Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Warren via teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq
Colonel Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, January 6, 2016
CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS: Good morning, everybody.
Welcome. We're pleased to have joining us today live from Baghdad, Colonel Steve Warren. Steve is looking good as always. You can hear us.
Sir, we'll turn it over to you.
COLONEL STEVE WARREN: Great. Thanks. I can hear you loud and clear, and I'll jump right in. It's great to see the Pentagon press corps today as always. And before I get started, I wanted to let you know something, that today is Iraqi Army Day -- (inaudible) -- which is the anniversary of the founding of the Iraqi army in 1921. On this day, we commend the Iraqi army for accomplishments thus far and in the past, and look ahead at their future victories.
Quite a few battlefield updates for you before we move on to questions, so let me get through it.
In Ramadi, counterterrorist service forces continuing clearing eastward into the core of the inner city. They've encountered enemy contact consisting of IEDs, machine gun fire, RPGs, and sniper fire. Coalition airstrikes continue to enable their advance.
It's no secret that ISIL does not care one bit for the safety and the lives of the Iraqi people. This past week as Iraqi security forces have been clearing the city, they discovered civilians who were killed execution-style; civilians who were injured by IEDs; civilians being used as human shields; and civilians who were being shot as they attempted to run to safety.
In sharp contrast over the same timeframe, Iraqi security forces have helped hundreds of civilians, including a lot of children who were fleeing the city. The ISF gave them food, water, and medical attention before they were moved out of the area into a safe location.
Moving on, in western Anbar, ISIL conducted a synchronized attack near Haditha that started on January the 3rd. The attackers used indirect fire and VBIEDs. These attacks were limited in nature, what we call harassing attacks. And what is important to note is that the ISF were able to either push the attackers back immediately or regroup and counterattack with the support of coalition airstrikes.
Moving over to Syria, over the past 10 days in the Tishreen area, the Syrian Democratic Forces have killed about 140 extremists, while liberating dozens of villages, reclaiming more than 310 square kilometers of terrain. Soldiers of the Shams al Shamal battalion, which is a prominent Arab fighting group in the SDF, are currently holding the west side of that dam, demonstrating continued integration between Arabs and Kurds within the Syrian Democratic Force.
As a reminder, this force consists of groups of Syrian Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, and other ethnic groups in northern Syria that are all collectively determined to defeat ISIL.
As the Shams al Shamal battalion holds the dam, other forces are advancing to the south in the vicinity of (inaudible). These troops have experienced some counterattacks west of (inaudible). To the north, the Syrian Democratic Forces are also receiving some harassing mortar fires, but in each case the SDF has repelled all attempts by ISIL to regain any territory or strongholds. We're seeing reports of ISIL fighters shaving their beards and trying to hide among the civilian population as they continue to lose ground in Syria and run back to Raqqa, Manbij or (inaudible).
I want to mention our airstrikes for a minute too. We -- we -- we've continued to increase both the pace and the intensity of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. When our airstrikes are coupled with local ground operations, we see ISIL having to react and move around the battlefield, which, in turn, just makes it easier for us to strike them.
In December, we estimate approximately 2,500 enemy fighters were killed in coalition airstrikes across Iraq and Syria.
And finally, since I haven't mentioned it recently, I want to give you an update on Operation Tidal Wave II. This operation, as you know, targets ISIL's elicit oil infrastructure in Iraq and Syria. On January 2, coalition aircraft struck six gas and oil separation points and two ISIL crude oil collection points near -- (inaudible).
Since we began operation Tidal Wave II, the coalition has conducted 65 strikes against oil targets. We assess this operation has reduced their revenue by about 30 percent. We estimate that ISIL produced 45,000 barrels of oil per day before Tidal Wave II and it has been reduced to about 34,000 barrel per day now.
So to close out, in addition to chipping away at their so-called caliphate, killing their leaders and we're also hitting them in the pocketbook. That concludes my opening remarks and I guess Bob Burns is on duty for AP today. So, Bob, what's your question?
