Interview With Al-Sumaria TV

Brett McGurk
Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIL, Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL
Baghdad, Iraq
December 1, 2016

QUESTION: (Speaks in Arabic.)

MR MCGURK: Well, the Mosul campaign is one of the most complex endeavors here in this campaign against Daesh. We feel good about the progress. I think it's very important to keep in mind, and it's something I remind people all around the world, as I travel around the world, as one of the leaders of our global coalition to support Iraq's efforts in the fight against Daesh, is that these heroic, patriotic, brave fighters that are in the streets of Mosul fighting Daesh, they're really fighting on behalf of the entire world. And so, we are extremely grateful for the enormous efforts, the heroism, the sacrifice that the whole world is now witnessing.

This is a very tough battle. And I think it's important to keep in mind the battle of Ramadi took six months, the battle of Kobani in Syria took six months. Mosul is a much larger city. And, you're right, we're into about week six or seven here. We knew this would take a long time. But the operation, the military campaign plan, the operation, is almost exactly where we thought it should be at this stage. The city is now surrounded, Daesh terrorists cannot reinforce themselves, they cannot resupply. And the multiple axes are continuing to advance every single day.

So, Mosul will be liberated. It will take time. The Iraqi Security Forces are taking tremendous care for human life, at the direction of the prime minister, which is something, obviously, we fully support. And Daesh is using civilians as human shields, so this makes the operation more difficult, but there is no doubt that Daesh will be defeated in Mosul, and we will provide all measure of support for the Iraqi Security Forces, the Counter-Terrorism Service forces, the Iraqi Army, all the forces that are involved in this historic endeavor.

QUESTION: (Speaks in Arabic.)

MR MCGURK: Well, I think our air campaign is the most precise air campaign in history. We are very careful with our application of air power, and we are working extraordinarily closely with the members of the Iraqi Security Forces and also, of course, the Peshmerga in the early phases of this operation to provide precision air support in the course of the battle. So this is something that will continue.

I think, since the Mosul operation launched, 5,000 munitions have been dropped on Daesh targets. And this is something, obviously, that will continue. We are fully committed to ensuring that these heroic fighters in the streets of Mosul win their battle, because they are really fighting on behalf of the entire world.

QUESTION: (Speaks in Arabic.)

MR MCGURK: So I think this law that recently passed the parliament, this is obviously a matter for your internal domestic situation here in Iraq. The law needs to be implemented. It gives a very broad mandate to the prime minister, and I look forward to seeing the prime minister later today to talk about a number of issues. And, obviously, I think it has to be implemented wisely.

We have developed procedures to support Iraqi Security Forces, Iraqi forces that are operating under the command and control of Iraq, reporting up to the prime minister. And that is very important, because that is how we are able to provide the precision type of fires, precision type of air support that I mentioned earlier.

And so, right now, in terms of prosecuting the battle, we will support those elements, those units that are operating strictly under the command and control of the Iraqi command and control structure.

QUESTION: (Speaks in Arabic.)

MR MCGURK: Well, we have provided -- since the battle of Tikrit we developed procedures that have proven to be very effective for an array of forces that are on the field fighting Daesh. But the real test for our air support is that the request for air support have to go up through the Iraqi chain of command. And that is the way we are able to make sure we know exactly what we are striking on the ground.

The worst thing we would want to do is make a mistake and hit friendly forces on the field. It's hard to tell, from the sky, who is who sometimes. And that is why we have to have a close relationship with the forces on the field. And we have developed procedures going well over a year now, almost 18 months after the battle of Tikrit, about how to provide air support. And those have been quite effective, and that will continue.

QUESTION: (Speaks in Arabic.)

MR MCGURK: Well, we are here in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi Government. We have a Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq that was actually signed by President Bush, and has been implemented by President Obama. We are now undergoing our -- what we call our presidential transition process, where President-elect Trump is forming his cabinet, and his team will take office on January 20th.

But one thing that unites not only the American people, but, really, the entire world -- there are a lot of divisions in the world right now. There are a lot of divisions in the United States. We had a very contested election. But one thing that unites our country, that unites the world, is this fight against Daesh.

And so, I think the Iraqi people can rest assured that the support in defeating Daesh will continue. And, of course, we have to make sure, on behalf of the entire world, that we defeat this enemy, because this enemy is a threat to all of us. It's a threat to the Iraqis here in Iraq. This is my 12th or 13th visit to Iraq this year. And every time I come, there has been more progress in this overall fight against Daesh. But I'm also reminded, because I travel all around the world, that this threat is something that is not only here in Iraq, it is threatening all of us in our capitals, including the United States. So we are in this together. We have to defeat this barbaric enemy together. And, obviously, the new President's team will come in, and they will solidify their own policies. But the American people are united in the fight against Daesh, and that is something that is very much going to continue.

QUESTION: (Speaks in Arabic.)

MR MCGURK: Well, the battle to isolate Raqqa, to move on Raqqa, to make sure that Daesh cannot reinforce their units in Mosul or in Raqqa, began about six weeks ago. The forces we are working with on the ground in Syria have cleared about 700 square kilometers. And the next phase of that operation would begin fairly soon.

So, on the Raqqa side it's more complicated because we are not working with the government. The United States will not work with the regime of Bashar al-Assad to fight Daesh. So it's a very much more complicated situation here in Iraq. But we feel pretty good about the progress moving towards Raqqa, most importantly, to make sure that Daesh can no longer reinforce any of these critical fronts.

So, we have indications that their fighters in Raqqa want reinforcements. They can't get them. And we know that their fighters in Mosul want reinforcements and they can't get them. So it is a matter of time before we defeat Daesh in these two -- their self-proclaimed capitals, and we'll make sure that we get that done.

QUESTION: (Speaks in Arabic.)

MR MCGURK: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.