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U.S. Department of Defense
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News Transcript

  March 15, 2017

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


STAFF: Good morning. I'm Eric Pahon. I'll be your briefing host today.

With us today, joining us from Baghdad, Iraq is Colonel John Dorrian. Colonel Dorrian is the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman.

Colonel Dorrian, can you hear us okay?

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

STAFF: Colonel Dorrian will read a short opening statement and then we'll take questions. I'm gonna ask you guys to please state your name and affiliation prior to asking the questions. I interact with a lot of you daily, but I'm not so great on the names.

So Colonel Dorrian, if you're ready, go ahead and take it away, sir.

(CROSSTALK)

COL. DORRIAN: Are we ready to launch in, Eric?

STAFF: Yeah, we're ready to go whenever you are, sir. Interesting delay there.

COL. DORRIAN: Brilliant. Well, that was motivational. So we'll go ahead and get started. Good morning, all. We'll start in Syria and move on to Iraq.

Syrian Democratic Forces and their Syrian Arab Coalition continue operations to isolate Raqqa along two axes east of the city. Our partners have rolled back ISIS territorial gains to the east, north and west of the city, capturing more than 7,400 square kilometers of territory. To support our partners' operations, the coalition has conducted airstrikes which have destroyed more than 130 enemy armored and soft-skin vehicles, 57 vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and more than 450 enemy fighting positions, enabling the momentum of the campaign to continue.

As you know, the coalition leaders have continued to bring in capabilities on a temporary basis to meet specific objectives. A recent example of this was the deployment of the Marines to provide fire -- all-weather fire support. This was a capability designed to accelerate the campaign and the momentum of our partners who are isolating territory that's been under ISIS control for more than two years.

In addition, as you've seen on social media, a small coalition force continues its actions. Started around Manbij on August 13, 2016 when the city was liberated. Since that time, coalition forces have continued to train, advise, assist and accompany Manbij Military Council forces as they provide security to the people of Manbij and restore local governance and public works to the city.

Coalition forces being present in the area improves transparency and facilitates communication among all parties in the area to avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation. Coalition are in part a reassuring presence for partner forces that can -- that they can rely on to ensure the focus is against ISIS as we turn toward Raqqa.

Partner forces are made up of local Syrians from the area, and while performing these patrols and while embedded with partner forces, coalition forces have not observed any ISIS activity in the area or any actions that would threaten our NATO ally, Turkey.

In Iraq, the counterattack to liberate west Mosul from ISIS control is on its 25th day, with Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service and emergency response division and federal police operating in the dense urban terrain in the city, while to the west of the city, the 9th Iraqi Army Division continue clearing in the vicinity of Badush and continue the main -- and continue clearing the main route out of Mosul toward Tal Afar.

East of the Tigris on the northern part of the city, the 16th Iraqi Army Division retain their control of a major water treatment plant and cleared along the Tigris River. Despite spotty weather conditions, the coalition has conducted nine strikes to support Mosul operations, with 64 engagements and 130 munitions dropped in the last 24 hours. These destroyed 11 ISIS fighting positions; a number of tactical units, including a sniper; two vehicle-borne improved explosive devices; and an ISIS headquarters, among other targets.

Momentum is clearly on the side of the Iraqi security forces who are imposing their will on ISIS, despite the tactics the enemy continues to employ in their efforts to keep Mosul in their grip. They have fired indiscriminately into civilian areas; used human shields; and they continue to destroy a lot of the structures they occupy in the type of scorched-earth attacks that we've seen in other areas that they've held.

It's not working for them, and although there will be tough fighting in the days ahead, it's just a matter of time until all of Mosul is free and stability operations can gather momentum throughout the city.

Now, I'll be delighted to take your questions.

STAFF: Okay. And first we go to Bob Burns with Associated Press.

Q: Thank you.

Colonel Dorrian, I think you mentioned the Marines going into Syria with artillery. Are they -- are they all in now? And can you say approximately now many?

And secondly, with regard to the reassurance mission that U.S. troops are doing in and around Manbij, is that an indefinite mission? And have they yet encountered any kind of confrontation with armed forces?

COL. DORRIAN: Well, Bob, we'll -- we'll start early with this.

With regard to the number of forces that are going into Syria, and their exact locations, what they're doing, their comings and goings, the exact capabilities we're bringing in -- the coalition is really not going to get into the business of giving play-by-play updates on those -- on those capabilities.

