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Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder Holds an Off-Camera, On-the-Record Press Briefing

BRIGADIER GENERAL PAT RYDER: All right, good morning, everyone. Hope you had a good weekend if you had one. All right. So just a few things at the top.

Again, just a reminder, in terms of what our lines of effort are as it pertains to the situation in the Middle East, we will continue to protect American forces and our citizens in the region, we will continue to flow critical security assistance to Israel as they defend themselves against further Hamas terrorist attacks.

As mentioned, we are -- previously -- we're coordinating closely with the Israelis to help secure the release of hostages held by Hamas, to include American citizens in (inaudible). We've strengthened our force posture across the region to deter any state or non-state actors from escalating this crisis beyond Gaza. This includes, as you saw over the weekend, the transit of the Eisenhower carrier strike group into the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

And then finally, as we announced last week, Secretary Austin will depart this Wednesday for a multi-day trip to India, where he'll participate in a 2+2, to the Republic of Korea to take place in the SCM, and then Indonesia for the ADMM-Plus. And we'll be of course providing updates throughout that trip.

So with that, we'll get to your questions. We'll start with Will.

Q: Two questions. One, could we get an update on the latest figures on attacks on U.S. forces in the region since the 17th? And just kind of how many in Iraq, how many in Syria?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Will. So I will direct you to Major Nguyen and Colonel McGarry to give you the play-by-play breakdown. Right now, broadly speaking, we've had -- since October 17th Eastern Time, we've had 20 attacks in Iraq, 18 in Syria, a total of 38 of these -- you know, essentially what are harassing attacks of drones and rockets. But again, Pete and Mac can get you the breakdown of that.

Q: And then regarding the Ohio class submarine that CENTCOM posted the tweet about yesterday, is it an SSBN or an SSGN? And is it just transiting the region, remaining in there? And any details you can give us on that would be --

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I mean, the extent I'm going to go to is it's an Ohio class submarine. As you highlighted, it's, you know, now in the Fifth Fleet area of operations. And so what this does, again, is further support our deterrence efforts in the region, and I'll just leave it at that. Thanks.


Q: Just on the attacks, how many injuries have there been since October 17th?

GEN. RYDER: I'm glad you asked that, Idrees. Okay, so I've got a fair amount of information to pass along on this. And -- I think, going back to what we've provided to you previously, highlighting that -- the fact that as we see this evolve, it's not unusual for service members to come in after the fact, days later. And so I'll provide you some context on that.

So as you've heard us previously talk about, on 17 and 18 October, at Al-Tanf and Al-Asad, we have subsequently had several service members -- or some service members reporting of minor injuries post-attack.

At Al-Tanf, we've had an additional five U.S. personnel diagnosed with TBI. That number was -- we've provided previously was 15, so now 20. We've also had an additional 10 personnel at Al-Tanf diagnosed with other minor injuries. These could be things like shrapnel, headaches, perforated ear drums, tinnitus, rolled ankle, et cetera.

So this can happen for a number of reasons. Individuals initially dismissing the severity of the injuries they've sustained either from a direct blast or non-direct blast can delay reporting or seeking of treatment, or symptoms presenting themselves after initial reporting can cause personnel to seek care at a later date. So the reporting data is highly dependent on self-reporting when individual -- injuries are not visually evident to medical personnel providing care directly following an incident.

We had -- of note, we've had two U.S. personnel who had been treated for TBI and originally returned to duty. They have subsequently gone to Landstuhl for further examination and care. They are in stable condition. So this is out of an abundance of caution.

At Al-Asad, the other location we've talked about, no reported increases in TBI cases, so we're still at four. We've had, however, an additional nine personnel diagnosed with other minor injuries along the lines of what I've outlined. There has been one other injury diagnosed, minor injury at Erbil, following an attack there on 26th October.

I would highlight that all of these injuries occurred prior to the self-defense strikes that we took on 26th October. To my knowledge, there's been no injuries reported since then. That said, you know, we will continue to monitor for all the reasons that I've outlined. So --

Q: Just the total, I guess, is now what?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so the total number would be 45 total injuries reported since those 17 and 18 October attacks. So that's 32 at Al-Tanf -- again, the mix of TBI and -- and other minor injuries -- total of 13 at Al-Asad, with four TBI and nine other injuries, and then the one at Erbil.

Q: And all injuries were before the self-defense strike?

