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NEWS | Feb. 1, 2017

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

By CJTF-OIR Public Affairs

CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS:  Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  We're pleased to be joined today live from Baghdad by Colonel John Dorrian, our spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve.

And J.D., if we can just make sure we can hear you and you can hear us.

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

CAPT. DAVIS:  Great.  Sir, we will turn it over to you.

COL. DORRIAN:  Outstanding.

Good morning.  We'll start with Syria and move over to Iraq.

In Syria, the Syrian Democratic Force with their affiliated Syrian-Arab Coalition fighters continue to back-clear and strengthen defensive positions four to five kilometers west of Tabqa Dam.  As local Arab tribes join the ranks, the coalition will continue to bolster these fighters' abilities with training, weapons and equipment as we have already done for more than 3,000 members of the SAC.

Most recently, the coalition provided several Guardian armored vehicles to provide the Syrian-Arab Coalition with increased survivability from ISIL's small arms and improvised explosive device threats.

Coalition efforts to isolate and pressure Raqqa continue.  As we've discussed before, Raqqa represents the nexus of ISIL's external operations.  With that in mind, we continue conducting strikes there to disrupt the enemy while the city is being isolated.  As the pressure mounts in the city, ISIL fighters in Raqqa have been invading homes to search for satellite dishes and mobile phones used to communicate with the outside world.  We've seen these same measures in other places that ISIL controls.

Moving over to Al-Bab, since January 1, 2017, the coalition's conducted 19 strikes, including 36 engagements in or near Al-Bab to destroy ISIL fighters, equipment, artillery, fighting positions, tunnels and command and control nodes.  These strikes are coordinated through the Turkish army by liaison officers in strike cells to ensure we understand the disposition of Turkish military forces on the ground as we strike.

We continue to deconflict strikes, air operations and more recently ground operations as well as -- and sharing targeting information.  We believe the coalition is more lethal against ISIL due to these unified efforts.

In Iraq, ISIL continues losing ground despite using barbaric population control measures against Mosul residents in their attempt to complicate the ISF advance.  The coalition has liberated about 60 percent of ISIL-held territory in Iraq.  ISIL remains on the back foot in Mosul.  Its leaders are accusing citizens of spying, and tragically, they are executing people who don't cooperate with them in some cases.

They've also lost trust in some of their fighters and they've even done executions against their own fighters.

Although ISIL has fought hard to maintain control of territory in Mosul, we'll expect them to continue to do so, their difficulty in maintaining control is no surprise.  The coalition has made a concerted effort to degrade the ISIL leadership network in Mosul in preparation for the battle.  Even before the battle ensued, between August and October of 2016, 18 ISIL leaders in and around Mosul were killed by coalition air strikes.  These ISIL leaders were involved in Mosul's security, law enforcement and the perverted control of local civilians and attack plots away from the city.

Since the battle started just over 100 days ago, the U.S.-led coalition removed in additional 15 ISIL leaders in Mosul, including Abu Abbas, a terrorist fighter leader killed January 12th, and Abu Taha, who was ISIL's jailer and also responsible for the implementation of population control measures in the city.  He was killed October 31st.

What this means is that ISIL leaders who are trying to defend their territory in west Mosul are less experienced and less effective than the leaders that they replaced.  Again, we expect them to continue fighting hard and for the rest of the west side of Mosul to be difficult, but they do not have enough capability remaining to stop the ISF advance.

For now, the Iraqi army continues back-clearing areas in the east and north of Mosul, and clearing areas in the north like al-Qubah village, to set conditions for operations on the west side.  Coalition forces are working with the ISF on planning how we can support the ISF with advice and assistance, strikes, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.  And we continue training hold forces for once Mosul is liberated.

The terrain in west Mosul makes it a challenge to clear.  On the ground, the narrowness of the roads and the density of the buildings sets conditions for close fighting.  Some of you have asked if the coalition will be able to capably support the ISF with airstrikes in such challenging terrain with drastically increased civilian casualties -- without causing drastic increases in civilian casualties or collateral damage.

We can.  And protection of civilian populace is a cornerstone of the Iraqi campaign plan, and our efforts will be consistent with that priority.  One of the ways that we do that is through the selection of munitions.  An example of one of these munitions is the advance precision kill weapons system two.  This is a laser-guided, high-precision, low-collateral damage weapon that provides the capability to engage targets, including moving targets, in dense urban terrain.

