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

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

Up front, I want to just express again our condolences to the family members and loved ones of the three U.S. soldiers who were killed in Jordan this weekend in the Iran proxy drone attack at Tower 22. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with them. Secretary Austin will be calling each of the families to personally relay his respects and is planning to attend the dignified transfer of remains at Dover Air Force Base on Friday, as well.

Of note, the U.S. Army Reserve announced earlier today that Specialist Kennedy Sanders and Specialist Breonna Moffett have been posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant. We're also keeping our servicemembers who were wounded in our thoughts and wish them all a speedy recovery.

In terms of updates, at this time, we're currently tracking more than 40 U.S. service members with reported injuries ranging from lacerations to possible concussions pending TBI assessments. As previously briefed, eight personnel were medically evacuated out of Jordan for follow-on care. Three of those eight were transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, one of whom is reported to be in critical but stable condition. The other two service members are in fair and stable condition. After further examination by the Landstuhl Trauma Team, a determination will be made by medical staff whether any of these injured service members will require transfer back to the U.S. for further treatment.

In terms of additional details about the drone attack itself, we know there are still many questions, to include how the one-way attack drone could've penetrated the facility's air defenses, its point of origin, and which specific Iranian proxy group is responsible. I can tell you that U.S. Central Command is continuing to look into all those important questions, and that we'll keep you updated as new information becomes available as we are able to.

What we do know is that Iran-backed militias are responsible for these continued attacks on U.S. forces and that we will respond at a time and manner of our choosing. While we do not seek to escalate tensions in the region, we will also take all necessary actions to protect our troops, our facilities, and our interests.

Shifting gears, yesterday, the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, Bijan Sabet, and Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova signed a contract for the purchase of 24 F-35 fighter aircraft. The acquisition of these F-35s will increase the combat capability of the Czech military and strengthen NATO and the bilateral security of Czechia and the United States. With this signing, the Czech Republic joins 18 countries, including 10 in Europe, that employ the F-35. As you know, all foreign military sales are coordinated through the U.S. State Department, so I would refer you to my colleagues at State for more information.

And finally, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs Dr. Daniel Erikson hosted the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley, at the Pentagon yesterday. Performing the duties of deputy under secretary of defense for policy, Melissa Dalton also joined the meeting to emphasize the department's strong support of the U.S. defense partnership with Trinidad and Tobago.

DOD leaders expressed appreciation for Trinidad and Tobago's leadership in the Caribbean community and in cohosting the upcoming Caribbean Nations Security Conference alongside U.S. Southern Command in November of 2024.

They further commended the robust partnership between the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force and Delaware National Guard, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, through the State Partnership Program. The senior officials exchanged views on illicit trafficking, maritime security, defense force modernization and training, cybersecurity and frameworks to facilitate expanded bilateral security cooperation.

The meeting also reaffirmed the U.S. and DOD's commitment to partnership with Trinidad and Tobago and to working together to improve Caribbean regional security and resilience.

With that, I'd be happy to take your questions. We'll go to AP, Tara Copp.

Q: Thanks, General Ryder. Has Secretary Austin provided the President response options at this point or is the building still looking at the best way to deter future strikes? And I have a few -- couple others.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Tara. So I'm not going to get into the specific conversations that the Secretary's had with the President. As I've highlighted, we will respond in a time and manner of our choosing.

Q: Is the building still evaluating options on how best to respond at this point?

GEN. RYDER: I'm not going to get into the specifics as it relates to potential future operations, other than, again to reiterate that we will respond in a time and manner of our choosing.

Q: Well, then … you've said from the podium the U.S. does not seek to widen this war, but how do you deter Iran, which has clearly supplied and endorsed some of these attacks, from – keeping from doing this again and leading to another proxy attack on U.S. forces?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so again, as a reminder, our forces are in Iraq and Syria and in the region supporting the lasting defeat of ISIS. That's the mission that we've been focused on. When we need to, we will protect our forces. Again, I'm not going to get into telegraphing or discussing potential future operations, other than to say again we will respond in a time and manner of our choosing.


Q: General Ryder, have you attributed to Kata'ib Hezbollah or any other group who was responsible for this drone strike?

GEN. RYDER: So Jennifer, Central Command is still assessing, but again, we are confident that these -- this attack was sponsored by Iranian-backed proxies.

