Operation Inherent Resolve

 

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Dorrian via teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq

By | April 12, 2017

 ERIC J. PAHON:  Pretty full room today.  Good morning.  Welcome, everybody.

Today, we have Colonel John Dorrian, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman back from his well-deserved mid-tour break and speaking to us from Baghdad.

Sir, great to see you again.  Can you -- can you hear us?

COLONEL JOHN DORRIAN:  I've got you loud and clear, Eric.  How do you read?

MR. PAHON:  We got you loud and clear.  Control room, maybe turn up the volume a little bit.

When we go to ask the questions, we're going to pass around the mic.  You know, we've had a few audio difficulties before.  So, my partner over here will pass you the mike.

Give Colonel Dorrian a little clearer view there.  Colonel Dorrian's going to start with a short update on counter-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria.  And then we'll turn to you for questions.

And Colonel Dorrian, take it away.

COL. DORRIAN:  Thanks, Eric.  It's good be back answering questions.  Good morning.

We'll start in Syria and we'll move on to Iraq.  The Syrian Democratic Forces and their Syrian Arab coalition continue advancing as they further isolate Raqqa's city.

They continue to make progress in clearing ISIS fighters from the territory and the vicinity of Tabqa.  Having cleared territory east and north of Raqqa, where they are now nearing positions to enable their assault to liberate the city.

As they've cleared, they've repelled a significant number of ISIS attacks as the enemy struggles to slow their advance.  In the last 24 hours, they've cleared 11 square kilometers east of Raqqa and toward Tabqa, where the enemy remains completely isolated.

Our partnered forces have encountered tough resistance from ISIS in the area, encountering VBIED, direct and indirect fire attacks, as well as the use of human shields which the enemy continues to use to slow their advance.

As we reported earlier this week, coalition and partnered Syrian opposition groups repelled an ISIS attack, targeting the At Tanf garrison in southern Syria.  ISIS initiated the attack with a VBIED and 20 to 30 fighters with a ground assault and suicide vests.

Coalition and partner forces engaged and defended against the ISIS attack with direct fire before destroying enemy assault vehicles with the -- and the remaining fighters with coalition airstrikes.

This is significant because the enemy has a track record of attempting spoiler attacks away from the main effort in an attempt to score propaganda points, which they hope will compensate for their lack of battlefield success against coalition and partner forces.  As in past attempts, they were unsuccessful and lost the fighters and the resources they brought to bear.

This result also reflects the readiness of the coalition and partner forces to defend themselves, even when working in isolated areas.

Moving on to Iraq, the Iraqi security forces continue making incremental progress on the west side of Mosul as the enemy has intensified their exploitation of civilians by moving them in larger numbers into harm's way.  Notably, the coalition has continued supporting the Iraqi security forces as they clear more deeply into west Mosul's dense urban terrain, where nearly 500 square kilometers have been cleared since operations in west Mosul commenced on February 19th.

The 16th Iraqi Army Division continues securing east Mosul as a hold force.  The Iraqi federal police and Iraqi Emergency Response Division have continued their operations along the Tigris River, although their operations have been incremental due to enemy sniper fire and the use of human shields.  The CTS continue progress in the dense urban terrain of the old city, overcoming direct fire engagements from the enemy.

And to the west of the city center, the Iraqi 36th Brigade cleared territory north of Badush.  The Iraqi security forces retain control of both main routes west from Mosul, eliminating enemy freedom of movement.  This enemy in Mosul is not going anywhere.

 With that, I'll be delighted to take your questions.

MR. PAHON:  Okay.  Thank you very much.

And first we'll go to Idrees Ali from Reuters.

Q:  Colonel, I just wanted to sort of clarify something.  I believe in February, General Townsend had said Mosul and Raqqa should be retaken in six months.  It's now April.  Is that timeline still possible?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, I'm not going to get into the business of predicting timelines.  We continue to make good progress with our partner forces in isolating the city.  The enemy, once their pinned down there, they're not going to be able to go anywhere.  And we're going to continue to hammer them with strikes as our partners move in and retake the city.

So, General Townsend, I know has been very clear that it's our intent to do the very best we can to get this done on our watch.  None of that has changed.  We're doing this as quickly as we can.  One of the reasons for that is because the enemy -- any area that they control, there's tremendous human suffering there.  So we're going to continue our operations at pace.  We'll do those operations as quickly as we can, but I'm not going to get into the business of predicting an end date.

