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DOD News Briefing with Col. Winski via Teleconference from Iraq

Presenters: Commander of 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division Col. Brian Winski
September 01, 2011

                 CAPT. JANE CAMPBELL:  Good morning here in the Pentagon, and good afternoon in Iraq.  I'd like to welcome to the Pentagon Briefing Room for the first time Colonel Brian Winski, the commander of the 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.  Colonel Winski has served as the commander of 4/1 Cav. for approximately two years and has led the brigade for the past year during operations in northern Iraq as they supported Operation New Dawn.  The Long Knife brigade's primary mission since deploying in September 2010 has been to advise, train and assist the Iraqi security forces throughout Ninewa province and Mosul.  They have recently focused on transferring bases to the government of Iraq as the number of U.S. forces have been reduced.  

                Colonel Winski joins us today from U.S. Division-North Headquarters at Contingency Operating Base Speicher near Tikrit. He'll make an opening statement, and then we'll take your questions.  

                And with that, I'll turn it over to Colonel Winski.  Brian?  

                COLONEL BRIAN WINSKI:  Well, yeah, thank you very much.  As she said, I'd like to just kind of give a brief overview of what we're doing here in northern Iraq, and then that will leave plenty of time to open it up for questions.  As she said, my name is Colonel Brian Winski.  I command 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.  We're one of six advise and assist brigades currently in Iraq, and our area of responsibility is the northern portion of Iraq, the northern three provinces.  

                We were the first brigade deployed in support of Operation New Dawn and arrived here a year ago.  As I mentioned, our area of responsibility includes that northern portion of Iraq, specifically Dohuk, Arbil and Ninewa province.  Our forces are concentrated in Ninewa.  It's a large province, about the size of West Virginia.  The main cities in the province are Mosul, Tal Afar and then the population areas along the Tigris River Valley.  We share a border with Syria to the west and Turkey to the north.  About 4.5 million people, citizens, Iraqi citizens live in Ninewa, and about half of those live in the city of Mosul itself in the immediate surrounds. 

                Our mission since arrival here a year ago has been to advise, train and assist the 60,000 -- roughly 60,000 Iraqi security forces that we're partnered with.  Those forces, about 20,000 of which are police, about 35,000 of which are army forces organized into two divisions, and then the remaining 5,000 or so – 5 to 7,000 are in the federal police contingent, as well as the border enforcement brigade that we share a partnership with.  

                The -- speaking of the ISF, the Iraqi Security Forces in Ninewa are quite capable.  And the focus of our training and advisory efforts have been to assist them with internal security efforts, counterterrorism operations, basic police functions.  And additionally, we focused a fair amount of our effort starting last fall and throughout the year on training the Iraqi army forces we're partnered with on tasks associated with traditional military threats, specifically the ability to conduct an attack, a defense, employ combined arms, employ artillery, mortars and similar proficiencies that were not typically exercised over the last several years as the Iraqi army forces have been focused on internal security.  So those efforts established a foundation for the ability to defend themselves against external threats.  In addition to advising and training the army and police forces and assisting our Iraqi Security Force counterparts across the province, we supported our State Department colleagues as they developed governance and civil capacity across the province as well. 

                Finally, we had a fair amount of our forces committed throughout the year with some recent transitions in this, through the areas of mutual concern between the Kurdish regional government and the Iraqi central government.  And what that amounted to was the arrayal of a number of our forces in areas with Iraqi Security Forces, primarily army, as well as Kurdish security forces to conduct the trilateral security operations in areas of mutual concern, as I mentioned.  

                We've since transitioned and now have a long-term sustainable security solution implemented in all those areas where the Iraqis and the Kurds are securing it bilaterally now, with us in a distant overwatch, and are doing so quite effectively.   

                As I mentioned, we deployed in September of last year and we're in the process of now returning to our families, back to Fort Hood. Our successors, the unit that's relieving us, is a bit smaller. They're going to complete the transitions that are in full stride across northern Iraq, including continued oversight of the efforts I described, as well as all the obvious transitions that are under way as we near the security agreement in a couple of months from now.  

