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|U.S. Department of Defense
|Presenter: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter; Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph F. Dunford; Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Curtis Scaparrotti||May 03, 2016|
Joint Press Conference by Secretary Carter, Gen. Dunford and Gen. Scaparrotti Stuttgart, Germany
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Okay. Once again, good morning. Everybody hear me?
Well, we had a very meaningful, and important and wonderful ceremony this morning. I won’t repeat the main themes of what we all said there, but as to remind you, as we stood — or to tell you that as we stood there in from of those magnificent service members, I’m getting some reports now that an American service member has been killed in Iraq, in the neighborhood of Erbil.
And I — again, these are preliminary reports. I don’t know much more than that, but I believe that much is true. And so our thoughts and prayers are with that service member’s family.
As we’re here in Stuttgart today and as we learn more, we’ll give you more information about that. But it shows you, it’s a serious fight that we have to wage in Iraq. There are American service members involved and that’s all I know at this time. But I wanted you to know as soon as we begin getting those reports.
And with that, let me turn things over to Peter, and we’ll answer your questions.
STAFF: We’re going to be starting with Paul Shinkman, from U.S. News and World Report.
SEC. CARTER: Hi, Paul.
Q: Yes. Hi, gentlemen. I’m Paul Shinkman of U.S. News and World Report.
Secretary Carter, you’ve outlined a series of increases in personnel, money and resources coming into Europe. I wonder if you feel now, do you have the capabilities in place to offset an actual kinetic activity with Russia? If not, how much farther are you willing to go, and are there any limits on the amount of resources that you would bring in?
And then separately, what conditions would need to be in place, either taper off this increase, or withdraw some of these troops and maybe getting forward aligned?
SEC. CARTER: Well, we are prepared every day for any kind of circumstance here in Europe. But we are improving our forces, and that’s the reason for the addition of an American brigade on a rotational but persistently present basis here, and all the other improvements that we’ve announced. And we’ll continue to make them, and that’s why the European Reassurance Initiative Funding is so important, quadrupling what — it was important. And we’ll continue doing that.
So we’ll get better and better, and stronger and stronger in our ability to respond to provocations here. But I — we’re ready for them every day, we plan for that every day. That’s what goes on right here at this headquarters.
Q: And General Scaparrotti, sir.
SEC. CARTER: Scap.
Q: I’d be interested to hear, the Islamic State group has made it clear that Europe is one of its principle targets now, especially as it has being constricted elsewhere. I wonder what elements think EUCOM is going to contribute to counterterrorism efforts on your command, sir.
GENERAL CURTIS SCAPARROTTI: Well, thank you. It is — it’s, as you know, a problem here in Europe that they’re looking at very closely. You’ve seen the attacks.
EUCOM has been integral in supporting our partners here. We can do so through information sharing. We’ve worked with building partner capacity. We’ll continue to do those things that General Breedlove and the command has done in the past, and we’ll look for other ways to strengthen our partners here.
STAFF: (inaudible) — of The Wall Street Journal.
Q: (inaudible) — from The Wall Street Journal. I was just wondering — two questions. One is on the death in Iraq — (inaudible).
SEC. CARTER: I can’t at this time. It does — it is a combat death, of course. And very sad loss. I don’t know all the circumstances of it and as — we’ll give you more as we learn more. I wanted to give you everything I knew. I really just can’t go any further than that.
Q: What, so —
SEC. CARTER: And you’ve got another one?
Q: The second question is, you had a briefing with General Rodriguez last month, where he said that the number of ISIS fighters in Libya had doubled over the past year, and there are areas of the country that are being controlled by ISIS fighters and threatening stability in neighboring Tunisia.
So, heading into tomorrow’s meeting, I just wanted to know, what is the threshold? You know, what is it going to take for U.S. and its allies to get more involved in the fight against the Islamic State in Libya? Where are we now, and what do plan to discuss on that, as far as you —
SEC. CARTER: I’ll start, and then perhaps I can ask the chairman to add — add something. He has been working very hard on this problem as well.
The — yes, I do expect it’ll be discussed tomorrow. It — we’re — you said, under what circumstances would we be prepared? We want to be clear, the circumstances that exist there now have caused us to act, and we’ve taken some actions in Libya.
But I think the main issue you’re raising is, when can a — the effort begin, which the Italians indicated they’d lead, and has been long awaited, to help Libya put itself back together and expel what are basically foreigners from its territory.
