GEORGE LITTLE: Good afternoon. We actually don't have any announcements today, so we'll, I think, go straight to questions, unless you want to pipe up with something, John.
CAPTAIN JOHN KIRBY: No, no.
MR. LITTLE: OK. All right.
CAPT. KIRBY: I think we're fine.
Q: I wonder if you have any new information or additional information about that event in Afghanistan a day or two ago when the six Americans were killed, in terms of whether that was, sort of, an exceptional explosive itself or the circumstances were different or -- given the high number of casualties.
MR. LITTLE: Thanks for the question.
ISAF is still looking at this incident. At this time we believe that this was an IED with high-yield explosive material. Beyond that, I think we're going to have to let ISAF do some more investigating.
Q: What about the vehicle itself that the Americans -- was it a single vehicle and was it an MRAP?
CAPT. KIRBY: It was an MRAP.
MR. LITTLE: MRAP.
CAPT. KIRBY: It was -- it was a MaxPro variant of the MRAP, one vehicle.
Q: When you say high explosive, that -- that's not the normal --
MR. LITTLE: High-yield explosive.
Q: High-yield explosive.
MR. LITTLE: High-yield explosive.
Q: And is that distinct from the ammonium -- I mean, that ammonium nitrate, which is often used in these attacks, is not high- yield explosives, I don't believe. I mean, do you know the distinction here? Is there a distinction here?
MR. LITTLE: Again, ISAF is doing the analytics surrounding the explosive material that was used in this incident. Really need to wait for their final conclusions to come in.
Q: Was it a buried -- buried road bomb -- a typical --
CAPT. KIRBY: It -- it -- again, things -- indications are early right now.
It -- it appears as if it was concealed, yes. And as George said, I think, right now things are looking like it's more just the amount of explosive material more than the type.
But again, as you know, very early; this just happened. And we need to let the team, you know, kind of, sort through what evidence they can find out there.
And certainly our thoughts and prayers go out to the families.
Q: One follow-up: You can rule out that this was one of those explosively formed penetrators that Iran provided in Iraq?
CAPT. KIRBY: We're not ruling anything in or out right now.
As I said, preliminary, and only preliminary, indications are that this was -- it was a -- it was really just a large amount of explosive materials -- material that was used to -- to penetrate the hull of the MRAP.
But again, they're -- they're on the ground right now working through this, and -- and I suspect that more information will be forthcoming after they had a chance to examine it -- (Crosstalk.)
MR. LITTLE: At this date we're using the acronym -- and I emphasize "at this stage" -- we're using the acronym IED and not EFP.
Q: (off mic) you know the difference -- (inaudible) -- why they would be significant -- (inaudible).
CAPT. KIRBY: Absolutely.
MR. LITTLE: Absolutely.
Q: Could you confirm how many Russian ships are headed for Syria and what type? Because there's a lot of reporting on that right now. And also, what's your view of that?
Q: Is that -- is that cause for concern?
CAPT. KIRBY: Well, I don't think we'd -- we've seen the reporting on this. And I don't think we're in any position to describe with great detail the number or the types of vessels. That's really something that the -- that the Russians should speak for.
But what I can say is we -- we have no indication that the -- the purposes for these sailings are anything other than what the Russians have said they're for, which is, you know, exercises. And I know that they have indicated, you know, responsibilities to their -- to their bases there in the Med.
MR. LITTLE: Julian?
Q: I wonder if there is any progress in terms of talking to Pakistan regarding the Haqqani Network, in terms of pressing for more action there; if there's -- and what the state of play of in this building in terms of the position of putting the Haqqani Network on a -- on a terror list is; if there is an official position or where that stands?
MR. LITTLE: I don't know that we have an official position on that particular issue.
Naturally, we deem the Haqqanis to be a very dangerous network that has the blood of Americans, Afghans, and our ISAF partners on its hands. The Haqqanis need to be dealt with.
We are dealing with them. We are bringing a great deal of pressure to bear on the Haqqanis, and we believe that on the Pakistani side of the border, that additional action needs to be taken by the Pakistanis to root out this network of militants that is a menace to Afghanistan and to Pakistan.
As for the terrorist list, that's really for others to discuss in our government.
