OK, so I found and watched the Pentagon press conference. This is amazing.
tl;dr: They clearly and intentionally state that the pre-withdrawal mission has not changed, and emphasized their “shoulder to shoulder” relationship with SDF.
It’s incredible. This everything make sense, except it’s incoherent with regard to anything Trump said.
I’ll list highlights.
LIVE: News conference with @ChiefPentSpox Hoffman and @thejointstaff Vice Director Rear Adm. Byrne. (Taped on Periscope. Is this a Navy joke? Periscope sucks.)
- 00:00 The Pentagon uses Periscope???
- 02:33 Hoffman from SecDef introduces Read Admiral Byrne for them both to take questions.
- 03:10 withdrawal from Kobani is going fine.
- 03:23 Mission continues to be defeat of ISIS.
- 03:32 “shoulder to shoulder with our SDF partners”
- 03:45 Specifically clarifies that the mission is not to secure the oil fields, the mission is the defeat of ISIS; securing oil fields is subordinate task to that mission.
- 04:08 Oil fields had been pumping out 45k barrels a day. [So now we know where that $45m number came from. Seemed random at the time…]
- 04:28 Reemphasizes SDF role in securing oil fields.
- 05:05 Responding to Q if really this is about keeping oil from Russia and Syria, Hoffman emphasizes how much money this could be for ISIS as before.
- 07:00 When POTUS said ISIS defeated, he meant the physical caliphate, not ISIS as an insurgency.
- 09:10 In general, cease fire holding despite skirmishes.
- 09:24 Hoffman: We’re still supporting ISIS, but won’t take reporters bait to say still “arming.”
- 10:00 Begin long re-elaboration in oil fields and hownits about not fighting ISIS and not fighting Russia and Syria.
- This all sounds like they’re using “oil fields” like a codewords when adults talk about sex in front of a child.
- 12:30 Hoffman, answering question about legal basis of taking oil: Everyone knows who we are and where we are.
- 15:00 Hoffman: please stop trying to get me to say this is about denying access to Syria and Russia even though that’s what State said.
- 16:30 Q: So why mechanized forces? A: Because they work really well and the commander wanted them.
- 17:30 Q: yeah, but why mechanized tonfight ISIS? A: To make ISIS go away.
- 18:30 We don’t know if any SDF stayed in the safe zone—not our job.
- 19:20 No, we don’t know how many people we’re keeping there or for how long.
- 20:15 SDF in charge of ISIS detainees; countries of origin should take them back where applicable.
- 21:15 voice of contempt in not answering the question of if Trump is breaking the law in ordering the taking of the oil fields. We have a legal mission there, so none of this should be surprising since it’s the same mission it’s been the last four years and nothing has changed.
- 22:25 Byrnes emphasizes we’re doing this. It alone but with our SDF partners.
- 23:10 Aware of allegations of alleged war crimes (he said alleged two different ways) by Turkey and will look into it and if find anything forward the concerns and info Turkey for investigation.
- 24:10 Refers them to State Department.
- Stuff about budget and Southeast Asia.
- 29:10 Q: “Can you translate that into what does that actually looks like? Now? On the ground?” A: Byrne: “My initial reaction is, they’re in the fight. Shoulder to shoulder. SDF. US forces. Defeat ISIS. That’s the mission.”
- 30:40 Sure, Trump said he’d pull out. But he’s also expressed other underlying themes. Like defeating ISIS. So we’re committed to that, so we’re committed to staying for that mission.
- 31:25 Byrne: No I don’t know how much oil is being produced, I’m all about SDF. Shoulder to shoulder. Fight ISIS and don’t let oil go to ISIS.
- Stuff about Trump’s “interest” in military military justice system.
Department of Defense Press Briefing by Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Rath Hoffman and Navy Rear Admiral William D. Byrne Jr., Vice Director, Joint Staff