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Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Warren via DVIDS from Baghdad, Iraq
Colonel Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman
November 13, 2015
CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS: All right, good morning, everybody. Sorry for the delay.
Steve, just want to do a sound check with you. Can you hear us?
COLONEL STEVE WARREN: Jeff, I can hear you loud and clear, but I can't see you. If DVIDS is there, I'd -- and they can hear me.
CAPT. DAVIS: We will work that here in the booth.
In the meantime, we'll have you get started, though. So, ladies and gentlemen, thanks for joining us. Sorry for the delay. We do have with us today, Colonel Steve Warren from Operation Inherent Resolve coming to us live from Baghdad.
Steve, over to you for your opening remarks. And just signal me if you have questions. We'll get you on the list.
COL. WARREN: Thanks, Jeff, I appreciate it. And I appreciate everyone waiting a few extra minutes while the Medal of Honor ceremony concluded. Certainly far more important than this briefing.
But I do have a couple of prepared remarks that I would like to get through, and we have got some graphics to show you as well. So, we'll get started.
As events unfold across Syria and Iraq, such as the ongoing operations in Ramadi and Bayji, yesterday's attack in Sinjar, it is easier to focus on all of these events as separate and unconnected.
What I am hoping to do today is make a case and explain how these events are really all connected. They're not separate and distinct.
We’re conducting a very comprehensive thought out campaign targeting and attacking ISIL at multiple locations across both Iraq and Syria.
All these operations are, of course, focused on a single goal -- degrading, dismantling and ultimately defeating ISIL.
So, Jeff, for time, if you could bring up the first map. And let me know when it is up.
CAPT. DAVIS: Map of Hasakah-Sinjar area.
COL. WARREN: Right, that's it. It's up. I see it, it looks good.
So I want to -- so we made this map up to help kind of illustrate what we're doing here. So the red obviously is where ISIL controls territory. To orient you to the map, of course, up is north, down is south. To the east there, you see Iraq and then sort of the bottom of the map. To the west, or the left of the map, is Syria, of course.
So what we're doing here is trying to identify sort of for everyone what's going on. A big picture, if you will. So in blue -- blue squares, we have our major train and equip sites. There's a total of six of them. Besmaya, Baghdad and Taji are one through three, they're on the right-hand corner of your map. Al-Taqqaddum is number four, Erbil is number five up in the upper right-hand corner of your map and number six is Al Asad. That's locations where U.S. and coalition forces are conducting training and assist operations.
The green stars are what we're referring to as close fight -- the close fight. These are ongoing battles that are happening, as you can see, really across Iraq. Number one, of course, is Ramadi, where we've isolated the city and are in the process of preparing to see Iraq security forces attack to seize. Star number two, sort of in the upper middle left corner of the map there, mid left of the map is Bayji, which we have seized and are in the process of clearing.
Sinjar is number three, we'll talk about that in more detail, but we're interdicted and isolated it and are in the process of clearing it. Star number four is Fallujah, many of you are familiar with that city where we're beginning the isolation process. Star number five, al-Baghdadi and Abu Hayat, two areas that have not been talked about very much. We are conducting isolation operations there as well. And of note, that's ISF, PMF, and Sunni tribes all working together there.
And then number six is Al-Hawl, that's kind of dead center of the map and towards the top third, which is where the SDF, the Syrian Democratic Forces, are isolating and are preparing to attack to secure that -- that town.
It's notable that a lot of these operations are mutually supporting, so number three and six, that's Sinjar and Al-Hawl at the top of your map, those are really mutual supporting operations. Those operations are happening together and in coordination. Additionally, Ramadi, Fallujah and Abu Hayat are all mutually supporting operations. Each one of those operations is tied together to create some synergy and success across all of them.
Finally, we'll just -- we'll look at the deep fight really quickly. Deep fight number one, of course, is Mosul. That's where, for the last year, we've been conducting disruption operations. Purple circle number two, Dar Islar, which is where ISIL's primary oil production capabilities reside, and we've been conducting significant disruption operations there. Of note, recently, operation Tidal Wave II has -- we're about half way through that operation, which is a significant damage on ISIL's ability to fund itself.
