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

MAJOR GENERAL PAT RYDER: Good afternoon, everyone. Hope you survived the snowstorm OK. I have a few things to pass along and then I’ll be glad to get to your questions. 

As you are aware, Secretary Austin was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical center Monday, and on the advice of his doctors, will perform his duties from home for a period of time while he recuperates. As our press release highlighted, the Secretary has full access to required secure communications capabilities in his home. I don’t have a date yet to provide in terms of when he’ll return to work in the Pentagon, but we’ll be sure to keep you updated. 

The press release, which includes a statement from Secretary Austin's doctors, as well as a statement from Secretary Austin, regarding his release from the hospital, are both available on the DOD website. However, to ensure a common understanding of the Secretary's condition, prognosis, and treatment going forward, I'm going to read the statement from his doctors, and I appreciate your patience.

This is from Dr. John Maddox, Trauma Medical Director, and Dr. Gregory Chesnut, Director of the Center for Prostate Disease Research at the Murtha Cancer Center of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center - quote, "Secretary Austin progressed well throughout his stay and his strength is rebounding. He underwent a series of medical tests and evaluations and received non-surgical care during his stay to address his medical needs, to include resolving some lingering leg pains. He was discharged home with planned physical therapy and regular follow-up. The Secretary is expected to make a full recovery. Secretary Austin's prostate cancer was treated early and effectively and his prognosis is excellent. He has no planned further treatment for his cancer, other than regular prostatectomy surveillance," end quote. Again, as we receive pertinent updates, we'll be sure to pass them along.

Separately, as you know, the U.S. and United Kingdom, along with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands, conducted strikes against military targets in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen last week, in support of a multinational effort intended to disrupt and degrade the Houthis' ability to attack international shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

The U.S. also conducted subsequent follow-up strikes against a radar site on Saturday Yemen time that was part of the original target list and four anti-ship ballistic missiles yesterday Yemen time that were prepared to launch from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen which presented an imminent threat to both merchant and U.S. Navy ships in the region.

As Secretary Austin said in his statement on January 11, quote, "we will not hesitate to defend our forces, the global economy, and the free flow of legitimate commerce in one of the world's vital waterways," end quote.

In the meantime, more than 20 nations continue to support the separate defensive coalition Operation Prosperity Guardian, which is focused on protecting international shipping and mariners in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. 

In other news, Secretary Austin spoke yesterday with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Rustem Umerov to discuss the latest on the situation in Ukraine and the upcoming Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting, which will be conducted virtually on January 23rd.

During the call, Secretary Austin reiterated that the United States and our coalition of some-50 allies and partners remain committed to supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression. The readout's been posted to the DOD website.

And then lastly, on behalf of the department, we would like to congratulate U.S. Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Madison Marsh, who was crowned Miss America over the weekend in Orlando, Florida. Lieutenant Marsh, a recent U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, was crowned Miss Colorado in November of 2023. 

She is currently earning her Master's degree from the Harvard Kennedy School through the Air Force Institute of Technology's Civilian Institutions Programs. She's also earned a pilot slot and is expected to attend pilot training after she graduates from Harvard. For more information, I'd refer you to Air Force Public Affairs.

And with that, happy to take your questions. We'll go to Associated Press first on the phone, Lita Baldor.

Q: Thank you, Pat. Two separate things. One, on Secretary Austin, does his physical condition at this moment preclude travel? Can you give us sort of an idea as to whether the meeting is virtual because he can't travel or just how he is in that regard?

And then secondly, on the Houthis, the - over - over the weekend, obviously there were attacks by the Houthis, there were counter-attacks, and there were several strikes by Iran itself. Can you assess or tell us whether Secretary Austin believes that the Gaza war has already expanded? Don't all of these attacks suggest that the war has done exactly what the U.S. didn't want it to do early on, in that it has expanded and that attempts to deter the Houthis so far have not worked? Thanks.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Lita. On your first question, as I highlighted, the Secretary continues to recuperate at home. He does have planned physical therapy, as I highlighted there, in the Secretary - or the - his doctors' statement. And so in terms of travel, no travel scheduled in the immediate future, but again, we'll keep you updated. And to answer your question, his - he - obviously, the UDCG is very important, the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, and as he continues to recuperate, he of course wants to participate in that. And so that certainly is a factor in terms of why we're doing this virtually.

