Transcript
This information is provided for historical purposes only. It may contain outdated information and links may no longer function.
Please contact the DOD Webmaster if you have any questions about this archive.

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Brig. Gen. Cleveland via teleconference from Kabul, Afghanistan

Oct. 21, 2016
Brigadier General Charles H. Cleveland, deputy chief of staff for communications, Resolute Support Mission Defense Press Office

CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS:  All right, good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  We're pleased to be joined today by Brigadier General Charlie Cleveland, coming to us from Kabul.  He is here to update us on Operation Resolute Support.

General, we'll turn it over to you for your opening comments.

BRIGADIER GENERAL CHARLES H. CLEVELAND:  Jeff, thank you very much.  And good morning to everybody and as always.  Thank you so much for taking the time to cover this story.  I know there's an awful lot ongoing right now, so we do think it's important and we do appreciate it.

I want to begin though today by -- by once again extending our deepest sympathies and our condolences to the families of those who were lost in the attack this week here in Kabul.  Our thoughts are with their families and our thoughts are with their friends.

So shifting over a little bit to the -- the tactical situation, what I want to do is I do want to describe a little bit about where we are as of October 2016.  But I think it's important first to really look at the larger Taliban strategic goal.  So if you go back to April of 2016, what we saw was that the Taliban launched Operation Omari, their offensive for this year and their goal for this year has always been to capture a provincial capital.

And we think that's what we're seeing right now.  We think we're seeing an effort by the Taliban to try and absolutely capture a provincial capital and we think we realize -- or they realize that they're coming close to the end of the year and they want to do it before the winter sets in.

But I think it's also just as important to remember that the Taliban have not been successful.  They actually started at the beginning of August.  And I think as many of you remember, that really started first in Lashkar Gah that went on it for about 10 days.  It then shifted up north into Kunduz, subsequently into Tarinkot and now we've seen efforts again against Kunduz, Lashkar Gah and Farah.  

But again -- (inaudible) -- their strategic objective.  And while the ANDSF effort has not been always perfect and it has not always been pretty, they have been able to successfully defend each of their major population centers and each of their provincial capitals.

But with that said, the last few weeks have certainly reinforced to us -- (inaudible) -- which is this is a tough fight and we do have a ways to go.  And the ANDSF still has challenges and we're going to continue to work with them to help them improve.

So let me begin first up in Kunduz and tell you what we saw and then I'll shift around the country just a little bit.  So once the Kunduz situation began, for us, it was really never a question of whether the city was gonna fall.  We were confident that city was not gonna fall.  The real question became how long is it going to take to clear out these pockets of Taliban that have moved into the city.  

And so the reason we think that is really on the first -- (inaudible) -- we believe that the Taliban -- (inaudible) -- not gonna be successful in trying to take the city as they did just a year ago in 2015.  So at that point, what we think is if they decided to try and prolong this fight for as long as they possibly could.  

And the reason for that really is number one, it got an awful lot of press coverage.  And then number two, it helps put additional suffering on the people of Kunduz, and when that happens, that then puts additional pressure on the government.

And so, we did see that.  We saw the Taliban absolutely destroy parts of the city.  They destroyed the power grid, which then resulted in a loss of electricity and water.  We saw them go ahead and destroy cell towers, as well as several civilian residences. 

And the situation was obviously not anything that anybody wanted to see.  At the end of the day, the ANDSF did successfully hold the city, and then they subsequently cleared the city.  And it did take them a while, but those in the military do know that to try and clear an enemy out of an urban environment and not cause further destruction is a very difficult tactical problem. 

And so at the end of the day though, we did see that the Afghans have first held their city, and then second off, they were able to clear it.

So let me shift now down to Helmand a little bit.  And again, Helmand continues to be the Taliban main effort, and they are committing a lot of resources into it and they're committing a lot of energy into it.  But it is a little bit different from Kunduz, in that the activity is kind of happening all over the province. 

And so what we've seen are these series of raids by the Taliban against checkpoints.  We've seen them engage district centers and then we've also seen them put some pressure on Lashkar Gah.  But again, the ANDSF has successfully secured Lashkar Gah and they've now brought in additional reinforcements.  And they have also put in a new commander, and that new corps commander has recognized that the security forces were frankly spread too thin over the province of Helmand, so he has made a decision to withdraw some of those forces, bring them back into Lashkar Gah to defend the city and then be prepared to move on the offense.  And so we are seeing that right now. 