Finally, in the upper left -- next in the upper left-hand corner we have Mara. The Mara line we've talked about before. We have some of the forces that were trained and equipped outside of Syria and then infiltrated back into Syria. Our conducting operations there -- they're holding the line and Mara.
Finally, Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the caliphate, is purple circle number four and we are continuing to conduct disruption operations, and there has been some of those disruption operations in the news today.
So that concludes my walk through the map. I would like to give you a quick little update on -- just some stats, some facts and figures that we have seen over the course of the last month.
In Western Syria, along the Mara line -- which, if you recall was purple circle number three, we have conducted approximately 18 strikes over the last month. Moving east to Raqqa, we have conducted seven airstrikes in the last 30 days.
Near Al-Hawl and Al Hasakah, which is green star number six, we have conducted 70 airstrikes.
In Sinjar in the last 30 days, Sinjar in vicinity, 250 airstrikes in the last 30 days. Along the Euphrates River Valley, which includes Ramadi, Fallujah and Albu Hayat. So, that is star number five, one and four.
We've conducted 159 airstrikes. And finally, in the Tigris River Valley, which included Bayji, Mosul and Hawija, we have conducted 83 airstrikes.
And so, I point -- again, I lay all of this out to really point out that this is a comprehensive campaign across the entire breadth and depth of this battlefield.
So, now, for a few more detailed updates. Al Hawl. The SDF are continuing their attack toward Al Hal. They have reclaimed a grand total now of 500 square kilometers; that's an additional 250 since we last spoke.
Now, the intent of this operation is to secure terrain, to liberate the ISIL-held stronghold of Al Hawl.
In addition, the Syrian Democratic Forces there are helping to set conditions for the reestablishment of the Northeastern Iraq-Syria border.
Coalition aircraft have supported this advance specifically with 66 airstrikes in recent days. We have destroyed 13 vehicles, 94 fighting positions, numerous weapons systems. We estimated we have killed about 287 enemy fighters.
In Iraq, since summer, ISIL has lost more than 1,800 square kilometers of terrain in Ramadi, Bayji and along the Kurdish -- (inaudible). Of note, this is about the size of the 31st largest city in the world, as far as square kilometers -- which, by the way, is Baltimore.
In Sinjar, the coalition has conducted over 250 airstrikes as part of the shaping and the assault fires for the operation there. We estimate we've killed over 200 enemy fighters in recent days. We have also destroyed several VBIEDs.
In Ramadi, the ISF are continuing to make measurable progress. Last week, I told you that they were fighting in Camp -- (inaudible). They have now secured Camp -- (inaudible) -- and have cleared it.
They have removed and detonated 27 IEDs in that camp.
In Bayji in this past week, the Bayji oil refinery was formally turned over to the ministry of oil. The ISF, federal police and some PMF elements continue to conduct secondary clearance operations of the many IEDs that are located there at the refinery.
And finally, I would like to update you on Operation Tidal Wave II, which is the coalition's targeting of illicit oil revenues for ISIL. We have attacked ISIL's ability to fund their operations through stolen oil from the beginning of this campaign. And we have probably discussed them before, but beginning on October 21st, we conducted a massive strike on the Omar oil fields.
Since then, we have stepped up our attacks, we have focused our targeting on other oil facilities to include Tanak, to include the Tanak oil field as well as several others.
And to emphasize this oil field operation, which we are very proud of here, we believe has made a significant impact, I've got four videos that haven't been seen yet.
So, we'll pull those up. Two of them are airstrikes on gas and oil separation plants and two of them -- the second two are of strikes on the Tanak oil field near (inaudible), Syria.
So, Davis, if you would roll all four of those videos, please.
COL. WARREN: Okay. Well, thanks for your attention. This is a little bit longer than normal, but as you can see, we've got a lot going on here in this fight against ISIL.
One thing -- another thing I wanted to note on those videos, we'll make them available on the web -- when you look at them, as you -- as you look at those videos, you'll see on each screen several inverted triangles. Each one of those inverted triangles actually represents an individual target.
So when -- you know, when we talk about number of strikes and number of targets, this is a good note to keep in mind. So one video represents one strike, but what you can see is often there's seven, eight or nine targets inside of that strike.
