rss

Special Briefing via Telephone Lieutenant General Robert White Commanding General of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR)

العربية العربية

Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
Special Briefing via Telephone
Lieutenant General Robert White Commanding General of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR)
May 8, 2020

 

Special Briefing via Telephone Lieutenant General Robert White Commanding General of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) – United States Department of State

Moderator:  Good morning and good afternoon to everyone from the Department of State Dubai Regional Media Hub.  I would like to welcome our participants dialing in from the United States and around the world for this on-the-record press briefing with Lieutenant General Pat White, the commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.  Lieutenant General White will discuss the campaign to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  We will begin today’s briefing with opening remarks from Lt. Gen. White, then open the floor for questions.  

I will now turn it over to Lieutenant General White for his opening remarks.  Lieutenant General, the floor is yours. 

Lieutenant General White:  Okay.  Thanks, Geraldine.  Ramadan mubarak, everyone, and good afternoon or evening or morning, depending upon your time zone.  I really appreciate you all joining us today.  As I speak to you from the headquarters here in Iraq for Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, troops from more than 30 military contributing nations remain partnered with the Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces in our shared goal of the enduring defeat of Daesh.  Additionally, we work with multiple international organizations like USAID, our Special Envoy for Counter-ISIS from the U.S., the International Red Cross, the Northeast Syria Forum, and the United Nations Development Program, to assist in stabilization, humanitarian aid, detainee operations, and internally displaced persons efforts. 

Before we start with your questions, I think it’s important to provide some context and give you a picture of where the coalition was, where the coalition is now, and where we think we’re heading in the future. 

Prior to the coalition forming in 2014, Daesh controlled approximately 110,000 square kilometers, an area that included Raqqa, Mosul, Ramadi, and Fallujah.  And there were approximately 40,000 terrorist fighters in that area.  From this peak our partners in Iraq and Syria, with coalition support, liberated nearly 8 million people from Daesh’s rule.  Today Daesh no longer controls any territory, and the threat continues to be confronted head on in Iraq and Syria by our partners. 

The ISF increasingly conducts independent operations in the fight against Daesh, including last year’s Heroes of Iraq campaign – or last year’s World Victory campaign, and this year we’re looking followed to their Heroes of Iraq campaign.  And I’ll get into that later if there are questions.

The region remains an incredibly complex and challenging area in which to operate.  In Syria, OIR has had to deal with a number of events in the last years that include the Turkish incursion into Syria, the Russian military presence, Iranian militia interference, and the presence of large numbers of Daesh detainees and IDPs.  In Iraq, OIR has been subject to the threat from Iranian-backed rogue and militia groups who have recently killed four coalition members, delays in the government formation, which we now see some positive movement on, and the challenge of operating in the model of the global pandemic.  Despite this, over the past few months we’ve seen notable successes in the fight against Daesh, including the death of Abu Baghdadi.  

Since the start of the year, the ISF has conducted more than a thousand independent ground operations and several precision air strikes using their air force against Daesh.  In Syria, the SDF has captured or killed Daesh operatives, former emirs for finance and health, and dismantled many smuggling networks.  They also continue to detain thousands of Daesh members, keeping them off the battlefield, including foreign terrorist fighters from more than 50 nations.  

Shortly after my return to Iraq last September, and as a result of our collective success against Daesh, the conditions were right to look at consolidating and focusing our military operation.  It was clear to me that the ISF and SDF had achieved tactical overmatch against Daesh.  That is to say, more people, better equipment, more lethality, and with the coalition helping to expand their operational reach through technical expertise, advanced intelligence collection, and occasional requested air strikes.  In coordination with the Government of Iraq, we transferred small coalition compounds that were inside of several Iraqi bases over to full Iraqi control.  And although we operate in fewer places with fewer people, the coalition remains steadfast in supporting our partners in Iraq and Syria. 

