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

Press Operations

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook
Jan. 7, 2016
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             PETER COOK:  I wanted to start today by addressing events in Afghanistan earlier this week.  The Department of Defense has identified the service member who was killed in action on Tuesday in Marjah in Helmand province.

 

 

 

            He is Staff Sergeant Matthew K. McClintock, a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a veteran Green Beret on his third tour of duty.

 

 

 

            He was a member of the Washington National Guard and assigned to the 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group Airborne in Buckley, Washington.  He leaves behind a wife and an infant son.  Our thoughts and prayers are with them and his entire family during this difficult time.

 

 

 

            The two service members injured in Tuesday's attack on U.S. and Afghan forces were safely evacuated to Kandahar where they received further treatment.

 

 

 

            Staff Sergeant McClintock died in support of Operation Resolute Support, which is helping to keep Americans safe here at home, and helping to provide a better future for the Afghan people.

 

 

 

            Separately, I want to update you on two meetings the secretary had today.  The secretary traveled to the State Department this morning to meet with Secretary Kerry and other members of the administration to discuss coordination on various lines of effort in the counter-ISIL campaign.  This meeting is the latest in a series of regular meetings between the secretaries to discuss synchronization and mutual reinforcing efforts in the counter-ISIL campaign.

 

 

 

            Today's meeting focused on next steps following continued progress against ISIL in Ramadi, as well as efforts to cut ISIL supply lines between Mosul and Raqqah.  They also discussed the strategy to enhance our counter-messaging efforts.

 

 

 

            After that meeting, the secretary returned here to the Pentagon where he received an update from PACOM commander, Admiral Harry Harris.  They discussed recent events on the Korean peninsula, including North Korea's latest provocative act, as well as steps to further our military-to-military dialogue with allies in the region.

 

 

 

            And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions.

 

 

 

            Q:  Peter, two things along those two issues.  Was -- on the meeting this morning between Secretary Carter and Secretary Kerry, can you tell us, first of all, some of the other people who were at -- present at the meeting?  And was this a discussion that involved military strategy?  Are there any changes to military strategy or any other military implications that we should be aware of?

 

 

 

            And then a second one on Admiral Harris – the phone call.  Is there any additional information that the U.S. now has about what type of test North Korea actually conducted?  And what other I guess details can you give us about what they -- what the U.S. is learning over time about it?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  First of all, with regard to the meeting with Secretary Kerry, I was not there, but we'll try to get for you a full list of the other attendees who were part of that.  It was, again, hosted by the State Department.  There was a discussion, as I understand it, of the ongoing effort -- the counter-ISIL effort.  The secretary, of course, talking about the military side of the campaign both in Iraq and in Syria.

 

 

 

            And, you know, there was again a discussion of the various lines of effort consistent with the meetings they've had in the past.  And again, the secretary meets with Secretary Kerry on a regular basis, but this is a specific series of meetings that they've had both here at the Pentagon, as you know, and at the State Department, looking at the particular lines of effort from representative agencies in the counter-ISIL campaign.

 

 

 

            So, there was a discussion, of course, of the military side of this campaign, and specifically the progress that's been made in recent weeks, not only in Iraq, but in Syria as well.

 

 

 

            With regard to the situation in North Korea, again we -- the government has concluded that a nuclear test took place, but we're still assessing new information we've received at this point in time.  But our analysis again indicates that it's not consistent with the North Korean claims of a hydrogen bomb test.  We're continuing to receive information and analysis, and we'll over the coming days we hope receive even more information that might give us a better understanding of exactly what took place there.

 

 

 

            Q:  Can you -- can you say whether or not the Air Force plane that's collecting samples has arrived there yet?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  Again, I'm not going to get into the -- we have a variety of means with which we can analyze what's taken place there.

 

 

 

            I'm not going to get into the details about what all those resources are, but we are using as many resources as we can to try and get a better picture of exactly what took place.

 

 

 

            Q:  Peter, I want to go back to Afghanistan.  I know you talked about this two days ago, but at the time you said you didn't have all the facts and didn't want to jump the gun.

