U.S. Department of Defense
|Presenter: Colonel Ryan Dillon, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesman; Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, Spokesperson for Joint Operations Command; Brigadier General Halgwrd Hikman Ali, Spokesperson for the Peshmerga Forces; Brigadier General Saad Maan, Iraqi Ministry Of Interior Spokesman||July 13, 2017|
STAFF: (inaudible) fresh off the liberation of Mosul.
But as you know, there's still much work to be done. So, I'm also glad to be introducing Colonel Dillon, who many of you have seen (inaudible), that you know have him live and in person today.
So with that, I will leave it to Colonel Dillon. Thank you.
COLONEL RYAN DILLON: Thank you, ma'am.
Is this on? All right. Very good.
Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks, everyone, for coming.
As you can already see, this is not your regular weekly OIR update from me. And I am honored to have with me today a spokesman from the Iraqi security forces sitting with me: Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, who is the spokesperson for Joint Operations Command.
We have Brigadier General Halgwrd Hikman AliHalgwrd Hikman Ali, who is the spokesperson for the Peshmerga forces.
And we have Brigadier General Saad MaanMaan, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior.
We also have in the audience nine of their colleagues -- spokespeople from Prime Minister al-Abadi's office, and other military and government organizations.
You are all well aware that Prime Minister Abadi officially announced the liberation of Mosul earlier this week. We in the coalition want to echo Prime Minister Abadi's congratulations to the Iraqi security forces. This is a historic victory against a brutal and evil enemy.
This victory deals a significant blow to ISIS towards ending their false statehood. Over the last three years, through Iraqi determination, ISIS has been on an increasingly rapid decline, losing Tikrit, Ramadi, Fallujah, and now Mosul.
Iraqi security forces, on the other hand, have only improved and gotten stronger. They have proven with their battlefield successes that they know they're better -- that they are a better fighting force and they are better than the terrorist that they fight.
Defeating Daesh throughout Iraq has been a true unity of effort under Prime Minister -- underneath Prime Minister Abadi's direction. And just look at how the Iraqi security forces have fought. All elements of the Iraqi security forces achieved this victory together: Iraqi army, the federal police, Peshmerga forces, local police, counterterrorism service, and popular and tribal mobilization forces.
Overall, Iraqi security forces have cleared more than 30,000 square miles of territory that had once been held by ISIS, and nearly 2 million Iraqis formerly displaced have now returned to their homes.
However, the defeat of ISIS in Mosul does not mark the end of this evil ideology and global threat. With the coalition's help, the ISF will keep the pressure on this enemy while they are on their heels and not give them a chance to rest.
The coalition, with both military and through stabilization efforts, will continue to support Iraq in their efforts to defeat ISIS. The progress that has been made to date is because of brave Iraqi partners who take the fight to ISIS every single day, and the strong coalition that supports and fights with them.
It is the professionalism and the dedication and competence of these men and women who have gone toe to toe with this terrorist group and have paved the way for ISIS's lasting defeat.
And with that, I'll now turn it to General Rasool for an opening statement.
BRIGADIER GENERAL YAHYA RASOOL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In the name of God, (inaudible). I'm Brigadier General Yahya Rasool Abdullah, the spokesperson of the Joint Operations Command. I'm currently present with my colleagues and brothers as a part of a delegation after the victory achieved by our heroes of the Iraqi forces and the defeat of ISIL, the terrorist organization.
Quite frankly, when I talk about the battle to liberate Mosul, since Mosul (inaudible) steps and phases of this battle, whether fighting at the east or the west bank, and the victories we achieved, and also when it comes to the west bank or the right bank. We achieved a number of victories at the -- when it comes to the military operation.
I was looking at the plans and the (inaudible) planning, and professional work of our forces from the beginning. That planning went through phases and at times we stopped for -- to have some consideration for certain circumstances, of considering some of the changes based on the geography, the nature of the battle, and the enemy we are fighting, and according to what the military leaders are looking into and considering.
But the long period taken by this battle, because of the reasons that we can explain, as the Iraqi leadership with the guidance and directive of our prime minister, Dr. Haider al-Abadi, the commander of armed forces. Before the beginning of the military operation to liberate the city of Mosul, the purpose was to liberate the person, the human, before liberating the land itself.
