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Deputy Special Presidential Envoy Terry Wolff and Coalition (Military) Spokesperson Ryan Dillon

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March 08, 2018

 

Female Speaker: Hi, I am Victoria from News Corp Australia. You mentioned that there was a turning point in 2017, and I would just wondering if you could elaborate a little bit on what you put that down to and how you expect to tackle the threat as it moves to other countries around the world?

Terry Wolff: I would say in ___ Iraq, in Syria there were a couple of things that happened. We spent the second half of 2016 really working with the government of Iraq and the Iraqi security forces. He can talk more about that for the ___ fight for Mosul. The Iraqis have just liberated Ramadi and they were preparing for Mosul, and what happened was we saw the Iraqis inside from the central government and the Iraqi-Kurdish region come together in ways that we thought were necessary to prepare for the liberation of Mosul, and as you remember it started in the fall of 2016, but Eastern Mosul was liberated in January, but we had set the conditions within West Mosul.

At the same time in fall of 2016 Raqqa was been isolated. The companion piece of the military operation were a series of activities, that I described in ___ assistance, demining and stabilization. We are able to work with UNDP and really industrialize the funny facility for stabilization, and we had learned a series of lessons from not only Tikrit, but what had happened in Al Anbar, particularly in Ramadi and Fallujah regarding what needed to happen. And we anticipated that the number of IDPs generate from Mosul could be as low as 300,000, which pegs the international humanitarian assistance community in the red up to 1 million. How do you do with 1 million IDPs?

So, but what occurred was the government of Iraq partnered with the UNDP and the international community continued to fund efforts so that we could expand IDP camps and you could deal with this, but simultaneously the Iraqi ministries under the leadership of the chief of staff and the council of ministers ___ partnered with lease and ran an executive board of directors that began to lay the plans necessary to do this.

So, we often talk about a buy with and through effort and it was truly the case where the government of Iraq partnered with everyone else to be able to do with this humanitarian assistance challenge that we knew is coming. The same thing is starting to happen now on the reconstruction side of the effort. So, what we have seen is that we have grown in capability and capacity and by the middle of 2016 we knew it had to be done as we were –as we saw the campaign unfold and we move forward, so was quite apparent to us what had to happen but we had to work with all the parties to bring them together in a coherent manner.

Ryan Dillon: I would just add. The only thing I would add on that is that I saw myself as we saw the Iraqi security forces achieved a victory in Mosul. We saw immediately after that their level of confidence and their ability to work with one another, so you are talking about the Peshmerga, you are talking about the ___ forces, you are talking about all elements the Iraqi security forces, and it was almost after you saw Mosul and the Iraqi security forces liberate Mosul the following operations were either, you saw, number one their ability to conduct these operations in dominate against Daesh, but at the same time we also saw Daesh in many ways giving up, and that was not happening in Mosul, they were fighting till the very end of Mosul, but when you moved out to Raqqa, when you moved to Fallujah, when you move to Al Anbar you saw them starting to quit, turn themselves in, surrender. So, it was a boost of confidence for the Iraqi security forces while at the same time Daesh definitely went in the opposite direction.

Female Speaker: Hi, ___ BBC World Service. Let me go back a little bit. I have a question concerning the events on the 7th of February ___ where coalition including U.S. forces was involved with a incident with pro-Assad forces. So, could you please explain who controls that territory now and what happened to the bodies of those killed during that fight? Were they taken by the pro-Assad squad or were they taken by the American side? How did that influence to your relations with your Russian colleagues?

Ryan Dillon: Okay, so just to bring it back, so on February 7th, ___ of February 7th and February 8th. We as a Syrian democratic forces and the coalition saw a build up of forces on the eastern side of the Euphrates river and that Euphrates river has been traditional deconfliction line between where our partners USDF operate and where the pro regime and the Syrian forces operate. We had communicated through the deconfliction line with the Russians, as we have throughout the course of the last several months and even going into years but we let them know of this build up and as we anticipated some type of attack being planned, as soon as the attack went off. There was an unprovoked attack on the Syrian Democratic forces where we had coalition members and we in defending ourselves, conducted strikes and eliminated that threat. What happened after was before, during and after, we maintained that communication with the Russians and they did have some elements that came over to retrieve the bodies. We still have assessed it as an enemy force that was pro-regime. We know that there are plenty of reports out there of who these elements were, but I will say that it is – number one is a distraction and number two from our fight against fighting ISIS, but I would say number two, is that our response would be the same regardless, because it is unprovoked attack and it was purely in self-defense.