Moving forward, our efforts will focus more heavily on advising our increasingly capable partner forces.  We will continue our coordination with Iraqi operations centers, including the Joint Operations Center here across the street in Baghdad, where coalition troops work closely with Iraqi officers planning and supporting the ISF as they conduct ground and air operations against Daesh.  In Syria, our partnership will not change.  We will remain postured to support our troops’ defeat Daesh operations.  With respect to our coalition special operations forces, we will maintain our advisory role with our partners in both Iraq and Syria. 

So now that I’ve described our support to our ongoing efforts to deal with Daesh remnants, I want to mention a little bit about our partner force development efforts towards training and mentoring.  The coalition’s former primary partner development role was training.  We trained and mentored more than 225,000 ISF, including army, air force, Peshmerga, federal police, counterterrorism service border guards, and energy police.  The 2020 ISF are better equipped, led, and trained than just a few short years ago, and their success has allowed us to shift our focus from training to higher level mentoring and advising. 

In order to help our partners in Iraq and Syria maintain tactical overmatch against Daesh, the coalition, through the counterterrorism training and equipping funds, has divested more than $4 billion worth of armored trucks, weapons, body armor, heavy engineering equipment, as well as conditions-based stipends.  Although the Government of Iraq has temporarily paused all training due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the coalition remains ready to resume mentoring the ISF once these restrictions are lifted. 

So what does the future hold for the coalition?  First, we’ll remain partnered in Iraq and Syria to defeat Daesh and continue conditions-based divestments of military equipment and stipends.  As well, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization may take a more prominent role in partner force development beyond their current institution-building efforts.  I look forward to the U.S.-Iraq strategic dialogue scheduled for next month.  Although an important opportunity to define the future relationship between our two nations, this dialogue will also help shape broader context of the coalition’s commitment to defeating Daesh. 

Lastly, our business is built on people.  So before I turn this back over for questions, I want to share a couple of stories with you.  

First, the first story I’d like to share is about an army – or a soldier from Australia, Corporal Fadi Jabbori, who grew up in Iraq before his family fled the war-torn country for Australia in 1995.  Now, almost 25 years later, the infantry section commander has returned to his birth country on deployment with the ninth rotation of Task Group Taji as a trainer and mentor.  As he said, “Every day in Iraq has a memorable feeling for me.  I’m honored to return to my place of birth to help rebuild, mentor, and assist the Iraqi Army.” 

Another great story is of Staff Sergeant Cody.  He’s a U.S. Army Reservist from Tennessee whose family lineage is rich with military history, from his grandfather to his brother.  Cody is a specialized analytics soldier.  He advises and assists Iraqi partner forces to improve communications with the public about their efforts to rid Iraq of Daesh.  Part of this includes his work with the Iraqi counterterrorism service, who fight bravely to liberate this country from Daesh control.  We salute his family’s heroism and sacrifice as well as the sacrifices and heroism of the counterterrorism service, and we’re proud to serve alongside him. 

Across the formation, our non-U.S. coalition partners are doing standout things in areas including:  Lieutenant Asinto Fusco from Italy, who’s in our human resources shop.  He’s been instrumental in managing the accountability of the Coalition Training Forces’ temporary retrograde from our area of responsibility in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

And then finally, there’s Lieutenant Colonel Sterasota from Germany, who is instrumental in the delivery of strategic engagements across our partner forces and unified action partners in his role as the senior plans officer in strategic communications.  His work is invaluable to me.  It’s invaluable in complementing the efforts of CJTF to fight Daesh through an all-encompassing approach to the information environment. 

And with that, I look forward to your questions.  

Moderator:  Thank you, Lieutenant General White.  We will now begin the question-and-answer portion of today’s call.  For those on the English line asking questions, please state your name and affiliation and limit yourself to one question related to the topic of today’s briefing.  Questions submitted in advance have been incorporated into the queue. 

Our first question will go to Hoshang Hasan of the North Press Agency in Syria.  And the question is:  “What is the coalition’s plan in northern Syria right now?” 

