REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY: Afternoon, everybody. I was told there was a discussion about preferring to have the soccer game on the screen out here over my shoulder. Appreciate it. You don't pay attention to me as it is. Put that up there, that -- so, actually, we'll use it for something else in a second.
A couple of quick announcements. One, Secretary Hagel wants to congratulate Admiral Michelle Howard for being promoted today to a four-star admiral, full admiral. It is a milestone, of course, in her exemplary career, but it's also a milestone for the United States Navy, as she becomes the first four-star female African-American admiral.
More importantly -- and I'm sure Admiral Howard would agree -- is the scope of her new duties as the vice chief of naval operations for the Navy, which is a job of immense responsibility, and the secretary's eager to seeing her get in the seat and get to work and looks forward to working with her.
Secondly, I can confirm that the motor vessel Cape Ray is in port in Gioia Tauro, Italy -- Gioia Tauro, Italy. She arrived earlier today. The transload of the materials will begin soon from the Danish vessel Ark Futura, which is actually not yet in the port. So that's why they'll not be able to immediately start transshipment of the material.
And then, lastly, we just sent out -- and you'll have it probably when you get back to your desks -- a statement from the secretary regarding the government of Japan's new policy on collective self-defense. He welcomes the government of Japan's new policy regarding collective self-defense, which will enable the Japan self-defense forces to engage in a wider range of operations and make our alliance even more effective. And, again, I'll point you to his statement, which we -- which we just released a few minutes ago.
And then lastly, since I'm not going to let you watch the soccer game, but I'm pretty sure you're going to have questions about numbers of people in Iraq, right? Was I going to get that one? Joe? I was going to get it, wasn't I? Slides.
I want to walk you through sort of what we're doing here and how. So we'll start going through time, but it's important as we go through this that I -- I clearly delineate there are two separate and distinct mission sets, the troops that are being sent to Iraq. First one is security assistance, and the second one is assessment teams and the joint operations center. This is the advisory -- eventually what will become the advisory mission, two distinct tracks here.
So the first order was the on the 16th of June for 270 -- actually, it was up to 275, is what the War Powers Resolution letter said, but roughly 270 is what we ordered up inside the military channels. A hundred and seventy of them got on the ground that same day -- actually, as you know, they kind of flowed in a little bit before the war powers letter went to Congress. So back then, we had a total of 270 authorized, 170 in country.
Next slide. The second order, the second War Powers Resolution letter went on the 26th of June. That authorized up to 300 advise and assess troops, advisers. And on the 27th of June, 180 had been in country. That's -- so you have 90 supporting the joint operations center in Baghdad and another 90 that comprised our assessment and advise teams. That brought the total to 570 authorized, but 350 actually on the ground. Everybody tracking on this so far? I figured if I use slides, I won't get the math wrong.
Next slide. The third order came on the 30th of June yesterday. That was for an additional 200 in the security assistance mission, separate and distinct from the assessment mission, an additional 200, and all 200 of them are now in and around Baghdad.
Additionally, you'll see the 100 up there in the top under the first order. Remember, the first order on the 16th of June was up to 275, but 270 is what we ordered. And we didn't put them all in country. You might remember, we told you that we were going to leave 100 of them or so outside the country in case they needed to be put in. We did put them in yesterday. So that other 100 came from the first order on the 16th of June.
And then so all that comes down to the bottom there, a total of 770 authorized, 650 on the ground. And that's where we are right now. Okay?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIC) copy?
ADM. KIRBY: You can have a copy. I don't think it's classified. You can have that.
QUESTION: And the game?
ADM. KIRBY: And the what? And the game? No, we're not going to show the game.
ADM. KIRBY: You're going to have to actually pay attention to me for 25 minutes.
QUESTION: The total on-the-ground would be 750 you said you had 100 OSD...
ADM. KIRBY: There are 100 -- there are approximately 100 of other -- other troops that were already in Iraq working in the Office of Security Cooperation. So if you add to them, you'd have 750, but I'm talking about of the authorized -- for these three -- for these three tranches, for these two missions, we're at 650. And, again, this will fluctuate a little bit as people come and go, but that's where we are today.
