Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Colin Kahl held a Press Briefing on Security Assistance in Support of Ukraine.
AUG. 24, 2022 – Dr. Colin Kahl, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.
STAFF: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here today. I’m Brigadier General Pat Ryder, the DOD press secretary. It’s my pleasure to introduce Undersecretary of Defense, Dr. Colin Kahl, who will provide an Update on U.S. security assistance to Ukraine. He’ll provide an opening statement and then take your questions. Dr. Kahl?
UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR POLICY COLIN KAHL: Great. Well, good afternoon. It’s good to be back with all of you again. Sorry for the bit of the delay. Let me start by acknowledging that last night at President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces conducted precision airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor, Syria, which is in eastern Syria.
Our forces accomplished their mission of destroying several infrastructure facilities used by militia groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC. The strike was necessary to protect and defend US personnel in Syria, which had been the targets of several recent attacks by Iran-backed militia groups, including the most recent ones on August 15.
Our response was proportionate and precise. It was designed to minimize the risk of casualties, and it responded to the nature of the attacks by Iran-backed militia groups. That being said, we cannot accept further attacks on our personnel.
This operation is a demonstration the United States will not hesitate to defend itself against Iranian and Iran-backed aggression when it occurs.
Now, let me turn to the focus of today’s briefing. Let me join President Biden and Secretary Austin and underscore our continued support for the people of Ukraine as we mark their 34th — 31st year of independence.
We are now six months into Russia’s brutal, premeditated invasion of Ukraine, an act of aggression meant to undermine that independence. Russia’s efforts have not succeeded and will not succeed. And as we have made clear at every level of this administration, we are committed to sustained security assistance as Ukraine defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We are with Ukraine today, and alongside our Allies and partners, we will stick with Ukraine over the long haul.
In light of this enduring commitment, the Department of Defense has decided to provide an additional $2.98 billion in security assistance to Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, or USAI.
As you all are aware, this is the largest single security assistance package we have ever provided to support Ukraine. In previous briefings, we’ve discussed various Presidential Drawdown Authority packages, or PDA packages.
It’s important to note that USAI is different from Presidential Drawdown because we will be procuring these systems under USAI from the private sector, rather than pulling them out of our own stocks, which is what we do with PDA.
By its very nature, this USAI package underscores our commitment to supporting Ukraine for the long term, representing a multi-year investment in critical defense capabilities.
This package is about building enduring strength for Ukraine as it continues to defend its sovereignty in the face of Russian aggression. Vladimir Putin seems to believe that Russia can win the long game—outlasting the Ukrainians in their will to fight, and the international community’s will to continue to support Ukraine.
This USAI package is a tangible demonstration that this is yet another Russian miscalculation.
The capabilities in this package are tailored to sustain Ukraine’s most critical capability needs in the medium- to long-term, and they include six additional National Advanced Surface to Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, with additional Munitions for those NASAMS. Up to 245,000 rounds of 155-millimeter artillery ammunition, which is the ammunition used for the NATO-standard artillery systems that have been transferred to Ukraine. Up to 65,000 rounds of 120-millimeter mortar ammunition. Up to 24 counter-artillery radars.
We’re also including in this package Puma unmanned aerial systems, or UAS, and support equipment for Scan Eagle UAS systems. We’re including Vampire counter-unmanned aerial systems, laser-guided rocket systems, and a substantial funding package for training, maintenance, and sustainment, so that Ukraine can keep the equipment they already have in the fight.
Deliveries of this USAI package will begin in the next several months, and continue over the coming years. While many of these capabilities are not intended to directly contribute to today’s fight, they will form the backbone of a robust future Ukrainian force, capable of defending Ukraine for years to come.
Stepping back for a moment, the United States has now committed more than $13.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including $12.9 billion in the last six months. This level of U.S. security assistance is historically unprecedented, and demonstrates our wavering support for a free and democratic Ukraine on its Independence Day. This may be our largest security assistance package to date—but let me be clear—it will not be our last. We will continue to closely consult with Ukraine on its near-, mid-, and long-term capability needs.
We are far from alone in this effort. As I noted in my last briefing earlier this month, at least 50 countries have now provided billions of dollars worth of additional security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded and participated — invaded in February, and these Allies and partners have participated in the monthly Ukraine defense contact group meetings that have been hosted by Secretary Austin.
