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NEWS | Feb. 8, 2017

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Dorrian via teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq

By CJTF-OIR Public Affairs

CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS:  So, J.D. should be up here in just a moment.


CAPT. DAVIS:  There you go.  Right.

There he is.

J.D., I just want to make sure you can hear us and we can hear you.

COLONEL JOHN DORRIAN:  I've got you loud and clear, Jeff.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Great.

Ladies and gentlemen, we're pleased today to be joined by Colonel John Dorrian, the spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, coming to us live this morning -- evening for you, sir -- over in Baghdad.  We'll turn it over to you for your opening remarks.

COL. DORRIAN:  Very good.  Thanks, Jeff.

Good morning, all.  We'll start in Syria and move on to Iraq.

Yesterday, the Syrian Democratic Forces with their Syrian Arab Coalition partners, cleared 63 square kilometers of territory northeast of Raqqa, for a total of 3,410 square kilometers of territory liberated from ISIL control since they launched their operation to isolate Raqqa on November 5th, 2016.

In the most recent phase of the operation, they have encountered light to moderate resistance as enemy command and control struggles to deal with multiple ongoing operations simultaneously.  Around Raqqa, coalition strikes continue taking a toll on the enemy capacity as strikes remove enemy fighters and resources.  Recent targets include tunnels, weapons caches, command and control nodes, and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.

Moving over to al-Bab, since January 1st, 2017, the coalition has conducted 35 strikes, delivering 101 weapons in or near al-Bab to kill ISIL fighters, destroy equipment, artillery, fighting positions, tunnels and command and control nodes.  Coalition and Turkish military leaders continue coordinating operations in southwest Syria.  The enemy in al-Bab is in deep trouble, with Turkish military and partner forces converging on the city from the northwest, coalition forces pounding the enemy from the air and regime forces approaching from the south.

The coalition continues to fight ISIL on multiple fronts and by attacking their networks.  Our commitment to completely destroying ISIL means that we must destroy their ability to communicate with leadership, their financial network and their ability to control terrain, particularly in population centers.

The battle space is becoming more complicated as the forces converge around al-Bab, so we'll maintain our de-confliction channel with the Russians.

Moving on to Iraq, the ISF continue preparations for the liberation of West Mosul.  The 16th Iraqi Army Division is serving as a hold force in East Mosul to maintain pressure on any remaining ISIL sleeper cells and prevent the enemy from re-infiltrating the city.

Coalition strikes continue shaping the battle space in western Mosul, destroying ISIL weapons caches, watercraft, construction equipment and command and control, as well as attacking fighters directly anywhere that they congregate.

The enemy continues using indirect fire, mortars and artillery fires into eastern Mosul, which continues unfortunately to cause damage and civilian casualties.  They also continue to use commercial off-the-shelf drones to observe and drop explosives on the Iraqi security force and civilian positions.  Although dangerous and effective as a propaganda tactic, this has limited operational effect on the battlefield and will not change the outcome or significantly delay the inevitable.

The enemy is completely surrounded in west Mosul, and those who do not surrender to the Iraqi security forces will be killed there.

With that, I am happy to take your questions.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Bob Burns from the Associated Press.

Q:  Colonel, General Townsend is quoted today as saying that he believes and expects that both the Mosul and Raqqa campaigns will be concluded within six months.  That seems to raise the question about when, with regard to Raqqa, when would the isolation phase -- when would you move out of the isolation phase, which you've been in for some time now?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, we continue working on the isolation phase to approach the city.  This is a key part of the campaign.  We're working that with the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Arab Coalition.  Raqqa is a city that the enemy uses for external operations, so what we would expect is that within the next few weeks, the city will be nearly completely isolated and then there will be a decision point to move in.

We're not gonna give the exact timing of the effort to seize the city, but we do believe that excellent progress is being made and we'll continue to pressure the enemy on multiple fronts.