Q: To follow up on that, now that the GLOC issue is settled, the routes are open, is this, sort of, top on the list with dealing with Pakistan, in terms of getting them to do more against the -- against the Haqqanis?
MR. LITTLE: We cooperate with the Pakistanis on a wide range of issues, Julian. We do maintain close counterterrorism cooperation with the Pakistanis. Even during the recent period of difficulty with Pakistan, we have maintained cooperation, including in the counterterrorism realm, and we will continue to do so.
We're very pleased that the GLOCs are open. We're grateful that those supply routes are now available to us and to our ISAF partners. And we believe that the relationship with Pakistan is settling into a more normal phase.
In terms of the Haqqanis, this is an issue that we routinely discuss with the Pakistanis. Our views about the Haqqani Network are well known to our Pakistani partners and we'll continue to share those concerns.
Q: Has the Air Force briefed the secretary on the likely causes for the hypoxia in -- (inaudible) -- pilots and maintainers?
MR. LITTLE: The secretary has received recently an update from the Air Force on the status of its investigation into hypoxia-like symptoms that appeared in the F-22 aircraft.
I think General Lyon and others in the Air Force have spoken to the progress that the Air Force is making on identifying the potential causes for these hypoxia-like symptoms. I'm not aware that they're at the conclusion of that review, but there's a sense that progress is being made.
Q: (inaudible) -- the latest two hypoxia incidents don't involve pressure suits, which was identified as a leading theory. So at this point can you relate to us what the Air Force believes is the most likely theory for these events?
MR. LITTLE: Believe it or not, Jeff, and I wish I were, but I'm not a technical expert on these issues. It's probably best to direct those questions to the Air Force.
Q: When was the secretary briefed on that recent -- you said recently?
MR. LITTLE: I don't have a specific date, but --
MR. LITTLE: I believe it was a couple of weeks ago, Courtney.
Q: Did he lift any of the restrictions that he had put on it?
MR. LITTLE: There have been no changes to the restrictions that he placed on the F-22 a while back.
Q: Does this affect the status of the squadron -- the F- 22 squadron that's in the Gulf?
MR. LITTLE: No, it does not. (Crosstalk.)
Q: They remain -- they remain there.
MR. LITTLE: That's correct.
Q: George, has the department taken any steps beyond what you've discussed before to prepare for sequestration? And will you be working with OMB when -- to help prepare the director of OMB when he testifies August 1st, as he's indicated that he's going to do?
We have daily discussions with the Office of Management and Budget on a range of budget issues, to include the prospect of sequestration. We have not begun planning for sequestration, but we are in regular contact with our OMB colleagues about what needs to happen.
The goal here, of course, is to avoid sequestration, period. That's what we want. We believe that's what the American people want.
We can't afford sequestration. We can't afford a lot in this country right now. We have to make some tough choices.
But one thing we definitely can't choose to do as a nation or as a government is sacrifice our national security by triggering this rather absurd mechanism that was instituted to avoid absurdity.
Q: So there haven't been any discussions about personnel steps that you might have to take, you know, advanced notice of possible layoffs to civilian workers or anything like that, analogous to the steps for private workers that have been discussed?
MR. LITTLE: The secretary's been very clear that all aspects of department operations, from procurement to personnel, need to be looked at for possible cost savings.
In the personnel arena, we haven't reached any final decisions at all, but everything is on the table.
Q: One more question on Russia.
The chief of general staff, General Makarov, is coming to Washington tonight, and my understanding is that on (Thursday?) he will have talks with General Dempsey. So I'm just wondering what do you expect of this meetings? What particular issues they going to discuss? And do you expect that Syria will come up in any way in any form during the talks, in particular maybe these Russian ships in the -- in the Mediterranean?
CAPT. KIRBY: We're very pleased that General Makarov will be coming to -- to have consultative meetings with Chairman Dempsey. And I -- I know I can, at least in this regard, speak for General Dempsey saying that, you know, he's very much looking forward to these discussions.
There -- these -- these meetings are routine and I think you can expect that a -- the broad range of issues that we routinely talk about with our Russian counterparts will be -- will be brought up. And I would certainly expect that Syria will be among that list.
MR. LITTLE: Mike?
