HomeNewsTranscriptsTranscript View

News Transcript

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook in the Pentagon Briefing Room

Press Operations

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook
May 5, 2016
PRINT | E-MAIL
PETER COOK: Good afternoon, everybody. Got a few things off the top here before I turn to your questions. The secretary, as you all know, just returned from Germany where he addressed two of the enduring security challenges we face.

At the EUCOM change of command ceremony he noted the challenges on NATO's eastern flank, particularly the increasingly aggressive actions of Russia, and he detailed a series of steps were taken to reassure our allies, deter further Russian aggression and secure a Europe that is free and at peace.

The secretary also hosted a very productive meeting with his counterparts from nations leading the military effort to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat. At that meeting they discussed the situation on the ground and the recent progress made in Iraq and Syria, as well as the additional resources that will be required as we support our local partners in the next steps of the campaign.

The secretary noted his confidence at this meeting will produce additional military commitments from some of our coalition partner and he proposed convening the next full counter-ISIL coalition ministerial in July here in Washington.

We intend to keep the pressure on ISIL and in that connection, I want to note that on April 22, coalition forces conducted an airstrike targeting Sudanese national Abu Sa'ad al-Sudani, also known as Abu Isa Al Amriki, an ISIL external attack planner. This strike happened near Al-Bab, Syria.

We can now confirm that al-Sudani and his wife, Shadi Jabar Khalil Mohammad, also known as Umm Isa Amriki, an Australian national were both killed in this airstrike. Al-Sudani was involved in planning attacks against the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Both al-Sudani and his wife were active in recruiting foreign fighters in efforts to inspire attacks against Western interests.

The death of al-Sudani and Shadi remove influential ISIL recruiters and extremists who actively sought to harm Western interests and further disrupts and degrades ISIL's ability to plot external attacks. While this strike in the secretary's discussions with the coalition demonstrate continued progress in our campaign, the secretary also noted in Germany that this campaign is not without sacrifice.

The loss of special warfare operator first class Charles H. Keating IV was a tragic reminder of the dangers our men and women in uniform face every day in the fight to defeat ISIL. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.

Finally, I do want to note that later today the department will release its annual report on sexual assault in the military. This year's report highlights efforts in five key areas, advancing sexual assault prevention, encouraging greater sexual assault reporting, improving response to male survivors, combating retaliation associated with sexual assaults and harassment and tracking accountability of sexual assault cases.

The report shows a sustained high level of reporting, which is critical in order to connect victims with needed service and all the perpetrators accountable. It notes climate survey results that indicate that 87 percent of those who witnessed a situation they believe could lead to sexual assault took action to intervene.

Last week, as you know, Secretary Carter released the department's retaliation strategy, which provides a framework for strengthening support for those who experience retaliation in connection with reporting sexual assault or harassment and for clarifying the retaliation response process.

The report shows the value of persistent intensive efforts to combat a problem that senior leadership from the secretary on down fully engaged in attacking. It is a difficult challenge for the military and other institutions in this country, but it is one under the secretary's leadership we're determined to take on and I would note that other institutions from higher education and also other federal agencies, even the United Nations, have looked to the Department of Defense's programs as potential models for their own efforts.

MR. COOK: Again, that report will be released later on today and there will be more information contained in that report for you.

With that, I'd be happy to take your questions.

Bob?

Q: Peter, on that airstrike you mentioned on April 22nd, do you have any more -- can you describe in more detail where it was and the way it was carried out?

MR. COOK: Bob, it -- again, took place in Syria and I'm not going to provide more details than that, other than this was a strike carried out again against a target that we believe not only had plotted in the past against Western interests, including the United States, but had the potential to do the same again.

Q: And were others killed --

MR. COOK: My understanding is that they were the only people killed in this airstrike.

Q: So the -- it's been almost two weeks since that happened. Is there a reason why it wasn't more recently?

MR. COOK: As you know, Bob, there's a process we go through in which we try to determine the outcome of these airstrikes. And in this case, we were able to determine with a certain degree of confidence that this airstrike was successful.

Barbara?

Q: One on the airstrike and then a follow up on the Navy SEAL, if I may. On this airstrike, you started by saying that you believe these people were plotting -- I think your words -- against the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

Regarding plotting against the U.S., was this a direct plot against the U.S. inside the United States, or was this U.S. interests overseas?

