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tv   Pentagon Press Secretary Holds Briefing  CSPAN  August 13, 2021 6:24am-7:00am EDT

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for women, it was a gift because it was only because of this lack of codification, this openness, that women could get through what had been the biggest barrier as a war correspondent that you were not allowed in the field. >> sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span plus "q&a." >> pentagon press six -- secretary announced 3000 troops would be sent to afghanistan temporarily to aid afghan refugees and civilians. removal of civilians and refugees from the country.
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mr. kirby: good afternoon, everybody. i am sure you heard from my colleague at the state department, the president ordered the reduction of civilian personnel at our embassy in kabul, and the acceleration of evacuation of special visa applicants from the country. the secretary of defense directed the department to position temporary enabling capabilities to ensure the security of u.s. civilian partners and personnel. i will break this down real quick.
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the first movement will consist of three infantry italians in the central command area of responsibility. they will move to hamid karzai international airport in kabul within the next 24-48 hours. two of the battalions are u.s. marines and one is an army battalion. the next move will consist of a joint u.s. army-air force support element of around 1000 personnel to facilitate the processing of siv applicants. initial elements of this will arrive in qatar and cutting day -- incoming days. the third movement is to deploy one infantry brigade combat team out of fort to kuwait, where they will be prepared if needed to provide additional security at the airport. we anticipate those forces will reach kuwait within the next week. these forces are being deployed to support the orderly and safe reduction of civilian personnel at the request of the state
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department tend to help facilitate an accelerated process of working through siv applicants. this is a temporary mission with a narrow focus. as with all deployment of our troops into harm's way, our commanders have the right of self-defense and any attack on them can and will be met with a forceful and appropriate response. as ned price at the state department highlighted, secretary austen did join secretary blinken any phone call this morning with president ghani. conversations with allies and partners will continue to ensure close coordination. bob? reporter: thank you, john. thank you for breaking down some of the numbers. with regard to those forces going into afghanistan to work specifically on supporting the removal or evacuation or whatever you call it of personnel from the embassy, is
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that 3000 people? also, is that in addition to the 600 or 650 already they are doing that sort of work? mr. kirby: the three infantry battalions will comprise 3000 personnel approximately. and they will be in addition to those troops that are already in double -- in kabul, as the process of conducting our drawdown. we still have more than 650 troops in kabul right now. these troops will join them. reporter: does the military mission include flying u.s. civilian personnel and embassy personnel out of the country? or will would be processing and securing them at the airport? mr. kirby: we anticipate being fostered to secure airlift as
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well for not only reduction of civilian personnel from the embassy, but also in the forward movement of special immigrant visa applicants. we anticipate there will be are left required of us and we are working through the final plans right now to put that into place. tom? reporter: in regards to what you just said to bob about the airlifting of individuals and in regards to the special immigrant visa applicants, has it and decided where they will be airlifted to? mr. kirby: we are working through a series of options, tom. we anticipate that we will be looking at locations overseas, outside the united states, as well as u.s. installations that belong to the unlighted states either overseas and/or here at home. i don't have a list right now. but i think it will be a mix of
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both. and as we get clarity, we will update you. reporter: will it follow the same criteria you outlined earlier, those who pass security clearance can come? mr. kirby: i defer to state department colleagues to talk about the siv process more specifically. our job be in locating and helping secure facilities and installations that can be used and as we did for the, you can expect -- as we did for fort lee, you can expect the defense department to lean in and support the relocation. reporter: the infantry battalion's help movement of diplomats from the mc to the airport, as well as moving them out of the country and if so, will that movement be done by convoy? or will it be done by helicopter? and let me add one more question. you say temporarily.
