By Jim Garamone
An additional 300 U.S. troops will deploy to the U.S. Central Command area of operations from the continental United States, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday.
These troops will provide capabilities in explosive ordnance disposal, communications and other support functions for forces already in the region. These forces will not go to Israel, Ryder said. “They are intended to support regional deterrence efforts and further bolster U.S. force protection capabilities,” he told reporters.
There have been more strikes by Iranian-backed militia groups on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. The American forces are in the countries performing a defeat-ISIS mission. “Since our self-defense strikes [on Oct. 26], there have been six additional, what I would consider, small scale attacks: Three in Iraq, three in Syria,” Ryder said.
Ryder encapsulated Austin’s testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee this morning. DOD submitted an “urgent supplemental budget request” to help fund America’s national security needs to stand by partners and invest in the defense industrial base. “We’re requesting $10.6 billion to help Israel defend itself, $44.4 billion to help Ukraine continue to defend itself against Russia’s ongoing aggression and $3.3 billion to meet U.S. military requirements in our submarine industrial base and to fulfill our [Australia-United Kingdom-United States trilateral] commitments,” he said.
Israeli forces continue to attack Hamas targets in Gaza. In speaking with their Israeli counterparts, American officials stress the need to protect innocent civilians. “Secretary Austin said today that taking civilian safety into account is both a moral and a strategic obligation,” Ryder said. “We do care about civilian casualties, and we’ve made it clear publicly and privately about our concern for the protection of innocent life and the respect for the law of war. That’s not going to change.”
But the Israeli battle against Hamas makes this problematic. “Hamas, which is a terrorist organization, has taken a page out of the ISIS playbook in terms of brutality and wanton disregard for civility, and for human rights,” Ryder said. “Not only did they commit a horrific, horrific slaughter of Israeli civilians and take more than 200 hostages to use as bargaining chips, but they’ve willfully and deliberately integrated their operations, their command-and-control nodes, armories, and rockets targeting Israel, among the innocent Gazan population –in effect, employing them as human shields.”
The Hamas battle plan and their use of innocent civilians as human shields “is creating this extra challenge for Israel as they conduct their operations,” Ryder said. “We’re going to, of course, continue to talk to our Israeli partners about the importance of taking civilian safety into account as they conduct their operations. But we also recognize that they have a responsibility and a duty to their citizens to protect their citizens from future Hamas attacks. And we’re going to continue to support them in that effort.”
Ryder also described the fighting in Ukraine. “What we see are the Ukrainians making some incremental gains, they are making forward progress,” he said. “We are seeing in some places, the Russians attempting offensive operations with limited effect.”
DOD officials continue to stay focused on making sure that Ukraine has what it needs to capitalize on the situation, and “have the battlefield effects that are necessary to not only preserve territory but take back sovereign territory,” Ryder said.
The general said that while the United States will continue to provide what Ukraine needs for short-term survival, it will also provide for the long-term. “The important point is we’re not only focused on the near term, we are focused on the long-term defense cooperation in relationship with Ukraine and ensuring that they have what they need to be able to deter future attacks from Russia and maintain their sovereignty,” he said.