Therefore, we considered this a human victory before a victory of a location, of a land. We liberated millions of people. We liberated them from terrorism, starvation and the worst terrorist organization in the world, known to human-kind. And we did a great job by this victory. Our hero Iraqi forces and the Iraqi military and the counterterrorism services, and also the federal police forces -- these are our heroes.
In addition, the Peshmerga -- these are other heroes, and also the Popular Mobilization forces. From the beginning, they were part of all of our military operations to liberate the city of Mosul.
This victory is a victory of a coalition that liberated large areas that was, quite frankly, the most difficult area to liberate because of the nature of our enemy. We are not forgetting here the role of our friends in the international coalition. They supported us in so many different ways.
RASOOL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): First, they really helped us when it comes to sharing intelligence information and the aerial imagery that they shared with us. And the aerial -- continuous aerial coverage that they gave our forces on top of the equipping, training, and support that we received from our partners, with the latest and the most modern weaponry that we needed, quite frankly, in this battle.
However, let me emphasize that the main victory was the liberation of the old city of Mosul. That battle has a great significance. The old city of Mosul is composed of a number of areas and neighborhoods. Its geographical nature is a little bit different. It's an old and ancient city, very crowded, with very narrow alley -- narrow -- narrow alleys that not two people can even pass. We cannot use our armored vehicles to pass these streets.
And also, we were banned from using heavy weaponry. Simply, we tried to target the enemy when it's located in an area that we can use our heavy weaponry. But they booby-trapped everything. The buildings, the small areas and alleyways, and also they used dummy trap -- traps. And they also used innocent civilians as human shields. They really used these techniques, especially, after they apprehend women, children and elderly as human shields, and tried to hinder our progress so that we will face a major casualties among civilians and blame us for it.
I would actually take a lot of time, but the last battle was the battle to liberate the old city. After we advanced to the southern area with our heroes continued, liberated to (INAUDIBLE), to the southern bank of the city, and they raised the Iraqi flag in those liberated areas.
In the western area, we had counterterrorism services, and in the northern area we have the different parts, which have the Division 16, supported by the armed Ninth Division. What was left is (INAUDIBLE) area that is closer to the counterterrorism services, and the area of (INAUDIBLE) that was located closer to the northern access, where the different divisions of the Iraqi army was located.
The -- this organization, when they realized that they are being defeated -- defeated in the battle, they were -- out of desperation, they used suicide men and women. The numbers killed, as a result of this technique, most of them are from other nationalities, Arab nationalities and foreign nationalities. I would say 80 percent of them were from other nationalities, Arabic and foreigners, and composed from both genders, men and women.
RASOOL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I was there at the -- where they -- the counterterrorism services were located, and, quite frankly, identified corpses, and we identified six women from other -- the non- Iraqi citizenry, and we have the documents. And they were wearing explosive belts, and they were attacking our forces. And around -- within one day, there were 17 suiciders (sic) facing our forces. Other than that, they were trying to run to the Tigris River, towards the eastern area. However, our forces were there, and they seized the city very well, so that will avoid any escape of any of their forces and elements.
This victory today, it's not a victory of Iraqi people. This is a victory for the whole world, a world that suffered from the acts of these terrorists everywhere. There were crimes, terrorist acts that had been committed by this organization.
This victory that will lead us to continue liberating the other areas under their occupation. We still have a long way to go. We still have more military operations to conduct. And we have a long way to work.
We have Tal'Afar (Inaudible). These are areas we need to work on how we -- Hawija, south of Kirkuk. We have Anah, Al-Qa'im, (INAUDIBLE). God willing, we continue our military operations.
We defeated the state of so-called, illusion, blasphemy. And today, we have our city back as a result of our brother -- sons and daughters, the heroes of Iraq, and all those who stood by us. And I'd like to thank them as part of the international coalition who are fighting all those terrorist organizations.
And as I said, God willing, we are continuing our military operations to continue to liberate the remaining occupied lands of Iraq. And we want to get rid of those barbaric elements from our homeland.
COL. DILLON: OK. All right. First we'll go Saad Maan first while they (inaudible), OK?
