Operation Inherent Resolve

 

Department of Defense Press Briefing by General Anderson via teleconference

By Press Operations | October 05, 2016

CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS:  Good morning.  Our apologies for the delay here.  We were having some technical issues.

We're pleased to be joined today by Brigadier General Anderson, Canadian armed forces, serving as part of our Coalition efforts in Iraq, helping to do the training leading up to the battle for Mosul and beyond.

General, just want to make sure you can hear us and we can hear you.

BRIGADIER GENERAL D.J. ANDERSON:  Yes, I hear you loud and clear.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Great, Sir.  Thank you.

We'll turn it over to you for any opening comments you have, and then we'll take questions from the reporters here on this side.  Over to you, Sir.

GEN. ANDERSON:  Thank you.

Good morning, everyone.  I'm Brigadier General Dave Anderson of Combined Joint Task Force, Operation Inherent Resolve, where I work as the director of training, or what we call the CJ-7, which includes both the partner force development cell and the Canadian-led ministerial liaison team.

As the Coalition continues to support operations to seize Mosul, I'd like to provide you some insight to our train-and-equip mission, which has enabled our partners' successes against Daesh and their readiness to liberate Mosul in the near future.

Just over a year ago, Daesh controlled 18 percent of the population, to include the Euphrates River valley from the Syrian-Turkish border, almost to the edge of Baghdad province, and the -- (inaudible) -- city of Ramadi.  When Daesh invaded the country in 2014, the Iraqi army they faced was well versed in addressing what they believed was the greatest threat, an insurgency, and were not prepared for the conventional assault by Daesh.

We watched Daesh assault Iraq with massed fighters, convoys and heavy equipment, taking thousands of kilometers of terrain, and driving millions of people from their homes.  And my directorate is the Coalition's hand in ensuring that it is never repeated.

With the establishment of the combined joint task force, the operations focused on two main goals:  train and advise Iraqi Security Forces and enable military defeat of Daesh, most often illustrated in the more than 15,000 airstrikes systematically targeting military commanders, weapons facilities, tactical units, media centers, and revenue-producing oil refineries.

Concurrently, the Iraqi forces were reconstituted and my directorate began executing an ambitious plan, approved by the government of Iraq, to train and equip the Iraqi Security Forces at five different building partner capacity training sites, or BPC sites, across Iraq.

Our training shifted away from a counterinsurgency approach towards a more combined arms maneuver approach, by teaching the Iraqis how to integrate infantry, armor, artillery, engineers, aviation and other combat multipliers to achieve an overwhelming advantage on the battlefield.

In addition to the five training sites, located at al-Asad, Taqaddum, Taji, Besmaya and Baghdad, partner force development has grown significantly to manage the Iraq Train-and-Equip Fund, or ITEF.  These funds are available to provide assistance to Iraqi military and other security forces, to include training, equipment, logistics support, supplies, and ammunition.

ITEF equipment is ordered based on documented requirements and is distributed according to operational priorities.  This provides the commander with sustainment flexibility and has enabled U.S. and Coalition forces to offer basic proficiency in combat training to more than approximately 45,000 Iraqi forces to date.

Since its inception in 2015, the fund has expended close to $1.6 billion to train and equip over 54,000 members of the Iraqi security forces, including over 26,000 Iraqi army soldiers, 8,500 counterterrorism service soldiers, 12,000 Peshmerga, and over 5,800 federal police and border security soldiers.

I'd like now to go ahead and answer the anticipated question of whether the Iraqi Security Forces are ready for Mosul by first confirming that each brigade that will participate in Mosul will have completed some Coalition training.  And then I would like to describe broadly what is accomplished at these BPC sites.

To date, the Coalition has trained 12 brigades, which includes anywhere from 800 to 1600 troops with a varied period of instruction, depending on the type of capability that the brigade needs.  We provide these brigades with individual equipment packages that include personal protective equipment, such as body armor, helmets and M-16s.  Each unit also receives a complement of up-armored and soft skinned vehicles.

