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USD (Policy) Dr. Kahl Press Conference

STAFF:  All right, good afternoon, everyone.

Joining us today is Dr. Colin Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy.  Dr. Kahl will open with a statement which highlights the next round of security assistance for Ukraine under the presidential drawdown authority.  We'll then open up to the room and to the phones for Q&A.  We have around a 30-minute hard stop today, so we'll do our best to get around as best we can.

And with that, Dr. Kahl, over to you, sir.

UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE (POLICY) COLIN KAHL:  Great.  It's good to see all of you.  Good afternoon.  It's been a while.  It's good to see all of you again.  I -- I last saw you, I think, on June 1st for the announcement of the 11th presidential drawdown package.  We are now on PDA package 18.  As we have made clear at every level of this administration, we're committed to continued security assistance for Ukraine as they stand up to Russia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion.

Today, President Biden directed the 18th drawdown of an additional $1 billion in weapons and equipment from the Department of Defense inventories.  This is the largest single drawdown of U.S. arms and equipment utilizing this authority to date.  The package provides a significant amount of additional ammunition, weapons and equipment, the types of which the Ukrainian people are using so effectively to defend their country.

The capabilities in this package include the following:  additional ammunition for High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, 75,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition, 20 120mm mortar systems and 20,000 rounds of associated mortar ammunition, munitions for national advanced surface-to-air missile systems, or NASAMS, 1,000 Javelin systems and hundreds of AT-4 antiarmor systems, 50 armored medical treatment vehicles, Claymore antipersonnel munitions, C-4 explosives, demolition munitions and demolition equipment and medical supplies, to include first aid kits, bandages, monitors and other equipment.  These are all critical capabilities to help the Ukrainians repel the Russian offensive in the east, and also to address evolving developments in the south and elsewhere.

The United States has now committed approximately $9.8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including $9.1 billion since the beginning of Russia's most recent unprovoked invasion in February.  The United States continues to work with its allies and partners to provide Ukraine with capabilities to meet its evolving battlefield requirements, and our allies and partners have stepped up to provide billions of dollars in their own assistance.  We will continue to closely consult with Ukraine and surge additional available systems and capabilities in support of its defense.  Secretary Austin remains in routine dialogue with his counterpart, Minister Reznikov of Ukraine, and our support for Ukraine and that of the international community for Ukraine remains unwavering.

At every stage of this conflict, we have been focused on getting the Ukrainians what they need, depending on the evolving conditions on the battlefield.  We are working around the clock to fulfill Ukraine's priority security assistance requests, delivering weapons from the United States' stocks when they are available and facilitating the delivery of weapons by allies and partners when their systems better suit Ukraine's needs.

At least 50 countries have now provided security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded.  More than 50 countries have participated in the Ukraine Defense Contact Group that Secretary Austin regularly convenes.  Our continued joint and unified efforts ensure that Ukraine can be successful today and build enduring strength for the future.

I would just like to close by repeating something that I said at my last briefing:  It's important as we focus on these numbers and capabilities to remember the massive behind-the-scenes efforts involved, from our servicemembers, civilians and contractors who are working to obtain and move this equipment; from the individual bases sourcing our drawdown packages to the Transportation Command providing movement support; to our servicemembers on rotation in support of our enhanced presence across US European Command; and to our own policy professionals right here in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The department has come together in extraordinary ways to support this historic effort.  Without our most valuable resource, the never-ending dedication and support of our employees and contractors, this response would not have been possible.

And with that, I'm happy to take the first questions.  Thanks.

STAFF:  Great, thank you, sir.  We're going to start with the AP, who I believe is on the phone.

Ellen, over to you.

Q:  Hi there, and thank you for doing this.  I'm sorry if you said this already, but how many rockets for the HIMARS are included in this package?

DR. KAHL:  Yeah, so we've never given precise numbers of the rockets.  We don't want to tip off the Russians to every last detail.  But what I can say is since we provided the HIMARS and the associated munitions, which are referred to as GMLRS, which stands for Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems -- these are precision-guided missiles with about a 70-km range -- we've provided multiple hundreds of these systems in the past few weeks.  But I'm not going to go into the details of the specific number in this package.


STAFF:  Back to the room here, Idrees.

Q:  Kyiv has said the casualty numbers are about 100 to 200 per day.  Do you believe those are sustainable numbers?

