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Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby Holds a Press Briefing

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: Good afternoon.

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY: That’s an enthusiastic response.

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY: Must be Friday.

OK, just one thing at the top. I'm pleased to be able to -- to speak to -- to a significant NATO exercise that's about to kick off on Monday. Strike Force NATO will kick off an exercise called Neptune Strike '22.

Neptune Strike '22, it's going to run through the 4th of February and it's designed to demonstrate NATO's ability to integrate the high end maritime strike capabilities of an aircraft carrier strike group, to support the deterrence and defense of the alliance.

USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group will be placed under NATO operational control and serve as the centerpiece for this long-planned activity that fosters NATO allies' ability to cooperate and integrate effectively. Now, this of course demonstrates once again that the alliance is a -- a united, capable and strong transatlantic alliance.

The strike group, along with several other NATO allies, will participate in coordinated maritime maneuvers, anti-submarine warfare training and long-range strike training. Neptune Strike '22 follows Strike Force NATO's participation in the workups that the USS Harry S. Truman's strike group went through all the way through the end of last year.

And I might add that the planning for this exercise actually goes back to 2020. This has been a long planned exercise. All of -- all of the training events will highlight the continual and steady progression of alliance cohesion in a high end and dynamic environment.

And with that, we'll go to questions. Looks like Lita, you're on the line, yeah?

Q: Yes. Thanks, John. That exercise in the Adriatic, is that correct? 

MR. KIRBY: (Inaudible) … question?
Q: Was it in the Adriatic?

MR. KIRBY: It -- it will be the -- I mean, it's -- the -- the carrier will be operating in the Mediterranean. And I -- I don't have her exact location right now. She was operating in the Adriatic, but she'll be operating as part of this exercise in the Med. Exactly where in the Med, I don't have that. I'd have to direct you to Strike Force NATO for more details.

Did that get you, Lita?

Q: Can you address what conversations the Secretary has had over the past week or two with allies, particularly any of those in Eastern Europe, about efforts to perhaps shore up U.S. aid to them or support for them? Has he gotten calls from any of those allies looking for any new U.S. support? Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Yep, as you know, earlier he did speak with his Ukrainian counterpart and we read that out. That's the only conversation that I -- that I have to speak to this week. He has not spoken specifically to NATO counterparts about capabilities they may need or may be asking for. So no -- no conversations in that regard to -- to speak to.

I would just say that -- and I've said this before -- we continue to look at a range of options of -- of -- of capabilities that we might need to make sure are ready in case our allies are looking for that kind of reassurance. And as I've said before, some of those capabilities can come right from inside the European Command area of responsibility or even from -- from the States. Our job is to tee up options, our job is to make sure that we're ready in case our allies need us.

And so the Secretary continues to -- to look at -- at -- at all those options before him, but I don't have any specific conversations and certainly no specific asks by any of the allies to talk to today.

Sylvie?

Q: Yes. Hello, John. You said that this exercise was planned for long time. Did the -- the -- the tension in -- around Ukraine change anything in the scope or the location of the exercise?

MR. KIRBY: I -- I would point you to Strike Force NATO or to NATO for more specifics about the exercise. It's -- it's -- it's their exercise. It -- it has been planned, as I said, since 2020. Now, if the scenario has changed over time, I -- I -- I don't have that level of detail, but I would tell you that it's not -- it wasn't planned back in 2020, anticipating, you know, a -- a Russian move on Ukraine, and it's not designed -- the exercise itself is not designed against the kinds of scenarios that -- that might happen with respect to Ukraine. It -- it really is a NATO maritime exercise to test a -- as I said in my opening, to test really a wide range of -- of -- of maritime capabilities that we want to make sure we continue to improve.

Q: If I can ask another question? Speaking about exercises, I'm sure you saw the images of the Russian forces deployed around Ukraine. Is it in your -- is it your assessment or the Pentagon's assessment that this deployment is -- is logical for pure -- pure exercise? Is it something that, for you, corresponds to a -- an exercise?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. You mean it -- it is -- is the force label that he has commensurate with what you would think as an exercise? I mean, it -- the -- the -- so probably a better question to put to the Russian Ministry of Defense to speak to their exercises, Sylvie. I'll let the Russians talk about what these exercises are supposed to achieve and whether they feel like they've got the right capabilities in place to do that.

