Transcript

Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan R. Hoffman and Joint Staff Spokesperson Air Force Col. Patrick S. Ryder Defense Department Press Briefing

Oct. 3, 2019
Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan R. Hoffman; Colonel Patrick Ryder, Spokesperson, Joint Staff

ASSISTANT TO THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JONATHAN R. HOFFMAN: So, good afternoon, everybody, and thank you for being here today. We'll begin with a few calendar updates.

Secretary Esper continues to prioritize the second line of effort on our National Defense Strategy, strengthening alliances and partnerships. Just this morning the secretary made phone calls to his counterparts in three allied countries, Japan, Greece and the Netherlands. In each call he emphasized the U.S. commitment to the respective alliances.

Later this afternoon, Secretary Esper will depart for a trip to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He'll be meeting with service members, local civilian leaders and congressional partners, including Majority Leader McConnell, and touring the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.

On this trip and in other engagements, Secretary Esper will continue to stress the need for the department to have a fiscal year 2020 budget as soon as possible. In the near term of one to three months, continuing resolutions disrupt major exercises and training events; affect readiness and maintenance; curtail hiring and recruitment actions; and adversely impact contracting negotiations. The department's ability to implement the National Defense Strategy depends on steady, predictable funding from Congress, and Secretary Esper will continue to engage with members on this topic.

Moving to current events, we would like to commend the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces for their achievements in providing security for the Afghan people during the election this past weekend. The ANDSF took the lead for security, and demonstrated its professionalism and competence throughout the election process.

This morning, the secretary had a call with Japanese Minister of Defense Kōno where they discussed North Korea. They both agreed that the North Korea tests are unnecessarily provocative and do not set the stage for diplomacy, and that North Korea should cease these tests.

The press team tells me that there is a great deal of interest in the Department of Defense efforts with respect to the Ukrainian Security Assistance Initiative, so I'd like to address that for a minute.

Today, the general counsel of the department, in keeping with past practice on matters of importance, and to ensure that all appropriate department information is available on this matter, directed that DOD offices should provide any pertinent documents and records to the Office of General Counsel for cataloguing and review.

Consistent with the secretary's guidance that all appropriate information be made available on this matter, I would like to be helpful in providing additional information, and will be happy to try and answer your questions. But I ask that you keep in mind that there is significant congressional interest resulting in the request of an I.G. investigation, so I will be limited in what I can answer. But I know that you all will understand that.

That being said, I do want to provide a bit of background on the matter.

In June of this year, DOD announced plans to provide $250 million in security assistance to Ukraine in funds for additional training, equipment and advisory efforts to build the capacity of Ukraine's armed forces. The assistance reaffirmed the longstanding defense relationship between the United States and Ukraine.

The United States has now provided $1.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014. This assistance helps to build Ukraine's capacity to defend itself against aggressive Russian actions in the region.

These funds provide equipment to support ongoing Ukrainian training programs and operational needs. These include rigid- – rigid-hulled boats, sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, counter-artillery radars, electronic warfare detection equipment, secure communications, night vision equipment, and military medical treatment devices.

As of today, the bulk of this $250 million is on contract; the rest should be out soon. As the secretary stated, the brief pause in obligating funds did not negatively affect our national security.

The Department of Defense remains committed to helping Ukraine implement provisions of Ukraine's 2018 law on national security; to strengthen democratic civilian control of the military; promote command and control reforms; enhance transparency and accountability in acquisition and budgeting; and adverse – and advance defense industry reforms. These reforms will bolster Ukraine's ability to defend its territory integrity in support of secure, prosperous, democratic and freer Ukraine.

So, with that, Col. Ryder and I will be happy to take your questions.

So, we've got everybody. Oh, over here.

Q: The general counsel did this proactively. What was the rationale behind it? What kind of information will you be providing?

And if you could really specify, with regards to that June 18th announcement that was made, announcing the initiative funds being transferred, what – what triggered the hold in July of that, if we already had the Rood letter in May, and then the June announcement?

MR. HOFFMAN: So, with regard to the general counsel memo, my understanding is this is a fairly standard practice, that when there's a significant level of congressional or I.G. interest in – in a matter, for the department to take steps, proactively, to ensure that – that these materials are available. So to me, I think it seems to be a fairly routine but proactive measure that we're taking.

