Operation Inherent Resolve

 

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Warren via Teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq

By | April 07, 2016

CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS: Apologies for the delays. We're having some technical problems this morning.

 

And this is a double-feature today, as you know. We'll have General Rodriguez going out here at 11 o'clock.  We will cut this off at 10:45 to allow for transition and filing time before General Rodriguez comes out.

 

Without any further hesitation or ado, Steve, just want to make sure we can hear you.

 

COLONEL STEVE WARREN: I can hear you loud and clear, Jeff.  How do you hear me?

 

CAPT. DAVIS: We've got you loud and clear. Tom, if you'd give us a tiny bit more volume, and we'll turn it over to you.

 

COL. WARREN: Well, good morning, Pentagon press corps. It's good to be with you again. Just a heads up. There's a no-kidding thunderstorm outside today, so hopefully that's won't interfere anymore with our -- with our technology, but just know that we are getting a little natural interference here.

 

So I've got some prepared remarks that I'll jump into them. 

 

In the past few weeks, we struck a number of media kiosks in downtown Mosul. ISIL uses these kiosks to distribute propaganda, often forcing citizens to watch brutal execution videos. The destruction of these kiosks we believe struck a nerve with ISIL, provided a notable online reaction. 

 

Since the strikes, ISIL has released three videos, one of which featured British hostage John Cantley, who was forced to talk about the strikes. 

 

Recently near Bajar, Iraq, we struck and killed Harris Cary Saneen, also known as Abu Zubari al-Basni. Zubari, a Swedish national of Bosnian descent, was a trusted member of the cadre of foreign fighters. 

 

That same day near ar-Ragnina, Iraq, we struck and killed Khalid Ostman Timayare, who was ISIL's deputy emir of the Anwar Awlaki brigade. Ostman was a Swedish-born foreign fighter with many links to Western fighters. He was also a known associate of Omar al-Shishani, who was ISIL's minister of war, who as you know we killed on March 4th.

 

Both of these strikes deprive ISIL of motivated foreign fighters who have displayed leadership aptitude. 

 

Let's walk around the battlefield quickly. In the Tigris River valley, the ISF are battling to push the frontlines to the west.  This is part of Operation Valley Wolf. Now, they are experiencing some give and take there. It's a tough fight. And the 71st Brigade is now moving to seize the town of Nasir. In the Euphrates River valley, Operation Desert Links, Iraqi security forces have now entered Hit. The city is not yet clear. It's littered with VBIEDs, IEDs and booby-traps, but the Iraqi security forces are working from the north to the south to finally secure that city.

 

In Fallujah, the 14th Iraqi Army Division is approximately two kilometers from the Makhtoul Bridge, which is a logistical supply line that ISIL has used for resupply. 

 

Now, I haven't spoken about training in a while, so I'd like to give you an update while we're still on Iraq. This week, over 400 Iraqis from our Build Partner Capacity site in Taji, completed several courses, including the combat medic course, the infantry skills course, and the ranger battalion course. 

 

In the Bessmaya training area, the Spanish recently completed SAPR training for a platoon of Iraqi combat engineers. This is a valuable skill set.  It's essential to the battlefield operations, especially since ISIL has packed the roads with IEDs. 

 

Last week, 14 advanced CTS explosive ordnance technicians graduated from the first IED Defeat and Assault Course. Coalition advisers taught the month-long course to the very top CTS graduates of an IED course that was held earlier this year. This training sharpened their ability to destroy explosives and disable devices in close quarters battle.

 

It was specifically designed to teach CTS the faster paced, in- stride clearance techniques needed to support special operations missions.

 

Back to the battlefield, now in Syria. In northern Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces continue to secure Shadadi as they prepare the battlefield for future operations against ISIL. They're also providing humanitarian aid to the region and helping villages and communities regain a normal life.

 

Since the start of the Shadadi offensive on February 15th, the SDF has gained 6,100 square kilometers. Coalition aircraft have conducted 209 kinetic strikes, killing hundreds of enemy fighters.  During this offensive, the SDF suffered 84 casualties. In total, the SDF now controls 25,000 square kilometers of land in northern Syria.

 

And we do have a video, and this is a very interesting video. It's an A-10 firing on a VBIED, a truck bomb. In fact, it's not just a truck bomb. It's a Russian BMP -- Russian-made BMP captured obviously by ISIL. And this BMP is moving right now towards -- towards friendly forces when this A-10 intercepts it.

 

So DVIDS, go ahead and roll that video please.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

COL. WARREN:  Okay.  So that was a good video.