And on a separate topic on China and Taiwan, prior to Speaker Pelosi's trip Gen
Milley had said he did not believe China would try to militarily seize Taiwan in the next few years.  He said two years, specifically.  After Speaker Pelosi's trip and China's reaction, do you still believe China will not militarily seize Taiwan in the next few years?

DR. KAHL:  Yeah, good question.

So as it relates to Ukrainian casualty numbers, I mean, obviously the fighting has been intense for some period of time now in the east, fighting is intensifying also in the south.  I think the numbers of casualties have gone up and down.

I can't speak to the veracity of those particular numbers. I will say this though -- first, that the Ukrainian morale and will to fight is unquestioned and much higher, I think, than the average morale and will to fight on the Russian side.  So I think that gives the Ukrainians a significant advantage.  After all, more than 40 million Ukrainians are fighting -- the stakes are existential for them.  They are fighting for the survival of their country.

I'll also say the Russians are taking a tremendous number of casualties on the other side of the equation.  You know, precise figures, there's a lot of fog in war, but, you know, I think it's safe to suggest that the Russians have probably taken 70 or 80,000 casualties in less than six months.  Now, that is a combination of killed in action and wounded in action, and that number might be a little lower, a little higher, but I think that's kind of in the ballpark, which is pretty remarkable considering that the Russians have achieved none of Vladimir Putin's objectives at the beginning of the war.  I mean, his overall objective was to overrun the entire country, to engage in regime change in Kyiv, to snuff out Ukraine as an independent, sovereign and democratic nation.  None of that has happened.

The initial thrust on Kyiv was completely thwarted and rolled back by the Ukrainians.  The Russians then shifted to the east.  They have made some incremental gains in the east, although not very much in the last couple weeks, but that has come at extraordinary cost to the Russian military because of how well the Ukrainian military has performed and all the assistance that the Ukrainian military has gotten.

And I think now, conditions in the east have essentially stabilized and the focus is really shifting to the south, and in part, that's because the Ukrainians are starting to put some pressure down south and the Russians have been forced to redeploy their forces down there.

So yes, both sides are taking casualties, the war is the most intense conventional conflict in Europe since the Second World War, but the Ukrainians have a lot of advantages, not the least of which their will to fight.

I will say this, as it relates to China and Taiwan -- the crisis, you know, across the Strait is essentially a manufactured one by Beijing.  Speaker Pelosi's visit is not the first time that a Speaker of the United States House of Representatives has traveled to Taiwan.  Certainly, congressmen and women from the United States regularly go to Taiwan.  Legislatures from around the world go to Taiwan.  Our Congress is an independent body of our government.

Nothing about the visit changed one iota of the U.S. government's policy toward Taiwan or towards China.  We continue to have a One China policy and we continue to object to any unilateral change in the status quo, whether that be from the PRC or from Taiwan.

So really, China's reaction was completely unnecessary.  Clearly, they weren't happy with the Speaker's visit.  And so you saw a series of live fire demonstrations, including, you know, something around a dozen missile exercises that kind of bracketed the island.  You've seen an increased pace of naval and air activities in the Strait, including those that cross over the -- the so-called center line or the median line between mainland China and Taiwan.

Clearly the PRC is trying to coerce Taiwan, clearly they're trying to coerce the international community, and all I'll say is we're not going to take the bait and it's not going to work.  So it's a manufactured crisis.  That doesn't mean we have to play into that.  I think it would only play to Beijing's advantage.

What we'll do instead is to continue to fly, to sail and to operate wherever international law allows us to do so, and that includes in the Taiwan Strait, and we will continue to stand by our allies and partners in the region, and I think there's a lot of confidence in that U.S. commitment.

STAFF:  Thank you, sir.  Jen, Fox News?

Q:  So Idrees didn’t ask whether it was a manufactured crisis by China, he asked whether there was a new assessment as to whether China would take Taiwan militarily in two years.  What's the answer to that?

DR. KAHL:  No.

Q:  Okay.  And in terms of the Russian casualties, how long do you assess that Russia can sustain this level of casualty?

DR. KAHL:  It's an interesting question and not one I can answer with a high degree of certainty.  Obviously, Russia's a very large country.  Now, you know, a lot of it would depend, I think, on the political decisions that Vladimir Putin will make ultimately about whether he can continue to recruit and send additional forces to the front, whether he was at some point, you know, willing to engage in national mobilization or some other effort.

