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Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder Holds an On-Camera Press Briefing

BRIGADIER GENERAL PATRICK RYDER:  All right, good afternoon, everybody.  Thank you very much for being here today.  I have a few items to update you on, and then I'll be happy to take your questions.

First, as you likely saw just a little bit ago, Secretary Austin announced today that at the direction of the president, all units involved in the retrograde operation from Afghanistan, Operation Allies Refuge and Operation Allies Welcome, will be awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation or its equivalent.  He also directed the military departments to perform an expedited review of all units president -- present at Hamid Karzai International Airport from August 15 to August 30, 2021, to identify those units or individuals that meet the high standards of the Presidential Unit Citation or appropriate individual awards.  Secretary Austin has emphasized that this recognition is intended to reflect the gratitude of our nation and serve as a reminder to each and every service member who wears them of the lives that -- lives they helped to save and the thanks of our nation and the Department of Defense they serve so well.

Separate, but related, Secretary Austin also visited Arlington National Cemetery this morning to pay his respects to our fallen warriors who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation, to include the 2,461 heroes who never made it home from Afghanistan.  And to quote the secretary, "Although the Afghanistan War has ended, our gratitude to those who served never will.  To every man and woman who served in Afghanistan, this country will never forget what you did and what you gave."

Turning to Ukraine, as you might have seen on Friday, a contract was awarded to Raytheon for the National Advanced Surface-To-Air Missile System, or NASAMS.  This $182 million contract is in support of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, specifically, Tranche Three, which tasked the Army with the procurement and delivery of two NASAMS.  As other contracts are awarded in support of the USAI, we will be sure to share that information.

And finally, on a scheduling note, the secretary and the chairman will travel to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, next week to host an in-person meeting September 8th of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.  This will be the fifth meeting of the UDCG, the third in-person and the second at Ramstein since this group was formed in April.  They will join ministers of defense and senior military officials from 50-plus nations around the world to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and continue our close coordination on providing the Ukrainian people with the means necessary to protect themselves against Russia's unprovoked and illegal aggression.

Secretary Austin will also visit the Czech Republic on September 9th to meet with his counterpart and discuss security-related topics shared by our two nations.

And with that, I am happy to take your questions.  Let's start with Lita.

Q:  Thanks, Pat.  So take -- so one quick clarification on what you just said.  At one point there was, I thought, a suggestion that one of the NASAMS may move more quickly.  Does this mean that neither -- that no NASAMS yet are in Ukraine, or been sent to Ukraine?  Is that just -- just want to clarify.

GEN. RYDER:  Correct, to my knowledge, those will be manufactured by the contractor and then -- and delivered when -- when complete.

Q:  Okay.  Can you give us a -- a sense of the Pentagon's assessment at this point of the counteroffensive that Ukraine has said that is going on, particularly in the south, and whether you're seeing any significant changes of hands, in any of the property there?  And second question:  Are there any specific weapon systems or equipment that the U.S. military right now is going to have to go out and reorder because of the PDAs?  Is there anything -- any shortage anywhere that you all are seeing because of the PDAs?

GEN. RYDER:  So -- so on the latter piece, certainly, we'll -- we'll aim to get you any detailed information on that note.  But I will say that I'm not aware of any specific shortages at this time.  Again, we will continue to maintain an open dialogue as -- as early as next week again in terms of what Ukrainian needs are in the fight.

In regards to fighting in Ukraine, what I would tell you is that we are very sensitive to not getting ahead of the Ukrainians.  I think you've heard some of their public statements, not the least of which is their president talking about the need for operations security.  And so certainly from this podium, I'm not going to talk about tactical-level battlefield detail.

What I will say is that we are aware of Ukrainian military operations that have made some forward movement, and in some cases, in the -- in the Kherson region.  We are aware, in some cases, of Russian units falling back.  But again, in order to preserve operation security and to give the Ukrainians the time and the space that they need to conduct their operations, I'm not going to go into that level of detail from the podium.

The last thing I would say on that is that our focus, as you know, remains on working with the Ukrainians and our allies and our partners around the world to ensure that they have what they need to fight against Russia in their homeland.  Thanks, Lita.

