Department of Defense Press Briefing by Colonel Work Via Teleconference from Iraq
CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS: First of all, we're doing this audio only today. I apologize.
We've got with us today Army Colonel Pat Work. Colonel Work is the commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division. He's also the commander of Task Force Falcon for Combined Joint Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. He's going to be giving us our update this week from Iraq.
Colonel Work, we want to make sure we can hear you and you can hear us.
COLONEL PAT WORK: Hi. I'm (inaudible).
CAPT. DAVIS: Very good. Sir, we'll turn it over to you if you want to give us some opening comments. Then we'll take some questions from here.
COL. WORK: OK. Great.
Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Colonel Pat Work, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, as stated previously. In Iraq specifically, I command an element of the coalition adviser network. We refer to ourselves as Task Force Falcon.
Our core mission is to advise and assist the Iraqi Security Forces as they drive toward the military defeat of our common enemy, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Our highly trained, disciplined and fit coalition team provides our best military advice to senior Iraqi generals and their staff. This advice informs the thinking and the decision (inaudible). We see the enemy and we help them see this environment.
We also assist them. We share information and intelligence that informs their decision-making. And it helps us (inaudible). And when we find ISIS, we attack with precision coalition fires.
ISIS had anywhere from two to three years to prepare its defense of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. It was a defense that any army would have a hard time defeating.
We attacked ISIS in Mosul together, but the Iraqi Security Forces clearly lead this operation, and they'll continue to do so. And despite our precision lethality that destroyed ISIS fighters, ripped apart its tactical infrastructure, we're always advisers first.
And the so-called Islamic State makes zero accommodation for anyone who doesn't share its deformed world view. For three years, it dominated and subjugated a vulnerable population. Never-ending expansion and tireless conquest are its organizing principles. It brutally murdered thousands, including scores of women and children. It turned Mosul, like much of Iraq, into a battlefield. And this fight against a common enemy continues.
On behalf of the coalition, I extend our most sincere condolences to the people of Iraq who suffered so mightily at the hands of ISIS. We also offer our sympathies to the families of the brave soldiers, police and commandos who have sacrificed so much to liberate their country.
Specifically, the people of Mosul endured vast physical injury, sexual predation and psychological trauma under ISIS. Indeed, ISIS has exposed these people to extraordinary violence.
However, the people of Mosul are resilient. The east side, less than six months removed from intense ground combat operations, is thriving in many areas. I saw with my own eyes again just three days ago.
On the west side, many of the areas that the Iraqi forces liberated as recently as May already rebounded. Again, I see it with my own eyes nearly daily. These people have endured extraordinary hardship, but they repair themselves and they're moving on, living their lives.
We're also exceptionally proud of our partners, the Iraqi Security Forces. They imposed their will on ISIS and they continue to root out its remnants.
They stood strong through some very difficult days. And we congratulate them on this massive feat that matters not only to Iraq, but the destruction of the so-called caliphate also matters to the security of the region and our world community. That's why so many countries and unified action partners have lined up against this evil.
The Iraqis are liberating Iraqis, and they're attacking our common enemy. They've already trounced ISIS in Mosul. They've retaken over 75,000 square kilometers of their country from ISIS. Nearly 2 million Iraqis have returned to their homes across the country. And in Mosul alone more than 350,000 children have returned to school.
And Iraqis have taken Mosul, given it back to their people, and we helped them. And that's why we matter.
Much work remains. The remnants of ISIS (inaudible) continue to prey on the people and challenge these hard-earned gains. And this fight continues. We'll continue to provide the military advice and assistance we have already to enable our partners' attack on ISIS, our common enemy.
And with that, I'll field your questions.
CAPT. DAVIS: Bob Burns from the Associated Press. Welcome back, Bob.
Q: Thank you.
Thanks, Colonel. Question for you. If you could give us sort of a picture of the current situation in Tal Afar and Hawija as prospective next battlegrounds. Can you describe, for example, the number of ISIS fighters in those locations, the nature of their defensive preparations, and whether there are any current or -- well, I'll say current shipping operations or actual offensive operations going on to defeat them in those locations?
