Operation Inherent Resolve

 

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Colonel Garver via teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq

By | Press Operations | July 27, 2016

CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS: Good morning. I know we're having some bandwidth issues with Baghdad this morning, so we may go to an all-audio if we can't get him up.

Are we not up at the moment? Chris, are you there? He was up a second ago.

COLONEL CHRISTOPHER GARVER: This is Baghdad. 

CAPT. DAVIS: It looks like -- just before we get started with Colonel Garver, I wanted to remind you of a couple of things. At 10:40 this morning, the secretary will be visiting with troops at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. That event will be livestreamed on defense.gov. Again, that's at 10:40 this morning.

Also would draw your attention to the Strategic Deterrence Symposium happening in Omaha today. Admiral Haney, General Boutelle, General Scaparrotti, Acting Undersecretary for Policy McKeon are among the speakers. That event is also being livestreamed. It's not on defense.gov. I didn't write the URL down. It was in the note we sent out to you this morning. There's also this thing called Google, which can probably also help you find it, but come see us if you can't.

CAPT. DAVIS: And I would also draw your attention to the Aspen Security Forum happening tomorrow. General Votel, General Scaparrotti, among the speakers tomorrow. And then on Saturday, we've got acting Deputy Under Secretary for Defense for Policy David Shear, speaking on Asia-Pacific issues there.

And we also expect a briefing tomorrow from Afghanistan at 11 a.m.

I think we got your video back, Chris. Can you hear us?

COL. GARVER: Hey, Jeff. We're getting cut-outs on the audio. So, if everybody could keep their questions short, then that would be great.

CAPT. DAVIS: Yeah, an old trick.

All right, sir. Over to you.

COL. GARVER: All right. Good morning, Pentagon press corps. Glad to be with you all today. We'll make some brief remarks, and then be glad to take your questions.

The coalition continues to help the Iraqi Security Forces and our various partnered forces in Syria maintain the momentum they have achieved in the campaign.

We continue to provide strikes against the breadth and depth of Daesh's formations in both Iraq and Syria, training and equipment to the ISF and our partnered forces in Syria, and advice and assistance to those forces in the fight.

First, I'd like to address the allegations of civilian casualties of the ongoing battle in Manbij, Syria. To clarify, there are two separate allegations we are looking into -- the one I described last week is from the first allegation against a strike we delivered on July 20th [sic 19th].

That credibility assessment is complete, and the result was that the information available was credible enough to warrant formal investigation, which we have initiated.

The second allegation is from July 23rd of an alleged strike in the village of Al Nawaja, which is east of Manbij. That credibility assessment is still ongoing. We will keep you informed of any changes. 

Second, I'd to discuss our advise and assist operations with the ISF and the Tigris River Valley near Qayyarah. On July 20th [sic 19th], the CJTF sent a U.S. engineer team to provide advice and assistance to the 15th Iraqi Army Division soldiers in placing the floating Ribbon Bridge over the Tigris River.

The engineers of the ISF got the bridge across the river on July 15th, after an initial attempt on July 13th was halted due to enemy fire.

After the Ribbon Bridge was installed across the river, the Iraqi army unit started putting in the protective measures that better secure the bridge from threats, but ran into technical problems with the equipment.

On the 20th, the engineer advise and assist team from the Combined Joint Force Land Component Command, which we call CJ-FLCC, traveled down to the battalion headquarters nearing the -- near the bridging site, and provided advice on those protective measures to better secure the bridge.

The mission lasted over several days and is mostly completed. This mission is the first U.S. advise and assist mission at lower than division level with the Iraqi army, and demonstrates how we could selectively use this authority in future operations.

We already have been conducting advise and assist missions with the Iraqi Special Operations forces and with the Peshmerga at lower than division level, based on how those units are organized.

As you know, this is the second bridge the Iraqi army has in place during operations against Daesh. The first was during the Ramadi campaign at the end of last year.

The coalition provided significant training and logistics support to enable the ISF to accomplish these feats -- from the strategic left to bring in those bridges, to building a man-made lake at Camp Taji, so the ISF could rehearse the bridge installation tasks.

The bridge across the Tigris near Qayyarah was a significantly more difficult bridge to employ than the one in Ramadi, due to the size, speed and condition of the river and the enemy situation in the area.

