CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS:
Video will be up here momentarily. There we go.
Steve, good afternoon. But the down button is not working --
there we go. Thank you.
Steve, it's a -- yeah, sorry, I had to push the Kirby button.
It is -- it's a pleasure to see you back on that end and thank
you for joining us today. We'll turn it over to you. Good morning.
COLONEL STEVE WARREN: Good morning Jeff, and good morning
Pentagon press corps.
So, I've got a brief opening statement and then we'll jump
On March 8, the 82nd Airborne Division relinquished command of
the Combined Joint Force Land Component Command to the 101st Airborne Division
Air Assault. And that happened during a ceremony here in Baghdad on -- like I
said, on 8, March.
The mighty all-Americans of the 82nd Division showed their
mettle here for nearly a year, and they've earned the trip home back to see
their families, all the way. It was a pleasure serving with the 82nd.
Together with the coalition, the Screaming Eagles of the
mighty 101st Division will continue to work by, with and through the Iraqi
Security Forces to make gains against ISIL.
With that, let's move on to the battle field. So, Tom or Jeff,
if you could pull the map up.
In Ramadi, which is star number one, the Iraqi 76th brigade
and the counter terror service continued near Abu Risha, which is just north of
Ramadi. They've cleared nearly 11 kilometers along two axes.
Jumping up a little bit further north in Mosul, which is, of
course, circle number one. Coalition aircraft helped the Iraqi army conduct a
leaflet drop yesterday, and I've got a copy of that leaflet here to show you.
I'm not sure how we're -- (inaudible), it's either hard copy
or they've got the digital version. I'll let them handle that on that end.
But while that is happening, I think it's interesting to note
on this leaflet drop that we -- we've seen some reporting indicating that the
leaflet drop may have struck a little bit of a chord, struck a nerve with ISIL.
According to some reports, we've seen ISIL actually lock down
the population in the neighborhood where the leaflets fell and they went over there
-- ISIL went there and picked up all the leaflets.
So -- and when you see the leaflet, you'll see it's -- you
know, it's kind of a leaflet intended to let the population in Mosul that they
haven't been forgotten and that the Iraqi security forces are going to come --
are going to come liberate them.
Moving on to the rest of the battlefield, back down south,
star six, the Hid-Haditha corridor, the ISF have begun a new operation that's
called Desert Lynx. The purpose of Desert Lynx is to fight up the Euphrates
River Valley and to eventually clear Hid. Progress so far has been gone. As the
CTS moves north from Zangor, which is a suburb of Ramadi, and the Iraqi army
begins to push south of out of Haditha to eventually get to -- get to Hid.
Moving over to Syria, the Mara line, which is star number
seven. Opposition forces continue to engage ISIL along the forward line of
troops there. Earlier this week, opposition forces seized Dudien and Tugali.
Unfortunately, ISIL later counter attacked and forces the opposition to
withdrawal from Tugali, so while the opposition was not able to hold that town,
we're please that we've seen the willingness and ability of these forces to
plan and execute offensive operations. We look forward to seeing more of that.
In Shadadi, which is start number nine on the map, over the
last week, the Syrian Democratic Forces seized that town. In the process, they
closed off nearly 2,500 square kilometers of ISIL-controlled terrain and the
friendly forces are now working through the clearance of this pocket. In total,
during the operations to seize Shadadi, the SDF, the Syrian Democratic Forces,
gained 3,126 square kilometers.
They were supported by over 150 coalition airstrikes. The
strikes alone killed just short of 600 enemy fighters, destroyed 42 vehicles, a
dozen heavy weapons and 126 enemy fortifications.
Finally, I've got a new circle to add to our map today in
southern Syria, kind of in a lower third of the map, also the left third of the
map, is a town called Atompf. In that town, Syrian opposition forces seized an
ISIL-held garrison on March 4, and that's in the tri-border area. So we also
supported with that with -- with some strikes.
So that's it for my walk around the battlefield. I wanted to
keep it short so we could get to your questions. With that, I think I saw Lita
sitting there, so Lita, what's your question?
Q: Steve, just one quick question on your leaflet drop. It
sounds, then, as though the population probably didn't get to see a lot of
these leaflets if, as you're saying, it's correct the ISIL forces picked them
up. Is this something that the U.S. is going to keep doing over time? Or was
this viewed as sort of not a success because they didn't get to the people? And
then I have a -- and then I have a second question.
