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tv   Brett Mc Gurk Briefs Reporters on Combating ISIS at the State Department  CSPAN  August 4, 2017 3:37pm-4:36pm EDT

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bullying and intimidation tactics to subscribe to a fascist ideology. in a sentence before, you said: somebody that is the ultimate hate crime. do you fear that you are doing exactly what you condemn democrats for by saying they are the ones that are the fascists? >> late in the day, summertime. so you all get the good camper awards for coming in. thank you for being here on this friday. we have our special envoy to the global coalition for isis here with us. i know you heard from brett mcgurk a couple weeks ago at the end of the isis coalition meeting in washington, so why don't you come in brett to provide an update on where things stand. without further do, brett mcgurk . brett: thank you. ok, thank you everybody for coming. what i want to do today, we heard from the secretary about a
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trip around the world. everything going on in the world in activity at the state department. what i thought i would do is drill in on what he discussed about the key priorities here the department. about the campaign against isis. on theant to focus overall campaign, it is a global campaign. but dive in a little bit too the so-called caliphate in iraq and syria. bring you into what we are doing every day and how it is working, throughout the government, particularly with our diplomats at the state department. some topline points, i think it is important, if you go back to when isis arrived on the international scene, 2014, we had 40,000 foreign fighters from 110 countries going into syria and iraq. they were controlling to cause i state and they were able to maneuver force all around iraq and syria, taking entire cities and controlling millions under their domain.
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since that time they have lost about 70,000 square kilometers of territory in iraq and syria, 78% of the territory they used a hold in iraq they can no longer operate in, and 50% of the territory in syria they can no longer operate in. of all that territory that they have lost, they have not regained. when our coalition supports those on the ground to regain territory from isis, they've never been able to reclaim the territory. it is not a campaign where you go in and nuclear into cannot hold and they come back, they've never been able to retake any of the ground and we will make sure he continues. importantly, not just territory, but even more important people. o most million people who had been living under isis are no longer living under isis, they have been liberated by coalition enabled operations on the ground. a fewquickly important, years ago you some migrants and refugees pouring out of this
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part of the world and we have now reversed the flow paired in iraq, 2 million people have returned to their homes in areas of the have been cleared from isis. these areas used to be under the control of isis, now you have people returning to their homes, 2 million people. int is almost unprecedented a conflict like this in terms of getting those returnees back and it is due to the work the secretary mentioned the other day, about the stabilization and humanitarian efforts that go in parallel with many military campaigns. so the force we are working with, the iraqi security forces, we have trained 100,000 members of those forces in total. they have never lost a battle. it is in iraq a secretive force that had almost collapsed, those units we have trained in the coalition have never lost a battle. in syria, with the campaign against isis, we are working primarily with the democratic forces. it is a force of about 50,000, with half air of and kurds.
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they have never lost a battle. the training forces, i have been to syria about three times over the past few months, the training forces on the ground are full. as we move into areas that particularly among the sunni arab population, the training classes are full because people want to get back to their homes and kick isis out of the area. those classes are full and they've never lost a battle. and elements of what we call the vetted syrian opposition, on particular the parts of syria i will point to on the map, supported by the turkish forces, the euphrates shield zone, also effectively cleared isis out of the terrain they held. here is what is important, over the last six months we have accelerated this campaign dramatically. you heard about this from secretary tillerson. nearly 30% of all the territory retaken from isis, about 20,000 square kilometers has happened in the last six months. the campaign against mosul is now finished and i will speak
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about rocket in more detail, 45% of it is now clear to. and this is due to some key changes put in place very early on. three changes, initiatives from president trump and i will highlight them. number one, very importantly, this makes a tremendous ofference -- a delegation tactical authority from the white house, from washington, through the chain of command to the commanders on the ground that it has made a tremendous difference. bases opportunities -- they seize opportunities from isis. second, secretary matters has talked about the campaign of annihilation. they make sure before we do in operation, we surround the enemy, so foreign fighters cannot escape. every foreign fighter that made their way into syria and iraq, we want to make sure they can never make their way out of those areas. and third, from day one we looked to how to increase the burden sharing from the coalition. that is why the secretary mentioned when he was here, one
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of his first initiatives was to call on all members of the coalition and it is now 73 members of the coalition, 69 countries and four organizations. he had all of the members here in march to talk about the next accelerated phase of the campaign. we raised in that session about $2 billion, which really came in critical need, particularly for the post mosul phase and taking care of the idp's. finally, the whole government effort to make sure that we are working as a government hand in glove with our colleagues in treasury and defense here at the state department and within -- to make sure we are taking advantage of opportunities, not just with isis, but with a severing the propaganda networks that continue to fuel groups like this. let me go into detail. we will turn to the map. it has about nine numbers on a, some of which i will spend more
