Transcript for New Video Footage Shows Kurdish Forces Freshly Armed and Battling ISIS Forces
New video outside a town in Northern Iraq -- Kurdish forces freshly armed by the United States battling with ice -- forces. According to Al-Jazeera the Kurdish soldiers were able to retake the town from the -- -- group. After some fierce fighting and just when things couldn't look like they could get worse in Iraq they did Baghdad now. Locked in a power struggle which threatens to further destabilize an already fragile nation. It -- Iraq's president named a new prime minister throwing out incumbent or Al-Maliki after eight years in power but -- he. Not going gently refusing to yield -- -- I'm Dan Butler and New York recovery means fast moving developments one have more interest to all but first -- -- -- pentagon. Where lieutenant general William -- junior is briefing us on the latest on US involvement. Good afternoon I'd like to -- reviews. Tenet general. Stalemate bill. The director of operations date -- the -- that he's here today. Video data operations in Iraq. Frame up now we're working with friends partners and allies -- -- US. Personnel land were meant to have that is correct now serve -- no really -- -- The good afternoon thank you all being here I'd like updates you on US operations in Iraq since August 7. Last Thursday. The request of the Iraqi Government president ordered united states military. To provide humanitarian assistance. To refugees once in -- in Northern Iraq in to conduct airstrikes. To protect US citizens. -- -- -- forces in and around revealed. On Thursday C seventeen and C 130 air crews. Began coordinated series of humanitarian assistance airdrop missions to provide aid to the refugees. -- -- -- -- -- the last four nights US and UK air crews have flown fourteen successful missions. -- dropped more than 310 bundles of food water. And medical supplies delivering almost. 161000 gallons of water. And -- 5000 meals. In concert with our military partners US military is responding. Do you the united nations security requests from the international community. To do everything it can provide food water shelter. To those affected by this humanitarian crisis. Additionally the president. Also -- targeted airstrikes to facilitate resolution. To the humanitarian crisis on -- -- mountain and to protect citizens. Facilities and forces. The northern city -- revealed today. US air force and navy aircraft to include. -- fifteen -- -- sixteenths. FA eighteens and he wants. Have XUQ did. Fifteen targeted airstrikes. These airstrikes have helped check the stats of missile -- Growth -- -- In the area west of review. -- over sixty intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for supporting. Our coalition efforts in Iraq. US air strikes are also providing the Kurdish security forces from time to fortify their defensive positions. With the supplies they're receiving from the central government Baghdad. As a result -- security forces are holding territory in the vicinity of repeal. And has been reported in the media they retook key communities near you feel self. We assess that US air strikes in Northern Iraq have slowed missiles. Operational tempo. And temporarily disrupted their -- Toward the province of mobile. However. These strikes are unlikely. To affect IS IL's overall capabilities. Ports operations and other areas of Iraq and Syria. ISI ISI else remains. Focused on securing and gaining additional territory throughout Iraq. And sustain its attacks against Iraqi Kurdish security forces. And their positions as well as target disease Christians and other minorities. Our current operations are limited in scope to protect US citizens and facilities. To protect US aircraft supporting humanitarian assistance. And to assist in the breakup of ISO IS IL forces. That have laid siege. To syndrome who -- that'll stop there and take your questions. And Lyndon BP secretary legal that today that I missiles pose a threat to civilized world -- States. So given that and you describe -- limited intermission but what. People want to know what plans are -- Whether the US military and make efforts to degrade as his command and control for example -- members of -- leadership being targeted. Obama grow by -- religious gold gloves for example. -- -- and Syria. Going to be targeted. Your first to the threat posed by -- so we've been very clear about the threat provides a lot of IS -- forces. To Iraq into the region. Our principal task today and what we're doing right now. Used to protect the US facilities and citizens. American citizens at those facilities. To protect US aircraft that are supporting. -- JD. Humanitarian assistance in her room. No cinder. And to target those myself I have Sydell positions that are laying siege to -- -- There are no plans to expand the -- air campaign beyond the current self defense activities. Occurred. The reports US governments directly -- -- Deity playing a role in math and operational -- so yeah I saw that report and in the media and open source as well. Over the weekend it was the government of Iraq and Iraqi Security Forces that actually provided. Immediate -- supplies to Kurdish forces we are looking at how we can help them. And