Female Speaker: So they have their bodies?

Ryan Dillon: Yes. So the Syrian democratic forces, the United States, the coalition, we do not have those bodies okay.

Male Speaker: Rob ___ New York Times. The SDF ___ and so when they went to Afrin, what happened to the Arabs? Did they stay behind and fight without the YPG elements, or did some of them go to Afrin or – and are they a very effective force without the YPG and more experienced so on?

Ryan Dillon: So what you have is the as the SDF as in the whole of an organization about 57,000 strong are majority Arab, and the matter of fact the percentage of those who were fighting in the ___ river valley is about 80% Arab, 20% Kurdish. I will say that the majority of the SDF are Kurdish-led and so you do have local commanders that have left and have gone to Afrin. There have also been I understand reports that there are Arab fighters in the SDF who have also gone to Afrin, because they have said, “You helped me liberate where the areas where I am from and now in your time of need, I am going to also help you.” So there is I understand it to be not just the Kurdish elements of the SDF, but some others as well.

Male Speaker: ___ do you have, you’ve done assessment already ___ assessment to the number of ___ ISIS fighters who have returned to places like Europe ___ come across a number for that and also just wondered if you have an assessment on how strong or weak you’re see the ___ and anytime soon, thank you?

Terry Wolff: The foreign terrorist fighter flow is really of great concern and if over 40,000 foreign terrorists fighters went to Iraq and Syria, what nations and I say nations, and the coalition in general are trying to figure out is how many were killed in combat operations? How many remained in Iraq and Syria, could be several thousand. If they left, where did they go? Did they go home? Did they go to a third country? And that’s the big challenge and I put it out to everyone, it’s a challenge because that’s what – that’s what nations are trying to figure out now.

The first question is do you know how many left your country and many nations do. You’ve seen some studies by several independent think tanks, The Soufan Group and others have put out a number and they’ve done some, ___ back-of-the-envelope research. Intelligence communities have done the same thing and that information is getting shared, but the challenge we have is when you add the number of Iraqis and Syrians that joined ___ were part of Daesh. We have a number that probably is close, it’s above 40,000 obviously. It’s got Iraqis and Syrians in it, it may be 60, 80,000 or so.

So the challenge is what remains and what’s left. And so what we’re working through in the Foreign Terrorist Fighter working group is what do nations know about those numbers. So, the first question, ___ out a mythical number. If let’s just say out of Poland 200 foreign terrorist fighters left and I don’t think that is a number that is correct, but if 200 left then where are they? But equally important if 100 were killed in combat in the fight if think that is the number and 100 came home, where are the 100 that came home, and equally important was it illegal for you to go to Iraq and Syria and provide support to Daesh or not. I can’t answer that question. What we have tried to do is we have tried through UN Security Council Resolution 2178 and UN Security Council Resolution 2396 to encourage nations and now obligate nations to share information, to share biometrics information on foreign terrorist fighters, but also to out in place watch list that get shared internationally.

So, when I talk about the future of the global fight that is the future of the global fight. It is people populating the Interpol database. Right now there are 46,000 names in the Interpol database, but until recently there were only – there are under 10,000 names that can’t be allowed, it has to grow, and nations have to do what they say they are going to do and what they are obligated to do now.

So, the question in a roundabout way I am not answering your question, but the future of the coalition is trying to share – radically share information and intelligence in a way that makes sense, and because we have an expectation that if you know who your foreign terrorist fighters are you should be trying to figure out where they are, if you can’t account for them that is also helpful, but if they are home and you haven’t put laws in place then it strikes me that that is a national responsibility, and then equally important if there are foreign terrorist fighters that come home can you build the case in your court system to be able to do it appropriate.

Ryan Dillon: And I would just say that as a coalition to respond to your question about what are we doing about the Assad regime or our fighters against Daesh, but what I will say and it has been that from the beginning of the start of this combined joined task forces always been about defeating Daesh and designated areas in Iraq and Syria. What I will say is that if we look at where we were last year and you look at over the course of the last three years you had a Syrian government that was unwilling or unable to contain the threat that Daesh posed, and you just look at last year as an example we were still isolating Raqqa. Raqqa was still the so-called capital of their Caliphate. The areas south in the Deir ez-Zor area was still producing a lot of the resources that they were using to finance their operations. So, we have been able to take that away from which has had a trickledown effect on just about everything else that they have been able to use to conduct their operations, finance or operations and things of that sort.

