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Department Of Defense Off-Camera Press Briefing By Major General Alexus Grynkewich

Jan. 23, 2020
Major General Alexus Grynkewich, Deputy Commander, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, U.S. Central Command

STAFF: All right, good afternoon, everybody. Today we're joined by U.S. Air Force Major General Alexus Grynkewich. I'll spell that for you. That's A-L-E-X-U-S, last name, G-R-Y-N-K-E-W-I-C-H. He’s the Operation Inherent Resolve, deputy commander for operations and intelligence. This interview is off camera, on the record. General -- General Grynkewich has about 20 minutes to take your questions. 

Please silence your electronic devices at this time.

General Grynkewich will make brief opening remarks and take questions specific to coalition operations in Iraq and Syria. Please -- please raise your hand if you have a question and wait to be called on. When called on, please provide your name and outlet, if General Grynkewich is not familiar with you.

Sir, over to you.

MAJOR GENERAL ALEXUS GRYNKEWICH: OK, thanks, Tom.

Hey, I appreciate everyone being here today, and thanks for the opportunity to give you an operational update on Operation Inherent Resolve. I look forward to having a conversation with you to just, you know, very briefly up front, and then I'll save most of the time here for questions.

Defeating ISIS and our efforts at CJTF do -- does remain the focus of our mission and remains vital to our national security from my perspective, and we do continue to work very closely with partners in both Iraq and Syria to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS.

We've made some important progress over the last while. I would say very -- very good progress, to the point where we're able to shift the focus of CJTF OIR more along the lines of training and advising and assisting the Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces on the Syrian side of the border, and they've shown themselves to be willing partners throughout the last nine months that I've been deployed over there. 

We do continue our efforts in Iraq and Syria. There's been some adjustments to that. I'm sure that you'll have some questions about it, as I took a few of those this morning. I'm happy to talk about that a little bit more with you. But the big picture, I would say, is ISIS does certainly still remain a threat. They -- they have the potential to resurge if we take pressure off of them for too long of a period of time. In the short term, as we've adjusted some of our activities downrange and in Iraq and Syria, I don't think it's an immediate threat of an immediate resurgence, but the -- the more time we take pressure off of them, the more that threat will continue to grow.

We do stay in constant contact and communication with our partner forces both in Iraq and Syria, and they have been very helpful in assisting us with some of the force protection concerns that we've undergone over the last several weeks, as well. And engagements between our leadership from my commanding general, Lieutenant General Pat White, all the way down through our tactical advisor certainly continues on the Iraqi side of the border as well, and we do have advisors still embedded throughout Iraq in the operations centers, kind of their corps or division-level headquarters spread around the country.

In Syria, we do continue our partner D-ISIS operations with the Syrian Democratic Forces, as well as our efforts to secure critical infrastructure in Deir Ez-Zor and Hasakah areas to prevent that critical infrastructure from falling back into the hands of ISIS, where it was a significant ability for them to extract resources that they could use for their purposes.

So with that, I'll just pause right there and stop and take questions, and I'll let Tom do the calling.

Q: Thank you, general. Bob Burns from AP.

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: Yes, sir. Good to see you.

Q: Good to see you. You mentioned the -- the risk of taking pressure off of ISIS in Iraq for too long a period of time. I'm wondering if you could say whether this recent period where you had suspended operations, has -- has that given them a reprieve that concerns you?

And secondly, could you explain in some detail if you could where -- where you stand on restarting operations and training, how far along you are?

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: Yes, sir. So on the first part of the question, I think the way that I'd answer that is that you -- there -- the -- our overall assessment has been that ISIS has tried to reset to a low-grade insurgency across Iraq and Syria. And this, you know, preceded recent events.

And there's a -- there's a bit of ambiguity as you look at the intelligence, number of attacks that are ongoing and what kind of attacks are -- are fairly important for us to assess, as well. So we -- we had -- have been looking at it closely for about the last three to six months, trying to determine are they -- are -- is ISIS executing some sort of strategic patience, waiting for an opportunity that they can exploit or are they truly on the ropes a bit more and lacking in capability and capacity?

With the advent of the protest movement in Iraq, back in the October, November timeframe as that began to gain hold, that -- that took a lot of attention in Iraq off of ISIS itself and I -- I think it helps us to refine our assessment that it's actually -- ISIS is a little bit more on the lack of capability and capacity side than strategically patient. So that's a good news story, I would say.

