DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH: Hi, everyone. Mike, nice to see that you're back. Hope you're recovering well. So good afternoon. Just a few things here at the top and then I'd be happy to dive in and take your questions.
So as you know, the Secretary recently traveled to Ukraine earlier this week, where he met with Ukrainian leaders to reinforce the staunch support of the United States for Ukraine's fight for freedom. While there, he met with President Zelenskyy and Minister of Defense Umerov and other leaders to receive an update on the situation on the battlefield in Ukraine.
Additionally, during his trip, the Secretary announced the 51st tranche of equipment to be provided from DOD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021. Valued at $100 million, this package includes additional air defense capabilities, artillery ammunition, anti-tank weapons, and other equipment to help Ukraine defend its sovereign territory and fight for its freedom from Russia's ongoing war of aggression.
And on the heels of Secretary's visit to Ukraine, tomorrow the Secretary will virtually host the 17th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, further reinforcing our commitment to Ukraine along with our more than 50 allies.
The U.S. will continue to work with the coalition of allies and partners to provide Ukraine the capabilities it needs to defend itself, which is why it's also critical that Congress take action to support Ukraine by passing the supplemental funding request.
Switching gears to developments in the Middle East, I can confirm an attack last night by Iran-backed militias using a close-range ballistic missile against U.S. and coalition forces at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, which resulted in several non-serious injuries and some minor damage to infrastructure.
Immediately following the attack, a U.S. military AC-130 aircraft in the area conducted a self-defense strike against an Iranian-backed militia vehicle and a number of Iranian-backed militia personnel involved in this attack. This self-defense strike resulted in some hostile fatalities.
And since I know you'll ask, U.S. forces have been attacked approximately 66 times since October 17th, 32 separate times in Iraq and 34 separate times in Syria. U.S. personnel have sustained approximately 62 injuries but this does not include any injuries from last night's attack as they are still being evaluated.
And with that, I'm happy to take some questions. Tara, do you want to start us off?
Q: Yes, thank you. So I'll start with the strike.
MS. SINGH: Sure.
Q: So this retaliatory strike seems to be the first since these hostilities began where there were people as targets instead of infrastructure or a weapons storage facility. Can you provide any details about why these specific militants were targeted?
MS. SINGH: So I wouldn't say that I was -- well, let me take a step back. The militants were targeted because the AC-130 was able to determine the point of origin from where the close-range ballistic missile was being fired upon -- or fired to the base. So they were able to take action cause they saw the militants, they were able to keep an eye on the movement of these militants as they moved into their vehicles, and that's why they were able to respond.
I wouldn't say this is the first time we have responded. Again, we don't read out every single time that -- how a certain system or capability takes down a drone or a rocket attack. We have had other cases where we have responded in retaliation when we were able to identify the point of origin.
So it's not our first time but it is just something that, you know, has been of course publicly reported, and so wanted to make sure that all of the facts were out there.
Q: So -- OK, just to pull on that, I have one other topic. So you said it's not the first time that you've responded but I think the building's been -- you've announced basically all these other strikes and you've said it's been a weapons storage facility or a training facility, and if people have been killed, it has been kind of because of the strike, not because they were being targeted specifically.
So you're not saying that, like, these specific militants were targeted? Do you have any idea who these militants were?
MS. SINGH: We know that these are Iranian-backed militia members, but again, just to differentiate, we have taken three strikes in self-defense but those were pre-planned. So it's just a little different here, in terms of the nuance of how we're talking about these -- this self-defense strike that we took, what was it, early morning, I think, our time, Eastern Time. We were able to identify the point of origin of these attacks because an AC-130 was up already in the area, and therefore was able to respond.
We do of course read out any retaliatory action or self-defense strikes that we take, but just want to sort of put these into separate buckets as we talk about them.
Q: There's been a retaliatory strike?
MS. SINGH: Yes, but again, it wasn't planned. So we were able -- there was an AC-130 up in the air that was able to identify the point of origin and was able to respond.
Q: And then just separate topic, as these negotiations for hostage release continue, part of what has been negotiated is that there might be a pullback of any surveillance. Does this include U.S. surveillance systems? Would the U.S. pull back its drones?
