Apr 25, 2023

Pentagon Holds Briefing on Response to Sudan Conflict and Ukraine Military Aid Transcript

Pentagon Holds Briefing on Response to Sudan Conflict and Ukraine Military Aid Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsPat RyderPentagon Holds Briefing on Response to Sudan Conflict and Ukraine Military Aid Transcript

Pentagon Holds Briefing on Response to Sudan Conflict and Ukraine Military Aid. Read the transcript here.

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General Pat Ryder (00:06):

Good afternoon, everyone. Just a few things at the top and then we’ll get right to your questions.

So, first, I would like to underscore Secretary Austin’s appreciation and thanks to our service members for their extraordinary work and close coordination with the State Department to help safely evacuate US government personnel out of Sudan over the weekend. As he highlighted in his statement regarding the operation, US forces carried out this mission with precision and professionalism. Secretary Austin also expressed his thanks to our allies and partners to include Djibouti, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia, who were critical to the success of this operation.

In terms of next steps, US Africa Command and the Department of Defense continue to work closely with State Department, which has the lead for helping American citizens wishing to depart Sudan. Those efforts include providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to observe potential land routes out of Sudan and detect threats and positioning naval assets off the coast of Sudan should they be needed.

In addition, Africa Command has established a deconfliction cell at its headquarters and Stuttgart, Germany, which helps to enable good communication among our allies and partners. Secretary Austin continues to convene daily meetings with AFRICOM, Joint Staff and other key DOD officials on the situation in Sudan and has committed the department to fully support state departments ongoing efforts.

Turning to other updates, the department continues to actively conduct the Secretary of Defense directed comprehensive review of DOD security programs, policies and procedures in the wake of recent unauthorized disclosure of documents. Toward that end, the DOD Chief Information Officer issued a memo today that provides implementing guidance to the DOD components on validating their compliance with cybersecurity controls and all systems and networks focusing on access control, auditing capabilities, and user activity monitoring. We will post a copy of the memo to defense.gov later today. And as we’ve made very clear, Secretary Austin and the DOD are taking this unauthorized disclosure of documents very seriously and will continue to do so.

Separately, the secretary concluded a very successful trip last week to Sweden, where he met with his counterpart to discuss security-related topics shared by our two nations. During the visit, he emphasized US support for Sweden’s bid to join NATO and that we look forward to them soon becoming the 32nd member of the alliance.

From there, the secretary and General Milley hosted the 11th Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base, which continues to be an essential forum for identifying, synchronizing, ensuring the delivery of military capabilities the Ukrainians need to defend their homeland against Russian aggression.

With that, I’m happy to take your questions. We’ll go ahead and go first to Reuters.

Idrees (02:54):

You mentioned naval assets near Sudan. How many Naval assets are there? And what is the expectation that they would do? Would they go into port and help assist people coming out or what’s the plan for that? And then I have a separate follow up.

General Pat Ryder (03:08):

Sure, thanks, Idrees. So right now, we’ve got the USS Truxtun, which is off the coast of Sudan, near Port Sudan. It will stay there awaiting further order, should it be needed to support. Also enroute is the USS Puller. So again, those capabilities will be there should we need to use them in support of State Department’s efforts.

Idrees (03:31):

And on the evacuation, does secretary believe that the State Department requested an evacuation in a timely manner? Or does he believe that if a request was made sooner, potentially more Americans could have been moved out?

General Pat Ryder (03:44):

So Idrees, the secretary has been following this situation very closely, ever since violence broke out in Sudan. I can tell you that he has been engaged on this daily with the State Department and the interagency. And so again, we moved very quickly, professionally and precisely when called upon to do so. Thank you. Oren?

Oren (04:13):

Two questions related to Sudan. First on the ISR capabilities, is that supposed to be 24/7 monitoring? Is that only during the daytime? And how long do you anticipate keeping up those capabilities? And then on the deconfliction cell you set up in Stuttgart, is that in touch with either of the warring parties, either the Sudanese Armed Forces or the RSF as well as partners and allies?

General Pat Ryder (04:33):

Sure. On the ISR, it is 24/7 capability, and that, again, is enabling us to support State Department efforts in terms of maintaining an understanding of the situation on the ground in order to, for example, look at potential land roots out of Sudan.

And then in terms of the deconfliction cell, I would tell you, largely speaking, USAFRICOM has been in contact with the generals, as have other senior DOD officials, for example, to include the chairman of the Joint Chiefs in terms of keeping lines of communication open. And so I would imagine that AFRICOM will continue to do that as part of their efforts to obtain information and share information. Thank you.


