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NEWS | Aug. 3, 2016

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

By CJTF-OIR Public Affairs

CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS:  Good morning, everybody.  And we're bringing Colonel Garver up right now.

And just before we get started, Chris, ensure we can hear you and you can hear us.

COLONEL CHRISTOPHER GARVER:  All right.  Jeff, can everybody hear me?

CAPT. DAVIS:  Everybody, we're pleased to have Colonel Christopher Garver join us today from a military installation in the Middle East.  He is the public affairs officer and spokesman for -- commander of Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.

Chris, over to you.

COL. GARVER:  All right.  Thanks, Jeff.

Good morning Pentagon Press Corps.  Good to see everybody.  As always, I'll have some brief remarks and then I'll be glad to take your questions.

The coalition continues to maintain momentum achieved due to the progress made over the last year by the Iraqi security forces and our partner forces in Syria.  As we repeatedly state, we continue to provide strikes against the breadth and depth of Da’esh's formations in both Iraq and Syria.

We continue to make our partner forces better by training and equipping the ISF and those partner forces in Syria and we continue to provide advice and assistance to those forces in the fight, while bringing to bear the power of a coalition of 67 nations and organizations.

I want to provide an update on the allegations of civilian casualties in Manbij, Syria.  To clarify, we have looked into three separate allegations.  As I mentioned last week and Captain Davis mentioned yesterday, the allegation for the strike that occurred on the 19th is currently under formal investigation, and that investigation is proceeding.

The second allegation from July 23rd of an alleged strike in the village of al-Nawaja, which is east of Manbij, was determined to be not credible enough to warrant further investigation primarily because the JCTF did not conduct any strikes in that geographic location.

Finally, on July 28th, Central Command announced it had initiated the assessment of a strike that had potentially caused civilian casualties earlier that day in (inaudible), northwest of Manbij.  This incident has been found to be credible enough to warrant a formal investigation, which is underway.  We will update you on those investigations as appropriate.

So please pull up the map.

In the vicinity of Qayyarah, Iraq at star one, Iraqi counterterrorism service units and units from the 9th Iraqi Army Division have conducted clearance operations south of Qayyarah West Air Field near Hadaad Junction.

Nineveh police battalions, which will be the primary hold force in this area, are conducting security operations west of the Tigris River in Kabruk, Mahana and Karbadon-- (inaudible).

Da’esh's forces continue to operate in the region in small numbers, and have not massed significant combat power in that area since the ISF installed the bridge over the Tigris more than two weeks ago.

Coalition forces have completed a more technical assessment of the Qayyarah West Base and Airfield.

As we mentioned before, the more important part of the base for the next phase of the operation is the base itself and not the runway.  The buildout of the base as a logistics hub and as a life support area for Iraqi forces as they prepare for the eventual assault into Mosul is the first priority.

And to answer your question before you ask it, currently, there are no coalition troops at Qayyarah West.  In the last 24 hours, the coalition conducted one strike in support of the Tigris operations.  Since the start of the operation, we have conducted 452 strikes in support.

Moving down the Euphrates River, that's star two, the Iraqi Security Forces continue operations north of the Euphrates to clear Da’esh pockets from the small towns and neighborhoods north of the river.  Units from the 8th and 10th Iraqi Army divisions are conducting these clearance operations, and the coalition continues to support them.

In the past 72 hours, the coalition has conducted six strikes along the Euphrates in support of the ISF.

In Northern Mosul -- that's star three -- the coalition conducted a strike on August 1st against a foreign fighter accommodation and meeting facility that also served as a training site.

This target was a former Saddam Hussein era palace located near Mosul.  The strike was conducted by coalition aircraft from several different contributing nations.  The destruction of this facility will degrade Da’esh's ability to support, house and train foreign fighters as they flow into Northern Iraq.

Since June 13th, we have conducted ten strikes against foreign fighter facilities, including meeting, training and weapons storage facilities in both Iraq and Syria.