 

 

 

            Help us understand again how these U.S. special operations forces who were in a train, advise and assist role, are so close to combat operations that they can take such substantial casualties, including one killed and two wounded?  How is that?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  Jamie, American special operations forces in Helmand province are in this train, advise and assist role in which they accompany -- can accompany Afghan forces, have accompanied in the past, were so on this particular occasion.  It was part of a clearing operation, as I understand it, in Marjah.  And their role is to assist, again, provide their unique training and advice to the Afghan forces.  And as they confront an objective, it is the Afghan forces that take on the objective, and the U.S. forces assume, if you will, a support position, and over-watch position.

 

 

 

            And that's been the way they've conducted these operations in the past.  This was a circumstance in which they, as I understand it, came under fire.  And this incident took place, and Staff Sergeant McClintock lost his life, unfortunately.

 

 

 

            Q:  When we -- when this -- when we get an explanation about what's going on in Iraq, for instance, with the raids like the one in -- (inaudible) -- the distinction is drawn between a raid, which is an in-and-out operation and not designed to take and hold territory in which, again, a U.S. special operation force lost his life, as opposed to taking and holding and being embedded with forces that are taking and holding territory in defensive operations.

 

 

 

            This operation in Afghanistan seems a lot like that kind of direct ground offensive.  The U.S. troops are embedded right with the Afghan forces.  Is there a difference between what's happening in Afghanistan and what's going on in Iraq?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  Well --

 

 

 

            Q:  In terms of the combat role?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  Sure.  I don't want to -- they are different circumstances, each case is different.  So, first of all, I would suggest that we want to look at these as individual circumstances.

 

 

 

            We have had special operations forces playing this role with Afghan special operations forces in Helmand province previously.  This was not the first time they've accompanied.  And they are conducting this role in support of the Afghan forces, trying to bolster them.

 

 

 

            They are in harm's way.  That is abundantly clear, just as those forces accompanying the Peshmerga in this particular raid you mention in Iraq are in harm's way.  In both instances, they are not in the lead.  They are as support and in a backup role, if you will, for lack of a better word.  But that does expose them to risk.  And that is clearly what happened with Joshua Ruer in Iraq, and in this instance as well.

 

 

 

            Everyone should be clear that those American forces are at risk.  This is a combat situation, but they are not in the lead intentionally.  They're in support of these forces that the United States is trying to provide additional support, training.  We're trying to bolster those forces so they can conduct these operations eventually on their own and secure their own country with respect to Afghanistan.

 

 

 

            And in this particular instance, this was Helmand province.  This was a clearing operation, consistent with what this train, advise and assist mission has been all about.

 

 

 

            Q:  Again, you say -- you used the words "in harm's way" several times.

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  Sure.

 

 

 

            Q:  The U.S. military doesn't have any reservation about saying U.S. troops are in combat in Iraq.  Do you have any reservation about saying the same thing about Afghanistan?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  This was clearly a combat situation in which U.S. forces that were accompanying Afghan forces who were in the lead, found themselves in a very difficult, dangerous situation.  That is crystal clear.  And we know that there are Americans putting themselves at risk in Afghanistan and Iraq in these positions.

 

 

 

            We take that very, very seriously.  And obviously, there can be some terrible consequences here.  They are carrying out an important mission in support of the Afghan government, in support of Afghan security forces.  And again, this staff sergeant lost his life doing something important that is helping to protect Americans here at home, also trying to ensure that Afghanistan has a better future.

 

 

 

            Q:  Just one more.  Why isn't there more transparency about what's going on in Afghanistan?  In Iraq, for instance, we get daily release on how many airstrikes we've conducted.  We have regular briefings about what's going on on the ground.  In Afghanistan, not so much.  Why not?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  Well Jamie, I'm trying to provide you as much information as I can about this particular incident Tuesday.  These news events were unfolding as we discussed them.  We've got -- I encourage you to reach out to the folks with Resolute Support who have even more information, to provide you even more, I hope, tick-tock of these events if you need them.

 

 

 

            But we're doing everything we can to provide as much information about the ongoing activities of American forces in Iraq, in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.  You're absolutely right.  People need to know what they're doing.  We're trying to provide as much information as we can about their role -- their important role going forward.