Training of the Iraqi Security Forces and anti-ISIL forces includes a tailored approach based off of the needs of the unit and at the request of the Government of Iraq and is informed by Coalition advice.  One example is an eight-week curriculum which includes counter-IED techniques, observation, topography, leadership, map reading, mechanized weapons, chemical training, squad formation tactics, machine guns, basic mortar, urban operations, weapons handling, night training and squad-level tactical training.

Other shorter packages can be tailored to focus other specific skills, such as offensive building searches, booby-trapped clearance, combat medics course and advanced marksmanship.

Iraqi forces that have been trained at the BPC sites have demonstrated greater resilience than those not trained at BPC sites, and these (inaudible) tactical formations are at the vanguard of counter-attack operations, demonstrating that the Iraqi leadership regards them highly.

The Iraqis have proven time and again they can and will conduct complex and decisive operations and that they have the will to defeat Daesh.  Right now, the Iraqi Security Forces continue to clear and secure the Jazeera desert, recently liberating the town of Abu Diab, north of Ramadi and the Dulab Peninsula.  Plans are being finalized for the Mosul liberation while shaping operations, positioning of forces, logistics and ammunition and the relentless employment of Coalition strikes all set the stage for success in Mosul.

Following the inevitable liberation of Mosul, it will take an estimated 30,000 to 45,000 hold forces for such a large city, employing local police who will serve as the face of security for Iraq.

We have stepped up our emphasis on police training and recruiting tribal forces, adding 5,000 local police and over 20,000 tribal fighters.  These men will be the key to holding gains and protecting the newly liberated Iraqi citizens, and soon, over a million more to be freed from Daesh oppression in Mosul.

Identifying, training and equipping the police forces is currently my directorate's top priority, as we see the final Mosul brigade has just entered BPC training.  Just this week, the ministerial liaison team participated in a military police chiefs conference from the five recently liberated provinces to discuss their plan for police forces of all kinds and how we can assist them.  Similar sessions will occur regularly with the -- (inaudible) -- focused on counter-ID preparedness.

Each day, the government of Iraq is closer to accomplishing its goal of liberating Iraqis from the hold of Daesh.  The Coalition will continue to support the Iraqi government and Iraqi forces to execute their plan to liberate Mosul at the time of their choosing.

Concurrently with the operations to liberate Mosul, my team will continue assisting the Iraqis in developing the necessary forces and training to ensure the long-term security and success of Iraqi Security Forces.

Now, I'll be happy to take your questions.

CAPT. DAVIS:  We'll start with Courtney Kube from NBC News.

Q:  Hi, General.  So you mentioned the 12 brigades of anywhere between 800 to 1600 troops for Mosul.  Since that's a pretty wide range of 9,600 to almost 20,000, what is the -- the estimated number -- actual number of Iraqi Security Forces it will take to begin -- for the Mosul operation?

GEN. ANDERSON:  Well, first of all, it's the government of Iraq's plan to take Mosul, and second of all, I'm not going to go through the specifics of the -- of the troops numbers.

I will say that every one of the brigades that will participate in the seize force has been through our training and equipping.

Q:  The final brigade is going through the BPC training right now?

GEN. ANDERSON:  That's correct.  It has a shortened period of instruction of -- of three weeks to make sure that it has just the skills and equipment that it needs to be launched.

Q:  And when will that three weeks be -- be completed?

GEN. ANDERSON:  They've just started.  As a matter of fact, they're about a week into it.

Q:  And then if I -- if it's okay if I just ask one more, the -- can you give us any -- any sense of the breakdown, the 12 brigades, of ethnicity?

GEN. ANDERSON:  Actually, I -- I don't specifically the -- the ethnicity of each of the brigades.  I actually don't.  I know that within local police forces, we strive for and achieve about a 50/50 split between Sunni and Shia.  But I honestly don't know what the ethnicity -- ethnical -- ethnic background is.

And you know what, it's not really all that important because nothing unites a force like a common enemy, particularly one that's -- that's as evil as Daesh is.  I'm sure that they're united in their fight and united with one single goal, which is to defeat Daesh and defeat their fellow citizens from its oppression.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next, we'll go to Carlo Munoz with The Washington Times.

Q:  Thank you, sir.  Thanks for taking the time to do this.