MS. SINGH: Yeah, I think you saw the President speak to this earlier today, that while we are certainly heartened by the way the conversations are going, there's still not a deal reached until there is one. I'm just not going to get ahead of anything that we will or won't do when it comes to ISR or anything that we are doing when it comes to hostage recovery. You know we're assisting with that from the embassy of course but I just don't have more details and definitely don't want to get ahead of any deal that might happen.
Q: But whether or not it's part of that, is that one of the options?
MS. SINGH: I'm just not going to get into further details on that.
Q: Thank you, Sabrina. On North Korea, does the Pentagon confirm North Korea has successfully placed a spy satellite into orbit?
MS. SINGH: We are aware of the DPRK's launch of a space launch vehicle and are consulting with the ROK and Japan, as well as other regional allies and partners. So I can confirm that we are aware of that but we're still assessing the success of the launch.
Q: So how much do you assess the new spy satellite would potentially enhance North Korea's military capability? Does that require more U.S. military assets in the region?
MS. SINGH: Well, I'm not going to speculate cause we don't also know if it was successful. So again, this is something that we continue to work with our partners in the region, with ROK and Japan, to continue to assess. We know this is another example of destabilizing action in the region and we, again, just reiterate our very firm commitment to the Republic of Korea and Japan, but how it's going to affect the DPRK's military capabilities, I just wouldn't be able to speculate on that.
Q: ... you have carried out retaliatory strikes in Iraq since October 7th?
MS. SINGH: Since October 7th? Or you mean since October 17th? Yes, October 17th, we have -- well, as you know -- well, again, trying to parse out the two buckets ...Â
Q: ... that you've also done in Iraq prior to yesterday then?
MS. SINGH: I don't have the exact details of all the responses that we have done, whether if it was in Syria or Iraq. For the three strikes that we have announced, those were all in Syria. For the one, again, that took place early this morning, we had an aircraft that was able to identify where the close-range ballistic missile was being shot from, and therefore, we were able to take action.
Q: It's not the first in Iraq though?
MS. SINGH: I would have to take that question. I don't have the answer to that.
Q: The French have now sent two warships to provide medical assistance to those in Gaza. Given the amount of warships you have, is the secretary considering using some of those to provide medical assistanceâ¦?
MS. SINGH: I don't have anything to preview today. Most of the medical assistance that I know that we are really focused on is making sure that humanitarian aid is getting into the region. We are continuing to see a steady flow of trucks being able to get lifesaving support, medical supplies, food and other assistance into Gaza. But I just don't have anything to announce from here today on anything that any of our ships would be doing.
Q: But on the spy satellite, you're not confirming U.S.'s spy satellite; you're just confirming there was a launch, correct?
MS. SINGH: Correct.
Q: So it could be a weather satellite, a communications satellite or something, not a spy satellite?
MS. SINGH: All we know is that it was a space-launched vehicle, but I don't have more details than that.
Q: Good, clear. Switching to Israel again...
Q: How much equipment has the U.S. tapped from its war reserve located in Israel for IDF use, or the types of? Can you give a sense of...
MS. SINGH: Sure. Well, as you know, the types of equipment that we continue to provide Israel range from 1.5-mm rounds, precision-guided munitions and air defense systems. Not going to get into more specifics on that. I know I've seen some of the reporting out there, but I'm just not going to get into more specifics right now.
In terms of what we are supplying or how we are -- I think that's what you're asking -- how we are supplying Israel, we have been able to supply Israel from our stockpiles within Israel, and we have other stockpiles, of course, available to us that we are flowing aid and continue to flow aid to Israel.
Q: I have a civilian casualty question, too. The Pentagon, within the policy shop, has the Civilian Harm and Mitigation Response Group...
MS. SINGH: Yeah.
Q: ... that Congress mandated, you guys set up a couple years ago. Assistant Secretary Karlin last week said that some of the people in her group are monitoring the events in Gaza. Can you give a little bit more clarity in terms of what they're monitoring and are they gathering reports from human rights groups, or what exactly are they monitoring?
MS. SINGH: I don't have more specifics on what they are monitoring. What they continue to -- or the information that they continue to receive is information that's both going to be publicly available, and then, of course, anything that comes in through other channels. But I don't have more specific details on that. It's something that, you know, as you mentioned, the Civilian Harm, Mitigation and Response entity continues to look at, and their review does inform senior leaders here in the building.
Q: So it's fair to say, accurate to say, that the Pentagon is actively monitoring reports of civilian casualties in Gaza?