Like our strikes against their natural gas and oil activities, which is Operation Tidal Wave II, our strikes against their leaders and our strikes against their communication networks, these strikes against foreign fighter facilitation networks degrade Da’esh's ability to reconstitute its combat power with fresh foreign fighters, and continues to maintain pressure against the breadth and depth of their formations and activities across both Iraq and Syria.

Moving now to Syria, in Manbij, star four -- the Syrian Arab coalition and the Syrian Democratic Forces made progress in Manbij over the last several days, seeing gains toward the center of the city on the eastern and southern flanks.

We've also seen several hundred civilians fleeing Manbij make it safely out of the city and through the SAC lines.  This remains a very tough and deliberate fight, as the SAC clears the city house by house and room by room, while working to avoid civilian casualties.

Da’esh has mounted several localized counter attacks both in the city fighting outward, and outside the SAC forces isolating Manbij fighting inward.

Those attacks have been repeatedly blunted by the SAC and SDF forces.  We also continue to see Da’esh's tactics of snipers in the Minarets of mosques, machine guns and IEDs used as counter-mobility mines.

The coalition has conducted 66 strikes against Da’esh in the last seven days, and 602 strikes overall in support of the Manbij operation.  Our partnered forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria continue to demonstrate momentum against Da’esh.

We will continue to do what we can to maintain that momentum.

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

CAPT. DAVIS:  We'll start with Thomas Watkins from Agence France-Presse.

Q:  (Inaudible) -- I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the kind of evidence that you saw that the -- enabled you to make the determination that these incidents -- these two incidents in July should go to formal investigation?

COL. GARVER:  Well, that evidence is part of the investigation.  It would be inappropriate for me to discuss it at this time.

You've seen the results of the investigations that CENTCOM has put out up to this point, where at the end if we feel we have killed civilians accidentally in an operation, we would identify where it was, when it took place, and the result behind that.

More specific information we have not released yet.  And we'd have to discuss that with CENTCOM about the releaseability of any specific piece of evidence that you may be asking about.

Q:  (off-mic.) there's any -- the number -- forgive me, I was away last month.  I think the first instance was 56 killed as recorded by the Syrian observatory.  Do you give any credence to that?

COL. GARVER:  Like I said a couple of weeks ago, we saw a varying -- a kind of a range of potential civilian casualties, anywhere from 10 to 15, up to around 73 I think was the largest number I saw in the open source.

That's part of the investigation.  We thought it was on the lower end of the scale and not on the higher end, but as the investigation continues forward and we -- we figure out what we can from that, that's when -- if in the end we think we did kill civilians, we would come out and say how many we did think we killed.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next to June Torbati from Reuters.

Q:  Thanks, Colonel Garver.

An opposition Syrian group, as well as a neutral Syrian rescue group, have reported yesterday that they believe there was toxic gas dropped on a town called (inaudible) in Idlib province.  And the opposition group blamed it on Assad.

And I'm just wondering if you all have any evidence that this gas was dropped and who might be behind it.  The civil defense group said they thought it might be chlorine gas.

COL. GARVER:  We've seen the reports in the open source about that.  I don't have any additional information to provide to you at this time.

We certainly have seen a wide variety of weapons being used against those rebel forces in those areas.  We are not partnered with anyone in those areas.  We, the CJTF, we're of course focused on Da’esh, and we -- we don't see Da’esh in the areas in which most of time those -- those strikes happen.

So I don't have any additional information to provide to you at this time.

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

Q:  Hi, colonel.

Last week you talked about the 10,000 pieces of intelligence data that had been collected.  Can you give us an update on that?  Has any additional data been collected?  Have you learned anything else from what was gathered from Manbij?

COL. GARVER:  As we talked about over the last couple of weeks, we -- we think that was a significant intelligence find, find of materials that's going to provide us intelligence.  But we also talked about the size of the information and how long it's going to take, you know, how much work it's going to take to, kind of, sift through that.