One of the key points here is that as -- as Raqqa is being isolated, the enemy's also under pressure in al-Bab.  They're also under pressure from regime and Russian forces in Dayr az Zawr and other areas around Syria.  They're completely surrounded in Mosul.  So what we see is the enemy being overwhelmed anywhere that they are.  It's too many problems for them to solve at any given time.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Great.  Next to Kasim Ileri with Anadolu News Agency.

Q:  Colonel, there are reports -- Turkish authorities have announced that Turkish forces and Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army has started to move into the center of the city of al-Bab.  Do you have any kind of indication on that?  And is there any kind of support from the U.S. as they are moving into the city -- into the center of the city?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, we've conducted a number of strikes in and around al-Bab to remove ISIL fighters and remove ISIL resources that would threaten the Turkish force and their partner forces as they move into the city.

I don't have a deep detail about their exact position and it would probably be inappropriate for me to provide that.  But I will say that the enemy is in deep trouble there and, you know, they're going to continue to lose fighters and resources as they're decisively engaged there.

Q:  (Off mic) the number of the strikes that you have conducted over, like, today and the day before in the city, particularly those -- those strike in the city itself?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, I'd -- I'd have to get back to you on where the strikes occurred.

Generally, when we release information about strikes, we release information that's in the vicinity of.  And we do that because it's -- you know, that's the way they're categorized in our database.

So, it's the nearest big city.  I don't know if it's in the city or not.

Q:  And today, the Turkish presidential spokes --

COL. DORRIAN:  Strikes are being done as we discussed this with the Turkish military.  So, that's an important element of it.

There's daily coordination ongoing between the Turkish military and the rest of the coalition.  And, you know, these strikes are conducted in coordination with them.  So we're striking targets that -- that do assist the -- the Turkish forces and their partner force as they continue to conduct operations there.

Q:  Today, the Turkish presidential spokesman said that during the phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan, the two leaders have agreed or affirmed that there should be a safe zone in Syria.

Do you have any kind of -- you know, can you update us whether there is anything on your side that you are working to -- to form a safe zone in Syria?

COL. DORRIAN:  You know what?  I don't have firsthand knowledge of what went on in that phone call, so I'd refer you to the White House to get that question answered.

I can tell you that it's -- you know, Turkey has done an incredible job of isolating the enemy in northern Syria.  They've completely blocked off their ability to infiltrate Syria or exfiltrate their fighters using the border with Turkey.

So, this is an important element of the campaign, so good continued progress here.

But I don't have any update for you on that phone call that -- that you mentioned.  I don't have any visibility on that.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Laurie Milroie, Kurdistan 24.

Q:  Sir, it sounds from this briefing and what you've been saying that tensions that once existed between the U.S. and Turkey over support for the SD -- the Syrian Democratic Forces and other issues -- that those tensions have largely passed.  Is that a correct understanding?

COL. DORRIAN:  I'm -- I'm going to need you to repeat that.  You broke up a little bit.

Q:  It sounds, from this briefing, that the tensions that existed in the past between the United States and Turkey over things like U.S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces -- those and other things -- those tensions have largely ended.  Is that a correct understanding?

COL. DORRIAN:  No, I think what I would say is that our coordination with the government of Turkey and with the Turkish military forces continues.  We also work with our partner forces the Syrian Democratic Forces, with their significant Arab contingent, to isolate Raqqa.  So we're going to continue that part of the campaign, the isolation phase.  And both of these things are happening simultaneously.

So, as far as, you know, the characterization, what I would say is there's constant coordination between our forces in Turkey and we're working to support their operations in al-Bab.

Q:  I wanted to ask you about the Kurdistan regional government.  The Peshmerga ministry has just finished training a brigade of volunteers from the Sunni Arab tribes in the Nineveh Plains to fight against ISIS -- an Arab Peshmerga.  How do you view this activity, this training of the Sunni Arab tribes?  And you know, particularly in the light of some reports now that there's a Sunni insurgency being formed that's filling the vacuum created by ISIS's defeat?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, what I would say is every force that's going to fight ISIL in this country should be doing so in coordination with the government of Iraq.  That's the way the coalition does it.  We've trained more than 70,000 forces of various types -- army, police, tribal fighters, popular mobilization fighters -- that are -- that we can vet and work with.