One quick question.  The 30,000 to 45,000-member hold force, you said that's going to be consisting of local police and sort of tribal militias or paramilitary forces.  What -- can you go into detail as far as what some of these local tribal groups mean?  Are they part of the PMUs that we've been hearing about?  Are these just local provincial sort of peace-keeping forces?  Can you go into a little more detail on that?

And I also have a follow up.

GEN. ANDERSON:  Yeah, sure.  So those tribal forces are -- are predominantly local tribal forces.  Some of them we've equipped, some of them we've trained and equipped.  Most important thing is that they've all been vetted.  Nobody goes through our equipping or training without being vetted.

The important thing is -- is that they're local, and that is the key particularly for Mosul and the Mosulawis who are about to be liberated.  It needs to be people from the area and of the area.  Does that answer your question?

Q:  It does, sir.

And also, just a quick question on -- on what you just said earlier.  You said nothing sort of unites these forces like a common enemy.  Now, we've heard repeatedly that with the defeat of Daesh in Mosul, that pretty much is going to not wrap up the Coalition mission there, but it's sort of one of the last remaining priorities to defeat Daesh in Iraq.

Now, with that defeat, there goes your common enemy.  So I guess -- how are you training these hold forces to kind of maybe address some of the issues that could come up when you know, Daesh is defeated in -- in Mosul and so the old sectarian risks sort of start reemerging, there?

GEN. ANDERSON:  So Mosul's gonna fall, there's no doubt about it.  And it is one of the two capitals of the so-called caliphate, the other one being in Iraq -- in Raqqah.  But the fall of Mosul does not mean that Daesh is defeated by any stretch of the imagination.

It just means it's defeated in its current format, its capacity to conduct conventional -- conventional operations has been -- has been defeated but not Daesh itself.

And we fully expect that it will dissipate into the -- into the urban terrain and into the -- into the population and that we're going to be fighting insurgency and counterterrorism operations, more importantly the Iraqis will for a while yet.

So it's definitely not over, if anything, it's gonna be more difficult.  The period between the day after Mosul and the day after Daesh is probably when its -- when it's most dangerous.

Q:  Just one quick follow-up, sir.  You know, you're talking about this upcoming or pending looming counterinsurgency.

Do you think as -- from the BPC perspective, you've swung the pendulum a little too far towards training and equipping the Iraqi forces, preparing them for more conventional modes of warfare and kind of leaving their COIN and CT capabilities by the wayside?

GEN. ANDERSON:  That's actually a very, very astute question.  What most western militaries found is they had to learn how to do insurgency, it's the bedrock of being about to do counterinsurgency is a solid fundamental of conventional operations.

And so that -- that helps us, there but we are already retooling both our periods of instruction and this sort of equipment that we'll deliver so that once Mosul is seized, we can pull forces out of there and retrain them and retool them so that they're ready to face the next fight.

And that work and planning is ongoing, now.  It was one of the things that I -- I've discussed all day today.  I'm the middle of a three day conference that I'm co-chairing with the minister of the interior with the police chiefs of five different provinces and all the key leadership and the ministry of the interior.

And literally what we've been talking about is how do we position police forces and minister of interior forces in order to be able to fight the enemy the day after -- the day after Mosul and its new metastasized form, I guess.

So we're working on that pretty hard, right now.

Q:  Thank you.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Our next to Kasim Ileri with Anadolu.

Q:  Hi general, thanks for doing this.  My question will be -- well, one of my questions was actually covered.  About Shia militias, to what extent the Shia militias are going to be -- are also trained by you guys and also will take part in this operation.

My first question I will have another follow-up.

GEN. ANDERSON:  Okay so that's a two part question, the first is training.  Anybody that we train or vet or equip must be vetted.  And the only people that receive training or equipment from us are those that have been vetted.

So the only militias we have trained are those that have passed our vetting process.  As to how they'll be employed, it was made clear by Iraqi law that the PMF are part of the Iraqi Security Forces and like every other aspect of this plan, the plan to take Mosul and to secure the gains afterwards, resides completely with the government of Iraq.  Advised and assisted by the Coalition, of course, but it is their plan.