Okay. Well, that concludes my announcements, and with that, we'll go right to questions. And Bob or Lita, who's first?
Q: Hi, Steve. It's Lita. Thanks for doing this.
Can you bring us up to date on the Jihadi John strike? Can you say whether or not there's been any progress in determining if, indeed, the strike killed -- killed him? And also, are there any additional details you can provide about how this happened, when this happened, a bit more -- (inaudible) -- on it?
COL. WARREN: Thanks, Lita. It certainly -- it's still a little early, but we -- we are -- we are reasonably certain that we killed the target that we intended to kill, which is Jihadi John. It'll take some time, as it always does, for us to able to finally formally declare that we know that we've had success. So, you know, as is always the case, we just have to -- we have to wait. We've got several methods that we use to try and determine whether or not the strike successfully killed the target that -- that we wanted killed.
You know, we know for a fact that the weapon system hit its intended target and that the personnel who were on the receiving end of that weapons system were in fact killed. We still have to finalize the verification that those personnel were specifically who we thought they were. So more to follow as we develop this intelligence.
It was -- it was a drone strike using a Hellfire missile. Really for us, it was a fairly routine HVI strike. As you know, we've -- we've killed, on average, one mid to upper-level ISIL leader every two days since May. So for us, this is very routine.
Now, this is significant, of course, because Jihadi John was somewhat of an ISIL celebrity, if you will, kind of the face of the organization in many senses. So there is certainly I think a significant blow to their prestige of ISIL, but Jihadi John wasn't a major tactical figure or an operational figure.
Q: Well, you just answered my question about what it was going to mean on the battlefield. But can you talk a little more about the significance of -- because he was such a well-known ISIL member, does that make his death any more significant to the coalition because he was such a galvanizing figure for the Islamic state?
COL. WARREN: Thanks -- (inaudible). I think his death is more significant for ISIL. Again, he was a primary recruitment tool for that organization. We're all familiar with the ghastly videos, the absolute barbarism that he displayed, crimes against American citizens. I mean, this guy was a human animal and killing him is probably making the world a little bit better place.
Q: Hi, colonel. Thanks a lot for this.
I -- I have a broader question regarding the strategy that you're pursuing in this fight against ISIL. When you -- we look at the map that you shared with us, is it safe to assume that the new strategy that you're pursuing now, rather than besiege -- siege in Raqqa to seize the tie between Raqqa and Mosul, when you look at the map, because you are focusing on Al Hawl and Sinjar.
So, is it now the strategy of that -- the coalition in -- in both in Iraq and Syria? So, you integrated the strategy and you are trying to disconnect the tie of Mosul and Raqqa?
And the second thing, you mentioned about the Mara line, but the Mara is far east of the map. You didn't share the location of Mara. Your focusing on northwest, rather than the east side of the Syria, where the Russians are focusing on?
COL. WARREN: As you know, the Mara line is all the way in the far east of Syria. There's -- there's nothing -- or far west of Syria. There is nothing, really, you know, if you go further west after the Mara line, you hit the Mediterranean Sea.
So, I think that it makes it pretty clear that we are focusing on the entire breadth of this. Our focus is ISIL, right? And that is what this map is designed to explain.
Everywhere where there is ISIL, there is some form of coalition, offensive activity, and it's always -- it's ground and air activity integrated.
Really, I think with the exception of -- there is not really much ground activity in -- (inaudible) -- now around the Omar oil -- or around the Tidal Wave oil fields.
But it is air and ground integrated, and that is really what we are trying to show here.
So, what we have done, it's not really changing strategy, but I think it is, you know, it's a refinement of our strategy, which is -- is to look at ISIL as a complete enemy, right? Rather than look at this fight piecemeal, an individual fight in Tikrit, or an individual fight here, an individual fight there -- what we're doing is applying simultaneous pressure to ISIL across the entire battlefield.
And what that does is it puts ISIL in a very difficult position, because anytime -- so, there will be ground movement -- attacks whether that ground movement is in Sinjar, or whether that ground movement is in Al Hawl, or whether that ground pressure is applied along the Mara line, that will cause the enemy to have to move.
And the moment the enemy moves, we're there with our air power to rapidly kill them. So, that is what we're trying to do, cause this enemy to not be able -- he's in a position where he can't make good decisions.
