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Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder Holds a Press Briefing

MAJOR GENERAL PAT RYDER:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Just a few things to pass along at the top, and then I'll get right to your questions.

Secretary Austin was honored to host President Zelenskyy yesterday at the National Defense University and provide introductory remarks.  As Secretary Austin said, America's commitment to supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression is unshakable.  He also said that, quote, "Ukraine matters profoundly to America's security and to the trajectory of global security in the 21st century.  That's why the United States has committed more than $44 billion in security assistance to Ukraine's brave defenders," end quote.

The Department of Defense will continue to work closely with our allies and partners worldwide to support Ukraine as it fights for freedom and to meet the clear objectives set out by President Biden: a free and sovereign Ukraine that can defend itself today and deter more Russian aggression in the future.

The department also continues to stay actively engaged in our objectives related to the current situation in the Middle East region, which are protect U.S. forces and citizens, support Israel's inherent right to defend itself, work closely with Israel to help secure the release of hostages from Hamas and ensure the crisis doesn't escalate into a broader regional conflict.

In support of these objectives, Secretary Austin will travel to the Middle East region next week to meet with leaders in Bahrain, Qatar and Israel.  He also will have an opportunity to meet with some of our forces deployed to the region to thank them for their service and for all that they and their loved ones do for our nation.  We'll have more details to announce regarding the secretary's trip in the near future.

Shifting to the Indo-Pacific region, Secretary Austin spoke this morning with his Japanese counterpart, Ministry of Defense Kihara, to express his thanks and gratitude for Japan's support with search-and-recovery operations following the recent tragic CV-22 mishap.  The two leaders also plotted progress on accelerating U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea trilateral security cooperation and exchanged views on maritime security in the Middle East.  A readout of the discussion has been posted to the DOD website.

And finally, I'd like to take a quick moment to recognize one of the department's senior leaders who will be departing next week after three years here in the Pentagon.  Dr. Mara Karlin has served in multiple critical roles, to include acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, later, as assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities, and most recently as performing the duties of deputy under secretary of defense for policy.  During her tenure, Dr. Karlin has managed the writing and ongoing implementation of the National Defense Strategy, a pivotal document in guiding the department, particularly in linking strategy to resources even amid evolving global crises.

As she embarks on her next chapter, on behalf of Secretary Austin and all of us here at DOD, we wish her the very best and are confident that her impact on national security will continue to resonate for years to come.

And with that, happy to take your questions.  We'll start with Associated Press, Lita.

Q:  Thank you.  On this new maritime task for effort, can you give us an update on where that stands in terms of gathering more countries to participate?  How many do you have at this point?  Will this include sort of a formal escorting of ships, through the BAM, do you think?  And is the U.S. already starting to do that, particularly in light of what happened yesterday in the Med?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Lita.

Well, first of all, we are continuing to take the situation in the Red Sea extremely seriously.  There should be no doubt about that.  The actions that we've seen from these Houthi forces are destabilizing, they're dangerous, and clearly a flagrant violation of international law.

And so this is an international problem that requires an international solution.  We do continue to consult closely with our international allies and partners on implementing a maritime task force.  I don't have any specific announcements to make today, and we will have more to provide in the near future, but as you highlight, we do continue to patrol the international waterways throughout the region to support freedom of navigation and efforts to ensure safety, security, and stability.

The only other thing I'd say on that, as we've demonstrated in the past, is that our military will not hesitate to take action where we deem it necessary and appropriate, including to protect against actions in the maritime domain that could threaten our forces.

Q:  Just as a follow-up, is the U.S. providing ships as escorts at this point or are companies requesting that?

GEN. RYDER:  I'm not aware of any specific companies requesting, but as you know, as evidenced last night, our ships will respond to distress calls and certainly we'll continue to work with our allies and partners in the region to, again, support freedom of navigation and security and stability in the region.

Okay, Jennifer?

Q:  Can you give us more details of what the U.S. did to help the Norwegian ship and what was done by the U.S. military and the French military?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  Just in terms of background, as I understand it, yesterday, around 4 pm Eastern Time or midnight Yemen time, the Motor Vessel Strinda, which is a Norwegian-flagged vessel, was attacked while passing through the Bab-el-Mandeb by what appears to be an anti-ship cruise missile launched from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen.

