Press Gaggle by Secretary Mattis
Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS: You want to come in or -- all right. So every time I saw I'm going to get on and see the press, things happen. I'll just leave it that, OK? Do you want to go on the record initially or off the record the whole time? What's your -- we'll be a democracy.
SEC. MATTIS: Looks like it's unanimous expect for one vote. (Laughter.)
SEC. MATTIS: All right. So we'll go on the record, OK. The -- let me just bring you up-to-date on some things. This morning, interesting, I met with JCOC. I'm not sure what that means. Civilian Orientation -- Joint Civilian Orientation, and these are pealed from all across the country.
One lady is a college president. There's people the running companies. There's all sorts of different people there. And one of them who runs a sports organization -- a women's sport organization has, for example, she never gets to have a conversation with people around the military. She's really looking forward to this week because they take off for Savannah. They're going to spend time with the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines.
But it's interesting how she never sees, mostly never has a conversation with military. To remind her what you all deal with daily is really alien to an awful lot of America because our military has shrunk. The number of bases themselves have shrunk. In many cases, they're still in places where they were placed during the Indian wars or during the World Wars, and now they're somewhat isolated from the population centers of the country.
But it is a reminder that as much as I say this isn't my National Defense Strategy, NDS, even if I signed it, well, that sounds good, but there's not a whole lot of people who really feel like it's theirs. It's for America's National Defense Strategy, and it's somewhat a reminder of you're -- the importance of your job. I realize as I'm saying that since you're the ones who often give voice to what we do here for better, for worse. (Laughter.)
SEC. MATTIS: Let me just talk about some other things. I was in since I've last seen you, which is too long I realize, I've been in Singapore and Hawaii, and in Singapore, it was a very interesting time. I probably met with a dozen different countries, bilaterals do you call them or trilaterals like when it's Australia, Japan, U.S., U.S., Japan, South Korea -- all of this kind of stuff.
And the military relationships remain very strong in Hawaii. I was seeing, for example, our Mexican and Canadian counterparts for the second time in two weeks having just been through the NORAD NORTHCOM change of command in Colorado, and now I see them out in Hawaii.
In Hawaii, obviously, we also had many other Pacific nations out there, and there I met with the Indonesians and the South Koreans in Hawaii. Then I go into Singapore, and again, I see, for example, the Canadians were there in Singapore, as were many of our NATO allies.
And then the next week, I got to NATO to Brussels, and there I see some of the same people I saw in the Pacific. There's this parlay of the French Minister of Defense, Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for War for Defense -- excuse me -- from U.K.
But it's interesting to see the interconnections of the military from Colorado to Hawaii to Singapore to Brussels and how these connections continue as we all stay committed to our core processes even while things outside our core could be either distractions or areas of consternation, that sort of thing.
And so, the -- really the fundamental relationships of mil-to-mil relationships have held through it all. I'll just give you the example. I don't see any of you here with me on the trip -- oh, there's Bob. Tariffs did not come up a single time while I was in, for example, in Brussels.
And so, for some of you that's not news I know, but for some of you it is. I hope you got that kind of the right body clock time zone a couple of you. But I bring this up because I know at times it all seems to just churn here, but in fact steady as we go, we're maintaining. Remember line of effort number two for us. Line of effort number one be make a more lethal military. Number two is to build stronger alliances and partnerships and broaden them. And then number three is to reform our business practices.
In that regard, the audit is ongoing. First audit in 70 years in Department of Defense. Paying a fair amount of money for it, so they better find problems or I'm going to be very disappointed. (Laughter.)
SEC. MATTIS: And then we're going to fix every one of those problems. But the audit is ongoing, and that, to me, is -- you know, I promised it when I came in in my confirmation hearing and I hope that -- I'm not quite sure when it's going to be complete, but, of course, when it is, we're going to have feedback loop so that every one of the -- how are you doing?
STAFF: Hi, how are you doing?
SEC. MATTIS: Sorry, we started early here.
SEC. MATTIS: But every one of the feedback loops means we're also going to correct what those audits find. So that's going on. So three lines of -- let me also go into some of the active military operations.