BRIGADIER GENERAL SAAD MAAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. It's my pleasure to be here with you. Yes, it is a historical days that we managed to achieve our victory with your help, with the help of our friends for the coalition forces, and also the American friends. Yes, it is a historical days. And really, I'm very proud about what we achieved. Especially if we compare the situation in 2014 and what we're doing now.
General Yahya Rasool, maybe he mentioned all the situation and he give you a picture about what's going on. I want to emphasize on some points.
One of it, it's we managed to make our policemen have the ability to do their job again. And to -- and we managed to build the bridge between police, Nineveh police and federal police, and our society, our people in Mosul, which was a very important issue because if we go for the indication about what happened in the last times, especially in 2014, I think it was really the weak point there.
So, we managed. And today at morning the police of Nineveh also managed to kill three of their Daesh while trying to annoy the others from West Bank to the East Bank. And they were monitoring them. And they managed to kill them.
Also, maybe it is for the -- it is the first time that a police, which is a federal police, and it is a unique job for them, managed to fight and to scold their job as side-by-side with the army. And really, you know, the federal police now, we are depending on them in so many access, and they're doing their best.
Maybe there's a question what will we do after Daesh, especially Nineveh? Ministry of Interior prepared everything. The general -- the directorate of Nineveh police and also the federal police were managed to, with the help of Nineveh people, to maintain the security inside Mosul and also inside the other cities for Nineveh.
We opened a 19th section in Nineveh, and the 34th police station. And also, other institute belong for Ministry of Interior. Now we have about 7,048 case which is arise by the Nineveh people. And we managed to tackle 4,033 of them, and still while following our 3,145 of these cases.
When we talking about cases and we're talking about policing, and when we are talking about judicial system, it means live in Nineveh. Now it is ordinary. And we are going forward for another steps is to help Nineveh government to rebuild Nineveh again. Thank you indeed.
BRIGADIER GENERAL HALGWRD HIKMAN ALI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I'd like to welcome you. Thank you so much for being here. The success on winning battles of Iraqi forces in Mosul and other areas were just as my friend's mentioned. I'd like to say that -- to congratulate everyone. Everyone knows that the Peshmerga forces has been a fight in ISIL.
And we broke the myth about ISIS. And with support of the coalition forces, we could also as a partner in this coalition, international coalition, to be an effective force on the ground and help the Iraqi forces, especially in Mosul operation. And we know that Peshmerga forces in Kurdish region has pushed back ISIL in many areas, and also the Peshmerga support activities for the Iraqi forces has been continuous then until now.
These supports will be continue -- will continue within this international coalition, and will support the Iraqi forces. We hope that we could liberate the total Nineveh Plain, and Hawija and other areas from this terrorist group. And to get rid of them once for all, and bring back Iraq to the before when they weren't around. Terrorism could be eradicated in the region. And, of course, we need -- after eradication of this terrorist groups to have plans -- plans to eradicate the ideology of Daesh in the region. This is a main objective of all the -- should be main -- main objective of the KRG and also the government of Iraq and other countries -- neighboring countries and our friends internationally.
We would like to see that as the Peshmerga forces. We will continue in supporting, and we will remain an active member of the international community to rescue and to liberate other areas, whether Hawija or other places.
We are ready and -- of course. And we are looking forward to seeing that other areas, Hawija, Tal Afar, and the rest of the areas under control of ISIS could be liberated by the Iraqi forces in support of the Kurdish forces and other international forces.
Thank you so much.
DAVIS: OK. We'll go ahead and start with questions. Hold on one sec. Lita, please?
(UNKNOWN): (Speaking foreign language).
DAVIS: OK. Go ahead, Lita. Yes?
Q: Hi. Lolita Baldor with the Associated Press. Question for the -- the general. How do you respond to charges that the Iraqi forces had a lot of -- caused a lot of civilian casualties during the Mosul fight and -- and other abuses there?
And then, for -- for the other two, can you talk a little bit about what you'd like to see from the coalition, and also from the Peshmerga forces, as you move ahead to the fight for Tal Afar and along the Euphrates River Valley? And do you want any additional support in the stabilization of Mosul?