And that’s why getting the Government of National Accord in place, and getting Libyans to a point where they can agree among themselves — because when they do that, I’m confident that one of the additional things they’ll agree to is that they don’t like foreigners in their country, dominating their territory, tyrannizing their population, stealing their oil and all that stuff that represents to ISIL.
And one thing that I think Libyans readily agree to is their proud people and they don’t like foreigners in their country. So, I expect that when the Government of National Accord is founded, they’ll want to do that. And as they want assistance, I think you know that a number of countries, including the United States, but Italy has agreed to take the lead, are prepared to do that.
Let me ask the chairman, because he knows a lot about it.
GENERAL JOSEPH DUNFORD: You asked specifically, what would it take for us to act?
And to reinforce the secretary’s point, first of all, if there is a threat against the homeland or U.S. personnel, we’re going to act, and we have already in the past done that. So, there’s no — we’ve passed the threshold for that.
With regard to subsequent operations that might take place in Libya, that’s going to be at the invitation of the Government of National Accord. And we have now — General Rodriguez has met with our folks on the ground, Ambassador Bodde, Special Representative Finer. They’ll meet with the Government of National Accord to see what requirements may exist from a security perspective and from an operations perspective.
And so, we’re already working very closely with the GNA to determine what assistance they may require.
Q: Is there any timeline on that, given that the National — the Government of National Accord is already in place? So, is there any sense of timeline going forward?
SEC. CARTER: Well, I think when they — I don’t want to put a timeline on it; I think it’s going to be up to them. But I think that the signs are very positive there.
And certainly, you have a willing inclination on the part of the European nations and the United States that have already agreed to assist that government.
STAFF: You got a question — (inaudible).
Q: Yes, sir, about the reinforcement on the eastern flank of NATO, there has been used about 4,000 people of brigade size, including a German battalion. Is that important — (inaudible) — is that a given that this will —
SEC. CARTER: Oh, I think that it is important that we have a presence on the eastern flank of NATO. I think that’s generally agreed. The structure of that is still being discussed by NATO, and I expect will be discussed at NATO chief of defense meetings and ministerials that are coming up and lead up to Warsaw.
That will be a NATO decision, not a U.S. decision. But I expect that, and I — there will be something of that nature.
The thing I can say is that, for the United States, for sure, we are doing our — are going to introduce that brigade on a rotational basis; that’s an armored brigade combat team. That will make the third full brigade combat team of the United States here on the continent, and it’s another sign — to get back to an earlier question — of the actions we’re taking to continually grow and make stronger the deterrent posture here.
But that —
Q: But German — their participation would be important?
SEC. CARTER: I do think it’s important, yeah. But I think that’s a decision Germany will make in the context of NATO. But they’re a strong NATO ally and a strong participant in this, and they’ve already agreed to, for example, host some equipment sites for U.S. equipment — prepositioned equipment on the territory of Germany and many other things they do, including hosting us here in Stuttgart today.
Q: Is it —
Q: Can I — can I talk?
STAFF: Can we please try and get some — as many questions as we can. Marco from Reuters TV.
Q: Marco — (inaudible) — Reuters Television. I wanted to ask you, what are your thoughts about (inaudible) actions in the Baltics, considering the military actions and the politics of Russia in the last couple of months?
SEC. CARTER: Well, nobody wants any military actions in the Baltics. We do — the Baltic countries are NATO allies, so we stand with them. We have a commitment, which we’re prepared to honor, to defend the territory of the Baltic states and to deter aggression, either of the traditional sort or the so-called hybrid warfare sort. That’s the reason for all the preparations that we’ve been discussing here at NATO.
Let me just ask General Scaparrotti if he wants to add anything to that as our —
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: No, sir. We’ll continue, as EUCOM has to this point, and I think it’s important that we show strength, we’re balanced and we’re consistent.
STAFF: Got time for one last question. Lucas — (inaudible).
SEC. CARTER: Have to put down the camera — you have to make up your mind.
Q: Secretary Carter, how concerned are you with the growth of the Russian submarine controls for the Baltics — (inaudible)?
SEC. CARTER: Sure. We’re — no we’re — we’re concerned in taking actions in association with our allies about that and other Russian activities. So it covers the full spectrum. And I don’t have any — more than that, but, Scap, anything you want to add to that?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: No, sir. I’d just add that I am concerned. Obviously, as I take command, I will review the actions that were taken, our posture, their actions, and provide my best military advice here to the secretary.
STAFF: All right. Thanks, everybody.
SEC. CARTER: Thank you all.
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