I'm here to talk about what we're exercising and -- and this particular one, Neptune Strike, and -- and I -- and we can certainly talk about the -- the significant capabilities that we're bringing to that exercise and the alliance is bringing to that exercise, but to your larger point, I would just say we continue to see a very sizable force presence by the Russians in the western part of their country, surrounding the border with Ukraine, and it continues to be concerning -- you heard Secretary Blinken talk to this earlier today -- and we believe that there's still a path to diplomacy here and -- and we would like to see the situation deescalated.

And as I've said before, one significant, key way for it to get deescalated is for the Russians to pull some of those forces back out away from the border with Ukraine, and that -- they have -- that have shown no inclination to do that, in fact, quite the contrary. I think, you know, they continue to add to the force presence there.

Now, what they're going to -- what they're exercising and what they plan to exercise with, that's really for them to speak to.

Q: But John, are you calling these exercises that the Russian forces are involved in?

MR. KIRBY: No, I'm not -- I'm -- I'm not. I -- I am not going to speak to what the Russians are claiming are exercises. We're -- what we're saying is they have a significant force posture there and that it hasn't decreased -- in fact, it has continued to increase -- and we remain concerned about that.

Q: Isn't it the U.S. government assessment that these are not exercises?

MR. KIRBY: Well, I think we may be talking two different things. 

(CROSSTALK)
The -- we're -- well, no, you're talking about -- I think you're talking about a Russian statement that at -- at least a portion of troops that they had there, particularly, I think, they were saying maybe in Belarus, are there for exercises.

So I don't -- I -- I think what the Russians are saying is at least a portion of these troops are for exercises. Again, I don't want to speak for them, you've got to talk to them. We're seeing a sizable force presence there that isn't decreasing and it continues to be concerning.

And we have not -- we have never classified all that force presence as indicative of an exercise. I mean, they're spread out over a wide ‘spanse of area, all the way from the south, near Crimea, all the way around to the -- to the north, over the -- across from the northeast border of -- of Ukraine, and we're not seeing them all coordinating in some sort of large scale exercise. We're not seeing that at all.

Q: And I think what Sylvie was also asking is the type of forces that they have and equipment in Belarus, is it indicative of an exercise or an invasion?

MR. KIRBY: I mean, the -- the short answer is when you have forces arrayed -- is that -- is that better?

Q: Yeah.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah? OK.

(LAUGHTER)

When you have forces arrayed like that, they -- they -- they could exercise and conduct exercises, and those exercises could, in fact, be to improve their capabilities for an invasion or an incursion. So we're not splitting hairs here over whether the -- you know, they're exercising or they're not. And again, I'd let them speak to what they're doing in terms of “exercises” that they claim they're conducting.

We see a sizable force presence that continues to increase, there's no sign of de-escalation here, and so we remain concerned about that.

Q: And just last question -- how many -- or what U.S. military equipment is en route to Ukraine right now, if any?

MR. KIRBY: I -- I -- I think we'll have more to say about that later on. We continue to provide, as you know, security assistance to Ukraine and I believe our State Department colleagues will have a little bit more to say about that later. I don't have anything to announce or speak to -- to -- today, or at least not right now.

Nancy?

Q: Just a couple of points I'd like to clarify. When you talk about how you're looking at the Russian force posture, does everything you say apply to the naval posture, as well, and the exercises that they've announced?

MR. KIRBY: Largely, when we talk about the force posture, I'm talking about ground forces, I'm talking about the -- the ground troops and the capabilities they have in the western part of their country, around that northeast and eastern and, quite frankly, southeastern border with Ukraine. That's what I'm talking about.

Q: Well, the reason I'm asking is they've announced a major exercise involving 140 ships, 60 aircraft. Is it the U.S. assessment that that is postured for an exercise or is it also a concern that that could be used in a possible incursion or an invasion?

MR. KIRBY: Well, it's the same -- I think the answer's kind of the same as what I gave Jen -- I mean, you know, again, I'd let them speak to what they're -- we're -- we're speaking to our exercises, I would encourage the Russians to speak with specificity about their exercises.

But -- but that they have significant naval force in the -- in the region is, again, not being -- not lost on us. And certainly, again, not knowing what Mr. Putin plans to do -- you know, he has to -- he has a sizable amount of military capability, not just on the ground but at sea.

Q: And then just a couple of clarifications on the announcement you made. Who precisely will the Truman go under the command of?

MR. KIRBY: It'll be Vice Admiral Eugene Black, who is the Strike Force NATO Commander but he's dual-hatted as the Sixth Fleet Commander.

