PETER COOK: Good afternoon,
I have some important announcements today before I take your
I want to begin first with an important development in the
counter-ISIL campaign. In February, coalition forces captured Sulayman Dawud
al-Bakkar, aka Abu Dawud, ISIL's emir of chemical and traditional weapons
manufacturing, during an operation in Iraq.
His capture removed a key ISIL leader from the battlefield and
provided the coalition with information about ISIL's chemical weapons
capabilities. Daoud was transferred earlier today into the custody of the
government of Iraq.
Through Daoud, the coalition learned details about ISIL's
chemical weapons facilities and production, as well as the people involved. The
information has resulted in multiple coalition airstrikes that have disrupted
and degraded ISIL's ability to produce chemical weapons, and will continue to
inform our operations into the future.
We are limited in what else we can say about his capture and
what we have learned from him because we do not want to compromise ongoing
I also have an update today regarding women in service. Today,
Secretary Carter formally approved the final implementation plans prepared by
the military services and U.S. Special Operations Command to integrate women in
to all combat roles. Before the secretary's approval, the deputy secretary of
defense, Robert Work, and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
General Paul Selva, co-chaired an implementation group that reviewed each of
these plans in detail.
They determined that all of the plans adequately addressed
Secretary Carter's seven guiding principles. Those principles, you may recall,
were: transparent standards, population size, physical demands and
physiological differences, conduct and culture, talent management, operating
abroad, and assessment and adjustment.
The secretary is pleased with the effort and consideration
each of the services put into their plans in ensuring that they meet those guiding
We'll issue a statement after this briefing with additional
details on the secretary's approval, including links to the implementation
plans themselves from the services, and a link to additional comments from the
secretary on these plans that will be posted to his medium.com page.
I encourage you all to check those links out.
And one final note, this evening Secretary Carter will travel
over to the White House to attend the state dinner for Canadian Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau. Canada is an important ally for the United States and a key
contributor to the counter-ISIL effort.
As the secretary noted at the NATO ministerial in Brussels
last month, Canada has agreed to triple its training effort in northern Iraq,
double its intelligence efforts as well, and is making additional nonmilitary
contributions. And the secretary I know is looking forward to that event this
With that, I'd be happy to take your questions.
Q: Peter, regarding your first announcement about the chemical
weapons, can you say more about -- you said multiple -- I believe you said
multiple airstrikes followed from the collection of this information, from the
detainee. Can you say when and how many? And against -- did you say facilities
that -- airstrikes were against facilities? And finally, did -- did these
operations eliminate their chemical weapons capabilities?
MR. COOK: Let me take the second part of your question first.
We're confident that the strikes that have been conducted have
disrupted and degraded their chemical weapons capabilities. I'm not going to
say that we've knocked it out in full, but we feel confident that we've made a
difference with regard that. And this information was very helpful inn
conducting these strikes.
And they're going to continue to inform -- again, this
information will continue to inform our operations in the future. But, Bob, we
feel -- we feel good about the damage we've done to that program, to that --
those capabilities. And again, it's going to inform our operations going
I'm not going to get into details about the kinds of our
operations that we've been able to conduct, in part because I don't want to get
into tactics and things like that that might in any way compromise ongoing
operations. But again, multiple airstrikes that have been targeted specifically
as a result of information we were able to get.
Q: To push you a little further on that, without revealing
tactics, I'm asking how many facilities or people were hit associated with the
MR. COOK: Yeah, again, Bob, for a variety of reasons, I'm
going to be really careful here and just because of the fact that we have
ongoing operations, that I'm just going to keep it to multiple airstrikes at
this point, that have been conducted as a result of this detention and the
information we learned from this individual.
Q: By ongoing operations, you mean there are continued --
there are additional airstrikes targeting these -- this --
MR. COOK: We believe that the information we've been able to
obtain will allow us to conduct additional operations.
So, yes, Barbara?
Q: I'm sorry, but I'm going to continue to try and press the
point, because the Pentagon is saying here "disrupted and degraded."
Being as it's chemical weapons in Iraq, when you say "disrupted and
degraded," can you give us any information, any data, any evidence, any
information to back up that statement the Pentagon has made that they're
disrupted and degraded? Anything you can say about what has led the Pentagon to
come to those words and that conclusion today?
MR. COOK: Barbara, I'm going to stay where I am right now,
because of those ongoing operations. But again, there have been specific
targets hit as a result of this information. That includes -- I will be able to
at least say that it does include facilities that we believe were part of their
chemical weapons capabilities. And I'm going to leave it at that because we
want to be able to engage in additional operations that we think will further
disrupt and degrade their chemical weapons capabilities.
Q: All right. Let me ask you this. Again, it's the Pentagon
that is publicly saying "disrupted and degraded." Can you say how
much disrupted, how much degraded? Do they still have, since it's well
understood ISIS makes mustard agent itself. It's not like it goes and buys it
anywhere. They know how to make it and they make it.