Our continued unified efforts will help Ukraine continue to be successful today and build enduring strength to ensure the Ukrainian people are able to commemorate many more independence days for years to come.
And with that, I think we’re going to take the first question from the AP.
STAFF: Thank you, sir. Lita?
Q: Thank you. So, one, sort of, specific question and then a broader question. The Vampires, can you give us a sense of how far down the road that is? What kind of — what — little more detail what they are? And how far down the road that is? Because I think it’s a fairly new system. And then more broadly, can you tell us how much of the package is on — would fund training? And is the U.S. going to expand training? Give us a picture of U.S. training for Ukraine down the road into the future.
- KAHL: Yeah, so the Vampire system itself is a counter UAS system. It is a kinetic system, it uses small missiles, essentially, to shoot UAVs out of the sky. And we’re happy to provide you more technical details from the right experts, at the right time.
As it relates to training, you know, we continue to train Ukrainian forces on all the systems that we are providing and that our Allies and partners are providing, that they haven’t already been trained on. So, as they’ve made kind of a transition from many cases, Soviet-legacy equipment to NATO standard equipment that’s required more training. And this has been happening on a rolling basis.
Now, as it relates to systems in this package, since, really, we’re talking about systems that will take months to get on contract, and you know, 1-2-3 years, in some instances to arrive in Ukraine. We think — we’re confident we have the time to train the Ukrainians on whatever systems they’re not already familiar with.
Q: How much of the package is…
- KAHL: Oh, on the sustainment training?
Q: On the…
- KAHL: Well, yeah, the sustainment package, sorry, I answered as it relates to training. The piece of it that’s about sustainment, I’ll get you the exact numbers on that afterwards. But sustainment is really about spare parts. The things that help them with maintenance.
- KAHL: I don’t have a number in front of me, I can get you that.
STAFF: Yeah, let’s go to Adam
Q: (OFF-MIKE) Air Force magazine. Thank you so much. Can you tell us why still no aircraft or pilot training, if you’re thinking medium- and long-term? And also, why not include some systems like the ATACMS, the A-T-A-C-M-S, the Army Tactical Missile Systems, with ranges beyond 80 kilometers since Russia is now moving their logistics and command and control beyond the range of the current munitions that we’re sending? Thank you.
- KAHL: Yeah, thanks. So, as it relates to aircraft, our current priority as it relates to aircraft is making sure that Ukrainians can use the aircraft they currently have to generate effects in the current conflict. So, for example, the last time we had a briefing here, we broke some news and talked about the fact that we had provided them with some of these anti-radiation missiles, the HARM missiles, and we had adapted those missiles to be able to fire off MIG-29. So, they of course, were not designed to fly off Russian equipment — they were designed to fly off our aircraft and the Ukrainians in recent weeks have been using the HARM missiles to great effect to take out Russian radar systems.
So, you know, as it relates to future aircrafts, fourth generation aircraft, for example, even if we were to provide those now, they wouldn’t arrive for years, so we’ve been focused on as it relates to their fighter aircraft on what they need for the to support the current efforts to hold in the east and perhaps going on a counter offensive.
As it relates to the future of aircraft, let me tell you where we are in the process. So, Secretary Austin has tasked the office of Secretary of Defense to work with the Joint Staff and European Command, essentially on a future-forces picture of the Ukrainian force for the mid- to long-term.
Obviously, this is done in close consultation with the Ukrainians It is, after all, their military, and we’re really trying to be very deliberate and disciplined about what type of Ukrainian force matters in the next 12, 24, 36 months. Under any range of scenarios. It could be a scenario in which the war continues, it could be a scenario in which the violence ebbs because there’s an agreement or because it just dies down a bit. But even in that instance, the Ukrainians are going to need to defend their territory and deter future aggression.
So, we’re trying to be very deliberate about what systems we think makes the most sense for Ukraine to have in that context, and also matters very much—can they sustain it? Can they afford it? Because, of course, you know, billions of dollars of international assistance is not, you know, may not be something 10 years from now, or 20 years from now. So, these also have to be systems that Ukraine itself can sustain. But I can tell you that fighter aircraft remain on the table, just no final decisions have been made about that.