MS. SINGH: I would say it's accurate for this -- for CHMRO, the Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Office, to be doing that.
Q: Thank you.
MS. SINGH: Yeah. Of course.
Q: Thanks. On the announced retaliatory strikes, have any of those killed any militants?
MS. SINGH: I think I read this out in the topper, but I did say that we believe there are some fatalities. You mean the strikes that we have taken proactive, like that we had announced from the second -- or the...
MS. SINGH: Sure. Oh, for the other announcement? I don't have anything more for you on other casualties.
Q: And then to follow on the separate topic, last week, Senator Lindsey Graham suggested that the U.S. should target Iran directly instead of these Iranian-affiliated groups in Iraq and Syria. Why is the Pentagon not doing that? Can you -- any reaction?
MS. SINGH: Well, we feel that, one, we are extremely mindful of this conflict broadening out into a regional conflict. That's what we do not want to see. We do not want to be pulled into a regional conflict both from attacks on our troops, and also from what is happening in Israel.
We feel very confident that the targets that we have selected, one, we know that Iran supports, backs, arms, equips, financially supports these groups and these IRGC affiliate -- sorry, locations and their affiliates. So we are hitting them where it hurts. We are hitting weapons storage facilities and completely destroying them so they're no longer of use. But we do want to see this conflict contained. Of course, we will always choose to respond at a time and place of our choosing. But again, we feel very confident in the responses that we have -- or the targets we have selected in Syria.
Q: Yeah, thanks. Kirby earlier said that Russia's Wagner Group may be provide -- may provide air defense capabilities to Hezbollah or Iran. Does the Pentagon share that assessment? Can you elaborate or give any more updates or clarity on that?
MS. SINGH: I don't have anything to dispute that. We certainly share that assessment. We haven't seen that happen, but we know that, look, since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, it's clearly what is happening in Ukraine is not, you know, falling in Russia's favor. And so we've seen Russia continue to seek out support from other countries such as the DPRK and Iran. We know Iran is supplying them with drones that you're seeing hit, in Ukrainian cities, civilian infrastructure. And so we are closely aware of the deepening relationship with Russia and Iran, and that's something that, of course, concerns us. I don't have anything to confirm of any type of transfer of this capability, but it's something that we continue to monitor.
Q: And follow up on last week, when you guys downgraded intel on Al-Shifa Hospital...
Q: Is there any more intel that you guys can elaborate or provide to the public on way -- that hospital or other hospitals in -- in Gaza that Hamas was allegedly using as command and weapons center?
MS. SINGH: Yeah, I don't have anything more to provide today.
Q: Can I ask specifically?
Q: Today, as two journalists were killed in Lebanon, I think marks three or four that I think killed by Lebanese Army (inaudible) Israeli strike. Can you comment in response?
MS. SINGH: I've seen that reporting, and I know you've asked me about this before. And of course, that is awful. We certainly don't condone the targeting of journalists who are covering this work, who are doing their job by reporting.
I don't have more information in regards to what the strike, I think, that you're referencing, but I have seen those reports, and again, just blanket condemnation of any journalists that are doing their jobs on the frontlines, reporting on what is happening on the ground in Israel, in Ukraine -- wherever it might be, of course, we don't want to see journalists being targeted like that.
Q: Thank you, Sabrina. Just a quick question.
Q: On -- on the CHMR that that you said, like...
Q: ... that reports they're collecting, how much is this work informing the secretary and the department in terms of support to Israel?
MS. SINGH: It's something that informs senior leadership conversations here, or senior leaders' conversations here, I should say. Again, I'm not going to get into more details on that, but that is something that this department is focused on, and as they assess more material that gets flow -- flowed up through our system here.
Q: That -- like, at a certain point, will you be able to share the findings, or will the...?
MS. SINGH: There's not -- I wouldn't say this is like a formal report or a formal, like, investigation or task force that's being put into place. This is what this office does, or one of the many functions of this office, and, you know, we're grateful to have it and it does inform our thinking as, of course, we engage with the Israelis and all -- frankly, all of our partners and allies in any type of situation.
So that this office adds incredible value not just to -- for the U.S. but other circumstances around the world.
Q: And -- and finally ...Â
Q: ... before the land invasion of northern parts of Gaza, there's been lots of discussion between this department and the Israelis' forces about civilian harm mitigation and how to -- sharing experiences from other wars.