They reported a fire on board.  We're not aware of any casualties.  At the time of the attack, there were no U.S. ships in the vicinity, but the USS Mason did respond to Strinda's mayday call.  At the time, it was approximately 90 nautical miles away when the attack occurred.

The Mason was prepared to render assistance.  Ultimately, though, it was determined that it was not required, but the Mason did remain in the vicinity of the ship and the area to provide presence in order to deter any further aggression from Houthi territory.

Q:  And what about the French ship?  How close was it to --

GEN. RYDER:  I'd have to refer you to the French.  I just don't have those details.

Q:  Lastly, yesterday, the renewal of the 702 FISA hit a snag on Capitol Hill.  What would be the impact on the U.S. military and intelligence gathering if 702 does not pass by the end of the year?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Jennifer.  Well, you know, just for context, I think that Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ron Moultrie really said it best in his recent op-ed on this topic, and that is intelligence saves lives.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, allows us to collect vital intelligence, importantly under federal court supervision, of non-U.S. persons who are located abroad who who use U.S. communication services and whose communications are assessed by our Intelligence Community to have foreign intelligence value.  Every single day, that capability, that authorization, enables intelligence reports, which contributes to protecting U.S. service members and enabling mission success.

If that were to lapse, if Section 702 were to lapse, it would really undermine our ability to address complex challenges, managing competition while avoiding and preventing conflict.  Our ability to work with allies and partners, for example, to support Ukraine's defense would be downgraded.  Our service members would be at greater risk and our country would be more vulnerable due to our inability to determine or assess emerging threats.

So this is why we really need Congress to swiftly reauthorize a vital intelligence collection law -- this vital intelligence collection law before it expires this month.  Thank you very much.


Q:  Can we get an update on the attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria and the injuries that have come from those?

GEN. RYDER:  I'm not aware of any new injuries at this time.  Right now, I am tracking a total of, let's see here -- we're tracking approximately 89* attacks at this time.  Again, you know we'll keep you updated on that.

Again, just to underscore and not to mitigate the dangers at by any stretch here, these are dangerous attacks but they have largely been unsuccessful.  And again, I'm not going to get into telegraphing or speculating on any response, but again, we will do what we need to do to protect our forces.

Q:  When was the most recent?  Today, yesterday? 

GEN. RYDER:  We'd have to get back to you on that.  Thanks very much.

What's that?

Q:  -- a follow-up on --

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, let me go here first and I'll come back to you.  Carla?

Q:  (Inaudible) had a journalist embedded with some soldiers in Israel.  They went on the first patrol yesterday, first patrol since October 7th, since these attacks started.  Can you talk about how these Iranian-backed attacks have hindered the counter-ISIS mission in Iraq and Syria since October?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, as you know, I mean, CENTCOM just put out a release highlighting their statistics on the Defeat ISIS mission.  So that mission continues, and that's why we have forces in Iraq and Syria right now, and we'll continue to stay focused on that mission.

So despite these attacks, which, as we've talked about before, it's not the first time these Iranian proxies have done these types of activities, we continue to stay focused on that mission.  Certainly, if our forces are put into danger, we will take appropriate action to protect them, but it's not going to deter us from doing what we're there to do in the first place, which is ensure a lasting defeat of ISIS.

Q:  And can I follow up on something separate?  So Pakistan's Army Chief -- their new Army Chief is going to be visiting the Pentagon tomorrow for the first time.  Can you tell us a little bit about what Secretary Austin is looking for during this meeting?  Will they be talking about the deportation of Afghans from Pakistan or potentially buying munitions to go to Ukraine?  Just any details you can provide?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Carla.  I don't have any meetings to read out from the podium.  Certainly, as you know, when the Secretary meets with foreign counterparts and leaders, we provide a readout.  So if we have a readout to put out, we'll certainly do that.

Let me go to the other side of the room here.

Q:  Last question -- how would you assess U.S.-Pakistan military relations at this point?

GEN. RYDER:  Pakistan continues to be an important partner in the region.  And so obviously through CENTCOM, we continue to stay in close contact with them, particularly when it comes to issues like counter-terrorism.  Thank you.


