Operation Inherent Resolve

 
Transcripts

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Chris Garver

By | Combined Joint Task Force, Operation Inherent Resolve, Public Affairs Officer | March 04, 2016

CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS:  Before we get started, just wanted to go over a couple or schedule items for you.  We'll be sending out our planning calendar for next week later today, but a couple of things to draw your attention to.

 

One, today the secretary's troop talk at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington slipped a half-hour.  That's going to be 1535, 3:35 p.m. Eastern Time.  We do expect that to be streamed live on defense.gov.

 

Next week, a number of events of note that I'll point out to you.  Comptroller -- Mr. McCord, Assistant Secretary for Strategy Bob Scher, and CAPE Director Morin are at CSIS at an event Monday morning at 9 a.m.

 

We will have Secretary James and chief of staff of the Air Force, General Welsh, briefing here in the afternoon in the press briefing room at 3:30 p.m. on Monday.


Tuesday, a lot of testimony again next week.  But of note, General Austin, CENTCOM, AFRICOM General Rodriguez, and SOCOM General Votel at SASC on Tuesday morning.  We do expect Peter Cook to brief Tuesday afternoon.

 

Then starting Wednesday, the secretary will do a series of day trips.  We'll have more information on those, but they're just in-and-out day trips likely to Aberdeen Naval Research Laboratory, at Anacostia, and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Pat, respectively, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.

 

The CENTCOM nominee and SOCOM nominee hearing at SASC is Wednesday morning.  General Votel and General Thomas at SASC, that's Wednesday morning.

 

The Army will be hosting a press briefing with the Second I.D. Commander, that's Republic of Korea, Second I.D. Commander Major General Martin.  And that's hosted by the Army Wednesday afternoon at four p.m.

 

We expect General Shoffner from Resolute Support to brief us next Thursday via DVIDS, 10 a.m.  And then SOUTHCOM, the new commander there, Admiral Tidd, briefing in person here in the afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

 

And then Steve Warren, who, as you know, has been here with us in the states for the past couple of weeks, is headed back this weekend.  And he'll be taking up the podium again from Baghdad, and we expect him to brief us next Friday morning at 10.

 

A little preview of what's to come.  We'll have a full list to you later today.

 

We're pleased to be joined by Colonel Garver -- Chris Garver, coming to us live from Baghdad today to give us an update on all that is going on with Operation Inherent Resolve.

 

Chris, if you can hear us, the floor is yours.

 

COLONEL CHRIS GARVER:  All right.  Thank you.  Appreciate it.

 

Good morning, Pentagon press corps.  As Jeff said, I'm Colonel Chris Garver, Combined Joint Task Force, Operation Inherent Resolve, public affairs officer.  And I get the privilege of taking the call again this week.

 

Appreciate everybody coming out today, giving me the opportunity to talk about OIR.  I've got a few opening remarks, starting with some updates on ongoing operations, then I'll be glad to take questions.

 

If they don't have the map yet, or if you're going to put it up on the screen, can you bring it up now?  Or make sure that they've got the map?

 

CAPT. DAVIS:  We've got it up, Chris.  You're good.

 

COLONEL GARVER:  Okay.  All right.

 

So, in Fallujah, star two, Iraqi security forces continue the isolation phase of Fallujah.  The ISF have encircled the town and surrounding urban sprawl.  Since last week, units have occupied positions to the south and west of town, joining the ISF, police and Popular Mobilization Force units already in position to the north, east and south.

 

Units continue to improve defensive positions and prepare for future operations into the city.  Since last Saturday, the coalition supported the isolation phase by conducting 11 strikes against Daesh targets.

 

In the Makhmour region, star four, Iraqi security force units continue to move forces into the area south of Mosul to posture for future operations.

 

In Sinjar, star five, the ISF continue to retain this area and we continue supporting operations with airstrikes against Daesh remnants near the city and also along the east-west Highway 47.  Since last Saturday, we've conducted 13 strikes against ISIL tactical units, rocket positions, mortar positions, a sniper position, and fighting positions.