                With that, I'd open it to any questions that you'd have.  Over.  

                CAPT. CAMBELL:  All right.  Thank you very much, Colonel Winski. We'll do that and open it up to questions here in the briefing room.  

                Q:  Hi, Colonel.  This is Andrew Tilghman with Army Times.  I know you said that you're redeploying here in a couple of weeks, but I'm wondering if you could give us any insight as to what the next few months are going to look as your AOR [Area of Operations] begins to draw down.  What will be happening to these bases?  And what missions will begin to be dialed back during that time?  

                COL. WINSKI:  Yep.  Let me start with the training of the Iraqi security forces.  We have already implemented many transitions in that regard, to where we are now training and certifying and preparing Iraqi trainers to continue the training that we were doing over the course of this past year.  So where we had a substantial number of forces committed to training Iraqi army forces on those traditional army tasks I described, we're now assisting their trainers as they conduct that.  

                So it's a good segue over the course of the last couple of months, and we'll continue to transition over the next two to where, when U.S. forces are completely out of that portion of Iraq, Ninewa province, they'll sustain it and have the ability to continue to train other Iraqi army forces in the training center that we built.  Similar transitions along the other security force training initiatives that we've been doing over the course of the last year as well.  

                I mentioned the second big task, which was the overwatch of the areas of mutual concern between the Kurds and the Arabs.  And to that end, again, we implemented a number of transitions a couple of months back that are now in well -- running exceptionally well, where the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurd security forces are continuing.  And our successors are just going to overwatch that by checking it, inspecting it and visiting those areas on a less frequent basis, so by the time they transition in about a month and a half to two months or so, you know, it will have been operating in that manner for several months.  

                So all of that is very much on track.  And you know, as U.S. forces depart Ninewa, I'm very confident that, one, the internal security that the Iraqi Security Forces are conducting every single day is going to continue to go exceptionally well, as it has been this past year.  And then they'll continue the training momentum that's been our focus this past year.  And I think the security mechanism in place will likewise sustain itself for the foreseeable future, again, reducing tensions in those areas of mutual concern between the Kurds and the Iraqis.  

                CAPT. CAMPBELL:  OK, thanks.  

                Q:  Colonel Winski, this is Joe Tabet with Al-Hurra.  Could you give us more details about the readiness of the ISF?  And what kind of military threats do you think the ISF can face in the near future?  

                COL. WINSKI:  Sir, I'm sorry.  You were asking, with regard to the ISF, the types of threats they're capable of facing?  

                Q:  Yes, sir.  

                COL. WINSKI:  You know, really over the course of, you know, 2003 to present but especially the last, you know, four years or so, when the ISF have really filled out and matured, their focus has been internal security -- counterinsurgency actions; you know, basic police functions to, you know, eliminate as much as possible criminal activity; and tasks of that nature.  They are very capable and continue to display exceptional capability in that regard every single day that we're here.  

                The internal threats, criminal or insurgent, are being dealt with, again, very, very, effectively by the Iraqi Security Forces, and that's the police -- the federal police, the Iraqi army forces and their counterterrorism forces.  

                So that is very, very promising.  

                What we've focused on with the army forces specifically are, again, knowing that they've been committed to essentially police or internal security functions over the course of the last several years. We have been training them on traditional army tasks, as I had mentioned earlier.  They have a good, solid foundational capability to defend against external threats at this point, and that is a capability that is growing exponentially, you know, as we speak.  And that is one of the areas that our successors are going to continue to overwatch, those traditional army capabilities to defend against a traditional military threat.  You know, that's been, again, our flagship training effort over the course of the year, and it's something that they are now quite effectively sustaining themselves.  

                So again, to summarize all of that, with regard to internal threats, very, very capable, and they're displaying that capability daily.   