These weapons were fielded last year within six months of congressional approval, and are now being used for close-air support missions by Air Force A-10s and Marine AV-8B Harriers.  Since June 2016, more than 200 of these munitions have been employed against enemy fighters, oil tanks, and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, among other targets.  More than 60 have been used in and around Mosul.

And now I'm delighted to take your questions.

CAPT. DAVIS:  We'll start with Joe Tabet from Al Hurra.

Q:  Hi, Colonel Dorrian.

I would like to ask you if you could explain to us, or give us more clarification, about the difference between the Arab -- the Syrian Arab Coalition and the Syrian Democratic Forces?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yep, the Syrian Arab Coalition is made up of Arab fighters predominantly from the local area.  This has been a cornerstone of the campaign is to try to work with local fighters, because in the areas that are to be liberated, the legitimacy of the force that's going to go in there is an important part of the campaign.  If it's local fighters, certainly that's better than outsiders.

Q:  As for the SDF?

COL. DORRIAN:  The SDF is a multi-ethnic group.  They've been proven to be a reliable partner for us, they've defeated Daesh in many areas including Manbij and other areas in northern Syria.  They include Kurdish elements, Christians and others, so -- also the Syrian Arab Coalition including local Arabs.

Q:  So, I understand from you that the armored vehicles have been delivered to the Syrian Arab Coalition and the SDF has nothing to do with these vehicles.  And also, could you tell us what type of vehicles have been delivered?

COL. DORRIAN:  The Syrian Arab Coalition was the organization that received these.  Again the Syrian Arab Coalition is a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces.  So it's a group that includes the Syrian Arab Coalition.

As far as the vehicles, they're Guardian vehicles, so these are up-armored Ford vehicles.  They're trucks that have had a lot of armor added in order to increase their survivability and ability to withstand improvised explosive devices and small arms fire.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next we'll go to Laurie Mylroie from Kurdistan24.

Q:  Hi, Colonel Dorrian.  I've got two questions for you.

The first is, now that U.S. -- these travel restrictions have been put in place by the United States and they include Iraq and Syria, has that had any impact on the coalition's ability to fight ISIS?  Does it interfere with morale or contributed to problems with coordination or any other issues?

COL. DORRIAN:  So far, I'm not aware of any issues that have developed as a part -- as a result of the executive order.  In fact, the coalition has continued working with our partners in Iraq non-stop to attack enemy resources.  We've dropped more than 600 bombs this week.  We continue training them, we continue our advice and assistance, and really nothing has changed at all with regard to the conduct of the campaign.

Q:  Thank you.  And my second question- now that you’ve liberated eastern Mosul, you must’ve gotten a lot of information about ISIS there, and you must have new insights, I assume, into its structure, who’s involved- could you give us- could you share any of those new insights with us and particularly in regard to foreign fighters?

COL. DORRIAN:  Certainly. You know of of the things about liberating a very large area like Mosul, is that you're going to find a treasure trove of intelligence information.  So we're working with the Iraqi security forces as major areas are liberated, places like the University of Mosul, Mosul University, and some of the larger neighborhoods and facilities where ISIL was present because all of those areas contain a lot of evidence, a lot of important information about how the organization works, how they recruit foreign fighters, how they build weapons.

You see some of the facilities that they use to do these things, you get deep insight into how they get their materials, you get information about who they coordinate with around the world.  We're probably not going to be able to give a tremendous amount of information in depth about that.

There are -- you know, there is information about foreign fighters.  You find documents, you find computers and personal devices as these fighters are killed or forced to leave resources in place as they run away.

Q:  Follow-up questions.  Was Mosul University used for ISIL's chemical weapons production?

COL. DORRIAN:  We have reports that that's the case, yes.

Q:  You have the -- that equipment now in your possession now that you have Mosul University?

COL. DORRIAN:  I'm having a little bit of trouble hearing you.  Can you repeat the question?

Q:  Say that Mosul University was used for chemical weapons production.  Presumably now, that equipment that ISIS was using for chemical weapons production is in the hands of the Iraqi security forces.  Is that correct?

COL. DORRIAN:  That is correct.