How disruptive? How degraded? What's to stop them from simply
making more of it?
MR. COOK: Again, Barbara, we feel confident that we have
disrupted and degraded. I'm not going to put a metric on it, a measurement. But
based on the information we've received, we are confident we have done damage
to their chemical weapons capabilities. We do not believe at this point we've
been able to curtail it entirely. We think that would be difficult, given as
you said, their demonstrated ability to obtain some of these materials.
But we feel good about what's been accomplished here. And we
also want to make the point that we're not done. And we have additional
operations that we believe will further disrupt and degrade their chemical
weapons capabilities, in addition to every other aspect of our campaign against
ISIL. This is just another component.
Q: My very last question. So, from what I take from what
you're saying is realistically, you're saying that the U.S. military coalition
could not at this point eliminate ISIS's chemical weapons capability.
MR. COOK: We certainly are going to do everything we can to
try and -- and prevent ISIL from carrying out any attacks, whether it's with
the chemical agents or otherwise. But we feel confident that these actions have
played a role in degrading and disrupting their chemical weapons capabilities
up to this point, and that additional operations will continue in that same vein.
MR. COOK: Again, Barbara, we -- we're not going to get into
metrics here. I think we are doing everything we can to eliminate ISIL. And if
we're successful in that, we're certainly going to address this particular area
Q: Thank you, Peter.
On the stolen files that the Germans have in their possession
that supposedly have 22,000 foreign members of the Islamic state, has the
United States seen these files? Is Germany sharing those with the United
States? Has the United States been able to verify that they are authentic?
MR. COOK: From this podium here, we're aware of these reports
and aware of what's been reportedly publicly, but I can't get into confirming
whether or not these files are -- contain information that is authentic or
anything like that. So, I'll refer you to the intelligence community in
particular to see if they have something more to say on this topic.
But we certainly are aware of those reports and -- and any
information that gave us a better insight into the members of ISIL certainly
would be helpful to the Department of Defense and to our overall coalition
effort to ultimately defeat ISIL.
Q: And then a quick follow-on, the raid in Somalia. Can you
confirm that U.S. forces were involved in that raid? And we've been hearing
different reports -- 12 Al-Shabaab militants killed. We've heard 15. Do you
have an update on that?
MR. COOK: Yes, I believe this question came up yesterday.
Again, I'll restate what we said previously, that there were U.S. forces in a
train, advise and accompany mode, as they have been in the past in Somalia. And
that there was a small number of U.S. forces involved. I'm not going to get
into the final assessment of that action.
Again, this was carried out in conjunction with the government.
Q: And how many Al-Shabaab militants were killed?
MR. COOK: I'll refer you to the government of Somalia for
Q: One on the chemical weapons issue and then one on North
MR. COOK: Yes?
Q: What's the size and scope of ISIL's chemical weapons
program? And does it pose a threat to Iraqi and U.S. -- Iraqi troops and U.S.
MR. COOK: Well, Tony, we've seen them demonstrate a
willingness to use these agents previously in Syria and in Iraq. So obviously,
it's an obvious concern both to the civilian populations in those places and to
our forces, one reason why we have conducted these strikes. And in particular,
that this particular individual was of such value to us.
And so we obviously have concerns about that program and want
to do everything we can to try and reduce those capabilities. And that's what
we've done in this instance. Again, they've demonstrated a willingness to use
it. That alone is reason for us to do everything we can to reduce their ability
to use these kinds of weapons.
Q: Do you have a sense, though, of stockpiles? I mean, you
were a reporter on the roads -- marched to war when the administration, the
Bush administration made a lot of claims that turned out not to be true. So I'm
sure you're naturally skeptical. But what's this -- what's the sense of scope
here in terms of their inventories? You know, mustard gas or what?
MR. COOK: Again, Tony, I'm not going to get into intelligence
assessments from here. But they've shown -- demonstrated a willingness to use
it. That alone is a cause for concern for us and should be for everyone. This
is -- these are, you know, violations of international law. Obviously, ISIL
hasn't shown a great willingness to abide by international law.
But these are -- these are agents that obviously cause
tremendous suffering for people, and we've seen -- we've seen their use
demonstrated in Syria and Iraq and we're going to continue to do everything we
can, working with our coalition partners; of course, the Iraqi government as
well, to try and address the risk of these agents of being used in any form or
fashion whether it be against U.S. forces, coalition forces, or certainly
civilians on the ground.
Q: Okay. I need to shift gears to North Korea and the missile
A couple days ago, you said the United States has not seen
North Korea demonstrate a capability to miniaturize a warhead. Today, Admiral
Gortney, the head of the Northern Command that's in charge of protecting the
country, said, "I assess it's the prudent decision on my part to assume
that he has the capability to miniaturize a nuclear weapons and put it on an
Is there a contradiction between your statement and his?