Every -- every decision he tries to make will result in his eventual destruction.
And so, I think that is kind of what we refer to as operationalizing, is we have turned this into -- into a complete operation focused on the enemy.
Q: Hi, Steve, Tony -- (inaudible).
On the Jihadi John, using your helpful map, can you broadly give the location where the strike took place?
And then, I had a follow up question.
COL. WARREN: Sure. Sorry I forgot to say that. Purple circle number four there, Al-Raqqa. He was in Al-Raqqa when we killed him.
Q: How can you be reasonably confident that he was killed, and that this is not another Chemical Ali situation, where Secretary Rumsfeld, a number of years ago, said, we got him.
And he was like James Bond villain, he lived again.
How can you be reasonably certain that he was killed?
COL. WARREN: Well, this is not an exact science, so we depend on intelligence collection capabilities.
So, we had been following this target for some time. The intelligence indicators that we had gave us great confidence that this individual was Jihadi John.
And then, when the opportunity presented itself -- with the opportunity for minimal civilian casualties, we took the shot.
And now, we're using those same intelligence capabilities to verify that the individual that we killed was, in fact, Jihadi John.
Q: What was the level of effort to track him? Was this comparable to the level of effort to track Zarqawi in 2006? Multiple agencies that lead to his death in 2006 with F-16 strikes?
COL. WARREN: Tony, I -- I don't know all the -- the back -- the backside intelligence that went into this. It -- it gets up on our screen when it's close to execution time. Execution of the operation. So I don't know all the back story of this.
But again, from here, we see this is as -- as yet another somewhat -- another day of taking ISIL leaders off the battlefield. (inaudible) -- operation for us.
Q: Hi, Colonel Warren. It's -- (inaudible) -- with Channel 4 News.
I just wanted to ask, there are reports of Pentagon sources being quoted and saying that there is a video of Jihadi John getting into a taxi -- getting into that video before the drone strike was launched. So I wonder whether you can confirm whether that video exists, and if it does, what it tells us about the strike.
COL. WARREN: Well, I haven't seen that report and I -- so I don't know what video it's referring to. Of course, as you just saw four gun camera videos that we played earlier. Of course, we have video of this strike as well.
Q: Is this the kind of video material that you would expect would be available and might be released to provide the kind of confidence that you've been referring to?
COL. WARREN: Again, you know, we -- we use gun camera footage in all of our operations.
Q: Thanks a lot. Was there any British cooperation in terms of the strike either in terms of intelligence or any logistical support or any kind of shared operational detail?
COL. WARREN: It's important for me to let our British partners speak for themselves. What I'll say is the Brits are our great partners here and, of course, NATO allies and -- and our long time partners in the war on terror. So, of course, we were pretty close to them on all of our operations.
Q: Hi, Colonel Warren. This is Joe Tabet
As you may know, Turkey is pushing forward the idea of implementing a safe zone along the Turkish-Syrian border. Do you see that as a possible idea based on your contacts with CENTCOM commanders or coalition commanders?
COL. WARREN: We -- we've looked at this. I know the idea has been out in -- in the public space for sometime. Right now we believe is not the right time for a safe zone or a no fly zone.
Q: Another question on -- on Iraq. Are you concerned about the clashes that were reported between the Pesh forces and the PMF, and somewhere south of Kirkuk -- are you aware of those clashes and are concerned about them?
COL. WARREN: We are aware of those clashes and, you know, anytime there are clashes amongst forces that are working for the same objective, in this case the destruction of ISIL, of course we're concerned.
We haven't seen indication that this is wide spread, and, you know, we've been talking of course with one of our partners here in Iraq, and we're hopeful that this will be quickly resolved and will be a limited, kind of one-time incident.
Q: Steve, -- Hey it’s Andrew Tilghman.
Last week there was a Kurdish intelligence official at a think tank in Washington that said that the U.S. is providing helicopters and medevac support for most of their operations.
Is that -- can you confirm that? Is that now a routine part of the train, advise and assist mission with the Kurds up north, to provide medevac support?