In terms of your second question, you know, clearly there are tensions in the Middle East, there have been tensions there since the Israel-Hamas conflict has kicked off. We continue to work very closely with our allies and our partners in the region to prevent the Israel-Hamas conflict from escalating into a wider regional war. When it comes to the activities that we see by the Houthis in the Red Sea, again, they are exploiting the situation to conduct attacks against the ships and vessels from more than 50 countries, affecting more than 50 countries around the world.

And so we are going to continue to work with our partners in the region to prevent those attacks or deter those attacks in the future, and we're also going to continue to work very hard to prevent the Israel-Hamas conflict from escalating into a broader regional conflict. But to answer your question, no, we currently assess that the fight between Israel and Hamas continues to remain contained in Gaza.

Let me go to Tom.

Q: Pat, do you have a battle damage assessment at this point on the U.S.-British strikes? And also, the New York Times has reported that the strikes took out roughly one quarter of the Houthi capabilities. I was talking with some folks on the Hill. They were told the strikes would set back the Houthis by a few days or a few weeks. Can you talk about those points?

 GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Tom. So I'm - you know, I'm not going to get into specific intelligence, in terms of percentages. What I will tell you is that in our assessment, we hit what we intended to hit with good effects. 

Again, the objective here was to disrupt and degrade Houthi capabilities to conduct attacks, and we believe that overall, in terms of the scope and the number of strikes that we took, we have degraded their ability to attack. Clearly, they maintain some capability and we anticipated that after any action, there would likely be some retaliatory strikes, and that's what you're seeing now. 

So we're going to keep working alongside our international partners, and as I highlighted at the top, we're going to continue to do what we need to do to protect our forces but also deter future attacks from the Houthis. I'm not going to telegraph, forecast, or speculate about any future strikes, other than to say that these actions by the Houthis are illegal, reckless and dangerous, and they need to stop.

Q: And you can't say how much you've degraded or disrupted the Houthi capabilities?

GEN. RYDER: I'm not going to get into percentages or talking - other than to say, you know, we employed over 150 munitions, targeted over 16 locations, and had impact. Thank you. Fadi?

Q: Thank you, General. I have two questions. We've been reporting about a new attack today in Gulf of Aden from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen that targeted a U.S. merchant vessel. What can you tell us about the situation and any information you can offer on the situation?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Fadi. I am tracking reports coming out of the region. We're working with Central Command now to get more information on that. And so certainly we'll, as we have been, put that information out as quickly as we can.

Q: ... confirm the attack happened?

GEN. RYDER: I'm tracking reports of an attack coming out of the region.

Q: ... and you mentioned the strikes against Houthis in Yemen are trying to disrupt their ability to continue these attacks. However, since the first wave of those strikes in Yemen, two more - for the first time, two U.S. ships have been targeted. Would you say the security situation in the Red Sea area is better or worse after those U.S. strikes?

GEN. RYDER: What I can tell you is that we've degraded Houthi capability to conduct strikes. As I highlighted and as we highlighted shortly after those strikes, we would not be surprised if we saw efforts on their part to continue to try to conduct retaliatory strikes.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, let's, you know, take a step back and look at how we got here. Mid-November, we started seeing these attacks. Despite multiple warnings and multiple efforts, the Houthis have continued. And so there was an international coalition, including the countries that I highlighted at the top, that have taken action to prevent these strikes or deter these kinds of attacks in the future.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, again, the Houthis need to ask themselves how much of their capability do they want degraded and disrupted in light of these illegal, reckless, and dangerous attacks? The United States is - you know, this is not about the United States, this is about the ability of the nations of the world to sail an international waterway through the Red Sea, through which 10 to 15 percent of economic trade transits, and do so safely and securely. That's what we're focused on, and we'll continue to work closely with the international community to deter these attacks. It's an international problem that requires an international response. Chris?