Q:  Can you tell us anything more about what ISIS was doing in terms of chemical weapons?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, we've long known that the enemy has aspired to use chemical weapons.  They have used -- mustard agent is one that they've used many times and this is -- you know, the reports that we have are that's -- that's what was found in Mosul and those are in open sources.  So you know, these are rudimentary capabilities as far as the chemical weapons piece, but you know, ISIL does have very capable production facilities for -- for weapons with regard to machine-grade weapons.

So it's very important that we continue to roll back their control of territory because this is not something that we want to wait and let ISIL get good at.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next, we'll go to Kasim Ileri at Anadolu News Agency.

Q:  Colonel, about these armored vehicles, could you -- to what extent you are confident that none of those vehicles have passed to the YPG element of this SDF?

COL. DORRIAN:  They were divested to the Syrian-Arab Coalition.  Syrian-Arab Coalition fighters fight in concert with the SDF, so they're there together.  That's -- that's where the -- where those vehicles are.

Q:  So -- so are YPG forces who are moving towards Raqqa also using this vehicles?

COL. DORRIAN:  I don't have firsthand knowledge of whether they are or whether they are not.  Those forces are fighting together and they're working to isolate Raqqa.  So that's the latest information that I have.

Q:  From -- from the very beginning, the U.S. officials have been saying that that is -- the U.S. policy does not include training or equipping YPG elements.  And now, you are saying that you are not really sure whether YPG elements also benefit from this vehicles or not.

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, what I would tell you is we gave them to the Syrian Arab Coalition.  The Syrian Arab Coalition has taken charge of them.  These are groups that are fighting together to isolate Raqqa.

Now, when a partner force has the capability, that provides incidental benefits to the other partner.  So, for example, our partner force in Iraq is the Iraqi security forces.  They benefit pretty greatly by our use of air power, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and some of the other capabilities that the coalition has.

So, this is probably the same concept that we're talking about in Syria.

Q:  Can we report you, that YPG elements also might use or benefit those armored vehicles that provided to the Syrian Arab Coalition?

COL. DORRIAN:  We divested them to the Syrian Arab Coalition.  That's really about all the information that I have for you at this point.

Q:  And the other thing, it was told us that -- we were told that -- oh, he's saying something?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, I said we expect the Syrian Arab Coalition to use them, control them, and be responsible for them.

Q:  And we were told that these vehicles were authorized by the Obama administration -- the former administration.  Is there a reason for the timing of delivery of these vehicles now?  And did you get reaffirmation from the new administration before delivering them?

COL. DORRIAN:  These vehicles -- the transport and the divestiture of these vehicles have been in the works for months.  It's just a matter of the logistics tail that obtaining these vehicles has been in the works for months.  It's just a matter of the logistics tail that takes time to go ahead and get those bought and delivered.

So this is something that's been in the works for months.  It's been authorized using existing authorities from the previous administration.  And the timing is that, you know, the Syrian Arab Coalition is getting ready to continue their operations to isolate Raqqa. And as they approach the city and get into tough fighting, this capability is going to increase their survivability, their ability to withstand small-arms fire as well.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Okay.  I'm sorry your name is blanking me.  What's that?

Q:  Caroline Houck.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Caroline Houck.  Okay.  Go ahead, Caroline.

Q:  Hi, Colonel Dorrian.

I wanted to follow up on something you said about the terrain in west Mosul, making it more difficult to conduct airstrikes and support the Iraqi forces operating there.  Yesterday happened to be one of the very -- happened to be the first day in I think 130, 140 or more days that you didn't report any coalition strikes in Mosul.  Would you say this is just a blip in daily activity?  Or is it something that we can expect that actually airstrikes are going to become significantly, like, less frequent in Mosul?

COL. DORRIAN:  No, this is a weather-related issue.  And it's temporary.  And the enemy probably prays for bad weather because as soon as we're able, we're going to begin hammering them again.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next to Kevin Baron.

Q:  Hi, J.D.  I -- I missed -- it might have been touched earlier, I just wanted to ask if since the inauguration and the changeover, there's been any -- any kind of change in the pace of the orders coming down to you guys, coming, you know, coming down the chain of command?  Anything more quickly?  Any more -- any kind of sense of any confusion?  Anything different at all that's changed in the last week and a half, two weeks?