Lieutenant General White:  That’s a really good question, and thanks for passing that, Mr. Hasan.  There’s no change.  Right now our plan remains to focus on enabling the partner force to defeat Daesh, and we do that in a number of ways.  Part of it is mentoring.  Some of it, as I mentioned in my opening statement, is divesting equipment to those partner forces.  And then finally, it is, as required, we do provide enabling support, such as intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and strike aircraft at need. 

Moderator:  Great.  Our next question is going to be from Maya Gebeily with AFP.  Operator, please open the line. 

Question:  Hello.  I’m not sure if you can hear me.  But thanks so much, General White, for that briefing.  I wanted to ask about the Iraqi context and the rocket strikes that were really common last year, which died down towards the end of March.  And we saw another new case a couple of days ago.  Your military planning to strike – the Pentagon’s military planning to strike KH, what recommendations did you make in your memo back to the Pentagon early in March?  Did you receive a response, and is that planning still on the table, to carry out a widespread campaign against the – against KH.  Thank you. 

Lieutenant General White:  Okay.  That’s not a softball, that’s for sure.  Maya, I would answer that as any commander would initially answer that question.  I have a responsibility to protect the force I command.  And when anybody, independent of what the group may be, prosecutes violence against the coalition that I’m in command of, it’s my moral and – really, it’s my authority that I have to protect them.  And so as a part of protecting the force, I asked for some help from higher because we were supposed to be in a permissive environment.  And that help included asking the Government of Iraq to have our partner forces provide a layer of protection for us while I sought further guidance from higher. 

And generally, commanders communicate risk, and what risk is associated with actions that might be taken against any adversary in any environment across the globe.  And the center of what you guys all saw from my communiqué with my higher commander, General McKenzie, was a descriptor of that risk as I saw it here inside of Iraq.  And again, the GOI – the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi security forces responded.  They continued to conduct layered defensive operations around their bases that we were present on.  They also assisted us with intel, and we shared intel with them so they could take appropriate action once they completed their investigations.  

I hope that answers your question. 

Moderator:  Great.  Our next question comes from Maan Alkhoder from Al Jazeera Arabic.  And the question is:  “In recent days there have been increasing reports of a possible attack against pro-Iranian groups.  Is this true?” 

Lieutenant General White:  Geraldine, I’m going to clarify just so I make sure that I understand the question.  So if I heard right, the question centered around recent attacks against other groups.  So if you could just clean that up for me a little bit so I can understand it a little better, that would be very helpful before I answer. 

Moderator:  Sure.  This is pre-submitted.  It reads, “In recent days, it looks like there are reports of possible imminent attacks against pro-Iranian groups in Iraq and/or Syria.”  And the question is asking about that. 

Lieutenant General White:  Okay.  I am – I am not aware of any possible attacks against groups outside of my chain of command.  I mainly concern myself with my own chain of command, and the Iraqis have not come to me to cause me any kind of concern.  So I don’t think I have an answer for that question.  It would probably be best addressed with the Government of Iraq or the particular groups that might be asking this question.  Over. 

Moderator:  Okay.  The next question comes from Rola Al-Khatib from Al Hadath/Al Arabiya.  Operator, please open the line. 

Question:  Hi.  Thank you, Lieutenant, for this conference.  I have question about the latest we can say flourishing fighting attacks that ISIS are conducting since COVID-19 has started.  We still don’t have a clear image about these ISIS militants, what do they want exactly?  Do they have new strategies?  Do they have a new confronting plan?  Is there a possibility that they are – that they are splitted now after Baghdadi’s death?  Because it was said before that many sections happen inside ISIS before Baghdadi was killed.  We need to know the new ISIS we are facing.  Are we still facing one ISIS or many ISISes, different groups, how they are connecting to each other?  And what do they want right now?  What they are doing right now? 

Lieutenant General White:  Well, thank you for the question, Rola.  First, I would say that our partner forces in both Syria and Iraq are absolutely applying pressure against Daesh.  And so that’s contextual.  Second, just let me pull back up and do a macro view of what we’re seeing with Daesh in these recent attacks.  It’s very, very consistent.  The numbers, the pure numbers, are very consistent with last year exact same time.  So in April of ‘19, there were 152 claimed attacks by Daesh; in April of ‘20 this year, there were 151 claimed attacks by Daesh. 