Jen (05:24):

Thanks, Pat. Can you explain why the airfield where some of the other international military airlift planes are landing and lifting off? We’ve got a report that the French had taken about 400 people out from this airfield. Why is the US not sending in planes there to get Americans out?

General Pat Ryder (05:47):

Okay, so taking a step back and looking at the operation that we conducted. Again, we believe that in our planning, we executed the operation in the safest, most effective way possible in terms of evacuating US government personnel.

You’ve heard State Department and the White House talk to the situation with Americans who may still be in Sudan who wish to leave. We’re coordinating, the State Department, I know, and I’d refer you to them for further details, is making itself available to communicate with those Americans wishing to leave to find the best way possible for them to get out of the country.

Again, from a DOD standpoint, we are a planning organization. We’re going to continue to look at a variety of means and methods should State Department call on us for support, and we’ll continue to do that.

Jen (06:37):

But are you helping the other nations that are sending warplanes in to lift their citizens out? Are you helping with that deconfliction? Are you helping them so that there aren’t any incidents?

General Pat Ryder (06:50):

So our coordination cell out of AFRICOM is coordinating closely with allies and partners in terms of sharing information and maintaining those open lines of communication as it relates to, not only their own operations, but also keeping them updated in terms of what the US government is doing. Thank you.

Go to Tony.

Tony (07:09):

I had one Sudan and one Ukraine question. The extraction force from Saturday night, was that part of the standing organization that the Pentagons sent up after Benghazi, this quick reaction forces for the region to prevent what happened in 2012?

General Pat Ryder (07:27):

Yeah, so I don’t want to get into the specific units other than to say they were special operations forces. As you know, we did move some military capabilities into the region last week to be ready should the order be given, which it was. And so I’ll just leave it at that.

Tony (07:44):

It was basically, they weren’t part of that standing force that was in place in Rota, Spain and then deployed to the region?

General Pat Ryder (07:51):

I would say we have capabilities already in the region that obviously assisted with this effort, but we did deploy additional capabilities from outside that area of responsibility to be able to be available for these operations.

Tony (08:06):

… tanks? The secretary on Friday said the first of the M1 tanks for training purposes is getting over to Ukraine fairly soon. Was that one of those tanks off of the Lima production line, one of the refurbished hulls? And when roughly made the rest of the tanks get over there? Has that timeline been accelerated?

General Pat Ryder (08:25):

So these tanks will be for training purposes only. These will not be the refurbished tanks that eventually go to Ukraine, and that is because those refurbished tanks are being produced to Ukraine’s specifications and they will be used in actual combat. By providing these training tanks, which are not coming from the active army stocks – these are coming from other sources within the inventory – that will enable us to do the training concurrent with the production of the tanks, which again, a refurbishment of the tanks, which again, allows us to expedite the timeline so that they can be training on operations, on maintenance, on sustainment. Then the personnel will marry up with the tanks, obviously before the end of the year for delivery to Ukraine.

Tony (09:11):

Just one quick one on training. Will they be using distributed simulation from Fort Benning, at the Armor School there in terms of long distance simulator training via VTC or to help that along, or is it basically on the ground training with drivers right there?

General Pat Ryder (09:26):

Yeah, so Tony, so I don’t have an answer to that question right now. Certainly in the days ahead we’ll have more information. The training will take place at Grafenwoehr in Germany, and as you know, they use a variety of means to conduct that training. The training that they will be doing in Germany will be actually on the tanks. There’ll be 31 of them, 31 training tanks provided to Ukrainian personnel so that they can again train like they’re going to fight. So thank you.


Laura (09:58):

Thanks, Pat. Just back on the naval capabilities, you said the USS Truxtun and then I didn’t catch the second one.

General Pat Ryder (10:05):

The USS Puller, P-U-L-L-E-R.

Laura (10:07):

And can you say what capabilities those will bring? What types of ships are they? Excuse me. And then I’ll have a follow-up.

General Pat Ryder (10:16):

Yeah, the Truxtun is a Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. Again, and the idea here is to have these capabilities offshore available, should we need, for example, to transport citizens to another location, should we need to provide medical care, those kinds of things. So again, positioning assets to be ready if asked and if needed. And so, as we move forward, certainly if we are in a position to have to employ that capability, we’ll keep you updated.