In Syria less than a week ago, our partnered force kicked off an attack on one of the last enclaves of ISIS. It's still a fight. You'll remember be telling you back in June that it's still quite a fight going. That was a year ago. It's still ongoing.
In the meantime, we've kicked them flat in every area that we've fought them, and with Iraqi artillery support from their side of the border as we close in from the Syria side, you see the collaboration of the Defeat ISIS Coalition continuing.
And in our meetings where we've met with the Defeat ISIS Coalition, which is, as you know, a total of 74 international organization and countries, but there's a smaller number -- I forget. Do you remember the exact number? 20?
STAFF: Or 41 for...
SEC. MATTIS: For military?
SEC. MATTIS: -- for military, but when we got into the room together and listened from the Europe countries there in the region to the European countries to the ones from out in the Pacific, it was unanimous that destruction of the geographic caliphate, in other words that area in Iraq and Syria if you saw a build there from the Summer of 2014 -- 2013, whatever it was and move on through, everyone agrees that we hold the Defeat ISIS Coalition together and we go after all aspects of it. We share information. We don't just say, hooray, we beat them down there and this was not a persuasive effort or an argument by me. This was, getting a lot of support from all of them, and their points, they were making, it was very, very unanimous.
So that was -- that was good. So that's ongoing. At some point, we will continue to move against the other enclaves down in, what we call the MERV or the Middle Euphrates River Valley. And then, in Afghanistan, as you know, it's now up to 41 nations and it starts going again, the coalition against the Taliban, but you could see there, as you look at, how can you, really tell if, politically, you're doing better.
Obviously, in Iraq, they ran an election. It may not be perfect, may be contested in some regard, but the fact is, none of us knew, going into it, who was going to win. So if you remember what it was like in 2014, when people thought Baghdad was going to fall and you look at where they're at today, think of what a change and circumstance there has been.
And there's been a lot of skepticism. Well, will you be able to take Mosul. Will you be able to take Talafar? What's going on up here? You all glancing up there?
Q: There's a countdown clock for the summit. It's like -- it's like if you can't take your eyes off of it.
Q: 4, 3, 7 -- it's closer.
SEC. MATTIS: Over here. (Laughter.)
Q: Waiting for you to get to that topic.
SEC. MATTIS: OK, I will. But in Afghanistan, President Ghani felt strong enough, now, to come out with a proposal for -- I think it's from tomorrow to the 19th. I think the Taliban bought something less. I think they were in a dilemma.
What do they do. Ghani offered them a negotiation, back -- what was it in, February, I think, somewhere, back there. Their response was to come out with their spring campaign. That hasn't gone so well. They're good at killing innocent people in towns but not so good at taking on the Afghan Army, anymore.
And now, when he hit them again with it, we see that they finally had that -- I doubt they did that out of feeling like they were on the top of their game.
So you see that, little by little, the building blocks building in Iraq or in Afghanistan. It's not to say it's not going to be a rough go, of course it is, you know. That's what -- that's why it's called war, but we're still committed in Syria, the peace process, the Geneva process, Staffan de Mistura's led and fully supported effort. The -- we're committed to a reconciliation effort in Afghanistan, and you saw the alima of several thousand scholars there, religious scholars and all, in Afghanistan attacked and bloodied, but they still came out with a fatwa that says you can't -- you're doing the wrong thing if you're engaging in this fight, from a religious point of view. And what you're seeing is just stripping off of any religious aspects to what they're doing. It's not holding up anywhere. So there's where we’re at.
On -- on Korea, again, I have had someone in the -- one of my assistant secretary's with the Ambassador Kim led team, they're in South Korea, making certain, the military factors, the policy factors are being considered, all the way through, as we put together our positions and work goes forward.
He stayed with them, a way of continuity of effort. They're in Singapore, and there's not a lot of communication back and forth with me because we're holding, exactly where I've talked to you about before, about the military factors. This has been diplomatically read all along and so, the diplomatic people are in change.
I've got the guy embedded from day one. The same guy, highly knowledgeable about -- it's Secretary Schreiber, by the way, if -- if -- if that's of interest to you, but he has been with it all the way through, is still there today.
