Transcript

Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds a Press Briefing

Sept. 15, 2021

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: There we go. Good afternoon, everybody. A couple things here at the top, if I could. You may have seen last night the DPRK fired two short range missiles towards the Sea of Japan. These launches are in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. And these activities highlight the destabilizing impact of the DPRK's illicit weapons program. Our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad and I think you saw the statement earlier today about that.

This morning Secretary Austin welcomed the Australian Minister for Defense, Peter Dutton, here to the Pentagon. We're proud to stand alongside our Australian allies to strengthen deterrence and defend our shared values and our shared interest in the Indo Pacific region. The U.S./Australia relationship is what we're proud to call the “Unbreakable Alliance”. Our increasing convergence and alignment on the most important strategic issues attest to the enduring value of this partnership.

We're cooperating closely on force posture, strategic capabilities, regional engagement and of course military operations. And ultimately we're cooperating on all that strengthens our ability to deter threats to a free and open Indo Pacific.

Tomorrow Secretary Austin and Minister Dutton will join Secretary of State Blinken, and minister of -- Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne for Two plus Two meetings over there at Foggy Bottom at the State Department.

Also this week, the Navy completed a new milestone, the first aerial refueling of an F-35C Lightning II aircraft by an MQ-25 unmanned platform Monday. The milestone is significant because unmanned tanking capabilities will free up the Navy's strike fighters that are currently carrying out the tanking mission delivering greater range and then endurance for the carrier air wing to execute missions. Once operational MQ-25 will refuel every receiver capable carrier based aircraft.

And then finally, more on the schedule for the Navy -- the Secretary of the Navy, and the Chief of Naval Operations are hosting more than 100 international delegates, including heads of navies and coast guards in-person and virtually at the U.S. Naval War College up in Newport, Rhode Island for this year's international Sea Power Symposium. The Symposium provides a forum for dialogue between international navies and coast guards to bolster maritime security.

And with that, we'll take questions.

Bob.

Q: Thanks, John. Thank you. I have a question for you on the August 29 drone strike in Kabul.

MR. KIRBY: Yes?

Q: Was that vehicle tracked and targeted because of its activities and the belief that it was carrying explosives, or was it tracked and targeted because the driver was believed or known to be an ISIS operative?

MR. KIRBY: Yes, Bob, as you know Central Command is continuing to assess this strike, and I just don't want to get out ahead of their work on this.

Q: So you can't say what the reason for targeting it was in the first place?

MR. KIRBY: I can't speak to that at this time. I'm going to let CENTCOM complete their work and let them speak to what they find as a result of that, I think that's the best course right now.

Jennifer.

Q: John, there are two allegations in the new Woodward-Costa book that have to do with this building in particular whether General Milley inserted himself into the nuclear launch process. Is there anything unusual that you've seen, or is the Defense Secretary concerned about the reports that General Milley inserted himself into the -- tried to stop the President at the time from having the ability to launch nuclear weapons?

Can you explain how the process works? And it's been explained to us that he went and just went through -- reviewed the procedures and that he told them that they -- he should be on any conference call with the President that's part of the procedures. Is that part of the nuclear procedures? I'm confused.

MR. KIRBY: Well, I certainly can't speak to the revelations that are coming out in the book. I think you saw a statement by the Chairman's office, specifically addressing this issue.

What I can tell you is, that it is not uncommon at all for the department to continue to review security protocols, particularly when it comes to our strategic deterrence capabilities, that we constantly take a look at the protocols and the procedures to make sure that they are still relevant. And these protocols have been in place for a long time, a couple of decades, and so it's not uncommon.

It's also completely appropriate -- and again, I'm not speaking to the validity of things that are in the book, but it is completely appropriate for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the senior military advisor to both the Secretary and the President to want to see those protocols reviewed on whatever frequent basis that he wants to do that. So again, I can't speak to the validity, but I see nothing in what I've read that would cause any concern.

Q: What is the Chairman's role in terms of the nuclear launch, if there were a nuclear launch by the President?

