An official website of the United States Government 
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh Holds an On-Camera Press Briefing

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH: Hi, everyone. Good morning -- nope, good afternoon. Sorry about that. Okay, so I have a few items to pass along at the top, and then I'd be happy to jump in and take your questions.

So, the department continues to closely monitor the situation in the Middle East and maintains a steady focus on our critical lines of effort that include protecting our forces and citizens in the region, strengthening our force posture, flowing critical security assistance to Israel and supporting their right to self-defense and helping secure the release of hostages held by Hamas, including American citizens.

Earlier today, the secretary convened a call with Egyptian Minister of Defense General Zaki to discuss efforts to bolster security in the Middle East. These calls are part of his ongoing outreach and keeping in close contact with allies in the -- and partners in the region. The secretary expressed appreciation for Egypt's work to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and the safe evacuation of U.S. citizens from Gaza. They also discussed the importance of civilian protection, and a full readout of the discussion will be posted later today on our department's website.

And looking ahead for tomorrow, as you know, tomorrow, Secretary Austin will depart for a trip to India, the Republic of Korea and Indonesia. The secretary and his team have an exciting agenda and will continue to build on historic U.S. momentum toward a shared regional vision for peace, stability and prosperity. If you didn't see it this morning, we posted a fact sheet for the trip that describes our goals for strengthening ally and partner capabilities, networking allies and partners and operating together across the Indo-Pacific. That is available on our website right now.

Shifting to Congress, as of yesterday, there are now 452 nominations which concern 448 general and flag officers at the Senate for consideration and that are currently impacted by Senator Tuberville's holds. Some of the positions that are stalled for confirmation include the Fifth Fleet commander, the deputy Fifth Fleet commander, the defense attaché to Israel, and the list goes on. As we've said before, these holds have a direct effect on our military readiness, our national security and our military families.

And one last item before we start the briefing, today is Colonel Roger Cabiness' last day as the director of press operations. Colonel Cabiness has been part of our OSD family for the last two years, and we are incredibly sad to see him leave. You all work with Colonel Cabiness every day, so you know that he's here, always willing to take your questions, always answering calls, emails very late at night, and he is -- most importantly, he brings incredible knowledge and depth to any issue, area or AOR that he's asked about.

And on a personal level, Roger has been an exceptional teammate to work with when I first started at the department, so I'm really sad to see him leave, but really excited to also see what he does and his next steps within the Army.

And on that note, we are -- while we're very sad to see Colonel Cabiness leave, we are excited to welcome Colonel Chris Devine as our new incoming DPO director, who you all also know very well.

And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions, so we'll go to Lita.

Q: Thanks, Sabrina. Two things. One, can you tell us whether or not the two Iron Domes have yet been delivered to Israel? And secondly, on this sort of ongoing spate of attacks against U.S. forces in both Syria and Iraq, you all have said repeatedly that this is, you know -- that Iran continues to support these groups, et cetera. But I'm wondering if more specifically you can say whether or not in recent weeks, has the department seen evidence of any either control, direction or specific aid to these groups more recently, as opposed to a broader, "Yeah, they do it all the time"?

MS. SINGH: So, in terms of your second question first, on -- on recent activities, you know, I'm not going to speak to our intelligence and -- and go -- go beyond what we've said publicly. We know that Iran equips, supports, funds these IRGC-backed groups in Iraq and Syria. And so while I won't speak to anything specific in recent weeks, we don't suspect that that relationship has terminated in any way.

In terms of your -- you asked about the Iron Dome systems. So we're in the process of providing those systems to Israel. We'll let them speak to when they're actually delivered, but that -- that's an ongoing process.

Q: So, the process is ongoing right now --


Q: -- and it's not (inaudible), right?

MS. SINGH: That's right.


Q: Is deterrence against these Iran-backed militias attacking you in Iraq and Syria is working?

MS. SINGH: I'm sorry, what was the first part of the question?

Q: Is deterrence against them working.

