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Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Warren via Teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq

CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS: All right. We still run the trains on time around here.

Good morning, everybody, and welcome. Happy Friday. We're pleased to have with us today Colonel Steve Warren from Operation Inherent Resolve coming to us live from Baghdad.

Steve, good morning. You're missing all the snow here. We wanted to turn it over to you and happy to see you.

COLONEL STEVE WARREN: Good morning, Jeff.

And good morning to the two or three members of the press corps who made it in today. It's good to see that some of you at least were able to dig out of the snow.

In Iraq, we enjoyed -- we enjoyed the social media show. I particularly liked all the pictures of, you know, yard furniture covered in white stuff and -- rulers sticking out of the snow. So if you -- if you -- if you tweeted one of those pictures, you weren't the only one. Trust me.

[Two paragraphs removed to comply with UK security policy]

So with that out of the way, I do want to cover a couple of things quickly. Over the last week, we've kept pressure on ISIL across the depth and breadth of the battlefield. What I've got for you today is a map that shows airstrike intensity. So please pull up map number one, titled Coalition Airstrikes.

This map shows the location and intensity of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria over a one-month period. The last month from July 1st through July 28th. As you can see, the concentrations were really in three broad areas: Mosul, the Anbar Corridor, specifically Ramadi and the Al-Raqqah area.

Of note, we are also striking the lines of communication in and around these areas. Eighty-seven percent of these airstrikes are dynamic, the remainder are preplanned.

So with that, we'll go to the opener map, the Sejarah map.

So, on the ground this week in Iraq, operations have focused on clearing in Ramadi, improving defensive positions in Sinjar and patrolling in Baiji. We've seen small dust ups in both the Euphrates and Tigris River Valleys, but no significant, tactical actions.

Please bring up the Ramadi map next.

You'll notice that the Ramadi city center has now been cleared of enemy forces. The ISF are moving into the eastern suburbs. This past week, the Anbar police took over as the hold force in many areas, which allows the CTS to rest and refit future operations.

Please go back to the opener map. In Syria, we see much the same. Fighting along the Mara Line, continues to be contested as both forces conducted limited offensive operations. That's at start number four, which is not on your map. It's in the upper left-hand corner of your map.

While forces holding the Tishreen dam improved their defensive positions. This map also depicts -- we've tried to combine two things here. This map also depicts the territory that ISIL has lost and gained since August of '14. So what you can see there in green, in the green shade, is area that ISIL once held, but now no longer controls.

And kind of brown, tan brown is what this enemy still holds. The grayish area there is areas controlled by somebody other than ISIL. And of course, the white is just kind of sparsely populated desert. So this reflects our estimate that ISIL has lost approximately 40 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq. Approximately 5 percent of the territory it once held in Syria.

That's it for my operational update. I want to do a quick training update as well and tell you that the 72nd Iraqi Army Brigade is finishing up training in Bes Maya. That training is led by the Spanish and the Portuguese contingents. This training was extended by about six weeks in order to include a new focus on obstacle breaching.

I do have a short video to show that just kind of gives you an overview of what some of this training looks like in action.

So with that DVIDS could you roll that video please?

What I wanted to give you with that video is a taste of what the training is that we're conducting up in Bes Maya. You saw several things there.

Initially, that explosion, that was a ‘MICLIC’ - a line charge used to breach obstacles.

You later saw an Iraqi soldier firing a AT-4 - an anti-tank shoulder-fired rocket -- missile, which has been used to great effect against our enemy, truck bombs, and then you saw the Iraqis conducting some room-clearing operations.

So that's it for my opening remarks and without any further discussion, we'll turn it over to questions. If A.P. is there, I guess we'll start with you.

Q: Hi, Steve. It's Lita.

Can you expand a little bit on your training information? About how many Iraqi soldiers have gone through this advanced training? And as you look ahead to operations moving towards Hit and Mosul, is there a number that the coalition is looking to have trained before you actually have to start the major operations up there?