                With regard to external threats and traditional military threats, a very good foundation to defend against those and a good strategy to continue improving those capabilities in the months and years ahead.  

                Q:  Quick one:  You have mentioned trilateral security operations.  Do you think the Kurdish forces and the -- the Arab forces that's -- who belongs to Baghdad are on the same level of capabilities?  

                COL. WINSKI:  I can only speak to the -- you know, the Iraqi forces and the Kurdish forces in the provinces we're responsible for.  

                So I'm talking specifically Ninewa and more specifically the areas where they're conducting combined security operations east and north of Mosul, and then out west near the Syrian border.    

                You know, again, one of the things that we focused on in any one of these given 15 areas or so where we had U.S. forces, Kurdish forces and Iraqi forces arrayed to conduct trilateral security -- the U.S. contingent that was out there focused their efforts on improving equally the Iraqi element that was there as well as the Kurdish element that was there.  And we're talking about small unit tactics, the ability to conduct security operations and things of that nature.  And in all of those specific areas where there remains a Kurdish platoon or company-sized element and an Iraqi platoon or company-sized element, generally about 40 to 50 soldiers from each side, you know, there's definite parity in terms of that small unit tactical proficiency and their ability and capability to secure those specific areas.  

                With regard to the broader capabilities of the Kurdish security forces versus the Iraqi Security Forces, you know, they're all -- you know, there's capability disparity across some of those units, but they're bridging that disparity significantly.  And there's been a fair amount of effort with specific units in the Kurdish regional security forces to modernize them, provide them additional equipment and training.  And those particular forces, Regional Guard Brigades, are Kurdish security forces but are subject to employment by the central Iraqi government.  So it's, you know, a transition in terms of their authorities and their organization, and it's, you know, a force where we have focused modernization and training efforts as well.  

                Q:  Colonel, this is Kevin Baron from Stars and Stripes.  I want to go back to your previous answer where you said the Iraqi Security Forces are very capable and doing so well.  You know, from here, all we're hearing this summer is this explosion of violence across the country, where there are insurgents conducting nationwide coordinated attacks, killing dozens of people a day, or attacking U.S. forces with Iranian-backed, you know, militants and weaponry.  

                So, you know, bridge that gap of how -- why you think the Iraqis are so capable, when that stuff is able to happen while there are thousands of U.S. troops there, and once those thousands of U.S. troops in the region depart, why are you confident that the Iraqis will be able to, A, stave off more attacks, and B, respond effectively to them?  

                COL. WINSKI:  No, that's a great question.  And again, I don't want to sound myopic, but speaking to Ninewa province, in that northern portion, you mentioned the Iranian-backed militias, that is not a significant threat group in the region I'm responsible for.  So we had not seen what you were referencing, some of the activity earlier in the summer where those militia groups were quite active.    

                And -- but I do know this.  You know, the ISF responses to all of those, with U.S. support, was -- was quite effective and you saw a substantial decrease in that activity over the course of the last month or two.  

                With regard to the threat that we see -- and I think you were alluding to the mid-January series of attacks that occurred across Iraq -- you know, we had a few of those in Mosul but we had a substantially more -- or quite a few more attacks that were thwarted or staved off by effective offensive Iraqi Security Force operation. So before the enemy was able to in a few specific occasions, you know, emplace a vehicle-borne IED [Improvised Explosive Device] or conduct a suicide attack or conduct a -- you know, again, some of the types of attacks that you saw mid- month, the enemy basically either found and cleared the caches or the VBIEDs [Vehicle-borne IEDs] or the -- more importantly, the enemy cells that were going to do that, and detained, arrested them before they were able to in fact conduct those attacks.  

                And I think I said 15 January.  I meant 15 -- the 15th of this month, the middle of Ramadan attacks.  

