Australian soldiers, assigned to Task Group Taji, observe Iraqi soldiers with the Security Battalion, Nineveh Operations Command, firing their AK-47 rifles during night range training at Camp Taji, Iraq, April 3, 2016. Task Group Taji conducted night range training to gauge the Iraqi soldiers night firing capabilities. Training at the building partner capacity sites is an integral part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve’s multinational effort to train Iraqi security force personnel to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. William Lockwood) (Photo by Spc. William Lockwood)
CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS: J.D., our apologies on that. And we -- we'll make efforts here to get that -- both the map and the video available to you later.
So want to make sure you can hear us, and we can hear you. And if so, Colonel Dorrian, we'll turn it over to you.
COLONEL JOHN DORRIAN: Very good. Thanks, Jeff. Good morning, everyone.
I'll provide some remarks and then I'll take your questions.
In Syria, Turkey -- Turkish military embedded Syrian opposition forces with coalition advisers. And supported by coalition air strikes, continue the offensive operations along the Mara line where they seek to retain villages and lines of communication in the area.
CAPT. DAVIS: I'm sorry, can we ask you to start over again? We had audio problems.
If you could just start from the top again. My apologies.
COL. DORRIAN: ... humanitarian relief.
OK. Yeah, no problem at all. I'll start from the top.
All right, good morning everyone. I'll provide some remarks, and then I'll take your questions.
In Syria, the Turkish military embedded Syrian opposition forces with coalition advisers, and supported by coalition air strikes, continued offensive operations along the Mara line, where they seek to retain villages and lines of communication in the area.
In Manbij, coalition forces assisted local forces conducting clearance operations in five schools, and facilitated the delivery of humanitarian relief to the citizens through local NGOs.
In Iraq, the ISF are making preparations to hand over control of the city of Shirqat to the Iraqi police and hold forces.
This is a typical pattern. ISF move in to liberate the city, clear it, and then hand over forces that keep Daesh from being able to re-infiltrate while efforts are made to remove explosive remnants of war.
COL. DORRIAN: Daesh continues to conduct harassing attacks against the ISF North of Qayyarah, and along the Euphrates River Valley, in the vicinity of Albu Diab. Where ISF forces regained the Bravo base, which is an ISF -- the ISF can now use as an outpost to pressure Daesh and are postured to continue clearing the remainder of the Dulab Peninsula.
The coalition continues to shape operations for Mosul and today I would like to give you some insight into coalition efforts to shape that effort through attacks against Daesh leadership figures.
We continue to target and remove Daesh leaders in both Iraq and Syria to disrupt and degrade their intelligence, military operations, communication, finance, and external operations networks.
In the last 30 days alone, coalition strikes have taken out 18 Daesh leaders who were supporting enemy operations in Iraq and Syria.
13 of these Daesh leaders were part of their military intelligence communication networks in Mosul, Iraq.
The strikes have targeted military commanders, administration officials, foreign fighter facilitators, amirs, security commanders, communication leaders, and senior shura council leadership.
The people who replace these leadership figures have not established their bona fides with al-Baghdadi, his inner circle, and they are often not as seasoned as those they replace. This is especially true around Mosul as the coalition continues to be a relentless in degrading and disrupting command and control of their fighters, softening their grip on the city and prepping the battlefield for the liberation.
In a two-day period in Mosul, we removed Abdul Hamid al-Shishan, Abdul Jabir al Shishani, Abdul Rahman al-Shishani, all Daesh Chechen foreign fighters responsible for administration in command of fighters in Mosul, degrading Daesh's foreign fighter footprint and capabilities within that city.
As you know, coalition forces eliminated Wa'il Adil Hasan Salman al-Fayad, A.K.A., Dr. Wai'il, Daesh's minister of information and senior shura member who was one of the top five most senior Daesh leaders and was a direct associate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
He was in charge of Daesh's media network, responsible for providing messaging guidance for propaganda and directions for terrorist attacks abroad. The removal of the Daesh media head at this time, when Daesh is under increased pressure, will further disrupt their ability to maintain any illusion that things are going well for them.
This is important because the effects of recruiting foreign fighters and foreign financing. Another strike in Mosul killed Abdul Ahmed Imara, the Daesh muta division leader. The muta division is the Daesh unit responsible for security in eastern Mosul.