 

In the Hit and Haditha corridor, in the Euphrates River Valley, star six, we continue to disrupt Daesh's command and control and the flow of reinforcements and supplies inside the ERV.  Daesh conducted an attack with multiple suicide bombers on an Iraqi compound headquarters building in Haditha on Tuesday, killing eight Iraqi soldiers and wounding another eight.

 

In spite of these losses, Iraqi army units and Sunni PMF forces continue operations in that area.

 

Moving to Syria, on the Mara line, star seven, vetted Syrian opposition forces and the New Syrian Forces continue to fight Daesh to the east.  The Mara line has seen continued battles for the small villages near the line, but we haven't seen a significant shift in ownership for the terrain for either the VSO or for Daesh.

 

In Shaddadi, star nine, since the start of the offensive on 15 February, the Syrian Democratic Forces have gained more than 2,600 square kilometers, bringing the total amount of terrain they control in northern Syria to more than 20,000 square kilometers.

 

The SDF continue to clear the ground, including pockets of resistance that they had gained through the offensive.  This will straighten out the SDF's forward line of troops or FLOT.  And this back clearing is what accounts for the significant gains in seized terrain over the last few days.

 

The coalition has provided more than 120 airstrikes in support of the SDF forces on this offensive.  Daesh has conducted three spoiling attacks against SDF FLOT at three different locations.  And every single one of those attacks was repelled on the ground.

 

The SDF has also begun providing humanitarian assistance to the Syrians in area -- in the area of Shaddadi.

 

We have several -- seen several accounts from civilian populace detailing their positive reaction to the SDF seizing Shaddadi and ejecting Daesh.  As I mentioned last week, the fight to seize and clear Shaddadi and the subsequent operations in Hasakah province have gone much faster than the SDF's original timeline, but the fighting has been tough at times.

 

As the SDF successfully expands the territory they control southward and defeat Daesh in engagements along the way, moderate Arab groups are volunteering to join the SDF.  This operation represents yet another degree of pressure being applied to Daesh across Iraq.

 

As we have seen before, our forces conducting the advise and assist mission with the SDF have noticed an increase in diversity of the force based on smaller forces coming to volunteer and join the SDF.  The SDF has transformed from a primarily Kurdish force to a group that is 40 percent Arab, Assyrian, Christian and others.  The SDF continues to effectively operate while absorbing these new diverse volunteers into the organization.

 

And finally, in the vicinity of Beiji, star three, and in the desert east of Lake Tharthar, which is green triangle one, the Iraqis are conducting Operation Amn al-Jazirah, or “the island security” names for the nickname of the region being "the island."

 

In this operation, spanning from Tikrit to Beiji and then to Lake Tharthar in the west, Iraqi army, special operations forces, federal police, Iraqi air force, and PMF militias are attacking Daesh-controlled locations throughout this area.

 

The operation began on Tuesday and saw some contact with pockets of Daesh on Wednesday.  Coalition forces are supporting the Iraqi army, special operations forces, and federal police units participating in the mission.  The coalition has conducted several strikes in the region to good effect, as Daesh fighters have come out of their defensive positions and started moving around the desert.

 

We are continuing those strikes in support of the Iraqi security forces.

 

This operation represents yet another degree of pressure being applied to Daesh across Iraq, and as we have discussed before, our operations are designed to cause Daesh to fight across the breadth and depth of the terrain they currently control.

 

The operations are mutually supporting by preventing Daesh from moving forces around the battlefield to reinforce those fighters in contact with the ISF.

 

Operations in the Euphrates river valley support the eventual battle inside Mosul by preventing Daesh in the ERV from reorienting forces to that fight, and preventing easy resupply of the fighters in Mosul.

 

As the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dunford, mentioned at the beginning of the week, the battle for Mosul has begun, as we've been conducting shaping operations in the city for several months now.

