“U.S. Department of Defense
September 2, 2014
Department of Defense Press Briefing by Rear Adm. Kirby in the Pentagon Briefing Room
Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby
September 02, 2014
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: Afternoon everybody. A couple of things to open up. First, I know we’ve all seen press reporting about the potential murder by ISIL of Mr. Sotloff. I don’t have anything to confirm it today. Obviously, we’re monitoring as best we can, and our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the Sotloff family, who has endured incredible hardship and suffering just by virtue of his captivity and being held hostage, but I can’t confirm those press reports right now.
Number two, I know that you’ve all been tracking events in Somalia last night. So if you’ll just bear with me, I’m going to walk you through what I can right now. Yesterday, at approximately 11:20 Eastern Time, working from actionable intelligence, U.S. special operations forces using manned and unmanned aircraft destroyed an encampment and a vehicle using several Hellfire missiles and laser-guided munitions.
This operation was a direct strike against the Al-Shabaab network, specifically the group’s leader, Ahmed Abdi al-Muhammad, also known Ahmed Godane. We are still assessing the results of the operation, and we’ll provide additional information when and if appropriate. And I’m not going to be able to provide specifics about the unit or the intelligence itself, and certainly not anything regarded to tactics, techniques and procedures.
The operation occurred south of Mogadishu, located in south-central Somalia, and it did result in the destruction of that vehicle. I think it’s important to remind everybody that in September 2013, Godane publicly claimed Al-Shabaab was responsible for the Westgate Mall attack, which killed and injured dozens in Nairobi.
Under the leadership of Godane, Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for many bombings, including suicide attacks in Mogadishu and in central and northern Somalia, typically targeting officials and perceived allies of the federal government of Somalia, as well as the former transitional federal government of Somali.
A militant wing of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts, Al-Shabaab has occupied most of southern Somalia since 2006 and claimed responsibility for the deaths of numerous government officials, aid workers, peace activists, and journalists. Named a foreign terrorist organization by the Department of State in February 2008, Al-Shabaab has conducted terrorist activities in the region that have resulted in the loss of much innocent life.
They’ve also continued to plan plots targeting westerners, including U.S. personnel in East Africa. In recent months, Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Djibouti that killed a Turkish national and wounded several Western soldiers, as well as a car bomb at the Mogadishu Airport that targeted and killed members of the United Nations convoy.
So the operation that we’ve conducted, we believe, is an example of the U.S. government and our allies’ and partners’ commitment to the people and government of Somalia to detect, deter, disrupt and defeat violent extremists who threaten progress in the region, as well as to threaten — as well as threaten to conduct terrorist attacks against innocent people around the world. And we’re going to continue to use all the tools at our disposal — financial, diplomatic, intelligence, and of course, the military — to dismantle Al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups who threaten U.S. interests, as well as the interests of our allies and our partner nations.
And then one final comment I’d like to make on Iraq. As you know, over the weekend, at the request of the Iraqi government, the United States military air-dropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amerli, home to thousands of Shia Turkmen who have been cut off — or had been cut off from receiving food, water, and medical supplies for two months by ISIL.
The U.S. Air Force delivered this aid alongside aircraft from Australia, France, and the United Kingdom, who also dropped much-needed supplies. In conjunction with this air drop, U.S. aircraft conducted coordinated airstrikes against nearby ISIL terrorists in order to support this humanitarian assistance operation and thereby helped facilitate the actual delivery of the aid.
While we continue to monitor the situation in Amerli, at this time we assess that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are in control of the township and are providing for the security needs of the citizens there. So further strikes remain a possibility, of course, but we believe that the township is under the control of Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
And as we’ve said before, one of our core military objectives in Iraq is to join with international partners to address humanitarian crises. And where and when we have the ability to do that, we’re going to do it.
With that, I’ll take questions.