MR. COOK: Absolutely not. We have not seen them demonstrate
this capability. But Admiral Gortney, as you would expect a commander in his
position, that the American people would expect, that he would be doing
everything in his power to be prepared for that eventuality. And he's doing
what he should be doing to prepare for that threat, should it become a reality.
And at this point, again, we've not seen them demonstrate that
capability, but he is doing exactly what he should be doing in preparing his
forces and our U.S. -- our U.S. forces overall to be able to respond to that
Q: He assumes they have it. You said they haven't demonstrated
it. So those are internally consistent?
MR. COOK: He is doing the appropriate, proper planning that
you would expect of a commander in his position.
Q: Thanks, Peter.
Earlier this week, General Austin said he's provided his
recommendations on how to accelerate the fight against ISIS to his leadership.
Has Secretary Carter received those recommendations? And what are the next
steps from there?
MR. COOK: Yes. Again, just to reiterate what I said the other
day, of course, the secretary speaks regularly with General Austin. They've
been in constant communication, if you will, with other commanders in the
counter-ISIL fight, assessing needs going forward, talking to our coalition
And so I think that conversation continues. Obviously, he gets
great insight every time he talked to General Austin. And General Austin and
General Votel and others will continue to provide the secretary with their best
military advice; share with the president as well, of course, as to what the --
what additional needs might be out there.
But there's no decisions that have been made at this point.
Q: Is there a timeline by when he must provide his
recommendations -- the secretary might provide his recommendations to the
MR. COOK: It's an ongoing conversation. Of course, the
secretary speaks with the president on a regular basis, as he does with his
commanders. And there's no formal deadline. But again, I would expect that
these conversations will continue in the coming days as we move closer to the
next steps in this fight against ISIL. And every effort that we can bring to
bear to try and accelerate this fight and accelerate the defeat of ISIL will
certainly be -- be put on the table for consideration.
Q: Just one more thing. Over a dozen Republican senators
introduced a resolution today calling for ISIS -- suspected ISIS terrorists to
be detained at Gitmo. What is the Pentagon's response or thoughts on that plan
-- on that idea?
MR. COOK: I haven't -- I haven't seen that legislation. Again,
I would just refer you back to what we've said previously about detentions that
take place. We would anticipate that -- that detentions in the counter-ISIL
fight would be most likely of a short-term nature and that, as in the case of
this detention I referenced today, handed off to the appropriate local
authorities, in this case the Iraqi government.
Q: Just to follow up a little bit.
MR. COOK: Lucas?
Q: You say that the detentions of ISIS suspects will be -- of
militants will be of a short-term nature, but this is a long-term conflict. How
do you square that with only detaining them for a short time?
MR. COOK: Our hope, Lucas, first of all, is that this is a
conflict that we can -- that we can defeat ISIL in as quick a fashion as
possible. We'd like to be rid of this thread sooner rather than later. So first
of all, the premise of your question, I don't necessarily accept at -- at the
Second of all, again, these are -- we just talked about -- we
don't want to gaze into the future, hypothetically speaking about potential for
detainees. But we've been waging this fight for some time now, and there've
been a few individual detentions in which they have been handled in this
fashion, and I think that's the best template right now for how this would be
handled going forward.
Q: And when you turn over those suspects -- over to the
Iraqis, does the United States still have access to those suspects?
MR. COOK: Again, we have -- we've worked this out carefully
with the Iraqi authorities. These are our partners in the fight against ISIL,
and we're satisfied that -- that the coordination between our two governments
will allow for -- for proper exchange of information as necessary.
Q: Just a simple yes or no -- when you turn them over to the
Iraqis, does the United States still have access to them?
MR. COOK: Again, Lucas, every individual case -- I can't
predict the future. But we feel confident that we have the cooperation of the
government of Iraq in this particular instance, and we expect the same going
Q: Congress has said that the Pentagon failed to give them a
plan on dealing with these detainees. What is the status of that plan to tell
Congress how would are going to deal with the detainees going forward? Are you
working on this plan? Is there a timeline to reveal?
MR. COOK: I'm not sure exactly which plan you're talking
about. Just so I'm -- just so I'm clear.
Q: On the closing Guantanamo plan, part of the request from
Congress was a plan from the Pentagon, how to deal with the detention of ISIS
fighters from the battlefield. You say short-term, but it seems a little bit
ambiguous on what the plan is.
MR. COOK: I believe that plan had specific language in there
about the prospect of potential detainees in the future -- that they'd be
assessed on a -- on a case-by-case basis, and -- and that's what we expect.
Q: When you say case-by-case basis, if -- if -- many generals
-- officials here in this building have said this war --
MR. COOK: There are --
Q: -- against ISIS is going to go on for a long time, yet
you're only going to hold these guys for a short term. I know when I walk out
of here, sometimes I forget to ask you questions. If you want to go back and
ask a detainee something, don't you need to hold them long-term? Isn't that
what people at home expect?
