DoD News Briefing with Maj. Gen. Richard Sherlock from the Pentagon, Arlington, Va.
GEN. SHERLOCK: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for being here today. I have a few opening comments and then I'd be happy to take your questions.
We continue to posture forces in order to foster relationships with nations around the world, conducting not only operations focused on terrorists, but also humanitarian and team-building ones as well. In the Pacific and Southern Commands as well as Africa, we continue to work together with host nations to provide humanitarian assistance and improve their capacities.
There are about 490,000 U.S. service personnel forward deployed around the world. We have approximately 234,000 in Southwest and Central Asia, about 139,000 in the Pacific, about 96,000 in the European theater, and a little over 4,000 deployed to Latin and Central America and the Caribbean. Those forces also include 34,000 reserve component personnel.
In the Pacific, the USS Peleliu has just completed a four-month deployment to deliver valuable medical, dental and engineering services to a variety of populations in the Pacific. The Peleliu and her crew treated 32,684 patients, performed 290 surgeries and issued over 10,100 pairs of glasses. It provided experiences -- mutually beneficial experiences with the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, the Solomon Islands and Vietnam.
In Southern Command, the USNS Comfort continues to provide humanitarian assistance to partner nations and sends a strong message of U.S. compassion, support and commitment to the Caribbean and Latin America. The Comfort is almost complete with a four-month deployment and has visited 10 countries, seen over 83,000 patients, conducted over 900 surgeries. The Comfort is now in Guyana, after having completed its mission in Trinidad and Tobago.
In Southeastern Africa, the USS Forrest Sherman visited Mozambique for the first time in 30 years, on September 17th.
As part of the Southeast Africa Task Group, the Forrest Sherman's goal is to build partnerships, long-term stability and promote maritime security in the region. The ship will continue to conduct its mission and interact with host nations and conduct joint training.
In Iraq, we also continue to focus significant efforts on building the capacity of the Iraqi security forces. And as noted by Admiral Fox on Sunday, 744 new officers -- police officers from Abu Ghraib graduated from the Baghdad Police College last Thursday. This week, 800 more are expected to graduate, and over the next six months, 12,000 new Iraqi security force personnel will be trained. While it will take some time to season those personnel, it again is a clear indication of the dedication of the Iraqi people to the security of their nation.
And with that, I'll be happy to take your questions. Yes.
Q General, could you just clarify this business about baiting of targets in Iraq? In other words, is there actually a program in which weapons and other military devices are dropped in or near the known or suspected location of enemy caches, and then anybody who picks it up is considered a target and snipers are authorized to kill them?
GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, I can't discuss this case specifically for a couple of reasons.
First of all, there's a court-martial that's about to convene, and the soldiers connected with this case and subsequent cases deserve due process.
Second of all, we don't normally discuss specific tactics, techniques and procedures.
However, I will say that we base all of our actions on the laws of land warfare and the rules of engagement. And our rules of engagement apply in all circumstances, which does not include simply picking something up on the battlefield.
The Asymmetric Warfare Group does not teach or advocate any tactic, technique or procedure that violates the laws of land warfare or our rules of engagement. What they do advocate are methodologies and TTPs, in accordance with Army doctrine and field manuals, to negate or to counter an enemy TTP from an evolving and very adaptive enemy.
Q So it would be against the laws of land and warfare if you authorized someone to engage a target based only on observing them picking up a --
GEN. SHERLOCK: American soldiers are not trained to shoot someone or engage someone simply for picking something up on a battlefield.
Q All right. But you can't discuss whether this program exists in some other form, aside from the court case --
GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, again, the court case that starts -- the soldiers involved deserve to have due process without comments that may be construed as command influence.
So I really don't want to go beyond that.
Q Setting aside that entirely and not even discussing the court case but just discussing the question of, is there, as published reports have suggested and court documents have suggested, a secret program that is involved in any sort of counterinsurgency warfare that involves the use of items as bait? And does that program operate under the rules that you just described, the laws of warfare and rules of engagement?
GEN. SHERLOCK: Any program, whether it was a secret program or an overt program, would have to abide by the laws of land warfare. The laws of land warfare do not include engaging someone simply for picking something up on the battlefield.
Q Can you say whether this -- there was a classified program, even if you can't say what it is or describe it in any way?
GEN. SHERLOCK: No, I really don't have anything else on this. Thanks.