and studying the challenges that have -- with the team that we have in Baghdad providing some assistance. We are looking at plans it and how we can extend -- -- General over the weekend president Obama's. He was considering -- creating some kind of state quarter. To assist those some 151000. I guess. That he refugees. The mountains -- -- And he said he talked to the British and the French about that possibility. He also called -- complicate. Just how complicated wouldn't be were required boots on the ground would there be US boots on the ground. That that you. He raises the challenge that we're facing right now we're currently assessing what we can and can't do trying to understand. For example the numbers that are on the amount itself the numbers very seeing reports of numbers in the thousands -- -- seen reports in the numbers of tens of thousands. What is most importer knows that we deliver. The much needed water shelter and food. To those stranded on the on the mountain and -- four. What we might do next and we'll have opted to wait and see and get a better assessment on the ground before we can offer some options to present. It. Is creating a -- -- under those conditions. Without American boots on the ground -- the president is about. Is that even possible to do -- that it's the little bit to expect that from me for where we are right now. Apparently are forward looking archer. We are. Right now gripped by the immediacy of differences. In our focus right now is to provide. Immediate relief to those that are suffering. We are looking at the effect that we're having. On those fixed sites of missile sites since I -- sites that are laying siege and we -- trying to reduce. That threat. And for the near term that's going to be our focus so. You don't have a plan to get them off amount to bring them back syndrome or some other. Refugee camp. Don't. For now. Look what we're gonna need is a better understanding of what's going on up there too but we are assessing the situation where. And it -- in terms of the support that we've received of the week we've been contacted by many of our friends. As -- mentioned in my opening remarks French and UK have already started helping others have joined us and of course we're joined. The support from the region for over fly in for -- So increasingly. We are expanding than the number of folks are involved -- this immediate crisis it's a little bit too early. To -- to it has to stand here today and thank you very specific plants -- -- little bit about the level of effort or -- note -- campaign. We were told over the last week it was fifty -- -- sorties from my understanding now he's ratcheted up to something ought to point hundred sorties overall. The preponderance in Northern Iraq but also its highest our strike. Drones -- is if he's at about 100 sorties a day down from fifty. This sodas and sells very a ballpark to -- -- -- between 1860s what we can. -- doing now we've been our our most immediate task. Is to understand what's happening at the moment. To understand. To -- the the complexity of the -- that -- -- humanitarian assistance in dealing with this huge crisis is is gonna require. -- also tried to assess. The security of our key facilities both in Baghdad and interview. And we continue to use our intelligence to characterize the threat schools missile forces and. Regent. Effectiveness in layman's language for those watching this. How are you looking at -- factors as it pieces of equipment you destroyed he said erupted operational temple. What does it mean -- layman's language for those watching really. Good. The the number of vehicles we strike from the exact PDAs. Is less important than the battle damage assessments the number of things that we yet. Is less super important than the effects -- -- which is to reduce the threats. That could impact our facilities and and our citizens and to make sure that we reduce the effects. Those ladies laying siege to. Two months ago themselves. -- signs -- -- -- picking up she added that there panicky or wondering. Don't -- ISO IS forces look I think. -- in the immediate years we have focused our strikes we've had a very temporary effect. And but I didn't know and we may have wanted. Some some tactical decisions to move in -- restrictions -- move. Further east to reveal what I expect -- ISO ISI helped to do. Is to look for other things that through to pick up and -- -- -- -- in no way wanna suggest that we have. Effectively contained. Or that we -- somehow breaking the momentum of the threat posed -- -- People can connect to security on the mountain. Home. Fundamentally. What is your assessment. While you look at all of this and -- and see what you're dealing -- How much time keep these people have before they run out of time question number one. How are you associate we understand that you're flying drones over the mountain to trying to get a picture. Even today CNN crew was on board -- Iraqi Kurdish helicopter going into pretty -- -- pick up stuff that I insist on the way in that got shot prices on the way out. So clearly ice is still has some capability. To attack that mountain. Why no more air strikes against them. Well in terms of time. We have offered. Afforded a little