Q: So Kata'ib Hezbollah has just put out a message on Telegram suggesting that -- telling its fighters not to attack U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria, suggesting that they will support the fight in Gaza in other ways and suggesting that, even if the U.S. strikes them, not to respond. What is your response to that?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, we've seen those reports. I don't have a specific comment to provide, other than actions speak louder than words. Thanks.


Q: Thank you. A couple questions. First of all, can you speak a little bit about the drones that are based at Tower 22 in Al-Tanf? We saw some -- we had some reporting yesterday that the -- there was some confusion over whether the drone coming into the base was friendly or -- was friend or foe. And I know that these -- most of these drones should have IFF software allowing them to distinguish between the two. So I'm just wondering if you could tell me whether those drones do have that software?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Lara. So -- so no, I'm not going to get into the specifics on the kind of capabilities as it relates to intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance capabilities that we have.

In terms of the reasons behind how this one-way attack drone was able to penetrate the facility's air defenses, that's something that Central Command is looking at now. And I'm just not going to be able to get into the specifics of that.

Q: The second question then, actually on a different topic, but there was a -- another report today saying that the U.S. is open to reopening discussions with Turkey to let them buy F-35s. I was wondering if you can speak on that from the DOD's perspective? Are you aware of those discussions?

GEN. RYDER: I've seen the comments by our State Department colleagues on that. I'd refer you to State to discuss. As you know, right now, with Turkey maintaining the S-400, that is currently not something that is on the table, but I'd refer you to State.

Let me go to Missy.

Q: Just a couple questions, Pat. Thank you. I -- I -- is there any update on whether Secretary Austin will come and talk to us sometime soon? First question.

GEN. RYDER: Again, I don't have a date to announce. Certainly aware of the request and we'll keep you updated.

Q: OK. And on Jordan, can you just clarify is -- are -- the troops in Jordan at Tower 22 and other bases, are they under OIR authority or are they -- they're under some other authority? Can you specify that? And is it right that there are about 3,000 troops in Jordan?

GEN. RYDER: Missy, I'll have to come back to you on the total number of U.S. forces deployed to Jordan. So we'll take that question.

The forces that were -- you know, that -- the three soldiers that were killed, again, as we've highlighted, they were there in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, supporting the Defeat ISIS mission.

Q: ... you said they're under OIR authority at Tower 22?

GEN. RYDER: Operating in support of OIR.

Q: OK. Does that mean they report to the Commander of OIR?

GEN. RYDER: It -- I mean -- and I'm not -- don't want to get into the chain of command process here but if they're there supporting OIR, then certainly OIR Commander can request assistance from those forces. So ...

Q: And then the last question -- and I think we asked Sabrina this yesterday but I -- I think it was maybe something that you guys were still looking at -- just wanted to ask if there had been any new information about any steps that may be taken to protect American forces in the region, like in terms of air defense or new steps to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so, you know, for operation security reasons, I'm not going to be able to go into specifics, other than to say that U.S. Central Command of course is taking this very seriously and that we will take necessary measures and steps to ensure that our forces are protected, recognizing as well that this is a dangerous neighborhood, but again -- yes, to answer your question, we will take steps to ensure that our forces are protected.

Let me go to Will.

Q: Two questions. First, Qatar's Prime Minister expressed some concerns yesterday that the U.S. response to the Jordan attack could potentially affect the negotiations over a new hostage deal. Is that part of the Pentagon's calculus in determining a U.S. response to this?

GEN. RYDER: So Will, I don't have anything specifically on that, other than to say again, you know, as part of any decision-making process, we take a wide range of considerations into account -- again -- to include what our broader regional goals are, which from the very beginning has been to prevent the situation in Israel and Gaza from, you know, expanding into a broader conflict. I'll just leave it there.

Q: Second, it's been -- it's been two days since the -- the -- the attack in Jordan. Is there a concern that -- that this -- the -- that delay in -- in a -- in responding could give these groups time to prepare, to -- to, you know, disperse from likely targets, et cetera?

GEN. RYDER: So Will, what I -- you know, again, I'm not going to get into any details of what -- about what a potential future operation could look like. You've heard both the President and Secretary Austin say that we will respond in a time and a manner of our choosing.

Three U.S. service members were killed, over 40 wounded. Oh, by the way, these service members were deployed into the region to contribute to regional security and stability, in support of the international coalition to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS.

So there will be consequences, and I'll just leave it at that.


