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Press Secretary Updates Media on Visit to Taiwan, Iranian-Backed Groups in Iraq

Nov. 9, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

During an informal press gaggle today, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby answered questions about a congressional visit to Taiwan, Afghan refugees and Iranian actions in Iraq.

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Department Seal
The Defense Department seal adorns the lectern in the Pentagon Press Briefing Room, Feb. 23, 2021.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
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China has objected to a visit to Taiwan by a U.S. congressional delegation. Kirby noted that congressional visits to Taiwan are relatively common and in keeping with U.S. obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act. The members of Congress are traveling on a U.S. military jet, as is the custom for congressional delegations.

Kirby confirmed that a group of 191 Afghans who escaped from Afghanistan to Tajikistan — including some Afghan air force pilots who flew to the country as Kabul fell — may be evacuated from that nation soon. "Our embassy there is working to expedite their departure," Kirby said. "We expect that they'll be able to depart Tajikistan soon, but we are not in control of the timeline."

Kirby said DOD "presumes" that attacks in and around Iraq were launched by Iranian-backed militias. There have been a number of attacks with the latest being an attempt to assassinate Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Sunday. Drones attacked the prime minister’s residence in Baghdad. 

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An aerial view of the Pentagon, May 11, 2021.
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"These attacks are being perpetrated by militia groups that are backed by Iran, and [they] have access to resources and to … lethal tools to conduct these attacks," Kirby said. "I can't speak with great specificity as to the timing of these attacks and why they're happening … in certain times, as opposed to others."

"All I can say is, we're focused on the threat," he continued. "It's not just a threat to us, but to our Iraqi partners as the attack on the prime minister clearly demonstrated. And we take those seriously."

Kirby would not say what group launched the attack. He noted these groups have launched similar attacks using large and small unmanned aerial systems. "That is a common tactic of theirs," he said. "And so we are certainly working under the presumption that that's the case here, but I'm not going to get into specific attribution at this time."