CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS:
Okay. Good afternoon.
Chris, I want to
make sure you can hear us and we can hear you.
CHRISTOPHER GARVER: Jeff, I can hear you
DAVIS: Okay. Great.
You look great and we're -- you have an eager crowd here that's anxious
to -- to hear your first brief. Welcome
to the -- to the job and we look forward to -- to you keeping us informed.
GARVER: Well, thank you, Jeff. And greetings from Baghdad, Pentagon Press
Corps. Glad to see everyone today.
Chris Garver for those of you who don't know me. I am the Combined Joint Task Force Operation
Inherent Resolve public affairs officer and now spokesperson as well.
For those of you
I've worked with before, it's good to see you again and I'm glad to be able to
work with you again. For those of you I
haven't worked with yet, I know we'll be able to do that over the coming
My battle buddy
Steve Warren is safely home back in the U.S. and I would like to publicly thank
him for his service while here with the Combined Joint Task Force. During that time, the last nine months when
Steve was here, we tried to be as informative and transparent for you as we
could be and tried to provide you as much context and understanding as we can
about the most complex operation of which I've been a participant in the last
I want to assure
you that we will continue to do that.
As -- so as
always, I've got an opening statement regarding the major ongoing operations
and then I'll be glad to take your questions.
Now to show
where we continue to pressure Daesh across the breadth and depth of the
combined area of operations in both Iraq and Syria, I'll focus first in Iraq on
Fallujah then near Manbij in Syria. I'll
come back to Iraq and talk about shaping operations around Mosul.
And if we could
bring up the map, it's the standard map that we use. I'll reference that throughout.
So in Fallujah,
star one, operations continue to clear the town on multiple axes entering the
city. Brigades from three Iraqi Army
divisions, the counterterrorism service units, federal police and tribal
fighters from the Anbar province are pushing in towards the center of Fallujah
northwest of Fallujah City, brigades from the 14th Iraqi division have been
clearing the Saqlawiyah district. For
the southeast of the city, brigades from the 1st Iraqi Army Division have been
clearing towards the city near the Euphrates River.
Farther to the
south along the Euphrates, elements of the 17th and 8 Iraqi Army divisions and
Anbar tribal fighters have been back-clearing bypassed areas to clear out
pockets of Daesh.
The 8th Iraqi
Army division also has been clearing to the west of the city in the vicinity of
the Fallahat district.
counterterrorism service is on the southern edge of the city proper and has
been clearing before entering into the city itself. The federal police and popular mobilization
forces are continuing the isolation of the Fallujah area and have cleared some
suburban neighborhoods around the city.
The fighting and
the approaches to the city has been significant, especially in the south. As a city that first fell to Daesh, they have
had two years to prepare defenses and the ISF have run into Daesh fighters in
complex defensive positions with extensive tunnels, berms, obstacles and IEDs
used as mine fields as we have seen before.
Daesh has been offering stiff resistance, fighting with heavy machine guns and
indirect fire from mortars and artillery.
We are still
trying to asses the overall intent of Daesh in the city, whether they intend to
try to hold to the last man or if they will abandon their defenses as the ISF
fighters -- as the ISF fights deeper into the city. As you know, we've seen both of these in the
conducted airstrikes in the last three weeks in Fallujah in support of the
operation, including 31 in the last week and seven in the last 48 hours. We continue to also support the operation
through the sharing of intelligence and providing intelligence, surveillance
and reconnaissance support for ISR through the Iraqi security forces.
conducted hundreds of hours of surveillance over Fallujah and continue to help
the Iraqis develop the intelligence picture inside the city.
Now there is
great concern about the state of the civilians inside Fallujah. The Iraqi government has the lead for its
citizens as they flee from the fighting throughout the area and they are being
supported by international humanitarian organizations of which the U.S. is a
of Iraq is working to increase the amount of shelters available for civilians
as they anticipate their escape from the city as the ISF clears farther in.
This is still going
to be a tough problem and people here are watching it carefully. But the CGTF position remains the best way to
help the people of Fallujah is to quickly and decisively defeat Daesh and
remove its influence from the city.
Moving over to
Syria, operations continue against Daesh near the town of Manbij in northern
Syria, which is star two on the map.
Over the past
several days, the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the Syrian-Arab Coalition
and comprised of approximately 85 percent local Arabs fighting to liberate
their homeland, has continued to make significant progress in seizing territory
from and further isolating Daesh around Manbij.
strategically important to Daesh because they rely on its proximity to a border
to smuggle in foreign fighters, supplies and export terrorism to the West. It is an important line of communication
between Raqqah, the capital of their so-called caliphate, and outside Syria.
