DOD News Briefing with Maj. Gen. Handy from the Pentgaon
MR. GEORGE LITTLE: Good morning. I'd like to welcome to the Pentagon Briefing Room for the first time Major General Russ Handy, the Commander, 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq, and Director, Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq.
General Handy has served in Iraq for the past 13 months. With his two positions, he is the senior U.S. Air Force representative in Iraq, and represents the Combined Forces Air Component commander to the commanding general, U.S. Forces-Iraq.
He'll make an opening comment, and then we'll take your questions. And with that, I'll turn it over to the general. Thank you.
MAJOR GENERAL RUSSELL HANDY: Thanks very much, and good morning, everyone. I am Russ Handy. As the senior airman in Iraq, I represent the commander of United States Forces-Iraq, General Lloyd Austin, as we complete Operation New Dawn, as his senior airman.
It's a very exciting yet challenging time to serve in Iraq -- exciting because we're afforded the opportunity at this point to see the results of years of progress by many, many Americans -- hard-earned progress. Iraqis, coalition partners have come before us as we assist the men and women of this free nation of Iraq rebuild their capacity on a path to be able to stand alone as a stable, self-reliant and unified nation. It's challenging because, as we continue to establish this enduring strategic partnership, we are re-posturing or redeploying some 50,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, and civilians from Iraq, and transitioning bases, facilities and infrastructure to the government of Iraq and our U.S. embassy partners.
The airmen I have the privilege of leading in Iraq now through this challenge have a very important role in the transition, as we continue to perform all the roles and missions that you know we've been performing for a number of years in Iraq, such as over watch of our forces with intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance; close-air support; air mobility, including airlift and air refueling; aerial port operations; personnel recovery; air base management. We're doing all of that while we're also re-posturing all of our forces -- so, again, a challenging time.
And in addition to these traditional air component tasks, you'll find airmen working together with their joint partners in just about every area in the country, to include engineering analysts, logistics specialists. And just about everywhere you go in Iraq, you'll find airmen working with their joint partners.
An officer I respect greatly once told me that he thinks of every challenge as an opportunity, and we certainly have many opportunities in Iraq right now. As I walk the ground in Baghdad and I think back when I came into the Air Force, what this country was, the brutal regime that these men and women were living under, being ruled really through fear and intimidation, each small achievement gives me great hope.
When I return to Iraq from this short trip, from the States, for example, and visit the air traffic control facility that's in Baghdad, I won't find very many Americans in the room. These controllers, Iraqis, helped by their contractor partners -- Iraqi men and women, by the way -- are largely all Iraqis controlling their civil air space. And when the secretary of the Air Force, our Air Force, visited Iraq recently and I took him around to show him Iraqi Air Force units doing intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, or airlift or aircraft maintenance, the airmen briefing him were not Americans; they were Iraqis. If you did this about a year ago, you'd find Americans briefing many of those functions. And these were proud, young, energetic young Iraqi airmen, very proud of their nation and what they represent.
Our Air Force personnel who've helped the Iraqi Air Force and the Iraqi Army Aviation Command progress to where they are now have much to be proud of.
These advisers have been very successful, extraordinarily so. If you think about it, in the last five years, that force -- that Iraqi air force, Iraqi Army Aviation Command team has grown tenfold. And from our active air adviser role, we've had American airmen resident in all of those units. And as the Iraqis are moving forward and we're transitioning, we are handing more and more of those functions completely over to the Iraqis. And those proud young Iraqi airmen I spoke of still give us great hope.
Despite some amazing progress, as you know, Iraq remains a dangerous place. We know that and we prioritize force protection for our people There are those out there that would still seek to do us harm and do the Iraqis harm. There are those out there that would love to do their best to weaken the government of Iraq and diminish their resolve. Given recent events in the region, though, and understanding of just how important Iraq is to regional security, our airmen know that this is worthy work. They know how important the stability of this country is to the region.
And now I want to talk about what you want to talk about, so without further ado, I'll let -- turn the microphone over to you for questions.
CAPT. JANE CAMPBELL: (Off mic.)