COL. GARVER: The use of the bridge connecting the west and east sides of the Tigris, and connecting Qayyarah West air base and Makhmur will greatly improve maneuverability and shorten lines of communication for the ISF as they prepare for the eventual assault to liberate Mosul.

Elsewhere around Qayyarah, the ISF forces in the area, particularly elements of the 71st, 72nd, 91st, and 37th Iraqi Army Brigades are continuing clearance operations in Aswaga Garbi on the east side of Qayyarah.

Moving now to Syria and Manbij, the Syrian Arab Coalition and other members of the Syrian Democratic Forces continue to push the fight forward slowly and deliberately. As the SAC continue clearance operations toward the center of Manbij, they also gain territory west and south of the city, but those gains have been modest in the last five days.

The SAC's slow and deliberate approach has helped protect the local population and their property, while fighting an entrenched, determined enemy inside the city. The SAC has also appealed to Daesh via social media to allow civilians safe passage from the city. To date, we have not seen any action from Daesh, including indicating agreement. We have not seen an increase in civilians leaving the center of the city. This was not an offer of a cease-fire or a cessation of hostilities. This was an action SAC undertook in an attempt to protect civilians.

The coalition has conducted more than 520 strikes near Manbij in support of this operation. We have discussed before how important Manbij is to Daesh due to its strategic location and activity, and we've discussed the information we're learning from the massive amounts of intelligence materials we've gleaned from the operation.

We have learned more specifically about how Daesh received, trained, used and dispatched foreign terrorist fighters. Daesh has established multiple reception centers in Manbij, where they welcomed foreign terrorist fighters...

(AUDIO GAP)

COL. GARVER: All right. Sorry. Working on our connection here.

So Daesh established these -- Daesh established these reception centers to bring in foreign fighters, screen them and assign them their duties. We are now seeing how Daesh created an external terror attack node in Manbij

(AUDIO GAP)

COL. GARVER: ... rifles and drones, and how they send trained terrorist out into the world. And we are still sifting through those materials.

The last thing I want to leave you with is the territory that Daesh controls continues to shrink as they fail to hold ground when confronted by ISF and Syrian opposition forces. Having lost approximately half the area it once controlled at its peak, Daesh finds itself geographically squeezed by our partner forces on the ground and by Iraqi and coalition forces in the air.

While the pressure on the battlefield continues to grow, we are also increasing our pressure against Daesh with strikes against their systems, targeting their revenue, cash reserves, leaders, planners, communications, and foreign fighter facilitation networks.

Our partner forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria are demonstrating momentum against Daesh and we will continue to do what we can to maintain that momentum.

And speaking of maintaining momentum, as Jeff just mentioned, the secretary is down at Fort Bragg, North Carolina today speaking to the 18th Airborne Corps who will maintain that momentum after the mighty, mighty Third Armored Corps departs next month. So I can't talk for too long today. I don't want to step on the secretary's time.

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

CAPT. DAVIS: Bob Burns. Let us know if you have any problems here with the house mike. We can take the stick mike.

QUESTION: Hello, Colonel Garver. A couple of questions for you.

One is a followup on your reference to the two sets of allegations about civilian casualties in Manbij. The one on July 20th, is there a specific either number of range of numbers of civilian casualties that you found credible in that case? And can you tell us any more about the status of that?

And the second question is having to do with Mosul. When the Iraqi defense minister was here several days ago, he said that although the Peshmerga will be playing a role in supporting the mission to retake Mosul, they will not be allowed to enter the city.

I'm wondering whether the U.S. shares a concern about the problem -- of that possible problem of having the Peshmerga in Mosul?

COL. GARVER: Hey, Bob, I'm not sure if you're done talking. And so you know, we completely lost the first part of your question after allegations in Manbij. Second question I heard was about the Peshmerga's role in Mosul.

Now, what I can tell you from a coalition perspective is the Iraqi government is the one planning the operations in Mosul. And they will determine who goes where and what they do on the battlefield. We saw in Fallujah the Iraqi security forces, the plan they had delegated pieces of terrain to different elements of the forces that were involved, to include the Popular Mobilization Forces.

