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DoD Transcripts

TRANSCRIPT | Aug. 14, 2018

Department Of Defense Press Briefing By General Gedney and Colonel Ryan Via Teleconference From Baghdad, Iraq

EDITOR’S NOTE: There was an error in the briefing.  The record has been corrected to reflect that U.S. and Turkish Forces are conducting coordinated, independent patrols along the demarcation line outside Manbij.  We apologize for the mistake.

STAFF:  Good morning.  We'll begin with a -- with a quick communications check.  Sir, can you hear me?


STAFF:  This brief should last approximately 45 minutes.  Today, Colonel Sean Ryan, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, will provide an update, and then Major General Felix Gedney, deputy commander for strategy and support, will be available to answer your questions.

Colonel Ryan, the floor is yours.

COL. RYAN:  Good morning.  Today, I will provide a brief update on operations and stabilization efforts in Iraq and Syria.  Major General Gedney, who's been travelling through both countries all week, will be on hand to answer your questions at the end of my opening statement.

In Iraq, operations continue to secure areas across the country, as Iraq security forces locate, identify and destroying ISIS remnants.  Last week alone, ISIS operate -- operations across Iraq have resulted in the arrest of more than 50 suspected terrorists, and the removal of 500 pounds of improvised explosive devices.

In Anbar, the 10th Iraqi Army Division completed the second phase of a security sweep through the province's desert areas.  In the Hamrin Mountains, the Iraqi Federal Police continued clearance operations that resulted in dozens of ISIS fighters killed and hideouts destroyed.  Additionally, the federal police also secured the road between Hawija and Samarra in order to prevent malign actors from disabling the energy infrastructure that is the lifeline to the residents in the area.  The ISF Engineering Corps also cleaned the main road between Salahuddin and Samarra of IEDs, making travel safer between the two cities.

Finally, the government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government have agreed to reopen the Erbil-Kirkuk road as soon as possible, establishing the locations and authorities for checkpoints along the road.

While ongoing security operations continue to protect Iraqi citizens, stabilization efforts give them hope for a better future and a lasting peace.

In the Baghdad area, the ISF established a central service coordination cells, a program designed to use military resources to enable local communities to restore basic infrastructure and services.  Initial efforts by the coordination cells include trash collection, road openings, maintenance of water facilities.

Finally, in Anbar, the ISF helped repatriate almost 400 families, ensuring that they had a secure means of traveling back to their homes.

Moving on to Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces continue to prepare for the final assault on ISIS in the Hajin area, while securing liberated areas.  In the Middle Euphrates Valley, the SDF is reinforcing checkpoints and refining blocking positions ahead of clearance operations in Hajin.

In the past few weeks, there has been a constant stream of civilians fleeing the town ahead of the operations.  The SDF has provided safe passage for these civilians, while setting up checkpoints to thoroughly vet all outgoing civilians, and ensure ISIS is not taking advantage of the exodus.  Some ISIS have already been caught trying to challenge the military.

In At-Tanf, our partner forces successfully captured seven smugglers attempting to provide safe passage for five ISIS fighters.  This operation allowed the arrest of 25 ISIS fighters last month, further demonstrating the success of our partner forces in securing that area.

In Raqqa, the internal security forces have destroyed more than 30 caches containing 500 pounds of explosives discovered during the clearance operations in the past weeks.  The RISF continues to act on tips from local citizens on discovered IEDs, signaling the growing confidence of local residents on their security forces, and the RISF's increasing counter-IED capabilities.

Finally, in detention centers across northeast Syria, the SDF efforts to repair infrastructures is ongoing and almost complete.  In Hasakah, the SDF recently graduated more than 40 new prison guards.

Much like our partners in Iraq, local governments across northwestern Syria continue to work within the resources and capabilities to enhance the quality of life for Syrians in liberated areas.  The Raqqa Civil Council helped deliver more than 850 student kits, 1,000 desks and 20,000 backpacks for students returning to school next month.  Additionally, 200 new teachers are being trained for the start of the new year.

In the MERV, the Deir ez-Zor Civil Council established local councils in recently liberated villages.  Besides being potent (inaudible) of their liberation from ISIS, local councils enable local governments capacity to delivery to support residents and ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS ideology.

In Manbij, the electric company installed a new power grid to the eastern part of the city, moving them closer to having electricity 24 hours a day.  Some of the areas only recently began life without facing the daily terror of ISIS in their neighborhoods.  And some children are returning to school for the first time in over five years.