COL. WARREN: We've trained -- right now, we've trained about 20,000 total Iraqi security forces. That does include police and it also includes the tribal fighters, the -- the Sunni tribal fighters. So - pretty good number. What we're doing now is in the process of -- of building the force that will go to Mosul eventually.

We don't -- we're not really prepared to put out a number right now. We think it will be roughly 10 brigades, you know, with anywhere from, you know, about 2000, sometimes 3000. It depends on the brigade -- how many people are in the brigade. So we think roughly, ballpark of 10 brigades that need to be built. And these all have to be trained.

Some of the -- some of the brigades that will go to Mosul we have already trained, but we want to touch them again. We want to give them some -- some additional training that they can use to build on what they learned first through our training, and second, through their experiences in -- in Ramadi. So that's kind of where we are right now.

Q: The ones that you say are -- have been trained, are any -- and I guess maybe this -- this 70 -- 77 -- 72nd -- are any fully trained and prepared for Mosul? Are there none at this point -- none of those brigades at this point who the coalition believe are fully trained for those advanced operations?

COL. WARREN: We believe that all of the forces that we've already trained and run through Ramadi, for example, are certainly capable of -- of moving to Mosul. But we have made a decision that we want to run them through another cycle of training. So are they trained? Yes. Could they go to Mosul now? Yes. But we would prefer to give them additional training before they go.

And I think the -- you know, and this is our recommendation to the Iraqis. Of course, the Iraqis agree with us. So we're building the plan now as to how rapidly we can move these brigades through the -- through the training pipeline.

Q: Thank you.

CAPT. DAVIS: Jim from USA Today.

Q: Hey, Colonel Warren. Just a little follow-on on that. Of the 10 brigades that you need and, you know, some of them will go through training again, others will get trained from the start, could you give some sense of the extent of those individual training? In other words, the brigades that haven't gone through yet, are they going to need several months of training or -- or -- what sort of -- what sort of timeline are we looking at?

COL. WARREN: Well, the training -- our -- our -- our standard training is eight weeks of training. Additionally, we've got things like commando school, sniper school, some medic training, things like that. But the -- the standard block is -- is 10 weeks.

That may expand based on, you know, a specific unit, perhaps as earmarked, to do a specific thing, may need some additional, specific training. For example, if there is the unit that is going to be the first one to go across a bridge, let's just say, we would want that unit to get some training on how to do that.

So again, it's always going to vary, but the baseline is eight weeks.

Q: Follow on Ramadi, you mentioned that the Anbar police are starting to provide security which is allowing the conventional forces and the counterterrorism forces to leave. Do you have a general sense of what percentage of the city the police is securing now?

COL. WARREN: I hadn't looked at it that way. Percentages, I can tell you, I think it's six of the CTS battalions have already withdrawn from Ramadi and have been replaced by police. There are three CTS battalions remaining in Ramadi. So, I don't have a percentage for you Joe, I just haven't looked at that way, but we are seeing the turnover begin to happen, specifically from the CTS.

The army, the conventional army, they still haven't turned anything over yet to the police. But the CTS, the counterterrorism service has. So really, it's majority army at this point with some neighborhoods, a handful of neighborhoods in control by the police. It's the conventional arm.

Q: Right. I guess, within the past few weeks, B-1s left CENTCOM for the first time since 2001. And these were a huge part of the coalition to air assets available. In fact, I think the last six month rotation of B-1s set a record for most bombs dropped during a rotation. Does this represent a loss in capability for the coalition and are you aware of any plans to replace this capability for that specific coalition?

COL. WARREN: Yes, so we have the air frames we need to conduct the operation that we want to conduct. As you know, two carrier strike groups have moved in over the last, I don't know, month or so. Additionally, there are other air frames that are scheduled to come in. We're not prepared to really announce exactly who and what that's going to be yet. But we're confident that we're not going to lose any capability.

Q: Hey, Steve. It's Marcus.

How -- those additional 10 brigades, have you looked at how many additional U.S. or coalition trainers are going to be needed to train them and have you made any recommendations back here to Washington?