How the Iraqi security forces build that plan as to who will do what in Mosul, they're still working on that plan. And we're waiting for that planning result to be done. However they do it, we will provide the same type of support that we provide to those forces that are engaged in the fight. So if somebody is out in the isolation ring around the outside of the city, or somebody's entering into the city, we will provide the same…

(AUDIO GAP)

COL. GARVER: All right. I'm hoping you guys can still hear me. And like I said, Bob, I missed the first part of your question, other than I know it was about the CIVCAS allegations, civilian casualties allegations in Manbij.

QUESTION: Thanks. I'll try that real briefly again. The CIVCAS question is, you referenced the July 20th strike and that it's been determined to be a credible allegation. Can you say whether there is either a specific number or a range of numbers? Can you hear me?

(AUDIO GAP)

COL. GARVER: Hey, not sure if you're done talking. Last thing we heard here was that we referenced the July 20th [sic 19th] strike, which is the first allegation we had received. That was the one that had the wildly differing sizes in the media of potentially how many civilians we had killed. I think the highest number I saw in open source reporting was 73, and then we had also seen numbers down to 10, 15 as well.

If your question was about that, then see if you can re-ask it.

QUESTION: I'll try just one more time. Are you  -- did you find credible the allegation that there's 10 to 15 casualties? Is that what you found credible?

COL. GARVER: OK. So, still again, I didn't get it, but I'll -- I got enough, I think.

So what the credibility assessment does is it reviews the available evidence. And it says based on internal and external information that we have, things that we saw during the fight and things that we saw often in social media, sometimes in media reporting.

Do we have enough to warrant a formal investigation? In this case, the command doing the investigation said, yes, we think we have enough to warrant a formal investigation. And that is what has been initiated.

It's going to take some time to complete that investigation. But that is now in the formal investigation stage. For the army, we would call that a 15-6, or a commander's inquiry. But that is where we are right now.

Does that answer your question? Hopefully, it does.

CAPT. DAVIS: Good?

QUESTION: Yes, thanks.

CAPT. DAVIS: All right. Next to Courtney Kube.

QUESTION: Hi, Chris. One more on that.

How exactly is the formal investigation conducted? Does it include U.S. military officials on the ground in Manbij, or north of Manbij, where the strike occurred?

COL. GARVER: I don't have it. I just got it (inaudible) connected to -- the one you said was the right number.

All right. OK. Totally missed that last question. If you could ask that again, we'll see if we can do this. Otherwise, we're going to -- next time it cuts out, we're just going to call you guys on the phone.

QUESTION: OK. It's Courtney. I just wanted to ask one more on the July 20 investigation.

How is that conducted? Does it include U.S. military officials on the ground at the strike site? 

COL. GARVER: Asking a question about July 20th [sic 19th], and then that stopped, then we lost the question.

So.

QUESTION: Chris, I'm just going to sing you a song here for a while.

(LAUGHTER)

Hey, hey, hey.

CAPT. DAVIS: (OFF-MIKE)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)
(CROSSTALK)

CAPT. DAVIS: Oh, yeah. OK, are you on, Chris? One, two, three, three, two, one? There we go (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

CAPT. DAVIS: We're not quite at the point where we're ready to announce a name, but that's possible. Yeah, right. It will be a senior leader from Afghanistan tomorrow morning. We'll let you know by the end of the day who.

Our apologies, again, on the delay.

OK. We see you. We don't see you. Do you hear us? Hello? Hello?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Chris, can you hear us? (inaudible) July 20 investigation.

(CROSSTALK)

CAPT. DAVIS: OK. We're seeing you again. Can you hear us? Nope.

(LAUGHTER)

Good grief. Sorry. Sorry, guys. Yeah, we may need to try this again. Hello? Hello? We've got you. We've got you visually.

COL. GARVER: (OFF-MIKE)

CAPT. DAVIS: Can you hear us? Testing one, two, three, three, two, one.

STAFF: (inaudible) is not picking up. So we can see him, but he can't hear us.

CAPT. DAVIS: He can't hear us?

STAFF: Yes, sir.

CAPT. DAVIS: Can we go -- let's either do point-to-point Skype or can we just get him on the phone? We can just move to DPO, even, if necessary.