The SDF launched
the attack a week ago, attacking from multiple points to the east of Manbij,
the southern-most position being near the Tishreen Dam. The force of more than 3,000 troops advanced
along multiple axes from east to west towards Manbij. The SDF has made significant progress so far,
including successfully executing a river crossing operation across the
Euphrates River north of Tishreen.
performed an improved bridge river crossing, a significant military operation
in its own right, and then they secured, repaired and reopened the Qarah Quzah
Bridge known as Q2, across the Euphrates.
The control and restoration of this bridge has enabled the SAC-led
forces to deliver much-needed humanitarian supplies to their neighbors, as well
as push the attack.
The SDF has met
heavy resistance from Daesh at the onset of the operation and at points along
the way. We assess that Daesh will fight
hard to retain Manbij as it is the key terrain on the line of communication out
of Raqqah. Daesh has employed the
tactics we have seen before as they defend and then cede territory, including
the extensive use of IEDs to slow advancing forces and significantly damage the
infrastructure they have lost.
continues to press the attack toward Manbij, though the cost has been
high. They have suffered approximately a
dozen killed and more than 100 wounded during the fighting. Their losses include the death of Abu Layla,
the leader of a Shams Al-Shamal, a multi-ethnic unified local liberation force
and sub-organization of the Syrian-Arab Coalition.
wounded on the front lines with his troops and succumbed to his injuries two
days later. Our condolences go out to
his family and the forces under his command.
continue to provide advisory assistance and supporting airstrikes. Since the start of the operation, we have
conducted 102 airstrikes in Manbij; 84 of those strikes occurred since the
start of the ground operation last week.
We are also continuing to provide intelligence and ISR support.
Back in Iraq
near Mosul, two significant operations have taken place as the coalition
continues shaping operations for the eventual liberation of Mosul. On May 29, Peshmerga forces conducted a swift
attack to the east of Mosul to extend their forward line of troops, or FLOT,
and to control the Khazir River, a north-south running river approximately 12
kilometers to the east of Qaraqosh, which is approximately 40 kilometers to the
east and south of Mosul in Nineveh province and is located at star three on the
attacked from north to south, cleared eight villages, moved the FLOT from the
east side of the Khazir River to the west side, and extended it approximately
15 kilometers. The Peshmerga units
encountered moderate resistance from Daesh fighters in the area, but by the end
of the day secured their tactical objectives and consolidated their new FLOT.
supported the attack with advisers and by conducting 22 engagements with
multiple aircraft, which destroyed fighting positions, tunnels, machine guns,
mortars, rocket rails, and a vehicle-borne improved explosive device, or
VBIED. This attack denied Daesh the use
of the river as a line of communication and pushed their area of influence back
to Mosul. But most importantly, it
liberated eight villages of Iraqis no longer under Daesh control.
Also near Mosul,
on star four, two nights ago, the coalition struck another Operation Tidal Wave
II target to degrade Daesh's revenue from elicit oil and natural gas
activities. This Tidal Wave II target
was an area known as the Abaatim oil black market, located approximately nine
kilometers to the west of Mosul.
As we have seen
in the past, Daesh will bring together a large number of trucks to transfer
stolen oil for distribution on the black market. The coalition struck the group of more than
100 trucks using the same techniques that we have used before to mitigate
civilian casualties; a show of force with aircraft and warning leaflets dropped
before the attack.
destroyed the bulk of the tanker trucks and we had no reported civilian
casualties in the strike. We continue to
keep the pressure on Daesh on all fronts while we continue to support the
combat operations ongoing throughout Iraq and Syria.
In regards to
this pressure against the breadth and depth of it's so-called caliphate, one
last word about Daesh. We see that Daesh
continues to not be able to mount large-scale attacks and only able to mount
small-scale localized attacks designed to terrorize and disrupt as opposed to
retaking territory that they have lost, and they are shifting tactics to
conduct more suicide attacks than military attacks.
But this does
not mean the enemy is defeated yet.
Daesh still remains dangerous and still retains the ability to attack
both military forces and civilian targets, as we have seen in northern Baghdad
As Iraq enters
the holy month of Ramadan, we expect Daesh to attempt more high-profile,
headline-grabbing attacks to sow terror and to distract from the fact that they
keep losing militarily on the battlefield.
So with that,
I'll be glad to take your questions. And
I saw Bob was in the audience, so --
DAVIS: Go ahead, Bob.
Q: Colonel Garver, a couple of questions for you
on Fallujah. Could you elaborate on your
description of the civilian situation there, the humanitarian problems
there? And how many civilians do you
estimate are in the city? And also, do
you have an estimate of the number of Islamic State fighters in the city?
