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NEWS | July 22, 2016

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Colonel Garver via teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq

By CJTF-OIR Public Affairs

STAFF:  Good morning, everyone.

Joining us today from Baghdad is Colonel Christopher Garver, who is the spokesman and public affairs officer for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.

Sir, would you like to start with an opening statement?


And good morning to Pentagon press corps.  Good to see everybody today.  As per usual, I have an opening statement, and then we'll take your questions.  I want to start today in Iraq, and then I'll move to Syria, and then come back to Iraq at the end.

First, I'd like to start with the environment here.  The last three days here in Iraq have seen temperatures reaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  The government of Iraq has declared the last two days as "heat days" and minimized the number of officials here at work.  But despite the brutal heat and the increased dust in the air, the Iraqi security forces have continued offensive operations in both the Euphrates and Tigris River valleys.

And while the ISF continues operations against Da’esh, the coalition continues support with strikes, with training and equipping, with advice and assistance.  In the last seven days, the coalition has conducted 73 strikes inside Iraq in support of the Iraqi security force operations.

In the Tigris River valley in northern Iraq, shaping operations in preparation for the eventual liberation of Mosul continue.  Iraqi security forces continue clearing operations in the vicinity of Qayyarah, which is star-one on the map.  The 71st Brigade recently isolated the town of Aswaja Gharbi on the east side of the Tigris and has commenced clearing the town.

Da’esh still controls -- (inaudible) -- on the western side of the Tigris River, the two largest being Qayyarah itself and Sharqat, which is just to the south of Qayyarah.  The ISF continues offensive operations in and around the area.  To date, we have conducted more than 450 strikes in support of the operations along the Tigris.

Moving south to the Euphrates River valley, at star-two, the 7th Iraqi Army Division completed clearance of the Dulab peninsula.  The Dulab peninsula is the area on the south side of the Euphrates River, approximately 15 miles north of Hit and approximately 10 miles east of Al Asad airbase.  Pockets of Da’esh fighters controlled the peninsula until the 7th IAD and the counterterrorism service cleared the peninsula and gained control of all the terrain south of the river.

The area north of the river is still controlled by Da’esh.  The ISF is now consolidated and holding defensive positions in Dulab and the surrounding villages.

Moving now to Syria, at star-three, on the Mara line, the vetted Syrian opposition continues counter-Da’esh operations, while retaining their line of resistance.  VSO forces recently captured the town of Dutyan with the support of coalition airstrikes.  During that operation over the past 72 hours, the coalition provided five strikes in support of the VSO.

At star-four in Manbij, the Syrian Arab Coalition and other members of the Syrian Democratic Forces continue to push the fight forward slowly and deliberately.  The Syrian Arab Coalition captured a Da’esh headquarters on July 17th in western Manbij.  The Da’esh headquarters was located in a hospital on the west side of the city and was being used as a command center and a logistics hub.

The SAC has also seized just under half the city so far during the operation.  Da’esh continues to fight hard within the center of Manbij with machine guns, well-placed snipers, and improvised explosive devices.  We have seen Da’esh collapsing back into the center of the city.  Da’esh is also mounted local counterattacks against SAC forces and used civilians as human shields and as bait by sending them into range of SAC weapons, trying to draw the fire of the SDF towards the civilians.

In spite of these tactics, the SAC is maintaining their deliberate forward momentum with support from coalition strikes.  Since the beginning of the offensive on May 21st, the coalition has conducted more than 500 strikes in support of this operation.

We've mentioned recently the significant amount of intelligence about Da’esh that has come out of the Mara operation so far -- or the Manbij operations so far.  More than 10,000 items, including more than four terabytes of digital information, have been seized and are being examined to exploit the information.

We are learning more about Da’esh at all levels from this.  On a broad scale, we see Da’esh has plans to insert their personnel into every facet of people's lives, as one would expect a totalitarian state to do.

We've learned about how they organize their governance structures to ensure they can completely control all aspects of daily life, from religious practice, to education to tax collection and management of central services.

We also see indoctrination of the young by rewriting text books with the language of hate for those not following the prescribed Da’esh way of life written into it.

Finally, we have a better understanding of how Da’esh facilitates foreign fighter movements into and out of Syria and Iraq, which gives us valuable insight into stopping the flow of foreign fighters into the region.