 

 

 

            And I would just highlight again the secretary himself went to Afghanistan not too long ago to highlight the service of those troops; what it is they're doing; the important role that they're carrying out in Afghanistan.  And that's just one part of a larger effort.  We'd like to draw attention to what they're doing, the important work that they're doing and into the future in Afghanistan.

 

 

 

            Q:  Peter, how many Chinese flights have landed on the Spratly base in recent days?  And does the Pentagon plan to respond?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  My understanding is, and let me just double-check one thing here, that we can now confirm that there may have been three flights that have landed.  I want to double-check my notes here because I just received this information.

 

 

 

            There may have been three flights that have landed of a civilian nature on one of the islands in question in the South China Sea.

 

 

 

            Q:  And does the Pentagon plan to respond?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  Well, we clearly are concerned by these flights, as we indicated in the past.  And we're concerned by all of these activities being conducted by the Chinese in disputed islands in the South China Sea.  We call on all parties -- as you know, Jennifer, we don't pick sides in these disputes, but anything being done by any country to try and raise tensions over these disputed islands, and to try to militarize or engage in reclamation activities in these islands, we think only adds to instability in the South China Sea.

 

 

 

            We call for a diplomatic resolution to these issues in the South China Sea.  And certainly, these flights do nothing to foster further stability and understanding in that part of the world -- a very important part of the world to the United States and others.

 

 

 

            Q:  And does the Pentagon plan to respond to the North Korean nuclear test?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  Well, we -- first of all, Jennifer, as you know, we're there every day in South Korea.  More than 28,000 U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula right now.  We stand resolutely with our South Korean allies.  Our commitment to them is ironclad and we will do everything we can to ensure their defense.  We continue to coordinate carefully with the South Koreans.  The secretary spoke with his counterpart yesterday; expect that there will be ongoing coordination with the South Koreans with regard to this issue and this provocative act by the North Koreans.

 

 

 

            Q:  And finally, six Democratic congressmen have written a letter to the White House about the Iran -- the second Iranian missile test, the two missile tests -- ballistic missile tests that took place this fall, demanding a response.

 

 

 

            And can you give us more details about that second ballistic missile test that took place in November?  Can you confirm that it was a ballistic missile test?  And is there going to be a response?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I can tell you that we are continuing to review this situation carefully, along with our colleagues in the interagency.  And this -- this is a situation that we're going to monitor very, very carefully.  This is -- these are issues of significance to the Department of Defense and to the entire interagency.  And we're working with our colleagues at the United Nations, at the State Department as well.

 

           

 

            But at this point, this is something that we're continuing to review right now as to what the appropriate response is.

 

 

 

            Q:  But did the second test take place?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I'm not going to be able to confirm for you exactly what took place there.

 

 

 

            Q:  Why are you so reluctant to confirm something that -- that privately officials are telling us did take place?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I'm not going to, from this podium, not going to confirm and get into questions about intelligence gathering with regard to this information.

 

 

 

            Q:  Following up on North Korea.  Has the Pentagon or Defense Department received any requests from South Korea  or the Japanese government since the nuclear test earlier this week in terms of assistance, additional military equipment to help counter the threat from North Korea?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  We're in ongoing conversations -- we are with the South Koreans and with our other allies in the region, about steps -- additional steps that may or may not need to be taken in order to respond to the latest actions from the North Koreans.  We're confident that we, again working in lockstep with the South Koreans, can respond appropriately to this action.  We'll continue to view with them all options that need to be considered at this point.

 

 

 

            But again, this -- we have an iron-clad commitment to the South Koreans.  This was a provocative act by the North Koreans and it does nothing to further stability in the Korean peninsula.  And we're clearly very, very concerned about what's taken place there.

 

 

 

            Q:  And the incident in Afghanistan, can you bring us up to speed on the fate of the two helicopters that extracted of the U.S. personnel from -- (inaudible).  There were two helicopters left behind.  Have they been removed from the scene?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  My understanding there was one helicopter that was damaged during the course of events.  And it has been lifted and removed and taken to Kandahar.  So, every one has been recovered safely, and the helicopter itself has also been recovered.

 

 

 

            Yes?

 

 

 

            Q:  Going back to Marjah again.  Congressman Ryan Zinke said today that he's been contacted by members of the special operations community involved in this operation, and said that there were some issues with rules of engagement, specifically that the quick reaction force and air support for an AC-130 gunship was delayed and/or denied.

