READ ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: Hey, everybody.
Just a few things before I take your questions.
First, an update on Operation United Assistance in West Africa, where we have more than 230 personnel on the ground conducting operations in support of the Joint Force Command and USAID.
Over the last 36 hours, two Ebola testing laboratories manned by personnel from the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center are now fully operational. As you will recall, the equipment for these labs arrived over the weekend. These labs are capable of processing about 100 samples per day, and they've already processed more than 30.
In addition, we are still on track for the hospital for infected medical personnel to open on October 18th. Construction of two treatment centers for other Ebola victims will begin today and should be completed by the end of the month.
All these efforts are laying the groundwork for what will prove to be a significant increase in our troop presence and operational tempo on the ground in West Africa. We project that there could be nearly 4,000 troops deployed in support of this mission, but we're obviously assessing the requirements on a daily basis. It may not go that high.
In addition to the 1,400 troops I announced on Tuesday, an additional 1,800 soldiers from the Army will be deployed from various installations, providing engineering, medical, civil affairs, aviation, and logistical support to this very important mission.
As we continue our support to the broader U.S. government response to the Ebola crisis, I want to emphasize that our operations remain focused on four lines of effort: command and control, logistics support, training, and engineering support.
Second, an update on Iraq and Syria. There have been, today, more than 334 coalition airstrikes in total, including 248 in Iraq and 86 airstrikes in Syria. And today, the Department of Defense is launching a new webpage on defense.gov, focused on our targeted operations against ISIL terrorists. You can see a screenshot of it there.
The site contains an interactive map which will detail continued airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, including mission objective, number of airstrikes, and aircraft utilized. The direct link to the page is www.defense.gov/counter-isil.
Third, as some of you may know, starting next week, soldiers from the First Brigade, First Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood, the Iron Horse Brigade, will begin arriving in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland as part of our ongoing mission to reinforce and reassure our NATO allies in the face of Russia's aggression in Ukraine.
In total, there will be 800 soldiers deploying, replacing the 600 soldiers from the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade, who have been conducting training exercises with our allied forces in each of these nations since April.
The Iron Horse Brigade will be leveraging some of the Army's pre-positioned gear, as well as bringing training equipment with them, including some Abrams tanks and Bradley and Stryker fighting vehicles. This is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, and one of our measures to maintain a persistent presence in Eastern Europe.
Over the next three months or so, the soldiers will work with allies and partners to conduct land-training exercises, which came at the request of the host nations, help foster interoperability through small unit and leader training, and also demonstrate America's commitment to collective defense.
Finally, I just want to note that the Warrior Games will conclude tomorrow at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Secretary Hagel is incredibly proud of the more than 200 wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and veterans who participated in seven sports over the past week.
And for those of you keeping track, the medal count is the Army won 65 medals, the Air Force came in at 44, Marine Corps at 43. The Navy and Coast Guard at 23. But we still had more than SOCOM, which got 21.
These -- these games embody the spirit of the members of the United States armed forces and are a testament to the strength, personal courage, and inspirational attitude. They also stand as a tribute to professionalism, dedication, and determination not only of the athletes, but also of the military, medical, and transition team supporting their recovery.
We don't do this for fun. It's really about helping our people. Adaptive sports and other reconditioning activities help enable healing through a holistic approach, throughout the recovery and reintegration process: mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and most important, socially as servicemembers and veterans share and learn through their common experiences.
Knowing what some of these people have gone through and seeing their tenacity and willpower, to be honest, there's few things in life that are more inspiring than that.
And with that, I'll take your questions.
Q: John, what details do you have on this Iraqi helicopter that was shot down? Do you know anything about what mission it may or may not have been on? Were there any other -- any U.S. involved, and does this...
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I'm afraid-- I just was informed of this before walking out here. Just got a press report only. I've seen nothing in operational reporting lines about this. So, we're just going to have to monitor throughout the day and get back to you. I really don't have anything on that.
Q: On your Ebola, the 1,800 deploying for various locations, when is that? And is there -- can you give us a
couple of ideas of where they're coming from?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, actually, I can.
So, so about 11 -- from Fort Campbell, about 1,100 soldiers from the 101st Sustainment Brigade, 86th Combat Support Hospital, 44th Medical Brigade, and a military police company from Fort Carson. You'll have about 160 soldiers from the 4th Engineer Battalion from Fort Bragg: approximately 120 soldiers who will be providing engineering and public affairs support. 10 soldiers from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives Command out of Aberdeen. 100 soldiers from Fort Benning, Fort Stewart, and Fort Eustis. They'll be doing civil affairs, combat support, combat service support assistance. And there's several hundred as well coming from Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, again, across mostly engineering and civil affairs capabilities.