MS. SINGH: Well, I -- what you're seeing is we -- we are very candid about, we're seeing an uptick in attacks, but so far, we have not seen any significant casualties. We've not seen significant damage to our infrastructure. Our posture in the region has certainly been bolstered by the assets that you've seen us move into the CENTCOM AOR, with the Ike transiting there now, with the Ford in the Eastern Med.

I would say that while we are seeing an uptick in attacks, our purpose is to ensure that this conflict doesn't widen out beyond Israel. So, I would say that deterrence right now is -- it's incredibly strong on our side. We are sending an incredible message to any state or non-state actor that would want to seek to get involved in the conflict, that they do not do that.

And so again, while we see these attacks increase, we're not seeing significant casualties or significant harm to our -- to our service members.

Q: There have been more attacks, I think, against U.S. forces since your retaliatory strikes--


Q: -- prior to it. I'm just wondering what the -- you know, why do -- I guess injuries could have not -- could be low because -- A, because of (inaudible), or because of the measures you took, right?

MS. SINGH: Right.

Q: So, do you believe that intent of these groups has changed in any way or is it just that the precautions that you've taken have worked?

MS. SINGH: Well, I can't speak to the groups' intent. All I can speak to is what we are doing to protect our service members. And you're seeing that the Secretary made the decision to put more air defenses in the region to help support and protect our service members, both in Iraq and Syria.

In terms of intent, I can't speak to that, but we did see these type of attacks in early March of this year. Again, we responded then, we responded on October 26th. We're going to make the decisions on when we respond and if we respond next. We'll leave that to a time and place of our choosing, but I just don't have more for you on that.


Q: Thanks, Sabrina. I want to follow up on that. You and other Pentagon officials have said the U.S. will do anything it takes to protect those troops, especially in Syria and Iraq, but as Idrees pointed out, since the 26th and those limited counter-strikes by the U.S., we've seen no slowdown and maybe an acceleration, if anything. So, it seems clear that those groups have not been deterred.

So, is what you're saying, that taking more forceful action against those groups to try to end the threat against U.S. forces, might end up causing more blowback than it's worth, or is that the reason why there's so much hesitance to -- to strike more forcefully?

MS. SINGH: I wouldn't say there's hesitancy. We decide to respond at a time and place of our choosing. We don't have to necessarily be tit-for-tat every single time. We are incredibly strategic about when we decide to take kinetic action, and you saw that on October 26th when we did hit key infrastructure nodes that these IRGC-backed groups use.

So, it's really -- it's really not necessarily of -- an -- like, comparison every time there's an attack. It's how successful we can be about damaging and destroying infrastructure that they have used too, and that's exactly what we did on October 26th.

Again, with the increase of attacks, these have not been successful, they have not resulted in serious injuries. And we're incredibly grateful that we have these air defenses in place and that we have been able to protect our troops. That is something that is of the utmost importance to the Secretary and this administration.

And -- and while I say that, you're also seeing that this conflict has not widened out beyond Israel, that our deterrence posture is significantly increased in the region, and we're going to continue to both publicly and privately convey that -- that any actor who wants to seek advantage of this conflict, that -- that they do not do that.

Yeah, I'll go to Will.

Q: So last week, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq umbrella group for these -- these militant organizations threatened to -- to broaden its campaign of attacks on U.S. forces starting this week, and there's definitely been a -- an uptick in -- in claims since Sunday. Has -- have you seen an uptick in -- in attacks that have come close to U.S. bases in the past week? Has -- has this been kind of borne out operationally, that they followed through on this or not?

MS. SINGH: Well, we -- I mean, we've certainly seen attacks continue within the last, you know, few days. Are you asking, like, specifically, like, how close they have gotten to the base?

Q: More in -- in -- in terms of the volume of attacks since Sunday. Has -- has there been an increase compared to what -- even within the -- the past three weeks, what we've been seeing?

MS. SINGH: I wouldn't say that there's been a significant increase. You know, it's sort of steady state, and I can just give you a quick update of where we stand today because I think there are some reports that there was a rocket attack at MSS Euphrates just a few hours ago. So, there was no injury to our service members or -- or any damage to any infrastructure.