Q:  Thanks.  I have two questions for.  Last week, we'd asked for the number of sorties that -- on average that the Ford and the Ike conducted since they've gone to the Israeli border, and on average, it was -- I think it was about 50 sorties a day, which is pretty regular for an aircraft carrier.  So given that there doesn't seem to be any indication that they're sort of having to do an (sic) notable amount more of sorties, can -- can you give us a sense why there continues to be a need for two carriers, and if we'll get any sense of -- or any timeline for when we'll hear whether the Ford will be extended again or not?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Nancy.  So I'm not going to get into deployment timelines or potential future ops and things like that.  In terms of why those carriers are there, as you know, as I highlighted in my opener, part of this is working to deter the spread of a potential regional conflict -- in other words, supporting our deterrence efforts in the region.  And so in addition to the two carrier strike groups, we also sent additional aircraft into the region, as well as air defense capabilities, all of which are intended to, one, protect our forces, but two, provide us with options, should we need to respond to a wide variety of contingencies.

And so certainly, airpower being an incredibly flexible capability, provides you with the kinds of assets you might need to respond to, again, the full spectrum of contingencies.  But again, right now, those forces are there to support our original deterrence efforts and send a clear message that we do not want to see this broaden into a wider conflict.

Q:  A separate topic: On Monday, the French minister of the Armed Forces said a frigate came under direct attack from two drones launched from Yemen.  The U.S. has interdicted way more drones since that, but has made the assessment that U.S. ships aren't being targeted.  Can you help me understand how the U.S. has made the determination; why it seems that the French have been more assertive in seeing these as a direct attack, where the U.S. has not?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, I think, again, part of this has to do with the situation and why you're responding.  And so if a drone, for example, you know, I think it was a week or two ago, you had the situation where three commercial vessels were under attack, and the U.S. had sent a ship to respond.  I believe it was the Carney.  And so as those drones are heading towards the Carney, it's not clear whether it's heading toward a commercial ship, whether it's heading towards the Carney.  But the bottom line -- it's within the threat ring where that commander has to make a determination, so that drone will be taken down in self-defense.  What you don't want to do is let it hit you, and then say, "Oh, yes, I guess they were trying to attack us."

So again, we're going to be circumspect in that.  When we say we don't know if it was the intended target, but we do know that it presented a potential threat, and we're going to take appropriate action.

Q:  I guess what I don’t understand is that earlier, the U.S. assessment was that you didn't believe that the military vessels were being targeted.  So I guess that's why I'm a little confused, because the French can be quite certain that they were.

GEN. RYDER:  I mean, I can't speak for the French.  And again, I'm relaying to you the information that we have.

Q:  So just to clarify, is it the U.S. believe that those drones are potentially targeting the U.S. carr- -- destroyers, the Carney and others?  Or is it that you don't know?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, they clearly present a threat, and we're going to take appropriate action in self-defense.  The only other thing I'd offer is if you see the comments coming out of, you know, Houthi spokespeople themselves saying what they're attempting to target here.  And so again, the targeting of any commercial vessels in the region is a violation of international law, and again, we'll work with the international community to address these threats going forward.

Let me give you some new colleagues.  Yes, sir?

Q:  Thank you so much.  I will go back to the -- Secretary Austin's phone call with the Iraqi prime minister.  In the phone call, he point (sic) out to the Iraqi military groups that attacks by Iran, Qatari, Hezbollah and (inaudible), that they are responsible for the  -- most of the attacks.  How did you get that -- to that conclusion, that these two groups are responsible for the most of the attacks?

GEN. RYDER:  Section 702, the -- I'm kidding.

I'm not going to get into intelligence, but the bottom line is, you know, what we put out speaks for itself.

Q:  Do you expect the Iraqi government to put accountability to these groups?  And does the United States is -- and is opposed to the Iraqi Prime Minister Sudani, who addressed these threats?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, I'm not going to go beyond the readout that we provided, which clearly highlighted the secretary's conversation with the prime minister as it relates to the inherent right to protect U.S. forces.  And look, Iraq is an important partner to the United States.  We're obviously there.  We have a force presence in Iraq at the invitation of the government of Iraq to help their forces as they continue to work for the lasting defeat of ISIS.  And so again, that will continue to be our focus.  But we do very much appreciate the Iraqi Security Forces and the assistance that they have provided when it comes to addressing these threats, and we'll continue to stay in close coordination and communication with the Iraqi government.  But at the end of the day, if our forces are threatened, we will not hesitate to take action to ensure that they remain safe.

