Transcript

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Australian Minister of Defence Peter Dutton Opening Remarks at Bilateral Meeting

Sept. 15, 2021

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III:  Well, good morning, everyone, and Minister Dutton, it's an honor to welcome you to the Pentagon. Thanks for making a long trip, and you've been on the road quite a -- quite a while now, so we really, really appreciate having you here.  I look forward to our discussions today and to our participation in the 31st Australia-United States ministerial consultations tomorrow.

As you know, this past weekend, we commemorated the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and that cast a special light on the 70th anniversary of ANZUS.  Australia, one of our oldest allies, invoked the ANZUS Treaty for the first time and the only time after 9/11, sending your forces to -- for two decades -- ago to fight shoulder-to-shoulder alongside the United States.  And so Minister Dutton, the American people will forever be grateful, and we will always remember Australia's steadfast support.

And I also want to personally thank you for your letter -- letter of condolence after the ISIS-K terrorist attack in Kabul that killed 13 of our heroic service members and so many Afghan civilians.  We're also grateful to Australia for standing alongside us for the very end of our military mission in Afghanistan, and we're looking forward to continuing our close cooperation.

I'm hoping that our discussions today will further strengthen our alliance in new and unique ways.  The alignment between our countries has never been greater than it is today.  We see the same challenges.  We share the same sense of urgency.  And we're cooperating closely on force posture, strategic capabilities, regional engagement and military operations, and all of that strengthens our ability to deter threats to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

So Mr. Minister, thanks again for being here, and I look forward to a productive discussion today.

MINISTER FOR DEFENCE PETER DUTTON:  Well, Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for those very warm remarks.  Thank you to you and to your colleagues for the preparation ahead of today's meeting, and we do have a very significant point in history that is before us, and the opportunity for our two nations to continue the work that we've done over generations.

I was in New York in the January following the 9/11 attacks, and felt the raw emotion there, the smell still from the smoldering wreck and the raw emotion that was evident on the streets, and as you went across the United States.  They were flying flags, and the patriotism was on display.  But America rose to deal with that issue, and the 20-year anniversary, whilst some of those stories will never fade, and the pain will never go away for many of those families and their descendents now of those killed there.  It is a reminder of the need for us to continue our relationship to stare down that evil and to deal with whatever the next century might hold.

And for us, this celebration of the seven -- 70th anniversary is a significant one because as we know, the position in the Indo-Pacific is deteriorating.  And as we know, only together with the United States, with the United Kingdom, with their Five Eyes partners otherwise can we provide the true effect to protecting our nations and our people.

So it's a great honor to be with you at the Pentagon, steeped in history, and that collaboration, as you say, over a long period of time.

I'll finish on this note in relation to Afghanistan.  We were shoulder-to-shoulder, and as you know, Prime Minister Howard was in Washington at the time of the strike on the United States 20 years ago.  And we have been able to take 4,100 people out of Kabul, which for a population of 25 million in our case is a significant effort.  It would not have been possible to remove one of those individuals, one of those little girls or boys or young women without the support of your 4,000 troops and the thousand British troops there, as well.  There's no other country in the world that had the capacity to hold that airport.  And despite the criticism and despite those with 20/20 hindsight, we achieved success in withdrawing those people and starting a new life for them only because of the efforts of the United States, and I'm very grateful for that.

And our task now is to make sure that we strengthen this relationship even further, and there are many opportunities for us to do that today.  So thank you so much.  It is a great honor to be here with you and -- and your staff.

SEC. AUSTIN:  Thank you, sir.