QUESTION: Admiral, on the Somalia issue, would you describe the target as a single target encampment and a single vehicle? Or were there two strikes or two targets? Was there just one vehicle?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: There was one vehicle and an encampment. So the way I would describe it is kind of the way I laid it out in the opening. The strike was taken at an encampment and a vehicle. That was at the encampment.
Q: So one strike? Single?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: What do you mean by strike? One missile? No. As I said, several Hellfire missiles, as well as precision-guided munitions, so there were — there was plural, in terms of munitions, dropped, but they were dropped on one target, an encampment where a vehicle was — was nearby.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Go ahead.
Q: And was there any evidence afterwards that anyone survived?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, we’re assessing the results right now, Bob, and that’s — that’s where I’m just not going to be able to go right now. I’m not going to get into trying to assess the effectiveness. We certainly believe that we hit what we were aiming at. And based on intelligence that, as I said, we believe was actionable, in other words, strong enough, we — we took this strike, but I wouldn’t get into assessing the effectiveness right now.
Q: So you’re confident Godane was there?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m just not going to get into assessments right now, Bob. I think I’d like to leave it kind of where I did right now. When — you know, if and when — as I said earlier, and I said last night — if and when, you know, we have more information that we can share, we certainly will.
Q: You said that there were laser-guided munitions. Does that mean that there were U.S. forces on the ground to lase the targets?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: There were no U.S. forces on the ground.
Q: No U.S. forces, either before or after the strikes?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No U.S. strikes on the ground, before or after the strikes.
Q: Was there somebody else on the ground that was lasing the targets?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, all I would tell you is that, you know, we continue to work with partners in that — in Somalia and in the region, but I won’t get any more specific than that.
Q: Admiral, did the U.S. inform the Somali government or the AMISOM mission there about the mission before — before it took place?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t have a tick-tock on the notification process, but this is very much in keeping with the kinds of operations that we conduct throughout the region and in partnership with the — you know, with the leadership there.
Q: And do you know the Somalia government announced last month this new mission, Operation Indian Ocean, about combatting Al-Shabaab and particularly targeting their access to ports, to seize off their sources of revenue. Was this strike in conjunction with that operation?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Not to my knowledge.
Q: You speak of it as if Godane was killed, but I know you won’t speak to that specific question right now. But if he were to be killed, what do you think it would say about the group’s — what would it mean for the group going forward? How important would that be?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, again, without speculating about whether he was, in fact, killed or not, I mean, he is the recognized, appointed leader of the Al-Shabaab network in Somalia. So if he was killed, this is a very significant blow to their network, to their organization, and, we believe, to their ability to continue to conduct terrorist attacks.
Now, mind you, it’s a network, and we understand that. And we’re mindful that there are — there remain other leaders of the organization at large. But he’s the recognized leader. And if we killed him, a significant blow to their organization and to their abilities.
Q: Thank you, admiral. More broadly, can you answer the critics who are saying that the administration does not have a strategy, does not have a counterterror strategy, a Mideast strategy, one that’s good enough? Is there a strategy? Can you articulate that strategy for us and answer those critics?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Absolutely there’s a strategy for our approach to the Middle East. Now, I can only speak from a military perspective and for the Pentagon, but we have been consistently going after the terrorist threat in that part of the world, and not just that part of the world, as I just — as I just read to you.
And inside Iraq, the mission is very clear. We are there to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces as they take the fight to ISIL. We are there to provide humanitarian assistance where and when we can. I just — we just talked about that over the weekend. And we are certainly there to help defend and protect U.S. personnel and facilities.
So the mission set inside Iraq is very, very clear. The strategy, with respect — the military strategy, with respect to the Middle East, also has been very clear, and it’s not just something that — you know, that we just started doing. I mean, we’ve been — we’ve been going after terrorist networks in that part of the world for more than a decade, with — with very good success. Doesn’t mean it’s been eliminated, but we certainly have been very active and very energetic, and the objectives have been very, very clear.
