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Austin defends Pentagon budget and withdraws from Afghanistan on Hill

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told lawmakers part of U.S. “cross-horizontal” combat support for Afghan troops before the September 11 deadline set by President Biden for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. Said that was already in progress.

Faced with a keen question in front of the Senate Military Commission, Austin talked about the Biden administration’s $ 715 billion Pentagon budget demand and the future of Afghanistan after the US and allied forces left.

Since the withdrawal began, some US operations, primarily aviation-related, have begun to shift to other bases. According to Austin, intelligence missions have begun from friendly Gulf states such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, and combat air patrols from aircraft carriers are increasing.

“We are doing a lot’beyond the horizon’now,” Austin told Congress.

However, as the rebel Taliban has stepped into a US-backed government in Kabul, US officials are still seeking a base for logistics support operations in a country close to Afghanistan.

“It’s still an ongoing task,” Austin told lawmakers. “Move as soon as possible.”

Austin did not mention whether the United States would provide air support if Kabul and other major cities in Afghanistan were at risk of being over over by the Taliban forces. He said it would be “extremely difficult” to provide such assistance after the withdrawal, because at that time the capacity of the United States had declined.

“It’s clear that our mission in Afghanistan has been achieved. We are focused on retrograde personnel and equipment,” Biden said.

Austin and Chief of the General Staff Mark Milley defended President Biden’s $ 715 billion defense budget request in 2022.

Austin said the proposed budget focused on preparing the U.S. military for future battlefields, with $ 10 billion in cyber operations, $ 28 billion in nuclear triad modernization, and future weapons. He said he was demanding $ 112 billion to study capacity.

“This is the biggest R & D request the department has made,” Austin said.

The budget also gives the Pentagon the flexibility to get rid of old ships and aircraft that “no longer fully meet our needs” and “requires more maintenance, maintenance costs and risks than we can afford”. Said Austin.

But the Commission’s Republican leader, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, said the budget wasn’t able to meet the growing threat from China. In 2018, the bipartisan national defense strategy said it would need a real annual growth of 3% to 5% in defense spending to catch up with the Chinese government.

“This administration has given us a budget to cut spending when real growth is needed. They want the military to work harder on climate change and pandemics. More Mission [but] With less resources, “he said. “We have asked the military to do more than a little. President Biden’s budget cuts will make it even more difficult. While we face all these threats, it will be. I barely step on the water. “

Rhode Island Democratic Party Chairman Jack Reed praised the budget as a starting point for a broader defense program. He paid tribute to the budget clause, which provides a 2.7% salary increase for military and civilian workers working in the Pentagon.

“This salary increase is required by law for military personnel, but too often. [Department of Defense] Civilians have been overlooked, “Senator Reed said.

The Pentagon says it can save more than $ 2 billion by disposing of ships and aircraft that are no longer needed. Senator Mark Kelly, a Democratic Senator in Arizona, has undertaken the defense of the venerable A-10 Thunderbolt, a close air support fighter that has long been in the Air Force’s chopping block. This year, authorities want to dispose of 42 of them.

“The U.S. military relies on close air support in the most dire situations. The A-10 has saved the lives of many men and women due to its unique capabilities,” Kelly said. I will.

General Millet described him as a “personally big fan” of the A-10 as an infantryman who participated in many shootouts. He said the Air Force would continue to fly 239 A-10s under the budget.

“This is a slight reduction in the number of A-10s,” said General Milley. “We must be aware of the future operational environment and the changing nature of war and begin to move into it … I think it is an acceptable risk.”

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Austin defends Pentagon budget and withdraws from Afghanistan on Hill

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