Q: Colonel Warren, thanks. You mentioned Ramadi and the Iraqi government has essentially declared victory in Ramadi. I'm wondering if you could give us an idea of sort of the way ahead in Anbar province and as to the focus going forward?
And also, in northern Iraq, there seems to have been an increase in the number of U.S. airstrikes in the Mosul area. I'm wondering what the -- what -- what (inaudible) there in Mosul? And you didn't mention Fallujah either. What's happening in Fallujah?
COL. WARREN: Sure. So in other words, everything that's happening in Iraq right now?
You have the Ramadi map, Tom. So here's the Ramadi map just to give you a quick look. You can see shaded in green there is the areas that -- that the ISF, the Iraqi security forces, have control of. So there's still more work to be done. As I mentioned, they're clearing, you know, from the west to the east and getting into these smaller neighborhoods that's very tightly constructed there. The roads there are restrictive, there's lots of little shops, most of them deserted now, of course.
And so the Iraqi security forces are now –very methodically, very deliberately moving through these neighborhoods, trying to rescue any of those that remain in hiding, and of course, having to almost house to house dismantle all of the -- the IEDs.
So that's Ramadi. This -- this operation will continue for some time. Difficult to put a time frame on it, but it will continue.
Alright. Tom, let's go to the other map, the -- the -- Haditha map. So what this map is, as soon as it comes up -- there it is. So I just wanted to have a point of reference –for you. I’ll orient you rapidly to the map. Up is north, down is south. You see, obviously –Lake Tharthar is the major geographical feature there.
In the lower right-hand corner you see Fallujah, and moving upstream we pass through a couple of -- Habbaniyah, some other towns, then we hit Ramadi about a third of the way across the map at the very bottom.
So keep moving up-river, you eventually get to Hit, which is about two-thirds of the way across the screen there and then continuing upstream you get Haditha in the upper left-hand corner of your map. So that's kind of the central Euphrates River Valley, central and lower, frankly. Fallujah is very low -- (inaudible).
So what's next? Well, Fallujah, we'll start with Fallujah. It is currently in the process of being isolated by the Iraqi security forces as we saw in Ramadi, they will isolate the city and then constrict it and then eventually clear it. No timeline yet for how long that will take. You know, it's an urban area where the enemy is fairly well dug in and Fallujah's the -- another town with a -- where we don't want to give up.
Moving up through the Euphrates River Valley there in Hit, we've seen -- you know, Hit is still under enemy control, and that's something that has to be cleared. Really from north of Ramadi all the way up to Haditha, all that area and kind of the area, you know, between the river and Lake Tharthar, this is still enemy-controlled area. So this is kind of what's next for Anbar. All of this area eventually needs to be cleared out.
The attacks that we saw over the weekend and –really up until yesterday in the Haditha area, really they kind of originated from forces that are -- that are moving around in that -- in that kind of ungoverned and largely open space between the river and Lake Tharthar. That's, you know, where ISIL is able to generate its force, infiltrate into attack positions in the vicinity of Haditha and then attack kind of from the northeast headed southwest into Haditha. So that's that.
The Iraqis own the campaign plan, obviously. It's their decision on what their next main effort is going to be. I won't tell you what it's going to be until they announce it, but we're here to support them. So, you know, whatever they decide is their next focus, this coalition will be there prepared to support them from the air, as was with train-and-equip.
Does that generally answer your question, Bob?
Q: It does. I asked you about Mosul as well. Has there been an actual increase in airstrikes in the Mosul area? Is that true? And if so, what's the -- what's the reason there?
COL. WARREN: Yeah. You know, Mosul right now, we've been conducting shaping operations around Mosul, really, for almost a year now, everything from individual strikes in and around Mosul to high-value individual, high-value target strikes. These are examples of shaping operations, as is the operation to seize –the city of Sinjar was a shaping operation.
There have been quite a number of strikes recently. In the last six months, we've done about 700, approximately 750 strikes, in the last 30 days, it's been 305 and in the last seven days alone, 191. So there has been a fair number.
