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tv   Defense Secretary Joint Chiefs Chair Hold Briefing  CSPAN  July 24, 2021 1:52pm-2:27pm EDT

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secretary lloyd austin and the chair of the joint chiefs of staff met with reporters about the afghanistan troop withdraw and efforts to relocate the afghan interpreters to the united states. also a new book reporting that general milley feared former president trump would carry out a coup half-truth loosing the election. esident trump would enter into a coup after losing the election. >> thanks for coming today. i'd like to talk briefly about my trip later this week to our priority theater of operations, which is, of course, the indo-pacific. and then i'll add just a few words on afghanistan, which is on all our minds here, and i'd like to start by saying, i'm looking forward to my second trip to the region as secretary of defense. this time we're headed out to southeast asia, and i'm glad to
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have the opportunity to engage with leaders there. i'm especially looking forward to making keynote remarks in singapore about how we're strengthening one of our unmatched strategic assets in the region which is our powerful network of allies and partners. i'll follow up -- i'll follow that up with stops in vietnam and the philippines where i'll meet with my counterparts and other leaders. and so it's going to be a busy trip. there's no shortage of national security interests that we and our partners share in this dynamic region. and i'll be carrying a few key messages and agenda items. the first is simply that the united states remains a reliable partner, a friend who shows up when it counts. we've been there to maintain stability and let sovereign --
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we've long been there to maintain stability and let sovereign states in the region make their own choices, and today we've moved urgently to help our partners tackle covid-19 and to build back even stronger afterward. i'll also continue to make a case for a more fair, open, and inclusive regional order, and for our shared values to ensure that all countries get a fair shake. we don't believe that any one country should be able to dictate the rules or, worse yet, throw them over the transit. in this regard, i'll emphasize our commitment to freedom of the seas. i'll also make clear where we stand on some unhelpful and unfounded claims by china in the south china sea. and finally, i'll be working closely with our partners about how we're updating and modernizing our capabilities and their own capabilities to work
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together to tackle some changing forms of aggression and coercion that we're all seeing. i'll be talking with our friends about how we are -- we'll work hand in hand to work to integrated deterrence. now, let me briefly talk about where we are on afghanistan. i'm very proud of the professionalism that our forces have displayed. drawdown continues in a safe and orderly manner, and we're still on track to finish up by the end of august. the president has made a decision that we're going to get it done and we're going to get it done right, and we have four ongoing key tasks. we remain committed to protecting our diplomatic presence in afghanistan and to providing funding to the afghan national defense and security forces and to advising afghan security ministries and to preventing the re-emergence of transnational terrorist organizations. we've added a fifth urge urgent
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task and that's working closely with the state department as they relocate brave afghans and their families who have provided such exceptional service during our long mission. these are friends of the united states who have done exemplary and courageous work. and we take our obligations to them and to their families very seriously. you've seen that we'll be hosting the first group of afghans at fort lee in virginia. we expect them to arrive soon and will likely stay there for a short while as they complete their paperwork. we're working on several overseas locations to host other individuals, and some of these locations belong to us and some are in third countries. and when we can provide more details about which ones we'll use we certainly will. this is a priority for the
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administration. not only do we in the department of defense have a responsibility to these brave men and women and their families, so, too, do we have a responsibility to support the state department as it carries out the president's directive. and of course, even though our mission in afghanistan is not over, i would be remiss if i didn't take the opportunity to honor the american and allied troops that served bravely over the last two decades of war. and those who gave their lives there. we owe them and their families a debt that we can never repay. we know these are difficult times for them, and we will never forget all that they gave for their country. . where we are in afghanistan, let me pass it over to the chairman. governor o'malley: i appreciate your comments and your leadership. and good afternoon to everyone. i want to extend and thank you
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to all of you because freedom of speech is alive and well and freedom of press. last week, i traveled to norfolk to attend a ceremony recognizing new oprational capability and nato headquarters on u.s. soil which is part of a vital network of partnerships that enable us to protect military strength throughout the world. and during that visit, we talked about the changing character of war and the challenges that we will face sometime in the future. last week, the secretary and i were honored to welcome home germ scott miller from afghanistan and i want to thank him one more time for his incredible leadership as the longest serving commander in afghanistan, twice wounded in combat.