And we continue to do all of that as Mosul is liberated.  Because ultimately, when we talk about dealing ISIL a lasting defeat, it's all these forces that go in behind our forces and the Iraqi security forces that are going to make sure that ISIL is not able to re-infiltrate; they're not able to get any traction on any type of insurgency effort.

And so we fully support all these kinds of efforts.  But with regard to the force that you are mentioning, I don't have a lot of depth on what those forces are doing or what they've been asked to do.  But I would say any force that's operating in this country should be doing so in coordination with or under the command and control of the government of Iraq.

CAPT. DAVIS:  All right.  Next with Idrees Ali from Reuters.

Q:  Working on Bob's question.  I mean, can you confirm the timeline given by General Townsend of six months for retaking Raqqa and the operation for western Mosul to begin in days.  I mean, he said it publicly.  So, either he has -- or have you not seen the remarks?  I mean, you know.

COL. DORRIAN:  Yes, you know what?  General Townsend was on a battlefield circulation today.  If his -- you know, whatever he said on the record, then by all means I fully support it.  But I don't -- I don't have visibility on it and I can't confirm it at this point.

Q:  All right.  And to follow up on -- on Turkey, a presidential spokesman said that Turkey had presented a quote/unquote "detailed plan to drive out Islamic State from Raqqa."  Have you received any plan or talks with Turkey on them participating in Raqqa?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, I know at the operational level, we have coordination with Turkey every single day.  We coordinate a lot of operations to support them as they advance into al-Bab.  We've conducted a number of strikes for them to do that.  We've conducted strikes throughout their campaign to drive ISIL from northern Syria.

But I don't have any insight into the phone call that you're talking about or the detailed plan.  I -- I don't have that -- that conversation hasn't come down to our level at this point.  So I can't confirm that it occurred or any of the contents of the discussion.

Q:  Worked with you to re-take Raqqa at all so far?

COL. DORRIAN:  I'm sorry.  Can you repeat that?

Q:  Have they been part of the operation to re-take Raqqa so far?

COL. DORRIAN:  They -- they have not so far.  They've been focused on al-Bab and other areas previously in northern Syria.  So not at this point, but I know there have been meetings and discussions to that effect and we've said for many weeks that we're open to a Turkish role.  But as yet, that -- that hasn't come to fruition and we'll just have to let that play out.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next to -- it's actually to Joe Tabet next and you're on the next -- list next, sir.

Q:  Yeah, Colonel Dorrian, I just -- I would like to follow up on Idrees' question and what you were saying about the coordination with Turkey in regards to Raqqa.  Can we expect that Turkey will have an operational role in the operation to retake Raqqa?  Could you clarify the idea that Turkey will have an -- will play a role in retaking Raqqa?  Are the discussions that -- the ongoing discussions with Turkey right now, what's the status of the discussions?  To what state -- what stage they have reached?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, those are ongoing diplomatic discussions that have -- that have occurred between Turkey, the U.S. government and various members of the coalition.  So I'm not gonna get inside those discussions.  That's something that, you know, that's best handled in a face-to-face diplomatic discussion rather than through media.

But I would say that, you know, we've said for many months that, you know, the U.S. would be open to a Turkish role and that dialogue continues.  And I don't have an update on -- on the -- the conversation that you're describing.

Q:  You said -- you said diplomatic discussions, but this is a military operation.  I -- can I say that the coalition or the U.S. military has – didn’t take part of those discussions?

COL. DORRIAN:  The military takes part in military discussions and diplomatic discussions happen in diplomatic channels.  Sometimes, there's overlap, but I'm not gonna get you inside those discussions.  Those are ongoing and if, you know, decisions have been made, they haven't been given to me, and so it's not time for me to give them to you if they've in fact occurred.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next, sir.  I'm sorry, I don't know who you are.

Q:  This is David Wood from the Huffington Post.


Q:  Could you go back to the issue of de-confliction around al-Bab?  And do you know, for example, how many incidents there are?  Can you quantify the number of Russian intercepts?  Are those going on on a daily basis?  And how often does the de-confliction -- do the two sides meet to de-conflict those operations?