 

Okay, so moving on to western Syria. Over the course of several days, vetted Syrian opposition forces have successfully synchronized offensive operations, resulting in the liberation of several villages in northwest Syria. Since the beginning of April, vetted Syrian opposition forces have added a total of 81 square kilometers of new territory and moved the Ma’ara Line approximately 7.5 kilometers to the east. 

 

So that completes my quick battlefield and training update, and with that, let's jump into questions.  So Lita, or Bob, if you're there.

 

CAPT. DAVIS:  Go ahead, Lita.

 

Q:  Hi, Steve.  A couple of questions.

 

Can you give us a better picture of what's going on Idlib? What Al Qaida, Khorasan, Nusra forces are there?  And what -- and a little bit about some of the -- more detail about some of the recent strikes?  And then I had a question about the Marines.

 

COL. WARREN:  Lita, I couldn't hear a word you said.  There's guys on the phones working furiously to clean this line up.  So let's stand by a sec.

 

Q:  Can you hear me now, Steve?

 

COL. WARREN:  All I can hear is you kind of breaking -- (inaudible).  That's about it.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

COL. WARREN:  Hey, DVIDs, go ahead and turn off the video -- (inaudible) -- and we'll go strictly audio.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

COL. WARREN:  Lita, go ahead and shoot your question again and see if I can make it out. 

 

Q:  (Inaudible) -- better idea of what's going on in Idlib?  What Al Qaida, al-Nusra, Khorasan forces are there?  What's the situation there?  And a little more detail on the strikes over the last couple of days -- (inaudible).  And then I have a Marine question.

 

COL. WARREN:  Okay.  So, in Idlib, we have seen some -- an uptick in fighting in and around Idlib, which I think has been fairly well reported.  We can't confirm that. 

 

There has been some -- some Russian-backed regime actions in and around Idlib. We've also seen some ISIL operations kind of a little bit north and a little bit east of Damascus. So kind of two spots that are -- that we are seeing continued or increase in violence. I mean, there's no question about it.

 

Difficult to know exactly. You know, obviously, around Damascus it's very clear to us that this is an ISIL effort, which of course doesn't impact the cessation of hostilities. In Idlib, it's a little more confused, hard to tell exactly whether it's, you know, the Nusra Front who aren't part of the cessation of hostilities.  You know, it's a little bit confused up there so it's difficult to tell exactly who is fighting who right now.

 

What was the rest of your question? Something about the Marine Corps?

 

Q:  Yes, I have a -- my second part on the Marine Corps. We heard yesterday that obviously the Pentagon was looking at setting up -- possibly setting up additional small fire bases as the Iraqis move forward toward Mosul. Can you say, first of all, when do you think some of that might happen? And any more details on that? 

 

And also, we've been told all along that the Marines at -- I'll call it Fire Base Bell, were only going to be there for a short time. Are they expected to swap out soon?

 

COL. WARREN:  First off, it's K-S -- wait -- K-S-C-C, right?  Kara Soar Counter Fire Complex -- K-S-C-C, you can go with.  So that's the name of that area fight there. 

 

So as far as the timing goes, you know, the Marines are there just temporarily. We don't have an end-date for them yet. And we wouldn't really announce it anyway, but it's a temporary stay until we either come up with a more enduring solution of they're no longer needed anymore. So that's kind of where the Marines are.

 

You know, we're going to be very deliberate about not talking about future operations. I think the most important thing to point out, though, is that we don't set up bases anywhere. All we do is get invited by the Iraqis and then set up on Iraqi, you know, facilities.  So that's an important note.

 

We're not going to telegraph our future punches. You know, I think the secretary -- (inaudible) -- have been very clear that as we find techniques and methods that work, we'll do more of those methods. So for example, we set up an advise -- kind of a forward advice and assist location in Taqaddum, you know, months ago -- six, seven, eight months ago. 

 

And that was specifically set up to support operations in Ramadi. And it was successful. It was advisers. There was HIMARS that got placed in here. Paladins got put in there. And all those things worked in concert with the Iraqi offensive to liberate Ramadi. So that's an example of success. 

 

And because we're as good as our word, we says, "well, hey, that was successful; let's do more of it." And so when the Iraqis stood up Kara Sour, we repeated that in Kara Soar. You know, we saw success advisers, plus some guns equal acceleration. So that's what we did in Kara Soar. We sent in some advisers and we sent in some guns. And together, those advisers and those guns are providing support to the Iraqi army as they execute Operation Valley Wolf. 