But, you know, he's tried to describe this all-out invasion as a special military operation and has thus far been hesitant to mobilize his entire country toward the effort.  So, I don't know and a lot depends on ultimately decisions that they will make.

But I will tell you this -- the Russian military has been treated badly.  I think that they certainly assumed that they could steamroll over Ukraine in a matter of days or weeks.  It now turns out to have been a profound miscalculation.  The Ukrainians are doing more than holding their own and I expect that that trend will continue.

STAFF:  All right.  Sylvie, AFP?

Q:  Thank you, sir. I have a small question about the package.  The C-4 explosives, what is it for and is it the first time you send that?

And second, about China and Taiwan -- does U.S. assess that some Chinese planes flew over Taiwan?  Because it was something that the Japanese said, that the -- does U.S. assess that and is it the first time?

DR. KAHL:  So, I don't know that we assess that any manned Chinese aircraft have flown over any areas claimed by Taiwan.  I don't have any information to report on that.  Of course, there were five missiles that China launched as part of their exercises and live fire demonstrations that landed in Japan's EEZ, their Exclusive Economic Zone, which was, I think, a sign of kind of how reckless the PRC reaction was and I think it's a sign that actions like this are not what mature, responsible powers do and I think are a challenge to a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is something that not only we care about but Japan cares about and our other allies and partners care about.

But beyond that, I don't have specific information about whether there was an overflight of any small island or feature that Taiwan claims.

The C-4 explosives, we have provided before, and a lot of this is used for demolition work by -- by Ukrainian special operations forces and others.

STAFF:  Yes.  Nancy of the Wall Street Journal.  Nancy.

Q:  I wanted to come back to a couple things you've said.  One thing that public has heard is how effective the HIMARS have been and strengthening Kyiv's hand and I wonder if you could give us some insight in terms of why that was not part of this current aid package?

And then I'd like to go back to your very direct answer to Jen Griffin kind of about what we learned about Chinese capabilities, vis-a-vis the Taiwanese trade.  I understand that your conclusion is that they couldn't take the island in two years.

But during the exercise we saw them have economic impact on Taiwan in their ability to slow down ships entering into the Taiwanese trade.  And so I'm curious from your perspective given that China said they'll be doing more of these exercises, at what point does it become a security threat to the Taiwanese economy to the world market?

DR. KAHL:  Yes, good question.  So on the HIMARS effectiveness, they have proven -- you know HIMARS is just a truck, right.  It's a truck that has a canister on the back that launches guided rockets.  The munitions themselves, these GMLRS that I referred to earlier, are having a very profound effect.

I mean, this is a 200 pound war head.  It's kind of the equivalent of an airstrike, frankly, a precision guided airstrike.  These are GPS guided munitions, they've been very effective in hitting things that previously the Ukrainians had difficulty hitting reliably.  So command and control nodes sustainment and logistics hubs, key radar systems and other things.

And what it's done is it's made it more difficult for the Russians to move forces around the battlefield.  They've had to move certain aspects back, away from the HIMARS.  It's slowed them down; it's made it harder for them to resupply their forces.  So I think it's having real operational effects.  Now the question is why aren't there more GMLRS in the package and the reason is actually pretty straight forward.

We provided a tremendous number of GMLRS in the last PDA package and we are now on a rhythm of shipping it so that things are arriving on a steady cadence.  So I think you can expect that in the next PDA package there will be the next increment of GMLRS.

So, you haven't seen the last of the GMLRS.

Q:  And on Taiwan?

DR. KAHL:  Yes, on that.  So I defer to our counterparts at the Treasury Department and the Commerce Department on the impact, but my sense, at least from reading what they say, is that there hasn't been much of an effect on Taiwan's economy or the international economy.

You didn't see a dramatic reaction by the markets. I think that's largely because even though Beijing was trying to manufacture a crisis, we didn't rise to the bait and so it didn't, I think, you know look to the international community as if this was some spiraling or escalating moment.

We were very conscious to not send that signal because it would not be productive for anybody.  Now of course as the operational tempo of PRC activity has increased in and around Taiwan, you know there's enormous amount of global commerce that passes through the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan itself is, you know, among the most impactful economic entities on planet Earth.  I mean it proves something like 70 to 90 percent of the most advanced semiconductors that everybody's iPhone and laptops and everything else runs on.  So obviously there could be a point at which the PRC could engage in activities that would have economic consequences not just for Taiwan but for the world economy.

