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

MAJOR GENERAL PAT RYDER: Good morning, everybody. Hope you had a good weekend. I don't have too much to pass along at the top. We'll get right to your questions.

So per our media advisory, Secretary Austin will be over at National Defense University this morning to introduce President Zelenskyy. He'll make some brief introductory remarks and then President Zelenskyy will speak to the students there. We will be live-streaming that event on and Channel 2 here in the Pentagon and of course on our social media. So you should have that, and that, again, starts here in about an hour.

And with that, I'll go ahead and take your questions. Meghann?

Q: Has the Secretary read the Air Force's investigation into A1C Teixeira? Has he seen the results? And is there a -- does he have a response to the results of it, how the Air Force handled everything?

GEN. RYDER: The Department of the Air Force of course has been keeping the Secretary updated on the status of their efforts. I don't have any particular readout on the Secretary's reaction to that, other than he's confident the Air Force is taking necessary steps to look into this. And, you know, I'd refer you to the Air Force for any questions on their investigation, so.

Okay, Phil?

Q: There are reports of a new attack in Syria. I'm wondering if you're seeing those today?

GEN. RYDER: I've seen some press reports on that. Pete and Mac can get you the latest on the attacks, but I don't have anything to read out to you here.

Q: Okay. And has there been any follow-up since the Secretary's message and call with the Iraqis on his insistence that they resolve or take care -- take steps to ensure that U.S. personnel aren't attacked?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have any follow-up, in terms of --

Q: Well, has he been -- has there been any follow-up? Have the Iraqis come back and -- and done anything? Has there been any further communication between the department and -- and the government of Iraq?

GEN. RYDER: So you're right, we put out the readout. I don't -- the Secretary hasn't spoken to his Iraqi counterpart since that phone call. Of course, we communicate with Iraq at multiple levels through Central Command and continue to do that.

The readout speaks for itself. We'll continue to work closely with our Iraqi partners, in terms of addressing the attacks that emanate from Iraq. Again, I don't have anything new to pass along, other than we're going to continue to take it seriously and we're going to also continue to maintain the inherent right of self-defense of our forces.


Q: That second star looks good on you.

GEN. RYDER: Thanks.



Q: There we go. So the Washington Post report, probably you've -- you've seen it -- about the use of white phosphorous by Israel in the Dheira village in south Lebanon. According to the Post, this is a U.S.-provided weapon. Do you have any comment on that?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I've seen the report. I can tell you we have not provided white phosphorous rounds to Israel since October 7th. I can't verify whether or not the rounds identified in this story were provided by the United States. Again, when it comes to our relationship with Israel, we'll continue to communicate to them the importance of mitigating civilian harm. I'll just leave it there.

Q: But are you going to look into this incident?

GEN. RYDER: Again, I don't have anything new right now. Again, as I understand it, those rounds were, according to this report, from the '80s and the '90s. So again, I can't sit here and tell you whether or not those were U.S.-provided or not. I'll certainly take a look at the article but --

Q: I mean, this goes -- regardless of when it was provided, the fact that it's been used in this way and people were hurt -- nine people --


Q: So it goes to the fact that -- how much effort is the Pentagon putting into tracking whatever it's providing to Israel, how it's been used, and how much harm it is causing for civilian population, whether in Lebanon or Gaza?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Fadi. I mean, we've spoken about this. Again, you know the prominence we place on ensuring that civilian safety is taken into account. That's not going to change. I just don't have anything to read out to you here right now in terms of specific actions we may or may not take as it relates to the Washington Post article.

Q: Can I ask about two different issues?

GEN. RYDER: Let me -- let me -- I'll come back to you.


Q: On the Ford, are there plans in place to swap out another carrier with the Ford? It's been -- I think it's at month nine now maybe. How much longer can it be out there?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I don't -- I'm not going to talk about potential ship movements, so I don't have anything to provide for you on that right now.

Q: Go ahead.

GEN. RYDER: Okay. Lara?

Q: Two questions. First of all, I think a couple weeks ago, we had asked for a list of aid that the U.S. was providing to Israel. I'm wondering if you're able to give us that at some point?