Now it seems Israel is signaling it wants to move its operation, land invasion to the southern parts of Gaza. And you do know that hundreds of thousands have been displaced in that area, which is very crowded, under a severe civilian humanitarian crisis, according to international organizations.
Is the DOD currently active in conversation with the Israelis about this potential operation? And do you think escalating the land or -- the incursion will have major risks on civilian -- Palestinian civilians in the southern parts of Gaza?
MS. SINGH: Well, we know, as you mentioned, the south is where civilians were told to go to flee the -- or -- and move -- I should say relocate from the north. So of course it's something that we are in conversations about with the Israelis.
It is their operation and it is something that they will have to speak to, but absolutely we are having conversations with them. The Secretary, I believe, just had another call or is going to have another call with Minister Gallant today.
And it's of course something that, in all of our conversations, whenever we talk to our Israeli counterparts, abiding by the law of armed conflict, protecting those -- or upholding those humanitarian laws is extremely important, and that's something that you continue to see reiterated in our readouts as well that we post online.
Great. I'm just going to go to the phones real quickly here before I forget. Haley, CNN? I believe you were on the phone.
Q: Yeah, hi. Thank you. I'm wondering -- just a couple of follow-ups on the attack last night. Is this the first time that we have seen a ballistic missile used in this way? And then is this also the first time -- I know you're saying that we've -- you know, had these kind of responses previously when we know the point of origin. Is this the first time that we know that hostile forces have been killed or have -- has that happened in the past?
MS. SINGH: Thanks, Haley. So in terms of your first question, was this the first time that a close-range ballistic missile was used, yes, this is the first time -- since October 17th, when these attacks started on U.S. forces, this is the first time that this type of munition was used against U.S. forces.
And then on your second questions, in terms of casualties, I believe this is the first time that we are assessing that there were some casualties, but I just don't have more information on any other additional retaliatory strikes we've taken in the past.
OK, great. I'm going to go to Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose.
Q: Thank you. Can the DOD provide any more information about what exactly is this close-range ballistic missile? Also, can DOD say why the AC-130 had its transponder on while conducting the strike, allowing flight trackers to follow it in real time?
MS. SINGH: Thanks, Jeff, for your question. I'm sorry, this is going to be very unsatisfactory, but I cannot provide any further details on either of your questions.
And last one from the phone, Heather, USNI?
Q: Hi, thanks so much. Two questions.
So first, we heard that the Secretary of -- extended the Ford's deployment. I wanted to see if you had any extra details on that?
And second, last week, you referred to the Gaza Health Ministry with some skepticism when talking about the numbers, and I'm just wondering if the DOD is treating the Israeli intelligence with the same skepticism it's treating information that comes out of Gaza?
MS. SINGH: Thanks, Heather, for your question. In terms of the Ford deployment, she remains on station. I have no announcements to make on her movement. When the Secretary feels that the Ford is ready to rotate out, we will certainly let you know, but at this moment, I just -- she remains on station in the Eastern Med.
In terms of your second question, I think it is important to remember that the Health Ministry in Gaza is in fact run by Hamas. So we cannot independently verify the casualty numbers from a U.S. source at this time. Again, with anything when it comes to intelligence, of course the United States always seeks to verify information on our own and through our own sources and methods, but we do see the public reporting out there.
Again, it's just -- to caution as people report on these numbers, that this is the Hamas-run Health Ministry, and so we cannot independently verify these numbers.
Great. Yeah, Janne?
Q: Thank you, Sabrina. On North Korea's satellite, did -- the Pentagon aware of Russia help to transport ...Â
MS. SINGH: I'm not aware of any reports of Russia transferring -- I'm not aware of any of those reports.
Q: ... if they transport to North Korea, it will be a successful launch.
MS. SINGH: Again, I'm not aware of anything to do with this launch and Russia. All I can tell you is we are aware of the space launch vehicle that North Korea launched, I believe it was today, on the 21st. But I don't have more information on -- and frankly don't have any details or would be able to give you any details on how Russia would be involved in that. OK.
Q: ... and South Korean Defense Minister said that they (inaudible) would -- North Korea would, you know, launch the satellite again, it would suspend it in (919 ?), North Korea and South Korea's military agreement. And this is -- was the (inaudible) at recent U.S. and South Korea defense ministers meeting. Is the U.S. decision the same as the -- South Korea?