MR. KIRBY: Well, the Chairman is the key military advisor to the President, to the Commander-in-Chief, and in a sequence of events whereby a Commander-in-Chief would be making that decision -- that most grave of decisions, the Chairman would be intimately involved in that process, in providing advice and counsel to both the Secretary and to the President. Obviously the President in this case makes the final decision, and by statute, by law he is the prime military advisor to the President and this would be a military decision of profound proportions here, and importance, so he would be absolutely involved in that process, soup to nuts.

Q: And was there anything unusual said to the Chinese counterpart in the phone calls as far as you understand?

MR. KIRBY: Well, again, all I've seen is the same reporting that you've seen, Jen. I can't speak to the specifics of the conversation -- a conversation that took place, obviously before this administration took office. But, I would add, if I may, again that it is not only common, it's expected that a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would continue to have counterpart conversations.

I mean, he is basically the chief of defense for the United States -- we don't call him that, but he has chief of defense counterparts around the world. And having worked for a Chairman myself for quite a bit, I can tell you frequent communication with two countries like Russia and China is not atypical at all for a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. And those communications are -- they're routine, they're staffed, they're coordinated, and they're transparent -- as transparent as they can be.

Q: Would it also be routine in these counterpart conversations if the United States was planning to strike one of these locations for the Chairman to inform the counterpart that the U.S. was about to strike, as is quoted in ...

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, again, I'm not going to get into the -- confirming or speaking to details in reporting.

Q: ... (inaudible) question though, would it be -- would that be a common part of these conversations if the United States was planning to conduct a strike on a location, would the Chairman then call his counterpart to alert them to incoming strike? 
MR. KIRBY: Without speaking to that hypothetical, what I again would say is that these -- parts of the value -- a part of the value of having these communications, particularly with countries like Russia and China with which we are experiencing tension is to try to reduce the risks of miscalculation and conflict, to try to take down tensions to make clear what our national security interest are on you pick the issue, and that's a -- the communications channel between our Chairman and a chief of defense is a really key vehicle for transmitting and communicating those kinds of messages.

Q: And then has Secretary Austin, based off of these -- the stories out of this book, has he instructed General Milley to change any of the ways that he's operating? Has he asked him to inform him more about some of the conversations that he's having? Has there been any practical change on this current (inaudible) ...

MR. KIRBY: Absolutely not. No, not in the least. He has full trust and confidence in Chairman Milley and the job that he's doing.

Lara.

Q: Thanks, John. So just following up on the previous questions, as you said by law, by statute the Chairman is not in the chain of command. So if these allegations are true that General Milley gave -- said that he would give a heads up to the Chinese if we were going to strike them, would that not be undermining civilian control of the military?

MR. KIRBY: Again, I'm not going to speak to unconfirmed reports from a book that we haven't looked at and read yet, and certainly not to a conversation that -- that took place before the administration took office. I'm just -- I'm not going to go there, Lara.

Q: I guess I can't really understand why you're not denying that that was happening, that happened, because that's a pretty serious allegation.

MR. KIRBY: I'm not speaking to it at all, Lara. It's not that I'm not denying yet, I am simply -- I am going to refuse to speak to -- to specific anecdotes that -- that are in this book. I am in no position to do that and I don't think it would be helpful for me to try to speculate one way or the other about the veracity of these -- of these anecdotes.

What I can tell you is that a Chairman of the -- any Chairman, chairmen across multiple administrations routinely have communications, direct channel communications with their counterparts in -- in other countries. And it is particularly important to have those communications with a nation state with which there are real and significant tensions to try to reduce those, clear things up, make sure you reduce the risk of miscalculation. And I think you saw in the statement that the Chairman's office that they put out earlier today, that that is exactly what was behind the context here for this -- for this particular call, which took place, you know, at a difficult time in our nation's history in this particular transition.