MR. COOK: We believe, Barbara, that they were actively seeking, engaged in plots against the United States and these other countries that we mentioned and also importantly that they have been active in recruiting foreign fighters and that was, again, among the reasons for carrying out this strike.

Q: Sir, I understand that. But it would be a significant development if you had evidence of an ISIS plan to strike inside the United States from operatives over there. So the question, if you could please, again, were they plotting to attack inside the United States or U.S. interests overseas? Because you mentioned it and I was not clear what you meant when you said it.

MR. COOK: We believe that, again, that they were engaged in plots aimed at the United States, these other countries. There was an effort specifically to target Western interests and we took this strike, Barbara, because we believe that this was in America's national security interest and that they did pose a threat to the United States.

Q: To the United States inside the United States or to the United States' interests outside of the United States?

MR. COOK: We are satisfied that they posed a threat to the United States and that we were able to strike before, perhaps, this plotting reached the point that it posed a specific threat inside the United States, but we're satisfied that they were plotting against U.S. interests, Western interests and also countries in addition to the United States.

Q: (inaudible) -- outside of the United States.

MR. COOK: Again, we're satisfied that this was -- that we were able to -- to strike at these particular targets, these particular people, before they were able to mount something that would pose a threat to -- to the United States specifically, that we were able to move quickly.

Q: I know you understand the question. Is there a -- I know you do. So can you -- and I don't mean to ask --

MR. COOK: I'm not going to get into -- I'm just not going to get into specifics about what --

Q: Whether it was inside or outside. Because it would be a very significant development if ISIS operatives over there had a plot to strike the United States inside the United States. That would be an extraordinary development.

MR. COOK: Yeah. And Barbara, again, I'm making clear that they posed a threat to the United States and to other countries, and that this action, we believe, has eliminated that threat.

Q: And very quickly, if I might, on the Navy SEAL and this firefight. The secretary yesterday called it a surprise ISIS attack. That was his words. He used the word "surprise." So how is this not an intelligence failure, number one, to see you had U.S. personnel on site prior to Charles Keating arriving as part of the reaction force, Navy SEALs were already there.

How is this not an intelligence failure then? The secretary says it was a surprise, that you did not see the ISIS vehicles and personnel rushing the Peshmerga front line, that you couldn't stop them, and once, sadly, the Navy SEALs became engaged in trying to rescue the other Navy SEALs, that they simply got, to some extent, overwhelmed by the ISIS fighters to the extent that the helicopters, the medevacs, took small arms on the way out.

How is this not intelligence failure? How did you not see it coming -- happening on the battlefield?

MR. COOK: I think this is something that Colonel Warren addressed yesterday as well, Barbara, that obviously had we -- had the forces there, been able to see this attack coming, they would have responded differently to it. Perhaps, this could have been avoided. That is certainly something that -- that we're looking at carefully.

This particular attack was not anticipated and we were forced to respond, and the Peshmerga forces, they were forced to respond -- as you know, they were able to ultimately retake that territory. But they did not anticipate this particular strike, the kind of force that was brought to bear in this particular instance, and as a result we saw the firefight that played out in the deployment of that Quick Reaction Force.

Q: Does the secretary, is he satisfied at the moment to leave things as they are, especially as you have additional special operations and troops going in to perform these advise and assist missions, or is the secretary now asking for recommendations, options, ideas on how to keep U.S. forces more safe?

MR. COOK: Force protection, Barbara, as you know, is job one for our forces, for our commanders in the field. This is something that is constantly being reassessed. Certainly in this instance we had a fatality of a U.S. service member, and that requires hard questions and so we are looking at the situation in terms of force protection. I'm not aware of any specific changes right now.

As you know, we had a Quick Reaction Force there specifically to provide assistance to American forces that were there doing the advise and assist mission. That was the plan all along. That is the kind of precautions that we take in these instances. And of course we'll be reassessing force protection going forward.

The secretary made clear in Germany -- to put Americans in harm's way is the most serious decision he can make and he is going to do everything he can working with the commanders to make sure that American forces are as protected as possible in a situation which we know they are in harm's way.

Yes, Gordon.

Q: A few questions. One is --

(CROSSTALK)

Q: Yeah -- um -- do you know if the U.S. advisor group arrived before or after the fighting had broken out yesterday -- or two days ago?