Q:  And last question

GEN. RYDER:  You guys are like multi-question folks today.

Q:  Last question, promise.  Do you believe that the Iraqi government could do that?  Because since the very beginning of these attacks, you are addressing the Iraqi government to stop these attacks, but it hasn't happened.

GEN. RYDER:  Again, I'm not going to go beyond what we highlighted in our readout.  You know that we've conducted strikes within Iraq when our forces were threatened.  And look, our focus there is on the Defeat ISIS mission.  You have these groups that are attempting to exploit the situation in -- in the Middle East right now to work towards their broader strategic goal of expelling the United States from Iraq and Syria.  But we do not want to see a return of ISIS, and we'll continue to work closely with Iraqi government and others to ensure that doesn't happen.

Let me go to Joseph here, and then I'll --

Q:  Just on some other topic, in March, I believe, General Kurilla was testifying on the Hill, and he said there had been seven -- around 78 attacks on U.S. troops since, I think it was January, 2021 until January of this year.  That's -- you know, that's two years, I know.  Just from October 17th until today, we have somewhere around 90 attacks.  You guys have previous -- more or less said that these attacks are not linked to what's going on in Gaza.  You've also -- you also said at the top the U.S. is trying to contain, you know, this -- this conflict in Gaza.  Is it still the -- the department's assessment that what's happening in Gaza is not linked to these attacks on the U.S. troops?  And secondly, I mean, is it the department's assessment that deterrence is -- is -- is working when we've seen the number of attacks in, I guess, two months more than what we had seen in two years?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, well again, our focus, as I outlined those objectives, is to prevent the situation, the conflict between Israel and Hamas from broadening into a regional conflict.  And so no, we don't assess that that has happened.  It has been contained to Israel fighting Hamas in Gaza, and that will continue to be a focus.

You know, we've talked about this before.  The situation in Iraq and Syria, why our forces are there and the fact that you have Iranian proxy groups who are being encouraged by Iran to, again, exploit this situation to their -- to their advantage in order to meet the strategic game of expelling U.S. forces from that region, which again, oh, by the way, are there at the invitation of the government of Iraq.

And so you know, we're going to continue to stay focused on that mission.  We're going to continue to do what we need to do to protect our forces, and I'll just leave it at that.

Q:  And just a second one, if I can follow up on the task force that's being discussed.  I know you don't have anything to read out but we reported earlier today that there is -- the U.S. is in talk with 12 nations about this task force.  Can you confirm that?

And then also, can you elaborate at all on the Secretary's conversations next week on his trip?  Does he plan to ask at least about that to Qatar and Bahrain to join?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, (Joseph ?).  So right now, no.  Again, I'll have more for you -- more information in the near future, as it relates to our efforts to work multilaterally, in terms of the Red Sea region.

And as far as the trip goes, again, we'll have more information in the future.

All right, let me go back over to here.  Lara?

Q:  Thanks.  Last month, the -- President Biden and President Xi promised that they would resume military communications.  I'm wondering if you could tell us when that's going to happen?

GEN. RYDER:  So I don't have any specific calls or meetings to announce right now.  We have been working closely with our Defense Attache Office, and our policy team's been in active coordination with Beijing in order to arrange communication, but again, nothing to announce at this point in time.

We have underscored many times the importance of ensuring that senior leader level communication continues to mitigate potential risk and prevent miscalculation.  And so we'll continue to stay very focused on that.

Q:  -- Secretary Austin doesn't have a Chinese counterpart right now, have they offered someone to speak in his place?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, right now, we're reaching out.  Don't have anything to announce at this time.  So thank you very much.


Q:  Thank you, General.  Congratulation on your promotion.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you.

Q:  Getting two stars.  The 2024 National Defense Authorization Act says that the U.S. troops stationed in South Korea will be maintained at the current level.  Does this include troops deployed for joint exercise?