Q: I see, so he'll -- he'll command that exercise?

MR. KIRBY: Yes.

Q: OK. And then the -- the other thing -- can you tell us which NATO partners are involved or how many?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I -- I would refer you to NATO to get a -- a -- a more clear lay down of exactly how many other allies, but there will be several other allies participating in this exercise. And I would remind you -- not new to you, Nancy -- but as we conduct large scale exercises, some people participate in some sections of it and not others, based on their own operational demands and schedules, as well as the capabilities that they're trying to improve.

So for more detail, I'd refer you to NATO.

Q: And then lastly, can you talk to -- you know, this exercise is happening in Europe, where there are, as you know, a sizable naval presence from Russia. Why was there not consideration to delay this exercise, given that the tensions are there and there's the possibility for a misunderstanding of what these exercises are, could contribute to the tensions already in the region?

MR. KIRBY: Sure. I -- look, I think we constantly look at exercises and training and -- and ask ourselves, even -- even after one's been -- been -- been worked on for months, years, you know, do we really need to do it now, should we -- should we speed it up, should we shorten it? That happens all the time.

And there was due consideration about -- given tensions right now, about our exercise posture, and after all of that consideration and discussion with our NATO allies, the decision was made to move ahead.

Janne?

Q: Thank you, John. I think you may have seen this report to North Korea -- I think on the North Korea -- North Korean Kim Jong-un said that suspended nuclear and ICBM, intercontinental ballistic missile, test launch could be resumed. And also, he warned that he could cross red lines. What is the U.S. Department of Defense position on accelerating North Korea's tactical capabilities?

MR. KIRBY: Well, obviously we don't want to see the North Korean military program continue to be able to pose a threat to our South Korean allies or to the region. So we continue to call on Kim Jong-un to sit down and -- and -- and discuss the -- the -- the way forward. We have said many times we're willing to conduct diplomatic engagement with him with no preconditions.

So our -- our -- our view hasn't changed -- we want to see the complete, verifiable denuclearization of the peninsula, we believe that diplomacy is the best tack to take to get there -- track to take to get there, and -- and we're willing to sit down, no preconditions.

Q: What if diplomatic situation is not work, it's...

MR. KIRBY: I'm not -- I won't -- I -- I -- I don't think getting into hypotheticals and speculating right now about what ifs is -- is very helpful. We've made our position clear. For the Department of Defense, I'm happy to -- can say -- continue to say it -- our job is to make sure that -- that we are ready to meet the security commitments, commensurate with our treaty alliance with South Korea, and we're doing that.

Q: One more question. Lastly, China vetoed North Korea's recent missile launch at the UN Security Council meeting yesterday. Do you think the U.S. needs an independent, additional sanctions against the North Koreans?

MR. KIRBY: That's not a question for the Defense Department, Janne, that -- that's really something better put to my State Department colleagues. These ballistic missile launches are violations of Security Council resolutions. We continue to call on Pyongyang to -- to cease that activity and for everybody involved in the international community to actually live up to the sanctions that have already been put in place, and not every country is doing that.

And China has influence over Pyongyang, we know that, and -- and -- and we certainly hope that they'll use that influence to the betterment not only of them and -- and the region, but to the whole world.

Q: Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: You're welcome.

Meghann?

Q: I have a question about vaccine implementation and discharges. So in -- on August 23rd, the Secretary put out the memo saying that the COVID vaccine would become mandatory for service members.

A few weeks from -- between a few weeks and over a month -- like -- more like six, seven weeks later, the services started requiring -- started adding them to the -- the battery of vaccines you get at basic training, which means that for over a month, there were people coming into the military, not getting vaccinated against COVID, and now they're being discharged, either mid-training or finishing training without reporting to their first unit. So all of those tens of thousands of dollars to recruit them and train them are basically lit on fire.

Is that -- the – is that implementation rollout and that delay between the announcement and requiring vaccines for trainees, is that an oversight as part of the implementation policy, is that -- is that the cost of doing business while you are trying to -- to implement new policy like this? What's the -- you know, how does it -- how did this happen?

MR. KIRBY: It's not that it -- it -- it happened. You -- you make it sound like it was some sort of happenstance. The Secretary, as you go back, you look at that memo, he made it very clear that he wanted a period of time to allow the services to plan for implementation. I mean, this was a major rudder shift. You all remember when we were talking about it being voluntary, and -- and to -- to make it mandatory, that -- that requires process changes, it requires some policy changes, and it certainly required the services to get -- to make sure they had enough stockpiles and that they had implementing guidelines for their subordinate commanders in place.