Q General, General Petraeus, a couple weeks ago -- actually it might have been last week; I don't even remember anymore -- spoke to Congress saying that there were no longer Iranian trainers in Iraq, that they have been withdrawn -- speaking of the Qods Force. Can you tell us, is that still the military's assessment? Have those trainers been put back into Iraq? Or are they -- do you still consider them to have been withdrawn?
GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, as far as the specifics of trainers in Iraq or the numbers of trainers in Iraq, I'd refer you to MNF-I or MNC-I to answer that question. What we have said all along is that if we have details or have knowledge of people, operating within the borders of Iraq or within the borders of Afghanistan, that are conducting operations against coalition or Iraqi security forces or Afghan security forces or are involved in supplying illicit weapons of any type to those anti-coalition forces, then we will move on those people. As far as the specific numbers, who happens to be there today versus last week versus the week before, the best people that are postured to answer that are MNF-I.
Q I have a question about private security contractors. Today in Baghdad, the Interior Ministry put together some legislation, that they're going to put before parliament, putting these private security contractors under the Interior Ministry.
We all remember that the Jones report that came out recently about the Ministry of Interior suggested that it's a dysfunctional ministry, that it is rife with sectarianism, and they expect a lot of concerns about the Interior Ministry.
Do you think it is a good idea for private security contractors -- and would the Department of Defense approve of -- private security contractors working for you being placed under the purview of the Ministry of Interior?
GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, there are two things going on in Iraq right now. You have one investigation from the Diplomatic Security Service that's looking at the specifics of the Blackwater incident. You have another commission, a 16-member commission, eight Iraqis and eight U.S., that are going to look at the overall structure of security contractors within Iraq. Those commissions are forming. The Diplomatic Security Service investigation is ongoing. They've already interviewed a number of people. They will report to the 16-member commission. I believe that, you know, we ought to wait for the results of the 16-member commission to see what they recommend as far as policies or how that will fit in within the government of Iraq.
Q But if the government goes ahead and puts forth legislation that would require private security contractors to go -- to be prosecuted if they -- for instance, they shot innocents in Iraq, is that something that the Department of Defense could go along with at this point in time, given the state of the Iraqi Interior Ministry?
GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, that's a good hypothetical question. But the Department of Defense contractors are already under the UCMJ. As you look at other contractors and other security contractors, I think you have to take a look at what the 16-member commission -- that's looking at the overall policy of security contractors within Iraq and how they fit into that system. So I think we need to really wait and see what they recommend before I could answer that.
Q Are there Pentagon or Defense officials on that commission? I thought that those were State Department officials. And would the DOD then agree to what the commission with State Department officials on it comes up with? Are you deferring to State on this?
GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, no, of the eight members -- U.S. members of that 16-member commission, five are Department of State, as I understand it, and three are from the Multinational Force Iraq. And so I think -- before I can say should DOD agree or disagree, I think we have to wait and see what they recommend, because that will be more concrete than anything I could say.
Q Please would you give us more details about what you said in your opening statement, the U.S. ship visit to Mozambique? Has that anything to do with the Africa Command project?
GEN. SHERLOCK: No, it doesn't. However, Africa Command is continuing to form. Its initial operating capability is scheduled to begin next month. General Ward's confirmation hearings are on Thursday. And so I think we need to continue to see how that develops and what capacity that develops as it forms.
Q Could you talk a little bit about the potential for lengthening dwell time as a result of the reduction of the surge brigades in Iraq, and what different options are being considered for whether to lengthen out the dwell time at home for those combat brigades?
GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, as far as the dwell time back home, it's the Army's goal to get to at least the same amount of dwell time as they are deployed. So initially the dwell time is -- right now is 15 months deployed, 12 months dwell. The Army's working very hard to get that to a 12 months deployed and 12 months dwell. The ability to get there in any kind of a timely fashion will depend, obviously, on conditions in Iraq, will depend on when the brigades start to rotate out of Iraq, and a lot of that is being reviewed as we start to operationalize decisions from the president in response to recommendations by Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus.
As far as the specifics of how the Army is going to get there, I know that the Army staff and the Army G-3 is working on that, and I'd refer you to them with regard to what specific steps they're taking to get there.
Q Just to follow up on that, the president, when he made the announcement about implementing the recommendations of General Petraeus, mentioned 5,700 U.S. troops would come home before the end of the year. We know that 2,200 were the Marine Expeditionary Unit. Can you tell us at this point now that we're a little bit farther down the road where the other troops -- which units -- which unit that is that represents the rest of those troops?
GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, initially there was the Marine Expeditionary Unit and two battalions, and then there is specifically a brigade. Which brigade that is will depend on the battlefield geometry in Iraq, and I'd refer you to MNF-I as far as the specific brigade.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. SHERLOCK: I can't comment on that. I think you have to go back to MNF-I and take a look at, again -- as they look to moving forces around the battlefield, which brigades will be replaced and come home, which brigades may be used in other areas is depending on what the battlefield geometry is.
You have to make sure what you don't do is give up gains that you've made in an area to move forces around. So as far as the specifics of troop movements, as far as the specifics of which brigades will move, I'd refer you to them.
Q But do you know if -- is the thinking that the -- whatever units come home, that it would be part of a complete brigade combat team that would rotate out, or are they looking at smaller units that would add up to the -- I guess 3,500 additional troops that would be included in that particular --
GEN. SHERLOCK: I don't know that they're targeting a specific number of troops. I think they are looking at units. And again, as far as the types of --
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, and the specific number was based around a brigade, a MEU and two battalions. Which units those are and how fast they come out are based on conditions. And again, the specifics of which unit will be next to come out would have to go to MNF-I.
Q Has the MEU come out?
GEN. SHERLOCK: They're in the process. I think they have -- the majority of their people, I think, have redeployed to Kuwait, and they're in the process of redeploying their equipment right now. As far as where exactly they are in that process, I don't want to go into -- yes, ma'am.
Q Just to follow up on the brigades, I mean, if the plan is to have the surge quantities out by July, then presumably the extension to 15 months could be scaled back at that point, because it was done to accommodate the surge. And given that the surge will be drawn down by that time, could you just weigh out in a little bit more detail what the different options are for using that extra capacity in the system to either give greater dwell time or shrink the time deployed?
GEN. SHERLOCK: Again, the number of brigades as they come out and the ability to use that to increase dwell time back in the U.S. is something that the Army staff is working very diligently and very hard on.
Obviously, dwell time back in the U.S. is based -- or dwell time based on the unit's home station is based on supply and demand in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And so as you go through that process, the Army will be able to and is trying very hard to reduce the amount of time deployed versus the dwell time back in the United States, trying to get to a 12-month deployment to a 12-month dwell time back at home station. With regard to how they are implementing that, I'd have to refer you to the Army staff.
Q So the number you gave us earlier in your status brief at the beginning -- 490,000 -- that's roughly --
GEN. SHERLOCK: Worldwide.
Q -- worldwide -- that's roughly -- that's a little bit less than half of the entire armed forces, am I not correct?
GEN. SHERLOCK: That includes a number of ships, that includes a number of units that are stationed and forward-deployed. It includes units in Korea, in includes forces that are forward-stationed worldwide. So because a unit happens to be stationed in Korea or happens to be stationed in Alaska or happens to be stationed in Germany doesn't necessarily mean that it is not available for use or deployment elsewhere.
And so units within that number aren't necessarily off the table as far as being able to be used or required. So within that 490,000, that includes forces in Japan, forces in Korea, forces throughout the Pacific, Europe and Central America or Latin America and the Caribbean.
So within that number that are fully deployed, they do a number of day-to-day theater engagement tasks. They do a number of day-to- day missions with host nations and a variety of training missions with host nations. So I wouldn't characterize that as saying, that's half the military that's committed, that can't be used somewhere else. Because though there is a heavy ground commitment obviously in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are a variety of other forces within the Air Force and naval forces that are available to respond to anything else around the world.
Q Well, could you just give us a rough idea, of that 490,000, of how many might be available to redeploy to, say, another contingency around the world. And to the extent possible, could you give us a sense of the percentage of forces back in the United States, in the continental United States, that could deploy if need be in case of another contingency somewhere else, let's say, Korea?
GEN. SHERLOCK: If need be, the American armed forces will respond to whatever requirements are laid on it by the secretary of Defense and the president. If you have forces that are available, again, whether they're in the U.S., whether they may have just redeployed, or whether they're forward-stationed, they may be available, depending on what theoretical contingency would occur. And so, you know, again, as far as specific percentages go, I don't have those kinds of figures.
