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Department of Defense Press Briefing by Admiral Kirby in the Pentagon Briefing Room

Presenters: Rear Admiral John Kirby, Press Secretary
May 23, 2014

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: I apologize for keeping bumping this thing back. Schedule thing today. I don't have anything huge to drop. (Laughter.)

However, that said, other than this, I do want to just open up with a couple of comments on schedule items. So, let me begin with a preview of Secretary Hagel's schedule for the next couple of weeks. Beginning with participation in this weekend's Memorial Day observances. Tomorrow, the secretary's going to deliver remarks at two commemorations on the National Mall. He will first speak at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund's "Reading of the Names" event, in which the names of the nearly 7,000 American service members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan will be read aloud at the Vietnam War Memorial.

Next, he'll move over to the World War II memorial, where he will speak at the memorial's 10th anniversary commemoration and pay tribute to the more than 400,000 U.S. troops who lost their lives in the war and all the veterans of that conflict.

On Monday, he will participate in the national observance of Memorial Day at Arlington Cemetery, of course, and then following these commemorations.

The secretary's going to embark on Wednesday on his fourteenth international trip, a 12-day around the world trip focused on Asia and Europe. His first stop on the way to Singapore will be Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, where he will receive briefings on missile defense and homeland defense, and have the opportunity to thank service members and their families, who are playing a vital role in our nation's defense out in Alaska.

In Singapore, Secretary Hagel will deliver remarks at the annual Shangri-La dialogue and hold a series of bilateral and multilateral meetings with other ministers of defense. This will be his fifth trip to the Asia-Pacific region, and coming on the heels of his successful trip last month to Japan, China, and Mongolia, and is hosting of the ASEAN defense ministers in Hawaii. It is an important opportunity to build on the momentum we've achieved in strengthening our engagement and our alliances and partnerships in the Pacific region.

From Singapore, the secretary will travel to Brussels to participate in his fourth NATO defense ministers meeting. He views this as a particularly important meeting, of course, as it is the first since Russia's incursions into Ukraine, and the last before September's NATO summit in Wales.

As he discussed earlier this month in his speech at the Wilson Center, the secretary believes our European allies must use this crisis as an opportunity to revitalize NATO and enhance their commitments to collective defense. So, I certainly expect that that will be a major theme of his discussions while in Brussels.

The secretary will next travel through Romania, a valued NATO ally. This visit gives him the opportunity to visit sailors aboard a U.S. Navy ship which will be in port there, and to consult bilaterally with Romania's minister of defense on ways to strengthen NATO's deterrence.

And then finally, from Romania, the secretary will travel to France to participate in the 70th anniversary commemorations of D-Day, with President Obama, other cabinet officials, and leaders really from around the world.

He has been looking forward to paying tribute to the heroes of D-Day for some time, and he will also have the opportunity, while there, to meet bilaterally with his French counterpart. So, from Alaska to the straits of Malacca to the Black Sea, the trip will underscore the intensity and the scope of the Defense Department's engagement around the world and Secretary Hagel's personal commitment to sustaining that engagement going forward.

And with that, I'll start taking questions.

Lita?

Q: John, can you just bring us up to date on sort of two things, Nigeria, and Ukraine? Russian troops along the Ukraine border. The other day, we were told that there were some initial signs that there was some packing up and leaving. Can you bring us up to date on that? And then on any additional U.S. aid and or ISR assets over Nigeria?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: OK, on Ukraine, we have seen continued activity of preparations for departure of some units, not all. We have seen the movement of some units, not all. And I would remind you that there still remains a very sizable force along that border, tens of thousands of soldiers still remain. So, while we do see some movement, it's -- it's too soon for us to, you know, to say that this is the wholesale withdrawal that President Putin had ordered.

On Nigeria, I don't really have any updates. We continue to fly manned and unmanned reconnaissance flights over the area. We are sharing what we can, of course, with the Nigerian Armed Forces through our coordination cell there at the embassy, but I think it's fair to say that we don't have a better indication today, or any definitive knowledge of where these girls are. We continue to -- but we will continue to do this and we're able now with the addition of personnel there in Chad and the resources we have, to provide virtually around the clock reconnaissance efforts. But again, we just don't have anything to report, regrettably.