MR. PAHON:  And we're going to jump to Ben Kesling from Wall Street Journal.

Q:  Hey, Colonel Dorrian.  Just a quick question on the relationship with Russia right now.  What's going on with deconfliction?  What can you tell us about -- about that relationship with U.S. forces and Russian counterparts?  Have tensions ratcheted up, especially with some of the -- some of the diplomatic talk that's happening with Secretary of State Tillerson and President Trump?

Or are things -- are things still proceeding apace with military-to-military discussions?

COL. DORRIAN:  Thanks, Ben.

We -- we continue conducting our operations at pace.  We've continued our strikes in Syria, despite the tensions that were a result of the strikes that were conducted against the Syrian regime.  This is something that we're going to continue.  The secretary of defense made clear that he believes that we're operating in a safe and effective manner.

We'll continue to do that.  We can't get into the business of discussing the day-to-day operations with regard to any discussions or lack thereof with regard to the deconfliction line.  Doing so from my conversations with the people that are directly involved in that before is that that was not a productive thing to do.  And that's the reason that we -- we are no longer doing readouts of what those discussions are, and we will not get back into that business.

So, thank you.

Q:  Okay.  I understand, but can you just comment real quick on how the relationship is between the U.S. and Russia as far as the deconfliction -- deconfliction stuff goes?  I mean, are there still conversations happening?  And can you talk at all about at what level those conversations are happening?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, I'm afraid I can't answer that for you.  That's -- that's exactly what we're just not going to be able to discuss.  Again, the secretary of defense is satisfied that we're conducting our operations in a safe manner.  I know yesterday he told you that he felt that we were adequately deconflicted, and we'll continue our operations and accelerate them any way that we can to get these areas liberated from Da’esh.

MR. PAHON: Start with Bob Burns here and then we'll go to Kasim Ileri after that.

Q:  Colonel Dorrian, I think you said that strike operations in Syria are continuing apace.  Earlier this week, CENTCOM said that offensive operations had slacked off somewhat in the aftermath of the cruise missile strikes in order to do more defensive operations.  Can you explain whether things have fully returned to the normal, so to speak?  Or are you still doing fewer offensive strikes?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, in the last week from the 4th to the 11th, we've conducted 123 strikes for the operations toward isolating and ultimately liberating Raqqa.  So that's a significant number of strikes.  You know, we have made adjustments to our operations to account for the, you know, the potential tensions that resulted from the strikes that were conducted because of the Syrian regime's chemical attacks.

But make no mistake, we do plan on continuing our operations, and we do continue to look for ways to accelerate them.

MR. PAHON:  Okay.  And next we go to Kasim Ileri from Anadolu.

Q:  Hi, colonel.  Welcome back.

Since the strike on Shayrat Air Base, could you tell us whether the number of U.S. troops or the amount of the equipment on the ground in Syria has increased or not?

COL. DORRIAN:  We continue to remain within our force management level.  And we do continue to have troops that come into and out of Syria as necessary in order to conduct operations.  As far as the specific numbers that are there, we're not going to do real time reporting on exact numbers.

So I really can't give you a tremendous amount of fidelity on that.  What I can say is that there's been no real substantive change in where we're headed, the numbers of troops that we have as a result of what's -- what's happened.

Q:  And a follow up on that question, could you tell us whether the deconfliction channel is currently open with Russians and have you used it during this week?  Like from Monday to today?  Thank you.

COL. DORRIAN:  Yes.  I'm sorry, I'm -- I'm just not going to be able to get into the day to day reporting of the status of deconfliction.  We're just not going to do that.

Q:  Okay.

MR. PAHON:  All right, thank you, Kasim.

And next we have Corey Dickstein from Stars and Stripes.

Q:  Hey Colonel Dorrian.

I wanted to see -- are there still negotiations going on with any role Turkey might play in the liberation of Raqqa?

COL. DORRIAN:  We -- we continue to talk to Turkey nearly every day.  And we continue to remain open for a possible role for them.

As far as the substance to those discussions, that's something that, you know, it's more of a diplomatic effort and a mil-to-mil effort that's best left, you know, in a -- in a -- in a diplomatic and mil-to-mil discussion.