And so the Secretary felt it was only appropriate and prudent to give them some time, and that's why he, frankly, sent that memo, to say "hey, it's coming, so you need to get ready for it." And that's not uncommon, we do that all the time when there's a major policy shift at the building. You've got to give them time to get ready, and so we did that.

And -- and to your first point about, well, OK, you brought guys in when it was in this sort of intervening period, before it was -- the mandate was actually in place but after it had been announced, and is that a waste, and I would say no, not at all. I mean, we brought these individuals in in good faith and -- and want them to succeed in the military and the best way for them to continue to be able to do that, at least in terms of their physical health with respect to the pandemic, is to get vaccinated.

And it's back to what we said before, a lawful order, it's not uncommon for us to make vaccines mandatory after somebody has come in when something new develops and so it's part of being a service member. When you're -- when you're ordered to get a vaccine you got to get that vaccine. So, no, we would not consider this, as you said, what, some sort of fire or something. I mean...

Q: (Inaudible).

MR. KIRBY: Yes. It's just the normal process, Meghann.

Q: So we're talking about two different memos. You're mentioned the August 9th memo that was a heads up to the services saying hey, I want to -- I want to make this mandatory, everybody get ready. On August 23rd is when he said, OK, we're doing mandatory. But even before that, you know, you had said from the podium here in July, we're thinking maybe FDA approval, we're making -- we'll make it mandatory and also for any of the services. It was always voluntary while this was under an EUA, but the expectation if you are a leader in the military was that this would eventually become mandatory.

They could have started working on these policies a year ago. And they could have at least, for trainees, for recruits, on day-one, on August 23rd, August 24th said OK, today we're going to -- we're going to make everybody's who is getting ready to ship to boot camp acknowledge, the way you acknowledge when you -- when you ship, that you're going to get vaccinated. Acknowledge that COVID-19 is going to be part of this requirement. 

They could have done that on August 23rd, they didn't. For the Marine Corps it was -- they waited until October 14th and so that was nearly two months of people coming into the Marine Corps saying “I don't want to get the COVID vaccine” and now they're being kicked out because they still won't get it.

That's what...

MR. KIRBY: I don't know that people joined the Marine Corps and said oh, by the way before I sign this I'm not getting the vaccine. I'm not sure how often that happened. I would just tell you that, again, that this was a major rudder shift here, if I could use the navel terminology here. And – and the Secretary felt it was important to give this -- the services time to prepare for that and to be able to implement that.

And again, Meghann, I – I – I do – I do take your point and I don't mean to sound like I don't or I’m being obstinate. But it is a lawful order. And...and…

Q: But it wasn't a lawful order of August 23rd, that's what I'm saying.

MR. KIRBY: No, but that doesn't mean that it isn't still valid once it's given. And again we would not consider it a waste of time to bring these young men and women into the service and get them trained up with the expectation that after they take the oath of office and raise that right hand that they're going to obey lawful orders. And I would remind, the vast, vast majority are in fact, I mean we're up over 91% of the active duty force now that's fully vaccinated. I mean that's not insignificant.

Pierre. 
Q: We’ve seen in the last 24-hours attacks by ISIS in Northeast Syria and in Iraq. Any general comment on it? How concerned are you that there is a resurgence of ISIS in the area?

MR. KIRBY: I would just say we're constantly focused on the ISIS threat. That is why we still have advisors in Iraq. That's why we also still have a small presence inside Syria. The ISIS threat's not gone. And we recognize that. So just without speaking to specific incidents I would just tell you we remain focused on that. OK.

I haven't gotten to anybody on the phone. So give me a second here. Ryo?

Q: Oh, thank you, John, for taking my question. This part of the deteriorating – the deteriorating security situation in Europe along the Ukraine border, does the Secretary still believe that the Indo-Pacific is a sole priority and continue to focus on China? Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, there's been no change about our strategic focus on the pacing challenge of China or the very strategic nature of the Indo-Pacific and our goal for a free, open and secure Indo-Pacific. There's nothing changed about that. But obviously, we're closely monitoring what's going on in Europe, as you've heard the president speak to that. We're taking that very, very seriously, and as I said earlier, he's making sure that we have options ready for the president and for our NATO allies, should -- should they need them.

MR. KIRBY: Kassim?

Q: Yes, hi, John. I have two questions. Some European allies are sending warships to Black Sea. Is there a plan to send some U.S. Naval capabilities to the Black Sea for now?