COL. WARREN: Right. So to be clear on the leaflet -- so this
was -- these leaflets were planned and designed and printed and everything by
the Iraqi army. They asked us for some help dropping the leaflets, and so we
provided that. So my guess is that yes, they will probably continue to conduct
these leaflet drops. Unlikely that the enemy is able to pick up ever single
leaflet, because they drop them in the thousands, tens of thousands of them.
So, some will get through. This is just another method, right.
One of the things that the Iraqi army is trying to do is to connect with that
population there in Mosul. It's to let them know, hey, we haven't forgotten
You can see in the leaflet, where they kind of list all of the
cities that they have already liberated so far, you know, Ramadi and Baiji, et
So, you know, I think the purpose of the -- the reason the
Iraqi army wanted to get that leaflet in there is just to kind of help bolster
morale, or give some hope to the citizens there in Mosul.
So, I expect you'll see more of that, and not everyone can be
successful, but it's no reason to stop trying.
Q: The second question is on airstrikes. There has been just a
little bit of confusion here, and I was just hoping you might be able to clear
The daily strike press releases that we get. Can you give us a
sense of whether or not all airstrikes are included in those press releases?
And can you say, if not, what are the types of things that aren't included?
And give us the sense of the breadth and depth of that?
COL. WARREN: Sure. And in fact, I took some calls yesterday
and since then, I went and did a little additional research -- so, I spent
today researching this for you guys.
And what I discovered was, I think, generally good news. So,
we do everything we can to report every single strike on those releases.
We've missed one or two for admin errors; you know, these
happen. But our standard is that, if a bomb falls in Iraq or in Syria, it makes
it to that press release.
Yesterday, I was under a different impression. I thought some
of our special ops strikes were excluded from those releases. I've since done
the research; turns out that no, even the special ops strikes are included on
those press releases.
We don't single them out as having been conducted by special
operations forces, but they are on those releases. So, to answer your question
more cleanly, every bomb that is dropped is reported out on those strike
releases, whether it's an High Value Individual, or a -- you know, a bunker, or
a tactical unit or a chemical weapons facility.
Now, that gets us to the next part of this, which is how
specific are we on, you know, the description of the targets.
So, for example, on a high value individual, often what you'll
see -- so, for example, this -- Omar the Chechen, who we killed earlier, or we
struck earlier. That strike was in -- was folded into one of the strike
It read -- a small tactical unit is what it said, you know, in
the vicinity of Deir ez-Zor, or maybe it said in the vicinity of Shaddadi. It
said a small tactical unit in the vicinity of Shaddadi. Because that's what it
was -- it was Omar the Chechen, along with about a dozen other fighters who
were in one spot, is the definition of a small tactical unit, and we struck it.
And so, that is how we read it out.
On the chemical weapons facility that we struck earlier in the
week, as result of intelligence that we gained from capturing the chem weapons
-- (inaudible), that got listed out simply as weapons facility.
And then -- so then the question is, well, why not list it as
a chemical weapons facility. That is a fair question. Frankly, we probably
could have listed it as a chem weapons facility. It was really just kind of
admin process on that one.
Now, it's important to note, in some of these, you know, we do
very consciously vague it up a little, right? We're consciously vague because
we don't want the enemy to know what we know.
So -- and we learned that lesson the hard way, frankly. You
know, when we did the cash -- the Daesh -- the first set of Daesh cash strikes,
we got a little ahead of ourselves and we announced, "Hey, we hit all this
cash," and sure enough, all the cash moved. So that -- you know, we didn't
like that. We could have just kind of said, you know, we struck a building and
left it at that, and our -- the enemy might not have realized that we were
specifically targeting their cash. They may well have thought, "Lucky
shot, they got our cash."
So anyway, hopefully that explains it.
Q: Sorry. Did you say that Omar the Chechen is dead?
COL. WARREN: Lita, you broke up. Can you ask that again?
Q: Did you say that the Chechen is dead?
COL. WARREN: No. I said he was struck. So we initially thought
we had killed him, so here's what happened on that one, right? There was --
there was 13 total personnel when the bomb hit. We know that 12 of them are
dead and one of them managed to limp away. So we figure the odds are in our
favor on that. We have seen some reporting out of some of the Syrian observers
outside of the country indicating that he -- he may, in fact, have lived. We're
looking into it.