We've provided the information about the Marines last week in the interest of transparency because it was a very significant movement overall. And we did provide good information about our Ranger force up around Manbij that's there for the assurance of our partners. But we're really not going to be in the business of briefing daily on the comings and goings of our troops.

This is a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment. That's a U.S. Army War College term. And it's just -- there are a number of actors operating in Syria, especially in northern Syria. And we have effects that we wanted to achieve with the deployment of those Army capabilities in the north and the Marines. But we do recognize that there are other actors who are pursuing their own agendas and their own operations and their own objectives.

And sometimes those objectives are going to differ with ours. And some of those present danger to our forces because it's not just our partners and ISIS in this area. There are a number of other actors. And we're just not going to be able to brief their movements with a lot of fidelity.

So I just want to go ahead and manage expectations in that regard. We do -- we do want people to have a deep understanding of what's happening overall with the campaign; what our objectives are; the effects that we're achieving on the battlefield; and our overall aims, but we're just not going to be able to get into the level of depth that you've asked for.

As far as the Manbij presence, it has been an enduring presence there since the city was liberated. For a short time, our forces have been more visible. You've seen this on social media, the flags flying and that sort of thing. I don't have an estimate as to when they'll kind of go back to a more normal presence, but at some point, they will.

STAFF: (Off mic)

Q: Yeah, I -- you didn't address the other question about the Rangers, as to whether they've had any kind of encounters or engagements with other forces on the – in the battlefield.

COL. DORRIAN: Sorry for -- for not readdressing that. I -- I thought I covered that in the -- the -- the topper. They have not encountered any enemy activity or any type of engagements during their patrols.

STAFF: Go to Tom Bowman, NPR.

Q: Colonel, we've been told that some of the Syrian forces now are moving east from Aleppo toward the Euphrates. Could you give us a sense of the number of Syrians? What do you think they're doing? And also, you said as we move toward Raqqa. Do you still expect a Kurdish presence entering Raqqa? And is there any sense at this point of about any Turkish involvement in the Raqqa campaign?

COL. DORRIAN: Tom, I don't have a tremendous amount of fidelity on the size of the Syrian force. They do continue to do movements around the forward line of troops between our partners and -- and Turkey and also with ISIS. So I don't -- I just don't have that level of fidelity.

With regard to the Kurds and whether they will be involved in liberating Raqqa, we do expect that they will be involved at some level. What I would say is we continue working with the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Arab Coalition. Right about 75 percent of that force that is now isolating Raqqa is Syrian Arab, and this is a reflection that's demographically fairly consistent with what you would find in that area.

So that is a fundamental principle of the campaign, that we are going to try and generate with our partner force a force that's fairly consistent with what you find in Manbij -- excuse me, in Raqqa, and that includes Syrian Arabs, that includes Kurds, that includes Syrians, Christians, all others. The Syrian Democratic Forces are a multi-ethnic and multi-sectarian organization, and that is one of the reasons why we're working with them and they have continued to build the Arab element of their force.

Q: As far as the Turks are concerned, they've said they want to have some role in Raqqa. Any sense on the number of troops that would be involved?

COL. DORRIAN: As far as a role for Turkey, we have made clear from -- of many, many weeks, actually months, that we are open to a Turkish role in the continued operations to defeat ISIS in northern Syria. We don't -- we haven't come to an agreement about what that role will be or if there will be one, but we talk to Turkey through military channels and I believe at diplomatic levels every day. So we'll have to let that continue to be worked out. It has yet to be determined.

STAFF: We're gonna dip toward the back of the room to Kasim Ileri from Anadolu.

Q: Hi, Dorrian -- Colonel Dorrian.

I have two questions. In Manbij last week, there was a meeting among civilian parties to establish a civilian government or civilian governance in the city. Do you as a coalition have any role in that effort? I will have a follow-up.

COL. DORRIAN: Your -- your question didn't really come through completely. Are you asking about a Syrian regime role in Manbij?

Q: The parties in Manbij -- the civilian parties in Manbij came together last week to establish this civilian governance in the city. And as a coalition, do you have any role in setting up this meeting or helping them establish a government on the ground in Manbij? That's my question.

COL. DORRIAN: We don't have any role in the meetings that you're describing.