The exploitation of all that information continues.  Additionally, you are all aware of the amount of attention that has been given to the allegations of civilian casualties caused by a coalition strike near Manbij.

The incident is being looked into to determine what we can about that strike.  During that portion of the fight, our SAC partner force observed a large group of Da’esh fighters in a convoy who appeared to be readying for a counter attack against SAC troops in the area, and a strike was called in on Da’esh.

The strike was against both buildings and vehicles.  Afterwards, we received reports from several sources, both internal and external, that there may have been civilians in the area who are mixed in and among the Da’esh fighters.

As per our procedure, we are reviewing all available evidence to determine if the information we have is credible enough to warrant a formal investigation.

As we have discussed many times, we apply an extraordinary amount of rigor into our strike clearance procedures to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties or unnecessary collateral damage and to comply with the principles of the law of armed conflict.

We will update you as more information becomes available.

I'd like to move back to Iraq to discuss our building partner capacity line of effort, as we call it, the training and equipping we do to make our partner forces better.

To date, we have trained more than 23,750 Iraqi Security Force troops, which includes Iraqi Army, counter terrorism service and police.

On Wednesday, we completed the first class of the border guard police training program.  The first battalion of six planned, comprised by -- of approximately 300 border guard police officers completed the inaugural four-week course that is focused on tactical defensive training at the individual and collective task level, all the way up to the platoon level.

Additional iterative training courses are planned to provide forensic police training to these officers.  The training was conducted at Al Asad Airbase, which is star five on the map, and is primarily conducted by Danish trainers.

The government of Iraq will deploy these forces along their borders in order to protect the country once Da’esh has been defeated within it.

The border guard police training complements our national and local police training efforts, led by the Italian Carabinieri and supported by several other nations.

Finally, you've heard us say repeatedly that we want to keep the pressure on Da’esh by attacking them across the breadth and depth of their territory and formations in both Iraq and Syria, and that is important to break this idea of the so-called caliphate as we defeat them militarily.

We also strike against the functional elements of Da’esh -- their ability to generate revenues through illicit oil and gas activities, their ability to bring foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq, their ability to finance their activities, their ability to plan operations and their ability to communicate, including the propaganda they send out to the world and use to influence and control their own people.

We have seen Da’esh use media kiosks throughout the so-called caliphate as platforms to push out their propaganda.  On July 19, we targeted and destroyed a number of these media kiosks inside Mosul, star six on the map.  These kiosks were used by Da’esh to distribute propaganda to the local population.  The last time we did strikes like this were back in April of this year, and it demonstrates our dedication to defeating Da’esh, not just physically, but defeating the message and the idea as well.

And with that, I'll be glad to take your questions.

STAFF:  And we'll start with Lita Baldor, Associated Press.

Q:  Hi, Chris.  It's Lita.

Can you give us a little bit of more detailed update of Qayyarah?  How many U.S. forces are there now?  And have additional teams gone in to evaluate the runways and the condition of the -- of the base?  And can you give us a better sense of what shape it's in now?  Have any improvements or any repairs begun?

COL. GARVER:  Well, that's a great question, Lita.  Thanks.

The air field -- the air strip itself is damaged and many of the buildings have been damaged in and around the site.  Now, we've done an initial assessment and I think we've -- we've talked about that recently.  We've got -- a more detailed assessment is going on right now.

There are -- there's at least one Iraqi battalion sitting on that -- that base right now.  There's multiple Iraqi brigades in and around the area, both the east and the west side of the -- of the Tigris River.

But what's important to realize about that base is the base itself is more important to us right now than the air strip is.  We will repair the air strip and we will get that -- that -- that back working, and the 560 additional troops that the secretary of defense talked about a couple weeks ago will be a part of that effort to repair that -- that air strip.

But more importantly is the build-out of that base as a logistical hub to support the Iraqi security forces, just as we used Makhmur for when we were on the east side of the Tigris.  So we will prepare that for Iraqi forces to live and train and rehearse and plan.  We will -- will prepare that as a logistics hub to bring in supplies and push them back out.  We don't need the air strip to be able to do that.  We can do all that with -- with what we have available now.

But eventually, they will complete that air strip, repair that air strip, and that will be used as well.  But the base itself is more important right now than the air strip itself.  That's why it's the first priority and the air strip is the second priority.

