Earlier Today, Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby delivered a press briefing on Russia, Ukraine and the ongoing Islamic State threat in Syria and Iraq.
Adm. Kirby criticized Russia for sending a column into Ukraine’s territory under the guise of humanitarian aid. He said that the Russians have massed more than 10,000 troops on the Ukraine border, and that they are combined-arms capable, very ready and very capable. Russia, Kirby said are continuing to add troops to the forces massed border region. Kirby also accused Russia of directly assisting the separatists in Ukraine with armor and anti-aircraft missiles. It was a Russian anti-aircraft missile fired by separatists that shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine.
Kirby also detailed an incident involving a US P-8 anti-submarine aircraft and a Chinese fighter jet over international waters near Asia on August 19. The P-8 was on a “routine mission” according to Adm. Kirby. Kirby said that the Chinese fighter brought its wingtips to within 30 feet of the American aircraft, and it rolled in front of the P-8’s nose to show its weapons load to the US pilot. The Chinese aircraft made three close passes, and Kirby described its actions as “very dangerous” and “unprofessional.” Kirby said that the US government has made its concerns about the incident known to the Chinese government.
The Chinese incident follows several in which Russian bombers have penetrated US airspace.
Kirby revealed that US air forces have conducted 93 airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq, but at the same time insisted that there is no military solution to the threat that IS poses. “Good governance,” Kirby said, is what will ultimately defeat the Islamist terrorist group.
The Islamic State has thousands of fighters, and uses American weapons and vehicles that were left behind when Iraqi army units abandoned them. IS’s spread has only been slowed by military action so far — Kurdish peshmerga forces fighting it on the ground, and US airstrikes damaging it from above.
Under media questioning, Adm. Kirby admitted that the State Department has requested 300 more security forces for its facilities in Baghdad. The Pentagon, Kirby said, is evaluating that request but has made no decisions. He said that he knows of “no specific threat stream” that cause the State Department to make the request. The US currently has about 1,000 troops in Iraq, acting as security forces and advisers with no combat role.
Kirby also addressed the use of military vehicles by local police, an issue that has grown more prominent during the unrest in Ferguson, MO. Kirby said that most of the equipment that the Pentagon transfers to local police is not tactical, but office equipment and communications. He did acknowledge that the Pentagon provided two Humvees to the Ferguson Police Department, but they were “soft skinned,” not armored. He said that most of the gear in Ferguson that appears to be military gear from the Pentagon is not military gear and did not come from the US military.
You can watch the entire briefing here.