The Biden administration acknowledged Friday that the early stages of Ukraine’s counteroffensive have fallen short of expectations but reiterated the United States will continue to provide support in the ways of training, equipment and advice.
“We are in constant touch, as I said, with our Ukrainian counterparts,” White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters Friday. “And they're keeping us apprised — and we continue to do what we will what we can do to help them in counteroffensive, whether that's through training, and as you know, they are still getting brigade level training, or the additional capabilities and certainly, advice and information. I mean, we continue to provide support to them as they work their way through these offensive operations but where they go and how fast they go, that's really going to be up to them to decide.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Friday that the slower pace is “part of the nature of war.”
“What I had said was this is going to take six, eight, 10 weeks. It's going to be very difficult. It's going to be very long, and it's going to be very, very bloody. And no one should have any illusions about any of that,” Milley said at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on Friday.
“This is literally a fight for their life,” he said. “So yes, sure, it goes a little slow, but that is part of the nature of war.”
Some background: Last week, CNN reported that officials believed the counteroffensive is “not meeting expectations on any front,” while Russian lines of defense have been proving well-fortified, making it difficult for Ukrainian forces to breach them. In addition, Russian forces have had success bogging down Ukrainian armor with missile attacks and mines and have been deploying air power more effectively. Ukrainian forces are proving “vulnerable” to minefields and Russian forces “competent” in their defense, one Western official said.
On the counteroffensive, Kirby acknowledged Ukrainian forces “have made some progress—and they have themselves spoken to the fact that it’s not as much as they would have liked, but again, we’re focused on making sure that they have what they need and will continue to do that.”
He declined to offer a timeline on how much longer the conflict could be expected to last.
Possible cluster munitions: Milley also said that the US has been “thinking about” providing cluster munitions to Ukraine “for a long time” but that he did not know that a decision has been made yet.
CNN reported Thursday that the Biden administration is strongly considering approving the transfer of the controversial warheads to Kyiv with a final decision expected soon from the White House.
CNN's Haley Britzky contributed reporting to this post.