Aug 9, 2023

Pentagon Holds Press Briefing Amidst Niger Coup Transcript

Pentagon Holds Press Briefing Amidst Niger Coup Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsNiger CoupPentagon Holds Press Briefing Amidst Niger Coup Transcript

Pentagon Holds Press Briefing Amidst Niger Coup. Read the transcript here.

Transcribe Your Own Content

Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.

Sabrina Singh (00:02):

Hi, everyone. Good afternoon. Just have a few things here at the top and then I’d be happy to take your questions.

So this morning, Secretary Austin spoke by phone with Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro Jr. to discuss the U.S.-Philippines alliance cooperation. We will have a full readout on our website later today that you can find on

On the heels of Secretary Austin’s productive trip last week, on Friday, August 4th, the USS North Carolina docked at Stirling Naval Base in Western Australia, following her participation in Talisman Sabre.

This marks the first visit by a Virginia class submarine to the country since the trilateral announcement of the Australia, United Kingdom, and United States optimal pathway. These port visits are an essential step for Australia to build the necessary operational capabilities and skills to steward and operate its own fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

Elsewhere this week, at the Ohio Air National Guard’s 178th Wing in Springfield, the National Guard’s Space Operations Directorate will kick off Space Exercise Vulcan Guard. Hosted by Ohio National Guard, the exercise will involve units from all seven states with National Guard space missions, U.S. Space Command, and representatives from National Guard’s Space Partnership Program partner Brazil.

The exercise is aligned with the National Defense Strategy and advances integrated deterrence through cooperation of our unparalleled allies and partners. The exercise hones the skills of space warriors in the operations and intelligence communities, increases knowledge and skills for space mission planning and execution, and it enhances partnerships with our State Partnership Program partners. Vulcan Guard runs tomorrow through Friday.

And finally, the Army will recognize retired Colonel Paris D. Davis, Medal of Honor recipient, during an unveiling ceremony of his name permanently engraved at the National Museum of the United States Army in the Medal of Honor Garden on Wednesday, August 9th, at 11 a.m.

Retired Colonel Davis received the Medal of Honor from President Biden just this year, on March 3rd, 2023, for his actions while serving in the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam in 1965. Media interested in attending tomorrow’s event can contact Army Public Affairs with more information.

And with that, I’d be happy to take your questions. Tara?

Tara (02:34):

Yesterday, at an Army briefing, the Army Acquisition Chief said that a new package, a supplemental package is in the works for Ukraine. What is the Pentagon doing? Are you advising this? Is it based on their previous requests? And can you give us some insight as to what you’re recommending?

Sabrina Singh (02:50):

Thanks, Tara. I don’t have anything to announce today. With every package, we always evaluate what Ukraine needs most on the battlefield, which you’ve seen announced in different security packages, whether that’s air defense systems or more artillery. I just don’t have anything to preview today at this time.

Tara (03:08):

This is a little different though. This is the big supplemental that would actually fund next year.

Sabrina Singh (03:12):


Tara (03:12):

And can you give us an update, like, has the Pentagon run through all of the PDA and USAI funds for this year? Are you all essentially out of money now?

Sabrina Singh (03:21):

So in terms of any requests for a supplemental, I’m just not going to get ahead of any conversations that we’re having right now.

In terms of PDA funds, we’re not out of money. We still have the money that we have from the reevaluation that we did earlier this year. So you’ll remember that was approximately $6 billion. So we still do have that to spend down, in terms of PDA, and we’re going to continue to do that.

Again, that is still a substantial amount and we feel confident that we can continue to supply Ukraine with what it needs on the battlefield, but I’m just not going to get ahead of anything in terms of any supplemental or any additional requests to Congress.

Tara (04:02):

So that’s all that’s left for this year, is just the excess $6 billion?

Sabrina Singh (04:05):

For the PDA, yes.

Tara (04:05):

For the PDA …

Sabrina Singh (04:06):

Yeah, that’s right.

Tara (04:08):


Sabrina Singh (04:09):

I would have to check that one. I just don’t know that number off the top of my head right now.

Great. Yes, Will?

Will (04:15):

Two on Niger.