GARVER: So as I mentioned in the opening
statement, we're watching carefully the humanitarian situation inside
Fallujah. We've seen estimates from
20,000, 30,000, upwards of 90,000, 100,000 civilians inside the city. And the answer is we don't rightly know yet,
and that's part of what we try to build in the intelligence picture as we go
But the fight
around the civilians is being conducted very carefully. Our strikes, as you know, go through a
complex process to clear those strikes and make sure that what we shoot at is
what we want to hit and what the Iraqis want us to hit and what they approve us
to hit. The prime minister has also
issued a directive to the Iraqi forces involved in the fight, saying be
cautious around the civilians, be careful about fighting around them.
We've had a
couple thousands civilians come out of Fallujah so far -- I don't have the
exact numbers as to how many have come out -- and have been moved into
displaced persons camps being run by the Iraqis and supported by the
international coalition. The
international organizations that are working on humanitarian aid.
As I said, the
United States supports that, but the CJTF is not directly supporting that,
other than through information-sharing with the -- those -- those humanitarian
question was -- I don't remember your second question. I'll go onto the -- the Daesh fighters inside
the city. Again, we've seen upwards of a
couple thousand down to maybe several hundred inside the city. As we are kind of on the edge of the actual
city itself and CTS and the other forces are getting in position to launch into
the city proper, we'll know more once those forces are inside the city.
And as you know,
it's very difficult to kind of figure out inside a city who is a fighter, who
is a civilian, especially when they're hiding inside buildings and operating
out of urban area -- especially one as old and dense as Fallujah.
So we've seen on
the low side several hundred, on the high side, a couple thousand and we're
trying to, of course, nail that down as the forces approach.
What was your
second question, Bob?
Q: I was asking you whether you could -- you know,
explain a little more completely what the nature of the crisis is for the human
-- is it starvation for the civilians?
Aside from, obviously, the possibility of, you know, getting caught up
in the fighting. But is there a food
problem and other issues?
GARVER: Well the Iraqis are working to
make sure that as the citizens come out, they've got food, they've got water,
they've got shelter.
The Iraqis are
increasing the number of -- shelters outside of the city. They're working to try to do that right now,
anticipating more civilians coming out of Fallujah as the fighting continues.
Our role, of
course, in all of that is providing advice and assistance and any coordination
we can do between the organizations, but that's really an issue between the
Iraqis and the humanitarian aid organizations providing them support.
DAVIS: Next to Courtney Kube.
Q: Hi, Chris.
One thing on -- following on Bob's question. What about the reports that some of the Iraqi
security force aligned PMF or other troops are actually the ones who are
engaging in some of these humanitarian issues.
Like there's been some reports of beatings and even executions of
civilians trying to flee Fallujah by some of these PMF.
GARVER: Hey, Courtney. And yes, we've seen those reports. We're very concerned about them. The Iraqis are very concerned about
them. From the CJTF perspective, we
expect our partners to operate within side the international norms, the laws of
training that the young soldiers get in the BPCs to what our senior leaders are
engaging with Iraqi senior leaders about and Syrian senior leaders about
behaving inside the LOAC, the Law of Armed Conflict, is a great concern to us.
We know that the
prime minister has ordered an investigation and we think that's the right
course inside the Iraqi chain of command to look into these incidents. But we're very concerned about those reports.
Q: And I just had two things -- two
clarifications from your opening statement.
When you said that the SDF is 85 percent local Arabs, are you referring
to specifically the SDF that are engaged in the operation in and around
Manbij? You're not talking about the
entire SDF, right?
GARVER: No, it's just the 3,000 fighters
that are involved in this operation.
Q: (inaudible) -- question. And then on the -- the Pesh you've extended
the forward line of troops closer to Mosul, are there any U.S. advisers with
those Pesh as they've been pushing forward towards Mosul?
GARVER: There are U.S. advisers. There are coalition advisers that are with
the Peshmerga units. There are -- and of
course, they're not out on the front lines, you know, but they're at the
headquarters. But they are coalition
advisers with those units, yes.
Q: So just to be clear, they're actually with
them as they're pushing the forward line -- they may not be at the,
quote/unquote "front lines," but they are actually with those units
as they're pushing towards Mosul?
GARVER: Yeah -- that is correct. When the -- when the -- the units are out in
the field, the advisers are at the headquarters, same as we've done in the
past, same as we've been doing.
Q: Thank you.
DAVIS: Next to Cami McCormick.
Q: Hi, Colonel Garver. It's Cami.
I wanted to
follow up on the civilians in Fallujah first.
You said that the best way to protect the civilians there was to quickly
take the city, but we've been hearing over the last few days from Iraqi
authorities over and over again that they've slowed operations for the same
reason, to protect civilians.
military -- you said in the past that it's been frustrated with the pace of
Iraqi operations in these various offensives.
Is that an issue here? Does the
U.S. feel like the Iraqis should be moving faster into Fallujah than they
are? And is there a difference of
opinion over how best to protect civilians?
And I have a follow-up.