The ISIS problem is far from over and there's still a lot of work to be done, both militarily and on civilization stabilization efforts in both countries.  Make no mistake:  The coalition is not talking victory or taking our foot off the gas in working with our partners.  However, these instances demonstrate our partner forces have been making great strides in defeating ISIS, protecting the populations, while enabling stabilization efforts, making better for the civilians they have liberated.  But it takes time and resources.

We cannot emphasize enough that the threat of losing the gains we have made is real, especially if we are not able to give the people a viable alternative to the ISIS problem.  We continue to call on the international community to step up and ensure that conditions that gave rise to ISIS no longer exist in both Syria and Iraq.

I will now pass on the podium to Major General Gedney, who will answer your questions.  Thank you.



So good morning, I'll now answer any questions that you may have.

STAFF:  For all questions, please provide your full name and agency prior to asking your questions.  All called on will have an opportunity to ask a question and one follow-up.


Q:  You want to start with Lita?

STAFF:  Lita?

Q:  Thank you.

General, two -- two things.

One, can you bring us up to date on Manbij and whether or not the patrols there -- the U.S. and the Turkish patrols are coordinating their patrols now or if -- if they are cooperating, if they're doing joint patrols?  Can you bring us up to date on that?

And then, I have a follow-up on the detention center.

GEN. GEDNEY:  Yes, of course.

So, the situation in Manbij is that the [U.S.] and -- and Turkish forces have been conducting independent coordinated patrols along the borders of Manbij and these have been very successful.  And that's become a routine now. NOTE: U.S. and Turkish Forces are conducting coordinated, independent patrols along the demarcation line outside Manbij.

Training will soon commence for joint patrolling.  That'll start very soon, and we'll move to do joint patrolling as soon as we are ready and trained for it.

Q:  On the detention centers, Colonel Ryan mentioned that 40 have graduated.  Can you tell us how much of the detention center security, et cetera, is being performed by the U.S., and how many total guards and other support people do the -- the Syrians actually have there?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, I don't have any detail on the exact numbers of -- of guards that are in those detention centers.  I -- it's public knowledge that there are a number of detention centers that hold around 600 foreign terrorist fighters, as well as -- as Syrian fighters, from around 40 different countries.

And our work in supporting that detention capability has been to ensure that the SDF detention capability is appropriate to secure and hold those detainees.

Q:  Well, is the U.S. doing the bulk of it right now?

GEN. GEDNEY:  I'm sorry, could you repeat the question?  I didn't -- didn't hear what the question was.

Q:  Is the U.S. doing the bulk of the security and other operations at the detention facilities right now?

GEN. GEDNEY:  I think I caught the beginning of that.

That -- that detention is being provided by Syrian Democratic Forces and forces from northern Syria.

STAFF:  Tom?

Q:  General, it's Tom Bowman with NPR.

I wondered if you could talk a little bit about this stabilization effort in northeast Syria.

We've been told the coalition will be training about 30,000 local security forces.  How many have been trained so far?  And we've been told it would be well into next year before all are trained.

GEN. GEDNEY:  Yes, of course.

So, following liberation, as I've said before, we -- we have to concentrate on maintaining the security that has been provided, and then that allows the civilian-led stabilization to take place.

Q:  (Inaudible).

GEN. GEDNEY:  (Off mic) by locally generated security forces -- more like a police force, but not specifically trained as police.

STAFF:  Excuse me, sir.  Could you go back to the beginning of that answer?  We -- we -- we lost you right as you began the answer.

GEN. GEDNEY:  Of course.

So, following liberation, the -- you've heard me talk before, that the important things are securing the areas liberated, and that provides the peace and stability for stabilization -- the civilian-led stabilization to take place.

That security, sometimes known as MaT security, is being initially provided by the Syrian Democratic Forces, but will increasingly be provided by intel and security forces which the coalition will help to train.

Q:  Right, my -- my question was about the number.  Is the 30,000 number correct?  How many have you trained to date and how long will it take ballpark?  Clearly well into next year we've been told.

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to detail it -- detail those numbers.  We'll train sufficient to maintain the peace and security that we've gained.  And we believe that will take some time after liberation that we'll need to be continually committed to that task.

STAFF:  Jeff?

Q:  Thank you.  General, Jeff Schogol with Task & Purpose.

The United Nations estimates there are between 20,000 and 30,000 ISIS fighters still in Iraq and Syria.  I wanted to see if that figure tracks with coalition estimates.