COL. WARREN: No, it isn't. What's -- what's notable is that, in the Sinjar -- pull that Sinjar map up for me real fast, will you? I do want to talk about Sinjar. No one's asking me questions, so I'll use this as my excuse.
The Sinjar operation -- I just wanted to show you this map because it gives you a sense for what the operation looks like. You can see Sinjar -- it's a little faded there, but it's right in the center. Sort of a cigar-shaped mountain.
You know, standing right above Highway 47, you can see Sinjar City there. The concentration of strikes that we executed. The questions that I got a lot yesterday were about the advise and assist operations that we conducted, so I'll get to that.
And this, eventually, will answer your question, but it's going to take me a minute to get there.
So, the -- you know, our advise and assist forces have positioned themselves primarily toward the top of this map -- so on the -- on the north side of this mountain, which is where the Kurd commanders positioned theirselves -- themselves.
With the mission, really, to advise these Kurd commanders on how to synchronize the flow of forces into the battle -- into the battle, on -- on how to conduct or refine their logistics operations -- ongoing logistics operations, and how to do things like triage wounded and -- and how to manage the casualty collection sites. Things like this. Genuine advise-and-assist.
There's also some reporting -- and I'll confirm it -- that there were a handful of personnel on top of the mountain, helping the Peshmerga forces identify and develop targets down there on the ground. So that's what we had.
On helicopters, I think what's important here is that it was actually Iraqi Security Forces who provided medevac support for the Kurds during this operation.
I'll say that again: Iraqi Security Force helicopters and pilots provided the casualty evacuation -- medevac -- aerial medevac for the Kurds in this fight. They -- they conducted five casevac missions in support of the Kurds.
So I think that's important to note, because we often hear that there -- there are clashes between these two forces, or -- or at least disagreements, let's say. But -- you know, we're excited to see examples of when the Kurds are able to work together and -- with the Iraqi Security Forces in -- in a mutually supporting role.
So, to further look at this map, I just wanted to show you kind of how -- how this laid out. There were three axes of attack -- one to the west, which established a blocking position on Highway 47, one to the east, which established a blocking position on Highway 47, and then the main assault that came down the center.
So I wanted to get that map up and show it to you, and hopefully that answers most of your questions.
Q: Colonel Warren, (inaudible) -- here with Reuters.
Coming to Operation Tidal Wave II, could you give a bit more specifics on how many strikes have been made so far, when you see it ending, and geographically, is it restricted to eastern Syria?
If you could also talk about -- I mean, they're making about $500 million a year in oil revenue. As a result of this operation, do you see that revenue going down to zero, or sort of -- what's the end goal with this?
COL. WARREN: We estimate that about two-thirds of their oil revenue comes from the Deir ez-Zor region. On the map -- I should have marked -- well, you can sort of see it on the map. Put -- can you put up that other map?
So that purple circle, number two there, which is right below the city of -- or the words Deir ez-Zor -- that indicates, roughly, where most of these oil facilities are located. Right where that number two is.
So we've conducted -- I'll have to -- unfortunately, I didn't bring that exact number with me and I should have. I don't have the exact number of strikes we've -- we've conducted on the -- on the oil facilities on the last week. But it's -- it's a number we have and I'll -- we'll get it for you and get it out to you. Elissa Smith -- she's got those numbers and can give it to you.
So again, our intent is to shut those oil facilities down completely. What we've done here is we've done a very comprehensive analysis of these facilities to determine which pieces of the facility we can strike that will shut that facility down for a fairly extended period of time. Again, we have to be cognizant that there will be a time after the war -- the war will end.
So we don't want to completely and utterly destroy these facilities to where their irreparable. So what we've done is we've used very precise carving, a very detailed analysis to strike certain parts of these facilities that will cause them to shut down for an extended period of time.
Why will they shut down? Well, it's because the replacement parts require a level of technical expertise that we don't believe ISIL necessarily has. Or the replacement parts themselves are very difficult to acquire, alright? They're only made in a few, you know, in a few locations that can be tracked.
So that's kind of our philosophy, our overall approach to this. And again, we estimate roughly two thirds of their oil revenue comes from this region.
Q: Well, I mean is this an end date -- or do you see an end date (inaudible). If you drop by the role of being played by allied aircrafts in this?
