Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in his first news conference as Pentagon chief, said Friday that progress toward peace in Afghanistan and an end to U.S. military involvement there depends on the Taliban reducing attacks. (Feb. 19)
LLOYD AUSTIN: We are committed to a responsible and sustainable end to this war while preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups that threaten the interest of the United States and our allies and ensuring a just and durable end to the long-running conflict.
And so to that end, we are conducting a rigorous interagency review of the situation, including all relevant options, with full consideration of the consequences of any potential course of action. We are mindful of the looming deadlines, but we want to do this methodically and deliberately.
Clearly, the violence is too high right now, and more progress needs to be made in the Afghan-led negotiations. And so I urge all parties to choose the path towards peace. The violence must decrease now.
I told our allies that no matter what the outcome of our review, the United States will not undertake a hasty or disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan that puts their forces or the alliance's reputation at risk. At this time, no decisions about our future force posture have been made.
We here at the Pentagon and the Department of Defense view China as our primary pacing challenge. And we believe NATO can help us better think through our operating concepts and investment strategies when it comes to meeting that challenge.