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Warp Speed's Perna Set to Retire, Kirby Discusses Afghan Transition

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Army Gen. Gustave F. Perna, the COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutic czar, will retire at the end of the week, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said today during a wide-ranging news conference.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski will return to his civilian job as he steps down from his position as the director of supply, production and distribution.

Operation Warp Speed was subsumed by the White House COVID-19 Response Team in February. 


"Both leaders were selected due to their vast experience as experts in logistics and acquisitions, to lead an incredible team including the best of government, industry and academic professionals to develop, manufacture and deliver safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics for the American people," Kirby said. 

The team accomplished their mission in 13 months. "To date they have helped deliver over 390 million doses of COVID vaccines, and almost 1 million therapeutics for the American people," the press secretary said. DOD will transition leadership of vaccine operational logistics to Health and Human Services. 

"We thank them and their team for their incredible success in what can be called a Herculean mission and service to their country," Kirby said.

Afghanistan was the subject of many questions from the press for Kirby. U.S. Central Command announced today that 896 C-17 loads of material have been airlifted out of Afghanistan. The command also turned over 15,943 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency for disposition. The command has completed "over 50 percent" of the retrograde of U.S. forces from the country.

The end of the retrograde end will signify the end of the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan. The U.S. mission will transition to protecting U.S. diplomatic efforts in the nation and to establishing the bilateral relationship between the United States and Afghanistan. The only American forces that will be left in the country will be there to protect the U.S. diplomatic presence, Kirby said.

A civilian stands and speaks at a lectern to a seated audience.
Pentagon Briefing
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby holds a news briefing at the Pentagon, June 29, 2021.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley Cheesman, DOD
VIRIN: 210629-D-FN525-1003

Kirby would not put a number on the number of American troops that would remain to protect diplomats. "Afghanistan is not going to be treated like any other nation where we have … Marine security guard," he said. "It's Afghanistan and we understand the dynamic nature of the security threat there, so there will be some number of U.S. troops."

There will also be security at the Kabul airport to protect the diplomatic presence in the nation. "We are still working out some of the details of what the security situation is going to look like at the airport and how that's going to be facilitated," he said. 

The Taliban is continuing attacks against Afghan government forces. "The violence is too high and … the security situation, certainly, is concerning over there," Kirby said. "What's important to say — and I'll say it again — is that we want to see a peace process that's credible and Afghan-led and leads to a negotiated settlement."

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