Q: Yeah, thank you. Just a quick question on the Red Sea. Since the Houthis are mainly attacking, like, foreign ships, what -- what authorization does the Pentagon have to strike targets in Yemen?

GEN. RYDER: Again, in terms of the strikes, these are all being taken under United Nations Section 51 in terms of Right to Self Defense. And you know, again, our focus there is twofold, one it's to protect international shipping and mariners that are transiting the Red Sea, as well as to degrade and disrupt Houthi capability to conduct these kinds of attacks.

Fadi ?

Q: Yes, just have a follow up on -- on this and then I have several topics.

The Section 51 that you mentioned, I mean before strikes on Yemen, Yemenis did not attack any U.S. ship, so what self-defense are you talking about? Defending international commerce is not part of the international law?

GEN. RYDER: Well, what -- what's -- so what are you suggesting here -- what are you suggesting?

Q: I'm suggesting that when you refer to this section from the U.S., you're saying U.S. was attacked by Houthis before the first strike...

GEN. RYDER: I'm saying that the international community has been attacked by Houthis and the U.S. working alongside international allies and partners are working together to help deter, degrade and disrupt their ability to conduct these attacks.

Q: But you referenced something in the UN that does not apply to this situation prior to the January 1st wave of attacks in Yemen.

GEN. RYDER: Fadi, I think that international mariners have the ability or have the right to be defended transiting international waterways. So, happy to engage with you offline, but...

Q: No, but other countries -- not, I mean okay...

GEN. RYDER: Okay...

Q: But...


Q: ... question -- can I ask a different topic...

GEN. RYDER: I'll come back to you. Tom?

Q: Thanks, General. Just coming back to Kataib Hezbollah, you have a pro-Iranian militia saying they're going to pause attacks on the U.S. forces and then you say actions speak louder than words, just was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how that might change the calculus in the building?

Would you be concerned that if you do strike KH or any other groups, then you are escalating in the face of them saying they're standing down, given that you've said repeat, the administration said that you do not seek to escalate?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, thanks, Tom. I'm just not going to get into hypotheticals and I'm going to refrain from editorializing on those kinds of comments after 160 plus attacks against U.S. forces.


Q: But -- that same question calling on Tom's question, do you welcome the Kataib Hezbollah statement for suspension of their attacks on your forces in Iraq, Syria?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, again, I've already provided a comment on that. Okay...

Q: So, yesterday, the Pentagon officials met with the Peshmerga forces in Iraqi Kurdistan and the commentary of (inaudible), could you speak of the nature of your cooperation with the Peshmerga forces, and how would you assess the reforms in the Peshmerga Ministry?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, well as you know, I man we have a longstanding relationship going back many years with the Peshmerga, as it pertains to its association with the Iraqi security forces.

And so, the statement that we posted yesterday, I think lays out what efforts are being made to further bolster and strengthen that relationship within the auspices of the government of Iraq and the Iraqi security forces, and so we'll continue to use that opportunity to help ensure that our Peshmerga partners have the capabilities they need to support broader Iraqi security and stability.

And you know, when we have updates, we'll certainly pass that along.

Let me go to the phone here real quick, Eric Schmitt, New York Times?

Q: Pat, can you give us a little bit of chronology on Sunday morning, what time did this attack -- the drone attack take place? How quickly were the most seriously injured -- were they be -- were they medivaced to Iraq? And -- and -- and then just kind of looking ahead, in terms of any additional air defenses that you may be moving to region or realigning the region to do this, to -- to help protect forces in -- in place there?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Eric. On the -- on the last question, again, you know, if we have details to provide on the specific types of air defense systems that we would be moving into the area, I don't have anything to announce right now, other than to say again Central Command is going to take and is taking necessary steps to ensure that our forces are protected.

As far as timelines, I will take that question and will come back to you. Again, this attack happened Saturday night our time, Sunday morning Iraq time. And again, we'll come back to you with what we're able to provide on that.


Q: Thank you, General. I want to go back to the KH statement. It's -- it's really unusual that some of the messages in this statement refer to suspension of these attacks. They don't want to basically embarrass Sudani's government. At the same time, they're saying Iran was not always happy by escalation against U.S. forces.

Would you credit the department and the administration at-large pressure or messaging to Iran and Iraqi authorities as maybe a -- a -- a direct result for issuing such a statement?

GEN. RYDER: Again, look, we've seen that and I'm just going to stay what -- where I was earlier -- actions speak louder than words. So -- OK.