GEN. RYDER: Correct, to my understanding.

Q: Yeah, Pat, they're all minor injuries, other than the TBI?

GEN. RYDER: Correct --

Q: Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: -- to my understanding.


Q: You know, Pat, the Israelis have been quite restrictive in information coming out of Gaza. They're not embedding the reporters as the U.S. would for any major military operation. They did have a small group of reporters in for a short period of time, also very restrictive. So I'm wondering, since they're not telling us really what's going on, are they in touch with you about the way ahead in Gaza or is it more restricted to helping them try to get the hostages out? I mean, are they open with you about the way ahead or are they pretty much silent with you guys as well?

GEN. RYDER: Thanks, Tom. So broadly speaking, as it pertains to Israel's operations, of course we'll let them speak to the specifics. We are in contact with them to discuss what their focus is, what their goals are. I'm not going to go into details here for operational --


Q: -- are they listening to you when you make suggestions and so forth?

GEN. RYDER: I'd refer you to the Israelis to answer that question. Again, as we've highlighted many times, the discussions that we're having with them range a variety of topics, to include what are -- what's your focus? Importantly, what do you need, in terms of, again, defending your people? But then also, again, discussing things like the importance of conducting operations in accordance with the laws of war.

Q: But it -- are they being open with you about the way ahead? Are they being descriptive about what they plan on doing?

GEN. RYDER: I would say we -- again, I'm not going to go into specifics. We have good, detailed conversations. 

Q: Just in general? 

GEN. RYDER: Yes, thank you.

Lara? And then we'll go to Tara.

Q: Thanks. Just one follow-up and then a different question. Where did you say -- you said there were two members who had been returned to duty and then they were -- they were taken for treatment. Where did you say that they were being treated?

GEN. RYDER: Landstuhl.

Q: Okay. And then there was a New York Times report about 24,000 assault rifles that Israel had ordered. I'm just wondering if you can tell us a little bit more about what these are for and whether the U.S. is placing any conditions on them to make sure they're not going to be used in the West Bank?

GEN. RYDER: I'm sorry, who -- who reported that?

Q: The New York Times.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I don't have any specifics on that. Yeah, I don't have any information on that, other than broadly, again, we're coordinating with Israel in terms of what their requirements are. We'll have to look into that. I'm not tracking any assault rifles at this point.

Q: Broadly, for any of these orders that --

GEN. RYDER: And, I mean, the other -- the other thing -- the only other thing I'd caveat that to say is, you know, we do have a longstanding defense relationship with Israel. So they do have, you know, longstanding security assistance, FMS, other types of things. I don't know if that's part of that, but we'll take that question.

Q: Typically, on FMS cases, in particular, there are conditions, some conditions placed on these -- where and when they can be used by the State Department.

So are there any of those conditions being placed on the weapons that are now going to Israel?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, we -- you've asked that question many times. I've said, you know, again, beyond the standard requirement that we provide weapons to any partner or ally, there's no conditions placed on the weapons. We understand, again, Israel's in a fight, an existential fight, with Hamas.


Q: Just to follow on Lara's questions, have we ever had a DOD weapons sale where the weapons would be provided to civilians instead of to a military, to military personnel?

GEN. RYDER: I mean, I'm not sure -- are you talking about taking military sales that go directly to civilians?

Q: Right. Because, just following on the Times reporting, potentially these weapons will be handed to, you know, civilian patrols, basically, neighborhood --

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I'm not --

Q: -- people in a civilian patrol.

GEN. RYDER: I'm not tracking any -- anything like that.

Q: But can we do it as a taken question, like, do we ever just give weapons to a -- civilians of another country, instead of, like, giving it to their, you know, regimented armed forces?

GEN. RYDER: I mean, as you know, we have a very deliberate, thorough, longstanding process and policies on this. But, again, we'll --

Q: Yeah, the contract is with the police.

GEN. RYDER: Again, I don't want to make something up. You can keep asking me, but we'll take the question.

Q: And then, just a second one, I think, as of yesterday morning, there were just 32 strikes, and so now there's 38. If we had -- did we -- was there a lot of activity over the last 24 hours?

GEN. RYDER: Again, Pete and Mac can walk you through the list on that.

Okay, Haley?

Q: First, is there any update you can provide on any deployments or PTDO status or anything?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, no additional updates or announcements on any personnel deployed. As always, you know, we maintain a certain number of folks to be prepared, but I'm not going to provide numbers on that. But, right now, nothing new to announce in terms of deployments.