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, as I've said, numbers are always very difficult.  That number seems a little bit high, and I think we'd need to look at the methodology and the data on which that estimation is based.

What -- what I can tell you is, though, we do know that ISIS continues to be a threat post-liberation, which is why we need to maintain our focus on ensuring the security within Iraq and Syria.

Q:  If I could follow up, I understand numbers are difficult.  They are, unfortunately, our business.  How many fighters would you say are in Iraq and Syria right now?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, as I've said, I'm not going to speculate.

We know there are over a thousand, which is our initial problem, in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.  We also know that there are some ISIS fighters, and the threat remains throughout Iraq and Syria.  And we need to make sure that we do enough to ensure the security and stability post-liberation.

STAFF:  Thank you.


Q:  Hi, General.  Thank you for doing this.  Ryan Browne with CNN.

I just wanted to follow up on the issue of detention.

There is -- you've mentioned that several fighters have been captured in the At-Tanf area, ISIS fighters and smugglers, as well as 25 last month.

Where are they being detained?  Are they -- do they have the detentions resources there in that deconfliction area around At-Tanf to hold them for an extended period of time or are they being transferred elsewhere?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, it's a very good point.

And, of course, those detentions highlight both the professionalism and expertise of our partner force around that camp as well as the importance of At-Tanf in order to interdict ISIS movements.

In the short-term, as those detainees are being held by the -- (inaudible), we're working with our partner force to ensure appropriate long-term detention for those individuals.

Q:  Is there any concern that they will not be able to house them for an extended period of time?  Or are you comfortable with the level of detention as it is now?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, as I say, in the short-term, we are comfortable with they're being held appropriately, and we're looking at the long-term options for how they will be detained in the long-term.

STAFF:  Tom?

Q:  All right.  Hello General.  I'm Tom Squitieri with Talk Media News.

In an earlier briefing by you, sir, and one of your colleagues in regards to the civilians who are going to be part of Operation Roundup, you said civilians are -- Colonel Ryan said a lot of civilians already leaving from that area.

I know you don't want to talk about numbers, but if you can kind of characterize the flow of civilians out of that area, is it -- it seems -- it sounds like it's higher than what you guys thought, because you thought that perhaps ISIS would keep some civilians back as a shield against the attack.  Could you kind of quantify and qualify those numbers of civilians, please?

Thank you.

GEN. GEDNEY:  I can certainly characterize the situation for you.

So, we have seen the movement of some civilian convoys, up to hundreds of people in convoys, moving out of the ISIS-held area in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.  The Syrian Democratic Forces have take great care to ensure that they can enable the free movement of those non-combatants and civilians out of that area.

It is still relatively small numbers compared to the number of civilians we think are still in the area.  And we believe that is because ISIS are holding them there, and not allowing them to leave.

And at the same time as allowing them to leave, we've taken great care of how the Syrian Democratic Forces are, to ensure we properly screen them to make sure that ISIS fighters aren't able to escape with that civilian traffic.  And they have detained some ISIS fighters in those movements of personnel.

STAFF:  Laurie?

Q:  Laurie Mylroie, Kurdistan 24.  Thank you so very much for this.

You visited Erbil recently.  What was your purpose and what was your impression?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Could you repeat the question, ma'am?  I'm -- I'm -- I'm struggling to hear what it was.

Q:  OK.

You recently visited Erbil.  What was the purpose of your visit to Erbil and what was your impression of the situation there and the Peshmerga?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Of course.

So, I was in Erbil last week.  The coalition maintains a training presence across all of Iraq, and while I was there I was visiting both the coalition forces as well as some of the KIG representatives.

My impression, first of all on the coalition side, is of coalition forces doing a remarkable job helping train our partner forces.

And probably more important I think to your point is that I sense a growing cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil and certainly in terms of their security forces.  And Colonel Ryan highlighted the opening of the road and the -- (inaudible) -- checkpoint, which is the -- the latest in a series of very encouraging signs of the growing cooperation between Erbil and Baghdad.

Q:  And follow up.  The Hashd al-Shaabi recently announced some sort of movement or re-deployment in Nineveh Province.  Could you explain what that was and was it coordinated with the coalition?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, it was coordinated with the Joint Operational Command Iraq.  It's an Iraqi plan.  And we're absolutely aware of the JOC-I, as we call it, plan.  And -- which is, first of all, to move some of those Hashd al-Shaabi units out of Mosul, so that other internal security forces from the ISF and the police and the army can secure the city.  And secondly, to move those -- some of those PMF units from the border region so that border guard forces and Iraqi Army can secure the border.