Sabrina Singh (04:15):


Will (04:16):

One, just wanted to check if there’s any changes to the U.S. force posture since the last time we had an update? And also does the Pentagon have any indication that the military authorities in Niger have requested aid from Wagner? And if so, have they moved to respond or?

Sabrina Singh (04:33):

Sure. So I’ll take the first one first, that would make the most sense. In terms of our force posture, nothing has changed. As you know, we have paused on an interim basis some security cooperation efforts and we’re not conducting military training right now, as things remain pretty fluid within Niger, and we continue to monitor what’s happening on the ground there. But nothing has changed in terms of our force posture or presence within Niger.

And then on your second question on Wagner, we continue to see Wagner trying to take responsibility for activities that happen within Africa. We have seen no indications that they had anything to do with the events in Niger and have not seen any assistance so far flow in from Wagner forces to Niger at this time. Great.


Lara (05:29):

Yeah, thanks, Sabrina.

Sabrina Singh (05:30):


Lara (05:30):

Just wanted to try again on Niger. The State Department put out a release on Friday saying that they had paused certain foreign assistance for Niger. And I’m wondering if you could tell us what the military security piece of that is. What are we currently doing? What are we currently not doing? And how in particular is that impacting operations at Agadez?

Sabrina Singh (05:52):

Sure. So I won’t get into all of the details in terms of our own security operations, but as I mentioned earlier to Will, we have paused our military training and we have paused some additional security cooperation efforts. But again, this is an interim basis. This is just paused for now. We continue to monitor what’s happening on the ground. There are over 1,000 troops, U.S. troops in Niger, and as we’ve said from the beginning, and I think you’ve heard from my State Department colleagues, we continue to urge for a diplomatic, a peaceful resolution to this issue.

Lara (06:29):

How much military security aid does DOD provide to Niger every year typically?

Sabrina Singh (06:34):

From State or from the Department?

Lara (06:36):

On the military side of the security assistance.

Sabrina Singh (06:38):

I don’t have an exact number for you. I would have to look into that. But in terms of, again, we’ve been training with Nigerians on the ground before these events took place in the country. The State Department provides its own foreign assistance to Niger. And again, we hope that this can be resolved, this issue can be resolved peacefully, but in terms of actual numbers, I just would have to get back to you on that.

Lara (07:04):

Could you take that?

Sabrina Singh (07:05):

Yeah, I can get back to you on that.

Lara (07:06):

Thank you.

Sabrina Singh (07:07):

SINGH: Yeah.

Yes, gentleman over here.

Sam LaGrone (07:08):

Sam LaGrone with USNI News.

Sabrina Singh (07:10):


Sam LaGrone (07:10):

The Bataan and the Carter Hall just entered the Red Sea on Sunday. Can we get some more clarity? I mean, this is the first capital ships, or the Bataan is the first capital ship in USCENTCOM since January of 2022, so it’s been a while. There were some reports about some Navy and Marine dets that might go on some of the commercial ships making the transit in and out of the Persian Gulf. Can we get some clarity as to what exactly is going on? What are the roles and responsibilities that’s going to be for the 26th MEU and the Bataan ARG when they’re out there? Any kind of clarity there, because I’m a little confused as to what exactly those dets are doing and how they’re going to be employed.

Sabrina Singh (07:48):

Sure. So I’ve seen the same reporting that you’re referring to. I don’t have an announcement to make in terms of any of our sailors or Marines on commercial ships at this time. We’ve continued to see Iran or the IRGC disrupting the free flow of commerce within the region, which is why the secretary made the decision that he did to deploy capabilities and more forces into the region to disrupt the IRGC from continuing its activity within the Strait of Hormuz.

I don’t have any more additional information to provide other than what CENTCOM has already previously announced and what we have put out from this podium. There’s nothing additional that I can really comment in terms of other ships.

Sam LaGrone (08:36):

So you have the authorities to put those detachments on U.S.-flagged or other ships?

Sabrina Singh (08:41):

Well again, I’ve seen the reporting, but I’m not getting ahead of any decision that has been made or not been made by this department. I have nothing to announce at this time when it comes to that.


Janne (08:51):

Thank you, Sabrina.

Sabrina Singh (08:52):


Janne (08:53):

North Korean Kim Jong-un emphasized the military economy, and he will pursue the economy by selling munitions to other countries. If North Korean Kim Jong-un selling their nuclear weapons to other countries, how are you concerned about these shipments?