Q: If I can, sort of, continue on that note, it's -- reports today have the Russians meeting with some of the Syrian oppositions in Moscow. And I was wondering if this is something you see as a positive note, if the Russians are starting to ease back on the opposition and willing to start dealing with them.
MR. LITTLE: I don't think I have enough detail on these meetings, Mike, to be able to characterize them accurately for you, to be honest. This is really something for the -- the Russians to sort out for themselves in their discussions with members of the Syrian opposition.
Q: Back to Afghanistan if I could. We're not many weeks away from recovering the final numbers of the surge forces. For years there's been a rather accepted narrative even by the most skeptical military analysts that tactically speaking the Americans and ISAF were superb; they rarely lost a tactical engagement.
But there's a new narrative emerging, particularly a book by one of our esteemed colleagues from The Post, who said that actually the surge was mis-fought at the tactical level: troops were sent to the wrong areas, they didn't do the right things. So instead of, sort of, you know, having tactical success but a blurry strategy, the (coin ?) was right, but it was misfired.
So I'd just like your assessment of that. And now that we're near the end of the surge, has it been successful?
MR. LITTLE: I would strongly endorse the notion that this surge has been extremely successful.
Look where we've come over the past few years. You've heard the secretary's comments about turning points and consolidation and moving toward transition by the end of 2014.
That wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the success of the surge.
Let's take stock of where we've been. Over the past few years, we have taken the fight to the enemy. They have not been able to recover ground. They've had to shift tactics because of our success. And not just our success, but the success of the Afghan national security force and our ISAF partners. We have grown the ANSF to some 350,000, and their capabilities are improving every day.
So, yes, this is still a fight, it's still a war and challenges lie ahead. But progress has been made.
And not just progress on the military front: progress on literacy, progress on Afghan economic and development issues. We have a very good story to tell on reintegration. Taliban fighters have left the ranks of the Taliban to lay down their arms.
These are just some of the factors that I think point to the success not just of the surge, but the overall strategy the United States has laid out with our partners and with our Afghan allies. And it's working.
CAPT. KIRBY: The only thing I would add is -- on a lower level than George's points, is, you know, I've seen these arguments that, you know, some people believe that moving the Marines into Helmand and this whole -- and the bulk of the surge being in the south and around Kandahar didn't -- wasn't the right approach.
And all I would say to that is we -- even looking back now, we can say certainly that it was.
I mean, the south, particularly Kandahar, was the heartland for the Taliban. And they were, before we moved the surge in, very much in control and showed no interest in ceding that territory. And it's -- it's been their historic homeland.
So we pushed them largely out of the centers -- the population centers of the south and the southwest. And it's had an effect.
Now, some of that fighting has migrated now to the east. You guys know that. And that's -- that's a different kind of fight, aided by safe havens on the other side of the border, of course.
But the south is a vastly different place. It is no longer the heartland of the Taliban that it once was. So I would just categorically refute the argument that the surge was not only the wrong decision, but that it was misplaced physically, geographically. I absolutely don't believe that at all.
MR. LITTLE: Jennifer?
Q: George, is it -- why is it, then, that the -- the Pentagon has asked for a billion dollars to be reprogrammed from the training of the Afghan security forces?
Is that not true? That was a report over the weekend.
MR. LITTLE: Report over the weekend that we've asked for --
Q: -- the reprogramming of a billion dollars that was supposed to go to training the Afghan security forces.
MR. LITTLE: I'll have to look into that for you, Jennifer. I don't have details on that specific point.
But if that is the case, that funds have been transferred out of a training fund for the ANSF, that's in no way an indication that we are anything but extremely supportive of ongoing efforts to train the ANSF.
CAPT. KIRBY: Yeah, I'm not aware of the specific request. So we -- just let us get back to you on that.
But, I mean, the NTMA mission -- the training mission remains the core of the strategy.
Q: (inaudible) -- follow up on a different subject, last week a female Marine wrote a -- an article that's gotten a lot of attention about women in combat in certain combat roles, suggesting that women actually aren't equal in some of these roles and maybe it should be reconsidered.
Does the secretary have an opinion on that? And on her assertions?
MR. LITTLE: Women have played an extremely vital role in the U.S. military for a very long time, but especially over the past 10 years. And, as you know, thousands of positions have been opened up to women very recently.