But between October 7th and November 7th, or today, U.S. forces have been attacked at least 40 times to date, with 22 separate times in Iraq and 18 separate times in Syria. And that's a mix of one-way attack drones and rockets.

And just to clarify one thing before you guys start doing the math, we did have some discrepancy in reporting of an attack on October 25th that was incorrectly reported. That was an attack in Omar fields in Syria. So, we're not counting that as an attack, so just want to clarify.

So, the numbers, again, just for complete, absolute transparency and want to make sure you get them right, is, as of today, 40 attacks on U.S. forces, 22 separate times in Iraq and 18 separate times in Syria.

Liz, yeah?

Q: What qualifies as an attack versus an attempted attack? How do you define that?

MS. SINGH: I think General Ryder spoke probably a little bit better about this the other day, but you know, it's more of an art than a science. It's the threat to U.S. forces and to -- how close a drone or a rocket gets to the base.

So, we assess each one each time on what constitutes an attack. There are different ways on how different agencies also characterize the attacks. So, we're trying to do the best we can and provide you the most transparent information that we can as quickly as possible, but it -- it's more of the -- the threat in the vicinity of that would characterize the attack.

Q: And separately, yesterday, General Ryder acknowledged that thousands of civilians in Gaza have been killed from Israel's attacks, and at the same -- in the same briefing, also acknowledged that the U.S. is not putting any conditions on the weapons its sending. Is the Pentagon comfortable with the fact that the weapons it's sending could be used to kill civilians?

MS. SINGH: Well, we don't put conditions on weapons that we're -- that we're sending or that Israel is using, but I can tell you, in all of our -- both public and -- and private conversations, the Secretary and this administration has been very clear that humanitarian law, proportionality, always be taken into consideration when conducting any type of response within Gaza.

And I -- I think that, you know, we're going to continue to have these conversations. That's what a good partner does, is also having these tough conversations, both, you know -- you -- you're seeing Secretary Blinken there right now in the region, or -- or maybe just coming back. You've seen Secretary Austin, on a near daily basis, have these calls with Minister Gallant.

So again, we're going to continue to voice our concerns, we're going to continue to urge that Israel uphold the laws of war, the humanitarian laws, but -- it is up -- it is really the IDF and their operations, that they would need to speak to those more specifically.


Q: Once the weapons are in the hands of the IDF, does the U.S. have any sort of way of tracking how they're being used?

MS. SINGH: Like an end use monitoring?

Q: Yeah.

MS. SINGH: Well, in any time we provide -- any time we provide any type of U.S. security assistance, we expect whatever nation is using our weapons to uphold them with the laws that, you know, we -- we -- we put on them, upholding humanitarian laws. So, I wouldn't say it's necessarily an end use monitoring, but we expect them to be used in accordance with the laws.


Q: Thank you, Sabrina. One on South Korea, one on Hamas. The South Korean Ministry of National Defense is claiming that the September 19, 2019 military agreement between South Korea and North Korea should be suspended because it has a negative impact on South Korea's defense posture. As you know, because of this agreement, U.S. reconnaissance activities are restricted. Do you think this agreement should be suspended for the United States to effectively defend South Korea?

MS. SINGH: I think you're -- you're talking about the 2019 agreement. 

Q: Yeah.

MS. SINGH: So, I would -- I -- that's something that the Republic of Korea would have to speak to and -- and make a decision about. I just don't have anything to offer on that.

Q: And on Hamas --

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: Kim Jong-un recently declared that he would support Hamas, and a senior Hamas officer said that North Korea is their ally, and mentioned the possibility of attacking the United States together with North Korea and Hamas. How concerning do you think this is?

MS. SINGH: So, I haven't seen any correlation between Hamas and the DPRK. They both separately offer different threats and different, you know, security threats to their own regions and our own national security, but I haven't seen a connection between Hamas and the DPRK.

