September 22, 2021

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Secretary Lloyd J. Austin at Meet and Greet with U.S. Military and Interagency Team

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Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Al Udeid Airbase, Qatar

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  Okay, ladies and gentlemen, I’m Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense.  The Secretary of State and I wanted to come by and thank you profoundly for all the great work that you have done to help so many people who were in need.  Because of your hard work, your willingness to work as a part of an interagency team, this team has accomplished things that are both historic and heroic.  We conducted the largest airlift in history, 124,000 people evacuated from Kabul.  And when they were evacuated, they had a place to come and complete their further – their initial processing and then begin to move onward to a new life in the United States of America or to another place that they may be headed.

So what you have done has really touched the lives of thousands and thousands and thousands of people.  And you came together as a team, an effective team, in a very, very short period of time, and you worked through some very difficult and demanding circumstances.  And so I am proud of you.  I’m grateful for what you’ve done.  Your country’s proud of you.  The President of the United States is proud of you, and he is absolutely grateful for the tremendous work that you have put forward.

And this is what the military, this is what the interagency team is all about: teamwork, working through challenges, doing it with compassion, professionalism, and confidence.  And in my view, it could not have been done better.  And I just wanted to tell you that I am enormously grateful, so thanks for everything you’ve done, and I have every confidence that for the rest of the time that you have left here you’ll continue to perform at the level that we’ve seen thus far.  And again, we’re grateful for that.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  SecDef, thank you, and I just wanted to add very quickly that —

PARTICIPANT:  Can you turn the microphone on, please?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Oh, mike on?  Yes.  See, I need the microphone.  That’s better?  Thank you.

Just to add a couple words, because I think the Secretary of Defense said it all.  It has been incredibly gratifying to see people come together, you all come together, in such remarkable ways in such extraordinary circumstances.  And to see our uniforms, to see our civilians from different agencies come together has been in and of itself incredibly gratifying.  To see our Qatari hosts do everything they’ve done to support this effort has also been remarkably gratifying.

As the Secretary of Defense said, we gave you some really hard problems to solve, and you figured out how to solve them on the fly – no small feat.  And in a sense, you’ve been the victim of your own success here, because in our determination to get as many people as we possibly could out of Kabul, well, as we know, most of them wound up here, at least for some period of time.  And you’ve had to figure out – again, on the fly – how to make this work, and you have.

We – we’re always talking about the numbers, the numbers of people that we evacuated from Afghanistan, 124,000; the number of American citizens, the number of SIVs, and all of that’s hugely important.  But, to the point the Secretary of Defense was making – and I think that you know, because you see it here every single day – this is about the people behind the numbers.  This is about the men and women, the mothers, the fathers, the sons and daughters, the sisters and brothers who you have helped bring to a better place and a different future.

And I think in whatever our pursuit is, whether you’re in uniform or you’re in civilian clothes, working for the government we get to do a lot of things in these jobs, in our – the course of our careers.  But it’s not every day that you can say that the work that I did saved someone’s life, secured their future, made that kind of difference.  And, simply put, you have, and I hope that whatever happens going forward, you don’t lose sight of that fact and you take it with you.  We were just talking to some of our Afghan friends who are part of that group who are going to have a different and better future because of the work that you’ve done here.

So to all of you, thank you, thank you, thank you for a job remarkably well done.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is this mission continues.  We have more work to do.  We’re determined to do it.  Thank you all.

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