Certainly respect the views of individual servicemembers.
The secretary is working with the services right now to explore a full range of factors that could contribute ultimately to the potential of opening up additional positions to women. He hasn't formed a final decision. He's going to consult closely with his senior military leaders and, of course, the Joint Chiefs in particular and the service secretaries. That process is ongoing, and we expect it to -- to be ongoing for some time.
Q: On sequestration, when you guys say that you're not planning for this, doesn't that go against the grain of what this building does?
I mean, all day long you plan for all kinds of contingencies, what-ifs, things that may never happen. So why wouldn't you plan for this?
MR. LITTLE: Well, for starters, we haven't been directed to plan for sequestration.
And I'll repeat what I said earlier: Much of what we plan for in this building is for things that could actually happen. And this might actually happen I guess. But we typically don't plan against absurdities, and that's what we're talking about here. -- (Crosstalk.) -- It is -- it is an absurdity --
Q: -- nuclear war with Iran --
MR. LITTLE: -- it's a legislative absurdity that was -- that was enacted in order to try to prevent, you know, a devastating budget situation for this country.
We need to move beyond sequestration. And we believe that members of Congress do want to get beyond it. We need to have this behind us.
We're aware of the potential impacts of sequestration. We're not anxious to plan for it, to be quite honest with you. We will at a certain point have to if it's going to come to fruition, in all likelihood.
Q: (off mic)
MR. LITTLE: I don't have a particular date, but we're going to have to -- we're looking at January 2013 right now in the law if sequestration isn't rolled back. But the goal, again, is to -- to get past it.
CAPT. KIRBY: The only thing I would add, it would -- it would completely render invalid the defense strategy that we unveiled early this year that was very painstakingly arrived at with coordination with the services, the Joint Chiefs, and endorsed by the president himself.
So the -- if sequestration came to pass, it wouldn't just be about planning for another $500 billion in cuts. It would require us to completely scrap the defense strategy that we worked so hard on and essentially have to come up with something completely different. And that something, whatever it is, would be based on essentially a force at risk of being hollowed.
Q: (off mic)
MR. LITTLE: And if I might just add, since we're having a discussion seminar on sequestration, it's not just about the funding here. The defense strategy that we laid out in January was accepted by and large by the United States Congress. People view it as rational. They view it as what this country needs for our national security needs in the future and for the military.
We've also taken this strategy on the road with our allies and partners around the world. The secretary has met with multiple of his counterparts to explain our new defense strategy.
If we go into sequestration and face even a short period in which that strategy is entirely disrupted, what does that do to our relationships? What does that do to our credibility? That is what we need to avoid.
Q: Well, what's the alternative besides winding down the clock, just waiting?
MR. LITTLE: It's --
Q: I mean, do you have a plan B, a plan C, plan D or something?
MR. LITTLE: We don't -- we don't have any plan right now for sequestration. We know we're going to have to confront it potentially and -- go ahead, John.
CAPT. KIRBY: I was going to say, remember, it's not just about the Defense Department either.
MR. LITTLE: Right.
CAPT. KIRBY: And this -- this affects virtually --
MR. LITTLE: This is a whole-of-government issue.
CAPT. KIRBY: -- all federal agencies. So that's why people are looking to OMB here for the guidance and leadership, because it isn't just about this department.
Q: So is the OMB failing to provide guidance and leadership -- (inaudible)?
MR. LITTLE: Oh, I would strongly disagree with the notion that --
CAPT. KIRBY: That is absolutely not what I said.
MR. LITTLE: No. OMB is providing very strong leadership. And it's pushing for exactly the right thing, and that is to get to a budget agreement, period.
They're working very hard. We know that. We're in constant conversation with them. And any suggestion to the contrary, I would take strong issue with.
Q: Is there any movement on the Hill, then, to -- to come up with an alternative?
MR. LITTLE: You are aware of as many ideas, or more than I am, probably, David, when it comes to ideas that are floating around on the Hill. There are lots of ideas floating around, lots of proposals. But we haven't come to resolution and that's the important thing. We need to get to it.
Q: Back on the argument about whether the surge was misplaced, I thought the argument was not about Kandahar, but it was about beginning in Helmand, and Marjah in particular.
