(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS:
-- you joining us nonetheless.
Everyone is getting their tape recorders turned on here, and
we will turn it over to you. Good
COLONEL STEVE WARREN:
Well, good morning, and thanks.
And it -- the technical problems apparently are on this end. I guess this internet line goes -- it's
commercial contracted out locally, and so, there's a problem with, apparently
the switch in downtown Baghdad.
So, that's where we had to switch the telephone, so forgive
me, Pentagon press corps.
Well, I've got a few remarks here that I'll work through,
and then we'll get to some questions.
So, good morning, Pentagon press corps.
Q: Good morning.
Q: Good morning.
COL. WARREN: During
his visit here on Monday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced there are
five new accelerants, which have been approved by the president and coordinated
with the government of Iraq.
These accelerants are, number one, authority to place
additional advisers with Iraqi Security Forces at the brigade and battalion
headquarters level. Number two,
authority to employ attack helicopters in support of operations to retake
Mosul. Number three, we will employ
HIMARS in support of operations to retake Mosul.
Number four, we will provide financial assistance to the Peshmerga. And number five, lastly, we will increase the
force management level from 3,870 to 4,087.
We are still working on the specifics of these accelerants,
and we will keep everyone updated as our plans develop.
Now, on to operations.
On Sunday, U.S. forces conducted a raid, which targeted Suleiman Abd
Shabib Al Jabouri, one of ISIL'S military emirs and an ISIL war council member.
Al Jabouri's removal will degrade ISIL's leadership network
and impact their ability to coordinate attacks and defend ISIL strongholds.
Last week in the Euphrates River Valley, Iraqi Security
Forces tore Hit from ISIL's grasp and gave it back to the Iraqi people. Hit is liberated.
During Operation Desert Lynx, thousands of fleeing citizens
sought safety behind CTS forces, highlighting the effectiveness of the Iraqi
Security Forces and the trust they've earned from the Iraqi people.
Hit was a linchpin for ISIL; clearing Hit hampers their
ability to move foreign fighters and supplies into the Euphrates River Valley,
and sets the stage for future offensive operations.
The liberation of Hit will serve to further fragment ISIL's
operations in the Anbar corridor.
A key point to emphasize is the close coordination between
the Iraqi army, CTS and Sunni tribal forces.
During the Hit clearance, 60 Abu Isa and Al Shamal fighters, along with
Iraqi army field engineers and one scrappy tank worked side-by-side with CTS to
clear IEDs and relocate evacuating civilians to safe areas.
The operational achievements we're seeing are a direct
result of our commitment to train and equip our partners.
For example, in Anbar Province, coalition advisers are
professionalizing more than 100 Sunni tribal forces in a boot camp style
course. This is important, because it's
the first time tribal instructors taught the curriculum themselves.
By helping tribal fighters establish their own training
program, we're setting them up to secure long-term stability in the region.
In the Tigris River Valley, which if the map is deployed --
is the blue circle on your map, it's still a tough fight.
The ISF repelled several coordinated attacks consisting of
vehicle-borne IEDs, suicide vests, indirect fire and small arms fire.
The Iraqi Security Forces continue to consolidate and
improve their defensive positions while continuing to increase their combat
So, over to the west, the Peshmerga continue to hold the
forward line of troops in their centers.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Air Force deployed the
legendary B-52 Stratofortress bomber into theater. The B-52 is a long-range, heavy bomber that
can perform a variety of missions, including strategic attack, close air
support, air interdiction and maritime operations.
On Monday, this iconic platform conducted its first mission
against an ISIL weapons storage facility in Qayyarah, Iraq.
I have a video of this mission, but I don't know that we
have video capabilities right now, so, I'll -- we'll make sure that video gets
Now, to move onto Syria, where we continue to see vetted
Syrian opposition and ISIL clash along the Mara line.
The Syrian opposition has made gains, but so has ISIL. And (inaudible) has developed into a shoving match
over the Manbij pocket. We will continue
to pressure ISIL, but we expect them to fight hard to hold their ground.
In Shaddadi, the SDF continue improving positions along the
forward line of troops. In preparation
for future operations, the SDF recently graduated their first basic training
class of 200 Arabs.
These Arabs joined the SDF during the Shaddadi offensive
itself. This unilaterally run training
course is one example of the SDF working to incorporate Arabs into their ranks.
Finally, I'd like to highlight the efforts of Captain
Bradley Grimm. Captain Grimm is a United
States Army officer who was recently awarded the Danish Defense medal for
special, meritorious effort.