There's nothing significant, really, to report. This is mostly opportunity, dynamic strikes that have found the enemy forces in the process of repositioning. Some of this is because of the pressure that being put on them. Remember, our operational objective here is to place pressure across the entire breadth and depth of this battlefield, so to pressure this enemy wherever he is. And as we do that, as we place the pressure on them, it forces them to want to move, to try and get away from that pressure that he's feeling. And movement creates targets. And so as we see those targets, we strike them.
Mosul, obviously being their capital, is going to be an area where naturally they're either going to try and gravitate to, they're going to try to reposition around in an effort to stave off the inevitable, which would be an assault on Mosul.
Q: Colonel Warren, is the Haditha Dam under Islamic state control? And if so, is that increasing any difficulty in retaking part of that area? And then on Ramadi, do you still hold to the estimate you provided like two weeks ago or so that there's about a dozen or so Islamic state fighters still in Ramadi? Or is it actually bigger resistance than you first thought?
COL. WARREN: I'll have to check on Haditha Dam. I think we have -- I'll have to check on that. I think we have control of that. Yeah, we do -- "we" being the Iraqi government. So this enemy does not control Haditha Dam. So, that answers that.
On -- on Ramadi, so, numbers are tough. You know, what I said last week was, you know, what we see are small groups of the enemy forces, right? You know, in that group is maybe five, seven, maybe as many as a dozen fighters in these groups. And this group may be centered around a machine gun or maybe centered around several rocket propelled grenades -- essentially, what in the Army we call squad-sized elements.
So we see these squad-sized elements still able to operate in some of the neighborhoods that have not yet been cleared. And we still see that. We killed about -- almost I think over 60 fighters inside of Ramadi just in the last 24 hours. So they're there. And as we see them, we strike them. As the Iraqi security forces see them, they attack them.
Difficult to get a total number of enemy inside Ramadi, given the amount of churn, you know, over the last two weeks. The way we get those numbers, of course, is through watching for long periods of time, right? You know, when -- when the enemy was in Ramadi, it was relatively static. There was no fighting going on in Ramadi. We were able to observe through various observation techniques, and using the information we gained from the long-term observation, we were able to get a good estimate of what the enemy strength is.
But now, given the fighting, given the fact that many are moving out, some are probably trying to, you know, come in. You know, there's all this motion. It's –a little bit more difficult to get a -- to get a good number on, you know, what's there.
Q: There were stories earlier this week that tunnels under Ramadi might be making it more difficult to round up the remaining Islamic state fighters. Is that what you're seeing?
COL. WARREN: Sure, there's -- yeah. Sure, there's tunnels. You know, this enemy –has extensively used tunnels. We saw that in Sinjar. We're seeing that in Ramadi. We saw that in Baiji. It's one of their techniques. We also see things like -- (inaudible) -- holes in walls, so maybe there are two houses, two separate houses share either a common wall or just a little bit of space in between the two walls. They knock holes there so they can move from house to house undetected.
Yeah, these are the types of defenses that this enemy has emplaced inside of Ramadi. And this is why Iraqi security forces have to be very deliberate, very methodical and very carefully move through these neighborhoods to clear them.
Q: Colonel Warren, it's Andrew Tilghman.
I'd like to ask you to give me the best estimate you have on the size of the ISIS fighting force across Iraq and Syria. And I'd also like to ask you if there's a distinction to be drawn between the sort of, you know, hardened ISIS fighters and, you know, local forces that they are likely allied with that are either paid or share their sympathies, and to what extent you might in big operations like Ramadi and moving forward, hope to peel off those groups from the core of the ISIS force.
COL. WARREN: So, we estimate that those -- yeah, good question. We estimate there's between 20,000 and 30,000 members of ISIL operating inside both Iraq and Syria. As far as types, yeah, there are two flavors, if you will. There's the foreign fighters, which are sort of more hard core, more fanatical members of this outfit. And then there's local recruits, and in some cases conscripts.