CAPT. KIRBY: That's where it started, with the --
Q: When you're saying that this -- unquestionably the surge was the right thing to do at the right place and the right time, does that include your -- does that include the initial decision to focus the first surge forces on Marjah?
CAPT. KIRBY: Yes, it does.
CAPT. KIRBY: Because that was an area that -- strategically located there in the south, and was -- had completely fallen sway to Taliban control. You might remember -- I mean, I visited there myself right when the Marines, not long after they had arrived there. It was a -- it was a very perilous place for Afghan citizens to be. And the control they had, not just over the populace, but the poppy trade, was rampant and it needed to be dealt with.
And now, I just was in Marjah not long ago -- a few months ago. I mean, you can walk down the streets, markets are open, kids are going to school, and this year's poppy trade has -- has been a real disappointment for the Taliban.
So, yeah, I mean, I think it was important. And I've seen the arguments that it wasn't worth it or that -- or that, you know, questions weren't -- enough questions weren't asked about it. And I just fundamentally reject that. That's just not the way it happened.
MR. LITTLE: I challenge anyone in this room, and beyond this room, to find a respected military strategist in history who can say that any new military strategy can be implemented with perfection. That's simply impossible.
This strategy has been very effectively implemented.
Has it been done to perfection? No, that's entirely impossible -- entirely impossible.
But it's been done very well. And we have learned lessons along the way and we have quickly adapted. And we have adjusted our strategy and our tactics as appropriate in different parts of Afghanistan, and in our operations.
And I think the proof is in the pudding. And that is that we have a transition process that has been effective. We're now entering a phase I think at the end of which 75 percent of Afghans will be under Afghan security lead. That is a major accomplishment.
These are the kind of metrics that we ought to be looking at, and not plausible but definitely alternative views of history and Monday morning quarterbacking.
This has been the right thing to do and we have done it well.
Q: So, you know what you just said: When -- how long will it take before the Afghan government will be able to stand up entirely on its own, including security and also economic policy and all the other things?
And, you know, what does the future look like to you?
MR. LITTLE: We think the future is bright for Afghanistan. We really do. At the end of transition, we're looking at an Afghanistan that can secure itself.
Look is it going to face challenges? Sure. Every nation does, including our own.
But, in terms of security, they're going to be in a much better place by the end of this transition phase.
CAPT. KIRBY: I think it's also --
MR. LITTLE: And --
CAPT. KIRBY: I'm sorry.
MR. LITTLE: No, that's OK.
And -- and we've -- we've seen the international community step up to the plate and commit itself to not just enduring relationships with Afghanistan, but enduring investments in Afghanistan. And -- and that's going to be very important as well.
I think -- I think the future in Afghanistan is -- is where it needs to be. And that's on the right track.
CAPT. KIRBY: The question presumes that -- that maybe the Afghan government isn't sovereign now. And it is.
And I think just looking at the -- the strategic partnership agreement that we signed, and the two MOUs previous to that, about night operations and detainee operations, are both, I think, tangible, visible proof of that.
And the electric effect that it had on the Afghan government, on parliamentarians and on the Karzai administration, those agreements, would be hard to -- to overstate.
So -- I mean, this is a government that is sovereign and is taking more and more responsibility on all the time; not just in a security realm, -- (inaudible) -- that's, of course, what we deal with here most every day, but they -- they are taking those responsibilities on. And are eager to continue to do so.
We're all tracking towards the end of the ISAF mission at the end of 2014. And we really believe we're going to get there.
MR. LITTLE: Tony?
Q: I want to ask you on a more contemporary issue that happened a couple weeks ago, the Supreme Court's decision on the Stolen Valor case.
Is the department reviewing the decision to come up with measures to help the public basically vet fakes via a database like the Military Times does or some other mechanism that would help -- help the public determine when some of these claims are erroneous?
MR. LITTLE: Very good question, Tony. And I know this is an issue of importance to many Americans and too many servicemembers.
The answer is yes. We are taking another look at that decision. We are exploring options to stand up a database of valor awards and medals. We haven't arrived at a final conclusion yet, but that process is ongoing and the goal is to stand up such a database.
Q: Is there a -- if you don't -- you might not know this -- but it would be database looking back to the -- through the Vietnam War or the mid-'60s or over the last 20 years? Has any of the parameters been laid out yet?