And again, that's a further encouraging sign of normalization.  The border guard forces that the coalition have helped to train are the appropriate forces to secure the borders of Iraq.

STAFF:  Tara?

Q:  Thank you, sir.  Tara Copp, Military Times.

I wanted to get back to two points you raised.

In the MERV, where there's approximately a thousand ISIS fighters remaining, that's a number we've heard pretty consistently over the last, probably, half a year, maybe a year.

As -- so I wanted to know how the fighters are getting replenished.  Are you still seeing foreign fighters cross into Syria?  Has that traffic flow been able to be stopped?  If not, who else is reconstituting this force that seems to have been holding at a thousand for quite a while now?

GEN. GEDNEY:  It -- this -- it's very difficult to hear the question, ma'am.  I'm really sorry.  Could you -- could you repeat it for me, please?

Q:  Sure.  Thank you.  Is this better?  Is this -- is it -- thank you, is this better?

GEN. GEDNEY:  That's much better.

Q:  Good.

So, my question was, you pointed out that there's about a thousand ISIS fighters remaining in the MERV, but that's a figure that we've heard for months.  And so I wanted to know how those forces are getting reconstituted.

Are they still being able to cross into Syria?  And if not, where are those fighters coming from?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, as -- as I've said, numbers are always very difficult.  And -- and we know that there -- my comment was there's over a thousand we know of, and I'm not going to speculate on the numbers.  We'll find out when we get there and we will deal with them all.

In terms of the movement of fighters, there is some movement of fighters and -- and those elements of ISIS in Syria continue to pose a threat to Iraq.  And that movement happens through historic smuggling routes, which is why the Iraqi Security Forces have been taking such a keen focus on securing their border, as they did through the phase two of Operational Roundup in the Dashisha area.

Q:  So, for most ISIS fighters going into Syria, you're seeing them enter through Iraq?

GEN. GEDNEY:  No, I wouldn't say most, ma'am.

I think there is a small movement.  Most of the fighters left east of the Euphrates in Syria are in the Hajin area, and we will deal with them in the third phase of Operation Roundup.

Q:  OK, thank you.

My -- my second question is on the stabilization force, the police force, civilian.  What will be the plan for training that force?  Will it follow the model of Iraq, where there were -- you know, there are definite training centers for these forces?  Where -- will they be trained in Syria?  Will they be brought into Iraq to use those existing facilities?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, the -- the force that Colonel Ryan spoke of was in north Baghdad.  And it's Iraqi Security Forces assisting in the stabilization efforts in north Baghdad.  And that force needs no training.  The Iraqi Security Forces are very good at this.  And they -- like us, they're increasingly focused on how we support the civilian-led stabilization efforts in Iraq.

In Syria, we will continue to provide support to those civilian stabilization actors, particularly from the international community, because right now, the stabilization efforts, giving the population hope that their best future lies with their legitimate governance rather than ISIS, is absolutely critical to the defeat and the lasting defeat of ISIS.

Q:  Ken Ward with Fox News.

My first question is:  What does -- what are you planning to do with some of the American people that are detained by the Syrian Defense Force?  Is that -- are you exploring options such as taking them to Gitmo or trying them in American courts?  What is currently the -- the plan in that regard?  And how many do you think you all have as of right now?

GEN. GEDNEY:  You're asking a British -- a British commander from theater about U.S. policy, and I -- I don't have an answer to that, I'm afraid.

But what I can say is that all of the detainees that are being held by the SDF are currently being appropriately detained.  And we as a coalition are calling on all nations to ensure we have a long-term solution to ensure that those foreign terrorist fighters from their countries don't become a threat again.

Q:  I'd like to follow up just to see, do you know how many Americans are detained by the Syrian Defense Forces right now, or the -- or British citizens as of right now?

GEN. GEDNEY:  We have information on nationalities.  What I can tell you is they're from over 40 nations, and it's around 600 foreign terrorist fighters currently being held.

Q:  Sir, Jennifer Griffin from Fox News.

I'd like to follow up on Tara Copp's question.  How -- how many foreign fighters are you seeing come into Syria or Iraq, and from what countries?  And are you seeing foreign fighters from Afghanistan showing up on the battlefield in Syria, or in Iraq?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, at the moment, we've seen the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq reduced hugely.  And -- and I guess that's because they know they're backing the losing side.