That information's being looked at in conjunction with our partners and then also by an organization back in the States that -- that does that work, that takes a look at that information.  And I don't have the name of it off the top of my head; we can get that for you.

So I don't have any additional information on that.

As that information provides us intelligence, we'll look for opportunities to be able to share that.  Certainly we'll share that with our coalition partners.  But we look for opportunities that we can kind of explain that and provide context to all that information that we found.

Q:  Just a follow up:  Was this, kind of, a one-off haul or are you still pulling data from Manbij in different houses and computers and what not?

COL. GARVER:  Well, any time you take an objective, your forces on the ground, you want them to look for information.  So if they find a computer, you want to -- you want to train your partners.  We do the same thing with our forces when our soldiers are learning, to take a house, clear an objective.  You look for base of intelligence and you grab those and move them back out.

So there's still the opportunity as we're fighting in the city to find those -- those pieces of information -- additional pieces of information.  If we see a laptop, if we see a thumb drive, if we see a cell phone, we're going to grab it, we're going to try to exploit it.

Q:  Just to update stats, last week, you estimated about half of Manbij had been recovered.  Has -- has that number changed at all?

COL. GARVER:  Yeah, I'll say that we think more than half has been recovered.  I don't have a specific percentage.  As you know, this is -- it's not really a mathematical formula, but we think more than half the city has been recovered at this time.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Gordon Lubold from the Wall Street Journal.

Q:  Colonel, two questions.  One is -- sorry, I missed the top, but can you give us any kind of update on the situation -- operations around Q-West in the airfield and what's going on there?  But also, different question is, what's just the update -- I've been away a little bit myself, on the U.S.-Russia deal in Syria?  And kind of what -- how is that shaping up now?

COL. GARVER:  I'll take the second question first because it's going to be very -- it's going to be much shorter than your previous one, which is the CJTF is not involved in the negotiation piece.  I can't tell you what the status is and you need to ask the folks in the room that are with you, that you're sitting near because it's being handled out of that headquarters.

Being it's a DOD-led and State Department-led negotiation.  So we don't really have a role in that at the CJTF level.

So what's going on outside of Qayyarah, right now the forces that have seized to the far west, which is Qayyarah West Airfield itself, and then kind of forces all the way over to the eastern side of the river and where the 15th Iraqi Division had conducted those attacks from Makhmur towards the river.  Those forces are what we call consolidating and reorganizing.

They are putting the hold force, which is the police battalions, in place, and you -- we do that as a relief in place.  So if a Iraqi security force, an Iraqi army battalion were to seize a town or a road junction, you would bring police in and then you have to do a formal turnover to the police of that site so that you don't -- you know, you don't have coverage at one point while you're transferring from an Iraqi army unit to an Iraqi police unit.

That's going to provide the security, the hold force in that area.  That's going on throughout the area as well.  And so the units are now preparing for the next big fight, which as we know, is -- is going to be on the way to Mosul.  So that is -- that's the operation that's going on.

So you're not seeing a lot of forward motion right now.  There are still bad guys in Qayyarah and there are still bad guys in Sharqat and we've seen pockets of fighters operating around that area as well.  So there's still fighting to be done in that area and we expect the Iraqi security forces will have some type of operation in the near future to push the fight against those forces in those areas.

Does that answer your question?

Q:  Yes, thank you for that.  So a couple quick follow-ups.  One is on the Russia deal.  I know you can't speak to it, but can you tell us the current operational tempo of the -- of the Assad regime fighters flying, like how often are they flying?

COL. GARVER:  Yeah.  I don't have an accurate, up-to-date number on that.  We know they're conducting operations, but I don't -- I don't have kind of a scale and scope for you.

Q:  Is there any -- and just is there a current assessment or any kind of new assessment on the state of ISIS inside Mosul in terms of folks there and any potential that some of these guys may be softer militants that may fold quickly inside Mosul whenever that operation does start to unfold?