Yeah, as it relates to ATACMS. So, I think as most of you are tracking, you know, we’ve been provided 16 HIMARS systems, which are precision rockets, multiple launch rocket systems, a number of other Allies have provided similar systems, the Brits and Germans in particular have provided M-270 systems. The HIMARS is a truck, it launches the rockets off the back, the M-270s, launches the same rockets, but essentially off the chassis of a Bradley fighting vehicle type of armored vehicle.
We have provided them guided multiple launch rocket systems, or GMLRS, that have a range of, you know, around 70 or 80 kilometers, we have provided them with hundreds and hundreds of these precision guided systems, and the Ukrainians have been using them to extraordinary effect on the battlefield.
It’s our assessment that the most relevant Munitions for the current fight are the GMLRS. And so, we have prioritized getting the Ukrainians, the GMLRS they need, not only to hold in the east, but may generate some momentum elsewhere in the country.
It’s our assessment that they don’t currently require ATACMS to service targets that are directly relevant to the current fight. You know, we’ll obviously continue to have conversations with the Ukrainians about their needs, but it’s our judgment at the moment that we should be focusing on GMLRS, not ATACMS.
STAFF: Thank you. (inaudible). Sorry, Abraham, we’re going to move on. We’ll go to AFP, and then we’ll go up to the phone line. Sylvie?
Q: Speaking about GMLRS, you — you mentioned, laser guided rocket system? I suppose it’s them? Can you say how many? And how long are they supposed to last? How long is it going to take for them to receive them? And for how long?
- KAHL: Yeah, I mean, so it’s going to take — so you’re asking about the rocket systems in particular, correct? Let me make sure I have all the information for you. So, the laser-guided rocket systems provided in this tranche of funding will basically complement the systems that Ukrainians already have been provided in previous security assistance packages. The specific rocket systems have a range of about eight kilometers. And they can be used basically to target Russian capabilities like armored personnel carriers and unmanned aerial systems.
In terms of the delivery timeline, some of those systems and rounds will probably be provided to the Ukrainians within the next nine months, and additional systems and rounds could take a year or two.
Q: Let’s see. This package doesn’t — there are no GMLRS there?
- KAHL: There are no GMLRS in this package, no. The way — well, because we’ve been focusing on providing GMLRS through the PDA packages. So, the most recent — so we’ve — in every — just about every PDA package, we have provided a steady stream of GMLRS—hundreds and hundreds at a time. It’s our assessment that the Ukrainian stocks of GMLRS are pretty good right now. And we’re going to continue to provide those but — but remember, the distinction I drew before about PDA is essentially something we can draw it out of our own stocks to make it not immediately available, but usually in the matter of days or weeks, whereas USAI is typically months or years.
STAFF: OK, let’s go to the phone lines. Do we have Tom Squitieri from Red Snow News?
Q: Thanks. Good afternoon. Doctor, could you just give us a little more clarity, please on the timeline. There have been some delays in the past of contracting equipment for delivery to Ukraine. Could you just be a bit more specific on the timeline please? Thank you.
- KAHL: The timeline for a particular system you’re interested in? Because the timelines are all different for the various timelines.
Q: Well, let me rephrase. Let me rephrase the question then. Have — has the Pentagon experienced any difficulties in contracting in the past for these kinds of weapons? And if so, has that been factored into the timeline?
- KAHL: Well, I mean, the short answer is we’re eager to get the Ukrainians the systems as quickly as that process will allow. We—it sometimes takes months to get these systems on contract. That’s been the case with the NASAMS for example. So, in each case, we will endeavor to get the contracts filled out as quickly as possible and get stuff on the road. But I think we have to manage people’s expectations, this package is — the package of capabilities here are really aimed at getting Ukraine what they’re going to need in the medium- to long-term.
So, it’s not relevant to the fight today, tomorrow, next week, it is relevant to the ability of Ukraine to defend itself and deter further aggression a year from now, two years from now, and this is actually extraordinarily important.
Because as least as we can discern, Vladimir Putin has not given up on his overall strategic objectives of seizing most of Ukraine, toppling the regime, reclaiming Ukraine as part of a new Russian Empire. What he has done is lengthened his timeline in recognition that he’s off plan.