COL. WARREN: I -- I don't have an end date. We're -- we're close. We're probably 70 percent through to this. You know, the way these work is, you know, conduct a strike, conduct a battle damage assessment to see if the strike did exactly what we thought it would do. And then there's always the opportunity to re-attack if you -- if you believe that's necessary.
And yeah, this of course, has been a -- you know, this has been a coalition operations. So, I didn't bring the break down of specifically which aircraft participated in this operation, and we don't really let the coalition -- we let the coalition partners really speak for themselves as far as what specifically they did. But it was not U.S. only, no. This was integrated into the air tasking order that comes out every three days, and it was just part of our operation.
Q: Hey, Steve, you mentioned that there were measures taken to minimize collateral damage. Is there reason to believe that there were civilian casualties as a result of this strike against Jihadi John?
COL. WARREN: No. There's not.
Q: Now, on Sinjar, are these advisers still on the mountain spotting targets on the ground? And what's the next phase of Sinjar -- where -- you know, what -- what's the next plan here? And also, what took so long to -- for this Operation Tidal Wave to begin? Why did you wait, I mean these -- these oil fields have been around for awhile, right?
COL. WARREN: Yeah. So, Sinjar first. The advisers continue to advise and assist with -- with their Pesh counterparts, so as long as the Pesh forces are on the mountaintop, their advisers will be there with them.
I don't have an exact status this very moment. My guess is that they probably are, but that they'll -- they'll be coming down soon.
Our next phase of the operation -- now that they've seized Sinjar, or freed Sinjar, the next phase is to go back and clear it. And that -- that will take a while. That will probably take a week, 10 days, maybe even two weeks, depending on the -- the complexity of the mine fields and obstacles that ISIL left behind.
And then consolidate, reorganize, and then begin preparation for follow-on operations. I'm not prepared to detail what those follow-on operations are right now. It's a piece of information that ISIL would very much like to know, and so we're going to keep them guessing.
I forgot your question about the oil field, sorry. Ask it again?
Q: On -- on Operation Tidal Wave, why -- why are we beginning that now rather -- you know.
COL. WARREN: Right. So we've been striking -- and I -- I mentioned it in my opening remarks. We've been striking oil fields, really, since the very beginning.
And I think I remember on day two or three, reading out strikes of these mobile oil -- what were they called? Mobile -- mobile refineries, or something like that. So we've been targeting their oil since the very beginning. We've known that this is a target that we need to strike.
Well, we learned over time, though, by using our regular -- our -- our normal assessment of strike, assess, decide whether or not we need to re-strike -- what we learned is that the strikes that we were taking were -- against pieces of the oil system that were easily repaired or replaced.
So in many cases, we -- you know, we'd conduct a strike against some piece of the oil infrastructure, and then within -- you know, 24, 48, 72 hours, the enemy have managed to repair that piece of infrastructure, and -- and were back up and running.
So one we made that determination, we realized we needed to re-look how we were targeting these oil facilities. Then -- so we did a detailed analysis to -- to determine, how can we strike the oil field to break them for longer, essentially.
We wanted them broken longer. Rather than 24 to 48 hours, we're looking at -- you know, something that would take maybe a year to repair. Because, again, we do have to worry about what comes next, right? We have to think a little bit deeper.
So after some more detailed analysis, we came up with some more specific target types within the oil infrastructure that we could strike. And then General MacFarland -- (inaudible) -- it was his decision to conduct this as one concerted operation -- a tidal wave, if you will -- named, appropriately, after Operation Tidal Wave I, which was conducted in -- during -- during World War II against Nazi oil fields.
So that's the timing and the history there.
Q: Hey, Colonel Warren, it's Kristina.
I wanted to -- on -- on this Jihadi John strike, were there other high-value individuals targeted along with Jihadi John? And just to follow up on Andrew's question, are there any U.S. forces advising the Iraqi forces that are performing the medevacs and casevacs for the Sinjar operation?
COL. WARREN: On Jihadi John, no, it was only -- he was the only high-value individual that -- that we were trying to kill in this -- in that particular operation.
On the medevac piece, so the -- the advisers -- they will -- they will advise as -- you know, part of setting up a -- setting up before a major operation is establishing, kind of, your -- your behind-the-lines portion of the operation.