COL. WORK: Our immediate focus is helping the Iraqi Security Forces consolidate their hard-earned gains in Mosul; specifically, helping them expand their search, advising them on how to root out and find the remnants of ISIS' damaged core that still may be evading arrest on the west side; helping them think through how they'll connect the west and east sides, so that they can really sink the holes with security and establish a durable stability that gives government a chance to reach into Mosul, start delivering -- administering (inaudible).
Now, that's our immediate focus. The Iraqi Security Forces, the government of Iraq will determine what the next objectives are.
And as you know, this battle for Mosul is just one major engagement in the much broader campaign, where the Iraqi Security Forces continue to attack. And this thing started in the spring of 2015 with the fight in Tikrit, and it expanded into Ramadi, Fallujah, Qayyarah, and then into Mosul. And after nine months, the Iraqi Security Forces are in a position where they will provide the stability here.
And so, there's a period of transition that's underway. And transitions are hard, and it's a lot of work that remains. And this transition that we're helping them through right now includes establishing security, defending local infrastructure that's critical, repairing and resetting their vehicles and combat systems, reorganizing their manpower, setting themselves logistically so that they're on strong footing for future operations.
There also a decision-making process that's underway. And no matter what the government of Iraq decides to do next, we're going to be there to assist them.
Specifically, as you know, there are remnants of ISIS, and their safe havens and sanctuaries, and there are future operations. Some of those future operations include areas that you discussed.
And I don't want to discuss the details of those operations, but what I will say, is that the coalition has collections and analytic efforts going throughout the country.
The coalition provides advice, at the very senior levels, on how to sequence future operations. But, ultimately, the government of Iraq makes those decisions. And, ultimately, the government of Iraq is going to lay down the road maps for the future operations.
And, as I stated previously, we're going to assist them in attacking our common enemy. We do that every day.
And any operation that takes place in the future, the Iraqi Security Forces will have the lead, will have made the decisions on the sequencing, will continue to attack his sanctuaries, will continue to disrupt his lines of communications and roads, will continue to attack his leadership, and knock out his command-and-control architecture, will attack his indirect fire networks, and will continue to soften those defenses so the Iraqi Security Forces have tactical over that to the point of a decision. It doesn't matter what this -- what they decide to do next. And some of those sanctuaries and safe havens that you talked about, the time's going to come where the guns of Iraq, backed by the coalition, turn against ISIS in those areas, and the Iraqi Security Forces attack to liberate those populations, too. And we'll be there to support them.
CAPT. DAVIS: Go head, Bob.
Q: This is Bob Burns again. Just a quick follow-up on that.
I understand that you don't want to talk about future operations. Can you, nonetheless, give us a -- a picture of the current situations in those two locations, Hawija and Tal Afar, in terms of the scope and size of the ISIS presence there -- the nature of their defenses?
COL. WORK: I’ll described what happened in Mosul. And I think, you know, the Islamic State, it doesn't have a tactical menu that continues to grow. And I think much of what we saw in Mosul will translate.
And so, we need to be careful as the Iraqi Security Forces make decisions, that we give advice that recognizes the difference in the analogies. But, nonetheless, I think what we saw in Mosul will translate through these other havens that ISIS still has control of.
In Mosul, we saw a defense that any Western army would have a hard time dealing with. We saw obstacles that started with the disruption zone several kilometers forward of the outer crust of the city.
We saw an early warning network that included drones. It included visual observation from observation posts. It included some help from sympathizers.
All of that observation formed two networks, one is the command and control architecture and ISIS (inaudible) Mosul surprisingly, centrally. You know, it fights very much like an army, where the decision making is withheld at very high levels. And almost daily you, can see the decisions that are made by the way it moves its artillery and borders and by the way it moves logistics. And I anticipate that we would see the same elsewhere.
Its artillery and its mortars, in Mosul, had a tremendous capacity in the Coalition fire support network ripped it apart, decimated it and we'll do the same to its artillery and borders wherever there is government if Iraq decides to attack next.
It uses its suicide vehicles as its precision guided weapons. And it likes to orient them on the security forces when they enter obstacle belts. It likes to deploy those as local counter-attacks. And they typically, what we saw in Mosul, it would have the capacity to do that for a day or two, but then it would begin its -- its retreat as the Security Forces stood their ground and coalition fires begin, the rest of the defense.