Q: Okay. And then one Middle East and one China. The Ministry of Health in Gaza's now saying over 10,000 civilian casualties. Does that match y'all's assessment at all?

And then, at this point, does the secretary have any plans to meet with any PRC officials during his trip?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, on the latter, I don't have anything to announce. Certainly, if there's a change, we'll let you know. As it relates to civilian casualties in Gaza, Haley, what I would tell you is we know the numbers are in the thousands. I don't have a specific number to pass along to you. But again, this is the reason why it has been a point of emphasis in our discussions with the Israelis and others in the region on how important it is to get humanitarian assistance and aid into Gaza, and so we'll continue to stay focused on that.

Q: The civilian casualties are in the thousands, right?

GEN. RYDER: Correct.

GEN. RYDER: Let me go to Nancy, and then I'll come back.

Q: Just to follow up on a couple of things, you said the numbers, the new injury numbers you've released, are more than double than what was out there. I think the original number was 21?

GEN. RYDER: Twenty-one.

Q: And it sounds like these are injuries that were -- happened relatively shortly after the blast. And we're now on November 7th.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so this is information that we're literally getting towards the latter half of, you know, this last week, weekend. So we're going to do everything we can to try to be as transparent and as quickly as we can with you. I can assure you there's no attempt to try to delay that reporting. But we also have a responsibility to make sure that what we're providing to you is accurate, also recognizing that, you know, first information sometimes is not accurate.

So, as I highlighted, a lot of times, you're not going to know, shortly after there's been an attack, whether there's injuries. These are highly reliant on individual self-reporting, if there's not an apparent wound.

So the kinds of things I laid out, you know, rolled ankle, tinnitus, headaches, those kinds of things. So that's, kind of, where we're at.

Q: And then you mentioned that there were thousands, you know, the numbers in the thousands, in terms of civilian casualties. Does the U.S. have a breakdown -- does -- of children? Do you believe that there are thousands of children? Do you know if there's any more specificity on what thousands would mean?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I don't -- I don't have any more specificity to provide.

Q: And then, lastly, you mentioned that the Eisenhower is in the CENTCOM AOR. Will they be doing joint exercises with the Ford, or alternatively, is there a date been established for when the Ford would leave and the Eisenhower would move in?

GEN. RYDER: So they did do an exercise with the Ford while they were in the eastern Mediterranean. In terms of potential future exercises and things like that, I'd -- I would refer you to CENTCOM. They can talk about that. I think the key aspect of this carrier strike group being in the CENTCOM AOR is, like we've been talking about for a while now, is that, both with the carrier strike group in the Med and now one in the CENTCOM AOR, it broadly enhances the capabilities and the capacity to support a wide range of contingencies, you know, whatever those may be, as part of our efforts to deter broader conflict, as well as provide force protection.

Q: Can I follow up on this?

GEN. RYDER: I'll come back. Let me go to (Carla ?).

Q: Sure, I just wanted to follow up on the new injuries. You announced five more TBIs and 10 more minor injuries in (inaudible). That's 15. Then you announced nine additional injuries in al-Assad, right?

GEN. RYDER: That's an additional -- right, that's an additional 15.

Q: Yes, and then one additional injury on the 26th, so that's 15 (inaudible) 25. So that would be 25 plus 21 is 46.

GEN. RYDER: I'm not going to do math here --


Q: Well, you said 45, and I want to make sure it's 46. I'm doing it --

GEN. RYDER: Please don't make me do math here. I (inaudible)


Q: Everybody's going to write 45, and it didn't make any sense, so that's -- can we take that?

And then, also, I'd like you to take, if you don't have this now, sometimes people are diagnosed with TBIs and minor injuries.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah --


GEN. RYDER: Again, I'm not going to -- I'm trying to provide you with a broad picture of the situation there, but, as I'm sure you can appreciate, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to get into individual day-by-day, or do I have --

Q: Understood, but we want to know the total number of service members injured --

GEN. RYDER: That's what I gave.

Q: -- and that we're counting TBIs -- when somebody got a TBI and also got --

GEN. RYDER: As of today, 24 TBI, 21 other.

Q: Okay.

GEN. RYDER: So that's what I'm tracking at this, you know, 11:20 on Monday morning, and, again, recognizing that there's potentially be some standard deviation, plus or minus, you know, depending on people's self-reporting, late reporting, things like that. So appreciate your flexibility and understanding on that.