RASOOL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In the name of Allah, the battle, it was fierce with its organize -- terrorist organizations. However, there was some -- something to consider that they use everything. They were using hundreds of boobytrap vehicles, and they used it among civilians.
Therefore, this organization was the main reason and significantly to cause casualties among civilians. They used boobytrapped vehicles among neighborhoods and also shooting people, using (inaudible) and rockets towards civilian residence -- residencies on top of the suiciders and land mines.
Therefore, this terrorist organization was trying to cause the most civilian casualties, knowing that -- knowing very well that militarily they have lost the battle of Mosul, and they will be eliminated. Contrary to what's been done by all those participating to liberate -- liberate the city, they were very considerate of the -- of citizens and made sure to save human lives. And we wanted -- they wanted genuinely to liberate people from this terrorist organization.
Therefore, they transferred hundreds of thousands of people to safe -- to safety. Therefore, we won morally before we achieved military victory.
The sacrifice among the civilians and the -- those sacrifices done by the elements of our forces are much more different. And this is -- if you heard about civilian casualties, it's because of what the terrorists done to them. And, quite frankly, because of tactics used in their fight.
GEN. MAAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Regarding an -- a relation to the battle in Tal Afar and our -- what we are, quite frankly, need form the coalition on top of what's been mentioned by Brigadier General Yahya and the prime minster who has stated three days ago, he was very clear in his statement. We will not -- he stated he -- we will not anyone to commit violations against human rights or abuse of power. And if there's any controversy or issue, there was an immediate investigation, whether it's an individual behavior because it -- we need to -- we need to make sure that they don't relate to the military institutions.
There were -- there are individuals who when -- this -- we -- there are those who would like to make those victories by -- made by the military of Iraq are not as significant. So, there is a lot of fabrications and rumors and false news regarding what happened there.
What we'd like to -- to -- we would like from the international or global coalition is the continuous support to Iraqi forces to complete its missions of liberating the remaining areas, whether it's Tal Afar or -- or -- and Hawija, or other areas according to the map, based on the priorities of the joint military operations, and also to focus of returning security and stabilization of the liberated areas. This also requires additional training, and providing the basic services, and cameras, and surveillance equipment so that we'll be able to stabilize the area.
Before we arrived to Washington -- few days ago, before our arrival to Washington, there were -- there was what's called the mobile police units that's been established, prior to our arrival. And we are gratefully receive that support and those vehicles from the coalition countries. And we will distribute it to the liberated areas to secure the citizens.
And them -- they might have other duties. And also, would like to help the border control units to do their job in a better fashion.
HIKMAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Regarding the preparedness of the Peshmerga to the great Hawija, Tal Afar, and other areas that I mentioned earlier that the Peshmerga forces are already -- even before preparing for the Mosul operation. They are ready. And we are now all prepared.
But the international community, we are first focusing on Mosul, liberating Mosul. Of course, these places should be naturalized. But it will time and mechanism -- I can still say we have to rebuild even the individuals, the people in these areas who are controlled by ISIL. Because it's not just about been controlling a place militarily, but they actually are a dangerous force that affecting the international -- the -- the whole world, not just the Iraq.
So, that's why eradicating this ideology is very important. We have to have a strategy by the coalition and the international community to continue with eradicating of this ideology. The International Coalition should continue supporting the Iraqi forces including the Peshmergas.
Q: (Inaudible) the retaking of Mosul and rightfully so. I was just...
Q: I was just saying you're -- you're obviously proud of retaking Mosul, and rightfully so. But obviously, we would not be sitting here if Mosul had not fallen in -- in the first place.
Q: We wouldn't be sitting here today if Mosul had not fallen and part of the reason -- a lot of the blame was because of the Iraqi Security Forces and their inabilities, there was a lot of melting away when a small group of ISIS fighters sort of came towards Mosul about three years ago. Now that Mosul's been retaken, President Trump, a few minutes ago, said, you know, Mosul's won and we want to make sure that it remains a victory. Can you sort of talk to the Iraqi people and the coalition who were supporting you why they should trust the Iraqi Security Forces now when just three years ago they were incapable of holding territory and against a small group of ISIS fighter?