COL. DORRIAN:  If there's any change, I can't detect it.  We are charged with the same mission that we were charged with in the previous administration and we continue to use the existing authorities that we had in place, so there's really been no change in the operation at all.  We continue to move forward and defeat the enemy.  That's what we're here to do and we're not going to pause on that in any way.

That's really all there is to it.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next -- I'm sorry, sir.  Your name?

Q:  Rebaz, from Rudaw.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Rebaz, okay.

Q:  Hi, colonel.  I have a question about the new Iraqi interior minister.  There are some reports that he was -- he had been arrested by the coalition after the invasion in 2003 a couple of times.  Is there any concerns from your part regarding this new minister, given the fact that his forces -- at least some of his forces are going to be -- are working with the coalition in the fight against ISIS?

COL. DORRIAN:  No, the forces that we're going to work with, these are decisions for the government of Iraq to make.  Prime Minister Abadi has appointed the officials that he deems appropriate to work with.  We're going to work with those officials and Prime Minister Abadi to continue defeating this enemy.

Q:  Can you confirm or deny the reports that this new interior minister had been arrested by the coalition a couple of times?

COL. DORRIAN:  I'll have to take that one back for you.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next to Corey Dickstein with Stars and Stripes.

Q:  Hey, sir.  Thanks.

I wanted to see -- there's some reporting out of Iraq that kind of indicates that the ISF leadership might think that liberating west Mosul will be faster and easier than east Mosul.  I wanted to see if the coalition, you know, had any concerns about them going into that part of the fight with that attitude potentially or if -- you know, if the coalition feels the same way?

COL. DORRIAN:  No, you know what, it's very difficult to predict exactly what -- what's going to be found on the west side of Mosul.  There are things that point to it being more difficult and there are things that point to it being less difficult and I think we're just going to have to plow on, work with the Iraqi security forces and figure that out.

So the enemy lost a tremendous number of fighters on the eastern side of the city, a tremendous amount, and the city is completely surrounded with no real ability for the enemy to resupply or reinforce their fighters.  So that would lead one to think that perhaps it will be a little less difficult.

In addition, they used a tremendous amount of resources.  They don't have the ability to resupply, also something that would be an indicator it would be less difficult.

Now, that said, it's a smaller area with a lot more civilians in it; very concentrated fighting.  Those are things that lead you to believe that it might be more difficult.  So, in the end, what we have to do is just get on with the mission, figure out what we're going to find over there, remain committed to it, completely committed to it as we all are.  And that's -- that's the way forward.

Q:  On east Mosul, recent days has there been fighting, attacks, anything noteworthy?

COL. DORRIAN:  Really, not much noteworthy.  I would say probably some of the things that you would see in a situation like this are happening.  There's some crime.  You know, there's a little bit of a vacuum there because these areas have been largely cleared out of enemy, but a lot of civilians have left their homes.  So there is some criminal activity.

The Iraqi security forces are on it.  But really, nothing -- nothing yet.  Nothing really significant at this point.

Q:  Is it safe to say at this point that none of the ISF or coalition forces have entered into west Mosul?

COL. DORRIAN:  I'm not going to get into whether that has or hasn't happened.  It would be inappropriate to do that.  We're going to protect operational security.  The Iraqi security forces will announce that their forces have moved into west Mosul at a time of their choosing.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Okay.  Next to Carla Babb from Voice of America.

Q:  Hi, colonel.  Good to see you.  Thanks for doing this.  I have three questions, two on Syria; one on Turkey.

There's been reporting out of the U.N. that the Syrian opposition is having trouble forming a coalition to meet for the peace talks there.  And I was just wondering on the flip-side, on the military side, what are you guys seeing with these various militia groups that you are working with to try to defeat Islamic state?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, we are continuing the mission.  We're not seeing any real change in what we've been doing.  Our partner forces are moving into position to continue their operations.  They've been very effective so far.  They've liberated well over 3,000 square kilometers of terrain from the enemy.  And they've done exactly what they had planned to do.

So we have every confidence that they're going to be successful.  We continue working with our allies -- you know, our ally Turkey -- as they continue to press into al-Bab.  That's a very tough fight there, but we've provided a significant amount of strikes and we think we're getting -- giving them good support with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as well.

Those things are really unabated.  They've -- we just continue the mission.  You know, they -- that's -- that's really thematically all these other issues, the political issues, other things.  We have continued our operations at pace.