And that's, I think, one of the key reasons why there is a global consensus that there needs to be stability across the Taiwan Strait and that conflict across the Taiwan Strait is in nobodies interest.  And it's certainly not in the U.S. interest.

And so, you know, we'll keep our eye on it but right now I don't think the consequences have been all that profound.

STAFF:  All right, we'll go to Oren, CNN.

Q:  A China question and a Ukraine question.  You described Speaker's Pelosi's visit as standard or routine saying other speakers have visited and CODELs go fairly frequently.  If that's the case then why did the military not want Speaker Pelosi to go?  President Biden was specific in his wording there.

And then the Ukraine question, you're sending ammo for the M777s, the 1555 and for the HIMARS, but you're not sending more systems.  I was wondering if you've reached a limit of what you can pull directly from DOD inventories on that?

DR. KAHL:  Sure.  So on your first question about the military views, look, I'll -- I'll let the president's words speak for themselves.  From the very beginning the Pentagon was committed to making sure that if the Speaker decided to go, which was her right to make that decision, that we would provide here the support required.

We provided an aircraft.  We had forces in the region in the event that something unanticipated happened.  Thankfully none of that -- none of that happened.

Look, I did think that we anticipated that, you know, the visit would make news and that the leadership in Beijing would present it as being provocative and would seek to manufacture the crisis that we now see unfolding before us.

I mean nothing that's happened was unanticipated.  In fact, we predicted it precisely as it was going to happen and the days before Speaker Pelosi's CODEL to Taiwan we said that China was preparing to do these live fire exercises and a higher tempo of air in maritime activities including activities that were closer to -- to Taiwan.

So nothing that China has done has surprised us.  So look, we're at a moment of profound international tension.  We're talking about Russia in Ukraine.  There are developments elsewhere.  I think there was a sense that, you know, the world didn't require another instance of rising tensions but it is what it is and the speaker had every right to go and when she made the final decision we were fully supportive.

And I think we've managed it well so that this kind of manufactured crisis by Beijing hasn't produced more consequences than any of us would like.  Why aren't we seeing more HIMARS and more M777 howitzers as opposed to the ammunition and the GMLRS; right now, I think -- you know first of all, we sent 16 HIMARS systems, which is actually quite a lot.

Again, these are not systems that we assess you need in the hundreds to have the type of affects they are.  These are precision guided systems for very particular types of targets and the Ukrainians are using them as such.

The Brits have also provided three M270 MRS systems, which essentially if the HIMARS is a truck the M270 is the exact same system but it's on the chassis of an armored vehicle, essentially like a Bradley fighting vehicle and it can carry two canisters instead of one but it's the same missiles that get fired from it.  The Brits are providing three -- or have provided three so far.  The Germans have also committed to provided three.

So our assessment actually is that the Ukrainians are doing pretty well in terms of the numbers of systems and really the priority right now is making sure that they have a steady stream of these GMLRS.  And the same is true on the M777 howitzers front where really we've provided a very large number of systems.  So have allies and partners and that right now the priority is to make sure that the Ukrainians have the ammunition to keep them in the fight.

STAFF:  All right.  Tony.

Q:  Sir, Tony Capaccio at Bloomberg.

You talked a lot about the -- Russia's attrit -- the attrition of their troops.  Can you talk a little bit about their supplies or stacks of PGMs, unguided munitions, tank and artillery?  Are they running out in the colloquial, or you know, what resupply efforts are you seeing?  Are they pulling from Asia or the Baltic areas?  And I have a quick Taiwan follow.

DR. KAHL:  Okay, well, let me do that, and then we'll come back to you for the Taiwan follow-up.

So I think on it, certainly the Russians are expending a lot of munitions.  I think our assessment is that they have attritted a significant percentage of their precision-guided munitions and their standoff munitions, so think air-launched cruise missiles, sea-launched cruise missiles, things like that.  And I think we've actually seen a reduction in how often they're using those because they're running low.  But in terms of exactly how much they have left, and also, what their assessment is, what they need to keep in reserve for other contingencies, but certainly on the PGMs and the standoff munitions, those have been substantially consumed, attritted.