Q: I just want to be clear on a point, part of your answer to Missy and part of your answer to Eric. You said to Missy "we will take steps to make sure our forces are protected" and you said "if we have something to announce, we will announce it," but I want to ask specifically you will -- you are adding air defense for force protection measures? You make it sound like there -- there will be changes coming, and I just ...

GEN. RYDER: I'm saying that we will take necessary steps to ensure that our forces are protected. I don't have any specifics to announce right now.

Q: But above and beyond the measures that are currently in place? That's what I'm -- that's what I'm ...

GEN. RYDER: We're always assessing force protection. And so, you know, I'll just leave it broad like that, especially, again, in light of, you know, recent events.


Q: Thanks, Pat. The forces at Tower 22, are they receiving Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay?

GEN. RYDER: I'll have to take that question. My assumption is yes but I'll have to take that question.

Q: And then are -- my other question would be are they eligible for combat action ribbons?

GEN. RYDER: Again, I'll have to take that one.

Q: Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Nancy?

Q: Yesterday, Sabrina said that the Secretary is going for a follow-up appointment. Can you tell us what the status of that is and if that means any changes to his health?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so he went to the appointment last night, left the doctor's office. As I understand it, this is part of his planned physical therapy. So still recovering well, still healthy, still in the building.

Q: And then you mentioned that he was going to the dignified transfer on Friday. Will that be open -- any part of that be open?

GEN. RYDER: So you can contact the Air Force Mortuary Operations. They manage press access to the dignified transfer. To my knowledge, those are, again, up to the families, whether it's open or not, but certainly you can put that request in with them.

Q: And one other thing. I didn't understand -- yesterday, there was some issue around filming part of the arrival of the -- Secretary Stoltenberg. Can you help me understand what the challenges were in who -- filming his actual arrival ...

GEN. RYDER: I'm not tracking any specific challenges, so ...

Q: Well, they're -- we weren't allowed, as I understand it, to film the walk up but only at the upstairs, and I'm just trying to understand -- that's a ...

GEN. RYDER: We followed normal protocol for a visit, as I understand it, by the NATO Secretary General. So typically, this not -- because it's not a country, it's not afforded honors, per se. So it was the standard arrival. The Secretary arrived in the building, per standard procedure and process, and the pool, because of the size of the room, was invited to come in and cover the top of that meeting.

Q: Right, I'm just trying to understand were they allowed to film the -- the outside part, the -- the arrival part? My understanding is they weren't.

GEN. RYDER: I don't know that they were not. I'm not tracking anybody saying that they couldn't. We've just followed normal procedure for any type of DV visit to the Pentagon. Thanks.


Q: Thank you. I have a couple on Ukraine, the Middle East. So do you have any updates on weapons deliveries to Ukraine under USAI or some of the capabilities currently being delivered to Ukrainian, no PDA announcements?

GEN. RYDER: No new PDA announcements. Of course, we're still standing by on a supplemental from Congress.

Q: But the USAI deliveries that was -- that were procured before that?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have anything specific to announce right now. Of course, we're going to continue to work with Ukraine to deliver those capabilities as they come online.

Q: Also, could you tell us more about the ongoing Inspector General's visit to Ukraine, what they will be looking into? Will they go to the front lines and ...

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I'd have to refer you to the Inspector General's office.

Let me go back to the phone here. Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose?

Q: Thank you. The National Defense Authorization Act includes a lot of funding to replenish the Defense Department's stockpiles of munitions, like artillery shells and SM-6 missiles, but there can't be any new starts until Congress passes a spending bill. So does the fact that the Defense Department is still on a Continuing Resolution mean that it hasn't been able to replenish or -- any of its stocks of shells and missiles or -- or at least get started on new contracts?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Jeff. And you're talking about in terms of Ukraine or just in general?

Q: For the -- for the -- each of the services has funding for shells, missiles, to -- especially considering that so many has been given to Ukraine. This is the ammunition build-up for the U.S. military.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so I'd refer you to each of the services to talk about their current status, but as you highlight, during a Continuing Resolution, we are limited in terms of, you know -- in many ways, in terms of being able to extend contracts, it disrupts training, it delays maintenance, it imposes uncertainty on the workforce. So again, each of the services can talk about their individual impacts.

Let me go to Phil Stewart, Reuters.

Q: Oh, hey there, thanks. At the White House today, there was some talk that there would be a -- a tiered response to the drone strike in -- in Jordan, and that could mean multiple actions instead of a single action. Could you just confirm that, that you're expecting a tiered response with multiple actions?