MS. SINGH: I think what you're referring to is the CMA, and again, that's an agreement between the two nations, and I just don't have anything further to share with you this afternoon.
Yeah, in the back?
Q: Thank you very much, Sabrina. A -follow-up from last week, and another colleague had asked a question two weeks prior to that. You know, you said the aid -- military aid continues to flow to Israel.
Q: How much in U.S. dollars have you -- are you still working on that?
MS. SINGH: We are still working on that. And I do owe you an answer and I have not forgotten, so I will come back to you on that.
Q: OK. Another question please -- so just like my colleague said, there were lots of conversations between the Americans and the Israelis about mitigating civilian loss of life and how they can responsibly carry out these offensives. And now, they're looking to move into the south, where, you know, as you said, there are so many people, hundreds of thousands perhaps ...Â
Q: ... they've been told to move to.
Now, if that's an indication of the invasion of the north, are we expecting another at least 15,000 civilian deaths in the upcoming weeks?
MS. SINGH: Look, I can't speculate on an operation that hasn't happened, an operation that we're not involved in. What I can tell you is, in every single one of our conversations from this department and you've heard from other podiums, and including at the White House, one of the things that we continue to emphasize with our Israeli counterparts is the preservation of innocent lives. That is something that you see consistently, not only in our readouts but both publicly and privately we continue to emphasize.
I can't speculate on what's going to happen in the south. I -- again, I'm just going to say that we remain in near daily contact with our Israeli counterpart with the Secretary's Israeli counterpart. I'm not going to characterize how -- again, we're not going to armchair quarterback this.
We're not on the ground, this is not our operation, but I think it's important that I reiterate here that in any of our conversations, we always are emphasizing the need to preserve innocent civilian lives, to be precise with any operation, and of course to uphold the laws of armed conflict.
Q: One follow-up -- can you give us any sense of how many unannounced counter-strikes there have been since October 17th? You mentioned the unannounced strikes. Just any data around how many there have been?
MS. SINGH: I'm happy to take that question. I just don't have that in front of me. But again, I just don't want there to be a focus on these particular self-defense strikes because it happens -- again, if we can identify a point of origin in the moment, we're going to take action cause it is in self-defense.
And so I just want to -- I know Tara had asked about this, but just trying to separate out the three -- and I'm trying to remember the dates here off the top of my head -- but the three strikes that we had announced, which was on the 26th, the 8th, and the 12th -- again, those were pre-planned in advance, targeting specific facilities and infrastructure that we know these IRGC affiliate militias use. The kinetic action that you saw last night that the U.S. military took was, again, in response to a direct attack happening on our base.
Q: And you pointed out that there have been 66 attacks by Iranian-backed militia groups on U.S. coalition forces since October 17th. Why aren't these U.S. counter-strikes working as a deterrence strategy?
MS. SINGH: Well, I would push back on that. I know 66 is a high number, but again, we have days sometimes where we don't have attacks. So is it -- like, would you say that the strategy's not working if one day goes by where there's not an attack on U.S. forces?
I'm not saying that that's the way to caveat it but what I am saying is that we're not seeing -- we don't want to see this conflict widen out. We will respond when we feel, at the time and place of our choosing, that we need to respond. We have three times already. We did again last night.
I wouldn't say that it -- again, it's not working. I would say that we are being very deliberate in our strikes and what we target. These groups, while -- have inflicted some minor damage to infrastructure, right now, we are seeing non-serious injuries, minor damage to infrastructure, in comparison to weapons facilities being destroyed, a command and control center node being leveled -- and another -- I'm sorry -- and a training facility also destroyed.
So again, if you look at the scope and the ability for us to respond, we've been very precise and have inflicted a lot of damage.
Q: Changing the subject, the Army recently sent out a letter to about 2,000 soldiers and it that were discharged for their refusal to take the COVID vaccine ...Â
MS. SINGH: OK.
Q: ... give -- gives them the opportunity to come back into the military. Do you know if this is going to be done to the -- you know, DOD-wide or the other services are going to do this as well?
MS. SINGH: I'm sorry, I haven't seen the letter, so I would refer you to the Army for any more specifics on that. I just don't have more information on that.
Q: How about beyond the Army?
MS. SINGH: I don't -- I'm hesitant to comment just cause I haven't seen the letter and the contents of it, so I'd refer you for more specifics to the Army.