COL. GARVER:  That's -- that's a great question and that's something certainly that we're looking for very carefully.  You know, when we talk about how many -- how many Da’esh forces, how many Da’esh fighters are inside Mosul, you have kind of the force that we think is there now and the force that we want to be there when we conduct the assault, and that's part of the shaping operations to pound the enemy down to the number that you want to fight as opposed to the number that's there.

We see them weakening inside Mosul.  How much?  Clearly, that's what we're -- we're trying to figure out.  But we do see some indications that morale is lower, we see indications that morale of the civilians inside -- inside Mosul is lower as well.

We know that they have started cutting off internet access and really access to the outside world for the citizens inside Mosul and we know that they're afraid that citizens of -- of -- Iraqi citizens inside Mosul are going to communicate with the ISF.  We've seen that fear in ISIS, in Da’esh.  We've seen that -- we saw that in Ramadi, we saw that in Fallujah.  We're -- we're seeing those reflections, as we call it, kind of we see those indicators inside Mosul as well.

We've seen continued execution of Da’esh leaders by -- you know, by their senior commanders for lack of success of failure on the battlefield.  And we -- and we hear indications in the press, in the open sources as well, that they're not happy with the state of the operation.  They weren't happy with the state of the operation down in Fallujah and they're not -- not happy with where they are in Mosul.

None of that is to say that's going to be an easy fight in Mosul.  We still anticipate that somewhere between 5,000 or so fighters are inside Mosul.  Like I said, we're going to continue to try to -- to -- to shrink that number down before the ground assault comes.  But -- but you know, we -- we're still anticipating a tough fight.  We know that they consider this one of the two capitals of the so-called caliphate.  It's the capital inside Iraq, it's the -- the largest cities still held in Iraq.

And clearly, all eyes are kind of focused on Mosul right now, so not only would it be a significant -- a significant physical loss, but the loss of prestige, as we saw after Fallujah, as we saw after Ramadi.  Their reputation as they try to manage it is going to -- it's going to take a big hit when Mosul does fall.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Next, we'll go to Courtney Kube from NBC News.

Q:  Hey, Chris.  Two follow-ups.  On Qayyarah, just to be clear.  So have any -- how many or have any of the 560 Americans arrived there yet?  And -- and if so, what are they -- the first group doing right now?

COL. GARVER:  They have not occupied into Q-West -- into the air field itself yet.  We're still bringing forces in as the secretary said and as General MacFarland said.  Those forces were notified it was going to be a short turn to flow them into theater.  You know, clearly, we're going to bring them in in stages and not take them directly to Q-West from somewhere in the United States or -- or wherever it is they're coming from.

But those -- and we're not going to talk about the flow of those sources until they kind of get set and we have an ability to do that.  But those forces -- what they're going to do is when they get in there, they're going to start -- first, you've got to fix up the base so that the Iraqis can live there.  You're going to end up doing, you know at -- at -- if you look at Makhmur, things that we did at Makhmur, we might end up doing some of those things again.

We built basically life support -- life support area for the Iraqi forces that were going to live there.  You gravel, you put in tents, you put in places for them to eat, use the facilities, those sorts of things.  You got to build that out.

You're going to build in where you're going to store your ammunition.  You've got to build in your force protection piece of that.  That's the number one thing you want get in, is kind of the force protection of the base.  And the Iraqis right now are kind of going through that security of the area around the base as well.

So all of those things are going to start to flow in.  When that's going to be, you know, we're not going to talk about that until it's already happening.

Q:  One follow-up on June's question about the chlorine gas -- allegations of another -- yet another chlorine gas attack in Syria, is the U.S. military involved in investigating these newest allegations at all?

COL. GARVER:  The CJTF is not.  I can't talk about the rest of the military.  Again, the guys in the room there near you would be better postured to talk about that.  But the CJTF is not -- is not participating in any investigation like that.