Q: Just to follow up on Ukraine. The activities you are seeing, is it withdrawal activities? Because, before, there's been talk about repositioning. Do you have any sense of -- is this actually packing up to leave or is this just movement?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, on the packing up, I mean, you have -- somebody better to talk to would be in the Russian military about why they're packing up and what they're doing. It does appear that they -- that some units are making preparations that would preclude the movement of those units. Certainly, it's our expectation and hope that that movement is away from the border. I can tell you that on a small scale we have actually seen the movement of some units away from the border region, apparently back to what we would consider garrison, their home base. But it's not in great number right now, and again, I'd go back to what I said before, there are still tens of thousands of ready troops along that border that still are deescalating, I'm sorry, still are escalating the tension there in Ukraine, and we continue to call for the removal of all those troops.

Q: You said manned and unmanned. Have the manned surveillance flights over Nigeria resumed?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: What I meant Nick is that we're going to continue to a mix of manned and unmanned. I'll have to go back and check and see if actually manned flights have started again, but I fully expect that they will. I mean, we're going to have used the resources and assets that are available as they become available, and it really frankly doesn't matter whether they're manned or unmanned, as long as we can provide that kind of coverage.

Q: And did you say additional U.S. personnel is on the ground there?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I was referring to the 80 personnel that the White House announced the other day in Chad.

Q: OK. So you weren't talking about additional personnel as advisers inside Nigeria.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I was not.

Q: OK.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Thank you.

Jen.

Q: John.

Are budget cuts -- are tight budgets affecting, still affecting flyovers at Arlington National Cemetery, and if they are, what the criteria for how the services are determining who gets a flyover?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Budget cuts never were a determining factor in conducting flyovers at Arlington National Cemetery, even when we were facing sequestration we did not stop or halt or order the -- the cessation of flyovers for funerals. Now, of course, other types of flyovers were halted, such as at sports games and even the demonstration teams, the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels, but we never ordered a halt to flyovers at the cemetery.

That said, when it comes to funeral flyovers, the policy for those, the decision making for those, is handled at the service level, not at the -- not at the department level. So, each service manages funeral flyovers according to their own dictates. We don't -- we don't micromanage them in that regard. But -- but the secretary never ordered the halt to flyovers at -- for funerals at the cemetery.

Q: So back in September when we reported on two Vietnam veterans who were buried at Arlington and there was a private group that ended up offering their services to do the flyover, are you saying that was a service decision and that budget cuts didn't have anything to do with that? Because at the time, we were told sequestration did have something to do with why they weren't getting...

(CROSSTALK)

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I can tell you that it wasn't mandated from the department that -- that that or any other funeral flyover be canceled. I would refer you to the -- I think it's the Air Force in this case, to speak to that particular case. Now, what decision-making they made is up to them, but again, we leave these issues to the services. There as no departmental policy with respect to funeral flyovers.

Q: Thanks for doing this briefing on a Friday afternoon. I appreciate it.

And I have a...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: That sounds like facetiousness.

(LAUGHTER)

Q: No, no, no -- twice in one week, we've gotten you out here, so thank you very much.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I meant to be out earlier, and I truly will on Fridays be out earlier, but this -- today was a little bit -- with the Naval Academy graduation.

Q: Russia -- getting back to Russia for a second. A defense ministry official told Reuters that troops and equipment would be moved out of the border area in the course of a few days, but it would take about 20 days to return the forces to their permanent bases. Is that -- is that, in your opinion, is that a normal amount of time to return forces to their permanent bases -- 20 days?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I'm not a Russian military spokesman, so I don't know how they handle logistics or how fast they believe they can move their units. I can only speak for our military, and I know how fast we can move. But that doesn't mean that our standards can be applied to, you know, to other armies.

I can tell you they got there in a hurry. So, it's certainly our expectation that this order to withdraw will be followed with some sense of alacrity. That's what we would like to see. But, you know, you'd have to -- I'd have to refer you to the Russian military to speak for their own logistical trail and how fast they can move.

The main point, though, is there are still tens of thousands of troops there and their presence alone just continues to escalate the tensions in that part of Ukraine. And it's unhelpful. It's unproductive. It's not necessary and nothing has changed about Secretary Hagel's desire to see those troops leave.