Q: Thanks, Pat. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Al Sudani told the Wall Street Journal that the U.S.-led military coalition that is in Iraq to fight ISIS was no longer needed. He said, quote, "we believe that the justifications for the international coalition have ended." Sudani didn't set a deadline for the departure of the coalition, nor did he close the door, but he said he was no longer worried that the departure of the coalition would undermine Iraqi military capabilities. So what is the U.S. response?

GEN. RYDER: You know, I'm not going to comment on the Iraqi, you know, government's remarks, other than to say U.S. forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the government of Iraq. We value Iraq as a partner. We'll continue to consult closely with them. At this time, I'm not aware of any official request by the government of Iraq for DOD forces to depart, and I'll just leave it at that.

Q: OK. Have there been requests for any official talks to talk about ... 

GEN. RYDER: Well, as I highlighted at the last two press briefings, you know, we continue to engage in conversations and communications with our Iraqi partners on U.S. force presence in Iraq, as it relates to the safety and security of those forces. But again, U.S. forces are there at the invitation of the government of Iraq, focused on the Defeat ISIS mission. And then last question? If you try to ask it a different way, maybe I'll answer it a different ... 


Q: On the Defeat ISIS mission, how would that be undermined by that presence? I mean, this is obviously an enduring threat that you've had to deal with, both on the ground, in the air. How would U.S. national security possibly be undermined if U.S. forces could no longer operate in Iraq?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Chris. So I don't want to get into hypotheticals. We know that ISIS continues to be a threat. The counter-ISIS campaign was largely successful over the last 10 years, in terms of muting the threat of ISIS as it relates to Iraq and Syria, in no large - you know - in no small part, rather, than to the professionalism of the Iraqi Security Forces as they have continued to increase their capability, their skills and their effectiveness. So, you know, credit where credit is due.

That said, you know, we continue to see ISIS as a international and a regional threat. And so we can't take our eye off the ball when it comes to ISIS, and that is the purpose of the Defeat ISIS mission, to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS. Ultimately though, at the end of the day, again, we are in Iraq at the invitation of the government of Iraq and we will continue to consult closely with this valued and important partner, and I'll just leave it there. Yes, sir?

Q: Can I follow up on the same topic? What's your assessment on your personnel (inaudible)? Do you think that - do you need to be there for a longer time because ISIS still a threat or what's your assessment on your ... 

GEN. RYDER: Well, look, you know, the way that the United States conducts operations is in consultation with our allies and partners. That's exactly what we're doing in the Red Sea. And so we are there at the invitation of the government of Iraq. And we've talked about this before, you know, but for the benefit of those who have not been following this, if you go back to 2014, when ISIS was on the outskirts of Baghdad, it was the United States, you know, working with partners in the region, to include Iraq, inviting U.S. forces to come and help to defeat and counter ISIS.

And so, you know, we will continue to consult closely with our partners in the region and continue to work together to address regional and international security threats that affect all of our security.

Q: And one question on the Iranian attacks on Erbil - what's your assessment on that - attacks? Because it was almost (inaudible) miles away from your bases in Erbil. And why you didn't use your anti-missile system - defense system to repel some of these missiles that were attacking civilian areas?

GEN. RYDER: So as I understand it, none of these strikes were targeting U.S. personnel or U.S. facilities. You've heard the Iraqi government respond. I'll refer you to that. My understanding is that these strikes were not precise, and, you know, just leave it there. And I need to get to the other side of the room.

Q: Yeah, (inaudible) 2024 National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision for equipment for Iraqi Kurdistan Peshmerga forces with air defense. Are you going to work on that?