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time on the and others. i will start with the yellow, the yellow circle, the yellow gumball. qa.that is raq six months ago, they were planning major attacks against the u.s. and partners there and doing it using if researcher of a major city -- after structure of a major city. today, isis is fighting for every last block and trying to defend those blocks they are about to lose. it is a fundamentally transformed situation. the operation to seize the city launched on june 6 and as of today, as i mentioned they have seized about for 5% of the city -- about 45% of the city. there was a detailed briefing yesterday talking about the details of the operation. from east to west, they are about to connect. they could connect now that they need to clear high-rise they joinbefore
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forces. in that will help accelerate the second phase of the operation to clear the rest of the city. we estimate about 2000 isis , that is ant inexact science. we think about 2000 left inraqqa and they most likely will die there. now,he u.n. estimate millions of civilians. it could be higher. what is happening is similar to what we saw in mozilla, but on a smaller scale. isis fighters are using civilians as their own shields, as hostages. they are using snipers to kill civilians trying to escape. they are trying to put suicide columns of displaced people as they try to go out. similar tactics we have seen from this organization in other cities. wascampaign to seize raqqa enabled by an operation that
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came a few months ago in the city of top to -- tapka. that is to the west of the yellow gumball. it is right there, near the dam, where the euphrates curves. i want to highlight that area because it was critical to setting up the conditions for the success we see in raqqa and to basically tighten the noose around isis. i do not think it could've happened absent of the delegation of authority that talked about. i happened to see this up close, because i was in syria in march neisa. town of i nee we met with local commanders and they told our commander, commander townsend, who has done an extra nearly -- and extort her job, that they sensed an opportunity to catch isis by surprise at the dam. there is an airfield there, an
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airport. they said come on we need is you to help us get across the body of water, it is about a kilometers wide, at night, job is behind isis lines and we can't take it from there, catching them by surprise and it's using the three strategic areas. this is important to close the news on isis my because they were using the area to get personnel and equipment in and out of raqqa. um, it was pretty audacious, it required us to put the fighters on helicopters come across in the water at night. the fighters are incredibly brave, most of them have never been on a helicopter. it was also complicated, because it is hard to tell what was on the other side of the water, because we had never really been that far south. general townsend and our commanders approved the operation within days and it launched, took about six weeks to finish, but the forces were
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right. they know the local area and they caught isis by surprise and they were able to see the airport and we really saw isis go into a really -- reeling effect after that, fighters trying to flee and defenses began to degrade. it was a critical operation and it was done because authorities had been delegated down to seize opportunities like that, a really important moment in the campaign. we also have had to work very closely, as forces converge in the area, as the secretary mentioned, despite all of our intentions with russia, we book for areas -- look for areas to work together. it is particularly true of this area, because those forces are very close to the area that our forces are operating in and we had an incident on june 19 in which our forces shot down a syrian jet, violating an
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agreement we have on the ground where they could go and not go. since then, we have drawn a line with the russians to help accelerate the campaign in raqqa and make clear where there forceswill be -- their will be in where our forces will be paired it is holding well -- forces will be. it is holding well. speaker we need to, we with lazrov from time to time and we will see him soon, later this weekend. it is an important deconstruction line and it has helped us accelerate the pressure on isis. now, what gets less attention, this is very non-glamorous work, but critical work. the secretary specifically mentioned what the diplomats are doing on the ground to make sure that in the wake of the military campaign we are doing all we can on the humanitarian and stabilization side. .s the forces move into raqqa
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let me describe that and give you facts, i do not want to get too much into the facts, but it is important to get a sense of what is going on and i have seen it with my own eyes. so, as idp's come out of areas that have been controlled by isis, people living under isis for the last three years, we have seen almost all of them flow north into the lines of the force we are working with. they are not going west into regime areas, they are not leaving to stay with isis in the east, they are not going south into the desert, they are coming into the areas of the syrian democratic forces. total now idp's from the environment, not just raqqa, but surrounding areas, about 24,000. we track it every single day. as of this morning, one of your 146,000 in- about camps. is as a we see in syria
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publishing comes out from areas where fighting is ongoing, they go to camps, as areas are cleared, the populations return. we have seen it repeatedly mow it is a good pattern. the syrian march, near the town of ineisa, we saw thousands of idp's sleeping on the side of the road living in situations that were unacceptable. at the time was almost inaccessible to the u.n. they had no way to get in there. unacceptable situation, so we accelerated the deployment of some of our experts and diplomats from the state department and we wanted to get key people on the ground ngo's tonable the address the situation. in may, itreturned was a fundamentally different picture on the exact same road.