His removal disrupts Daesh military formations and affects their readiness for the Mosul liberation fight. We removed Daesh's deputy and military amir in Mosul, Abu Jannat, another strike, further degrading Daesh's military operations around Mosul and applying more pressure to the Daesh leadership network.
Jannat, an Iraqi native was responsible for military operations around Mosul, to include the manufacturer of chemical weapons in the defense of Mosul. Coalition is impacting ISIL's terrorist law enforcement apparatus in Mosul as well.
The coalition strike killed Abubakar and Amir east -- and of east Mosul military police. Abubakar is an Iraqi and considered by Daesh to be an effective member of their leadership in law enforcement apparatus.
COL. DORRIAN: Removing him from the network will continue to compound pressure on Daesh's military leadership in Mosul, and reduce their ability to control the population.
These attacks directly against Daesh leadership compound the effects of the coalition's relentless air campaign, which is now well above 15,000 strikes. The air campaign is dismantling Daesh command and control by taking away safe houses, weapons manufacturing, and storage facilities, supply routes, oil revenue, and money.
We -- we'll -- we'll skip the video.
Finally, I'd like to give you an update. You heard yesterday that the president approved the deployment of 615 additional troops to support the ISF as they -- as they liberate Mosul. Those forces will come into the country in the coming weeks to provide some additional logistics and maintenance capability as we continue to provide advice and assistance to the Iraqi security forces.
Part of the force upgrade will also provide increased intelligence support. The capabilities being put in place with this uplift in forces will be providing a lot of the same types of capabilities we've been providing. Just as the ISF is taking on a larger -- the largest liberation fight to date in Iraq's second largest city, we will be enhancing our support to them because of the size of the task, and the number of troops involved.
Now, we'll go ahead and open it up for some questions.
CAPT. DAVIS: Great. Andrew Tilghman with the Military Times.
Q: Hi, colonel. A little bit off of the -- the routine topic today. But I wanted to ask you about Ramadi.
Over the past few months, the coalition has reported almost daily airstrikes continuing in Ramadi on tactical units, check points, fighting positions. Just wondering if you could tell me a little bit about what the situation is there.
How many ISIS fighters do you estimate are still in Ramadi specifically, and -- and Anbar at -- at large, and you know does -- what is the current feeling among the commanders there about the Iraqi's ability to secure the gains that were made in Anbar over the past year?
COL. DORRIAN: Yep. One of the important things that it's -- that we really need to understand about the situation down along the Euphrates River Valley is that although a lot of these key areas have been liberated, Daesh is still present on the outskirts.
They're still in the periphery, and they would love nothing better than to get in, re-infiltrate some of the areas that they've been pushed out of, and begin to cause problems, sort of the terror insurgent-type threat that we've talked about in the past, and try to bleed away attention from Mosul.
So, what we've continued to do is to provide a lot of airstrikes and disrupt them. We're not going to wait for them to try to disrupt the Iraqi security forces or us.
We're going to go after them anywhere that they are, and keep them disrupted. And what this does is it sets conditions where the hold forces that have come in behind the main assault forces that pushed Daesh out are in a good position where they can hold that ground.
So, as far as the numbers of fighters, it's certainly a lot less than it used to be before. And we do see them under continued pressure.
I don't have numbers to offer. But, certainly it's a situation where they will try to reconstitute. And we're not going to let them do it.
CAPT. DAVIS: Great. Next to David Martin with CBS.
Q: I apologize if I missed this yesterday but one of the tasks that these 615 are supposed to do is, as I understand it, turn al-Assad into a 24 hour airbase put in the facilities for instrument landing. So, these are night operations by who and what is -- what is the significance of being able to conduct night flight operations from al-Assad.
COL. DORRIAN: Thanks. Well, we're flying both RPAs and the Iraqis also fly their aircraft out of there, fighter and attack aircraft so having that capability there allows us to get better intelligence insight into what the enemy is doing, it allows us to conduct strikes and it allows us to keep Daesh disrupted along the Euphrates River Valley.
So, this is something that we want to be able to do 24/7, 365 not just in daylight hours.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next to Ryan Browne with CNN.
Q: I just wanted to follow up with -- you were talking about this kind of campaign against the leadership in Mosul and you mentioned there were some Chechens who had been target and eliminated.
Can you talk a little bit about is the leadership of ISIS in Mosul, do we think the leadership is mostly foreign fighters like these Chechens or is more local Iraqis? And do we have a new estimate on terms of how many ISIS fighters are in Mosul total?