Sabrina Singh (09:17):

I think if you’re referring to reporting that North Korea might be considering the sale of ammunition to Russia, that’s something that is extremely concerning to us. It’s obviously a decision that North Korea’s making to align itself with Russia and its unprovoked war against Ukraine, and any arms deal between the DPRK and Russia would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions. So we continue to monitor this. It’s, of course, deeply concerning. But again, we’re just going to continue to monitor that.

Janne (09:55):

[inaudible 00:09:55] is a lousy country like Iran or other ex enemy countries. That’s why we [inaudible 00:10:03]

Sabrina Singh (10:02):

Of course, and it’s something that we continue to monitor. Again, we will continue to identify and expose these transfers, these sales that happen and make sure that any country that does decide or plans to do business with North Korea is prepared for the consequences; that it is supporting, for example with Russia, it is supporting an ongoing war in Ukraine, an unjustified war that could really end tomorrow. So we’ll make sure that we’re doing our part and due diligence in exposing that.

Great. Yeah, in the back here.

Speaker 7 (10:34):

Thank you. It’s been for two days that you are in touch with the Iraqi Ministry of Defense delegation. What have you so far concluded-

Sabrina Singh (10:41):

Sorry. Do you mind just starting-

Speaker 7 (10:42):

I’m talking about the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.

Sabrina Singh (10:46):


Speaker 7 (10:46):

It’s been for two days that you are in touch with them about security cooperation. What have you so far concluded in your meetings with the Iraqi Defense delegation?

Sabrina Singh (10:55):

As you saw, the secretary had a meeting yesterday. There’s a readout online, and I believe a transcript from his warm words that he offered at the top, and I would direct you there for that.

Speaker 7 (11:05):

When you talked about Iraqi security, there is a lot of groups which backed by Iran, and also there are some groups paramilitars. Even in your recent quarterly report to the Congress, you mentioned that they are not under full controls of the Iraqi prime minister. Have you touched on those issue with the Iraqi Defense delegation in your meetings?

Sabrina Singh (11:22):

Well, Iraq is one of our partners in the region when it comes to the enduring defeat of ISIS. We are certainly raising our concerns with the secretary’s counterparts, and our team here met with the Iraqi delegation as well and discussed our concerns when it comes to continuing that mission of defeating ISIS. But again, we remain confident that Iraq will remain strong and a sovereign state, and will be able to combat any extremism or terrorism that pops up within the country.

I’m going to go to the phones now. Okay?

Speaker 7 (12:00):

Have you talked about the [inaudible 00:12:02] process which they are in the Kurdistan region of Iraq? And is there any persons from the KRG attending these meetings?

Sabrina Singh (12:08):

Yeah, I’m going to direct you back to the website that I mentioned at the top. There’s a full transcript from the secretary’s words at the top when he met with his counterpart, and there’s also a readout of the meeting.

And I’m going to … Respectfully, I’m going to go to the phones.

Liz with Fox?

Liz (12:24):

Hey, Sabrina. Can you hear me okay?

Sabrina Singh (12:33):

Okay. Maybe not.

Chris Gordon, Air and Space?

Chris Gordon (12:38):

Hi. Can you hear me, Sabrina? We can hear you on the phone lines, but …

Sabrina Singh (12:46):

I can hear you, if you want to ask your question-

Chris Gordon (12:47):

Okay, I can hear you now-

Sabrina Singh (12:49):

… otherwise you can come by my office later and we can chat.

Chris Gordon (12:54):

Can you hear me now?

Sabrina Singh (12:56):

Okay, we’ll shut off the phone and we’ll deal with that next time.

Coming back into the room. Yeah, Ryo?

Ryo (13:03):

Thank you. Yesterday the Washington Post reported the Chinese military hackers compromised Japan’s fancy network for military intelligence in 2020. The report said that Secretary Austin told the Japanese officials that enhanced intelligence sharing with Japan could be slower if Japan’s networks are not better secured. Is that accurate description of the kind of vision the secretary has with the Japanese in the past?