RASOOL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Today, the Iraqi forces are the pride of the nation. Our heroic divisions, they recovered after -- and they proved themselves that they covered after these operations and they liberated the Iraqi cities that's been occupied by foreign terrorist groups. Let's go back, 2014. There were approximately 40 percent of Iraqi territory was under the control of this terrorist organization. Today, we have very small percentage of Iraqi territory under -- still under their control. This did not happen haphazardly. We made careful selections of the military -- military leadership.
They are professional and extensive training equipping and coordination with coalition forces. Many divisions and forces have been trained of street fighting, and engineering and how to address the land mines, sorry. And all those bombings that's done -- that's been put by the terrorist group.
Therefore, that is why we had this victory. The whole world now trust and have confidence in the Iraqi military institution and all the Iraqi forces. When we're dealing with dense -- dense city an urban neighborhood, Mosul has 1.5 to 2 million citizens in it, whether it's the left or the right bank. These heroes and our forces fought in an urban setting and protected their lives and their properties. It is not an easy equation to fight in an area that is populated by civilians and protect their lives and their properties, and the infrastructure and then also at the same time, eliminate the terrorist individuals. No army can achieve what the sons of the Iraqi forces achieved. These are our heroes, of liberating those cities when this (inaudible) organization that slaughtered and starved and looted and raped everything that is in that city. There's nothing we can -- I don't have the words to describe this -- what they've done in that city.
Today, the coalition forces are fighting side by side to us looking -- realizing that they are working with their counterparts. Mosul started -- operations started in autumn, then it was winter, and then it was spring, and then summer, the last days, and when the temperature is more than 50 centrigade.
In stifling heat, and the Iraqi hero as a fighter is standing there protecting the citizens and fighting terrorists. No army can achieve what we achieved, and those belonging to the Iraqi army.
Therefore, I salute them. I respect them. And I really -- I'm really sure that today can realize the wise leadership of our prime minister and the professional military leadership in Iraq. We are all proud of them. What they achieved and street wars, it's going to be something they're going to be talking at war colleges in (inaudible) and the world entirely for years to come.
Therefore, I'm confident, and the whole world is confident, in our capabilities. Without that, we wouldn't be here today in Washington having this press conference talking about our victories and the victory achieved by the different divisions and forces of the Iraqi army.
The whole world is supporting us, and standing by (inaudible). We are coordinating very well with the coalition forces in arming, equipping and training our forces to raise their capabilities. And, thank God, and that was proven in the army. We had also Iraqi air force. We have F-15s jet fighters and we were precise in the targeting of those places, just to eliminate those areas that we knew that the terrorists exist.
Therefore, we will be more confident and we will continue gaining confidence and trust as we liberate the other areas like Tal Afar and Hawija, and other places.
GEN. MAAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Just to add to answer -- add to the answer, of course, all world armies, they fight in wars. Some battles are different than other battles in its nature. But what counts at the end of result true. Daesh is not -- fighting Daesh is a global fight. It's not only an Iraqi war.
Many countries, the whole globe, is suffering from the presence of their cells and units. Nobody's immune to Daesh's existence or ISIL.
Therefore, nobody fights face to face on the ground facing those groups other than Iraqi forces today. Therefore, the Iraqi victory is a victory for all who love peace in the world.
Q: Thank you.
Can you please -- can you please give us some update on the number of Daesh fighters that remain in Iraq? Can you also give us an update on the number of Iraqi security forces that have been killed?
And how long after Daesh is defeated do you think the coalition should remain in your country?
RASOOL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): First of all, in relation to ISIL fighters, (inaudible) the Iraqi intelligence agencies are tracing and trying to find out a little bit more about the remaining members of this unit.
Of course, in every battle there are sacrifices. There is a -- we will conduct a press conference in Baghdad and we will mention the percentage of areas of liberated, the number of Daesh that have been killed, and what's being conducted by the different divisions of the army and forces after the liberation of the city of Mosul. So we are going to give more details in that press conference.
Regarding the remaining time to liberate the -- sorry -- the required time to liberate the remaining areas, can I say that we'd like to assure everybody that coming shortly, or very soon, we'll start military operations to liberate the remaining Iraqi areas under occupation.
