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Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh Holds a Press Briefing

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH:  All right.  Good afternoon, everyone.  Just a few items here at the top, and then I'd be glad to take your questions.

Today, the department announced that the United States and the government of Iraq will start working group meetings of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Military Commission in the coming days, initiating a process the two sides committed to during the U.S.-Iraq Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue in Washington, D.C. on August 7th through 8th on — in 2023.  During that August 2023 meeting, the U.S. and Iraq committed to start the HMC to discuss the coalition's mission to defeat ISIS will — that will transition on a timeline that considers three key factors: the threat from ISIS, operational and — and environmental requirements and the Iraqi Security Forces' capability levels.

Expert working groups of military and defense professionals will examine these three factors and advise the HMC on the most effective evolution of the De-ISIS Coalition mission, ensuring that ISIS can never resurge, in consultation with coalition partners at all stages of the process.

Let me be clear: The HMC meeting is not a negotiation about the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.  The United States and the coalition are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government to fight ISIS.  Our Iraqi partners have assured us of their commitment towards working together to shape this future on U.S. military presence and the enduring defeat of ISIS.  The HMC will enable the transition to an — an enduring bilateral security partnership between the U.S. and Iraq, building on the successes of the De-ISIS campaign in partnership with the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.

The U.S. and Iraq have enjoyed a deep and productive partnership on security matters in the 10 years since the Iraqi government invited the United States and the coalition to fight ISIS, including the seven years since the territorial defeat of ISIS in Iraq.  The start of the HMC process ref- — reflects the evolving U.S.-Iraq bilateral relationship and it underscores our commitment to deepen our security cooperation to advance stability within Iraq and the region.

And switching gears, as you've likely seen this week, Turkey's Parliament recently gave approval for Turkey to ratify the ascension — ascension protocol for Sweden.  As a highly-capable defense partner, we look forward to the prompt accession of Sweden as the 32nd member of NATO, as it will not only greatly strengthen the alliance, but it sends a clear message to Russia that we stand united against their unprovoked and illegal war of aggression in Ukraine.  We look forward to receiving Turkey's instrument of ratification and we look forward to Hungary's quick action on this, as well.

And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions.  Lita?

Q:  Thanks, Sabrina.  A couple things.  First, a quick follow-up on — on the Iraq thing.  So did you provide a date for the first talks?

MS. SINGH:  Not yet.  That's ongoing in discussions.  We don't have an exact date yet.

Q:  Or a broad — next month, this month —

MS. SINGH:  I — I believe I said in the topper in the coming days, but not — not an exact date yet.

Q:  So two things.

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  Austin — Secretary Austin, can you update us on his condition and if he is still working from home?  And secondly, can you — can you say whether or not the Defense Department is participating in any discussions on the Hill about Turkey and the potential sale of F-16s, and where that all stands?

MS. SINGH:  Sure.  So on the Secretary's condition, he continues to recover and recuperate at home.  He's been very active working remotely; as you saw, joined the Ukraine Defense Contact Group remotely earlier this week.  When he returns to the Pentagon, I will certainly — we will certainly keep you updated on when his first full day back in the office will be or when he returns to the office generally.

In terms of discussions on the Hill, I would really refer you to State on that.  Turkey is a key ally, of course, and we're working towards a resolution on providing the F-16s.  But in terms of any discussions with the Hill, that's really being led by State, so I'd refer you to them.

Q:  But is DOD participating in anything like that at this moment?

MS. SINGH:  I'm not going to get into further conversations on what we've been discussing with the Hill.  We are, of course, in consultation with State, with the White House about the F-16s, but I don't have any more conversations to preview.

Great, Jen, yeah.

Q:  Can you rule out that the U.S. has planned to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq?

MS. SINGH:  Well, as I said at the very beginning, this meeting, the HMC meeting is not a negotiation about the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq.  It is about the — what the future looks like for the U.S. and Iraqi bilateral relationship.  And one of the things that the HMC is going to consider are many — the three factors that I outlined at the beginning, which is the threat of ISIS, the operational and environmental requirements, and then of course, the Iraqi Security Forces' capability levels.


Q:  Can you — can you just update us on the Taiwan Strait?  I believe there was some tension with a — a U.S. warship being approached by the Chinese.

