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Immediate Release

Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on the Defense Department's Afghanistan After Action Review

Over the course of 20 years of war in Afghanistan, our Service members and their families served bravely, selflessly, and with compassion. As the Secretary of Defense and as a veteran of the Afghanistan war, I am proud of and deeply grateful for the men and women who stood up to serve after Al Qaida attacked us on September 11th, 2001. We remember the 2,461 American Service members and personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice in this war. Even on the hardest days, including August 26, 2021 when we tragically lost 13 of our finest, our force performed admirably under incredibly challenging conditions.

The Department of Defense is a learning organization that routinely conducts After Action Reviews to make our brave troops safer in the future. In December 2021, I directed an independent AAR to provide a detailed assessment of DoD implementation of U.S. Afghanistan policy from January 2020 through August 2021. The purpose of the AAR was to examine decision points, constraints, and assumptions in order to contribute toward a whole-of-government effort to learn, improve, and incorporate lessons learned into our response to future crises. The AAR provided the Department with key insights on issues like planning, interagency coordination, and communication with allies and partners.  

This review was an important step to inform future DoD decision-making, and we will continue to support other reviews, including the Afghanistan War Commission’s efforts to review the full 20 years of the war. I strongly believe that a thoughtful and comprehensive examination of the entirety of America’s longest war by the Commission will be an important contribution to the nation. 

Today, we are making the classified AAR available to members of relevant congressional committees. 

The Department is committed to working with Congress and our partners across government to continue identifying the lessons learned from this process and turning them into meaningful action. And I will always be proud of and forever grateful to the men and women who served their country in Afghanistan, and for the skill and professionalism our American Service members brought to the job every single day.