MR. LITTLE: I don't have specific parameters for you today.
Obviously, that's something that officials are taking a close look at. There are some complexities involved in looking back into history. We would obviously hope to be able to go as far back as possible, but we also want there to be integrity in the data.
So these are factors that are being weighed, and we're in the process of exploring those options. So the door is open.
Q: Did the secretary launch an initiative or did Mr. Johnson, the general counsel, launch it, as far as you know?
MR. LITTLE: The secretary supports the initiative, which is being led by Undersecretary Conaton.
Q: Just a follow-up on that: This -- this decision to relook at the database was -- came after the Supreme Court decision, correct?
MR. LITTLE: That is correct.
Q: And has there been any -- you know, the medal in question at the -- in the court case wasn't the Medal of Honor, right. So has there been a thought of -- you know, there are not that many of those. I mean, that would strike as relatively easy to get a, sort of, database of the, you know, one or two most prestigious medals out there. Has that -- rather than every Bronze Star and Silver Star --
MR. LITTLE: I think we have pretty strong information control around Medals of Honor already. But we're talking about not just Medals of Honor, but a wide range in a very large number of other awards inside the military.
CAPT. KIRBY: These are valor awards. These are personal awards you're given in valorous conditions. And, I mean, that can be everything from a Bronze Star right on up.
But you're right about the Medal of Honor. We have a hall just down -- just down the way here in the Pentagon where every single name is listed.
But that's what we're focusing on.
So they're in -- in other words, there's not a, sort of -- it's always been too difficult to do every -- too expensive, too big for every valor award, but, you know, Navy Crosses and, you know, Medals of Honor in a searchable database strike me as something that could be enacted at a lower cost and a --
MR. LITTLE: We're exploring a lot of options. I don't know that I can speculate as to -- as to what the final outcome might be, but the goal, of course, would be to try to develop a database as large as possible, again, ensuring the integrity of the information contained in the database.
Q: As you unfold -- as this unfolds, it'd be good for you to explain to the public why the Pentagon rejected this in 2005 and how things have advanced technologically in terms of records-keeping that allows you seven years later to revisit the issue and possibly set up a database.
MR. LITTLE: OK.
Q: That would be helpful to the public debate on this.
MR. LITTLE: All right. We'll take a look at that.
(Louie ), and then Dan.
Q: Captain --
MR. LITTLE: I was trying to psych you out there.
Q: Captain Kirby mentioned the agreements that are ongoing that were reached with Afghanistan earlier this year. One of them was about the transition of the Parwan detention facility to Afghan control.
There's a story out today in the London Times talking about how there are 50 foreign, non-Afghan detainees at that facility that will remain under U.S. control.
Q: Is the goal for those detainees to eventually be transferred to Afghan control? Are they going to remain -- is the U.S. going to remain in control of that portion of the facility?
CAPT. KIRBY: Keeping with the MOU, the goal is to transfer all detainees and detainee operations over to the Afghan government. And we believe we're on track.
Q: And that includes these foreign detainees -- these non-Afghan detainees?
CAPT. KIRBY: As far as I know, all detainees in Afghanistan and the operations under which they're held will be transferred to the Afghan government.
Q: But isn't your side agreement specifically covering this? Because it appears the ISAF spokesmen are saying that this is not covered under the deal and that it is something that will eventually be worked out.
CAPT. KIRBY: Well, I'd refer you to ISAF, then, for more detail on that.
MR. LITTLE: Dan?
Q: You were talking about strategy and tactics, and obviously nothing can be implemented perfectly. But isn't it also a standard part of that -- a part of strategic doctrine that you adjust constantly to conditions on the ground?
CAPT. KIRBY: Absolutely.
Q: And we no longer hear that phrase that we heard so much of when the surge was announced, which is that all of this would be done depending on conditions on the ground, in terms of the troop presence and -- and also where the troops were deployed.
It now seems like this drawdown is going ahead no matter what the conditions; that there's a date chosen, there's a timeline, and this is going ahead almost no matter what.
Now, I assume you disagree with that, but why is it that we don't hear about more adjustments; that perhaps a certain number of forces will be retained because conditions in this particular area or this particular region are what they are?
CAPT. KIRBY: Are you referring to the surge forces themselves?