What we have seen is that the attacks that we’ve been witnessing here over the past weeks are inconsistent with an organization that we knew of in the past.  So in other words, Daesh was able to conduct what I would describe as complex military operations in 2017, 2016, and their attacks consisted of VBIEDs and rockets and small arms fire, all simultaneous.  Over the years, the degradation of their capabilities and the fact that they don’t own any terrain is witness to the type of attacks that they’re conducting now, which are the majority small arms – rifles, small caliber mortars, and no VBIEDs.  And so I think the successes of our partner forces kind of shape for you a descriptor of the types of attacks. 

ISIS leadership has stated what their intent is, and they do this every year.  They put out what is generally described as a military campaign.  And for this period, the title of that campaign is “Foray of Ramadan.”  And they – and they set themselves some goals and what they were going to try to achieve.  To date they have failed miserably at achieving those goals.  There was an initial series of three engagements with our partner forces in which Daesh lost every time, and we actually haven’t seen anything since the last attack up in Kirkuk, in the Kirkuk area. 

I don’t know what they’re trying to do.  That question would be better levered against the leadership of Daesh.  I do know they are lacking in financing, they are lacking in fighters and they are lacking in support by the populace in most areas.  And so this is all a part of their grand scheme to try to pull fighters and sympathizers underneath their cause, and they continue to fail because the partner force has been so successful in ensuring they remain defeated and cannot hold terrain.  

Does that help, Rola? 

Moderator:  I think it does, and we are going to move on to our next question.  It is from Jonathan Beale with BBC News.  And the question reads:  “What is the latest on NATO allies playing a greater role in training missions in Iraq?  Which allies have said they will contribute additional troops, and has COVID-19 delayed these plans?” 

Lieutenant General White:  A really good question.  And so as I mentioned in my opening statements, for both health reasons and protection reasons of having the capability to continue to press against Daesh in both Iraq and Syria, the partner forces have separated somewhat physically from our formations.  And part of the effect of that was the temporary pause of training and mentoring of their forces.  And that is both for CJTF-OIR and the role that we were playing – and I’ll get to that in just a second – and others that are here either through bilateral agreements or if you’re a part of NATO Mission Iraq and what you contribute to the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi security force.  

So there’s been a pause.  There have been no nations necessarily that have left the physical environ of Iraq that have said they will not return.  And so we have them on what is in military parlance a Notice to Move.  And so the Notice to Move to come back to Iraq to help train either the Peshmerga regional guard brigades or any element of the ISF in Iraq is 60 days.  And so as I see the health conditions presenting an opportunity, I’ll notify those nations that pulled their service members out of Iraq that in 60 days I’d like them to return under certain conditions that ensure they’ve taken all the precautions that need to be taken in order to come from outside back in. 

And I’ve been in constant conversations with the previous minister of defense, the current chief of defense, who will move on to be the Minister of Interior, and the deputy for the Prime Minister, who works here in the Joint Operations Center Iraq just across the street, about what those conditions are and about what precautions we are taking to ensure we do not cause a vulnerability in their formations or their people. 

So I anticipate we’ll work through the summer.  We’ll get a slow trickle that will come back in for both trainers and mentors.  And at the appropriate time, based on what the Iraqi security forces ask of us, we will resume on path our line of effort, which is to increase both their lethality and their proficiency, depending upon what cohort they are part of – federal police, Iraqi army, counterterrorism service, and others. 

So that would be what I offer without getting in any specific nations.  I’d be – I’d probably take up too much time to name them all off as they – as they stayed here or left.  But we’re waiting for the right conditions. 

Moderator:  Great.  Our next question will come from Lara Seligman from Politico.  Operator, please open the line. 