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scott miller is an american hero. he is representative of the more than 800,000 servicemembers who have served in afghanistan across the last two decades and we should always remember their service. general miller and his team along with centcom have paved the path for a transition. the sheer volume of movement involved in this operation has been extraordinary. 984 airlifts in the last three months have enabled to reach 95% to include equipment and moved 9,000 people, both civilian and military. furthermore, all the military bases outside of kabul have been transferred to the afghan security forces. a small contingent of military
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personnel but contractors along with the department of state remain in afghanistan to provide afghanistan and bolster our presence in kabul. the forces are are key that the secretary laid out. a major component of sustaining a presence in kabul is to maintain a functioning and secure airport in kabul. we continue to dedicate our security resources to that, to secure the embassy, secure the national zone, and the national airport for our diplomats, personnel, and continued support to the government of afghanistan. the afghan security forces have the capacity to sufficiently fight and defend their country. we will continue to support the afghan security forces where necessary in accordance with the guidance from the president and secretary of defense. the future afghanistan is
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squarely in the hands of the afghan people and there are a range of outcomes in afghanistan. i want to emphasize repeatedly, and i have said this before, a negative outcome, taliban takeover, is not a foregone conclusion. we will continue to monitor the situation closely and make adjustments as necessary. additionally, we will maintain the capability of self-defense. we possess the military means and have several options at our disposal to protect our force in afghanistan and throughout the region. if needed, the uss ronald reagan is on station. a package of long-range bombers, additional fighter-bombers, and troop formations are postured to quickly respond if necessary and directed. further, we will always protect our nation. we maintain an agile, counterterrorism capability that is effective now to detect and
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address any terrorism threat to the united states. in addition to our mission in afghanistan, we continue to defend this country from all kinds of other threats. we are monitoring russia, north korea, iran, we maintain strategic deterrence for china. the department of defense ensures no terrorists launch attacks on syria or africa. we keep an eye on haiti and cuba and we do this while we serve here at home as well. i want to recognize the great efforts of our reserve component, our national guard, and active-duty soldiers fighting wildfires in california and the pacific northwest, and as of tuesday morning, california and nevada units were operating near sacramento and had flown 205 sordis. we will provide support as required. our joint force is incredible because of the scale,
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determination of men and women and their leaders, and there is no task that cannot accomplish. i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, sir. >> i have a question for each of you. secretary austin, both you and general milley said the united states is going to continue providing afghan forces through financial assistance and remote assistance. given the tenuous state of security and the taliban offensive i am wondering, in your view, the u.s. should do more to prevent a collapse of the government. if i could pose the question to general millie also, you are pretrade in books published this summer as having sounded the alarm privately about the possibility of president trump manufacturing a crisis involving the military either domestically
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or overseas in order to stay in office after would you now set january 20. the historical record straight and were you concerned about the possibility of a coup and on what basis was that concern? secretary austin: thanks for your question there. we are doing a lot to support the afghan military and the afghan leadership as we speak. going to stand up and provide assistance and stood up in qatar that is operational now. we have provided -- begun the provision of the aircraft that we mentioned to you earlier that we are going to provide on friday three new uh-60's that
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landed in kabul and will see a steady drumbeat of that support going forward. we talked about setting up a note to be able to conduct over -the-horizon strike and that is in place. after august, our focus is on those threats that present -- those elements that present a threat to the united states of america. so it will be a counterterrorism focus there. so -- and that's currently where we stand and have not changed that. we remain committed to helping the forces and government going forward and we are doing what we said we are going to do in terms of putting the pieces in place to ensure we provide that support.