MR. KIRBY: (Inaudible) … specific ship movements to speak to. I think you know, we -- we're pretty careful about announcing ahead of time the specific movements into specific bodies of water. If and when we have something to speak to with respect to Black Sea ops, we'll do that.

I will only add that -- that it -- that we -- we have every expectation of continuing to operate, sail and fly in international airspace and international waters, and the Black Sea is international waters.

Ellen?

Q: U.S. and, of course, Western powers have provided some defensive weapons to Ukraine, such as Javelins and Stingers, but many argue that Putin would not use traditional Soviet tactics generally based on heavy-armored brigades and land forces. Instead, he would go with its advanced stand-off weapons, such as ballistic and cruise missiles, to cripple the Ukrainian military's capabilities even before the incursion starts. In that case, wouldn't -- wouldn't such a move negate or trash those defensive weapons provided to Ukraine? Or is there any option on table to deter Russians from using those advanced weapons against Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY: I can’t speak with any great specificity as to how Mr. Putin plans to conduct another incursion if, in fact, that's what he's going to do. I think that is a terrific question for our Russian colleagues to have to answer.

What I can tell you is that we remain committed to helping Ukraine defend itself through a range of security assistance articles. That -- that assistance continues to flow from the United States. As you rightly pointed out, it also continues to flow from some of our allies and partners. They can speak to what they're providing, but -- but we're -- we remain committed to, again, helping Ukrainian armed forces defend themselves.

Ellen from Synopsys?

Q: Hello, sir. Thank you for doing this. I know that we keep asking you every time, and I'm wondering if the answer has changed on this, but has the Pentagon -- what is the Pentagon doing about the court decision on the SEALs and the religious exemptions from vaccines?

MR. KIRBY: Ellen, I don't have an update for you on that. We continue to talk about this with the Justice Department. We don't have any position to speak to today.

Jeff Schogol?

Q: Can you -- thank you, sir.

Q: Thank you. Following up on Nancy's question, the Russians are sortieing more than 100 warships. Does the Pentagon have a -- any indications that perhaps a submarine may be trying to defect?

MR. KIRBY: No, we -- we do not, Jeff.

Heather from USNI?

Q: Thank you so much for taking my question. I was wondering if you could expand on what the U.S. will be bringing to the NATO exercise?

MR. KIRBY: The -- the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group. So it's not just the carrier, but it's -- it's her associated support ships and the airwing that's on board the -- the Truman. But the real core for -- this is a naval exercise, so the real core of our participation is -- is with the Harry S. Truman and her strike group.

MR. KIRBY: Jeff Seldin?

Q: John, thanks very much for doing this. A couple questions.

First, can you describe what type of support the U.S. and the coalition are giving to SDF forces in al Hasaka, where fighting with ISIS sleeper cells is now in its second day as they try to break people out of prison?

And also, the YPG is claiming on social media that it tried to send reinforcements to the SDF, but that Turkish drones intercepted those reinforcements and targeted them -- if -- if you have anything on that? Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: I don’t have anything on the second part of your question, Jeff. That's the first I've heard that particular report. So I -- I don't -- I -- I -- I can't comment on that.

On the -- whatever support the coalition has been giving to the SDF as they have dealt with this -- or continue to deal with this -- with this prison break, I -- I can tell you that the -- that we have provided some airstrikes to support them as they deal with this particular prison break.

Let's see, Dongjung Park from VOA?

Q: Thank you, Mr. Kirby. So former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in January 2011 "North Korea will use ICBM within five years" and he said "it would have the ability to strike Alaska or the West Coast of the United States."

So 10 -- 10 years have passed since the former Secretary Gates' predict. So does the DoD believe North Korea can preemptively strike the U.S. mainland with an ICBM capable of carrying nuclear weapons?

MR. KIRBY: (Inaudible) ... that they continue to advance their nuclear ambitions, as well as their ballistic missile capabilities. They test so they can learn, so they can improve. And we have -- without getting into specific intelligence assessments, we have every expectation that they do continue to improve their capabilities, both in terms of potential range and -- and -- and precision.

And obviously, we're taking that threat very, very seriously. I think that's about as far as I'm going to go here at the podium.

MR. KIRBY: Kellie Meyer?

Q: Hi, John, thank you for taking my question. Russia's putting 100,000 troops at the border with Ukraine, we're sending a written response to Russia. What kind of message is this sending and why aren't we taking further action?

