WASHINGTON: Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby has said that tomorrow morning, Secretary Austin will welcome the President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani and the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Dr. Abdullah Abdullah here into the Pentagon.
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said this during weekly press briefing. He said that Afghan leader’s visit will highlight the partnership between our two nations as the U.S. military drawdown continues. During their visit, Secretary Austin will emphasize the United States’ enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan and to the department’s goal of ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to the U.S. homeland.
Kirby further said that now, I’d also like to highlight the continuing military cooperation that we enjoy with the United Kingdom aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth, which announced its first combat missions in support of the Global Coalition against ISIS.
UK and U.S. combined operations with fifth generation aircraft demonstrate our ability to conduct missions together as allies and to handle any contingencies. We would like to congratulate the UK on achieving this milestone, for this impressive new capability and we look forward, of course, to operating together with them on this deployment and far into the future.
Next, a few major events and exercises I want to highlight in Panama.
In Panama, representatives from the United States and Central America are participating in the annual Central American Security Conference, otherwise known as CENTSEC, along with other regional and international partner nations.
CENTSEC 2021 will focus on lessons learned during the national disaster response operations last November after hurricanes Eta and Iota struck the region back-to-back. The exercise will also examine approaches for ongoing humanitarian assistance — humanitarian assistance aid programs, as well as greater coordination in the region to continue addressing root causes that drive irregular migration.
In the Pacific, today marked the opening ceremony for exercise Orient Shield ’21, the largest annual U.S. Army and Japan Ground Self-Defense force bilateral field training exercise. Several thousand U.S. and Japanese troops will conduct tactical training exercises and bilateral planning across multiple sites in Japan.
Now in its 35th iteration, the exercise is designed to enhance U.S.-Japan combat readiness and interoperability while strengthening bilateral relationships and demonstrating U.S. resolve to support the security interests of friends and allies in the Indo-Pacific region.
Now, in the cyber domain, more than 430 cyber professionals making up 17 cyber protection teams from the Department of Defense, the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard and nearly 140 participants from Canada and the United Kingdom are competing against each other in U.S. Cyber Command’s annual exercise Cyber Flag ’21-2.
The exercise provides virtual defensive cyber training, with cyber protection teams working independently on compromised networks at fictional facilities with the goal to detect, identify, isolate and counter adversarial presence on their networks. The goal of the Cyber Flag exercise series is to keep us ahead of potential adversaries by evolving our training at a greater speed than our adversaries can evolve their tactics, techniques and procedures in cyberspace.
Looking at next week, U.S. Navy Europe will begin this year’s Sea Breeze exercise, co-hosted with the Ukrainian navy. Sea Breeze 2021 will kick off on Monday and continue through July 10th in the Black Sea. This year’s iteration has the largest number of participating nations in the exercise’s history, with more than 30 nations from six continents. Combined, this represents 32 ships, 40 aircraft and approximately 5,000 personnel. Since it began in 1997, Sea Breeze brings Black Sea nations and NATO allies and partners together to train and operate in the pursuit of building increased interoperability and capability. We will continue, as we have been, to be transparent about our operations in the Black Sea, and as always, will continue to operate within all applicable international laws and agreements.
Finally, tomorrow marks 71 years since the start of the Korean War. For the past 71 years, our commitment to the alliance has been ironclad, built on the shared sacrifice of Americans and South Koreans. The U.S.-ROK alliance is the linchpin of peace, security and prosperity from Northeast Asia and a free and open Indo-Pacific, as well as across the world.
While answering to a question regarding the evacuation of Afghan interpreters, Mr Kirby said that we have helped with the noncombatant evacuation of people from countries where we don’t have U.S. footprint. Now, I recognize the security situation in Afghanistan is dynamic, and it’s different. I get that. But, all of these considerations are going to be taken into effect as we work through this planning process.
The point is, that we are taking this seriously here at the department and here in the United States government. We know we have an obligation to these men and women and their families, and we’re working our way through how best to meet that obligation. And there’s again, planning is ongoing; lots of options available both in terms of transportation, in terms of potential locations, and we’re just not there yet where I can, specifically announce exactly how this is going to transpire.
Kirby further added that we work with non-NATO partners all around the world, Abraham, and this is not anything new. And it’s an exercise. And as I said at the very beginning, and you’ve heard me say it before, we’re going to be transparent about it. I’m going to get up here and answer questions about it, I’m going to tell you about it, you’re going to get sick of hearing about that one too.
And that’s okay because we’ve got nothing to hide. It’s an exercise; it’s an exercise to improve our interoperability and our capabilities in the Black Sea. It’s not something we haven’t done before. And part of helping reduce the chances for miscalculations and misunderstandings is to be announcing it, is to be talking about it, is to be showing you pictures of it. And you’re going to continue to see that.