Hours after the Australian government announced it was sending 330 troops to Iraq on a training mission, the country's defense minister, Kevin Andrews, appeared unable to answer a simple question quite central to that mission.
In an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corporation host Leigh Sales on Tuesday, Andrews was asked to identify the top leader of the Islamic State group, and what was being done to capture him. Instead of answering the question, Andrews said that the militant group has "a cadre" of leaders and that there's "fluidity" between its organizations.
Shutting down Andrews' bit of verbal gymnastics, Sales asked for clarification by saying "no, but there is a leader and a cabinet of IS."
Andrews continued talking past the host, however, leading Sales to repeat her question: "Who is the leader and what is the focus on his capture?" The defense minister dodge once more, refusing to go into "operational matters."
Undeterred, Sales broke down the question to its simplest point, which led to this cripplingly embarrassing exchange:
Andrews went on to give a vague response in which he stated "ISIL operates not just in Iraq but across Syria as well and there is fluidity between groups."
The disparity between the troop committal and the minister's evasiveness was not lost on the host, who told Andrews:
Minister, you're responsible for putting Australian men and women in harm's way in the cause of this mission. I'm surprised that you can't tell me the name of Islamic State's leader. The U.S. State Department has a $10 million bounty on his head.
The Islamic State group is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has been a central figure in group's rise and holds ultimate power over the militants. Al-Baghdadi has been described as the most wanted terrorist in the world.
Andrews later promoted the interview on his official Twitter account:
— Kevin Andrews (@kevinandrewsmp) April 14, 2015