With regard to the timing of conversations or announcements, that's going to be one of the things I'm not going to be able to get into, particularly between conversations between the department and the White House, in terms of the timing of notices or what was conveyed in that.

Q: Can you confirm that OMB directed the Pentagon to stop the flow of those – that package for certain reasons back in July?

MR. HOFFMAN: I cannot confirm the conversations between the department and – and the White House, as part of this review.

I think you guys understand that that's going to be part of the conversation that's taking place. And generally, we're – conversations with White House are – fall into a different category of things. And in this case, I'm not going to be able to comment on those.

Let's go over here.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about what – were any DOD officials, either Secretary Esper or any policy people, listening in on the president's perfect July 25th phone call?

MR. HOFFMAN: No. No, there were not.

Q: Nobody was sitting in –

MR. HOFFMAN: No. To my knowledge, no one from the Department of Defense was on that call. I – I specially asked the Secretary of Defense that question and he was not on that call.

Q: Can I ask you to react to one thing?

Lindsey Graham, the senator, last week told reporters, "The actual delay in aid was coming from the Pentagon as much as anybody else, 'cause they don't know much about the new president and whether he could be trusted." What do you think about that? Was that accurate?

MR. HOFFMAN: In keeping with my long-standing practice of the last press briefing, is I'm not going to comment on what other people were thinking in their comments.

So I – I haven't spoken to Senator Graham on that. I – I can't – can't explain his – his comments on that.

Q: I mean, you've – you've delved into this pretty deeply, it sounds like. I mean, does that accurately reflect what you were hearing within the building here?

MR. HOFFMAN: And what was the – what was the part?

Q: "The actual delay in aid was coming from the Pentagon as much as anybody else, 'cause they didn't know about the new president, whether – they didn't know whether the new – the new president could be trusted."

MR. HOFFMAN: Our goal throughout the process was to have the aid out the door by the end of the fiscal year. And so we've been taking steps throughout the process and – and did so, so that we reviewed, made a determination on the aid, and worked with the interagency to get the aid out the door.

And as I mentioned, the bulk of that aid went out the door prior to the end of the fiscal year. The rest of it will be going out in the – the next few days to a week. And so we believe we accomplished that.

So, go back over here?

Q: Thank you for doing this.

Let’s talk about the Javelins real quick. Can you confirm that there's 150 Javelin missiles that were – are being sold, 10 launchers, for $39 million? Can you just confirm the brass tacks of that?

And then for you, Col. Ryder, what more can you tell us about the North Korean launch that you guys have confirmed? Do we know where it hit? Do we know any additional details?

And also, has Mali reached out to the U.S. for additional assistance with the situation going on there?

MR. HOFFMAN: So I think your first question referred to military assistance – or foreign aid assistance that came out under a State Department program.

The general rule is we don't talk about what the – the equipment is until congressional notification has taken place. I – it is not my understanding that congressional notification on that particular funds has taken place. I believe it – it's – could be any day now. So I – I can't get into the specific equipment that are a part of that – that funding batch.

But what – I'd refer you to the State Department on the timing of when they're going to notify Congress.

COL. PATRICK RYDER: And, Carla, thanks very much for your question.

As we understand it, North Korea fired a short- to medium-range ballistic missile some 280 miles into the Sea of Japan. And what we know is that the missile was fired from a sea-based platform in the Wonsan Bay. That's about all I can provide at this point.

In terms of Mali, I'm not aware of any request, but we can look into that.

STAFF: Lita? Sorry.

Q: So a couple of questions.

One, has the secretary asked for any review – other than general counsel collection of data, has the secretary asked for any, sort of, review to also kind of see what DOD's role may have been in this?

And then secondly, has the secretary had any conversations with allies over the last couple of weeks about this issue? And has – is there concern that other allies may worry that similar requests may be made of them regarding political strings on aid?

MR. HOFFMAN: So to the first one, I – I – I'm not aware of any – any further investigation. I think the department is – throughout the process, we've – we've been clear in – in our review of – of the determination of whether to go through with the sale, and have followed the process that – that I think is pretty – pretty well laid out and that we are familiar with. And there's been – to my understanding, there's been no hint or allegation of any type of – of change in our process here at the department.

So I'm not familiar with a – with a request for a review on that matter.

But with regard to your – your second question, the secretary has had a number of conversations with his – his allies and partners. I'm not going to speak to the context of all of those, the ones that I've been present for.