bit more time to the crisis just with the success of our big -- humanitarian assistance thus far but the urgency of both the crisis has not gone away and it is very important that we find a solution. For those that are -- -- there we -- case within weeks. It's hard for me today. To tell you exactly that time was only that but you do point to I think it's very important to -- We need to continue to assess situations we need to continue to sustain humanitarian assistance. And we need to be able to protect that effort. With regards to the targets. One of the things that we have seen with the IS -- forces is that where they have been in the open. There are now starting to dissipate and to hide in. Amongst the people -- the targeting of this. Is of those forces that are trying to you affect the siege around. Around the mountain the target and this is going to become more difficult. So it does not surprise me that. An Iraqi Security Forces attempting a resupply of which in and of itself is no small task. And it shows you as well I think that that the Iraqi Security Forces are are very much involved in in this effort. But it does not surprising then that the bill that built with small arms fire during that the interest of those of those aircraft -- egress of those aircraft just because the way. That bias -- form formations in the room. -- -- -- we will continue to -- I've -- this news conference the Pentagon they're talking about the US involvement regarding air drops and airstrikes. In a very volatile a -- right now. But I want to bring an ABC's Mary Bruce who's with the president -- Edgartown Massachusetts -- Weinberg the State Department and the Martinez at the Pentagon -- I want to start off with you. The president getting a lot of criticism for -- for not doing more to prevent this crisis what has been the response from the White House. Well the president over the weekend and bristles at even innocent suggestion of that he. Can't quite a little bit of a testy answer to a reporter when he asked him just that question he said it is absolutely bogus. And wrong those are his words bogus and wrong to suggest. That he is somehow responsible. For the US not leaving behind troops when when they pulled out of -- he said look. That was the -- -- decision that the US offer to leave some troops on the ground. And at the Iraqis demanded that they not to do so but. Keep in mind the president's in an incredibly difficult position here not only did he run in 2008 promising to end the war in Iraq but he is touted since that is one of his. Main key accomplishments since he's been in office now of course he's finding himself in a position of having to re engage in Iraq in -- -- that he once called -- Dana. Mary I want to ask you about this because this seems to be the obvious point when you look at your shot there you see that beautiful boats in the water behind you there. It obviously indicates the president is on vacation in Martha's Vineyard had -- -- -- previously scheduled the intensity though. Of what is happening in Iraq always comes up whenever president is on vacation is the White House worried about the optics of this. Well there certainly is no good time for president to -- -- get away on vacation this is a particularly difficult time now remember it's not just the situation in Iraq -- of the violence in Israel and Gaza you have the crisis in Ukraine all of these international issues overshadowing his time here. Now the White House insists the president is president no matter where he is whether he's here beautiful Martha's Vineyard are back home in Washington he has been being briefed regularly we know this morning. He was briefed by his national security team but he is finding some time just to have a little bit of down time. He's -- already twice and currently right now he's just down the street having a little bit of the beach -- with the family. OK so rest and relaxation possibly then on on that what I -- -- ask -- about the vice president. Making a run of calls today's the new Iraqi president. And his pick for prime minister offering -- US support what is the larger message of the bigger picture from that kind of effort. The White House is sending a very strong message of support for the new Iraqi Government. Despite the objections of the incumbent prime minister Maliki. Now remember Iraq has been politically deadlocked for months and President Obama has made it very clear calls for -- to form a new government in order to face. These threats from ice is the president saying that Iraq -- a unified government and eaten in order to tackle this Islamist threat and it turned out the issue here is that prime minister -- he has given absolutely no indication that he is willing. To hand over power in fact they're some fear that he may use force to hold onto it. Now of course if you read the statements of -- -- president's calls this morning monkey's name wasn't even mentioned. So this administration is sending -- and not so subtle message to -- that it's time for him to ago. I -- -- bring -- Ellie Weinberg the State Department -- let me ask you about that has the US had any kind of direct contact with -- -- Dan no secretary Kerry has not spoken to prime minister