QUESTION: Admiral, your statement yesterday said the new troops getting there will have rotary-wing aircraft, unmanned aerial systems, and some other additional capabilities.
How much more can you tell us about that? What kind of helicopter are they going to be operating? And are they going to be flying those UAVs from the Baghdad airport?
ADM. KIRBY: The aircraft that will go with the 200 yesterday will be basing out of the Baghdad airport. It is a mix of helicopters and UAVs. The helicopters are attack helicopters, Apaches. And I don't have the exact numbers. I mean, we can -- we can see if we can get that for you, but that's what they're there for.
QUESTION: So to be clear, these are American Army Apaches. They'll be flown by American crews and not the ones that Iraq wants to lease and buy from the U.S.?
ADM. KIRBY: That's correct.
QUESTION: One quick follow-up on the Cape Ray. Do you have an estimate about how long once the material is loaded aboard that ship will need to actually sail around and neutralize it?
ADM. KIRBY: It will take two to three days for the transshipment of materials to the Cape Ray, and then the Cape Ray will get underway and start the process at sea. I don't know if I've got an estimate on how long that's going to take. Hang on. Just let me just check that and see, because some of it's going to depend on sea state and that kind of thing.
Yeah, I don't -- I don't have an estimate, Phil. I'll have to see if I can get back to you on that.
QUESTION: John, was there any sort of coverage whatsoever of the process of either transshipping -- or transloading it or neutralizing it during (OFF-MIC)
ADM. KIRBY: Press coverage? There's no plans right now to embark or embed media on the -- on the Cape Ray. I mean, you can understand, we have legitimate safety concerns. People that are going to be working aboard the Cape Ray and the Ark Futura are trained, certified to handle these kinds of materials. It's not the kind of environment where it's conducive to having media representatives present. Only those who are trained to handle this material are going to be -- are going to be involved in it.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIC) safety issues (OFF-MIC)
ADM. KIRBY: It's very much a safety issue, yeah, absolutely. But, look, I mean, to the degree we can, we'll keep you informed of, you know, how the process is going. I mean, there's no reason why not to. But as I said, we're trying to keep you plugged in as we're marching along and we'll continue to do that. But there's not going to be...
QUESTION: What about during transloading?
ADM. KIRBY: No, I don't believe there's going to be media access to the transloading, either. Again, I mean, this is -- this is dangerous stuff. And I think there's a genuine concern for safety here.
QUESTION: You failed to answer the question about the surveillance drones, how many, what kind, and are they all surveillance or are some...
ADM. KIRBY: They are -- they are -- they are surveillance unmanned systems and are...
QUESTION: Surveillance only or are they...
ADM. KIRBY: They're surveillance only, and they're not -- they're not going to be armed, no. And I don't have the exact breakdown of, you know, what they are and how many, but, again, just focus on the mission here, which is -- which is security assistance for our facilities, for our personnel, our property, and the embassy. That's what this is all about.
QUESTION: And the Apache missions, will they be airborne as -- as a standard operating procedure or just responding to specific events? Do you know?
ADM. KIRBY: I don't have the exact sort of daily flight plan for them. But the mission writ large of these 200 are to provide for security at facilities that we have access to there at the airport and the embassy, and they'll use them as appropriate to accomplish that mission.
QUESTION: Are you able now to assess the security situation in Iraq on the ground and mainly in Baghdad? This is my first question. My second question...
ADM. KIRBY: Are you talking about the assessment teams and whether...
QUESTION: (OFF-MIC) from your -- from your -- if the Pentagon now is ready, is able to assess the situation on the ground, do you still see a growing threat from ISIS or IS now? Because correct me if I'm wrong, I mean, sending another 300 troops to Iraq, it looks like the situation, it might get worse in the coming weeks. What -- what do you think?
ADM. KIRBY: The -- our assessment teams are -- are just getting -- well, not just now starting -- they've been working. We need to give them time to get out and about and to come back with their findings, so I'm not going to get ahead of that work or what they'll report back.
We obviously are watching the situation very closely, as closely as we can, given the limits of information that we have -- again, we're trying to get better information. It certainly remains -- ISIL still remains, as I said last week, a legitimate threat to Baghdad and the environs. We believe that the -- the Iraqi government is taking that threat seriously, that Iraqi security forces in and around Baghdad are continuing to reinforce themselves and actually to go on the offensive in some areas, as we saw over the weekend.
