Defense Leaders Paint Cheery Picture on Ukraine After Pentagon Leaks
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Pentagon leaders at a meeting on Friday with Western allies supporting Ukraine did not address pessimistic assessments contained in leaked Pentagon documents about the war effort that has cost the U.S. more than $115 billion, and instead tried to paint an upbeat picture of the coming counteroffensive.

They downplayed the impact of the leaks, which cast doubt on the Ukrainian military’s ability to make gains in the planned upcoming counteroffensive. According to one leaked U.S. intelligence assessment obtained by the Washington Post, Ukraine’s challenges in massing troops, ammunition, and equipment could cause its military to fall “well short” of Kyiv’s original goals for retaking Russian-occupied areas.

The assessment from early February reportedly warned of significant “force generation and sustainment shortfalls” as well as the likelihood that such an operation will result in only “modest territorial gains.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the beginning of a press briefing on Friday after meeting with members of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a U.S.-led coalition of nations providing support to Ukraine:

Let me say just a few words about the reports of unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and classified U.S. material.  I take this matter extremely seriously, and we will continue to work closely and — with our deeply-valued allies and partners in a spirit of abiding respect and friendship.  As I have discussed this issue with our allies and partners, I’ve been struck by their solidarity and their commitment to reject efforts to divide us, so nothing will fracture our unity or reduce our determination.

Related: Milley: It’s ‘Extraordinarily Difficult’ for Ukraine to Achieve Military Objective This Year

And Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley refused to comment on the assessments, instead saying he was “confident” in the Ukrainian forces’ ability to succeed:

I’m not going to comment on future operations specifically or any of the substance that’s in any of these leaks that are out there. But I will say that our task and our commitment to Ukraine was to provide the — the training and the equipment for up to nine brigades, armored brigades, armored mech brigades to conduct either offensive or defensive operations.  Those brigades are trained, they’re manned and they’re equipped, and they are prepared for combat operations.  So whenever and wherever Ukraine chooses to use them, we will continue that support, and I am very confident in those units’ ability to succeed.

However, both emphasized the importance providing Ukraine with air defense capability — something the leaks cast in an alarming light. According to one document dated February 28, Ukraine would run out of missiles for the S-300 and Buk air defense systems used to defend against air attacks by May 3 and April 13 respectively. The purported shortages painted a dire picture for Ukraine’s front line troops, or “FLOT,” with a leaked document stating:

[Ukraine’s] ability to provide medium range air defense to protect the FLOT will be completely reduced by May 23. [Ukraine] assessed to withstand 2-3 more wave strikes. As 1st Layer Defense munitions run out, 2nd and 3rd Layer expenditure rates will increase, reducing the ability to defend against Russian aerial attacks from all altitudes.

Other documents, reviewed by Breitbart News, also said the Russian Air Force is largely intact and has been held at bay by Ukrainian air defense, which could change if Ukraine’s air defenses are degraded.

Milley called providing air defense to Ukraine “critical”:

The Russians are cautious to come into Ukraine because of the effective use of the Ukrainian air defense system. That is the most critical thing right now, is that air defense system, to make sure that it is robust, it’s rigorous, it’s deep, and it’s layered from high altitude to mid altitude to low altitude and from short range, mid range to long range. And the front line forces — the Ukrainian front line forces need to be protected.

“That’s the most important, critical military task right now. That was the theme of this entire day, was air defense, air defense, air defense, to make sure that Ukraine can defend its airspace,” he added.

When questioned, he also reiterated the Biden administration’s reluctance to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, despite repeated requests from Ukraine.

“There’s a long lead time for — for training of pilots, et cetera, and the Russians have a significant amount of air power. And to take the Ukrainian Air Force from where it is today and to build it up to match the Russian Air Force, that’s a significant level of effort by lots of countries, and those policy choices may or may not be made down the road and we’ll see where that goes,” Milley said.

“But right now, the immediate need is air defense.”

Follow Breitbart News’s Kristina Wong on Twitter, Truth Social, or on Facebook.

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