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i think i even tweeted some of the pictures my before and after, two months earlier with people sleeping on the side of the road, two months later it was a well maintained camp and people taken care of. it is due to the work of the diplomats and military affairs people do on the ground every day and they are doing an extraordinary job. where are we today? experts working on the ground, we have finalized a day after liberation plan for raqqa. it will be planning for up to 50,000 people, based on the u.n. estimates, we think it is lower but we will plan for the very worst case. as i mentioned, the u.n. has gained road access, so they are delivering a large number of supplies, the world food program, icrc, and a number of other ngos operating in the area. i think the secretary mentioned, we have pre-positioned supplies
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so we are ready for the day after. to tell you what that means, we have food ready for 447,000 people. we have shelters for an additional 50,000 people. we have medical treatment facilities for over 200,000 people. water sanitation, hygiene, all these things are getting ready for the day after isis. how are we doing this with so few people on the ground? we have the right people on the ground. the humanitarian expert we haven't syria was just -- have in syria, was just back in washington and he has led almost every major international response around the world. he is doing a great job and he has connections with all the ngo's on the ground. we are also working with the civilian counsel, a group of civilians from the area, they are based in iniesta. it is a temporary structure. they are committed in having an
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election by the end of the main next year. we need local people on the ground to help us deliver and facilitate. they have coordinated delivery of a hundred 30 metric tons of humanitarian aid to areas around raqqa and their instrumental in planning the day after activities. and in terms of stabilization, i want to really emphasize what the secretary said from the podium earlier this week. we are committed to stabilization, that word is important. it is not reconstruction or nationbuilding, stabilization is demining, setting the conditions for people to return to their homes. isis leaves landmines everywhere so people cannot return and we are committed to help to do all we can by training locals to demine critical sites and places to allow people to come home. it also means rubble removal, so trucks and equipment can get into areas of need. basic electricity, sewage,
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water, the basic essentials to allow the populations to come back. we have found, learning lessons from iraq, which i will get to, that the focus on the basic elements of stabilization is a critical enabler for allowing people to come back to their homes. meet localmes we councils and they say, we want you to help us with the hospitals, the school systems, no, we're not doing that. we have learned lessons of that we are not good at that. also, it is not our responsibility. we will do basic stabilization. when it comes to schools, if the local counsel says there are five schools in the area and they have been wired with explosives devices, will you please help? yes, that is something we will do. if they need desks, chairs, chalkboards, we can find contractors from the local area to do that. i will give you an example.
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we are working with local people from the area and i met them. not long ago, they were living under isis and now they are working hard to try to restore life to their community. they have told us about a number of schools that actually are wired to explode, so we are now helping miners in the area to clear the schools. about five have already been finished. we will do all we can to have as many schools ready for the opening of the school year on september 15. but again, in terms of curriculum, teachers, this is the responsibility of the syrian on the ground and iraq is on the ground. not us. in raqqa we have 400 google infrastructure sites we have identified -- we have identified for the day after, 100 of them are really priority. we are also getting conservations from our coalition, we announced we have the conference -- had the conference two weeks ago and we had funding mechanisms focused on syria.
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one the recovery trust fund mow which is now able to operate in the area. second, the donor consortium, which is project specific as we identify those projects for stabilization. then we met with contractors -- match with contribute. it is ongoing but it will take time. it will be a difficult battle. 45% of the city is cleared in two months, but it does not mean it will be finished in another two months. sometimes they go faster, sometimes slower than anticipated. i anticipate in the center of the city, isis will put up a difficult fight. with suicide vests and everything we have seen them do. let me jump quickly to number two, the other gumball. i will go a little faster with some of these. the area known as the milia paredes valley -- middle euphrates valley, as leaders saw the writing on the wall, they tried to flee before our sources surrounded raqqa.
