The United States will not make “disorderly” withdrawals from Afghanistan or Iraq, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday, in an apparent jab at the Trump administration’s decisions to abruptly withdraw troops previously.
During the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting, officials focused on NATO operations in the two Middle East countries and “Alliance military readiness.”
On the latter, Austin said the US was committed to a diplomatic solution to end the war in Afghanistan.
Since Joe Biden became the US president, Washington has been reviewing foreign policy moves made under Donald Trump. This includes the peace agreement reached with the Taliban.
Austin said the review was still in progress to determine if all parties had adhered to the promises made. “He reassured Allies that the US would not undertake a hasty or disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan,” a statement from the Pentagon read.
In an agreement reached last year, Trump, who had long promised to end America’s longest war, signed the United States up to a full withdrawal in coming months.
As for Iraq, the US official reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to the defeat of ISIS, “respecting Iraq’s sovereignty, and ensuring long-term regional stability.”
The rocket attack at a US-led military base in Iraq’s Erbil on Monday was further proof of the “importance of our continued work in the region,” Austin said in his virtual remarks.
Prior to Austin’s comments, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the alliance would expand its training mission in Iraq from 500 to around 4,000 personnel.
This was welcomed by Austin, who said that the work being done in coordination with the Iraqi government and security forces would lead to “a self-sustainable mission.”
Austin stressed the need to “maintain ready forces and capabilities to both support ongoing NATO operations and to respond immediately to emerging crisis. He noted progress on the NATO Readiness Initiative and Allied efforts to rebuild a culture of readiness.”