Q: Do you feel that you’ve gone after ISIS as soon as you possibly could? The question is, how good and how early was the intelligence that was being briefed to the White House about the ISIS threat? And could more have been done sooner, I guess?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I’m not going to speak about intelligence matters, and I’m certainly not going to speak for intelligence issues that were raised to the White House. That’s a question better directed to the intelligence community and to them.
But wait a minute. But to your larger issue here, we’ve talked about ISIL for many months now. And as I’ve said before, we were very closely monitoring and tracking their progress, their growth, their development, well before they rolled in to Mosul. So this is not an organization that we haven’t been watching.
The speed with which they took control of the north in Iraq definitely got a lot of people’s attention. And I’ve said that publicly, too. Nobody expected that four divisions of the Iraqi army were just going to fold the way they did. So there was a speed there that certainly was — did not go unnoticed.
But this is an organization we’ve been long watching, and I think it’s helpful to go back and just look at the last couple of months. I mean, we’re all fixated right now on targeted air strikes, which we are conducting with very good tactical effect, but long before that started, we upped our presence in the Persian Gulf, we added more security assistance personnel in and around Baghdad. We stood up two joint operations centers, which are active and helping right now, as we speak, in terms of advising and assisting and sharing information with Iraqi and Kurdish forces. And then we have done numerous air drops in two different operations to alleviate suffering. So the military has been very active here.
The other thing that we’ve said, Justin — and is this not a small point — is there’s not going to be just a military solution here. Ultimately, the long-term answer has to be inclusive, responsible, responsive, good governance inside Iraq to alleviate, to help take away those conditions that folks like ISIL can exploit for their own purposes.
Does that answer your question?
Q: (off-mic) yeah, just a quick follow-up on Justin’s question. As you may know, the majority of the foreign fighters who are joining ISIL are going to Syria through Turkey. My question is, how do you evaluate Turkey’s role in countering ISIS?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, it’s not for me to evaluate Turkey’s role…
Q: Based on — based on your information, do you think Turkey is cooperating?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We have a strong relationship with…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I know that. I’m not going to — I’m not going to — you know, I’m not going to answer a question that should be asked of the Turkish government. What I’m telling you is, Turkey has a stake here. We understand that. It’s an important partner in the region, a NATO ally. The Turkish government has concerns about foreign fighters, and right they should, and we’re going there next week, and I think — I have no doubt that this will be a topic of discussion between Secretary Hagel and his counterpart.
Q: Do you think they’re doing a — a helpful…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Do I think what?
Q: Do you think they are doing a helpful role?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: A helpful role. We believe that Turkey, because they have concerns just like other partners in the region, are — are expending their effort and their energy in trying to address this as best they can. I’m not going to go into more detail than that.
Q: Could you give us a clear picture of the situation on the ground at the Mosul dam? Why the United States
keeps launching airstrikes at that location?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Because ISIL keeps trying to take it back. As I said last week, as long as they continue to pose a threat to the facility, we’re going to continue to hit them. And we are.
Q: Admiral, on the subject of the secretary’s trip, Secretary Kerry wrote in the New York Times over the weekend that he and Secretary Hagel will be asking NATO allies and other nations for help in this potential campaign against ISIS in Syria. How much more can you tell us about how many nations they’re going to approach, which ones, and what they’ll ask for specifically in building that coalition?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think we’re still sort of putting together an agenda here, Phil, for — on the sidelines of the NATO summit. But you’re right. Secretary Hagel and Secretary Kerry do want to get together with some of these partner nations. Many of them are NATO allies, of course. And I don’t have a list right now.
I think this is going to be more of an informal arrangement, again, on the sidelines of the already very full agenda in Wales, wherein they will try to get together and talk about the contributions that have been made by these other nations, and certainly to encourage others who haven’t contributed yet to look at contributing, as well. But, I mean, I don’t — I don’t have a date certain on the calendar or a time when they’re going to do that, but we’re looking for those opportunities.
And it could be more than one. It could be that, you know, they — that they have these discussions in more than one setting with smaller numbers of these nations at a time.