                Now, again, speaking to Ninewa alone, those Iraqi Security Force actions where they're finding and clearing caches, they're finding these VBIEDs before they're employed, they're identifying the enemy cells before they conduct the attacks, the vast majority of those are unilateral Iraqi Security Force operations.  We assist with some intelligence.  We assist with some advisory efforts.  But that is enhancing.  It's not a -- you know, a make-or-break type of assistance effort.  

                So we see time and again where the Iraqi security forces aggressively and proactively eliminate these threat cells before they become active, in Ninewa province in particular, resulting in, you know, a relatively low number of attacks.  And those attacks that do happen are generally very, very ineffective.  And they're completely ineffective against the Iraqi Security Forces and the U.S. forces, and the enemy shifts the attacks then to the population or areas where he is -- he knows he's going to, you know, get a lot of attention.  

                Q:  Hi, Colonel.  This is Courtney Kube from NBC News.  I have a couple of different questions on different subjects, so I hope you'll bear with me.  The first:  I know that your area borders up with Syria.  Given the fact that there's been all this violence in Syria the past few months, has that -- has that had any impact on your operations?  Are you seeing refugees fleeing into Iraq?  And if so, how are you dealing with that?  

                COL. WINSKI:  Yeah, we -- you know, that has obviously been a significant concern.  We have a substantial border segment with Syria on the western portion of the province.  We have not seen, you know, refugees transiting from Syria to Iraq in our area of responsibility. What we have seen, especially about two months ago or so, were a number of Iraqi citizens who were expatriates in Syria return to their homes.  So a combination of things, the events in Syria, as well as the substantially improved security situation, you know, in northern Iraq -- so the combination of things between what was happening in Syria and their desire to return to their home resulted in a number of Iraqis basically just coming back home.  

                The events in Syria, of course, over the last couple of months -- and even a bit longer -- has also been very much a focus of the Iraqi Security Forces, with regard to, you know, their ever-present vigilance of, you know, potential insurgents transiting the international border region as well.  And, again, through effective operations, through the circumstances that are happening in Syria now, the transiting of foreign fighters or insurgents in the border region is likewise at a very, very low level; which is very good.  

                Q:  And then, if I could also ask you, your successors, I believe, are coming in on a one-year order.  But you sound pretty confident, now that you're training these Iraqi trainers, that there won't be a need for more American trainers in your area after the end of this year.  Are you confident that in fact your successors are going to be out of there December 31st, that they won't have to be -- maintain some sort of a presence to help train?  

                COL. WINSKI:  Sure.  You know, obviously, the U.S. presence beyond the security agreement is something that's a matter of policy and is being discussed between the Iraqi government and the U.S. government.  

                We are proceeding with all the parameters of the security agreement, and our successors are proceeding with a number of base transitions and some of the training transitions that I discussed.  You know, forces that deployed before the upcoming January timeframe all deploy on a one-year order, and that just provides both the Department of the Army, Department of Defense the maximum flexibility based on whatever may transpire related to the security agreement or a necessity for forces that are currently deployed to be employed elsewhere.  

                But again, we've transitioned a lot of the training things that I described and that we were doing.  They have the capability to do continued training, especially in support of new equipment fieldings on the part of the Iraqi army like M-1 tanks and artillery pieces and things of that nature.  But again, the security agreement parameters are clear, and everything is proceeding to comply with the parameters of the security agreement barring a decision at the Iraqi government and the U.S. government level.  

                Q:  Hi, Colonel.  Karen Parrish, American Forces Press Service. You mentioned the decrease in insurgent attacks over the last month or so.  What's your assessment of the likelihood of a resurgence of those attacks as you depart, and how prepared are the Iraqi forces to deal with that?  

                COL. WINSKI:  Yes.  We -- in fact, we're very much watching that because we conducted a series of operational maneuver actions where we transited the entire country and -- you know, transited into areas where some of those other enemy groups are a bit more active.  