Maliki since the presidents of Iraq who -- sued. Announced -- got a new prime minister candidate prime -- -- was going to be coming in to select the new Iraqi Government. It remains to be seen whether secretary of -- secretary Kerry does in fact talk to Melky the united states of course wants to now marginalized now -- -- let me ask you this and now staying with you then let's say everything does work out all these political factions come together does it matter that if ice is -- Baghdad how important of a strategic target would that be. Dan if ice is gets to Baghdad all bets are off no matter what condition the government is -- And keep in mind that Iraqi politics have never been stable so the idea. That we are going through this new period of government -- -- and the birth pangs of a new government are just beginning when you have ice says. Knocking on the doorstep of Baghdad it's an extremely. Dangerous situation and that's all the more reason why the Obama administration. Wants to see a new government debt in place quickly. So that their ten -- and cohesion among the various political blocs. As to who the common enemy here. It's the more we waits to see a government being formed the longer ice has has a chance to penetrate the very vulnerable Baghdad I want to talk. A little bit about the new prime minister -- the prime minister designate now. -- Brett Mcguirk the state department's top Iraq official. Took to Twitter to congratulate doctor -- body. By being named the prime minister designate. -- -- -- direct conversations. There have been -- any of conversations behind the scene Dan going on. Senior officials told us last night that they were up until 3 AM the following morning talking to these Iraqi officials. Trying to winnow down the list of viable candidates to become the next prime minister. There were 5 candidates earlier that evening and they finally whittled it down to where. President was -- was able to announce. Doctor -- body -- body. As the new prime minister does -- net. That means he now has thirty days to announce a new government that's tough task at any time but especially given the security situation going on right now. Ali Weinberg the State Department -- thank you for that I wanna go over to -- Martinez was at the Pentagon there. -- the Pentagon obviously not focusing only on the political -- in Iraq but also the ongoing airstrikes the air drops in the -- part that country. There have been several a since President Obama gave the okay last week what is the Pentagon saying about the level of success. Well we'll hear from general main building right there at the top boys that they -- Facts on the ground already -- in the prices advanced towards herbal. And they think they stopped that. It's to the point where it's we are now seeing some gains on the ground by Kurdish -- -- -- forces. At that pushed him away from are -- Now at the same time -- that -- noting his immediate success and the focus on the humanitarian mission. He also heard -- say -- overall the impact the momentum -- -- has not been stopped. That in the sense that their overall impact across the border in Syria and in the broader region of Northern Iraq around Mosul. -- that the airstrikes have not had an impact on that operation. But the United States obviously focusing on -- humanitarian mission. -- is that what the next steps and he's basically saying we need more information he said I can't provide you a timeline I can't say whether this -- been -- days or weeks. We just need more information. Especially with talk about establish humanitarian court -- for these thousands and -- -- say he it's unclear exactly how many people how many of these disease. Are stuck on mountains -- jar itself so once the United States gets a better grip. -- how much -- for on the level information then they can come up and develop plans he said himself right now I can stand up here and I can't give you specifics. -- we've been hearing about some various degrees of success from a humanitarian aid what do we -- What do we know about the materials that were dropped there we have been -- reports some -- didn't exactly make it to their targets or even useful at this point. Well. We may see some of this nights -- video taken aboard a C seventeens in the season when -- when these pallets are thrown out of the back of the aircraft over the open door. You see -- parachutes opening up. What is going on here is that these -- are then pat floating down to the ground hopefully. That would that would when he came to soften opposition. That the people who -- nearby canyons and grab them and use the water and -- meals ready to eat that are available in those packages. There have been some reports on the ground from one reporter he said that. People they were saying that the -- work. A landing and that the parachute hadn't opened that seemed contrary to the information. That we had gotten from officials hear -- from the video itself that showed. The parachutes opening. It is a complicated procedures. -- -- it's complicated because. You're operating at night. The parachutes may be coming down but it may be coming down and it's to close a level because of the altitude of the mountain. Such an inexact