STAFF: Skype difficulties (inaudible).

CAPT. DAVIS: Yeah, and I know that. They've got bandwidth problems today.

QUESTION: We've got WiFi (inaudible) on my phone. 

CAPT. DAVIS: Yeah.

QUESTION: Facetime him.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Like Erdogan, Facetime the whole country.

CAPT. DAVIS: You're -- there you go, guys. How would you rate the overall quality of this call?

(LAUGHTER)

Anyone care to choose this for us?

QUESTION: Dear Skype, let me tell you...

CAPT. DAVIS: There you go.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Skype, that's how you all do it?

CAPT. DAVIS: That is how -- this is how we do it. All right.

QUESTION: You've got satellites, but you're...

CAPT. DAVIS: We do. We do.

QUESTION: An entire (inaudible).

CAPT. DAVIS: Yup.

QUESTION: (inaudible) I'm just saying.

CAPT. DAVIS: Not from Baghdad, I'll bet.

QUESTION: It's not a reflection ...

CAPT. DAVIS: Right.

QUESTION: It's not a reflection (inaudible).

CAPT. DAVIS: OK, guys. I know we're wasting your valuable time, here. We'll try to get to some sort of a solution.

(CROSSTALK)

(AUDIO GAP)

COL. GARVER: This is Colonel Garver. (inaudible)

QUESTION: Can you hear us, Chris?

CAPT. DAVIS: We are on phone-mode now, so Chris, can you hear us?

COL. GARVER: I can hear you fine. And if this doesn't work, I'm going to get carrier pigeons and write little answers on pieces of paper and send them your way.

CAPT. DAVIS: Over to Courtney now. Again, with apologies for the problems.

QUESTION: We've got nothing else going on.

So, one more on the July 20th investigation, Chris. How was the formal investigation conducted? Does that include U.S. military officials on the ground near Manbij where the strike occurred?

COL. GARVER: Well, most of the time most of these strikes occur in contested areas. And if a strike is in a contested area, clearly we're not on the ground doing that. The area in which the strike went into was (inaudible) at the time, and I can't even tell you today if there are any advisers down that close. I don't think the advisers are as close as that to get to the battlefield.

So they use other techniques to do the investigation. They do investigate all the materials that we have both from the public domain and our own internal materials. If the strike were in a place where we could get to it, we may be able to put U.S. investigators out there, but that isn't happening very often in this conflict.

QUESTION: The U.S. engineering team that went in on, I think you said July 20th as well, to help with the bridging issue. How many U.S. military was that? And when they -- you said they were there for several days. Where did they stay? Did they overnight at some Iraqi forward base?

COL. GARVER: It was a small team, you know, down to around 10 or less. It was not a big team of engineers. And our advise and assisting generally are kind of smaller teams like that. And no, they didn't stay on an Iraqi base. They were in and out with the unit, back to our base at Makhmor, at the (inaudible) base.

QUESTION: Breaking up when you were talking about these reception centers in Manbij ISIS has. And then you said something about sifting through materials. What did the U.S. -- what materials are you sifting through? I didn't see the connection between those two statements. I think we just missed it.

COL. GARVER: OK. So, and I'm asking this as a couple of weeks ago. In the fight -- into Manbij as we've seen the small siege to the small villages around it, as we've moved our isolation constriction ring around the city and into the center, they're then picking up materials, sensitive materials -- such as thumb drives, text books, notebooks, all sorts of materials off the battlefield.

They've gotten more than four terabytes of digital information off the battlefield as well; laptops, that sort of thing. It's that material that we're sifting through that we figured out that they ran several foreign fighter reception staging areas inside Manbij, that as a foreign fighter would enter, they would screen them, figure out what languages they speak, assign them a job and then send them down into wherever they were going to go, be it into Syria or Iraq, somewhere.

So, it was multiple reception centers inside the same city, inside the same area where they were farming these foreign fighters out as they came in.

QUESTION: And I'm sorry. Just one more, just to be clear. When you say, "we," you mean that the Syrians who were on the ground were collecting this information and providing it to the U.S., or was the U.S. actually there picking up this stuff?