The way -- the way that ISIL organizes themselves is they use their local forces as their grunts, their foot soldiers, right? They're not treated very well. They're paid less. They're given less interesting assignments – they’ll stand checkpoints -- whatever.
The foreign fighters are more elite. They're generally better trained. They're generally better equipped. They're generally better paid. In some cases, they use entire units of foreign fighters as a quick reaction force. They'll position those foreign fighter battalions, if you will, in areas where, you know, they can move between Iraq and Syria. We also look for those, and try to strike them.
In other cases, the foreign fighters will kind of be the strength of a unit, and then the conscripts or the local volunteers would fill in, you know, with the rest of that unit.
So peeling them off, you know, this is, you know, I'm not 100 percent sure what you mean by that. You know, there are -- the Iraqis have some ongoing operations to do things like -- (inaudible) -- cooperation in warfare. They've -- (inaudible) -- and try to discourage or encourage -- discourage people from joining or encourage fighters who are locals to throw down their arms and -- and desert.
Difficult to get, you know, an idea of the effectiveness of those. Certainly, a 2,000-pound bomb will encourage you to desert as well, or will end your fighting career abruptly. So, that's kind of what –this enemy looks like.
Q: Colonel Warren, this is Joe Tabet
I have two questions. First, could you give us an update about the night raids that the coalition is conducting, like the one we have seen in Hawija and if this type of raid is being coordinated with the Iraqi government.
And my second question is: What is being done to secure the Syrian-Iraqi border? Do you think this -- is it something essential in the fight against ISIL?
COL. WARREN: We have -- we have said that raids are part of the strategy. We have also said that we will not get into the details of these raids. –What I can tell you is there's been a lot of reporting in Iraqi press here and it -- 100 percent of it is wrong. So I'm going to leave that.
On -- on -- on the borders, certainly, securing the border between Iraq and Syria is of great interest both for the Iraqis and to this coalition. And I know when the secretary of defense announced that there would be an expeditionary targeting force, we would partner with the Iraqi special operations forces, one of the goals of that organization is to help strengthen that border or to help kind of plug up -- some of the coarseness of that Iraq-Syria border.
So (inaudible) first, (inaudible), we observe it through, you know, ISIL and take strikes whenever we can.
CAPT. DAVIS: (inaudible)?
Q: (inaudible), but getting back to Ramadi, have any of the Sunni tribal fighters moved into the city yet or is it too dangerous for them to do so? And also, the residents of Ramadi, presumably most have left. Where are they? Are they are refugee camps? Have they scooted into Baghdad?
COL. WARREN: Right. The -- the tribal fighters have been part of the mix as we begin to transition from combat operations to stabilization operations. So what happens is, as the Iraqi security forces, or as the army, in this case, generally the -- the counter-terrorist service, the CTS, clears a neighborhood. They will then turn over that control of that neighborhood to either police or tribal fighters, so -- to serve as the -- the new stabilizing force in that neighborhood.
And so that's ongoing. So yes, the -- the tribal fighters have been moving into downtown Ramadi and taking over stabilization duties as the CTS clears.
On -- what was the rest of your question, again? I forgot.
Q: And then the civilians, the citizens of Ramadi, have they all fled? And where have they gone?
COL. WARREN: Right. So a majority have fled. There are some reception stations set up inside of Ramadi so that as the Iraqi security forces find families or individual citizens that are getting to these reception stations where they'll get their immediate needs -- you know, they'll see their immediate needs, you know, food, water, health care, if needed.
And then, they'll be transported -- there are several IDP camps set up in and around Habbaniyah, which is kind of the primary spot where the Ramadi citizens have gone. Of course, many also will -- will move in with family members or relatives if they have them in Baghdad or in other places, but Habbaniyah is kind of where the main location is for -- for these IDPs who have nowhere else to go.
CAPT. DAVIS: (off mic)
Q: Steve, Jennifer Griffin here. Do you have any final death toll for how many Iraqi forces were lost in the fight for Ramadi? And can you give us an update on what the figures are in terms of the area in Iraq that's been lost to ISIS? And how are you determining that? Is it populated areas? Is it physical territory?