Q: And already, North Korea provided weapons to Hamas because --

MS. SINGH: I did not acknowledge that.

Q: Ambassador to South Korea (inaudible) --

MS. SINGH: I have -- I wouldn't be able to comment on that. I think I -- I haven't seen a connection between Hamas and the DPRK. Again, it's something that we'll continue to monitor. We know that, you know, North Korea is continuing to provide arms and assistance to Russia, but I can't really speak to the Hamas relationship.

MS. SINGH: Okay, I'm going to -- go ahead. Fadi, yeah.

Q: Thank -- thank you, Sabrina. On the night of October 26th, when we had the briefing about the strikes in -- in Syria --

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: -- I asked a senior defense official about the impact of these strikes, and I'm quoting here. The official said, "This will have significant impact. It will impact the stable -- ability of the IRGC and IRGC-backed militia groups to continue to attack U.S. forces and continue destabilizing the region." Now, you just told us there's been an uptick in attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. Do you have a new assessment? And did this strike fail in achieving what the senior defense official said?

MS. SINGH: I can't remember exact words, but I believe I was using uptick in terms of the broad uptick from October 17th, not generally from one point of this weekend or today. I'd -- you know, we destroyed and -- and very carefully targeted facilities used by these IRGC-backed groups. Again, it is a -- it is our decision and at a time and place our choosing when we will respond, if we respond again. Right now, the attacks that we've seen, the -- the 40 that I mentioned have not been successful. You know, our -- our troops have not been seriously injured and our infrastructure at the bases, or where they're targeting has not been seriously damaged.

So again, I -- I think the -- the strike that we took on October 26th was very deliberate. It sent a message. And again, this was also about not widening this conflict, but responding to these Iran proxy groups.

Q: But in -- in light of the fact that these attacks are continuing in both Iraq and Syria, do you still -- is there an assessment still that the strike on -- the strikes on October 26th had an impact on the ability of IRGC groups to attack U.S. forces?

MS. SINGH: Well, I'm not going to get into specific intelligence assessments, but we feel -- we feel confident about the targets and what we were able to strike and their success.

Q: Okay.

MS. SINGH: Yeah, of course, Ryo.

Q: Thank you. I want to ask you about Secretary’s trip to the Indo-Pacific..

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: The U.S. military is handling the media challenge in Israel, and the war in Ukraine will probably last for a while. So, under this circumstance, what message will the secretary deliver to allies in the region and -- and also to China that increased (inaudible)?

MS. SINGH: Well, I'm not going to get ahead of the secretary, but he certainly, of -- of course, what is happening in the Middle East, what is happening in Ukraine continues to be on the top of mind of -- top of mind of the secretary and people here in the department. So of course, you know, that will come up in conversations, but I'm not going to get ahead of that because he leaves tomorrow. And of course, we will have, you know, readouts of each of his engagements. But as you mentioned, you know, he is going to the region. This is his ninth visit to the region. The NDS strategy that we rolled out last year is very clear that the department continues to focus on our pacing challenge, which is the PRC. So I think the secretary's trip is coming at an incredibly important time that while there are other events taking place in the world, we can still engage in the Indo-Pacific.

Great, Brandi?

Q: Thanks, Sabrina.

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: I just have a quick follow-up on -- on Liz’s line of questioning.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: You said repeatedly that the Pentagon expects the appropriate use of weapons by Israel, but I think what we're all trying to understand is is the Pentagon tracking if U.S. weapons are enabling war crimes or war crimes against civilians?

MS. SINGH: So, any country that receives any arms and military aid from the U.S. must use them consistent with international humanitarian law. That's something that's built into every single security assistance transfer agreement that the United States does. If we see something that raises concern, we're not going to hesitate to communicate that directly and -- and you know, we're con- -- continue to have very frank conversations with Mr. Gallant, with the Israeli government, as you've seen the secretary have on an almost-near-daily basis.

Q: So, that’s a yes you are tracking.