COL. GARVER: Well, when I say, "we," I'm talking about the coalition is looking at this material, and it's done in conjunction with the folks that have pulled it out of the battlefield as well, that's physically taken off the battlefield.

QUESTION: OK. Thanks.

CAPT. DAVIS: Tara Coop next.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for hanging in there with us.

On the Manbij intel, have you seen any indications that some of the fighters that went through there were actually routed back to any of the recent Western targets that have been hit? 

COL. GARVER: I don't have any specific lines of connection between, you know, a piece of information that we found on the ground and to something that has happened out, you know, in these attacks that have happened in other places.

Some of that information, if we had it, you know, we may be trying to exploit it from an intelligence perspective and we wouldn't go into great detail about that. Most of the time, if we wanted to talk about that, it would be after the intelligence has kind of dried up, and we're in a position -- we feel we're in a position to talk about it publicly.

So, we're not in a position to talk about any of that, but we wanted you to be aware of kind of what's coming off the battlefield at this time. But it's a lot of material, it's going to take a lot to go through, then start connecting the dots and trying to figure out where we can start dismantling ISIS all over from the information that we're finding up there.

QUESTION: So, a clarification, because I think we were going in an out at the time.

How many different sites were, was data collected from? And I realized you said there were four terabytes of data. Can you put that in terms of, like, how many laptops, or what, whether other type things were taken? Cameras, et cetera?

COL. GARVER: So, the total number of items that we've gathered so far has been more than 10,000.

I don't have a specific inventory number of all of those different items. Out of that 10,000, more than 10,000 items have been digital information that has come to more than four terabytes of information.

As the fight is still going on. I mean, we're still in the middle of Manbij fighting right now. But this is kind of, as they have, they encircle the city, and this is the material that they were pulling out of Manbij.

We've seen reflections, when we say "reflections," we've seen information that as we've gotten into the city, and the closer we've gotten in, several of the foreign fighters who were living in Manbij had rigged their houses as house-borne IEDs, which may have been an attempt to destroy the information that was kept inside or it may have been an attempt to kill, you know, SAC fighters, SDF fighters as they've come into the city.

But we've seen a more concentrated effort to, you know, like I said, rig houses as house-borne IEDs to try to destroy as they've lost terrain. Luckily, a lot of those have not gone off. As the fight has pushed into the city and ISIS has collapsed back in, Daesh has collapsed back into that center of the city as that fight is developing.

QUESTION: OK. And just one last one on the bridge engineering. You said this was the first time that U.S. personnel have been pushed down past the division level. What was the Iraqi security forces level they were pushed down into?

COL. GARVER: It was in, it was a battalion. They were down at the battalion headquarters level. There was a battalion that was putting in that bridge across the river.

QUESTION: Thank you.

CAPT. DAVIS: (OFF-MIKE)

COL. GARVER: It was the 72nd Iraqi Army Brigade.

QUESTION: Mine are pretty quick, Colonel. You mentioned the civilian -- the CIVCAS report being for an incident on July 20. I just want to clarify our first stories on that incident were from July 19 and the different organizations that reported it said it occurred on the 19, which was a Tuesday. You're not talking about a different incident.

Just to clarify, was it July 19 or July 20? And I have another one.

COL. GARVER: All right. Well, the -- when I was looking at the information today, it specifically said 20 but I will go back and check. I'll take that and go back and we'll clear that up.

QUESTION: And then on, you know, these fighters supported by the coalition who are gathering this data and kind of clearing it up, it's probably not like the most intuitive thing for them to -- you know, they're in the middle of very heavy fighting and it probably takes like some sort of training or special instruction to gather all these documents and know what's important and what's not.

Has the coalition like given them specific instructions or training in how to do that? And can you just kind of give some details on maybe how that worked?

COL. GARVER: Well, many of these are professional level fighters, professional level soldiers that are with the YPG, with the SDF, with the SAC, with the different organizations that are tied into this overall organization. There are some professional level fighters there.

Because of what we thought Manbij was, the advisers kind of described what we were looking for, what we wanted out of it and I think anybody can recognize a thumb drive and grab it, and if you find it, you know, (inaudible) that you've just gone into.