Q: Raghubir Goyal, India Globe and India Today. My question is that, like you said, recent events in the region -- I am sure you mentioned about maybe Afghanistan. What I'm asking you, two questions. One, what generals or people on the ground in Afghanistan or Afghanis can learn from Iraq as far as progress in Iraq is concerned?
And second, you said still a dangerous place, Iraq, despite all these years. Where this danger is coming from? You think that still Iran has any hand as far as supporting the terrorists or Taliban or al-Qaida?
GEN. HANDY: Well, the second question first. I think that Iran does contribute to the violence we're seeing in the region. Iranian-backed militia groups are really our primary source of violence, against both U.S. forces and Iraqi forces, and I want to make that point very clearly. Many of the individuals that are targeted in these attacks are Iraqis. These groups are breaking the law, groups like Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kata'ib Hezbollah, Promise Day Brigade, clearly receiving some backing from Iran. And that's a very serious issue to us.
I think there are those in Iran that would like to see the government of Iraq weakened and not strong and not sovereign and not self-reliant, clearly against the objectives of the government of Iraq. So I believe that is a very important thing that we need to keep in mind.
You mentioned al-Qaida. Al-Qaida is still a threat. Again, lately our stronger threat has been from these Iranian-backed militias, but we're still seeing al-Qaida try to disrupt, I believe, government formation initially and now to potentially discredit some portions of the Iraqi government through attacks. All of those are very significant.
To get to your second question, from an Afghanistan perspective, as you know, Afghanistan and Iraq are very different places; very different political dynamics in Afghanistan and Iraq, very different potential, natural resources, form of government, if you will. But one thing my colleagues and I talk a lot about between Iraq and Afghanistan now are the lessons we're learning about transitioning to a redeployment, a re-posture mode while at the same time we continue operations.
So there really are a lot of just basic logistics and infrastructure issues. How do you transition an airfield, for example, to another government while you still operate out of there, and how long can you operate out of there? Can you operate out of that airfield while that host nation operates it? What are the limits -- the capabilities and the limits of the U.S. embassy in the country where you are, and how much operations can they take? Because we're working very much on a parallel path. As we transition to the government of Iraq some capabilities, there are many capabilities transitioning to the embassy, who will be there for years to come.
Q: Can you update us on the Iraqi request to buy F-16s?
GEN. HANDY: Very promising. I do not have any word yet that the letter of offer and acceptance is signed, but as you probably know, we did have a senior member of the Iraqi government visit Washington. There was some great work done on that. Everyone that I talk to at every level of government in Iraq is convinced that that's the right approach for them. And so we're very encouraged by those words and we feel that we're very close to them signing that letter of offer and acceptance.
As you know, they are seeking to buy a larger number of F-16s than they had originally, up to 36. This first letter of offer and acceptance is for 18 of them. And so we hope to hear a very soon that that's signed, but no word -- final word yet on that.
Q: There would have to be a subsequent letter if there -- obviously if there were going to be additional sales?
GEN. HANDY: There would, there would. And actually we could -- I think the Iraqis could have done it either way. They could have marched forward and done a letter of offer and acceptance for all 36. But I think what they discovered was, since we'd already done the work for that first 18, it was going to be a quicker way to process through and get those F-16s moving through the assembly line, if you will. And so they made the decision to sign one for 18 as opposed to taking that extra delay and going for all 36.
Q: And then just finally, what sort of timeline would that sale sort of play out on? What sort of training and U.S. force -- U.S. personnel would be required to carry it out in Iraq?
GEN. HANDY: The good news about the -- an F-16 purchase is, they purchased a complete package or will purchase a complete package, assuming that they do sign this. So it includes training. There are 10 pilots in the United States now training as we speak that initial cadre of -- and it takes about two years to produce an F-16 pilot when you look at the basic training. English-language training, quite frankly, is sometimes the hardest thing in that first step before they enter the rest of the training pipeline. And so we're looking at about a two-year process. Some of those pilots may actually finish F-16 training before F-16s arrive in Iraq, and so the Iraqis are looking at ways of mitigating that. Other nations have been known to buy flight time, for example, and fly F-16s elsewhere to stay current.