MS. SINGH:  So the USS John Finn conducted a Taiwan Strait transit on January 24th through waters where high seas, freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law.  The ship transited through a corridor in the strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state.  The transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States' commitment to upholding freedom of navigation for all nations as a principle.  I don't have anything or any more details to provide at this time, just that the strait was successful.


Q:  So you mentioned the — the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces.  What is the Pentagon's assessment of those capabilities currently?  Do they still need to — to partner with coalition forces to — to counter the threat of a potentially-resurgent ISIS, or could they go it alone, theoretically?

MS. SINGH:  Well, the ISF has been critical in our fight to defeat ISIS.  We know that.  And — and they've been a critical partner, and we, of course, in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government.

In terms of their own capabilities and — and addressing ISIS, we want to make sure that the threat that we saw 10 years ago is not the same threat that we face today, which is why we have entered into these — this HMC working group to address what the future, what the partnership, what the bilateral relationship looks like.  This is about the future and making sure that Iraq is set up for success in defending its own national security and sovereignty, and how the U.S. can support Iraq in doing that.

Great.  Catherine, yeah.  Welcome.

Q:  Yeah.  Catherine here, CBS News.

MS. SINGH:  Welcome.

Q:  I have a series of questions slightly off-topic —

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.

Q:  — about the K-2 Airbase.

MS. SINGH:  Okay.

Q:  A member of a military environmental testing team tells CBS News that yellowcake uranium was found.  This is someone who was there on the ground.  But the Department has consistently rejected the yellowcake claims.  How strong is your evidence?

MS. SINGH:  Yeah, so thanks, Catherine.  We're not aware of any survey or report confirming the presence of yellowcake at K-2 facilities, so I just have to leave it at that.

Q:  Right.  Well, we've just provided new records to the Defense Department from this environmental tester who was there on the ground.  Will you now consider these new records?

MS. SINGH:  Yeah, I'd have to take that question.

Q:  Okay.

MS. SINGH:  Great.

Q:  Just as a follow-up —

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  — before we move on, what we hear consistently from K-2 veterans is that they have to fight for acknowledgment that they were sent to a base that had toxic exposure and they're looking for some accountability, and they want to know why.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah, so thanks, Catherine, for the question.

The Secretary, at the very beginning of this administration, laid out one of his key priorities, which is taking care of our people.  That's something that the secretary has been committed to and that's, frankly, something that this administration stands by and is also very committed to making sure that our current enlisted members are taken care of, as well as our veterans.

Some of your questions, I would refer you to the VA to speak more broadly about.  You know, we do place a premium on providing quality military healthcare to our service members.  As you know, Congress has also provided ways for service members, for veterans to —


Q:  — they’re questioning why it takes so long. They were deployed there in some cases two decades ago, and they're fighting for acknowledgment of their illnesses, many of which are not approved for benefits.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah, I completely understand.  We do have a registration portal for folks to go to to lodge some of their symptoms and — and what they experience.  And again, I know we're working with you on some of these items, so we will get back to you on that.  Great.

Yeah, Janne?

Q:  Thank you, Sabrina.  On North Korea, North Korea announced that cruise missile it launched this week was a test of a nuclear missile equipped with tactical nuclear warhead.  Does the — how does the U.S. assess this?

MS. SINGH:  Yeah, thanks, Janne, for the question.  Again, these are creating — these are similar actions that we've seen before from North Korea.  They destabilize the region.  We have urged very publicly for the DPRK to stop these actions, to stop these tests.

Our commitment to the Republic of Korea, to the — to the — to the area and to the region, remains ironclad, but we've been pretty forthcoming on — on how we feel about these tests.

Q:  Do you think — do you think North Korea actually has the capability to strike the United States?

MS. SINGH:  Yeah, I'm not going to get into any intelligence assessments.


Q:  (Inaudible) —

MS. SINGH:  Fadi — I'm going to go to Fadi here.  Yeah?

Q:  Thank you, Sabrina.  First question is you said that HMC meetings are not about negotiating the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq.  Is that because it's been mutually agreed upon with the Iraqi government not to discuss this issue, or is it because the U.S. is not willing to discuss it or the Iraqis didn’t request?

MS. SINGH:  No, that's just not the purpose of these meetings.