The movement of terrorist fighters -- foreign terrorist fighters around the battlespace is also not that large.  And it's much more difficult for them to blend into the -- the civilian population, particularly those Europeans, for example.  And so we believe that the great concentration of them that remain sits in that area down the Middle Euphrates River Valley that we will soon be dealing with.

Q:  Are there new foreign fighters coming into the battlespace?  And what countries are they coming from?

GEN. GEDNEY:  No, we're not aware of new foreign fighters coming into the battlespace at the moment.

Q:  Thank you.  Lara Seligman, Foreign Policy.  Two questions.

First of all, can you give us an update on when you expect the final phase of Operation Roundup to begin?

And then also, on the foreign fighters, what is going to happen to these foreign fighters after, I guess, ISIS is defeated?  Are -- do you have the cooperation of their home countries?  Just what -- what is the plan for them going forward?

GEN. GEDNEY:  I didn't hear clearly the second part.

In terms of when Phase Three of Op Roundup will begin, you wouldn't expect me to give away operational details.  What I can tell you is that the Syrian Democratic Forces and the coalition are preparing now, and the operation will begin very soon.

Could you repeat the second part of your question, please?

Q:  Yes, thank you.

The -- my second question is just following up on the foreign fighters.  What is the plan for what's going to happen to these foreign fighters after -- after they're captured, after ISIS is defeated?  Do you have the cooperation of their home countries, or are they going to be transported back there?  What's going to happen to them?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, we have great cooperation with all of the nations from the global coalition, who, as you know, are committed to the defeat of ISIS.

Well, I -- I can't tell you what the long-term solution is.  That's -- that's a -- an issue for national capitals.  What I can say is that the coalition just wants to ensure that those individuals that are currently being held, that Syrian Democratic Force went to great risk to take off the battlefields, we need to make sure that those individuals don't become a threat again.

Q:  Hello, sir.  Sylvie Lanteaume from AFP.

With the ongoing diplomatic spat between Turkey and U.S., I wanted to know if you see any change in your relations with the Turkish military in -- in Incirlik, and if you see any change in the use of Incirlik for the operations.

GEN. GEDNEY:  No, we've seen no change in our relationship with our Turkish allies.

And I'd just remind you that Turkey is a very important member of the global coalition of 70 nations.  They're a troop-contributing nation into this military coalition, and they are a valuable NATO ally, as well as a critical regional ally.

There are things going on at the strategic level, but here at the operational level and tactical level, we've seen no change in our professional working relationship.

Q:  Thank you.

Q:  Thank you.  I'm -- I'm Bryan Bowman with the Defense Post.

Going back to some of the ISIS fighters that were recently captured near At-Tanf by MaT forces, have coalition forces had the opportunity to question those fighters?  And if so, do you know if any of them are foreign fighters?

GEN. GEDNEY:  So, I'm not aware of any of them being foreign fighters.  And the -- those fighters are currently being held by the MaT.

Q:  And do you have any idea as to how those suspected of being ISIS fighters were identified as such by MaT?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, the -- the fighters that were identified by the MaT, we're pretty confident that they've confirmed that they are indeed enemy.  And indeed, they see quite a flow of ISIS through that area, and are doing a great job at interdicting them.

Q:  Thank you, General.  This is Kristina Wong from Breitbart News.

I wanted to ask, what -- what is the role of U.S. forces in regard to stabilization in Iraq?  Are they just providing security, or are they participating in some of the trash collection and other stabilization activities?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, I can ask for -- answer for the coalition forces.  Of course, there are a large number of U.S. forces in the coalition, as the -- as the largest and lead nation.

So our -- our role in stabilization is to ensure that we provide all the support we can to those civilian agencies and organizations that lead the stabilization effort.

Now, in the -- in the most part, that involves us working with our partner forces from the Iraqi Security Force, or the Syrian Democratic Force, or internal security forces in -- in order to ensure that there's appropriate security for those civilian stabilization actors to do their job.

Q:  Thank you.

And just to follow up, who is leading -- who -- who -- who's leading the stabilization efforts in Iraq and -- and Syria?  Who is in charge of those efforts?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, it's a -- it's a very complicated picture, and there is a -- a huge enterprise of international community actors.

And very much in -- in Iraq, it's the United Nations Development Program, the UNDP.  And we work most closely with them to ensure they have everything they need to coordinate the international effort.

And in -- in Syria, there a few nations that have representatives there, and there's a large number of non-governmental organizations that are also providing stabilization support in northeast Syria.

Q:  Thank you for doing this, General.  Wyatt Goolsby with EWTN.