Q: Have the Russians behaved in any kind of aggressive ways? And anywhere else, have there been any kind of incursions in Alaskan air space or...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: You mean, like taking operational control of Crimea?

Q: No, no, no. I mean, I'm sorry -- interactions with U.S. military, perhaps incursions in air space near Alaska or anything else out of the ordinary?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I have nothing to report on that, not that I'm aware of.

Yes, back there.

Q: Admiral, I read in the Wall Street Journal this morning that there's a push by senior leaders in this department, including General Austin, for it to be more transparent about the way it uses remotely operated aircraft in Yemen and Pakistan and other places.

And I'm wondering if you can confirm that; what the secretary feels about that idea; and if there's any sense about when the department or the government might be able to be more transparent about those drone operations?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I've read the article. I'm certainly not going to speak for General Austin, I mean, or his views on this. I can tell you Secretary Hagel remains committed to implementing the guidelines that President Obama put forth in his NDU speech about the need to balance appropriately transparency and operational security. And it's a fine balance, but the president made clear where he's going. The secretary is committed to implementing that guidance as best we can. And we're going to continue to work on that.

We're not necessarily going to talk process publicly about how and when those decisions are all going to be made. But I can tell you we're all committed to the president's guidance and to implementing it.

Yes, Kristina?

Q: On budget matters, as you know, the Senate Armed Services Committee just passed their defense bill which rejects some Pentagon proposals for 2015 and adopts others. Does Defense Department have a response on that as it did the House bill that just passed?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: It -- I would say the, you know, the same thing. I mean, it's the secretary's expectation -- look, let me back up because I don't -- we didn't take a position on every markup that the House Armed Services Committee made, nor am I going to speak for the department about every mark that the Senate is now considering. And, as you know, it'll go into conference then.

But let me just back up to the larger point, and the secretary has been very clear. I mean, he worked within the top line that he was given by the Congress. And the president put forth a budget proposal that was within those bounds and within the law.

And it required some very difficult choices from this department, from the secretary himself personally and from the service secretaries and the service chiefs. They made some tough decisions.

And, as tough as they were, they were still able to do two things. One, preserve the readiness of the armed forces and two, be able to continue to execute the president's defense strategy, the 2012 defense strategic guidance and then the QDR that followed, that we submitted as well with the budget.

So we believe that even though the decisions that he made were touch and difficult and require some sacrifice, we can still do the nation's bidding with the budget that we put forth. And it's the secretary's expectation that the Congress will be able to make -- to understand the wisdom behind those tough choices, make tough choices themselves, and put national security above parochial interests.

Q: Is he pleased or not pleased with the Senate's version of the defense bill?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think I'm just gonna leave it where I was -- where I put it.

The secretary's expectation is that the Congress will see the wisdom in these decisions and will make those tough decisions themselves.

Yeah?

Q: Sir, about Japan. U.S. Air Force will deploy the Global Hawk, RQ-4, to U.S. bases in Japan this month. And, I wonder if you could tell us, for what purposes it could be used, in terms of current security circumstances in the region, such as North Korea or (inaudible) East China Sea, South China Sea?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, look, I mean, I'll just speak broadly to that. I mean, you're right, we are -- this was a commitment that Secretary Hagel made back in October of 2013 at the 2-plus-2 in Tokyo that -- and he there announced that we would rotationally deploy -- not permanently base -- two Global Hawks to Japan to Misawa specifically, by the end of May 2014. And so he's -- he's making good on that pledge.

The Global Hawk, as you know, is a very versatile, state-of-the-art, sensor and communications system, aerial sensor and communications system. And they'll be able to provide us with increased surveillance capabilities that can be used in a broad range of missions, from maritime domain awareness all the way to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Q: I wanted to ask you about something the secretary said in his interview with Charlie Rose. He was asked about Iran, and Charlie Rose asked him if Iran had the missile capability today to deliver nuclear weapons.

And the secretary said that if Iran had a situation, they could probably put that together if they need to.

So, is the secretary saying today Iran could put together a missile capability and deliver a nuclear weapon?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think what the secretary was referring to was that the continued focus and emphasis that Iran is placing on long-range missile systems and our concern about it, but they do not have a nuclear weapon at this time. The president's made it clear and the secretary's made clear that we're not going to allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapon capability.