Next question?  Yes, ma'am?

Q:  Thank you.  Good to see you, sir.

GEN. RYDER:  Good to see you.

Q:  Yeah.  I'm Janne Pak with USA Journal Korea.  I have quick questions.  Recently, some fighter jet have appeared in the South Korea air defense zone, and Russia and China are conducting joint military exercises now.  Also, reporting that North Korea and China are conducting joint exercises.  How do you assess these?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, certainly, it is the right of all militaries and all nations that have militaries to conduct exercises.  Our -- our own military obviously conducts exercises.  It's certainly something that we'll keep an eye on, given the -- the nature of those nations, and in -- in some cases, the instability that they are seeking to cause in various regions of the world.  But again, not surprising, but something we'll keep an eye on.

Q:  Yeah, and I have one more --

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.

Q:  -- question.  The U.S. and South Korea joint exercise is currently being conducted.  Why is the (inaudible) commander of the CFC being ROK general take lead these exercises, and not the commander of CFC in South Korea, General LaCamera not take this?

GEN. RYDER:  So for -- for that level of operational detail, I'd -- I'd refer you back to U.S. Forces Korea.  They can certainly provide a more nuanced response in terms of the exercise management.

What I would tell you is that these exercises do remain important, in terms of ensuring that our militaries can closely work together and be prepared to fight and defend the Republic of Korea and our partners and allies in the region, should they need to.

But again, for that level of -- of detail, I'd refer you back to them.

All right, let me go to the back of the room there.  Is that Lara back there?  All right.

Q:  Thank you.  I got the nosebleeds here.

(Laughter.)

I wanted to ask you two questions.  One, I wondered if you could give us an update on the fighting around the Zaporizhzhia Power Plant?  And can you tell us how and if the UN team has been able to get inside the power plant to do their job?

And then secondly, I just wanted to ask you about the Taiwan Strait and if you could tell us the significance of sending -- the U.S. Navy sending cruisers to transit the Strait?  I believe that's not a normal operation.

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  In terms of the power plant, you know, as has been said by others, we certainly welcome, first and foremost, the IAEA's presence in the region.  And, you know, to my knowledge, I know that they are in the vicinity of the plant.  I do not know whether or not they have embarked for -- or arrived at the plant yet.

And in terms of the fighting in the region, again, to the best of our knowledge, we do continue to see sporadic shelling in the region and we call on all sides to -- to ensure that the safety of the power plant, for obvious reasons, and -- and would also call on Russia to enable the IAEA team to be able to get in there and do their work.

In terms of the Taiwan Strait, what I would tell you -- for -- for those that weren't tracking, on August 28th, we did conduct a Taiwan Strait transit.  It was the U.S. Navy Cruiser Antietam and Chancellorsville.  I would say that the transit demonstrates the United States commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and that we will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere that international law allows.

There were no unsafe or unprofessional interactions to report during that transit, and so, again, we will continue to operate wherever the international law permits us to do so.

Q:  If I could follow up, though -- why -- what -- what was the reason you chose cruisers to go through the Strait?  And it’s usually destroyers is my understanding.

GEN. RYDER:  So what I would tell you, Lara, is I would get with the Navy or with Indo-Pacific Command, who certainly can come back to you on that.  We do have these capabilities in the area, but in terms of the specifics on the ship, we'll have to get back to you on that.

Q:  Can I follow up on Zaporizhzhia --

(CROSSTALK)

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.

Q:  It's interesting that you said that -- I'm quoting here -- "we call on all sides to ensure the safety of the power plant for obvious reasons."  Are Ukrainians, as well, endangering the safety of the plant --

(CROSSTALK)

GEN. RYDER:  I would just say as we see fighting in the region, obviously it -- it is something to be cognizant of.  Clearly, this is the Ukrainians' homeland and we do know that, you know, there are Russians in the vicinity there, but -- but we would want to ensure that the inspection team can get in there and do its work.