GEN. RYDER: Again, I'm not going to get ahead of pending legislation, you know, in terms of - yeah, so I don't - I won't get ahead of that, other than to say again Iraq is a valued and important partner, and we'll continue to work closely with Iraq when it comes to security, regional security, and Iraqi needs for - from a defense standpoint, as we have for many years. But let me go ahead and get to the other side of the room. Yes, sir?

Q: Two-pronged question. First, the administration re-designating the Houthis as this specially designated global terrorist list seen as a lesser designation than the FTO - how does that impact you guys? Does it take away any tools for holding terrorists accountable? If you could speak to sort of that.

And then the other question on Secretary Austin - as we are now learning more about the lack of communication he provided in his (inaudible) surrounding his hospitalization, is he being held to the same standard of accountability that yourself or anyone else in uniform in this building would be?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Griff. On your first question, I'm not aware of any impact on our ability to conduct operations as necessary, in terms of supporting Operation Prosperity Guardian, for example, or conducting self-defense strikes or aiming to disrupt and degrade Houthi capability.

Again, what I think you're seeing here is a whole of government effort to apply the tools of national power, as it relates to deterring the Houthis, and that conclude - includes a variety of means, not only military force but also economic and diplomatic efforts. And importantly, the United - this is not a United States alone issue, this is something we're working with the international community on.

As it relates to the Secretary, you know, look, the Secretary put a statement out taking full responsibility on the issues related to transparency and has committed to doing better. We, as a department, recognize that there were shortfalls, especially as it related to the notification timelines, and so we are conducting a 30 day review. In addition, the Department of Defense Inspector General is also conducting a separate and independent review. So we will obviously support those and we will make sure that we're doing what we need to do to improve and do better next time. Thanks. 

Q: Thank you, General. Two questions on Russia and North Korea. Regarding the solid fuel intermediate range ballistic missile that North Korea launched last weekend, North Korea announced that it was a hypersonic missile launch. What is the U.S. analysis on that?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Janne. Again, when it comes to destabilizing activity, we'll continue to call on North Korea to refrain from such activity and we'll continue to consult closely with our allies in the region to ensure that we can maintain regional peace and security. 

Q: The North Korean foreign minister and Russia's President Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have met in Russia recently. They discussed further expanding military cooperation. How do you assess this?

GEN. RYDER: Well, we've talked about this before, that clearly North Korea and Russia have a relationship. You know, what we don't want to see is a continued proliferation of aid to Russia to be used in Ukraine, but I’ll leave it at that. Let me go to the phone here. Jeff Schogol, Task and Purpose. 

Q: Thank you. You had mentioned that the latest strike in Yemen targeted Houthi assets that posed a threat to both U.S. Navy and merchant ships, and I wanted to know what data, what evidence do you have that the Houthi were targeting Navy ships? And also, does this operation, the air strikes against Yemen, does it have a name?

GEN. RYDER: Thanks, Jeff. So again, because you have merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region, as I understand it, the information that we had was that these missiles were being prepared for launch. And so these strikes were taken in self-defense in order to neutralize that that capability, again as part of the effort to disrupt the Houthi ability to conduct strikes. And to answer your question, I'm not aware of any official designation like a named operation for these strikes. Thank you. Let me go to Nancy and then we'll go back to the phone.

Q: I want to start with strikes on the Houthi, to Tom's question, as I understood we were going to get some sort of battlefield assessment since the strikes happened on the 11th. Can you give us a sense of when we'll see that and with what specificity you'll be able to tell us the effect of those strikes? That is, could you answer Tom's question about whether it was 25% of the capability or more?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. So I appreciate the question and what I provided is the assessment in terms of the number of strikes that we took. We assess that we largely hit what we intended to hit and had the effect in terms of degrading those capabilities. The reason that I can't get into a percentage is because now we start to get into intelligence and from the podium here I would start talking about what we - what we know and what we don't know, which can then be reverse engineered in terms of a potential adversary or in this case the Houthis’ understanding where we may have gaps or not in our intelligence. So I'm just not going to be able to get into those numbers. 