 

 

 

            Meanwhile, people in this building and from Resolute Support have said that all support was rendered in a timely manner.  Can you rectify these discrepancies?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I think you've heard from the folks at Resolute Support who have told us the same thing, that there's no indication at this point that there was any delay.  There was an effort to respond as quickly as possible to this particular situation, given the ongoing fighting that was taking place.  And we don't have any indication that there was any delay here.

 

           

 

            Everyone there was recovered safely, thankfully.  The helicopter has since been recovered.  And obviously, happy to listen to whatever concerns the congressman may have, but there's no indication that we're aware of that there was any delay whatsoever; that this was an ongoing situation in which there was fire in the area and there was a quick response force, as you said, that was sent to that region. 

 

 

 

            And obviously, everything needed to be taken into account for their safety as well.  And we feel confident based on what we know right now that there was no delay and there was every effort made by the commander to try and address the situation in the appropriate fashion.

 

 

 

            Q:  (inaudible) -- South Korean newspapers. -- (inaudible) -- provide a nuclear umbrella to South Korea.  Can you give us what you can?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I'd just reiterate that our commitment to Korea is ironclad.  And we have -- the secretary himself was in South Korea not too long ago meeting with his counterpart.  And our -- just to be crystal clear to the North Koreans and to everyone else that this is one of our strongest allies in the world, and we going to do everything we can to maintain the security of South Korea.

 

 

 

            Q:  Also -- (inaudible) -- discussing the placement of U.S. strategic assets to Korean peninsula.  (inaudible) -- some more what -- (inaudible) -- and what is -- (inaudible)?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I'd just reiterate that we're going to continue to coordinate closely with the South Korean government, the ministry of defense, on steps that need to be taken, if additional steps need to be taken to ensure the strength of the alliance and the defense of South Korea.  And we're not going to get into all those options being discussed at this time, but again, our commitment to South Korea is ironclad.  And there should be no misunderstanding about that whatsoever.

 

 

 

            Q:  (inaudible) -- any -- (inaudible) -- also -- (inaudible) actions to North Korea regarding this nuclear test?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I'll just stand by what I've said here about our commitment to South Korea, our concerns about what the North Koreans have done, and our willingness to -- to stand by our allies in the region and to do what's necessary to protect them from the North Korean threat.

 

 

 

            Yes?

 

 

 

            Q:  A South Korean official said that they're in talks with U.S. officials regarding the deployment of certain strategic weapons to South Korea.  Can you give us details on what this discussion entails and what those strategic weapons might be?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  As I just said here, we're in close communication, close coordination with the South Koreans.  I'm not going to get into a list of options on the table, but this is something that is an ongoing discussion that we have on a regular basis already with the South Koreans.  But in light of recent events, has only stepped up the contact that we're having with the South Koreans and the communication we're having to make sure that they are assured, other allies in the region are assured that everything is being done to ensure the sanctity of the alliance and our commitment to South Korea moving forward.

 

 

 

            Q:  Secretary Carter and Minister Han met in November for the SCM.  And so --

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  Yes.

 

 

 

            Q:  They both said that the deployment of the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) not on the table for discussion at that time.  Is that now part of these discussions that are ongoing?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  We still have not had formal consultations on the THAAD system with the Republic of Korea; no decisions have been made on a potential deployment of the THAAD to the Korean peninsula.

 

 

 

            And again, this is -- this is part of a larger discussion that we'll continue to have with South Koreans about capabilities and about the alliance moving forward, but there's been no formal discussions about THAAD deployment.

 

 

 

            Q:  But does the North Korea test increase the urgency for those -- for discussing that specific -- (inaudible)?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  It increases the urgency for us to continue our coordination with the South Koreans and to consider every possible option that should be considered to further the defense of South Korea.  And again, to play our part in the region in ensuring stability.

 

 

 

            Q:  And one last one.  The last time this sort of test happened back in 2013, the U.S. flew B-2 bombers from Missouri all the way to South Korea, kind of as a show of force.  Are you considering that sort of move again?  And if not, something similar to that?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I'll just reiterate again that every day should be a show of force on the Korean peninsula from the United States military.  Again, more than 28,000 troops there.  We will consider other options as needed if we need to bolster our presence there.  We're satisfied we have the capabilities we need to deter North Korea and to ensure the defense of our ally, South Korea.