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but aren't they going to remain there in case further drawdowns are ordered? mr. kirby: let me take the first one first. these infantry battalions will be there to help facilitate this safe and orderly reduction. and i don't want to get into much technical -- too much -- i don't want to get into too much tactical detail. commanders on the ground will be working with the state department to determine what is most needed. and if it is to help secure transportation to the airport, our troops will do that. but i can speak here today when they are not even there yet, about what that is going to look like, with the transportation is good to look like. and some of the data is going to depend on the permissibility of the security environment. but these are infantry battalions that are highly
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trained that will have capabilities to support in any manner with the state department needs to facilitate this reduction. your second question on the temporary nature -- as the state department said, they are going to try to complete this reduction of their personnel by the end of this month. and these troops are being ordered in to help facilitate that mission, along that timeline. i won't speculate beyond august 31 as to what the footprint is what you look like, or how many troops are going to be there and whatever to be doing. we are focused on trying to get them there as soon as possible to facilitate this mission, which is the reduction of civilian personnel by the end of the month. reporter: one follow-up -- was there a specific event which triggered this decision? mr. kirby: it would be wrong to conclude that there was one specific event that led to this decision. we believe this is the prudent thing to do, given the rapidly
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tear re-think security situation in and around kabul -- rapidly deteriorating security situation in and around kabul. there is a confluence of things you have been reporting the best 36 hours, taliban advances and where they are and cognizant of the security situation, this administration believed this was a production. reporter: one more question -- 3650 and then another 1000 of this joint task force? mr. kirby: the joint army air force, yeah, about 1000 personnel. it is engineers, medical personnel, it is military police, that kind of thing. and they are going to qatar right now because we have an working with countries in the region to try to find processing
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sites outside afghanistan. so, they are going to qatar for now and then we will see what the need is after that. we want to be flexible and get them close by and in the region and that is why they are going there. reporter: and there is one infantry brigade going to kuwait, and that is? only if things go bad? mr. kirby: they will be there, postured and prepared if there is a need for additional security at the airport. they will be in the region and a lot more accessible. reporter: the ones going to qatar, that is specifically for siv applicants? it sounds like the engineers are going to kabul. mr. kirby: when i say engineers, we are talking about a small number of engineers, largely for electrical power to make sure we have power to do the processing of applicants. and by engineers, i didn't mean construction. reporter: [indiscernible]
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that is roughly 3000-3500 people total. mr. kirby: a combat infantry, combat gate is 3500-4000 troops. reporter: so 3000 people are going in the coming days and another 3500 will be there on standby. i'm not clear on what they are doing. it is a couple miles from the embassy to hkiah, what are 3000 people doing, securing the airport? mr. kirby: they will be there to provide safety insecure movement of -- provide safety and secure movement of personnel out of the embassy to facilitate their departure from the country and also help with the process of moving special immigrant visa applicants out of the country and provide additional security at the airport. again, we believe this is prudent given the deteriorating security situation.
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reporter: that is a lot of people though. can you give any sense of the date, what they are doing? they must be responsible for getting people to the airport and it sounds like they are taking over security at the airport. mr. kirby: i wouldn't go that far, courtney. turkish forces are still at the airport. turks are still in the lead of security at the airport. we already have some security forces, u.s. security forces at the airport, including aviation elements. these 3000 would be going to bolster that presence to make sure that the airport is secure enough to facilitate movement of all these people over the next couple weeks. this is about prudent preparation and we want to make sure that we have got enough on hand to adapt to any contingencies. your question about the numbers being too high -- we believe it
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is appropriate to the security situation that we see now, and that we can anticipate possibly in the future, which is again why we are going to flow a brigade combat team into the theater to be ready in case we need more. hopefully, this will be an incredibly permissive environment and we won't need these additional capabilities. but the secretary believes safety and security of our people, not just american troops but our allies and partners and our state department colleagues, is of paramount concern. and he is not going to add additional risk to that safe movement. reporter: kandahar city, can you confirm reporting that they have taken it? mr. kirby: i can't and i'm not doing battlefield assessments here. we have a lot to get through. derek -- tara? reporter: the infantry
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battalions, where are they coming from? mr. kirby: the three infantry battalions are already coming from inside the central command area of spun's ability. i would rather leave it at that -- the central command area of responsibility. i would rather leave it at that for now. reporter: will troops stay in qatar or will they be flying into kabul to provide additional support if needed? mr. kirby: right now, the plan is to get them to qatar. again, we were looking at regional sites for processing of siv applicants. qatar is one site we are looking at potentially being able to use. if they need to move in part or in whole elsewhere to do this job to help the application process, yeah, we will deal with that at the right time. but for right now, in the coming days, they will be headed to qatar. reporter: besides the increase
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in troops, it becomes a logistics issue if you don't have enough airlift support. is the u.s. going to send additional planes or get additional contracted air to increase the throughput? mr. kirby: we do anticipate increased need for u.s. airlift's. that u.s. airlifts. -- increased need for u.s. airlifts. we fully expect there will be additional u.s. military airlifts required, i just don't have the details today of how that is going to look like and what the sorties are going to look like. but we absolutely anticipate being more involved in the airlift element of this mission. reporter: what about close air support? will you increase the number of drones and fighters to protect these troops? mr. kirby: yesterday we have, and today we have the authority