Laura (10:47):

And just as a follow-up, my understanding is the nearest amphibious ships are pretty far away. There’s none in the immediate vicinity. So are you going to be using destroyers in a humanitarian mission and what kind of signal will that send?

General Pat Ryder (10:59):

I would look at it less as a destroyer and more as a ship, a capability that comes with it, a variety of capabilities to include transport. So again, right now, to our knowledge, we’re not talking large numbers of Americans looking to come out of Sudan, but again, in the days ahead, we’ll stay closely coordinated with the State Department. They’re in the lead and we’ll be prepared to support them. Thank you.

Let me go to the back to Kasim here.

Kasim (11:26):

General, two questions on Sudan. Secretary Blinken today said the United States is going to facilitate American citizens to take part in the convoys traveling from Khartoum to Port Sudan. Will the DOD in any way provide any kind of air cover to the convoy? Because Blinken mentioned also some robberies and looting some of the convoys.

General Pat Ryder (11:50):

Are you talking about the UN convoy?

Kasim (11:52):

Yeah, UN convoys, which have-

General Pat Ryder (11:54):

So to my knowledge, the UN convoy made it to Port Sudan. My understanding, again, I’d refer you to the UN, but my understanding is they largely made it there without incident. We did provide ISR overwatch of that, and so that’s the extent of the support that we provided.

Kasim (12:12):

And also, today at the State Department, during the press conference with Secretary Blinken, the Kenyan foreign minister mentioned some Middle Eastern allies, partners, and also Russia, specifically siding with parties to the war in Sudan. Did you have any visibility on what the Russians are doing in the war? Are they actively supporting any side in the war? And do you have any visibility into that?

General Pat Ryder (12:41):

I really don’t, so I’d have to refer you to the MOD. I have seen press reports about Wagner Group potentially reaching out to one – to the RSF, but again, just press reports at this point. You’ve heard our State Department, you’ve heard our White House talk about the fact that we vehemently oppose any outside influences perpetuating the conflict. But again, I’d refer you to…

Kasim (13:07):

… a quick follow-up to the other partner countries asking help from the DOD – did any of the countries – partner countries ask specifically US military lift to evacuate their diplomats or their employees?

General Pat Ryder (13:24):

Yeah. When it comes to the evacuation of citizens from Sudan, I’d refer you to State Department for that. Thank you.

Yes, sir.

Speaker 8 (13:33):

Hi, sir. Just wanted to check, I think both the secretary and the president thanked Saudi Arabia for their support in the operation, saying it was critical to the success of the evacuation. Just wondering if you tell us what Saudi Arabia contributed?

General Pat Ryder (13:45):

Yeah, so, as I mentioned at the top, several countries were essential. I’m not going to speak for those countries other than to say that the support that they provided was unique for each one. But again, we’re very grateful for the assistance that they provided. Thank you very much.

Let me go over to Chris and then we’ll go to Ryo. This Chris right here. There you go.

Chris (14:06):


General Pat Ryder (14:09):

And then we’ll get back to you.

Chris (14:11):

If I could follow up on, you mentioned the ISR overwatch. Were these manned aircraft, unmanned aircraft that you had out?

General Pat Ryder (14:21):

Yeah, so these are unmanned aerial vehicles. I’m not going to get into the specifics of the type of platform other than to say we’re providing unmanned aerial vehicle overwatch.


Chris (14:34):

And supporting the operation, presumably it wasn’t just the hundred soft forces. Did you have any aircraft over the country then?

General Pat Ryder (14:45):

Again, you’re talking about in terms of the evacuation?

Chris (14:48):

During the evacuation Saturday.

General Pat Ryder (14:50):

Yeah, I’m not going to get into the specific force package. Clearly anytime we conduct an operation like this, we are going to take the capabilities we need to ensure that our forces are protected. But I’ll just leave it at that for operation security reasons. Thank you.

All right, let me go to Ryo and then Matt.

Ryo (15:13):

Hi, thank you very much. I want to ask you about Australia. Australia rolled out a new defense strategic review following the Japan’s release of national security documents in December. So is it fair to say the arms race in the Pacific region has become intensified as China continues to increase their military build up? Is that the Pentagon’s concern?

General Pat Ryder (15:36):

Yeah, I’m sorry, Ryo, there’s a little bit of side noise there. Can you repeat that?

Ryo (15:40):

Yeah. Australia rolled out a new defense strategic review, and Japan also rolled out national security document in December. So I wonder if there is the arms race happening in the Pacific region or arms race has become intensified as China continues to increase their military buildup?

