“Today, 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.,” said Lloyd Austin, the Defense Secretary.}
“I first want to express my profound gratitude to all who served in Afghanistan, including everyone on our Department of Defense team. Every American 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.”
Twenty years of honorable service demanded a significant and selfless sacrifice. Many Service members still carry the wounds of war to their bodies and souls while 2,461 brave soldiers never returned home. To our Gold Star families: We hold your loved ones in our heart We offer you the unwavering support of a grateful Nation.
In 2001 the United States invaded Afghanistan to engage in a self-defense war. Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked our nation on September 11, 2001. They were capable of planning and executing this horrific attack because their Taliban hosts had provided them with safe haven in Afghanistan. Since 2001, no adversary has been able to launch an attack on our nation which speaks to the entire U.S. government’s efforts to protect our citizens from terrorist threats that could come from Afghanistan or anywhere around the globe.
We are aware that this task is far from being finished. We must continue to keep a constant focus on counterterrorism – and we are. Ayman al-Zawahiri was a leader of al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden’s deputy at time of 9/11 attacks. The United States brought justice to him just a few weeks back. In recent months, the military has been able successfully carry out operations against key ISIS leaders. We are aware that stopping terrorist violence takes more than just military might. We’re committed to supporting the whole government in addressing the fundamental causes of violent extremism. It is not a question of America’s determination to keep its citizens secure.
For me, there is no greater testament to the strength of a nation’s democracy than the fact that millions of people freely chooseevery day to protect it. Our values are the reason that people will step up to defend their nation, whether in uniform or serving as civilians.
So , last year, in the final days of war the United States, along with our allies and partners, conducted the largest air evacuation of civilians in American history, bringing more than 124,000 people from danger. I am proud of the manner in which our military communities, and Americans from all walks of life, have received our Afghan allies as we begin our new lives in this country.
And our values continue to guide the vital work that American patriots are doing all over the globe. In the face of Russia’s reckless and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the United States is providing urgent assistance to Ukraine. We will continue to stand with the Ukrainian people as well as defending the rules-based international order from autocrats and aggressors from anywhere.
As our country is looking back at two decades of combat in Afghanistan, I understand that many people have difficult questions about the price of the war and what sacrifices meant. These are important discussions, and I hope we will continue to have them with a sense of humour and respect.
“Last 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.”