COL. DORRIAN: Well, I'll start with the numbers. We think anywhere from three to -- 3,000 to 4,500 fighters are in Mosul, somewhere in that ball park. It's a mixture of Iraqi and foreign fighters. You'll see all of those there.
You know, we continue to disrupt them, we continue to go after them anywhere that they can be found. They show no signs of really trying to leave Mosul at this point. Really, what they've done is they've continued to dig in, build elaborate defenses and so we're -- we're really ready for a tough fight there.
The Iraqi security forces are -- have been well trained to do urban style warfare. That's one of the things that we've done for refit and that's really what we're expecting so it is a mixture of Iraqis and foreign fighters. They do continue to flow in and some of them are fixed in place there.
Q: In terms of the leadership of the ISIS in Mosul, do we think that's mostly foreign or mostly Iraqi, at the leadership level? You mentioned these Chechens, I was just wondering how -- how common is it for foreign fighters to be calling the shots in Mosul?
COL. DORRIAN: Well, the Chechens hold kind of a special place within -- within Daesh and the reason for that is that many of them showed up and infiltrated into Syria and Iraq already trained or somewhat seasoned by some of the things that they've done elsewhere so you do often find Chechens in the leadership. There are foreign fighters but there are also a lot of Iraqis and Syrians.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next to Joe Tabet with Al Hurra.
Q: I don't know if you could give us a number about the size of the Iraqi forces that need to go into Mosul. And if this force will -- will also combine other military factions like the PMF or -- and the Peshmerga.
So if you could give us a ballpark figure -- (inaudible) figure about the size, the military size of the force that's going into Mosul.
COL. DORRIAN: Yes. Well, we think it will be anywhere from eight to 12 brigades of Iraqi army. We also expect the Iraqi police to be involved, because they're going to be a part of the effort to maintain security once areas have been liberated, to hold those areas so Daesh can't re-infiltrate.
We think it's going to be a very large battle. We do expect the Peshmerga to be involved, although the details of their involvement are still being worked out. And we also expect there to be tribal forces involved, and the details of their involvement are still being worked out.
All these things are being arranged by the Iraqi security forces and we -- we're going to follow their plan.
Q: Thank you.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next to Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg.
Q: Thanks, Jeff.
A couple of questions on the equipment. Is the U.S. surging any specialized assault equipment to the Iraqi security forces for the assault? IED equipment? Breaching equipment? Upgrades to their M1 tanks? Any specialized equipment that's being surged in right now?
And then I have a follow-up.
COL. DORRIAN: I'll have to -- I'll have to take that one for you, Tony. I do know that the Iraqis have tanks. They do have bulldozers and heavy equipment. I don't know if there is any new equipment being sent in for this particular battle. I would imagine that this is, given its size and scope, one where the entire resources of the Iraqis will be brought to bear to make sure they're successful.
Q: colonel, you come from the space community. Your last -- your last assignment was U.S. Air Force Space Command. To what extent are Air Force space assets being utilized in Iraq right now, especially to monitor Mosul and the surrounding areas? We don't hear a lot about that, but this is an area where you bring some expertise.
COL. DORRIAN: Well, one of the things that's important to understand is that there's no military operation of any significance anywhere in the world that doesn't depend on space. So, one of the key areas that it's being used is the global positioning system. All the munitions that the -- the U.S. forces use are precision-guided munitions. The majority of those are GPS-aided munitions.
We have military communications that are being used to support our forces as they're ongoing. We have military intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in space that are watching what's happening in Mosul and other places around Iraq. We have overhead, persistent infrared capabilities that can be used to get intelligence capability from around Iraq.
All these things are critical capabilities and it's -- you know, we've used those things every single day.
Q: (inaudible) used? That's the one that we have up in the sky to monitor nuclear launches. I was hearing that actually it's being used somewhat in Iraq in a different role.
COL. DORRIAN: Yep. Yeah, overhead persisted infrared capability is something where you can monitor heat signatures.
So any time there's something you know of significance that happens on the battlefield, a lot of the time you can derive some intelligence. Probably can't get into a deep dive on that, but that's -- that's what it's used for.
It's a -- it's a pretty impressive capability, and it's one that really not a lot of people know about. And it's because we -- we can't tell you too many details.