Q: And also, there are group -- Syrian Kurds called Rojava Peshmerga that is -- these guys are being trained by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq and they have a desire to take part in the fight against ISIS in northern Syria, including Raqqa. Do you have any plan to incorporate them into the forces that the SDF efforts or other efforts in northern Syria against ISIS?

COL. DORRIAN: We don't have any plans to incorporate them at this time. We're working with the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Arab Coalition and we're open to working with others if everyone will get on the same page and work to defeat ISIS. At a minimum, we look to deconflict our operations with some of the actors. The coalition is present. We continue to discuss the possibility of a Turkish role and then we work with the Syrian Democratic Forces who continue to build their force.

STAFF: Ryan Browne, CNN. Then I'll come to you next, sir.

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

I know you said that the forces in Manbij, the coalition forces hadn't observed any enemy -- clashes or enemy activity. But have they actually had eyes on some of these Russian forces that we see in Manbij, we've seen social media? Have they actually put eyes on those Russian forces, the U.S. troops there? Have they been close enough to have visual contact?

COL. DORRIAN: Yes.

Q: And --

(Laughter.)

-- to follow up on a -- on a different topic, President Assad in a recent interview said that the U.S. forces in Syria were -- I think he used the word "invaders."

Is there a concern, given how close in proximity regime forces are now moving into the Raqqa operation, that -- that coalition forces there will have to kind of keep eyes on the Assad forces, considering that he's made that statement so very clear in recent days?

COL. DORRIAN: Well, our -- our forces are focused on defeat of ISIS, but they do maintain awareness of what's happening around them. This is probably very consistent with the discussion that I had early on in response to Bob's question.

Our forces, we're gonna have to be very careful because our number one goal for our force is to enable our partner forces to liberate their lands. The presence of our forces is gonna have devastating effects on the enemy that enables our partner force to do that. Our number two role is to make sure that we protect our own force as they execute that mission. So, we're gonna do both of those things and we most certainly are gonna maintain awareness of what's happening around our forces in Syria.

Q: Have Marines actually any delivered any fires on ISIS at this point?

COL. DORRIAN: You lost me there. Have we delivered any fires on ISIS?

Q: The Marine contingent.

COL. DORRIAN: Not to my knowledge, I don't believe so.

STAFF: I don't remember your name. I'm sorry.

Q: Hey, colonel. Brian Bender with Politico.

To follow up on what you just said about enabling partner forces, given that there are additional U.S. troops on the ground -- the Marines, the Rangers and talk of additional troops -- and given what you said about not being able to provide a whole lot of transparency about numbers and missions or locations, how do you -- how do you convince the American public, how do you convince the Congress that this advisory role really is an advisory and support role and is not bleeding into a more active role on the battlefield?

COL. DORRIAN: Well, I think that the -- the results of the operation probably speak for themselves. We have managed to protect the force as our partner forces have gone in and taken back a tremendous amount of territory. More than half the territory that ISIS used to control in Iraq and Syria is now back in the hands of our partner forces.

We have not lost a lot of troops. We've not had a lot of injuries. We have delivered a tremendous amount of ordinance on the enemy. We've provided a tremendous amount of information about that. We've given a lot of information about our advise and assist role. We're just not gonna do it as a play-by-play each and every day.

But I would say that the by, with and through model that we've used has proven effective. It's just that we're not gonna give you a daily, you know, troop locations, exact things that they are doing. It's just not appropriate for protecting the force, and I think we've explained that many times to you and we will also of course explain it to the Congress. I'm quite certain that they understand the need for force protection.

STAFF: Michael Gordon, New York Times.

We'll come to you next, Tara.

Q: Colonel Dorrian, just one question, and then just one quick follow-up. Has the ISIS commander for the old Mosul been killed, as was reported the other day?

And one point of clarification. You said that Kurdish forces would be part of the operation to liberate Raqqa. Just to clarify, does that mean the YPG will be one element of the seize force for Raqqa?

COL. DORRIAN: Thanks, Michael.

I -- I don't know if the commander of the old city for ISIS is killed or not. I've seen the same reports that you have, but I don't have any updated information where I can provide that clarity. Certainly, that's of interest. I would say that the Iraqi security forces have made a tremendous amount of progress in recent days. Their campaign continues to accelerate. The enemy continues to be surrounded, and is being hammered with air and artillery strikes. Each and every day, they weaken.