Q:  And a question on the Middle East -- I -- I think you addressed a similar question, I think -- I believe last week, but we're seeing clashes in Syria between U.S. forces and -- and junta associated or aligned with -- with Iran -- northeast, an attack on al-Tanf, in the south yesterday, we had the incident with the sail drone, with the IRGC Navy.  And of course, obviously what happened around the Green Zone, although it was related to the internal political issues inside of Iraq.

But are you concerned that there's maybe a pattern of escalation that -- that warrants a review of -- of force posture and -- and protection, especially in Syria and Iraq?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so -- so to address the latter part of your question, I'm not going to make policy from the podium.

In terms of escalation, I would say right now no, when it comes to Syria.  You know, we talked about that a little bit last week.  Again, we're going to do what we need to do to protect our forces in the region as they conduct their missions -- in the case of Syria, supporting the defeat ISIS mission -- but at this stage of the game, no, not concerned about escalation.

All right, let me go to the phone line here.  I want to be sensitive to our -- our folks up on the -- on the net here.  Let's go to Radio Free Asia, Singman Lee.

Q:  Thank you for taking my questions.  I have a question about Ulchi Freedom Shield exercise.  It -- it is reported a combined US/ROK Army conduct largest live fire drill on Wednesday, and it is said this is the largest and first combined for the (inaudible)for the second infantry division and ROK-U.S. combined (inaudible)since it’s creation, 2015.

So can you tell me the background of this exercise?

GEN. RYDER:  The background of the Ulchi Freedom Exercise?

Q:  This specific exercise has been done by combined U.S.-ROK, the artillery Army division conducted (inaudible) today.

GEN. RYDER:  I'm (inaudible)some brief background here, and of course, would encourage you to reach out to -- to USFK for more details, but -- so as background, this is an 11-day computer simulated, defense oriented training event, which is really designed to enhance ROK and U.S. combined defense posture, help maintain readiness -- readiness, and as I mentioned before, strengthen the security and the stability on the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia.

So again, I would encourage you to -- to reach out for any tactical level or operational level details to USFK.  Thank you, sir.

All right, let me go back to the room here.  Tony?

Q:  Can I go back to some of your -- your original statements, the one on this anniversary?  What is the status -- I had a couple status questions.  What's the status of the Pentagon or National Defense University's lessons learned on the war and the evacuation?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  So the after action report is complete.  It's under review right now, the Secretary is reviewing it.  At this time, the report is classified.  So at a -- at a point that we have more to provide on that, we certainly will.

Q:  Well, keep pushing for it so it's not classified for another 10 years.

Secondly, the compensation for the Ahmadi family survivors on the terrible drone strike last year, they haven't been paid yet, according to the attorney, and there's been a resettlement.  Can you confirm that they have -- there's been no compensation payments?  And where do things stand with that?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure, yeah.  Thanks for the question, Tony.  So what I would tell you is that we continue to work closely with other agencies within the U.S. government on this issue.  As I've mentioned before, both for privacy and operational security reasons, there's just really not a lot of detail that I can provide at this point, other than to say I can assure you that a lot of people are working very, very hard on this.

Q:  But you can confirm that no compensation's been paid to the survivor -

GEN. RYDER:  Again, at this point, that's about the level of detail I can provide you.

Q:  (All right ?).  You mentioned the NASAMS early on -- technical question -- but the contract says, buried in there, that delivery is expected in 2024 -- August 23rd of 2024, two years later, two years from now.  Can you explain to the best you can that sense of lack of alacrity there?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure, absolutely.  So as you look at the security assistance that we're providing to Ukraine, you can really kind of look at it through two lenses.  One is providing their immediate needs for the fight that they're in right now.  But there is also -- and Dr. Kahl talked to this a little bit last week, there is also the aspect of providing enduring security support and Ukraine's enduring security posture.  And so we're not necessarily just focused on right now, but it's also ensuring that they have what they need in the future to be able to sustain deterrence and provide for their own protection.

Q:  Whenever this system comes up in discussion, readers or listeners should not assume this is for the immediate fight.  But this is down the line.

GEN. RYDER:  Correct.

Q:  Thanks.

GEN. RYDER:  Correct.

Yes, ma'am.