Q:  And so secondly, in Syria, there's the thought of potentially creating safe zones for civilians and there have been kind of back-and-forths on who would do that.  Does -- the Syrian militias that you're working with -- the Kurds, the SAC -- are there enough people to help set up these safe zones -- enough Syrians to help set up these safe zones and also continue pushing Islamic State at the same level that they're pushing?  Or would there need to be an outside force that comes in, should the call for safe zones be implemented?

COL. DORRIAN:  Carla, you know, you're really calling for some speculation there.  We've not received orders to set up safe zones at this point, so I think we're just gonna have to leave that one.  I understand why you're asking, but we just don't have anything for you in there.

Q:  I -- I'm not necessarily saying like will you set up safe zones?  I'm saying are there enough Syrian fighters and security forces to go around to take on another job in addition to fighting Islamic State?

COL. DORRIAN:  Again, I think we would have to cross that bridge if and when we come to it.  I don't know.

Q:  Okay.  Thank you.

And finally, on Turkey, you said you continue to work with Turkey in Al-Bab.  What's going on with their role in Raqqa?  And what's going on with their potential role in Mosul?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, that has yet to be determined.  This is a subject of ongoing diplomatic discussions between the coalition and our ally Turkey, so if -- if they would like to be involved in Raqqa, we'll -- we'll certainly try to work a place for them.  But right now, that has yet to be determined.

Q:  What's taking so long?  This is taking a lot longer than most deliberations on any sort of involvement in previous operations.

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, Raqqa is a -- is a very complicated area.  There are a lot of various groups that have a lot of various interests.  So we continue to work with the partner force that we believe can isolate the city.  It was very important to move out smartly to get that done since Raqqa is an area that's used for foreign fighter facilitation.  But we're completely open to certainly working with any partner that wants to go and help liberate the city.

This is something that we want to try to have a -- the unifying interest of defeating Daesh be the primary consideration and we'll just have to keep working on that.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Sir, your name again?  I'm sorry.

Q:  Ben Kesling, Wall Street Journal.

Hey, Colonel Dorrian.  How are you?

I got a couple quick questions.  One is you said there haven't been any -- any changes that have -- that have been ordered yet by the Pentagon or through the White House.  But I wonder if any warning orders have come down the pipe yet to be -- to expect changes, to expect to have to set up safe zones, to prepare for if an order does come down to do that?

On the flipside of that, have you received word from the White House or the Pentagon saying that things are going to be steady as she goes for the foreseeable future?

COL. DORRIAN:  I've really received neither at my level.  I'm sure that as the new administration comes in, new secretary and new officials and they have an opportunity to review the -- the -- where we are with the campaign, what's been done, assess the results of it, they'll ask a lot of questions and then perhaps make some decisions about the way ahead.  But right now, we just continue at pace and we're providing a lot of information through the chain of command so that, you know, the officials who are coming onboard can make the decisions that need to be made.

Q:  There's been zero change from -- from the Pentagon or from the White House since -- since the change in the administration, correct?

COL. DORRIAN:  At this point, that's -- that's true to my knowledge.

Q:  There was no effect by the executive order on the -- the temporary immigration and travel ban, but I wonder if there was any effect on our coalition partners in -- in country?  Were there any discussions between top -- top officers or even folks working at the advisory level with Iraqi partners about the effect of this executive order?  Was there any -- was there any discussion between -- between officers at the highest levels about the effect that this would have on the operation, on missions?

And did the CJTF in any way put forth any list or recommendations or official memos to the White House or to the Pentagon that reflected any opinions on how the executive order could affect operations?

COL. DORRIAN:  We're not really in the business of providing opinions, we're in the business of conducting a mission.  So I don't have all the things that you've asked for.  I'm not aware of any of that.

I know that we continue our daily coordination with the Iraqi security forces.  They've made -- you know, we've made clear to them our intent to continue helping them to defeat this enemy and we've continued every single thing that we're doing in order to facilitate that happening.

Q:  Final thing I've got for you is as -- as moving into -- into west Mosul and the eventual -- the eventual retaking of the city is at least on the horizon, what sort of plans are being put into place, discussions being made to clear out other hot spots and pockets throughout the country?  Places like Hawija, places in Anbar where there are still a large number of -- of ISIS -- ISIS fighters or -- or still pockets of fighters.