Q:  That there's an assessment going on right now, that's a U.S. -- another U.S. team that's in there?  And when I asked General Votel the other day if any U.S. troops have started to flow in, he said the -- the large groups of troops haven't gone in yet, suggesting there are some there.  Can you say how many?

COL. GARVER:  There are no U.S. forces there today.  I don't want to talk specifically about when they will, but there is another assessment team that is part of all of that, of kind of building out the base.  And when we get folks in place and doing their mission, we'll be in a better position to kind of talk about what's going to be there from a coalition perspective, not just the Iraqi Security Forces perspective.

STAFF:  Dave Martin, CBS.

Q:  Could you talk a little bit more about the airstrike and the claims of civilian casualties up around Manbij?  You said that you now have I think you said internal and external sources that some civilians may have been mixed in.

One, do you have any estimates of the numbers of civilians who may have been mixed in?  Two, was that possibility known before the strike -- and a decision made that, you know, a military objective was worth the risk of civilian casualties?

COL. GARVER:  In terms of the size, David, I've seen different estimates in the initial reports that came in.  I think the largest we've seen in a while in the open press.  I was kind of a wild speculation towards 73 -- I think was the number that I saw in one report, all the way down to 10 or 15 in different reporting as well.

So that's part of what the investigation is going to be, because the estimate was pretty wide.  The range was pretty wide in terms of who we think might have been a civilian in that strike.

Secondly, that's the part about whether or not somebody made a decision to hit that target.  I don't know.  That's part of the investigation.  They're going to figure that out.  So, I can't talk about that yet as that will be part of the investigation process.

Q:  Everybody has seen the estimate of civilian dead from the external sources.  What do you internal sources estimate the number of civilian dead?

COL. GARVER:  I'll just say that it was much less than the high end like we saw.  Like I said, 73 was the high end of what I saw in the open source.  It was much less down lower toward the left end of the scale -- the lower end of the scale.  Approximately, what they were concerned about was somewhere between 10 and 20 but I can't be specific as that is part of what the investigation is.

Q:  Can I just clarify with you -- are you know saying that the U.S. military, separate from open source information, separate from press statements made by outside groups, that the U.S. military, itself, does have internal information suggesting to you, in fact, there were civilian casualties?  You seem to be saying that.

COL. GARVER:  What I specifically said Barbara, was that there was internal and external reporting.

The internal reporting may encompass some of the external reporting that we saw where people were suddenly concerned because of external reporting that we saw.  The specifics of an internal report that says," yes, we think there were civilians in that strike," I haven't seen that.  That's again, part of the investigative process that we need to work through.

But there were reports that come into the command both internally and externally, that said, "we may have cause for concerns, there may have been civilians involved in the strike."  And some of that was generated from -- internally, we saw some of the external reporting that was going on.

Q:  I'm even more confused.

Do you have U.S. military information, intelligence, that suggests to you there may have been civilian strikes, or is your only source of reporting essentially still outside open source reporting?

COL. GARVER:  I have nothing to give you today on whether or not there was any internal coalition military information that said there may or may not have been civilians in that -- in that strike.

I just don't have anything to give you on that right now.  I don't know, and it's with the unit that's conducting the investigation.

Q:  Could I also just clarify -- I'm very sorry -- are we talking -- there were multiple numbers, but there were also strikes in Manbij over two days, and some suggestion that there were civilian strikes on both -- civilian casualties on both days.  Are you simply talking about the first day of strikes against that convoy?  What missions exactly are under investigation?

COL. GARVER:  That -- that strike is the one I'm talking about right now, the one on the convoy.  That's the strike that we're talking about.

Q:  Chris, good morning.  There's a report out this morning that suggests the June 16th bombing of a garrison at at-Tanf in southeastern Syria, that there has been U.S. and British troops there within 24 hours potentially.  Can you confirm that?  And I guess in light of that, can you shed any light on where the coalition is and where the commanders are in terms of Russian intervention, Russian involvement in that area, and how the communication is at this point?  It sounds a lot more potentially troublesome than we had heard previously.