Q: Yeah, going back to North Korea.
Q: So they have sent satellites that have gone into orbit in the past. Have -- did this one enter the orbit?
MS. SINGH: I don't have more on that. I think that's something that we're still assessing.
Q: Thanks, Sabrina. Two questions. One is -- both to clarify for me.
The -- the kinetic action last night, the -- the gunship was already in the air?
Q: OK, thank you. And on what Mike was asking about, the letter that may have gone out to others to get back service personnel, there's been reports that the action by the Pentagon was illegal because the COVID vaccine had not yet been approved by the FDA. Have you heard anything about this?
MS. SINGH: I am sorry, I have not.
Q: OK, thanks.
Q: Thanks, Sabrina. Just a quick follow-up on the North Korea satellite, have you guys assessed specifically if it's a military satellite at this point?
MS. SINGH: No, all I have for you is that we know it's a space launch vehicle, but that's all I have.
Yeah. Chris, yes?
Q: Thanks, Sabrina. On the matter in Gaza, of course you know the north -- the whole Gaza Strip is one of the world's mostly densely populated areas, and with the people going southward, the population density has increased even more in the south. So I know you said, like, it's not our operation, but it's your weapons that the Israeli government is -- or the army is using there.
So the last week, you said that even though you are providing these weapons with no restrictions, but still you are following if any weapon given by the United States to any ally around the world should be used according to the international law and to look for the humanitarian issue as well.
So in this frame, do you have any special contact with your Israeli counterpart? And do you follow up to avoid any civilian casualties, increased civilian casualties since the numbers are bigger than before in the south now?
MS. SINGH: Yeah, so thanks for the question. And there's, I think, two in there, so just taking them apart.
Again, with any partner or ally that we give -- or we supply our military weapons to, we expect them to follow the laws of armed conflict that we ourselves do as well. We expect them to uphold humanitarian laws. So when -- I think you were paraphrasing a bit of what I said -- while we don't put conditions on how they are used, we do expect them to be used in accordance with how we would use them as well. And so there -- so I think that's an important distinction to make.
And then I think your second question was on the population and the potential operation that could happen in the south, if I'm ...Â
Q: ... using these weapons there on -- and a higher density population in the south could create a bigger risk than before. So ...Â
MS. SINGH: Right. Sorry, that's right. That's not something that we want to see. Of course we want to see -- we know that there are innocent civilians that have moved from the north into the south of Gaza, seeking refuge, seeking security.
And so again, it's something that the Secretary continues to speak with Minister Gallant about, about the need to protect innocent civilians. And again, I don't want to get ahead of anything. We haven't seen an operation happen. We haven't seen, you know, exactly what this could look like.
So I think it's prudent to just -- you know, to -- I don't want to speculate on anything that could happen in the south, but I think it is important to remember that in all of our conversations with the Israelis, we are absolutely reiterating the need to uphold humanitarian laws and the law of armed conflict.
But I ...Â
Q: ... the risk is there. So do you -- are -- contact them before something happens or you're going ...Â
MS. SINGH: ... we do not control and we are not embedded in their operations. But I think it is important -- and I know I've said this before -- but I think it's important to remember that Hamas uses civilians as shields to conduct their own operations and to hide their command and control centers, to hide ammunitions and weapons depots, in highly populated civilian areas.
So again, while we are going to continue to still have conversations with our Israeli counterparts about the need to protect and preserve innocent lives, we can't forget that Hamas is putting innocent people at risk.
Q: Thank you, Sabrina. On that AC-130, you said it was already in the air at the time. Was that just by chance in the region or was it loitering in the area in anticipation of a potential attack from one of these groups?
MS. SINGH: Yeah, thanks, Matt. So I'm not going to get into more specifics on why or when it was up in the air. All I can tell you is that it was already in the area.
Q: One other thing is, as a point of clarification, you said that it had eyes on those militants.
Q: Did you say that it was viewing them before the attack or saw the attack actually occur? And if so, was it in a position to perhaps prevented the launch of that missile?
MS. SINGH: I don't believe it was in a position to prevent. I believe it was in the air and saw it happen in real time.
Q: Thank you. So John Kirby also said today that Iran is considering providing Russia with ballistic missiles for use in Ukraine. So would allies and partners consider providing Ukraine with more advanced capabilities to defend itself properly?