In light of recent events in the -- the -- the pause or the adjustment of how we're working with our partners, what we've really seen is ISIS hasn't been able to exploit any of -- any gaps or seams that may have arisen because of that. 

The Iraqi Security Forces too could be, you know, part of a good news story here again, have been fairly aggressive, even in the absence of the types of partnering that we were doing previously. So there is pressure still being put on ISIS and ISIS hasn't been able to exploit it. So I think that answers the -- the first part of your question.

On the activities that are ongoing now still, I don't want to go into too much detail on it but I will say, as I tried to articulate up front, we do have a lot of our advisory functions ongoing still. So kind of at the -- the general officer level, our engagements with our Iraqi counterparts are ongoing, and then down at the lower levels at those operational commands, our advisors that are on the ground in those areas are still maintaining regular contact with our Iraqi counterparts.

We also do continue to fly intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets overhead. We have our fighter aircraft that are overhead and -- so those types of partnerships are ongoing, as well, as some work with their -- their counter-terrorism service.

Q: Joint operations are not happening, is that right?

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: So, you know, they're -- it's difficult to say that they're happening at the scale and scope that I think your question implies. I -- I would say they're -- they're not and much of our training has also been paused. And really what we're -- we're looking to do is respond to the Iraqi demand signal and kind of get into the dialogue with them about where do they see that relationship going as it moves forward and that's really kind of a government to government discussion on when we get back to full restoration of that partnership.

But they certainly have an interest in it, as -- as -- as do we.

Q: Thank you.

STAFF: Carla?

Q: Thank you. So -- thank you sir for doing this. Carla Babb with Voice of America. So just to clarify, there have been counter-ISIS operations in Iraq that have resumed, just not on the scale that you're used to? I just want to clarify to see that was your answer to Bob's question.
 
GEN. GRYNKEWICH: Yeah, absolutely.

Q: OK, thank you for that. And then can you give us an assessment or comparison of the counter-ISIS threat right now to -- with the counter-Iranian threat and the counter-Iranian backed militia threat that we're experiencing right now? Can you talk to us about how your troops are -- are handling that and the differences between that?

And then also, we just heard from Jens Stoltenberg that NATO was more interested in being involved in training operations with OIR. What have you heard from NATO and do you expect additional NATO forces to flow into Iraq?

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: Yeah so I'll -- I'll do the second one first. I haven't heard a whole lot. I do know that there have been ongoing discussions at the -- there have been ongoing discussions with NATO, some at the political level and some of that in military channels. I don't have any clarity or any details that I can offer you just because I'm not privy to what those look like right now, having been over here for a little while, back stateside.

But I do think that there's some opportunities there and -- and it's really consistent with our long-term vision for what -- what the world looks like after Inherent Resolve would complete, whenever that was, at some point in the future, kind of our long-term campaign end state, if you will.

On the counter-ISIS versus counter-ITN threat, you know, so I've been deployed for about nine months now and in the time that I've been there, we've had a couple of casualties that have been caused by conflict with ISIS on the ground, where some of our service members, certainly Iraqi Security Forces or Syrian Democratic Forces have suffered casualties, but most of the attacks against coalition forces in Iraq have come from elements of the Iranian threat network.

So I see their activity against the coalition and frankly their activity in some of the parts of Iraq that are dominated by Sunni populations is really part of the problem that -- you know, one of the underlying conditions that needs to be addressed if we're really going to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS.

Not really a military mission to handle all of the pieces of that. We try to set a stable security environment so that aspects of good governance and, you know, reduction in corruption can take place but if you look in places like Nineveh Province, if you're familiar with the area, or even out in Anbar, some of where the Shia militia groups are operating in those predominantly Sunni areas just increases Sunni disaffection and makes, you know, twisted ideologies like that of ISIS much more appealing to the local population.

STAFF: Tom?

Q: Tom Bowman with NPR. Thanks for doing this, appreciate it.

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: Yes, sir.

Q: If you could give us a little more clarity on ISIS operations in Syria. When I was here two years ago and the Caliphate had come to an end, there was a concern of ISIS looking into Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa, doing assassinations, bombings and then maybe going from there to try to grab some more turf.

Give us a sense of what you're seeing now with ISIS and also are you seeing anything different in the areas patrolled by the Russians and the Turks? Are ISIS moving back into there faster or do you have any sense of what they're doing up there?

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: Yes, sir, good -- good -- good questions. So where we see the most ISIS presence, which -- which logically follows -- and I'll explain to you, it's kind of down in the lower Middle Euphrates River Valley, from Deir ez-Zor south to Baghuz on the Iraqi border. And that's an area of most activity from ISIS. We certain -- you know, heavily Sunni-dominated area.

