I think this Q: is Courtney Kube of NBC. I couldn’t locate any video:
Q: Actually, I have more than one question.
KIRBY: All right, let me get my pen. This is what happens when you approach 60. Go ahead.
Q: So, first, can you confirm that Russia is withdrawing its forces from Khmeimim Airbase in Syria? And then I’ll ask the second one later?
KIRBY: No, keep going, I’m writing.
Q: OK. So, if you can give us a sense of the department’s position on the Turkish threat to launch a new military operation against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, and if you got in contact since Monday with Turkish about this. And actually, one more, if you have any information about that claims that Turkey detained the ISIS — new ISIS leader Quraishi in Istanbul?
KIRBY: Yeah. So, I’ll go in reverse order. I can’t confirm the reports about Al-Quraishi and what — what we’ve seen in the press obviously, we’ve been looking at this all day, but we’re just not in a position where we can actually confirm that press reporting. On Turkey, I think we’re obviously very concerned about the Turks announcement that they intend to increase their military activity in northern Syria. And I think my State Department colleague, Ned Price, I think really put it much better than what I can. But what our concern is, obviously, would be safety of the civilian population the — the impact on continued defeat ISIS operations, you know, because it could draw off potential SDF personnel to move away from the counter ISIS fight, which is obviously what we’re focused on in northern Syria. And then, of course, just the potential for more humanitarian assistance needs. So, we’ve expressed as a government our concern over this.
And as for Russians pulling troops out of Syria, look, I — I’ll just tell you we know, right? We know that they continue to try to replenish their manpower in the Donbas. We know that they have raised the enlistment age now to 50 to allow for even older Russians now to join the military, if they — if they can. We know that they’ve started to pull on some contract personnel from their reserves to try to bolster their efforts. And we have seen some spurious reports, nothing that we can confirm, that they’re looking elsewhere for additional manpower to include pulling from potentially some of their overseas operations. But I can’t confirm that specific report about Syria. But it’s very clear that — and much of this is in open-source reporting that the Russians are opening up the valves, if you will, to try to create a bigger influx of potential military personnel to be used in Ukraine.
They continue to take casualties every single day in this war. We know that they have lost not only soldiers, but they they’ve lost a lot of equipment and weapons. They are expending a significant number of their cruise missile and precision guided munitions inventory in this war. So, we know that they are looking across the board at ways to try to resupply and replenish themselves.
. . .
KIRBY: Let’s see. Jeff Schogol.
Q: Thank you. You may have answered this, but I just wanted to ask directly, has Turkey notified the U.S. government that it intends to launch an operation into northeast Syria?
KIRBY: I have no knowledge of an official announcement or notification, Jeff, again, I’d refer you to my State Department colleagues for that. But look, they have — they’ve said it publicly. And again, Ned Price over at the State Department already answered for the U.S. government a couple of days ago about this.