Posted: 2:16 am ET
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Via DPB of March 29, 2016:
QUESTION: All right. Okay. Moving on just to the announcement from you guys on the – and the DOD today on Turkey and the ordered departures. Your colleague at the Pentagon has spent the last several minutes answering – or saying that there was no specific threat that has led to this and that it was just decided out of an abundance of caution that you should go ahead and – my question is: If there was no specific threat, why do it now?
MR KIRBY: That’s a great question. So my colleague is right. The decision to do this, first of all, wasn’t taken lightly. It was done after careful thought and consideration and interagency coordination, I might add. And I think it’s very much a result of our ongoing assessment of security conditions there in Turkey and in recognition of the threat environment in Adana, specifically in southeastern Turkey from a regional perspective. So the why now is I think – when you talk about the now – rather than talk about the now in terms of today or the last few hours, try to keep in mind that this was really a decision that was several weeks in the making in terms of assessing the security situation there, which undoubtedly – and you guys have reported on the terrorism threat that has existed there, the recent attacks. Secretary Kerry alluded to some of these attacks yesterday in the camera spray with the Turkish foreign minister. So this was a decision that, again, was, I think, several weeks in the making.
QUESTION: And with all that, the brains in this building and the Pentagon decided that today, right in between – right just before a President Erdogan visit, is the day to do something that you could have done last week or the week before or even next week. Does that —
MR KIRBY: We – I – look, I can’t dispute the conspiracy theorists, that they might think that there was more to it than this, that this was some sort of —
QUESTION: I would hope you do want to dispute.
MR KIRBY: I am.
MR KIRBY: I mean, I can’t dispute that there are people that think that way.
QUESTION: Will think that. All right.
MR KIRBY: But I certainly can dispute the actual allegation. I can tell you, having watched the process churn now over the last several weeks, that this was done with the – with deep consideration and careful thought, interagency communication. And again, this is not the kind of decision that we take lightly. We take it very seriously. And so therefore want to do it in an appropriate, measured, deliberate fashion, and also do it at what we believe is the right time. And we believe this is the right time to do this.
QUESTION: Last one. The Pentagon was quite specific about the number of people that this was going to affect. Actually, they were even – they were quite specific about the number of pets that it would affect. How many people will this affect in terms of the State Department?
MR KIRBY: It is a small number of family members. I do not have an exact figure, but we can see if we can —
QUESTION: Oh, I know. I know you won’t give them to me. I just want to know why the Pentagon is so willing to talk about this, down to cats and dogs and little bunny rabbits, and you guys, for some reason, have a different – you’re more important, so you don’t have to —
MR KIRBY: I wouldn’t —
QUESTION: — you don’t have to give numbers about how many.
MR KIRBY: Now, Matt, I don’t —
QUESTION: That’s – so that’s the – that’s my question. Why?
MR KIRBY: The question or —
QUESTION: No, no. That’s my question. Why won’t the State Department do what the DOD did and give specific numbers?
MR KIRBY: As I understand it – and I’m happy to research this after the briefing. As I understand it, we don’t typically offer —
QUESTION: I know. This is my —
MR KIRBY: — details on the number of dependents and family members —
QUESTION: Yeah, that’s my – that’s my question.
MR KIRBY: — at any given station for security purposes. And we have – I can’t – but having worked in both institutions, I recognize that the State Department has a different threshold for security concerns about dependents and family members.
QUESTION: Why? That’s my question. Why? Why won’t you —
MR KIRBY: Okay. Well, I’ll see what I can do to find a better answer for you on why, but we aren’t going to release an exact number. And I don’t —
QUESTION: Well, I know you’re not. But I’d like just to —
MR KIRBY: And I don’t know that the Pentagon actually said how many bunnies they have.
QUESTION: They said something like 278 pets.
MR KIRBY: Okay.
QUESTION: Okay. Now I don’t know if they broke that down into goldfish or squirrels.
MR KIRBY: Well, your question alluded to hamsters and bunnies, and I just want to make sure that we’re clear on that.
QUESTION: Actually, it just – just bunnies.
MR KIRBY: Just bunnies, okay. (Laughter.) All right.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) discussion. Can I just – (laughter) – I think that should go down in history. (Laughter.) (Inaudible) between the Pentagon and the U.S. on travel alerts. Was that made independent of each other or are they related?
MR KIRBY: The – I’m sorry, the?
QUESTION: The decision by – the announcement by DOD on the drawing down —
MR KIRBY: No, this was a coordinated —
QUESTION: It is a —
MR KIRBY: This was a coordinated decision and a coordinated announcement. We were in lockstep with the Pentagon as we arrived at this decision.
QUESTION: Was there anything that triggered the specific discussions that something needs to be done to take security to the next level?
MR KIRBY: I think, again, without getting into specific intelligence issues, and certainly – and I want to again echo what I said to Matt earlier. I mean, this wasn’t the result of a specific threat to a specific institution or locality or by a specific group. This was based on an analysis over the last several weeks, certainly, of the security situation in Turkey, which undoubtedly – and you guys have covered this yourselves – has become more dangerous, particularly in southeastern Turkey. So it was based on a running analysis of the security threat there, an analysis that we share with the Pentagon about the level of potential danger here. And again, this was a decision made out of an abundance of caution to keep people as safe as possible.
Note that a 2010 OIG report of US Mission Turkey indicates that the U.S. Consulate in Adana is a small post with four direct hire employees. OIG reported at that time that Adana was getting its first public affairs officer (PAO) in 2010 and its first RSO was to to arrive in 2011 following language training. A lot of regional developments have happened since then so post’s staffing complement of 6 direct hire employees may have already been overtaken by events. There was also local employee hiring for a Branch Office in Gaziantep (located closer to the Syrian border) in 2014, but we don’t have publicly available information regarding that presence at this time. As for Izmir, the following is a snippet from the 2010 OIG report:
The American presence in Izmir in Western Turkey has changed markedly over the years. An American consulate existed in Izmir from 1803 to 1993. When it was closed for budgetary reasons, a consular agency was established. That agency was closed in 2002, when an American Presence Post was opened. The 2004 OIG in spection team recommended that the American Presence Post be closed as it was not clear what the post contributed to mission objectives. The American Presence Post was closed in 2005, and a consular agency was reestablished. What remains in Izmir today is a combination of U.S. Government personnel and activities that achieves the bare minimum of what could be possible in this dynamic port city, the third largest in Turkey. A consular agent occupies comfortable leased space in a commercial building. There are no outward signs that identify this facility as belonging to the U.S. Government. The consular workload is modest. Where needed, the able consular agent calls on the aid of the British consul, who has a long history in Izmir.