We can get you the exact breakdown, but that's a pretty good summary of where they're -- it's a mix. All soldiers coming from, as you can see, all different places throughout the country.
Q: Actually I have a question on Iraq-Syria as well. Is -- now that Turkey has agreed to be involved in the coalition, are U.S. aircraft flying out of Turkey on missions at all? Have they been, or...
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I have nothing new to announce in terms of basing for U.S. aircraft. The -- the parliament just voted on this.
We're in close consultations now with our Turkish counterparts about the details that would coincide with this -- with this vote and what it means specifically.
There's been no final decisions made about what the Turkish government will allow us to do or not do, and just as importantly, I don't believe they've made any final decisions about what kind of action they're willing to take with their military.
This, again, just happened yesterday, and we're grateful for it. It's a positive development, and now the real hard work has to begin about, you know, coordinating with them about the details of what it means.
Q: Thank you.
I noticed on your website that you displayed, the header read, "Targeted Operations Against ISIL Terrorists..."
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think I know where this is going.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: But I'm going to let you ask the question anyway.
Q: Right. So the question is, is that the official name of the operation?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: That's -- that's the official designation on the website.
The question gets to a name. There are names being considered for this operation against ISIL.
As is common practice, those names are being considered at the combatant command level. We'll see where it goes from there.
There's an approval process, obviously, that has to take place. I haven't seen any draft names that are being considered, and as far as I know, there's no -- there haven't been any names proffered to the Pentagon to consider, to weight in on, to choose from.
But I -- I can tell you that there is an effort underway to consider potential -- a potential name for this operation.
Q: Do you think it's wrong for us to read into the fact that it's been so long since you've named it. I mean, the Ebola operation is being named "Day 1, this having not been named.
The story in the Wall Street Journal quoted an official who said something to the effect of, "You name it, you own it," and therefore, expressed there might've been hesitancy to want to own this.
I mean, are we reading that wrong?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, actually. I think you are.
I mean, I just love how anonymous sources are more -- are more credible than -- than people that are on the record about this stuff.
Anybody that would suggest that -- and whoever -- I don't know what the "we" is in, "We own it."
But let's just -- I can only speak for the Pentagon. Anybody that might suggest that -- that we aren't willing to own what we're doing in Iraq and Syria is clearly misinformed about the -- the -- the degree to which we're all working very, very hard on getting at this very real threat.
And -- and also, it's a little bit of a disservice to the courage and professionalism of the pilots and the air crew that are flying these missions and -- and -- and troops that we have on the ground, either providing security assistance or advising Iraqi security forces. I think it's a slap in the face to their efforts.
Of course, we're taking this seriously.
You know, you -- you talked about United Assistance down there in -- in -- in Liberia. Well, let's talk about that for a second, because we stood up a joint task force immediately.
We didn't have any infrastructure there to get at this mission that we've been assigned to assist USAID in going after this disease. There -- there were -- there was no military presence there. There was no infrastructure there.
So, we had to stand up a joint task force to go down there, and when you do stand up a joint task force, you are creating an organization from nothing where there wasn't one.
And so it's common practice to assign that a name, because with that name comes a funding stream, comes resourcing capability, staffing, sourcing and all that kind of stuff. I mean, there's a -- there's a -- there's -- there's some official lines that come with that.
Q: There's a lot of that going on in Iraq too...
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, if you'd let me just – I mean I'll get there. I'll get there.
So in Iraq, the mission has -- has -- the mission has been the same, but the -- but the resources applied and the -- some -- some aspects of it have changed over time.
For instance, we weren't doing airstrikes at first, and now we are. We weren't doing airstrikes in Syria, and now we are.
The other thing that has evolved and changed over time of that mission is the participation of coalition members.
Now there's more than 40 nations that are involved in some form or fashion in helping us against ISIL across all the different fronts, not just in airstrikes. Everybody gets focused on that.
So this -- this -- this campaign has changed over time. When it was originally begun, it was -- and to date, it is still being executed through the component commands that belong to U.S. Central Command.
So the aviation -- the -- the air campaign is being run by the air operations center, which is led by General Hesterman, who is the Air Force's component command to Central Command.
The security assistance, the troops that we have there on the ground that are helping secure our embassy and facilities, they're being led by the joint force land component commander there for Central Command.
And I could go on and on. The advice-and-assist belongs to the Special Operations component command.