Question:  Hello.  Thank you for doing this.  My question is can you tell us how COVID-19 has impacted both the actions of ISIS that you are tracking in any way, and then also how it’s impacted U.S. troops and U.S. departments.  Are these rotations – are the planned rotations in and out, still moving forward as planned, or have there been any – have there been any changes?  Thank you. 

Lieutenant General White:  Well, I would start with COVID absolutely had an effect on everybody globally, I think.  I mean, my impression here is I reacted very, very, very quickly after watching what was happening in the rest of the globe to lock down and protect our force and the Iraqis.  And so first I’ll address U.S. troops and rotations.  You’ve seen reports that have come out from the Department of Defense.  The Secretary of Defense did stop movement of individual augmentees and units globally, and then put some conditions on why those units or individual augmentees would move.  

And those would be justified in exceptions to policy.  And then of course there were conditions and precautions associated with it.  So if I needed to move a unit from the United States of America into Iraq, there’s a series of health precautions, quarantine, and testing that has to occur before they get on an aircraft to fly in, and meet the requirements of the country of which they are flying into before I can accept them.  And so it slowed it down a little bit.  We are proceeding forward with most of our rotational forces that were already planned.  You’ve seen some announcements lately out of the Department of Defense for units from Fort Bragg to come replace the units we have here from Alaska.  And so we’ll continue on path with conditions and with requirements that we address the COVID vulnerabilities and what it would do to a formation if we had asymptomatic or symptomatic service members inside those formations.  

I can’t speak necessarily for what it did to Daesh.  I will tell you that there was a time period where everybody was trying to figure out just how vulnerable they were to this virus and all countries were reacting based on the environment that was around them.  I was surprised that Daesh did not take advantage of some of the pause and some of the empty space that they – that might have been an opportunity for them.  But all that does is validate for me that they no longer possess the capability, the leadership, or the finances to be the Daesh of old.  And the successes of our partner forces, who maintained some pressure over the past 60 days, has made it extremely hard. 

And then finally, here in Iraq as they implemented their curfews, it constrained the ability of an adversary to move above ground because it was plainly obvious, even in the hours of darkness – if you were out moving, you were breaking curfew.  You became a pretty easy target.  So I think it challenged their organization as well.  Lack of capacity, challenge by the environment, and a partner force who was applying consistent pressure on them has resulted in what you’ve witnessed over the first five months or four and a half months of this year. 

Moderator:  Our next question comes from Waleed Sabry from Alwatan Newspaper in Bahrain.  And the question reads:  “Do you think the decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria exacerbated the situation and gave Russia more influence?” 

Lieutenant General White:  I would start the answer to that question with, we didn’t withdraw.  I still have a number of forces in Syria that are still partnered with the Syrian Democratic Forces that are still in pursuit of Daesh and the destruction of the remnants of Daesh.  And there are areas that we left based on discussions much, much higher than my level.  But we still remain in Syria to combat Daesh through a partner force.  And as well, a secondary effect is to provide a security zone for the borders – the border of Iraq.  So I would not characterize it as a withdrawal. 

Moderator:  Okay.  We have time for one final question and it will come from Jack Ditch of Foreign Policy.  Operator, please open the line.

Question:  Thanks, sir.  I wanted to ask you really quickly about the prison breakout in Hasaka, in SDF territory over the weekend.  Has that caused any concerns within the coalition and is there any further support coming into northeastern Syria or have you seen any degradation of their capability to hold those prisons amid the COVID-19 threat?

Lieutenant General White:  Great question.  So I think that what you witnessed over the last week or so, specifically in Hasaka, is an opportune group of people who saw a vulnerability for a short period of time.  What I witnessed was immediate reaction by the Syrian Democratic Forces’ prison security force to get everything back in the box.  And so of the 14 prisons that were there, Hasaka was the one prison where the number of prisoners and the type of prisoners that are there, the fact that there was some COVID effect on the prison security force, a little bit of separation, it just gave them an opportunity.