Q:  Tony just asked my question. I want to ask about the air strikes we saw in Syria?  There were some air strikes reported today in Aleppo.  Syria is saying that this was Israel and that they were targeting Iranian missiles that were being delivered to Syrian forces.  Can you confirm whether or not the U.S. was involved in these air strikes?  What more can you tell us about this?

GEN. RYDER:  I don't have any information on that.  Probably will have to get back to you.  I'm not -- I'm not tracking any U.S. air strikes in Syria right now.  But let us look into that and come back to you.  Thanks.

Yes, sir.

Q:  Thank you, my name is Phil Nakamura with Japan Nikkei, thank you very much for taking my question.

I want to ask you about China's activities in the region.  Assistant Secretary of Defense Dr. (inaudible) said in late July the U.S. witness a sharp increase in unsafe and unprofessional behavior by Chinese aircraft and Chinese warships in recent months.  I'm wondering if that trend has continued, or has accelerated since Speaker Pelosi visited Taiwan.

GEN. RYDER:  So, you know, in terms of Chinese activity in the region, as has been said, we assess that really what China was trying to do here was change the status quo in terms of what is acceptable normal behavior in that region.  Our focus is working out with our allies and our partners in the region to ensure stability and to preserve the international rules-based order that has largely kept the peace for over 70 years since World War II.

In terms of individual actions by individual Chinese aircraft or ships, I'm not going to have a specific comment to say other than when we do have something to announce, we're usually pretty good about putting out any -- any information in terms of unsafe or unprofessional activity.

Q:  I have second question.
GEN RYDER: One more.

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  Yes, China suspended some military to military communications channel in early August, are you working to resume them if that's the case, is China cooperative?

GEN. RYDER:  I'm going to have to look into that one for you.  Sure, thank you.

Let me quickly go to the phone and then I'll come back to Jennifer back there.  Let's go to Brandi from FedScoop.

Q:  Thanks, General Ryder.

We saw news yesterday that the Navy interrupted an attempt by Iran to seize an unmanned vessel in the Persian Gulf.  Have you seen any evidence of such behavior from Russia or Russia trying to capture unmanned coastal defense vessels that the U.S. sent to Ukraine?

And secondly, can we get an update on how those unmanned vessels are being used by Ukraine?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  On your first question, no.  I'm not aware of anything like that at this time.

And then I'm sorry, your second question?

Q:  Second question, can you provide anymore information about how those unmanned coastal defense vessels that were sent to Ukraine I believe around April about how they're being used?

GEN. RYDER:  We'll have to get back to you on that one.  I don't want to get into specific details in terms of operational movements, but let us take a look on that, Brandi, and if there's anything we can provide we'll come back to you.  Thank you.

All right, let me go to Jennifer and then I'll come back to the phone.

Q:  Thank you General Ryder.

In terms of that Navy interception, can you just describe what was the significance of the Navy retrieving that armed underwater drone, and what happened exactly?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  So as most of you are aware I'm sure, 5th Fleet did put out a statement on this, but let me just provide you a little bit of background here.  So on Monday, yesterday, the U.S. Navy observed the IRGCN -- IRGC Navy support ship towing a Saildrone explorer unmanned surface vessel, and what we assessed was an attempt to detain it.  And so, the USS Thunderbolt and a MH-60S Seahawk responded.  We did hail the ship and ask them to release the drone, which they did.

And so, I would join General Kurilla -- I'm sure you saw his statement -- and just commending the professionalism and the competence of the crew of the USS Thunderbolt which ultimately prevented Iran from essentially stealing one of our drones, our unmanned surface vessels.  Does that help, Jennifer?

Q:  Yes.  Have you seen any evidence that Iranian militias or Iranians themselves have been involved in these Baghdad protests or any of the violence.  Do you have any evidence that Iranians are behind that?

GEN. RYDER:  I don't have anything to provide from here, so I'd have to say no.

Okay.  Let me do another one on the phone here and I'll come back to the room.  Let's go to J.J. Green, WTOP.

Q:  Yes.  Hi, General.  Thanks for taking the question.