MR. COOK: My understanding -- Gordon, and I -- again -- I would defer to CJTF for the operational details. But my understanding is the advise and assist team was in the town previously and before this assault took place and the Quick Reaction Forces brought in after it became clear that this -- not that there wasn't fighting in the area.

They were -- they were, of course, there had been fighting. That was the purpose of the advise and assist was to provide advice and assistance to the Peshmerga who were in the -- conducting operations against ISIL in that area.

Q: To the question just about the homeland issues or not, is it that you guys don't necessarily know what the threat that --

MR. COOK: I'm not going --

Q: Allow me to say, do you know what the threat is are allowed to say, which is a position you could take or --

MR. COOK: I'm just not going to talk -- I'm not going to talk about any intelligence matters here at this podium.

Again, I'm sharing with you that this was two individuals who had previously plotted against western interest, against some of our partners and allies in the past and we're in the process of plotting against the United States and some of our allies more recently. And as a result, that's why they were targeted and that's why this strike was carried out.

Q: Totally an unrelated question, I want to take you to the South China Sea.

Could you clean up a little bit of what got confusing last week with the Secretary talking about the classified nature of the patrol that was announced by U.S. PACOM? Are such patrols whether they're ops or not, are those classified after they've occurred? And if they're not -- presumably they're not -- can the Pentagon kind of pledge to say, "if something occurs" -- and you guys are asked, "did this occur,?" that you can answer affirmatively, "yes, this occurred," and provide details about such operations?

MR. COOK: Well, let me try and clean this up because I don't think it's confusing maybe as --

Q: The secretary suggested it was a classified matter and he didn't want to talk about it.

MR. COOK: He wasn't -- to be fair, I was in the hearing room.

We conduct a lot of operations around the world as you know. And in this particularly instance, the reference, the secretary was not 100 percent certain as to exactly which operation the center he was being asked about at that time. Out of an abundance of caution, he's not going to talk about things that are classified and I will pledge that we are not going to talk about things that are classified for obvious reasons.

But I think in the specific reference to the A-10s that was not classified. As you have noted, there was a press release about their activities. They flew in several areas of the Philippines as part of the operations that were announced after the Secretary visited the Philippines, it was a public deployment that we discussed. So to be clear, that was a not a classified operation but the Secretary had an abundance of caution in a public setting, he was not going to talk about something where there was any risk at all that he was going to be disclosing information that was of a classified nature. So he chose not to address that directly in an open forum.

Q: So but if there was a garden variety parlor, whether it's within any sort of nautical miles or not, can the Pentagon pledge to answer publicly questions about whether those have occurred or not assuming they have not classified nature and after the fact?

MR. COOK: We talk routinely about our operations around the world in which we fly, sail, and operate as international law allows and we will continue to do so.

That's a perfect example. We issued a press release in that instance that detailed exactly what those aircraft were doing. We told folks in advance those aircraft would be in the Philippines and I think that's consistent with where we're going to be going forward.

So, yes?

Q: When you talk about these two individuals that were killed in the strike, you said they had previously plotted against western interests in the past?

MR. COOK: Yes.

Q: That suggests that those plots had come to fruition. Are these any attacks that we know about that they have been involved in?

MR. COOK: Let me just look back here on specifics to see if I can provide some historical here for you.

I know that -- and I would encourage you to for example, I know the Australians have detailed their views and their thoughts about these particular individuals. These are people who as I said, had previously plotted, been involved with external plots against the United States and other countries. And I'm not going to walk through -- I don't have the exact details here in front of me. But again, these people posed a threat to the United States, to our allies, and that's the reason this strike was carried out.

Q: I understand that you're not willing to talk about the actual plots. Can you confirm that these plots did indeed come to fruition, that these were things that actually had happened?

MR. COOK: Again, I'm not going to get into intelligence matters here at every single historical hearing. I can take that question for you if you would like.

Q: Thank you.

MR. COOK: We are satisfied that not only had these previous plotted in the past, that they were actively plotting now against the United States and other western interests.

So, yes?

Q: Thank you, Peter.

MR. COOK: You go first. Sorry, I had two pointed in a precise way.

Q: Thank you.

Do have any information about the North Korea preparing to another nuclear test sooner or later?

MR. COOK: I don't have any information for you.