Q: Number one, but troops generally -- in other words, the level of -- the troop presence is going down --
CAPT. KIRBY: Right.
Q: -- and we don't hear it's according to conditions on the ground. It's just going down because that's the (Crosstalk.)
CAPT. KIRBY: Well, there was (Crosstalk.)
MR. LITTLE: I don't think we have any announcements on post-surge drawdown.
CAPT. KIRBY: No, we haven't.
As for the surge, the president, the commander in chief, made it clear that the -- that the surge forces would be withdrawn by the end of September. But inside that, General Allen has the wherewithal -- in fact, he's expected to have that responsibility to determine the pace, and, you know, from where they're going to be coming from and when they're going to go home. And he's doing that.
And nobody's second-guessing that. There's no -- there's no micromanage of -- micromanagement of his decisionmaking authority inside that timeline.
Going past the end of the surge recovery now -- and he was up here and told you the same thing -- he owes the president some good analysis and recommendations about what U.S. force presence needs to look like through 2013. There's been no decisions made by anybody about what that force presence is going to look like throughout next year: How big? How small? Who's coming home? Who's not? Where they're going to be redeployed inside the theater?
So General Allen's got a lot of homework to do, and he knows that. And he expects to be able to make recommendations to the president before the end of this calendar year going forward.
Q: What about this goal, though, of by the end of 2014, that basically --
CAPT. KIRBY: Oh, by the end of 2014, the ISAF mission ends, right? And the Lisbon summit, every -- all the international partners involved in this effort signed up to the full transition to Afghan lead for their security by the end of 2014. Everybody's committed to that. And I will tell you, everybody believes that we're going to be able to achieve that goal.
U.S. force presence is but a part of the international presence on the ground there in Afghanistan, and will be going over the next couple of years.
But we've also said that post-2014 and into 2015 there will be some U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan. We don't know how many. We don't know exactly where they'll be or how long their deployments will last. But we do know that in general their mission will be one of advise and assist, to continue to help train the Afghan security forces, to improve their capabilities.
But we're just -- you know, we're just not their yet. And we've got a long way to go to get there.
Right now the focus is on getting the surge forces back home by the end of September. And then, like I said, beyond that General Allen's got some decisions we've got to make.
MR. LITTLE: All right. We'll wrap it up with another question from Jeff.
Q: Thank you.
Regarding this database on medals, say I wanted to know who got the Silver Star for raiding Abbottabad in 2011, would you -- would that have that person's name? (Laughter.)
MR. LITTLE: I have no clue.
I really don't know, Jeff.
Q: This is a serious issue. When you have SOF people and they get awards, the missions are still classified. So how do you get around that?
MR. LITTLE: This analysis of options has just begun. We haven't gotten anywhere near that level of detail established.
CAPT. KIRBY: You raise a good point. And those are the kinds of things that we know we're going to have to look at.
Q: (off mic) in all fairness, he works for Military Times. He knows more about stolen valor than any human. And he basically -- he has a database of his own, so anyone can pick up and call and say, "Doug, let's talk." (Crosstalk.)
CAPT. KIRBY: We'll certainly -- certainly pass that on.
Can I just say -- can I just -- well, we will.
Can I just add one -- I just wanted to add more comment to Jennifer's question.
You know, you'd asked -- you'd also asked about --
MR. LITTLE: You going to clarify something I said?
CAPT. KIRBY: No, no, no.
What George meant to say.
No, you asked a question about, you know, what do you think about this young officer writing this opinion piece and having -- and I think -- and I'm sure George would agree with me -- but I think we welcome that kind of dialogue and that kind of discussion about this.
This is a very important issue. And women have done amazing work over the last 10 years. Nobody can sit here and say that they haven't been in combat and they haven't suffered or sacrificed as much as their male colleagues.
But it's a -- but it's a complex issue. And there should be a very wide, vocal, public discussion about what the role's to be moving forward.
I mean, the secretary is committed to opening up opportunities, but -- but we welcome this young officer and applaud her for expressing her beliefs, whatever they are. I think -- I think that kind of open dialogue is needed moving forward.
I just wanted to say that and I forgot to do it, so --
MR. LITTLE: All right.
With that, thank you all very much. Have a good afternoon.