United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


DoD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell
January 06, 2010

                MR. MORRELL:  Hi, guys.  Happy new year. 

 

                Q     Happy new year. 

 

                Q     Happy new year. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Good to see you all. 

 

                My new year's resolution:  to be Mr. Nice Guy up here.  What do you say?  (Laughs, laughter.) 

 

                Q     The timing -- (off mike). 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  (Laughs.)  That's what -- my wife said that's what my resolution should be. 

 

                Anyway, I have nothing to start, so let's have at it.  AP, Anne. 

 

                Q     What does Gates plan to do differently in response to the attempted Christmas bombing?  And is he concerned that the U.S. is failing to connect the dots to such a degree that another attack might be imminent? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I have not heard him express that kind of concern. As a former intelligence official himself, obviously he is a voracious consumer of intelligence.  He is one who believes it is a vitally important component to our nation's security, and he's one who cares very deeply about the health and the capabilities of our intelligence community.  Obviously, this department is the provider of at least the vast majority of the intelligence budget for this country.  So he is responsible for a large part of it as well, and he pays close attention to it. 

 

                As for whether or not he -- what was the first part of the question? 

 

                Q     What does he plan to do differently in light of the attack? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  You know, I think -- I think first and foremost this government is doing things differently, as the president articulated yesterday. 

 

                As for what this department in particular will do differently, I think that is something that is yet to be determined.  I'm not so sure that there is anything that is readily apparent, at least with regards to this case, that would illustrate that there was a failing within this department as to how we should have responded.  That said, given the fact that he places such a premium on the importance of intelligence, everybody who is responsible for that portfolio in this building is no doubt taking a much closer look at how they do business to make sure they are doing it to the secretary's and the president's satisfaction. 

 

                I have not heard him in the days since that attempted attack articulate the need or request anybody in this department to be doing things differently.  Obviously, we are doing things around the world operationally that very much impact the security of this country, whether it be in Iraq or Afghanistan or in operations taking places (sic) in other parts of the world.  We are doing things in a very offensive manner to try to prevent any other attack taking place on our country again. 

 

                So the president was very clear in the days since Christmas that this is not just a matter of defense -- it's not just a matter of what we can do defensively to protect our citizens; we need to be on the offense as well, as we have been for years now.  And certainly under the Obama administration, that has been the case.  We have taken the fight to the terrorists, as the president said, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in any number of countries around the world, sometimes directly, sometimes in our support of our friends and allies, working by, with and through our partners around the world. 

 

                Yeah, Tom. 

 

                Q     CENTCOM [Central Command] is looking for -- proposing [$]140 million for Yemen, mostly training money, double what it was last year.  Can you give us a sense of the approval process for this?  Will this be part of the normal budget, or is this going to be fast tracked? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, we just got -- the FY '10 budget, as you know, was just -- was just appropriated by the Congress before they recessed for the Christmas holiday.  So that was welcome news, and that now provides us with the monies to spend on 1206, which is building our partnership capacity -- building the capacity of foreign military and security forces so that they can attend to these problems before they get to such a problem that it requires U.S. boots on the ground. 

 

                And so, with regards to Yemen, there has been a steady increase in our support of Yemen dating back to 2006, when we provided then $4.6 million.  In 2007, it went to [$]26 million.  In 2008, none of the projects that had been proposed met the requirements for 1206.  But then again, in 2009, we provided $67 million. 

 

                Right now, as you heard from General Petraeus recently, it is his desire to increase that funding significantly in light of the threat that is now posed from within Yemen, and in light of the desire on the Yemeni government for more assistance from us to combat that threat. So there is now a process under way within this building and then within the interagency to determine how much is appropriate. 

 

                There's a limited sum of money to work with.  I mean, there's roughly $350 million that's been appropriated for fiscal year '10.  Yemen is not the only country in need of this kind of assistance.  So choices have to be made.  Judgments have to be made.  Their needs versus other countries have to be balanced.  But I think -- that process is under way right now.  And given the very real threat that exists there, I think there will be an effort to do this is an expedited fashion. 

 

                I can't give you a precise time as for -- 

 

                Q     Ballpark? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I can't give -- I can't even do that.  I mean, this -- if -- it's hard enough getting things done in a timely fashion within this building.  This is a program, as you know, that is sort of dual access.  We do this in conjunction with the State Department.  So I can't tell you with any precision when this might take place. 