Captain Grimm provided actionable intelligence about a bomb
threat against a school in Denmark. And
the information he provided helped to foil a plot, and resulted in an arrest
and a confiscation of explosives.
Brad’s work likely saved the lives of Danish citizens. I've got a photo of Brad. I don't know if we've
got the ability to show it. But Captain
Grimm is a soldier assigned to the CJTF here, he's based out of Al Asad. His work had a direct impact in Europe.
CAPT. DAVIS: Yeah, we
do -- we do have the photo up. Thanks.
COL. WARREN: Ok. So
there you see the photo. That concludes (inaudible),
And with that -- (inaudible) -- I'll take your questions.
CAPT. DAVIS: Yeah,
we'll start with Cami.
Q: Steve, hi, can I
-- I just have one quick question. Where
was the B-52 mission on Monday?
COL. WARREN: It was
in Qayyarah, Iraq, which is -- that is part of the Operation Valley Wolf, so
it's a little bit east -- excuse me, it's a little bit west of Makhmur.
Q: Okay, thanks.
COL. WARREN: It's on
the west side of the Tigris River from Makhmur, yeah.
CAPT. DAVIS: Can you
maybe spell that for us?
COL. WARREN: I
can. I've got to find it. So, we spell it this way: Quebec-Alpha-Yankee-Yankee-Alpha-Romeo-Alpha-Hotel.
Q: And what was --
COL. WARREN: If you
don't know your phonetic alphabet, you need to learn it if you're going to work
in the Pentagon. (Laughter.)
Q: What was the
COL. WARREN: It was
-- it was an enemy weapons storage facility.
And we'll have that video posted up here I think -- I guess it will be
on the CJTF YouTube page, and I'll tweet it out as well.
Q: What type of
weapons did they have stored there?
COL. WARREN: I don't
have the specific details to put out.
Most of these weapons of this particular target, primarily in these
storage facilities what we see is a combination of their indirect fire
capability. So they'll put what they
refer to as -- (inaudible) -- their home-made indirect fire weapons systems. You know, they'll mass those ahead of distributing
Sometimes they'll be VBIED -- the fundamentals of
VBIED. So they're home-made
explosives. They're truck bombs that are
not completely finalized yet, but they'll go there for final assembly, then
Q: Thank you.
Okay. Joe Tabet?
Q: Colonel Warren,
just to follow up on Cami’s question, could you elaborate more on the
significance of the B-52? Do you know if
this type of aircraft would be used in the operations in Mosul and Raqqah?
Also, do you have any concerns that the use of a B-52 could
cause civilian casualties, for example?
If you could elaborate on that.
Thank you, sir.
COL. WARREN: So, the
B-52s really are replacing the B-1s that have been flying here for almost a
year. They have larger -- (inaudible)
-- capability and in some cases a little
bit more -- (inaudible). They can carry
a heavy payload.
They -- they (conduct ?) the same level of precision which
is why I really wanted to show you the video.
I know there are memories -- you know, -- in the collective unconscious
of B-52s decades ago doing very sort of less discriminate, arguably
indiscriminate bombings. I guess that's
where the phrase "carpet bombing" originally came from back in the
Those days are long gone.
The B-52 is a precision strike weapon system, weapons platform. It will conduct the same type of precision
strikes that we've seen for the last 20 months here in this theater. So it is simply a replacement for the B-1.
Obviously, the B-52 does have a long and very illustrious
history. So we do like to talk about
it. But really, it's -- it's simply
another platform from which we can launch our precision strikes.
Q: Hi, colonel. Tom here from AFP.
You -- earlier on, you referenced along the Mara line some
gains that ISIL has made. And can you
talk a bit more about these ISIL gains?
And there was a report yesterday that ISIL now controls a previously
government-controlled neighborhood in Deir ez-Zor. Is there anything on those gains please?
COL. WARREN: Well,
what you've got in the Mara line area is -- it's become a fairly fluid and
dynamic place. For months, the Mara line
has kind of become very stable. This was
treacherous in many ways. You know, I
saw some of the -- (inaudible). It
looked in some cases like a World War I battlefield -- very stable, very
static, trench-works on both sides, to support this sort of staring each other
Recently, the moderate opposition began -- provided some devastating air power in
support of that, and we started to see the Mara line become a little bit more
fluid. So that's what you're seeing now.
So, there are several towns in this -- and "town"
is almost too generous -- village, really.
There are several villages in this area, you know, on the Mara line that
have changed hands multiple times over the last several weeks. So we'll see some friendly force maneuver and
the enemy will withdraw from the town.