And so, as a consequence, his theory of victory is that he can wait everybody out, he can wait the Ukrainians out because they will be exhausted and attrited, he can wait us out, because we’ll turn our attention elsewhere. He can wait for the Europeans out because of high energy prices, or whatever.
And so, packages like this are extraordinarily important, indirectly challenging Putin’s theory of the case, which is that we’re not in it for the long haul, that we aren’t supporting Ukraine for the long haul. So, the other value in using the USAI money is that, you know, there, when we take things out of our own stocks, we’re taking things out of our own stocks. And that puts certain constraints on what we can provide, on what timelines. When we do USAI, we are buying stuff on contract, and therefore the private sector can produce these things.
Q: Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.
STAFF: We’ll go to Tara and then to Nancy.
Q: (OFF-MIKE) Does the building’s assessment now that this war is winnable for Ukraine, and that’s why there’s this announcement of this multi-year, U.S. will continue to provide these arms in the long term? And then can you provide some context? Is this not only the biggest challenge to date for Ukraine, this is the biggest security assistance package provided in any conflict individually for Afghanistan, Iraq? I realize that might take some time to put in context.
- KAHL: Yeah, on the latter question, I think my sense is, it is historically unusual. Whether it’s historically unprecedented in its sheer size, I think we’re going to have to get back — back to you on it. It’s also a way it may not be an apples-to-apples comparison, in terms of the types of things. USAI is not equivalent to, you know, foreign military funding, for example.
So, anyway, let’s get back to you on whether it’s the biggest of all time. I think the sheer amount of security assistance we’ve provided through a combination of PDA and USAI is historically unprecedented, as far as we can tell, because we’re now north of $13 billion with this and, you know, $12.9 billion, just since the invasion kicked off on February 24.
In terms of the relevance in terms of essentially does the package represent some assessment about the end game? I think the shortest answer to that is no. It’s actually agnostic to what the, you know, the end game is. Obviously, it’s important for us that Ukraine survives and endures as a democratic, independent, sovereign country with its territorial integrity intact. It’s important to us that Russia pays a cost in excess of the benefits they gain from an aggression so that they don’t do it again, and so that other aggressors take that lesson. It’s also important to us that Vladimir Putin’s objective of weakening the West and fragmenting NATO actually is turned on its head—that NATO emerges stronger, the free world emerges stronger.
I think we’re on track to achieve all three of those objectives. Are you independent, sovereign democratic Ukraine, that endures. A Russia that has paid more costs and benefits, and a West that is stronger than when this started.
This type of package does not presume any particular outcome of a conflict in Ukraine. So, for example, if the war continues for years, this package is relevant. If there is a ceasefire or a peace settlement, this package is still relevant, because Ukraine needs the ability to defend itself and deter future aggression. So, kind of under any scenario or all the ones in between, we think that the package is irrelevant.
STAFF: OK, we’ll go to Nancy, and then we’ll go to the phone lines.
Q: Well, thank you. I wanted to go over a couple of things you said earlier. So, you talked about the strikes and Syria. There have been reports of additional U.S. strikes in Syria. Can you give us any additional information about that? Also, we see—quite sorry, there are three. He also had questions about training. How much of this was dedicated training? You said you couldn’t give us a number? Can you give us a sense of how many people would be trained, and over what time period? And finally, you talked about this as an investment in Ukraine’s military in the medium- to long- term? I think you talked about three years. Is it your assessment, then in three years that Ukraine will be fully integrated into NATO into NATO weapon systems? Do you anticipate they will no longer need Soviet weapons systems at that point? Can you give us a picture of what you envision the Ukrainian military looking like at the end of this weapons package? Thank you.
- KAHL: Yeah. So, just on the Syria strikes, we’re tracking the same reports you are, that there’s been an exchange in Syria. I don’t have any details to provide you with — when we have more, we will give you more. I will say, as a general matter, we’re not going to hesitate to defend ourselves. And we’ve communicated this both in the actions that were taken last night, the nature of those actions, and also what we have communicated to the Iranians. We’re not going to tolerate attacks by Iran-backed forces on our forces anywhere in the world, including in Syria, and we won’t hesitate to protect ourselves and take additional measures as appropriate.