It's all being done through component commands. That's how it's been administered. And we believe that the mission now has grown to an extent, to a scope, where perhaps it's feasible to take a look at naming it, putting a structure around it that can allow for, you know, more dedicated staffing, resourcing, command and control, organization and resources.
That's what's being considered now. I'm not gonna get ahead of decisions that haven't been made yet, but that's the impetus for thinking about a name, not because we're trying to, you know, design a new patch to put on a uniform.
Did that get at your question?
Q: One on Iraq and Syria, and one on Ebola.
On Iraq and Syria, ISIS, can you be any more specific about some of the things you may be seeing ISIS fighters do to try and avoid U.S. air -- coalition air strikes, to avoid -- what they're doing to avoid being targeted?
Some people suggest they're staying off social media, they're staying off the roads. Any evidence that they might be looking at deception, to try and, you know, put their black flag up somewhere and lure aircraft to thinking that's a legitimate target?
And then I have an Ebola question.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm loathe to get into too much in terms of intelligence and operational security issues. I mean, we -- we expected that they would adapt and change their behavior and tactics once airstrikes begun.
No surprise here that from the time the first strike occurred, that they would change.
And we have seen them change. Again, I'm not gonna go into too much detail, but we've seen them -- they certainly are changing the way they communicate. And it's harder for them to do so because of the changes they've made in that regard.
We've seen them change some of their tactics. They, not surprisingly, have gotten better at concealment.
Before the airstrikes happened, they were -- they pretty much had free reign. They don't have that free reign anymore, because they know we're watching from the air.
They have dispersed. Whereas before they were more structurally cohesive in certain places, almost acting like, in some ways, an army. We've not given them credit for being an army, of course, but we have talked about the military-type organizations and skills that they had been developing.
They're -- they're less able to do that now in part because of the dynamic targeting on their -- on their mobile assets on the ground, but also in part because of the targeting now that we've done inside Syria against fixed targets, headquarters building, command-and-control nodes, a finance center, oil refineries.
So, all that stuff has had an effect on how they're now behaving. It does not mean, and I've said this before, that they are -- that they -- that, though we have degraded some capabilities, that they don't still have capabilities, that they aren't still a potent threat, that they aren't still dangerous.
And you guys know as well as I that they still do threaten actual geography. And we've all watched what they've tried to do up around Kobani. We've been watching the activity in and around Fallujah and Anbar province.
Nobody's taken that off the table. We understand that they still have not only the desire for taking ground and infrastructure, but the capability to do so.
That's why we've said it's gonna take a long time. That's why we've said you can't do it all through airstrikes.
So, that's a long answer to your question, but we do know that they have changed their -- their tactics. And we expect that they will continue to change their tactics, based on the increasing pressure they're going to get, not just from the air, but from the ground, with Iraqi security forces. That's to be expected.
And the last thing I'd say to this, Barb, is that we're pretty good a changing too. You know, everybody paints them as this great adaptive, capable, agile enemy. We're pretty adaptive, capable and agile ourselves.
Q: May I ask you a quick one on Ebola? What is the -- even if there's no ceiling, what is the total number of U.S. troops that the secretary has signed orders for or approved or authorized, whatever the correct term is, what's the total topline he's said okay to right now to go into the Ebola fight in West Africa?
And, second, is this department committed to informing military families and the American people should any troops fall ill with Ebola and/or start being monitored for symptoms for Ebola? What's your standard gonna be for informing the American public on that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: To your first question, as far as I know, and I think I covered this in my opening statement, where we are today is that the secretary has approved the potential deployment of up to 4,000. I think it's actually around 3,900 at this point. But I want to make one thing real clear, that that's a potential deployment. That doesn't mean it's going to get to that number.
You know how the process works. The combatant commander puts in requests for forces. Those get evaluated and adjudicated at the joint staff, and on the secretary's staff. And then, the secretary makes the decision about whether or not he approves that request for forces.
It doesn't necessarily mean that in every case, all those numbers actually go and deploy. The combatant commander has some -- he has flexibility. If he doesn't -- maybe he doesn't need all of the thousand from this unit. Maybe he only wants 600. That's okay. But he's got the authority to go up to that number if he needs it.
So, right now it's about 4,000. Is where it could go, doesn't mean that it will. You want the specific number? It's up to 4,000.