And the Iraqi military leadership, after consulting the commander in chief of armed forces, of course we will follow his directive, of if we're going to go towards Hawija or Tal Afar or other areas. And we could start military operations towards different areas at the same time. Currently, we're confident that we are capable of having a number of operations simultaneously.
And that's what we've done in the battle of Fallujah, when -- where we arrived at the center of Fallujah, and then they spread towards al-Jahara and other places. And we liberated the airport of al-Jahara .
We leave it to the Iraqi leadership -- military leadership. And God willing, I know it's going to be very soon to liberate the remaining occupied territory of Iraq.
RASOOL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): And last question about how long the coalition forces will stay in Iraq after liberating the country from ISIL, that's not in my portfolio. I just talk about military operations. This is left to the Iraqi military leadership with coordination with the global coalition countries.
Q: (inaudible) and your companions. I know you don't have an answer. Maybe you do. You've been asked this question a lot lately, and you're probably tired of hearing it. But there's still the question about the leadership of ISIS.
Where do you think they are? What do you think is left? And what do you think their importance is, even if they are still around?
RASOOL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Honestly, the elements of the leadership of ISIL and those influential within the organization, we -- (inaudible) -- defeated them and damaged, especially as a result of the precise intelligence information we targeted at command and control areas. We targeted some of their influential members, and we killed a large number of their leadership.
After the battle of Mosul, and liberating the city of Mosul, that city, as many of those terrorists consider the capitol of their illusionary state, after they bombed (inaudible) and the northern mosque, which is considered the main achievements of these terrorist groups, it was a clear message that they failed, as far as we see it.
Therefore, we don't want to reduce that -- reduce the importance of eliminating the remaining numbers of them, but we killed a large number of the leadership, and they collapsed within their structure, and they're fighting among themselves in Hawija and Tal Afar, currently. The system they were based on, they -- it started to collapse because we got precise intelligence information, and, currently, we are pursuing the remaining leaders of this organization to eliminate them also.
QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Currently, you won (inaudible) reclaiming this city, Mosul city. But after you liberate all the areas, do you have an Iraqi strategy, or another strategy in cooperation with the international coalition to guarantee that they won't return to Mosul, or any other province of the country?
RASOOL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The -- the only remaining elements currently under the -- the only remaining countries under the -- these organization is in Tal Afar and (inaudible). Currently, we tried to secure the borders, and that's what we achieved with the PMF, or the Popular Mobilization Forces, that currently control a large section of the border so that they won't run or cross between the Iraqi or Syrian borders, so they don't escape there, or don't return to our country. Therefore, we are -- we have a plan.
Let me clarify an important point. Yes, we have a partnership with the coalition countries, and you mentioned that cooperation with the coalition. We said about the training, equipping, and coordination, and this has happened with the approval of the Iraqi government. More than 60 countries are doing -- helping us, in addition to the United States government, helping our Iraqi forces. But the most important part you need to know -- who planned for these battles, who leads it, who goes forward in the front lines are the soldiers and sons of Iraq. Our soldiers are on the front lines. Iraqi forces are on the front line.
Yes, we have the partnership with international coalition, and I mention, specifically, where are the points that we cooperate with the international coalition, and where we gain -- get their support?
GEN. MAAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): To add to the answer? Apparently, the coming battle is the battle of information, the intelligence information is the coming phase of this battle. Currently, they try to have attacks against civilians out of desperation, but they don't have any contract to any land. Therefore, there is an emphasis on two points.
First of all, to build our -- the intelligence information, and also gain the trust of the citizens so they will be part of this intelligence gathering. Without taking any -- without the help of citizens, we won't go forward in any step forward.
And that's how we succeeded as -- to prove it in Anbar and Fallujah and Ramadi. The information, the accurate information about any movement or any attempt of a sleeping cell comes to us, in a timely fashion, from the people, from our citizens in Mosul. Similar to our -- what happened in Mosul. Today, we have a very solid relation between the security apparatus and the Iraqi or Mosuli citizen. Anybody who follows closely the security affairs of Iraq, especially in the last two weeks, you can know that we killed more than 10 suiciders from tips that we got from the citizens. So, the coming faith is the information phase and the intelligence-gathering phase.
