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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks Welcoming Kenyan President William Ruto to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: President Ruto, welcome to the Pentagon. It was great seeing you at the White House yesterday. And I think all of us had a very enjoyable evening, yesterday evening, and certainly enjoyed your remarks, both at the White House and also at the state dinner. 

Now, I know that the flooding back home is on your mind. And I know how hard it is to be away from your country right now. Our prayers are with all Kenyans suffering from these floods. Mr. President, you and your team were great hosts during my visit to Nairobi last September. And I'm glad to be able to return the favor today. 

It was important for me to travel to Kenya last year because it's a critical partner for regional security and a key partner for global security. So, I'm delighted that President Biden has announced his intention to designate Kenya as a major non-NATO ally. The United States reserves its designation for close partners that have strategic working relationships with our military and defense civilians. 

This designation underscores our close relationship, and it demonstrates our deep appreciation for your contributions to peace and security in Africa and beyond. Kenya's leadership of the multinational security support mission in Haiti shows the important role that Kenya plays in global security. We also appreciate Kenya's contribution to U.N. international peace and stability operations. 

And of course, we're also grateful for Kenya's generous support in hosting U.S. forces at Manda Bay. And the memorandum of understanding that our two countries signed at the State Department this week to expand the Manda Bay airfield is a testament to the strength of our partnership and to our commitment to strengthen Kenya's counterterrorism capabilities. 

And finally, I'm pleased to announce that three Kenyan cadets have been admitted to the three U.S. military service academies. They will be the first Kenyan cadets to attend these outstanding schools. And I'm confident that they won't be the last. Mr. President, thanks again for visiting the Pentagon. And I look forward to continuing our close cooperation. Over to you, sir.

PRESIDENT WILLIAM RUTO: Secretary Austin, on my own behalf and on behalf of my delegation, I want to thank you very much for welcoming us to the Pentagon. And thank President Joe Biden for inviting me to undertake this state visit to the United States. 

As a testimony of the friendship and partnership between Kenya and the United States, anchored on a very solid foundation of friendship and on the firm foundation of shared values between the U.S. and Kenya, we all believe in freedom. We believe in democracy. We believe in the rule of law. We believe in inclusivity, equality, and of course, in shared prosperity that is guaranteed by peace and security. 

This relationship expands to many areas. Our joint fight against terrorism, the strong collaboration we have built in training, as you just announced, in working together in the security of our region. And I want to, in a very special way, thank the United States of America and to you for taking it upon yourself to build an even broader and expand the relationship between our ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Defense here in the United States to encompass new areas of shared experience, expanded access to equipment, access to information, sharing intelligence, and working together towards securing our region and building a safer and much more stable region with the United States. 

I am particularly impressed, and I am particularly interested, in knowing the areas that would require my intervention to make this relationship broader and deeper. And I will be making some suggestions on the areas that I would think we would do more, in the areas of equipment, in the areas of training, in the areas of joint engagement. And of course, as you have said, it is not about any particular region. 

We have shared challenges across the globe, from Haiti to Middle East to the Horn of Africa, and of course, the situation we have in Haiti. We have undertaken the responsibility bestowed on us by the international community to lead the MSS in Haiti. And as I said, we consider the situation in Haiti that it requires the input, the participation, the contribution of all people and all nations who believe in self-determination, who believes in the rule of law of peace and freedom. 

And it's time that we all show up for Haiti and to promise you that we will be working with your teams to see how we can do this together and to expand, of course, our relationship into the future along the lines that President Biden and I discussed yesterday. And I'm sure you and Aden have discussed. I must say, with a lot of gratitude, the signing yesterday to expand the Manda Bay facilities will go a long way in building capabilities necessary for the security of Kenya and especially for the fight against terrorism that we jointly are undertaking in our region. 

We will also be hopefully discussing our joint approach to the situation in Somalia, in the context of the impending drawdown. Our position is that it shouldn't be calendar based, it should be conditions based, that we should be able to assess the situation on the ground and that should inform the levels of withdrawal. And I must be immensely grateful to President Joe Biden for his undertaking to work with us to persuade the EU and other friends to continue to work with us in Somalia, so that we do not open a vacuum for terrorists to enhance their activity. 

So, let me say again, Secretary Austin, I'm truly grateful that you have welcomed me to this great institution. And it was my pleasure to welcome you in Kenya. And I look forward to another opportunity to host you in Nairobi.

SEC. AUSTIN: Mr. President, we're delighted to have you here. Thanks for coming, and I look forward to a great conversation. And with that, we'll allow our friends in the media to depart.