 

We have struck Daesh fighters, weapons, leaders and financial assets with precision and lethality.  We began the isolation of Mosul from Raqqa and central Iraq when the Peshmerga took Sinjar and Iraqi security forces, supported by the PMF, retook Tikrit and Baiji.

 

We have already been training and equipping the Iraqi security forces that will conduct the assault into Mosul in the coming months.  We have been training the police forces that will serve as the hold force throughout Iraq to prevent Daesh's resurgence as the ISF takes each piece of it.

 

And along the way, we continue to explore options to accelerate the operation in order to meet the prime minister's goal of seizing Mosul and defeating Daesh in Iraq in 2016.

 

With that, I'll take your questions.  Bob or Lita?

 

CAPT. DAVIS:  If Bob's here, we'll go to Bob.

 

Q:  Yeah.  Hello, Colonel.  It's Bob Burns.  That last comment you made about exploring options to accelerate the operation in order to recapture Mosul this year would seem to suggest that, on your current track, you don't expect to do it this year.

 

Can you talk about the acceleration and what the coalition's notion of the timeline is?

 

COL. GARVER:  Well, as we've mentioned before, this is still on an Iraqi timeline, and the Iraqis are still building the plan for the assault into the city of Mosul itself.

 

We're supporting them throughout the operation, but we look for ways to accelerate the timeline.  Part of that is through accelerating of the training program, based on what units have already been through training, what skills those soldiers need, and so we look at those.

 

The other thing that we're looking at is, as General MacFarland has mentioned before, as the secretary has mentioned, we're looking for options to help them physically on the ground.

 

And you know we offered Apache helicopters for the battle of Ramadi, and the government said, "no thank you, not at this time."  They weren't interested at that time.  But those types of things are other ways of accelerating the timeline as well.

 

Q:  Has the Apache option been offered again?

 

COL. GARVER:  I don't want to -- honestly, I haven't been in the room with General MacFarland and the -- and the GOI.  It was offered before, and the forces are available in the region.

 

But I don't know what specifically has been offered, and I think, as the Iraqis continue to finalize the plan, they'll look more specifically at all of the different options that we've discussed with them.

 

CAPT. DAVIS:  Joe Tabet.

 

Q:  Yeah.  Chris, could you -- could give us more details about the status of Shaddadi?  How much the -- the SDF are in control of the city?  Can we say 50 percent, 75 percent?  And when do you expect the whole city would be cleared by the SDF?

 

COL. GARVER:  Well, the SDF is in control of Shaddadi 100 percent.  They're still having to clear some of the explosives left behind, and occasionally in the outskirts around the town, they will run into Daesh fighters and small skirmishes will flare up.

 

If you look at your map, and you see where the nine is, and you kind of draw a line up toward the H in Hasakah -- the first H in Hasakah -- that's where they're conducting this back-clearing to kind of straighten out the troops, and it's in that area that they're kind of basically moving back across part of the terrain they had attacked from to clear out forces around there.

 

But the town of Shaddadi itself is under SDF control, and they are now working in the regions around -- and, like I said, they're even bringing humanitarian assistance to support the Syrians who had been under Daesh control in the area.

 

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next, to Carla Babb.

 

Q:  Hi, Colonel.  Thanks for doing this.

 

You had mentioned that there were 20,000 square kilometers gained in Syria.  You talked about the SDF moving at a faster pace than you guys had thought.  We've also heard that the Iraqis have continuously moved at their own pace, which is slower than some U.S. officials would say.

 

What is the difference?  What is the U.S. seeing -- how is the SDF moving so much faster than expected, and the Iraqis, which is an army, moving at such a slower pace?

 

COL. GARVER:  Well, part of it is directly tied to the terrain.  When you're in the Euphrates river valley or the Tigris river valley, the two river valleys of which -- they're having to root Daesh out along that way -- it's very different than attacks across the open desert, which we've seen in Hasakah, Al-Hawl and now in Shaddadi.