Now, I will say the other important fact to consider is that in addition to the crippling sanctions that have been put on Russia, there are these export controls that limit certain critical technologies, especially components like microchips that are essential for Russia to recapitalize its PGMs and standoff munitions.  So it's not just that their stockpiles have gone down appreciably because of how much that they've expended during the conflict, but it's just going to be a lot harder for them to rebuild the high-end pieces of their military because of the international export controls that the United States has championed, so I think that's important.

As it relates to other types of ammunition, my sense is they have a lot of kind of dumb artillery rounds and other munitions like that.  I don't think we have any assessment to suggest they're reaching some inflection point where they're about to run out of that.

As it relates to tanks and armor, I mean, I think to this point, the Russians have probably lost 3- or 4,000 armored vehicles in Ukraine, which is a lot.  Now, a lot of that is because of the antiarmor systems like Javelin, like the AT-4s, which are in this package, but also, frankly, because of the creativity and ingenuity in the way the Ukrainians have used those systems, especially early, in the early phase of the conflict when the Russians were stymied in the thrust towards Kyiv.  So that's what I would say on that.

You wanted to add something, though, on Taiwan?

Q:  You mentioned that the Chinese bracketed Taiwan with missiles.  Can you confirm that actually miss -- Chinese missile actually flew over Taiwan for the first time?

DR. KAHL:  You'll recall China put in place the half a dozen exclusion zones that completely surrounded -- we know a number of missiles flew into an area where it would look like the track might be passing over Taiwan.  But the reason I'm a little cautious here is because over depends on the loft and trajectory and what you consider to be over, and whether that's the first time or not the first time.  So I don't have the physics of it in front of me, so I'm going to be a little cautious of that.  But we do know that Chinese missiles landed kind of north and east of the island, and if you look at a map you can kind of see where the flight trajectories would've been.  But beyond that, I don't want to comment.

STAFF:  Yeah, we have time for a couple more.

Nick Schifrin with PBS.

Q:  Let's do one on Ukraine and one on F-16s.  General Brown, of course, said this publicly.  Even if there's no plan or training on, substantially, that's expanded out to Western jets, even if no plan had gotten it, certainly the top members of this building or to the president, can you talk about some of the work being done to consider training more Ukrainians on Western jets, and possibly even sending them?

And Taiwan, you know, you've pointed out, you guys predicted what Beijing was going to do, but there are missiles that flew from the mainland that landed on the other side of Taiwan, there were missiles that landed inside Taiwanese waters, there was a disruption to Taiwanese shipping and aircraft around there.  It seems like Beijing's creating the new status quo, at least trying to normalize this.  What can you or Taiwan do to stop that?

DR. KAHL:  Yeah, great questions.  So on the F-16s, a couple of things.  As you can appreciate in the PDA package, it makes clearer our overwhelming priority right now is getting the Ukrainians things that are relevant for the current fight.

So right now, the fight is in the east and increasingly in the south.  We need to get them capabilities that deliver on a timeframe that's relevant to that.  So we're focused on these types of capabilities, not something that might deliver in a year, two, three years, et cetera.

That said, there is work being done here at the Pentagon and elsewhere out in Europe, at EUCOM and elsewhere, to help work with the Ukrainians to identify their kind of medium to long term requirements.  So think of things that aren't in the kind of measured in days and weeks but measured in months and a handful of years.

And I think there, there are real questions about what would be most useful in terms of assisting the Ukrainian Air Force and improving its capabilities.  It's not inconceivable that down the road, Western aircraft could be part of the mix on that, but the final analysis has not been done.

I will say, though, in the near term, we've been doing lots of things to make Ukraine's existing Air Force stay in the air and be more capable.  I would just point to two things.

One, you know, a lot was made about the MiG-29 issue several months ago.  Not very much has been noticed about the sheer amounts of spare parts and other things that we've done to help them actually put more of their own MiG-29s in the air and keep those that are in the air flying for a longer period of time.

And then also, in recent PDA packages, we've included a number of anti-radiation missiles that can be fired off of Ukrainian aircraft that can have effects on Russia radars and other things.  So there are also things that we're doing to try to make their existing capabilities more effective.

In terms of what is China trying to accomplish?  I mean, I think it's right there in your question.  Our policy hasn't changed.  We have a One China policy.  We also have a commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the capability to defend itself, and frankly, for the United States to have capabilities to preclude a kind of -- you know, the use of violence to force a change in the status quo across the Strait.