And then secondly, on the -- on the KH statement, I mean, could -- could you offer a little more -- I mean, what do you mean by actions speak louder than words? Are you -- are you -- you -- would you like to see them make good on this -- this promise to suspend operations on U.S. forces? Could you just elaborate on what you meant by that? Thanks.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Phil. On your first question, again, we're not going to telegraph or discuss details associated with any future operations.

And again, on the statement that's out there, you know, I don't think we could be any more clear that we have called on the Iranian proxy groups to stop their attacks. They have not. And so we will respond in a time and manner of our choosing.

When I say actions speak louder than words, you know, there has been three attacks, to my knowledge, since the 28th of January, and I'll just leave it there.

OK, got time for just a few more here. Let's go to Howard Altman, War Zone.

Q: Thanks, Pat. A couple of questions. One, do you -- have you -- can you confirm the Politico reporting that the ground-launched small diameter bomb could be delivered to Ukraine as -- as soon as tomorrow?

And then has the Pentagon been informed by Ukraine of any change at the top of its command? There's been a lot of discussion about General Zaluzhnyi being replaced. Has -- has Ukraine said anything definitive to the Pentagon?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Howard. On your latter question there, I'm not tracking any changes. Obviously, it's for Ukraine to discuss their internal domestic affairs.

As far as the small diameter bomb, as we acknowledged last year, we will provide Ukraine with the ground-launched small diameter bomb as part of our USIA -- our USAI-funded security assistance efforts. However, due to operation security reasons, we're not going to confirm specific timelines.

We'll defer to Ukraine to talk about any delivery, but we do, as I mentioned, continue to work closely with Ukraine, with our industry partners to ensure that Ukraine receives and is ready to use the capabilities that we're delivering to them and as quickly as possible. Thanks.


Q: So recognizing there's an ongoing -- the investigation into it, is there any indication at this point with the drone attack that this was a result of a technology failure or gap or -- versus human error, in terms of recognizing what the technology and information was saying?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Again, I appreciate the question. CENTCOM is looking into all of that. The other aspect of this, which I know you all appreciate, is the operation's force protection aspect, in terms of, you know, vulnerabilities. It's not something we would talk about certainly from the podium here.

All that to say we do recognize and appreciate the interest, and I can tell you that CENTCOM is looking into all of that.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: Do you have any concern that while you are responding to this attack, any party, whether it's ally or adversary, would exploit this situation to their benefit? And did you convey any message to that effect?

GEN. RYDER: I'm not sure I understand what you -- what you're asking.

Q: I mean, do you have any concern, while you are responding to that attack -- to this attack on the Americans' troop -- on American troops in Jordan, that any party, whether it's ally or adversary, would exploit this situation to their own benefit? You've been saying you don't want to widen this war. And did you convey any message to any party? Speaking here specifically about Lebanon.

GEN. RYDER: Again, you know, first of all, taking a step back, looking at the broader region, we fully recognize the tensions right now that are in the Middle East. From the very beginning of the Israel-Hamas conflict, we've been very clear that we're going to work very hard with our allies and our partners in the region to prevent a broader conflict.

When it comes to the situation in Iraq and Syria, in Jordan, our troops were attacked and three U.S. service members were killed and over 40 wounded. The President and the Secretary have both said that we will respond at a time and place of our choosing. I'm, again, not going to go into details of what that could look like, other than the fact that there will be consequences, and I'm just going to, again, leave it right there.

Nancy, last question?

Q: ... that CENTCOM is investigating. Can you tell us who is investigating? Is there one person? Can you give a sense? We've heard several references to the ...

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so you know, term of art here, I would not use the word "investigation." They're reviewing it. Of course, investigation has a specific, you know, connotation. Obviously it's up to CENTCOM whether or not they open a formal investigation. Typically, after any type of incident, there is always some type of review or investigation.

But my point is, you know, U.S. Central Command and leaders within the command are looking at this. I don't have a specific name to pass along to you but I can tell you it -- we're taking it very seriously.

Q: Right, but we heard the term yesterday. So what you're telling us is there's not one person who's looking at this? Is there some sort of, like, I don't know -- there's no, like, 15 -- there's no kind of ...

GEN. RYDER: I'll have to get back to you on that, Nancy.

OK, thank you very much, everybody. Appreciate it.