Milley describes 'pain and anger' following end of Afghanistan war

·2-min read

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged his feelings of “pain and anger” following the end of the United States’ 20-year war in Afghanistan.

“We are all conflicted with feelings of pain and anger, sorrow and sadness, combined with pride and resilience,” Milley said during a press conference at the Pentagon on Wednesday, where he spoke with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Both men served in Afghanistan, and they offered words of support to veterans and their families who may be struggling to process the final days of America’s longest war.

“One thing I am certain of, for any soldier, sailor, airman or Marine and their family, your service mattered,” Milley said. “And it was not in vain.”

Mark Milley
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a Pentagon press briefing on Wednesday about the U.S. military drawdown in Afghanistan. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Asked to elaborate on where his own pain and anger come from, Milley cited his personal experience commanding troops on the ground through multiple combat deployments, saying that the source of his pain and anger is the “same as the grieving families, same as the soldiers on the ground.”

“I have walked the patrols and been blown up and shot at,” he said. “This is tough stuff. War is hard, it’s vicious, it’s brutal, it’s unforgiving.”

“And when we see what has unfolded over the last 20 years, and over the last 20 days, that creates pain and anger,” he continued. “Mine comes from 242 of my soldiers killed in action over 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Still, Milley said that while he feels those emotions, “I’m a professional soldier. I’m going to contain my pain and anger, and continue to execute my mission.”

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III and Army General Mark Milley (R), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hold a press briefing about the US military drawdown in Afghanistan, at the Pentagon in Washington, DC September 1, 2021. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the press briefing. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

In their first public remarks following the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this week, Milley and Austin sought to honor the 2,461 American service members and personnel who died during the war, including the 13 killed by a suicide bomber last week while conducting a massive civilian airlift operation from the Kabul airport, as well as the more than 20,000 who were wounded.

“The U.S. military will always honor their heroism,” Austin said. “We mourn with their families, and we owe them support through the days and years ahead.”

Austin also urged veterans who may need counseling during this time to “please seek help.”


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