It will be a gunfight or maybe it will just be maneuver. Then maybe it will get cloudy, and so that
will limit our ability to provide air power.
And we'll see the enemy then re-take that town, either through maneuver
only or sometimes with fires as well.
So it -- (inaudible).
You know, I think right now, and I've seen some press reporting. But in our view, assigns more significance
than it deserved to individual towns being taken or lost. And again, the term "town" is
probably too generous. These are
So what you're going to see, we believe, for some time now
is this kind of fluid dynamic, back and forth.
That's why -- that's why I use, I picked that phrase "shoving
match" very deliberately, because that's what we see. You know, the -- (inaudible) -- will kind of
shove ISIL then they’ll go back a few steps, and ISIL will come and will shove
the opposition back a few steps.
And that's what we have right here in the Mara line.
We're going to continue to provide support. We're going to continue to encourage
opposition forces there to press that fight.
We believe it's important. You
know, the Mara line is -- is the -- is the western boundary of the Manbij
pocket. The Manbij pocket is the last
open channel between Turkey and Syria.
So if we can close -- if we can close off that Manbij pocket
-- in other words, push the Mara line east to where they can link up with the
Euphrates River -- to the Euphrates, we'll then have sealed off the final line
of communication -- supply line between Turkey and Syria. And that -- we think that's important because
that's where a lot of the foreign fighter flow comes in; that's where all the
illicit items move in both directions.
So we think it's important to seal that off.
In Deir ez-Zor we
have, there's one -- in Deir ez-Zor city, we have one portion of the city that
the regime forces never lost control of.
And so we're seeing continued maneuver for that final portion of Deir
ez-Zor city. And we're talking about a
matter of blocks in this case. So again,
way too early to make any -- to assign too much significance to this very
tactical work that's going on in Deir ez-Zor city.
Q: So I guess just to
follow, then, you haven't changed your assessment? I think the figure that you gave us
previously was that ISIL has lost 10 percent of the Syrian land that they once
had. Is that still the claimed number?
COL. WARREN: You've
got to speak up. I can't hear you.
Q: Yes, sorry. So, these -- these small gains haven't
changed your assessment in terms of the percentage of territory that you have
retaken from ISIL? I think previously
you said it was 10 percent.
Right. So, we've been at kind of
15 to 20 percent for some time now. But
what you're seeing up in the Mara line area is -- won't be enough to even move
that percentage point in any direction.
Q: Okay. Thanks.
CAPT. DAVIS: Bill?
Q: Hey, Steve.
Quick question on Russian movements and actions inside of
Syria. What percentage of -- I mean, can
you give us a sense of what kind of activity they're -- they're up to right
now? How much of it is targeted at
Islamic State or, you know, Nusra? And
-- yeah, and then give us a sense of what is their kind of fire power in the
country I don't know how many weeks after they're supposed to withdrawal.
COL. WARREN: Well,
you know, when the Russians first came in, they claimed that they wanted to fight
ISIL, and in reality, only a small fraction of their strikes were against
ISIL. About 80 percent of their strikes
were against the opposition.
Since the cessation of hostilities was declared, we have
seen that shift. At one point, the
Russians really have -- they primarily had been striking ISIL. At one point, I think, in the last, I don't
know, week or so, the Russians we estimated -- really more than 70 percent of
their strikes were against ISIL.
So I don't have today's figure and we don't track it, you
know, that closely. But the Russian have
been striking either ISIL or, in many cases, Nusra. That said, we have seen an uptick -- a
general uptick in the number of cease-fire or cessation of hostilities
violations. We have seen an uptick in
the violence, primarily regime elements coming into contact with other forces.
So this is a concern to us and, you know, we've called on
the Russians several times to use their influence with the Syrian regime to try
and tamp this down.
Q: And do you believe
at this point that they're preparing for an end to the cease-fire? Does it look that way from their positioning?
COL. WARREN: Well,
you know, I'm not going to predict -- (inaudible) -- what their intentions
are. What I do know is that we have
seen, you know, regime forces with some Russian support as well begin to mass
and concentrate combat power around Aleppo.
So this is something we're concerned about and something we'll keep an
That said, it's primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of
course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities. So it's complicated. We're watching it. Our focus, though, as the Combined Joint Task
Force, is ISIL. And so don't forget
that, that's our focus. The cessation of
hostilities, the diplomatic and political processes -- while they certainly
have -- are of interest to us and potentially could influence our operations
peripherally, our focus remains ISIL.
Q: Thanks, Steve.
Q: Steve, has this
been a significant uptick just recently?