But to answer your first question directly, I can't give you an exact date. I wouldn't want to speak for Lockheed and for -- and for the whole assembly line, but we believe that it's probably somewhere in late 2013 or early 2014 before they would see some initial capability within the country.
Q: General, if I could follow up on that -- sorry -- but could the Iraqis make that purchase of F-16s without U.S. trainers or advisers on -- you know, in Iraq to help them through that process?
GEN. HANDY: Absolutely. I mean, what you will find likely to occur in Iraq is in conjunction with the U.S. embassy's some sort of Office of Security Cooperation. As you know, we are in the process of discussing that sort of an office, much like we have in many other countries. And assuming that we do have that Office of Security Cooperation that our two nations agree to, there would be advisers as part of that.
Q: In Iraq -- (inaudible).
GEN. HANDY: In Iraq, yes. Again, that's not firmed up. The Office of Security Cooperation's very likely to occur, in the numbers exactly who they're going to be or where they're going to be or not -- finalized -- and much of it depends on things like this letter. But yes, I would anticipate there would be those advisers who would manage the FMS case, the Foreign Military Sales cases, if you will.
Q: Sir, at the end of the year we're having all the Americans come out. But your mission has to keep going right until the last Americans come out. You are going to have to do the over watch, you are going to have to make sure that folks get out safely. And in many cases, you're going to provide the air mobility to get them out.
Just describe what you're -- what you're ramping up to between now and the end of December.
GEN. HANDY: Jim, you're exactly right. We are going to continue to fly -- and not just mobility, but we'll protect our Americans as we re-posture.
And so, as you know, we have a large air component. The Air Force of Central Command operates some 500 sorties a day across the region, in a number of places. The beauty of my position is I actually, even though I work for General Austin in Iraq, my direct Air Force boss, Lieutenant General Goldfein, is the air component commander, and so we've got a large regional presence of airpower that we will use. And so we will continue to fly missions out of Iraq for a while longer, and then at some point we will begin to re-posture forces outside of the country to varying places within the region. And some of our regional partners are kind enough to allow us to fly out of airfields, whether they be expeditionary airfields or in some cases more permanent facilities. And we'll fly out of there.
And the airlift piece, as you know, that's a -- that's an incredible productive machine in that U.S. Transportation Command, and it operates an amazing amount of aircraft in and out of airfields of all sorts of conditions. We will likely continue to operate out of most of the airfields we've been operating out of. Most of them will be government of Iraq airfields at some point later this year, some controlled by the Iraq civil aviation authority, some by the Iraqi air force, some by Iraqi Army Aviation Command.
Now the State Department and U.S. embassy Baghdad will also operate portions of airfields. They're not going to run airports, but they will have some ramp operations and things of that nature that we will also share with them. And so yes, we will fly until the end of the year.
As far as ramping up, my force structure will ramp up slightly, which is -- which is interesting, as we re-posture the -- my numbers of airmen that I command will actually grow slightly because we will robust our forces that are -- in the surrounding area to be able to re-posture the forces that are in Iraq, if that makes sense.
And then it will begin to ramp down. And then, as I said, the air component commander will assume those responsibilities in the very endgame to be able to cover the last of the -- of the forces as U.S. Forces-Iraq stands down some time likely in December.
Q: General, to follow up on Jim's question, you mentioned we'll re-posture our forces in the surrounding area, and some of that -- it sounds like it's part of the drawdown. But is there going to be a longer-term re-posturing of air forces and assets in the region right outside of Iraq? Are you going to be moving into Kuwait, U.A.E., or are you going to be bolstering your numbers in the long term among -- you know, in areas -- in Iraq's neighbors?
GEN. HANDY: Right. To respect the privacy of our neighbors, I won't presume to speak for them, as far as the basing goes, but you will see some repositioning of assets within the region.
But a number of our assets will redeploy. They will go back to the United States or wherever they are based, and become again part of that normal deployment cycle. So all of our forces are not leaving Iraq and then going to some neighboring country. Many of them, like many of the soldiers, will redeploy and go home.