GARVER: Okay. There's no difference of opinion about
protecting the civilians. We're trying
to protect civilians with every strike, and of course, we want the -- the Iraqi
government to protect civilians with its ground movements as well. So we are, you know, right aligned with that
For the pace of
the operations, you know, we've said before this is going to happen at the
Iraqi pace. We've had different
timelines that have been put out there as to how fast they want this operation
to go. The closer you get into Fallujah,
the tighter the city becomes, the harder the fighting becomes. It -- it's hot here in June, as you know, and
that all makes it harder to fight inside the city.
prepared to support them at the pace that they go and at the -- the -- the pace
that they conduct the operation.
Significantly different than what we saw last year with Ramadi is the
units keep moving forward. They keep
taking terrain. They keeping engaging
gash -- Daesh. They're -- they are
continuing to fight all throughout the area.
type of operation, different pace of operation, but we also see the Iraqi units
out, continuing to engage and continuing to fight the enemy.
Q: And a follow-up on the -- the various groups
that are in Fallujah, the federal police, the tribal fighters, the
counterterrorism, the Iraqi army. There
have been reports that there's a lack of coordination between these groups and
some are taking orders from -- from some and some are taking orders form
I know you say
that the Iraqi government is in the lead here, but how much of an issue are you
finding that that is?
GARVER: Well, the Baghdad operation
center is the overall command and control headquarters for the operations
inside Fallujah, and the Baghdad operation center commander is the commander of
the operations ongoing. And they -- all
forces involved in the operation are taking orders from the prime minister, as
they should be.
reports that we've seen of slowness based on discussions about the plan. That's certainly something that you're going
to have in any fight. The closer you get
to an objective, the more the commanders learn about what's going on. They are either confirming or denying their
enemy template so that they -- the enemy is or is not what we thought it was
when we came in, the ground is or is not what we thought it was when we came
And so you've
got to converse about that and commanders have to talk; that's what commanders
do. But we see them continuing to
operate together, continuing to move forward and we have not seen any instances
where units participating in the operation are not taking orders from the --
the Baghdad (inaudible) center and from the prime minister.
DAVIS: Next to Kasim Ileri.
Q: This is Kasim with Anadolu News Agency. My question will be related to Manbij. We have seen that some elements of YPG are
also with the Arab forces fighting in Manbij.
And also, we saw -- also, we have seen that Turkey has been putting --
expressing concerns about the YPG presence in that area.
Have you assured
Turkey that the -- there will not be YPG elements in Manbij after the city is
freed from Daesh?
GARVER: There are YPG elements
participating in the operation to secure Manbij and they are in more of a
support role in this operation. The plan
developed by the SDF is that the Syrian Arabs will seize the city and then will
control the area afterwards.
Turkey is aware
of that plan. I don't want to speak for
our NATO partners, but we know that they are aware of the plan, and we know that
the plan is that the Syrian Arabs will control that area after it is taken from
Q: So, to what extent do the U.S. and Turkey and
SDF coordinated this operation?
GARVER: Well, we have advisers with the
SDF on the ground. They are providing
advice and planning and assistance all along.
So we clearly as a coalition were involved in the development of the
plan. But this is an SDF plan and we are
supporting their plan with strikes, with planning support, certain elements
with logistical support.
We know that
we've shared information with Turkey, but it is the coalition and the SDF have
been intimately involved in the development of the plan.
Q: And just last question, colonel. How many Daesh fighters are in Manbij? Do you have any estimation?
GARVER: Again, we're trying to figure
that out as we get closer. We're looking
for potential reinforcements trying to come in the city. We think that there's anywhere upwards of a
couple thousand, but I don't have an exact figure to give you. I wish I had an exact figure. I might not give it to you, but at least I
wish I had an exact figure of how many fighters are inside the city right
now. But we're looking at that very
carefully, and that's what all the ISR that we have is trying to determine
exactly how many fighters are inside the city.
DAVIS: Next to Carlo, and then Carla.
Q: Hey, colonel.
It's Carlo Munoz with the Washington Times. Just a quick follow-up on your statement
about the possibility of high-profile attacks during Ramadan this year. I mean, we've heard this warning being said
year-in, year-out during this time, when -- during the beginning of Ramadan.
anything in particular that you're picking up in Baghdad that is going to
indicate that this will be a tougher Ramadan season for U.S. coalition forces
there? And I do have a follow-up.
GARVER: I don't think there's a specific
intel thread that we've pulled that would give us specific information. If we had actionable intelligence, we would
go out and action on it, or pass it to the Iraqis to action on. But we have -- we saw an attack in Baghdad
today, where they attacked a market. And
we've seen continued attacks inside the northern parts of Baghdad where they
can come in.
And again, we
feel they're trying to do this to detract from the overall reality, which is they're
losing on the battlefield and they are -- they're not making any gains in all
this year. It's been loss after loss
after loss. And now they're surrounded
in Fallujah and the fight in Fallujah is not going their way either.