And as you know, Barb, you know, enriching is one thing; weaponizing is another. And it takes a lot more sophisticated effort.

So I think that the secretary is referring to is that they continue to advance and develop long-range missile systems that, frankly, don't do anything but -- but increase tensions in the region.

Q: I understand the thing you're saying, but the question he got was (inaudible) a capability today. And he says they could probably put that together if they need to.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm not gonna -- I don't think I -- I don't think I can qualify his comments any better than he did.

He said they are advancing that capability.

Yeah, in the back there?

Q: Regarding the Secretary Hagel's travel, Admiral, he was supposed to visit Turkey at the end of January, but he had canceled that time his trip. Is there a particular reason why he didn’t have Turkey this time while he is visiting in New York?

And also, the second one, can you give us an update regarding the talks with the Turkish officials on the missile defense system that Turkey is preparing to purchase from China?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: On your first, I think the correct -- the question -- we never had Turkey on the schedule in January and then canceled it. It was in discussions and -- but it was never scheduled. So, that's point one.

Point two, I mean, this, as I just read out to you, this is a pretty packed trip, and he absolutely intends to get to Turkey. He appreciates the invite and I have no doubt that -- that he'll travel there just -- just as soon as is practical, but it's not on the agenda for this trip, and as I -- as you could tell from my opening statement, there is an awful lot of ground to cover on this trip just as it is, in 12 days.

On your other question about dialogue, I'll have to get back to you on specifics. I mean, we obviously have a terrific dialogue and communication with our Turkish counterparts on all matter of issues, including missile defense, but I don't have the exact latest detail on what that.

Q: (inaudible) Turkey on the talks on this Chinese missile defense system, is there any expectation in concrete development that...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: We continue to talk to Turkish officials about a visit, and we look forward to going in the future.

Q: Should we assume that the...

(CROSSTALK)

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't want to convey that there's some kind of, you know, caveat on it here. We continue to talk to Turkish officials, and I fully expect that the secretary will travel there. Gordon?

Q: Do you expect in the context of this announcement today about the 21 sites in Europe that are going to be turned back over to the countries in Europe.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah.

Q: It's a little in the weeds, I realize, but someone who has been tracking this understood that there was a much broader review of infrastructure in Europe, and this is interesting, obviously, given recent events, last month or so. So is this -- was this in the works, or is this part of the EIC, so called EIC...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: It is part of the of the European infrastructure study, yeah. This is sort of the -- I would say this is kinda the first tranche of that effort, and that effort's ongoing. It's been going on for a very long, long time, months. And this first tranche that we announced today, and I think it's pretty obvious if you look at the list, I mean, these are -- these are items that are facilities and pieces of property that are either in excess or simply are costing us more to maintain than they will to eventually shut down or frankly, that we just don't need them.

So, you can see there's scoot -- there's skeet ranges on there. There's some -- there's a hotel, there's a golf course. There are some other military facilities that frankly, we just don't believe we need anymore.

Q: Low hanging fruit. But so, is there more process? Or is there going to be another announcement in another two months, or...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: The process continues. I suspect you'll see when we're able to make future decisions, we'll announce future decisions. It's an ongoing process and it will continue. This is sort of the first tranche of what I suspect will be other changes to come.

And I would just like to make one other point, and I made this in the announcement, but it's important. It does not at all -- and again, if you look at the list, I think it's pretty self-evidence that it doesn't at all change our military capability on the continent or -- or degrade in any way our readiness to meet our security commitments there in Europe.

I already got you, Phil. Yeah.

Q: Has there been any communication with the Thai military? Secretary Hagel with his counterpart or General Dempsey with his counterpart? And what's the latest on the U.S. troops that were participating in the bilateral exercises there?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: There's been, as you know, we said we're reviewing our military assistance and training programs with Thailand. That review continues. I don't have anything to announce in that regard. I can tell you that General Odierno did reach out to his counterpart in the Thai army very recently, I believe it was last night. I am told it was a constructive conversation and the general made it clear that we certainly expect a return to democratic principles in Thailand just as soon as possible, but I won't go into any more detail than that. OK.

Yeah, Richard.

