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Austin, Wallace Praise Miller as Command Transitions in Afghanistan

July 12, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace made special mention of Army Gen. Austin S. Miller's leadership in Afghanistan during their meeting at the Pentagon today.

The defense leaders met on the day that Miller transitioned command and authorities of Operation Resolute Support to Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

"I want to thank Gen. Miller for his exceptional leadership over the last three years," Austin said at the Pentagon meeting. "That we've been able to secure our interests in Afghanistan as well as those of our allies and Afghan partners stands as a testament to his operational acumen and strategic vision."

Austin noted that Miller has conducted the retrograde from Afghanistan safely and in an orderly fashion. "Understanding the importance of speed, he has led this drawdown without a single casualty and with great efficiency," Austin said. "It has truly been historic."

Two men stand after passing through a joint service honor guard.
Austin and Wallace
United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III stand at attention on the steps of the Pentagon during a welcome ceremony for Wallace, July 12, 2021.
Photo By: Jim Garamone, DOD
VIRIN: 210712-D-FN314-001C

Wallace echoed Austin's praise. "Can I just place a record on both our admiration and our thanks to Gen. Miller in Afghanistan," he said during his remarks. "He's been an outstanding leader and a strong friend of the United Kingdom, and the professionalism in which he carried out the leaving of Afghanistan is of the highest standard, and we are better off for it. So we shall miss him."

Both men were quick to point out that this is not the end of their nations' support to Afghanistan. 

The two leaders also discussed other matters during the meeting. Austin said the U.S. military looks forward to working with the United Kingdom as that nation conducts an integrated review. He said it aligns well with the U.S. National Security Strategic Guidance. "The U.K.'s emphasis on modernization is especially important in this era of strategic competition, and we welcome your government's emphasis on transatlantic security, support to NATO and focus on the Indo-Pacific region," Austin said. 

The two men spoke of the deployment of U.S. Marine Corps F-35s aboard the U.K. 's aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth as part of the combined U.S.-U.K. deployment of Carrier Strike Group 21. The group also contains the USS The Sullivans, which is named after five brothers who were killed during the Guadalcanal campaign in 1942. "The ship's motto is 'We Stick Together,' which I think is very fitting for this particular deployment."

The two men also discussed Russia and Austin reaffirmed America's unwavering support for Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

"When it comes to China, the United Kingdom must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States in making sure that our allies around the region in the Pacific are protected by the international rule of law and that we uphold those values that we all stand for," Wallace said.

After their Pentagon meeting, the two men went to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where Wallace placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.