GEN. RYDER:  Thanks, Janne.  So as you know, right now, we have approximately 28,500 U.S. forces assigned in the Republic of Korea.  In terms of forces coming in for exercises, that is a variable number that depends on the size of the exercise, the of requirements, and things like that.  So that won't change.

So the bottom line is, you know, when it says force levels will be preserved, I take that at face value.  Obviously I'm not going to talk about pending legislation but, you know, exercise numbers can fluctuate, again, just depending on the requirement.

Q:  -- Ukraine, do you think military cooperation between North Korea and Russia will lead Putin's war in Ukraine to victories?

GEN. RYDER:  Look, Janne, you know, what we are singularly focused on -- working with the international community to ensure that Ukraine has what it needs to be successful on the battlefield, both in the short-term and in the long-term, in terms of deterring future aggression from Russia.  So I'll just leave it at that.


Q:  Thank you.  I have two questions on the Secretary's call with the Japanese Defense Minister.

First, on the Osprey crash, I wonder if the Secretary shared the progress on the investigation into the crash with the Japanese Defense Minister?  Because the Pentagon said the investigation will be transparent.

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, again, I'm not going to have anything to provide beyond what's in the readout.  As you highlight, broadly speaking, yes, the Department of Defense will continue to work closely with our Japanese allies to share information as it relates to the investigation, you know, at and as appropriate.

Q:  Secondly, the Secretary also discussed maritime security in the Red Sea.  So does the Pentagon hope that -- that Indo-Pacific countries, including Japan, will join your maritime -- maritime task force in the Red Sea because what's going on in this critical waterway matters to the economies in the Indo-Pacific region?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, again, I'm not going to speak right now for any individual countries.  As I highlighted, this is an international problem that requires an international solution.  So we are engaged with many different nations to discuss this challenge, and as I mentioned, may have more future in the days ahead.

Now, I better go to the phone or else I'm going to get in trouble here.  Let's go to Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose.

Q:  Thank you.  What evidence does the Defense Department have that if Vladimir Putin wins in Ukraine, that he might target Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, all of which are protected under Article 5 of -- of NATO?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Jeff.  So I don't want to get into hypotheticals, but broadly speaking, you know, past performance is usually an indicator of future performance.  And so we've seen Russia conduct gray zone operations.  We know that their goal, which they have failed at, was to eliminate Ukraine as a nation.

And so the concern here is yes, if Putin were allowed to win, there's -- Russia won't stop, that they will move on to other countries and attempt to either invade or destabilize.  And so this does put us in a situation where NATO could be threatened and U.S. requirements and commitments under Article 5 would be something that we would obviously take very seriously.

So again, this is why Ukraine matters.  It's not just about Ukraine, it's about international security, not only in Europe but also globally.

GEN. RYDER:  -- Reuters, Phil?

Q:  Hey, Idrees here.  Two quick questions.

Firstly, Israel has said that it will deploy its own war ship to the Red Sea.  Are the U.S. ships already in the region working with them?  And will Israel be part of any maritime effort in the region?

And -- and secondly, President Biden earlier today said that Israel is losing support over what he called their indiscriminate Gaza bombing campaign.  Does the Secretary agree with the President that the bombing by Israel has been indiscriminate?

GEN. RYDER:  Thanks, Idrees.  So I don't have anything to announce regarding Israel.  I'd refer you to them to talk about their own operations in the Red Sea region.

And look, Secretary Austin's comments at Reagan were very clear, when it comes to two things.  One, that our support for Israel's inherent right to defend itself is ironclad, and number two, that we will continue to expect Israel to conduct its operations in accordance with the law of armed conflict, highlighting that not only does Israel have a moral obligation to protect civilians but it's also a strategic imperative.  Thank you.

Come back in the room for a few more here.  Matt?

Q:  Thanks, Pat.  Today, Reuters reported that a declassified U.S. intelligence report determined that Russia has lost some 315,000 troops, either to injury or death, total casualties, and also that its losses in personnel and vehicles has set its military modernization efforts back by some 18 years.  Are you able to confirm any parts of that report or do you have your own estimates for casualties on either side of the conflict?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Matt.