Q: What would it take to make it grow by 1,000?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: That's been -- the RFF process, requests for forces process is an ongoing, iterative
process. Nothing has changed, except for the more people we get on the ground, now we have a -- a joint task force headquarters element there. They've had a chance to evaluate. They get more situational awareness, the more -- the more you learn, the more you know. And the more you know, the more capabilities you might think you need.
And so I think that's really what General Rodriguez and General Williams, down there in Liberia are doing. They're just getting more information. So, that's where we are today. I've said it before that in -- just like in many military operations, requirements can change over time. They can grow, they can decrease. And we're going to be as flexible as we need to be.
We are focused completely on our support to USAID and CDC in this effort. This is not a military-led effort. And as I said at the outset, our four lines of effort are very specifically laid out. And if you look at what we're sending, or what we're about to send, they all fit squarely in those four lines of effort.
Q: And what about your -- the Defense Department's standards and rules now for performing...
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, thanks.
Well, we obviously -- we have an obligation to -- to our troops and our families, to make sure that they get the best care possible if something should happen.
We also have an obligation to preserve their privacy. In terms of that kind of thing, we don't get out, announce the names of sick and wounded troops. That said, I think that to the degree we can be, and I'm not going to lay down a specific protocol today, but to the degree we can be and need to be, we will be as transparent as we can about what we learn, should any of our troops fall ill to this.
Our main focus right now is making sure that we have the protocols in place to deal with it if it happens. And we believe that while we don't have every detail nailed down that we -- we certainly are. We are working hard on those protocols.
Q: So sorry. Would that also include if they're going to be monitored before they would be diagnosed? If you're -- you know, are you going to inform their families? Are you going to inform the American public if you start monitoring certain troops, without their names involved, for the symptoms of Ebola?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, if we're going to monitor a soldier because we believe that he or she might have the symptoms, clearly we're going to inform that soldier. And we would respect the wishes of that soldier in terms of if, when, and how that soldier's dependents and family were notified. I mean, the individual soldier gets a vote there. So, we're going to be very respectful of that.
And as I said, I think I said earlier, but the -- the strategy here is sort of before, during, and after. So, before they go, they're going to get trained, especially going to get trained on Ebola and what the disease is like, what it means, what it does. Because, as I said, the troops that we're sending down there are not health care professionals. They are not doctors, nurses, corpsmen. They are logisticians and engineers.
So, we're going to train them up on what Ebola looks like, feels like, does. While they're there, they're going to be constantly monitored on a regular, frequent basis. I was talking to a senior officer that was down in Liberia just recently. He was there for one day. And they took his temperature 10 times during that day just to make sure that throughout the day, there had been no changes.
So, we have the protocols in place. We'll make sure that they are constantly monitored while they're down there. And then after the mission is over, they will also be constantly screened to -- and I don't know for how long, I mean, but we're working through that, but there will be a screening process to make sure that once they're no longer there, that we're able to stay in touch with them, make sure that they haven't you know, felt or experienced any symptoms.
So, I mean, there's going to be a -- a constant process here, again, before, during, and after. And we have an obligation through the Privacy Act to protect the privacy of patients. We're going to do that. And we're not going to violate the law, we're not going to violate their privacy, and again, we'll continue to work with them and their families to keep them all as informed as possible.
Q: Thank you, admiral.
I have two questions about Syria. You mentioned Kobani, and we spoke to some fighters in the area that said they were completely surrounded by ISIS. Today, we've heard that they've entered parts of the city. This is becoming urban warfare. So, my question to the coalition is, what can be done to help Kobani? I mean, is it too risky to go in and to have strikes with so many civilians surrounded by the ISIS fighters? Is it too late for them?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I can't corroborate the reports that you're getting from people on the ground. We've been long watching the situation around Kobani. We watched as ISIL -- we began to, you know, watch them as they tried to -- dispersing out of Raqqa, and heading towards Kobani, we've been aware of the threat that they pose to that place and to the residents there.
And as you've seen over the last several days -- now, maybe not last night, but certainly the last several days, we have conducted airstrikes in and around Kobani to try to relieve some of that pressure. Nothing is going to change about our focus on that. We're constantly monitoring it and if we believe an airstrike can be effective, and if we believe that we can conduct it in such a way that we're not going to cause any greater damage or civilian casualties, then I think you can see by just dint of our record here that we're going to do it.
But we're broadly focused, not just on one city and one town. We have to stay broadly focused on the whole region and the threat that ISIL poses to both countries across what is essentially no border at all.
The -- while you have seen some of the targeting in Syria shift to what we consider dynamic targeting, going after vehicles and mobile positions and active checkpoints and that kind of thing, and you'll see that continue, I want to also stress that the locus of energy in Syria thus far has really been about getting at their sustainment capability, about their ability to use Syria as a sanctuary and a safe haven.