But as far as what forces are available to deploy to another contingency, anything other than those forces that are currently committed to operations are available to deploy. And depending on what level of that contingency is, you may also be able to move forces from a theater to another theater to conduct other operations. So we're really getting into a theoretical area there, that you can conduct any number of answers or questions to.
Q Well, the numbers would be nice, but I'll give you a theoretical, then. If war broke out -- if North Koreans came over the DMZ tomorrow, what percentage of the U.S. military, that's not committed overseas to contingencies now, could respond?
GEN. SHERLOCK: I don't have a specific percentage to give you. Again, I don't have that kind of a figure. I'll say that in the event of another contingency, we would be able to respond with a variety of forces -- naval forces, air forces and land forces -- that are all available and stationed elsewhere in the world and stationed in Korea and Japan and throughout the Pacific to be able to respond to something like that. In the event of a contingency, we would take a look at what would be required and we would meet those -- we would meet those needs.
Q I just want to clarify something you said, defense contractors are under the UCMJ. Is that true, all defense contractors fall under UCMJ?
GEN. SHERLOCK: Yes. To the best of my knowledge, all the DOD contractors fall up under the UCMJ.
Q General, as you know, one of the things we look at in Iraq in terms of measuring progress is the level of ethno-sectarian violence. We see the charts from time to time. There's some debate about how the U.S. military classifies violence as sectarian violence. Can you help us understand a little more about how you determine whether somebody killed in Iraq is a victim of ethno-sectarian violence as opposed to any of the other kinds of violence that's going on in Iraq?
GEN. SHERLOCK: Well, a lot of it depends on the circumstances and the examination of the remains and examination of the crime scene. If it is in fact a robbery and it looks like a robbery, that doesn't get counted as an ethno-sectarian violence. If there is a Sunni-on- Shi'a event or there is a Shi'a-on-Sunni event or there is an event where a number of signs from the bodies indicate that they were tortured or indicate that they had limbs cut off or indicate that they were beheaded, that gets counted as an ethno-sectarian violence.
A lot of the violence in Iraq is not necessarily ethno-sectarian. A lot of it's criminal violence, a lot of it's kidnapping, a lot of it is a struggle for power within Shi'a-on-Shia groups or Sunni-on-Sunni groups. All of those events get counted in the overall levels of violence that occur in Iraq. Whether they get counted as an ethno- sectarian violence or whether they get counted as criminal violence is determined by investigators in Iraq who look at the scene, who look at the crime scene and make a determination.
Now, if we go back later and determine that something had changed, then we update the figures, which is why some of those figures change. But as you look at an event and it appears to have been robbery, kidnapping or another criminal event, they don't count that as ethno-sectarian.
Q I take it it's not an exact science; it's a judgment call?
GEN. SHERLOCK: I don't know that it is an exact science, but I'm not the -- the people there that actually conduct those investigations, so --
Q I mean, it's not as simple as if somebody is shot in the front of the head; it's one kind of violence, and in the back of the head, another kind of violence.
GEN. SHERLOCK: I think that's an oversimplification. I think you have to be able to look at what the circumstances are. I think someone being robbed can be shot from the back of the head as easily as from the front of the head. It's a matter of what the circumstances are, what the situation was. Is it in an area that has typically been used as a dump for bodies in an ethno-sectarian way, or is it in an area that looks like it was a criminal act?
Q To follow on that, how do you characterize intra-Shi'a and Shi'a on Shi'a?
GEN. SHERLOCK: Again, it depends on the circumstances. Shi'a on Shi'a generally -- or Sunni on Sunni tend to not get counted as ethno- sectarian violence, because that is not something where you're looking at Kurds on Sunni on Shi'a on Arab on other divisions.
There are a number of spectacular attacks where people have tried to ignite that violence. I think al Qaeda has tried to ignite that violence again with the bombing in Baqubah yesterday, where they tried to kill the mayor and the police chief and a variety of leaders that are leadership at a reconciliation conference. I don't think that necessarily is ethno-sectarian violence; I think that is al Qaeda trying to create a sensational attack and showing its disdain for the Iraqi people when they try to get together and actually determine what's best for their future.
Where you have areas that are -- that indicate, again, torture, that indicate areas along fault lines, that indicate areas where they try to ignite Sunni on Shi'a or Shi'a on Sunni or, you know, another type of ethno-sectarian violence, then those get counted in that way. Again, all of that gets counted in the overall violence levels.
Q Thank you.
Q Okay. Thanks very much.
GEN. SHERLOCK: Thank you.
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