So it is Prime Minister Abadi's plan on how the PMF are going to be used in either the seizing or the securing of Mosul.

Q:  And also, we saw in Ramadi, we saw in Baiji that there was a very devastating destruction after the Coalition recaptured these cities from Daesh.  Have you also trained those troops and also those conventional forces or those local forces not to destruct the infrastructure of the city so that the people can return?  That's one.

And the second, of your -- is there any kind of missions that you also trained about like some kind of dealing with the refugee spillover from the city?

GEN. ANDERSON:  Right.  So, for the first question, I don't accept your characterization of the destruction having been for -- caused predominantly by the Coalition.  I think that we can point the finger very firmly at Daesh and the substantial wreckage that they leave behind them with placing IEDs in every single house and things like that, destroying bridges.  So the vast majority of the destruction that we saw in Ramadi and places like that was actually -- actually caused by the enemy.

As to special training to dealing with refugees, soldiers are the same everywhere whether they're Canadian, American or Iraqi.  At heart, they're citizens themselves, so they don't see refugees.  What they see is Iraqi citizens.  This was actually discussed today in the police conference that I was in where it's not about Iraq -- it's not about internally-displaced people, it's about Iraqi citizens.  And that soldier is motivated by protecting his country just as I'm motivated by protecting mine, so he doesn't need special training to know how to treat his own people.

In fact, he's eager to do so.  We've had reports, in fact, that Iraqi soldiers have been using medical supplies to treat their own citizens that are moving away from the conflict zone.  They clearly see it the same way that I do.  At the bottom of the heart of every soldier is a sheep dog who wants to protect his flock.

Q:  And just last question, we have heard from the officials from Baghdad, also from here, that there are about 3,000 to 5,000 Daesh militants in the city, in Mosul City.  And now we are talking about more than 20,000 Iraqi and Kurdish forces to seize the city as well as Coalition air support.

Are we a little bit overestimating Daesh because we are just fighting with 20,000 soldiers as well as all these aircrafts and other things just to wipe out 3,000 to 5,000 people?

GEN. ANDERSON:  Two things.  First of all, I haven't characterized the total number of forces that will be involved in the fight to seize Mosul, and that's clearly the business of the government of Iraq.

And second of all, the only thing better than winning seven-nothing is winning 100 to nothing.  There's no point in leaving anything to -- anything to chance here.  Overwhelming odds always helps.  Nobody's looking for a close game or a tie in war.

Q:  Thank you.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next, we'll go to Tara Copp with Stars and Stripes.

Q:  Thank you for doing this.  I wanted to get back to that last unit going through the BPC site right now.  You said there'd be an abbreviated training schedule of three weeks for the Iraqi soldiers who are going through it.  Is this something -- do they have previous experience, or are we talking about brand new fighters that will be -- (inaudible) -- soldiers after three weeks of training and sent to Mosul?

GEN. ANDERSON:  No, they're definitely not brand new soldiers and they're soldiers that have been used in operations elsewhere.  This is just a tune-up for some specific skills and to top up their equipment before they go.  They're definitely not brand new soldiers.

Q:  All right.  The tune-ups as you put it, what sort of things will they be learning that are specific to the Mosul fight?

GEN. ANDERSON:  The primary focus is on counter IED training and movement through a counter IED area.  There are other things like combat life saving.  Like I said, it's just the -- it's the final rehearsal, if you will, before going on stage.

Q:  As these units go through the BPC sites, are they partnered up with embedded U.S. or Coalition advisers who then remain with those units?  Or are they used to working with an embedded adviser, and will that be the way they move forward to Mosul?

GEN. ANDERSON:  That's a great question.  We got about 700 Coalition soldiers that are involved in the -- building partner capacity sites.  There's a separate enterprise that does advise and assist, and as you know, the advise and assist is predominantly been at the brigade level.  And so, the advise and assist teams link up with the brigade leadership as they go through the training.  That's the beginning of the relationship.

It's -- we haven't trained these 12 brigades in the last six weeks, and so a relationship is developed already before the advise and assist teams and the brigades, whichever ones are chosen, they're involved in the attack to seize Mosul.