And the momentum for the Iraqi security forces grows. Very few, if any, of the enemy are going to escape. And so, things are going very well in Mosul right now.

With regard to whether the YPG will be a part of the force, I think I'd like to leave it at we would expect Kurds to be involved. And that's probably about where we're at.

Q: Be involved in -- as part of the seize force for the city, not just cordoning off the city?

COL. DORRIAN: Again, there are Kurds in the city. There have been Kurds that lived in Raqqa for, you know, a very long time. And we expect the demographic makeup of the force that liberates the city will likely reflect the residents of the city, either the present ones or the historic presence within the city. So, we do expect there to be Kurds involved.

STAFF: I'm sorry, I forgot your name, sir.

(CROSSTALK)

STAFF: Ben Kesling, Wall Street Journal.

(CROSSTALK)

(Laughter.)

Q: Hey, Colonel Dorrian. How are you?

I have two questions. One is, to follow up on Brian's question about troop locations. You know, I understand and I think the case has been made that if, you know, if there's new -- new special forces deployments; if -- or special operations forces deployments or anything of that nature, there's, you know, arguments you made about keeping those locations secret. And even after engagements are taken by special operations forces, oftentimes their locations are kept secret.

But for conventional forces, I don't know if this is what Brian was alluding to, but to push this forward a little bit -- for conventional force deployment, why is there such secrecy in saying the numbers of conventional forces that are down-range and general locations, whether it's basing or not?

You know, not -- and it seems like it -- the only time we find out about conventional force deployments is after somebody finds out about it and locals send something out on social media, or in the case of Fire Base Bell, a service member is killed in -- in combat. And then at that time, these bases are -- are talked about publicly.

Q: I wonder if you can just talk a little bit about if -- if there's going to be more -- if there's going to be more transparency in talking about conventional force deployment. I'm not talking about special operations forces.

COL. DORRIAN: Yep. Thanks for -- thanks for that, Ben.

I -- I do understand the tension with regard to the -- the -- the desire to have more information about our forces.

The reason for this is because the number of forces and the types of force protection measures that we're able to put in place for them, the dynamic nature of their mission; all those things lead to a force protection situation that's a little bit different.

So, I know that you're a -- a veteran. I know that you were involved in large operations with, you know, tens of thousands of U.S. troops moving in big columns all over the place.

That's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about much smaller troop presences. And we're talking about operating in isolated conditions in many cases.

Sometimes there's going to be social media. And that is a part of the battlefield and it's something that we're gonna take into account.

But we're just not gonna get in the business of verifying each and every movement, even when it's conventional force.

I hope -- I do understand the tension and we are gonna provide the information that we can. And I think, you know, as far as their general location, I think, you know, we have done a pretty good job of that. So -- and we will continue to do so.

Q: Okay. And then just a -- a quick Mosul follow-up.

Last week, I was in Mosul and talking to -- talking to some folks on the ground, saying that ISIS is forcing car bombs or other large explosives (inaudible) closer to civilian areas in order -- in hopes of deterring -- deterring airstrikes by -- by coalition and Iraqi forces. I wonder if concern with sympathetic detonations of -- of car bombs, et cetera, is having any effect on -- on airpower in Mosul.

And then also, do you have any update on possible numbers of militants and the effect and number of foreign fighters and what that's doing on the battlefield in Mosul right now?

COL. DORRIAN: Yeah, Ben, you -- you broke up just a little bit. I don't know if you're sitting a little bit toward the back or not. What -- what have -- we've detected in the past is when people are sitting in the back, the audio really doesn't come through very well.

So, I'll -- I'll say, I think that you're asking me what the effects of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devises have been in the city, particularly on the western side. And what I would say is it's less than it was on the eastern side, for a variety of reasons.

Number one, the types of VBIEDs that the enemy is able to use is different, because they've expended a lot of the heavily machined Mad Max-style vehicles that they were using on the east. And then more than 200 of them have been destroyed by coalition airpower.

There are also reasons that makes it kinda difficult for them to use those in some parts of the city, because some parts of the -- the old -- the older part of the city, the streets are so narrow that they're not able to really maneuver those as capably as they could in other parts of the city.

Likewise, we've done a lot of terrain-denial strikes, where we have cratered roads between the Iraqi Security Forces as they advance and then open areas where VBIEDs might be able to come out. So that has also been a formula that helped very much on the eastern side of the city, and it continues to be very effective on the west side.