So as far as this substance to those discussions and where they are on that, I don't have anything new to report.  But you know, this -- Turkey has played a tremendous role in rolling back ISIS territorial gains.  And that's something that we welcome and would love to see continue.

In the meantime, we do continue to do our work with our partnered force to isolate Raqqa.  And that city is going to be liberated.

Q:  Is the SDF at this point -- are they properly equipped to carry out that -- that liberation?  And is there anything additional equipment wise, backing wise that they might need to defeat ISIS in -- in Raqqa?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, as you know, the coalition has brought additional fire power into Syria in order to support the -- the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Arab coalition in their advance.  That's comes in the form of marine artillery.

And also Apache gunships, which have been instrumental in supporting their advance in areas like Tabqa.  And in and around the areas that surround Raqqa.  So we've brought those to bear.  As far as what additional other capabilities might be brought in.  I think that's a conversation for another day.

MR. PAHON:  Okay.  Thank you.

And next we go to David Martin, CBS.

Q:  John, you mentioned the exploitation of civilians in West Mosul.  While you were away, Colonel Scrocca told us about a video that he said showed civilians being smuggled in to a -- a building in ISIS where -- in west Mosul where they would then become casualties if an American -- or coalition strike was conducted on that building.

But we haven't seen that video.  Do you know what happened to it?  And I have a -- have another question.

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, I know that the video was sent to U.S. Central Command headquarters for further review.  I believe that's -- that's probably where to follow up with regard to the release timeline because my understanding is preparations are being made or, you know, a review is underway there as far as whether that'll be released in -- in -- at what time it will be released.

Q:  Another -- on the question of whether strikes have been scaled back in -- in Syria, I briefly glanced at the strike summary today.  And it was a -- a -- a particularly small number of strikes in -- in Syria.  Is that because of weather, deconfliction problems, or force protection?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, in -- in any given day, the number of strikes will fluctuate David, and some of the -- all the factors that you had described could play a role.

So, we've had some bad weather the last several days.  And I think we're going to have a -- a few more days of very tough weather.  But I would say any opportunity that we have to conduct strikes or to accelerate them in order to support the -- our partner's advance, we're going to take that opportunity and do so.

So, I wouldn't take any temporary small number.  You know, just a snapshot in time.  As anything that changes that intent.

We're going to get this done as quickly as we can.  We're going to conduct our strikes to support our partners because one of the things that's very important to understand is that millions of people have been able to return to their homes because of the rollback of ISIS territorial gains.

And a lot of the reason for that is the coalition air strikes that have supported our partners as they've taken that territory back.  There just wouldn't be anywhere near the number of people that have been able to return to their homes without those strikes.  And, I think that's a -- a very important point for people to understand.

MR. PAHON:  Okay, and I am at strike two with the names.  Sir, I've --

Q:  Jim Michaels -- (inaudible).

MR. PAHON:  Jim, I'm sorry about that.

Q:  Colonel, what is the principal ISIS tactic that's -- that they're using in effort to slow Iraqi forces movement into West Mosul?  Is it IEDs?  Is it using human shields?  You know, what is the key factor that sort of inhibiting the -- the movement into west Mosul at this point?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, thanks, Jim.

I would say no single tactic.  They have a layered defense and they've had two years to build it.

Unfortunately, one of the ones that's most problematic and difficult is their use of human shields.  They've intensified their efforts to bring civilians into harm's way.  This is something that is a despicable and cowardly tactic.

But make no mistake, they had two years plus to dig elaborate defenses, use commercial off-the-shelf drone technology, we've seen them use snipers, we've seen them use VBIEDs and now, as we move into this very dense urban terrain on the west side of Mosul where the, you know, roads may not even really be qualified as what most reasonable people would call a road they're -- they're so narrow that it channelizes the advance for the Iraqi Security Forces.

That combination of things, explosives, booby traps, snipers, the use of civilian shields just makes it very slow and difficult going.  The Iraqi Security Forces continue their advance but it's very, very difficult and it's just going to remain so for awhile.

We're going to keep working through that.  With each passing day the number of ISIS fighters in Mosul goes down, the amount of resources they have available to continue their mayhem goes down and, ultimately, they are not going anywhere and they are going to be defeated.

MR. PAHON:  Jim, sorry about that, that was strike two.  We will not get strike three.

Next we move over to Courtney Kube from NBC.

