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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Off-Camera, On-the-Record Remarks to Traveling Press Enroute to India

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: I just wanted to give you a brief statement, and then I'll take a couple of questions here.

Today at President Biden's direction, U.S. military forces conducted a self-defense strike on a facility in Syria used by the IRGC and affiliated groups. We took these strikes in response to a series of attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed proxy groups. You've heard us say before, the president and I have no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel, and today's actions are intended to make clear that the United States will defend itself, our personnel and our interests. And we remain fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities, and we urge against any escalation.

And with that, let me take a couple of questions.

Q: Yeah, thank you for doing this. So just a couple of things, first on, you know, we've seen continued attacks on Israel from the north, and of course, on U.S. facilities in Syria and Iraq. So do you feel like deterrence is working?

And then you know, second and related to that, U.S. officials said that they see attacks in Israel-Gaza as separate to events that are taking place in Iraq and Syria. So do you still feel that way, given that the rhetoric from Hezbollah and Hamas?

SEC. AUSTIN: Yeah, so I think Israel (inaudible) that — the first part of what you said is really key here. We are responding to a number of attacks against our forces, and these are defensive strikes. They are not connected to what Israel is doing in its efforts against Hamas.

So in terms of deterrence overall, our goal is to make sure that the conflict that's in Gaza doesn't expand and become a region-wide conflict. And so to this point, we don't think that that's happened, and we are going to do everything in our power to make sure that it doesn't happen.

Q: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. After today's airstrike, do you expect the number of attacks against U.S. troops by Iranian-affiliated groups will decrease?

And secondly, a U.S. military (inaudible) drone was shoot (sic) down over the coast of Yemen today. So can you say anything about who is responsible? And will you have (inaudible) responsible moving forward?

SEC. AUSTIN: If the strike — if the attacks against our forces don't decrease or stop, we will take additional measures. And you know, as I said early on here, (inaudible), I think we're going to do everything we can to protect our troops, and we are absolutely serious about that.

In terms of the Yemen event, we're still looking into that, assessing that to see what happened, and so I don't have anything further to offer you at this point in time.

STAFF: All right, thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. Ladies and gentlemen, this completes the on-the-record portion.