So, I don't think
it's a specific intel thread that we've pulled that makes us think that, but it
is a general warning and understanding about the tactics they use. They've been attacking Baghdad repeatedly
over the last few weeks, and so we don't anticipate a let-up of that during the
Q: A quick follow-up, colonel. You mentioned the pressure that Iraqi forces
and U.S. advisers are putting on I.S. in Fallujah. Are you starting to see effects in terms of
improved security in Baghdad because of the increased pressure? Because Prime Minister Abadi announced the
offensive right as things were really getting bad in Baghdad, so there seems to
be a connection there.
GARVER: Well, I think some in the Iraqi
government, some inside Baghdad itself felt many of the attacks --
(inaudible). Sorry, I had a feedback
The -- some
inside of the Iraqi government, some inside of Baghdad itself felt the attacks
were coming out of Fallujah. The attack
on Fallujah has not, to this point, changed the rhythm of which they continue
to try to launch these terror attacks inside Baghdad, and attack police check
points, police -- and markets, the softer targets that they're trying to
operation is just getting really into the though fighting phase inside
Fallujah. We would expect that any real
result is going to come out of that in the coming weeks.
DAVIS: Okay. Next to Carla Babb.
Q: Hi, colonel.
Carla Babb, with Voice of America.
and then a -- just a couple of checks.
The first one, there has been a reporter for VOA that said that some of
the people coming out of Fallujah say that the men are checked on a list -- on
like a blacklist. And if they're on that
list, they get taken away.
Have you heard
anything about this list and how the Iraqis and making this list? Has the coalition been in touch with the
Iraqis about this?
GARVER: Well, Carla, I can tell you, I
don't know of a list.
What I do know
is, as the civilians have come out of Fallujah, they have been screened for
security purposes off of information that the Iraqi government keeps --
intelligence that the Iraqi government keeps.
And you would
completely expect any military-aged male, who may be a Daesh fighter trying to
exfiltrate with the civilians and end up inside a displaced civilians camp, you
would expect the Iraqi government to take those procedures to screen them, and
make sure that they -- what -- they're putting people safely with their
families. And if there are fighters in
there, they're weeding them out and sending them to detention.
So, that has
been going on as the civilians have been coming out of -- out of Fallujah
itself. Completely understandable, and
as one would expect.
Most of the
screened civilians are back with their families. It's an Iraqi-led operation, and they've been
the ones doing that. But we know that
the operation has been going on.
Q: And what's going on out of the -- with the
Mediterranean? How many attacks are
coming from the U.S. ship in the Mediterranean right now against the Islamic
GARVER: Well, the Harry S. Truman was
supporting OIR when it was down in the Gulf as it's now moving into the
Mediterranean. It continues to support
and it also provides presence to the other theater commanders. They continue to provide support; I don't
have the specific number of strikes that they have conducted off that.
But they do
continue to provide those strikes. It's
just a continuation of what they did while they were closer in the region in
Q: And then two quick checks. The first one is, do we have an updated number
of Islamic State fighters? Because I --
I mean, we have been told that the numbers of foreign fighters trickling in had
been cut down to the -- couple hundred a month with an estimate a few weeks
Have we -- we
got X, a number for the total number of fighters across Iraq and Syria now?
GARVER: Well, we are still using the
estimate of 19,000 to 25,000. As -- and
that's a difficult number, as you can imagine, to try to figure out. We have taken operations to try to reduce the
number of foreign fighters as they flow in.
The operation in Manbij will help to reduce the number of foreign
fighters flowing in and out of Syria.
though -- we know that Daesh is conscripting fighters. They are impressing young men, even children,
into their ranks to become fighters. So
they're trying to regenerate their forces from inside the so-called
caliphate. So pinning down an exact
number is tough. We have a whole bunch
of intel people who are working on that, trying to figure that out, but we're
still officially suing the estimate of 19,000 to 25,000 for what's inside Iraq
Q: Last check you had said 67 strikes into
Fallujah from the coalition. Colonel
Ryder gave us the number 65 strikes into Fallujah on Friday and I know you had
said there were about seven over the last few hours or so. Can we just get a double-check on that to get
the -- the final number of strikes into Fallujah, just to -- just to make sure
everything's -- you guys are counting strikes the same is probably something
GARVER: So the 67 was right, and I did
it based on a specific period of time, the last three weeks. We can give you the -- you know, the overall
numbers that we've done inside the last month.
But I -- I did it based on the last three weeks, the last week and the
last 48 hours. So those are the numbers
that I had provided to you.
every day it's going to change and increase.
So what he talked about on Friday was just a different -- different
calendar time of what those strikes were.
But I can -- we can get that to you, Karla.