COL. DORRIAN:  Those meetings generally happen several times a week or on an as-necessary basis.

As far as the number of intercepts, I think I'd have to gather some information for you and circle back.  I don't have visibility on that.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next to Courtney Kube from NBC News.

Q:  Hey, J.D.

Actually my questions were answered but one short one on Raqqa isolation.  When you say that it's gonna be complete in the next few weeks, do you mean that the city of Raqqa will be completely encircled?  Will it actually be completely encircled?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, I'm not going to provide that level of detail.

But I would say that it'll be very difficult to get into or out of the city.  We've seen, you know, Mosul is completely encircled, but there have been other instances where the cities haven't been, but all the GLOCs, all the ground lines of communication, the roads into and out of the city, have been blocked.

I'm not going to get into the detail of what -- what constitutes isolation, whether it's full isolation, mostly isolation.  I think we're gonna just let that play out in the next several weeks and then the -- the -- our partners, with coalition, support will move in.

Q:  And then one other thing that kind of struck me from your opening statement was when you were talking about al-Bab, you said that ISIS would be facing pressure from regime forces from the south, and then when you spoke about Dayr as Zawr, you also mentioned regime forces and Russian forces who are pressuring.

It seems -- is there a change -- is there a change in the feeling of how the regime is operating?  Are they suddenly in some ways on the side of the coalition?  They're fighting against ISIS now.

I just found it, kind of, striking that you mention them almost as an asset in the fight against ISIS.  Correct me if I'm wrong, if I read too much into that.

COL. DORRIAN:  I think you've read way too much into that.

I would say the enemy is in deep trouble because they can't deal with all the areas in which they're being attacked.

The one -- the one thing that I would say is there's not really anybody who's for leaving ISIS in place unmolested, so they're going to get defeated by the coalition in any area that we can find them and there are other elements that are attacking them in other places.  And all that does is complicate the enemy's problem set.

But I wouldn't read too much into that.

Q:  The Syrian regime and the Russians are actually playing an active and positive role in the fight against ISIS in Syria at this point.  Is that fair to say?

COL. DORRIAN:  It's fair to say that they're attacking ISIS.  And I don't think I want to characterize it beyond that.

Q:  Thank you.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next to Kristina Wong from Breitbart.

Q:  Thank you.

Thanks, Colonel Dorrian.

With Turkey closing its borders, are there any ISIS foreign fighters making it into Syria now?  If so, I guess, how many?  And are there any making it into Iraq?  There were thousands that dropped to I think hundreds.  I just want to know what the numbers are now.

And is there any evidence of any of these foreign fighters making it out of either Iraq or Syria?

COL. DORRIAN:  What I'd say is that with all the borders being closed off between Syria and Turkey, that there are very, very few fighters making it into or out of the cities.  So we estimate no more than 100 to 200 per month.  That's down from something like 2,000, if you go back a little over a year.

So that's -- that's a tremendous disadvantage for the enemy.  There are a variety of reasons for that, not just the isolation of the battle space, but it's also because of the allure of this enemy.  They are losing and losing badly everywhere that they engage our partner force, or our partner force engages them.  That's going to continue to happen.  I think that's becoming very clear on the battlefield.  And there's probably not a tremendous market of people that want to go and join that fight because the enemy is being annihilated in Mosul, and they will be in other areas as well.

Q:  To be clear, that's 100 to 200 coming in, or going out, or both?

COL. DORRIAN:  That's going in.  I would say I don't have a figure for you getting out.  It's not going to be a significant amount either.  It's small numbers.  They're not -- not really in any position to be leaving because in many areas, they're isolated.  They're not going to get out of al-Bab very easily; not going to get out of Mosul very easily.  And they're going to other areas in Syria and Iraq.  They'll be engaged there.

Q:  Thank you.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next to Tara Copp with Stars and Stripes.

Q:  Hi, colonel.  Kristina just asked my question, so I will try again on Bob's and Idrees's questions.