 

You can move much faster, with a much wider front, when you're moving across that open desert like they have there in eastern Syria.  So that's part of it.

 

Some of it is the Iraqi army is still in the building process, and they're moving at an army's pace.  They're moving at their army's pace.  So -- so some of it is the style of warfare that the Iraqis like to participate in, like to execute when they're conducting operations in that area.

 

There were times where we thought we were -- we thought they were more ready to go into Ramadi than they did at the time.  But we saw -- you know, eventually they went into Ramadi after the long isolation phase, and they were successful inside the city.  They've made real progress inside the city.

 

Fallujah, we see the same thing.  The surrounding -- the eventual -- you know, the eventual assault will come, but after a long isolation phase to weigh down the enemy inside, to continue striking with coalition support, with artillery, other -- other assets that they can attack into the city to kill as many Daesh fighter before they move in.

 

So it's -- so part of it's a style of warfare.  Part of it is a -- the terrain that's involved, if that makes sense.

 

Q:  Yeah, it does.  And you may not have this, so my apologies if you don't, but the last update that I think we had was that in Iraq, ISIS has lost about 40 percent of the terrain, and in Syria, it was somewhere between 5 and 10 percent.

 

With these recent gains in Syria, do you have any sort of update on how much ISIS-lost territory we have in each one of the countries?

 

COL. GARVER:  Yeah, I -- I don't.  I mean, I -- I think we're still using 40 percent for Iraq.  And I know that -- you know, the -- the operations are ongoing -- kind of that green triangle one there, out in the -- out in the desert there, east of Deir ez-Zor.

 

The -- the amount of percent of -- of territory is a pretty imprecise science, since we don't have exact locations for all of the Daesh figures, and -- and -- you know, we're doing assessments try to figure out who controls what town at -- at any given time.

 

So I -- I think -- I think we were looking at maybe 10 to 15 percent of Syria, and about 40 percent of -- of -- of Iraq.  But of course in the last two weeks, we've seen all the activity that's taken place with the -- the Russians, with the Syrians, with the Afrin Kurds -- certainly that has become more of a jumbled mess, kind of up in the northwest corner of -- of Syria.

 

So I think we would say we're not ready to issue a new number yet, to say, "here's where we kind of think they are in terms of the -- in terms of terrain."

 

With the SDF, it's easier, because their terrain is all kind of above a line from Al-Hawl almost all the way over to number eight, where -- which is Tishrin Dam, and north -- they control all that.  So we can kind of get a good estimate for where they are.

 

But for the rest of it, in terms of pieces and parts, it's kind of tough to figure out who owns what, especially -- you know, we know, in Deir ez-Zor, you've got Syrian army and Daesh both inside the same city.

 

So who owns what and how much -- we're still trying to kind of figure that out, always.  But with the SDF, it's a little easier, because they basically own the line, and then everything north, up to the Turkish border -- they control that area up there.

 

Q:  Thank you.

 

CAPT. DAVIS:  Colonel, Lucas Tomlinson.

 

Q:  Colonel, you mentioned the Iraqis are, quote, "still building a plan and finalizing a plan for Mosul."  Are you satisfied with the pace of the planning?

 

COL. GARVER:  I think our commanders understand that they're going to move at the Iraqi pace.  I think, as General MacFarland's kind of mentioned before, that he feels like his job is to conduct judo every day, and when a force -- when somebody's moving in one direction, if he wants to move them a couple degrees off to the side, he makes suggestions, and we offer suggestions to help kind of get that where we think it needs to go.

 

And like I said, we look at options to help accelerate the pace, and then every day, where it's -- if a force doesn't show up into the training base, that potentially affects the timeline.

 

So when the Iraqis say, "hey, we're going to issue this unit an order that tells them to go into the training base so they can get their new equipment, they can receive the training that's necessary for the battle for Mosul or wherever they're going to conduct their operations," every day that that slips changes the timeline a little bit.