But it's -- but there are large swaths of the country which are either still controlled by ISIL or contested between ISIL and the Iraqi security forces. Our assessment teams are just getting started. We need to let them finish that work and then we'll -- you know, we'll go from there.
But these extra personnel that -- that the president ordered in yesterday, the 200, in that security assistance mission, that is what -- that is what they're there to do, to help provide extra security for our facilities, our people, our property, and to also allow -- to help allow the State Department and the embassy to continue to function as it is. It's still open.
QUESTION: So you can't say now if the situation is getting worse or not?
ADM. KIRBY: I'm not -- I'm not -- I certainly wouldn't -- I would be in no position to declare, you know, the meter today one way or the other. It continues to be very dangerous. The threat continues to be very real. But we have seen Iraqi security forces in and around Baghdad begin to reinforce themselves and prepare to defend, and they are taking the offensive. And we saw this over the weekend up near Tikrit. So it's a contested environment right now.
QUESTION: Last question. Is there a ceiling that the Pentagon won't go beyond that when it comes to number of troops?
ADM. KIRBY: Is there a ceiling?
QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, what's the maximum number that the Pentagon (OFF-MIC)
ADM. KIRBY: The president has been very clear with each of these...
QUESTION: (OFF-MIC) at the beginning that he's going to send 300.
ADM. KIRBY: He said he was going to send up to 300 for -- for an assess and advisory mission. And I've laid out the numbers for you. And before that, it was -- you know, it was up to 275 for static security assistance, and then he added another 200. Is there -- is there a grand total? No. But, I mean, a -- in terms of the grand total limit, I mean, he's the commander-in-chief. He makes these decisions. And he needs the freedom. He needs to have the freedom to make those decisions as he and the military commanders and the civilian leadership here in the Pentagon advise him to.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIC) might see more troops going to Iraq in the -- in...
ADM. KIRBY: I'm not going to speculate one way or the other, Joe. I mean, that's why I wanted to focus on what we've got and what they're doing. And that's -- that's the focus right now, but I'm not going to speculate about future deployments.
QUESTION: Following up on that, though. Do you -- let me phrase it another way. Does the department think that this authorized number of 770 is sufficient to carry out those combined missions? Or should we expect additional deployments in the near term?
ADM. KIRBY: I won't get ahead of decisions that haven't been made yet about the future, in terms of other deployments or other numbers. We believe that the numbers that we've been authorized are sufficient to the task we've been given, with respect to these two mission areas. Does that answer your question?
ADM. KIRBY: Barb?
QUESTION: But nonetheless, the president has added three times in the last two weeks additional troops, and you have just acknowledged that, in your words, there is no grand total limit on this at this point. So my question is, with all respect, how is this not escalation? How is this not mission creep? How do you know when this is mission accomplished? How do you know when you've got success here? What is the measure of success? How do you get -- what is the exit strategy?
ADM. KIRBY: Well, when you ask a question about exit strategy, it presumes that, you know, there is this -- there is a major movement or occupation afoot, and that's not the case here. So...
QUESTION: 800 or so U.S. troops going into Iraq, what is the exit strategy?
ADM. KIRBY: Let me answer all your questions in turn, okay? There's -- there's no mission creep, because the missions have been clearly defined from almost the outset, as I said, two missions, security assistance and assess and advise. Those are the two tracks we're on.
Yes, in -- just yesterday, the one mission got plussed up by another 200 personnel, and then we added the hundred, you know, from outside the country. So, yes, the security assistance mission was additive, or there were numbers added to it, because -- back to Joe's question -- the situation on the ground continues to change. It's very fluid. It's dynamic. The threat to Baghdad is still very legitimate.
And we also want to make sure that we are doing what we can to help our colleagues in the State Department continue to function out of the embassy there and to have the flexibility, if they want to make resource and manning changes there, that we're able -- we're in a position to help them do that. And I think you saw yesterday they did announce that they were relocating some more of their personnel.