science but we also have a journal and activity up above and we have very precise information from that first -- That -- 170 to -- -- or drops. On the first humanitarian job and 63 of them were actually taken out by the -- So -- -- United States here with assistance from the united the United Kingdom and France also providing an air drops there. And isn't the goal here is trying to get as much. Assistance -- these trapped refugees as is possible. Of course -- they were talking about. Thousands of gallons of water and -- -- -- -- 70000 meals ready to eat but still that's not enough for the number of people that to be trapped on the -- Those are for the air drops for the humanitarian side of things but on the other side on the air strikes I we heard from the Pentagon briefing that lieutenant journal -- they'll be asked about. US involvement arming Kurdish forces there is my question for you that -- why were we not arming them prior to this. We were actually arming them but again it's it's a process of going through the Iraqi central governing -- -- talk about how he'd seen reports it was the CIA that was providing arming. Directly to the -- he kind of said -- What ever actually seeing -- the Iraqi Government and Iraqi Security Forces over the weekend. Sending resupply missions to the Kurds and that he says is an indication of progress because. The Kurdish Arab region is a semi -- is an autonomous region of Iraq. They find it handled there's been a lot of friction in the Maliki years. With the central government and the central government has been hesitant to provide resources. To the north -- to the Kurdish region. So now we're seeing that progress -- terms of aid but the United States has also been flowing -- there over the last couple of years as well. Whether in fact the CAA waste directly promoting this we heard from State Department officials say today that that this has been ongoing for quite a long time. In terms of the United States providing assistance to the -- what is the level of concern about those weapons falling into the wrong hands. While the -- -- have been quite loyal allies in the United States they were. Originally opposed two news Hussein regime and then of the United States moved in and they were loyal allies in the region of the north there. Like I said -- -- very have an autonomous government. They have this military arm called the -- -- Known to be quite well trained. Very responsible force and someone actually say they're better than the Iraqi Security Forces themselves. So some officials taken -- over the last week or so when there was an initial ice has pushed into earned -- And -- in the forces had these punishment forces had to pull back. Reportedly because they are running out of ammunition so it's very important why when -- supplying these forces because it may be capable. But if they don't have the -- -- two with which to take on prices than -- limited in their operations. It's not only the US efforts that are being concerned -- -- -- well right now but it's also those that are actually on the ground there is there any US personal still in Baghdad. We have it's 800 US military personnel in all of Iraq. This goes to the advisor mission that the president initially sent out about 300 -- that was later expanded in scope. Plus the hundred that were already working at the embassy. We have 445. Of those who are dedicated to security at the US embassy and also to the consulate up in -- deal. And what is in the United States is also set up a joint operations center in addition to the one in Baghdad. The but the majority of US military personnel are in Baghdad. There is an -- up their monitoring that joint operation center in her Biehl and I believe there's also detachment as providing security for the consulate. But much smaller numbers the number that we've been using -- 150 Americans told that includes American civilian and state department staff that are out there her appeal. Mary I want a rabbit out back with you on Martha's Vineyard where the president is vacationing right now what does the White House saying -- a timeline for how -- EC. This plane out. Given the air drops the air strikes and obviously now this conflict back and forth with naming a new prime minister. I think wearing a firm for something of a long -- -- -- the president -- over the weekend that this is a long term project now he has vowed repeatedly that there will not. The US troops on the ground -- the US is not he had dragged into another long war but. When you look at all of the complicating political factors all of the things that -- -- -- -- -- outlining. This is a long road and there are a lot of things that need to be taken into account your but the first step going forward. Is trying to form that unity government in Iraq so that this can be an Iraqi solution to this problem. Mary Bruce and on Martha's Vineyard with the president Ellie Weinberg of the State Department Louis Martinez at the Pentagon thank you all for that appreciate it of course you give up the story. In real time by downloading the ABC news -- and store in the store for exclusive updates on ago. For now again that's our New York.
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