 

So there's a pretty precise calculus going on in saying, "if you want these units to be at this level, with this equipment and prepared to do these tasks, here's how much we need -- time we need for training them, here's how much time it takes to move them, here's how much time it takes to supply them.  So let's figure out what's in the realm of the possible and what's in the realm of the probable as to what we can get."

 

So all of that kind of comes down to adjusting the timeline, having to adjust it for -- you know, for the facts on the ground, based on -- as I said, if a unit is late by a day, that changes the timeline a little bit.

 

Q:  For someone --

 

COL. GARVER:  That make sense?

 

Q:  -- for -- yes.  For someone not as familiar with the Iraqi pace, is that a fast pace or a slow pace?

 

COL. GARVER:  I think it's -- we've said in the past, it's slower than, sometimes, we would conduct operations.  And I think, if you look at the SDF style, where they -- moving fast across the desert, move fast into an area, conduct an operation -- there are certainly -- when you talk about coalition armored forces -- that's how we would conduct battles with the armored forces.


When you're talking about infantry clearing towns, well, that's a slow fight no matter who does it.  And when an infantry force has to go in and root the bad guy out of a tow, especially when the bad guys have surrounded that town with IEDs and built IEDs into the buildings, and you're in old construction -- as we saw in Ramadi, very old, very tight, narrow streets, narrow alleys.

 

That's slow work no matter who's going to do it.  So I -- you know, I think we always want to go faster.  And I think we always want to make sure that we're keeping pressure on Daesh.  We think we've got Daesh in a pretty good position right now.

 

We -- you know -- and I know Colonel Ryder talked to you guys on Friday -- or on Wednesday about the pressure that we're putting on Daesh.  Well, Daesh is under pressure in Iraq, and we want to keep that pressure up.

 

We want to keep attacking them along the Euphrates River Valley, up into the area -- up toward Mosul, along Sinjar.  We want to keep pressure on them so they don't have time to rest, they don't have time to recruit new soldiers, they don't have time to bring in new equipment, new supplies, they don't have time to reposition, and we can fight them individually in those pieces and places where they are now.

 

Q:  And just shifting over to Syria, you mentioned some Christian groups joining the SDF.  I was wondering -- do you think there's more incentive for these Christian groups to fight ISIS?

 

COL. GARVER:  I don't know that any group has more incentive than another.  I think ISIS is pretty horrible to everybody, to include their own -- you know, we see them as horrible to Sunnis as they are to everybody else.  They're horrible to their own -- members of their organization.

 

So I'm not -- I don't know that I can assign a motive as to who thinks it's more horrible or not.  I think there's people who have decided they want to get rid of ISIS out of Syria, and they recognize them as the primary problem.

 

And that aligns with what we think, so that's why we look to support those organizations and provide them assistance as we can on the battlefield, as we saw in Shaddadi, and the same type of assistance we saw in Al-Hawl, and in Hasakah, and that we see up on the Mara line.

 

So I don't -- I don't know that I can -- can really talk to anybody's motive.  I think anybody that lived in Syria would want to get rid of Daesh, and that's how we see it, so.

 

Q:  Thank you.

 

CAPT. DAVIS:  Kristina Wong.

 

Q:  Hi, Colonel, it's Kristina.  Thanks for doing this.  You mentioned --

 

COL. GARVER:  Hey, Kristina.

 

Q:  Hey.  At the top, you mentioned options to physically help the Iraqis on the ground.  I was wondering what exactly that would entail, and whether you would define that as training and advising at, say, the battalion or company, or what level that would be at.  So that's my first question.

 

COL. GARVER:  OK.  And as we've talked, the Americans, the U.S. forces, are doing advise and assist at the division level with the Iraqi security force.

 

Other nations are going down to a lower level, and often it's with special operations forces, and they're at the brigade level -- sometimes even down at the battalion level for the Iraqi security force.

 

Those are national caveats, where the nations have said, "here's what we're gonna contribute to the fight, and here's where we'll -- as close to the front as we'll let our soldiers get as part of the advise and assist mission."