DAVIS: Next to Kevin Baron.
Q: Hi, colonel.
How are you?
Back to Manbij,
I wonder if you could talk about what plan there is or -- or advice you guys
are getting toward the -- what happens next?
Meaning, you just said the SDF is expected to take and hold the city,
but from all reports, the -- ISIS is being attacked also by Assad's forces, by
-- and there's Turkish plans as well and Assad is attacking the opposition
right next in Aleppo.
So what are the
assurances and what kind of plan do you have with -- with these two other
groups of the SDF taking the city and holding it? And is there any expectation of U.S. forces
having to be either on the ground or doing any other kind of supply or support
beyond ISF and logistics?
GARVER: All right, there are a couple
different parts to that question, there.
I'll try to hit them -- try to hit them both. The first is we don't see a danger of
collision right now between Syrian forces, Assad's forces, and our partners on
the ground fighting Daesh.
Part of that is
because our partners are fighting Daesh, and we've seen the Syrian forces fight
Daesh, we've seen them fight the opposition inside Syria. Inside Aleppo, that's not really where Daesh
is. Where our guys are fighting is where
-- is where Daesh is, where our -- our forces that we're partnered with.
So we don't see
an imminent danger of collision between these two forces. We're keeping track of the forces. If we did see something that concerned us in
that way, we would certainly let our partner on the ground know. And the Syrians have an extensive local
intelligence network. This is their home
territory that they're fighting in, clearly. As we said, most of them are local
Arabs to this area.
In terms of
division of labor after the fight, the Syrian Democratic Forces are the ones
providing that plan. They're the ones
who are going to figure out what to do with their consolidated gains, just as
they've done all the way back to al-Hawl and all the area that they're liberated
from Daesh in the northern regions of Syria.
Our plan remains
the same. As you know, 300 U.S. forces,
and there's other coalition forces providing support inside Syria and I won't
go into specifics about, you know, who or how many or what they're doing.
providing advice and assist, and there are no plans, as far as I'm aware, there
are no plans to put U.S. forces on the ground later in a -- in a support role,
once the operation is completed.
Q: Thanks, sir.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next to David Martin.
Q: Chris, you haven't mentioned Raqqa yet. Does the Syrian army continue to move from
west to east toward Raqqa? And are the
Russians continuing to support that movement?
GARVER: Well, and David as you know,
it's a great question. We try not to be
the spokesperson for the Syrians or the Russians, but we have seen their
movement toward Raqqa.
They are to the
south and west of Raqqa and are heading in that direction. I won't get into their specific intent behind
what they're going to do, but it does look like they're heading toward Raqqa at
important for us is, first of all, anything that -- that puts pressure on
Daesh, we support. But there is no
coordination between us and those forces at this time. The forces we support are focused on Manbij
right now, and that's where we're supporting them.
Q: The -- I think the last we heard was that the
-- the Syrian army was about 20 miles west of the Tabqa Airbase. Where would you put their position today?
GARVER: The last update I got was that
that was about right. But I have not
checked in the last few hours to see how many -- you know, how far they had
So, that's --
the last known position that I can give you, I think we can take a look at that
in future updates to keep you informed as well.
Like I said, don't want to really become a spokesperson for the
Russians, don't want to have Twitter fights with them, either.
But that's --
that's about where we had seen them earlier today.
DAVIS: Next to Joe Tabet.
Q: Colonel Garver, back to Manbij. How confident you are that the SDF will enter
the city? Is it something that you
Is it a matter
of hours, days?
GARVER: Not a matter of hours. I think they're a matter of days out.
Again, at the
pace they're moving now and at the speed that they've been able to fight the
enemy, we think they're matter of days before they conduct the attack on the
That being said,
the enemy gets a vote. And if Daesh puts
up a stiffer resistance, that could slow down, you know, just in any type of
But we think
they're not hours out, we think they're days out. And we anticipate that assault to come in the
Q: Could you confirm, or can we say that the
city of Raqqa will be next after Manbij?
GARVER: Well, we've been clear that, as
the capitol of the caliphate, Raqqa is a target that we eventually want to get
We continue to
conduct shaping operations and strikes inside Raqqa against Daesh in order to
continue pressure on them as part of the putting pressure on them across the
I'm not going to
be able to say whether that's the next the target, or there's another place the
SDF is going to go. I'm not going to get
into the future, you know, operations.
But we've been clear all along, our plan is to destroy Daesh, reduce their
effectiveness as a military force.
Raqqa, and so eventually, we're going to get there.
Q: Last question, sir. Will you recommend to the SDF to drop the
plan of entering Raqqa if the Syrian army enters the city?