So we will all watch and see what the two leaders and our diplomats come out with. And I can't -- obviously I can't tell you anymore right now since the negotiations are in play.
Let me think if there's anything -- oh, no, I think that about covers it.
Why don't we go to your question chair and take -- go ahead (inaudible).
Q: Mr. Secretary, I would like to ask you about the future of the (inaudible). As you -- as you may know, the Iranians are asking the U.S. to leave the (inaudible) triangle in order to pull their, what they call the Quds forces from 60 kilometers away from the Israeli border. What's -- what's your opinion on that?
SEC. MATTIS: Yeah, you know, obviously, in light of what the revolutionary regime leaders, the religious leaders in Tehran, have said and the Quds force arming of Lebanese Hezbollah, Israel has a legitimate security interest about keeping Iranian troops, the Iranian influence led, supported, moneyed, equipped, armed people away from their border.
You've seen Israel react for good reason, at some of the things Iran has being trying to orchestrate there, in Syria. Clearly, Iran is using Syria as a way to foment attacks on Israel, thus being injurious to Syria's -- the Syrian people’s prospects. So I think that we're going to have to watch and see how Iran is kept out of a situation that draws Israel into attacking Syrian ground because Iran is using it for -- to prepare for or otherwise conduct attacks on Israel.
So we'll just have to see how it unfolds right now. That's about all I can say. This is a -- a problem where you see Iran, once again, conducting its destabilizing activities wherever it goes in the Middle East.
(Inaudible), yeah, go ahead.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I wanted to ask about the lethality piece.
SEC. MATTIS: Yeah.
Q: We had a B-1 stand down after an engine burn injection seat failure. There was a F-15 crash on Sunday. Was just wondering, if the services are deemed back to you about -- I know they have to go before Congress, later this week, to talk about the mishaps and what they're doing to address. Are they are also talking to you and keeping you briefed on everything and ...
SEC. MATTIS: Oh, yeah. Yeah, you know, what we're doing on readiness, there is trialing indicators, I would call them, in other words, you can -- if you fail to do things five years ago, three years ago, one year ago, you don't reverse all those things with the money that Congress has given us, which is significant. Much of that money is directed right in to the training and the maintaining of our equipment, whether it be, naval assets or air assets, and we -- I cannot tell you what happened with the F-15 it -- you know, there's obviously going to be an investigation.
As far as other -- I wouldn't take any one thing as an indicator, you've got to watch the trends, OK? And there are times when we find a problem with some aspect of an airplane. So we'll shut them down, we'll check it in all the air -- and then they come back up very quickly.
So we'll just have to watch and see how this goes. But these -- some of them may well be trailing indicators of past shortages of parts or of training or something. But we have to look at each case to see what -- what caused it. But this is probably the thing -- as a matter of fact, the book I have to go through for Wednesday's meeting on readiness writ large is probably this thick, I know because I went through it this weekend.
It's probably this thick with each of the services going through their major part of where there's been readiness problems -- what we're doing on each one as we apply the money or the time or the troops who are no longer deploying at the same high-tempo, to fixing all these issues.
It's very complex but it's -- it's being broken apart into its -- its requisite pieces so we address like -- it'd be a little bit like a rifle shot, not like a shotgun blast, OK? At each individual piece and this is where having someone with -- having people like Ellen Lord who's run an industry or the deputy secretary with his vast experience in aviation industry. Having them in these positions allows the services to turn to -- to know what they're talking about, as we identify the problem and fix it, OK.
Q: Just quickly on the P-1 specifically, did you have any insights as to what happened with -- forcing the stand down with the ejection seats and are you concerned about?
SEC. MATTIS: No, I'm not concerned about it. Whatever it is it will be fixed very quickly.
Barbara, you got me into this -- (Laughter.) -- so you better -- you better ask me a good one here, a real zinger.
Q: I have two. On North Korea, you were talking about military factors, can you tell us anything about your views on what you would like verification to either look like or some of the military factors you would like to see in a verification regime?
Second, my very other quick question, you mentioned trade and tariffs...
SEC. MATTIS: Pardon me?
Q: You mentioned trade and tariffs.
SEC. MATTIS: Yes.