Male Speaker: I am Naveed Sajjad from Aaj TV Pakistan. I am going to ask you who is providing them weapons and oil? Don’t you think it is a matter of trade instead of terrorism?

Ryan Dillon: You are talking about Daesh.

Male Speaker: Yeah.

Ryan Dillon: So, I would say is that you have a region that has been in conflict for a very long time, and there is a lot of –we can also say let’s look at when 2014 when the Iraqi army and security structure dissolved, they left behind a lot of those weapons that were then used by them for their operations here ___, but you can also say look at all of the banks and the resources that they took control of to then be able to finance their operations.

Terry Wolff: Let me add one point on money because the financing is grossly misunderstood. So, if you have a mythical $1 or £1 if you will, roughly 50% of Daesh’s funding came from taxes and extortion, because they tax everything. So, it is like living with a mob, they tax everything. So, if you make bread that gets taxed, if you are into ___ that get – ___ that gets taxed. 30% of what Daesh made came from oil and natural gas sales. Okay, now, who are they selling that to? The prevailing myth is that was being sold to Turkey, most of it was being sold to the regime. So, oil and natural gas in Deir ez-Zor province which funded a majority of what Daesh was doing was being sold to the regime.

Female Speaker: Syria?

Terry Wolff: Syria, to the Syrian regime. Why? You can look at the infrastructure in Syria how that gas and oil, gas, and natural gas flow, it flows from east to west and it goes to the regime because where are the oil producing areas, they are out in the east and where are the people in Syria, they are along the western spine. So, the reality of it is it had to move that way, very little move north

The other aspect is about 20% is missing. So maybe 10% from a ___ trades and selling, so again, if you want to go dig up ___, you had to get a permit from Daesh to go do it and then you had to give a percentage of the profits back to Daesh based on what you sold. So they are into everything. That’s a little separate from the weapons and the reason is just the ___ weapons, but the reality of it is with the shrinking of the territory that you’ve seen on the map that the Colonel briefed, what’s happened is, they have lost the ability to tax and extort because they have lost control of the millions of people that were under their daily control. And equally important they’ve lost control of the oil and natural gas, side of the house in Syria and the same thing in Iraq, that’s cut down their ability to derive 30% from gas and oil and natural gas.

Male Speaker: My name is Raza Syed.

Male Speaker: Go ahead.

Raza Syed: I am from Samaa TV, it’s a Pakistani channel. Do you have any idea of how many elements of Daesh channel command could have fled to Afghanistan or Libya or other places or – and what coalition has learned from this fight against Daesh after so many years?

Ryan Dillon: Well, I would say first of all that the answer is probably few, but again what we’re seeing is if you think about Daesh, Daesh isn’t new start-ups. What Daesh tends to do, is it tends to hijack existing movements, probably about 48 of them or so, and it convinces that group to hoist the Daesh Flag and it pledges allegiance to Baghdadi and Daesh Central. Now what does that allegiance get you? Well, sometimes it gets you a little bit of money. Sometimes it gets you some propaganda support and sometimes it gets you some leadership expertise if you need it, but I don’t think, this is a personal perspective, it doesn’t appear that a lot – a lot of Iraqi Sunni Arabs or Sunni Arabs from Eastern Syria have fled to ISL ___, but that doesn’t mean that there are efforts in Afghanistan for ISL ___ to co-opt former Taliban, to join their — to join their movement there and to show that they are more righteous and more violent than the Taliban can be and that’s what we’re seeing in interesting places in ISL ___, we are seeing it–- we saw it in Libya where insert it was a new start-up, but most other places it’s existing movements.

Female Speaker: ___ U.K. correspondent for both French and English ___ TV station and newly elected president of the Foreign Press Association. You alluded to it already about the sharing of intelligence and when you in your initial remarks, you were talking about changing tactics, can you tell us a little bit more about that? And just as a quick second one, can we therefore conclude and could you put any numbers on the fewer Western individuals who are turning up Iraq or Syria to do whatever it is they do?

Terry Wolff: Do you want to talk about evidence on the battlefield.