Also, the logic I would say is it was the last part of the Euphrates River Valley that was cleared. And so as, you know, the -- the caliphate was slowly disintegrated as we moved to the south, the stability that that brought allowed for good governance and whatnot to take place as an autonomous zone, tried to provide services, et cetera, moving south.

So more stable the farther north you get, less stable to the south is kind of a broad characterization. We have seen a bit of ISIS activity down there, some low quality improvised explosive devices, some attempted ambushes, those sorts of things, some attacks on oil tankers that have been moving through the area at the behest of the SDF. So those are kind of the -- that's kind of the characterization of the attacks that we've seen.

In the -- in the ISIS model of insurgency, I would -- I would brand it as kind of a stage two of insurgency on a five stage scale, which is doing things that are trying to build up their brand, build up their wasta with the local population to increase their recruitment base but not really threatening the overall stability of the region at the level that they're at. 

As far as in the areas controlled by Russia or the Syria regime, there are a couple of places of concern that are -- are the -- the Bidiya desert, which is kind of between the At Tanf garrison and the Euphrates River. That area has been a place where we've seen substantial ISIS activity in the past. 

Up around Idlib, you know, that is rife with a fair number of different violent extremist organizations that have tried to operate up in that area. And of course, that's, as we all know now, where Baghdadi was bedded down as well. 

So there are some permissive environments that are kind of beyond the operational reach of the Syrian regime or Russian forces, or they don't care to go after them or they can't for some other reason, because of the conflict around Idlib, for example, that do remain a concern. 

But we keep a close eye on all of that. We do have the ability to -- to see in those areas through a variety of intelligence means, and we keep a close eye on it. 

Q: Kobani area and east of there, are you seeing any more ISIS come in now that Russian forces have...

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: We haven't. And actually, I think the -- you know, there may be some, I won't rule it out. But I would say that the SDF has been fairly successful in maintaining its control of those areas, despite the Russian regime presence that's been in there through some -- some local deals, I guess, that they've made throughout. So that's remained relatively stable and more under SDF control than we might have initially anticipated it would. 

STAFF: Idrees?

Q: ... asked about the -- the cases that are diagnosed of TBI in the aftermath of the attack on the base, how severe were the cases that you saw? And what is the total number of troops that have been flown out of Iraq, either because of TBI or for more medical evaluations? 

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: Sure. So I know this question's gotten a lot of -- a lot of traction over the last little while. I would say the diagnosis of TBI is probably an unfair characterization, so we have suspicions that there could be a diagnosis of TBI in the future, that there might have been a concussion. But TBI's a very specific medical diagnosis that I don't want to prejudge, and I'll let the medical experts do that if I can just characterize it that way. 

You know, the number of folks, I think I said earlier today to another crowd that I would characterize it as being in the teens. I actually don't know the exact number. 

As many of you know, when -- when you have a situation where, you know, we had a fair amount of high explosive go off on al-Assad Air Base, it takes some time to figure out who was near where the explosions were, what bunkers were most at risk. And then it also takes some time for some of those symptoms of a concussion or potentially worse injuries to manifest. 

And so it's been an ongoing process of evaluation. We continue that ongoing process of evaluation. You know, we treat who we can locally; those that we think need additional treatment because they need an MRI or something along those lines, then we -- we move them out of country and up toward -- to Germany for further assessment. 

We're absolutely -- you know, I guess my bottom-line commitment as a commander in the field at CJTF-OIR is we're absolutely committed to the health and safety of our service members, we'll do everything we can to make sure they get the -- the treatment that they need. 

STAFF: Jack?

Q: Thanks, sir. Jack Detsch from Al-Monitor. Can you tell us the status of the U.S. troops in eastern Syria guarding the oilfields? What they're doing, and are they still experiencing a high level of threat from the Iranians, Russia and the Syrian regime? 

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: Yeah. So, you know, we have some -- somewhere just over 500 U.S. forces that are on the ground. The way that we're securing that eastern Syria security area is primarily through our partnership with the SDF, similar to how we secured other parts of Syria in the past. 

The -- the task to defend the oilfields, to make sure that ISIS can't get access to those resources, that's also being done in concert with the Syrian Democratic Forces, who frankly benefit from having access to those resources themselves as well. So the partnership is really fundamentally very much like it was before we reset our posture in Syria, in that we're very tightly (inaudible) -- very tightly aligned with General Mazloum, very tightly aligned with the forces that he has on the ground.  
And -- and really, it's one of the places where we've been very successful in continuing the D-ISIS mission, getting after, as Tom mentioned, that area down in the lower MERV where we see some of that ongoing ISIS activity. 