MS. SINGH: I -- well, we don't put conditions on assistance given to Israel. What I can tell you is that anytime a country like Israel is receiving arms or military support from the United States, we expect them to comply with international humanitarian law.

I'm going to go to the phones here. Sorry for neglecting. Missy Ryan, Washington Post?

Q: Hi, Sabrina. Thank you. Just really quickly, I wanted to ask if the Pentagon has anything you can provide about the U.S. decision, the Biden administration's decision that was announced today to suspend its obligations with the regards to the Conventional Forces In Europe Treaty. What practical impact will that decision have on the troop posture in Europe? And -- and does that open the door for the United States to have more permanent basing of troops in -- in certain parts of Europe now that it's not compliant with the CFE? Thanks.

MS. SINGH: Yup, thanks, Missy. So, in terms of any changes to our force posture, I don't have anything to announce here today. Again, it was Russia that withdrew from the Conventional Armed Forces, the -- the treaty, the CFE treaty that you mentioned, so it's in light of these circumstances that the United States is also withdrawing, and we have been in communication with our NATO partners and allies, many of whom are CFE Treaty state and -- and parties, but in terms of actual presence or -- or force posture or what this means for our forces in Europe, I just don't have more to provide at this time.

Q: Okay, just a -- can I go --

MS. SINGH: -- next up, I'll go -- oh, sorry, did you have a follow-up?

Q: Just -- yeah, just really quickly. Not -- I'm -- can you say anything about not whether or not you will make any changes to the force posture but whether or not you guys interpret the suspension as an allowing the United States to take actions that it previously was not able to take? That's sort of what I'm getting at.

MS. SINGH: I see. I wouldn't -- I wouldn't go so far to say that. I -- again, this was in response to Russia withdrawing from the CFE, and so we took appropriate action as well.

Next up, I'll go to Lara Seligman, Politico.

Q: Hi, Sabrina. Thanks for doing this. Just on the Tuberville situation, you said that that number of hold -- of nominations on hold is 452 now. Previously, we were at 379, I think. What is the reason for the jump?

MS. SINGH: Yep, no problem. So, I'm sorry, I should have -- in my -- when I was making my remarks, I should have noted that we had more submissions to the Senate I believe yesterday. So those numbers are the most updated as of November 6th and also take into account the three general and flag officers that we were able to get confirmed I believe last Thursday.

Q: Okay, thank you. And just a follow-up, can you tell us the updated number, total number, of injuries to U.S. service members? Is it still 45 or is it 46?

MS. SINGH: So, it is a total of 46 that General Ryder, I believe, also briefed yesterday. There was no change from yesterday until today, and that includes the 25 cases of TBI that we had mentioned yesterday and then 21 non-TBI, not significant injuries.

Okay, I'll come back in the room. Hey, Natasha. Yeah?

Q: Hey. So, John Kirby over at the NSC yesterday, he -- when talking about Israel's efforts to minimize casualties, he said that we have seen some indications that there are efforts being applied into certain scenarios to try to minimize the amount of civilian casualties as a part of Israel's operations in Gaza. That seemed like a very kind of tepid endorsement of the efforts that Israel is making to actually avoid the civilian casualties, and it seems like kind of a shift in tone as well.

And so, I'm wondering whether the Pentagon feels -- like, agrees with Kirby, in terms of there being efforts applied to any certain scenarios to try to minimize casualties, or if there's a broad effort by the Israelis to try to minimize them in every circumstance?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, I don't -- I don't disagree with what Kirby said at -- you said yesterday? We are being very direct and continuing to have, you know, daily conversations, not just here at this building -- in this building but across the administration, about the need for Israel to reduce civilian casualties.

So, I don't -- I don't dispute that statement, I think that's accurate, and we're continuing to engage with the -- with the Israelis on their targeting of operations. Again, it's their decisions, it's their targets that they are choosing, but we can continue, as any good partner would, to -- to raise any concerns that we might have and continuing also in any hostage recovery efforts.