Q:  So — so both sides are in agreement on not to raise that issue during those meetings?

MS. SINGH:  No, the — well, just to — just to, again, take a step back here, the purpose of these meetings — and it's — again, it's a working group — is to — is to look at what the — what the bilateral relationship between the United States and Iraq looks like now that the threat of ISIS from 10 years ago to today is very different.

And so part of the factors that we're taking into consideration — the ISF's capabilities, the operational environment, and then of course the threat of ISIS — those are all going to be part of these conversations, on exactly what — what our footprint looks like within Iraq, and that's what this working group is for.  There's no timeline set, and again, this is — these meetings are not about a negotiation or a withdrawal from Iraq.


Q:  Two more question on two separate —


Q:  — the first one, Channel 12 in Israel reported today that a new batch of security assistance arrived in Israel and it includes F-35, F-15, and Apache.  Are you able to confirm this news?

MS. SINGH:  I am — I am not.  I haven't even seen those reports.

Q:  Thank you.  And then separately, there's — we've reported there's a leak from recording by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, where he said he — he expressed his anger to the U.S. government because of the renewal of the agreement about Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, the host agreement.  Is the U.S. reviewing its presence in Qatar and its security relationship with the Qatari government?

MS. SINGH:  I am not going to comment on the Prime Minister's specific comments but we have a good relationship with Qatar.  In fact, the Secretary was just there in December, visiting that base.  So I have nothing new to announce in terms of any change to that relationship.  Great.

Yes, over here?

Q:  Hey.  Sam LaGrone with USNI News.

MS. SINGH:  Hey.

Q:  Just wanted to get a couple of points of clarification on the operations in the Red Sea —

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.

Q:  — so I understand the distinction.  So the — the merchant ship protection mission is known as Prosperity Guardian, and then the potential, like, strike mission, is that Poseidon Archer?  How are y'all dividing that up?  Who's responsible for what?  Can you give —


Q:  — because it's been — it's been kind of difficult to understand.

MS. SINGH:  Sure.  So Operation Prosperity Guardian is exactly that, it is looking at how this coalition together can help ensure freedom of navigation through the Red Sea, through the BEM, through the Gulf of Aden.  And so that is something that the Secretary officially launched in December when he was in Bahrain visiting there, and it is — it was — it's a multinational security initiative.

Operation — what you were referring to is — Operation Poseidon Archer is not a named department operation but it is something that CENTCOM has named in terms of multilateral strikes and dynamic strikes within Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.

Q:  And is that ongoing?

MS. SINGH:  That — that is ongoing.  Yeah, of course.


Q:  Just a very quick follow-up to Lita's first question on the Secretary.  You said you'd update us when the Secretary would come back full time but has he been back to the Pentagon at all since his release from the hospital?

MS. SINGH:  He has not.  And I'm sorry, I — what I meant to say was, like, I — it's not like he's coming for a half day or an hour or anything like that.  When he comes back to the Pentagon, whether it's for an hour, five minutes, a day, we will let you know.  Yeah, of course.

Yes, in the back here?

Q:  Thank you so much.  Robert Moore with ITV News.


Q:  We have a cameraman who was filming in Gaza earlier this week.  He — he filmed a very distressing scene that's gained a lot of traction online of a group of Palestinian men waving a white flag, trying to reach relatives, manifestly not a threat to anyone.  They came under fire from an Israeli position.  One man was killed, shot in the chest.  I — I wonder if the Pentagon — whether you have seen that video?  What your reaction to it is — it is?  And about what else — whether you would urge the IDF to investigate what appeared to be a — a calculated and unprovoked killing?

MS. SINGH:  I'm sorry, I have not seen the video, and I — so I can't speak to it.  I can't urge another entity to do something without seeing the video myself.

What I can say and what we continue to do and urge our Israeli partners is as they are conducting operations within Gaza, of course in accordance with the law of armed conflict, humanitarian laws, to preserve innocent civilians, protecting innocent civilian lives, and of course where there are people and refugees that have fled into humanitarian corridors.  So I'd have to leave it at that.

Q:  A follow-up —

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  — question if I may.  I mean, this — this — this campaign has now lasted, what, 110 days now.  You've repeatedly — from this podium and from the State Department, the White House, have repeatedly said you're urging the Israelis to be more calibrated in their approach.

