. What you are saying then is that Secretary Hagel only supports this, you’ve said it several times now, it’s just taken me awhile to realize it, that Secretary Hagel only supports this for General Williams and his team. You are not making a statement that Secretary Hagel supports what General Odierno has done for all Army forces returning from Africa.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The secretary is not going to oppose this initial decision made by Army leadership. He is reviewing the recommendation, and he will have a — he will have a decision soon, and then we’ll go from there.
Q: Does he support it only for General Williams and his team, or does he support what General Odierno has done for all — for all Army forces returning —
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think I’ve answered the question.
Q: I don’t understand —
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’ve answered the question seven times, Barb.
Q: Admiral Kirby, you have said limited to General Williams.
I’m asking you, does Secretary Hagel support General Odierno in terms of all Army personnel going into 21 days of monitoring.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The secretary supports the decision that was made for General Williams and his team. He is not going to oppose, at this time, the decision made by Army leadership for all soldiers. That said, he has the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs. He’s going to review it and he’ll make a decision. I can’t make it any plainer than that.
Q: What effect — do you think this decision by the Army undermines the messaging that you had and others have had saying these troops are not exposed to any risk? I mean, they’re taking — they’re being — they’re being isolated in a way that goes well beyond scientific guidelines and recommendations that the president himself has been espousing? So, you know, is — doesn’t this send a message to the troops’ families that these guys are in much greater danger than has been made publicly before?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think — again, I won’t speak — I can’t speak for the decision made by military leadership. I just can’t do that. My understanding is this was done out of an abundance of caution, to be prudent and because this was the first installment of troops to come back. I think it was — you know, there was an abundance of caution applied to this.
And let me finish. And then we’ll see whether this is the right protocol moving forward for everybody. I mean, I think we’re just going to have to see.
Q: But no science to back up what appears to be happening. The question is: Is there more happening in Liberia than we’re aware of that would justify this decision?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not aware of anything more that’s happening. I think it’s important to remind that nothing has changed about the fact that these troops — our troops in Liberia are not going to be treating Ebola patients. They’re not going to be coming in direct contact with people who have the disease. They are engineers, logisticians, Seabees, aviators.
And so nothing has changed about that. And nothing has changed about the fact that we hold their safety and their security to be our prime responsibility. The secretary is very committed to that. Again, I — I think we just, you know, he’s got the recommendation. He’ll consider it and then we’ll go from there.
But I don’t think says anything other than the fact that Army leadership had a concern about their safety and the safety of their families and they acted on that.
Q: What is that safety concern based on? If not based on science, what is it based on?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Based on, again, an abundance of caution for this first group coming back.
And the other thing I’d say, Phil, is we always reserve the right to refine our procedures and our protocols. So things could still change further. I don’t know. I mean, the secretary has got to consider this. But one of the things we’re good at is changing and tacking if we need to. And, you know, the Army made this decision. We’ll see where it goes from here.
Q: Doesn’t each service chief have the authority to increase — to change this — the rules for their own individual services? So if the, you know, if the Air Force decides, General Welsh could say the same thing, the 21-days applies to all airmen coming back. And so on and so on.
Even if Secretary Hagel does not sign off on this, couldn’t each of the service chiefs still implement these same rules that the Army has implemented for their — (CROSSTALK)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The service chiefs have wide latitude to do what they need to do for force protection. That’s true. And they can be more conservative usually than whatever the standard is, the floor is. What we’re talking here does the floor need to be raised or not. And the secretary gets to make that call for the entire department.
Q: Then each of those service chiefs did agree that the floor does need to be raised? They do need to have a 21-day quarantine, correct?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: My understanding is — yeah, what I said in my opening statement.
Q: So at this point it just stands to reason that that’s going to happen because even if the secretary signed off on it — (CROSSTALK)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Let’s not get ahead of a decision that hasn’t been made yet.
Q: Given that there is apparently additional fears of Ebola exposure, given the 21-day quarantine or controlled monitoring for the Army soldiers, is there any re-thinking about the protective gear that soldiers who are deploying and working there are going to be wearing?