Q: Can you give us a high-level sense about what they’ll ask for? Do they want partners for airstrikes? Do they want humanitarian aid like you described earlier, somewhere in between? What will they ask for?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We want partner nations to contribute what they are able and willing to contribute in whatever fashion they’re willing to contribute it. And understanding, of course, that they have domestic concerns, as well, and their own legislative bodies to work through on this, and populations who have, you know, different views on assisting against the ISIL threat. We respect that.
So it’s not about going there with demands or a laundry list. It’s about going there to thank them for what they’ve been doing, encourage them to continue to assist in whatever way they deem fit.
Q: Thank you. If I can go back to Somalia, you had mentioned that you were mindful of some of other leaders that were in the area, and I was wondering — because we have officials in Somalia saying that it was a senior Al-Shabaab meeting. Do you know of any other targets — without saying whether or not they were hit, were there any other targets that were at that encampment?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We’re still assessing the results. What I would tell you is the principal target was Mr. Godane. And we’re still assessing the results. And, again, if we have more information about others who may have been killed in that attack, we’ll certainly share it as best we can.
Q: And you said — just a quick follow-up — you said that there was an unmanned and a manned attack. Was the actual hit, was it by a drone? Or was it by the manned aircraft?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: What I said was manned and unmanned aircraft participated in the strike. I didn’t actually say what type of aircraft launched these — these missiles and precision-guided munitions, and I won’t get into detailing the platforms here today.
Yeah, Maggie? Maggie?
Q: Okay. Do you consider the operation at Amerli to be a success? And if so, how is the Defense Department defining success when it comes to those operations which target the Islamic State? At Mount Sinjar, there was a potential rescue operation that the U.S. military was looking at and decided not to do. And the intelligence indicated there were 2,000 people on the mountain that wanted off. And then you just said the Islamic State was trying to retake Mosul dam. So I’d just like some clarity on what success looks like for this campaign.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t know that I would call it a campaign. But leaving that aside, we do believe that the operations in Amerli have been successful. I mean, obviously, as I said, Iraqi security forces and Kurdish forces are now in — are in control of the township. We’re watching that. We’re monitoring that. We’re not taking that for granted.
Just like to Joe’s question on the Mosul dam, if we need to continue to take strikes in and around Amerli to disrupt ISIL, we’ll do that. But so far, we believe the mission has succeeded and, by and large, because we’re able to get needed provisions to the — to the people there. And we know that it got into the right hands and that they’ve been able to sustain themselves with the food and water that’s been provided.
And I should remind you that it wasn’t just us doing this. As I said, there were other countries involved in that, and we’re grateful for that support.
The president also has been very, very clear about — from an anti-ISIL perspective — what we’re trying to do there, and it’s to disrupt their ability to continue to put U.S. personnel and facilities at risk or to further spur more humanitarian crises.
But ultimately — and we’ve also said — so this is to your question about success — that the real measure of success is that their ideology is ultimately defeated, and the only way that’s going to be done is through good governance. And we’ve said that time and again, but I think it’s worth repeating. There’s not going to be a military solution to this. We’re not the answer to ISIL inside Iraq, not the U.S. military. The answer is the ideology gets rejected because there’s good governance, responsive government, inclusive government in Iraq and, frankly, in Syria, as well.
Did that answer your question? Yes, ma’am?
Q: Is there any — before this video was released today of Steven Sotloff’s murder, was there any indication or suspicion that he was killed at the same time as James Foley?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t know that anybody had definitive knowledge one way or the other. And as I would say — and I’d remind you that we still can’t confirm the press reporting about this next video and this potential new murder. So I — I wouldn’t be able to characterize it one way or another that we knew. We’re trying to — just like you, we’re trying to find out ground truth here.