But they have -- but our advisers working with them said, "Hey, we think this is exactly what it is, a strategic hub where they're moving people and things in and out of Syria." So when they -- you know, working on the plan, they talked about this as a possibility, and so they were ready for this going in, looking for information.

CAPT. DAVIS: Cami McCormick.

QUESTION: Hi, Chris. It's Cami. Most of my questions have been asked already, but I just -- I'm going to do a quick follow-up here with the massive amounts of information or intel that you've gathered.

About how long do you estimate it will take to go through all of that? And even though you haven't gone through all of it, what kind of indication are you getting that this could have possibly a major impact on ISIS operations?

COL. GARVER: Hey, Cami. That's a great question.

I don't have an answer for it because it's -- like I said, it's a lot of information, a lot of different documents. They're going all the way up to textbooks. I mean, they found textbooks that have been re-written by Daesh to reflect high-end math and science problems, but the word problems are written into pro-Daesh language.

So they're going through all of this to try to understand more about Daesh. It's going to take a while. Most of it is in Arabic, if not all of it is in Arabic. And so they're going to take some time to do that. I don't really have, you know, an (inaudible).

But as I've found we're kind of alluding, we think this is a big deal in terms of the amount of information that we've gathered and what we're learning about how they ran Manbij as a strategic hub, with multiple reception centers. And anything that can connect us to external operations from Syria is a benefit to everybody. It benefits the whole global coalition that is working to counter ISIL's operations around the world.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Hi, Colonel. I wanted to ask you for a minute about Muqtada al-Sadr. He seems to have, according to the local reports, taken a more confrontational tone lately and made some remarks that might be interpreted as threats against U.S. forces. I was wondering if you could talk about that. Is that of any concern to the military leaders over there? And have you seen any kind of uptick in anti- American activity?

COL. GARVER: Well, we take force protection very seriously, as always. We are invited guests of the Iraqi security forces. We operate with the Iraqi security forces. We haven't seen anything other than the rhetoric you're referring to. We haven't seen anything physically in terms of upticks of threats against an American or any coalition. And I think some of the rhetoric has expanded out to some of our coalition partners now as well.

And really, you know, we're here fighting Daesh and helping them clear an enemy from their country. We're not -- you know, I don't know exactly why anybody would oppose that, really. So we're -- we are continuing our operations. Of course, we take all, you know, threats or potential threats seriously. We maintain force protection as we continue with operations. But as of right now, us and our Iraqi security force partners are operating as we have been. (CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Hey, Sir. T.M. here.

Two questions, first one going back to the CIVCAS allegations. You talked about these two kind of tiers. You have the credibility assessment and the formal investigation. Just a quick question across Iraq and Syria, how many ongoing credibility assessments do you have in the CIVCAS allegations? And how many formal investigations do you have open?

And a little part of that, you know, you talk about how you don't have people on the ground assessing, for obvious reasons. Can you kind of talk about how the U.S. government of CENTCOM's procedure in looking at this is different than, say, some of the nonprofits that look into it primarily through social media and interviews with people in the area?

COL. GARVER: Again, I don't have the number of ongoing investigations, and asking Colonel Thomas down at CENTCOM may actually be faster, because they're the ones who manage that for the region. But we can take a look at that.

As we finish them, as you know, CENTCOM has released those results when we found them to be credible, and we feel we've committed -- killed -- actually killed civilians. We release that information, the results of those investigations. I don't know how many are open right now off the top of my head, and I'll go back to CENTCOM and we can check on that.

So, we have the same -- you know, it's something in social media. We have that, just as say, somebody in London has information about what's going on as well. And we -- often see that some of the nonprofits have information from people on the ground.

And often we would -- we'll ask. Hey, if somebody sends us that information, and we say, hey, we've got names of people that have been killed, put us in contact with those folks. And if we can interview them as part of the credibility assessment or part of the formal investigation, we will.

The other thing that they don't have that we do, is we know where our rounds hit. I mean, we know where we're shooting.

We go back and look at the -- you know, we have the -- you know, it's the information about where our rounds are going is all very accurate. And geospatially, you know, we know where we've shot.

Unless we have a round that goes -- you know, it has a malfunction, something happens along the way. And we know that at the time as well. We know that it -- you know, if the bomb has gone off course, we would know that at the time.