MR. COOK: -- again, Lucas, I'm not sure it does as much good
to -- to talk in hypotheticals. We have a concrete example of a -- of an ISIL
detainee that -- again, we received information from this person, we've handed
them over to -- to Iraqi -- the Iraqi government, and we think that's a
template for -- for future cases.
Q: That doesn't sound like a hypothetical. It's an example --
MR. COOK: No, it -- it's a concrete example of what's
happening with a real-world situation.
Q: Does it -- is this -- task forces go out and get guys and
capture them and get information to set up other strikes, as you've just read
out at the top of the briefing, how is holding them only a short time -- how
does that make sense? I think people at home would find that very confusing.
MR. COOK: Again, we have a government on the ground in Iraq, a
partner in the fight against ISIL, that we feel confident we can rely on in
this instance, and that provides, perhaps, a difference in this equation than
you're -- than you're considering.
We have a partner on the ground -- a sovereign government that
we're working with in close coordination. I think maybe that's the difference
here. Yes, Joe?
Q: Peter, a few -- a few clarification -- back to -- to your
opening statement. So the capture of the ISIL leader was coordinated with the
Iraqi government? That's what I understand from you?
MR. COOK: Yes.
Q: And could you share with us more information about where
was he captured, what part of Iraq?
MR. COOK: For a variety of reasons -- operational security
more than anything else -- we're not going to reveal more details about that at
Q: Is there any relation between the capture of -- I think
Sulayman Dawud al-Bakkar and the strike that targeted Shishani a few days ago?
MR. COOK: Again, I'm not going to get into details, Joe, about
the circumstances around his capture, because we are, as you know, very
concerned about revealing anything of an operational nature that could provide
insights to our enemy, and we're going to continue to maintain that -- that
position. I hope you would understand why.
Q: Peter, getting back to these chemical munitions sites, or
storage sites, analysts over the years have said you've got to be very careful
when you hit these sites. You don't want to create a plume of poisonous gas or
-- or so forth that -- you know, harm the -- the population.
They say you have to use special ordnance to kind of almost
cook the stuff in place. Can you say anything about any special ordnance being
used to take these sites out, or any special care?
MR. COOK: I can certainly speak to the -- to the last point,
in that all of our operations in this regard would have, of course, factored in
the risk to -- to the civilian population, as we do in an -- in an ordinary
In this case, given the sensitivities here, you can be sure
that that's something that's been factored into -- into the operational
planning that's gone behind all of these operations.
Q: Can you say anything about special ordnance being used, or
can you take that question?
MR. COOK: I'm happy to take that question and do my best with
it, but -- again, for some of the same reasons I've just said to Joe, I'm not
sure we're going to get into many details. But I will take the question.
Q: Thank you, Peter.
Yesterday, North Korea fires another two short-range burst
missile in South Korea east coast. (inaudible) Do you have any comment on North
MR. COOK: It's another provocative action by the North
Koreans, and only further escalates the tensions on the -- on the Korean
Peninsula. And of course we're concerned by that -- concerned by all their
recent activities, the rhetoric that we're hearing from North Korea, and it
just makes us stand that much closer, if you will, to our South Korean allies.
And so again, it's -- it's consistent with their previous
behavior, and we don't think it does anything to bolster stability and -- and
confidence on the Korean Peninsula. It -- it only adds to that instability.
Q: North Korea has miniaturized nuclear weapons. If this were
true, how would U.S. respond?
MR. COOK: Again, we talked to -- I was talking with Tony about
this. We haven't seen them demonstrate that capability. We feel confident that
our defensive steps that we've taken -- that our posture in the region and our
preparations adequately account for the threat posed by North Korea.
Q: Peter, Israel's defense minister is going to be here, I
believe, Monday and Tuesday. I believe he's scheduled to meet with Secretary
Carter at some point during the trip. Can you just kind of preview what they'll
MR. COOK: Let me -- I don't want to preview a meeting that
hasn't yet taken place. So I'll get you more information if I can, but they've
had regular conversations. This is obviously someone he knows very well --
Minister Ya'alon -- and they've had a range of conversations over the last few
weeks and (inaudible).
You know, of course, that the secretary traveled to the region
not too long ago, spent time with Minister Ya'alon at the -- at the border with
-- with Lebanon. And this is a -- this is someone he knows well.
They have a host of areas in which they have reason for -- for
conversation. Obviously the defense of Israel and the steps the United States
-- additional steps the -- the United States can take to help bolster Israel's
defense -- those are things that are always conversation.
So -- but in terms of the specific agenda, I don't have that
for you at this point in time. But you can be sure that those -- those issues
will be front and center.