Are you seeing any evidence that's being listened to, let alone being implemented on the ground, given the extraordinary number of civilian casualties we're still having 110 days into the campaign?

MS. SINGH: You know, we are seeing that the IDF has certainly pared back its operation within Gaza, they have pulled back brigades, they are — and I think they actually spoke to this as recently as a few weeks ago — conducting more targeted operations.

From the Secretary's level to other levels across this administration, there are near daily conversations with our counterparts in Israel about lessons learned that — that the Secretary himself has had through — when he was serving in Iraq and how we see this conflict ending.

So let me just finish for a sec. So again, we feel that the Israelis are — they have a really tough fight ahead of them. We know that. We are working with them to ensure that they can confidently meet the goals that they have laid out by going after Hamas leadership, but we have been very clear from the beginning that the preservation, the protection of innocent civilians is something that we value and something that Israel needs to uphold.

Q: So are you convinced they're actually listening and implementing the recommendations?

MS. SINGH: I think I answered already. I answered that question, yeah.


Q: Thank you, Sabrina. Two questions.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: First, the White House said this morning that Japanese Prime Minister Kishida will make a state visit to Washington in April. So how do you see the progress on defense cooperation with Japan over the last three years? And what area will be the priority for the Pentagon moving ahead?

MS. SINGH: I saw the announcement today. That's very exciting. You know, for more visit — for more details on the Japanese prime minister's visit, I'd refer you to the White House. But of course, last year was a critical year in our alliance, and we look forward to building on that momentum, and that is another great time to do it when the visit happens I be- — I believe you said in April.


Q: Yeah. (inaudible) on Taiwan...

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: Admiral Aquilino said last that China will step up military pressure on Taiwan in response to the outcome of the presidential election in — in Taiwan. So is that assessment widely shared at the Pentagon?

MS. SINGH: So in terms of Admiral Aquilino's comments, I'd refer you to INDOPACOM to speak more to that. I will point out, at the same day that Admiral Aquilino said this, there were several centerline crossings by PRC jets. We are committed to the Taiwan Relations Act, and in fact, as I mentioned just yesterday, we completed a Taiwan Strait transit, so I'll leave it at that.

I'm going to come to the — go to the phones, and then I'll come back in the room here. Sorry. Lara Seligman, Politico?

Q: Hi, Sabrina. Thanks for doing this. A couple questions. First of all, there were some reports today that Putin has put out feelers that he's willing to negotiate on Ukraine, and I'm wondering if you can tell us, is DOD privy to any of that? And what is your response? And then I have follow-up.

MS. SINGH: Yeah, I've seen those reports. I don't have anything to add to them.

Q: OK. And then on the Russian plane that was shot down that was reported, I'm wondering if you have an update on that. There were some claims that U.S. weapons were used to take the plane down. Do you have a response?

MS. SINGH: Thanks, Lara. It's something that we're looking into. I — I don't have any more details. I've seen some of the reporting. In terms of responsibility, it's something that we're looking into, but I just don't have more details to share at this time.

Next question, we'll go to Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose.

Q: Thank you. And I understand that this is a question you need take. Can we get an update on the number of troops in Iraq and Syria who have been diagnosed with TBI, the total number? I understand the CENTCOM's surgeon doesn't track it like this; that you specifically have to query this person to get that data. If you have — if you don't have that data, could you provide it, the most recent numbers?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, thanks, Jeff. I do not have those numbers in front of me, so I'm happy to take that question.

Great, we'll come back in the room. Yes?

Q: Thank you. The government of Iraq says ISIS is defeated and the coalition's job is over, and says we have to set a time — timetable for a phased withdrawal of troops at the end of mission of coalition forces. Do you think there is still the threat of ISIS that requires the coalition forces to remain in Iraq?

MS. SINGH: I don't think I saw in the statement that the Iraqi government put out that ISIS is completely gone. I think we know that the threat of ISIS has changed. I think that's what that statement acknowledged. The threat that was 10 years ago has certainly evolved, and that is because of our incredible partnership with the Iraqi Security Forces and our partnership with the coalition. It is because of that partnership that we were able to continue to push ISIS out of, you know, major cities, and they have become a very different type of organization that they were when this coalition formed.