I know that they’re not supposed to be in contact with Ebola patients, but clearly there’s a fear that they might be. Are you going to give — are you going to upgrade their protective gear that they wear on a daily basis?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I know of no plans to do that, Julian. Again, to remind, our U.S. troops that are down there are working on four lines of effort: command and control, training, logistics, and engineering. That has not changed. There’s no plans to have them in direct contact with Ebola patients.
We’re going to constantly monitor their health while they’re down there routinely and regularly. And regardless of what final decision gets made about the return, the post-deployment, they’ll obviously be monitored and assessed going forward after they — after they come home. But whatever that protocol ends up looking like, it’s going to result in some monitoring and assessment obviously for at least 21 days.
So no, I know of no plans to change their kit necessarily because of the work that they’re doing.
Q: It seems logical if you’re going to extend the monitoring, if there are additional fears, that you might want to also do additional protection — (CROSSTALK)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think that your questions, you know, suggest additional fears. I’m not aware of any additional fears. You know, to Phil’s question, this is — this was out of prudence and caution and a conservative approach. It’s not atypical for military commanders to take a conservative approach when it comes to force protection. That’s what you want. That’s what you would expect. But it doesn’t indicate additional fears, as you put it.
Q: Admiral Kirby, can you give us some insight into the living conditions of these troops that have been quarantined or monitored or whatever you want to call it? I mean, are they still doing work of some kind? Do they have any entertainment? Or are they just sort of sitting there staring at a wall for the next three weeks?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I would — actually, I can answer that question just obliquely because I don’t have — I don’t have the exact details of their life right now. As I understand it, they are isolated, not in contact with other individuals or their families. At least not person to person. I think they’re in contact through electronic means, obviously, with their loved ones, of course, and that they have — they do have access to recreational activities and the ability to exercise. I’m told they’re eating well and, you know, they have television and, you know, it’s not – they’re subsisting quite well is what I understand.
But I don’t know exactly where they all are and what the physical infrastructure looks like.
Q: Quick follow up. If these quarantine procedures are kept in place, would this all take place overseas or potentially would troops returning to the U.S. be isolated, you know, somewhere on a U.S. base or another military — (CROSSTALK)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Again, well, this kind of gets to Bob’s question. I think there’s a lot of detail and spadework that still has to be done to work through this. Again, let’s keep in mind where we are in the process. There’s a recommendation. The secretary is considering it. And then we’ll go from there.
Q: When did he get the recommendation —
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Today.
Q: In the recommendation that the chiefs made to the secretary, did they explain in that why they’re going beyond the CDC guidelines?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I won’t detail the correspondence between the Joint Chiefs and the secretary. I think what I would say is they made — they made plain their concerns and the reasons why they felt the way they did.
Q: (inaudible) you said the reasons Odierno made the decision is because this was the first batch, out of an abundance of caution. But the chiefs are talking about a recommendation for all forces here on out, not just for this batch. Is that correct?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: That is correct.
Q: But again, you don’t know why they’re making that recommendation to the secretary?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I do know why, Craig, but I’m not going to detail recommendations — specifics of recommendations made by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense. That’s not my place. I wouldn’t do that. But — but did they make — did they make their point — did they make their arguments clear? Yes, they did.
Q: Did they address the CDC guidelines and why they aren’t adhering to those?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t — again, Craig, I’m just not going to get into specific details about a recommendation from the Joint Chiefs directly to the secretary. That wouldn’t be appropriate. They’d made plain their concerns.
Q: But this will presumably affect others. I mean, what the military decides will weigh in on how scientists, health workers, journalists, people who aren’t in the military, I imagine that’s going to have at least an indirect influence over others in the country and how they’re treated. Why would the military not describe the rationale for this kind of position?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I didn’t say they didn’t describe their rationale. I said I wasn’t going to detail it. But the — the recommendation is about U.S. military troops and only U.S. military troops. That’s it. And the Joint Chiefs get paid to look after their troops and their families. That’s their job. And the recommendation was in that vein and in that light. It wasn’t meant to drive any other public discussion or debate. It wasn’t meant to challenge the opinions or other protocols of other agencies inside or outside government. It was simply meant to address their concerns about their people and their families.