Or is this -- is this the uptick that you've been talking about for
COL. WARREN: I mean,
it's just -- (inaudible) -- but it is -- it's kind of – moving –
(inaudible)? It's a gradual increase, so
last week, a little but more than two weeks ago, which was a little bit more
than three weeks ago. So it is, you
know, kind of an incremental uptick.
CAPT. DAVIS: Tolga's
Q: Hi, colonel. This is Tolga. I had two quick questions regarding the Mara
line and follow-up questions. First,
there is --
COL. WARREN: Hold
up. Move closer to the phone.
Q: Okay. So first question on the offensive of the
opposition groups in west of Hazas. It
seems that there is not any coalition air support for those groups who are
fighting against ISIL in the west of Hazas and alongside the Syrian-Turkish
border. Is there any particular
reason? Is there any -- there is not any
group that you're cooperating with there -- (inaudible)?
COL. WARREN: Well I
don’t have a list of groups, Tolga, we are providing support for the moderate
Syrian opposition forces that we are in contact with. You have to keep in mind there are hundreds
of these small bands and groups of fighters, and we have not -- we're not in
contact with every one of them.
Similarly, some that we are in contact with don't need our fundamental
vetting standards, so we won't support them.
So I don't know which group you're talking about,
Tolga. You know that we are, broadly
speaking, providing support to the moderate Syrian opposition as they fight
Q: Okay. And the second one on the Kurdish groups in
Mara line. As you know, often Kurds have
now reached to ISIS boundaries in the Mara line and they are ready to attack
ISIS. And on the other side, alongside
the Euphrates River, just east part of the Manbij pocket they're also ready to
attack Manbij. And if -- I mean, since
you mentioned, about to close the gap, the last part in the -- along the
Syrian-Turkish border. Did you -- did
you make any decision about support -- to support Kurdish fighters, especially
Afrin Kurds in this Manbij pocket?
COL. WARREN: Not yet.
Q: Okay. Is there any timeline or any particular
reason for this?
COL. WARREN: So we're
still working through all of this. I
don't have a timeline to give you, Tolga, unfortunately, but we are still
working through it. There are, as you
know, several competing sets of sensitivities that have to be managed that’s
being worked really at the political and diplomatic level. We would like to see, at the end of the day,
the Manbij pocket closed. So, you know,
there's a lot of work going on, diplomatic at the political level, as well as
at the military level to try and get all the players into a place where they're
comfortable closing off this pocket.
Q: Got it. Thanks, Colonel.
CAPT. DAVIS: Andrew
Q: Colonel Warren, on
the -- one of the accelerants in terms of putting advisers on the brigade and
battalion level, can you just tell us how you think that's going to play out
from here? Have you identified
particular brigades and battalions that will be receiving advisers? Roughly how many, do you think? Would it be -- would it be all of them up
there in the Mosul area, which you described as eight to 12 brigades and their
underlying battalions, or would it be more selective than that?
COL. WARREN: So too
soon to tell. You know, we're continuing
-- we're working now the plan. I think
what you'll see is an as-needed situation, so, you know, as advisers are
required with certain brigades, that's what you'll see. But it's very early right now and we are kind
of continuing to develop exactly what this is going to look like.
Q: Can you elaborate
a little bit --
COL. WARREN: Mosul
Q: What is as --
COL. WARREN: Mosul
itself -- it's all right. You go.
Q: What is
as-needed? Can you describe like the
scenario that would make a brigade or a battalion need a set of advisers?
COL. WARREN: So
Mosul's still several steps away, so the first thing we have to do is set the
conditions in order to get us into Mosul, was what I was trying to say.
You know, I'm not going make up, you know, kind of made up
scenarios that don't exist yet. What
I'll say is that as units -- as we assess that units could use the help of
advisers and assisters or as the Iraqis request specific units receive advice
-- more target advice, that's what we'll do.
But you know, I'm not going to spin some kind of yarn that
imagines a scenario. What I'll say is
that as the Iraqi Security Forces begin their movements, there will be times
when those forces need -- those forces would benefit from the type of advice
and assistance that American and coalition advisers can provide.
And as those -- those opportunities and requirements arise,
we'll fill them. Remember, this is
authorities, right? That's -- I was very
careful about reading that. It's
authorities that push these advisers and assisters to brigade and battalion
So, it's a decision that, now, commanders, these commanders
here on the ground, can make at the time the place of our choosing.
CAPT. DAVIS: Jamie
Q: Colonel Warren,
it's Jamie McIntyre.
Two questions, one about the B-52s, and I know we're dealing
with perceptions here, but because these planes are older and bigger than the
B-1s, do they -- are they in anyway more vulnerable to ground attack, for
instance, given the reports that there maybe shoulder-fired missiles in the
region? Question number one.