Q: Sorry just to follow up on that point, Secretary Miller -- acting Secretary Miller told FOX News that he did not authorize the call. And another one of his -- his deputy chief of staff also said that in fact it was the policy at the time that there was no senior government engagement with China. Is that true? But could that possibly be true?

MR. KIRBY: I couldn't -- I couldn't answer that. I mean, that those were -- those were before, that was the time before we get we were in office. I can't -- I can't speak to what the policies were for international communications were. But, again, you saw it in the Chairman's statement, why he was having these conversations. And you also saw in his statement that those communications were staffed and coordinated. I would point you back to what that the Chairman said.

Yes.

Q: Thank you, John. So you said it's routine for the Chairman to speak to counterparts in China and Russia. And in this context the statement talked about strategic stability, so it includes issues related to nuclear capability, and you said you worked for a Chairman. Can you help us understand, usually when these types of conversations at this level happen, does the Chairman brief the President or get the green light from the President before such a conversation? Does he brief the President on the conversation? And does he get a green light from the Secretary of Defense or a briefing after the conversation?

MR. KIRBY: Yes, it depends. I know that's not a great answer, but it's a true answer. I mean, we expect a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to coordinate and communicate with his counterparts. And some of those conversations are about very specific issues that have very, very high-level interest. And there might even be a request made by the Chairman to make a call. Sometimes the Secretary could ask him to do that or even representatives on the National Security Council could say, hey, wouldn't it -- you know, we think it would be helpful if you reached out to your counterpart and relayed the following message.

Sometimes the Chairman will -- you know, he'll be the one to come up with the idea, like, “hey, I think I need to get on the phone with General or Admiral so and so and have a talk about this."

But typically, regardless of the impetus for that kind of a call, it is read out, it is -- it is staffed, it's -- it's appropriately coordinated, and the -- the Chairman or the Chairman's Office will -- will offer a readout of it up the chain of command so that everybody understands it, and then often times -- and you've seen this yourself -- and then the Chairman's Public Affairs Office will release a public readout, not unlike the ones we do when -- when the Secretary makes calls.

I mean, the -- you know, these are important communications. I mean, they don't just pick up the phone to talk about sports. I -- it -- -- they talk to -- to iron out issues. And -- and so it's important that the interagency have a sense of -- of how that went, and that's -- and that's very typical.

Q: So the Chairman usually coordinates with the White House prior to the conversation, especially if it's about certain topics?

MR. KIRBY: On -- in a typical call, particularly with, you know, a -- a nation like China, that would be a fully coordinated conversation and there would be -- there would be the sharing of information after the fact.

Q: So the White House basically -- and President Trump back then -- former President Trump would actually know about the conversation before taking place and would know what happened in the conversation. So for him to say if the allegations made in the book by Woodward and -- and Costa were true, then the Chairman should be put on trial for -- for treason.

MR. KIRBY: Oh, my goodness.

Q: These are not my words, these are ...

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, look, I -- I can't speak to processes before this administration took office, I just can't. As much as I know you'd like me to, I just can't do that. What I'm telling you is, typically, that when the Chairman or the Secretary, they interact with their counterparts, it -- it's a function of the job, they have to do that, that -- that these conversations are -- are properly coordinated. That's -- that's the way it goes.

Now, is every single interaction, you know, written down and sent in a memo? Probably not. But -- but ones that -- that are -- you know, that are of consequence, and they almost all are, that they are -- they are fully coordinated.

I can't speak to processes, you know, previous to January 20th of this year. I can just tell you that -- how we're approaching the issue in this administration.

Q: Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Let me get to the phones, I haven't done that yet. Jeff Schogol.

Q: Thank you. The -- I know the Biden administration aspires to be as transparent as possible. In that spirit, would it be possible to get a transcript of General Milley's October 30th conversation with his Chinese counterpart, especially noting that the previous administration released a transcript of President Trump's conversation with President Zelensky. So I'm hoping that this administration can be just as transparent.