Q: One question about the train and equip program. Last
Tuesday, General Votel informed the committee of the Senate, made announcement
and saying that U.S. military will use a new phase of train and equip program
training Syrian rebels.
Did the U.S. military learn about the lessons of the previous
failure of this program? We have seen -- (inaudible) -- for only -- (inaudible)
-- fighters combating in Syria. So, what kind of lessons did you learn from
this previous fail?
MR. COOK: I think, as General Votel has testified previously,
I mean, there are obviously significant lessons that we've learned from the
start of that program to where we are today. One of the most important things,
of course, is we've learned a lot more about the people in Syria, those forces
that are taking the fight to ISIL. We have a much better understanding of who
they are, who we have confidence in that will be willing to carry out that
mission to take on ISIL.
And we have a much better understanding of the landscape than
we did when that program first began.
Q: Some of those fighters told us that they were -- they were
not so motivation because they were just allowed -- authorized to fight only
against ISIS, but not against Bashar; that they wanted first to fight against
Bashar. So this time in this new program, they will be authorized to fight against
MR. COOK: Again, this is a question I know that General Votel
got the other day. Our focus is the fight against ISIL and will remain the
fight against ISIL. We would expect, again, that the forces that we're going to
support on the ground in Syria, that that is their primary mission.
Q: And how many fighters does the U.S. military want to train
MR. COOK: Yes, we're not going to get into numbers at this
point. But again, we feel confident that enabling local fighters, particularly
leadership figures, can further enhance the fight against ISIL both in terms of
the resources we can provide those leaders, communication with those leaders.
That kind of coordination absolutely can make a difference in this fight.
Q: Last question on this point. A fighter from this battalion
told us that last time that there was attack of Nusra Front, they called for
U.S. military to help, but the U.S. military did not respond at that time. Do
you have any -- do you have any information about that?
MR. COOK: I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to. But
again, we're looking at this program going forward. We know the lessons we've
learned. They're not insignificant. I think the secretary has been quite candid
about the problems with the T&E program after its initial launch. We've
learned a lot.
We also believe that this is a capability that can enhance the
fight against ISIL, can accelerate the fight against ISIL in Syria. And that's
why I think you're hearing our top military leaders talk about steps that we
can take to take advantage of that.
Q: Back to the chemical facilities. We get the summaries of
the strikes every day, on daily basis. And we haven't seen any strikes -- we
haven't seen the chemical facilities mentioned in these summaries. Could you
just help us to understand why they were not mentioned? Did they happen over
the last night? Or were they omitted from the summaries?
MR. COOK: Again, these are strikes. I'm not going to get into
specific details strike by strike. We do provide significant amount of
information about the strikes we carry out on a daily basis that you receive.
And I think you'll find that that information is consistent with what we're
talking about here.
Q: But there's no mention of chemical weapons facilities.
MR. COOK: I believe, again, I'm not going to get into specific
targets here that we've hit. But we feel confident that the information we've
provided in those is consistent with the information we're sharing with you
Q: But you always talk about specific targets. It could be,
you know, an arms depot. It could be fighting --
MR. COOK: I'm not going to identify which of these strikes
relate specifically to this individual, the information we've learned.
So -- but we believe -- but we're confident -- not at this
time -- again, because we don't want to compromise other ongoing operations.
We're going to take every step we can to preserve our ability to use this
information in a going-forward basis. We have more targets to consider here.
And again, even -- there are aspects to this that we do not want to compromise
ongoing operations. I think it would be irresponsible for us to do that, given
the information we have and what we hope to carry out in the future.
Q: But you're saying that -- (inaudible) -- to the strikes,
and yet you're not saying when the strikes were. There's no mention in the
press releases of chemical weapons facilities.
MR. COOK: I don't have all the releases in front of me. I'll
go back and check them, Bob, but I believe there are references to facilities
that have been hit in the past. We've identified targets that were weapons
facilities. We may not be exclusively specific to this in part because we do
not want to reveal information to our enemy that could, again, compromise
future operations. We think that's an appropriate consideration going forward.
We do not want to jeopardize those operations.
We would like to do more damage to their chemical weapons
capabilities. And we're going to preserve what we think is necessary to be able
to do that.
Q: You mentioned agents. And is this -- is this sulfur mustard
only? Or do they have additional agents beyond --
MR. COOK: We've seen them use particular sulfur mustard
agents. Bob, I'm not going to get into more detail, but we think that's
consistent with the capability that ISIL has demonstrated so far.
Q: (inaudible), is what I'm saying. There are others that --
(inaudible) -- mentioning -- (inaudible). Is that one they're using?
MR. COOK: Yeah, I believe there have been reports about the
use of chlorine as well. Those are two that we've seen demonstrated publicly.
And I'm not going to get into more details about what other capabilities they
may or may not have.
Q: You say reports. Is that --
MR. COOK: Yeah, there have been reports of --
Q: -- your reports or public reports?