And then question number two, more broadly about the
civilian casualty question. There have
been some reports suggesting that the rules of engagement have shifted somewhat
in order to provide more latitude, and that might permit for more civilian
Can you help us understand what real -- what's really going
on with that?
Sure. Jamie McIntyre, who do you
work for now?
Q: I work for the
authoritative Washington Examiner.
Q: Thanks. Thank you.
COL. WARREN: That's
good. That is an authoritative paper.
COL. WARREN: Glad to
hear it. Okay, B-52s -- (inaudible) --
really, they are not more vulnerable than other platforms that we've got
operating in this theater, and of course, we take all of the precautions that
we can. You know, force protection is
always our top priority here, and so is protecting, you know, the force that
mans the B-1 bomber falls in that category.
On the CIVCAS and ROE. So, what -- then there is some recent
reporting that -- to the rules of engagement, or the rules for how we handle
CIVCAS have changed.
Here's what has happened.
The authority to accept risk has been delegated to a lower level. So, when this -- when this fight began 20
months ago, the four-star general in Tampa, the Central Command commander
retained the authority to be the person who decides how much we're willing to
risk a civilian casualty.
Since that time, as the theater matured, and as our systems
have -- have developed, as our processes have gotten better, those authorities
have been delegated down to a lower level.
They've been delegated down to our level here at the CJTF.
So, rather than the CENTCOM commander having to approve a
strike that carries the risk of civilians casualties, now the CJTF commander,
or in some cases, the CJTF deputy commander can -- has the authority to make a
decision on that risk, on whether or not the strike that we are planning to
take -- if there is a risk of a civilian casualty associated with that strike,
the decision level is now here at the CJTF.
Does that makes sense?
Q: Yeah. So, a quick follow up. So, does it change the threshold for
approving such strikes? And do you
anticipate that this moving -- moving the decision closer to the battlefield
would risk an increase in civilian casualties?
COL. WARREN: Well,
it's a war, so there is always a risk of civilian casualties. Let's be very clear about that.
And in fact, there have been some civilian casualties.
But this does not translate to more civilian
casualties. This translates to a more rapid
execution of strikes, because you don't have to send requests all the way to
Tampa anymore. We can -- in some cases,
we can do it here.
So, the way we do this is, you know, we try to figure out
what we think -- we find a target, we assess the military value of that target,
and then we assess whether or not we think, if we strike that target, there
might be the possibility of a civilian casualties associated with that strike.
If we think there won't be any civilian casualties, based on
a very extensive and thorough analysis, we hit.
If we think there may be civilian casualties, then we go through a very
detailed and painstaking process to determine, hey, how many civilian
casualties we think might result from the destruction of that target, and what
we can do to drive that number, that possible number of civilian casualties
down to the smallest possible number, as close to zero as we can get.
And if we can make adjustments -- for example, what time we
strike the target, drop leaflets ahead of striking the target, use a different
type of munition, attack from a different type of angle -- if we can make all
of those adjustments, and based on our extraordinary knowledge and
sophistication, have a reasonable belief that there will be zero civilian casualties,
then we strike.
Then after we have made all of our adjustments, if we still
believe that there is a possibility of a civilian casualty occurring, well,
then, that requires somebody of greater authority to approve that strike.
And the authority level lies with the number of civilian
casualties we believe maybe associated with that strike.
So, I think that's the whole story. But at the end of the day, zero civilian
casualties has to be our goal. It's our
We understand that there are going to be times when -- when
tragedies happen and the worst happens.
But then, it's certainly not our goal; our goal is to not -- we are here
to help the Iraqi people, we are here to help the Syrian people.
And so, with that in mind, we do everything we can to not
Q: One last
clarification. When did this change of
authority take place, or when it shifted from CENTCOM to theater?
COL. WARREN: It has
happened over time, so it has been incremental.
So, again, as our systems develop, as our higher headquarters
starts seeing the same type of target set come up, over time, they'll say,
okay, in this case, we're going to delegate the authority. You don't need to show us that anymore.
For example, oil trucks.
Right? You know, so if we hit a
certain target type repeatedly, over time, the higher headquarters may delegate
down that target type. So it's been ,you
know, it's been an ongoing, I think, process.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next to
Q: Hi. Brian Emerstein with Air Force Magazine. Back to the B-52s. I wanted to talk about the
precision of these strikes. Can you say
what type of weapons were released on Monday?