 

 

 

            Yes?

 

 

 

            Q:  Yesterday, the Pentagon announced that it would be reviewing the 1,100 approximately Silver Stars and service crosses that have been awarded in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.  Is that a reflection of the building thinking that the four Medals of Honor that have been awarded for Iraq over eight years of service there, from 2003 to 2011, and the 13 that have been awarded in Afghanistan, weren't enough and didn't reflect actually the number of men and women that put themselves at risk, and that, you know, they have done acts of valor that haven't been recognized at that level?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  This is not -- this is an indication more than anything else, not that anyone was inappropriately recognized, but that there have been some concerns expressed that perhaps there was -- there needs to be greater recognition; there needs to be a review of those awards that were handed out, and that's what this will be -- a review of those decisions.

 

 

 

            And there's no presumption at this point as to exactly what we'll -- what could potentially change, but the sheer number that are being reviewed here, over 1,000, would indicate that there is the possibility of change going forward.  But this was done, again, at the urging of some outside groups, some veterans as well.  And -- and that's why this is taking place at the time.

 

 

 

            Q:  Is there any sentiment at all that perhaps there should have been more Medal of Honor winners for --?

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  There's no -- there's no presumption at this point, but there's certainly been some of those concerns raised, again, by veterans and outside groups.  And this is in part a response to that, and an appropriate review to determine if indeed certain servicemembers deserved different recognition than perhaps they received initially.

 

 

 

            Yes?

 

 

 

            Q:  I have a scheduling question and one on Afghanistan.

 

 

 

            The meeting this morning between Secretary Carter and Secretary Kerry and some other officials was on Secretary Kerry's public record and not Secretary Carter's.  I'd like to know why something as important as that was not on the public schedule for the secretary of defense.

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  It was a decision made by the State Department.  It was hosted at the State Department.  We made information available to you now about the meeting itself.  We don't post every single of the secretary's meetings with Secretary Kerry. 

 

 

 

            There have been others this week, for example, that are not on his public schedule.  This was a closed event, not open to the press.  And the State Department made a decision to post it, and I'll leave the State Department to speak for itself.

 

 

 

            Q:  So we should have the expectation when there are meetings happening about the war against the Islamic state, we should go to the State Department to find out if such meetings are being scheduled?  I mean, in the past, those meetings have been posted so that we know.  We didn't have to go to the State Department.  So I hope --

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  That's not actually -- that's not actually accurate.  There have been past meetings of this kind that have not all been posted.  And we will -- we will, again, make every effort we can to try and provide information to you on those meetings.  You raise a good point about the schedule.  We do have a weekly schedule for the secretary that we try and post and have as accurate and as current as possible.

 

 

 

            In this instance, this was a meeting hosted at the State Department and they chose to post it, and that's fine by us.

 

 

 

            Q:  Well, if I could just put in a request that those -- some assurance from the podium that meetings of that serious nature, given that they're about the war, that the public know what effort is being made at the top level on --.

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  We will continue to provide updates on the schedule on these and other matters, and we'll make every effort we can to share that with you.

 

 

 

            Q:  Okay.  And then on Afghanistan, I want to follow up on one of Jamie's questions.  One of the war now is that often we don't find out about where U.S. forces are outside of the wire until there are casualties because so many of them are Special Forces and Special Operators, which means the public does not know where its forces are being deployed.

 

 

 

            And I wanted to know, we know there are 3,000 Special Operators.  Is there any way we can get some specificity on where they're deployed? 

 

 

 

            And also, I'd like you to take a question about what happened in the larger battle.  Because in the past, we have been afforded some detail about why a servicemember has died on behalf of this nation and the -- the idea that only those in a train, advise and assist role gives us no detail.  There was this 20-hour battle involved.

 

 

 

            I'm asking for some detail and some clarity on what's being asked of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  Because right now, the most common way we find out about such missions is through casualties.  And I'd like to know if you could take that question, if there's any way we can really find out some of the areas that these 3,000 are deployed.