I know this is something that the South Koreans, our close allies and the United States will continue to monitor North Korean activities given the recent provocative actions by the North Koreans. We will continue to do that. And this is a situation where again these additional steps by the North Koreans at this time would be harmful to stability on the Korean Peninsula, and we as always have urged the North Koreans to show restraint and to conduct themselves in a way that will promote peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula. In the meantime, we'll stand shoulder to shoulder with our South Korean allies.

Now I'll go to you in the back, sorry.

Q: Shifting gears to Russia.

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu announced the creation of three new divisions, two of which will be headed towards the country's western border looking at the Baltics. I wanted to ask one, did that announcement -- how did that affect some of the discussions between Secretary Carter and his NATO counterparts about this rotational force? And two, have American forces that are in the Baltics right now been put at a higher level of security or something like that?

MR. COOK: Well, first of all, the Secretary's comments at the European change of command I think are pretty clear in terms of spelling that out.

The unfortunate situation which the United States finds itself having to move from reassurance to deterrence. And the steeps we're taking with regard to ERI, $3.4 billion, money that will be committed to trying to shore up again NATO's eastern flank and to show in real terms the U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance and to those countries. And so, this was not done -- there was no particular response to what the Russians are doing other than -- again, what we're doing is in response to Russian actions in the region, whether it be in Crimea or elsewhere.

And this is a tangible example of the U.S. commitment to try and bolster the security situation in that part of the world and to show our solidarity with our NATO allies, and again, provide a U.S. response that's appropriate, and, given the terms of the NATO alliance and one that is consistent with our message of assurance and deterrence for our friends in that part of the world.

Yes, June.

Q: The two individuals, the couple killed in the April 22 strike, did they have any connection to the United States? Have they lived in the U.S. before or you know resident, citizens, anything?

MR. COOK: I'll take that question. I'm not aware that they did. Again, one was a Sudanese national, one was an Australian.

Q: (inaudible) -- kind of moniker, it just seems that like maybe there's some connection on so --

MR. COOK: I'm not aware. But I'll go take that question, see if we can -- I can determine that for you.

Q: Was it a drone strike? Or manned --

MR. COOK: It was a manned platform.

Q: How confident are you that this news cessation of hostilities with the cease-fire in Aleppo is going to hold and whether you discuss any new military modalities with the Russians trying to make sure that there's no total collapse. So is this a cease-fire?

MR. COOK: Well, obviously, the secretary has said on many occasions including yesterday in an interview, we certainly hope the cessation of hostilities will hold and that it can build into a diplomatic resolutions -- a peaceful resolution of the Syrian Civil War. That's what -- that's the right thing for the Syrian people. But obviously, it depends on what -- several players on the ground do in the days and weeks to come, and we applaud the efforts by Secretary Kerry to try and secure that cessation of hostilities to try and expand it if possible. But only by looking at events on the ground will we see if others are willing to abide by it. So we have to be realistic, and that it's been a challenge so far. We've seen the cessation of hostilities fray, but certainly we encourage Secretary Kerry and the others involved to try and abide by the cessation and see if that can build into something more positive for the Syrian people.

Q: One of the major players, obviously, the Russians, I'm just wondering if you had any recent discussion or any guarantees that they would put pressure on the Syrian regime to make sure that --

MR. COOK: Secretary Kerry, of course, has been engaging directly with his Russians counterpart with regard to the cessation. That's been the responsibility of the State Department so I'll leave that -- not beyond our memorandum of understanding with regard to overflight in Syria and the deconfliction of our air activities. But the point, the lead has been taking by Secretary Kerry and the State Department with regard to Russia and the negotiations of the cessation of hostilities and I'll leave that to my State Department counterparts.

Q: One more related to the same topic. There are some reports indicating that the U.S. was in favor of including Jabhat al-Nusra in the cease-fire, while the Russians that they don't want them to be included. Can you just -- give -- shed some light on this whether it's actually part of the thinking of allowing them --

MR. COOK: Discussions about the cessation of hostilities and the terms of that are something we leave to our State Department counterparts. As you know, our focus here at the Department of Defense is on defeating ISIL and eliminating ISIL as a threat and we're going to continue to stay focused on that.

Q: Jabhat al-Nusra, you consider it a terrorist organization.

MR. COOK: We do.