And finally in Farah what we think we saw in Farah was that the Taliban thought perhaps they could have an easy win.  And so of course, they did attack Farah City with the intent to try and capture it, and after some initial fighting -- (inaudible) – the 207th Corps, which is very well-led out there in the west, they were able to get the upper hand.  They have secured the city and now they are pushing their security bubble out further.

So I say all that, but what I would tell you is what we know is that the fighting is not over.  We fully expect that the Taliban is absolutely going to take another run at Lashkar Gah, and that could happen very soon.  They'll likely try and take a run at Tarinkot and then maybe another provincial capital as well.  And on top of that, we do still fully expect that we are going to see additional high-profile attacks here in the near future as the Taliban recognizes the end of the year is coming soon.

So if we take a step back and we really look at the larger context, and again we compare 2015 with 2016, we do still believe that the ANDSF performance this year in '16 has been better than last year.  And there's been gradual progress, and we see it at the tactical level but we also see it is at the institutional level.  But again, that does not mean that things are perfect by any stretch and it doesn't mean that the war is -- (inaudible).  It does mean, and I mentioned earlier, is that we do recognize that this is a tough fight and we do still have a lot of challenges in front of us that we'll continue to work at.

But as you look at the year in total and you really look March to July of this year, the ANDSF -- (inaudible) -- was on the offense, and they were following their campaign plan.  Then in August, that's when we saw the Taliban really begin to try and take one of these provincial capitals, and again, they have failed.  They have not been successful in their multiple efforts to try and do that. 

(inaudible) -- General Nicholson briefed you last month on this, but overall, we do believe we have hit an equilibrium.  And what we mean by that is the government controls about two-thirds of the population.  The Taliban controls or influences about 10 percent of the population.  And then that other 20-plus percent is really contested right now, and that's where we are seeing the overall fighting. 

The final thing I want to talk about and then I’ll pause and certainly open up for your questions, is I want to talk a little bit about our efforts against the Islamic State Khorasan, ISK, or also known as Daesh.  And as General Nicholson said before, our efforts here are really a part of the larger U.S. as well as international effort to try and target Daesh wherever they are and defeat them.

And so I think everybody remembers obviously this last January where our U.S. forces received both the mission and the authorities to aggressively target Daesh.  And so that's what we've been doing.  We've been doing that since January and will continue to do that.  But as General Nicholson also briefed you in July, there are periods where we will bring in additional capability and we will work with the partners, our Afghan partners, and we will pick up the pace of operations and the tempo so that we can put additional pressure on Daesh.

Obviously, we did that in July and we're just completing a similar operation right now.  This particular really occurred in Achin, Nangarhar, and it started the -- the last week of September and went really until about the second week of October, somewhere in there.  It was spearheaded by Afghan special forces, specifically their commandos, who really started at the northern part of the district and they moved south, cleared -- (inaudible) – as they moved along.

Once they concluded, the 201st Corps, which is the conventional corps in that area, then also sent two battalions down to continue that effort.  And then finally, all of that was of course supplemented by U.S. support.

So during this period of about two weeks -- (inaudible) -- airstrikes on Daesh positions, we did also put U.S. special forces into their typical advisory role, so they moved along with the commandos as those commandos moved south.  We did conduct about three partnered raids with our Afghan partners, and those were to destroy Daesh command and control nodes.

And then finally, as the 201st Corps moved in, we continued our train, advise and assist of that conventional force, not in the field, but at their core headquarters to continue to provide assistance to them.

And overall, we believe that this effort was successful.  Excuse me.  So collectively, in terms of the work that the Afghans and the U.S. did, we believe that we attrited the Daesh end-strength by about 15 to 20 percent.  So where does that leave us?  We think -- and this is an estimate -- but we think that leaves us really with about 1,000 or so Daesh members still in the area.

We know that we destroyed multiple command and control locations and logistics locations, and then we also pushed Daesh further south and were able to take some of that territory back.

So as we move forward, again, our effort here is absolutely a part of this larger international effort and we will continue to keep pressure on them at every opportunity.  And then we will also, in the future, conduct similar operations like this -- (inaudible) -- as has been noted by General Nicholson and others.