Q: (off-mic) on the Shabaab operation, was there any intelligence that they were plotting an imminent terrorist attack? Was that one of the reasons why this action was taken when it was?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think I laid it out in my opening. This action was taken because of the history of terrorist attacks and violence that this organization is responsible for and continues to be responsible for. But, again — and I will just tell you, actionable intelligence led us to that site where we believe he was. But I wouldn’t talk about the specifics of exactly what that intelligence was composed of.
Q: Admiral, I was wondering if you might be able to bring us up to speed on your latest understanding of the size and scope of Russian troop levels, both on the border with Ukraine and inside Ukraine? And separately, has the secretary had any chance to talk to his Russian counterpart in the last couple days about the escalating situation there?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Sure. He’s not spoken to Minister Shoygu since the last team I read it out to you, which was, I think, more than a week ago. We continue to assess that Russian forces aggregate along the border with Ukraine. I’m loathe, as I typically am, to get into a hard number, but it’s certainly north of 10,000, remains north of 10,000.
More important than the numbers are, as I said, the capability. These are battalion tactical groups that are highly capable, very ready, very close to the border, closer than we saw in the spring, and could move literally on a moment’s notice.
In addition to that, we continue to see support for separatists and we continue to see Russian forces, conventional and special forces, inside Ukraine, in the — again, without getting into a specific number, I’d say in the thousands is safe. And nothing has changed about our position, that that activity needs to stop, those troops need to leave, the support for the separatists needs to stop, and we want those troops pulled away from the border with Ukraine.
So we — again, we continue to see action by Moscow that does nothing but increase tensions inside Ukraine and spur additional violence.
Q: Can I follow on that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Sure.
Q: NATO Secretary General Rasmussen yesterday said he plans to build a NATO rapid response force of some 14,000 troops to put along the eastern borders of the NATO nations in response to Russia’s aggression. How would the U.S. participate in that? Would they provide troops, equipment, support, weapons, air cover? What is the U.S. thinking about that force? And would it engage in that operation?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think we would certainly participate in any discussion about the development of this rapid reaction force. As you know, we already do field a rapid reaction force — in fact, they just deployed an army unit.
But to your other question, I think we certainly would participate in discussions about that. I have no doubt but that it will be discussed in Wales this week. And Secretary Hagel looks forward to having those discussions. But it’d be preliminary right now, way ahead of ourselves to try to speculate exactly how we would assist in resourcing that force.
The bigger point, Mick, is that we’re continuing to look for ways to work with allies and partners in the region to bolster the security commitments that we already have in Europe and to reiterate our absolute ironclad commitment to Article 5 of the treaty.
And there’s lots of ways to do that. We’ve contributed to the Baltic air policing mission. We’ve done ground
exercises in the Baltics. We’ve exercised more aggressively in the Black Sea. That continues. So we’re constantly looking for new ways. We welcome the secretary general’s suggestion. And I know we’ll look forward to having deeper discussions about it when we get there.
Q: Does — does the U.S. think that those eastern NATO borders are threatened in the least bit by Russia’s apparent incursion into Ukraine?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It’s not that there’s a direct threat against the eastern borders of those nations. It’s about making sure that there’s a strong message sent, to friend and foe alike, that we’re going to stand by our Article 5 treaty commitments, and we’re going to — and we have done that, and we will continue to look for ways to stress that again.
Q: Did — so the Ukrainian forces have suffered a little bit more setbacks in recent days in actions against separatists. By some reports, the language from Moscow is increasingly strong. Has that — are you changing your approach to the summit in terms of the urgency of the situation or discussions of what — what the U.S. response might need to be, given — given the changing conditions on the ground, where Russian support for separatists seem to be having more of an effect now?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: From a defense perspective only — and I’m not qualified to speak to everything — it’s not just a defense summit that — or ministerial that we’re going to in Wales — but from a defense perspective, no, nothing essentially changes about the manner in which we continue to monitor the situation, Julian.
So I know of no specific agenda item that’s going to — that has changed because of the last week or so. But, of course, what’s been going on in Ukraine will be a major topic of discussion by all of NATO’s leaders this week.