I also suspect that the defense of other places would look similar in the fact that every house on the outer crust of these cities, everything that used to be a family's residence, that ISIS has since hijacked, will look like a bunker. These are no longer homes, they're simply structures that ISIS has taken over and turned into fighting positions, machine gun nests, anti-tank weapon ambush sites.
I think (inaudible) have turned all these roads that once were arteries of commerce that connected cities and markets. Things that people of Iraq used to count on, and they'll have turned those into engagement areas, littered with IEDs, burns, they'll have cut the roads and destroyed its critical infrastructure.
That's what ISIS does in its so-called defensive. It destroys the cities that it conquers and it subjugates the population. I think, at some point, once the defense is penetrated, based on what we saw in Mosul, ISIS will take the people and will move those people forward deliberately and will use them as obstacles.
And it'll place those people far forward, men, women, children, elderly, ISIS does not care. It will put those people in between the advancing Security Forces and its wilting defense. ISIS has no regard for human life.
And, at some point, when its defense is crumbling, not only will it use the people as obstacles, but it will begin a massacre of those people as they attempt to escape as the Security Forces move and liberate more neighborhoods.
We saw that in Mosul, where not only did ISIS use them as obstacles and shields, but it just massacred, limitless brutality, for no other reason than these people are trying to escape ISIS and its deformed theology.
I expect that these things that we saw in Mosul will translate on a much lesser scale, but nonetheless, its tactical menu has not changed. His limitless pension for violence has not changed. His utter disregard for life has not changed. And I think much of that will transfer.
CAPT. DAVIS: We'll go to Michael Gordon from the New York Times next.
Q: Colonel Work, a couple of just very quick informational questions. You mentioned that the Iraqi forces are consolidating their gains in western Mosul.
What is the nature of the resistance in western Mosul at this time? How many suicide attacks or snipers or IEDs or other security incidents have there been there, over the past week? And who is going to be the hold force for that part of the city? Which Iraqi forces?
COL. WORK: Hi, Michael.
There's a lot of work to be done in west Mosul, in particular. In west Mosul, right now, the Iraqi security force is all three cohorts: the federal police, the Iraqi Army and the Counter Terrorism Service.
They're rooting through this extraordinarily damaged infrastructure, hunting down the remnants of ISIS, hunting down its leadership, continuing to recover and render safe its explosive caches, continue to exploit intelligence so that it can do precision work against its movement corridors.
And the Islamic State -- you know, they never gave anything away. The Iraqi security forces, with our help, had to take everything from ISIS. And the leadership of ISIS fled -- they left its fighters alone, naked, on the battlefield.
And so you've got these pockets of remnants that continue to evade capture. But their days are numbered. There are small engagements every single day, and the Iraqi security forces are just now dispatching the surviving ISIS small units -- and we're talking three to five fighters.
Occasionally they'll be able to muster some sort of operation that looks like it's organized, but it's quickly defeated. They've had no effect. It hasn't slowed down the progress of the search. It hasn't slowed down the progress of the recovery on the areas that were liberated in May. And what's extraordinary about the west side is areas that were liberated, just as recently as May, as the fighting progressed into the first week of July -- people are going about their lives. Their roads are getting repaired. People are resettling. And I'm literally talking about two to three kilometers from where the fighting is still occurring.
And so one thing about the Islamic State -- it's always been determined, and these fighters still are determined, but there's small handfuls of them and the Iraqi security forces are firmly in control. It will never be the same for ISIS in Mosul again. The caliphate is prone. It cannot recover from this catastrophic setback.
And these little pockets of remnants that evade capture -- they've got no future. And occasionally, there'll be an explosion, because an Iraqi security force finds one of these fighters that's still wearing a suicide vest. But there's no threat. It doesn't tilt the calculus or the strategic picture in Mosul at all.
And so there's a handful of these little incursions that happen, and that will continue for some time. As you recall, on the east side, keeping this in perspective, there was a little bit of (inaudible) -- fighting for a little while after the prime minister announced victory on the east side, as well.
And, you know, ISIS is going to continue to challenge this. It meant a lot to them, but they lost, unambiguously, and the Iraqi Security Forces are firmly in control.
Q: The Iraqi Security Forces are still taking casualties, killed and wounded in Mosul -- in West Mosul as they fight with these teams of three to five ISIS fighters every day?