Q:  (inaudible) -- that that adviser, than -- or those advisers remain with the unit as the push towards Mosul continues?

GEN. ANDERSON:  Right.  So, once a team is linked with the brigade, it stays with the brigade, if that's your question.

Q:  Okay.  Thank you.

CAPT. DAVIS:  And next we'll go to Carla Babb with VoA.

Q:  Thanks for doing this, General.  I just wanted to clarify on the numbers.  You said that you had trained, to-date, 45,000 Iraqi forces, and then you broke that down.  Did you mean that as -- for the fight to reclaim Mosul or did you mean that as total Iraqis, over the past year-and-a-half?

GEN. ANDERSON:  No, I meant in the total.  I'm not gonna talk about the specific numbers that are gonna go in to Mosul, that would -- that doesn't make any sense at all.  I mean, I'm not the only person watching this -- this show.  My wife isn't is the only person watching this coverage.  So we won't talk about the specific --- the specific numbers, I've talked about the people we've actually trained.

Q:  Would say that you were at a number of trained Iraqis forces that can -- the Iraqis and the U.S. let Coalition fields can re-take Mosul at this point?

GEN. ANDERSON:  Yes, absolutely.  Every confidence that the Iraqis are developing a solid a plan, I've seen various iterations of it.  Just being finalized now.  I -- I'm very confident in this plan, as are they.  We provide that advise and assistance to help them.  And you know the brigade advise and assist teams, they -- they assist at the brigade level, they don't actually go to the front lines.  But where the help is really required in something like this is actually the staging in getting there.  So I -- I have every confidence that the -- that this is gonna be a good plan and that it is going to work.

The fall of Mosul is inevitable.

Q:  And one last follow up.  You had said something -- I believe -- about 30,000 to 45,000 whole force.  Did I hear that correctly?  So, I know you won't talk the numbers going into Mosul, but after the liberation of Mosul there is going to need to be about how many people remaining?

GEN. ANDERSON:  Yes, I did say 30 to 45.  And that's based off of some historical analysis of what the ratio is between security forces and a population in order to provide security in what we call wide area security.

And at first, it'll be -- it'll be larger because we'll be cleaning up the last bits of Daesh and waiting to see how it manifests itself in its new role.  And then we'll find the balance -- excuse me.  And there's a balance -- of course, you can't win a football game by only playing defense, you've got to play offense as well.

So it's finding a balance between forces required for defense and making sure you have enough to go on the offense.  And I have every -- every faith that the Iraqis are looking at that and will get it right.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next to Luis Martinez with ABC News.

Q:  Hi, General.  Thank you for doing this briefing today.

Can I ask you about those -- you said that these hold forces are going to be locally -- are drawn from local populations and that they've been vetted.  Where did you get these local populations?  I mean, are they from people who used to live in Mosul that -- (inaudible) -- remain in integrated units?  Or did you do recruiting to vet them, to make sure that they were from the Mosul area?  How -- how -- how are they local?

GEN. ANDERSON:  There's about 8,000 Ninawa police that have been trained and will be employed in the hold force and there's another 10,000 to 12,000, maybe a little bit more than that, of tribal forces.  And those will be the -- predominantly the forces that hold once Mosul is taken.  Of course, that's right in the center.  There'll be other forces that are on the outside that won't go into Mosul that aren't local, that will assist in securing Mosul.

Q:  And if I could have one follow-on real quick.  You talked that once you'd mov from the current operational training, if you will, the conventional force training, that you're going to quickly shift into, I guess, COIN training.  How long of a training process would that be for these troops?

GEN. ANDERSON:  It'll depend on -- what we do is we -- we discuss it with the unit commanders and with the senior leadership in the MOD -- sorry -- the ministry of defense or the ministry of the interior if that's the sort of forces that we're training, to determine what they're needs are.

Baseline period of instruction that we've prepared is four weeks.  That enables them to reorient the skills -- it's not acquiring new skills.  It's about acquiring new ways in which to use those skills, which is the -- why the transition from conventional to COIN is actually easier to do than from COIN to conventional.