Let's see. As far as moving on to the discussion of foreign fighters, we have encountered a lot of foreign fighters and there has been tension between the foreign fighters in some cases and the fighters that are from Iraq, particularly in Mosul, because Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has essentially provided a little bit more power to some of the foreign fighters because he knows they're in no position to leave, because they'll be found and screened as they try to escape the city.

This has been a source of tension amongst the enemy, and we expect that to continue because as things continue to devolve for them, as they continue to lose momentum, we do see them turning on each other in some cases. And we have seen instances where some of these foreign fighter commanders are executing members of the Iraqi forces. They decide that they really don't want to fight anymore.

This is a calling card or a very typical thing for ISIS fighters to do. It works very well for us because it saves our partner force the trouble of fighting them. So that -- those are a few of the effects that we're seeing on the battlefield. There are significant numbers of foreign fighters. I don't have a percentage of what part of the force they represent.

STAFF: Okay. Next, and Tara Copp from Stars and Stripes; got some feedback here.

Q: Hey, Colonel Dorrian.

Earlier, you were talking about that the U.S. flags on the Strykers are being flown for just a short time and would later on maybe be taken down. Were they put up specifically to address escalating tensions? And have you likewise seen Russian flags on your counterparts' vehicles? Is this kind of a show of force or a show of presence in Manbij?

COL. DORRIAN: Yeah, we have -- we have seen the Russians do similar. This is just a measure of transparency on what our actions are, to make sure that there is no mistake or miscalculation about who is there.

Q: If this is to avoid miscalculation, it would seem it would be beneficial to keep the flags up. I suspect that those flags are up there specifically to reassure -- to be part of the reassurance mission there.

COL. DORRIAN: Generally, I would say that when -- when our forces to into a city and they say that their intent is to make sure that there's no nefarious activity there, and they're visible, that this has a reassuring effect on the people in the area. Because our forces, although they are operating in some very isolated conditions and very dangerous conditions, they are some of the most capable in the world, and they're not going to be trifled with.

So, so far, what they've done there has been very effective.

Q: Two more. Just getting back to Ryan's question, can you give us any ballpark of how close in approximately U.S. forces are to Russian forces? Are you still only communicating via, you know, a phone call or is there any sort of visible signals? Anything you can tell us about that?

COL. DORRIAN: Eric, can you hear me?

STAFF: Yes, we can hear you, sir. Can you hear us?

COL. DORRIAN: Can -- can you repeat that question for me? Because it came through very garbled.

Q: Sure. Can you hear me better now?

COL. DORRIAN: That's way better.

Q: I was getting back to Ryan's question about the proximity of U.S. and Russian forces. And are the -- still the main way of communicating is still the phone call or because they can see each other, are there other ways of communication going on between the two sets of forces?

COL. DORRIAN: We continue to use the deconfliction channel as our method of deconflicting our operations, but certainly, they're operating in a -- in a city there and both our forces and there's are visible. And so they do -- they can observe each other's movement.

Q: Are they communicating with each other as they see each other?

COL. DORRIAN: They can see each other. They're not talking to each other and they're not hanging out together.

Q: And just one last one. We've often heard about how U.S. forces are on the ground, you know, by, with and through local forces, and my question is which local forces are U.S. working by, with and through? Obviously not regime forces, but is this a -- you know, especially as we've heard about kind of the conflicting goals between some of the SDF forces or some of the Turkish forces, maybe if you could clarify that for us?

COL. DORRIAN: Yes, we work with the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Arab Coalition. That's the force that we're working by, with and through to isolate Raqqa. We're working with the Manbij Military Council in Manbij to help them maintain security in the city. We worked very closely with Turkey on their operation to liberate al-Bab. We work closely with the Iraqi security forces and often with the Peshmerga in Iraq.

STAFF: If you can hand it back to -- Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News is up next. We're gonna hand him the mic, Colonel Dorrian.

Q: Colonel, can you explain the importance of having U.S. troops in Manbij?

COL. DORRIAN: Sure. The -- the presence of our forces there is intended to assure both our partners and our allies of our commitment to their security and their safety. They observe what's happening in the area and report back to higher echelons of command to make sure that decision-making takes into account the highest level of fidelity on information on what's happening in that area.