So the bottom line is we're not sure. We know we bombed him,
we just don't know if we killed him.
CAPT. DAVIS: Missy Ryan?
Q: Hi, Steve. Missy Ryan. There was a report today from a
group of aid organizations and non-profits that have been involved in
humanitarian assistance in Syria, and they blamed, among others, the United
States and its European allies for what they said was stoking the conflict in
Syria, making it worse rather than making it better because of our main groups
there, and then sort of just being part of this bigger proxy conflict. What's
your -- what's you reaction to that?
COL. WARREN: I haven't seen the report, but based on your
description, we disagree. We believe that there is a legitimate international
terror threat living inside of Syria. That -- that international terrorist
group is named ISIL and we believe that they have to be defeated. You know,
this is a struggle of savagery against humanity, civilization against evil.
This is not a struggle that we can simply turn our backs on, in our views, and
so we believe that ISIL must be defeated. And so that's what we're endeavoring
CAPT. DAVIS: Barbara?
Q: Colonel Warren, while you point out that you report every
bomb that drops in Syria and Iraq, what can you tell us about, in recent days,
and artillery -- land-based artillery rocket HIMARS type strike the U.S.
conducted out of Jordan into southern Syria and how that would not be an
expansion of the land combat role that you have? What can you tell us about
this Jordanian based strike you conducted?
COL. WARREN: Yeah. So, that was a HIMARS strike out of -- I
guess Northern Jordan in support of the -- (inaudible) -- operation. So, that
-- the brand new circle that I showed on the map earlier? It was in support of
that operation, to seize that garrison there.
And we've reported out the use of HIMARS. You know, we've been
firing HIMARS out of Taqaddum and Al Asad since last summer. It's a very
versatile and flexible weapons system. We're able to use it as a nice
all-weather system, with pin-point accuracy, so it's every bit as accurate as
the air-based strikes that we use.
But that's all it is. It's another platform to conduct strikes.
And you know, there weren't that many -- I think it was three. We just fired
three shots in support of this -- (inaudible) -- operation. But it's a good
indicator that we can integrate with these southern-based opposition forces.
And we fully intend to continue leveraging that. You know, I
think two things, right? Well, number one -- well, two things that we've heard
from the secretary many times is that we are going to find methods and
techniques that work, and we're going to do more of those methods and
This is an example of that. Additionally, if you recall, six
or so months ago, during testimony, the secretary talked about how our overall
strategy includes strengthening the defense of Jordan, right? And this is
something that we're very -- keenly aware of, right? The Jordanians have been
very close partners to us in the fighter against terror writ large, and
certainly, they've borne a heavy burden of displaced persons and migrants, et
cetera, out of Syria.
And so, we are absolutely happy to help them.
Q: Well, in this case, what made it a -- why couldn't you, for
the place you were trying to support where the fighting was going on, a couple
Why couldn't you just use air? Why this very neutral step of
going the way you did? Were you concerned about either regime or Russian air
defenses in that location for your aircraft, since it is a relatively new area
for you to be involved in combat?
Secondly, is this the first land-based combat mission --
land-based, out of Jordan? And third, most important, will you go back to
including in these press releases your artillery, land-based artillery rocket
strikes, which we have been told you are not including in the releases
In other words, can you make these releases have more than
just airstrikes on them so we have a full understanding of what is happening?
COL. WARREN: Okay, and I wasn't taking notes, Barb, so we'll
have to go back and forth a little bit here.
I guess I'll start with the last one. So, that strike was listed
on there; I got a few calls about it -- even though I was on leave. It was just
-- we call it rocket artillery, so you can -- if you go back to the releases,
you'll see it listed on there. And it was the first one in -- (inaudible).
Now, we don't list every platform that fired, so in other
words, if we drop a bomb in Mosul, we don't say a bomb dropped in Mosul by this
type of aircraft. Similarly, we're not going to do it -- you know, we're not
going to say bomb drops in Atompf fire by a HIMARS system. We're -- we're just
not going to do that. So -- but I -- I think, you know -- well, I know that we
mentioned the HIMARS, the fact that we used rockets in that day's press
release. Certainly, we're going to probably just keep doing it that way.
So this is the -- this is the second operation in that town.