COL. WORK: Mosul remains dangerous, for sure. There's explosives -- and let me -- let me just unpack what Mosul really looks like on the west side.
About three years and a month ago, the people of Mosul had homes. And in those homes, they raised families, and they sent their children off to schools. And, periodically, they'd go to a mosque, and they worshipped, and they had medical facilities they could go to when then needed to be treated.
Over the last two to three years, this is what the so-called Islamic State did to Mosul. They took every single one of those homes and they turned it into a fighting position. And sometimes, there was three homes side by side.
And those three homes that were parked side by side, ISIS knocked out every wall in between them. So, it took three individual family units and it made one massive fighting position. And in this one massive fighting position, as the Iraqi Security Forces approached over the last several weeks and months, it booby trapped those homes.
And it took the children's room -- and they cached off homemade explosives and its homemade mortar rounds in the children's room. And it took the second floor, and it turned that second floor into a sniper's perch, complete with sandbags that hardened it, and camouflaged it.
And as the Iraqi Security Forces advanced, on what used to be a home, and is now just a fighting position, the booby-traps increased. And these booby-traps might be found in ovens, they might be found in closets, they might be found in the baby's former room.
Additionally, that same place where the children used to go to school, ISIS cracked the ground of a floor of the children's house -- or at the children's school. And in the children's school where it broke the floor, it sunk its baseplates for its mortars into the floor. And on the ceiling, that used to protect the children from the heat, ISIS punched holes in it so that that mortar could fire through the roof of that former school, knowing that the coalition always exercises constraint when it comes to schools that are made for children.
And the Islamic State would drape a tarp over the top of that hole that it put in the roof, so that they could fire mortars when they felt like, and then cover it, and try and help evade detection from some of our intelligence assets.
And it took that medical clinic that used to train doctors. That used to be a place for doctors to deliver babies. That used to be a place where people could go and get treatment.
And it took the biggest hospital on the west side of Mosul, on the highest piece of ground, and then turned it into its international headquarters. It turned it into -- its equivalent of the Pentagon, its equivalent of a municipal building, this hospital, into a massive fighting position.
And over the last several months, the Iraqi Security Forces, backed by a coalition, have progressively taken more and more of these neighborhoods, and progressively closed with and destroyed ISIS in its fighting positions. Have progressively liberated the populations that were trapped in the basements of these former homes and current fighting positions. They've liberated the populations that were shoved out in front of these fighting positions. They used to be people's houses. And its liberated these people and allowed these people a chance to escape.
And so, the Iraqi Security Forces, today, remain bravely in Mosul. And they're looking for these weapons caches and they're looking for these explosives and these bombs that are in the road and these booby-traps that are in houses. And it's still extraordinarily dangerous because what ISIS has done to what used to be homes, schools, medical facilities.
And the Iraqi Security Forces still incur great risk every day. And their mission, in fact, during this transmission, is to render safe all of these explosives. So, of course, it's very dangerous for them, yet they continue to do their jobs. And we continue to give them advice and assistance.
Q: Hey sir. Thanks for doing this. I wanted to see if you saw any shift in the future as the fight moves from, you know, this massive operation in Mosul to, you know, Tal Afar, Hawija.
Any shift in the role of the U.S. advisers, obviously your task force, and the brigade that'll come in behind you? Any change in how you guys will go about what you guys have been doing?
COL. WORK: So, I'll offer a (inaudible) perspective on what it really means to advise and assist the Iraqi Security Forces as they attack our common enemy, the so-called caliphate. We do advise them. We do assist them.
And the advice is about helping them think through the problems that are in front of them. It's about helping them see themselves logistically, helping them understand how the enemy is erased, how the enemy is thinking, how the enemy is fighting, what its capabilities are and what the enemy's intentions are. It's about helping them see themselves logistically, which is hard for any army to do.
It's helping them understand how to better maintain and sustain their key combat systems, their key classes of supplies such as ammunition. Helping them understand how to backhaul, how to organize the retrograde of the damaged equipment so that it can get reset and returned. That's what we do as combat advisers. And we're always advisers first.