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I'm happy to take that question.  You know, Nancy, that with regard in particular to Special Operations forces, we don't disclose much, if anything, about their activities in part because of operational security, and we're going to continue to do that for the obvious reason.

 

 

 

            In this particular instance, as I mentioned before, this was a clearing operation, as I understand it.  Resolute Support can provide you with more detail on exactly the operation itself, the tick-tock if you will.  We've asked them to provide that to you.  And we'll provide what detail we can on exactly what's taking place here and with regard to other -- other U.S. forces.  But we're going to be very careful about what we disclose about special operators for understandable reasons.

 

 

 

            Q:  Right.  I understand.  But if you're able to provide a tick-tock, I just want to kind of put on record that as of now, we don't know what's being asked of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  And I'm hoping that there's some way to somehow respect the operations --

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  There's a lot being asked of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.  And just to be crystal clear, and this is a perfect example of that.  This is a challenging environment, a dangerous environment.  And -- and we've made you and others aware of about Special Operators assisting, training, advising, assisting these Afghan forces and being out in the field with them in places like Helmand province.  We've disclosed that before.

 

 

 

            And we'll provide information as we get it about their role and what they're doing out there.  In this particular instance, there was a clearing operation in which they were with Afghan forces in Helmand Province, we have disclosed that there were U.S. forces in Helmand Province previously, and we're providing the information as to what took place specifically that resulted in the death of Staff Sergeant McClinton. 

 

 

 

            Q:  Could we get, then, just a list of where roughly the other 3,000 are so we have some sense of where they're being deployed? 

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  We'll try and get that for you in terms of where they are in Afghanistan specifically.  They're -- you know, there are some in Helmand Province and there are some -- so we'll get those -- as much information as we can for you. 

 

 

 

            Q:  But just to follow up, Peter, these troops are in combat, you don't dispute that. 

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  This was clearly a combat situation.  Their mission, as you know, Jennifer, is to assist the Afghan forces, to train, advise and assist.  They can accompany, they play a support role, but they are there able to defend themselves and at risk as we have seen painfully in this particular instance. 

 

 

 

            Yes, Christina.

 

 

 

            Q:  Peter, earlier this week, you said the expeditionary targeting force has -- the plans have moved forward on that.  Without giving away operational details, can you explain what you mean by moved forward? 

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  As we said, this was a force that was going to be put in place to be able to disrupt ISIL and to conduct operations that we felt would be helpful in putting even more pressure on ISIL as we've continued to apply pressure both in Syria and in Iraq. 

 

 

 

            We feel confident that their capabilities will provide us the opportunity to do that to again play a disruptive role.  And I will just characterize for you that they are now in a position to carry out the work that the secretary expects of them, but I'm not going to get into details as to exactly where they are, what they're doing at this particular moment in time, but we're confident that this is an important capability that will help our effort going forward. 

 

 

 

            Q:  So they physically moved --

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I'm not going to get into details about where they are at this particular moment in time other than to say that this effort, as the secretary has directed, is moving forward and we believe this capability will make a difference for us again in Iraq specifically. 

 

 

 

            Q:  And I have one last question.  Does Prime Minister Abadi or the Iraqi government have to okay -- do they have to okay the moving into place, or is it just individual operations? 

 

 

 

            MR. COOK: Operations, the ETF and our other operations in Iraq will be carefully coordinated with the Iraqi government.  The secretary discussed this with Prime Minister Abadi on his recent trip to Iraq.  And again, we feel confident that this is an important capability that will bolster the Iraqi government's own efforts to try and take back territory and take the fight to ISIL.  Yes, Joe? 

 

 

 

            Q:  Peter, if I could get a reaction from you on Iran's Saudi Arabia tensions right now.  Is the Pentagon concerned about that?  And do you think that kind of tension could complicate the situation, the security situation in the region, mainly in Iraq and in Syria? 

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  As we mentioned previously, we're of course concerned by any of these escalating tensions and the potential for an impact.  But right now, we're not seeing an impact on the counter-ISIL campaign specifically, but we would encourage both sides here to de-escalate the situation because we don't think it's productive or helpful at this point and remains a -- remains a risk to the region.