CAPT. DAVIS: OK. Next with Laurent Barthelemy with Agence-France Press.
Q: Hello, colonel. I was wondering if among the 615 additional soldiers in Iraq that have been announced yesterday, some are -- are going to reinforce the special forces unit that is carrying raids against ISIL leadership?
COL. DORRIAN: Yeah, we -- we really don't discuss the ongoing operations, or really what our special operations forces are doing. So, I'm afraid I can't provide any insight into what our special operations forces are doing.
I can tell you that across the board, these forces are providing a lot of logistical capability, supply capability, handling of ammunition, intelligence capability, just all the things that we've been doing but supersized so that the Iraqis, as they take on the supersized task of liberating Mosul which is Iraq's second largest city, have all the capability that they're going to need to in order to be successful.
CAPT. DAVIS: The queue's empty. Actually, Lucas, and then come back (inaudible).
Q: As the operation against Mosul heats up, is there some concern that when you look at Ramadi, when you look at Fallujah, those cities are essentially leveled. Is that the plan for Mosul? I mean, is this whole city going to get destroyed when it's all said and done?
And then refuge -- aid groups and -- and Iraqi forces will go in to secure the place?
COL. DORRIAN: Lucas, I'd differ with you a little bit on that characterization. I understand the -- the damage in Ramadi was tremendous, but there was less in Fallujah compared to Ramadi.
And some of that has to do with the amount that the enemy fights. So if they build intricate defenses and then fall back into the city, they create a tremendous amount of damage as the Iraqi security forces have to go in there after them.
So, really there's no way to predict exactly what's going to happen in Mosul. All we know that you know the enemy gets a vote. And they have to be pushed out.
It's a necessary step here because they consider their Mosul their capital, and that must be taken away. It's an important step in defeating Daesh.
Q: Just one follow-up. Can you rule out that more U.S. troops will be going to Iraq in the near future?
COL. DORRIAN: We believe that you know this is all the forces that we're going to need in place in order to help the Iraqis liberate Mosul. So, anytime that we need forces, what we do is you know we make the determination what the requirement is and then we also consult with the Iraqis about what capabilities they need.
That's the determination between what we need, what we -- what we think they need, what they think they need and once that determination is made in military channels, our leadership goes up to the leadership and then the president makes the determination what we need.
I really can't get into you know, a speculative what might happen. But I can tell you we believe we have all the forces we need in order to help the Iraqis liberate Mosul.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next, back to Andrew Tilghman.
Q: Colonel, back to Anbar Province for a minute. Just real quickly, can you tell us the number of American troops that are at Al-Assad and also, more broadly, to what extent are these upgrades at Al-Assad driven by concerns about maintaining long term stability and keeping ISIS out of the Euphrates River Valley?
COL. DORRIAN: Yeah I don't think I can give you an exact number as I can tell you, it's an order of magnitude smaller than at the height of the -- the surge years. There were something like 20,000 troops, there.
I think there's less than a tenth of that, now. And you know, it's going to remain a modest presence. As far as what's needed in order to maintain security in the Euphrates River Valley, that's probably a crystal wall question to some degree and I think that's something that will be taken off in the months and probably years ahead with the Iraqis.
So we'll see what they need, we'll see what we -- what we recommend that they have. I can tell you that the capabilities that are being brought in there now are going to make sure that we have the ability to keep the lid on the Daesh presence, there.
CAPT. DAVIS: Luis Martinez?
Q: I have a question, John but before we get to that, doing the quick math less than a tenth of 20,000 would be just under 2,000. Is that what you're talking about? That's a pretty large number, actually.
COL. DORRIAN: Yeah I'm not going to give you a number, Luis. I think we'll have to owe that to you but it's less than a tenth. I think we'll leave it at that.
Q: OK the question I was going to as you was a couple weeks ago, we saw this video of that air strike I guess the pharmaceutical plant that was being used as a chemical weapon facility, I think it was in Syria.
Can you tell us why -- why -- was this such a large complex I mean was all of it being used to produce chemical weapons I mean given the amount of aircraft and the number of the initiatives that were dropped on it?
I mean what -- what necessitated such a huge drop of munitions on this plant?
COL. DORRIAN: Luis, I actually think that you might be talking about a strike we did earlier this month and that strike was on a pharmaceutical plant in Mosul. And what we believe is that Daesh were using that not only for chemical weapons but they were also using it as a facility where they had a large number of vehicle-born improvised explosive devices.