GARVER: That's a pretty hypothetical
We would have to
see what the situation on the ground is, and I really don't want to get into
the hypotheticals of it. It's all
dependent on a lot of figures -- a lot of, you know, planning coordination,
planning factors that we don't have that in this discussion. So I'm just going to have to say I couldn't
tell you at this time.
DAVIS: Next to Christina Warren.
Q: Hi, colonel.
Thanks for doing this.
I just wanted to
follow up on Courtney's question about the U.S. advisers with the Pesh in
northern Iraq. When you say
"headquarters," are you talking about division-level
headquarters? Or lower levels, brigade,
battalion, at the team level? How far
away from the, you know, front line are those advisers?
GARVER: Well, they are off the front
line, with the irregular Iraqi army divisions.
Our U.S. advisers are at the division level. Some of our coalition partners will partner
farther down the chain, down into the brigade level as well. We've talked about potentially moving U.S.
advisers at a lower level, but we have not yet done that in this operation.
Q: Secondly, on Fallujah, exactly how is the
U.S. military mitigating the risk or civilian casualties, you know, other than
dropping the flyers saying put white sheets on your rooftops? Is it really up to the Iraqi forces to be
able to transfer information about civilian casualties from airstrikes?
And I wanted to
ask about the 100 hours of ISR. What
timeframe is that over?
GARVER: OK, a couple of different
questions there. I'll try to make sure I
get them both.
The first is the
Iraqis dropped the leaflets over Fallujah telling its citizens to put white
sheets on the roofs. That was not a
coalition operation. That was an Iraqi
operation to do that. And the Iraqis do
their own leaflet drops repeatedly and regularly across the countryside.
In terms of
clearing fires, when you're clearing fires into the city, you have to first
identify the targets. And that's either
done through ISR or it's done through forces on the ground that are in
contact. The closer you get in, the more
it relies on the forces on the ground because you've got to know where your
friendly forces are at the same time you're worried about the enemy.
So we get a call
from the Iraqis saying "we want fire in this location." The targeteers will figure out what is the
right target to attack; what is -- you know, what is the right target to
attack, what is the description of the target, what is the weapons system that
we choose, and what is the delivery platform.
It could be anything from an AC-130 to an F-22 to an MQ-1, you know,
surveillance plane, remotely piloted vehicle.
Then that has to
be cleared through the Iraqis to say, "this is where we think the target
it; do you have friendly forces in the area?" And the Iraqis have to tell us, "We
don't have any friendly forces in the area" and "we don't see any
civilians in the area." At the same
time, we're looking with our own ISR to make sure we don't see civilians in the
Then we engage
the target. That can all be done very
quickly. We've been doing that for more
than a year here in Iraq, almost two years, coming on two years. And the -- the process to do that can be done
very quickly in the middle of the battle to support those forces on the ground.
And I lost the
last part of your question. What was the
last part of your question?
Q: The 100 hours of ISR -- over what time period
GARVER: Right. Yeah.
It was "hundreds" with an "s" -- hundreds of hours
of ISR. And that's been developing the
picture in Fallujah for weeks. It's as
the -- as the situation's been developing, as we've been approaching this,
we've put hundreds of hours of ISR over Fallujah to help build the intelligence
DAVIS: Next to Luis Martinez.
Q: Hey, Chris.
Question about -- what you're talking about the pressure points across
the battle space. It seems like this
might be the most pressure that ISIS has been throughout the campaign,
throughout the spectrum there.
How are they
dealing with it? When they were in
Kabani they sent reinforcements there repeatedly. Are you seeing that across the battle space
-- battle space? Are they -- do they
seem to be integrated as a command structure across that battle space or is it
more of just regional command?
GARVER: That's a great question, Luis,
and what you get is kind of a different answer depending on where you
look. The farther you get out from the
two hubs, being Raqqah and Mosul, the more is becomes regional and we think
that they practice diversified command, pushdown command where the local
commanders are making decisions in the fight, looking for reinforcements, that
sort of thing.
It's been harder
for them to move. It's harder for them
to reinforce. Everywhere we've got
pressure, that's a place that you can't send fighters from. We still have operations going on in the
Euphrates River Valley in Iraq and hit Haditha and they're clearing in Ramadi,
are not displacing up towards Mosul.
More fighters aren't coming from Mosul to be able to reinforce
that. Any fighters that can get in,
these are very small numbers of fighters.
They don't -- we don't see the convoys of big trucks where they're
moving around. So it's getting harder
for them to reinforce, it's getting harder for them to resupply.
We saw reports
that commanders in Ramadi, who had surrendered their positions and left were
later executed by Mosul for doing so. So
I think they send kind of mixed messages to their subordinate commanders about
how -- what they expect of them and how they expect them to perform on the
But we -- we
definitely see increased pressure in Iraq, in Syria and as we've said all
along, the goal is to increase that pressure, the make the enemy fight in
multiple directions at once. If you're
only fighting them in one place, he's got the whole expanse of his territory to
move and reinforce and resupply.