CAPT. DAVIS:  All right.  Next, we'll go to Thomas Watkins with Agence France Presse.

Q:  Hello, General.  I missed just a couple minutes of the briefing, so I apologize if you were already asked this.  But there was an apparent Coalition airstrike this morning that killed about 20 Sunni tribal fighters.  I was wondering if you have any details that you can share with us on that, please?

GEN. ANDERSON:  Yeah, very little details.  I've literally spend all day at the ministry of the interior.  So what I can do is I can -- is I can read the statement that's been handed me -- to me.  I have seen nothing on this, I haven't been in my office at all today.

So just after midnight on October 5th of 2016, Coalition forces conducted strikes on a position that was firing upon Iraqi Security Forces in the vicinity of Khara’ib Jabr.  We are aware of the alleged reports that Coalition forces mistakenly fired on Sunni tribal fighters.  As will all allegations received, we are looking into this to determine the facts that surround the case.

Prior to a full accounting of facts, it would be premature to speculate further on this incident.  Both the Coalition and the Iraqi forces are investigating this incident.  We take extraordinary precautions to avoid friendly or civilian casualties, applying rigorous standards in our targeting processes, from a comprehensive analysis of all available intelligence to a careful selection of munitions.

I'm sorry.  That's literally all that I've got.

Q:  And just a quick follow up.  I understand what you just said, but do you have any -- any indication of the numbers of casualties, and whether there may or may not be any civilians involved?

(AUDIO GAP)

GEN. ANDERSON:  Are you still there, Pentagon?

CAPT. DAVIS:  We can hear you.  Can you hear us?

(AUDIO GAP)

GEN. ANDERSON:  No, I'm not -- I can hear you now.

CAPT. DAVIS:  All right.  Sorry about that, Sir.  We were -- I think you were just following up on a follow-on question about the reported strike.  I don't know if you had anything else on that.

GEN. ANDERSON:  No.  I didn't hear the question, but it wouldn't have mattered because my answer won't change.  Literally, I've given all the information that I have.  I don't have any more information than I've already given.

CAPT. DAVIS:  All right.  Very good.

Next we'll go to Joe Tabet with Al Hurra.

Q:  Thank you, Sir.

I want to go back to what you said about Mosul.  Could you characterize the fall of Mosul as a turning point in the war against ISIS?

GEN. ANDERSON:  I think that's a very elegant way to put it, because I think it leads to the inevitable end of Mosul -- of ISIL in its current configuration.  There will still be -- they'll still be holding terrain in Tal Afar and out to the Syrian border.  They'll still be holding terrain in the western part of the ERV in Iraq.  And of course, they still have the capital of their so-called caliphate in Raqqah.

But it is the beginning of the end.  And they know that.  We've already seen signs of leaders abandoning their posts in Mosul, because they know what's coming.  They know that Mosul is going to fall.

Q:  A quick followup, Sir.  Do you see with the fall of Mosul any effect on the operations against ISIS in Syria, and mainly in Raqqah?

GEN. ANDERSON:  Absolutely.  There's a linkage between the two.  Ideally, both could be pressured at the same time, because I think if I was in Mosul and I needed somewhere to go, I would go to Raqqah, if I wanted to maintain the fight.  So there is definitely a link between the two.

We know that, and that's the Coalition -- the corps headquarters job to put those two fighters together in terms of the effects.  And, you know, it's not like Raqqah is not under pressure itself.  Much as we have been doing shaping and preparing fires in Mosul, those continue in Syria and Raqqah itself and in the lines of communication that go up the Euphrates River Valley from al-Qaim up to Raqqah.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next, we'll go to Andrew Tilghman with Military Times.

Q:  Hi, General.  Could you elaborate a little bit more on your comment about shifting the training to more of a counterinsurgency approach after Mosul?  Is that something that is happening now?  Is that something that will happen after the city falls?  Will that require brigades and battalions to go through a new round of -- of training, new equipment being issued?

Just -- can you give us a little bit more granular detail on what that transition will look like?