 

                But I think it's clear that there is a desire to provide more financial assistance to the Yemeni government through 1206 funding so that they can take on this threat, but there are also other means of supporting them in this effort.  And in fiscal year '(0)9 they also received roughly $2.8 million in foreign military financing, another million dollars in international military education and training, and roughly $400,000 for a counterterrorism fellowship program. 

 

                So we're looking for any and all means possible that we can be supportive of the Yemeni government and their armed forces as they step up to the plate in a very concerted fashion, and in a very aggressive and brave fashion, to take on this threat within their midst.  We clearly are heartened -- we're clearly encouraged by the fact that the Yemeni government seems extremely committed to dealing with this.  There have been times in the past where that commitment has been less clear.  And I think that everyone at this point is heartened by the fact that there seems to be a real commitment to pursuing these terrorists within their midst. 

 

                Yeah, Al Pessin. 

 

                Q     Geoff, what was the secretary's reaction to General Flynn's monograph, published the other day by CNAS [Center for a New American Security], both in terms of its substance and also in the way that it was published? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  You know, I have not spoken to him about this, but I do know he has not read it yet.  I think it is on -- it's in his inbox, but I don't think he has a chance to read it yet.  At least as I left the building last night, he had not. 

 

                That said, I think I can speak to you with some confidence that, even as he has not read the report yet, based upon my familiarity with him and in dealing with similar situations in the -- in the past, that the report itself -- forget for a moment or put aside for a moment the venue in which it was published -- is exactly the type of candid, critical self-assessment that the secretary believes is a sign of a strong and healthy organization.  This kind of honest appraisal enriches what has been a very real and hearty and vigorous debate that, frankly, has been taking place within this building, within this department and within this government for years now. 

 

                I mean, you guys all watched closely the most recent strategic assessment on Afghanistan and Pakistan.  I mean, you all know from the reporting that you did during the months that that took place that one of the fundamental discussions that took place was about the degree to which you balance counterterrorism versus COIN [counter insurgency], and how best do you pursue the threats that emanate from Afghanistan.  And there are those who believe that we should be focused much more on COIN, and there are those who believe that we should -- that we should weight it more towards counterterrorism. 

 

                I think that's at the root of what -- of what General Flynn was talking about, which is how you deploy intelligence assets to achieve your objectives.  And he obviously has some very strong opinions about it.  He's someone I know who has the respect of the secretary and the senior military command within this building.  And I think he is dealing with something that is clearly critical to our success in Afghanistan. 

 

                Intelligence is critical to our success there, and the fact -- and intelligence over the years has clearly been a challenge that we've had to deal with.  And I think we are all open to suggestions about how we can be doing this better and how we can be doing this better quickly because, as you know, time is of the essence there. 

 

                Q     So do you expect the department to support the kinds of changes that he's calling for?  And can you also talk about the way in which it was put forward? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I mean, I think that this -- we're not from here going to micromanage how General McChrystal and his team go about deploying their intelligence assets. 

 

                Q     When I say support, I mean provide the resources. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, I don't -- I'm not so sure that it requires, you know, additional resources.  I think this is a question right now of taking the assets that he has and using them differently to achieve a different result, or hopefully a better result.  That's as I understand it.  But if the determination is made that he needs more help, more resources on the intelligence side, I am sure that's something that will be given the utmost attention within this building if that request were to come in. 

 

                With regards to the venue -- the outlet, you know, obviously, it -- it's a little unconventional, and clearly took some people by surprise.  There are probably more traditional means of disseminating this information.  But I haven't heard anybody internally, you know, voice too much concern about that. 

 

                Q     Was the secretary surprised? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I don't know.  I frankly don't know that he's even aware of it.  I mean, I think, as I said, it's in his inbox.  He hasn't had a chance to read it yet, as last I checked.  He probably has seen some of your all's reporting on it.  But I'm not -- I haven't heard his -- him on whether he's surprised about the choice of using a think tank to share these concerns. 

 

                I mean, you should know by way of context, of course, that -- that that think tank in particular is one that has devoted a lot of time and energy and resources to examining this -- these issues, and played a role, as did several others, in the assessment that General McChrystal and his team did this summer on the situation in Afghanistan.  So they're -- it's not entirely out of -- out of the blue that they would -- that General Flynn would choose to share his opinions through that -- through that outlet.  But there probably were some others that he could have considered as well. 

 

                Yeah, Tony. 