Q: Besides North Korea. You, normally, never talk about that stuff and you recently talked extensively, publicly, about the trade and tariff issue on...
SEC. MATTIS: I did?
Q: ... Your trip. You did.
STAFF: On board the plane.
Q: On board the plane you talked about...
SEC. MATTIS: OK.
Q: ... About your support for trade.
SEC. MATTIS: Yes, it was mostly to show, this is what has not come up (inaudible).
Q: Well -- right, but that's what I want to ask you. You have now stepped into something I don't think -- an issue that would be somewhat surprising for you to step into. How -- what is your view -- and the Alliance has not brought it up to you yet, but now you're into it, so what is your view about how this could strain your relationships with ministers -- but North Korea and verification?
SEC. MATTIS: Yes, on trade and tariffs, the only point I can make is that, for all that's been in the news, it has not come up at any point.
So, clearly, right now, the core functions of what we exist for is what all of us engaged in this portfolio -- whether it be ministers of defense in -- in Europe, or chiefs of defense in North America; ministers out in the Pacific, that this simply is not seen as something that we're engaging on in our portfolios.
In other words, the relationships stay, right now, where they're out or strong -- or strengthening right now.
On the military factors on negotiations, those we would have -- you have to allow, if you're going to say it's diplomatically led, you have to allow -- excuse me -- the diplomats to frame the issue, they have to frame it in terms of time, in terms of the specific types of weapons -- obviously, nuclear would be one but there's others that could be involved.
You have to get that part right. To talk about it before you have the framing principles is to say generically what happened and that only complicates the diplomat's job because they're working on specifics right now. And that's why I just don't go into, Barbara.
It's not that these things, in terms of physics, are completely absent, OK? It's that, in this case, I do not specifically want to say anything, at all, that makes their job that they're responsible for, more difficult.
My job is to find space to find solutions to support the diplomat. So you'll never see me go ahead on something like that.
Q: But -- can you just -- can I follow up for minute. You said you don't want to talk about it...
SEC. MATTIS: No.
Q: ... But you said these discussions are ongoing.
SEC. MATTIS: Of course. That's what they're meeting about.
Q: Can we -- sure -- can we accurately assume that this framework that is being developed includes how -- specifics on what the U.S. would like to see?
SEC. MATTIS: I don't know. We're going to have to see what level of detail they go into. We have to see. You -- this is negotiation, if we knew what was going to come out then we could of given you the press release even ahead of time. We're going to have to see what comes out.
And I'm -- I just don't want to go more deeply there.
Q: Can I follow up on what Barbara said, on the plane you were talking about and you said emphatically that -- that on the table would not be withdraw of U.S. troops, is that still a redline for the U.S. Military?
SEC. MATTIS: Yes. It's -- let's remove the word redline. I will tell you that that would be a discussion between two democracies, the Republic of Korea and the United States, and its relationship between our leaders and those two countries.
That is not something that other countries would have -- have -- I would just say, initial domain over a discussion with us. It starts between our two countries and that would be premature right now as we wait for the outcome of the -- of the negotiations.
Q: And if I could just follow up on Syria, there was an interesting case last week where an American citizen who had been captured on the battlefield in Syria was going to be released back into Syria by the Defense Department. That got stopped in the courts. What is your view of what should happen to any Americans who are caught in Syria or Iraq fighting with ISIS or other terror groups?
And where would you like to see them go? Would you like them to come back to the U.S. and be tried? Would you like them to go to third countries? And how many detainees does the U.S. military have over in Iraq and Syria?
SEC. MATTIS: We'll get you the number of detainees, I want to make certain to give you an accurate number. We don't have them. We have one right now that we've got there. The Syrian Democratic Forces have a whole -- hundreds of them.
In this one case, because it's right now in the court system -- again, as always, since we've managed to, I would just say paralyze the kind of response you deserve to that but you can't say anything once it goes into a courtroom. It's not -- and believe me, I'd -- I'd rather go into quite some detail here.
But overall, we're going to have to address how we deal, as countries, with those who go into transnational terrorism in other countries or places where all law and order are broken down. SDF is not a nation-state. They do not have a court system, for example.