However, no matter what decisions they make, we always enable them, which gets to the assist part. And assisting them is largely about information sharing, intelligence analysis and sharing. And we enable them with lethal precision fires.
And so, it's a combination of our advice, their decision making, our assistance and their maneuver, in close combat against a determined enemy that has allowed the Iraqi Security Forces to dominate in Mosul over the last nine months. And there have been hard days. And there's going to continue to be hard days.
And so, as the Iraqi Security Forces, right now, transition to sink in their holes and establish a more durable security that the international community and the government of Iraq can exploit so they can expend political wisdom, essential services back into Mosul, so that people can resettle Mosul, and so that Mosul can start to heal itself.
As they transition from setting these conditions for security and safety, and they start looking at future operations, we will continue to provide that sort of advice. And we'll continue to provide that sort of assistance.
We'll help them think through the problems in front of them, see themselves logistically, understanding enemies, understand where they fit in a position of advantage as they attack forward. Additionally, we'll continue providing intelligence and information, and we'll continue to assist them with precision lethal fires.
Our role has not changed. Our mission remains the same. We have a common enemy, and we're going to continue to help them attack ISIS.
We're going to attack them in depth and we're going to attack them in day. We're going to attack them at night. And nothing's changed as we look forward to the future operations that they plan, resource and execute.
CAPT. DAVIS: Carla Babb, from Voice of America.
Q: Thanks, Colonel, for doing this. Do I still have you, Colonel?
COL. WORK: You're coming in faintly. Please speak up.
Q: Sure thing. Is this better?
COL. WORK: Yes. Much better. Thank you.
Q: OK. Great. Thanks.
So, we're hearing that the shelling for Tal Afar has already begun. They've been liberating about a dozen villages nearby, the Iraqi Security Forces. We're also hearing that this has been led by Iraqis' 15th Division. And there are a lot of PMU involved.
Can you give us some more details about that operation? With Mosul, we were given the numbers, exactly who was going to be where. But with Tal Afar it's not quite been laid out yet. Can you give us details and tell us who the U.S. is going to be advising in that fight?
COL. WORK: Yeah, our focus, as well as the Iraqi Security Forces', whom we advise, their focus has been consolidating the gains within Mosul.
There's a lot of work to be done. I've highlighted several of those activities.
One, they need to continue to search for the remnants of ISIS damaged core within Mosul, continue to disrupt whatever remains in terms of his active fighter support and threats to the people. Need to continue to clear and render safe all of these explosives and weapons that ISIS brought in as it transformed a city that was once populated by families. It just really became a series of fighting positions populated by captives under ISIS.
A lot of work remains. And it's really naive to suggest that after three years of subjugation, domination, exploitation, by the so-called Islamic State, that there'll be a rapid transition.
There's a lot of work that remains. And the Iraqi Security Forces are bearing down on that now to ensure that there's a durable enough, a self-sufficient enough security, so that when the government of Iraq turns and starts to orient its focus toward its next objectives, it knows that it has got firm control of the security environment within Mosul.
It's an immense amount of effort, blood and treasure by the Iraqi Security Forces and the coalition, to liberate Mosul. And so, the focus right now is ensuring that those gains, which are still fragile in some areas, get locked down.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad, there's high-level discussions happening. And there's a series of activities to reorganize the forces, refit the forces, repair equipment.
There's also shaping operations. And there's always operations. The coalition's always attacking ISIS in depth. There's never not pressure on ISIS in Hawija, in Tal Afar, in any of the sanctuaries. There's always pressure.
That's one of the things the coalition brings, is reach, intelligence, precision lethal fires. Meanwhile, the government of Iraq is going through a decision-making process on how it wants to sequence the next operation, which forces will participate in the next operation.
And we have a saying in Task Force Falcon: They'll never have to wait for us. We're flexible, we're agile. Whatever they decide, wherever they decide to go, I'm confident that the very serious commanders that I work for will issue an order to Falcon to follow (inaudible) operation.
And our advisers will fall in quickly, because we've got these exceptional relationships built with so many of the partners that we'll move forward, and we'll help them attack.
Sir, just a heads-up, I think that there may be an issue with the communication. I was trying to interrupt earlier, and so there may be a mute button or something that's accidentally getting hit, or something. But I just wanted to make you aware, for future communications.