GEN. RYDER: So I've given you the most extensive list that we're going to be able to provide right now, which is, again, you know, we've provided precision-guided munitions, to include JDAMs, we've provided 155, we have provided Iron Dome interceptors. And so that's about as extensive as I am able to provide to you right now. Again --

Q: You -- you can't say how much money altogether or anything?

GEN. RYDER: I did answer that question at at a press briefing last week, in terms of why the situation in Israel is different than in Ukraine. So again, we have not received any appropriated funds for Israel right now, and they are purchasing this equipment using their funds.

Q: And then -- sorry, secondly, just has the Secretary talked to Senator Tuberville to urge him to release his holds on civilian nominations and the remaining holds on the top officers?

GEN. RYDER: He has not spoken with Senator Tuberville on this specifically. However, as you know, our staff remains very actively engaged on the release of the remaining holds. And when I say the Secretary hasn't spoken to him, that's recently. Of course he has spoken to him about this in the past. Thank you.

Q: Thank you, Major General Ryder. On the -- don't look so surprised -- this may be a question you have to take, but on the Osprey, on previous incidents, leaders have broadly expressed confidence in the platform, saying it's not particularly dangerous. Can the department provide some numbers to back that up, accident rate per flight hour as it compares to other platforms, or do you have any particular data to -- to back up the -- your take on the -- the Ospreys?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, let -- let me take that question, Chris. Thanks.

Q: I was going to ask about just any insight you could provide on the conversation Secretary Austin is having, just in terms of the Ukraine aid? Any conversations on the Hill on that funding fight? And just how crucial that is to get done prior to the holiday? Do you see that coming to conclusions?

GEN. RYDER: Well, I can't speculate on it coming to conclusion. Certainly, we would hope that we would be able to receive the supplemental funding from Congress, as well as a full-year appropriation.

And, you know, the Secretary, as I highlighted last week, was on the Hill last week to talk to senators and to representatives about the importance of ensuring that we are getting the funding that we need for Ukraine, Israel, and other national security priorities around the world. And so that's a message that he'll continue to hammer home, and as will the department writ large. Thank you.


Q: Thank you. On the South China Sea, the Chinese ship used water cannons and collided with Philippine vessels again. So what will the Pentagon do in practical terms to prevent China from doing that?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Ryo. So, you know, we're going to continue to consult very closely with our Philippine allies and our partners in the region. As you probably saw earlier, we tweeted out a message of support to our Philippine allies on this very thing and highlighting that our mutual defense -- our obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty are ironclad. 

And so it just again demonstrates irresponsible and unsafe behavior on the part of the PRC and why it's important for all nations to work together in that region to ensure that ships and aircraft can sail wherever international law allows.

And so I'll just leave it at that.

Q: Is there discussion with the Philippine counterparts about the U.S. Navy ships escorting Philippine vessels to the Second Thomas Shoal?

GEN. RYDER:  A discussion in terms of what, I'm sorry?

Q: About the U.S. Navy escorting the Philippine vessel --

GEN. RYDER:  Again, I'm not going to get into potential future operations or speculate.

Q: Is there a request from the Philippines for --

GEN. RYDER: Again, I'd refer you to the Philippines for that. I will tell you, the chairman, General Brown, did speak to his counterpart in the Philippines. So he'll be issuing a readout on that real soon.


Q: Any updates on the separate build-out, Red Sea (inaudible) of cooperation, in terms of security?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, no -- no new updates to pass along, other than that we continue to take this very seriously and we continue to consult with allies and partners around the world about a maritime task force, in order to address this.

And so, as we have more details to provide, I'll make sure to pass those along.

I'll do a couple more. Back to you, Fadi?

Q: So, two things. One on Iraq, in -- in the readout from the secretary's phone call with Sudani, the prime minister of Iraq, he singled out Kata'ib Hezbollah and Harakat al-Nujaba.

And I think this was the first time since the attacks started, October 17th, the Pentagon actually talks about specific --

GEN. RYDER:  That's not -- that's not true.

Q: That's not true?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, in the sense that, when we conducted our last strikes, CENTCOM did confirm that those strikes were against KH and HAN targets.