MR. KIRBY: Jeff, I -- I'm certainly not going to sign us up to releasing transcripts of -- of conversations that occurred before we took office, and I -- I just -- can't do that. I'd refer you to the Chairman's Office if -- if you want more context on that, but we're -- we're not in a position to do that.

Abraham?

Q: Yeah, thanks, John. I wondered if I could talk about the bilateral relationship with Australia -- a couple of questions. Could you talk about, given Chinese aggression in the region, why -- why Australia is -- is so strategically important in the partnership? And also, can you address a little bit the -- the evolution of the partnership, the training and fighting together with Australia?

MR. KIRBY: It's been a long, long history that we've had with Australia. I think you -- you know that. There's a whole corridor here in the Pentagon dedicated to our relationship with Australia and with New Zealand as well.

They're a key ally and partner in the Indo-Pacific region. They have -- in the past, they've -- they've hosted rotational deployments of -- of U.S. troops, Marines specifically, and of course we operate routinely with their military in the region and elsewhere all around the world.

It's an exceptionally close relationship and the Secretary's committed to -- as he made clear today with Minister Dutton, to improving and strengthening that relationship going forward.

Q: But is China now prompting a strengthening and evolving of that relationship because of their aggression in ...

MR. KIRBY: I think without question, Abraham, that the -- that the kinds of aggressive activities that we're seeing out of China in the Indo-Pacific region is -- is causing all of us, the international community, not just the United States, to make sure that we're focused appropriately on that behavior and on making sure, as I mentioned in my opening statement, that we are all not only committed but -- but helping to further what we call a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Q: Thanks, John.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: Can I jump on that a little bit? This morning, Defense Minister Dutton said that the situation in the Indo-Pacific was deteriorating. Does the U.S. DOD agree with that?

MR. KIRBY: We certainly share the concerns that the Minister has about -- again, about aggressive -- and -- behavior, the coercive and intimidating activities that the -- that -- that the Chinese are making throughout the region, not just militarily but diplomatically and economically as well.

And it's got everybody concerned and that's why the Secretary has said that he considers the number one pacing challenge for this department to be the -- the PRC, and we're going to stay laser focused on that, and our relationship with Australia, to Abraham's question, is a key part of our ability to -- to continue to maintain that focus and to make sure that -- that we and our allies and partners are properly postured to be able to -- push back appropriately and to help ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Let me get back on the phones here. Idrees, Reuters?

Q: Hey, John. Moving away from Australia and just following up on Courtney's question, does the Secretary believe the Chairman has the authority to warn adversaries before a military attack without specifically being told by civilian leaders?

MR. KIRBY: Again, I'm not going to engage in specific hypotheticals here, Adrees. I -- I just don't see this as a -- useful exercise. And it -- it's a you know, it's a bit of a roundabout way of -- of trying to get me to speak to, again, an unconfirmed report in a book, and I -- I just -- I'm just not able to -- to do that.

What the Secretary expects and what he has seen from Chairman Milley, in the eight months that he's been in office, is that the Chairman will maintain healthy relationships, to the degree that he can, with his counterparts around the world and that -- and that those relationships will be in keeping with our policies, the policies of this administration, and he expects that the -- the Chairman knows how to manage those relationships and to have those communications and that he'll be transparent about it with the Secretary, and he has been.

Q: Can I ask a follow up?

MR. KIRBY: Sure.

Q: On a different topic -- I know you're -- the investigation is still going on on both drone strikes in Afghanistan in the waning days of the evacuation but can you say now whether you know the names of any of those people killed in any of those strikes -- the two strikes that took place in the -- in the last few days?

MR. KIRBY: Yes, we do.

Yeah?

Q: John, thank you very much. John, two questions, please, one on India, one on Afghanistan. You may be aware of -- that the Indian Prime Minister Modi is -- is coming to the U.S. next week. Is anything going on in the building as far as U.S.-India military-to-military relations are concerned? Because this will be his first visit under this administration.

MR. KIRBY: I don't have anything on the schedule to announce today, but I'm sure if we do, we will.