COL. WARREN: So, that's -- we have -- the short answer to your question is no. We have not yet. We're in that process now of determining. And it's not so much about whether or not we can do it. It's how rapidly you can get them through right? You know, we can train all 10 with what we have so then it becomes a question of, you know, do you make the pipe a little bit bigger so that you can put more through the pipe faster?

So that's what we're working on now and that's working on several levels obviously. You know, at the higher level it's a matter of working with other partner nations to see what else they are able to contribute. For example, there's an additional 15 Italian Carabinieri trainers due in here in the coming weeks. Fifteen may seem like a small number, but they're going there to build and train and police.

And that's enough for them to be able to rapidly, you know, increase the thorough-put of police that are getting trained. So, we're doing the analysis to determine how rapidly we believe we can train with what we have on the ground and then what enablers and what additional trainers could be requested, always through the government of Iraq, and how -- how much that would allow us to increase our throughput.

CAPT. DAVIS: Andrew?

Q: Steve, can you tell me if General McFarland is having any -- play any role in the operations in Libya? He was the first guy to be -- to oversee both Iraq and Syria. It sounds -- it's increasingly sounding like some operations in Libya are getting pretty similar against the same enemy. But that's AFRICOM. I'm just wondering how that's playing out for General McFarland?

COL. WARREN: As of now, it's not playing out at all. He's -- he's -- his focus is on Iraq and Syria.

CAPT. DAVIS: (off-mic.)

Q: Hey, Steve.

I was wondering what the expectations are out of this coming coalition meeting. I mean, are you going to go there -- go there with some explicit asks of these coalition partners and how they can set their game up, particularly with the B-1s going out of the AOR? I mean, do you want more coalition aircraft? Trainers? Can you -- anything?

COL. WARREN: Well, I think -- I mean, you're -- you're talking about the -- the meeting that the secretary of defenses will be attending here in the near future. That's really for -- for them to talk about.

We, right now, at this point have not yet finished working through exactly what the training set needs to look like, so that's an ongoing process. So I think -- well, I can't speak -- I don't know what the -- what the secretary will be asking when he gets there. I just don't know.

Q: Well, I would imagine that his -- his visit there is going to go off your recommendation, so at least what General McFarland wants to see there? I mean, are there areas in which you -- your -- you feel as though that the coalition is wanting?

COL. WARREN: Again, so we just -- the answer to that question doesn't exist yet, right? We're still conducting that analysis. I mean, we -- we've seen some things, right? We've already talked -- you know, the prime minister of Iraq has come to us and said hey, he would like to see more police get trained. So that's one thing that we know. Okay, we need more police training capability.

But the rest of it is still -- I mean, we're still deliberating. We're still analyzing. We're still going through that process of trying to determine exactly what we need.

CAPT. DAVIS: Courtney?

Q: Hey, Steve.

Someone actually covered my question already, but I do have a question on that map. I don't know if you know which map is up now, but it's -- I think it was the first one you showed us. There's just little dots of this dark red that -- no. The other one. That one. You probably can't see what we're seeing anyway.

CAPT. DAVIS: Is it the one that shows where ISIL has...

Q: Yes, it...

CAPT. DAVIS: ... gained and lost?

Q: Yes, exactly. The where they -- where ISIS is -- what they've won and what they've lost. And you mentioned this -- it was from August of 2014 -- yes. That's the one. What are the -- the dark red that's -- it says it's ISIL territorial gain. So that's territory they've gained since August of 2014. Is that correct?

COL. WARREN: Right. Yes, it is. So -- and -- and it's all territory that you're familiar with, right? I mean, Tadmur, Palmyra, a little -- little piece of land up in the upper left-hand corner there, vicinity of the Mara line. That's about it.

Q: (inaudible) -- the timeline on that. And then just one other question on the training. What -- what is the number right now that are going through the -- the pipeline? How many, roughly, on a -- in a week are fully trained ISF are you turning out? Whether it is the basic eight weeks or whether it's more advanced, what is the rough number.