So this was -- we've brought it up in a number of venues, and I won't say that the -- that the lawyers have all figured out. I would just say that the direction I would -- that I would say I'm going in is we have a legitimate interest in keeping terrorists off the street once they're captured so they don't go back to doing the very thing they got caught at.
The challenge is that most courts require chains of custody on the individual, on the evidence, and battlefield captures do not lend themselves, generally, to that level of detailed police work that we expect in Dayton, Ohio, when a policeman arrests somebody. So how do you deal with that? We're engaged with U.S. Senate and the attorney general -- the Department of Justice right now to get our own way forward on this.
But just the fact that you're asking this question over a decade -- approaching two decades into this war shows the credibility of the issue, why you should be asking about it. But I don't have a very clear-cut answer for you.
Q: Follow up on this. Mr. Secretary, you had said that Wounded Warriors will be exempt from the non-deployable policy. As far as I know, that hasn't happened yet. What's the delay?
SEC. MATTIS: What -- what isn't...
Q: If you're not deployable for a certain amount of time, that you'll be separated. You had said Wounded Warriors will be exempt from this policy. As far as I know, there is no exemption as we speak. What is the delay?
SEC. MATTIS: There is no delay. Believe me, when I say it, that's it. OK?
Q: Well, I understand this has to be written down, too, because that's how policy works.
SEC. MATTIS: Is it really? OK.
Q: Mr. Secretary, on Africa real quick. (inaudible). Do you think that the U.S. military should decrease the number of Special Forces in Africa?
SEC. MATTIS: The way we -- a good question. That's actually something I should have brought up earlier.
When you look at how we're fighting the war on terrorists (Bell ringing) -- I'm not doing that. Trust me, I'm not doing that. (Laughter.)
The way we fight that is by, with and through allies. For example, you saw a couple dozen Special Forces in Somalia with a little under 1,000 Africa Union and Somali troops in an area. There's about -- I -- I'm not sure. I don't want to say anything rather than a couple dozen out of that almost 900. And so they're there to advise them how to go about their job, train them in all the things that we do. They're not in the combat.
Now, does that mean they're completely safe? No, that's why we use the U.S. Army. That -- you know, because it's in dangerous areas. But in the training there, they were hit by indirect fire, by the way. It was mortars, we think. I'm -- I'm pretty sure of that. And so we look at, what is it we're trying to do? If, for example, in the trans-Sahal, we're actually in support of the French-supported effort to do that. The French are actually leading them.
So it's what we call "troop detached." How many do you want to train? What are the -- what do you train? Is it fire and movement? How to engage key leaders? Who do you engage, official and unofficial? Is it first-aid training for infantry guys, or is it first-aid training for soft force of foreign African soft force that'll operate on their own? Do you have to have a higher level of first-aid training, because they're more isolated?
All of these things are looked at, and then you do assignment: number of troops for that task. Right now, it is totally done by, with and through our allies. There's no strike forces there on the ground right now. Now, we could bring them in if we found, you know, an al-Qaida leader that we wanted to go after, and we would do that with -- by, with and through, however, our allies. We -- they would know we're coming in, and that we're going after this one.
But right now, it's all in the training, mentoring, coaching, supporting ISR guys. You then say, "Here's the photograph of where they're at," and so they can brief their guys -- that sort of thing. So...
Q: (inaudible) less on the continent, there's been talks that -- that we're spread too thin, and...
SEC. MATTIS: No, no, yeah. It's all broken down like that, so I don't want -- you might have more, you might have less.
Q: Can I ask about Yemen?
SEC. MATTIS: Yeah.
Q: There's a -- there's a possibility of a -- of a -- an operation soon by the Emirates, a coalition, or different -- in the wake of an operation.
SEC. MATTIS: Well, we're dealing with a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and I think that what we're trying to do -- I've met myself with U.N. special envoy to Yemen, the new one. He's only been there about two months, Martin Griffiths, the U.K. -- very experienced, very good. I've met with him twice myself personally. I've talked to him on the phone separately, and we are -- the -- the things we are doing that might be different would be, how do we support that humanitarian effort, the U.N. special envoy, and try to drive this to a negotiated, you know, end of the fighting?
