Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin to visit Middle East next week

Defence secretary spoke to reporters alongside Gen Mark Milley, who expressed 'pain and anger' over end of Afghanistan war

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US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday that he would visit the Middle East next week to thank partners for sheltering Afghan evacuees.

Mr Austin said that after Monday's completion of the airlift operation from Kabul, the Pentagon would now focus on helping the thousands of rescued Afghan civilians resettle in the US and elsewhere.

“We are part of an urgent team effort to move Afghan evacuees out of temporary housing in intermediate staging bases in the Gulf and in Europe and on to begin new lives,” Mr Austin told reporters.

“I’ll be travelling to the Gulf next week to thank our partners there who have done so much to help save and shelter Afghan civilians.”

Reflecting on the end of the war, Mr Austin said his thoughts have been with the “brave Americans who stood up after Al Qaeda attacked us on September 11, 2001, and my heart is with their families and loved ones”.

Mr Austin was joined at the briefing by Gen Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who shared the “pain and anger” he was feeling over how America's longest war has ended with a Taliban victory.

“This is tough stuff. War is hard. It’s vicious, it’s brutal, it’s unforgiving,” the four-star general said.

“And yes, we all have pain and anger and when we see what has unfolded over the last 20 years — and over the last 20 days — that creates pain and anger. Mine comes from 242 of my soldiers killed in action over 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“But I am a professional soldier, I am going to contain my pain and anger and continue to execute my mission,” he said.

Updated: September 2nd 2021, 4:00 AM
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