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they fled the small towns in the area of the freddie's river. -- euphrates river. very small areas in what we call the middle valley. and i would say any isis leaders in the small town have a good life insurance policy because unlike when they are living in what these guys used to do, they lived in apartment buildings with hundreds of people in the structure, which obviously makes it impossible for us to target them, because we will not target a civilian structure. when they live in small towns and villages, not only is it different for them, this is not the glamorous caliphate they expected to find. find also easier for us to them. in the last few weeks, i think our dod announced yesterday, about 13 key leaders and associates have been targeted and eliminated in the area and it will continue. this area of the country also cannot emphasize enough, extremely complex. that is why d confliction
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arrangements with the russians will be increasingly important as we operate in this area. it is a complex battle space, the arrangements are important and that is why we are so focused on that. number three, the yellow gumball, this is a garrison. we are training a force there to fight isis in the middle valley, because the force we are training there are from that area and the training continues. it is an important mission in terms of the overall counter isis campaign. this area also became fairly tense in the end of june, with some, i do not know if i would call it misunderstandings, some perhaps misunderstandings from forces that led to airstrikes. since then, the situation has calmed down and we have worked on an arrangement that has been working well and we will make sure those stay in place. it is an important piece of
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syria, connected with article ally jordan and also iraq. we want to make sure that isis cannot fill up space in this area, because it incorporates critical road networks which i will talk about briefly when i discuss iraq. the fourth yellow gumball, that is the southwest. it is very important because, the little separate from the counter isis campaign, but it is an enabler for trying to remove the red blocked which is isis. this is a cell for isis near the number four. they are an isis affiliate. when they come in and capture a village like they did there, they capture locals, they do beheadings, and they terrorize the local population. we are determined to remove that sell from the southwest -- cell from the southwest. were aed with the -- who
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critical driver of the process, are critical ally jordan. and a cease-fire in the southwest with jordan and russia. the cease-fire was concluded on july 9. it was finalized in hamburg between president trump and president putin. it went into effect on july 11, so we are into the third week now. and the results have been quite promising so far. the fighting has largely stopped. there is a couple reasons for this, unlike other cease-fires, this cease-fire was the result of months of negotiation with the geraniums who know the terrain, and the russians that were representing effectively the syrian regime. painstaking negotiations, meter by meter, throughout the southwest and throughout the city. everybody understood where they could go and where they could not go. the map was initialed by all three parties and the cease-fire went into effect on july 11.
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we now see civilians returning to the area, which is promising. beginning to see the landmines being removed as the fighting has stopped. we are working hard to make sure it remains in effect and so far it is promising. if you look at the last six months in syria and you look at the data that is put out by the u.n., it is interesting to look at that data in terms of idp's and refugee flows. um, this is from unhcr, in the last six months of the calendar year about 400,000 idp's have returned to their homes. it is a statistic you normally do not see in six months. those syrian refugees, that fled outside of syria, have also returned to their homes in the first six months of the year. the reverse of the migrant refugee outflow, it is an important indicator and is something we want to continue. in the interest of our critical
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partners and in our interest, but fairly jordan, lebanon and turkey. and of course our partners in europe. backup on syria writ large, the secretary spoke about this. if you think about the two phases in syria, right now this is phase one. we want to defeat isis. becauseto defeat isis, they are trying to plan major attacks against us and our partners. so as long as isis is holding territory, pretending to hold this caliphate with people under their domain, the long-term political settlement in syria will be out of reach. our first priority is to protect our homeland. number one, defeat isis. in parallel with phase one, we want to de-escalate violence in syria through a combination of de-escalation, d confliction arrangements, and de-escalation such as the cease-fire we have reached in the west.