MR. KIRBY: Well, Kellie, I would tell you that we -- first of all, I'm not going to get ahead of decisions that haven't been -- been made yet. The message that we've been sending very clearly to Russia -- and again, I would point you back to what Secretary Blinken said just this morning -- is that there will be severe consequences if Russia decides to incur -- invade or conduct another incursion into Ukraine, and largely, those consequences will be felt economically.

For our part here at DOD -- and I've said this many, many times -- we're going to make sure that we have options ready to reassure our allies, particularly on -- on NATO's Eastern Flank. If there's another incursion and if they need that reassurance, if they need the capabilities to be bolstered, we're -- we're going to do that and we're going to make sure that we're -- that we're ready to do that.

So I -- I -- I think this is a whole of government approach. It's not just about the Department of Defense, and quite frankly, as you've been seeing from other NATO allies who have also not only spoken to their concerns about what Russia's doing, but actually moved on delivery of security assistance -- assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, it's -- it's not just -- it's a -- it's an international community effort.

Yeah, Goyal?

Q: Thanks, John. Two questions.

One, as far as Russia and Ukraine is concerned, is DOD in touch with any of the Russia's friends for easing the tensions in the region?

MR. KIRBY: Any of Russia's friends?

Q: Friends, yeah.

MR. KIRBY: That's a pretty short list. We -- we are -- we are working very, very closely with our allies and partners to make sure that -- that we're ready and able to -- to reassure, to show our commitment to the alliance, to Article 5, and that's what we're focused on here at -- at DOD.

I don't have any diplomatic conversations to read out, other than the ones that I've -- I've already read out -- for instance, the Secretary's call recently with his counterpart in -- in Ukraine. But one of the things your question raises is the -- is the -- is the very real outcome of further isolation of Russia on the international stage, if in fact they commit another incursion into Ukrainian territory. They're just going to set themselves up for even more isolation from the rest of the international community.

This is not a country that has a whole lot of friends, this is not a country that has allies and partners to lean on the way we do, the way the West does, and one would hope that they would understand that consequence, as well, as well as the other economic potential consequences that they could face.

OK ...

Q: ... my other question if I can, please. As far as South Asia region is concerned, they're -- in Afghanistan, there is a humanitarian crisis going on and U.S. military and U.S. left a lasting mark on the people of Afghanistan, that they helped them before they left. Now, China is trying to get there. Is there any DOD help there, as far as humanitarian crisis going on, with the Taliban (inaudible) different countries for getting help?

MR. KIRBY: The United States -- and I think you've heard the State Department speak to this quite eloquently -- we remain committed to trying to alleviate a humanitarian crisis inside Afghanistan. That's why we're working closely with non-governmental organizations and international organizations, to try to make sure that -- that the aid that the Afghans so desperately need gets to them.

And -- and we believe -- here, here at DOD, that's -- we believe that that's the right process, that that's the right way to approach this, is through the international community and non -- and non-governmental agencies, to make sure that that -- that aid and assistance gets to people in need and that the Taliban facilitate that delivery of -- of those very necessary articles going forward.

Q: And finally, there are people of Afghanistan here in this area and the U.S. are hoping and also they're depending on the U.S. help for their people back home in Afghanistan. Any message for them you have, please?

MR. KIRBY: First of all, we have resettled now tens of thousands of -- of Afghans here in the country and we -- we have several thousand more that -- that we're -- that are working their way through the final process to become American citizens and to move on, but we at DOD have helped provide a safe and secure environment for that process to continue and we're still doing that and we're proud of that service.

We know we have -- here at DOD, continue to have a moral obligation to all of those who helped us over the last 20 years, and that's why we also continue to work hand in glove with the State Department task force to identify and help relocate people in Afghanistan who still want to leave and who still qualify for relocation. We continue to work as part of that task force and -- and we'll do so until -- you know, until it's not needed anymore. We're absolutely committed to that.

Q: Thank you, sir.

MR. KIRBY: OK, thanks, everybody.

Q: ... Mr. Kirby, can I just have a -- a quick follow up on the airstrikes? Do you have any more you can tell us? First of all, just to clarify, was it solely airstrikes or were there any U.S. ground forces involved, even in targeting assistance or helping on the ground, or strictly airstrikes?

MR. KIRBY: My understanding is that it's predominantly airstrikes. I don't have any more detail on how many and what targets and all of that. I'd refer you to CENTCOM for that.

Yeah, thanks, everybody.