But I think our allies are fairly comfortable with the fact that the United States has been focused on partnership and alliances around the world, and working with our partners. We just traveled through Asia, we just did a European trip. The secretary's going to be traveling again to meet with allies, he's been doing bi-lats.

We've been very consistent that we're going to be supportive of our allies and partners. We're going to continue to follow through and present and press forward on aid packages.

But one thing that's been consistent that the administration has said, and the president's reiterated, and the secretary's reiterated to our allies and partners, is we're expecting our partners to do more. We want partners and allies to not only be standing with us, but to have capabilities when they're standing with us. And that's something we've reiterated throughout.

Q: Hi, thanks for doing this. You mentioned at the beginning, the Secretary Esper had calls with three of his counterparts. At the end of October, it's going to be a year since active duty forces were sent to the U.S.-Mexico border. Secretary Esper, last we heard, has not yet called his Mexican counterparts to discuss the border deployments and areas of mutual concern.

Two-part question, please. One is, when do you – you were there when we talked about this before. When do you think he may get a chance to do that? Second, in lieu of that, what's the highest level of military-to-military contact the U.S. has had with its – with Mexican counterparts, and when was that, please?

MR. HOFFMAN: So on the call, I know that there's been efforts to schedule. I don't know if it's actually fallen on the calendar yet. But I had this conversation with him recently, and I know that there's been an outreach to the Mexican defense minister to set up a call on that.

I mean, I would reiterate, though, that much of the interaction with the Mexican government on that issue is – is going to be State Department or Homeland Security-led, not DOD-led. I'll let Col. Ryder answer the part on mil-to-mil conversations. But obviously, through NORTHCOM and through SOUTHCOM and through other entities, we have conversations with them.

COL. RYDER: Sure. Thank you, sir.

Obviously, we do enjoy very good mil-to-mil relationship with Mexico. I can get back to you, Tom, in terms of the specific dates, but I do know that Gen. Dunford did travel to Mexico, I believe earlier in the year or in 2018, so it's been relatively recently.

Q: Thanks, Colonel.

Q: Is Secretary Esper willing to testify to any House committee over Ukraine?

MR. HOFFMAN: I haven't asked him that question, but I think that the secretary's been very open about this. He's talked to you guys a number of times over the last week about this, and he's reiterated, time and time again, that the things we considered for – was the – was the – had Ukraine taken steps to address corruption in their defense industries; was – were our allies and partners that are a part of the multinational coalition that support Ukraine, were they providing aid? And whether we thought the aid was going to be effective.

And so the secretary's been transparent in talking about that. And I bet – foresee no change in his policy on that, so.

Q:  Last night – just to follow up – last night, there was a nighttime jump that involved over 20 paratroopers being injured. Any update on that?

COL. RYDER: Thanks, Lucas.

So I would refer you to the Army for some of the specific details. But my understanding was that last night, around 8 o'clock or so, there were approximately 80 to 90 soldiers participating in airborne operations at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

And there was a – in terms of landing on the drop zone, it appeared there were some issues. All the soldiers have been accounted for. There were some injuries. And so some of the soldiers have been taken to the hospital. Some treated and released, some still being treated.

But it is now being investigated by the Army and the Safety Office there, so I would refer you to them for additional details.

Q: One thing on that, Pat. Is there any early read on what exactly happened that caused so many of the soldiers to go into the trees?

COL. RYDER: Courtney, not – not at this time. Again, they're – they're investigating that, and so I'd refer you to the Army for additional –

(CROSSTALK)

Q: – that was just a quick follow up.

Jonathan, for you, on the – do you think the fact that the U.S. had announced the $250 million to Ukraine in June, and then there was this call in – in late July with the president. Would it be standard practice for someone from, whether it's EUCOM or DOD policy that focuses on that area, to listen in to the call? And if not, would it be standard for the notes to come to the – the people to inform them?

MR. HOFFMAN: I – I – I can't speak for what would have been the standard practice on that. I just know for this particular call that I have been – my understanding is no one from DOD was on that call.

Q: Did Secretary Esper get the notes from the call, or any kind of a transcript or readout from … ?

(CROSSTALK)

MR. HOFFMAN: I don't have an answer for you on that.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: I would like – to move to Iraq. I would like to hear from both –

MR. HOFFMAN: Good, I'd like to do that, so –

Q: – to hear from both of you about the current situation in – in Baghdad, mainly. How does the Pentagon see the situation there? If the U.S. military has any contingency plans for – in case for repatriation or for changing security measures, given the current situation?