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we are in phase one, we are d escalating the situation. and we have imported talks about a constitutional process in the future, internationally monitored elections in which the syrians can vote. that is a condition in the u.n. resolution. we are determined getting to that point -- in getting to that point. the secretary discussed defeating isis, get arrangements in place, quiet down the operations, and set of conditions for political settlement of the civil war. at the end of the process, we cannot put a timeline on it, but at the end of the process we do not envision assad being in control of syria from damascus. whether that is through a constitutional process or election or a combination, that is important and some people ask, why do you say that? it is reality. estimatesorld bank
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about more than $200 billion to is probably it multiples of that, and to the international community will not come to the aid of syria until there is a horizon that can lead to a credible transition in damascus. that is the reality. so we are working through the two-phase structure and we are committed to the roadmap outlined in the u.n. security resolution. let me jump over to iraq. i will start with the yellow gumball number five. number five is to the west of tell a far. the battle muzzle has -- mosul has not completed, but since the battle completed -- again, the west glamorous phase of stabilization and support is underway. it is important, because the reason we brought those 70 countries here in march was to make sure we have the resources necessary for the post isis phase in mosul.
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saw 940,000. the skill of mosul -- scale of mosul is not even comparable to raqqa. mosul is a city of about 1.5 million people. total, 940,000 people were displaced from the fighting. most important, all of them received aid. this is almost unprecedented in terms of humanitarian response. all of them received aid and assistance and it is because of the planning that went into the humanitarian response plan together with the military plane. of the $2 billion raised in march, about $500 million from the u.s., the ratio we mentioned, and we try to make sure it is about 3-4-1. when it comes to stabilization and humanitarian response, it is
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a ratio we are looking to grow over the coming weeks. , aboutly in mosul 338,000 people remain displaced. we are working very hard now in west mosul, when i say we i mean the government of iraq, our coalition, the united nations and the people of the province, on stabilization projects. in west mosul where the damage is more extensive, engineers, part of the program for stabilization funded in part by the coalition, they have assessed about 200 schools, political substations, sewage plans, hospitals, police stations, demining, setting of the conditions for people to return. the model is east mosul where the battle ended six months ago. we already have 350,000 children back in school. the population has really returned. if you talk to people who've walked the streets, they come back with that, with that story
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seeing it with their own eyes. a lot of problems to see the least, but -- say the least, but people are returning. long-term reconstruction, we are focused on the immediate stabilization so long-term reconstruction is not, again, do not look to the u.s. to fit the bill for long-term reconstruction. it is an international problem, isis is a challenge for the entire world. that is why we built a coalition of 74 partners, one of the largest in history. and i give great credit to the iraqi government because they are looking to fund, how to fund long-term reconstruction needs. they have a standby arrangement with the imf and they passed a bill through parliament, difficult stuff that is not get much attention but it pays dividends down the road. it will release another $1 billion. bailed iraqi government their world vision to the bank about reforms they are committed
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to to help fuel their international financing of the reconstruction. and kuwait, his highness has announced that they will announce -- hold a conference for iraq in the early part of next year. those are obviously efforts that we will support. when it comes to the next phase of the isis campaign, that will probably be the next battle in t elefar. it will probably happen about the time the choosing of the government in iraq. there are about 40,000 civilians. somewhat similar to raqqa, a little bit smaller, but it will be difficult. it has been a hub for isis, it has been the home for many of their leaders. it has been a place where terrible atrocities were committed not against just shiite muslims, but others in this terrible fulcrum of isis atrocities. many of them happened here.
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it will be very hard. they iraqis are committed to liberating the people and we are committed to supporting them at a time of their choosing. gumball number six, this is -- and we estimate about 1000 fighters from isis there. the numbers are sometimes hard to go by. about 50,000 civilians in the pocket of territory, about 50,000-80,000 if you look at the environment. it will be a complex operation, similar to mosul it will involve cooperation between the kurds, iraqi secured forces, and forces local to the area. secretary tillerson spoke over the last few days with the prime minister and the president of the credit stand region about the next steps and important issues that iraq is confronting. quickly, number seven, that is al-quiem, also a heartland devices.
