Operation IMPACT – Technical briefing

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Video / January 15, 2015

Transcript

Captain(Navy) Paul Forget, Canadian Joint Operations Command

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. My name is Captain (Navy) Paul Forget from the Canadian Joint Operations Command. Today I will provide you with an update on Operation IMPACT, the Canadian Armed Forces support to the coalition fight against ISIL in Iraq.

First I will briefly explain ISIL’s recent activities and coalition operations. ISIL remains a threat to Iraq, the region and to Canada. In a video released last weekend they repeated threats against Canada and called for attacks on western countries, specifically on security and military personnel.

This week in Iraq, ISIL conducted operations in the provinces of Anbar, Ninewa and Salahaddin. ISIL has attempted to regain the initiative after losing territory in past weeks. Thanks to the continued pressure brought to bear by the Iraqi security forces, supported by coalition air strikes, ISIL’s relaunch attempt has failed.

Joint Iraqi security and coalition forces operations in northern, western and central Iraq continued over the past week and successfully damaged or destroyed a number of enemy targets. Furthermore, the Iraqi security forces are continuing to carry out military operations in Baghdad and surrounding areas to secure approaches to the city and the city itself.

The coalition has conducted more than 900 strikes to date in Iraq. These targets include heavy weapons, vehicles, fighting positions, tactical units and buildings used by ISIL. By damaging or destroying these assets we are degrading their capability to fight and supporting the Iraqi security forces in their ongoing efforts on the ground.

Since the beginning of Operation IMPACT, our aircraft have conducted a total of 335 sorties. Our CF-18 fighters have flown 214 missions, the Polaris air-to-air refuelling aircraft has carried out 57 sorties and delivered more than 3.1 million pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft. Our Aurora reconnaissance aircraft have conducted 64 sorties.

Since our last briefing session, the CF18’s have conducted six air strikes in support of Iraqi security forces throughout Iraq. The map behind me shows the dates and locations of those strikes. For example our CF-18’s conducted air strikes in support of Iraqi operations in the vicinity of Haditha and disrupted ISIL’s freedom of movement along the key line of communication through the Euphrates River valley.

Air strikes were also conducted in northern Iraq in direct support of Iraqi security forces. They disrupted and degraded ISIL’s ability to resupply and maintain control of Mosul.

Strikes on January 11th and 12th were conducted in the vicinity of Bayji to maintain pressure on ISIL forces operating in that city.

Our CF-18’s used precision guided munitions to strike enemy fighting positions and an enemy transport truck that was pulling an armoured personnel carrier and an ISIL strong point that included staging and weapons storage facilities.

The Canadian Armed Forces will continue to carry out the mandate assigned by the government of Canada to conduct air strikes on ISIL targets in Iraq. Our efforts support the coalition objective of degrading ISIL by maintaining constant pressure on them and assist the Iraqi security forces in their fight against this enemy. Thank you. I am now available to take your questions.


Question and answer period (not in the video)

Question: One short question: with respect to what has happened in France, is this going to change Canadian operations on the ground over there with the coalition, for example?

Capt(N) Forget: The regrettable events that occurred in Paris last week have had no impact in terms of the operations we are conducting at this time in Iraq. I would go so far as to say that this has actually reinforced the ultimate objective of supporting one another as a coalition. France is a key member of the coalition, and therefore, this fraternity, if you will, this coalition is continuing its efforts against this enemy.

Question: Can you say whether France as a coalition country has changed, modified certain aspects of its work on the ground there?

Capt(N) Forget: I have no concrete details to that effect, but I read an article in the press just recently to the effect that they have considered sending an aircraft carrier into the region to support these events, but apart from that, I have no details.

Question: Yes, in fact, over the past several days, these strikes, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve January with certain days, there were more strikes. How is it that there was a certain operational tempo that had slowed down previously and then in the past few days, in fact, there have been missions non-stop? What has changed? Why the increased movement?

Capt(N) Forget: Quite simply, operational tempo has not really changed. We fly missions on a regular, daily basis in the Republic of Iraq in order to support the Iraqi forces. As I said in my text, obviously, ISIL has launched offensives quite recently.

When they go on the offensive they put themselves at risk of strikes and that does indeed allow us to launch more strikes against them. They have exposed themselves and we have been able to degrade their forces where we have been able to strike.

Question: So at the same time, have the Auroras been flying out on more missions? You have just said, you have brought us up to date on one of the missions, but have the Auroras left on more missions recently to conduct intelligence, or actually find out where the ISIL forces are?

Capt(N) Forget: To answer the question directly, the answer is no. The tempo is constant. The number of sorties we are doing, it is actually a fairly regular tempo. There is one day a week when we take a break to do maintenance on the aircraft.

Obviously, they are heavily in demand and they fly out on a daily basis. So the tempo has not changed. Nothing has been increased as such. It is just that the targets are presenting themselves more frequently lately and that provides us with more strike opportunities.