So this is very much about meeting a need of -- from our State colleagues, but it's also working very closely with the Iraqi government and doing this in full consultation with them and at their request. So it's -- there's no mission creep. The missions haven't changed. Some of the numbers have been added in the security assistance realm.
And, look, it's very fluid. And the commander-in-chief and the military leadership here in the building, I think, expect and should have a certain measure of flexibility here in how we -- in how we manage the resources available.
QUESTION: So two questions. One, how do you know what success is here? Because you don't put in troops without knowing when you're -- how to measure when your job is done. And it's -- isn't it correct, it's not just that Baghdad's changing, but it is getting worse, because you didn't do this at the beginning. Why two weeks ago did you not move to reinforce the airport? What is the situation and what information did you get that led you to now say in the last couple of days, okay, we have to reinforce the airport and the Iraqi military cannot be counted on to do it, we have to do it?
ADM. KIRBY: Well, that's not what we're saying, that the Iraqi military is not up to the task of defending the airport, and these troops are not there to protect the airport. It's not our airport. They are there, as I said at the outset, to protect U.S. facilities, personnel and property, some of which are at the airport. We have some facilities that we have access to at the airport, but they're also there to help protect embassy personnel, the embassy itself, and other U.S. facilities in and around Baghdad. They're not there to defend the airport.
On your question about success, I think I'd go right back to the mission area. We'll know we've -- that we've had success when we're able to properly protect U.S. personnel and property. And on the advise and assist -- I'm sorry, assess and advise mission -- we'll know how successful we've been when the assessment teams report back and we have a better sense of those three things, state of the ISIL and the security situation on the ground, state of the ISF, their cohesiveness and readiness. And, number three, get a better sense of what a follow-on advisory mission can look like. That's what the task is; that's the job. And when that -- and when we're done, then we'll know.
QUESTION: I don't mean to take too much time here, but one more time. Two weeks ago, there was no discussion of needing to have U.S. troops at the Baghdad airport. For whatever reason now...
ADM. KIRBY: No, that's not true, Barbara. Two weeks ago, when -- on the 16th of June when we ordered those 100 airport security personnel into the region -- now, we kept them outside of Iraq, but we ordered them into the region because we had even back on the 16th of June reason to be concerned about the security of our facilities and our people at the airport.
And back to my answer to Joe, the situation has changed on the ground since the 16th of June. It is not static. It's different every day. And ISIL continues to pose a legitimate threat to Baghdad and its environs, which includes the airport and the facility there. So, I mean, we're watching this -- again, I hate to keep going back to my answer to Joe, but it -- it was a good one.
We can -- it was so good, I just have to keep referring to it. We continue to watch the situation; we're monitoring as best we can. We will have better information in a couple of weeks when we get these reports back from the assessment teams.
QUESTION: Can you confirm a report that the Russian pilots are going to fly these fighter jets that Iraq has purchased? And if they are, does this building have concerns about Russian forces operating aircraft over top of U.S. forces operating on the ground?
ADM. KIRBY: No, I can't confirm -- you know, the Russian Ministry of Defense should talk about what they're doing with their pilots. I can't do that. It's my understanding that these aircraft were purchased for the use -- for use by Iraqi pilots, but you'd have to talk to Moscow about what they're doing with their planes and their pilots.
And in terms of concerns, I mean, I'll just go back to what we've said before. All nations that are -- that are becoming involved in this situation -- and that includes us -- and particularly Iraq's neighbors -- we would urge them all to do so in a way that doesn't further inflame sectarian tensions and that doesn't make a bad situation worse.
QUESTION: Wouldn't the U.S. government or U.S. military want to talk to the Russians about what they're doing with their planes and pilots in Iraq? Are -- is the U.S. attempting to find out from the Russians exactly what their intent is there in Iraq?
ADM. KIRBY: There are no active discussions with the Russian military now about what they are or are not doing in Iraq. These are -- Iraq is a sovereign nation. They negotiate, talk, discuss, purchase things from other countries just like any other sovereign nation. These are discussions that the Iraqi government is obviously having with the Russian government, as they have with the Iranian government.
It's not our place to inject ourselves in the middle of those discussions. We are being very measured, very deliberate about our force presence there, our posture there, and what our mission is, as I said to Barbara. We're being very deliberate and measured about what we are doing and what we are not doing.
