“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 required a lot of selfless and significant sacrifice. Many Service personnel still carry the scars of war on their bodies and souls while 2,461 brave heroes never returned home. To our Gold Star families: We hold your loved ones in our thoughts – and we pledge to you the unwavering commitment of a grateful Nation.
The 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. Because their Taliban hosts had given them safe haven in Afghanistan and they were able to plan and execute such an devastating attack. Since 2001, no enemy has been able to launch an attack on our homeland and that is a testament to the entire U.S. government’s efforts to defend our citizens from threats to our security that could come from Afghanistan or anywhere around the world.
Still, we know this task isn’t done. We must continue to keep a constant focus on counterterrorism . And we are. In the last few weeks, the United States delivered justice to Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was the leader of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden’s deputy at the time of the 9/11 attacks. In recent months, the military has been able to successfully conduct operations against key ISIS leaders. We are also aware that preventing terrorist violence requires more than military power. We’re committed in assisting the whole government in addressing the fundamental reasons behind violent extremism. No one should doubt America’s determination to keep its citizens secure.
For 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 stand up for it. Our values are the reason people will rise up to defend our nation, whether in uniform or in civilian service.
In the final days of the war in the final days of the war, the United States and its allies carried out the largest evacuation of civilians by air, lifting more 124,000 people back to safety. I am proud of the manner in which our military communities, as well as Americans from all walks, have welcomed our Afghan allies as we begin our new lives in the United States.
Our values continue to drive the important work of American patriots across the world. The United States is rushing urgently needed assistance to Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s unprovoked and reckless invasion. We are determined to support the Ukrainian people and protecting the international order based on rules from autocrats and aggressors from anywhere.
As our nation examines the past two decades of fighting in Afghanistan I know that many people have hard questions about the costs of the war and what their sacrifices have meant to them. These are crucial conversations, and I hope that we continue to have them with thoughtfulness 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.”