COL. GARVER:  Corey, I'm not going to discuss the specifics of either U.S. or other coalition SOF operations.  So I'm not going to confirm that one way or another.  As for the negotiations with the Russians in regard to operations inside Syria, I can tell you that today we are doing exactly what we've been doing.  We're not cooperating in any way other than communicating through the one channel for safety of flight through the memorandum of agreement that we have.

The negotiations are being conducted at a higher level than the Combined Joint Task Force.  You can ask the folks in the building there if there's been any change.  But where we are today as we're conducting operations, it's the same way we have been.  And there's no cooperation with Russian forces at this time.

STAFF:  Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News?

Q:  Colonel, there's a report that an American vigilante fighting ISIS was killed in Syria.  Do you have anything on that?

COL. GARVER:  I saw the headline, Lucas, just on Twitter, but I haven't gotten any other information on that.  I saw some open source reporting, but don't have anything specific about that.

STAFF:  Carla Babb, VOA?

Q:  Hi, Colonel Garver.  Thanks for doing this.

Back on Manbij, you were saying, and I think Secretary Carter had said on Wednesday, that you were still seeing if it warrants -- the civilian potential killing warrants an investigation.  Where are you?  Are you still in the review to see if it warrants an investigation?  Or is the U.S. military actually in the investigative stage right now?

COL. GARVER:  We're in the first phase, which is we determine what we call a credibility assessment.  Does the information we have warrant a formal investigation?  The unit is conducting that credibility assessment right now.  At the end of that, the commander will either say, you know, as the unit completes that, the unit will say either we don't think it warrants a formal investigation, or we do, and then they'll launch a formal investigation.

So they've got some time to complete that.  It's less than a week-and-a-half now to complete that internal -- that review.  And then they'll recommend to a higher commander that says, yeah, we think we need to do a formal investigation, or not.  And I don't want to get in front of that investigation -- in front of that review process, in front of the credibility assessment, to figure out one way or another or predict one way or another where it's going to go.

Q:  And just so I'm clear on the timeline, is it less than a week and a half from the reporting of the incident, or less than a week and a half from today that you're referring to?

COL. GARVER:  It's less than a week and a half from today.

The standard within CENTCOM and within Central Command is you have 14 days to complete the assessment from being told to do it.  The unit was told to do it a few days ago, and they're in the middle of doing that now.

STAFF:  Corey Dickstein.

Q:  Yes, sir.  Can you -- just following up on Carla's question, after these 14 days, if it -- if they do recommend a formal investigation, can -- can you talk at all as to how long that kind of investigation would take?

And can you talk at all about what goes into that investigation, and how that's -- how that's done from -- from your side?

COL. GARVER:  Well, I could you that the time it takes is the time it takes.

They're in our timelines and what -- it's what we call an Army -- an AR 15-6, which is a command investigation.  You can look it up in the Army regulations about what that is.

There are timelines that are built in.  I'm certainly not a lawyer, so I would -- I would say, I think they have a short amount of time to get back to their commander who assigned them that report.  In this case, General MacFarland is interested, General Votel clearly is interested in this -- in this as well.

But I don't want to talk to specifics, because I don't have it off the top of the my head, and I get -- I said I think it's a couple of weeks to complete the investigation.  You can apply for additional time if you need it as the investigating officer.

You take the credibility assessment information, and then that becomes part of the evidence.  And then you'll go forward to -- the investigating officer would go forward to figure out what -- what -- can we determine, you know, in this instance, the determination will be, do we think we killed civilians accidentally in this strike?

And that is the end result of -- of this.  And then any recommendations towards what -- was it a procedural error?  Did somebody not do something right?  Was it fog and friction of war?  Was it something that Da’esh had done as a tactic that -- that we were not paying attention to, and therefore, we need to inform our units in the future to watch out for this tactic.

The investigating officer's recommendations go to the commander, the commander can makes changes to our procedures along the way.  And at the end of all of that, we would at some point, publish a release from either CJTF or Central Command that said that we acknowledge that we killed civilians, if that was the end of the result.

STAFF:  Paul Shinkman, US News.

Q:  Ah, yes.  Good morning Colonel Garver, good to see you again.

There is a -- a news report yesterday afternoon, I think it was from Reuters that the forces on the ground surrounding Manbij had given the Islamic State fighters to leave.

Can you talk about what -- what that plan is, what happens after 48 hours?  And have you seen any indication that there are Islamic State group fighters leaving that area?