Question: Hello Captain, how are you today? There are news agency reports about ISIL launching offensives in two provinces or regions of Iraq but most notably in Ninawa which is northeast of Erbil and I`m wondering whether or not these operations pose any threat to the special forces contingent that has been deployed as part of Operation IMPACT.

Capt(N) Forget: As I mentioned in my text, yes. That’s exactly correct. There has been an increase in offensive operations by ISIL. Whether or not those offensive operations pose a direct threat to our special forces I unfortunately don’t have any information to that effect. Their mission continues to be an advise and assist capacity and so I don’t have any detailed information in that regard.

However what I can offer you is that on Monday there will be a follow on brief to this tech brief where General Vance and General Rouleau will be providing an update on the campaign in a more detailed capacity.

Question: Sort of as a follow up to that, is there any consideration at the moment to changing the posture of special forces and allowing them to perhaps help direct some of the air strikes?

Capt(N) Forget: Until there’s a change in the mandate that’s been provided to our special forces their mandate remains as assigned by the government of Canada which is an advise and assist capacity.

Question: Good afternoon Captain. Just a follow up to some questions about the tempo of operations. It does seem that I understand the jets may be flying the same number of missions but I guess they’ve had opportunity to drop their weapons more often in some recent days. Can you say for sure whether that’s sort of a direct response on recent offensive operations by ISIL?

I also noticed that many of those strikes have happened in concert with in support of ground forces. I wasn’t sure if you were striking ISIL as they expose themselves or just helping to support offensive maneuvering by the Iraqi security forces.

Capt(N) Forget: You’ve actually answered your own question in many ways because the answer is actually both of those items. We are linked up with the Iraqi security forces as part of the coalition and therefore we are providing cover to any of their offensive and defensive operations for that matter against ISIL forces.

As I mentioned earlier, yes, there have been, there has been an increase lately in ISIL offensives and as such they are exposing themselves more which provides a bit more of a target rich environment allowing our fighters to be able to drop their weapons on them.

Question: Iraq’s Prime Minister has asked for an increase in bombing missions from coalition countries. I was wondering if Canada will respond to that by increasing the tempo.

Capt(N) Forget: Yes, I’m aware of that ask of the Iraqi government. That was provided to the coalition. Of course we’re but one of many coalition members assisting in that fight to support Iraqi security forces. Since the beginning of this conflict we have been continuously reassessing what our contribution is, what we can do to assist, what some of the coalition needs are, if we’re in a position to be able to support those needs.

That evaluation is an ongoing evaluation. It’s constant and so the Iraqi request notwithstanding, Canada’s contribution continues to be re-evaluated based on coalition needs.

Question: A follow up question, you mentioned that ISIL has gone on the offensive in several areas, trying to retake some of its territory. Last week we were told that they were on their back foot as the saying goes. I’m just wondering what’s happening here. Are they making a comeback?

Capt(N) Forget: Indeed that was the language that we used last week to say they were on their back foot. What you have to understand here is there is a very, very persistent air presence over the Iraqi region. Indeed that has put ISIL on their back foot.

We’ve continuously been saying how they’ve had to rejig how they’re doing business, rethink how they’re going to use their tactics because what they were doing before wasn’t working. In a sense, yes, we’ve disrupted their way of normal operation with all of these air strikes.

In any type of conflict there will be defensive operations, there will be offensive operations. Right now ISIL obviously has felt they’re in a position to better conduct some offensive operations. They felt they were probably ready to do that. We’ve been in a position to be able to exactly exacerbate that effort and deny them that ability.

Question: You mentioned just a few moments ago that areas of Iraq are increasingly, it’s an increasingly target rich environment but it seemed off the bat at least from the Canadian side of these operations that you were having a pretty hard time finding targets.

What has changed? Can you elaborate on this target rich environment that you were just mentioned a few moments ago?

Capt(N) Forget: What I was referring to is the fact that ISIL has exposed themselves more due to the fact that they’ve gone on to offensive operations. The fact that they’ve taken the offensive in this past ten days or so has forced them to expose themselves more, thus allowing our fighters to be able to actually detect the areas that they, detect them on the ground in the areas that they’ve been assigned to cover and engage them accordingly.

Question: Okay. I know you were just talking about this but I was also curious. Last week we were given the impression that ISIS had been hurt, that they were damaged, that they were not participating as much in offensive operations. Now they appear emboldened. What’s happened in the past week that ISIS feels emboldened?

Capt(N) Forget: It’s a question that might be better posed to ISIL because I don’t have any insight exactly as to why they feel now is the appropriate time to be able to conduct their offensive operations.

That said, ISIL has a goal of taking over the entirety of Iraq. The fact that we’re still in the crisis phase here of managing this influx of ISIL into Iraq, we’ve been able to blunt their advance. That was the word that was used and continues to be used, was to stop them from taking more territory within Iraq.

We’ve been quite successful in doing so. That doesn’t change the fact that the ultimate strategic goal of ISIL was to actually take over all of this land and territory. Although we’ve been successful in stopping that initial advance, that doesn’t preclude them from their desire if you will of regrouping and launching offensive operations. That’s just normal as any part of any conflict.

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