 

                Q     Could you discuss the latest figures on Gitmo detainee recidivism?  Last April, it was 14 percent.  There's been a lot of interest in the subject since two -- apparently two Gitmo detainees have ended up as leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  We're hearing that it's closer to 20 percent now.  Can you confirm that? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I cannot.  I don't have any new numbers to share with you at this point. 

 

                Those products, as you know, we do try to keep very, very close tabs on those detainees who we have transferred from Guantanamo back to, you know, their home country or third countries.  And the last report that we declassified, as you mentioned, was an April report that I think we actually provided for you in May, which reflected an increase in recidivism from I think 11 percent up to about 14 percent. 

 

                We clearly have been doing our best to keep tabs on anyone who may have returned to the fight, either in a confirmed fashion or in a suspected fashion, since then.  But I can't give you the numbers, other than to say that I do not believe that trend has reversed itself. 

 

                Q     Do you believe it's gone higher -- it's increased? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  There clearly was a trend that -- we've done two reports that we've released publicly.  One showed it at 11 percent. Another showed it at 14 percent.  I don't think that trend has reversed itself. 

 

                Q     Can I ask you a quickie on the tanker RFP [request for proposal]?  You're going to need tankers to fly detainees to their home stations, so -- (laughter) -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  (Laughs.) 

 

                Q     -- what's the -- what is the status -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Let me just -- one footnote to this, though.  I know your interest in this subject is clear to us.  We deal with this every time there's rumors and reports of an -- of an updated DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] report on this subject, and we are working to get an unclassified version to you as soon as possible.  So we're aware of your interest in it and we're working to provide it. 

 

                Q     The tanker -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Count that in the -- in the column of working to be a good guy this new year.  Okay.  Thank you. 

 

                Q     (Laughs.) 

 

                Q     The tanker.  So the final request for proposal that will launch --  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yeah. 

 

                Q     -- the new competition for this -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yeah, I think the answer to that, Tony, is we are shooting to have the RFP out hopefully by the end of the month, if not early next month.  We're in the process right now of reviewing the comments that were provided -- I think the deadline for comments was in November -- from the competing companies, as well as from Congress. And so we are in the midst of reviewing those comments, and -- but I think we're still on schedule to get this out in the next few weeks. 

 

                But I would -- no final decisions have been made yet about the RFP, but I think it is safe to say at this point that there will be changes to the draft.  That's the nature of the draft.  You put it out there, want to get some feedback.  We've gotten feedback, some of it quite helpful.  Some of -- some of this we just have realized ourselves.  And so I think the team is in the process of correcting mistakes and altering the acquisition strategy a bit, and that will be reflected in the final request for proposal which will likely go out in the -- in the next couple or few weeks. 

 

                I would add one thing, and that is that whatever changes are being made should not be construed as any attempt to favor anybody. It is -- what is being done is we are trying to make the RFP as fair and as transparent as possible, while at the same time providing the taxpayers with the best value for their money and the warfighters the best -- the best plane to support their operations.  So that's where we are at this point.  And we hope that when this happens that we will have a full and hardy and thorough competition between multiple bidders. 

 

                Q     With more of a (off mike) 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  We certainly hope so.  I mean, it's a very, very lucrative contract.  And we certainly hope that they will reconsider their decisions or -- about whether or not to bid for this -- for this replacement tanker.  I think there is a lot of money to be made for whoever the winner is. 

 

                There's also clearly a patriotic element here.  It is an urgent need for our warfighters -- has been for some time -- and we need the best companies competing to provide the best plane in support of our operations. 

 

                Barbara. 

 

                Q     You know, the president talked last night about taking the fight -- he talked -- against terrorism and defeating networks once and for all.  He talked about Afghanistan, Pakistan.  He talked about taking the fight in the past year to Somalia, Yemen.  You have Detroit, you have Fort Hood, you have FOB [Forward Operating Base] Chapman.  Whether these are al Qaeda, al Qaeda affiliates or al Qaeda-inspired, when you look at what has happened in the last few months and the year ahead, is it still the secretary's view, do you think, that the U.S. government has al Qaeda on the run?  Because it sure seems like the list is growing. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I think -- and I think he clearly believes that we have made, over the past several years, enormous progress against al Qaeda.  You know, you just go back and look, and -- I will answer your question in full, Barbara, I promise, but it just -- you -- it springs to mind the progress that's been made, for example, in Iraq. 

 

                We had one soldier who was killed yesterday, but that's the first soldier we have had die in combat there since November.  By my calculation, I think, over the past six months, our combat deaths there total 14, just in stark contrast to the reality of the situation when I took this job in the summer of 2007, when we probably lost nearly a 100 people that month. 