Q: And you’re fighting against ISIS and all the organizations with Al Qaida most of all of them. So this is part of the Department of Defense to discuss an issue like this whether it should be --

MR. COOK: They're not part of the cease-fire -- they're not part of the cease-fire right now. And again, with regard to the exact aspects of the cease-fire and the participants that's something that's being negotiated in Geneva by the Secretary Kerry. But as you pointed out, they are not a part of the cease-fire right now and that is how we understand it here at the Department of Defense.

Yes, Lucas?

(CROSSTALK)

Q: According to the U.S. Marine Corps, out of their 247 F-18 Hornets, only roughly 30 percent can fly right now. Is the secretary concerned about that?

MR. COOK: The secretary has been on the Hill. He's talked about readiness, he's talked about, in particular, he's been asked about Marine aviation and readiness there and those issues and the budget that's he's put forward in consultation, of course, with the services, including with the Marine Corps, reflects a budget that tries to achieve the maximum level of readiness within the budget confines and this has been an area of concern for the Marine Corps, one that the secretary has tried to address with his budget and has been, obviously, in close consultation with the Marine leadership about it and believes that the budget that we have reflects the best effort to try and make sure readiness across the board, whether it's the -- whether it's Marine aviation or any other aspect of the U.S. military are up to the challenge.

Q: Does he see the struggles with Marine aviation as more of a widespread problem across all the services?

MR. COOK: No, I do not think so. I mean, I think this is a particular issue that's been -- been discussed at length and this is an issue we're working to address and, again, the budget reflects particular decisions made to try and address some of these -- some of these issues. So readiness is critically important, and whether it is the Marine Corps or any other service, and the Secretary has put an emphasis on readiness in this budget while at the same time also making the investments in the future and innovation that are going to serve the Marine Corps in the -- in the Army, in the Navy, in the Air Force in the years to come.

Q: Just switching gears for a second. Yesterday the IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, threatened -- the senior commander threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz. Is that a concern to the secretary and do you have a response or reaction to those comments?

MR. COOK: Lucas, of course we would have concerns with -- with comments like that. You know that we will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and any effort to cut down to somehow shutdown a waterway of critical importance to the global economy is something that -- that we would treat with a great degree of concern and obviously we have our forces present in that part of the world to make sure that there is the free flow of commerce and that certainly American interests are maintained.

Joe, sorry.

Q: I want to go back to the two individuals in Syria. Could you say if this operation has been coordinated with any local force or regional player in Israel?

MR. COOK: Joe, again, I'm not going to get into intelligence or operational details about this beyond the fact that this strike was carried out with the specific -- these specific targets of mind because of the threat they pose to the United States and some of our allies.

Q: Back to your opening statement, you said that -- you mentioned that there would be a meeting in Washington, D.C. in July. Could you give us more details on that?

MR. COOK: Yes. As you know, there was -- there have been several ministerials now involving members of the coalition, some smaller group, as was the meeting in Stuttgart over the past -- yesterday. The meeting in July, and again, we're still working out the details -- I hope would be -- this would be a full membership of the coalition --

Q: (inaudible)

MR. COOK: No dates yet. We're still trying to work out the details, as you can imagine, trying to everyone -- multiple countries into Washington at the same time just -- pose some logistical hurdles that we'll try and overcome.

Yes, (inaudible)?

Q: I know that you will not answer the said question but I have enough courage to ask therefore said question.

Candidate for next U.S. president accept the notion the new nuclear Japan agreement, so can you agree with that or could you a -- (inaudible) -- coming to the United States to provide nuclear deterrence to Japan and South Korea?

MR. COOK: Again, you prefaced your question with, "you know I'm not going to get into Presidential politics." So I'm not going to get into Presidential politics at this podium. It's not the place for me to be in -- for the Department of Defense to be able to weigh into election issues.

Yes?

Q: Peter, I will have few questions on blow ups, one on cessation of hostilities.

You said that Secretary Kerry lead this deal with Russians, could you just clarify that the Defense Department doesn't have anything to do with this agreement or if they have, what's the role of the Defense Department in this agreement?

MR. COOK: The State Department has been a lead on this from the start, Secretary Kerry has understandably so.

The meetings in Geneva, we provide of course advice as the Department does. We've had uniform people providing guidance to the State Department and they're in negotiations. And so of course, we're in an advisory role but in terms of the negotiations themselves, they've been led by the State Department and Secretary Kerry.