That doesn't mean that we are going to turn a blind eye to what's going on at Kobani or anywhere else, for that matter. I just want to make sure that I -- I stress again that the focus in Syria has really been about the sanctuary and safe haven they enjoy. In Iraq, it's really been much more focused on supporting Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish forces on the ground.
Q: And the second question was, you mentioned Raqqa, and I know that CENTCOM released something this morning, saying that there was an unsuccessful attempt on an ISIL target near Raqqa, and I had not seen that before. This, as far as I know, is the first time that CENTCOM has said that there was an unsuccessful strike.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't think that's true. I think they've actually reported at least one that I'm aware of unsuccessful in the past.
Q: Well, can you tell us about this one? What went wrong? I mean, clearly it didn't hit the target. But was this a U.S. force? Was this Saudi Arabia, UAE? How do you assess this?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, I really don't have the details on that. You'd have to call Central Command and talk to them about that. I just -- I don't -- I don't know.
Q: Could you give us an assessment, after a week of strikes against the oil refineries, what the U.S. military's assessment is of their capacity to produce oil, and whether there are any other signs other than just damaged facilities that that capability has been diminished or has been damaged?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We do believe that their capability to refine petroleum has been diminished through the strikes that we conducted on those refineries. There's no question about that. Those refineries are interoperable right now, and not available to ISIL. And I would remind you that the ones we hit were ones that we know they were in -- that they held. Not all of these modular oil refineries in Syria are in the possession of ISIL.
So, we hit most of the ones that we believe that they -- that they possess. And they are inoperable.
And as we said before, each one produced -- had the capacity of producing 300 to 500 barrels a day of refined petroleum. They are no longer now doing that. So, thousands and thousands now per day are not being produced. So, there is an impact there.
We also know that again, the numbers were estimates, but certainly that in total, these refineries were a significant funding stream for these guys, on the black market. Some estimates were, you know, millions of dollars. So, we believe that that has now been shut down to them. But it's something we're constantly looking at.
The -- this group doesn't just get financing through black market oil sales. They get, you know, ransoms, other criminal activity, donations. I mean, they -- they have other ways of making money.
And many of the levers to get at that are not military levers, and as I've said before, this is a whole-of-government approach here in the United States government. We're all -- everybody's looking at how we can try to choke off their -- their stream -- their stream of revenue.
Q: Can you just clarify on the numbers in Liberia, again?
You talked about 1,400 being deployed. You talked about the ceiling for potential deployment. But once those 1,400 go, what will that bring the number to on the ground in Liberia?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, we have 230 on the ground now, so 1,400 get there, that's -- that's 1,630.
I mean -- but -- but Dan, it's going to -- they're not all going to arrive in one chunk. I mean, they're going to come over time, and -- and we're going to be just as open with you as we can as they get on the ground.
Almost everyday, we've got transport planes adding both capability and some troops at the same time, so it changes. 231 today is on the ground, but it'll continue to evolve and change.
Q: And could move beyond Liberia to other -- to other West African countries?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, yeah, not all 230 are in Liberia, actually. 230 are dedicated to the effort.
There's several dozen that are in Senegal right now, and their job -- it's a much smaller. I don't know if I have that. Maybe I do. Hang on.
Yeah. So 205 are in Monrovia right now. 26 are in Senegal, and they're doing -- basically helping us set up an air bridge, should we need to use it for evacuations and that kind of thing.
So -- and I think that number in Senegal will stay pretty small. Most of the effort will be in and around Monrovia.
Q: The Iraqi army does not seem to be doing very well in Anbar Province, and when you look at the -- the airstrikes, there's just been a very small number, just a handful of airstrikes that are identified as having been against targets in -- in Anbar.
Is there a reason that the -- the airstrikes are so limited in an area where the Iraqi army seems to need the most help?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'd have to really refer you to Central Command for specifics on targeting process. I don't have visibility on that here.
All I'd say is more broadly, the efforts are in support of Iraqi security forces on the ground. We're in constant coordination and consultation with them about the targeting process.
In other words, they have -- they have the means and the capability to inform us of what their needs are as well, and we're trying to best support those needs.
I don't have anymore specific answers for you than that.
Q: Is the lack of forward air controllers a factor?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It is not a factor, to the best of my knowledge, that we don't have forward air controllers in terms...
If your question means is that limiting the ability to do that, I'm not aware of any limitation on that. We've been very effective from the air without forward air controllers on the ground.
