U.S. security assistance to Pakistan is still suspended, says Kirby

F.P. Report

WASHINGTON: Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby has said that as you likely saw on the news over the weekend, the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group 21, or CSG 21, got underway from Portsmouth. CSG 21 is a large-scale, multinational deployment designed to demonstrate expeditionary capabilities, operational readiness, and interoperability between the United States, the U.K., and other allies and partners that will highlight global reach and enhances the deterrence and defense capabilities of the NATO alliance.

This he said while conducting on-camera press briefing, he said in total, the strike group will include nine ships and approximately 3,700 personnel. Though it’s a British-led, our Navy will be participating with the deployment of the Destroyer USS The Sullivans and a Marine Corps F-35B squadron that will be attached to the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Kirby added that in addition to the press coverage coming out of the U.K., our combatant commands and services will also be highlighting DoD’s participation at various stages throughout this deployment. We’re delighted to be under way and to be a part of it.

Speaking about being under way and a part of international efforts, Defender 21, the exercise in Europe, continues as scheduled. Over the weekend, the United States Army 2nd Cavalry Regiment Road March began. During the four-day march the unit will travel through Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia, and integrate — exercise immediate response later this week, he said.

Also of note, Exercise Saber Guardian kicked off today, more than 13,000 service members from 19 nations will conduct live fire and air and missile defense operations in several countries, and will conduct a large-scale medical evacuation exercise in Germany.

On a separate topic, I think you saw that the earlier today the secretary spoke with — with Pakistan’s chief of army staff, General Bajwa, to discuss shared regional interests and objectives. During the call, the secretary reiterated his appreciation for Pakistan’s support for the Afghanistan peace negotiations and expressed his desire to continue to build on the United States-Pakistan bilateral relationship, Kirby said.

On to COVID, as part of the national response to COVID-19, the Department of Defense in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services signed a Defense Production Act Title III agreement with Retractable Technologies, Incorporated, to expand the production of safety syringes and needles. The amount of the agreement was $27.3 million and this investment will enable Retractable Technologies to install two additional automated assembly lines at the manufacturing facility in Little Elm, Texas. The full release on this agreement can be found on our web site Defense.gov.

And lastly, I think you probably saw, but for your planning purposes, as the White House announced today, the president will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers a week from now in honor of Memorial Day. Immediately following that wreath-laying, the president will give a Memorial Day address in the amphitheater. Secretary Austin and Chairman Milley will also be in attendance and will provide remarks. The first lady, the vice president, the second gentleman, and Deputy Secretary Hicks will also all be in attendance. Due to COVID, this will be a closed event and not open to the public.

While answering to question regarding possibility of US military bases in Pakistan, Mr Kirby said  that he don’t have any specific updates in terms of the potential for overseas basing there, after our withdrawal. These are obviously diplomatic discussions that are ongoing and are clearly not complete. We’re — we’re exploring a range of options and opportunities to — to be able to provide a credible and viable over-the-horizon counter-terrorism capability, and there’s lots of ways you can do that. Overseas basing is just one of them.

Kirby added that at this time, U.S. security assistance to Pakistan is still suspended, and I won’t get into speculating one way or another about if or whether that will change going forward.

Regarding US troops in Afghanistan, Kirby said that we’re not giving out exact numbers of our — our troops there as we — as we continue this withdrawal.

About American troops in Iraq, no, there’s been no change to their presence there or their purpose there, quite frankly, he said.

I — you may already have all this. This is what I have. If you already have it, I apologize, but at about 1:30 local time there the al-Asad airbase did experience one rocket round that landed on base. Initial reports are that there are no injuries, but the damage is still being assessed. As you know, sometimes initial reports change. That’s what we have right now. The attack’s under investigation by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, and I’d point you to them for any additional information. That’s probably what you already had, but that — that’s what I’ve got for you.

Kirby further added that he won’t talk to specific plans going forward. I mean obviously we’ve talked about this before but training with our ROK allies is a significant component of our ability to meet our treaty commitments to South Korea and we constantly assess and review what training events might be best and execute it in the — in the — in the most effective manner and we’re going to continue that going forward.

But I don’t have anything specific to read out with respect to a change in this or that exercise. He added that we obviously don’t want to see any unilateral change to the status quo. We — we will continue to assist Taiwan in its self defense as we have in accordance with the Taiwan Relation Act. The three communiques, six assurances. Nothing’s changed with our policy with respect to Taiwan and I’d leave it to South Korea to speak to it from their perspective.