MR. HOFFMAN: So I think with regard to our – our people who are in Iraq, I think we're – we’re comfortable with our force protection efforts, whether it's our armed military members or civilian personnel who are in the area. So if your question is about our – our changes in – in activity there, that's one thing we continue to look at, is ensuring that our people are safe and are taken care of. If it's a question more general about the political situation and – and the political dynamic, I would have to refer you to State Department on – on the – the U.S. government position with regard to the political situation.

Q: Do you have a –

COL. RYDER: And – and just – just to add to that, if I may, sir, obviously, you – you've seen the press reports about protests in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country, and clearly, that's a domestic issue that I'd refer you to the Iraqis on.

In terms of the U.S. and coalition military mission there, it continues. There's been no impact on that. I know that CJTF-OIR put out a statement this morning confirming that – that there was a rocket attack in the green zone, but that no U.S. personnel were affected or impacted, and so we continue to stay focused on the – the Defeat ISIS mission.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: Thank you. Back – back to Ukraine, has – has Congress reached out to Esper or the DOD for any document or anything for him to testify, or – at all yet?

MR. HOFFMAN: I'm not aware of – of any – any requests that have come in at this point. I – I know that there's been a letter from – from Congress to the I.G. to – asking them to – to consider opening an investigation. I don't have any guidance. I think I'd ask you to reach out to the I.G. on that, but I have no guidance from the I.G. on whether that has taken place or not. But out of an abundance of caution, I think, out of a – just a – a – a normal operating procedure for our general counsel that they've taken the steps to – to ask that those documents and records be preserved.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: Does that mean that – I'm sorry. Is that – is that something that Secretary Esper has to be – DOD I.G., or the general counsel have the DOD I.G. do, or, sort of – I'm sorry. Could you explain what the – the action is that the DOD is taking on this again?

MR. HOFFMAN: So right now, the – the general counsel will be providing the senior – senior officials and leaders in the department with guidance on ensuring that they provide all documents regarding this issue to the Office of the General Counsel for maintaining, cataloging and – and review for future use. So that – that's what's taking place. That was done by the general counsel as part of the normal practice in consultation with the secretary, and something that – that my understanding, it is not an unusual thing for us to be doing.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: All right. Could – could you update us on the implementation of the security mechanism in northeast Syria? And do you still consider it viable in light of Turkish President Erdogan's continuing threat to invade, which he made most recently on Tuesday?

COL. RYDER: Sure, I'm happy to take that, sir.

So in terms of President Erdogan's comments, I'm not going to comment on those other than to say that we continue to implement the security mechanism. Progress continues to be made in that sense that at this point we've conducted seven combined air reconnaissance flights, two joint ground patrols with our Turkish allies, and more planned for the future.

As I briefed in the past, we continue to see YPG fortifications being dismantled with the SDF and – and so that again shows a good base effort on the SDF's part to help implement this mechanism. So going forward, we continue to look forward to working with our Turkish allies to not only take into account their legitimate security concerns, but also to prevent the resurgence of ISIS and a – and ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS.

Q: So as far as you're concerned, the SDF is complying with the terms of these understandings?

COL. RYDER: Again, we continue to work with them, we continue to see fortifications be dismantled. And so we recognize there's still a lot of work to do but we're confident that progress is being made.

STAFF: Barbara?

Q: Can we – a couple of questions. Can you release a copy of what the general counsel guidance is, to the news media? Does it include not just departmental communications, but interaction with the White House?

And my other question is more for the secretary. Kind of once and for all, if you will: Did he ever know that there were political overtones from the White House to the president, vis-a-vis the Bidens, on the aid being held up?

And – not with his understanding of what's on the three talking points, but did he ever know – when did he come to know there were political overtones on this? And this Congress, starting with Senator McConnell, asked him why the aid was being held up, what did he tell them? But also the release of the documents.

MR. HOFFMAN: I'll take questions one through three first and get to the other ones. So on the – the document, I've asked the general counsel if we can release that, so I – I expect that we will be providing that to you guys either later today or first thing tomorrow, once he gets that cleared out.

With regard to – to –

Q: Does that include interaction with the White House?