And in addition to the B-52 deployment, we've seen other new deployments
of A-10s from Idaho, F-16s from Germany.
Does this represent an uptick in the aircraft that are available to the
coalition or are these just normal rotations and -- (inaudible) -- the same?
COL. WARREN: It’s
both. So, you know we have seen for example the Dutch have just sent an
additional F- -- or was it the Danes – sorry the Danes -- have just sent
additional F-16s into the fight. These
are new, you know, new -- added capability.
You just saw obviously, EA-6B Prowlers that are moving into Incirlik. This is on top of what we already had. This isn't a replacement. Other times, it is a replacement. So it's combination of both.
On the exact munition types that the B-52 delivered in
Qayyarah, Iraq, I don't have that. We
can try to -- I don't know if we release that or not. I'll check with AFCENT and I'll send the
info. I'll send the answer back through Matt Allen or Roger.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next to
Q: Hi, colonel. I just have two quick questions. Clarification on the HVT operation you spoke
about on -- that look place on Sunday.
Was the target -- did you say, was he captured or killed? And then following up on the Captain Grimm
operation, can you just elaborate a little more on what -- where he was based
and what the target was in Denmark that he identified? Is there just anything more you can provide
on his role in this?
COL. WARREN: So on
the -- on the HVI, I didn't say if he was killed or captured. Let me get -- so
I've got the citation here of the -- that was developed for him here. So Captain Grimm did several things. You know, thing number one that he did was to
help develop a system to speed the flow of intelligence from here on the ground
up to national capitals. So that was of
benefit to the various national capitals.
The other thing he did was he provided some actionable
intelligence that included information taken from exploited captured documents
on enemy foreign fighters who were from Denmark or who had relatives in
Denmark, as well as some cyber information on possible terrorist threats to
Denmark. This included one instance
where the information -- information provided on a bomb threat against a school
using homemade explosives in Denmark, and the information that Captain Grim was
able to provide contributed to an arrest and to the confiscation of these
So Captain Grimm, at the time he was given the award, had
provided 250 tailored reports compiled from reports and information, which were
releasable to Denmark and the (unintelligible) the flow of reclassified as
permitted material for NATO use.
So he did all this voluntarily, you know, kind of in
addition to his duties. He was based in
Al Asad while he was doing all of this.
So I wanted to highlight it because it's not everyday an American captain
receives a very high -- prestigious medal from a foreign country.
And I wanted to highlight it too because it's important to
me to remind everyone who's listening how very seriously we take the threat of
external ops. This is top of our
minds. So as we conduct operations, as
we partner with our Iraqi partners, we are continuously with them to try and
draw out any tidbit of information that we can find that relates in any way to
an external attack or an external operation that ISIL is planning.
And when we find such information, we'll do one of two
things. We will move that information
where it needs to go to help protect the homeland. Two, and from our perspective just as
important, is we will find whoever it is that is plotting this external attack
and we will take immediate and violent action.
CAPT. DAVIS: Lucas?
Q: Colonel Warren,
did General Votel make this order to shift or delegate authorities from CENTCOM
down to CJTF level?
COL. WARREN: This
happened overtime, really, from -- since September really all the way up to
now. I mean, like I said, it's kind of
an ongoing process, but I think the most significant delegation of authority
was in October, but this is a continuing process.
Q: Understood. And has this sped up the decision-making
process overall to bomb targets?
COL. WARREN: It
has. You know, the more authorities that
are delegated down, the more rapid we're able to respond, frankly, on these
targets. And that's just a factor of,
you know, there's time and distance much easier for the, you know, commander on
the ground who has nothing else to worry about than the fight to -- who's
completely soaked in the daily operations to be able to assess the risk value
-- (inaudible) -- assessment on the target rather than have to bring, you know,
a higher level headquarters located thousands of miles away who have
significantly larger scope and set of responsibilities, who will approach --
(inaudible) -- Afghanistan -- (inaudible) -- all of the CENTCOM AOR.
So of course, I mean, it's natural that this would speed up
the process, and so it has.
Q: And of the 217 new
troops that were announced this week will be going to Iraq, can you provide us
a breakdown of those forces?
COL. WARREN: Well I’m
not going to give you a specific breakdown.
What I'll tell you is that these new personnel will provide engagement
support, some force protection, some HIMARS field artillery support. So these are the individuals – and some
advise and assist -- so these are the
individual people associated with the other accelerants, right?
The accelerants are advise and assist to a lower level, so
some people will go do that, it's Apache helicopters, so some people will go do
that. It's HIMARS, so some people will
go do that. And that's it.