Q: But can you give us a little -- I understand you don't want to pre-empt other countries, but can you give us a little bit more insight into how many will stick around in the region? I mean, are you talking about a couple of assets or a significant amount or what are we looking at?
GEN. HANDY: I think what you'll find in the end -- and I think much of this is probably yet to be determined, depending upon how this final portion of our withdrawal of forces goes and how things go in Afghanistan. As you know, it's a very dynamic environment, and much of this -- these assets support the entire theater, whether it be Afghanistan or Iraq or anything in between. So I believe there -- I believe it does depend upon how things go.
And the air component commander, the Air Forces Central Command commander, has a number of forces in the theater that also conduct training and they fly in exercises with some of our regional partners and -- but by the nature of the fact that they're in theater, they're also available forces.
So I'd -- I mean, I believe the force structure will remain reasonably close to what it is now, but I -- that's to be determined, I think, in the end.
CAPT. CAMPBELL: OK - please.
Q: General, a rough estimate -- how long do you think it will be before Iraq has an air force or an air capability that can protect itself from external threats? And do you see an ongoing U.S. role in helping them to achieve that capability?
GEN. HANDY: Well, again, second question first -- yes is the short answer to that. I certainly see an ongoing role as a nation. You know, we've got two agreements that we operate under, the security agreement that we're referring to that talks about our requirement to be -- have our Title 10 forces leave by December 31st. And then the Strategic Framework Agreement that we signed at the same time with Iraq is a long-term partnership. The U.S. embassy will have a long-term partnership, as will, I certainly hope, the U.S. military, from the perspective of, you know, training and exercises. The Iraqi air force, I think, has tremendous potential in the region, given its -- the air domain and the ability to go beyond its borders and to be able to train with regional partners.
The external defense piece is -- you know, it's not an on-off switch. A lot of the -- a lot of times I get into conversations about air sovereignty, for example, air sovereignty being, you know, defined loosely as the ability to defend the sovereign borders of your nation, you know, against an air incursion.
On air sovereignty, it's not just about F-16s with air-to-air missiles. Air sovereignty's a big continuum, and it starts -- it goes from the watch, warn, respond and then defend mode, and the defend mode being where you finally have fighters that can employ some kind of kinetic potential.
But over here at the beginning of the continuum, they'll need long-range radars. They've two long-range radars. They're going in right now. They should actually be operational -- at least initial operational capability -- by the end of this year.
They've bought a sector operations center to tie those radars together. And they have a very nice, modern air operations center in Baghdad that will ultimately tie all of that together at the senior level, much like our air operations centers we operate in the Air Force.
So that -- those are bought, paid for and being installed right now and will be operational sometime -- likely at the end of this year, at least portions of it, achieving a more full operational capability into 2012.
So you know, defense sovereignty, I mean, is a function of using all of your instruments of national power; it isn't just about fighters. So they will have some degree of air sovereignty. They already have air traffic control radars and the ability to link those together. So they've got some ability to see their skies now. That will continue to improve over time, to the point where it's very robust by sometime in 2012.
But again, if they decide to buy these F-16s that we've been chatting about, those are planes that won't be there for a couple of years, until, best case, I would say late 2013. So yes, they will not have air-to-air fighters until that time. But what they will have are regional partners, both within the neighborhood and also from the perspective of the United States, which I believe is also a strong deterrent. And so again, a little bit -- somewhat unscientific with regard to air sovereignty, but it does rely on a complete continuum, many portions of which they're doing very well on.
Q: A couple questions from layman's language on this. For those who don't follow foreign military sales, what, in layman's language, is a letter of offer and acceptance?
GEN. HANDY: A letter of offer and acceptance is -- and I'm actually not a foreign military sales expert either, so I'll try not to butcher this too badly, but essentially a letter of offer and acceptance will be the commitment from the Iraqi government that they are going to purchase based upon the plan that's laid out in that letter. So it will say things like they're going to buy this many aircraft, this is the training and the -- and the maintenance that's included within that, the logistics, it'll cost this much, it'll be paid for in these increments. And that is a commitment by the government that -- that should be signed by the prime minister with the backing of his government.