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we will support forces as they clear that and restore sovereignty to their border with security forces. we are preparing for that. 8 nd and 9 aret, important because this is the phase after isis. number 8, the main border crossing between iraq and jordan. it is a very important commerce route, very important for iraq, the government of iraq and also anbar province. the iraqis have been working to set conditions to open the highway and we hope it can happen fairly soon. and give them great credit for what they are putting in place. to get that open, the billion dollar a month commerce route, it is important for the future of the region and obviously something we are supporting both governments, encouraging them to move forward on that. 9, the crossing with the saudi arabia which has been closed
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since 1990. multiple u.s. administrations have encouraged the opening between iraq and saudi arabia but doors have remained closed. we achieved a breakthrough, the , aqis and saudis breakthrough that has led to exchanges of key ministers and talking about opening the border crossing for the first time since 1990. it is a critical commerce route and you can kind of see the post isis situation come into shape there. it is important, that is why i wanted to include 9 on the map. beyond iraq and syria, why is it important? this is the caliphate, been through so many fighters to join isis and it is what makes them a global network. they try to fund isis from the resources they get around iraq and syria. we have targeted and degraded
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their ability to resource themselves and their ability to get foreign fighters into syria, almost impossible for them to do that now. we are working to sever all their financial connections. i thought it would highlight, finally, a way that we work throughout the inter-agency, which sometimes does not get much attention. the treasury department has a findingust program for who in the organization of isis is the leader, who is handling money, and making sure we designate those people so they can never have any access to the financial system internationally, and some of her colleagues recently confirmed officials at the treasury department have done a great job in this. it is important, because when you see a list of designees from isis, that means they will never have access to the financial system. we know their finances are frozen.
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a lot of these guys probably never expect to have access to the system, but if you are in isis and your name shows up on a treasury designation list, you are not just being targeted by the treasury department. that is why it is a close correlation between announcing a designee and eliminating these people from the battlefield. since june of this year, three critical financial facilitators from isis have been killed in air strikes in the euphrates valley area. i think you are all fairly familiar with what we are doing, counter messaging and working with partners in the area. i was here a couple weeks ago, so i will not go to deeply into that. i will conclude with the map of the caliphate which is rapidly shrinking. 30% of their territorial losses in the last few months alone. that is due to changes we have made in the campaign and we will continue to accelerate the pressure on isis until the entire organization collapses
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and they cannot hold any physical territories from which they can threaten us. with that, i think i have time for a few questions. >> thank you. thatone question, you said participate inot reconstruction, you will be engaged in just stabilizing the area, so what does that mean for your partnership with the kurds? does that mean the partnership is about to end, because it seems to me that most of the areas predominantly kurdish have been stabilized? brett: let me be clear. in terms of our military thenerships, our training an, iraqi government has a budget of about $10 million and a look at the u.s. to be the primary supplier, they are buying art
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equipment. it is something we intend to continue. the training relationship, and coronation with the government of iraq, is something that is historic and we intend to continue. when it comes to long-term reconstruction of the areas, that is not something that the u.s. can do on its own. that is why we have built an international coalition of 74 members to help. that is why the world bank, international monetary fund and other international financial institutions, it is important for them to be engaged. critically important for the future of iraq for the gcc to be engaged. that is why we are encouraged by the conference that they will host in kuwait. isrecognize our role, but it not the u.s. alone because isis is a threat to the whole world. questions.ew first of all, can you tell us whether the overall deterioration in russian
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relations has had any impact on your coordination? i know the secretary said you are still working on it. and you said you have the cease-fire line in the south, but arrangements in other areas. are there any other areas where it might shift to more of an agreement, or is it something that you see after raqqa is finished? and i have one other question. brett: good question. so far we have not seen an effect on our engagement with the russians when it comes to syria, most of those engagements are professional military to military engagements. literally, mn talking with -- airmen talking with airmen to avoid accidents. the southwest, that is the one area where we have reached a political agreement about a cease-fire. with that agreement, it is not just a line with the cease-fire
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between the two sides, it also talks about political arrangements in the area, making sure opposition arrangements can remain intact, re-freezing everything in place. it is a detailed arrangement. it is an actual cease-fire with the russians, that is the only part of the country we have reached an arrangement. if there are other opportunities to build on those talks, other opportunities to reach those types of arrangements to help settle down syria, we are very much open to that. so obviously that is something we will speak with the russians about, but so far the southwest is really the only place we have locked in place the cease-fire. >> there have been reports that they have stopped funding for the program to fund the syrian opposition fighting assad-d. you said it was frozen in place, i am wondering what is happening to the people? are they protected in the