So there have been a series of operations that have occurred over the last several weeks, without -- without pause. And it's -- it's been a fruitful line of effort for us. 

STAFF: Tony?

Q: Hi, Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg. To what extent have you seen any tactical implications or tactical repercussions from the Soleimani killing? And what signs will you be watching for in the next month or two, to see if in fact it had a tactical impact on Shia militia or Iranian activity?

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: Yes, sir. So I think the -- you know, in the post-Soleimani world, what we're really looking at is what level of control are the successors of Soleimani, the people who are running that Iranian threat network, able to exert over those proxy forces that they've had across Iraq and Syria? And elsewhere as well but, you know, speaking from my foxhole, if I can. 

I think it's a little too early to tell at the tactical level, exactly how that'll play out. But I do know that Soleimani exerted a tremendous amount of effort. I mean, he'd been in the job for a long time, he'd had a number of relationships that he'd built up. So really a unique capability was represented in him in holding that threat network together. 

So too early to tell exactly where it'll go. I suspect it'll degrade their operations in some way, it may desynchronize their operations, it may cause them to act more independently. But we just don't know yet. 

Q: Would two or three months be a fair benchmark, or even longer? 

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: I hesitate to say. My suspicion in my gut as Alex Grynkewich -- and not an intelligence assessment -- is that it'll take longer to replace a guy like Soleimani, but I'd hesitate to put a time frame on it. 

STAFF: Kasim?

Q: Kasim Ileri with Anadolu Agency. Sir, the coalition forces has made certain changes in ground forces' posture in eastern Syria. Can you say that also you tailored air operation in that area as well? Or can you say that you have the full control over the entire eastern Euphrates area in Syria? 

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: Now, we've -- our footprint in the air is generally analogous to our footprint on the ground, so we -- we do, I guess, to use your term, tailor the operation. 

So you know, our charge is to make sure that no American or coalition service member on the ground ever has anything other than an American or coalition aircraft overhead, but it's really tied to the mission of those forces on the ground, and not something separate. 

Q: And also, there was -- you know better than me, but there was, in 2015, there was a MOU between United States and Russia. And we have seen that Russian aircraft are also operating in eastern Euphrates area. So has there been any change to the MOU, or you just allowed, as a de facto measure, allows Russian aircraft to fill in? 

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: No, we have a -- we have significant contact for deconfliction purposes with the Russians. We have deconfliction protocols that we have worked out with them over time. They were most recently refreshed sometime this past fall, I'd have to look at the exact date. 

We -- we continue to ask the Russians to adhere to those protocols. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't. But you know, our message to them is, let's avoid any provocative behavior, let's make sure that we deconflict professionally and, you know, again, our charge is to make sure that we maintain superiority in the air over our forces, and I'm confident we're able to do that. 

Q: By those refreshments, you mean that you allowed Russians to cross eastern Euphrates?

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: You know, we have a protocol in place where if either party wants to fly in an area where the other is primarily operating. But there is a process for deconflicting that. Sometimes you might say that it's OK for that deconflicted operation to take place, and other times you might not. So it really varies situation to situation. In general terms we -- we like them to stay out of the areas where our forces are on the ground.

STAFF: Luis?

Q: Hi, sir, Luis Martinez of ABC News. Given the political situation inside Iraq where it appears that, you know, there's movement to push out the U.S. and other foreign forces inside the country, has your command developed plans for retrograde potentially, I mean, in the future, and how would that come about? And then if I could just follow up on Idrees’ question on the TBI incident, President Trump today kind of dismissed the characterizations of these as TBI or as injuries by describing them as merely headaches. From what I take from your earlier comment, it sounds like you -- you feel the command takes those types of comments more seriously, in terms of when service members present symptoms. 

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: Yeah, so I -- I haven't seen the president's comments, and so I -- I won't comment on them. I probably wouldn't if I had. But I -- I'll tell you, you know, just from our perspective on the ground as commanders in the field, we're going to take any symptoms of any kind of injury as serious as it needs to be taken based on what we see and our commitment to taking care of our forces.