Ryan Dillon: Sure. So evidence on the battlefield and if I don’t hit it exactly what you’re talking about, when we do identify or find these Daesh fighters, we will use the information that we can garner from them to exploit the network and we will talk about whether it’s a foreign fighter network because they are all kind of operate in a way that are all tied together. We’ve seen that with the way that the drone network, the foreign terrorist fighter network, once you find the one person who is operating one and you get information, it illuminates that network and then you can start ripping it away and going after all those other elements. I don’t have that in front of…

Terry Wolff: Yeah and the other pieces and captured enemy material that’s been found on the battlefield, either captured in enemy material that is being found in conjunction with just normal military operations with our SDF Partner Forces or with the Iraqi security forces. One of the keys is not stamping secret on it, sharing information. So what you want is information to not be classified when it doesn’t have to be. So it can be shared and if it can be shared, then it can be put into law enforcement channels and it can be put into legal channels because what you want is if it’s a French citizen or an American citizen, you want to build – you want to build court case on him. You can’t do that if someone stamps secret on the piece of documentation, regardless of whether it’s secret or not and there is this tendency in military channels to do a lot of that. So the idea is to be very smart about it, recognize that this information has to be used in other places and in many cases it will have to be used in the legal proceeds. So, how do you be a little smarter about this? So, we have probably learned this over time, and it has just being smart and it is trying to tie together not only your military participants and these operations but law enforcement professionals all the way through this, and so that is what I call ___ and I describe this is radical information sharing. It is where you share information and you use it appropriately.

Female Speaker: Hello, thank you for the briefing. My name is ___ International TV. I have a few questions. Hopefully I will have the chance to talk to you after the briefing, so I am asking one of them right now. As we know Iran is not a partner in the coalition, but in several cases they help the U.S. and other forces in the international community to fight against – to fight ISIS, and just a couple of days ago Prince Mohammad Bin Salman who is now in London, he mentioned Iran and Turkey and the Islamis jihads groups as the new access of evil, so what is going to happen? Is Iran going to be a partner to help the global coalition to fight ISIS or what is the U.S. government strategy in this way like what is going to be the partnership with Iran and how Mohammad Bin Salman’s code like what you mentioned is going to affect that partnership?

Terry Wolff: I would say first of all his statement should stand for itself and you should ask the question of the Saudis, not of us, but I do acknowledge that the Iraqi Security Force, particularly the PMF in Iraq have received some assistance from Iran that is based on bilateral ties between Iraq and Iran, and in fact today the Iranian vice president is in Iran on a three-day visit with the minister of foreign affairs and a number of other ministers. Iraq shares a border with Iran, and so that just seems as to me like day to day sort of operations that occur, and we would expect – we would expect that activities with the PMF if you will, they will be governed by how Iraq wants to set that relationship moving into the future.

Ryan Dillon: I would just say as well Daesh knows no borders and we know that they are in discriminant on who it is that they conduct attacks against in Iran that it has been reception received attacks from Daesh as well, so they are a global threat.

Asad Ali: My name is Asad Ali and I am from Pakistani TV channel UK44. My question is – sorry, my voice ___. My question is Pakistan has been coalition partner with the U.S. long time, last ___, but U.S. government campaign to broke the Pakistani names on FATF, Financial Action Task Force and there is really disappointing for the Pakistani government. Do you really feel does Pakistan deserve this to improve its name on FATF and also there is Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is on U.K. visit. Any special inward from the U.S. government going to see or any sideline meetings with the Crown Prince regard this Daesh and Syria situation?

Terry Wolff: Answer your second question first, not that I know of it simply because I do believe the Crown Prince is going to the United States here shortly, so I know there will be a whole host of meetings in the United States, very similar to what have happened a year up and down the government. Your first question really I am the wrong guy to ask. I don’t work Pakistan on a daily basis, so there are others that can better answer your questions than I.

Ryan Dillon: And I am not one of them.

Male Speaker: Just to keep moving, any other questions?

Female Speaker: ___ London. How do you evaluate Iran’s role last year in liberating Iraq, and how do you different is that role now in Syria?

Ryan Dillon: Just as Mr. Wolff had said the Popular Mobilization Forces are a variety of different groups that form the Popular Mobilization Forces. Some of them are backed by Iranian backing. The PMF largely because of Sistani’s call to come together when Daesh was moving towards Baghdad, they have played a vital role in the defeat of Daesh in a many ___ circles and many places within Iraq, they are seen as the saviors of Iraq.