MR. HOFFMAN: So it will – it will include all – all records and communications that are at the department that are on this matter. And so that would include conversations in and outside of the department. Here – the question is – that you had on – on Senator McConnell?

Q: Well when did it – did the secretary ever know that there were political overtones? What did he – when did he come to know that? And when Congress, starting with Senator McConnell, asked him why the aid was being held up, what did he say to Congress?

MR. HOFFMAN: So I – the secretary stated the – the – his understanding of – of the process and the things that were looked at with regard to – to that aid. He mentioned that last week when we were in Norfolk, he mentioned it in a – the briefing on – or – sorry, the bi-lat on Friday, that he was aware of – of the – the concerns on corruption and he was aware of concerns with the – with regard to our – our allies contributing additional funds.

So those are the things the secretary was aware of – that he has mentioned previously.

Q: What did he tell Senator McConnell? And now, does he have any concerns that he was not aware of this?

MR. HOFFMAN: So I – I – I'm not aware of the – the exact conversation he had with Senator McConnell, but I – I do know from – from the start of the – the process, from when the Ukrainian Security Assistance Initiative legislation was – and funds were – were allocated, that the department has been consistent in our interaction with Congress in pushing forward to actually see these funds released, and to see them expended by the end of the fiscal year.

That has been a theme through the secretary's conversations with members of Congress, and with others.

Q: So if this is the case, what does it say that he didn't know what was really going on with the White House on his key programs?

MR. HOFFMAN: Well, Barbara, I would quibble with the question there a little bit. But I would say the secretary was aware that there was a delay and that we were working through it. And our goal continued and was persistent throughout, was to get it out by the end of the fiscal year. And we were able to do that.

So from our perspective, and the secretary said, there was no impact on national security and we were able to achieve what we set out to do.

Sir?

Q: Thank you, Jonathan.

Two questions, one on Iraq and one on Turkey. I mean, it seems – it's clear Turkish society is frustrated with what you call security mechanisms and they call safe zone. I mean, you can't even agree on what to call it. And Erdogan is sending clear messages and signals that Turkey has no option but to take unilateral actions in northeastern Syria.

I'm not asking to comment – you to comment on what he said, I'm asking situation on the ground. Are you concerned that Turkish forces will go inside Syria? Are you seeing any indications of that? That's the first question.

The second question on Iraq. There has been this issue of Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, his removal from the counter-terrorism forces by Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Madhi. And we're seeing in the media in the region analysis basically saying that he is the victim of a power struggle between the U.S. and Iran because he has strong ties with the U.S.

Can you address that issue as well?

COL. RYDER: Sure. So on the security mechanism, what I would tell you is that I'm not going to speculate on hypotheticals. You know, I've seen the press reporting, insinuating the potential for a Turkish incursion. But I'm going to focus on the facts, and today, right now, we're focused on defeating ISIS and ensuring that they don't come back.

And so we believe that dialogue and coordinated action with our Turkish allies is the key to success. And, again, if you step back and you look at the big picture, how much territory ISIS once held in that area, and how much territory they no longer hold in that area, it's important that we all work together to ensure that ISIS does not come back.

So from a Department of Defense standpoint, we are singularly focused on the enduring defeat of ISIS, and will continue to work very closely with our Turkish allies to make sure that happens, and that their legitimate security concerns are addressed.

And then in terms of Iraq, look, I'm not to going to get into talking about the inner workings of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense or their government. Again, that's something really that you would need to talk to the Iraqis about.

MR. HOFFMAN: All right. We're going to go way in back of the classroom here.

Q: Thank you. My – so I want to ask about North Korea. So North Korea state media reported that they launched the SLBM, submarine-launched ballistic missile. So do you believe North Korea launched an SLBM, or do you believe they launched another type of ballistic missile?

COL. RYDER: So I'm not going to get into the specifics of what we believe the actual missile was, other than to say, again, we assess that it was a short- to medium-range ballistic missile. And I would say that we have no indication that it was launched from a submarine, but rather a sea-based platform.

Q: So according to Japanese assessment, the missile has been (inaudible) into Japanese (inaudible). So what – how would you characterize this missile launch? Do you think it's (inaudible), or it's a significant threat to Japanese or –

MR. HOFFMAN: I think I would – I'd point you back to the call between the secretary and Minister Kōno this morning. They both reiterated that this was an unnecessarily provocative in an effort to get the North Koreans back on a diplomatic path, so.