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and capabilities in the region to conduct airstrikes if needed. that is not what you change as a result of these new mission sets. reporter: does this mean the u.s. military withdrawal is not good to be complete by august 31? mr. kirby: we are aiming to facilitate the reduction of these civilian personnel by august 31. so, it is lining up on the same timeline. i will speculate about the foot post august 31 because there is this additional mission set of helping process immigrants. we will wait and see, but the drawdown is still a truck to be complete by august 31. reporter: that makes no sense with 3000 troops. mr. kirby: i know what you are saying. i am saying of the original footprint land, that is continuing but yes, we are adding additional troops for this narrow focus. reporter: and you can get them all out by then? mr. kirby: i am not want to speculate beyond august 31. our job there now was to help
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facilitate the safe movement of civilian personnel out of afghanistan. and the president has been very clear that he was that reduction complete by the end of august. that is what we are focused on. reporter: have you spoken to the taliban? do they know you are doing this? do you have assurances they will not attack the additional courses? mr. kirby: the defense department has not spoken to the taliban about this. reporter: are you concerned they are going to be under attack? mr. kirby: we have made it very clear, as i just did, our commanders will have the right of self-defense and any attack upon our forces will be met with a swift and appropriate response. reporter: you consider this a combat mission? mr. kirby: this is a very narrowly focused mission of safeguarding the orderly reduction of civilian personnel out of afghanistan. and that is what we are focused on. reporter:? ? not a combat mission mr. kirby: i have described -- not a combat mission? mr. kirby: i have described the
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situation three times. we are mindful of the security situation that continues to deteriorate in afghanistan and our troops always have the right of self-defense. this is a narrow mission to safeguard an orderly reduction of civilian personnel. jeff? reporter: if i could follow up on lucas' question -- with these new resources going into kabul, is the consideration of using the kabul airport as a staging point for what had been the over the horizon capabilities? has there been progress on securing anything closer to afghanistan in terms staging for the over the horizon airstrikes? secondly, how worrisome is it that a city like arat, or kandahar, where u.s. airpower is
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been focused to assist afghan security forces are either falling or have fallen to the taliban despite additional u.s. support? mr. kirby: i didn't get the question on your second one, i am sorry. reporter: over the last week or so, the u.s. we are told his focused airstrike capability on cities like arat and kandahar in an effort to bolster efforts of afghan security forces. how worrisome is it that those cities appear to be falling or have fallen into taliban hands by the fact u.s. focused what capabilities it has on those areas? mr. kirby: obviously, no one is pleased the security situation in afghanistan continues to deteriorate and the taliban continues to act and believe their only path to governance is through violence and oppression in force.
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contrary to what they said at the negotiating table. so, of course, nobody is happy at seeing that. but as we said, with these airstrikes, we would provide support where and when feasible the knowledge it is not always going to be feasible. as to your first question about the airport, there is no planning and discussion about using hamid karzai international airport as a base for conducting airstrikes in and around afghanistan. there is a small aviation element at the airport that is rotary based, for the facilitation and logistics and movement than the kind of thing. mike? reporter: the airport brigade in
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kuwait, who is in charge? do they report to embassy security, the rso? mr. kirby: an admiral who is in kabul has been placed in charge by general mckenzie to be commander of u.s. forces afghanistan forward. ashley? reporter: in addition to any additional aircraft, is there additional equipment these battalions are going to need? and can you walk us through how you arrived on 3000 additional troops? mr. kirby: i am not going to get into deliberations over how these units were chosen. this was based on consultation by the secretary with the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and general mckenzie, based on the mission set. again, it is a narrowly defined
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mission to safeguard movement of civilian personnel until process at an accelerated pace special immigrant visas. based on the mission set, we sourced a mission and based on consultations with top military leaders, the secretary decided this was the appropriate amount right now. and again have additional forces available closer to theater if required. i mr. of the question, i am sorry -- on thise -- i missed your other question, i am sorry. reporter: his additional equipment being sent on top with rest rotation at this point? mr. kirby: we anticipate use of additional military lift is required and are working through the requirements for that now. and these infantry battalions, with some measure of self-defense equipment -- mortars, machine guns, and personally carried weaponry.
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so they have defense capabilities. but i am not able to detail specifically what each battalion will be carrying. but they will obviously have the capabilities to defend themselves. reporter: winter we have heard is a noncombatant evacuation operation. sending 3000 personnel and another 1000 in country, that is a significant number. is this a noncombatant? operation mr. kirby: we are not classifying this as a noncombatant operation. it is a narrowly focused, temporary mission to facilitate safe and orderly departure of civilian personnel from the state department, and help the state department colleagues accelerate the processing of siv applicants.
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we are not classifying this as a ne-yo at this time -- neo at this time. reporter: their drawdown was for 2500 troops and you are sending in 3000 to get out civilians superquick and on top of that, another 3000 took away. isn't this ironic that in order to get out the 2500 you have to ramp up significantly? mr. kirby: no. i don't share your view of the irony. this is a very temporary mission for a specific purpose. that is a big difference than saying you are deploying for 8, 9, 12 months, forces to stabilize and secure afghanistan. which we have been doing for the last 20 years. this is a narrow, temporary mission. reporter: when this narrowly
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defined mission is over, there are only going to be 600 troops to protect airport and embassy staff? mr. kirby: once this mission is over, i want to into specific numbers here, but we anticipate having less than 1000 u.s. troops on the ground to support the diplomatic presence in kabul, which we all agree we still want to have. reporter: what changed in the past 24-48 hours? mr. kirby: we laid out clearly that three infantry battalions on the way now, and a combat team being brought over to the region as a reserve, there is no plan right now for additional forces.