And -- and even -- and I'd say, I mean, just take a look at the Mosul Dam facility and how we supported the recapture of that. It was an Iraqi and Kurdish operation on the ground.
We did not have forward air controllers on the ground, and we were able to help them very, very effectively in a tactical ground operation from the air, so I'm not aware of that being a limiting factor in this regard.
Q: In the Mosul Dam operation, Austin had requested forward air controllers.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I'm not going to get into recommendations that the commander made.
But we didn't have them. But we didn't have them, and...
Q: So the question is have there been any requests for forward air controllers in Anbar?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'll have to refer you to CENTCOM. I don't know.
Q: Coming back to Ebola, can you say what measures are being taken on the ground in Africa to prevent U.S. troops from getting infected?
And on a related note, does the medical facility at Landstuhl, Germany have a quarantine facility or an infectious diseases treatment facility, or would potentially infected troops have to be flown back to the States?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: To your second question, I don't know. I think I'd refer you to AFRICOM for specifics, or in this case, EUCOM, about the capabilities of Landstuhl. I just don't know.
On the first question, as I said before, before they go, they're getting trained on the disease itself and on how to protect themselves from it. That's one.
Two, there's no expectation now -- there's no expectation at all that our troops are going to be working in high-risk areas or close, in or near or close to Ebola patients.
That doesn't mean that the threat is completely eliminated. I understand that. But there's -- but there's -- right now, there's no expectation that U.S. troops are gonna be getting close to those who are being treated for Ebola.
And, as I said earlier, we aren't going to be in the treatment business. These are logisticians, engineers, civil affairs folks, that are going to be helping establish the infrastructure so that health care workers can do the job that they need to do.
So, we're gonna -- we're gonna train them, so that they understand the disease. We're -- if they need to be in a -- in a place where personal protection equipment is required, we will have that available to them, and they will be trained on how to use it, to don it, to clean it, to take it off, all that stuff. So that will be available to them if they need it.
But, again, we're -- there's no expectation that they're going to be physically, geographically in a situation where that they should be exposed to it.
And then, as I said, regardless, they're gonna be constantly monitored while they're down there. So we're -- we're going even an extra step. Knowing that they may not be close to or near Ebola patients doesn't mean that we're going to wave off the requirement to continue to monitor their health while they're down there.
As I said, this senior leader that I was talking to only went down there for a one-day visit, to kind of just see what was going on, and he was monitored multiple times throughout that one day.
So we know how to do this, and we'll make sure that we're constantly evaluating them and their health.
Did that answer your question?
Q: Similar to John's question, are there any preparations going on back here for any kind of Ebola issues, in terms of facilities being prepared for a treatment of a servicemember if that becomes the case?
Is there any talk about trying to have military researchers work on some kind of a -- some medication?
And, related, is there any talk about a policy of quarantining these guys as they redeploy, as a matter of...
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We have -- we do -- we have had, even before the standup of this joint task force, we did have several Navy and Army doctors that were down in Liberia, helping researchers on Ebola. So we have had doctors trained in this, in infectious diseases, down there working alongside doctors of other nongovernmental organizations as well as U.S. government organizations, so there is some work being done by some specialists to better understand the disease.
I am not aware of any special procedures that are being put in place by military hospitals. We'd have to get back to you on that. I don't -- I don't know that there's been any -- that there's any preparations being made now.
Again, the -- the focus is gonna be on making sure that our troops are not exposed, and if they are exposed, to getting them, you know, the care that they need as quickly as possible and as efficiently as possible. But I'm not aware of any special change in stature or staffing at domestic military hospitals.
To your last question, what's been decided is that should we believe that a military member has been exposed or that we believe there's a risk of a servicemember being exposed, they will obviously be getting prompt medical attention immediately, on site. And we are working out the details of protocols for a period of observation before -- a period of observation before any follow-on decisions might be made about their -- about their ultimate destination or about their reintegration back into their unit.
So, it's not a quarantine necessarily. We know that the incubation rate for the disease is between two and 21 days, and so, what we could be looking at is a period of up to 21 days of observation. If we think that a member of the military might have been exposed, a period of observation, 21 days, perhaps, in length, where we can constantly monitor their health to determine whether or not they are showing any symptoms or whether or not they really are at risk, or whatever the need might be.
Now, what we're still working out are the details of the -- the protocols, the medical protocols that would -- that would need to occur inside that potentially that 21 days, those three weeks. How often are you taking their temperature or what medicines do they need to be given, what kind of immediate acute care do they require? Those details are still being worked out.