With General Townsend's remarks, does it at least gel with what has been expected or maybe what has been discussed, that the, you know, the extended timeframe is going to be about six months?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, again, that -- that -- those statements were on a battlefield circulation today.  I just don't have visibility on what he said exactly.  So I'd probably be out of line if I -- and just plain guessing if I offered any context or commentary on it.

But I can say that General Townsend was very clear when he took this job that his intent was to defeat ISIS militarily in both Iraq and Syria as defined by crushing them in both Mosul and Raqqa.

Q:  Okay.  Despite whether or not he said the -- a six-month timeframe today, has the six-month timeframe been discussed in any other forum in Baghdad that you've been privy to?  So, it's something that you have heard before?

COL. DORRIAN:  It hasn't been addressed in a forum that I've been in, other than what I just told you.

General Townsend has made it clear and he made it clear from his first interview on, that the intent of our campaign here is to defeat ISIL in both Mosul and Raqqa on our watch.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Okay.  Next to Luis Martinez from ABC News.

Q:  There are reports out today that Russia has sent a large number of ballistic missiles to Syria to support the regime and that they've launched a couple of them over the last couple of days.

If I could ask you about that de-confliction line that you have.  When the Russians contact you over that line, do they mention the use of ballistic missiles that may go into areas where you might be operating in Syria?

COL. DORRIAN:  Luis, the purpose of the de-confliction channel is to avoid any unintended incident where our forces engage theirs, or their forces engage ours.  So beyond that, I don't have any visibility on what would happen in the case of the use of a missile like that.  But I know that the purpose of those de-confliction calls and discussions is to assure that we don't inadvertently have an incident in the battle space.

Q:  Just to follow up.  Because, you know, when we launch missiles, we issue NOTAMs warning individuals not to be close by because of the trajectory of the missile, since a trajectory, like, from a ballistic missile would bring it into the air for a long period of time.

I'm just curious, I mean, wouldn't it play a role in a de-confliction scenario?

COL. DORRIAN:  I think we'll have to circle back with you, Luis -- possibly, but I don't know.  It sounds like you need a more direct answer and we'll try to get you one after.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Ryan Browne from CNN.

Q:  Hello, colonel.  Thank you for doing this.

Just to follow up on Courtney's question quickly about what we're seeing from the regime and the Russians in terms of combating ISIS.  I mean, we see, you know, Palmyra, Dayr az Zawr, al-Bab.  Have we ever seen this much effort from the regime, from the Russians in terms of battling ISIS before?  Is this an unprecedented level of Russian-Syrian offensives against ISIS?

COL. DORRIAN:  It's probably reasonable to characterize it as that prior to what's going on now.  They were focused on Aleppo.  And as most of you know, there really wasn't any significant ISIL presence in that city.  So, it's probably fair to characterize it as you described.

Q:  Thank you.  And just a couple of other ones.  We're now a couple of days, you know, almost halfway through the 30-day plan for ISIS that the White House has developed.  Have any -- have you been asked -- has the coalition been asked to support that -- development of that plan?  Has there been a lot -- has there been request for information or any kind of, you know, has there been a lot of support, contact for development of that plan?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, we're constantly evaluating the campaign and making adjustments as required.  Any input would go through the chain of command to Central Command and then onward up to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

So I don't want to get into the details of what the content of those discussions or recommendations would be, but certainly, you know, we continue to evaluate the campaign and that was all already happening.  And we continue to provide feedback about how things are going and what might be needed.

Q:  Final, last one, my apologies.

Is there any military requirement to detain -- from the U.S. perspective or from the coalition perspective to actually perform detention operations when it comes to captured ISIS fighters?  Or is the detention provided by the Kurds, provided by the SDF, provided by the Iraqis -- is that sufficient when it comes to taking ISIS fighters capture -- captive?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, we -- we don't have any detention operations here.  That's done by host nation and then our partnered forces.  So that's tasks that they perform.

Q:  So there's no requirement to have that capability, right?