MR. COOK: There have been public reports of their use of --
Q: Or your -- your information?
MR. COOK: Again, we've seen them use sulfur mustard agent.
Just to be clear, chlorine has a different technical definition, if you will.
Not everyone considers that in its form a chemical weapon. Obviously, it's got
very severe effects on people. And so we have great concern with the use of
that as a weapon on the battlefield as well.
And it's not that we have any less concern about chlorine, but
it is -- technically it does have a different designation.
Q: Peter, can I follow up on two things briefly?
MR. COOK: Yes.
Q: Okay. There is simply no, as we're all saying here, and I
think we agree -- there is no mention in any of your public press releases of
the word "chemical" in any of the targeting press releases where you
tell us what you have targeted. It is simply not mentioned.
So for purposes of reporting accuracy, can I ask you: Are
there other targets? Are there other types of targets that you hit that you're
not telling us about? Should we -- must we now consider these daily press
releases to be less, with all due respect, than full disclosure? Should we be
skeptical, because you are not --
MR. COOK: You shouldn't. We are providing you information.
We're not going to reveal operational details that could compromise additional
operations. But we have provided information to you about strikes against
facilities, weapons facilities and we're going to continue to do that. We're
going to be as transparent as we can be, Barbara.
And again, we are dealing with a situation. Not all these
strikes necessarily reflect strikes against an individual facility. As you've
said before, it could involve people who are part of this program; could
involve other aspects of the procurement of these -- of these agents that don't
necessarily reflect a chemical weapon.
Q: I have a follow-up. These press releases to the news media
that should in fact be considered not the full list of targets that you may hit
on a given day. There are --
MR. COOK: Barbara, I'm being as up front with you as I can be.
We are providing you all a regular list of those targets.
Q: Is that list fulsome?
MR. COOK: It's fulsome as it can be, yes.
Q: But it's not fulsome. It is not the complete list.
MR. COOK: It's a complete list.
MR. COOK: No, no, no. I'm saying it should be -- you should
consider that a list of the targets that we struck, the coalition has struck.
Q: (inaudible) -- target on there. We didn't get the chemical
weapons target on there. We assume what you're telling us is fulsome. So I'm
trying to give you the opportunity here to say clearly it is not.
MR. COOK: -- information on that specific target that you
Q: I don't see a Shishani target on the list.
MR. COOK: We provided you a news release regarding the
targeting of that individual.
Q: I'm asking about, with all due respect, the regular press release
that goes to the news media that is available to the American public that you
-- that this department, not you personally, say is the list of targets the
coalition, led by the United States --
MR. COOK: We are providing information regarding coalition air
operations that is detailed; provides a significant amount of information on
regular basis. We are not going to provide information, Barbara, that we think
could compromise future operations. And --
Q: Okay. You've answered my question. This is not fulsome.
My other question is, on North Korea, I'd like to follow up on
Tony's question. General Scaparrotti and Admiral Gortney, two of the most
experienced commanders out there, have now both said exactly the same thing,
that as commanders, they feel they must assume -- we're not talking about North
Korean testing -- that they must assume for planning purposes, their military
planning, North Korea has a miniaturized warhead.
Not talking about testing. Does the secretary of defense agree
with his commanders, General Scaparrotti and Admiral Gortney, for U.S. military
planning purposes, does the secretary agree, he himself, does he now assume for
planning purposes North Korea has miniaturized a nuclear warhead?
MR. COOK: The secretary believes that his commanders in -- who
deal with this Korean threat, are doing exactly the right thing in -- they are
doing exactly the right thing in preparing and assuming that North Korea has
this capability. And we have not seem them demonstrate this capability, but of
course, they're doing exactly what the secretary would hope they would do, and
that is preparing for that consideration and preparing defensive measures that
would be in place to protect the United States and protect our allies in the
region, which is exactly what they should be doing.
Q: Does the secretary of defense assume for his own military
planning that North Korea -- does he feel he has to assume that North Korea has
miniaturized a warhead, separate from the testing issue? Does he believe he has
to assume that now?
MR. COOK: I think the secretary of defense believes that it is
prudent planning for this department, for those commanders, to make, prepare
for that kind of scenario, even though we have not yet seen them demonstrate
that capability. They are doing a prudent thing. The secretary is supportive of
the actions they're taking as commanders to prepare for, again, that kind of
Q: So to clarify in my own mind, U.S. military planning now
assume -- planning now assumes that North Korea has miniaturized a nuclear
MR. COOK: The commanders who are responsible for these
activities have done the appropriate thing to assume, to presume, assume that
they have this capability or that they're certainly trying to obtain it. That
does not mean that they have that capability. They've not demonstrated that,
but they are doing the prudent, appropriate, proper things -- the kind of
things that I think the American people would want them to do in their
I've got time for one more.
