Defense: U.S., Italian leaders discuss range of issues during Pentagon meeting

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III thanked Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini for his country’s help in the evacuation effort from Afghanistan.

Washington, September 06, 2021.- The two men held discussions at the Pentagon that also included threats from Russia, increased cooperation on the issues presented by China and strategies for the Middle East and Africa.

Italy has sent thousands of service members and Carabinieri to serve in Afghanistan over the past 20 years. A total of 53 died in service in the country. Italy is still supporting the effort, housing at-risk Afghans at Naval Air Station Sigonella. «It is a testament to the value of our long-term partnership,» Austin said. «And we will continue to consult with Italy, our other NATO allies, our partners, and the broader international community on a way forward in Afghanistan.»

Italy is home to thousands of U.S. service members from Naples to Vicenza to Aviano to Sigonella. Italy is one of America’s closest allies and security partners, the secretary said. «You’ve been a gracious host to our forces in Europe and I’ve had the pleasure of serving alongside the Italian military over the course of my career in uniform,» Austin told Guerini. «And I greatly respect the contributions and capabilities that Italy brings to our joint efforts.»

The United States and Italy consult often on issues in the Middle East and Africa, and Austin said he wanted to get the Italian position on issues in those key areas. «We’re grateful for Italy’s contribution to peace and security there,» he said.

Overall, Austin wants to deepen the already deep relationship between the two militaries. Some of that will be in carrying out decisions made at the NATO Summit in June, while others will be just between allies.

Guerini expressed his personal sorrow and the sorrow of all Italians for the deaths of U.S. service members at the hands of the Islamic State in the Khorasan in August. He said the evacuation was only a success because of the American service members securing Hamid Karzai International Airport.

«I want to express my gratitude for the work done by the American armed forces to secure Kabul airfield, making it possible to implement the airlift for the evacuation of allied forces, and tens of thousands of Afghan cooperators,» the minister said through a translator. «Thank you again for the great cooperation of the American Armed Forces, which was absolutely decisive, and for the logistics support you offer to the evacuation of so many Afghan citizens. This would have been impossible without the cooperation of the United States.»

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