Q: Really soon, you say?
GEN. HANDY: Well, I don't want to speak from the Iraqi government. We are hearing very encouraging words, and we certainly hope that will be soon.
Q: Can I just -- one follow-up. Earlier this year this thing was on the skids because of money. What's changed in the last six months that -- from your standpoint?
GEN. HANDY: I think -- I think two things have changed. The last time we went through this and the Iraqi government chose not to sign the letter of offer and acceptance, as you recall there -- it was a bad time in the region. Many nations at -- as -- concurrently were having very awful things going on in their neighborhood, and there were -- and again, this is my opinion; this is my conjecture, but they were -- I think the prime minister of Iraq was watching that. And they -- he was watching the fact that, look, these -- some of the protests that were going on in places like Egypt or Tunisia were for social services as a protest of the government to spend more in those areas.
Now, admittedly, much of that was also these people that wanted a democratically elected government, which -- the Iraqis have one of those, which is wonderful, an inclusive government. But I think the prime minister took notice of that. And he took that money and essentially diverted it to those kinds of resources, as opposed to spending it on a defense purchase of F-16s. It was -- I think it was a courageous decision. It was certainly not an easy decision for him to make.
What's changed now is certainly he has -- he has done some of that and seen some improvements in that area, and I believe that oil revenues are up, and he's -- their finances are in better shape now. So I believe the prime minister thinks he can afford it again. I don't presume to speak for him, but we are very encouraged.
CAPT. CAMPBELL: Over here.
Q: Yeah, thank you. Just one follow-up on that because I'm a little unclear. I mean, I understand there are discussions under way about a continuing U.S. presence in Iraq. But if they -- I guess my question is if they buy these F-16s and if there are provisions for training, maintenance, logistics, et cetera, is that a U.S. military personnel requirement? And does that -- how does that fit in with the discussions that are -- presumably that will obviously require people on the ground there. How does that fit in with these discussions that are under way?
GEN. HANDY: Well, again, the letter needs to be signed, and we need to negotiate what this Office of Security Cooperation would look like. But if it's like other nations in the region, these Office of Security Cooperation people are military people, but they're working under the auspices of the U.S. embassy.
GEN. HANDY: Very small numbers. They manage the FMS case. We would -- we would have, again -- and again, I'm making these numbers up, but you'd only see, you know, one or two or three military people involved, potentially, at that location where the F-16s are. So it's not a full squadron of American military airmen that are there working with -- that would be an entirely different approach.
And as far as any sort of chatting about that sort of presence, I mean, I know there are discussions going on between our two nations. I don't presume to speak for our administration or for the prime minister on where those are. I honestly don't have an update on any of those other than to say at this point we are executing a security agreement, and we are not intending on having any sort of residual presence over and above what the Office of Security Cooperation might represent.
Q: You can, based on models in other countries, do the training, logistics you need with just small -- very small numbers of U.S. military personnel?
GEN. HANDY: What you typically see are very small numbers of U.S. military personnel and some contractors, the Security Assistance Teams -- you'll hear them referred to as SATs, other places. These Security Assistance Teams would be there in country, supervised and working with a very small number of military -- again, under the auspice of the U.S. embassy, not a Title 10 military presence.
Q: Hi, General; I'd heard that the Afghan Air Force was having difficulty getting the light-attack aircraft that they need. Now the Iraqi Air Force: Do you know if they have the amount of light-attack aircraft they need to handle their country properly?
GEN. HANDY: Well, of course, the amount that they need would be in the eyes of the beholder. I don't presume to speak for the Iraqi government on whether or not they have what they need. I will tell you that their capability is increasing, and they're doing very well in that area. They've got upwards of 150 aircraft between the Iraqi Air Force and the Iraqi Army Aviation Command. And those are -- those are actually two separate services. Our airmen advise both of them, but about 5,000 airmen in the Air Force and between 2,000 and 3,000 in the Army Aviation Command.