Now, in this particular case, our response was, I think, extraordinarily carefully calibrated. It was meant to be proportional to the attacks that the Iran-backed groups carried out on August 15. It was very precise. We had essentially scoped out 11 bunker targets on this site; we ended up prosecuting nine of them because shortly before the strike, there was new evidence that there might be individuals near two of the other bunkers. So, we held off striking those out of an abundance of caution, because our goal was not to produce casualties in this instance. But we will continue to respond if our people are attacked. But as it relates to the additional reports will tell you more when we know more.
As it relates to the training numbers, I don’t have the specific numbers in front of me, Nancy, we will get back to you with — with whatever details you need for your story on that.
In three years, will we be done? You know, will the Ukrainians be done transitioning and NATO standard equipment? You know, my sense is they will still have some aspects, you know, for example, they have hundreds and hundreds of 152-millimeter artillery systems, they also have considerable industrial capacity. It is conceivable that years from now, they could still be using those systems produced by, you know, using munitions that they themselves produce.
I will say though, I would anticipate that in the timeframe we’re talking about here that Ukraine will gradually transition to NATO-standard equipment. You’re already seeing that in the transition to the M-777 howitzers and other similar systems like the French Caesar system that use the 155-millimeter systems, there’s, you know, HIMARS is another example, some of the UAS systems.
I think one of the things that will be, you know, important as we think through this, alongside Ukraine, in the coming years is, how can we, and Secretary Austin is very seized with this is, what does the future force of Ukraine look like that’s sustainable?
And the reality is that, in the six months of this war, it’s been an all-hands-on-deck situation, right? Security assistance flowing in from more than 50 countries. But that also means dozens of systems. And ideally, the Ukrainian military of the future will not be rooted in dozens of different systems, but a much smaller number of systems that are, you know, easier to sustain and maintain and all that.
So, you know, let’s see where the future holds. But just know that we’re very focused here and helping Ukraine try to plan out what is kind of a rational force of the future, and I would anticipate a lot of that will include NATO-standard equipment.
STAFF: Let’s go to the phone line. Do we have Oskar Górzyński from the Polish Press Agency?
Q: Hi, thank you. Thank you for this. So, a couple of questions. I just want to clarify. So, just this is your reason for not providing ATACMS as a military reason, because you think they don’t need them- it’s not efficient- or it’s because- for example, Jake Sullivan said a couple weeks ago just providing Ukraine this weapon could lead to World War three. So, is that not a consideration, and also you were talking about the shift to long term, medium term. Can we administer the security of Ukraine, but also as it translates to the region- will you keep forces present there or (inaudible) at all? Thank you.
- KAHL: So, Oscar, we were having a little trouble hearing you here, there was some echo. So, hopefully I’ll answer the question. So, the question on ATACMS is essentially, you know, it’s a version of the question before — why have we decided not to provide the ATACMS as of yet? I will tell you our primary consideration is our judgment about what is most useful and efficient for what the Ukrainians need for their current purposes, which are to hold in the east and to generate momentum elsewhere in the country. And why do we say that? We consulted very closely with Ukrainians about the types of targets that they needed to be able to prosecute inside Ukrainian territory.
The vast majority of those targets were rangeable by HIMARS using GMLRS, as opposed to the much longer range ATACMS. And so we have been emphasizing providing them GMLRS. And by the way, I should note, it’s had an extraordinary effect.
I think, as all of your reporting, and other reporting has, has suggested, you know, this isn’t just an average rocket, this is the equivalent of a 200-pound precision guided airstrike launched off the back of a truck. And the Ukrainians have been using this for precision strikes against command-and-control facilities, logistical nodes, and other sustainment facilities, and it has had the effect, we believe, of frustrating Russia’s advances in the East.
I think it’s really—the Russians have really slowed down in the east and have held Russian assets at risk elsewhere in the country that’s very much complicating Russia’s planning effort. So, it’s our assessment that the GMLRS are the most important thing to continue emphasizing, and there’s a steady flow of those going to Ukraine.
As it relates to your question about, you know, obviously, part of this package is to signal a long-term commitment to Ukraine. What about the long-term commitment to the broader region? I would assume to include Poland, and other countries on the eastern flank?