                And I'll tell you this:  You know, we had forces go all the way from Mosul down to Nasiriyah and the extreme southern portion of the country, and we had forces go from Kirkuk into Baghdad area, and we had forces go out to the western port of the -- portion of the country -- all without a single enemy contact.  And we're talking, you know, thousands of soldiers and hundreds and hundreds of vehicles.  And we were secured throughout all of that through Iraqi Security Forces partnered with the American partner units that were with them, and it was exceptionally effective.  

                And, you know, as we transition our bases, the Iraqi Security Forces conduct very aggressive actions to keep the enemy, who may be planning to attack those transitional efforts, at bay.  And then the physical security of, you know, the bases in transition, the movements of forces that I described, again, for our brigade, has gone exceptionally, exceptionally well -- were truly without incident.  

                Q:  Colonel, it's Andrew with Army Times again.  You've mentioned -- well, first of all, I want to ask a couple of specifics.  How much smaller will the unit that's following you be than your unit?  And how many bases -- will they be filling in all the bases that you've had, or will you be simultaneously shutting down several bases?  And then I have another follow-up, if that's all right.  

                COL. WINSKI:  Yeah.  OK, you know, obviously, I'll just kind of speak in generalities in terms of numbers and things of that nature. You know, at the -- at about the midway point of our rotation, we were in 22 bases across the province.  And we've basically transitioned those, most of which were the Iraqi and Arab -- the Iraqi and Kurd security positions I described.  We transitioned all of those to the bilateral security arrangement.  

                We had bases in support of those that we likewise transitioned, and then one major base that we transitioned to the Iraqi army for their use.  

                So the number of bases and the arrayal of forces is, all per the plan, you know, much, much smaller.  So, correspondingly, a smaller force is required to come in.  But what is important is, you know, the same levels of leadership and the same ability to stay engaged with the Iraqi Security Force headquarters and continue to overwatch their training efforts exists with the unit that replaced us.  

                But it is, again, as December 31st nears, a smaller force that will complete the transition of the few bases that remain in the province and then continue those types of actions across the country.  

                Q:  And also, Colonel, you've mentioned -- used the term "enemy" several times.  And when Kevin asked about the Shiite militias, you said that wasn't quite as much of an issue in your AOR.  Can you tell us, what does your intel tell you about who is behind the security risks in your AOR?  Is it -- is it typical jihadi types?  Is it Sunni nationalists?  Is it Kurdish separatists?  What -- can you talk a little bit about what your intel shows you?  

                COL. WINSKI:  Yes.  You know, the most significant attacks are generally, you know -- again, generally thwarted, but those enemy elements that conduct those types of attacks -- VBIED attacks, attacks against the population, attacks against the Iraqi Security Forces -- are generally, you know, Islamic State of Iraq, al-Qaeda in Iraq- supported, you know, elements.  They have -- you know, there's a criminal nexus with both of those groups.  There's an extortion criminal nexus associated with both of those groups.  

                So all of the Iraqi Security Forces play a significant role in attacking that entire network of networks, which they're doing quite well.  Those are generally the threat groups that we see in our portion of northern Iraq and in Ninewa province.  

                Q:  Sir, it's Jennifer Griffin from Fox News.  Can you talk about the prison break that happened this morning at dawn in Ninewa province?  It's -- there were 35 supposedly al-Qaeda prisoners who tunneled their way out.  Have they all been recaptured?  Who were they?  Are you seeing a resurgence of al-Qaeda in the northern areas?  

                COL. WINSKI:  Yeah, the facility that they escaped from was a transit detention facility.  It wasn't a long-term incarceration facility like a prison.  And they did, in fact -- approximately that number -- escape.  And almost immediately the Iraqi Security Forces recaptured the majority of those.  They know exactly who it is that's still at large.  They have the focus of their efforts to find them and, you know, regain control of them and get them, you know, back under ISF custody.    

                We did assist them, but again, they immediately snapped into action as soon as that happened and immediately regained control of the majority of them.  And the search remains -- or search is still on for those few that do remain at large, and I'm quite confident, again, with some assistance from us, that they will find them.  And regardless, they know who they are, so they will find them and regain custody and control of them eventually.  