And it has — as Secretary Hagel has said many times, what Russia has done in many ways has galvanized the alliance and shown into — and brought into sharp relief the need for all NATO partners and allies to continue sufficient and adequate defense spending for their own defense and for the defense of their allies and to look for new ways to combat threats on the continent. But I’m not aware of a specific item.
I think — but if I could just pull back from the summit a little bit, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that we aren’t mindful of the intensity of operations in and around Ukraine right now.
I mean, as Secretary Hagel gets ready to leave for Wales, he’s certainly mindful of what’s going on there and how the alliance has got to be able to prove strong enough to send the right message to Moscow going forward.
I mean, I already got you. Let me look around. Yeah?
Q: Admiral, to follow up on NATO and Ukraine, General Secretary Rasmussen spoke at length and in some detail about this rapid strike force. He said that it would be able to strike in a very, very few days. He spoke about numbers. He said there would have to be prepositioned supplies and facilities in place already, so it could strike fast. He also spoke about it as if it was a done deal.
So my question — and that — you know, the details need to be worked out, but that the concept of it, the foundation of it is a done deal. So my question is, did he get ahead of where the United States is, number one? And, number two, has Secretary Hagel and the Pentagon had input to Mr. Rasmussen and other NATO leaders about the formation of this rapid strike force? Or will they be hearing about it for the first time in Wales?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t think anybody from at least the United States side will be hearing about it for the first time when we get to Wales. As I said, we look forward to having these discussions. It is — it’s another idea that is worth exploring when it comes to, again, standing by our Article 5 commitments. But this is — this will be no doubt part of the discussions when we get to Wales.
Q: And Russia — just a quick follow — Russia today responded — the Russian government responded today, in so many words, saying that this — this would be a provocative move and they would have to reassess their own stance, if NATO was to do this. Do you have concerns about Russia perceiving the creation of such a quick strike force as a provocation?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Our concerns are, again, meeting our commitments to NATO allies and partners. And you want to talk provocative? Let’s talk about a few thousand Russian troops inside eastern Ukraine, continuing to support separatists, with heavy weapon systems, and more than 10,000 troops arrayed along the southeast border with Ukraine. Let’s talk about that; that’s pretty provocative.
And I think that it’s entirely reasonable and prudent and responsible for NATO leaders to look for ways to continue to bolster the security alliance and the commitments that we have on the continent of Europe.
Let’s go back here.
Q: Admiral, I’d like to ask about the Mosul dam situation again. You said a few minutes ago that the reason the airstrikes have continued in that area is because ISIL continues to try to take the dam. I mean, is that — they’re taking offensive maneuvers towards the dam, and the purpose of the airstrikes is to deflect that? Or is the current military policy and strategy some sort of broader denigration of ISIL capability in the area? I guess, in effect, I’m asking, if ISIL was to stand down and not take any offensive measures against the dam, would the U.S. military operations against them in that broader region of northern Iraq stop?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The best way to answer your question is that we have specific authorities under which we are conducting airstrikes, to protect U.S. personnel and facilities, contribute to ISF and Kurdish efforts to fight ISIL, and, of course, the humanitarian side. So those are the authorities under which we’re conducting airstrikes. Nothing has changed about that.
And as we talked about when the Mosul dam operations started, that we believed that that was not only for the humanitarian purpose, but also it contributed to the protection of U.S. personnel and facilities. And so as long as ISIL continues to threaten the facility, we’ll continue to strike them. And I think you’ve seen that continue. You guys get the press releases every day. We’re very open and transparent about what we’re hitting, when, and with what. And that will continue, as long as they continue to threaten that facility, because that facility is that important.
Did that answer your question? Did that answer your question?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I mean, the — I think what you’re getting at is, like, is there some sort of broader mechanism or are we playing loose and fast with rules here? And we’re not. There are very specific authorities under which we are conducting strikes.