 

                So the situation in Iraq, although there are still high-profile attacks that we believe have been executed by al Qaeda -- you know, going back to August, October, December, there have been deadly, high- profile attacks there -- there is no question that al Qaeda in Iraq has been severely debilitated, and that they are having to husband their resources and execute attacks on a much less frequent basis than they would prefer. 

 

                It's interesting also that public opinion seems to be that there -- among the Iraqis, that there is still strong support for the Iraqi government, strong confidence in the Iraqi security forces, and that there has been no sympathy engendered by these attacks.  So that's Iraq. 

 

                In Afghanistan, clearly, the situation has deteriorated over the past few years.  I think, since the commitment of additional resources by President Obama earlier this (sic/last) year and the subsequent additional 30,000 that he has pledged, everybody has a high degree of confidence that we are going to turn the tide there against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and other associated extremists there within the coming months. 

 

                Broadening the view around the world, there have been strides made elsewhere.  But there -- and that's evidenced by -- and the White House has noted several of these over the past few days.  But there clearly is a real terrorist threat that still exists.  Whether it be al Qaeda or its affiliates, they remain very much a threat to the American people and our allies around the world.  And that is why we still have 110,000 forces in Iraq, we've got soon 100,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and we have forces deployed around the world in support of the war on terror. 

 

                So they remain a threat.  Even as we've made progress against them, they remain a threat.  And so we cannot let down our guard.  We cannot for a minute pause to pat ourselves on the back with regards to the progress that has clearly been made.  We have to continue to keep the fight up.  And that's what our forces and this building is committed to doing. 

 

                Q     Can I follow up very quickly? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yeah, absolutely. 

 

                Q     On Al's question, could we -- since we may not see the secretary this week in a press conference, and who knows about next week, could we ask you to take the question to him for his reaction on General Flynn's report and get us his answer?  Because it seems extraordinary -- given his views about making intelligence information public and that recommendations are things that should be handled privately to the appropriate government officials, it seems extraordinary that -- and you said you didn't know; I understand that, that's why I'm asking -- extraordinary that he wouldn't have a view about this report.  So could we ask you to -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, I -- first of all, I think I have shared with you what I believe to be his view about the report. 

 

                The question -- 

 

                Q     Will you -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  No, the question you're asking, though, is a slightly different one.  You're asking about the choice of venue in which to publish this report, correct? 

 

                Q     I am asking both.  And you said -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, I will -- listen --  

 

                Q     I believe that you haven’t spoken to him, so -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  That's correct.  That's correct. 

 

                Q     -- we would like to get -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  But I also said I have a high degree of confidence that I -- that I had a good sense of how he would view this type of self-analysis, this type of candid self-appraisal.  But I will -- I will -- I anticipate talking to him about this.  And if I get an answer, I will certainly get back to you. 

 

                Q     Not just the organization, but publicly publishing it. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Okay. 

 

                Daphne. 

 

                Q     Yeah, can you confirm that the publication of the nuclear posture review is going to be delayed?  If so, why is that? 

 

                And can you also tell us if the Pentagon and the White House are on the same page in terms of force-reduction levels, as some reports seem to suggest the contrary? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Force reduction, in the -- in terms of the nuclear weapons?  Okay. 

 

                I can tell you, in terms of all these reviews that are going on -- and I don't think we've ever had a convergence of so many reviews being due at the same time before -- that it looks as though we are in the final stages of -- we're in the endgame, so to speak, of the QDR [Quadrennial Defense Review], the FY '11 budget, and the Ballistic Missile Defense Review.  Lagging a little bit behind those would be the Nuclear Posture Review and the Space Review.  So that's the status as I know it right now. 

 

                There is a -- there's still some work to be -- to be done in the -- in the coming days and weeks.  The secretary will be hosting the combatant commanders and the senior leadership of this department next week for a discussion, another one of the defense senior leader conferences.  And part of that daylong meeting will clearly be devoted to going over the FY '11 budget, the QDR, as well as some discussion of the cyber threat. 

 

                But that's sort of -- that's the status report as I know it right now.  As for any differences, I'm -- not that I'm aware of, okay? 

 

                Yeah, Adam. 

 

                Q     Yeah, back on Gitmo. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  You have a seat in the front row. 

 

                Q     I know.  It was stolen, but I -- (off mike) -- take it back here. 

