Defense Secretary Lloyd J. III. Austin thanked Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini for helping his country evacuate Afghanistan.
At the Pentagon, the two men held talks that included threats from Russia and increased cooperation on the issues and strategies presented by China for the Middle East and Africa.
Italy has sent thousands of soldiers and carabinieri to serve in Afghanistan over the past 20 years. A total of 53 died while on duty in the country. Italy continues to support the effort and house vulnerable Afghans at Naval Air Station Sigonella. “It’s a testament to the value of our long-term partnership,” said Austin. “And we will continue with Italy, our other NATO Allies, our partners and the wider international community on the way forward in Afghanistan. “
Thousands of US soldiers live in Italy from Naples to Vicenza to Aviano to Sigonella. Italy is one of America’s closest allies and security partners, said the state secretary. “You have been a gracious host to our armed forces in Europe and I have had the pleasure of serving in uniform alongside the Italian military throughout my career,” said Austin Guerini. “And I very much respect the contributions and skills that Italy brings to our collective endeavors.”
The United States and Italy consult frequently on issues in the Middle East and Africa, and Austin said he wanted to know the Italian position on issues in these key areas. “We are grateful for Italy’s contribution to peace and security there,” he said.
Overall, Austin wants to deepen the already deep relationship between the two military officers. Some of this will be in the implementation of decisions made at the NATO summit in June, while others will only take place between allies.
Guerini expressed his personal grief and the grief of all Italians over the death of US soldiers by the Islamic State in Khorasan in August. He said the evacuation was only successful because the American soldiers secured Hamid Karzai International Airport.
“I would like to thank the American armed forces for the work of securing Kabul airfield, which enabled the airlift to evacuate the allied forces and tens of thousands of Afghan workers,” said the minister through a translator. “Thank you again for the great cooperation of the American armed forces, which was absolutely crucial, and for the logistical support you are offering in evacuating so many Afghan citizens. This would not have been possible without US cooperation.”