They have Mi-17 helicopters. They're buying a new version of the Mi-17 helicopter, which has a -- has an attack capability, a light-attack capability. They also have a light-attack capability with their Cessna aircraft within the Iraqi Air Force. So they have demonstrated that capability. They're operational with it and have used it in conjunction with their military forces on the ground. And so they do have capability, again: Whether they have enough will be up to them, ultimately. But they've certainly seen great success with what they have -- again, in conjunction with their other aircraft. They also have an effective intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance capability with a King Air aircraft on another platform. They do full-motion video, much like we do with some of our intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance assets.
Q: Sir, just a kind of follow-up to that. What areas of the Iraqi Air Force are there gaps. You mentioned the air defense, the air-to-air run up type thing -- but what other areas are there gaps that are not going to be filled by the end of this year?
GEN. HANDY: Other than what we'd already discussed, you know, I think one of the -- one of the things we're working hardest now on is logistics and infrastructure and building a maintenance and logistics capability within their air bases. And I know that the commander of the air force is working very hard on that. They've -- they have to secure their bases, and they have to do things like runway maintenance and that kind of thing. And they're working very hard on that. So although I wouldn't call that a gap, I'd say that's something we're working very hard on with the Iraqis in our -- in our short time remaining.
Q: But you mentioned ISR, you mentioned close-air support. There -- those are all right?
GEN. HANDY: Well, I mean, they have the capability. Whether or not they have as much capability as they will ultimately want or need is going to be ultimately up to the Iraqis. But they do have a nascent capability in surface attack, and a -- and a fairly robust capability with intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance for the purposes of what they need for internal stability.
Q: I just had a basic question, General. How many airmen are still in Iraq, and will there be a -- just a gradual drawdown of those numbers through December, or will they all stay until December?
GEN. HANDY: We're sitting at about 4,600 to 4,700 airmen right now under my command, U.S. airmen. We will see a gradual ramp down in that total number, but it will be gradual because of the things that we've chatted about, the fact that we're going to maintain an air capability in Iraq. So our curve might be just a little bit steeper than the land-component forces and the ground forces, but we will see a gradual capability. Certainly can't wait till the last day of December to move them all out.
Q: Kind of piggybacking on that, how much equipment is still -- I think the last number I heard from General McNabb was 60 percent is already out. Is that -- is that still about accurate? Or --
GEN. HANDY: You stumped me. I think I'm going to have to get back to you on an exact number. I mean, that sounds about right, but I don't have an exact number. And the other thing that complicates that number is how much of that equipment we will actually leave behind through Iraqi security force funding or excess property transfer to the Iraqis. Many assets and equipment we have discovered that it would frankly be more expensive to the taxpayer to move some of that back, and it's very effective for the Iraqis. And so we have, through a variety of different programs, left some of them for the Iraqis. And so I'm going to have to get that piece of information back to you.
Q: What are some of the equipment that may be left behind?
GEN. HANDY: Non-tactical vehicles, that's the military jargon for not-armored cars -- regular vehicles like Suburbans and trucks and the like; generators and other logistics types of equipment. So mostly that -- in my world, anyway, that type of equipment.
CAPT. CAMPBELL: Just a couple more.
Q: This equipment you're leaving behind, are they paying for this in any way, the Iraqi government, because since now you have freed -- got freedom for the Iraqi people?
And second, Saddam Hussein's regime bought a lot of hardware and software from many countries, I understand, including from the U.S., France and Russians and Chinese. Have you discovered how much now the Iraqi government has, those equipment? Are they -- whatever, are they functionable?
GEN. HANDY: The -- as far as your first question, they -- the Iraqis do pay for a lot of what they get. In fact, somewhere in the -- in the 60 (percent) to 70 percent of the total equipment that we have worked with the Iraqis on, from a foreign military sales perspective, has been funded by the Iraqi government. Some of it is what we call gifted through programs, where we have given it to them. So it's a mix of both.