From the -- on the question of retrograding or not retrograding, you know, interestingly, when the Iraqi parliament voted to have us leave Iraq in the nonbinding vote that they had a couple weeks ago it was -- they -- they barely were able to get a quorum. The -- the Kurdish parties and the Sunni parties did not participate, and so they -- they had a quorum by, I think, maybe four or five people that were there, and then it was a majority of that much smaller, non-representative faction that -- that voted. 

So I think, you know, the -- the overall Iraqi political outcome is far from settled. You know, as military planners, we're always thinking through a host of contingencies. We're always ready for anything that comes our way of being, you know, criminal, frankly, for us not to be ready for a variety of contingencies, again, due to our commitment to take care of our folks that are on the ground. But I won't comment, really, beyond that on any -- the nature of any of those plans.

STAFF: Nancy?

Q: A couple topics -- one, how many coalition members are either in Kuwait or have left since the Soleimani strike, and have any come back? And then on the issue of TBI, one of the things that Idrees had asked you is how many had been medevaced out. Can you give us an update on that? And also, when did troops first come forward with symptoms? When did they last come forward with symptoms? And do you think that we are now out of the window, in terms of when we could hear about potential concussion, TBI-related injury from -- from the ballistic missile strikes?

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: Yeah, so on the -- on the potential concussions and TBIs, you know, I -- I don't actually know when the first of those manifested. I do know that in the days immediately following the missile strike on Al Asad, I was out there the day after and saw several people on the ground. I heard stories about the proximity of where some of the bunkers were to the missile impacts, and the fact that there were people in there. So it was a concern in the command at the -- a pretty early stage. We had a -- a number of journalists that were on the ground that went out, I think, the day after I was on the ground out there, and we were talking about the -- the -- some of the suspected concussions that were out there as early as that point. So within, you know, 72 hours or so, we certainly had it well in our cross check. You know, there -- there are medical teams on the ground that are going out and they're doing that constant assessment. It -- it is not something that you find out immediately. 

You know, to -- to be fair -- so the -- the entire span of the missile strikes lasted, on Al Asad lasted about an hour and a half or so. But folks were in bunkers for much longer than that, you know. In the fog and friction of war and -- and the -- you know, the -- the uncertainty of combat, it's really hard to know, is there another missile that's going to be coming? Is there going to be some sort of a -- another kind of assault? Are there going to be Katyusha rockets that are launched as a follow-on wave? And so it takes a while for our commanders on the ground to assess when it's OK to come out and start moving -- moving around. So folks were really, you know, under cover for much longer than the actual missile strikes.

So -- and then, once you come out from cover, now you're doing your damage assessment of both your humans and your -- your infrastructure, and that just takes some time. And then it takes a while to get the lay of the land. 

So pair that with the potential for delayed manifestation and some of the symptoms of concussions, and I think you can kind of see where it just takes us a while to get a full picture of it. 

I don't actually have the exact number of folks that have been medevaced for you, and if I gave you a number, I'd probably be wrong because we might -- we might find that an -- an additional one had happened or had been identified that hadn't come to light yet, so I -- I hesitate to provide that even if I had it, and I -- and I just don't. But again, I'd characterize it as in the teens or so that we -- we've seen.

Q: Can I follow up on a couple things that you said? You said that when you were on the ground you had a sense of the proximity from where the strikes landed and the bunkers. Can you give us that distance? And you also said that while the strike campaign lasted for an hour and half, they were in those bunkers much longer. How much longer were they in?

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: It depends on the base. So you know, Al Asad wasn't the only place that we were worried about an attack, so -- but folks were in bunkers hours longer after the last missile hit, for certain, in some cases.

Q: And the proximity?

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: The proximity, you know, if you think about it in terms of -- it's a -- you know, I'm thinking about, there was one particular location I went to where there was a -- a -- a crater from the ballistic missile that hit. There had been some T-walls, those of you who are familiar with a T-wall in Iraq -- probably most of you -- and then there was a bunker just outside. The -- the missile hit. The -- the way the T-walls were around the area where it hit caused most of the blast to go 90 degrees out from the direction where the bunker was, but still a significant blast went that direction. It knocks over the T-wall onto the bunker, and there was someone in that bunker.

So we're talking a -- a span of, you know, some number of tens of meters for -- for something like that to happen, so pretty close. I didn't measure it, but -- but not -- not that far away.

Q: Yes, Laurie Mylroie, Kurdistan 24. Two questions: One, is it correct that if the United States were to leave Iraq, it would no longer be able to supply its forces in Syria, and that operation is -- would come to an end? And secondly, regarding -- there were reports that on Saturday there was some sort of confrontation between U.S. and Russian troops in the Rumeylan oil field in Syria. Could you explain that?