 

                If the -- you said that the trend is continuing to increase.  Can you -- can you give us a sense of why you think that's happening? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I said the trend hasn't reversed itself. 

 

                Q     Hasn't reversed itself, okay.  (Laughter.) 

 

                The trend -- the increasing trend continues in that direction. Can you give us a sense of why you think that's happening, and how significant it is, and what the U.S. is doing to try to prevent that? And -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yeah, I mean, I think that, you know, this is something we've spoken to.  I don't think the situation -- I don't think the dynamic has changed from what it was when we spoke to you about this last time, I think last April or May.  And that is that as we have reduced the population at Guantanamo Bay -- you know, we've gone -- we're down to just below 200 detainees now.  I think in the history of that facility, we've had, you know, probably more than 750 there in -- you know, throughout its history.  So we've released roughly -- you know, we've transferred out, you know, roughly 550-odd people to date. 

 

                And I think that that is -- that is a very painstaking and difficult process that we go through, where we intensely scrutinize each and every case individually and assess its merits, assess the security risk, assess what the situation is back in the -- in the home country, and make a determination about whether it is wise to transfer each of these individuals back home or to a third country. 

 

                Some of the initial cases were more obvious than others.  Some of them were deemed to be less of a threat than others.  I think as we are getting down to the final couple of hundred, that these are clearly very difficult cases.  And that is why the president issued an executive order on his, you know, first full day in office commanding that this government get together and work together to try to figure out the best disposition of these remaining detainees. 

 

                So we're working with the Department of Justice, with the State Department, to review each and every one of these cases to make a determination about whether it's possible to transfer some of these remaining 200, or 198 now, back to their home countries.  And -- 

 

                Q     Was there not enough scrutiny in the past? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  No.  No.  There was intense scrutiny in the past, just as there is intense scrutiny now.  But this is an -- this is an inexact science.  You know, we are making subjective calls based upon judgment, intelligence.  You know, and so there is no foolproof answer in this realm.  That's what makes this so difficult. 

 

                We have to do -- we have to make our best assessment based -- with the information we have, both with regards to the individual and their home country in terms of their ability to either continue to detain or monitor, post-detention, these individuals.  And so it's -- these are very difficult calls. 

 

                The calls that have been made in the past -- you know, although I've said this trend has not reversed itself -- and even, you know, 14 percent is concerning -- you know, clearly, based upon that percentage, the vast majority of those who have been transferred have not returned to the battle.  That said, even one is a problem, and so we are taking extraordinary measures to try to mitigate the risk associated with transferring these detainees. 

 

                Elizabeth. 

 

                Q     On the same topic, how long have you had this latest report?  How long has it been completed? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Not sure. 

 

                Q     And can you explain why it's classified? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, it's -- well, if you really want to go through the whole -- sort of the making-sausage aspect of this -- I mean, obviously, I'm not so sure that the number itself that everybody is interested in is the key thing here in terms of classification. But whenever we have released numbers to you in the past, there has been a hue and cry about, "Well, prove it" -- you know, show us examples where more have returned to the fight.  And that has required us to sort of vet individuals and names and the evidence we have that leads us to believe they have either done so or are suspected of doing so, and that often requires us to make assessments about whether or not we are putting at risk any sources or methods of determining that information. 

 

                So you know, I could -- you know, I don't think we wanted to come up to you and give you half a loaf, knowing full well you wanted the full thing.  And so we are working to get this done in one fell swoop, so we have not just the updated information but the names and circumstances that support it. 

 

                Q     Can I have a follow? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yes, Justin. 

 

                Q     You said 14 percent was concerning.  So what's 20 percent then?  Is that a failure to assess how well these guys are going to readjust when they go back to their home countries? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, I'm not going to speak to any specific numbers. 

 

                I mean, obviously, as I said to you before, whether it be 11 [percent] or 14 [percent] or 1 [percent], we want to do everything we possibly can to protect the American people and our friends and allies around the world, and we don't want to put anybody at additional risk through the transfer of any of these individuals.  So we've taken great care in the past, and we will continue to do so, to try to minimize any risk associated with transferring detainees. 

 

                As you saw yesterday from the president himself, that there will not, for example, be any transfers of the remaining Yemeni detainees, the 91 that are still at Guantanamo, at least as the current situation stands.  So clearly we are concerned about what happens to these individuals after they leave our detention facility.  And the president has made the judgment at this point that none of the Yemeni detainees should be transferred while the situation back at the country is still very much in flux.  While the government there has its hands full right now trying to take the fight to the terrorists, the decision has been made not to transfer any more of these individuals back. 