Q: I wanted to go back to the DOD general counsel and the request for all relevant documents. Can you help me – this is a process question – can you help me understand what happens with those documents?

That is, once those documents are collected, if they find a problem, is there a requirement that they go to Capitol Hill? Is there a scenario where they could go to the White House? What happens in that review process, and then under what situations would it leave – those documents leave the Pentagon?

MR. HOFFMAN: I don't have an answer for you to that, on that question; despite my protesting frequently to the general counsel that I should be able to practice law from the podium, I'm not allowed to. So I – but I can take that question for you, and get with the – the general counsel team and try to get back to you on that.

So I've got a couple more.

Q: Hey, sir. Can you tell us – can you give us an update on the movement of equipment from – military equipment to Saudi and the UAE? Just give us a status update on that. Has the equipment got there yet, and have there been any further decisions to send a THAAD battery or have a permanent aircraft carrier present in the region yet?

MR. HOFFMAN: So, Lara, what I would tell you, first of all, obviously, we made the announcement last week, in terms of what we would be deploying. But for operations security reasons, I'm not going to talk about specific deployment timelines right now.

In terms of the UAE, it's important to highlight, as well, that the deployment of those forces is to Saudi Arabia, not to the UAE, okay? And so that consists of working with State Department to help expedite some pre-existing requests, military aid requests or assistance requests that the UAE had requested.

In terms of the carrier, what was your question again?

Q: Has there been any decision in terms of, perhaps, maintaining a continuous aircraft carrier?

COL. RYDER: Yeah, right. So – so in regards to our aircraft carriers, regardless of where they are in the world, again, for operations security reasons, we're just not going to talk about deployment timelines.

Q: And just to follow up, can you say that – whether it's your assessment that there has been any change in posture from Iran or any other actors in the region, due to the decision to send this additional equipment there, whether or not it's actually reached the region yet?

COL. RYDER: Sure. So what I would say is that, obviously, we continue to see, you know, Iran posing a threat in the region. And so we believe that we've responded accordingly, and that we have the forces we need in the region, to not only protect our forces and those of our partners in the region, but also to deter future aggression by Iran against the United States.

MR. HOFFMAN: I'm going to go – Dan.

Q: Sorry, can I follow up? Did you just say you have enough forces to protect –

COL. RYDER: As part of our –

Q: – your partners, like –

COL. RYDER: Correct. I mean, as – obviously, in the region –

(CROSSTALK)

Q: – I'm sorry.

COL. RYDER: What's that?

Q: How did that work out with Saudi Arabia during – I mean, if there's a similar attack, do you have enough resources in the region now, the one that happened on Aramco, to defend your partners?

COL. RYDER: What I was saying was, we have enough forces in the region to protect our security interests in the region, which includes working with our partners to help them defend their interests as well.

MR. HOFFMAN: Dan?

Q: Thank you. If nobody in DOD was listening in on the call, and it seems unclear, how many people in DOD are even aware of the call, is the secretary concerned or comfortable with the amount which the department is involved in national security decisions at this point?

MR. HOFFMAN: Yes. I think we're very comfortable with that. The secretary has a solid working relationship with the president, with Secretary Pompeo, with the national security adviser, and the Joint Staff does as well, so that's not a concern.

I mean, you guys have asked about one specific call and as to whether the secretary was – was on a call that took place in July, and are reading into that much more than would take place. The secretary has an incredibly busy schedule and is working on a number of different issues at any one time. He doesn't spend most of his day sitting on other people's phone calls.

So, all right, last one?

Q: So, back on Turkey, did – the Turkish-American, kind of, deal is just currently extend between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain. But the rest of the border area, YPG still maintains its stronghold and still has forces over there. And Turkey is, of course, running out of patience.

So when do you think those areas are also going to be addressed, and then YPG will be removed from those strongholds?

COL. RYDER: Yeah, Kasim. Thanks for the question.

What I would tell you is, obviously, we're focused on the areas where U.S. and Turkey have agreed to work together. I know that there's ongoing dialogue, and so, you know, in the future if there's something additional to announce, we certainly will do that.

MR. HOFFMAN: Okay, guys. Thanks very much.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: Can I get clarification on that memo, that – when you say that it's going to include communications outside the department, that means with foreign leaders as well, that they – if people in this department are having contacts with foreign –

MR. HOFFMAN: I'll get back to you on that.

Okay. Thank you, guys.