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: Sure. So on the -- on the first question, you know, there's always a way to supply forces somewhere. It's a question of what amount of resources are you willing to put into it, and -- and how do you want to supply them, and what kind of supplies do they need? So I -- I don't want to be absolutist and say that the mission in Syria would or would not continue, depending on our footprint in Iraq. But I will tell you that the way we view it at CJTF is that the presence in Syria and the presence in Iraq are mutually-reinforcing and they support each other. So certainly, we do move a fair amount of logistical capability over the ground routes that go from Iraq to -- into Syria and it -- it absolutely helps us with that. I would also say that being in Syria contributes, frankly, to the stability of Iraq. You know, ISIS doesn't recognize that border in any meaningful way, and so for us to recognize it in the counter-ISIS fight can be counterproductive at times. So we certainly see a connection between the two.

On the confrontation, you know, there -- there's a -- I -- I don't have the specifics on that one confrontation you're asking about, having not been there over the weekend, but I would say that we've had a number of different engagements with the Russians on the ground. This far preceded the eastern Syria security area, used to happen out in Manbij and, you know, now it happens over in the ESSA, if you will. As (inaudible) mentioned, sometimes it happens in the air where -- where -- where our forces come into -- into proximity of one another.

Our message every single time is to try to de-escalate the situation, not take any provocative actions and ask them to adhere to the protocols. And most of the time, that's what ends up happening. Not always, but most of the time.

Q: You think the Russians were testing you?

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: I think the Russians are always testing us.

STAFF: All right, last question?

Q: So regarding -- so the camps al-Hol and al-Roj in -- detention camps in Syria that are currently being manned by Kurdish Security Forces -- so there are fears that there's indoctrination in these camps where families and other members who have -- are a part of ISIS but have fled the area -- so there appears that there's a possibility of a breakout. And with these camps that, you know -- around 2,000 people are in these camps, that resurgence that you talked about initially, is that -- is that sort of fear something that we're really considering and trying to defend against so there isn’t a resurgence?

So generally, is there anything that we are doing to prevent a possible breakout of these 2,000 indoctrinated ISIS members?

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: Yeah, so we do work to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces in maintaining security at the prisons that they run in Syria. The -- that has taken a different -- there have been different ways we've done it over time. Some of it has been helping them to refurbish facilities to make them more secure, some of it has been to provide some training in how to use non-lethal methods to maintain control of prison populations.

So we do certainly try to help them as much as we can and assist them with maintaining control of those prisoners for the exact reasons that you outlined. We did -- we have seen periodically some streams of intelligence that suggests ISIS has plans to try to break those prisoners out.

We've seen a couple of attempts of that. There was a vehicle-borne IED around Hasakah a couple of months ago. It was the latest one that I can remember off the top of my head. But the follow up actions that would be required -- you know, it never breached the wall, they didn't follow up with a force on the ground that would be able to come in and break those prisoners out.

So a limited -- you know, more aspirational, I think at this point. You know, you never know what they -- when they could get lucky and be successful at something like that but we're definitely keeping a close eye on it because it is a threat.

Q: And so -- sorry, Amir al-Salbi, the new leader of ISIS -- so you mentioned that there's more -- it's more on the ground, you said stage two insurgency actions. Do you possibly think that with his kind of appointment as the new leader of ISIS that we might be seeing kind of a stage three in the coming months or weeks?

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: I think it'll be dependent on a lot more than what his capabilities bring to the table, it's much more about the resources they have. You know, one of the -- one of the things that we try to do is not -- not just go after individuals for their individual value but look at what are the capabilities that ISIS needs to be a functioning organization?

And so command and control capability and where the key nodes and linkages are are always a focus of our targeting efforts, things like financing, things like -- there are logistics, other sustainment type things. I think we've been fairly successful in just removing those capabilities from their grasp.

And so he -- he may want to do something but whether he'd be able to I think is an entirely different question.

Q: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: ... when you do get sense of the condition of the troops in Landstuhl, can we get a sense of how many have been returned to duty, how many have been sent home and the number of TBIs? Now, people talk about privacy but we're just talking numbers, how many going back, how many going home ... 

(CROSSTALK)

Q: ... if -- if you could.

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

STAFF: ... give you guys a follow up. All right sir, unless you have any closing words, that's -- that's all we have for today.

GEN. GRYNKEWICH: No, I appreciate your all's time, thanks very much.

(CROSSTALK)