COL. WARREN: It really varies wildly, frankly. I think, you know, I've got to get that number for you. We do have some of those numbers but I'll tell you, they just happen to vary significantly, just based on what's going on. Over the last -- I can say, over the last month or so, we've gotten about 900 police officers and roughly two brigades through training. But this was the most training that we've had -- most graduates that we've had in a month.

But you know, there's been weeks or months when it was significantly less. It has to do with everything from, the operational tempo on the battlefield, to what else is happening in Iraq, if there's a pilgrimage or something going on, that the forces are needed to provide security for. So it's really isn't a clean line on that right now.

But, we've been very satisfied recently of this steady -- and when first started a year and change ago, it was definitely in fits and starts. All right. We had a hard time getting enough troops, enough Iraqi troops through the training. And you know, there was much discussion about through put.

Thorough put is not an issue for us now. We're operating -- maybe not at 100 capacity, but we're operating at full capacity. So, we're satisfied with the thorough put.


Q: Are you going to have finished your work on how many trainers are needed in time for Carter's meeting with defense ministers? And second, is the concept that operations in the Anbar corridor and operations to retake Mosul would be consecutive or simultaneous?

COL. WARREN: So the -- no, we'll probably not finish before the secretary's meeting. But, you know, it's an iterative process right? It's a continuous back and forth. So, you know, we're always -- from here, we're always talking with Washington. And we're able to give them a sense for specifically, you know, what direction they should push and where they should go.

On simultaneous or sequential operations, you know, that a lot of that is what the Iraqi army will decide. You know, we've given them advice on how we believe that ought to go. I think we need to keep that one private cause we sort of want to protect some of that information. I think the enemy is probably paying good attention to our intent. So we want to keep some of that to ourselves.

Understand this I think, the most important things is that our fundamental concept is to be place simultaneous pressure on this enemy across the entire battlefield, the depth and breadth of this battlefield. So that's our going in principle, right? Keep pressure on this enemy, all the time, everywhere.

Because that forces them to have to make very difficult decisions. So, I'm not going to specifically talk about whether or not it's going to be a sequential or simultaneous operation to take Mosul and to pressure to Anbar corridor. But what I will tell you is, our fundamental technique is operationalization of the battlefield. So keep pressure across everything all the time.

CAPT. DAVIS: Kristina?

Q: Hi, Steve. It's Kristina.

Back on the 10 brigades for the Mosul offensive. I think last week you said two would be Peshmerga. Would the rest be regular ISF? What would the rest look like? And how many of them received some training? And how many of them would -- you know, are not trained? How many Sunni tribal forces would be needed? And how many police? And how long does it take to get a brigade trained from scratch?

COL. WARREN: So, it takes eight weeks to get a brigade trained from scratch. The disposition of forces on the battlefield -- so, how many police, how many pesh, how many CTS, how many everything. These are all part of the plan that's in development by the government of Iraq. So the answer to your question doesn't exist yet.

The government of Iraq is continuing their planning process, you know, analyzing the battlefield, analyzing the enemy situation, taking into account the expected degradation of the enemy based on our airstrikes, et cetera, taking into account the advice that we give them based on the pressure that we're able to place on the enemy in Syria. So all of these factors have to come into play as the Iraqis kind of develop their scheme of maneuver on the ground.

So there isn't an answer to your question yet. It's part of the plan.

Q: You estimated 10 so far. I -- I think you did say two would be peshmerga, right? So then would the rest -- what's the rest envisioned to be?

COL. WARREN: So the -- the rest will be, you know, determined by the Iraqi government's decision process, right? So they haven't -- they haven't decided that yet. They're working with us. We're advising them. We're giving them some -- some, I think, good advice. But -- but they haven't been able to determine it yet because they've got other factors that they have to worry about as well.

You know, so I think the -- the prime minister of Iraq, along with the chief of defense and the minister of defense, and they're weighing all those different factors that they have the weigh as, you know, the elected and appointed leadership of the country. So we just don't have a number for you.

CAPT. DAVIS: (off-mic.)