COL. DORRIAN: So whenever we see a presence like that, we're going to attack an area like that very vigorously and we're not going to leave some corner of the building available to them. Now, you know what we've told you and what is the case here is that Daesh has a very nascent capability, sort of a limited capability for chemical weapons. But it is not something that were going to -- that is not a problem we're going to admire, that is a problem we're going to get after.
So that is why it is a large strike and that is why they went after it with so many bombs.
Q: Thanks for the correction about (inaudible). Can I ask you also about (inaudible)?
Last time you were out you talked about how the -- the defenses that ISIS was building anticipation of an offensive were pretty vast.
How much of a tunneling network are you seeing that you described that week?
COL. DORRIAN: Well, they have had two years there in order to prepare these so, I -- I think this is one of those were from the air you can see a lot and there is probably a lot that you cannot see saw.
So I think in some ways it is a little bit of speculation, but we have seen elsewhere that Daesh are -- are very keen to build tunneling networks because it helps them to maintain in security and preserve their lives a little bit longer whenever clearing operations begin.
So we're going to anticipate a very tough fight. We're going to anticipate that they are going to do those kinds of things because we have seen them elsewhere. In the city the size of Mosul, that's going to, you know, slow things down and make it a complicated task.
But the Iraqis have had a good track record of success, especially in the last year and they are beginning to get a very good understanding of what they can expect from Daesh and they are going to keep -- keep after it and we believe they will be successful in clearing Mosul, as well.
CAPT. DAVIS: (Inaudible)
Q: I would like to come back on the situation in the Euphrates River Valley. Where -- where are the -- which are the areas of the -- the Euphrates River Valley where ISIL still has strong positions. Can -- can you talk a little about that?
COL. DORRIAN: Sure. Yep, in the Euphrates River Valley, south of the Euphrates, it is very, you know, secure in a lot of areas along were Ramadi, Fallujah, Haditha, some of those areas.
Once you get further out, out toward the Syrian border to Haditha and beyond. This is really where Daesh has a significant presence and where the Iraqi Security Forces will look to kind of keep them away from some of the key population areas along the Euphrates River Valley. Of course, going down into Baghdad.
So really from Haditha, along to the border with Syria, it's less secure. You know, the Iraqis have liberated Rutbah, but we still see significant Daesh presence out in the periphery. These are less populated areas and certainly less desirable areas for Daesh, but it is also a place where they continue to try to reconstitute, make trouble in order to try to deflect attention away from higher priorities like Mosul.
And that is one of the reasons why we continue to hammer him with airstrikes and, you know, Assad -- Al Asad Airbase where we can keep pressure on them, you know, from the air.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next to Jeff (inaudible) with Voice of America.
Q: Thank you very much for briefing. I want to follow-up on something you said much earlier when you were talking about the Daesh fighter force status in Mosul.
You -- I think you said that they're still trying to flow people in. Are you seeing any attempts to reinforce the city? And if so, any indication of how many, how they're getting them in, where they're coming from?
COL. DORRIAN: Well, we do see Daesh attempt to retrograde North from the cities that have been liberated along the Tigris River Valley. Their ability to do that well is pretty limited because they can't move in large columns and formations and convoys and stuff like that like a couple of years when they came into Iraq and Syria.
They can't do it that way because of the relentless coalition air campaign. If we see something like that, certainly that's a rich target and we're going to take advantage of it and it's going to be a bad day.
So you know, kind of trickling in, yes they still can do that. They have some freedom of movement in order to do that. What you see is small formations. You know, single digit fighters and -- you know, people with backpacks and that sort of thing. You're not going to see big resupply convoys and loads of trucks and all that sort of thing like you saw in the past.
Q: The overall -- I think the last estimate we had was 5,000. Now its 3,450 so on the whole they seem to be losing people, though.
COL. DORRIAN: Yes. Yes, they do keep losing people because we keep hammering them with airstrikes and we're going to keep doing that. So that's a good situation for us and a bad situation for them.
One of the things about an air campaign, and -- you know, being an Airman I'll go ahead and toot our horn for a second. That reduces freedom of movement and it fixes the enemy largely in place. So you're not going to see, you know, mass ability to escape.