But I think what you were saying, as -- I mean, I'm not quite sure. So are you saying that there aren't forces massing and there -- there hasn't been an operation in Tal Afar? The Iraqis -- the Iraqi government has already announced that that is the next operation, and they're already giving us news and information about where they've liberated in that area and the shelling that they're doing.
So I'm a little confused. Is there, or is there not, a force already fighting ISIS in Tal Afar? And what is the U.S. involvement in that, and how many of those Popular Mobilization Units, those PMU, are taking part in that fight? Just in Tal Afar, not Mosul -- thank you.
COL. WORK: The Iraqi security forces are unambiguously focused, right now, on sinking their hold in Mosul, consolidating their gains and reorganizing themselves for the next operation. As I stated previously, there's always pressure on ISIS in all of its safe havens. Some of that is Iraqi security forces attacking into ISIS disruption zones and encroaching on his defenses. Some of that is coalition fires, or Iraqi security force fires, that are attacking the depths of ISIS defense. That's certainly occurring.
However, the security forces that we partner with are very much preparing for the future operations, still. The coalition, on the other hand, is very much always attacking ISIS in the width and depth of the areas it occupies, to try and set conditions so that the Iraqi security forces can always dominate when they choose to attack its defenses.
CAPT. DAVIS: Kasim Ileri from Anadolu News Agency.
Q: Hi, Colonel.
There are reports coming out of Mosul claiming that there are -- there are some conflicts between Hashd -- Shia Hashd al-Shaabi and Sunni Nineveh Guards. Can you confirm, or is there -- can you just update us about the picture there between the Shia militias and the Sunni militias?
COL. WORK: Yeah, our focus is helping the Iraqi security forces provide security and safety for the people. And it's naive to suggest that, after three years of brutal rule by ISIS, a malevolent energy that promised paradise to angry people, but gave them nothing but poverty and privation, gave them nothing but taxation, 7th Century justice -- that, coming out of the other end of the high-intensity operations, that there wouldn't be a transition period.
And so Mosul is -- still remains complicated. It's been through a lot over the past three years. ISIS has preyed -- been immensely brutal to the people. And so right now, there's a transition happening as the Iraqi Security Forces work towards security and the stability, and trying to set conditions for the government to extend its reach.
But if you look at the east side, the east side is thriving. There's 24 power stations on the east side alone. 17 of them are already in operation. Just six months removed from high-intensity ground combat. There's nine water treatment plants on the east side. Four of them are already delivering water to the people of Mosul, less than six months removed from high-intensity ground combat. That's extraordinary.
On the west side, and I see it with my own eyes, when you drive in an area that they call the Baghdad Road -- the locals call it the Baghdad Highway. If it's lunch time and you want a snow cone because it's hot, go buy yourself one. This is the west side. This is an area that was liberated in March.
On the west side, if you need some new tires for your car or your tractor, in an area that was liberated in April, go buy yourself some. On the west side, in an area that was liberated as recently as May, if you need some toys for your children, or you want to have a cup of chai, or you want to flag down a taxi so you can move over to the east side because it's finally connected again since May -- flag down a taxi.
So, of course, there's challenges. And the people of Iraq need to come together and the people of Mosul need to cooperate and coordinate this. But the Iraqi Security Forces are working hard day and night. And we're helping them to establish a security that's durable, that allows the government and the international community to extend its reach, deliver political goods, deliver essential services, but, of course, there's challenges.
It's naive to suggest that there wouldn't be. It's unrealistic to expect it to happen quickly, it's a process. And the Iraqis are leading that process.
Q: So you confirm that there are some skirmishes between the Nineveh Guards and the Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias?
COL. WORK: We don't have any coordination, any relationship with, nor do we support, in any way, Popular Mobilized Forces that's the Government of Iraq's sovereignty decision. We work with the Federal Police, the Counter Terrorism Services, and Iraqi Army.
And we're helping them expand their search on the west side to establish security by rendering safe all these explosives that the scourge of ISIS left behind. Helping them reconnect the east side to the west side socially. Helping them to allow the Government of Iraq and the international community to reach in to the city and help the city start to repair.
And despite all the challenges, these people are extraordinarily resilient. The people of Mosul can absorb a blow, repair themselves, and get back to living their lives. I see it with my own eyes.
