Afghanistan mission not yet over: US defence secretary

The commander of United States forces in Afghanistan General Scott Miller returned from the country almost winding up the longest American war, even as Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin assured that America’s Afghan mission is not yet over and that it would continue to support Kabul.

“Scott and his staff are home now, and we are grateful for their safe return. But our mission in Afghanistan is not over. The drawdown continues and will be complete by the end of August,” Austin said hours after he welcomed Miller at the Pentagon on his return from Kabul after three years of his posting there.

The Department of Defence, he said, remains committed to protecting its diplomatic presence in the country, continuing to provide funding to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces and advising Afghan security ministries, and preventing the re-emergence of violent extremist organisations.

“We will also be working closely with the State Department to help relocate those Afghans and their families who have been of such service to our mission. We take seriously our obligation to them, and we honour their contributions,” Austin said.

US troops at the direction of President Joe Biden have all but returned from Afghanistan.

Biden has asked that all the US troops need to withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11.

The Pentagon is likely to meet the goal weeks before that.

“As we have over the last 20 years, so must we continue to honour the service and sacrifice of those who have performed so bravely in the field. They and their families have struggled and sacrificed on our behalf. In many ways they still do. But they also have much for which to be proud,” he said.

“That we have not been attacked from Afghanistan since 9-11, that the Afghan government now has the opportunity to advance the progress which has been made in their country, and that the Afghan forces now have in their possession the capabilities, the advantages they need to defend their people — all stand as testament to the skill, professionalism and courage of our troops and those of our allies,” Austin said.

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