Lloyd Austin: Awards for all who participated in Afghanistan withdrawal

Source: Hot Air

All American service members who served during the withdrawal in Afghanistan will receive an award, the Meritorious Unit Commendation. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made the announcement on Wednesday. Troops who processed or housed refugees will also receive the award.

The Meritorious Unit Commendation is a service ribbon awarded to troops for exceptionally meritorious conduct “in the performance of outstanding services during the time of military operations against an armed enemy.” The Pentagon also announced an ‘expedited review’ of the Kabul evacuation a year after the disastrous event took place.

The uniform ribbon is awarded by the individual services — the Air Force calls it the Meritorious Unit Award — and it can signify valorous or meritorious service in combat, non-combat or a support role.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he has also ordered an expedited review of all units deployed to Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport from Aug. 15-30, 2021, to determine if they or individual troops will receive the prestigious Presidential Unit Citation.

The one-year anniversary of the disastrous withdrawal has brought up images and memories of that time a year ago at the Kabul International Airport where American troops heroically did all they could to assist Americans and Afghans to evacuate Afghanistan. It was chaos for several days. Austin said the troops served with “courage and conviction.”

He said: ‘Proudly, that mission included the service of those who took on the responsibility to help evacuate more than 124,000 Afghans during one of the largest, most difficult and most dangerous humanitarian operations in U.S. military history.

‘No other military could have protected so many lives under such challenging circumstances in such a short amount of time – not just because of our airlift or our logistics capabilities, but most of all because of the immense compassion, skill, and dedication of American Service members.’

That’s true. The U.S. military is unmatched in its abilities to carry out complicated and dangerous missions. This one, though, did not have to end as it did. The decisions that brought the withdrawal to such a horrible ending were not made by the troops on the ground doing all the work. They were made by Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Austin, with assists from the State Department and intelligence analysts. The buck stops with the commander-in-chief, though, and he chose to ignore the best advice of the experts and career military people and made his own decision. As has been true throughout Joe Biden’s entire career in politics – almost 50 years – he made a poor decision to ignore the advice of others. He was hellbent to get out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible and his haste cost lives of Americans and Afghans. Thirteen American service members were killed in a terrorist attack at the gates of the Kabul airport.

Biden poo-pooed the question of whether the Taliban would rush in and take control of Afghanistan after the last plane left Kabul. That is exactly what happened, though. August was a month of celebrations for the Taliban as they noted August 15 as the day they swept into the capital, Kabul. The also celebrated on August 31,the final exit of foreign troops from Afghan soil. American troops who served during the withdrawal are grappling with how it all played out.

Biden and Austin released statements on August 26, the anniversary of the day a suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 170 Afghans at Kabul International Airport.

‘Here at home, our military helped settle more than 80,000 Afghans within the United States – housing, feeding and providing medical care to families seeking a better life,’ said Austin on Wednesday.

As well as honoring the units who were part of the humanitarian effort, Austin said he had asked for details of units or individual who deserved additional recognition for their work during the final days of the withdrawal, after the Taliban had captured Kabul.

‘In addition, I am directing the military departments to perform an expedited review of all units present at Hamid Karzai International Airport from August 15 to August 30, 2021, to identify those units or individuals that meet the high standards of the Presidential Unit Citation or appropriate individual awards,’ he said.

The majority of Americans thought it was time to leave Afghanistan but the chaotic withdrawal was not something most Americans expected to witness in real time on their televisions and computer screens. The general who oversaw the exit is speaking out. Retired General Frank McKenzie, head of the U.S. Central Command during the withdrawal, now warns that the U.S. is less safe than when troop were in the country.

In an interview to mark the anniversary of the last solder leaving on Tuesday, he said Al Qaeda and the Islamic State would use the absence to work on their ‘aspirations’ to attack the West.

‘We were in Afghanistan to prevent the development of violent extremist organisations that were flourishing there, particularly al Qaeda and ISIS, and I believe we have less capability now than we did before to monitor and suppress the development of those activities,’ he told the BBC.

‘So in that sense, yes, I believe we are less safe now than we were before.’

Thousands of lives lost and more suffering life-changing injuries all to come back to the point that America is less safe because of who is in charge in Afghanistan. After twenty-one years, it is surreal. Biden ordered the awards and the review following a meeting with Austin and General Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs chairman.

“This is a significant recognition for those who served in Afghanistan and participated in this very significant event,” Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said during a public briefing Wednesday. “From the secretary’s standpoint, really the key message here is that it’s meant to express the gratitude of the Department of Defense and our nation for what it is that our men and women serving in Afghanistan during this very challenging time, what they accomplished.”

No one was fired or disciplined after the withdrawal ended. Austin still has his job. Tony Blinken is still secretary of state. None of the people who should have convinced Joe Biden that he was making a tragic mistake lost their jobs. And, Biden is still in the White House and bragging about how well the operation went.