Q: Can I ask you to follow up -- you were in the interview
with Charlie Rose a couple of weeks ago when the secretary was asked about this
question. He said that categorically they had nuclear warheads. You should get
the transcript. They have nuclear warheads.
That applies -- he feels they've miniaturized them. I think
you were in the room when he said it. I mean, how do you square Carter's
statement with your answer to Barbara?
MR. COOK: Tony, again, I'm just going to go back to the view
of the U.S. government, of this department has not changed in terms of them
demonstrating the capability. That has not changed. So, those commanders that
you talked about, the secretary, again, they need to -- they see what the North
Koreans are attempting to do.
We need to assume that they could develop this capability. And
as a result, we need to prepare accordingly. That is the -- that is the
appropriate step for this department to take, but we have not seem them
demonstrate that capability, and that's the important distinction here.
Q: What about the pictures they showed a couple of days ago?
They look like big beach balls or something, you know, for want of a --
(inaudible). Has the department analyzed those images?
MR. COOK: I'm not sure exactly what pictures you're talking
about, so I can't say if somebody has looked at these pictures.
Q: (inaudible) -- shows that -- (inaudible), they like big
bowling balls -- (inaudible). Is this really they -- (inaudible) -- or they
come from some other country -- (inaudible).
MR. COOK: I have not seen those pictures, so I'm happy to take
that question and see if we have any thoughts on the large balls that you saw
on Korean television.
Q: Can you take one other question for me, Peter?
Q: Can you take one other question, back to the -- Barbara,
the exchange you had earlier about the airstrikes and the -- (inaudible).
MR. COOK: Yes?
Q: Can you take the question: Isn't it a fact there are
strikes that are taking place potentially on a daily basis that are not
released to the public? That are not part of the press release? Can you take
the question of how many strikes there actually have been?
Because we have a tally that CENTCOM provides that's quite
MR. COOK: Very detailed.
Q: It is very detailed, but you --
Q: -- just indicated now that there are strikes that are
occurring that aren't included in that.
MR. COOK: To be clear, my understanding is that that summary
includes coalition airstrikes. We had an individual case that she asked me
about. I'm not sure if the individual high-value target that was hit was
reflected in that list, but we had a separate news release detailing that. It
may well be -- have been included. I don't know that off the top of my head,
but I'm happy to take that question.
Q: -- chemical weapons. The follow-up -- and I understand you
don't want to talk specifics and what not, but I think we all rely on those as
-- you know, we're not there. We aren't seeing all these strikes, obviously, so
we rely on those as the totality of all the strikes that are occurring in Iraq
and Syria by the coalition.
So if in fact there are strikes, which is my understanding of
what you said --
MR. COOK: I'm happy to take the question. I don't want to
create any mis-impression. I am not aware that there are additional strikes
that are not included in those strike totals. Again, we're not going to provide
details on anything that might reveal additional operations, for understandable
reasons. But we're going to try and be as transparent as we can. And I'll take
the question and see if we can get it answered for you.
Q: I guess I just don't understand, then, the strikes that
have occurred -- that were on some chemical-biological targets that occurred
because of a questioning of the detainee, which I know you don't want to talk
about. I get that.
MR. COOK: Those strikes -- those strikes don't necessarily, as
I pointed out to Barbara, don't necessarily mean they were at a particular
facility that was producing this. This could have been -- I'm just talking
again hypothetically -- could have been procurement facilities that have
nothing to do with the finished product, but maybe, again, could have been part
of the -- the operation -- could've been part of the larger effort.
We, again, carried out multiple strikes that we believe
disrupted and degraded their chemical weapons capability. That does not mean
that we were hitting stockpiles with every single one of those strikes. There
could have been a range of targets reflected within that.
And again, I think that's consistent with what we've shown you
in -- in our -- our strike totals. And again, they could reflect targets that
we've hit to -- to hit weapons facilities. So I -- I don't think we're talking
about different things here, so.
Q: I'm sorry, but I understood you -- I'm very sorry, Peter,
but we don't want to have you leave with any --
MR. COOK: I do not want to leave without any --
MR. COOK: -- with any -- any daylight between you and me,
Q: My question is this, and it's, I think, the same exact one
as Courtney's. I understood you to say that releases were not full in their
So number one, do those -- forget everything else -- do those
press releases to the American public list every strike that the U.S. -- that
the -- that you conduct? Number one, do they list them all?
How many are there that you have not told us about? Just the
total number, unless you want to give us all the details on the one you haven't
told us about.
And third, please explain in -- in -- if you will take the
question -- what are the categories of strikes that you are less than fully
disclosing in your descriptions? Because there's been nothing that says
chemical, there's been nothing that says Shishani. So we need to know -- what
kinds of strikes are you not telling us about? Because, as journalists, I
assume that press release is full in its facts, and --
MR. COOK: I -- I believe those press --
MR. COOK: -- I believe those press releases fairly and
accurately represent coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, and we have
provided detailed information on strikes --
Q: You haven't said, "chemical", you haven't said,
"Shishani". How can they be full -- how can they be fully factual?