Q: Can you give us a
breakdown of the services involved? Like
COL. WARREN: No, we
don't even have that yet.
COL. WARREN: That
doesn't exist yet, so we're working through those processes now to -- you know,
to do fills and generation of our own.
So that's coming, but we don't even have it yet.
Q: Thank you.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next to
Q: Hi, Steve.
I want to follow up on two areas that you talked about -- on
the decision to move the -- the strike decision to the commander and deputy
commander. Is it fair to say -- I just
want to make sure I understand you correctly -- that that decision no longer
lies in CENTCOM? Are any of those
decisions made out of CENTCOM? Or are
they all exclusively in-theater?
COL. WARREN: There
not all exclusively in-theater -- (inaudible).
So, it's -- how many civilians we believe are potentially at risk. So – and we're very deliberate not to give
out the numbers.
COL. WARREN: If it's
-- you know, zero civilian casualties, then, you know, somebody can approve
it. If it's, you know, one civilian
casualty, somebody else can approve it and on up the line.
So at some point, there's a cut-line where it does have to
go back to Tampa.
Q: And is there any
discussion of moving that decision-making process lower down to, say, General
Volesky's level? Particularly as you
move more troops in closer to where Iraqis are fighting, for example, and the
battle toward Mosul? Is it possible that
we'll see that decision made at a lower level, particularly as you move closer
to Mosul? Is that being discussed?
(inaudible) -- works for General (inaudible) and (unintelligible) who
can approve some targets. So again, it's
a rolling thing -- the same way that Central Command over time decides to
delegate down to the CJTF, then over time the CJTF can further delegate in some
cases. In some cases, we receive the
authorities with caveats that say no further delegation authorized, but those
Q: Okay. And then one of the things that you said is
that we're still several steps away from Mosul.
Are one of those steps Fallujah?
We heard earlier about a potential offensive in Fallujah. Is that still a possibility? And is that considered one of those steps
COL. WARREN: Well,
Fallujah is certainly something that is talked about here every single
day. There's acute awareness of the
humanitarian suffering that's going on in that town. And the Iraqis are -- are very much focused
on the idea of liberating Fallujah.
Where the liberation of Fallujah falls in the sequence of
events, frankly, has not yet been determined.
There is continued discussion about that throughout the coalition and
the Iraqi chain of command.
So this is ongoing.
Fallujah will be liberated eventually, as we hope will every square inch
of Iraqi soil be free of ISIL.
Q: Thank you.
CAPT. DAVIS: Let's
see here. Next is Gordon.
Q: Colonel Warren, I
may have missed it during the announcement.
But do we know the timing of the arrival of the 217?
COL. WARREN: We
don't, Gordon. They'll flow in over
time. Some are already here. Obviously, the Apaches are already here. So, you know, they'll flow in over time.
Q: And can you tell
us what the current number of forces are in Iraq right now?
COL. WARREN: Standby.
CAPT. DAVIS: He asked
for the current number of forces in Iraq.
COL. WARREN: Yeah.
Standby. I’m looking it up. Let me
CAPT. DAVIS: My
COL. WARREN: So, on
April 15th, there were 3,350 was our FML, so.
Q: So, my real
question is, as you know, and thanks to some of our colleagues here, there's a
difference between the public number and the number that's actually there in
Iraq, because they're on temporary status or whatever.
A, can you give us the number -- recognizing that it
fluctuates -- can you give us the number of the temporary folks? And also, has there been any more thought to
the Pentagon just providing that number as a matter of course -- the full
COL. WARREN: No to
Q: Can I ask why?
COL. WARREN: You can.
Q: Can you give us an
(Laughter.) Gordon, I -- you
know, I've got to tell you that the chairman of the joint chiefs was very
eloquent at his last press conference there in the Pentagon in the briefing
room, as to what we're doing and why.
There's really nothing I can add to that. I feel like he said -- he summed it all up in
two sentences much more efficiently than I'm able to do. So I would refer you to his -- the secretary
of defense – excuse me -- the chairman of the joint chiefs' recent comments.
Q: All right. Thank you.
Q: Colonel Warren,
hi. It's Paul Shinkman with U.S. News.
Just a couple of clarifying questions. On the 217, I know that you can't comment on
-- on where these troops are specifically coming from, but that's an awfully
specific number. So can you say are
there 217 specific troops or specific kinds of troops that you have in mind,
and you haven't figured out where they're coming from? Or do you know and just can't say?
Can you give us a better -- excuse me -- understanding on
COL. WARREN: So, all
of the -- everything hasn't been resourced yet.