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governor o'malley: there is a lot of interest in these books quoting me et cetera. i'm not going to comment what is in those books. i always personally the best military professional advice to president trump and president biden and i do that to the national security council and i am going to say, we always adhered to best professional advice. we did it all the time. the other thing that i think is important to note here is that i and the other members -- all of us in uniform, we take an oath to a document, an oath to the constitution of the united states and not one time did we violate that. the entire time from the time of commissioning to today, i can
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say that every one of us maintained our oath to that document, the constitution and everything contained in it and maintain the tradition. and we also maintain the tradition of an a political military. we did that then and do it now and will do it forever. secretary austin: i would like to add a comment to that. i have known the chairman for a long time. we fought together and served in the same units and i'm not guessing at his character. he doesn't have a political bone in his body. and i clearly have tremendous faith and confidence in the chairman. what i want to make sure we do is maintain our focus on the threats ahead, maintain our focus on facing challenge with
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china and all the things that we are trying to do to make sure that this force is ready to meet the challenges of the future. >> in afghanistan, are you concerned that the taliban is imagining ground and al qaeda will strengthen enough? if so, can you give us how long the estimates are that they will have that capability. general milley, you have not denied the recent reporting that has been out there including some of the comments and actions and the american public, [indiscernible] reporter: so looking back now, i know you said you didn't violate, looking back now, weren't you too political at the time? and are you concerned about the message that sends to the rank and file?
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secretary austin: on your first piece and whether or not we are concerned about al qaeda coming back, that is something we are watching closely currently and we will continue to keep an eye on. our major focus is to make sure that violence, terrorism, cannot be exported from afghanistan to our homeland and so we'll maintain the capability to not only observe that, but also address that if it does emerge. taliban early on committed to not providing a safe haven for al qaeda. we expect for them to meet that commitment. if they want legitimacy, that is something they will have to consider. that is one way to earn it. we'll see what happens. but most importantly, we will
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maintain the over-the-horizon threat if it emerges. my rough estimate is it would take two years to develop that kind of capability and there was a medium risk. i have not changed my assessment there, but again a number of things that could happen that could speed it up a bit. governor o'malley: i'm not going to comment on any books. but i want you to know and america to know, that the united states military is an apolitical institution and our oath is to the constitution and the military did not and should not get involved in domestic politics. we don't arbitrate elections. it is not the job of the military. we are an apolitical
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institution. reporter: are you concerned that they comments are putting you more in politics than you should be? secretary austin: let me make a comment here. it is important to me that this department remain apolitical. and so we are going to do everything within our power to make sure that our troops, our leadership, both civilian and military remain focused on the task at hand and understand that they are not part of the political apparatus there. so we will remain apolitical. >> closer to home, you have a gap in leadership among -- [indiscernible] michael brown pulled out last week. how concerned are you?