 

So, just to repeat that, as we find methods and techniques that are successful, we'll repeat them. But we're certainly never going to let anybody know what we're about to do before we do it.

 

CAPT. DAVIS: Next, to Barbara Starr.

 

Q:  Colonel Warren, two question. You mentioned a couple of ISIS operatives, foreign fighters that you've killed. And you've certainly had a whole string of them in recent days, including these Al Qaida Shura guys in Syria.

 

What is that fear of -- concerns do you have about that, sure, that you are attacking.  Having plots to attack in Europe or the United States.  What is making you able to go after all of these target, these named targets and have all these targeting operations?  What's working for you here and then I have a Raqqa question.

 

COL. WARREN:  All right. So we have taken several strikes here recently against these larger, you know, old-fashioned terrorist outfits Al Qaida, Khorasan Group. And then also of course, the foreign fighter network that is part of ISIL. And while these groups don't necessarily work together they are all part of the same disease, which is the desire to export terror to the west.

 

And so we are laser focused on this. You know, it's our primary mission. So are most important thing that we do is protect our homeland. And because -- the way intelligence works is as time goes on and you gather more and more pieces of string, that intelligence picture kind of becomes more fulsome. 

 

And as it become more fulsome, it allows you to get even more intelligence. So, our - you know, intel drives operations. And as our intelligence improves, as we learn more about this enemy, as this enemy feels additional pressure: both on the ground and from the air, and oh, by the way, pressure exerted by each and every one of the nations in this coalition and their own home countries, as all this pressure continues to squeeze this enemy, they start popping up right? The container is so pressurized that it springs leaks and that identifies targets for us and we do not hesitate. 

 

Particularly, these Al Qaida and Khorasan Group operatives, who we know have one main goal, and that is to plan attacks in the west. That is what they do. So we are out looking for them. As the pressure continues to amount, they become exposed. Through whether it's through their own mistakes or whether it's just through good work that we do.

 

Either way, we will expose those mistakes and we will move rapidly to exploit them.

 

Q:  Quick follow-up, two things. 

 

Would it be fair to say or a step too far, that you are specifically trying to target elements, whether it's ISIS or others, foreign fighter networks trying to attack in the west. And my other question is, I noticed your map today talks about pressuring Raqqa. Can you just for a minute tell us any specifics that you are doing? What is the goal in Raqqa right now? If you are exerting pressure, what is it you're doing, what are you trying to accomplish? And the foreign fighter question.

 

COL. WARREN: We are specifically targeting cells, groups and individuals who we suspect are plotting to export terror. This is one of our highest priorities and this is something that we are very specifically going after. Prevent terror attacks in the homeland, prevent terror attacks in the west. So we are actively looking for any signs of a planned, external terror attack. And when we find those signs, we go after them.

 

In Raqqa -- what we're trying to do with Raqqa is keep the pressure on it so we can do several things. And of course, the first thing that we're trying to do is what I previously described. Applying pressure across the breadth and the depth of this battlefield forces this enemy into having to make bad decisions. You give them two bad decisions to make, either one that he makes will ultimately result in loss for him, it will take something away from him. So that's what we're trying to do with pressure on Raqqa. 

 

And you see that through operations to seize the Tishreen dam, which is west of Raqqa, or to seize and clear the area around Shaddadi, which is east of Raqqa. This is very deliberate. So what we see Raqqa, of course, it is their declared capital of their so-called and illusory caliphate. And so, of course, keeping the pressure on that capital -- again, what it does is it causes them have to make bad decisions.

 

Whether it is to make decisions about whether or not they want to reposition similar fighters, whether they want reposition some of their leaders because they are scared. Whatever it may be, our intent is to keep pressure across the entire battlefield, so that way we can strike. We can maneuver and we choose to do when we choose to do it.

 

So, it's all about us being -- trying to assume control of this enemy and trying to assume control of this battlefield, which I believe that we are starting to make some notable progress in that department. 

 

CAPT. DAVIS: Next we’ll go to Courtney.

 

Q:  Good morning Colonel Warren. I have a bunch of questions and they're all unrelated, so I'm just going to go one at a time.

 

The -- you mentioned 84 casualties in this recent SDF offensive. Do you have an overall number for how many SDF fighters there are right now?