Q: And then I read the January 11th review that the Chief of Staff called for. And if I've read it correctly, there's nothing in there that prevents anyone involved from answering questions from the public or Congress. Is that right? 

GEN. RYDER: So the 30-day review is to identify, and if you just permit me here, just use the exact words, relevant facts and circumstances, and evaluate the processes and procedures through which the Deputy Secretary of Defense was notified that she should carry out the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense. 

The purpose is to better understand the facts surrounding these events and to recommend appropriate processes going forward. Separate from that, there'll be an independent IG review to examine the rules, processes, procedures, responsibilities, and actions related to the Secretary's hospitalization. I'm going to paraphrase here, but again, this is all out there, and assess whether the DOD’s policies and procedures are sufficient to ensure a timely and appropriate notification and the effective transition of authorities. 

So again, all of these as I understand it will be comprehensive in terms of looking at the Secretary's hospitalization and the required notifications. Behind all of this, however, again, just to reiterate, at no time was there a gap in DOD command-and-control.

Q: But my question is, there's nothing in the memos as I read them, that prevents somebody who was involved from answering questions publicly about their role in it. There's nothing that precludes that? 

GEN. RYDER: You know, at the risk of trying to prove a null hypothesis, I think that Department personnel, of course, are going to be available to answer questions from whoever's conducting the review, whether it's the Director of Administration and Management or the DOD IG.

Q: Right. I guess the reason I'm asking is, as you know, we've been asking you some of the same questions over and over again since the 5th and you've been unable to provide answers. And yet the same three people seem to be at the key of what happened, Kelly Magsamen, General Clark and Secretary Hicks. And I guess what I'm trying to understand is, why can't they come to the podium and answer the questions that you haven't been able to answer and since there's nothing that in any of these investigations that prevents them from doing so? 

GEN. RYDER: So you know, Nancy, what I would say is again we are committed to supporting these reviews. Obviously we want to make sure that we're getting the facts, that we're doing what we need to do and improve processes going forward. In terms of Secretary Austin engaging the press, again as we've talked about, I'm certainly aware of the interest and we'll make sure that that request is passed.

Q: I appreciate that but what about those other three who are clearly very central, they're not recovering, they're here, they're in the building. There's nothing that prevents them from answering questions. 

GEN. RYDER: But I think also it's important again to allow these reviews to run their course to ensure that we're operating from the facts and that we have a holistic picture of what exactly happened and when? Again, understanding the importance and the public interest when and the Congressional interest clearly when it comes to this topic. Let me go ahead and go back to the phone here, JJ Green WTOP. 

Q: General, Houthi attacks, can you say if these attacks that have been coming from locations recently have been locations that were hit in the U.S. led coalition's strikes, or are these coming from new locations? And the second question, how does Iran's recently affirmed willingness to launch attacks directly impact the Pentagon's posture in the region? 

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Thanks, JJ. On your first question, I'm not going to be able to get into the specific launch sites of Houthi missiles other than to say again, they do retain some capability clearly, and again we will continue to do what we need to do to work with partners to deter these attacks and importantly, to safeguard vessels that are transiting the Red Sea. 

As for Iran's attacks, the missile strikes that they conducted yesterday. Again, you know they put out a statement in terms of what those attacks or those missile strikes were conducted for, I'd refer you to them. The only thing I would say is, again, we've seen reports that these strikes were not precise and of course we in the United States continue to work closely with allies and partners in the region to prevent and the conflict in Gaza from expanding into a broader regional war. Missy?

Q: Couple of questions. Could you give us an update on the follow on from the SEAL Mission?

GEN. RYDER: In terms of when you say an update?

Q: Search and rescue.