Q:  Why is that, Chris?  Because, you know, there have been -- there have been numerous allegations of chlorine gas, and there was one in May of last year that even President Obama said that the U.S. would help investigate.  And there have been times where the Syrians -- the Syrians have brought samples to the U.S. military and then they've taken them out for testing.

Is it just because there aren't any U.S.-backed rebels in the area where this latest attack occurred or why is that?

COL. GARVER:  Well, I -- I could tell you why we're not is because our command -- higher command hasn't told us to do that.  If they were to tell us to do that, we would do it.

Like I said, there's, you know, kind of a distinction between the U.S. military and the CJTF, which I'm here today to talk about.  There may be U.S. forces participating in that that I'm not aware of because they don't belong to us.

And our focus is pretty -- pretty focused on supporting the SDF and our other partners.  Our footprint is pretty small inside Syria.  And then I really can't speculate beyond that as to why we haven't been told to do something.

Like I said, I -- you know, we can bring that up with the -- the folks in the room there and figure out an answer to that from a U.S. perspective, but from the CJTF perspective, we haven't been ordered to do that.

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

Q:  Hey, Colonel Garver.

I wanted to see -- do you have any additional details on this August 1st strike?  Can you say how many ISIL fighters were present in the area in this -- I guess this foreign fighter camp?  And is ISIL still able to move foreign fighters in and out of Mosul?  Can you talk at all about how isolated it -- the city is?

COL. GARVER:  Sure.  First and foremost, we haven't attributed any potential enemy causalities to the strike itself.  We were hitting a facility and we haven't, you know, said one way or another whether there was any foreign fighters actually present in -- inside the facility when we hit.

This was an old palace, old Saddam era palace, that we put several large bombs on top of to be able to level it and prevent it from being used to facilitate foreign fighters in.  They were using it store weapons, they were using it to -- you know, you'd have kind of bed-down locations.  And then as we've talked about in Manbij, when foreign fighters come in, they go to these hubs on these networks and then you house them, you feed them.  If you need to do any training with them, if you need to integrate them into your local forces, your facility can do that there.

So these hubs of networks -- if there's no foreign fighters at the place where you hit it, it's really just a building that's been kind of outfitted as a -- as a foreign fighter facilitation hub.  Many hotels, if you will, along the way that you can also do training and they have communications and they act as -- as headquarters along the way.

But they also, as we found in Manbij, often have information about how those networks work.  And if we can damage or destroy that information and make their job a little tougher putting that network back together, then that's a good thing on our part.  We're -- we're happy to do that.

As for what's going on inside Manbij -- or inside Mosul, excuse me, can they bring foreign fighters in?  The answer's yes.  The ability has been degraded because we've been cutting down their routes where they can bring people in.

But as you know, one guy with the backpack on walking across the desert, it's very hard to stop all those individuals or one truck bringing in a foreign fighter.  But what we don't see anymore are the convoys of foreign fighters being brought in, where we anticipated at the heyday there was 2,000 foreign fighters a month coming through Syria and then dividing up between Iraq and Syria.

And we've seen estimates now that it's between 200, 500.  It's much less than it used to be.  So the enemy -- the enemy can still bring foreign fighters into Mosul.  The city itself is not isolated, and that will be the first step of the Iraqi plan is -- as we've seen in Fallujah and as we saw in Ramadi, they want to isolate that city, surround it with forces and prevent folks from coming and going.  They haven't got to that part of the plan, yet.

But once that has happened, then that significantly cuts down the number of people who can slip in and out.  But they just aren't to that phase of the operation yet.

So that's why we're trying to strike at the networks, and if we find pockets of those foreign fighters, we strike at those as well along the way, to reduce those numbers that are going to -- you know, eventually end up in Mosul, and it gives you more fighters that you have to fight when you go in on the ground.

And we don't want that, we want the reverse.  We want less fighters on the ground, so we continue to attack them as we find them.

CAPT. DAVIS:  All right.  Next, back to Tara Copp.

Q:  Was the palace identified as a target through the intelligence that was gathered in Manbij, since a lot of that intelligence, you'd said, kind of centered on the movement of foreign fighters and how they were training them and pushing them forward?