 

So the closer you're down to the front, the more you're involved in that tactical fight on the ground.  That provides commanders -- Iraqi commanders on the ground -- provides them assistance in getting airstrikes, it provides them assistance in planning, provides them assistance in command and control, and, especially with those special operations troops, you're going to bring a certain degree of skill in warfare that we're going to see.

 

So that is an option, but the U.S. has kept its advisers at the division level, inside the command and control -- the division command and control posts, the operations centers around the provinces, and that's currently where we are.

 

And I don't even know if there's a discussion -- I know there's been discussion in the public about pushing advisers down, but I don't know if there's a discussion currently in my own chain of command about that.

 

So that's one -- I mean, I guess that's how the advise and assist works.  I'm not sure, at this point, if that's what you were really asking, though.

 

Q:  Well, I guess to be clear, if going -- if helping them physically on the ground is an option, at what level would that be?


COL. GARVER:  Well, for us right now, it's at the division level.  If there was a change to that, in policy, then we would take a look at how we were going to execute that.

 

But currently, there's not, and like I said, I'm not sure of a discussion that would that that's an option on the table.  I know that there are a lot of options on the table, a lot of which we don't want to discuss, because we don't want to provide any additional information to Daesh, as he's listening to what we say in the public sphere.

 

But that option currently is.  We're at the division level, and that's where we're operating right now.

 

Q:  The term "on the ground" is very vague.  So what would entail being on the ground?  I mean, you mentioned at the top yourself that there are options -- physically on the ground.  What does that mean?

 

COL. GARVER:  It means providing assistance to the forces on the ground in more of a -- not necessarily just in a planning role, but to provide them physical support.  Such as when we knew in Ramadi they were going to have to conduct a river crossing operation, so we brought engineers in on a short-term basis to provide them training on how to bridge that river.

                       

I know Colonel Warren showed you video of them putting the bridges in the river, and then they established that thing which allowed -- to the south of Ramadi -- which allowed them to get forces faster into the city since there had been such extensive damage to the bridges all around Ramadi.

 

That's what I mean by "on the ground" -- for the soldiers on the ground, we're providing ways to accelerate the fight.

 

Q:  And how many Iraqi brigades are anticipated for the local offensive now?

 

COL. GARVER:  Well, we've talked in the past, and I know General Clark mentioned this like a week and a half ago or so, that the Iraqis are currently looking between eight and 12.  We are working with them to kind of figure out what those are, what brigades, where they are, what they're going to do.

 

You know, we anticipate an isolation phase, just like we saw in Ramadi; must like we're seeing in Fallujah right now; just like we saw in Beiji.  So, forces have to conduct the isolation phase and then forces are going to actually physically go into the city.

 

What forces those are, that's what the Iraqis are figuring out.  But we anticipate -- it looks like they think they can do it with eight to 12 brigades, somewhere in there.

 

Q:  Thanks.

 

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next.

 

Q:  Colonel, I was wondering if you could give an assessment of the size of the ISIS force in Mosul, and also sort of how they're reacting to the build-up of forces around there.  In other words, are they -- do you see them building defenses or some of the enemy fighters are attempting to flee?

 

COL. GARVER:  Well, first of all, I went and specifically -- I knew you guys had asked this of Colonel Ryder, and so I went and dug into our intelligence guys.  And the best estimate that I can give you is we think there are thousands, but less than 10,000 inside Mosul right now.

 

But again, it's tough to know that because you've got units that don't have orders of battle.  We don't know how many each battalion is supposed to have.  If you look at a conventional force, it's pretty easy to figure out what percent strength they're at based on how many people they actually have in a unit that they say "this is what a unit is."

 

With the Daesh fighters, it's harder to know that.  But we think it's thousands inside the city, but less than 10,000.  And so that's the size of force that we think is in there right now.