The opposition forces conducted a mortar raid in Atompf probably three months
ago, which I briefed out from this podium. That one, we didn't -- we did not --
we might have to go back and look. We might have done some early strikes, like
hours before as sort of preparation. Those were aircraft at the time. And then
the opposition forces infiltrated, you know, across the border, they conducted
a mortar raid and exfiltrated out.
So it's the second -- second shot at Atompf. Now, they've
actually taken enough that they actually are holding a piece of terrain there
in Atompf, so that's -- that's good news.
I can't remember if you had any other questions.
Q: Why -- why this time land-based -- land combat-based strike
by the United States? Why not air? And by the way, did U.S. troops accompany
them on that ground raid across the border several months ago?
COL. WARREN: Okay. So no, they did not. U.S. troops did not
accompany on that, nor did -- did they accompany on -- on this -- this one. Why
-- why did we select HIMARS? I don't know, frankly, that's what the weaponeers
decide. There wasn't a big strategic reason or anything, it was just the system
available. You know, that weapon system worked for that target set.
I mean, that's how we do it, right? The weaponeers decide. Had
nothing to do with air defenses, nothing to do with any opposition situation.
It was simply hey, we got this system, it's right here. We can use our aircraft
somewhere else where the HIMARS can't reach. So it was simply a practical
CAPT. DAVIS: And next to Tara.
Q: Hi, Colonel Warren.
On the chemical facilities, could you give us a sense of how
pervasive these chemical facilities are? Are there just a couple in the
country? Are they all over the place? And then for the strikes that we've seen
reported in the chemical weapons -- I forget the group. They've noted a couple
of strikes by Sinjar, which is not too far away from Baiji, where U.S. forces
are training Iraqi forces.
Have the U.S. forces taken any additional, I guess force
posture changes? Are they wearing chemical suits? Anything you can give us a
little bit more visibility on that?
COL. WARREN: Well, there's no U.S. troops near Baiji and
Sinjar is actually pretty far away from Baiji, so there's that. We are, of
course, prepared to operate in a chemical environment. We always have been.
We've been -- we've been -- being prepared to operate in a chemical environment
in the nation of Iraq since 1991, so this is nothing new to us. We're very
familiar with -- with this threat, so we're ready.
What was the rest of your question?
Q: I thought they were in Baiji, but maybe I'm mixing it up
with Taji. Basically, what -- can you give us some sense of how pervasive the
-- these chemical facilities are throughout the country -- (inaudible)?
COL. WARREN: All right. Well, you know, this enemy -- this
enemy's been very clear that they would like to employ chemical weapons as one
of their tactics. And, you know, they've done so, you know, several times now
that we know of, and several other times that we suspect. And we're working
through the process now of trying to determine it.
So, I mean, this is -- it's a legitimate threat. It's not a
high threat. We're not, frankly, losing too much sleep over it. They used two
chemicals primarily. One is chlorine, the other one is sulfur mustard, which is
a blister agent. Chlorine is a common chemical; you can find it anywhere. It's
the same chemical that people use to purify water and to put in their swimming
pools and other things. It's a -- it's a readily available industrial chemical.
It's a fairly relatively ineffective as a weapon, though,
because it's very non-persistent, so you drop it, it goes up, disappears.
Unless it lands on you, you're probably going to be okay, and it dissipates
very rapidly. The mustard, obviously, is more threatening, but the mustard that
they're using is really more kind of -- it's like a home brew, it's not very
potent. And so, frankly, I'm not aware of anyone having actually being killed
from either of these chemical weapons used on the battlefield, so there's that.
How much do they have? Unknown. You know, when we find it, we
-- we'll strike it. You know, this is something that we're working on to -- you
know, to determine how much, you know, we don't -- I don't think it's probably
one of their number one priorities. They've got other priorities, but it's
something that they're working on, and it's going to be harder for them now
because they've lost their amir, they lost their leader. He's sitting right now
in an Iraqi holding cell. And they've lost one of their principal chemical
weapon production facilities, which we struck the other day.
So they've got less of it now than they did last week, I can
tell you that. How much total they have, that's to be determined.
Q: When the amir was captured, a lot was said yesterday about
how -- you couldn't be more transparent about this information because of the
need for ongoing attacks, but I'm also getting -- and maybe I'm getting it
incorrectly from you -- the sense that maybe the mustard and the chlorine
aren't as big of a threat as maybe they were advertised earlier this week.