How are we going to do logistics? How are we going to do casualty collection, triage? That kind of thing. So, yes, we are advising on that. Not necessarily advising with the helicopter piece of it, but certainly, as casualties come back, there'll be an adviser there to -- to help the Peshmerga medics conduct casualty collection and -- and operations.
So they're apart of that casualty mix, but not necessarily apart of the helicopter piece of it.
Q: Just to be clear you said that the strike wasn't intended for more than one -- more than Jihadi John, but were there possibly other HVI -- HVI killed in the strike, or -- there with Jihadi John? Like a -- other members of the captors -- ISIS captors that held U.S. hostages?
COL. WARREN: There were no other High Value Individuals -- HVIs. There was -- Jihadi John did have a worst best friend with him who's also now dead.
Q: Cory Dickstein with Stars and Stripes. Two questions. Now that you've got the freed Sinjar, how much of Highway 47 do you guys have control of -- have sent -- has the supply line been significantly cut down?
And then, talking about the casualty, have you guys -- or, how has the Pesh done? What kind of casualties did they take compared maybe to the ISIL fighters?
COL. WARREN: Well, Pesh casualties compared to ISIL casualties were minuscule. I'll leave it to the Pesh to speak to the specifics. The Pesh have secured probably -- you know, I don't have an exact number. It's several kilometers on either side of Sinjar that they now formally control. And of course, there's always line of site and -- and buffer on either east or west of that.
So it's a significant piece of the highway there around -- around Sinjar.
Q: Thank you. Colonel, thank you for doing this. My name is (inaudible) with Japan's (inaudible) newspaper. I understand some of the civilians in this area buy oil from -- originating from IS facilities. Do you think this operation to attack oil facilities will affect the quality of civilian life in surrounding areas? Thank you.
COL. WARREN: Thanks for that. The quality of life under ISIL control is about as bad as it could be already. ISIL tortures people, ISIL beheads people, ISIL emulates, ISIL uses rape as a form of prayer where they teach such a thing. So ISIL is about as miserable as it can get. So what we believe, is that by cutting off the oil supply, we can hasten the destruction of ISIL once and for all and bring some sense of normalcy back to the people there.
Q: Yes, which are not under direct IS control. I understand people in those areas do sometimes buy oil originating from IS. Not necessarily knowing that they are dealing with IS.
COL. WARREN: Yeah. Again, we believe that these operations will hasten the destruction of ISIL and all people in Syria will be better off for that.
Q: Colonel, Richard Sisk, military.com. Colonel, if you can, a procedural question about Sinjar. You talked about 250 airstrikes. Can you tell us anything about the process involved in the targeting? It got a little bit confusing yesterday how it -- how it was done.
Were the Kurds at any point talking directly to the pilots?
COL. WARREN: Great question. I know there was some confusion about that.
No, Kurds at no point were ever speaking directly to the pilots.
The way this works is there is a -- an operations center in Erbil, and in that operations center, there are -- there is a Kurdish cell, there is an American cell. Those two cells are -- are co-located.
And so what you have is the -- the -- so let me go back to Erbil. In that -- in that ops center in Erbil, the -- the JTACs operate. All right? So the JTACs are there in that ops center, observing the battle through our ISR platforms. So the JTACs are who control the aircraft when they're in -- in -- in the battle space.
On the ground, what you have is essentially spotters, if you will, using old-fashioned binoculars, sitting on top of the mountain there, looking down into Sinjar, and trying to pick out likely targets.
So the Kurds on top of the mountain will pick up their hand mic, and they will call back to the Kurds in the operations center, and they'll tell them, "we see what looks like a legitimate target at this location." You know. "It's -- it's here."
They'll use a grid, or maybe they'll use some kind of identification, whatever it may be. Back in the ops center, the Kurds who receive that call will then do a face-to-face coordination with the JTACs, who are also there, and explain the situation.
The JTACs can then vector in, first, the ISR, to determine whether or not it is in fact a legitimate target that meets all of our standards. And then we'll clear that target through the government, to ensure that -- that we meet all of the Iraqi government standards. And this happens -- you know, instantaneously, nearly.