RASOOL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): If my colleague allow me, we have a military victory in our hands today. But, what happens after that? And how the terrorist organizations react to this is not something that's going to happen very quickly or immediately. It takes time. We need to extend bridges of trust with our people, our citizens everywhere. And that's how we get the current success. There are people who are giving us tips about their leadership, citizens. For example, city of Mosul, one of the suiciders attempted in (Inaudible) area. He wanted to have an operation to kill checkpoint. But the young people, the courageous people and young people of Mosul, they attacked him before he came to attack our checkpoints and forces there. Therefore, we need to have a good relationship with the citizens and let them trust us, on top of gathering intelligence with their help. Many of the preemptive operations that we executed as through our intelligence forces, we cannot share it with you here because we need still to follow up and capture the remaining members of these cells.
Q: Thank you very much.
Brigadier General Rasool, I want to make sure I understand your answer to Thomas's question. So, you believe you have enough Iraqi forces right now to conduct the next offensives, Tel Afar and whatnot, and still hold the other areas like Mosul?
And then Brigadier General Saad Maan, how many Iraqi police do you expect will be needed to hold Mosul?
And then one more back to Brigadier General Rasool, how long do you think until the rest of Iraq is completely cleared of ISIS? Do you think it's possible it will happen this year?
And then, if I could, one for Brigadier General Hikmat. Is the Peshmerga currently conducting any planning for what would happen if the referendum vote chooses for Kurdistan to be independent? Are you involved in any military planning for how that would impact the fight against ISIS going forward?
RASOOL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Regarding the military operations, as a member who's present in the planning for the military operations and also a witness to what's going on in the command and control central, we have enough forces to liberate what is remaining from our country under the organization.
At the same time, we can launch a number of operations. We can launch a military operation toward Tal Afar and another one toward Al- Qa'im, and another one toward -- maybe another one toward Hawija, and vice versa. But this is left to the military decision -- military leadership decision. What matters is the victory and thinking thoroughly before planning.
To get rid of, or eliminate Daesh completely from Iraq, what we -- my lady, let me say that we cannot completely eliminate those terrorists groups because we talk about urban settings or urban cities.
We want to -- our priority is to save or make sure to avoid civilian casualties. However, what I'm witnessing from my presence there, there is a great desire of those fighters, within our forces, to do their job and sacrifice to do their job. And that's how we achieve a lot of victory that our forces are motivated.
On the other side, there is a demoralization, on the other side, among the terrorist organizations whether we are using air strikes or the operations that we've been doing for a while currently right now in the western desert to apprehend, approximately in the desert of 25 to 30 kilometers where we have intelligent information that they might be present there, like in their safety areas where they -- weapon storages, for example.
We've been killed tens, maybe hundreds of those terrorists. We will continue chasing them. And, God willing, we will defeat them militarily completely, and we'll have complete control of the Iraqi territories. And there are -- there is a very small percentage of the Iraqi territories that is remaining under their hands after 11 -- after events of 11/10, defeat of these terrorist organizations is continuous, facing the determinations of our forces.
GEN. MAAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): When it comes to the police of Nineveh, currently we have, on top of what I mentioned of the different police stations, we have 16 emergency units. And what they -- and out of their duties are, securing territory, participating in fight, making securing law and order. The prime minister give permission of the sending 21,000 -- creating 21,000 new jobs in Anbar. Also in those regions, in Nineveh and Anbar, it created more jobs for young people and young men to secure their areas. And, in that way, at the same time, we are securing the internal security and safety of those regions. On top of that, the Ministry of Interior, thankfully, with the support of the prime minister, we expanded the number of new recruits. And they could be 18,000 new police officers that could be sent to that province. Of course, we done a feasibility study, and this has not been done haphazardly. We studied the needs of human resources there, and we focused on training and increasing their capacity so that they'll be able to be qualified police forces that are capable of fighting. And even the current police forces, available in those provinces, are diverse, representing those areas ethnically and sectorially.