Q: May I follow up? I do have to follow up on what he keeps asking you. The Pentagon has said from the beginning that the Ebola program is not classified. I understand that you do not talk about recommendations made in the Tank for the Secretary of Defense. But the U.S. military exists as a public entity in this country.
So, is there — are you — is the Pentagon just simply going to continue to refuse to say publicly, since everyone is concerned about Ebola, why the Joint Chiefs of Staff are making this recommendation? Can you say whether there is any science behind it? Or is it just something they want to do?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Barb, you’ll find this answer completely unsatisfying, but I’ll try it anyway. I speak for Secretary Hagel and for the Defense Department. I do not speak for Chairman Dempsey, for the Joint Chiefs. I will not — I will not from this podium detail specific recommendations that the Joint Chiefs make to the Secretary of Defense. It would be completely inappropriate. It’s not about whether it’s classified or not. It’s inappropriate. And I won’t do that.
I’ve already provided much more detail than I normally would by — by acknowledging that the recommendation exists and what it basically came down and said. Normally, I wouldn’t even go that far. But it had already been out in media space in such a way that it was unavoidable. I didn’t even like doing that much.
I won’t — I just simply can’t, you know, go beyond that.
Q: Can’t Secretary Hagel talk about what they are telling him? The Joint Chiefs existence is part of this country and is part of the public concern. There are thousands of military families and people all over the country concerned.
You are discussing a matter that is outside the mainstream of what the CDC is saying; outside what the White House is saying; outside of what most public health professionals in this country are saying. And people, I think it’s fair to say, would be very interested to know what materials Secretary Hagel is reviewing that leads him to support, which is what you said, a mandatory 21-day quarantine for military people who are part of this country. They do not exist in isolation.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I said he supports this initial decision made for General Williams and his team. I did not say — I did not say he supports — (inaudible). I said he wasn’t at a position now where he would oppose that decision. That said, he hasn’t made a decision about implementing this force-wide.
And I’m not going to close down the decision space for the secretary at this point in time. He hasn’t made a decision.
Now, there are lots of things that go to the secretary’s desk from the Joint Chiefs of Staff every single day. And we don’t get up here at the podium and talk about those things, whether they’re classified or not.
It’s just not appropriate, and I’m not going to go in there. Now, once the secretary makes a decision, I will come up here and I will explain it and you’ll have all the detail about what decision he made and why he made it. But until there’s been a decision made by the secretary of defense for the United States of America, there’s really nothing more to say.
It’s a recommendation. He’s considering it. We’ll go from there.
Yes, in the back.
Q: Hi, Admiral Kirby.
Two quick ones. Can I get to ISIL, is that OK?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Sure, yeah, that would be a welcome break.
Q: So, my first question is do you have an update on cost for us, and then the follow up to that is do you have anything on the 150 Peshmerga fighters that have crossed into Turkey, and how the U.S. might coordinate as they’re heading into Kobani?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: There’s been no change to the estimated costs. It’s still around, I think we said 8.3 last week, earlier this week. And that’s about where it still is. So, it’s still in that seven to ten range that I’ve talked about before, the million dollars per day.
And I can get you — I think I have a total figure if you need that, because I know now I have to have that.
Let’s see where it is.
So a total of $580 million since the start of airstrikes on August 8th. I don’t have an update on the — on the Peshmerga or the — yeah, the Peshmerga fighters that you’re talking about. I just don’t have anything operationally on that today.
Q: On ISIS. Does the department anticipate forwarding a request for additional money to Congress for 2015 for the ISIS fight?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think you’ve heard Secretary Hagel and the chairman talk about this. I think certainly there’s going to have to be some considerations going forward, but I wouldn’t get ahead of specific budget moves that haven’t been made yet.
