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Pentagon chief marks anniversary of Afghanistan withdrawal, saying work ‘is not done’

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin marked the one-year anniversary of the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, acknowledging that America’s work “is not done” in the country.

In a memorandum to all Department of Defense personnel, Austin said the U.S. went to Afghanistan in 2001 to “wage a necessary war of self-defense” in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

But since then, “no enemy has been able to launch such an attack on our homeland” due to the department’s efforts to defend citizens against terrorist threats, he added.

“Still, we know this work is not done. We must keep a relentless focus on counterterrorism-and we are,” he said. “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.”

Tuesday marked one year since the last of U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan, ending America’s longest war.

The withdrawal has been seen as a stain on the Biden administration, as reports revealed that the U.S. was unprepared for how quickly the Afghan government would collapse, allowing the Taliban to rapidly seize power.

But President Biden and his officials have stood by the effort, noting that the U.S. evacuated over 124,000 refugees, mainly Afghan civilians. The president has also argued that staying in Afghanistan would have cost more U.S. lives.

Read more – Afghanistan: One year later

In Tuesday’s memorandum, the Pentagon chief mainly expressed “profound gratitude” to all who served in Afghanistan for the prior two decades – including American service members, veterans of the war, and their families.

Austin, who noted that he is also a veteran of the war, said he witnessed “firsthand the bravery, selflessness, and compassion that our men and women brought to the fight.”

“Two 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,” the Pentagon chief wrote.

“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,” he continued.

Austin concluded his letter by addressing those who have “hard questions” about the war and what their sacrifices in Afghanistan meant.

“Last year, I said that although the Afghanistan war has ended, our gratitude to those who served never will. Today, I renew that pledge,” he continued. “To every man and woman who served in Afghanistan: This country will never forget what you did and what you gave.”

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This story was originally published August 30, 2022 12:40 PM.

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