COL. GARVER:  A lot of these targets we've been looking at for a long time, and we've had information about the flow of foreign fighters for a long time.  So not all of it came from the very recent intelligence that we pulled out of Syria around Manbij.

So we've been looking at a lot of targets, and we look at targets for a very long time.  We want to determine what we call "pattern of life" at the target sight.  You want to know if it's being used by civilians or if it's being used by Da’esh fighters.

You want to know what -- you know, why it's being used, what its being used.  And there are times where you'll watch an intelligence target and not hit it right away, because it's giving you info.  And you want to keep giving it info -- or you want to keep staring at it until you've kind of gotten all the info from it, and then you hit it with a strike.

You don't want to shut off flow of information early.  So, we -- we look at a lot of these targets for a very long time.  And the networks of foreign fighters, we've known about this for a long time and we've been trying to work on it.

We've specifically -- and I, when I talk about kind of these last few weeks and these strikes that we've gone after, we're going after big parts of the network, just as we do with the oil and just as we do with communications and senior leaders and all the other things that we attack -- the functions of ISIL, as well as functions of Daesh as well as the fighters on the ground.

So information that's coming out of Manbij will provide us more information, but there's a lot of information we have about these networks already.  And we're going after them to shut down that flow of fighters as we are shaping the operations toward the eventual ground fight for Mosul.

Q:  And just one follow-up on Courtney's question.  Can you give us the current number of boots on the ground that qualified for the force management level?

And then if you can give us any sort of ball park estimate on the number of TDYers and other folks that are there that don't count as part of the force management level?

COL. GARVER:  Normally, as you know, we kind of just talk about what the authorization is.  We are under that authorization, but I'm not going to talk specifics of that number.  And those -- the numbers that will bump that up when the forces come in to build out the Qayyarah West Base, like I said, they're not here yet.

We're going through the process of getting them in here and then that will increase the numbers that are here on the ground, but we don't talk to specifics of those numbers.  I mean, the authorization is what we've been authorized to build, and that's the number that we have been talking about.

Q:  Can I just ask -- maybe take this one.  We have actually been getting specific numbers of -- of number of forces as part of the force manager level.  We haven't been able to get the TDYersand the folks that aren't counting as part of that.

COL. GARVER:  All right.  Well, I'll take that.  We'll take a look at it and see what we can come up with.

Q:  Right.  I mean, if I could just -- –this is Gordon again.  I mean, at least to get the FML number, the public number of not only the authorization but what's actually there.  I mean, fairly, I think there's frustration that there's not -- the administration can't be clear about the total number of people on the ground recognizing it ebbs and flows.  I'm just -- for the record, I think that's a reasonable question from us.

COL. GARVER:  And I -- like I said, I will take it.  We'll have this discussion yet again and see what we can come up with, Gordon.

CAPT. DAVIS:  All right.  Sir, I'm sorry, you --

Q:  –Ryan Brown with CNN, colonel.  Thank you.  I just wanted to ask if U.S. advisers had reached the battalion level with their Iraqi counterparts?  And roughly how many battalions are planning to have advisers at that level?

COL. GARVER:  All right.  So what we have done up to this point is we have at -- one at a time put for the Iraqi army -- we've put advisers at a point on the ground at the battalion level where their technical expertise -- when it came to working on finalizing the bridge, the Iraqi security forces put in the bridge, we went in and provided some technical advise on how to secure the bridge and then put in the protective systems around the bridge to keep it from being hit from attacks.

Those advisers went down to the battalion level and then they came back.  And so we have not -- the CJTF commander, General MacFarland, has not directed forces down to live at the battalion level and I'm not sure he's going to do that.  He has the authorization to do that, but I think he sees it right now as we do it on a limited basis when it will make the most impact on the battlefield and we don't anticipate seeing advisers with every battalion.  You know, every battalion gets a stack of advisers on a battlefield.