                Q:  Is al-Qaeda resurgent?  I mean, would you describe these as local homegrown Iraqi al-Qaeda?  Are these guys coming over from Syria?  Are you seeing spillover from Syria, as Courtney was asking about?  How would you characterize who these people were?  

                COL. WINSKI:  Yeah, for these individuals, they would fall into the -- what you would categorize as, you know, just an action cell or members of an action cell -- the element that conducts IED attacks, conducts indirect fire attacks, you know, things of that nature.  You know, it'd be the small tactical unit level.  You know, generally all these individuals or specifically all these individuals are -- were Iraqis, are Iraqis from the region.  

                And you know, as has been the case throughout the course of the, you know, last eight years, you know, the insurgent leadership, while that may come from outside, it's generally the low-level action cell guys that are from the local area and either coerced, in -- through monetary incentive recruited into or through ideological motivations recruited into the insurgency.  And that was kind of the case with these guys.  None of them were foreign fighters.  None of them were high-level leaders.  They were all, you know, action cell, what we would categorize as action cell individuals.  

                Q:  Colonel, this is Joe Tabet again.  Based on your daily contacts with your -- with the Iraqi -- your Iraqi counterparts, do you feel like -- that you're -- the ISF really needs you to stay beyond the end of this year?  I mean, do they ask you, do they tell you that we would like you to stay?  This is on your level, if you could just highlight this.  

                COL. WINSKI:  Sure.  You know, speaking to the -- again, the Ninewa security forces that we're partnered with, if everything proceeds as planned and the U.S. forces are out of the province in the not-too-distant future, I am confident the Iraqi Security Forces there will be fine.  As I mentioned, you know, all of the major actions that transpire up here are ISF-planned.  They prepare it, they execute it and they conduct the post-action events as things are revealed through the detention of someone and things of that nature.  

                What we're helping with is the training, especially the training focused on the foundation for the external defense, which we've done now for -- really over the course of the year impacted the majority of one of the Iraqi army divisions that we're partnered with and a good portion of the other as well, with, most importantly, sustainable training systems that are going to endure past our departure, because as I said, the Iraqi trainers have been doing most of that for the last couple of months.  

                So it's not the end of something, it's the transition of something.  And, you know, in almost all cases it is just a logical transition of, you know, our aspect of all of that with them continuing to do it in a sustainable manner.  

                So I'm very confident that the Iraqi Security Forces will continue to prosecute very effective internal security operations. I'm likewise confident that they have a foundation for an external defense and they, more importantly, have training systems that will endure past our departure, that will continue to build that foundation and capability for external defense.  

                And again, back to that Kurd-Arab area of mutual concern effort, with our transition and the effective bilateral operations that we now supervise, again another logical transition is that supervision effort to come off.  And I'm likewise confident that they'll continue to effectively secure those areas of mutual concern in a, you know, effective Kurdish-Iraqi bilateral manner.  

                Q:  Hey, Colonel, it's Courtney Kube from NBC News again.  One more quick follow-up on the detention center breakout this morning. Is there any early indication that any members of the ISF could have been complicit in this escape?  

                COL. WINSKI:  There's -- you know, I -- there's no indications of that and -- nor are there at this time any suspicions of that.  

                Q:  Hi, Colonel, Camille El-Hassani from Al-Jazeera English television.  I was wondering, you said that the U.S. assisted in getting back these people from the detention center.  Could you describe what kind of assistance you provided?  

                COL. WINSKI:  Well, you know, the two specific things we did is, some of our aerial observation capabilities and systems to help them track down a couple of the individuals that we were able to follow throughout their attempted egress from the area and then some observation helicopters in support.  But again, those were strictly enhancing what the Iraqi Security Forces already had under way in terms of positioning forces to contain and prevent their ability to escape, you know, significant distances away from the prison area and then good, aggressive patrolling actions to pursue where these individuals have likely fled to or are hiding.  