I've been hearing that the U.S. military was involved in some way in helping Ukraine prepare for this counteroffensive.  Can you confirm that?  In what way might the U.S. have helped them prepare for this?

GEN. RYDER:  Yes.  Thanks for the question, J.J.

What I would tell you is that as we've said before we have a routine military-to-military dialogue with Ukraine at many levels, and I'm not going to comment on the specifics of what those engagements are, but generally speaking as we've publicly commented on in the past it's providing the Ukrainians with the information they need to better understand the threats that they face to defend their country.

But it's important to point out here that ultimately it is the Ukrainians that are making the final decisions when it comes to operations.  Thank you.

All right, back to the room here.  Yes, sir.

Q:  Hi.  (inaudible) with the (inaudible).

I wanted to follow up on something you said earlier that you're keeping an eye out on these exercises that are going to be taking place between China and Russia.  Now if there are other countries that are going to be a part of this exercise, India namely, I'm curious has the U.S. or other U.S.-treaty allies been invited as observers for this military exercise that's happening in the Sea of Japan?

GEN. RYDER:  I'd have to get back to you on that.  I don't know.

Q:  And then you mentioned that the document or the lessons learned that are looking to be declassified or possibly hopefully declassified, in terms of other documents, specially the national security strategy, that is reportedly going to be declassified soon.  I wondered is there a statement from the DOD on the plan to declassify that?

GEN. RYDER:  So for the national security strategy I'd refer you to the White House since that's a White House document.  You know, here in the DOD we're focused on the national defense strategy aspect.  And so, I don't have any announcements to make today in terms of the release of an unclassified version of that, but certainly we'll keep you updated.

Thank you.

Sylvie?

Q:  Yes.  Thank you, General.

I wanted to ask a question about the Afghanistan.  What is the Pentagon assessment of the terrorist threat from Afghanistan today one year after the withdrawal.  Some -- several former military leaders said recently that they think the U.S. is less safe today than it was one year ago because of the resurgence of terrorist groups.  Is it -- do you agree with that?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, if you look at Afghanistan, there are significant terrorist threats that exist in that country.  At this stage it would be our assessment that in terms of external planning, external -- operations external to Afghanistan, I think we are in a safe situation.  However, it does bear keeping an eye on, which is why we maintain an over-the-horizon capability to be able to conduct counterterrorism operations should we need to do that.

For those of you that have been following Afghanistan for a very long time, it's no surprise that there are groups, ISIS-K, for example, that exist within Afghanistan that have demonstrated the proclivity to conduct terrorist operations.  And so, that is something that we will continue to monitor and continue to respond against appropriately.

Q:  And do you have the means to respond if you need?

GEN. RYDER:  We absolutely have the needs to respond wherever and whenever we need to around the world to any counterterrorism threat that poses harm to our citizens or our nation.

Oren?

Q:  To Ukraine with questions on shipments.  I was wondering if you could update us on the pace of shipments.  It's been awhile since we've had an update on sort of how many flights are regularly going in.  I think it was 8 to 10 quite some time ago.  Is it the same pace?  Has it picked up, slowed down?

And then there have been -- and this is a more specific question.  There have been some speculation that the drawdown package announced on August 19 was to assist in a counteroffensive.  Can we get an update on what from that drawdown package has gone in?  What remains to be shipped?

GEN. RYDER:  Thanks, Oren.

So in terms of the rate of security assistance into Ukraine, we can get back to you with some more specifics, but I would say that this is something that obviously we continue to take very seriously and U.S. Transportation Command continues to do amazing work working with U.S. European Command and others to get that assistance to the Ukrainians as quickly as possible.  Certainly we're seeing the affect of that assistance on the battlefield.

And then I'm sorry, your last question?

Q:  Just wondering on the drawdown package announced on August 19, if you'd be able to update us on what from that package has gone in and what remains to be shipped?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, let me get back to you on that one.

Q:  (Of course ?).

GEN. RYDER:  Okay.

Let me go back out to the phone here real quick.  Do we have Audrey Decker from InsideDefense?

Q:  Hi.  Thanks, General Ryder.