Q: Steve, you just mentioned the degradation of the enemy may -- may be one factor in how many troops in Mosul. Is there a new estimate for how many ISIS are in Iraq and/or Syria right now? Has the -- have the numbers changed?

COL. WARREN: You know, I think they have, but I don't have the most updated numbers. I just didn't check on that one, Courtney. So the last set of numbers, you know, we know are 19,000 to 30,000. It's my understanding that those numbers have begun to -- that there's a new consolidated intelligence community estimate, but I don't have those numbers for you. But we'll -- we'll research it and get it back to you.

CAPT. DAVIS: Barbara?

Q: A couple of different questions, Colonel Warren.

On the 10 brigades, can I just clarify with you? I think previously you and others had mentioned eight brigades, so is the 10 just now including pesh and police or has the topline number of brigades gone up?

COL. WARREN: It's -- it's an approximate number, right? So it hasn't gone up. You know, it kind of continues to evolve over time.

So you're right. We had a different number before and we had a different number today and there will be a different number next week. So I really have to caution everyone that it is -- we are too early to really start putting numbers out because numbers haven't been determined. And next week, as we continue analysis, it may change again.

So we're -- we're trying to, you know, develop a what we believe will be a workable and -- and (iaudible) and effective plan in conjunction with the Iraqis. So we're going to continue to iterate this. We're going to continue to chip away at this until something finally comes together, but we're -- we're simply not there yet. It's just -- you know, this is still January. You know, this is -- this is going to be many months before we see actual operations for -- for Mosul begin.

So right now, our focus is let's start training some brigades. Let's start building some combat power. Let's continue to train some police and start building up some combat power while we simultaneously continue to iterate this plan and continue to iterate this scheme of maneuver, and while we simultaneously continue to degrade the enemy.

So this is going -- this is going to change. It's going to evolve. Nobody's ready to really slap the table yet and just -- and say okay. This is -- this is it, we're moving out. It's -- it's simply too soon for that.

Q: Follow-up questions, if I may, then. On Raqqa, can you just illuminate a little bit more about what you are doing to -- to -- on strike -- on missions in Raqqa, what you're doing and what the effect has been that you believe is on ISIS in Raqqa? Do you think that secretary -- the secretary's talked about getting ISIS out of Raqqa, you know, maybe even this year. How -- how feasible is it to really challenge ISIS in Raqqa given what is -- what is happening there?

And then -- so just illuminate Raqqa a little bit more. And my other question is I wasn't sure I understood on the B-1s. So my apologies. Are you now saying that the B-1s either have left CENTCOM, are leaving CENTCOM? Is it a standard rotation? Will that capability even be replaced?

COL. WARREN: So on Raqqa, our focus on Raqqa really is to -- to isolate through fires. So we are delivering precision fires in two ways, one, against some of their high-value targets, two, against some of the lines of communication -- the supply lines, also known as roads that come and go out of Raqqa. So find a bridge, you know, find a road junction, something like that, and strike it to degrade it.

So that's what we're doing right now is isolating Raqqa. Additionally, what you'll see -- what you -- what you've seen is maneuver of friendly forces in the vicinity of Raqqa. One great example of that is the Tishreen Dam. Another great example of that is Al-Hawl. So Tishreen Dam to the west, Al-Hawl to the east.

And as this enemy sees forces maneuver, the enemy has to then try to predict what's going to happen next and act accordingly, and by doing that, he exposes himself to our airstrikes. So that's kind of the -- the sequence of events in Raqqa. So it's a -- it's a process right now of isolation and degradation.

So we -- we're trying to isolate them to make their lives harder, to make it more difficult for them to move things in and out of the city, and -- and we're trying to degrade them, chip away at their -- at their -- at their strength and their combat power there.

It is certainly feasible that Raqqa can be pressured or -- or -- or even assaulted in the next year. It's also feasible that it will take more than one year. So we -- you know, the enemy does get a vote. And we have to see how rapidly we can develop some of these partner forces, some of these moderate Syrian opposition forces that are in Syria.