But what we saw in a reaction was absolutely professional, getting all the prisoners back into the cells that they were in, and part of what we did to support the prison security force and the SDF was to provide riot gear and training.  We also have provided hygiene and medical, as authorized.  We’re not aware of any escapees and I’m in pretty regular dialogue with General Mozloum, and our CJTF component is in constant dialogue with General Mazloum.  So I think we assisted where we could assist.  We’ve got some improvements that need to be made to facilities, and we’re offering to figure out how to get them security cameras, but it did not concern me because of the tone of the prisoners and the reaction by the prison security force to contain the 3rd and the 4th of May’s – what I would generally describe as a riot inside the walls of the prison.  Over.

Moderator:  Thank you very much.  Lieutenant General White, I will turn it back over to you for your closing remarks. 

Lieutenant General White:  I am being advised that I can take one more question, if there’s one out there that anybody is burning to ask.  

Moderator:  Sure.  Operator, can you take the next question in the queue?

Operator:  And Rola, that’ll be your line.  Please go ahead.

Question:  Oh, hi.  Sorry, I’m going to break the rule and ask another question.  First, we can’t ignore the American-Iranian conflict of which Iraq is one of its theaters.  I wanted just to know, is there a return of ISIS?  Or will you ignore it and [inaudible] as it is, as [inaudible]?  But is the return of ISIS – will it make you focus on one front and forget the other front, which is the Iranian militias?  

Lieutenant General White:  Yeah, no, I think the short answer for you is my mission is defeat ISIS, and as I mentioned before, I also have a responsibility as the commander to protect the force.  But we are definitely not taking our eye off of Daesh, and again, partner forces are picking up the operational tempo against Daesh.

So I think we’re all right online with exactly where we need to be in the final destruction of Daesh, and I’ll stand by if there’s a follow-on to that.  

Question:  Thank you.  

Moderator:  Sir, did you have time for one more?

Lieutenant General White:  Okay, one more.

Moderator:  All right, the last question – for real – will be from Barbara Starr.  Operator, if you can open her line if she is still on.

All right, I think we will skip that, then, if you just want to go into your closing remarks.  

Question:  Can you not hear me?

Lieutenant General White:  Okay, thank you.

Moderator:  Oh, Barbara, are you there?

Lieutenant General White:  Oh, Ms. Starr.  

Question:  I sure am.  

Moderator:  Okay, go right ahead.

Question:  I’ll be really quick.  Thank you, General White.  What are you – two things.  On COVID, because your troops are so far away from home and they know the economic and physical impact for their families and friends back in the United States, are you – what kind of impact are you seeing?  What are you hearing from your troops about their concerns, worries about what’s going on with their families back home?  Have you had any situations where perhaps you have had to send troops home on compassionate leave because a spouse or a parent is ill?  Has it impacted your forces in that way? 

And on Iran, what I really wanted to ask was what is the current state of play you’re seeing months now – a couple of months now after the al-Assad attack?  Are Iranian – direct Iranian forces or Iranian-supported forces still posing a threat to you directly?  Thank you.

Lieutenant General White:  On the COVID front, we actually have – it’s a really good question.  We actually have sent a few of our service members home on compassionate leave.  One of them was emergency leave for a very, very sick relative.  We do – every Monday I address with the command the resources that are required because, as you know, we can reach back into the units in the United States if we have a service member here that is feeling uncomfortable about the family situation or loved ones or friends back home.  And so it has been – it has been an eye-opening experience.  People joke about it being “you’re getting antsy and” – but that’s not really what it’s all about.  What it’s all about is your pattern of life has altered significantly and what help can we provide.  

And so without going much further than that, ma’am, I mean it – we have had instances where I’ve had to send service members home out of due concern to get them back to their families, and we are in constant communication – of course I am with the 3rd Armored Corps back in the States at Fort Hood and Fort Carson and Fort Riley and the other posts that are there.  But we do; we do pay attention to it.