I think as you all saw, from the most recent Madrid setting, our posture is more robust than it was before this crisis. And, you know, before the crisis we had between 70,000 and 80,000 forces in the EUCOM AOR. We now have around 100,000 forces in the AOR, we had on any given day around three — you know, two Brigade Combat Teams, or three Brigade Combat Teams. Now we’re at five. We will be at a steady state of four. One of those will be headquartered in Poland, as it currently, as another one will be headquartered in Romania. But they’ll be available to do exercises and reinforce all up and down the eastern flank. So, whether that be, you know, Poland and the Baltic states or whether it be in places like Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, et cetera, we’ve also put a couple of additional DDGs are going to be flowing into Spain, those are naval assets, we’re going to be putting F 35s into the U.K., and there are other movements as well.
And I think one of the things that we’ve demonstrated through this crisis is that a lot of the investments we made in improving our forward posture and our infrastructure after the 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the violence in the Donbass, a lot of that work has paid off, because of what it allowed us to do early in the crisis is to nimbly move around EUCOM forces — forces that may have been further back, were able to flow forward very quickly, because the infrastructure was there, the prepositioned equipment was there. And so, I would say that it’s important as we even as we look at the eastern flank, to not only look at the capabilities that are resident every single day in those countries, but the ability of the United States and NATO to surge forces forward. And one of the things that we came out of the Madrid Summit with, was a commitment not just by the United States, but other countries like Germany, the U.K., Canada, et cetera, to put in place commitments and infrastructure to be able to rapidly surge forward into the eastern flank. So, I think that is signaling a long-term commitment, not just from the United States, but from the rest of NATO to security in the east.
STAFF: OK, and we have time for just a couple more. Let’s go to Fadi, and then go back to Carla.
Q: Thank you. Thank you for doing this. I have just one quick question on Iran, then on Ukraine. On Iran, you just mentioned that the U.S. communicated to the Iranians that we will not tolerate any attacks on U.S. troops. Was that made directly–through direct channels to Iran? And then in Ukraine, the first thing on the funding for training–is this–since we’re talking about long-term here, is it only training on equipment, or does it involve other things like tactical fighting? And then you said, since this is a long-term commitment, you’re not presuming any outcome. However, most often time wars end with political settlements, and huge security assistance like this impact, at the end of the day, political calculus. So, why don’t you factor in the possibility of being able to have an impact on Russia’s willingness to be engaged in political dialogue to end this war?
- KAHL: Yeah. So, on that, actually, I think we’re in exactly the same place as your question suggested. As I made clear a bunch of times, a big part of the reason for this commitment is actually to challenge Putin’s theory of victory, right? His theory of victory is that he can outlast everybody. Packages like this, that signal we’re not just providing assistance to Ukraine right now but it’s going to be a steady stream of assistance that will stretch out over many months and years, is precisely challenging Putin’s miscalculation, we believe, that he can just grind it out and wait it out. So, it is supposed to impact his calculus.
We’re also largely through our PDA packages, trying to affect the calculus in the nearer-term, obviously, by enabling the Ukrainians to defend the territory they have, push back where they can, so that when, and if, negotiations start, whenever that happens, they have the best hand at the negotiating table. So, we’re very mindful of that as well.
The point I was making is that the USAI package matters, essentially, no matter what world we end up in. So, clearly, we hope that the USAI package helps to send a particular signal to Putin that he can’t just wait everybody out, and that, hopefully, incentivizes Russia to stop the fighting and to get down to negotiations. But if it doesn’t, and the fighting continues, then the assistance continues to be relevant. If it does incentivize him to strike a deal, the assistance is still relevant, because Ukraine will have to hedge against the possibility that Russia could do this again.
In Iran, I’m not going to go much further than I already said, we have passed messages. I’m not going to go through exactly what channels. We have lots of ways of communicating to them. And we’ve tapped all of those channels to make it clear to the Iranians that what they’re doing is unacceptable. And that we will defend ourselves where necessary.
I should say, by the way, you know, the other piece of Iran’s business right now is the conversation about the JCPOA–the nuclear deal. And I should just make clear that what the strikes last night illustrated is that, you know, our commitment to push back against Iran’s support for terrorism, militancy, and the threats that they engage in against our people in the region or elsewhere, are not linked to wherever we end up on the nuclear deal.