And then we'll vector in aircraft -- the JTACs in the -- in the ops center will vector those aircraft onto the target and then destroy it.
The other piece is -- you know, part of -- part of conducting air operations is knowing where the friendly forces are, right? So the JTAC needs to know exactly where the friendly forces are, so he can call back to the man on the mountain and ask him specifically, "Okay, make sure we understand exactly where all our friendly forces are, because we don't want to hurt our own people."
So that -- so that's kind of how that works. The advisers, or the assisters, who are there are -- are just helping to ensure that that goes smoothly.
You know, obviously these are very experienced personnel. The American fighters are very good at this. Very good at this. And so they're there to oversee, and to teach and to train, to mentor and to help ensure that this goes smoothly.
Is that it?
Q: Colonel Warren, it's Lucas.
What can you tell us about the PKK's role in this operation in Sinjar?
COL. WARREN: Yeah. This -- I mean, this operation was a -- a Pesh-led operation. There were some other elements -- some other tribal elements. I know the Yazidis had -- had a -- a small force that participated. I don't have any information on -- on those guys, though.
Q: (inaudible) that Jihadi John's best friend was killed, and I'm just curious -- was he a militant? A civilian? Can you describe the -- the friendship? Thank you.
COL. WARREN: Right. So that's a -- that -- that is a colloquialism that we like to use here for -- maybe it was a driver, or -- or somebody who was escorting around this -- this high-value individual. We like to refer to it as a "worst best friend".
Q: (off-mic) Colonel Warren. Philip Shishkin from the Wall Street Journal. Going back to that -- that horse, so to speak, will -- will -- can you give us a little bit more detail on Jihadi John's, sort of, final moments?
Was he leaving his house, or a military base, or -- or some kind of a prison? What was the -- what was the final movement there?
COL. WARREN: I'm sorry, I don't have that level of detail, I really don't. I think I've told you ever single thing I know about it.
Q: Hi, Colonel Warren. It's Carla again.
Back on the Jihadi John strike, it was a drone. He and his driver were killed in a vehicle and, in addition to that vehicle, was anything else hit during that strike? Even if there weren't any High Value Targets were there any other buildings that were hit?
COL. WARREN: Yeah, I just don't know that level of detail, Carla. I'm sorry.
Q: Confirm that it was his -- he was in a car? 'Cause you have said it was his driver.
COL. WARREN: Yeah, yeah. They were in a car.
Q: I'm sorry, can I just ask how many people were in the car? Do we know? You've mentioned two.
COL. WARREN: Right. Yeah, we're still trying to confirm all this, right? It only happened several hours ago, so Jihadi -- the target that we, you know, we believe is Jihadi John. Somebody was with him. And there was a car. And that's it. I mean, I got nothing for you else.
Q: It's Andrew Tilghman again. Back on the medevac advisers. Just to clarify what you told Kristina, there were American advisers helping with the casualty processing at the -- the forward location that was not at, but near the front lines. You were not referring to advisers back, say in Erbil, correct? Correct?
COL. WARREN: That's correct. That's -- on the battle field, yes. Not really on the front line, obviously, you do your casualty collection, you know, behind the lines where it's safe. But yes, that's where those advisers are.
Q: Is that routine now, or was this -- is there something unique about the Sinjar operation that those advisers were out doing that job? Is that something that the advisers have done before?
COL. WARREN: Yeah. Yeah, that's how you advise. You have to -- you have to, you know, you have to be there to advise.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next, Tony.
Q: Steve, I had -- Tony Capaccio again, on the oil, the Tidal Wave Operations, Bloomberg being Bloomberg. From the oil industry standpoint did you -- are you using experts from the oil industry to help you now better determine what can be hit with more permanent damage? You know, bringing in expert witnesses, so to speak, from the oil industry to help with that?
COL. WARREN: Tony, unfortunately, that -- that's a piece of information that we want to protect. So I'm not gonna get into that level of detail on how we developed this targeting. We have plenty of our own experts in these matters, and we also have a very large capability to tap into other sources of knowledge. I gotta leave it there.
CAPT. DAVIS: Last call.
Thank you, Steve, for you time.
And have a good weekends, everybody.
COL. WARREN: Thanks, guys. Take care.
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