 

                Q     And surely that decision creates more problems for you in finding a place for these individuals, these 91 remaining? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Finding a place?  Well, they have a place right now. 

 

                Q     How does it affect the closure of the prison, though?  Are you --  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well -- 

 

                Q     I mean, nobody expects it to close until 2011.  Does it slip even further out past that? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, I think you've heard from the president very emphatically, very clearly yesterday -- and it's strongly supported by Secretary Gates -- that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay will be closed.  It's not a question of if, but it's a question of when. 

 

                And I would just remind you that one of the reasons we are not able to move forward on closing Guantanamo and moving to -- closing Guantanamo Bay detention facility and moving to Thomson, Illinois, for example, is that the Congress adjourned for their recess without providing for us either the money or the authorities to make such a transfer, to make such a change for housing these detainees. 

 

                So we are not -- we are right now left without either the money or the authority to move detainees from Guantanamo Bay.  So, first things first, I think, you know, come the new year, when Congress reconvenes, I'm sure that the administration will be working aggressively with them to try to get both the funding and the authority to begin this process. 

 

                Q     (Off mike.) 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Obviously, if we have still 91 Yemenis that we have to move, that does change the dynamic.  It does change the calculation.  So that's something that has to be taken into account, as well. 

 

                Q     Just to follow on that? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yeah. 

 

                Q     According to some reports, many of them who was released from Guantanamo were on the streets, like in Yemen and Pakistan.  And also at the same time, as far as this incident is concerned, the Yemeni on the Christmas Eve -- Christmas Day, you think U.S. is shifting any policy as far as dealing with al Qaeda from Pakistan to Yemen, or Pakistan and Afghanistan still remains the same center of threat from al Qaeda? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  If I understood the first question, your point was that there are Yemenis who have been transferred from Guantanamo who have popped up elsewhere -- 

 

                Q     And Pakistanis, both. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  And Pakistanis. 

 

                Well, obviously, when we transfer detainees, we do our best to obtain assurances from the host governments that they will either continue to detain or monitor these individuals effectively. Obviously, that has not always been the case in the past, and I think we've acknowledged that.  We've put pressure on governments to try to do better. 

 

                You know, I've made it clear, and the secretary of State has done so recently, that the -- that although we are heartened by the Yemeni response lately, it has not always been consistent.  There clearly have been instances in the past, particularly a well-publicized one involving the Cole bombers, in which they were imprisoned and then escaped. 

 

                So there needs to be a better accounting of detainees, and we are working with the Yemeni government and other governments to help them be able to do this kind of thing much better than perhaps they have in the past. 

 

                Yeah, Jeff Schogol.  

 

                Q     I apologize if this information is already out there.  Do we know when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and some of the others that are going to be tried in federal court will be moved to New York? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I don't know. 

 

                Q     On a different topic, do you know how many MATVs [Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All Terrain Vehicle] were delivered to Afghanistan last year and when sealift could begin? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I can give you updated numbers, Jeff.  We are at now, as of January the 5th -- and I want to double-check these -- we were at 239 delivered, 164 fielded, 12 awaiting transport.  And then there are obviously many more vehicles than that that have been produced.  And as they vie for space for airlift and absorption in Afghanistan, they are being used, many of them, for training purposes domestically. 

 

                But we are now, as we are in the midst of this surge, going to be dealing with this herculean effort of trying to get not just 30,000 additional forces over to Afghanistan, but getting all their equipment as well.  So this is going to be a real -- a real test of our TRANSCOM [Transportation Command] folks, as well as CENTCOM.  And they have a priority list based, you know, in terms of space available, what has the top priority to flow in at what time. 

 

                I can tell you this.  It's our goal that come this spring, we'll be sending over about 500 a month. 

 

                Q     So when would sealift begin?  Is it this -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I couldn't -- no, I don't think we would do -- I don't think we're at the point where we'd do sealift, but we can check on that for you.  Yeah. 

 

                Yeah, Chris. 

 

                Q     In light of the -- in light of the suicide bombing at --  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Welcome back, by the way. 

 

                Q     Huh? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Welcome back. 

 

                Q     Oh.  Thank you.  In light of the suicide bombing at the CIA base in Afghanistan, are any directives going out to military bases and military intelligence officers to take a second look at their sources and the procedures by which they bring informants on the base? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  It's a good question.  I have not heard of any such directive, certainly not from on high in this building.  I would not at all be surprised if General McChrystal and his team, or even below that in the command structure in Afghanistan, that they have put out that kind of caution or even particular directives.  But I would urge you to talk to the folks in Kabul on that.  But I have not heard of any such warning coming from here. 