Just give us a sense of how dangerous is this. Is it really --
is there a need to not -- is there a need to keep where these chemical
facilities are a secret if the threat isn't as big as, I guess, maybe we
thought it was?
COL. WARREN: Well, sure. I mean, we don't -- what we don't
want is for the enemy to know what we know, right? I mean, that's what we try
to protect. We try to protect the -- we try to prevent the enemy from knowing
what we know. Why? Because that makes his life easier, and that's not the
business we're in. We're in the business of making their life harder.
So, I mean, that's our fundamental, underlying, operational
security philosophy. If the enemy knows -- the more the enemy knows about our
knowledge, the better it is for him. We want to know what the enemy knows about
us because it's better for us. So that -- I mean, that's the back-and-forth.
We have to balance that, obviously, with our duty to be
transparent and to inform people of what's going on, how -- you know, how we're
operating here. So it's a difficult balance, and we don't always get it right.
We try our best, I think. Nobody wakes up in the morning trying to think about
ways to withhold information from America, right? We do the opposite of that.
That said, we do have to be careful. You know, we don't want
out enemy to have any more information that will help them. And so, we
understand that this discussion that we're having right is probably giving the
enemy a little bit of help. But it's a risk-analysis right?
We say, well, it won't help them that much, and it's very
important that America knows what we're doing. So, I mean, this is a daily
thing that we wrestle with.
CAPT. DAVIS: Yes, sir?
Q: Yes, one question for French TV. My name is -- (inaudible).
Just for talking about some -- Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is backing some
groups called Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam.
Do you have some confidence in those various role players on
COL. WARREN: I'm sorry, you're going to have to repeat that
one a little bit slower.
Q: I want to talk with you about Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish
al-Islam, which are two groups supported and backed by the Saudi in Syria.
They are a strong player on the ground. Can you tell me about
-- what about your confidence in those groups on the ground?
COL. WARREN: All right, yeah. We are gaining confidence in each
one of the opposition groups that we identify and work with.
So, I'm familiar with both of these groups. They are
continuing to gain successes; they are continuing to, you know, learn how to
fight this enemy. They -- I think they fight a little bit against ISIL and they
fight a little bit against the regime.
So, they're kind of in multiple places at once. But yeah,
we're familiar with these organizations and we're continuing to watch how they
Q: So, actually, you say that you have confidence with those
According to some -- for -- with some reports with Human
Rights Watch, Ahrar al-Sham, for example, committed some atrocities against
Syrian minorities. What -- what is you view about that? Do you maintain that
you have some confidence with Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam?
And just for -- maybe you know about that, that Ahrar al-Sham
has been funded by a former Al Qaida representative in Iraq. So, could you be
more specific in the confidence you have with those groups?
COL. WARREN: Yeah. I can't be more specific. You know, there
are almost uncountable number of small groups running around in Syria.
And this is a tough, brutal, awful civil war. We want to
partner with groups who are vetted and who are aligned with our objectives,
which is to fight ISIL.
So, i would have to go back and check and see if we have
vetted these groups; I do not believe we have. So, I do not believe that we are
providing direct support to them. But certainly, we are aware of their presence
on the battle field.
Q: A question about. Don't you think there is any kind of
problem that some group funded by a former Al Qaida representative received
some support, money and weapons from the Saudis, which is a coalition member
and a strong player inside the coalition member.
What is -- could you be more specific and give me, if you can,
your view about that? If there is any problem for the U.S. authorities to be --
to get some ally like that?
COL. WARREN: Well, we're not aligned with those two groups.
We're aware of their presence on the battlefield. What Saudi Arabia does with
them is, you know, really I think a matter best addressed by the State
Department. You know, our -- our goal here, what we're doing is killing ISIL,
right? That's what we do here. We're in the business of fighting ISIL, so
that's what we're going to continue to do.
And as we find groups who are aligned with our view that ISIL
needs to be attacked and fought, then we will vet those groups. If -- and if
they pass that vetting, then we will continue to work with those groups in the
pursuit of our ultimate goal, which is -- which is to defeat ISIL.
Q: Hi, Colonel Warren. I want to go back to the chemical
weapon issue. Can you please clarify how often ISIL is using chemical weapons
on a daily basis in the -- in the conflict in the battleground? Do you confirm
any major incidents where they used chemical weapons?