In terms of — again, I'm happy to reiterate what I said at the top, but the HMC is a working group. It is considering three different factors as it moves forward into what does the rel- — the bilateral relationship between the United States and Iraq look like going forward? Again, we're in Iraq at the in- — in- — invitation of the Iraqi government. We're very proud of the work that we've done in conjunction with our partners and with the Iraqi Security Forces, and this working group is the next step to our na- — our bilateral relationship.


Q: Thank you. Just staying on Iraq...

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: ... the — the Iraqi Defense Minister just pushed a statement on that meetings that you...


Q: ... talk about, the HMC. He says that this is — the meetings will start soon between the U.S. and Iraq in order to determine the withdrawal timing for the coalition forces and build cooperative relations. I hear from you that you said this is not about negotiation from the U.S. withdrawal. Why does two different statements about the HMC? The Iraqis says that it's about timing of the withdrawal, and you are saying this is not about that. OK. Has Iraq requested to you about your withdrawal from Iraq?

MS. SINGH: We've received no request from the government of Iraq to withdraw our forces. Again, the HMC, it's a working group to determine what our future looks like together with Iraq in terms of our bilateral relationships. There are factors that are being taken to consideration. As I mentioned, the threat of ISIS is very different from it was - from what it was 10 years ago.

And I just — I know there's a focus on this withdrawal. There is nothing new about these meetings. This is something that was announced in August in 2023 that we were going to start these meetings and start this conversation with Iraq. Whether that means what our footprint looks like in Iraq, and that's going to be determined on a variety of factors which I laid out at the top.

Q: And just staying on — on that, HMC. When you're talking about the Iraqi defense system, the — the Iraqi Defense Ministry and also, there are other forces inside Iraq. They are not part of the Iraqi Defense Minister — Ministry, but they're a part of the Iraqi defense system.

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: I'm talking specifically about the Peshmerga Forces from the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and also, the Popular Mobilization Forces, the Hashd al-Shaabi, which is funded by the Iraqi government. Where are these two forces are standing in this meetings between you and the Iraqi government?

MS. SINGH: Again, this is in a meeting between the Iraqi government and the United States. I'm not going to get ahead of those conversations. As you mentioned, in a tweet from, I think it was the Defense Minister of Iraq, these meetings are going to come soon. They're going to start soon. I don't have a manifest or a roster of who's going to attend those meetings, and I'm going to wait until those meetings happen.

Q: (inaudible). Will — will the Peshmerga Forces and PMF will be part of these meetings or not?

MS. SINGH: Again, I'm going to — not going to read out who's participating just yet. This is an announcement today. When we have more to share, I'd be happy to share it.


Q: When it was made public that North Korea started sending munitions to Russia, the Pentagon stated that North Korea would not make a big impact on the war. But now, you're seeing North Korea's missiles in Ukraine. Are you concerned about North Korea continuing to send larger amounts of munitions and prolonging the war even longer, especially when the U.S. at this moment cannot fund Ukraine?

MS. SINGH: Yes, we are very concerned about the relationship between Russia and the DPRK. We have said that from the beginning. We are concerned that Russia has to con- — I mean, it speaks to Russia that they have to con- — seek support when it comes to funding their own capabilities from countries like Iran, countries like the DPRK.

The continuing funding, the continuing support of these countries does prolong that war. That is something that we are concerned about, which is why we have committed to supporting Ukraine, but we can't do that without a supplemental being passed.

And so as I mentioned, I think, from this podium, we've not had a supplemental - we've not had a — I'm sorry — a presidential drawdown go out since December 27th. Earlier this week, the Secretary and the Chairman convened the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. That's a forum where allies and partners do come together to figure out what Ukraine needs, what are their urgent battle needs. Unfortunately, the United States has not been able to provide a package since December.

So we will continue to urge Congress, both publicly and privately in our meetings, to pass the supplemental.

Q: But in the beginning, it - you appeared to just downplay that North Korea was sending the munitions over there, that it wasn't that big of a deal at that time. Yes, it would prolong the war, but at that moment, it wasn't ...

MS. SINGH: I don't remember us saying it wasn't that big of a deal. I think it's a concern when other countries are providing Russia with munitions that are killing Ukrainians and innocent Ukrainian civilians. I think we've always said that's been a big concern of ours.