We will employ those authorities where they make the most sense, on the battlefield where you're going to have the most impact because there's -- there's a force protection issue that comes into that as well and every time you're putting advisers at a lower-than division level, the farther down you go, the closer you are to risk and the more force protection you have to take into account.

So, think we're going to look at those authorities to be used at the right place, at the right time and then commanders from General MacFarland and his subordinate commanders, they'll make those decisions based on what's going on on the battlefield and what are the Iraqi forces that we're partnered with and -- and what the impact of those advisers going down to provide that advice would be.

Q:  And just one quick follow-up.  Are you using ISR to track al-Nusra's movements, or whatever they're calling themselves now, or are you using your ISR to kind of track their location in case there were a deal ever to kind of go through on targeting that group?

COL. GARVER:  What I'll tell you is CJTF ISR, the ISR that -- we own some ISR and we get information from ISR that belongs to higher headquarters than us -- is focused on ISIS, is focused on Daesh.

Our ISR is out looking at where can we find targets that we're either going to do on a deliberate basis or on a on-call basis, like close air support?  Our ISR is focused on finding Daesh.  There may be other people's ISR that looks at -- (inaudible) -- al-Nusra Front.  But we are fighting Daesh, that's who -- that's who the CJTF is focused against and that's where our ISR goes, is to build out that intelligence picture of Daesh.

CAPT. DAVIS:  Back to Courtney Kube.

Q:  One follow-up on Ryan's first question about the battalion level.  So if that -- you said that that might not be necessary -- General MacFarland may not think it's necessary.  So that was one of the four accelerants that Secretary Carter announced a couple of months ago on a trip to Baghdad.  The other ones were the HIMARS, the Apaches and then the additional U.S. troops.

The Apaches aren't being used regularly, I don't think.  Correct me if I'm wrong.  Now, you're saying that they may not need the troops at the battalion level, so 50 percent of the accelerants aren't -- essentially aren't necessary, it seems.

So how is it that -- that this plan to accelerate the fight against ISIS in Iraq, 50 percent of it, it seems was laid out and then unnecessary to use?  Are there additional accelerants that you guys are considering right now in their place?  How did that happen, that Secretary Carter made an announcement for essentially useless moves?

COL. GARVER:  (inaudible) -- with you because the Apaches are flying.  And -- and when and if they strike targets, we put them on our strike report.  And we've had twice where the Apaches have engaged targets and destroyed targets in support of the ground fight.  
And they are integrated into what we call the ATO, the Air Tasking Order, and they go out and fly missions in support of the ground forces.  They haven't engaged a lot of targets.  They've engaged twice -- they've shot targets.

The -- just because we're not using them today doesn't mean we're not going to use them in the future.  Clearly, as the fight gets closer to Mosul, it is a tool that the commanders have in their belt just like the B-52s and the F-16s and the AC-130 gunships and the other tools.  So it provides a certain aspect, it provides capabilities to the commander's tool kit.

But they are up flying and they are striking targets.  And just because we're not using them today doesn't mean we're not going to use them tomorrow.

As for (ISIS ?) on the ground, what the -- you know, what we have done is we have done exactly what the -- what the authorization allowed us to do, what it was intended for; where we needed to put advisers at a lower-than division level.  We put those advisers on the ground and they got the bridge -- the bridge that they went in to support.  The Iraqis were, you know, putting in the bridge, but we provided technical support for getting the protective system in and for getting the bridge tightened down the right way.

That's -- they did that, that's exactly what they were intended to do.  So they went out and they made the difference and then they came back.  And that was how the commander employed them at that time.

Could he employ them in another way?  Yes, he has the authority to do that.  But what we've looked at is kind of the short-term heavy impact, you know, at the right place at the right time in the battlefield where you have a real impact as opposed to just hanging around at every battalion headquarters.

The commander has the authority to employ them as he sees fit, but that's how he's chosen to use them at this time.  That's what he's felt has been necessary, and the point where the U.S. advisers at a lower-than division level could have an impact.