Therefore, to be honest, the support is continuous and open from the Ministry of Interior to these liberated areas. When it comes to providing them with the needed number of forces to secure it and keep them in hand, and also logistically. The government of Iraq thinks that liberation -- after liberation, there's another phase, and a big role played by the police of present. The security file will be transferred to the police officers.
COL. DILLON: All right, we're switching the translator for the last question.
GEN. HIKMAT (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): OK. Everybody knows that the Iraqis were waiting for elections, the elections, and a referendum it's a free way , and it's not something that is a stranger to Iraq. Iraq is now a democratic country, where the elections are set, and followed up.
As for the referendum in the Kurdistan region, this is about people in Kurdistan, and who will put (inaudible) in the referendum . The president of the Kurdistan region has decided this referendum. As for us, as the Peshmerga forces, we protect the Kurdistan region, and our jobs (sic) is basically about protecting our borders. That's -- we have been working in the recent years fighting terrorist groups, ISIL was -- one of the ways that we showed that we will be always far from -- we keep ourself so far from polices and politics. We just do protecting the country, the region. We are just protecting the -- the -- the entity of this region, this (inaudible) region.
COL. DILLON: Last one, Thomas.
Q: Gentlemen, thank you so much for travelling this way and talking to us. General, you we're talking about having the trust of the people of Mosul to help you secure the city in the weeks and months to come. What would you tell them after some of these videos have surfaced of small groups of Iraqi soldiers committing atrocities against potential ISIS fighters?
RASOOL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Sir, we are keenly observing and following what is being published in social media outlets about the conduct of a number of our soldiers, or those who are wearing uniforms. We are following this affair very closely, and all the leadership of Iraqi forces and military and keen to know the details of this matter.
If there's any violation of the human rights from any force -- counterterrorism forces, police, army, they will be held accountable militarily, and we will be really severe. Don't forget that those who would like to reduce the joy and the confidence we have from this victory, maybe these videos are being fabricated. And quite frankly, we'll look into this matter very carefully, and we will hold anybody who committed that act severely.
GEN. MAAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Again, the ministry of interior, we are responding -- we're trying to respond to this matter very swiftly. There is an (inaudible) which you published of torture -- of victim's torturing elements of ISIL. Immediately, the prime minister and the minister of the interior, they created an investigative committee.
And through the internal affairs directory, they followed the conduct and the behavior of all the forces. And, quite frankly, we looked and suspended a number of those forces shown in those pictures. And there's currently an investigation being conducted. And we will publish the result of this investigation.
Let me say that there might be some misbehavior or inappropriate conduct by some of the forces, yes, but the investigation is going on. However, let me emphasize we are against any violation against any human being, and this is the position of the government.
We would like to be also transparent. There's nothing for us to hide. Yes, we -- with the right of having the information and the result of the investigation is open to all the media personnel and also all the members of the community.
Q: (inaudible) there are also reports from Iraq that security forces have forcibly relocated families of suspected ISIS fighters to detention camps being called rehabilitation camps.
Is there a camp in Mosul where families of ISIS fighters are being relocated and being held against their will? And if so, does this affect any reconciliation efforts in that area?
And that's for General Rasool, or anyone else who would like to take that. RASOOL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Regarding the displaced people who are leaving certain areas of battle, there's (inaudible) Brigadier Mansoor that oversees those displaced people and the supervision of areas where the Iraqi forces are present.
This topic, we didn't have precise information about what's going on. However, there is no situation or scenario where the Iraqi forces will forcibly get people out of their homes as Iraqi citizens from their residency.
However, we've tried to secure safe pathways for them to avoid the battle area. Yes, we sometimes have them being transported to safer places. And, at times, when we eliminate those terrorist organizations, and we gain the control of those areas, and we make sure there's no booby-traps and we secure the area, we help returnees to come back to their homes.
That was -- that's how we behave, and that's what been doing in the eastern bank. Many of the liberated areas on the 17th of -- in (inaudible) in Shafa area and other places on the 17th of Yunio , what we've done is we have those returnees to come back, and that's how we behave systematically as we liberate the city of Mosul.
COL. DILLON: All right. Thank you very much, everyone, for coming.
And thank you, gentlemen, for being here today on this unique experience to provide an update from Iraqis, and not just me. So thank you very much.
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