General Pat Ryder (16:06):

Sure. Well, I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth or answer a potentially leading question. Let’s just say, if we step back and look at the situation in the Indo-Pacific and the actions that China has taken in terms of military buildup, coercion, provocative behavior, I think what you’re seeing are nations in the region recognizing that that poses a challenge.

You’ve also heard us talk about the fact that our focus, in terms of working with allies and partners, is to preserve peace, stability and freedom of navigation, freedom of maneuver in the region. And so that will continue to be our focus. I don’t want to speak for other nations other than to say I think they also are recognizing the challenges that China is posing. But for our part, we’ll continue to work closely with our allies and partners to again, promote peace, stability and freedom to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows. Thank you.

We go to Matt.

Matt (17:13):

Thanks, General. I just also wanted to follow up on the strategic review in Australia. Is there anything in that review, if implemented, would change the way America operates in the Pacific?

And also, can I ask, one of the actions that the government of Australia will take is fast tracking its own missile productions, and given America has its own bottlenecks and supply chain constraints with missile production, would the Pentagon look favorably on Australia doing that?

General Pat Ryder (17:50):

Yeah, thanks very much. So in terms of the review itself, Matt, I’d refer you to Australia to talk about its review and what it can and can’t do as far. As the Department of Defense goes, you saw the statement that the secretary issued today, very supportive of the strategic review. And so I think that speaks for itself.

In terms of your second question, I’ll have to take that and we’ll come back to you on that one. Thank you very much.

Yes, sir.

Speaker 12 (18:22):

Thank you, General. Is the DOD in contact with either of these leaders in Sudan of this faction that are fighting? And if there is contact with them, just that contact talking about any evacuation, maybe incoming operations, evacuations or about the deescalation in Sudan? Thank you.

General Pat Ryder (18:46):

Yeah, sure. So as I mentioned, yes, there has been DOD contact with both the generals leading the Sudanese Armed Forces as well as the RSF. I’m not going to get into the specifics of what those conversations entailed other than again, to communicate our intent to evacuate our personnel and also ensuring that we’re ensuring situational awareness as we look to support State Department’s efforts going forward.

Again, it’s not just the Department of Defense, State Department has also reached out, so I’d recommend you talk to them as well. Thank you.

Yes ma’am.

Kimberly Underwood (19:32):

Hi, General. Kimberly Underwood from SIGNAL Magazine. I wanted to ask about Mr. Sherman’s memo. Could you enumerate, if possible, the secretary’s, I guess input or guidance as far as the cybersecurity controls that were a priority for him that he kind of wanted to see? And also any first steps? Thanks.

General Pat Ryder (19:51):

Sure. Thanks much for the question. I would point you to the memo that Secretary Austin issued recently in terms of the direction of the DOD review of security, cybersecurity, which really lays out his priorities on this front. And so again, when we have Mr. Sherman’s memo available, we’ll get that to you and that that will also help further explain what it is specifically they’re looking to do. Thank you.


Ryo (20:25):

Thank you, General. My question is about ROK and extended deterrence. Earlier this month, at the Korea US Integrated Defense Dialogue, the readout said both sides discussed various ways to enhance US extended deterrence, and also this week, ROK President Yoon will visit the US and extended deterrence will be one of the major topics as there are growing concerns about extended deterrence in ROK. Could you please elaborately on how the US can enhance its extended deterrence to ROK? And also, are you confident that US can reassure ROK on extended deterrence?

General Pat Ryder (21:05):

Yeah, no, we are very confident and we’ll continue to work closely with our allies in South Korea in terms of extended deterrence and how we can best work together to ensure, again, safety, stability, and security in the region.

As you highlight, President Yoon will be in Washington DC this week. He will visit the Pentagon on Thursday. Secretary Austin looks forward to hosting him and we’ll certainly have much more to say after that visit. But again, you’ve heard us talk about the continuation of exercises, working very closely in terms of strategic assets, visiting the region, deploying to the region to ensure that we are demonstrating unity and resolve in terms of deterring potential aggression and we’ll continue to do that. Thank you.

Okay. I have one more question, Jen.

Jen (22:02):

Just a quick follow up, Pat. Were the surveillance drones that were flying above that convoy route armed?

General Pat Ryder (22:08):

I don’t want to get into again, into the specifics of the ISR. Again, we have capabilities available to us in terms of ISR capabilities, but that’s about as specific as I can be. Thank you.

Thanks very much everybody.

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