We don't support China using its military actions against Taiwan, we don't support Taiwan moving towards independence.  Our policy has not changed its support for the status quo.  China's policy is what's changed, and clearly, what they're trying to do is salami slice their way into a new status quo.

I mean, I think a lot has been made of them -- of the missile strikes, but really, it's the activities in the Strait itself -- the sheer number of maritime and air assets that are crossing over this kind of de facto center line, creeping closer to Taiwan's shores, where it's clear that Beijing is trying to create a kind of new normal, with the goal of trying to coerce Taiwan, but also frankly, to coerce the international community, given the importance of the Taiwan Strait to the global economy -- and we talked about that a little bit earlier.

What's important for us right now is to make sure that Beijing understands that our forces in the region will continue to operate, to fly, to sail wherever international waters allows.  That includes the Taiwan Strait.

I think you should expect that we will continue to do Taiwan Strait transits, as we have in the past, in the coming weeks.  We will continue to do freedom of navigation operations elsewhere in the region.  We will continue to stand by our allies and partners.

So even as China tries to kind of chip away at the status quo, our policy is to maintain the status quo of a free and open Indo-Pacific, which frankly is what I think most of the countries in the region would prefer.

STAFF:  All right.  The last one -- Tara Copp.

Q:  Thank you very much. Is this the first time NASAMS have been part of the package to Ukraine and can you talk a little bit about what limitations there will be on them and have the systems from Norway actually been delivered to Ukraine?  And then I have a second one on Afghanistan.

DR. KAHL:  Sure.  So there are no NASAMS in this package.  There are are AMRAAM missiles for the NASAMS.  So the NASAMS that are in the pipeline, we think will probably arrive in the next few months, and the AMRAAM missiles that are in this system, which can be used for the NASAMS, they will take some period of time -- they'll have to be looked at to make sure all of the missiles are in good shape, and then they'll get there in time for the NASAMS' arrival.  So just to clarify on that specifically.

But you wanted to ask a question on Afghanistan?

Q:  Since we’re about a week away from the fall of Kabul, I wanted to get your thoughts on what this building is doing as far as another after action review?  Are we expecting a report?  And have there been discussions within the building as to whether it was a policy mistake not to leave a small footprint of U.S. forces in Afghanistan?

DR. KAHL:  So I'll say this -- there are ongoing lessons learned and after action reviews here in the Pentagon, elsewhere in the government as well.  There's obviously been some media coverage of the after action review that Secretary Austin commissioned out a number of months ago.  That review is completed.  It remains classified and the Secretary is looking at it, and when we have more to report on the status of that report, we will.

I do think it's an obligation for all of us to take a hard look not just in the final days of Afghanistan but 20 years of the conflict.  That's a -- that's, I know, something that's important to the Secretary of Defense, important to the White House, it's important to members of Congress, and I hope, to the degree that it's possible, we try to take that assessment out of politics and the desire to score points and really just to reflect on the lessons from America's longest war.

But let me conclude on this -- look, the fundamental driver of the President's decision to complete the withdrawal from Afghanistan that was negotiated by the Trump administration under the Doha Agreement was a recognition that America's strategic priorities had shifted.  That the United States had to prioritize the challenge -- our pacing challenge posed by the People's Republic of China. That we had to be prepared to focus more on the threat to European security represented by the acute threat that -- that Russia poses. That for too long, we had been bogged down in a particular part of the world at the expense of other, more pressing strategic priorities.

And I think the events we've been talking about today, whether it's across the Taiwan Strait or in Russia-Ukraine, validate that assessment -- that the world has changed and we need to focus on the biggest threats to our security in the contemporary environment.

But the other thing the President believed was that we could withdraw thousands of troops Afghanistan and still protect our vital national interests when they are threatened from something emanating from Afghanistan.

And, you know, frankly, a lot of our critics didn't believe that was possible, they didn't think that you could do things over-the-horizon, that we couldn't achieve, you know, counter-terrorism objectives, at least the objective of protecting the American homeland if we didn't have thousands of boots on the ground in -- in Afghanistan.

That's not what the President's view is and I think, in the last 10 days, in the strike that was carried out on Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaida and the most wanted terrorist on planet Earth and one of the two co-planners for the 9/11 attacks, what we've demonstrated to Al Qaida, but also to other terrorist organizations is that we can still reach out and touch them and protect our vital national interests, even though we no longer have thousands of troops in Afghanistan.

Thanks, everybody.

STAFF:  All right.  Thank you all.

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