Obviously, we don't have the types of relationships there in Syria as we do here in Iraq. You know, in Iraq, we have a standing army with an established chain of command with training programs, et cetera. So we're able to, you know, apply pressure a little bit more rapidly. In Syria, it's not quite as solid.

On the B-1s, standard rotation, we haven't made -- I haven't made an announcement. Max may have. But, right, so it's just a standard rotation. We don't expect that we are going to lose any capability whatsoever. You know, we've seen carrier groups come in and we're going to see other aircraft come in in the near future.

You know, as we've seen other platforms rotate out of Turkey and other places. That's just part of the rotation. Also, we've got the 82nd Airborne Division will be rotating out here in the coming weeks. But they'll be replaced by the 101st Division.

So this is just how we have to do combat here. Because we don't know when this operation will complete, we set all of our forces on a rotation schedule. So they come in, they operate for awhile and then they're relieved with fresh troops.

CAPT. DAVIS: I don't think you heard that -- you have to -- you were going to rotate out.

Q: Yes. I wish I knew. Jeff, tell me when I'm coming home.

CAPT. DAVIS: Next, calling on Kim Dozier.

Q: Hey, Steve.

So, along the lines of a couple of questions that have been asked about the looking ahead to combat in Mosul. Do you have a new estimate on what combat has left behind inside Ramadi, in terms of -- the last we heard was 80 percent of the city was destroyed but that was when coalition forces, Iraqi forces, had about 80 percent of the city under their control.

So do you have a new estimate? Is electricity back on? Is water back on? Are you aware of how fast services are being restored to the population and how fast the population is returning?

COL. WARREN: So right, in fact, a good question. So, first off, a lot of that is really underneath some of the humanitarian organizations. But what -- here's what we do know. We do know that Governor al-Rawi has a solid plan for first stabilizing, all right. So there's two phase operations: stabilization followed by reconstruction.

So, we're working now. The Iraqis are working now to get some generators in place. We believe that Al-Ta'mim will have water functioning here, within the next coming weeks, I think, is probably about right. The electricity is not really going too well yet, but we are working to get some generators moved in. And again, when I say "we" -- in this case, it is the global coalition.

The U.S. military, coalition military doesn't really have anything to do with that. So, no solid estimates on times for when electricity will be up, when water will be up. But we're seeing it in fits and pieces, slow steady, and hopeful return to normalcy. Generators beginning to move. Possibly -- apparently the water infrastructure in the Ta'mim area was not too badly damaged, so it only needs some fairly low-level repairs to get that up and running. Much more damage in other parts of the city, so it will take longer.

There have not been, to my knowledge, much in the way of returns yet. It's a little too early for that. The enemy has generally been pushed out, but the clearing or the reducing of the obstacles, the booby traps, the landmines, that process is ongoing. And it's going to be a slow process.

And while we see we have pushed the enemy out, there is always the possibility that a sniper can infiltrate back in, that a suicide vest -- you know, a fighter wearing a suicide vest could infiltrate back in. So this enemy is kind of harassing the army as they try to clear these obstacles. And the reason that their enemy is doing -- is conducting these harassing operations is because they want the army -- they want to slow the army's ability to clear these obstacles, you know, to keep them tied up in Ramadi longer.

So hopefully that answers your question mostly.

Q: Just to follow, is there a new estimate on the amount of the city that's been destroyed? Is it -- is it 85 or 90 percent now that you have -- and -- and is -- is the area of ISIL control now down to 5 or 10 percent? Or are they totally into the hills around Ramadi?

COL. WARREN: Right. So estimate of damages -- so the U.N. hasn't come in and performed a formal estimate yet. The only estimate that we have is -- is kind of what we've done based on overhead imagery, right? So it's -- from overhead imagery, can't tell you whether or not the water is working, overhead imagery can't tell you whether or not the sewer system is working, overhead imagery can't tell you whether or not the electricity is working.

But that's what we have, so based on that overhead imagery, it does appear that about 80 percent of the city has been damaged in some way, shape or form. But that's all we know. That is -- that -- that is almost an -- really not useful number, again, because we don't really have a sense of what the services are, and that's really important when you try to estimate percentage of damage.