So could we see something else in the future?  Absolutely.  You could absolutely see something else in the future.  But what we've done up to this point is -- this is how the commander has used that authorization.  So I would say I disagree with your characterization.

Now, in terms of other accelerants, you know, we've said before, General MacFarland looks at the battlefield, he sees what he thinks he needs, then he goes and asks for it.  If it's a U.S. asset, he'll ask his chain of command.  If it's a non-U.S. asset that he wants from a coalition partner, he'll go ask for that –and generally CENTCOM facilitates those discussions of our coalition partners.

So, if he needs something, he'll ask for it.  He hasn't asked for anything.  You know, we are where we are now with the 560 uplift of that FML, and he hasn't asked for anything else.  And so, that's where we are in the middle of the fight.

Q:  The two Apaches -- there have been two times since April that Apaches have fired.  Is that -- that's what you -- you're saying?

COL. GARVER:  Yes, yeah.  Twice Apaches have engaged targets.  If you remember -- I came here and announced it -- the first time they did it, and talked about when they defeated an IED, VBIED.

The second one was against a boat that had explosives on it that was in the Tigris River and they destroyed that target, as well.  So the Apaches have -- they fired twice and they're up flying, they are up flying.

Q:  Just one more.  The -- the HIMARS, as Secretary Carter announced in April, are they in and operating?  Do you know where they are?

COL. GARVER:  We have -- yeah, there are HIMARS in a couple of different locations in -- in Iraq.  There's HIMARS at -- you're going to make me do this off the top of my head.  There's HIMARS down around the Euphrates River Valley, and there's HIMARS up around the Tigris River Valley.

There are no HIMARS at Q-West, because there's no, you know, U.S. forces, there are no coalition forces there at this time.  But there are HIMARS in both river valleys that are able to fire in support of both operations.

CAPT. DAVIS:  And Tara, I think back to you.

Q:  He's still going.

COL. GARVER:  Let me just go back and check, so I don't -- I don't give you something wrong.

Q:  Okay, well, Courtney got one of mine.  Just for the Apaches, how often are they actually going up and even if they're not striking, are in some sort of aggressive posture that is assisting a mission?

COL. GARVER:  Like I said, they're part of the air tasking order that drives how often they fly.  I don't have the specific kind of rhythm that they're on to talk about.  But they are up flying, integrated into the air tasking order.

When it came time to engage targets they have, and -- and -- and would anticipate seeing those involved in any future operation heading forward.

Q:  When the boat strike was, and where the boat was heading?

COL. GARVER:  The boat was in the Tigris River.  It was after the bridge went in, so it was after the 15th of -- of July and it was heading south.  It was north of the river -- or north of the bridge, and it was heading toward it.

And the Apache struck the boat.  It was -- trying to remember if it was moving or if it was -- I think it was parked, actually, on the side of the river.  But it was north of where the bridge is and it struck the boat, which was loaded with explosives, and it destroyed the boat so it didn't go attack the bridge.

Q:  Do you have any video of that?

COL. GARVER:  I can go back and check.

Q:  (off-mic.)

CAPT. DAVIS:  All right, the queue is empty.  Anybody else?  Going once, going twice?

Thanks everybody.

Thank you, Chris.  We appreciate your time, and did you have any closing words for us?

COL. GARVER:  I did.  I hope that next week, instead of seeing me, you're going to see my boss.  And -- and so, we think next Wednesday, General MacFarland will be able to come in here and talk to you guys kind of about where we are overall in the campaign and where we've come in the last 11 months from the CJTF perspective.

So, we think that's going to work, we think it's on the schedule.  But hopefully, you'll see him next week instead of seeing me.

CAPT. DAVIS:  All right.  Thank you, Chris.

And with that, thank you, everybody.  I would remind you at 11 o'clock, secretary speaking at the National Guard Bureau change of responsibility ceremony, which will also be live streamed.