GEN. ANDERSON:  Yeah.  It's a little bit of all of that and -- and it's -- it's -- we're working with the Iraqi officials now to determine what the sequence it is that they wanna do.  Do they wanna train local police -- police and tribal forces first and then army forces or the other way around?  And we're working through that sequence with them right now.

For us, it doesn't really matter what sort of force shows up at the training centers because the -- the period of instruction won't change and what we're trying to teach won't -- won't change.

And you know, we will have the capacity to start training as early as the beginning of November.  But the reality is, it's an awful lot -- if not most of the forces that are available are involved in the -- the plan to take Mosul.  And so they're in the middle of a pretty protracted fight while trying to prepare for the next one.  I respect them, actually, for their ability to do both and do both justice.

So as those plans develop, we'll be ready to train them.  And it will be a combination of both tactics and techniques as well as equipment.

Q:  And can I follow-up on that?  I mean, to what extent is -- is that happening in Anbar Province?  I mean, you look at a place like, you know, the Ramadi, Fallujah area.  Are -- who is there?  And are -- and are they executing these kinds of counterinsurgency operations or are you talking about beginning something more comprehensive that -- that hasn't really started yet?

GEN. ANDERSON:  That's a great question.  So in essence, everywhere where the Iraqi Security Forces have made gains, they've had to secure that ground.  And they've had to secure that ground against harassment from Daesh.  So you could argue that they're -- they're conducting the defensive portion of -- of counterinsurgency or counterterrorism operation.

And you know, the enemy is not completely flushed out from the Euphrates River Valley.  There's still work to be done west of the Dulab Peninsula all the way out to al-Qaim.  Take for instance, Sharqat or Qayyarah West in the Tigris River Valley.  Although those places have been seized and -- and cleared, there is still harassment from -- from Daesh from the flank and harassing the lines of communication.

So in essence, all of the forces are doing -- are holding now, and so they're getting the experience, it's not like they haven't had it before, of holding ground against an enemy that's using insurgent-like technique while the rest of the force is preparing to do conventional force on force attack.

Like I said, it's actually pretty impressive because it's the full panoply of the application of force that's -- that's being done.  It's being done with quite a bit of nuance by the Iraqi leadership.

CAPT. DAVIS:  (inaudible) -- follow-up to that.  Courtney Kube with NBC News.

Q:  Thanks.  Just one quick one on -- back on Mosul.  You've mentioned several times the extensive planning that's going on for post-Mosul for after the city falls.  I understand it's an Iraqi operation, but what is your estimate -- in all these planning meetings, what is your estimate for how long the operations will take or a rough estimate of how long it will take to actually secure the city and then clear it?

GEN. ANDERSON:  I'm good, but I'm not that good.  And the reason is that the enemy gets a vote and I don't know how he's going to vote.  It could be a very, very hard and very protracted fight and it could be that they're going to put up token resistance, as we've seen in other places.  I know that the Iraqi Security Forces are planning on a hard fight and I know with absolute certainty that we've trained them to be able to do that and we've equipped them to be able to do that.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Great.

Next to Thomas Watkins at Agence France Presse.

Q:  General, just to go back to something you were saying earlier about -- about Raqqah.  You described briefly the shaping operations that are going on there.  Certainly from what we've been hearing, we hear much, much less about Raqqah for obvious reasons than we do about Mosul.

But I was wondering if perhaps you could elaborate a little bit more on where things are with Raqqah and how quickly post-Mosul or even during where we could expect to see shaping operations and an offensive begin?

GEN. ANDERSON:  Shaping operations in terms of Coalition fires have already started and the pressure has already been placed on Raqqah.

War has a timetable of its own and we're working, as you know, with partners, and so that'll occur on its own timetable.  Raqqah is under pressure and we're continuing to make a difference in terms of their logistics, in terms of their VBIED factories, their command and control nodes.  And that's the way that the Coalition can keep the pressure on while we're waiting for our partners to develop their plan and -- and to launch their attack at their time of their choosing.

Q:  Just – do you expect Raqqah to be as difficult as Mosul or totally different?  What's your forecast?

GEN. ANDERSON:  So, I'm -- I'm not very good at the crystal ball thing.