So with that, Jeff, thank you very much and I'll pause there.  And I welcome your questions.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Sure.  Sir, we actually had some -- not the best connection here while you were doing this.  If I can ask -- we're just going to try to do a quick re-connect just so we get clear video for the rest of it.  I think we caught everything you said, but the video unfortunately is going to be unusable in some spots.

If I could just ask our -- our control room to do a quick re-connect.  And while we do that, I'll take the folks who would like questions.  I don't know your name.

Q:  (off mic.)

CAPT. DAVIS:  Oh, Travis.  Holy -- I haven't seen you in years.  Good to see you.  Okay.

Q:  Good to see you.

Yeah, I --

CAPT. DAVIS:  Well, hold on.  Let's wait until we reconnect to him.

Anyone else?  Yeah?

Q:  (off mic.)

CAPT. DAVIS:  Kyle?

Are you in -- (inaudible)?

Richard, yeah.

(AUDIO GAP)

CAPT. DAVIS:  Okay.  Sir, are we back up?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  -- about this.  And obviously, we've been wrestling this for a while.  We'll continue to work it.

CAPT. DAVIS:  If you're -- if you can hear us and we can hear you, our first question is from Travis Tritten with Stars and Stripes.

Q:  Yeah, regarding the Taliban, the video was garbled and I was hoping you could just repeat.  I think that you gave percentages of control of the country.  Could you just run through that one more time please?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Jeff, I'm sorry.  I couldn't completely hear Travis' question.  Would you mind repeating that for me?

CAPT. DAVIS:  (inaudible) -- go ahead.

Q:  Hi.  Can you hear me now? 

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  I can you hear you better, thank you.

Q:  Regarding the Taliban, I believe that you had given some percentages of control of the country, but it was garbled in the video feed.  I was hoping that you could just kind of repeat that.

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Sure, you bet. 

So what we're focused on, Travis, is we’re focused on population control.  And the reason we're focused on that is because the Afghans are focused on that.  And so, right now, we believe that the Taliban control or influence about 10 percent of the Afghan population.  We believe that the government controls about two-thirds of the population.  And then the balance between the two is really the contested area.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next, we'll go to Kyle.  You want to try back there, if you can speak up, we could probably hear you. 

Q:  Hi,general.  Thank you so much for taking the time to inform us today. 

My question is about the government's support of both the U.S. and Afghanistan.  I know a lot of attention has been on Iraq and Mosul in the past week, but do you feel that you have the support and the resources that you need to continue your mission in Afghanistan?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Just to make sure I'm clear, Kyle, I think you're asking do we feel like we have enough resources, despite all the attention on Iraq.  Is that your question?

Q:  That's correct.

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Great. 

The short answer is yes we do.  You know, obviously, General Nicholson stays in very close contact with his chain of command and he is comfortable with the resources we have right now to prosecute both of the missions he's been given.  The first is the counterterrorism mission and then the second is the train, advise and assist mission, which is a part of the larger NATO mission.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next to Richard Sisk with military.com.

Q:  Hi, general. 

You mentioned a new commander AND -- ANDSF in Helmand.  Who is that?  And is he replacing the one that was brought in last year to replace a previous commander, who was basically ousted because of corruption?  What's going on there, general?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Sure.  So the new commander is Brigadier General Ahmadzai, and again, I'm sure I just butchered the pronunciation of it.  He was a commander up in Kunar area – (inaudible) -- about two-plus weeks or so ago.  And simply stated, I think the government of Afghanistan wanted to get some additional new life into the effort there by the 215th Corps. 

So as you may recall, the 215th Corps really -- (inaudible) -– spent a lot of time last winter -- (inaudible) -- a number of leaders were replaced.  There was a corps commander who was put in about last February or so.  But this new commander has taken over for that corps commander.

Q:  Who was that corps commander who was replaced?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  His name was -- (inaudible).

CAPT DAVIS:  I'm sorry, we lost you there.  Could you say that again, sir?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Yeah, his name was General Moeen and we could help you with the spelling after this, if that would be of assistance.

Q:  Basically, you have a -- you have a new commander of the 215th.  When -- when was he put in place?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  It was -- we can get you the specific dates after this, but it was about two-and-a-half weeks ago.

Q:  Lastly, general can you tell us have any -- any withdraws of U.S. troops begun yet to get down to 8,500?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Sure so again, I think everybody is well aware that by the first of January, we will -- U.S. forces will be at or below 8,400 troops.