 

                Okay?  Yeah.  Yoso. 

 

                Q     On Futenma Marine station issue, the Japanese government and the leading parties are -- set up a panel to look into an alternative plan for a Futenma replacement facility.  And they say they will make a decision by May.  What is the reaction of DoD to this development in Japan? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, I can tell you that it has been conveyed to us by the government of Japan that it has concluded that it will not be able to reach an expeditious decision on implementation of the realignment road map.  So that said, we continue to hope and -- that the government of Japan will reach a positive conclusion on the Futenma replacement facility as soon as possible.   

 

                So that updated timeline has indeed been shared with us.  It is -- it is not the preferred timeline, as far as we're concerned.  We've got a lot of work to do and not a lot of time.  And so we just hope that they can come to some resolution on this as quickly as possible so that we can get back on track in terms of the overall -- not just the Futenma replacement facility, but the overall realignment road map agreement.   

 

                Okay?  Yeah, Donna. 

 

                Q     Yes, I'm curious. 

 

                As the strategy is taking place in Afghanistan and the surge troops are going in, what are the implications of two other important pieces to this whole picture:  the stalemate, if you will, within the Afghan government; and also the slowness of the civilian volunteers to be that civilian surge that needs to go in? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, I don't know that there's -- I wouldn't -- I don't think I would characterize it as a slowness in the civilian surge.  I mean, I think that the -- as you've heard from Secretary Clinton as recently as her testimony with Secretary Gates last month, they anticipate having a thousand additional -- a thousand total since President Obama came to office and announced the way ahead in Afghanistan back in March. 

 

                They, by this -- I think this month, hope to have a thousand total civilians in support of our operations there in Afghanistan. Talk to the State Department to get the specific date by which they would. 

 

                One thing that's -- obviously, that pales in comparison to the roughly 100,000 forces that we will eventually have in Afghanistan, but one thing that she and Secretary Gates have noted quite often is that you can’t -- it's a bit of comparing apples to oranges, because the civilian component is very much a force multiplier.  And the rough numbers that they use is that for every civilian -- U.S. civilian you send over, you hire probably 10 Afghans.  So a thousand is effectively 10,000 additional people helping to support the Afghan people with regards to developing their governance and judicial and financial structures. 

 

                So that's that part of the question.  The first part of the question was -- I'm sorry? 

 

                Q     About the Karzai government, the cabinet and --  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  You know, listen, I -- I think -- again, this is probably one of that's also better directed to the State Department. But I -- I think it's probably a sign of some progress, as -- as odd as that may sound, that there is a healthy give and take between branches of government in a democratic Afghanistan, where the parliament, the legislature is saying, we're not going to necessarily rubber-stamp the president's -- the president's cabinet choices. 

 

                We have checks and balances here.  The Congress has to -- has to confirm every Cabinet selection here.  And a similar thing is going on there.  That said, we obviously would like to see this process move along as quickly as possible, because the governance in Afghanistan is something that needs to improve quickly.  And the longer there is limbo, the more difficult that becomes.   

 

                Yeah, let's take -- yeah, go ahead, Kevin.   

 

                Q     You said earlier that there's a greater counterterrorism partnership going on or about to happen with Yemen and the U.S.  But already some Yemeni top leaders including the foreign minister have pushed back on the exact level of help that they're actually taking from the U.S.   

 

                Is the secretary dismayed by comments like that?  Does that help the U.S. cause, to gain support from the population of countries like Yemen in the Middle East where they want, you know, populations to help identify the extremists among them and root them out?   

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I --  

 

                Q     Or does this create a conflict that --  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Kevin, I haven't seen the comments to which you refer.  I've seen other comments from Yemeni military or civilian leaders that suggest just the opposite: that indeed they are welcoming of assistance.   

 

                Obviously this is a sovereign country that is proud and wants to confront this threat themselves.  And we are very much encouraging of that.  And that's why we are trying to provide them whatever assistance we can, and that they are receptive to, so that they have the ability to confront this and it does not degenerate into a situation that requires, you know, additional assistance from us.   

 

                So yeah.   

 

                Q     To clarify, I was referring to air strikes.  And you know, there are some reports that there has been an agreement with the U.S. and Yemen, to allow the U.S. to conduct air strikes, from war planes or drones or missiles, into Yemen.   