Has any preparation for dealing with those situations -- has that picked up at all?  Is that a discussion that is becoming more prevalent?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, one of the things that we continue to do, first off, the priority is to get Mosul done.  And the east side of Mosul has been a very, very, very tough fight and I think, you know, our focus has been to make sure that we're ready to help the Iraqi security forces with a very, very tough fight in west Mosul.  That's the appropriate way to handle this.

After that, the enemy will be crushed in Mosul.  You are correct that places like Hawija, Tal Afar, some of the areas of -- you know, along the Euphrates River Valley, gonna have to clear those areas out too.  But the damage that it'll do to ISIL in Iraq is going to be very significant.  And then, you know, we're going to have to go out and get into these other areas.  The Iraqi security forces will make the decision what the priority is with regard -- what's next and we'll be there to support them.

We do continue to conduct supporting fires with our aircraft all over Iraq and Syria to make sure that the enemy remains disrupted; that we take away resources; we take opportunities to take leadership figures off the battlefield.

All those things are ongoing.  So, we remain focused on west Mosul now, but we are setting the stage to help the Iraqi security forces move into these other areas.

At this point, I don't think decisions have been made about where they'll go next.  Indeed, it's all west Mosul all the time for right now.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Okay.  And next to Luis Martinez, ABC News.

Q:  Hi, John -- a quick question about the other executive order.  This is the one with giving 30 days to come up with new ISIS options.

What is your tasking with that?  What kind of -- are you providing information up the chain of command already about future options?  I mean, what -- what is your role, given this new order?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, you know, there's not really any insight that I can provide on that, Luis.  I do understand why you're asking.  Certainly, it's an area of interest to all.  But all those discussions and proposals, any of that, it's all going to work quietly through the chain of command up into the Pentagon and then decisions will be made there.

I just don't have anything to offer.

Q:  Okay.  What about the process?  I guess I asked it not the right way.  I was asking more about the process of how you're going to come up with that.

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, we're constantly assessing our results on the battlefield.  So, you know, we're conducting strikes.  We're doing training.  We're assessing the training of the Iraqi security forces and their performance on the ground to determine if we need to make any changes there.

All these types of things, we're constantly doing.  And so there is, you know a stream of information that can be provided in order to, you know, make any changes that are deemed appropriate.

But, you know, that's -- those are internal deliberations and discussions and it's just not really anything that I can get into a lot of deep detail on process-wise or content-wise.

Q:  Okay.  Can I ask you just one other question about -- in Syria.  Dawr az Zawr seems to be a very complex battle space.  What is the situation there for ISIS?  I mean, how would you describe their presence there?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, they've come into that area and attacked regime elements.  And now they control a significant amount of territory that they didn't previously control.  The regime is fighting back.  And it's just very tough fighting between the regime and Daesh out in that area.

We continue to conduct strikes in that area, you know, to take resources away from the enemy.  The overwhelming preponderance of those strikes for us are on their oil infrastructure.  It's an oil-rich area and we want to deny Daesh the ability to fund their operations through the illicit sale of oil.

This has been a key piece of the campaign to deny those resources.  We've been very effective in Iraq and it's a part of the shaping operations that we continue to do in Syria.

Now, the nature of that is that when we conduct these kinds of strikes, it's a temporary impact.  It's a disruption, not a complete denial so it's something that we have to do constantly, but it's something that we intend to keep on doing.  We know this and we're not just -- we're not going to stop doing that any time soon.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Okay.  And next, Lucas Tomlinson with Fox News.

Q:  Colonel, just following up on that, is Dawr az Zawr the only area where ISIS has made gains recently?

COL. DORRIAN:  ISIS had made gains.  They've -- they've made gains -- gains against regime elements.  One of the things that has not happened is ISIL making any significant gains against any of our partner forces in either Syria or Iraq.  That just hasn't happened and it's not going to happen any time soon.  They continue to be on the back foot, but they have seized an opportunity to move into a Syrian regime area and have taken a significant amount of territory.

Q:  And these armored vehicles that you've given this Arab force, why weren't armored vehicles also given to the SDF?

COL. DORRIAN:  We -- we don't have authorities in place to do that, so our authorities are for giving them to the Syrian Arab Coalition and that's what we did.