And then finally, is there a final figure as to how many ISIS fighters were actually in Ramadi? Or is it -- I understand it's fluid. And do you feel like there are still fighters really flowing into Ramadi?
COL. WARREN: So Iraqi security force casualties, we think total -- total casualties to be in the ballpark of 1,000. Of those killed, we -- I think substantially lower, probably, you know, in the vicinity of 100. Now, this is really something for the Iraqis to speak to, but that -- those are kind of what we think it looks like, but we're not always 100 percent certain on that.
On territory lost, so what we think is that they've lost between 20,000 and 22,000 square kilometers in Iraq, roughly 40 percent of their -- the territory that they once controlled. In Syria, maybe about 2,000 square kilometers, maybe a little bit more than that, in the ballpark of 10 percent of what they controlled.
So they've probably got a presence and some freedom of movement in a lot of the unpopulated areas, depicted, in a lot of the unpopulated areas. Hard to determine whether they're a dominant actor in some of those unpopulated areas.
Obviously, in Ninawa, Kirkuk, Salah-al-Din and Diyala is where they've lost the majority of their -- of the territory that they once held. Raqqa and al-Hasakah provinces in Syria. And this is in really unpopulated areas. We're looking at most areas that are populated to get those numbers. So hopefully that helps.
ISIL in Ramadi. Now there's no significant numbers of enemy forces moving into Ramadi, but certainly there is going to be some flows still. As –the ISF continue to clear these remaining pockets, you know, and kind of brush out these little nests of fighters, we certainly expect or plan for the possibility that there are some trying to infiltrate back in, if only to help their fellow terrorists. But it's not a significant factor. We don't -- we aren't seeing, you know, numbers of troops there are going to make any real difference.
Q: Just to follow up, if you say that you killed 60 ISIS fighters in the last 24 hours, does that cause you to reassess how many ISIS fighters were there to begin with holding the city?
COL. WARREN: Yeah, we haven't gotten to that yet. You know, at this point, that will be one for the history books, I think. I mean, you know, the Iraqis have it now. They've got some neighborhoods left to clear. We'll let the historians sort out what the -- what the original, you know, enemy strength was.
CAPT. DAVIS: John?
Q: Happy New Year, Colonel Warren. John Hines with One America News. I saw reports of an ISIS (inaudible) that proceeded unmolested to an (inaudible) last week. And so I was wondering what are the rules of engagement regarding ISIS columns, and particularly and more generally, whether ISIS forces are always an actionable target, or do they have to have hostile intent?
And then do U.S. forces have the initiative or are all attacks on ISIS at the command and control of the Iraqis? Thank you.
COL. WARREN: If you're a part of ISIL, we would kill you. That's our rule. I believe now that ISIL -- we believe that ISIL is now in a defensive crouch, and that, you know, they kind of -- (inaudible) -- long ago, probably in May, is really when they reached their culminating point of offensive operations.
COL. WARREN: And then since then, all they've really managed to do is lose ground. And they've lost it in all the places that we've already listed -- the -- (inaudible) -- and -- (inaudible) -- Ramadi, Baiji, et cetera. So, the Iraqi security forces -- (inaudible) -- at this point do I think have the initiative.
Now, that doesn't mean that this enemy isn't able to strike in spots. They are. That doesn't mean that this enemy isn't able to conduct raids and ambushes and IED attacks. They can. And it doesn't mean that they still don't control large swathes of territory. They do.
But what this means is that the Iraqi security forces are now on the offensive. The Iraqi security forces will –pick where the next significant battle. The Iraqi security forces are now pressing ISIL, and ISIL is now reacting to the Iraqi security forces, right? So, if that makes sense. What else did you ask? There were several of them in there.
Q: I think that was pretty much it. The idea is that who makes the decision. Is it the Iraqis or the American forces when they're going to attack, basically -- rules of engagement?