Q: Yeah, but this is the first time, speaking of these two groups, has been responsible for the majority of -- of attacks. Why was -- why did he feel, or the Pentagon needed to single out these two groups in the readout?

And the second one, I want to go back to Jared's question. So on the Task Force 153, I know you said you don't have any updates now. But are you able to tell us how many nations have been approached as part of this effort?

And what type of response have you received so far?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, I'm not able, at this point, Fadi, to talk specific numbers, other than to say, you know, we are approaching many nations, as you know. The combined maritime force consists of 39 nations. And so, you know, I think, again, as we highlighted last week, this is an international problem. It's an international concern, in terms of shipping being affected going through the Red Sea.

And so, as we always do, the United States will work with like-minded nations to ensure that the safety and security and stability through that strait is preserved.

In terms of KH and HAN, you know, look, as the -- the readout said, those -- we know those groups are largely responsible for conducting these attacks. So it's calling them out and highlighting to them that, you know, we know what they're doing. And I'll just leave it at that. Thanks.


Q: Let's just go to (inaudible) real quick. Going back to the South China Sea, so China continues to use their water canyons -- cannons. When do they qualify as an armed attack?

GEN. RYDER: Well, again, I think I would focus more on the behavior, what we're seeing here and the intent, right? So, again, it's just hugely irresponsible and unsafe when you're putting seamen at risk at sea, operating in international waters and completely within their rights. And so I'll just leave it at that.

Q: So they can -- so a water cannon is not considered an attack, even if someone gets hurt or someone is killed?

GEN. RYDER: I'll let you define it. I'm not a maritime lawyer, other than to say again this is a clearly unsafe and inappropriate behavior --

Q: How about the lasers that they were using against --


GEN. RYDER: -- yeah, don't want to get into hypotheticals and putting all of that together. Again, I mean, the behavior speaks for itself. Whether it's appropriate or not, I think we can all agree that it's not the kind of professional behavior we expect to see from a navy that purportedly is supposedly looking to create peace in the region, and they're doing the opposite.

Jared --

Q: Just to follow up on that, Red Sea dynamic, is the department concerned at all that the Israeli military might take action that could potentially complicate the effort to bring allies into the maritime security --

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I won't get into, you know, speculating on what the Israeli military may or may not do. You -- as you know, we've talked about the importance of preventing a wider regional conflict. And so we will continue to do that, working with the Israelis and other partners in the region. I'll just leave it there.

And then the last question will go to Phil.

Q: Just ahead of the NDU speech, I'm wondering if the Pentagon is willing to share its assessment of Ukraine's counter -- counter-offensive? And -- and if so, what -- what is it?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, look, they continue to be in a very hard fight. You've heard Secretary Austin talk about the fact that this continues to be a tough battle that will be a marathon, not a sprint. And so as we continue to see all, along the line, areas where Ukraine is making some advances and the Russians are making advances, we see the back and forth.

So we're going to continue to stay focused on making sure that Ukraine has what it needs to be able to hold the line and make progress. And in large part, that's, again, why we need supplemental funding, to ensure that as they go through this winter, they have the support that they need.

We're also very focused on long-term defense support to Ukraine as well, and this is where the capability coalitions come into play, which you heard about during the last Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which is working with many nations that will highlight and focus in on specific capabilities, whether it's IT, armor, artillery, air, that ensures that they have what they need long-term.

The last thing I'll say is I'd point you back to the Secretary's remarks at Reagan, where he talked about what our objective here is with Ukraine, in terms of ensuring that they can defend themselves and deter future Russian aggression. So that will continue to be our focus.

Q: But, I mean, obviously what we're looking for is your assessment on whether or not they have achieved or failed to achieve any of -- any of their objectives.

GEN. RYDER: So I'll let Ukraine define what they're trying to achieve. Clearly, Russia invaded a year and a half ago, and the fact that Ukraine continues to hold the line, they've taken back upwards of 50 percent of the territory that had been occupied -- and you've heard President Zelenskyy say they will continue to fight through the winter. So that's our focus, is enabling them to continue to fight through the winter, to take back territory.

All right, thanks very much, everybody. Appreciate it.