So those are the two things that are really happening.

Q: And are you concerned, since the Russian forces and the American forces are backing two different groups that are opposed to one another in this conflict, that the chance of something nefarious happening or an accident or miscalculation, as you put it -- how concerned are you that something might happen between American and Russian forces?

COL. DORRIAN: Certainly, it's a concern. That is the reason that we have this de-confliction channel. So, as these forward lines of troops converge, and all these forces are operating closely together, the amount of coordination on that de-confliction channel continues to increase. It went from many months ago just, you know, a few times a week, to much more often as our forces converge.

So, it is a concern. It's a concern of ours. It's quite clear it's a concern of theirs as well. What we're trying to do is make sure that the primary threat in the area, ISIS, remains the focus of all hostile intent.

STAFF: Lucas, if you can pass it back we're going to Carlo Munoz next, with the Washington Times.

Q: Hey, sir. Thanks for doing this. Quick question -- two quick questions on Raqqa and a follow-up on Mosul.

Regarding Raqqa, we've heard -- seen recent reports that a lot of senior Daesh leadership have begun moving out of the city into areas near Dawr az Zawr and other safe havens; possibly, you know, obviously in preparation for the upcoming assault.

My first question is: Do you think that, with all the confusion that's going on the ground with Syrian, Russian, American, Kurdish troops, Turkish troops in that vicinity, has contributed to creating a situation where these -- where these Daesh leaders are able to flee down to Dawr az Zawr and areas there?

And two, with that movement, do you think that the upcoming fight for Raqqa will be the death knell of ISIS that we've all sort of been hearing from coalition spokesmen and here in the building?

COL. DORRIAN: Well, I'll start with the second question. I'm not sure what spokesman you heard that from, but you didn't hear it from this one. So, defeating ISIS in Mosul and defeating them in Raqqa is a necessary step. It's a very important step because of the value they place on these two cities.

In Iraq, Mosul is the second-largest city in Iraq. They control a giant population there that they can tax to fund their operations. There's a level of prestige and symbolic importance to Mosul because this is where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself the caliph in a mosque that's just about to be released from ISIS control in the next several days.

In Raqqa, this is their worldwide capital. So we expect them to fight very hard to try and preserve their grip on that city. And we don't think they're going to go quietly. And we are going to work very closely with our partners to make sure that, you know, it's taken away. But make no mistake, we don't consider the taking of those two cities to be the death knell. We consider it a very necessary and important step in the demise of this barbaric organization.

As far as their movement, ISIS from Raqqa to Dawr az Zawr, we have seen some fighters moving around Syria, including toward --

(AUDIO GAP)

COL. DORRIAN: -- is in the crosshairs. Next, we're working very closely with our partnered force to further isolate Raqqa. There is still plenty of ISIS fighters and still plenty of ISIS leaders in Raqqa, and in the days ahead, that city will be much more difficult to escape. In these other areas, like Dawr az Zawr, that may be where we go next.

STAFF: Colonel Dorrian, we kind do lost the middle part of your answer. We had a little bit of a technical difficulty. I can't remember exactly where you cut out.

Did you have a follow-up, Carlo?

Q: Just another quick -- one quick question on Mosul. You talked in your opening statement about starting to shift gears towards sustainment and security-type operations. As far as that shift is concerned, where is the coalition planning at right now regarding the possibility of including more trainers to support this -- to support this sustainment force? We've heard in the past that it might be required more U.S. and coalition forces to do that.

COL. DORRIAN: Well, where we are on that now is we've trained right about 90,000 forces, and that includes the Iraqi army, the CTS, the Counter Terrorism Service, the federal police, Peshmerga and then tribal mobilization forces that are used as hold forces in the city. So that's something that we continue. There are police and army and CTS being trained even this very day. That's something that we continue to do.

As far as how our mission evolves, this is a matter of some discussion between coalition nations and the government of Iraqi. Right now, the main focus is on the defeat of ISIS in Mosul. But that is a task that there are some ongoing discussions on, but as far as what that looks like, the size of the presence and all that sort of thing, each coalition nation will have a political process that determines what they're willing to do. And Iraq, of course, as a sovereign country will certainly start that by asking for what they need.

We do think though that there is probably some type of enduring requirement.

STAFF: Carla Babb, Voice of America.

Q: Colonel, two quick questions kind of following up on points that have been discussed.