I know it's being performed by our allies on the ground but would that -- is that a need?  Is that a requirement that the U.S. needs?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, we're not now performing it, so I'm not going to get into whether there's a requirement for it or not.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next to Laurent from Agence France-Presse.

Q:  Hi, colonel.

Following -- following up Courtney's question on the isolation phase of Raqqa, you say that isolation does not mean total encirclement, so I -- I'm a bit confused about the meaning of the word "isolation."  Can you, sort of, describe what it means, the fact that the isolation phase is -- is -- is over?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, the isolation phase is intended to severely limit, to completely eliminate the enemy's ability to get fighters and reinforcements into or out of the city or to bring equipment into or out of the city.

Q:  Good, thank you.

And I've got a separate question.  There are reports that there were strikes yesterday from the coalition on Al Qaida in the Idlib province.  Can you confirm that?  And can you -- can you describe them?

COL. DORRIAN:  I'm afraid I'd have to pass you to my esteemed colleagues at Central Command.  We only do ISIL strikes in Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, so you'll have to follow that one up with CENTCOM.

CAPT. DAVIS:  If I may interject, we'll probably have something on that later for you today.

To follow-ups, Laurie Milroie first.

Q:  I have a question on a story that's in today's Washington Post about what's been learned about ISIS from the liberation of East Mosul.  And it's similar to what you have been saying, that ISIS is on the defensive, it can't recruit foreign fighters.  But it also contains this point that they -- in one Islamic State headquarters in a Mosul neighborhood, Iraqi forces found a stash of passports, 16 Russian and four French passports, presumably of foreign fighters who surrendered their passports when they joined ISIS.

And that sounds like a lot of Russians in ISIS.  Do you know if that's typical?  Do you how many Russians were, or have a sense of what proportion of the East Mosul ISIS foreign fighters were from Russia or from France or any other place?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, I don't have a good nationality breakdown.  We do continue to find passports from a lot of different countries.  What I would say, though, is that the overwhelming preponderance of the fighters in Mosul are Iraqis.  We have isolate the city, and as areas are cleared, we do work with the Iraqi security forces as they do site exploitation and find, you know, documents and computers and other things that might have some intelligence value.

Among those are passports.  And that does give us some insight into who this enemy is, how they operate, what they do.  Of course, what we're finding is a lot of information about, you know, what their priorities are and what their morale is like.

So, some of the reports that you've seen, you know, of them finding, you know, that there are fighters who don't want to fight or who are making excuses and want to leave the country, these are indicators that are useful to us and they provide some insight into the state of the enemy.

They are on the back foot.  Their fighters are being killed very quickly in some cases.  And they are completely isolated in west Mosul, and they're awaiting their fate there.  They're either going to surrender or they're going to be annihilated.

Q:  When you say most of the -- said most of the fighters in East Mosul were Iraqi, you mean the fighters for ISIS were Iraqi and the foreign fighters are a small part of the -- the ISIS force in East Mosul?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, for ISIL in Iraq, most of the fighters are Iraqis.

Q:  A rough percent?

COL. DORRIAN:  Those -- those -- those fighters are being killed.

Q:  Could you give us a rough percentage of what percent are Iraqi and what percent are foreign fighters in ISIS ranks?

COL. DORRIAN:  That would be impossible to do because the number of fighters that you have at any given time and their level of commitment is something that would be nearly impossible to assess to a level where we could provide you those kinds of percentages.

Q:  Thank you very much.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Kasim Ileri

Q:  If I could follow up on Raqqa isolation questions.  So, we know that from Raqqa to Dayr az Zawr and the complete south flank of Raqqa is open.  We don't have -- there are no partner forces down there.  And you said that isolation means -- isolation phase means to limit or to totally shut the enemy's ability to communicate or to transfer arms and equipment from one area to the other.

So, the complete south border is open.  And then the east border to Dayr az Zawr is open right now.  How do you plan to isolate the city as long as these areas are open for the enemy to go away from the city and come in?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, that's because we haven't completed the isolation yet.  So, once that's done, then the things that you're describing will no longer be possible:  The enemy will not be able to reinforce their fighters and resupply their fighters or to leave the area in any significant numbers or very effectively.