And, you know, you saw an example of what air power can do to them if they try to do that in wake of the fight -- for the liberation of Fallujah. You know, hundreds of trucks were destroyed and hundreds of Daesh fighters lost their lives in that. So that's the kind of thing that, you know, really sort of takes the fight to the enemy. They're fixed in place. That's a good situation for us.
So what we'll do is we'll continue to shape the battlefield around Mosul. That sets conditions where the Iraqis can move in at a time of their choosing. And Daesh really are sort of waiting for that to happen and it's not really going to go very well for them.
CAPT. DAVIS: No. First the gentleman in the back and then Paul after that.
Q: (Inaudible) of the Daily Caller News Foundation. Just piggybacking off the last question, do you see or have you seen -- or do you predict to see any of the Daesh fighters engaging in different tactics than we've seen previously when they've been run out of cities? I know we've had the booby traps and the suicide bombers, but have you guys seen anything or do you predict anything that might be different this time around, given the importance and size of Mosul?
COL. DORRIAN: That's a bit of a crystal ball question. But I will tell you that our forces, the Iraqi forces, everyone is setting up for a very tough fight. So Daesh had a lot of time to prepare for this, they know what's coming. They know that they don't have what it takes in order to stop that offensive.
COL. DORRIAN: So I think what we've seen them do in other places, there will be some very motivated fighters who will fight and die in place. There will be some that try to blend into the civilian population that tries to leave the city. You may see, you know, some of them try to go out with the IDPs and then you see sleeper cells.
These are the types of things that we've seen in other places. The use of tunnels, all that and our forces have been working with the Iraqis so that the Iraqis will be ready to deal with that. In addition, there's been a tremendous amount of planning at the political level.
This is a really important aspect of the fight. It's sort of on the periphery of our area but it's very, very important and what this means is that the various groups that are going to be involved in this, so the Peshmerga, you know, the various other elements.
When they're -- when they're involved in this, you know, that -- that just brings to bear a tremendous amount of capability, all of it intended to keep pressure on that city and not let Daesh escape. So, you saw President Barzani come down into Baghdad.
It's the first time he's done that and met with Prime Minister Abadi. It's a really important thing because it signals that there is good cooperation between the government of Iraq and the Kurds.
That's an important political step, again, detail-wise those are discussions at the political level between those two but it's an important step toward the preparations for Mosul because these groups are going to be involved in some fashion.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next to Paul McLeary with F.P.
Q: Colonel, can you give us an update on where the FSA and the Turks are in northern Syria? Are they still pushing south? Are they moving west and also are the Kurds still along the Euphrates or have they started to move as well?
COL. DORRIAN: You broke up just a little bit there, I apologize. Would you please repeat the question?
Q: The Free Syrian Army and the Turks, are they still pushing south in northern Syria?
COL. DORRIAN: What you see the Turks doing is continue to do clearing along the Mara line. What they're doing is they're building a buffer along their border. Certainly, they've come, you know, some distance south but there's -- there's probably a limit to how far they want to go. That's a determination that they'll make.
We continue to support their operations. They've made good progress in clearing a lot of areas. I think the last count that I saw was about 12 villages cleared in northern Syria by the Turks and their partners in Syria, partnered with coalition forces.
So, a lot of progress being made there. The SDF, they're really in a position where they're doing a lot of planning and they're reconstituting doing sort of refit after their successful campaign in Manbij.
Really, one of the things that's kind of an important thing, it's underreported and we really want to talk about, we're bringing in some additional intelligence capabilities with this troop uplift and we think that this is really important.
What happened in Manbij is probably an example of this. So, there were 20 terabytes of intelligence information that came out of Manbij alone whenever that was liberated.
COL. DORRIAN: Well, a lot of areas are being liberated in Iraq now and we plan to go into Mosul so we expect for our intelligence professionals cooperating with the Iraqis to get a treasure trove of intelligence information there and this additional capability is going to give us a lot of insight into Daesh networks not just in Iraq and Syria but it also gives insight into how they export terror around the world, some of the people they work with, how they finance themselves.
This is all really important stuff. And you know we're setting up for that. So, it's really important.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next to Tony Capaccio.
Q: Yeah, I want to follow up on this a little bit. Are you saying that the U.S. -- this intelligence capability -- are these computers, machines that better fuse all this information?
Or are you setting up these intelligence fusion cells that were used to go after al-Zarqawi in the -- the 2000s timeframe where you bring in Treasury Department and other analysts into an area to monitor the information and collect it, and analyze it quickly?