GEN. RYDER: Yes. So on the search and rescue, the -- CENTCOM continues to lead that effort. It is ongoing. Certainly you know, we hope that we are able to recover our teammates. Our thoughts and prayers are clearly with their families at this time. I don't have any specific updates to provide right now other than other than that that's ongoing.

Q: And then just going back to the question about the review and the IG examination. Apologies if you've said this already but has the -- have you guys said whether or not that the results of that will be made public and in what way?

GEN. RYDER: So for the IG Review, that's something for the IG to respond to. As far as the Department review, I can't answer that question because I don't know right now, other than to say we are committed to making sure that we keep the media, the public, and Congress informed, in terms of you know, lessons learned on this process.

Q: So -- and so you're not committing to making the report public but saying something about what?

GEN. RYDER: Right. And I just , don't know at this time where we're at in that process.

Q: They have -- obviously they can't release classified information but is there any role in DOD encouraging them to make information public if it is not classified?

GEN. RYDER: So the DOD IG by design is independent. And so again this is their review. And ultimately at the end of the day it's up to them. Again you know, broadly speaking, as you well know there are circumstances where that type of information is publicly released, or an unclassified version. But again that's something I have to refer you to the IG to talk about. Yes ma'am?

Q: In light of the recent ship seizure that just occurred, what is the U.S. doing to disrupt the flow of missiles and drones from Iran to the Houthi rebels?

GEN. RYDER: Well you had this most recent interdiction where the SEALs aboard the USS Polar, of course you know, CENTCOM put out a release on that. I'd refer you to that. That was the first interdiction since the Houthis began their attacks. If you take a step back however and look, the U.S. has worked very closely with partners in the region when it comes to conducting search, and when necessary seizure for illicit arms that are transiting that region.

Q: And does that require more U.S. forces in the region or a change of posture at all?

GEN. RYDER: I'm not tracking any announcements to make right now in terms of additional U.S. forces in the region. As you've heard us say, you know, we do maintain the ability to be flexible in terms of whether or not we need to place additional forces in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility or anywhere worldwide. Let me go to Tony.

Q: A couple things you said here. They -- the Houthis do retain some capability clearly. But prior to the strikes, did the U.S. see a widespread dispersion of Houthi forces that (inaudible) given all the chatter, all the publicity of an imminent attack?

GEN. RYDER: Yes. Thanks Tony. I'm just not going to talk about intelligence, about what we knew pre or you know, pre-strike, other than again we maintain a significant intelligence capability and I'll just leave it there.

Q: Yesterday the CENTCOM announcement saying these missiles were launched prior to strike prior -- they were hit prior to launch. That implies that there's a really good sense of ISR over Yemen, to pick up missiles on the ground being ready to launch. Is it fair to say that the U.S. at this point, and the coalition, have established a robust ISR capability intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance capability over Yemen and that the posture now is preemptive strikes versus reactive anti- -- you know, taking on an anti-ship missile?

GEN. RYDER: Yes. Thanks Tony. Appreciate the question. Again I'm just not going to be able to talk about intelligence or specific capabilities as it relates to Yemen. As always, we maintain the inherent right of self-defense. And if the Central Command -- Commander determines that there are a threat to U.S. Forces or innocent you know, vessels transiting the region, he has the authority to conduct dynamic strikes as necessary.

Q: This was a dynamic strike on an imminent launch?

GEN. RYDER: Yes. I mean a dynamic strike means if you see a situation where forces are in danger or there's a threat, then you have the authorities to conduct a strike.

Q: (inaudible) drone strikes since they were loitering over?

GEN. RYDER: Yes. So for operations security considerations, I'm just not able to go into more details in that regard. So let me go back to the phone here. Howard, War Zone?

Q: Yes. Thanks. I just wanted to follow up on a few things. First of all, I wasn't sure, did you say you're not saying how that strike on -- the preemptive strike was carried out? And additionally the Houthis have said that they're going to strike U.S. bases in the region. Do you anticipate that's going to happen?