And then on your second question about how do we gauge the direct threats by an adversary against the coalition that’s here or, more specifically, some of the public threats that are tossed around here in Iraq, which you’ve seen.  There are named groups that have made specific threats against both individuals and organizations that are here assisting the Government of Iraq at their invitation for the defeat of Daesh.  And so we do keep an eye on it.  There – the intelligence apparatus that we have here first focuses on Daesh and second focuses on this force protection element that I described earlier.  And so when I see it tilting further towards a threat to the force, there’s always a conversation with higher command on what that threat looks like to me here and then what it looks like more regionally and then what it looks like above that echelon to ensure we’re all seeing the sight – the same sight picture. 

I – Barbara, I don’t know if that gets at the heart of your question, and you’re probably offline now, but if – Geraldine, if she wants to follow up that’s fine.

Moderator:  Sure, we’ll provide the follow-up contact information after the call.  So we’ll now end the question and answer portion and have your closing remarks, sir.

Lieutenant General White:  Okay.  Thanks, everybody.  Sorry the time has gone by so fast.  I must have talked too much.  But I do appreciate your attention and some of the questions that were asked were great questions.

We started this week with World Journalism Day and I got to tell you, I really do value the work of our journalists globally just kind of telling the stories of what’s going on out there.  More specifically, to me it’s about the coalition and what the coalition commitment has done here in the Combined Joint Operations area that I operate in in Iraq and Syria.  And the coalition and our partner forces have accomplished too much to take a break now and lose momentum.  The last five years have seen significant sacrifices, but all for the better based on where we are today to give people opportunities and, more importantly, it gives the people of Iraq hope that the future will not return to what it’s been in the past.

I’m incredibly humbled to lead this international military coalition and I’m inspired every day by the troops and the civilians from more than 30 nations who are supporting our partners in Iraq and Syria to achieve what I described as the enduring defeat of Daesh.  

I do want to take a moment to wish a Happy Mother’s Day for those that celebrate Mother’s Day.  That’ll be Sunday in the United States of America.  More specifically, we have mothers here serving their cause from their countries inside the coalition, and many, many, many women who have contributed to their nations by entrusting their children to our militaries.  And so in the honor of our mothers, I’ve just got one last story if you can bear with me.

This is a story about United States Army Sergeant Major Donna Cook – she is the Command and Control, Communications and Computers Section enlisted senior advisor – and Captain Lamarkus Dennis, who’s an Operations – Security and Protection Section plans officer, that are both deployed here together on this CJTF-OIR mission.  And if you hadn’t guessed, both Cook and Dennis are a mother-son duo.  So it’s pretty unique to have them serving here in support of our operations.  And before Sergeant Major Cook joined the military, she was a mother of three; she worked two jobs trying to provide for her family.  And the way she described it, she lived in a crowded house, worked long hours and it wasn’t optimal as a way to raise her children, of which Dennis is one of them.  So Cook decided she’d make a change by raising her right hand and enlisting to serve her nation, and she said she always knew that her son would follow in her footsteps to serve as well.  “Fort Bragg, North Carolina was an installation that catered to the elementary school students.  The soldiers would land UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters at the school and I knew from that moment on he’d join the Army.”  So she encouraged her son to join the university’s ROTC program and that put him on a path to join the United States Army.  

And so again, just showing the commitment of our mothers that are out there taking care of their children who, in this case, happen to be serving together.  So we remain committed here in the CJTF-OIR with the nations that are contributing.  We have our slogan, as many of you know, is “One Mission, Many Nations.”  And so thank you all again for taking time today to listen to me, and we’ll take any follow-on questions by script and try to answer them for you. 

So have a great day, everybody, and Ramadan kareem.  

Moderator:  Thank you very much, Lieutenant General White.  That concludes today’s call.  Thank you to all of our callers for participating.  If you have any questions about today’s call, you may contact us at the Dubai Regional Media Hub at [email protected]  Information on how to access the English recording of this call will be provided by AT&T shortly.  Thanks and have a good day.


This translation is provided as a courtesy and only the original English source should be considered authoritative.
Email Updates
To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your contact information below.