General Nicholson did address this a little bit last time and so for operational security reasons of course, I don't want to provide all the details.  But first off, we're going to move down to 8,400 really by reconfiguring some of the adviser packages that we have out here forward.

So we have learned a lot of lessons over last 18 to 20 months.  We've recognized that there was some capability that we really didn't need.  And then we've recognized that we want to reconfigure those.  So as units come out here and they replace current units, those new units will come out in the new configuration and be prepared to do their part at 8,400.  

The second aspect is we want to move some -– (inaudible) -- over the horizon, a lot of that is kind of administrative, things that you don't physically have to be in Afghanistan to do.  That process has already started so we're in the process of moving some of those people, right now.  

And then finally, we will use some allies as well as civilians as well as contractors to fill in the other pieces.  And so that is an effort that is underway right now, as well.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next, to Andrew Tilghman from Military Times.

Q:  Yeah, hi.  My question was basically Richard's question about the drawdown.  But following-up, it sounds like you're saying that you do not expect to lose any real capability between now and next year when you reduce the size of the force by 15 percent or so.

Is that fair?  Do you think that in the three things that you described and in particular, the replacing some of those forces with civilians and allied forces?  You feel like you're going to have -- be steady state in terms of capability from 2016 into 2017?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Andrew yes, General Nicholson does believe that.  And again, I think the key thing that I want to highlight from a capability standpoint is the different between 8,400 and 5,500 is the ability to continue to train, advise and assist missions at the core and at the police zone level.

So staying at 8,400 will give us that capability down in Helmand, in Kandahar, in the Ghazni area as well as in the Nangarhar, Laghman area.  And so from a capability standpoint, we will be able to continue that and then the counter-terrorism -- (inaudible) -- capability will remain also.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Okay.  Anybody else?

Yeah, Paul?

Q:  General, can you give us a sense of how many air strikes you've taken against ISIS in Nangarhar and then how many against the Taliban?  And are the more strikes against ISIS or the Taliban?

And also, with the soft advising effort, you have Helmand, Nangarhar, Kunduz and other places.  How are you dividing that and are NATO troops also taking part in those -- in those operations?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Sure, thank you.  

So, Paul, let me first off start with the ISK strikes.  Really since the beginning of 2016, we have taken about 230 counterterrorism strikes.  And so when I say counterterrorism, those are focused on Daesh as well as Al Qaida.  So, about two-thirds to three-quarters of those are focused on Daesh and then the remaining amount on Al Qaida.

You asked how many strikes we’ve taken about the Taliban or against the Taliban, and we don't really have a good number for you.  And the reason I say that is, again, we are not authorized to target the Taliban by status.  What we are able to do is number one, our first authority is always force protection.  So we're able to, you know, defend ourselves and use fires to do so.

Obviously there's the CT authority I just described.  But then we also have the authority to help for prevent -- (inaudible) -- in extremis -- (inaudible) -- strategic defeat -- (inaudible) -– but most recently -- (inaudible) --  to help the Afghans achieve their strategic effects, so the strategic effects authority.  And to really kind of understand that last authority, you do have to kind of understand the Afghan campaign plan strategically they have been working towards.  

(inaudible) -- just being members of the Taliban.  We do have the authority though to target those who are impeding the Afghans as they work towards their strategic campaign plan.  Does that kind of help?

Q:  Yeah.  I mean, all that seems to cover being able to target the Taliban anywhere -- any time they're near Afghan forces.  I mean, you could always say they're impeding strategic, you know, plan, right?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Well, and -- and just to give you kind of a sense of it, since we received those authorities for the strategic effects in June, we've taken really, again, about 240 strikes associated with those authorities.

And then you also asked about the -- the special operations forces, and you know, the size of their elements and where they are.  And again, NATO's mission here is to train, advise and assist.  And at the special operations forces level, we do have the ability of course to put NATO forces out with the special operations forces at a tactical level.  That is uncommon.

About 80 percent of Afghan special operations are conducted independent of anything we're doing.  Of that remaining 20 percent, about 10 percent of those are what we refer to as enabled where we may assist with planning, or ISR, or logistics or something along those lines.  And then the remaining 10 percent, we will have forces go out and accompany those Afghan special forces.

They are not limited to one geographic location.  Typically, Afghan special forces have -- (inaudible) -- relationship with corps that they're working for.  But they've got the ability to move from province to province, as well as if required, they can be moved to other parts of the country.  And so when we assist them, our team would -- would do the same thing.  So they've got the ability to move from province to province or to other places in the country as needed.