Q: And second, on Afghanistan. Again, the question is, first of all (inaudible) are still thanking the U.S. and the military for protecting them. Second, do you think...

MR. KIRBY: Wait, the Taliban are thanking the United States for protecting them, is that what you said?

(CROSSTALK)

Q: ... military and the U.S. military for protecting for the last 20 years, they are very thankful.

MR. KIRBY: Oh.

Q: Yes, sir. And second, do you think Afghan government or officials had misled the U.S. or military as far as Kabul falling down so quickly? And -- or corruption played the role or they misled the military?

MR. KIRBY: Do we think the Afghan government misled us? What I'll say is that certainly nobody predicted the fall of the government in as quick a fashion as it happened. And the same could be said, I would say, for the manner in which Afghan forces did not fight longer and harder to defend their nation. Nobody predicted that rapid -- that rapid fall. And that rapid fall precipitated a series of events, obviously, that we have all been witness to over the last, you know, month or so.

There will be a time to dissect the specifics of this. And I know we will. But, again, it all transpired in a lot more quick fashion than we had predicted.

Thanks sir.

Yes, David.

Q: Everybody keeps saying there's going to be a lessons learned, an after-action. Has any formal inquiry, review, anything formal begun? I mean, who is doing this?

MR. KIRBY: I don't know what you want to hear by way of formal, but the Secretary and the Chairman have asked department leaders to take a look at the -- at the last month or so and to gather lessons learned. And they are. They are doing that.

Q: So is it a...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY: Whether it's a formal investigation or something like that...

Q: (inaudible)... a 90-day due date on -- on a report...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY: I don't know of a specific due date. And there wasn't a formal written tasking. It's just -- it's just kind of the DNA here at the department that we're going to, as we always do, and you heard the Secretary speak to this himself, we always do this, take a look and do an after-action. You don't have to sign that out with a memo. You don't have to issue a deadline. It's just normal practice. And that kind of thinking is going on right now.

Q: Well, there's a difference between after-action reviews and things that appear in, you know, staff and command college magazines six years later.

(LAUGHTER)

MR. KIRBY: That's not what we're talking about. I mean, there are -- the department is -- is taking a look right now at how things went over the last month during the evacuation. And I'm sure we'll learn some things. I also think...

(CROSSTALK)

Q: ... expect to see that?

MR. KIRBY: I don't know, David. I can't commit to some sort of public report about this, but I -- what I can tell you is that -- that we'll certainly be as transparent as we can about what we learn. And I understand the nature of the question, which is the way we look at it too, it's like, you know, what -- what could have gone better? What things need to be or could have been improved? And we're certainly -- no institution is more used to looking at itself in that vein than the Department of Defense, but I also think it's important that it doesn't get lost that 124,000 people were taken out safely. No airplanes broke, and we were able to move an amazing amount of people out of harm's way in a very short period of time, something like 17 days.

And yes, it was the largest airlift in U.S. military history, and that shouldn't get lost either. So when we talk about after action, I hope that we're all talking about an after action that is comprehensive and looks at the incredible efforts that were done in the air and on the ground at the airport. A lot of bravery, a lot of courage, a lot of structure and organization on that field that went to accomplishing that feat. 

Karoun Demirjian, Washington Post.

Q: Hi, yes. Thank you for taking the question. So yesterday General Miller was on the Hill and apparently told the Senate Armed Services Committee he disagreed with the full drawdown in Afghanistan and communicated that to his direct superiors, but there's some question about whether that message was then communicated to the President and when all the conversation took place. Can you shed anymore light on even having told his direct superiors -- excuse me, I skipped over the main part -- that he was opposed to the full drawdown of military forces in Afghanistan?

MR. KIRBY: I won't speak to General Miller's view, certainly not views that he may or may not have expressed in a closed session with members of Congress. That's really for General Miller to speak to.