COL. WARREN: (inaudible) -- yeah, the Iraqi forces, they make those decisions. This is their -- this is their fight. We're here to enable them. So we help them. We advise them. We assist them. We provide air power for them. But this is their country. This is their plan. And this is their -- these are their decisions to make.
Q: (inaudible) -- from the Kurdish -- (inaudible) -- News Agency.
So, according to some reporters today, the Kurdish and the Syrian Democratic Forces crosses the -- (inaudible) -- which has been (inaudible) by Turkey. And do you have any details? And does that indicate a major, you know, military campaign to take control of the -- (inaudible) -- area?
COL. WARREN: I would -- I couldn't hear a word you said -- (inaudible). Can you ask that again, a little bit slower and clearer?
Q: According to some reporters, the Kurdish and the Syrian Democratic Forces crossed the -- Euphrates River -- which has been objected by Turkey. Does that indicate a military campaign to take control of -- (inaudible) -- border area?
COL. WARREN: The SDF crossed the Euphrates River -- (inaudible). So, yeah, the Syrian Democratic Forces have, you know, seized the -- (inaudible) -- dam. And they have established a perimeter on the west side of that dam deep enough, far enough west to prevent enemy mortar fire, and that's it. This is something that has been worked out.
So, that -- that's the status on that. So the SDF does have the Tishreen dam, which as you know is a, you know, a dam -- that dams the Euphrates. And they seized the entire dam from east to west, and enough of territory on the west side to prevent enemy mortar fire from coming in. And that's it.
Q: (inaudible) -- happy new year.
My question is about the Russian airstrikes inside Syria. Are they still striking opposition forces or have you noticed any change in their airstrikes in terms of their targets?
COL. WARREN: (inaudible). The Russians are -- have -- we have observed the Russians continuing their operation in support of Bashar al-Assad in -- in primarily western Syria. A majority of their strikes are in support of the Assad regime, who in western Syria, are primarily fighting against opposition forces, not against ISIL.
In some cases, they have struck ISIL, yes. They conducted a few strikes in Raqqa several weeks ago, they construct -- they conducted one or two strikes in the (inaudible) area several weeks ago. But a majority of their strikes are -- are focused on Syrian opposition.
CAPT. DAVIS: (Inaudible).
Q: Hi, colonel. We've thrown out some -- some metrics today, one of those was body counts of 2,500 in December and 60 in the last 24 hours. I was just curious, where are these numbers coming from? And since we don't really have boots on the ground, how are they being verified and confirmed by the -- the coalition?
COL. WARREN: Great question. Very fair. And when reporters come here to Baghdad, they're able to see exactly how we do it because –we bring them into the ops center and show them. Before any strike, we have ISR, we call it, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Usually, a drone, a predator some other type of drone observing that target before the weapon impacts, and so we can just count, you know?
When -- (inaudible) -- when you're looking at these video screens, you can see exactly how many fighters are there and you can count them. One, two, three, four, five, six. Drop the bomb. You watch for a couple more minutes. Nobody's moving. Scratch six.
CAPT. DAVIS: (Inaudible).
Q: Thank you, colonel. Just wanted to check on something. The Iraqi security forces yesterday said they killed what they termed the ISIS war men that started airstrike near Haditha. I'm just curious if you had anything on that, and on that subject, if you had any updates of any additional high-value targets that have been killed since we last spoke?
And then just a follow-up on Russia and Syria. I'm just curious if you've seen any expansion of Russian movement beyond the western Mediterranean coast into other parts of Syria, namely along the Turkish border in the last week or so?
COL. WARREN: So, we have seen some press reporting that this -- this -- (inaudible) -- has been killed, but we are not able to confirm it. No significant HVTs to announce today. We do strike, on average, one every two days of mid to upper-level leaders, but I didn't bring an update with me today.
Russian expansion is not something that we -- we've -- so we have seen some movement, but really no -- no expansion of note that causes us any type of concern.
CAPT. DAVIS: (off mic).