 

COL. WARREN: Well, total fighters in the SDF numbers in the tens of thousands. I do not have a precise number and quite frankly, the number fluctuates, sometimes a lot. Because -- you know, this is a -- this isn't a state army right? This is a group of groups. It is a group of militia groups that have come together against the common cause, which is to defeat ISIL. So the numbers move around a lot. But it's in the tens of thousands. Not all of them can, you know, fight obviously. You know, many of them are just conducting areas security operations. In other words, making sure that the enemy isn't able to conduct disrupting attacks in the rear against home towns and things like that. 

 

So, it is in the tens of thousands. You know, one of the key subordinate units, if you will, of the Syrian Democratic Forces are the Syrian-Arab coalition. We call it the SAC. We know that too has 5000-ish fighters, sometimes that number goes up. 

 

Ahead of an offensive they'll bring folks out for a specific offensive and then released them back to their homes, to go about their daily lives. So, this is very much, you know, an irregular army if you will. 

 

So the numbers are -- can be hard to pin down. But tens of thousands, is probably the best we are going to be able to do.

 

Q:  Okay. And then on the KSCC complex, or the fire base, I guess I'm -- when you -- I don't remember whose question it was. Your answer -- you said that those are all Iraqi installations, that the U.S.  -- I was under the impression that that firebase was a U.S. installation.  It was not a -- that Iraqi Security Forces were not co-located there or that the U.S. had set it up. Is that not the case?

 

COL. WARREN: That's why we renamed it, because it was creating some confusion. So -- and General Dunford was very elegant in the way described this. You know, it's just part of this complex right?  So you have Kara Soar, which is the tactical assembly area, which is where the 15th Iraqi Division, along with two brigades initially staged ahead of the offensive operations that they are now conduction.

 

Because -- and Kara Soar did not exist several months ago, it was just a field. All it was was grassland. So the Iraqis built from nothing, just from grassland, you know.

 

You know, they brought in some construction equipment, mostly earth movers, and flattened the area out a little bit; constructed one or two kind of smallish headquarters buildings, and then the rest is just open area where the Iraqi forces can put their vehicles and, you know, set their tents up and, you know, conduct prep for combat-type operations.

 

And that was a fixed size. So when it came time to move the artillery in, the artillery wouldn't fit because it was -- it was already too crowded. So the artillery, then, is just kind off to the side of Kara Soar.  So it's -- we consider it the same thing, just like you see in Taqaddum, right? 

 

If you go to Taqaddum, what you'll see is a -- and Taqaddum is, of course, massive. Many of you have been there. So, it's a massive area where in kind of one portion of it you have the troop area, and then over off to the side in another portion of it, you have the artillery.  Because you don't want your artillery right next to your troops only because it fires a lot and you require dispersal, really just for safety reasons.

 

So, that's what that's all about. So it's -- it's part of the same thing. It's part of this Iraq complex, the Kara Soar Complex, and that's what it is.

 

Q:  On -- on Idlib, I wasn't clear if you were saying that the strikes, specifically the one yesterday that the U.S. carried out, if that was against Al Qaida or Khorasan. Was that against Al Qaida members?

 

COL. WARREN: That was -- it was an Al Qaida strike in Idlib. So Lita, I probably just didn't hear your question well enough. 

 

I realize I talked about other things that we're seeing in Idlib. So your question was about that strike we did.  So yes, it was a strike. There were about five Al Qaida operatives that we locked onto and we struck and killed all five of them. 

 

No names, individuals there that you'd recognize, but these were -- these were Al Qaida fighters that we've been tracking and operatives that we've been tracking that we know about, and the opportunity arose, and we killed them.

 

And I want to continue on Kara Sour for another second -- I just had -- so think about the Pentagon as Kara Soar tactical assembly area.  And think about maybe the power plant or something.  So it's still the Pentagon, right?  That Pentagon power plant, it's still part of the Pentagon, but it's a little bit -- it's across the street there, right?

 

So it's -- it's the same thing, right? That's still the Pentagon.  It provides the power to the building, but it's, you know, it's a cross the street. So that's kind of what you have with the Kara Sour and -- and, you know, the fire base. So, anyway.  Next question?

 

CAPT. DAVIS:  Nancy -- (inaudible)?  I'm sorry. Missy, you were next.  I apologize. 

 

Missy?

 

Q:  Steve, I'm sorry, but I'm having a hard time understanding this shift towards Al Qaida/Khorasan -- (inaudible) -- Nusra. The U.S. hadn't done any such strikes for about a year and a half, and now two in the last week. And I'm just trying to understand.  Is it that the U.S. had no possible strikes in a year and a half, and these suddenly came up?