COL. DORRIAN: Well, Tony, as far as exactly what the capability is, I -- I don't think I can provide a deep dive into that. I will tell you that whenever you have the amount of information that we would expect to get in a -- in an area the size of Mosul, you know certainly we're going to try to get after it and get after it quickly.
And those capabilities are going to be something that gives us a lot of insight into Daesh networks. It may be a little bit different than what we've done before, but I think it's going to be something that bears a lot of fruit.
Q: (inaudible) or is it more expertise to fuse and analyze the -- the information more quickly so it's what they call actionable intelligence?
COL. DORRIAN: Yeah, I would -I would -- I would characterize it, Tony, as all kinds of capability, both actionable and longer term.
So, whenever you liberate a city the size of Mosul, you can expect to get a tremendous amount of information. Certainly, if we have a window of opportunity that presents itself rather quickly, we do have adequate forces in theater to go ahead and act upon that.
But you know even if you don't get something you can act on it once, or process it once, it's still tremendously valuable for insight into the network. Because what we've seen, as you have, is that Syria in particular, but also Iraq, had been used as a launching pad for terrorism around the world.
So, not only do we have to get Daesh out of controlling areas in both Syria and Iraq, we also have to take advantage of the intelligence capability and the -- the information that we get while we do that to degrade them elsewhere.
CAPT. DAVIS: Ryan, did you have a follow-up question?
Q: I just had one follow up, colonel. On the campaign against the leadership, including Abu Jabhat, you mentioned how it's kind of gear a lot -- a lot of these strikes were against leaders in Mosul.
Was this kind of the decision to ramp up this in the anticipation so quickly before we think the final push on Mosul by the ISF? Or were -- are just kind of they found out where these leaders were and struck kind of dynamically?
Or is -- is it -- is this kind of directly related to the upcoming push? Or -- or are we just taking out leaders as we find them?
COL. DORRIAN: No, it's both. You know we -- one of the things that is probably important to understand, we talk about HVIs, high-value individuals.
Sometimes these people are mid-value individuals. But they're very, very important to a local network.
COL. DORRIAN: So, in some cases, some of these people, that's what we're talking about. By taking these individuals off the battlefield, it creates some really disruptive effects to enemy command and control. And that sets conditions where when the Iraqi security forces take action, the reaction will be slower and less efficient. That's a good set of conditions for us and a bad set of conditions for them.
CAPT. DAVIS: Dan De Luce from F.P.
Q: Just to follow up on the intelligence aspect, would you say that a significant number of these additional troops that are going to be deploying are actually intelligence specialists who will be preparing to extract and exploit the information that's gained in Mosul?
COL. DORRIAN: That would be an accurate characterization. As far as the size, I can't really break down the number for you. It would be inappropriate to do so but that is a more robust capability that puts us in a position to take that information off the battlefield and get it to analysts and people that can act upon it.
CAPT. DAVIS: All right, (inaudible).
Q: I was curious to know if there was any specific example that you could give to us on how -- extent of operations outside Iraq and Syria of ISIL have been disrupted following intelligence collected for instance in Manbij.
COL. DORRIAN: No, it would be inappropriate for me to give you that level of detail. I can tell you that the information that was gotten that was taken from Manbij has been distributed to security services throughout Europe and, you know, it continues to be acted upon in Syria and Iraq.
So, very important information but we really can't give you any insight into, you know, what's being done with that elsewhere, be too much detail.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next, back to Lucas Tomlinson with Fox News.
COL. DORRIAN: Colonel, is there any concern that after ISIS is defeated in Mosul that this could be like a run on Berlin situation at the end of World War II where you -- in this case, for Iraq, you'd have potentially Turkish forces in the city, Irani-backed forces in the city, maybe Kurds, and that the political situation actually gets worse?
COL. DORRIAN: One of the important things to know about the planning effort here to go into Mosul is that the government of Iraq is making the calls about the disposition and the participation of all the forces that are involved.
So, they're in charge of how this is done and they do understand that there's a political dimension to this entire thing and that the outcome, the manner in which this campaign is conducted, will have significant ramifications on the political atmosphere after Mosul.
So, Prime Minister Abadi's been made -- you know, is very clear about that. That's one of the reasons he's working very closely with the Kurds and that is something that has to be considered but it is something that, you know, there's a significant amount of planning going on and the coalition is involved in those plans although the Iraqis have to make the determination who's going to go into Mosul and the manner in which they do.