But the bottom line answer to your question is yes, we're thinking this through. We're -- hypothetically, should somebody be exposed and may be at risk, we're thinking through how we would observe them in a -- in a guarded environment so that we could properly make sure that they get transported in the best way.
Q: You're referring now, I think, to people who -- there's a specific concern of a specific individual who's been exposed. Has there been any decision about, you know, just routine, as units redeploy from this?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes.
Q: Is there going to be any kind of a -- a quarantine type situation for entire units just by the basic fact that they were on the ground there?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think I addressed this earlier. We have -- during -- you know, before, during, and after thought process here to how we're going to analyze their health. They will be constantly monitored while they're there. They will be constantly monitored through the redeployment process. I'm not aware of any quarantine necessarily for soldiers that we don't have any expectation were exposed.
As I said, for those that we think may have been exposed, we will work through this observation period. But I'm not aware of any specific observation period or holding time for those just because they were there. Because we're going to be constantly monitoring their health and performance throughout the length of their deployment and then even after they redeploy: during redeployment and after redeployment, we're going to be constantly monitoring their health.
Did I answer your question?
Q: The -- it's U.S. military personnel that are manning these labs. Is that right, that you talked about at the top?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: There are -- there are medical, yeah, Naval Medical Research Center people that are -- that are staffing these mobile laboratories.
Q: Is their exposure risk higher because there are Ebola samples that they are handling?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Higher than, perhaps a Seabee that's building a site. I'm not a doctor. I would expect that they're obviously working in closer proximity to -- to the -- to the raw materials of how you -- you know, blood samples and that kind of thing.
I don't -- but these are also trained laboratory technicians. They know what they're doing and they're not going to be involved in treating patients. That -- that -- they're not going to be administering health to patients. They are simply -- these laboratories are simply a chance to -- to take samples from suspected patients and determine whether or not they actually have the disease.
You know, I think it goes without saying that there's -- there's other diseases and other maladies down there in that part of the world. And so, some people, you know, may have symptoms that don't turn out to be Ebola. And so, one of the reasons why these labs are really important is to kind of do that basic triage: who really is infected, and who may simply have something completely different.
Q: On Asia-Pacific, sir. Recently, the Deputy Secretary Work, at the event said the that the U.S. is taking no position as to whether China or Japan has the control over Diaoyu Island. And then he said that U.S. would respond if -- had there been any attempt to take the Island. So, could you explain the real position, the position of the Pentagon in this issue?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We believe that the Senkaku Islands are administratively controlled by the government of Japan. And we also have a treaty of alliance with Japan. The commitments for which, we take very, very seriously.
Q: So, you would respond, even though...
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm not going to get into hypothetical military operations. What I'd tell you is we have a treaty of defense with Japan that we take very seriously, and that it's a -- it's a commitment that we're absolutely, 100 percent dedicated to.
Q: (off mic) to this -- the Diaoyu Island?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The Senkaku Islands are administratively controlled by the government of Japan. We have a treaty of alliance with that government. We take that treaty alliance very seriously. I don't know how better I can answer your question.
I'm not going to hypothetically talk...
Q: This is not a hypothetical. Does it apply to that island?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It applies to all the territory that belongs to Japan. And I just told you...
Q: You said "administratively controlled, under control of Japan" so, what's the difference? I just want to know...
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm really not a fan of your line of questioning, okay? I'm telling you as honestly as I can. The islands are administratively controlled by Japan. We recognize Japan's control over the Senkaku Islands.
We also recognize that we have a treaty alliance with that government, an alliance that we will take very seriously. I don't know how more clear I can make it. And I'm not going to -- you know, get into a hypothetical about what we will or won't do if conflict breaks out. We've been also very clear that we want these disputes handled diplomatically and through international law and regulation, and not coercion. Not coercion by anybody.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Thank you. On the coalition, the Canadian government announced today that it intends to join the coalition in terms of airstrikes, the U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq. A couple questions on that. First off, militarily, what benefit is it to U.S. forces to have that Canadian contribution, and also, if you have any details on any consultations between the Canadian government and the U.S. government?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, we're obviously grateful for the contributions of any nation that is willing to come forward and contribute to the -- to the coalition. The Canadians have been, obviously, supporting in other ways. So, we're grateful for that.
Our position all along has not been to specifically demand or ask a nation to do anything in particular, that it's up to them, their government, their people to determine the scope of their participation, and we look forward to continuing to work with Canada as we go forward.