QUESTION: Could I follow up on that?
What precautions are you taking to protect -- when I say -- what precautions are the Americans who are working out of the JOC taking to protect the sources of their intelligence, in light of the fact that they are working with Iraqis who are working along-side of the Russians and getting intelligence from the Iranians?
ADM. KIRBY: Protecting the sources of their intelligence.
QUESTION: The methods of their intelligence -- is there an effort to protect those sources and methods in light of the fact that they are potentially working with Russians and getting intelligence from the Iranians?
ADM. KIRBY: We're pretty careful about protecting intelligence and we're pretty good at it. I would remind you, though, that the mission for the joint operations center, both of them, and the only one that's stood up right now is the one in Baghdad, is to -- is to serve as a clearinghouse for a useful exchange of information between us and the Iraqi security forces. That's the goal. That's the objective.
And we're always careful, of course, with dealing with other nations and intelligence. But we believe there's great value, and we can't frankly do our job as -- eventually do our job as advisers unless, you know, there's a measure of trust and open dialogue that we can have with Iraqi security forces. That's what our -- that's what our goal is.
QUESTION: So it’s not mitigated at all by the fact that there are Iranian forces on the ground and Russian planes flying overhead?
ADM. KIRBY: I don't if "mitigated" is the right verb, but clearly whatever we do will be informed by the -- the degree to which we understand the actions of other nations and other entities there in Iraq. Obviously, it will be informed by that.
Yes, of course.
QUESTION: How concerned are you -- the Iraqi ambassador this morning was talking about if Iraq doesn't get what it needs from the U.S., again requesting air strikes, says they may turn to Iran for those types of capabilities. To what extent, as you put more and more forces on the ground, does it concern you that Iraq is saying "not enough and you're not doing the job, so we'll turn to the Iranians."
ADM. KIRBY: Again, it's a sovereign state, sovereign government. They have the right to speak to whoever they wish to in terms of security discussions. I would just go back to what I said before, that we continue to urge all nations involved and interested in this to whatever actions they take, whatever decisions they make, that it doesn't further inflame the sectarian tension on the ground there.
And we've had that message consistently from the beginning, particularly that's been our message to Tehran and it doesn't change. But we can neither control nor can we dictate the discussions that one head of state has with another.
QUESTION: To what extent does Iraq ask Iran or other nations to get involved before the situation becomes untenable to have U.S. military personnel there?
ADM. KIRBY: We...
QUESTION: At what point, you know, if the Iranians get more and more involved and start sending more forces, at what point is it untenable for the U.S. military to be involved?
ADM. KIRBY: Well, the question presumes that, you know, that we're -- that we're in open conflict with Iran. And that does not need to be the case. And our State Department colleagues have had discussions on the sidelines of the P-5-plus-1 with Iranian officials about the situation in Iraq.
The -- again, you -- every nation has to speak for itself and what it's doing. I can only speak for the United States and what we're doing. And I've made it clear what our two missions are and I've made it clear how measured and deliberate these decisions are that we're making, and that -- that our missions are confined to these two areas.
So there's no need to presume open conflict here if everybody does what it takes not to further inflame sectarian tension and make a bad situation worse.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about Japan and the decision in Japan. Is there any concern that that decision could in fact inflame tensions in the region? Conversely, does this take any pressure off of the Pentagon planning in the rebalance?
ADM. KIRBY: No, there's not concern about inflaming tensions in the Pacific region. As a matter of fact, we believe quite the opposite. Now, there's a lot of work left to do inside the Japanese government on this -- on this policy change that they're seeking. It's a democracy. They've got a Diet that needs to vote on this. I mean, there's a lot of work left to do.
We frankly think it's very -- it's a very encouraging sign and will help inform the revision of the defense guidelines, the bilateral defense guidelines that we have with Japan. So it helps inform that process, which as you know, is ongoing. So, for us, we find it very, very helpful. There's not going to be -- there's no reason from our perspective to believe or to worry that it will make tensions worse. Quite the contrary, we think it will help with security and stability in the region.