So, there’s the nuclear diplomacy lane. You know, the President is very — pretty clear, the administration has been pretty clear that in the event that Iran moves back into compliance with the JCPOA, that’s in our interest, because it pushes Iran further away from a nuclear weapons capability. But whether the JCPOA is reborn or not, it actually has nothing to do with our willingness and resolve to defend ourselves. And I think the strike last night was a pretty clear communication to the Iranians, that these things are on different tracks.
Lastly, just on training on equipment and tactics, I will say that, you know, for the most part, we’ve been prioritizing training Ukrainian troops on the systems that they need to be able to very rapidly employ in the field. Obviously, with these systems we’ll have a longer time period. Those interactions do have the ability to, you know, pass on not just the technical details, but also tactics, techniques and procedures. You know, how to use these in combination with other capabilities. So, we’ll do our best to make sure that we’re kind of synergizing the training in that way.
STAFF: OK. We’ll go to the final question, VOA.
Q: Thank you for doing this. I have one in Ukraine, and then I’d like to ask one in Taiwan, if I may. So, in Ukraine, the Pentagon suggested that 10 Switchblade 600s were going to be going into Ukraine. Have any of those arrived in the theater? And will this package include any Switchblade 600s?
- KAHL: Yeah, so this package doesn’t. It includes Puma UAS systems, and then also some additional parts for Scan Eagle. But it does not include Switchblade 600s. As it relates to the actual delivery of the Switchblades, I’ll have to get back to you. I don’t have that information in front of me. You had a question about Taiwan?
Q: We’ve seen them just this week as the PLA is still maintaining an aggressive tempo, flying close to Taiwan. Has the Pentagon seen any indications that this is going to slow down, and should we view this as the new normal over in Taiwan, at the Taiwan Strait?
- KAHL: Yeah, so our assessment I mean, I think we’ll have to see what settles out and what the new normal looks like. I’ll tell you what we’ve seen thus far.
The tempo of their activities is less than it was in the immediate aftermath of Speaker Pelosi visit, but it is still higher than historical norms. And they have clearly used this particular incident to try to essentially de facto erase the norm of the centerline, for example, of crossing between this, you know, the median position between Mainland China and the island of Taiwan.
They have been more active in the air, they have been more active at sea. So, I think we should anticipate that whatever the ultimate level ends up being, it will be higher than it was before. And that speaks to your question about the new normal.
And we’ll continue to adjust our activities to make sure that wherever China ends up settling, that we made clear a couple of things: we remain committed to defending our allies and partners in the region; we remain committed to a stable, free, and open Indo Pacific, which is, I think, an interest that all our allies and partners in the region subscribe to; and that we will continue to operate in the air, at sea, wherever international law allows, and that will include freedom of navigation operations, Taiwan Strait transits, and other activities.
So, look, our view of this is that, you know, China took the speaker’s visit as an excuse to manufacture a crisis and to set a new normal, and that what we need to do is to show that we and the rest of the international community will not be coerced, that what Beijing wants is for the international community to react to their new normal by taking a step back and saying, whoa, you know, we don’t want any piece of that.
And our reaction is not to invite conflict or to generate unnecessary frictions, but to basically make clear that Beijing’s gambit isn’t going to pay off. That if their goal was to coerce us and the international community to back off, it’s not going to work.
Q: Dr. Kahl, can I ask you one about Iran, just quickly? Can you explain what, why, you know, there have been a number of attacks by these Iranian-backed groups against U.S. forces and facilities in Iraq and Syria in the last year or so, including a pretty egregious one against ATG last October, and there hasn’t been a U.S. kinetic response, like last night. Can you just explain why the U.S. decided to respond to these on August 15, when they’re — they don’t seem to have been so far out of the norm from the other ones we’ve seen?
- KAHL: Yeah, I’m going to be a little careful here due to classification issues, but I’ll say this. Part of it’s an accumulation–that we want — we don’t want Iran to draw the wrong conclusion that they can continue just doing this and get away with it. But part of it was also the nature of the attacks on the 15th. The fact that they were coordinated against two U.S. facilities at the same time, the fact that we believe we have Iran dead to rights on attribution, the UAV parts that we’ve collected, for example, traced directly back to Tehran. So, I think our concern was that this might be an indication that Iran intends to do more of this, and we wanted to disabuse them of any sense that that was a good idea.
STAFF: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Appreciate it.