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is it important? difference in the departments. how concerned are you and he suggested to the white house a new candidate. and general milley, another book question, you talked about the afghan capability to defend themselves. 300,000, we spent $74 billion and facing taliban. and in laymen's language what is the superiority, why is it appear that the taliban is winning. secretary austin: regarding the numbers of people that we have had confirmed thus far. certainly, we would like to see more that the deputy secretary and i and all of my leadership remain focus on each and every day and continue to work with the white house to make sure
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that we have quality and qualified applicants to fill these seats. we have six that have been confirmed so far and 10 that are waiting for a vote. and five more that are in committee. so the process continues to work. and i think what you'll see when the confirmations do occur that they will be experienced, quality people that will add a lot of value. and of course, i'm concerned about the a.n.s. position that you mentioned and absolutely will make another nomination and provide another name to consider -- for the white house to consider. that is an ongoing process. when we do get that person, it will be the best person available. again, i consider that job to be very, very important. but we will continue to work with the white house on those
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issues. governor o'malley: tony, you know as well as anyone else, war is not about numbers. you cited some correct newspapers. the forces, they are well equipped and well trained over the years, past 20 years. and to our allies. but there are numbers that determine outcomes and one is will and leadership. and this is going to be a test now of the will and redistribution of the afghan security forces and government of afghanistan. you talked about the taliban is winning. there is a narrative that the taliban is winning. they are dominating the airwaves. as of today, it is about 212 in that range, the district centers
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are in taliban control. you got 34 provincial capitals in afghanistan and none of them have been seized as of today by the taliban, although the taliban is putting pressure on the outskirts, 17 of them, in fact and what they are trying to do is isolate the major population centers and trying to do it to kabul. and roughly speaking, a significant amount of territory has been seized by the taliban. strategic momentum seems to be with the taliban. the part of this is giving up and they are giving the approach and most of the population leaves in the city of kabul. they are adjusting forces to consolidate into the provincial
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capitals in kabul. and what remains to be seen, but after eed and whether it will go up or stay the same. there is a possibility of complete takeover, and all kinds of other scenarios. i don't think the end game is yet written. >> we have time for a couple more. reporter: a question following up on your recent testimony. mr. secretary, to you first, could you explain in more detail your views on when you think and under what circumstances critical race theory should be an appropriate part of military education. you were asked about it in your address, but i would like to
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understand your views on that. general milley, in that hearing, you said to congress you wanted to understand white rage and what it is that causes thousands of people that attacked the capitol. i want to find that out. could you offer a more detailed explanation what led you to the conclusion of white rage and since you talked about it publicly before congress, in your view what is white rage and why and when should the u.s. military be concerned about that. thank. secretary austin: bash, you heard me say that the critical race theory is something that this department embraces. you have also heard about a couple of people in academic
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institutions saying they have required this to be reading for their students in specific courses. but because that is the case does not mean that this department embraces this theory. and i stand by what i said earlier. and bash, i don't want to get addition tracted on the critical race conversation. this department will be diverse and it will be inclusive and we are going to look like the country that we support and defend. and our leadership will look like what's in the ranks of our military. and so commime committed to that. this department is committed to that. the chairman is committed to that and that's what we are going to stay focused on. we aren't going to debate the merits of this theory or any theory but focus on creating the
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right force to promote our values. and i know that is important to you and in this room as well, bash. i thank you for that question. governor o'malley: i'm not going to address white rage or black rage or irish rage or english range. the events of january 6 happened and that will get sorted out. but i do think it's important not only understand foreign cultures and foreign societies, it's important we do that but we need to understand our own society and the society they are coming from and important for the leadership to study from. >> you said the words white rage. governor o'malley: it is a complicated topic. i will be happy to do it later
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but right now. too complicated. >> i want to get over here. [indiscernible]
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secretary austin: on the importance of freedom navigation of the seas and the skies, this is really important not only to the united states of america, but to all of our aleyes and partners in the region and around the world. so what we have done and what we will continue to do is work with our allies and partners to make sure that we can navigate the skies and the seas to the agree in aaccordance with international law. so our emphasis will remain on that and and keep those
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alliances strong and know they can count on us going forward. and that's the message i will take to the field. governor o'malley: to answer your question on taiwan. the geo strategic nature of the globe and we are in the middle and as we go forward, china is the threat for us and it has been directed now by the secretary of defense and the president. so we are gearing our capabilities, our program, our knowledge and skills, et cetera, militarily with china in mind. there is no question about it and we will work closely with japan, south korea, phillipines and australia to ensure that we have the proper capability to deal with it whatever comes to us in the future.
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>> thanks very much. we got to go. sorry about that. [ ♪ ♪ announcer: today on the communicators. >> the policy under obama and under trump and now under
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announcer: agriculture secretary tom vilsek went before the senate judiciary committee followed by farm owners and labor union leaders on the challenges facing immigrant farmworkers in the agriculture industry. this runs three hours. [indistinct chatter]


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