The first is in Manbij, with the Russians being there and the Americans being there, they can see each other. But I mean, what is -- what is the day-to-day? Are they overlapping in areas of the city or is there some sort of tacit agreement that the Americans stay on one side of the city and the Russians stay on the other side of the city? Was that ironed out when General Dunford talked to his counterpart? That's question one or topic one.

And then also, you mentioned early in this briefing that the U.S. didn't have a role in the meeting on the Manbij civilian governance, but our stringers on the ground, the head of the new council, Ibrahim Kaftan, told VOA earlier this week that the U.S. did have a role and local officials had been saying that U.S. advisers did help form the civilian entity. So, help me square that.

COL. DORRIAN: Yeah, as far as their proximity to the city -- or excuse me, their -- the proximity of our forces and the Russians, this is something that's worked out through the coalition -- through the deconfliction call. They tell us where they're gonna be and we tell where we're going to be and our forces do what they can to just stay away from each other and conduct their operations and do what they're there to do.

As far as what reports you have, I haven't seen those. So, we'll have to take that question. I'm not aware of any. So, we'll check in on that one.

STAFF: Here, ma'am. I'm sorry, I can't remember your name.

Q: Patty Culhane, Al Jazeera English.

Moving back to Manbij, you sad the U.S. wasn't having any sort of fighting in Manbij. Is there any fighting at all? And you also said you've seen no presence of anyone who would upset Turkey. Who specifically are you talking about?

COL. DORRIAN: I'm talking about anybody. As far as fighting, we haven't seen any, none of any kind from anybody.

Q: Sir, did- what are the total number of ISIL fighters in Raqqa and also in Mosul that you think you're dealing with?

COL. DORRIAN: In -- in Mosul, we think there's probably on the order of 2,000. That's a number that's moving downward by the day. It may be less than that at this point. That's the latest number that I have.

Again, that's a very difficult number to predict because of the level -- the level of commitment of each fighter is very difficult to assess. There are the hardcore foreign fighters, there are hardcore Iraqi fighters and there are some who've been forced into service. So, that's something that just has to be stepped through and the Iraqi security forces continue to advance and make that determination.

As far as the number that we think are in Raqqa, we think ballpark 3,000 to 4,000.

STAFF: Okay. A follow-up from Kasim Ileri, Anadolu.

Q: Colonel, you said -- you mentioned the tension between the foreign fighters and local Daesh fighters in Mosul. Could you tell us a little bit more how visible that tension is? What are they doing to each other as a reflection of the tension you mentioned?

COL. DORRIAN: Well, I told you one thing. That in some cases, they're killing each other because if some are not as committed to the fight and decide they want to lay down their arms, try to escape, some are being killed. They're being executed by ISIS. So, this is something that we've seen on the battlefield.

We've also seen bickering, you know, between the various factions sometimes over resources, sometimes over operations. This is the type of thing that happens when it's not going well. And for ISIS, it's not going well.

Q: And -- and also, you said that the next target might be -- for the coalition might be Dawr az Zawr. And we know that current Russian and Assad forces are also working against -- or fighting against ISIS around that area.

How would you -- you know, move toward there, while Assad forces and Russians are already engaging ISIS to recapture the city?

COL. DORRIAN: Well, one of the things that's a fundamental premise of the campaign that we discuss often is that the enemy is subject to being struck by the coalition anywhere on the battlefield that they can be found and identified. So, we've done many strikes around Dawr az Zawr. We've done many strikes in places like Abu Kamal, Raqqa, other places in northern Syria.

So, we'll strike them anywhere we can find them. It's really as simple as that.

STAFF: Okay. And do we have any more questions?

Okay. Colonel Dorrian, I think you're done for the day, sir. Thank you very much. Do you have any parting words of wisdom for us?

COL. DORRIAN: Well, I don't know if there's a word of wisdom, but I do want to note for all of our friends in the Pentagon press that this spokesman is probably going to be on a short mid-tour leave. And I would encourage you to continue asking questions, but please do so through our press desk. I know that if you don't have the contact information, our friends over at OSD will be delighted to provide it.

And thanks for your patience while I do that. I look forward to getting back and getting back going with this. Thank you.

STAFF: Stay safe over there, sir.

Okay. And that concludes today's briefing. Thank you.

-END-

http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1119873/



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