 

We've also seen reflections in open source and seen through other ways that the morale isn't necessarily good inside Mosul for ISIS right now.  We've seen reflections that in open source -- tried to send their families out of Mosul to get them to escape because they know that they're surrounded.


We know that -- we've seen in open source that the pay -- they're paying their soldiers less than they were before, partially because of the effects of cash strikes along the way of their repositories of cash, and partially because of their inability to make new money based on attacking the oil infrastructure that we've done.

 

Even as far away as Shaddadi, which had two major oil reserves near that town, which the SDF is now in control of -- those we anticipated were about 10 percent of what Daesh got in its illicit oil activities, you know, every month.

 

So, it looks like from our perspective that the morale is a little low inside Mosul.  But in terms of how many people have tried to sneak out and leave, I don't have any, you know, numbers or figures for you for that right now.


CAPT. DAVIS:  Yes, go ahead, Richard.

 

Q:  Yeah, hi, Colonel.

 

You talked about the bridging operations, the engineers that were used to train the Iraqis to throw up the pontoon in Ramadi.  Are the engineers there again now?  Are you conducting training for in preparation for Mosul?  General MacFarland's been talking about you'll need bridging operations there.

 

Is that going on now as well?

 

COL. GARVER:  There has been engineer training going on.  And there's engineer training going on currently, yes.

 

Q:  In Makhmour?

 

COL. GARVER:  I don't think they are, but really, I don't want to talk.  I think it's still down around the area where we were doing it before.  I think we were doing that in Taji.

 

Q:  Okay, but the engineers -- U.S. engineers are there and they're conducting training for the Iraqis in throwing up the pontoon bridges?

 

COL. GARVER:  Correct.  And it's more than -- the engineer training is more than just for the pontoon bridges.  I mean, we're also, as we saw in Ramadi, the use of armored bulldozers to clear obstacles belts was very important.  So we're doing that kind of training as well -- clearing lanes through land mines, through IEDs.  That engineer training is going on as well.

 

But -- but yes, I mean, certainly they have demonstrated a capability in Ramadi to use the bridges for river crossings.  Certainly, as they look at their plans for how they get to Mosul and how they conduct their assault into the city, that's a capability that they have.

 

CAPT. DAVIS:  Brian?

 

COL. GARVER:  I don't know that they've finalized the plans for how they intend to utilize all the capabilities that they have, but it is a tool available to them.

 

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next to Brian Everstine.

 

Q:  Thank you.

 

I wanted to go back to star number three.  You were talking about Baiji.  And the operations on Tuesday and Wednesday, you talk about the Iraqi army special operations and the Iraqi air force.  I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about what role they are playing.  Are these their new F-16s?  Are they attack helicopters?  What kind of strike pace are they flying, if they are -- (inaudible)?

 

COL. GARVER:  Yes, it's both.  It's both their F-16s and their attack helicopters.  What we have seen in the fight around Baiji before when it was the -- the Shia militias, the PMF, tied in with the Iraqi army.  It's hard for us because we don't have advisers with those militias.  It's hard to make sure, you know, that we don't know where the front line of troops is.

 

So that's actually of great use for the Iraqi air force and for the Iraqi attack helicopters.  They can speak Arabic.  They can talk to the troops on the ground, and they make sure that they're putting the bombs in the right place where they need to go, which is a little more difficult for us when we're flying.

 

So we'll fly in support of those forces that we have advisers with.  And we do that right now with the Italians are with the police.  We have special operations forces that are with the Iraqi special operations forces.  And then there are some Iraqi army units in there as well on that attack.

 

But it's a lot of terrain.  There's a lot of forces in there.  And so they're aircraft, both rotary wing and fixed wing airplanes and helicopters, are firing in support of their operations.

 

CAPT. DAVIS:  Anybody else?

 

Going once, going twice.

 

Thank you very much, Chris.  We appreciate your time.  And we look forward to talking to you again soon.

 

COL. GARVER:  Okay.  Thanks a lot.  Thanks, everybody.



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