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i can only say what i said before to david -- there wasn't one precipitating event in the last couple days that led the president and secretary to make this decision. it is a confluence of events. and as i have been saying, we have been watching very closely, with concern, security on the ground. and far better to be prudent and responsible in watching the trends, to make the best decisions you can for safety and security of our people, than to wait until it is too late. we believe this is not only the right thing, but the right time to do it. reporter: at what point is the fall of kabul inevitable? mr. kirby: i am not quick to speculate about hypothetical situations and m not going to get into intelligence assessment -- and i am not going to get into intelligence assessments.
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i am knocking to speculate about the future of kabul and i am not going to talk about intelligence assessments. we believe this is the right thing to do and as my state department colleagues at earlier, there is still a diplomatic presence in kabul and the intention is to maintain the diplomatic presence. we have a special envoy who routinely talk to leaders of the taliban, in terms of pursuit of a diplomatic come negotiated settlement. i refer you to state department colleagues. reporter: why don't you call it a combat deployment, because it is insulting for the americans watching this? mr. kirby: this is not a combat deployment and i don't share that sentiment at all. reporter: this isn't combat? mr. kirby: they will have the
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ability to defend themselves. they will be armed. of course. they are going for security mission, a narrowly defined mission to secure and safeguard movement of civilian personnel as well as movement of special immigrants, men and women applying under that process. reporter: not a combat mission? reporter: i am responding to emails from people enough to understand. this is a narrowly defined mission for our diplomatic personnel and those in the siv program. it is not for any other individuals who are not afghans. -- afghans who may have worked for u.s. agencies and other government's. the follow-up question -- other governments. the follow-up question, could the u.s. work with nato allies to evacuate? mr. kirby: i think i have
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characterized this mission and then going to leave it at that. on your second question, this is that u.s. decision by the commander-in-chief to reduce civilian personnel and have u.s. military personnel flow into help with that reduction. it is not a nato mission. that said, we fully anticipate close consultation with allies and partners, and if we can be of assistance to them if they desire to make changes in their footprint, the secretary fully intends to make it clear to them that we will be ready to help as needed. dan? reporter: thank you. can you clarify how this doesn't qualify as a -- as a neo?
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and if a neo is needed, you have everything in place you need for one? mr. kirby: the purpose is to evacuate civilian personnel. that is not the same as a noncombatant operation where you are moving a massive amount of people who aren't necessarily u.s. government employees. it is a different operational together it we are just not there. the other thing we are doing is helping the state department accelerate the process for special immigrant visa applicant. that also does not fall under the rubric of a noncombatant operation. jeff? reporter: thank you. i know you are telling us as much as you can and i know the pentagon is committed to transparency. in that spirit i ask, can you
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say where these infantry battalions are coming from? "the new york times" reports the marines are coming from a marine expeditionary unit, can you say which unit? mr. kirby: i am going to leave it at letting you know they are inside the central command area of responsibility. reporter: which brigade from fort bragg? mr. kirby: i am not going to detail which brigade, but it is a brigade from the 82nd airborne. sylvie, and one more after that. >> thank you. you said you didn't talk -- you said you can speak about the intelligence, which i understand, but you can speak about image. what do you think the evacuation
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of civilians by the military will look like? how are you going to avoid a parallel with the follow saigon? mr. kirby: what this is going to look like is what it is, the u.s. government looking after the safety and security of our people first and foremost, and making sure the military are supporting safe movement of these individuals out of afghanistan, which we believe is a prudent step. we are not walking away from commitments to afghan forces. we are not eliminating our diplomatic presence. we are still going to have diplomats there. we're still going to be doing work. and the military will remain committed to protecting the diplomatic presence that remains, so nobody is abandoning afghanistan. it is doing the right thing to protect our people. jim?
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reporter: does this operation have a name? mr. kirby: no. reporter: [indiscernible] mr. kirby: i wasn't aware of that. reporter: are you worried about this triggering panic in kabul? mr. kirby: this is about safe movement of our people in afghanistan. reporter: the civilians who live there are going to see a large number of americans being whisked away by the military while they are stuck with the taliban. mr. kirby: afghan forces have advantages. they have capability to protect their territory and people. they have the capacity to do that. what i think the afghan people
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want to see and deserve to see is the leadership and the will to use those advantages to their benefit. thanks, everybody. [speaking foreign language] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] chair: -- mr. kirby: i can't predict from there, right now they are going to qatar, and 3000 at the airport and then there will be a reserve force out of fort bragg that will stage in kuwait, roughly 3500. reporter: in addition to the 650 that are there? mr. kirby: yes. thanks, everybody. [indiscernible conversations]
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