I wanted to follow up on the question about the flow of ISIS fighters.  And we've mentioned Afghanistan before, but I want to follow up on that, because the United Nations report says ISIS maintains a significant affiliate in Afghanistan.  So I'm wondering if the coalition there in Syria and Iraq coordinate with coalition, whether it's American and British counterparts in Afghanistan, to try to reduce that flow, or minimize -- or what's been kind of going on that, especially within the last couple of years?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well, the simple answer to your question is yes, we absolutely coordinate.

But the detailed answer, I think I'd have to refer to our higher command, Central -- U.S. Central Command in Tampa, because that's the level at which that coordination occurs.  And our focus is absolutely, solely on defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Q:  Thank you.

Q:  Afternoon, sir.  Thomas Gibbons, and I'm from The New York Times.

I'm asking you a question about a report last week from Task & Purpose.  Now I understand it has to do with U.S. forces in Syria, but – can you speak for the coalition as well.  Reports of a green-on-blue attack, where an American Marine was shot by a Syrian Democratic Force member.

Just wondering if there are any other incidents like that that have happened to the coalition where a partner force has wounded or fired upon a -- you know, a coalition force member.

GEN. GEDNEY:  No.  And thank you for the question.

As I stand here, I can think of no other incident such as that in this AOR, certainly while I've been the deputy commander.  This tragic incident was an anomaly, and is not representative of the -- of the excellent relationship we have with partner forces both in Iraq and Syria.

Q:  Thanks for that.

And have you changed the vetting process at all for anyone who joins the SDF after that incident or no?

GEN. GEDNEY:  No, and I don't think we needed to.  We have a very effective vetting force.  And I don't think we fully understand the motives behind what happened, and I think most likely it was a tragic misunderstanding that led to the use of lethal force.

Q:  Thank you, General.  Eric Rowe with the -- (inaudible).

Hey, could you restate the forces that will be engaged in the joint patrols in Manbij?  And could you also go into some detail about what the training for the joint patrols will look like?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Yeah, of course.

So the -- the training for the joint patrols is exactly what you'd expect.  Two different forces need to ensure that they've done all of the necessary work-up training, they've gone through all of the potential actions they would take in a various number of scenarios, and they have exercised and understood the constraints on the use of force as they go through their operations.

That takes time.  It takes time as we deploy to any theater, and it's particularly difficult in the multinational environment, and -- and particularly in an area such as Manbij, which is a high-risk area on the front line between areas that are held and influenced by different forces.

And so, that training will start soon and then as soon as we're ready, but only when we're ready, will we start those joint patrols.

Q:  Who were those forces, again?  It was the Turkish forces and the -- I didn't catch the other one.

GEN. GEDNEY:  And I didn't hear your question.  If it was who's conducting those joint patrols, it's [U.S.] and Turkish forces. NOTE: U.S. and Turkish forces are conducting coordinated, independent patrols along the demarcation line outside Manbij.

Q:  OK.  Thank you.

STAFF:  We have time for just one more question.

Q:  Thank you, General.  Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose again.

I just wanted to follow up on my colleague from The New York Times' question.  You called the February incident in which a Marine was shot by an SDF fighter a tragic misunderstanding.  Can you elaborate?  Was the SDF fighter confused?  Did he believe that the Marine was an enemy?

GEN. GEDNEY:  Well -- well, the truth is we can't be sure.

So, we know the mechanics of what happened, but we don't know the motives of what happened.  And it's entirely likely that the incident was sparked by a negligent discharge at a point where there was high tension anyway.

You know, we in the military, on combat operations, are always at high tension, and there's an element of friction that professional -- professional forces have learned to deal with.  And in this case, it seems like there may have been some form of tragic misunderstanding which led to the actions and the loss of life.

Q:  (inaudible) -- my last question.

The -- the Marine who shot this SDF fighter, his award citation lists several times that he removed a threat, that he acted appropriately, that this was a shooter.  Why -- that seems to contradict what you just said.  Can you clarify the situation?

GEN. GEDNEY:  No, not at all.

So, the Marine in question responded very quickly to what he considered was a threat, and he did that in an exceptional way for which he was rewarded.

STAFF:  Thank you all, but that's all the time we have for your questions.

Sir, do you have any final words for those here?

GEN. GEDNEY:  I'd just like to say thank you.  Thank you to all of you for your reporting.

I've been in this theater now for a year and much progress has been made, but we all know there's still a lot more to be done to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS.

Thank you.

STAFF:  Sir, thank you and have a great day.

GEN. GEDNEY:  And you.