So I will I could talk to you the PMF and their efforts toward defeating Daesh in Iraq and I know that there has also been advisors that have been provided from Iran to Iraq and the Iraqis have said that they have played a part as well. So and this is – it was also mentioned, they share a border. So…

Female Speaker: And this difference is ___ the difference of their role in Syria? Are they playing role in Syria?

Ryan Dillon: We’ve seen some sheer Malaysia groups that are working with the regime as well, but I can’t speak to how much they are Iranian backed by the state.

Male Speaker: I think we have a caller AT&T from ___ of Egypt, if you could put them through please?

Female Speaker: Thank you. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Male Speaker: Okay. AT&T, it sounds like they are not staying by. We will have to come back to them in a little bit. Is there another question in the room please?

Female Speaker: Yes, I wanted to know, there as you said, is Daesh global threat.

Male Speaker: I am sorry, could you just introduce yourself?

Female Speaker: Oh sorry, ___ Paris. You said that Daesh is a global threat. There are other areas ___ and what is the proportion of your not only concern, but forces to contain Daesh that you are transferring to organized?

Terry Wolff: So I would say, when you think outside of Iraq and Syria, it’s a very different solution set and it goes into what the coalition said about itself in the guiding principles. There will be kind of a different – there will be a different solution set for each of the Daesh problems and let me give you an example. When you think about what happened in the Philippines last summer with the battle in Marawi down in Mindanao, what we saw, was we saw Daesh bring together four groups that pledged allegiance to it under a leader by the name of Hapilon with the Maute Brothers and the Maute family as part of this organizing construct and two other groups and they employed many of the same techniques we were seeing used in both Mosul and Raqqa. We were seeing tunnel systems. We saw robbing of banks. We saw extortion, robbing of citizens. We saw use of commercial UAVs, commercial drones with cameras mounted on them to help the movement of Daesh forces around the city on interior lines if you will. Now how did the government of the Philippines deal with the problem? They basically said, this is ours, the armed forces of the Philippines will fight to liberate Marawi, but there were several nations that provided some very limited support based on what the government said they were willing to accept. None of that worked, none of those elements provided were combat forces. They were merely some assistance that was provided, some ISR as well as some other sort of military fusion of activities. So that’s one solution set. If you look down in ISO West Africa, there are a group of countries that have come together to contain the spill-out of ISO West Africa out of Nigeria ___ is an example of about four or five countries that have come together to try to do with the containing of that.

We’re seeing some of the things that France is doing with the G5s to held issue and how the groups are, how the Daesh groups are starting to ___ together an interesting way down there and what France is doing taking the lead on that effort. So every single one of these looks a little different in Libya, the battle in Sirte was predominantly – it was predominantly American-led providing if you will kinetic strikes against Daesh and Sirte in support of Prime Minister Sarraj and the Government of Libya to deal with the specific problem there. So each of these if you will branch and affiliates, the eight branches and 22 other affiliates will have a different solution set and as I said it won’t be in Iraq and Syria. It’s the coalition I do not think will bring together 20 some countries that will provide kinetic or military effects to deal with a problem unless the nation specifically asks for it and secondly, the coalition agrees to do it. So if the coalition’s pillar, one of the coalition’s pillar is, this is voluntary.

Ryan Dillon: How is it — I don’t have anything to do outside of Iraq and Syria the military efforts, but over the course of the last two days, we had this Global Coalition Communications Working Group and yesterday I sat at a table with several different members from different countries and Philippines was one of them and he – the other countries and those are at the table, we were able to share the ideas and how they address challenges and he took a lot of that, took some information and is now very excited about going back and implementing some of the ways that they’ve had success in other countries. So just by sharing and working with one another also sharing best practices.

Male Speaker: Forty nations…

Female Speaker: ___ that is usually sort of going to find ___ states and even the that you can see right now. So that’s what I was thinking but that’s interesting answer anyway?

Ryan Dillon:  No of course and that gives Daesh the opportunity to co-op some of these groups. It’s where there is weak governance and where nation states are challenged to extend their authority in a way that makes sense.


This translation is provided as a courtesy and only the original English source should be considered authoritative.
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