COL. GARVER:  Yeah.  I saw that report from Reuters.  I don't have anything from -- our advisers with those units are from the chain of command on the ground, the SAC chain of command on the ground that -- that confirms that.

So, as of right now, I'm not confirming that.  I don't -- I haven't talked to anybody who -- who saw what -- saw, you know, any kind of ultimatum like that.  I -- I can't confirm that it even exists, and the -- the attack is still going forward today.

So, I don't know, you know, what somebody thought they were going to -- to buy with that.  But the -- the SAC is fighting inside the city, and actually moved a little bit more towards the center of the city after they had seized that hospital, they're still moving forward.

So, I can't confirm that report.

Q:  And can you talk about -- we've heard about with previous towns in -- of Iraq that have been liberated that there is some sort of formal process, some sort of formal plan that goes into it to allow for the fact that people will likely be fleeing from the town that could include fighters who were based there and there needs to be some sort of avenue to allow them to do that so the coalition forces can focus on the fighting.

Is the same true in Syria, where there are sort of fewer coalition fighters on the ground and it's more about grouping local fighters together?  Is there a plan in place to -- to allow for the movements of people when -- when campaigns like this begin?

COL. GARVER:  So the short answer is yes.

And now, I'll give you the long answer.  The long answer is that there is a plan.  They initially had a plan, the Syrian Democratic Forces, the SAC, Syrian Arab Coalition, as part of the SDF.  All these forces had a plan to leave a corridor out towards the west so if anybody was escaping, they could go out that corridor.

But what we had seen in Iraq and what seemed to work well was instead of leaving a corridor open which Da’esh potentially could -- could capitalize on, could exploit, is that as -- as long as your troops are aware that people are going to be fleeing the area and as they come to the forward lines, if you identify what you think is a civilian and -- not a member of Da’esh, we pass those -- those civilians back through the lines.  The people in the back of the formation take them and move them to safety.

And so based on recommendations from the coalition, that's what the Syrian Arab Coalition and the SDF have been doing, and we have had people coming out of the city and we think there are still a couple thousand more in there.  I've seen some -- some wide range -- again, wide range of estimates of how many civilians we think are still inside Manbij.  But we have had several thousand that have come out and have been moved through the lines and sent back to a more secure area.

STAFF:  Back to Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News.

Q:  Is this new tactic of ISIS putting civilians in vehicles, is -- does that slow down the air war?

COL. GARVER:  Well, as we saw, Lucas, on the strikes that we did on the convoys a couple weeks ago, if we're not sure what's inside those vehicles, we will not pull the trigger until we know.

And so there was a portion of the convoy that was north of Fallujah that, as that started to form, we thought a portion of that convoy may have civilians, may have family members or may have women and children.  So we did not initially strike that portion of the convoy.  But as we watched it with ISR and with our intelligence platforms and we developed an intelligence picture, we got to a point where we think that they had left.  We were able to kind of check to see yes, everybody's holding a weapon or everybody's manning a machine gun or looks like Da’esh and we were able to then go in and strike those portions of convoys.

So it doesn't hold up the air war any more than we already hold ourselves up in trying to ensure that we're -- we're not hitting anything but Da’esh when we shoot at it.  Those are the same normal procedures that we go through.  Now clearly, if we know they're operating that way inside a certain area, as we see inside Manbij, the fight inside Manbij has been very intense.  And as -- as it collapses in, it gets -- it gets more intense, which is sort of different than what we saw in Ramadi and what we saw in Fallujah.

And I talked kind of before about punching through the crust and into the gooey center.  The gooey center's getting -- there is no gooey center yet.  The gooey center is still a tough crust as it collapses back in on itself.

So we're -- so we -- yes, as you're about to strike a vehicle, you want to make sure you know what's inside it, and if you're not sure, you're not going to pull the trigger until you're absolutely sure.

Q:  Are you concerned the command, following the success will strike outside Fallujah against those hundreds of vehicles that ISIS has adopted this new tactic of putting civilians in vehicles when travelling.

COL. GARVER:  We saw their use of civilians in Manbij this way prior to that strike outside of Fallujah.

So the Da’esh leaders in Manbij were using the civilians -- we talked abbot human shields -- but using them as bait to try to draw us into shooting civilians as well.  They were trying to draw the SDF into shooting civilians as well.  That was happening before the convoy strike.