On the east side, recently, despite any of the challenges, I drank chai there three days ago on the east side with no body armor, with no helmet, right across the street from Mosul University. And I drank chai with locals who told us how great it was to finally be liberated from the scourge and the predation by this, so-called caliphate.
If you look at the west side, the west side is fully liberated. The government of Iraq is in control again. And that's extraordinary, and the Iraqi security forces deserve great credit.
We congratulate our partners for working so hard for nine months to liberate this city. But, of course, there's going to be challenges, the Iraqi's are acutely aware of that.
Q: You've outlined that the challenges being faced in Mosul still and kind of how high they are, I just had a quick question. So, obviously they're a lot of coalition advisers participated, who are advising and assisting the fight for Mosul.
Has there been any change in the number of coalition advisers working with Iraqi security forces in Mosul? Has that been drawn down at all, or given all the challenges that you've outlined, have they kept the same number of advisers in place?
COL. WORK: Well, I'll provide some perspective first. The challenges that exist today in Mosul, pale in comparison to the challenges of October 17, 2016, when this so-called Islamic state was firmly in control of Mosul.
The city the size of Philadelphia, Iraqi's second largest city and the capital of the so-called caliphate, here in Iraq. These challenges of today don't even compare to what it used to be.
The Iraqi security forces driven ISIS into the ground or into the Tigris, but they've dominated them and we've helped them.
So now, we're at a point of transition and it's a good thing, it's what victory feels like. There's a transition after you win, and this isn't the kind of win that ends immediately, there's no surrender.
It's ISIS. ISIS knows nothing except eternal expansion -- wars of conquest. Zero accommodation for anybody who doesn't share it's declared loyalty, there's no surrenders. In all military operation are some commendation of offense, defense and stability. Often times with all three types of activities happening at the same time.
And so, we have a transition right now between the Iraqi security forces. Dominate in Mosul in transition from high intensity offense, dial that back a little bit.
Move to defense, which is already been occurring all over the east side, which is already been occurring in many places in the west side, to protect critical infrastructure and population centers in a greater move toward stability. The search for the remnants of ISIS damaged core.
The search for all these weapon caches that ISIS littered this city with -- this is the natural order of things. After three years of this evil reign by ISIS in Mosul, this is what the victory feels like.
There's a lot of work to be done and the Iraqi security forces are out there doing it, and we're advising them and we're assisting them.
As far as our advising network, it's always been agile, it's always been capable and it's always been flexible enough to keep up with the decisive operation, and will continue to do so. I don't want to talk about capacity, any specific capabilities, but I assure you, no matter what the Iraqis decide to do, no matter where they decide to go next, and you highlighted a couple options, but whatever they choose to do, our advisor network, this coalition, will move fast, and we'll be there to help them attack ISIS, and we'll be there to help them dominate Isis, our common enemy.
CAPT. DAVIS: Tara Copp from Stars and Stripes.
Q: Actually Military Times.
CAPT. DAVIS: Those are Military Times. Congratulations on the new job. Yes, Tara Copp now working for Military Times, thank you.
Q: Thanks Colonel, I have a specific question about Rawa. The last couple of air strike reports out from CENTCOM have noted a kind of an uptick in air strikes there, and then today's said that a UAV was hit and I was wondering if you could tell us whether that was a drone hit by U.S. aircraft or if it was a smaller drone that was hit by artillery on the ground, anything, any sort of details on that would be appreciated.
COL. WORK: Well, my narrow focus, and our specific mission, really the scope of it, is to help the Iraqi security forces, the ground forces, that are operating in Mosul, providing security in middle of province today helping them sink in their defense to Mosul to protect the people and protect the key infrastructure, key population centers.
You know really that is my focus as the commander of this portion of the advisor network. Now, certainly, Mosul is just one operation in a much broader campaign. And the government of Iraq attacks the enemy in depth, but the coalition certainly does.
And there's no doubt in my mind, that when the enemy exposes himself, and it's militarily necessary, the coalition is going to attack him, wherever he is, whenever we find him.
CAPT. DAVIS: Anyone else?
Colonel Work, we thank you very much for your time today and ladies and gentlemen we thank you very much.
COL. WORK: OK, thank you.