And it will -- my answer to the rebalance would be exactly the same. I mean, we believe it will have a helpful effect on our ability to continue to foster this rebalance and to continue to realize it in tangible ways, because it will just simply make our alliance stronger. And what makes the alliance with Japan stronger by design and by default helps make the Asia-Pacific rebalance all the more viable.
QUESTION: South Korea and China have both already expressed concerns about this in terms of what it could mean, in terms of shooting down missiles and things like that...
ADM. KIRBY: Well, let's not get -- let's -- you know, there's a lot of work left to do and I'm certainly not going to characterize a policy that has been announced by the Japanese government. That's, you know, that's obviously for them to explain in further detail and to their neighbors.
Minister Onodera will be here next week to visit with Secretary Hagel and I have no doubt that this will be a prime topic of discussion during those meetings.
QUESTION: You said, "We believe that the numbers we've been authorized is sufficient for the two missions, security assistance and advise." But you've only opened up one JOC so far. So the number people that you have on the ground, is that enough for the second joint operations center? Or are you going to need more people for that second joint operations center?
ADM. KIRBY: The staffing and resources for the second joint operations center are still ongoing. I suspect that there will be some additional personnel that will flow into help man that joint operations center. As -- as I said before, I believe that there will be additional U.S. personnel to flesh out advisory teams once the assessment teams come back with their recommendations about how to set up further on advisory teams.
So I think there's certainly inside the numbers authorized, you could see -- you could see more increases coming here as the advisory mission gets started and as the second joint operations center gets stood up.
QUESTION: So based on these figures here, where it looks like we've got 770 authorized, there's 650 on that, 100 on the ground. Does that 100 factor into the...
ADM. KIRBY: A hundred on the ground -- you mean the ones that were already in OSCI? Oh, they're...
ADM. KIRBY: They do not factor into these slides. I was trying to keep them out of it. They work at the embassy.
QUESTION: So the 120 that you have left there, that would be for JOC -- the second JOC? Is that enough to run a second JOC?
ADM. KIRBY: Inside -- inside the delta there would be the manning for the second joint operations center and any other advisory teams that we decide to flow in.
ADM. KIRBY: We believe the numbers we've been authorized for the missions we've been assigned are adequate to the task.
QUESTION: Okay. And -- and secondly, the drones that are flying out of Baghdad airport now sir, they're -- they're -- the people that are manning them are there on the ground, correct? And I think most people are used to hearing that, you know, somebody from Creech is flying a drone from Djibouti. So could you explain for people at home possibly who don't understand the need to have people on the ground in Iraq flying drones why...
ADM. KIRBY: These drones are -- these unmanned systems are -- are more limited in duration and mission and capability, and so they're not the same long-range, long -- or multi-mission that other UAVs are capable of. So, this is what was determined to be the best use of -- to accomplish that mission and it does require operators that are there with those aircraft.
QUESTION: They are not Reapers or Predators?
ADM. KIRBY: I'm not going to get into the exact type, but I mean, yeah, they're not -- they're not -- they're not those two airframes.
QUESTION: Back to the question about Japan's (inaudible). I'm wondering if you could be more specific about it. What kind of -- what kind of support or cooperation do you expect from Japan in the U.S. military operations?
ADM. KIRBY: Separate and distinct from this announcement? Look, it's one of the strongest alliances that we have in the world. And we value the partnership and the friendship deeply. And it's -- it's a relationship that gets, frankly, gets stronger every year. We've got the Rim of the Pacific exercise going on right now in which Japan is a -- is a big contributor.
So, as I said, there's a lot of work left to do on this, and that's for the Japanese government to speak to. Not -- not me.
But we certainly see it as an encouraging sign for the alliance moving forward. And I think we have every expectation, certainly the secretary does, that the U.S.-Japan alliance will remain just as strong and just as vibrant, if not stronger.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, I have a question, what kind of (inaudible) joint operations do you expect after the reinterpretation?
ADM. KIRBY: I'm not gonna -- I can't detail operations that haven't been planned or done yet based on a political process that hasn't been finished yet in Japan.
As I said, we expect our -- we think that this is good for the alliance, strong for the alliance. And I think it'll just -- all it will do is help deepen our partnership. And that's what we look forward to going forward.
But I'm not gonna -- I can't detail specifics for you yet because it wouldn't be appropriate for me to do that.