If we're trying
to fight him in as many places as we can at once, all of that is preventing him
from doing that and we get -- we've rather fight 50 fighters here than all the
fighters in that location and then have to turn around and fight all the fighters
again in another location.
So making enemy
fight in multiple locations, in multiple directions is always preferred to just
a single point of attack. So we feel the
pressure is being put on Daesh. We're
working to put that pressure on Daesh -- (inaudible) -- leaders, our strikes
against the oil and natural gas revenue.
-- (inaudible) -- strikes against all of those positions as well. So we're trying to keep that pressure on,
DAVIS: Next we go for a follow up to
Q: Hey, Chris.
One more thing from your opening statement. You mentioned this new operation Tidal Wave
II target. Do you know how many -- do
you have any kind of estimate on how much money that may have cost ISIS or any
kind of like numbers on that.
And then is this
the fifth Tidal Wave II strike or do you happen to know what number that is?
GARVER: It is over 100. I think we're over 125 right now. And remember, every time we hit a oil
platform in Syria out in the desert near Deir ez-Zor, those are all Tidal Wave
strikes. So all of those strikes are
strikes against the illicit oil operations.
In terms of
truck strikes, as we've done before, I don't have the exact number off the top
of my head. And they're still doing
assessments of how effective the strike was.
After we -- we hit the targets, there was so much smoke in the air, it
was difficult to kind of do a final assessment of the -- of the -- you know, of
the target, what kind of damage we did and then what kind of economic impact
estimates that they've lost up to like 30 percent of their oil revenue across
the caliphate, but -- but based on what we've hit, we think that we've had
about -- that we've hit kind of the best 50 percent of that 30 percent and
we've reduced their revenue by about 50 percent.
But those are
estimates right now. It's very hard to
kind of figure that out. They were
making a lot of money before. They're
still making money, but not as much and we're trying to, you know, destroy those
assets so that they can't -- they can't use them for -- for selling black
Q: And if I could also -- just one more on
Fallujah. You said that the U.S. and the
Iraqis are very concerned about these reports of civilians being beaten or
tortured or whatever on their way out or even killed, but does the U.S.
military have any evidence that that's actually occurring? At this point, do you have any -- do you have
reason to believe that that actually is happening or not?
COL. GARVER: We have not confirmed those reports
ourselves. The -- like I said, the prime
minister has come out and said he is aware of it and has launched an
investigation, but we have not independently confirmed those reports ourselves,
Q: Thank you.
DAVIS: Then Kevin Baron had a follow-up
Q: Colonel, just thinking off of Luis' question
about ISIS command and control, could you talk a little bit about the
technology they're using to communicate and move around compared to -- the
comparative advantage to U.S. and coalition forces? But what are you seeing and how has that
changed or been degraded throughout -- you know, before these ops and
GARVER: Kevin, great question. I don't want to go -- you know, I don't want
to get into too technical specifics. I'm
not a signals officer or an intel officer, so I don't even know if I could go
into too technical of detail.
But we have seen
changes in their communication structure, and they use multiple methods of
communicating. They use cellphones, they
use push-to-talk radios, they use the internet, send e-mails. As we know, they've communicated using
different apps on the battlefield.
They're on the internet -- excuse me -- while they're on the
So they use
multiple methods of -- of communicating and trying to conduct command and
control. As we tap into those resources,
as we tap into networks, it forces them to try to change and use something
else. So we have gone after
communications, cellphone towers. We've
gone after communications assets.
We're trying to
target their ability to command and control.
We hit the headquarters building, but we also know that the headquarters
building is where, you know, all the radios were that they were using to
command and control their -- their fighters.
So they still
have the ability to command and control.
We assess that it's degraded because of the strikes that we've
done. We continue to strike those --
those headquarters targets. And I don't
have a specific percentage of degradation or how much, you know, more difficult
it is. And sometimes, we identify a
system we can listen to or look at and we may not hit that right away because
we want to keep using that to gather intelligence. Just blowing it up right away maybe takes
that intelligence away from us.
So some things
they're using, we may be listening, we may be watching, but we're not going to
hit it right away because we want to gather intelligence off of it.
Q: Thank you.
DAVIS: All right. Last call.
Chris, thank you
very much for your time today. We
appreciate you coming to us later than normal and I hope we didn't interfere
with your -- with your chow for the evening.
We look forward to seeing you back next week.
GARVER: Yeah, no. I got it put in the fridge. I'm good.
And appreciate the -- appreciate the opportunity to talk to everybody. Looking forward to the next few months of
being able to do this with y'all. It's
good to work with those who I've worked with again and glad to meet the ones
that I haven't yet.
Jeff. Appreciate it.
DAVIS: Thanks. Thanks, everybody.