So that was clearly, whoever was in charge of Manbij -- that was a decision that they made to use those civilians in that way before they saw the results of  what happened in Fallujah.

Q:  Over to Incirlik Air Base, how many soldiers were lost in the week when the coup was over and the power was turned off externally?

COL. GARVER:  I would tell you -- I want to let the specifics of that go to the CAOC, Contact Lieutenant Colonel Chris Karns, or to the base itself is run out of EUCOM, Captain Danny Hernandez at EUCOM public affairs.

What I can tell you is that the impact on the ground was exceedingly minimal because we were able to shift -- there's enough flexibility built into the air plan, and airplanes and can fly from one point to another if you need them to.  They can fly as long as they need to because we just give them more gas in the air.  So that just becomes more of a logistical problem to get them to point a to point b.

Before we were flying out of Incirlik, we were flying from other parts of the region and we had to give them more gas to get them up in the northern edge of Syria and the northern edge of Iraq.  So we can do that again.  They started doing that again.

Then we had kind of gone back and forth with whether the -- we were going to be allowed to fly when all of military flight was stopped inside Turkey.  We were able to shift responsibilities and air plans around to make sure that it was absolutely a minimal impact to the fight on the ground.

And now, we are flying again.  There's power again.  So we expect the operations to get back to normal at Incirlik.

I would like to just say, we want to thank everybody who was involved in getting this resolved, getting the power turned back on.  The troops there have been -- they have been eating, they have had showers, they have had WiFi, but things are starting to get uncomfortable so it came back on just at the right time.

So everybody who was involved in that from the Turks, the other coalition partners, up to the folks in the building where you are right now, and Department of State, everybody who was involved in that, we appreciate that, that's turned back on.

As the end user of the strikes in northern Iraq and northern Syria, but the actually airplane stuff -- I would ask you to talk to Chris Karns or to one of the other folks over there.

Q:  And finally, this purge of Turkish officers from the military inside Turkey, did the U.S. military lose some allies in the fight against ISIS as a result?

COL. GARVER:  Yeah, I'm not going to be able to talk to that, Lucas.  I'm not going to talk about what's going on inside Turkey right now.

Clearly, they've got some internal issues that they're dealing with right now.  I can't imagine if it happened in our own military.  I don't know how I would react personally either.  I can't talk to what's going on up there in Turkey about that right now.

We are focused on fighting Da’esh here.  We are going to stay focused on fighting Da’esh here.  We have been able to keep doing that in spite of our Turkish allies' issues that they had over the weekend.

STAFF:  Over to Dan Lamothe.

Q:  Chris, Dan with the Washington Post.

One follow up and one question, on the American who was fighting with the YPG, I spoke with his mother yesterday, and they said, they had no idea how they were going to get his remains home.  Is that something that the U.S. military in light of the relationship with the Kurds could potentially assist with?

COL. GARVER:  Dan, that's a great question.

I will push that back into our chain of command to kind of see if -- if there is way that we could potentially assist in that.

Eventually, if remains were returned to us, we certainly have the ability to do things like that.  I can't sign us up for anything yet until we know some details, but -- and I'm way outside of my lane here as it is. Certainly, we have the -- the capacity to do that, the capability to do that.

But I'll -- I'll address that to the chain of command, and see if that's something that we can assist with.

Q:  Did the -- the secretary mentioned earlier this week that the JIDA director had been in country this week in Baghdad, probably with some of his staff, discussing the bombings in Baghdad, how to present -- prevent that sort of thing in the future.

Do you have an initial readout on what happened?  There any equipment or anything that was discussed during the agreements that were reached?

COL. GARVER:  Lieutenant General Shields is here in Baghdad, in fact.  And I don't want to talk about the specifics of his travel plans.

But he has been meeting with leaders, both coalition and Iraqi leaders.  He's going to need to get back to -- to back to JIDA, and give a readout to his chain of command.  And then they're going to have to look at what types of solutions they can offer the Iraqis.

And remember, in the end, the Iraqis have to agree to whatever support we offer.

My boss, General MacFarland is -- is -- has said on -- you know, in the past, "You can't inflict support on somebody."  And so, even if we come up with potential solutions to help with the -- the bomber network issue here in Baghdad, the Iraqis have to agree with it.