MR. COOK: Barbara, you are not --
Q: So all we're asking you is, tell us the categories of
things that you're not willing to publicly disclose.
MR. COOK: I believe that those strike totals have included
details about strikes against weapons facilities. That is a --
Q: Chemical weapons, Peter. (Off-mic.)
MR. COOK: A weapon facility, Barbara, could be a number of
things. And again, this guy --
MR. COOK: I know. I think -- I think --
Q: -- I mean, we're talking weapons of mass destruction in
Iraq. There's a long history --
MR. COOK: I know.
Q: I think every person in this room, starting with you -- we
all want to be as accurate as possible. So we're asking for you to assist in
that, and I think you understand the questions.
MR. COOK: I -- I will -- I will assist in that. I will again
reiterate that the coalition -- the detailed list of strikes, which I -- I will
agree with Courtney is very detailed -- it is, I hope, helpful to you all.
We do this at -- because we want to be transparent, because
we've had requests from the news media to be as -- as up-front as we can be. We
will continue to be as up-front and as transparent as we can be.
We believe those fairly and accurately represent coalition air
operations, airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Again, there's a level of detail in
those strikes that we think is very informative, and we will do everything we
can to be more informative if we can be.
The one thing we won't do is provide information that could
jeopardize ongoing operations, future operations, and we're going to limit the
release of that information. I think it would be irresponsible for us not to.
But I appreciate where you're coming from, appreciate what
Courtney had to say. We will do what we can --
Q: -- the part that doesn't make sense to us is you're --
we're talking about strikes that have occurred in the past, and you're saying
that your concern -- the concern is about -- about future operations.
But what -- what are you hiding from the enemy? Did you think
they didn't notice when you blew up one of their buildings?
MR. COOK: I'm not going to tell you what I'm hiding from the
Q: Well, I -- they -- you -- I mean, if you're concerned --
though -- they notice when you blow up one of their buildings. I -- you know,
you're not even hiding it. We get the pictures from them, frankly, because
that's -- they post pictures on Twitter.
So I -- I guess what I -- what I don't understand is, when
we're talking about past strikes, what is the security concern about -- about
telling us that they have occurred -- about a strike that has occurred?
MR. COOK: Were you done? We've -- we've provided them.
Q: So -- so you're telling us -- and again, I just -- you
know, you keep saying that -- that -- that the press releases represent the
airstrikes. Can you just say yes or no?
Are those press releases the totality of all the strikes that
the coalition is carrying out? Are there any that are not being disclosed to
us? The -- it's -- it's a really simple question. It's yes or no. Are they not
being disclosed to us?
MR. COOK: They're -- that compromises coalition air operations
-- the coalition air operations -- the airstrikes that we've been conducting.
MR. COOK: No, I'm telling you -- the airstrike totals
represent coalition air operations -- what we've been doing, in detail.
Q: I mean, you're declining to say it in a clear way. I --
obviously, I -- I -- am I -- am I crazy here? Please, tell me, everyone. Let's
do a vote. We'll Donald Trump it. Let's do a vote. Who says I'm crazy?
This is a really simple yes-or-no question.
MR. COOK: Let me put a fine point on this. Those airstrike
totals represent a -- a coalition air operations -- list of those strikes that
we've carried out in Iraq and Syria.
Q: Is it all of them?
MR. COOK: I'm not -- I -- I'm not going to -- I'm not going to
get into, again, anything that could compromise additional operations. We think
it is a fair and accurate representation of coalition air strikes. If there's
any other detail and information we can provide for you, beyond these very
detailed, every-single-day reports, we'll make that -- I'll check and make you
aware of it.
Q: If you can take the question if there are some that have
not been disclosed --
MR. COOK: These are detailed. I think any fair reading of
those would suggest that they -- would indicate that they provide incredible
detail on --
MR. COOK: -- we've -- we've -- it's a detail you'd like to
have? We have detailed strikes against weapons facilities -- a range of weapons
Q: How do we know which one's the chemical? I mean, it could
be anything. It could be a guessing game.
MR. COOK: I'll take that -- I'll take that question. But we
believe it's a more than fair and accurate representation of what we're doing.
We believe we've been incredibly transparent, and we're going to continue to be
Understand your desire for more information. Please understand
our desire to make sure that we are doing everything we can to prevent
information from reaching the enemy that could harm our ability to ultimately
defeat this enemy, and we're going to be very, very mindful of that.
I hope you would understand that, and at the same time, being
as transparent as we can be -- not only with you all, with the American people
about what we're doing. And I think, again, that's a test we -- we expect to
So thanks, everyone.