                And then, you know, the reality is, a few will not be captured in the immediate future, but they're now focusing their intel, the Iraqi intel, on they knew who they were, where is it they would likely go, and preparing to conduct operations to detain them when they -- when they surface, wherever that may be.  

                Q:  Sir, it's Jennifer Griffin again from Fox News.  You described these insurgencies, al-Qaeda insurgents, as sort of a local, homegrown al-Qaeda.  Do you think once U.S. forces are out after December, will these insurgents dissipate, or what are they fighting against?  Are they fighting against U.S. presence?  And a follow-up: In terms of Turkish involvement in northern Iraq, we've heard about some air strikes on Kurdish areas.  Do the Turks coordinate with the U.S. military on that?  Were you aware of that?  Were you caught unawares?  

                COL. WINSKI:  Sure.  With regard to the AQI -- al-Qaeda in Iraq -- ISI -- Islamic State of Iraq -- the preponderance of their attacks are on the Iraqi Security Forces.  A very small percentage of those are targeting U.S. forces in Ninewa province.  So I do not think -- my personal estimate is not that their attacks are focused on U.S. forces, obviously, nor are they motivated by an intent to generate some perception that they're compelling our withdrawal or anything of that nature.  

                It does tell us that, you know, it is a threat that is focused on destabilizing the Iraqi Security Forces, the provincial-level security as well as, you know, trying to attain an impact or a resonation across the country.  So it very much has the focus and attention of the Iraqi Security Forces not just because they are generally attacking Iraqi Security Forces, but because of their motives in terms of disrupting, again, provincial and central government and general security and create a perception of lack of security.  The ISF are, again, attacking that very, very well.  

                With regard to the Turkish efforts up in the northern portion of Iraq, you know, those are coordinated really -- you had asked if that was coordinating with the U.S. military.  It's really between the Iraqi government, Kurdish Regional Government and the Turkish government.  And, you know, that has -- and you've seen recent attacks, and it's well away from our area of responsibility, targeting a very specific entity up there that is really a threat to both the Turkish people, the Kurdish people and Iraqi people, in general.  

                Those are coordinated actions, again, with the KRG -- Kurdish Regional Government -- and the Iraqi central government.  And, you know, for situational awareness and understanding of what's transpiring, the U.S. mil is -- you know, we likewise coordinate with the Iraqi and Kurdish Regional Government to just ensure that we have, as best as we can, situational awareness and understanding of what's happening, where, so it's not misconstrued or, you know, misunderstood.  

                CAPT. CAMPBELL:  Great.  I think we're wrapping up on our end, but I'd like to turn it back over to Colonel Brian Winski, and if you have any closing comments or anything that didn't get addressed here that you'd like to comment on.  So over to you.  

                COL. WINSKI:  You know, all I would close with is thanks for this opportunity.  Thanks for, you know, some great questions there.  I hope, you know, I answered them, you know, sufficiently.  You know, our soldiers have done a great job here this year.  And, you know, I had served here a couple of years before and, you know, as we reflect on things, this is arguably the most important chapter in everything that the U.S. has done and is doing in Iraq from 2003 to present.  

                And as we depart I'm, you know, one, very proud of our soldiers, obviously, very proud of our families back home at Fort Hood, and very confident of the Iraqi Security Forces in terms of, as I've mentioned a couple of times, their ability to continue very effective internal security, their -- now, you know, their foundation to defend and defeat external threats.  And with regard to the Arab-Kurd areas of mutual concern, I'm likewise confident that they're going to effectively and in a bilateral fashion continue to provide effective security in those areas past our departure as well.  

                CAPT. CAMPBELL:  All right.  Well, thank you very much and have a great afternoon.  

                And we really appreciate you joining us this morning, Brian, so thank you very much.  

                COL. WINSKI:  Thank you.