So, there's going to be some negotiations along the way.  But know General Shields' team.  I talked to him yesterday, as a matter of fact.

They're -- they're here; they're doing what the secretary of defense told them to do.  And then he's going to get back; he's going to out-brief his chain of command there.  And then his team has got to do some -- some thinking about what they can do to influence that and then help out the Iraqi Security Force, because ultimately, JIDA's mission is to stop people from being blown up, be it coalition forces or Iraqi civilians.

So, if they're able to help with that, I know they'll be glad to do that.  But there's still some negotiations that will have to take place before we get JIDA help in here to help the Iraqis.

STAFF:  All right, go to Carla Babb, Voice of America.

Q:  Hi.  Just a quick follow-up on Manbij -- how much does the SAC forces control in the city?  More than half, two-thirds?

COL. GARVER:  It's -- it's just about half.  It's, again, tough to -- tough to kind of parcel it out specifically.

But it's different than the fight -- the fight in Manbij is different than what we've seen in Fallujah, what we've seen in Ramadi, what we've seen in some of the small towns in Qayyarah, in that area.

This is the SAC -- or excuse me.  This is Da’esh falling back in on itself, and reinforcing its positions and making it tougher to fight in towards the city, to -- to fight into towards the -- the center of the city.

Now, we talked before, when this started, about the importance of Manbij to Da’esh, that open corridor from Raqqa to the outside world, out through Turkey, out into Europe, out into the rest of the world, both in and out through Manbij.

And they are fighting like it is of that strategic importance to them.  So, they also control -- like I said, we think at least a couple of thousand civilians inside the city as well, which was why the fight is being very slow and very deliberate, and moving forward very specifically, very deliberately.

It is not a fast rush into the city.  They are being very careful about how they fight this.

And when you -- when you realize Da’esh is sending civilians out towards the lines trying to draw fire, so that they can use that either as a propaganda tool, or in some way get a benefit from the SAC accidentally killing civilians, that -- that keeps that very deliberate.  That keeps it very, very specific and very, very deliberate as you're working through the city.

So about half is what I think is what is reported from the command on the ground has said.  Generally, I think the western half, but the circle is tightening around the entire city itself.  But as Da’esh falls back in, this is a fight like we haven't seen before.  I could be a tough fight and take a while longer to clear everything out.

Q:  Baghdad, what specifically could the U.S. military offer the Iraqis in terms of combating the bombings -- would it require a visible U.S. military presence there in Baghdad?

COL. GARVER:  Well, Jim, I'm not the spokesperson for JIDA I don't want to talk about what they can bring to the table.  They bring technologically solutions, they bring intelligence, they bring information, they bring tactics, techniques and procedures.  All of those would be something that General Shield looks at when he gets back to his headquarters as he figures out what they can offer.

I don't want to get out in front of that.  He's still -- as I said, he's still right in the middle of his trip.  He's still kind of formulating his ideas and he's going to have some time to do that and to go back and talk to his chain of command.

As I said, it's going to have to be a negotiation fact to the Iraqis for them to approve whatever it is that we do to support them.  So it's a wide range options.  I would direct you toward JIDA about what some of those are.

Clearly, you know we don't talk too often about what we're doing in the counter -- IED fight because we're very careful about informing our enemy about counter- IED operations, counter- explosive operations.  But there's a wide range of possibilities available to the coalition, specifically to JIDA to offer back to the Iraqis.

STAFF:  Any more questions?

Thank you very much.

Colonel Garver, sir, would you like to make a closing statement?

COL. GARVER:  Well, I appreciate everybody's attention today.

Like I said, the Iraqi Security Forces, in spite of the heat, in spite of everybody else getting the heat day -- or two heat days here in Iraq, they are out still fighting in the front lines.  They are out still clearing.  They are out still conducting simultaneous major operations in both the Euphrates and the Tigris river valley.

We talked about progress and we talked about the Iraqi Security Forces developing as a force, developing in its ability to beat Da’esh.  They are demonstrating that right now.

Of course, we are continuing to provide the things that we do to make them better, to help them with that fight.  But in spite of the challenges here, they are driving on and they're continuing that fight.

Thank you.

STAFF:  Thank you, sir.

Thank you, everyone.  Have a great weekend.