Q: But it doesn't seem to you like there's a concerted effort across the board by the Israeli military to take into consideration the amount of casualties that might result -- civilian casualties that might result from these airstrikes? I mean, Kirby said it's only in certain scenarios and some indications that they're doing that.

MS. SINGH: I think, again, we're going to continue to engage with our Israelis counterparts, from the secretary’s level and across this administration, to urge them to really reduce any civilian casualties.

I mean, again, any -- you've heard it from -- from here, but just to say it again, any loss of life, any civilian casualty is horrific, we mourn those losses, and that's why we've been very clear in our conversations with the Israelis of -- of, you know -- I mean, that's why you saw General Glynn on the ground in Israel a few -- maybe -- I think it was last week, someone that has experience in urban warfare that can talk through the lessons learned from Afghanistan, from Iraq, and, you know, ensuring that as the Israelis are thinking through their operations, that they're considering innocent civilians, civilian casualties, as they do their targeting.


Q: Thanks, Sabrina. So, this is on Israel. These were some comments last week from Senator Rand Paul. He asked a question -- I'm quoting him here -- "as more civilians die in Gaza, there's always the question are 10 new terrorists created for every civilian that was killed?" You know, the implication being if you bomb someone's home, you kill their family member, they're more easily radicalized and then, you know, can join a terrorist group like Hamas and retaliate -- want to retaliate against Israel.

So what is the Pentagon's concern that, you know, this course of action with the high civilian casualty rate could actually be counter-productive to Israel's national security?

MS. SINGH: Well, I can't speak to what can happen in the future and -- and what this means, but what I can say is, again, we unequivocally stand for the protection of civilian lives within Gaza and during any armed conflict.

I don't really have a response to Senator Rand, as that -- you know, as that's, you know, going a little further and looking into the future, and I just -- I can't really comment on that.

Yeah, one last one? Konstantin? Yeah? Oh, sorry, you had one too. I'll come to you next. Yeah?

Q: Thanks, Sabrina. So, you mentioned, you know, the -- the first step in the Pentagon's conversation with Israel regarding allegations of civilian casualties is to open the dialogue and you've been raising these concerns with them.

What's the next step? What's -- you know, has the Pentagon thought about what the next step would be if these conversations are not productive, that -- is there a -- a next step?

MS. SINGH: Well, pull -- pull the thread for me a little bit more. So, like, in terms of what? Like, in the -- the next week, two weeks? Like, are you putting a timeline on it or just generally, like --

Q: Just generally --

MS. SINGH: Okay.

Q: -- because it seems like --

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: -- we're still getting reports of civilian casualties. So, this does not seem to be abating. As Natasha mentioned, you know, John Kirby's statements are not exactly a full-throated endorsement of these efforts. So, what's the next step?

MS. SINGH: So, I can't speak to exactly what's going to happen next steps, in terms of operationally on the ground. What I can speak to is, again, our engagement, our -- you know, our continuing to underscore the compliance with international law, with humanitarian law, and we're going to continue to do so both publicly and privately. That's what I see us continuing to do down the road, no matter how this goes.

And again, we're going to continue to have very frank conversations. That's something that, you know, good partners do. And I don't -- I don't see that stopping any time soon.

Yeah, last one?

Q: Hi, Sabrina. Thanks. On the same line of inquiry, you mentioned that if we see something that raises concern, we're not going to hesitate to raise that directly.

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: Has the department raised any specific points of concern with the Israelis? What is their -- how do you judge their response? And is the department requesting or receiving evidence that would, say, justify Israeli strikes that have targeted civilian infrastructure, like the -- for example, the ambulance that was bombed near the Al-Shifa hospital last week?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, so appreciate the question. As you can also probably appreciate, not going to get into more specific details of private conversations. We have put out multiple readouts after -- after every call that the Secretary has, not just with Minister Gallant but with partners in the region as well.

I think you'll see a -- a common thread in -- in all of those readouts, that we continue to urge Israel to uphold the -- uphold humanitarian laws and -- and abide by the law of armed conflict, but I'm going to let those conversations remain private.

Great. Okay, thanks all.