You know, there's a -- there's a process for how we resource through the
United States military, how we resource requirements, the request for forces
It's been about a week, and -- (inaudible) -- probably still
not understand -- (inaudible). But it's
very specific. But the number 217 and
why I think -- the reason it's interesting to everyone. So, it's based on units, right, so a HIMARS,
you know, battery by doctrine, has X number of people in it. An Apache maintenance crew, you know, by the
book, has Y number of people in it.
So as we figure out what our requirements are -- okay, we
need this many Apaches, with this many maintainers, and this many
fuel-handlers, we just look at the book and see what it says. We may not actually get that many
people. Very few units are, you know, at
100 percent filled all the time – At least any unit that I've ever been
assigned to has been like that.
But that's where the number comes from. The number simply comes from opening up the
book and seeing how many people are, by the book, assigned to a HIMARS
battery. If it's 28, then we write down
28. And that's how we get our number.
Q: So it may not be
that 217 ultimately go. That's just the
new cap on how many could go?
COL. WARREN: Good
question, a very smart question; 217 is the doctrinal number associated with
the amount of force that we have requested.
Q: And then on the
civilian casualties, can you confirm how many confirmed civilian casualties there
have been so far? How many requests for
investigation there have been? And how
many active investigations there are?
COL. WARREN: I'm
going to have to flip through my book here.
If I recall, it's roughly 26 civilian casualties that we have announced. As you know, CENTCOM makes these
announcements. I believe that there are
a handful of civilian casualties that have not yet been announced; that we'll
announce, you know, eventually when we get through the whole process.
So these are -- these are investigations that are
complete. We have determined that there
have been some casualties, but haven't gotten all the way through the checking
and re-checking, and people signing the paperwork, et cetera. So those will be announced when ready.
And then there are several -- there are a handful of
investigations that are ongoing right now.
So that's where we are. I -- I
don't have numbers to give out associated with the second category I just
described. But my sense is the numbers
are very low, though. I mean, after 20
months and 40,000 weapons releases, we're certain. We've completed investigations that lead us
to believe that the preponderance of evidence indicates that there have been 26
And that -- that's, I mean, remarkable by anyone's
standard. And so I think that level of
-- that remarkable level of precision will continue. So as these -- these handful of investigations
that are virtually complete, but not yet prepared for release, as they come
out, I think they're going to look an awful lot like what you've seen thus far
-- one here, two there.
All tragic, all -- we wish we could have avoided them. But nevertheless, remarkable in their, you
know, in how small they are.
Q: And then lastly,
just to sort of follow up on this -- on this gradual shift in the authorities,
isn't the fact that there are going to be more strikes by virtue of the fact
that strikes can happen more quickly, and that you can take advantage of
dynamic targets more readily, doesn't that mean that the risk of civilian
casualties raises, just by virtue of the fact that they're are more strikes?
COL. WARREN: Well,
that's like when you flip a coin, does the percent -- does the chance that it
will come up heads change because you've already flipped it twice? I mean, I'm not statistician, but I mean, to
me, every single -- every single target gets the same amount of rigor, the same
level of standards apply to it, the same amount of effort applies to drive the
civilian casualties to zero.
CAPT. DAVIS: Tom?
Q: Yes, sorry, just a
quick follow up on that point.
Can you help me understand, if you're removing layers of
scrutiny from this decision, then how is it that the threshold for a strike
wouldn't be more likely to result in civilian casualties?
COL. WARREN: It's not
that -- (inaudible) -- remove a layer of scrutiny. All it removes is -- all it does is delegate
the weight of decision to a different individual.
Q: So -- okay. But I mean, it was going higher up the chain
of command, and now it's lower down.
That would suggest a lower level of scrutiny.
COL. WARREN: I
disagree. You know, I think General
MacFarland applies excruciating scrutiny to every single target.
CAPT. DAVIS: All
right. Anything else? Yes, Luis?
Q: One quick
clarifier, Steve. The delegation is only
to the commander and deputy commander of CJTF?
Or does it go lower than that?
COL. WARREN: It goes
Q: Thank you.
CAPT. DAVIS: Lucas?
Q: Colonel, maybe
just one more clarification. The
delegation has gone down, but has the ROE changed or the number of acceptable
civilian losses? Has that changed?
COL. WARREN: No. The number of acceptable civilian losses is
always at zero. And then commanders have
to make the decision as to whether or not the military value of the target
justifies the possibility that some civilians may be killed.
Q: Thank you.
CAPT. DAVIS: All
right. Last call.
Thank you, Steve, again.
Sorry for the technical problems.
I understand we'll have your video posted here -- (inaudible).'