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arrangement if you are no longer supporting them? brett: i can just say the agreement we reached with russia has a very detailed cease-fire line. the russians have put their monitors on the northern side, to help monitor regime violations. so far the fighting has stopped. as we begin to see people return to their homes, we see the increase of humanitarian aid and that is when you can become a self-sustaining cycle. part of the post isis political system, all of this fighting, for the kurds the key issue is the independence referendum. what is your position on the? are the iraqi elections a factor in consideration? brett: i think we have spoken to this, we do not believe the referendum is a good idea. it is ill-timed, not well
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prepared. there are critical engagements against isis that have to take place with the full cooperation from iraqi security forces and it could have catastrophic consequences, so obviously we are in detailed discussions with iraqi leaders over this and that is one reason why secretary tillerson made important calls over the last few days. a question of timing or the referendum? authoritiesurdish say they want to hold it on september 25, it is something the u.s. government is firmly opposed to. >> when you talk about the numbers left in iraq and syria, how many of the ones that have left the area do you think are dead, versus who fled the region? where do you see the book of them going, more to libya or more to europe? and how do you think one to consider isis kind of defeated
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in raqqa and iraq, what is the benchmark for that and how do you see the next kind of iteration of the coalition in terms of what you would consider isis defeated? brett: great question. wek, until the, until we -- work closely with turkey to seal the border, whether it is east of the afraid is river -- east of the euphrates river, or on the west side where they have liberated two border crossings and also took the spiritual town , the spiritual kind of -- in isis propaganda, they thought it would happen there, so calling for people all around the world. they actually changed it. in any event, it was an
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important operation and since the border has been sealed isis fighters are not getting in, and also not getting out. i cannot guarantee that they cannot find a smuggling route, but they are coming by the thousands, at least 90%. and we are not fighting isis fighters able to leave syria. not long ago, they would plan a terrorist attack in raqqa, they would train a unit, they would then infiltrate out, they would go conduct an attack such as in paris or brussels. they were developing in that capacity. they cannot do that anymore. what are we doing? we're building a database of who these people are. as we find names on the battlefield and we have a very robust, through our coalition, intelligence gathering. we call it sensitive site exploitation, we find a cell phone, address book, we share names with host nations. if it is a french name we share
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it with french authorities. we have a database of 19,000 names, drawn out on interpol databases, so that any member has access to the database of that if there is somebody that fox in syria -- fought in syria and has gotten out, and a routine search or traffic stop, they can actually be identified. the next phase of the coalition is obviously a little less emphasis on the ground operations in iraq and syria because those ultimately will conclude, it is information sharing, that is the critical enabler to protect our homeland. and that is one coalition -- isson why the coalition strong and continues to grow. we just added 4 african countries to the coalition because this is a global network, and as we succeed against these networks, more
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countries want to join and be part of this. yes? >> i have a few questions. first of all, as you know, u.s. general thompson said it will rebrand itself to address turkish concerns -- that is how he added mccook was able to be in the conversation. themselves.randing and do you plan on going into -- once raqqa is cleared? and [indiscernible] once everything is settled down? thomas hasgeneral done an incredible job from day one of the campaign, going all the way back to the battles for
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--. kobani might remember surrounded by isis fighters, had it fallen the whole border would've gone to isis. some of our friends in iraq, kurdish friends that actually put us in touch with kurdish fighters in kobani at the time to develop contacts and get military equipment to them. then we worked with turkey as part of this. ridornted to open a cor to turn the tide of the battle. it was a historic moment. over the course of the battle, we killed 6000 isis fighters, the first time they lost a battle and it was really a turning point. after that, when we met fighters from kobani, and we said, how we going to really take the fight to isis in the other areas. we have to recruit arabs into the force. you have to have an umbrella that embraces the arab component with the key principles in
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syria, as areas are liberated they should return to the local people from those areas. that is first and foremost. we had to have in him will that would bring in -- an ambulance that would bring in as many people as possible. all these guys working together as a cohesive force, not working together as different units, which is not effective. so general thomas was a part of that. it has been a very effective. so all returning classes are full, full of christians, areas, people who want to liberate accounts. overall i think it has been successful. , it is ton the map the northwest of the yellow gumball number two. and what makes it complicated is it is a city with an air filled in which it syrian army forces have been trying to seize for the last two years. they have thousands of their own