Q: Steve, Jim Miklaszewski. We haven't heard much lately about any Shia militia. Are they still active? If so, where exactly? What are they doing? And does the U.S. coordinate or communicate in any way with any of the Shia militias?
COL. WARREN: Sure. Tom, let's pull up the -- pull up the opener map for me, if you don't mind.
So Jim, good question. So, there's two river valleys in Iraq, and you can see on your map here. One of them is the Euphrates River valley, which runs from Syria through, you know, blue circle, purple circle number three, purple circle number two, through Haditha, -- Hit -- al Asad, Ramadi. That's the Euphrates River valley.
The other one is off to the right of that. It starts -- on this map, it starts in the vicinity of Baghdad. You can see it runs through Balad, Tikrit, up through star -- gold star number two, and to Mosul, number one. That's the Tigris River valley.
The Popular Mobilization Forces, the Shia portion of that, are operating primarily in the Tigris River valley. That's where we see them. They have been operating recently -- most recently in Baiji, where we've seen them conducting hold operations and in some cases some clearing operations as well. And of course, we saw them operating in Tikrit prior to that.
So that's kind of where the -- the Shia PMF are located. We -- we do engage with -- with some of the Iraqi government officials who have associations with the Shia militia -- (inaudible), but there are others. So yeah, we do have communications with them. That's part of the Iraqi security apparatus, and so, you know, we do have to engage with them.
Q: Are Iranian Shia militia forces still operating in that region?
COL. WARREN: Well, -- (inaudible) -- these definitions get very tough, Jim, and it's kind of hard to find where sometimes where one thing starts and the other thing ends. As far as pure Iranian, you know, militias made up of Iranians, I'm not really aware of much activity there. Primarily, you know, who we are interested in, of course, the larger, more well known -- Badr organizations like that.
Q: Hi, Colonel Warren. Thanks for doing this. Just a real quick clarification.
You mentioned that there were more than 300 square kilometers reclaimed in Syria. And I was just curious if you had anything like that in Iraq. I know you mentioned clearing operations in Baiji and Ramadi, but I don't know if recently in the last seven to 10 days you had some reclaimed territory in Iraq.
COL. WARREN: Well, in Iraq, we believe that, you know, we've reclaimed a total of between 20,000 and 22,000 square kilometers over the course of this fight. I don't have any numbers, you know, for the last week or month. I just haven't crunched them. That's certainly something we can get for you if you need it, but 20,000 or 22,000 overall, you know, during the course of this fight.
You know, we haven't done the math yet on Ramadi because it's easier to see, I think, and these are areas that people are familiar with. But obviously, all of the suburbs around Ramadi, you know, the -- Tamin district and around the glass factory and around -- Zengora the checkpoint area, these are all areas that have been -- that have been liberated and freed of ISIL influence or presence.
Q: I've completely forgotten my follow-up question. (Laughter.) But since I get an opportunity anyway, could you give us an update on how many Iraqi army and Iraqi security forces we've trained to the BPC sites and the Sunni tribal fighters? We haven't had those stats in a while.
COL. WARREN: Yeah. You know, I had them and I forgot to print them out. I know we've trained about 16,000 total Iraqi security forces. I don't have the breakout with me of ISF and police and -- Sunni -- but that's a number we have -- one that's available and can get it for you. I just didn't --- I didn't bring it with me.
Oh, hold on. Yeah, it's -- in fact, it's on Twitter. We'll tweet it out. Check @oirspox for the updated numbers.
CAPT. DAVIS: Last call. Anyone else? We've got one more here.
Q: Do you have -- do we know what happened to the special forces, the 50 special forces that were supposed to be sent to Syria to help the Kurds and the Syrian democratic forces?
COL. WARREN: Yeah. We announced over a month ago that, you know, we would be sending some special forces, some special operations forces into Syria, and that's all we're going to say about it.
CAPT. DAVIS: Cool. Last call. All right, Steve, wrapping up a little bit early today. Thank you as always for your time. We will see you next week.
COL. WARREN: Thanks guys.