we mark one year since the end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and I,
like so many of you, have been reflecting on the sacrifice that American
Service Members, Veterans, their
families, and so many others made during America's longest war.
I first want to express my profound gratitude to all who served in
Afghanistan, including everyone on our Department of Defense team.
Every A merican who contributed to our efforts shared
a deep devotion to keeping our country safe, working toward a brighter
future for the Afghan people, and standing up for liberty, democracy,
and the rule of law. As a veteran of the war, I witnessed firsthand the
bravery, selflessness, and compassion that
our men and women brought to the fight. Your efforts make me proud to
be your colleague - and even prouder to be an American.
decades of noble service demanded significant and selfless sacrifice.
Many Service members still bear the wounds of war, to body and to soul,
and 2,461 brave heroes never made it
home. To our Gold Star families: We hold your loved ones in our hearts
- and we pledge to you the unwavering commitment of a grateful Nation.
United States went to Afghanistan in 2001 to wage a necessary war of
self-defense. On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists attacked our
country. They were able to plan and execute
such a horrific attack because their Taliban hosts had given them safe
haven in Afghanistan. Since 2001, no enemy has been able to launch such
an attack on our homeland, and that speaks to the entire U.S.
government's efforts to defend our citizens from terrorist
threats that could emanate from Afghanistan or anywhere around the
we know this work is not done. We must keep a relentless focus on
counterterrorism - and we are. Just a few weeks ago, the United States
delivered justice to Ayman al-Zawahiri,
the leader of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden's deputy at the time of the
9/11 attacks. And in recent months, our military has successfully
carried out operations against key ISIS leaders. We also know that
preventing terrorist violence requires much more than
military might. We're committed to supporting a whole-of-government
effort to address the root causes of violent extremism. No one should
doubt America's resolve to keep our people safe.
me, there is no greater testament to the strength of a country's
democracy than the fact that millions of people freely choose, every
day, to defend it. Those who step up to serve
- whether in uniform or as part of our civilian workforce - do so
because of the values we fight for: the rule of law, human dignity, and
last year, in the war's final days, the United States, along with our
partners and allies, conducted the largest air evacuation of civilians
in American history, lifting more than
124,000 people to safety. I'm proud that our military communities -
and Americans from all walks of life - have welcomed our Afghan allies
as they begin new lives in our country.
our values continue to drive the important work that American patriots
are doing around the world. The United States is rushing urgently
needed assistance to Ukraine in the face
of Russia's unprovoked and reckless invasion. We are firmly committed
to supporting the people of Ukraine and to defending the rules-based
international order against autocrats and aggressors anywhere.
our country looks back on two decades of combat in Afghanistan, I
understand that many people have hard questions about the costs of the
war and what their sacrifices meant. These
are important discussions, and I hope we will keep having them with
thoughtfulness and respect.
year, I said that although the Afghanistan war has ended, our gratitude
to those who served never will. Today, I renew that pledge. To every
man and woman who served in Afghanistan:
This country will never forget what you did and what you gave.
May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
Lloyd J. Austin, III