Q: When will the -- when will the secretary arrive in Brussels for the meeting with the defense minister?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm not going to read out the exact dates here. I know the dates, but I mean, I think we'll have the specific dates here as we get a little closer. But the Brussels, the defense ministerial is in the first few days of June.

Q: OK. On Thailand, they're still invited to RIMPAC?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Again, we're reviewing our military assistance and training program with Thailand. I have nothing new to announce on that right now.

Q: And lastly, the -- in Rumania, presumably he'll be going aboard the cruiser that just went into the Black Sea?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes, the USS Vella Gulf.

Yes. Chris?

Q: Just a follow up on Gordon's question about the European infrastructure consolidation. Can you go a little bit further to talk about whether, you know, following cuts are likely to be of the same type, just tiny little trims here and there? Or is it going to be more, as it goes into the future, more sort of significant cuts?

And secondly, how -- is there a dollar target that you're aiming for?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Overall, I'm not aware of a dollar target they're aiming for. And again, this is an ongoing process. So I simply can't answer that question right now in that General Breedlove and his staff are working hard on this. And again, when we have things to announce, we'll certainly announce them.

This is about making sure that we have the right footprint, the right posture, and frankly, that we're spending taxpayer dollars the right way there in Europe. These -- this first tranche that we announced, they'll save us $60 million annually once these -- all these items are closed. So this is also about being good stewards of the taxpayer dollar which I think they expect us to be.

When we have more to announce, we certainly will.

Q: General Breedlove mentioned that perhaps this money could be used for training with allies. Is that -- is that a plan or is that just a possibility?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I haven't seen General Breedlove's comments. I'd point you back to him and his staff for that.

Yes?

Q: On Thailand, I know that you're not announcing anything new, but are the troops that were there, are they still training with the Thai military?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: The troops over there, the 700 or so for this -- this CARAT exercise are still there. But again, we're reviewing all our military assistance items and again, I just don't have anything new to announce, but they're still there -- physically, they're still there.

Q: But are they actually going through a training exercise?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: The exercise hasn't been halted as we speak.

I already got you -- yeah?

Q: NATO’s having its largest ISR training exercise next week. And I'm wondering how many of our assets are going over there and how much participation will we have in that exercise?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'd point you to EUCOM on that and to NATO for the specifics. I don't -- without knowing the exact name of the exercise -- we could try to look up and get you some better answers, but I don't have that at my fingertips.

Q: OK. And you mentioned that, you know, that Defense Department will save about $60 million annually once all of these items on your list are closed...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Just this first tranche, yes.

Q: Do you happen to know when that's going to start happening? How long is it going to take these items to close? And when will you guys start seeing the money?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, I -- they're working -- they're working to close them now. And again, EUCOM has a better sense of the exact schedule. Some of these things will be easy to shut down. It's not going to take a long time to shut a skeet range down, you know. But closing some of these other facilities may be a little bit more lengthy and EUCOM will have the details on exactly how and when that's going to -- that's going to occur.

Q: And what is on that list? There were a couple of bases. Like, some of them even said, like, that they were NATO bases. Is there going to be some shifting of personnel or is it something that they haven't used in a long time?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: It's all part of a -- this larger process, as I was talking to Chris about, of consolidating our posture there in Europe and putting our people and our facilities in the most efficient places or in the most efficient manner. So, whatever -- you know, and again I -- I wasn't involved in the actual decisions that led to closing these places down. Again, I'd refer you to General Breedlove and his staff and I'm sure that they made these decisions based on the need, the requirement, and where they felt it was -- it was most effective to have people and to have facilities.

So, you know, yeah, some are -- some are small bases and some are golf courses. I mean, it really just -- it was decisions that he made to be more efficient and more effective.

(CROSSTALK)

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes, that was a long way of saying check with EUCOM.

Yes?

Q: Going back to...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: But it was pretty eloquent. I've got to, you know, give me that.

Q: ... going back to General Odierno's contacts with his peer in Thailand, was that done because the army chief there is the one who is in charge of the junta that's taken over? And how -- I mean...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: The individual -- the Thai army chief, the one who announced that they were suspending the constitution, is in effect General Odierno's counterpart. So it just made sense that he would be the one to have that conversation.

