Pentagon chief Austin released from hospital

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was released from a military hospital on Tuesday and will attend a Ukraine-related virtual meeting, the Pentagon said, as the Pentagon chief struggles in the wake of prostate cancer surgery.

It was the second time this year Austin, 70, was hospitalized - this time to address a bladder issue - since a December surgery to treat prostate cancer.

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He triggered a political uproar last month after failing to disclose his surgery to the White House as well as a subsequent hospitalization in January to deal with its complications. Even President Joe Biden did not know Austin was in the hospital until days later.

After taking questions from reporters last week to discuss his recovery, Austin returned to Walter Reed National Medical Center on Sunday after indications of an emergent bladder issue and was placed in critical care.

Austin was released from the hospital on Tuesday afternoon and “resumed his full functions and duties,” the Pentagon said in a statement. On advice of doctors, he will work from home before returning to the Pentagon later this week, it said. He is expected to make a full recovery, his doctors said in the statement.

The latest hospitalization forced Austin to cancel a planned trip to NATO headquarters this week for defense talks as well as to host an in-person Ukraine-related meeting on Wednesday. Those Ukraine talks are instead being organized virtually.

“The Secretary still intends to participate in the virtual Ukraine Defense Contact Group tomorrow. This includes delivering opening remarks,” Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh told a news briefing.

Both Ukraine and NATO are becoming hot button political issues ahead of November presidential elections in the United States. Over the weekend, former Republican President Donald Trump called into question willingness to help defend members of the Western defense alliance if they failed to spend enough on defense.

Biden, who is seeking re-election in a possible rematch against Trump, blasted Trump’s remarks on Tuesday and also called on the top Republican in the House of Representatives to allow a vote on a Senate-passed $95.34 billion military aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Amid warnings from the House that it will focus instead on US border security, Biden said failing to approve Ukraine war funding would amount to support for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

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