Q: Well, did you know what kind of -- just in terms of the -- the broad coalition, what kind of percentage of heavy lifting some of the coalition partners are doing versus what the U.S. is doing in that region?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm sorry, say that again.
Q: In terms of the airstrikes, what percentage is it American, what percentage is it rest of the coalition?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The vast majority of strikes, because that's what we're focused on, I know, the vast majority of strikes continue to be from U.S. aircraft. But the numbers of coalition members participating is growing. And therefore, we expect the numbers of airstrikes that those aircraft would conduct will start to grow as well. Right now, the vast majority are -- are U.S..
But this isn't -- and we shouldn't be looking at the contributions just by virtue of math. I mean, it's not really a coalition of the willing if we, the United States, aren't willing to allow people to contribute in ways that they -- that they deem best and most appropriate to them and to their capabilities.
The -- and it's also, we can't just be about airstrikes. And many nations are contributing in ways that don't include airstrikes that are just as important, in some ways more important. Because as we said all along, this isn't going to be solved through military power alone.
I take one more. Phil.
Q: Just a clarification on the figures for Ebola response. The -- you said it could go near 4,000.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q: But the number's apparently already over 3,000 in commitments from the services. The Army is already at 3,200. Is there -- do you have a concrete number about how far above 3,000 you're already at?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I don't.
I don't, Phil. And my answer to Barb earlier was that requests for forces get at capacity. They don't necessarily get you at a final number. And the final number may be -- may stay lower than 4,000, or 3,900, which is, I think, what the RFFs are right up to right now. It doesn't mean we're going to get to that number.
And we want to preserve the flexibility to go higher than that if we need to. I mean, we're committed to this. We're committed to this effort. We're committed to supporting USAID. And we're going to constantly, as I said in my opening statement, we're going to constantly analyze and assess the requirements going forward.
So, I'm not going to put a floor or ceiling on this. We're going to do what we need to do to provide the capabilities that we can provide.
Q: But you never said when those (off mic) were going either.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: When? I don't have that detail right now, Court.
Q: Weeks, months, we don't know?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I mean, they're going to be mobilized as soon as possible, but I don't have -- I mean, some of this is force flow. You know, there's -- there's limited capability there in terms of just the throughput and physically just getting people there. And that's going to -- that's going to take a matter of time. I just don't know how and when.
And it's also the JTF commander gets a vote here in who -- you know, of all these requirements he's got. You know, what does he need the soonest and what can he afford to wait on?
And so it's -- I mean, there's a lot of -- there's a lot of things that go into actual force flow, physically getting the soldier from Fort Hood to -- to Monrovia. And it's going to depend on the skillset and what the demands are on the ground.
And I think we're going to continually keep you guys updated as -- as people flow in. But I -- I couldn't give you an exact date on any one of them.
Q: A question on -- back to Justin's question about naming the operation. So, now that the U.S. has had the first fatality of someone supporting this -- the mission, whatever we're calling it in Iraq and Syria, how will that individuals, that marine's death be classified? Is that a OEF death? Is that a -- how will the department recognize it?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, obviously. And our focus is on making sure that the family gets the care and support they need.
Certainly, we -- our thoughts and prayers go out to the unit, that lost one of their own here. This is -- all military operations are inherently risky and dangerous, and we recognize that.
I don't have an answer for you on how it's going to be classified. I just don't know. So we'll have to work our way through that process.
Clearly, that squadron and that ship were in the Gulf, supporting Central Command operations. Some of those operations included operations in Iraq and Syria, at least tangentially, through at least some tangential way, support to those missions.
So there's no question that -- that this Marine's death is related to the operations that are going on, in some form or fashion.
But how it's going to be specifically classified, I just wouldn't -- I don't know.
In fact, my hunch would be that that would be a decision that the service would make. But we'll do what we can to see if we can get back to you on that. I just don't know right now.
Q: Admiral, on Ebola again, even though the United States is committed with military, are you seeing any additional commitments from other nations, including African nations, or from European nations or even the U.N. to come in and assist the U.S. effort? And would that be something that would be then Command--overseen by the joint task force?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think there may be a fundamental misunderstanding in that question. The support that we're lending, the military is supporting USAID and the Center for Disease Control, which is, in turn, supporting requests by the government of Liberia.
So, the government of Liberia is really responsible for coordinating the international efforts here, not the United States, and certainly not the United States military, this joint task force. It's really something that's under the auspices of the government of Liberia, what they think they need, the requests that they are making of other governments and nongovernmental organizations.