...Mattis on DoD/FEMA response to hurricane***
I don't think you reported much on it so that's probably a good sign, isn't it? (Laughter.)
SEC. MATTIS: Cheer up now, Barbara.
SEC. MATTIS: Just had to throw that in.
SEC. MATTIS: We are in Syria. Obviously, the fight is ongoing in the middle Euphrates's River Valley, and this is downstream now as you know from this is the last probably, I think some will say two percent, less than two percent of land.
On the terrorist bombing, it was on a city down near the Iraqi border in southwestern Iran. That we condemn it, we condemn terrorist bombings anywhere that they occur. It's ludicrous to allege that we might've had anything to do with it.
The Senate voted a week ago, 93 to 7, I'm very proud of that vote on our appropriations bill. And I believe that this week, the House intends to take up the appropriation bill.
*** !!!! ***
Next week, I'll be traveling to France, then over to Belgium for the ministerial, to the defense ministerial.
Q: Can we stay on Syria for a second, you said about two percent left of the physical caliphate.
SEC. MATTIS: Yes.
Q: So, once that comes to an end, what is the role for U.S. forces at that point?
So, this is not a conventional war where you raise a flag over the enemy's capital and they sign a peace treaty, it's not that kind of an enemy.
That is not an easy thing where you're up against an enemy as capable as ISIS is through-
***He was interrupted so I'm taking a minute***
SEC. MATTIS: No, it's not open-ended because the -- the Geneva process is the closing of this whole problem in that area. That's why we support the Geneva process.
SEC. MATTIS: Yeah. OK, on the S-3...
Q: Why is that a problem for us, for the United States, that -- that weapon program?
SEC. MATTIS: I would not -- well, then I'm -- I'm not going to -- I CAN'T UNDERSTAND THAT FOR YOU. When Assad is stronger, that is not helpful for the U.N. and the U.N. process, Geneva process, and (inaudible).
SEC. MATTIS: OK.
SEC. MATTIS: I'll -- I'll let -- I'll let Ambassador Bolton state for himself.
Q: But what if -- now, well, sir, let me press you on that. The only people in the "we" -- U.S. people that are really there -- yes,
Q: Is this going to the next step?
SEC. MATTIS: I'm sorry?
SEC. MATTIS: No, our -- our troops are there for that one purpose right now.
SEC. MATTIS: Well, we obviously have got to train up local security forces so that ISIS and other, I would just call it outsiders taking advantage of this could not get in.
Q: So Mr. Secretary, so you see how possibly a -- a longer presence by U.S. forces there to train and make sure that the -- the Syrian forces are...
SEC. MATTIS: OK.
SEC. MATTIS: I -- I'm not sure that that's any change. I've said all along, we are not just going to get them out of a town and then walk away, knowing full well we're up against an --
Q: Right, but it sounds like this could perhaps go on for quite some time. Is there...
SEC. MATTIS: No, they -- clearly, they don't know what happened. We had no -- no advance warning.
Q: But the threat itself is of -- is that of concern, the threat that the (inaudible) of U.S. forces?
Q: Are U.S. forces in the region on higher alert because of this potential threat from Iran?
SEC. MATTIS: No. No, it does not. We've been very clear that they shouldn't take us on like that, and I -- I -- I'm hopeful that cooler, wiser heads will prevail.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
SEC. MATTIS: Yes?
Q: So what was Ambassador Bolton talking about, then?
SEC. MATTIS: Pardon?
Q: What was Ambassador Bolton talking about?
***That's an impressive statement***
Q: Did you say...
SEC. MATTIS: That's what I'm talking about.
SEC. MATTIS: Yes, we are.
Q: You're saying -- you're saying two -- well, it sounds like you’re saying two different things.
SEC. MATTIS: Again, you're going to have to talk with him.
Mattis on China***
Q: I wanted to ask you a question about China's withdrawing from military -- military talks this week.
SEC. MATTIS: Yeah.
Q: They were -- they were angry about the sanctions put on by the U.S.
SEC. MATTIS: Yeah. Good question. I should have mentioned that. Thanks for bringing it up
SEC. MATTIS: Right now, it's too early to say. We're still sorting this out. We believe that we do have to have a relationship with China and Secretary Pompeo and I are of one mind on this.
Q: On Afghanistan, the Afghan defense minister said that in the past month, 500 Afghan security forces have been killed. Another 700 wounded. What can the U.S. military do to prevent the Taliban from bleeding the Afghans white?
Q: Well if I could rephrase. Are the Afghans on the verge of losing the war of attrition…
Q: ... to the Taliban?
SEC. MATTIS: No. We're not, no.
Q: How long can they sustain casualties like that?
SEC. MATTIS: You'll have to ask the Afghans. So far, they have taken hard casualties over the last year. And they're still in the fight. So...
SEC. MATTIS: Yeah?
Q: Last week, the president of Poland he suggested that maybe the U.S. could open or he offered for space -- for a U.S. base there. Is the Pentagon looking at it?
SEC. MATTIS: Yeah. What we're doing right now is with Poland, alongside Poland, we're examining what land they're talking about.
So we're -- we're still early in it but we're working together and we -- we're greatly appreciative of the Polish offer.
SEC. MATTIS: No. I -- I don't -- that's way down the road.
And secondly, is there...
And the second question...
SEC. MATTIS: Just that they've been high. They've been high.
Q: Quick question, sir, just a follow-up on the S-300, sir.
SEC. MATTIS: Yeah?
Q: Prior to the announcement of their deployment, was there any discussion between this building and Russian counterparts on what Moscow is thinking as far as moving those weapons in?
Q: Secretary, may I ask one more question...
SEC. MATTIS: One more.
SEC. MATTIS: Mm-hmm.
SEC. MATTIS: And what is their record of not hitting civilians?
Q: I can't answer that.
So we can't show you all the success because when we're successful, it's -- it's nothing -- none of that happens. So we're working very, very hard with them on this.