QUESTION: But the Japanese government -- the Japanese government already laid out some specific options like the cooperation in terms of missile defense (inaudible), and essentially the Japanese chief (inaudible)...
ADM. KIRBY: I'm not gonna talk about -- I'm not -- I won't get into those kinds of details. That's for the Japanese government to speak to.
But I think across the full range of military operations that we -- that we conduct with Japan, I think you'll see -- you know, you're gonna continue to see that alliance and that partnership, that interoperability, getting stronger across the whole range of activities.
QUESTION: John, can I take your reaction, the Pentagon's reaction, to ISIL's name change?
And did the inability of the Iraqi government to choose a speaker today and move forward with the unity government, will that impact the military -- the U.S. military operation in Iraq?
ADM. KIRBY: I don't see any impact to these limited missions that we are conducting in Iraq -- I foresee no impact to that mission as a result of the political process in Iraq.
And, as for ISIL's name change, I -- that's, you know, what they call themselves is up -- is up to them. I understand they've declared this caliphate. But declaring something doesn't make it so.
QUESTION: Admiral Kirby...
ADM. KIRBY: Joe, wait a second. I want to get Tony in the back there, you already had like four or five.
QUESTION: Yeah, I had a couple questions.
If you could react to the Iraqi ambassador's remarks today about F-16s -- flying Russian airplanes over F-16s. He said the current delivery process doesn't meet -- meet their immediate threat.
ADM. KIRBY: Well, the delivery process is the same delivery process that we have been on. They were never expected to be in Iraq until the fall. So there's been no delay. There's -- there's been no halt to the process. The process is still moving forward.
Now, what has affected potential delivery is the situation on the ground. And, as we talked about before, we had to move some contractors out, or, actually, the company had to move contractors out of Balad, contractors that were there to help prepare for the arrival of those aircraft. They are no longer working there at Balad. So that could -- that could have an impact on eventual delivery.
But to argue that it's -- that it's slipped or it's late or that we've not met our responsibilities in that regard I think is -- is just false.
QUESTION: You would reject the premise, then, that the U.S. has an overly complicated process here and that it's hurting Iraq at this point?
ADM. KIRBY: We have a -- it is a complicated process here in the United States, but by design. And well it should be. I mean, these are big decisions. And this is -- it's a lot of taxpayer dollars being spent, all for good reason. But they're not -- these are not small decisions, and they need to be -- they need to be thought through carefully.
QUESTION: Can you get us up to speed -- get us up to speed on the current Hellfire deliveries in Iraq? You tried Friday and there were a number of numbers that were somewhat confusing.
ADM. KIRBY: I tried? Does that mean I failed, Tony?
QUESTION: No, you just weren't clear.
ADM. KIRBY: So I failed.
Let me see if I can find it in here.
I don't know if I've got it.
ADM. KIRBY: No, no, no. I'm gonna keep looking. It's fine. I'll see if I've got it in here. Because I don't want to mess it up again.
QUESTION: I meant the Iraqi money, not the U.S. money buying those F-16s.
ADM. KIRBY: Yes, you're right. Did I say that it wasn't?
QUESTION: You said it was U.S. taxpayer money.
ADM. KIRBY: That originally procures these things. Tony, I'm going to have to get back to you. I'm going to have to get back to you on the exact numbers. I don't want to wing it.
But there's hundreds of other Hellfires that I know are being expedited to go to Iraq.
QUESTION: You spoke recently about sort of the state of the situation on the ground and the strength of ISIS and so on. And you were -- you -- your estimate was that the Iraqi government forces were stiffening their resistance and so on and maybe turning the tide.
What's -- what's the -- what's the lay-down now? What does it look like right now?
ADM. KIRBY: We continue to see ISIL putting pressure on Baghdad from the north and from the west. That hasn't let up.
It's difficult to tell what their intent is. But clearly, they're a presence there outside Baghdad and therefore, we believe pose a threat to Baghdad.
It's not just us. The Iraqi security forces, the Iraqi government believes that too. It's why they are consolidating their defensive positions and plans for Baghdad.
Everything that we see indicates that they will fight, that they will defend Baghdad. They are being aided by Shia militia. There's no question about that.