So, we have the public information, we take a look at that. But then we're also going to take a look at all our own material, and in -- and compare all of that, and see what we think we can come up with.

QUESTION: Got it. And the second part of that question, but first, if you have a ballpark for those investigations -- open investigations, that would be great.

And then the second part, going to Q-West. Do you -- is that counter-fire complex there open for business? And if so, how do you think it will affect the upcoming operations in and around Mosul?

COL. GARVER: Well -- the build out of Q-West (inaudible). The build out of Q-West is just starting.

When we have forces -- if we're going to put forces into that area, and once those forces are in, we may take them -- talk about that, just as we did at Makhmur. But there aren't those forces in place yet. And we're not going to talk about them as they're flowing in, as you know, you know, for force protection reasons, we're not going to do that.

But how that will impact, just as Makhmur did in this operation, it gives you an ability to shoot fires in support of a moving force. So, they don't have to use their artillery as they're moving forward. The stationary force can provide covering fire for them as they move.

But more importantly, what comes out of that base is the logistics hub that is set to bring the Iraqi forces in, stage them before they launch to Mosul. They do training, they do, you know, new equipping if necessary. They make sure that all their ammunition and supplies are leveled up, that they're -- they've got what they need.

They do final orders preparation, and any rehearsals that they need to do before they go.

So, just like we saw with the 15th Division as it pushed out of Makhmur, that base at Qayyarah West, will provide that life support set before they push forward.

The buyer's piece of it is a portion. It's important, but it's not the whole primacy for why we're going, it's not the whole reason we go there.

QUESTION: Got it. And just that last part about the ballpark number for open investigations and credibility assessments? I know you said you didn't have it off the top of your head, but any kind of range would be helpful.

COL. GARVER: Yeah. We have -- let me go back and (inaudible). Like I said, they manage that, and so, I don't have the exact number. I don't want to give something wrong.

So, we'll go back and check on that. And I'll get it back to the Pentagon.

CAPT. DAVIS: And next, we're over to Kevin Baron.

QUESTION: Hey, Chris. Kevin here.

Two questions, one on Manbij. What's the latest of who among the groups in the coalition are going to be taking the lead, or already are taking the lead in stability ops, once they take these areas as they keep moving in, you know, closer and closer to the center?

And is there any kind of, you know, coordinated plan for who's going to run that place when it is -- when it finally falls? If you can give us any kind of, you know, insight to that process at the top levels?

QUESTION: Second to that is preparations for after Mosul (inaudible) on the shift from -- and today's (inaudible) attacks and IEDs, you know, another large truck bomb in Syria today. What's the latest assessment of the worry about those threats? And what are you guys doing to kind of mitigate that before going into Mosul?

COL. GARVER: OK. Good questions.

The first one on Manbij, there is a council, I believe the name of it is the military -- the Manbij Military Council, but I'll go back and check to make sure that that's the right name. But they're the ones looking at stabilization beyond.

But I'll tell you right now, that is a tough fight. Nobody's looking beyond that fight right now. We've got to get through that fight, you know, we think that the SAC will be successful, but as we understand the plan, that it will be primarily the local Syrian Arabs who are running that afterward and the Syrian Arab coalition that will take the lead on that.

But let me -- before I go too far into kind of their plan, we would need to go back and make sure that we're using all the right words. So we can go back and check on that.

The stabilization of Mosul, it's on the minds of the Iraqis, it's on the mind of the NGOs and the United Nations and it's on the mind of the coalition, and so we are talking about that right now or kind of the post-Mosul stabilization. We don't want to -- if there's any planning to be done or anything we can move in in advance, we the coalition recommend that that happen before the battle of Mosul even takes place.

What comes out of that in terms of the threat level, you know, we have left to see. We've seen them shift tactics in certain areas to go more towards suicide attack, more towards the insurgent terrorist attack as opposed to militarily trying to stand up and fight against the Iraqi security forces, in which they are generally not successful when they -- when they do that.

In -- where -- you know -- and like you said, we've seen in Baghdad where those attacks have been successful and they've been able to kill civilians -- and we saw that reporting of that truck bomb up in northeastern Syria today as well. That looked pretty horrific when that bomb went off. As we know, insurgences are tough to fight and trying to prevent an individual from causing harm is a tough thing. The best thing you can is once you've cleared the area, is win the population to your side and then your information -- the population's information hopefully roots these people out of your neighborhoods -- out of the neighborhoods in which they're operating and we can go in and kind of clear those areas out.