 

And also when the president announced in September of 2014 that the U.S. was going to be conducting strikes in Iraq and Syria, he said the goal was to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIS. Has that mission now expanded to degrade and ultimately defeat Al Qaida as well? And if so, when -- when did that shift happen?

 

COL. WARREN: So, the mission to destroy Al Qaida began on September 11th, 2001. And that mission continues unabated. And, you know, as with any mission, particularly a longer one like this, there will be ebbs and flows. In this case, I think we've had a good run here lately and hopefully we'll continue to have a good run.

 

On the Khorasan group, we have struck Khorasan group. It's been more than -- it's been less than 18 months since our last Khorasan group strike, although I'll admit to not going back and looking when the last one was. But we struck Khorasan group on the very first day of bombing when this campaign began. And since then, we have steadily struck Khorasan group targets as they've presented themselves.

 

We can do back and do the research, Nancy, on exactly when the last K.G. strike was, but I think it's been within months probably. And again, you know, these kind of operations are largely driven by intelligence and so as we develop targets, we can strike them off and this stuff will come in waves. And I think that's what you're seeing here.

 

Q:  Up until recently, there were a lot of -- (inaudible) -- al-Nusra guys in particular were along-side groups that the U.S. was backing in the course of this war, that you had -- (inaudible) -- were very close-by groups that the U.S. was backing.  Was that one of the challenges in hitting Al Qaida affiliated groups or in this case, Al Qaida?

 

COL. WARREN: Well, I can tell you that -- we have -- the CJTF and the Department of Defense have never backed -- (inaudible) -- al-Nusra, nor do I imagine we ever will. They are a terrorist organization. Let's be clear about that. And our authorities to strike them stem from our authorities to strike Al Qaida as well, by the way.

 

But we want to be -- but we want to be clear, you know. Some of these operatives wear different jerseys or wear multiple jerseys; and may be a member of both. But, you know, these recent strikes, you know, are against terrorist who are, in our view, very clearly originally, you know, founding members almost of Al Qaida. 

 

And so that's how we read them out. And I know there's been some discussion of are they Al Qaida or are they something else. And maybe they're more than one thing. But in these recent cases, in our view, whatever else they are, they're certainly Al Qaida. And so that's how we announce them.

 

Q:  Hi, Steve. Missy Ryan.  Just two follow-ups on earlier questions.

 

First of all, on Raqqa. There was some back-and-forth yesterday with Admiral Lewis about, you know, the campaign plan to liberate or reclaim Raqqa, and, you know, whether that exists, and who would draw it up if there is one -- if there was to be a campaign plan. 

 

Can you talk to us a little bit about that? Because that was a little confusing for me because obviously in the case of Mosul, the Iraqis have come up with the campaign plan and then it's being sort of developed in concert with the coalition forces on the ground. But it's a very different situation in Syria. So if you could talk about that, that would great.

 

And secondly, regarding the Al Qaida strikes, can you clarify? You know, there was some talk of these people being core Al Qaida versus Khorasan. And can you try to distinguish exactly who these people were?

 

COL. WARREN: So on Raqqa, the plan to liberate Raqqa is not as developed as the plan to liberate Mosul, for reasons -- the main reason is that in Mosul, what we have is a standing, established state-run military organization called the Iraqi army, complete with general officers, some -- (inaudible) -- officers, staffs, hierarchies, chains of command, planning groups, many of whom have been trained in the United States.

 

So you have a much more formalized capability to develop --

 

(Briefing pause for security drill)

 

COL. WARREN:  All right.  Well, the Daily Show will thank us for that free video, I guess, or not.

 

Okay.  Missy, back to Raqqa. 

 

So in Iraq, you've got a more formalized capability to conduct planning and develop plans. In Syria, obviously, we don't have that. What we have is a very small number of U.S. advisers providing advice to a -- essentially an irregular army called the Syrian Democratic Forces, while at the same time we try to bring together vetted Syrian opposition forces over on the Mara line. And so it's a lot less formal in Syria, clearly.

 

So, what we have is -- as a result is a much less-developed plan for Raqqa. Now, we do, of course, understand that we need to continue to keep pressure on Raqqa, and we understand that we need to continue to work with the leadership that we've identified within the SDF to try and develop a plan. 

 

So that's ongoing. It's in the early stages, frankly, Missy, but it's a continuing process. On what's the difference between Al Qaida and the Khorasan group. Core Al Qaida, you know, these are operatives who have been part of Al Qaida since the beginning, if you will. So since the early 2000s. And they continue to be part of Al Qaida. 