That said, as the security situation stabilizes, we're hopeful that soon, the U.N.'s humanitarian folks can get in there and do a legitimate, real, no kidding estimate of the amount of damages that have been done and -- and what it's going to take to get it back up and running.

Oh, ISIL. Right. Where are they? So they're -- they're -- they've been, and we can pull up the arrow -- if you guys could pull up the -- the Ramadi map again. So they are out Ramadi. The enemy has been pushed out of the Ramadi city center area. I'm looking at the map here. And where we see some enemy, of course is up in the upper left, so the -- the northwestern outskirts, maybe the exurbs of Ramadi, if you will, and the same thing to the upper right, the northeastern section.

So those are kind of outside of Ramadi, but it is kind of -- they are kind of support zones for this enemy and allows them to occasionally infiltrate, like I said, a single sniper, a two-man sniper team or perhaps a suicide vest in -- in an effort to harass and -- and -- and slow down the progress that the Iraqi army is trying to make in -- in stabilization and -- and reducing the obstacles.

CAPT. DAVIS: (off-mic.)

Q: Hi, Colonel Warren. Quick different question.

There may be an -- (inaudible) -- to send more forces from here -- from the U.S. to Iraq and maybe some other assets from other nations and that sort of thing. We always hear about the kind of logistical challenges that you guys have, you know, capacity helicopters to get around, there's building issues and stuff.

What kind of a challenge would adding more forces pose to you guys and how fast could you respond to accommodate more troops?

COL. WARREN: Yes. So the answer is, it depends. Right? So logistically, you have to look at logistical infrastructure. I guess you can use the same analogy again as a pipe, right? That logistical infrastructure is the diameter of the pipe and the number of forces that that pipe can support.

All right. So at some point -- we're not at max yet, so giving the existing infrastructure could support some number of more troops, I don't know the number. It's not a huge number, but it could support some additional troops.

But then at some point, you do have to expand the size of the pipe. So, you know, these are matters the logisticians spend a lot of time worrying about. I don't have the numbers with me. But, you know, if we needed to ramp up the size of the logistical footprint and if the government of Iraq agreed to it, we can certainly do it relatively rapidly.

No nation on earth has the logistical capability that the American army has, frankly. You know, we'd like to say that, you know, amateurs talk tactics. Professionals talk logistics. And logistics is really one of the American military's strongest suits. So, if needed, we'll be able to expand logistical infrastructure. But right now, we've got enough logistical infrastructure to support what we have, plus a little bit more.

Q: Quick, to a finer point, I'd like -- let's just say you add 1,000 troops. Could you do it with the existing fight?

COL. WARREN: Yes, I have no idea Gordon. We'd have to go ask the J4 about that.

Q: Steve, a question about Operation Tidal Wave II. You haven't given an update on that in awhile. Has that operation ceased? Are there, you know, has it evolved? And also, what is the situation with, I think you called it the Syrian democratic forces in the east? Have they made any territorial gains recently?

COL. WARREN: Yes. So operation Tidal Wave II to continues. In fact, recently we had three or four air strikes against gas and other separation points. North of Deir Ezzor so kind of in that region in between Deir Ezzor and Raqqah. I haven't gotten any new statistics yet on number of oil barrels reduced or things like that.

We -- those kinds of stats kind of come out infrequently. And when they do, I'll certainly put them out to everyone. But operation Tidal Wave II continues. As does -- as do our other operations to strike at other elements of ISIL's financial system, the most notable, of course, have been our strikes against banks where we, you know, destroyed these piles of Daesh cash.

Operations in the east. So, the Syrian-Arab coalition, we call it the SAC, had been operating along the eastern sector there of Syria. They've seized Al-Hawl, cleared several hundred square kilometers of territory. They have not yet seized Shaddadi. But, you know, they've gone through several weeks of fairly tough fighting and are kind of in a reset process now.

Q: Can I follow up? And what do you mean by the reset process? I mean, is that because they are realigning their forces or what -- did they find tougher than expected opposition inside?