Q: (off-mic) talk about Al-Shabaab, you used the phrase, you know, deter, disrupt and defeat. And you don’t really use that language when you talk about ISIL. I guess I’m wondering if — right now, the…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think the president was pretty clear about what the — what the goals are inside Iraq with respect to ISIL, and he did say to disrupt their capability. And we continue to do that. But, look, ultimately, Andrew, it — we’re doing that at a tactical level through these airstrikes. And we’re doing it, quite frankly, I think, you could argue that we’re helping disrupt their capabilities through these humanitarian missions, because we’re denying them what they sought, both with the Yazidis and now these Shia Turkmen living in Amerli.
But strategically, long term, the real answer is good governance. And I know you guys don’t like to hear that. And I know that that doesn’t make for good copy in the Pentagon press room, but that is, in fact, what has to happen. We’re not going to solve this militarily, and we’re not going to solve the threat that ISIL poses just through airstrikes.
Q: Admiral, a clarification, please. I believe you mentioned that an Army unit is moving in Eastern Europe. Is that part of the planned rotation? Is that — is that unit on the first…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: What’s moving — say that again?
Q: You mentioned that an Army unit…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, I’m afraid I just don’t have the details. We have — we have a NATO response force that’s staffed by the Army, and I can get you more details on this, but it’s a normal rotational deployment.
Q: Because that separate from the 1st Cav, which is replacing…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, it’s the 1st Cav. It’s the same — it’s the same unit that we’ve been talking about.
Q: Because the movement of that unit, as best you know, has that been sped up? I believe they were not supposed to start moving until next month.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’ll have to get back to you, Richard. I don’t know if they’ve actually accelerated that deployment or not.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I was — Bob wants me to choose Phil, but I’m going to go with you because Bob wants me to choose Phil. (Laughter.)
Q: Thank you. Let me briefly change the topic. My question is about Korea. There has been a recent press report that the U.S. military has completed a site survey for the THAAD missile defense system.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q: And, you know, China and Russia have expressed strong opposition to this plan. And my question is, is the U.S. military going to go ahead with this deployment, despite these objections?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t have anything for you on that today. We’re in constant consultation with our allies on the peninsula about the requirements to defend the peninsula appropriately, and I just don’t have anything for you today on that.
Q: I just wanted to nail you down a little bit. On the…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Sure.
Q: You said before that the principal target of the Somalia operation was Godane. And you said earlier that you think you got what you were aiming at. I just want to make sure you — if you’re — I wanted to know if you…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I meant the facility. I meant the — the encampment and the vehicle. That’s what — that’s what we — that’s what we were targeting. I’m not prepared — no, thank you for making me clarify. I’m not —
that wasn’t a subtle hint that we think we know we got Godane.
Again, guys, we’re assessing this. And when we have information that we can share with you, we certainly
I got time for one more. Yeah, Jon?
Q: Admiral Kirby, are there any specific deliverables that Secretary Hagel is hoping to come out of this NATO summit, either in terms of a NATO response to Russian activities in Ukraine or against ISIL?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, remember, John, this isn’t a defense ministerial. This is a NATO summit of heads of state. So it’s not for Secretary Hagel to — you know, to have specific, you know, deliverables coming in and out of it. I mean, he’s looking forward to participating in the discussions with Secretary Kerry and with the president.
One of the things we do want to accomplish — and this gets to Phil’s question — is we do want to talk to some of our allies and partners about additional things that can be done inside Iraq. That’s clear. He looks forward to meeting with many of his counterparts to talk about not just what’s going on in Russia and Ukraine, but also Afghanistan. And should Afghanistan send a representative — right now, it appears as if they might — he’ll look forward to having those discussions, as well.
But ultimately, writ large, this is a — this is a — as he’s said, this is a defining moment for the alliance. And this’ll — this summit provides the alliance a great opportunity to look not only at what’s been happening in the last few months in Russia and Ukraine, but the future of the alliance itself, from defense spending to operations to exercises to interoperability and capabilities across the spectrum of military operations.