Q: With all the assets that has been sent to the area, it was sent for deterrence?

GEN. RYDER: Deterrence and force protection, correct.

Q: It's deterrence working?

GEN. RYDER: Look, again, you know, broadly speaking here, a stated goal, as I highlighted, is to deter a broader regional conflict. And right now, today, the conflict is contained to Gaza and Israel and their fight against Hamas.

We do see these harassing attacks by Iranian proxy groups in Iraq and Syria. And again, I'm not going to telegraph potential future operations on what we may or may not do, but again, we will make sure that we're taking any necessary actions to protect our forces.

You know, again, in the strategic context of looking at this, of what we're trying to do, is, again, make sure that this does not spiral into escalation -- I don't think anybody wants to see that -- while at the same time making sure that we're protecting our forces, while at the same time making sure that we have options available to us, capabilities, should someone attempt to exploit this situation and broaden this conflict.

So again, balancing all of these things in a way that is going to help preserve regional stability and security, while at the same time, again, making sure that we're supporting our partner, Israel, as they continue to defend themselves.

Q: Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Thank you very much. Time for just a couple more. We'll go to Gordon and then we'll come back over here.

Q: So I may have missed it. Did you say where the Bataan ARG is?

GEN. RYDER: Bataan is still in the CENTCOM AOR. That's about as specific as I can get. Okay, thanks.

Q: The Ford strike group's still in the Mediterranean, which is under European Command, but is it OPCON to Central Command? Is it under the operational control of Central Command even though it's in -- it's --

GEN. RYDER: The Ford?

Q: Yeah, the Ford strike group.

GEN. RYDER: Let me take -- I think I know the answer to that but I don't want to speculate, so let me take that question.

Q: Okay.

GEN. RYDER: Thanks. Chris?

Q: Just a similar thing on kind of close AORs. The bomber task force that went through CENTCOM yesterday, that was a Europe bomber task force, obviously went over the Middle East. Is that a result of current events?

GEN. RYDER: No. So this is -- this was a long-planned bomber task force mission. Pete and Mac can get you the details, in terms of, you know, what they're doing and why they're doing it. You know, again, we do have the ability to walk and chew gum.

It's important to differentiate the bomber task force mission from the current situation in the Middle East, recognizing that, again, it does demonstrate to our allies and our partners the capabilities that we have to respond to a variety of situations while also, again, showing our potential adversaries that we have these capabilities.

But I would not conflate the two things, okay?


Q: Yeah, I have two questions about North Korea. So do you know if North Korea have received any techniques for (inaudible) regarding the satellite from Russia, in return for them providing weapon to Russia?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I don't -- I don't have anything on that.

Q: How about do you have any indications that North Korea prepared launch another satellite (inaudible)?

GEN. RYDER: I do not. I don't have anything. Thanks.

All right, one more. Liz?

Q: Thanks. The New York Times had a report out yesterday on brain injuries that U.S. service members suffered in, like, the 2010s during the Defeat ISIS mission. Does the Pentagon have any reaction to accusations that the Defense Department has ignored those injuries?

GEN. RYDER: I've seen the press reporting. I don't have anything immediately to provide. Obviously, we care about our service members and our veterans deeply. So -- but beyond that, I don't have any specifics to provide on that particular reporting.

All right, Lara, since you raised your hand, real quickly --


Q: Just one more, and I don't know if you have this off the top of your head, but I'm just wondering how is DOD paying for some of these unscheduled deployments while we're in a Continuing Resolution?

GEN. RYDER: So we obviously maintain operations and maintenance budgets, you know, for doing the business of the Department of Defense. All of the COCOMs do. And so, you know, as it relates to future requirements or sustainment requirements, you know, as you know, we have a supplemental on the Hill, pending support there, but each of the -- each of our commands does have the ability to conduct operations within the budgets that they're given to do the operations that they -- that they do.

So certainly if something -- there's something more specific that we need to provide you, we can do that, but, you know, this is what the DOD does.

Q: Is there a concern that the -- that that money might be running out as we get closer and closer to the CR running out?

GEN. RYDER: I mean, as always, we're going to work closely with Congress to make sure that we have the funding that we need in order to conduct our national security missions. And so we'll continue to do that.

Okay, thanks very much, everybody. Appreciate it.