And then another question, Iran said it carried out a missile strike with a new missile that reached about 800 miles. Are you tracking that? And how concerned is the Pentagon about this capability? Thanks.

GEN. RYDER: Yes. Thanks Howard. On your last question. I don't have anything to provide other than obviously you know, the capabilities that that Iran maintains and develops is something that we watch closely all the time. And then on your first question – I apologize, what did you ask again?

Q: That was -- can you say what -- how the preemptive strike was carried out on those Houthi missiles the other day? What struck it?

GEN. RYDER: Again for reasons of operation security, I'm just not able to go into further details on that. Again, we will try to lean forward as far as we can when we're able to talk about those kinds of capabilities. But there will be times for either operation security reasons or diplomatic sensitivities that that we're just not able to go into detail. Let me go to Reuters.

Q: Hey this is Phil. Thanks. Real quick, on the BDA thing, the White House had suggested that you would be able to answer questions about the BDA, in the briefing yesterday and BDA's in the past have been you know, given out without reservations or caveats, like the ones we heard today. Wondering whether or not there's concern about the U.S. intelligence capability in Yemen or what it is that that that's making this case different. If you could explain that? 
And then secondly, can you assure us today that there are no US troops on the ground in Yemen, providing intelligence or other support for what's going on? Thanks.

GEN. RYDER: Yes. Thanks Phil. I'm not aware of any U.S. Forces on the ground. In terms of BDA, you know, we'll continue to keep you updated as best we can. If we have a more detailed analysis to provide you know, we'll be sure to do that. And I'll just leave it there. Thanks Phil. Time for a couple more. Konstantin?

Q: Thanks General. Just following up on Secretary Austin, there was some reporting yesterday that the 911 call was released to several outlets and an aide on the call says, we're trying to remain a little subtle, in asking the ambulance to approach the house quietly. Is there any context to those remarks that you can offer?

GEN. RYDER: Well again as I highlighted, we're conducting a review. The Secretary has publicly come out and taken responsibility in terms of the need to do better, in terms of transparency as it relates to his medical treatment. So I'll just leave it there.

Q: And just a quick follow up. Does that mean that he's got a live-in Pentagon military aide in his house, with him at all times?

GEN. RYDER: The Secretary has you know, for obvious reasons 24-hour, seven-day-a-week security, and staff support as one would expect for the Secretary of Defense.

OK. Thanks. Oren?

Q: I want to just follow up on that. More specifically can you say why the aide asked for subtlety from the ambulance? I understand it's a 30-day review but it shouldn't take 30 days to know why he asked for subtlety. Was that an order from the Secretary or did he do that on his own accord?

GEN. RYDER: Yes. Thanks, Oren. Again, I'm not going to have more details provided. We're reviewing this. The Secretary has again taken responsibility in terms of the need for transparency as it relates to his medical care but beyond that I don't have any further details.

Q: Follow up on a different topic if I may, on the SEALs. Why were SEALs on this mission. If I'm not mistaken, and I may be mistaken here, SEALs aren't normally part of the -- a team that does Visit Board, Search and Seizure Operations. Was there a specific reason that this particular mission involved SEALs?

GEN. RYDER: So I'm not going to go into the specifics of the operation other than to say we use a wide variety of capabilities around the world for a wide variety of missions. And so you know, there are going to be missions that SEALs are involved in that require that specialized skill. Courtney?

Q: Did you answer -- I think it was Phil's question about the (inaudible) -- saying there were no U.S. troops in Yemen. I'm sorry (inaudible)...

GEN. RYDER: I'm not tracking any U.S. forces on the ground in Yemen.


GEN. RYDER: In terms of you know, Houthi-controlled areas which you know, I think is what he was asking.