Another question on the Navy interception of Saildrone, how likely is this to happen again?  And if these unmanned vessels are out there on their own, how do you protect them and is the DOD taking any steps, any extra security measures to prevent this from happening again?

Thanks.

GEN. RYDER:  Thanks very much, Audrey.

So I'm not going to, you know, speculate on the hypothetical in terms of how often this could happen.  Clearly, Fifth Fleet has it well in hand in terms of patrolling the waterways there and maintaining, you know, a situational awareness in terms of their capabilities and assets in the region.  And again, as was evidenced by the USS Thunderbolt, the ability to respond quickly should something like that happen again in the future, which hopefully it will not.

Okay, let me take another call -- phone -- another person on the phone here and then we'll go back into audience.  Heather from USNI.

Q:  Thanks so much.

I had two related questions.  But I was hoping you could start with the Truman and George H.W. Bush in the Mediterranean, what message is the United States trying to send?  And then I also wanted to know if the Department of Defense had any comment on the fact that a couple senators and several states' attorneys have issued, at least on the Navy SEALs 1-26 versus Biden lawsuit, which is the one that has prevented the Navy from being able to separate anyone with a religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine.

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, thanks very much, Heather.

I feel like I'm batting zero with you, because every time you ask me a question I don't have that information readily available in front of me.  So I will -- after this briefing, will get with you and we'll get with the Navy and we'll make sure that you get the information that you're asking for.  And I promise I will do better to get you answers to your questions in the future.

Thank you.

Let me do one more on the phone here.  Let's go to Karoun from Washington Post.

Q:  Hi there.  Thanks for taking the question.

I just wanted to go back to the announcement from Secretary Austin again.  The accommodations and the citation process, why is this only happening now?  why did this take a year to come about and why are we not seeing a step like this earlier, especially since it was going to be so all-encompassing for those who served as part of that mission?

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, thanks for the question.

So, obviously, this is a significant recognition for those who served in Afghanistan and participated in this very significant event.  And so, as I highlighted in my opening comments, from the secretary's standpoint, really the key message here is that it's meant to express the gratitude of the Department of Defense and our nation for what it is that our men and women serving in Afghanistan during this very challenging time and what they accomplished.

Thank you.

Sure, I'll take probably two or three more questions.

Q:  General, thank you.  Jared Szuba with Al monitor.

I just want to follow up on (inaudible) and Carla's questions on the situation in Syria.  I'm just wondering if there are any concerns in the department that recent Israeli airstrikes on Syria could potentially lead to further attacks on U.S. forces on the ground in the country?  And if so, has that been discussed with Israeli partners in the recent past?

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, thanks for the question.

So, I'm not going to discuss current potential or future Israeli operations.  Our focus in Syria, of course, continues to remain on conducting the Defeat ISIS Mission and will continue to remain our focus.

Let me take just a couple more.  Yes, ma'am.  And then we'll go to the back of the room there.

Q:  Thank you, General.  (Inaudible).

A follow up on Jared's question.  If you can give us a sense of the level of coordination between the U.S. and the Israelis' specially when Israel claims that that the targets are linked directly to Iran.

And also, I have another question on Iraq, if you can give us the DOD assessment of the latest development -- security developments in Iraq and if the U.S. forces there took maybe extra security measures during the…latest…

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  On -- on the -- on your first question about Israel, you know, certainly we have a very longstanding security relationship with our ally, Israel.  I'm not going to talk about specific details when it comes to consultation, cooperation, coordination, things like that, other than to say again that we maintain a very robust dialogue with this important ally in the region.

In terms of Iraq, certainly like many around the world, we continue to monitor the situation there.  I'd refer you to the State Department for any questions in terms of the situation on the U.S. embassy.  But I don't have -- from a U.S. military standpoint, to my knowledge right now, we continue to conduct our security cooperation mission there and everything is proceeding as normal.

Thank you.

Let me go to the back of the room here and then I'll do one more on the phone.  Yes, sir.  It's good to see you.

Q:  Good to see you.

