The way the conflict in Afghanistan ended should not obscure the pride Americans should have in the men and women who fought there, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said today to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“As a veteran of the war, I personally count with all of this,” the secretary said when testifying about the final days of the war and the evacuation of 124,000 people from Kabul. “But I hope… we won’t allow a debate on ending this war to hurt our pride in the way our people have fought it.”
More than 800,000 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan during the 20 Years War. “They prevented another 9/11, they showed extraordinary courage and compassion in the closing days of the war, and they made lasting progress in Afghanistan that the Taliban will find difficult to reverse and that the international community should work hard to preserve, ”Austin said.
Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida used Afghanistan as a launching pad for its attacks on America on September 11 which left 3,000 dead. US forces entered the country in October 2001, ousted the Taliban from power and denied al-Qaida asylum.
“Most importantly, 2,461 of us made the ultimate sacrifice, while 20,698 of us were wounded in combat and countless more suffer from unseen war wounds,” Milley said. “There is no doubt in my mind that our efforts prevented an attack on the Homeland from Afghanistan, which was our initial core mission, and everyone who served in this war should be proud. Your service mattered. “
Austin told senators it was good for them to discuss and debate the decisions and policies that led to the turning points in the war. “We can debate the decisions over 20 years that got us to this point,” he said. “But one thing that is not debated is the courage and compassion of our servicemen, who, along with their families, served and sacrificed themselves to ensure that our homeland would never be attacked again as it was on the 11th. September 2001. ”