Q:  You said that in next coming weeks -- in coming weeks, you're expecting to totally isolate the city and then apparently we are seeing that the SDF is just going from north.  So is there an alternative force that you are planning to put in to the south to encircle the city or somehow isolate the city's main routes?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, I'm -- I'm not going to speculate or discuss future operations in that level of detail.

Q:  Just lastly -- okay -- you have said after the complete -- you know, the isolation process completed, then you will go to a decision-making of kicking in the operation itself, the -- the offensive into the city.

Do you mean that the decision-making is within the coalition itself, or somehow you implied that the current discussions between Turkey and the coalition?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, I really had trouble understanding that.  You're asking if this is a decision for the coalition or is it going to be done in coordination with our NATO partner Turkey?  Or -- help me -- help me with that again.  I'm sorry.

Q:  I mean to say -- (inaudible) -- after the isolation is completed, then you will go to have a decision-making process to start the operation on the city itself.  And my question is, is the decision-making process you referred to, is it just within the coalition itself or are you meaning or are you referring to the discussions with Turks?

COL. DORRIAN:  Those are ongoing discussions, and we're just going to have to let those play out.  So I'm not going to discuss how decisions are made or when they're made.  That's really not my purview to do that.

CAPT. DAVIS:  (Off mic)

Q:  Hi, colonel.

Going back to al-Bab, when the U.S. was striking yesterday, there were six strikes.  How many were for Turkey and the Turkish-supported Syrian forces and how many of those strikes were in support of the SDF?  Because they're in two different places.

COL. DORRIAN:  Off the top of my head, I -- I don't have those figures with me on what was done yesterday.  I think we'll have to circle back and give you that answer later.

Q:  Is supporting both of those efforts in the fight for al-Bab, correct?

COL. DORRIAN:  Okay, we're breaking up.  Audio?

CAPT. DAVIS:  (inaudible) -- supporting the SDF in al-Bab --

Q:  And also, Turkey in al-Bab -- (inaudible) – been announcements made that we have conducted strikes in that area in support of Turkey, so I just want to clarify that we are supporting both, yes?

COL. DORRIAN:  We are supporting Turkey in al-Bab.  We are supporting the SDF as they isolate Raqqa.  Those are two different places.

Q:  So, you're going to get back to me -- oh, sorry.

CAPT. DAVIS:  I think that's your answer.

COL. DORRIAN:  In a great deal of difficulty because there are two operations ongoing, you know, where they're under pressure from different forces.

Q:  Are -- so then, are the SDF that are near al-Bab, are they coordinating at all with the U.S. and the coalition?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, I'm having a lot of trouble hearing you.  Can you repeat it one more time, please?

Q:  Sure.  No problem.  Thanks.

Are the SDF that are not being supported by Turkey, are U.S. coalition forces supporting them currently in the fight around al-Bab?

COL. DORRIAN:  You know, I think we're just going to have to take that question.  The -- what -- what we are supporting is Turkey in al-Bab and the SDF at Raqqa.  Those are the two things that the coalition is doing.

Q:  (inaudible) -- there were several meetings a week with Russia.  Do you mean the -- I think that's what you said -- do you mean de-confliction calls?  Or -- is that -- are they -- are they still taking place daily or have they increased?

COL. DORRIAN:  They -- they occur on a regular basis and on an as-needed basis.  So if there's an ongoing operation where there needs to be a discussion to de-conflict, then those calls are made.

Q:  Okay.  So that's -- that's what you meant by "meetings" then.  And that's not an increase from before al-Bab operations started, right?

COL. DORRIAN:  We -- we talk to Russia on a very regular basis about the ongoing operations in al-Bab.  So we make sure that we're discussing what we're going to do, where we're going to strike, to make sure that we're not striking them, not having any inadvertent events with their aircraft, and neither of us are striking the other's partnered forces.

Q:  Thanks.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Okay.  With that, J.D., we thank you for your time and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

Thanks, everybody.

COL. DORRIAN:  Thank you.