COL. DORRIAN: One of the things that we've conveyed, though, to, you know, the Iraqis is that, you know, whoever is doing the screening of IDPs, this is a very important aspect of the campaign because we expect anywhere from 500,000 to 800,000 to come out of Mosul.`.
It's very important that those people are directly under the command and control of the Iraqi security forces. So it is very important that be done right.
Q: Thank you.
CAPT. DAVIS: Tony Capaccio.
Q: Two quick questions. The intelligence increases you're -- you're putting in there, would it be accurate to say that's an intelligence surge, or would that be an overstatement? You know, in terms of shorthand way to look at this.
COL. DORRIAN: Yeah, I think that would be an appropriate shorthand. What you see here is the Iraqis are having to take on the largest task that they have taken on to date and so what that means is we have to provide our most robust capabilities now to keep up with the capabilities they are going to need.
So you know, there is a large opportunity to gather a lot of information. There is a large demand signal for intelligence information just to set up a campaign of this size and scope. Coming out of it there is an opportunity to make substantial gains and more deeply understand what Daesh has been up to.
Q: And a follow-up. An airplane question. What role does the A-10 play over there in terms of shaping the battlefield in Mosul and given its precise ground attack capability, you know it's been the subject of a major debate in Congress about whether to retire it.
What role is the A-10 playing and will it be the aircraft of choice when Mosul is assaulted?
COL. DORRIAN: Well, the A-10 provides a -- an incredible capability, particularly against vehicles and hard targets. The enemy was able to get things like tanks and heavy vehicles. The A-10 is extremely effective against that type of a target.
We do have other capabilities that are quite capable of destroying those targets as well, but the A-10s have been hard at work. They've made a great impact on the battlefield here. It has been -- been very good to see.
CAPT. DAVIS: Jeff (inaudible)
Q: Colonel, getting back to the IDPs, how close are you or the Iraqis to knowing who is going to be in charge of screening them, and are you satisfied that the groups that are under consideration have the necessary skills to do the screening in an inappropriate way, given -- especially some of the concerns -- with Fallujah, what happened to -- to IDPs who were not members of ISIL who were fleeing the city?
COL. DORRIAN: Well, we're still in the planning cycle, but I would say that these are conversations that our leadership have with the Iraqis every day. And the key element here, the most important foundational part, is that anyone who is involved in the screening of IDPs must be under the command and control of the government of Iraq.
Prime Minister Abadi has been very clear that people that are involved in anything that's -- like human rights violations and things of that nature, that they have to be held to account for that.
He does understand that with -- in operation, the size and scope of Mosul, that this is something that requires -- requires his attention. And he has -- he's made clear that this is a priority thing for him.
Q: If I could ask a follow-up.
CAPT. DAVIS: Yeah, sure.
Q: Given the critical nature of -- of this part of -- of the mission, can the campaign against Mosul move forward if those forces who are going to be doing this are not in place?
COL. DORRIAN: Yeah. Those forces will be in place. I'm not sure I understand the question.
Q: Just if you're still talking about who's going to be screening the IDPs and who's going to be doing with the -- the refugees streaming out of the city, trying to ferret out who's a real refugee whose a member of Daesh.
If you're still having those conversations, how much does that hold back the ability to -- for the Iraqis to move on Mosul and actually retake the city if these critical follow-on efforts are still up in the air?
COL. DORRIAN: All the forces that are gonna be involved in Mosul to the liberation battle are trained, and all of them are being -- you know as time goes on here -- moved into position. So, I don't think that that's really a -- especially a concern.
Planning efforts for something of this size and scope, it's not unusual for planning to keep going right up until the day that you execute. So, you know, I'm not really concerned with that.
I think where we are here is the Iraqi's are developing a good plan. We're assisting in the development of the plan.
The forces that need to be in place are being put in place. They are trained and ready to go.
Some of them have been involved in campaigns in other parts of the country. So, there's a lot of momentum here for the Iraqi security forces. And they do understand the importance of doing this correctly.
CAPT. DAVIS: OK, we're about out of time. Any last minute ones? We'll call it a day then. Colonel Dorrian, we thank you for your time as always, and look forward to seeing you again soon.
COL. DORRIAN: Thanks very much, Jeff. Have a great weekend.