But it is a tough fight to go -- when they -- when the enemy goes back to insurgent tactics, you know, there's -- clearly, there's -- there is advantages to insurgency when you're facing a conventional force. That's why insurgents use those tactics, because they're difficult to combat and they only have to get lucky once and we have to be right every time.

But the Iraqi army started this conventional fight. There's still conventional fight left to do in Iraq and once the conventional fight is done and they've secured all the areas and kind of pushed Daesh out of the area, then they're going to have to watch for that insurgency fight to develop afterwards.

Potentially going to take a long time and a lot work to keep it -- the population secure. As we see around the world, it takes a long time and a lot of work to keep the populations of all of our countries secure.

QUESTION: Thanks, Chris.

To follow, so have there been any changes to U.S. force composition that are the plans to bring new folks in to deal with the insurgent threat that's expected yet?

Or are you saying that that -- you earlier said that may have already been part of the -- part of the original plan? Or is there any shift -- any consideration of shifting because of Baghdad lately and because of the IEDs have kind of been on the rise?

COL. GARVER: We are still organized in our campaign to defeat Daesh militarily in Iraq and Syria. The only changes to force structure have been about maintaining that momentum of those plans, as we saw with the 560 additional folks that will come in to build-out the Qayyarah West airbase in preparation for the attack on Mosul.

Any kind of follow-on force or any kind of an agreement between the coalition and the Iraqis would come after that fight. And we are very much focused on the fight today. I'm trying to win that fight first, if that makes sense, and that's pretty far down the road, I think, to kind of be looking at that right now.

QUESTION: Thanks.

CAPT. DAVIS: And then a quick followup from Tara Copp before we sign off.

QUESTION: Just two quick followups. Can you describe for us about how much of Manbij has been recovered at this point? And then to get to the example you used on the textbooks, did it surprise you that the Islamic State has, even though it's only two years old, has been able to seep in as deeply as rewriting textbooks?

COL. GARVER: First, we think about 50 percent. I mean, the assessment we have is about 50 percent of the city has been retaken. But as -- and I've described it before, but this is how the tactics are still kind of unfolding. And unlike what we've seen before, as we saw in Fallujah where they kind of cleared out of the center, as the fighting comes in, the foreign fighters, Daesh, the bad guys, are then collapsing into the center, which continually reinforces their positions.

So as you control less terrain, you control less frontage, you can (inaudible) your fire is better. It makes the defense tougher. So as that gets into the center, that fighting has gotten tougher and that continues to develop. That's why the pace has been -- that's why the pace has been so slow, so deliberate. They're trying to do that carefully.

The enemy is fighting very hard. They're putting snipers in minarets, in mosques. They've got machine guns. They've got IEDs all over the place, as we know they do. We've seen these tactics that they're using.

The second piece is in terms of being surprised about the amount of information that they have. I don't know that we were surprised. I think it just goes to show how the self-proclaimed caliphate is not like any other organization we've dealt with before. It's not about developing textbooks on how to conduct attacks. These are textbooks on how to control the lives of everybody that's inside it and how everyone should live their life. And how if you don't live your life that way, you're an enemy of the state -- of the so-called, self-proclaimed state.

They certainly were industrious in being able to put able to put all these aspects into their governance. But I think it just gain gets back to why we have to defeat them. This is unlike any other organization that we've fought before, and with this sort of totalitarian attempt to control everything, it poses a significant threat not just to the people inside, but everybody that they want to expand out to as well.

CAPT. DAVIS: All right. And with that, we will conclude here. Thank you again, Chris, for your time, and apologies to everybody for the technical problems we had earlier.

Again, I do want to remind you at 10:40 here, we expect the Secretary live on defense.gov from Fort Bragg.

Thanks.

COL. GARVER: Thanks, everybody. Apologize for the technical issues. We'll continue to try to work it.

END

[Eds: The strike in question related to civilian casualties near Manbij, Syria, occurred on July 19th ]



Staying Connected