 

 

 

            It's not helpful.  We would ask for cooler heads to prevail here and for both sides to do what they can to try and lower the tension level here because it's not conducive to the -- to the important fight that needs to be waged against ISIL, and that's clearly our -- one of our biggest concerns right now, and we'd like to see -- we'd like to see these tensions reduced because of that. 

 

 

 

            Yes? 

 

 

 

            Q: Is there any communication between DOD and China, like PLA, on the nuclear test? 

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I'm not going to get into discussions up here.  If we've got conversations to read out between the secretary, we'll provide those to you.  At this point.  we believe, obviously, that China has an important role to -- to play here.  And, again, given their influence and their relationship with North Korea, we would hope that China would play a -- a helpful role here, going forward. 

 

 

 

            Q:  Peter, I -- a Dr. Peter Pry, who's an expert on electromagnetic pulse, suggests that the North Koreans are really aiming toward more of a neutron type of bomb, to emit greater gamma rays, rather than radiation, given the low yield. 

 

 

 

            Has the Defense Department been looking at something like this as part of their strategy to create more of an EMP impact, as a -- from the North Korean standpoint? 

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I'm not aware of this particular report.  And what I can tell you at this point is, again, we've -- we've looked at the test that took place, and, again, our initial analysis is that it's not consistent with what the North Koreans have themselves described. 

 

 

 

            We're still waiting to get further information ourselves, but -- so I can't comment specifically on -- on this report and this particular suggestion about this particular report, so. 

 

 

 

            Q:  But he says that in -- in the last thee to four detonations, they've been working on miniaturization.  They've all been purposely low-yield -- up to about 10 kilotons -- and that this is a purposeful area, to try and miniaturize so they can put it on a warhead and be able to put it into a satellite and spin it around the world and let it loose whenever they choose. 

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I will just reiterate that, no matter what they did the other day, it was a provocative act.  It was not helpful to peace and stability on the peninsula, and it clearly remains an area of significant  concern for the United States and for our allies. 

 

 

 

            And because of that, we're going to continue to do everything we can to address the North Korean challenge, standing side by side with South Korea and with our other allies in the region, and that we'll continue to, obviously, carefully watch what's -- what the North Koreans do going forward.  

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  One last question here, and then I'm going to move on. 

 

 

 

            Q:  Did North Korea notify to the United States for their nuclear test? 

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I'm not aware of any notification that was provided to the U.S. government.

 

 

 

            Q:  Your U.S. intelligence -- they don't have any information --

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  I thought your question was did the North Koreans notify us of their plans to hold a test.  And, again, I'm -- to my knowledge, the North Koreans did not provide any notification to the United States or anyone else that they were going to conduct this test. 

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  One more question there, and then --

 

 

 

            Q:  Just, quick question.  (inaudible ) last week, where India was (inaudible) of two -- (inaudible) -- one in Afghanistan at -- (inaudible) -- consulate, and another one was inside India, at the air force base, which there's a tussle between India and Pakistan because Afghanistan -- the prime minister -- (inaudible) -- Pakistan (inaudible) the new prime minister -- (inaudible) -- and then he call him yesterday. 

 

 

 

            And then, first time, Nawaz Sharif said that the -- the Indian -- (inaudible) -- attack inside (in ?) India's concern.  Any comments of what's going on on these terrorist attacks? 

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  This is a situation between India and Pakistan, and we encourage their continued communication and efforts to address these issues.  And the communication is a -- is a hopeful sign that they will be able to address these concerns, but I'll leave it to the governments of Pakistan and India to respond to this particular situation. 

 

 

 

            Q:  The reason I was asking because there are -- the defense minister of India was here and the secretary of -- (inaudible) -- in India and also  he made all of these comments.  Between -- the relations between the U.S. and India are moving as far as a comprehensive strategy concern and other issues. 

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  Yes.  Well, the secretary was pleased to welcome his counterpart from India here not too long ago, and again, this -- feels very good about the relationship with India, the military-to-military relationship that we have.  And he's going to continue to foster that relationship in the best way he can and continue to encourage partners in the region, countries in the region to try and do everything they can to reduce tensions in the region. 

 

 

 

            Q:  Thank you very much, sir.

 

 

 

            MR. COOK:  Thank you all very much.

 

 

 

            -END-