Just going back to the incident with the – Iran’s attempt to seize that drone, do you see this as a pattern?  Is that -- is that -- was that a -- so the increase in attention or increase in dangerous activity by the Iranians in that area?

GEN. RYDER:  So I -- I hesitate to characterize it as a pattern, other than to say that it's indicative of the kind of behavior that we've seen from Iran in the region for, frankly, many years, when it comes to this kind of disruptive and inappropriate activity.

And so having -- having watched, in the past, some of the activities of the IRGC Navy, you know, this is not -- not the first time they've done these kinds of things.  And so again, it -- it just showcases the challenge that Iran presents in terms of the threat to the region and a -- another reason why we'll continue to work very closely with our partners and our allies in the region to help provide the stability that's important to keep not only the sea lanes open but the health and safety of -- of those that are operating in that area.

Q:  -- so just a unrelated question --

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.

Q:  -- on the whole investigation of the documents found at Mar-a-Lago -- is the Defense Department involved in reviewing any of these documents, classified or secret documents?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks for the question, Dan.

I would refer you to the Department of Justice for any questions regarding the documents.

So -- all right, let me take one more from the phone here and then we'll do one more with Carla.  All right.

Q:  And one clarification with me.

GEN. RYDER:  And then one clarification with Fadi.

Okay, let's go to Tony with Inside Defense.

Q:  Thank you, sir.

My question's about the status of funding for Ukraine.  Is DOD running out of aid for Ukraine?  And also, as DOD ponders what or how much it might ask next from Congress, does it want more money for PDA, to send the weapons directly to Ukraine, or is it now sort of seeking more money for USAI, where the weapons might not arrive for a couple of years?

GEN. RYDER:  So to answer your first question, no, we are not running out of aid.  And in -- in terms of the -- the breakdown between PDA and USIA (sic), you know, we'll -- we'll -- let us get back to you on that.  I will say that certainly as we look at what the requirements are for Ukraine from a policy standpoint and from a procurement standpoint, generally speaking, we are going to use the mechanism that best supports the needs of Ukraine, working very closely with our allies and partners.

So we'll -- we'll take a look at that.  If there's anything beyond that to provide, we'll certainly give that to you.

All right, Carla and then Fadi?  Yep.

Q:  -- I just wanted to follow up on Sylvie's question because, you know, when you were talking about the -- the situation in Afghanistan, you said that the U.S. is in a safe situation but it does warrant keeping an eye on everything with the -- over-the-horizon.

Can -- I just wanted to follow up to see how difficult is over-the-horizon now, one year later, and how much is that costing DOD in terms of ISR capabilities that they're having -- extra ISR capabilities that they're having to put --

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah.

Q:  -- in the sky?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, again, just to -- to provide some perspective and context, over-the-horizon operations are something that we've been doing for a very long time in -- in this region and elsewhere.  And so our ability to continue to do those operations remains unimpeded.

Certainly, with the situation in Afghanistan, it does make it more of a challenge, but not something that we can't -- not something that's insurmountable.  And so again, we will protect and defend our people, our allies and our partners as needed, wherever and whenever we need to.

So -- yeah -- and then Fadi.

Q:  Thank you, General.

So I believe you said that -- with the Sailboat (sic) incident, that the Thunderbolt crew asked the IRGC Navy support ship to let the Saildrone leave.  Does the Saildrone have any identification on it that shows it belongs to U.S. Navy or the USA?

GEN. RYDER:  We -- we know our drones.

Q:  No, no, you (inaudible) but do the Iranians know that?  Is -- does it have any identification when it's in open water like this, international water?

GEN. RYDER:  I'd have to refer you to NAVCENT in terms of what the specific markings on those may be, but certainly when we asked them to release it, they released it, so --

Q:  (Inaudible) So maybe they (inaudible) --

(CROSSTALK)

GEN. RYDER:  -- I can't speculate on what -- what they knew or what they didn't know.

Q:  (Inaudible) you don't know for sure that they knew this one belongs to the U.S. Navy?

GEN. RYDER:  I do not know that for sure.

Q:  Thank you.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you.

Okay.  All right, thank you all very much, everybody.  Appreciate your time today.

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