Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the US will look to “continue funding key capabilities” including the Afghan Air Force and Special Mission Wing, and he said the US will continue paying salaries for Afghan Security Forces.
“We will look to continue funding key capabilities such as the Afghan air force and special mission wing, and we will seek to continue paying salaries for Afghan Security Forces
Austin said he fully supports President Biden’s decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 during remarks at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday.
“I want to thank our NATO allies and partners for the time they have afforded us to complete our review and explain our President’s decision to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021,” Austin said. “I fully support his decision.”
When asked about disagreements from the military over a withdrawal, Austin said the process was inclusive and concerns were taken into consideration.
“This was an inclusive process, and their voices were heard and their concerns taken into consideration as the President made his decision. But now that the decision has been made, I call upon them to lead their forces — to lead their forces — through this effort, through this transition, and knowing them all very well as I do, I have every confidence that they will in fact lead their force through this effort,” Austin said.
“We also will work closely with them and with our allies to maintain counterterrorism capabilities in the region sufficient to ensuring Afghanistan cannot become a safe haven for terrorists who threaten our security,” Austin said.
Austin said the US has “accomplished the mission” in Afghanistan, making “economic, civil, and political progress” in the country over the years.
“Our troops have accomplished the mission they were sent to Afghanistan to accomplish,” Austin said. “Their service and their sacrifices, alongside those of our Resolute Support and Afghan partners, made possible the greatly diminished threat to all of our homelands from Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”
Austin acknowledged the ongoing violence from the Taliban.
“There is still too much violence, to be sure. And we know the Taliban still seek to reverse some of this progress,” Austin said. “That is why we support wholeheartedly the diplomatic efforts ongoing to achieve a negotiated and political settlement that the Afghan people themselves endorse.”