MS. SINGH: Thanks for the question. I am aware that, you know, we -- or we continue to be concerned that Iran could provide ballistic missiles to Russia for use within Ukraine but we feel confident that -- well, one, we haven't seen it happen yet.
Two, we feel very confident in the aid and the capabilities we have been able to provide Ukraine to date. And you're seeing them make -- employing them effectively on the battlefield. They are using, whether it's our HIMARS -- we just announced another HIMARS system that will -- that was in the last package that the Secretary announced -- they have, you know, tremendous air defense systems as well. So we feel very confident in what we have been able to supply Ukraine to make progress on the battlefield.
Q: I have another one. So ABC reported today that the U.S. deliveries of artillery shells to Ukraine have fallen by more than 30 percent since the Israel-Hamas war began, according to a Ukrainian official. So can you confirm that? And if true, does it mean that Israel and Hamas war does affect U.S. ability to sustain Ukraine's immediate needs on the battlefield?
MS. SINGH: Yeah, I saw that story. Look, I would push back on that assertion. We have been able to supply Ukraine with what it needs during its counter-offensive, and we will continue to supply Ukraine with what it needs as it heads -- as we head into winter.
We are able to do that and we're able to support Israel in what it needs to defend itself in its war with Hamas. We feel confident we can do both, and we're going to continue to do both, but let me just take this as a moment to reiterate that we need Congress's help.
We cannot do this without congressional -- or Congress passing the supplemental bill, which we submitted months ago and that, you know, is a need for urgent emergency assistance, and that's not just for Ukraine, it's also for Israel, for also the Indo-Pacific.
And so the only way that we can continue to support Ukraine is if also Congress passes that urgent supplemental that we requested.Â
Yeah? Yeah, just a few more here. Yep?
Q: Sabrina, if I could just ask a follow-up to Matt's question ...Â
Q: ... about the AC-130 strike in Iraq, was the aircraft in the air because of any indications of a potential threat to U.S. personnel in the area?
MS. SINGH: Yeah, I just -- I appreciate the question but I just can't get into any more further details on that. Yeah?
Q: Has the department ruled out preemptive strikes on Iran-backed militias in Iraq in order to prevent or to defend U.S. personnel?
MS. SINGH: We have not taken anything off the table or ruled anything out. That's something that is a decision that the Secretary makes and recommends to the President, who of course makes the ultimate decision.
We have a range of options. We know that of course these groups have targeted our forces at both Iraq and Syria. We feel right now that we have taken appropriate action to decimate some of their facilities and some of their weapons, but again, we always reserve the right to respond at a time and place of our choosing.
Q: â¦on these strikes last night on the U.S., that was not -- that did not go all the way up to the White House for approval?
MS. SINGH: That was in direct response to attack happening on the base. So we saw -- so as mentioned, the AC-130 did observe the attack and was able to take immediate action. That's something that at a commander level. Of course if you're under attack and you're able to respond, that can -- that's a decision that can be made at that level.
Q: Thanks, Sabrina. Just a quick follow-up on the Ford. I mean, it looks like the ship is going to be on -- have -- will have been on deployment for about seven months at this point. Is there a maximum length of time that the Secretary's willing to keep the Ford on station and deployed?
MS. SINGH: Again, I don't have anything for you on that right now. It's the Secretary's decision. He will make that when he determines that it's time for the Ford to come home. Right now, she remains in the Eastern Med and will be there until he decides that she needs to come back.
MS. SINGH: OK, Janne, I can take one more and then I've got to -- I've got to wrap up.
Q: Sabrina, Do you think the North Korea satellite launch is a violation of the UN Security Council Resolution?
MS. SINGH: Yes, and the NSC I think -- I believe, put out a statement saying that as well. We've said that before from the podium. These launches, again, are destabilizing, they violate UN Security Council Resolutions, and I'll just leave it at that.
But before I wrap -- do you have a question? OK, great. Before I wrap, just two things. I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I know that it's been a busy few weeks, and so I know this department is incredibly grateful for our service members serving abroad, our civilians also serving abroad and their -- and their families as well. You know, thinking about them during this Thanksgiving holiday, and I hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving.
And then last note, our Chief of Staff Jess Kosmider is leaving us. She will be going to the NSC. And so it is very sad that we are seeing her leave but she's off to big things, and I'm sure you'll be working with her over there.
And with that, I will wrap up.
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