Q: And then have we seen any shipments — any more shipments going from Russia to — or from North Korea to Russia?

MS. SINGH: I don't have anything today to announce. We certainly know that there is a — we've seen a deepening of relationships between Russia and the DPRK, but I don't have any shipments or anything to — to announce today.


Q: I have a follow-up on what you just said on the supplemental. So if Congress fails to break a deal and get additional funding for Ukraine, what would that mean for Ukraine's ability to defend itself? And what message about American reliability would that send to the rest of the world?

MS. SINGH: Well, I think certainly it's concerning if we can't continue to support Ukraine. And I do think members of Congress on both sides of the aisle do understand the impact that it could have.

I will say though, and it's important, it's not just the United States supporting Ukraine right now. Our allies and partners have stepped up, in terms of training, in terms of funding and support. So it's not — it's not just the United States.

But the United States' support for Ukraine is incredibly important in showing a united message, not just to the European world, to — to Russia, but all around the world. Our support, as you've heard from the President himself — said — has said that it's unwavering and we will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. I truly believe there are members of Congress and on both sides that believe that as well and want us — want to do the right thing and — and pass the supplemental. Yeah.

Yes? Oh hey, Missy, hello. Yeah, I didn't see you back there.

Q: Just a couple questions on Secretary Austin. I know — I can't remember if it was you or Pat responded to a question on this the other day but do you have any — said you were looking into it — but is there anything on the request for the Secretary to testify in the HASC? And do you have any comment on the congressional criticism, I think it was from Wicker, about the letters that — that DOD submitted about the timeline surrounding his hospitalization?

And then separately, on the — the DOD Inspector General report about UAP, said that there wasn't a comprehensive plan for dealing with UAP and that could pose a security threat. Any response to that?

MS. SINGH: Sure. Let me take the first ones at the top. So in terms of testifying, we're — our — our teams are working with the Hill to figure out — we always want to be responsive to Congress, we always want to ensure that we are getting answers back to, whether it be senators or members of Congress, in a timely manner.

I don't have an update for you on any hearing, of — of anything being scheduled, but we are certainly in touch with the staffs of those members who have requested that hearing, and when I have more to share, I'd be happy to do it.

And then in terms of the letters, again, we're always responding to Congress in - in a timely manner. We provided the details that we could in that letter, and I know our staffs have been in — in touch and the Secretary has been in touch also with members in both the House and Senate.

In terms of the UAP report, I — I'm sorry, I just have to take that question.

Lita, do you have one more and then we'll wrap up? Sure.

Q: ... quick clarification. Are you suggesting — and — and I — I'm really not looking for you to read the topper again ...

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: ... but are you suggesting ...

MS. SINGH: But I can ...


... if you want.

Q: ... understand — the size of the U.S. footprint in Iraq will not be an element at all in these discussions, or isn't it common sense that the size of the U.S. military footprint in Iraq will be part of these discussions as they go forward?

MS. SINGH: It will certainly be part of the conversations as it goes forward. As — not reading the topper again, but as I outlined at the very beginning, the threat of ISIS has changed, but there are certain conditions that have to be met or certain factors that have to be met in order for both Iraq and the United States to feel that we can ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS.

And so that's what this working group is going to look at, and again, we're still there at the invitation of the Iraqi government and we're really proud of our partnership.

Q: I — understood. I think the — the term "withdrawal of forces" — I — I think just more broadly, the size of the U.S. footprint in Iraq is obviously part of all of this ongoing ...

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Sure, Fadi, one — one last question and then we've got to wrap. Yeah?

Q: ... it's — it's getting more confusing now.

MS. SINGH: I don't think so.

Q: Yes ...


MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: ... I was taught Arabic and French. But reducing the footprint will — entails withdrawing some of the forces, right?

MS. SINGH: So what Lita was asking is are these — like, is your footprint in Iraq part of these discussions? And what I said was that the threat of ISIS has changed and there are a number of factors that this working group is going to look at, one being how can we ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS?

Of course, conversations about our troop levels, that's something that this working group is going to take a look at, but right now, we are there at the invitation of the government, we are very proud of our partnership with the Iraqi Security Forces, and we're really proud of the work that the coalition has done to ensure that defeat of ISIS remains.

OK, great. Thank you, everyone.

Q: Thank you.