The typical size, there's really not a typical size.  It all kind of depends on the requirements of the mission.  But as you probably know, U.S. special forces typically operate in smaller teams.  So, we're talking 10 to 20, those -- those types of elements.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Yeah, Luis Martinez with ABC News.

Q:  I was hoping you could provide some clarity about the incident earlier this week that was described as an insider attack at Camp Morehead.  Do you have any more details to support that?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Sure, Luis.  

As -- as I'm sure you -- you're already aware, the entire event is under investigation right now.  And so a lot of the questions will be answered as a part of this investigation.  And I don't have a tremendous amount of new information for you, but let me tell you and hopefully frame it with what we do think happened. 

Number one, we sent a team of advisers out to conduct essentially an inspection of any ammunition supply point.  And this is not an uncommon event it's part of our work with the ministries here, because obviously trying to help the Afghans learn how to do this is really part of building an institution, and so again this is not an everyday occurrence.  But it is also not uncommon occurrence.

The actual ASP was just on the edge of an Afghan base, so the team drove up, they -- they walked to the entry control point -- they -- they approached -- (inaudible) -- and it was some point there where the incident happened, where they received fire.  The incident was over relatively soon, and as we've described, the shooter was found dead.  He was wearing an Afghan uniform.  Obviously the investigation is seeking to confirm whether or not this qualifies officially as a -- as an insider attack or a green on blue, because we do not yet have the identity of the shooter, and that's something that will come about with the investigation.

I believe that it is really up to about what we have right now.  Does that help?

Q:  Shift gears and ask you another question about Lashkar Gah, you talked about how the commander there has essentially decided to retrench and focus on the defense of Lashkar Gah.  I mean, obviously that's a tactical decision, but strategically does that impact the notion that the Taliban is gaining the upper hand in that area?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Yeah, we don't think so.  And the reason I say that is, again the Taliban's strategic goal right now is to take that -- a provincial capital, Lashkar Gah of course, would be a huge prize for them.  And so I think what this new commander is working to do is, again consolidate some forces, bring in some reinforcements, make sure that he can defend Lashkar Gah and prevent the Taliban from achieving their strategical, and then prepared to move out on the offense.  And we believe that's what we're seeing right now.

And again, I don't want to understate the Taliban capabilities, but we also should not overstate their capabilities either.  They have taken a lot and they hit pretty hard as well, and so what we expect to see fairly soon again, is that the ANDSF moving back out on the offense.

CAPT DAVIS:  Lucas Tomlinson with Fox News.  

Q:  General, do you the United States and the Afghan government will ever defeat the Taliban?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Lucas, thanks. 

The goal for the government of Afghanistan is to ultimately come to a negotiated solution with the Taliban.  So, our expectation and we said this before, is it there is really not a military solution to what is happening here in Afghanistan, it's absolutely going -– (inaudible) -- owned and led process that leads to reconciliation.

Q:  The battle akin to the war against, let’s say, gangs here in the United States that, despite you know, a lot of policing, a lot of money, a lot of programs that is just an unwinnable solution?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Yeah, Lucas unfortunately I -- I just don't -- I don't really have the expertise to kind of address or draw a comparison or a contrast between what you described.  I'm sorry, but I just don't have the background to be able to draw one at this time.  What I would tell you again though, Lucas, is again we're focused on two missions, and they're complementary, and that the first mission be in the counterterrorism mission, which is to protect the United States and protect the West and be able to keep pressure on these terrorist organizations. 

And then the second aspect is to again train, advise and assist the Afghans so that they can get to a point where they can defend their own borders and they can also address these trans-regional terrorists that do operate in this region.

Q:  And lastly, speaking of terrorist.  How involved is the U.S. military mission to root out and kill senior Al Qaida leaders that are still in the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan?  And are those terrorists still planning attacks on the West including the United States?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Lucas, I'm sorry.  And as you can tell I've got a cold today, so please bear with me. 

We do believe that Al Qaida does maintain a presence here in Afghanistan.  And we do think there's two components to it.  There is an aspect that is related to the core Al Qaida, and there is Al Qaida's newest franchise, Al Qaida in the Indian sub-continent.  And so their goals are just a little bit different but they are all part of franchise. 