I think, you know, we’ve gone to the Hill, we’ve testified to the operations, and again, Secretary Hagel has been very clear that certainly considerations for added funding are going to have to be part of the calculus going forward. But we’re just not in a position right now where we can detail what that would look like, what form it would be, how much it would be, that kind of thing.
Q: Right now, secondly, in light of General Allen’s remarks on stemming ISIS’s online propaganda, what is the department seeing in terms of recruitment for ISIS, since military action began — U.S. military action began?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, we don’t have — you know, we don’t have the methods to garner great specificity about their recruiting efforts. We do still — we still believe that they are able to recruit, and continue to recruit. They are facing some attrition, obviously, through these operations: not just from the air, but from the ground.
But there’s no question that they still possess the ability to reconstitute their manpower and that’s just — again, that’s an indication of the strength of their ideology right now, which is why we’re working hard to counter that, and the fact that this is going to be a long struggle.
Q: Hard to quantify, but are we seeing an increase in recruitment for ISIS?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I can’t — I just can’t give you a measure right now, Kristina. And I don’t know that we would really be able to do that with any great accuracy.
They do continue to recruit. There’s no question about that. And they — we know they have the ability to reconstitute some of the manpower that they’ve lost, but again, that’s an indication that this is just going to take time. This ideology is very attractive to — to some young men, and it’s going to take time to get after that.
Q: Is there a clock ticking on Hagel’s Ebola decision? In other words, is there a planned redeployment of troops that would force the issue the way that the return of Williams and his staff forced the issue for Odierno?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No. I think — I think — (inaudible) — don’t think he’s going to dawdle over this decision; I think — I think he’ll make a decision very soon. But no, there’s no a hard clock in terms of a number set coming back that’s — that’s going to drive him artificially to an answer.
He’s got the recommendation. He got it today. I’m confident that he will come to a decision very soon, and then we’ll — we’ll disclose what that is.
Q: Admiral, you say you can’t talk about the Joint Chief’s recommendation, but can you offer any insight into what the secretary’s thinking is to see — does he have any particular concerns? Why is he not approving the recommendation outright?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, Andrew, he just got it today, so within just a few hours ago, so it’s not like he’s delaying or anything like that.
I’m not — I’m not going to get ahead of a decision that he hasn’t made. I just — I don’t think that would be appropriate.
Q: (OFF-MIKE) is he concerned that his decision, whether he likes it or not, is going to have serious influence on the public debate, which is based in large part of fear right now.
I know you say this — your decision is not based on fear, but could the public interpret it that way, and is that playing into his decision?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think it’s safe to say that he’s considering a number of factors as we weighs the decision, and certainly, the — the spillover effect — you know, to Craig’s question, the spillover effect on — on — on other agencies and the American people certainly are on his mind.
But his primary responsibility is to take care of the Defense Department, our troops and our families, and that’s always been foremost in his mind, and that will, I’m sure, be the most significant factor as he weighs the decision.
Q: Some reports from the Iraqi Kurdish region of — particularly Iraq Kurdistan region, say that the U.S. is going to establish a military base in Irbil. Can you confirm this, Admiral?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t have anything for you on that today? Sorry.
I’ll take one more. Luis?
Q: There was an ISIS propaganda video that was released yesterday. Do you have any — any information that would suggest that it was authentic?
And it also named you by name in citing mistruths about the ongoing situation there. Do you have any comment on that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We — we’re analyzing the video, as we do when they release these kinds of propaganda videos, so we’re still in the process of assessing its validity. I don’t have any indication — I’ve seen no indications that — that would tell us it’s not authentic and that it wasn’t shot the way it was — appeared to – to have been shot.
And as for specific mention of me, no, I don’t have any comment on that.
I would — the only thing I would add, though, is that, you know, this is just another example of the barbarity of these people, you know, that they’re taking a hostage, a man they’ve taken captive, and obviously forcing this individual to do this video. I mean, it’s just another example of their depravity. But beyond that, I don’t think I’ll comment.