In addition, as we saw over the weekend, Prime Minister Maliki did push Iraqi security forces up to the north in a counter-offensive but difficult to tell right now what the level of success was. But clearly, they -- they -- they were able to take some -- take back some territory.
There are other areas inside that central swath that I talked about that are still contested like the oil refinery. We believe that most of the oil refinery is now in the hands of the Iraqi security forces and other facilities such as the Haditha Dam.
So it's -- it's -- as I said to -- I think I said it to Joe, it's contested. It's still a contested environment.
Does that answer your question?
Is there a concern that the deployment of these advisers and these teams could be perceived on the ground in Iraq or elsewhere as the U.S. actually taking sides in a sectarian conflict?
ADM. KIRBY: We -- the -- the only side we're taking is -- is an anti-ISIL position. And the -- in order to do that, we believe it's important to both assess the state of the -- of the Iraqi security forces and then move to an advisory role to assist Iraqi security forces as they take the fight to ISIL.
And we are mindful. As I've said, we encourage neighbors to be mindful not to do anything that would just further inflame the sectarian tensions. That's why I think the approach that Secretary Hagel has ordered the department to take is very measured, very calibrated to achieve those kinds of results.
QUESTION: A quick one.
Do you see any possible cooperation with Iran to counter ISIS in Iraq?
As you may know, Chairman Dempsey last Friday didn't rule out the possibility to -- to cooperate with -- with Iran. So what's your reaction on that?
ADM. KIRBY: I would say what I've said before, alright. There are no plans right now to collaborate or communicate about military activities between the United States military and either the Quds Force or the Iranian military, no plans to -- coordinate military activities at all.
QUESTION: Could you better describe what you said was continued pressure by ISIL on the north and west of Baghdad?
Are they gaining ground? Are they advancing on Baghdad? Are they engaging Iraqi troops in that area at this point?
ADM. KIRBY: I'm not aware of any engagements with Iraqi security forces right around Baghdad.
And as I said, they just continue to put pressure to the north and to the west of Baghdad. But we haven't seen any major advances or anything like that.
And as I said earlier, it's difficult to tell what their intent is. Clearly, they're posing a threat to Baghdad.
QUESTION: By their sheer presence?
ADM. KIRBY: By their sheer presence and their activity and the fact that they are trying to consolidate gains that they have made elsewhere in Iraq. But we haven't seen any overt move, you know, to come in.
And again, we -- we assessed that the Iraqi securities in and around Baghdad will fight to defend the capital.
QUESTION: On North Korea, when North Korea launched a SCUD missile near the South Korean territory day before yesterday. What's your comment?
ADM. KIRBY: Same thing I say every time you ask me these questions. They need to focus more on feeding their people and less on provocative activities that do nothing to advance stability and security on the peninsula. I mean, every day, you know, when they wake up in Pyongyang, they've got -- they've got opportunities to make good choices for the peninsula and for their people, and every day, they seem to wake up and ignore those choices.
And we've said the same thing over and over again.
QUESTION: The United States have troops in South Korea. Do you have any reaction to the North Korea is somehow in...
ADM. KIRBY: No, we find it unhelpful and provocative and it needs to stop. There's this kind of activity, and whether it's a response or a reaction to an exercise we're conducting or some political decision that's made in Seoul, it doesn't matter. It's still uniformly unhelpful to security and stability on the peninsula, and that's been our position and will remain so.
I've got time for one more.
QUESTION: Kirby, was this deployment of 200 personnel and then the other 100 over the last couple of days due to a sense that there was an increasing threat to Baghdad in the airport posed by ISIL,
ADM. KIRBY: I think I answered this to Barbara. It's a fluid situation, we're watching it every day. It changes just about every day. It's not like we haven't been watching what's been going on in and around Baghdad to include the airport.
More importantly, it's not like we aren't being mindful in the security assistance mission, of our responsibility to help protect U.S. interests, personnel, and property. And it was a combination of factors gleaned over many days of watching this that -- that led to the decision to add some security personnel there at the airport and the facilities that we have nearby.
That's -- it was -- I can't point you to one thing. It was a combination of factors and it was a function of closely we were watching this, and how much it changes over time.