Q:  Good evening, Colonel Dorrian.

One follow-up from one of your earlier answers.  You said that -- when you were referencing the number of strikes near Raqqa this week that -- that there were adjustments to operations to account for tensions following the strikes last Thursday.

What kind of -- can you give us an example of -- of how those tensions may be manifesting?  What are you seeing that -- that shows tension?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, you know, you've seen the public statements I don't have to -- to regurgitate those for you, but what I would say is, when you see those types of public statements and you know that you're doing something that changes the dynamic it's just appropriate to make sure that you're -- you're taking appropriate measures to account for that.

We don't want to be reckless and we don't want to have some type of incident that would cause a miscalculation or some type of unintended incident.  So I probably cannot get deeply into exactly what the adjustments are, in the interest of force protection and maintaining operational security.  But I would say that it is certainly appropriate to say we made some adjustments to what our forces in Syria were doing to account for the fact that the -- the strikes against the Syrian regime, chemical capability did increase tensions there.

It was just appropriate to do that.  But I can assure you that the intent is to get back as quickly as possible to our normal operations in as fast a pace as we can manage, to defeat ISIS and help our partners so that they can liberate the remaining territory that Da’esh control.

Q:  And then one more.

I know you don't want to talk about deconfliction specifically, but we've heard for months now that there are close calls or -- however you want to call them -- with Russian aircraft over Syria, it's not that uncommon.

Have you seen any uptick in that over the last week or so?  Are you still seeing any kind of close calls between U.S. and Russian aircraft, whether it's intentional or not?

COL. DORRIAN:  No, have not.

But I would say that all the things that we observed before continue to exist.  Both sides do observe the other's operations and assess what's happening, and that will continue.  That's not anything new.  It's just something that we're all cognizant of and that will continue.

MR. PAHON:  Next, we move to Barbara Starr of CNN in the back corner.

Q:  Colonel Dorrian, a follow up on David and Courtney and several other people.  I'd like to ask you to try to be as precise as you can.  You just said that you hoped to get back to normal operations as quickly as you can in Syria.

So is the downturn specifically in airstrikes that continues right now due to force protection, deconfliction, plus weather?  Because you've just told us that you're not at normal operations.  And then I have a follow up.

COL. DORRIAN:  I think I've probably been about as specific as I can, Barbara.  We have experienced some very tough weather.  We have made some adjustments based on force protection and the increased tensions.  All those things have to be taken to account.  But make no mistake, we do plan on accelerating anytime that we're able.  And again, as I've said many times, any ISIS resources in Syria or Iraq, regardless of where they are, are subject to attack by coalition air, artillery, whatever resources that we can bring to bear to bring about their destruction.

So fighters, resources, anything that the enemy is using to resist the advance of our partnered forces, all those things are subject to attack and we'll take every opportunity that we can to safely and with precision destroy those capabilities.

Q:  Two follow ups.  You said -- you had said on deconfliction at the beginning, your words, "it was not productive" to talk about it.  Can you please explain what is "not productive"?  Why is it not productive, in your words, to talk about it?

And you also described Mosul righting right now as "incremental."  So, I take that to me it's not going as planned.  Can you tell us a little bit more about what you meant about incremental, as well as not productive to discuss deconfliction?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yes, the military-to-military discussions between us and Russia on deconfliction, previously having day-to-day discourse about what those discussions are, is a departure from their purpose.  Their purpose was always to conduct those discussions, to protect safety of flight, not as some type of effort to do public statements or that sort of thing.  And so these are discussions that we just want to keep focused on what they are intended to do -- safety of flight.  So we're not going to get into the day-to-day discussions anymore, and that's just how we'll have to do it from here on out.

With regard to incremental in Mosul, that word is an accurate discussion of what's happening.  The Iraqi security forces do continue to advance.  So we knew that it was going to be very difficult.  We've been saying for months that the enemy has had an opportunity to dig elaborate defenses; that it was going to be very hard.  We've said for many months that as we got into the old part of the city, the dense urban terrain there, that it would be extraordinarily difficult.

And what we're seeing is exactly what we expected to see.  So, I'm just trying to give you an accurate description of what's happening.  I don't want to say that, hey, they continue to advance at pace, when in reality it's very, very slow and very, very hard.  And it's gut-busting difficult fighting between our forces and theirs.

But our forces and the Iraqi security forces continue to make progress.  It's very slow.  It's very tough.  One of the reasons for that is because we want to do it in a manner that protects civilian life.  Prime Minister Abadi has been very clear on that.  And it's been an enduring principle of the campaign throughout.

So, if it has to be done slow, that's how it's going to be done.  And -- but we're going to continue.

Q:  I take it that you've just said you do continue to have --

(CROSSTALK)

COL. DORRIAN:  -- anywhere, and they are going to be destroyed in Mosul.

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  -- however, you don't want to talk about it, but you do continue to have, I think you just said, day-to-day discussions with the Russians.

COL. DORRIAN:  Nope, I didn't say that.  I told you we're not going to discuss it.

MR. PAHON:  Go to Cami McCormick, CBS Radio News.

Q:  Colonel Dorrian, explain to us please why it's detrimental to talk about the deconfliction talks?  You've been talking about them up until now.  You've called them useful.  You've called them effective.  You've said that they have saved pilots' lives.  That would lead a lot of people -- the fact that you're not speaking about it now would lead a lot of people to believe they're not going on now.

Why can't you just say are the deconfliction talks going on with the Russians through this channel currently?  Or are they not?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, I'm not going to get into that.  We're not going to discuss it.  It's as simple as that.  It wasn't productive for us to continue doing it, and so we're not doing it anymore.

MR. PAHON:  Tom Bowman, NPR.

Q:  Colonel, could you talk about what's been going on in Idlib since the chemical attack?  Presumably, the Russians and the Syrians are forging ahead to take over that area.  How many airstrikes have you seen from either side?  Ground movements?  Just talk about what you've seen since the chemical attack.

COL. DORRIAN:  Tom, I'm afraid I really can't get into that with you because it doesn't really have a direct relationship to the fight against ISIS.  We continue to focus our energy here at Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve on supporting our partners who are isolating Raqqa.

So, what's happening in Idlib, I think would probably be best directed to U.S. Central Command. I -- I hope you understand, it's just not really our portfolio.

Q:  (inaudible) -- follow up on Corey's question about support for the Syrian Kurds and Arabs.  I've been hearing that as early as next week, the Pentagon will go to Congress and request what's called 1209 funds to provide small arms, also heavy machine guns to that force.  Can you talk a little bit about the way ahead with that?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, I don't have any update for you on that.  What I can say is right now our efforts have been directed toward providing resources, equipment, and light weapons to the Syrian Arab Coalition.  That is the current state of play.  As far as any new developments on that, that's a discussion probably for another day.  And if there's anything new on that I think it'd probably be announced from OSD public affairs.

Q:  When Mosul -- it sounds like -- which they're doing now is sort of encircling Mosul, is that correct?

COL. DORRIAN:  Mosul has been encircled for quite some time.  What's happening now is that as the CTS and the Iraqi federal police and emergency response division press more deeply into the very dense urban terrain along the Euphrates river and in the old part of the city.

The 9th Iraqi army division continues clearing territory to the north and to the west of the center of the city.  And then reducing the size of the cordon, where -- you know and this the territory that the enemy still retains some degree of freedom of movement.  But the freedom of movement is only within that shrinking cordon.  They're not going anywhere.  They're not going to be able to leave to the west.  They are cut off.

So the force that's in the west side of Mosul, the fighters that are there, they have really two choices, they can surrender to the Iraqi security forces, or they're going to be killed.

MR. PAHON:  Okay.  And next we move to Paul Shinkman, U.S. News.

Q:  Thanks for doing this, colonel.

Just to follow up on the activities of the Syrian air force.  By some assessments the strike last week wiped out as much as a fifth of their operational aircraft.  Have you seen a proportional reduction in their conducting air strikes?  Have you seen any noticeable difference in their air activity?  Perhaps are you seeing more Russian involvement to make up for that short coming?

COL. DORRIAN:  Paul, I understand your question.  I'm afraid it's really not within our portfolio, this is something that's probably best directed to U.S. Central Command.  You know we continue to focus on ISIS, we've not really detected any discernible change in the impact of what we intend to do.  We've made some adjustments in the interest of making sure that we account for any increased tensions.  But as far as impact of what those strikes are, it's just not directly related to what we are doing.

Q:  Separately we'd seen some reports in recent weeks of ISIS fighters moving south from Raqqa and Mosul into sort of southeast Syria and into west Iraq.  Is that a trend that you're still noticing and do you see any significant sort of massing -- or not, massing but sort of rallying of forces there?

COL. DORRIAN:  At any time that the enemy remains under pressure in one area, they're going to try to look for places to go.  This is one of the reasons why we have a force in southern Syria, at the At Tanf garrison, they continue to work with partnered forces to further reduce enemy freedom of movement in the open desert and in the areas that are more remote, south of Raqqa.

So this is something that we continue to build upon.  You know the enemy thought probably that they had a window of opportunity or the potential to conduct a strike where we had forces that were operating in a fairly remote location.  They were wrong about their ability to conduct a successful attack.  They were routed.  Once they made their initial attack, things turned south for them very quickly.

And this is an example, working with those partnered forces in some of these remote areas.  We're not just working in these major areas like Raqqa and Mosul.  We continue to work with our partnered forces in Syria and in Iraq to eliminate these other areas where ISIS might wish to go.  We want to make sure that that's a wish.

MR. PAHON:  Okay.  And next to Jamie Crawford, Washington Examiner.

Q:  No, Jamie McIntyre.

MR. PAHON:  Jamie McIntyre, I'm sorry. There's too many Jamies in this --

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  Colonel, I just want to -- I understand that you're not the releasing authority anymore for this video that purportedly shows ISIS herding people into buildings in Mosul and even executing someone on the spot.  But do you think it undercuts the U.S. credibility when you make that kind of allegation about really spectacular atrocity of war crime, claim that you have the video to back it up, say that you're going to release it shortly, and then it never gets released?  Because it doesn't appear we're going to see that video any time soon.

COL. DORRIAN:  You know, the -- the decision to release or not release the video now resides at CENTCOM.  So, I'll refer you to them with regard to that.  What I can tell you is that the atrocities of ISIS are well documented not just by us, but by witnesses on the ground, human rights groups.  There are -- there is a -- they're our own releases of videos.

They've hung people as an example to others in the western side of Mosul.  And they leave them hanging there as an example of what will happen to people who try to escape the city.  That's well documented by a lot more than just the coalition.

So, if you're -- if you have any doubts about what the enemy is all about, you don't just have to ask us.  You can look at their own videos.  You can talk to human rights groups.  You can talk -- you know, several media who are operating in western Mosul, have talked to plenty of witnesses on the ground.  There is ample evidence that all these things are happening whether or not that video gets released or not.

Q:  Just a -- a quick follow-up.  Has there been any change in the assessment that ISIS is using this tactic of forcing groups of people into locations where they will potentially become mass casualties and thereby, you know, stoke outrage against the coalition.  Is that -- has -- has there been any change to the assessment that that's what occurred in this incident in Mosul where some of these civilians were killed?

And has there been any change in their tactic?  Are they still using that tactic?

COL. DORRIAN:  The enemy does continue to use that tactic.  That's among the many things that you -- you see from multiple witnesses, people that have been victims of that.

With regard to the specifics of the March 17th strike, that's still under an investigation, a 15-6 investigation conducted by an Air Force officer here.  So, I don't want to get ahead of that investigation with regard to that specific incident.  But there is a growing body of evidence that those types of things are happening.  Human rights groups have done a lot of interviews.  We have seen reportage of it from media who are on the ground that have discussed it with some of the victims of that.

So, yes, the enemy does continue to do that.  It's a despicable tactic and unfortunate and heartbreaking, but it is something that we're seeing.

Q:  Okay.  Thank you.

MR. PAHON:  (inaudible) Poor Jamie Crawford gets more of my e-mails for Jamie McIntyre.  I just can't -- can't get them straight.  Right?

Next, we move to Ryan Browne, CNN.

Q:  Colonel, thank you for doing this.

I just wanted to follow up on Paul's question really quickly.  I know you don't want to speak necessarily to the regime's air operations, but the Russian Ministry of Defense today said that the cruise missile strikes had a direct effect on their campaign against ISIS.

I know a few months ago, I think you said that you'd started to see an uptick in both the regime and Russia's airstrikes against ISIS due to fighting around Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor.  Have you seen any impact on their efforts in recent days to fight ISIS?  Are you seeing any activity by the Russians or the regime in Damascus to fight ISIS?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, as far as what the impact is against ISIS, I think that's something that we'll have to observe and see.  What I would say is the strike was conducted because of the chemical weapons used against the people of Syria.  And as a result, you know, they have -- they've had their capabilities reduced.

So if they would like to continue to ramp-up their campaign against ISIS, it would be best and in their interests to not use chemical weapons, so that some of their capabilities will remain.

MR. PAHON:  And next goes to Lucas Tomlinson with Fox.

Q:  Colonel, since the cruise missile strike, have the Russian or Syrian regime forces made any threatening moves toward U.S. troops on the ground in Syria?

COL. DORRIAN:  No.

Q:  (inaudible) Iranian forces or Iranian proxy forces?

COL. DORRIAN:  No.

Q:  Can the American people expect any more U.S. troops going to Iraq or Syria anytime soon?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, I think that's -- that's a conversation for another day.  As you know, the president has ordered a review of the campaign to determine what can be done to accelerate the campaign against ISIS.  I understand that a shell of a plan is coming together, but as far as what might happen in the future, that is a discussion for another day.  It's not something that we would speculate on from here.

MR. PAHON:  Okay.  And even though we converse every day, I've forgotten your name, ma'am.  I'm sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

MR. PAHON:  Okay.

Q:  Just a follow-up to your answer to Jamie McIntyre's question.  You mentioned the airstrike on West Mosul on March 17th and the investigation into that.  When can we expect a report -- like a final report?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, as you might imagine with an incident of the high visibility nature and -- and the possibly of very difficult outcome there, there are going to be levels of review for the -- the investigation result.  So, I don't want to get into an exact timeline for when that'll be done and when it'll be released.  What I would say is I spoke with the investigating officer today.  And he continues to gather information.  He continues to speak with witnesses.

I know that there's been some lab work conducted to try and, you know, look at some samples of various substances that were found around the sites.  There had been engineers and experts brought in.  There have been a lot of witnesses interviewed, including media, who were present or -- or had access to people in this -- the scene, and the -- the -- the time since the strike was conducted.

 So, we continue to gather information.  And the intent is to get as comprehensive a picture as we possibly can about what's happened.  And then, to be as transparent as we can with regard to exactly what happened and what steps are needed in the -- in the follow-up from what's happened.

Q:  Just a quick follow-up.  I mean, you mentioned transparency, and that's something that Lieutenant General Townsend mentioned as well.

I mean, are you encouraging organizations like Amnesty to conduct their own investigations?  Or perhaps get involved in or supply material to this investigation.  Can you talk a bit about what you mean by transparency?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, we're going to release the results of our investigations.  So, you know, there are areas where there may be some classification of specific capabilities or that sort of thing.  But, we're going to release as much information as we can and give people a good picture of what's transpired.

As far as, you know, the various groups that also review what's happened, I know that General Isler has spoken with several of them.  And he will continue to gather information from whatever sources he can to get as clear a picture as we can.

MR. PAHON:  Okay.  And a second question from Kasim Ileri, Anadolu.

Q:  Colonel, your troops were in close proximity with the Russians and regime forces in Manbij.  And is this proximity still being kept or does the U.S. forces stay -- do the U.S. forces still see the Russians around Manbij?  Or have you moved back then in a distant place to -- as a measure of, you know, an adjustment to the force protection measure?

Thank you.

COL. DORRIAN:  No, our forces continue their work in that area.  And -- and nothing is really changed with regard to that.

MR. PAHON:  I'm going to hand the mic back.  We're going to go to Luis Martinez, ABC.

I think our sound quality has gotten a little bit better, but let's be safe here.

Q:  Hey, John.  One quick question about the deconfliction line.  Are there policy discussions underway with Russia, between the Russian government and the U.S. government as to the status of the deconfliction line?

COL. DORRIAN:  Luis, that -- that's a discussion that's probably best had at OSD level, as far as a policy discussion.

I'm not aware of anything, but if there is anything on that, I think they'll have it for you.

Q:  And just to follow onto I think Kasim's questions about Manbij, has the U.S. posture there changed in any way?

COL. DORRIAN:  No.

MR. PAHON:  Okay.  Any more questions?

All right.  Well, that wraps up today's brief.  Thank you very much, everybody, for coming.

Thank you, Colonel Dorrian.  Glad to have you back again.

COL. DORRIAN:  Very good.  Thanks very much.



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