As far as the United Arab Emirates, we have, I think Secretary Pompeo has come out talking about what -- our policy there. We support that policy. I -- I recommend you read it, his, so that -- I don't want to ad lib it, because it's -- it's a very specific one. And he put it out to their public affairs people, or their -- their people over there.
And right now, that's where we're at. We are not engaged in the Red Sea, military operations, differently than we've done in Yemen, which is counterterrorism against al-Qaida and ISIS. It's providing any intel, or anything we can give to show no-fire areas where there are civilians, where there's mosques, hospitals, that sort of thing -- aerial refueling, so nobody feels like I've got to drop the bomb and get back now. No, you've got plenty of time. Take your time. No hasty decisions. So -- and that's, again, you know, the -- that's in support of the U.N. -- or the United Nation-recognized government. But again, it's to try to drive this to a negotiated settlement.
Q: But to clarify, did -- did that mean that the envoy asked you to help provide some humanitarian relief?
SEC. MATTIS: No.
Q: Any kind of an operation?
SEC. MATTIS: No, it did not. We are maintaining constant collaboration with him, so that if they ever got to that position, could we do it? We're aware of where his thinking's at, but right now, we have not been asked to -- to do more than we're already doing on humanitarian.
If we're going to go off the record, we've got to go pretty soon, folks.
Q: Can you give a quick clarification on U.S. troops in South Korea? Because I understand you used the word -- and South Korea. You used the word -- I don't want to use the word redline. But is it your understanding that...
SEC. MATTIS: Yeah, we don't use -- that, yeah. Red lines are like, you step across, I'm going to whack you, or something. That -- that's -- that's not what we would call this.
Right now, the U.S. and South Korea are not engaged -- and we're the only ones who make up our minds on this -- are not engaged in any reduction of U.S. forces' talks, and I think we all wait until after this settles and we go forward.
Q: Sir, if I could just clarify, does that mean that any discussion of removal of troops is not on the agenda for later on in Singapore.
SEC. MATTIS: I don't know. You'll have to ask them out there. I don't believe it is.
OK. Yes, ma'am.
Q: Sir, just to follow on Yemen quickly. Would -- for example, today, there was Medicins Sans Frontiers hospital was hit allegedly by the UAE-Saudi coalition.
SEC. MATTIS: Yes, we heard that. We're not aware of any casualties. We're looking into -- I just got off the phone with the CENTCOM commander probably in the last two hours when we heard about that to find out what we know. And there -- there -- they said they're already scrambling. The word is, there was no casualties, but I can't confirm that either and we have to find out what happened there. It may have been a newly opened clinic of some kind. But I don't -- I don't know right now.
Q: Would the MSF be one -- I would assume be one of the organizations that the U.S. military normally would have a record of those kinds of buildings (inaudible)?
SEC. MATTIS: I'm not going to speculate on that. If I don't know an answer, I can't...
Q: On Korea, I got to ask you, if U.S. troops levels were part of the negotiation, you said, you don't -- you don't believe they are, but if they were, you would have a feeling for that, wouldn't you?
SEC. MATTIS: Yes, yes, I sure would. OK.
Q: Can you -- just since you're going to the summit, what's the latest assessment on North Korea's missile program? They haven't tested since November, but are they...
SEC. MATTIS: That's the latest information (inaudible).
Q: Any indication they've been producing in that time or they've been testing reentry vehicles and other ways that don't include an actual launch? Anything like that?
SEC. MATTIS: I don't know how you would do that, but...
Q: An engine test allegedly they say, but I don't know if it's true. And how about the...
SEC. MATTIS: Yes, I don't know about that.
Q: Is there any -- any -- but can you give us any update to their -- to their capabilities going into the summit? Has anything changed since the last test in November or nuclear program or anything?
Q: And is there any -- have you got an update on the condition of the -- I'm sorry, I can't say it. The nuclear test site, what's the Pentagon assessment of whether that's been destroyed or not?
SEC. MATTIS: Yes, I just won't answer that on the record. I'd prefer not. OK.
Q: How about their military state of readiness?