 

Khorasan group, these are -- these are a slightly different group. Often, they're Al Qaida -- because Al Qaida in many ways was kind of shattered, you know, several years ago. And so now what we see are some of these members who've kind of broken off from Al Qaida and come together in a loose configuration of, you know, experienced terrorists who don't really consider themselves Al Qaida anymore, although we might or might not consider them Al Qaida. 

 

So some are Al Qaida that kind of broke away from Al Qaida, but didn't join ISIL or al-Nusra.  Some of them are new, you know, recruits, if you will. But they're kind of senior guys, generally smart, and singularly focused on external operations, on conducting terror attacks against the West. So that's the quick version of the difference between those two.

 

And, you know, we've got the authority to strike either.

 

CAPT. DAVIS: Three minutes left -- a speed round here – to Corey.

 

Q:  Yeah, just real quick. We've heard from a Peshmerga commander that Iraqi army people are deserting because they don't trust their commanders. Have you seen issues with that? Can you tell us anything about Iraqi deserters?

 

COL. WARREN: Every army has deserters. The Iraqi army is not immune from that. Generally speaking, we haven't seen it as a significant problem. There has been some leadership turnover. In one of the brigades, I think it's the 71st -- I think it's the 71st Brigade; we did have some leadership turnover up there around Maktmor.

 

But I don't know that it's a significant issue. I mean, you know, this is the first time this unit has seen combat.  So it's -- and it turned out to be, you know, by pretty much any standards, to be, you know, fairly solid contact -- not super high-intensity war, but I mean, it's a real fight in difficult terrain.

 

So, and there's always going to be -- there's always going to be some getting your legs under you. And that's what we're seeing now. 

 

That said, you know, they have made -- they have made some gains, right? They've seized three or four villages now. They're in this kind of back-and-forth over Nasir. They've advanced. They've withdrawn.  And now they're in the process of advancing again.

 

That's going to continue. We're confident that they're going to get there. But these things do take time.

 

CAPT. DAVIS: (inaudible) -- Joe. 

 

Q: Quick question, Colonel Warren.

 

Do you have any information if ISIL militants have been able to infiltrate the Sunni tribes who got to return to the Ramadi area?

 

COL. WARREN: I don't have any information like that, no.

 

CAPT. DAVIS: Andrew?

 

Q: Colonel, just quickly on the Marines portion of the Kara Soar Counter Fire Complex.  Just what's happening there? Are they -- is it still just four howitzers? How often are they firing artillery?  Is that multiple times a day? And are they -- is there any incoming? Are they getting any rocket attacks or small arms like we heard about initially?

 

COL. WARREN: They fire every day, you know, in support of Iraqi maneuvers. Firing is, you know, like anything, you know, the fire is in support of maneuvers. So if there's a maneuver, there's fire. 

 

They'll fire anything from high explosives to suppress enemy to smoke to screen friendly movements; to elimination rounds; to help with patrolling in the evenings. So they're fully engaged. 

 

There haven't been, you know, right now, the enemy right now is being pressured in a much more close fight, which has resulted in a significant reduction in the longer-range rockets that they've fired either at -- you know, as any part of the Kara Soar Complex. So that's a good thing.

 

You know, as the ground -- you know, they've got a -- the enemy right now is in a close fight, so they have to focus on that, and so they're not able -- there haven't really -- there's been -- I think since the last time we talked, I'd had said there were a handful. I don't know that there has been any since Friday. I'd have to look, but I don't think there have been. So again, because the pressure is all a close fight for the enemy right now.

 

CAPT. DAVIS: We're at our end, but Gary, very quickly.

 

Q: Just a quick one, colonel.

 

Can you give us a quick overview of how you see the strength of the regime forces in Syria? Are they moving? Are they just regrouping? What's going to happen when everyone comes together around Raqqa? 

 

COL. WARREN: Yeah, so, right now, you know, the big obviously push was for Palmyra and Tadmur. They're still working with that.  They haven't really advanced much.  I mean, they've created a little bit of a security zone further east and north of Tadmur, but it's not an advance. 

 

So that's really kind of the limit of the regime's advance there.  As I said, ISIL has conducted some disruptive attacks in the vicinity of Damascus, which of course is causing the regime to have to refocus on that.  There have been some operations in and around Idlib that are also taking up some regime capabilities.

 

So that's kind of where they are around the battlefield.

 

CAPT. DAVIS: Steve, with that, we'll -- we'll press pause here for brief filing time, and we've got General Rodriguez coming out in 13 minutes.

 

Thanks, everybody.

 

Thank you, Steve.

 



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