There are two major incidents which occurred both in August
2015, one in Mara, Syria, the other one in Erbil, Iraq. And in the incident in
Mara – one five day-old baby was killed and the other incident affected 35 --
(inaudible), according to the press reports. Can you confirm that these two
attacks were conducted by ISIL? And how Mosul -- (inaudible) -- facilities are
playing in the production process?
COL. WARREN: So you know, there -- there's been a number of --
of suspected chem weapons -- strikes in the last year, some of those we've
confirmed through lab testing, others we have not. I don't know which two
you're referring to. I don't have a list in front of me, but there -- you know,
there's been a handful of them and, you know, we continue to be concerned by
You know, the -- this is kind of back to my discussion with
Tara earlier. The -- the -- the key thing about these chemical weapons, of
course, is that they make everyone very nervous, right? They have a strong
psychological impact, which is one of the reasons that, you know, we want to
eliminate them. The other reason being that, you know, they're a -- they're a
weapon and the fewer weapons ISIL has, the better.
So I -- I don't know which exact two you're -- strikes you're
talking about, but I can confirm that there -- there has been a handful of
confirmed chem weapon strikes over the last year and an additional handful of
suspected that we're trying to work through and -- to determine whether or not
they actually were chem strikes or not. That's all I can remember from your
Q: Mosul University and the mustard gas production, are they
using the facilities there?
COL. WARREN: Mosul University. So I don't know. I'll have to
check. We know that they have a presence in Mosul University. We know that
there are some -- have a series of chemical departments over there previously,
so presumably, there's equipment there that's useful. Whether or not they're
assembling chemical weapons there in the university, I -- I don't know.
Q: And just one follow up on the situation in -- (inaudible),
last month, you said that you were considering to support the Afrin Kurds in
terms of their fight against ISIL. Have you made a decision on this? Where are
you? Do you have an update about the -- the situation in -- (inaudible) -- and
advancement of the Kurds there?
COL. WARREN: No update on the -- on the -- on the situation
with the Afrin Kurds.
CAPT. DAVIS: Andrew?
Q: Colonel, could -- back to the -- the HIMARS in Jordan,
could you just give us a brief reminder or update as to how many troops we have
in Jordan and what -- what their mission is?
COL. WARREN: I'd have to get that for -- I'll have to take
that one. I don't have it at my fingertips. You know, there's several different
types of missions going on in Jordan right now. There's the defense of Jordan.
We could have training operations. We have an enduring presence at Kusadak, the
training center, and now, we've -- we've also got some CJTF-specific operations
that are going on.
So I really think you're going to have to go high. You'll
probably have to go to CENTCOM to get the big picture for -- for CJTF. For us,
it's only just a small -- just that small HIMARS detachment. I don't have a
number. It's small, though, double digits.
CAPT. DAVIS: David Martin?
Q: Steve, you've been talking about the -- the strikes that
were in response to the interrogation of that chemical weapons engineer. You've
been talking about it in terms of one strike against a production facility in
Mosul. Is that it, one strike? Or were there -- were there multiple strikes
against -- and if so, what were the other targets?
COL. WARREN: There -- there was two. So far, there's been two.
One of them -- so -- and it's just how I'm -- I'm doing it. One of them we'd
been looking at anyways and confirmed it through him, and -- and so got it. The
other one, we got from him completely. So one was already about to get hit. Both
in Mosul. I don't have the exact location in Mosul, but in the Mosul vicinity,
Mosul and Tal Afar, that whole area is really the thickest kind of ISIL area in
Q: Was the second one also described as a weapons production
COL. WARREN: It was. One was on Sunday, the other one was on
CAPT. DAVIS: Next, to Phil.
Q: Hey, Colonel. Quick question, General Austin told the --
the Senate that he had recommended restarting the Syria train and equip
program. Could you tell us anything about that? And I'm assuming this was based
on recommendations from General MacFarland.
COL. WARREN: Phil, unfortunately, I'm going to have to take a
pass on that one today. I hope that I'll be able to talk to you about it a
little bit next week -- next Wednesday. But I have to -- unfortunately, I just
have to take a pass on that one today. I'm sorry.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next, Lucas.
Q: Colonel Warren, what is the U.S. military's policy on
detaining ISIS operatives?