I did mention earlier that there are two capitals of the so-called caliphate; Mosul in Iraq and Raqqah in Syria.  And so they both matter an awful lot to Daesh and I think that probably Raqqah matters more.  If Mosul falls first, there is the potential for fighters to be able to reinforce into Raqqah.  But beyond that, it would literally be crystal balling and I don't know any more than that.  This is just my impression of it.

CAPT. DAVIS:  (Tara ?) -- (inaudible).

Q:  Yes, thank you.  Another follow up on Mosul.  You mentioned earlier that you've seen the movement of some ISIS, I think, leaders departing Mosul.  And I just wanted to know your current estimate of how many fighters are in Mosul?  And are you seeing fighters depart the city or are you seeing them come back in?  And if so, what sort of routes are they taking and what steps are being taken to kind of choke off their ability to transit into and out of the city?

GEN. ANDERSON:  So, the -- the estimate that -- that recorded earlier by one of your compatriots, 3,000 to 5,000, that's probably about right.  In terms of the details of what's happening, my job is actually to train Iraqis to go and kill them there.  My job is not so much to figure out what they're doing there.  I'm pretty satisfied with the job that we're doing in terms of training and equipping and getting the Iraqi Security Forces ready to do their job.  And we'll wait and see how Daesh responds.

The Iraqi Security Forces are trained and equipped to deal with them no matter how hard they want to stand, and are ready to respond to any of the variations beyond that.

Q:  And one last one on the equipping.  Could you just outline specifically what equipment the forces have received that's specific to the Mosul fight?  Whether it's, you know, mine rollers or whatever it might be?

GEN. ANDERSON:  I can give you some numbers if you want.  So, we've had about 380 protected mobility or up-armored Humvees; 60-plus dozers that are up-armored dozers.  We've already brought in a total of six bridges with more on the way, with also some up-armored non-tactical vehicles.

So in essence, we've given everything that they need to be able to shoot, move and communicate, which is all that you need to defeat an enemy.  And, you know, I just want to go back to how good these guys are.  One thing, when you're playing a team sport, you don't have to be better than the guy next to you.  You've just got to be better than the guy you're facing.  And I have every confidence that the Iraqi Security Forces are better than Daesh.

CAPT. DAVIS:  And Carlo Munoz?

Q:  Sir, I just had one quick follow-up question, again going back to the PMFs.  You mentioned that non-local forces will be -- won't go into the city, but will be used to sort of secure the perimeter outside of the city.  As -- have any of those groups, non-local militia groups, received training and/or equipment via the BPC mission?  And if so, were any of these militias part of the 40-plus we've heard that are under the PMU banner that the Iraqis have sort of established?

GEN. ANDERSON:  So, there's a couple of parts to that question.

First of all, as I keep stating, the only people that have been trained and equipped by us are those that have passed some fairly stringent vetting, that ensure that they have not only agreed to, but have shown in the past respect for the law of armed conflict.  There have been no human rights abuses; have not acted against the Coalition or Coalition members before-hand.  So we're very, very careful about that.

Your mentioned the 40-odd -- 40-odd PMUs.  Those are the various units that have been raised by the provincial mobilization committees that the government of Iraq has decided are part of the Iraqi Security Forces.  We're very clear on who it is we train and equip.  And he gets to decide who is employed where.

We've been given assurances that it will be predominantly, if not only, local forces that do the hold inside Mosul once Mosul falls.  But ultimately, this is a question for Prime Minister Abadi and the Iraqi government, because this is their plan.  What we're doing is we're assisting them.  We're enabling them.  And we're helping them with training and equipping their soldiers.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Anybody else?  Going once, going twice.

General, thank you very much for your time today.  And any closing comments you have for us before we sign off?

GEN. ANDERSON:  First of all, this is -- this is quite the experience.  I spent two years working in the Pentagon prior to coming here.  I watched this in closed-circuit TV in my office and I always felt sorry for the guy that was standing up in front of the camera.  So now I've been that guy.  So thank you very much for that experience.

But on a -- on a more somber note, I have every faith the Iraqi Security Forces are going to get this right.  I really do.  Mosul's going to fall.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Thank you very much, General.

Thank you, everybody.


Staying Connected