SEC. MATTIS: Pardon?
Q: Do they look like they're in a high state of readiness?
SEC. MATTIS: No. Alls quiet.
Q: Are we going off the record?
SEC. MATTIS: I'm not -- I'm probably not going to have time to do that.
Q: Mr. Secretary...
Q: On Google, Google's -- Google's in a midst of a kind of revolt kind of against DOD and...
SEC. MATTIS: Yes.
Q: …claiming that you're going to pull work on artificial intelligence. Are you speaking with them? Are you hearing from them? Do you have a message -- a response?
SEC. MATTIS: Yes, my undersecretarys of course, because they've been engaged on that -- that very contract, so yes, they're speaking with them.
Q: Do you have any message for them?
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you clarify one thing on North Korea on troops, what you just said, when you said it's all quiet, and were asked about the state of readiness.
SEC. MATTIS: Yes.
Q: I want to make sure I understand.
SEC. MATTIS: You mean North Korean, right?
Q: North Korea's state of troop readiness.
SEC. MATTIS: Yes, no, it's all quiet.
Q: Right. But can I just make sure, are you saying that their readiness has gone down or it's just...
SEC. MATTIS: No.
Q: ...steady state.
SEC. MATTIS: No, I'm just saying it's all quiet.
Q: Thank you.
Q: On Manbij, you met with your Turkish counterpart. When do you think the plan -- the roadmap for the Manbij will be implemented, or is it -- is it already underway?
SEC. MATTIS: Yes, thanks. I should have brought that one up too. Thanks for bringing it up. On Manbij, our secretary of state met with his counterpart, I think about a week ago, now, approximately. And we are prepared to go forward with the collaboration across the flat -- forward line of troops, which starts with just knowing where each others at. Then patrols on each side, saying yes, I see you, you see me. And then probably some kind of collaborative patrols inside the pocket in that regard. We're meeting this week, I can't remember what day in Europe, the Turkish military is going in with European Command, EUCOM, and I believe it's Stuttgart, and we are talking our way through how will this actually -- what is the road map, the military factors now, in execution.
Now the secretary of state and the minister of foreign affairs have set it up. So they're meeting as we speak to come up with that very answer.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SEC. MATTIS: Thanks for bringing that up.
Q: Thank you for (inaudible).
On tariffs you were saying that when you were in Brussels this issue didn't come out, but it seems that we have reference of that. The European Union has claimed to announce this -- that there will be less than 30 million dollars (inaudible) tariff, but one of the things that they're going to (withdraw ?) is the (inaudible) only to European companies. No American company will be allowed.
Don't you have any concern that can we honestly -- this administration make (inaudible) impact on the (inaudible) the U.S. deterrents?
SEC. MATTIS: Yes, especially after the last several weeks of what I've already said about how our core competency is to protect the democracies against countries that would otherwise subvert the democracies, processes and all.
I stay inside my defense portfolio. I'm not going to discuss...
Q: Quickly on Afghanistan, there were attacks today in Kabul, Kunduz, Nangarhar and Ghazni. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack on Kunduz. Does this effectively mean the cease-fire is over?
SEC. MATTIS: Has the cease-fire started? I don't think it's started.
Yes, but at the same time, your question's still valid, because -- and this is a group that knows they cannot win at the ballot box, so they go to bombs. They can't take on the Afghan army anymore, and so they kill innocent people.
This is what we're fighting against. So to me it's a rather kind of a black-and-white issue, and so I don't think just because the cease-fire hasn't started they get any kind of bye. I think you're point is still valid. They're not -- they're not going the way they ought to be going, if they're listening to their religious leaders, or if they're listening to the political leaders in Kabul, as fractious as they are, that government is offering them an open hand right now. And that's the way they respond.
And President Ghani offers them some talks back in February. They announced their spring offensive. It's fizzled on them. They're good at setting of bombs, killing women and children. But they're about as miserable an excuse for manhood as I've ever seen.
Q: Thank you.
SEC. MATTIS: (Inaudible)
Q: Are you going to stay up late and watch the summit coverage, and watch the president's press conference at 4 a.m.? (Laughter.) You're probably up already.