WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2015 —
Recent coalition airstrikes have killed a senior leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and an al-Qaida explosives expert, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said today.
Cook confirmed the Sept. 10 death of senior ISIL leader Abu Bakr al Turkmani and the July 5 death of French national David Drugeon, an al-Qaida operative and explosives expert.
The press secretary said the coalition airstrike that killed Turkmani near Tal Afar, Iraq, “will help disrupt ISIL operations in the Tal Afar area and shows that their leadership is not beyond the coalition's reach.”
Turkmani, an ISIL administrative amir, was part of al-Qaida in Iraq before joining ISIL and was a close associate of many ISIL senior leaders in Iraq, Cook said. Drugeon, killed by a coalition airstrike near Aleppo, Syria, belonged to a network of veteran al-Qaida operatives sometimes called the Khorasan group, who are plotting attacks against the United States, its allies and partners, Cook told reporters.
“As an explosives expert, he trained other extremists in Syria and sought to plan external attacks against Western targets,” the press secretary said.
The action, he added, will degrade and destroy ongoing al-Qaida external operations against the United States, its allies and partners.
Cook also addressed the status of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s Sept. 18 conversation with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, and the department’s policy on suspicions of sexual abuse committed by Afghans against children.
At the Russians’ request, the press secretary said, Carter spoke with Shoigu to discuss mechanisms for deconfliction in Syria and the counter-ISIL campaign. Cook said the secretary agreed to continue the dialogue if Russian actions focus on countering ISIL and advancing a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria.
Actions not in line with those goals “will not be seen or treated as constructive,” Cook added.
Carter continues to consult with the rest of the national security team on next steps in the dialogue, but no calls or meetings have been scheduled, the press secretary said.
Cook also directed attention to a statement received today from Army Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of NATO’s Resolute Support mission and of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, underscoring the Defense Department’s policy on the handling of suspicions of sexual abuse committed by Afghans against children.
“Campbell makes clear in that statement that he expects all personnel to treat others with respect and dignity,” Cook said, “and that he further expects that any suspicions of sexual abuse would be immediately reported to the chain of command [no matter] who the alleged perpetrators or victims are.”
Campbell said the chain of command will take appropriate action under applicable laws and DoD and military regulations, Cook added.
If the abuse involves Afghans, Campbell said that he will receive a report through operations channels and the report will be copied to the staff judge advocate so the Afghan government can be advised and asked to take action, the press secretary said.
Cook said the Defense Department considers the reports of sexual abuse abhorrent, and that DoD leaders are deeply concerned about them.
“This form of sexual exploitation of children is a violation of Afghanistan's laws and international obligations,” Cook said. “There is no policy in place that directs any U.S. military or government personnel overseas to ignore human rights abuses.”
Cook said the department closely monitors such atrocities and continually stands up for those who have suffered exploitation and denial of basic human freedoms.
“Our annual Trafficking in Persons Report and our human rights report on Afghanistan have noted this form of child sexual abuse, and training of Afghan law enforcement has focused on human rights in order to improve reporting and accountability,” he added.
The department continues to urge the Afghan government to strengthen enforcement of its laws, Cook said.
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinDoDNews)