CAPT. DAVIS: Good
morning. We are pleased to be joined, I
hope. We'll wait for the screen to shift
here. Live from Baghdad, Colonel Steve
Steve, just want to make sure you can hear us and we can
COL. WARREN: I can
hear you loud and clear.
CAPT. DAVIS: I can
hear you loud -- we got you clear now, but it could be a little louder if we
could. And welcome, good morning, and
we'll turn it over to you.
COL. WARREN: Well,
Jeff, thanks again as always and good morning Pentagon Press Corp. Although it’s been awhile since I briefed you
about our targeting of ISIL leadership, I want you all to rest assured that we
remain active on this front.
We've been dismantling their headquarters and disrupting their
efforts to plan attacks here on the battlefields in Iraq and Syria, or
ISIL's leadership is having an increasingly difficult time
governing their so called caliphate and they're hunkered down with a degraded
ability to shoot, move or communicate.
In the last month, three senior leaders were retired from
ISIL's service, Abu Shishani, also known as Omar the Chechen, Omar the
Chechen. Haji Imam and Abu Dawud were
important leaders that ISIL will struggle to replace.
In any organization, however, middle management is also
important, and we've targeted them as well.
On January 28, Ma’n Abd al-Jabbar al Rashidi, also known as Abu Zayd,
was killed by a coalition air-strike near Mosul. Zaid was the deputy security emir for Mosul
and was responsible for the brutal enforcement of ISIL security measures and
for purging dissidence.
On March 7th, Ezat Taha Nargis al-Jaburi was killed by a coalition air-strike near
Nus Tal, Iraq. Jaburi was ISIL's chief of staff for Dijlah
State. Two other ISIL members were also
fortunately killed in this strike.
Now, let's move on to the battlefield update. Last week, Iraqi security forces, supported
by the coalition, kicked off a new offensive in the Tigris River Valley. This offensive is called Operation Valley
Wolf. This shaping operation, which is
taking place about 45 miles south of Mosul, will help set the conditions for
the liberation of Mosul. So far, units
from the 15th Division have pushed west out of
Makhmour, liberating the villages of Kudilah, Kharbardan and
To the west, in the Euphrates River Valley, Operation Desert
Lynx continued. The 7th Division seized
the Kubasis cement factory and cleared Kubasi itself. ISF and tribal fighters are now clearing that
town of IEDs. Tribal forces are key to
maintaining long-term stability after the -- the army moves out of the
area. Yesterday, the ISF continued their
attack and are now nearing the outskirts of Hit.
Moving on to Syria, in Shaddadi, the SDF, the Syrian
Democratic Forces, are improving their defenses and preparing for future
operations. In the last six weeks, they
have gained more than 3,200 square kilometers.
Finally, at star eight.
Along the Mar’a line, operations
have been a shoving match; SDF and ISIL have both gained and lost several
villages and towns in that sector. The
shoving match continues.
So that's a brief update because we've had a lot this
week. So nothing else to open with. Let's move to questions. And I think I saw Bob sitting there. Bob, do you have a question this morning?
Q: Good morning,
Colonel Warren. Thanks. Let me -- if you
could -- I was just wondering what became of that operation against the Islamic
state's oil infrastructure that you talked about so much a number of weeks
ago? Has that been completed? And have you assessed the impact on their oil
resources and revenue?
COL. WARREN: Great
question. We -- it's called Operation
Tidal Wave II. As you recall, it is
named after Operation Tidal Wave I, which was our effort to strike Nazi oil in
Romania. So I do have some statistics,
here. So we've struck a total of 247
targets in Operation Tidal Wave II.
I don't have an updated set of numbers here for you,
Bob. The last Tidal Wave II strike was
conducted on March 11th, which was a strike against a gas and oil separation
plant and a well head. But looking at
this, it looks like we've conducted strikes associated with that operation
roughly every -- we've got a March 11th, a March 8th, a March 7th, 4th,
So, those operations continue a pace. We don't have updated estimates of the amount
of financial damage that it has done.
We're waiting for those estimates to come in. If you recall, our last estimate was several
months ago, and it was roughly a third of their ability to produce income
through oil had been destroyed.
Q: Steve, you
mentioned March 11th was the last -- as far as you can tell, the last strike in
that campaign. That has been a few weeks
ago. Does that suggest that it has been
interrupted, or ended?
COL. WARREN: Tidal
Wave II operations continue. Often, what
we'll have to do is either wait for a new target to be developed or allocate
resources elsewhere. I don't know what
the case is in this particular instance.
But as targets become available and those target are matched
with resources, there is a priority list and those strikes are conducted.
Q: Thanks. Thank you.
Q: Good morning,
I want to go back to your opening statement, sir. You mentioned -- you mentioned that you are
always committed to target ISIL leaders, either in Iraq, or in Syria or abroad.
After taking many leaders in the last few months, my
question is, how close do you think you are from targeting ISIL leader, Al
Baghdadi? And do you have any
information if he is in Syria or in Iraq?
Can you share it with us?
COL. WARREN: Well,
for one thing, I hope that Al Baghdadi watches these press conferences because
I want him to know that we are hunting him, and we will find him. Just like we found his mentor, Zarqawi, and
killed him. Just like we found the grand
master of terrorism, Osama bin Laden, we killed him.
We are going to find Baghdadi, and we -- he will taste
justice. I don't know if that justice
will look like a Hellfire missile, or if it will look like a dark prison cell
somewhere, but he will find justice one day.
We know he's alive.
We -- or we can -- we believe he's alive. We also believe that he moves in between
Syria and Iraq.
Q: Just a quick
follow-up. Even now, do -- you think
he's take -- he has the capability to move, right now, from Syria to Iraq, or
COL. WARREN: Yes.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Steve, back to
that opening statement. What I wrote
down was you are dismantling ISIS headquarters on the battle field in Iraq and
Syria and abroad.
And so, other than that strike in Libya, which got the head
ISIS guy in Libya, what -- I'm not aware of any other strikes that haven't been
just against training camps abroad.
So, what is your reference there, abroad?
COL. WARREN: Well, I
think what I said -- and I'm looking at -- looking at my notes here. We've been dismantling their headquarters and
disrupting their efforts to plan attacks here on the battlefield or
abroad. So often they will plan their
attacks abroad from here. So that is the
So we, the CJTF have only struck in Iraq and Syria. But we know that they plan attacks from Iraq
and from Syria, and some of that attack planning is directed at the
battlefield, and some of that attack planning, we believe, is externally directed.
And so that is what we believe we are disrupting, so to be
Q: Hey Steve, the
Russians have, and the Syrian forces have taken Palmyra. Have they also take the adjoining town first
of all? And it appears the Russians are
bombing east of Palmyra now, maybe in preparation to either to go to Raqqa or
Deir Ezzor. Can you give us an update on
what you're seeing with the Russians?
COL. WARREN: All
right. So they do have Palmyra. They're still working on Tadmore, which was
the military complex adjacent to it.
Which we don't believe that they have fully seized yet. We have seen some strikes east of Palmyra,
but those, frankly, are probably more defensive in nature, you know, to prevent
Difficult to know whether they plan to advance any further
east or not. Also, of course, difficult
to predict, if they do advance, whether they will go -- you know, east and a
little bit north to Raqqa or east and a little bit south to Deir Ezzor. We'll have to wait and see. We'll also have to wait and see if the
Syrians have the logistical oomph to be able to push any further. That's an open question at this point as well
Q: Also, you talk
about the liberation of Mosul. Iraqi
officials estimate that they can retake the city end of this year or early
next. Do you guys agree with that
COL. WARREN: Well, that's certainly something that we
would like to see. You know, we're
trying to stay out of the timeline business, primarily because almost every
time we give it, the time line estimate is wrong. So, it's something we would like very much to
see. We know they're developing and
finalizing their plan.
We also know that -- we've got a saying in the Army. It says, the enemy gets a vote. So you never -- it is really tough to predict
exactly how a battle is going to unfold.
But we know that the Iraqis have a -- the beginnings of a very trained
and increasingly capable force. We know
that they are supported by devastating air power.
And we know that they have allocated already one -- more
than $1.6 billion worth of Iraq train and equip funds. So we believe that all of these things
combined, along with the Iraqis increasing confidence and competence, -- we
believe that their push to Mosul, whenever it is, will be successful.
Q: OK. Next, just a quick follow-up?
Yes. Go ahead.
Q: Colonel Warren,
thank you. Just a follow-up to Tom's
question. Do you welcome a
Russian-backed Syrian offensive on Raqqa?
COL. WARREN: Any time
Daesh is hurt, we consider that a good thing, or ISIL. I forgot who I was talking to. Anytime ISIL
is hurt, we consider that a good thing.
But it's a tricky situation, right? Because, you know, what do you see in
Palmyra? You see the Russian regime has
pushed out ISIL. So, in our view, that
is kind of like going -- at least for the people of Palmyra, that is certainly
a movement from the frying pan into the fire, isn't it?
Assad is a brutal, ruthless dictator who has, you know,
gassed his own people with chemical weapons.
He is the problem, right? He is
responsible for this bloody civil war that has taken more than a quarter
million Syrian lives, in the estimation of many humanitarian organizations.
And so, the situation for the people in Palmyra has --
probably not going to improve that much.
They're still -- they went from being under the boot heel of ISIL to
being under the boot heel of Bashar al-Assad.
And I'm not sure that that is much of an improvement for those poor
people in Palmyra.
So, anytime ISIL gets hurt, we're happy. But anytime the people of Syria are hurt, we
don't think that, that is a good thing.
So, it's a question that's very difficult to answer, Lucas.
Q: Is there some kind
of race to Raqqa? Would -- is the coalition
--do you want this Syrian defense force, these Arabs and Kurds to arrive in
Raqqa before a potential arrival of Syrian forces?
COL. WARREN: We
do. We believe that the moderate Syrian
opposition forces, who we have supported and are continuing to support are the
appropriate forces to enter Raqqa and Deir el-Zor, because they will bring with
them goals that are in alignment with our goals, which is a peaceful and
There is certainly no evidence that Bashar al-Assad has
interest in anything other the continuation of his brutal and ruthless
Q: Is there a sense
of urgency on the coalition's part to get to Raqqa first?
COL. WARREN: Well,
nobody's going to get to Raqqa anytime soon, frankly, neither the Russians nor
the SDF. This is going to require a
significant generation of combat power; this is going to require significant
shaping operations in and around the area.
So, right now, there -- certainly no race is on but we'll
have to see what the future holds.
Q: Finally, Colonel
CAPT. DAVIS: That's
it. This is a four-part follow up.
Q: Okay, sorry. Finally, Colonel, how badly do you want to
COL. WARREN: Well,
we're in the business of taking terrorists off the battle field. And whether we take them off and slam them
into a dark cell somewhere in the international courts, or put a Hellfire
missile at his location -- either one of those would make us equally happy.
But this is a terrorist who has to go. And this is a terrorist who should not sleep
well, ever. For two reasons -- one,
certainly his conscious will keep him awake for all the brutal acts that he's
-- he's been behind.
But more importantly, because eventually, someone is either
going to come in the window and snatch him up, or the entire house that he's in
will get reduced to rubble.
So, we want to see him brought to justice. We'd like to see him taste justice. And whenever that happens, it won't be soon
Q: Oh, thanks. Hi, Colonel Warren. I was wondering if you could give us an
update on the -- on Task Force Spartan.
Have those marines come in contact with ISIS since the last time? And are they still at Fire Base Bell?
Could you give us a
little bit of an update on are they moving forward at all? Are they assisting Iraqi security forces in
any of these additional village skirmishes?
COL. WARREN: So, Task
Force Spartan is more than just artillery pieces, it's an advise and assist
operation that's conducted out of the Makhmur area. There's kind of a base cluster there. So they are providing advice and assistance
to the 15th Iraqi Division, which is in the process of fighting Operation
Valley Wolf, which I mentioned in the opener.
The -- the force protection and -- and the fires that we
brought there can take on two roles, whether it's force protection or fire in
support of maneuver. Those guns have
been firing, probably daily. They have
not received much in the way of enemy contact since the Iraqis began their push
west, and that's for the simple reason that the Iraqi -- that the enemy now has
its hand full with Iraqis.
So the enemy's fires have been focused on the advancing
Iraqi army forces. Our fires have been
focused on countering those fires. So we
shoot counter-battery fire. So the enemy
fires a shot, we shoot at where they shot from; that's called counter-battery
fire. Additionally, of course, we have
fires delivered from the air, which do much the same.
So there was, over the last -- since last time I spoke with
you, there has been a handful of rocket attacks directed towards those
guns. None of them have been
effective. And by a handful, I think the
number is -- I can't remember. It's
either two or four, so small number, none of them effective.
But the pressure really is on the enemy at this point
because of two reasons. One, the Iraqi
security forces are continuing to push west, and two, fires delivered by the
coalition, both air and ground-based fires, have also kept fairly steady
pressure on this enemy.
Q: Are the Marines
still operating out of Fire Base Bell or has -- is that base moving?
COL. WARREN: Nobody's
moved; everybody is operating out of -- out of where they've been.
Q: Hi, Steve. Back to Palmyra. Have you -- have you seen any evidence or any
anecdotes that the Syrian civilians who are there have faced any kind of bad --
brutal behavior from the Syrian regime forces, where the Russians or anyone
who've retaken the city? And then you --
when you were talking about Palmyra earlier, you mentioned that it's a question
of whether the Syrians have the power to go past there. Are you seeing any evidence that the Syrian
regime forces are stretched thin? Are
they having trouble moving? Any kind of
COL. WARREN: So I
don't have any anecdotes for you on how the regime has treated the population
of Palmyra, but we surely know that Bashar al-Assad has a very long and
As far as the logistical capability of the regime forces,
you know, it's always difficult to know exactly, but certainly, they are as far
east as they've ever been since the civil war really got going, so we know that
they've been degraded significantly over the last five years. So it remains to be seen whether or not they
have, you know, the logistical capabilities to move much further to the
east. It's simply something that, you
know, remains to be seen.
You know, we know that they've been significantly degraded,
but we also know they've been resupplied by the Russians and others, so we have
to wait and see.
Q: Any evidence that
the Russians have brought -- we spoke with a British general yesterday and he
said that they haven't -- he hasn't seen any evidence that Russians have
brought any new equipment in. But then
there were some reports that they sent in some sappers overnight, or in the
last day or so.
Are you seeing any new equipment or can you give us -- do
you have any sense of like, roughly, how many aircraft they have in Syria,
operating right now?
COL. WARREN: I can
check. Off the top my head I want to say
it is in the two dozen range, maybe a little more of total, you know, fighter
jets. And then there's some helicopters
and there's some ground combat power also at play. Now, what was the first part of your question
Q: Have they sent
anything new? And there was a report
overnight about sappers.
Right. I didn't see the sappers
report, it wouldn't surprise me. You
know, most likely they'll need sappers, which is just another word for
engineers to help produce the obstacles or the IEDs that ISIL left behind in
Palmyra. This is pure speculation
though. I have not seen a particular or
a specific sapper report. But that is just another words for engineers.
Q: So yes. I work for British television. I don't know if you can answer this, but can
I ask you anyway? We had a big court
case coming today with a terrorist who targeted a U.S. air base in Lakenheath
in the U.K.
He's being convicted.
He was helped by a terrorist base in Raqqa, who U.S. forces took out
with a drone shortly after his arrest. I
want to ask you, is this kind of cooperation something you know about between
the U.K. and U.S. forces? Do you know
about this specific case? Can you
comment on it at all?
Right. So, we of course
cooperate, very closely, with our British allies. You know, certainly, the special relationship
continues to extend here to Iraq and Syria as well.
So, I do not know specifically which terrorist in Raqqa that
we killed, who helped to plan this operation that you are referring to. But it's certainly a great illustration of
what I spoke about in the opener isn't it?
That we know these operatives are planning operations outside of Iraq
and Syria, which is why we target them.
And it is why we're going to continue to target them. It's why we're going to continue to work very
closely with all of our partners and allies in this region: on intelligence
front, on the targeting front, and on the training and equipping front.
So, you know, again, I guess to zoom out a little bit and
this is kind of a big answer to a very specific question. This 66 member coalition is here for a very
important purpose, and that is to cooperate in any effort to dismantle and
ultimately defeat ISIL. So, that will
And I want to go back to Courtney's question. There's one thing I wanted to add that -- to
your question Courtney, we have not seen any significant combat power or
significant pieces of equipment or significant capabilities come in for the
As there is with any, you know, force that fully deployed,
there's a continuous flow back and forth of everything, presumably from mail,
to spare parts, to resupply, to you know, replacement personnel, et
cetera. But there have not been any
significant, you know, plus ups of combat power or of capabilities, so
hopefully, that closes your question out.
Q: I had one -- ask
one extra thing. I mean, this man was
called, Junaid Hussain. But if you were
asked by the U.K. to target someone specifically, and you have that
intelligence, is that something you would do?
Absolutely. I mean, we have our
own set of checks that we have to run.
But assuming that the proposed target got through all of the -- the very
rigorous targeting criteria that we have, then of course we would strike them.
And this -- and this is true for any -- any partner
nation. The targeting process is
nominative, so anyone can nominate a target to our -- to our core targeters,
whether it's another agency within the United States government or another
And so, those targets get nominated. We receive the target package, and then we
work the target package in a joint and combined environment. So, it is a coalition effort to even go
through the vetting piece of these -- of these targets.
Once the target is vetted, then it'll get added to the
target list, and somebody will -- somebody will service that target. And then there's a bidding process for who
strikes what target, because each nation has its own set of -- you know,
national caveats and rules.
But at the end of the day, the short answer to your question
Q: Hi, Steve. Quick -- first, just a house-keeping
So, there are no new positions like Fire Base Bell right now
in Iraq. That's correct?
COL. WARREN: Phil,
can you ask that again? You broke up a
little at the beginning.
Q: Double checking if
there's no U.S. -- no new U.S. positions in Iraq now, like Fire Base Bell? That haven't been disclosed yet?
COL. WARREN: That's
Q: Do you -- could
you bring us up to date on the Syria train and equip mission that has been
launched now, the new one? And kind of
tell me -- you know, or tell us, you know, how it is at work? And how people -- how many people are being
trained or have been trained.
Are we talking about, you know, dozens of people? Hundreds of people? Thank you.
COL. WARREN: Yeah,
so, dozens of people are now being trained.
These are individuals as opposed to units.
So, what we did the first time was try to pull full units
off the line and cycle them through training.
We realized that didn't work.
So, in accordance with our commitment to find things that
work, we're trying this. And so, what
this is, is pull some individuals out of units, vet them, give them some
training, give them some capability, and then reinsert them back into the
So, that’s what the program is. And we're going to keep an eye on this
program, we're going to keep working it, and if it works, we'll do more. And if it doesn't work, we'll shift again.
And I think we've been very, I think, clear and open about
that fact, that, you know, some of this is us working through different
scenarios, and ideas and programs through a simple process of trial and error,
to see what works and what doesn't work.
And when we find things that work, we're going to do more of
them. And when we find things that don't
work, we're going to cut sling and move on.
Q: You were before,
when you were just working with the SDF folks and giving them, you know,
training on helping coordinate the -- the air-strikes
COL. WARREN: Phil,
unfortunately, the beginning of your question got clipped again, but what I
heard was, you know, are we going to work with these new trainees to help train
them how to spot targets? And the
answer is yes, of course we are. That's
probably the largest single combat multiplier on the Syrian battlefield.
The Syrians who we trained in the old program are still
operating on the battlefield and they're still able to identify targets for us,
and that is a legitimate and real combat multiplier. That allows us to bring significantly more
fires into play in any of these -- in any of these skirmishes, battles and
fire-fights there are taking place, you know, throughout Syria.
Q: I guess, I was
trying to get a sense of scale because there were also folks that we given some
cursory training as well from the SDF, or the SAC, I guess, and I'm just
wondering scale. Is there more folks
that are being trained now? Does this
represent an increase in the level of training than you were doing before when
you were just looking at the Syrian-Arabs?
COL. WARREN: Well,
that SAC mission was, I think unique, right?
That was a very discrete -- and by discrete, I mean, you know, isolated,
singular operation. So what that was,
was we brought the leaders of various armed groups out of Syria for a week-long
training and briefings and some relationship building, et cetera.
So that was a very specific thing. That was leaders from about a dozen different
armed groups, but the leaders of these smaller of these subgroups that came
together to form the SAC, the Syrian-Arab Coalition. So that was a very kind of unique and not --
has not yet been repeated training mission.
What we're talking about -- what you first asked about was a
train -- a training and equipping program that we are now doing that is based
on the lessons that we learned from our ill-fated train and equip program of
2015. In that program, in the old 2015
program, we would identify an entire unit, exfiltrate that unit to a training
location, train the unit, equip the unit, infiltrate the unit back into the
battlefield and have them go fight.
And you know, that program didn't work out the way we wanted
it to, so we -- we paused it, stopped it, ceased it, didn't do it anymore. We conducted some assessments, we figured out
what went right, what went wrong, how can we do this better. And so now, we are trying again with
And the adjustment in this case is that it's a group of
individuals. So I'm trying to think of a
way to explain it that would be easy to understand. Imagine, you know, a unit, we would take some
members out of each unit and pull those members out of the unit. So the unit remains in the fight, right? Because one of the lessons we learned is
people didn't want to come off the line for the training. Why?
Because they were fighting for their homes, their families -- dedicated
enemy, et cetera.
So what we learned is pulling a full unit off a line is
problematic. So, now what we're trying
is to take a few individuals out of the unit -- not the head -- not the leader
of the unit. The leader of the unit
needs to stick with his unit and fight.
So, a few individuals out of the unit, pull them off, get
them some training, and then get them back into the fight with this new,
increased capability -- with the theory that, if you have a highly trained
individual here, well, the man on his left and right are going to benefit from
his great training.
So, now, for the price of training one, you've got three who
are better, and maybe even more than that.
So, that's kind of what we're looking at doing here. And then of course, there's an equipment
piece, and again, the capability piece, right?
That these guys are able to really be combat multipliers, because
they've got the ability to assist with the -- with air power.
So, scale, we're not comfortable talking about. I'll just -- I'll leave at, you know, it's
still relatively small as we see if this works.
Like I said, dozens. And that's
all I'm going to say.
Q: You actually
answered a little bit of this, Colonel Warren.
But are there other lessons learned from the first go-round that are
being applied now? It sounds like,
instead of taking out whole units, you've got -- you're taking out key leaders
from units. What else is the U.S. doing
COL. WARREN: Well, a
lot of what we learned is -- is, you know, will seem insignificant, maybe in
Washington or in the United States, but certainly, you know, cultural
things. You know, when to start the
training, when not to train, how much leave to plan.
It's the little things like that, individual -- you know,
personal management almost type things that we learned, that we believe now we
can apply to get a better result.
And that -- that's really the only one that I have at my
fingertips. I can look into it and see
what else there is. But you know, we
learned a lot of lessons from that first -- from that first go-round.
Q: Hi, Colonel
Warren. Thanks for doing this. I was just wondering if you had an update on
the total number of Islamic State fighters that are in Iraq and Syria right
We had heard on Friday from General Dunford an estimate of
up to 35,000, which is -- which is higher than what we had heard last
time. And I know that estimates are
exactly that, they fluctuate.
But have you seen an increase or a decrease in
fighters? And to follow up on that
question, what is being done by the United States and the coalition to hinder
some of the recruitment, because that would -- the assumption to that, if the
numbers haven't gone up or down, is that the recruitment still remains strong.
Would you agree with that, and what's being done to stop
COL. WARREN: I won't
disagree with General Dunford. But I
will say that our estimate here is that they're between 20 and 25,000 enemy
fighters on the ground.
And we believe that, that's a reduction from the number that
we had been using for the previous year, which was up to 31,000. So, we believe -- so, our estimate has
reduced from a top end of 31 down to a top end of 25. So, that's what we believe based on the
information that we have.
Recruitment certainly is -- is one of the lines of effort,
right? It's one of the things that we
want to stop. We want to stop the flow
of foreign fighters.
Now, there's two types of fighters in ISIL: foreign fighters and then local
fighters. The local fighters, we're
seeing increasingly that they are conscripts.
In other words, they are forced to fight against their will.
There is another category of local fighters, which is
fighters who maybe aren't committed to the ISIL ideology and the ISIL ideology
and philosophy, but they need a job and so they're fighting just for the
money. And these two categories are the
types of fighters that we see increasingly deserting, throwing down their
weapons and running away because they're -- you know, they're not, you know,
committed the way the foreign fighters are.
The foreign fighters certainly are the most committed,
right? They've gone through quite a bit
of effort just to get to Syria, so they are both the most committed fighters
and they benefit -- they received, we believe, superior training from ISIL and
they're used often as either shock troops, or a quick reaction force, or as
So those are the different types of fighters. So to get to your question, how do we reduce
recruiting? Well locally, you know, that
really is happening on its own, right?
As people realize that ISIL does not really offer what they claim to
offer, there's much lower propensity for people to want to join them.
You know, if you watch ISIL propaganda or read their
ridiculous magazine, you would think that ISIL is a land of sunshine and
rainbows where there's unicorns, you know, being ridden by Leprechauns,
everyone's happy. But then when you show
up here, you realize that it's closer to hell on Earth, right? It's apocalyptic.
So these are bad people.
Well, that word's gotten out fairly well here in the region. I think people get that, so they're not
really -- we're not seeing easy recruitment locally.
Less the case, obviously, externally, right? We still see foreign fighters as a problem
that needs to be addressed. And those --
those problems are really being addressed at the government level within our
partner nations, right? Each nation has
its own way of communicating to its own population that ISIL's a bad idea.
So those efforts continue, along with our efforts to, you
know, to degrade the enemy and trip the enemy here on the ground.
Q: Good morning,
Colonel. Back to Fire Base Bell. The -- (inaudible) -- and the 26 MEU, where
those marines came from is due to the dropout of a fifth CENTCOM AOR. Are you expecting another unit to come in and
replace the marines that are at Bell?
COL. WARREN: So those
marines have been detached from the 26th and attached to us here, so we're not
going to really talk about our future plans for replacement and such until
there's an announcement to make. But
those marines have been detached and the MEU will continue on its way.
Q: Hi, Colonel. Thanks for appearing today. Just a quick question about Makhmour. What's the advantage of having a training
program up there in Makhumr? And is this
a new model that you're going to be pursuing at other locations for the Mosul
COL. WARREN: So
Makhmour is an advise and assist location, so there's -- it's not a formal
training area. The training areas are at
Al-Asad, at Taji and Besmaya, and then there's more here in Baghdad, too. Those are training sites where the
infrastructure and, you know, the range complexes, et cetera, are set up to
What you have at Makhmour is similar to what we set up at
Taqaddum. If you recall, Taqaddum when we set that up, that's not a training
base. That is an advise and assist location. So, it's advise and assist personnel,
coalition advise and assisters are located there. You know, they are embedded if you will, with
the divisional headquarters or the 15th division.
And they are providing them the advice -- the operational
and tactical advise and assistance that they need, as well as the coordination
required for fires.
So, that's what's happening there. So, you know, certainly, there is going to be
hip pocket training and things as, you know, as forces are there. But that is not a training location. That is an advise and assist location,
And then I missed the second part of your question, Luis.
Q: And is this a
model that you're going to pursue against another location, as you move towards
And just following up on those divisions, were they, some of
those divisions that had gone through training at those other locations that
Right. The two brigades --
there's two brigades from the 15th division that are currently fighting Operation
Valley Wolf. Those two brigades were
trained by the coalition.
One of the brigades was trained by the Spanish and the
Portuguese. And the other was trained
primarily by, I think American -- and maybe there's some Australians as part of
So, one of them was trained at Taji and the other one was
trained at Besmaya.
Okay. I think there are follow
ups. I think Tom, you had one? Yeah.
Q: Steve, you talk
about working with allies and partners in the region. I wanted to ask you about the Sunni
I think it was about seven weeks ago, Secretary Carter
talked -- say he was confident that Jordan and Saudi would send in special
forces. Has that happened yet?
Yeah. So, that's -- we're still
working with our Gulf partners to sort out exactly what additional
contributions they can make. I'm not
aware that that has happened yet.
I don't believe it has.
Btu it is certainly something that we're discussing and working through.
You know, it does take some time, right? There's going to be lead time, and yes, it
has been -- it's been several weeks now.
But to set up the coordination does take some efforts, and so, those
coordination -- those coordinating efforts continue.
Q: Talk to you about
the trainers there, I think Portuguese, you said, the Australians. Are there any Jordanians or Saudi trainers on
the ground, there?
COL. WARREN: Not to
my knowledge, no.
Q: Just one quick
clarification on the Syria train and equip.
You said dozens of people are being trained. So, how many -- is it also dozens that have
been trained in this latest tranche, and are back out on the battle field? Is that the same rough, broad number?
And then, can you say how many of the original, the 2015
Syrians who were trained are out fighting still?
COL. WARREN: Of the
original group, I have to go back and get the exact number, but I believe it's
-- it's over 100, right? It's more than
a 100 from that original group that remain on the battle field.
At one point, it was up in the 100 -- over 150. But I think there has been some attrition,
both through, you know, loss through combat and other ways.
But -- but that's not an exact number, and we can probably
go back and get that for you.
This -- this new program that we're doing, it's in the very
early stages. So -- so far, no one has
returned to the battle field.
Q: Colonel Warren,
can you talk to us about some of these new types of Russian helicopters, these
attack gun ships that are on the battlefield right now in Syria?
COL. WARREN: The
Russians, they are bringing a lot of their more advanced equipment to the
battlefield, helicopters, armored vehicles, and fixed wing aircraft as
well. So they're kind of bringing it all
out there for their own reasons presumably, you know, to see how it performs
under combat conditions.
I don't have any specifics to share with you on the Russian
helicopters, on these new advance helicopters yet. We will continue to keep watching and finding
out what they're doing. And then
perhaps, maybe there will be something we can talk about later.
Q: Colonel Warren,
overall, would you say the Russians are pulling out of Syria?
COL. WARREN: No, the
Russians - I mean, there's been a reduction in capabilities, a slight reduction
in numbers but they still retain significant capability in Syria.
CAPT. DAVIS: Anything else?
Thank you Steve very much for your time today and we look
forward to seeing you next week.
And for everyone's benefit in ten minutes, we do expect the
Secretary's remarks at MIT to be live streamed.
So we would commend that to you.
Thank you very much.
Have a nice day.