Sabrina Singh (13:32):

Well, I’m not going to disclose and get into private conversations that the Secretary has with his counterparts. What I can say is that we’ve let Japan speak to its own intelligence capabilities and securities. We feel confident in our relationship and the intelligence sharing that we do do with Japan, and we’re confident that we will continue that.

Ryo (13:56):

So could you …

Sabrina Singh (13:57):


Ryo (13:57):

… give us a sense of the Pentagon’s general assessment on Japan’s cybersecurity capabilities. Are you confident, you said confident, but are you confident that Japan has a robust cybersecurity capability so that you can share any type of advanced defense intelligence necessary for joint operations or joint military planning?

Sabrina Singh (14:18):

Well, what I would say is, again, I’d let Japan speak for their own intelligence capabilities and cyber capabilities. What I can say is, from a department’s perspective, we feel confident in our relationship with Japan, we continue to coordinate with one of our greatest partners in the region, we continue to conduct exercises and bilateral and trilateral meetings. So we feel very confident that Japan will be able to address any security concerns that they have but I would direct you to Japan to speak more to that.

Yes, right over here.

Speaker 11 (14:50):

Thank you, Sabrina.

Sabrina Singh (14:51):


Speaker 11 (14:52):

Mali and Burkina Faso sent a delegation to Niamey in show of their support to the military coup in Niger. So how much that will impact the DOD relation, as military-to-military, with these countries or any countries may take the same step?

Sabrina Singh (15:08):

Well, countries are allowed to conduct their own military-to-military conversations. What the United States, what the department is deeply invested in is seeing a resolution to what is happening in Niger, and we want that resolved peacefully, we want that resolved through diplomatic means.

This has not changed our force posture in the region, as I mentioned earlier, and we are continuing to be hopeful that these conversations will lead to progress.

You saw yesterday the State Department was down in Niger conducting conversations with both sides. We are very supportive of that. DOD representatives were part of those conversations as well. And we are hopeful that there will be a peaceful resolution to all of this.


Speaker 11 (15:57):

The call between Secretary Austin and his Philippine counterpart, does Philippine ask for any military assistance to face the threat from China? And how do you describe the security situation there?

Sabrina Singh (16:09):

Well, I think you’ve seen our commitment to the Philippines. I think there was an announcement just a few months ago around the Secretary’s trip. So I would direct you to the website and our readout from the meeting that he … or the call that he had earlier today. I just won’t go beyond that call.

Yes, in the back, and then I’ll come over here.

Johanna Roth (16:29):

Thank you. Johanna Roth, I’m with ZEIT ONLINE, German news media. I have a question regarding … Thank you. I have a question regarding the Army Tactical Missile System. What is DOD’s current assessment of Ukraine’s current need for these missiles?

And a little follow-up question regarding Germany. Germany is reportedly hesitant to send their own Taurus missiles, even though there seems to be a little movement in the Chancellor’s party as long as the U.S. is not sending their own missiles. Is there some kind of cooperation, joint operation we can expect? Is the Secretary in talks with the German Minister of Defense?

Sabrina Singh (17:06):

So I would let Germany speak for their own security assistance and what they decide to provide. Each country makes its own sovereign decisions. You’ve seen the Ukraine Defense Contact Group come together. I think we just had our 14th meeting last month, and each time, countries commit and announce resources to Ukraine that they see that they can provide at that time.

In terms of what the United States has provided, I mean, we just rolled out our 43rd presidential drawdown authority package just … I think it was just last week. And again, we’re providing artillery, we’re providing air defense, we continue to train Ukrainians at U.S. bases and with our partners and allies around the world.

So I think we feel very confident in the equipment, the systems, the capabilities that we’ve been able to provide Ukraine. From the beginning of this war, you’ve seen the Ukrainians use them incredibly effectively on the battlefield. Right now, right in the middle of their counter-offensive, they are making incremental gains, but we knew this was going to be a tough fight. And so we’re confident in the systems and the weapons that we’re providing.

But I think it’s important to remember this is not just the United States. As you mentioned, Germany has been providing security assistance. The Ukraine Defense Contact Group comprises 50 different partner and ally countries all around the world.

So this is a global effort and the United States is going to continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Konstantin, yeah?

Konstantin (18:43):

Last week, Politico reported that some Ukrainian pilots have been identified to begin F-16 training. Are you able to offer any updates on where the U.S. stands in terms of approving a training syllabus?