I don't have anything to provide on those reports.  Nor do I have numbers to provide on casualties.  But I will take it as an opportunity to highlight the fact, again, the strategic failure of Russia when it comes to the objectives that it had set for itself in Ukraine and the fact that it has cost thousands and thousands of lives on both sides needlessly, which is why, again, we will continue to work very closely with Ukraine to ensure that they have what they need to defend their people and protect their sovereign territory.  So, I'll just leave it there.


Q:  Thanks, General.  I wanted to follow up on the individuals that appeared to be responsible for the hijacking some days ago that you said appeared to be Somali.  Can you give us an update on where they are?  If they're still detained underway with the U.S. Navy?  If you've clarified where they're from and just where they are now?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  They are Somali.  They are still aboard the USS Mason, while we continue to work with the Department of Justice on next steps.  So, as we have more information to provide, we will do that.

Q:  Do you believe them to be working in any kind of way with the Houthis or was this just a coincidence at a time when there's a lot of Houthi operations?

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, I don't have any further information to pass along, Dan.  And as we get updates, we'll be sure to pass them.  All right.  I'll get one second. Yes, sir?

Q:  Thank you very much.  You just said that Secretary Austin made it clear that the United States is expecting Israel to be careful in its bombing campaign in Gaza when it comes civilian casualties.  What if Netanyahu government or the IDF continue to indiscriminately attack civilians in Gaza and continue to wide -- use the white phosphorous like it did in Southern Lebanon?  What steps will the United States government will take?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, look, we have been very clear with our Israeli partners that we have the expectation that they will conduct their operations in accordance with the law of armed conflict.  It is the importance of taking civilian safety into account has come up in every single conversation that Secretary Austin has had with his counterpart and that continues to happen at multiple levels.

And again, look, we understand that Israel is fighting to defend its people from a terrorist threat in the form of Hamas that brutally attacked the people of Israel on October 7.  And we also understand that they are in an extremely difficulty fight in an extremely dense urban terrain where the enemy has intertwined themselves among the civilian population and are using them as human shields.

So again, we understand that, and we will continue to support Israel in their efforts to defend their people and defend their country.  But we will also continue to talk to them about the importance of mitigating civilian casualties and the importance of ensuring that civilian aid is provided to the people of Gaza.

Let me go back to the phone here and then we'll do one more in the room.  Heather from USNI.

Q:  Thanks so much.  Just a follow up on Nancy's question.  Because the French are saying that they were attacked and they are a NATO ally, what responsibility does that put on the United States to help protect French military ships that might be getting attacked or other military ships that may consider the drones or missiles being shot in the Red Sea to be attacks?

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, thanks Heather.

So, you know, my understanding is operations in the Red Sea, it's not a NATO operation, per se.  Clearly, France is a close ally.  And should they ask for our support or call on us to support them, you know, we will, obviously, respond and be there to help.

But, again, it's not a NATO mission, as I understand it, going on right now within Red Sea.  You've got the combined maritime force that has over 39 nations that work together on a multiple number of efforts to seek provide security and regional stability to include Red Sea navigation.

So, again, nothing to announce on that front.  More to follow in the near future.  But I'll just leave it there.

All right, sir, you get the last question.

Q:  (inaudible) U.S. and the military-to-military relations are concerned, how would you highlight 2023?  Also, any mission accomplished (inaudible) between the two countries and including (inaudible) 2023?

GEN. RYDER:  I absolutely enjoyed my job in 2023.  I enjoy spending time with all of you here.

But in terms of the relationship between the United States and India, you know, with obvious focus on the Department of Defense, I think it has been a very good year.  I think we've made great progress in terms of further bolstering our relationship and our -- and our cooperation.  You've heard us talk about things like INDUS-X and working on defense cooperation efforts to include in the industrial base as far as developing things like jet engines in India, working collaboratively to produce armored vehicles in India, the ability of our ships to go to India -- our Navy ships to go to India to be repaired.

And so all of this working toward the common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region where sovereignty is respected, and countries can operate in international airspace, sail the international waterways freely and without harassment.  So, again, we'll continue to work closely with our partner, India.  And we look forward to further progress in 2024.

Thank you very much.  Thank you very much.


*Ed. Note: There have been approximately 92 attacks in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 17.