Q: And you said that it was a constructive engagement, but were there any commitments made on the part of...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Again, I'm not going to read out the entire conversation. It happened. It was a constructive discussion. General Odierno was clear about our expectation that democratic principles be restored as soon as possible. And that's as far as I'm gonna go.

Q: Does that mean you're gonna keep it at that level?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: We -- look, it was a conversation done at the appropriate level at the appropriate time. And this is a military that we have a longstanding relationship with, going well back in United States history. And it's a military-to-military relationship that we still believe is important.

But circumstances are different in Thailand, and this was a conversation that needed to happen.

I can't rule out that there won't be additional conversations. But I'm telling you where we are right now, which is that this call happened last night.

Jen?

Q: John, I just want to make sure I understand. 700 U.S. troops are currently training with the Thai military, post coup?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: There was an exercise that had begun pre coup. Those troops are still there. We are reviewing our military assistance and training programs with Thailand right now.

I don't know -- I know that the troops that were sent for this CARAT exercise are still there. Whether they're actually engaged in training as we speak, I don't have that level of detail.

But, again, the larger point here, Jen, is that we're reviewing all our military assistance and training. We have to in light of what happened. It would be irresponsible for us not to do that.

And then, when we get finished with that review, if we have decisions to make, to announce, I'll certainly do that.

Yeah?

Q: Just one more on the Vella Gulf, do you have any other specific port calls or training exercises between now and...

(CROSSTALK)

REAR ADM. KIRBY: The Vella Gulf?

You're gonna be shocked, but you got to call EUCOM. I don't know. I know she's in the Black Sea right now. Her exact training schedule while there. And, as you know, when they go into the Black Sea, it's about routine training and port visits, which she's conducting. But I don't have the exact schedule.

Yes?

Q: And one question on the mission for the deployment of the 80 troops to Chad to support the -- search for the missing girls.

CRF just released a report, and they emphasized that the deployment of those troops may risk perpetuating the image of an American war on Islam.

What -- can I have your take on this comment?

And are you expecting to support from other countries to join in this mission? Would it be helpful to the troop (inaudible)...

(CROSSTALK)

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Who said it?

Q: Council on Foreign Relations.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: OK. I haven't seen the comment. And -- but I can tell you that -- that the personnel that we've placed in Chad, have nothing to do with the war on terrorism. They have -- they're there to help find little girls. That's what they're there for. They're there to support the aircraft, manned and unmanned, that we are using to try to find these little girls that are spread out over the jungle. And that's their focus; that's their job.

Some of them are gonna be maintaining those aircraft; some of them are gonna be analyzing the information coming off those aircraft and some of them are there to protect the aircraft and their -- and their fellow airmen. That's what they're there for.

And I think that we all need to stay focused on the mission at hand, and that's finding these girls and helping the Nigerians pinpoint them and go get them.

Q: You are concerned that some factions in some, maybe, for example in Turkey, some pro-government newspapers are manipulating the mission and they are claiming that it will be kind of invasion tactic for U.S., for this kind of deployment.

Are you concerned because of this -- this manipulation?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: More concerned about nearly 300 little girls that have been taken away from their families and hidden away in the jungle by some pretty nasty people. And we're concerned about helping the Nigerians go get them. That's our concern.

Pure and simple.

I have time. I think that somebody had one hand up. No?

Q: Just a quick one, going back to Ukraine. There's been more fighting in eastern Ukraine, and it seems this time it's the Ukrainian army that's had the upper hand, at least according to some of the numbers that have been coming out.

General Breedlove and others, have expressed concerns about Russia, Russian forces, well-trained Russian forces that have been in Crimea, possibly also in Ukraine.

Aside from the troops along the border, is there -- are you observing any changes in terms of what Russian forces may or may not be in eastern Ukraine, working with the pro-Russian separatists?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, we still believe, and we've said this; we maintain this, that there are forces controlled by Moscow, by the Russian military, inside Ukraine, and they remain there.

And I won't get into the give-or-take of the battle here. We think that the Ukrainian armed forces, they have shown both great restraint and they have shown courage in trying to restore law and order inside their border. But yes, we will believe there are Russian backed elements inside Eastern Ukraine.

Okay, thanks everybody. Have a great weekend. Again, sorry for the delay. I know it's late on a Friday, but I appreciate it. Thank you.

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