Q: ... and then on the I -- I'm still, I just want to go back one more time to this review because I don't understand how in one breath you're saying that you and the Secretary are committing to transparency and you aren't committing to providing the Review publicly. It's not a classified –


GEN. RYDER: I didn't say I wasn't committing. I said I just don't know the answer to that question, where we're at in the process. And so I don't want to overpromise and underdeliver when it comes to the review. So what I'm committing to is, we will obviously work to ensure that the public has an understanding of what we found and you know, what we're doing to improve. But I just can't stand here today and tell you what the -- where we're at in that process.

Q: ... maybe we could ask that you...

GEN. RYDER: I'll take the question.

Q: ... That'd be great. Thanks because it's it just doesn't seem like it -- how -- the Review has been underway for a week or so now. I don't even know what day, it is today for a week or so now and it doesn't -- I don't understand why it wouldn't already be established that it would be provided publicly. Is that we had -- we did ask last week as well if you could commit to that. So maybe next time we could have an answer. Thanks. Got you.

GEN. RYDER: Thanks.

Q: Now you mentioned these strikes that Iran carried out in Iraq, northern Iraq, and Syria, were not precise. I'm wondering if you can offer a little more detail on that. Did they -- is it the Department's assessment that they didn't hit what Iran intended them to hit or were they -- did they hit something that Iran later publicly said was actually not connected to what they hit? And if you can give any more clarity on which ones were not precise, the ones in northern Iraq or Syria? 

GEN. RYDER: Yes. I'll just -- I'd point you back to the comments coming from both Pakistan and Iraq, in terms of where those missiles struck and the allegations of civilian casualties. All right. We can do one more question. Yes sir? And then we'll go to your last question, Tom.

Q: One clarification from me.

GEN. RYDER: And one that's not a question, clarification. OK. Yes.

Q: Thank you, General. While your forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the government of Iraq, if you are asked in what way you can protect Kurdistan region as part of Iraq from Iranian attacks and Houthis-backed militia groups.

GEN. RYDER: I'm sorry. Can you rephrase that? I'm not sure I fully understood.

Q: I mean, the - your forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the government of Iraq, but if you are asked in what way you can protect Kurdistan region, where Iran attacked recently, which is a part of Iraq, in what way you can protect the region?

GEN. RYDER: Well, to your point, we're there at the invitation of the government of Iraq, and the focus of those forces is on the Defeat ISIS mission. So when it comes to the sovereign protection of Iraq, ultimately, at the end of the day, that's the responsibility of the government of Iraq, and if they ask us for support and that's something we're able to mutually agree upon and support, then clearly those are discussions and things that we would do.

But I'm - just can't get into hypothetical scenarios about, you know, the United States and taking on security responsibilities for the government, you know, short of a - you know, if we're not specifically asked to do that. 

Q: Thank you, General. The strikes on the Yemen infrastructure, who actually authorizes those strikes, you know, each time they occur? Is that a Secretary decision or is it a CENTCOM decision?

GEN. RYDER: So the strikes that were conducted last week of course, you know, per the statement, the President authorized and directed those strikes, the Secretary gave the order. And again, the Central Command Commander has authorities to - certain authorities to be able to conduct strikes should there be a requirement, in terms of self-defense or in support of the authorities that have been given. Again, the overarching objective here is to disrupt and degrade Houthis' ability to conduct the kinds of attacks that they've been conducting in the Red Sea.

Q: So the initial authorization came from the President, subsequent strikes are pushed down to the CENTCOM commanders?

GEN. RYDER: Again, there's a constant flow of communication between the Central Command commander, the Secretary, the Chairman, of course keeping the White House informed and a part of that discussion all along. Yeah. And last question, clarification?

Q: ... outside areas controlled by Houthis, there remains to be U.S. forces in Yemen, according to ... 

GEN. RYDER: I'm not tracking any U.S. forces in Yemen but I think the - and again, I apologize if Phil wasn't implying this, but the question, as I inferred it, was do we have U.S. forces on the ground in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, you know, conducting intelligence operations? Again, I'm not tracking any U.S. forces in Yemen at this point in time.

Q: In the entire (inaudible)?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. 

OK. All right, thanks very much, everybody.