Q: Secretary Kerry said that, "if the deal folds or if it's somehow not abided by other partners, we will have other choice." The military option is one of those choice is the stakes that Secretary Kerry mentioned as, "another way or other options?"

MR. COOK: I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to in terms of something that Secretary Kerry said today.

We are -- the United States of course is watching carefully and the U.S. military is watching carefully to see what happens with the cessation of hostilities, our fight is with ISIL. But we're watching what happens in other parts of Syria very carefully to make sure that there is no impact on our efforts and that more importantly, that the Syrian people get some relief from a civil war that has caused tremendous suffering and strife for people in Syria. And of course we are supportive of Secretary Kerry's effort to achieve a cessation of hostilities.

The Syrian people, as Secretary Carter has stressed, they deserve better than what they have right now. And anything that can be done to reach a diplomatic and peaceful resolution of this conflict is something of course that we would support.

Q: And about the two targets strike (inaudible), could you just whether clarify if it was these two guys -- that these guys were part of an emerging target and then you processed the airstrike, or were they being followed by intelligence or people on the ground before and then you tracked them and then you striked them?

MR. COOK: I'm not going to get into specifics in terms of intelligence or operations. These were specific targets though that had been identified, these individuals.

Yes Luis?

Q: Peter, on the two individuals that you mentioned at the top in this airstrike, are you referring to the Australians to confirm their nationality particularly?

MR. COOK: As far as I understand, the Australians have made a public statement about this as well.

Q: Thank you.

The question I wanted to ask was about those intercepts between the Russian aircraft and with U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force over the Baltic, has Secretary Carter considered reaching out to Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu? And when was the last time you actually spoke to him and does he believe that engagement with Mr. Shoygu is good for moving forward between U.S. and Russia relationships?

MR. COOK: Specifically with regard to the most recent events, we have raised our concerns with the Russians through the appropriate channels. That has not been the secretary of defense. But we've had those conversations at the appropriate level and made our concerns known about the unprofessional and unsafe behavior of the Russians in those instances.

With regard to the secretary's engagement with Minister Shoygu, he has engaged with Minister Shoygu in the past, as you know, specifically with regard to the ISIL fight and events in -- in Syria. And at this time we do not have any additional meetings or correspondence planned between the secretary and the minister, but the secretary is not opposed to it. He spoke with Minister Shoygu in the past. But right now we don't believe that that would serve any particular purpose at this point in time.

Q: Can you tell us how far back in the past we're talking about that this conversation --

MR. COOK: Yeah. I can check the date on it. It's been some -- some time. But we'll check a date and get it back to you.

Q: So has there been conversation since 2014 when the Russian forces moved into Crimea, because I think at that point there was --

MR. COOK: Yes -- we've read out conversations the secretary has had with Minister Shoygu just in recent months so. It's been tied to the ISIL fight, as you know. So -- we'll get the date for you specifically.

Yes?

Q: Thank you. Just wanted to get back to the Islamic State attack, the ISIL attack -- in Iraq. Some of the Peshmerga fighters there have been saying repeatedly that there were American civilians who were there who took part in the fight. Were -- in addition -- as part of the advise and assist team, were there any contractors there at the time of the attack?

MR. COOK: Not that I know of. We -- we've talked about the advise and assist forces who were there, specifically and why the Quick Reaction Force was called in, I'm not aware of American contractors that were there in addition.

Q: Also, the fact that the Islamic State was able to punch through and surprise the Peshmerga fighters and -- and get as far as they did with the attack before the ground was retaken, how much of a concern is there that ISIL has now figured out -- or learned something about how surveillance is being done and force protection is being done, they've now got a way around that to the point they were able to carry out this operation?

MR. COOK: I think this -- this operation, it was ISIL that ended up losing territory and losing a significant number of fighters, so I am not sure you can say that ISIL has -- this is a -- this an enemy that we need to be very careful with and they have -- they have proven their capabilities on the battlefield.

At the same time, you've seen Iraqi security forces gain ground and heat in Makhmur. You've seen the Peshmerga forces effectively take on ISIL, as they did in this case, and they were able to retake that territory. So ISIL is not 10 feet tall and I think in this instance they were able to display a certain degree of force that was a surprise. But they were also repelled ultimately and there is nothing about this fight that indicates ISIL's achieved new capabilities that ultimately the Iraqi security forces, the Kurdish forces, with the support of the coalition, can ultimately overcome.

All right. Thanks, everybody.