Q:  The SDF might be jealous that you're giving these armored vehicles to the Arab forces, but not them.

COL. DORRIAN:  That's possible.


Q:  That's all I had, thank you.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Yeah, Thomas Watkins from Agence France-Press.

Q:  Thank you.

Hello, colonel.  Just to quickly follow up.  I missed the very top of the meeting, so apologies if you already said this.  Are you -- I know you can't give an exact number, but are you able to give us a ballpark of how many vehicles we're talking about here?

COL. DORRIAN:  Really can't go beyond what the -- what the announcement was yesterday, the day before.  So a small number.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Okay.  And Kasim Ileri I believe had a follow-up from Anadolu.

Q:  Yes, one follow-up on the armored vehicle again.

Colonel, you said that those armored vehicles were divested to the Syrian Arab Coalition, and as a partner force, the other elements of Y -- of SDF might benefit from this capability provided to them.  Is this the case for the ammunition and the small arms that you have been providing to this group from last year?

COL. DORRIAN:  I'm having difficulty understanding the question.  I'm sorry, can you please repeat it?  Just speak a little bit slower.

Q:  You have said that those armored vehicles had been provided to Syrian Arab Coalition, divested to the Syrian Arab Coalition.  And as a partner force to this SDF, other SDF elements might benefit from this capability provided to the Arab force.  The question is, is this the case for the ammunition and small arms that you have been providing to the Syrian Arab Coalition?

In other words, did the other elements of SDF, are they also benefiting from the ammunitions and the small arms that you have been providing to the Syrian Arab Coalition?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, what I would tell you is that the resources that we're providing to the Syrian Arab Coalition have helped them be successful in fighting Daesh.  And that benefits not just the SDF, but that benefits all of our nations because this is a brutal enemy.  And what they've been doing is trying to isolate Raqqa so that the enemy is unable to do external operations beyond Syria.  So, it -- it provides the same kind of benefits to all of us.

CAPT. DAVIS:  And a follow up from Lucas Tomlinson.

Q:  Colonel, what areas can you tell us where you can ramp-up operations against ISIS after this executive order calls for a new battle plan?

COL. DORRIAN:  Well, I'm really not going to get into that.  We're -- we're actually conducting some pretty robust operations now.  And those operations are intended to support the Iraqi security forces in Iraq, and they've been very successful in rolling back ISIL's gains.  They've gotten more than 60 percent of the territory that Daesh had previously controlled, back from them.  So we'll just have to let that play out.

Q:  Are there any areas where the coalition could ramp-up operations against ISIS?

COL. DORRIAN:  Again, not going to speculate about that.  We're going to leave that to the experts to come up with some recommendations of what might be done and to work those through the chain of command.

CAPT. DAVIS:  To Ben Kesling again.

Q:  Hey, Colonel Dorrian, just a quick question about Iran.  With the Iranian missile test that happened and some of the reciprocation of travel -- of travel ban, does that escalation of -- of diplomatic issues threaten to spill over into Iraq?  And is there -- could it have any effect on the fight that's occurring against ISIS?  And also, with American interaction with -- (inaudible) -- elements?

COL. DORRIAN:  I haven't seen any evidence of anything like that happening.  But I'm not going to speculate as to what might happen.

CAPT. DAVIS:  To Laurie Mylroie for a follow-up.

Q:  Yes, my previous questioning about ISIS, C.W. capability and Mosul University.  To what extent has, now that Mosul University has been taken out of -- been liberated from ISIS -- to what extent has that denied ISIS the ability to produce chemical weapons?  Does it still have that ability?  Or it's ended with the liberation of Mosul University?

COL. DORRIAN:  Yeah, we don't know how many other facilities the enemy might have.  It certainly damages their capability because they had a significant lab there.  But the enemy has, you know, done a lot of this type of activity.  They've made no mistake -- or made no secret of their desire to have the capability and to use it when they have it.

Right now, it's a rudimentary capability, so we'll have to just continue taking territory back from them and I think what we'll find is that they're trying to do this in a lot of locations.

Q:  Thank you.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Okay.  And with that, we are out of time.

And wanted to thank you very much, J.D., for coming to talk to us today and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

COL. DORRIAN:  Thanks, Jeff.

Take care, everyone.