COL. WARREN: No. I mean, they made significant progress there. You know, they made a lot of progress in a short period of time. Troops have to rest, right? And they're -- unfortunately for them, they're not like us, right? They can't rotate back to the states. You know, they live there. So after a significant and tough fight, you know, they need to be resupplied, they need to fix their weapons that have broken, they need fresh boots. They need to do all things that an army or a fighting force needs to do to bring itself back up to full strength to resume offensive operations.


Q: Colonel Warren, how many more U.S. forces are needed to train the Iraqi military?

COL. WARREN: Lucas, we don't have a number yet. This is -- we're in a process of -- of determining what that number is going to be, and that -- and that process involves discussions with the Iraqis to -- to find out how -- what they want and it involves discussions, you know, amongst ourselves to determine what we think is necessary.

So as that number is developed, we'll -- we'll try to -- to get it out to you, but right now, there simply is no number.

Q: (inaudible) -- in eastern Syria and the Deir Ezzor area?

COL. WARREN: Lucas, can you ask that again? The -- you got clipped there. The first half got clipped.

Q: Reports of ISIS gaining territory in eastern Syria?

COL. WARREN: Yes. They -- so in -- in the city of Deir Ezzor, ISIL is battling regime forces. They recently, using the cover of a sandstorm, had success in a single neighborhood. They -- they -- Deir Ezzor, right now, is split about 50 percent controlled by ISIL, about 50 percent controlled by regime forces. Over the last couple of weeks, ISIL was able to make some gains in the city of Deir Ezzor, bumping them from 50 percent to maybe 56 percent. The regime gained some of it back when the weather cleared and they were able to bring some air power to bear.

But that's about it. So nothing significant. Not really a major tactical event. Very small, localized, you know, tactical events.

Q: Can you talk about the impact Russian airstrikes are having in northwest Syria? It appears the regime is gaining ground against the Syrian opposition as the Russian airstrikes tip the balance in the regime's favor overall in northwestern Syria and overall in the conflict?

COL. WARREN: The Russian airstrikes have made a difference for the regime. The Russian airstrikes have helped strengthen Bashar al-Assad, particularly in the Aleppo region, where Russian airstrikes have been probably most intense. And those Russian airstrikes have benefited the Assad regime and have allowed the Assad regime to push back both moderate Syrian opposition forces and in some cases, ISIL.

So everybody's in Aleppo. There's ISIL there, there's regime forces there, there's moderate opposition forces there. And over the past, you know, several months, Russian strikes have benefited the regime and hurt both ISIL and the moderate Syrian opposition forces.

CAPT. DAVIS: And lastly here, Bill.

Q: Thanks, Colonel Warren.

First, on the ETF, we know that that is in place. Secretary Carter said that a couple of weeks ago. Have they become operational yet? Have they started doing any operations? I know you're not going to be able to discuss everything they do, but can we say they're operational?

And so only, on YPG, are they staying west of the Euphrates? I know that that was a red line for the Turks. Thanks.

COL. WARREN: On the ETF, I can confirm that Secretary of Defense Carter did announced that they were present here. We're not going to discuss anything else about their operations. One of the things that gives these types of forces their security, is secrecy, right? Secrecy is security for them. So we will only confirm that the secretary of defense did announce their presence in Iraq.

On the YPG and the Euphrates River, the YPG has not crossed the Euphrates River, with one exception, and that's in and around the Tishreen Dam, and it's really the Syrian-Arab coalition, or Syrian -- the stuff of SAC that we know from the east.

But it's other Syrian Arabs who are operating in and around the Tishreen Dam, have secured a couple of pieces of high ground west of the Tishreen Dam, to prevent the enemy from being able to bring indirect fires on the dam.

And that was worked out ahead of time and it's -- everyone's satisfied with it.

CAPT. DAVIS: All right. Well, thank you Steve for your time this morning and we look forward to seeing you next week.

COL. WARREN: Okay. Thank you very much. I look forward to seeing you next week. Take care.