We do believe that Al Qaida mains a presence -- maintains a presence up in Kunar, but they also occasionally do have a presence further South, be it in Zabul.  Obviously we saw an Al Qaida presence in Kandahar last year as well.  We've seen in it in the P2 or the Paktiya-Patika-Khost area as well.  And so again, our mission is to absolutely target them and to absolutely go after them at any, any opportunity that we have.  So we'll continue to do that.  

Q:  -- ongoing after these senior Al Qaida leaders, like if they are living with family and friends, other civilians that air strikes can't take place?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  I'm sorry Lucas.  Could you repeat that please?

Q:  Are there any restrictions on targeting these senior Al Qaida leaders in Eastern Afghanistan because they're living with their family, friends or perhaps other civilians?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Well, as obviously Lucas, I don't want to talk about how our targeting occurs or -- (inaudible) -- absolutely do follow the rules of engagement and we absolutely follow the law of armed conflict.  And we'll continue to do that.  But beyond that, I really don't want to describe the way we target.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Andrew Tilghman, I think you had a follow up.

Q:  I wanted to just follow up on Luis’ question about the incident the other day at the ammunitions supply point.  You say that that was a -- it started out as an inspection.  Can you just clarify what an inspection is?  Is that where basically the U.S. and Afghan forces go out to make sure that what's on the books is actually in the storage facility?  Is it an accountability thing?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  That's absolutely it.  And it is an accountability thing, obviously.  The U.S. military, you know, counts ammunition down to the smallest piece of brass, constantly.  And it's obviously for an accountability stand point. (Inaudible) these institutions and help the ministry of defense continue to grow and continue to evolve. 

Being able to account for your material is a huge part of it.  Because it speaks to the larger aspect of how do you re-supply?  How do you forecast you need in the future?  So, part of the effort is to help the Afghans get to a point where they can do this themselves.  It's institutional work.  It doesn't get a whole lot of attention, but it's absolutely critical for any institution to be able to run.

Q:  Were they able to carry out that inspection or did this whole shooting incident derail that?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  The incident occurred before they accessed it.  So they -- they had not started the inspection.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Okay, Travis, I think you had a follow-up as well.  Travis Tritten.

Q:  Sure, this is on the insider attack, as well.  What are you doing in the wake of that to offer more security to U.S. forces there and ensure that another similar attack doesn't happen?

And also, what's your message to Afghan forces who bear some responsibility for security?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Sure, so obviously, the -- because it’s under investigation right now, what will come from that investigation are a number of tactical lessons learned.  How can we do this better, et cetera.  And so we will incorporate that into what we're doing.  But despite this incident, what I would tell you is we are still absolutely committed to the larger mission of training, advising and assisting our Afghan partners.

And I would tell you all -– (inaudible) -- our Afghan partners who genuinely do want to see -- they want the assistance.  They are as absolutely horrified about this as anybody.  And so if the very tactical level will learn from this, we'll do an evaluation of what happened, how can we get better and how can we make modifications to the way that we are doing business.  But the larger mission will continue and we will remain committed to working with our Afghan partners.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Okay, Luis Martinez, I believe you had a follow-up.

Q:  We recently heard about how ISIS in Iraq has been using drones, either with IED capability or for surveillance capability.  And I guess there's news out today that the Taliban has released a video showing their use of drone capability and some kind of attack.

Is this a capability you were aware of beforehand?  Is this something new?  What do we know about it?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Yes, Luis, unfortunately yes, I am not aware of that video.  We have not seen that type of thing before and so I really don't have a lot of -- of good information for you.

Q:  And regardless of the video, is this a capability -- drone capability something that the Taliban has used before or that we knew that they might have?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Yes again, Luis, we -- we have not seen that capability up to this point so I am not aware of them having a drone capability.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Okay last call, anybody else?  Lucas Tomlinson.

Q:  General, any update on the two soldiers that were wounded in the roadside bomb earlier this month in Nangarhar?

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Lucas, I don't have an update for you.  Those soldiers, again, departed the theater.  And so those -- those answers are probably back with the service.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Okay general, thank you very much for your time and we hope you get over your cold and look forward to seeing you again, soon.

BRIG. GEN. CLEVELAND:  Thank you very much.

And again, everybody, I do appreciate you taking the time today and as always, if we can help you out please reach out to us and we're more than happy to do what we can.  

Thank you.