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, I -- 

 

                Q     And the Yemenis have pushed back, saying, no, only military advisers would be allowed. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yeah, I -- I would, obviously, not confirm any of those reports.  Our form of assistance -- I would characterize our form of assistance to Yemen has been really on a "by, with and through" basis.  We are there to provide -- or we are providing to them, you know, security assistance, intelligence assistance, training assistance -- the kinds of things that will help them better be able to confront this threat by themselves. 

 

                So as in -- as in many other countries around the world, we are working by, with and through their military.  And it's -- and I would not, clearly, comment on any reports of any other -- any other involvement. 

 

                Yeah, Tommy. 

 

                Q     Can I ask you one follow-up question? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yeah, and then we've got -- let's -- let's -- we've got a couple more, and we'll get out of here. 

 

                Q     The Gitmo report issue, is it accurate to say that the Pentagon provided the White House the classified DIA update on Gitmo detainee recidivism? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I don't know who -- I, frankly, don't know how widely this has been shared.  Wouldn't -- wouldn't surprise me; I just don't know how wide -- I can't confirm that for you.  Yeah.  You could certainly ask them if they've received it. 

 

                Okay?  Are we good? 

 

                Q     You're not going to answer my second part of the question? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  What was the second part? 

 

                Q     If the policy had been shifted from Pakistan-Afghanistan to Yemen because of this incident, or that reason Afghanistan and Pakistan still remain the center of effort of al Qaeda. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yeah.  I think there is no question that the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region is clearly the heartland of al Qaeda and associated sympathetic terrorist militant groups.  That is why you will soon have 100,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan.  It's why you will have, you know, tens of thousands of additional coalition forces. 

 

                It's why, for example, the Pakistani military has roughly 200,000 of their forces along the western border. 

 

                People forget that.  That's -- roughly 15 percent of the Pakistani military has, over the past several months, repositioned along the western border and has taken the fight to the terrorists there, both in the Swat and in South Waziristan, and have done so with great success, but also at extraordinary price.  They've lost -- in the last two years, they've had 2,000 casualties. 

 

                So they, the Pakistani military, the Pakistani government is very much cognizant of the fact that that is the epicenter of terrorism and -- in that region, and that's reflected in the commitment that they've shown militarily to dealing with the threat along the border. 

 

                Q     But Geoff, Pakistan is against more U.S. troops in the -- in Afghanistan. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Say it again? 

 

                Q     Pakistan is against more U.S. troops in Afghanistan. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Pakistan is against more U.S. troops in Afghanistan? 

 

                Well, I -- listen, we are in -- we are always consulting with all of our regional partners about how best to proceed in Afghanistan. They were clearly part of the discussions that took place leading up to the president's decision to deploy more forces.  And I'm not so sure I would agree with your characterization of their support or lack thereof.  But clearly the president made a decision that it was in the best interest of this country, and President Karzai certainly believes it's in the best interest of Afghanistan, for there to be more U.S. boots on the ground to assist in stabilizing that country. 

 

                Last question.  Yeah.  

 

                Q     Yeah, Geoff, I just wanted to follow up briefly on the U.S.-Japan relations.  Assistant Secretary Gregson, I believe, is meeting today with former Defense Minister Ishiba.  Do you -- do you -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  See you, Tom. 

 

                He's got a lunch to get to.  (Laughter.) 

 

                Q     Yeah.  Do you know -- do you know what you hope -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  You can -- honestly, you can leave at any point. You know that.  I don't take -- (laughter) -- despite the fact I --  

 

                Q     (Off mike) -- said that?  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  -- despite -- well, despite the fact I'll rib you, I don't take offense.  Go ahead, last question.  Go. 

 

                Q     Neither do I.  What -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Gregson's meeting with somebody from Japan, is what you're saying. 

 

                Q     Yeah.  There's a former defense minister, Ishiba, I believe, today.  What do you -- what does the DOD hope to achieve from the U.S. side from meeting with what is now an opposition party member? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I'm not aware of such a meeting.  I'll have to check into it, okay? 

 

                Thank you all.   

 

                Q     Oh, by the way --  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Happy New Year.

 

(C) COPYRIGHT 2009, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1000 VERMONT AVE. NW; 5TH FLOOR; WASHINGTON, DC - 20005, USA.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.

 

     UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.

 

     FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.  NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO

ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.

 

     FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL CARINA NYBERG AT 202-347-1400.