What I can tell you is that military views, military advice, that includes from the Secretary of Defense as well as the Chairman and other military leaders, that those views were heard in what was a, although on an accelerated timeframe because, again, when we took office we had a May 1 deadline looming in front of us, but what was with the exception of moving at an accelerated pace a very normal national security decision making process where the deputies of agencies got together on a routine basis, the principals of agencies got together on a routine basis and reiterated and talked this stuff through and where the President was given advice and counsel not just from this building but from other agencies across the government to help him formulate what ended up being his opinion and his decision. A very normal process was had.

Q: John, a procedural question. What are the legal implications of a military leader or a commander refusing to execute the President's command of a strike or halting the command of the President about a strike?

MR. KIRBY: The President's the Commander-in-Chief, and all lawful orders by the Commander-in-Chief need to be obeyed.

Q: And if someone refuses or halts it, or let's say telegraphed it to the one who is going to strike, then what's the -- what's the result?

MR. KIRBY: I think, you know, it's going to depend on the situation. The -- you do -- you have an obligation when you join the military to obey all lawful orders. You don't have an obligation to obey unlawful orders. And I'm not going to speculate about -- I think what you're trying to get at is the anecdote in the book, and again, I'm just not going to go there. But lawful orders by the Commander in Chief have to be obeyed.

Q: Are they -- are they unlawful orders by the Commander in Chief in any fashion?

MR. KIRBY: There can be unlawful orders issued by -- by anyone in the chain of command.

Q: OK. And then the other question on Syria I have another -- there are reports coming out of Syria saying that the U.S. has asked -- or is trying to recruit only an -- only Arab force in Hasakah, in northeast -- eastern Syria, to take the security control of the entire province of Hasakah. Are you aware of that -- the ...

MR. KIRBY: I have not seen that report, I can't speak to that.

Janne?

Q: Thank you, John. On the North Korean ballistic missile launches, did the United States detect North Korean ballistic missile launches in advance this time?

MR. KIRBY: I won't speak to intelligence assessments or -- or our monitoring capabilities.

Q: And how is the United States’ missile defense system responding to North Koreans' ballistic missile defense?

MR. KIRBY: It's not about responding to -- to a particular launch, it's about making sure that -- that our missile defense system, wherever it's deployed, is effective and capable, and we routinely test and experiment and try to improve that system on a daily basis.

And because the -- the threat is real and it doesn't just come from one place in the world, so we've got to be ready for -- for all missile defense capabilities.

Q: Well, does the United States underestimate the -- North Korea's missile launches because there is no threat to -- threat to United States?

MR. KIRBY: No.

In the back there?

Q: Thank you, John. Can we just talk about this weekend? As you know, there's a -- a protest coming up. I'm just wondering, at this point, if you had an update on whether there's been any kind of request for the D.C. National Guard, from whom, and if so, what the expectation of what they would be doing, will be?

MR. KIRBY: I can answer part of your question, Alex. We have received a request from Capitol Police for some assistance for this weekend's protests -- scheduled protests. I'm not going to detail the specific request. As is typical, our policy is to let the agency asking be the ones to speak to the details.

What I can tell you is that it will follow the same process that all requests for assistance of the department, when it comes from a -- an outside agency go through, and that's what we're working on right now. We're doing the -- the analysis, we are in -- we are in receipt of it, we're analyzing it, and -- and if it can be validated and supported, we'll do that, and we'll -- you know, we'll look at the sourcing inside the department as to what's most appropriate.

Q: How many personnel would that be?

MR. KIRBY: Again, I'm not going to get into the details of what the request is.

Q: Could -- could you say broadly whether it's more of a -- a law enforcement capability or -- in the past, for example, they've been asked to just -- like around the inauguration, just to do traffic control.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, again, I'm not going to talk about the specifics of it. My understanding is it is not an exorbitant ask, it's not -- it's not of the particularly large size or -- or major capability. I think it's really more in the -- in -- in the form of -- of some manpower support.

Yeah, Travis?

