WASHINGTON: Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby has said US continue to assist the government and the people of India as they continue to struggle with their COVID outbreak. U.S. Transportation Command and its components continue to demonstrate their capability to provide immediate assistance to our partner nations, working with the Defense Logistics Agency and our interagency partners.
He added that three U.S. Air Force C-5 Super Galaxies and one C-17 Globemaster are continuing to deliver critical supplies. The third aircraft will arrive later today in India and the fourth flight will arrive tomorrow. Once all four missions are complete, the four aircraft will have delivered tons of very needed, critical supplies, both in terms of oxygen generation capabilities and personal protective equipment, and obviously we’ll continue to assess the situation going forward.
Regarding exercises, he said that the long planned, publicly announced DEFENDER-Europe ’21 Exercise, kicked off. The pre-staging for that exercise began back in March. As you know, it’s the — a large scale U.S. Army, Europe and Africa-led multinational joint exercise designed to build strategic operational readiness and interoperability between U.S. NATO allies and partner forces.
It involves 28,000 U.S., allied and partner forces from 26 different nations and it’s defensive in nature, focused on deterring aggression while preparing our forces to respond to crisis and conduct large scale combat operations, if necessary.
On another exercise note, on today, the Air Force is kicking off Exercise Northern Edge ’21 in Alaska. Northern Edge is a U.S., Indo-Pacific Command-sponsored, Pacific Air Forces-led joint exercise — joint service field training exercise — I apologize. Approximately 15,000 service members and 240 aircraft are participating in the exercise, which is focused on high end, realistic warfighter training to develop and improve joint interoperability and enhance combat readiness.
While answering to a question regarding Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, Mr Kirby said that we’ve seen are some small, harassing attacks over the course of the weekend that have not had any significant impact, certainly not on our people or on — or our resources there.
He added that General McKenzie’s exactly right, the bilateral relationship with the Afghan National Security Forces is going to change once we are no longer on the ground there. It’ll be largely of a financial nature, because we’re not going to have U.S. troops on the ground in the same assistance roles that they are now.
Regarding Iran, Mr Kirby said that we have made clear through diplomatic channels our concerned about IRGC navy activities. We also understand, that the IRGC’s not the Iranian state navy and doesn’t have the same reporting structure as the Iranian state navy. Our interactions with the Iranian state navy have remained professional, but that’s a whole different reporting chain up to the elected government, and the IRGC doesn’t report along those same lines.
Regarding North Korea’s threats, Mr Kirby said that he won’t speak for the National Security Council in terms of the policy review, but I think it’s apparent that the administration is committed to the denuclearization of North Korea, and to greater stability and security on the peninsula, to reinforcing and revitalizing our alliances and partners and the partnerships in the region.
He added that because the threat from Pyongyang doesn’t just affect the peninsula, it affects our allies and partners and it also affects the safety and security of the American people. But as for the specifics of the policy execution going forward from a diplomatic perspective, I would refer you to NSC and the State Department to speak to that.
The only thing I’d add — and the secretary said this, if you had a chance to listen to read or watch his speech that he gave at the INDOPACOM change of command over the weekend, on Friday — is that we will support diplomatic efforts. We stand in support of the State Department as they pursue peaceful, political, diplomatic options to make the region safer and more secure. And that includes making it safer and more secure from the threat that North Korea continues to pose.
Regarding Iraq, he said that of course we’re concerned about any use of violence by any group in Iraq. And I would remind — again, without speaking to attribution here, because we’ve only seen press reporting on this — that the purpose for the U.S. in Iraq, at the invitation of the government, is to continue to prosecute the war against ISIS, the operations against ISIS. That’s what we’re there for, we’re there to help Iraqi Security Forces as they also prosecute operations against ISIS.
So any — any violent attack on them or us is of concern, and it does show that — again, without attribution, that, you know — that it’s still a dangerous mission.
He added that those are decisions for Iraqis to make. Again, this is — this is their country and we wouldn’t get involved in those kinds of specific discussions. That’s for Iraqi leaders to decide and to work out.
I did not see the spokesman’s comments, but it sounds like from what you’re telling me it’s very much in keeping with the relationships that we have in the region with government leaders and the focus on making sure that what we’re aligned against and what we’re working towards is counter-ISIS missions and counter-ISIS capability among the Iraqi Security Forces. But again, that’s a question better put to Iraqi leaders.
While answering to a question regarding Al-Qaeda return to Afghanistan, MrR Kirby said that we always have concerns about threats to our national security interests and to our people and to those of our allies and partners that are posed by terrorist networks. Nothing’s changed about the concern that we have and to making sure that another attack like 9/11 can’t happen. And we’re almost 20 years on, and there hasn’t been one. And there’s a lot of reasons for that, a lot of hard work, a lot of blood, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of lessons learned and it prevented yet another attack like 9/11, and I don’t think you’ll see anything but a continued focus by this administration on making sure that it doesn’t happen again.