The equipment that you're referring to, there's -- I don't see very much of that in the country that's operational. I mean, we -- over years of combat in that country, most of that equipment was either -- for example, aircraft was either hit during some sort of bombing activity or much of it was pulled off and dispersed into the desert, under Saddam Hussein's regime. So you actually, when you fly around the country, can see airplanes that are sort of sitting out into the desert. And so most of the equipment you're referring to is not operational.
Now, much of the facilities and infrastructure -- there are some wonderful airfields, for example, that we have been using. That clearly is still there. It needs to be maintained, but those facilities are all still there. I mean, I live and work in buildings that were Iraqi buildings that we have maintained since we've been there, all of which we're turning back over to the Iraqis as we speak.
Q: General, I'm sorry to ask a basic question, just to make sure I understand. Absent any further agreement with the Iraqi government, after December 31st, will the U.S. still have any standing authorization to conduct air missions over Iraq, like ISR or anything? Or will we have to just stay out of their air space?
GEN. HANDY: Based upon the security agreement as written, we will not be conducting military operations over it. We'd be -- we would need to be invited by the Iraqis to do any sort of mission.
Q: (Off mic) -- no specific missions that they -- that are already in the agreement, that they would allow to keep conducting, like ISR or things like that?
GEN. HANDY: No. No, that -- as of December 31st, we --
Q: (Off mic) -- outside -- the other bases outside the country?
GEN. HANDY: Correct.
Q: Thank you.
CAPT. CAMPBELL: OK, we'll close it down there.
Q: Yeah, can I just ask one more? You're getting ready -- I guess you were based in Camp Victory, right? Have you moved?
GEN. HANDY: Not yet.
Q: Are you out of there yet?
GEN. HANDY: (Laughs.) Well, I take that back. We -- our headquarters is beginning to evolve -- and I -- for operational security reasons, I won't get into specific locations -- but we have evolved our headquarters such that we can turn Camp Victory over. And we are going to do that fairly soon. And so we've started to split the headquarters up into areas where -- that will endure just a little bit longer. But not just yet; I still have a little bit longer there.
Q: (Inaudible) -- just a quick technical question. What other capabilities will the airplanes have? Will they have JDAM, the bombs, sniper, LITENING pods? I mean, what will they -- the equipment, what's the package going forward?
GEN. HANDY: I can't speak to that until I see that LOA, because, frankly, that is all going to be outlined in that LOA. But these are very modern aircraft. I mean, they're Block 52-quality aircraft, so they should have --
Q: Fifty-two? Not Block 50/2?
GEN. HANDY: They should have -- I believe what's in the LOA will be Block 52. And they should have, again, fairly modern capabilities. Exactly what capabilities will go with them I wouldn't want to speak to until they're all assigned.
Q: (Inaudible) -- capability, I mean, that -- it's not air-to-air these planes are intended for. It's fairly -- (inaudible).
GEN. HANDY: It's a multirole fighter that they're purchasing.
CAPT. CAMPBELL: I think we'll wrap it up. Any last comments from you, sir?
GEN. HANDY: Well, I would say, other than -- other than criticizing Marcus for being way too quiet in the back row and not asking any questions, and being very disappointed by that, I would like to thank you all for coming out. It's great to speak to you.
I'm encouraged by your interest. Frankly, Iraq is a very challenging place, but I believe it's very important. If you look at what's going on in the neighborhood, as I said in my opening remarks, it's not hard to imagine just how important Iraq could be, I think, to the regional stability. They do have a democratically-elected government; it is inclusive. It's complicated, like all democracies, so the prime minister's got a very complex political situation that he needs to deal with as he moves forward. But the fact that that government is in place and it is democratically elected is -- to me, is just immensely encouraging.
And so I'm excited, after having spent a large part of my adult life flying over the nation of Iraq, to be on the ground there for the last portions of this. And I am proud to be doing it with airmen that just continue to impress and amaze. So if you ever get discouraged about the future of your nation and, you know, put your arm around a soldier, a sailor, airmen or Marine and talk to them about what they're doing, I think you'll be encouraged.
Thank you very much.
Q: Thank you.