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fighters in their. they are surrounded by isis. and the syrian army forces are determined to break the siege. look at what the russians, the russian general gave a briefing talking about the operation a few weeks ago. they are 140 kilometers away. they have some ways to go. i think it is a decent assumption that over time they will probably succeed in that mission, but how much further they go from there iwill remain to be seen and we will be in discussions with the russians on the. -- on that. >> thank you. after isis is defeated, do you think that kurdistan will be the u.s. strategy -- ? ally, so, our strategic our friends in iraq, we support the government of iraq, we support a unified federal iraq
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that is strong and prosperous and is at peace with itself and neighbors. obviously, we have deep relations in the region. kurdishing with all the parties, that is something that goes back decades and it is something a will continue. we will also continue working through the government of iraq within the iraqi constitutional system to support a unified in federal iraq. >> couple of questions. first, have you sorted out differences with turkey thereing last week's --, was a statement from the state department and in the panel you kept mentioning idlib as a safe haven for al qaeda. but when on the map, you are done with the points on the map, do you have plans for idlib? and another question, regarding
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iraq. as far as i know, when there was a problem about the turkish president in pocket shot -- in -- you brokered a deal with anda and baghdad -- ankara baghdad and the condition was it would be liberated. can you confirm that the turkish president is coming to an end with the turkish troops in the region? brett: a lot of complex questions there. [laughter] brett: yes, so i did a 90 minute panel and about 30 seconds of the panel got attention, very badly mischaracterized and i think we have spoken to this. workedentioned, we have closely with turkey to seal the border. i mentioned in the battle combine, working with the turks to open up the corridor. all these things are important. at the same time, this problem of foreign fighters is a problem
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for all of us. 40,000 foreign fighters that came to join isis came from all around the world, they came through turkey, and it is a problem. not just for turkey, but also for the source countries. the tunisians, saudis, have to do work to stop people traveling. see the coalition we have done an awful lot to close those routes. i give the saudis and turks tremendous credit working on this problem. seriousroblems is a problems, a haven for al qaeda, and what my remarks -- remarks reflected is that we have to work together with turkey and our other partners to deal with this problem. and i think over the coming weeks we will be having those conversations. -- you askedon of
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about bashiqa -- what was your second question? is an issue between the government of iraq and the government of turkey. it is our position we want the government of iraq and turkey to have very strong ties. i think prime minister mr. abadi has had phone calls with eduhan, with improved stability in this part of the world. today, there were negotiations taking please between coalition forces and opposition- a syrian forces to create a national army.
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can you comment on this, and if this is the case, why did they withdraw arms from the syrian army? do you know if these armies are about to launch and operation against isis? do they intend to land air support against isis? many things there i am not going to comment on, including a report i have not regarding lebanon, we had a successful visit with the prime minister. i would let the president's remarks stand on therein. lebanon is a critical ally we would like to see 60. this, do have answered not bother. it's someone asking about what the secretary said about the orbilization, rebuild
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restore basic utilities -- if that is what you are going to do, are you confident that you are not leaving a vacuum that the iranians will exploit? if you have answered it -- mr. mcgurk: i did not get into the iranian element, but our focus is do not this miss the importance -- dismiss the importance of stable is nation. electricity,r, stabilization. what we find is as people return to their homes, and in and bar province, we have one million people that are back in areas that you speak under control devices. you see life returned to the streets. you see the schools open. as you help with stabilization, set in placelement for people to return. all i can say is the numbers speak for themselves. 2 million iraqis are back in
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areas that used be controlled by isis. >> i get that, but you are seeing the iranian influence vastly greater now, are you not? mr. mcgurk: you are seeing the iranians flood the market with their products, and the long-term bet and something we are talking with the iraqis doing we haveg.e. multibillion-dollar deals, private deals about long-term electricity generation. we have some of the best american oil firms helping to regenerate some of the fields in the south, helping capture flared gas. these are the kinds of things that make a tremendous difference. in syria, long-term reconstruction of syria is dependent upon getting a credible political horizon table. might havened, you stepped out, until there is a critical horizon, the
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international community will not be coming to the aid to reconstruct syria. >> thanks, everybody. >> thank you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> i was open to get transportation in 2001 does my health background is in trade and transportation. a transportation banker for a number of years for both citicorp and bank of america. and i had worked for transportation companies, so my background was in transportation. so it is nice not to be able to return to the field in which i had worked previously, and it is nice to be back in department i am very for mayor. >> watch our interview with tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on


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