Q: Since the beginning of August, there have been a relatively high number of service member -- member deaths due to COVID, and I'm just wondering if you can confirm -- I'm told the number was 17 and I'm wondering if you can confirm the vaccination status of those troops. Are those all unvaccinated troops or was it a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated?

MR. KIRBY: The 17 that were -- I'm not sure where that number comes from. I do not have data on each fatality that we've had because of COVID, I -- I don't have data in -- in terms of whether they were vaccinated or not. I -- I just...

Q: OK, there may have been civilians mixed in with the number I was given.

MR. KIRBY: Well, I mean, there's -- there often is. I mean, we've report -- you know, we reported out the fatalities, and they are often not necessarily all active duty. But I -- I just don't have the data in -- in front of me in terms of whether they were vaccinated or not.

Q: If I could follow up -- is there any update on civilian personnel and monitoring for COVID or monitoring for vaccination status? Any kind of timelines or how that process might work?

MR. KIRBY: I'm sorry, for what?

Q: For civilian personnel?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I think we're going to be coming out with some implementation guidance here for civilian personnel specifically. What I can tell you for the active duty force, we're just under 88 percent now have received at least one dosage -- and at least one dose, sorry -- and since the vaccine mandate, the rates have increased. So an additional 11 and a half percent now have received at least one dose since the mandate and then an additional five percent are now fully vaccinated.

Q: Is the intention to monitor civilian personnel, as well, as to their vaccination status?

MR. KIRBY: There will be -- as I said, we'll be coming out with some implementing guidance on the civilian side and how that's going to operate.

Yeah, Mike?

Q: Yeah, John, if the Chairman is willing to go around one President he disagrees with, is there a concern in this administration that he might repeat it if he ever has an issue with -- with President Biden? I'm -- so -- so what I'm asking is is there a trust -- what's the trust factor specifically with the Chairman and the Secretary, since they have such a close relationship by statute, as well as with the President?

MR. KIRBY: And a long history together. The -- the Secretary has complete and utter trust and confidence in General Milley and in his role as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Q: It is mid-September. Does the Secretary have any plans to ask the President to add the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the mandatory list?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have an update for you on that today.

Q: One more question on Australia, John -- so the Financial Review in Australia is -- is reporting that the Australian government is -- is looking to receive nuclear-powered submarines, in partnership with the U.S. and the UK. Can you confirm whether this is -- this is being discussed and whether a move toward basically giving Australia such a technology can undermine China's security and add to the existing tension in the region?

MR. KIRBY: I've seen the press reports. I can't confirm the specifics of those. I think you'll see there's a -- there's a -- an -- an announcement coming later today and I think we should just wait for that.

Ryo?

Q: Follow up on North Korea, do you have any update on the report about North Korea's cruise-launched missiles over the weekend? Can you confirm the report now?

MR. KIRBY: This is back to the cruise missile launches? I don't have additional information on that today. The -- the reports of cruise missile launches, is that what you're talking about?

Q: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

MR. KIRBY: I don't have any updates for you on that.

Q: So you -- you can't confirm anything?

(CROSS-TALK)

MR. KIRBY: I cannot confirm the reports.

Q: I -- I'm wondering why, if the -- well, I'm wondering why it takes longer to assess a missile launch over the weekend than the missile launch late last night?

KRIBY: Yes, look again, without getting into how intelligence is analyzed and collected there's a -- there's a big difference between missiles that follow a ballistic trajectory and cruise missiles just in terms of the way they operate.

Terace.

Q: Yes, is there any update on the cases of measles among Afghan here in the U.S. as well as those that are waiting to travel to the U.S.? Is there any update on that?

MR. KIRBY: No and nothing really to update, again, flights have been paused for those seven additional days and that started Monday. So we're still in a pause of flights. The individuals who were diagnosed with it continue to be housed separately in accordance with CDC guidelines. And, as I said, all arriving Afghans are currently required to be vaccinated for measles as a condition of their humanitarian parole. And critical immunizations like MMR are being administered for Afghans at safe havens on military bases in the United States.