COL. WARREN: Our -- our policy can -- I guess would best be
summed up as short-term and case-by-case. So there's -- there hasn't -- there's
only been two so far, and neither one has -- has been -- neither of those two
have been the same. In the case of the first one, Umm Sayyaf, we held onto her
for some time, and then eventually moved her over to the custody of the Iraqi
government. In the second case, this -- the chemical guy, we only held onto him
for a very short time, about two weeks, and then we moved him over.
So we're not equipped for long-term detention, we're not set
up here for that, and so we're not in that business. But there's no real
one-size-fits-all answer. As we take people off the battlefield, we're just
going to have make, you know, the decisions as we go.
Q: And what is the definition of short-term detention, and is
case-by-case, is that a -- the de facto policy?
COL. WARREN: Yeah. That is the policy, I think. That's -- at
least that's how we're approaching it here at the CJTF. There isn't even a hard
definition of short-term, 14 to 30 days is a ballpark figure. But even that is
not really completely nailed down.
Q: How do I explain to my mother-in-law, Betty Harper, from
Laurel, Mississippi and other Americans out there who are a little confused that
if this war against ISIS is this comprehensive war, it's by all accounts going
to take years to fight ISIS, how do you swear that with only holding a detainee
for 14 to 30 days when there, I'm sure, a lot of information to glean from this
person months down the road?
COL. WARREN: Well, I mean, this is not a catch-and-release
program, Lucas. I mean, we've already captured them, and then we don't have the
means to hold them. We just give them to the Iraqis to hold. You know, if we've
got to go back and talk to them, we'll go back and talk to them. You know, if
there's more information that comes, you know, if we have to confirm a piece of
info or whatever the case, I mean, they're right -- they're still here in Iraq.
We'll go get them and, you know, we'll interrogate them some more.
CAPT. DAVIS: (inaudible).
Q: Hey, Colonel, are you considering building other facilities
to hold these guys a little bit longer, if necessary?
COL. WARREN: No.
CAPT. DAVIS: Tara.
Q: Just one more, Colonel Warren. There have been -- over the
years, there've been numerous prison breaks in Iraq from insurgents being
freed. How confident are you that Iraq can hold the ISIS members that you all
helped capture and interrogate?
COL. WARREN: We're confident they can hold them. And if some
escape, you know, we'll just go catch them again or kill them.
CAPT. DAVIS: Andrew?
Q: Colonel Warren, again, back on the HIMARS in Jordan just
quickly. This is the first time that detachment has conducted a strike, is that
correct? And also is -- has that detachment been there for a while or is it a
relatively new presence, a new option, for you all?
COL. WARREN: First time they've done anything, and I'll have
to check. I mean, they've been -- it seems to me like it's been a couple of
months, but honestly, I can't exactly remember. So I'll have to take that one
for you. I'll get you the answer through Roger or J.B. Brindle.
CAPT. DAVIS: Anybody else? Yes ma'am.
Q: Jennifer Ladd. I was just wondering if you can repeat what
you said at the very beginning, maybe the first minute and what you said. We
couldn't hear you up to Screaming Eagle.
CAPT. DAVIS: Yes. We -- I apologize. You -- your -- you --
about the first minute of your topper was cut. And that I need to do this to
you, but as a -- as a closer, could you give us the first minute of your
COL. WARREN: Absolutely. My -- I think my topper was only two
minutes long, so I'll just give you the whole thing.
Here we go. On March 8th, the 82nd Airborne Division
relinquished command of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component to 101st
Airborne Division Air Assault during a ceremony here in Baghdad.
The mighty all-Americans of the 82nd Division showed their
mettle here for nearly a year, and they've earned the trip back home to their
families, all the way.
Together with the coalition, the Screaming Eagles of the
mighty 101st Division will continue to work by, with and through the Iraqi
Security Forces to make gains against ISIL.
On to the battlefield -- do I need to read the battle field too,
Q: No, we got it.
CAPT. DAVIS: All right, we got it.
CAPT. DAVIS: You know, we're up to -- we're up to where we
picked you -- of your audio, Steve. Thank you very much.
Thank you for your time and look forward to seeing you next week.
Thanks to Ms. Harper back in Mississippi, and thank you everybody.
Have a great weekend. All right.
COL. WARREN: Okay. Thanks, guys. We'll see you on Wednesday.