Sabrina Singh (18:56):

So we haven’t … Sorry, I’ll just start over. As you know, Denmark and the Netherlands are taking the lead on training. And the President has given the green light to allow and support the training to move forward but I just don’t have any further updates at this time when it comes to specific pilots being trained.

Konstantin (19:18):

Okay. Moving slightly to Niger, obviously the statement from yourself and I think the State Department, to an extent, has been hope for a democratic, peaceful resolution, but acting State Deputy Secretary Nuland’s comments yesterday were a pretty grim assessment. Le Monde this morning is reporting that the Pushists appointed a new civilian Prime Minister. Like, none of these things seem to be suggesting that things are headed in a good outcome. What’s OSD’s assessment?

Sabrina Singh (19:53):

Well, it’s hard to predict the future. We can only assess what we know right now, which is that, from different levels of government, we are in touch with the junta leaders, we are in touch with the Nigerians, the democratically elected President, and we are hopeful that there will be a diplomatic resolution to this attempted coup that took place in Niger.

Again, we are hopeful. That is what we strive for. I don’t think anyone, including the ECOWAS, wants to see violence, wants to see this end in violence. And so we are going to continue to engage from a military standpoint.

I think the fact that our force posture has not changed sends a message that we’re committed to the region, we’re committed to Niger. And, if something does happen that needs to adjust, we will adjust, but right now, that is where we stand.

I’m going to go to Fadi in the back. Yeah?

Fadi (20:58):

Thank you, Sabrina. So I don’t want to ask a question in the future but you said something interesting, that the fact that there hasn’t been any change in the posture sends a message to the region. Doesn’t it send a message to the military leadership, that the U.S. is okay with what’s happening on the ground? Isn’t the U.S. military presence and cooperation a card the U.S. can play to put pressure to go back to a civilian rule?

Sabrina Singh (21:22):

Well, I would push back on that respectfully, in that you saw the President put out a statement saying that we recognize the democratically elected president of Niger. You’ve seen the Secretary, you’ve seen this building, the Department of State, also speak out, that we are supportive of the democratically elected President of Niger.

This is something that we, again, hope resolves diplomatically. The United States does not want to abandon Nigerians that we’ve partnered with, that we’re trained with over many years, and Niger is of course an important ally within the region, when it comes to counter-terrorism and other operations.

And so I think actually it sends an incredibly effective message, that we have not changed our force posture, that we have not taken our troops out right now, because we want to send a message to the Nigerians that we stand with you, and you’re seeing the embassy still operating as well and is open in Niger.

Now, if things change, if our American citizens, if our service members, if their lives are at risk, of course we are going to make that change and of course we will address that, but right now, we are hopeful or we continue to hope that this can be resolved diplomatically.

Fadi (22:42):

One follow-up. Is there a point where the Pentagon might be thinking about changing this posture and cooperation if there are no indications that the military leadership is willing to go back to a civilian rule, a democratic civilian rule?

Sabrina Singh (22:57):

Well, I think right now, this is a planning organization as you’ve heard us say probably ad nauseam for you, but we are a planning organization, we plan for a variety of different scenarios. I’m not going to get ahead of any decisions or any hypotheticals if something changes. All I can say is, right now, our force posture remains the same and we hope that this does get resolved diplomatically.

I’ll take one more question. Yeah, right over here.

Dylan Harris (23:25):

Dylan Harris, NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation.

Sabrina Singh (23:27):


Dylan Harris (23:27):

Thank you for your time today. Are there any updates you can provide at the moment regarding the dispute over the grounded warship between China and the Philippines? And is the department concerned at all about escalating tensions between the two sides?

Sabrina Singh (23:40):

I don’t have any update to provide at this time. I would just say that of course we would always be concerned about any escalation within the region, but I just don’t have anything more to provide right now at this time.

Great. Yeah, sure, I’ll take one more, Janne.

Janne (23:55):

Do you have any information about arrest of Russian spy who was trying to assassinate President Zelenskyy?

Sabrina Singh (24:07):

No, I have no information on that. I’ve seen the reporting on that but I just don’t have anything to offer from the department at this time.

Thanks, everyone.

Transcribe Your Own Content

Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.