And we're soon going to be vaccinating them for measles overseas. But I don't have any updates to give you.

Let me go back to the phones here. Tara Copp.

Q: Hi, John. Thank you for doing this. I have a couple of follow-ups, on David's question on the after action reviews, will there be a similar AAR performed on the hours and minutes before the August 26 attack that killed 13 service members? There typically is an official formal investigation when a service member dies.

And then secondly, separate on the drone strike, I followed up after our Monday press briefing with CENTCOM to try and get additional details on what type of investigation would be launched into that drone strike. And CENTCOM provided no additional details, not who's leading it, not what type of investigation, not any sort of deadlines. So can you confirm for us there is actually a formal investigation in-place and what it will result in? Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Yes, so on your first question, you're right. Because there were deaths there has to be an investigation. And that is being done on the -- on the Abbey Gate attack. As for the airstrike on the 29th, CENTCOM has initiated a 15-6 investigation into that airstrike as well as a civilian casualty assessment report which is also required. And they will take into account all the available intelligence reporting, they'll take into account video footage, subject matter expert analysis, interviews and quite frankly they'll also factor in subsequent media reporting.

But there's a 15-6 investigation being done as well as a civilian casualty assessment.

Q: John, one more question please.

MR. KIRBY: Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. Does the North Korea ballistic missile launch violate UN Security Council Resolutions? 

MR. KIRBY: Yes, I mean a ballistic missile launch by the DPRK would violate numerous U.S. Security Council resolutions.

Q: Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Cruise missiles do not.

Q: Yes, John. Did the seven day pause have any impact on the 10-day period in Germany when the people were allowed to stay before they have to be sent out? Would that or did they -- did they adjust that number and say we're going to wave that for this amount of time?

MR. KIRBY: My understanding is that EUCOM is working with German authorities to kind of work their way through that. I won't speak for Germany. My understanding is that their desire, their policy is still 10 days. But we have kept our German allies completely informed about what's going here with measles and the precautions that we're trying to take. We've been very transparent with them and I think they're working through that right now.

Q: OK.

MR. KIRBY: Alex.

Q: There are around 60 aircraft helicopters and planes, we understand, from the Afghan Air Force that are at Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and we've done some reporting on this in terms of the personnel. Could you -- do you have any updates on the Afghan Air Force personnel who are in Tajikistan? And what will happen, do you think, to these aircraft?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have any updates for the pilots, air crew and I think some families that might be in Tajikistan, that's a better question to put to my State Department colleague. As to the aircraft, as I said the other day, we have numerous options available to explore with respect to the disposition of those aircraft and we haven't made any final decisions. We're working our way through what those options are right now.

Jennifer from the New York Times.

Q: Hi, with respect to the Afghans that are in OCONUS locations, do you have a kind of even a round sense of many are there? And why it's taking so long for them to move to the United States, some people have been there for weeks and don't seem to have any sense of when they might go.

MR. KIRBY: So, we've got -- I have it broken down by country but I don't think I have a total. There's 6,300 or so in Ramstein, another 2,500 at Kaiserslautern in Germany and there's -- the next location with the biggest population is in Abu Dhabi with about 2,500 there. And then -- between Rota and Naval Station -- Naval Air Station Sigonella there's a much smaller number. So that's about what we got OCONUS.

And each location we're observing different desires by different governments and we have to respect those sovereign governments and what they desire in terms of this population and moving them. Right now, because of measles, all the flights are paused. So right now nobody's going anywhere until we work through this with the CDC. But our goal, absent the measles problem, our goal has been to try to move them as quickly as possible to their onward stations.

For most of them it's here to the United States. But right now we're in a pause and hopefully working closely with the CDC we'll be able to get things moving as quickly as possible. We know that these men and women and their families want to get on with their new lives. We want to help them get on with their new lives. But we also want to do it in as safe a way as possible. And so that's why we're working closely with the CDC on this.

OK, thanks everybody. Appreciate it. See you in a day or two.